Following Your Dreams

I grew up with the romantic notion that I would always “follow my dreams”. Though it has gotten me in trouble a time or two, I was born with a sense of adventure that has shaped my greatest decisions. I grew up feeling the need to be great, but I never knew in what context. When you’re a dreamer without a concrete dream, you find yourself hanging on the lines that others throw. 


I’ve been told that I could sing since I was three years old.  I vividly remember standing on the stage of my old church to sing my first solo, “Jesus Loves Me”, and everyone in the audience stood silent as a pure melody came from my mouth. I fell in love with singing that day, and I never stopped. On car rides, my mom would blast southern gospel music and essentially force me to sing the harmony parts. If I was joking around too much or singing an incorrect note, she would turn off the music and get frustrated with me. (I think she always had a dream of my family becoming a gospel quartet, or trio if my sister couldn’t hang with us…sorry Grace).

I was told that I was a great singer, so naturally, I assumed that was the dream I would follow. I let singing carry me through high school. I used to cut class so that I could practice to lead worship for chapel, and I was given most every solo that I auditioned for in choir. I developed a make-shift recording studio in my basement to record myself and other bands for fun (and profit) while other kids were getting “normal jobs”. Singing was my identity, and I was comfortable resting in the fact that it was a sure thing. So, when it came time to make a college decision, I let my voice guide me. University of Kentucky offered me a vocal scholarship and the chance to join the prestigious acapella mens group on campus, The AcoUstiKats. As an 18 year old, I was sold.

My time at UK was a major fork in the road of my life. My reliance on my vocal abilities had provided an incredible outlet to learn and perform at UK, but I wasn’t growing personally. I was living the “college life” with no real direction when my father forced me to get a “normal job” after my freshman year. So, I worked on UK’s ground’s crew, followed by a day job at Best Buy. The jobs were both menial: mowing lawns, pulling weeds, and selling electronics in a blue polo. I hated working under a boss and feeling like I had nothing to offer, but I had never fostered my other talents besides athletics and singing. Taking pride in any other kind of work was a foreign concept to me. 

Somewhere between the summer heat and selling one too many iPhones, I realized that the dreams that I had always planned to follow were falling by the wayside. For the first time, I realized that my voice wouldn’t keep me afloat if I didn’t start to paddle.

So, I made a change. During my sophomore year at UK, I applied to Belmont University in Nashville, TN, and transferred into the Business school. I began expanding upon the “recording studio” I had built in high school and used the equipment I owned to develop my reputation as a DJ for different clubs and eventually, weddings. My entrance into the wedding scene piqued my interest in importing and selling lights to do lighting for different venues. I started exploring other avenues, using talents that, at the time, seemed more like bouts of ADD, and trying my hand at entrepreneurship. 

I came to Belmont at the perfect time in my life with a malleable attitude. I needed direction, and I was willing to work for it. I found my direction in Belmont’s Entrepreneurship department, where countless faculty encouraged me and guided me through the four businesses I would build in the next three years. At Belmont, I discovered what it was like to explore talents that no one had ever told you you would be good at, ones that you weren’t even sure you could do yourself. I learned what failure felt like, and I learned that failure makes success so much sweeter. I graduated fully able to support myself by the work I had created, and then, my path shifted again.

In June of 2013, a month after I graduated college, I received a call from a current member of UK’s AcoUstiKats, inviting me to come to LA for two months to be a lead singer on NBC’s The Sing-Off. The group had auditioned and made it into the top ten, and they wanted me to be a part of it. At 22, I was being offered the “chance of a lifetime”, the kind of opportunity that I always thought would allow me to follow my dreams. “Put your business on pause,” some thought, “you were born to sing, and here’s your chance.” 

But, The Sing-Off wasn’t my chance to follow my dreams. The last three years taught me that following your dreams isn’t about taking opportunities, it’s about making opportunities. When I was offered a spot on the show, I was not the same kid I had been in high school, the one who was content to let his voice carry him throughout life. In the last three years, I learned how to follow my dreams without my voice, so that I could be ready in this moment, to follow my dreams with my voice.  

Getting to be a part of The Sing-Off was one of the greatest blessings in my life, but I’ll be honest when I say that being on television or getting a big break won’t make your dreams come true if you don’t live a life that actively creates opportunities. Others will always tell you what you are good at and what you cannot do, but you are the only one who can decide what it looks like to follow the dreams in your own life. If you’re a dreamer without a concrete dream, stop waiting for someone to give you a big break and create your own, even if it’s not the path you expected. 

I am thrilled to officially launch my company, PictureBooth.co, on December 9, 2013, the same day that The Sing-Off will premier. It’s fitting that the two biggest dreams I have chased come together at the same time because they have been integral parts of my life and growth. Thank you to those who have supported me, I could not have done it without you.

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Following Your Dreams

I grew up with the romantic notion that I would always “follow my dreams”. Though it has gotten me in trouble a time or two, I was born with a sense of adventure that has shaped my greatest decisions. I grew up feeling the need to be great, but I never knew in what context. When you’re a dreamer without a concrete dream, you find yourself hanging on the lines that others throw. 


I’ve been told that I could sing since I was three years old.  I vividly remember standing on the stage of my old church to sing my first solo, “Jesus Loves Me”, and everyone in the audience stood silent as a pure melody came from my mouth. I fell in love with singing that day, and I never stopped. On car rides, my mom would blast southern gospel music and essentially force me to sing the harmony parts. If I was joking around too much or singing an incorrect note, she would turn off the music and get frustrated with me. (I think she always had a dream of my family becoming a gospel quartet, or trio if my sister couldn’t hang with us…sorry Grace).

I was told that I was a great singer, so naturally, I assumed that was the dream I would follow. I let singing carry me through high school. I used to cut class so that I could practice to lead worship for chapel, and I was given most every solo that I auditioned for in choir. I developed a make-shift recording studio in my basement to record myself and other bands for fun (and profit) while other kids were getting “normal jobs”. Singing was my identity, and I was comfortable resting in the fact that it was a sure thing. So, when it came time to make a college decision, I let my voice guide me. University of Kentucky offered me a vocal scholarship and the chance to join the prestigious acapella mens group on campus, The AcoUstiKats. As an 18 year old, I was sold.
My time at UK was a major fork in the road of my life. My reliance on my vocal abilities had provided an incredible outlet to learn and perform at UK, but I wasn’t growing personally. I was living the “college life” with no real direction when my father forced me to get a “normal job” after my freshman year. So, I worked on UK’s ground’s crew, followed by a day job at Best Buy. The jobs were both menial: mowing lawns, pulling weeds, and selling electronics in a blue polo. I hated working under a boss and feeling like I had nothing to offer, but I had never fostered my other talents besides athletics and singing. Taking pride in any other kind of work was a foreign concept to me. 
Somewhere between the summer heat and selling one too many iPhones, I realized that the dreams that I had always planned to follow were falling by the wayside. For the first time, I realized that my voice wouldn’t keep me afloat if I didn’t start to paddle.
So, I made a change. During my sophomore year at UK, I applied to Belmont University in Nashville, TN, and transferred into the Business school. I began expanding upon the “recording studio” I had built in high school and used the equipment I owned to develop my reputation as a DJ for different clubs and eventually, weddings. My entrance into the wedding scene piqued my interest in importing and selling lights to do lighting for different venues. I started exploring other avenues, using talents that, at the time, seemed more like bouts of ADD, and trying my hand at entrepreneurship. 
I came to Belmont at the perfect time in my life with a malleable attitude. I needed direction, and I was willing to work for it. I found my direction in Belmont’s Entrepreneurship department, where countless faculty encouraged me and guided me through the four businesses I would build in the next three years. At Belmont, I discovered what it was like to explore talents that no one had ever told you you would be good at, ones that you weren’t even sure you could do yourself. I learned what failure felt like, and I learned that failure makes success so much sweeter. I graduated fully able to support myself by the work I had created, and then, my path shifted again.
In June of 2013, a month after I graduated college, I received a call from a current member of UK’s AcoUstiKats, inviting me to come to LA for two months to be a lead singer on NBC’s The Sing-Off. The group had auditioned and made it into the top ten, and they wanted me to be a part of it. At 22, I was being offered the “chance of a lifetime”, the kind of opportunity that I always thought would allow me to follow my dreams. “Put your business on pause,” some thought, “you were born to sing, and here’s your chance.” 
But, The Sing-Off wasn’t my chance to follow my dreams. The last three years taught me that following your dreams isn’t about taking opportunities, it’s about making opportunities. When I was offered a spot on the show, I was not the same kid I had been in high school, the one who was content to let his voice carry him throughout life. In the last three years, I learned how to follow my dreams without my voice, so that I could be ready in this moment, to follow my dreams with my voice.  
Getting to be a part of The Sing-Off was one of the greatest blessings in my life, but I’ll be honest when I say that being on television or getting a big break won’t make your dreams come true if you don’t live a life that actively creates opportunities. Others will always tell you what you are good at and what you cannot do, but you are the only one who can decide what it looks like to follow the dreams in your own life. If you’re a dreamer without a concrete dream, stop waiting for someone to give you a big break and create your own, even if it’s not the path you expected. 
I am thrilled to officially launch my company, PictureBooth.co, on December 9, 2013, the same day that The Sing-Off will premier. It’s fitting that the two biggest dreams I have chased come together at the same time because they have been integral parts of my life and growth. Thank you to those who have supported me, I could not have done it without you.

Be the expert.

It has been way too long since I blogged; but I think its important, so I am going to try to start being better about it. 

I read a book that my mother gave me called "Raising Eyebrows", it is a story about the foundation of Tweezerman, you know, the tweezers that you see in Walgreens and lots of other stores.  It was a fantastic book, I may try to include a link to it; but seriously, the advice that he gave was so practical.  Dal LaMagna, the founder, is a perfect picture of entrepreneurial ADD.  He tried so many different businesses; but he settled on one that no one else really was that interested in, and he perfected it.  He became the industry expert on tweezers…  On Tweezermans home page, it says, “Tweezerman, the beauty tool experts.”

Drew Hanlen, a student at Belmont University, and founder of Pure Sweat Basketball, said some very inspirational things this morning about branding. He was talking about another students business; but his comment was true for everyone.  “You have to become an expert in whatever field you are into be successful.”  For him, he is an expert in basketball fitness.  When someone meets with Drew, they know this, this is how he has branded himself and his business.

Since I began to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams a few years ago, I have had many ideas and considered starting a lot of them.  Recently though, I had a moment when I realized that I need to pick something and stick to it.  I don’t get much done when I am all over the place with ideas.  What good are ideas if none of them happen. 

DormStor.com is my business, and it is something that I am excited about.  Yeah, to most people that sounds like the most boring idea ever; but I am not most people and it sounds like a lot of fun to me. 

Over the next year, with the help of my mentors, I will become the industry expert on student storage and shipping, as well as the lifestyles of students living on campus.  I am branding my business differently than most would; but I believe because I am promoting it differently and more efficiently, that it will be to my benefit.  By the end of the year, I want everyone to know what DormStor is, and I believe that by staying focused and becoming the expert, I can do that.

RCH

This is Awesome!  So simple; but awesome.

Swiss Army Knife

I remember when I got my first Swiss Army Knife, it amazed me how it could solve any problem you came across.  I was about four year old when I received my first one, so if I had a bottle of wine, I could open it with the cork screw (Mother, THAT WAS A JOKE), I could chop up some onions, the possibilities were endless…  Like the swiss army knife, many start-ups are bogged down by over-complication. These start-ups focus their attention on having the most features, or solving the most problems.  I am always fighting the urge to do this, like many entrepreneurs; but I believe that by practicing a few simple exercises, I can help myself stay focused on one idea and sharpen my blade, rather than dull it.     

Let me give you an example.  I thought of a website, www.muzixity.com (music city.com).  The point of the website was to allow musicians to network with one another.  The site would be inhabited by singers looking for songs, songwriters looking for singers, producers looking for jobs, and so on (“professional linkedin for musicians”).  The simplistic idea of this site was very appealing to everyone that I pitched it to; but once I started thinking about it, new ideas for the site came into my head. “What if we sold music as well, what if we allowed each artist to create a website for their band and host it under the muzixity domain?”  This is where I ran into problems…

When it came time to pitch my idea to a web developer, the idea had grown into an enlarged, messy version of my original plan.  The foundation still had it’s integrity; but the rest of it was just clutter.  The developer said that my idea was achievable; but that it would take a lot of money and time to do what I had proposed.  In the end he gave me a solution that I try to follow still today.  

Start with a simple idea.

Whenever you have an idea for a business, look at it in its most basic form.  Take that initial idea and put it into practice to test it.  You will never know if an idea will work if you haven’t done anything with it.  Mark Montgomery, an amazing entrepreneur here in Nashville said, “Great ideas with no follow through are just hobbies.”  So if you have an idea that you feel you can test in some way, shape or form, test it.  Once you test it you will know the problems, and the things you are doing well.

Don’t think an idea to death.

My girlfriend Griffin will definitely agree with me on this because I do this all the time.  I will think through twenty years of a business before I have even created the LLC, and then because I fear the future, I scrap the concept.  If you have something that you think could be viable, do it.  Don’t think it.  Start small, grow big. 

Share Your Ideas.

I am very protective about my ideas and a lot of the time, I am very reluctant to share them with peers, for fear that they might steal them.  That is dumb on my part; because the majority of the time, my friends are very supportive and offer to help in any way they can.  If you have an idea that you are really unsure about, share it with someone, share it with ten people.  Everyone reading this blog probably has a facebook, so use your messaging feature…  It’s that easy.  If your idea is too complicated, you will find out fast when you share it. 

In the end, if people don’t understand it, or if you are worried about what will happen to your idea in twenty years, you may be SAKing it, so let’s all try to avoid that from now on.

SAK = Swiss Army Knife.

PEACE

Exciting.

Today, I had a great meeting with the Entrepreneurship Chair at Belmont, Dr. Jeff Cornwall.  He is an extremely knowledgeable person and always gives great advice.  We talked about some of my new entrepreneurial ideas and then talked about the future of Belmont’s Entrepreneurship Center, exciting stuff!  I can’t wait to get working on some of these things, more details coming soon!

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If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not ‘studying a profession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

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