Why You Should Take Some Time Off


I just got back from 10 days in England and Sicily. I still get giddy from boarding a plane without a cello–Talk about luxury! The trip was 50% family and 50% vacation, but it was 0% work. 

The time was full of deep meaningful conversations, laughter, ancient ruins overlooking Mt. Etna, some very good wine, and the most incredible food. The colors, sounds, smells, and sights all filled me with a sense of renewal, and I came back feeling inspired. 


Taormino, Sicily


Even during my years as a professional cellist, I felt the need to get away sometimes. Not necessarily “Away from the Cello” but towards my life as “Just Kate.” 


How scandalous of me, right? Time off? Without practicing? Like, for more than a day? 



I was warned not to post photos on social media in case contractors and presenters saw them. God forbid they knew I had, after 25 years of daily practicing, taken SEVEN WHOLE DAYS OFF! Clearly, they would never again want to hire such a reckless human.  

The idea that we must practice every day has been ingrained in us from the start. Even the wonderful Dr. Suzuki famously quipped: “You don’t have to practice your instrument every single day. Only the days you eat!” 


In our school years, counting up practice hours is an obsession. It’s how we rank ourselves amongst our peers. The more one practices and the more disciplined one is, the more social clout they have. Everyone else aspires to be like them. 

And as students, it makes sense. There is SO much to learn. So many notes! Chamber music, Orchestra, Concertos, Solo Bach. The music you need for All-state, the music you need for the competition, and the music you need for summer festival auditions, etc., etc. And we’re building our technique. We’re not just learning how to perfect a certain passage of a piece, we’re learning the technique required to be able to play that passage to begin with. 


4 different coffee + different view = different thoughts.
That kind of work takes time, and it takes consistency. 


The problem is that the sense of morality that gets twisted up in our student practice routines (If you practiced, you’re “Good” and if you didn’t, you were “Bad”) doesn’t seem to leave us once we’ve been deemed proper professionals. 

The scarcity mindset of “Right now, someone else is practicing for the job you want” stays right there by our side, like a loyal pet. 

My friend Simon had that saying as the screen saver on his computer. It tormented him every single time he looked at it. 

If you’re not busy, and you’re not practicing. You’re lazy. Right? 


Friends, that is not healthy, and we need to let it go. 

As an adult, and as a professional, you know what you need to do. As an artist, you know yourself, you know your craft, and you know how much time you really need. And at some point, we need to allow ourselves to think of it as our job, rather than our innate identity; our sole purpose in life.


The Street Market in Siracusa, Sicily


1. It matters who we are outside of that identity

The best way to figure that out is to take some time away. 

I’ve always loved the idea of traveling to exotic locations, and I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of it. Of course, my music career took me all over–including to places like Kenya and Zambia, and all throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, but I also once took a month off one summer and went to Morocco without my cello to volunteer at an orphanage and travel around. 

I didn’t tell anyone I was a cellist, and since the people around me didn’t see me as a musician, it was easier for me to see new things without that lens as well. I could appreciate a beautiful space not as a potential concert venue, but for the vivid colors of the flowers in the garden, or the handpainted tiles on the floor.  

I didn’t listen to their traditional music with an ear for the modes they used, the structure of their songs, or anything other than the lyrical sound of the words and whether it made me want to dance or not. 


Riding a camel into the desert to see the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, Morocco.


2. It’s important to be able to detach and reattach ourselves whenever we want. (and not feel beholden to our craft)


If we’re lucky, we love what we do. I certainly loved being a cellist. I even loved practicing. It was something that looked forward to each day. That was partly a gift from my teacher, who said that practice time was OUR time. We don’t have to answer calls, or answer questions, we don’t have to think about anything that is troublesome in our life. It is our safe space from the big bad world. 

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t OTHER wonderful things out there that we can enjoy. Sometimes, those other things and our craft coincide–like when I was invited to play a concert at the ruins of Ephesus–such a cool experience!

But sometimes they’re mutually exclusive. You can go on Safari, or you can practice. You can hike the Appalachian Trail, or you can practice. 

There’s no room in that pack for a cello. Or a canvas, or a barre. 

It’s important that we are able to, as adults, detach ourselves from that childhood mantra of “Discipline means EVERY DAY.” to put our craft down for a moment and say, “I’m off on an adventure, I’m going to see wild new things, and I’ll tell you all about it when I’m back!” 



3. The inspiration we get from a change of environment (inner and outer) fuels our work and makes it better. 

The reason the work of an old master is often so much more compelling than the new young thing is the level of life one can feel in their work. We as viewers and listeners can feel the depth of emotions that a life well-lived brings to the table. The exuberance, the loss, the feelings of being lost, and then found. Of heartbreak and love. 

One cannot properly convey the vivid landscape the world has to offer if you’ve never left the practice room. If you’ve only traveled as your artist self, seeing everything through the lens of your craft–it’s too limiting. 


The Ancient Greek Theater in Taormina, Sicily


Wouldn’t it be great if the idea of an artist taking time to do interesting things OTHER than make our art wasn’t such a novelty? If adult, professional musicians, painters, dancers, and actors were able to trust their ability to be away from their craft without completely forgetting how to do it? That the idea of taking a few days off won’t actually undo 30 years of work? 

And also, wouldn’t it be amazing if we were all inspired, and well-traveled, and could put visual imagery of newly explored places into our toolboxes of expression? 

Friend, whether you simply take a random Thursday off and drive to a new town to sit in a Starbucks and people-watch, or you hop on a plane to see Machu Picchu, I hope that you will give yourself permission to take some time off. Free of guilt, free of judgment, and full of life. 

Go set that “Out of Office” response and get packing! 



P.S. Are you on The List yet? If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy.  Click Here to Get the Weekend List! 

How to Tell if You’re Unhappy, or Just Uncomfortable

Growing up, I would often kick up a fuss about having to go to my Saturday afternoon cello group class, play in a recital, or anything scary like that. “Too bad.” My mom would say, shoving my flailing and sobbing body into the car, cello flung in (carefully) behind me. “It’s good for you.”

Years later, when I had finished school and was a full-fledged “Professional Cellist”, any stress I outwardly expressed before a big opportunity–a competition, fancy masterclass, or performance–was greeted with “Well, why are you doing it? You sound miserable.” and I would groan back “Mooommmmm, you don’t get it!” 

But I wasn’t really clear what it was she didn’t get or why, when I was miserable, I still sort of wanted to do it. 

I suppose it was because it was “good for me.” 



I talk a lot about getting our lives into alignment. Doing the work we love. The work that lines up with our values, desires, and dreams. Work that brings us a feeling of purpose and fulfillment. Work that is a major ingredient in the recipe for a joyous life. 


What happens when you’re doing that work, but wake up feeling a little bit miserable? 


A lot of people might think: “aha! I’m not HAPPY! I thought this work would make me happy, but it doesn’t. Clearly, I should switch and do something else.” 

But here’s the kicker. Living anything but a stuck, stagnant, boring life requires growth. Growth in your skills, growth in your experiences, growth in what you know yourself to be capable of. 

And growth is uncomfortable. 


They don’t call them Growing Pains for nothing.



The 24-year-old Kate that was a giant ball of stress before her first official professional concerto debut, complaining about having to practice, complaining about not feeling ready, complaining that her dress didn’t feel right wasn’t unhappy. She was growing. And she was feeling the discomfort of that growth from “I’m not capable of this” to “Oh, look, I did it, and I didn’t die. I am now someone who is capable of that.” 

Now, to address the elephant in the room. 

Yes, I have “retired” from my performing career, but that was more about my life circumstances changing, my values evolving, and the fact that I accidentally stumbled across something that I loved more, that fit better, that brought me even more fulfillment. 

I didn’t leave behind my life as a cellist because I was unhappy or uncomfortable, so much as I moved toward something that I was growing into.


And believe me, there have been plenty of uncomfortable growing pains in this world too. 
  • The First time I announced on FB that I had a blog–and gave everyone the link! 
  • The first time I offered an online workshop to my colleagues (on teaching online–March 2020) 
  • The first time I emailed very famous cellists to invite them to teach at my brand new Virtual Summer Cello Festival. 
  • The first time I launched a group program. 

Each of these steps made me incredibly nervous and uncomfortable, leading me to question my decisions, feel overworked (I wasn’t, it just feels that way when the work is uncomfortable), and stressed out. 

And each and every one of these steps also helped me to grow as a person, as a coach, and as a business. I look back on them with joy, and maybe that is the main difference. 




I once decided that I should expand my experiences as a musician, so I responded to an ad on craigslist (remember craigslist?) and joined a local goth band. They were all amazing musicians–the drummer was Amanda Palmer’s drummer!–and they were very serious about their future.

They called me Kiki (a nickname that has stuck endearingly amongst my closest friends, but in the context of that band felt a little slimy) I wore a neon blue wig (also slimy) and finally quit when they decided they were going to spend the entire summer on tour in the band’s smelly van. When I told them I couldn’t do that, I was berated for my “fear of success”, and I was “bailing on my dreams.” 

No. I was bailing on their dreams. 



How did I know the difference? 

The discomfort wasn’t about whether or not I could pull it off, whether I could lean into this new identity. It just seemed like pure hell. So out of alignment with what I wanted that my whole body had a visceral reaction and I felt every cell scream “RUN!!!!” 

Looking back? Right decision. But yeah, I still smile when my friends’ kids call me Auntie Kiki. 

So now, whenever I am feeling that discomfort in my work, whether it’s because I am pulling my hair out trying to figure out some complicated process (Mailchimp Automations, anyone?) or nervous before a podcast interview, wondering why on earth I said yes to this, I ask myself two questions: 


Question #1: “Who would I need to be for this to be no big deal?”

In example one: I’d need to be someone who was experienced and savvy at email marketing. 

In example two: I’d need to be super confident about spreading my work to new audiences, and trust that I had prepared both myself and the host for this conversation. 


Question #2: “Does that person seem like a natural progression from where I am now? Or a deviation from my true potential?” 

Savvy content creator, and confident interviewee? Feels like a natural progression. 

Goth Chick in a blue wig, standing by the side of the road by a broken down van? Definitely a deviation. 

What about you? 

Where are you currently feeling discomfort in your work or your life? Asking yourself these two questions might help you determine whether you are feeling the unhappiness that comes with deviating from your values and dreams, or the discomfort that comes with growing into them. 

Cheers, my friend! You’ve got this! 



P.S. Are you on The List yet? If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy.  Click Here to Get the Weekend List! 

5 Systems You Can Put Into Place This Week (to make your life far easier!)

Life is a lot easier today than it was when I was a teenager. Cell phones, laptops, Spotify, texting, emojis (lol) and it seems that whatever you need, a level? A star map? A metronome? There’s a free app right at your fingertips. 

But the ease of getting information doesn’t automatically make life easier, does it? Because we can get so much information and do things so quickly now, we’re expected to do more. Since we don’t need to be at our house to get or make a phone call, we can do it while grocery shopping, picking up the dry cleaning, and otherwise saving the world. 

It’s so easy to do everything, that it’s also easy to get completely overwhelmed by everything we need to do. Between managing our social media platforms, booking and promoting shows and performances, keeping track of our finances and tax information, and keeping the household running (somewhat) smoothly, we are up to our eyeballs in daily tasks. So it’s understandable that so many people give up any hope of tackling that BIG.HUGE.DREAM.PROJECT. 


Well, you know how I feel about THAT, don’t you? 


I think it’s a waste of a good life to be so busy managing the little details that you don’t have time for the BIG.HUGE.DREAM.PROJECT. (hmmm…BHDP? Think it’ll take off? No? okay, I’ll keep thinking.)


Is life passing you by while you hunt down receipts?


Anyway, I do a lot of work with my clients to figure out how to get systems in place so that some of these things either happen automatically, or at least are more organized and centralized so that they take up less brain space, and take less time to do. 

Decision fatigue is a real thing, my friend. Our brains can only make so many decisions each day. You know that feeling at the end of the day when someone asks what you want for dinner, and you’re all “I can’t even.”?  That’s decision fatigue. So the trick is to keep our brain from having to make a bunch of decisions about inconsequential things all day so that it can focus on the more important ones. 

  • Curating a program
  • Planning a vacation
  • Creating a new festival
  • Designing your cover art 

Here are 5 of my favorites Decision Fatigue-Busting Systems, and the ones I usually start with. If you can set aside just a couple of hours this week, you could get them ALL set up and working for you immediately, so that you can spend more of your time doing the things that you love! 


System #1: Handling Social Media Content 

If you’re like most of us–staring at your phone, knowing that you should post something, but not sure what? You need a system. You can do this in a few easy steps. 

  1. Decide how many times you want to post each week
  2. Decide what kinds of things you want to post. For example, each week, I aim to have 1 post dedicated to the week’s blog post, 1 that shares a client win, blog quote, or testimonial, 1 post that shares a lead magnet, and at least 1 reel. 
  3. Create graphics on Canva that you can reuse each week for at least 1 (maybe 2) of your pieces of content. I use the same template for my blog quotes and testimonials, and I have them all in 1 Canva file, I just make a copy, change the photo, name, and quote, and voila. Done. Took about 30 seconds. Keep all of your dedicated social media graphics in a “Social Media” folder. 
  4. Have a folder in your phone’s photo app where you keep photos that would be good for social media. When you’re creating a new post, you can go in there and pull something up rather than having to spend 30 minutes scrolling through a gazillion random shots (half of them taken by your 4-year-old.)
  5. Take your list of topics that you want to share about and give each one a day of the week. I.e. if it’s Thursday, you’re posting about your rehearsal. If it’s Sunday, you’re sharing something your family did that weekend. If it’s Wednesday, you’re doing a behind-the-scenes Reel. 


System #2: Streamlining Household Jobs 

Zones are my favorite things, and you can read about my love of them here. and here.

And much like assigning each social media share “topic” a day of the week, I assign various household tasks days of the week as well. Mondays are for tidying the house up after the weekend, Tuesdays I clean the fridge, Wednesdays I water and tend to the houseplants, Thursdays I do laundry, and Fridays I do grocery shopping and pick up fish from the fishermen (except when I forget–like this past week…oops). 

Can I switch it up if I want to? Yes, of course I can, but otherwise, I don’t have to wonder when something is going to get done. We now hire someone to come in to do the heavier lifting like dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms, but those are also great things to zone if you’re doing it on your own. 

So, again, just write down all of the things that need to happen as far as household chores go, and then figure out what makes the most sense for you as far as which day to do which tasks. 




System #3: Make Friends With Your Finances

1. I’ve become a huge fan of Quickbooks mostly because I can sync it to my business bank account and everything gets divvied up and categorized automatically. I can give my accountant access to it, so come tax season (which feels like every other week, right?) it’s all there, ready to go. 

2. But if you’re not ready to invest in that kind of program, a simple Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet will do, and honestly, I have that as well so that I can house the big picture. I set aside an hour each Friday afternoon to do my “stats” I have a spreadsheet for each year, with tabs for each month, and one tab for a weekly snapshot of: 

  • All of my accounts (bank, investment, retirement, pension, etc) 
  • Social media stats
  • Blog stats
  • Other basic business stats

In my monthly tabs, I enter any expenses I’ve had, both personally and for business, and the income I’ve had. It’s not a perfect system since some of my clients will pay for 6 months upfront, and others will pay for it over a year, but it all works out in the end. 

3. Automate anything you possibly can. 

  • Credit card payments
  • My own salary payments
  • Roth IRA 
  • Brokerage Accounts 

These are all done automatically each month, so I don’t need to remember to invest in my IRA or pay my credit card bill. 

I aint’ got time for that, and neither do you, I’m guessing. 


Is your desk starting to look a bit out of control?


System #4: Bookings Made Simple

When I was booking concerts for myself, it seemed that every presenter wanted slightly different things. Some wanted black and white photos, others want them in color. Horizontal vs. vertical, long bio vs. short bio, etc. One thing they all had in common was that they were seemingly incapable of heading to my website and downloading whatever they needed. What worked for me (and them!) was to do 2 things: 

  1. I had everything handy in 1 folder on my desktop. All my folders, a pre-filled and signed W-9 form, all of my bios, photos, rep lists, and (here’s a good one!) a pdf of my passport photo page, Frequent flier and hotel rewards numbers, and social media handles. 
  2. Had it all up in dropbox so that I could send them a handy link and they could use what they wanted when they wanted. 


System #5: A Good Project Management App

I saved this one for last because it is the one System that can house all other systems. I use Trello, but other people swear by Asana. I think they’re both great, and whichever one you used first is going to be your favorite! 

These tools are basically like a giant bulletin board–one that is highly organized and can hold everything. Because it’s a cloud-based app, you can access it from anywhere, and you can even share certain boards with others. So if you have a VA (or a spouse) they can access it as well. 

I have a social media board, where I keep links to those Canva folders, log-in info, and do batch planning for each quarter. 

I have a board for my students, and obviously had a board for Virtual Summer Cello Festival when I was running that. 

I have boards for my clients, house things, finances, the philharmonic, and travel, and one for random bits of incoming stuff, like books that were recommended to me, or a new restaurant to check out, the name of a great PT, or potential board member. 

My Trello board is like one-stop shopping for my life. No more searching 10 different notebooks (I know I wrote it down….somewhere….) it’s in Trello, guaranteed. 


Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash


Conclusion: The key, to putting systems in place, is streamlining processes and reducing the number of decisions we need to make each day. Having a centralized place like a Trello board to put all information means no more spending 10 minutes searching for that random file. And having a simple process for choosing and creating a social media post means several fewer decisions need to be made around it. 

Setting these systems up takes time, of course, but it’s so worth it in the long run. And whether you end up implementing just one of these systems, or all five, I know you’ll see an immediate difference in your daily timeline. 

The only other decision you’ll be left with will be what to do with all of that newfound time and mental bandwidth. 



Oh! and if you’d like a list of other tools and resources that I use on the regular, check out my Success Toolbox pdf. It’s free, and it’s loaded with 10 different tools I use that have given me SO many hours back in my week. Grab it here. 




How to Invest in Yourself at Any Price Point

When I moved to warm and sunny Bermuda from cold and dreary Boston back in 2016, I knew I wanted to do 2 things: 1) to bring more of my entrepreneurial side to my music career, and 2) to grow food year-round. 

I had ZERO idea what either of those things looked like.

As far as my music career had always gone, I just waited for opportunities to come from others–contractors, presenters, administrators, conductors, etc. I wanted to have more control over what, where, and with whom I performed. As for my garden? The idea of growing through the winter, and into what was basically a bed of limestone rock was totally intimidating. 

Both were going to involve a lot of learning, and likely quite a bit of investing in time, energy, and money. 

Unfortunately, I had also just given up a significant portion of my income, and I didn’t have a ton (or any, really) money to spend on said learning. 


Listening to Podcasts on my daily walks


Back then, I turned to freebies like podcasts and blogs for my business, and youtube and the free (and, it turns out, pretty toxic) “compost” available at the dump. (Remind me to tell you about the time a truck dumped a car-sized mountain of crappy “compost” at my (very steep) driveway just as a hurricane was arriving.)

Ah…good times. 

I didn’t have extra cash to put towards these projects, but I did suddenly find myself with loads of time. So that’s what I invested with for those first few years. The time it takes to piece together bits of free info from podcasts, and the time it takes to turn kitchen scraps into the perfect soil. 

Now, 7 years later, I regularly dedicate a portion of my income each year on coaches, courses, retreats, and masterminds in order to get expert eyes on my business, build relationships with my peers, and learn from the best. We’re also now able to spend more on materials to build raised beds, organic compost, and fertilizers, and water lines for the garden. 

But there are plenty of options between that free podcast and a $15,000 Mastermind, and there are pros and cons to all of them. I want to outline some of the options at every stage of the game (and we’ll drop the gardening metaphors….for now… and stick to building careers in the arts  ;- ) 


Photo by Andre Taissin for Unsplash.com


Whether you are a performer looking to book more concerts for yourself or your ensemble, a writer looking to grow their audience or someone with a creative dream project you are eager to get off the ground, there are GREAT ways for you to start investing in yourself at any price tag. 

Okay, here we go! 


Level 1: It’s Gotta be Free! ($0)

1. Podcasts
2. Blogs
3. Youtube
4. Joining someone’s Mailing List (often via a freebie that you get by entering your email address) Bonus–gets you some great (also free) material in their weekly emails/newsletters as well. 

I’m listing all of these in one place because they all give you similar experiences with similar Pros and Cons. One of the most important lessons I learned–a concept I think about every single week in my career, is something that I learned from a podcast. And even though I’m now at a point where I can invest in great coaches, I STILL take in free content on a daily basis. (Read to the end for a listing of a few faves.) And…shameless plug, you should hop onto my mailing list. I send out a weekly email each Friday with a few bits of info/tips/hacks that I think you’ll find useful.


  • Obviously, the fact that it doesn’t cost you anything is the biggest one. 
  •  Because there isn’t an initial buy-in, you’re free to try multiple people’s content on for size. 
  • You can take in the material however and whenever you want. 


  • While we all give out great content for free, no one is giving out ALL of our content for free. So you need to understand that while what you’re getting will get you started, it will only take you so far. 
  • It can get confusing and overwhelming if you’re taking in content from several different people at once.
  • You don’t have access to any of those people. You can’t ask them questions about your own situation. You need to take what you hear and see if it applies to you. 


Photo by Melanie Fiander


Level 2: I’m ready to dip a toe in and see how this goes (between $25.00-$500.00)


1. Webinars and Online Bootcamps

Most webinars and bootcamps (short, 1-5 day online challenges) used to be free, and some still are! But with the end of the Pandemic came busy schedules, and fewer people stuck at home, waiting excitedly for ANY adult human interaction and hosts started finding that people would sign up for a free event and then blow it off. However, when people pay, they pay attention, so even charging a minimal amount like $25, was getting them into the metaphorical room. 

With Online Workshops, Webinars, and Bootcamps, the teacher is usually offering it right before the launch of a bigger program. We all do it to gather people who might be a good fit for our program, get them started, and then let them know about the bigger offer. Is it a sales tactic? Yes. But I don’t know anyone out there who isn’t busting their butt trying to give amazing content and information in these free or low-ticket events.

The last thing we want is for anyone to feel like they wasted their time with us.  This is NOT, I repeat, this is NOT one of those time-share scams where they get you in a room and the ONLY thing you learn is why you should give them all of your money.  The idea, rather, is to teach you something truly useful, and give you a chance to see what it’s like to work with them. 


  • They are short-just an hour, to a couple of days.
  • You get to see the teacher in action in real-time, and can often ask questions and interact with them live.
  • You’ll come away with at least a few clear action steps or ideas
  • A great way to find out if you want to invest longer-term (or higher ticket) with a coach or teacher.


  • You’re getting just a taste
  • Not getting in-depth coaching or long-term help
  • Only offered for a limited time, and usually have limited access to any replays.


2. Digital Mini-Courses: 

You can find various mini-courses on all sorts of topics. From how to master Instagram to SEO, to Excel Spreadsheets. These are pre-recorded and when you pay for them, you’ll get login information to access the course. 


  • You can pick and choose exactly what you need to learn. 
  • You can learn it at your own pace and as your schedule allows. Binge all 8 modules in one sitting, or parse it out 10 minutes at a time. 
  • You’ll have access to them forever. I have many digital courses in my Kajabi Library  (a popular platform that “houses” digital courses) that I refer back to often. 


  • Again, there’s usually no personalized support from the teacher themselves.  (some people will launch these mini-courses at a certain time of year, and offer a FB group for a certain amount of time–but this is usually peer support) 
  • They don’t go very broad,  But again, if you just wanted info on 1 particular topic, these are perfect. 


Level 3: I’m ready to make a real investment ($2000-$100,000+)


1. Group Coaching Programs

These group offers generally run between $2,000 and $8,000 with some running significantly higher depending on the length of time, number of trainings, and other factors. 

Generally, these sessions are held live and online. 

One of my best friends is someone I met in my first live coaching group, 3 years ago. We Voxer each other multiple times a day, every single day. 

Two people who were in one of my first rounds of Profit Pivot just met for the first time IRL–2.5 years later! They were at the same conference and sent me a selfie that warmed my heart. 


  • You have an amazing group of peers that you get to meet and interact with and bounce ideas off of. This kind of work gets lonely really fast–and having others there alongside you can go a LONG WAY. 
  • You have real-time access to the coach. You can ask questions, usually have a FB group, or a way of communicating with your coach via Voxer, or email, and you’re getting their eyes on your work on a semi-regular basis. 
  • Small and intimate groups. Usually, these groups are between 3 and 20 people. Any larger than that, and I think people can start to feel lost in the shuffle.
  • The Coach is fully invested in you, gets to know you and your projects, and will help you see success.


  • You’re sharing the coach’s time with the others in the group. 
  • You’re following a syllabus that may or may not align perfectly with what you are doing/needing at the same time. 
  • You need to be available for the coaching times, or watch the recording later on….alone…and sad that you missed out on the fun. 


2. 1:1 Coaching

Again, this varies greatly in price depending on the kind of coaching, the experience of the coach, and how much access you get from them. They can run from $500 a month to (I kid you not!) $50,000 a session. To give you an idea, I see my 1:1 clients alone every other week for 90 minutes, hold office hours every week (basically just a giant work party/Q&A session that all of my group and 1:1 clients are invited to) and they can Voxer me whenever. My fees are now around $1,000 a month. 


  • Your coach is focused on your work, and helping you succeed. 
  • With 1:1 coaching, you have the time to thoroughly work through mindset and thought issues that there just isn’t time for in group coaching settings. 
  • Strategizing is specific to your needs and on your specific timeline. Whatever you need help with at that moment is what you’re getting. 
  • 1:1 coaching can lead to incredible growth, and you’ll see the fastest level of personal growth.


  • Usually there’s no peer support (that’s why I hold my office hours, so all of my clients can meet each other)
  • It is a big investment. 
  • I’ll be perfectly honest with you. With 1:1 coaching, things get real. It can feel uncomfortable as you face your own limiting beliefs and are held accountable for the things you say you want to do. As a coach, it’s important to both encourage a client’s growth, and to always meet them where they are at that moment, and as someone who is regularly on both sides of that table, it’s important, and sometimes uncomfortable work. 

3. Masterminds

There are 2 basic kinds of Masterminds, but both lean heavily on the peer dynamic. A paid mastermind is put together by a coach, and the members are hand-picked or can apply, but the group is held to a certain standard (income level or type of work are typical) Instead of following a training syllabus like in a group program, masterminds give each member time in the “hot-seat” to talk about their projects, and ask questions, talk about where they are getting stuck, and get ideas and insights from the rest of the group. 

Unpaid masterminds are put together by a group of peers themselves. I was in one with a couple of friends back in 2019! And it was a huge kickstart to the early days of my business. Brendon Burchard put one together with his besties (Amy Porterfield, Jenna Kutcher, Lewis Howes, etc.) and although they don’t pay to be IN the mastermind, they all commit to getting themselves to wherever they are meeting in person–covering their flights, hotel rooms, meals, etc. (*Also, what I would give to be a fly on THAT wall!) 

Some of the better-known mastermind groups can run up to $25,000 or $50,000. But then, you’re paying for access to the greatest business minds out there. 


  • You get the true inside-scoop. What worked, and what didn’t? How they did what they did. The nuts and bolts. 
  • You can ask for help, resources, and connections. One person made a “shot in the dark” request for an email introduction to a very famous person in the Theater world,  and it just happened that Super Famous Guy had been a teacher, mentor, and college advisor to another member of the group. Connection MADE.
  • At the highest levels, these masterminds are like mini-marketing departments. They speak at each other’s events, promote each other, and help to create a serious buzz.


  • You’re expected to keep up. Mastermind is meeting up in Cabo for a long weekend and everyone is staying at the same 5-star resort? You’re going to Cabo, and you’re shelling out the big bucks.
  • This is not just about you. You’re there to help everyone in that room. (while they are also helping you, of course)
  • It’s a big investment. You want to be absolutely sure you have the time, money, and bandwidth to take on a group like this, and you want to be absolutely sure this is the right group for you. It will change your life, but you have to be willing to show up.



Looking back, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. From pulling the old dead plants out of the dried-out pots or the garden beds with 5-year-old soil I had them in, and planting new ones in their place. No surprise, they weren’t terribly successful.

Eventually, I learned that I needed to build up that soil with nutrients. Good nutrients–not cheap chemicals. And that those good nutrients could be free with compost that I made slowly and patiently, one banana peel at a time, or with slightly more expensive bags of compost or chicken manure that I bought at the garden center. Those things allowed my flowers and vegetables to thrive and succeed, and our careers are no different. 

Investing in ourselves is a necessary step in our growth, and I have yet to see anyone succeed without doing it in some form. If you have all kinds of time but are short on cash, go for the free things. It will take you much longer, but you WILL be getting good information. If you have less time, and or, a bit of money to put towards it? I can promise you it’s worth it. It will fast-track your growth and get you there a lot sooner. 

It took me from 2016 to 2020 to get to the first step with free content, and then a year of a group coaching program to get to the next step, and less than that with my current mastermind group. 



Would I have done anything differently? No. Honestly, at first, I wasn’t perfectly clear on what it was I wanted to do, and I didn’t have cash on hand to pay for programs or courses. The free content got me started. I felt inspired and encouraged to keep going. 

But I will say that I am SO glad that I DID, eventually choose to invest in that first coaching program and each course I take gives me so much new knowledge. I think it does need to be done at some point. It’s worth saving a little bit each month at the beginning in order to start seeing real growth and progress at some point. 

I’ve experienced it first-hand, and I’ve witnessed it with my clients. 

Have you taken a course or participated in a group program, or do you have a favorite podcast? Let us know in the comments so we can all share resources. You can find my round-up of favorite podcasts for creative entrepreneurs HERE. It’s a bit outdated and leans toward musicians, but while a couple of these podcasts have changed hosts, they are still around, and are all still amazing! I’ll do an updated post with some of my new finds soon (and I’d love to include some of yours, too!) 




P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy.  Click Here to Get the Weekend List! 

Spotlight: Laura Sinclair– Violist, Educator, and Speaker

This month’s Spotlight interview brings me immense joy and pride. Not only is our featured artist amazingly inspiring, but she’s also a long-term client and friend. Laura Sinclair has created the artist’s dream life, with her ideal balance of performances (because one really shouldn’t have to choose between playing chamber music around the world and subbing in the pit for the national tour of Hamilton!) teaching her beloved and close-knit private teaching studio, and running her peer-coaching program, The Stress-Free Studio (more on that later!) AND speaking about the intersection of music teaching, child development, and neuroscience at conferences and private events.

Laura is taking the world by storm, revolutionizing how people teach–from a more fulfilling way to build their studios to the way they can better understand children (and parents!) She has a truly remarkable story, and I can’t wait to share it with you today.



TFTL: At what age did you start playing the viola? Did you start on the violin? Were you naturally drawn to it, or was it something that someone suggested you try? 

LS: I started playing violin at age 7. I was always drawn to musical instruments, so when the violin-shaped notice arrived in my mailbox (in my tiny Canadian fishing village) inviting me to take lessons at a neighbor’s house for $5 a lesson, we jumped at the chance. The viola entered my life midway through my undergraduate degree when my violin teacher thought it would help with some of the physical tension in my body, as well as satisfy my love of inner voices in chamber music. As it turns out, a bigger instrument was a perfect fit and I’ve been playing both ever since. 


TFTL: What prompted you to start studying neuroscience and child development? How do you see this added layer helping your students/parents? 

LS: I gained firsthand experience working with children from all backgrounds through my work in a  Title I public school while building my private studio. What struck me the most is how much I didn’t know. As teachers, our tendency is to teach how we were taught, but it wasn’t working for me. The behaviors and deep emotional worlds of my students perplexed me, and I felt wholly ill-equipped to help with the challenges of modern childhood. This led me on a deep dive to learn as much as I could about the brain and how it learns, emotional regulation, and attachment theory.

This has been hugely beneficial for me as a teacher and parent educator in decoding behaviors in lessons and classes and providing insight for the parent into a child’s internal experience. Often what we see as “bad” behavior is simply the child trying to communicate something, be it a need for connection, a lack of understanding of what is being asked, or a basic need like needing a snack!


TFTL: You have a lot of different balls in the air! A thriving teaching studio, an active performance schedule, AND you’re a coach and speaker. What is a typical day like for you? 

LS: Keeping my week as routine as possible has been key. Every weekday starts with a workout with my strength training small group. From there, I begin my day with journaling and digging into any creative work that needs to get done, like practicing and writing. I try not to make appointments or take calls in the morning so I can put my personal work first. Early afternoon typically brings around coaching calls with clients or my own coach. I teach my students Monday through Thursday.  My performance work often has me traveling, but I’m typically able to teach from the road or limit the travel to the weekends. 


TFTL: How have you found balance in your career/life? How do you keep from burning out? 

LS: After years as a workaholic, it has been challenging and exciting to embrace the concept of doing less to do more. Now, I recognize that I bring my best to the table when I have blank space to be creative, have time to nurture my personal relationships, and only accept work that aligns with my long-term goals.  Keeping those things in balance allows me to avoid burnout, and I now have a system of accountability in place to not return there. 



TFTL: In your Stress-Free Studio coaching work with other private teachers, what do you see them struggling with the most? 

LS: I see a lot of them struggling with the business side of teaching. It’s not a subject that is discussed in music school, because the professors teaching us have little to no first-hand knowledge about how to be successful at it.  My aim with my coaching work is to help teachers conscientiously design their offerings to highlight their strengths, and automate their business practices so their energy can be devoted to delivering high-quality teaching while not feeling consumed by it.


TFTL: What does success look like for you? 

LS: Success to me is having a career that allows me to live my values. I know there’s magic happening in my work when it reflects who I am and what I hold dear.


TFTL: Who have been some of your role models?

LS: I have had many incredible teachers in my life. Dr. Terry Durbin has been a key influence in how and why I teach, and my curiosity about brain development. All of my conservatory teachers helped me recognize that a musician must become both a car mechanic and an artist to be successful.

Often, I find a lot of teachable moments in getting myself into situations that don’t align with who I am, or leadership that didn’t offer me what I need to do my best. From the narcissistic boss to the administrator who just didn’t know how to support me, to the wedding gig catastrophe, I am eternally grateful for having those moments in my life to light up my intuition and cause me to course correct.


TFTL: What is the best piece of advice someone has given you? 

LS: If you don’t build your dream, someone will pay you to build theirs.  It really made me realize where I was allowing the work for other people to put my work on the sidelines.


TFTL: Practicing: Love it or Hate it? What do you find is the most challenging aspect of it?

LS: It’s definitely a love-hate relationship for me, because to this day, setting aside time to practice (especially when there isn’t an IMMEDIATE performance to prepare for) feels like a selfish act. Now, I do best when I apply the principle of routine to my practice and create space for it in my day. Ultimately, it’s that daily maintenance that keeps me pursuing bigger and better performance opportunities.


TFTL: What is your favorite thing about attending (not performing in) a classical music concert these days?

LS: As an active performer, I really enjoy not being in the hot seat sometimes! I value thoughtful programming and concert experiences that are intimate and personal to the artist. My goal this year is to see the Emerson string quartet while they are in their farewell season. 


TFTL: What is most important to you these days? 

LS: Making sure I am spending my time conscientiously, and helping others do the same. This means prioritizing music I want to play, students that fit into my studio culture, clients that are excited to create big changes through small changes, and time for friends, family, and travel.


TFTL: Where can people find you? (website, Socials, etc.) and what is the best way for people to show their support for what you are doing? 

LS: The best thing people can do is pass on The Stress-Free Studio to that musician in your life who needs a helping hand to become a brilliant teacher–whether they are just starting out after graduating, have recently moved to a new city and are faced with starting over, or are feeling overwhelmed by the logistics of maintaining a private studio.  Follow me on Instagram and join my mailing list to stay up to date on my varied offerings and musical adventures. 

TFTL: Thanks so much, Laura! 


Where is the Line Between Self-Acceptance and Complacency?

Many of you know I’m currently working on a book, and the subject is Potential. Defining it, Striving for it, Reaching it. 

And it’s brought up a lot of questions for me. One of which is this: At what point does striving toward what we perceive to be our peak potential create more stress in our lives than it’s worth? 

In other words, how does one achieve greatness without having to give up, well… a life. 

On one hand, we’re being told to rest, meditate, take time off, and avoid burnout, and on the other, we’re being encouraged to shoot for the stars, to achieve our wildest dreams. 

I was relieved when I was listening to a re-released podcast episode with Brene Brown and Tim Ferriss and they brought up this very question. 

Where is the line between Self-Acceptance, and Complacency? How do we go from “Meh, my life is just fine the way it is” to “I can achieve my wildest dreams” without completely losing ourselves in the process? 

I think part of it has something to do with the 1% rule. 

You know the one. Where we aim to get 1% better each day (or week, or month) coined by Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, and doubled down upon by James Clear in his Atomic Habits

Getting 1% better, or moving 1% closer to your goals each day allows you to enjoy your current life. Truly appreciate all that you already have, while pointing your nose in the right direction. 

What does that look like in the wild? 


1. Dream: To become financially independent

Goal: Get 1% closer to being financially independent each day. 

Reality: every day, spend a little less, make a little more, and learn a bit more about investing. Become more financially literate each day. 


2. Dream: To Become Principal of a major orchestra

Goal: Get 1% closer to winning that audition each day

Reality: every day, work on excerpts, have lessons with members of that orchestra, study the sound of the orchestras, play mock auditions, work on your technique, learn and study scores, become a better sight-reader, and work on your craft. 


3. Dream: To speak 5 languages fluently

Goal: To get 1% closer to fluency in a language every day. 

Reality: Use duolingo, join a meet up group where you get together and speak a different language, travel, read literature, and watch TV shows in that language. Anything. But if you learn 3 new words a day, you’re doing great. 


Photo by Andre Taissin for Unsplash.com


So this is the question I have been asking myself each day now. As I’m writing this book, I’m thinking more deeply about my own potential, and what it would look like to reach it. And if I were to point myself in that direction and make 1% progress each day, what would that look like? Sometimes it’s super easy and quantifiable. 

Q: How many words need to be written per day to get 1% closer to my finished book?

A: 700



Sometimes it’s not quite as quantifiable: 

How do I become 1% better at gardening? I trust by doing it every day. I’m assuming my knowledge and experience are compounding themselves. I feel like I’ve done the same things in my gardens for years, and yet—they are better every season. 

How do I get 1% better at my marriage? My friendships? my leadership skills? Are there metrics? # of times I compliment my husband? # of times I text my friends to check in and say hi? 

It’s hard to say, but I suppose we need to look for the small mini-leaps and make as many of those as we can. And here are 3 small and subtle mindset shifts that I think can help us out along the way. 

1. Reframe Self Acceptance

Instead of thinking: “I’m perfectly fine just as I am and I don’t need to change” you can think: “I am an ever-evolving human being. I accept myself for where I am at this moment, and appreciate who I will be tomorrow.” 


2. Stay in the present while being mindful of the future. 

I can be fully present while I am setting up the coffee machine before I go to bed at night. It is part of my routine of putting the house to rest at the end of the day. And…bonus…Future Kate has a hot pot of coffee waiting for her when she wakes up. 


3. Make growth part of your current identity. 

If you see yourself as someone who runs, you’re not thinking. I’m lazy, so I need to improve myself by running. You just run. It’s who you are. If you consider yourself a ‘lifelong learner’, then you’re not seeking out knowledge because you weren’t smart enough before, it’s just part of you. The side benefit of that subtle identity shift is that you are experiencing constant growth in a direction that aligns with your potential. 



And it truly is both a subtle and profound shift in thinking. I think we all recognize the difference in the student who practices consistently, eager to try new things, improve their skills, and learn new repertoire, and the one who is only chasing after a goal–beating themselves up to be “good enough.” It’s the first one who finds success. 

The one who was both accepting where they are, AND refusing to be complacent. 




P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy.  Click Here to Get the Weekend List! 

The No-Yes Spectrum

When someone asks you to do something, and I’m talking about the whole gamut of asks, here: from “Wanna grab some dinner after rehearsal?” to  “Mom, can I sleep over at Molly’s house on Friday?” to “Can you perform all 6 Bach Cello Suites in a private concert next Saturday?” What is your usual default reaction? 

Do you always start with “No” and then find reasons to justify it? Or do you say yes to everything and then regret it? 

I think one of the biggest signs that someone has the potential to be successful is where they stand on the “No-Yes Spectrum” (I totally made that up–consider it trademarked)

Say yes to too many things and you can get overwhelmed, spread yourself too thin, and not have the capacity to do really good work on anything. 


Say no to too many things though, and you get stuck, rigid, stop taking risks, and avoid growth. 


I think most people, whether they do it consciously or not, generally default to “No.” Our brains have been sold a thousand reasons why we cannot do certain things. Seth Godin calls it our “Lizard Brain”, Stephen Pressfield writes about it as resistance in his book “The War of Art” and Scientists will start talking to you about your amygdala and why it keeps saying “No, because”  over and over and over. You can also blame your parents, teachers, and general surroundings for your knee-jerk reactions to new ideas. 

  • Can you be a doctor? No, because medical school is expensive and takes forever. 
  • Can you live in France? No, because you don’t have an EU passport. 
  • Can you make millions of dollars? No because we’re not “those” people. 

You get the idea.

More often than not, we are defaulting to “No” as a way to keep ourselves safe. Avoid the risk. As creatives, we are geniuses at coming up with reasons why we should say no–even when our heart is saying yes. 

Whether it’s about taking an artistic risk (I can’t play it that way because people will hate it) or a career risk (I can’t enter that competition because I’m not ready) or a tactical risk (I can’t work with a coach because I don’t have the money). 

We rarely ask ourselves if that No is serving us in the long term, or whether it’s just keeping us safe and comfortable at the moment. Sometimes, the no is stemming from a long-held belief in what is possible and what is impossible for our lives. 



Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy


My friend Jason once worked as the General Manager of a big organization. He was a wonderful guy that everyone got along with outside of work. In his role, he was in charge of the budget and, more importantly, making sure the organization stayed within that budget. He was also in charge of 6 very hard-working staff members, and he took it upon himself to make sure that they were happy, fulfilled, and not overworked. 


Like I said, great guy. Except that he said “No, because…” to everything. 


  • An exciting new project! “No, because we don’t have the time to plan it properly.” 
  • A new opportunity to collaborate with the perfect partner! “No, because everyone is already maxed out.” 
  • Some fun swag for our volunteers? “No! Because there’s no money for it.” 


It’s hard to argue with that. Those are all valid reasons. But it wasn’t long before everyone around him, from his staff members to the CEO, were utterly frustrated with him. He was not to be swayed. According to Jason, It was everyone around him who was the problem. “They want the moon,” he’d cry “and they don’t see how impossible it is!” 

After a few years, the organization, sitting dead in its tracks, had been outperformed by the competition. Other groups were doing more, had more visibility, more collaborations, and better initiatives. 

But Jason’s budget was balanced! Problem was, It was the exact same budget he had been working with for 3 years. There had been zero growth. 

His replacement, Terry, brought a different attitude. Instead of answering “No, because” to everything,  they responded to each request and idea with “Yes! If….” Sometimes it would be determined that the “if” in question either wasn’t feasible, or wasn’t worth the effort at the moment, but often, it opened the door for creative thinking, a more engaged team, and exciting new projects. 

  • A new summer initiative? “Yes, If two of you are willing and able to take on some extra hours over the next 4 weeks. It’s a tight turnaround, and we are already short on available work hours. But if we can find an extra 10 hours a week, we can make this happen.” 
  • A new collaboration? “Yes, If the other partner has the necessary manpower available, we can contribute our space and do the mailings. Our staff has its hands full with current projects, but we can make this work”
  • Some fun new swag for our volunteers? “Yes, If we can find a corporate sponsor to donate it.” 


Terry knew how to turn the Impossible into the Possible. It didn’t mean the team would decide to act on every idea, but thought and input was given. They could look for creative solutions and then decide their next best step from there. 

Suddenly, the whole world opened up. They experienced tremendous growth AND the budget remained balanced. 

Terry was scoring high on the No-Yes Spectrum. 


It takes a lot of courage. 


It’s far easier to reason ourselves OUT of doing something new, risky, or challenging.  We justify the no with perfectly valid reasoning (usually having to do with a lack of time, resources, or money) and then feel a sigh of relief, knowing that we don’t have to figure anything out. We got ourselves out of doing the hard work (preparing for the competition, cutting back on spending, or planning the trip) 


Unfortunately, we’ve also cheated ourselves out of the potential reward. Winning the competition (or even just the knowledge that we could, in fact, get ourselves prepared enough to do well) Having the coach, or the new instrument, or the studio space we needed (and hey–by not going out for meals for 3 months to save the money, your cooking skills got a serious upgrade!) Experiencing a new country in the best possible way


Photo by Brett Garwood


So every time you hear your Lizard brain’s amygdala start to utter the phrase “No, because”,  call up your inner Terry and flip it around. Instead of the “No, because” default, you look for the “Yes, if” possibility.  


  • Can you be a doctor? Yes, if you put a plan in place to cover expenses while you’re in school and look for some great scholarships/financial aid. 
  • Can you live in France? Yes, if you married someone with an EU passport, or if you get the right visa. 
  • Can you make millions of dollars? Yes, if you create an offer or product that people want and serve them well, you can be both an awesome human being AND a millionaire. 


Give it a shot.

Take something that you think you have to say no to, and ask yourself “What parameters need to exist in order for this to be a yes?” 

Are they feasible?  Is the reward worth the risk? Will you experience the kind of growth you are looking for? 




P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy.  Click Here to Get the Weekend List! 

The Possible vs. The Impossible

I heard a story several years ago on a podcast about a kindergarten teacher who asked her students to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most of the kids drew pictures of doctors, people in suits, firefighters, ballet dancers…the usual. But the teacher grew concerned about one boy who had drawn a picture of what looked to be a guy delivering pizzas. 

The teacher called the student’s mother, who, after a deep exhale, explained that the boy’s father was in prison. His older brother had died of an overdose, and his uncle was in a gang, but he had one older cousin, James, who wasn’t in a gang, didn’t do drugs, and had never been to jail. He was currently working as a pizza delivery guy to pay for some community school classes, and her son thought he was the most amazing and successful person in the whole world. He wanted to be just like James when he grew up. 


We can only aspire to what we can see. 


Photo by Lucian Alexe on Unsplash


Growing up, it was made clear to my brother and me that there was an expectation that we would go to college. Both of my parents made the choice to go to college–a choice that was NOT expected of either of them. In fact, my mother had to hide the fact that she had applied to college from her overbearing father until, with bags packed, she simply announced to him that she needed a ride to campus. 

So I grew up knowing that I came from an educated family, and getting a college degree was just what you did. It wasn’t until I got to high school (in the very affluent Chicago suburbs) that it became clear that choices and decisions like these are all relative (literally!) For my friends’ families, not only was it assumed that they would go to college, it was assumed that they would go to A Very Good College. Most likely Ivy League.


Photo by Vasily Kolada


Sometimes, we are aware of other choices, but external opinions and comments dictate whether we see them as “Possible” or “Impossible.”  Maybe everyone around you blasted artists and musicians as irresponsible, substance-abusing, MORONS. Making your desire to be an actor seems like an impossibility. 

Or maybe it was the opposite. It was successful (read: Wealthy) people who had their priorities messed up. But getting a degree in English or going to Music Conservatory? Those were worthy pursuits.


Creative, Artistic, Humble. Possible. 


I knew at 15 that I wanted to be a cellist. All of my friends were great musicians, and most of their parents were professional musicians. Good ones–not just your average freelancer, but they were in the Chicago Symphony, or in world-renowned string quartets, and were highly respected pedagogues. That was my world.

And in my world, going into music was just what you did. It was possible. Playing at a high level? Possible. Getting into a top conservatory? The best festivals? All Possible. 

Someone asked me once at a post-concert Q&A, why I had chosen to become a professional musician, and my answer was “because it’s the only thing I actually know how to do!” tossed off with a laugh. 

In hindsight, I realize that wasn’t true, but being a cellist was the only thing that I knew was possible for me. 

My 8th-grade teacher told me I’d make a great US Senator (and back when I was in 8th grade, that was a compliment!) I thought about it for a second, but when I told my dad, he laughed and said “Nah. Politicians are all corrupt. You don’t want to do that!”  and that was the end of that idea.


It was put on the “Impossible” list.



And for most of us, that unspoken and unwritten list is something we’ve been carrying around with us without realizing. “Possible” on the left, “Impossible’ on the right, and we grow up understanding and taking that list in. It determines where we stand in life. How far our dreams are allowed to go.

For some, it’s an international soloist. For others, a Supreme Court Justice, and for others, a pizza delivery guy.

But now, knowing this. Seeing how arbitrary that list really is,  we can look at our life and make future decisions with clearer eyes.

Without any external input, what would you do? 

Without any expectations, what would you do? 

Without that list of Possible vs. Impossible, what would you do? 




P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy.  Click Here to Get the Weekend List! 



Spotlight Interview with Jalayne Mitchell

You might know cellist and Seattle native, Jalayne Mitchell better as the brainchild of Classical Wellness, the brand and platform she created while studying abroad at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Scotland. With well over 60,000 followers on Instagram (@classicalwellness), her posts about the struggles musicians face in the practice room are clearly resonating with classical performers of all ages. 

I wanted to learn more about the person behind it all, why she felt compelled to call out the industry, and the kind of bravery and hard work that went into it all.



TFTL: At what age did you start playing the cello? Were you naturally drawn to it, or was it something that someone suggested you try?

JM: I started playing the cello in the middle of my 6th-grade year. I found out that I could waive PE if I took up a language or joined the orchestra, so I begged my counselor to let me in mid-year. I originally asked for a violin, because that’s the only instrument I knew of, but the teacher said there were no more. She said they only had cellos. I said OK without knowing how big the instrument was!



TFTL: What prompted you to start the Classical Wellness Account/Brand? Did you have experience in marketing and branding before, or have you had to learn it all as you go?

JM: I had to learn as I went. I followed lots of accounts that teach about Instagram marketing and I even bought small courses and guides to help me get the message out to bigger audiences. I wanted to start this page and scream the brand’s message from the rooftops because I saw a dire need for musicians to be validated. Musicians should be given a space to be open about the way they are feeling, good or bad. They should be given resources for affordable prices so that we can learn healthy ways to be musicians without having rich parents or connections. 

I saw so much struggle when I got to finally be around musicians. I didn’t start lessons until age 16, so I wasn’t really ‘in’ the music world until that point. Even then, I didn’t experience much with other musicians because I was so busy practicing and trying to catch up, I just had my own experiences. When I went to conservatory at 18 and actually got the experience of being a ‘real’ music student, I realized that if I was going to stay in this community, something needed to change. I didn’t see anyone else helping musicians (mentally and physically) on a big scale so I decided to do it myself. 



TFTL: As a recent graduate, what does a typical week look like for you?

JM: I graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the summer of 2022. Right now, I am taking a gap year to focus on auditions for master’s programs. I am currently working remotely on all things classical wellness. This page is just like having my own business. There are lots of backend things that I need to constantly update and make sure are working correctly, and there’s lots of admin. Not to mention the posts that I create daily! 

When I’m not doing that, I’m practicing. I average around 2-3 hours per day, with many rest days. I spend time with my family and my boyfriend when I’m not working. Right now I am very happy with the balance between work/cello/social life. Ironically, I’m not in any structured program at the moment! 



TFTL: You have an impressive number of IG followers. Did that happen gradually or overnight?

JM: It happened organically, but in the early summer of 2022 (more than a year after I started) I started seeing a lot of growth. From March 2021 to May 2022, I had 3,000 followers. Something happened at the end of the school year last year that just made my posts run around the internet. There was a point when I was gaining 1000 followers a day. It was insane. I had always second-guessed myself, wondering if I was making a fool of myself by starting such a thing. When I first started it, some friends from school made fun of me and my silly tik tok videos (which I also cringe at, looking back). But eventually, I perfected my zone of creating, and musicians respond very well to it.  I’m really happy people resonate with the message. 




TFTL: What does your dream career look like? Do you think being a musicians’ wellness advocate will always be a part of it?

JM: Absolutely. I feel like my dream would be a mixture of speaking at schools, hosting my own music festival in the summer aimed at creating healthy practice habits, and being a shoo-in for orchestras on the side. I want to play cool music with cool people without the pressure of perfectionism or the high risk of injury (as many orchestra jobs have).



TFTL: Your messaging resonates with students and professionals alike. What are you talking about that no one else has been saying in this space?

JM: That musicians deserve breaks,  & that it’s okay for us to be tired. & it’s okay for us to prioritize other things in life. & that none of that means we are less dedicated or less passionate about what we do. 

(and that we need to make practicing more effective and efficient so that we aren’t tied to the idea that practicing 5 hours a day is the only way to success)


TFTL: Practicing: Love it or Hate it? What do you find is the most challenging aspect of it?

JM: Both. Love what it gives to me, but hate having to sit down and actually spend time working things out. Sometimes I’m excited to practice, and sometimes I’m not. But I’ve found that technique is a nice way to just start without having to figure anything out. The steps are already there. You just sit down and do it, and then after a while, you get motivated to think about how you want to work on your pieces. I’d say mostly I have to convince myself to practice unless there’s a deadline ahead or I am starting a new piece. Then I’m eager! 



TFTL: Who are some of your role models?

JM: In terms of cello: Alison Wells (cello faculty at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), Anna Edwards (Founder of the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra, Saratoga Orchestra), Mika Takano-Armaly (my very first orchestra teacher in Seattle!) These women have paved the way for me to become an empowered musician. I am so happy I got to look up to these people as I ‘grew up’ in the cello world. 

In terms of big-name musicians: Yo-Yo Ma is one of my idols. The things he does around the world to bring people together with music are just extraordinary. He branches away from traditional classical music structure and makes it his own. That is something I really admire and respect. 




TFTL: What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?

JM: In regards to performing: express, not impress. Simple, but earth-shattering!


TFTL: And the worst?

JM: That I should be able to practice 4 hours a day from the start without many breaks or time off, and that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be successful. It takes a lot of energy, time, and effort to create a system where you can healthily practice 4 hours a day. It takes even longer to do it when you have literally any other commitments in life.  People throwing this around with no guidance on how to actually practice healthily is very damaging for even the most passionate musicians.



TFTL: What 6 people (dead or alive) would you invite to your ideal dinner party?

JM: Barack Obama, Jennifer Coolidge, The main character from the Apple TV show Severance, Yo-Yo Ma, my boyfriend Felipe, and Errollyn Wallen (UK composer)



TFTL: Where can people find you? (website, Socials, etc.) and what is the best way for people to show their support for what you are doing?

JM: I have a website, classical-wellness.com, where I have some resources available for purchase and download, and this year I am launching a podcast where I go in-depth on all the juicy topics I talk about on my page. I hope it will be available on all listening apps, but keep an eye on my Instagram for the launch! 

The best way to support me is by sharing my posts in some way, so those who need it can find the page. It’s very important that everyone feels supported, and that starts with people spreading the word! 

TFTL: Anything exciting coming up?

JM: Yes!

Spring 2023: HOW TO PRACTICE Video series (memorization, remembering what you’ve learned, learning patience for the slow practice, practice techniques that actually work for things like fast passages, lyrical passages, technically challenging passages, etc). Your one-stop shop for all things practice strategy! 

Summer 2023: Classical Wellness Podcast (where we dive deep into the toxic culture of classical music, and dismantle the unhealthy societal structures that keep us unwell)


Thanks so much, Jalayne! 



P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy.  Click Here to Get the Weekend List! 

Feeling Pulled in a Million Directions? Try Zones

Do you ever feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions? There’s a lot to do in a given week, isn’t there? 

We have our work, our personal life, our social life, family, and the household. Laundry needs to be done, groceries bought, house cleaned, plants watered, gardens tended to, lightbulbs replaced, and let’s not forget that we ourselves, need to be somewhat groomed and fit for public viewing. 

Oh, and kids. A lot of you have kids. Apparently, they come with a whole slew of responsibilities as well.

How does one stay on top of it all? 

Last week we talked about time-blocking, which is how I divide my schedule up to make sure I get my work done, without being too boring and anti-social. 

This week I want to dive even further into my methods, and I want to talk about Zones. 


There is ALWAYS something that needs to be done.
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash


I first heard about the concept of zones in a gardening context. My favorite garden YouTuber, Laura from Garden Answer, was explaining how she manages to keep her (very) large property and multiple garden areas looking great all the time. 

She said that she divided the property into 5 zones, and every morning, M-F, she would head to that day’s zone and prune, dead-head, plant–and basically clean it up. Larger infrastructure or planting jobs were added to an ongoing list for afternoon and weekend projects. But by using zones, she knew that every area would be tended to at least once a week. 

I started with the obvious–doing the same with my garden. My land isn’t nearly as extensive, but I do have multiple garden areas. I don’t have a ton of time to devote to the gardens during the week, but if I wait until the weekends, there’s just too much to do. 

So, Mondays I go down to the front terraces. Tuesdays I tackle the back garden, Wednesdays are my houseplants day, Thursdays I do the front of the house and the verandah, and Fridays I deal with the succulent garden. I’m in and out in 20-30 minutes max, between walking Tango and having my breakfast, and it worked like a dream! 


Dividing my weekly chores into daily zones helps me stay on top of things.


In fact, It worked so well, I decided to divide other parts of my life into zones as well. The next one was household chores. Mondays, I do a clean sweep (pun intended) After 2 days of my husband being in the house over the weekend, well, let’s just say he’s not a firm believer in the concept of “putting anything back” 30 minutes later, the clothes are picked up, the dishes, 100’s of cups of half-drunk tea, and various books, papers, tools, and pretty much anything you can think of has been dealt with. 

Tuesdays I clean out the fridge. Buh-bye leftovers that didn’t get eaten, tubs of sour cream that are starting to turn *interesting* colors, the last of the lettuce that will spend it’s final days in my compost bin. Wednesdays the housekeeper comes every other week, but on the weeks she doesn’t come, I change the sheets and clean the stove and the microwave and do a quick wipedown of the bathrooms. Thursdays I do laundry, and Fridays I try to get to the fish guy and the grocery store. 

I found that there is no end to what you can divide into zones. From grooming: Monday hair washing and Friday manicures (and everything in between happening on T, W, Th) to zoning my social media: Check out my feed and you’ll see a clear M-Th posting design. It’s all about the zones. 

The final frontier for me was to zone my work tasks: Mondays I have discovery calls, do some basic admin work for the week, and trainings for my Creatives Leadership Academy program, Tuesdays and Thursdays I see coaching clients all day, Wednesdays I do writing tasks, and Fridays I do my money things–contracts and invoices, proposals, stats, banking, and a general tying up of loose ends. 


There isn’t much you Can’t break up into zones.
Photo by Brooke Lark by Unsplash.com


But friends, you can zone anything! 


  • Practicing? You can put a different focus on every day: Vibrato, Left Hand, Right hand, shifts, intonation, speed, memorization, sight reading, and repertoire exploration. 
  • Cooking? You can assign a broad “kind” of food for each night. Soup night, pasta night, fish night, etc. 
  • Workouts? Keeping in touch with friends/family? What you wear? Anything. 


I’m obsessed. Here are my top 5 takeaways:


1. It ensures that I can cover everything in a 7-day period

Nothing gets neglected for too long. 


2. It keeps decision fatigue at bay

No more: What should I take care of today? When everything needs doing, we tend to shut down and do nothing at all. 


3. It all becomes much more efficient

Since I’m only focusing on one thing, and that same thing every week, the choreography of it sticks. On Tuesday mornings, I walk to the fridge and get to it. It’s fast, it’s easy, and because I do it every week, it really doesn’t take very long. 


4. It’s easy to switch around if you need to.

Rain on Tuesday? I can water and clean up my houseplants that day instead, and do the back vegetable beds on Wednesday when it’s cleared up. 


5. I have a deeper understanding of each task

Cleaning out the refrigerator each week keeps me aware of what we have, what we’re running low on, what needs to be used up in the coming days, etc. Far more so than if I did it as a part of a whole kitchen blitz. I’d be speeding through it, trying to get through it and on to the next. When you do one thing each day, it sticks with you. 

Okay–what about you? What can you divide into zones this week? Keep me posted!

Have a great week! 



P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy.  Click Here to Get the Weekend List!