Dealing With Discouragement?

I’m just going to be honest here. It’s been a strange few days.

Some of our newest potential partnerships have fallen through in the last several days. There may be some areas this fall where we might not be able to feed some kids. It’s discouraging. 

And I’ve been talking to a long-time friend who’s currently homeless. A single mom of 3, who’s in recovery and working like crazy to get clean and keep her babies.  

I sat across the table from a man who’s recovering from bone cancer. I listened to him tell his story of infusions, quarantines, and waiting rooms filled with other patients. 

I spoke with another friend who told me that while she and her husband both recently lost their jobs… their refrigerator, washing machine, dryer, and microwave all decided to DIE at the house. So for MONTHS they got to wash clothes in the bathtub, dry them in the tree in the backyard, and store little bits of food in ice chests each day.

In the middle of the night, friend who owns his own business texted me about filing for bankruptcy. 

Another one shared with me about her experience being sexually assaulted and dealing with PTSD. 

I watched friends of mine care for their child with autism. And another one constantly travel the country to research her son’s rare genetic disorder. 

And the list goes on and on and on. 

It’s reminded me of a few things about discouragement. I’m sharing this here because I know if it’s in my little circle, most likely it’s in yours, too. And I hope it helps. 

For me, there are at least 6 things I do when I’m discouraged. Maybe they’ll be of value to you, too.

  1. Check my perspective. No matter what, things could always be worse. My friend who is struggling with addiction and homelessness made the comment, “At least we had my minivan so we had a place to sleep every night. I could have been literally on the street with 3 babies…”  . Once I realize just how much worse they could be, I begin to see the blessings I do have. Which leads me to #2. 
  2. Begin with gratitude. As a person of faith, I’m convinced there’s something to ‘counting your blessings’. And from a neuro-chemical perspective, you physically cannot be grateful and anxious/discouraged at the same time. It’s biologically impossible. And I believe life doesn’t happen TO me… it happens FOR me. Things happen, events, tragedy, hardships, whatever… those things don’t have any meaning in my life until I attach meaning to it. Everything that’s happened for me (even the terrible things) have made me who I am, given me compassion for others, taught me wisdom, made me strong, or helped me learn empathy. It may have sucked to go thru it, but I’m grateful for what it taught me. Adopting the mindset that life happens ‘for’ me, not ‘to’ me has made a huge difference in my level of gratitude. My friend who was living out of ice chests kept saying, “We made it just fine. I didn’t realize how strong we were… but we had peace in the middle of it all.”
  3. Share my journey with others. Be authentic. Share your successes. Share your struggles. Vulnerability is a sign of strength. In a social media culture where everyone posts their highlight real with just the right filters and just the right camera angle and perfect makeup and hair… just be real.  As human beings, we want to feel connected, not lectured. Let us come along with you on the journey. We’ll stand, sit, cry, pray, and support you. It will help you and us.  My friend who was assaulted has a couple of blogs and a book or two in the works. My friend with the son that has a rare genetic disease? She started a nonprofit and is shouting it to the world. 
  4. Run MY race. I work really hard to not compare myself or my journey to someone else. Stay on YOUR path. Stay where YOU’VE been led, designed to go. Running the austin marathon a few years back, best advice I got was from an 80yo man in the starting chutes. ‘This is easy. All you gotta do is just run your own race’.  He was right. The sin of comparison will kill you. Whatever you’ve been called to do, just  do you. 
  5. Adopt a LEARNING mindset, not a ‘success’ mindset. There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. Test, implement, test, implement. It’s all learning.. which is progress.. which leads to more curiosity and more encouragement. positive, sparks creativity. You can learn ANYTHING… in fact, NEVER say the words ‘I don’t know’ ever again. Why? Because I’m going to GIVE you a free resource that will show you how to learn ANYTHING… Wanna fix your car? It’s in there. Wanna learn brain surgery? It’s in there? Wanna lose 20 lbs? In there.  It’s . In 2019, ignorance is choice. You can’t say ‘I don’t know’ any more. You can say ‘I don’t know yet’ or ‘I don’t want to know’…but that’s it. 
  6. Take MASSIVE action. Go. Now. All in. It’s just as if you’ve started a new diet, right? If you wanna drop a few pounds and decide to stop eating Twinkies, but still eat burgers and fries and milkshakes on the daily, are you going to see improvement this month? Maybe. A little. BUT, if you decide for 30 days to completely cut out all refined sugar, all simple carbs, processed starches, and anything that comes in a box, a bag, or a can… do you think you’ll see any results? A little? Or a LOT? So when I’m battling discouragement, I take massive action against what I’m trying to accomplish, not so I can get massive results, but so I can get massive feedback. (It’s feedback that leads to results…)

What would YOU add to the list? What advice would you give ME? What’s worked for you?

Ego Is Not Your Amigo: Seven Lessons I Learned On Vacation

For me, the goal of a vacation is to ‘recharge and refuel’. Rather than lying on the couch binging Netflix for a week, I prefer exercise for my body (road trips, sunshine, and the beach) and my mind (books, podcasts, and journaling). Especially this month, it not only helped me recharge, but it also helped me learn (or re-learn) at least seven important things. Whether you run a business, a team, a program, or a family… I hope they’ll be helpful to you, too. 

  1. There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. A stack of sticky notes and a cloud of dust are not true indicators of productivity. The more I can tame my Monkey Mind, the clearer and more productive my hustle becomes. 
  2. There’s a difference between being at peace and being still. When I can sit still on the outside, but not calm my mind or my spirit, it’s time to reboot. And if it’s bad enough that I recognize it, everyone around me has recognized it. Conversely, I can also be moving and hustling and grinding it out (which can look like a frenzy), but have a strong internal sense of peace and clarity. 
  3. Growth and change requires movement. And movement causes friction. Always. Sometimes people around you may feel friction around you and not really understand that it’s the result of ‘movement’. And since most of us are afraid of change, communication is the key. Always. 
  4. When you think you’ve done all you can do, you’ve done about 40% of what you’re capable of. Author and Navy Seal, David Goggins spoke this into my ears months ago. I’m just now realizing how true it is. Whether it’s push ups or emails or sales calls, I can train myself to do ‘just one more’ in everything I do. It not only produces results, but it trains my mindset to ignore difficulty and just to the work. 
  5. Ego is not your amigo. Most of us (myself included) were raised in a world where the Alpha Male or Alpha Female model was an egocentric rhino who threw their weight around and established dominance. In today’s social economy, we have to value people over production. Empathy (EQ) beats IQ every day. Ego is tool we use to disguise our shortcomings… it’s insecurity with makeup on.
  6. In order to fly, you have to break the law (of gravity). Everyone wants to fly but very few people are brave enough to break the rules. We talk a good game, but fear and insecurity hold us back. Remember the Wright brothers? They moved from their hometown of Dayton, Ohio to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for two very specific reasons: The grass was softer to crash on, and the wind was better. Sometimes in order to really fly, to just have to move on. 
  7. The hard part is not knowing how to get where you want to go. That’s easy. In 2019, ignorance is an excuse. Anything you want to do is just a Google or YouTube search away. Figuring out how to get there is the easy part. The hard part is deciding what to leave behind. You can’t move into the future and rely on past knowledge and skill. What you lay down is equally important as what you’re picking up. 

Having a block of time to recharge and refuel is something we all need. For me, I always come away with greater clarity and vision of where to put my energy and talents… and motivation to keep pursuing what I’m called to do. 

I’d love to know which of those seven resonate most with you! 

Three Things You Need To Remember

Every morning when I drop my daughter off at school, I tell her three things. 

I love you. 

Have a great day. 

Be legendary. 

I want her to know those things… every day. But it’s not just important for children to know it. It’s equally important for us as adults to hear and know those three things as well. Every day, you need to know it as well. We all need to hear it.

1. “I love you.”I want her to know that I’m in her corner. That no matter what comes, she matters to me unconditionally. Period. The end. No matter what. As adults, we need that same guarantee– that someone loves us and is there for us unconditionally. Ride or die. Period. 

2. “Have a great day.” I want her to know I’m cheering for her. That today is successful, fruitful, productive, creative, and filled with limitless opportunities. As an adult, you and I need the same affirmation–that someone is cheering us on, hoping the best for us today, and fully confident that we will succeed. 

3. “Be legendary.”My daughter understands that being legendary isn’t about followers or status. It’s about caring for people around her. It means if someone is sitting on the playground by herself, go play with her. If someone is eating lunch by himself, go over and sit with him. Adults have a hard time with empathy sometimes. We need to remember leadership isn’t about being in charge, it’s about caring for those in your charge. 

So before you get out there today, tell someone ‘I love you, ‘Have a great day’ and ‘Be legendary’. It just might change their world. 

All Dressed Up?

One of my biggest fans brought something  incredibly important to my attention this week:

“I like it when you get dressed up, Daddy… you look really handsome!”

(You can see why she’s one of my favs.)

It turns out she’d found this video online. I thought I’d share it with you guys as proof that, yes, every now and then we clean up, just like we did for the RRPIE Shining Stars gala after-party. What a great night!

Learning To See

When I was learning to draw, I had a good friend named Charles who had attended art school. He was excited to see me pick it up as a hobby. His wisdom to me was “drawing teaches you how to see the world.” 

I didn’t get it at first. But I soon realized he was right. Drawing does teach you how to see the world. It also teaches you how to see yourself. 

Looking back I realize that all creative activity is that way. Whether it’s songwriting, painting, creative writing, building, or a thousand other things, we always see things as we are.

So let me encourage you in this: remember that as you create– as you make thoughts into things– never forget the change and growth happening inside you. Never forget the transformation that you are going through. That’s the real magic. 

I’ll keep playing. I’ll keep creating. I’ll keep stretching and growing and trying and experimenting.  I’ll keep learning to see.

What are you doing creatively these days?


Have you lost your SONG?

We all have creative play in our bones. We may have forgotten it, but it really is there. It’s in our DNA. We call it a ‘job’ or ‘work’ when it really should be called play. Strip it all away and it’s really very, very simple: Creativity is play, not work. But here’s the rub: Learning to allow yourself to play is hard work. 

Don’t believe me? One October morning, I asked a preschool group of twenty 4-and-5-year-olds “How many of you can sing?”. More than twenty hands went up. (Some of them enthusiastically raised both hands. That made me smile.)

The following morning I asked my daughter’s class of 8-year-olds the same question. Out of twenty-two children, only 14 raised their hands. That afternoon, I asked my son’s middle school band class the same question. Out of 36 students, one hand went up, and that one hand wasn’t even my son. The following weekend I asked a group of 70 young parents the very same question. You know what I got?  

Crickets. I got the sad, empty sound of crickets. I got the sound that otherwise-confident adults make when they stare down at their shoes, hoping not to be noticed. 

Dude. What happened to us?  I know the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt, but… seriously?!? This ought to make us ask some serious questions. 

Like, “What happens to our kids between 5 and 12 that they begin to lose their song?” Like, “What happens to us as adults that makes us feel that creativity and play are frivolous?” Like “Who told you that you can’t sing? Who told you that you can’t write? Who told you that you can’t build or paint or draw?” 


Everyone can sing. (And if you can’t sing good, sing loud!) Everyone can write and draw and build and paint.  That’s ridiculous.

I whole-heartedly believe it just may be your creativity that changes the world. It’s the Great Voice you have been given. And it’s yours for the taking. It’s yours for the playing. Unleashing your creativity isn’t hard work, it’s hard play. 

I’ll admit it may be scary. It may seem frivolous at first. Trusting your creative gift, learning to play again, can be a bit like uncovering buried treasure. In fact, Elizabeth Gilbert says: 

“…surely something wonderful is sheltered inside you. I say this with all confidence, because I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels—that’s creative living.” 

So start digging!

*Want to read more on how to UNLEASH your creativity? Pick up (or download) my new book “Unleashing Your Creativity: Lessons From A Reluctant Creative” today on Amazon or visit for a free sample! 

Creativity Hack #14: The Paper Clip Test

Pssst… this excerpt is taken from my new book ‘Unleashing Your Creativity: Lessons From A Reluctant Creative”. If you want more (like a FREE sample), just click here.
14. Take the Paper Clip Test. One of the best exercises I know to help jumpstart your creative juices is something called the paper clip test. It’s quite literally one of the easiest ways to think differently (known as divergent thinking in meta-cognition circles). Take a simple paper clip. What can you do with it? I know, I know… you can clip papers together, or you can reset a smoke detector, or… well… that’s about it. Or is it?

Come up with as many ideas as you can— nothing is off limits! It turns out most people can only think of about 10-15 ideas. But not you. You’re reading this book. You’re tuned in to strengthening your creative muscle. You’re building a creative tribe. So what can you do? It’s no surprise that kids do a better job at this than the average adult, but you’re not average.  By the way, I’ve seen some people come up with as many as 200 uses! Give it a go! It’s a great way to open up your creative thinking and apply it to any project you’re struggling with.

And YES. That image is a life-size statue made of paper clips! #ftw

Morning Routines: At Least I’ve Got This Going For Me…

‘Routine in an intelligent man is a sign of ambition.’

-W.H. Auden

Over the last month a LOT of people have asked about my morning routine. How did you write and publish a book in 7 weeks? How do you have the energy and focus to lead two bands, write a book, market your own coffee, play gigs, feed at-risk kids, and have a LIFE?!?

Well. Here’s the deal. 

I hate mornings.

I’m not a morning person. At. All. In fact, I’ve turned down more than a few invitations to do something fun and exciting because it required me to get up at 4am or something ridiculous like that. I don’t care if you’re inviting me to a one-one-one recording session with Justin Timberlake. I’ll take a rain check. Hit me after lunch, JT. Imma be in my bed, bringing cozy back. 

But I’m also discovering my chances of creative growth and success rise exponentially when I begin my day intentionally. I try to begin each morning with a set of very specific routines. I’ll be completely honest here. There are some days that life gets in the way– kids activities, work obligations, travel, or even fatigue– and I blow them off. But those days are the exception, not the rule. I’d encourage you to do the same thing. As creative beings, a clear mind and a healthy body are our vehicles we use to connect with our Muse/Source. Whether it’s hitting the gym, changing my eating habits, having a consistent prayer time or morning meditation time, beginning my day in a healthy state of being/awareness/whatever is of utmost importance to me. I’ve found that nurturing my mind, body, and spirit is the only way I can stay on the creative path in a healthy way.

I’ll share with you my morning routines with one disclaimer: 

You are a uniquely created person. You have unique gifts and talents given to you by the Creator. Therefore, creating a ‘healthy state of being’ for you may likely look a little bit different for you than it does for me. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to starting strong. So find what works for you. The list below is what currently works for me. I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on the internet. Your mileage may vary. 

Also, I’ve tried to develop the habit of feeding my mind, body and spirit before starting my day. I call it my Morning Primetime. You know, gas up the tank, per se. I’d never head out on a road trip without first filling up the tank of my car with gas. Would you?  Of course not. That’s a terrible idea! Why then would you want to start your day without filling up your physical, emotional and spiritual tank?

1. Get enough sleep. I know, I know. I sound like your mother. And by ‘enough sleep’, I mean enough sleep that your body functions at it’s peak. For me, that means between 6.5 and 7 hours. When I deviate outside those parameters for too long, my body and brain become sluggish and foggy. For me, this typically means that when I’m home I’ll unplug from electronics and social media by 10pm and begin winding down my brain. I’ll read a book (not electronically) or watch some senseless Netflix for the next hour or so until I fall asleep, usually by 11:00 or 11:30. Then I’m up around 5:30 am. Again, this is what seems to be a great rhythm for me these days. But find what works for you, and keep it as consistent as possible.

2. Upon waking, I drink 16oz of cold water to hydrate my brain and body. A hydrated brain is up to 14% faster than a less-than-hydrated one. So bottoms up!

3. I make my own version of ‘DeathProof’ coffee. While the internet is full of recipes for the popular Bulletproof coffee (google it), I stumbled onto the DeathWish coffee company a few years ago and have been a huge fan. and started using their coffee to create my own version. (*Note: since writing this, I have begun my own brand of coffee, but still refer to my morning jolt as ‘deathproof’. The coffee itself has changed, but the name ROCKS.) My recipe is simple: blend 1-2 cups of hot coffee, 1 tablespoon grass-fed unsalted butter, and one heaping tablespoon of coconut oil together for 10-15 seconds. The result is a smooth, creamy morning latte loaded with healthy fat and MCT’s to help fuel my brain and start my day. This element to my routine is non-negotiable.

4. I spend a minimum of 15 minutes in prayer and/or meditation on God. You may not believe in God or any specific religious dogma. I personally believe the whole “in the beginning, God created…” thing. So I spend a few minutes each morning praying and meditating on Scripture, on gratitude, on things I’m thankful for or wisdom I’m seeking in a certain part of my life. That may not be you, and that’s fine. For now, at least be open to the possibility that by beginning your day in searching or asking for help in your creative life (as well as other areas of life), it might actually lead to help. Ask and you might really receive. Seek and you might actually find. Knock and the door may actually open. What have you got to lose?

5. I spend three minutes in gratitude. For one minute, I choose one thing I’m grateful for, no matter how big or small, and intensely focus on that one thing. Not thinking about it. Feeling it. I want to feel gratitude in my heart and my spirit. After 60 seconds, I move on to something else. Then another. I intentionally want to begin my day with an attitude of gratitude. It’s a reminder that contentment doesn’t come from having what you want, but from wanting what you have. And I have an abundance to be thankful for.

6. I spend three minutes in prayer for 3 people around me. For one minute each, I’ll spend time praying for someone near to me to be blessed and encouraged. For their needs to be met. For their family. For their job. For their career. Whatever. Again, I know not everyone prays, but I will tell you that those three minutes do wonders for getting my focus off of myself and helping me see the world around me. Besides, I’m a big believer in the whole ‘ask and you will receive’ idea…

7. Morning Pages. A tool many of us learned from Julia Cameron, I write three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. It cages my Monkey Mind and helps serve as a kind of spiritual windshield wipers to focus my day. (More on the Monkey Mind on pages 103-105 in  my newest book “Unleashing Your Creativity” Get a FREE sample here. ).

*I also try to work in some kind of physical exercise into my day. Morning is ideal, but let’s be real here. If you’re single with no kids, knock yourself out. You’ve got more room in your morning routine to exercise. But with family life, jobs, kids, lunches to make, and school drop-off lines to wade through, life before 8 a.m. is crazy busy. It is what it is. Sometimes I get out and walk during my prayer/meditation time. Sometimes I don’t. I don’t stress about it. But that’s me. Some of you are hardcore about your workouts and fitness regimens. That’s awesome! I’m proud for you. Geez, I’m even a little bit jealous. But I’m rooting for you! Get out there and crush it! I’d love to hear about your routines and how you fit it all in. Shoot me an email ( or hit me up on social media. Seriously. I’ll be looking for it!

In a nutshell, this is me:

5:30 a.m.: Get up. Drink water. Drink DeathProof coffee. Do  morning pages.

6:15 a.m.: wake up kids for breakfast.

6:30 a.m.: Hit the physical/spiritual gym. (exercise, prayer, meditation)

7:00 a.m.: Shuttle kids to schools.

8:00 a.m.: Creative studio time (writing, recording, production time, etc.)

8:50 a.m.: hot shower, loud music.

9:20 a.m.: Ready for the day!

That’s me. What do YOU do? 

Six Reasons Why I Love My TRIBE

In the Tom Cottar Music world, I’ve been blessed to grow a 1000+ member TRIBE of friends. Not just ‘fans’ or ‘supporters’. But real people I know and love. People who are invested in me, and I am invested in them. I’ve got nothing but real LOVE for them. And here’s why:

Excerpted from “UNLEASHING YOUR CREATIVITY: Lessons From a Reluctant Creative.” (Link to FREE sample below!)

1. We give each other emotional support. They listen to me through my struggles and help me process how to move forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relationship issue, a time management problem, or if I’m working on a new song idea and get stuck in Second Verse Hell. Coming from another creative, their support is incredibly potent. They don’t downplay my struggles. They ‘get me’. And I ‘get them’. So we rely on each other.

2. They are a source of motivation and inspiration. Someone tells you they admire and appreciate you and your work. You get encouragement to create more and do better. Again, this is particularly powerful when it comes from someone whose taste you respect, or someone who really knows what they’re talking about. Some of my most trusted sources of motivation are other artistic, creative people who’ve taken the time to thoughtfully critique my work. They’re gentle and kind and generous… and honest. There’s a sense of mutual respect for our creations—and a mutual expectation that we are all striving to create our best work.

3. We give each other great feedback. Those of us who’ve created something from our heart—from our innermost being— and have hung it out for the world to see, know one thing deeply: We know how to give and receive feedback. Gently. Thoughtfully. Honestly. Encouragingly. Without fail, someone in my tribe says just the right thing to give me a thoughtful and useful response to my work, and how to make it better. Sometimes it’s my wife, who knows me better than anyone, and sometimes it’s another creative who just says, “Hmmmm….yeah, but…what if you did ___________ instead? I’d be interested to see what that would look like.”

By the way, be very cautious about listening to feedback that comes from outside your tribe. When you put your creation out into the world, you’ll be sure to get feedback, but that doesn’t mean you have to receive it. Remember: everyone is a critic. Some are well-meaning friends who will love everything you do. Some are people who don’t understand or ‘get’ you. And some are critical, jealous, frustrated creatives themselves.

When I receive feedback from the latter group, I simply respond by saying something like, “Hmmm. That’s an interesting perspective. Thank you so much for that.” Then I promptly move it to the trash bin in my mind and hit ‘erase’. It may sound cold and egotistical, but let me assure you, if you’re insecure as a creative, you’ll listen to a thousand different voices telling you a thousand different things… hoping, praying, practically begging to know which one to believe. The simple truth is I need to trust the voices in my tribe above the voices outside of it. Some of those outside voices may, in the end, be right about their opinion. But first I need to trust my tribe.

(A side note here: Be cautious and don’t be afraid to move slowly in building your tribe. It’s ok to be selective. Remember, it’s a whole lot easier to keep the crazy out of your house, than it is to clean it up once they’ve moved in. I’m speaking from experience here.)

4. A tribe makes for great collaboration. I can’t tell you how many times someone in the tribe gets involved with me on a project. We may talk about ideas, word choices, stories, lyrics, colors….anything. In my tribe, I have computer whizzes, artists, painters, t-shirt designers, mechanics, programmers, stylists, ranchers, secretaries, parents, coaches, pastors, atheists, writers, monks, bartenders, and construction workers. The stories and experiences we share are unending. And any of them— all of them— are amazing collaborators.  Whatever we make together is exponentially more than what I could ever make alone.

5. We keep each other accountable. When I get in a funk of depression or laziness, someone in my tribe cares that I get off my butt and get things done. Someone cares that I keep writing, playing, singing, emailing, or whatever I’m supposed to be doing. And I care enough not to let them down. Now and then I’ll get a text or a message on social media that says, “Hey, man. I haven’t seen you at our songwriter circle in a while. You should come out next Tuesday.” It’s a gentle reminder saying “Hey, dude. Don’t you dare quit on us. We love you. You need to get up and get going.”

And I do.

6. Most importantly, a tribe give us a place to belong. It gives all of us a place and platform do to something that matters to each of us. It gives me a place that matters. A place I belong. It gives each of us the space and the glue to be connected to passionate, creative, and supportive people. It reminds us that we are not alone. It reminds us that we matter and that our work matters.

Years ago, I had an intern named Douggie who spent the summer in Sengal, Africa. As a college football player, Douggie was a huge, beast of a young man with long hair, a big beard, and an even bigger, gentler heart. He was an imposing tackle on the football field, but a compassionate, kind-eyed giant off the field. After weeks in Africa, he returned home with one mantra: ubuntu. Ubuntu is an African word used to describe a community or a tribe. Literally, ‘ubuntu’ it means I am because we are. In other words, I am who I am because you are who you are and, more importantly, because we are who we are together.  We adopted his mantra and printed bracelets and t-shirts, made posters and videos, and decided to fully embrace the concept of ‘ubuntu’. Today, Douggie is still one of my most cherished friends in the tribe. I am who I am because we are who we are.

That, my friends, is what belonging to a tribe is all about.

Want a FREE SAMPLE of my new book “UNLEASHING YOUR CREATIVITY”? No strings attached. No email list. No click bait. Just download it HERE! (I’d love to hear what you think!)