A World of Assumptions

Did you assume what this blog post was going to be about...? Well, before we find out if you were correct, I have a few quick updates for you all. First of all, "What happened to my travel blog?"  Well, if I'm being perfectly honest, it was too much to try to keep up with.  I had no intention of making it anything more than a hobby, so I'll be dissolving it into my one, regular blog.  I found it rather difficult to keep an entry strictly to travel, so I won't be doing that any longer. :)

Actually, one of the reasons I started the travel blog was to clear up some assumptions.  People assume a lot of things about me, and a lot of those assumptions I've found to be incorrect.  So, I thought, should it not be my responsibility to correct those? I'll get to this more in depth, but my newfound answer to this is "no."  It's really not our job to fix someone's incorrect assumptions about ourselves, but rather, this burden rests upon the one who assumes.  They've taken the liberty to infer something that which they do not know, but few continue on that trek to the truth.

See, we all assume, but we assume to different levels.  This changes with maturity, as well as knowledge, but I don't believe those necessarily make one's assumptions more accurate... it just means you either do it more or less.  So, why do we assume in the first place?  Obviously this question seeks a much more complicated answer than I'm going to give, but I believe in part, that it's because we live in a world where virtually anything can be answered by the computers in our pockets.  Many of us have become uncomfortable, even, at the idea of being uncertain.

Have you noticed lately that when you ask someone where they stand on a particular issue, they will usually answer rather quickly?  I find that even people who are quite uninformed on a particular topic would rather jump to a conclusion of SOME sort, rather than say the simple but humbling words, "I don't know."  Is this a prideful choice?  Perhaps.  However, I think it's more due to the fact that being uninformed in the age we live in is almost "unpopular."  More often than not, when you ask someone if they've seen a particular headline, or seen a particular viral music video yet, if they haven't been informed of whatever you're asking about, they get defensive to some degree.  Some people feel as though they're left out, some feel as though that piece of information wasn't worth their time, and some may feel as thought they're being judged for being uninformed.

Are there plenty of other scenarios? Of course, but I think this is a reason a lot of people are uncomfortable with being uninformed.  So, sometimes, to fill in that gap of information, we make assumptions.  Assumptions aren't necessarily a bad thing, but they do lead to some problems. The most obvious one is when one assumes incorrectly; however, I'd like to even venture in saying that when we correctly assume, it can be just as dangerous.  For example, say you drive the same 45 minute commute every day.  You know about what time you need to leave to avoid traffic, and about how long it will take you at the Starbucks drive-through, so you budget about an hour for your commute every day.  I, personally try to check Google Maps every time I go anywhere, so I can check the traffic.  Of course, I'm pretty familiar with the areas to which I frequently travel, but Google Maps gives me a heads up if there's an accident, or a faster route based on current real-time traffic.  (Oh, and for all of you Waze fans, Google bought them, so it uses the exact same date, btw.) However, there have been several times when I bypass my phone's GPS, thinking, "There won't be any traffic now, not at this hour anyway," and I go on my way. I remember not long ago, I spent 40 minutes on a route that should have taken 15 because of my assumption. 

I think this is a great example of assumptions.  If you're under 30, you probably understand what I'm saying, and you probably check traffic on your phone in a similar manner to myself.  However, if you're older, statistically speaking, you probably rely on your assumptions more often, perhaps thinking, "I've driven this for 20 years, so I know which way is the fastest," or "Traffic is going to be bad at this time, because it always is."  This isn't universal, and it's pretty simplistic, but I think it can be applied to a myriad of situations.

When it comes to assumptions about people and situations that are not directly related to us, it can get a lot trickier.  Deciding whether to take highway A, highway B, or the tollway is a fairly straightforward decision, but deciding to judge a person's actions or behavior based on one piece of information is a much riskier and destructive choice.  If you're wrong, it's bad, but if you're right, it's also bad.  When we assume correctly, we tend to get more confident in our ability to assume in the future.

So what should we do about it?  Honestly, I think the only thing we can do is to self-evaluate and see what needs to change.  We all would probably catch ourselves making assumptions on a regular basis.  I caution you to be careful about what you assume about other people.  I don't want to talk about social media all that much, but as people, we're so much more than we post, snap, tweet, etc.  On the flip side, if you feel people mistakenly make assumptions about you, that's really up to them to resolve, and unless you're intentionally misrepresenting yourself, there's really not much you can (or should) do about it.  We have far more complex lives to live.


Why I Love Music, and the Journey with JONAVI

There's something weird, and cool, and incredible about music. I've been a musician for a long time. I took jazz and classical piano as a kid, never realizing it would pave the way for me to create in the future.  In middle school, around the time I got an iTunes account for a first time, I started to discover the vast world of music that existed.  Everything from alternative rock to hip hop found its way onto my iPod, and I started to really form my tastes in music.

Those tastes have changed over time, but fundamentally consistent is my love for creative expression through music.  The analytical side of me began to wonder how sometimes the same few people could create so many "hit songs."  Was there a science to it? Were people being given something they had no idea they wanted?  I believed so.  Fast forward to a research project I did on the psychology of music; it was a fairly inconclusive project, because there is so little still truly known about how music effects us scientifically speaking.  We all know it does, but there aren't many ways to show just how it does.

For a lot of musicians, it doesn't matter.  Their music and expression of music is a way to tell stories, it's a way to deal with problems; sometimes it's a way to teach, and it can just be a way to have fun.  In all of these situations, the creators don't necessarily think how a certain sound is going to hit a certain part of your ear drum; they don't necessarily think about what frequencies are going to sound better in one audio system vs. another.  But I do.

I believe as a person I tend to operate in a fairly weird balance of both creativity and logic.  I write for all of the reasons anyone writes, but I balance that with an analytical approach to the way it will be perceived.  Perception isn't always subjective, however.  There are ways to create something beyond a level of recognition that makes people feel something, something they have no true awareness of, and that's always fascinated me.

Maybe that makes sense; maybe it doesn't, but that's a short version of why I started creating music.  I created music for the reasons anyone creates music, but I wanted to see if I could capture something that I felt with other music.  Sometimes that means trying to emulate a kind of sound, but sometimes is just means creating a "feel."  I would write songs and melodies; some good, but most pretty average.  I kept on going.

In early 2014, I was a part of a committee that was in charge of selecting original artists to perform in a showcase.  We could usually predict the kind of submissions we were going to receive.  Let's just say it consisted of a lot of John-Mayer soundalikes, and singer/songwriter coffee-shop vibe kind of music.  None of this was a particularly bad thing, by the way, but when you're in charge of co-producing a showcase, ideally you want to, well, showcase, a variety of acts, not 2 1/2 hours of the same thing.

I went to put in the next CD, a submission from a girl named Jojo (aka JONAVI).  I had met Jojo not long before this, but I had never heard her music.  iTunes loaded the song, and then, it started.  I heard the beginning of "If I Were"... then her vocal... then the kick drum...  Anna (one of the other people in charge of this selection process at the time) and I looked at each other in a state of surprise/shock. "It's good!" Anna said.  I said nothing.  I was impressed, to say the least.  The vocals continued to shine as the track progressed, showing a sign a true artistry and composition.  Was it a demo?  Yes.  But it was a demo of a very well-written song, it had all of the elements you look for in a good pop song.  It was familiar, yet clever; it was catchy, yet progressive.  

The showcase came and went, and Jojo gave a stellar performance.  I knew we had to try collaborating.  Now, collaboration is tricky. Some people hate it, some people love it, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  Fast forward to that summer, and we met in the studio to try to co-write something.  I had been working on several demo tracks of ideas I'd had here and there, and when Jojo came in the studio, I had just finished working on something that I thought could potentially be a really cool song.  I had scribbled down some nonsense, scratch-lyrics, so that I could remember the melody I had come up with, and I showed her the track.  We started to brainstorm ideas, and after weeks of tweaking, we had the framework for "Not for Me."

I won't go into all of the details of the process, but working with Jojo was and still is incredible.  It's not everyday that you meet an incredibly talented musician who's also a good songwriter, who's also humble, who's also a nice person, etc... I started to talk to her about doing a more complete project, about assembling an album.  It was a daunting idea, but we began to sift through her numerous compositions and choose what we both thought were the best.  The refining continued, and we even wrote a few new tracks that complimented her style and personality.

Through this entire time and to this day, I haven't asked to be paid, because I really see this as a collaboration.  We both have invested time and money into this project, and it's been a great investment.  I really believe we're on the verge of something great.  We decided to move forward with the album, and to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money necessary.

Now, depending on your background, you may not know how much an album costs to make.  Many artists spend around $40,000 - $60,000 to make your typical album these days, with some spending much more than that.  Given the resources we did have, we realized that we could make a top quality album for about $10,000.  That's already a lot less than the numbers you see above, but it's still a number we don't have.  We turned to Kickstarter to ask for $7,500, as we've already covered some of the costs ourselves and will continue to do so as much as possible.  The $7,500 is purely for the costs of high quality mastering, CD duplication, instrumentalists, photography, graphic design, copyright and other fees, website costs, and marketing costs.  When we first drew up the budget for the album, we ended up with a number close to $16,000.  I knew it wouldn't be doable.  So we started to trim the fat, but without sacrificing quality.  I want everyone to know that neither myself, nor Jojo will be keeping any of the money raised from this campaign.  It will all be wisely spent on creating something that will be a landmark in both of our careers for a long time to come.

So with that, I humbly ask you to consider donating to the project, to help make our dreams a reality, and to invest in one of the most talented people I've ever met: Jojo Villagonzalo... aka JONAVI.


Conquer Reality

I can hardly believe my last blog entry here on my personal blog was well over a year ago.  Happy Friday everyone, and I’ve decided to postpone this weeks' travel blog entry just for a few days, to write a special blog entry.

Where to start…Needless to say, I’ve been busy.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, I just started a new travel blog, which will evolve into more travel and lifestyle related content, and that has been taking up a bit of time.  I’ve been busy pursuing my music career; I’ve been traveling a lot. Yeah, pretty much the usual.

A lot of you may know this, but in summer 2014, I began working with JONAVI on a brand new music project, which has evolved into her debut album.   We’ve been hard at work and at the moment, we’re focusing on her lead single.  There’s a LOT that goes into releasing music the right way.  Now, before I continue, I don’t mean to belittle or offend ANY musician out there.  What I mean by that is, if you want to release an album, or even just a song, there’s a LOT you have to consider outside of what the average person would think goes into a song… and the truth is, most people don’t.  I won’t bore you with the details, but needless to say, no matter how prepared you think you are, you probably aren’t if you haven’t done it before. :) 

I think I can speak for Jojo as well when I say that we’ve both learned a lot about how this process works.  It’s a lot of (fun) work; a lot of meticulous decisions that are made for many reasons.  The creativity and the business side are both important, and I’m blessed to have an understanding in both.  Am I pro? By no means would I say that I am just yet, but I have been blessed to be around a lot of incredible creatives, as well as a lot of very savvy business-minded people.  I’d like to think that mentally, I’m a pretty good hybrid of the two.

But I digress. That’s just one of the many projects that’s been occupying my time.  But I’ve had some thoughts lately…thoughts provoked by my experiences in this industry and otherwise…  I’ve noticed that as a person I’ve become more direct in recent times.  It’s something I’ve noticed in the past year or so.  I think it’s because I’ve surrounded myself with people in the industry that are like that.  After all, it makes sense.  You don’t have a lot of time in this industry to get things done.  Sometimes it feels like you do, but before you know it, you’re almost a year from when you wrote a song, and you’re almost done with it.  You’ve gotta make quick, but careful decisions.  It’s just a very interesting process.

In finding this newfound “honesty,” if you will, I’ve noticed that I’m much quicker to call out nonsense.  I think this comes from the fact that I’ve very self-aware.  I’m aware of what I do, and why I do what I do.  I’m aware of the root of an issue or problem almost instantaneously.  It doesn’t take much thought for me to discover such things.  Though, it’s a “catch 22” really; more good than bad I’d say though.  But I think this is a trait that can be learned, but it’s something that has no place for ignorance.

That brings me to the main point of this blog.  I think a lot more people out there need to be real with themselves.  Being positive in that is possible of course, and you should be.  But I think too often we as humans push aside what reality we don’t want to deal with and fill that void with a bit of fantasy.  Don’t get me wrong; you need to dream big.  But a dream needs to be built on the truth, on what is ACTUAL.  If you’re sitting around dreaming about doing something incredible but have no plan whatsoever, then you need to be real and START somewhere.  Learn as much as you can, and I promise, you’ll be closer to where you want to be.

Another motivator behind this topic is that later today, many of friends will graduate from college, so it’s got me thinking about it all again.  It’s hard to believe that I’m almost a full six months out of college.  It’s hard to believe that I do what I love for a living.  But don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of hard realities that were hard to believe at times too.  It was hard for me to believe that I wasn’t really going to make money DJ-ing for a while.   When I first started, I quickly realized that each gig I did was going to pay for more equipment, and that if I really wanted to do it right, I needed to work a lot harder than I was.  I had to realize that I was not prepared enough yet and that there were many things I had to do that I simply didn’t want to.  But I faced it.  I dealt with it, and ultimately, conquered that mountain in my career.  It looks silly to look back and think about it, but I’m a better person and business man for it. 

I’ve heard several motivational speakers both religious and not talk about how children dream…and they usually allude to the point that we should all be more child-like, but I think they always miss something.  Yes, children think, “I can be an astronaut, or a doctor one day.”  Children have a very limited perspective, however, and don’t usually have much backing to their “dreams.”  I remember when I was young I had dreamed to be a teacher… Why? For no other reason than I liked the white boards, bulletin boards, and other various classroom trinkets.  The mechanics, science, and art (though I didn’t know) is actually what fascinated me.  As a kid, I remember being amazed at how a dry erase marker worked (yes… I know… just keep reading).  But if I had naively followed my dream to be a teacher, then I’d be far off the path for my life and incredibly under prepared.

All that to say, yes it’s good to dream big.  But dream realistically big.  Say to yourself, “Ok, what do I really want to do? And what’s the first step to get there? Do I want the destination? Or am I going to truly get the most out of the journey?”  Here’s where most people freak out… usually the first step is the BIGGEST.  I think most people have this false idea that the first step on the journey toward anything is the easiest… and maybe that’s true in some circumstances.  But I know in my life it wasn’t.  I’ll save anecdotes for another time, but I think it’s clear.  If that first step is huge, then you either need to have the motivation to do it, or find something else to do.  Whatever you do, don’t get caught in the limbo of, “Oh hey, I want to go there!…but….. I don’t really know how…so I’m just going to keep wanting to go there!….but maybe later”…. Because frankly, it’s probably not going to happen.  I can’t tell you how many times this theme has been at the forefront of my lives or my friends’ lives.  I guess most of us are just really in that transitional stage.  

Now, especially to all my friends who are graduating today (and those who find themselves on similar journeys), don’t take this as a discouraging word.  Whoever is reading this, I pray that you would be driven; be passionate about your dreams.  Let that passion steer you toward conquering reality.  Reality often does kinda suck, but it’s when you can overcome those difficulties that you’re succeed in the best way.  If you ignore reality, you’re not going to beat it.  I’m sorry. It’s just not how things work.  It’s the people that faced the tough situations head on that reached the greatest success.  As you walk to a new chapter in your life, let the things that scare you motivate you into being better.  Let it drive you to become a better (insert profession); let it move you to take on the (undesirable steps toward your career).  I promise you, that once you get in the habit of climbing those mountains, you’ll be well on your path to getting where you want to go.





Earlier this year, I was on a flight from Los Angeles to Dallas, and I awoke from a much needed one and a half hour nap.  When I decided it was time to move my seat from the lie flat position back to a reclined state, I took off my eye mask and traded it for my glasses.  I blinked a few times, but something was different. Everything was blurry a lot longer than it seemed it should be. I double-checked to make sure my glasses were in fact on my face...and sure enough, they were. At this point, I was incredibly confused. I thought, ok, maybe my glasses are just too dirty.  I cleaned my glasses and looked them over to be sure they were actually clean, and it seemed they were just about as good as they could get without a microfiber cloth.  Sure enough, I still couldn't seem to get my eyes to focus... What I had realized, is that my eye mask was actually on my face too tightly, somehow causing my eyes to not be able to focus for a short time.  After about 15 minutes, as we were descending into the Dallas/ Ft. Worth Metroplex, I finally began to be able to see again.

Fast forward to last weekend where I got the opportunity to be in the choir for the 2014 Passion Conference in Houston, and I was doing a lot of refocusing.  (Ever since I started college, I had been refocusing!)  Great speakers shared the messages God put on their hearts, and I listened. I listened more than I ever have at conferences like this.  Despite how tired I was during almost every session, I paid attention to every message; it just really was what I needed to hear.  I went into the weekend knowing that I needed to refocus, to hear truths from the Bible recalled, and to examine my current surroundings in life. If we look at this kind of simple analogy I'm using, we refocus all the time. Our eyes have to constantly adjust to light, to distance...ultimately to our surroundings.

Sometimes, no matter how prepared we are for the light to suddenly flood the dark room we're in, it still hurts our eyes...and we need to refocus.

I don't know about you, but I've gotten caught up in college so many times. Yes, there's a thing called being busy, but we all know the difference between actually being busy, and being busy with a side of wasted time.  Two days after the Passion conference, I begun the Advocare 24 Day Challenge. I figured, it was time for a healthier change.  I'm less than a year out from graduating college, and it's really time that I'm diligent with what I've been given and really prepare for the future as best as I can.  Already it's been so much of a wake up call for me.  

Today, I have a new outlook. I'm doing this 24 day challenge to be healthier, yes. However, it's not just solely about that.  I've had an attitude about not caring in the past, and I'm done with that.  The reality is that I do care, and that I want to live a better life.  The Word says that along with spiritual assistance, we need to make every effort toward righteousness.  It's not about perfection, but heading in that direction.  No one truly does what's wrong for the sake of it being wrong; they do what's wrong because they don't believe the value of what's right.  Well, there IS value in what's right, often times more than we know or realize.  We all mess up from time to time, and we all lose focus of what's right.  I've realized that truly believing in the value of this challenge is what has made it so easy for me.  I went into it incredibly optimistic, and though it's been tough at times, I know why I'm doing it.

It's the same in life.  We can do the right things all we want, but unless we really know the reason we're doing them, and we BELIEVE that value of what is right, it will never mean anything.

I'm at a great place in my life where I'm blessed to be on this journey to being healthier, in more ways than one.  

If you're not happy with where you are in life, I encourage you to take a look at where you are and refocus. Maybe you got a glimpse of a Light?



Welcome #2014

Like just about everyone else, I've been looking back on 2013, and it's just flat out crazy to think that its almost over.  So much happened that I'd never have expected this time last year. I started the year like many of my friends, headed to Passion 2013.  I'm so blessed to have been able to go, and it truly began to change my perspective on a lot of things.  Little did I know, I'd get the amazing opportunity to be in the Passion Choir for 2014 in Houston.  Not long after Passion last year, I got to meet Carly Rae Jepsen (the singer of 2012's summer smash "Call Me Maybe") and sit down with her and other GRAMMY U students for a Q&A. I also got the chance to meet the Lumineers as well at a similar kind of event.  I stepped into my new role as GRAMMY U Ambassador for DBU along with a good friend of mine, and it's been an incredible experience thus far, and we have so many great things in store for 2014.

It's no secret that I traveled a lot in 2013. In fact, I hit a new personal record: 50 flights and 61,764 miles flown in 2013.  It was honestly so much more than I expected, but every trip was truly memorable.  Not long after Passion 2013, I took a trip to Vancouver, British Colombia to relax a little bit before the semester, and wow, what a cool city.  I had some of the best salmon I've ever tasted, zip lined on Grouse Mountain, walked the Capilano suspension bridge, and ate at Tim Hortons for breakfast just about every day.  In February, I visited some family-friends in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.  I always knew I wanted to go there, but never did I think that it would happen that soon.  I got to eat lunch in the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, shop at the largest mall in the world, the Dubai Mall, and visit the Atlantis Dubai on the manmade Palm islands. 

I flew straight from Dubai to London to Dallas to Austin, TX to represent DBU and get a chance to speak with some Texas representatives.  It really was a great trip, and it gave me a new appreciation for these people that represent our state.  At the end of spring break, I spent a fun-filled day in New York City with friends that were there on a choir trip, and it was a great way to spend my first time in this remarkable city, followed by a quick stop in Toronto on the way home.  Just after the semester ended, my parents and I went to the island of Curacao for a week, and it was just what I needed after a busy semester. My mom and I attended a movie premier in Chicago. I got to spend a week in France exploring Paris, as well as some lesser known cities in the countryside of France.

From Orlando and Universal Studios, to Jersey City and the Barclays, to Las Vegas for the iHeartRadio festival, to an all inclusive resort in Cancun, to Milwaukee, Boston, Albuquerque, and beyond, it was a great year for travel.  I got to DJ more events than I ever thought I would, including the Recording Academy Texas Chapter's GRAMMY Watch Party and Holiday Bash.  I spent another unforgettable summer with a great group of people leading worship at camps around Texas.

Despite all of the incredible opportunities that I got in 2013, the thing that stands out to me is all of the people along the way.  When I go somewhere to visit people, it's the time I spend with those people that makes it truly special.  Even the places I go by myself, I get the chance to interact with people in different cultures.  I'll never forget the conversation about America that I had with the receptionist at my hotel in Amiens, France.  I remember a great conversation I had with a German lady on the way to Grouse Mountain.  I got to meet DJ Promote in Milwaukee at Chris Tomlin's Burning Lights tour.  Even when I wasn't traveling, it was the friendships in my life that really made a lot of moments memorable.  I feel like there were a lot of people I got to know better this past year than in the past. It's amazing how much God can show you from the people in your life as well, especially the ones that really do care about you.

All of that to say, I'm super excited for 2014.  I don't know what all it has in store, but I know that among the many things, I'm going to the GRAMMY awards for the first time, graduating college, and of course, I'll continue making music.


- Joey