Life Is Hard

     Watch the Video! "Alone" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #36)

I occasionally do private tutoring and scholarship coaching, and one of my students recently shared an observation with me that blew my mind. This student is an adult who teaches parolees math so that they can receive a GED and put their lives back together.

I asked him, "What is the biggest factor that determines whether a parolee will violate parole and end up back in jail?"

I thought he was going to say, "a job" or "stable housing" or "getting a GED." But he simply said, "Community. If they have people in their lives who love them and give them something to live for, they are more likely to stay out of jail."

Redefining Failure In The Classroom

       Watch the Video! "Redefine Failure" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #35)

In my motivational assembly presentations, I talk about how we often interpret failure to mean, "I'm bad at something," or "I'm a failure," or "I'll never be good at this."

But what if we look at failure as information, not judgment? What if we interpret failure to mean, "This is where I need more practice to excel at this"?

It's hard to internalize that message. So much of our schooling is defined by the avoidance of failure, because it inevitably is accompanied by shame, criticism, and punishment.

Posted on April 23, 2015 .

Developing Defense Mechanisms From Past Pain

     Watch the Video! "Defenses" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #34)

When I was 15, I told my friend that I liked a girl in my class. 

By that afternoon, the whole school knew about it. 

Feeling humiliated, I made a decision: Never tell anyone something that you don’t want repeated to everyone you know.  

As I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, I’ve been thinking about how and why we develop defense mechanisms. 

You Are A Blip On Their Radar

     Watch the Video! "Radar" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #33)

The reality is that most people think about themselves most of the time. At best, we are often a blip on their radar screen before they turn their attention to something or someone else.

This could be really depressing. We could say, "Wow, everyone is so focused on themselves. No one cares about me."

But what if being a blip on everyone's radar screen was actually freeing?

Posted on April 9, 2015 .

Keep In Touch

     Watch the Video! "Holla Back" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #32)

Have you ever had a flight delayed and had no idea when you would leave?

Have you ever felt the slow, grueling wait of sitting on a subway platform with no clue when the next train will arrive?

Have you ever been in the doctor’s office with no indication of when you’ll be called?

The problem with these situations isn’t the wait; it’s the uncertainty.

Posted on April 2, 2015 .

The Power of Consistent Exposure

     Watch the Video! "Exposure" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #31)

Last night I was having a conversation about the shift in how people discover new music – from radio in the 90s to the internet in the 2010s. 

The theory behind pop radio is to sell audience attention to advertisers, so the songs need to sound “similar yet different” to other pop hits so that people don’t change the channel when something “new” comes on.

But songs also “grow on” audiences with repeat listens. 

Posted on March 27, 2015 .

The Power of Momentum

  Watch the Video! "Momentum" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #30)

Do you ever have days when you’re trying to get something done but keep telling yourself things like:

“Okay, I’ll start after I read one more blog post.”

“I’m just going to scroll through a couple more things on my Newsfeed.”

“It’s 1:21.  At 1:30, I’ll get back to work.”

“I’m almost done with this chapter / episode / article of my newest book / Netflix show / magazine.”

“After I eat a snack, I’ll be more focused.” 

I find myself using these rationalizations all the time.  And they seem productive because I feel like I’m giving myself a little break, which will set me up for success.  

But what I’ve found is that I’ve usually got it backwards. 

Posted on March 19, 2015 .

How Should You Choose A Career?

      Watch the Video! "Career" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #29)

I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up… at the age of 22. 

When I was little, I loved Legos and thought about being an architect. 

I loved books and poetry and thought about being a teacher. 

I loved helping people and thought about starting an NGO. 

But once senior year of college hit, I was faced with the vast expanse of the unknown. 

Posted on March 13, 2015 .

Belief Is Stronger Than Proof

Have you ever tried to change a “bad” habit (eating candy, smoking, not exercising, watching Honey Boo Boo, etc.), only to feel powerless against the momentum of something that you know is bad for you?

This is incredibly frustrating, but we beat ourselves up for the wrong reason.  We think, “Man, I must be so weak if I can’t do something that I know is logically a better choice for me and my future.” 

In reality, we’re looking at the wrong part of the problem.  We are focusing on how much proof we have, when really we should be focusing on what belief (either conscious or unconscious) we have about that habit. 

The Kickstarter for “Remix Your Reality” is here!

     Watch the Video on Kickstarter!

My new motivational hip-hop album, “Remix Your Reality” is in the works! 

This album is designed to help young people overcome their struggles by delivering motivation and personal development in the form of hot beats, clever rhymes, and catchy hooks. 

To help make the album, we are turning to caring citizens like you who believe in the power of personal development and music to change lives.  Our goal is to get this album in the hands of every teenager who hears me speak or attends one of my workshops, and your support will help the album become a reality.

Posted on February 26, 2015 .

More Cross Than Fit: My Struggles With CrossFit

     Watch the Video! "Workout" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #28)

When I moved to the East Bay, doing a little research revealed that the cheapest gym in my area was CrossFit. I had heard rumors about the brutal WODs ("Workout of the Day"), intense coaches, and fanatical quality of CrossFit adherents. So it was with a cautious spirit that I attended a Saturday morning introductory class in July.

Posted on February 19, 2015 .

Is It Okay For Kids To Feel Stressed Out?

     Watch the Video! "Stress" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #27)

Two weeks ago, I ran a professional development workshop for K-12 teachers about using hip-hop and culturally relevant pedagogy in the classroom

The attendees had a wealth of knowledge and experience in working with students from different cultural backgrounds, and I learned a great deal from these teachers’ perspectives and “best practices” in reaching their students. 

One of the interesting insights was that several schools in the district have a trend that differs from many schools in America.  Because many of the students in this district come from families who place a high value on education and professional success, the students feel like they must be perfect.

Posted on February 12, 2015 .

All The Same And All Alone

     Watch the Video! "Same Difference" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #26)

How often do we find ourselves in situations where we don’t understand why someone made the decision they made? 

Maybe that person ignored you, insulted you, committed a crime, or made a short-sighted decision that had negative consequences. 

Maybe that person was a stranger in a restaurant, or maybe it was a close friend or family member. 

“I can’t believe that person did that!” you might think to yourself.  “I’d never do that!”

Posted on February 5, 2015 .

Should You Live Like You’re Dying?

     Watch the Video! "What Does It All Mean?" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #25)

Since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by astrophysics.  The history of time.  The scale of the universe.  The remarkable fact that despite slim odds and multiple extinction level events, we are alive and conscious today. 

And when I think about what I should focus on every day, I often feel torn.

Posted on January 29, 2015 .

How Much Money Do You Want To Make?

     Watch the Video! "Top Dollar" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #24)

I was recently researching beats online for my new album, and I was struck by the variety of “beats for sale” websites.  Some sites offer beats for $4.95, while others start at $100. 

In the course of listening to hundreds of beats from various sites, I came to the realization that the main thing differentiating the beats was price.  There was almost no difference in quality between the beats on most sites.  Some of the $10 beats were amazing, and many of the $100 beats were average at best. 

Posted on January 22, 2015 .

Why It's Good to Be Sick

     Watch the Video! "So Sick" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #23)

Last week I had a fever and severe coughing, and it made me reflect on how much I take my health for granted. 

I have several friends with chronic illnesses who spend their entire lives accompanied by intermittent pain and discomfort.  But these friends don’t wallow in their suffering – they use it to connect with other people who are also sick or struggling. 

Posted on January 15, 2015 .

The Power of Owning Who You Are

     Watch the Video! "Who You Are" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #22)

In the final scene of 8 Mile (SPOILER ALERT), rapper Rabbit (played by Eminem) battles his arch-nemesis, Papa Doc. Though he has been plagued by failures and setbacks throughout the film, Eminem has persisted to make it to the final rap battle.  The odds are stacked against him, and tensions are running high. 

Posted on January 8, 2015 .

What You Focus On Becomes Your Reality

     Watch the Video! "Focus" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #20)

I recently did a hip-hop motivational assembly at an elementary school, and I loved watching the reactions of the students.

Some of the students were hanging on every word. 

Some of the students were volunteering and having a blast.

Some of the students were trying to be too cool for school. 

Some of the students were obviously tired and trying to stay engaged.

The crazy thing is, all of those students were hearing the exact same words that I was saying and seeing the exact same gestures that I was making. 

But their experience of my talk was totally different depending on their mindset. 

Posted on December 25, 2014 .

Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe

     Watch the Video! "Ceci N'est Pas Une Pipe" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #19)

The title of this blog post refers to the painting “The Treachery of Images” (La trahison des images) by Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte, which features the image of a pipe with the words “This is not a pipe” (Ceci n’est pas une pipe) under it. 

One of the issues that the painting raises is the difference between the signifier, the word or image, and the signified, the actual object the word or image describes.  “This is not a pipe” is literally true because it is a painting of a pipe, not an actual pipe. 

Applied more broadly to our daily lives, the painting can be a reminder that the story we tell ourselves about an event is not the event itself. 

Posted on December 18, 2014 .