My 8-Step Formula for Making Things Happen

Although times were simpler in the early 1990’s, the hustle was very real. If you wanted to spread the word about something, you had to work at it.

During the early days of Rusted Root, I’d scrounge together whatever money I had every few weeks and head to Kinko’s. I’d walk out with about a thousand prints of band posters.

Then I’d venture on foot for a few miles, down each of the main roads that led into Pittsburgh. I’d staple two posters onto every telephone pole, so they were visible in each direction.

This promotional strategy was a win-win in my mind…

Either the thousands of posters I’d put up would help pack the house for our shows (which they did from time to time)…

Or for those who’d never seen us, it would be nearly impossible to escape our name. Eventually, they’d have to wonder just who in heck these “Rusted Root” people were…

rusted root 1990s
I hung A LOT of posters to promote this early Rusted Root show at The Artery.
IMAGE SOURCE: Jim Donovan

From 1991 to 1993, this strategy seemed to work pretty well. Until it didn’t…

One night, Joe, the owner of The Artery—one of our favorite local clubs—pulled me aside. He told me that the police recently paid his club a visit, and informed him of a new city law. A law in which a hefty $400 fine would be issued—to both the band and the promoter—for every unapproved gig poster found on public property.

By that time, Rusted Root had developed a notorious reputation for plastering the city with our band posters. There’s no way we could afford all of those fines.

So my poster hanging days came to an abrupt end. But as luck would have it, soon afterward, Rusted Root began to gain popularity outside of Pittsburgh.

music gigs pittsburgh
A now-empty Pittsburgh phone pole I once used to publicize Rusted Root.
IMAGE SOURCE: Jim Donovan

And I sometimes wonder if the brazen way we used to promote the band contributed to our success.  

In fact, over the years, I’ve found that the quality of my life improves whenever I focus my time on one goal.

The power of relentless focus

Many of the successes in my life—from promoting my band, to getting healthier, to starting this Sound Health newsletter—only came to fruition after I gave each of them the consistent, unyielding attention they deserved.

Whenever I’ve tried to do it all, all at once, things never turned out the way I’d hoped. Dividing your attention in too many directions dilutes your time, energy, and brain power.

Instead, I’ve gradually learned that relentless focus is the best way to get where you want to go.

Fortunately, there are some easy, all-natural ways you can increase your focus and start making significant, measurable progress towards your goals—no matter how big or small.

Here’s my personal focus-based formula:

  1. Find somewhere quiet where you can think without disruption.
    Either sit or lie down—whatever’s most comfortable for you.

  2. Start by clearing your mind and calming your nerves with this 30-second vocal toning exercise:
    This exercise releases your body’s “feel good” chemicals: serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine—which relieve stress and prepare your body for concentration and creative thinking.

    If you feel uncomfortable at any time, feel free to stop the exercise and take a break.

    – Set a timer for 30 seconds

    – Close your eyes and start your timer.

    – Inhale a deep breath through your nose.

    – On the exhale, and with your mouth open, vocalize the sound “eee.”

    – Halfway through your exhalation (about 5 to 8 seconds), close your mouth and lips.

    The sound will automatically morph into an “mmm” sound. (Altogether, you want to make an “eeemmm” noise.)

    – Repeat this sequence until your time is up.

    – At the end, take a deep breath or two, and notice how you feel.

  3. Get clear with your goal-setting.
    Ask yourself: “What do I want/need the most?”

  4. Commit to making the change.
    Accountability works wonders. Tell a friend, family member, or co-worker about your goal. And if you’re feeling really brave, make an announcement on social media.

  5. Remove all of your roadblocks, one by one.
    Trying to lose weight? Remove all the sugar from your pantry. The next week? Get rid of all processed foods.

    Want to get started on that novel? Remove all distractions. Make a quiet refuge in your home, or carve out time to write at your local café.

  6. Refuse to make excuses.
    Create a schedule and stick to it. Make phone reminders if you need to.
    Start meal prepping or pack a bag of gym clothes the night before.
    Tap into your network if you need help doing something specific. People are there to help!

  7. Relentlessly take action.
    Keep at it. Nothing is impossible.
    Whatever the challenge, break it into small pieces and tackle each one-by-one.
    If that’s not working? Then break it down even further.
    Keep at it until you find something feasible for your lifestyle, goals, and schedule.

  8. Once you check off one step, move to the next one with the same determination

“Win” the moment

Take it from me, I’ve had to start from square one many times in my life. And I want you to know that the battle is worth it.

You don’t have to fix it everything in your life today. That’s not realistic.

But I do want you to try to find that fire. The fire that will make you refuse to stop until you bring about whatever it is you’re working towards.

Before you know it, you will have finally done that one thing you’ve always wanted to do.

The time has come to relentlessly focus on yourself. You’re worth it.

P.S. – To learn more about the vocal toning exercise I showed you earlier—or to discover more ways to clear your mind and improve your focus—I encourage you to check out my Whole Body Sound Healing System. Click here to learn more or get started today.

Jim Donovan image
About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.