Tapping Into Your Source with Cobaine Ivory
For today’s Digm Spot feature we are talking about a different way to view success, why you should purposely make things difficult, and why seeing the end before you start will help you achieve your dreams.
Cobaine Ivory is a classical composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and DJ. He is responsible for producing and developing over a hundred artists, including some of the industry’s brightest. Over his career, many of the artists Cobaine has produced have performed alongside many A-list and Grammy award winning artists. In addition to being a music producer, Cobaine Ivory is an artist himself, writing and composing music for his rock band, Live From Paris, blues hip-hop group, CharlieRED, and his classical hip hop piece, Tri-State of Mind. Works that Cobaine Ivory produced have been featured in media publications like MTV, VH-1, BET, Pitchfork, Complex, Esquire, Okayplayer, Centric, GiantSteps, 2 Dope Boys, as well as many other publications around the world. Cobaine and his group, CharlieRED, have also collaborated with brands like Armani, Victoria Secret, Bath and Body Works, Redbull, Heineken, Comedy Central, Pepsi, Target, MTV, VH-1, and many more.
Paradigm.Money: We want to start with the word passion because it’s thrown around all the time when people say, “Well, if you’re passionate about what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.” Where does your passion for music come from and how has music helped shaped who you are as a person?
Cobaine Ivory: I grew up in a musical family and around the time where there was money in music programs, so I was able to take two different music courses. I had the normal classical stuff, you know, hitting on the xylophone and stuff. But then, I also had one on one sessions where I could bring in any music I wanted too. At the time, it was like Nice and Smooth or GangStar or something like that. And I was taught each part of the beat with various instruments. So, if there’s piano, if there’s guitar, if there’s a drum, so I was basically becoming multi-instrumentalist when I was seven or eight years old. That’s what kind of propelled me to be passionate about it. When something is always around you, you’re just kind of following whoever’s motivating your footsteps. I did a lot of others things like athletics, but, music kind of stuck around.
PM: What is your philosophy on life? How has this philosophy helped you in your success?
CI: My philosophy on life is stay curious. I travel often. I’ve been to at least 25 countries and every time I go to a new country I realize that every single step is brand new. If you remain curious and you embrace the new, you’re essentially constantly putting yourself in a challenging place. That’s where most people fail. And a new lesson I really learned, I would say literally a day ago. A quick story, I had an opportunity with some major label artists. They asked me to do a little bit more work, and it’s something I’ve never done, what they asked me to do. I knew I would be approached with a question at some point. I started writing a text, like “hey, listen, I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this. You guys find another way to be able to do it, whatever.” I’m not going to get into details of what they asked me, but before I sent it, I was like dude; can you possibly really do this? How long is it really going to take? I do some research. I figured out some shortcuts, and it ended up taking an hour. What I realized, it’s stacked. I would say a 99 percentile when you just need to push a little bit more. That little bit more; it constitutes a very small percentage of successful people who pushed a little bit more, that’s it.
PM: In one way or another, your music influence has reached millions of people. When you put that into perspective, how does that make you feel, and are you surprised at all by any of your accomplishments?
CI: It feels great, I mean, getting employees and people hearing your music and stuff like that. But really, I guess I’m connected more to the satisfaction of creation. I have actually boiled it down to the moment that I’m really satisfied and what I live for. It’s the moment when I’m just banging around the keys or drums or guitar, and I’m trying to figure out something and nothing’s happening. Then at that moment for all creatives, there’s a thought comes into play. Like, oh, I made something like this before. I’ve created something like this before. People are not going to like this. What I realized is you have to become dumb at that point, completely stupid. For your mind, to leave room for the spirit source energy, God, whatever you want to call it. Like Jay-Z says leave the door cracked, so God can walk in the room. That’s that moment that transition from thinking with your physical body to being a vessel and being open. There’s are woman named Elizabeth Gilbert who does a great Ted Talk. It’s like number two. It talks about, what the Greeks and the Romans thought a genius was. They said a genius lived in the walls. Essentially, you called upon a genius as a human being to help you with your ideas. That’s what I kind of do, right. So, often I don’t really take credit for what I do, you know. It’s like co-produced by God sometimes. I just become a vessel by becoming as empty as I possibly can to the point where people have played my music in front of me. I’m like oh, snap, this is kind of dope. Then I realize it’s our music. I’m literally so detached from it. To be detached allows you to, kind of, not have the burden of being “a genius.” Because once you have this major success as a “genius”, human nature wants you to out do that last success. It’s impossible and that’s why a lot of creatives are drawn to drugs and alcohol. If you realize you’re not a part of it, you’re just a vessel and you’re a tool. I’m used as a tool, as far as my abilities, you know. I’m prideful of my abilities of learning instruments and stuff like that, like I did that. I did that work. But, the ideas or melodies are not mine.
PM: That’s interesting insight and definitely a different perspective on how to view success and view accomplishments. In my mind, if I understand what you’re saying, that also helps you stay balanced, right. I remember a story where Michael Jackson never put any of his awards up anywhere because he didn’t want to feel like he made it. Is that similar to how you view yourself as a vessel and not necessarily consumed by your accomplishments?
CI: I absolutely love that story. I believe Michael told it to Dark Child. He said, never keep your awards where you create because then you’re, you know, looking at your accomplishments. You’re not present in the moment of challenging yourself and it’s hard to take the responsibility of being a creator. But, every decision is a creation. Every, you know… the fact that we both decide on making this happen and now it’s a creation. Now, people are going to be inspired and hear these words, and hopefully it’d push them toward their goals. But, getting back to the point, I like to remain an empty vessel.
PM: So, let’s pivot a little bit and talk about technology. So, technology has really changed many genres including music. What’s your take on technology? Is it a gift, a curse, or both? How can one use it in their pursuit of their dreams?
CI: I think it’s a gift and a curse. I think it’s how you utilize it. When I grew up, my stepdad gave me this really crappy drum machine. All I remember is it was all gray. I would essentially multi-track with two different tape players, and that’s how I made beats. I made beats with what I had. I feel like people coming into the music game at this point, you basically have a whole orchestra in your computer. In some cases, you don’t even need musicians. So, it loses that feel, that natural feel. When Quincy Jones was introduced to all these new age synthesizers, he still played well. He had musicians that played well. It just was a new sound. But, I think you have to purposely make it hard for yourself. You have to learn the roots of all things. So, if you’re using ProTools. You’re using all this technology. You’re using a digital mixer. You have to actually learn how to utilize the same tools on a real mixer. Something analog, something you can touch. I think if you start there and then embrace the technology from that knowledge, that kind of hard work, you’ll find nuances that people won’t be able to find.
PM: What would you say the biggest challenge you’ve had so far, and how have you overcome it?
CI: I’m reaching towards greatness. Greatness to me is like if you put a Picasso piece and an unknown street artist in New York City, let’s say, and put them together. If you get the same feeling, that unknown street artist has touched upon greatness. Greatness to me is the absence of self, being unaware of your physical body, being unaware of your thoughts. Once you do that, you’re closer to greatness. I feel like my challenge is finding other ways to challenge myself. I mean, I did a unique piece with a German opera singer mixing classical and hip hop, and performed it with a 13-piece orchestra 5-6 years ago. So, I don’t know what else to do to make myself feel anxious. It’s important for me to create anxiety and put myself in new places. Eventually you come out of that anxiety with knowledge, and now you have all these tools and techniques that you’ve learned around, you know, going through that process. When I worked with the orchestra, I had to hire a conductor, and I learned so much. I learned how hip hop and classical have common roots and how they differed tremendously. Like I wanted everything on a swing, he wanted everything right on note, right on key, and whatever. I think that’s my biggest challenge is finding new challenges.
PM: How do you stay focused?
CI: There’s so many people that I listen to, audiobooks. One of my favorites is Jack Canfield’s 99 Principles of Success. I listen to that every morning. That keeps me motivated. My schedule starts at 9 am and ends at, basically, 8:30 or 9 pm. And I do 2 three-hour blocks of creativity and 1 two hour blockish. Then I’m doing, you know, little things here and there, taking lunch breaks. Like, I set it up just like I’m a corporation, but it’s just I’m one guy. That’s what keeps me focused. I think early in my career I used to just like kind of wait around for inspiration to come and it doesn’t work very well. So, what I do, you know, from nine to twelve, I lock myself in and I sit at my computer and I make mistakes and I delete them. I make a mistake, that’s warming up for me. Then eventually I’m in flow, which is essentially not thinking and then, you know, the music is coming on its own. So, that’s how I stay focused is, like, setting up a rigorous schedule and really sticking with it, you know. You think about all these moguls. I’m sure P. Diddy is not walking around just like man, I’m just going to do whatever feels right, you know. He has a schedule and that keeps him motivated, that keeps him driven, that keeps him inspired, that keeps him working, and well lubricated, you know. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. You know what I mean? So, that’s what keeps me focused.
PM: We’re going to go to our lightning round. So, I’m going to ask you these questions and then, you know, you’ll just fill in the blank for me with a phrase. And we’re going to go from there, all right. You ready?
PM: So, my favorite book of all time is? CI: 48 Laws of Power.
PM: If I wasn’t pursuing my passion, I would be? CI: Probably a life coach or psychologist.
PM: If my life was a movie, it would be titled? CI: Greatness: Circumvention of Self. That’s actually my book title.
PM: If I could rewind time, I would take it back to the year blank, and then tell us why? CI: Okay, two things come to mind. I would say 1950s-40s, just what was happening musically then. I would say early 2000s. That’s when the Neptunes kind of appeared, and I just love what they brought back to music, the feeling of their music.
PM: What advice would you give to anyone who is pursuing their dreams? CI: There’s a great thing that Jack Canfield said, “You can drive across the country with headlights that only go about 20 feet. You don’t know what’s in your distance, but as long as you know where you’re going.” So, setting up an end game for yourself, setting up an unattainable end game, visualizing that and responding to the feedback, both from yourself and from others is critical. Then also within that realm, remaining what your self is and what defines what you are is the thing that gives you chills and goosebumps that sign from the universe that you’re on the right path. Doing what other people do and you don’t feel those feelings is not worth pursuing. You got to find what is unique to you.
PM: All right, brother. I appreciate you. Thank you so much for this, for the words of wisdom, for the positivity, for the enlightenment, you know. I might have to play background Zen music behind this interview. CI: Thank you, Ash. It’s always a pleasure for real.
PM: So, there you have it, Cobaine Ivory, music producer, classical composer, and instrumentalist dropping some words of wisdom.
Here are some key takeaways:
• It is important to stay curious and embrace every new opportunity and experience. By doing so, you put yourself in a challenging place which helps you learn how to overcome adversities. So, in essence, you should always push yourself to the limit and get out of your comfort zone.
• As a creative, it is important that you are in love with your process and not get caught up too much in trying to outdo your previous success. This allows you to stay grounded and gives you the ability to continue to create at a high level.
• Don’t allow technology to make you lazy. Even though technology makes things easier, the process of learning your craft fully is what’s going to make you stand out from the crowd.
• Don’t wait for inspiration to come to you. You have to go to it. Create a schedule that’s going to allow you to stay disciplined and focused on being the best that you could possibly be.
• Make sure you know where you’re going. Visualize the destination. Feel it, as if you already accomplished it and get to work trying to get there. As Jack Canfield said, “You can drive across the country with headlights that only see 20 feet at a time. Because as long as you know where you’re going, you will always get to your destination.”
Interested in being interviewed to be featured on the Digm Spot? Email Ash at email@example.com.
Run Your House for Less
Making ends meet in this day in age has become extremely challenging. There are only so many hours in a day, so sometimes we choose an easier path (like stopping for takeout), rather than one that makes more financial sense (such as making dinner at home). Rather than feel guilty about these occasional “misdemeanors,” reduce some of your routine household expenses to accommodate them. Since many household expenses stay about the same each month, switching to a cheaper alternative or eliminating the service altogether will provide lasting savings, and a little cushion for those occasional treats. Here are few ideas on how to run your house for less to get you started:
Average monthly cable bills are expected to grow to $123 next year—that’s a whopping $1,476 per year! Contact your cable provider and ask if they have a more affordable option, and/or negotiate a lower rate by telling them you are considering a competitor. If that doesn’t work, think about eliminating cable altogether. There are more ways than ever to access broadcasts for free: an HDTV antenna, streaming video players like Roku or Apple TV, websites like Hulu that let you watch full episodes of popular shows, or the latest mobile apps.
Subscriptions and Memberships
Make a list of all the subscriptions and membership fees your family members pay each month, such as magazine and newspaper subscriptions, gyms, clubs, sports organizations or professional associations. Prioritize which ones are the most important for your family and eliminate the rest, particularly if some of the services or information is available free, online or at your local library.
Cleaning and Personal Care
According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, households spent an average of $610 a year on housekeeping supplies and $628 on personal care products and services. Cut down on these expenses by making your own cleaners using inexpensive ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. Your state’s Cooperative Extension services may provide some great free tips and recipes for making low-cost, natural products. Save on haircuts and other personal care expenses by taking advantage of free coupon services like Groupon.
Heating and Cooling
Every degree you set back your thermostat will save you from 1 to 3 percent on your heating/cooling bill. Consider turning down the temperature of your hot water heater and setting a time limit for showers—reducing showers to five minutes or less will save thousands of gallons of hot water each year. If you have ceiling fans, use them to help with cooling, and, by reversing the rotation of the blades, heating as well. Some states and utility companies offer free energy audits which suggest the best ways to improve energy efficiency in heating and cooling of your home.
These are just a few ways to reduce your financial stress and make your dollars stretch.
Affordable DIY Gift Ideas
It’s all well and good to lament the commercialization of the holidays, but Aunt Gladys still expects something under the tree. If you’re short on cash but long on creativity, there are many easy, inexpensive ways to create a gift for your loved ones, and we’re not talking macaroni necklaces. Here’s some of affordable DIY gift ideas that pack a lot of love:
DIY Gift #1: Sugar Scrub
One of the easiest, cheapest and most impressive DIY gifts—and one that will definitely get used instead of sitting on a shelf gathering dust till the glued-on sequins fall off—is a sugar scrub. It can be used on the face, body, hands or feet, it’s customizable with various scents and it’s crazily fast and simple to make. Just combine two parts sugar (white or brown) with one part oil (olive, coconut, almond). You can add a few drops of an essential oil for fragrance—try lavender, lemon or peppermint, or add actual edibles, like vanilla extract or pumpkin pie spices. Stir well, put in a jar, tie a ribbon around it, and voila. Extra credit – create and print a pretty label. There are lots of free label libraries online.
DIY Gift #2: Homemade Bath Salts
If you’re on a roll with the spa theme, add homemade bath salts to your DIY repertoire. Mix six parts coarse sea salt with three parts Epsom salts (none under the sink? check the drugstore), add a few drops of essential oils (try vanilla, lavender, eucalyptus, rose or grapefruit), and food coloring if you desire. Package as above.
DIY Gift #3: Handmade Coasters
What is your mom always yelling at you to use? Right – a coaster. Why not give the gift of unblemished tables with a cute collection of handmade coasters? First stop – the home store for square white ceramic tiles, which should be less than 20 cents each. You also need white craft glue, such as Mod Podge; some kind of paper to attach to the tile (photos, decorative paper, artwork, sheet music, maps, concert tickets, etc.), spray acrylic sealant and sheets of felt or cork. Use a sponge brush to apply glue to the tile, glue your paper item of choice smoothly (and quickly!) onto the tile, then cover the paper with one to three coats of glue. Let dry, spray with sealant, glue a tile-sized square of cork or felt to the bottom of the tiles, put a ribbon around a set of four, done.
DIY Gift #4: Food
And there’s the old DIY standby – food. Have a signature salsa? Make up a batch and package them in pretty Mason jars. Have oatmeal, nuts, dried fruit, honey and oil on hand? Mix up some granola. Baker extraordinaire? Make cookies and tie a ribbon around a pastry box or cookie tin (both available cheap at a craft store near you).
Happy DIY gifting!