Has this been your best year ever?

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

I hope you are well.

How have things been?

I realize 2017 isn’t quite over yet, but I really hope this has been your best year ever!

It certainly has been for me.

Not all the goals I set at the beginning of the year have been met, but certainly more of them have been checked off so far than usually happens, so with hand on heart I can say “YES! This has been my best year ever!”

Clarity and focus seem to be the main reasons why.

Partly thanks to Michael Hyatt.

It’s not often I plug other people’s stuff, but when I do it’s because it works: whatever is on offer I have used myself and found it effective. For the past three years both my work and play have been refined through one of Michael’s productivity programs and it’s clearly had a positive effect on my life, my wife’s life, and the lives of classical music fans all over the world…

maybe even including you!

So, throughout December, you will see lots of stories and links related to Michael’s program, beginning with a self-assessment as well as exercises, webinars, and finally the full program itself.

You can participate as much or as little as you want to,


Consider why SPB is sharing it with you with aplomb.

If you want to achieve anything, including simply a ‘better life’ whatever that means for you, this program will help.

It’s not for everyone, but it just might be perfect for you at this time of your life.

So, please be excited and patient as the stories and lessons I share with you over the next few weeks relate to making a better life for yourself, using examples and outcomes from my three years of taking Michael’s ever-developing program “Best Year Ever” (including Michael’s pilot pre-launch version!) It’s made a massive positive impact in my life, and I hope it will in yours, too.

For example, one of my own goals this year was to broadcast my own radio show/ podcast.

Have you heard it, yet?

Here is the latest episode with Rose Mallare:


…and the next episode will be a little different, methinks 🙂

Is it a pipe dream to want to be The Best?

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

In a society that craves accolade and attention it is disheartening to see so much about music reduced to competition, technical perfection and sales.

On the other hand, when we focus on the music and its multitude ways it impacts both communities and individuals, we actually see a very different approach to life… of which music is just a part.

Rather than chasing the substantially arrogant pipe dream of being “The Best!” perhaps it is time we started looking to being the best fans of classical music we can be… whether we’re performing or listening. There is a big difference between being The Best and becoming the best we can be.

Becoming The Best is temporary, an illusion, and only means you (or someone else) judges you to be better than the person sitting next to you. At least for today until someone else comes along who is 10% better than you are. It is then devastating when someone comes along who doesn’t care how good you or they are, but it turns out they are ten times (1000%) better than you. I’ve seen people crushed by the realization that they weren’t as good as they were led to believe (especially musicians who arrive at a music college). Although they may have been The Best in their limited sphere of influence, it turns out that there is a whole wide world of passionate folk who seem to be far more accomplished.

You don’t have to be particularly good at what you do, but you can still be The Best at it…

Think of a chess tournament among a troop of monkeys.

One of them is The Best!

Until Levon Aronian turns up.

On the other hand, if you choose to be the best that you can be, it no longer matters (quite so much) what those around you are accomplishing or capable of. Don’t get me wrong: surround yourself with others who are striving to be the best they can be, as well as those who have achieved a good level of accomplishment, as they will help motivate you in your own quest. But the burden of sharing live music with others shifts from an outward image-based comparison to an inner desire to discover the “more” behind There’s more to music than music.

It becomes our own private responsibility to dive deeper and achieve more than we ever thought possible, not for the sake of those we share music with, but for our own peace and understanding of how this world actually works.

And how we can communicate emotion with each other when words fail us.

One of the problems with today’s Western World in particular, is the self-esteem boosting trend of the late 80s and 90s.

As Simon Sinek said, Millennials are struggling at work because their parents “gave them medals for coming last.” I’m no Millennial, but most Gen Xers who spent their teens in the USA suffered just the same misguided brandishment: I once received a medal for sitting in the fourth chair (of eight) of the third clarinets in Regional Junior Varsity Band III. I still have it (buried in a box in storage, otherwise I’d have taken a picture). And wonder why I ever got it. Sinek observes that one of the many downsides to overtly disproportionate praise is that recipients actually feel worse, because deep down they know they didn’t deserve a medal.

I was relieved to hear someone explain it to me that way.

The push to become The Best builds arrogance, entitlement, and does society no favors at all.

The push to congratulate and praise everything we do is just as bad.

We all need encouragement to be the best we can be, and we need honest guides to show us how to travel that path: folk who say “Good job! Now let’s work on this…”

It’s funny that Rose Mallare and I just spoke about that in my podcast’s latest pilot episode.

Listen to it here:


Community validation is a huge deal.

Dear #Classicalmusic Fan,

Community validation is a huge deal.

When someone else not only joins a crusade alongside you, but also let’s you know why or cheers you on, it is simply the best demonstration of other people wanting to make the world a better place as much as you do.

No better example of that, occurred this week.

Donations for my new radio show and podcast From The Podium have been steadily coming in, mostly offline. The other day, as I was sorting through the mail, I flipped one hand-written envelope over to open it.

But what I saw made me tear up.

That particular fan of classical music had written a message on the back:

“For the good work you do, take a bow.”




(Thank you so much, James.)

Not only did the envelope contain a generous tax deductible donation made payable to “Fractured Atlas” with From The Podium, Live in the memo line, but that encouragement certainly helped validate the effort our team of creative and technical experts is putting in to bringing classical music to the airwaves and podcast world in a new way.

And so the day went a lot better after that!

We launch the show on Saturday, November 4 at 8am Eastern with four pilot episodes throughout November, and you’ll want to know how to listen in, right?

Donate today, and I’ll tell you exactly how…

You’ll even be able to call the show and join in the Podium Chat!

Here’s to bringing good music to life, and giving fans of classical music something to talk about…

Donate here:



FTP Donation Envelope Message

How did you become an expert?

Almost everyone online seems to be an expert these days.

What are you an expert at?

At least, what are you really good at?

I bet you can already do more than you think you can, but unconfidence and humility probably prevent you from sharing it with the world.

Let’s think about it for a moment…

How did you become an expert?

I can tell you.

You learned something.

Just one thing more.

You discovered something or were told something that you didn’t know before, and that one piece of information brought you a step closer to achieving a goal, understanding the way things work, and opening a world of fascination.

Or not.

But knowing that one thing extra definitely brought you a step closer to becoming an expert.

It’s the same with classical music, whether you are a performer or a listener.

Knowing just one thing more than you did before about the composition, an instrument, or the composer helps you immeasurably, and makes you an expert… especially if the folk you are hanging out with don’t already know it!

You can now accomplish far more than you could before, just because of that one piece of understanding.

Go ahead…

Find something out today.

Then let me know what it is.

And let’s explore how taking such action helps you make the most of classical music concerts…


The Unfettered Worship of Mediocrity

A couple of years ago the National Youth Orchestra of the USA launched with a concert at Carnegie Hall. It’s actually a program run by Carnegie Hall, which says a lot.

(FYI, the USA happens to be one of the LAST Western countries in the WORLD to form a National Youth Orchestra, which says a lot more.)

Anyway, in that first concert and subsequent tour they played Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein.

They did a pretty darn good job!

But, not world-class.

And to read the gushing praise in the Youtube video comments was… is… nauseating.

You’d have thought this was the first time ANY youth orchestra had ever played at Carnegie Hall, or that piece of music. I really hope most of the people commenting with things like “this was the best concert I’ve ever been to in my entire life!” were the performer’s parents, because otherwise it doesn’t say much about the concerts those poor folk have been attending.

Eventually I had to add my own comment along the lines of: Good job, but not great. They could have done this, this and this better, like other orchestras their age do elsewhere.

Oh my, how on earth could anyone possibly chastise or criticize their little loved ones?!

I expected retaliation, but even got some support, too.

What I didn’t expect was to STILL get retaliation over a year later.

But last week’s comment irked me.

It suggested that…

Well, here it is. Along with my reply:

@Stephen P Brown I think that confidence is a very important part of a musician’s journey towards success, especially if they happen to be teenagers as seen in this video. I think that people that praise this particular group have a completely valid reason to do so. And I think that commenting and saying that they aren’t good by global standards is a bit of a low blow. These young musicians need praise so they don’t lose that drive…that passion that has sent them flying this far. Sure other youth ensembles may be better but that does not mean we have to immediately compare them to those other ensembles, instead we can let them enjoy their moment in the spotlight, and let their confidence soar. I get what you are trying to say, and it may be correct in some people point of view but I do not view it as a necessary comment to be posting here. They are excellent young performers. Emphasis on young, they have much to learn, but for their current age their ability to express passion and express the feeling that is embedded in the music they play, that ability is just fine. And your comment was completely, whilst being a valid opinion, a completely unnecessary one.


@bajimba I’m guessing you’re of the ilk that think every participant in every activity should get a medal, just for showing up and doing what is expected of them. “Everyone’s a winner” and all that, right? Pity. Those days are long gone and that approach has been scientifically proven to be utterly counter-productive. Plenty of TED Talks if you care to question it. If you praise but exclude comparison, especially at such a high National level, you give people nothing to work towards. Unfettered worship of mediocrity is what leads to misplaced arrogance, and doesn’t nurture stimulated development.


What I’m saying is: be careful when you publicly praise something as being quite outstandingly excellent. It might not actually be.

Tom Peters built a 40+ year career “In Search of Excellence” because it is so rare, and I’ve written about this before: how my wife and I attended a performance of a big piece by a large nationally-recognized professional orchestra in the USA which was simply nice, and three weeks later we experienced the same piece performed by a County (not even National) youth orchestra in the UK, which blew us out of the water.

Mediocrity (fueled by “cheap and fast”) is rampant.

Excellence isn’t.

Not every performance deserves a standing ovation (even my own, but thank you!)

We can do better with both our expectations and our praise – the tap is adjustable and doesn’t need to be fully on or fully off all the time.

One way to temper our enthusiasm for less-than-par musical quality is to approach concerts with intent.

Such as the approach I share in my training “How to Make the Most of Classical Music Concerts.”

Right now it is in Beta 2 stage, so not only am I giving you an additional hour of videos exploring “What’s the Matter with Classical Music?” but also a 25% discount.

To get the training, the bonus videos and the 25% discount today, visit this website:


And at the bottom of the second page, enter this discount code:


You have until this Friday, Sept 2, to take advantage of that discount.

Then the price goes up for the public launch.


Update (November 6, 2017):

A new response to my comment just appeared and made me laugh. I thought it might be relevant to this discussion:

Ignore the American comments. You wonder why the US is such a lightweight in classical music and never had a great world-class composer compared to Britain. Classical music and the US don’t mix so you won’t get high standards. For an American orchestra, this is considered very good.

Lower your expectations, please. The USA is not a high achiever in classical music so you can’t expect much.

I fear the author of those comments may be right, but a few years ago I made it a crusade of mine to change that snobbish perspective of classical music in the USA. How am I doing?