My 2020 is governed by this mission:
“1 hr per day, 1000 words per day, one bar per day.”
Goal #1: The “one hour” refers to book reading. I tend to start my day with coffee and a good book, as a way of warming up the brain before writing.
Goal #2: The “1000 words” is self-explanatory. That refers to writing poetry, essays or think pieces for work.
Goal #3: The term “one bar” refers to a measure in music theory. It means learning a new piece of music one bar a day.
Within the context of this habit formation exercise, I can only practice my music once I have put in the minimum reading and writing required for the day.
Now that we are about to reach the threshold of Q1, I felt that, just like in the business reviews I have participated in with my old employers, I should do the same for my own life. I need my own quarterly business review, to see where I am weak or strong vis-a-vis my 2020 goals, and then make the necessary adjustments. I have after all shunned the 9–5 for a while now, but believe that in order for this lifestyle to work, some form of discipline is essential.
So this morning, I did a quarterly check-in.
According to Goodreads, I have read 29 of the 50 books I intended to read this year. There is no way I could have achieved goal #1 by just reading an hour each day.
What happened was, in my search for free music sheet online to achieve goal #3, I stumbled upon Scribd, which carries the best version of Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig In The Sky. Initially, I had refused the free one-month trial since I already have several recurring subscriptions, so I learned to play this song in January from the teeny-weeny monitor of my phone. It took me fifteen days to memorize the piece, so I started browsing for more sheet music: Carole King, Elton John, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell — all these amazing artists I look up to whose songs are best heard on the piano. They were all on Scribd, so that convinced me to sign up for a free one-month trial. This, as we all know, is a delicate way of sucking you in to another commercial adventure, which in this case, I do not regret.
In fact, I think subscribing to Scribd was one of my best decisions ever.
Aside from the Pink Floyd tune, I have also managed to learn to play and sing Patti Smith’s Because The Night, the intro to Joni Mitchell’s River and the intro to Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road (the rest of the latter two songs can be played by sight-reading the chords). That was made possible by my one-bar-a-day commitment, and Scribd. More than three decades ago, when I first learned to play the piano, it is nearly impossible to get a hold of sheet music I wanted to play unless I photocopied a book from the library or had a relative abroad who could procure a songbook for me. The Internet changed that, but all the more Scribd, because many of the songs you like and may have just forgotten can be found there. It is all in one place and the search algorithm offers outstanding suggestions, such as manuals for playing other music genres such as classical, jazz and blues. Some pieces even have arrangements for an entire orchestra.
Scribd offers other things such as research documents, books and audiobooks. The latter made possible my 29-books-read milestone in early March. That is twenty books ahead of schedule. I basically listened to the impressive selection of audiobooks on Scribd while driving, cooking or having my nails done. The app even featured the Patti Smith audiobook “Just Kids” which I had already bought on iTunes for a usurious $15 I believe it was, which I thought was ridiculous, but bought it anyway because it was highly recommended everywhere and I needed an audiobook for my travels around India (It was indeed a great book, worth every dollar.). The monthly subscription fee for Scribd that gives you access to everything on its virtual shelves costs $6 less than that one iTunes audiobook — an e-commerce highway robbery.
Even the ebooks are excellent. Many of the short story books that are not available here in the Philippines can be found on Scribd. Sure I can get them on Amazon, but those tiny ebook purchases do add up if you are not so mindful. While I prefer actual books, I have become an avid reader of short ebooks such as The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant ($8.73 on Kindle, free on Scribd), The Alphabet Of Grace by Frederick Buechner ($8.92 on Kindle, free on Scribd), and Jesus’ Son: Stories by Denis Johnson ($9.99 on Kindle, free on Scribd). This would not have been possible without a Scribd subscription because I have been asking for these titles that our bookstores here, unfortunately, do not carry. So I read three books without spending $28 or the $8.99 monthly subscription fee because I had read these books during my free trial.
Scribd also features magazines for niche interests such as Aviation, Boating, Cycling Weekly, Yoga Journal, and Electronic Musician.
I was not paid by Scribd to write this article, but I do like to express my gratitude and pay homage to brilliant innovations and organizations that help me and so many others become a better person. Since I get to read a lot more and make music more because of this one app, I get to broaden my horizons much faster, which I cannot wait to describe and put into words. That is goal #3 that Scribd has allowed me to achieve early into the new year — writing high quality articles much faster than usual. If you are a Medium writer, you probably already know how essential it is to be writing and publishing everyday. If you add Scribd to your toolbox, I guarantee that you will not run out of ideas anytime soon and may even surprise yourself with new experiences, such as spending more time with your hobby, which in my case is music and reading, that is quite delightful to write about and share.
Looks like I might have to cancel my subscription to a video streaming app I barely use now thanks to Scribd.