Limiting Yourself to Masterpieces & Masters.

(Originally posted on 4.27.2013 on

Just as health-conscious people may closely monitor what they allow to be put in their body, I find it helpful to also monitor what external content I spend time engaging with. Most of us go with the flow with little regard for what music is playing, what movie is on, the people we speak with, or even things as peripheral as the scenery we walk or drive by. But what if all this stimuli was as closely regulated as the food we eat?

A few weeks ago I had a fantastic day and I’ve been trying to figure out why. My schedule wasn’t particularly unusual, I spent most of the day working, but I remember these specifics:

Diet: A varying combination of eggs, vegetables, and chicken (so my body felt great)

Visual: I went for a walk by the East River a few blocks from my apartment in Brooklyn where I regularly see one of the most inspiring views in the world, the Manhattan skyline. This view frequently inspires me to try to make things that could be as grand someday.

Auditory: That evening I went to a performance by two truly virtuosic musicians (Brad Mehldau & Chris Thile) who were unbelievably inspiring.

Social: At the concert I had great conversation and connected well with a colleague I previously hadn’t had non-work conversation with. Compared to myself, he’s an expert in a few subjects I have limited knowledge in and the time spent chatting felt like time very well spent.

Looking back on these four ingredients of my day, I realize these were each nearly the highest quality they could be. Going forward I’d really like to try to curate my day so I’m for the most part only bearing witness to great things. Not only does it feel more enjoyable in the moment, but my assumption is that if you can keep it up, constantly surrounding yourself with masterpiece-level content will drastically improve the quality of whatever your life’s work is.

Last night I thought it would be fun to watch a really stupid movie with some friends. I enjoyed my friends’ company, but the two hours of viewing that yielded a handful of laughs didn’t feel worthwhile in retrospect. It probably would’ve been smarter to do something else or all watch a great movie.

One other thought on surroundings. You don’t have to go to the Met to make sure you’re surrounding yourself with masterpieces. What would make a bigger difference is really taking notice of the physical structures around you in your daily life. If you live in a nature-heavy area this is easier as you can look to the trees and plants, but if you live in an urban environment as I do, it’s easy to skip it all. Sometimes when I walk to the water by the East River, I’ll just stare at the Williamsburg Bridge, or the in-progress Freedom Tower, or the Empire State Building and go from there directly to my music studio to create. And you know what? You can tell.

Written on a plane from Cleveland, OH to New York City. After traveling to Los Angeles and Cleveland I’m excited to get back to my routine and have at least one “normal” week in my Brooklyn habitat.

The above video is one I recorded from the very end of the encore from the concert I mentioned. It’s Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile covering Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice it’s Alright”. They’re not just virtuosos, but virtuosos playing **great** songs.

Marc Plotkin