Writing Your Memoirs and Documenting Your Past

Reading someone’s memoirs changes your perspective of the writer and inspiration for the reader.

Photo by Michael Competielle

A few years ago I received an email for one of my best friends and mentor. Written in the body of the text was an explanation of how my friend 33 years my senior was entrusting me with his memoirs or at least the start of them.

Living an exciting life that he had created, my friend is quite the renaissance man. From a War Veteran to a banker, entrepreneur, Potter, filmmaker, botanist he is what we would call eccentric. With a remarkable passion to experience and explore, he dives headfirst into the turbulent waters of challenge. Armed with little more than an open curious mind and the tenacity to embrace the unknown.

As I began to read the letters of my friend whom I’ve spoken to almost daily for 10 years, I found a different person than I felt I had known. The same person but a different version of who he portrayed daily.

Armed with little more than a computer, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and a vibrant life of experiences my friend began to write. His style is not dissimilar to his storytelling with incredible detail and topics you’d often struggle to believe. Not because he stretches the truth but because he’s an opportunist that always finds himself in amazing situations.

However, some of what I found out was about a dark side. Not that he is evil or misguided. Actually how he came from a difficult beginning. With parents that struggled to parent, he and his brother and sister found themselves bounced around amongst relatives that opened their doors to help raise the family.

Money was tight making a normal childhood in a traditional household tough, combined with bad parenting.

The stories of his summers with Grandparents in the Poconos or hanging out at Monmouth beach are vibrant and entertaining. Always making new friends and often doing without things other kids had, his amazing character placed him into situations where people would show their love for him.

Christmas around his house was rough with little work his odd job lawn mowing father could round up to make Christmas magical as other kids enjoy. But my friend had generous and kind friends that invited him to their home to open their presents with them and play with everything they received. And always under the tree would be one present, the most special one of them all. The gift they had all chosen for my friend. He never felt more love and a sense of belonging than one those Christmas Days where he was accepted as one of the family.

Always struggling to fit in he played basketful for the High School team. Making what he believes a horrible game losing error, he rode home on the school bus mortified. The next day he dropped out of school and signed up for the Army.

After basic training and struggling to find an identity, he was pleased to be stationed in Alaska, which at the time wasn’t even a State.

With little more than some Superior Officers who liked my friend, he embraced his surroundings and was finding himself.

Upon returning to New York after his Army career, he applied for a job at Citibank. Dressed sharply as a soldier would, he walked into the employment office with his resume. The employment officer recognized that my friend not only didn’t have a college degree but he also hadn’t finished high school.

Photo by Michael Competielle

He was sent around the block to the employment office for tellers. The room was filled with a lot of sloppily dressed people hardly interested in obtaining employment. A hiring agent walked into the room and scanned the room and noticed my friend, well-groomed and professional looking. He was hired on the spot because he looked like he wanted to be there.

That evening he headed home on the train and cried, saddened by again his rejection and knowing he needed more from his life. He got off the train and headed to the Community College and enrolled.

Working full time, raising a family while going to school, my friend pushed himself to succeed. Immersed fully into every course and absorbing knowledge like a sponge. He was single handily reversing his course.

Then the oldest son became sickly. Life became more challenging and difficult than ever before. Working full time, college in the evenings full time and nights studying by his son’s hospital bed my friend saw no other choice but to continue.

Telling the stories and understanding the man his internal narration of his life helps to understand him and appreciate our relationship. He’s honest and forthcoming and I’ll go to him for advice and mentoring often. Armed with his worldly knowledge and experiences and a passion to help others succeed he will tell me if I’ve gone astray.
We’ve visited his boyhood Hoboken home, and shot films in his childhood playground of Washington Square Park. 
He is certainly the single most person that impresses me as much as I impress him. Daily we challenge each other to take steps outside of our comfort zone and embrace the unknown. His mind is still sharp as he tells his stories and experiences.
This weekend he and his sons are heading into New York and have a boys weekend. He plans to show them some apartments he lived in New York so they have the perspective. 
In the coming weeks, he begins his video memoirs where he plans to sit and record his life experiences. As he struggles to write what he thinks he’s using the technology of a voice recorder that he will dictate into and software that will convert those recordings into written text. The challenges of life hardly challenge if you find a way to circumvent them.


Zen and the Art of Lasts

Appreciate life experiences as if it’s your last

Photo by Michael Competielle

Sitting helplessly in a electric chair I watched my fathers motor skills diminish rapidly. A former draftsman, artist and entrepreneur with perfect penmanship, he struggled to hold a pen to write the word hello.

His Multiple System Atrophy was affecting what little was left of his physical being. Trapped inside his sunken body was his mind, still detailed and sharp like a tack.

Months earlier I questioned him on why he was giving up, not writing his memoirs, explaining his life. He had gotten to a point where he had given up the fight.

We had collectively made decisions as a family on his future care and how he wanted to live out what weeks or days he had left. Forced to eating through a feeding tube, stuck in an electric chair, cherrypicked into his bed he refused to live out his days in a hospital. He wanted to stay home surrounded by his belonging.

An avid book reader, he had a massive library of leather bound literature, fine furnishings and artwork, all material possessions he believed completed him. I made my most noble attempt to teach him mindfulness and practice however he only saw the pain of his decline and his last few years he missed the moments.

Recently I was talking to a best friend of mine about the situation. He’s currently going through a similar scenario with his beloved sister. My only advice is to live in the moment and treat every experience as if it were your last.

Stepping out of the plane in a foreign place, embrace the experience. What does the air smell like, Listen to the sounds. Walking along city streets recognize the people, their expressions, the vibe.

Stepping out onto that amazing beach, listen to the surf, smell the salty air and watch that stunning sunset as if you’ll never see another again.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Always one to be in a rush my mother and my wife would yell at me to chew my food, taste it and enjoy it. They are correct, one day you won’t be able to chew or eat certain foods, and you’ll wish that you could eat a steak just one last time. But what if this next time your eating that steak you take your time? You slowly chew and taste the flavors, the texture and add that experience to your memory banks. When you next are asked about your favorite meal, you’ll remember it in vibrant detail which you could describe.

When I travel now I no longer plan specific details, just going with the flow of the journey. Weather doesn’t change my plans as rain, wind or even hurricanes can be a once in a lifetime experience. Instead I embrace the uniqueness of the scenario and program each detail into my memory banks. I’ll use most or all of my senses to log the event.

The last day I saw my father alive, we both knew it. We often struggled in our relationship to express to each other how we felt, however I saw it in his eyes. As I left and headed to the airport I told my wife with absolute certainty that was the last time we would see him alive. Unfortunately I was right.

The irony of this is I’m complacent with how it ended. We were in our own terms, and shared our last moment. Not a day goes by I don’t think of my father, often not in the best regards and often with bitterness.

What if he had listened to me by embracing those last years of his life present and in the moment.

All experiences good or bad are experiences. We choose what details and emotion we extract from a given moment. By focusing on the positive details and embracing those who share them with us, your last’s will be your bests.

I’m writing daily to chronicle my thoughts, perspective and interests. Daily I challenge myself to do more than the day before. I’ll someday leave behind a long legacy of myself, uncertain if it’ll matter to anyone besides myself. One day I’ll return to my projects, writings, photos, films and life to recollect myself.

My mind won’t stay sharp forever and so therefore I’ll need to document my last’s as I feel I’ll have many. Daily I look at the details in everything I see and touch and often wonder why I never noticed them before. The life cycle of a flower, the growth of the baby fawn, the sounds of a summer rain.

My quests for quiet places is for self reflection and immersion, determined to not follow in my fathers footsteps missing out on the last years of his life.

I’m present, in the moment and spontaneous. I don’t generally make plans for the future as future is unknown and not predetermined. I’d rather stay right here, in this moment and hope it never ends. Cataloging every detail as if it’s the last.

Michael Competielle


The Power of Routine

Photo by Michael Competielle

As almost empty nesters with our son readying himself to go off to college, my wife and I recognized our new life potential. Evenings dining alone, planning trips to travel around the world. We would plan to work double occupations for the next ten years while we enjoyed life yet worked hard so we could put away money.

Our daily routine was relatively simple, I’d make coffee and breakfast, get ready for work and walk our few year old Yorkiepoo Muttley. He is well trained and only required a quick walk down the block and back. He loves to mark his turf so shorter walks are perfect for him.

One morning I came in from walking the dog as my wife asked me “do you think I’m crazy if we adopt another dog?”

My response was a “yes” as I clarified “yes your crazy and certainly if you want to adopt another dog”. Our lives were absolutely perfect so why change things?

Seems a relative had a adorable 9 month old purebred black pug they were struggling to train and care for. I always wanted a pug however already having an adopted dog who had difficulties living in a two dog house, I was leery.

With challenging life situations at the pug puppies home had made it a touchy situation for him. He was never properly potty trained, was often left alone in a cage for long periods of time and was extremely needy of personal attention.

Not wanting the dog to go off to strangers and so he could maintain a relationship with his existing family, we decided to give it a try.

Bringing him home on the two hour trip he cried and chewed on his cage. We brought him into the house and cautiously introduced him to Muttley who was curious yet cautious.

The pug loved the idea of another dog and like a typical puppy ran up to the Yorkiepoo to play and wrestle. Ironically our Yorkiepoo entertained the Pug as they growled and patted at each other.

Our Yorkiepoo, seemed to have about enough and walked away to lie down but the Pug… he wanted to keep playing. Muttley looked at us with a look of “help me” as the Pug ran around in circles swatting at Muttley and then running away.

We decided it was best to keep the little Pug as the boys seems to get along. Hating his existing name and seeing what a spazz he was we renamed him Scrappy.

Pugs are a breed of dog that known to be intelligent yet stubborn. They are set in their ways and best of luck to change them.

Scrappy have no potty training and suffered from anxiety and therefore required a massive amount of time and attention to break him. My normal daily routine was quickly modified as I could not for the life of me get this Pug to go to the potty outside. I’d walk him for over 1/2 hour reciting crazy phrases to encourage him to go outside. Eventually I’d give up, take him inside and he’d go within seconds in the kitchen. I’d take him right back outside as I’d recite “no Scrappy bad.” He’d look at me with a confused yet confident face certain I was the crazy one.

After his morning walk we would finish getting ready for work and then chase Scrappy around the house to get him into his crate. His accommodations are like the Waldorf Astoria with his cozy bed, toys, bones and snacks. We would hear him cry as we left him. He’d cuddle up in a little ball and sadly wait for our return.

Upon his release for his daytime cell, he’d run around in circles forcing us to try to catch him. Once we got him, off for another 30–45 minute walk to relieve himself from being crated all day. Often he would soiled his bedding, as he struggled to be trained. He was stubborn but was willing to try.

My wife and I wouldn’t give up on him. We did long walks, put his soiled pee pads outside to help him get the hint, sing him songs and give him treats when he began to figure it out.

After months and months we finally started to make headway. Every morning, the dogs wait until I return from the kitchen with breakfast. The dogs patiently wait while I shower and dress and once I get my shoes on the boys jump to the floor, head to the bedroom door and await for me to open the door, as they race to the leases.

The morning half hour walk yields 2–3 urinations and maybe a poop. I still need to report his status as it’ll help us determine if we are on schedule or not.

The return from the walk, the dogs run in to check on my wife. Once she’s done getting ready, Scrappy runs to his cage and jumps right in, awaiting his treat.

Once my wife or I return home, Scrappy jumps around in his pen, and once released runs around the house to see who’s home. He gets another 1/2 hour walk before he runs back into the kitchen and plays hockey with his dinner bowl, protesting to be fed. Once he’s eaten and knows we are getting ready to sit down, he has to come snuggle with someone.

Finally he calms done, surrounded by his loved ones and with a full belly. 10–10:30 is Scrappy’s pre-bedtime walk. He will generally only pee and drag you back to the house, as he’s ready for bed.

I’ll unleash him and head into the bedroom, as Scrappy will stand at the end of the hallway. You can’t chase him or call him to bed as he won’t come. Nope not until I lie down, and only then he runs full speed across the house and jumps onto my chest. His face inches from mine he will lick my face, professing his love. I need to open my legs slightly to create a nest for him to snuggle into.

For the first year some nights he’d awaken and want a 2am walk however we have him on a routine now that is hardly necessary anymore.

Every morning the routine starts again and we do our best to keep our little man on his schedule. I use my time walking the boys in a mindful state enjoying our time together. It has taken me months to get there however now the routine is just a part of what we do.

Photo by Michael Competielle

We have never been happier than having our two pups here with us, only issue is when we travel, Scrappy struggles with anxiety and losing his schedule, but give him a few days and he’s right back on track.


Creating Your Future With the Power of Connectivity

Photo by Michael Competielle

Our universe is invisibly connected, mapped pathways wired with varying options made by our own interactions in a linear timeline.

Have you ever walked up to a complete stranger in a place of commonality and began a conversation? Uncertain of your similarities besides being in the same place at the same time? Have you had a conversation that exposed your connections, curious why you’d never met or crossed paths before?

Yesterday I was at an outdoor art show in a native farmland landscape. Walking amongst beautiful stone sculptures placed throughout wide open fields and meadows, I walked into a barn and began talking to a sculptor.

Our connection was made almost immediately with common friends and interests. We talked about his amazing work, his mold making and casting process. As we talked he mentioned he had a bell out in a far meadow in which you could ring in the large quiet clearing.

I began to explain to him my interests in bells and plans of traveling the world to record them.

We began to discuss various other artists at the event and how he had visited Japan on various occasions. During one trip he had traveled to Kyoto and visited the Chion-in temple which houses the largest temple bell in Japan. Weighing 74 tons, hanging from a massive wooden structure, the bell is wrung by up to 25 men pulling back a horizontal log suspended from the temples structure.

My new friend told me his Japanese wife helped to interpret a story told by a Monk explaining how Albert Einstein on his only trip to Japan had not only visited but allegedly had climbed up into the bell and had the monks ring the bell. Einstein’s theory was that based on the construction, and physics the bells interior would be void of sound.

My friend was uncertain if Einstein’s theory had been proven and the outcome however the story made another connection in my world. With a strong connection to Princeton University and my introduction to nature field recording, audio ecology and my latest sounds of interest, noise pollution the Einstein connection fuels my narrative.

Walking into most situations and my entire world has become smaller and smaller as my experiences and expressiveness has increased. My travels bring me to places and people that continue to open up my horizon.

The first new vinyl record I ever had was a Star Wars themed compilation which included other space themed songs. My favorite song on the album was Rocket Man and I wanted to go to outer space. My second album I borrowed from my father and never returned… David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

On and off for many years David Bowie would resurface into my life, in his albums, working and touring with my favored Trent Reznor and acting as my beloved favorite inventor Nikola Tesla in The Prestige.

With every Bowie sighting and his explorations, my curiosity and interests have expanded. Stepping away from my comfort zone and finding my inner minds eye, I’ve created more designs, creations and thoughts than ever before.

“I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations. If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting” David Bowie

David Bowie
Photo by Michael Competielle

On January 8th 2016 I headed into my favorite record shop in Princeton to pickup a copy of David’s latest album Blackstar. I also purchased a David Bowie magazine highlights interesting aspects of his career.

My wife and I listened to Blackstar and struggled to understand the album. Still immersed in Bowie I pulled out all my Bowie vinyl and we spend the entire weekend listening to nothing but his work. While listening I began to read the new Bowie magazine and that inspired me to reread Bowie: The Man Who Feel to Earth.

I never felt more connected to David than I did that weekend, as I fell asleep reading the novel.

On Monday morning I awoke early and was checking my iPhone as I read to my horror that David had died. I slapped myself lightly in the face to verify I was truly awake and reading the truth.

I began to cry saddened that Earth had lost our Starman. As I revisited Blackstar and rewatched the video the narrative became clear. Bowie was preparing for his death and transcending into another World.

How is all this connected? I’m uncertain however what I can certainly say that when I’m feeling safe, I always step towards discomfort and find my way. It’s clear to me that inspiration came from David and his belief. David’s work with musician Brian Eno on the Berlin Trilogy lead me to study Eno’s style and creation of ambient music.

As I’ve become fearless of creative risk and reaching out into the dark unknown I’ve taken on the challenge of creative writing. Uncertain of my qualifications or abilities, I was reassured today by one of my hero’s, who shared my article on being creative and taking risks.

Photo By Michael Competielle

My World has never been more connected and tomorrow I’ll try to create experimental sound effects with the human voice ala John Cage.


Creative Writing and Finding Your Voice

Photo by Michael Competielle

Without a doubt I’m a storyteller. Everywhere I travel I’ll find a purposeful narrative from my experiences. With the quality of the gift to gab as well as an artful eye, my stories can be witty and engaging yet often long winded and tiresome.

With a narrative history storytelling style I’ll always start with a pre-story illustrating the stage of the story to give the listener perspective. I alway analyze the listeners reaction and modify the story as needed to maintain engagement. Facial expressions and body language along with the listeners interjectionS are clues their connecting to the story.

Some people nod their heads up and down like a bobble head while I can see in their eyes…. I’ve lost them.

Creative writing is a bit different as I’m uncertain to whom I’m writing and what the faceless reaction is. Talking into a soundless abyss if I’m not writing for myself I’ll wind up lost. Lately I’ve been using the percentage of articles read or reader engagement as my metrics to determine my small audiences comprehension and connection.

Attempting to engage a mass audience and formulating my story to suit the masses leaves me angry and incomplete.

Lately my personal challenge is to write an article per day. The idea of writing a coherent engaging article based on any semblance of reality besides my own interpretation requires quite a bit of thought and research. Telling stories for me is actually really easy and so for the most part I’ll write first person narratives.

To motivate myself and get my creative juices flowing I’ll flip thru the 15k photos I have on my cell to determine my daily topic. Finding an inspiring image starts my imagination and internal voice to flow. The sentences formulate quickly into paragraphs as the storyline unfolds.

Thinking like a screenwriter for a film I’ll use the image as a springboard to enter into creative nirvana. With a limited writing skillset I begin the text with basic information such as where I am and why. Proper grammar is less important than getting my point across clearly.

Sitting here naked, vulnerable and alone with my thoughts I start to write without fear nor remorse as I honestly attempt to articulate the situations I’m experiencing and hoping it can be felt as I write.

Armed with only an iPad or my laptop, I write how inspired I am by this thing called life.

Originally I was attempting to wake up early in the morning and begin to write. Issue I was having was I’d awaken refreshed, cheerful and ready to embrace my day. My writing was nothing more than bubblegum words stuck together exposing my early morning meditative state of unrealistic world happiness. Sentences of boring text lacking the abrasive grit of my actual voice I decided to write later in the day after I’d encountered the irregularities and stress encountered throughout my day. Struggling to make it thru without tainting the meat in my head I call my brain.

As reality sinks in often quickly, the days phone calls and emails can change my emotions, it’s then I find I can articulate my most honest emotional thoughts.

Deep concentrated breathing helps me snap back into my own conscious state of calm. Brushing off the uncontrollable frustrations I turn to creative writing to release me tensions.

Rules are made to be broken or at least modified and as it’s generally my modus operandi to bend the rules daily I decided my creative writing should follow a series of rules. Most of which I’ll probably break.

  • Honesty. Don’t say it or write if it’s not honest
  • Write for myself and tell stories I’d enjoy to share
  • Use original photography and my “inside voice”
  • Publish or post daily

Medium has been a great format for publishing my literary works. With a wide range of topics and a high amount followers in many of the publications I decided to post everything on the site.

The double edged sword was when my second article was published and I began to receive an increase in followers and likes. My email feed began to fill with articles on becoming a better writer, where to buy stock images and social media marketing.

In order and to maintain my status as a writer in a publication I recognized I needed to increase the quality of my articles by using catchy titles with trigger words and stock photography.

I’m unwilling to compromise my artistic style and so I write using the honest wisdom of my inner voice.

Michael Competielle


Freelance as a Maker and Enter the Gig Economy

Photo by Michael Competielle

Why your best talent should be becoming an opportunist

Online retailer shops such as Etsy and Fiver are cool ways to make a buck using your talents and skills. Post your products or talents online and wait for the requests to roll in. Chances are you’ll be working or selling to people you’ve never met, quite possibly nor will you ever. Sort of like a One Hit Wonder (many of my favorite songs and artists fit this bill) often you’ll work for a client once and possibly never again. I feel it’s because you may not have made a personal connect.

I’m not saying Freelancer or Upwork can’t get you repeat business. I’m possibly suggesting it’s doubtful you can easily build a client rapport.

Imagine if we had to go to a job interview daily.

Anxious as we try to put out the best version of ourselves as we are questioned on our talents and abilities. We often know more than the interviewer does about our skill set.

In a time where large corporations are gobbling up startups and market disrupters at an alarming pace the opportunities to enter a workforce of gainful employment, get paid what your worth and achieve long term goals is diminishing.

Mounting college loan debt that is unsecured by an uncertain job market renders the foreseeable future as depressing.

With a compulsory educational system lacking in foresight of our future job market our trajectory is bleak. Removing basic life skills, vocational and hands on electives from most schools, students and young adults are struggling with many of the simplest knowledge or experiences.

Thinking back to my childhood I recall learning mechanical drafting and detailing, how to program a CNC router, culinary class, sewing, photography and film development, wood shop, small engine repair and basic electronics. And this was while I was in high school.

Working around the house on weekends with my dad, summers as an apprentice in the families cabinet shop and working with friends as we souped up our cars, we got dirty and learned to do shit.

Sitting on a bench at a horse farm in New Jersey watching my high school sweetheart practice relentlessly in preparation for the Metal Maclay competition I was approached by the head trainer asking me if I wanted to work on the farm caring for the horses. Having absolutely no knowledge, I agreed and learned quickly how to clean stalls, haying and watering, pick the horses feet, brush them and dress them in tack and blankets.

My experience there taught me the most important life skill ever….Talk to People, Take on Opportunities.

I talked to everyone…. and whom did I meet? A Wall Street broker. And what did she do for me? Introduced me to her computer programmer husband. And what door did that open? Sound engineering, MIDI programming, computer integration, all about Jazz, diversity in communities…. Etc etc. and I was 18.

Naim grew up in Harlem in the 1970’s. Poverty stricken in a declining City he knew he needed to get away. Working as a human billboard for a barber, he was approached by someone asking if he wanted to learn about computers. He was curious and signed up for a programming course and learned computer code.

By the time I met Naim he was living in a large suburban house in Central NJ working as a freelancing consultant for AT&T clocking in a hourly billable rate of over $200 per hour.

Inside the home was a separate wing with Naim’s recording studio which consisted of a live practice/ tracking room and a control room with the mixing console, 16 track reel to reel deck, racks of outboard gear and computers.

Meeting Naim for the first time we instantly connected, he threw me a set of keys, a security code for the studios alarm and a detailed list of instructions on the power up sequence of the studio and it’s gear. I was to start the following evening at 5pm powering up the studio, ushering in the guest musicians and tuning Naim’s guitars.

We would run late into the evening jamming on Soft Jazz tunes Naim played thru his guitars that housed specialized Midi pickups which ran thru a programmed foot switch back to racks of Roland samplers.

High tech for the early 90’s and outer space for an 18 year old kid.

One evening Naim left me a note not to power up the studio and that we were prepping for the following evenings gig in a Jazz club near Newark Airport. He stated it was an African American bar but I’d be alright because “Your with the band”.

I was actually more concerned with my age which the boys in the band sort of chuckled at. I realized later no one really cared.

The next evening I loaded the band truck with racks of gear and Naim and I headed to the club. It was an industrial part of town and the club was hard to recognize from the street.

We loaded in all the gear and I setup the rig as the rest of the band arrived. Big hugs from the guys and a pat on the back from Naim subdued my anxiety.

Crowds of people began to flow into the club, the lights dimmed and Naim and crew climbed onstage. I hung behind the mixing decks assuring a proper mix and prepping for any technical issues.

I began to fall into a trancelike state listening to the band in this dark smoke crowded room.

A gentleman asked me where was my hat as I looked back at him puzzled. He pulled off his cap, threw in a $20 and proceeded to pass it around the club. Minutes later he handed me a pile of cash and said “this is for the band”.

Later that evening as I was packing up gear I mentioned the pile of money that was for the band to Naim. He divvied up the cash and divided it evenly and handed me an equal share. I was puzzled and said “Naim that’s for the band” in which he responded “you are the band my Brother”.

To this day the story brings a tear to my eyes about my opportunity and subsequent acceptance.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Years later I still think back to that experience and how I’ve always taken every gig that came my way.

Throughout my years I’ve built stores, high end residences, galleries and hotels. I’ve detailed shop drawings for Millwork shops and steel fabricators. I’ve installed just about every material imaginable and I’m never afraid to jump in and help. I’ve finished concrete on huge pours by operating the bull float and hydrostatic trowel machines.

I’ve worked on farms, designed custom interiors, build custom millwork in a cabinet shop I owned. I’ve build monster trucks and SCCA racing cars. Worked in an aftermarket Porsche shop and I’ve made donuts, pastries and bread. I’ve delivered wedding cakes and newspapers. I’ve worked on and made corporate videos, short films, web series and feature films.

I’ve hedged economic downturns building decks in freezing temperates in January and February. I’ve shoveled snow, repaired vintage synthesizers, built recording studios, restored massive factory buildings, build polished concrete countertops. Fabricated and installed stainless steel kitchen cabinets.

I’ve done structured wiring, stage wiring and live sound gigs. Soon I’ll publish my first book and start filming my own feature length documentary. I’ve worked in biker bars as a bouncer and loaded tractor trailers with electronics.

Most of these gigs have lead me to more. Most of these gigs have built my confidence that I can do just about anything. I’m always looking for new opportunities to expand my horizons, make a few bucks and meet some new people.

Freelancers often feel trapped in there own world often working in solitude. It could be that person next to you on line in Starbucks or on a park bench in Central Park.

Talk to people and take on new rolls and experiences. Help load in at a trade show or become a brand ambassador for a startup brand. Learn to become a barista or frame pictures.

Freelancing as a maker helps build your network of clients, expands your available talents and excites your creativity.

Trending in incubator spaces, co-working and maker spaces allows freelancers and makers abilities to obtain access to office space, filming locations, shop space with tools and equipment and retail space.

Photo by Michael Competielle


Near Distant Goals and How to Achieve Them

Envisioning an Ideal Future

Photo by Michael Competielle

A little over a year ago I was lucky enough to take a mindfulness course created by Google called SIYLI. Developed by a team of experts to integrate mindfulness, emotional intelligence and neuroscience the course has been used within Google as well as globally by governments, corporations and non-profits.

In a small lecture room environment seated in office chairs positioned into a semicircle my coworkers and I began the coursework. After a brief explanation of the core principals of SIYLI we were told to obtain a comfortable seated position and began deep breathing exercises while focusing intently on the breath.


Slowly breathing in I felt a rush of oxygen fueled breath into my lungs with a tingling euphoric feeling. Holding my breath slightly I focused on my breath as I slowly exhaled. Again I slowly took in another controlled deep breath settling on full concentration as I felt the rush. Again exhaling with full focus and control I began to feel calmness and control.

While maintaining my controlled breathing exercises my mind clear and centered. Uncertain if I was falling asleep or entering into a transformative state, my stress and racing mind slowly subsided.

A metallic ring of a small brass bell broke our concentration as we were asked to regain focus with the instructor and explain our response to the meditation exercise. It seemed unanimous across the class that this exercise heightened levels of focus and clarity.

Photo by Michael Competielle


We then began a method of meditation called journaling. Opening to a blank sheet of paper in a notebook we were guided to begin journaling our thoughts in a 5 minute timed exercise. Our writing was to be based on how we felt at that moment in a mindful honest written form. It was promised that these writing wouldn’t be read by anyone. Our instructor range the bell and we laid down our pens.

He asked us to reread what we wrote and asked how we felt after the 5 minutes writing. It was an enlightening experience as I learned how I was feeling personally after an extremely stressful year.

Ideal Future

Our next exercise was an honesty writing exercise where you wrote about our ideal future. It was another timed writing practice in which we had 5 minutes. I saw my Dream Future unfolding in written form materializing before my eyes. Immersed in my narrative the bing of the bell stopped my writing.

Completely amazed at what I had written down I was very proud. Imagine that future. The instructor broke us up into groups and told us we needed to tell people about our Ideal Future.

Telling people about your plans so they can materialize

Exchanging our ideal future ideas was relieving. As we discussed our future plans it became a bit more real.

Our instructor explained as you discuss with people about your future ideals situations start to become reality. The response of people with help and resource creates opportunities to let aspects of your Ideal Future become reality.

Everyday I’m working towards my future ideal, writing daily articles, brainstorming ideas for a new startup venture, editing feature films and some web series. New options are constantly moving me closer to my ideals.


Developing a Creative Writing Flow

In the past few months I’ve made a conscious effort to reengage my minds creative thought process. I’ve developed some interesting yearend goals and try my best to keep on track. Unlike the gym membership that I hardly use or the book I may buy in an often feeble attempt to force myself to follow through and finish reading it, my new found creative outlet has been writing. And as of late “Flow” just sort of happens as topics and ideas appear in my mind and like a group of eager schoolchildren volunteering for a fun task those ideas jump up waving their hands saying “oh pick me pick me.”

As a fun challenge to my daily routine and a fusing of creative expressiveness I’ve decided to write 100 blog articles accompanied with original photography. For now I’m sticking with basic first person narrative accounts of a culmination of thoughts and concepts that will hopefully lead me down a path of a more enriching and mindful existence.

Earlier this year I felt like I was stuck in a rut as my mind was struggling to find a more immersive path. At the time I was expanding my foray into environmental field recording hoping to find a quiet location to record within an unadulterated natural habitat. With future plans to head out on a jungle expedition I decided to start locally at a nature preserve to test my equipment, clothing and technique.

The experience was enriching yet frustrating as I quickly experienced what is notably a systemic natural issue… noise pollution. Lawn mowers, cars, planes and people making substantial amounts of ruckus that essentially spoiled my field recordings.

As a side note I’ve recorded audio in various formats for over 30 years and noise has always been an issue. So much so I’ve found myself often recording and coveting noise (if I can record the noise cleanly and without additional pollutants.)

As my wife and I hiked through the muddy game preserve seeking a quiet place to record we examined the stunning landscape of forest and meadows and stumbled upon an interactive kiosk in a field. A clever weathered wooden structure with blocks of carved wood suspended on rods. Each block a unique word carved into each long side to allow a passerby to write a Haiku in a meadow. I was so inspired by the design and unique concept I thought to create my own similar designs for my own yard.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Inspired by the meadow Haiku and feeling creative I began researching Haiku and stumbled upon Courtney Symons 100 Days of Haiku article and the challenge was on. Armed with limited knowledge of Haiku and knowing I would never last 100 days I looked for a writing partner. Having someone to bounce ideas and concepts off of as well as encourage you to keep going we collectively completed 100 Haiku each placed onto 100 original photographs.

My perspective of daily activities changed as I challenged myself daily to find an inspiring and fitting photograph in which I would create an original haiku. After 100 days and lucky to have traveled and photographed New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and Boston and using older photographs I had taken in Pittsburgh and Costa Rica I had what I believed to be the an engaging collection of original Haiku I’m planning to self publish into a coffee table photography book. The project subsequently the foundation behind the 100 days of blogging/ articles based on Seth Godin’s- Make Something Everyday podcast.

Being a Libra my life is all about balance which I juggle with on a daily basis. of foremost importance is making my wife’s morning breakfast with an Almond Milk Latte, followed by spending quality time walking my dogs. I attempt to be mindful during these daily activities however as of late I’m burning the toast and forgot to replenish the Dave’s Killer 21 grain bread that we love. Caught up in my creative process the ideas and writings next stop following as my most creative times are doing mindless activities such as washing the dishes.

My day job keeps my brain pumping as I answer hundred’s of technical questions and coordinate the design and execution of a vast amount of projects. Evenings I’m often working on sound design and editing for my production and post production company.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Next week I’ll begin an intense Design Thinking course thru IDEO. My mind is in 100% immersion with creating, designing and executing. Ideas popping into my head and channeled to my future endeavors be it articles, Brand Designs or scripts for Film.

My Mind is constantly in Flow….

Michael Competielle


Creative Writing And Finding Your Lane

Photo by Michael Competielle

When I was in grade school I struggled with writing so much that I was sent to a writing specialist and ultimately it was requested I be held back in the second grade. Possibly it was because of my early start into school as a September baby as I had just made the cutoff date. Or maybe I in actuality suffered from a learning disability that would require me to learn differently. Regardless I daily was removed from my otherwise mundane classroom to spend quality time with my tutor.

My recollection of her was an attractive, nurturing and patient teacher. She would greet me with a warm hug and a genuine smile as she’d ask me to read a book like Clifford the Big Red Dog. I would buzz through the words with ease reading to her as if I was the teacher and she was my student, hanging on my every word and only occasionally fixing my pronunciation. Seemed I didn’t struggle with reading comprehension or grammar but actually had difficulties in writing an essay citing what I had just read.

Blankly I’d stare at the page of penmanship paper where often the only thing I’d written was my name and the date along the top followed by “The book Clifford the Big Red Dog is about…”

If the paper was actually an old monochrome computer I’d be starring at a blinking cursor. What do I write next? I didn’t have a fucking clue. Lost in the details of an entire book and forced to write a simple summary of the most elementary book was a stressful struggle. I’d ask if I could sharpen my pencil or go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. Stall tactics until the hour long tutoring session would end while I figured there was always tomorrow right?

My tutor was nurturing and patient as she’d allow me the curtesy of wasting her valuable time. And when I ran out of juvenile stunts of misdirection she’d warmly say “okay Michael now can you please write what you just read?”

Hell no I couldn’t. What do I write first and what was most important? Setting, plot, adjectives and capitalization… screw this I’m out.

My tutor would take a paper and place it into a file folder and put it away. She would than look into my eyes and with the sweetest voice say “okay you win again. Tell me the story about Clifford the Big Red Dog” and holy shit I did. Every last fucking detail from Clifford’s size and hair and reactions. No problems there as I would talk and talk and talk.

And then my tutor would take back out the blank essay paper and say “alright now write exactly what you just said.” I’d love to tell you that I did and it was perfect which I’m doubting is the truth however what I do recall is my first academic rush as I pencil to paper wrote and wrote and wrote.

Thinking back I remember those big fat pencil erasers that I would burn through as I corrected my less than stellar penmanship. It was on that day I found my narrative writing technique which is still the only way I know how to write.

I spent the next year with my tutor reading and writing essays. My memories not sharp enough to remember the content or any additional details except how I learned to write.

My remaining years as a “student” were a shit show spending most of my time in the principals office and subsequently in detention or suspension for not following the rules. To this day I feel that rules are for other people as I generally just do everything that I want. It’s doubtful that my writing style has improved much since my year with my tutor however I’ve stuck with my style and won’t change for anything.

Recently I’ve been following the marketing guru Seth Godin’s expert advice to write a blog a day. These can be based on random thoughts or philosophical ideas that you want to just get out there. I’m confident that my writing with improve exponentially as I continue to write and let that storytelling voice be heard.

Seldom have I found a situation where I’ve nothing to say and it’s been a very long time since I’ve stared at a blank page. Creative writing has expanded my thoughts and mind and is a dopamine rush. I become anxious to complete my thoughts and hit the publish button. It’s of paramount importance I continue to follow my own unwritten rules to be honest and forthcoming as I expose my thoughts and experiences in an abridged but unadulterated style.

As a creative designer and artist I struggle to stay on topic as my interests vary widely. This certainly is a compelling argument for my certain failure to ever become a successful author as I’d guess I’ll struggle finding a fan base with quite as diverse and quite frankly wild amount of passions and interests. However I’ll trudge on not losing site of my objective. To find my voice and share my thoughts.

One day I’ll pull back out the letters of correspondence my father typed back and forth to the school board requesting and subsequently denying my specialized education to find out why I do is what works. Possibly there is an answer in there that’ll help me stay in my lane but until then…. I’m just going to keep on hitting publish.

Michael Competielle