How I Went From Being a “C” Student to an “A” Player

Photo by Michael Competielle

My High School education was at a mediocre school in a middle class town. The curriculum was your standard 1990’s mixture of mathematics, English classes, foreign languages and hands on electives.

Most of the teachers were boring, tenured puppets, pushing the importantance of GPA’s and focusing on passing shitty Scantron tests such as the High School Profiency Test or the California Standardized Test. Tests designed to be administered where each questions answer fits into a box with choices generally A,B,C,or D. Trickery was used to generally have two of the four listed answers to appear very close to being correct however with only one correct answer generally.

This form of testing paved the way for Software Testing Metrics and State Accountability Metrics. Shitty ways to analyze shitty educations with crappy fill in the box exams.

Ironically 3 out of 4 workers sitting in cubicles are expected to think outside the box. Kenneth Cole

Critical thinking and conceptualizing aren’t taught as it’s challenging to grade concepts and philosophies.

I didn’t struggle in school I honestly just didn’t give a shit.

Refusing to study, take notes, do homework and other forced educational tasks I hardly passed any classes with better than “C”.

I’ve never crammed for a test as I felt storing pointless facts in short term memory is like exceeding a sponges saturation point.

Overfill a sponge with fluid and it’ll drip out the excess. If you don’t commit the information into long term memory, your just a test taker and a drippy sponge. Plop,plop… Good luck with life, passing tests and failing at retention and comprehension.

I always loved the first day of school walking into class while being handed a syllabus by an overzealous educator. Grabbing a seat and listening to a teachers introductory formalities about weighting of homework, quizzes, tests and class participation would be discussed and I’d glance around the room looking for the Neo Maxi Zoom Dweebi that would ask about crap like extra credit reading assignments and book reports.

Mathematics I struggled with “showing my work” as the answers always just appeared in my vision mind.

It’s doubtful I ever finished a book report completely as I always refused to create index cards, outlines and rough drafts. My final grades always included demerits for lacking the supporting documents and other time wasters.

If I can get to the correect answer who gives a fuck how I got there?

Teachers that encouraged cramming would review answers to questions that could foreseeably be on a test never anticipated the futureGoogle. Why crap your brain with useless facts such as the 5th President. Does anyone really give a crap? Doubtful.

So why cramming? To take tests obviously.

Enter Mr.Hughes

Photo by Michael Competielle

Sophomore year English changed it all for me with the greatest teacher I ever had. With a reading list of The Glass Menagerie, Johnny Got His Gun, 1984, Twelve Angry Men…. I was certain it would be another crappy class and another crappy year.

Guess what… I was wrong, way wrong.

His grading style was unorthodox as tests and quizzes hardly weighed anything and class participation was the main grading parameter.

Were the dweebs pissed? You bet your ass they were… and me? I was in heaven, all I had to do was read a book and participate in open class discussion. I was in, all in.

Feverishly I read every book on the list plus others. Huxley, Salinger, Orwell, Kerouac. Every evening all I did was read, ensuring full comprehension so the following day I’d engage in the classroom discussion. Hell I’d even lead it.We would argue, fight and force ourselves to reread and reevaluate.

When it was time for grading, Mr. Hughes would walk around with his grade book listing his students names however absent of any grades.

He would stop by each of our desks and ask us what we felt our grades would be.

He was an early adopter of self assessment.

Always a “C” student I was content with a “C” and Mr. Hughes would always say “Mike you deserve an “A”.

To my parents and my shock I aced Sophomore English.

I remember one day in class Mr. Hughes sent me to his car to grab a bag of tennis balls. When I returned Mr.Hughes ask me my favorite song. At the time I was heavy into Metallica and so I chose the song “One” based on the book Johnny Got His Gun. I was instructed to write a few lines of lyrics on the black board.

I can’t remember anything

Can’t tell if this is true or dream

Deep down inside I feel to scream

This terrible silence stops me

Now that the war is through with me

I’m waking up, I cannot see

That there is not much left of me

Nothing is real but pain now

Hold my breath as I wish for death

Oh please God, wake me

Back in the womb it’s much too real

In pumps life that I must feel

But can’t look forward to reveal

Look to the time when I’ll live

Fed through the tube that sticks in me

Just like a wartime novelty

Tied to machines that make me be

Cut this life off from me

Hold my breath as I wish for death

Oh please God, wake me

Now the world is gone, I’m just one

Oh God help me

Hold my breath as I wish for death

Oh please God, help me

Darkness imprisoning me

All that I see

Absolute horror

I cannot live

I cannot die

Trapped in myself

Body my holding cell

Landmine has taken my sight

Taken my speech

Taken my hearing

Taken my arms

Taken my legs

Taken my soul

Left me with life in hell.

“One” Lyrics by Metallica

Mr. Hughes handed me three tennis balls and said ”juggle while you recite your poem”. Puzzled I remember saying it was a song, not a poem. And Mr.Hughes proved me wrong. With three tennis balls in hand he recited my “poem” while juggling.

He created a rhythm by accenting certain syllables while he was reciting. I as well as the rest of the class were in amazement. Thinking back almost 30 years later, the experience is still fresh and life changing.

Having found the way to a real interactive education based on comprehensive, free thinking, discussion, debate and re-evaluation I’ve found a path to how I interact with new life experiences. Free, opened minded and impressionable.

And how did my remaining years work out, I failed Junior English and subsequently called my teacher a talentless hack. There was only one Mr.Hughes.

So how am I an “A” player?

Daily I do self assessments to check in with myself and give myself a grade.

I don’t set an alarm clock. My bodies internal clock awakens me early and the first thing I do… read. Every day I read.

Read, Read, Read. Werner Herzog

My morning breakfast routine consists of oatmilk lattes, avocado toast and a banana. My ritual is mindless so I can read while making it.

Grab a shower, dress and walk the dogs, again while I read.

Getting through my busy day directing others, designing and building I’m personally motivated to keep moving myself and my project tasks forward.

Driven by my own rhythm and self motivation it’s my job to push others. I’m a self starter, a self motivator…. a self assessor. And thats how i manage.

Not everyday do I give myself an “A”. Some days I fail and occasionally miserably. However I will assess the situation and right my off course ship, set her sails and regain my course.

I’m certainly not the smartest person, nor the best writer nor the greatest communicator. But everyday I awaken with a fire, sparked in a windowless classroom by an educator that said “be who you want to be. Just be honest to yourself”.

https://medium.com/@mcompetielle/how-i-went-from-being-a-c-student-to-an-a-player-4d9a48f708d8?source=friends_link&sk=6cd3571fbf8c4cf6cb9a466974db9bf1

Creative Ways to Be Creative

Tools to expand your creativity

Photo by Michael Competielle

Recently I finished a creative writing project. The actual project was to record a new original sound effect per day for 1 month. I purchased a new 4K GoPro on a Gorillapod so my audio creations had a visual element to add to the sounds.

With a growing passion for expanding my Sound Design library and field recording while owning a media production company I felt the project would create a nice new library of fresh and original sounds.

And what happened….nothing. Why?

Lack of inspiration. Being I create original sound effects for film and video content the visuals requiring sounds already existed. Door squeaks, engine roars, environmental ambiences the sound bites I’d create were placed to visuals on a screen.

So how did I get motivated for the new project?

Writing Haiku….huh? Yes you heard me. Writing Haiku… 100 of them.

Well how did I create the inspiration for my Haiku? Cellphone pictures. Over 14,000 of them. Were those images that good? Nope most of the sucked but I only needed 100.

Early in the project the images I used were generally nature inspired. Very simple and safe for what were essentially traditional Haiku but then the situation changed. I quickly bored of standard nature photographs and instead photographed and wrote Haiku that were riskier and more creative. Suddenly my mind was seeing Haiku in just about everything. Architecture, Fireworks and slabs of meat.

The daily task of photographing topics for my creative writing opened the floodgates of my free expressive thinking. Safe and common concepts quickly bored me as I felt I needed to expand my expressiveness.

While photographing I’d have ideas for sound recording, film scripts and art projects. Writing to an image allowed me to look deeper into the photograph and detail what I thought or how I felt. My vocabulary expanded as I’d struggle to find synonyms with the appropriate syllables.

Always multitasking or realistically multi-projecting, my Haiku helped with my creativity in other projects as well. Hearing sounds in my Haiku and my photography my mind heard the sounds and I just moved forward to create more.


Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences,” ambient music pioneer Brian Eno wrote in his diary.

Brian Eno is a musician, record producer, visual artist and philosopher. With deep roots in electronic music with Roxy Music and David Bowie and as the the creator of Ambient Music, Brian often expanded his creative process by visualizing music.

With solo records titled Ambient 1: Music For Airports, Music for Films and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks Brian writes textural music.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Enter the Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt Oblique Strategies cards.

Peter Schmidt was a pioneering multimedia artist and painter who created a box of 55 sentences printed on original unused artwork called “The Thoughts Behind the Thoughts”

Eno was friends with Schmidt and a few years later created his own handwritten inspirational cards named the “Oblique Strategies.”

Seeing similarities in the cards Eno and Schmidt decided to release a joint box set of cards also sold as the “Oblique Strategies

The cards are used as a written constraint used with a creative process. Many are believed to be for writing music however the reality is they can be used for any creative endeavors.

Examples are as follows:

  • A Line Has Two Sides
  • Into the Impossible
  • Turn it Upside Down
  • Retrace Your Steps
  • Switch Instruments

Visualize your next project and grab an Oblique Strategies card as inspiration. Use it for photography, a song or new product design.


IDEO is a global design and consulting firm that specializes in the practice of Design Thinking in product design, branding, hospitality, furniture, toy and automotive industries.

Originally founded in the late 1970’s specializing in product design an early client was Steve Jobs of Apple needing assistance in the design of the first computer mouse.

Over the course of the past 40 years IDEO’s principals have been utilized in almost every industry. Firmly based on the Design Thinking process which IDEO believes should be also used for Human-Centered Design to solve the World’s issues and a concept they teach and give away for free.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

— TIM BROWN, EXECUTIVE CHAIR OF IDEO

Photo by Michael Competielle

Enter IDEO’s Method Cards

IDEO’s Method Cards were developed for practicing and aspiring designers looking to expand on their designs and process.

Broken up into 4 categories:

  • Learn
  • Look
  • Ask
  • Try

These cards can help expand on creative thinking by using Design Thinking theory to expand on project or product problems and further development.

With written directions on each card such as “Look-Rapid Ethnography” or “Ask-Cognitive Maps” these cards help teams expand product developments.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Read…Read…Read….

Werner Herzog

In the Werner Herzog Masterclass he teaches filmmakers the importance of reading. He recommended a book The Peregrine which is a story of a falcon. By understanding the perspective of the falcon it changes your perspective on a situation or event and expands your thought process. Understanding and explaining from another perspective can bring new life to a story.

While Werner doesn’t recommend film school or even traditional filmmaking concepts, he does recommend the importance of learning to be an engaging storyteller. With a belief that the world is revealed to those who travel Herzog recommends you travel, meet different people and learn.

“I’d like to add that when I travel by foot, I don’t do it as a backpacker where you take all your household items with you — your tent, your sleeping bag, your cooking utensils,” Herzog wrote. “I travel without any luggage.”

My lessons in expanding my creativity have been helpful and life changing. Try some of these techniques to expand your creativity and creative process. And most of all have some fun.

https://medium.com/swlh/creative-ways-to-be-creative-984f73a324a4?source=friends_link&sk=7f681b2db9dcefce71ef70442787eeac

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

https://medium.com/@mcompetielle/creative-writing-and-finding-your-voice-f009fcddd08b?source=friends_link&sk=4149cfa865b4bc2ab42053cf5deb896b

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

https://medium.com/@mcompetielle/freelance-as-a-maker-and-enter-the-gig-economy-af3f0c7836cd?source=friends_link&sk=5434fd55c819bd8b8e1eacafbb20eabf

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.

Meditation

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

Journaling

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.

https://medium.com/@mcompetielle/near-distant-goals-and-how-to-achieve-them-138c70440230?source=friends_link&sk=b537b7f42302cfdd9ba198f3f530cbb7

Forest Therapy And My Quest For A Quiet Place

Photo by Michael Competielle

The Japanese practice of Forest Therapy is called Shinrin-Yoku which means “taking in the forests atmosphere.” Quite simply the process is to just head into the forest and that’s about it. Well that’s sort of a generalization of the actual philosophy where you can shed stress and anxiety by spending time with nature by trekking through the woods, engrossing yourself in the silent ecosystem.

Forest Therapy or Forest Bathing is used to embrace nature and to enhance wellness and happiness. Heading into a forest and focusing on being present in the silence while engaging in deep breathing, recognizing smells and sounds can be healthy and therapeutic.


A few years ago as I was researching field recording I stumbled onto a sound course offered through Princeton University called Space and Place. I messaged the Professor to see if I could audit the course although the semester was winding down and his Princeton Arts Fellow nearing an end he was kind enough to share with me the syllabus.

I quickly purchased every book mentioned in the syllabus and proceeded to read every referenced website and article. One particularly interesting piece was on Chris Watson of the 80’s Industrial/Post Punk band Cabaret Voltaire who had since entered into wildlife field recording. Upon reading an articleon his techniques, I realized he and I had similarities in equipment I decided to try some forest field recordings.

As I began to repurpose my film audio-recording equipment and expand my collection of specialty field recording gear with some new purchases I headed off into the woods. Wearing my Kuhl Silencer pants, Merrell hiking boots, Tilley and sound recording gear I headed into the forest. Uncertain of what my expectations actually were and primarily hoping for a clean, noise free forest ambience recording I found a quiet remote location and grabbed a seat on a rock under a dense canopy of trees.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Putting on my headphones and hitting record I silently listened to the sounds of the forest. With a cool summer breeze calmly making the forests vegetation dance like a ballerina and strained to listen for the sound of the forests wildlife. What I heard while focusing was the distant sound of the outside world. Planes, lawnmowers and the distant highway spoiled my recordings.

Calmly I continued to record hoping the noise pollution would stop. The distant persistent noise droned on however as an hour had passed however I was feeling focused, calm and relaxed. The experience, alone in the forest was meditative as I was focused on my environment fully mindful and present.

My recording was essentially trash, ruined by the environmental noise pollution of the suburban forest. I Googled “field recording quiet places” in a feeble attempt to find a quiet place to record nearby my Princeton area home.


“SILENCE IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF SOMETHING,

BUT THE PRESENCE OF EVERYTHING.”

-Gordon Hempton, Founder

One Square Inch of Silence

My research lead me to the Audio Ecologist Gordon Hempton know for his nature recordings on 6 different continents while on an endless quest searching for One Square Inch of Silence.

In 2005 Gordon Hempton while recording in the Hoh Rainforest in Washington’s Olympic National Park, one of the quietest places in the world, he placed a rock on a log claiming it to be One Square Inch of Silence. Hempton defines silence as lacking in human created noise pollution.

For years Hempton has monitored his One Square Inch of Silence often having to inform noise polluters of there noise pollution and writing the offenders letters along with recordings hoping to obtain their support in creating less pollution.

Gordon’s One Square Inch website deeper explains the environmental concerns and educates in an attempt to raise awareness and maintain the silence.

While I have yet to visit Hoh Rainforest or find any location free of noise pollution, my forest therapy continues.

With today being the first day of fall the colorful foliage is about to change. I visualize the sounds of leaves falling and the crunching sound as I walk to a suitable recording spot. Hoping to immerse myself mindfully in the forests serenity.The Startup

https://medium.com/swlh/forest-therapy-and-my-quest-for-a-quiet-place-1c4804eb05f2?source=friends_link&sk=1fe5da5775f23a27e6674dd7bbfb8384