Inspiration

The Life Changing Power of Breath and Taking it Easy

It’s 9:30pm Sunday evening (29 April) as I am writing this and I’m finally in bed after a huge day including an epic gig tonight performing in my band.
 
I’m not sure if you know this but I’m in all girl jazz band called Yas Queen. We play mostly jazz but also leave room for old school pop, rock, blues and soul in our set lists. I don’t want to toot our own horn, but I will. We’re a bloody load of fun. Come and see us sometime!   
 
We played this evening at a quirky little bar in Woolloongabba called Can You Keep a Secret? If you live in or come to Brisbane, you should definitely check it out. It’s run by a fellow Bundabergian and I swear it is where all the big-hearted, creative souls go to hang out. You would feel at home there.
 
Anyway – I had ambitious plans of rushing home tonight from the gig and write you a lengthy article about mindset and how to abolish our singing blocks. This will happen in the near future – but not for now.
 
Instead, I will tell you about a couple of experiences I had today and tonight, which I hope you will draw some meaning from.
 
So where do I start?
 
Let me just repeat - it was a big day. A big weekend, in fact, of cramming in a whole lot of things to do and people to see.
 
It’s Greek Orthodox Easter too, which I inadvertently celebrate as a quarter Greek and a christened Greek Orthodox. *Christos anesti, by the way! 
 
I also live extremely close to the Greek Orthodox church here in Brisbane and it was pumping until 2:30am last night with the clergy singing all of their classic hits from ‘Behold Jesus has risen’ to ‘God Bless the Queen and our politicians’. So, as you can imagine I woke up pretty tired this morning and with a bad case of the Byzantine blues. Google ‘Byzantine Music’ to get that reference.
 
Anyhow after this extravaganza of an evening, I still managed to do a lot today from editing my first video for the Beginner Singer’s Course on my website to celebrating Easter with my cousin Goldie, to learning Aretha’s ‘Natural Woman’ and Gloria Jone’s ‘Tainted Love’ for tonight’s gig. I also made a couple of trips to Officeworks after buying the wrong ethernet adaptor for my Macbook.
 
You are probably thinking, where is she going with this?
 
Well, you see, I had two moments today where either my soul or my body told me to calm the farm down and go easy.
 
Epiphany One: There's always more than enough time and 'rushing' is a choice. 
 
The first epiphany came to me as I was rushing home in the car from Officeworks and I was centimetres away from running into a car in front of me that had diligently stopped for the yellow light.
 
I had the realization then and there that ‘rushing’ can actually be bloody dangerous and there was actually no need for it.
 
It dawned on me that I had time. There was actually plenty of time and it was my belief in a lack of time that was causing me to rush.
 
I not only could have had an accident, but my body was also being negatively impacted. I was in a state of fight or flight for no reason at all.
 
I took a deep breath, forgave myself and did 10km under the speed limit the rest of the way home.
 
Epiphany Two: Breathe and choose to opt out of shit stories + Make friends with Sophia. 
 
After a big first set tonight, I was feeling pretty frazzled mcdazzled.
 
I ignored my inner wisdom to take myself out of the bar for fresh air and have some alone time during the set break. Instead I kept myself ‘on’ and was chatting away to my mates. I was in the middle of talking to one of my friends, when it was like a fuse blew in my brain.
 
I was suddenly very faint, and I literally couldn’t talk anymore. My body became the travel agent from Little Britain, the one who’s catch line is ‘computer says no’.  
 
I excused myself and went outside for air, but instead of chilling out, I bought into the drama of what was happening.
 
I was convinced that I couldn’t do the second set. How was I going to muster the energy to sing three corker soul songs that are taxing on the voice and the body? Aretha Franklin, Gloria Jones, Sam & Dave – c’mon?!  
Anyhow - I had learned this week that Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom. For me, ‘wisdom’ is something we all have access to through awareness. And thank God for Sophia. She brought me back tonight and reminded me that by diving deeper into the story of my body being weirdo and feeling so energetically drained that I couldn’t function wasn’t actually going to help my situation.
 
I took more deep breaths, returned to the bar, collapsed on my best mate Jake and watched our incredible guest artist sing her heart out. Seeing her so connected to her voice and to the music, stopped the negative loop I was in.

[Picture shows the happiness on my face the moment Ella starts to sing and my energy returns. And that's Jake - my bestie.]

[Picture shows the happiness on my face the moment Ella starts to sing and my energy returns. And that's Jake - my bestie.]

I got out of my head, came back into my body and my energy returned in order for me to blast through the set and lug my equipment home.
 
Now it’s 10:55pm, so I should really rap this up.
 
All I want to say is, this week, learn from my experiences today and be gentle with yourself.
 
Let Sophia be your friendly Greek guide. Listen to her. Listen to your body. Say no to the things that don’t suit you and please don’t feel the need to justify yourself. Do things that bring you joy and don’t feel as though you need to cram so many things into your days, unless of course it's exhilarating for you. Meaning, it gives you energy instead of taking it away from you.  
 
When you feel yourself tensing up or your heart racing, remember to breathe. If your mind tries to create a story about it, let Sophia in to remind you that it is simply that… a story.
 
And remember, you are precious.
 
Take care of yourself!
 
Mel Xx
 
P.S. The first video to my Beginner Singer’s Course is in the Student Portal. You get access to this when you book in for your first singing lesson with me.

*Chrisos Anesti is Greek for 'Christ has risen.' Another way of saying 'Happy Easter.' 

A Love Note for the Singers who have turned their Back on Singing

Singing Teacher Brisbane

This is a little note for the singers those who grew up performing in choirs, eisteddfods, and/or community concerts.

Perhaps you were even a gigging singer, with a degree in music, and had aspirations of performing all around the world and becoming the next Lady Gaga.
 
But somewhere along the line, you stopped. Life got in the way.
 
Maybe you had a family or fell into a different career.
 
Maybe you had doubts about your ability and didn’t think you had the talent to pursue a career in it anyway.  
 
Perhaps your voice never felt quite ‘right’. Like, it was massive effort to sing, so why bother pursuing something that felt difficult.
 
So, you turned your back on your voice, your singing and your dreams.
 
This is what I did anyway.  
 
I grew up in Bundaberg and was always performing. I did my AMEB classical singing exams and I won the Senior Vocalist Prize at the eisteddfod. I was pretty convinced that I was going to become the next Maria Callas. After all, I was a quarter Greek. Maria and I practically had identical lives.  
 
As a 17-year-old, I auditioned for the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and got graded an ‘A’, which meant that I was a shoe in for the bachelor’s degree. My life was sorted.
 
When I received what I thought was going to be my acceptance letter, I was devastated to read ‘thanks but no thanks.’ I wasn’t going to the Con.
 
After a year of doing a performance course in Rockhampton, which I didn’t enjoy at all, I decided at 18 that I wasn’t cut out for this career and enrolled in a journalism degree. When I finished this, I found myself working in government and corporate media departments.
 
Years of getting stuck on the corporate treadmill followed, along with developing vocal nodules from singing in rock bands using incorrect vocal technique.  
 
Also, I got stuck in ‘paralysis by analysis’ land from not knowing where my voice sat in terms of genres. I couldn’t sing classical anymore, and after falling asleep in several operas decided that I didn’t want to follow in Maria’s footsteps after all.
 
I loved rock music but wasn’t convinced that my voice was suited to this either.
 
That’s when I stopped singing all together. It just felt too hard.
 
And I have to say, this left me bereft and sad.
 
To fill the void that singing left in my life, I decided to try jazz piano lessons. I had always loved jazz but in the past had never thought about learning it. So, this felt new and exciting.
 
Funnily enough, it was these lessons that led me back to singing again.
 
My piano teacher asked me to sing ‘Misty’ – the only jazz song I knew all the words to. I did and his enthusiasm for my voice but more so my love for the music, put me on the path that I am on now.  
 
I’m obviously taking a lot of short cuts with my story but since that day, I have become a professional singer with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz, which I received after a life-changing three years at the Jazz Music Institute (JMI). I ended up going to the Con to do my master’s degree and have sorted out my vocal issues with good technique practices and pathology. And as you know I’m a proud and passionate singing teacher.
 
Anyway, enough about me. I just want to say that even though you may have turned your back on singing, it hasn’t turned its back on you.
 
You will find your way back to singing again. I promise.
 
That’s all I’m going to say.
 
Lots of love
Mel X

Thinking of becoming an Airbnb host? Here's how to be a Superhost.

Don’t have time to read this article? Listen below.

Now, you’re probably wondering why as a singer and a teacher that I would be writing a blog post about being an Airbnb host. The reason why I am sharing this information is because becoming an Airbnb host has completely changed my life. Not only has it connected me to some of the most incredible people from all around the world, financially, it has allowed me to build my performing & singing teaching business without the stress of having to afford my rent each week. So, if you think that expanding your network of friends while making some extra coin to support your dream business or save for a home deposit or an around the world trip sounds amazing, keep reading.


Unless you have been living under a rock (no judgement and only kudos to you if you do), you would have heard about Airbnb – the share economy’s solution to affordable accommodation that not only allows world travellers to live with the locals of their destinations but also gives those with a spare room the opportunity to make extra cash. 

Despite the rare horror story that you may hear about Airbnb, no one can deny its popularity and its staying power in this new economy. After all, it makes that overseas trip or the quick visit interstate so much cheaper, can turn strangers into life-long friends (some of my besties were initially my guests), and can transform your baby boomer parents with rooms to spare into hip entrepreneurs.

Perhaps you’re reading this because you too have thought about opening up your humble abode to the world but don’t know how to get started. Perhaps you’re worried about your safety or people touching your stuff. These are real concerns, which I totally get. Before I embarked on my Airbnb hosting journey, I had them too.

 I’m here to put your mind at ease with an honest account of my experience as an Airbnb host. Actually, I don’t mean to brag, but I’m more than just a host, I’m a Superhost. It’s a title one earns, but if you genuinely like people and put a bit of effort into your home’s appearance, it’s not too difficult to become one. AND if you thought just having the title sounds impressive, Airbnb rewards you with extra (quite generous) perks. Here’s how you can become a Superhost too!

1. You do you, Boo: Set it up to suit your personality and needs

Now some would say their rent doubling is pretty unfortunate, but for me it was a blessing. I was on the fence about Airbnb but having to pay that extra $200 a week rent and not wanting to go back to housemate living was enough to jump straight in and never look back.  

It was the perfect option for me as a home and people loving Cancerian because while I wanted to be in complete ownership of my space, I also loved the idea of visitors.

On a side note, I think my love of entertaining people comes from my Greek background. My family were café owners, fruiterers, fish and chip shop owners and now just general feeders. We LOVE people and we want to take care of them.

At the same time, however, I go through short periods where I LOVE to be alone. This is how I recharge my batteries, and this is why Airbnb is especially a good fit for me and for other introvert/extroverts. Why? Because you can choose when you want guests and when you need a break. Moreover, as a host, you can decide whether you want short-term or long-term guests and only accept people who you feel comfortable with based on their reviews left by previous hosts. On that last note, you can set it up so that people can automatically book in or they need to send you a request for your approval.

I personally prefer people to send a request through. That way you can check out their profile and reviews as well as establish whether they will be a good fit for you. For example, if you have a rock musician requesting to stay and she/he will need to practice in your space with their band (a highly unlikely scenario but indulge me) and you are one who loves your peace and quiet, you can politely decline. 

I can’t stress enough how important it is to tailor Airbnb hosting around your personal values and boundaries. Otherwise, you run the risk of feeling burnt out and/or resentful.

Remember, a Superhost is a happy host. When you take care of your own needs first, your guests are only going to get the best version of you and you will also enjoy the experience.

2. Be super upfront about your abode

Now, I unashamedly love the shizzle out of my place. First up, it’s quite big. My guest room is HUGE. I also have a large veranda and two big living areas, with one of these being my singing teaching studio and office.

It’s also SUPER cute and beautifully furnished. I’m sorry (not sorry) but I’m not humble when it comes to my taste in interior styling, even if it is mostly cheap and cheerful. Also, my apartment is ridiculously close to the city and in my opinion, I live in the coolest suburb of Brisbane. BUT… my place is super quirky, which is a nice way of saying, it’s old.

The lino floor hasn’t been replaced in 40 years, it can get pretty dusty in here despite regular cleaning, and in our Queensland summer, this place turns into a 1970’s sauna. But does this stop people from coming? Do I get negative reviews? No!

 
One of my recent reviews.

One of my recent reviews.

 

I think people genuinely appreciate honesty and authenticity. I’m very upfront about my apartment’s quirks in my profile and in my communication. Also, all of the photos on my listing are 100% accurate. I honestly believe the Universe rewards you for your honesty and will always bring you fabulous guests, providing that you tell it as it is, offer a reasonable rate and you are kind and hospitable.

By the way, I learnt this the hard way by receiving a handful of negative reviews when I first started, regarding how hot my apartment is during summer. So instead of taking personal responsibility for global warming or adding to our climate and my electricity bill’s demise by installing and running an air conditioner, I now I just tell it as it is, right on the top of my profile. I leave it up to the Universe and I have faith that I will always have people booking in despite the cons, and you know what, they always do. 

3. Abide by the rules and everybody wins: Know your local laws and declare your takings as income with the ATO

I’m really lucky to have a reasonable landlord. Initially I feared telling him about Airbnb but then realized it would be in both of our best interests if I was up front and asked for his approval.

Many people do host in rentals without permission, but they do run the risk of their neighbours and landlord finding out with potential negative consequences. Also, if that was me, I would be super anxious, which isn’t a nice way to live.

When you do seek approval from your landlord, go into this conversation armed with as much knowledge as possible so you can counter any of their concerns. Things they may worry about would be property damage or liability, the fact that you may be making a profit from their space or that you are subletting without their knowledge. In my situation, I have the adequate insurance and I am earning enough through Airbnb to cover a bit over a half of my rent.

Now the other group that you need to be upfront with is the ATO. You MUST declare your earnings through Airbnb as income! This isn’t terrible, however, especially when you adopt a business mindset.

You can claim expenses and depreciation for the percentage of the area of your house as well as portions of your:

  • Rent

  • Internet and phone cost

  • Water, power and council rate

  • Upkeep and repairs

  • Depreciation on the cost of furnishings and equipment

  • Interest on your mortgage

Just keep decent records and you’ll be more than alright!

Remember, a Superhost has a clear conscience. They don’t ever need to freak out every time they hear a knock on the door or see a missed call from their landlord or get a letter from Canberra.

4. Open your mind + heart: About 99.9% guests will be AHHHH-MAAAZING

If you are on the fence about Airbnb, it might be that you feel uncomfortable about opening your home up to strangers. I get this because I come from a safety-first kind of family.

I also know what it’s like to have these said safety fanatical family members (who absolutely mean well) telling you stories such as the “woman in Melbourne who was stabbed to death by her Airbnb guest.” By the way, I tried Googling this and couldn’t find anything about it. I could only find a story about a host killing his guest. Grim.

Anyhow, the reality is that hosting people from all around the world is mind and heart opening. You will learn all sorts of cool things about culture, human behaviour, people’s stories and yourself.

If it puts you at ease, you can always install a lock on your bedroom door. You can buy one from Bunnings and get a handy gal/guy from Airtasker to install it for you. You can also have a rule that you only take guests who have reviews left by previous hosts.

By the way, about handful of my best friends were initially my Airbnb guests. Honestly, it has been the most rewarding experience of my life.

5. Set firm boundaries and don’t ever feel like you can’t kick anyone out

In saying all of the above, if you do get a guest who makes you feel uncomfortable, you are 100% in your rights to terminate their stay early and get Airbnb involved. Perhaps even give Airbnb a ring first and explain the situation.

I only had one guest out of the hundreds who stayed here make me feel extremely uncomfortable. Luckily, I had a good friend couch surfing here at the time. The guest only became super creepy the night before his departure and luckily my friend was here to help me put this guest in his place. This is when I learnt the invaluable lesson to only accept guests with reviews or those who I get a good feeling about over a series of messages.

6. Get Creative: Give your place a makeover + create a little travel guide

You really don’t have to do or spend much to make your place look nice. With Kmart and IKEA, you can have the latest looks without burning a hole in your pocket.

Things to consider when decorating your guest room. Ensure you have:  

1.     A modern quilt cover set with eye catching cushions.

2.     A clothes hanging rack or cupboard

3.     A small desk and chair for students or for those on work trips

4.     A small bin

5.     A mirror

6.     A comfy chair

IMG_3719.jpg

I also have artwork on the walls and a couple of bed side tables with a lamp and aspirational trinkets and books, including Frankie magazines.

On the desk, I have a magnetic board (from Typo) with a list of the ‘house rules’, the Internet password as well as my contact details.

A lovely idea to help your guests navigate your city, is to make a little travel guide. Now this can be as simple as putting a few dot points into a word document and printing it out, making a book on Canva – an easy to use online design software, or adding a page to your website and sending your guest the link. Perhaps you may even want to make a video on your smart phone and upload it to YouTube. The choice is yours.

7. Be Clean

I’m not going to lie; I am no clean freak by nature. However, being an Airbnb host has forced me into some great habits. After all, if you are charging a cleaning fee, you are essentially being paid to tidy your own home.

IMG_3718.jpg

I won’t go into details here because the idea of talking about cleaning bores me to tears. Just keep all surfaces spick and span, vacuum and mop the floors regularly, wash up after yourself, don’t leave crap lying around, make sure all communal spaces are orderly and ensure your guest room is immaculate. This goes without saying but ALWAYS have clean bed linen and towels for your guests.

If you don’t think you can do this, then outsource. Pay somebody else your cleaning fee.

8. Be quick with your communication + keep all payments through Airbnb

As a host, a big part of your ratings comes through keeping a prompt, clear and open line of communication. Don’t leave it too long to respond to your guest enquiries and as mentioned previously, make sure you are super-duper honest about everything. For example, don’t say you’re close to transport when you have to walk 10km to find the nearest train station or bus. Naturally, this is going to reflect poorly in your reviews.

Another thing is, while it’s tempting to take cash from your guests, for instance if they want to stay an extra night or they want to include another guest, you’ll be leaving yourself vulnerable. While Airbnb do take a small cut, you are protected by them to up to $1 million, in case anything untoward happens. There is also the added security of knowing that Airbnb has run checks on your guests before they enter your home.

One other thing you might want to consider is, looking into extra cover for the rare case of theft or intentional damage to your property. There may be an option to update your home and contents insurance to include a renter’s policy. Some insurance companies may even have something specifically for Airbnb. Call them up and ask.

9. Turn off automatic bookings and consider your minimum night stay requirements

Now Airbnb will try to convince you that by having the automatic bookings feature on, will make you more attractive to guests and therefore will bring you in more money. To be honest, it’s a real pain in the buttocks. One, you don’t get to vet who is coming to stay, and two, you have to make sure your calendar is up to date. For instance, if you forget to block off time in your calendar for your cousin’s wedding and somebody books in, Airbnb will penalize you when you go to cancel that booking. They don’t take money from you, but it may spoil your chances of becoming a Superhost, which gives your profile more visibility.

Honestly, I have had so much success by switching this feature off. It really is no biggie for someone to send you a quick message asking you if they can stay. It also helps you get a clear idea of the person and why they are travelling to your area.  

I also changed my minimum night stay requirements to three nights. I was finding that by allowing for the one-night stay, I was missing out on longer bookings and I was forever washing bed linen.

10. Adopt a business mindset + use referral links to grow your travel fund

I mentioned this previously, but I think it’s worth saying again – “adopt a business mindset” and be professional. This doesn’t mean that you have to be constantly “on” in your own home. In fact, some guests may not want you engaging with them all the time and may give off the vibe that they want their own space. A Superhost is good at reading people and this is definitely a skill that can be learned.

Adopting a business mindset simply means having a presentable space that someone would like to stay in and making it your business to ensure your guest feels safe and comfortable. You could also look at offering discounts on longer bookings, or extras such as free milk and coffee or breakfast after the first night, to make your profile more attractive. You could even offer free walking tours around the neighbourhood.

If you are not sure on what to charge per night, you can turn on the Smart Pricing feature. This allows you to set your prices to automatically go up or down based on changes in demand for listings like yours. These are controlled by settings that you can adjust at any time.

Another thing is to take advantage of Airbnb’s generous referral program. Let this money bank up and you can put this towards your own travel or anything for that matter. For instance, when you sign up to Airbnb you get your own unique referral links that you can use to encourage people to use Airbnb as guests or become hosts. You get paid around $30 if you refer a traveller who books into a place worth $75 or more, and its $75 if you refer someone who becomes a host and takes their first booking. Once you become a Superhost, this amount increases.

Anyhow – I sincerely hope this article was useful to you and if you were thinking of becoming a host, this has inspired you to do so. I can’t stress enough how Airbnb hosting has changed my life in a positive way. As mentioned previously, my world is so much bigger. I am connected to some of the most interesting, loveliest people from all corners of the earth. Now that I am financially secure, the money I make through Airbnb is helping me save up for an around the world trip, which I’m excited to share more about in future posts.

So, if you are ready to host, I am here to help you. I am offering to help 25 people get set up and ready to start hosting and on their way to becoming a Superhost.

 All you need to do is sign up for an account using my *referral link below and I will give you:

  •   A 1hr Coaching Session over Skype or FaceTime: In this session we will set up your profile so that you are ready to take your first booking. While I can’t take your pictures for you, I can give you advice on how to take good ones.

    +

  • Access to an exclusive Facebook group for continued support

So are you ready to jump in? Click here to get started. Once you have signed up for your account, let me know. I will then be in contact to help you finish setting up your profile and get you ready to host your first guest.

*Airbnb will pay me a sum of money for referring hosts who take their first booking. you can do this as well; i’ll show you How.♡

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fearless Singer Presents... Singer Stories: Lauren Dawné

G'day mate! 

Have you heard of Kintsugi?!

It’s the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer. The principle behind this method is that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

Being a recovering perfectionist, this resonated deeply with me.

It dawned on me that while we often strive for this false idea of “perfection”, we forget that it is our flaws and our past suffering that makes us who we are. We are shards of clay, held together by a shimmering golden light. We are beautiful pieces of art.  

To quote the late Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Speaking of shimmering lights, I would love to introduce to one of my dear students – Lauren.

She has overcome a great deal to be back singing again, after taking a 7-year break from music altogether. She is taking massive strides in gaining her confidence back and is dreaming big about a career as a singer songwriter. 

This is a part of a new a Fearless TV series - 'Singer Stories'. 

LISTEN TO LAUREN SING & WATCH HER STORY HERE:
 

Once you’ve had a chance to watch it, we would love to hear from you! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment below. 

If you think this would inspire a family member or friend, please feel free to share it with them. 

Lots of Love
Mel X