7 Things to Share about Living Like Prince

Prince performs at his birthday party at First Avenue on June 7, 1984 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Wire Image)

The Year of Living Like Prince is coming to a close. I can’t believe it. This has been one of the very best and certainly one of the most memorable years of my life. My greatest hope is that you might feel inspired to step outside your comfort zone in 2020. Pick one small thing each month that’s new or different or doesn’t feel like typical you, and see where it takes you! (It doesn’t have to fit a theme … just reach out for something new đź’ś). With my year of Living Like Prince nearing a close, here are 7 things I want to tell you.

I decided to spend the past 12 months living like Prince because of what I learned about how he lived when I co-wrote a biography about him.

Living Like Prince might seem like an unusual choice for a suburban mom like me. But I’m not only a suburban mom. I’m the co-author, along with Alex Hahn, of The Rise of Prince: 1958-1988, and in researching that book I realized Prince had left more than a musical legacy. He’d left a roadmap about how to live an extraordinary life. That intrigued me and I wanted to take that journey in 2019. I had no idea where it would lead!

Living like Prince changed me.

Living like Prince has taken me from having an enjoyable life to having an exhilarating life. It did that by pushing me outside my comfort zone. When you intentionally place yourself in a position where you’re outside your comfort zone — for example, by changing your name to a symbol, as I did in April — then you have to get creative. Why did I put this symbol on a nametag and introduce myself this way at the party? I had to answer, and in doing so, I began to create a new experience of living.

The year was NOT what I expected.

I thought that Living Like Prince was going to be about success, and how to achieve success because Prince was obviously successful. But it turned out to be about creative living. I learned that instead of striving for happiness, we should choose to strive for an exhilarating life. Exhilarating leaves happy in the dust: It’s next-level happy. There’s a quote in Prince’s memoir where he talks about how he wanted to tell people to create. Start by creating your day, and then create your life, he said. Day by day, I created my days with intention, whether the month called on me to be a spiritual seeker, form a band or dress up daily, and I wound up creating a more exhilarating life.

I wanted to quit.

People ask, did I ever want to quit? The answer is an unqualified “oh my gosh, yes!!” I thought about quitting on more than one occasion because there were times when this felt bigger than I anticipated. I even wanted to quit right away in the first month, when I tried fasting (Prince, in a 2014 interview, talked about fasting and its positive effects on him). I never want to replicate that month! But people were cheering me on, and that’s the great thing about community. Sometimes, the thought of Prince was enough to spur me on. Living here in Chanhassen as I do, I couldn’t help but think about how Prince had worked down the road at Paisley Park, 20 hours a day, day after day, for decades. If he was able to do that, just a couple of miles from where I sat, what excuse did I have not to follow suit, even in my own small way?

There were things about this journey that made me scared.

I felt exposed and vulnerable many times this year, notably when I did a photoshoot while posing as my alter ego Aurora in downtown Minneapolis. I was quaking in my four-inch heels! Then, doing media interviews was incredibly scary, but when I succeeded in not keeling over on live television I enjoyed a sense of accomplishment.

My favorite month was changing my name to a symbol.

My favorite month was April when I changed my name to a symbol because it was really interesting learning about what Prince’s symbol stood for, and even to explore the nature of symbols and how they communicate more about us than a name with letters might. What did I stand for? And how could I share that in a symbol that identified me? That was fascinating. Also, I won’t lie: It felt rebellious and fun to mess with people’s heads by insisting on being identified by an unpronounceable symbol.

My hardest month was saying “no.”

The hardest month was June when I said no to things that weren’t right for me. Like many of us, I’m a people pleaser and although I’d imagined that I’d be gleefully tossing out “no’s” like candy in a parade, it was really hard. But Prince said no to things that weren’t right for him, regardless of the reaction, so I had to follow suit. Doing so was hard, but ultimately liberating.

I’m ending the year by honoring Prince’s legacy of giving and the way he anonymously and quietly gave away millions of dollars during his lifetime. I’ve chosen Urban Ventures, a nonprofit based in an under-resourced neighborhood in South Minneapolis, with a music program and recording studio. Kids who would never be able to learn an instrument or learn how a recording studio works are able to get that exposure thanks to this amazing organization, in a community that Prince loved. My goal is to raise $10,000 and we’re not there yet. I know there are a lot of great causes out there, and I greatly appreciate you considering Urban Ventures for your charitable giving. To learn more or make a donation, visit www.urbanventures.org/prince.

Be Outrageously Generous in December

Prince gives his all on stage at the Rosemont Horizon 35 years ago this month, on December 9, 1984, in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Wire Image)

In the years when Prince was alive, the dearth of information about him made it clear that many of those surrounding him (okay, all of them) had been sworn to secrecy or had signed non-disclosure agreements, or simply KNEW how pissed Prince would be if they spoke publically about him. But in the years since he passed away, the floodgates have opened. It took a while — they didn’t open on day one, but what started as a trickle is today a rush of books and podcasts and media interviews If you try to consume all of the information spilling forth from former Prince bandmates, girlfriends, employees, managers and more, it can feel like you’re trying unsuccessfully to drink from a fire hose. In fact, just by reading GQ Magazine alone, in recent years, you could learn that he smelled like lavender and called people on the phone using French or British accents, or that he had a perfectly shaped, androgynous bottom (although, ahem, we didn’t need an insider to enlighten us to this Princely reality). The stories have become so plentiful that it’s possible to recognize patterns and categorize them: Prince the late-in-life mentor; Prince the employer who pushed you past your limits; Prince the ultimate musician; Prince the tremendous hard worker who didn’t eat, didn’t sleep and when it came to output, put everyone else to shame.

Of all these, there’s one category of stories that still takes me by surprise: Prince the philanthropist. For as much of a Prince fan as I’ve been, I did not realize the extent of his giving while he was alive.

“Prince spent his entire career privately supporting causes that were near and dear to his heart,” wrote Tony Kiene in a 2016 article for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. “Upon his death, however, the expansive scope and impact of his charitable activities started to come to light, mostly from accounts of those who’d previously been sworn to secrecy.”

What a little positive publicity about Prince’s charitable giving might have done for his image! Sometimes it felt he could never get out of his own way when it came out the public relations thing. Since his death, there’s been a halo effect when it comes to Prince’s public image. But back in the 1990s, the story was different. Much, much different.

Writer Chris Heath said of interviewing Prince for a 1991 Details magazine profile, “The man I talked to on the phone was smart, polite, charismatic, and playful, but it’s another man—the people watcher, the one who doesn’t say hello, the narcissist who’s so into himself all he needs is mirrors and foot servants—that so many people imagine being the real Prince.”

Here’s the truth of the real Prince: According to Kiene’s article, Prince was a financial force behind organizations such as #YesWeCode, Green For All, Youth 2 Leaders, and Powerhouse. Kiene writes, “As (Van) Jones told CNN … “There are people who have solar panels on their houses right now in Oakland, Ca., that don’t know Prince paid for them.”

While Prince’s giving reached all over this country, in his home state of Minnesota, Prince gave not only to Urban Ventures — the organization for which I’m raising funds this month — but also, according to Kiene, the Prep Network of Schools, The Bridge for Youth, Circle of Discipline, and a fund to support the victims of the I-35W bridge collapse tragedy.

Prince was a doer. That’s one thing I know for sure after attempting to live like him. I packed a ton of activity into each month and honestly, I began to remember that this is how I used to live when I was young. There is something to keeping things moving. One of the few things that very much stuck with me from his memoir, “The Beautiful Ones,” was written by Dan Piepenbring, his co-writer. Prince was excited to be a writer and seize the narrative of his own life, Piepenbring wrote, adding:

He said he was finished with making music, making records. “I’m sick of playing the guitar, at least for now. I like the piano, but I hate the thought of picking up the guitar.” What he really wanted to do was write. “I want to write lots of books. It’s all up here,” he said, pointing to his temple. That’s why he wanted to talk to writers and to work with a publisher. “I want my first book to be better than my first album. I like my first album, but …” he trailed off. “I’m a lot smarter than I was then.”

If you’re reading this, you still have a chance to seize your own narrative. Why not make giving an essential part of it? I’m excited to follow Prince’s generous lead in December.

Your Spiritual Journey Is a “Grand Progression”

Digital painting of Prince in the “Graffiti Bridge” era by NYAO.

An early theme of “Graffiti Bridge,” Prince’s spiritually-oriented 1990 movie, was the search for what Prince called “the grand progression.” When a progression of 17 guitar chords was played, it would cause the mystical Graffiti Bridge to appear. While there was a literal Graffiti Bridge in nearby Eden Prairie that had been used by Vietnam War protestors to share messages of peace, in the movie “Graffiti Bridge,” the bridge was a physical manifestation of a spiritual state of mind.

The unreleased ballad, “The Grand Progression,” was written for the movie but ultimately eschewed in favor of “Still Would Stand All Time” (you can hear “The Grand Progression” by searching YouTube for it). The song is filled with a yearning for union, of both the sexual and spiritual kind. In the concept of a grand progression, Prince expresses the mystical aspect of the musical harmonies that had been mathematized as far back as 500 b.c. by Greek philosopher Pythagoras. Like Pythagoras, Prince was exploring the mathematical aspect of music in the concept of a grand progression, but Prince added another dimension: He was also expressing music’s effect on the human spirit.

As I pilgrimaged through October, Prince’s idea of a grand progression took on new meaning. I began to see every step of my spiritual journey as a chord in “The Grand Progression.” Each step moves us forward in a journey to get closer to our higher self. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned the grand progression as mystical musical staircase that leads us into a higher level of consciousness, and at the end of our lives, back into the arms of God.

What I’ve learned this month is that spiritual journeys are built on trust. You must be willing to let go of the comfort of one step to move to the next level. You must trust that there will always be another step on which your foot will land safely. And like an improvising musician, you must trust that in releasing one chord, the next will come.

If you see life as The Police did when they sang, “We are spirits in the material world,” then it follows that life by definition is a spiritual journey, one travelled by your spirit, carried within your body for the purpose of having an earthly experience. And if we listen to one of Prince’s spiritual teachers, author Betty Eadie, what we are here on Earth to do is to grow our spirits through serving God — “Love God” — and serving each other — “Love4OneAnother.” We’ve all heard the old saying, “You can’t take it with you.” Well, there’s one thing we do take with us, according to Eadie: When we leave our bodies, our spiritual growth during this lifetime is what we take back to heaven.

Tomorrow, we turn a page on the calendar to a new month and a fresh start. Tune in for the announcement of November’s theme!