Breaking the Ice

My classes are noisy and I like it that way – students talk to each other because we make socializing in person a priority of learning.

  • Each week, we start by making a new friend – go over to them and start a conversation (and believe me, it’s tough to stop them).
  • Smiles increase, happiness skyrockets and participation grows.
  • One student talked about the harrowing position of attending a wedding where people who don’t know each other – start the evening, dine together and end it without ever talking.
  • Almost always, the person who reaches out to another first is rewarded with a sigh of relief and an interesting conversation.

For everyone else, today would be a great day to unlock the power of breaking the ice with someone you don’t know.

The Happy Choice

Gallup’s sadness index for Americans is on the rise and young generations especially Gen Z are feeling the brunt of it.

  • The share of popular song lyrics that include synonyms for hate rather than love has increased over the past two decades according to Neil Howe’s new book The Fourth Turning is Here.
  • Negativity is everywhere and it is baked into social media, linear media and too many places that affect our moods.
  • We’re feasting on negativity rather than neutrality or positive thinking and it’s becoming part of our fabric which helps explain road rage, random shootings, bad behavior in restaurants, airlines and overall unruliness.

Happiness, good behavior and love are choices we make not necessarily things we feel in a digital world linking outrageous thoughts and behavior.

Edith Eger reminds us that even after surviving a concentration camp and the needless loss of loved ones, she decided to live the rest of her life by making a choice not to waste it and to be happy.

Making Friends

This school year I ask my NYU students to introduce themselves to someone they don’t know in class and chat for a few minutes to break the ice.

  • It’s hard to get them to calm down and return to their seats and they are visibly happy.
  • No matter what problems they walked in with, most smile at making a new friend (that’s 21 new friends for the semester).
  • But the key thing is to have the courage to go first – step up and say hi because almost always the other person is so grateful you approached them.

Friendships are so important to our mental health and we’ve paid a price for hunkering down in the pandemic

  • The number one thing those in hospice say they wished they had done is to spend more time with people they care about.

I’ve created monsters – they love to engage each other now which acts as a tremendous inspiration to me that I thought I would share with you.

Rats Teach Mental Health

For a guy who spends a lot of time in New York City, I can’t believe this brain study on rats, but it’s true – the more we play, the healthier we feel.

  • For kids, — free play is important which is one reason why the pandemic has had so many negative impacts on the young.
  • And adults need play – whether it is playful banter in the workplace or other forms of relaxation and joyfulness.

So, this week in one of my NYU classes, we’re played a few minutes before we learned for an hour and forty minutes – to see who can remember the 5 major points from our discussion on “stress-free living and working in the music industry” the previous week.

But it’s a game – everyone can play and there is even a prize – a gift certificate for Starbucks (the fuel that powers college students) – even learning can be fun (especially learning!).

I’m doing it again this week and I’ll bet the overall class retention of the major points of the course will improve – fun is welcome everywhere.

Great Awakening

In a new study, the average parent spends more time on their devices (5 hours) than they do with their kids (4 hours).

But wait, it’s not hopeless

  • It’s not the number of hours a day, it’s the number of hours focused one-on-one with children that matters most (ask them).
  • Parents can do outdoor activities when possible and other things and set a good example by turning the phone off or putting it away.
  • My NYU classes stow their phones and they are so focused on what’s going on that they are becoming true believers that eliminating digital distractions can help them.

There will be many more scary research reports on the deleterious effect of phones but giving them up is not as important as adding more one-on-one time, and that is a gift.

Grateful Meditation

A different way to meditate is to clear your mind of everything and think of the things and people you are grateful for.

  • Start with a minute (I do it in the shower).
  • Think of things and people who you are fortunate enough to have in your life – at that moment and for what they did previously.
  • When the mind wanders to you and your current problems, direct them back to who and what you are grateful for.
  • It’s not about big things – it’s the little ones as well. The parking lot attendant that takes special care of you and greets you with a warm welcome.
  • It can include touchy issues like broken relationships you are happy to move on from or even a disease that you are fighting to overcome.

Grateful mediation will leave you feeling happier and more relaxed – a good use of time that requires no learning curve.

Jimmy Buffett on Staying Young

“Well, I have learned one thing from my latest in a series of the ever-appearing speed bumps of life — 75 is NOT the new 50” — Jimmy Buffett to New York Times writer Maureen Dowd.

  • “Thinking younger doesn’t quite do it. You still have to do the hard work of, as the Toby Keith song says, ‘Don’t let the old man in.’ And that is my job now, the way I see it.”

It’s work.  A Plan.  The ability to finish.  Start again when you fail.

  • Age alone does not define a person’s age – their ability to “do the hard work” does and that applies to all ages from young to old.

Expectations of Others

  • Many of my NYU students this new semester are battling the fine balance between pursuing their life happiness and making their parents happy – it’s not just an adolescent problem.
  • Non-students have the same issues as close friends, work associates and even family can cause stress of moving forward.
  • Think if it like this – you are flying the plane, those who matter to you in life are giving advice – in the end, it’s rightfully your decision.
  • When I told my dad I didn’t want to go to college and wanted to be radio dj, he said “you’re going to college” and will be the smartest dj on the air.
  • In the end, I took his advice and never looked back – after all, it was my decision to make, he was my advisor.
  • Trying to please others is another way to guarantee unhappiness – the person who needs to be pleased is you and any doubters will become believers the moment you believe.

Bully Busting

  • I’m excited, classes are underway at NYU and this fall in my Stress-free Living and Working in the Music Industry class, my friend Les Garland (onetime programmer of MTV), is bringing his latest discovery to class – Stella Mabry.
  • She’s 14 and has utilized her interest in song writing and performing to strike back against the “Mean Girl” who bullied her.
  • She will be a hit with young students who have to deal with unprecedented social media bullying head on.
  • There are many ways to fight back against bullies. Stella’s approach is to channel her anxiety into doing the common good which inspires others.
  • Here is Stella’s video.

Others Rub Off on Us

  • In nature, we become like the people who surround us.
  • For animals, often they blend in with their environment for safety reasons and to avoid larger predators – as evidenced by any rattlesnake on Camelback mountain – they blend in.
  • Environment matters – people who are raised on manners tend to be more courteous, children of good listeners tend to listen to others in their conversations.
  • That’s why it’s imperative that we seek out and nurture relationships with people with whom we share common values.
  • It’s not necessary to be around people with your exact same personality just ones that value what you do.
  • Empowerment comes from people who share common values.