Making a Cloudy Day Sunny

The iconic Philadelphia radio personality Joe Niagara hated to read a weather forecast on the air that said “sunny and pleasant” – he just thought maybe it’s sunny but not a pleasant day for some people.

Obviously, I’ve never forgotten Joe’s words and you won’t hear me saying “sunny and pleasant” – sunny is good enough.

And a stormy day can be beautiful (after all, it isn’t always sunny in Philadelphia).

When my NYU students attend class, the forecast inside is more important than outside.

Is the atmosphere one of approval and acceptance?  Non-judgmental?  Positive?  Hopeful, uplifting?  Inclusive?

These are ways to make a cloudy day sunny with those we come in contact with.

The Art of Thank You Notes

Taylor Swift wrote a note to Alicia Keys who shared it on TikTok – the marriage of old school writing paper and the digital present.

Swift was thanking her friend for attending one of her concerts with her son – Swift’s stationery masthead had “Songwriter • Feline Enthusiast” on it.

She told Esquire in 2014 “”I love writing thank you notes. There’s something very nostalgic to me about the feel of a card and putting pen to paper … I like things you can touch and things you can keep, because every bit of communication we have is ephemeral in nature. You can just delete an e-mail and it’s like it was never there.”

Swift wrote $100,000 checks totaling millions of dollars to each of the truckers who hauled her Eras Tour set from city to city with a personal note and while her tour is likely to ring up $1 billion in sales making her even wealthier, few artists show this kind of generosity.

Long after the gift of money is spent, the recipients will have a personalized, handwritten note that can’t be deleted as if it was never there proving once again there are many ways to show gratitude even in the digital age some as simple as paper.

Social Activator

We have apps that tell us what music to listen to, shows to watch, clothes to wear, things to buy and on and on – known as social influencers.

This semester which starts in less than a month, I will be encouraging my NYU music students to cultivate being their own influencers unlocking their creativity and that of others.

The music business relies heavily on the popularity of artists and songs.

It’s a fine balance that also shows up in relationships.

When we try too hard to please, we often lose who we are.

Dale Carnegie used to say that the best liked person is the one who shows interest in others not themselves.

As social influencers disappoint or miss the mark, being a social activator never does.

The person who can focus 100% interest in another is the most powerful person they will ever be.


The burgeoning relationship killer of phone snubbing (thus the name phubbing) in which one party ignores the other for the phone.

There’s a recent study that predicted marital dissatisfaction, a widespread problem in our society today.

Lack of attention to individuals is not limited to couples and partners, doctors spend more time looking at their computer screens than at their patients.

CVS doesn’t answer their phones even though they hand out their pharmacy numbers.

One hospital system I know of allows their physicians to spend 15 minutes with a patient on one problem and while there are still doctors who take all the time they need, their number is declining.

There is one way to have a happy spouse, partner, child, family, employee or friend – engage them without distraction one-on-one.

It’s not the amount of time, it’s the quality and 100% undistracted focus.

Mega Million Thinking

Some folks live day after day expecting trouble, anxiety, unhappiness and general dissatisfaction and yet millions of these people get a lottery ticket with high hopes and impossible odds of winning anything let alone the big prize.

Did I mention they actually PAY to be optimistic when the odds are against them?

And often buy more than just one ticket.

Oh, and play lottery after lottery backing up their optimism with their wallet.

If only we could garner even that much positive thinking about our own lives, challenges and hopes.

And that’s the secret – if you’re involved in it, it’s worth believing in yourself.

You have a far greater chance of reaching even your wildest goals and dreams than you do hoping to strike it rich in a lottery where you have only a 1-in-302.6 million chance to win (the Mega Millions jackpot).

The Problem with Meditating

My wife and I attended a day-long seminar on happiness and the first thing the group leader said was how important it is to meditate.

That did it – I raised my hand and blurted out, “I can’t do it, I have tried, it doesn’t work for me” and surprisingly others raised their hands to hitchhike on my complaint – they couldn’t meditate either.

But I learned a lot that day.

For instance, you don’t have to succeed at meditating to succeed – I can still have my mind on the next DayStarters I have to write while attempting to clear it of everything.

It’s the process of trying – putting yourself in an anxiety-free state and taking the benefits you can get.

I ask my NYU music students if they meditate and perhaps one out of 40 could attest to it, the others who tried were in the same boat as their professor.

After all, what causes anxiety?  Certainly, perfection is one thing and to gain some benefits from meditation, perfection is not necessary.

If you see me smiling on the turnpike to New York City, I’m not thinking about the traffic jam in the Holland Tunnel – I’m allowing myself to think of something (anything) more pleasing like the smiling faces waiting for me when I arrive at class.

Predicting Today’s Mood

We believe AccuWeather even when they are wrong.

Research shows that out of 100 things that will happen to you and me today, only 4 will could be considered bad.

Even the best weather forecast can’t promise that accuracy.

Researchers say we have a right to expect much better than bad.

Our digital world makes us obsess over fearing the future even though brain surgeons will tell you that 96% of everything that happens to you today will be good.

Instead of dreading something bad there is real evidence that it’s the other way around and that could improve a lot of moods.

Outing Doubt

After he made the second bogey last Saturday, Brian Harman says “a guy said Harman you don’t have the stones for this.  That helped.  It helped me snap back into ‘I’m good enough to do this.  I’m going to do this”.

He went on to win his first major at of all places The British Open.

If you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to.

And when others question your ability, it’s the perfect time to make sure you don’t.

If others doubt, show them what you’re all about.


The national lottery jackpot hit $1 billion again recently and I can prove that everyone who had a ticket waiting for the results thought they were going to win.


They paid money to bet on it even with odds that are so minute.

The odds of claiming the jackpot in a Powerball drawing are 1 in 292.2 million.  To put this in perspective, you have a: 1 in 1,222,000 chance of death or injury from lightning in a given year and 1 in 57,825 chance of dying from a hornet, wasp, or bee sting during your lifetime.

Imagine if we bet on ourselves no matter how daunting the odds.


Why are so many of us looking to influencers in the digital age?

We have thought leaders and trendsetters but a paid influencer gets far too much sway.

Be the main influencer in your life – your life is not an election or popularity contest, it is a piece of art created on a canvas of your choosing.  You choose the colors.

Just because someone is paid to make something popular, it is worth nothing to anyone looking to live a life of authenticity without regard to whatever anyone else thinks.

It’s not only young people who outsource their likes to influencers, people of all ages do.

Look to yourself first.