Personal Advice

Would you tell a friend, “go ahead and try it if you like but you’ll probably fail?”

  • But we say it all the time to ourselves – I can’t do it, I’m not good enough and other useless thoughts.
  • If you wouldn’t tell a friend they can’t, why would you think it about yourself?
  • Sometimes the biggest leap forward in confidence comes from being kinder in the way you talk to yourself.

Waiting to Succeed

While you’re waiting to succeed, get to work on the things that guarantee it.

  • Success is not just a waiting game, it’s being prepared for our next moment.
  • Building our strengths while waiting to succeed is the best use of time to those who want to be ready when the right moment comes.
  • I had a student who told me they “hated” themselves for something they believe they did wrong – after that, it was all downhill.
  • Instead, think of success the way you do with exercise – put in the time, push your limits, stay with it and put a stop/hold on comments that doubt your abilities.

Wandering Minds

Our wandering, unfocused minds need reminders of positivity during the day.

  • I’m getting it done instead of I’m swamped.
  • Reword the negative narrative in our heads.
  • Recognize that negative narratives are often implanted in our minds by those who surround us not the sole work of trying to put ourselves down.
  • Gratitude is a tool for shaking awake the positivity that’s getting crowded out by destructive thoughts – it’s proven, the more we appreciate things and people, the less we stagnate on what cannot be.

Doubts are normal and our brains are built to encourage them so negative narratives are not necessarily our fault, but we can fix them with a dose of gratitude.

Stress Reliever

I give all my students in our NYU music business stress class, a card that reads tension by touching it between the thumb and forefinger for 15 seconds.

  • Match the color to see whether you’re calm, normal, some tension or tense.
  • Beyond being fun, there is a deeper benefit – we often think we’re anxious when in reality we are not or think we’re relaxed when we’re actually tense.
  • Before we go off get concerned, get it right because as this card teaches us, we may be talking ourselves into being more anxious than we are.

When in doubt, assume you’re calm and to be sure, take a deep breath and let it out slowly five times.

The world is stressed, but often we are not so being aware is one way of not talking ourselves into a problem we don’t have.

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.