Making More Friends

It’s not just young folks and college students whose eyes are glued to their phones missing many opportunities to connect with others live and in person.

Picture a classroom where students assemble and before they turn their phones off and stow them for two hours, they are texting away.

Meanwhile it is not uncommon for them to never meet even five or ten of their fellow students in an entire semester.

At the end of class, they pull their phones out and resume where they left off – texting.

Yet, they say publicly how much they appreciate the mandatory silencing of their phones saying it really helps them to focus.

What to do?

Certainly, giving up a mobile device in this age is out of the question.

But taking control of their digital life would lead to – in the case of this example – the outcome they say they want, to meet more people.

Happy or Content?

We are becoming so obsessed with being happy that we’re making ourselves more anxious.

That’s why our “happiness” course at NYU’s Music Business Program is one about building resilience.

After all, it was Harold Kushner author of When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough said:

Happiness is a butterfly–the more you chase it, the more it flies away from you and hides. But stop chasing it, put away your net and busy yourself with other, more productive things than the pursuit of personal happiness, and it will sneak up on you from behind and perch on your shoulder.

And there’s a question of what happiness actually is.

I think my students would like less pressure, more confidence and the ability to meet adversity and then move on.

The Finn’s may have another definition:  when you know what is enough, then you’re happy.

Contentment may be the road to happiness.


I thought I was the only one not getting enough sleep these days, but my NYU students are just like their professor.

Their digital devices keep them awake.

They sleep with their phones, answer texts if they hear it in light sleep.

And it makes them sleepy which is why it’s hard to find a college campus without a Starbucks nearby to get some caffeine.

But it’s not perfect sleep or maybe not even the lack of it that is the real problem.

It’s fatigue from worry, frustration, anxiety, pressure.

One student recently ran a half marathon in the rain and recovered within hours because running is a way to let off steam not let it build up.

Sleep has to be a $100 billion business or the lack of it could be a reminder to let go of worry since 99% of what we worry about will never happen.

Defeating Negative Talk

For the last 18 months, experts have been predicting a recession.

The end of the world as we know it is waiting, if you believe it.

Here’s what I told my graduating students in this semester’s last class:

I would give up everything I have accomplished, all that I have earned and whatever reputation I may have attained to be you right now no matter how negative the news.


Because good things come from disruption – in industry, in society and just about everywhere else.

Disruption spawns new opportunity.

Think of it as a wonderful time to be living when there are so many problems to solve, traditions to be revised, businesses to be disrupted.

The negative news may be true, but it’s the beginning not the end and all of us, not just recent graduates need to hear it.

The New Socializing

I thought by assigning my students to work in small groups that they would break out of the post-covid malady of being estranged from each other.

So I assigned their final video projects in small groups.

What they didn’t do was meet in person – not one of the groups held in-person work sessions.  Instead they collaborated virtually.

We know it works but the assignment was designed to foster face-to-face interaction and socializing something they freely admit they want more of.

So, the professor learns the biggest lesson of all which is as much as I’ve talked about, been affected by and suffered its consequences we are still underestimating the lingering effects of covid.

People are willing, but the easy way on Zoom is still looming large.

It may take some time for to find the benefits of in-person socialization that we lost to the lockdown.

Smart Dumb Phones

I’ve heard students say that they want to spend less time using their phones citing all sorts of problems from lack of concentration to depression but I’ve seen little evidence of significant change.

And now this.

Dumb phones, the ones that make a call are coming back in the U.S. but not globally – why, we don’t quite know.

It’s driven by Gen Z that is tired of screens not just older people who can’t handle an iPhone.  Tens of thousands of flip phones are sold every month.

The hottest thing right now are phones from Punkt and Light for people who want to reduce their time on their phones and social media.

But Tristan Harris, a former Google code writer who has defected to the mental health side has a cheaper idea.

Create folders for apps that usurp your time and put them in a folder called Dark Hole (I have done this) so when you want to view TikTok as I do to keep up with music industry trends, I know before I go into the file and open the app that I am in a dark hole where I could stay for one to four hours a day as many Gen Zers do.  This is the warning and it works.

Phones get smarter when consumers get smarter which is to control the time on your phones not the phones controlling your life.

Being More Likeable

Young people especially are focused on fitting in, gaining the respect of others and appearing to be friendly – I see this all the time in classrooms.

The way to get there is not so much changing yourself or adapting to peer groups as much as it is something we rarely think about.

People judge you by the way you make them feel.

Not by how we feel or what we say or do to fit in.

Ironically Dale Carnegie who is now must reading in my college courses always said that the best conversationalist is the person who asks the most questions and does the least talking.

The human condition is that it is hard not to like someone who makes us feel good about who we are.

Passion Power

One of my music business students recently appeared on Good Day New York after a TikTok video she did blew up and attracted the attention of the New York Post.

In her TV interview, Mariel Darling was asked to give women advice about men after she took on the subject of being “zombied” (like being ghosted) as they went in and out of her life.

Here’s her advice which applies to lots of different relationships:

If someone cannot be passionate about what they want to do with their lives, they then cannot be passionate about people in their lives.

Pursue passion.

Here’s Mariel’s TV video and link to the New York Post article.


Deserving Forgiveness

One of the exercises we use in my stress class for music industry is to learn how to forgive keeping in mind that forgiving does not mean forgetting.

What seemed to irk my students is that some of the people they wanted to forgive didn’t deserve it.

But isn’t that exactly how it is?

Forgiveness is for the victim and my students shared with each other how hard this “stretching exercise” was for them, yes – even harder than giving up their phones and social media for a day.

When they reported back, some were elated that they could get this monkey off their back, others were hopeful that maybe their relationships could have a second chance and some did it but didn’t like it a bit.

One thought worth sharing is that the more we hold on to anger and hurt while not being able to forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it, the more we act like the perpetrator of our unhappiness toward them.

So as one student said, I feel free now with no expectations.

What a wonderful outcome worth emulating.

Hocus-pocus Focus

As a professor, this is what I hear a lot.

Thank you for making us turn our phones off.

That’s right.  You may find it hard to believe as I did (at first).

It makes it easier to focus.

It’s the one-time I can focus without distraction.

I do it for self-preservation because left to their own devices, it is almost impossible to keep the attention of students especially for almost two hours in class.

These comments are not only increasing with each semester but believe it or not, I never have to remind my students to turn their phones off after the first week or two – they do it automatically and without complaint (could they really like it, I wondered?).

Ok, there was one complaint – a student who kept getting text messages on her Apple Watch and finally succumbed.  She tried to defend it, but gave up because being texted constantly made her uncomfortable and unable to focus.  Even she didn’t buy her excuse for replying in class.

The definition of hocus-pocus, by the way, is meaningless talk or activity, often designed to draw attention away from and disguise what is actually happening.

Lesson learned:  if you help others focus, they will be grateful.