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the black keys “in time”

new song from the black keys.  lead singer dan auerbach croons about relationship issues over a danger mouse-produced track that bounces.  you can find “in time” on the band’s 8th studio album turn bluewhich is in stores/online now.

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06/02/14

sam smith “lay me down”

after hearing sam smith sing for only a minute, one would be hard-pressed to ignore his sweet-to-the-ears talent.  what i’m most impressed by however is the vocal control/poise he shows for anybody, much less a 22-year-old.

listen to his song “lay me down” and let me know if you think there’s a singer out there better than this guy.  to hear more from smith, get his debut album in the lonely hour (drops in the uk may 26th; june 17th stateside).

related: sam smith performing on snl 3/30/14

05/23/14

to my oldest friend, whose silence is like a death

05/08/14 1 Comment

The act of putting our losses into words and letting the world eavesdrop seems some sort of consolation, or at least an acknowledgement that we all suffer such losses.

in the poem below, lloyd schwartz lets the world eavesdrop on him losing a friend (note how he does it in a way that’s unique/personal to him yet still relatable to others).  share your reactions to the poem + similar experiences in the comments.  via poets.org:

To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like a Death 
by Lloyd Schwartz

In today’s paper, a story about our high school drama
teacher evicted from his Carnegie Hall rooftop apartment

made me ache to call you–the only person I know
who’d still remember his talent, his good looks, his self-

absorption. We’d laugh (at what haven’t we laughed?), then
not laugh, wondering what became of him. But I can’t call,

because I don’t know what became of you.

–After sixty years, with no explanation, you’re suddenly
not there. Gone. Phone disconnected. I was afraid

you might be dead. But you’re not dead.

You’ve left, your landlord says. He has your new unlisted
number but insists on “respecting your privacy.” I located

your oldest son, who refuses to tell me anything except that
you’re alive and not ill. Your ex-wife ignores my letters.

What’s happened? Are you in trouble? Something
you’ve done? Something I’ve done?

We used to tell each other everything: our automatic
reference points to childhood pranks, secret codes,

and sexual experiments. How many decades since we started
singing each other “Happy Birthday” every birthday?

(Your last uninhibited rendition is still on my voice mail.)

How often have we exchanged our mutual gratitude–the easy
unthinking kindnesses of long friendship.

This mysterious silence isn’t kind. It keeps me
up at night, bewildered, at some “stage” of grief.

Would your actual death be easier to bear?

I crave your laugh, your quirky takes, your latest
comedy of errors. “When one’s friends hate each other,”

Pound wrote near the end of his life, “how can there be
peace in the world?” We loved each other. Why why why

am I dead to you?

Our birthdays are looming. The older I get, the less and less
I understand this world,

and the people in it.

related: gotye “somebody that i used to know” | 8 ways to let go | love and loss

pharrell williams “lost queen”

with his new album g i r l, pharrell follows the lively tone set by his oscar-nominated single “happy”.  the project isn’t perfect (corny and forced in spots).  however, it’s sprinkled with enough refreshing sounds/songs to make it worth a listen. one of those moments for me is “lost queen”, which takes you on two different vibes with a literal trip to the beach in between.  check it out, and if so inclined, stream the full album here via itunes radio.

02/26/14

ten gifts you deserve to give yourself

12/29/13 1 Comment

10-gifts-yourself

another great piece by marc of marc & angel hack life:

1.  An open mind in full acceptance of life’s changes.

You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago.  You’re always growing.  Experiences don’t stop.  That’s life.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that aren’t meant to stay.  Sometimes the changes we don’t want are the changes we need to grow.  Growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.  The bottom line is that you can’t reach for anything new if you’re holding onto yesterday.  You may think holding on makes you strong, but often it is letting go and starting anew in the present.

2.  A meaningful path and purpose.

If your life is going to mean anything, you have to live it yourself.  You have to choose the path that feels right to YOU, not the one that looks right to everyone else.  It’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb, than the top of the one you don’t.  So don’t wait until you’re halfway up the wrong ladder to listen to your intuition.  Every morning, ask yourself what is really important, and then find the courage, wisdom and willpower to build your day around your answer.

In the end, it’s not what you say, but how you spend your time that counts.  If you want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  The time to do what truly matters.

Identify what’s most important to you.  Prune nonessential commitments.  Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.  No wasted time, no fluff, no regrets.

The mark of a successful person is the ability to set aside the “somewhat important” things in order to accomplish the vital ones first.  When you’re crystal clear about your priorities, you can painlessly arrange them in the right order and discard the activities and commitments that do not support the ones at the top of your list.

4.  The space to BE, without needless worry.

If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it.  Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential.  Stop over-thinking everything.  Life is too short.

Your biggest limitations are the ones you make up in your mind.  The biggest causes of your unhappiness are the false beliefs you refuse to let go of.  You are capable of far more than you are presently thinking, imagining, doing or being.  You will, however, become what you habitually contemplate, so clear your mind and let your hopes, not your fears, shape your future.  How?  Meditate.  Run.  Set your mind free.

5.  Permission to be imperfect as you grow.

You may not be where you want to be yet, but if you think about it, you’re no longer where you once were either.  You have good reason to believe that you can trust yourself going forward.  Not because you’ve always made the right choices, but because you survived the bad ones, and taken small steps in the right direction.

Focus on the right things and just do the best you can.  Don’t allow yourself to be crippled by stress and self-loathing.  Everything is only as it is.  There’s no reason to let it destroy you.  Breathe.  Let every moment be what it’s going to be.  What’s meant to be will come your way, what’s not will fall away.  And remember that a great gift may not always be wrapped as you expect.  (Read The Last Lecture.)

6.  Reassurance of being ENOUGH.

Tell yourself, “I am ENOUGH.”  Accept your flaws.  Admit your mistakes.  Don’t hide and don’t lie.  Deal with the truth, learn the lessons, endure the consequences of reality, and move on.  Your truth won’t penalize you.  The mistakes won’t hurt you. The denial and cover-up will.  Flawed and vulnerable people are beautiful and likable.  Liars and phonies are not.  Every beautiful human being is made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions and finished with unique edges.

You are YOU for a reason.  Ignore the distractions.  Listen to your own inner voice.  Mind your own business.  Keep your best wishes and your biggest goals close to your heart and dedicate time to them every day.  Don’t be scared to walk alone, and don’t be scared to enjoy it.  Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, drama, or negativity derail you from your truth.

7.  The right relationships.

Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them.  You have to figure out who’s worth your attention and who’s just taking advantage of you.  If your time and energy is misspent on the wrong relationships, or on too many activities that force you to neglect your good relationships, you can end up in a tedious cycle of fleeting friendships, superficial romances that are as thrilling as they are meaningless, and a general sense of wondering why you always seem to be running in place, chasing affection.

Choose yourself rather than settle for those who treat you as ordinary.  YOU certainly aren’t.  Never settle for being someone’s “option” when you have the potential to be someone’s “first choice.”  You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with.  If you hang with the wrong people, they will bring you down, but if you hang with the right people, they will help you grow into your best self.  The RIGHT people for you will love all the things about you that the WRONG people are intimidated by – that’s what you need to look out for.

8.  Self-education.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”  Life is a book and those who do not educate themselves read only a few pages.  When you know better you live better.  Period.

All education is self-education.  It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop.  We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.  Those who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own time are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.  Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.  Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

9.  A chance to touch your dreams.

Everyone dreams, but not equally.  Too many people dream only at night in the quiet of their own minds, and then awake to find it was all an illusion.  Don’t be one of them.  Dream by the day instead.  Be one of the people who dream with their eyes wide open, and who works to make them come true.

Rest when you are tired, but don’t give up.  You never know what’s just around the corner.  It could be everything you’ve been working for, or it might be just another mile marker on your journey.  Either way, when you keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day the next step you take will be the one that carries you to your goal.  (Read Tuesdays with Morrie.)

10.  The freedom to express your whole truth.

The greatest and most gratifying experiences in life cannot be seen or touched.  They must be felt with the heart from the inside out.  There’s nothing more inspiring than the complexity and beauty of human, heartfelt feelings.  Sadly though, many people let the fear of judgment numb and silence them.  Their deepest thoughts and feelings often go unspoken, and thus barely understood.

Do NOT let people invalidate or minimize how you feel.  If you feel something, you feel it and it’s real to you. Nothing anyone says has the power to invalidate that, ever.  No one else lives in your body, or sees life through your eyes.  No one else has lived through your exact experiences.  And so, no one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel.  Your feelings are important.  Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.

related: 7 questions you are too scared to ask | 7 reasons why you’re not maxing out your potential

warsan shire “for women who are difficult to love”

10/14/13 1 Comment

warsan_shire

one thing i love about warsan shire is her ability to tap into thoughts/emotions in a way that’s simultaneously fresh and familiar.  get a glimpse of what i mean in her poem below, directed at women who are “difficult to love.”  for more from the kenya born-uk raised poet, check out her book teaching my mother how to give birth:

for women who are difficult to love
warsan shire

you are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
prettier
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him traveling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love

bonus: here’s a video inspired by warsan’s poem, made by andrea cortes-juarbe & christine mehr (via mona).

related: j. cole “crooked smile” | not doing something wrong isn’t the same as doing something right

john legend “for the first time”

in a recent interview with xxl mag, john legend said that his new album love in the future is “his best album yet.”  while that’s something artists usually say near an album release date, i not only agree with him, but would also say that it’s the best album i’ve heard so far this year.

with kanye, dave tozer & legend taking the executive producer lead, john’s exquisite voice finds a home over production that you can tell was formed with painstaking care.  maybe the only bad thing about the 20-track project is that the interludes tease you and leave you wishing that they were stretched into full songs.  the album’s really that good.

but you don’t have to take my word for it.  give a listen to one of the bonus tracks, “for the first time” and let me know what you think.  you can also buy the full album here.

previously: video: john legend @ kean commencement 2011

09/06/13

7 questions you are too scared to ask

08/20/13 1 Comment

7-questions-scared

introspection can be a scary thing sometimes.  people are afraid of what they’ll find in their subconscious.  other times, we know our problems (maybe even the answers) but it’s easier to not think about them.  whatever the reasoning, it’s always best to work out our difficulties in order to progress.

marc chernoff of marc and angel hack life poses some great questions to help us assess where we are right now and what we can do to move forward.  check them out below:

1.  Based on my daily routines and actions, where can I expect to be in five years?

This is your life story and you are the only author.  If you’re feeling like you’ve been stuck in the same setting for too long, it’s time to start writing a new chapter of your life.  The plot structure is simple:  Doing nothing gets you nothing.  Doing the wrong things gets you the wrong things.  Doing the same things gets you the same things.  Your story only changes when you make changes.

If you have an idea about what you want the next chapter of your life to look like, you have to DO things that support this idea.  An idea, after all, isn’t going to do anything for you until you do something productive with it.  In fact, as long as that great idea is just sitting around in your head it’s probably doing far more harm than good.

Your subconscious mind knows you’re procrastinating on something that’s important to you.  The necessary work that you keep postponing causes stress, anxiety, fear, and usually more procrastination – a vicious cycle that continues to worsen until you interrupt it with ACTION.

Progress in life is always measured by the fact that you’ve taken new action.  If there’s no new action, you haven’t truly made any progress.

2.  Are the people around me helping me or hurting me?

A big part of who you become in life has to do with who you choose to surround yourself with.  And as you know, it is better to be alone than in bad company.  You simply cannot expect to live a positive, fulfilling life if you surround yourself with negative people.

Distancing yourself from these people is never easy, but it’s a lot harder when they happen to be close friends or family members.  As hard as it may be, it’s something you need to address.  To a certain degree, luck controls who walks into your life, especially as it relates to your family and childhood friends, but you decide who you spend the majority of your time with.

If someone close to you is truly draining you, be honest about it.  Be kind, but communicate your point of view.  Tell them you love them, and that you want to be around them, but you need their help.  Remember, most problems, big and small, within a family and close friends, start with bad communication.  If this other person is draining you, and you haven’t talked about it, they may not even know.

At the end of the day, you should surround yourself with people who make you a better person and distance yourself those who don’t.  (Read The How of Happiness.)

3.  How have I been draining my own happiness?

In life, you become what you repeatedly think about.  If your thoughts and behaviors aren’t helping you, they’re hurting you.  Other people and outside events can influence you, but happiness is ultimately an inside job.  You have to disconnect external influences and achievements from happiness and give yourself permission to be happy, in each moment, without the need for anything more.

This isn’t to say that you should be complacent.  You can still set goals, work hard, interact with others, and grow, but you must learn to indulge joyously in the journey, not the destination.

What you need to realize is that all you ever truly have are your thoughts towards the present moment.  Every moment is very similar; the details are just details.  If you say something like, “If I had more than what I have now, I would be happier,” you are sadly mistaken.  Because if you are not at all happy with what you have now, you will not be any happier if it were doubled.  It’s just more of the same.

The bottom line is that you have everything you need to be happy or unhappy right now.  It just depends on how you think about it.  Will you be grateful for what you have, and find joy in it?  Or will concentrate on what you don’t have, and never, ever feel like you have enough?  The choice is yours to make.

4.  What excuses am I making?

As George Washington once said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

Truth be told, if you are good at making excuses, you will never be good at anything else.  No matter what the obstacles are that you see in front of you, the only thing truly standing between you and what you want is the excuse you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.

When something is a priority, it gets done.  Period.  And it’s not what we claim are our priorities, but how we spend our time each day that reveals the truth.  You can make excuses.  You can always try to wait for the perfect moment, the perfect this, the perfect that… but it won’t get you anywhere.

To get where you want to go you just have to start DOING.  It makes all the difference.  Making excuses takes the same amount of time as making progress.  (Read The Power of Habit.)

5.  What mistakes do I fear most?

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

When you find your path, and you know what needs to be done, you must not be scared.  You need to find the courage to make mistakes.  Mistakes lead to disappointments and defeat in the short term, but they also teach you what you need to know in the long-term.  Mistakes are the tools life uses to show you the way forward.

Someday when you look back over your life you’ll realize that nearly all of your worries and anxious fears never came to fruition – they were completely unfounded.  So why not wake up and realize this right now.  When you look back over the last few years, how many opportunities for joy did you destroy with needless fear about making a mistake?  Although there’s nothing you can do about these lost joys, there’s plenty you can do about the ones that are still to come.

6.  How have past rejections lowered my self-confidence?

NOT believing that you CAN is the biggest trap of them all.  If you don’t know your own greatness is possible, you won’t bother attempting anything great.  Period.

All too often we let the rejections of our past dictate every move we make thereafter.  We literally do not know ourselves to be any better than what some opinionated person or narrow circumstance once told us was true.  Of course, this old rejection doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough; it means the other person or circumstance failed to align with what we have to offer.  It means we have more time to improve our thing – to build upon our ideas, to perfect our craft, and indulge deeper in to the work that moves us

Don’t let old rejections take up permanent residence in your head.  Kick them out on the street.  Realize that you sometimes you have to try to do what you think you can’t do, so you realize that you actually CAN.  And sometimes it takes more than one attempt.  If ‘Plan A’ doesn’t work out, don’t fret; the alphabet has another 25 letters that would be happy to give you a chance to get it right.  The wrong choices usually bring us to the right places, eventually.  You just have to believe in your own potential to get there.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” and “Relationships” chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

7.  When did my life fall so far out of balance?

Be diligent and committed to what you’re trying to achieve, but also make sure you leave time for pleasure and exploration in other areas of your life as well.  It is not enough to succeed at one specific goal or to conquer one particular area of expertise; you also have to take part in the different, beautiful dimensions of your life… while you can, while there’s still time.

Lift your head up from your work every now and then and take a long walk, hold hands with your beloved, go fishing, spend time with your friends, swim, bask in the sunlight, try something new, meditate, breathe deep, or sit quietly for a while and contemplate the goodness around you.

In other words, balance yourself – work diligently toward your goals and dreams, but don’t ignore every other aspect of your life.  Keep your mind fresh, your body active and alive, and your relationships nurtured.  Do so, and the things you want most in life will come more naturally.

Afterthoughts

Life is filled with unanswered questions, but it is the courage to ask enough of the right ones that ultimately leads you to an understanding of yourself and your purpose.

You can spend your life wallowing in fear by avoiding the obvious, or asking negative questions like, “Why me?”  Or you can be grateful that you’ve made it this far – that you’re strong enough to breathe, walk and think for yourself – and then ask, “Where do I want to go next?”

Your turn…

We would love to hear your perspective.  Please pick one or more of the seven questions above and leave a comment below with your answer.

related: 7 reasons why you’re not maxing out your potential

how to fight racial bias when it’s silent and subtle

podcast above hosted by rene montagne & david greene; accompanying article below written by shankar vedantam. both via npr:

In the popular imagination and in conventional discourse — especially in the context of highly charged news events such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin — prejudice is all about hatred and animosity.

Scientists agree there’s little doubt that hate-filled racism is real, but a growing body of social science research suggests that racial disparities and other biased outcomes in the criminal justice system, in medicine and in professional settings can be explained by unconscious attitudes and stereotypes.

Subtle biases are linked to police cadets being more likely to shoot unarmed black men than they are unarmed white men. (Some academics have also linked the research into unconscious bias to the Trayvon Martin case.)

Calvin Lai and Brian Nosek at the University of Virginia recently challenged scientists to come up with ways to ameliorate such biases. The idea, said Harvard University psychologist Mahzarin Banaji, one of the researchers, was to evaluate whether there were rapid-fire ways to disable stereotypes. Groups of scientists “raced” one another to see if their favorite techniques worked. All the scientists focused on reducing unconscious racial bias against blacks.

“Within five minutes, you have to do something to somebody’s mind so that at the end of those five minutes you will now show a lower association of black with bad. And so this was run really like a competition to see which ones of them might work to reduce race bias and which ones don’t,” Banaji said.

The results were as surprising for what they didn’t find as for what they did. Teaching people about the injustice of discrimination or asking them to be empathetic toward others was ineffective. What worked, at least temporarily, Banaji said, was providing volunteers with “counterstereotypical” messages.

“People were shown images or words or phrases that in some way bucked the trend of what we end up seeing in our culture,” she said. “So if black and bad have been repeatedly associated in our society, then in this intervention, the opposite association was made.”

Banaji, who has been a pioneer in studying unconscious biases, said she has taken such results to heart and tried to find ways to expose herself to counterstereotypical messages, as a way to limit her own unconscious biases.

One image in particular, she said, has had an especially powerful effect: “My favorite example is a picture of a woman who is clearly a construction worker wearing a hard hat, but she is breast-feeding her baby at lunchtime, and that image pulls my expectations in so many different directions that it was my feeling that seeing something like that would also allow me in other contexts to perhaps have an open mind about new ideas that might come from people who are not traditionally the ones I hear from.”

related: the hunted and the hated: a look at the nypd’s stop-and-frisk policy

07/21/13 1 Comment

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