Holy Valentine! 41st Birthday Concert

Recently for my birthday, my wife and I performed love songs from my music catalog for all you romantics out there.

You can watch the concert from our livestream on Facebook.

Thanks to everyone who tuned in, made requests and shared the love on this very special Valentine’s Day.

Here was the setlist with some oldies, some recent songs from my last album, and two new tunes from my upcoming record, out later this year.

1. Saying Yes (2015)
2. Head Up, Heart Higher (2015)
3. Not Alone (2020)
4. Sweet Somethings (2012)
5. True Color of Royalty (2001)
6. The Carrier (2020)
7. On The Inside (2021)
8. Old Heart (2018)
9. Holy Valentine (2020)
10. Just Happy to Be Here (2021)

Pushing away the unexpected good

Along our hero’s journey, our story is constantly in flux.

New opportunities will flow to us from many unexpected directions, and our great joy along the way is the discovery, the turning of the unknown into the known.

This is about as human as people get. It’s no wonder the monomyth is the basic narrative structure found in books and film.

Chapelle delivers and inspiring monologue about the sheer unexpectedness of this journey in his most recent movie role:

You float out at sea, and one day you find a port say, I’m gonna stay here a few days. Few days become a few years. Then you forgot where you’re going in the first place. But you realize you don’t really give a shit about where you were going, because you like where you’re at.

Dave’s tale reminds me a lot of my own journey. Perhaps you can relate to this story.

Imagine extracting yourself from a life in which, by all outward measures, you were flourishing, flipping it upside down, leaving it all behind, and then precariously plunging into the abyss with no idea of where it might lead.

That’s basically what happened to me over the period of three years. Moving cities, changing careers, getting married, the whole thing was expensive, exhilarating and exhausting.

But the thing is, the hardest part about the whole adventure wasn’t the journey itself, but the acceptance that the journey was the perfect one for me.

That it was enough. That I was enough. That my life didn’t have to be loaded down with the heaviness of feeling so unworthy to be meaningful.

Talk about a skill nobody teaches you. How to relax and enjoy the view on those strange detours in your road?

Most people are not naturally good at that. Being present is too much work. Too much surrender. Too much faith. We’d rather be hung up on the memory of our imperfect past, or obsessed with the vision of our idealized future.

Anything to avoid staring the unexpected square in the face.

Of course, when we think back to the most memorable movies and books, the art that moved us to tears and made us feel something we didn’t know we had inside, odds are, it’s because of the surprise.

The turning of the unknown unto the known. The detour the hero’s story took that we didn’t see coming.

Perhaps it’s time for you to walk out beyond the light of the campfire and take the next step that will lead you on a new journey.

Are you pushing away unexpected good simply because you do not feel worthy of it?

Steer you toward your best self

We don’t need that many people to believe in us.

Even the smallest shred of encouragement or validation can create a burst of momentum that fuels us for months, years, or even an entire lifetime.

Hell, my whole career hinged upon a conversation with a stranger on a bus. One random guy believed in my idea of wearing a nametag every day, told his journalist wife to do a news story on it, and the vector of my existence changed forever.

That interaction happened to me twenty years ago, and since then, my sensitivity to and appreciation of the power of encouragement has skyrocketed.

Because it really only takes one. One person to steer us toward our best self. One person to give us with the validation for taking emotional risks. One person to assure us that we’re not crazy and who we are is necessary to the world.

Who in your life does that for you? Who believes in you more than you believe in yourself? Who knows the song of your heart and sings it back to you when you forget?

If nobody comes to mind, that’s not uncommon. Not everyone is lucky enough to have cheerleader.

In which case, try giving what you need. Going out of your way to really see people and reflect their greatness back to them and offer encouragement.

It costs nothing for you, but it might change everything for them. Even if they don’t notice or appreciate or receive our encouragement in the way we want them to, we still trust that our gifts are worth giving for their own sake.

Reminds me of something my grandpa likes to say:

It’s not what you have, it’s what you have given.

Meaning, behind each expression of gratitude is an act of generosity. Be thankful for the things you’ve received, but also be fulfilled that someone somewhere is giving thanks for the things they have received from you.

Both sides of this equation are what keep the gifts in motion.

Here’s another example. A coworker of mine recently told me that he was thankful to have finally met another person who was as positive as him.

Considering how much resistance my optimism has incited in people over the last few years, this simple word of encouragement was like a balm to my soul.

That small shred of validation gave me the momentum to keep going. To continue being my upbeat, earnest, smiling optimistic self, even though many people seem to be suspicious of something as guileless as a smile.

Who helps you stay centered in your best self as much as possible?

Doling out a finite amount of prosperity

Abundance is less about materiality and more about mindset.

It means that we believe that the future will be better than we think. It means that we trust that each year will be marked by new and enriching challenges and opportunities.

And it means that we will remain hopeful and optimistic despite obstacles, setbacks or even outright failure.

But this mindset cannot coexist with cynicism and negativity. If you’re someone who spends their time and energy questioning whether their opportunities will ever dry up, paranoid that the other shoe will fall, then that twinge of fear will have a contracting effect that narrows your field of vision.

If you’re someone who believes the universe is doling out a finite amount of prosperity, then it will be hard to grow beyond your limitations.

The good news is, abundance is something that’s available to all of us. We can all develop our opportunity agenda, our precious second order imagination, to notice the great prospects that surround us.

It’s simply a matter of perception. Changing the story we tell ourselves.

My therapist once told me that attitude doesn’t affect outcome, but it does affect experience. Meaning, being an optimist won’t increase our abundance, but it will increase our field of vision, which will allow us to better notice the opportunities that lead to abundance.

If we have a negative, fear based attitude about our work, our relationship, our battle with depression, then odds are, we won’t get better because we won’t do the necessary research on the resources that will make us better.

We will struggle to find the solution that leads to the solution.

Think about one of those procedural shows on network television. Before the detectives solve the big case, they always track down the mechanic who visited the prostitute who sold drugs to the landlord who used to share a prison cell with the former coworker of the serial killer.

Each of those individual people is the solution that leads to the solution. They’re all part of that abundant and expanded field of vision.

And so, it’s not about mind over matter, as the old cliché goes, it’s more about using our minds to allow more things to matter, so we can eventually bump into to the best solution.

Only by saying yes to ourselves, yes to others, and yes to life itself, will elements begin to shuffle themselves organically into patterns in accordance with abundance.

This is only the beginning. This is only the beginning.

Are you opening yourself to a world of options, or are you closing the door of opportunity on yourself?

Misery loves company, happiness creates isolation

There are some people who have chosen to let negative feelings occupy much of their hearts.

They appear to have an endless supply of reasons why each of their successes is really a failure. It seems that not even a whisper of positive emotion is flowing through their veins.

Have you met this person?

And the thing is, their attitude is not some freak accident. It’s powerful choice within their control. They could free themselves from the tyranny of pessimism if they really wanted to. Their toxic habit of worse case thinking that freezes them into inaction rather than searching for possibility, this could be broken.

But it rarely is. Mostly because of a lack of love.

That’s the misconception about optimism. Positive thinking fails with a lack of love underneath. You can think all the positive thoughts you want and recite all the mantras in the world, but if your foundation is insecure, if you don’t truly believe that you’re worthy of receiving good, then whatever you layer on top of it will eventually collapse.

This reality of human makes me sad. But then again, for the few of us optimists who are still kicking around, it’s not our responsibility to pull negative people out of that swamp. We can love and inspire them, but we can’t change or save them.

Nor should we surround ourselves with them. Quite the opposite, in fact. Because negativity can have the downward pull of quicksand. And if we’re not vigilant, if we can’t discern where we end and their misery begin, then we might get sucked down with them.

Or worse yet, become lonely in our optimism.

That’s the paradox nobody talks about. Since misery loves company, happiness creates isolation. It’s the strangest thing.

You do all this work to protect your positivity, you never stop looking for ways to enhance this unfolding moment, and it separates you from others.

Because most people are negative. What a cruel joke.

All the more reason to find others who thirst in their souls to feel something positive. All the more reason to stay close to those with the ability to hold and identify with images of a hopeful futures. God bless the optimists.

They keep you sane. They consciously reinterpret their situations in a positive light. They constantly create a sense of positive engagement with their world.

And they know how to turn perceived negative attribute of experiences into a more hopeful light.

Are you discerning enough not to linger in any negative place longer than necessary?

Filled with hope, fled out to afflict mankind

Optimists are the way we are because of several factors.

An inherited gene, a nurtured skill and a conscious choice.

The first factor is biological. Psychology professors reported that based on the variation of our brain’s oxytocin receptor, optimists have more positive responses to stress and greater esteem throughout their lives.

We can blame our parents for that one. Genes may not be destiny, but if our folks are optimists, then it’s likely our brains function the same way.

The second factor is environmental. Growing up with a supportive and nurturing childhood, having healthy and diverse relationships, these things also play a key role in the development of our psychological resources.

If we are someone who has hopefulness and confidence about the future, then it we were probably fortunate enough to have an upbringing that laid an optimistic foundation.

The thing about these first two factors, the biological and the environmental, is that they are completely out of our control. It’s a lottery. We can’t pick our parents. We can’t choose where we grow up.

It’s a pretty straightforward negotiation. You get what you get.

And yet, the last factor that determines our optimism is something that we can control, which is our conscious choice. Our attitude and mindset and the story we tell ourselves about how life is happening to us.

That’s what allows us to keep the flame of hope burning.

Because if we just lean on genetics and upbringing and expect hope to flow naturally and consistently, then disappointment won’t be far behind.

Optimism is a muscle. It takes daily practice and upkeep. And in a world trying its damnedest to beat that out of us, it’s no easy task.

When my wife and I moved to one of the biggest cities in the world, this piece about conscious choice came clear to us. Because where we live, most people don’t trust optimism.

Manhattan is eight million centers of the universe, all carrying around their own pessimism like a favorite toy. They’re constantly looking for proof that people are not fundamentally good, that this a hard time to be alive, and that the world is not okay.

And so, when they encounter someone who laughs easily and says yes to life and is always ready with encouragement and rarely in a personal crisis, then their envy takes the form of contempt and disgust.

Why are you so happy? What’s wrong with you?What’s your angle?

This brand of resistance can be confusing and disorienting to the optimist. It almost makes you feel bad for feeling good. Like there’s something wrong with you for smiling.

That’s where the piece about conscious choice comes into play. We can keep that flame of optimism burning, no matter how hard people try to blow it out.

We can be filled with hope, fled out to afflict mankind, envisioning a world where cynicism and irony are nowhere within earshot, if we really want to. It just might take more effort that we’re used to.

Here’s a song I wrote about this called Two Lights.

How will you balm the burden of being surrounded by people who can’t take yes for an answer?

Being of service to those who inhabit our lands

Our job as as employees is to create marketing campaigns for each other.

To be responsive to the requests of team members by honoring what they would like, as opposed to what we think they need.

In a world where marketing has degenerated into consumer trickery, not to mention a world where meaning is made, not found, the idea of actually being of service to the people who inhabit our workspace, it’s not a bad strategy for keeping the darkness at bay.

Now, if this isn’t something you’ve thought much about before, you’re not alone. Most people think marketing is just telling and selling. Which it is, but the intention and attention behind that ethos is in desperate need of an upgrade.

Here’s a list of several internal marketing thought starters. These have been personally helpful for me in reframing my own work, and perhaps they might inspire you as well.

How do you show up for people in a way that lets them keep going?

How do you create the tension that leads to people’s forward motion?

How will your faith in your people disprove their sense of limitation?

Why do people love themselves more because they’re connected to you?

In short, how do you help become better versions of themselves?

Questions like these are quite a bit grandiose and hyperbolic, but that’s the point. We’re talking about human potential here.

If it’s true that marketing really is the quest to make change, then our thinking can’t afford to be small. Besides, it’s not like we’re being completely altruistic in our work endeavors.

Anytime we are there for another, we become more of who we are too.

Marketing is a reciprocal construct. 

Which of your team’s gifts have no yet been employed to any useful purpose?

The ripple of unintended effects on our psyche

Solitary confinement is considered the worst possible punishment in maximum security prisons.

Multiple psychiatry journals have proven that getting thrown in the hole can cause an array of mental disorders, as well as provoke an already existing mental disorder in a prisoner, causing more trauma and symptoms than criminals would have experienced in general population.

In short, people would rather hang out with rapists, drug dealers and murderers than be alone.

Because they know, somewhere deep inside their bones, that social isolation creates a ripple of unintended effects on the psyche.

Human beings are not built to be by themselves for extended periods of time. Loneliness truly is the most common ailment of the modern world.

Now, the argument against this is that when you’re alone, nobody can hurt you. Which is absolutely true. But it’s only true to the extent that you can’t hurt yourself. And all of us can hurt ourselves. Hell, most wounds are self inflicted.

Perhaps, then, it’s a question of which pain is worse. Because it’s going to hurt no matter what.

Seinfeld once said that our blessing in life is when we find the torture we’re comfortable with.

So which would we rather have? The pain of numbness that comes from isolating ourselves, or the pain of vulnerability that comes from extending ourselves?

Think of it like the difference between improv comedy and standup comedy. Impov is about saying yes and supporting the team and playing well with others. Standup is about putting people down and being independent and doing whatever you want in spite of others.

Both are risky, both are difficult. But the funny thing is, you rarely hear stories about the improv comedy team that was found dead in a hotel room because of a drug overdose and depression related suicide. That mostly happens to standups.

Because their career is the equivalent of solitary confinement with one hour of sunlight a day.

Look, life is hard no matter what. But we can’t carry the difficulty on our own, and being alone in it will only intensify it.

Isolation is a terrible punishment that you inflict on yourself. Reach out before the ripple of unintended effects takes your psyche down a path from which there is no coming back.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without leaving the house?

Making compassionate room in ourselves

If someone is doing something shitty to us, that’s not an attack, that’s an echo.

When people behave angrily and disrespectfully, it’s not because they are crazy, it’s not because they are a machine with broken parts, it’s because they are a human being with unmet needs. Plain and simple.

And while it is not our responsibility to meet those needs, it is our opportunity to be aware of them. Doing so likely won’t change anything inside of that person, but it will shift something inside of us.

That can only make the world a better place. By learning to look more compassionately and evenly at people’s actions, it softens our heart like a meat tenderizer. And that muscle of forgiveness becomes useful in all of our dealings with people, most notably, how we relate to ourselves.

Masters writes about this in his book on modern manhood. He says that if we can make compassionate room in ourselves for such expression from the other, their irrationality and faulty logic won’t matter so much, and will usually recede quite quickly once they feel we are emotionally there with them.

What helps you look more compassionately and evenly at how people behave? How do you a build a sense of safety in yourself when faced with difficult emotions of those around you?

If another person’s irate outburst seems dramatically disproportionate to the moment at hand, the monk inside my head often thinks, wow, this person doesn’t feel seen and heard, and they deeply need the oxygen of love right now.

How that love is expressed depends largely on the person and the circumstance. But frankly, how it’s delivered is less important than the fact that it’s delivered.

The goal is to come from a place of understanding and appreciation, rather than judgment and distrust.

Even if people still act pissed and rude, at least you’ll know that you’ve responded with heart. 

How do you make compassionate room in yourself for expression from the other?

People are afraid they will lose their edge

My friend likes to joke with me that inside her head, she actually sounds organized.

Meanwhile, the desktop of her computer looks like a field of golf balls at the driving range, and her inbox has thousands of unread messages from more than two years ago.

This reinforces my theory that some people are disorganized because of ego. They believe the left brain path of organization is at odds with the right brain path of freedom.

And since it’s been so successful for them thus far, they shame themselves out of being meticulous because they think it will kill their creative urge and ruin their street credibility. They will lose their edge.

Have you ever met someone like this? Suspicious of anything that looks or sounds systematized? Superstitious about their precious clutter because they think it brings them good luck?

It’s not charming, it’s ego.

Here’s the thing. Just because one habit has been heroic in the past doesn’t mean it will be helpful in the future. In fact, it might be preventing us from working effectively.

Gross says it best in my favorite book about reinvention. She explains that we all have this thing called our winning strategy, which is our lifelong, unconscious formula for achieving success. We did not design it, it designed us. It may be the source of our success, but it’s also the source of our limitations. And if we’re too reliant on it, we won’t evolve.

Which brings us back to my disorganized friend. She’s not going to clear her desktop, and she’s not going to purge her inbox, because that’s her winning strategy. It’s just useful enough not to be a threat. It’s just true enough not to be a lie.

Naturally, my biased opinion is that everyone needs to become less of a spontaneous phenomenon and more of an organized system. Hell, I built an entire software platform called Prolific, with 300+ tools to do just that.

I believe everyone needs to turn fragmented chaos into more coherent structures, if only to make life less stressful.

What new habit would feel radically disruptive and contrary to how you’ve organized yourself?

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