Happy Meal #3: Food For Thought With Music

For many people like me, music and a good meal among favorite people are sources of happiness.  Put them together for a special recipe of happiness.  Enjoy the third installment of a five course happy meal, with music.

Appetizer:  “Feel Alright” by Steve Earle.  Good Americana style song about a guy who has been good and bad, but chooses to “feel alright.”  Good music and interesting lyrics.  An appetizer to get things off to a good start.

Pasta Course:  “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Sometimes you figure out that what you’ve left behind was much better than you had thought.  You can keep searching for something better like an “acre of diamonds” and suddenly you realize that the gems are what you’ve had all along.  It’s the pasta course because it seems so good, it seems like never enough, and leaves you wanting something even more.

Salad:  “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve.  I love this song but the message is analogous to salad.  Often bitter, the part that most people really don’t want, but you know it’s good for you.  The song speaks to the difficulties of life and overcoming them so you can get to a place you really long to be.  At the table, it’s the entree, in life it’s simple happy pursuits.

Entree:  “Feelin’ Good Again” by Robert Earl Keen.  This is another great America story.  The lyrics tell the tale of a guy whose happiness is truly connected to life’s moments.  He enters the bar and sees the folks he wants to be around, finds seventy bucks in his pocket to share a round of cocktails, then his wish is granted when he sees the face of his greatest love.  He’s feelin’ good in the moment.  Many such moments added together make a happy life. 

Dessert: “Sinnerman” by Hot Since ’82/Ed Graves.  Maybe it’s too obvious, but over-indulgence is associated with dessert so I took the bait here.  Happiness often is sought by choosing perceived “happiness substitutes” like sugar, alcohol, drugs, lavish vacations and certain rushes or vices.  Like dessert, they are pleasures that last only for the moment.  Happiness comes from the total of all things sweet in life and not a quick fix or sugar high.


Revisiting A Sound Body

Below is a re-post of “Sound Body, Sound Mind & Happy Soul” in support of my personal fitness story I call “Men Don’t Wear Bras”

The link to my new handbook can be found here:  


“A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world”~John Locke

Mind, body and spirit are often considered together and associated with the road to happiness.  John Locke’s quote evidences the contemplated relationship between the physical, mental and spiritual contributors to our being.  He also understood how pursuit of happiness is inextricably intertwined with personal liberty.  Happiness is a big deal in the larger context of life.  However, all too often, happiness and its pursuit are only considered in the context of one’s mood or disposition.  Such a narrow vision of happiness is self-limiting and unlikely to lead one in pursuit of happiness at all.  There is more to the journey and the starting point may be far from where most think it begins.

To pursue happiness, one must first become sound of body; then, the mind and spirit will follow.  Seem like a strange approach?  Perhaps, but a different approach often seems strange.  The fact that the idea seems strange or different is the reason why so many fall short of the happiness mark.  We’ve become more and more accustomed to achievement through “education” or “intelligence” or “finding ourselves” rather than taking action to improve ourselves.  Taking action to exercise is as simple as going for a walk, picking a healthy food as opposed to sugar, or spending thirty minutes lifting weights instead of thirty minutes on Facebook.  Sometimes the easiest path is the path not taken, perhaps because it just seems too easy.  It is.

There are several reasons why the body comes first and should come first.  First, we are visual people.  We evaluate everyone we see “at first sight” including ourselves.  Look in the mirror—does that image make you think, “I am happy?”  If yes, great because you are ready to move on.  If not, then you already have all the information and incentive you need to act.  Get a plan and improve yourself to the perfect body you were gifted at birth.  Second, think of the ol’ saying “if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.”  Your health or lack thereof is your body.  If you want to have something that lasts then you must work yourself away from the nothing that ill health brings.  Getting your body right starts you on the path to getting the rest right as well.  Third, you have a moral obligation to yourself and to those you love to be your best.  Being your best makes them want to be their best right back.  Getting yourself on track, helping those you care about to get on track by advancing your life and pursuit of happiness all at the same time.

A sound body is key to a sound mind.  The mind is too often occupied by worry of ill health or self-deprecating thoughts related to weight or other issues.  Poor physical health and appearance have created innumerable cliques, divided people socially and caused endless mental suffering for those who have been ridiculed or even ostracized.  The number of such casualties is countless yet their suffering fades away into the fog of time without intervention.  The knee-jerk response to those of unsound body, whether ourself or another, is to reassure with “you look fine” or “you’re not over weight” and so on.  The current mindset that it is okay to be obese has complicated the issue further by accepting failure as the new normal.  Assuring others that it is okay to be of unsound body ensures that they will be of unsound mind and spirit as well.  That is right where the unhappy want you—within their ranks.  

Pursing the happiness created by pursuing a sound body through action right NOW changes your life.  Lying to others, or worse, to yourself by accepting anything less than a fit body is choosing to be unhappy.  Make a change.  Exercise your pursuit of happiness and get fit.  The others will follow as Locke recognized.

Gratitude Accelerates Success

Be grateful every day.  Say so every day.  But remember that saying so does not mean that you are satisfied where you are.  Gratitude is not satisfaction.  Gratitude is a springboard to abundance and a tool to be used every day to advance in life.

Too often, as we pursue our passions, there are parachutes that slow or stifle our acceleration.  Picture the dragster explode off the line with so much energy only to have a chute stop its advancement at a quarter mile.  Others express their opinions that “you should be happy where you are” or “that’s too risky” or “that isn’t a job; it’s a hobby.”  Remove these chutes and continue with all due speed.  Do not let even the impression that you are grateful and happy invoke thoughts of staying put or remain idle.

Expressing your gratitude for what you have each morning and again each night is the throttle not the brake.  It acts as a thank you to a higher power and your higher self for your accomplishments.  Gratitude should never be confused with satisfaction or contentment.  Being grateful is the green light to start the next race.  More wins in racing bring more sponsors, more money prizes and more fans.  More wins in business bring more clients, more income and a reputation for good work.  More wins in relationships bring more love, more respect and more mutual advancement.

Be grateful to accelerate every aspect of your life.  Fold up the parachute and put it away.  You will be the dragster that just keeps on going.


The Mirage is Actually Concrete

Recall riding in the car on sunny day.  As you stare out into the distance a hazy shadow of the trees along the roadside appears on the pavement ahead.  Just seconds before it is swallowed up, the shadow leaps forward to avoid capture.  The whole process keeps repeating as long as you remain focused on the road ahead.  The mirage is an elusive fellow.

In reality, the mirage isn’t really elusive at all.  The mirage is a vision and vision leads to action and accomplishment.  The mirage is happiness and happiness only comes from the constant forward pursuit.  The location of the vision is reached every time, but life and the road we travel doesn’t end just because we reach a single, concrete goal.  If we stop when we reach a single vision, life stops and stagnates while the rest of the cars pass us by.

Each mirage is a concrete segment along the road of life.  As each is reached we get a bit closer to the destination.  Each pursuit is a small act seeking happiness.  As we add up the infinite pursuits, we get closer and closer to the seemingly elusive mirage called happiness.  Happiness becomes concrete only when we turn our vision into actions keep the journey moving forward.


Happy Acts in Mysterious Ways

Several months into a pandemic and things keep getting better.  You are not going to hear that virtually anywhere else.  Why?  The unhappy deathly fear happiness.

If you would like a true update on COVID 19, look no further.  Happiness is not pleasure and it is not short term joy.  Happiness is an end and only comes from many, many pursuits that all add up to the end point.  In short, you have to act, not just dream. COVID 19 fear or displeasure is merely a momentary snapshot in time for happy people; it is THE END for the unhappy and serves to hold them in a static state of perpetual negativity.  They love it and they will exploit it as long as unhappily possible.

Here’s where the happiness is now.

Time—the stay at home orders, the work at home time and lack of hectic mornings, long commutes and the trappings of being servants to the “grind” are gone for so many.  Now, we may work efficiently, be more relaxed and focus on the job at hand.  We have time for happy-pursuing hobbies, side hustle work and some quiet, peaceful reflection.  Control over time promotes happiness.  The unhappy dread individual control of their own destiny because it portends responsibility.  Only happy people are responsible for their own actions.

Family matters—More time at home means more time and focus on family.  Kids are home, mom & dad (hopefully and ideally) are at home and relationships cannot help but get closer.  The grind of travel sports, all-night homework and scattered meal times have morphed into everyone at the dinner table, family movie nights, altogether walks in the neighborhood and maybe even dusting off the bicycles.  There are countless stories out there right now of moms who have rediscovered their purpose.  That may be the best result of all from this so-called crisis.

Fitness—if you’re not getting healthier and more fit during this time gifted time, then you’re not trying to be happier.  There is nothing good about obesity and ill health no matter how many self esteem books you read.  Happiness of body brings happiness of mind.  The latter does not EVER come without the former though most people think the opposite.  There are mirrors, flights of stairs, elbows brushing against love handles and myriad other reminders of an unfit body.  COVID has provided the time but you must act and make the effort.

Unplugging from the unwanted—COVID has also provided the perfect opportunity to cut ties and disconnect from the toxic people who have done nothing to make our lives better.  The gossips at work, the envious friend, the over-bearing relative, or the over zealous client.  Ridding your life of negative, unhappy people makes pursuit of happiness more possible and leads to a happier life.

Folks often say God works in mysterious ways.  So He does and we may witnessing a profound irony.  What the unhappy thought would help their cause of spreading unhappiness will actually do the opposite as we continue to get better and better day by day.


A Little Pruning Goes a Long Way

If you enjoy summer flowers, you’ve probably had petunias growing in your yard or in hanging pots at some point in your life.  Grandmas always seem to especially like them perhaps because they tell us a lot about wisdom that is acquired over our lifetime.  You see, petunias are colorful, vibrant flowers that grow like crazy as long as they are given the right attention.  They will thrive in full sun and will also do very well in the shade.  In short, they are a lot like people.  People can find happiness in almost any conditions as well, but they have to give themselves the right attention.

The key to petunias is not just some water and some sunshine.  The key to a beautiful, overflowing basket that exudes life is pruning.  No special tools are needed, just a bit of attention.  Petunias’ flowers shrivel and become discolored after several days and must be plucked to make room for new and even more vibrant blooms.  As the wilting, tired flowers are removed, so the plant is given the lifeblood to advance forward in its purpose—to bring joy to those who look at them and care for them.

Such is life.  Take a few moments every week or so and prune the tired and wilted vestiges from your life.  Examine your life and make choices to cut yourself loose from bad memories of the past, people who do not support and advance you, a job that is a dead end, or fears that have kept you from pursuing happiness in your life.  Pruning away the negative in your life makes room for more good things to take their place.  Life is advancement.  We cannot advance when we cling to ideas that weigh us down.  It’s time for growth.


Happy Meal Part 2: Happiness Paired With Song

Course 1:  Gratitude—Acres of Diamonds is a wonderful story of appreciation and gratitude.  Show appreciation for where you are right now and gratitude for what you have in your life at this moment.  Daily thoughts of gratitude and acknowledgement for the gifts you have right NOW make your life better.  They also help you understand that you are pursuing happiness in the way that you intended to in your life; or in the alternative, what you must choose to do to get on track.  Enjoy “No Place” by Rufus Du Sol: https://soundcloud.com/rufusdusol/noplace

Course 2:  Wisdom & Faith—Life improves when we seek wisdom and have faith in what we’ve learned over time. Answers to big questions are found in faith when reason doesn’t seem to provide any solace.  People who have faithful beliefs in something bigger are nearly always happier people.  If crises and life’s issues cause more people to turn to faith and to seek wisdom beyond their conscious minds, only positive long term results are on the horizon.  Time spent in seeking wisdom and enhancing faith is time well spent.  Enjoy Ralph Stanley’s “Palms of Victory” and contemplate faith: https://soundcloud.com/ralph-stanley-official/palms-of-victory

Course 3:  Sound Body—You will never develop peace of mind until you have a sound body.  A sound body means BOTH free from disease and proper fitness.  There is no path to happiness without health.  When one’s mind is constantly occupied by illness there is little room for anything else.  The same applies to your fitness even though it is not so front and center at each moment.  Trousers that become too tight, huffing and puffing at the top of the stairs or sooner, seeing many chins in the mirror are all ways that we are more subtly reminded that our bodies are not sound,  Choose to become fit and healthy.  There is no equipment needed, no gym membership required and no additional time to find in the day.  Stop watching t.v., put down the phone, and get moving.  Walk, run, do push-ups, whatever it takes for whatever level you’re at—it’s time.  There are no excuses or alibis, only choices!  Contemplate over Alice in Chains’ “No Excuses”

Course 4:  Learning—Start learning something of value and be happier.  The education system, especially at the collegiate level and higher, is failing to teach anything valuable.  Find the wisdom yourself in the vast array of technology and resources now available.  There has never been a better time to learn because everything is at our fingertips.  Read anything form the classics to starting an on-line business, but for God’s sake, do not seek any kind of meaningless degree if you’re looking for happiness.  The happy don’t teach at universities; they pollute.  Cast aside schools and listen to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in Wall, Part 2”

Teaching Unhappiness

Babies are born blank slates with unwavering needs and wants. They are completely helpless and must be provided for at every moment. Parents fulfill those needs almost automatically. There is no thought of withholding the objects of an infant’s needs or wants; most often, they are one and the same. Food, clothing/diapering, and shelter are obvious needs for everyone. For infants, though, love, affection, cuddling, and other simple wants are given automatically as well. These developing, innocent minds do not need to make choices yet, but they certainly already know how to be happy. Fulfillment is easy and automatic; satisfaction results, as it should.

As children start to get a bit older, they begin to develop minds of their own, as parents like to say. The actual thought, and pursuit of happiness is present and strong. Children regularly run, play, and laugh in ways that adults rarely do. How often do you see an adult just spinning around with his or her arms out and head laid back, looking up at the sky? Children also say what they want and usually at least attempt to do what is required to get it—NOW. They are the ultimate pursuers of happiness because they purposefully take action toward their pursuits, but only until the years of mind pollution set in. This does not mean that parents should never say “no” to demands for candy at the supermarket checkout or to going outside before all the vegetables are gone. Parents must teach good sense and forbearance, so quelling some untimely or unseemly demands is a good lesson. But, there comes a transition time when youthful happiness transforms to gloominess and oftentimes downright hostility.

The teen years are definitely a time of learned behavior defined by a transition to adulthood. The tragedy is that learned behavior, by definition, must be taught by others. The fact that some folks are teaching young, impressionable minds how to be unhappy is a disturbing truth. Most cultures have some recognition of this life period, and so does nature. Naturally, puberty and menstruation enter life as signals of coming adulthood. Along with these changes comes awkwardness, self-doubt, and perhaps acting out. Much of this period is fraught with stalwart attempts to be young “men” or “women” similar to their parents or some other positive or negative role models. There is certainly at least some emulation of influential adults in bridging this gap from childhood to adulthood.

Societally in America, the changes thrust upon kids occur during the middle to high school years. Culturally, there are bar mitzvahs, sweet sixteens, or other celebrations that act as artificial gateways to adulthood. Presumably, the recognition of this period in a child’s life marks a transition to self-direction. A thinking person would then presume there would be some focus on positive pursuits, perhaps even happiness. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

There is, instead, a push for kids to become little adults and start acting that way. There is a big push to succeed in school and make it like a job, to spend all free time perfecting sport or piano playing, and to do stacks of homework until bedtime. These daily activities consume the lives of these smaller grown-ups. The irony of this cultural approach is that adults who moan about the “daily grind” begin pushing the same grind on their kids long before their children even have the sense to understand what is happening. Pursuing the grind so early is certainly shaping a bitterness toward life; and the more that is piled on in a negative way, the more likely the pursuit will be toward anything but happiness. Adolescents are not small adults, but they are being morphed into that image and mindset.

There is more piled onto these young learners during their transitional years. Along with the pressures to begin a path to success comes the first major introduction to collectivism. Cliques form in school with the in-crowd versus the nerds or the greasers/burnouts, the potheads, skate-boarders, or whatever labels have been applied throughout the different eras. The labels don’t really matter here. The fact is that these cliques that form this early in life are made up of the happy and the unhappy. Just consider for a moment the behavior of the teens involved.  Certain students participate in major activities, go to the parties and dances, join social or educational clubs, play sports, and so on. The others loiter around the hallways or school yard or maybe in neighborhoods, isolate themselves playing video games or in the tech world, or even roam the streets. Such others may complain about how they “will never be noticed by (or date) a cool guy,” speak of how “the prom queen ignores me,” or “I am too dumb to debate or go to the good college,” or whatever the learned alibi of the day may be. We have heard them all in our own lives; we’ve seen the television shows and movies depicting these well-established collectives, and we’ve read the novels endlessly telling stories of the awkwardness of adolescents. These people are never taught that America is about the pursuit of happiness; they are corralled into groups that foster bitterness and “only-ifs.”

The almost unbelievable fact is that adults continue this learned, and thus taught, unhappy behavior throughout their lives. It is impressed in their minds so firmly that it takes hold like an addiction. On a recent season of the reality series, Survivor, the whole show was premised on the concept of two groups, the “Davids” versus the “Goliaths,” opposing each other. The groups assumed these names, but also the actual roles for which they were labeled. These independent adults continued their “unaccepted by the cool kids” mantra as if they were still at Jefferson Middle School.

It’s astounding how this learned failure to pursue happiness can be accepted by so many people over years or even decades of life. Then, they teach to their younger peers or kids.  The use of the formative years to instill ideas of groupthink, and tyranny of the outcast truly is astounding if not tragic. But in no uncertain terms, these years transform an early life defined by the pursuit of happiness into a perceived grind that not only defies such pursuits, but provides excuses and alibis to those who fail to put to use the gift that the creators of America gave us. The serious, responsible, and unhappy adults teach impressionable minds how to be equally as unhappy, serious, and responsible.


Except from America, The Happy 

1 Survivor: David vs. Goliath. Directed by Jeff Probst. Figi, March 29, 2018-May 6, 2018: CBS.

Bring Back the Fuzzy Dice

When cars were big, made of good ole Detroit or Cleveland steel, burned regular gasoline and spewed out beautiful fumes, rear view mirrors were tricked out with a nice pair of fuzzy dice.  Kids rode in the giant back seat and no one even thought of putting on a seat belt. No more– we’ve apparently evolved.  

Now everyone needs a helmet even on tricycle and any affordable car is a plastic piece of junk.  The fuzzy dice stepped aside for the graduation tassel when it meant something to graduate from high school.  Now, the high school tassel is nothing but a baton signifying passage into a worthless college education where most “kids” go to become stupider and learn to be eternally unhappy.  We’ve evolved after all.

Enter the garter.  Tacky and perhaps a symbol of getting into some action.  There’s nothing like letting everyone have a look at a lacy symbol of stuff once not seen in public.  There is no shame in keeping certain things inside.  However, evolution has brought the clothing once donned only for exercise (or perhaps professional cycling or running) to the grocery store, the local Starbucks, every college campus and even the burger joint.  God help us.  We’ve evolved after all.

Everyone needs a breath of fresh year, especially when weed is in the air.  My favorite trend was the crown that hung so beautifully from the mirror like a 17th Century jewel may have adorned a thrown.  In fairness, they were soon removed from the mirror due to their obstructive nature, but they sat atop dashboards for several years like the feathered haircuts of the 80’s.  At least the car smelled good.  We’ve evolved after all.

There are endless other stupid devices and trinkets that have hung from mirrors and their evolution has been proportionate to the perpetual failure of the car owner.  (The hanging chad symbolically must fit somewhere in this category!)  How many air fresheners or garters have you seen displayed in a Ferrari or Rolls?  Those drivers have created their own trophies and they don’t hang them from the mirror.  Now, the eternally unhappy hang their masks form their mirrors just so everyone knows how unhappy they are.  The hanging mask is a wonderful practice for the happy though—we can easily identify the bitter and run like hell from them.  

The happy evolve by pursuit of happiness.  The unhappy stay tied to stupid ideas and no matter the form in which their bad ideas are regurgitated, the results are the same—something stupid.  Maybe evolution is not so good.  Maybe a bit of creation based on faith in oneself is the way to go.


Who Loves a Parade?

Life in America is not a battle though it may seem so currently..  Life in America is a parade.  There are people who march in the parade and pursue the happiness that comes with being part of the fun.  Then, there are those who stand and happily watch, perhaps wishing they were participating, but finding joy in the event.  Soon, they may take action and join the march because at least they can see it and aspire to it.  The rest are those who choose not to show up at all.  Parades march forward and never turn back.  Life, and especially expanding life through the pursuit of happiness, moves forward and does not turn back.  Those who do not love, join, and embrace the parade do not move forward; they stay still.  Those who do not show up, move backward and continue to do so until they finally decide to think and act in a new way.

America is happy because each individual’s pursuit of happiness is protected; it was declared by the Creators on that fateful day in 1776.  The challenge now is how the pursuit of happiness may be transformed from individual choice and action, to the action and choice of the many more.  This is an especially complex task in current American life because moving lives forward means overcoming the constant images of the unhappy. 

At any moment in America, there are those who choose to respect its gifts and those who choose not to.  Those with respect are far more likely to grasp its values and choose actions that pursue happiness.  Those who hate America will not so act.  If Adam Smith is correct, more people individually acting in a new way is all that America needs to be an even happier country.  Bertrand Russel said, “If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have a paradise in a few years.”  The key is to teach individuals to look at themselves and quit paying so much unnecessary attention to what others are doing.  Start with the proportion that taking a look inside oneself takes the most courage of any act.  Ayn Rand touched on this subject when she instructed people to “Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness.” In other words, before you can value others and their rights, you must first value yourself.

Fighting against things before one thinks and acts for oneself is the fundamental reason that too many people remain unhappy failures in a country that has done the most to make one successful.  In fact, the most counterproductive act one may take is to rage, resist or fight against anything else.  People need to act to make their thoughts and dreams turn into the things they want.  More and more people simply need to take the first and easiest step to join the parade.  They simply need to look into their own minds and ask whether they have ever thought about, and then acted upon, the pursuits of their own happiness.  While doing so, all of their past “reasons” or excuses, or supposed rational thought must be cast aside in favor of emotional thought.  Just as if it were asked of you when you were five years old, enthusiastically answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grown up [aka start living]?”  Maybe we did learn everything we needed to know when we were in kindergarten as the book by Robert Fulghum suggested.  Or maybe at five, our minds were not yet polluted with the unhappy teachings of others or the ability to “reason” sufficiently enough to quash all the means of pursuing of our happiness!

Those who do not show up for the parade stay away by choice.  If “reason” were the bedrock of virtue or illuminated the “meaning” in life, then it should be easy to convince the haters that they should not hate.  A simple, rational argument should be enough to demonstrate that in America everyone has the ability to pursue his or her own ideas created through their own imagination brought to life.  But, mere rational argument does not work because rational argument does not permeate the creative plane, instill faith in anyone or stimulate action.  Just like rattling off statistics, anyone can logically reason themselves into any belief they choose.  That’s why lies repeated over and over become truth for many and that’s why excuses become “rationalizations” why one cannot accomplish an alleged goal.  It is also why Scott Adams’ concept of “two different movies” is also a constant.  One group sees an event one way and the other group sees a whole different moving picture of the same event.  One will not convince the other when groupthink, collectivism and some agenda are at stake.

The only agenda should be putting the entire onus of thought and action on every single person.  This the Creators did and they were brilliant in doing so.  They said that everyone has “. . .the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Teach this thought and stop teaching that everyone has the obligation to pursue helping others.  Such is the only “collective” endeavor that will ever succeed; and, ironically it is the ultimate act of diversity.  Every single is person is different, with different thoughts and desires so there is zero discrimination and zero need for fairness or any advantage.  When each and every person chooses to first pursue his or her own happiness WITHOUT INFRINGING ON ANY OTHER PERSON DOING THE SAME, then paradise shall have been created.  In the meantime, we have America, and America is the closest place to paradise ever created.  It is the end point of the parade which no one ever sees unless one joins in the march! 

Excerpt (edited) from my book “America, The Happy”