Happy Songs – February 2015

As I sit here tonight, I am obsessed with a couple of songs. This happens to me daily. I feel that when a song finds me on the radio, there is a message to be had. And when a storm of them come, there is defintely something moving around in the air. But these songs have been on my mind pretty intensely and very consistently. And in listening to them, I ask again and again why.

Brighter Side Now began and remains a project aimed at focusing on the Law of Attraction principal of positivity and specifically writing in the positive. This remains a very difficult practice and has my always looking at and questioning the words I write and the thoughts I think. So as a critical review of the songs, I must deconstruct  rather than criticize. Question.

So with this in mind, I listen to the words of these songs and try to see the message they reveal. And way to often, I am mystified and horrified at what is revealed. Music carries amazing power over the mind – from the vibrations that will permeate the listener and the emotions it will evoke. The tone, the tempo and the lyrics.

So my thoughts move to the lyrics, and what they say, how they say it, and where they leave you in the end.

The Decemberists – Make You Better

This song has been playing on the radio a lot – and across a number of different stations. So it reached my radar about 3 days ago until I became obsessed and looked to Youtube to study it. In the end, it is a story of friends, possibly lovers, questioning where they are going and how they want to change each other – and make each other better. So I sit in the middle of two opposing thoughts that affect me. The lyrics, though not overtly negative, speak from the point of view of the of a negative place and speaking of “Make me better” and “Make you better”. And as the suggestion is of moving to a higher place, Law of attraction tells us that the thought of the place it starts would draw energy that way.

Second though is the music behid the lyrics. As as I cannot get it out of my head ( and have not the desire to do so), suggests to me that the song works as a positive force.

Hero – Family of the Year

Hero on the other hand, is much different. The song is an anthem from the movie Boyhood. When I heard it in the movie (at that point I already knew the song), I had to immediately look it up and listen over and over again. After the Oscars, where it was played whenever the movie was mentioned, I had to listen again. And the music is totally enveloping and engagine. But the lyrics depress me. I wonder whether or not the song was made for the movie or if they just found it after the fact. I that the latter is the case as I did not feel those themes in the movie.

This is a song that, once it touched me, I had to rewrite it in my head. When I hear it, I imagine singing it to my own children. Where it goes, “Let me go, I don’t want to be your hero.” I hear it, “I just want to be your hero.” Its kind of a lullaby I want to sing to my children to tell them how much I love them.


Sharing an article published by copywriting expert John Forde in his November 4 “Copywriters Roundtable” newsletter. It discusses one of my favorite Law of Attraction principles about optimism.


Speaking of reflection, I came across an article the other day, about some Harvard research. 

In it, they were talking about how to hire good employees and what traits to look for. 

Of course there are many that matter. e.g. smarts, curiosity, an aversion to using flamethrowers during board meetings…

But, per the research, one that stood out was… optimism. When future employees were picked based on an optimistic outlook alone, they tended to work out best for the company. 

Oh please, I hear the devout pessimist in you saying, as you roll your eyes. The best way to never be disappointed is to always expect the worst. Unless, of course, you were counting on the worst and things turn out well. In which case, bummer. Because you’ll be mad things went so well.

Pessimists, you’ll say, always have a contingency plan ready. By not trusting people, they don’t get taken advantage of. 

And so on.

And yet, Harvard researcher Shawn Achor who ran the study (Google his TED talk), you’ll be happy to know you’re wrong. Optimists, for one, outperform pessimists by a big margin.

MET Life, the big insurance company, was one of the case studies Achor presented. The firm experimented by using an aptitude test to find more optimistic sales people. 

Those that did better on the test outsold their pessimistic counterparts by 19% in the first year… and nearly 60% in the second.  

But what about things like intelligence or experience? Sorry, says Achor’s research.

Great grades in school were about as predictive of career success as rolling a pair of dice, says Achor. Likewise with technical skill.

About 75% of a person’s career success, his team found, came down to three factors, all of them closely tied to life outlook:

First, the “believe that our behavior matters in the midst of challenge” or a decision to remain optimistic…

Second, the “depth and breadth of social relationships” or whether you’ve got good friends, which are infinitely easier to get when you’re not a “Don or Debbie Downer”… 

And third, the way one perceives stress, which is also enormously dependent on whether you see it as an obstacle or opportunity.

Short version, says Achor, the idea that “Success breeds happiness” is exactly backward. Rather, “Happiness breeds success.”

Again, the grinding sound of rolling eyes is, perhaps, deafening. But consider…

* The optimistic man — or woman — tends to have better health, faster recovery time from illness and even surgery, and — cliché of the cranky old man be damned – live longer.

* The U.S. army teaches — orders — soldiers to be more optimistic because they’ve found that in combat and other tough situations, it makes them act tougher and more persistent.

* Simply expecting a more positive outcome in a negotiation tends to lead to better deal outcomes. 

* Socially optimistic people tend to have more friends, more perceived luck, and — because happiness and gratitude even more of the same — a self-renewing resource of, well, optimism.

In our industry, selling products, the optimists tend to find the passion they need for products they can believe in. 

They also have a much easier time identifying with the same hopeful mindset their prospects share.

Can optimism be learned?

No, you’ll say if you’re pessimist, absolutely not. And who would want to learn it if they could? But Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, a 20-year vet of clinical psychology, says yes it can.

They key, he says, is learning how to fix your explanatory style. Change the story you tell yourself, so to speak. 

According to Seligman and a list that was reproduced by the wise folks over at bakadesuyo.com, you need to focus on what they call the “3 Ps” of Permanence, Pervasiveness, and whether events are Personal. 

The pessimist, for instance, sees bad events as long lasting or even permanent situations, universally true application, and as the result of a personal attack or flaw. 

The optimist, however, sees bad times as temporary, as a result of something specific and relative, and as something more random than personal.

And then those same views flip in good times, e.g. pessimists are sure the good stuff can’t last, rarely happen, and are random; optimists feel like the good times are typical, long-lasting, and something they can take credit for helping to cause.

It doesn’t matter, by the way, if the “real” facts support the pessimist position. And this is important, since pessimists often fall back on the rationalization, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m just a realist.” Often, they ARE more accurate. But also fail more, as a result.

That seems illogical, perhaps. But the bottom line is, as a result of their differing outlooks, pessimists quit. A lot. But optimists don’t. And that’s where the difference comes into play.

Sure, sometimes optimism can put you in a seriously foolish position (e.g. “I’m probably strong enough to wrestle that tiger.”) 

Say the researchers, you need to ask yourself what the risks of a failure might be. If it’s high, like — say — death, then you might want to reevaluate. 

But if it’s something low, like whether you’ll succeed at getting a sale or a job or giving a good speech or a date, then look up not down, for better results.

Hope, says yet another study, is a better predictor of personal achievements than your grades in school, IQ, or personality. 

To get some, try channeling your thoughts to mirror those three key “P’s” — in problem situations, redefine them as temporary; find the ways in which they’re specific to a current situation rather than universally true; and look for external causes, rather than “all-my-fault” causes.