A few days ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Andy Grammer and two strangers (turned friends by the end) to talk about the hard things in life— like navigating grief, depression, spirituality, etc.
It was life-changing.
Andy Grammer is the multi-platinum artist behind songs like “Keep Your Head Up,” “Honey I’m Good,” and “Good to Be Alive.” His music is refreshingly wholesome, happy, and honest.
His newest album, The Good Parts, named after the single with the same name is about sharing truth, going deep, and getting below the surface.
Andy brought us together to do exactly that. To share truth, go deep, and dive below the surface. To get into “the good parts” so to say.
And that’s what we did.
I learned a lot from the people in that room… a lot. But if I had to pick a few, these are the lessons I hope will stick for the rest of my life:
It seems to dumb to even list here. It seems so naive to believe otherwise. But, you can know this theoretically and not really know it.
Until you’re sitting face to face with one of your heroes, and he openly admits just how hard he’s struggled with writing authentically, being himself, and in grief, or when you connect with, Jasmine, who has been seriously struggling to find balance between authentic spirituality and not coming off “too-Christian”… you can’t actively know it.
Everyone, including the people up on your TV screen, Twitter feed, and in your magazines, struggles. Every single person, no matter race, creed, sexuality, geography, or socioeconomic position, is in the fight of their life.
The people that you think have it “all good” because nothing outwardly bad has happened to them are still struggling. Maybe not in every moment. Maybe not in the ways you think.
But still…they are struggling.
So, have a little compassion. For yourself. For your parents. For the lady in the checkout line. For your friends. For your boss. For your heroes.
Struggle is one of the only non-discriminatory parts of life. While it comes in all shapes and sizes, at different times for each of us, it is unequivocally universal.
So, love your flavor of struggle; own your unique brand. Because you don’t get to be the person you want to be, do the things you want to do, or have what you want to have without struggling through first.
Hold space for what sucks.
Some things in life just will never be okay. Losing someone you love. Unhappily divorced parents. Impoverished beginnings. Abusive relationships. Car accidents. Heartbreak.
When someone you love dies or you go through a particularly dark or difficult time, it’s okay to just be hurt. We have a tendency to try to get back to the happiness equilibrium quickly, but that’s not always necessary.
We can’t just skip through or over the pain; it’s the pain that leads to the growth. So sometimes, we just need to let ourselves rest on the sidelines for awhile.
After his mom died, Andy said friends of friends would ask of him, “Does that guy even talk?”
He admitted to being “the silent guy at the table for about a year.”
For a self-proclaimed “obnoxiously happy” guy, this behavior was out of the ordinary. But that didn’t make it right or wrong; it just was.
This resonated with me deeply. I spent at least two, if not three years, totally “off” after my mom died. I kept fighting to get back to the status quo. But that was just my process. It wasn’t right or wrong; it just was.
It’s more than okay to be down when you are dealing with something. Despite what you may think, you don’t need to be perfectly happy all the time. You don’t have to bounce back quickly. You don’t have to lie about how good you’re doing. You don’t have to put on a show for anyone.
Sometimes it’s okay to just be. Be sad. Be mad. Be the silent one. You’ll be a loud-mouth again soon enough.
And even then, when you’re loud again, it’s still going to be hard. It’s okay, as Andy reminded me, to just hold space for the things that suck.
This doesn’t mean you let them own you, take away your happiness, or prevent you from accomplishing your dreams, but you just simply say: “this will never be okay.”
There is power in holding space for some things to just be sucky, and then use that space to learn and grow.
Focus on what you gained (even when it hurts).
Hard stuff happens — period. You won’t escape life without having experienced financial, physical, or emotional ruin. And it can totally suck. But why does it have to be treated as all bad?
The first thing Andy said after telling us his mom died 9 years ago was that he gained compassion from the experience. He said, previously, he couldn’t possibly understand why someone else would be sad sitting in a corner crying. After his mom died, he understood — not just about grief, but about spiritual pain.
By focusing on what he’s gained, he isn’t denying his pain or diminishing his grief, he is simply reframing the experience to make it bearable, even helpful.
When I lost my mom, I gained perspective; most other things shrunk in relation to this kind of earth-rattling event. This perspective isn’t active all the time; I can still get riled up about things that don’t matter. But the difference is, I can come back to equilibrium (or sanity) quicker.
No matter what’s happened to you, no matter how inhumane, dark, terrible, or unfair, there is something you have gained from it. The lesson doesn’t reveal itself immediately, but have faith that it will in due time.
Maybe… it’s all part of a greater plan.
What brought us four to that moment in that room was a series of independent, yet interconnected struggles. Struggles we couldn’t have possibly known would lead us all there.
That kind of “collateral beauty” is a gift. To gain something from loss. To build connection out of pain. To experience light in dark times.
I have struggled deeply in the past few years — losing my mom, house, and identity, coming out, etc. But I have chosen (when I have the courage) to believe what the Stoics preach: that we can’t know what’s good or bad objectively. Or as Shakespeare says:
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
Andy said to me: “I’d like to think, if there is a God, that up there he thinks: ‘I need to get this done. And you know what, I think Kate can do it, but a lot of s*%# is going to have to happen first.’”
So, what if the circumstances in your life aren’t just good or bad? What if Shakespeare’s right? Or what if Andy’s right?
Why couldn’t they be?
Your story is your power.
What brought each of us into that room was the fact that Andy has had the courage to share his most vulnerable truths through his songwriting. From grieving his mom at a young age to holding his “v-card” until marriage, he’s written and sung about it all.
This newest album, in particular, is a unique stamp in time of who he is today — as a musician, father, husband, friend, and human.
It talks about his love-hate relationship with money, the birth of his daughter, morality, health scares, honest conversation, and personal growth. It isn’t your typical “mainstream material.” Andy doesn’t sing about “grabbin’ dat a%$.” He sings what is real to him, no matter how dark, no matter how light.
And that’s what makes it good.
Each of us has at least one story that isn’t sexy, cute, or cool. It isn’t Instagram worthy or autobiographical material at first glance. It doesn’t resemble the stories we are bombarded with on television and Twitter.
But it is these stories that need to be told, written, or sung. Filtered photos and perfectly edited stories aren’t rare; authenticity is.
Your story needs to be in the world. Not the one you think people want to hear. Not the one you think you should tell. The one you feel like you can’t possibly tell. The truth you are afraid to speak.
The story of who you are and what it’s like to be you — that’s the one that matters most. That’s the story that holds the power to inspire, motivate, save, and change the world.
Fight the urge to dim your light or turn down.
At one time or another, we all feel the need turn down who we are and what we are feeling.
For Andy, he says he often felt a compulsion to talk to his friends about his late mom. But instead of dive in, he would consciously bury it.
If you’re like me, you even do silly things like make your burger order easier for your server, try obsessively to get out of the way of others, and refuse to share your accomplishments.
You think by creating this buffer you are being thoughtful, even saving people from having to put in extra effort or listen to you talk too much.
“You are being humble!” says your ego.
But really, you are just being selfish. By dimming your light, you are limiting the depth to which others can get to know you (and what you like on your burger).
Pretending to feel or be a certain way means you are denying people the opportunity to experience truth, to know you.
People don’t want the watered down you. They don’t want inauthenticity or dimmer lights. They just want YOU.
To create space for others when it feels right. To share your pain, accomplishments, and happiness on a more consistent basis. To be honest in your interactions. To give of yourself authentically.
This is hard to do, but it’s rewarding.
Because truth is this: you cannot have the privilege of experiencing others’ authenticity if you are unwilling to share yours.
Projecting what people may think is useless.
One of the people at this table (named Boyce) tried to commit suicide less than a year ago. In a moment of courage, he shared the story openly and freely on camera with strangers (and potentially thousands of future viewers). I’m glad he did; it’s a story I feel profoundly changed by.
But he almost didn’t share it. He talked himself in and out of it the entire car ride up from San Diego that morning. He said, “I was afraid of what people might think.” Could you blame him? The strength that requires is beyond what most of us will probably ever know.
But, we all have some version of this story; we all have something we are afraid to speak into reality.
Fear feeds us these thoughts: you may be judged, disagreed with, or worst… ignored. This kind of fear is natural, yet generally unfounded (and useless).
When Boyce spoke his Truth, it was met with responses like, “I appreciate your bravery” and “Your story helped me.” Viewers and people from the camera crew came up to him after the shoot to say, “I, too, have experienced this” or “I lost someone to suicide; thank you.”
It’s sweet to be seen and understood for who you really are. But that’s only possible if you turn off your tendency to believe the world will judge you unfavorably.
The truth is: most people won’t care enough to judge you; they are too wound up in their own little universes. And just as people can judge you unfavorably, they can also be profoundly touched, changed, or moved by your story.
What if your story changes one life? What if it saves a life (as I’m sure Boyce’s will do)? Would it be worth it to share it even in the face of fear?
Andy joked about creating a metal album — ditching his spirituality-centered, happy style and emulating Slipknot. But what good would that do? None (although I think it’d be highly entertaining).
It’s not that Andy or Slipknot is objectively better than the other. Both are good — no, both are great. They serve different purposes and touch different audiences. And we need them both in this world.
Andy is the epitome of a good man: authentic, creative, and aligned. A present, caring, and kind jokester. For him to be anything else would be a great loss to the world.
Same with you.
What the world needs is for you to be your authentic self. Not some carbon copy of your hero. Not some half-baked version of your potential. It needs you. Whoever that is. With whatever interests, desires, and gifts you have.
Anything less is unacceptable.
This isn’t easy. It is the fight our entire lives to remember who we were meant to be. To be authentic. To tell our Truths.
But this is the ONLY battle worth fighting.
The “good parts” are what matters.
This conversation about navigating the hard stuff — grief, depression, suicide, and spirituality — was everything. There is nothing better than getting to know someone.
We walk through so much of our lives failing to really get to know anyone, even ourselves. What would the world be like if we all started to try to understand each other on a deeper level?
This kind of connection doesn’t have to be limited to curated conversations like this one. It may be hard to fathom in the mind, but it’s fairly simple in practice. It starts with asking better questions and really listening to the answers. By bringing authenticity, curiosity, and a desire to learn to every interaction.
The best conversations I have ever had were about the stuff I don’t get to talk about on a daily basis: love, joy, pain, grief, loss, and death. And, I’d aim to bet yours have been, too.
There isn’t ever going to be enough time with people we love or even the people we cross paths with for a short time. There isn’t enough time to take things for granted. There isn’t enough time to say anything but the truth. There isn’t enough time to live outside your purpose.
Every moment should be maximized. To push each other. To grow. To discover truth. To go below the surface. To really get to know each other.
Start today! Share your story on Facebook. Email me something you haven’t been able to speak out loud. Have a conversation with someone close to you that you don’t really know. Connect with a stranger on the train. Write a letter to your parent or grandparent.
Make it a priority to get to know the people around you and to share yourself with them. There is only so much time. Use it on what matters.