This past weekend, I was listening to a “Beats 1” Podcast that featured one of my favorite young Hip-Hop artists, Joey Badass.
Joey just released his second full length LP, entitled “Amerikkkan Badass” – if you haven’t heard this album, it is absolutely amazing, and I highly recommend giving it a thorough listen.
The music is uplifting, inspirational, and delivers a stinging social commentary on the current state of our Union as it pertains to social justice and race relations.
Getting back to his interview, Joey compares his music to vegetables, stating that “It’s very strong music….. It’s hella good for you, and that’s almost my hesitance with it: the fact that it’s so good for you, because the kids these days want candy.”
He then goes on to deliver the most powerful statement of the session, making the case that diet “Isn’t just what you eat, it’s everything you consume…. All of these things affect you in some way, shape, or form – especially after doing it over and over for a long period of time.”
I thought about this all weekend while listening to the album multiple times.
On his hit single, “Land of the Free,” Joey leads off with the bittersweet line, “We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves,” another proverbial punch to the gut.
Many of us want things to change.
We look at the world around us and are disappointed with all that is going on.
Sometimes it may all feel like the situation is out of our control, and we begin to feel hopeless and discouraged to do anything about it.
Instead of opening ourselves up to others and lending a helping hand, we close ourselves off and becoming distrustful of anyone not in our close circle of friends and family.
We become cynical; because it seems like everywhere we look, whether it be the news or social media, it feels like those who lie, cheat, steal, and don’t play by the rules aren’t held accountable for their actions, while the rest of us never seem to get ahead, no matter how hard we try.
This notion is then reinforced by the music we listen to, the television shows and films we watch, and the magazine articles we peruse while waiting at the doctor’s office, in line at the grocery store, or digitally via our Facebook feeds.
It’s a vicious cycle; and like Joey stated, it only exacerbates itself over time and with continuous repetition, whether we are aware of it or not.
While we may never have control over others or their actions, we do, however, have complete control of our own actions and our perspective of the world around us.
In other words, we can absolutely “change our diet.”
And that begins by having absolute respect for yourself and your body.
As the cliché states, “You can’t love others unless you love yourself, first.”
This is 100% true.
Start by getting some exercise and changing your nutritional regimen.
Simple lifestyle changes like making sure you walk 10,000 steps every day (preferably outside) and cutting out all the processed foods and refined sugars from your diet can go a very long way in making you healthier, feel better, and improving your productivity and overall mood.
Once you’ve got that down, change up your morning routine.
So many of us start our days off on someone else’s schedule.
We immediately pick up our cell phones and either check our emails or our social media feeds.
Instead, leave the cell phone on the charger and start every morning by practicing gratitude and appreciation.
Take as little as 15-20 minutes to meditate, write in your gratitude journal, and visualize all of the amazing things you plan to accomplish in the day ahead.
You’d be surprised at how far that small change can go in changing your outlook on the world and your life.
Next, change what you listen to.
Besides NPR, I don’t think I’ve listened to traditional radio for over 10 years.
Most of the talk is nothing more than superficial gossip, and the music is complete junk, geared more towards attracting corporate ad revenue than promoting true artistry.
Subscribe to Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal for as little at 10$ a month.
You’ll have access to practically every piece of recorded music ever made and some of the most beautiful, powerful, and artistically brilliant albums at your fingertips.
Listen to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?,” or The Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” or Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key of Life,” or Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back.”
Music, like all great works of art, is supposed to inspire us, challenge us to be better human beings, and touch the depths of our souls, regardless of how many albums are sold, or if a track sounds good in a Pepsi commercial.
The same goes for film.
Drama, going all the way back to the Greek comedies and tragedies, was supposed to get us out of our little bubbles and into someones else’s shoes.
It was supposed to make us more empathetic toward the plight of others; because sometimes bad things happen to good people.
And if someone is struggling, or needs help, or is down and out on their luck, it isn’t always because they made bad decisions, wasted time, or didn’t work as hard as you think that you do; it may just be because they didn’t have access to many of the same resources that you did that they haven’t been able to get ahead or achieve the level of “success” that society deems the standard.
Nowadays, our entertainment is designed to do the exact opposite of arouse our sense of compassion toward each other.
Turn on the television any given night and the majority of what you see are “reality” programs.
Most of them glorify wealth, anti-intellectualism, vanity, and selfish, narcissistic behavior.
They encourage us to think that in order to succeed in the world you have to focus on “doing you,” and shunning everyone else to the curb.
And that if someone isn’t living in a million dollar home, wearing the latest designer clothes, driving a Mercedes Benz, and going to brunch every weekend, then it must be because they aren’t working hard enough or have failed in some capacity or another.
This weekend, instead of watching the 20th superhero action flick that’s come out in just the past year, or turning on the DVR to watch the latest “Bachelor,” watch one of the 10 films that were nominated for an Oscar in 2017:
Get out of your comfort zone.
The Greeks referred to this as “Katharsis,” a purging or cleansing of emotions.
Great film or theater should allow us to feel things we wouldn’t otherwise discern in our daily lives, particularly as they relate to the experiences of others who don’t look, talk, think, love, or pray like we do.
Opening ourselves up to these different themes strengthens our sense of empathy towards others and, over time, makes us less judgmental and entitled.
Lastly, and for all the reasons mentioned above, it’s important that we start reading again.
The average person spends 90 minutes per day on social media and 0 minutes in a book.
Being that the average person can read 1 page in 2 minutes, that means that if she decided to transfer that social media time over to perusing the pages of classic literature, or a historical piece of nonfiction, or the biography of one of the great human beings that have paved the way to where we are today, she could read 3-4 books per month.
That’s between 36 and 48 books every year!
Could you imagine how enlightened we’d all be, and how much better our society would function, if every single one of us read at least half that much on a continuous basis?
And I can guarantee that we’d all be happier, healthier, and more generous toward one another – without a doubt.
“We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves.”
Regardless of what you see on the news, or read on social media, we are living in the safest, most abundant and comfortable era in human history.
That’s a fact.
Worldwide mortality rates are down.
Global per capita income is up.
And most of us live better today than kings and queens did as little as 200 years ago.
Does this mean we don’t have any more work to do?
Bad things still happen, and there are still plenty of folks around the world living in extreme poverty, fleeing war torn countries, and dying on a daily basis because they don’t have access to clean water or decent medical care.
What I’m saying is that those collective problems will only get better once we start to change at the individual level.
Listen to beautiful music.
Watch powerful films.
Read thought provoking literature.
Be kind to others.
Change your diet.
“Tell me how we’re gonna shape this vision/
Complaining all day, but in the same condition/
If you wanna make change, it’s gonna take commitment/
Some people are enslaved by their religion/
Can’t emancipate them from mental prisons/
What I’ve seen through optics transforms to wisdom/
Watch me use my prophets to get them all to listen/
I’ve been on a mission, ah!”
~ Joey Badass, Temptation