I've been pretty consistent over the decades with the kind of music that I add to my playlists. As a veteran rock 'n' roll keyboard player with a predictable list of favorite rock hits, I also like alternative, grunge, metal, jazz, reggae, funk, and classical standards too. Over the past six years, I've religiously streamed Brookdale Public Radio's 90.5 The Night. Their programming is solid with rock hits as well as upcoming artists from a variety of genres. They have also exposed me to some obscure artists and bands that I missed in my younger years. So just when I thought I had the source for all the music I'd ever need, I was hit like a freight train this summer by something new that I'd turned my back on for years–Country Music!
My teen daughters listen to a lot of bad music that I've become skilled at tuning out. However, they have also introduced me to some brilliant new music. My youngest is a terrific dancer, and her performances have exposed me to some of the most heartfelt songs that bring tears to my eyes each time I hear them. My oldest, with totally different musical tastes, would play Post Malone for me one minute, then Thomas Rhett the next. I pretty much ignored both of these artists as we would smack each other's hands away from my car radio dial, never to find common ground.
In May of this year, when I began my personal growth journey, one that prioritized weight loss, mindfulness, kindness, self-love, and positive habit-forming, I also pushed myself to be open to trying new things. Not long after, my oldest Margot, said that she and her friend Molly wanted me to attend a country music concert with them at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. I had no idea how this one event would ultimately change my life.
I reached out to my Uncle Thom (UT) for help to see if he knew any way to acquire decent seats as he somehow always manages to get decent tickets to shows. My thinking here was, I don't know these artists or their songs, but good seats, I can enjoy the show and maybe find a song or two that might resonate with me.
UT came through, and on August 3rd, we rolled into the venue, cranking Thomas Rhett on the stereo. The massive crowd and tailgate energy was powerful. One might argue that all concerts feel this way, but I can attest that this was more. I felt this energy deep inside, and it was intoxicating.
We were running a bit behind, which didn't bother me because I didn't know any of the warmup artists. Arriving at our seats, Russell Dickerson was finishing his set. This guy was running around waving his hands in the air and behaving more like a pop star than what I envisioned a country star would be doing. He was larger than life and I was bummed that I missed his other songs. By the end of his last song, I was smiling and shaking my head like, "wow, wow, wow." The little bit that I saw was compelling. I looked around at the faces of the fans and saw smiles, screaming, and genuine excitement everywhere.
I walked around a bit, ran into some people I knew, but was cautiously optimistic and not sure what to expect next. As the opening lick to Thomas Rhett's Look What God Gave Her was building, the lights were turned off in the Center. Then came some purple pulses of light, like a slow heartbeat, as stagehands quickly pulled away a tarp revealing his stage setup featuring a high platform with stairs leading down to center stage. As the whole band joined in, boom, Thomas Rhett was launched from underneath the platform, about 6 feet into the air, stuck the landing perfectly, and yelled, "What's up Holmdel!" He flipped his baseball hat backward, and it was GO time.
The entire crowd sang the chorus with him, and it was electrifying. I looked around, and every single person was smiling. Margot and Molly danced next to me without a care in the world as they sang every word. I was still a little out of my element, so all I could do was to tap my feet and try to look cool, while deep inside, I wanted to skip around chest bump, high five and hug everyone around me.
The most poignant part of the evening for me was when Rhett struggled to keep his composure during Die A Happy Man. As the song neared the end, during a pause, the New Jersey audience was screaming their love for this amazing man. He put his head down, appeared to wipe a tear from his eye, and then walked away from the microphone to gain composure. This moment was so raw, I thought to myself, I need to be friends with this guy. What an amazing human that he shows his audience his vulnerable side like this. He raised his hat to all of us, and the crowd just cheered even more. After 50 long seconds of pause, he tried to sing again, but after only three words, he was overcome with emotion still, chuckled, and said, "Y'all are friggin the most amazing people I've ever met in my life." Then the crowd sang the final words of the song with him.
The night continued to get better and better. On our ride home, I couldn't get the smile off of my face. I was so happy and felt emotionally stronger. I wanted more of this feeling, like every day, for the rest of my life.
The days, weeks, and months that followed had me adding two new radio stations to the presets in my car. THUNDER106 out of NJ and NEW YORK'S COUNTRY 94.7 became staples of my daily routine. In addition to the artists mentioned above and dozens more, one man kept popping up on my radio each day with a song that seriously hit home for me.
Justin Moore's hit, The Ones That Didn't Make It Back Home, is a tale about a 22-year-old soldier who lost his life just before he was set to return home to his family and his hometown. Justin injects specific details that make this story relatable on so many levels. The song is dedicated to soldiers, first responders, doctors, nurses, teachers, students, or anyone who's lost someone working in a profession that saves others while putting themselves at risk. I lost a best friend in the World Trade Center attack of 9/11, and this song describes much of the feelings and behaviors I went through after his passing. Regardless of where you're from in America, so many of us grieve and celebrate tragic loss precisely the way this song illustrates. It's hauntingly beautiful.
Another reason this song is special to me is because of a personal connection to someone very close to Justin. His manager, Peter Hartung, who is from my hometown, is a good friend of my Uncle and a great singer/guitarist in his own right, who left a big impression on me as a kid. He and UT used to do a dance routine where both men did a backbend in unison, tapped the ground with one hand, and came back up effortlessly. I probably haven't seen that routine since the early 1990s, but it is unforgettable. Over the years, UT has told me countless stories about Justin and Pete, and I've enjoyed following their success story along the way.
I noticed that Justin was coming to play at the University of Delaware on November 2nd, so I asked UT if we could go see him together. Unfortunately, he would be out of town but offered to reach out to Pete and see about tickets as a 50th Birthday gift to me. Not only was Pete kind enough to arrange floor seats for me, but he also arranged for a meet-and-greet with Justin.
I ended up going to the show alone as a friend was unable to join me at the last minute. I was ok with this because I was so excited to meet this man who I felt in some ways I had already known. The meet-and-greet was a long line of devoted fans grateful for an opportunity to shake his hand. Not much time for small talk, so I wanted to try and make a connection even if I only had 10 seconds to do so.
Upon shaking Justin's hand, I told him that "I'm a friend of Pete Hartung." His eyes opened a little wider, and without expression, he joked, "I'm sorry to hear that." We both grinned. I told him I was Thom White's nephew, and he smiled and remarked that my Uncle is "quite a character." That's all I needed. He was precisely the down-to-earth person I was told he would be. He's that way on stage, in front of thousands of fans, and he's that way in a concrete hallway in the back of an auditorium.
Similar to the concert in August, I stood around in awe of how many people knew every word to Justin's songs. His music and lyrics connected with people on such a personal level. Men and women of all ages, donning old concert shirts, hats, "Justin" slogans, and just loving everything about this man. His humility and humanity touched everyone in the building.
He is known for making sure we always remember our troops during each of his shows and he did it this night so perfectly by accepting a POW•MIA flag from an audience member and holding it while singing his tribute song. He's a phenomenal singer, amazing entertainer, and all around great guy. Major props to his band as well, these musicians are badasses!
I went back to the bar next to my hotel for a nightcap. I met a young couple from Delaware, and we shared our mutual love for our children and country music for a couple of hours. I'm smiling as I write this, because four months ago, "Country" wasn't even on my radar. I was jamming primarily to Johnny Marr, Switchfoot, and Nada Surf.
Country music is good for your heart. It's honest, truthful, and funny. Its simplicity is genius. It forces you to connect with your emotions and your heart. Whether it's about God, our troops, first responders, your childhood sweetheart, your kids, your grandpa, your truck, your boat, your booze, the girl who broke your heart, or the girl that stole your heart, this stuff is powerful. It forces you to laugh and cry. I now see and feel things that I've never felt before, thanks to "Country."
This New Jersey boy is a better man. I recently told my brothers and bandmates in The Haven that I had some devastating news to share. They looked like I was going to say to them I wanted to quit the band. My response was, "I only listen to Country Music now." After I got my chops busted a little, our lead guitar player, Dan, who was tuning his guitar, never looked up, but slowly uttered, "I've heard that happens."
Does the white denim rule apply to pink shirts after Labor Day? This shirt goes back to 2006 or so, and I probably haven't worn it since 2012. It's one of those clothing items that I've stared at year after year wondering if I could ever wear it again.
I recently saw a new weight loss high of 55.6lbs since I started my journey back on May 13th. I feel so humbled by all of the direct messages, phone calls, supermarket encounters, and social media posts offering praise, love, and support.
By making my growth journey public, I realized how important it is to share it with others. Of course, my life has darkness that my posts don't depict. Don't we all? Let's all agree, however, that despite our personal struggles, positive inspiration, like bathing, is something we all need often.
I have so much empathy for all human beings. We all have our own "stuff." The pain caused by this "stuff" is different for each of us. Keep this in mind when you wake up tomorrow, and do your best to treat others with kindness. Their stuff might be as painful as yours or worse. Remember this each day going forward.
My weight loss journey rides alongside an emotional journey that is critical to making myself ageless. I was so sick of feeling the way I did, both inside and out. "Sick and tired of being sick and tired," sums it up. With my daughters ending their high school years, and me reaching a significant milestone in life, I was afraid that my next 50 years would be much of the same: overweight, stressed out, unhappy, uninspired. Those fears are gone.
Dig deep! All of us can summon the inner strength to get out of the current situation we find ourselves struggling with. Life throws a lot of wrenches in our long-term plans. While planning for the long-term is essential, we should never ignore the fact that longevity isn't a gift granted to all of us.
Treat each day as a precious gift. We should prioritize getting more "life" out of our years daily. Take nothing for granted, especially your physical and mental health. Start your own personal growth journey today and you will truly begin to live life to the fullest.
By Jeffrey White
Self-doubt is a huge, hulking form that sneaks up on you, leaps into your mind and tackles dreams to the ground, smothering them.
Self-appraisal, by contrast, always comes to mind up front and honest, a warm companion you welcome in to assess your progress toward a dream and offer you creative guidance. Invite it to stay and serve as a dream-guard, fending off all self-doubts.
You are at the steering wheel. If self-doubt approaches, lock your passenger doors before it can get inside to be your backseat driver!
Excerpts From: “Life Lines - “Thoughts To Hold Onto Through Bad Times–And Good"
Character actress Ruth Gordon, best remembered for her roles in Rosemary’s Baby and Harold and Maude, was a frequent guest on late-night TV talk shows in the 1970’s.
One evening, while discussing her career and current projects, the animated, enthusiastic Miss Gordon turned to host Dick Cavett and proclaimed, “I made up my mind years ago—I will grow older, but I will never grow old.” She stayed true to this pledge. Youthful spirit and a love of life accompanied her to the finish line.
Growing older affords you the opportunity to commune with your life experience. Now you can put it into better perspective, bringing intensity and meaning to what you were too preoccupied to notice at the time you lived through it.
Your knowledge and past, combined with introspection, enable you to make wiser choices, to seek rewarding ways to utilize your unique strengths in service to others.
Age is no roadblock to productive pursuits. On the contrary, the accumulation of years opens countless new roads of possibility to you. Your life experience is a powerful guidance counselor. Consult with it regularly.
People who say, “I’m too old to learn” are announcing to the world that they have been alive too long to be intelligent, independent, reasoning human beings.
Should you find yourself thinking, “I’m too old to learn something new,” stop and take your pulse. If you still have one, you can (and should) be learning something new. Follow your passions and forget your years.
Know that your creative spirit is boundless.
“I don’t have a creative bone in my body” is one of the saddest statements any human being can make. It simply isn’t true. Holding onto this mistaken belief keeps you blind to your potential.
All young children are riddled with creativity, and you were no exception. Imagination, curiosity, and a sense of wonder were constant companions. You may have allowed these qualities to recede, but they have not left you. Rekindle them now and watch your creative spirit catch fire.
People who complain, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body” or "I'm too old to learn something new" are functional atheists, no matter how religious they claim to be.
Humor is our internal mechanic. It inspects, adjusts, and lubricates our mental machinery to keep it in good working order. A playful attitude can reawaken a child-like sense of awe and wonder about life and unlock our potential as human beings.
Humor nurtures our imagination and creative spontaneity. Coupled with a passionate desire, these become valuable tools in the pursuit of our dreams.
A sense of humor is also necessary to rein in our ego and feelings of self-importance. It helps us to maintain a healthy view of life and our place in the world.
If you can’t laugh at yourself, then you’re missing out on some of the funniest comedy material available. A sure sign of self-acceptance is the ability to laugh at yourself. To do that, you need to step back and take an objective look at who you really are: Assess your strengths, definitely—but also your frailties and shortcomings. This requires a degree of maturity and humility we all should cultivate.
Laughter is our “cosmic night light,” because it touches emotions felt universally. Through humor we see our common fears, insecurities, hopes and dreams. Good comedy makes for camaraderie. Comedian Victor Borge used to say, “The shortest distance between two people is a good laugh.”
“We can’t all enjoy prestigious careers or businesses,” people tell me. “Some of us are destined to collect garbage or work the assembly lines—jobs which don’t exactly make your life as you would like.”
Too many of us link career or business happiness to professions which seem glamorous. I think we hunger for glamour because it looks attractive and exciting and easily captures our attention.
But glamour is always a fluff food. Take a bite and feel it dissolve, like cotton candy, on your tongue. It can’t sustain you. You need something more substantial from life’s menu—something more meaningful.
Prestige and glamour are not synonymous with personal fulfillment. Any job can be rewarding when done with the right attitude. Your vision makes all the difference. What you do always holds less significance than how you do it.
People with vision see their work as an opportunity to serve. They interact with co-workers and their community on a personal level, knowing that a loving outlook provides deep meaning to what they do.
Any activity done with love makes a positive difference. Be kind and compassionate in all you do. This is your calling—no matter what your job or business.
While you may not be able to add years to your life, you can add more life to your years—by looking back and learning from those who came before you.
Books can be our personal time machine. They transport us to other eras and places where we can meet people who cared enough to put thoughts and ideas into permanent form for our benefit.
What a wonderful legacy they have given us! Virtually all the genius this world has ever produced is available for us to tap into, learn from, and use for our benefit.
Keep learning the ideas of great minds. Your own mind will continue to expand as you add centuries of breadth and depth to your life. Avail yourself of the countless teachers and leaders this world provides—both past and present.
I’m thankful for all the desire-driven people whose words have touched my life and helped to point the way for me to achieve greater understanding. I believe that absorbing new ideas and concepts can stimulate anyone’s mind to think more creatively.
The list of individuals whose words can enrich our lives is endless—and all that wisdom is reached through a library card.
We can stare at an old photograph all day and never change its composition, but we attempt to do just that if we’ve ever dwelled on the past with regret.
Through the years, I’ve met many people tortured by regrets. They dissect the past as if it were their lab assignment. Even worse, they’ve barricaded themselves in the stale lab and refuse to come out to enjoy the fresh air of the present.
Sometimes we learn what we need to know only after it’s too late to apply it. That opportunity is gone, but we must turn from our regret, taking the lessons learned through pain and sadness and applying these, now, to some good purpose.
Two of the most powerful words in the English language are “let go.” If we’ve made foolish choices and embarrassing mistakes in the past, we’ve joined the ranks of everyone who has ever lived. But if we’ve learned from our errors, made any needed adjustment and left all our regrets behind, we’re among the minority and should congratulate ourselves.
It’s impossible to close the book on your past if you focus on, memorize, and repeat everything written there. Commit yourself now to letting go. No one can travel back to yesterday, so why keep planning an itinerary for the trip?
When people complain that they haven’t enough time to pursue their dreams, I refuse to believe it. Even if you’re raising a family and stuck in a full-time job you don’t enjoy, time can always be “found” to fulfill a cherished desire. The key is to use time more wisely.
Surveys tell us that Americans watch about 15 hours of television each week. If you’re unhappy with your current career or business, begin to restructure your routine by eliminating the tube-time.
Another productive time period is the lunch hour. You can eat and read simultaneously, so why not devote five lunch hours each week to study?
Set your alarm clock just fifteen minutes earlier than usual in the morning, and invest this time in reading an inspirational book, or material associated with the goals you want to achieve. Do this for a month--then set your alarm back another fifteen minutes. Continue this practice over a period of several months, until you have a full hour devoted to your goals.
Use this “found” time—a minimum of sixty minutes daily--exclusively for your personal and creative development. Guard it from interruptions and never skip a day. Over the course of a year, this string of hours represents 45 eight-hour workdays—plenty of time to get started toward achieving some cherished desire.
MAKE YOURSELF AGELESS BLOG
Bruce Garrabrandt & Jeff White