For all the episodes of a bit of optimism, I've talked to people I know or people whose work I'm familiar with, Andy Grammer is the exception. I think I might be getting old because I have to admit I didn't know his work. A mutual friend of ours said we had to meet and that we would get along. I trust my friend. And so I invited Andy to join me on the podcast. And my friend was right. Andy is wonderful.
And we got along so well. He's such an amazing optimist. But he comes at optimism from a completely different angle. His starts with pain. And I found it absolutely fascinating. This isn't a bit of optimism. This is a lot of optimism. So I have to ask, what was the reason you wanted to do this? Well, you know, I'm a super optimist and I run around the country and sing songs and I've had songs on radio, and it's a big piece of my life.
Also, I'm such a huge fan of you. I'm a really big fan of all of your books. And so I'm like, oh, man, I got to talk to that guy because I think we have a lot of similar thoughts on life and how to bring an optimism that isn't just airy fairy. This like, oh, everything's good because it's good. I like to talk about a grounded optimism and sing about it. And I think that's similar to what you're about.
How do you define optimism? To me? I think optimism is the genuine belief that whatever happens to make you better. If you truly believe that anything good that happens to you makes you better and then the bad stuff is there to make you better. I think you were inherently an optimist in a true way that's grounded. Tell me more about that. I had a song come out called Wish You Pain, which was a little bit tough to pitch to radio, but we tried this.
It was like an aggressive title. And for my meet and greet, we had everybody in a circle. I'd start and I'd say, listen, I lost my mom when I was twenty five. It was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. It broke me down in a million pieces and it gave me an empathy for the world that I would never have. I'm a sunny, happy person and I need to get hit really hard to even be able to see how other people will be going through what they're going through.
So I start my meet and greet that way and I would say that's my deepest thing. And now I'm telling you from there, this is what I got. I dare everyone in this room to step forward and share their deepest pain and what they got from it. And it was while I did it, 40 cities. And there are about one hundred people in each group and people did not hold back. It wasn't like, oh, I didn't get to the college.
I didn't want to. It's like my infant died. No. And for two years we were in the dark and we couldn't get out. And then they stood in power and said, and now when another infant dies at the hospital, they call us and we're like the superheroes that come in to console people. And it's the most meaningful work we've ever done. And so I saw heavy things like that happen over and over and over and over again.
And you start to train yourself to see life that way. And I think that that is an optimism that I can get behind those post-traumatic stress.
And there's the less talked about post-traumatic growth. Oh, totally, and it's Victor Frankl stuff, right? Yeah, like we cannot control the circumstances around us or we can control is our reaction or our attitude.
And so my great aunt lived through the Holocaust and she actually had her first child on the train on the way to the concentration camp Colegio and.
She would tell me that you came out of that one of two ways you came out of it broken or you came out of it stronger. That was it. She came out of it stronger. Her husband came out of it broken. And she said that's what made us such a great pair, such a great couple, which is I got to be there for him. Oh, he was there for me. And we have this perfect marriage because we are the opposite.
Well, my optimism is slightly different than yours. You ask people, what's your greatest pain? And I ask people, when did you have love? Hmm. And so I'll ask you my question.
It can be career oriented or not. But tell me something you've done in your life that you absolutely loved being a part of me.
I'm always terrified of being cheesy, but the answer that comes to my head is just being of service. But tell me something specific.
So the way that I feel like I'm the most of service is when I'm able to either craft a little ball of love or meaning in a three minute song that then goes to strangers. And I can, in comment sections or whatever, feel the reverberation of it blowing up inside them or at a show where you're like all singing together. There's something about singing together that is just so unifying in an unbelievable way.
So those are things you've done regularly. I want one specific experience you've had that if everything you did was like this one thing, you literally would be the happiest person alive.
Made a video for a song called Fresh Eyes, which is about seeing people differently. And we spent the music video budget on going down to Skid Row and giving makeovers to homeless people. And at the end of the day, we all hung out. The feeling that you get from that is just unbelievable. The human connection of it is like, oh, shit, where are we not doing this every day?
But you've done nice things for people all the time. You told me about your circles. What specifically was it about going down to Skid Row and giving them makeovers that stands out that it's the reason you're telling me about it? It goes back to this idea of being in service, someone needs service, and when you give it to them, the bigger the love explosion. So there was like, holy shit, everybody need this. And we were able to provide it.
It was amazing.
OK, tell me an early specific, happy childhood memory, a very specific happy childhood memory was that I loved anything impressive like magic. And I got into juggling and my mom just heard that I like juggling. And then one day I woke up and there was handmade juggling pins outside of my door. And then I went out in the yard and I tried to learn how to do it for hours and hours. I remember loving that. That's like a happy memory.
And you've had lots of happy things in your life. Any idea as to why that memory stands out? Your mom gave you plenty of gifts. What was it about this one that stands out?
It was that someone was watching me closely enough and then had my back in a really thoughtful way that led me to feel like I got your back and whatever you do and don't even have to ask for it. I'm just here pushing you forward.
So you know what's so fascinating about those two stories you told me? What the exact same story your mother heard, something that you wanted. You didn't even know that she knew and she showed up and gave you this thing and it made you feel seen and it made you feel heard and it was transformative in your life because she gave you this gesture is something that opened you up. What did you do on Skid Row? You understood that these are people who are in transition.
Something has happened to them in their lives and they're in transition. And they want to be seen and they want to be heard and they want to be beautiful again. And you showed up and you ostensibly gave them juggling pins. Sure. You gave them something bespoke spoked and Handmaid because you made the point to say that they were handmade. You pointed out that detail. You did something that wasn't generic. You didn't give one of something to everybody. You gave something bespoke to each one of them.
It's the same thing, so for me, that's where your wife exists, your why you go through life to give people something that they need that allows them to feel seen and heard. And it is because of that thing that they're able to make the transformation they need to make or find the joy they need to find.
You know, it's so crazy. I don't know if you found this with talking to those wise when you're telling you about my why, I'm like, isn't that everyone's why everybody says that.
Everybody says that because it's so innate and who you are, it is who you are. It is the reason you get out of bed every morning is what inspires you, what it is, what underlies all of your work that it's so obvious to you when it's pointed out to you, like, yeah, of course it's so clear. That brings me joy. But everybody's why is completely different. And everybody thinks they're why is the same as everybody, because they imagine that everybody's living that or should live the same life that they live.
And I'm here to tell you, they don't. They don't.
And I'm sure you've thought about it. What's what is your why? To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that each of us can change our world for the better.
Though it's to give something special to someone that they feel seen and heard so that they can go through a transformation that they need to go through, yeah, that's why you show up in the world.
And what's so interesting is your circles do that what you're doing, you give people something but spoked, which is you give them this experience, you want them to tell their experience. It's not a generic thing. And you make them feel seen and heard. You give them the space. And that is that moment, that critical piece that they can now, just like with your juggling pins, just like on Skid Row, that this is the thing that now gives them the ability, permission to go on and make the transformation they need to make.
Yeah, we would take it even further in the show. We pick someone out of the crowd and they would come up and I would interview them on stage in front of everyone and ask them to share. And then me and my band would try to write a song on the spot. And it was awesome. You mean give them something bespoke and handmade just for them?
You don't say, yeah, don't say and don't say. But what I would is interesting is that just watching that happen, if you're an audience member, you're also getting something handmade course and very specific. You're a part of the night that's very unique and special. It almost gives you permission to look at what yours is. It was really, really cool.
This is the magic of oxytocin. Oxytocin is this magical chemical in our body that is responsible for why we feel love for each other, a friendship with each other, why we feel kinship and loyalty and all of those irrational things. When women give birth, there's a huge surge of oxytocin in their bodies at that moment.
And this is what is responsible for the mother child bond. Yeah, and the magical thing about oxytocin is we get it when we do something nice for someone with no expectation of anything in return. So you do something nice. All these things that you're doing make you feel good.
Isn't that the secret? The secret to happiness is what you just said, I think.
And it feels good when somebody does something nice for us. When your mom gave you the pins, when you went to Skid Row, when you wrote the song for the people, they get overwhelmed with emotion because it feels nice when somebody does something for us with no expectation of anything in return. But the best part about oxytocin, in my opinion, is that witnessing an act of kindness, generosity releases oxytocin in our bodies.
And the more oxytocin you have in your body, the more generous you actually become. In other words, you making a bespoke song for somebody, only one person on the stage and the thousands of people in the audience watching, not only do they feel good because of this act of intense kindness and generosity, but everybody in your audience is more likely to do something nice for someone to be a little kinder to someone because you filled them with oxytocin before they left the arena.
Oxytocin is the original viral. It's the kindness virus. Yes. And this is what's so magical. You're not just showing up to sing songs and people who enjoy the songs show up, but there is a purpose and cause underlying. And I would even go so far as to say that there are people who are showing up to your concerts who may think your music is fine, but what they love because a friend dragged them to one of your concerts and I like you.
Fine, I guess I'll go with you, you know, and the experience of the concert of what you do for people and how you make them feel, which goes way beyond the music, is the reason they come back for more and more and more and the music. And you now become the symbol of the thing that they now believe in, which is these random acts of kindness and generosity.
At some points in my life, I'm like more apt to just play with it than others. And I don't know why. But right now, this week, just this morning, I got my coffee and I look at the newspaper, the car behind me, the Starbucks employee. And then I tell them also, can you tell them something sweet? And it's such a simple idea, but it sets up my whole day. Fantastic. So I told them today I was like, I need you to look her in the eye, whoever she is, because I could kind of tell the lady, you look in the eye and just say, I love you and then say that your coffee is paid for.
And then I leave and I feel like a rush. Of something, it's unbelievable, it's oxytocin. This is a hack on life to do little things for other people.
So here's the impact. This is what I love about these things. They come big and small. Clearly, writing a song for someone on the spot is a big thing, although probably doesn't feel that way for you. Let's be honest. It definitely does for them, and it definitely does for everybody in the audience.
But what I love about this thing is it's the ripple, which is not only did you feel good because you did something nice for someone, the person on the receiving end of the coffee and the compliment. Amazing.
The person who you asked to be complicit in your little scheme, the barista. That person feels amazing, even though, yeah, they're just in the transaction.
And by the way, every single one of those people told the story of what happened today. The barista told their colleagues the person buying the coffee told whoever they were meeting up with right afterwards. You're telling me now?
I'm getting goosebumps. I'm feeling good. We're telling the story on a podcast. And this is how it ripples. This is how goodness happens.
And I think there's something about going on offense that a lot of people will wait for it or they just won't be involved in the game of it. And it can be like a fun thing that you just start to see and are looking for it all times is how do I create this feeling that feels so good by going on offense and doing something nice for somebody else.
And oxytocin, the more you do it, the more you want it. So it actually makes it more and more generous. It's Mother Nature's desperate attempt to try to get us to look after each other is what it is.
And so when you get in this rut of being selfish or self-involved or it's all about me, my success, me, me, me, all my relationships become transactional, what can this person do for me?
Totally. It actually hurts your health. I mean, the more oxytocin you have in your body, people who are happy actually live longer. They have lower rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. And so oxytocin is actually a stress killer. It actually reduces the cortisol on our body, which is the feeling of stress. And so not only is this good for the human race, it's it's actually a healthier way to live. And this is why you and I are enjoying talking, because we are living in a world right now that is unfortunately seemingly become more and more selfish, more and more short term.
We've seen it in business. We've seen it in politics. Everything is about me first. How can I win? How can I get something out of this? Short term horizons. We don't plan for the future anymore. We don't consider each other. Yeah. And it actually makes us unhealthy and unhappy. And to turn it around does not require getting custommade juggling pins or knowing how to write a song for somebody.
What to turn it around like one baby step in the right direction is to buy a coffee for somebody that didn't expect to buy someone else's coffee.
I'm also fascinated by the barriers to this. Like I always talk about rhythm when I try to do a service for someone else. And the rhythm of for me is always that I have an idea to do something nice for someone. And that's step one. Step two is it's hard to define it, but something shows up the goes like don't do that, that I have to break through every time. What the hell is that? I've done like a lot of things were for my birthday will make sandwiches and we'll collect clothes.
We'll bring it on Skid Row and somewhere on the drive down to Skid Row, I start to doubt, is this a good idea? Which is ludicrous. So the act for me of being of service usually comes with pushing through something as well, which I'm interested to hear your thoughts on.
That's really interesting because I assume we all have that. I mean, I definitely have that, too. And I guess too many people listen to that little voice and hold it back. Yeah, but we don't even know what we're stopping for, trying to define it, it's just that I'm afraid to look stupid or I'm afraid that it won't go right.
Yeah, I think that's all it is. You said it before. Like, your biggest fear is being cheesy. Yeah. Some of the things that we think to do for somebody is sometimes cheesy, paying someone a compliment.
I just happened to me this morning.
I woke up this morning checking my emails and scrolling through the text that had come from the East Coast.
Yeah. And I wrote to one friend, typed her name in and wrote your magic. And she'd sent me something that I didn't know she sent me. She goes, oh, did it arrive? I said, Nope. She goes, wait, you just said this to me, I'm like, yup, and she's like, that's made my day. But think about how so many people think to do something like that to a friend.
Like a thought popped into your head of that friend. You're like, Oh, I like that person and don't act upon it.
Yeah, it happens all the time. Every day you think of something like, Oh, that's nice. I like them. And just to go that one step further, to send a text like I just want you to know I like you. That's it.
Now it makes me think of like being in shape, being in like happy shape is like getting to a place where the little things won't stop you and you just plow through.
I think that's a great analogy. I think it is a little exercise. You know, if you work the muscle, you get stronger. And if you do these things frequently, they actually become super easy and that little voice either gets diminished or goes away.
Yeah, I'm pretty open about having lost my mom and sing about it a lot. And I had this crazy story where I was playing a show in Boston. I'm sitting at my table having breakfast and these four women come in that remind me of my mother. They're about the same age. And I'm like, you know, it's it's a bummer. I never get my mom breakfast. That's like, that'll be really cool to take her out for breakfast.
And so I have this thought of I should buy them breakfast. And then like I said, it always shows up, I think have a good idea. And then the negative definitely don't do that. That's the dumbest idea ever starts attacking my brain lol. You seem like a big shot. You tell me plan tonight. You want to look really cool and I'm sitting there and have this real now intense sense like you should do this thing that you thought I'm sweating by myself eating eggs.
Very confused like why this is not a thing that's normal for me. I'm very like, oh my God. So then I finally get into a step up. I walk over these four ladies and I say, listen, I don't want to bother you. I lost my mom about ten years ago and you all for some reason reminded me of her. Would you allow me to buy your breakfast? And the one on the far left immediately starts crying.
She stands up and says, I just lost my son, who's about your age. And now I'm hugging, crying with a stranger just like a stranger is now my family member. We're crying and we love each other. These little things, there's a barrier to break through, but then your life gets like crazy rich. It's so interesting. There's like this little thing of like do nice things. Just do it.
I love the fact that it's not just the recognition of the thing, but then there's a thought that comes after, which is what you have that I don't think everybody has.
I think a lot of people would sit at breakfast and look at a table and say, oh, they remind me of my mom, and then that would stop.
There'd be a little warmth. But your inclination is to go, how do I do something nice for them, just in gratitude for this nice feeling they've given me?
Yes. It's like you want to pay back the generosity of them being.
Yes, I think that is actually not as normal as you like to think. I think you and I both would like it to be normal. Yes.
The thing that I also find really interesting is for you, pain is really the starting point.
Yeah, because that to me makes optimism foolproof. Sometimes that word optimism gets like, yeah, but you're not living in the real world, you know us here in the real world, we're going through it and you're just happy over there. There's this quote that I wrote that song with champagne about. The more difficulties one sees in the world, the more perfect one becomes, the more you plow and dig the ground, the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of the tree, the higher and stronger it grows.
This is a quote that I was taught with growing up. And so you start to see struggle as as a piece of the whole puzzle. It's like a part of it. Not not something that just sucks. Like the gym. We go to the gym workout. Everybody agrees. But it's harder to see that in life when your mom does. I like extreme examples because the lessons are easier to see, you realize the opportunity for growth after pain if you trip on the sidewalk, you don't see it so easily.
Yeah, but when your mother dies, it's a lot easier to see just because it's so extreme. Yeah, it's extreme, and then you can take that into when you up on the sidewalk, right? I think that's a it's a muscle, too, right.
And so and so when you ask people to relive their most difficult moments, when you do your circles, I understand that you're allowing them to learn the lesson from the extreme. And that lesson can then translate. And see it and everybody else, that's what's cool to. I often share the story of Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous is a 12 step program, and many people know the first step is to admit you have a problem. Yeah, and people who've gone through Alcoholics Anonymous can tell you that if you master all 11 steps, but not the 12th, the odds are higher that you'll succumb to the disease.
But if you master the 12 steps, the odds significantly increase that you will beat the disease, the 12 step is to help another alcoholic.
The 12 step is service. Yeah, I get this question all the time. I feel like I've lost my purpose and I don't know what I want to do in life. And I'm struggling and I'm stuck. What do I do? And I say, oh yeah, OK. Find somebody else who doesn't feel like they have any sense of purpose, that they're struggling, stuck and don't know what they do. Go help them.
Go help them. And you will find everything you're looking for. But you have to help them genuinely. You can't help them in order to help yourself. You have to help them because you actually want to help them, because you may not get what you're looking for this time, because you have to do it again from like a music perspective service.
To me, it's very clear. That when you playing music, you can see who's doing the service, especially when you get started and you're terrible, you can tell that your family is giving you their attention. They're doing you the service. I like listening to you play. And I was a street performer for four years and I could watch people's faces while I was playing. And they'd be like, you're doing me the service at this point and just keep working, working, trying to get better and get better, trying to get better.
And then there's this shift that occurs where it's like, oh, now I am actually doing you the service. Oh my God, this is amazing. And that's when things start to move and that's when you feel better and see everything from that perspective. What are the hit song? It's that it hits someone's ears and they're like, Oh, you're giving me something. This is dope. You're like, these are actually being of service to me.
I have to ask, how does one go from performing on the streets of Santa Monica to now having a real music career?
The word that comes up for me is just persistence, like not giving up and then I guess goes back to your thing of like having a good enough y to be persistent, probably, but yeah, kept going out, kept writing songs, slowly figuring out what is actually of service to people, what is my gift, how do I share it. And showing up every day. And I had been performing all day and hadn't gotten one dollar, not one person had put anything in my case.
And it's a whole thing to get out there. You're like, pack up your mom's minivan. It takes like forty minutes to get out there. You have to get out there early to wait for a spot in Santa Monica. It's like a real schlep and to set everything up and you have to move every two hours. And I've moved like three times and I've been playing and no one stopped for about 11 hours of playing. Music to the world is being ignored for about eleven hours.
And I put my stuff down, get ready to pack up. And I looked up at the sky and I said they thought I was crazy. There's a lot of people that are crazy out there. So that blended perfectly in. And I look at this guy, said Yermo, like, I'm never leaving. So if you want me to just be here in 20 years saying to people walking by, I'm down for that. I just need you to know that I will still be here and I'm never leaving.
So you might as well just give in because I'm going to keep going. And then I went home and wrote this song like I picked me up to myself, I'll keep your head up. And that's the one that took off.
That's amazing. Edie Grammer, you're an absolute joy to talk to. So inspiring.
You must feel similar, like I'm sure a lot of people come up and tell you what I get sometimes from songs, which is like, oh, my God, your song really helped me, like, really change my insides in a way that was really helpful. And your books have done that for me. So it's such a sweet thing to be able to talk to you.
Thank you. Yes, sir. This is really magical. Thank you very, very much. If you enjoyed this podcast and if you'd like to hear more, please subscribe wherever you like to listen to podcasts. Until then, take care of yourself and take care of each other.