By January 7, 2021Profiles

I know we’ve all learned a lot from 2020 *cringe* and are more than happy to leave the past in the past. I get it and I’m with you in many ways there. But as we start this new year, I have to add that there have been many moments and lessons to be grateful for. So as we turn the page (or is it millennium? lifetime?) on 2020, in the spirit of a new year full of promise, I’d especially like to remember some of the lessons I learned from my lifelong best friend – my grandfather, who I lost in 2020.

He taught me how to live life with courage, charisma, conviction, and, in the most important way, with kindness — to himself, his community, his friends, and even his foes.

As a “social media personality”, or whatever you want to call me, my business is pretty much just out there all the time. There are two things, however, that I make an effort to keep somewhat private — dating and family. For those of you who do know me, you know there’s not much for me to report on the dating front, so I’m venturing into new territory here by discussing family, but with a purpose and a question for you: What have you learned from the generation or two before you that you keep with you still today? Or even wish you exemplified more in yourself?

So much has changed since my grandfather was growing up. He had to adapt to new ways of being a modern gentleman for every era; from the rolling out of television to the rolling out of “what is television”? Do you mean like Netflix? But what endured through it all was his abiding confidence in himself and his love for the people in his life. His “luxurious”lifestyle was not about things, but about his connection to the world around him.

Let’s face it, our phones rule our lives. We as Millennials check them 150 times a day — and that was before the pandemic. After living life almost entirely digitally these past 9 months, going into the new year I want to remember these #IRL lessons now more than ever, and to offer you tools and strategies for implementing these lessons in this week’s column.

First and foremost his lesson in character:

To paint you a picture of my grandpa, he lived for almost ten years peacefully across the street from his ex-wife (mygrandmother), and the man she left him for, until both of them passed away this year. He woke up every day, full of good cheer and actively lived with the certainty that every single day was going to be a good day. Perhaps one of the most important lessons I learned from him — you can’t control what happens to you every day but you do get to decide if you’re going to have a good day or a bad day.

Now I don’t know about you, but if my ex of 40+ years left me and moved in across the street with a new spouse, well…what I would do is… you know what?… I can’t even finish that sentence without getting riled up. And it didn’t even happen to me! So grandpa, thank you for this lesson in character.

And that’s why this week’s article, the first of the year, is a set of lessons learned from generations past — from my lifelong best friend and grandpa who even after (a whole lot of things but we’ll just say…) a painful divorce conducted himself with an unprecedented amount of grace, candor, and respect that allowed him to live peacefully and joyously right. across. the. street. from all that.

Say hi to people. Random people. All people.

You may be surprised how much a smile and simple hello can make someones day — even if you have no idea who they are and they are just a strangerinpassing on the sidewalk. My Grandpa did that every chance he got to the point where I actually used to be embarrassed by it. You would have thought he was the Mayor of any place he entered.

Before the times of dating apps, social media, and recreational sports leagues that’s how people met, for friendship and otherwise. I don’t know about you but I *awe* much more at the stories of “they met on the subway when my grandpa held the door for my grandma” than I do at the “he slid into my DMs saying ‘hey handsome’” or “I met my best from when they were moving in across the hall and I had nothing to do so I helped out” than “my only friends are my coworkers.”

The world isn’t out to get you and the person on the elevator isn’t a serial killer, so why do we bury our faces in our phones anytime a ‘stranger’ enters our proximity? Unless you are a CIA operative, there is no risk in saying hello and you have everything to gain.


Stop hiding behind your phone.

This could really be lesson 1A, since it relates to the first, but in todays world it really needs its own spotlight. Our phones have taken over our lives, and most people spend more waking hours looking at their phones than doing any other single activity. So in 2021:  When you’re on an elevator with someone. When you walk past someone on a sidewalk. When you’re waiting for your friend at the bar. Put your f***ng phone down. See what happens.

I know it’s comfortable and easy to not have risk speaking to another human you don’t know. It is for me too, but we as a society have really lost the ability to connect directly with the people around us. As my psychiatrist friend says, you think you are surrounded by people, but it’s more socially isolating than you realize.

Not once did I see my grandfather on a phone in public. Not once. And he learned from me how to use an iPhone so that in itself should tell you he was a seasoned pro. He knew everything about everyone he met after just five minutes because he could have a conversation like no one I’ve ever met.

We’re training our brains to respond statement by statement with time to read, process, and respond before “saying”(sending) it as our primary means of communication. We’re not as good on our feet anymore when it comes to conversing. Those people sitting next to you are more interesting than your Instagram feed, and as someone who may very well be on it, I can promise you that.


Chivalry. Chivalry. Chivalry.

They don’t call us the “me” generation for nothing. My grandfather always held the door for people, pulled a chair out for them, or picked something up off the ground when they dropped it. Those small acts of kindness created an instant sense of safety, compassion, and warmth.

So try it: Hold a door for someone today. Offer someone a hand with their bags next time you board a plane (which will hopefully safely be soon). Don’t watch them struggle while you hide behind your phone until someone else helps or they figure it out on their own. You will get back exactly what you put out into the world. Kindness always circles back.


Respect those with opposing opinions.

It’s perfectly acceptable to disagree with others. In fact, healthy debate is what makes just about everything better because it challenges the status quo and drives innovation. Our current media environment has tended to silo people into echo chambers, hearing clever affirmations of what we already believe.  Start listening to people you disagree with. Argue with them even, but never without respect. Once you lose that, it is game over.

As someone with a degree in strategic communication I can tell you
:  once you are disrespectful you may as well be screaming into an abyss, because the other person is no longer capable of hearing what you’re saying.

My grandpa
and I took an annual Thanksgiving trip just the two of us every year since I was 10 for 10 days. As you can imagine being with one person for that long all day every day led to some disagreement. Respectful disagreement leads to respectful resolution and we only loved each other more the next morning for those mutually respected battles. 

No phones at the table.

If you’re like me you may be thinking what table? You may not even have a kitchen or dining room table that isn’t also functioning as an office right now. But back in the days where you could eat in a restaurant (remember those? Like last year?), a new trend was asking people to put their phones in a box on the table or stack them face down one on top of the other as you sat down. I got into it and would encourage you to give it a try even at home — even if you are eating alone, as many of us always do these days.

My Grandfather enjoyed quiet time on his own and found that it helped re-energize him. It’s a fact that the constant bombardment of content from the digital world drains our brains and is the reason why we find ourselves so tired so early in the day. Let’s all try to be in the moment more and in the 3×6 glowing box glued to our hand less this year. (Another fact: It’s proven that you’ll sleep better if your phone is across the room or in another room.)


Appreciate the people who make your things.

Spending a day with my grandfather could feel like living in a little Medieval village, saying hello to shopkeepers no matter where we went or if we even needed to buy something from them.

As a New Yorker for five years I got very comfortable pushing a button on my phone and having whatever I could afford magically show up on my doorstep. But one of the great things about getting out in the world every day is having reproducible encounters on a daily basis. The guy behind the coffee bar, your barber, the checkout person at the grocer, your pharmacist, the guy who makes your sandwich at the deli. Say hi to them. Thank them. Ask them about their day. Many of them have been working hard through a lot of uncertainty, with jobs that have been somewhat scary the past year.


Put others before yourself and share knowledge.

I never want to come across as a know it all and know that I certainly do not know it all. But I do love sharing useful knowledge and even at times less useful and just entertaining knowledge. As you may know by now, I’m launching an app this month that does just that (and where hopefully you’ll only find knowledge that is useful and entertaining).

One of my closest friends still remembers the day we met for the first time, and in particular that I taught him how to insert a photo into his emails from his phone. My grandfather was an adored recreational league softball coach, until he couldn’t really coach anymore, but loved it so much he became the team manager (slash beer hander-outer).

He introduced all sorts of people from his community to the game and taught me my most meaningful life skills, big (how to stay positive through the darkest days) and small (how to plant a flower): But he also taught me to teach people things. You have the ability to change someone’s life just by showing them something new that you take for granted. So, give it a try.


Make your bed.  Every morning.  First Thing.

One of the things my Grandpa always talked about from his days in the military was how important it was to start the day with an accomplishment. Making your bed is a great way to start. It’s a habit of happy and effective people, and it starts a daily chain reaction that sets you up to succeed at accomplishing other tasks on your todo list. And let’s face it here, if something so simple is proven to make us more productive throughout the entire day it’s worth a shot, right?


Get lost IRL.

Wherever we were, be it a shopping mall or the city we were taking our annual trip to, my grandfather loved to walk. And walk. Now I know that may sound anticlimactic but those walks taught me many things and I still take them today. From discovering new places to meeting new people to simply clearing your head, a simple walk with no intention whatsoever could be the most important thing you do in a day. And particularly during these times, getting outside will do you some good.  As one doctor I know put it, “The Devil doesn’t like fresh air”.


Laugh at yourself.

To some degree we all have to stop taking things so personally and searching for ways to be offended. Yes, people say and do terrible things and yes, it’s all over the internet, but you have the power to choose whether or not you let those things affect you. If you want to change the world, change the world, but doing so often requires more action and organization than tweeting to the followers who already agree with you.

Of all the things about my grandfather, it will be his loud, hearty laugh that I will miss the most. He could find the humor in even his most embarrassing (for himself) moments, and always had the perspective that hard times were just part of a journey to happier ones.

That gratitude for laughter and those happy times, and sharing them with the people he loved, was all the wealth that my grandfather needed in life. It was his luxurious lifestyle. My grandpa bought his clothes at Macys, not on Rodeo Drive, but he had more personal style, and a more luxurious life than almost anyone I will ever know.

So as we begin a year with BHL Media, let’s not forget that the the small choices we make every day matter the most, and that the greatest luxury is waiting for you this very minute, right outside your door (while wearing a mask — there is still a pandemic). Right outside your phone. And it’s all free.

Cheers to you, and may this new year bring you happiness, prosperity, and joy.