Andrew W.K. Brings His Party to Irving Plaza

Four years ago, when he was serving as the Village Voice’s advice columnist, Andrew W.K. received a message from a reader trying to come to terms with the politics of his right-wing father. It’s hard to remember now, but America in 2014 was a very different place, and Andrew’s words seem to anticipate the current political divide. “The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world,” he wrote. “Love your dad because he’s your father, because he made you, because he thinks for himself, and most of all because he is a person. Have the strength to doubt and question what you believe as easily as you’re so quick to doubt his beliefs. Live with a truly open mind — the kind of open mind that even questions the idea of an open mind. Don’t feel the need to always pick a side. And if you do pick a side, pick the side of love. It remains our only real hope for survival and has more power to save us than any other belief we could ever cling to.”

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On Friday night, Andrew W.K. brings his message of love, hope, and partying to Irving Plaza, where he first performed almost two decades ago. In the years since he stormed into music fans’ lives like a sweaty, white denim–clad hurricane, the singer has been rock music’s prophet of positivity. In March, he released You’re Not Alone, his first album since 2009. We caught up with the singer to talk politics, music, and the power of positive thinking.

Since Trump came into office, your advice to “Son of A Right-Winger” has continued to resonate with Voice readers. It was almost like you predicted the current state of our politics.

I haven’t read that in a long time, but it was written from a place of common knowledge, things that other people had explained to me, sharing this perspective. It was a plea for my own sanity and my own civility, and a belief in the world’s ability to be humane and restrained while also being convicted and passionate. They’re cycles, it seems, in the human experience that really have the ability to bring out our worst and bring out our best. And, more intensely, bring out our worst disguised as our best. And I’ve been as challenged by this as anyone else.

You’ve also been a motivational speaker, and so much of your music is about seizing the moment and embracing life. How did you settle on rock music as the delivery mechanism for your message?

Being the keyboard player first and foremost — and having my earliest musical education come through the piano — I was very late to the game when it came to rock music in general. It wasn’t until high school, really, that I got into that. And before rock music I had gotten into more, I guess I would say radical music, because that was the most strong departure from the traditional piano lessons I had. So that would be defined as experimental or avant-garde or modern or contemporary. That was, to me, the most exciting thing. And then I looked at the mentality of contemporary rock music as having the potential to combine anything and everything.

How so?

It was the most unrestrained and intense delivery method for the feeling I was trying to conjure up. It’s a very visceral and physical way to access a kind of primal energy and nothing else really works quite like it. All music, I think, is trying to reach a kind of core truth about being alive, a truth that can be physically experienced through our senses beyond our mental consideration into the physical, and so that’s what makes it so undeniable. But for me, almost as though I was born to do it, rock music had a maximalist sensibility that I really clicked with, just that everything was taken further. I feel like others that came before, if I may be so bold, have all been trying to get to that place together. And of course I’m extraordinarily inspired and encouraged by other people, especially those that have been doing it for a long time who are still engaged and still passionate and still determined to make that feeling happen for themselves and for their fellow humans.

So you didn’t blast Queen or Kiss records to get pumped up to make the new record?

You know, I would answer this in two ways in the most respectful way possible. One, I really do try to strip my mind of everything when making a recording, and I hope it doesn’t come off as arrogant or as insincere. Most people who record music are trying — maybe they’re not, but I know there’s other people out there because I’ve talked to them — where they’re trying to say, “OK, what can I do? What can I do? Here’s what’s been done. Here’s my chance. I haven’t existed yet. I’ve never sat down to record a song so what can I do?” And it’s not to say I understand the idea that no one is free of influence and there’s a great chain of inspiration, whether it’s acknowledged or not, but there does seem to be something sacred and respectful about going out into the musical landscape and seeing if you can plant your own seed. That’s the greatest show of respect I can show to the music that I admire: to not try to copy it. I can never be that person no matter how hard I try. Who can I be? Can I get to the place they’re getting to? And I also will say even if there were influences, I would never say them, because I think it’s distracting. People can guess themselves.


How challenging is it to find other musicians who have the same drive and mission as you?

Well, I would like to say with all due acknowledgment to every band member I’ve ever had, because every band member has gotten us to where we are now, but this is the best the band has ever been. And I really say that because of the practice we’ve put in at this point. You hope that doing something longer enables you to improve doing it, and this band is the best that we’ve ever been and that’s just from time. Every other band member I’ve had has been incredible and irreplaceable and unique, but as things have come and gone, and people have come and gone and come back again, we are just at a level of focus and excitement and determination. I wish I could find another word for it, but there’s a lot of plain old-fashioned gratitude that we’ve gotten to do any of this in the first place, and that we’re still getting to do it. So I’d like to think that people would be able to feel our excitement for our playing this and playing for them.

How long, exactly, have you guys been playing together?

Well, the bass player, Gregg Roberts, and one of the guitar players, Erik Payne — they’ve been in the band since the beginning, since our first show we ever played, in 2001. They probably joined the band in 2000. Then there’s new members that have only been in the band for about a year.

Isn’t it a struggle to put out that much energy onstage, especially after all this time?

In some ways it feels completely surprising and baffling and quite confusing and thrilling, and then in other ways it feels completely unavoidable, like it was preordained and all that kind of feeling. I can’t imagine it being any other way. But then I can let my mind wander into all the other possibilities. It’s one of those kinds of projects where there’s many ways to look at it, and they’re all quite intense, for me at least. I can easily see it as, “How did I wind up so lucky as to be doing this?” and then I can also, at other times, see it as, “Wow, this is why all those people warned me not to do this!” So it’s continuously rewarding and challenging.

Does always looking on the bright side ever get tiring?

Well, as someone who’s a negative person by default, this party quest is about having a reason, a purpose to focus on the positive, to be more positive, to be a more strong and capable person, because that’s not how I felt already. So I had to have some kind of mission that was about those feelings, that gave me a way to experience those emotions that I could apply myself to. So not only is it not a burden to try to stay in that mind-set of motivated optimism, it’s crucial. And this is what gives me the chance to do it. So this work is what’s saving my life, basically. It’s very encouraging for one another to realize that this is a journey we can go on with comrades, with brothers and sisters, and it’s a great chain of humanity that is encouraging us and cheering us on from beyond the grave, or from heaven, or however you want to look at it. I just feel like my message is, “How can we find the meaning to life?” And that’s nothing that I possess. I’m just one of the people trying to get there myself, and do it in a profound way that hopefully resonates with more than just myself.

Andrew W.K. plays Irving Plaza on Friday, May 18.


10 Times Andrew W.K. Gave the Best Advice

Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.

This year Andrew W.K. gave some phenomenal advice to folks in need of a little guidance — whether it was about shaking some bad karma and how to #PartyPositive or tackling bigotry and depression. Here are some of his most-read advice columns from 2015.

10. Ask Andrew W.K.: How Can I Shake My Bad Karma?

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I work at a used-car dealership where I’m forced to rip people off. It’s killing my spirit a little bit every day. I wish I could be making the world a better place, but instead, I’m spending sixty hours a week selling snake oil and gypsy tears to poor unsuspecting people. How do I dig myself out of this situation and reverse all of the bad karma?

Killing My Karma

Andrew W.K.: I urge you to consider that you’ve actually been building up good karma for many years, and that this good karma is now revealing itself to you in an urgent form of undeniable instinct. It’s an inner voice presenting you with a new type of clarity — an overwhelming sense of moral integrity, a pressure — which is making it virtually impossible for you to go on living against the principles which you know in your heart to be right. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Killing My Karma…

9. Ask Andrew W.K.: How Can I Regain My Confidence?

Dear Andrew W.K.,

To put it simply, I’ve lost my confidence. I used to be able to wake up in the morning knowing who I was, feeling sure of myself and ready to take on the world… I just want to be confident again and know who I am. I’ve lost my way and don’t know how to get back my old self.

Your friend,
Lost Along the Way

Andrew W.K.: I’m someone who has never felt very confident in that typical outgoing way, but I also never really believed I had to feel confident in order to do something I wanted to do. I realized I could be confident without feeling confident. I had many of the same misconceptions that people who were confident inside always felt brave and strong. I think now it doesn’t really matter if we feel confident or not. What matters is what we actually do, regardless of how scared we may feel. That’s where this deeper type of confidence starts to develop — the confidence to live your life, even when you don’t feel particularly self-assured or bold. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Lost Along the Way…

8. Ask Andrew W.K.: I’m a Shoplifter

Dear Andrew W.K., 

I’ve never really shoplifted before, but yesterday I accidentally stole a T-shirt from a big retail chain… Now I have this T-shirt that I feel like I accidentally stole, but I also feel like it was kind of the store’s fault for not noticing it. It’s a huge chain store, so it’s not like this one shirt is going to hurt them too much. Is it fine to just keep it? I feel weird about it.

Accidental Shoplifter 

Andrew W.K.: My personal advice for you is based on this same mindset: Go return the T-shirt. And be glad you didn’t have to get mugged in order to realize that stealing from others is bad. It’s just a T-shirt, and the big retailer might not ever notice or even care, but you do care. You cared enough to actually write me about it. That’s because this isn’t just about a T-shirt. This is about your own perception of yourself — your own principles, your own integrity, your own sense of order, and your own idealized view of the world. Once you start letting that slide too much, you slowly start to lose sense of yourself — your self-image slowly erodes — and you expect less of yourself and of others, and we all gradually fall further from our true potential as truly good beings. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Accidental Shoplifter…

7. Ask Andrew W.K.: Can I Be Straight-Edge and Still Party Hard? 

Dear Andrew W.K,

I’ve been dealing with some major substance abuse problems for a long time, and without going into too much detail, I’ve finally given up and decided to enter a recovery program and go straight-edge. You are an expert on partying. Can I be straight-edge and still party hard?

Fear of Not Partying

Andrew W.K.: I think there’s a common misconception that true partying must always involve drugs and alcohol. In reality, the only thing that true partying must involve is partying. How each of us decides to party within that partying is up to the individual, but true partying doesn’t necessarily require drugs any more than it necessarily requires skydiving — to each their own. As long as it doesn’t blatantly hinder someone else’s ability to party, all forms of partying are permitted. Alcohol and drugs can be amazing, and when used in a dynamic way, they can offer us genuine life-changing insights and experiences. Drugs are not necessary requirements for all, and for some, they may be completely detrimental to reaching true party perfection. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Fear of Not Partying…

6. Ask Andrew W.K.: How Can I Talk to My Bigoted Friend?

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I recently moved in with a friend who I’ve known for almost a decade. Turns out he uses a lot of homophobic slurs and insults. He also says racist stuff and badmouths pretty much every minority group you can think of. I had never seen this side of him until we became roommates, and now I’m really disturbed. I pointed out how offensive this was, and his response was, “They’re just words,” and that I should lighten up. What do I do?

Yours sincerely,

Andrew W.K.: Your friend’s answer of “They’re just words” is similar to punching someone in the face and then saying, “They’re just hands.” Words are powerful and can be used to hurt or comfort, just like hands can be used to hit or hug. Next time he uses derogatory language, you could just call him an “ignorant racist dumbass piece of shit,” and if he gets upset, remind him that “they’re just words.” Words are not “just words.” Words are power. Words are living symbols of expression. Words can cause you to feel angry, even violently hurt. They’re supposed to. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Concerned…

5. Ask Andrew W.K.: How Do I Show Religious Freaks That Science Wins?

Yo, Andrew W.K.

How can anyone believe in religion? It’s so ignorant and obviously fake. I’ve always backed science since I was a little kid, and now I’m proud to say that I’m studying to be a molecular biologist in college. The thing is, I’m surrounded by a lot of religious idiots at this school… What is the best way to finally get through to these ignorant people and explain to them simply and finally that they’re wrong?

Thanks for your feedback,
Enlightened Scientist

Andrew W.K.: Both science and religion came from mankind’s desire to know. Both are striving for truth. Science wants to understand truth. Religion wants to experience it. Science wants to get at truth from the outside in. Religion gets at it from the inside out. Science gives us the how; religion gives us the why. Science gives us the means to an end, religion gives us the meaning of that end. Science wants to bring comprehension to the universe. Religion wants to bring tangibility to the intangible. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Enlightened Scientist…

4. Ask Andrew W.K.: How Do I Become a Successful Musician?

Dear Andrew W.K.,

Since I was very young, I’ve always wanted to be a successful musician. I have practiced and played in many bands and done everything I can to get my music out there, but the dream of making it big just seems to get further away and more impossible. I feel like I should just give up, but I love music so much and want to succeed at it. How can I get there? How can I be a really successful musician?

Striving For Success

Andrew W.K.: This is an excellent question and I’m going to answer it as simply and as directly as I can, with the hopes that it makes the point as clear and as helpful as possible. The traditional modern concept of success — being the measurement of monetary income as the primary indicator of effort and mastery in a certain field — is essentially a scam, a con, and a lie… To truly succeed at something is to devote yourself to what you love, and to allow that devotion to bring out the best and most admirable qualities inside of you, so that in the end, you ultimately succeed at the only effort that really matters: becoming a better person than you were. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Striving For Success…

3. Ask Andrew W.K.: How Do I Make My Family Understand I’m Transgender? 

Dear Andrew W.K.,

Last month I came out as transgender, beginning my transition to female. My mom has repeatedly tried to get me to move back home and see a therapist to “fix” me. My oldest sister called me a “sexual deviant” and forbid me to talk to my nieces and nephew, all of whom I was very close to. It’s now been a month since this has happened. My question is, how can I reach out to my mom and my sister to help them understand better?

Rejected Trans Woman

Andrew W.K.: First and foremost, I commend you for moving forward with an incredibly intense yet deeply important choice: the choice to be yourself. Choosing to be true to one’s self — despite physical, emotional, and social challenges that may come with the journey — is an integral part of realizing not just one’s own potential, but of realizing the true nature of our collective human spirit. This spirit is what makes us who we are, and by following that spirit as it manifests outwardly, and inwardly, you are benefiting us all. This is what defines and furthers our shared journey of discovery and individuality. You are you, and as you progress on this adventure, you are striving to release more of that “you-ness” from deep within and out into the world. And this “you-ness” is truth, truth as expressed through your life as a unique person. It’s your song, your melody. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Rejected Trans Woman…

2. Ask Andrew W.K.: Do You Ever Get Depressed?

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I’m a depressed person. I get sad and unmotivated and basically just feel like being away from everyone, including myself… Do you have any advice on what to do with bad feelings like this? You always seem so happy and I really look up to you for that. But do you ever get depressed? How do you stay so positive?

Downer in the Dumps

Andrew W.K.: The one thing I have learned throughout this odyssey is that those bad feelings are not who I really am. They are not the truth. And they will pass. And I will get back up. The real me is somewhere in there all the time, and the test is to see if I can hold on tight enough to make it through the storm. We must hold tight, and then try to rise back up. Maybe not instantly, but at some point, as soon as you can feel it start to lift a little. It takes an extraordinary amount of effort to push through it. Pulling out of a depression by sheer willpower is among the hardest physical and emotional challenges I have ever engaged in. But I have done it, and you can, too. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Downer in the Dumps…

1. Ask Andrew W.K.: My Girlfriend Makes More Money Than I Do and It’s Stressing Me Out

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I have a lovely girlfriend who makes significantly more money than I do, and I find this situation aggravating and stressful. She and I live together, and the kitchen is now “my domain.” I know that love conquers all, but how do I be “the man” when I consistently find myself relying on her?

Your Friend,

Andrew W.K.: A truly good man must think of other people as unique beings of inherent value and greatness, capable of just as much greatness as himself. Rather than resent another’s greatness — especially the greatness of a loved one — a true man strives to encourage it. In recognizing someone else’s capacity for greatness, he may also see her become even greater than himself. Perhaps in ways that he didn’t expect. Perhaps in ways that defy social standards. Perhaps in ways that force him to look closely at his life and feel self-conscious and insecure. But rather than fear these feelings, the great man embraces them, for he realizes they’re opportunities to improve the quality of his soul, to loosen the strangling grip of his ego, and to free himself and others from unnecessarily stifling conventions. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to T… 

Honorable Mention: Ask Andrew W.K.: My Dad Is a Right-Wing Asshole*
*This is from 2014, but it’s one of Andrew W.K.’s most-read columns and still resonates with thousands of readers.

Hi Andrew W.K.,

I’m writing because I just can’t deal with my father anymore. He’s a 65-year-old super right-wing conservative who has basically turned into a total asshole intent on ruining our relationship and our planet with his politics… Don’t get me wrong, I love him no matter what, but how do I explain to him that his politics are turning him into a monster, destroying the environment, and pushing away the people who care about him?

Thanks for your help,
Son of a Right-Winger

Andrew W.K.: The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world. The world is being hurt and damaged by one group of people believing they’re truly better people than the others who think differently. The world officially ends when we let our beliefs conquer love. We must not let this happen. Read the rest of Andrew W.K.’s advice to Son of a Right-Winger…


Ask Andrew W.K.: ‘Does Heaven Exist?’

[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I’ve recently accepted the fact that I’m an Atheist. I realize most everyone in my family would be very upset by this, so I’ve kept it to myself. But now I suddenly feel very isolated. I’m having a very difficult time understanding how to deal with death knowing that there isn’t a heaven in which those I love will be seen again. Please help me with the constant fear of losing my loved ones for forever.


Dear Afraid,

Life confronts us with an endless series of dilemmas and pressures. The most challenging of these almost always involve that unmistakable yet mysterious quality best described as “the unknown.” Maybe the supreme puzzle isn’t in figuring out the ultimate secret answer to solve all the unknowns forever, but is in solving the need to figure out an ultimate secret in the first place. In this way, and perhaps as you’ve already done, we can accept that there are areas of life that we simply don’t presently have the necessary faculties to process or understand. Through this acceptance, we gain a type of transcendent knowledge in itself, one that’s both humbling and enlightening. An ultimate understanding of existence may be almost intentionally beyond our reach for all kinds of good reasons, but in considering this possibility, we don’t necessarily need to feel frustrated, discouraged, or belittled. Perhaps it’s beyond our grasp for a reason that is ultimately helpful, like a hot stove being out of reach from a child. Or perhaps it’s like a carrot being dangled in front of a rabbit, or a dog chasing after a false rabbit at a race track — perhaps there is something motivating about not getting it, and not knowing.

[pullquote]But what if we did know it all? Would we even be human anymore? Would there be a reason for us to move or go forward or exist?[/pullquote]

Maybe that lack of knowledge creates an intrinsic and propulsive energy that in some basic way connected to the very roots of our survival. We’re propelled by our trying to know; we strive and thrive as human beings in that pursuit. But what if we did know it all? Would we even be human anymore? Would there be a reason for us to move or go forward or exist?

When questions remain unanswered, it means there is more living still to do. Collectively and individually, we must earn our understanding through our efforts and be worthy of the shreds of truth we claw out of life. And perhaps we will never get to the One Final Truth buried behind it all, because that would stop the need for things to keep unfolding, and growing, and revealing themselves to us. We are revealing ourselves to ourselves, and the world is revealing itself through us, and us through it. If everything was known, there could be no revelation. The more we discover, the more we discover there is to still be discovered. As the great saying goes, “as veil upon veil is lifted, we find veil upon veil behind.” Maybe the veil gives shape to what it obscures. Maybe the onion is never meant to be peeled to its absolute center, for then there would be no onion to enjoy peeling. Maybe the absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth — or maybe not.

Fear can come from having the answers as much as it can come from not having any answers at all. The known is often even more frightening than the unknown. And regardless of what anyone believes or claims to know, we really don’t know very much about what living is really all about — not to mention what really happens when we die. What does it feels like to no longer feel?

One thing we do know, even in the face of all these unknowns, is that we can experience genuine moments of heavenly beauty in our own time living in this world. We can realize true moments of undeniable happiness, if we pay attention enough to notice them as they happen. We can even imagine a version of heaven that simply consists of what we already know and love about life right now.

Like many spiritual concepts, the idea of heaven can be explored as a symbolic illustration of many genuine aspects of our own day to day reality. It can be contemplated by believers and non-believers alike, and can offer us extremely valuable insights into our true self and the nature of what it means to be human right here and now. In this way, heaven is a state of true perfection which is already present and at the same time always in front of us. It’s something to unfold and reveal and work towards and to earn. Those precious moments of happiness will eventually slip through our fingers in the same way in which our loved ones will eventually slip into the unknown, as we ourselves will too — as all things must.

But ultimately, none of these looming and inevitable experiences with the unknown are to be feared or dreaded — they are meant to be questioned, explored, celebrated, and ultimately faced with a sense of awe and humility, and if we’re really strong, with a sense of humor.

Let us recognize heaven when we find it around us. And let us work to make heaven here and now for one another, as much as we can. It’s quite possible that when we die, that will be the moment we realize we had already been in heaven all along.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.


Ask Andrew W.K.: ‘Do You Ever Get Stage Fright?’

Dear Andrew W.K.,

You seem like a very confident and fearless person, so I kind of doubt you feel this way, but I was wondering if you ever suffered from stage fright in your career as a performer. I’m a musician who has always played by myself or just jammed with friends for fun, but recently I’ve wanted to take my music to the next level and play it live, in front of a real audience.

Unfortunately, the few times I have tried performing at shows, they have been completely terrifying. How do I conquer those fears and live my dream of unabashedly rocking out onstage?


Dear Fearfully,

I don’t know if the term “stage fright” can convey the range of devastating sensations I regularly experience in regards not only to performing live, but in nearly every aspect of my work. It’s a constant combination of severe humiliation and embarrassment, fear and anxiety, and a type of ever-increasing anticipation that occasionally grows into full-blown dread. It never fully ceases; it just rides along beside me as a constant and horrifying presence.

From the first time I ever went up onstage (as a six-year-old, to give my first piano recital), this feeling of an all-encompassing and transcendent fear descended on my spirit and remained there. In fact, it has only increased over time. I would’ve thought that after thirty years of performing, these feelings would’ve subsided, but instead, they’ve actually grown stronger and deeper.

But other feelings have also grown alongside them. Feelings of determination. Feelings of focus. Feelings of a deep and insatiable need to do this work, no matter what. A commitment to fulfilling what I know I should fulfill — of doing what I know I must do in order to be worthy of the opportunities I’ve been given — in order to fulfill my own humble yet very important destiny. It never really gets easier to be alive, but you get better at handling the challenges you’re confronted with, and you get used to the feeling of impending doom, of some sort of cataclysmic disaster being right around the corner. I think that’s just the natural pressure of mortality. The key is to harness this pressure and use it for good. You realize you can feel these things without letting them prevent you from living your life. And when you can face those feelings in small but meaningful ways — like playing a show in spite of your stage fright — it counts as a genuine victory and a moment of triumph.

[pullquote]I would’ve thought that after 30 years of performing, these feelings would’ve subsided, but instead, they’ve actually grown stronger and deeper.[/pullquote]

Each time you push forward and follow your dream, each time you meet a challenge head on, each time you recommit to not giving up, you get a little stronger. You get a little better. You get a little more familiar with who you really are inside. And though that doesn’t make the process less painful, it clarifies your devotion to your own life. You make a promise to your own destiny, one to follow what you were born to do regardless of how hard it may be, how torturous, or how ridiculous it makes you look.

Each and every time I go onstage, I feel like an incredible fool. Like a complete and total idiot. But there is something completely empowering about that feeling — it’s as empowering as it is crushing. It’s liberating to realize that not even my own worst fears can stop me. We have bigger and more important things to focus on: our purpose, our chance to exist, our chance to play the music, spread the energy, and unleash the feelings of joy. There has never been a single show I have played where I felt I did a truly good job — so then I try again. There has never been a show where I didn’t feel completely mortified and immersed in anguish as soon as I got offstage — but I still go back for more. I do it because I can tell that somehow this all means something, and that it’s good. It goes beyond feeling bad about yourself or how you did. In those moments, you are almost removed from being a person — you’re more than a person. You are a mission; you are a cause; you are means to an end, and hopefully that end is something truly good and full of love and power. I turn myself over to that cause every day and pray that it brings out the best in me.

Sometimes, it can feel like an outside force is taking over and making it possible to do things that were otherwise impossible. I don’t actually think that force is “outside” us; I think it’s who we really are inside, and our true essence is being amplified and brought to the surface by our desperate need for it. If you have a need to be at your best, for transcending your fears, your spirit will respond and give you the power you need to fulfill your destiny — to become who you really are. Having a mission, and a sense of purpose, gives us that strength to follow the path, even when it’s scary and awkward and discouraging. When we care more about doing what we love than we care about being afraid, we will ourselves to do it.

You simply remove the option of quitting from the array of possible choices. You promise to do what you know you must do, no matter how much it scares you. And in that promise lies all the strength you will ever need. The promise is the key. The promise transforms your weakness into your strength. And even though it’s frightening and overwhelming, you can tell that keeping that promise is literally making you into a better person.

That’s when all the fear and humiliation and confusion turns into something greater — something joyful and wonderful and strong.

The promise to follow your destiny turns you into yourself. And that is the most beautiful transformation of all.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.

[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]


Ask Andrew W.K.: ‘How Do I Become a Good Person?’

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I turned thirty not long ago and came to the realization that after living most of my life filled with bitterness and hatred, I am not a good human being. Sometimes, I imagine myself as the opposite version of who I really want to become. Wobbling through life in the most miserable way possible, I only know how to hate and how to play the victim. I don’t possess the redeeming qualities I seek in others.

Sometimes I feel like it’s too late to change. I don’t even know where to begin. What are the tips and tricks for getting my life back together and becoming a good person?


Dear Lost,

Before anyone can become a “good person,” we have to figure out what being a good person really means. And while at first it can seem easy to define this by a list of certain essential traits, it quickly becomes difficult to nail down and describe exactly what goodness is.

Is a good person someone who is selfless and puts others ahead of herself? Or is a good person someone who works to have the best life he can, regardless of the circumstances around him? Is a good person someone who has reached a type of purity and grace? Or is a good person someone who has achieved worldly success and a complex lifestyle? The more we try to pin down what being a good person consists of, the harder it gets to make sense of for our own lives.

We may choose to look at the lifestyles and accomplishments of people we admire with the hope that mirroring their specific behaviors and mindsets can secure our own “good person” status. But this often leads to greater confusion and discouraging waves of frustration as we realize that we can’t really fit ourselves into someone else’s shoes or walk down their exact path.

After wrestling with these realizations for a time, we begin to see that being a good person somehow involves being oneself. But more than that, it’s the delicate and hard-earned process of becoming oneself. This is ultimately a great deal more challenging and subtle than simply working through a checklist of predetermined steps, tips, or tricks. We must unfold our goodness from within. And each of us has a specific path that will take us through that process. That path is called “your life.”

In this way, being a good person is not a final state that one reaches, but a constant, lifelong project. In many ways, the consistent and earnest effort we make toward becoming a good person may be the closest we actually get to being a good person at all. This is a mysterious and rather paradoxical truth, so I’ll restate it again for clarity:

Working to become a good person is synonymous with being a good person.

Many people will not like this definition of goodness, as they would rather have their good-person status attained in a basic, provable step and completed as quickly as possible so they can put it behind them and get back to frivolous things. Many people would rather not have to invest their energy into ongoing labor toward their development. They want to pass a one-time test and be done with it. But that’s too easy. And when it comes to being a good person, the path may be simple, but it’s never easy. As has often been said, though it seems we are trying to reach a place or a state of importance, it’s not actually that destination that matters most, but the journey we go through on our way there. And what that journey does to us — and what we discover about who we’re meant to be while we’re on it — is where its true value lies.

So it’s never too late to reaffirm your commitment to continuing on your journey in life. You’ve already been unfolding yourself, and your pains and frustrations have all been part of this journey. You have never not been on your proper path. In many cases, our worst and lowest moments are ultimately the most motivating and inspiring in pushing us toward our unfolding goodness.

Find the courage to release yourself from your past “mistakes” and “failures” and realize that they are all part of your adventure. Each step — whether noble or flawed — has helped to bring you to where you are now, and from here on out, your life can and will improve.

It takes discipline and commitment and resilience to face yourself with honesty and humility every day, but you already began that part of the journey when you wrote in to me and started reflecting on your inner life. Always ask yourself a few questions: “Is this action I’m about to take going to contribute to goodness?” “Is this word I’m about to speak going to contribute to goodness?” “Is this thought I’m focused on going to contribute to goodness?” Follow the answers found in your heart, and let them lead you. Have faith in yourself and in your destiny. Allow it to pull you as much as you push toward it.

Realize that all along you have already been on your journey, getting your own incredible chance at being alive. It is through this very process called “living” that we each get to discover the truth about ourselves and the world around us. That’s what living is for. The only way to get anywhere is to go through it boldly and with great enthusiasm. It won’t be easy, but it will be amazing and incredible. Stay strong and keep moving forward. You already are a good person. Now let your life reveal this to you by living it and loving it with all your heart.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.

[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]


Ask Andrew W.K.: ‘How Should I Feel About Terrorism?’

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I’m truly distraught. Like most people, I’m sickened and shocked by the recent terror attacks in Paris, as well as by the seemingly increasing levels of violence and discord around the world in general. I’m 31 years old. I obviously remember the 9-11 attacks and the first time I learned about terrorism and extremism, but I don’t feel like I’ve learned how to cope with it. I can’t shake this growing dread and anxiety about daily life, nor this sense of imminent doom.

I know my parents and grandparents and especially my great-grandparents lived through even more violent and troubling times, and I try to gain strength from their experiences and points of view.

But I still feel incredible stress. Everything feels pointless and depressing. I’m sad to admit it, but I’m afraid and lost. I wish there was some way I could understand what is happening, or fight back, or help stop all this. What can I do?


Dear Terrorized,

There are no easy answers here. Nothing I can say will be adequate, will fully explain the inexplicable. When humans commit inhuman acts, sense and reason are nowhere to be found. We cannot force the situation to make sense and square with our understanding of life. When faced with a senseless situation, it is completely natural to experience an overwhelming feeling of confusion, coupled with waves of hopelessness and incredible sadness. But instead of drowning in that despair, we must cling to what matters most to us and use our love of those principles to pull ourselves up to a higher level. And from this higher point of view, we can see the situation with more clarity.

With violence of this kind, we are witnessing humans give themselves over to their lowest, basest, most animalistic instincts. They’re abandoning every humanistic impulse and divine ideal in favor of their most distorted and depraved appetites. The amount of self-denial, inverted logic, and staggering ignorance it takes to carry out such acts of mindless sadism is impossible to fathom by anyone not operating on this same vulgar level. Just as we cannot fully understand or identify with the thought process of a great white shark, we cannot hope to comprehend the mindset of a human who has chosen to abandon all the honorable and noble parts of his nature in favor of his most despicable, underdeveloped, and perverted impulses. But whereas the shark is at least true to its nature as a killer, these monstrous humans have defied their nature and capacity for goodness and reason and have become something alien and unrecognizable to us. That’s why these situations are so confusing and hard to understand: They’re not of this world, yet they occurred within it.

[pullquote]Each and every attempt at limiting the human spirit has failed.[/pullquote]

The world that the majority of us are striving to create and live in is one in which light, life, love, and liberty are the four emanations of the one true law of existence. We collectively believe that these qualities exist inherently in the world, in the same way as other laws of nature exist. We have identified them in the same way we have identified the law of gravity, but we also have nurtured them, protected them, and fought for them against others whose own ignorance and immaturity have blinded them from experiencing this purity of truth.

We allow each human the right to exist, to live their own life, to be their own person, to find their own purpose, and to enjoy the privileges of natural and total freedom. But we know that when one person is kept from experiencing these natural rights, all of humanity is denied a portion of its collective glory. Those who seek to infringe upon or destroy these basic principles are fighting a battle as futile as trying to stop the sun from shining or the Earth from turning. The law of humanity is ultimately the law of nature and is as incorruptible and as strong as the forces which bind our universe together in space and time. These natural forces are the definition of goodness and synonymous with truth. This is why evil is built on falsehoods and confusion: Evil is that which attempts to defy the natural laws of life, and because these laws cannot be broken, evil will always ultimately fail.

We have seen this time and time again, illustrated throughout human history, as the many attempts to thwart the natural rights of humanity have crumbled. Those who wish to destroy the right to be free and true to oneself — and to bend the law to serve their own restrictive ideology — will always eventually perish. Each and every attempt at limiting the human spirit has failed. Some have been more spectacular failures than others, and some have caused more damage and suffering than others, but before long they all succumbed to the inevitable triumph of the law over oppression and darkness. Each time, the tyrants have thought they had figured out a special new trick with which to beat the system, to bend the rules, and to overcome the power of goodness. Each time they thought they were chosen to finally topple the human spirit once and for all, but their vanity and blindness only ensured their demise. One simply can’t break the rules of the universe without consequences. They cannot beat nature and they cannot win.

So what can we do?

We can live for truth. We can fight for light, life, love, and liberty. We can make sure each person has the ability to make their own way toward their own individual destiny, unimpeded by the dogma or limitations others would wish to impose. The only worthy limitations are the limitations of time and humanity’s own internal struggle to rise up over its individual and collective weakness.

The terrorists cannot kill everyone. They cannot end the world. They cannot destroy civilization. All they can do is disrupt our lives, disrupt our minds, and, most of all, try to disrupt our hearts and spirits. In order for their attacks to truly succeed, they need to discourage us in our mission toward the total realization of our shared life purpose. Do not give them this satisfaction. In honor of those who lost their lives at the hands of these fools, we must live on and hold tighter than ever to the best parts of life. It’s natural to be afraid, but we must never give in to that fear. We must never allow their misery to infiltrate our vision of an ideal world of love and peace. They want war, but they will only get annihilation. This isn’t us versus them. This is us versus “it.” We have all of history and humanity on our side. We have the entire universe on our side. No force is strong enough to ultimately stop the unfolding of the universe. No person is strong enough to ultimately stop the unfolding of another person’s spirit.

Do not abandon hope. Do not abandon joy. Do not doubt the value and integrity of all that we have fought to protect and promote for so long. Enjoy life and live every moment for all it’s worth. If we stop enjoying life, it means the terrorists won.

Stay strong,
Andrew W.K.

[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]


Ask Andrew W.K.: ‘How Do I Make My Friend Put Bros Before ‘Hos?’

Dear Andrew W.K.: 

My buddy and I party hard…maybe even a little too hard at times. My buddy is also a romantic fool who thinks every girl is “the one.” And that’s fine, to each their own…unless it interrupts the partying. Which it does, frequently.

Even if I drive all the way out to where he lives, I usually get a phone call when I’m thirty minutes away saying, “This girl is coming out with us. You’ll really like her, she’s awesome! Oh by the way, she’s the one!” This inevitably has him leaving the party at 9:45 p.m. because “she’s tired” or “she’s not feeling well.” Again, I’m not going to hate this guy for being popular with the ladies, but when it’s constantly intruding on my partying, it gets old…FAST!

So how do I tell my friend that he needs to put (for lack of a better term) bros before ‘hos?

Party Connoisseur

Dear Party Connoisseur,

After reading your letter several times, I find no evidence that you really care about your friend’s life beyond how it enables or interferes with your own social plans. It seems you expect him to party on your terms, or you don’t consider it partying at all. There isn’t one aspect of your letter that appears to show any real awareness or consideration for his feelings, his interests, or his own separate personal life except in how it relates to you and what you want.

You show even less awareness or concern for his female companions, about whom he’s shared his excitement with you despite your cynical, bitter eye-rolling. How dare he have the nerve to keep a romantic and idealistic spirit and tirelessly look for love in a challenging world! People with your attitude make this world even more challenging. You then reduce the women he cares about to mere accessories and obstacles standing in the way of your own planned uses for your friend. It seems that your main concern is yourself, and I’m guessing that if you honestly examine your behavior in general, you’ll identify these traits on display in most other areas of your life.

This is understandable and forgivable. We are told early on, and from many different sides, that being self-centered is necessary for a type of material success and control in the world, but we eventually realize that having too much control and self-centeredness comes at too great a cost in the areas of life that matter most. It turns out that being a good friend and a good person is actually about having very little control over anyone other than you and your own behavior. If we want to become better people and have better friendships, it doesn’t come from telling your friend to put bros before ‘hos. It comes from you putting disciplined effort into refining the lesser and more selfish aspects of your personality.

If you really were this man’s friend, you would let him live his own life and be grateful for any time you got to spend with him at all. If you really were this man’s friend, you would lovingly support his heroic efforts to stay upbeat and romantic. If you really were this man’s friend, you would be thoughtful and gentle as he shares his life and loves with you. He’s probably hoping for your approval and support, but he’s also excited to introduce his girlfriend to you, someone he admires and wants her to like, despite your shortcomings.

If you really were this man’s friend, you wouldn’t create rules and schedules for your friendship. You would realize that just getting to exist in the world with this man as a brother is already the biggest and best never-ending party you’ll ever find. If you really were this man’s friend, you wouldn’t put so much pressure and expectation on him and your times together, and you wouldn’t drain all the fun and joy out of those precious moments because they didn’t exactly meet your particular standards.

Did it ever occur to you that your friend is genuinely loving toward the women he dates because he cares about them and wants to be a good man? Did it occur to you that the reason he leaves a party “early” is because he cares about his date so much that he’s willing to put her well-being before his own desire to socialize?

I think this is an amazing opportunity to totally re-evaluate your concept of friendship, of partying, and of how you look at life and the lives of other people.

Your letter really got to me, because there was a time not long ago when I would’ve said and thought the exact same things. I saw the whole world as either helping my plans or standing in the way of them. I saw people — even my own closest friends, family, and girlfriends — as parts of a machine engineered to serve me and my ambitions or interfere with them. I’m still struggling with accepting that other people aren’t only there for my convenience and desires. But the most important thing in my life has become realizing that I’m not the most important thing. Realizing that I’m not the center of the universe — or even the center of the party — has been an incredibly humbling and challenging experience. And it’s one that I keep learning and re-learning, over and over again. And it feels good each time I learn it, even when it’s difficult or painful.

It’s a strange experience when you finally decide to stop fighting against the world to get what you want and start trying to help the world be what it wants. At first you feel like you’re losing your drive, or giving in to a force that was too great to keep pushing against — but then you realize that this force isn’t there to fight with you or hurt you, it’s there to love and embrace you and show you a better way to live.

The more we try to think about the other people around us, the better our own lives get. It’s very mysterious, but somehow when we stop trying to get other people to be better in the ways we want them to be, we start to become better people ourselves.

Go easier on your friend and just let him be himself. Love him and be glad that he exists at all. Love him and let him party in his own way. It’s all an incredible miracle that any of this is even happening in the first place — to get to be alive. That is the biggest party of them all.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.

[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]


Ask Andrew W.K.: ‘How Can I Get Rid of Anger?’

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I have horrible anger issues. I’ve had them for years and I don’t know what to do. When I get angry, it’s not a normal angry. I yell at people I care about, I swear at them, and I hurt myself, sometimes by punching whatever’s near. I don’t know what to do, and I feel trapped by these issues, like they’re all I am. I would really appreciate it if you could give me some advice on how to get rid of my anger.

Thank you,
Angry Anger

Dear Angry Anger,

I can relate very deeply to what you’re describing here. There have been times where I’ve punched walls so frequently that I had to replace the drywall and patch up holes. I never hit another person, just myself. Punching my own head, cutting my own face, clenching every single fiber in my body out of sheer rage and frustration, until I thought the muscle pressure would break my own bones from the inside and burst all the blood vessels in my heart.

Starting at around the age of thirteen, I became more and more aware of a type of surging emotional power deep inside me. It started in the front of my head and sank down into the middle of my chest, and from there it grew tighter and hotter until it spread throughout my whole body and back to my brain. I couldn’t figure out what the feeling was, exactly. It was extremely raw and it frightened me. The only way I could describe it to myself at the time was “anger” — a kind of seething misanthropic rage, directed at everyone and no one in particular, but coming from within myself and lashing out toward the overwhelming frustration of existence.

But why did I feel this way? Why was I so worked up? Not having an easy answer for that question only made me feel even more turbulent. I knew I didn’t have any real big obvious reason to be this mad and upset. I had a family that loved me and friends that cared about me and I was surrounded by just about every privilege and opportunity a person could ever hope for. Yet I still felt this incredible coiled-up tension that kept wanting to smash the world and me along with it.

I envied and resented other people who always seemed carefree and never in a bad mood. What did they have that I didn’t? I even had friends that had a million reasons to be angry and upset, and yet somehow they never really were. This only made me more confused, and I also felt guilty because I couldn’t enjoy other people’s happiness.

[pullquote]I didn’t have any real big obvious reason to be this mad and upset. Yet I still felt this incredible coiled-up tension that kept wanting to smash the world and me along with it.[/pullquote]

Many people told me that this inner feeling I described as “anger” meant something was wrong with me and that I needed to get rid of it. I was told over and over again that an ideal life was meant to be calm and serene and that I should learn to eliminate all those feelings and “bad energy.” This only made me feel worse and more hopeless. The harder I tried to zone out and be serene and calm, the more my inner turmoil grew. It almost seemed like trying to kill it just made it stronger.

I now think that there is no such thing as “bad energy.” There is only “energy,” and what we decide to use it for is what makes it good or bad. Just like energy can be used to electrocute someone or to save someone’s life through defibrillation, it can also be harnessed and directed toward good. The point of life is not to drift through our days in a lobotomized state of emotionless calm, nor to numb and sedate ourselves so that we can go through the motions of life while feeling nothing. The point is to use the energy we have to make the best and most meaningful life we can.

Emotions are energy. And just like all energy is valid, all human emotions are valid and worthy of being felt to some degree. But when one emotion starts to take over and dominate our lives, it can seem as though we are becoming that emotion and losing ourselves inside it. Emotions we consider negative, like anger and sadness and worry, can dominate our minds to such a degree that we can feel as though we have lost control of our minds entirely. This is our challenge: to regain control of our emotions, and listen to them, learn from them, and steer them toward empowering our life through growth and development, just like directing electricity to power a light that illuminates the way in the darkness. The point isn’t to cancel out our feelings, numb them, or hide from them, but to respect them and realize that they have something very important to tell us. Just like physical pain can alert us to some sort of need in our body, emotional pain can alert us to a need in our spirit. If we just cancel out our physical and emotional pain, we can do more harm than good, even though it seems easier at first just to tranquilize ourselves. The point is to build up the courage and strength necessary to fully feel our emotions, honestly examine them, and then turn their power into something beautiful and positive.

So I would say that you actually don’t have an anger problem, you have a surplus-energy problem. And that’s not really a problem at all; it’s actually a kind of gift. In fact, your massive inner power could be your greatest blessing. It just hasn’t been disciplined yet. You must show it where to go and what to do or it will just keep lashing out at the people (and walls) around you.

Just like the Incredible Hulk, you can be capable of great things when that power is used for good. This is your talent and your challenge. It won’t be easy, but that’s OK — it’s not supposed to be. These sorts of challenges force us to be more than we once were.

Some people have very little energy and would love to have a surplus of vitality like you have. When that power builds up in you and it feels like you could flip over a car, go do something productive, anything that allows that energy to be put to good use, instead of wasting it on negativity. Put something between you and that energy, like a project, or a task, or even a barbell or a treadmill. I’ll bet you could really sprint fast when that power wells up inside you and wants to get out.

Start thinking of your “anger” not as an affliction, but as a great inner source of super-strength that you’re learning to master. Just like a wizard must earn the ability to manipulate the forces of the universe, you can earn the right to take your power and manipulate it toward good. It’s a win-win: You get to harness your power and become a better person in the process. If you don’t prove that you’re strong enough and responsible enough to handle the gift you’ve been given, it will remain out of your control and continue to torment and frustrate you. If you don’t master the power within yourself, it can and eventually will destroy you.

No one else can master your life for you. No one else can tell you exactly how to gain control over your power. All anyone can do is remind you that it’s all part of your life quest. You must look back inside yourself for the answers and solutions to the puzzles of your soul.

It takes hard work to get good at living, but that hard work is the best work we will ever do. You must promise not to give up. You must be prepared for extreme difficulty and discomfort. You will be pushed to your limit and then pushed past your limit, and just when you think you can’t be pushed any further, you will be pushed even more. Every part of yourself will say, “This is too hard.” But you mustn’t quit. You will make it. You already are making it. This is all part of the process, and now you’re ready to go on to the next step.

Living is a constant cycle of falling and then rising up, being beaten and then overcoming — but the failures are just as valuable as the successes. The entire undertaking of life becomes a victory once you devote yourself to embracing its challenges rather than avoiding them. And the biggest obstacles and challenges are rarely in the world around us — they are right inside ourselves. You can do this. Stay strong. And use your powers for good.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.

[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]


Ask Andrew W.K.: ‘Did You Know You Saved My Life?’

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I guess this isn’t a typical advice question. But I just wanted to let you know that you saved my life.

I’ve been in a very bad frame of mind for the past several years. The negativity had been building for a long time, and it came to a head about a month ago. A lot of my problems blew up in my face all at once, and for the first time I really felt like I was on the brink of losing my sanity forever.

It was the first time I had ever seriously considered ending my life. Things had closed in around me so tightly that I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t imagine a way to keep on living like that, let alone find any happiness.

Then one day I stumbled across one of your columns and slowly made my way through every piece of your writing I could find. I watched all your videos and listened to your songs, and for the first time in a long time, I felt a real sense of hope. Not only that, I felt a sense of power and strength that I’d thought I would never feel again.

I also felt like someone else out there understood what I was experiencing. Even though you didn’t know me personally, you were able to put me in touch with parts of myself I didn’t even realize were there, or couldn’t see clearly.

Thanks to you, I have a new outlook on life, and I genuinely believe that I may not have been around much longer if I hadn’t stumbled across your work. Whether it was divine timing or just dumb luck, I wanted you to know that you saved someone out here from a very dark place, and even possibly from death. Thank you, Andrew.

Your friend,
Not Giving Up

Dear Not Giving Up,

Thank you for your letter and for telling me about the good things you felt from my work. I truly appreciate your compliments and can relate a lot to the excitement of finding something in the world that lifts you up when you need it most. I have continued to search for those experiences in life myself, so it is a true privilege to think I was able to help you locate a similar type of power when you were looking for it.

But I want to make something very clear — and I’m not saying this to deflect your generous praise, or in an attempt at unnecessary modesty. I just want you to realize that you saved your own life.

You had a powerful encounter with truth, and truth is not something that I invented or that anyone can take credit for. Truth is an experience that you have in yourself — a type of clarity about your own existence and the miracle of life.

[pullquote]The best we can ever do is remind each other that our own inner resources have the power we need to live our life.[/pullquote]

No matter how badly someone else tries to make you feel truth, or explain it to you, or even force it into your mind, it can only be experienced and understood through your own personal and intimate interaction with that part of yourself that is true.

Any inspiration you think you got from my work was actually already inside you all along. My work maybe helped you remember that you already had the key, but it still took your efforts to use that key and unlock your own power.

When we reach out in an attempt to make contact with a power beyond ourselves, that same power simultaneously reaches in and finds itself in us. That which saves us is found when we turn ourselves over to a seemingly distant higher trust in love and truth, but that same distant location is not far off above us in space or in some remote dimension. It’s right in the most familiar parts of our own being.

The only way you could find anything of value in my offerings was because those things were already found in you. You have to have it in order to see it. When you love a song, it’s because the song in you is recognizing itself. When you react strongly to a work of art, it’s because the work of art that is your soul is responding to its own nature. And when someone says or writes something that helps you, it’s because that part of you that is able to help yourself is sparked and brought to the surface.

In this way, for better or worse, no one can ever directly help make anyone’s life better, or solve anyone else’s problems. We may be able to help someone build a house, or give someone money to buy food, but these are only conditional circumstances that can be improved so that the person has the chance to do the real work of improving their life from the inside. The best we can ever do is remind each other that our own inner resources have the power we need to live our life.

The old saying that the truth will set you free is a deceptively simple illustration of the type of experience you’re going through now. The truth of this statement resides in the rather mysterious and indescribable nature of truth itself, which somehow pulls the best parts of a person to the surface and yet dwells out of reach — almost like a carrot being dangled in front of a rabbit, something that keeps us surging ahead.

This dichotomy of the outer and the inner can be puzzling, but it is all part of the mystery of unfolding one’s life. We come out of ourselves and into the world, and the world encloses around itself and comes into us. Each person is part of this process individually, but also in partnership with every other living being.

And that’s the most exciting part of all this: You and I are in this together. We’re cheering each other on as we go through this very intense process called “being alive,” and we can keep reminding each other to be strong, to stay close to joy and to be brave.

So give yourself credit. Give life itself credit. There is no secret solution that I or anyone else can give you. There is no magic feather that you need in order to fly. Everything you’ve ever needed or will need is already in your heart. All that I or anyone else can do is encourage you to believe in this truth. That’s what it means when someone says to “believe in yourself” — believe that you have what you’re looking for, even if you can’t always see it.

I’m proud of you and proud of us, and proud of everyone who somehow finds the strength to keep on going every day. You’re courageous because you opened yourself to your own tremendous and glorious power — a power that you can find reflecting all around you — a power that proves that life is an incredibly intense adventure worth having, even when it’s very, very hard.

Stay strong and you’ll never stop saving your own life every day. That’s what being alive is.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.

[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]


Ask Andrew W.K.: ‘Why Can’t I Look on the Bright Side?’

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I’m living a pretty great life. I recently moved to a great city; I have great friends and a great partner. My life is pretty much what I’ve always ever wanted — how many people get to say that?!

The problem is, I keep looking for trouble. I keep looking for points of failure, keep looking for the negative in things, and I generally feel pretty down all the time.

Instead of feeling how amazing life is, I keep looking for reasons for it not to be amazing, or worrying about when it will stop being amazing. I also know that if I keep this up, things will start to fall apart and my worst fears will come true.

Seems like I can’t be happy with just being happy. What’s up with that?

Set Up To Fail

Dear Set Up To Fail,

I can relate to your situation deeply. For much of my life, I’ve grappled with a pervasive sense that something is “off,” that something very bad is about to happen, or already has happened and I just haven’t figured it out yet, that even the good things about life are somehow really bad deep down. A lot of this has to do with the phenomenon of death and the unknown. We are meant to feel this way from time to time. It is part of bravely facing our encounter with complete existence.

But when this feeling of wrongness takes over, it leads to a panicked search for a quick and easy solution to an infinitely complicated problem. It’s a problem so ornate and puzzling in its complexity that it’s not even really a problem at all. And in realizing this lies a solution, but if we obsess over negativity, we will find it remains just out of sight, lurking behind unseeable visions and unknowable truths. It feels as though the entire world is skewed in the direction of this fundamentally “off” aspect of negativity, and all our efforts to straighten it out are hopelessly in vain.

[pullquote]Being alive is overwhelmingly intense. But at the same time, this intensity is also what makes life amazing and awe-inspiring.[/pullquote]

The more we allow this dreadful “offness” to lead our thoughts, the more we start to notice the dirt and the garbage around us — the brokenness, the sadness, the crumbling structures of human life. We notice the incredible efforts our society makes to distract ourselves from looking too long and too deeply into the emptiness, or how we paint over the decay and despair with thicker and thicker veneers of gloss. Meanwhile, our sorrow grows exponentially.

Left unchecked, this feeling of dread and inescapable melancholy starts to infiltrate every aspect of life. Even trying not to think about it only seems to increase its presence. It travels from the corners of our mind into the outside world around us, staining and distorting otherwise pleasant times. Everything feels false, hopeless, like one gigantic unfolding trick, entirely resistant to all efforts to change its trajectory toward total annihilation. And the problem with all this is that it is true.

Being alive is overwhelmingly intense. But at the same time, this intensity is also what makes life amazing and awe-inspiring. Some of the worst things are also the absolute best things about life. Beautiful things will happen and then fall apart. Horrible things will happen and somehow lead to wonderful things. How can this be? How can life be both good and bad? Must it be one or the other? And this is our dilemma, the riddle of human experience.

It’s not negative or positive, but both, and above them both is a sort of super-positive that allows everything to exist. And rather than this super-positive creating a sort of cancellation of feeling, this contradictory state of two-things-at-once is an opportunity. It’s an opening. It’s a doorway into truth. And that truth is available and known to us by the word “love.”

The only true solution to the riddle of life is to love it. Love it all. Love the riddle itself. Love trying to solve it. Love not being able to. Love the times when everything seems bad. Love the times when everything seems good. Love your own ups and downs. And know that they are all part of an incredibly vast and dazzling experience that you get to go through, one that’s actually happening right now. And love that this experience is out of control and frightening at times. Love it in all of its textures, all of its qualities, all of its pains and pleasures — and release the need to be happy, or be sad, or be anything in particular. Just simply be yourself and be aware that you’re actually here and you’re going through this miraculous thing called “life.”

Love it, and love it again. And then return to that state of love whenever you feel confusion overriding the clarity of its truth. Love it all. This has always been and always will be the one and only answer. Our greatest work as human beings is developing this ability to love. And the best part is, it’s the one ability you always had right from the start. It’s all meant to be this way. You’re doing the right thing. You don’t have to look on the bright side. You are the bright side. Stay strong.

Your friend,
Andrew W.K.

[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party.]