It's pretty grim out there. No one seems to agree about anything. Of course, most people will blame this on politics, but I've recently discovered that our fractured society has nothing to do with contrasting views on politics, religion or social issues. Those are merely a symptom of a much simpler problem. One that can be easily solved with one magical phrase.

I Hate (Fill in the Blank)

They say you can't hate something you've never tried, but that's not true. You can certainly hate something you haven't experienced before. I know this because I've done it most of my life.

Young people are supposed to be open-minded, but I've recently found the opposite to be true. As a teen, it's in your DNA to be a rebel. You like things your parents don't understand and have a mind of your own. But in reality, I spent my teenage years just pretending to be independent while going along with whatever group I fit in with the best. I listened to the same music, wore the same clothes and shared the same worldview.

Things didn't change much in my 20s or 30s either. I was living under the false impression that the music I loved and the food I ate was my choice. But in reality, I never really had a choice because I completely discounted so many things I merely assumed I would hate.

The One Phrase That Changed It All

It may sound cliche, but in my mid-40s I experienced what could only be described as a mid-life crisis. The sudden awareness that I was no longer young terrified me. Through my job, I interact with many people who are part of a generation that's a bit older than mine. The more I listened to them day in and day out, the more I realized that a great majority of these people were simply miserable.

They were always complaining about things they hated and criticizing any new ideas. These people appeared to be so angry and sad that I became even more depressed knowing that I was headed right down that path with them. But then I had an epiphany. I realized that the things these people were so angry about were pretty silly. They hated Taylor Swift. They were irate over the invention of electric cars and they completely lost their mind over the fact that Dunkin' Donuts was changing its name to Dunkin'.

Why were these people wasting their golden years getting so worked up about such innocuous things? These older people were ruining what should be the happiest times of their lives and living a miserable existence of hate and anger.  It turns out that all of this was happening because none of them ever just said the magical phrase.


What is the Magical Phrase?

I used to hate Thai food. If anyone ever suggested going to a funky-sounding restaurant that served Thai food I'd instantly veto the idea and opt for something else. One day, however, my wife suggested a Thai restaurant that a coworker loved. As the words of protest came out of my mouth I suddenly realized that I honestly had no idea what Thai food even tasted like. But I was convinced that I hated it. Who could like a bowl full of dirty dishwater? But, with a sigh, I sucked it up and simply said "Okay, I'll give it a try".

That turned out to be a magical phrase that would change my life.

The bowl of Panang Curry with shrimp I ate that day was one of the most delicious things I'd ever tasted. It was like the universe had just slapped me in the face and said, "Hey stupid, if you were wrong about Thai food, imagine all of the other things you're wrong about."

From that moment on I decided to simply say "Okay, I'll give it a try" to things I found objectionable. I had never watched football growing up and never understood why people would spend their Sundays glued to the TV. Then one weekend I said "Okay, I'll give it a try" and watched one of Patrick Mahomes' first games as a quarterback with the Chiefs. I immediately realized the reason I didn't understand why people loved football was that I never gave myself a chance to love it.

"Okay, I'll Give it a Try" Can Become Addictive

As I hurdled toward the age of 50, I discovered that my life wasn't getting worse as I expected it would; it was blossoming with every "Okay, I'll give it a try". I began to specifically seek out things that I assumed I would hate, just to experience them for myself. Some of these things turned out to be just as bad as I expected (I still don't care for country music) but a surprising majority of the experiences that I was convinced just weren't for me wound up to be enjoyable, or at least much less terrible than I ever imagined.

I tried beans and toast for breakfast and it was delightfully filling and delicious. When shopping for a car the salesman asked if I would ever consider test driving a hybrid. I said "Absolutely not", but then caught myself and said, "Okay, I'll give it a try". Our family now has two hybrid cars and I couldn't imagine ever going back.

I was invited to cover the grand opening of the new sake brewery in Hyde Park. The old me would have just hit delete on the email. "I'm a beer drinker and I don't like sake, so this is not for me." But I realized this would be yet another opportunity to try something new so I attended. I had an incredible experience. That day I was fascinated by the things I learned about the sake-making process. I met some incredibly wonderful people and gained an even deeper appreciation for Japanese culture. None of this would be a part of my life if I didn't say "Okay, I'll give it a try".


For years I was convinced that Taylor Swift was an affront to music. I grew up on classic rock and alternative. There was nothing her bubblegum music offered that I could ever imagine enjoying. But, not wanting to be one of those angry old men I talk to every day, I sat down and listened for the first time to one of her albums. A younger version of myself would never even admit I even gave her music a chance (there are probably many men my age reading this right now cringing at the fact that I'm even saying it). But now I'm proud to say I'm a full-fledged "Swiftie". That doesn't mean I like AC/DC any less or have abandoned my undying love of rock and roll.

I've come to the happy realization that the list of things I can appreciate is endless and my world has become exponentially larger with every new experience I allow myself to have. I have no guilty pleasures because I no longer feel guilt about simply enjoying whatever I like.

The Little Things You Allow Yourself to Experience Lead Very Big Things

If this experiment of saying "Okay, I'll give it a try" only led to the enjoyment of more food, music, entertainment and culture it would still be life-changing. But what happened to me without even realizing it was that I began to appreciate people and ideas that were also very different from mine. It's as if my brain had been retrained to resist preconceived ideas and say "Okay, I'll give it a try" to different points of view.

That doesn't mean I have to like or even agree with these things, but I find myself listening with an open mind and giving these opposing viewpoints a test drive in my brain.

It's impossible to open yourself up to so many new tastes, sounds and experiences and still insist that you hate other beliefs, lifestyles or political positions that you've never seriously considered. The people who are convinced that their views on politics or social issues are correct and demonize anyone with opposing viewpoints are people who refuse to say "Okay, I'll give it a try" when hearing anything that messes with their preconceived ideas.


We May Have Stumbled on the Solution to Harmony

Sadly, it's pretty lonely having an open mind in the world today. I'm pretty sure most people haven't made it this far through the article, angrily swiping it away after my confession of being a Swiftie. You can probably imagine what happens when I say "Okay, I'll give it a try" when it comes to political ideas. Any sign that you're even considering a viewpoint different than someone else's is viewed as an attack by someone with a closed mind.

That's ok, though. I'm more than happy right where I am. While people scream and yell at each other over things they've never even tried to understand I'll be living a full, happy life filled with an endless variety of great music, food and experiences that I'd never have been exposed to if I didn't just say "Okay, I'll give it a try".

QUIZ: Can You Identify the Iconic '80s Film From Just a Single Freeze-Frame?

Embark on a journey through '80s nostalgia with kids (and aliens) on bikes, and teens dodging principles (and responsibilities). We've put the proverbial pause on some of the decade's most iconic flicks, and now it's your mission to name them all.

Gallery Credit: Stephen Lenz

LOOK: Inside McDonald's Failed Restaurant-Themed Hotel

McDonald's launched its Golden Arch Hotel concept with a pair of locations in Switzerland in 2001. Rooms included arches over the headboards and showers that were visible from the bedroom. Both locations closed less than two years after they opened.

Gallery Credit: Rob Carroll