“For space, this interview has been condensed and edited.”
Clarence McNair, a recording artist-turned-author, is using his voice to spread happiness and help. McNair is a man who is passionate about helping those around him find their inner selves and grow through this self-actualization. He believes anyone can become their happiest self with help, and his books aim to teach people how to do just that.
First and foremost to get to know you a little bit better, could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
McNair: Well, my name is Clarence KD McNair. I was a former Motown recording artist in an R&B group called Prophet Jones, which was my background. I come from a music background in the late ’90s, early 2000s, and grew up in East Baltimore, Maryland, in the inner city. Entertainment and music was a big part of my early childhood life growing up in Baltimore.
My whole focus is to help others. People are suffering from panic, people are going through depression. It’s a lot.
How do you think your music influenced this transition into your writing?
McNair: Well, actually I came into the music business. I was writing a little, but in terms of the story that I had with my group losing our record deal with Motown Records in 2002, it played a big impact. I started to suffer as a result of taking that loss from being on television and torn as a music artist, and it impacted me to the point where my new journey started in this book, Give It One More Try, that I’ve written is a reflection of that journey after my group Prophet Jones.
Is that what inspired you to write your first book, Give It One More Try?
McNair: Yes. It was inspired by my journey dealing with anxiety, panic. After we lost the deal, everything started surfacing to the top. Actually, in my teenage years, I suffered from anxiety, but I really didn’t know what it was. All it took was one major fall for those emotions and that anxiousness to come back.
And after the music deal, I took a pretty hard hit to the point where it took me over about eight years to recover from anxiety and panic. So the book is basically focused on the journey and it talks about all of the things that I learned amongst this journey that helped me get through.
And I wanted to write it mainly to help other people, to give them hope in the midst of no matter what they may be going through or whatever challenges that come their way, that there’s always hope, and it’s always worth giving it one more try.
What would you say about new technology and social media, and how they’re impacting a lot of young people today by causing insecurities and anxieties?
McNair: We are kind of in an identity crisis and it’s been that way for quite some time. And a lot of young people are really just searching for self, and one thing that there’s a lot of things are out of our control, but one piece of advice that I would really give is really simple:
To all of the young readers and people out there, we have to get to a place where we understand that everybody has a different thumbprint. Nobody has the same thumbprint and no one is exactly the same. The problem with social media is you find that a lot of people just aren’t happy being themselves, and they are something special once you understand the power of being yourself.
With social media, people have the ability to create the person that they want people to believe that exists and believe who they are. The problem with creating a false identity is it’s very hard to be happy when you’re not being who you truly are. It actually leads to more anxiety, more panic, and more worry because now you have to keep up with this persona that you have in a social media community, and you remove yourself away from yourself and you get further and further away from your true self, and you start creating these personalities and these people who really don’t exist.
What advice I would give is to try to focus on tuning into yourself. Whatever is special about yourself, whatever it is that’s unique about yourself, try to embrace it. You know you’ll never be like other people and we should not live our lives based on other people’s standards and trying to keep up with people because it just takes us away from ourselves.
Is that what inspired you to write your second book, Why Happiness Is The Way To Go?
McNair: Yes. That’s so interesting you saying that because I wrote Why Happiness Is The Way To Go before the coronavirus. I noticed a lot of people was not placing value on their happiness. I felt like the happy part of our lives was very vulnerable. I felt like we were just living in a society that didn’t understand that you cannot pay any price for your happiness. So to keep it, to find it, I wanted people to understand how valuable that it was.
Especially right now with COVID-19, is there anything–a sneak peek or something like that–that you could give into this book advice-wise for our readers?
McNair: In my Happiness book, it talks about perspective. It talks a lot about gratitude. During this time of COVID-19, a lot of people are forced to live in a lot of restrictions, and living in a lot of restrictions it challenges your ability to be content with the things that you once maybe took for granted.
I talk about finding the joy and the value in the small things in our lives, and I think right now that’s something that we really, really have to focus on. Some of those things that we were just used to like, “Oh, it’s fine. I have my basic needs, but I still need more.” Kind of like, “Oh, this is not enough. I need to achieve more.”
At this time in our lives, I think we just need to slow down and just look around us, and observe, and pay attention to the things that we currently have, and be appreciative with those things that we currently have, and just embrace those basic things around us.
In my book, I talk about that, feeling gratitude for the small things in life. I think that would really help people in this day and time not be so stressed if they just could pay attention because there’s people out here who don’t have the things that we took for granted on a day today. There are people out here who suffer respiratory problems, that then had to wear a mask. There are people who lived on a restricted life who could not go out to maybe restaurants. They had to stay at home and cook. Maybe they didn’t have the finances.
You start looking at life and realize that there were people who were living on restrictions before the coronavirus. It just kind of helps people, and all of this is actually in my book. I’m not talking about corona, but I’m talking about people who live on restrictions and still find the joy in the access that they do have.
You speak a lot about gratitude. Are there certain things that you do in your day to day that are targeted towards making sure you have it in your life?
McNair: Yes. Every single day, if possible. I may skip a day sometimes. I get up in the morning and I walk and I just live in the moment. I just live and appreciate nature and just valuing the things around us, like the trees and the grass and the sun and the colors of the leaves. And I just walk, and I just observe and just feel grateful to have that ability to experience nature. So being in nature is one thing.
And then another thing is I grew up in a community where “lack” was a big thing in my community. No one had a ton of money, so at a young age, we had to appreciate the little things because we didn’t have much.
From that and just valuing the fact that I have a home, paying attention that I have food, that I have my family and I observed and I look at those things and that’s the day to day thing that I practice. When I wake up in the morning, I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for just all of the basic things. Yes, so gratitude is something that I put in the front of my life daily.
What do you think would be the most nerve-wracking thing you’ve had to face thus far and also the most rewarding thing that you have gained from the experience?
McNair: The most nerve-wracking thing is to have a product that’s so beneficial to so many, knowing that some people will not want to take the help. And that’s nerve-wracking because I know people who could really use reading my book, but you know, they may not take it seriously. And because they’re not taking it seriously, they continue to suffer where there is actually help available and I have the help.
So that’s one of the things that’s been nerve-wracking, just knowing that there are some people that could use the advice in the book but they, for some reason, they will not take it as serious.
And the most rewarding is I got to meet real friends and real people. Meaning that they were people that I’ve known my entire life, and I didn’t know that they were suffering from anxiety because they kept it to themselves. So when I wrote this book, it was so refreshing and it was amazing that I had personal people reach out to me and mention, “Hey man, I’m actually suffering with that for years.”
It just felt so refreshing to get to the real people. Sometimes you think you know people but you really don’t, and me writing this book allowed a lot of people around me to open up and just start telling me what was actually going on. So it builds an even greater connection, a wonderful relationship, and it showed me that it was a great thing that I wrote this book. And me writing this book allowed some of my close friends and associates to actually come to me and be a little bit vulnerable, so that was very rewarding to get to know the people around you a little bit more.
Is there something that you would like to say to those who might be afraid to admit they may need this book and are hiding from that fact?
McNair: Yeah, I would say that if you want to experience all that life has to offer, the best thing in life that you can do is you have to face yourself. Wherever you go, no matter where you go in life, you meet yourself there. And no matter how much you run from yourself, you’re going to end up ending up with yourself.
If you want to have the better version of yourself, you have to work on yourself. We’re all work in progress. We’re all constantly under construction. And I have this saying that life is a big long construction. You’re going to always be under construction. You’re going to always have to work on something in your life.
And unfortunately, we have people who see it differently. They see it as, “Well, if I don’t appear to be strong and perfect, then maybe people will look down on me,” or “If I appear that I have problems, maybe I won’t be accepted by people.” But the reality is you gain better relationships. You become more of a value to other people when you work on yourself and get the help that you need to progress in a positive way.
If there was any advice that you could have given to your younger self, what would it have been?
McNair: Advice I would give is, seek help. Don’t suffer in silence. For many years, even in my high school, I suffered with extreme anxiety. No one knew I was suffering. This was before the record deal. I got a record deal at 19. I was having anxiety since I was age 10 years old, and I would tell my younger self to express myself a little bit more and get help. That’s what I would tell my younger self. Don’t suffer in silence.