WHO IS IN YOUR MOVIE?

Last post we mentioned being the best star you can be in your own movie. We also mentioned when it comes to thinking of your life like a movie, it is important to remember the other roles that we play. One of those roles is that we cast our movie. Sometimes when we feel our life is not what we would like it to be, we need to examine who we have chosen to share it with.

Perhaps our life does not seem very hopeful. Maybe is seems kind of dark and depressing. As we look to improve and develop our own attitudes as discussed in our last post (Which is where I suggest you should begin) we must also take a look at who we are surrounding ourselves with. If we are hoping to develop a more joyous attitude but our world is filled with people who could do a voice over for Eeyore in the classic Winne-the-Pooh stories, it might make our journey more difficult. Maybe we wish to develop a more ‘can do’ attitude. If we are surrounded by people who are dream killers and who have given up on their dreams it will be tough going.

If there happens to be a shortage of quality people in your life, don’t worry. This is an area of great opportunity that can be easily corrected. Putting yourself in the position of a casting agent makes the process fun and easier to do. If you were creating a movie about a life (sometimes forgetting it is your own can make it easier) ask yourself who would I cast in that movie? If I was looking for a open-minded yet health conscious character I would cast my friend Nick for that role. Perhaps I was looking for a character who was very intelligent, but covered themselves in a veil of eccentricity, that would be a perfect role for my friend Bret. If I were looking to cast a beautiful leading lady who was creative and quirky, someone who would keep our leading actor on their toes…well as you know I cast that role to my lovely Margie.

Thinking about this exercise can be fun. It can help writing it down to help keep less in your head. Maybe there is a certain role you are looking to fill that you do not know anyone who has those exact traits. Write down the traits you are looking for in that person. Maybe it is your leading lady or man. Maybe it is just a costar you would like to feature on occasion. Maybe it is a place you would like the star of your movie to work, to play or to spend their vacation? Write that down and review it often. Keeping these thoughts in the back of your mind will help you notice and attract that person, place or thing. Remember, this is your movie cast accordingly. What about certain characters or situations we have in our movie that we might have cast differently? That is an issue we will discuss in tomorrow’s post. Make sure you return.

BECOME YOUR OWN HERO

The last few posts we have been talking about heroes. How we can learn from our hero’s mistakes, what we can learn from those we consider heroes long after they are gone and a few other tidbits along the way. Today we are going to learn something very powerful – how to become our own hero. This may sound a bit cliche and corny, but stick with me and I think you will discover what an interesting and powerful thought process this can be.

In my upcoming book, Living the Dream, I suggest looking at your life as if you are the star in your own movie. This is not only helpful, this is true. I recall working at the Greendale Post Office with some charming and witty gentleman. We will call them Don and Tom. We will do so because that is what their names actually were. Normally I like to change names to protect the innocent, but if you are calling them charming and witty I think we should be alright. Both of these gentleman were big fans of the cinema. On their morning break before heading out to deliver their respective mail routes, they would discuss all matter of movie-related material. Favorite directors, favorites actors and other such things.

One fun activity they would occasionally engage in was casting fellow employees. Lining them up with what actor would make a great match. This could be challenging as there was a cast of characters like no other at that location. There were loud and immature coworkers, vindictive bosses, dark and mysterious regular customers. Sometimes people were matched according to looks, sometimes according to character. The most difficult time came when they were forced to cast themselves. After much contemplation, they always decided on actors that seemed to reflect on their best qualities, or even qualities they may have wished they possessed. This seemed like a fun fancy at the time.

In reflection, it can be a truly powerful tool to increase and improve our own character. If you were to pick a star to play you in a movie who would it be and why? I encourage you to grab a pen and paper and write down some ideas. Pick a few actors and write down their names. Then write down what traits you feel your character would need to have to reflect who you are. Maybe even add some traits you would like to add that you may not have at the moment. Carry this list around with you or at the very least, toss it in the car. Then, before you go into work or a job interview, review it. Walk into work or that interview like the person you would cast yourself to be. In this way I think you will develop a new appreciation for the actions you take. The truth is, not only are we stars in our own films, we are also the directors, casting agents and writers. If we do not like what our life is like right now, we can always write a new script or cast a new co-star. If we do like the performance of a certain actor (say how a person makes us feel when we are around them) it is up to us to offer them more lines (spend more time with this person)

Heroes do not have to be actors. Another great exercise we can do to help us develop and grow into the person we would like to be is simple, fun and as follows. Again, you will need a pen and a piece of paper. Write down traits that you have currently. Now add traits you either are trying to further develop or maybe start having for the first time. For example, let us say you are trying to be brave. Who do you think personifies bravery? Some names that come to mind are famous generals during battle. As we think a little more, further examples may come to mind. A name who comes to mind mind is Rosa Parks. She was a woman who peacefully, but bravely challenged racist stereotypes of the day. She did so not with violence or disrespect, but by standing up for what she believed. This could have resulted in serious consequences for her, included physical harm or even death. There are our friends who come out with the truth of who they are despite facing ridicule from friends, family members and society as a whole. To me, those people are brave.

Whatever trait you are looking to develop there are several examples for you to study. I suggest doing so. Read their autobiographies. Look for video documentaries on YouTube about them. Learn how they developed the traits you are looking to emulate. It can, perhaps, give you some ideas of methods you can try in your own life.

OUR HEROES CAN TEACH US LONG AFTER THEY ARE GONE

Above is a picture of a very young me next to my grandfather at I believe was his 80th birthday party. Also included in the picture is my late aunt Virginia. When I was growing up my grandfather was one of my heroes. He had a presence that commanded respect. He didn’t have to raise his voice or do anything to get it either. (My mother might have a slightly different memory of that) He was a man of great integrity. He was honest, fair and did what he felt was right. Just last night as Margie and I were pulling into the grocery store I was thinking about things my grandfather had told me when I was young. Many of them at the time I didn’t either understand or I thought I knew better. If you read the last post you may see a pattern developing.

There are things that happen in my life even to this day, long after he passed away, that have me thinking, “That is what my grandfather meant!” His favorite singer was Eddy Arnold. I thought if I ever had the choice I would never listen to the song Cattle call again. After he passed away I missed hearing it. I was fortunate enough to meet a great man named John Whelan who shared the same affection for Mr. Arnold and often sang this song. Sadly, John has passed away. I was grateful to be able to speak at his funeral. My grandfather had a good knowledge of healing herbs and foods. He served in the second World War. He loved the tropics and had fond memories of being stationed in Hawaii.

Another reason my grandfather was my hero, was the way he conducted himself in the relationship he had with my grandmother. My grandmother was an amazing woman as well and taught me many things about cooking and being hospitable. She was, to one degree or another, an opinionated and on several occasions, an upset woman. She had several medical conditions that I imagine weighed on her. During some of her more earnest ‘correcting’ of my grandfather, I noticed he just shook his head and rarely seemed to offer much of a rebuttal. Even when the situation was obvious he was correct and she was not. When that truth revealed itself, he seldom made mention of it. One day I asked him why he never said anything. I asked how he managed to stay happy and some days even sane being yelled at for things that were often not his fault. I recall what he told me to this very day. I can picture it as if it were yesterday. As we sat in his kitchen he told me, “The secret to a successful relationship is to bend but not break.”

I won’t tell you how long it took me to figure out the wisdom of that statement. Let me just tell you that in my relationship with the beautiful Margie we often disagree on things. I have learned to differentiate between things that I just want and things that go against what I value. If they are issues that do not cause me to sacrifice my principles or my standards, then there is always room to compromise. In this way you have to bend. Sometimes you might even just let the other person have their way to keep the peace. If it is something that truly goes against what you believe then you have to take a stand and not break. Applying this knowledge that my grandfather gave me so many years ago in that kitchen has allowed me to build the best relationship I have ever had. I guess if I had learned and applied it sooner I would not have had the opportunity to share life with the amazing woman I do now.

Just a reminder that my grandfather is still teaching me and still a big part of my life long after he is gone. If you have recently, or even not so recently lost someone, realize they will live on and be a part of your life. When someone we really love leaves us, it is only physical. Their lessons, their words and their love will continue to affect us until we are the ones who leave.

WE CAN LEARN FROM OUR HERO’S MISTAKES

I once heard someone say “We have to learn from the mistakes of others because we can’t possibly make them all ourselves.” At the time I heard it, I thought that was one of the stupidest things. Who wants to make a mistake anyway? I am not going to try to make them all. In fact, I am going to try to make as few as I can. If I was going to study anything (I wasn’t really much for studying back then) I was going to study what people did that worked. I want to learn how to be successful, not to make mistakes.

That was when I was young and thought I knew everything. Now that I am old and realize I know hardly anything, it makes a lot more sense. A great example was the fellow pictured above. I always thought Michael Hutchence of the band INXS was the living definition of the word cool. He had a killer voice, a stylish yet dark look, an intriguing aura, he had a way of charming the ladies and he fronted a really great band. I thought to myself, “That is the guy I would like to be like!” There were a few things standing in my way such as not being Australian, not having curly hair and millions of dollars to be able to put together a great wardrobe and just grow my creativity. I did manage to front a band of amazing and talented musicians. I never stopped focusing on developing my creativity and learned all I could on how to be charming and witty.

On November 22, 1997 Michael Hutchence was found dead at the Ritz-Carlton in Double Bay, Sydney. He apparently died by suicide, hanging himself. Although there is some debate behind the motive, the result was tragically the same. The world had lost a great musician and I had lost a man who I believed to define what it meant to be on top.

I do not recall how much I read or investigated after his death. Recently, I listened to some documentaries on his life, career and of course his death. I learned that he was a shy and reserved individual who turned into another person all together on stage. I learned that to deal with the pressure of fame, he often used drugs or alcohol to dull the pain. There were many failed relationships and heartache along the way. There was a terrible injury he sustained while having a drunken fight with a cab driver. This resulted in brain damage that caused a diminished sense of taste and smell. Although he found a woman he loved and had a child that he said caused him to be unselfish for the first time in his life, there were struggles there too. She was still involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle over the 2 children she had previously. This often left Michael unable to see his own child on holidays and special occasions. All of this stress coupled with the prescription drugs and illegal drugs he was taking took their final toll that day in November.

Listening to these stories and learning all of this really made me think of what I thought was cool then, and what I think is cool now. I certainly had my days of partying with bands and as a bartender. I have had failed relationships. What I did was learn from them. I valued my creativity throughout everything. Michael Hutchence died at the age of 37. Here I sit at the age of 44, almost 45. I learned that dulling the pain is not as healthy as taking steps to heal the pain. I learned having the ability to be loving and charming to one woman and deepen that love is far more fulfilling than anything else I can think of. Right now I am still friends with some of my old band mates. I am able to use and grow my creativity daily. Best of all I have the most beautiful woman in the world to share it all with. As I look back, I believe Michael Hutchence might look at that and think to himself, “That is one cool mate.”

Think of your heroes. Look at the mistakes they made. It can really teach you a lot.

IS IT ME OR IS IT THEM?

This is one of my favorite quotes. In my quest to improve myself and share what I learned with others there have been quite a few detractors. I have actually been asked to not share my positive posts on certain sites (Nextdoor comes to mind) because people found them offensive. There are folks who believe that encouraging others to have hope and take control of their lives is unrealistic and counter productive. There are those who probably could use the information we share here together the most and just do not want to improve their lives. I have been called names, I have been told to keep my opinions to myself.

There were times, especially early on, when all of this would hurt and even times when it would begin to fill me with doubt. I even recall a gentleman who posted over 20 anger filled comments on one of my posts. Why? I used too many capital letters for his liking. One of the moments I recall from that episode is the frustration Margie had. She could not believe someone could be so offended by a post encouraging people to believe in themselves because it had too many capital letters. Indeed, it was rather absurd. I have always asked myself two very powerful questions. How can I use this? and What is good about this? In this case, I could use this to demonstrate restraint to this fellow who was eager to have me engage in low vibration discussion. I found the challenge rather exciting. Could I do it? I also had the unique challenge of calming the love of my life down. Speaking of Margie, she helped answer the second question. When thinking about what was good about this, her displaying such love for me and my message made my heart happy.

DO THEY HAVE YOUR PERMISSION?

It amazes me how many people do not understand that their feelings are generated inside of them. They blame the news, their spouse, their boss, their coworker or the cat down the road for ruining their day. In essence, you are giving these sources control over your mental well-being. You are actually giving them permission to ruin your day by reacting to their actions.

This is all very easy for me to say logically. Emotionally, this takes a lot more practice to live and understand. The closer a person is to you, their control over your emotions increases to a greater extent. For example, if someone you have never met tells you they find you unattractive, how would you feel? It may sting a little, or you may shrug it off entirely. Now what if your best friend told you the same thing? You might actually become angry. It may feel a little more valid. What if you came home one night and your spouse told you the same thing? You would feel deeply hurt, perhaps devastated.

I am not advocating that you become a heartless person. I am not telling you to deny your feelings. Just consider whether what these people have to say has any justification. Some people say terrible things when they are hurting. Some less evolved individuals do not anyone to be happy if they are not. The whole ‘misery loves company’ sort of thing. Considering the amount of people we come in contact with today, both in person and online, the chance one of them may say or do something that could bring us down is rather high. I suggest having a mantra written down that says “I am not going to let anyone bring me down.”

It is your day. Do they have your permission to ruin it?

AN ACTION OF LOVE, A GIFT AND YOU CAN DO IT IN SECONDS

In this blog in the past we have discussed the power of a smile and the effect it can have on both those receiving and those giving it. We are going to tackle this subject again for several reasons. One, the world could really use more smiles now. In an age where people are either feeling persecuted, or concerned about how what they say may be misconstrued, a smile can be a welcome sight. If you are a person who may feel that they are judged for their race, their religion or any other reason, can you imagine how much more at ease you would feel when you walk into somewhere being greeted with a smile?

Another great reason to remind ourselves to smile more is because we are never quite aware of what a person may be going through. The smiling person you passed in the grocery store may be hiding some of the deepest pain. A smile makes someone feel valued, it makes them feel important. That is why if you have any job that deals with the public you have a great opportunity to change people’s day, and perhaps more, with a smile. To this end, a smile can make your job a lot easier as well. If a customer in a bad mood approaches the counter and you greet them with a smile it can be quite disarming. If they are already in a good mood it will certainly make the transaction go more smoothly. It will make your work day a lot more pleasant and their day as well.

That brings me to my final point. In reading this quote you may assume, like I did, that it was talking about others. In fact, this can be directed at yourself as well. Smiling and being pleasant can change our world for the better. I have personally witnessed this in my own life. I did not used to be as positively focused and certainly did not share that feeling as often as I do now. When I do, I noticed that it has brought me more friends, a better reputation, better customer service and most importantly – I feel an inner peace that I did not feel when I was angry or focused on what was wrong in the world. Being a part of the solution, that is spreading more love and positivity instead of adding the overwhelming amount of negativity, has allowed me to feel like I am making a difference. To me, there is no better feeling than that of making a positive difference in the world and those you share it with.

Do not take my, or Mother Teresa’s, word for it. I encourage you to test this theory out for yourself. I encourage you to share a smile with at least 5 strangers today. Better yet, try this for a week. Say “Hello!” or “Good morning” or some sort of thing. Say it with a smile on your face and see what a difference it makes. Then, feel free to share the results with us!

THE FINAL DAY OF OUR CHALLENGE!

Today is our final day of our 7 day challenge. This challenge was to begin the month of July by posting nothing negative and at least one thing positive a day. The hashtag they recommend using is #7daysplus. Meaning it does not have to end here. For the sake of this challenge we are going to take a look back through the week and see what hopefully we have accomplished. My week began with the eager anticipation that many of you would join me on this challenge. In this way we could start a ripple effect of positive throughout our communities and throughout the world. We would start to change the narrative on the social media sights we belong to and begin to turn it to one of positivity and hope.

My positive thought for the day is that to some degree this has happened. In my own community, a childhood friend of mine named Jason took up the challenge and it has really generated some loving and supportive comments from family and friends on his posts. In Italy, a follower has offered me some great compliments and insights into this challenge and my blog in general. There have been new friends and followers made in the countries of Kenya and Finland. In a small way I feel as though I am doing my part to make this world a little more positive place than had I not have been here. In the big picture, I feel this should be a part of all of our life goals – to leave the world a better place than we found it.

I am filled with such gratitude for all of you who have participated. For those of you who did not, or maybe discovered this post a little late to do the first week of July, why not start today? Do your best to go a week without posting a single negative thing and at least one positive thing a day. It will truly help those in your social media circle, but it will also help you to change your focus to that of a more positive world. I cannot convey the peace of mind and heart this will give you. I know it was a great reminder for me to keep my focus on the beautiful things this life and world have to offer!

For those of you who did participate, please share what effects this challenge had on your life. Is there anything you would suggest to make it better next time? If you have an idea for a positive challenge that we can create on this blog please let us know in the ‘contact’ section or in the comments below!

DAY 6 OF OUR POSITIVE WEEK!

As we wind down our week of posting no negativity and at least one positive thing a day, there is something I was reminded of that I would like to share with you. In my upcoming book, Living the Dream, I explain the science behind the power and importance of a grateful and positive mindset. In a very brief explanation, keeping this mindset activates a part of our brain called the reticular activating system or RAS for short. This part of our brain modulates our sensory information. In other words, out of the information we take in, it decides what is important and worth noticing. The best way I can explain this is through an example. Have you ever noticed when you buy a new car or outfit, you suddenly see that car or outfit everywhere? Let me ask you, did everyone see that you bought it and then went out and bought it themselves? Unless your last name is Kardashian or some other internet influencer, I am sure you know the answer is ‘no’. So why are you seeing those cars and outfits all of sudden? They were there all of the time. Your brain has now decided, “Hey this is like our car/outfit and worth noticing!”

The ‘secret’, if you will, to all of this is that this area of your brain is always working. Most of us, however, have it in the default setting. It notices whatever we are focused on at the moment. Been watching the news and seeing the world go down the drain? Yep, you will notice examples of that everywhere. Researching that new puppy you would like to buy? Suddenly you will notice your neighbors out walking their puppies. The dangerous part of this is that is works whether what we are focused on is positive or negative. We can all agree at any given moment in time there are both positive and negative things going on in the world. What we are focused on will determine what we experience to a greater degree. Some people may confuse this with becoming ignorant of all the challenges the world is facing. This is no more true than knowing there are other cars on the road and outfits on people other than yours. It is what we are focused on and feeling most intensely.

Knowing every day that I would need something positive to write about, my brain started to be on the lookout for such an event. This happened even when I was consciously engaged in something else. This is one of the great side-effects of developing a habit of devoting a portion of your morning focused on gratitude. If you do this first thing every morning you brain will begin to lookout for things you could record in your ‘gratitude journal’. Imagine all day having a mind that is on the lookout for things that are positive or that you should be grateful for. These posts have reminded me what a powerful thing this can be. Our life improves greatly when we take control of our mind and put it to work for us.

DAY 5 OF NO NEGATIVITY, ONLY POSITIVITY

Many followers of this blog have heard me speak of my friend Scott. We happen to share the same office, which is the local Starbucks in West Allis were we live. This gentleman is always a great source of conversation. Although this may limit the amount of progress I can make in a given evening, I always leave with an inspiration for a future endeavor. Such is today’s post. In case this is the first day you happened upon this, we are spending the first week of July refraining from posting anything negative online and instead finding at least one thing positive to share.

Today’s post was inspired by the previously mentioned gent. We were discussing the changes in the world we have noticed since the beginning of the corona virus. We discussed the new set ups in places we visit and then the subject turned to masks and the wearing or not wearing of them. Some stores require them, some do not. As we were having this discussion we made mention of the fact that the employees at this Starbucks had to wear them. As they worked behind the counter in a very hot environment, wearing a mask must have been a little south of torture. What we both found fabulous is that you would not have known it by their attitude. Each person who worked there was friendly and helpful. I am sure the amount of tips they are making has declined and they must have their share of disgruntled customers, but still they remain friendly.

The subject turned broader to mention of the employees at gyms, restaurants and other places. As the meat-throwing ladies or viral videos of customers screaming about having to wear a mask for the brief time they are in a store is what seems to capture our attention, it would appear we are missing a large segment of people who actually are appreciating and understanding each other. Our focus should go to that. It may not sell or create viral videos, but it is a great display of humanity.

We have all heard of the examples when altercations and disagreements can turn physical with people of different beliefs both of the virus and politics. What I have witnessed on a greater scale is people being understanding. Some of this can be attributed to the media coverage, some to us living more of our lives online. Here in the everyday real world I find things to be much different. At the gym where I work out people are all very careful to make sure they wipe down each machine before and after use. I see people letting people go ahead of them and doing their best to respect each other’s space. If there is a positive side effect of all of this craziness, I hope a new appreciation of one another’s company and the treasure that is becomes part of the ‘new normal’.