This is one of my favorite pictures. I was sitting outside a local coffee shop, I believe it was a Starbucks, enjoying the sun and a good book. You will notice my bookmark that day was a picture of my lovely Margie. It happens to be one of my favorite pictures of her. Although I must confess, having a picture of the most beautiful woman in the world blowing you a kiss can be a rather distracting choice for a bookmark.
I took this picture to show Margie that as I was relaxing soaking in the sun she was never far from my mind. Not only is that statement 100% true, it made her feel loved. For those of you who know us personally as a couple, or even if you follow us casually on social media, you will know this is just one of many such things we do to show each other that we are thinking about and loving the other. We do our best to find new and exciting ways to show our love every day. It not only keeps the relationship fresh, it provides us the ability to remind the other they are loved. This can be important during a trying episode, when either one of us is stressed or even on a sunny cheerful day when we have to be apart.
How many times have you seen the lateset romantic comedy, or watched your favorite romantic movie, and thought, “I wish I had a love story like that!” I am here to tell you that you can have one. You just have to create it. Sure, wisking your loved one away to a tropical escape where you drive them around the island in your Italian sports car may be beyond your means, but that is not what is truly important. A few posts ago we demonstrated how being an active listener in relationships can be transformative. Taking this knowledge and putting it into action can make all of the difference.
How would it feel if your spouse listened to what favorite treat you liked from the grocery store was and brought it home for you? What if you casually mentioned that you would like music from a certain artist and a few days later the latest CD of that artist comes home with the one you love? What if you lost someone you love very much and your partner anticipates the hurt and sense of loss you may be feeling during the holidays and has a local artist render a great drawing of the two of you for a Christmas gift?
Everything from knowing that you like soggy french toast, to buying you items adored with bears and pizza because they know they are two of your favorite things and saw them when they were out and thought of you. These things go a long way to creating a love story. How can you create your love story? I suggest sitting down by yourself with pen and paper and ask yourself what you can do to creat your own love story. Can you create a piece of jewelry for the one you love? Is it opening the door for them even when it is cold and raining? Small acts of giving when done with great amounts of love can transform a good relationship to a great one. Not sure of what some romantic ideas would be? Dust off that movie and see if there are certain things you can incorporate into your own relationship. Google ‘romantic gifts/gestures/ideas” Read books about helping your partner feel loved. Most importantly, listen and remember when they tell you what is important. Sometimes…just listen. Create your own love story today.
I am always interested in highlighting some of the great people in the city of West Allis Wisconsin, where I live. The gentleman on the left is Curtis. Together with his wife Danie, they run the local coffee shop/café called Urban Joe’s. From the first moment I met both of these amazing people one thing became apparent – they get it. What I mean by that is that they truly understand what is important not only in business, but in life. When you dine or just enjoy an amazing coffee or cocktail at Urban Joe’s you will be treated to more than just great food and beverages. You will be treated to some of the best customer service in the city. This is not by accident. Curtis and his wife understand the value of a customer and of a person.
It is the second part of that last statement, knowing the value of a person, that I would like to expand on today. After just a few visits to Urban Joe’s it became apparent to me that Curtis also understood the importance of introspection and quality conversation. He is one of the people who are not only easy to talk to, but really listens and gives thought to what you are saying. Between the two of us there is never a shortage of topics. Through the years we have discussed everything from our visits to the gym, my writting and most recently my interesting adventures in purchasing a new vehicle.
It was during the discussion about my vehicle purchasing that Curtis brought up some poignant matters I would like to share with you. As he offered his outrage with some of the customer service I had experienced in my quest for a new form of transportation, he mentioned the struggles he faced while looking to hire a new member of their staff. We discussed how difficult it is to find individuals who have a sense of ownership over the job they do. Some of the challenges were making your job a priorty, realizing the workplace is not a platform to express one’s political or social beliefs, to the ability to interact and value the customer not only as a source of revenue but as a person. Something he and his wife are not only good at, but take pride instilling in their employees.
It is important to note that while I was enjoying this coversation with Curtis, we were also joined by my mother. We all came to the conclusion that there may not be enough importance placed on physical human interaction. A great deal of our social interaction comes in the form of social media and other digital platforms. Sadly, this can often be a place where manners and common courtesy are sacrificed in the name of social stature or even convincing someone your political opinion is the correct one. Curtis lamented the fact there were not more people who met ‘over a cup of coffee’. Not only would this be good for business but it would strengthen our human connection.
Why is a strong human connection so important? It is so important it can be a matter of life and death. When we form strong bonds it allows the opportunity to be vulnerable. On social media, and now often in the real world, people are afraid to ask for help. It would appear we are more worried about appearances than what is healthy for us. Without fostering deep personal relationships we can be left feeling things like hopeless, alone and depressed. We fear that asking for help can make us appear weak. The opposite is actually true. Being able to admit a situation, or sometimes life in general, has gotten the better of us takes a great deal more strength than pretending everything is ok. We can look to many people such as Robin Williams and Kate Spade who seemed to have it all but lacked the ability or resources to ask for help.
It is for these and many other important reasons that we should “Put down the phone and pick up a coffee cup.” as Curtis mentioned. Developing deep personal relationships can help us notice when something might not seem right with someone closest to us. Allowing people to share their emotions, fears and concerns over a lunch or a nice cup of coffee may be life-saving. It what can often be a digital and pharmaceutical world, we must remember the importance of developing and maintaining close personal relationships. It will benefit us. It will benefit the lives of those we love and care about.
I want to thank Curtis for this great reminder and the great conversation we shared. I want to thank the entire Urban Joe’s staff for being an example of what caring and wonderful people are like. If you need a reminder of what it takes to develop great relationships, you want to enjoy some great conversation filled with wit and wisdom or you just want a great cup of coffee, you owe it to yourself to stop in to Urban Joe’s today and ask for Curtis or Danie.
We all know that to quickly get us outof trouble when using a computer we can press ‘ctrl + alt + Del’. This picture reminds us when we find ourselves facing a tough situation in life we can do the same thing.
‘Ctrl’ the first button reminds us to control ourselves. The truth is, we cannot control life, only how we react to it. We cannot control the actions of others, only how much we choose to let them affect us. As you can see, by looking at how we control ourselves, we can go a long way to controlling our life.
‘Alt’ the second button, reminds us to search for alternate solutions. What we have been doing up to that point may not have been working so well. Looking for different ways of attacking, or even looking at, the problemmay be just what is needed.
Lastly, there is ‘Del’. Reminding us that as painful as it may be, sometimes deleting the situation that is causing us stress is what is needed.
Use this computer analogy to help you quickly adjust to all of life’s challenges. If the situation seems to have you stressed or stuck, just push ‘control + alt + delete’.
Margie and I routinely take turns picking out movies to watch. One night it is her turn, the next night it is my turn. This way it keeps things fair and interesting since we can often have very different tastes in movies. On this particular night the movie that was chosen to watch was “What Women Want” staring Mel Gibson among others. If you haven’t seen the movie I will given you the plot very briefly. A man who generally has little regard for women is suddenly able to hear their every thought. By being able to do this, it has a big impact on his life and career.
As valuable as this ability might be, as far as we are aware it is impossible to hear the minds of the opposite sex. To some this could be frustrating, but to many they should probably be grateful. I am sure we can all recall many moments when we have heard friends say, or even said ourselves, “I wish I could know what goes on in their head!” On occasion I have even said this about myself, but that is a topic for a different day. Trying to know what is in the minds of someone, be it a man or a woman, can be frustrating. The amazing thing is that there is a way to do this and it is also easier than you think. Of course there are a million books on ‘How to read someone like a book’ or ‘how to understand your partner more’. Trust me I have read a good deal of them and they all have something valuable to offer.
The tricky thing about reading and applying the knowledge you learn from these books is that it can vary from person to person. To say all men are alike or all women think and act in the same manner is obviously ludicrous. A lot of our nature has to do with genetics, experiences and goals. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a simple formula that could work to help us gain deeper insight into anyone we are working to know on a deeper level? How much would it be worth to know how your boss felt about certain things? How helpful would knowing what motivated your employees and coworkers be? Would it be valuable to you to understand why members of your family continue to do things that drive you crazy? To, of course, the most valuable aspect of this formula. How much would you pay to know more about the inner workings of the mind contained in the head of the person you loved? What if you could know more about what made them happy? Would knowing what upset them as well as what made them happy and relaxed be worth something to you?
The great news is that there is such a formula. The better news is I am about to give it to you for free! No strings attached. You can choose to use it, or you can choose to dismiss it because of its simplicity. The choice is up to you. My promise to you is this – if you put this formula to work with an honest effort, you will acheive everything mentioned in the paragraph above and more. Personally, I would recommend starting with one person until you really get the hang of this. After a while, applying this formula will become second nature to you and all your relationships will be taken to amazing new levels. You will be able to impress your boss with regularity. This could lead to a raise, a promotion or countless other great items. You could motivate your employees and coworkers while making them happy at the same time. Imagine the work enviroment this could lead to! Most importantly, you will have your intimate partner feeling happier and more loved than ever before. I have been applying this formula in my own relationship and can tell you it is one of the main reasons both of us are so happy.
What is this magic formula? How can you apply it for your own benefit today? The formula is the title of this blog – SHUT 1 AND OPEN 2. You may wish to write this simple formula down as a daily reminder. Let me explain further what this formula means. Again, I strongly caution you against dismissing it based on how simple it may sound. Most profound thoughts are simple. The first part of the formula ‘shut one’ refers to your mouth. Most of us love to explain to our partners our feelings (a very important aspect of communication) but we are so busy talking about ourselves, we forget to do the second part of the formula. That second part ‘open 2’ refers to both our ears and our eyes. Call it actively listening, focused observation or any other term you like. Using this second part of the formula will bring you all the riches you desire when it comes to personal relations.
Let us delve a little deeper into the second part of this formula. Focused observation involves listening to, and watching someone with a particular goal in mind. In this case to learn more about them. Most couples can tell you that they can tell when their partner is upset when they give them “the look”. Actively listening or applying the second part of this formula involves paying attention to what proceeded that look. What was said or done to ilicit that expression? The same can work in reverse. When we see a genuine expression of joy on our partners face, their eyes lighting up, a smile adorning their face, it causes us to be happy as well. How often do we stop and ask ourselves “What caused this expression of joy?” More importantly in these examples is making a mental, or written, account of that. Remember what caused the pain or upset and what caused the joy.
I applied this very formula in my own relationship with astounding results. I did it without really knowing what I was doing. Now that I know and have perfected this formula, I continue to use it everyday and the results have only become more amazing. I was at our local food coop and wanted to pick up a little gift for Margie to let her know I was thinking about her. We had been to that store a few times as well as other grocery stores. The funny thing was I did not have any clue as to what a good surprise would be. I thought to myself, “Boy if only she was here I could see what she liked and then pick that out.” Suddenly it hit me, I should be doing that all of the time. In the countless times we had been to the grocery store I did not really pay attention to what she may have picked up or what aisles she gravitated towards. I made a decision next time we went shoppping I would observe carefully to what she did and said to learn what would be a good surprise next time I was alone. I can tell you that I learned more about my beautiful Margie in that shopping trip than I had in all the time we spent leading up to that moment.
I was so proud of myself until I realized one very important thing. There was no reason to have waited to learn about the love of my life. It is not just what she likes in the grocery store that can make me a hero for the day. I began to pay attention to what movies she picks out. What colors she enjoys having around. What she says she likes, and what lights her up. I have seen her get upset with both me and others and noticed what caused that. I noticed what songs she listens to when she is upset, and which she listens to when she wants to relax. I observed her as a scientest would do when observing an experiment. Then I began to test what I had learned. Slowly I found ways to make her feel more happy and loved than I had done up to that point. This practice continues to this day. Some days I may not learn anything, but just be reminded of things that are important to her. Other days I learn so much I feel I didn’t even know the woman I have been blessed to be with.
It never fails to surprise me how many people do not know the most basic elements about their partners. What is their shoe size? What are their favorite colors? Movies? Songs? This formula can give you what many would percieve as an unfair advantage. Do not take my word for it, Prove it to yourself using this 24 hour experiment. For the next 24 hours pick someone to observe. Some may find it easier to start with someone they are not so attached to, others may see more benefit in jumping right in to the person closest to you. For 24 hours become an active listener. Watch their every move. Listen to every word they say. Even more important, try to learn what is behind these words and actions. Record what you learn. As a bonus you can even go deeper. Look at their social media accounts and what they put out for the world to see. Have they expressed what is important to them? Have they mentioned what upsets them or goals they are trying to reach? Make note of this too. It may sound like you are stalking them, and it way this is true. What you are doing is focusing all of your efforts on learning how this person thinks and feels. Imagine what amazing things you can do with this information? To them it may seem as if you can read their minds and atticipate their needs and desires. Imagine how that will change your relationships?
It amazes me how much people will spend on items to promote their business, yet not invest much if any time and money on themselves. If you read the quote above you will see what I mean. “Your smile is your logo” is the first part. How many places to you enter where they do not even offer you a smile? Margie and I recently went to one of our favorite breakfast spots. When we entered the sign said “Hostess will seat you” the hostess, without looking up, asked how many were in our party. After informing her there were only two so she would not have to strain her neck by looking up, we expected to be seated. While still not looking up, she waved her hand in a general direction and said, “You can sit over there.” Had this been our first trip to this place we may not have even bothered sitting down. Margie, in her not so patient with poor customer service way, asked the hostess for some clarity as to what the wave of a hand and ‘over there’ meant. Luckily, a lady caught our confusion and clarified. We were shown to a table and treated to great service by a young lady named Izzy. Had we not ate here before it would not have even come to that. A smile can either make or break a first impression. Best of all? It doesn’t cost a single thing.
“Your personality is your business card” is the second part. Before this breakfast experience, we had went to look for a new vehicle. While at the dealership we ran into the issue of being shown the vehicle for a test drive at the same time another couple was. Our sales man pushed the other salesman out of the way and they exchanged explicatives with each other. As I turned the key I noticed the ‘check engine’ light was on. That coupled with the fact the sales staff was almost at blows, caused me to leave the lot without a purchase. The man gave me his business card on the way out. However, his personality is what I will remember more. Acting with a sense of professionalism and customer service is not that difficult. Neither is refraining from swearing at or punching your coworker. Having a great personality with customers is priceless but does not cost you anything.
The last part of the quote, “How you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.” Think about how people must feel after having left your presence. I believe this practice should be uniform throughout your business as well as your personal life. Not only is it near impossible to fully ‘switch’ personalities, but it is far easier and less stressful to maintain a great personality. On a personal level, when we DJ there are 3 things I do my best to leave with everyone I come in contact with. First, I like to make them laugh. Everyone needs a little humor, especially when you are out having fun. Second, I want them to feel good about themselves. That is why my humor is usually positive and inspiring. Lastly, if there is a couple in attendance, I try to instill and magnify feelings of love between them. If you go home from our show laughing feeling good about yourself and with a new appreciation for your partner, why would you not want to come back?
All of these items are free from a monetary standpoint. The time and effort you invest in them will be worth its weight in gold. Next time you are in the process of purchasing new business cards or marketing materials for your business, ask yourself, “Am I, and all the members of my staff doing what they can to leave the customer with a good experience?” If the answer is ‘no’ then you might be better off putting your investment there. If the customer has a bad service experience, no fancy business card or flashy mailer will impress them. Spend your time and money on books and materials that can assist you in better relating to people. It will not only help your bottom line, it will also help your reputation. With people sharing their lives on social media and through word of mouth, you cannot afford a poor customer service experience.
Today in the United States we celebrate Valentine’s Day. One of the more polarizing holidays. There are two very distinct camps of people when it comes to this holiday. There are those who consider it a ‘Hallmark holiday’. “We should celebrate love all year, why do we need a special day for it?” While I agree with celebrating love everyday, the rest of that thought makes as much sense as not celebrating birthdays because you are alive every day.
Then there are those like myself, who take this opportunity to celebrate the love they appreciate each and every day. I do not think it is a day I must purchase extravagant gifts or go out for an expensive dinners. Today ask yourself this one vital question. What is the best way to celebrate love? This does not generally bring to mind flowers or chocolates. There are many ways I celebrate love. I won’t give you all my secrets, but I will share two important ones.
The woman in the picture above is Margie, the love of my life. As you can see, I am beyond blessed to have what I feel is the most beautiful woman in the world. I work hard to be the best man I can be for her on days that end in ‘Y’. Taking one day out of the year to celebrate my good fortune at having not only a very lovely lady, but an amazing relationship seems like a no-brainer to me. While I enjoy surprising Margie with all kinds of goodies on this and every other day, to me that is not the best way to celebrate love.
The first way in which I celebrate love is by developing an attitude of gratitude. You may remember me telling you how gratitude can transform your life quicker than any other thing I know. If it is that powerful for your life in general, imagine how well it would work if you focused it on a certain area of your life, like your relationship perhaps? The difference is like feeling the warm sun on your skin, to focusing it through the lens of a magnifying glass.
Today I focus on the many things Margie gives me to be grateful for. On top of the pride of having such a stunning woman at my side, she keeps our love fresh and full of surprises. Take the other morning for example. Margie had discovered she could balance a broom on its bristles. You can only imagine the effect a broom standing up by itself in the middle of the room can have on a person half asleep at 4am leaving for work. There are other such surprises involving cats and coat hangers, movie theater garbage cans, and a million other things. She just sees me shake my head or raise my eyebrow, but I am really loving the fact that life is never dull with her. She also introduces me to many new things. I recall the first time she informed me I would be eating pork steak with cinnamon and cilantro. My eyebrow must have been on top of my head. Now it is one of the meals I like the most.
The second thing I like to do on Valentine’s Day is think of myself. Think of yourself when you have such a beautiful woman? What am I crazy? Seond question first – maybe just a little. Yes, I do think of myself. I think of my performance as the man in her life this past year. I ask myself what I did good. What mistakes did I make? What can I learn from both? It what ways can I learn more about her and how to love her better? Just like a yearly job performance, you should give yourself a yearly relationship performance. If you are really brave you can get together with your boss (your spouse) and ask them ways that you can add more value to the relationship in the coming year. Be open and eager to learn new and improved ways to strengthen and deepen your love for each other. Having a committed spouse who is looking for ways they can better themselves so that your relationship can improve is one of the best gifts you can give.
Today spend time really listening to the one you love. Do activities you both enjoy and think about all of the reasons you have to be grateful and ways you can improve. Next year, you will have even more reasons to celebrate.
Today is my mother’s birthday. She has a saying that she has been using ever since I can remember. It is simply, “It will be ok.” It does not sound that profound, but it represents a certain amount of both faith and persistence. Both of those words are tied together as we discussed a few posts back. I would like you to keep that saying in mind as you take in the one in the photo above.
Mosaics are made from broken pieces, but they’re still works of art. And so are you. What an amazing thought. Considering all of the times that we have all felt and perhaps were broken this is quite reassuring. When we put all of those broken pieces together they turn into something beautiful. Just like all of the situations that have left us feeling broken have made us who we are.
Make no mistake, what kind of picture is formed is entirely up to us. As the saying goes, we can become bitter or we can become better. Do our broken pieces amount to a pile of garbage or are we putting them together to form a mosaic, a work of art? Challenges can leave us angry, bitter or jaded. They can also make us more compassionate, loving and understanding. The choice is up to us, not the circumstances we have been through.
Another gift of challenges is that they make us strong, which in turn is beautiful. You may meet someone who is physically stunning, but has never faced serious adversity. What they have an abundance of physically, they may lack in compassion and inner strength. Some of us who have been through the toughest moments can be the most loving and understanding because we know what it is like to feel broken and hurt.
Today, gather your broken pieces and see what a wonderful work of art has been made in you. When life is providing you more ‘pieces’ for your mosaic and life is tough, remember my mother’s saying – “It will be ok.” Maybe not right now. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually it will all be ok.
This will be a rather direct and to the point post. The equation above is one of the secrets to living an amazing life. I have personally used it a lot in the last few years to reduce the amount of stress I have and to help me better focus my energy. The equation is simple. If it doesn’t EVOLVE me, then is doesn’t INVOLVE me. Simply put if something does not help you be a better person by facilitating personal growth, adding joy or providing an opportunity to help others, it is not worth our time and energy.
Those of us striving to live a more enlightened and amazing life realize you can turn almost any situation to our advantage. This can be both a blessing and a curse in this situation. We can justify getting involved in one of those he said/she said conversations as a chance to help others evolve, but if we are honest with ourselves, our energy would be far better served elsewhere. Maybe we think enlightening our boss Rachel on how unappreciated she makes her employees feel would help our work environment, but we really just know it is only helping us vent some frustration…I mean…hypothetically.
Removing ourselves from situations that do not add to our lives or give us an opportunity to grow and evolve is a great way of reducing stress. This allows us to have more energy and more time to pursue our goals, read that helpful book, practice some self-care or a million other positive options. Not to mention we will feel a lot more amazing and our life will become more amazing!
So remember my good friends, If it doesn’t EVOLVE you, then it shouldn’t INVOLVE you.
I am sure some of you think the life of a motivational speaker/author is one of sunshine and rainbows. Although I firmly believe I have found a way to live life with a passion and joy that few are fortunate enough to have, there are still challenges for me. Some happen when major events occur. Some, like we are going to discuss today, happen almost daily.
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” You have heard me use this quote of Earl Nightingale quite often. I do this because I believe it is truly one of the truest things ever spoken. I do not believe success is a point to be reached, so much as a way of traveling. I don’t believe we ever truly defeat our demons, so much as live to fight them another day. Sometimes we win, sometimes they do. To be successful, we must identify them and develop ways to outflank and attack them daily. With practice and persistence we shold begin to prevail more than we fall victim.
Case in point for me – negative self-talk and dwelling on the negative. This may sound shocking as those are two things that I preach everyone should work on. The reason I say that is because I do so daily. Recently, on my day off at my day job someone came and destroyed my work area. It took me a good 20 minutes to clean the area up before I could even begin my work day. Yes, this sucks. No, nobody knew anything about it. As I made my way through the projects I had to attend to that day I found myself thinking about this episode. Not even really consciously. It was almost as if my mind was having a conversation about it. “Who would really do such a thing?” “Why would they leave it that way?” and a million other thoughts raced through my head.
The more this happened, the more the event seemed to bother me. This was foolish as it had already been addressed and corrected. Dwelling on it did one thing and one thing only – lowered my emotional state and mental well-being. Then another thought crept into my mind. “If I spent this amount of time visualizing my goals, I would be a lot further along.” For that moment, my demons won. I did not let it stay that way. “Persistence is another word for faith. If you didn’t have faith, you wouldn’t persist.” Another Earl Nightingale quote I love. At that moment I made up my mind to take control of my thoughts again.
Dwelling on an unpleasant episode can be hard not to do. This was only a mild inconvienence. If you have an emotionally charged episode like a disagreement with your spouse, for example, that can seem insurmountable. It is not. That is not to say it will be easy, but it is possible. We realize focusing on what we have to be grateful for in our partner would serve us far better than dwelling on that thing they said or did that upset us. We also realize that dwelling on that will only increase our anger and make the likelihood of a possible resolution far less…well…likely. We certainly may not be able to shift our thinking away from the upset and towards gratitude, especially in the beginning. As we practice and continue to go to war with ourselves and our demons, we will experience one victory. We can use that and the good feelings it brings to build upon.
If your demons are negative self-talk, dwelling on negative situations, do not give them power. Be persistent and have faith. Even if some days they may get the best of you, wake up to fight another day.
As this week begins, you may find yourself asking, “Where do I begin?” Sometimes we can feel so far down we can’t see a way out. If you haven’t been there yet, consider yourself quite fortunate. Personally, I have found myself there several times.
Whether it is thr loss of a job, loss of a relationship or loss of a loved one, life can throw us under the bus when we least expect it. We can feel like we don’t even want to get out of bed.
Even when things are not quite that bad but we are just frustrated with how our life is at the moment, what to do next can be confusing. What is the first basic step? Is there a universal action that can work for everyone in all situations?
The great news? There is such an action and I can tell you it has worked in my own life. That action is GRATITUDE. Focusing on what you have to be grateful for will change your life quicker than anything else.
There are many great books and ideas to help foster this ‘attitude of gratitude’. In my own book “A Happy Life for Busy People” I lost several fun activities that can help make gratitude a daily part of your life. If you are interested in getting your own copy, there will be a link at the end of this post.
Whether you use my book or any other method, begin to use gratitude today, and watch your life transition immediately!