LOCAL MASTERMINDS WORKING TO BETTER THE CITY

The internet defines ‘mastermind’ in 2 distinct ways. noun – a person with outstanding intellect and verb – plan and direct (an ingenious and complex scheme or enterprise) In the city where I live, West Allis Wisconsin, we have a local group of masterminds who fit that definition exactly. The group is called “West Allis Masterminds”. It consists of a small group of local business owners from the city. Recently, I sat down with the group’s founder, Ricky Grabow, to learn more about this amazing group, who they are and what they are doing to improve the city.

My first question to Ricky was what exactly is the West Allis Masterminds? As I discovered, not only are they people of outstanding intellect, but they are owners of local brick and mortar stores located in the city of West Allis. How does such a group come together and why the name masterminds? Several years back the city had decided to disband its local chamber of commerce. When Mr. Grabow heard of this, he saw a great opportunity to establish a group of people that are not only vested in the city, but dedicated to its success. The exact mission statement of the Mastermind group reads as follows, “To provide West Allis small businesses a supportive community that ensures long term success and survival.” That certainly fits the second part of our definition of mastermind, plan and direct an ingenious and complex scheme or enterprise. In this case they are planning and scheming ways in which to improve the climate for small businesses in the city by working together cooperatively.

Ricky is the owner of Peak Physique a local gym here in West Allis. He is not only vested in the city, but has a passion for seeing it, and those in it, do well. I asked him how he chose the name for the group. He said it was inspired from the 1937 Napoleon Hill classic Think and Grow Rich. In which Mr. Hill advocates forming a group of individuals all with different opinions and talents dedicated to a common purpose. In this case that means Mr. Grabow contacted other West Allis business owners who also wanted to work together to not only improve their chances for success, but the chance for other local businesses to succeed as well.

There were several local businesses that were involved from very early on. Westallion Brewing Company and their owners were eager to help out. They often do many things to promote and benefit the city. Peanut Butter and Jelly Deli was another business working within the group. Mike, the owner, is not only a great businessman, but one of the friendliest people you will have the pleasure of meeting. Andrea and her business Oniomania, a small boutique on the east side of the city was another early member. Lisa and Josh from Transaction Skate Shop were also eager to help Ricky in his mission. These five businesses were soon joined by others and continue to work to improve the environment for small business.

Being a man of specifics, I wanted to know what steps they were taking to improve the climate for local businesses and how people can become a part of their efforts. The first way in which they are assisting local businesses is by providing a platform on which they can network with each other. In this way, the businesses can discover ways in which they can both support each other and work together to increase business in the city as a whole. Local business owners are encouraged to attend one of their monthly meetings and become a part of this amazing group. The next one is April 22nd at Westallion Brewing Company at 2pm. There is no cost to attend the event or be a part of the group and it is a fun and unique way to get to know fellow business owners.

The current goal the group is working towards is developing a stream of revenue to be able to provide new businesses with grants to assist them in getting started. They are also focused on being able to provide assistance to businesses that may be struggling in these current and difficult circumstances. I was curious as to how an average citizen could play a part in the efforts of the group. Once again Mr. Grabow had an answer. Starting June 8th, the group will hold a vendor fair showcasing many of the amazing businesses that are a part of this group. These will be held in the beer garden right outside the restaurant Public Table. Past events have not only featured beers from Westallion and amazing gift ideas from Oniomania, but also massages from Susan of Massage MKE. It is a free event where you can browse and experience many of the amazing businesses present in the city. A portion of the revenue will go towards the group and their goals. You can enjoy a good meal, a tasty beverage, a relaxing massage and do some shopping all while helping support the health and vitality of the city and its small businesses.

If you would like to know more about the group, the fun things they have planned and how you can be a part of the great positive changes they are striving to make in the community, I will include a link to the group’s Facebook page at the end of this blog. I am very proud to be in a city that is filled with such caring business owners. They are people dedicated to not only the health of the local business community , but the city as a whole. I strongly encourage you to learn more about the group and attend one or more of their vending fairs.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WEST ALLIS MASTERMINDS

STOP PLANTING A PARKING LOT

A good amount of my family in generations past were involved in farming. Being farmers they seemed to have a language that us city kids found both hard to understand and at the same time rather amusing. I recall my great uncle asking me, “Why are you wasting so much time planting parking lots?” Being a teenager from the city at the time my thought was something along the lines of, “What on earth are you talking about?” Of course, back then it was filled with the colorful language of a teenager. I was never fully able to grasp exactly the point he was trying to make. Roughly thirty years later it was made clear to me.

My great uncle Ray

This story comes to us from the friendly confines of the Oak Creek Post Office, which is where I can be found exchanging my time and labor for money Monday to Friday. Ever since I was hired by the United States Postal Service, I have found it a great opportunity to practice may many lessons in self-improvement and positivity. Today was such a day. While there are plenty of folks at the post office who could benefit from exploring the fields of self-improvement and positivity, there are often very few so inclined. Most words of encouragement are returned with cynical or sarcastic statements. It can seem as futile as…here it comes…planting seeds in a parking lot. Suddenly, my great uncle’s words came back to me and I understood what he meant. No matter how good your seeds (or words of encouragement in this case) are or how often you water them (share encouraging words to others, if they are laying on concrete or blacktop they will not grow.

It is, I imagine, a charming way of saying you should stop wasting your time on activities that stand very little chance of success. If you had words that could make someone’s heart take flight, it may be best to share them with someone whose heart is not weighted down with layers of cynical thinking and pessimism.

Just when I began to think of myself as having discovered a person epiphany and was giving thought to saving my kind words of encouragement for an area they may be better served, a caveat to this way of thinking was served to me. This enlightenment came from my coworker Sharon. Normally one to supply her healthy dose of cynicism, this time she brought up a very good point. “You never know when that seed might bring the smile someone needed.” she told me. I thought about that for a while. Even parking lots have cracks I suppose. If one of your seeds (words of encouragement) happens to find one of those cracks in the parking lot (the rare open-hearted soul in a sarcastic world) it might resonate even more for its rarity in the situation. Proving, even in great farming wisdom, there are two sides to every story.

These are both good lessons to carry with us through our lives. We should check to make sure we are not spending undo time planting parking lots. That is spending our time and efforts on whatever goal we are aspiring to, in a situation in which it is unlikely to succeed. That being said, however, we should remember that a small light may not seem like much in the darkness, but it stands out a lot more than it would in a well-lit room. We also must remember that a little light may be exactly what someone needs.

USING YOUR TREASURE

Wouldn’t it be great if we had treasure all around us? If you have an overflowing bank account would you leave that money in the bank or would you put it to use to make your life better and more enjoyable. If your answer is ‘yes’ you are like most of us walking around this earth. If your answer is ‘no’ feel free to place that money in my bank account I would be more than happy to give you a demonstration on how this all works.

Most people desire money so greatly because they believe it will make them happy. You may be tempted to disagree, but if you follow the trail it always ends in happiness. If you want money to ease your stress of finances, that would make you feel less stressed and happy. Perhaps you are noble and would like to make money to help feed and cloth children in poverty. Knowing that you helped those who may not be able to help themselves would make you feel like you did something good and in turn that would leave you feeling…yep, you guessed it, happy!

Some people chase happiness in more spiritual realm. They find happiness in some sort of enlightenment. In the end their accomplishments, even in the spiritual realm, will lead to happiness. Some people enjoy serving others. Some people enjoy overcoming obstacles. There are a million different things that all of us do to mine for the treasure of happiness. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a tool that would allow us to carry those fleeting moments of happiness with us? In effect, extending the duration of happiness. Good news, there is and I am going to share it with you. In fact, you may use portions of this tool unconsciously right now. Switching to doing so with a purpose will allow you to have, and be surrounded by an inner feeling of joy even in the darkest of times.


This tool was brought to my attention by a story shared from a coworker. Weekly, I am scheduled to visit our friends at the post office in the city of South Milwaukee in the state of Wisconsin where I live. On this particular day, I was greeted by an employee named Michelle. She was excited to share some recent photos of her son’s engagement. They had traveled to the romantic city of Savannah in the great state of Georgia under the premise of a family photo so that the future bride-to-be would not suspect anything. Tears of joy flooded the faces of all parties involved and you could tell that mom was quite proud of her son and excited for her future daughter-in-law. She had several pictures in her phone that she was going to have printed out and could recall all of the details of this great story. You could see the emotions flood her as she relayed it to me. I couldn’t help but feel happy for her.

In parting, I remarked how wonderful it was that in the middle of all the insanity that is occurring the world, it was great she had such a wonderful memory to carry with her. As I began to walk back to my postal truck for the trip back to the post office I normally work at, I was still struck my how much joy she had. It was if she was still in sunny Savannah despite the fact that she was clearly in the sunshine-challenged city of South Milwaukee. I note this phenomenon often telling others that “There is no law of physics that say your mind and body have to be in the same place at the same time.” Quite often while shoveling snow here in Wisconsin during the winter, my mind is on a tropical beach drinking out of a coconut.

This is something that we, like our friend Michelle, can do with the events in our life. Capture those beautiful moments with pictures, video and anything else we can think of. Put those cell phones to good use. Then share your joy with others. Maybe print out some of those pictures and keep the frame on your desk. Every so often, take but a few quick moments to travel back there in your mind. Use as many of your senses to make it real. Remember what the tropical flowers smelled like. Feel the warm sun and the cool ocean breeze on your skin. Taste the wonderful rum cocktails (remember, as tempting as this may be, we are still only doing this in our minds) Hear the birds and the rustle of the palm trees in the wind. You will be amazed at how much good a mini mental vacation will do you.

TURNING DEFEAT INTO SUCCESS

These next few posts are going to be a collection of lessons that I have learned from coworkers. Three different people, three different post offices. We begin in the sunny town of Franksville where I used to be postmaster. I was discussing self-improvement and introspective topics with the person who works there. We often have brief but intense discussions on some of our favorite people who inspire us.

On this particular day, the young lady mentioned she had been having some stressful days where she was feeling down. She was concerned that in her journey she might be taking a step back. I think any of us on a path to improving our lives and ourselves, have felt something similar. One of the most common questions I am asked at book signings, seminars and just by people I interact with is “Do you ever have a bad day?” “Are there days you are not in a good mood?” My answer is simple, of course I do. Everyone has days in their life where things just seem to go south when you would like them to go north. I actually had my day start that way today.

Does this mean we are not being successful in our self-improvement journey? Does this mean we are somehow doing it wrong? Are the amount of days we feel down indicative to our progress in life? Not at all! As the movie Forest Gump made light of, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you might get.” There are many situations that are beyond our control. Some moments it would appear we are having a run of ‘good luck’ where other times it would seem ‘the deck is stacked against us’. I am here to tell you that kind of thinking is a bunch of BS! (Belief systems).

Our success is not in eliminating every single challenge in life. We will all have days or more to the point, moments when life gets the best of us. The true test of our character is in shortening both the intensity and duration of those experiences. In fact, we grow most in times of pain and challenge. We learn the most about ourselves, those we care about and the world around us when times see the darkest. It is in putting these situations to work for us that we can take an experience that is a negative and turn it into a positive. Like finding a big hole in the ground and turning it into a mind in which we pull diamonds out of. These diamonds are better than jewels though. They can be diamonds of physical, mental and emotional strength we never knew we had. It can be the jewel of gratitude for those who help us when we are down.

How can we turn all of these negative situations in positive ones? I am going to give you a quick tool to start using by the end of our time together here today. Here it is – ask two simple questions. It would be a good idea to write these two questions down so when times get tough you don’t have to search for them on top of everything else. The first one we kind of alluded to earlier. How can I use this? Can I use it to be better prepared for a similar event in the future? Can I use it to develop a skill that I do not have at this moment in time? Can I use it to stoke the fires of motivation I have to succeed in the future?

The second question we should ask ourselves when things are bad is What is good about this? If you ask this question second it usually works a lot better. Once you found how to put your grief/pain/anger/sadness or whatever other challenging emotion to work for you, it can be a lot easier to find something positive in it. Perhaps you are experiencing the pain of regret over not spending enough time with a love one you lost. You can put that pain to work to motivate you to cherish and give 100% to those you love who are still here. The ‘positive’ that could come out of that pain is to remind you to express your feelings and take time for those who are in your life presently. I am sure you could think of examples in your own life as well.

To wrap up what turned out to be a longer post than I expected, let us remember the true measure of success. It is not to eliminate all stress and never have a bad day. We would never really grow then. It is finding ways to shorten the duration of time we spend in that negative state. We can do it by asking the two questions in the order we demonstrated above. When we go through pain and struggle we gain valuable tools that will allow us to better contribute to and serve others around us and the world at large. Next time you find yourself having a day where you are feeling down, remember that does not mean you are failing. What it does mean, is you have an opportunity to grow and develop tools you would otherwise not have.