Here is a picture I took of the clouds above the local Starbucks I was meeting my mother at. In fact, I am actually writing this post at a different coffee shop not far from this one. As the month comes to a close, I want to give a friendly reminder to all of us, myself included. In this new economy, we have switched from the problem of businesses being able to open, to one of them being able to find employees to serve the customers they have. This is something to keep in mind as you are served not only at your local coffee shop or restaurant, but also at grocery stores when the lines seem a bit longer than normal. Most of the business owners I talk to would really like to have more help to serve you, but they are unable to find some.
While we are experiencing longer wait times than usual or slower service let us try to keep one thing in mind. We are being served by the people who did show up. The ones who are often working double shifts or longer hours. The ones who are doing not only there job, but often the jobs of two or more people. If we encounter an employee who seems a little less than full of sunshine, let us try to remember they are probably working twice as hard as normal and running on less sleep as well. It would be easy for us to be filled with anger, but let us do as the Dalai Lama suggests and show our strength by expressing patience. Perhaps offer a ‘Thank you’ and some encouragement. Employees working short staffed often feel burnt out and under appreciated. They need our patience the most.
As the month rolls on, I ask you to keep in mind the struggles of the workers who are doing their best to serve us every day in all of the locations we go. Just to help with the tranquil mood, I am going to end with another picture of the beautiful sunset I witnessed outside of the coffee shop that day that I met my mother.
Today is my birthday. I was born on this day a mere 46 years ago. I didn’t have a picture from that day as I was a little to young to hold the camera. You can, however, see the evolution of me in the photos above. It also happens to be national lasagna day, national chicken wing day, national lipstick day and international tiger day. This year national chili dog day and national intern day also fall on this day. Much to celebrate and much to eat. I took off of work today and my guess is that my lovely Margie and I will be doing something fun to amuse ourselves.
I tend to use and enjoy birthdays as a time to reflect. Think of how far I have come and how much I have grown. Not only in height and waistline, but as an emotional and spiritual individual as well. This past year had many ups and downs. We certainly all have our tales of what 2020 brought to us. This past year has seen me on the news several times for having Covid and once for my books as well. I have been on a few podcasts, one television show on NBC as well as a few limited public appearances. I also had the great chance to speak with some school children on the subject of writing via zoom. That was a very cool experience. I lost a few friends but certainly gained many more. My second book, Living the Dream, finally hit Amazon and store shelves. That was an accomplishment that took 8 years. All things considered, it was a very good chapter in this 45 chaptered life.
These ‘then and now’ pictures are getting to be a little bit hilarious. Birthdays to me are also a chance to reflect on where I would like to go from here. Having published 2 books and closing in on 1500 blog posts, I asked myself, “What’s next?” I have decided that in some form or another, the next evolution for this gentleman is hosting a talk show. In the past I have hosted 2 different radio shows with my friends Jason and Guy. (tragically, Guy is one of the people I lost in the last year) I have also hosted a television show and directed and produced 2 others. This conclusion came to me after contemplating both what my favorite job I have ever had was. (that would be the radio show) I also asked myself, “What do you really enjoy doing in life?” I got that from George Burns who said that is the secret of life. Bob Hope also referred to it. Both of those guys lived to be 100, so I thought it to be some fairly sound advice. I decided that two of my favorite things to do in life are drink coffee and talk to people. Not many career options there. I also enjoy hearing people tell their story and helping them to feel good about themselves and help others. Therefore, when we meet here a year from now it is my goal to have either a new radio show, podcast or some other medium that will allow me to share with all of you wonderful stories and life lessons.
Whenever your birthday may be, perhaps use it as a moment of reflection. Feel free to use my birthday for this purpose. Think of all that you have made it through and ponder where you want to go from here. You might even ask yourself what it is that you are really passionate about in life and let that be your guiding force.
As a parting note, some people ask what I would like for my birthday. I am truly content in the physical sense, although a paid trip to Fiji or Bali would be nice, but I do have one gift that I would be honored if you all did for me. I would love for you to help me spread this blog to as many people as possible. Share it on your social media, tell your friends and their friends too. Share it with your dog, cat and goldfish. It would be my honor to share Secret2anamazinglife.com with as many wonderful souls as possible. Thank you all so much in advance.
Who is this charming fellow you may be asking yourself. Although you may easily confuse this as a picture of me when I wake up for work at 4:30 every weekday morning, the black and white nature should tell you that is not so. This fellow is Arthur Schopenhauer. He was a German philosopher in the early 1800’s. In my research and study of self-improvement, I come across many of these fellows. Notice the happy grin on his face? Most western philosophers share his gloomy demeanor. In fact, on doing research on the western philosophy thoughts into happiness, I discovered much of this gloominess also creeped into their thoughts and outlooks on the subject.
Art here did have a depressing but somewhat interesting take on what to do when pursuing happiness in life. His answer, in short, was this – don’t. Not too surprising considering his cheerful disposition. He did, however, have some advice that at first blush seems a little on the negative side but may help us find a new way to look at life and to increase the joy in our lives. His advice can be wrapped up in the following statement. “Don’t seek out happiness, but instead seek to diminish your misery.” Way to go Art! Focus on being ‘less miserable’ than ‘more happy’. I think if you go through life with your most inspiring thought being “How can I make life suck less?” you will end up with a life that leaves you looking like our good friend Arthur here. Not really that good of a look, if you were to ask me.
So I sat down to think about this idea a little more. That is actually me. You can see it is a little less scowl and a little more pensive than our German friend above. Wouldn’t making your life less miserable make it happier? I think it is much like a budget. If you wish to have more money in your life you can approach it in two entirely different ways. You can either focus on saving money and cutting expenses (like focus on reducing your misery) This is a very important aspect and will end up with you having more money in your pocket. If all you do is focus on where can we cut costs, you are not only limiting yourself, but you are also focusing on sacrifice and lack. Just like focusing on making life less miserable. It may be worth noting that when facing trouble, businesses tend to focus mainly on cutting costs and that seldom works long term.
If you want more money in your pocket, there is another thing you can do and that is focus on ways of increasing your income. In terms of happiness, this would be looking for ways to add more joy to your life. When you are looking to increase your income there are two options. You can earn more for what you already do, or you can find additional streams of income. Same with your ‘Happiness Budget’. Just made up that term by the way, kind of like it. You can look to find more joy in what you already do in life and you can also look for additional sources of joy. If you enjoy going for a walk in nature, would listening to some meditative music be helpful? Maybe trying to spot as many animals as you can? Maybe just focus on the sites, sounds and smells more? If you don’t get to walk in nature as much as you like, maybe you could try adding that to your life.
If the budget analogy doesn’t quite work for you, think of a garden. Stress, challenges and things that generally make you unhappy are like weeds in a garden. No matter how great of a gardener you are, there will always be some weeds. If you spend every minute in the garden of life pulling weeds (that is getting life to be less miserable) and not focused on helping your plants grow (like growing your happiness) your garden would be mediocre at best. That is like focusing on reducing misery and leaving the growth of happiness to chance. Sure, life may throw a few things your way every once in a while but your life, much like your garden, will be mediocre.
When it comes to a strategy for happiness I am going to say that the cheery Mr. Schopenhauer’s thoughts are not without merit, but merely one side of the coin. I think we should both look to reduce our misery in life while looking to grow our happiness. Just as in our income example, if we want more money in our pockets we should both look to cut expenses as well as increase our income. While tending your garden of life, certainly address picking the weeds, but also make sure to water your plants. Doing so will allow you the greatest harvest. The same can be said about removing the misery as well as growing the happiness, it will give you the greatest harvest.
One of my favorite philosophers, Mr. Rogers has a good suggestion when it comes to stress. This, I must confess, sounds easy but is not. When we see others under stress, it is easy to be compassionate and understanding. At least for a person reading this blog I assume it would be. However, if you are one of two or even several people involved in a stressful situation, this becomes quite a bit more difficult. There are two parts of this equation and I think we deserve to look at each of them here briefly.
The first part tell us in times of stress we should listen with our ears and our hearts. This means not only hearing the words the person is saying, but really doing our best to understand where they are coming from. We should never make assumptions and always ask for clarity if we do not understand. We should also be aware that in a stressful situation, most things said that seem angry, hurtful, or just plain mean, can be veiled cries for help. Not everyone is skilled at communicating in regular situations, much less when they are under stress. When we think of listening with our hearts, that involves a great deal of compassion for the person sitting across from us (or on the phone, or in a text or email) This can prove very difficult especially if that person seems to be attacking us or, as Norman Vincent Peale used to say, “Using biblical terms in a very unreligious way.” This difficulty is multiplied several times if we also happen to be under stress. What a difference it would make if we were able to accomplish it? Even putting forth the effort will make a great impact.
The second part is just as important. We must be assured that our questions are as important as our answers. When we provide an answer, we are more addressing the other party’s concern that getting an answer to our own. How great does it feel to know that our feelings and concerns are important to the party we are talking to? How do we think the other party would act if they felt their questions and concerns were not as important as our own? I can’t imagine the discussion would be very healthy or productive. We must not only tell the other party their questions are important, we must also show them. We do so by repeating them back to make sure we are addressing them. By listening, not just to reply, but to understand. This is a small difference that has a huge impact on the conversation.
While involved in a stressful discussion, let us do our best to remember the party we are involved in the discussion with has feelings and concerns that they need to know are important. They need to be heard with both our ears and our hearts. It is not easy, especially if we are also under stress, but it is necessary. We may not succeed 100% of the time, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do our best 100% of the time. It may help to sing this very popular song from Mr. Rogers before we begin our discussion.
Life is tough my friends. This week we are going to look at a couple of strategies that may help us to deal with all of the tough times we are facing. There is still a pandemic, there are chaotic situations in many workplaces and a million other daily stresses we face. Even if it appears someone is ‘doing better’ than we are, chances are they just have different life challenges, or are better at hiding what they are going through.
I like to think of this quote when I am facing a challenge. Will I let this control me, or will I control it? You might think “How can I control losing my job?” or for that matter any of the other challenges we face? In my latest book, Living the Dream, I talk about asking yourself the question “How can I use this?” You could also think of this quote, or maybe even have a copy printed out to look at. There are 2 ways that I make use of this quote in stressful times and I would like to quickly share them with you. Feel free to share anything you have come to mind. I am always interested in new perspective.
The first thing that came to mind was that the egg was made stronger by the boiling water and the potato was made weaker. Stress can be like an emotional workout strengthening our resolve and resiliency. It can, however, break us down and leave us drained. Much like if we workout too hard. When stress comes I ask myself that question recommended in the book – “How can I use this?” I know that it can prepare me for a similar experience in the future. I give myself a little pep talk. “I’m not going to let this stress get the best of me. I am going to use it to make me a more bad ass motivator.” Not always those words, but something like that.
The second way I view this quote is that the egg becomes harder. Stress and challenges make some people hard and uncaring. It is really a manifestation of fear. You are afraid to get hurt again, so you become less emotionally available. Much like our egg in the boiling water, you become hard. On the other hand, the potato becomes softer in the boiling water. Usually, it is not a compliment to be called soft. In this case, I think the word soft could be replaced by the word compassion. When you go through a stressful situation, you immediately become more compassionate to those going through something similar. In this case, being soft could be a good thing.
When it comes to stress, which can often feel like you are being put into boiling water, are you an egg or potato? I guess depending on how you view this statement, you could be both. Let challenges be an emotional workout for you making you stronger and better equipped to face things in the future. Be careful, however, not to let it make you emotionally hard and lose your sense of compassion and ability to relate to others.
What is the one word that would change our world? It is the kind word that Mr. Rogers mentions in the quote above. Would it be fair to say that our ‘neighborhoods’ in which we spend our time make up our world? We have our ‘work neighborhood’ made up of our coworkers, bosses, customers, clients and whoever else we come in contact with. These folks make up our neighborhood 40 hours or more of our week. We also have what some would consider our ‘actual neighborhood’ be that our block, our city or however we choose to define it. We even have our ‘family neighborhood’ that consists of the people we share our household with.
Imagine to what degree we could increase the quality of these neighborhoods not just for ourselves, but for those we share them with? A simple kind word could change a cold, uninviting neighborhood to one filled with love and acceptance. Do you think that would make a difference? Do you think it would change how productive that neighborhood would be? How about how supportive and encouraging? Do you think people would act different when they feel more loved and accepted? I believe they would. I also believe we have a moral obligation to offer words of kindness in all of our neighborhoods and to make them the best they can be.
Do your part today. Take Mr. Rogers challenge and offer a word of kindness in your neighborhood. Do it in all of your neighborhoods! Offer one kind word a week and you can positively affect your neighborhood a little. Offer one kind word a day and you can have an even greater effect. Offer words of kindness to everyone you meet and you can be a catalyst for change in any neighborhood you find yourself in. I would love to hear how you positively affect your neighborhood.
I’ve always been a fan of Bob Marley. Well, at least since my friend Kevin introduced me to him many years ago. Although we may differ in our recreational habits, I admire a great deal of his philosophy. Like the quote above. There is one caveat I would add to Mr. Marley’s quote. integrity and positive influence, you couldn’t buy it for all the money in the world. If you do not believe me, try walking into Walmart and asking what aisle integrity is in. I would love to see the look on the face of the employee trying to help you with that one. No, I believe these things are true wealth.
As this week draws to a close, try shifting some of your time spent focused on material gain to increasing your integrity. Not only with others but with yourself. Think of the standards you have. Do you always live up to them? I would say it is difficult to do all of the time and that there is always room for improvement. That is one of the great things about being a human being, there is always room for improvement. Do you always keep your word with others? What else could be included in your definition of integrity?
How about your ability to affect those around you positively? How much do you work on that? Do you just do so in the moment or do you spend some time thinking of it? Do you try to incorporate being a positive influence in every area of your life? That is something I can honestly say I am proud of is that I work very hard to be a positive influence on all of those I come in contact with. Whether that is at the Post Office during my day job, as a writer here on this website or in my books, or even when I am simply ordering a pizza. As mentioned above, there is always room for improvement. I keep trying to find new and better ways to bring joy and positivity to others. Perhaps that is why I order so much pizza, but I digress.
I can honestly say that when I feel I am being my authentic self or a affecting those around me positively, that is when I feel the wealthiest. The better I find myself in these two categories, the wealthier I feel. How do you measure wealth? How do you feel your bank account would add up by Bob Marley’s definition? I would love to hear your answers.
We have discussed in the past that we can have multiple identities, but still be just one person. We have to be one person at work, another at the gym and yet another at home. Still, at the end of the day we are still us. The same can be true of where we live. We must also take a great care of all of the places we live. We are going to look at three of them and, as we do here at Secret2anamazinglife, we are going to give you a bonus location to think about as well. Let us get started.
Your Body. Let us start with this one. No matter where you are sleeping, in a mansion, in a loft in the city or even on the streets, you are sleeping in your body. When you walk or have to do something physical, you are in your body. We take many measures to make our homes the best it can be. We call in a plumber if our pipes are not flowing correctly. Do we do the same for our cardiovascular system? The body’s plumbing? If our power goes out it is a an emergency, but do we make sure to eat and hydrate enough to maintain our body’s energy level? Our body is the home we live in until the day we die. We cannot trade it in for another it would make a great deal of sense to treat it the best we can.
Our World. This one may seem a little too big to control. In some respects that is true. We cannot control what a farmer in the Congo does, or how the market is run in Iraq. Unless, of course, that is our job. Even in that case, there would be lots of other things we could not control. How can we take care of our world then? We can do our part. This may seem like a small thing to do but in reality it is everything. If we recycle in our household it may not stop the pollution of the oceans but what if every family just recycled in their own household? Even if have the families made that one simple step? How big of a difference would that be? You want to live in a cleaner world? Pick up one piece of litter a day. Doesn’t seem like it would do a lot, but that is 365 pieces of garbage a year. If you and your spouse did that it would be 730 pieces of trash. That still may seem like a small amount when you look at the streets about you, but try dumping 730 pieces of garbage on your front lawn and you will see what a difference you are making. Can you imagine if half of the people in the city you live in picked up one piece of litter a day? You would live in the cleanest city ever. You never realize what a great change seemingly small actions make.
Our Mind. Much like the body, we are only afforded one mind in our lifetimes. Despite how many people you feel could really benefit from a lobotomy, they are just not that common. When our minds start to fail us, it is not only hard on us, but on those we love. Wouldn’t it make sense to take the best care of our minds that we can? I am not just talking about learning and keeping them sharp, although that is a big part. When it comes to our mind, rest and fun are just as important. Mixing knowledge with humor is one of the best ways I can think of doing this. I spend hours a day learning and researching, but then Margie and I share jokes with each other and watch a funny movie. Just like any machine, if you push a mind too hard it can burn out. Just like a well-running machine, you need the right fuel as well. If your diet consists of snickers and Mountain Dew or beer and cigarettes exclusively, you will certainly not be operating at your best mental capacity.A healthy nutritional diet with a good amount of physical exercise will help keep us mentally sharp as well.
We have many more homes than the house we live in and it is important we take care of all of them. As I promised here is a bonus location to ponder. We also live in the hearts of others. Think of how you leave people after you have spent time with them. It is important to take care of our homes in the hearts of others. Tell people they are loved and appreciated. Show them love, respect and genuine interest. If we take care of all of our homes, we will feel right at home no matter where we happen to be.
When asked how he continued to work well into his 90s, this quote was the answer that George Burns gave. “Fall in love with what you do for a living. I don’t care what it is. It works.” I came across this quote as I was at work, ironically. I began to think how the vast majority of us, 87% according to surveys, dislike what they do for a living. Several years ago I took this test that was supposed to reveal what it is you should do for a living. There were around 300 questions or so that were to reveal the inner you. Results showed that I was supposed to be a woman of the religious order. I double checked and ‘male’ was checked in the gender box. I do not think it is likely I would succeed as a nun. I wondered how the people I work with not only felt about the job they were doing, but what they would do if given the chance.I decided to ask several of my coworkers that very question, “If money were not a factor and you could do any job you wanted, what would it be?” Their answers not only surprised me, they taught me a very important lesson.
The answers were not at all what I expected. Some people stared at me blankly. Others replied with the standard “I don’t know” Those who took the time to really contemplate the question came up with answers I didn’t expect. You might think everyone wanted to be a famous actor or rock star. In this age of celebrity, you might even think people just wanted to be famous. Not the case at all. Some of the answers I heard were chef, sculptor, and even meteorologist. Personally, my dream job would be a talk show host. Two of my favorite things are drinking coffee and talking to people. As you can see not only were the answers varied, but they also were jobs that others might not find enjoyable.
Here is the conclusion that these answers gave me. People really just want to be happy. It isn’t about the fame or fortune for most of us. We all have different reasons, but we all just want to do something that makes us happy. What I thought was really interesting is that everyone wanted to do something different. If we did all do what it is we loved, we would live in a world that was a much better place. Going to work every day doing something you loved would put you in a great emotional place. As these answers showed me, jobs would be filled, just by people who really had a passion for them. I would encourage each of these people to begin to look at how they may be able to do a version of what they like on the side at the very least. Sculpt something at home, read books and study weather or, in my case, I am going to look at starting a podcast, which is kind of the modern version of a talk show. I would love to hear your answer to this question – If money were not a concern and you could do any job you wanted, what would it be?
Recently, I held my book release party for my second book, Living the Dream. It was, by all measures a great success. Not only did I get to share my books with many new readers, but many wonderful friends returned to check out my newest literary offering. Having this happen made me realize several things. It also gave me several great feelings. Thus, I stole the title of this blog from a song in the popular Mr. Rogers children’s television show. I would like to share them with you in this blog here today. You will also have a chance to see many pictures of this fun event.
The first feeling was that of excitement. It may have felt like nervous quite a bit, but I was truly excited to bring this latest book to the world. It was 5 years of writing along with an additional 3 years to get it to market. After waiting a total of 8 years to share all you have learned with the world can feel like an explosion when it finally happens! It is my wish to put this book in the hands, and more to the point, in front of the eyes of everyone who could gain something from reading it. I was excited to see what everyone thought of the contents and excited to hear how it helped them. The initial response was that everyone loved the foreword written by my lovely Margie. As I write this blog the next day, I am still filled with anticipation and excitement to hear what everyone thought of the event and more importantly, what everyone thinks of the book!
Another great feeling I had was that of friendship. Wait, is friendship a feeling? I say it is. Seeing all of these great people I treasure so dearly show up to support me was overwhelming. I wish I had the time to sit down and thank each and every one of them. Later, as things slowed down, I did have the chance to walk around and thank a great deal of people. I was so grateful for all of the new friends, friends I have not seen in a long while, soul friends, coworkers, and my best friend and love of my life. I enjoyed taking pictures with several people and being able to discuss my first book with them, if they had indeed purchased one.
Most powerful feeling of the night? Grateful! There was so much to be grateful for this evening. Watching some people enjoy a beverage and others dive right into the book. The weather called for severe thunderstorms, it didn’t even rain. I was grateful to have a wonderful venue like Westallion Brewery to hold this event. Not only were people able to purchase one of my books, they were able to enjoy a wonderful beer and each other’s company after. An unexpected surprise was the adorable plant in a smiley face mug given to me by my great friend Shannon. I was grateful for the amazing balloon sculpture created by our friend Bella. So thankful that everyone seemed to have a good time and shared that feeling with each other. Margie gave me a lot to be grateful for as well. She made some delicious cupcakes that had smiles on everyone’s face. She helped me set everything up and take everything down. Not to mention she gave me a great big hug when it was all over. To have all of these wonderful people in my life is a gift that could not be bought for all of the money in the world. That, my friends, makes me a very rich man!
Enjoying such a great evening next to the lady I love, surrounded by great friends was truly Living the Dream. I could not have hoped for a better result. It is my sincerest desire that those who have this book will use it to help turn the lives they have into lives they love even more. I know that I am living the dream and I hope you are too!