I am so excited for today’s post! The picture above says it all. A lot of us may be tempted to look at it and say, “What a stupid cat!” Be careful. You might have far more in common with that cat than you think. Before we get any further, let me assure you that I am as guilty of this on occasion as anyone. It really can be a problem for high-achievers. That is this, focusing so much on a problem that we fail to see the solution. It may not always be as black and white as how to get out of a cat carrier, but sometimes it is not that far off.

One of the rules I do my best to apply in my life is the 80/20 principle. I spend 20% of my time focusing on the problem. This will include gaining clarity on what the problem is. You would be surprised how many times this is a misunderstanding that compounds many a disagreement. I also want to look at possible causes and variables that went into the problem. The remaining 80% of the time I spend focused on the solution. What are variables I could introduce into the situation that could bring a resolution. Do I need to issue an apology? Do I need to adjust a behavior?

This method is not reserved solely for interpersonal relations. It can work in business. It works good when working on some self-improvement issue. It is relationships that I would like to discuss today, but feel free to think how you could apply this in business and other fields. To focus on solutions, you must start by knowing your goal. This sounds elementary, but it is not. If you are having a disagreement with your spouse, for example, the goal is to get back to a loving state. That may seem obvious as you read this, but in an emotional situation it can get lost in the shuffle.

If your spouse did something that hurt you, or maybe violated a standard you have for the relationship, it may seem hard to focus on getting back to a loving state. Especially, if you are the one who was hurt. You may want them to feel hurt, or even just to know how much they hurt you. Again, spending 20% on the problem here can be helpful. Being very clear to the other party what the problem is as you see it. You would be amazed how often people are working to solve two entirely different problems. Never assume your partner should know why you are upset. Yelling and screaming that you are hurt or mad does not relay the cause of the issue at hand. The more tactful you can convey why you are upset, the more likely the other party will understand. I get it. This is difficult to do when you are in a highly emotional state. I do not always get this right, even though I know this stuff. If possible, I suggest taking a moment to help yourself become clear as to why you are upset, and how you can convey those feelings in such a way that the other party will not feel attacked or defensive.

Spend the other 80% of the time focused on the solution. That is, getting back to a loving state. If the desired state is to be on a harmonious state of interaction, you can begin to focus on that. Certainly, figuring out who is to blame would not get you any closer. However, suggesting alternative ways certain situations could be acted out in the future that would leave both parties happy would get you closer.

Notice this in your own life. Are you spending too much time focused on the problem? Are you finding your disagreements spent rehashing the problem, or discussing possible solutions? Even if you disagree on a solution, the fact that you are working towards that is what is healthy. Even throwing the question, “How do you think we can get back to being loving?” in the middle of a heated disagreement, can put you back on track. Sometimes, it is can be beneficial to cool off and come back together with possible solutions in mind. There are so many possible solutions to suggest. The more you put out there, the more you stand a chance of succeeding.

Here are two bonus items that will make this even better. The first is that it is essential to validate your partner’s feelings, even if you disagree with them. Saying things such as “I understand you feel….” can open the door to solutions. It also lets your partner know they are being heard. This is very important. The second thing that greatly increases the odds that your disagreement will leave your relationship stronger and not weaker is to ask for help. What I mean is to let your partner know that you would love to get back to a loving state with them. Saying something like this, “I really want us to be loving and I would love your help in coming up with a solution to do just that.” Now, how can you continue to be upset when you hear that? The important part about both of these is that they cannot be hollow words. You must mean them and follow them up with actions that show you mean them. They say, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Do you want to give your energy and focus to your problems, or to your successes and solutions?


I was recently watching an interview with Sammy Hagar, who is a fan of my first book A Happy Life for Busy People, and the interviewer asked him two questions that got me thinking. I want to share those questions with you and not only get your take on it, but maybe start a change in thought pattern in your life as well. The first question he was asked was how often him and his wife do not get along. His best guess was out of 52 weeks of the year, they do not get along for roughly a total of three weeks. That is if you add all of the days together. Then, the interviewer asked a deeper, more thought provoking question.

This question was this – if you were given a contract that said, “For roughly 49 weeks of the year you will be happy. You will share a great life together, have amazing sex, help each other with your struggles. However, the other 3 weeks, you will be upset with each other. There will be hurt feelings on both sides. This will undoubtedly distract you and prevent you from bringing your best to whatever activity you are pursuing. Then he asked Sammy, “Would you sign that contract?” What an interesting thought.

The answer really depends on you and the other individual. This is true in all of our relationships, whether they be intimate or platonic. Is the stress, of which there will always be some, worth all of the joy you will receive? If it is, know that you do sign up to be a friend, business partner, or life partner and you should fulfill your half of the contract, written or not. How about you and your own life? What do your contracts look like? How about you? Do you think you are worth signing a contract for? Would your friends, family and lover agree? Just a little food for thought heading into the weekend. I would love to hear your views on this.


As I discussed in an earlier post, I look up my name on Google periodically to make sure all of my links are up to date. While doing so recently, I discovered this gem. A press photo from 1985? I did not know that a 10 year old Neil even had a press photo! This 47 year old version of Neil often struggles to come up with a good one. Then I clicked on the link and found out something even more amazing!

Here is what I discovered. Not only is a picture of a young version of me worth a shockingly high 9 dollars, but the picture was not even of me! I am not sure what child it is portraying, but it is not yours truly. I did enter a funny face contest at the Wisconsin State Fair as a youngster and my picture was indeed in the paper. As you can see by looking at the photo below, which actually is me, that the one above is actually another child. Although I find this situation rather comical, it serves as an important reminder to make sure everything online about you is accurate. Feel free to share with us any funny things you have discovered about yourself online.


Few people are as globally recognized as Oprah Winfrey. In fact, she is one of those people who are instantly recognized by her first name alone. Many people know the famous side of Oprah. Her role as not only a talk show host, but producer, actress, author and media business woman. She was not only the wealthiest African American of the 20th century, but once the world’s only black billionaire. These items alone can inspire people to action. A “If she can do it, so can we.” sort of cheer. We are going to break down how many different people Oprah inspired and close with learning something very important about ourselves.

Many of us know the successful Oprah Winfrey, but how many of us know what she overcame to get there? I want to take just a little time to share some of the struggles she faced, how it can inspire us, and what it can teach us about our own story. Oprah was born on January 29th 1954 in rural Mississippi. This was not only a time of great challenge in our country for people of color, but that was amplified in the deep south. Her unwed, teenage mother soon moved north and left her in the care of her grandmother. This proves people can overcome societal prejudice and lack of the influence of a biological parent to become successful.

Oprah’s grandmother, Hattie Mae, was extremely poor. So poor, that at a young age, Oprah had to wear old potato sacks as clothing. Many of us find it hard to picture the fashionable Ms. Winfrey dressed in a potato sack, but that is how she began. The other children mocked her for her clothes. Her grandmother was also a strict disciplinarian, often whipping young Oprah. She was also told there was no room inside the house for her to sleep. She made her bed on an outside enclosed porch. This is proof that you can overcome extreme poverty, and being ostracized at a young age and still make a great life for yourself.

At the age of 6, her grandmother became ill and she was sent to live with her mother in Milwaukee. Her mother worked as a maid and did not have the energy to raise young Oprah. At the age of 8 she was sent to live with her father in Tennessee. Her third home in her very young life. While she was there she was sexually abused by family members, as well as a family friend. Things got so bad, she ran away from home at the age of 13. At the age of 14, she became pregnant. Her son was born prematurely and died only a few days later. This means that moving around from state to state and parent to parent does not prevent you from realizing your full potential. Suffering a terrible childhood trauma like sexual abuse by a family member does not make you less than. Oprah later used that to let others know she had suffered the same fate they had and was able to overcome. Not only having a child at a young age, but then having that child pass away could be enough to break anybody. Oprah is proof that you can draw strength from a challenge like that.

By the age of 17, Oprah was in a far better place. Not only winning the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant, but landing a job at a local black radio station doing the news part-time. Considering what she had come from, this would be a success for most people. Ms. Winfrey was not done, however. She also won an oratory contest. This secured a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. She went on to study communications.

After television work in both Baltimore and Tennessee, Oprah found herself in Chicago. There are many good stories I am leaving out for the sake of brevity, I would invite you to investigate these on your own. Given a spot on a sinking ship of a show called AM Chicago, her passion and performance turned it into the station’s number 1 and flagship program. Soon, it was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and syndicated nationally, continuing her meteoric rise to fame. There is a story I would like to mention here as well. When the show was syndicated, Oprah rightfully received substantial financial compensation. Her staff, which was largely female, did not. Upon discovering this, Oprah went into the offices of management and demanded her staff receive the benefits of the financial windfall as well. Using her voice to be a voice for others.

Imagine being a young woman raised in the racist atmosphere of the times. Being brought up in terrible poverty. Moving at the young age of six to a mother who had no desire, or energy to raise you, and starting a new life. Only to have to move again a few years later to a father you have not known to this point in an entirely different state. Once there, suffering sexual abuse at the hands of those who are supposed to protect you. Running away from home at the age of 13, only to become pregnant and eventually lose a child only a year later. At the age of 14, Oprah had experienced many conditions that would cause the average person to give up.

Despite all that she had faced in the first decade and a half of her life, today she is hugely successful. She not only had the highest ranked talk show for 25 years, but has her own network, her own XM radio station, her own magazine, has built a school for under-privileged girls in South Africa, and even received an Academy Award nomination for her role in the movie A Color Purple. That means she gives hope to not only African Americans and women, but to those facing discrimination, those raised in poverty, those suffering sexual abuse, and even those who have lost a child. As impressive of a list as this is, there is one more group that Oprah inspires that I feel touches the people who read Secret2anamazinglife.

When Oprah was covering the news, she would often be overcome with emotion at the stories she was reporting on. This caused her to do such things as break into tears when reporting about a family who had lost their home in a fire. As you can imagine, the powers that be did not find this a redeeming quality. She was informed this ‘character flaw’ made her unfit to be a reporter and so she was relegated to doing a talk show. I think we can all agree she made the most of that opportunity. What this shows me is that when someone tells you that your gift is a character flaw, you can use that gift to serve and help others in a very meaningful way. It also shows us that being empathetic to others and their suffering is a gift that is greatly needed in the world today.

Lastly, I want to bring to your attention what this all means for our own life. We all have stories. We all have faced challenges. Most of us, not to the degree that Ms. Winfrey has. Some of us have faced even worse. I highlight a few of these cases in my book Living the Dream. Oprah shows us that we do not have to remain victims to what has happened to us, but we can overcome life’s challenges and use them to serve others. The greater the challenges we face, the more challenges we face, the better we are set up to inspire and serve others. Think about your own life and what you have faced. How could you use that to serve others? With that thought in mind, I would love to leave you with this great quote from Martin Luther King Jr.


Sometimes you never realize how much you learn from your childhood until much later. Take for example this torture device disguised as a game for children. If you have never had this game, let me enlighten you as to its finer points. You would have objects of different shapes, as you see in the yellow things above. You pushed down the blue game board and started the timer. This also began a loud ticking noise as the seconds wound down. The object of the game was to get all of the pieces in their proper place before the timer ran out. If you didn’t? then the game board would pop up, sending all of the pieces flying in a million directions.

As you can imagine, this was great for the nerves of a young person. As the time grew nearer, you frantically raced to put all the pieces in their place. The closer the game came to tossing all of your pieces in the air, the more nervous and frantic you became. Here is what I learned. The more frantic you became, the less likely you were to be able to rationally think about where the game pieces should go. In fact, the calmer you were, the more likely you were to complete the task before the board popped up. Remaining calm in a high-pressure situation is hard to do for people ages 5 and up. This lesson was taught with another cruel torture device from my childhood and maybe yours.

This is another device that turned children into shaking, nervous, nerve-fried versions of themselves. It was cleverly disguised as a game as well. It was called operation. The basics of this game were that you had to use a wired metal probe to carefully remove objects from this anatomically-challenged individual, without touching the sides of the cavity. If you were unable to do this successfully, you would hear a loud buzz and his nose would light up. Try keeping a steady hand while doing that. Once again, the calmer you were when attempting your operation the more likely you were to be successful. Considering the vast amount of coffee I currently consume, this may not be the game for me at this stage of my life.

What both of these games taught me, was the calmer you approach a situation, the more likely you are to be successful. Think of what you are like when facing a high-pressure situation. Are you scrabbling around to “put all your pieces back in the game board” or are you calmly focused on completing the task in the allotted time? When facing a situation with little room for error, are you shaking as you try to “complete your operation” or are you staying calm and focused? These games can serve as a good reminder of both.

As a bonus, Perfection also reminds us of something else. The time is ticking away for all of us. Unlike the game, we cannot see how much time is left. What is guaranteed is that it is less than when you started reading this sentence. Soon, the timer will stop and send all of our pieces flying. Some of us will take this information and run around like mad trying to do as much with the short time we are here. I had the unusual occurrence of having this happen with my open-heart surgery, which I chronicle in my book The Beat Goes On. I discovered that it is best to proceed with a calm sense of urgency to complete as many meaningful tasks as you can in life. These should include telling the people you care most about how much you love them and leaving a legacy for those to come after you. I would love to know what childhood games taught you lessons and what they were.


This idea was given to me by the love of my life. When we returned from an amazing weekend away we encountered and passed by several accidents. I am very grateful we were not involved in any of them. When you think of serious accidents on the road, usually drunk driving comes to mind. Rightfully so. In the country I live in, every day 37 people are killed in drunk-driving crashes. That is roughly one person every 39 minutes. That is inexcusable. With the advent of Uber and Lyft, there are so many options to use that there is no reason to get behind the wheel when you are impared.

Here is the scary part, according to another survey that is not even the greatest threat. 56% of fatal crashes stem from reckless driving. I get it, you are waiting for an important call or text. Maybe you had to leave the house before you could get your make up perfect. You don’t want to show up looking like you just got out of bed. Do you know what is worse? Not showing up at all. I tell Margie all of the time, “Better late than not at all.” If you feel you must do whatever it is that is pulling your attention away from the road, do yourself a favor and pull yourself away from the road. Can you imagine causing several thousand dollars worth of damage physical injury just to put on your lipstick? Sounds silly if we word it that way. To me, this is still not the worst thing to do while driving.

In reckless driving, you are trying to do too much. What is worse is “aggressive driving”. These are people who are full of rage. Their gas tank may be full, but their patience is usually on empty. We saw lots of these on our journey home. One man decided for himself that the red light we were all waiting on was too long for him and just went through. Another fellow drove with two wheels on the sidewalk at roughly 15 miles over the limit just to get around traffic. Ironically, we both got to the red light at the same time. I hear many people in the news arrested for such activities claiming their actions do not hurt anyone.

Let us look at the numbers for reckless and aggressive driving. According to Bankrate, speeding – a form of aggressive driving – was responsible for 11,258 deaths. Those numbers are from 2021, they have only increased since then. Road rage, when people get angry at other drivers, was responsible for 12,610 injuries and 218 murders. Can you believe that it is rational in someone’s mind to murder another person because you do not like their driving? As they are being sentenced to give up several years of their life behind bars, what will their reason be? He cut me off? Ridiculous.

Take steps to avoid being a reckless or aggressive driver. Wait to check your social media, or pull over to do so. If having your make up just so means that much to you, be ready to sacrifice your punctuality. Either that, or begin getting ready sooner. If you suffer from road rage, try a quick meditation, such as paying attention to your breath, before starting out. Please, save all the stunt driving for your video games. It is not worth your life, or worse someone else’s. This shouldn’t be any surprise, but never get behind the wheel if you are under the influence of any chemical.

All you need to do is view the pain caused to families who have been ripped apart by a person who took too many risks behind the wheel. If you are putting other people’s lives at risk, remember someone may be doing the same to yours. Only by acting together can we eliminate this entirely preventable tragedy.


I always enjoyed the beginning of a boxing match when the Master of Ceremonies introduces the fighters. “And in this corner….” It has such a feel of pomp and circumstance. Wouldn’t it be fun to be introduced like that everywhere you go? Imagine walking into work and you hear over the intercom, “Now entering the office…number one in sales…it is Jane!” This example only works if your name is Jane, but I think you can get the idea. This sounds great until you hear the next line, “Weighing in at….” Not many of us would want our weight broadcast to every room we enter.

Today marks the end of a four-week journey of health and fitness that Margie and I were on. It came from a local gym called Peak Physique. The owner was named ‘Trainer of the Year’ in our city. He is also a good friend. It included a meal plan and fitness classes. This will be our second time we took part. The difference between the two experiences was night and day. The first time, we followed everything by the book. We were focused on the result. We wanted to lose some weight and win the challenge. It felt like we were constantly in the kitchen or grocery store shopping for ingredients. In short, it felt like a sacrafice.

Fast forward to four weeks ago. We came into this challenge better prepared and informed. We also brought something more important with us – a better attitude. We gave ourselves a little more freedom with the menu. We stuck to the dishes recommended, but did the ones we learned that we liked from the previous time. Our focus was not on ‘winning a challenge’ or even so much on ‘losing a certain amount of weight, but more so on becoming more healthy. Instead of sacrifice, it felt like an adventure. Were there times it was a challenge to bring our sore bodies to workout? Sure. When that happened, we focused not on winning a challenge, but on how much healthier our bodies were becoming. We were falling in love with the process.

The truth is that we already feel like winners before we even get on the scale. Taking control of your health and what you put in your body can be a challenge, but like we discussed with emotions, if you eat solely for pleasure, you are constantly chasing that ‘high’. Not only will it take more of the food, but sweeter and more decadent food to achiever the same amount of pleasure. Then, the food controls you. In your head you know that it is making you unhealthy, but you are at the mercy of your emotions and your cravings, you become a slave. When you learn to eat to fuel your body, your strength, your health and your immune system, you take back control. You use food and not the other way around.

This is a very difficult struggle for many. It is okay to indulge on occasion. Just make that the exception and not the rule. Once you begin to turn it around, you will be amazed at the positive changes taking place in your life. Tony Robbins once said, “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.” Eating that sugar and deep-fried food may sound fun and pleasurable, but at what cost? A body full of inflammation and sickness? Is that worth it? Becoming healthy is a process. You must be patient with yourself and your body. Those cravings will stick with you. After all, they have had their way for years. Everyday you get a little bit stronger. Everyday you get a little healthier. Be proud of yourself for every accomplishment you experience on your journey toward a healthier you. If you want guaranteed success, do what Margie and I did – fall in love with the process.


Here is one of the secrets to an amazing life. This may seem like an obvious conclusion, and for the most part it is. Here is the tricky bit, try remembering it in an emotionally charged situation. Reacting, as easy as it is to do, makes you a slave to outside circumstances. They control your emotional state, they control you. This is true whether that is a rude driver or a flat tire. Mindful acting, as difficult as it can be, puts you back in control.

Would you like to control your life, or would you like others to? Again, that sounds like a foolish question, but one that could serve you when you are tempted to react. Here is another thing that reacting to outside circumstances steals from you, in addition to control, it steals a feeling of security. If your emotional state is determined by things outside of your control, you will never be certain how you will feel. Can you imagine trying to plan anything not knowing what kind of mood you will be in? This can be demonstrated at work the day before you leave for vacation. Nothing seems to bother you. Boss upset? It is alright old chap. Project you were working on fell apart? That is a problem for another day. You walk through life unfazed! What if I told you that you could go through life this way? It is true. Unless you are my boss reading this, in which case I do need to go on more vacations to demonstrate.

Gaining control over your emotional state not only provides you a feeling of security, it also helps add a great deal of inner peace. Knowing that you are not going to let outside circumstances influence your emotional well-being gives us a sense of calm and inner peace that those who react will never have. I have been on both sides, trust me on this one. You decide how you want to feel. Look at outside obstacles for what they are, challenges to test and strengthen your resolve. With each test, you will gain greater control over your emotions and gain a greater sense of inner peace and security. Try it this weekend!


Ben Franklin said many interesting things in his lifetime. I think this might be one of the best. In today’s world, a lot of people are addicted to material bliss. You see packages from Amazon on their doorstep daily. They have to purchase the latest model of cell phone whenever one comes out. When we tie our happiness to the accumulation of material possessions, we cease to own them and they begin to own us.

This is not an anti-material post. I am not advocating selling all of your possessions and donating the money to a worthwhile cause. I like to purchase items here and there as well. The problem comes when we derive our main source of pleasure from accumulating material possessions. Ask yourself, is that me? It is good to purchase nice things for you and your family, but there is something better.

Another great quote! I love the first line, “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse…” If we spend our lives focused on obtaining material objects to the detriment of everything else, where will that leave us? Think of when you were a kid and had to have that new toy. When you finally got it, you were so excited. It was the best day ever. What happened two months later? It just became another object. You moved on to want the next greatest toy. In essence, your money, or in this case your parents, did not buy a toy, it bought two months of happiness. There is a better way to use your capital than always chasing the latest and greatest new thing, be that electronic gadget, fashion or social status.

To demonstrate what I am saying, let me refer to the pictures above. On top is Margie and I at the Wisconsin State Fair, one of my favorite places. I have purchased many things there. Can’t think of one off the top of my head. I can remember lots of silly times with my love. Then there is a picture of me, my uncle and my sister at a reenactment. Do you know what we bought there? Me neither. Do remember lots of interesting things I learned. Then there is Margie and I at an October Fest. I obviously purchased a large container of beer. Can’t tell you what kind, or even if I liked it. I am more of a rum guy. What I do remember is having fun and discovering new food and drink together. Lastly, there is a picture of Margie and my mother making bracelets. I can’t remember much about the bracelets. I do remember they were made on a soup crawl through the city we live in. It was in the middle of winter and very cold, but we all had fun.

Referring back to the Quote from Denzel Washington, look at the last line. “It’s not how much you have but what you do with what you have.” As you can see by the examples above, spending money to create memories goes a lot further than a material item. In fact, material items can become a burden. You have to find a place for them. You have to clean them. The more things you have, the more you have to put away and clean. When the fateful day comes that you must leave this world, think of what will become of the stuff you leave behind? In short, it becomes someone else’s burden.

Do not sell yourself to pleasure. Find that pleasure in the smile of the one you love. Find that joy in a beautiful sunny day. Feel the refreshing drops of rain. Create beautiful memories to leave with your children instead of the latest gadget.


Taking time to just enjoy the company of good friends is something that friends our soul. After work, stress and negativity fill our week and days, we need time with someone who lifts our spirits.

It is essential to not only have these people in our lives, but to spend time with them and appreciate them. Another great thing we can do is to be this kind of friend for others. Be someone who is a breath of fresh air to everyone they encounter. It is a gift that is priceless. Make time with people like that this weekend.