THE POWER OF PURPOSE

Baby swan

This is a subject that I feel has been written about at great length. There is great scientific evidence that having a purpose does great things for your life. It can reduce stress. It can help guide you as to what actions you should take. It can also help sustain you when things are not going so well. In my own life, I have even felt a sense of energy and resilience when keeping my purpose in mind. This is why you owe it to yourself to spend some time on finding your true purpose. What we are going to look at today can take anywhere from a few seconds, to a few minutes. Nothing more than that. It will be easy and it will be fun. It will also give you a taste of all the wonderful benefits we mentioned above.

As we can see in the picture of the baby swan above, it is walking with a sense of purpose. One of the most difficult things about finding your purpose, is that people look at it as this larger-than-life activity. It doesn’t have to be. There are two important things to consider when finding your purpose. One, your purpose can change. You don’t have to worry about choosing the wrong purpose or making a mistake. You can always decide to tweak your purpose as you, and your life change. You can even decide to scrap it and choose a new one. You will still move further and faster than going through life without one. There is a fun little exercise you can do while you are pondering what your life purpose may be. It takes no time at all and will add a great deal of positive things to your life.

The secret to helping your mind get used to living with purpose is to start out small. Pick a daily purpose. It could be to clean a section of the house. A good purpose could be to reach out to someone you know is hurting just to offer them support. Hopefully, everyone in your life is happy and not hurting. If this is the case, you could even send a card, or even an email or message, just to say you were thinking of them and appreciate them. Your purpose may be to bring more joy into a friendship or relationship. Perhaps today’s purpose is to give 110% on the job site. There are more spiritual/emotional ways to go about it. Your purpose could be to just spend quality time with friends and be fully present, like these ducks and birds were doing when I happened upon them. Devoting time to self-care can be a great purpose. Spending 30 minutes with a good cup of tea or coffee and a great book can do wonders for the spirit. The more you practice these ‘daily purposes’ the easier it is to live a life that is both rewarding as well as fulfilling.

I would love to hear more about what activities you decide to choose as your daily purpose. Are you a parent that decides to impart one item of life knowledge with your child? Was your purpose to do one thing to improve your relationship with your boss? Maybe you would like to take a step to help local wildlife? I would love to hear what you decide. Your ideas could help spark an idea in someone else. Who knows what that might lead to? As a bonus, when you do these ‘little’ life purposes, you will not only see one aspect of your life improve daily, you will also have a daily sense of accomplishment.

MINDSET OF THE BEST

If you have followed me for any length of time, you know I am a fan of many different authors and speakers. Today’s post is courtesy of one such individual, David Goggins. David is a raw and real speaker that may be offensive in his language to some. He does, however, have a wealth of knowledge and great information. One of my favorite subjects he speaks on is the mindset of greatness. His best comparison is that of a job interview. When we are first interviewing for a job, what do we do days, weeks or even longer before? We make sure our clothes are ready, have our coffee cup out, a breakfast ready to be made. In short, we are preparing to make it as easy as possible to bring our best self to the interview. It usually works, and we get the job. What happens several months to a year down the line? We no longer put our clothes out the night before. Maybe our breakfast isn’t ready. Perhaps we are a few minutes late because we had to wait for the coffee to brew. We become comfortable. We have the job and so why spend the time doing all of the extras?

This can happen even sooner for some of us. It is a natural sort of progression. Should the company face the prospect of having to downsize, or we hear a rumor that we might lose our job, then we amp up our efforts once again. Of course, once that threat lessens or goes away entirely, we are back to going through the motions of going to work and coming home. Les Brown, another favorite speaker, once said we do enough at a job not to get fired, and they pay us just enough not to quit. That may very well be true. Another fact is that if you are looking to be promoted or to get a raise, all you need to do is to do more work than is required for you. Companies will not want to lose an employee with that mindset. They will do everything they can to hang on to someone who is willing to ‘go the extra mile’.

Our job is not the only place this thinking shows up. One of the places were we tend to do this the most is in our intimate relationships. When we are trying to win someone’s affection, or shortly after we do so, we act a certain way. We send flowers for no reason. We are more likely to do things for that person without complaint. Fast forward being together for years and what happens? We, almost subconsciously, take the relationship, if not the person, for granted. We think to ourselves that area of our life is ‘handled’ and we can place our energy elsewhere. We start to compliment them less. Maybe we show less affection. When they ask us to do something, it feels more like a chore.

Much like our job, if a challenge arises, so do our efforts. If the person we are with suddenly has an attractive new coworker, or maybe they do something that indicates they might be thinking of moving on, then we begin to put more effort into our relationship with them. Maybe we come home with some flowers. We might take time out of our work day to send them a loving text or perhaps a quick call. Once we become comfortable again, our efforts may start to dwindle. If you want a more amazing and deeper relationship, the steps are the same as getting a promotion or raise at work. All we have to do to take our relationships to the next level is go the extra mile. In short, do all of the amazing things we did when we were trying to win them and we will only serve to strengthen and deepen the relationship we have.

A good bonus of this thinking is that there should be more ideas the longer you are together. In the years Margie and I have been together, I have learned many new things that make her happy and feel loved. In some cases, I have been there when she discovered them for herself. I was able to do so by active listening. This means every day I am consciously on the lookout for those things that bring joy to the heart and a smile to the face of the woman I love. This took some effort and reminding myself in the beginning, but now it is second nature to me. The rewards of this have been worth their weight in gold. At any time I have a growing list of things I can do, say or make happen that will not only make her happier, but strengthen and deepen her love for me. I confess, I should probably be doing this more often, but as our love continues to grow so does the opportunities to make it grow.

Don’t worry if you have been guilty of falling into these ruts. We all do so to some degree. The secret is being able to recognize that and to pull ourselves out of them. Another way to look at this – the longer you have been in this rut and the deeper you are, the greater the opportunity for improvement! When you begin to look for and do the little extras, your life, your job and your relationships, both intimate and others, will transform before your eyes! I would love to hear what other areas of your life you feel this could come in handy.

IT PAYS YOU BACK

In the business world, there is often talk of ROI, or return on investment. Meaning, what are you going to receive for the effort, time or money that you are investing in a certain project or person. In many ways, we could benefit greatly by viewing our lives more like a business. ROI can come in handy in lots of areas. Take working out for example. What is the return on investment for spending an hour or so at the gym? Sure, there are sore muscles and the overwhelming need to take a shower. If we consider the long-term ROI, there is a reduction in heart health issues. There is more time, and healthier time to spend with those we love. There is also the fact that bending over to pick something up will not cause us to throw out our back. How about being able to make it up a flight of stairs without a sherpa or oxygen mask?

Another area of life that pays great dividends is being kind. Going the extra mile for others. This is not to say our main motivation for helping others should be to see what we can get out of it. Again, I will quote Earl Nightingale who said we should treat each other as the most important people on the planet for 2 very good reasons. First, because to that person, they are the most important person and second, because that is how we should treat each other. The second reason is what I feel should be our main motivation. When you think of the people in your own life, which ones do you enjoy spending the most time around? The ones who will go the extra mile for you or the ones who are self-centered? Going the extra mile can mean a lot of things. The picture above is a card I received from a coworker after I helped her out. It was a simple thing that took me about 10 minutes to do, but it made a big difference to her. How do you think I felt when she gave me the card? I felt good and appreciated and made my day a little better. That is a great ROI.

This second picture comes from a coffee shop by my work. I stop on the way home on occasion to get a nice refreshing beverage. This day I got a little sandwich too. As busy as they are, they took a second to scribble this little note on the bag. Why would the fellow who did this take the time to thank me and what exactly was he thanking me for? Every day that I come in, I make sure to be kind and cheerful. I appreciate the work that they do and the service they provide me. I do so with the knowledge that I am sure they have customers who do the exact opposite. It is for this reason that I am sure they were thanking me. Once again, when I was expecting just a coffee and a sandwich, how do you think this little note made me feel? If you guessed it lifted my spirits and put a smile on my face, you would be right!

Again, I must say that what you get should not be your main motivation behind doing things. Thinking of what the return on whatever action you are about to take will improve your life. What do you think sending a friend a message letting them know you are thinking about them and appreciate them might be? It would make your friend feel happy. It would probably have them appreciating you as a friend more. They may even return the favor at some point in the future. How about bringing home flowers for the one you love? This would certainly make them feel special. It would show them that you were thinking about them when they were not around and in the future when you do mess up it may end up even helping you. How about being kind in retail settings you find yourself in? Certainly would help the employees day. It may help take the sting out of an experience with a bad customer they might have had. It would also help get you better service next time you are there.

I encourage everyone to take a second and ask themselves, what it the return on the investment I am about to make? If it is eating a doughnut, you might have the ROI of feeling good in the moment, but then what? Would you feel guilty about eating something not so good for you? What would the return on investment be for your health? Same with doing random acts of kindness. You may never see a physical payback for the kind act, but the feeling of self-satisfaction and pride in being a good human is a great return on investment. I would love to hear more examples you can come up with.

YOU ARE DRINKING POISON!

Despite what you may have been told by a cheeto-colored politician, drinking poison is never a good idea. This may seem like an obvious conclusion, but every year the centers for disease control puts out numbers of many people who attempt such activities. For a while, there were even people who ate laundry detergent. You may be thinking to yourself, “Neil, I certainly know better than to drink anything labeled ‘poison’ or ‘for external use only’.” I would certainly hope if you are reading a blog about living an amazing life, you would be doing your best to avoid consuming poison.

Sadly, I am here to tell you that you very well might be consuming poison. In fact, we almost all do on an unconscious basis. I am not suggesting you go under the sink and drink from a bottle as you are sleeping. This poison is something different. It can, however, be just as deadly. This poison is one of an emotional, mental and spiritual nature. This poison can kill our spirit, kill our dreams and if left unchecked long enough, can end up killing us.

This was brought to my attention through a story related to me by a friend. This young lady is removing herself from a relationship that does not serve her and has become toxic. It is a very difficult decision to make. That takes a lot of courage and bravery. I hear a lot of people use phrases like, “We are just staying together for the children.” In my opinion, this is one of the biggest mistakes. Keeping children in a household with an unhealthy relationship can end up with two conclusions. The children can watch the pain, verbal and other abuse or even just the lack of intimacy and think to themselves, “This is what relationships are like? I don’t want one of those!” As bad as this may be, the other conclusion could be even worse. The children end up thinking this is how relationships work and carrying that forward into their own relationships as an adult. It can be tough to have children go through a divorce or separation, but it does show them that preserving your own mental well-being should be a priority.

Much like not drinking poison, leaving an abusive relationship can seem like a no-brainer from the outside, but in the middle of the emotional whirlwind can be far more difficult. How do you know when a relationship is beyond fixing? How do you make it safe and easy to leave? Then there is the subtle things about this poison. It can be a silent and tasteless poison. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas, but it can still kill you. Arsenic is a tasteless, colorless and odorless poison. It can also mimic a host of other ailments, but in the end it will kill you. This is to say that it can be hard to see how much a situation is poisoning you. This is not only true of relationships. Do you go to a job that kills your soul every day? That is a poison you are slowly taking. Why do we do this? For a simple paycheck and a false sense of security. Friendships that do not serve you in anyway except to bring you down. This people are poisoning your spirit. That is not to say you should approach every friendship with a “What can you do for me?” attitude. If you find yourself feeling drained and depressed anytime you spend time with someone, that person is poisoning your spirit.

Another aspect that might sound crazy to you is that poison can end up tasting good. I know, I know, this sounds crazy but hear me out. Do you think that an addict knows the drugs and alcohol will end up killing them? Deep down, most of them do. Still, their poison feels comfortable, it is what they know. The same can be said for being in a toxic relationship. You know there are better people out there. There are people more aligned with your values and that would treasure you for the amazing person you are. So why not leave the relationship that is not serving you to find one you know is out there and will? I will tell you why, because it is scary as hell to do so! You may doubt yourself and the promise that there is someone who will love you for who you are. Although the situation may be toxic and sometimes can even be abusive, it is familiar. It can be hard to walk away from what we are used to. This is where some advice my friend from the beginning of this article was given comes in handy. When finding herself alone with her thoughts and missing companionship of having someone to share things with was filling her with the temptation to return to the relationship that was not serving her. Lucky for my friend, she has someone who cares deeply for her and reminded her of something I think we could all benefit from – Just because you are thirsty, don’t drink poison.

There are moments in life that can be tough. Relationships have their ups and downs. When they reach a point of becoming toxic or abusive, do not poison yourself. If that job is sucking the life out of your soul, walk away. They would have no problem replacing you, it is not worth the paycheck. That friend that always brings you down? Time to distance yourself my friend. There are many poisons in life that don’t come with warnings. Some, as we deciphered, can be odorless, colorless and tasteless. Some can even taste and feel good in the short term, but the end is still a disaster just the same. Think of your own life. Is there any poison you may be drinking? What negative effect can it be having? Are you drinking it just because you are thirsty?

ONE SECRET I USE EVERY DAY

Many people ask me my secrets to living a positive rewarding life. There really are no secrets, just putting in the work. This may put off some people looking for a life hack or secret that will transform their life with little to no effort. Usually, things like this do not have a lasting impact. The Secret, if you will, is developing habits that serve you and bring improvement to your life each day.

I’m going to share one of my habits that has the biggest positive impact in my life. This habit has done more for me than perhaps anything else I do. Before I reveal what this habit is, let me share some of the benefits I have received from using it. They may sound like magic, but I promise you they are 100% true.

By utilizing this habit I have been able to reduce my stress and learn new ways to do so. When I feel overwhelmed, it has helped me to not only put things in perspective, but stay motivated to keep going. Speaking of motivation, this habit has provided me motivation to do everything from write to workout. It is completely customizable. I can use it to relax, to energize or even to learn. It has taught me so many different things. I have learned success strategies, relaxation techniques and many other things. Here is the best thing about this tool for success – it requires very little effort. All you have to do is simply push a button.

What is this habit I literally use every single day? In case the pictures haven’t given it away, it is listening to inspirational and motivational things. These can be audiobooks, YouTube videos, speeches or even just some music that gets me pumped up. I compare it to pouring good stuff right into your brain. All that is required is to soak it up like a sponge!

You may be thinking to yourself, “Neil, I am far too busy to sit back and listen to things.” Trust me when I tell you that I can relate. I have 6 jobs, workout 4 to 5 days a week and still enjoy amazing nights with my lady. I get busy. This is when I utilize a method explained by Tony Robbins. He calls it N.E.T. time. That stands for NO EXTRA TIME. What does this mean? It means listening while you are doing other things. Listening to an audiobook on your morning commute and arriving at work motivated. Taking in some motivational speech while sweating at the gym.

The great thing is you can choose what you want to listen to. Want to learn? Pick a subject! Have someone that fires you up? I’m sure they have a video on YouTube. Great thing about YouTube, you can create a Playlist of videos you find valuable! Trust me when I tell you this habit is worth its weight in gold! Once you start mining all of the good that is out there, you will not want to stop! I would love for you to share who and what you like to listen to!

THE IMPORTANCE OF A DREAM

One of the many things in my life that I am grateful for is the amazing people I share it with. There are so many that I am proud to count among my friends. Today I would love to share a tale of just such a man. In doing so, however, I would also like to share a lesson with you. That lesson in the importance of having a dream and having a strong enough ‘why’ to back it up. You may be wondering what having a dream would get you out of life. It is not what you get from having a dream that is important, but what it gives you. Before we get to in deep with this theory, allow me to share the story of my friend and we will circle back around for the lesson.

The story I am going to tell you is about my friend Travis, who goes by the name Treezy. We met over a decade ago when I was bartending at a small corner bar. He came in shaking his head and sat down at the bar. He ordered a Budweiser and proceeded to regale me with the story of his previous evening. It would appear this gentleman, who was to become a life-long friend, had a terrible misadventure with a young lady at a hotel. The story was a comical one that ended with Treezy sitting in front of me wondering just how he got there.

This man’s way of delivering a story was both funny and captivating. He came across as both humble, yet charismatic. It reminding me a bit of…well…me. The bar had just opened up and the owners were friends of a friend. I had come out of my retirement as a bartender to help them out and was working for tips. I had built up quite a following on the weekends and was looking to grow the crowd even more. I knew just the thing that could do it. “Want to make a few extra bucks?” I asked the young man. He eagerly informed me that he did and a partnership was born. While I serveved drinks behind the pine, my new friend energized the crowd and sold trays of shots. We both were working for tips, but still did quite well for both ourselves and the bar. Unfortunately, the owners turned out to be very unethical and I left a short time later.

I had lost touch with my new found friend and figured that would be the last time I would see him. Years went by and I found myself working at a new place called “The Hideout”. One fine afternoon, as I was cleaning and getting the place ready for the busy evening ahead. Crouched down below the bar I heard a voice say “Yes I’ll have a bottle of Bud.” Which was strange because I didn’t recall asking anyone if they wanted one. I popped up to see a man in a St. Louis Cardinals hat. It took a second but slowly it dawned on me. We both were shocked to realize who the other was.

To keep this blog post from becoming my third book, I will fast forward a bit. In the time we had been apart, young Travis had discovered karaoke and his ability to entertain and lift people’s spirits. “We don’t have that here!” I explained most assuredly. Months later we would have karaoke at that bar. It happened to be the very DJ that introduced him to it and he returned. Now we had a new way to team up. Myself behind the bar and him on the microphone. It also came to be that the karaoke DJ would gain another follower. This time it wasn’t for karaoke though. That person was Margie, who became the love of my life.

Through our years together, the three of us have went on to be an incredible team. We worked together to bring as much positivity to whatever setting we are in. Margie being the incredible DJ she is, Treezy being epic performer and myself fitting in. First, I was behind the bar, now I am behind the microphone as an MC of sorts. Deep in his heart Travis knew what his passion was and that was to entertain people and to lift their spirits. Often, this was an all consuming endeavor. By that, I mean both in terms of time and money. Unfortunately, for Mr. Treezy, being the self-proclaimed ‘Greatest karaoke rapper alive’ does little to pay the bills. If you have ever had the pleasure to see him perform, it is a title he arguably holds. Through a set of trying circumstances which including losing both his job and his mother, Travis found himself back in his hometown of St. Louis struggling to survive. This even included being homeless for a while.

Still, his passion to entertain others and bring a smile to their face burned deep inside him. How to be able to live this dream? He returned to Milwaukee and this year made the decision to become a DJ himself. He continues to work hard and is adding shows to his list of entertaining venues. He kept faithful to his dream. He refined it. He held true to it when it had seemed if the world gave up on him. He is now not only able to entertain and bring that joy to others, he is getting paid to live that dream as well. As his friends, Margie and I could not be happier for him. We are both extremely proud to not only be a part of his journey, but we are proud of him as well. Dare I say, I think his mom would be too.

If you have a dream and the world seems to be against you, do not give up. Stick true to that dream. Remember why it is important to you. If you keep doing what feeds your soul, opportunities will present themselves. It may take longer than you desire and you may have to go through some pretty lean times, like our friend in this story, but if you persevere and keep the faith, life will let you Live your dream.

KEEP FIGHTING

Being Monday, I thought this quote was appropriate. Lately, it has been brought to my attention how much the trying times being to our lives. You never know who will stand by you in tough times until you go through… well.. tough times. There are gifts you can only experience in darkness.

When you find yourself going through tough times, remember that you have to go through some very tough times to receive some great gifts. Just keep fighting!

YOU CAN CHANGE, JUST STAY FOCUSED

There is a thing that Les Brown, one of my favorite speakers, says. When referring to his health journey and his battle with the temptation of sweet potato pie he says this, “I have lost 22 pounds, hundreds of times.” I think a lot of us can relate to that statement. What it means is that he lost the weight and then gained it back. Then he had to refocus and get back at it. Life is like that in many ways. Take getting in shape for example. Another speaker and author I admire a great deal is David Goggins. In his quest to go from 297 pounds to 185 and become a Navy seal he had a lot of training to do. On the first day he decided to run four miles. Being someone who weighs almost 300 pounds and didn’t do much cardio, you can imagine how this went. He ran a quarter of a mile, stopped turned around and walked back home. When he got there he sat on the couch and cried. It is ok to feel sorry for ourselves…for a little while. The next day he tried again with similar results. At this point many people would give up. That would be understandable. He did something different. He changed the plan and not the goal. He said to himself, “Ok, I cannot run. What can I do?” He began to ride a bike. Then he added swimming. Soon he lost some wait and was able to run a mile, then three, then six. Now he is one of the best ultra marathon runners there is.

Whether it is someone like Les Brown, David Goggins or Thomas Edison who went through countless experiments to invent the lightbulb, they all have one thing in common. What is that trait that allowed all of these men to end up a success when life would have had them believe they were destined to fail? The didn’t give up. The stayed focused on the goal. Failure is only permanent if we give up. If we don’t, failure serves as a teacher. It can tell us the way we are going about something isn’t working. That doesn’t mean the goal can’t be reached. All that it means is we have to adjust our plan. Often, even mistakes can be valuable. There is the rather well known story about how post-it notes were developed. The inventor was working on creating an adhesive that would last forever. He obviously failed in that endeavor, but look what it created!

Next time it feels as if you are failing at something in life, remember it might just be the plan that needs changing and not the goal. Look for the lessons in the failure and start again only more well-informed.

NOTICE THE BEAUTY AROUND YOU

We can get so busy in our everyday lives that we miss a lot of the amazing beauty that surrounds us. The above picture is one I took while I was waiting at a red light returning from work on my off day. I was lost in my thoughts of everything that I wanted to get done when I got home along with a host of other thoughts. There are some moments I am even surprised I noticed the light is red. I do not know what prompted me to look over to my left, but I saw this face staring at me. There is something about a look that a dog can give you that can cause you to question your own behavior. This is just another reason there are days when I like animals better than a lot of people. I respected this dog’s ability to take in the world around him. Sadly, there are times when I drive to work and when I arrive I wonder who drove. This is made even scarier by the fact that I am the only one in the car.

Here is another example. This photo was taken of a goose waiting to enter the post office where I work. Just the silly nature of the moment was something that very well could have passed me by. In fact, I am sure there are a million of these moments that do pass me by that I fail to notice. We live in a world filled with distraction. If you are stuck in line at the grocery store behind the lady that has not one, but two carts filled to the top (this actually happened this past weekend) instead of taking in the moment, we pull out our phones. When we are driving we have music or an audiobook playing and seldom notice the people, or dogs, around us. In the case of this photo, I was busy doing a little landscaping and may have not even noticed this goose. I just happened to look up at the right time.

One last example. My drive to work now happens somewhere between 5 and 6 am. There is not a lot of traffic and I usually have time to think. I am working on making my thoughts far more positive and productive. Still, there are days when they are filled with thoughts of not wanting to go to work. Most days it also includes how little sleep I received the night before. This is where I was on this particular morning. Lost in thoughts that were not serving me. Suddenly, I stop at a red light on a bridge overlooking a freeway and glance this sunrise. Instead of focusing on all of the things that were not exactly as I wished them to be, I realized how much better my day would start if I focused on all of the things I had to be grateful for. I had a job to go to. There is usually very little stressful traffic at this hour. There was a beautiful sunrise to be seen. I had vision to take in this sunrise. I was driving a car I owned to take me to work. I had a home to return to. The list could have been endless, yet I had already wasted 3/4 of the journey focusing on what I was lacking.

We all know better. We know the quality of our feelings and consequently our life, would be better if only we were to focus on that which we have to be grateful for. We would enjoy and savor life if we were better able to be present and see the beauty and humor like in the first two photos above. If we were to focus on what IS working in our lives and not what is lacking we would feel so much more fulfilled and blessed. If we were to be more present and make an effort to look for the beauty and humor in life, we would enjoy our life so much more. Why don’t we? We are too busy distracting ourselves. We need to take some time to sit with ourselves in silence. We need to block out some time and write down a list of things we are grateful for in our life. We need to read and add to that list daily. We need to say to ourselves, “I am going to look for what is beautiful today.” The distractions we fall victim too not only take us away from doing this, but they often fill our time with negativity. News you receive on your phone, posts you can see on social media and many other distractions can be a terrible disservice to our attempts at living a positive and rewarding life. There is a place and time for these items (although I debate how necessary the news is) let us not let them distract us from living our lives.