THE GREATS NEVER STOP DOING THIS

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If you would like to be considered truly great, never stop learning. This quote from Michelangelo at the youthful age of 87 proves just such a thing. It would have been understandable after all that he had created to rest on his accomplishments. Being truly great in any field takes a great deal of obsession. It becomes less of what you do and more a part of who you are. In this vein of thought I am close to being a great consumer of pizza, but I digress.
With the rapid pace of change in nearly every field, it would be foolish for anyone to think they know everything about…well…anything.

Buckminster Fuller created a scale known as the “Knowledge Doubling Curve” which as you might have guessed is how long it takes human knowledge to double. Here is what he discovered. Until 1900 the scope of human knowledge doubled every 100 years. Fast forward 45 years to the end of Word War II and knowledge doubled every 25 years or in a quarter of the time it took less than 50 years before. While that was impressive, here are the current numbers – as of 2013 knowledge doubled every 13 months! That is roughly 1/25th of the time it took in the 1950s. By the year 2020 it is estimated knowledge will double every 12…hours! In case your knowledge of math has not doubled recently, that is twice a day! By the time we wake up tomorrow the entire scope of human knowledge could be four times what is was when we went to sleep the night before!
If you are currently enrolled as a student, or trying to learn a new occupation this rate of change can sound scary. What it really represents is opportunity. With the internet people are sharing and connecting information faster and easier than ever. You could be reading this shortly after I wrote it and doing so halfway around the world. I live in a small town called West Allis in the United States, yet some of my most ardent followers come from India, Canada and various tropical islands I did not know existed, but are not on my travel list. With Artificial intelligence we are learning to predict and map human behavior in many different ways.
To some, this may sound intimidating and even a little ‘big brotherish’ but with knowledge comes responsibility. We can use this knowledge to serve and create or to enslave and destroy. That is why I encourage all of you reading this blog to learn as much as you can. Effort and knowledge are the two great equalizers. With today’s technology change is right around the corner and it is at the fingertips of every person with access to a local library.
Be like the great artist above. When your 87th birthday rolls around let us hear you proclaim, “I am still learning.”

IT’S ALL UP TO YOU

Building on what we learned last post – that fault and responsibility are not related – here is a prime example. Viewing life through these two different examples can make a world of difference. It can be related to the old adage “What people do to us is up to them. How we react to it is up to us.” This is easy to both read and understand intellectually, but try and live this way emotionally and you will discover it is not so easy.

What is vital to remember is that it is possible. We have control of our minds. For most of us we have relinquished that control, but we can get it back. Next time you find yourself upset due to some outside circumstance or some socially challenged individual, try saying to yourself, or better yet out loud, “I am really pissing myself off through this person!” If you are anything like me, you might chuckle at the absurd sounding nature of that statement, but sooner or later you will see the grain of truth in it.

Another great thing to follow up with is to imagine what possible reason that person could be acting like that. For example, when Margie and I are driving along, (Ok I am the driving and she is the along) and someone cuts us off to get that one car ahead before the red light, I often look at her and say, “Maybe they have to poop.” Certainly not the most eloquent option, but I am sure we can all relate having to hurry for just such a reason.

It helps you give the other party a certain benefit of the doubt. It doing so, it helps us get a little less upset. This is not to say you should let people treat you anyway or do whatever they like to you. What we are trying to do is lessen the effect their actions have on us.

Taking control of your mind and emotions is neither quick or easy, but with time and effort it can certainly pay dividends with reduced stress and mental anxiety. Try these simple tools to get started. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!

FAULT IS NOT RESPONSIBILITY

Here is an uncomfortable truth – what is wrong with you might not be your fault, but fixing it definitely is your responsibility. This may not seem to be fair, and I suppose it really isn’t, but that does not make it any less true.

You may have had a rough and troubled childhood. That was not your fault. It may have made it hard for you to trust other people, not entirely your fault either. Fixing that, however, is your responsibility. The people who made your childhood, and perhaps your adulthood to this point, a living hell are not going to come back, apologize and help you work through issues you developed because of them.

If there is some tragic event that you believe is holding you back in your life, it is actually you who are holding you back. You may be tempted to shout, “That’s not fair! It was them who did this to me!” Like we mentioned earlier, you could be right and I am sure you can make a very good case, but you would affectively be arguing for your limitations at this point.

The takeaway here is that fault and responsibility do not go hand in hand. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it is not fair. If we want our lives to move forward we must claim the responsibility to fix the issues that others were at fault for putting in our lives. You could refuse that responsibility because it was not your fault, and you would be right, but the only person to suffer would be you.

EARNING MY BUSINESS


In several industries with the blur of different options it can be hard to see a difference. That holds quite true in the grocery industry. In my city alone there are giants such as Walmart, Meijer and a version of Kroger. In bigger box stores such as these, speed and cost cutting seem to be the focus. Customer service tends to be an afterthought, if even a thought at all. The Walmart in my neighborhood has me thinking they are doing their best to push people out of their stores with their service. There was one moment I recall where items in a locked cabinet were all facing backwards making it impossible to see what they were. When I brought this to a managers attention her answer was, “It makes it easier for us to do inventory.” In other words, they knew the customers were not able to see the products and that was ok.

Purchasing items such as books, media and other such items has largely switched to an online affair. I must confess to ordering a good deal of stuff off Amazon myself. The advantage here is there is little or no option for bad customer service, the prices are more reasonable and you don’t even have to leave the house. During a Wisconsin winter this can be worth its weight in gold. There is this great book on happiness you can order to make your winter a little brighter as well.

That is why the 2 experiences I am about to share with you stand out so much. The first is one I had at a local grocery store. I had looked for a seasonal surprise at some of the larger grocery stores in town, but they did not have what I was looking for. It was suggested that I try Rupena’s. A small, independent grocery store located not far from my house in West Allis. When I entered the store I was greeted right away and asked how I was doing. After replying that I was living the dream, the conversation continued with some discussion of gratitude and an inquiry as to what I was looking for. I was directed to the section of the store where the product could be found. Sadly, they were sold out by this time of the evening. The lady in that department offered me samples of other products that might interest me. Then, finding some other items in passing I returned to check out with the lady who greeted me. She asked if I found what I was looking for and apologized I had not. She also gave me other suggestions and shared some humor with me.

A few days later, I decided to use a gift card I had received for Barnes and Noble. While there a friendly young lady in a giraffe shirt saw I was looking lost and asked if she could help. I told her the book I was looking for and she looked it up and then lead me to it. On a side note, it happened to be right next to my book on the shelf which felt kind of cool. Then when I went to pay for my books, the lady at the cash register joked with me and her coworkers as the transaction continued. I left happy with my purchased as well as entertained.

In both of these examples I left with something more – a desire to return. Great customer service is something that will never go out of style. From the small grocery store a mere 10 blocks from my house, to the brick and mortar book store, there is opportunity to retain and gain customers. The price point might be a little higher, and it does require leaving the house, but the opportunity to be treated to a little extra humor and good service is priceless.

ALTRUISTIC IS SELFISH… AND THAT’S OK


The definition of the word altruistic is as follows – showing a disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others; unselfish
How then, can I claim that being altruistic is selfish? For one simple reason. When you are down, when life seems to kick you as you are down, nothing can lift your feelings as much as helping someone else. Certainly, that is not the only time you should limit your acts of helping others, but it still holds true. Most of you know my story about how my life was turned around by helping at a meal program feeding the homeless. It not only gave me a new and refreshing perspective, but the act of being able to do something for someone else feels good.
That should not be your only motivation to do good, but keep that in mind. The more you do for others, the better you will feel. Thus, being altruistic is both unselfish and selfish at the same time. Why do I think that is ok? If, in an attempt to help yourself feel a little happier you go around doing random acts of kindness for others, the world would be a significantly better place.
As with anything we share here, do not take my word on this. Feel free to test the theory yourself. For 21 days, do one act of kindness with no expectation in return. Not financial compensation, not a promotion, do not even worry about getting a simply ‘thank you’. You may even want to record your acts to make sure you do not miss a day. After 3 weeks notice if your own happiness has improved.

YOUR BELIEF CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

The man in the picture above is Roger Bannister. For those of you who do not know who he is, allow me to share his story and how it applies to you and me. From the time humans began inhabiting the earth until 1954 it was the accepted medical belief that the human body physically could not move at a speed faster than a 4-minute mile. On May 6th, 1954 Roger Bannister broke that record with a time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.

While that is a cool story it is not what we are going to be looking at today. What is interesting is that fact that since that record was broken, over 20,000 people have run a sub 4-minute mile. This total also includes high school kids. How did that happen? Did the human race suddenly become faster all around the world? The obvious answer to that question is no. So what changed? Every runner prior to that fateful day in 1954 walked up to the starting line with the belief that it was not possible to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Every runner after that day was blessed with the belief that it indeed was possible.

Do you see the difference that a change in belief can bring? For thousands of years nobody ran a mile faster than 4 minutes. Yet, in the 60 or so years since that was proved possible 20,000 people have done it! All it took was one person to not listen to the ‘facts’ of the day. That changed the world forever.

What beliefs are limiting today’s world? Let me share a personal story with you. I firmly believed that I would never accomplish all that I have done. Can a person who almost did not pass high school English class, who was in fact told by the teacher, “I pray you will never have a career in writing.” Go on to write and publish 2 books, create a blog with over 1000 posts and followers in over 100 countries on 6 continents? Can that same person create a YouTube channel that along with live seminars, can help people improve their lives all across the globe? I would never think so, but I did it.

How did I overcome my limiting beliefs to accomplish all of this? One of the main reasons is that I am blessed with an amazing and beautiful soul to share my life with. My lovely lady Margie not only believes in me and the work that I am doing, but pushes me to improve both professionally and personally. I never would have believed that there was another soul in this world who could balance being both encouragement and accountability. If you told me that on top of those two amazing skills she would be the most beautiful woman I have ever met, and being caring, creative and driven in her own right, I would find that extremely hard to believe. If you told me she would fall in love with me and we would share a life filled with many adventures that we faced hand in hand, I would have never believed you. All of that has come true, leaving me to often wonder how so many of my beliefs could be overcome.

What are some of your limiting beliefs? Is there someone in your life that supports and believes in you? Do you, like Roger Bannister, have the strength to not listen to the critics and maybe even the scientific facts of the day? What are some beliefs that could change the world if proven wrong? History is full of people who denied conventional wisdom to defy the odds and change the world. If someone tells you something cannot be done, remember Roger Bannister, the Wright brothers and countless others who would not give up until they were proven right.  

A WAY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE


Recently, I entered a poetry contest for my city of West Allis, Wisconsin. First of all, I would like to say that I thought this was a great opportunity for citizens to become involved with the city. In previous posts I have mentioned the mayor and the good programs he has put forth. This program came from the West Allis Public Library Board of Directors and I am so humbled that they chose me as a winner. There are two points that this event made me think of and I wanted to take this opportunity to share them with you.
The first is that this is just another example of the steps that West Allis is taking to improve both the city and the quality of life for its citizens. It shows a commitment to excellence and resurgence for a city that many left for dead when manufacturing jobs began to disappear. It is a good reminder not to give up on your city. With some forward thinking, and creative initiatives a city can begin to become vibrant and full of vitality again. It is also a good reminder to search out and get involved in programs your city might offer. If you cannot find programs such as these in your city it presents a great opportunity to speak with elected officials to begin to set some up. Elected officials are not just the only ones to turn to either. There are community groups, senior centers, clubs and organizations that have many chances to become active in your city. Contests and activities like this foster a sense of community. In doing so they help neighbors get to know each other which can reduce crime and increase a safe atmosphere in which to raise a family and spend your days.
The second point that this contest brought to mind was an opportunity to both inspire my fellow neighbors as well as promote the good things that happen in the city. A quick glance in the newspaper or on social media will supply you with plenty of reasons in which you may NOT want to visit and/or live in a city. It is always a good idea to balance those out with promoting good events that are happening as well. In my city there is a neighborhood walk to encourage physical fitness, a monthly coffee with the mayor in which citizens can relax with a cup of coffee and hear exactly what is happening in the city from the mayor himself. There is also a new dog park being planned and built as well as roughly $200 million worth of new developments in various stages. There are what seems like a thousand other great things I could mention here that are going on as well.
Maybe your city is not as fortunate as mine, but truly there is something great going on in your city as well. Make it known. Get the neighbors involved. Like in my poem below, it is by becoming the best citizens we can that we create the best cities possible. I encourage you to promote all the good that is happening in your city. While you are reading this, feel free to check out my winning poem, along with the other 5 winners that I am honored to be joined by. At a future date all of these poems will be placed in concrete to honor the authors. Still another great event to look forward to in West Allis.

ARE YOU READY TO SHIFT?

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Last post I told you about some people I interviewed that had every reason to be negative and jaded about life. You will be able to read all the interviews in my upcoming book Living the Dream. Right now I will tell you their challenges included miscarriages, abuse of physical, emotional and sexual nature. They had major health challenges. Their families were killed and they were forced to flee countries due to a civil war. Despite, and in some cases because of these challenges, they are some of the most positive people you will ever meet. I asked myself, and them, how is that possible?

The secret was they were all able to control their thoughts and thus controlled their lives. How did they do it? Honestly, they all had their own unique ways which you will be able to read about in my book. For today’s post, however, I am going to share one thing they all had in common. If you add this one thing to your life it will do a great deal to help you overcome whatever challenge you have in life. We are going to look at what that common trait was and some fun ways to use it in our own lives.

You may have guessed from the picture that the common trait that all of these people shared was gratitude. In challenges far greater than I had ever faced, each one of them found reasons to be grateful. If they can do it facing the kind of challenges we mentioned above, surely we can utilize gratitude to take control of the thoughts and challenges in our own daily lives.

Finding something to be grateful for in a challenging situation can be difficult, especially in the beginning. Like any other muscle, our gratitude muscle will grow stronger with use. In the beginning, however, it helps to have a few tools and tips to help foster a sense of gratitude. My advice when diving into this is to resist the temptation to attempt to change everything at once. Remember, you are trying to change thought patterns you have built up over years. Pick one topic and start slow. Not only will it be less difficult, but it will actually increase your chances of success. Let us look at a few ways in which to start infusing our lives with more gratitude.

The first method is pretty straight forward and works well for difficult areas of our lives. Pick an area of your life that does not bring you joy. For our example let us say that you are not crazy about your job. At a time where you are not otherwise occupied, such as driving in your car or at the job you dislike so much, grab a pen and piece of paper. Next, get comfortable. Maybe make yourself a fresh cup of coffee or tea if that is your thing. Put on some relaxing or fun music. Now begin to think of everything about your job in which you are grateful for. You may find your mind a little reluctant at first, but stick with it. Maybe you don’t feel your job pays you what you would like, but be grateful it does pay you. It may not allow you to take that vacation to Fiji, but it does allow you to keep the lights on. It gives you a reason to get out of bed and be active. It introduces you to different people. Sure, they may not all be perfect people, but it allows you to be social. It also allows you to practice and strengthen your skills of being hopeful and positive. Just like muscles, these things only grow and get stronger when they are challenged. When you have a pretty good list going put it in a jacket pocket or in the car. Somewhere you can take it with you. Next time you are on the way to work look at and review this list. Read it right before you walk in the door. It will at least help balance the frustration.

The next way to put more gratitude in your life can be looked at as a game to play. I do this one on the way to work as well and find it puts my mind in a great place before I get there. As I drive along I look for as many things as I can that I love. This can be the color of a house I am driving by, or the humor behind someone’s personalized plates on the car ahead of me. Sometimes it is a nice dog walking down the street, or a fun jacket someone waiting for the bus is wearing. A good practice is to say these things out loud. “Wow! I love that jacket!” or “What a fun color to paint a house/door/car!” Even hearing yourself say these things out loud can put you in a better frame of mind.

These are just two ideas for increasing the feeling of gratitude in  your life. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below. There are a million ways to add and strengthen the gratitude you already have in your life. I encourage you to try them all. The more grateful you are, the more likely you are to have control of your thoughts.