Many of you who have read both my book and these blogs may have questions as to how some of the material comes about. Trust me when I tell you that on some days I find myself asking the same thing. With that thought in mind, I am going to share with you a personal epiphany I had the other day that shed light on how I began practicing an early version of one of my main tools of self-improvement. I began doing this years before I was in the self-improvement field, and even more years before I knew what the heck I was doing.
The year was 1993. Recently graduated from high school, I was exploring the work world as a telemarketer. You think it is annoying receiving those calls, try making them 8 hours a day, 6 days a week! The best way to prepare for a career in telemarketing is to call a friend repeatedly and have them yell obscene thinks at you and hang up. Do this over and over again for hours. That’s pretty much what it is like.
As you can imagine a day like that can be tough on the nerves and tougher on the self-confidence. Even though you know it is not personal, hearing what people hope the proctologist does to you and your family gets a little exhausting. I do suppose it was a little better for me as I tend to be a friendly sort of chap. I refused to follow the “If the potential customer says ‘no’ then you say ____” This is also why I am no longer a telemarketer.
On lunch I needed to find a way to escape. Recently, my life-long friend Kevin had introduced me to the musician Bob Marley, and therefore reggae music. For those of you unfamiliar, most of Bob’s music has a very positive and almost spiritual aspect to it.
The most popular album people know from Bob Marley is Legend, which is a greatest hits of sorts. I can tell you that I listened to this recording on repeat for my entire lunch hour. I did this nearly every day. Changing my mindset to one of a more positive and hopeful one allowed me to take the second half of the verbal onslaught that awaited me. On many occasions this required another listen when I arrived home at the end of a day.
For some reason, it took about 6 years for the thought to occur to me that creating a happy Playlist, that is a collection of songs that bring joy to your heart might be a good idea. I explain the idea in my book, A Happy Life for Busy People, and have even updated that on my new book as well. With technology, this is now even easier than ever. With MP3, YouTube and streaming services, you can have a happy Playlist in seconds! It took a conversation with my Rastafarian friend, David, for me to remember how this all began.
It is holiday season crunch time. You know many of your favorite stores will be a madhouse of last-minute shoppers. Even if you are strong enough and brave enough to boldly enter lands filled with untamed consumers, chances of finding exactly what you want, in the color and size you want, are slim to none. There is always online! We are fast approaching, if not past, the time when we see the dreaded ‘May not arrive by Christmas’ line. Plus, how do you look online for those impossible to buy for people in our lives? We all have at least one. You can’t very well look up a gift you can’t even think of.
Today Margie and I discovered a magical solution that solves all of those problems and more! Only a few blocks from our house in the fabulous city of West Allis Wisconsin where we live we found the hidden treasure called Oniomania. A strange name, but translated as an uncontrollable urge to buy things. It is a small store. You can walk around it in five minutes. You will, however, be able to spend hours inside. Somehow fit into this small area of space are hundreds of the most unique and compelling gift ideas you could come across. Many are from local crafters and artists. They are one-of-a-kind gifts you will not find anywhere else. You will not only enjoy finding gifts for that impossible to buy for person on your list, you will undoubtedly go home with something fun for yourself. In doing so you will not only help support local business owner Andrea, but many of the independent business owners she supports by providing a platform to sell their amazing, made from the heart creations.
Speaking of owner Andrea, you would be hard pressed to find a more customer oriented person. From the moment we walked in the store she was filled with pleasantries and helpful knowledge. She had knowledge of, and helpful suggestions for every one of the hundreds of items in her store. We purchased items for people we didn’t even know we were shopping for. Two of the people who really lucked out were Margie and Neil. (I told you that you can’t help but take home something for yourself) For years Margie has been wanting one of these lamps composed of different pieces of colored plastic put together in some sort of mind-boggling puzzle formation. Not only did Andrea offer us a host of colors to choose from, she somehow managed to put them together and take them apart with amazing speed so we could see what it would look like before we took one home. Margie also purchased a wonderful pair of tropical themed socks to help me make it through the long, cold winter.
As a further testament to her generosity and commitment to community, Andrea has also been kind enough to offer my book, A Happy Life for Busy People, for sale at her store. Inside this fun to read book you will learn a host of different methods for reducing your stress, increasing your joy and becoming the best version of yourself. All of this can be accomplished at little to no cost to you in only 2 to 5 minutes a day. Couple that with the relaxing scented soap I purchased or one of the many relaxing locally crafted candles, and you have yourself a great start to the new year. Imagine being able to give this gift of happiness to someone you care about? What a better way to show you care than giving the gift of joy and happiness to those special people in your life? You will feel good doing it too knowing you helped support many local, hard-working people that make the city the special place it is.
Whether you live in West Allis Wisconsin or somewhere else, I am going to include the link to their Facebook page so you can discover and enjoy Oniomania for yourself. Whether you purchase from this particular store or another local establishment, you will find yourself filled with a lot more holiday spirit. You will be less stressed because you will be able to find that unique and special gift available nowhere else and you will have a warm heart knowing that you made the holidays a lot brighter for those neighbors in your own community. Shop local. You will find great gifts for those you care about, you will support your community and you will give yourself the inner joy knowing you will brighten the holidays for many people by picking up just one gift.
Throughout my 2 decades in the self-improvement field, I have constantly asked myself one question, “Why do people not make the changes they know will improve their lives?” It has vexed me most, especially in the early going, most about the person looking back at me in the mirror. As I learned things that I knew intellectually would transform my life for the better they seemed to remain fleeting in their appearance. Even when I experienced how they would affect my life emotionally I found it difficult to remain committed to taking these actions daily. Why was that? I knew, and in some cases saw and felt, how they changed my life for the better but still couldn’t manage to keep up with my own standards.
I recall an particularly vivid example which I discuss in detail in my book A Happy Life for Busy People. I had been involved in a practice of making an attitude of gratitude a part of my daily routine. After a month or so it was as though I had taken some sort of magic happy pill. It is usually when you get to this state the universe enjoys testing your commitment even further. The day in question I had drove off to work while leaving the coffee on top of my car. By the time this had occurred to me I was well on my way. “Oh well, there is a Starbucks on the way.” I said to myself cheerfully. When I arrived, in pouring rain, at said Starbucks I ran in thinking how much better a hot coffee would taste in the cold April rain. Yes, this is how you can find yourself looking at life when you master an attitude of gratitude. I arrived inside only half-soaked but entirely disappointed as I was informed that Starbucks, this almost seems too unreal, was out of coffee. It was only 7 am, but I was informed a machine had malfunctioned, the coffee gods were angry or some other reason I confess I only half heard. Back through the rain into my car spirits still refusing to be dampened with the weather.
I began to drive toward work thinking of some delicious hot tea that I could brew once I got to the office. Just as I was thinking, “This could be worse. At least I have a car and I am not stuck out in the rain.” My positivity was about to be put to the ultimate test. As I was driving along in the rain at 55 miles per hour a young man pulled out in the middle of the busy street and just stopped. The next thing I remember was being loaded onto a stretcher and being asked a million questions. My Jeep was totaled and there was a big hole in the windshield. I later learned that is where is had decided to eject me. As soon as I was settled in the hospital I called my boss at the Postal Service who promptly yelled at me for using a sick day.
You would think after such an ordeal I would be eager to get back to the gratitude and feeling good. Well, let me tell you that flying through your own windshield changes one’s perspective more than just geographically. For a while I was rather angry. Why did that young man stop in the middle of the road?(turns out the street was flooded and he just froze) Why was my boss such an uncaring jerk (still working on that one) I began thinking about all of the hospital bills, lawyers and other such fun that comes with an accident. I really began to get myself in a funk. Here is what I learned that day and have been reminded of on several occasions sense – being an angry self-centered jerk does not feel good, does not get you anywhere you really want to be and is not a hell of a lot of fun.
Not sure if it was the pain pills, the want of something entertaining to do in the hospital or the hand of the divine. I am guessing a little of all three. I decided to challenge myself. Could I recapture even a fraction of the feeling of gratitude I was feeling before the accident? Pondering what on earth I could be grateful for in my situation. “Some young stupid kid just caused you to be in an accident.” was the first thing my not so helpful mind came up with. Then, as if a light bulb turned on I thought of the kid. He would not only be injured (gladly not as bad as myself) but his insurance would have to pay out as it was his fault. I began to feel a little sorry for the young man. My brain fought this as well. Then the nurse came in with a hot cup of coffee. This was accompanied by a pain pill. Two more things to feel grateful for. Soon I had people show up to give me a ride home. Yet another thing to be grateful for.
Much like a diet or that new fitness plan we are trying to start, self-improvement takes persistence. As nice as it would be, you don’t work out once and stay in shape. You don’t eat healthy one day and then can go back to eating pizza every day. Trust me, there have been times I tried. No, you have to work at it every day. You must have faith that the results are worth it. As Earl Nightingale said, “Persistence is just another word for faith. If you didn’t have faith, you wouldn’t persist.” Wise man that Earl. The price we pay is working at it every day. Next post we will look at the magic key needed for all of this wonderful self-improvement stuff to work.
As I was currently reading the book The Power of Positive Thinking for the third time, I came across something interesting. The first two times I read that book I found it a little difficult to digest. Perhaps it was the writing style or just where and who I was at the time I was reading it. That is the great thing about reading the same book at different periods of your life, because you are literally a different person than the one who read it last, it is if you are reading it again for the first time.
My third attempt at this wonderful tome was no exception to the situation mentioned above. I was now a fellow author with over two decades in the field of self-improvement. I had faced many more challenges to my ability to maintain positive thinking. Another very important difference was that I had heard the voice of the author, Norman Vincent Peale. The first two times I read the book there had been no audible exposure to the author. Mr. Peale was a preacher and wrote a book on positive thinking. Going on those two facts, I guess I assumed him to have a soft and encouraging tone. I could have not been more incorrect.
Doing the dishes one evening for Margie, as she was not feeling up to it, my whole experience with this gentleman changed. I popped on some headphones so as not to disturb my sleeping angel. Instead of listening to some feel good music, as I am want to do, I decided on something more motivational. Sadly, the piece I was listening to ended before the dishes did. This was sad for many reasons, least of which was not the fact there were a lot of dishes. The video that was suggested next was called Positive thinkers always get a positive result by one Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Facing the amount of dishes I had yet to do I figured that was as good of video as any. I pushed play and was blown away. The voice that greeted me sounded like a mix between the cartoon character Yosemite Sam and a politician involved in a fierce debate.
Oddly enough, his unique delivery accompanied with his even more unique humor caught my attention. The more I listened, the more I found myself agreeing with and relating to, a lot of what he said. By the time that video was over, the dishes were almost over as well. When you have a woman who makes amazing, mouth-watering cakes the dishes can add up in a hurry. Looking for some relaxation after my bout of domestic toil, I figured now would be as good of time as any to give Dr Peale’s book another look. Armed with my new knowledge as to how he sounded and not just how he wrote, the book seemed to have a life of its own. It was as if I could hear the author reading it. (if you are interested in the same experience with my book A Happy Life for Busy People just check out my YouTube channel Neil Panosian)
A great thing about this new appreciation for the book is that it allowed me to absorb the material that much better. I want to share with you just one little experiment I have begun to use myself and found it has brought a lot of happiness to my life. It was not one of Dr. Peale’s own ideas but one that was related to him. A gentleman told him of the process of sending strangers ‘random prayers’. For example, if you are stopped at a red light and happen to notice the sour face of the driver next to you, send them wishes that an unexpected amount of joy may come into their lives. If you can, maybe try picturing what they would look like smiling. If you are walking through the store and see a mother who seems to be facing a great deal of stress with her children, send her thoughts of moments of peace. See her with a smile on her face and her children minding her.
Be prepared for two interesting side-effects when you start using this experiment. The first thing that you may notice is that the other person may glance in your direction. Offer them a smile. The reason for this can be explained on a quantum physics level. I will not get to deep or bore you with the science behind all of that. In a nutshell, thoughts are actually things. They have an electrical signature and, given the right equipment, can be measured. That means you are sending a positive electrical current between you and this stranger. Dr. Peale tells of one such encounter in his book. As he was aboard a train he saw a young boy on the platform and began to picture him growing up to be a success. Suddenly, the young boy looked up with the biggest smile. You may never know the result of your efforts, but it is a wonderful way to improve on the pastime of people watching.
The second side-effect you will notice touches home a lot more. As you continue to go around offering strangers silent prayers, sunny vibes, good mojo or whatever you care to call it, you will begin to see your own feelings of inner peace and happiness improve. After all, sending and thinking the best for people you don’t even know cannot help but to make you feel good on the inside. I have noticed people are also more likely to approach you and offer some sort of compliment or kind word. The universe will begin to become a far kinder place. At a time when many of us are fighting feelings of anxiety and depression, sending good thoughts for others may be the cheapest prescription to help heal our own soul.
Welcome back to our celebration of 30 days of gratitude. Each day we will focus on one area of our life to be grateful for. If this is your first day doing this I invite you to go back and do the days before this. You can do them in your head, write them down and home, but it is my hope you decide to share what you are grateful for with our community here on Secret2anamazinglife.com. There are no rules. Do one day or do all 30. Let us now look at today’s area of gratitude.
There is an obvious answer here and that would be my book, A Happy Life for Busy People. It is true I am very grateful for that book. It has opened so many doors in my life and introduced me to so many wonderful people. It is also owned by rock stars, movie stars and billionaires. If you would like your own copy there will be a link at the bottom of this post. Yes, that is one of the books I am most thankful for.
There are, however, a handful of books that I would recommend everyone read. Let us start with my favorite book of all time, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I read this book on average once a year. I gain something new everytime I read it. That is the amazing thing about a great book. You always gain something new from them each time you read them. Not because they are different, but because you are. I also loved the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. This law of attraction classic is filled with great basic ideas and formulas. The World According to Mr. Rogers is another favorite filled with great stories and fundamentals. Anyone who knows me knows that I am also a big fan of the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne. Not only are they uplifting and full of joy, they often have great lessons hidden in their pages.
Books are stored knowledge. You can save yourself years of work by reading the lessons someone who went before you wrote. You can escape by slipping into pages that transport you to entire different worlds. You can learn, you can be inspired. There are so many books to be inspired by. Which are some of your favorites?
Last post we discussed ways in which fashioning your life after a movie director would be beneficial. There was one item I left out that can go a long way in helping us out. It has been featured in my book A Happy Life for Busy People. That is creating a soundtrack for your life.
In my book I refer to it as a ‘happy playlist’. You can create one in a few simple steps. Compose a list of songs that bring joy to your life. Then just create a playlist on your MP3 player or other device. I have several in my cell phone thanks to YouTube. I have playlists for working out, meditation and motivation as well as of course being happy. It is amazing what a song that strikes a deep emotional chord with you can do to change your state. Why leave the soundtrack of your life up to the whim of the DJ on the local radio station?
In a movie, songs are chosen to give the film more dramatic flair and set the mood in various scenes. Wouldn’t you like to be able to do the same in your life? You can! Simply create a soundtrack for all areas of your life. You will be amazed at the difference it can make. What are some of the songs that will be on your soundtrack?
Every so often I send a celebrity a copy of my book. These are also usually accompanied by a letter explaining who I am and why I am sending them a book. These folks can range from people who have inspired me, professionals whose work I admire and those who I feel personify the kind of life I write about. The list has included Johnny Depp, Bill Bryson, Tony Robbins, Eric Thomas, Nikki Sixx and many others.
Out of the countless people I have sent books to, a few have taken the time to send a nice response. Tony Robbins and Nikki Sixx sent emails and Sammy Hagar sent a nice letter. I appreciate these busy artists taking time out of their schedules to not only let me know they got the book, but to thank me as well. I am not famous by any means, but I still have a hard time getting back to everyone in a timely fashion. I suppose having 7 jobs will do that.
Recently, I sent a letter to a gentleman who I think fits all of the categories described in the first paragraph, the musician and actor Huey Lewis. Mr. Lewis is facing some intense personal challenges of his own and I thought it would be fitting to let him know how he and his music have motivated and inspired me. If you have not read my book A Happy Life for Busy People, allow me to share a portion of its content with you. One of the secrets I recommend to help deal with the daily stress we all face is to have a ‘Happy playlist’. This is a group of songs that put you in a positive state of mind. While it may not to anything to help fix the situation you are going through, it will help you show up in a better state to deal with the challenge.
With all of the insanity going on in my life presently, I had not given much thought to the books I had sent out recently. Then I check my P.O. Box and find a handwritten letter from Huey Lewis thanking me for the book and the words I had sent with it. Several things impressed me about this. First, that he took the time to send a reply. Second, he did so in a handwritten fashion. Not an email or form letter, but sat down with a pen and paper. Lastly, that he did all of this while facing his own struggles and while working on an album of new material.
What this shows me is the kind of character this man has. It would be easy to dismiss the work of a relatively unknown author. It would be easy to just send of thank you form letter. Instead this man took time to let me know he appreciated my gesture. I think that speaks volumes. I encourage all of us to include some ‘Huey Lewis and the News’ on our happy playlist. Not just because the music makes it very hard to maintain a bad state, but because it was created by a very thoughtful gentleman.
Here is the latest issue of See Beyond magazine. It is a informative and fabulous issue filled with great articles. March is dedicated to Women’s Month, but there is something for every gender inside. My article, The Birth of Belief can be found on page 34. It is a great look at how some of my philosophies of life developed, but more importantly, it is a great look at our legacy and what we can do to make sure we leave behind a legacy worthy of us. I encourage you to take a look and let me know what you feel about it.
After you have finished reading the article, I invite you to scroll to the back of the magazine and read the tremendous review of my book that can be found there. All together See Beyond is a magazine that offers inspiration and many different perspectives. I am honored to be a part of it, and wish to thank Aura, the Publisher, Stefanie, the editor-in-chief as well as Rachel, one of the amazing artists in See Beyond. Working with these creative and talented ladies is something I am grateful for not only during Women’s Month, but each time our paths cross. Click the link below to be taken to the magazine and appreciate all that it has to offer. I look forward to hearing how this amazing publication has touched your heart!
Last post we talked about the experience Margie and I had making friends at the concert for the band Jackyl we went to. Today I would like to discuss a little bit about the band itself. The band Jackyl started in the early 90’s. They have pretty much been on tour since. They have two world records when it comes to touring. 100 concerts in 50 days and 21 concerts in a 24-hour period.
After spending more than 25 years on the road touring how can they continue to pack shows? A lot of bands in that time have fallen victim to changes in the music scene, the aging of their fans and many other variables outside of their control. During this time other bands were coming and going Jackyl kept doing what they do, namely traveling from city to city entertaining fans and releasing new music.
What is their secret? There are many things you could point to such as the universal appeal of some of their songs, a feature on the television show Full Throttle Saloon, and the powerful personality of their lead singer. While all of these items might and probably contribute to their lasting success, for me the one thing that separates this band from the others out there is what they do after the show is over and the music has stopped.
With many bands you have the opportunity to win a ‘meet and greet’ session with the band. Radio stations give this away, or some bands allow you to purchase an extra package that includes such privileges. With Jackyl, it is included with each and every show. As the singer says, “I want to stay and shake everybody’s hand for coming.” Whether you enjoy their music or not, whether you agree with their opinions or not you have to admit that does show a level of caring for the fans that few, if any, bands display.
It is by going out of their way to meet new people and make new friends that this band has been able to stay on the road selling out shows for over 25 years. At the last show I watched a whole club full of fans, some who even had quite a bit to drink, form a perfect line to meet the band. They were each greeted, received a handshake, autograph, picture and whatever else they were seeking. It would be understandable if after traveling on a bus all day, being on stage and performing all night that the band would want to just go back on the bus to go to sleep. They understand that it is the fans who allow them to make their living doing what they love. By taking extra time to express their gratitude when they must be exhausted is what makes this band stand out.
As a side note, for this extra effort the band Jackyl is now in possession of an autographed copy of my first book A Happy Life for Busy People.