WARNING OR EXAMPLE?

Warnings, we see them everywhere. It can be a stop sign warning us to be aware of the traffic around us. It can be a message from the surgeon general reminding you that the cigarette you are about to put into your mouth will cause you physical harm and eventually death. Even signs like the one above warn us to take caution with what we are about to do next. Warnings are not only all around us, but serve to keep us safe and improve the quality of our lives in the long run.

Examples, they are all around us as well. We look at directions in a box as examples of how to properly use and sometimes put together the item we have purchased. We can watch videos on YouTube on how to make a fruit tart for the one we love in our life. We can watch professionals on television show us everything from how to play sports well, to how to perform surgery. Examples are all around us as well. Properly used, they can help us live a more positive and rewarding life as well.

Here is something we may not have considered. Each one of us, and the life we live, is either a warning or example. In most cases we are a little of both. What is important is deciphering whether something is a warning or example to us. We can use the excuse that our parents were alcoholics or abusive and that is why we are the same. This would be using them as an example. If we used them as a warning we could understand the problems from a health and social aspect alcohol can cause when used irresponsibly.

What we choose as our examples is just as important. We must decide who it is we wish to become and who we are looking to emulate. Also, knowing what parts of the example we wish to take in. Sometimes part of something is good, and some is better off left behind. A person may be really good at the sport they play, but they may also cheat on their spouse, abuse drugs or a host of other malicious behaviors.

We must remember that we are also warnings and examples for those around us. People can learn from our mistakes as well as our victories. It is important to convey that. Think about your own life, what are you teaching those around you? Are you a warning, an example or both?

SHINE ON!

 

 

In my upcoming book Living the Dream there is a special section I have included towards the back of the book. This section is called ‘In the company of angels’ and for good reason. It includes stories of people that I know who have faced life challenges that would make most of us bitter at best, or throw in the towel and quit on life at worse. These wonderful people have not only avoided both, but have went on to be positive forces in their own right.

The stories range from having one of their parents killed in a mining accident and having to move clear across the country to being abused on several levels as both childrenĀ and adults. Writing these stories was a bit of a struggle for me as I am used to writing material that uplifts and inspires. As I wrote and recalled all the situations my friends had relayed to me I felt their pain. I cannot imagine facing what some of them have.

Writing my way through them brought several positive things to me, however. First, I was grateful for all of the struggles that I didn’t have to face growing up. We were not rich and I came from a single-parent home, but we always had trips to the library, played games with other children in the neighborhood and always had enough to eat. After reading the stories I share in my book, growing up without a lot of money and only one parent seemed like paradise. I guess you could say it not only supplied me with a great deal of gratitude, but a new perspective as well.

Another thing it did for me was only serve to increase my respect for those brave individuals that shared their stories. The idea for including them in my book was to show real life examples of how people could face the worst situation and still manage to maintain a positive disposition. This was the reason I approached the people I did. What I didn’t expect was the details and amount of struggle they had went through. Learning how someone could overcome everything they did was worth its weight in gold. I am pretty sure most of us would not escape with such a healthy outlook as they had.

Knowing these people personally I can tell you that they genuine love life. That is not to say they do not have a bad day as we all do, but as a general rule they seem to appreciate the beauty of what surrounds them on a daily basis. The bravery they showed in coming forth and sharing their stories so that others may benefit from them was also not lost on me. They did so with no promise of any future reward other than the knowledge in their heart that their stories have helped others who are also struggling.

My suggestion to you is to learn the stories of your friends. Ask about their struggles. If you are blessed enough like I am to have brave friends who do not mind sharing what they have been through, do yourself a favor and listen. Understand how much courage it takes to be able to recall the pain of the past again. Admire their ability to stand strong in the face of a past that may haunt them or weigh them down. Appreciate their ability to shine even after all the storms they have been through. These to me are the true warriors.

Don’t forget to look for the book Living the Dream coming to bookstores next February.

 

 

LET US TALK ABOUT YOUR STORY

We ended last week by discussing stories. The stories we tell ourselves to prevent us from trying new ideas and concepts. I shared some of the stories from my life and how they have affected me. We even looked at stories that others tell us about ourselves. We looked at how we view stories, events and people from our past and how that can have an effect on our future. All of these examples can show how important stories are to our development and overall well-being.

Today we are going to look at your story. In the last few years I have learned so much from listening to the stories of others. Whether it is the stories from my friends Cari and Kelly who show me that even people coming from some of the most challenging circumstances can grow into some of the most loving people with wonderful souls. Listening to the stories about my lovely Margie helped me to better understand the woman I love and the people in her life that helped form her into the divine lady that she is today.

I know I could learn a lot from your story as well. That may sound like a bold claim considering the people who read this span the entire globe. You may be asking what can I learn from the individual from Tunisia who read this on Sunday? I can’t say exactly, but I can tell you for sure something. The examples may not be something I can relate to, for example I have friends who were abused, in foster care, divorced, lost children and a host of other challenges I have not faced. In them I can learn the principles of hope, faith, determination and love. I am eternally grateful to each and every person who shares their story with me.

You may think that your life does not offer any inspiration, but I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. I have heard stories from a friend in Romania about listening to certain music on the way to work. I have heard stories from my friend in Australia about the way she discovers indigenous medicine by visiting local markets. My friend from Mexico shares challenges that the local economy and health care cause him to face in his country. These are but a few of the countless stories I hear each and every day. Even those who share stories about their love, good fortune or healing give me a joyous feeling in my heart.

Perhaps you still think your story is nothing special? “I am just a person who wakes up and works to pay the bills.” Let me tell you that your story, and your life may be just what someone else needs to hear. It may be the challenges or amusing stories you have to offer about your chosen line of work. It may be amusing stories and episodes you have had raising your children. Maybe it is even the way you have approached a health challenge you have. After more then 20 years in the self-improvement field, I can tell you without a doubt, one of the most common feelings people deal with is feeling alone. Knowing that there is somebody else in the world who is facing the same challenge or has even made it through that challenge, can give their heart a little peace.

Please share your story. It may not seem like much to you and you may not understand how it will help anyone else, but it will. Whether you wish to start a blog like this one, write your own book or start a YouTube channel, please get your story out there. Someone is needing to hear just what you have to say. They may be in Armenia, Brazil or Zaire but they are out there. If you need any advice or suggestions on how to get started you can ask yours truly or make good use of Google which has many helpful tutorials.

YOU HAVE A BRUISE NOT A TATTOO

We all know someone who lives in their past failures. You know the people I am talking about. They had a relationship and it may have been extremely bad, but now that they are free you hear them say things such as, “all men/women are terrible!” Or “Love is a fairytale.”

They accomplish 2 things by doing this. First, they make themselves feel terrible in the moment by reliving that hurt they went through inside their head each time they think about it.

Second, by repeating phrases like that over and over with a great deal of emotion, they create more of that in their reality. If you were a normal, healthy person looking to have a loving, growth-oriented relationship would you be looking for someone who says things like we mentioned above? Of course you wouldn’t. In fact, you would probably run the other way. This would leave our friend looking around saying “see there are no good men/women around anymore!” Little do they know they are chasing them away with their bad attitude and their desire to live in the past.

Don’t turn your bruises into tattoos! Understand bruises can be painful and depending on the severity, may need some time to heal. Trust me on this. Anyone who knows me can speak for my experience in that field. Still, given time and some care all bruises heal. Yours will too unless you make them a tattoo.

A LESSON I HAVE LEARNED

There are a handful of lessons I have learned in my life that really stuck with me and defined who I am to this very day. One of them I was told was that “If you hate someone or something you just do not know enough about it. If you learn about it and still hate it, that does not mean it is bad, it means you still have more to learn.” This is something I keep with me to this very day.

If we are being honest, we would have to admit there are lots of messages telling us who we should dislike, who the bad guys are and why. From politics, sports and even religion have messages telling us that there are people who are less than us. When we read about some violent episode conducted by a group of people it can be easy to say “Look this group of people are evil.” If we were to apply that same guilt by association to every terrible act that has been done I fear we would all belong to some group of evil.

How can we ever not harbor some sort of negative emotions towards people who by their very acts cause the death of hundred, or even thousands of people? It is a very difficult question to answer. Quite often we must look back in history for answers as to why things happen today. Was there an event in history where this group of people were made to suffer under the group they attacked?

Even personal history can shed some light on why people can do acts most of us would find unspeakable. Did this person suffer years of physical and emotional abuse? Did their family constantly remind them of judgmental or even hateful beliefs that hand been handed down for generations? Were they raised in a neighborhood that also promoted these beliefs? Maybe while attending school for 8 hours a day surrounded by peers their age they learned to adopt their beliefs? They might have even did so just to fit in at first, but after years of trying to fit in those beliefs became part of their spirit.

This can be even worse when an entire society is fed information that is hateful. We can use both Nazi Germany during World War two, as well as early America as examples. In the 1930’s Germany began a campaign against the Jewish people. This was not only political, but in schools, the media and in the home. An entire generation grew up being taught a terrible doctrine of hate and evil. This resulted in the death of over 6 million men, women and children of Jewish decent. In the founding years of America the same thing happened. Americans were told the native people were uncivilized and less than they were. They were told they were violent and threatened their safety. It was also said that the Native Americans stood in the way of the prosperity and freedom of the white settlers. Again, this message was delivered in the media, the government, the home and even the church pulpit. This resulted in the death of over 100 million men, women and children. What is worse is that often entire nations and cultures were lost. Medicine and knowledge we could use today are gone forever.

Does this mean we should hate the German people who did not stand up to their government? Should we hate those who acted on the beliefs they were raised on? Should we still hate the American soldiers who killed pregnant Native American women because when they were being forced to walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma they were going to slow? Sure those acts, among many others in history are hard to understand and even harder to forgive for some people.

We must not only view the history, but be careful not to view it through our own eyes. It may be easy to say “If I was in Germany back then I would have told Hitler to go to hell !” We can say that as somebody who was raised free and without judgment. If we had been told, and often given ‘proof’ as to how bad this group of people were from the time we were born, we might act differently. While there is plenty of proof of people who have overcome very challenging situations to be loving non-violent people, it is impossible to know how we would act in the same situation. In fact, we will never know as we will never have their exact life and genetic makeup.

In a world that urges us to blame and condemn, there is very little accent on compassion and understanding. Those two elements are essential if we ever hope to change the world we live in for the better. Let me be perfectly clear on one very important point. Understanding someone’s violent action does not mean Condoning it. We can certainly condemn acts that harm others, and we should, but without following that with an equal effort to understand why they happened in the first place history would be doomed to repeat itself.

GIVE THEM A VOICE

Lately there has been a lot of attention to those who feel they have been suppressed or treated unfairly. With the #Metoo movement, protests of a political nature people are demanding equal treatment and pay for all. Personally, I am ok with this. It is my firm belief that regardless of what faith, political party, what the color of your skin is or whether you are a man or a woman you should be treated with equal dignity and respect.

I write this post not for any of the afore mentioned groups. This post is about those who cannot create a crafty hashtag slogan. They cannot come together to peacefully protest. They are not even allowed to vote and more often than not are too afraid to even speak up for themselves. Children. April is Child Abuse Prevention month. It is a cause I really wish to bring to light. Children are often not able to bring to light what is going on in their lives for fear of being punished for it. Sometimes the abuse comes from those very people who are supposed to be the ones protecting them.

The repercussions of child abuse can not only last, but continue to grow well into adulthood. I would implore you to take time to help protect a child so in the future we have less adults to heal. Child abuse can be hard to address and even harder to detect. I encourage us all to spend even a small amount of time this month educating ourselves on child abuse. There are plenty of resources available. Websites such as preventchildabuse.org and childhelp.org. There is also the national child abuse hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) On these sites there is plenty of information and additional resources.

There are also plenty of groups you could either donate to or become involved in. One of my favorites is Guardians of the Children(GOC) The mission of this group is to help educate on child abuse as well as assist the victims of child abuse and their families in crisis by providing strength and stability in a variety of different ways. I encourage you to consider joining or donating to their group. You can learn more about them and how you can help at their website http://www.guardiansofthechildren.com

This is only merely scratching the surface of what we can do. Look for local groups in your area to help, or even just Google ‘child abuse prevention’ to learn more. We may overlook a group that cannot post on social media or run to the news. It is for this very reason I encourage every one of us to help. By helping a child and giving them hope you will also be helping them become a successful and healed adult. Please do your part not only this month, but all year long.

SPEAK THROUGH THE 3 GATES

This is a great litmus test to put our words through. How many times a day do we let something escape our lips that we shouldn’t? Having these 3 questions in mind would help prevent that from happening. Remember you cannot unsay something.

How do we keep these questions front and center? Use this picture as your screensaver, pertain jot them down on an index card you carry with you. Then, put it into practice. Try doing this just for a conversation here and there. Eventually, it well become a way of not only speaking, but thinking as well.

So you don’t feel too down on yourself when you first try this, allow me to share my experience. I tried this at work and all I can say is “wow!” I never realized how many useless negative things I say there! Even someone who writes positivity for a living! Although a bit taken aback, I was excited. There is so much room for me to improve my conversation skills.

Try this yourself. I’m about to meet a friend for coffee and am going to try again. I think you will notice different people bring out different conversations. I would love to hear your experience as well!

THE ESSENTIAL CHANGE

My second book opens with the statement –

unless you change yourself, nothing will change; once you change yourself, everything else will change

This is a very important thought for several reasons. First, saying, or even thinking things like “I’ll be happy when…” hands over control of your life to other people and situations. Why would you let others decide whether or not you can enjoy your own life?

Another reason to realize you are the only person responsible for the quality of your own life are problems. When I hear people who consistently blame others for the situations they find themselves in, I know these people will never live a happy and successful life.

Let us be honest here, people can be jerks. They can say rude and hurtful things to us. They can put us in uncomfortable situations. What control do we have over that? A great deal. We can take a hard look in the mirror and see if there may be any truth to the things they are saying. If so, we can use it as constructive criticism.

What if there is no truth to what they say and it is just mean? Then we can raise our standards as to who we have in our lives. What if this person is our boss or some other person not so easy to dismiss? We can use that person for our own development. Practice our patience, controlling our anger, or having compassion for those who don’t deserve it. We can do all this while working to improve our situation.

Sometimes they are there to teach us a lesson. Such as no amount of money or job is worth our dignity. No amount off affection is worth any amount of abuse. These are all very difficult situations, but waiting and relying on the other person to change will most often result in no change.

Working on myself has lead me to my greatest improvements and my greatest joy. When I became a better man, my job became better, my relationships improved. I noticed when I treated others better and gave more to them, I received more in return.

To this day, I spend the most time and effort working on myself. Every improvement in myself touches and improves every area of my life.

DON’T BE COMFORTABLE!

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Why on earth would I not want someone to be comfortable? Trust me, I am all about comfort. When I get home it is in a warm bed with a nice electric blanket and a perfect pillow! I love sitting on the porch in the sun with a good book and some great coffee. So what on earth am I talking about here? I’ll explain in just a moment, but let me explain how this topic came to be. Last night while bartending on what turned out to be a rather busy night I had some great conversations. One in particular stood out. It was a conversation between myself and my friends Meghan and Bret. Meghan was mentioning to Bret and I how people can get comfortable with the wrong type of environment.

What did she mean by this? Let us consider people in an abusive relationship. They start to get used to the things that happen. How on earth can someone get used to being in such a relationship? It is like the story of a frog. If placed in a kettle of boiling water, the frog will quickly jump out. If, however, the frog is placed in a pot of warm water and the water is slowly brought to a boil the frog will get used to it until it is dead. That is often how we become used to things that are not good for us. If slowly people begin to treat us harshly and then that treatment increases to the state of abuse we may have become so used to it we do not see it for what it is.

Besides being obviously bad for our well-being, it does something that can be far more damaging. When one finally escapes the abusive relationship and finds the good fortune to be loved the way they should they often find it hard to accept. If you are told over and over that you are less than, or no good it may be very difficult to fully realize the beauty that is inside of you. Even when surrounded by people who are angry and emotionally abusive one may have a hard time feeling completely comfortable in a calm and healthy situation. This may sound crazy for those of us who have never went through it, but it really is not.

So what is the takeaway here? If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who used to be abused, understand they may need more time and you may need to exercise a little more patience. They may need more reassurance and it may be difficult for them to accept or believe genuine compliments. Do not get frustrated and realize you are actually working to not only love this person, but heal them as well. If you tend to be the type of person who is prone to anger and saying things you might not mean, remember these can have long-lasting effects. Sometimes taking years to heal and undo.

Lastly, if you are a person who has been in an abusive relationship. This is what you need to know. You are good enough. The actions, words and feelings you suffered through were not your fault, but the action of a person who had not matured enough as a human being. Understand that the people trying to make you feel good are doing so out of love and their care and concern for you. Accepting what they have to say will not only help heal yourself, but make their heart feel good as well.

Please like/share/comment on this post. There are sadly far too many people who need to see this message. People who fill all roles of this tragic situation. Feel free to leave and questions, comments or suggestions you have as well. Let us work together to heal the world.