ARE YOU AN UMBRELLA?

I love this picture. Two innocent children sharing an umbrella in a storm. As an adult we have an opportunity to share an umbrella every day. To take that thought further, we have a chance to be an umbrella. At this point you may be wondering if I know exactly what an umbrella is for or if I even know what an umbrella is. Why would anyone share an umbrella if it wasn’t raining? Even more absurd, how can a human being turn into an umbrella? Fair questions if I were the one reading this post and not the one writing it.

In its simplest terms an umbrella is an instrument for protecting us in a storm. It is the definition not of umbrella that should concern us here, but that of storm. In life there are many storms. Yes, there are thunderstorms when the winds are blowing fierce and the rain can seem unrelenting. It can be scary to be out in it. We may not want to risk driving if we don’t have to. We may want to stay inside our homes where we are safe.

What we may forget is there are many storms we face every day. There are health storms where the thunder of pain is louder than anyone can imagine. There are financial storms where the debt continues to rain down on us no matter how hard we work. There are the painful emotional storms when the winds of struggle and strife blow us off our path. There are many storms my friends. Storms of addiction, storms of loneliness, storms of depression. They say in life you are either on your way into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of a storm. As Eric Thomas said, “Storms are a part of life, but storms are not life.” All of us face storms each and every day.

As you can imagine, the umbrella for all of these storms can be a little different. It can be an umbrella of compassion for someone who has just been hurt or defeated. It can be the umbrella of encouragement for someone who has lost their way. It can be the umbrella of motivation and inspiration for those lost in a storm of negativity and pessimism. There are some umbrellas like love, friendship and listening that seem to work in every storm.

Just like you can walk with a smile on your face through the most intense storm, so can others. Daily, there are those of us who wake up and put a smile on our faces even when we are in the middle of a storm. Just because someone is smiling does not mean the rain is still not falling. Offer everyone you know an umbrella. When given the chance, be the umbrella they do not have. We are all going through storms and we can all use an umbrella.

WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

This blog post created itself last night. After Margie and I had finished our Wednesday night show and found ourselves driving with our friend Kelly. We began sharing defining moments from our childhood that defined who we are today. It caused me to reflect on a few moments that I would like to share with you. More so, it made me think of something far more important that we will get to right after this moment of reflection.

For those of you who may have been reading my writings of late, I have shared the story of my senior year English teacher. On the final day before graduation, she pulled me aside and said in an almost pleading tone, “I pray to God you will never have a career involving writing.” Given the evidence up to that point I would have been inclined to agree with her, but here we are.

Another fun story involved a teacher I had for business. She was a kindly lady. She kind of reminded me of someone’s grandmother from a Norman Rockwell painting. My relationship with this wonderful woman was great. We laughed, smiled and shared many good conversations. I would have said I was the perfect student with one glaring exception. In this class it just so happened I was surrounded by friends of mine. It also happened these were friends that like conversation as much as I did. Daily we shared conversations about life, love and our pursuit of happiness. When the time came out for giving everyone a grade I still recall what this teacher wrote. Written next to my grade was the comment, “Neil will do a lot better in life when he understands you can’t make a living discussing life and its challenges with people.” Once again, here we are. Discussing life and how to positively approach and overcome its challenges. Granted you might be reading this in Greenland, South Africa or Fiji while I am here in West Allis, Wisconsin, but virtually we are engaged in this conversation.

Let me share a more comical example from my youth. Second grade I do believe. I had a good friend who had just moved away and I found myself in trouble for something. That part seems to remain vague. As punishment I was to stand with my back against the wall and watch the other kids enjoying recess and playing on the playground. Sounds a little cruel in hindsight but I guess it served as a lesson – almost. As I was standing there I thought of a joke. One of the kids walked by and I told him my joke. He thought it was so funny he went to bring other kids to hear it. Before recess was over I found myself doing what could be described as a forced stand up comedy routine.

I saved this example for last because it was by far the darkest example. I was part of a group called ‘peer helpers’ in high school. The program was designed to help students who were facing addiction, abuse or any other emotional trauma. To me it sounded like a great idea on the surface. It became apparent very quickly that I disagreed with the approach of the program. It seemed to approach the issues from that of the adults who formed the group and not of the youths facing the challenges. I soon politely left the group. All would have been ok with one exception. I really did have the desire to help and still talked to many of the kids I had met in the program. I tried methods I believed might reach them. This was especially true because most of them had stopped asking for help from the Peer Helpers program.

Again, this would have all been good, but my locker happened to be right across the hallway from the lady who was in charge of the program. Once she noticed that quite a few of the students who left her group were coming up to my locker and asking questions she stormed over. She issued what can only be viewed as a veiled threat. She yelled how dare I think I could help kids better than she could and I better stop what I was doing “or else.” I really wasn’t trying to do anything but help people the best way I thought I could. I continued to do so with a little more discretion. Two days before I was set to graduate I was summoned to the principle’s office. When I arrived the teacher was there along with several police officers. This teacher, this adult, this individual who is supposed to be an example told all of them I had threatened to physically harm her. Not only was that a total lie, but I had no malice towards this woman, merely a difference in philosophy. Luckily, with the support and sworn statements of my character from other instructors I had and her changing her story several times the matter was all but dropped.

What is the point of all of these stories? The point is that anyone of these stories could have had a very negative impact on my life. What made the difference is that I chose what they meant to me. My high school English teacher could have prevented me from ever starting this site which has close to 1000 posts. What she told me could have dissuaded me from ever writing my book A Happy Life for Busy People. My business teacher tried to convince me there was no future in listening to the challenges people face in life and trying to help create solutions, but that is the basis of all I do.

Through my punishment that day in second grade I learned the power of humor to reach people. I also learned that sometimes when the world seems to be taken away from you, the best solution is to make the world come to you. It is a theme that kind of plays throughout the videos on my YouTube channel. It also showed me new and wonderful ways to make friends. The lesson that if you can introduce your material to enough people it can really change your situation didn’t escape me either.

The final dark situation could have steered me in many different directions. I could have decided not to trust authority. Certainly learning that ego can override professionalism and make people act in ways they shouldn’t. I could have decided that it meant if I try to do things on my own in a way I feel will help the most people it will lead to trouble and could land me in jail. Of course it also showed me the value of displaying and acting with the best character and highest standards.

What is your story? What events have transformed your life? Have you let them decide what you can or can’t do? Are they putting limits on your life or are you using them to motivate you? The story of our lives should not be told through the mouths or actions of others. Realize you are not a victim of your past but a victor over it. You have made it to today despite what you have been told and what has happened to you. Do not let your past or those in it steal your power for a strong future. Find the empowerment in every challenge you have faced, or may now be facing.

A NEW EXPERIENCE

I wanted to share with all of you a new experience I had at ‘Float Life’ this past Monday. As part of my birthday present Margie took me to experience a float. What is a float? The above tub you see is a floatation tub. It is exactly what the name implies, a tub in which you just float for an extended period of time. (I did it for 60 minutes) Why float? What benefits do you actually achieve? What was my experience like? I will answer all of those questions for any of you who are pondering floating yourself or who are just curious.

Why float and what benefits do you achieve by floating? I am going to paraphrase 2010 research statistics from Floatworks. Floatation eases stress and allows you to experience a greater sense of relaxation. For some the effects last days after the actual float. Floatation has been proven to reduce elevated levels of stress hormones as well as decrease blood pressure. They list several conditions this may help or relieve including, but not limited to

  • Meditation
  • sports and exercise recovery
  • insomnia
  • enhanced creativity
  • jet lag
  • PTSD, addiction, arthritis and fibromyalgia

This is all made possible by the 900 pounds of Epsom salt in each tub. The benefits of Epsom salt are plenty. It provides the body a dose of magnesium a mineral studies show most people are severely lacking. This helps soften the skin and hair, cleanse and detoxify the body as well as help stiff muscles and achy joints. I encourage everyone to research more into the benefits floatation provides.

What was my experience in the floatation device? After arriving and being given a brief introduction into what the process is and how to make the most of it, both Margie and I were left in our respective rooms to begin the float process. You begin by rinsing off in the shower they have inside the room. It took a while for the water to get warm, but it was refreshing. After the shower you are to put in some ear plugs so that your ears will not turn into a salt cavern over the next few days. The ear plugs were not what I was used to. It was a texture much like that of chewing gum. You rolled them into a ball and pushed them into your ears. This was surprisingly affective

There I stood naked sans two new ear plugs. Carefully getting into the tub the first thing I noticed was the temperature of the water. It is kept at skin temperature which is approximately 94 degrees Fahrenheit. This is done to increase the feeling of sensory deprivation. I thought it would feel warmer, but was decidedly comfortable.

During our introduction we were explained the many options available to customize your float. The first being a floatation ring that can act as a sort of make shift pillow. This is done for people who may have a hard time adjusting to the idea their head floats on top of the water. You can end up with a sore neck by trying to tuck your head to your chest to keep you head up. I declined use of this and found my head needed no further support than the water itself.

The second option was the light. As you saw in the first photo, which was of Margie’s tub, they had a light that could be various colors. Hers was pink. In my photo you can see my tended to be a mild blue. This seemed fitting as she was a woman and I am a man. You had the option of leaving the light on while you floated or turning it off. Wanting to experience the ‘full monty’ if you will, I decided to turn the light off. This eliminated the sense of sight and the distractions it may have caused.

The next option you had was the relaxing music that played inside the tub while you were floating. I began with the music on full volume. It was soft and seemed the perfect accompaniment. After relaxing for some time I decided to turn the music off and focus on my breathing as I teach so many. This worked really well with one exception. You could hear the sounds of people walking around outside and some other clunking type noise. I turned the music back on to a soft volume which seemed to drown out most of the noise.

They say you feel ‘weightless’ in these tubs. At fist when I got in that is how it felt. In addition whenever I felt myself bump into the side of the tub and pushed myself away I felt weightless as well. Basically, whenever I was in motion I felt as if I was floating. When my body was standing still the feeling was quite different. It was as if I was in some sort of suspended animation. My body was supported but there was no pressure from gravity. My body felt heavy, but relaxed.

When the female computer voice told me my time was over and the light came on my next challenge arose. Using muscles that I have been relaxing for the past hour in a tub that is impossible to sink in made it slightly difficult to sit up and open the lid. When I did I was careful climbing out as I was naked and didn’t want to end up with any injury that could land me in the emergency room.

Once out, we were instructed to shower off to remove most of the salt from our bodies. The shower included two liquids. One I assumed was some sort of body wash and the other a shampoo/conditioner combo. We were not told which was which and being that I had just taken a shower before I came I decided to just rinse off.

Two days later as I write this I can still feel my legs are relaxed and I am feeling good. There was some great tea in the waiting room that I was able to enjoy as I waited for Margie to complete her floating experience. There was also a great book chronicling the story of a man who went from a completely stressed out executive in the music business to owning his own float tub company. I would have liked to explore this story before I floated, but enjoyed it in reflection on my own experience as well.

Looking back I would like to approach my next float with more of an agenda. Perhaps have a certain meditation in my to do as I float. It would be neat if having the option of listening to a guided meditation as you float. I will also be sure to ask what is what when it comes to the options in the shower. I will definitely return to try this experience at Float life in Whitefish Bay. I recommend floating to anyone. The benefits far outweigh the risks and everyone can use a little rest in the middle of our busy lives. Look how happy I was when it was all over.

WHY SHARING IS CARINGĀ 

I recall the phrase ‘sharing is caring’ from a children’s program I used to watch when i was young. It is a very good motto that still holds true. 

The problem with many adults is that we feel we have nothing to share. Often I hear people say “I would love to help more but i don’t have the time/money/resources”. There is one thing each and every one of us has that can make a huge difference – our story -.

As an author I am often asked for advice and told by people “I have always wanted to write a book”. My advice? Just do it! Again, it is at this point most people assume they have nothing to offer. Let me assure you that no matter what your story is, it will help more people than you know. 

Here are a few examples.  I have a friend is a Jewish woman who won her battle with weight loss and has a passion for health and fitness and took care of her sick mother. 

There is my friend Kelly, who is a widow and belongs to a community of people who have been through the same. She is always quick to share a smile and encouraging word with everyone she meets. How many people do you think these two people could help by sharing their story?

Now you may thinking to yourself “I don’t have such a compelling story”. That’s where i have to disagree. Maybe you have done everything wrong in life. Maybe you find yourself a slave to some addiction. Your story could serve as a warning and save the lives of countless others. 

Once a woman told me “All i have been is a mom for the last 10 years”. I was kind of taken aback. Being a good parent required lots of knowledge and learning along the way. 

Sometimes just sharing our story with people who are going through the same thing provides a feeling of comfort. I know when i am going through something challenging it feels so much better to know someone else has been through it or is going through it. 

So please, wherever you are share your story. Even if it doesn’t come out in book form (although publishing an ebook today is easier than ever). You never know who you will inspire, comfort or help heal. Everyone of us is important and everyone of us has a story that needs to be shared

THE COMMON THREAD PART TWO…

Yesterday we looked at the things negative people have in common. I did that for a couple of reasons. One to show that positive or negative is not a result of bad genes, or luck or destiny. What those are is excuses. Whether your life has more joy or sorrow is a matter of decisions. it is a matter of small choices we make daily. If you are not satisfied with the amount of joy that appears in your life it is time to stop looking at outside circumstances to blame and start looking at the decisions you make. So what decisions should you make? That is a great question.

Here is the first big decision you must make. It encompasses several areas we will look at in greater detail in just a moment. That decision is what to focus on. If you are deciding on trying to add more joy to your life you have already made a positive decision on what to focus on, what brings joy into your life. This sounds like a no brainer until you are asked by some innocent bystander or an inquisitive blog writer at the post office. How long would it take you to rattle off 5 things that bring bliss into your life? If you can right off the top of your head you are in better shape than most. now let us take a look at those five things. Do any of them contain things you wish were not in your life-like our example of our negative lady yesterday? If you said “it would make me happy if I didn’t have to go to work” or “drive through rush hour traffic” you are missing the point here. you are focusing on what your life is lacking. Everybody’s life is lacking in some areas and abundant in others. The trick is here that positive people focus on what they have. My friend George, the insurance man I have mentioned in here before was one of the first ‘happy people’ I asked for his secret to maintaining joy. Without a second of contemplation he answered “I count my blessings I suppose” in other words George focuses on what he has in his life. I am sure George would rather be retired and drink coffee while talking town history with the locals, but he does not focus on that. he focuses on the fact that he has a job where he does get to meet people and help a good deal of them. Now I imagine in the insurance business as with any business dealing with the public there are a few challenging customers, but I have never heard him focus on that either. Just mention that he enjoys meeting so many wonderful people.

Another secret positive people use, and one I use frequently myself is to focus on the goal you are striving for verses everything that stands in its way. If for example your goal is to get to and maintain a healthy weight, do not focus on what you way now, or how many times you must work out, the food you must give up. These are all thoughts that will discourage you and bring unhappiness and failure. Instead think about all the pluses you will have. More energy, more vitality. You will be able to wear different outfits, do more things. It is like the issue of quitting smoking. How many people tell you they are going to “Quit smoking” they are already focused on what they have to give up just by the mere title of it. Plus, quitting is generally not used in good terms. Few people say “I am working to become smoke free” that is focusing on what you have to gain. A more pleasant smell, more stamina, more energy, longer and healthier life.

I believe it was Earl nightingale who gave us this definition of success “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal” what this means is as soon as you decide on a worthwhile goal and begin to pursue it you are a success. Even if you haven’t achieved it yet, even if there are bumps along the way and you may take a step back or stumble. if you keep pushing towards that goal you, my friend are a success.

So there are the two most common traits of happy people. They have a feeling of gratitude while focusing on all the good they have in their lives. As well as focusing on the goal they are striving for and all the good that will come with it instead of where they are now and all the obstacles they will have to go through. So I hope you have developed a plan for this weekend. Begin to appreciate all the good in your life that you have to enjoy and stop focusing on what your life lacks. Have a little money? it’s better than none! Pick a ‘worthy ideal’ to strive for, imagine all the benefits achieving it will bring you. Stoking your ‘why’ enough to get you excited. Ask the people in your life what makes them happy. Take away what you can and develop some of your own secrets. Have an excellent weekend my friends!