STRIVE TO BE A SERVANT

Strive to be a servant? What kind of goal is that? It is a great goal actually. Recently, I was listening to a video by Inky Johnson. If you do not know who he is I urge you to look him up and give a listen. In this video he said two things that really struck me.

The first involved a game in which his dreams for a NFL future were dashed. Inky was projected to be a first round pick and had dreams of taking care of his family. With one tackle he lost the use of one arm and thus the ability to play professional football. While being carted off the field he asked the doctors to raise his arm for him. He said he wanted to reassure the supporters. What really struck me was why he chose that particular word. He said he did not like the word ‘fans’ because these people paid to see him play and they supported him. I began to think about all the people who purchased my book. Then I began to think about all of those who read, comment and share my blogs. Although not financial, this support means the world to me. Without an audience writing becomes nothing but a self-indulgent fantasy.

The second point he made was how he is referred to now. He mentioned some people refer to him as a ‘motivational speaker’. He referred to himself as a servant. He said if we are blessed with gifts that sharing them and using them to serve our fellow man is what it is all about. That brought to mind two quotes many of us know “With great power comes great responsibility” and a quote from Einstein. One of the smartest people who has ever lived was asked, “Why are we here?” His answer without a moment of thought was “We are here for the sake of others.” His efforts to better the universe and to solve what some thought were unsolvable problems were for the sake of others. To make the world a better place for everyone.

Think of what your gift is? How can you use it to serve your fellow humans, or animals for that matter? Using your gift to serve others is what life is all about.

LESSONS FROM THE CIVIL WAR WE HAVE FORGOTTEN

The American Civil War (never really did understand that term) was about far more than just slavery. It represented rural verses city life. It pitted national governing against local governing. In broad terms, the southern way of living against the northern way of living. Of all of these issues the basis was the same, different people with strong ideological beliefs on both sides.

It can still be argued as to whether rural or city planning is better and healthier. I am sure there are benefits to both national and local governing. What I felt was really a no-brainer was dismissing the human rights of someone based on either the color of their skin or their ethnic upbringing. In today’s world of division, this can, and often does, include political and religious differences as well. While it is certainly ok and quite natural to disagree with each other on these issues, what is not acceptable is to vilify or dehumanize others who are or believe different than we.

As I tend to surround myself with people who are as accepting and open-minded as myself, these issues are not always front and center in my mind. In my own way I think of things like prejudice and racism as not only arcane, but ludicrous. Would you really deny yourself a blood transfusion because Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who invented a way to process and preserve blood plasma was African-American? Would you do without such inventions as paper, printing and umbrellas because they come from Chinese inventors? Would you do without all of Albert Einstein’s contribution to science because you are anti-Semitic? The fountain pen, windmill and one of the most important inventions to my writing – coffee are all of a Muslim origin.

To do without any of these inventions because you believe this or that group of people are less than you would not only be foolish, it would be ignorant and stupid. Every culture has its heroes and its villains. To condemn an entire race or group of people based on the actions of one, or some of its people is not only irresponsible, but asinine. Do I hate all of my German friends because back in the 30’s and 40’s there was a neurotic freak named Hitler who killed millions of people? Of course not. Do I hold a grudge against all of my Christian friends because many of them lead to the death of over 100 million Native Americans? That would be senseless.

If we are to hate someone based solely on the racial/religious or political differences we have with them, then we should be prepared to do without all of the amazing contributions brought on by that group. As I look around my group of friends and notice the vast difference in color, culture and creed, I look forward to learning from and working with all of them to make our world a better place. As the Dalai Lama said, we are all brothers and sisters.

SLOW YOUR SPEED IN THE NEW YEAR

It is the end of the first week of 2019. As I write this I am sitting in a local Starbucks watching a young lady pace back and forth as she waits for her coffee. The line for the drive-thru was quite extensive. Everywhere people are in a hurry to get what they need and where they are going. I must confess to falling victim to this myself from time to time. The question is when do we stop? You need to get your coffee…on the way to work, let us say. Then you hurry to work to be on time, an issue I seem to have more often than I would like. When you arrive at work you are in a hurry to have the work day end and be on your way home. During the ride home you are in a hurry to just get home so you can relax. Once at home, then we relax right? We hurry to make dinner so we could catch our favorite program, hurry through our household chores so we can finally get to bed and get some well deserved rest. When, at last, we finally find ourselves between the sheets our minds are still racing with thoughts of all we have to do tomorrow. It seems we just drift off into blissful slumber when the alarm clock beckons us to do it all again.

I don’t know about you, but I feel tired just reading that paragraph. The ironic thing about this whole mess is that we do it to ourselves. Time, as Einstein reminded us, is just a stubborn illusion. A better way to explain that is a thought I read on the bottom of a sales ad. how long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on. Of course, in at least one of those situations you are still in a hurry. Back to our example of the typical work day. It would seem the adult mind always races to what is next. While it is good to have a goal in mind and be focused on where you are going, it can certainly lead to increased sense of stress and anxiety.

Another thing we do that can leave us chasing time is multitasking. While it may seem like trying to accomplish as many things at once would leave us with more time, the opposite is generally true. The list of tasks in life is always growing and the only thing doing multiple things at once does is diminish the quality of job that we do on each task. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and looking to ‘catch up’.

What is the solution for all of this? SLOW DOWN. The best way to slow down is to work on being present. Keeping our focus on what we are doing can help us appreciate all that is good about each moment. It will also help us feel less rushed. I know it may seem contrary to think that doing only one thing at a time will lead to more time, but it can. First of all, you do a better job by focusing on one thing at a time. This reduces the amount of time you have to redo things or correct mistakes. By focusing on one thing at a time you decrease the time each task takes. Not to mention it reduces the stress of overwhelm. Less stressed people are more productive people.

There are many ways in which we can learn the art of being present. There is one of my personal favorites, meditation. There are tons of free apps available. Some take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. There are also guided meditation videos on YouTube as well as available on CD. All you have to do is pop on a pair of headphones and relax away. You will emerge from that experience refreshed on more centered.

Another source of teaching on how to be present are children and animals. When we were young, we were much better at being able to appreciate the moment. A child could be lost in a moment of play for hours. As they grow older we teach them not to daydream and to focus on what needs to be done. Turning them into stressed out smaller versions of ourselves. Do yourself a favor and get lost in a moment of play yourself. Better yet, bring along a child to show you how it is done. Animals are the other half of this equation. Pet owners are generally less stressed than their pet-free counterparts.  In addition  to the love animals give us, they also remind, and sometimes force us to take moments to pause and totally live in the moment. I have watched a dog smell a tree for several minutes, every surface just to get the full story. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this as the neighbors may begin to refer to you as “That neighbor who smells trees” just taking a moment to fully appreciate what we are engaged in will reduce our stress and give us more time.

ONE CHANGE THAT COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING

It is always entertaining to discover the ways that some of the most life-changing knowledge comes to our attention. What is even more amusing is that often these moments stem from what can initially be defined as a negative experience. Another example of modern day alchemy. We all have the power to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Before I lose everyone completely, allow me to share with you the exact experience I had and the realization that came out of it.

The other afternoon I was riding my bike in the park. It was a rather hot day and I was taking my time enjoying nature in all its glory. Ahead of me was a young man around the age of 6 I would guess. As we rounded the curve in the trail there were a few birds sitting on the grass. As the young man approached them he yelled “Get out of here stupid birds! You are ugly! Goodbye stupid ugly birds!” It appeared the young man had really no malice in his words or towards the birds, but hearing that made my heart sink. My first reaction was to feel bad for the birds. I know this may sound silly as birds to not speak the same language as humans, but sending out that negative energy towards another living thing cannot be constructive. A little while later down the path, when asked his opinion of a certain tree, the child replied using the same descriptions of ‘stupid’ and ‘ugly’. Again, it is my opinion this was more a product of environment and not any malice as the young man seemed rather happy at the time.

As I found my own spirit a little brought down by the young man’s words it got me thinking. In the past I would have felt a little foolish, or even weak for allowing another person’s words and actions affect me. Now I realize it is just part of my gift as an empath and spiritual person. The event stuck in the back of my mind as I went about my day.

3 a.m. found me awake and reading on the couch when the experience popped back into the front of my mind. I began thinking how someone should tell the young man about the law of energy. It may sound silly to do so to someone at such a young age, but if we wait often habits and language patterns can become set and harder to change. What is the big deal about what words we use? Imagine several random people coming up to you and informing you that you are ugly or stupid. Can you imagine how you would feel after that? Even if you give their opinion much weight, it still would not be a good feeling. Now, imagine several random people coming up with wonder in their eyes and informing you how beautiful or inspiring you are. Can you think about how that would feel?

Words do not only affect others. When we, like the young man in the story, go around calling everything stupid or ugly. When we look for things to criticize about people, places and things. Our world becomes filled with things that we see as ugly, stupid or some other negative description. Can you imagine how it would feel to be surrounded by ugliness and stupidity every day, all day? By speaking in such a manner and seeking out the faults in everything we chose to do that to ourselves.

With my feelings working their way downward as I was thinking about all of the people who do this to themselves as well as how often I still find myself doing the same thing, a great realization came to me. If we can make our lives a living hell by the words we chose to use, could we use that same power to transform our lives to one of beauty and joy? Of course we can. There is always two sides to every story.

Immediately my mind began to work on how this could be put into use. The answer was simple. To create joy and positivity all we have to do is the opposite of what brought us the pain and negativity. In this case, what if that young man was taught to find the beauty and magnificence in everything he saw? What if we all learned how to see everything as a miracle. It was Albert Einstein who said, “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as thought everything is a miracle.” If one of the smartest minds on the planet lived by this concept, I felt it might be wise for me to as well.

Today I am going to begin to look at the beauty in everything I see. In addition, I am going to use words like ‘wonderful’ and ‘beautiful’. If we find the beauty in everything we see, no matter how hard it may be, our lives will be filled with a great amount of beauty and joy. Can you imagine how different it would feel if we were surrounded daily by everything we thought was beautiful? Our lives, in turn, would become beautiful.

One great key to finding the beauty in even the toughest situations was supplied to me by a quote from Mr. Rogers. This quote was sent to me by a neighbor who knew I was a fan of the children’s television show host. The quote was “Frankly there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” Perhaps if the young man in our story know that birds he was calling stupid could navigate 2000 miles without the use of a map he may not think they were so stupid after all. The greatest irony of all. After all the knowledge that came out of the afternoon in the park, the young  man’s words became a thing of beauty for all they taught me and all I could share with you.

MORE TIME DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Ah… the holiday season. Filled with great joy, family and feelings of love and gratitude. Sometimes, however, it is also filled with stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and stress. It seems we need another hour or a couple of hours in our days to get everything done. There is shopping, finding the perfect gift for people we discover we do not know as well as we thought we did. Often there is either travel, or preparing for the arrival of people who are traveling to see us. We have to shop and prepare meals considering everyone’s likes, food allergies and culture restrictions. Not only do we have all of these things to consider, but we also have our regular obligations of work, housecleaning and parenting as well.

Sadly, there is no way to extend the daily deadline beyond 24 hours. How then, can we gain more time during the holidays? The man above you might recognize, his name is Albert Einstein. world-famous physicist. He developed the theory of relativity. I found this hard to grasp when it came to time. How can time be relative? Is not an hour always 60 minutes?

I found the answer, and a great explanation on the theory of relativity in a most unlikely place. There is a home-improvement store here called Menards. On the bottom of all of their sales ads they have motivational sayings in real fine print. One fine day while pondering why I even live in a place where I would need a snow blower, I found the answer I was looking for. On the bottom of the page read “How long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on.” While I would love to claim credit for that great bit of wisdom I cannot.

How does this translate to the relativity of time, and more importantly, how can it help us gain more time during the holidays? Think of that situation if you will. Yes, it is odd that a self-improvement website will ask you to think of spending time in the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that is when some of my greatest ideas come to me. Have you ever had to use the bathroom when somebody else is doing the same? Every second can seem like an eternity. If you are the person on the inside the time would certainly seem different, yet they are exactly the same amount of time.

That is the most poignant example I have seem, but doesn’t the same thing happen to us during the holidays? It seems when we have one more place to stop and it closes in a half an hour that is when we get into the line with the sweet little old lady paying for her cartload of groceries with change…of which she has to count out by hand. Wait, did she just loose count and have to begin again? How long have I been in this line? How about preparing meals. I have experienced this first hand. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean I actually prepared the meal. Watching Margie work so hard during the holidays to make sure everything is done at the same time, and that time being close to when our guests arrive is crazy. Especially when you have to consider everything cooks at a different rate.

You may be thinking this is great Neil, and I have spent part of my holiday time reading this article and other than a entertaining bathroom analogy, you haven’t told me a single thing I can do to help my holiday craziness. Fair enough. Let us explore a few simple things we can do that will not only help us make better use of our time, but take the stress out of the time that we do spend, allowing us to enjoy more of what this time of year is all about.

The most important thing that can change our holiday is focus. When we are stuck in the slowest line in the store, focusing on that can only raise our stress level and blood pressure. What if we chose that time to try and focus on what we have to be thankful for. During the holidays that is something we all can count on and is a great gift to give ourselves. Even just a distraction whether it be reading those informative magazines telling us what the royal family is doing, or where Elvis, who is really alive, is spending his Christmas. Try to find the most interesting or amusing headline. Think of a nice thing you can say to the cashier, who truly is under a great deal of stress themselves.

Another great thing we can do is think about the outcome we are striving for. Is the goal to provide a tasty and enjoyable meal our family can gather around and share the holiday? Then does it matter if the steamed vegetables end up being part of dessert or the gravy is not as smooth as we would like? Sure, it would be great if the meal was perfect, but that is not what the holidays are all about, and nobody will expect that. What if something goes terribly wrong? One year my aunt was supposed to watch a pot of soup that was baking as the rest of us went to pick up some other relatives. She…well…I am not sure what she did other than it wasn’t watch the soup. It burned and had to be thrown away. The entire pot tasted terrible, but there was other food and it is still a story we laugh about today.

That brings us to our last point, find ways to laugh. Nothing is that serious and it is often things that go wrong that make the funniest and most entertaining holiday memories. Find a way to laugh, it will make a great holiday gift to everyone you share the holiday with. In that vein of thinking, try finding ways to genuinely compliment as many people as you can. Know and understand each of us face unique holiday stress and all of us would appreciate some kind words.

Please feel free to share your holiday stress relieving ideas in the comments below. Working together we can make the holidays better for everyone.

A FISH, A RACING PIG AND ALBERT EINSTEIN

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid” – Albert Einstein

This quote from Albert Einstein is one of my favorites. It demonstrates a very important fact that we all could benefit from remembering. We must remember that every person we meet is amazing a special in their own way. Every job is very important. I believe in was Mother Teresa who urged us to do small things with great love.

This point was brought to my attention as I indulged in 2 of my favorite past times. Watching a pig race while attending the Wisconsin State Fair. Pigs are some of my favorite animals. They almost always seem to be enjoying life to the fullest, are the consummate underdog, and are very intelligent. When you are at the fair you can see pigs in many different fashions. Some are in barns on display. These are usually checked out by animal lovers and looked at with distain by city folks sensitive to certain smells. They can be found smiling on many signs and shirts advertising a million different foods and products. A smiling pig is a hard thing for many people to resist. Speaking of food, you can also find pigs in some fashion on a breakfast sandwich, on a burger, or even on a stick.

These definitions are where most people classify pigs. A humble, yet adorable animal. If you put a racing sash on them such as the one above and have them race each other for Oreo cookies something else entirely different happens. Thousands of people pack bleachers to standing room only during the 11 day run of the fair. During their 5 performances a day one can hardly find a seat if you do not get there early. They yell, jump and cheer for their favorite pig to make it around the track first.

What happened? This is the same pig many of those very people would not even go into a barn to see because of the smell. In a different role, however, they became something to cheer for. Something to sit in the hot sun just to watch. People can even buy souvenirs after the race.

In life we all can be like the pigs. Sometimes it can seem the world is against us. It may seem like there is nobody in our corner cheering for us. If it is because we live in a place that resembles a barn and we have an unpleasant odor, the solution is fairly obvious. Most of us, however, are just living the wrong role. Investigate your strengths. think of what you do well. Know what gift you bring to the world and live that. Before long, you too may very well have people lining up to cheer for you.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE KIND AND NOT AN ASS

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This post was inspired while having lunch with my lady, my friend Gail and her son. Gail was mentioning how people routinely come up to her and mention certain things she has done that have really touched them. If you were to ever meet Gail you would find this easy to believe as she has a very good energy and spirit about her. The funny thing is the same thing happens to my lovely Margie and myself quite often. Just last night a gentleman thanked Margie for making him get out and be social. People often remember me as the “Friendly guy from the post office”. Sometimes things end up a little more intense. Considering the kind of work I am involved in there are occasions when tools I have passed on, or just different ways to look at the world have inspired people and helped them take the actions necessary to turn their lives around.

It always reminds me of the importance of being kind. You never know when what you say, be it a kind word or an inspiring idea that can have a great impact on their lives. You never know if someone may be going through a challenge we know nothing about. What you say may inspire them to follow their dreams and become a blessing to so many others. Imagine what the world would be like if Einstein never pursued his passion? Being Jewish in the World War two era he could have easily just become bitter and walked away. You have heard me mention Walt Disney who was rejected by over 300 bankers before being approved for a loan for Disneyland. In addition to strong personal power I believe these people must have had a person or two who inspired them along the way. Einstein himself said that he used to say “thank you” over 100 times a day.

So what about the second half of the title of this post? The reason why you should watch what you say especially in times of great emotional upset is this, you never know who is listening. You could shatter someone’s dream and they may give up and never go on to bring their gifts to the world. We may lost the next Walt Disney, or the next great doctor, scientist or author. Your seemingly foolish comment may give someone a complex for the rest of their lives, or worse push them over the edge in a battle they have been fighting.

So the point is this, use kind words and encouragement often, and do your best to swallow your criticism and angry words. If you wish to encourage more people feel free to like/share and comment on this post. Together we can turn the world into a better place for all.

THE INSPIRATION OF POOH

Proof that inspiration can strike anywhere, let me share some advice from a very sage philosopher, Winne the Pooh. Yes, the childhood character created by A. A. Milne. What can we learn about living an amazing life from a stuffed bear? Plenty. These words actually come from the book The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. It explores the different religious beliefs in the context of the characters of Pooh and his friends. Sounds crazy I know, but check it out, a great read.

Ok, the part we are dealing with today is called the cottleston pie principle. It is based on a silly sound that Pooh sings as he walks through the Hundred acre wood where he lives. Again, the words seem simple, but the wisdom is hidden in there. We are going to look at one verse at a time. Here is the first.

cottleston, cottleston, cottleston pie,

a fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.

ask me a riddle and I reply:

“Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston pie’

What exactly does all of that mean? Seems rather straight forward, but you would be amazed how many people do not understand. So many people are busy trying to be something they are not, or worse yet expecting everyone else to be something they are not. How much simpler would life be if we all realized our strengths and weaknesses and accepted others as well. Perhaps you have a coworker who is, shall we say…’sunshine challenged’ instead of viewing them as a burden, we can view them as a reminder to remain positive. You would no more use scotch tape to fix your car, than you would use a welding torch to put a torn piece of paper together. Everything has its use and purpose. When something seems ‘bad’ or ‘useless’ consider changing your view of it, or what you may use it for.

Still having trouble accepting advice from a talking bear? How about advice from a world-famous physicist? These words come straight from Albert Einstein and happen to be one of my favorite quotes of his. They also echo the words of the world-famous bear above.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”

So whether you repeat this quote to yourself or sing the verse above, it is important to remember everything, and everyone has a purpose and something they are good at. Do not be to hard on yourself or others. Maybe you just  haven’t found what you are here for yet. As Einstein said, Maybe you just haven’t found your genius yet.

FOLLOW THROUGH

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Take a look at the people featured here. Do you know what they all have in common? The all excelled in a field that they were specifically told they were a failure in. Not ok, not average, but terrible. Can you imagine television without Oprah Winfrey? How about the music history without The Beatles? Einstein not only became a great scientist, but changed the entire way we view the world. Walt Disney not only did have an imagination, but filled the imaginations of countless children when he was alive and his companies continue to do so to this day. You may be saying “Neil that is all well and good for these people, but what does that have to do with my life?” The simple answer is everything! How many times have you been told you were no good at something? How many times have you tried something a couple of times or maybe even once and failed miserably at it? I know I have countless times. What do you do? Do you stick with it? Perhaps you just say to yourself “Well that was nice, but I guess it’s just not for me” or do you believe the words of the so-called “experts” when they tell you that you will not succeed? Sometimes these sources can be well-meaning friends and family members speaking out of their own fears. I have a hard time imagining myself pursuing a career in professional sports if I was cut from high school team like Michael Jordan was, but he did and went on to become one of the greatest of all times. How many dreams have we given up on because we have been told that our dreams are too unrealistic? Or that we lack the certain talent needed to achieve success in that field? How many times have we tried something and failed at it only to move on to something else. Take another look at the list above and imagine how the world would be different if these people had given up on their dreams? That is of course unless you are like poor Mr. Disney and completely lack any imagination.

CARRY IT WITH YOU

What if you could learn the secret tool that Einstein used to develop a good portion of his theories?  What if it was the same tool that helped a famous engineer design many of the products he patented? What if I told you this same secret was used by successful authors, business people, and other successful people of all areas? Would you want to know it? What if I told you this secret would cost you less than a $1? Well here is the great secret.  It will help you access the mountain of untapped knowledge trapped in your subconscious mind.  It is…a pen and a pocket-size notebook.  Now before you find yourself feeling disappointed. Let me explain.  Have you ever caught yourself having a flash of brilliance where you come up with a solution you have been working on for months?  I’ll let you in on a little secret, it didn’t just happen at that moment. Your subconscious had been working in the background on it for days, weeks, months or who knows how long.  Same goes for flashes of inspiration.  How many times has this happened to you?  How many times have you struggled to remember what it was ten minutes later? something to the effect of “I had the perfect gift for my aunt, but now I can’t remember what it was” Now not all your ideas will seem so great later on, but the majority just might.  Not only will it relieve some frustration and help you be more productive, it also helps train your subconscious how to communicate with your conscious thus bringing about more knowledge for you to work with.  So before you dismiss this as old-fashioned, or not useful just remember we wouldn’t have E=mc2 without it.  If you still worry about looking funny with a pen and paper with you, they also make great new apps for tablets and smart phones that are just like notebooks. You will be amazed and excited at all the great ideas you capture!