BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I’LL BE DEAD

Yes, you read that right. As I am typing these words, it is a little over 12 hours until my heart will cease to beat. You see, I am to undergo open-heart surgery. I have an aneurysm on the aorta in my heart and it needs to be repaired. Kind of a replace that pipe with this one sort of thing. In order to do that, they will need to cut open my rib cage, stop my heart and do a little slicing and dicing. I will be hooked up to machines to keep things moving I am told. However, for a brief period of time, everything will be shut down. That’s right folks, the store will be temporarily closed.

It is my sincerest desire that they will be able to jump start me and get the whole machinery up and running again. Making me a sort of modern day Lazarus, if you will. There are things about this whole procedure that make me a tad unsettled, but even more that have me intrigued. In the brief moments my life will have expired, will I see anything? A light? A guy with horns and a pitchfork? Maybe Buddha will come and give me some sage advice? Maybe Bob Marley will come and jam for me? That would actually be kind of cool. Does this mean I technically have 2 birthdays now? The one I came into this world on, July 29th and now the one I came back on, January 11th? I never was a big fan of winter, so perhaps having a birthday might give me a little something to look forward to.

Being that this may be the last collection of wisdom I am able to share with all of you, I wanted to distill what I think would be important. Ironically, the first thing that popped in my mind was a line I always heard a game show host use – “Be kind to yourself and each other.” In my mind, that is what it all boils down to. When we learn to love ourselves, we can afford more compassion and understanding for others. I think it is very important to make this a lifetime project and to start that project today. Whether you are 8 or 80, we all can learn about how to love ourselves and be kind to one another. In the very unlikely chance that I do not make it through this, I am determined to haunt those I care about. Not in the usual way. No, I would be the ghost that would whisper “You can do it!” when someone is feeling down on themselves. The little mysterious voice that lets everyone know that someone believes in them.

As I wrote those words, it occurred to me that we can, and should be, that voice while we are alive as well. The simple words, “I believe in you.” can make almost anyone’s heart soar. Much like the lessons we learned on appreciating each other last week, letting someone know you believe in them can change their world and all it will cost you is a breath and a second of your time.

When you are faced with a situation such as having heart surgery, it certainly causes you a moment of reflection. I looked back on my life and there was a lot of things that I shook my head at. I am sure we all have those. “Why did I say that?” “Why did I treat that person so harshly?” we all know those thoughts. What I did notice that gave me a great deal of peace, is that I worked on getting better every day. Sure, I might have done a lot wrong up to this point. I might continue to do some wrong in the future. What is true is that every day I tried to correct the mistakes I had made that day and to become a better version of myself. Not only did this benefit the world and those around me, but in a moment where you are quite honestly looking in the eyes of death, that is something that gives your soul some peace. With that thought in mind, I implore all of you to work on getting a little bit better every day. The world will thank you. Those around you will thank you. Most importantly, your soul will thank you.

As far as what will happen when they cut me open. What will I see? What has this whole journey been like? I am currently writing a book about the entire thing and it should be available in April of 2022 if everything goes according to plan. In regards to improving yourself and becoming the best version of you, that can be found in my 2 books, A Happy Life for Busy People and Living the Dream. Both of which you can find on the link below this post. I hope to see you all on the other side. Remember I believe in you and to love yourself and each other!

CLICK HERE TO GAIN ACCESS TO MY BOOKS

HOW IT HAPPENS

Obviously not me as I am a man

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.

This is what a phone used to look like

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.

CLICK HERE FOR A POSITIVE BOB MARLEY VIDEO

I USED TO BE TOO COOL FOR THIS

I recall some of my first exposure to the principles of self-improvement. They seemed hokey and new age at best, far out and ridiculous at worst. I was a singer in a band, I was a bartender. I had no desire to take my inner child on a play date. When I heard someone talk about meditation or keeping a journal I thought they would be someone sitting alone in a tent in the middle of the desert giving advice or something. That was actually a description I gave to my good friend Russ. In short I thought all of this self-help stuff was a bunch of B.S..

My dramatic change from someone who mocked all things that might be labeled ‘self-improvement’ to someone who is not only a proponent of such material, but a creator and distributor as well, happened over a period of time. It is like the story of boiling a frog in a pot of water. If you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out, but if you turn the heat up slowly it will sit there until it boils to death. Please know I am not advocating harm to animals, but my life proceeded along a similar path. As life slowly turned the heat up on me I found myself literally boiling to death in a pool of stress.

One of the first stresses I can think of is when I was working at a telemarketing job. For those of you who have never had a job in this field, just consider what you have said, or heard other people say to telemarketers. Now, imagine being the person on the other end of the phone…eight hours a day…6 days a week. I remember listening to Bob Marley’s Legend album on my lunch hour every day. I would close my eyes, push play and picture being on a beach in Jamaica. Little was I aware I was practicing visualizing and meditation. Not that I called it that. At the time I just said I was “unwinding on lunch”. All I was sure of is that is made me feel better and be able to withstand the constant barrage of colorful phrases people share with telemarketers.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself awake at 3a.m. ready to go to the post office job I was thrilled about. This was after working an entire bartending shift I was also growing weary of. As you can imagine this and other stresses also affected my relationships with others at the time. While sitting on the couch putting on my shoes I saw an infomercial. It was for a collection of CDs from Tony Robbins. Being half asleep and feeling frustrated with the direction my life was going at the time, I thought “What the hell do I have to lose?” I ordered the tapes, went to work and soon forgot all about it. A week later they arrived. I listened on my short commute I had to work at the time and soon found myself taking detours to listen to more.

Soon I found myself looking at life from a different angle. Shortly thereafter, my job was downsized and the real test began. I found myself at the local library looking for answers. Those of you who have read my book or followed me for any amount of time have no doubt heard this story countless times. After finding things that helped a former ‘rock star’ and bartender who was too cool for self-help, I wanted to share it with others who thought themselves too bad ass for this material, but were silently, or not so silently suffering on the inside. That lead to the creation of this website, a book, a YouTube channel and seminars. In short, it brought us to where we are now.

If you came across this on accident, or are postponing on taking the leap on learning tools that could improve your life because you are simply too cool, I urge you to reconsider. First of all, get rid of the term self-help. I never liked that term to begin with. It has the feel like you are helpless and can only succeed with the help of someone else. I prefer the term self-improvement. The truth is you don’t need anyone else. What you may be lacking is information and a plan. As long as you have the desire, there are many paths that can lead you to success.

The other thing you might wish to consider is that in the beginning nobody needs to know what you are doing, or that you are doing anything at all. You can read in private. You can rent and watch movies in the privacy of your own home. You can start like I did listening to things while you are alone in the car. Once you see, and more important feel the increase in joy and reduction in stress, you can decide how public you may want to be with your quest to become the best version of yourself.

As a bonus, here are a list of a few recommendations I have for improving yourself after spending over two decades in the field. This is not a complete list by any means and if you would like to add to it feel free.

Books

  • A Happy Life for Busy People
  • Think and Grow Rich
  • The Power of the Subconscious Mind
  • The Tao of Pooh
  • The Secret

CD or MP3 Programs

  • The Strangest secret
  • Personal Power
  • Any videos or audio by Tony Robbins, Earl Nightingale, Les Brown or Eric Thomas

PRAYERS TO THE DEVIL

Oddly, having a blog post titled prayers to the devil seems rather fitting on a Monday. Before you fear this has anything to do with evoking the dark lord, let me reassure you that is not what we are speaking about here today. What we are going to talk about is complaints which Bob Marley referred to as ‘prayers to the devil’. Which I must confess I find a fairly accurate description.

Are complaints really that bad? Let us stop and take a look. Frist, so we are all on the same page, let us define what a complaint is. To me a complaint is a negative observation about a person, place or thing with no intent on finding a solution or remedy. This is different from merely observing a situation that needs improving and voicing that while pondering what can be done to make the situation better. Forms of complaining can range from mood-killing banter to gossip. Yes, gossip is a form of complaining. I don’t recall every hearing negative gossip about someone that included a plan to assist them in getting better.

Are they really so bad we should compare them to the devil? What do complaints do? By voicing their negative opinions out loud it increases the focus on the person sharing them. We all know where focus goes, energy flows. Therefore, the persons negative mood will only increase as they share this negativity with others. What about the others? Hearing what is wrong in the lives of people they know can at the very least kill the good vibe buzz one might be feeling. If the person receiving the complaint is already in a bad mood it will only serve to sink them further. As you can see complaining will only serve to foster a negative atmosphere. If you think of something that can poison the souls of most it is shared with and bring the one sharing even lower, I can’t imagine many things worse.

Understand I am not saying if you see something you do not like, or have a bad experience that you have to keep it to yourself. Not at all. What I am saying is when you tell someone about it, think about why you are. Let’s say someone is asking your opinion on an Italian restaurant you don’t care for. Instead of saying, “That place sucks!” or worse beginning to list everything you dislike about it, try following it with a solution. Wouldn’t you rather hear this? “I didn’t really like that place, but the bistro down the street is really good.”

We all know people that when asked, “How is it going?” will proceed to offer a list of every social and medical malady they have faced since the age of five. How do you feel after even a brief conversation with someone like that? On occasions when I have the unfortunate circumstance to converse with someone who is determined to find the cloud in a blue sky there are two things I do. First, I turn it into a game to avoid their feelings rubbing off on me. I ask them what is good in their life at the moment. Sometimes I point out things that they have to be grateful they may have overlooked. If the situation seems right I may even share one of my corny jokes with them. Then, I go directly home and take a shower. Now I am keenly aware that the shower does not actually wash the emotions from my being, but as the water flows over my skin I close my eyes and imagine the negativity flowing off me. Some days that is enough, some days I have to exfoliate.

We all have times we need to vent and get things out of our system. I am as guilty as the next person. When you are done, however, consider what can be done to change what you are lamenting. If you can’t think of anything ask for a solution and focus on something to be grateful for while you are awaiting an answer. Think of how listening to complaints make you feel before you share them with others. Remember where your focus goes, your energy flows.

FROM A LITTLE BABY…

“A man is what he is from the time he is a little baby. It is just how long it take him to discover what that is”

-Bob Marley when asked how long he had been a Rastafarian

This is one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Marley. So how we discover what we truly are and why we are here? Certainly knowing those to facts can add great joy and power to your life. Does it involve hours of meditation and introspective contemplation? I sure hope not because I find it hard to sit still on a three-hour flight to Las Vegas. Actually it is a lot easier than one might think. A great way to get the answers to both of these life-altering questions is to pay attention to how you feel. When you are doing things that make you feel good you are accessing a part of you that is in some way a part of who your true self is. When a certain activity makes you feel good and you generally excel at it, that is a large indication that you are living some aspect of your life’s purpose. Again allow you to give me an example from my own life. At the post office when I helping people discover the best way to send that surprise romantic gift to their husband or wife I share in their excitement and feel good. When I am in back plugging in numbers to some report to record mail volume…not so much. When I am at the bar decorating for some event I am fairly excited, but when I am behind the bar and people are toasting each other, the music is making everybody dance I am far more excited! If the people in the bar happen to be lovely ladies I am even more…ok well you get the idea. What does that tell me? I probably would make a terrible accountant, but a pretty good entertainer of some fashion. It also speaks volumes to my appreciation for the beauty of the fairer sex, but again a topic for a different day. Even different aspects of something that gives me joy over all can tell me something. When I am writing a book designed to assist others in discovering the beauty and joy in their own lives I am excited and can’t wait to share it. When I am actually out there talking to people and hearing how some bit of information I am thrilled beyond belief. That tells me I enjoy personal interaction even more than the interaction of the written word, which I also enjoy. So this week try this same experiment on yourself. Take note of things you do in your life that bring joy and things that do not. Ask yourself what this is telling you about yourself. By the time you are done, you will be able to connect with that voice inside each one of us that is trying desperately to point us in the right direction to go with our lives! May all of your discoveries bring you joy and light my friends!

BECOME THE LIGHT!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only Love can do that”

-Martin Luther King jr

“We’ve got a mind of our own so go to hell if what your thinking isn’t right. Love would never leave us alone, A-yin the darkness there must come out to light”

-Bob Marley, from the song Could You be Loved

Yesterday we examined the second part of Martin Luther King jr’s quote. Today I not only want to focus on the first part, but I threw in a lyric from Bob Marley as well. I did this for two reasons. One, they are both strong influences on my way of thinking and two, in this case they are discussing a similar point. In life we will always have periods of darkness. My goal in my own life as well as the goal of this blog and my upcoming book is to make sure those periods happen less often and with less severity. That being said, there will still be periods were our outlook is bleak. There are times when we shall hear from others how bad it is. This usually goes into overload near an election. Still as we discussed yesterday heated debates are not the answer. So what is the answer. The answer can be found in these two quotes. I have experienced this in my own life as well. About 5 years ago I was in a dark place both professionally and personally. I would’ve stated how neither situation was fair. How all my hard work and effort wasn’t being rewarded fairly. In hindsight I probably would have had a lot of people agree with me. Where would that have gotten me though? Standing around unemployed with a group of people nodding their heads in agreement as to how bad my situation was. Which would have only made me feel worse. I’ll be honest, I did stand around and bitch for a few days. It helped me get some things off my chest. Still for a man who follows and admires the likes of the gentleman above it became obvious that was not going to get me anywhere. So I decided with my ‘extra time off’ I would help a few more days at the meal program I worked at. Normally I helped once a month, but I did three days that week. Not only did it help me feel better that I was able to help others. Which, by the way, is one of the best cures for feelings of depression. It also humbled me. I was able to see the struggles far worse than my own that a lot of these people were facing. Some of them only children. I decided right then and there to be a light in the darkness. It has led to the creation of this blog, my book, a whole new circle of friends and many other amazing events I can’t even list here. The lesson? Sometimes our world becomes dark so we are forced to develop and show the world our light

PLANT A SEED

Negative Nancy…Debbie Downer…We all know people who can be a bit hard to take at times.  Be it a co-worker, friend or even a spouse.  Our lives can be filled with people who may be a bit “Sunshine challenged”.  A friend of mine and I were having a discussion and she posed the question “Sometimes I can just walk into a place and see who is a positive person and who is not that evening.  I wonder if trying to enlighten them is a waste of time and effort and may just end up bringing me down” It was an excellent question.  After some discussion on the topic (which is one of the thrilling things about discovering more people on the path) we came to what I think is the best solution.  Before I get to that, however, let me caution you about two things. First, people with a negative vibration about themselves, can bring you down if you spend enough time in their presence.  I think Bob Marley explained it best when he refered to them as ’emotional vampires’. So be cautious, excuse yourself for a breath of fresh air, or even to a trip to the restroom where the air might not be as fresh, but the vibration will certainly be better. Remember even if your intent is the best you still have to watch your own levels of joy.  Second, when in any large group don’t spend the entire time trying to cheer up all the Debbie downers and negative Nancys. Not only will it make you look impolite it certainly won’t lead to a very enjoyable time for you.  So what to do?  What is the proper thing to do with the one person who sees all the shadows on a sunny day?  Well this amazing friend of mine and I came up with two really.  The easiest one to do, don’t let them trap you into their way of thinking.  Display your positivity, not in a mocking or combative way, but as to lead by example.  They may truly not be able to see the bright side of things from their situation.  In doing so you rather accomplish the second.  You plant a seed in their head and in their heart. They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  Perhaps they just were not up to being positive that day, or their life had not reached the stage where joy is a part of it.  Ours is not to judge.  When that person does have good news to share or really desires to form a more positive outlook they remember yours and they will find you. So remember taking care of your own joy is number one, or you can’t’ help anyone else, but go ahead plant that seed. Depending on how fertile the soil is it may sprout at any time and blossom into something truly beautiful