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

THE IMPORTANT FIRST STEP

Recently, I have had some conversation with a new friend of mine about some stress they have been going through. Most of their stress had focused around an aspect of their job, but had been affecting both their family and their relationship. This happens quite often and can happen to all of us and at some point usually does. This is quite often referred to as taking your job/work home with you. I have even known some people who have changed their entire essence of who they are based on working in a negative environment. This can especially hold true for those working in law enforcement, first responders, teachers, the courts and any other job that exposes you to less than desirable people. It is not limited to these careers, however. You can experience stress in retail, food and beverage industry or the travel industry. It is not only costumers, but coworkers that can cause us stress. I recall early in my postal career this being true. The post office can be a stressful and negative work environment more often than not.

What helped me and what did I share with my friend to help them? I am going to share some of that with you in hopes that you too can use it or share it with someone you know who might be going through some great deal of stress. There are a few basic things I would recommend starting today, whether you are under stress or feeling good about how your life is going. Being proactive can make dealing with stress a lot easier. The time to learn to swim is on the shore and not when you are in a boat that is sinking. Remember I speak from experience. If I had known about or used some of what I am going to share with you when I began working at the post office I could have saved myself and those I care about a lot of stress and hurt feelings.

The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. According to a study done by Forbes magazine up to 70% of us are going to jobs we do not like. In our culture we have put a priority on things like money and benefits to the detriment of our own happiness. Insurance is important, but choosing one job or position you may not like because it has better benefits may end up causing you to experience more trips to the doctor than it will help you reducing your medical costs. How can that be? According to a study done by Stanford University, 80% of visits to a primary care doctor are stress related. Stress has been found to be a common denominator in nearly all medical conditions. Even if stress was not related to the onset of the condition, continued stress will only worsen every medical malady.

Great, we are all a bunch of stressed out individuals. Knowing such information can lead to little comfort, but do little to help alleviate the actual stress itself. For that we must create and use some tools to help us. One of the first things I have recommended in both my book as well as seminars is creating a happy playlist. This is exactly what is sounds like. A list of songs that put you in a good mood. I don’t care if it is the song don’t worry be happy, or the theme to the Jefferson’s television show, whatever makes you happy put it on the list. Now create a playlist on your iPod or other MP3 player. I actually have created a happy playlist on YouTube so I can listen to it anywhere I have my cell phone. Now when you encounter a particularly bad day at the office we can listen to our happy playlist on our way home so we arrive in a better state of mind. If the situation is really bad, you can find yourself in the restroom with an ear bud in. This will not do anything to directly change the situation, but put you in a much better frame of mind to deal with whatever challenge is facing you.

In addition to music, which I believe provides the quickest boost in mood, you can apply this to other media as well. Create a list of movies you enjoy watching, books you enjoy reading or places you enjoy going to eat. If at all possible, do this while you are in a good mood. Once again it is easier to think of what makes you happy when you are not already stressed out. Then when stress comes knocking, pull out your list, or just push ‘play’ on your happy playlist. I recall listening to Bob Marley’s Legend cd every lunch hour while working for a telemarking concern. I think that saved my sanity more than once.

The other thing I recommend is keeping a journal. For those of you who follow my work even a little I am sure you have heard me mention keeping a journal quite often. The benefits are many and I can’t possibly list them all here. A few worth mentioning in regards to work place stress and how to reduce it are as follows. First, writing your feelings and the facts of the situation down on paper can offer a lot more clarity than trying to figure it all out in your head. It also removes a great deal of stress from keeping all in your head. Second, it provides a great place to vent. Quite often those we love, even those closest to us, can reach a point when being a sounding board becomes too much. We must remember they are dealing with their own stresses as well. Writing in our journal can be a relieving and safe place to vent. Finally, seeing everything in black and white can bring to light solutions we may not have considered when we were in the middle of the emotional whirlwind. Reading back it can show us patterns that we go through that routinely create stress in our lives. By recording how we feel at the moment and being able to go back and reread it when we are in a better mental state can be enlightening too.

As an added bonus, I recommend doing as many of these things as you can out in nature. Being outside in the fresh air can serve as its own therapy. Add some physical exercise and you multiply the stress reliving benefits. It can be anything from an intense run, to a leisurely stroll. Motion helps emotion. Do yourself a favor and get outside and get moving. You can listen to your playlist as you do so. When you stop to rest, you could pull out your journal and write. Before you know it you will create a shield around you that no workplace stress can get through.

By all means, if you have any other great stress reduction tips to add please do so in the comments below.

 

 

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.

YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION

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This is a picture of me relaxing in the sun at starbucks listening to Bob Marley. By the time you read this i will have been on vacation for about four days from my day job. I have purchased a new laptop to work on completing my second book, held an interview for said book, shot videos for my YouTube channel, and wrote several blogs including this one. Why am I working so hard on vacation? Because I have discovered my passion. To me this isn’t work at all. You know the old saying “if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life”? Well i would like to tweak that a little “if you find your passion, you won’t mind working every day of your life”
All that being said, here is the point I’m making today. Even though I love helping others see the joy and beauty both in themselves and the world around them.  In fact,that is my life’s mission. So what will i do after my iced green tea is goon? In short,  not a damn thing! Wait!  What? Yes, even though I live to do what I do I’m taking the day to recharge. I mention this because I’m addition to meditating you need to take a day off once in a while. Those who know me personally know how hard this is for me to do. Still if you’re running on empty how much can you give to others? If you have set goals and deadlines taking a break can actually help the brain be more productive when you return.  I have had some of my best ideas while on vacation. Hmm.. Maybe i should take more? So you have my permission, take some time for yourself just remember to pay attention and be ready when duty calls

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