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.

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

3 GREAT SECRETS TO RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS

These two fine folks are Ron and Karla. This picture was taken for a review of the stand, Krautland,  they own and operate at Wisconsin State Fair. The picture did not make it into the review, but their story did and that is what I would like to share with you today. It is not merely a story about how they manage to successfully run a food stand, but a marriage as well. Their marriage has manage to not only last for 38 years, but grow as well. How do they do it and what can we learn from them? Great question. Sit back, relax and get ready to learn their secrets.

What started out as a review for an amazing place to eat, turned into a little more than I expected. Ron and Karla Schurman were kind enough to sit down and give me a few moments of their very busy time during the Wisconsin State Fair. As the story of how they turned Krautland into one of the most successful businesses in the fair grounds, another story emerged. That story involved into some universal secrets that work in not only business, but in relationships as well.

The first secret is playing to your strength as an individual. This may not sound like something that would help your relationship with someone else, but it really does. By allowing each other to do what they do well these two not only set themselves up for success, they reduce stress as well. As Karla told me, “Ron handles the front end of the business while I take care of things back here.” A lot of couples want to change each other and make the other person more like themselves. That is rather ironic when you consider being themselves was what caused you to fall in love with them in the first place. It also allows you to compliment each other. With two people who have distinctly different skill sets you can accomplish a lot more. I am an advocate for celebrating differences in each other and there is no place more important than in a relationship to do so.

Speaking of complimenting each other, that is the next thing Ron and Karla do well. They praise each other. Not only in a romantic way at home, but in public. They give each other credit for the success they have together. I heard Ron say more than once during our interview that he appreciates and is grateful for everything Karla does and how he could not imagine it being a success without her. This is especially true if one person seems to be more out going in your relationship. Introverts can often not give themselves enough credit for the work they do in and out of a relationship. Even if your partner and you are both outgoing, as is the case with Margie and I, letting each other and those outside your relationship know how amazing your partner is and what they bring to the table will not only make them feel good, but will bring an outside respect to your relationship.

The final thing that I took from our interview was attention to detail and focusing on fundamentals. This may sound like I am giving a sports lecture, but this is true in both business and relationships. When I asked how Krautland continues to be a success after 60 years in business their answer might shock some. While most stands were focused on the next new and crazy dish, Ron and Karla succeed by keeping it simple. High standards and nothing but high quality. They make sure their staff provides the best customer service and their food is the best quality.

When I hear couples say things like, “We need to try something new to save our relationship.” I know they are not handling the basics. If someone makes you feel attractive, valuable and lets you know they are proud of you and your relationship how soon would you want to leave that relationship? I am all for variety and keeping things spicy. Margie and I spend a good deal doing that with each other. It keeps the relationship feeling fresh and exciting. If you have the spice, but lack the relationship fundamentals of respect, courtesy and love you’re in trouble.

In closing I want to take this opportunity to thank and recognize my lovely Margie. She really works hard in our relationship. She works hard to keep our house clean while I am at my day job and always creates delicious meals for me when I get home. In addition she learns and develops herself to be the best person she can be. This leaves me feeling proud to have the most amazing woman as the lady in my life.

Go back and review these three steps. They will help you in every area of your life, but no more so than your relationships. Allow the other person to work to their strengths. Compliment them personally and publicly. Most importantly, never stop working on the fundamentals that keep love going. It has worked for Ron and Karla for 38 years and it will work for you.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM JIMMY JOHN’S

Did you ever stop to think about the decisions you make, or do not make and how they affect your life? What may seem small or insignificant at the time, can make all of the difference. I equate it to hitting a golf ball. If you change the approach by just a few millimeters and hit the ball over the length of the ball’s flight it will make a profound difference.

When we are faced with a decision to let someone walk away, or whether to be honest with our feelings or keep them inside, I say go for it and do so freaky fast. As we look back on our lives it is the things that we did not do that we regret far more than the mistakes we made. Sometimes by failing to act you could deny yourself the greatest opportunity. If you wait to tell that special someone how amazing they are and how much you feel for them, you may never have the chance. Even if the moment may have passed, telling someone what a beautiful soul they are can do a lot of good.

There are two caveats when it comes to this. First, if you have an urge to tell someone something in anger that is a moment you may wish to pause and reconsider. When we are angry we do not often word things in the most constructive language. For years I struggled with this myself, but by forcing myself to wait and approach the matter when emotions have not taken over has led to a lot healthier and productive resolutions.

The other thing I ponder is this, sometimes I feel the universe has other reasons for what happens. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion because you were to receive a better offer later? Maybe as amazing as dating that person sounds you need them in your life in another capacity? These don’t always feel well at the moment. After all, who wouldn’t want to date someone they think could make their life magic, or earn more money in a more rewarding position? This is where faith comes into play. We must learn to trust the process and be grateful for our life the way it is now. Plus, we never know what the future holds.

JUST DO IT!!!

It is the middle of the week. Some of us refer to this as ‘hump day’ because it separates the beginning of the week from the end of the week. Personally, I work 7 days a week so this has little bearing on me, but I digress. What we often need at this stage of the game is a little reminder, a little push to get us going again.

The picture here says it all, – you did not wake up today to be mediocre!

You deserve to be the best you that you can be. Too often we busy ourselves with the demands of work, family, social groups and do not put the focus on where it would do the most good, on developing ourselves. Be who you were meant to be. When we are feeling excellent we can bring the most to our jobs, our family and everyone else we come in contact with.

Today spend some time doing something that is, by definition, all you. Meditate, read, play a round of mini golf, go for a walk, or anything else that puts a smile on your face and in your heart. Be you! Do you! If you are trying to be who everyone else wants you to be the best you can hope for is mediocre.

A NEW AVENUE EXPLORED

Recently, I had the honor of being part of an inspiring publication. See Beyond is a wonderful magazine that tackles the gritty issues facing our youth and does so while encouraging and inspiring them.

In this issue, I had the great pleasure of joining other authors while sharing the challenges I face in my career as a writer. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of such a unique and thought-provoking publication. I am already looking forward to contributing more.

CLICK ON THIS LINK TO READ MY ARTICLE ON PAGE 32 OF THIS MONTH’S ISSUE

CHANGE YOUR LIFE WITH ONE SIMPLE SHIFT

In a nutshell this is the key to my upcoming book. A lot of people are lost in focusing on improving their relationships, their career, their inner peace and a million other areas of their life. This is all well and good as people should be trying to improve all areas of their life. When you think of all of the areas that could use some work, or that you just want to be operating at the highest level, it can seem overwhelming to say the least.

What many fail to realize, or find hard to believe is that focusing the change on ourselves can accomplish change in all of these areas and more. When we think of focusing on changing and improving ourselves to the benefit of all the areas of our life, a few issues may pop up. One of the things that may come to mind is the thought that why should we change when our spouse/boss/coworkers are the problem? Another issue may be the urgency that we have to change. The funny thing is that my working on ourselves, not only will all these areas be improved, but they will do so quickly and with less stress than if we tried to focus on each area separately.

Here is another aspect to consider. If we are waiting for our boss/spouse/friend/coworker to change, how long might that take? To be honest, it may and probably will not ever happen. Why should they change who they are just to make us happy? If you are anything like myself when I first heard this you may be tempted to reply, “Well Neil, why should I change?” The answer is simple, it will help you. Do you think your boss cares if you go home upset because he belittles you? I am guessing not. Do you think your rude coworker cares that they frustrate you with their actions? No.

How on earth will us changing help us deal with these people as well as improve other areas of our life such as our health, our inner peace? The fact is we can’t change other people, nor should we try. It is not our right or job to decide how everyone should talk or act. What our job is, however, is to decide what their actions mean and will do to us. A great and simple way to do this is by asking ourselves some questions that serve us. I am going to give you two questions that will change your life. Sounds pretty crazy and all of this will be expanded on in my upcoming book, but I want to get this information out there so you can start playing with it and putting it to work in your life right now.

Question # 1: Who do I want to be? This is a question we should ask ourselves everyday, several times a day. I am not just talking about professionally, but physically, mentally and spiritually. How many people do you think have a definition for these areas? I would also recommend taking time at the very least once a week, to write down your answers and take a look at them daily. Seem like a little too much work? Let me ask you this, would you go to the grocery store without a list of what you wanted? Would you just get in your car and start driving without first deciding where you want to go? Of course not. So, why are so many of us living our very life with no direction and then becoming frustrated with the lack of positive results?

Asking yourself this question does one more fabulous thing, it helps guide your actions. Let us say your description of who you would like to be includes a healthy fit person. Now, the way this works is after reading this description we arrive at the job after a stressful commute to find a caring coworker has brought in our favorite doughnut. With the thought of who we wish to become we may very well be less tempted to give in and eat half a dozen. Let us say the coworker is not so nice to us following our stressful commute. If our description includes being a person who does not live in reaction and has a sense of inner peace, we may be less tempted to volunteer to adjust their attitude. We may not always succeed, but knowing what our end goal is will help improve our chances. That also leads us to our other question.

Question #2: How can I use this? This comes in handy with challenges, but can also be used with positive circumstances as well. When we see those mouth-watering pastries after our commute we can use it to remind us that we need to find healthy great tasting snacks. Before you ask, yes they are out there. Have fun researching them. How about the rude coworker? We can use them to practice and build our patience and ability to not live in reaction. Another satisfying aspect is that nothing annoys someone who does their best to bring negativity to people’s lives as someone who doesn’t react to them. Remember, allowing people to get under our skin only negatively affects us, not them. Do yourself a favor and work on yourself for your own good and well-being.