IT WORKED FOR NOAH

I will be the first to admit there is some sort of divine grace to what I do. There are times I am pulled to write about different subjects. Sometimes, as we saw a few posts ago, a friends conversation can inspire me. Other times things just flash inside my head in a way that only a writer would understand. This post comes from one such moment.

A little back story on how we got here. I was on my way home from another writing session rather amped up from what was a successful and inspired endeavor. As I drove I was listening to the song boats to build by Jimmy Buffet. On this particular disc it is one of my least favorite tracks. I was about to lean forward and skip to the next track when a vision just popped in my head. It was so inspiring I just let it take me where it wanted to go. It is this vision that I would like to share with you today.

There are two older gentleman sitting out overlooking the ocean. The first gentleman is dressed in a waterproof parka and eyeing the waves rocking nervously. “Don’t you see that? The ocean really is rising!” He says to the second man who is fitted in a light jacket and sitting calmly. The second man nods in agreement. “What are we going to do?” continues the first man seemingly getting more nervous by the second. “Do we start stacking sandbags? Should we run for higher ground?” The first man inquires his voice picking up speed. The second man calmly turns to his anxious friend and replies, “I think I will build a boat.”

Life can be like these two old men. Some of us spend out entire lives fighting change and worrying about coming challenges. Others of us acknowledge the challenge is coming and begin to create a plan to prosper within it. In a time of job uncertainty where entire industries disappear overnight, many of us lay awake in fear we may not have a job to go to in the morning. Others simply learn about new industries coming or invest in ourselves in terms of education or learning new job skills. In other words, we build a boat.

As my drive came to an end and I prepared to read Margie everything I had written, I thought of these two old man and the vision that had popped in my head. How many of us approach change and challenge with worry and fear and how many of us calmly find a way to put it to work for us and succeed?

IS IT A WARNING OR AN EXAMPLE?

A great quote from our friend Darren Hardy. I think everything in our life falls in one of these two categories. The great thing about approaching life this way is that you always learn. When you seem to make mistakes it may just be a warning that you are heading in the wrong direction. When we see someone who seems to have it all we can often feel tempted to be jealous. If we use that person’s success as an example of what is possible we can win that way too.

Begin to think of the people in your life. Which category do they fall in? Here is the important part, both roles are necessary. Those who are an example can teach us quite a bit. When I speak with people such as my friend Kyle I always walk away feeling upbeat and inspired. Then I remember to try harder to do that for others. Kyle serves as a great example of a positive conversationalist. I can learn from him and my conversations with others will be more positive and inspiring going forward.

What about those who are not so positive? How can they serve us? We often need a reminder of what could happen if we continue to be in a negative state of mind by being forced to spend what may seem like an eternity with someone who suffers from being ‘sunshine challenged’. I know this holds true for me. Have you ever been in conversation with someone who is so negative you want to go home and take a shower just to get the negative vibes off of you? I know I have. Having that feeling motivates me to watch my own conversation when talking to others. I do not want them to feel that way when they leave my company. Thinking this way I end up with thoughts of gratitude for our friend who resembles Eeyore from the Winne-the-Pooh stories. Not only have I traded feeling negative and frustrated for feeling grateful, which is a win. I have also had a great reminder and therefore my conversations with others will be better and more positive going forward.

As you can see, everyone in your life can be a positive motivating factor, even those who are not so positive. By learning from both you can help yourself become more of an example than a warning. What happens when we make a mistake or become a warning to others? There is an opportunity there as well. How we face a challenge or even a seeming failure can serve as an example to others facing challenges. When we view life as an opportunity to grow there are only chances to learn and grow and life becomes much more positive and…amazing!

WHAT SEEDS DO YOU WATER?

Many people struggle with the Law of Attraction or how like can attract like. Start explaining how thoughts become things and you might lose a good portion of people. You may also get quite a few skeptical looks. I think a lot of this stems from a lack of understanding of this concept. The movie The Secret brought this concept to millions of people who may not have pondered it before. I think the biggest misconception is that all you have to do is sit in your house and think positive thoughts and your life will turn around. That is not quite the way this works.

In order to explain the Law of Attraction or LOA as we will call it, I like to use the analogy of a garden. If you think of your average garden, there is lots of planning involved. First you have to select a good plot of land, or how best to use the plot of land you have. This can be likened to your life. We must decide where and what kind of life we want to live. That includes what we want to have in our lives, what we would like to do for a living, the kind of people we would like to share life with. Some of you may be asking, “Do I really have to plan my life?” The short answer is no, but if you want to create a life of your choosing yes. It is like choosing what kind of things you would like to grow in your garden.

Next is preparing the soil. The plants we are going to grow, do they like sandy soil? Will these plants need to be planted in a space that receives lots of sun, or a little? Just like the elements of our life need to be prepared for. If we are looking to become a best-selling author, hypothetically, then we need to learn about publishing, what is required and begin to practice our writing. We must prepare the soil and plant the seeds of what we want to grow. If you want a healthy and active spouse to share your life with, but you spend every free moment you have grabbing cocktails at the club, you are not planting the seeds for that healthy and active spouse. Your time would be better spent in the gym, or attending healthy cooking classes or even joining online groups and forums that specialize in healthy active lifestyles.

Ok, you have prepped the garden of life and planted the seeds of what you would like to grow in  your life. Now all you do is wait right? Let me ask you what would happen if you planted a garden and just sat back and waited? Two things come to mind – weeds and weather. If you never watered your garden and just relied on mother nature to have the perfect set of circumstances you might get lucky, then again you might have a monsoon or a draught. Ironically, that is how a lot of us approach life. Let us use our aspiring author example. Maybe he writes every day and expands his vocabulary and knowledge. Then he waits for a publisher to discover him in passing. May happen, but chances are it will not. There will be times of good fortune, and tough times. If he sends out applications, or maybe even learns about self-publishing, that is fertilizing and watering the seeds he has planted. The chances his life will blossom and he will have a nice harvest increases greatly the more he tends to his seeds.

Then there is the matter of weeds. Weeds can be viewed as the problems of life. They will always be there and seem to need little or no help to grow. As soon as you pull one weed, another, or maybe two, take its place. If we just close our eyes and say to ourselves, “There are no weeds. There are no weeds.” which is what we do when we expect our thoughts to manifest themselves with no action on our part, our garden will soon be overrun. Conversely, if all we do is look at the weeds and focus on how terrible they are and how they always seem to come back, we can become disgusted with our garden. It is the same when all we do is focus on the problems in our life. It can seem overwhelming and make us want to abandon life all together.

The solution for life is the same as it is for the garden. Continue to water and take care of the seeds we have planted while we pull out the weeds one by one. In life we have to work on our goals a little every day and approach our problems one by one, not allowing ourselves to get overwhelmed.

 

THAT TIME OF YEAR

As we wrap up our holiday celebrations and prepare for the coming new year, I feel it would be a great opportunity to pause for a moment of reflection. Think of what this past year has brought us. There have been stress and challenges for sure, but there have also been moments of joy and celebration. We must appreciate and grow from all of these.

When reflecting on the past year and preparing to make our New Year’s resolutions, or even just plans for what we would like to accomplish in the coming year, there can tend to be a feeling of despair as to how far from our goals of last year we came, or how quickly we gave up on them. That is ok. A little bit of that pain can serve us to be more motivated this coming year. Staying in a feeling of regret and anger at ourselves does not serve us. We need to grow from what happened.

This is what I suggest. As we sit down to ponder what the coming year has in store for us, let us grab a pen and a piece of paper. Writing down your goals and resolutions as we tend to call them this time of year, has great power in creating a mental/physical bond with them. If we notice some of those goals look a lot like the goals from the year before, this might not be that bad of a thing. As we write down those goals, we can also write down what transpired that prevented us from achieving them in the year prior. Then we can begin to think of ways in which we can move forward while preventing those same obstacles from stopping us this year. By doing just such a thing, we can move forward in the accomplishment of our goals.

Let us also think of the challenges we have faced in the last year. Write them down. It may not seem fun to relive moments of the past year that were less than pleasant, but they can serve us as well. How? If we then write down what we learned or gained by going through them. Was it a greater appreciation for those who stood by our side? Was it new skills we were forced to learn? Was it just learning how strong we could be when we had to? All of these things are items we can be grateful for.

Lastly, let us not forget the moments of joy we had. Remember the accomplishments we did make. Sure, you may not have followed that gym routine like you intended, but you did go for a couple of weeks…days…hours…maybe you just joined a gym. Knowing what we learned about the challenges we overcame from the steps above, let us celebrate the gains we did make by looking forward to an even greater success in the coming year. Now would be the time to give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back for all we did do. It might not have been perfect, or turn out exactly how we wanted, but let us remember all the good we did do this year.

In the coming year, this blog will continue to bring you thoughts and actions that will improve your life if you put them into action. I invite all of you to share this website with at least one other person you know who is doing their best to live a more inspired and positive life.

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.

LOVE IS THE REWARD

We have spent the last few posts discussing relationships. How to increase the odds of finding a good one. How important it is to bring the best version of you to the relationship you are in. How important it is to respect yourself while you are respecting your partner. These are all great ideas. They are not always easy to do, but the reward is certainly worth it. What is that reward? It is a relationship that supports and adds joy to your life. Whether that be a great friendship or an intimate relationship.

Even while working hard to craft these skills, life can put us in situations that make maintaining our joyful and loving relationship difficult at best. Although it may not look like it from the outside, Margie and my relationship is no different. From the beginning we dealt with people whose self-serving nature tried their best to pull us apart. Add to that issues of family stress, working in the bar industry where the idea of a healthy relationship and the respect shown to other relationships is extremely low. Makes life challenging at times. Recently, you add the passing of quite a few people close to us, most recently Margie’s mother and my discovery and hospitalization for a genetic heart issue and you can imagine there is almost as much stress as there is love at times.

How do we, and more to the point, how can you deal with the stress of life and keep on loving? Whether it is family, friends or your spouse the answer is the same. The easiest, and to be honest, most enjoyable way to do this is to realize the little things are the big things. This sounds cliché, as many things with love can, but the reason something is said so often is because there is truth in it. How can we turn the little things into the big things? How can we take a cliché and turn it into a part of our lives? Allow me to share with you a few personal examples that may help you.

The way Margie and I accomplish this is first and foremost keeping an attitude of gratitude. When we have challenges in our relationships, or even in our life in general, it can be easy to lose sight of all that we have to be grateful for. If we are so busy with work we do not have time to sit down to a wonderful dinner together, at least we have each other and something to eat. When one of us complains, the other does their best to find something to be grateful for in the situation. It helps that both of us have this desire.

In the middle of  the whirlwind of stress we often face, there is one thing we do more than any couple I know and it makes all the difference. We love. What I mean is in the middle of a karaoke show, or last night while shopping at Best Buy, if one of us feels love for the other we show it. This can be anything from stopping for a quick hug or kiss, or even just focused compliments and words of affection. Last Friday while doing a show I happened to notice just how beautiful Margie looked at that moment and I told her. I held her hand looked in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry I know we are really busy, but I just had to let you know how beautiful you look to me right now.” The words touched Margie who thanked me and leaned over and gave me a kiss. Sadly, the grown woman who was standing next to our DJ area who witnessed this responded in what I can only describe as a immature and cynical way. She said “Eww! Eww!” and made a motion like she was going to get sick. Did I mention the bar atmosphere can often not be the best place for a couple?

In your own relationships, take time to make sure the little things become the big things. Whether it is family, coworkers, friends or the special someone you love, take time to show appreciation and gratitude. When you feel love for that person make sure you pause and take time to express that. It could be a hug, an email, a card or a quick phone call. When you see two people sharing a moment like this try and understand all the stress and challenges they may be facing. Taking time to enjoy each other, even if only for a quick hug or kiss may be the special reward that keeps that relationship working.

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

SPEAK THROUGH THE 3 GATES

This is a great litmus test to put our words through. How many times a day do we let something escape our lips that we shouldn’t? Having these 3 questions in mind would help prevent that from happening. Remember you cannot unsay something.

How do we keep these questions front and center? Use this picture as your screensaver, pertain jot them down on an index card you carry with you. Then, put it into practice. Try doing this just for a conversation here and there. Eventually, it well become a way of not only speaking, but thinking as well.

So you don’t feel too down on yourself when you first try this, allow me to share my experience. I tried this at work and all I can say is “wow!” I never realized how many useless negative things I say there! Even someone who writes positivity for a living! Although a bit taken aback, I was excited. There is so much room for me to improve my conversation skills.

Try this yourself. I’m about to meet a friend for coffee and am going to try again. I think you will notice different people bring out different conversations. I would love to hear your experience as well!

IS NOW A GOOD TIME?

Our last post was a little lengthy, so we will try to keep this one short and to the point. Today is Monday, the beginning of a new week. Time to start to be refocused. It is also August 14th, a great time to start to be refocused! What makes today so special? Everything and nothing. Confused? Let me explain.

We often wait for moments like New years day, our birthday, or even the start of the week to begin our new goal whether that be a healthier life, a more positive attitude or any other journey worth embarking on. The truth is by waiting we are just losing momentum. If you were offered to start your dream job on a Thursday would you decline because it wasn’t a Monday? If you were to win the lottery on the 3rd, would you pass because it was not the first? Of course you would not. The same holds true with anything we wish to begin.

Most of us have heard the expression “It’s 5 O’clock somewhere.” Meaning anytime is a good time to begin to celebrate. I couldn’t agree more! I want to remind you of another expression, “There is no time like the present!” If you have the urge to begin to eat healthy for example, capture that feeling by at least doing one thing towards that end right then and there! If you wait until New Years, your birthday or even next Monday, a lot of things can happen to drain that enthusiasm. Let’s make August 14th the day we turned our lives around!

BEAUTY IN THE STORM

This was the sky in front of my lady and I as we walked on the trail the other day. We certainly turned around and went back to the car. As you can see, before we did that I had to take a picture of how beautiful the coming storm was.

There were people out walking like we were. Some people were jogging or on bicycles. We even saw a few golfers rushing off the golf course as the storm came in. When it did arrive it was fierce and intense. Does this make storms the ultimate party killer? Not exactly. Without the rain there would be no nature for us to enjoy as we walked. The same would hold true for those walking, jogging or biking. Even the grass on the golf course could not be there without the rain.

This got me thinking about the storms of life and how the same holds true. As I write this I am currently dealing with a terrible sinus infection. Today is also the first day of summer. A day I traditionally party and celebrate. Not today, however. I spent the whole day in bed. Still, this sickness has forced me to get some rest. It also reminded me how lucky I am to enjoy good health most of the time. Perhaps I needed that reminder not to take things for granted.

How about you? What storms in life have you recently went through or are going through? Can you see the beauty in them? What lessons are they teaching you? Feel free to share yours with our readers in the comments below.