Not long ago I posted how I was the most unlikely candidate to be a multi-book author. Passed English by the skin of my teeth. Bartended for 23 years. Worked at the Post Office for 25 years and counting. Yet, here I am! Three books published and more on the way. Why? Because I was passionate to share what I have learned.
This Saturday, I’ll be a part of an event featuring many great authors. The place it is at has even been promoting me. This all seems like a dream, but it couldn’t be more true. When you combine your passion with a desire to use it to serve others, great things will happen.
Whatever your passion may be, think of a way in which you can use it to serve the world. Soon you will find that the universe is moving to help you. If you are in the neighborhood this Saturday, stop by to say hello. If you can’t make it, feel free to click the link below to check out all of my books and blog!
Only seconds ago, I just completed my third book. My hope us to have it edited and in your hands by my birthday on July 29th. We will do our best to make sure that happens.
In the closing chapter, I came across this quote from Albert Einstein. Nothing could be more true. It is a shame most of us never realize this until we are facing a severe health challenge, or worse yet, facing the end of our life. We do not have to let it come to that. There are so many Miracles that come into our lives we have become desensitized to them. Merely breathing and how our bodies transform the air we breathe into a source to keep us alive. Don’t even get me started on changing food to energy and raw material. As an author, my body can change caffeine into words on paper or a keyboard! Trust me when I tell you that is a miracle.
Many people journal. I think it is one of the most powerful tools to positively transform your life. People do everything from gratitude journals, to just keeping a diary. What if we kept a miracle journal? Just record everything we considered a miracle in our lives? It would not only help us better notice the Miracles, but be able to feel the joy in realizing they are there.
I would LOVE to hear what miracle you have experienced or noticed today? Feel free to share with everyone in the comments below. My miracle is that I can turn my recent open heart surgery into a book that will hopefully positively impact the lives of countless people!
I love this sign! It goes a great way to show how people respond kindly to you when you treat them positively. This is reflective in my own life. I can recall quite a few times when the fine folks working at the coffee shops have told me things like “This one is on us today” or thrown in a few little extra items for me. I attribute this, not only to their kindness and generosity, but to the fact that I always treat them with kindness and respect. Still, there is a small change I would make to this sign. I would have it read as follows:
“Small coffee!” = a small coffee
“Small coffee, please” = a medium coffee
“Hello, one small coffee please” = a large coffee
I would word it this way because I believe that the kinder you are, the more life returns to you. Let me be perfectly clear, paying less or getting more should not be your main motive for being kind and respectful to others. You should do that because, as Earl Nightingale used to say, that is how we ought to treat each other. If all the self-serving folks did decide to be kind because they thought there was more in it for them, I guess that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. For the rest of us, it is worth noting that life will return what we give out. It may not be from exactly who we give it to, or in the exact same fashion, but it will be returned to us.
Our life tends to be more positive and rewarding when that is how we are to the world. This is not terribly mind-boggling. If you are a fun smiling sort, people look forward to your presence and thus, treat you with more kindness and respect. Do this wherever you go and soon you will find kind people wherever you end up. “What about those people who are not kind to me even though I am kind to them?” I can hear some of you asking. First of all, those are the people who need it the most. They me broken in ways that we cannot perceive. Maybe they just lost someone they love, had a break up, told there job will be outsourced or simply were not raised with manners. Not only is it essential we lead by example, but the next time around they may remember the kindness we showed them and return the favor. Maybe they will simply treat the next person in line with a little more gentleness and thus we have still done our part to make the world a better place.
In life we are here to serve one another. One of the easiest, yet most important ways to do this is through treating each other with kindness and respect. It will not only improve and add joy to our life, but to the world at large. It doesn’t cost us a single dime, but the returns can be worth their weight in gold.
Today I saw that one of my favorite musicians, Michael Franti, released a new single. I checked out the video and was inspired with a thought. I would love to share that thought with you today. I am also going to share the video with you in a link at the bottom of this post. The song is called Good Day For A Good Day. After listening to the song, which I suggest you do to get the most out of this post, it struck me that we seldom decide for ourselves that today would be a good day for a good day.
We schedule lots of things in our lives. We set an alarm clock for going to work in the morning. We often plan what we are going to have for dinner. We plan our vacations. How often do we plan to have a good day? Often times, we allow far too much of our days to be determined by outside circumstances. Did we have a good commute to work? Did work go well when we were there? Traffic ok on the way home? Everything good with the spouse and family at home? Then we can have a good day. There are even some of us who let circumstances halfway around the country or even around the globe determine what kind of day we are going to have. Political strife in the Congo, then we are going to be upset. Crime spree in London? We are going to be upset at how terrible people can be.
How often do we decide and say to ourselves, “Today is a great day to have a great day!” Often, just placing that declaration in our minds before venturing out can do wonders for setting us up for success. Naturally, this brings up the question, what happens if I say that and circumstances are not those of a good day? You wake up, stretch and say to yourself, or better yet out loud, that it is going to be a great day. Then you walk outside to discover a flat tire, or the fact that your car won’t start. I have even had the experience, after little sleep, going into Starbucks on the way to work to be informed they were out of coffee. This is chronicled in my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People.
These situations happen to us all and we have little or no control over them. What we do have control over is what we decide they mean to us. ‘Waking up in neutral’ and letting life determine our emotional outlook is not only dangerous, but foolish. If we have no control over what happens to us, we do have control over what attitude we approach life with. If we start the day determined to have a great day and we meet challenges, we are less likely to be knocked down by them. I have personally got to the point where I find myself saying, “Ok, I am determined to have a great day and now I have to deal with this flat tire/no coffee issue. How can I work my way around this?” I speak from experience in both of those challenges. When you are determined to accomplish something, obstacles become stepping stones and not barricades. In the case of the flat tire, once I met a nice man from the tow company and he now follows this blog. As for the no coffee at Starbucks, I discovered a few new drinks I enjoyed and expanded the way I can enjoy a stop there.
The other option is to do what is advocated in the first picture, plan a good day. This may sound like a foreign concept to many of you. Take a second to ponder this. If we spend time to plan a vacation, plan what we are going to wear to work the next day and a host of other mundane activities, why not plan to have a great day? It could involve a list like the picture above, a mix of obligations and enjoyable activities, or you could do a complete 180 degree turn and plan an entire day of things you enjoy. This can be a fun activity just to plan! Pick what time you would like to wake up. Maybe have some things ready for a healthy quick breakfast, or maybe even meet a friend at a local brunch spot. You could follow up that with a stroll in the park or some fun window shopping or real shopping if your budget allows. You could meet a friend for coffee, or just schedule an appointment with a good book and a cup of coffee. Have an enjoyable movie and some fun dinner options picked out. Maybe even a glass of your favorite wine to enjoy with it? A nice relaxing bath listening to some relaxing and enjoyable music? These are just some options you could have on your list. Schedule a great day for yourself today!
Whether you are scheduling what your great day will include or if you are just determined to have a great day no matter what life may throw your way, pick a day this week and start now. Start with one day a week and build from there. Your great day is as unique as you are. Our friend in Italy I know would enjoy a day with his wife, a glass of wine and listening to the band AC/DC. Personally, I would like my lady, rum (or some good coffee) and this new Michael Franti song. That is what makes to so fun and so customizable. Feel free to share what activities you are going to make a part of your great day in the comments below and please check out the new Michael Franti video in the link below.
Today’s world is filled with many acts of beauty and kindness. There are the numerous examples of nature we pass everyday. Birds flying by our windows, even squirrels stealing from the birdfeeders with their comical gestures. The trees in the park, sun dappled paths. There is the smile or a kind word from a stranger. A beautiful painting we can notice as we are sitting writing a blog in a coffee shop. All of these things can make our world so much more enjoyable to be in.
WARNING!!!! All of these things can be taken away from us if we are not careful. If you recall from a few posts ago, we spoke of seeds of knowledge taking root in our hearts and minds and blossoming at different times in our life. We also mentioned these seeds need to find fertile ground to land on. It is here where we can run into trouble. In addition to all of the things that I just mentioned, the world provides plenty of things that will harden our heart if we are not careful. We see news of conflicts near and far. We hear about how this group of people may not want our group of people to succeed. We can even hear less than inspiring lyrics on the radio. If you work in retail, or with the public, there are plenty of things that can leave you feeling less than inspired about people and the world in general.
Even those of us who do our best to live a positive and rewarding life, can be, on occasion, overwhelmed by negative influences. Have you ever found yourself a victim of someone else’s creative driving? On top of that, this person who must have used a bribe to obtain their drivers license, waves at you…with one finger! Sometimes you are having a great day, but are witness to others that are not having such a great day. I recall stopping to write at my local coffee shop and listening to the person ahead of me berate the barista because, and I would not have believed this if I didn’t witness it myself, they had 5 ice cubes in their coffee instead of the 6 they asked for. If you open your coffee and count the ice cubes to look for something to be upset about, it may be time to reconsider some priorities. Maybe it is just turning on the news to witness people being attacked and harmed or even killed just because of what they look like or believe?
One of these events may not be overwhelming in themselves, but you experience a few of them together and it can really sour your disposition. It may be that you experience a few of them day after day. Your heart can begin to grow hard. Our opinion of the world and the people in it may begin to take a negative turn. We may begin to feel discouraged and lose the sense of hope that keeps a smile on our face and in our heart. We may not be so eager to let others in emotionally for fear of being hurt. These would all be understandable reactions. After all, I will be the first to admit there is much in the world that could use improving. That is why I write these blogs and go around speaking at different events.
The question then becomes “What can we do about this?” How do we prevent our hearts from growing hard? If they have, how can we soften them up again? The answer, in short, is in what you are reading. We cannot help many of the things I mentioned. We can’t teach people to drive with courtesy. We can’t teach people how to have respect when one less ice cube shows up in their hot coffee. We certainly can’t help what a foreign power does to their people. That is why filling our lives with as many positive influences and self-care is so vitally important. These are not things we should wait to employ until our life is going south. They are a good form of preventative medicine. If you fill your life with positive influences and practice a healthy amount of self-care and nothing goes wrong, you will just end up happier and that will spill over onto the way you treat others. If, however, you run into some of the negative examples above, you will be better equipped to understand this is only a small portion of the world, no matter how it may seem, and that there are plenty of other positive people and beauty to be enjoyed.
To put it another way, our emotional well-being is much like our physical well-being. If you just wait to think of your health until you are sick and then take medicine, you will be sick more often. The negative emotional experiences we are exposed to can be compared to the many germs and viruses our bodies are exposed to. Occasionally, they may get the best of us and we get physically overwhelmed and need to take a break or some medicine. What do we do to limit that? We strengthen our immune system. Incorporated emotional self-care and positive influences can strengthen our mental immune system. Think of positive influences and bouts of self-care you can put into your life and prevent your heart from hardening.
Every weekend many of us use this time to unplug and just do nothing. That is a good idea, but we must strike a good balance. Many goal-oriented people have a hard time turning it off. There is a solution for both of these groups of people.
This weekend, let us use our time productively (for my driven friends) but let us be productive in the self-care department. This means adding things like in the picture above. Schedule some silence. This may sound silly, but making time to sit in the quiet with no distractions can be a good challenge in today’s world.
Schedule some exercise. This doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym. Plan a bike ride or walk in the park with the one you love. Schedule some fun conversation. This can be a coffee or dinner date with a friend.
The point here is that we can be productive and give ourself some much needed self-care so that we can continue to serve others. It is all about striking that all important balance. Finish your week and start your weekend strong!
Here is a picture I took of the clouds above the local Starbucks I was meeting my mother at. In fact, I am actually writing this post at a different coffee shop not far from this one. As the month comes to a close, I want to give a friendly reminder to all of us, myself included. In this new economy, we have switched from the problem of businesses being able to open, to one of them being able to find employees to serve the customers they have. This is something to keep in mind as you are served not only at your local coffee shop or restaurant, but also at grocery stores when the lines seem a bit longer than normal. Most of the business owners I talk to would really like to have more help to serve you, but they are unable to find some.
While we are experiencing longer wait times than usual or slower service let us try to keep one thing in mind. We are being served by the people who did show up. The ones who are often working double shifts or longer hours. The ones who are doing not only there job, but often the jobs of two or more people. If we encounter an employee who seems a little less than full of sunshine, let us try to remember they are probably working twice as hard as normal and running on less sleep as well. It would be easy for us to be filled with anger, but let us do as the Dalai Lama suggests and show our strength by expressing patience. Perhaps offer a ‘Thank you’ and some encouragement. Employees working short staffed often feel burnt out and under appreciated. They need our patience the most.
As the month rolls on, I ask you to keep in mind the struggles of the workers who are doing their best to serve us every day in all of the locations we go. Just to help with the tranquil mood, I am going to end with another picture of the beautiful sunset I witnessed outside of the coffee shop that day that I met my mother.
Most of you have heard me mention my friend Curtis before. I first ran into this gentleman on a trip to the local establishment Urban Joe’s Cafe,. Throughout the years I have known this man I have watched him navigate his way through school, maintain a fitness routine, become a father all while working full-time as the face of the franchise, if you will, of Urban Joe’s. This past Saturday was his last day. Curtis, his wife and young son are moving next month to start a new chapter of their lives in sunny Las Vegas. Although the restaurant will continue to offer the mouth-watering cuisine prepared by chef Carlos, and the same charming atmosphere, it will no doubt miss the personality of Curtis.
Curtis has done a great deal to become more than just the face of Urban Joe’s, but a piece of the fabric of the community. When people think of the city of West Allis, they can recall a visit where they received great food in a pleasant place. What made Urban Joe’s so special when Curtis was there was his ability to care for his customers. To make them feel less like a number and more like a friend. To that end, he became a pleasant part of the people’s lives that live and work in the city. I know several people who, when visiting the city, make it a point to stop and see Curtis. They do so because everyone likes to be treated with respect. They like to feel valued and cared about. Those are qualities that you cannot put a price on and ones that will surely be missed with the departure of this wonderful family.
While the city of Las Vegas is going to gain some amazing and wonderful people, the city of West Allis will have lost a great deal of it’s warmth and welcoming nature. Whatever city you are from, I am sure this has happened there as well. Great people come, bless us with their gifts of love and hospitality and move on to share it with a new city. That means a great responsibility falls on the hearts and shoulders of the people left behind. It is why we must work to provide a warm and welcoming feeling to everyone we meet. We not only represent ourselves, but the places we work and the cities we live in. We should remember how we like to be treated and feel when we go somewhere. Let us provide that feeling to others. We need to work together to make sure the light of love and welcome shines bright for all we come in contact with.
On a personal note, I know Margie and I are going to miss seeing Curtis and Danie as we consider them good friends. We wish them and their family great health and fortune in their new adventure. Margie, my mom and I were lucky enough to spend some time with Curtis on his last day at Urban Joe’s. We will certainly continue to support this local business but we will always miss the presence of our goods friends. Those who have had the pleasure of knowing Curtis and Danie no doubt feel the same.
Most days after my day job at the Post Office I like to stop and unwind with a nice cup of coffee. It is rather convenient that about 2 blocks from the office I work at there is the Starbucks you see pictured above. The staff there are always pleasant and I have had many great conversations with several of them. Today’s post comes from a recent conversation with a barista named Deb. I mentioned the pleasant staff, Deb is certainly an example of that. Always greets everyone as they walk in and has a great memory for the names of several of the regulars.
On this particular day, Deb and I exchanged greetings. My answer to the question of “How are you doing?” that day was my usual “Living the dream!” (which if you are keeping score at home is the title for my soon to be released second book) Deb looked at me and exclaimed she was living the dream too, ‘one cup at a time’. I let that sink in. Considering we were in a coffee shop where she was serving customers, it was good to be living the dream one cup at a time. I let her know how much I enjoyed that response. Little did I know there was an even more amazing side to it. She used to work at a different Starbucks location (ironically one that was by an office I used to work at) While at that location she tried doing something a little extra. Do you remember when they used to write your name on the cups? Now it comes on a sticker, which I feel is not nearly as personal. This time as Deb was marking the cup she decided to add a little smiley face. Nothing too crazy, just a little gesture of happiness. The reaction from the customer told her that it was surely a gesture that was appreciated. “When I noticed how much that meant, I started doing it to more cups.” Deb explained to me. I thought about how I felt when I received a smiley face on a to go cup or even the bill at a restaurant. That simple gesture not only lifted my spirits, but made me feel more valued as a customer.
Does putting a smiley face on a coffee cup amount to changing the world? I began to do the math. If Deb did this to a mere 3 customers per shift and she worked 5 shifts a week, she would bring joy and a little bit of unexpected happiness to 15 people a week. If we were to multiply that times the 52 weeks in a year and throw in a few extra smiles during the holidays, we would be approaching 1000 people. How do you think the world would change with a 1000 people experiencing a little extra joy? What would the ripple effect be? Would they pass that smile on to someone else? Would they take it home to their family at the end of the day? if you work with the public, I know it can often be a trying affair. It is, however, a situation filled with opportunity! When I used to work the counter at the post office, I would often stamp a smiley face on the customer’s receipt. I was always amazed at how much that meant to my customers. It was my intent, much like Deb, to make sure they knew they were not just another customer, but a valued person and that their time and business was appreciated.
In today’s mask-filled pandemic world, a smile can be a rare and valuable treasure. If you can’t share one with your customers on your face, we must be creative and find other ways. They are always appreciated even more so now. A simple gesture of kindness can change someone’s day. You do that enough and you too can change the world.
As a youngster, I have memories of this place called Skelly’s in my hometown of West Allis, Wisconsin. It was a small breakfast place. When you walked in you were greeted with the smell of frying eggs and buttered toast. If you wanted something healthy, your only option was to go somewhere else. I love places like that. Warm, comforting with a little greasy breakfast. Something about a diner just takes you back in time.
When I was still quite young, Skelly’s closed for good. I don’t remember much about that except one day it was just gone. When you are young I suppose that is how things go. Things are here one day and gone the next. There was a similar place down the road a piece, called The Cup and Saucer. Same sort of food and also went out of business when I was young. It wasn’t until I grew up (physically) that I began to recall and long for a place like Skelly’s.
Then, at that same very location opened a wonderful new cafe – Urban Joe’s. I do not recall the first time that I visited this wonderful place, but I do know I have not stopped visiting since. Unlike Skelly’s there are plenty of healthy options. (One of my favorites is the Mediterranean egg white sandwich. They also serve Valentine Coffee, which happens to be my favorite local coffee to drink. (I even have a Valentine Coffee sticker on my laptop) The best part of Urban Joe’s Café is the service that you receive there. It comes courtesy of the husband and wife team of Curtis and Danie. Both treat you as if you were more family than customer. I always enjoy encounters with them both. Curtis and I can maintain what amounts to rather entertaining banter the whole time that I am there. Margie and I actually have plans to go there a week from today.
Sadly, for those of us here in West Allis, Curtis, Danie and their young son will be moving to Las Vegas in May. This will spell the end of the era of Urban Joe’s. I heard rumors it may become a taco restaurant. Perhaps it shall keep its name and format, but without these two behind the counter things will certainly not be the same.
Unlike when I was a young child, I can see and appreciate this ending coming. Although knowing ahead of time allows me time to soak in a few more wonderful meals, cups of great coffee and experiences at Urban Joe’s, it is also bittersweet. Knowing that time is limited can be a somewhat sorrowful feeling, but it also reminds us how everything in our life is transitory, if not fleeting. Whether that is a friendship, a relationship, a job, a vacation and even more to the point, our own lives, everything comes to an end. Let us not view this as a somber thought, but let us use it as motivation to live every day – no wait, every moment – to the fullest. Be present when we are enjoying all of the moments of our life. Urban Joe’s may never be the same. Curtis and Danie may certainly be leaving. That is just going to inspire me to enjoy every moment I have left in both that establishment and with these wonderful people Margie and I have been fortunate enough to befriend.