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

CELEBRATE THE OVEN, EVEN WHEN YOU WANT THE MICROWAVE

Success is a funny thing. Earl Nightingale defined success the best I have ever heard it done. He said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” Meaning if you have a worthwhile goal and are working towards it, by definition you are a success. This is all well and good, especially in the 1950s and 1960s when Earl made that statement. Today’s world is a lot different. We can do everything in a nanosecond and with the push of a button.

This can make focusing on the big picture rather difficult. It can feel discouraging when you are working towards a ‘worthy ideal’ as Mr. Nightingale so wonderfully described, and you do not seem to be getting anywhere. How do you keep going? How do you stay motivated and inspired?

Allow me to use myself as an example. My goal is to become a best-selling author. I would love to get my books in the hands of as many people as I can. In this way, I can share, teach and inspire people to reduce their stress, increase their joy and become the best version of themselves. It is my dream to have a world full of people who can see the beauty in themselves, others and the world around them. To that end, I have done author festivals, started this website, and even started making YouTube videos for all of those who are not that keen on reading. Still, some days it feels as if I hit a plateau and that nothing is working. What do you do then? You celebrate!!!

Celebrate? Yes, make sure you take time to celebrate each and every little success along the way. For example, that is a copy of my book on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. (the bright yellow one) Even though my book is available online there is something special about seeing it on the shelf of a major retailor. It is my hope that people who need this book the most will be drawn to it and it will benefit their lives as they need. Even celebrating your so-called failures will help. Approaching them with a “I’m glad I got that lesson out of the way.” spirit will go a long way to helping you keep your chin up. Remember even a mistake, as awful as it may seem, is one step closer to success.

Success can be like cooking something in the oven. It takes a while, but cones out so delicious. A lot of us would like to throw our success in the microwave and have it come to iss right away. Much like microwave food, the reward for that can be not worth having.

Celebrate each and every day leading up to the achievement of your final goal and you will reach it quicker than you can imagine and you will do so with a smile on your face!

WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION?

Have you ever thought about the quote above? Most of us live our lives trying to meet the expectations of our boss, our peers, or even our family. This can often leave us trying to meet goals that do not align with our values. This cannot only make it very difficult to achieve, but leave us feeling defeated and like we failed. Not only are these feelings unpleasant to experience, they can dampen our ability to push forward. It was Winston Churchill who defined success as “Going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” I am rather found of that quote. If we can keep our enthusiasm for another day, to me, that is a success.

My favorite quote about success comes from Earl Nightingale which reads, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” Meaning if we have a clearly defined goal and are working toward achieving it, we are, by definition, a success. If you googled ‘success quotes’ you would uncover a million more. What matters most is what you consider a success? Is it pleasing your boss? Is it living up to the goals of your friends? Or is it something bigger?

To me, a successful life begins with successful days. Put enough together and you have a successful life. What defines a successful day? Perhaps you did something to make your spouse feel loved and beautiful? Then the day was a success. Maybe you did something stupid that upset your spouse, but you learned from it and now you can do better in the future? Again, that day would be a success. If you are like me, you might even do both in the same day.

The point is here that you get to define what success is for you. The more you look for accomplishments, the more you can develop a mindset to chase bigger and better ones.

THE 4 LETTER WORD THAT NO LONGER OFFENDS ME

For those of you afraid to open this post at work, or to show the children have no fear. As a bartender and DJ I must confess to having uttered my fair share of four-letter words in my day. As an author and motivational speaker I try to find more intelligent and creative ways to express myself today. This post is not, however, about those kinds of four letter words. This post is about a four-letter word that used to frighten me far more growing up.

What is this scary and offensive word? GOAL. When I was growing up and I am sad to admit through a good portion of my early adulthood this word is something I not only shied away from, I ran in the opposite direction! Why? In school goals are things we were graded on. Your goal was to get an A on the test. If you scored a B- you did not meet the goal. Your goal might have been to complete your paper or project in three weeks. If you were a student like myself, the day before at three o’clock in the morning you were up driving your mother crazy as she drove you crazy with such inspiring phrases such as, “You had three weeks to complete this paper. Why didn’t you start earlier!” I actually recall trying to write a paper on ‘Bucky-balls’ or spherical fullerene molecules named after Buckminster Fuller. Working with my good friend Russ, and only after completing his paper and being wired on espresso in the wee hours of the morning I turned in a paper that opened with the question, “Bucky-balls chemistry’s next big thing or kinky sex toy?” This sounded great between Russ and I the night before. The chemistry teacher, however, did not enjoy our humor. I did not do well on that goal.

As you can see my history with the word ‘goal’ has not been the best. Introduce Earl Nightingale. Even a passing reader of this site has heard me mention his name countless times. Earl was a motivational speaker and author among countless other occupations. I encourage you to listen to his great work The Strangest Secret In it, Earl informs us the difference between successful and not successful people is that those who succeed have goals. Naturally, this made me want to assume the fetal position in the corner, but I listened on. He explained goals in a way that helped me not only not be afraid of them, but understand how they can serve us.

Here is what he said, and please understand I am paraphrasing. Imagine a ship about to start a voyage. There is a captain at the helm. He has a destination all mapped out and knows exactly where he is going. In the event he gets off course, he can make corrections and get back on course. The odds are 9999 times out of 10,000 he will get there. Now imagine a ship without a captain at the helm. It has no crew or destination. We just start the engines and let it go. If it makes it out of the harbor at all it will crash or end up on some deserted shore a derelict.

The ironic thing is most of us begin our day like the second ship. We just start our engines and away we go. Imagine if we began our day more like the second ship. With our end goal for the day, week or year mapped out in front of us. If things happened to get off course we can make adjustments and get back on course. With this analogy I could see the power and benefit of goals. I now look forward to coming up with goals and working to achieve them.

I encourage you to do the same. Write down a goal and look at it as you start your day. Notice how you are doing. If you find you have gotten off course, that is ok, just make the necessary corrections and you will be on your way again in no time. If you get completely lost, feel free to utter another four-letter word of your choosing, and start out again.

ARE YOU IN CONTROL, OR BEING CONTROLLED?

Another picture I saw, read and had to take a deep breath and appreciate. This man has mastered what Earl Nightingale referred to as the magic word. This word, more than any other thing will control not only how successful we are in life, but how much we enjoy life as well. It will determine how well people and the world treat us. It has the greatest bearing on our physical and mental health as well.

What is this magic word? The word is attitude. A positive attitude will yield a positive life. As you can see in the picture above attitude has less to do with outside circumstances and far more to do with inside circumstances. We all know people who seem to have nothing, but remain positive and upbeat. We know people facing every sort of challenge you can imagine but seem to overcome them not only with ease, but we joy in their hearts and on their faces. How on earth are they able to do this? That was the question I kept asking myself when I began to get involved in the field of self-improvement.

These people have a good attitude not always because of their situation, but quite often in spite of their situation. That’s all great, and maybe your situation sucks too, but how the heck can you still manage to be happy? First of all, I am not discounting whatever you are going through. We all have struggles that others can’t begin to comprehend. That is one of the keys, remembering we all have struggles. How can we go from feeling defeated, sad and depressed by our challenges to empowered, motivated and positive? Asking that question is the first great step. I am going to give you one very important thing to remember – Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% what we do with it.

Sounds all warm and fuzzy right? You want to know how we turn the crap life gives us into something good? What if I told you that we have the ability to have complete control over our lives? Sounds a little too good to be true? What if I also told you that you routinely give that control away to others, your emotions or just choose not to use it at all? Don’t get upset, I still do this sometimes too. How do we take complete control over our life? By using two very important super powers you have. Yes, I said super powers. Don’t worry, you don’t need to wear a cape and you can keep the underwear on the inside of your pants. Why are they super? They are super powers because these two items control both the direction and feeling of our life and we have complete control over them.

The two super powers are focus and meaning. In any situation we choose both of these. Sure it may be hard to focus on anything other than the fact the person who cut you off in traffic is a rude jerk, but that is only because instead of choosing how to act, we are used to reacting to life. Which means in short that person is going to leave us angry, frustrated, frazzled or just plain pissed off, depending on how you want to score that.

Another world for focus can be perception. Is what really happened to us that bad? It can seem so in the moment for sure. Again, not to discount anything you may be going through, but changing our focus onto what we may be grateful for in the situation can do wonders and we can choose to do that. It is here I would like to insert a quote here for you to ponder.

“I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet.” – Mahatma Gandhi

What if we chose to decide the reason that man cut us off was to refocus our energy on our safe driving practices? Maybe it means he was rushing to a family emergency we should be grateful we don’t have? Maybe he just received some terrible news and is so upset he is having a hard time focusing on driving? Maybe the meaning of it is he really is a jerk, but if we run into someone else who is in an upset mood maybe they had the displeasure of sharing the road with him earlier? Does this sound like some pie-in-the-sky or Pollyanna? Look at the other option. We could decide this man was a jerk, be super upset and let it ruin our whole day. In other words, react to him and give him complete control over our emotions.

Is this limited to a stranger on the road? Not at all. It can happen with a boss who is in a bad mood. It can happen by watching the evening news, reading the paper or some other not so inspiring action. Those of you who work with the public have a chance to practice taking control of your emotions and not reacting to the influence of others far more than you probably would like. Just the same, if a customer treats you rudely and you let it ruin your mood, in effect this is what you are saying, “You, my totally rude and disrespectful friend, your opinion means so much to me that the fact you have treated me poorly will affect my emotional state for the rest of the afternoon, day, week…etc.”

Why give anyone else control over how you feel? It is time to stop reacting, and time to start choosing how you want to act! Will it be easy? Not at all. New habits and wrestling control of your mind after you have let it run its own course for years can be compared to beginning dog training when the dog is two years old. It will take some patience and perseverance on your part. Will it be worth it? To never let your emotions, and thus your life be controlled by anyone other than you? I can’t think of anything more deserving of your efforts.

So next time life gives you a big pile of crap to deal with, remember you have a choice. You can let it sit around and stink up the place, or you can use all of those lessons and so called failures as you can manure, as fertilizer to help grow something bigger, better and more beautiful!

THIS IS SOME BULLS*$T

Do me a favor, take out your cell phone and look up the definition of success. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Chances are it would look something like this. When it comes to the definition of success these defintions are, in a word, WRONG!!!

We live in a world that defines success in terms of the visceral if not material means. Any defintion of success, including the one by my mentor Earl Nightingale, that does not include enjoying the process or life is incomplete.

If we achieve all our goals and lose the love of family and friends we would not feel successful. If we are rich, but full of mental anguish would we be a success? I do not think so.

Remember that success is indeed “The progressive realization of a worthy ideal” as Mr. Nightingale said, but we must remember to find our happiness along the way as well.