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.

JOHNNY APPLE SEED AREN’T WE ALL?

Countless are the times that people have come up to me and said things such as, “I was thinking about what we talked about a while back….” I am sure we have all heard this in our lives. We have all been on the opposite side too, haven’t we? Something someone was telling us didn’t make sense to us at the time, but through some change in life circumstance, we can appreciate it now. Maybe it is a loving thing they told us, the reminder of which has helped us make it through a tough time we are currently facing. This can work in the opposite way too. How many times have we remembered something hurtful that was said or done to us? I am not sure why we choose to do that, but that can be how the human brain works.

What we must keep in mind is that everyday we go through life we are planting seeds. Much like a farmer, what we grow will depend on what seeds we plant. We can plant beautiful flowers, fruit, or even a poisonous plant. The seed may take root or it may not. It may grow in our garden or others may be left to benefit, or be poisoned by what grows. In this way we have an ability to affect not only our life, but the world at large. Allow me to explain what I mean by use of a historical figure.

Johnny Appleseed, better known as John Chapman was an American Pioneer nurseryman who planted apple trees in several states and in part of Canada during the late 18th and early 19th century. A lot of the trees he never saw grow, but in the places he visited people were eating apples long after he was gone. We do much the same things with our words and actions. They may not be apple trees, but we are planting seeds just the same.

If we think in terms of Johnny Appleseed’s story, what will grow from the seeds we plant? If we are planting seeds of kindness and encouragement every where we go, we will see kindness blossom and grow. We will see the confidence and joy continue to grow in the hearts of our friends and family. If we plant seeds of gossip and complaint, we will see melancholy, sadness and resentment blossom all around us. In this way we do a great deal to shape the world in which we live.

What about the world at large? Truly, the seeds we plant can’t make much of a difference on a global scale? Think about this. When you go to purchase a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks, treating the employee with extra kindness could ease a tough day they are having. There you affect one person. Due to that act of kindness, they may treat the next person in line with an extra amount of customer service. Then you have affected two people. Maybe that person is on the way to the airport to fly home to a different city or even country and now feels good thanks to the good service they received. They may go on to treat people they encounter on their journey with more kindness and compassion. Thus, your simple act of kindness could affect people halfway across the world. It may not reach such global proportions, then again with comments on social media and the internet we can spread a great deal of seeds without even leaving our homes.

Although this was a positive example, the same holds true in reverse. You may think comments and they way you treat people are harmless, but you are forever planting seeds. We may not see them grow and it may take years for them to blossom, but given time they will. Let us all do our part to plant seeds of kindness, compassion, encouragement and joy. We will grow a garden of positive results. Let us be equally vigilant against casting seeds of negativity, gossip and judgment to the wind. They too, will grow into a world of negative people, places and things.

Let us all remember we are Johnny Appleseed in our own way. Let us plant seeds to grow positive families, friends, communities and the world at large.

FRIENDS WITHOUT BORDERS

This here a picture of myself and my good friend Johnny on St. Patrick’s day. I was working as a DJ at a local club that night. The story I am about to tell you serves as an example of several things. First, how small indeed the world is today. Second, how foolish things like racism and prejudice are. Third and finally, the benefits of being nice and sociable.

The back story is as follows. Johnny is a good friend of my lady, Margie. He has been a regular performer at her shows for quite some time. Before I met Johnny, Margie told me, “I think you are really going to like this guy.” She was indeed correct. Before I had the chance to discover that, however, there was some waiting involved. The reason for this waiting was due to the fact that Johnny lives in Mexico and only comes to visit at most a few times a year.

Through the last couple of visits he has read a lot of my writing and has found some things he can relate to. In fact, recently he has shared my book with people in the great state of Texas as well as other places. He has offered some very insightful feedback that has caused my writing to develop in ways it may not have otherwise. We have had some great discussions including sitting down for breakfast recently. These conversations has given birth to some great ideas that have been on this blog site and in my next book.

Speaking of books, recently Johnny has informed me that he is working on a book himself. He shared the plot with me and I must confess it sounds like a great story. I’ll update details as the situation develops. We discussed writing styles, publishing ins and outs as well as other ideas. There is no doubt his book will be a success. It is in a totally different genre than I write, but we certainly had a lot to discuss as the process and struggles of writing are the same regardless of content.

Johnny’s creativity is not limited to being a potential best-selling author. He also has several CDs available on cdbaby.com just search ‘Johnny L’. The style of his music is also something I am a fan of, classic standards from Elvis to Frank Sinatra. If you are a fan of this music or just great talent in general, I highly recommend giving him a listen.

The point of this post is several fold. If I were to make a sweeping judgment about people from the great country of Mexico I might not have the great benefits that my friendship with Johnny provides. If both Margie and I were not outgoing and genuinely friendly to the people at our shows Johnny would not have spent the time to become friends with us either. If it wasn’t for technology communication between all of us would be limited to just those few times a year. Whether you are from Mexico, Jamaica or Fiji shouldn’t matter. It is how you treat people and what you can bring to their lives. Technology is not limited by borders or culture, neither should your friendship be.

FIRM IN YOUR GOALS, FLEXIBLE IN YOUR APPROACH 

Be firm in your goals, but flexible in your approach. That is a mantra i have heard many times! This morning while occupied at my day job a fine example of this occurred to me.

Before I share this example with you let me begin with a question. Have you ever heard somebody say “I’ve tried a million different things but it just won’t work!” It always amuses me to ask them to name the million things they have tried. After which they usually reply “well ok it has been hundreds.” When pressed to name them we usually discover the individual has tried a few things, usually things they have done in their past, and they didn’t work. This always makes me question the importance of the issue at hand. If it is a problem with their relationship you would think they would keep trying until they return to love.

When a baby is trying to walk they just keep at it. Why? Because walking is that important to them. Perhaps it is all the disappointment we experience as adults that lowers our level of persistence.

Here is another way to look at this. As I mentioned earlier, I was working at my day job when I started thinking how much I’d like to go to Fiji. My thinking is my lady and I would fly there first class and spend time relaxing and mixing with the local culture. What would happen if I was invited for a speaking engagement there? Maybe instead of flying I win a cruise? Perhaps Tony Robbins invites me to his resort to work on a project together? Would I say no because it was not exactly what I had envisioned? Of course not. The goal is to get to see Fiji, how it happens could vary.

My point here is you have to keep trying until you find something that works.  It may seem impossible at first, but so did walking as a baby. Just keep trying and you will succeed. Oh, and if you happen to have an extra ticket to Fiji…

LIVE LIKE YOU’RE ON VACATION

If you can belive it, this is me at work. Why on earth am I wearing a tropical shirt and hat from Jamaica? It was all inspired from a line in a song by the rock band Kiss. The line is this, Don’t need to wait for an invitation . You gotta live like you’re on vacation. This line was the beginning of a great quest for me. Personally I love tropical vacations. Literally I am transformed into a different person when I step off the plane. It is a different mindset. Anyone who has went on vacation knows exactly what I am talking about. Working on my upcoming book Living the Dream the question foremost in my mind was how can we take this mindset back with us like a valuable souvenir? How can we tolerate bosses who insult us or workplaces that are negative? One I have been working on lately. How can we tolerate freezing temperatures with no sun when we would much rather be at the beach?

While pondering this question for months on end I discovered a great and powerful secret. One I am going to share with you free of charge right here in this blog post. Those of you who will be able to wrap your head around this secret will at once understand the freedom it provides for anyone who uses it. I have personally used this secret everyday since I discovered it. Not only has it provided me a great sense of freedom, but it has made my life so much more enjoyable. Here is the great and powerful secret.

There is no law of physics that states your mind and body have to be in the same place at the same time.

I encourage you to read that statement again slowly. Ponder what that means for you. Cleaning the toilet? Why have your mind focused on the task at hand and all the not so pleasurable things that go with it. Working out? Think of how great you will feel with your new body on the beaches of Fiji. That is why a lot of us listen to music or other such things while we workout. I am in the gym 5 days a week and I can promise you that would not be possible without the encouragement of Tony Robbins, Eric Thomas or the music of Motley Crue and Shabba Ranks.

When we realize this power, it is important to note the two sides of it. When you are in a not so pleasant situation. Say working at the post office with a boss who walks the thin line between sane and insane, hypothetically. Then you can imagine being on the vacation that job allows you to save for. What beach will you go to? What will you see while snorkeling? Before you know it, the time clock will tell you it is time to go.

Here is the other fun part of this. It can really benefit you to be fully present during the good times. Once my lady had a bath with scented bath salts, a few candles and a glass of wine waiting for me. (yes I do have one amazing lady and don’t I know it) Now I knew this was going to be a great experience so I tried to soak it in with all of my senses. I felt the warm water relax my muscles. I took a deep breath and enjoyed both the scent from the bath salts as well as the steam. I took time to really enjoy the taste of the wine, the glow of the candles. I hope you are getting the idea. Do this with every pleasure, big and small, that life gives you. How many times have we driven somewhere only to park and wonder who drove when we were the only person in the car? This can be good if we are fighting rush hour, but if we are taking a drive to the grocery store via the parkway, take time to enjoy the scenery. Enjoying a great meal? Take time to savor every bite. The smell, the taste, the texture of the food in your mouth. We are preparing to go on vacation to Jamaica in November and I am already excited to soak that all in.

Here is my advice to you. Be present when life is pleasurable. When it is not, send your mind on vacation. Go skiing, or camping. Think of an especially good memory you have or maybe something you really are looking forward to.

Remember, your mind and body do not have to be in the same place at the same time.

KNOW WHERE YOU WANT TO GO

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This goofy character is me at our local museum which is one great museum if I must say so myself. The other day my lady took me there on a date. For those of you who know how much I love learning that is as good as it gets. Even during a day filled with love and learning I still have an eye out for something I can use to help live an amazing life.

One of the first things I have people do in my seminars is determine where they want their life to go. Sounds simple enough, but really it is not. A lot of people know a lot more about what they do not want than what they do. This time of year I hear a lot of people complaining how it is still cold and dreary where I live. Ok, some of those voices come from the other side of the mirror. I hear people say “I don’t want to live in this state anymore”. The fact is a lot of us approach our life challenges this way. Such things as “I don’t want to be overweight anymore” “I’m sick of living paycheck to paycheck”. These statements can be heard by people anywhere and everywhere.

There is nothing wrong with being discontented with where you are in life. In fact, this can be very helpful. What we need to focus on is not where we do not wish to be in life, but instead where we do want to be. When people say I don’t want to live here it is too cold. They could end up in the artic circle. They were not focusing on where they want to go. As you can see in the picture above I have a specific goal in mind, Fiji. I would like to visit there for the sunshine and the friendly nature of the people and culture. Tired of being overweight? Focus on the benefits of living a healthy active lifestyle. It is a lot more productive and fun for that matter to focus on where we want to go instead of where we want to leave.

So how do we do all this? The first step which I do in my seminars in more detail is to create a life mission statement. This contains two parts. The first part is the declaration, or where you want to go. The secret is to make this powerful and positive. Instead of “I don’t want to be overweight” try “I am determined to live a healthy and happy life”. Make the words powerful and positive. If your statement is weak, chances are the actions behind it will be too.

The second part is where we make sure this motivation lasts. The ‘why’ of your statement. Here is a secret about that too. We as humans are really only motivated by two basic principles at our core; the need to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. If you can include both of these in your mission statement it will keep give you  the motivation to keep going when the going gets rough.

How does one include both of those in a powerful and positive mission statement? Let me give you an example. Sticking with a person determined to live a more healthy life. Notice I didn’t say ‘wanting’ or ‘trying’ to live a healthier life. Say “I want to live a healthier life”. Now say “I am trying to live a healthier life”. Finally take a deep breath and say “I am determined to live a healthy life”. You can feel the difference choosing the right words can make. So including the pleasure or what we stand to gain is pretty easy. In our above example it could read something like this. “I am determined to live a healthier life so I will have more energy to accomplish my goals”.

Ok, but what about including pain or what we stand to lose? How can you do that and keep your statement positive? That requires a little creativity, but can be done. In our example if you do not live a healthy life, you may lose time with your loved ones. That is not a particularly fun thought, but you can include it in your statement to add even more motivation. Here is how. “I am determined to live a healthy life so I will have more energy to accomplish my goals and spend the maximum time with those I love” Read that in the mirror every morning or when you are tempted to eat an entire medium pizza and it will keep you motivated and on track!

Again I go into this in more depth at my seminar and in my upcoming book. For right now create your own positive life mission statement using the guidelines above. Don’t worry about it being perfect, just get one down. You can always tweak it as you go along. The sooner you get focused on where you want to go and motivated to do so, the sooner your life will transform before your eyes! Feel free to share this idea with friends. Perhaps get together for coffee and work together on your mission statements.