Today we celebrate Valentine’s day. It is, traditionally, a day to express love to that special someone in your life. As anyone who reads this website would know, I advocate doing so everyday of the year, but it is nice to have a day that is dedicated to love. Some of you may dismiss this as a ‘Hallmark holiday’, and if you only express love once a year and make this day all about buying cards and gifts, then I suppose you are correct.
To me, however, having a day set aside to remember love is a great thing in this busy world. To that end, we are going to discuss one of the greatest gifts you can give your Valentine, or anyone for that matter. You can give this gift not only today, but each and every day you want to spread love. That gift is a genuine and sincere compliment. It is my opinion the best compliments involve something the person truly did. This is where a lot of my gender goes wrong. Telling a lady she has beautiful eyes, or a nice smile is great, but they have little control over those with the exception of how often they show that amazing smile.
Now, if you were to compliment your lady on how well the outfit she picked out for your special evening looks, or what a great job she does applying her make-up, that is something she did. It was her effort and skill that made it possible. It also shows the thought you put in and the fact you appreciate her. Thus, it is almost as if you are giving her several gifts all at once.

Speaking of appreciation, that is the next great place to go for expressing a genuine compliment. Above is a picture of my valentine, my lovely Margie. There are so many amazing things she does that make me love her that no Valentine’s day would be complete without letting her know they do not go unappreciated. In addition to telling her some of those tonight, I am going to share a few here with you. She works very hard. Not only does this allow us to have a house in which we can love, but it gives me a woman I can be very proud of. On the other side of the coin, she is silly. I cannot tell you the times she will send me silly pictures, or I come home to find the silliest things going on. I often just shake my head and say to myself “That is my baby.” Recently, she told me she thought I did not really appreciate that about her. What a wake up call. Those pictures, those silly memories keep a smile on my face each and every day as my co-workers at the Postal Service can attest to.

I urge you today to begin a practice of slowing down, noticing and appreciating out loud to your partner the things they do to make your life special. This not only holds true with romantic partners, but friends, family and others we love. There is no greater gift than to feel appreciated for who you are and what you do.

Let us not treat this as a Hallmark holiday, but a reminder to refresh our practices of love that we share in our life. Love is one of the few gifts that can be as good for the sender as well as the receiver. Take today to think of more ways you can express love. Start with the two we mentioned here and feel free to share your ideas with our readers in the comments below.


Valentine’s day is coming up and if you are anything like me you find yourself trying to think of the perfect gift. Who doesn’t want to get a gift we know the receiver will just love? It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s day. It can be a birthday or any other special holiday. What if I told you one word can help you find the perfect gift? It doesn’t matter who you are buying the gift for, or what the occasion is. Would you like to know what one word this is?

One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is the gift of happiness. To do and say things that not only bring joy to spouses, friends, family and coworkers, but quite often truly touch their heart. What if I told you this magic word would allow you to know just the right things to say and do, and perhaps just as important, what things to avoid saying and doing, would you be interested?

How can one word unlock the key to making people happy as well as avoiding making them upset? How can that same one word help us pick out the perfect gift that we will know that they will love? This word can do all that and more! It can also show this person their feelings are important to us. It can show them we pay attention to what they say and we value them as a part of our life.

“Wait a minute Neil! You are telling me one word can do all of this?” Yes it can. I personally use this word daily in all of my relationships. I have to thank Margie. It was a trip to the grocery store that began my use of this powerful word. I was at a local co-op shopping for produce and other such fun things. At the time Margie was at home creating one of those cakes that look so good you cannot believe it is edible. Considering how hard she was working and how much I was loving her, I wanted to bring her home something to surprise her and let her know how much I love her and was thinking about her. Then it hit me, I had no clue what that was. I began to push the shopping cart up and down the aisles one by one. My head was spinning. To be honest, I cannot even remember what I settled on that day.

Fast forward a few weeks later. Both of us were at this same store and I was about to tell her how frustrated I was last time I was here looking for that little surprise for her. (Men if you know something you could bring your lady home from the grocery store that makes her feel loved, you are far ahead of most) Right before the words were going to leave my lips a voice in my head spoke to me. Generally these consist of urging me to do things I shouldn’t like eat another slice of pizza or hit the snooze one more time. This time was different, it was a eureka moment. I discovered the magic word and since then I have used it to not only transform my relationship with my beautiful Margie, but virtually everyone in my life and now you can use it too.

What is this magic word? Before I share it with you, a few words of caution, do not dismiss this word based on its simplicity. I promise if you utilize this word in the way described in this post you too will experience a great increase in the quality of your relationships. The word is LISTEN.

When we say listen we mean active listening. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines active listening as “It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.” Read that definition once more slowly. Read it out loud. You may even wish to write that down somewhere. Active listening is most commonly used in conflict resolution. Can you imagine how much difference your disagreements would be if you used active listening? If we are completely honest, we often listen with the intent of responding and not understanding. This is especially true during a disagreement. As the other party is explaining why they are upset we are already busy in our minds composing our rebuttal or how we can prove their point wrong. Changing that to concentrating, understanding and maybe repeating what they said to make sure it is understood as well as remembering what they said to avoid the disagreement in the future would certainly improve your relationship.

Although helpful, so much so I thought I should include it, this is not about disagreements. Let us go back to that day in the grocery store. Instead of sharing my previous frustration with Margie, I decided to watch and listen to her very carefully that day, making mental notes of items she looked at and what she said she liked and did not like. Yes, this kind of listening requires both your ears and your eyes. Up to 90% of communication is nonverbal. Watching her eyes light up with this product, or wrinkling her nose at that product helped me learn a lot more about the wonderful woman I share my life with. I learned more about Margie in that one grocery shopping trip than I normally learn in a month.

The next time I found myself at that grocery store I gleefully picked out several items (little oatie, peach rose) and was confident they would bring her joy when I returned home. I was correct and it filled me with a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I made the woman I love truly happy. It also showed Margie I had listened and paid attention to what she enjoyed. It showed her that her, and her likes and dislikes were very important to me. I began to practice this kind of listening with her more often. I watched and listened to what made her smile, what made her laugh. Even when I make mistakes, I notice what makes her upset. I do my best to practice the active listening mentioned above.

If this sounds like a lot of work, or that you may freak out the one you love by watching their every move, rest assured this is not what we are talking about. Try doing this a couple of times a week. If you are out to dinner notice what sides she likes, how she orders her steak. This is not just about food or even picking out gifts you know they will love.

If we listen long enough people will share with us what makes them happy as well as what makes them unhappy. They will tell us what they enjoy and what they do not. Next time you are out having coffee with a friend, notice what they like to talk about. Notice what interests them. Do they like to talk about history? Maybe a book on Ancient Egypt would make a good birthday gift.

This takes a little effort, but the returns are worth their weight in gold. Do this long enough and you will be the best spouse, friend, or coworker. Picking out gifts will be easier than ever and they will be received with more joy than ever before. The conflicts in your life will be reduced. You will find people will want to spend time around you and enjoy doing so. So remember the magic word LISTEN. Use it daily and your relationships will be better than ever.





Just when you thought you opened All of your holiday gifts, I’m here to inform you that you forgot the best gift of all! The funny thing is that you have had this gift not only the entire holiday season, but your whole life! It is the greatest gift you have ever received, yet most of us have never opened it, or at least opened it all of the way.

What is this amazing gift and why haven’t we opened it? I think most of you realize that the best gifts are those that are not material. Good health is a gift that cannot be overlooked. Sadly this year I have lost too many whose health failed them. Bring physically vibrant allows us to fully enjoy the holidays. Good health isn’t the greatest gift…exactly.

The love of family and friends is one of the most precious gifts. The love I have with my beautiful lady Margie has transformed how I experience the holidays. When I stop and think of how many wonderful people I have shared and am sharing my life with I am overcome with gratitude. The love of family and friends is not the greatest gift…exactly.

Memories and moments of joy are gifts that are hard to top. I mentioned I lost several close people this year. I think of times when my uncle and I would travel to a local car show and spend the afternoon together. Although because of his passing, I’ll never experience that again, being able to share those moments with him was a gift that will keep on giving.

The joyous moments we experience both throughout the holiday season and the rest of the year are gifts that fill our soul. Whether it is a heartfelt moment with the one you love, or even the well-wishes from a stranger. They all bring smiles to our hearts and to our faces. Memories and joyous moments are not the greatest gift…exactly.

What is the greatest gift? Why do I keep saying exactly? I keep saying exactly because all of these things are part of the greatest gift – your life. Without being given the gift of life you could not experience, or help others experience, all of the gifts we mentioned above.

What do I mean about not fully opening our gift of life? Each one of us have been given special skills, or gifts that we bring to the world. Some of us can create a beautiful cake, like my love. Some of us can make people laugh. Some can make people think. Some encourage. Some inspire. Some do a little of several of these. Whatever your gift is, understand the greatest gift you can give to yourself, and more to the point here, the world around you, is to live that gift to its fullest.

Maybe your gift is to make people laugh, but you’re so busy with work and family you don’t often get a chance to do so. Take the time my friend. Start writing a humorous book, maybe start a blog of daily smiles. Whatever you have to do to live your gift. When you do you find a spark has returned to your heart and their is passion in your soul. A person living and loving life in just such a way is the greatest gift we can give to our world.

P.S. – I must give credit to my friend Michael Davis for inspiring this post.


Often in these posts you hear me speak of finding your purpose. It is a great first step I recommend for any of us working to discover an amazing life. Knowing the ‘why’ in our lives can be the most powerful force to drive us. When I mention this to some people at my seminars or in the course of everyday conversations I am confronted with people who often times are searching for what is right in front of them.

Some of the time the problem is the fact that we are stuck in reaction mode. We are fighting an illness, reeling after a job loss, or even stuck on the pain from a bad break up we have had. Recently at a birthday party for a friend of ours I was speaking with a good friend of mine Jimmy. Let me tell you a little something about Jimmy. He is an amazing soul. When I first met him he was always making people laugh and was really the light of the party. Still is, that is when he chooses to be himself. Jimmy was in a bad break up. The lady did not appreciate or value what an amazing man he was. This should have been her great loss, but instead it is ours. Why? Because my good friend began to doubt himself. Suddenly he felt as if nobody valued him and he began to act accordingly. Sadly because he kept to himself and did not engage people the way he used to they also stopped engaging him. This only reinforced Jimmy’s belief that they didn’t want to be around him. All the while his friends were missing the Jimmy that made them smile. By sharing his gift and being himself Jimmy made the world a brighter place for everyone. Letting someone else control, and therefor steal his happiness made the world a darker place not only for Jimmy but for all of his friends as well.

There are also people who tell me they are like Jimmy. They say things to me like “all I ever do is make people laugh” or “all I ever do is help people to feel good about themselves and believe in themselves. I never can figure out what my great gift is”. Let me ask you this, if a brain surgeon was trying to operate in the dark and his friend was holding a light so he could see what he was doing who would be more important? Of course the man holding the light would not know the first thing about the complex ins and outs of brain surgery, but can you imagine trying to operate in the dark? Just couldn’t happen.

What does all this have to do with us and living an amazing life? This is a question you should be asking at the beginning of any of these posts. In regards to this one, please allow me to explain. Jimmy had a great gift of bringing people laughter. That is a very precious gift. By not valuing what he brought to the table and allowing someone else to dictate his self-worth he is not only cheating himself, but cheating his friends and all the people he comes in contact with as well. You see laughter cannot be bought, and not everybody has that gift. It can heal us from emotional and physical pain and lighten even the heaviest of hearts.

As for the second example, if ‘all you do’ is help others smile and believe in themselves you may be the most important part of their lives! I personally could not name all of the people that keep my spirits up and allow me to bring these messages to you. Whether it is my lovely lady at home, people I see when I DJ, or even the valuable souls I only communicate by phone, text or message. They shine the light on me and allow me to help others. I cannot state their importance enough.

So if you help others, if you make people smile you are a treasure. Sure it may not be as glamorous as brain surgeon, but if you can help a brain surgeon have the confidence in himself needed to operate than you are just as valuable. Even just being friendly can make the difference in the life of someone who thinks nobody cares. You never know it may even save their life and nothing is more important than that.

So please continue to be the light in the lives of others, you may never know the change you are helping to create, but truly you make all of the difference. As someone affected by your light and inspiration I just wish to thank all of you.

Feel free to share this post with someone you consider a light in your life and let them know how much of a difference they make.


I originally started this site because I wanted to create more joy in my own life, and wanted to share the tips I discovered in my journey with anyone else who may be on the same path. One of the greatest gifts this website has given back to me is the continuing discovery of new and exciting ways to improve the quality of my life. I am constantly looking to strengthen anything I think needs work on me. Luckily I have no shortage of flaws to work on. We all do. They may all be different, but they are all a blessing in disguise. Challenges and imperfections give us a chance to learn and to grow. Plus, the pressure on somebody who is perfect would be more than I could bear. One of the interesting things about me is that on occasion I stress over gift giving. I always want to give the perfect gift. Of course I would recommend my book  A Happy Life for Busy People which captures the very best of this blog. That may be just a shameless self-promotion. Actually my wonderful friend Cheryl gave me the best gift idea ever. If somebody asked you what gift you would want if you could have anything, what would it be? Chances are the answers here will be varied. Diamonds? A new sports car? A promotion at your job? Roses from an admirer? Why do we want any of these things? Diamonds could make us feel extremely valuable. A new sports car? Well that could certainly makes us feel powerful or really cool. Promotion at work could give us a sense of importance. Roses from an admirer would most certainly make us feel loved. I know what you are thinking, “Neil these are not one gift, they are many gifts. On top of that, all of these gifts are different” Very true indeed. What if I were to tell you there was a gift that could make you feel all of these things? It would make you feel more valued than a diamond, more cool than a sports car, more important than a promotion and more loved than several dozen roses! Would you not want to go out and buy that gift for the most important person on your gift giving list? Would you not want to give this gift for the most important of all occasions? Well I have good news and bad news for you. First the bad news, you cannot buy this gift. It is not available for any dollar amount and cannot be created by anyone other than you. No, in fact this gifts only price is a few moments of your time, some honest reflection and a pen and paper. That is the good news, this powerful priceless gift is available to anyone! Ok, so you have read this far and stuck with me, what is this gift already? Well, here it is. An honest and heartfelt letter of appreciation and gratitude. You may be tempted to dismiss this as trivial…don’t! Think of how you would feel receiving a letter from someone in your life not only expressing their appreciation for you, but going in-depth as to why they appreciate you and all the things you have done for them. How easy to you think it would be to write and give one of those letters to someone? Here is a little secret for all of my shy friends. The letter still works (although not nearly as well) even if you do not give it to them. Sitting down and writing out all the ways you appreciate someone and all they have done for you will change the way you view and thus treat that person. I also imagine that the energy will be picked up in some subtle way by that person. Of course the feelings would be far more intense and have a far greater effect if they could actually read the letter. Give it a try. Write one, maybe even hang on to it a while. Just see how life changes. Maybe shoot for writing one a week. Pick a different person each week. Tomorrow we will discuss another once a week action you can employ that will have a great effect on your life this coming year…


There are lots of things that are posted on here that may be issues I am struggling with myself. This happens to be one of them. It is a very interesting dilemma that was brought to my attention by both a coworker and a very good friend. Who do you talk to when you are feeling bad, anxious or nervous about something in your life? Do you have a few certain people you confide in? Perhaps you just write in a journal. let me tell you what I do. The reason I am sharing this is so you will not do it as well. Most people see me as the guy that is “happy all the time” first of all that is not exactly true which is an issue we discussed in the post titled ‘frequently asked question’. The fact remains that shockingly I live in the real world too and sometimes it just sucks. not very inspiring I realize, but true. So what does Neil do when I am in a bad mood? Well the thought process in my head, which can be scary at times, goes something like this. “I’m the guy that likes to make everybody happy, but now I am not happy” “well, you can’t be the person who makes everyone unhappy and brings them down” “maybe you should just not be around people until you are happy again” Let me tell you this is really the wrong way to handle things for several reasons. There are a lot of people who say “I prefer to handle problems on my own” That statement is an excuse. what it usually translates to is “I’m afraid to make myself vulnerable and let other people see me when I am hurting” or in my case and several other giving people I know “Everybody is dealing with their own problems I don’t want to be a ‘Debbie downer'” it is true that nobody enjoys being around somebody who is always down. It is also true that everybody has bad days. When you are more of a giver you tend to see other people’s problems greater than your own. I remember a situation when I stopped myself from sharing why I was having a bad day because of work issues with a friend of mine because they had just broken up with their boyfriend which I figured was truly more painful than what I was going through. I didn’t want to ‘bother’ my friend with my little problem. Then I heard a story about two guys going out for dinner and one fellow who was a little better off refusing to let the other fellow buy. While he felt he was being considerate he forgot to think about how his actions may affect the other man. “How dare you!” yelled the second man. He felt he was being deprived of the honor of treating his friend for dinner. The other man was thinking that since he had more money he would just pay. Unfortunately this only accentuated the other person’s financial situation. it made him feel like he was taking advantage of the fact that his friend had more money. Obviously this was not the first man’s intent at all. I must confess again, I can be guilty of this very crime. When your behavior tends to lean toward being a giver it can be hard to receive yet by graciously receiving a gift from someone with gratitude you are also giving that person a feeling of joy from giving as well. This was a material example, but the same holds true for what this post is really about. Sharing things that may be bothering you. When you keep problems bottled up inside you are depriving your friends of the feeling of being helpful, needed and a valuable friend. Of course that is not our intent, we just do not want to add to their list of things to worry about or be concerned about. Yet, it conveys a feeling of trust, closeness and demonstrates you either value their opinion or just their ability to listen. Now do not get me wrong, sometimes some solitude and time to think come in handy. As does writing in a journal which we discussed last week. But let us remember we must all be a giver and a receiver. When someone never is allowed to help you they may feel uncomfortable sharing their problems with you out of fear of the friendship being one-sided which will only lead to a distance between friends and a weakening of the friendship. Remember sometimes receiving help can be giving a gift to those who offer it. When you accept that gift whether it be dinner, or just the gift of their time with gratitude and humility you are creating a win/win situation and bringing the friendship closer together. So next time I am having a problem I think I will reread this email and do a little better at receiving.