BE AS STRONG AS A HOUSE PLANT 🪴

There are lots of things that come to mind when you think of strength. A plant is usually not one, but I am here to set the record straight. House plants, and plants in general, are some of the most adaptive and strong organisms out there. They are able to do many things that are seemingly miraculous and could teach us a great many life lessons. What lessons could we possibly learn from a plant? I am going to answer that question, and you will never look at that potted neighbor of yours the same again.

The first lesson that plants can teach us is how to use just about everything that comes into our life. When the sun shines, the plants turn that sunlight into energy. Based on how I feel during the winter, I might do this as well. What about when it rains? Plants soak up that water and use that as well. They put both of them to work. Both the good and the seemingly bad. In everyone’s life there are moments when a little B.S. seems to come around. You lose a job. You have relationship challenges. Whatever it might be, these are like the manure of life. What do plants do when you cover them with the stuff? They find the good in it they can use and end up stronger for it. In fact, the more manure you cover a plant with, the better it grows! When life gives us a little ‘manure’ we can do the same thing. Find the good, or at least something we can use, and force ourselves to grow.

As I was pondering the amazing aspects of plants, another analogy came to mind. One of the wonderful things plants do for us is an exchange of gas. They take carbon dioxide, a gas that is considered waste, combines it with water and turns those two things into glucose and oxygen, respectively. I am, of course, simplifying the process greatly. In essence, they take a waste gas, do a little rearranging, and release something refreshing that helps other things live! They also use the glucose for fuel to help them survive. This reminded me of the negative gases we all face. I am not talking about being stuck in the elevator with a man who consumed too much Mexican food the night before. No, I am talking about the gossip we hear. It is the negative attitudes we encounter. The people always telling us the sky is falling. If we could take the ‘waste gas’ they expel, combine it with hope and the good that we know is the truth, we could emit something far more healthy. Words of encouragement and praise are like the oxygen for the soul. Being able to turn all of that negativity around and instead speak hope, love and encouragement will make us feel good as well. This is kind of like the glucose the plant uses to help itself grow.

Using both the sunshine and the rain of our lives is not easy. Taking those ‘manure moments’ and using them for growth, also not easy. How about absorbing all of that ‘waste gas’ of gossip, negativity, doom and gloom and tweaking it a little so that we end up releasing hope, love and encouragement? If you think that is easy, you must have never tried it. Here is the simple fact. All of these situations are possible to do. House plants do it all of the time. When they do it well, guess what happens? They grow a lot! When they stop doing them, even for a little while, they begin to die. We could be the same way. Let us put everything to work for us. Let us use it all. The sun, the rain, the manure and the waste gas of life. Let the plants of the world remind us that when you put your environment to work for you, instead of falling victim to it, you will experience a vast amount of growth.

I DON’T THROW STONES AT DOGS 🐕

For those of you who know me personally, the title of this post should not be much of a surprise. On any given day, I would rather speak with a dog than some people I know. If you read into the quote, it also fits the author. In this case the dogs that bark are people and situations that cause a distraction. When you are working on transforming your life to one you not only can be proud of, but one you will enjoy living every day, you cannot stop and worry about what Jane said about Susan. You can’t even really worry about the gossip that Jane or Susan may be saying about you.

In 23 years of bartending, and now several years being a DJ, I have noticed there are plenty of people who could fit in the category of barking dogs. If I did stop and worry about all of the people who wish to be detractors, I would have a lot less energy and time to work on improving myself and my life. Add to that, the input I receive from the over 200 countries this website is followed in, and there are countless people with something to say. This is not to say you should not listen to feedback. To me, engaging with people around the globe is one of the best parts about being international. What we should not fall victim to is the ‘keyboard rangers’, as Greg Plitt used to refer to them. Those are the sad souls who spend their lives criticizing from behind a computer screen. These folks are generally not putting in time to improve their own lives and are more focused on tearing down others. Do you think people like Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos sit down and respond to every negative comment about them? No. They are busy running their respective companies.

Next time you are tempted to respond to ideal gossip or some ‘keyboard ranger’, ask yourself, “Will spending time on this bring me any closer to my goal? By doing so, will it take precious time away from improving my life and my position in it?” There are a lot of people who feel they need to respond to everything that is said and done. Is that not letting your emotions control you? I know there are people who slander you and continue to say negative things. I know you would like to get back at them and get some feeling of revenge. Trust me, it is not worth it and gives them even more power over you. Still don’t trust me on this point? That is fine. I will leave you with the wise words of the singer Frank Sinatra.

USE YOUR ENEMIES

There are people in everyone’s life that seem to serve no other purpose than to make life miserable. Call them haters, gossipers, enemies or any other term you like. They can make our life more difficult and prevent a lot of the good we deserve. One of the best ways to handle these people is to use them. Nothing frustrates one of these people more than to know their actions actually went to serve the greater good. How annoying would that be? Here you are, just doing your best to bring some negativity to the world and someone finds a way to turn it into something good. If that keeps happening, it might not even be worth spending your energy on anymore.

So, how do we use our enemies? Listen to what they say. Often they are the first people to let you know some area in which you are slipping. That is why I always recommend using these people if you are working to improve any area of your life. Say you want to start working out, or maybe quit smoking? Tell these people who would love nothing better than to find you not keeping your word. They will watch you closer than any life coach you could pay. They will do it for free and be happy to. They will actually be exciting to catch you laying around eating a doughnut or out back lighting up. Can’t you just see the joy on their face when they mention it to you (and anyone else in earshot I would imagine) Now don’t you just want to smack the smirk off that face? After all it is hard enough to make a change without them taking relish in your struggle.

Before you give into the warranted violence, there is a better option. I know, it can be hard to imagine something that would feel better than knocking the block off some soul who lives to point out the faults of others. Here is what I suggest, put a big smirk on your face and say something along the following lines, “Thank you. It is hard enough to do this, but with your help I know I will succeed. Thanks again.” First of all, they were not trying to help you and will find it terrible to know they did. Second, their grin will usually fade into a look of confusion or contempt. Both of these will feel better, at least in the long term, than physically wiping their grin off yourself. It also gives you more motivation on your own journey. In the back of your mind will be the thought, “I better not light up or that jerk Mark from accounting will tell everyone and take delight in my failure.” Then Mark goes from a pain in the butt we might be trying to work on, to an unpaid employee that will gladly work for free. We also know if we view Mark’s delight in our struggle as something that works for us, it will take a great deal of joy out of it for him.

Even the people who are the biggest pains in our lives can serve to be a great asset if we find a way to use their behavior to our advantage. This will also take a lot of stress out of our lives and help us to live an amazing life.

THE BEST REPLY TO A FOOL

The weekend is right around the corner. A lot of us are breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to not having to answer to the alarm clock…or push snooze a million times. Whatever your morning habit is, it usually is more relaxed on the weekend. We switch from focusing on our jobs to more fun and social activities. This can be time with the family, friends, going out for coffee or perhaps some cocktails. Our stress levels begin to decrease as well.

One thing this can do is give us a lot more time to think. In the mad rush of the workweek, we are often too busy to be bothered with petty things going on around us. It would seem one of the side effects of having time to ourselves is knowing how to make constructive use of it. We also tend to place additional importance on the actions of others and how they impact our lives. This can be a positive if we are feeling grateful for our spouse and all they do to keep the household going. Feeling grateful for time with friends that allows us to blow off some steam and stress built up during the work week is certainly a plus as well.

There are, however, those individuals who give us a little less to be grateful for. It can be the rude server or cashier when we are doing our best to have a relaxing night out. It can be the person who likes to speak gossip and start drama that ruins an otherwise good time for everyone else. How to we respond to these folks? In what sort of way to we spend our energy addressing their nonsense? If you read the picture above, I think you can guess the answer. We don’t. We don’t engage them. We do not waste our time or energy on them.

A good way to not be tempted to be sucked into energy-draining behavior is to think long-term. If you boat has a leak and keeps filling up with water, if all you do is bail the water out over and over again, you will not only continue to have the same problem, you will also be very tired. This is just like reacting to every foolish, drama-filled thing that passes through your life. If you respond to every fool and their actions, you will not only continue to have this problem, you will also be very tired. If, in our boat example, you fix the leak, then the problem will cease to exist. This is the same as not responding to a fool. Fixing the problem would be eliminating that person or their actions from affecting your life. Use your energy to improve your life and leave the gossip and drama with the people who created it…the fools.

DON’T LOSE YOURSELF

I am a people pleaser. I love to see those around me succeed and be happy. On more than one occasion I have found myself doing things that were not high on my list of enjoyable just so someone else can have a little more sunshine in their lives. I think this is part of being a decent human being. Something I no longer find myself doing is feeling pressured to do something out of the fear of being disliked or losing someone. If a person in your life creates situations and ultimatums like that, you must ask yourself the value of that relationship.

How do you manage to not lose yourself while attempting to please others? There seems to be a thin line between the two. One of the first things we can do is setting healthy boundaries. If something causes us to violate our beliefs or standards, that would be something we should not do, even if it displeases someone else. You can eloquently explain that you cannot do something based on the principles you believe in. If someone would hold that against you, that is a reflection on them, not on us. Another boundary to be made clear is doing things that sacrifice your own mental or physical well-being for the happiness of another. This does not mean refusing to help a friend move because you might be sore the next day. An occasional sacrifice such as this is certainly understandable. If you are physically, mentally or even spiritually exhausted than pushing yourself beyond those limits is not only unhealthy but can lead to feelings of resentment in the future. Take care of yourself and you will be better able to serve others. A good friend should be able to understand this.

Another way in which we can lose ourselves is by responding to people and situations that drain and misdirect our energy. Office gossip, some comment on social media or political or office drama does not, and more often than not, should not get our attention, energy or participation. We can lose our focus and sense of purpose by being dragged into other people’s negativity. Spending an hour arguing politics online can cost us 60 minutes of reading something that may inspire or motivate us. We could spend that time in meditation, going for a walk or even cleaning our house. The time we waste on other people’s drama literally drains our life of enjoyment. Ponder that point before you join in at the water cooler next time.

Stay true to yourself and your principles. This may cause some people to leave your life. The cost of keeping people like that in your life can be considered a sort of emotional blackmail. Refuse to pay it. Do not let your happiness and peace of mind be held ransom by these kidnappers of joy and peace. Further more, do not let your course in the sea of life be redirected by the waves of other people’s negativity or drama. Own your life and stay true to yourself. In the end this will lead to happiness and a sense of inner peace.

BE AWARE OF THIS

As our Monday begins, let us keep this thought above in mind. It often seems to many, myself included, that as soon as we start getting somewhere in life – BAM!!! Something crazy happens to bring us back to earth. Maybe you finally saved up enough for that vacation and something goes wrong with the car? Often, when we seem to be getting a handle on living a more positive and rewarding life, that is when some unforeseen challenge pops up. Does that sound familiar to you? It can be viewed as life testing us. “Are you sure you want to be positive?”

It is easy to be happy when the sun is shining, the dog and the kids are fed and everything is going your way. It would also be logical to think that your friends would be the happiest for you at this point in time, would it not? Yet, it seems that when you start to excel in life strangers, and even some friends, seem to go out of their way to sabotage you. Why are earth does this happen? There are many theories as to why it does, but we are going to look at two that when understood, will help you make it through this tough period.

The first is a societal reason. When your friends, family and coworkers to some extent, see you succeed a certain amount of fear strikes them. Why fear you might ask. People can worry, sometimes even subconsciously, that once someone attains a certain level of success they will leave them behind. This fear can come from past experience, they own lack of desire to improve themselves or a million other reasons. Funny thing is, this can apply not only to financial and career success, but to things such as peace of mind, spiritual awakening and any other area of accomplishment you have. They believe that if you achieve a certain level of success that you may leave them behind for “Better” results. This could be your boss believing you would leave for a better position, better job or better department. It could be your family believing you could forget about them if you fall in love with the person of your dreams. It could be your friends worrying that if you achieve a level of financial success you may not want to hang out with them anymore.

The first step is to make sure that this isn’t true. If you are moving on to a better job, or you do foresee less time to be available for your family or friends, be honest with them. You can encourage them to join you on the journey as well. Reassurance here is key. While you might be dedicating some time building your relationship with the person you love, and you should, that doesn’t mean you care less for your family. In fact, when you are around them, chances are you will be in a happy place. If you are achieving and dedicating a percentage of time to bettering yourself financially, spiritually, or any other area, you will find yourself needing to spend a good deal of time on it. You may even meet a new group of people and want to spend some time with them. This should not cause you to leave your friends behind.

Another, perhaps more metaphysical reason, is the power struggle between light and darkness. This can be viewed in a spiritual context, but I think it can be best explained by an outward example. Let us say there is a group of people you used to gossip with at work. Now you want to focus on what is good about everyone and the world in general. How do you think these folks will react? Maybe a few of them will be encouraged to do the same, but I guess you may soon find yourself the subject of the gossip when you are not around. It can make people feel less about themselves, and maybe it should. Rather than ponder if they could stand to raise their own standards, they would rather make you look bad. Ever try to leave a group of people who are filled with drama? Same thing will happen here. Just like our picture of the crabs above, they will try to pull you back in. Don’t fall for it.

When you improve yourself, you leave others two options. First, they can improve themselves. This works great if those around you are self-motivated. The other option is they can bring you down to their level. These are the people you do not want to surround yourself with. Remember, it is important to reassure those around you that they will not be left behind, but it is even more important to NOT leave yourself behind for their comfort. As you ascend, forces will rise against you. They are not there to stop you, but to make you stronger. The choice is yours.

IF ONLY WE COULD REALIZE THIS SOONER

I love Winston Churchill. He was a little bit grumpy, but certainly got to the point. This quote above is really true and could make a big difference and save us a lot of time in our lives. Many of us, especially in this social media driven world, are so preoccupied with what others think of us that we forget to focus on what is truly important. Doing something for ‘likes’ on social media is one of the least productive actions we can take.

The truth is really in the last line – no one was ever thinking about you in the first place. Most people are focused on their own lives. Those who are focused on what others are doing? What do we call those people? Gossips? Haters? It is never good. Every minute you spend worrying about what others are thinking about what you are doing is 60 seconds you are losing that could have been used to build a better life.

Let us stop focusing on what others think, or being better than Kurt, Nicci or anyone else. Let us focus on what we are doing and being better people than we were yesterday. That is where the power and personal freedom truly can be found.

WATCH WHAT YOU EAT!

First post of the new month! Last full month of summer. We want to finish this month on a really healthy diet. Don’t worry, if you have been working on that summer body since you were 12, we are talking about an information diet. This is so important, because like our regular diet, sometimes we consume information without being conscious to the fact that we are doing it. Sometimes it just becomes the norm and we do not realize that we should be a little more selective on what we feed our minds.

One of the issues that arises is that we are so often surrounded by things that are toxic to our mental well-being that we are unaware they are affecting us. It is like the analogy of the frog in the pot of boiling water. If you turn the temperature up quickly the frog will jump out. If you turn it up slowly and gradually, the frog will boil to death. Not a really cheery analogy, but it works for our point here. If you were to through a person into a group of gossiping back biters, chances are they would say “Get me out of here!” If, however, it happens to be the same talk around the water cooler, it can slowly become the normal. We must stand guard at the gate of our minds as Jim Rohn used to say. Quite often, this negative influence will come from friends, family and even coworkers we don’t mind sharing time with. They may be well-meaning, but it will affect us just the same.

What can you do in these situations? You can’t just tell a person to “Shut up!” Well, I suppose you could, but I can safely tell you that will not lead to quality friendships, which in turn will not lead to an amazing life. We can do some other fine things. We can do our best to remove ourselves from that situation. Excuse ourselves to go to the restroom, for a walk around the block, check the food in the kitchen or the goldfish in the living room. What happens when someone is in the restroom, it is raining outside, the food is gone and the goldfish has a babysitter? One, your luck wouldn’t be too good that day, but there are other options. You can try injecting a positive comment in the mix. Do your best to turn this into a game. I have found this makes it easier. When the gossip train makes a stop at your friend Phil’s station, try thinking about the best thing you can think of about Phil. Throw it out there and see what happens. I can tell you 2 things I know for sure. You will immediately make everyone else a little uncomfortable. That’s ok. If they are gossiping, they should be uncomfortable. The other thing is that you will quickly become known as the person who says nice things about people…behind their backs. That’s a good reputation to have. People trust people like that.

There are times when to paraphrase a popular cliché, ‘drama happens’. You do your best to avoid it, but it sits next to you at work, on the bus or even at home. You throw a life preserver of compliments into this ocean of negativity, but the waves keep coming. Repeated exposure to situations like this can leave you feeling worn out at best, dejected and hopeless at its worst. That is why we need to prepare! I stress having as many positive influences in your life as possible. Inspirational calendars ( I have a day by day one) Something inspiring as the screensaver on your phone. (mine is the cutest picture of the woman I love) You can even subscribe to an inspiring magazine. (I have a local one that only includes positive news) I also recommend having a list at the ready of things that give you a dose of positivity. Is there certain places you like to go? The zoo? A certain park with a great view? How about people that put you in a good mood? Write their names, phone numbers, emails or whatever contact information you have down. How about foods that make you smile? Songs? Movies? I say write these all down now. Eventually, there will be a time you need a negativity detox. It also serves as a good preventative. When someone asks me “What can I do to fight off all the drama and negativity I am exposed to?” It can be as simple as “Read three pages of something inspirational and call me in the morning.”

Let us remember as we are working on our nutritional diet, that we should work on our emotional and spiritual diet as well. Feed your body something good for sure, but do not forget to nourish your mind and soul as well. You never know when you might find yourself in an environment that would leave you starving.

E TU, BRUTE?

This is a famous line from the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. It is a phrase in Latin that when translated literally means, “And you, Brutus?” It is said in Act 3 Scene 1 of the play. At that moment in time Caesar is being assassinated. He recognizes one of his friends, Marcus Junius Brutus as one of the assassins. Struck by the fact he was betrayed by a friend he utters this famous line.

Sadly, we have all experienced betrayal by someone we considered a friend. Although it usually doesn’t result in being literally ‘stabbed in the back’, it still sucks and does not feel very good. Recently, I had the misfortune of this happening to me. There is a lady I work with whom I had fought to help her keep her job and even let her pick what she wanted to do because she likes having a routine. When there was physically difficult things to do, I did them because she mentioned it was too hard for her. I did it because I wanted to be a nice coworker, and more to the point, a nice person. This very same person went to our supervisor and sad some both unflattering and very untrue statements about me. What happens when you find yourself in that situation?

When I heard that news I was understandably not only disappointed in the young lady, but extremely upset. As good fortune would have it, I was also just about to enter the gym. That is not an actual picture of me above. The abs might look the same, but the skin tone is darker. (that too is a joke) I came in with a good deal of adrenaline due to my frustration with my coworker. I channeled that into one of the most intense and hardcore workouts I had in a long time. I also had some good conversations with it to friends and family. Margie, in her beautiful way, gave me some very encouraging words that made me fall even more in love with her. It also inspired the words that you are reading right now. I stayed at the gym for almost 2 hours and wanted to go longer, but they turned the lights off. By that time I was exhausted, but felt a lot better. I followed that up with a trip to the grocery store which usually helps lift my spirits.

The point of this post is as follows. When you are betrayed, make use of it. Especially if what is said is untrue. Take that initial anger and channel it into something useful, such as a good workout or cleaning the house. Then, follow that with something that lifts your spirits. Go for a nice walk in nature. Brew yourself a calming cup of tea. Have a great conversation with a friend. After all is said and done, make sure to be the best ‘you’ that you can be. We, unfortunately, cannot control the words and actions of others. What we do have control of is how we speak and act. If we are the best version of ourselves, it only makes those who speak ill of us look foolish. Those who know us for what we truly are will be unaffected. Those who are affected, are those who have not taken the time to get to know us. Injustice and betrayal are indeed terrible crimes, but they have their own punishment from a power higher than us.

THIS WEEKEND, WALK AWAY

Some people, for the life of me I don’t know why, must attend every drama party they are invited to. Another thing that leaves me scratching my head is that when people try and walk away from drama, others treat them poorly. On occasion, this causes them to reconsider their decision to remove themselves from the stressful situation. As if the people who created the drama opinion matters. They are just afraid they will have no reaction to their drama.

When you walk away from a negative situation, expect there to be drama. Expect the offending party to put up a great amount of resistance. You may lose some friends, that is okay. If someone is willing to stop talking to you because of your refusal to participate in gossip, drama or any other negativity they are not worth being concerned about. Understand your inner peace is worth more than other people’s opinion of you. You owe it to yourself to remove yourself from any situation that does not serve you.

One of the reasons people cannot break the cycle of participating in drama is they let their emotions rule their thoughts. Remaining calm in a stressful situation is worth working towards. It will allow you not to react to others but to choose your actions. If you are looking for a secret to an amazing life it would be developing an ability to ACT and not to REACT. This is not easy by any means, but the payoff will be worth it.

This weekend, do yourself a favor and practice emotional self-control. You will benefit by having more inner peace and control of your life. That is a priceless secret to an amazing life.