ARE REAL FRIENDS FOUND HERE?

Today’s post is going to look at one of the more hotly debated places to make friends. In fact, this is not actually a geographical location at all. The place we are talking about is online. I have heard people say that online friends are not real friends. Perhaps this stems from the fact that people can be less than truthful about who they are. Profile pictures can photo shopped, facts can be embellished, even names can be changed. I can understand all of these concerns. Even in the ‘real world’ people can be dishonest and deceiving.

With over 7 billion people on the planet I feel it would be doing ourselves a great disservice to only count those among our physical location as friends. There are people who live halfway across the world that might hold the information we need. The person that could relate to your situation the best and offer you some insight and encouragement may not only be outside your city, but might be outside your country. Personally, I work with an amazing publisher in Los Angeles, Aura, who has helped my writing to grow. I speak with an author in Romania, Andrada, who is going to interview me in the future and who understands the struggles of being a hard-working author.

This website you are now reading has allowed me to interact with people on 6 different continents and over 100 different countries. By remaining open to learning and becoming friends with these wonderful souls my life has improved by leaps and bounds! I look forward to traveling to Fiji in the near future and have already made some connections there through my writing. I have learned about different cultures, food, music and holidays. Being a self-improvement author and speaker, I have also seen how much we all have in common. Everyone has the desire to feel important. Whether you are a farmer in Greenland or a prince in the UAE, we all wish to be loved.

Today, the love of my life reminded me of something even better than all you can receive by being friends with those halfway around the world. That is being able to give. While having dinner with Margie and my mother, my love stated that I have no idea how many lives I have touched without even knowing it. My mother brought up the ripple effect. How every life we touch can end up touching another. Through this giving we can improve the lives of an entire community clear across the world. Seldom does it matter where an inspiring word comes from if sent with love and good intentions.

Are online friends real friends? I say absolutely. Some of my greatest advice and most wonderful inspiration has come from afar. We must remember to maintain a sense of balance with friends online and friends in the physical world. I encourage you to reach out to people in different countries and cultures. Join online communities dedicated to your interests.

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.

WE ARE ALL VERY TIRED

One thing that I think we can all agree we are growing weary of is what seems to be the growing rate of violent crime in our world today. As I write this there are reports from the great state of Maryland of a shooting at a newspaper office where 5 people were killed and others were injured. It seems every night you turn on the news, or every morning you pick up the newspaper you read about senseless violence where someone has lost their life. Is this a result of better technology in communicating these crimes? Is it the result of the internet making this a smaller world? Are we becoming less tolerant? Are we becoming desensitized to violence and death due to media and video games? I imagine the answer is probably a little of all the above.

With all of the consumption of negativity you can find yourself feeling quite down. With more people reading more stories of violence we could quickly find ourselves living in a world of people depressed and losing hope. It is my belief that this lack of hope and barrage of negative news can push people who are on the edge to slip into a world of violence.

What is the solution? Are we to bury our heads in the sand and pretend all of this is not happening? The answer is both yes and no. Certainly you need to be aware of your world and what is transpiring, but you do not need to be inundated with it. You must ask yourself if reading every article on every mass shooting will do anything to enhance your life? What it will do is drain your spirit. This is why this and many other sites advocate limiting or better yet eliminating consumption of nightly news. There are apps for weather, sports or anything else you may need to know.

Is there something that we can do that is proactive? The simplest thing we can do is also one of the most powerful and also one of the most difficult. Do not let the constant feeding of negativity get us down. Easier said than done, but it can happen. When I hear of stories of great tragedy in the news I always look for the helpers. A secret I learned from Mr. Rogers. Eventually and in some way tragedy has a way of bringing the best out of some people and bringing people together. If you can’t find a helper, or even if you can, focus on being one.

When I hear of violence or some other tragic news story I know there is even more importance in what I do. The world needs more of a balance of positive to the negative. This was the very reason I began what I do. When I hear of violence in the world I use it as a stark reminder I have far more work to do, and urgent motivation to reach more souls. Victims and their families and friends are not the only people who need encouragement. Those committing the crimes may feel there is no hope. If only they knew they were people who care, even if they are half a world away.

This is where you come in. My words can’t reach everyone. Especially Iceland and Greenland who seem to be two countries I just cannot reach. What we need to do is all work on becoming lights to the world. Whether it is meeting your neighbors as discussed in last week’s post, sharing this blog or just encouraging someone who needs it. Let us all remember it is only light that can remove the darkness.

SO GRATEFUL…

This picture all but brings tears of joy and excitement to my eyes. Why? Am I a freak about cartography? Not exactly. This picture, not exactly clear, is a map of all the countries of the world. The exciting part is that all of the red,orange and yellow countries are ones where someone has read my writing. It amounts to well over 100 countries. If, five years ago when I started this website you had told me I would affect the lives of people in over 100 countries I would have been hard-pressed to believe you. with followers numbering in the tens of thousands, daily my words have the potential to bring joy to a lot of hearts and minds. I view that as not only a great reward, but a great responsibility.

The countries that are not colored in excite me as well. They simply mean there are even more people that I can positively impact. Although I am not exactly sure what has prevented my words from reaching them so far, (Greenland and Iceland what does a fellow have to do?) but it keeps me working hard each and every day. The joy I have in reading comments from people across the globe from Armenia to Zimbabwe fills my heart with more joy than I can convey.

I just wanted to take a moment and keep all of you up to date as to how many lives we can all touch through this website. Whether it is a comment, like, share or sending me an idea of something you would like me to write about, our words reach readers in ever corner of the world. I look forward to reaching and connecting with more of you in the future.

If you would like to leave a suggestion for a topic to be covered on this website, tell the story of how it has affected your life, or simply say what corner of the world you read it in and hello to myself and our other readers that would be amazing!

WORK YOUR PASSION!

When I talk to people about living their passion a lot of them assume I am telling them to do it for a living. While it is true you can really make a career out of anything that is not what I am suggesting entirely. Though if you do happen to find yourself seeking a way to make a living your passion may not be a bad place to start. So you have discovered your passion. Either through the exercises we discussed yesterday or if you happen to be lucky like me you fall into it during a glass of Captain Morgan and a conversation with two beautiful and amazing friends. Either way, what now? here is my suggestion. Think of how you would most like to involve this passion in your life. Let us take the model train example. perhaps your goal is to have a large model train display you can work on in your spare time. write that down as your ultimate goal, now begin to work backwards. What would you need to do/have to make that happen. If your mind immediately goes to “a lot of money I do not have” you are not thinking positively on your passion. In this case, being that I know very little about model trains I will try to make my best guess. You would need large pieces of wood to set the tracks and buildings on. You would need the trains. How many? You would want buildings. What kind? Crossings? Develop a plan. make a list of all the things you would want and need. now perhaps a couple of hours a week you can work on slowly putting this together. Go window shopping at the hobby store to get ideas, make a list and draw a sketch of how you would like it to look. Say you would like to turn this into a career. you could write a book about your adventures in setting up your display or put together an online video series on how to set up model trains.

let me tell you a more personal example. When my two friends helped me realize that my passion was bringing joy to others and helping them see the beauty in themselves it became an obsession. Especially keeping in mind the words Alysa said about “To bad there are not more people like you” for a brief second I contemplated cloning until I realized I knew little or nothing about the science that goes into that. not to mention we might run into identity theft problems. Seriously though in short order I realized the obvious short-coming in my passion. If you did not come into my post office or bar, or I did not come to you how could I bring you joy? How could I assist you in discovering and appreciating the beauty that is inside of you. How could I help someone in Brazil as well as helping someone in Greenland? Then the idea of starting this blog came to me. You know you are living your passion when pieces fall into place. Shortly after making this decision I reconnected with another amazing friend Kristina. Not only did she know quite a bit about blogs she encouraged me to write a book as well. Since then there has been ideas for audio cd’s as well as online video series. Although I must confess I think my appearance lends itself better to the audio. The point here is I have never been more excited to wake up than I am now. I still work at the post office and the bar, but adding this passion to my life has added more joy, energy and enthusiasm to my life than I can hope for. So write down your goal and begin to work backwards. Work all the way back until you can start thinking of steps you can take today, right now to put you on the road to living your passion. Then take one! As my mentor Tony Robbins says, “never leave the sight of a goal without at least taking one action towards its fulfillment” Not only will it jumpstart your passion it will give you momentum! Have a great weekend and we will see you on Monday!

FREEDOM

Today is July 4th.  If you live here in the United States it is a day we celebrate our freedom as a country.  That is not what this post is about though.  No I am talking about a universal freedom.  A freedom that we all have.  One that is in the possession of everyone whether you live in Brazil, Greenland, Egypt or California.  This freedom, however, is seldom pursued or even used by most of us.  What is this freedom I speak of?  It is our freedom of mind, freedom of thought and freedom of feeling.  There are many people who let circumstances control their minds.  “Well I would be happy if only this political party wasn’t in”.  They let things they read, words other people say, political ideology, beliefs of the masses dictate what happens inside their own heads.  Sure it stings when someone says or does something mean or vindictive to us.  Remember, we cannot control circumstances.  As the saying goes “What people say and do to us is their business.  How we react to it is ours”  Like liberty and freedoms on a national level, personal liberty is an aspiration to be fought for at all costs.  We have been told how to think, how and what to feel since we were young.  It is our duty to decide what we believe and what thoughts we will allow to rule our daily thinking.  It is time to begin the struggle for mental and spiritual independence from negative and limiting thoughts and beliefs.  For no country can be free, no people can be free if first their minds are not free.