ARE YOU AN UMBRELLA?

I love this picture. Two innocent children sharing an umbrella in a storm. As an adult we have an opportunity to share an umbrella every day. To take that thought further, we have a chance to be an umbrella. At this point you may be wondering if I know exactly what an umbrella is for or if I even know what an umbrella is. Why would anyone share an umbrella if it wasn’t raining? Even more absurd, how can a human being turn into an umbrella? Fair questions if I were the one reading this post and not the one writing it.

In its simplest terms an umbrella is an instrument for protecting us in a storm. It is the definition not of umbrella that should concern us here, but that of storm. In life there are many storms. Yes, there are thunderstorms when the winds are blowing fierce and the rain can seem unrelenting. It can be scary to be out in it. We may not want to risk driving if we don’t have to. We may want to stay inside our homes where we are safe.

What we may forget is there are many storms we face every day. There are health storms where the thunder of pain is louder than anyone can imagine. There are financial storms where the debt continues to rain down on us no matter how hard we work. There are the painful emotional storms when the winds of struggle and strife blow us off our path. There are many storms my friends. Storms of addiction, storms of loneliness, storms of depression. They say in life you are either on your way into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of a storm. As Eric Thomas said, “Storms are a part of life, but storms are not life.” All of us face storms each and every day.

As you can imagine, the umbrella for all of these storms can be a little different. It can be an umbrella of compassion for someone who has just been hurt or defeated. It can be the umbrella of encouragement for someone who has lost their way. It can be the umbrella of motivation and inspiration for those lost in a storm of negativity and pessimism. There are some umbrellas like love, friendship and listening that seem to work in every storm.

Just like you can walk with a smile on your face through the most intense storm, so can others. Daily, there are those of us who wake up and put a smile on our faces even when we are in the middle of a storm. Just because someone is smiling does not mean the rain is still not falling. Offer everyone you know an umbrella. When given the chance, be the umbrella they do not have. We are all going through storms and we can all use an umbrella.

YOU HAVE A BRUISE NOT A TATTOO

We all know someone who lives in their past failures. You know the people I am talking about. They had a relationship and it may have been extremely bad, but now that they are free you hear them say things such as, “all men/women are terrible!” Or “Love is a fairytale.”

They accomplish 2 things by doing this. First, they make themselves feel terrible in the moment by reliving that hurt they went through inside their head each time they think about it.

Second, by repeating phrases like that over and over with a great deal of emotion, they create more of that in their reality. If you were a normal, healthy person looking to have a loving, growth-oriented relationship would you be looking for someone who says things like we mentioned above? Of course you wouldn’t. In fact, you would probably run the other way. This would leave our friend looking around saying “see there are no good men/women around anymore!” Little do they know they are chasing them away with their bad attitude and their desire to live in the past.

Don’t turn your bruises into tattoos! Understand bruises can be painful and depending on the severity, may need some time to heal. Trust me on this. Anyone who knows me can speak for my experience in that field. Still, given time and some care all bruises heal. Yours will too unless you make them a tattoo.

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.

WHY BOTHER?

Last post we investigated why it is important to give all of yourself when it comes to your relationship with the one you love. We learned that it allows them to give all of themselves to us, we learned that by not doing so we end up drawing into our lives the very circumstances that we are trying to prevent. That is certainly important when it comes to our romantic partners. Most of the time we are not only sharing our hearts and souls with each other, but also our homes. Not only is it very important to keep someone who lives in the same house with you happy, but they are probably thinking something very similar.

What about the other people in our lives? What about our friends? Why is important to put so much effort into our friendships? In case you didn’t read the last post let me refresh some of the points that apply equally to friendships as they do to romantic relationships. There are friends we might be afraid to trust completely because they might take advantage of our trust and hurt us. Unlike the romantic partner, there are less repercussions if they do. We do not have to go home to our friends. The connection is generally not as deep as our romantic relationships and therefore the ending of a friendship is usually less painful than a romantic relationship. Same with sharing ourselves with friends. The less we tell them, the less information they would have to use against us should they decide to do so.

To a lot of us this may seem very safe and logical. The less we give people the chance to hurt us, the less we will be hurt. Seems to make sense, right? Wrong. By doing this we are not only short-changing ourselves out of the deep, meaningful relationships we could be enjoying, but we are also hurting others and increasing the chances that we will be hurt in the future. Wait, what?

That’s right. So far we have been looking at this from only one side of the equation. Let us look at the other side for a second. If you feel that your friend views you as untrustworthy or at best does not trust you completely, how would that make you feel? Do you think you would feel like extending your trust to that person? You would probably end up feeling like they do not hold you in that high of regard. Now follow that up with them not completely sharing themselves with you. That could leave you feeling that they think you are either not worth knowing that information, or again cannot be trusted with it. Do you think you would share things about yourself with them? Probably not. This would leave us with very shallow and incomplete relationships at best. It also leaves the door open to upset or anger people even by accident. If you do not know what a person likes or dislikes, their opinions on certain matters or even their fears and joys you could say something you truly regret even not trying to do so.

We have exhausted why it is important not to not give ourselves to friendships. How it can end up increasing the chances we will get hurt instead of keeping us safe as we may think. What advantages, if any, can we gain by trusting and giving ourselves completely to our friendships? I give you exhibit A in the picture above. This is a story that is so exciting I can hardly wait to share it with you. While Margie and I were DJing at a local establishment on Sunday night, my good friend Cari messaged Margie and asked her what door we use when we come home as she had a surprise for me.

When we arrived home around 2 a.m., after what was a very busy evening I was exhausted. Currently, the date here is January 95th, or so it feels. We should be having highs in the mid 50’s but they had been barely above freezing with the sun so fed up with the long winter it decided to take a vacation. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so prolonged cold weather minus the sunshine can be quite trying for me and those around me. At this point if you would like to light a candle for Margie it would not be a bad idea. Because I do indeed trust my friends with this information and share it with them as well, Cari was able to do something so thoughtful and amazing. I arrived home to see the above signs taped to my front door! They ranged from reminding me warm weather was coming, to the fact that the cold weather is what makes the tropics so special to me. She added the Wisconsin State Fair, which I love as well. She even encouraged me by reminding me how much my writing touches her and others.

That night I fell asleep with a heart filled with gratitude for the caring and loving friends I have. The reminders and motivation served their purpose, but so did the fact that I have such a great friend. Her efforts did more than she could possibly imagine and her timing could not have been more perfect!

My point is that this all would not have been possible if I did not open my heart to my good friend. It would not have happened if I did not trust her enough to share not only my joys, but also my struggles and fears. It is true that not many friends can be as awesome as Cari, but by trusting and sharing with your friends you give them the opportunity to be so.

SEE THE SIGNS

When people find that I am an advocate for positive living, the same question seems to pop up, “Why bother?” They want to know why you should bother being nice to people. Why is it important to stop and greet strangers with a smile? Why is it important to check in with friends even if you really have nothing else to say? Why is it important to keep courting the love of your life, long after they have agreed to the ‘happily ever after’?

These are all very good questions. Some people who may fit into the pessimistic lifestyle even ask me questions such as “Why bother being nice to people when all they will do is end up taking advantage of you?” No doubt this question has arises from some past experience they have had. The funny thing about that is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you treat people with the forgone conclusion that at some point they are going to take advantage of you or do something hurtful, you withhold certain things. You may not give them the full amount of trust. You may not be completely open and vulnerable with them. Perhaps you may even skip doing the little extra things that may inconvenience you but mean the world to them. After all why would you go out of your way when sooner or later you are going to end up with the short end of the stick?

The ironic thing here is by doing these actions you perpetuate those very circumstances. How? If someone makes you feel like they can’t trust you, how would that make you feel about them? If they never seem to share about themselves and seem guarded would you feel close to them? Trying to keep yourself from getting hurt ends up pushing people away.

Here is another reality – no matter how hard you try at some point you will get hurt. Your paths will cross with some malevolent people, and even good people on occasion do things that hurt us without meaning to. Especially if they don’t know you well enough to know what might upset you.

So why be nice? Why go out of your way to do the things mentioned in the first paragraph? Here’s why. In the picture you see both a sign and a card. The first my lovely Margie left the sign on the mirror while she was shopping with her daughter and I was at the gym. How do you think that sign made me feel as I left for work? Loved? Grateful? Happy? All warm and fuzzy inside? Yes to all the above! The reason she did it she told me was because of how I was making her feel.

The card is an even better story. I shared with Margie how hard it is for me when the Wisconsin State Fair ends. It is not only the end of that festival, which I have loved since a child, but the end of my vacation that year and summer coming to a close. Three things I enjoy coming to a conclusion all at the same time can leave me feeling a little blue. Knowing this the love of my life bought me a ‘get well’  card of sorts. Cheering me up and reminding me of good times to come.

Do you think that would’ve happened had I taken or relationship for granted? Assuming your relationship is ‘handled’ because it is going ok is one of the biggest mistakes a couple can make. Love is one thing you should never put on autopilot. Let me be clear, the reason I put in so much effort in making my lady understand how much she is loved and how beautiful she I find her is not so I can see what creative and wonderful surprises she can leave me. I do it because I am the man in her life and I believe that is what a real man should do. I work as hard as I can to give her a man she can be proud of. I also do my best to not only tell her, but show her how beautiful she is to me and how loved she is. As you can see, the rewards I receive are well worth it.

Here is a wonderful thing I have done with both the card and the sign. I put them inside my laptop and every time I write I open it up to find examples of the love she has shown me. This not only helps on the days when a reminder comes in handy, but each and every time that I see them. It has taken two single very thoughtful moments from my love and made them gifts that give me joy every time I open my computer to write. This not only has me feeling loved it puts me in a great mood to write. It also fills me with gratitude for the amazing woman I have.

How do you think having these reminders serves our relationship? When we are not seeing eye to eye on something, having an example of how great our love can be creates an urge to get back there. When I am away writing, looking over and seeing these reminders helps me stay focused and get my work done so I can come home to the wonderful lady who created them. They are gifts that continue to keep on giving.

Take the time to share with the one you love. The only way for them to love all of you is if all of you loves all of them. That might be tricky to read, but it certainly will make your relationship a glorious source of joy and growth like Margie and I are blessed to have. It also helps to carry reminders of your love with you when you go somewhere.

BE THE LIGHT

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.

TAKE BACK CONTROL!

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Last post we talked about not holding on to negative emotions. The easiest way to do this is to not have too many of them in the first place. Easier said than done right? After all how can we help how our family, boss, coworker or even spouse treats us? We can’t tell them “I’m trying to live a more positive life, could you please not act like a jerk?” OK we could tell them that, but not with very positive results.

So how do we limit the effect that other people’s actions have on us? This can be done by asking two very simple questions. I suggest you write them down on a small piece of paper and carry them with you for when such an event takes place.

The first question is this, “what else can this mean?” Quite often the answer can be the other person is just a jerk or has just treated you poorly. Which again is on them and not you. What others do is their business, how we react is ours. So look for a deeper meaning? Often they are hurting and may be expressing that hurt in a very unproductive way or in other words taking it out on you. Another popular thing to note is that often anger is a cry for help. Hearing your spouse say “If you ever stopped playing golf long enough to do something else” may be their way of saying “I would really enjoy spending more time with you” Which brings us to the next item. Sometimes they are bringing to our attention some aspect of our character that could use some work. This is often hard to see if done hurtfully, but ask yourself if there may be a ring of truth to what they are saying? Could you improve a little bit in that area?

The second question we should ask is “How can I use this?” Turn their hurtful emotions to your benefit. Can you use it as positive motivation? Can you use it to learn something about them or even you? Perhaps you can just use it as practice to control your emotions or practice forgiveness?

Either way, understanding we can control our emotions by asking two simple questions “What else can this mean?” and “How can I use this?” Will certainly give control to us.

If you still get upset or hurt see our last post on the power of forgiveness and how it is truly a gift we give to ourselves.