DAY 2 OF OUR FUN JULY CHALLENGE

Day 2 of our challenge! I hope you made it through day 1 without posting anything negative and remembering to share at least one thing positive online. With most of us still quarantined at home, life exists to a greater degree online. Therefore, the positive changes we are making can have an even greater impact.

I have a great deal of positive to share today. I am going to start with this morning. For the last few years I have had a lingering calf issue. I enjoy jogging despite not being built for such endeavors. After a week or two of jogging I would always get a terrible pain in my calf that would last roughly 2 weeks. This on again, off again training did not allow me to get into much of a rhythm. The last time this injury happened I was alone on a local hiking trail here and over a mile from my car. A long painful limp back, plus the fact that it turned black and blue, prompted me to say, “enough is enough!” I went to the doctor only to discover I had a strain and slight tear in my Achilles tendon. Without physical therapy I risked surgery and weeks of being off my feet all together.

All of this may not sound positive to you, but to me it was. Not only did I finally learn what the problem was, I had a plan to correct it. I found myself at the sports medicine center and in the capable hands of Griffin. After several questions and a complete exam, he developed a plan for my recovery. He informed me that in about 4 to 6 weeks I should really be seeing improvement. I was given several exercises to do at home and soon should be running, jumping and playing with the other kids!

The next bit of great news is that I finally have my ‘office’ back. That was a line I borrowed from my good friend Scott. Since March, the coffee shops here have been closed to inside seating. Recently, they just opened up with social distancing practices in place. Although writing at home with a beautiful lady can be fun, it can also be quite distracting. I always want to give her my attention when I am in her presence. When I am by myself in a coffee shop I tend to disappear in my own little writing world. Sometimes this can be quite amusing as I look up and all of the people around me have changed and I was completely unaware. This is not where the good news ends!

Another great thing about today’s visit is the thoughtful nature of my beautiful lady. When she heard that Starbucks was opening she wanted to buy me my first coffee. She presented me with a gift card at lunch the other day. As I am writing this, I can’t help but think of her thoughtfulness. Not to mention she is on my screen saver. Filled with love, writing just seems to flow.

That is 3 pieces of positive news! I have already found myself looking for things to share that are positive. I hope you are having luck finding your positive news. Feel free to share your positive stories in the comments below, but don’t forget to share them online as well!

DAY 1 OF THE 7 DAY JULY CHALLENGE!

Our first day! 7 days, all positivity, no negativity!! Giving our souls a little vacation. If you are just joining us, for the first 7 days of my birth month we are going to 1.) Cease from posting anything negative and 2) post one thing positive each day. By the end of the week we should have raised our vibration and begun to not only change ourselves but the world around us.

Here is mine. It is my sincere desire these 7 days begin to change the narrative. The more we change the focus to that of love and gratitude, we will inspire others to do the same. In turn, perhaps they may go on to share a smile or kind word to another. Thus, creating a ripple effect of kindness.

Can you ‘catch’ love from another person? I think you know the answer to that is yes. How do you feel when someone pays you a genuine compliment? Let’s you know how proud they are of you, or best of all, says they love you. You chest swells a little and joy seems to radiate from within.

The great thing about love, the more we share, the more we create! Putting more love into the world not only creates a more loving world, but a more loving you! Thunk of how you feel when you tell someone how wonderful they are, how proud you are of them or how much you love them? You feel better inside!

That is my positive thought today let us start a pandemic of love and let us share it wherever we can!

YOU DESERVE THIS

Happiness is a gift we all deserve. Whatever you are engaged in at the moment you are reading this, I encourage you to stop, take a minute and think of something that makes you happy. Maybe it is the pet you have waiting for you at home, or is sitting on your lap right now. A smile on the face of someone you love. A vacation you are looking forward to, or one you were recently on. The sunshine you felt on your face this morning or the beautiful moonlight you saw last night.

The truth is the world is full of little things that will make us happy if we just take the time to stop and notice them. Sure, there are lots of things on the opposite side of the spectrum and it is only human nature to think about…or worry about them. What does that ultimately do for us? It serves only to make us emotionally and, if left unchecked, often physically sick. Last post we talked about combating fear with hard work. Once we have done all we can do to address a situation that has us concerned, we should clearly shift our focus to something that will bring us joy.

If this seems difficult to do for you, or if you are looking for a straight-forward method to put this into action, here is what I suggest. Pick a time of day on which you can fairly rely. If you have a regularly scheduled lunch hour or perhaps right after you leave the office? You can do what I am about to suggest several times a day. In fact, the more you do it, the better it will be, but let us start out with at least one time. Now set an alarm on your phone. For five minutes devote your thoughts entirely to things that make you happy. Perhaps jot a few down as you are thinking of them. This would be good reference material for next time. Close your eyes and think about them. If you are thinking about sunshine, imagine how warm it feels on your skin. Try to engage as many senses as you can. How about the smell of freshbaked chocolate chip cookies? Imagine the feel of the warm cookie in your hand, or better yet melting in your mouth. When the alarm goes off in five minutes you may want to keep on with this. If that works for you go with it. If not, that’s ok too. Sometimes it is good to walk away wanting more. It will help us look forward to next time.

Giving yourself this amazing gift of 5 minutes of happiness will do wonders for you. It will bring a sense of peace and joy to your heart. It will allow you to deal with the inevitable stresses in life with a lot more ease. Feel free to share some of your happy thoughts and how this works for you in the comments below.

WE ALL BLOOM DIFFERENTLY

Another great example of a picture is worth 1000 words. I will do my best to expand on this picture and keep the word count below 1000. Everyone blooms in their own way reads the caption of the photo. Represented here is someone playing music, someone walking in nature, someone being greeted by a dog and lastly, it appears and adult holding a child. Each of these experiences are causing that person to bloom. What exactly does that mean? I interpret blooming to mean allowing more of themselves to show. Having the self-confidence or happiness to cause us to reveal more of our true nature to the world.

I particularly enjoy the last photo of the adult and the child. As you can see the love exchanged between them is causing both of them to bloom. I wonder if the same could be said of the dog, or the people hearing the music the person in the first photo is playing. Becoming more of ourselves is the greatest gift we can give the world. Living a life that feeds your soul is about the most important thing you can do, not only for yourself, but for others as well. What the world needs most is individuals whose souls are on fire.

To that end, my challenge for you is to find what causes you to bloom. Do more of that. How do you know what causes you to bloom? It is whatever makes your soul feel on fire. Ask yourself if you woke up tomorrow with no financial worries, what would you do? How about the next day? In my case, I love going out for coffee with friends, listening to some classic jazz, reading and learning things I can do to improve my life and those that I care about, and sharing what I have learned with all of you who follow this blog. At the end of each day what feeds my soul the most is laying next to the woman I love and falling asleep in each others arms.

One more important element to consider is what feeds the souls of those around you. Encourage them to not only discover that, but devote time to it as well. When those around you are living from a place of fulfillment and are fully in bloom you will certainly notice a difference. This is also another reason in a long list of reasons to be kind and encouraging to others. You never know what inspires them. If you see a local musician playing encourage and support them and their passion. See another person out enjoying nature? Pass on a smile and a quick hello. Let people pet your dog while you are out walking them. Also make sure to love not only your children, but everyone in your life. By doing so we will all bloom. Like a garden full of flowers in bloom, the earth will become a truly magical place.

THERE IS HOPE

Today is the first day of spring. It is perhaps my favorite time of the year. I am really not of fan of winter and having Seasonal Affective Disorder does not help matters anyway. What I really enjoy about spring is the general sense of renewal and hope it brings. Seeing the first song bird that has returned from its winter migration, watching as the piles of snow begin to shrink and disappear and seeing those first few flowers pop up through the brown grass fill us with hope and a sense of what is to come.

In the past 8 years, my posts have centered around that theme. Today, as I write this the world is a different place. It is a world not filled with hope, but one filled with fear. Much like the seasons, this too will change. I have heard everything from warmer weather helping to make the virus less likely to spread, and medicines and vaccines being worked on to be ready as soon as they can be.

All of these things are like the flower coming up through the once barren ground. It may not transform the landscape, but it is a sign of good things to come. Just like spring often toys with our emotions going from warm sunny days to ones with cold and snow before returning to warm up once again, so will this worldly situation. Just as the weather may seem to go up and down, eventually, we know the warm up is coming. As we fight to get a handle on this terrible virus, things may get worse before they get better. In the end, however, we all know spring will come and we know this disease will be controlled.

Both the exact time the weather will warm up for good and we can go back to living our normal lives remain a mystery. We know with certainty, both will eventually come. In the meantime I encourage all of us to do with this virus what I do to make it through the last of winter. Yes, there will be plenty of barren brown ground to look at. News of continued spread of the virus. Death tolls and how they keep getting bigger. If you think about it, they really couldn’t get smaller. This is like staring at what remains of winter. Instead, do something that will give you a feeling of hope. Spend time each day looking for those flowers, look at the melting piles of snow. That may be the news they have successfully isolated and grown copies of the virus in Canada which will help develop treatments, vaccines and tests. Instead of focusing on how you can no longer visit your favorite watering hole (or coffee shop) for a beverage, focus on the quality time you can spend at home.

There is one more very important thing you can do. When you find those things that give you hope. When you see that rare article of good news, be sure to share it with others. Spread hope in a time of despair. Be the light in a moment of darkness. Let us fill the world with as much light for those who are struggling as we can. If you cannot find the light, be the light. Thank a worker stocking the shelves at the grocery store, as my beautiful Margie did. Call to check on an elderly relative. Donate or help out at a local homeless shelter. Be the one to share a story of joy and encouragement. We are all in this together, and that is the way we will get out of it – together.

YOU HAVE BEEN PLANTED, NOT BURIED

You can’t help but to relate when you look at this picture. We have all been there. Asking ourselves, or the powers that be, “Why on earth am I in this terrible situation?” I often think my talents could be better served in a more conducive work enviroment in a warmer climate. Then I realize that I have the opportunity to grow and inspire others through this enviroment.

Another aspect of this picture that is worth pondering is what you can be buried in. When the ‘manure’ of life seems overwhelming we must remember one thing – what is the purpose of spreading manure on the ground? If you answered ‘to help things grow’ you are correct! The same holds true in our lives. Can you think of a time life covered you in a large dose of manure? You may have felt like the seed in the second picture. That life was over. It seemed dark and unfair. You may have felt hurt and pain. Inevitably, if we make it through all of that, what ends up happening? The painful and trying events that buried us and felt like it turned our lives into a big pile of manure, ended up teaching us some of the greatest lessons.

Although lessons can suck to go through, they always force us to grow. What happens when we grow is really quite simple – we become stronger and better people. Seeds will not grow well without being buried. Add a little manure on top of them and they tend to grow even faster. The same is true of us. The harder our life, the more the opportunity to grow. When life has you covered it what seems like a blanket of manure, tell yourself, “I’m not buried. I am planted!” Shout it out if you can. It may seem a little hokey, but it may very well take you from feeling self-pity, to looking for how to put the situation to work for you and what you can get out of it in terms of growth.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR LIFE?


How do you see life? This is a question that came up in a book I reading. I am forever telling people how powerful the words they choose are. Sometimes How you say something is just as important as what you are saying. A quick example, “This job is killing me!” verses “This job sure is a challenge.” Say them both out loud now. Do they conjure up different feelings? I think you could even answer that without reading them. Now imagine multiplying this example thousands of times over the course of a day. Can you see how many times you affect your mood?

Back to our original question – How do you see life? This overall theme can also determine a great deal when it comes to your life. Some people say life is a battle. They will be on guard to defend themselves. Every challenge may seem like a battle to them. When they wake up in the morning it may very well feel as if they are going to war with the world. They may seldom get to appreciate all of the good times because they will be using that time to prepare for the next foe or situation that may attack.

Some of us say life is a circus. We will tend to notice the absurd and perhaps view life as something we are watching. This does have it’s perks. When something happens in your life that you can hardly believe, it is like a crazy act at a circus. You will notice ring leaders, lion tamers and certainly a fair share of clowns. You might miss out on chances for serious growth and contribution. You may not realize that you are also part of the circus and playing your own role in someone else’s circus.

Some of us view life as a party. One can understand how this may be beneficial. You will be forever on the lookout for something to celebrate. This is one of the three questions I recommend everyone ask themselves when they wake up in the morning, “What can I celebrate today?” Sometimes the answer is just that you woke up. Sometimes, like in my case, you are celebrating waking up next to the woman of your dreams. The fact that you are employed, even if it may not be your dream job, can be worth celebrating. What could be bad with this outlook on life? If life is a party, often we can be lax on our responsibilities. Maybe we go out with friends before realizing that we needed that money for our heating bills? We could not spend the amount of time on introspection that would benefit us.

As you can see each way of looking at life can have pros and cons. I am not here to tell you which one is better or worse. That will depend greatly on you and what you wish to feel and accomplish in your life. What is important is to ask yourself, “How do I see life?” If you are not living an amazing life, perhaps your definition of life in general has a great deal to do with that. I would LOVE to hear how you define life.

SHUT 1, OPEN 2

Margie and I routinely take turns picking out movies to watch. One night it is her turn, the next night it is my turn. This way it keeps things fair and interesting since we can often have very different tastes in movies. On this particular night the movie that was chosen to watch was “What Women Want” staring Mel Gibson among others. If you haven’t seen the movie I will given you the plot very briefly. A man who generally has little regard for women is suddenly able to hear their every thought. By being able to do this, it has a big impact on his life and career.

As valuable as this ability might be, as far as we are aware it is impossible to hear the minds of the opposite sex. To some this could be frustrating, but to many they should probably be grateful. I am sure we can all recall many moments when we have heard friends say, or even said ourselves, “I wish I could know what goes on in their head!” On occasion I have even said this about myself, but that is a topic for a different day. Trying to know what is in the minds of someone, be it a man or a woman, can be frustrating. The amazing thing is that there is a way to do this and it is also easier than you think. Of course there are a million books on ‘How to read someone like a book’ or ‘how to understand your partner more’. Trust me I have read a good deal of them and they all have something valuable to offer.

The tricky thing about reading and applying the knowledge you learn from these books is that it can vary from person to person. To say all men are alike or all women think and act in the same manner is obviously ludicrous. A lot of our nature has to do with genetics, experiences and goals. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a simple formula that could work to help us gain deeper insight into anyone we are working to know on a deeper level? How much would it be worth to know how your boss felt about certain things? How helpful would knowing what motivated your employees and coworkers be? Would it be valuable to you to understand why members of your family continue to do things that drive you crazy? To, of course, the most valuable aspect of this formula. How much would you pay to know more about the inner workings of the mind contained in the head of the person you loved? What if you could know more about what made them happy? Would knowing what upset them as well as what made them happy and relaxed be worth something to you?

The great news is that there is such a formula. The better news is I am about to give it to you for free! No strings attached. You can choose to use it, or you can choose to dismiss it because of its simplicity. The choice is up to you. My promise to you is this – if you put this formula to work with an honest effort, you will acheive everything mentioned in the paragraph above and more. Personally, I would recommend starting with one person until you really get the hang of this. After a while, applying this formula will become second nature to you and all your relationships will be taken to amazing new levels. You will be able to impress your boss with regularity. This could lead to a raise, a promotion or countless other great items. You could motivate your employees and coworkers while making them happy at the same time. Imagine the work enviroment this could lead to! Most importantly, you will have your intimate partner feeling happier and more loved than ever before. I have been applying this formula in my own relationship and can tell you it is one of the main reasons both of us are so happy.

What is this magic formula? How can you apply it for your own benefit today? The formula is the title of this blog – SHUT 1 AND OPEN 2. You may wish to write this simple formula down as a daily reminder. Let me explain further what this formula means. Again, I strongly caution you against dismissing it based on how simple it may sound. Most profound thoughts are simple. The first part of the formula ‘shut one’ refers to your mouth. Most of us love to explain to our partners our feelings (a very important aspect of communication) but we are so busy talking about ourselves, we forget to do the second part of the formula. That second part ‘open 2’ refers to both our ears and our eyes. Call it actively listening, focused observation or any other term you like. Using this second part of the formula will bring you all the riches you desire when it comes to personal relations.

Let us delve a little deeper into the second part of this formula. Focused observation involves listening to, and watching someone with a particular goal in mind. In this case to learn more about them. Most couples can tell you that they can tell when their partner is upset when they give them “the look”. Actively listening or applying the second part of this formula involves paying attention to what proceeded that look. What was said or done to ilicit that expression? The same can work in reverse. When we see a genuine expression of joy on our partners face, their eyes lighting up, a smile adorning their face, it causes us to be happy as well. How often do we stop and ask ourselves “What caused this expression of joy?” More importantly in these examples is making a mental, or written, account of that. Remember what caused the pain or upset and what caused the joy.

I applied this very formula in my own relationship with astounding results. I did it without really knowing what I was doing. Now that I know and have perfected this formula, I continue to use it everyday and the results have only become more amazing. I was at our local food coop and wanted to pick up a little gift for Margie to let her know I was thinking about her. We had been to that store a few times as well as other grocery stores. The funny thing was I did not have any clue as to what a good surprise would be. I thought to myself, “Boy if only she was here I could see what she liked and then pick that out.” Suddenly it hit me, I should be doing that all of the time. In the countless times we had been to the grocery store I did not really pay attention to what she may have picked up or what aisles she gravitated towards. I made a decision next time we went shoppping I would observe carefully to what she did and said to learn what would be a good surprise next time I was alone. I can tell you that I learned more about my beautiful Margie in that shopping trip than I had in all the time we spent leading up to that moment.

I was so proud of myself until I realized one very important thing. There was no reason to have waited to learn about the love of my life. It is not just what she likes in the grocery store that can make me a hero for the day. I began to pay attention to what movies she picks out. What colors she enjoys having around. What she says she likes, and what lights her up. I have seen her get upset with both me and others and noticed what caused that. I noticed what songs she listens to when she is upset, and which she listens to when she wants to relax. I observed her as a scientest would do when observing an experiment. Then I began to test what I had learned. Slowly I found ways to make her feel more happy and loved than I had done up to that point. This practice continues to this day. Some days I may not learn anything, but just be reminded of things that are important to her. Other days I learn so much I feel I didn’t even know the woman I have been blessed to be with.

It never fails to surprise me how many people do not know the most basic elements about their partners. What is their shoe size? What are their favorite colors? Movies? Songs? This formula can give you what many would percieve as an unfair advantage. Do not take my word for it, Prove it to yourself using this 24 hour experiment. For the next 24 hours pick someone to observe. Some may find it easier to start with someone they are not so attached to, others may see more benefit in jumping right in to the person closest to you. For 24 hours become an active listener. Watch their every move. Listen to every word they say. Even more important, try to learn what is behind these words and actions. Record what you learn. As a bonus you can even go deeper. Look at their social media accounts and what they put out for the world to see. Have they expressed what is important to them? Have they mentioned what upsets them or goals they are trying to reach? Make note of this too. It may sound like you are stalking them, and it way this is true. What you are doing is focusing all of your efforts on learning how this person thinks and feels. Imagine what amazing things you can do with this information? To them it may seem as if you can read their minds and atticipate their needs and desires. Imagine how that will change your relationships?

ASSUMING A SMILE

Today’s motivational thought come courtesy of my dear friend Kurt. That is him and his words in the picture above. When I read what he had to say it brought a very important reminder to light.

When we think of bringing joy to and helping others we usually focus our efforts on those in what we might view as compromising situations. That is important because those are the people who need it the most. Helping at a meal program, bringing items to the hopeless or reaching out to those who seem to be in pain are some of the most noble acts we can do.

Limiting our actions to just those people can be a mistake. Some of those who need our help the most can hide it the best. I recall a gentleman I worked with in the post office. This gentleman came to work every day with a smile and a joke. There were three of us who often worked together in this small office. We would share stories and on occasion we would all share a cocktail after work. One of the funniest men I have ever worked with. After being transfered for several months, I stopped back to help one day and noticed that gentleman was not there. I inquired as to whether he retired or simply had the day off. I was informed the found him in his basement. He had hung himself and left behind several children.

Never would I have imagined this man would have been suffering so greatly on the inside. Very few coworkers have ever made me laugh so hard and so often. The effect on the other gentleman we worked with was devastating. They had worked together more often and were far closer. I am sure that man felt that he should have known something was wrong. The truth is you would have never guessed.

This is the story of more people than we would dare to imagine. Although they may not be to the point of taking their own lives, their smile could be hiding a great deal of pain. That is why it is important to remember to treat everyone with respect and compassion. Let even the happiest of your friends know that you are there for them and that they have a safe place to vent with you. It may mean more than you know. I may just save someone’s life. 

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING 🙂

AN INSPIRATIONAL STORY DURING A TRYING TIME

The above picture is from the intersection of 60th and Burnham in the city of West Allis Wisconsin, where this writer happens to live. Although this picture was from a few years ago the scene looked much the same this past weekend. In Wisconsin we are prone to freezing temperatures and large amounts of snowfall. This Friday/Saturday we received what I am guessing was around 8 inches of snow.

As you can imagine by looking at the picture above, this makes travel difficult. A simple trip to the grocery store that would normally take ten minutes can take at least twice that. It also adds an element of danger as roads become slippery and vision becomes reduced. On top of all of this is the inconvenience of having to clear snow, put down salt and other steps to make your path safe and easy to travel.

On a personal level, I could do without all of this. I am not a fan of winter and would prefer to live somewhere much warmer. Until that happens, I am left to face these conditions with the best outlook I can muster. On Friday I worked a 16 hour day between two jobs. On the way to job number two, DJing at a local establishment named Limanski’s, Margie and I had to drive through the main portion of the snow storm. The roads were slippery and several drivers were using questionable judgement. On the way home at roughly 2 a.m. the roads had only gotten worse and there was a batch of freezing rain to make the drive a little more exciting.

The following morning we needed to attend the funeral of a very dear friend’s mother. That meant having to clear out our driveway and a path to the car prior to departure and allowing extra time to get there. From the moment I stepped out of the house, the day began to shift. The weather was fairly warm (around 34 degrees) There was the hum of snowblowers and the scrape of shovels working to clear the results of the night before. I grabbed my shovel to join masses in our labor. The snow was heavy and one had to be careful not to lift with your back. After clearing a path to the car and the snow the plows had left in front of our driveway we were ready to go.

I was concerned as to what the conditions of the roads would be. The concern was unfounded. Roads that only hours before had seemed unpassable now were completely free of snow. We witnessed several trucks working to plow and salt the streets on our way to the funeral.

After the funeral, Margie needed to complete one of her amazing cakes for a customer. I knew she had not had any breakfast and volunteered to grab her a nice breakfast sandwich. After dropping her off to work, I began to drive to get a breakfast sandwich from Kwick Trip. It is a gas station with a rather expansive convenience store inside, featuring breakfast sandwiches amoung other things. On my drive there I witnessed countless people shoveling, using their snow blowers and just doing their best to navigate the streets and sidewalks.

Normally, this would be a rather depressing sight to someone who loves and wishes he lived in the tropics, but not today. Each person I saw seemed to be wearing a smile. I saw neighbors helping each other. I saw a family building a snow man  and children playing with sleds. It would seem everyone today was making the best of the situation and not letting it dampen their spirits.

When I arrived at Kwik Trip, I realized the price of gasoline was quite reasonable and decided to top off my tank. When I went inside to pick out some food for Margie and I as well as pay for my gasoline, I was greeted with the most pleasurable service. I was asked if I needed help finding or picking out anything. When I arrived at the counter I was not only reminded to enter my rewards card number, but asked if I needed any beverages to accompany my food purchases. The whole time I was greeted with a smile.

On a day when most people had an excuse to be irritable, it was great to see most everyone in my community doing their best to keep a smile on their face and share it with others. Just a good reminder that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. I would love to hear any positive winter stories you have to share. 

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING 🙂