LET US TALK ABOUT YOUR STORY

We ended last week by discussing stories. The stories we tell ourselves to prevent us from trying new ideas and concepts. I shared some of the stories from my life and how they have affected me. We even looked at stories that others tell us about ourselves. We looked at how we view stories, events and people from our past and how that can have an effect on our future. All of these examples can show how important stories are to our development and overall well-being.

Today we are going to look at your story. In the last few years I have learned so much from listening to the stories of others. Whether it is the stories from my friends Cari and Kelly who show me that even people coming from some of the most challenging circumstances can grow into some of the most loving people with wonderful souls. Listening to the stories about my lovely Margie helped me to better understand the woman I love and the people in her life that helped form her into the divine lady that she is today.

I know I could learn a lot from your story as well. That may sound like a bold claim considering the people who read this span the entire globe. You may be asking what can I learn from the individual from Tunisia who read this on Sunday? I can’t say exactly, but I can tell you for sure something. The examples may not be something I can relate to, for example I have friends who were abused, in foster care, divorced, lost children and a host of other challenges I have not faced. In them I can learn the principles of hope, faith, determination and love. I am eternally grateful to each and every person who shares their story with me.

You may think that your life does not offer any inspiration, but I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. I have heard stories from a friend in Romania about listening to certain music on the way to work. I have heard stories from my friend in Australia about the way she discovers indigenous medicine by visiting local markets. My friend from Mexico shares challenges that the local economy and health care cause him to face in his country. These are but a few of the countless stories I hear each and every day. Even those who share stories about their love, good fortune or healing give me a joyous feeling in my heart.

Perhaps you still think your story is nothing special? “I am just a person who wakes up and works to pay the bills.” Let me tell you that your story, and your life may be just what someone else needs to hear. It may be the challenges or amusing stories you have to offer about your chosen line of work. It may be amusing stories and episodes you have had raising your children. Maybe it is even the way you have approached a health challenge you have. After more then 20 years in the self-improvement field, I can tell you without a doubt, one of the most common feelings people deal with is feeling alone. Knowing that there is somebody else in the world who is facing the same challenge or has even made it through that challenge, can give their heart a little peace.

Please share your story. It may not seem like much to you and you may not understand how it will help anyone else, but it will. Whether you wish to start a blog like this one, write your own book or start a YouTube channel, please get your story out there. Someone is needing to hear just what you have to say. They may be in Armenia, Brazil or Zaire but they are out there. If you need any advice or suggestions on how to get started you can ask yours truly or make good use of Google which has many helpful tutorials.

I USED TO BE TOO COOL FOR THIS

I recall some of my first exposure to the principles of self-improvement. They seemed hokey and new age at best, far out and ridiculous at worst. I was a singer in a band, I was a bartender. I had no desire to take my inner child on a play date. When I heard someone talk about meditation or keeping a journal I thought they would be someone sitting alone in a tent in the middle of the desert giving advice or something. That was actually a description I gave to my good friend Russ. In short I thought all of this self-help stuff was a bunch of B.S..

My dramatic change from someone who mocked all things that might be labeled ‘self-improvement’ to someone who is not only a proponent of such material, but a creator and distributor as well, happened over a period of time. It is like the story of boiling a frog in a pot of water. If you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out, but if you turn the heat up slowly it will sit there until it boils to death. Please know I am not advocating harm to animals, but my life proceeded along a similar path. As life slowly turned the heat up on me I found myself literally boiling to death in a pool of stress.

One of the first stresses I can think of is when I was working at a telemarketing job. For those of you who have never had a job in this field, just consider what you have said, or heard other people say to telemarketers. Now, imagine being the person on the other end of the phone…eight hours a day…6 days a week. I remember listening to Bob Marley’s Legend album on my lunch hour every day. I would close my eyes, push play and picture being on a beach in Jamaica. Little was I aware I was practicing visualizing and meditation. Not that I called it that. At the time I just said I was “unwinding on lunch”. All I was sure of is that is made me feel better and be able to withstand the constant barrage of colorful phrases people share with telemarketers.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself awake at 3a.m. ready to go to the post office job I was thrilled about. This was after working an entire bartending shift I was also growing weary of. As you can imagine this and other stresses also affected my relationships with others at the time. While sitting on the couch putting on my shoes I saw an infomercial. It was for a collection of CDs from Tony Robbins. Being half asleep and feeling frustrated with the direction my life was going at the time, I thought “What the hell do I have to lose?” I ordered the tapes, went to work and soon forgot all about it. A week later they arrived. I listened on my short commute I had to work at the time and soon found myself taking detours to listen to more.

Soon I found myself looking at life from a different angle. Shortly thereafter, my job was downsized and the real test began. I found myself at the local library looking for answers. Those of you who have read my book or followed me for any amount of time have no doubt heard this story countless times. After finding things that helped a former ‘rock star’ and bartender who was too cool for self-help, I wanted to share it with others who thought themselves too bad ass for this material, but were silently, or not so silently suffering on the inside. That lead to the creation of this website, a book, a YouTube channel and seminars. In short, it brought us to where we are now.

If you came across this on accident, or are postponing on taking the leap on learning tools that could improve your life because you are simply too cool, I urge you to reconsider. First of all, get rid of the term self-help. I never liked that term to begin with. It has the feel like you are helpless and can only succeed with the help of someone else. I prefer the term self-improvement. The truth is you don’t need anyone else. What you may be lacking is information and a plan. As long as you have the desire, there are many paths that can lead you to success.

The other thing you might wish to consider is that in the beginning nobody needs to know what you are doing, or that you are doing anything at all. You can read in private. You can rent and watch movies in the privacy of your own home. You can start like I did listening to things while you are alone in the car. Once you see, and more important feel the increase in joy and reduction in stress, you can decide how public you may want to be with your quest to become the best version of yourself.

As a bonus, here are a list of a few recommendations I have for improving yourself after spending over two decades in the field. This is not a complete list by any means and if you would like to add to it feel free.

Books

  • A Happy Life for Busy People
  • Think and Grow Rich
  • The Power of the Subconscious Mind
  • The Tao of Pooh
  • The Secret

CD or MP3 Programs

  • The Strangest secret
  • Personal Power
  • Any videos or audio by Tony Robbins, Earl Nightingale, Les Brown or Eric Thomas

HOW CAN I LIVE WITHOUT YOU?

HOW DO I LIVE WITHOUT YOU? For those of us who have lived an appreciable amount of time this is a question we have asked. Maybe to ourselves, maybe to God, maybe to the universe or maybe to those who have passed away. We are left with words we wish we would have said, or things we wish we would have done with those we have lost. Even more often we see things that remind us of those who have passed on and we wish we could share those things with them.

What do we do with all of these thoughts? What do we do with all of this love? Let me begin by saying there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Whatever helps you get through is what you must do, as long is it does not bring harm to yourself or others. What I am about to share with you is what I feel not only helps me deal with loss, but helps others and honors those I am missing. If it doesn’t work for you that is ok. If you are looking for something to help you, it might be worth giving a try.

Why I am sharing this with you today? Last week I attended the Wisconsin State Fair, one of my favorite places to be. I even was fortunate enough to write several articles about the fair, including one for chow down in Milwaukee in which I mentioned going to the State Fair with my grandfather at least once a year. That sure made me miss that. It started to bring to mind people I have lost and what I always do to honor them.

In addition a few of the days I had parked a few blocks away next to a lady I had known for years in the neighborhood. This wonderful lady had lost her son a few years ago and was really having a tough time coming to terms with it. I cannot imagine the pain a parent would feel losing a child. It is something I wish no parent ever had to feel or go through. On a few occasions she stopped me to share stories about her son and how much she was still missing him. These moments often resulted in tears shared as well. She also shared stories with me from support groups she attended and what others in situations similar to hers were going through. Some of them were so painful I am not even going to share them here.

Needless to say, there are far too many parents going through this pain. With the rise of the opioid crisis, sadly the numbers look to be climbing. What solace can we offer anyone who has experienced a loss? That is the question that kept bouncing around in my head as I was hoping to offer something to this lady that would bring her even a measure of peace. What I told her is simply two things that I find work. Again, I am not sure they will help her, although I hope they do.

First, I mentioned keeping a journal in which she could write to her son. When she was having an especially hard night she could sit down and have a ‘conversation’ with her son. Sure, it is really a one-sided conversation, but it can be quite rewarding. From a practical standpoint it can help us get a better handle on what exactly we are feeling. The act of writing something down can bring a great amount of clarity. Especially it such an emotionally charged situation as death and grief.

It can also be a safe and healthy place to share our feelings. Sharing our feelings of sadness and grief each and every second can leave us wondering if we are being emotionally draining to others. Even if we have to most wonderful people in our lives who are extremely supportive, there are things we may not be comfortable sharing with others that we would want to say to our loved one who has left us.

The other idea I shared with her is an idea I began to put into practice when I lost my Grandmother. It has seen me through several moments of loss. That is doing what the picture above advocates. Taking the love that you have for that person you have lost and spreading it around. How do we manage to do this? Make sure you share what you feel with others. Never let a day go by without bringing light to another’s life.

The best way that I have found to honor others while healing myself is to do my best to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I recall my Grandmother being welcoming and hospitable. So now I do my best to be that way. Whether it is when I DJ shows with Margie or even having people over for dinner, I do my best to get them what they need and be a gracious host. Certainly, you will not be able to do everything the person who has passed away could do. That is part of what makes each person in this world such a special gift. My Grandmother made a great cheesecake. I simply do not share her talent for that.

I humbly offered to this lady there might be a way to share some of the light her son shared while he was alive. She thought and mentioned how at his funeral people in a wrestling chat room he belonged to told her how much he always cheered them up. She said, “Maybe I could join that chat room and cheer up those young men.” I told her that was one great idea and she could always come up with more as time went on.

Nothing will ever replace the loss of a loved one, nor should it. We feel sadness and pain because we loved and loved a great soul. If there are ways we can honor our loved ones and bring a measure of joy and happiness to our souls and the world around us I believe it is worth a shot. Again, I put this forth to you with humble suggestion. There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief, this is merely what works for me and I share it with you in hopes it may help you as well.

If there is another way you use that helps you with the pain and sense of loss you feel, please share it in the comments below. There are a lot of others who are hurting and by coming together we may be able to bring a measure of peace to them. At the very least we can let them know they are not alone.

THE IMPORTANT FIRST STEP

Recently, I have had some conversation with a new friend of mine about some stress they have been going through. Most of their stress had focused around an aspect of their job, but had been affecting both their family and their relationship. This happens quite often and can happen to all of us and at some point usually does. This is quite often referred to as taking your job/work home with you. I have even known some people who have changed their entire essence of who they are based on working in a negative environment. This can especially hold true for those working in law enforcement, first responders, teachers, the courts and any other job that exposes you to less than desirable people. It is not limited to these careers, however. You can experience stress in retail, food and beverage industry or the travel industry. It is not only costumers, but coworkers that can cause us stress. I recall early in my postal career this being true. The post office can be a stressful and negative work environment more often than not.

What helped me and what did I share with my friend to help them? I am going to share some of that with you in hopes that you too can use it or share it with someone you know who might be going through some great deal of stress. There are a few basic things I would recommend starting today, whether you are under stress or feeling good about how your life is going. Being proactive can make dealing with stress a lot easier. The time to learn to swim is on the shore and not when you are in a boat that is sinking. Remember I speak from experience. If I had known about or used some of what I am going to share with you when I began working at the post office I could have saved myself and those I care about a lot of stress and hurt feelings.

The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. According to a study done by Forbes magazine up to 70% of us are going to jobs we do not like. In our culture we have put a priority on things like money and benefits to the detriment of our own happiness. Insurance is important, but choosing one job or position you may not like because it has better benefits may end up causing you to experience more trips to the doctor than it will help you reducing your medical costs. How can that be? According to a study done by Stanford University, 80% of visits to a primary care doctor are stress related. Stress has been found to be a common denominator in nearly all medical conditions. Even if stress was not related to the onset of the condition, continued stress will only worsen every medical malady.

Great, we are all a bunch of stressed out individuals. Knowing such information can lead to little comfort, but do little to help alleviate the actual stress itself. For that we must create and use some tools to help us. One of the first things I have recommended in both my book as well as seminars is creating a happy playlist. This is exactly what is sounds like. A list of songs that put you in a good mood. I don’t care if it is the song don’t worry be happy, or the theme to the Jefferson’s television show, whatever makes you happy put it on the list. Now create a playlist on your iPod or other MP3 player. I actually have created a happy playlist on YouTube so I can listen to it anywhere I have my cell phone. Now when you encounter a particularly bad day at the office we can listen to our happy playlist on our way home so we arrive in a better state of mind. If the situation is really bad, you can find yourself in the restroom with an ear bud in. This will not do anything to directly change the situation, but put you in a much better frame of mind to deal with whatever challenge is facing you.

In addition to music, which I believe provides the quickest boost in mood, you can apply this to other media as well. Create a list of movies you enjoy watching, books you enjoy reading or places you enjoy going to eat. If at all possible, do this while you are in a good mood. Once again it is easier to think of what makes you happy when you are not already stressed out. Then when stress comes knocking, pull out your list, or just push ‘play’ on your happy playlist. I recall listening to Bob Marley’s Legend cd every lunch hour while working for a telemarking concern. I think that saved my sanity more than once.

The other thing I recommend is keeping a journal. For those of you who follow my work even a little I am sure you have heard me mention keeping a journal quite often. The benefits are many and I can’t possibly list them all here. A few worth mentioning in regards to work place stress and how to reduce it are as follows. First, writing your feelings and the facts of the situation down on paper can offer a lot more clarity than trying to figure it all out in your head. It also removes a great deal of stress from keeping all in your head. Second, it provides a great place to vent. Quite often those we love, even those closest to us, can reach a point when being a sounding board becomes too much. We must remember they are dealing with their own stresses as well. Writing in our journal can be a relieving and safe place to vent. Finally, seeing everything in black and white can bring to light solutions we may not have considered when we were in the middle of the emotional whirlwind. Reading back it can show us patterns that we go through that routinely create stress in our lives. By recording how we feel at the moment and being able to go back and reread it when we are in a better mental state can be enlightening too.

As an added bonus, I recommend doing as many of these things as you can out in nature. Being outside in the fresh air can serve as its own therapy. Add some physical exercise and you multiply the stress reliving benefits. It can be anything from an intense run, to a leisurely stroll. Motion helps emotion. Do yourself a favor and get outside and get moving. You can listen to your playlist as you do so. When you stop to rest, you could pull out your journal and write. Before you know it you will create a shield around you that no workplace stress can get through.

By all means, if you have any other great stress reduction tips to add please do so in the comments below.

 

 

WHAT DO THE SIGNS MEAN?

While going through some of my childhood items my mother found cleaning out a closet in her house, I came across this little item. I found the irony in this because I could not have been very old, I am guessing 6 or so, when I wrote in this notebook. The thought bubble above Snoopy’s head could have very well been a warning from the universe. It could have been I was just a big fan of Peanuts and Charlie Brown. Although personally I think I am more like the character of Linus.

What this made me think of is how perhaps talents we have may be innate. If you would have asked me what I wanted to be at the age of 6, I highly doubt my answer would have been best-selling author and blog writer, but that is what I am on my way to becoming. Did I somehow already know that is what I was destined to do?

To add to the feelings of irony, found with this notebook was a collection of stories I had composed back in third grade. Other than noting my grammar has not improved a great deal since then, my writing style was oddly the same. The fact that these two items were found at this point in my life seems interesting to me. Sometime after receiving an A+ for my writing in third grade, I had transitioned to being warned by my teacher my senior year in high school never to pursue a career in writing. Had I come across these items at that time they would have totally meant something different.

Does timing and current life situations dictate what things mean or are we destined to find and become certain things in life? I guess that falls to a matter of opinion. As for me and my little Snoopy notebook, there are several ways in which I could view this. I could say that perhaps my grammar will never be good if it hasn’t improved in thirty  years. I could say that my writing was better received in third grade than it is now. That may very well be true, but there is another way to look at it. A more positive way. I will  just take it as a sign from the universe that being an author is really something that has always been a part of who I was. Also a sign and reminder that I am pursuing the write life path.

I think we have a choice as to how we interpret the things that happen to us in life. Whether we view them as positive and inspirational, or negative and foreboding is up to us and has a great deal of influence on the quality of our life.

WHAT ARE YOU TAKING TIME FOR?

When I first read the above picture I had to take a second and appreciate how profound that actually is. Sure, we all like to vent and sometimes that is very helpful, but how far is too far when it comes to venting? If you find yourself spending more time finding ways to complain and share your pain and unpleasant emotion state with the rest of the world than actually working on a solution to change your situation, that is too far.

If you look at the above example we could learn a lot. The first thing, feel like sh*t, some people like to just stay in this state. I could never understand that. If I am upset, angry, sad or any other unpleasant emotion I will do anything to change that state.  If it doesn’t work, then I will do something else, if that doesn’t work… well you get the idea.

The second item is complaining. Again, venting is one thing, but dwelling on it is certainly another. Les Brown, one of my favorite authors and speakers put it this way, “Don’t bother telling other people your problems. 80% don’t care and 20% are glad it’s you.” This sounds cynical, but it is true. Unless you think the person you are telling your problems to can help you, tell them something you are grateful for instead. It will help both of you feel better.

The third item, checking social media. If you are already in a bad mood adding the drama of others, or reading any unpleasant news would only serve to bring you down further. You would be better served visiting a motivational website, or reading a good book.

Let us look at the solutions they offer. Meditate. It can help you feel more relaxed and think clearly. It can offer a different perspective on your situation. It brings down your heart rate, releases ‘feel good’ brain chemicals and creates an overall sense of well-being. Going hand in hand with meditating is writing in your journal. Anyone who knows me even a little knows how much of a fan of journaling I am. A journal is like a therapist that is always open and does not charge a great amount of money to listen to you. Much like meditating, it can offer clarity and a sense of release.

Writing down what you are grateful for and your goals can work in two amazing ways as well. Focusing on what you are grateful for can change your feeling from lack to abundance and from sadness to joy quicker than just about anything else I know. Goals will not only change your focus on whatever crappy situation you are in presently to the fabulous situation you want to be in, but will also get you moving. Instead of focusing on where you don’t want to be, which is feeling bad, you can focus on where you want to be. By doing so actions that will bring you closer to that will come in to focus as well. So, next time you find yourself tempted to do any of the first three things on the list, try instead to do one of the last three and notice the difference.