KEEP THE DARKNESS AT BAY

I saw this picture on the Facebook page of my local neighborhood association. (That would be the East Allis Neighborhood Association.) I found it to ring so true. A lot of us can fall into the rut of thinking there is nothing we can do to change the world. This is far from true.

One of the problems that can generate such thinking is having us think we need a grand gesture in order to make a big difference in the world and the lives of those in it. It is the little things that make the big differences. To prove this is more than a cliché saying that you can find on a Hallmark greeting card, I am going to share two personal stories with you that reflects how this can work both positively and negatively. I think once you see both sides of the equation you will begin to not only intellectually appreciate this, but understand it emotionally as well. This is important because once something gets into our spirit we are more likely to act on it.

I am going to start with the negative example for no other reason than we can end on a positive note. The other day at work I was checking with a group of mail carriers to see if they had anything to go to the other post office to which I was headed. That day I happened to be wearing a new colgne that I just purchased. I am not sure how you are, but I am always a little nervous when trying a new fragerance for the first time. As I passed one of the carriers she expressed her displeasure on how it smelled to her. Not that big of a deal. Normally that would just be a valuable source of feedback. It was, however, they way it which she did so that made all the difference. Instead of letting me know she did not find my new scent pleasing one on one, she began yelling to the whole post office about how terrible it was. To her this was no big deal, but it threw my day for a loop. Considering I have never said anything but compliments to this lady, it really got under my skin. Her small act had a rather big impact on my day.

On the exact opposite side of the coin, I would like to share a great example of how a simple act can make someone’s day. I was at home and had just stepped out of the shower. Wearing just the bare essentials, shall we say, I was digging in the closet for a shirt to wear on a special date I was taking my beautiful lady on. That very lady stuck her head in the room I was in to check on my progress of getting ready. Observing me looking for my shirt in the closet she remarked, “You look very sexy my love.” Mind you her and I always do our best to make sure we point out things we love about each other often. She doesn’t often use the word ‘sexy’ and that really made me feel good. I work hard to look appealing for her and to know that was working really meant a lot. For the rest of our date I had a smile in my heart thanks to her off-handed compliment.

Whether it is paying someone a compliment, picking up a piece of trash to help the neighborhood look better or making a small charitable donation, it is the little things that make a big difference. You may think how can picking up one piece of trash make my neighborhood look better? If we extrapolate that over a few hundred neighbors that is a lot of trash! Now what if those same 200 or so neighbors decide picking up one piece of trash is not worth the effort? Now you have 200 pieces of trash floating around the neighborhood. The same works for the charitable donation. I have roughly 40,000 followers for this blog in about 100 countries. The thought of what it would be like if each one sent me $5 has not escaped my thinking. To them $5 would most likely not be that big of a deal, but multiply that times 40,000 and it becomes substantial. If they all decided that donating $5 would not make much of a difference, no money would show up at all. Think of how this works for your favorite charity next time you ponder if your small donation would make a difference.

We may all not be able to do the grand acts we desire, but we can all do something. By doing even a small something we become part of the solution. If we decide that a small act is not worth bothering with, we remain part of the problem. Do what you can with what you have today and know even your small acts can have a great impact. 

NEWS FLASH!!!


This bit of information that we do not have to agree on everything to be kind to each other hopefully is something you already know…at least intellectually. In this day and age of social media, individuals can broadcast their opinions to the world with a click of a button. It is my belief they should. I think one of the beautiful things about technology and social media is the ability to be exposed to others who are different than we are. Whether that is someone in a different city, state or a different country.
I am blessed that this blog is followed in over 100 countries. I regularly converse with wonderful souls from Italy, Lebanon, Syria, Australia and a host of other countries. Still working on Greenland, but we will save that story for another post. What warms my heart is that on any given day people in countries that can’t seem to get along socially or politically both read what I have written. Just today I was in touch with some amazing individuals in both Pakistan as well as India. Yesterday despite what I read in the headlines, people in both Turkey and Syria read what was posted here.
I equate this to my ability to speak to topics that affect all of us. No matter where we live, everyone would love to reduce their stress, increase their joy and become the best version of themselves. In general, we all have a burning desire to live a life full of happiness, abundance and love. All of us at some point enjoy motivation, inspiration and encouragement. Everyone enjoys receiving a smile. Well maybe not one of my coworkers, but she is the one who probably needs it the most. As you can see deep down we are a lot alike. We all have hopes, dreams and passions. True, they may not be the same, but we all have them.
What about those pesky differences? There are major differences after all. Religion, sex, politics. All of the subjects we were told not to discuss because they precipitate many disagreements. I say we should discuss our deep beliefs and passions. It is learning the proper way to discuss them. I also think disagreeing is ok. We just need to learn how to disagree. Even at the highest level we have regressed to personal attacks and name calling. It can be challenging to admit someone has a right to a contrary opinion than us. It can be even more difficult to be able to respect that opinion.
Do you know what happens when you can say things like, “This is the way I think, but I understand and respect you have a different belief on this matter. How can we work together to come to a common accord?” One, you sound like a really badass. Seriously. You are a warrior. You have conquered the fiercest opponent – your own emotions and your own mind. There is not greater challenge than that.
Here is another bonus to being diplomatic and understanding – you never come out looking like a jerk. By displaying a sense of compassion and understanding you have taken the high road. You also give them an opportunity to not only be a part of the solution, but walk away with dignity and respect for their belief. Why people feel there can only be one correct belief, opinion or answer is beyond me. Instead of focusing on trying to change others, we should work on changing ourselves into someone who operates with more compassion and understanding.
Some of you may be saying, “How can I agree with someone who has a different faith than I do?” Again, it is important to note that you don’t have to agree with someone to respect their differences. This picture is bordered in green and yellow. Those two colors happen to be the colors of the Green Bay Packers, the local professional football team. Every Sunday when they play you can read posts and comments on social media of a very intense and passionate nature. Again, nothing wrong with that. What is sad is often these degenerate into the same name calling nonsense of the other subjects.
Here are a few quick news flashes… You can’t change others, only yourself. People are allowed to be different, just as you are. Two people can have different opinions and beliefs and neither or both of them can be right. You can both disagree and respect someone’s difference. There are civil ways to discuss differences. Being exposed to and not automatically rejecting different people and their thoughts and beliefs can lead to some of your greatest personal growth. So let us all be kind to each other and work to live with more compassion.

IT IS THE SIMPLE THINGS


This picture was taken at ‘Harvest Fair’, a local celebration of all things fall. I am one who is a great fan of fairs so Margie and I generally attend this festivity every year. There is an exquisite farmers market where you can purchase squash, vegetables and many other delicious and local items. There are bands, food stands, vendors, friends and everything that makes a fair…well…a fair.

This year there was something new, a smores truck. Everyone was issued a plate with the ingredients for smores. You then took your ingredients and ‘roasted’ them over a small coil. This was a little less gratifying than an open fire, but accomplished the same task.

Everyone roasted their marshmallow to their liking. Some just enjoyed having it warm. I prefer a nice golden brown color with a slight caramel flavor bestowed upon it. Margie, on the other hand, believes without a little bit of charring the marshmallow is not done.

I watched the collection of people all gather together on what was an unseasonably cold September evening to do something simple like making smores. That was great to begin with but there was more. As you can see on my plate there was a sticker instructing me to give someone there a compliment. Each plate had its own positive suggestion. I thought that was a very nice touch.

My compliments to the fine folks at Hershey’s for sponsoring this. Not only did they add a special activity to an already special event, but for going the extra mile and encouraging people to do random kind things. I wish I had taken the time to look at more of the plates. A special shout out to the great people at the Wisconsin State Fair for deciding to make this a part of Harvest Fair.

I am looking to do something similar to this and am asking you, dear reader, to help me. How can we encourage people to do positive things like the stickers on the plates did? I feel attaching them to something positive like Hershey did with the smores was a brilliant idea. I am asking all of us to put our heads together and come up with a way to do something similar and bring positivity to our neighborhoods.

This blog is followed in over 100 countries and I can just imagine how amazing it would be if in every city, in every country where this blog is read we all start random acts of kindness and positivity. The ripple effect would be world-changing! I would LOVE to hear your ideas in the comments below!
I will also include an instructional photo of my lovely lady’s marshmallow so you can see how it should be done according to Margie.

DOES IT MATTER?


We have all heard the saying If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? The premise being if there is no receiver, does the action still matter? The quick answer is “yes”. According to the laws of physics, the sound still happens. Dynamite does not silently explode because the workers have retreated to a safe distance. That should seem quite obvious.
This had me thinking of the flip-side of this equation. What about the creative side of things? What if you were to plant a tree and nobody was around to see you do it? Would it still matter? The quick answer again would be “yes”. The tree would still grow. People would enjoy its shade and any fruits if it was that sort of tree. The birds would still be able to use its branches to rest or perhaps even build their nests. The tree would still filter the air to make the world better for everyone.
What does all of this have to do with living a more amazing life? Plenty. I am not just speaking to the arborists that read this blog. This question came up during an absolutely wonderful heart-felt conversation between the love of my life, Margie, and me. The question was – If you do an act of kindness and nobody knows about it or benefits from it in the moment, is it still worth doing? The quick answer, much like our tree analogies, is “yes”. This can be as simple as picking up a piece of litter as you are walking. In the long run it may not change the world, and may seem insignificant, but it is not. Many of you may be thinking “Why should I go out of my way to pick up someone else’s garbage?” Really, you shouldn’t have to. It is their responsibility and their fault it is on the ground.
So why do these things? The reasons are plenty, and I would really enjoy hearing some of the ones you think I may have missed in the comments below. On a personal level, doing kind and right things when nobody is watching is what developing a strong character is all about. If you do what is right when there is no one watching, you will do the right thing when people are watching. This holds true for many aspects of life. Healthy eating comes to mind. If you tell everyone you are eating healthy, but then go home and eat half a dozen doughnuts your waist will resemble…well…a doughnut. The same is true for gossip. If you talk well of others in public, but still gossip with your coworkers about this person or that, your spirit will not be at peace.
Another reason is simple, yet very important – you never know if somebody is watching. At my day job at the post office we have a poster reminding the carriers to handle each package with the care and respect it deserves. There is a not so subtle reminder that everyone has cell phones and even if you don’t think anyone is watching, before long the whole world may be watching. I have heard people say things such as “Well just because somebody does something once, it may not be who they really are.” or the very insightful phrase, “They wouldn’t have done that if they thought someone was watching/listening.” The point is this – we are what we do whether someone is watching or listening or not. We are what we repeatedly say and do. Of course we all make mistakes and that should be understood, but it is important to cultivate our character by acting consistently whether someone is watching or not.
Also, doing something good when we know, or at least think, that no one is watching gives us a good feeling inside. If you are new to this blog it we often stress the importance of keeping our state positive. Being in a positive state helps us reduce stress, increase joy and just feel better about ourselves. When that happens the ripple effect is our treatment of others and the attitude we bring to our jobs, family, friends and the world at large.
Lastly, like in the tree example, this has an unknown ripple effect. Later, by picking up that littler, we may bring a person joy when they see a clean street instead of one filled with garbage. We may have helped prevent an animal or child from picking that garbage up and putting it in their mouth. We may have had a great impact and never know it. Is doing something good or right worth doing if nobody ever knows or we can’t see the positive impact? The answer, as you may have deciphered, is a resounding “YES”.

WHAT IS YOUR IDEA?

Last week we began to look at what legacy we are going to leave behind. By taking a first look at my upcoming book How to Live Forever, we saw that the true way to live on after we are gone is to touch as many lives as possible while we are here. Today’s quote breaks it down a little more by letting us know that no matter what happens in life we should be good to each other.

My question for you, my amazing readers, is what will you do this year to be good to others and cement your legacy? Also, how are you able to treat others good while your own life may be in chaos? I look forward to hearing all of your ideas and suggestions. Let us start a discussion on different ways we can treat each other good.

 

 

HOW TO DO IT ALL

The title of this blog post may seem a bit vague, but it is true. To do anything in life all we have to do is be good to each other. In a world that is ever shrinking due to technology, everything we do will involve and go through people. In my life whenever I have shown kindness to others it has always been returned to me. It may very well not be from the person I have shown the kindness to, but it definitely returns to me. Sometimes the payoff is in the great feeling I get knowing I helped someone.

As the week draws to a close and many of us have the next 48 hours to do with as we please let us spend it finding ways in which we can be kind to one another. Even those of us, like myself, that spend the weekend working we can still discover new and wonderful ways to share love and happiness with each other.

Ironically, it seems that when our lives are the darkest we can become the least helpful of others. It may seem logical on the surface. Why worry about helping someone else when I am facing my own bucket of problems? Funny thing is, helping others is one sure way to feel better about your own problems. When my life was the darkest I spent the extra hours I was using to feel sorry for myself or worry about my own life to help at a local meal program. Doing so not only forever changed my life, but blessed it in ways I could only begin to tell you. It gave me the stark reminder that others had it far worse than me. It also showed me how my gift of helping others see the beauty in themselves, others and the world around them can do so much good.

It has been moments of being good to others that has created this website, wrote my book, filmed videos on my YouTube channel and gave me this career. In everything I do, I strive to show kindness to others and without a doubt, that kindness has always returned to me. If you want your life to be filled with joy and blessings, the best way to achieve that is to fill other’s lives with joy and blessings.

BE THAT PERSON

Be that kind of person. What kind of person am I talking about? The one who always has something good to say about someone. The person who always has a smile to share. It may not seem to make a difference, but it does. As I write this I am sitting at a local coffee shop a few blocks from my day job at the United States Postal Service. I am reflecting on the countless times I have been in this exact situation. The service I receive from the person behind the counter can really help, or maybe distract from my writing. To the person helping me behind the counter I might be just another face in a sea of people wanting some kind of beverage and that is understandable. Even if they knew that their service may add a little extra step to a author doing his best to inspire the world to become the best versions of themselves it may or may not make a difference.

The truth is we all have this power. We do not know what the person we run into in the grocery store is up to. It could be a surgeon worried about performing open-heart surgery on an infant the next day. It could be a person struggling with personal loss that could use a bright spot in their lives. It could be a person struggling with depression and thinking about taking their own life. It could even be someone full of rage and thinking about taking the lives of others. The cases do not have to be this extreme and may not be, but we may never know. It could simply be a former bartender and current postal worker looking to better themselves and the world around them.

This is all about the power of a smile, of a simple ‘hello’. In all of us there lies a great power. It is a generally untapped power for the most part. That is the power of kindness. It makes a difference. It may be a big difference, it may just be that added inspiration the person needs. Chances are we will never know the effect that it has. Trust me when I tell you it has an effect on every single person you use it on. They probably will not even know you are using it. The more you practice this random acts of kindness the bigger effect you will have on the world.

I warn you that there is one side-effect you must be aware of. This kindness will come back to you. It may not come from those you have shared it with, but it will and must come back to you. That is a universal law. As you sow, so shall you reap. Before long you will notice those smiles and ‘hellos’ coming your way. You may find yourself with new friends and connections you never would have met. In addition, some people report a second side-effect. That is an increased sense of well-being. Seeing the positive way you affect others can only serve to put a smile on your face.

I would love to hear ways that you use the power of kindness. It would be great for all of us to learn simple ways that we can positively affect the lives of those around us. Share your ideas in the comments below!

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.

ARE YOU THE CANDLE OR THE MIRROR?

It took me a while to truly grasp the power of this quote. The candle represents sources of light in the world. It could be good-looking and charming authors who double as postal workers, social workers, emergency workers, great parents and teachers, religious and spiritual leaders or anyone else who inspires us or makes the world a better place. In some ways I think we are all candles, or at least have the ability to be so. In being the best at whatever we do we set an example for the world to follow. Even the shyest and most reserved of us have opportunities to be kind to others.

The mirror represents those who promote those who are candles. This can range from sharing a motivational website that inspires you with others, to showing appreciation to wonderful people who make a difference in your life. Did a teacher or coach push you to be the best you can be? By telling others that story you bring to light how special they are. This holds true for talking good about anyone. Did your spouse do something thoughtful for you? By sharing the joy they gave to you it brings more light and positivity to the world. This is a double-edged sword. Imagine what we do when we complain and share with others the terrible things people do?

I find by both being a candle to inspire others as well as a mirror to reflect the flame of the fabulous people I come across is the way that I can bring the most light into the world. Starting today, do your best to not only be an inspiration to others, but to recognize and help share those that inspire you as well.

SPEAK THROUGH THE 3 GATES

This is a great litmus test to put our words through. How many times a day do we let something escape our lips that we shouldn’t? Having these 3 questions in mind would help prevent that from happening. Remember you cannot unsay something.

How do we keep these questions front and center? Use this picture as your screensaver, pertain jot them down on an index card you carry with you. Then, put it into practice. Try doing this just for a conversation here and there. Eventually, it well become a way of not only speaking, but thinking as well.

So you don’t feel too down on yourself when you first try this, allow me to share my experience. I tried this at work and all I can say is “wow!” I never realized how many useless negative things I say there! Even someone who writes positivity for a living! Although a bit taken aback, I was excited. There is so much room for me to improve my conversation skills.

Try this yourself. I’m about to meet a friend for coffee and am going to try again. I think you will notice different people bring out different conversations. I would love to hear your experience as well!