REMEMBER WE ARE ALL IN THE PROCESS

It is no secret to anyone who follows this website and my work in general that I have spent over 20 years in the field of self-improvement. One thing that I must remind myself of every so often is the fact that not everyone else has. This may sound silly and an obvious point, but it can be a fact that gets away from me.

When I hear someone constantly complaining about how unfair life is or how terrible their life is, I am tempted to remind them how they do a great deal to create their own reality. We all have challenges great and small. That is part of life. It is really how we respond to life’s challenges that does a great deal to determine how life treats us. There are a lot of people who are ignorant to even that basic equation. I was fortunate enough to be raised in an environment where reading and thinking where encouraged. In the course of reading hundreds of books, listening to just as many CDs and videos as well as attending seminars and listening to as many people as I can I have learned a great deal.

One of the greatest challenges to me is having the patience and understanding to realize although most people have the opportunity to do the same, many have not. When I speak to people about ways they can reduce stress, increase joy and become the best version of themselves, I am often met with resistance and sarcasm. On a rare occasion even violent resistance. It would be easy to come off as condescending, but it serves as a great reminder of many things for me. First off, I am so grateful for all I have been given and all I have learned. My life is far from perfect, but I am constantly discovering new ways to reduce stress and have more happiness in my life. I am also grateful that I do have the life I do. I have friends who love me, a beautiful and loving lady, and supporters from over 100 countries who read what I write.

The second thing I am reminded of is everyone is working towards becoming the best version of themselves. If you don’t believe me, just walk into a gym shortly after the first of the year. Not everyone has the tools to successfully accomplish all they desire. That would be evident by visiting that same gym 30 days after the first of the year and noticing how many less people are there. Still, everyone is giving it their best shot. There are very few people I know who are not interested in improving their lives. Some do not understand the only way to do that is by improving themselves. That is the main focus of my second book.

Some really wish to improve themselves and their lot in life, but lack the necessary tools. Some do not even know where to look for those tools. That is why I am always happy to share what I learn and am still learning. There are those as mentioned earlier who even when given the tools will refuse to believe them. This could be because they have been raised in a negative environment or are so cynical that they are getting in their own way. Those are people I still try to help. Whether that is leaving a card for them when they are ready, or being an example of what it looks like to live life using the tools I put forth.

Let us all do our best to understand everyone is working towards a better life. Even those seemingly following the wrong path may just be misdirected or lacking hope and direction. When we understand that we are all doing the best we can it is far easier to approach others with compassion and a genuine desire to help.

WHY ARE THINGS SO HARD?

Today’s post is more opinion than strategy. It is a way of looking at things that I found to serve me. I invite you to take it in for consideration. It has made my life a lot less stressful at perhaps the worst times imaginable.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You have been putting extra effort in at work, maybe even skipping sleep and working weekends. You show up for work one morning determined to do a good job only to find a note on your desk from the boss explaining your job has been eliminated do to downsizing. How about this lovely situation – You found that special someone. You finally have let your walls down and put every once of energy into creating the most loving and romantic relationship possible. You found out they have been doing the same exact thing… with your best friend. Maybe you have scrimped and saved to buy that new car you have been dreaming about. You even updated your insurance. Then your car is totaled by a hit and run driver, the day before your new insurance kicks in.

I think in life we have all faced situations where we have given it our all, with the best of intentions only to have life hit us on the blind side. Let me tell you from a motivational and inspirational perspective – it sucks. This can leave us scratching our heads or even laying on the floor in the fetal position searching for the answer why. It can even leave us jaded with the opinion, “Why bother to try, things will just go wrong anyway.” I recall when my car was totaled in front of my house as I was inside taking a nap things going from bad to worse. The gentleman was elderly visiting from Greece without a license. It was a cold January day in Wisconsin. I could see blood coming from his head and invited him inside to stay warm. After his son came and we exchanged information I mentioned maybe taking him to get checked out. As I waited for the insurance to get ironed out, I even sent the gent a get well card.

What was the result of my remaining cool and compassionate in the face of such a challenging situation? Well, even though we have the same insurance company it took weeks for them to settle. I ended up buying a car from a dealership down the street that sold me a lemon. After spending thousands of dollars to try and keep it running I gave in and sold it at a huge loss. Times like that can leave us angry at the world. Luckily I have learned some things to help me along my journey of life. One of them is to place motivational quotes where I can see them when needed. I happen to find this quote in the middle of all the car chaos.

Keep your head up. God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.

I thought of some of the people I have known who have faced challenges far greater than I was going through at the moment. They remained positive and I was determined to do so as well. It reminded me of the ugly world of politics. Before an election you see advertisements attacking opponents. Do they attack the opponent who is last places in the voting? Never. It would be a waste of money and resources. It is always the person closest to them in votes. Life is that way too. I have learned people usually attack you or try to bring you down because they view you as some sort of threat. I have seen that with negative people attacking my writing because it is a threat to their pessimistic, blame oriented view of life. To consider that they have a good deal of responsibility for, and thus control over their life is a threat to their way of thinking.

It is when you are getting closest to achieving your goals that the challenges become the greatest. It is as if life is both testing to see if you both really want what you are chasing and if you are prepared to receive it. The old cliché that it is always darkest before the dawn holds some truth to it.

Next time life has you up against the ropes remember two very important things. One, life wouldn’t even bother challenging you if you were weak. There is no joy in defeating a weak opponent. Two, and this may be even more important, if you manage to make it through whatever situation you are facing, you will come out stronger and more likely to be able to kick some ass at whatever will come your way in the future. Much like working out, the heavier the weight, the bigger the muscle gain. Keep in mind you are never alone. There are others who have been through challenges as well and we stand with you.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU ACCOMPLISH, BUT WHO YOU BECOME

Goals are very important. Not only do I stress that, but almost every great speaker and self-improvement coach will tell you that as well. Still, goals can leave us feeling unfulfilled once we accomplish them. Have you ever achieved a goal, especially one you have been working a long time on, and then wake up one morning to the question “Now What?” Worse is accomplishing a goal only to find yourself still unsatisfied at the state of your life. That is because when setting a goal, you must focus on the most important aspect.

The most important part of the goal is not what you set out to accomplish. What then is the most important part of setting a goal? The most important thing that can happen when you are achieving a goal is who you become in the process. Notice I said achieving. Even in the process of working on the goal you will learn and therefore grow. This is what makes the difference.

A prime example of people who accomplish goals, but do not learn or grow can be found in lottery winners. A good portion of lottery winners find themselves to have spent all of their money or even worse in debt only a few years after winning the lottery. That is because although they had accomplished their goal of winning a large sum of money they had not learned to be a person who can handle finances.

This is also the reason why after achieving a goal we can still feel empty and unsatisfied. Growth and contribution are what create a positive and rewarding life. If we have not developed in anyway from what we have struggled through the victory is hollow. This holds true not only for goal setting, but for making it through painful periods of our lives. It is only by using that pain and learning and growing from it can we truly heal. Whether that is to understand and treat others with more compassion, or motivate ourselves to be the best version of ourselves, pain becomes the victim if we use it to better ourselves.

Here is the flipside to all of this and the greatest thing about it. Most of us have been going about this backwards. When you set out to achieve a goal ask yourself the very important question, “Who would I have to become to make this goal become a reality?” Set out immediately to begin the journey of becoming that person. What kind of traits would they posses that you may not posses currently? Would they be more patient? Would they be in better physical shape? You can start becoming that person today.

Here is the greatest thing about all of this. As you become that person, you will find this goal becomes easier and less stressful to accomplish. On occasion, you may find the goal changes entirely. The best thing is that when you wake up you will never feel empty or unfulfilled. In fact, as each day goes by and you take steps to become the person you would be if you had accomplished the goal, you will feel better about yourself and more self-confident with each passing day. Ask yourself this important question every time you begin a new goal and you will never be disappointed.

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.

WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

This blog post created itself last night. After Margie and I had finished our Wednesday night show and found ourselves driving with our friend Kelly. We began sharing defining moments from our childhood that defined who we are today. It caused me to reflect on a few moments that I would like to share with you. More so, it made me think of something far more important that we will get to right after this moment of reflection.

For those of you who may have been reading my writings of late, I have shared the story of my senior year English teacher. On the final day before graduation, she pulled me aside and said in an almost pleading tone, “I pray to God you will never have a career involving writing.” Given the evidence up to that point I would have been inclined to agree with her, but here we are.

Another fun story involved a teacher I had for business. She was a kindly lady. She kind of reminded me of someone’s grandmother from a Norman Rockwell painting. My relationship with this wonderful woman was great. We laughed, smiled and shared many good conversations. I would have said I was the perfect student with one glaring exception. In this class it just so happened I was surrounded by friends of mine. It also happened these were friends that like conversation as much as I did. Daily we shared conversations about life, love and our pursuit of happiness. When the time came out for giving everyone a grade I still recall what this teacher wrote. Written next to my grade was the comment, “Neil will do a lot better in life when he understands you can’t make a living discussing life and its challenges with people.” Once again, here we are. Discussing life and how to positively approach and overcome its challenges. Granted you might be reading this in Greenland, South Africa or Fiji while I am here in West Allis, Wisconsin, but virtually we are engaged in this conversation.

Let me share a more comical example from my youth. Second grade I do believe. I had a good friend who had just moved away and I found myself in trouble for something. That part seems to remain vague. As punishment I was to stand with my back against the wall and watch the other kids enjoying recess and playing on the playground. Sounds a little cruel in hindsight but I guess it served as a lesson – almost. As I was standing there I thought of a joke. One of the kids walked by and I told him my joke. He thought it was so funny he went to bring other kids to hear it. Before recess was over I found myself doing what could be described as a forced stand up comedy routine.

I saved this example for last because it was by far the darkest example. I was part of a group called ‘peer helpers’ in high school. The program was designed to help students who were facing addiction, abuse or any other emotional trauma. To me it sounded like a great idea on the surface. It became apparent very quickly that I disagreed with the approach of the program. It seemed to approach the issues from that of the adults who formed the group and not of the youths facing the challenges. I soon politely left the group. All would have been ok with one exception. I really did have the desire to help and still talked to many of the kids I had met in the program. I tried methods I believed might reach them. This was especially true because most of them had stopped asking for help from the Peer Helpers program.

Again, this would have all been good, but my locker happened to be right across the hallway from the lady who was in charge of the program. Once she noticed that quite a few of the students who left her group were coming up to my locker and asking questions she stormed over. She issued what can only be viewed as a veiled threat. She yelled how dare I think I could help kids better than she could and I better stop what I was doing “or else.” I really wasn’t trying to do anything but help people the best way I thought I could. I continued to do so with a little more discretion. Two days before I was set to graduate I was summoned to the principle’s office. When I arrived the teacher was there along with several police officers. This teacher, this adult, this individual who is supposed to be an example told all of them I had threatened to physically harm her. Not only was that a total lie, but I had no malice towards this woman, merely a difference in philosophy. Luckily, with the support and sworn statements of my character from other instructors I had and her changing her story several times the matter was all but dropped.

What is the point of all of these stories? The point is that anyone of these stories could have had a very negative impact on my life. What made the difference is that I chose what they meant to me. My high school English teacher could have prevented me from ever starting this site which has close to 1000 posts. What she told me could have dissuaded me from ever writing my book A Happy Life for Busy People. My business teacher tried to convince me there was no future in listening to the challenges people face in life and trying to help create solutions, but that is the basis of all I do.

Through my punishment that day in second grade I learned the power of humor to reach people. I also learned that sometimes when the world seems to be taken away from you, the best solution is to make the world come to you. It is a theme that kind of plays throughout the videos on my YouTube channel. It also showed me new and wonderful ways to make friends. The lesson that if you can introduce your material to enough people it can really change your situation didn’t escape me either.

The final dark situation could have steered me in many different directions. I could have decided not to trust authority. Certainly learning that ego can override professionalism and make people act in ways they shouldn’t. I could have decided that it meant if I try to do things on my own in a way I feel will help the most people it will lead to trouble and could land me in jail. Of course it also showed me the value of displaying and acting with the best character and highest standards.

What is your story? What events have transformed your life? Have you let them decide what you can or can’t do? Are they putting limits on your life or are you using them to motivate you? The story of our lives should not be told through the mouths or actions of others. Realize you are not a victim of your past but a victor over it. You have made it to today despite what you have been told and what has happened to you. Do not let your past or those in it steal your power for a strong future. Find the empowerment in every challenge you have faced, or may now be facing.

THIS IS ALL A BUNCH OF B.S.

If you have read the post before this one you have heard my story. If not I encourage you to do so. For the sake of this post the abridged version is that due to the stress that life gives us I went from being a bartender and singer in a rock band who was too cool for self-help to an author and speaker on the subject. I originally laughed at all those ‘crazy people’ meditating and looking to increase their inner peace. In short, I thought the whole idea was a bunch of B.S.. The point that never failed to escape me was that I was doing my laughing as I was broke and sitting in my apartment in a not so nice part of town. I was in a job I did not find fulfilling, but most importantly I wasn’t happy myself.

I don’t recall the exact beginning of my journey into self-improvement, but last post I gave my earliest memory. As my life continued to suck I began to read and try more things. The biggest event happened when the fine folks at the United States Postal Service decided I was expendable after over a decade of devoted employment. I found myself at rock bottom. To be a little more accurate, my life was sitting in a pile of B.S..

It was this situation that forced a change in direction. I began to at least conceive that some of the more mainstream ideas could at least be workable. I wasn’t about to perform a ceremony where I marry myself, but listening to a few Tony Robbins CDs I had ordered off television at 3a.m. seemed doable. It wasn’t as if I wanted anyone to know what I was doing, but as I noticed my stress going down and my joy going up, my mind began to open to the possibilities. What was even more important is that I saw others struggling as I had just because they were to intimidated by terms like self-help which to me sounds like you should be laying on a couch telling someone in a lab coat your problems. It was then I decided to devote my life to showing people that improving yourself is not only cool, but helps your life suck a lot less.

It was then I learned that life really is made up of B.S. Rather than the stuff that comes out of the back end of a bull, I mean B.S. as in belief systems. What you believe will dictate what you try and what you do. If you believe you are a late person, you will never be motivated to arrive on time. If you believe life will always suck for you, it will. I am not merely suggesting you start thinking you will have a great life and suddenly people will send you checks for being your awesome self. If it were that easy I wouldn’t be writing you this today. What I will tell you is that what you believe has not only a great influence on your actions, but more importantly on your sense of well-being. Which after all is really how we determine our quality of life. If you were as wealthy as could be, but you were miserably unhappy, your life would suck.

This may seem a bit much to take if you are new to some of these concepts. In fact, when I first heard of things like the Law of Attraction and other such belief systems that was my thought as well. As quantum physics begins to unravel more of the mysteries of the science of the mind we are beginning to understand how powerful our beliefs are. Why not be on the cutting edge and take control of one of the most powerful forces in your life?

For my left-brained friends who may still be having a hard time grasping this notion, allow me to share a real-life example. Most of you know the story of Roger Bannister. For thousands of years it was accepted as a truth that the human body was not capable of running a mile in less than four minutes. On May 6th, 1954 Roger Bannister did just that. While that is the story most people know, there is an even bigger story. Since he completed this historic feet, countless other have also run sub four-minute miles. What happened? Did the human race suddenly get stronger all over the world? Of course not. What happened was now they could believe that it was possible. If one change in belief can alter the course of track and field across the globe, what can it do for your life?

3 GREAT SECRETS TO RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS

These two fine folks are Ron and Karla. This picture was taken for a review of the stand, Krautland,  they own and operate at Wisconsin State Fair. The picture did not make it into the review, but their story did and that is what I would like to share with you today. It is not merely a story about how they manage to successfully run a food stand, but a marriage as well. Their marriage has manage to not only last for 38 years, but grow as well. How do they do it and what can we learn from them? Great question. Sit back, relax and get ready to learn their secrets.

What started out as a review for an amazing place to eat, turned into a little more than I expected. Ron and Karla Schurman were kind enough to sit down and give me a few moments of their very busy time during the Wisconsin State Fair. As the story of how they turned Krautland into one of the most successful businesses in the fair grounds, another story emerged. That story involved into some universal secrets that work in not only business, but in relationships as well.

The first secret is playing to your strength as an individual. This may not sound like something that would help your relationship with someone else, but it really does. By allowing each other to do what they do well these two not only set themselves up for success, they reduce stress as well. As Karla told me, “Ron handles the front end of the business while I take care of things back here.” A lot of couples want to change each other and make the other person more like themselves. That is rather ironic when you consider being themselves was what caused you to fall in love with them in the first place. It also allows you to compliment each other. With two people who have distinctly different skill sets you can accomplish a lot more. I am an advocate for celebrating differences in each other and there is no place more important than in a relationship to do so.

Speaking of complimenting each other, that is the next thing Ron and Karla do well. They praise each other. Not only in a romantic way at home, but in public. They give each other credit for the success they have together. I heard Ron say more than once during our interview that he appreciates and is grateful for everything Karla does and how he could not imagine it being a success without her. This is especially true if one person seems to be more out going in your relationship. Introverts can often not give themselves enough credit for the work they do in and out of a relationship. Even if your partner and you are both outgoing, as is the case with Margie and I, letting each other and those outside your relationship know how amazing your partner is and what they bring to the table will not only make them feel good, but will bring an outside respect to your relationship.

The final thing that I took from our interview was attention to detail and focusing on fundamentals. This may sound like I am giving a sports lecture, but this is true in both business and relationships. When I asked how Krautland continues to be a success after 60 years in business their answer might shock some. While most stands were focused on the next new and crazy dish, Ron and Karla succeed by keeping it simple. High standards and nothing but high quality. They make sure their staff provides the best customer service and their food is the best quality.

When I hear couples say things like, “We need to try something new to save our relationship.” I know they are not handling the basics. If someone makes you feel attractive, valuable and lets you know they are proud of you and your relationship how soon would you want to leave that relationship? I am all for variety and keeping things spicy. Margie and I spend a good deal doing that with each other. It keeps the relationship feeling fresh and exciting. If you have the spice, but lack the relationship fundamentals of respect, courtesy and love you’re in trouble.

In closing I want to take this opportunity to thank and recognize my lovely Margie. She really works hard in our relationship. She works hard to keep our house clean while I am at my day job and always creates delicious meals for me when I get home. In addition she learns and develops herself to be the best person she can be. This leaves me feeling proud to have the most amazing woman as the lady in my life.

Go back and review these three steps. They will help you in every area of your life, but no more so than your relationships. Allow the other person to work to their strengths. Compliment them personally and publicly. Most importantly, never stop working on the fundamentals that keep love going. It has worked for Ron and Karla for 38 years and it will work for you.