HOW DO I DO IT?🤔

My schedule is one that is quite full. I spend roughly 46 hours commuting and working at my day job at the post office. On top of that, I spend about one to two hours at the gym three days a week. I record three podcast episodes a week. I am currently working on my fourth book. People are always asking me, “How can you still spend time doing blogs everyday?” This is compounded by the fact that they bring me very little, if any, financial gain. The picture above can help us answer that question. It is a partial list of countries that had logged on to read my blog during a particular week.

The last country on the list is Ukraine. This country is facing one of the toughest times in its history. People are being forced from their homes. If they are staying, they often have to do so without power, running water and under the threat of violence and destruction. To know that a person in this country took the time to log on to secret2anamazinglife.com, is not only a great honor, but a great responsibility. How many of us have thought to ourselves, “I sure wish I could say something encouraging to all of the people in the Ukraine.”? In this case, I get that chance. When you are living in a country that is at war, you need all of the inspiration you can get. It is difficult to keep your head above water, not to mention deal with all of the death and destruction. A voice of inspiration, encouragement and motivation from afar could be, at the very least, a welcome escape.

If you look a little further up on the list, you will see Puerto Rico. This view happened shortly after the island was devastated by a hurricane. There was almost no power on the entire island. Yet, someone still managed to log on to this blog to read what was written here. Very likely, their valuables were washed away. It is probable that their house was damaged in some form. They may have even lost some loved ones. These people came to read what I have written. Again, quite an honor, but an even greater responsibility. What could I possibly say to someone in that situation?

It does not have to be people in countries who are both ravaged by war and natural disasters. Take a look at any of the other countries. Any one of the people in Ecuador or Ethiopia could be facing one of the darkest days of their lives. Maybe they have lost a job. They could be experiencing the grief of losing a loved one. It is thoughts like this that are in my mind as I write these words. How can I write these blogs? To me the question is more accurately, “How could I not write these blogs?” If my words could improve the life of a neighbor down the street, or halfway across the globe, I owe it to them to share both the knowledge I know, as well as the love in my heart with them.

You may be thinking to yourself, “That is great Neil, but I don’t have a blog.” It is not just the online community that needs our love and encouragement. In todays social media world, where many people can forget the power of their words, we must remember what a positive impact ours can have. It could be someone who is in our social media network. It could also be a coworker or even the guy sitting at Starbucks with no shoes on. That last one is a personal observation I made while writing this. Any of those people could be facing some of the challenges we mentioned earlier. You may never know the impact your positive words or actions may have, but know they do make a difference.

USE PEOPLE WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

Let us be clear right from the start, I am not advocating using people in any negative form whatsoever. Quite the opposite. When we are finished with our brief time here together, I think you will have a new appreciation for what ‘using people’ can mean. To illustrate, I would love to share two personal stories of mine with you. The first involves a very early childhood friend. Let us call him Andy because, well, that is what his name was. He was one of my very first good friends. I am thinking somewhere near the age of 3 or 4. I remember he had bright red hair and that we pretty much did everything together. Then, in second grade, he moved away. We never exchanged addresses or phone numbers. To this day, I do not even know what happened to my early childhood friend.

I could blame my lack of thought regarding Andy on the fact that I was only 7 years old. You don’t really think too much about the future when you are that age. That would be fine, except one little problem. Take a look at the picture above. That is a picture of mine and Margie’s friends Curtis and Danie, with their son. They used to run a coffee shop/cafe in town. Both very nice people and I am sure their son will be an outstanding gentleman as he grows up. This wonderful family moved out west to pursue their dreams for their future. Here is the ironic thing. Before they left, Margie and I were saying how much fun it would be to spend some time with them just relaxing and doing fun things. Every time we saw each other, we would say something like, “Yes! Let us set something up!” All of our lives were busy, and sadly, that moment never happened.

Unlike my story with Andy, we at least are able to keep track via social media. In fact, as I wrote this, I messaged Curtis to let him know I was writing something about him. It would seem that I have learned little or nothing in the 40 years since my friend Andy moved away. Before you judge me, ask yourself one question. How many times have you said to yourself, “Man I wish I would have _____ with that person. Now it is too late.” This can hold true of people who moved away or even people who have passed on. We look back and think of how foolish we spent the time that we had with them. That is not to say every second has to be be planned and accounted for. Sometimes, the goal might just to be fully present and focused on enjoying time with someone. Taking time to enjoy their jokes, their voice or the way they look at a certain situation.

I encourage you to think of someone who is important in your life. How can you better use the time with them? Is there a certain activity you wish to do with them? Maybe it is as simple as spending a quiet dinner just slowing down and enjoying each others company? It may seem like work to rearrange a schedule and make things happen. Do you know what is even more work? Living with the weight of regret that you did not make the most of people and moments when you had the chance. I advocate using people. Use them to show love. Use them to show how much you care. Use them to create wonderful memories with. Use them to show your appreciation for the wonderful humans they are. Use people…before it is too late.

THE JOY OF HARD TIMES

The joy of hard times? Were you dropped on your head when you young or what Neil? Actually, that did happen once, but that is a story for a different time. You might think the idea of hard times containing any amount of joy is a crazy notion, but just a little reflection can tell us there is a great deal of truth in that idea.

As the picture with the great philosopher, Winnie-the-Pooh shows us, one of the way hard times bring us joy is the revealing of true friends. How many times have you faced a challenging situation, only to receive an act of kindness from a friend that was completely unexpected and overwhelmingly gracious? It has been my good fortune to experience more of those than I can count. You may know that you have a good friend, but in challenging times we have the ability to feel that we have a good friend.

The revelation of true friends, although one of my favorite, is not the only gift of joy hard times give us. There are others that we need to appreciate. One of them is the gift of resilience. If someone said they consider you a resilient person, would that not be a good compliment? Yet, if we were to think about it, how could one become resilient without facing a good deal of hard times and surviving them? How resilient would you be if everything was provided for you? If you never had to withstand any of the storms of life, how strong would your character be? Many of you might be mumbling under your breath, “Keep your resilience! I don’t want anymore challenges.” I can understand that. It is never a good feeling to have life throw something at us that we were truly not expecting, but that does not change the fact that it contains something that is helpful.

Which brings us to the last gift that hard times bring us – manure! You may be wondering what the product that comes out of the wrong end of an animal has anything to do with our life and our suffering? Plenty! There are things that happen in life that happen to us that are a complete pile of…well…let us say manure to keep the censors happy. Much like the organic product itself, these life problems stink and we wish they were not a part of our lives. That does not mean we cannot put this to work for us. One of the main uses of manure is for fertilizer. The same is true of the manure in our lives. Our challenges, our set backs and all of the manure type events in our lives can either make our life stink, or we can use it to grow some wonderful blessings. A seed that is buried in the ground and covered in…manure, which can be how our lives feel at certain points, grows into a tough and sturdy plant. Let the manure in our life do the same for us.

Hard times never feel good and it is my sincere wish that all of you never experience more hard times than can be helped. As much as I wish that, we are all bound to experience some times that really challenge our ability to smile. It is that deep knowing and understanding that even in the darkest of times there is light to be found, that can keep us moving forward. Look for the gifts in the hard times my friends. Notice the friends that reach out and help. Feel the strength of character and resilience you are building by just withstanding the storm. Use all of the manure situations in life as fertilizer and grow blessings out of the dung that life throws at us.

LESSONS LEARNED

I have often spoke of lessons I have come to appreciate only in reflection years after they have taken place. This story is about one of those lessons. I recall the odd habit my grandfather had of reading the obituaries. Not just glancing at them, but reading them. When I pressed him as to why he did what I considered an odd habit. His reply was that as he grew older, that was the only time he heard about or from friends. “Some people only make the paper when they die.” This is lesson number one. Don’t make the only time you make it into the paper be when you die. This is not to say we should try to chase fame and fortune for the sake of being famous. It also doesn’t mean we should try to appear in the police blotter, a part of the paper we should really try to avoid. The point here is to try and make an impact while you are living. You don’t have to change the world, just change some lives. Be a positive difference for the people you encounter. Make an impact in your community. Support local businesses, get to know your neighbors.

The other thought that occurred to me was how little we keep in touch. Especially as we grow older, this becomes more important. Although, at any age we never know when someone we love can leave us. Send more greeting cards. Pick up the phone just to say “Hello”. Send an email to let someone know you are thinking of them and how much they mean to you. If those sort of sentiments make you uncomfortable, realize they can’t see you behind a keyboard. One of the positives of modern technology. Keep in touch with people. Create memories that will last a lifetime, and maybe even beyond!

He also mentioned something else I would like to share with you. He said with a wry smile that every time he didn’t see his name in the ‘obits’, as he called them, was a day he was grateful to be alive. It was also a sign that your work wasn’t done he reminded me. How sad is it that many of us spend our days noting what is wrong with our lives instead of appreciating that we have one? It seems all to often that the only time we stop to appreciate life is after we lose someone close to us. It is my belief that we need a reminder everyday to appreciate the life we have, even with all of its imperfections. Perhaps reading about all of those poor souls who wouldn’t be getting up that day was his way of reminding himself to be grateful for not being among them.

This habit of looking at the notices of people who have passed away is a good reminder of our own mortality. We should do our best to think of what we want to be remembered for. Do we want to be remembered as a good family person? Will we be remembered as a pillar of our community? Will they say that we always were eager to lend a helping hand? Are we living that life right now? If not, how can we do the things we know that we should be doing? What will our legacy be?

Even something that may seem as morose as reading the obituaries, can be a source of both motivation and inspiration. We do not have to wait until we lose someone we love to realize the value of our lives. We don’t have to wait to make an impact until we pass away. It is never too early or too late to start thinking about and working on what our legacy will be. Listen to the stories of your elders, they hold hidden wisdom you may only realize years later.

WHAT HELPS ME WHEN I LOSE SOMEONE

My secret for grief

I want to start this post off with a disclaimer. In no way am I telling you how to grieve. That is a personal decision and you should always do what is right for you. What I am offering is what helps me get through those moments of loss in hopes it may be of some service to you as well.

As you can see in the picture above, I do my best to be the things I loved about the person I lost. This is not always easy, as I have lost some pretty amazing people. An example would be my grandfather. He was always a fair and honest man. When he spoke, you could tell it was something he thought through. He treated people kindly. Kind of the John Wayne type. (Bonus that his name was also John) I don’t always succeed at this because I am human, but I do my best to honor his memory but being as much of a gentleman as I can be.

We all miss someone

Even when there is someone we miss that has qualities that we simply don’t, we can still honor them. We can support others who are like them. We can do things in their memory. We can share stories about all the wonderful things they did or said. I just told Margie about how my aunt used to bake bread for everyone for the holidays. Not only was that a great memory, but it showed how she used her skills to make everyone happy. She also sewed me some Native American themed pillows. She never had much money, but that never stopped her from being generous. Read that last line again. It is a great lesson she taught me and reminds me of even though she is no longer here physically. Every time I use what gifts I have to bring joy to someone else, I can’t help but think of her. When I am feeling like I need more resources to make a difference, I am reminded how great of a difference she made with what little she had.

I even find that this method helps me appreciate people who are still with me. Knowing one day we will all be gone is one of the best motivators to live fully. Knowing that I will need to be what I love about people when they are gone also has me focused and appreciating them when they are alive. It prompts me to notice how they do what they do. If I don’t understand, I can ask them. Take my other aunt for an example. She is…how can one say…filterless. This can be a social liability, but it can also do some wonderful things. It breaks the ice when you meet new people. (I recall her recently telling a complete stranger that she took a cowboy bath) She also has the ability to get you to laugh or smile when it seems to be impossible. These are things I am going to miss about her when she is gone and so I do my best to enjoy them while she is here. It is also something I am going to do my best to carry on. Not sure about telling people I took a cowboy bath, but we will see.

However you grieve, make sure you allow yourself to do so. If you can, find a way that may add to your life and help you ease the sense of loss you feel. You don’t have to do the method that works for me, but I hope by sharing it with you I have provided you another healthy option. In order to help each other, I would love it if you would share the method that you find most helpful for dealing with the loss of someone you love. Remember, there is no wrong way to grieve, but your method might be just what someone is looking for to help them move forward after a terrible loss. Here at Secret2anamazinglife.com we share with each other in an effort to help us all live a more amazing life.

IT IS A SPECIAL OCCASION FOR YOU

You may be finding yourself thinking, “How does Neil know what is a special occasion in my life?” You may even think that today is just an ordinary day, that there is no special occasion. The odds of it being your birthday are about 1 in 365 best I can figure. Still, today is a very important day for you. Why? The reasons are all around us. When you think of the odds that allow you to be exactly who you are, they are more than staggering. From the moment of conception to all the experiences that have brought you to this point, they are all worth celebrating.

While it is true that a good amount of things that we encounter in life do not work out how we had hoped and imagined, they have all played a part in making us the amazing people we are today. Even the hardest lessons have given us some of our greatest gifts. If we face a particular health challenge, we can better relate and counsel those who face the same situation. If we have lost our job we face the prospect of finding a new, and often better suited job. If our hearts were broken, we have a chance to begin again with a wiser outlook as to the kind of person that would better help us grow both ourselves and our love. Even what I think is the worst pain, the pain of losing someone we love, can teach us the value of life and those we share it with.

This may sound like some new age inspirational speech, and it some ways I guess it is, but let us look how it relates to our life today. If you do not think today is a special occasion, ask yourself how it would feel if you knew you would not have a tomorrow. Now ask yourself how sure you can be that you do have a tomorrow coming? Can you be 100% sure? How about 90%? There is a great deal of factors that could sway that number in one direction or another. How dangerous your job is, the safety of the area you live in, and your current health status. Even if those are all in the positive, you still face unexpected dangers we may never consider. Car accidents, random violent strangers or a sudden unexpected health crisis. So much for the new age inspirational speech. While I am not trying to focus on the negative that may happen in life, it does not change the reality that they are possibilities. Tomorrow is not promised for any of us. Today may be the special occasion we never knew we were having.

If today were your last day with sight, how much time would you take to sit in nature and enjoy the scenery? How long would you gaze lovingly at the face of the person you love? What song would you listen to if you knew you may wake up without your sense of hearing? The risk is not only ours either. People in our lives that we care deeply for share those same inherent risks. Think about that for a minute. Today may be that last time your spouse may be able to see your smile, would you deny that to them just because they forgot to put the milk away? It may be the last time they are able to hear you say “I Love you” wouldn’t you want them to be able to hear that one more time? It may very well be the last time you can share a moment with someone. Would you not want them to know in their heart how much they mean to you and how much you love them? In my own romantic relationship, I tell Margie everyday, “There are two things I am going to tell you everyday. I need you to know how beautiful you are and how much I love you.” To this day, I don’t think a single day has went by in which I didn’t remind and show her those two things. Tomorrow, either her or I could be gone and I would not have the chance to tell her.

This may beginning to sound a bit morbid to some of you, but it is true just the same. This is not saying we should live our lives in a state of fear that something may go wrong, but with the knowledge that it might. Often, things are only appreciated after they are gone. We complain about that job until we lose it. We complain about our spouse until they are gone. We take for granted someone in our life until they pass away. Moments can sometimes become special because they were the last. The last time you said “I Love you” to someone you care about. The last time you got to see a friend’s smile. I think we should take Mr. Einstein’s advice above and live life as if everything were a miracle. You never know when moments will be last ones, so treat each one as if it were. Live, love and laugh like there were no tomorrow.

TURNING DEFEAT INTO SUCCESS

These next few posts are going to be a collection of lessons that I have learned from coworkers. Three different people, three different post offices. We begin in the sunny town of Franksville where I used to be postmaster. I was discussing self-improvement and introspective topics with the person who works there. We often have brief but intense discussions on some of our favorite people who inspire us.

On this particular day, the young lady mentioned she had been having some stressful days where she was feeling down. She was concerned that in her journey she might be taking a step back. I think any of us on a path to improving our lives and ourselves, have felt something similar. One of the most common questions I am asked at book signings, seminars and just by people I interact with is “Do you ever have a bad day?” “Are there days you are not in a good mood?” My answer is simple, of course I do. Everyone has days in their life where things just seem to go south when you would like them to go north. I actually had my day start that way today.

Does this mean we are not being successful in our self-improvement journey? Does this mean we are somehow doing it wrong? Are the amount of days we feel down indicative to our progress in life? Not at all! As the movie Forest Gump made light of, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you might get.” There are many situations that are beyond our control. Some moments it would appear we are having a run of ‘good luck’ where other times it would seem ‘the deck is stacked against us’. I am here to tell you that kind of thinking is a bunch of BS! (Belief systems).

Our success is not in eliminating every single challenge in life. We will all have days or more to the point, moments when life gets the best of us. The true test of our character is in shortening both the intensity and duration of those experiences. In fact, we grow most in times of pain and challenge. We learn the most about ourselves, those we care about and the world around us when times see the darkest. It is in putting these situations to work for us that we can take an experience that is a negative and turn it into a positive. Like finding a big hole in the ground and turning it into a mind in which we pull diamonds out of. These diamonds are better than jewels though. They can be diamonds of physical, mental and emotional strength we never knew we had. It can be the jewel of gratitude for those who help us when we are down.

How can we turn all of these negative situations in positive ones? I am going to give you a quick tool to start using by the end of our time together here today. Here it is – ask two simple questions. It would be a good idea to write these two questions down so when times get tough you don’t have to search for them on top of everything else. The first one we kind of alluded to earlier. How can I use this? Can I use it to be better prepared for a similar event in the future? Can I use it to develop a skill that I do not have at this moment in time? Can I use it to stoke the fires of motivation I have to succeed in the future?

The second question we should ask ourselves when things are bad is What is good about this? If you ask this question second it usually works a lot better. Once you found how to put your grief/pain/anger/sadness or whatever other challenging emotion to work for you, it can be a lot easier to find something positive in it. Perhaps you are experiencing the pain of regret over not spending enough time with a love one you lost. You can put that pain to work to motivate you to cherish and give 100% to those you love who are still here. The ‘positive’ that could come out of that pain is to remind you to express your feelings and take time for those who are in your life presently. I am sure you could think of examples in your own life as well.

To wrap up what turned out to be a longer post than I expected, let us remember the true measure of success. It is not to eliminate all stress and never have a bad day. We would never really grow then. It is finding ways to shorten the duration of time we spend in that negative state. We can do it by asking the two questions in the order we demonstrated above. When we go through pain and struggle we gain valuable tools that will allow us to better contribute to and serve others around us and the world at large. Next time you find yourself having a day where you are feeling down, remember that does not mean you are failing. What it does mean, is you have an opportunity to grow and develop tools you would otherwise not have.

DOES IT CONTROL YOU OR MOTIVATE YOU?

Today’s post will be the first in a series about controlling what we can. I am going to offer you two personal examples of this particular decision and how it impacted parties involved. I hope you will be able to take what we talk about here and apply it to your own life. If you do, I promise you can change something that used to be an anchor in your life, something that would weigh you down and hold you back, into one of the strongest forms of motivation to propel you forward.

Our first story starts many years ago at a funeral for a family member of mine. After a formal service and before the wake there was some walking around and polite “Nice to see you.” “Sorry for you loss.” type remarks. I ran into one of my family members who was upset and distraught. They were sobbing uncontrollably and asking the rhetorical question “why them?” They went on to further state that their life would never be the same and they could never be fully happy again. This person saying all of these things was quite young and it would have been a sorry state if they allowed this to be true.

Moments later, I ran into another family member. This person was the exact same relationship to the deceased and roughly the same age. Their take on the situation was much different. “Boy this sure makes you think, doesn’t it?” the young man said. You could tell he was upset, yet looking at this from a different angle. He went on to say how sometimes it really takes a funeral to make you feel alive. After a quizzical look from me, he explained. He said it served as a great reminder how important it is to not only make sure you tell those you care for that you love them, but to live your own life in a compassionate and meaningful way. Knowing that life ends is one of the best ways to make sure you really start living.

Two people, same situation, two entirely different viewpoints. Both people were equally close to the person who passed, yet looked at their passing in entirely different ways. One could only see the loss and end that had occurred. The other saw the motivation to really start loving and living. Death, my friends, can either be a merciless jailor or the greatest motivator. When we lose someone we love, that can be hard enough. We only compound that pain when it paralyzes us. If, however, we can find some type of positive, even if it is only that we must love those we have in our life while they are here, then the pain has at least served a purpose.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. There is no right way to grieve. To feel loss and pain when we lose someone we love so dearly is natural. It is my sincere hope that I may offer you something that will put your pain and feeling of loss to work for you. That may not lessen the hurt you are feeling, then again it might, but it may very well keep you from being paralyzed by despair.

The second example comes from a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine. The topic of discussion was mistakes we had made in the past and how we could still kick ourselves for some of the stupid things we had done. This can be especially true when it comes to relationships. When a relationship ends we feel a host of emotions – sadness, anger, loss, maybe even relief depending on what side of the equation you are on. One common feeling after a relationship comes to an end is regret. Again, this can take many forms. You may regret that you did not speak your feelings better. You may regret the way you treated the person or the way you let them treat you. You could regret not being more romantic. You could even end up regret wasting so many of your years with such a jerk.

I know many people who continue to beat themselves up with this regret years after the other half of the relationship has moved on. “I really regret not being more loving to her.” or “I really regret staying with him when he was such a jerk.” These people stew over this. They still get upset and usually it becomes contagious, as the person they are talking to regrets being in that conversation. They relive the pain, the hurt, the anger and the frustration. This not only does not serve them, but prevents them from moving on to a new and healthy relationship.

I have many regrets in my life, as we all do. Not just in relationships, but who I was as a man. There are even times when I catch myself pondering why I did so many stupid things in my life. Why did I sacrifice my character and integrity by not living up to my own standards. What I do is use this as fuel. My relationship now is one that I am extremely proud of. I am with what I do believe is the most beautiful woman on the planet. She deserves the best version of me. When there are times I feel like shirking my responsibilities as a man or as her man, I think of the pain of regret I feel for all of the time I let myself and others down. I want to give her the best man I can be, and I use this regret for motivation. I recall times that I was unhealthy, unfriendly, careless, not compassionate and other ways I failed to live up to my own standards. There is nothing I can do about those situations. They are done and over with. The jobs have been lost, the feelings have been hurt and the years of good health are gone. What I can do is use the pain of that regret to make sure I work as hard and as good as I can. Make sure to care for other’s feelings and treat my body as the temple and expression of the divine that it is.

We all have death and regret in our lives. Pain is unavoidable. What is up to us is whether we let that pain be our jailor or our motivator. Regret and loss suck. There is no nicer way to put it. As long as they have to be a part of our life, why not put them to work for us.

FINDING JOY WHERE THERE WAS NONE

Above is a picture of a trail I was walking on this past Monday. As you can see, the trees are turning colors and many of them have already lost their leaves entirely. It is fall here in the city of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. This means temperatures are starting to dip, birds are packing their bags and flying south for the winter ( I am a little bit jealous but I will get over it ) Snow will soon cover the ground and there will be a few days when even stepping outside will be hazardous to your health. This is truly not the climate for me. I suffer from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is where feelings of emotional depression and hopelessness can creep in as the seasons change. In short, my mood tends to drop with the temperature. This has something to do with the bodies reduced exposure to sunlight they say. All I know is, for me, winter sucks.

As I continue to further my plan to become a best-selling author and move to San Diego, I am also on the lookout for ways to make living in a northern climate more bearable. My beautiful Margie bought me a “Happy Lamp” which mimics the sunlight. As a matter of fact, I am using it as I write this blog for all of you. I make sure to exercise daily, take vitamin D and do all of the other things they recommend. Still, at times especially after the holidays, I can find myself in a serious funk! As I was walking on this breezy fall day watching the leaves fall from the trees I noticed something off to the side of the trail – a mushroom growing right out of a tree!

As you can see in the picture above, it almost looked fake. My mother, who was walking with me at the time, laughed with me as we marveled at the strangeness of it. About a mile further down the trail I saw something else, a sign in the middle of some tall grass. This indicated there was some additional side trail we had not known about earlier. Although we choose not to explore it that day due to an over consumption of coffee prior to heading out on this walk, we certainly made a note of it. Here is the funny thing, neither of these things would have been noticeable if the leaves had been on the trees or if the grass had been full and green. It was only through the ‘death’ of the season that we discovered these things.

I began to ponder as we walked along. Thinking as I walked, which I so often do. This is true for the passing of the seasons, but it is also true in many other areas of our lives. When we lose a job, we not only develop a sudden appreciation for the reliable income that comes with a job we must go to everyday, but we also are forced to be creative in our search for new employment. We brush up both our resume and networking skills. Perhaps we consider taking a new course or starting that side business. We may even have an opportunity to pursue something more in line with our passions. It is only with the loss of the job that all of this is usually made possible.

Even the sad situation of losing someone we care about brings many things to light. Memories and things you may not have appreciated about that person. Love for, and the importance of, life itself. The value of the relationships we have with others. Making sure that we live our lives in such a way that we give the most to others while we are here. All of these very important, and often positive, events seem to occur after we lose someone close to us.

Could any of these things happen without the loss? Perhaps. I could venture off the path while I am walking and see what I find. We can always start our passion based business or brush up our resume while still employed. Perhaps there are also ways to more fully appreciate the fragility of life without losing someone who means so much to us. These things are possible, but are often only brought to light through a loss. It is a great lesson the change of seasons can teach all of us. Even a future best-selling author in a state with 9 months of winter and 3 months of very poor sledding could come to appreciate some aspect of winter.

The point here is that in many situations that we feel a loss of joy, there are gifts to be found. In every challenge there is the seed of equal to or greater opportunity. This winter, in addition to the steps I am already taking, I will look for additional gifts the cold weather reveals. Snuggling closer to the beautiful woman I have in my life. Appreciation for the wonderful meals I can enjoy without leaving my house. The simple pleasures of a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter day. That is not to say that I would pass on that ocean front villa in the islands, but until then I shall look for the joy where there once was none.

WHAT TO SAY AT A FUNERAL

One of the most difficult times in anyone’s life is when someone they love passes away. Two years ago I lost a great deal of people I cared about. As it so happens I was asked to say a few words at several of their services. What an honor that is. At the same time it is a lot of pressure. When you are selected to speak at a major life event a good deal of trust is being placed in you to capture the moment in five to ten minutes of time. These are moments when words fail to live up to the gravity of the situation. How can you possibly do justice with words the feelings that are in the hearts of someone at such an occasion? Everyone is feeling a wide range of emotions from anger and sadness to loss and regret. How can you possibly speak to all of those?

I am going to give you two extremely valuable lessons I have learned that will help you in what can be very trying times. Let us first talk about being asked to speak at these occasions. Most of you reading this may never be asked to speak at a memorial or celebration of life event. That is probably a good thing. In recent studies, people placed the fear of public speaking ahead of the fear of even death. Which means, in a nutshell, most people would be more comfortable being the person the service is about than speaking at it. Still, there is questions like, “What do I say to the family and friends of the person who has departed?” and “What could I possibly write in this card that would do any good? In a way all of these questions can be answered using the same idea

When I was about to speak all these crazy thoughts came into my head. “What if they don’t like what I have to say?” “What if I break down and cannot finish what I have written down?” These were all legitimate concerns, but only to me. Realizing I was focusing on my concerns and worried about if I did something wrong how it would be received. What I had to do was change my entire mindset. Whether it is filling out a card, giving a heartfelt words to family and friends or standing up in front of a large gathering filled with emotion to give a speech when you are also filled with that same emotion, the answer is the same. When Albert Einstein was asked why we were here his answer was quick and simple, “We are here to serve others.” That is what we need to focus on during times of sorrow.

When I changed my mindset to one of service and began to ask myself what can I say that can give a little comfort or solace to those who were gathered there, the rest took care of itself. Was I emotional at some? Yes. Did I have to take a moment and compose myself before continuing? Yes. I believe that is of some service too. Knowing that your words come from a place of love and respect mean just as much as the words that are being said. I am generally thought of as a positive chap who promotes motivation and positivity. I thought things like that had no place at a memorial. What I have learned is being yourself and speaking (whether that is in person or in a card) words from the heart is all that matter.

Another thing to remember is that losing someone sucks…big time. This may seem like a no brainer but we must remember death affects everyone differently. We must also remember each of us grieve differently. People will be sad and that is alright. It is not our job to try to lift that sadness. Leave that to a power much great than yourself. Our job as fellow humans is to offer a bit of love and light to those who are hurting and to do so in our own particular way. To let everyone know we care. The way to do so is by being the wonderful caring people we are. We may stumble over our words and even get mixed up and say things completely wrong. That is okay. What matters is the love we have and the service we give. One day we will need the same.