ARE YOU A LION OR A GAZELLE?


I have always loved this quote. In fact, I have a copy in my writing room. I always thought the gazelle had the better motivation. After all, if the gazelle doesn’t run fast enough it dies. If the lion doesn’t run fast enough it goes hungry. I suppose enough of those days and it could also die, but at the moment I always figured the gazelle was more motivated. Then something happened to completely change my perception. Has that ever happened to you? Like one minute you view things one way and with a bit of different information it all changes?
I was listening to a talk by Eric Thomas, one of my favorite motivators, and he pointed out something I had not thought of. If the gazelle does not see a lion, it does not run. It is quite leisurely eating grass spending the day with its friends. Its motivation relies on outside motivation. The lion, however, has the motivation coming from the inside, his stomach mainly. He will hunt regardless of whether it is a gazelle, water buffalo or some other animal. He does not need outside motivation. His motivation comes from a hunger within.
Let me tell you where this train of thought went. One of the areas that I am proudest of in my life is my relationship with the love of my life, Margie. We are far from perfect and don’t always see eye-to-eye, but we are always learning and more importantly, loving. Quite often both of us are told how lucky we are. Although I am truly fortunate and blessed that the powers that be put us in the same place at the same time, there is a lot of hard work involved. In every successful relationship there is. The reward for this is…well…a successful relationship.
I realized in my relationship I am successful because I am a lion. Before I lose some of you, let me explain what I mean. In the United States currently over 50% of marriages end in divorce. Looking at some of the couples I see and I am surprised that number is not higher. What happens from the time we get together blissfully in love to wanting to leave each other? More importantly, what do the couples that stay together do differently? They are lions and not gazelles when it comes to their relationships.
Most people fall in love for various reasons, but most of them are predicated on the person they fall in love with. There is rarely a thought of what they are looking for and equally as important, what they are looking to avoid. Margie and myself both came from long relationships before we met each other later in life. By this time we were a lot more clear on what we wanted and want we did not enjoy in a relationship. Quick note, she still surprises me by showing me things I did not even know I wanted in a relationship. Then people generally go on autopilot. When loving things happen, they feel loving. When stressful things happen, they feel stress. They are reactionary people. I am not sure how your life works, but in my life there are usually a lot of challenging things. That can leave you feeling stressed more often than loving. Stretch this out of a length of time and it is not so surprising a lot of relationships fail.
There are times when we put forth efforts. Birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s day come to mind. Then it is still the outside influence of the calendar that is motivating us. We are still a gazelle that depends on outside motivation to put forth a great deal of effort in our relationship. One of the most comical, yet sad things I witness is when you suddenly see someone become the best romantic partner ever. That is in the presence of another lion. A attractive young lady in a revealing outfit or a muscular gentleman with perfect features approaches your spouse and suddenly you are by there side showing the world, and more importantly that other lion that they are yours. I even heard people who never utter a romantic word become the next Shakespeare or Robert Browning, all but reciting romantic sonnets in the middle of a club, grocery store or wherever this romantic challenge happens. Yes, they are being romantic, but why? It is to defend and retain the romantic affections of there partner. They are still being a gazelle, dependent on that outside influence for motivation.
Sure, their romantic overtones are probably greatly appreciated, but it is usually obvious why they were made. I must confess to being guilty of this myself a time or two. In the world of being a DJ, it can be quite apparent that people have little to no respect for another’s relationship. I may have even occasionally attacked another lion, but I digress. What Margie and I do to make our relationship success is we are both lions. Our motivation for being loving and romantic with each other is a burning hunger to love and create the most loving relationship we can. Remember the lion in our first example? The motivation came from an inner hunger. It did not need an outside force for motivation.
How can you be a lion in a relationship? Even if someone would come up to Margie when she left the house in the morning and told her she was beautiful, I make sure I have already reminded her of that fact several times. My desire is to be the best romantic partner and friend I can be. My reward for this is a great connection with Margie. My hunger will make sure I am never content with that connection either. While I bask in the joy of our love, there is always an inner hunger to take our love and our relationship to greater heights. I do not need a special day or the influence of some other person to generate a desire to create love in my relationship. It is my hunger to be the best man I can be and to create the best relationship that drives me. In all areas of your life be a lion. channel that inner hunger to hunt down the best relationship, job or whatever else it is you are hunting.

THE POWERFUL FORCE

The last few posts we have looked at how we as different faiths share the common bond of love and the desire to mature spiritually. It is when approaching someone who is not only different than us, but one that we may be at odds with that this becomes most paramount.

If our desire is to forge a bond with those who are considered our enemy we can only do so by relating to them on a level that we share. Using the power of love, which is a feeling everyone desires and everyone has the ability to give, is the most powerful way to do so. Looking back in history can only serve to prove this correct. Starting with the above example Martin Luther King jr. He did not curse those who persecuted him based solely on the color of his skin. No, he preached love, equality and acceptance. Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for a quarter of a century could have very easily moved to start a revolution upon his release and nobody would have blamed him. Instead he said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” That my friends takes a lot of love, but look what he was able to do.

As we think of those we consider enemies, let us begin to consider ways in which we can use love instead to make them our friends. It will not only be better for creating a result, it will be better for our heart and better for the world as well.

WHAT WAS THEIR RELIGION?


This is one of those quotes I really love. When you think about religion it is often, if not always created after the death of its most important figures. That being the case, as it is in the three examples above, it would be impossible for the individuals to be a member of a religion they inspired. That does not make these religions any less valid or take anything away from their beliefs or practices.
What it does is allow us to step back and take a good hard look at what is the common thread that was woven through all of these great leaders, and by consequence, through all great spiritual beliefs – Love. These individuals did not preach a certain religion, but rather a set of moral principles predicated on love. Love is the common thread that flows through most spiritual beliefs. It is a force that drives many of the other principles and tenets of whatever faith you may practice. It is the driving force behind a spiritual practice. Love, combined with faith and hope make up the basis for most of the world’s religions.
Which brings me to my point, if the founder of the faith you follow based their teachings on love, how can you not do the same? Interacting with those of different faiths should we not all come with a spirit of compassion, acceptance and understanding? Those are all aspects of love. The individuals mentioned above were strong in their beliefs and certainly strong in their love. When you are filled with faith, hope and love you do not judge another. You do not say evil words towards another because they are following a different path of love than you.
Let us all belong to the religion of love no matter what organized faith we may follow.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM NOT GETTING A TATTOO

Let me begin this by saying I have nothing against tattoos. In fact, this is a picture of my beautiful Margie’s arms, tattoos on both. I admire people who have the bravery to get a tattoo. The reason I have never gotten a tattoo is that I cannot think of many things I like on a consistent basis. Even people I admire have changed over the years. My favorite band is Ratt, but as of late they have become the most dysfunctional drama-filled mess. I used to be a big fan of Lance Armstrong. I admired how he overcame his cancer and went on to win several bike races. I could have gotten a tattoo of him. Then he came out and admitted he cheated and used performance enhancing drugs.

This got me thinking about what I do for happiness in my life. If you place your happiness in the hands of other people, no matter how wonderful they may be, they will at some point let you down. People are different and that is just how the world goes. Same with attaching your happiness to material things. Money can come and go. A hurricane can come and blow down your house you invested years and quite a bit a money on. As the saying goes don’t put the key to your happiness in somebody else’s pocket.

What, then do we have our happiness depend on? Make it internal. Things like our Faith, our sense of hope and those things that are eternal. In the above example, my lovely lady wanted to place her love for both singing and her mother on her arms. Those are things that come from inside her. It would do us a great service to spend some time on compiling a list of things that bring us joy that come from inside. Those are the things we should put our focus on. If we want true joy in our lives we should enjoy all of what life has to offer, but place our focus on what comes from the inside.

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”.

WHO WERE YOU?

We often hear gurus all over telling us that our pain can be our greatest teacher. It can be rather hard to listen to when you are watching them climb into their private jet and return to their own island. I am not inferring that the rich have no problems, or that their advice is any less valid because they have wealth. If we are being honest, hearing that kind of advice from someone who has the appearance at least, of not being in pain can be hard to listen to.

 Shortly after the year 2000, as my study in self-improvement was just beginning, I had a moment that in reflection helped me grow substantially. When I was going through it, however, all I could tell you was it sucked. That is how life is sometimes. Steve Jobs said we can never connect the dots moving forward, only looking back. Sure it would be great to know how your current struggle is going to pay off in the future. It certainly would make going through it a lot easier. I guess that is where something called faith comes into play.

Back to my personal story and how it can benefit us all. Shortly after 2000 the United States Postal Service, the fine edifice where I step most of my waking hours informed me although I was a model employee, due to declining mail volume my hours would be cut to about 10 a week. What made matters better is that to receive these hours I would have to be available Monday through Saturday from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. making it near impossible to find a second job to make up the lost hours. Luckily for me, about a month later they did realize I was an employee worth keeping and found a position for me.

Here is what really threw me, I found myself not knowing what or more to the point who I would be if I left the Post Office. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but at the time I had been working there 13 years, roughly 50 hours a week. It became a part of my identity. In a world of corporate downsizing this can be an all to common situation. It is not limited to jobs either. Think of the end of a relationship. You fell in love and were perhaps in love for a great deal of time. You shared everything, they were not only your lover, but your best friend. All of that is exactly how it should be. What happens when that is gone? The person leaves, be it through walking away, cheating or even passing away. You feel as though a part of you has died. What then?

Just like the loss of a job, it is an end of a relationship. No matter how intense or good the relationship is, job or person, it is a weaving of two paths. Trying to keep this in perspective is one way to help us carry on. I am in no way inferring that this is an easy thing to do. The better the relationship, the more it will hurt. Even in that pain you must remember to balance that with gratitude. You had great moments some may never experience. Maybe that man that seemed so perfect for you turned out to be a no good snake. Maybe he even slept with your sister…or your brother for that matter. The fact remains you still received moments of joy and bliss out of the relationship. The fact they ruined it by being a snake simply means they gave up the right to experience more of those moments with you. Maybe someone you loved passed away? There are no opportunities to share more moments no matter how much you both would have loved that. It is time to realize how rare having someone like that in your life is. Reflect on those memories when they come up not as a sense of loss or that you will never have them again. No, reflect on them with gratitude you had the opportunity to share that with them. Maybe even offer up a word of thanks to their memory for such loving memories. Again, not saying or even imagining any of this is easy. Pain is something we get through day by day.

Lastly, and this is what helped me through my job challenge, is have people in your life that have known you before that job or relationship started. An old friend is a gift that is more priceless than gold. When I was feeling a loss of identity, I called up my good friend and former bandmate, Russ. We have know each other since we were around 13 years-old. I asked Russ a simple but bizarre question, “Who was I before the post office?” Not only did he remind me of that, he even offered some ways in which I may have lost myself due to the post office. Good friends can tell you ways in which you kind of suck without being too hurtful. \

Discovering there was a person who existed before and more important separate from, the job (again this can work for relationships as well) helped me in two important ways. First, it made me determined to keep who I was separate from what I did for a living. This can also be helpful in a relationship. Margie and I are amazing as a couple and people recognize that, but we each have our own personal identities as well. For example, if you want a great cake for your special occasion you best talk to her. Need a speech written? More my forte. The second way in which this liberated me was I realized I was free to decide who I wanted to be as a person going forward, despite whatever foolish actions the Postal Service may take. Who you are should never depend on what you do for a living or who you happen to date. Those things have a great influence on you and it is your job to make sure it is a positive one, but at the end of the day it is you who decides who you are going to become.

In closing, remember that you are not a victim in your life, but a creator. We may not have control over the actions of others and how it can impact us, but we do have complete control over how we react and how we can put the challenges to use in our lives. It will not be easy but it will definitely be worth it.

MY WEEKEND MESSAGE

Our message going into the weekend is a simple one. I won’t take up too much of your valuable Friday. The message is this – you deserve to be happy. We all deserve to be happy. One of the best ways to experience happiness yourself is to help others achieve the same.

This weekend, do your best to do these two things. First, allow yourself to be happy. Realize you deserve it. Give yourself that gift. You have been through a lot. I can say that because I know we all have. Whether you are dealing with the stress of running a multi-million dollar company or wondering if you will have enough money to pay the rent, the stress is there. Take a break. Go for walk, buy yourself a balloon or whatever else makes you happy.

The next bit is equally important. When you give yourself that gift of bliss, share it with someone else. Not only  because they too are going through challenges, but because it will amplify your own good feelings. Honestly, doesn’t helping others feel good make you feel good? I know it does for me. Have a great weekend and I look forward to sharing more with you on Monday!

LESSONS FROM THE CIVIL WAR WE HAVE FORGOTTEN

The American Civil War (never really did understand that term) was about far more than just slavery. It represented rural verses city life. It pitted national governing against local governing. In broad terms, the southern way of living against the northern way of living. Of all of these issues the basis was the same, different people with strong ideological beliefs on both sides.

It can still be argued as to whether rural or city planning is better and healthier. I am sure there are benefits to both national and local governing. What I felt was really a no-brainer was dismissing the human rights of someone based on either the color of their skin or their ethnic upbringing. In today’s world of division, this can, and often does, include political and religious differences as well. While it is certainly ok and quite natural to disagree with each other on these issues, what is not acceptable is to vilify or dehumanize others who are or believe different than we.

As I tend to surround myself with people who are as accepting and open-minded as myself, these issues are not always front and center in my mind. In my own way I think of things like prejudice and racism as not only arcane, but ludicrous. Would you really deny yourself a blood transfusion because Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who invented a way to process and preserve blood plasma was African-American? Would you do without such inventions as paper, printing and umbrellas because they come from Chinese inventors? Would you do without all of Albert Einstein’s contribution to science because you are anti-Semitic? The fountain pen, windmill and one of the most important inventions to my writing – coffee are all of a Muslim origin.

To do without any of these inventions because you believe this or that group of people are less than you would not only be foolish, it would be ignorant and stupid. Every culture has its heroes and its villains. To condemn an entire race or group of people based on the actions of one, or some of its people is not only irresponsible, but asinine. Do I hate all of my German friends because back in the 30’s and 40’s there was a neurotic freak named Hitler who killed millions of people? Of course not. Do I hold a grudge against all of my Christian friends because many of them lead to the death of over 100 million Native Americans? That would be senseless.

If we are to hate someone based solely on the racial/religious or political differences we have with them, then we should be prepared to do without all of the amazing contributions brought on by that group. As I look around my group of friends and notice the vast difference in color, culture and creed, I look forward to learning from and working with all of them to make our world a better place. As the Dalai Lama said, we are all brothers and sisters.

ALONG THE JOURNEY

If you read posts on a blog like this you are an individual who is focused on bettering themselves and their life. That is great. Here we will provide you tools to do just such a thing. We discuss such various topics as goal setting, vision boards, and many other options.

When you embark on your journey it is important to include one very important item on the list – enjoy the process. Including joy on your journey to self-improvement is essential. Life is meant to be enjoyed. We are going to spend most of our lives on a journey. If we postpone our joy until we reach our destination, our happiness will be far and few between.

How do you remain happy while working to improve your situation? Gratitude. While you are going to school to get a better job, be grateful for the job you have while you are doing so. Working on your relationship? Be grateful you have one to work on. Working on getting into a relationship? Be grateful for the opportunity to start anew.

It may seem like you are never reaching the top of the hill, but you must look around and be grateful for the walk. When it comes right down to it, we must be grateful for the struggle. It is the lessons that help us grow and be stronger. Make being genuinely joyful an important part of your life. Do so by being grateful.

YOUR WEEKEND HOMEWORK

Homework….I used to hate that word in school. Truth be told, it still conjures up a few bad memories. I promise you not only will this homework be painless, but actually enjoyable and improve your life.

Your homework is to notice the little miracles in your life. If you stop and think of how much life has really blessed you with, you may be surprised.

In my own life for example, I think my lady is a miracle. More to the point the situation between us is. Here is a woman who is creative, silly, smart and sexy. We somehow live in the same country, in the same state, in the same city. Not only that, circumstances brought us together and guess what? She found me attractive for reasons I still can’t explain, and we feel in love. When you think of the odds of that happening it is a miracle.

Even tonight I planned on a nice stroll this evening with my mom. As we looked up it was a full supermoon. The sky didn’t have a cloud and the stars shined in all their glory. The odds of us choosing to walk today, the moon being so big and full and the sky clear are slim to none. All those events on the same night?

This may sound a bit rose-colored glasses to some, and I suppose to some extent it may be. When you stop and think of all the odds that had to line up for your life to be the way it is, you will realize there is no shortage of miracles. Even a simple flower you notice as you pass by…a miracle.

So look out for miracles this weekend. Feel free to share your favorite miracles with us here at secret2anamazinglife.com!