WHAT NOW?

When I decided to be a motivational speaker I thought it would be an easy and natural progression. Taking the material in both my book and website and sharing it with people would be simple and enjoyable. What challenges could come from sharing how to live a more positive and rewarding life with others.

I have discovered being able to appreciate the beauty in others and express that beauty in the written words has bestowed upon me one of the most challenging, yet personally rewarding honors I have faced. In the past 12 months I have spoken at 5 funerals. Being asked to speak about the life of someone who everyone in attendance cared so deeply for is both a tremendous honor, and great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It has also taught me to learn and think a great deal about how I approach the subject of death. In doing so, I have discovered what will not only help ease the burden of grief we feel when we lose someone we love but will help them live on every day in our lives. I would like to share what I learned with all of you in hopes it may help you or someone you know who may be experiencing the grief of losing someone you love.

On May 8th our family experienced a great loss in the mother of my lovely lady, Margie. Shortly after her mom’s passing, Margie asked if I would like to speak at the funeral. I must confess to having cringed a little. Being that my love and respect for both of those ladies was quite high, it was an honor, but it would be an emotional challenge to deliver. Certainly, when asked to perform such an important honor, it is hard to say no. As I began to think about what I would say, a new challenge presented itself. I was about to compose words about the woman the lady in my life was lucky enough to call her mom. Nothing but the best would do. The words came to me at 3 o’clock one morning. I grabbed my laptop to capture them.

In all my writing I try to give the reader something they can use to reduce the stress, or in this case grief in their life and add some joy or positivity. Fortunately for me, Margie’s mother, Ruthanne, led life that provided most of what I needed to say.

Most eulogies include memories of the person they honor. I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to answer the question that all of us, in some form or fashion, have in our hearts and minds when we lose someone we love – now what? What do we do now that we have lost a great parent, grandparent, spouse or even dear friend? How do we keep them alive both in our hearts and the world around us? How can we help their legacy live on?

I am going to share what works for me in hopes that it may help you. I have found although honoring someone with a memorial or candle-light vigil is thoughtful, the event is over in a day. For me, the best way to keep someone alive in our hearts and in our daily life is to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I would like to explain this further by using the life of Ruthanne as an example. I must add Ruthanne gave more light in her 79 years than most people could do if given 179 years. Her life could best be summed up by recalling her last few days with us here on earth.

When Ruthanne was told her time on earth was ending, she voiced two desires. It wasn’t a fancy car or an exotic vacation. She wanted to go to the casino and karaoke one more time. She wanted to die as she lived, feeling the joy in her life, surrounded by the people she loved. Ruthanne understood that joy and peace are more important than status or wealth.

When it became clear she was not going to leave the hospital we asked her if she would like us to bring her anything. Her answer spoke volumes. She said quite firmly, “I don’t need things. I need people.” Ruthanne understood the material gifts we are given we cannot take with us, but the lives we touch and the memories we create is what will live on long after we are gone. She knew the most valuable gift we can give someone is our time and our love. That is what she wanted from us.

It was not receiving that gift that most concerned Ruthanne. Every person who visited her in the hospital asked her the same question, “How are you doing?” You might think she would lament the conditions that plagued her or the time she had left. Not once did I hear this. Instead, she asked people how they were doing. She did not do this just for conversation, but with the genuine sincerity of someone who truly cares. She asked to see pictures of babies and how their jobs were going. Ruthanne understood how important it is to let someone know they are loved and significant.

If you attended Ruthanne’s funeral or visited her in the hospital you would notice the people she surrounded herself with came from every race, culture and creed. Ruthanne may joke with you about your look some days, but she would never let how someone looked stop her from loving them. Although a Christian, she would not let believing in a different faith stop her from loving you. Ruthanne gave us the gift of acceptance.

Sometimes, those she loved let her down. They may have been in trouble with the law, developed habits or addictions they shouldn’t have, or even hurt her or the ones she loved. I think at some point all of us that knew her failed to live up to our own standard. What did she do when this happened? She loved us anyway. Ruthanne gave us the gift of forgiveness.

With all the gifts mentioned above that she gave us, it is easy to see why at the 79th birthday party Margie threw her over 100 people showed up. If I were to guess almost three times that many either visited or sent well-wishes when she was in the hospital. With that much love and popularity you could not blame Ruthanne if she would boast with the rest of them. When she was told people had to leave her room because more were waiting to visit her she would tell us, “I don’t know why people love me so much. I am just me.” Ruthanne gave us the gift of humility.

Ruthanne gave me those gifts and I must add giving birth to the most beautiful woman I share my life with. Sadly, she will no longer be here to teach me these gifts in person. It falls upon me and those she knew, in her honor and memory, to share these gifts with those lives we touch. Every time I am accepting, forgiving, every time I make someone laugh or remind them how important and loved they are, I will think of and thank Ruthanne for being a living example of these virtues and many more.

When we lose someone we truly love, let us all work together to replace the light the world has lost with their passing. It will not only help ease our grief, it will keep them with us every day we share the gifts that they gave us.

SPEAK THROUGH THE 3 GATES

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

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

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

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

CHASE YOUR DREAMS!

Today is the first day of spring. This happens to be one of my favorite days of the year. Although meteorologically this does not often mean much in the fine state of Wisconsin, it officially marks the end of winter. We have trees budding, flowers blooming and birds singing to look forward to.
It is with this sense of renewal and rebirth, I want to bring another rebirth to your attention – YOUR DREAMS. Even if you are not as bad as I am during winter, the lack of sun and cooler temperature can dampen enthusiasm for even the noblest of causes. Perhaps your ‘winter’ has lasted several years. Perhaps you view that dream as having died. Just like the plants that seem to have ceased living, your dream may very well just be waiting to bloom again. I urge you to take a new look at dreams you may have thought have passed you by.
Perhaps you are thinking time and these dreams have passed you by? There are countless stories of people in their later years going on to create dreams. Colonel Sanders is a fine example. Born in 1890 Harland David Sanders held many jobs. He cleaned ash pans on the railway before becoming a railway firefighter. Was that his dream job? No. At night he studied law at La Salle University. He became a lawyer until a courtroom brawl with his own client ended that. Did he think his dreams died then? No. He even was involved in a shootout with his competition in the service station industry. A man lost his life and Sander’s competition was sent to jail. He opened up a factory selling acetylene lamps. Shortly after Delco introduced an electric lamp and he was forced out of business.
It was not until 1952 that Colonel Sanders franchised the first Kentucky Fried Chicken. If you are keeping score at home that would make him 62 at the time. At the age of 72 he sold KFC for $2 million dollars and served as an icon until his death in 1980. Proof dreams can take a lot of challenging situations, and a lot of years to come to light.
Whatever your dream is, just get started today. Breath life into that dream no matter how ridiculous it may seem. Maybe your dream is to be the next great publishing tycoon? Start a local newsletter. Maybe you want to bring joy and positivity to all you meet? Start a motivational blog. Whether your dream is to be a giant of industry or the world’s greatest parent, chase that dream today. What the world desperately needs is people chasing and living their dreams. If you come across someone who is on the verge, or maybe already has given up on their dream, encourage them. Use your candle to light theirs.
HAPPY SPRING TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU. MAY ALL OF YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE!

WHAT MOTIVATES ME

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Some things in life are oddly simple yet go completely unaware. Take the issue of personal motivation. Different things motivate different people. There are people who do things for money. There are people who do things to feel significant. The “carrot” is different for everyone.

Allow me, if you will, to share my personal story and then we will look at how we can apply this to our lives and use it to make them even more amazing.

Much like some of you, what motivates me has changed through the years as I have grown older and hopefully matured. What really motivates me now is making a difference in people’s lives as well as the world as a whole. Being able to see that is what keeps me writing. Do not misunderstand me, book royalties, and speaking fees sure are nice, but when I read a comment online about how what I have written impacts someone’s life or hear from someone one in person who shares their story with me that is why I continue to work so hard at researching and bringing you the best tools to reduce stress, increase joy and become the best versions of ourselves. If I were to make a great fortune doing this and never know that it make a difference there would be no motivation for me to continue.

How does all this affect our lives and how can we use it to improve our lives? Staying motivated daily can give us energy to accomplish great things in our lives, the lives of others and the world we all share. How do we manage to stay motivated, especially on the really tough days? There are a few simple steps taken with some inner reflection that can have us waking up with more energy and vitality than ever before.

The first step is where the inner reflection comes into play. Figure out what is our principle motivation in life. Do we work just for the money? Chances are if you reflect on this for a while the answer is not so cut and dry. Perhaps you work for the freedom the money affords you. The freedom to purchase what you want, or do want you want. Maybe you work because the money allows you to support your family? I was speaking to a friend of mine who has spent their entire life as a server in the restaurant industry. A lot of people would either ask him why he didn’t try to “go further in life” or consider him a failure. When I asked him why he stayed in the hospitality field in the role of a server his answer was simple. He told me he likes the impact he can have on people’s lives. He makes very decent money, but to him that was not what was important. When you do this exercise I suggest grabbing a pen and a piece a paper. Write down what is important to you.

Now that have our motivation a little more clear, what do we do with it? Find a way to make it measurable. This can often be tricky, especially with the less material. How do you measure the job you are doing taking care of your family? Sometimes giving yourself a ‘grade’ or rating yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 can help. Maybe illicit the help of others. Ask your spouse how good of a partner you are doing. Being honest with yourself here helps. If there happens to be a day you think you did not live up to your own standards, use that for motivation.

Here is the third and final step, put more of what motivates you into your life. Some of that has been accomplished with the second step, but find ways to take it further. In my personal example I encourage others frequently to offer their input on my writing. This post and letting people know that hearing from them and learning how my writing impacts their life is what motivates me will help. Also, knowing the more my writing improves, the greater the chance that I will write something that will touch someone keeps me working to improve my writing. Knowing that I can help someone enjoy their life more and bring a smile to their face and heart motivates me to research more ways of doing just that so I can share them with all of you.

I would love to hear what motivates you and how you plan to include more of that in your life. When we do we wake up with a drive and sense of purpose that makes life a lot more fun to live!

PLANT TWICE AS MUCH

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Rodent (Photo credit: thriol)

I am going to share a story with you that I heard listening to one of my favorite motivational speakers, Tony Robbins. This is a story about his former father in law that he heard at the man’s funeral. The man was asked what he was going to do about the rodent population in the area. He was asked if he had found a way to kill all of the rodents so they wouldn’t eat all of his crops. After a moment of contemplation the man answered “I’ll just plant twice as much” This struck a chord with me because it is often the choice a lot of us face in life. When there is something that bothers us we are focused on how to ‘get rid of the problem’. I hear this a lot in political circles no matter the party. “We need to get that guy out of office” I usually ask who they would like to see in office. After some look of confusion I usually receive answers to the like of “Anybody would be better” or even the occasional “Having nobody in office would be better” These people are so focused on the problem they have spent little or any time on the solution. I have been just as guilty of this. Before I began this blog I was focused on eliminating as much negativity from the world as I could. Sounds noble enough at first blush, but if you notice I am still focused on the problem, the negativity. I am focused on getting rid of something and thus, giving it all my time and energy. What did I really want? I wanted a more positive world. I heard a Mother Theresa used to say she would never attend an anti-war rally, but would be one of the first at a pro-peace rally. There is a woman who understood how the world worked. So instead of trying to eliminate the negative I decided to increase the positive! I started this blog. I began to be more positive in every aspect of my life and began work on my first book “A Happy Life for Busy People” which should be out in the next few days. The ironic thing about this, once I began increasing the positive the negative began to go away on its own! So next time you face a problem, instead of focusing all your energy on solving the problem, work more on creating a solution. A subtle difference, but a powerful one to be sure! Remember to plant twice as much!

FIRST SECRET TO HAPPINESS…

“To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness”

-Robert Morely

When facing any challenge from a new job to trying to live a more amazing life, why are we so quick to be hard on ourselves?  I remember training some people at the Post Office who picked things up at a slower pace than the rest of us and I was always very encouraging.  When I was first learning, however, I recall being upset with myself for every little mistake.  Now if it was somebody else and they did it, I would remind them that we all make mistakes and the important thing is to keep trying. Keep going towards your goal.  So why are we so hard on ourselves? It has been said we are always hardest on those closest to us, and if that statement holds true I suppose it would make sense that we are our own worst critics.  I have a friend who is working on getting back in shape and she recently missed going to the gym for three whole days.  I heard her say things like “It’s no use, I’ll never get back in shape” and “why can’t I just stick with things?”. We share a mutual friend who is also trying to live a healthier lifestyle and I asked her what she would say if she heard her saying the same thing.  After a long pause she looked at me and yelled “It’s not the same!” I kind of chuckled, which really did not help the situation any, but then I told her “give yourself a break” and told her to encourage herself and give herself a little pep talk.  “Give myself a pep talk? That sounds silly” was her reply.  I asked her if it was any crazier then yelling at yourself.  She thought for a minute and then started laughing. “I guess not, maybe you’re right” she said. Ok, so after that we did have an ice cream cone, but she assured herself that was ok, and she was recommitted to her fitness routine.

Now I am not saying it is not constructive to hold yourself responsible for failing to do something you have set out to do.  Just don’t continue to beat yourself up over it.  This week let us treat ourselves like we would treat our best friends.  After all, we are stuck with ourselves for the rest of our lives, we might as well be friends.  You wouldn’t continue to stay with someone who yelled and criticized you every day, would you? No, you would tell them to get lost, you don’t deserve to be treated that way. So next time your inner critic comes calling, tell them the same thing. Say to yourself “I deserve to be treated better than this” because you are amazing and you do! Enjoy your week my friends!

KEEP AN OPEN MIND

Yesterday while listening to one of my favorite motivational speakers, Anthony Robbins, I heard him say something that made me understand why I seem to agree with much of what he says.  He said that when you should listen to what makes sense to you and the rest say “Well that Tony Robbins he is just crazy”.  It is refreshing to hear someone not profess to be ‘the answer’ or ‘the guru’.  When I mention to someone I listen to him, or Wayne Dyer, or Joe Vitale or read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” or watch the secret, they always seem to stress what they do not like about that person, book, or whatever it may be.  I’m here to tell you, expose yourself to as much material as you can.  What makes no sense to one person may change the life of the next.  Decide for yourself.  Make good use of your public library, or better yet, find a friend who is also interested in improving themselves and their life.  I am fortunate enough to have a few of those.  In fact, one friend of mine meets me for lunch and we exchange books and ideas.  If a person knows you it is like a second set of ears and eyes to look out for something that you may benefit from.  Plus, when going through any transformation there are always bound to be challenges and it is great to have someone in your corner cheering you on.  So take that class on self-hypnosis, pick up that book you’ve been meaning to try to listen to that motivational speaker your friend is raving about.  Even if you only get one thing out of it, you have just improved your life that little bit more. Who knows you may just find what you need to take your life to that next level!  So keep an open mind and have fun exploring.