I have always been a big fan of Mr. Rogers as most of you know. I find his teachings of personal and relational fundamentals good for both children and adults. Another thing I enjoyed about that television show was the neighborhood. Not only did most of the people make an effort to get to know each other, but they seemed to work even harder at treating each other with kindness, dignity and respect. One couldn’t help to walk away from an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood without thinking how great it would be to live in a neighborhood like that.
Whether you were watching that show, Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet or countless others where they left their doors unlocked and people regularly greeted each other in passing on the street or in the grocery store, you couldn’t help but feel a little sense of envy. I am sure we all wished we lived in communities like this. The problem is short of moving every couple of years to stay ahead of the spread of crime and anonymity would be difficult to do from a financial standpoint. What other solutions are there? I always strongly advocate doing our best personally to make our neighborhoods better. That means working to get to know your neighbors. Be helpful and friendly when the opportunities present themselves. Be a part of the solution instead of the problem.
Still, individual efforts can only take us so far. Wouldn’t it be great if these individuals had a place to gather and work together to transform their neighborhoods into something better? I am here to tell you there is and they are called – Neighborhood Associations. In West Allis Wisconsin where I live we have a few of them. I proudly belong to one called the East Allis Neighborhood Association. There will be more information on how to join this fabulous group in a moment. First let me tell a little bit more about Neighborhood Associations.
A Neighborhood Association is a group of neighbors who get together to share their ideas, thoughts, feelings and work cooperatively to make their neighborhood a better place to live and work. In the specific example of the East Allis Neighborhood Association, they recently transformed a plot of land into a butterfly garden. This not only improved aesthetics of the neighborhood, but give a home to all-important pollinators. This spring they worked with another group to hold an Easter egg hunt at a local park. It gave the children a safe and enjoyable outing and allowed the parents to meet and develop a sense of community.
This Neighborhood Association is a not-for-profit organization run by residents and business volunteers only. The dues and donations help fund events and projects, like the ones mentioned above and so many more, to better the neighborhood and community. How much are the dues to be a part of this great solution to help make our neighborhoods a better place for all of us? They are a mere $10 for residents and $20 for businesses a year! What a better way to show both your neighbors and your customers that you care for the community you are in and want to work to make it even better?
If you want more information on joining this fabulous group feel free to email them at EANAWestAllis@gmail.com or call Robin at (414) 617-8357 or Jon at (414) 430-0282. If your neighborhood does not have an Association, perhaps talking to neighbors and setting one up could help improve your community. Personally, I am both happy and proud to belong to an organization the provides so many ways to volunteer and improve your community.
It is always entertaining to discover the ways that some of the most life-changing knowledge comes to our attention. What is even more amusing is that often these moments stem from what can initially be defined as a negative experience. Another example of modern day alchemy. We all have the power to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Before I lose everyone completely, allow me to share with you the exact experience I had and the realization that came out of it.
The other afternoon I was riding my bike in the park. It was a rather hot day and I was taking my time enjoying nature in all its glory. Ahead of me was a young man around the age of 6 I would guess. As we rounded the curve in the trail there were a few birds sitting on the grass. As the young man approached them he yelled “Get out of here stupid birds! You are ugly! Goodbye stupid ugly birds!” It appeared the young man had really no malice in his words or towards the birds, but hearing that made my heart sink. My first reaction was to feel bad for the birds. I know this may sound silly as birds to not speak the same language as humans, but sending out that negative energy towards another living thing cannot be constructive. A little while later down the path, when asked his opinion of a certain tree, the child replied using the same descriptions of ‘stupid’ and ‘ugly’. Again, it is my opinion this was more a product of environment and not any malice as the young man seemed rather happy at the time.
As I found my own spirit a little brought down by the young man’s words it got me thinking. In the past I would have felt a little foolish, or even weak for allowing another person’s words and actions affect me. Now I realize it is just part of my gift as an empath and spiritual person. The event stuck in the back of my mind as I went about my day.
3 a.m. found me awake and reading on the couch when the experience popped back into the front of my mind. I began thinking how someone should tell the young man about the law of energy. It may sound silly to do so to someone at such a young age, but if we wait often habits and language patterns can become set and harder to change. What is the big deal about what words we use? Imagine several random people coming up to you and informing you that you are ugly or stupid. Can you imagine how you would feel after that? Even if you give their opinion much weight, it still would not be a good feeling. Now, imagine several random people coming up with wonder in their eyes and informing you how beautiful or inspiring you are. Can you think about how that would feel?
Words do not only affect others. When we, like the young man in the story, go around calling everything stupid or ugly. When we look for things to criticize about people, places and things. Our world becomes filled with things that we see as ugly, stupid or some other negative description. Can you imagine how it would feel to be surrounded by ugliness and stupidity every day, all day? By speaking in such a manner and seeking out the faults in everything we chose to do that to ourselves.
With my feelings working their way downward as I was thinking about all of the people who do this to themselves as well as how often I still find myself doing the same thing, a great realization came to me. If we can make our lives a living hell by the words we chose to use, could we use that same power to transform our lives to one of beauty and joy? Of course we can. There is always two sides to every story.
Immediately my mind began to work on how this could be put into use. The answer was simple. To create joy and positivity all we have to do is the opposite of what brought us the pain and negativity. In this case, what if that young man was taught to find the beauty and magnificence in everything he saw? What if we all learned how to see everything as a miracle. It was Albert Einstein who said, “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as thought everything is a miracle.” If one of the smartest minds on the planet lived by this concept, I felt it might be wise for me to as well.
Today I am going to begin to look at the beauty in everything I see. In addition, I am going to use words like ‘wonderful’ and ‘beautiful’. If we find the beauty in everything we see, no matter how hard it may be, our lives will be filled with a great amount of beauty and joy. Can you imagine how different it would feel if we were surrounded daily by everything we thought was beautiful? Our lives, in turn, would become beautiful.
One great key to finding the beauty in even the toughest situations was supplied to me by a quote from Mr. Rogers. This quote was sent to me by a neighbor who knew I was a fan of the children’s television show host. The quote was “Frankly there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” Perhaps if the young man in our story know that birds he was calling stupid could navigate 2000 miles without the use of a map he may not think they were so stupid after all. The greatest irony of all. After all the knowledge that came out of the afternoon in the park, the young man’s words became a thing of beauty for all they taught me and all I could share with you.
One thing that I think we can all agree we are growing weary of is what seems to be the growing rate of violent crime in our world today. As I write this there are reports from the great state of Maryland of a shooting at a newspaper office where 5 people were killed and others were injured. It seems every night you turn on the news, or every morning you pick up the newspaper you read about senseless violence where someone has lost their life. Is this a result of better technology in communicating these crimes? Is it the result of the internet making this a smaller world? Are we becoming less tolerant? Are we becoming desensitized to violence and death due to media and video games? I imagine the answer is probably a little of all the above.
With all of the consumption of negativity you can find yourself feeling quite down. With more people reading more stories of violence we could quickly find ourselves living in a world of people depressed and losing hope. It is my belief that this lack of hope and barrage of negative news can push people who are on the edge to slip into a world of violence.
What is the solution? Are we to bury our heads in the sand and pretend all of this is not happening? The answer is both yes and no. Certainly you need to be aware of your world and what is transpiring, but you do not need to be inundated with it. You must ask yourself if reading every article on every mass shooting will do anything to enhance your life? What it will do is drain your spirit. This is why this and many other sites advocate limiting or better yet eliminating consumption of nightly news. There are apps for weather, sports or anything else you may need to know.
Is there something that we can do that is proactive? The simplest thing we can do is also one of the most powerful and also one of the most difficult. Do not let the constant feeding of negativity get us down. Easier said than done, but it can happen. When I hear of stories of great tragedy in the news I always look for the helpers. A secret I learned from Mr. Rogers. Eventually and in some way tragedy has a way of bringing the best out of some people and bringing people together. If you can’t find a helper, or even if you can, focus on being one.
When I hear of violence or some other tragic news story I know there is even more importance in what I do. The world needs more of a balance of positive to the negative. This was the very reason I began what I do. When I hear of violence in the world I use it as a stark reminder I have far more work to do, and urgent motivation to reach more souls. Victims and their families and friends are not the only people who need encouragement. Those committing the crimes may feel there is no hope. If only they knew they were people who care, even if they are half a world away.
This is where you come in. My words can’t reach everyone. Especially Iceland and Greenland who seem to be two countries I just cannot reach. What we need to do is all work on becoming lights to the world. Whether it is meeting your neighbors as discussed in last week’s post, sharing this blog or just encouraging someone who needs it. Let us all remember it is only light that can remove the darkness.
Below you Will find a link to a video I did a while back on the key principles to being a good neighbor. As spring approaches, these may be good ideas to consider.
Recently I was asked a very good question. “Neil, do you ever get angry or depressed?” Reading my material it would be easy to assume I am floating through life on a cloud, and to be honest, that is my general state of being. This is only possible because of the two decades of research and work in the self-improvement field, and even more so because of the continued work I do on improving myself.
There are days, however, that emotions get the best of me. Being an author and speaker does not make me immune to the trials life gives us all. In fact, 2017 might have been the single most trying year of my adult life. One dislocated shoulder, 3 cars, 4 funerals and 3 eulogies makes for a year you would rather not repeat.
A better question to ask is what difference all of this self-improvement work makes when life gives you a challenge. The difference it makes is that the tough times do not last as long, and generally become less intense. When you are focused on increasing the passion and joy you feel in life, you are not focused on anger and sadness.
There are days when both emotions creep up on even the best of us. Just last Saturday I woke up feeling very sad and I couldn’t even figure out why. Talk about frustrating. Here is what made the difference, fundamentals. The picture for this post is of one of my favorite philosophers, Fred Rogers. People always get a chuckle when I mention that, but he was a master of the fundamentals. Such as the title in the picture, “What do you do with the mad that you feel?” How many adults do not have a constructive way of dealing with anger? Quite a few I would say.
Having mastered the fundamentals of what works to calm you down and help you focus when you are angry, or cheer you up and change your focus when you are sad, makes a big difference. These tools can vary from person to person, but should be thought of and practiced before sadness strikes. When you are angry or depressed, you are most likely not in your most constructive and creative mindset. Having developed these tools ahead of time takes the thinking out of the situation which can be very helpful when you are in a state of high negative emotion. Like I tell people at my seminars, the time to learn to swim is on the shore, not when the boat is sinking.
Personally, I have a playlist of songs (you can also burn a CD of songs) that make me happy. I am constantly updating this list as I hear new songs and think of ones I have forgot. I also have a list of movies that make me laugh, places I enjoy going and even people I enjoy talking to. Being able to just push play and hear music to help me change my state, or grab a list of movies and pop one in and be taken away to somewhere happier for two hours without having to think about it has helped me more often than I can think of.
There are lots of other tools that make a big difference. I have a lot of them in my book, A Happy Life for Busy People and at my live seminars. The important thing to remember is that a lot of these should be set up and practiced daily to help you avoid falling into that state. When it can’t be helped, or when life just gets the better of you, then you will have tools you know work and have already practiced. You will have learned to swim on the shore.
One more thing I should mention makes a big difference, your posse. That being the people you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Make sure there are people in your life that know what makes you tick. Even if you have all of the tools, sometimes when you are in an especially dark place, or just one of those funks you can’t get out of they can help you remember what makes you happy even when you can’t. Last Saturday, I spoke with both my beautiful lady Margie, and my good friend Russ. Both of these people know me better than I know myself on occasion. They helped to remind me of what is important to me and what I should be focused on. Having a supportive network of encouraging and loving people can make the biggest difference.
It is a little past noon as I write this. I’m sitting in Urban Joe’s, a quaint coffee shop in West Allis, Wisconsin where I live. Curtis, a very charming and congenial young man is working with his wife Danielle. It would seem to be the prefect Monday, with one exception – Las Vegas.
Last night was the deadliest shooting in US history. 58 innocent people lost their lives. People on the television as well as in the coffee shop are musing as to what the motive may be and how could this even happen. Questions you may be asking yourself.
Routinely I am asked if the world seems to be getting worse. We hear about terror attacks across the globe and right next door. The level of divide between people seems to be growing.
To me the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. I believe, sadly, this sort of violence has been around nearly as long as mankind has. If we review the pages of history we can easily find examples of that. What has changed is the ‘closeness’ of the world. We can hear what happened across the globe seconds after it has transpired. We also hear about every incident. News that used to be relegated to the town it occurred in can now be viewed online by someone half way around the world.
There are two things I would like point out at this time. First is not to give in to the going of fear being pushed on us by the media. Let us not start treating each other with harshness based on judgements we have come to from world events. When we hear about certain groups of people perpetrating crimes it is easy to fall victim to the temptations to pass that judgement on to others who may belong to that group. The only way for us to overcome the social challenges that face us is through treating each other with love, respect and compassion. An “eye for an eye” mentality can only lead us to a blind world.
While we are on the subject of solutions, let us explore how we can help ourselves not feel overwhelmed by all the negative news we are exposed to. This is something I first wrote about in 2012 and several times sense. I refer to a story shared by one of my favorite philosophers, Mr. Fred Rodgers. He once shared a story of asking his mom about the negative news on the television. His mom gave him advice I think we could all use today. She told him, quite simply, “Look for the helpers.”
In the wake up both this tragic event, the recent hurricanes and earthquakes we have seen a flood of people rushing to help from across countries, to across the globe. These heroic efforts can get lost in the deluge of reporting on the Loss of property, lives and love for our fellow humanity. I encourage you to dig deep and read a few of these. See even in the darkest hours of humanity there are always beacons of light. Stay in love and light my friends.
My latest YouTube video explaining how to be a great neighbor
People always chuckle when I tell them one of my favorite philosophers is Mr Rogers. They think I am being funny or part of me just has not grown up yet. While both of those statements are generally true about me, saying Mr. Rogers is still one of my greatest influences is serious. The conflict between people in the United States has really spiraled out of control lately. Truly the media has done it’s part to fuel the flames and make it even worse.
What does a former childhood’s television show host have to do with any of this? How can any of what he has to say be relative to racial divide? How can it help to heal the hate and mistrust between law enforcement and well-meaning people? More to the point what role can we play in all of this? What actions can we take? I will answer all of these questions and the answers just may surprise you.
In my house I have a daily calendar that includes quotes from one Fred Rogers. On the first of July I would like to share what I read with you.
“As different as we are from one another, as unique as each one of us is, we are much more the same than we are different. That may be the most essential message of all, as we help our children grow toward being caring, compassionate, and charitable adults.”
When I read that I had to pause. It was as if he was responding to what was happening today. His message that we are more the same than we are different is one of the most overlooked aspects of all of this. Acting violent toward anyone because they are different is ignoring all the ways they are the same to us. Each group has people that are alike, and people that are different. Race tends to be one of the easier ways to choose to dislike someone because it is available on the outside. It requires no effort or time to get to know them, which may often change your ability to dislike them. In my nationality there are people I like and people I do not really care for. Simply saying this person is good or bad because of what race they belong to is foolish. It makes no more sense then disliking someone based on their profession. Recently in my city a young man shot a police officer for no other reason than he was a police officer. He did not know the mans beliefs or what his opinion might be of him. That is nothing short of stupid and ignorant. Equally, officers that assume someone’s guilt according to race are ignorant and stupid as well. There are people in both groups that do fit this description sadly. What gets lost in all the hype is they are by far the minority. Most citizens, myself included, appreciate the job law enforcement does and the risks they take to do it. Most officers take that job as a way to serve and not a way to judge. They take those risks because they truly care about people and making this world safe.
So what can we do when we hear about all of this violence through the media? Do we protest against either side? Do we shake our heads and exclaim how awful the world is getting? The intelligent action is to follow the words of Mr. Rogers and help our children, and fellow adults, grow toward being caring, compassionate and charitable adults. Become part of the solution and not part of the problem. Let us find a way to allow officers to do their jobs without the fear of being attacked. At the same time let us find a solution that no person should fear persecution based solely on their race. Let us hold those who bring this division to our people to the strictest of penalties on both sides of the issue. More importantly let us put our energy behind those attempting to bring us back together using the power of love and focusing on how we are more alike than we are different. It is only by working together we can build a world of peace that is fair and just to all.
LIFE IS WHAT WE MAKE OF IT!: https://youtu.be/KQCuYupwnk0
Learn how to use life instead of letting life use you