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.


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.