A LESSON I HAVE LEARNED

There are a handful of lessons I have learned in my life that really stuck with me and defined who I am to this very day. One of them I was told was that “If you hate someone or something you just do not know enough about it. If you learn about it and still hate it, that does not mean it is bad, it means you still have more to learn.” This is something I keep with me to this very day.

If we are being honest, we would have to admit there are lots of messages telling us who we should dislike, who the bad guys are and why. From politics, sports and even religion have messages telling us that there are people who are less than us. When we read about some violent episode conducted by a group of people it can be easy to say “Look this group of people are evil.” If we were to apply that same guilt by association to every terrible act that has been done I fear we would all belong to some group of evil.

How can we ever not harbor some sort of negative emotions towards people who by their very acts cause the death of hundred, or even thousands of people? It is a very difficult question to answer. Quite often we must look back in history for answers as to why things happen today. Was there an event in history where this group of people were made to suffer under the group they attacked?

Even personal history can shed some light on why people can do acts most of us would find unspeakable. Did this person suffer years of physical and emotional abuse? Did their family constantly remind them of judgmental or even hateful beliefs that hand been handed down for generations? Were they raised in a neighborhood that also promoted these beliefs? Maybe while attending school for 8 hours a day surrounded by peers their age they learned to adopt their beliefs? They might have even did so just to fit in at first, but after years of trying to fit in those beliefs became part of their spirit.

This can be even worse when an entire society is fed information that is hateful. We can use both Nazi Germany during World War two, as well as early America as examples. In the 1930’s Germany began a campaign against the Jewish people. This was not only political, but in schools, the media and in the home. An entire generation grew up being taught a terrible doctrine of hate and evil. This resulted in the death of over 6 million men, women and children of Jewish decent. In the founding years of America the same thing happened. Americans were told the native people were uncivilized and less than they were. They were told they were violent and threatened their safety. It was also said that the Native Americans stood in the way of the prosperity and freedom of the white settlers. Again, this message was delivered in the media, the government, the home and even the church pulpit. This resulted in the death of over 100 million men, women and children. What is worse is that often entire nations and cultures were lost. Medicine and knowledge we could use today are gone forever.

Does this mean we should hate the German people who did not stand up to their government? Should we hate those who acted on the beliefs they were raised on? Should we still hate the American soldiers who killed pregnant Native American women because when they were being forced to walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma they were going to slow? Sure those acts, among many others in history are hard to understand and even harder to forgive for some people.

We must not only view the history, but be careful not to view it through our own eyes. It may be easy to say “If I was in Germany back then I would have told Hitler to go to hell !” We can say that as somebody who was raised free and without judgment. If we had been told, and often given ‘proof’ as to how bad this group of people were from the time we were born, we might act differently. While there is plenty of proof of people who have overcome very challenging situations to be loving non-violent people, it is impossible to know how we would act in the same situation. In fact, we will never know as we will never have their exact life and genetic makeup.

In a world that urges us to blame and condemn, there is very little accent on compassion and understanding. Those two elements are essential if we ever hope to change the world we live in for the better. Let me be perfectly clear on one very important point. Understanding someone’s violent action does not mean Condoning it. We can certainly condemn acts that harm others, and we should, but without following that with an equal effort to understand why they happened in the first place history would be doomed to repeat itself.

DON’T LET THE DEVIL LIE TO YOU

Ah the devil… Satan… whatever you care to call him. Some refer to this as negative side of the universe. Some just call it negativity. The name we attach to this power of evil is not important to what we are going to discuss today. What we are going to discuss is the lies we have all been fed. These come from all kinds of places, the media, coworkers, history, even well-meaning friends and family. Sometimes the voice seems to come from inside our own head.

The messages may seemed varied, but they all serve the same purpose, to lower our vibration. Whether it is politicians doing their best to convince you that a certain group of people are bad because of their skin color, religion, political belief or maybe even just based on where they live. Maybe the message is coming from the media telling you the world is going downhill fast. There is more violence than ever, there is more hate than ever. Convincing you that you have to live and walk in fear. Even our friends and family telling us not to get our hopes up about that dream we are saying or not to venture away from that seemingly safe career we have because we will fail if we try to do it on our own. They mean well, they are wanting us to be safe.

It is my belief these messages all come from the same source and are intended for the same purpose; to create a world full of fear and devoid of love. When we are divided against ourselves, when we are so busy finding reasons to hate each other it is difficult if not impossible to work together to solve the real problems that exist. Two people’s ideas put together may do a great deal to end world hunger or bring a cure to a certain disease, but if they are refusing to talk because they look different or worship or vote in a different way the world will remain darker.

I propose working together and finding the reasons to come together in a spirit of love and community to solve issues. This does not mean ignoring the problems that plague us all, but working together looking towards creating a solution instead of assigning blame. Is there more violence today or is the world better connected and we can hear about each and every incident? Are guns the problem or is it the promotion of lack of respect and sanctity of life promoted in movies, television, music and video games? I don’t pretend to know those answers. What I do know is this, by focusing on how terrible things are without an accent on finding solutions and healing the hearts and minds of people everywhere, we are letting the powers of darkness win.

So next time you hear the ‘devil’ whisper in your ear about how bad the world is, how truly bad people have become and how hopeless both you and your life are, next time you hear him whisper that you cannot withstand the storm. You need to face that demon, whether it is the media, a negative coworker or even a voice in your own head and reply with conviction that you indeed are the storm! You are a storm of love and compassion that will not be defeated. Even though you are hearing how scary and bad the world is, you will do your part to bring love and brighten a stranger’s day. When you hear about anger leading to violence and death, you can use it as a reminder to respond to hurt with empathy and compassion.

No matter what you hear about the world and people around you, the fact is that the power to change that world lies in each and every one of us. Your act of kindness and of love, no matter how small will have a ripple effect that will affect far more than you will ever know. What you may not think about is so will your anger and negative actions, even your apathy. Do not let the devil lie to you. It is you who are the storm, you who have the very power to change the world and we do so through love and compassion.

FRIENDS WITHOUT BORDERS

This here a picture of myself and my good friend Johnny on St. Patrick’s day. I was working as a DJ at a local club that night. The story I am about to tell you serves as an example of several things. First, how small indeed the world is today. Second, how foolish things like racism and prejudice are. Third and finally, the benefits of being nice and sociable.

The back story is as follows. Johnny is a good friend of my lady, Margie. He has been a regular performer at her shows for quite some time. Before I met Johnny, Margie told me, “I think you are really going to like this guy.” She was indeed correct. Before I had the chance to discover that, however, there was some waiting involved. The reason for this waiting was due to the fact that Johnny lives in Mexico and only comes to visit at most a few times a year.

Through the last couple of visits he has read a lot of my writing and has found some things he can relate to. In fact, recently he has shared my book with people in the great state of Texas as well as other places. He has offered some very insightful feedback that has caused my writing to develop in ways it may not have otherwise. We have had some great discussions including sitting down for breakfast recently. These conversations has given birth to some great ideas that have been on this blog site and in my next book.

Speaking of books, recently Johnny has informed me that he is working on a book himself. He shared the plot with me and I must confess it sounds like a great story. I’ll update details as the situation develops. We discussed writing styles, publishing ins and outs as well as other ideas. There is no doubt his book will be a success. It is in a totally different genre than I write, but we certainly had a lot to discuss as the process and struggles of writing are the same regardless of content.

Johnny’s creativity is not limited to being a potential best-selling author. He also has several CDs available on cdbaby.com just search ‘Johnny L’. The style of his music is also something I am a fan of, classic standards from Elvis to Frank Sinatra. If you are a fan of this music or just great talent in general, I highly recommend giving him a listen.

The point of this post is several fold. If I were to make a sweeping judgment about people from the great country of Mexico I might not have the great benefits that my friendship with Johnny provides. If both Margie and I were not outgoing and genuinely friendly to the people at our shows Johnny would not have spent the time to become friends with us either. If it wasn’t for technology communication between all of us would be limited to just those few times a year. Whether you are from Mexico, Jamaica or Fiji shouldn’t matter. It is how you treat people and what you can bring to their lives. Technology is not limited by borders or culture, neither should your friendship be.

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!

MASTER THE FUNDAMENTALS

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.

START BY WINNING

I did a video on my YouTube channel last year about people walking up on neutral. This is actually something most of us do. We wake up with no really opinion of the day. If the coffee turns out ok, our day gets a little brighter. If the morning drive into work is good, so much the better. Boss in a good mood? Then so are we.

This works out great if everything goes as in our example above. What if we discover we are out of coffee? What if there is construction and up late for work? This would certainly put the boss in a bad mood. Then what? Our day goes downhill.

When we wake up with a sense of pride and determination to have a good day things go a lot different. First of all, we feel like we have a lot more control. Second, our mood is not dependent on the circumstances, but can exist despite them.

How can we start our day this way? First, read or watch something inspiring. If you feel you midst watch the news, put that off for a little while. Read a few pages of an inspiring book, watch a motivational video on YouTube. (Personally I recommend the channel ‘Neil Panosian’) even put on some inspiring music.

Second, have your goal written down to view somewhere. Perhaps even write down a goal for the day. Know what you are going after.

Finally, start the day with a win. I like going to the gym, but do whatever works for you. Take the dog for a walk, make your bed. Anything that gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Follow these rules and you will start, and more than likely, end your day as a success.

ARE YOU IN CONTROL, OR BEING CONTROLLED?

Another picture I saw, read and had to take a deep breath and appreciate. This man has mastered what Earl Nightingale referred to as the magic word. This word, more than any other thing will control not only how successful we are in life, but how much we enjoy life as well. It will determine how well people and the world treat us. It has the greatest bearing on our physical and mental health as well.

What is this magic word? The word is attitude. A positive attitude will yield a positive life. As you can see in the picture above attitude has less to do with outside circumstances and far more to do with inside circumstances. We all know people who seem to have nothing, but remain positive and upbeat. We know people facing every sort of challenge you can imagine but seem to overcome them not only with ease, but we joy in their hearts and on their faces. How on earth are they able to do this? That was the question I kept asking myself when I began to get involved in the field of self-improvement.

These people have a good attitude not always because of their situation, but quite often in spite of their situation. That’s all great, and maybe your situation sucks too, but how the heck can you still manage to be happy? First of all, I am not discounting whatever you are going through. We all have struggles that others can’t begin to comprehend. That is one of the keys, remembering we all have struggles. How can we go from feeling defeated, sad and depressed by our challenges to empowered, motivated and positive? Asking that question is the first great step. I am going to give you one very important thing to remember – Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% what we do with it.

Sounds all warm and fuzzy right? You want to know how we turn the crap life gives us into something good? What if I told you that we have the ability to have complete control over our lives? Sounds a little too good to be true? What if I also told you that you routinely give that control away to others, your emotions or just choose not to use it at all? Don’t get upset, I still do this sometimes too. How do we take complete control over our life? By using two very important super powers you have. Yes, I said super powers. Don’t worry, you don’t need to wear a cape and you can keep the underwear on the inside of your pants. Why are they super? They are super powers because these two items control both the direction and feeling of our life and we have complete control over them.

The two super powers are focus and meaning. In any situation we choose both of these. Sure it may be hard to focus on anything other than the fact the person who cut you off in traffic is a rude jerk, but that is only because instead of choosing how to act, we are used to reacting to life. Which means in short that person is going to leave us angry, frustrated, frazzled or just plain pissed off, depending on how you want to score that.

Another world for focus can be perception. Is what really happened to us that bad? It can seem so in the moment for sure. Again, not to discount anything you may be going through, but changing our focus onto what we may be grateful for in the situation can do wonders and we can choose to do that. It is here I would like to insert a quote here for you to ponder.

“I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet.” – Mahatma Gandhi

What if we chose to decide the reason that man cut us off was to refocus our energy on our safe driving practices? Maybe it means he was rushing to a family emergency we should be grateful we don’t have? Maybe he just received some terrible news and is so upset he is having a hard time focusing on driving? Maybe the meaning of it is he really is a jerk, but if we run into someone else who is in an upset mood maybe they had the displeasure of sharing the road with him earlier? Does this sound like some pie-in-the-sky or Pollyanna? Look at the other option. We could decide this man was a jerk, be super upset and let it ruin our whole day. In other words, react to him and give him complete control over our emotions.

Is this limited to a stranger on the road? Not at all. It can happen with a boss who is in a bad mood. It can happen by watching the evening news, reading the paper or some other not so inspiring action. Those of you who work with the public have a chance to practice taking control of your emotions and not reacting to the influence of others far more than you probably would like. Just the same, if a customer treats you rudely and you let it ruin your mood, in effect this is what you are saying, “You, my totally rude and disrespectful friend, your opinion means so much to me that the fact you have treated me poorly will affect my emotional state for the rest of the afternoon, day, week…etc.”

Why give anyone else control over how you feel? It is time to stop reacting, and time to start choosing how you want to act! Will it be easy? Not at all. New habits and wrestling control of your mind after you have let it run its own course for years can be compared to beginning dog training when the dog is two years old. It will take some patience and perseverance on your part. Will it be worth it? To never let your emotions, and thus your life be controlled by anyone other than you? I can’t think of anything more deserving of your efforts.

So next time life gives you a big pile of crap to deal with, remember you have a choice. You can let it sit around and stink up the place, or you can use all of those lessons and so called failures as you can manure, as fertilizer to help grow something bigger, better and more beautiful!