There are few places that I would drive across town to visit. This is one of them. Our experience here included mouth-watering food, heart-warming coffee and sunshine filled service. This description may sound a little over the top, but it is 100% true! You could visit this place many times and still not be able to sample all of the delicious, and in many cases healthy, options on the menu.
The wonderful news is that with many locations across the country, there may just be one located near you. If you would like to hear about this amazing establishment and our experience there just click the link below to read my review on Chow Down in Milwaukee.
I know you may be thinking how can an old man with a crazy beard and mustache improve my relationship? Look he even has his arms crossed and does not look very open to communication. At least that is what I would be thinking.
This man is Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, Russian physiologist. He is best known for his experiments in classical conditioning. More to the point he was the guy who did the experiments with ringing a bell and giving the dog some food. First the dog would salivate only when the food was presented but sooner or later even the sound of the buzzer would cause the dog to salivate. It was a great example of using positive reinforcement to create a desired effect.
Here is the uncomfortable truth – it works just as good in humans. This is not a bad thing. We can use this information to improve our relationships. Do you mean we should train our spouse like the dog in the experiment? Well…actually…kind of. Let me explain. Let us say you like it when you partner calls to check in and see if your ok. Maybe that makes you feel loved and cared for. Next time your partner does that show them a great loving sign of appreciation. Do you really like it when your spouse brings you home little surprises from the grocery store to show they were thinking about you? When they present them to you reward them with a big hug or kiss. In other words, reward their behavior with positive reinforcement.
When I share this idea often people tell me that they feel they are tricking or training their partner. To that end I say this, when your partner makes you feel loved or appreciated for doing a certain thing do you not want to do that thing more? I know I do. Conditioning someone to do something you enjoy by making them feel good is a win/win situation. Both parties leave the situation feeling better than they did before and the likelihood such event will happen in the future only increases.
What if you would like your partner to do something they currently do not do? The standard operation procedure is to yell or nag or even just say in a forlorn tone how you wish they would do this or that. Using positive conditioning is not only a much better way, but will once again leave both parties feeling good with no hurt feelings or disagreements. Let us take a look at how this would work with our above examples.
You would really like your partner to call and check on you once and a while. It would make you feel like they really care about you and love you. They really do love and care but they just do not know you would like them to show you in such a manner. I am all for direct communication in a relationship, but sometimes a little grace and tact can go a long way. In this example when your spouse is out or running late you call them. When they assure you that they are ok follow it up with a statement similar to this, “I am so glad you are o.k. I just wanted to call because I wanted you to know I care and was worried.” Same with the grocery store example. If you would like them to bring you a little surprise to show they are thinking about you, try doing it yourself first. Give them the surprise and say, “I couldn’t help but get this for you. I was loving you so much and couldn’t think of a better way to show you than picking you up a little something.”
After a few times of doing this, your partner may very well pick up on that and do the same for you. Here is the great thing about this, they will also get to feel the pride of thinking of and doing the action themselves. Anther win/win situation. Whatever the situation in your relationship, always do your best to use positive reinforcement. That way both parties have a chance to feel good while improving the relationship.
This is a post you can read at work. Although the usual warnings do not apply, this is a post about a four-letter word that used to offend me far more than all the others. It is also about how not only making peace with this word and the concept it represents, but putting it to work for me as well, changed my life in ways that I can’t possibly begin to explain. Although now that I think about that is what I am about to attempt to do.
Would you like to improve every single aspect of your life with the use of just one word? What if there was no required writing or hard work on your part? What if all you had to do was ponder this one four-letter word and your friendships would improve, you would become more productive and the stress in your life would go down? What if using this four-letter word could make you money and help satisfy your partner? I realize this sounds a bit over-the-top but it really is true. The ironic thing is that most of us groan or run the other way when we hear this word. I get it. I’ve been there. When I heard this word growing up and all through school my stomach would twist in knots and I would start to feel sick. Now, when I think of this word I am filled with excitement because I know it will bring everything I desire to me quicker and with less stress.
What is this amazing word already? Before I tell you what this word is I must ask you to do your best to keep your preconceived notions to the side for a few moments. Remember I told you I used to run from this word. Another word of caution is that this may sound too simplistic to be powerful. All the great ideas usually do. If applied correctly, this one small word can have a great impact on every area of your life you apply it to.
The word to which we are referring is goal. When I used to hear the world goal my mind would focus on expectations and the prospect of failure. It brought to the mind the dreaded days of bringing home a report card. In the present day it can bring to mind sales goals at work or perhaps the fitness routine that didn’t last as long after the first of the year as you hoped. Thinking of all of these examples it is no surprise that people have a negative connotation to the word goal.
How exactly can we use this maligned word to transform our lives? By setting and applying our own goals. If that word is still a little to tainted for you we can try substituting the words ‘vision’ or ‘purpose’ in it’s place. For the sake of this post we are going to continue to use the word ‘goal’. By the time we are done here I think you may very well have a different view of the word all together such as I have.
Here is the basic formula for using goals to revolutionize your life. Decide in advance what your goal for any activity can be. This can be helpful for trying circumstances. Let us say you are about to leave for work. Decide what your goal for the drive in is. Maybe it could be to not become overwhelmed with dread. Maybe to enjoy some great music or an audio book on the way? When you get to work what is your goal? Is it to work as hard as you can on a certain project? Is it to demonstrate how valuable you are to your boss? Maybe it is to collect your paycheck without harming your coworkers?
Start small and work up I suppose. This not only helps us with challenging situations, but can help us with enjoyable situations as well. Having lunch with a friend? What is your goal? Is it to just enjoy their company? Maybe to tell them how much they mean to you? Maybe to show them how much they mean to you? Maybe it is just to fully enjoy your pizza? Attending the State Fair? What is your goal? Is it to learn about agriculture? Is it to pet animals you normally do not see? Perhaps take in a great local blues band? Maybe try new craft beers? Enjoy a great evening with friends?
You may be tempted to think, “Neil, do I really have to think of a goal for each and every thing I do?”. The answer in short is ‘no’. By incorporating goals and deciding in advance what your purpose in any action and situation is will help you make the most out of the situation and out of life. Arguing with your spouse? The goal is not to be angry or to get them the same, but to convey and solve and upset. Can you see how having a clear goal in that situation may cause you to take a more helpful set of actions? In the going out to lunch with your friend example. If your goal is to help them feel how much they mean to you, imagine what things you might throw into the conversation and how amazing they will feel when they leave? I would love to hear some of your goals, how you may have used them in the past or how you plan to use them in the future!
There are 3 aspects to your life – the past, the present and the future. Each one plays an important role and each one is necessary. We must learn from the past. We must fully appreciate the present. We also must take actions today to positively affect our future. You must guard against putting the accent on one to the fault of the others. We cannot stay stuck in the past, we cannot live in the present with total disregard to how our actions affect the future. We also cannot let fears and concerns of the future paralyze us into inaction. As you can see each one of these times periods plays a role in our lives, but each one must be included.
One area this can serve us greatly is one you may never have thought of – gratitude. When you ask someone if they are grateful or when someone asks you if you are grateful we usually think of being grateful for all of the good that has come into our lives. This is great and there is nothing wrong with it. By focusing on what we have to be grateful for, the good will only expand in our lives. Taking this formula into consideration, it would make sense that the more grateful you are, the more you will have to be grateful for.
An interesting thing about this is the fact we may be ignoring two-thirds of what we can be grateful for. How can this be? By being grateful for all the good things that have come into our life that is focusing on the past. That is one third of what we can be grateful for. It can serve us greatly to find things that our currently in our life to be grateful for. This will not only help us realize that the present is a very wonderful place to be, but it will have us feeling pretty great as well.
Often, the present is ironically viewed through the negative. For example, are you grateful for the job that pays the bills or do you complain about having to go to work everyday? Trust me, I can understand how hard this can be on any given day. The truth is if you lost your job, had to make it without any income for a while and then were to get that same job back, chances are you would be very grateful. Another example; are you grateful for your relationships only when they are happy or even when they are not exactly going the way you wish they would? Merely having someone in your life to be upset with can be a blessing. It can also be a great learning experience. Being grateful for the present allows us to fully enjoy the wonders of our life as it is today and may wake us up to some great things we have been missing out on.
Lastly, there is the future. Are we grateful for things that are coming to us? According to those in the law of attraction field, it is this very thinking that helps us create our reality. While listening to Michael Beckwith, a great teacher and speaker, he spoke of being able to get to the point of being grateful for the challenges. How does this happen? What on earth would prompt you to think, “I am so grateful some crappy situation is coming my way!”? We must understand that even those are gifts. They will teach us lessons about life and ourselves. They will develop our strength of character and provide us with opportunities to polish our skills in fields like anger management, forgiveness, apologizing and being humble. If this seems like a reach at this point, don’t worry you’ll get there. Start by thinking of all the good things you would like to come your way. Vacations you will experience. Special times with those you love. Maybe meeting that special person you will love.
Make sure you are including the past, the present and the future in your gratitude practice. It will have you feeling on top of the world and manifesting more things your heart desires.
My latest restaurant review explores a location with exotic cuisine that really satisfies! Click the link below to read my latest post to the fabulous website Chow Down in Milwaukee. In this post you will not only learn about a great restaurant I recently dined at, but learn a little about Middle Eastern culture and even more about Middle Eastern cuisine!
Are you ready to discover a clean, modern and inspiring location that can leave your taste buds reeling and your mind and stomach hungry for more? Than click the link below to read where you can enjoy all of this!
On June 8th my lovely lady and her daughter took me to the Water Lantern Festival. The idea behind this was a simple one. A sort of communal memorial where one would draw or write their thoughts on a paper lantern and then float them out on the river. What actually transpired was so much more on many levels I wanted to share it with all of you on here.
To begin with the three of us took a ride share down to the festival to forgo the stress of finding parking. The lady who picked us up not only had the same name as my lovely Margie, but was pleasant and a great conversationalist. This by itself helped a great deal to start the evening off right. When we arrived it was much larger than I expected. There were blocks of people by the edge of the river on blankets and lawn chairs.
In addition to the throngs of people participating in the festival there were lots of different stands. Plenty selling food and drink, some selling art and even a stage where musicians performed and later a DJ. The music was soft and thought-provoking. We purchased some delicious steak sandwiches from a place called the Hidden Kitchen and I also got a cup of coffee from a nearby stand as the temperature was very brisk for a June evening.
As we went to the stand to pick up our lanterns and packets and even as we waited in line for our food and beverages, one thing stood out above all else. Everyone involved in this festival was pleasant and courteous of each other. That may not sound like such a big deal, but in today’s world I found it to not only be a redeeming quality, but one that was rather touching.
The three of us put together our lanterns with various degrees of competence. Although my artistic skill fell well behind the two ladies, all of our thoughts and sentiments were proudly displayed. We all had our own unique thoughts displayed in our best artistic fashion. We all worked together but in our own little worlds. I decided to honor all of the people in my life. Those who came before me, those who are sharing this path with me now and those I have yet to meet. As we worked on our lanterns, there was an opportunity for people to come on the stage and share their stories with everyone present. The stories of loss were heartbreaking but at the same time healing. There was a young man who was mentally challenged and did his best to convey his story. When he was done the heartfelt applause he received could soften the hardest of hearts.
Soon it was time to launch our lanterns. Everyone approached the water with what seemed a very humble and supplicatory fashion. You placed your lantern at the top of a slide and down it went into the river. At the end of the evening all of the lanterns were collected and any environmental impact was minimal. To see all of those lit up lanterns floating in the river with prayers and thoughts on them was something really special. I really want to thank my lady Margie for including me in this idea she discovered. It was a example of someone in your life knowing what you need even more than you do.
I would recommend this festival for anyone who has lost someone close, enjoys honoring those who have passed or even just really enjoys a positive experience with a great sense of community. It should be noted after this very emotional experience the three of us had a nice walk to a coffee shop by the lake to diffuse our emotions and enjoy some great beverages and conversation. I hope to do this again next year.
While looking for a photo for an entirely different blog post I came across this picture. I found it captivating. You see a man standing on some high ground surveying the distant horizon. Between him and the far point at which he gazes there exists several rock formations, hills, valleys and it could be clouds or waves rather hard to tell.
I began to see a parallel between this picture and life in general. If we are to undertake a long journey as this man seems like he may be about to commence, it serves us well to get up to some high ground and survey the land. We are able to take in the obstacles and plot a course that would seem the most sensible. It is true once we begin our journey we can discover challenges that may cause us to alter our course that we could not discern from afar but overall we stand a much better chance of getting where we are going that if we were to set off blindly.
The modern version of this would be planning a road trip. First you would pick your destination and then look at a map to discover what roads would get you there in the quickest or most scenic way depending on your purpose. You may even consider heavy traffic, construction and any other obstacle you may face to plot your course better. Much like the above example, once you start driving you may encounter some detour you were not expecting and have to adjust your course but you would still be far better off than if you just started the engine and began to drive.
What if you are not planning a trip or adventure in the near future? This information holds true for any journey, not just those of a physical and geographical nature. If your journey be an emotional, business or even spiritual one, it would help to first seek some high ground and look at the big picture. Having a compelling vision of our final destination will make our journey easier. We can plan for the quickest or most scenic route depending on our intentions. Much like the examples above we may encounter a challenge we did not expect and have to adjust our course. We may even be forced to take a step back and gaze at the horizon several times on our journey.
Getting our bearings in life is something we must do often. Sometimes as we near the horizon we find there is more beyond. There are even occasions as we near our destination we discover it is not where we really wish to go and we must plot an entirely new course. Whatever journey we are on it is important we begin with a vision and a destination in mind. It will make our journey easer and our life more enjoyable. Check your bearings as often as you need.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” – Proverbs 29:18
I have heard this saying repeated by many different motivational speakers, authors and well-meaning people in my life. The principle is sound. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. My problem is the meal is a bit abstract. After all, who really eats an elephant? I do suppose there are laws that may prevent such a thing and I wish to bring no harm to my friends in the pachyderm world.
What this quote really refers to is taking large goals and breaking them down into smaller steps. Personally, I would find the quote a little more relatable if it read how do you eat a pizza? One slice at a time. Even if you are a big fan of the sauce pie like myself, stuffing a whole pizza in your mouth is not only impractical, but could lead to some serious health issues and is probably a choking hazard. That is not to say the thought has not crossed my mind a time or two. Even if someone places a juicy steak in front of you, the first thing most of us would do is look for a for and a knife to begin to cut it into bite-sized pieces.
While this seems like common sense when it comes to food, why do so many of us have problems understanding the same thing when it comes to our goals? I am as guilty as they come when it comes to being overwhelmed by projects. Especially new and uncomfortable goals. As soon as I get the horse in front of the cart, I start wondering about how often the horse has to eat, what kind of wheels are on the cart and what kind of abuse they can take on the journey. This can leave me feeling overwhelmed and sometimes it even prevents me from starting new projects. It is a challenge I am working on.
That is why I enjoy thinking about eating pizza. Ok, that and I really love pizza. One slice at a time. Begin with smaller goals to get the ball rolling. What can you do today? Just do that and let the steps unfold as you go along. Whether you are eating a steak, a pizza or even an elephant. We all do it one bite at a time. That is the same way we should approach our goals.
Today is another example of a picture being worth a thousand words. Picturing a clapperboard (do not worry if you did not know that is what this is called. I did not either before researching this post) like the one in the picture above as you go through life can be so helpful. I am personally pondering purchasing one or at the very least printing out this picture.
We all make mistakes in life. After seeing this picture I am going to start referring to them as mis-takes. Did you make a mistake and say something that upset your friend/coworker/spouse? Turn it into a mis-take In your head you might want to do what directors do, as you are the director of your own life, and yell “Cut! Let us try that scene again.”
In the movies when they do this they can then approach the scene with a better idea as to what they would like from the actors. You can do the same in life. Think I would like my star (that’s you if you are not following this analogy) to approach this scene with more compassion and understanding for the other actors involved. This works great if you said something that was not quite received the way you intended it. This happens to me more than I would like to admit. Just yell out loud or to yourself whichever happens to serve you better, “Cut! Let us try that scene again.” and try a different line. Famous actors in Hollywood and Baliwood do it all the time.
Forgiving ourselves can not only be difficult, it can keep us from moving forward in a lot of areas of our lives. Using this movie analogy can certainly make that a lot easier. Viewing our mistakes as mis-takes will allow us to move forward a little easier. By making mistakes we will move forward with more knowledge as to what doesn’t work and thus be more likely to find what does.
For those of you who do not know, I also have a YouTube channel I welcome you to check out and subscribe to. ( The link will be at the end of this post ) When I make videos when we do a second or third take I usually know a lot better how I want to approach the message I want to convey. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to research ‘clapperboard key chains’ on Amazon.
Here is a snapshot of a festival in my city of West Allis Wisconsin. As you can see it is a street festival where a lot of people, and dogs, came out to enjoy the nice weather. It not only was a great chance to find some good deals and enjoy some great food and refreshments, but to get to know some of our neighbors as well.
We had the great pleasure of running into friends we already knew including our friend Curtis and his wife Dani (not to mention their charming son and fun-loving dog) and our friend Regina, but we also had a chance to meet some new neighbors. There were new business we had not stepped foot in that we got to see. There were also several stands we enjoyed such as a food vendor named Pigtailz and a business that sold specialty rice krispy treats.
The point here is that it not only gave us a great time but lead us to developing closer ties with many in our community. I recommend attending such festivals in your neighborhood. If they do not exist, encourage leaders and business owners to start one. If you have the chance not only get to know but support local businesses when you can. It not only helps them make a living, it also gives them a sense of pride and strengthens your community. As far as that goes, I am very excited for the steps forward my community of West Allis has taken recently and is poised to take in the future and I am going to do my best to continue to be a part of that.