WE CAN STILL SMILE OUT LOUD

Earlier this month we did a post on the importance of a smile and the power it has to change the world. Speaking of the world, we find ourselves in a world that has made sharing a smile very difficult when it would seem the most needed. Due to health and safety practices we must follow in order to get the world coronavirus pandemic under control, masks have become a feature of many people’s lives. The city I live in just made wearing a mask mandatory.

Whether you go out for coffee, a quick trip to the grocery store or even a quick walk in the park, you may see many people with masks covering a good deal of their face. This is needed to help us get back to being safe and healthy. On top of quarantines and stay at home orders, not being able to see another person’s smile is a sad way we may feel more disconnected. As with every great challenge in life, this one also provides a great opportunity. While it may be true that we cannot see each other’s physical smile, we can still hear each others smile if only we choose to smile out loud.

What do I mean by ‘smiling out loud’? In the time I have spent in the Caribbean, in the southern part of the United States and even to some degree in the western part of the United States, people are more likely to greet you. In the Midwest, where I live now, it would seem not as much. As we are feeling more and more separate from each other and as the time we must endure physical distancing, it is more important than ever to treat each other with dignity and respect.

A simple greeting is a way of smiling with your voice. When we pass someone say “hello” or “Good morning” “Good afternoon” or whatever pleasant greeting you choose to use. In a world where we are all longing for not only a sense of normal, but some face-to-face human interaction, that small, seemingly insignificant greeting can be like a dose of medicine. There are plenty of people who are feeling lost and alone. We need to bring a smile to these people even if we can only do so with our voice for the moment.

As an added bonus, do your best to say your greeting with a smile on your face. What good does it do to smile if you have a mask covering it? Just because someone cannot see your mouth does not mean they cannot see your smile. You see it in someone’s eyes, you can even hear a smile in someone’s voice. Every step we can take to make the world a brighter place during this trying time we should. If you have any addition suggestions on how to share a smile when someone may not be able to see your face, please leave them in the comments below. We must all stick together to make life better for everyone.

WE CAN LEARN FROM OUR HERO’S MISTAKES

I once heard someone say “We have to learn from the mistakes of others because we can’t possibly make them all ourselves.” At the time I heard it, I thought that was one of the stupidest things. Who wants to make a mistake anyway? I am not going to try to make them all. In fact, I am going to try to make as few as I can. If I was going to study anything (I wasn’t really much for studying back then) I was going to study what people did that worked. I want to learn how to be successful, not to make mistakes.

That was when I was young and thought I knew everything. Now that I am old and realize I know hardly anything, it makes a lot more sense. A great example was the fellow pictured above. I always thought Michael Hutchence of the band INXS was the living definition of the word cool. He had a killer voice, a stylish yet dark look, an intriguing aura, he had a way of charming the ladies and he fronted a really great band. I thought to myself, “That is the guy I would like to be like!” There were a few things standing in my way such as not being Australian, not having curly hair and millions of dollars to be able to put together a great wardrobe and just grow my creativity. I did manage to front a band of amazing and talented musicians. I never stopped focusing on developing my creativity and learned all I could on how to be charming and witty.

On November 22, 1997 Michael Hutchence was found dead at the Ritz-Carlton in Double Bay, Sydney. He apparently died by suicide, hanging himself. Although there is some debate behind the motive, the result was tragically the same. The world had lost a great musician and I had lost a man who I believed to define what it meant to be on top.

I do not recall how much I read or investigated after his death. Recently, I listened to some documentaries on his life, career and of course his death. I learned that he was a shy and reserved individual who turned into another person all together on stage. I learned that to deal with the pressure of fame, he often used drugs or alcohol to dull the pain. There were many failed relationships and heartache along the way. There was a terrible injury he sustained while having a drunken fight with a cab driver. This resulted in brain damage that caused a diminished sense of taste and smell. Although he found a woman he loved and had a child that he said caused him to be unselfish for the first time in his life, there were struggles there too. She was still involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle over the 2 children she had previously. This often left Michael unable to see his own child on holidays and special occasions. All of this stress coupled with the prescription drugs and illegal drugs he was taking took their final toll that day in November.

Listening to these stories and learning all of this really made me think of what I thought was cool then, and what I think is cool now. I certainly had my days of partying with bands and as a bartender. I have had failed relationships. What I did was learn from them. I valued my creativity throughout everything. Michael Hutchence died at the age of 37. Here I sit at the age of 44, almost 45. I learned that dulling the pain is not as healthy as taking steps to heal the pain. I learned having the ability to be loving and charming to one woman and deepen that love is far more fulfilling than anything else I can think of. Right now I am still friends with some of my old band mates. I am able to use and grow my creativity daily. Best of all I have the most beautiful woman in the world to share it all with. As I look back, I believe Michael Hutchence might look at that and think to himself, “That is one cool mate.”

Think of your heroes. Look at the mistakes they made. It can really teach you a lot.

DO THEY HAVE YOUR PERMISSION?

It amazes me how many people do not understand that their feelings are generated inside of them. They blame the news, their spouse, their boss, their coworker or the cat down the road for ruining their day. In essence, you are giving these sources control over your mental well-being. You are actually giving them permission to ruin your day by reacting to their actions.

This is all very easy for me to say logically. Emotionally, this takes a lot more practice to live and understand. The closer a person is to you, their control over your emotions increases to a greater extent. For example, if someone you have never met tells you they find you unattractive, how would you feel? It may sting a little, or you may shrug it off entirely. Now what if your best friend told you the same thing? You might actually become angry. It may feel a little more valid. What if you came home one night and your spouse told you the same thing? You would feel deeply hurt, perhaps devastated.

I am not advocating that you become a heartless person. I am not telling you to deny your feelings. Just consider whether what these people have to say has any justification. Some people say terrible things when they are hurting. Some less evolved individuals do not anyone to be happy if they are not. The whole ‘misery loves company’ sort of thing. Considering the amount of people we come in contact with today, both in person and online, the chance one of them may say or do something that could bring us down is rather high. I suggest having a mantra written down that says “I am not going to let anyone bring me down.”

It is your day. Do they have your permission to ruin it?

DAY 6 OF OUR POSITIVE WEEK!

As we wind down our week of posting no negativity and at least one positive thing a day, there is something I was reminded of that I would like to share with you. In my upcoming book, Living the Dream, I explain the science behind the power and importance of a grateful and positive mindset. In a very brief explanation, keeping this mindset activates a part of our brain called the reticular activating system or RAS for short. This part of our brain modulates our sensory information. In other words, out of the information we take in, it decides what is important and worth noticing. The best way I can explain this is through an example. Have you ever noticed when you buy a new car or outfit, you suddenly see that car or outfit everywhere? Let me ask you, did everyone see that you bought it and then went out and bought it themselves? Unless your last name is Kardashian or some other internet influencer, I am sure you know the answer is ‘no’. So why are you seeing those cars and outfits all of sudden? They were there all of the time. Your brain has now decided, “Hey this is like our car/outfit and worth noticing!”

The ‘secret’, if you will, to all of this is that this area of your brain is always working. Most of us, however, have it in the default setting. It notices whatever we are focused on at the moment. Been watching the news and seeing the world go down the drain? Yep, you will notice examples of that everywhere. Researching that new puppy you would like to buy? Suddenly you will notice your neighbors out walking their puppies. The dangerous part of this is that is works whether what we are focused on is positive or negative. We can all agree at any given moment in time there are both positive and negative things going on in the world. What we are focused on will determine what we experience to a greater degree. Some people may confuse this with becoming ignorant of all the challenges the world is facing. This is no more true than knowing there are other cars on the road and outfits on people other than yours. It is what we are focused on and feeling most intensely.

Knowing every day that I would need something positive to write about, my brain started to be on the lookout for such an event. This happened even when I was consciously engaged in something else. This is one of the great side-effects of developing a habit of devoting a portion of your morning focused on gratitude. If you do this first thing every morning you brain will begin to lookout for things you could record in your ‘gratitude journal’. Imagine all day having a mind that is on the lookout for things that are positive or that you should be grateful for. These posts have reminded me what a powerful thing this can be. Our life improves greatly when we take control of our mind and put it to work for us.

DAY 4 AND STAYING POSITIVE!

Today in the United States we celebrate our country’s independence. My condolences to my friends in Great Britain. This is also the fourth day of our week of posting nothing negative and at least one thing positive. There are so many things I wish to focus on today. To keep this short we are going to stay focused on the world independence.

One of the phrases I have been reciting for years now is, “There is no law of physics that states your mind and your body have to be in the same place and the same time.” On any given day this is no doubt used to help me make it through a situation I would rather not be in. A long tough day at work, using a gas station rest room, stuck in line behind someone of questionable hygiene or a million other circumstances I could find myself in. It takes a little imagination and a lot of effort to try and convince yourself the toilet at the local petrol station is really a beach chair in Fiji, but it can be done.

These days when many of us can find our travel options restricted at best, nonexistent at worst, the freedom of independent thought is something that can’t be over looked! We may be under some form of quarantine, but our mind and our thoughts are not! We are still free to dream, to create and to use our amazing imaginations to soar as we please. As we wait for the day when we can all enjoy cocktails on a beach near the ocean, we can all plan, watch videos on YouTube and maybe even reflect on past vacations. Our focus greatly determines our emotional state. Let me repeat that for those who may have missed it – Our focus greatly determines our emotional state.

If we focus on all of the things that we cannot do as we wait for everything to be sorted out we will find ourselves in a miserable state. The great thing is we don’t have to! We have independence of thought! That is a miracle of the human mind. It may also be a miracle of the animal mind, but they can’t read so this blog does not pertain to them. We can change our focus to what these restrictions are giving us time to do. We can organize that area of our house we claim we never have time for. We can begin to write that book we always knew we had inside us but never had the time to focus on. We can focus on the things we can do. Personally, I have enjoyed spending more time in nature and reading great new books! Take advantage of your independence of thought. It is a great gift and something positive!

DAY 3 OF THE JULY WORLD-CHANGING CHALLENGE!

Today is one of those positive things that just come to you, or in this case me. My day started out like any other, waking up early to go to the gym. On this fine morning I had to get up a little earlier than normal to get my workout in. I had to stop at the mechanic as my battery in my Ford Escape had seemed to have broken free of its confines. I made it to the mechanic with time for them to look at it and still make it to my day job at the United States Postal Service. Fortunately for me, the repair only took a matter of minutes and they were able to correct the problem for the moment.

While this was good on one hand, it left me with too much time to go to work, but not enough time to go back home. I decided I would visit the Starbucks that is conveniently located next to the Post Office I work at. I parked and began to walk up. There were two young ladies already sitting outside enjoying the sunny day. They informed me that only seconds before a lady had rushed to the door and taped up a sign that said “Sorry closed” and locked the door. I chuckled thinking to myself, “Perhaps they knew I was coming.” They only other thing open in near proximity was a sandwich shop. I availed myself to one of their delicious offerings and took it outside to sit in the sun. Only moments into enjoying my unplanned lunch, the manager of the now closed coffee shop came out and inquired if I would be interested in a free Nitro coffee. After affirming quickly she disappeared inside again. When she came out she explained that the hot water heater had exploded and the entire store was under water! She knew I was a good customer and wanted to make sure I still got something. Sitting in the hot sun, the cold coffee tasted ever so good.

This was a positive event for several reasons. First, I got a free delicious coffee. You can never go wrong there. Second, it reminded me how important it is to be nice to everyone you encounter. (More on that tomorrow) Had I not been a frequent and nice customer, I doubt there would have been such an offer made. It was also impressive that the manager took the time to think of me while she was busy trying to salvage items in the face of the oncoming flood. I left with a very positive feeling and it was a great start to the rest of my day!

I hope you are having great luck finding one positive thing you can post. Do not forget to share them online and spread the joy this first week of July!

DAY 2 OF OUR FUN JULY CHALLENGE

Day 2 of our challenge! I hope you made it through day 1 without posting anything negative and remembering to share at least one thing positive online. With most of us still quarantined at home, life exists to a greater degree online. Therefore, the positive changes we are making can have an even greater impact.

I have a great deal of positive to share today. I am going to start with this morning. For the last few years I have had a lingering calf issue. I enjoy jogging despite not being built for such endeavors. After a week or two of jogging I would always get a terrible pain in my calf that would last roughly 2 weeks. This on again, off again training did not allow me to get into much of a rhythm. The last time this injury happened I was alone on a local hiking trail here and over a mile from my car. A long painful limp back, plus the fact that it turned black and blue, prompted me to say, “enough is enough!” I went to the doctor only to discover I had a strain and slight tear in my Achilles tendon. Without physical therapy I risked surgery and weeks of being off my feet all together.

All of this may not sound positive to you, but to me it was. Not only did I finally learn what the problem was, I had a plan to correct it. I found myself at the sports medicine center and in the capable hands of Griffin. After several questions and a complete exam, he developed a plan for my recovery. He informed me that in about 4 to 6 weeks I should really be seeing improvement. I was given several exercises to do at home and soon should be running, jumping and playing with the other kids!

The next bit of great news is that I finally have my ‘office’ back. That was a line I borrowed from my good friend Scott. Since March, the coffee shops here have been closed to inside seating. Recently, they just opened up with social distancing practices in place. Although writing at home with a beautiful lady can be fun, it can also be quite distracting. I always want to give her my attention when I am in her presence. When I am by myself in a coffee shop I tend to disappear in my own little writing world. Sometimes this can be quite amusing as I look up and all of the people around me have changed and I was completely unaware. This is not where the good news ends!

Another great thing about today’s visit is the thoughtful nature of my beautiful lady. When she heard that Starbucks was opening she wanted to buy me my first coffee. She presented me with a gift card at lunch the other day. As I am writing this, I can’t help but think of her thoughtfulness. Not to mention she is on my screen saver. Filled with love, writing just seems to flow.

That is 3 pieces of positive news! I have already found myself looking for things to share that are positive. I hope you are having luck finding your positive news. Feel free to share your positive stories in the comments below, but don’t forget to share them online as well!

DAY 1 OF THE 7 DAY JULY CHALLENGE!

Our first day! 7 days, all positivity, no negativity!! Giving our souls a little vacation. If you are just joining us, for the first 7 days of my birth month we are going to 1.) Cease from posting anything negative and 2) post one thing positive each day. By the end of the week we should have raised our vibration and begun to not only change ourselves but the world around us.

Here is mine. It is my sincere desire these 7 days begin to change the narrative. The more we change the focus to that of love and gratitude, we will inspire others to do the same. In turn, perhaps they may go on to share a smile or kind word to another. Thus, creating a ripple effect of kindness.

Can you ‘catch’ love from another person? I think you know the answer to that is yes. How do you feel when someone pays you a genuine compliment? Let’s you know how proud they are of you, or best of all, says they love you. You chest swells a little and joy seems to radiate from within.

The great thing about love, the more we share, the more we create! Putting more love into the world not only creates a more loving world, but a more loving you! Thunk of how you feel when you tell someone how wonderful they are, how proud you are of them or how much you love them? You feel better inside!

That is my positive thought today let us start a pandemic of love and let us share it wherever we can!

YOUR CHALLENGE FOR JULY

Today’s post is a simple one. With all the craziness going on in the world today it can seem overwhelming. Realizing how much we would like to change about the world around us can have us feeling powerless.

It is with that thought in mind that we look at today’s post. July is my birth month (the 29th) and I’m looking to begin to do nothing short of changing the world. To some that may seem a bit extreme, but it really is not. Considering this blog is followed in over 130 countries at last count, I am hoping some of you will join me in my challenge. Share this with your friends and family. If we can get a few people to share this challenge from each country on their social media accounts, we could start a big change that would improve all of our lives!

The picture challenges us to not post anything negative for the first 7 days of July. I am going to take this one step further and encourage you to not only refrain from the negative, but post one thing positive each day. Not sarcastically positive, such as “look my politician is better than yours” kind of thing. No, I mean something truly positive. Something to brighten someone’s, or many someones, day.

As you do,I would love for you to come back each day and share your adventures with me. Each of the 7 day’s I’ll be sharing mine with you. We start tomorrow. We can do this!

WORK ON YOUR DIET AND CHANGE THE WORLD

Here is one of those fabulous things I happen across on my social media viewing. I was blessed to have many friends who shared this exact picture. More importantly, I believe they also genuinely feel that way. Once again, I must mention how grateful I am to have people in my life that feel and act this way.

In a world where many people may feel confused or concerned how to speak to and treat one another, there is one guiding principle that can make things a little easier and a lot less stressful. That principle is to have a genuine love and appreciation for all of us sharing this planet. It can be a hard thing to do at times, but if you can show love to everyone, including those who may seem not to deserve it, you will have a truly amazing life.

I know you might be thinking, “That sounds great Neil, but how can I learn to do that?” A first great step would be to watch your diet. You might be wondering how watching what you eat can help you to become a more loving and compassionate individual. Your diet is not only the food you consume. Your diet also consists of the music you listen to, the books you read, the people you hang out with and everything you consume not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. At the end of this post I will give you a little healthy treat for your diet. Make sure you read on for that.

If you spend your time in fear of what words or phrases may be acceptable these days, or you just are concerned with saying the wrong thing, there is a simple solution to that as well – become an encouraging. This world that can seem crazy and chaotic is woefully short on reasons to be encouraged. Help someone heal. Help them believe in themselves. If this is your intentions, your heart will guide you to the right words.

By having and more importantly showing love for each other, we do something wonderfully important – we help people believe in themselves. There are many great agents of change, spiritual and cultural leaders that have doubted themselves at some point. Without their contribution, the world would have been a darker place. The great thing about this is that there is always opportunities to help someone believe in themselves and in turn help them change the world.

Don’t believe it? Think of some of these examples. You encourage a young lady who is learning the art of cake decorating. Instead of giving up when her wedding cake looks more like abstract art than a culinary masterpiece, she tries again. She remains confident and goes on to create edible works of art. How does this change the world? Imagine the joy that adds to every special occasion her cakes are a part of. They will add something special to every event. A heart-melting sigh when the bride and groom see their cake on their wedding day. The ear to ear grin on the young child when they see their favorite character sitting right on top of their birthday cake.

Perhaps it is a young writer? Maybe pondering if the words he shares truly impact the lives of others. How would an encouraging word help this young fellow and how would it then change the world? Perhaps it would encourage him to continue to develop his craft and keep sharing his words knowing someone is listening. Then those words could reach a lost and lonely soul halfway across the world and bring them joy. Those words could then be shared from Armenia to Zimbabwe. Changing the day for many.

These are totally random and hypothetical examples, but they hold true just the same. We never know what someone is facing in life or where their heart and mind may be at. Maybe it is encouraging someone singing on a microphone for the first time, or the lonely kid sitting by themselves at lunch. Just letting these people know that you have love for them will make their world brighter, the world as a whole brighter and just might save their life.

As promised I am going to give you a little something good to add to your diet and will help you to remember to encourage and have love for people of all kinds. If you click the link below you will be treated to a great performance by the artist Michael Franti. Not only is Michael a great ambassador for love and peace, he represents a lot of us. He was adopted as a young child. His mother was European and his father a mix of African and Native American. He has a sister who is a lesbian and a brother who is a police officer. Well-rounded you might say. I strongly encourage you to click on the link below to listen to this song for yourself. Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions for encouraging and having love for each other below.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AND LISTEN TO THE GREAT MICHAEL FRANTI SONG