SHINE ON!

 

 

In my upcoming book Living the Dream there is a special section I have included towards the back of the book. This section is called ‘In the company of angels’ and for good reason. It includes stories of people that I know who have faced life challenges that would make most of us bitter at best, or throw in the towel and quit on life at worse. These wonderful people have not only avoided both, but have went on to be positive forces in their own right.

The stories range from having one of their parents killed in a mining accident and having to move clear across the country to being abused on several levels as both children and adults. Writing these stories was a bit of a struggle for me as I am used to writing material that uplifts and inspires. As I wrote and recalled all the situations my friends had relayed to me I felt their pain. I cannot imagine facing what some of them have.

Writing my way through them brought several positive things to me, however. First, I was grateful for all of the struggles that I didn’t have to face growing up. We were not rich and I came from a single-parent home, but we always had trips to the library, played games with other children in the neighborhood and always had enough to eat. After reading the stories I share in my book, growing up without a lot of money and only one parent seemed like paradise. I guess you could say it not only supplied me with a great deal of gratitude, but a new perspective as well.

Another thing it did for me was only serve to increase my respect for those brave individuals that shared their stories. The idea for including them in my book was to show real life examples of how people could face the worst situation and still manage to maintain a positive disposition. This was the reason I approached the people I did. What I didn’t expect was the details and amount of struggle they had went through. Learning how someone could overcome everything they did was worth its weight in gold. I am pretty sure most of us would not escape with such a healthy outlook as they had.

Knowing these people personally I can tell you that they genuine love life. That is not to say they do not have a bad day as we all do, but as a general rule they seem to appreciate the beauty of what surrounds them on a daily basis. The bravery they showed in coming forth and sharing their stories so that others may benefit from them was also not lost on me. They did so with no promise of any future reward other than the knowledge in their heart that their stories have helped others who are also struggling.

My suggestion to you is to learn the stories of your friends. Ask about their struggles. If you are blessed enough like I am to have brave friends who do not mind sharing what they have been through, do yourself a favor and listen. Understand how much courage it takes to be able to recall the pain of the past again. Admire their ability to stand strong in the face of a past that may haunt them or weigh them down. Appreciate their ability to shine even after all the storms they have been through. These to me are the true warriors.

Don’t forget to look for the book Living the Dream coming to bookstores next February.

 

 

HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN DARK?

Today I want to talk to you about darkness and light. This won’t take long so get comfortable for second. Darkness is an interesting thing. There are several shades of darkness. From slightly hazy to so dark you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Daily we go through the transformation from light to dark as the sun sets. Sadly for me there never seems to be enough sunlight, but I digress. There are certain places on this wonderful planet that seem to be dark. Think forests, long caves and mines, the depths of the ocean and even dungeons of castles. These places seem to personify darkness. The thought of being trapped in any of them can be enough to give some of us a chill down our spines.

Think of how you would feel trapped in a cave with no light at all. You would not know which way was up or down. You would not be able to tell how big the cave was or which way it went. You would also not be able to tell who else might be sharing the cave with you. How long could you remain there? Before long the darkness would start to play with your mind. Now take a deep breath. You are not in a dark cave…at least I would imagine most of you are not. You are in front of a lit computer or cell phone screen.

Life can be much like that dark cave at times. We can begin where our life seems a little hazy and before we know it we cannot see our hand in front of our face. We are unable to see what is up and what is down. We are even unable to see which way our life is heading at times. If we spend long enough in this feeling of darkness it will begin to mess with our mind.

What happens when someone shines a light into that cave? Whether the cave is just a little bit hazy or totally dark, the cave will light up. Here is another aspect to ponder. If that cave had not seen light for thousands of years and suddenly a light was introduced, the cave would still light up. Whether the darkness lasted a day or thousands of years, the light will break through.

I hope by now you are beginning to see the parallel to life. Whether your life has been in darkness for days or for years, you can still begin to turn it around by introducing some light. Rekindle your faith, reach out to a friend, read an inspirational book. One of the best ways to introduce light into your life is to become the light to someone else. At the time I found myself in the darkest place financially I went to help feed the homeless at a meal program. That not only gave me the light of hope, it reminded me of all the advantages I still had in my life. If you were the victim of abuse, help others in that same situation even if it is only being a compassionate heart to listen.

It my latest book I have interviewed people who have faced some of the most severe challenges. Although they all have their unique way of overcoming those challenges they all have two things in common – A focus on gratitude and the desire to help others. By becoming a source of light for others they could not help but have some of that light shine in their own life as well.

Remember my friends, no matter how dark it seems, no matter how long it has been dark the light will still shine through. Rekindle that light. Become the light for others.

THE ONLY WHY

In my upcoming book I speak to the importance of having a strong why to keep you focused and motivated to accomplish your goals. Indeed this is very important and can be the difference between success and failure. If, for example, your motivation for getting in shape is to fit into your favorite pair of jeans or just to look good that will take you only so far. If, however, you are working out because you have had a recent health scare or you cannot bear the thought of leaving your family too soon, you will be a lot more likely to be found on the treadmill.

Today I want to talk about what I believe is one of, if not thee, best motivating factor – love. We are not just discussing the romantic definition. Although, how many stories have we heard of people doing anything for love? We are not just speaking of parental love. That being said, daily we can read of parents putting themselves in harms way just to help their children. Even though we are not just discussing those two examples, they represent a good example of the power of love.

Love can be found everywhere. In the above examples we love how we look in our jeans when we are fit. We love our family so much we are willing to spend countless hours in the gym so we will be with them for years to come. Love is in all of the joyous feelings we have. Love is also in some of the darkest moments we have. When we lose someone the pain we feel is the result of the loss of love. Whether it is a break up or someone’s passing the equation is the same, the greater the love, the greater the sense of loss. Our bodies ability to heal itself is an example of the subconscious mind’s love of life and to keep moving forward.

If love is everywhere and one of the greatest motivators, what does that mean for us? Putting the most powerful force in the universe to work for us can transform our lives immensely. Are you hurting from a break-up or the passing of someone you love? Understand the pain you’re feeling is because you have known a great love. It may have ended in one form, but shall remain in your life and can be revisited through memories and reflection of all the beautiful moments. There are far too many who never experience the gift of great love. It is that love that gives life its flavor. Be grateful for having love as a part of your life. Your pain is a reminder that you were blessed with great love.

Do you have a goal that seems out of reach or that you just cannot seem to be able to persist enough to accomplish? Tie that goal to something that you love deeply (see the above example for getting fit) and you will watch yourself accomplish that goal with greater ease and less stress than you ever imagined possible.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe and can be used in many situations. You can use it to bring joy to someone’s face or peace to their heart. You can use it to drive you to be productive and disciplined. It can heal relationships and ease the pain of loss. Love can accomplish anything as long as it is applied correctly. Feel free to share how you used love in the comments below.

DON’T START TO MOLD

This post I cannot claim entire credit for. In fact, it was a great collaboration of ideas. My friend came up to visit from out of town and within five minutes of sitting down together we were coming up with great ideas to assist people in living more positive and rewarding lives. Interestingly enough these ideas were not solely generated by things we have read or learned in some random seminar, but by our own life experiences.

Allow me to let you in on a little of our conversation. Mold, mildew two words that seldom if ever garner a positive response. How do these conditions exist? Moisture is trapped on a surface and is not allowed to evaporate or escape. Eventually mold and mildew begin to form. Once they take hold they grow and spread rapidly. Unless the area is treated with a special cleaner (I have found the one above to work especially well) and well ventilated. In other words, the moisture must be allowed to escape and evaporate or the mold will reappear.

As most of you know this is not a website dedicated to bathroom cleaning, but to becoming the best versions of ourselves. How do the two connect on this issue? It refers to grieving. Not so long ago my friend had lost his mom. In a vain attempt to maintain an image he fostered he fought his grief. He kept all the tears he had inside for fear of appearing weak or sad. Much like our example above, by keeping his tears, or moisture, inside of him he began to form mold and mildew inside his spirit. It continued to grow and overcome him from the inside. killing off his happiness, his ability to socialize effectively with others. He even tried to treat the problem by drinking. It was no more effective than washing mold with water. It may looked good at first, but the mold came back stronger than ever.

It wasn’t until my friend finally let his tears flow, until he got that moisture out of him that he was able to move forward. The mold and mildew inside his soul dried up and went away. He was able to become happy again. Not that he still did not grieve and miss his mother, quite the opposite, he was honest about those feelings and allowed them to show.

If you have pain, if you have grief, do not hold in your tears. Do not let society or others dictate how you express that grief. If you do your soul may begin to mold. Let your tears flow. Be honest with your feelings. If you need help, please seek help. Whether it is the shoulder of a good friend, a support group or one on one therapy, give your grief an outlet. Then and only then will you be able to heal.

WHY I DO WHAT I DO

Early in my writing career, and every so often to this day, I ask myself the ever important question, “Why do I do what I do?” This may seem like an odd question to be asking yourself, but knowing yourself and why you do things is important to developing a strong why. Having a strong why is what will keep you doing what you are called to do long after the urge to do it has passed.

My answer is really twofold. The first part is a spiritual one. I believe this is what the creator has called me to do. I was given a gift to be able to find the light in even the darkest situation. This didn’t happen overnight and on occasion takes longer than on others, but eventually I see the positive in everything. I was also bestowed with other gifts as well. When I was a small child riding the city bus with my mom she quizzed me on vocabulary and now I have a rather large vernacular. In what can be viewed as either a blessing or a curse, I am very empathetic. I feel the pain others go through and as such, have a strong desire to make this world a better place.

On the more secular side of things, I have a very strong desire to share what I learn. Why? Why not just keep that knowledge to myself and use it to create a life I love? I certainly have done the second half of that. I do indeed love the life I live. It is not without its challenges, but I love it. My life is in a constant state of improvement. That in itself is exciting to me. I know that no matter how good or bad of a day I am having, I will learn something in the future that will allow me to reduce my stress and increase me joy even more.

Back to the question at hand, “that’s all great, but why feel compelled to share it with others?” Those of you who know my story will have some idea why. My life as a writer and seeker of light began in the darkest of situations. My job was being downsized, my health was in serious trouble and my relationship was in the dumpster. It was out of this despair that a determination to learn how to transform the life I was living to a life I would be loving was born.

As I began to learn and apply things my life began to transform. I noticed the people that were in my life had a lot of the same struggles I had faced. Wanting to see everyone experiencing the joy I was, I began to share everything I was learning. In return, some amazing things happened. First, people shared with me things they had learned and we compounded our knowledge. My friends Amelia and Sharon come to mind. Second, I found myself surrounded by people who were not only grateful, but becoming more joyful and positive, just like I was. This was not only more pleasant to be around, but helped make my journey that much easier and more enjoyable as well. Truly proof you receive that which you give away.

These are the main reasons I do what it is that I do. It is also reasons that all of you should do what it is you have been called to do as well. When we share our gifts and knowledge with each other, we not only brighten each other’s lives, but begin to create a shift in the world at large. We create a ripple effect and the gift and knowledge we share can touch the hearts and lives more people than we will ever know. I can’t think of a stronger why to share the gift of you with the world.

USE YOUR PAIN

This man is Inky Johnson. I highly recommend you look up his story, but I will give you a brief outline here. Inky was born into challenging situations to say the least. A very poor neighborhood, 16 people living in a two bedroom house. He had to sleep on the floor. Once a week he got to sleep in a bed…with 5 others. He was surrounded by family and friends going in and out of prison. Truly a recipe for disaster.

Inky decided to take a different path. At the age of 7, with some help from a coach, he decided he was going to play professional football. He practiced every day. Often running light pole to light pole with no shoes on. Eventually he received a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. With 8 games to go he was told he was going to be a first round pick. Imagine being told finally you will be able to erase generations of hurt, pain and financial suffering for your family. He immediately called his mother and grandmother to inform them they would no longer have to live in poverty.

Two games later while making a tackle that all changed. Inky felt like he had the wind knocked out of him. He woke up in the hospital where he was told he had to be rushed into surgery or he would die. Waking up from  that the doctor said he had some bad news. Considering he was still alive, Inky was confused. The doctor explained he had sustained nerve damage and would no longer be able to play football again. Imagine being that close to helping your family, having worked all your life, never cheated and it is stolen away in one play.

The reality of what he was left to deal with sank in when the doctor informed him “Son, you will never be able to use your arm again. You will never be able to use your hand again.” Inky’s reply?  “No disrespect sir, but I am going to use this arm and hand everyday. I am going to use it to inspire people. I am going to use it to help people not give up.” Today Inky Johnson is a motivational speaker and has several videos on YouTube.

When I heard that I had to fight back tears. Wow. I pray that I would be able to see things that way. Which is ironic, because that is what I am challenging all of us, myself included, to do here today. We have all had pain in our lives. Most of us not to the magnitude of the story above, some even worse. My question to you is this, what are you going to do with that pain? My answer is this, you went through the pain, put it to use for you. Use what you have went through to inspire and push you. Use it to motivate and give hope to others. DO NOT WASTE YOUR PAIN.

Maybe someone broke your heart? Use it to not only motivate you to make your next relationship your best relationship, but to help those who are also heartbroken. You lost your job? Use that as a tool to motivate you to chase a job you would enjoy. Do so while maybe helping at a meal program helping those who are in an even tougher situation. Turn your pain from a liability into an asset.

TAKE THE LESSON

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Often in times we can feel defeated. This is a natural and not to thrilling part of life. There will always be pain. Pretty inspirational so far huh? This blog, and my work is not about denying reality, but rather learning to thrive in any circumstances. So what do you do when pain strikes? Sometimes a moment to yourself of quiet reflection is needed, as long as it does not turn into hiding from the world for days on end living in the pain. Sometimes it shows us that we may need to distance or eliminate certain people in our lives, but we must be careful not to start losing our faith and trust in everyone. Sometimes pain will have us evaluate situations we are in and determine if they are still in our best interests such as relationships, jobs and friendships. We must just guard against becoming bitter and resentful towards the world. In all of these we must remember to take the lesson. If it is a person causing us pain, we must decide if it is worth keeping them in our lives. If not, and we still do we will still have the pain. If it is a job that does not fulfill us we are quite literally committing spiritual suicide. If we go to the opposite side of the spectrum and decide because one relationship left us hurt that all relationships are hurtful we will be denying ourselves the love we deserve.

This reminds me a lot of working out. When you first start working out, or any new physical exercise the following day can leave you feeling like you played a game of chicken with a semi…and lost. If you stay too long in trying to wait until you feel back to normal to try again you will just get pain and have to start the cycle all over. That being said, if you just decide “this hurts and working out is painful and bad” you will never get healthy and shape the body you want. We must grow from the pain and not let it destroy us.

Please share this post with everyone you might know suffering from pain. thank you for helping me help others.