WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN’ AT?

This ties in with our last post. What we are focused on is what we will see. See if this sounds familiar. You ask a friend where something is, they tell you it is in a cabinet that you are sure it is not in. So, to pacify your friend and because you have no idea where it is you begin to look through this cabinet that you are certain it is not in. You look and look and do not see it. Finally, you yell to the room where your friend is, “I told you it was not in here!” Your helpful friend comes into the room, reaches right in front of you and takes the item out of the cabinet. “I swear I looked everywhere!” You exclaim.

Why did your eyes not see something that was right in front of your face? It was your brain that told your eyes it was not there. Before we delve further into that explanation, let us do one more fun quick experiment. I found this to really make this point clear for me. Get comfortable wherever you are reading this. Now, for the next ten seconds look around and find everything you can that is red….look for red… keep looking… ok now close your eyes (unless you are in your car of course) now with your eyes closed think of everything you saw that was….brown. It may be hard to recall much of anything because you were focused on the red. Same with life. There might be lots of positive things around you that you simply do not see. One more interesting thing, when looking for red things, did your mind make adjustments? Maybe see something burgundy and call it red just so you could have another thing? Our minds do this as well.

How is this physically possible? Our brains create what is called a psychological scotoma. We create a mental inability to conceive even the possibility of seeing that aspect, due to a mentality that lacks any provision for it. In simple terms, if our brain says it can’t be so, our eyes simply say “You are the boss.” and do not see it.

While this is fascinating and a neat parlor trick when it comes to containers of salt in a cabinet or colors of objects in a room, it amounts to something greater. We have proven to ourselves through our little color experiment how we can not only see what we are focused on, but just as important, not see what we do not focus on. If this works with the situations we mentioned above, how do you think this translates to other areas of our life? Like our perceptions of certain races of people? Maybe people affiliated with political parties? How everything in our life is terrible and the world is against us. There may be plenty of evidence to the contrary right in front of our face, but because our brain does not want to be wrong it will literally block it out.

Think of some of your most steadfast beliefs. Maybe it is that some races are all criminals, or terrorists or just plain lazy. Maybe it is that everybody that belongs to a certain political party has a pact with the devil. Try asking yourself could this maybe not be entirely true? Is there maybe one great person in the race you have a negative opinion of? If so, couldn’t there be more? Maybe some of the ideas coming from the opposite political party have some merit to them? Maybe a blending of those ideas with your party could yield an even greater solution?

When our minds open up to see the good and beauty in more of the world, our eyes will follow as well. That will only lead to a more positive and rewarding life for us.

THE IMPORTANT QUESTION

Our life is mostly made up of the questions we ask. These questions can be conscious or subconscious, but they exist just the same. We may ask ourselves “Is this good or bad?” or disempowering questions such as “Why does this always happen to me?” Chances are that is doesn’t always happen to you, but if that is the question you are asking, your mind will find examples that support that. In this way your mind is both your best friend and your worst enemy. It will do anything to prove to yourself that you are right. That is the best friend part. It will do so even to the point of having you overlook all the good in your life so that it feels like your life is one big suck fest. That is the worst enemy part.

This is really good news if we know how to use it to our advantage. I go into more depth with this subject in my upcoming book Living the Dream. For today I will just give you the basic tools so you can start putting your mind to work for you. It is really not that complicated at all. It really amounts to changing our question. While I admit this is not very complicated, it does not mean it is easy. We have been asking ourselves the same question so long we often do so without even consciously thinking of it.

So how do we fix this dilemma and begin to use questions to help us live the dream? That in itself is a great question. Some of what I am going to tell you may sound like a little bit of overkill but realize we are working to overcome years, sometimes decades of negative self-programing. We are going to need any advantage that we can muster. Trust in the tools and try them for a month. You really have nothing to lose.

We are not going to struggle against removing the old question. What we are going to do is replace it with a more positive and self-serving question. Here is where you get a chance to be creative. Pick an area of your life you would like to improve. For this example we will use the every popular one, money. If you asked Santa for a thin body and fat bank account last Christmas and he seemed to mix them up, have no fear! We will give the jolly ol’ man a helping hand this year. You are going to think of a question that will focus your mind in the opposite direction. Such as, “How is my life more prosperous every day?” or “How can I add more abundance to my life today?”

Once you have decided on a question, there are two more steps to put your mind to work for you. This next step is very important – write your question down. Some may ask, “Why do I have to do that? I know what it is.” Remember we are working against our imbedded thought patterns. Your mind will do everything to go back to the question it is comfortable with. Write this down on an index card or something else you can carry with you. Another popular way to do this is to make your question your screensaver on your phone. Most of us look at those a million times a day.

The last step is to read your question either out loud or to yourself at 3 very specific times of the day. 1.) When you first get up in the morning. 2.) Right before you go to bed at night. These are the times your mind is most available to suggestion. We are also using biological science to our advantage as well. 3.) One other time during the day. They say doing something for 21 days starts a new habit. I like to round up to one month for 2 reasons. My mind is very stubborn when it comes to change, and I do not like trying to figure out when 21 days are up. If we can just go from the 11th of the month to the 11th of the next month that is a lot easier.

Pick your question today. “What makes me a great parent?” “How can I be a better teacher?” “What reasons do I have to be grateful?” You can see the list can be endless. After 30 days you can either choose to stay with the question you are using and create even more positive change, add another area of life you are looking to improve or go back to having your mind focus on whatever not so inspiring question it chooses. I would love to hear your results on the 11th of next month! Who knows, you might be in my next book!

THE MOST IMPORTANT PLACE TO FIND A FRIEND

Today’s post is the most important of the week. Of all the places to make friends this one takes the cake. Not only is it the closest and easiest to find, but the most important location of all. Dare I say, if you cannot make friends here you will have a very difficult time making healthy and lasting friendships anywhere else. It just so happens to be one of the hardest places to make friends for so many. What is this exotic location? The mirror.

This may sound a bit hokey to some of you, but it still is true. If we don’t enjoy the person staring back at us in the mirror, it is hard to bring true and genuine joy to those we meet. I know we all have hang-ups and problems with ourselves, that is human nature. Learning to love yourself despite the things you see that you do not enjoy will bring you the greatest amount of inner peace and joy. Let’s face it, this is one friend you will be stuck with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We really should do all we can to form the best relationship we can with this woman or man.

How do we make friends with the person in the mirror when we don’t like what we see? That is a billion dollar question. No really. An entire industry has cropped up to help us love ourselves. There are books, CDs, seminars and life coaches to help us along the way. I am going to give you a few quick tips to get you started, but I encourage you to look into more. After all, if you are going to invest in a relationship, this one will give you the biggest return. To this very day I work on improving the relationship I have with myself. By having a healthier and happier relationship with myself I can do better in my relationship with everyone else.

So, how do we increase the joy and love we feel towards ourselves? At first glance this statement may seem self-centered, but we are not talking about ego-driven love. We are talking about learning to appreciate the truly wonderful people we are. It is understanding that we all are beautiful in our own way. Margie put a decal on our bathroom mirror that reads Be your own kind of beautiful. It is a great reminder that whatever you do you should try to be the best, most beautiful version of YOU. “What if people don’t like that version?” I am often asked. It reminds me of a saying I once heard.

You might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but not everyone drinks tea.

Simply put if you are the best loving version of yourself the right people will like you.

What, other than placing inspirational saying somewhere you will see them often, can you do to fall in love with yourself? Another tip is to keep a record of your accomplishments. Many of us will put ourselves down for mistakes we made days, weeks or even years ago. Dragging up these memories will not only leave us feeling terrible, it will leave us with a less than favorable image of ourselves. Taking note of, and keeping a record of things we have done well will remind us that even though we may not be happy with ourselves on a particular day, there have been others where we have really kicked butt.

That leads to my last suggestion. Keep a written statement of your goals. Knowing what on earth you are getting out of bed for can make life a lot more inspiring. Even if you are not there yet, knowing you are working towards a worthwhile goal can give you a little boost of self-confidence.

When you are free of the mental baggage that most of us are carrying around you will bring a lighter, more loving version of yourself to the world. Who wouldn’t want to be around someone like that? It also will allow you to help others see the best in themselves. As you can see by improving the friendship we have with ourselves, not only will our lives be better, but we will be able to bring a lot more the lives around us.

 

TRANSFORM TOGETHER

There are many good places to meet friends for social reasons.Here is one that not only accomplishes that, but has an added bonus of science. The science behind making good friends? Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me back up and talk a little more about the social pluses of today’s place to make friends. Today’s place to make friends and generally improving your life is the gym. Before you start rolling your eyes and clicking off this website, let me assure you I can relate to your doubts.

At the gym I am usually in a state close to hyperventilating, dripping with sweat, smelling less than ideal and in short, not my ideal self. Why on earth would this be a good place to meet someone? First of all, chances are most people there are in a similar state. Second, all of you already have one thing in common, you are chasing the goal of being healthier. Sure, your goals may be different. It may be you are facing a serious health condition, maybe you are trying to get in shape for your Jamaican vacation or you just want to fit into the clothes in your closet better. That gives enough variety to start some interesting discussions.

Here comes the science. The first one has to do more with working out than making friends, but it good to know just the same. It would fit under the category of psychological science. When working to obtain our fitness goals having a workout partner dramatically increases our chances of success. We find it easy to make excuses to ourselves, but most of us tend to feel a lot worse if we let someone else down. Having a partner that can not only talk us into the gym when we don’t feel like going, but hold us accountable when we don’t make it, will have our butts cursing on the treadmill far more often than when we try to go it alone. Adding to the fact two heads are always better than one when it comes to figuring out how to use that complex machine you never see anyone on but looks like it could really help your fitness.

The second half of the science as to why the gym is such a good place to make friends is even more impressive. When we exercise the brain releases ‘feel good chemicals’. These chemicals are called endorphins. No, they are not the cute animals that swim around the ocean. Those are dolphins. They do, however, cause very similar reactions in our bodies and brains. Endorphins, again the chemical not the aquatic animal, interact with receptors in your to reduce your perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in the body. They have been compared to a natural form of morphine.

Imagine everyone you meet being on morphine. There would be a lot less conflict and a lot more mellow happy people. That is exactly what happens after we work out. It is also something I recommend couples try working into their routine. Spending time around someone who has just experienced the rush of chemicals compared to natural morphine should be pretty easy. If both parties are experiencing that feeling such as a workout partner or your loving spouse, great feeling are bound to occur. As the new year approaches lots of your friends will join gyms and those gyms usually run specials to get people to join. Why not find a friend to make that commitment with you? Can’t find a friend who is looking to get healthy? Join yourself and begin to talk to people there. Trust me when I tell you most people would be more than happy to talk about their workouts, diet and fitness routine. I don’t know if this is due to endorphins or just the fact they love to have people working with them.

Try taking and making friends at the gym. You won’t be disappointed. As an added bonus, you will become healthier and happier yourself.

WORSHIP WITH YOUR FRIENDS

Last week we looked at different places that serve as great locations to meet new friends. That was scheduled to be a one week theme, but due to all of the wonderful feedback and suggestions I received we are going to highlight a few more this week as well. I am grateful for each of you who shared with me your favorite places to meet new friends. Keep them coming for the benefit of all our readers.

Today’s post is about houses of worship. As I write this, Hanukkah is beginning. When I shared this idea with people around me, they seemed to fall on two extreme sides of the equation. Some would say that is the only place to meet true genuine friends. Others would say the place is full of people who are judgmental and condescending to different beliefs. I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think houses of worship are a great place to meet friends. Why? What about the two extreme arguments? Let us take a look at each one.

First, the fact that houses of worship are the only place to meet true friends. I find this argument to be ridiculous for several reasons. Even in the same faith there are many different houses of worship and you can run into fellow believers at many different locations. Personally, I have met some of the most spiritual people in some of the most unique places. Whether they were there to enlighten others or just enjoying their lives, it was only after getting to know them that I learned their spirituality. Great people of faith can be found anywhere.

How about the cynics view that everyone there is judgmental and condescending? Sadly, this is where a few bad apples tend to spoil the whole bunch. I find there are people like that in every faith and in every house of worship. In fact, there are people like that almost everywhere. Yet, houses of worship are a great place to meet people devoted to not only their faith, but their love for their fellow humans. Just like anywhere else, it is a matter of finding those that walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Houses of worship can be a great place to find those who share the same values as we do and care about others. Whether your faith is Christianity, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other religion, you can find caring devoted people who love and accept others, even if their faith is different. If you can’t find such a person, be one and make as many friends as you can to be a shinning example.

I highly suggest using your place of worship as a place to make new friends. Attend a social function outside of the regular service. Volunteer for projects that not only promote your faith but help the community. You will not only make great friends within your faith, but within your community.

 

SOME FRIENDLIER THAN OTHERS

Last post we talked about the experience Margie and I had making friends at the concert for the band Jackyl we went to. Today I would like to discuss a little bit about the band itself. The band Jackyl started in the early 90’s. They have pretty much been on tour since. They have two world records when it comes to touring. 100 concerts in 50 days and 21 concerts in a 24-hour period.

After spending more than 25 years on the road touring how can they continue to pack shows? A lot of bands in that time have fallen victim to changes in the music scene, the aging of their fans and many other variables outside of their control. During this time other bands were coming and going Jackyl kept doing what they do, namely traveling from city to city entertaining fans and releasing new music.

What is their secret? There are many things you could point to such as the universal appeal of some of their songs, a feature on the television show Full Throttle Saloon, and the powerful personality of their lead singer. While all of these items might and probably contribute to their lasting success, for me the one thing that separates this band from the others out there is what they do after the show is over and the music has stopped.

With many bands you have the opportunity to win a ‘meet and greet’ session with the band. Radio stations give this away, or some bands allow you to purchase an extra package that includes such privileges. With Jackyl, it is included with each and every show. As the singer says, “I want to stay and shake everybody’s hand for coming.” Whether you enjoy their music or not, whether you agree with their opinions or not you have to admit that does show a level of caring for the fans that few, if any, bands display.

It is by going out of their way to meet new people and make new friends that this band has been able to stay on the road selling out shows for over 25 years. At the last show I watched a whole club full of fans, some who even had quite a bit to drink, form a perfect line to meet the band. They were each greeted, received a handshake, autograph, picture and whatever else they were seeking. It would be understandable if after traveling on a bus all day, being on stage and performing all night that the band would want to just go back on the bus to go to sleep. They understand that it is the fans who allow them to make their living doing what they love. By taking extra time to express their gratitude when they must be exhausted is what makes this band stand out.

As a side note, for this extra effort the band Jackyl is now in possession of an autographed copy of my first book A Happy Life for Busy People.

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR OWN COPY OF A HAPPY LIFE FOR BUSY PEOPLE

FRIENDS THROUGH A PHOTO BOMB

This moment, and the friends that we made, happened while Margie and I attended a concert for the rock-n-roll band Jackyl. As you can see in the picture above, while we were taking a picture at the concert a young lady jumped into our picture. It was fun and silly. We talked to her and the gentleman that was with her. Before long we were discussing what we all did for a living, how many shows we have been to, did we know the opening acts and many other details. They were very nice people and as the crowd began to pack in it was helpful to have someone of a friendly nature around you.

The gentleman in front of us was in a wheelchair and needed some special considerations. As he was asking for some assistance we struck up a conversation. Much like the people behind us, he had looked up the opening bands online and had for more information than we had. While waiting for the main act to come on stage we discussed which opening act we liked best and why. Again, it was fun to make some pleasant casual conversation with those around us.

Even at a great rock-n-roll concert things like photo bombing and assisting people who are physically challenged can lead to some friendly conversation if you only provide a little interest in those around you. I wouldn’t recommend jumping into people’s pictures as a means of starting a conversation, but if someone does it to you have fun with it. Margie and certainly did and it made a great time even better!

HERE TO SERVE MORE THAN FOOD

Next up is an opportunity that nearly everyone could take advantage of. Last post I mentioned being a bartender was one of the best ways I knew to meet people. Another one is being a server. Who goes out to eat? Everyone! With just a little bit of effort, parties on both sides of this transaction can make new friends. Allow me to explain what I mean by sharing a recent experience I had.

It was late at night and Margie wanted to go shopping for Christmas gifts. I needed to get a few things written and all of the coffee shops I usually do such things at were closed. Fortunately for both of us there was a 24-hour store and restaurant across the street from each other and just a few miles from our house. I grabbed my computer and Margie grabbed her purse. I dropped her off at the store and we promised to keep each other posted.

As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed there were not many cars other than mine. When I made my way inside I had to wait a few minutes for the host to come out from in back. With this time, I observed that there were no other tables seated at the moment. Right after I was seated a young lady came up to the table and inquired where my lovely lady was. Margie and I had been there a few weeks before and had obviously made a good impression. After explaining that she was shopping and I was there to write she introduced herself as Chrystle and went to grab some coffee for me.

I began to set up my computer and get started. I was currently working on a restaurant review for the website Chow Down in Milwaukee. Moments later my server had returned with the coffee and took my order. I was into a groove when she returned in what seemed to be an impossibly quick amount of time. Setting down the food she inquired as to how my writing was going. I assured her it was going quite well as I took the first bite of the fruit bowl I had ordered. “What are you writing?” she inquired. As I told her I also mentioned this website and the fact that I had recently completed my second book. A second table walked in at that time and she looked torn. Excited she would be finally able to make some money, but evidently with more to say to me, she excused herself and I returned to recalling my experience at a Mexican restaurant from the day before.

Just as I was getting back into a groove, lost in a zone writers love, I heard a voice from my right. “Everything still good?” I told her it was. “I have always wanted to write a book.” she said. This was obviously more of an opening than a statement given the fact she remained in front of my booth staring down at me. Deciding my moment in the zone had ended and my time to discuss writing with an aspiring author had begin, I closed my laptop and said, “Oh really?” You may think at this point I was frustrated or bothered, but if there is one thing I enjoy as much as writing it is inspiring and encouraging other people to do the same.

“I wrote a story once when I was in school. The teacher said I should have it published, but my mother forbid it from happening.” she continued. She had apparently picked up on my willingness to discover what she had to say about writing. “Why would your mom do that?” I genuinely wanted to know. After responding with what seemed to be a dismissive answer aimed at avoiding opening another conversation more than avoiding answering the question I had asked, she continued. “I have a great idea for a book, but I do not think I could write it.” “I want to write a book called Single Mom Made Easy.” She went on to explain she was a single mother of several children including one with cerebral palsy.

“I am in and out of hospitals a lot and it is often hard to find a qualified babysitter, but life is good you know?” Admiring her attitude I had to inquire what allowed her to think that way despite all the challenges she faced. “It is all a matter of perspective.” she said. She mentioned all she had to be grateful for and all the positives in her life. Suddenly she recalled the other table and apologetically took her leave. I was left with an idea for this post and a genuine desire to encourage this young lady to pursue what I felt would be a very helpful and life-changing book for many single parents and parents of children with disabilities.

As the night went on we exchanged ideas for books and outlooks on life. I also shared my publishing experience and mentioned a few resources she could take advantage of. With a willingness to be open and a genuine interest in the person we were in contact with we both left better off. It is my true hope she decides to put her thoughts on paper and bring them to the world.

It is far too often I witness people treating servers in a dismissive or worse submissive manner. These are hard-working people who are on their feet all day and have a lot to offer. By taking a few extra moments to genuinely appreciate them we could make not only a new friend, but a connection with someone who also meets many people throughout the day.

As a server, you have a unique opportunity to connect with the people you serve. Inquiring about the person and not just what food they wish to consume, could lead to wonderful connections and friendships. It also will help the bottom line when it comes to the gratuity.

Dinning out can be an opportunity to do more than just fill your belly with good food. With a little extra effort and care you can fill your life with more connections and rewarding friendships as well.

KEEPING IT LOCAL

This first location to find new friends is as old as this country itself. The first place to find new friends is your local watering hole, corner bar, tavern or whatever term you see fit to call them. I am not someone who frequents taverns often. Working in a bar two nights a week can be sufficient for the most part, but there is a lot to be said for the mix of people you can find here.

After bartending for over 23 years, I can safely say it is one of, if not the best place to meet a great mix of people. If you need a mechanic, you know one. If you need someone to take care of your lawn, chances are one will stop in. Need to know someone who works on the railroad for your child’s school report, yes one probably has stopped in. Not only are local bars a great place to meet a wide variety of people, but they are a great place to get the vibe of the city you are in.

One evening Margie and I decided to look into a few local places we had been meaning to try. The first up was a place called Phylos. I recall this place as a young man. The sign outside left us curious about what was inside. With slogans such as “Stuff to do” and “Stuff to eat” we wondered what was included in both. Coming inside it was brought to our attention immediately that this was a place where everyone seemed to know each other. After just a few minutes of feeling like outsiders, we were greeted by the lady behind the bar. Although her physical stature was modest in nature there was no doubt she was definitely in charge of the place. Wearing a shirt with the slogan I used to be a people person, but people ruined it for me, you could tell this lady came with an amount of sarcasm.

The people around us seemed more than willing to chat and were quite welcoming. We not only had our suspicions of the bartenders sarcasm confirmed we learned she was the owner, and had been for more than 3 decades. Lois as we learned her name was also doubled as the cook on the grill behind the bar. The food smelled wonderful although we did not try any. We also learned the rocket on the front of the bar used to be a feature inside that customers could ride. Now Lois claims she is saving it. “What for?” I asked. “That is my ride out of here one day!” came the reply. As we enjoyed our beverages the other customers asked a few questions in a genuine attempt to get to know us. Taking interest in everything from Margie’s cakes to my recent winning of a city-wide poetry contest.

Second stop was a place called GM’s Dog House. Margie and I were beckoned there for an East Allis Neighborhood Association meeting they were holding. An organization I am happy to belong to. As soon as I walked in I was greeted by a young lady, Dolly, who I had the pleasure of serving several years ago when I was a bartender at a bar down the street. If you are to judge by outside appearances, the Dog House would be something you may consider passing by. It seems like your normal local corner tavern. Once inside you discover it is bright, clean and has a great selection of beverages to choose from.

Shortly after saying hello to Dolly and her friend Paul, a gentleman named Robert who used to work on my car came up to say hi. He was there with his wife Amy, who had read my book A Happy Life for Busy People. Add this to the wonderful folks who were there for the neighborhood meeting and we knew just about everyone. Craig and his wife Robin along with Jon and his wife Marie who own another amazing establishment called Jonny Hammers. Which according to my lovely lady, has some of the best wings in town.

The first bartender we met was the Melissa, who owns the bar with her husband Glen. She was welcoming and very proud of the place, as she had the right to be. She informed us of some of the fun options for entertainment. They included a wheel you could spin to win prizes. Margie even won a free drink, while I won the chance to enjoy an evening with neighbors and my beautiful lady. We also had the pleasure of being served by Nicole who played a game of bar dice with us and also shared a smile and friendly word. Margie also informed me this place had the cleanest lady’s bathroom of any bar she had ever been in. What was supposed to be a quick stop turned into several hours of connecting with old friends on one side of the bar, while making new ones on the other.

Whether you drink or not, corner bars can be a great place to meet people in the community as well as get a great feel for the city. Something you will not find in large clubs or chain establishments. With an open mind and a little conversation you can make a great deal of new friends.

Local bars not your thing? Come back tomorrow to learn of another place where friends can abound!

WHERE DO YOU FIND THEM?

This week’s posts will all feature a common theme. Where to find good friends. When we are young, finding good friends seems to be easy. We are in a new class every year. We are surrounded by kids in school every day.

For these reasons and many more it seems easier to make new friends as children. As we grow older we go to the same job every day, often with less people than our school had. We tend to keep our circle small and tight.

This week I will show you some surprising, and not so surprising, places I found new and interesting friends. It is my hope we will shed a light on how to interact and meet people in today’s busy world.

I encourage you to come back starting tomorrow to learn the first place I met new friends and every day during this week. I would also like to invite you to share your thoughts and locations you go to meet new people.