THE KEY TO SELF-IMPROVEMENT

In the course of writing these blogs and my books I often wonder what is the most important key to improving yourself and living an amazing life. When I was writing A Happy Life for Busy People I recall asking myself how I could write a book about making people happy when different things work for different people. I answered that by finding universal truths that do apply to everyone and that are uniquely able to be customized by the individual. Through doing so I had solved the problem of ‘the same but different’. The next question was, if people needed to improve themselves how could I make it affordable. 90% of the tools mentioned in my book are less than $5 and many can be done for free. As a bonus I also made them fun to do so people were more likely to stick with them. There was also the question of time. A book that mentions happiness for busy people couldn’t very well give you a complicated 12 step process that required a great deal of time. Although the set up may take you some time, depending on what you choose, the actions required to use the insider secrets shared in that book only take 2 to 5 minutes a day. Less time than it take to enjoy your morning coffee. Many you can even do while enjoying your morning java juice.

I thought I had solved all of the challenges that a determined individual might face when trying to improve their lot in life. The tools were able to be customized to fit the reader. They were so cheap anyone could afford to begin improving their life no matter what financial state they were in. They only took 5 minutes at most a day. Many of them could be done while drinking your morning coffee or some other daily ritual. They were even fun! Still, I encountered people I know had read my book that seemed not to be experiencing the full and rich life they so truly deserved. This greatly disturbed my otherwise congenial spirit. It was, after all, why I wrote the book in the first place.

I learned the one thing all of those wonderful folks were missing – effort. The next question was naturally, “Why are they not putting forth the effort when it is minimal and fun?” The answer, as is the case in many things in life, was not that simple. People didn’t give the effort for many different reasons. I had to learn what they were. It would not only allow me to better help people live an amazing life, but help me stay committed to the changes I was seeking to make in my own life. Let us look at some of those reasons now.

The main reason people do not act on changes they know will change their life for the better also happens to be the key to making it as effortless as possible. That reason is their why is not strong enough. If, for example, you want to get in better shape to look better in your clothes, that could be rather motivating. If you have the unfortunate experience of going through a heart attack and almost dying, that is a lot more motivating. By no means am I suggesting one goes through a heart attack to strengthen their why. It does give us a clue as to a tool we can use. Let us create 2 lists. The first can be fun. Think of the great benefits you will get by obtaining your goal. You will look better in your clothes. You will be able to climb the stairs without seeking oxygen and a Sherpa. You will have more energy. If you have to bend over you can…well…get back up. The second list may not be as fun, but may be more motivating. Think of all you stand to lose if you don’t act on your tools of self-improvement. In this case, you may miss out on some fun events because you lack the energy or physical ability. You will miss out on extra fun with your spouse because ill health negatively affects libido. Use both the carrot and the stick.

Another reason, one I am guilty of on occasion is thinking too far ahead. As the great quote from Martin Luther King Jr. says above, just take the first step. Jack Canfield put it brilliantly in the movie The Secret. He mentioned that the average headlights on a car shine 100 feet ahead. Yet, by continually looking 100 feet ahead you can drive from New York to Los Angeles, 100 feet at a time. Can you think how ridiculous it would be if you only took trips if you could see the entire journey at once? We would never go anywhere! I would never make it to the tropics! That is a scary thought. Why then, do we do this will our self-improvement journey? We may not be able to see how a gratitude journal can help us chance our mindset. How do you really set up a vision board? Sometimes we just have to jump in and figure it out as we go. This leads us to the next problem.

This definition of success sucks! For a better one, I go back to quote one of my mentors Earl Nightingale. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” I put the word in italics for a very good reason. If we only celebrate achieving goals we are missing the point entirely. One of the best ways to assure you live an amazing life is to find ways to enjoy the process. Life is a journey, not a destination. Every day that we work on ourselves is one day closer to a better life. In fact, if we work on ourselves every day, the end of the day is a better life than the beginning. Have you every thought of life in this fashion? Even mistakes and terrible days bring us more enlightenment. We either win, or we learn. Nobody is perfect (my beautiful Margie comes close, but then again I am biased) do not expect yourself to be. Feel free to laugh at your silly mistakes and be grateful for all of the lessons learned.

There are a million different reasons to not put forth the effort in improving your own life. What are some of yours? Once identified, you can begin to discover ways in which you can override them. That journey in itself is reason for celebration! Something to tell yourself, or better yet hang on the mirror, is something I tell Margie all of the time –

DO NOT WORRY. YOU GOT THIS!!!

WILL YOU PAY THE PRICE?

Throughout my 2 decades in the self-improvement field, I have constantly asked myself one question, “Why do people not make the changes they know will improve their lives?” It has vexed me most, especially in the early going, most about the person looking back at me in the mirror. As I learned things that I knew intellectually would transform my life for the better they seemed to remain fleeting in their appearance. Even when I experienced how they would affect my life emotionally I found it difficult to remain committed to taking these actions daily. Why was that? I knew, and in some cases saw and felt, how they changed my life for the better but still couldn’t manage to keep up with my own standards.

I recall an particularly vivid example which I discuss in detail in my book A Happy Life for Busy People. I had been involved in a practice of making an attitude of gratitude a part of my daily routine. After a month or so it was as though I had taken some sort of magic happy pill. It is usually when you get to this state the universe enjoys testing your commitment even further. The day in question I had drove off to work while leaving the coffee on top of my car. By the time this had occurred to me I was well on my way. “Oh well, there is a Starbucks on the way.” I said to myself cheerfully. When I arrived, in pouring rain, at said Starbucks I ran in thinking how much better a hot coffee would taste in the cold April rain. Yes, this is how you can find yourself looking at life when you master an attitude of gratitude. I arrived inside only half-soaked but entirely disappointed as I was informed that Starbucks, this almost seems too unreal, was out of coffee. It was only 7 am, but I was informed a machine had malfunctioned, the coffee gods were angry or some other reason I confess I only half heard. Back through the rain into my car spirits still refusing to be dampened with the weather.

I began to drive toward work thinking of some delicious hot tea that I could brew once I got to the office. Just as I was thinking, “This could be worse. At least I have a car and I am not stuck out in the rain.” My positivity was about to be put to the ultimate test. As I was driving along in the rain at 55 miles per hour a young man pulled out in the middle of the busy street and just stopped. The next thing I remember was being loaded onto a stretcher and being asked a million questions. My Jeep was totaled and there was a big hole in the windshield. I later learned that is where is had decided to eject me. As soon as I was settled in the hospital I called my boss at the Postal Service who promptly yelled at me for using a sick day.

You would think after such an ordeal I would be eager to get back to the gratitude and feeling good. Well, let me tell you that flying through your own windshield changes one’s perspective more than just geographically. For a while I was rather angry. Why did that young man stop in the middle of the road?(turns out the street was flooded and he just froze) Why was my boss such an uncaring jerk (still working on that one) I began thinking about all of the hospital bills, lawyers and other such fun that comes with an accident. I really began to get myself in a funk. Here is what I learned that day and have been reminded of on several occasions sense – being an angry self-centered jerk does not feel good, does not get you anywhere you really want to be and is not a hell of a lot of fun.

Not sure if it was the pain pills, the want of something entertaining to do in the hospital or the hand of the divine. I am guessing a little of all three. I decided to challenge myself. Could I recapture even a fraction of the feeling of gratitude I was feeling before the accident? Pondering what on earth I could be grateful for in my situation. “Some young stupid kid just caused you to be in an accident.” was the first thing my not so helpful mind came up with. Then, as if a light bulb turned on I thought of the kid. He would not only be injured (gladly not as bad as myself) but his insurance would have to pay out as it was his fault. I began to feel a little sorry for the young man. My brain fought this as well. Then the nurse came in with a hot cup of coffee. This was accompanied by a pain pill. Two more things to feel grateful for. Soon I had people show up to give me a ride home. Yet another thing to be grateful for.

Much like a diet or that new fitness plan we are trying to start, self-improvement takes persistence. As nice as it would be, you don’t work out once and stay in shape. You don’t eat healthy one day and then can go back to eating pizza every day. Trust me, there have been times I tried. No, you have to work at it every day. You must have faith that the results are worth it. As Earl Nightingale said, “Persistence is just another word for faith. If you didn’t have faith, you wouldn’t persist.” Wise man that Earl. The price we pay is working at it every day. Next post we will look at the magic key needed for all of this wonderful self-improvement stuff to work.

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IS THIS WHERE WE WANT TO GO?

Today is my birthday. 45 years of fun on this planet. Normally, I have a YouTube video for you all, but today my lovely Margie is taking me to some unknown destination. I will keep you all posted as to where that is.

In the meantime, there is something I would really like to discuss with all of you today. As I am sure a lot of you do, I happen to reflect a great deal on my birthday. For many, it is a time to look back at the year. If that is you, I hope you are doing it with a sense of gratitude for all that you have had in your life. The peaks and the valleys. We learn and grow from everything. For some it is a time to look forward. How many more years on this round ball of fun do I have? Some just like to celebrate the present! I made it another year. Still undefeated. I like to do a little of all three.

To begin with I like to look back on the past year and celebrate how much further I am than I was a year ago. It is true not everything may have gone as I had planned, but even the lessons taught me things I needed to move forward. There are things that I had planned to do this year that did not get done. That should do one of two things. Make me decide that may not have been as important as I thought, or increase the passion and sense of urgency to get it done in the coming year. Which leads us to looking forward to the year ahead. I do so by reviewing a lot of my actions. Asking myself the question quoted in our first picture – Does this support the life I’m trying to create? There are some that are indeed moving me in the right direction. Maybe I just need to be persistent in my actions. This could be applied to my going to the gym six days a week. Sure, I am not where I want to be, but I am moving closer to the body I want to create. Then there are actions that may need to be tweaked a little. My book and writing promotions. I will need to do slightly different actions if I would like to expand the influence of my message.

Then there are the actions that I am doing to maybe please others or that just do not serve my purpose. Spending too much time concerned with items at my day job or on pleasing other people. Yes, even someone who has been in the self-improvement field for over two decades can use some reflection and improvement.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a short birthday wish list, if I may. To help me celebrate my 45 years on this planet I would love any suggestions or assistance in helping me to spread the message of positive self-improvement and life-fulfillment that we share here on this blog. Although it is my birthday, I want to leave you the gift of one of my favorite quotes. It demonstrates the kind of thinking I do my best to foster here, and will be looking to build on in the next 45 years.

A QUICK REMINDER TO START THE WEEK

As we begin our week we may face a lot of insecurities. This is a good reminder when faced with feelings of fear, replace them immediately with a faith that you will make it through.

This can seem difficult, but if you are reading this your record for making it through thr challenges of life is 100%! You are still here! Whatever has happened to you, and I am sure there have been plenty of daunting challenges along the way, you are still here!

Considering all that you have faced and the fact that you are still here, do not let worry and fear enter your mind today. Instead, say to yourself, “I have made it through tough times before and survived. This problem has nothing on me!” Believe in yourself because you should!

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE

Last post we looked at casting actors to play in your own movie. This can go a long way to improving the quality of your life. You can increase your happiness and productivity, you can foster a greater sense of inner peace and you can have a lot more fun and success than you have ever had before. This sounds a little too good to be true? There is, I confess, one caveat.

Just like in the world of Hollywood, there is an executive producer. Call it God, the universe or whatever term you use. Sometimes they put people in our feature picture that we would rather do without. When this happens to me, I imagine the kind of movies I like to watch. Whether you enjoy Disney movies or are more a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey, in all of those movies there are challenges and villains the hero has to overcome. It is what gives the movie a sense of adventure. It is what makes your hero stronger and develop greater qualities. Can you imagine watching a movie in which the lead character wakes up, wins the lottery does anything they want, doesn’t age has perfect health and just repeats that over and over again? Does not sound like a very exciting movie to me. Do you think the star of that movie would grow stronger? I am guessing not so much.

In our own life we may have our friendly and fair boss replaced by one that is two-faced and emotionally unable to handle their position, lashing out and everyone the moment they become stressed. Hypothetically. In my own place of work we have a coworker who is quite less than pleasant. For the sake of argument we will call them “Michelle”. This person always comes in with a very negative attitude. The curse, they belittle and they generally bring a dark cloud with them on a daily basis. Is that someone you would cast in a movie you are staring in? I am guessing not. Every great character needs an antagonist. When I think of the negative, or as I like to call them sunshine-challenged, people in my life, I stop and ask myself, “How would the star of a movie handle these people?” This often allows me to handle them as the best version of myself or as the character I would wish to be in my movie. In the case of our previously mentioned coworker, I imagine my leading actor would not only use that to practice and improve their patience, but to remind them of the importance of staying positive. They would use that person’s negativity to remind them how valuable being positive to all of their costars is.

What about challenging situations? This is where thinking of your life as a movie and you as the director may really come in handy. In the picture above we see a director telling the camera person what to focus on. Can you imagine if we had someone to do the same for us? We do, it is ourselves. When a challenging situation pops up, we can decide what to focus on. Let us say we just lost our job. We can focus on all of the disadvantages we have. Perhaps we are too young and do not have the experience someone older would have. Perhaps we are older and lack the energy and long-term investment we think an employer would be looking for. Instead of focusing on what is against us, remembering we are the hero of our own movie and think to ourselves, “What would a hero choose to focus on?” Maybe it is that we have the health to go out and find a new job. Maybe it is the opportunity to begin again and find something that pleases us more?

What about those situations in life that just suck? A loved one passes away or a major health challenge occurs. When we are in the middle of the whirlwind of emotion these can be one of the most difficult situations to handle. Give yourself time to grieve and feel what you need to. Even the bravest heroes and biggest stars have moments like these. I am reminded of Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit of Happyness. At one point it seems everything is against him. He is unemployed and homeless. He is sleeping in a public restroom with his son and an angry man is trying to get inside to use the bathroom. I am hoping your life is nowhere near that bad. What happens in this movie? The character does not give up and ends up landing a great job and being able to take care of his son. (This movie was based on a true story. In other words someones life that was turned into a movie) In situations that you are under extreme stress it can be helpful to look at it as a director of a movie would and ask yourself, “Ok, if this happened in a movie I was directing, how would I have the star bounce back from their sadness, pain or depression?”

Looking at our life from this emotionally unattached position can offer us creative possibilities that we may otherwise miss. It can also help give us emotional strength we are otherwise unable to find. If the hero in our movie can do it, maybe we can too? Remember, you are the star in your movie. You are the director as well. Write yourself a great plot and do not let your hero be defeated by anything!

WHO IS IN YOUR MOVIE?

Last post we mentioned being the best star you can be in your own movie. We also mentioned when it comes to thinking of your life like a movie, it is important to remember the other roles that we play. One of those roles is that we cast our movie. Sometimes when we feel our life is not what we would like it to be, we need to examine who we have chosen to share it with.

Perhaps our life does not seem very hopeful. Maybe is seems kind of dark and depressing. As we look to improve and develop our own attitudes as discussed in our last post (Which is where I suggest you should begin) we must also take a look at who we are surrounding ourselves with. If we are hoping to develop a more joyous attitude but our world is filled with people who could do a voice over for Eeyore in the classic Winne-the-Pooh stories, it might make our journey more difficult. Maybe we wish to develop a more ‘can do’ attitude. If we are surrounded by people who are dream killers and who have given up on their dreams it will be tough going.

If there happens to be a shortage of quality people in your life, don’t worry. This is an area of great opportunity that can be easily corrected. Putting yourself in the position of a casting agent makes the process fun and easier to do. If you were creating a movie about a life (sometimes forgetting it is your own can make it easier) ask yourself who would I cast in that movie? If I was looking for a open-minded yet health conscious character I would cast my friend Nick for that role. Perhaps I was looking for a character who was very intelligent, but covered themselves in a veil of eccentricity, that would be a perfect role for my friend Bret. If I were looking to cast a beautiful leading lady who was creative and quirky, someone who would keep our leading actor on their toes…well as you know I cast that role to my lovely Margie.

Thinking about this exercise can be fun. It can help writing it down to help keep less in your head. Maybe there is a certain role you are looking to fill that you do not know anyone who has those exact traits. Write down the traits you are looking for in that person. Maybe it is your leading lady or man. Maybe it is just a costar you would like to feature on occasion. Maybe it is a place you would like the star of your movie to work, to play or to spend their vacation? Write that down and review it often. Keeping these thoughts in the back of your mind will help you notice and attract that person, place or thing. Remember, this is your movie cast accordingly. What about certain characters or situations we have in our movie that we might have cast differently? That is an issue we will discuss in tomorrow’s post. Make sure you return.

BECOME YOUR OWN HERO

The last few posts we have been talking about heroes. How we can learn from our hero’s mistakes, what we can learn from those we consider heroes long after they are gone and a few other tidbits along the way. Today we are going to learn something very powerful – how to become our own hero. This may sound a bit cliche and corny, but stick with me and I think you will discover what an interesting and powerful thought process this can be.

In my upcoming book, Living the Dream, I suggest looking at your life as if you are the star in your own movie. This is not only helpful, this is true. I recall working at the Greendale Post Office with some charming and witty gentleman. We will call them Don and Tom. We will do so because that is what their names actually were. Normally I like to change names to protect the innocent, but if you are calling them charming and witty I think we should be alright. Both of these gentleman were big fans of the cinema. On their morning break before heading out to deliver their respective mail routes, they would discuss all matter of movie-related material. Favorite directors, favorites actors and other such things.

One fun activity they would occasionally engage in was casting fellow employees. Lining them up with what actor would make a great match. This could be challenging as there was a cast of characters like no other at that location. There were loud and immature coworkers, vindictive bosses, dark and mysterious regular customers. Sometimes people were matched according to looks, sometimes according to character. The most difficult time came when they were forced to cast themselves. After much contemplation, they always decided on actors that seemed to reflect on their best qualities, or even qualities they may have wished they possessed. This seemed like a fun fancy at the time.

In reflection, it can be a truly powerful tool to increase and improve our own character. If you were to pick a star to play you in a movie who would it be and why? I encourage you to grab a pen and paper and write down some ideas. Pick a few actors and write down their names. Then write down what traits you feel your character would need to have to reflect who you are. Maybe even add some traits you would like to add that you may not have at the moment. Carry this list around with you or at the very least, toss it in the car. Then, before you go into work or a job interview, review it. Walk into work or that interview like the person you would cast yourself to be. In this way I think you will develop a new appreciation for the actions you take. The truth is, not only are we stars in our own films, we are also the directors, casting agents and writers. If we do not like what our life is like right now, we can always write a new script or cast a new co-star. If we do like the performance of a certain actor (say how a person makes us feel when we are around them) it is up to us to offer them more lines (spend more time with this person)

Heroes do not have to be actors. Another great exercise we can do to help us develop and grow into the person we would like to be is simple, fun and as follows. Again, you will need a pen and a piece of paper. Write down traits that you have currently. Now add traits you either are trying to further develop or maybe start having for the first time. For example, let us say you are trying to be brave. Who do you think personifies bravery? Some names that come to mind are famous generals during battle. As we think a little more, further examples may come to mind. A name who comes to mind mind is Rosa Parks. She was a woman who peacefully, but bravely challenged racist stereotypes of the day. She did so not with violence or disrespect, but by standing up for what she believed. This could have resulted in serious consequences for her, included physical harm or even death. There are our friends who come out with the truth of who they are despite facing ridicule from friends, family members and society as a whole. To me, those people are brave.

Whatever trait you are looking to develop there are several examples for you to study. I suggest doing so. Read their autobiographies. Look for video documentaries on YouTube about them. Learn how they developed the traits you are looking to emulate. It can, perhaps, give you some ideas of methods you can try in your own life.

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!