THIS IS ALL A BUNCH OF B.S.

If you have read the post before this one you have heard my story. If not I encourage you to do so. For the sake of this post the abridged version is that due to the stress that life gives us I went from being a bartender and singer in a rock band who was too cool for self-help to an author and speaker on the subject. I originally laughed at all those ‘crazy people’ meditating and looking to increase their inner peace. In short, I thought the whole idea was a bunch of B.S.. The point that never failed to escape me was that I was doing my laughing as I was broke and sitting in my apartment in a not so nice part of town. I was in a job I did not find fulfilling, but most importantly I wasn’t happy myself.

I don’t recall the exact beginning of my journey into self-improvement, but last post I gave my earliest memory. As my life continued to suck I began to read and try more things. The biggest event happened when the fine folks at the United States Postal Service decided I was expendable after over a decade of devoted employment. I found myself at rock bottom. To be a little more accurate, my life was sitting in a pile of B.S..

It was this situation that forced a change in direction. I began to at least conceive that some of the more mainstream ideas could at least be workable. I wasn’t about to perform a ceremony where I marry myself, but listening to a few Tony Robbins CDs I had ordered off television at 3a.m. seemed doable. It wasn’t as if I wanted anyone to know what I was doing, but as I noticed my stress going down and my joy going up, my mind began to open to the possibilities. What was even more important is that I saw others struggling as I had just because they were to intimidated by terms like self-help which to me sounds like you should be laying on a couch telling someone in a lab coat your problems. It was then I decided to devote my life to showing people that improving yourself is not only cool, but helps your life suck a lot less.

It was then I learned that life really is made up of B.S. Rather than the stuff that comes out of the back end of a bull, I mean B.S. as in belief systems. What you believe will dictate what you try and what you do. If you believe you are a late person, you will never be motivated to arrive on time. If you believe life will always suck for you, it will. I am not merely suggesting you start thinking you will have a great life and suddenly people will send you checks for being your awesome self. If it were that easy I wouldn’t be writing you this today. What I will tell you is that what you believe has not only a great influence on your actions, but more importantly on your sense of well-being. Which after all is really how we determine our quality of life. If you were as wealthy as could be, but you were miserably unhappy, your life would suck.

This may seem a bit much to take if you are new to some of these concepts. In fact, when I first heard of things like the Law of Attraction and other such belief systems that was my thought as well. As quantum physics begins to unravel more of the mysteries of the science of the mind we are beginning to understand how powerful our beliefs are. Why not be on the cutting edge and take control of one of the most powerful forces in your life?

For my left-brained friends who may still be having a hard time grasping this notion, allow me to share a real-life example. Most of you know the story of Roger Bannister. For thousands of years it was accepted as a truth that the human body was not capable of running a mile in less than four minutes. On May 6th, 1954 Roger Bannister did just that. While that is the story most people know, there is an even bigger story. Since he completed this historic feet, countless other have also run sub four-minute miles. What happened? Did the human race suddenly get stronger all over the world? Of course not. What happened was now they could believe that it was possible. If one change in belief can alter the course of track and field across the globe, what can it do for your life?

I USED TO BE TOO COOL FOR THIS

I recall some of my first exposure to the principles of self-improvement. They seemed hokey and new age at best, far out and ridiculous at worst. I was a singer in a band, I was a bartender. I had no desire to take my inner child on a play date. When I heard someone talk about meditation or keeping a journal I thought they would be someone sitting alone in a tent in the middle of the desert giving advice or something. That was actually a description I gave to my good friend Russ. In short I thought all of this self-help stuff was a bunch of B.S..

My dramatic change from someone who mocked all things that might be labeled ‘self-improvement’ to someone who is not only a proponent of such material, but a creator and distributor as well, happened over a period of time. It is like the story of boiling a frog in a pot of water. If you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out, but if you turn the heat up slowly it will sit there until it boils to death. Please know I am not advocating harm to animals, but my life proceeded along a similar path. As life slowly turned the heat up on me I found myself literally boiling to death in a pool of stress.

One of the first stresses I can think of is when I was working at a telemarketing job. For those of you who have never had a job in this field, just consider what you have said, or heard other people say to telemarketers. Now, imagine being the person on the other end of the phone…eight hours a day…6 days a week. I remember listening to Bob Marley’s Legend album on my lunch hour every day. I would close my eyes, push play and picture being on a beach in Jamaica. Little was I aware I was practicing visualizing and meditation. Not that I called it that. At the time I just said I was “unwinding on lunch”. All I was sure of is that is made me feel better and be able to withstand the constant barrage of colorful phrases people share with telemarketers.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself awake at 3a.m. ready to go to the post office job I was thrilled about. This was after working an entire bartending shift I was also growing weary of. As you can imagine this and other stresses also affected my relationships with others at the time. While sitting on the couch putting on my shoes I saw an infomercial. It was for a collection of CDs from Tony Robbins. Being half asleep and feeling frustrated with the direction my life was going at the time, I thought “What the hell do I have to lose?” I ordered the tapes, went to work and soon forgot all about it. A week later they arrived. I listened on my short commute I had to work at the time and soon found myself taking detours to listen to more.

Soon I found myself looking at life from a different angle. Shortly thereafter, my job was downsized and the real test began. I found myself at the local library looking for answers. Those of you who have read my book or followed me for any amount of time have no doubt heard this story countless times. After finding things that helped a former ‘rock star’ and bartender who was too cool for self-help, I wanted to share it with others who thought themselves too bad ass for this material, but were silently, or not so silently suffering on the inside. That lead to the creation of this website, a book, a YouTube channel and seminars. In short, it brought us to where we are now.

If you came across this on accident, or are postponing on taking the leap on learning tools that could improve your life because you are simply too cool, I urge you to reconsider. First of all, get rid of the term self-help. I never liked that term to begin with. It has the feel like you are helpless and can only succeed with the help of someone else. I prefer the term self-improvement. The truth is you don’t need anyone else. What you may be lacking is information and a plan. As long as you have the desire, there are many paths that can lead you to success.

The other thing you might wish to consider is that in the beginning nobody needs to know what you are doing, or that you are doing anything at all. You can read in private. You can rent and watch movies in the privacy of your own home. You can start like I did listening to things while you are alone in the car. Once you see, and more important feel the increase in joy and reduction in stress, you can decide how public you may want to be with your quest to become the best version of yourself.

As a bonus, here are a list of a few recommendations I have for improving yourself after spending over two decades in the field. This is not a complete list by any means and if you would like to add to it feel free.

Books

  • A Happy Life for Busy People
  • Think and Grow Rich
  • The Power of the Subconscious Mind
  • The Tao of Pooh
  • The Secret

CD or MP3 Programs

  • The Strangest secret
  • Personal Power
  • Any videos or audio by Tony Robbins, Earl Nightingale, Les Brown or Eric Thomas

THE IMPORTANT FIRST STEP

Recently, I have had some conversation with a new friend of mine about some stress they have been going through. Most of their stress had focused around an aspect of their job, but had been affecting both their family and their relationship. This happens quite often and can happen to all of us and at some point usually does. This is quite often referred to as taking your job/work home with you. I have even known some people who have changed their entire essence of who they are based on working in a negative environment. This can especially hold true for those working in law enforcement, first responders, teachers, the courts and any other job that exposes you to less than desirable people. It is not limited to these careers, however. You can experience stress in retail, food and beverage industry or the travel industry. It is not only costumers, but coworkers that can cause us stress. I recall early in my postal career this being true. The post office can be a stressful and negative work environment more often than not.

What helped me and what did I share with my friend to help them? I am going to share some of that with you in hopes that you too can use it or share it with someone you know who might be going through some great deal of stress. There are a few basic things I would recommend starting today, whether you are under stress or feeling good about how your life is going. Being proactive can make dealing with stress a lot easier. The time to learn to swim is on the shore and not when you are in a boat that is sinking. Remember I speak from experience. If I had known about or used some of what I am going to share with you when I began working at the post office I could have saved myself and those I care about a lot of stress and hurt feelings.

The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. According to a study done by Forbes magazine up to 70% of us are going to jobs we do not like. In our culture we have put a priority on things like money and benefits to the detriment of our own happiness. Insurance is important, but choosing one job or position you may not like because it has better benefits may end up causing you to experience more trips to the doctor than it will help you reducing your medical costs. How can that be? According to a study done by Stanford University, 80% of visits to a primary care doctor are stress related. Stress has been found to be a common denominator in nearly all medical conditions. Even if stress was not related to the onset of the condition, continued stress will only worsen every medical malady.

Great, we are all a bunch of stressed out individuals. Knowing such information can lead to little comfort, but do little to help alleviate the actual stress itself. For that we must create and use some tools to help us. One of the first things I have recommended in both my book as well as seminars is creating a happy playlist. This is exactly what is sounds like. A list of songs that put you in a good mood. I don’t care if it is the song don’t worry be happy, or the theme to the Jefferson’s television show, whatever makes you happy put it on the list. Now create a playlist on your iPod or other MP3 player. I actually have created a happy playlist on YouTube so I can listen to it anywhere I have my cell phone. Now when you encounter a particularly bad day at the office we can listen to our happy playlist on our way home so we arrive in a better state of mind. If the situation is really bad, you can find yourself in the restroom with an ear bud in. This will not do anything to directly change the situation, but put you in a much better frame of mind to deal with whatever challenge is facing you.

In addition to music, which I believe provides the quickest boost in mood, you can apply this to other media as well. Create a list of movies you enjoy watching, books you enjoy reading or places you enjoy going to eat. If at all possible, do this while you are in a good mood. Once again it is easier to think of what makes you happy when you are not already stressed out. Then when stress comes knocking, pull out your list, or just push ‘play’ on your happy playlist. I recall listening to Bob Marley’s Legend cd every lunch hour while working for a telemarking concern. I think that saved my sanity more than once.

The other thing I recommend is keeping a journal. For those of you who follow my work even a little I am sure you have heard me mention keeping a journal quite often. The benefits are many and I can’t possibly list them all here. A few worth mentioning in regards to work place stress and how to reduce it are as follows. First, writing your feelings and the facts of the situation down on paper can offer a lot more clarity than trying to figure it all out in your head. It also removes a great deal of stress from keeping all in your head. Second, it provides a great place to vent. Quite often those we love, even those closest to us, can reach a point when being a sounding board becomes too much. We must remember they are dealing with their own stresses as well. Writing in our journal can be a relieving and safe place to vent. Finally, seeing everything in black and white can bring to light solutions we may not have considered when we were in the middle of the emotional whirlwind. Reading back it can show us patterns that we go through that routinely create stress in our lives. By recording how we feel at the moment and being able to go back and reread it when we are in a better mental state can be enlightening too.

As an added bonus, I recommend doing as many of these things as you can out in nature. Being outside in the fresh air can serve as its own therapy. Add some physical exercise and you multiply the stress reliving benefits. It can be anything from an intense run, to a leisurely stroll. Motion helps emotion. Do yourself a favor and get outside and get moving. You can listen to your playlist as you do so. When you stop to rest, you could pull out your journal and write. Before you know it you will create a shield around you that no workplace stress can get through.

By all means, if you have any other great stress reduction tips to add please do so in the comments below.

 

 

A NEW EXPERIENCE

I wanted to share with all of you a new experience I had at ‘Float Life’ this past Monday. As part of my birthday present Margie took me to experience a float. What is a float? The above tub you see is a floatation tub. It is exactly what the name implies, a tub in which you just float for an extended period of time. (I did it for 60 minutes) Why float? What benefits do you actually achieve? What was my experience like? I will answer all of those questions for any of you who are pondering floating yourself or who are just curious.

Why float and what benefits do you achieve by floating? I am going to paraphrase 2010 research statistics from Floatworks. Floatation eases stress and allows you to experience a greater sense of relaxation. For some the effects last days after the actual float. Floatation has been proven to reduce elevated levels of stress hormones as well as decrease blood pressure. They list several conditions this may help or relieve including, but not limited to

  • Meditation
  • sports and exercise recovery
  • insomnia
  • enhanced creativity
  • jet lag
  • PTSD, addiction, arthritis and fibromyalgia

This is all made possible by the 900 pounds of Epsom salt in each tub. The benefits of Epsom salt are plenty. It provides the body a dose of magnesium a mineral studies show most people are severely lacking. This helps soften the skin and hair, cleanse and detoxify the body as well as help stiff muscles and achy joints. I encourage everyone to research more into the benefits floatation provides.

What was my experience in the floatation device? After arriving and being given a brief introduction into what the process is and how to make the most of it, both Margie and I were left in our respective rooms to begin the float process. You begin by rinsing off in the shower they have inside the room. It took a while for the water to get warm, but it was refreshing. After the shower you are to put in some ear plugs so that your ears will not turn into a salt cavern over the next few days. The ear plugs were not what I was used to. It was a texture much like that of chewing gum. You rolled them into a ball and pushed them into your ears. This was surprisingly affective

There I stood naked sans two new ear plugs. Carefully getting into the tub the first thing I noticed was the temperature of the water. It is kept at skin temperature which is approximately 94 degrees Fahrenheit. This is done to increase the feeling of sensory deprivation. I thought it would feel warmer, but was decidedly comfortable.

During our introduction we were explained the many options available to customize your float. The first being a floatation ring that can act as a sort of make shift pillow. This is done for people who may have a hard time adjusting to the idea their head floats on top of the water. You can end up with a sore neck by trying to tuck your head to your chest to keep you head up. I declined use of this and found my head needed no further support than the water itself.

The second option was the light. As you saw in the first photo, which was of Margie’s tub, they had a light that could be various colors. Hers was pink. In my photo you can see my tended to be a mild blue. This seemed fitting as she was a woman and I am a man. You had the option of leaving the light on while you floated or turning it off. Wanting to experience the ‘full monty’ if you will, I decided to turn the light off. This eliminated the sense of sight and the distractions it may have caused.

The next option you had was the relaxing music that played inside the tub while you were floating. I began with the music on full volume. It was soft and seemed the perfect accompaniment. After relaxing for some time I decided to turn the music off and focus on my breathing as I teach so many. This worked really well with one exception. You could hear the sounds of people walking around outside and some other clunking type noise. I turned the music back on to a soft volume which seemed to drown out most of the noise.

They say you feel ‘weightless’ in these tubs. At fist when I got in that is how it felt. In addition whenever I felt myself bump into the side of the tub and pushed myself away I felt weightless as well. Basically, whenever I was in motion I felt as if I was floating. When my body was standing still the feeling was quite different. It was as if I was in some sort of suspended animation. My body was supported but there was no pressure from gravity. My body felt heavy, but relaxed.

When the female computer voice told me my time was over and the light came on my next challenge arose. Using muscles that I have been relaxing for the past hour in a tub that is impossible to sink in made it slightly difficult to sit up and open the lid. When I did I was careful climbing out as I was naked and didn’t want to end up with any injury that could land me in the emergency room.

Once out, we were instructed to shower off to remove most of the salt from our bodies. The shower included two liquids. One I assumed was some sort of body wash and the other a shampoo/conditioner combo. We were not told which was which and being that I had just taken a shower before I came I decided to just rinse off.

Two days later as I write this I can still feel my legs are relaxed and I am feeling good. There was some great tea in the waiting room that I was able to enjoy as I waited for Margie to complete her floating experience. There was also a great book chronicling the story of a man who went from a completely stressed out executive in the music business to owning his own float tub company. I would have liked to explore this story before I floated, but enjoyed it in reflection on my own experience as well.

Looking back I would like to approach my next float with more of an agenda. Perhaps have a certain meditation in my to do as I float. It would be neat if having the option of listening to a guided meditation as you float. I will also be sure to ask what is what when it comes to the options in the shower. I will definitely return to try this experience at Float life in Whitefish Bay. I recommend floating to anyone. The benefits far outweigh the risks and everyone can use a little rest in the middle of our busy lives. Look how happy I was when it was all over.

THE FIRST PLACE TO CREATE PEACE

How often have you heard that we live in a crazy, chaotic world? If you don’t hear it daily from someone you know, you can read it splashed across the television screen, on the front page of the daily newspaper and on every social media site you go on. Reading and absorbing all of this negative news can leave us feeling scared, overwhelmed or exhausted. Sometimes we can feel all three with a host of other unpleasant emotions thrown on top! What are we left to do when we have a day feeling this way?

What many of fail to lose sight of is the fact that if we have inner peace, the outside world has little, if any, impact on our life. Sounds great, but if having inner peace was so easy, how come everyone is not sitting in the park in a state of bliss. To some extent it is not our fault…exactly. We have been lied to by the media, politicians and others. We have been told that we should worry if hypothetically we have a world leader that seems determined to make enemies of friends, create a world filled with division and hate. We have been told to worry if others different than us seem to be receiving some sort of advantage. Countries are about to go to war. The price of oil is going to go through the roof. The stock market is going to fall through the floor.

The truth of all of this is that while some of it may have an impact in our life to a greater or lesser degree, it is mostly beyond our control. We can do what is in our power such as voting against that politician or writing our congressman. We can plan trips and do our best to make the most of the fuel we purchase. If we spend countless hours being upset and discussing or even worse disagreeing with our friends and coworkers about it, that will do us no good.

I have spoken at length about worrying about what you cannot control. The benefits to such actions simply are not there and the negatives abound. First of all it will create stress. Stress has been noted to be a factor in over 80% of medical conditions. In addition, stress causes you to age prematurely. In other words, you will look older and possibly experience health problems sooner. Sounding good so far? I didn’t think so.

As if compromising your health and physical appearance were not enough, lacking inner peace and worrying about and complaining about things outside of our control can affect our social life in a negative way. Almost nobody likes to be around someone who is stressed out and complaining all of the time. I said almost because the only people who seem not to mind are those who complain themselves. Not exactly the people you would want to surround yourself with.

Lastly, and in my mind most important, dwelling on what is wrong does little if anything to create solutions. It is important to note what is wrong in order to define what we would like to be happening, but dwelling on how wrong or terrible it is does us no good. Instead, it would be better to focus on how wonderful the solution would be and what steps we could take to make it happen.

To foster inner peace starting today let us focus and discuss what is beautiful and right with the world and how we can grow that. When we come across something that is not right, let us do what we can in our control to change it and focus on what would like to see. When we see someone who could use some inner peace, share with them what we learned in this article.

A TACO MEDITATION?!

This is a picture of a billboard just outside the Wisconsin State Fair. It is a catchy little slogan for a Mexican restaurant. My mother and I have started taking walks after my heart trouble caused me to take a break from working out as hard as I would like. Being the state fair is probably my favorite place to go, it makes sense to choose that as a location to walk. This particular day my mother and I decided to walk the perimeter of the park to see how long that would be. (roughly 3.2 miles for those keeping track) While on the northern side of the park we came across this billboard.

As we walked passed it I began to think of the slogan “Inhale tacos, exhale negativity”. A slight confession is that I tend to practice a lot of both in my life. The last couple posts we have been discussing meditation and how we can work it into our life. One of the simplest forms of meditation is to pay attention to your breathing. If you add to that visualizing breathing in positivity and exhaling negativity, it can lead to an increased state of peace. I encourage you to practice this for several minutes twice a day and let me know what difference you notice. It is a simple practice, but can bring great change.

Then I thought about inhaling tacos. How could you not after reading that sign? Other than increasing the feeling of hunger I had already started from the walk, it got me thinking. Obviously, they are using tacos as a replacement for the word positivity. This could probably hold true for many people out there. Although saying, “Have a taco day!” Instead of positive day does sound a bit strange. When doing the above exercise sometimes picturing positivity and negativity can be a bit too abstract for some of us. What if we replaced the word positivity with some activity, such as eating tacos or attending the local state fair. In other words any activity that fills us with joy or adds value to our life. As we breath in we could picture being engaged it that activity and breathing in more of those activities into our lives.

On the exhale we could replace negativity with any activity we are trying to remove from our lives. Maybe letting our emotions get the best of us or being filled with stress. As we exhale we could picture that activity and feel ourselves exhaling it out of our bodies and out of our lives. Inhale tacos, exhale being overly emotional. Inhale the state fair, exhale being stressed out. It certainly is worth a try and could be a lot of fun!

 

  • WARNING!!! This blog is not responsible for an increase in the consumption of tacos related to the reading of this article. Restraint is recommended in the amount of tacos consumed or one would not be able to inhale or exhale at all. Please read responsibly.