VULNERABLE = STRONG

I am always interested in highlighting some of the great people in the city of West Allis Wisconsin, where I live. The gentleman on the left is Curtis. Together with his wife Danie, they run the local coffee shop/café called Urban Joe’s. From the first moment I met both of these amazing people one thing became apparent – they get it. What I mean by that is that they truly understand what is important not only in business, but in life. When you dine or just enjoy an amazing coffee or cocktail at Urban Joe’s you will be treated to more than just great food and beverages. You will be treated to some of the best customer service in the city. This is not by accident. Curtis and his wife understand the value of a customer and of a person.

It is the second part of that last statement, knowing the value of a person, that I would like to expand on today. After just a few visits to Urban Joe’s it became apparent to me that Curtis also understood the importance of introspection and quality conversation. He is one of the people who are not only easy to talk to, but really listens and gives thought to what you are saying. Between the two of us there is never a shortage of topics. Through the years we have discussed everything from our visits to the gym, my writting and most recently my interesting adventures in purchasing a new vehicle.

It was during the discussion about my vehicle purchasing that Curtis brought up some poignant matters I would like to share with you. As he offered his outrage with some of the customer service I had experienced in my quest for a new form of transportation, he mentioned the struggles he faced while looking to hire a new member of their staff. We discussed how difficult it is to find individuals who have a sense of ownership over the job they do. Some of the challenges were making your job a priorty, realizing the workplace is not a platform to express one’s political or social beliefs, to the ability to interact and value the customer not only as a source of revenue but as a person. Something he and his wife are not only good at, but take pride instilling in their employees.

It is important to note that while I was enjoying this coversation with Curtis, we were also joined by my mother. We all came to the conclusion that there may not be enough importance placed on physical human interaction. A great deal of our social interaction comes in the form of social media and other digital platforms. Sadly, this can often be a place where manners and common courtesy are sacrificed in the name of social stature or even convincing someone your political opinion is the correct one. Curtis lamented the fact there were not more people who met ‘over a cup of coffee’. Not only would this be good for business but it would strengthen our human connection.

Why is a strong human connection so important? It is so important it can be a matter of life and death. When we form strong bonds it allows the opportunity to be vulnerable. On social media, and now often in the real world, people are afraid to ask for help. It would appear we are more worried about appearances than what is healthy for us. Without fostering deep personal relationships we can be left feeling things like hopeless, alone and depressed. We fear that asking for help can make us appear weak. The opposite is actually true. Being able to admit a situation, or sometimes life in general, has gotten the better of us takes a great deal more strength than pretending everything is ok. We can look to many people such as Robin Williams and Kate Spade who seemed to have it all but lacked the ability or resources to ask for help.

It is for these and many other important reasons that we should “Put down the phone and pick up a coffee cup.” as Curtis mentioned. Developing deep personal relationships can help us notice when something might not seem right with someone closest to us. Allowing people to share their emotions, fears and concerns over a lunch or a nice cup of coffee may be life-saving. It what can often be a digital and pharmaceutical world, we must remember the importance of developing and maintaining close personal relationships. It will benefit us. It will benefit the lives of those we love and care about.

I want to thank Curtis for this great reminder and the great conversation we shared. I want to thank the entire Urban Joe’s staff for being an example of what caring and wonderful people are like. If you need a reminder of what it takes to develop great relationships, you want to enjoy some great conversation filled with wit and wisdom or you just want a great cup of coffee, you owe it to yourself to stop in to Urban Joe’s today and ask for Curtis or Danie.

ASSUMING A SMILE

Today’s motivational thought come courtesy of my dear friend Kurt. That is him and his words in the picture above. When I read what he had to say it brought a very important reminder to light.

When we think of bringing joy to and helping others we usually focus our efforts on those in what we might view as compromising situations. That is important because those are the people who need it the most. Helping at a meal program, bringing items to the hopeless or reaching out to those who seem to be in pain are some of the most noble acts we can do.

Limiting our actions to just those people can be a mistake. Some of those who need our help the most can hide it the best. I recall a gentleman I worked with in the post office. This gentleman came to work every day with a smile and a joke. There were three of us who often worked together in this small office. We would share stories and on occasion we would all share a cocktail after work. One of the funniest men I have ever worked with. After being transfered for several months, I stopped back to help one day and noticed that gentleman was not there. I inquired as to whether he retired or simply had the day off. I was informed the found him in his basement. He had hung himself and left behind several children.

Never would I have imagined this man would have been suffering so greatly on the inside. Very few coworkers have ever made me laugh so hard and so often. The effect on the other gentleman we worked with was devastating. They had worked together more often and were far closer. I am sure that man felt that he should have known something was wrong. The truth is you would have never guessed.

This is the story of more people than we would dare to imagine. Although they may not be to the point of taking their own lives, their smile could be hiding a great deal of pain. That is why it is important to remember to treat everyone with respect and compassion. Let even the happiest of your friends know that you are there for them and that they have a safe place to vent with you. It may mean more than you know. I may just save someone’s life. 

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WHY I DO WHAT I DO


What you are looking at is a picture of a cup of coffee (in the background is my new laptop) Earlier today I was focused on the why of what I do. If you have read any self-improvement material, my own books included, you will know how important a why is. When your outside motivation is no longer present you why is the inner fire that keeps you going.

As I was pondering my reason for writing, something that was obvious became a strong why. I write to insipre others. On the surface that does not seem so extreme or complex. I write a motivational blog. I write self-improvement books. I teach seminars. I have an inspirational YouTube channel (just search Neil Panosian) With all of these resources it should be apparent that I enjoy and am passionate about motivating and encouraging others. Still the question remained in my mind, “Why do I enjoy doing this?” I am going to answer that question as well as why we started this post with the picture of a cup of coffee.

When I think about the cup of coffee I am drinking a lot of people are involved in making this situation possible. There is the obviously the Barista who crafted this coffee. There are the managers that keep the coffee shop running. There are the delivery drivers who transport the coffee. Of course the coffee growers who grow the product. If we look closer there are endless others involved as well. Who invented those crazy cardboard sleeves that keep your hands from being burned while holding your cup of caffeinated goodness? There are those who were involved in the production of the cup. How about the lid? Design with the vent hole and everything.

Ok, we get the picture. There are a lot of people involved in the creation of my cup of coffee. What does that have to do with writing and inspiring others? A great deal. If just one of these people were absent from the equation it may very well fall apart. What we do in our daily lives affects a great deal of others whether we know it or not. Everyone struggles. Everyone could use a little reassurance from time to time.

I never know who my words reach. I have been in contact with people in Italy, the Middle East and countless other locations. I know each one of these people, including you reading this, can accomplish great things. Perhaps all that is needed is a bit of motivation and inspiration.

Kindness and encouragement are gifts that are easy to share with others. We never know what their impact will be. I have done some work with the American Federation of Suicide Prevention. The statistics are frightening. In 2015, suicide and self-injury cost the US $69 billion. In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide. What is even worse is that there were 1,400,000 attempts that same year. In fact, in the U.S. suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. If we talk veterans the numbers skyrocket. A big part of my why is to help these numbers plumet.

Whether it is inspiring someone directly or providing others the tools they need to help those they care about. This why keeps me writing no matter how the stats are going or how many likes or comments I get. Find your why and use it to drive you. As you do, remember to be kind to each other. You never know what demons we are all facing.

YOU ARE MY HERO

In today’s world it seems a different superhero movie comes out every week. Add to that the countless sports that seem to hold championships. Recently I even saw a video game championship played out in front of a completely filled stadium! I’ve always questioned watching people play poker on television, I can’t bring myself to watch other people play video games on TV, much less stand in a packed stadium to do so.

It would seem the world is in great need of heroes. Guess who my hero is? It is you! The irony of all the hero worship I see is that heroes surround us everywhere and every day. You are one of these heroes!

How can I say you are a hero when I haven’t met a lot of you? I know you’re a hero because we are all struggling to get through this life. You might be a kid in the West Bank trying to get a great education while your country is being torn apartby civil strife. It may be you are a farmer in the Congo trying to make a living. Perhaps you are a single mother working three jobs just trying to support your family.

It is not always life challenges that make you a hero. Maybe from the outside your life looks great, but inside you are battling depression. Today might be another day you gave in to an addiction and you are trying not to lose hope. There are health challenges, financial challenges, social challenges and a mmillion other issues we are all doing our best to make it through.

When you see the employee at Starbucks keep their smile as a customer screams at them because their coffee has 2 ice cubes instead of three. That takes patience and they are my hero.

Whether you are working on keeping your faith or healing a broken heart, keep going because you are my superhero. Remember everyone we meet is working to overcome something. Treat them as the hero they are. That includes you.

SOMEONE NEEDS YOU!

Whenever I speak to an audience I am usually asked about how I became an author. If you have ever been to one of my seminars or heard me speak you will undoubtedly have heard the story of my high school English teacher. If not, let us say she encouraged me to do everything but write. At the time I couldn’t blame her. I had little to no interest in exploring the written word as a profession. Fast forward…umm…some years and here I sit with two books written, a blog with 1000 posts and several articles in major publications.

How did we get here? It started merely as an experiment in fixing my own life. As I discovered in twenty plus years working in the field of self-improvement, there are a lot of other people like me. Being an author for the last 6 years has taught me something else that I would like to share with you today. Everyone has a story within them. I don’t care if you think your life is as exciting as watching the grass grow, you have something someone out there needs.

Whether you are a stay at home parent, a busy professional or a high school student, there are millions who find themselves in the very situation you do. Perhaps they are looking for answers to some of the struggles you have overcome? Maybe they could benefit from hearing about some of the mistakes you have made so they could avoid them? Maybe they just need someone to relate to so they know they are not alone.

While you are working on your story, remember what you do is equally important. If you are a top CEO, or the person who cleans up after a top CEO, your service is needed. More to the point, you are needed. I have a friend who has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to plants and animals. Imagine how often I ask them things like, “I saw this bird/spider/chupacabra do you know what it is?” I have another friend who makes hand-crafted stuffed animals. How amazing would it be to give someone such a unique and wonderful gift? I have friends who are good at talking, some who are good at listening. Each and every one of them are as important to me as the next.

Whatever it is know that the world would be less without you doing it. Also know that someone would benefit from hearing your story. It could be about who you are, what you do or how you think. Inside of each and everyone of us is a best-seller that could change lives and change the world. Whatever you do, please to not die with your music still inside of you. It is just what someone needs to hear.

HOW CAN I LIVE WITHOUT YOU?

HOW DO I LIVE WITHOUT YOU? For those of us who have lived an appreciable amount of time this is a question we have asked. Maybe to ourselves, maybe to God, maybe to the universe or maybe to those who have passed away. We are left with words we wish we would have said, or things we wish we would have done with those we have lost. Even more often we see things that remind us of those who have passed on and we wish we could share those things with them.

What do we do with all of these thoughts? What do we do with all of this love? Let me begin by saying there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Whatever helps you get through is what you must do, as long is it does not bring harm to yourself or others. What I am about to share with you is what I feel not only helps me deal with loss, but helps others and honors those I am missing. If it doesn’t work for you that is ok. If you are looking for something to help you, it might be worth giving a try.

Why I am sharing this with you today? Last week I attended the Wisconsin State Fair, one of my favorite places to be. I even was fortunate enough to write several articles about the fair, including one for chow down in Milwaukee in which I mentioned going to the State Fair with my grandfather at least once a year. That sure made me miss that. It started to bring to mind people I have lost and what I always do to honor them.

In addition a few of the days I had parked a few blocks away next to a lady I had known for years in the neighborhood. This wonderful lady had lost her son a few years ago and was really having a tough time coming to terms with it. I cannot imagine the pain a parent would feel losing a child. It is something I wish no parent ever had to feel or go through. On a few occasions she stopped me to share stories about her son and how much she was still missing him. These moments often resulted in tears shared as well. She also shared stories with me from support groups she attended and what others in situations similar to hers were going through. Some of them were so painful I am not even going to share them here.

Needless to say, there are far too many parents going through this pain. With the rise of the opioid crisis, sadly the numbers look to be climbing. What solace can we offer anyone who has experienced a loss? That is the question that kept bouncing around in my head as I was hoping to offer something to this lady that would bring her even a measure of peace. What I told her is simply two things that I find work. Again, I am not sure they will help her, although I hope they do.

First, I mentioned keeping a journal in which she could write to her son. When she was having an especially hard night she could sit down and have a ‘conversation’ with her son. Sure, it is really a one-sided conversation, but it can be quite rewarding. From a practical standpoint it can help us get a better handle on what exactly we are feeling. The act of writing something down can bring a great amount of clarity. Especially it such an emotionally charged situation as death and grief.

It can also be a safe and healthy place to share our feelings. Sharing our feelings of sadness and grief each and every second can leave us wondering if we are being emotionally draining to others. Even if we have to most wonderful people in our lives who are extremely supportive, there are things we may not be comfortable sharing with others that we would want to say to our loved one who has left us.

The other idea I shared with her is an idea I began to put into practice when I lost my Grandmother. It has seen me through several moments of loss. That is doing what the picture above advocates. Taking the love that you have for that person you have lost and spreading it around. How do we manage to do this? Make sure you share what you feel with others. Never let a day go by without bringing light to another’s life.

The best way that I have found to honor others while healing myself is to do my best to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I recall my Grandmother being welcoming and hospitable. So now I do my best to be that way. Whether it is when I DJ shows with Margie or even having people over for dinner, I do my best to get them what they need and be a gracious host. Certainly, you will not be able to do everything the person who has passed away could do. That is part of what makes each person in this world such a special gift. My Grandmother made a great cheesecake. I simply do not share her talent for that.

I humbly offered to this lady there might be a way to share some of the light her son shared while he was alive. She thought and mentioned how at his funeral people in a wrestling chat room he belonged to told her how much he always cheered them up. She said, “Maybe I could join that chat room and cheer up those young men.” I told her that was one great idea and she could always come up with more as time went on.

Nothing will ever replace the loss of a loved one, nor should it. We feel sadness and pain because we loved and loved a great soul. If there are ways we can honor our loved ones and bring a measure of joy and happiness to our souls and the world around us I believe it is worth a shot. Again, I put this forth to you with humble suggestion. There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief, this is merely what works for me and I share it with you in hopes it may help you as well.

If there is another way you use that helps you with the pain and sense of loss you feel, please share it in the comments below. There are a lot of others who are hurting and by coming together we may be able to bring a measure of peace to them. At the very least we can let them know they are not alone.

STARFISH STORY

In my work there are many days in which I feel I am not creating the impact I would like. Stats may be down on my YouTube channel or blog post. Maybe there are not ‘likes’ or comments on a particular post and I can wonder, “Is anyone reading this?” My goal is to help create a world filled with positivity in which people can coexist despite their differences. I enjoy facilitating dialogue between parties in an effort to create an understanding, or at the very least a sense of compassion.

Most of us have days where we feel that we are just not making a difference. It can be professionally, personally or something different entirely. It is on those days I am reminded of the story above. There have been days people have come up to be and mentioned how my writing has affected them. Some say it has helped them make it through a hard time. Others mention that it helps them keep perspective. One gentleman even told me this website and what I write here helped him think twice when he pondered taking his own life. Often I find myself being humbled by these compliments. It is then I sit back, and like the little boy, can say “I made a difference to that one.”

Another aspect of helping that one person we must keep in mind is the ripple effect. By inspiring, helping or saving one person, you never know what they may go on to do for others. It is like the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. We not be able to see what the world would have been like if we had not been there, but rest assured you make a difference.

While I would enjoy thousands of likes and views on YouTube or Secret2anamazinglife.com, I must remember the difference I made in the lives I have and use that to continue. Every time I get behind the keyboard I think of the soul who feels they have no reason to go on. I imagine sitting across the table from the teenager who is pondering taking their own life after being the victim of a bully. I think of the single parent who just lost their job, or the person who just lost their spouse of many years. It is for these wonderful souls and countless others that I write what I do.

I encourage you to remember that if you positively affect even just one life, you are changing the world. I am constantly reminded how little we know how many people we affect when I run into someone who tells me although they never mention anything online, the read what I write everyday and it makes a big impact in their life. I usually respond that I never even knew they read my writing. I am sure there are many more people we all positively affect that we never know.

Keep being a light in the world of darkness. If someone has inspired you, let them know. It may be just the motivation they need to keep going. I personally cannot express how much it means to me to hear how my writing affects people. Every time I do I want to run to my laptop and write some more. I want to take a second and thank each and every person who has inspired me.

WE ARE LIVING MIRACLES

This is my friend Kyle and his girlfriend Jamie. Today is Kyle’s birthday. That is not the only reason I bring him to your attention today. Today is a day he will be celebrated by family and friends. They will celebrate his birth, his coming into this world. He will be the one receiving the material gifts, but the simple fact he is being thought of by so many others speaks to the fact of what a gift his life has been to them.

One of Kyle’s best traits is his humility. He may not think his life makes a great deal of difference in the grand scheme of the world. This is like many of us. We often fail to understand how the simple positive things we do affect the lives of others. Kyle, is a prime example. He is a barista at the local coffee shop I often write at. There are quite a few others that work with Kyle, but none that have his positive outlook and demeanor. His compassion for, and attitude towards his customers is second to none.

Being a friendly barista may not seem like something that can change the world, and I know Kyle may not think so, but to me, nothing is further from the truth. What we never know is the story of the people in front of us. Even close friends may not share everything that is on their mind or in their hearts. Imagine a complete stranger in a coffee shop.

How much is a positive word worth to you? How much would a smile affect you if you were having a bad day? They are priceless. You cannot buy genuine caring no matter how much money you have. Kyle gives this freely. He genuinely cares about his fellow man. In the course of career I cannot begin to imagine how many smiles he has brought to the faces of his customers and how much joy he has put in the hearts of those he has met. It would not surprise me if he has directly, or indirectly saved the lives of people who may have came in feeling their lives did not matter. He did all of this by simply being himself.

To be sure Kyle has days when he does not live up to his own expectations, as we all do. I had the honor of interviewing him and Jamie for an upcoming book of mine and learned that one of the reasons they are perfect for each other, is they realize each other is not perfect. The next time Kyle is feeling down, or does something to disappoint himself or others I hope he remembers what a gift his life is and how many miracles he has created simply by sharing the love he has for his fellow man.

Yes, today is Kyle’s birthday and we are celebrating his birth and life, but we only do so because of the difference it has made in our lives. I want to take a second to wish this fine example of a human being the happiest of birthdays followed by many more.

I encourage all of you to tag someone in this post that you feel creates miracles in the lives of others. Let them know what a difference they make.

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM SAD EVENTS

Many of you may know that the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, committed suicide on July 20th. There is a very important lesson we can take from this. By all accounts Chester can be considered a man who had it all, at least how it is defined in modern society. He was a famous front man of a popular band who had sold millions of records. He had a large bank account which allowed him access to almost any material thing he could desire. He had millions of adoring fans. He had a family.

If a man who seemingly has it all can find himself in a place where he feels ending his life is his best option, what about the rest of us? What about the man who just lost his job? The woman who has been the victim of sexual assault? A category that really stands out is Veterans. After seeing the horrible things that man can do to each other in the name of war, and maybe even having to do some of them as well, how can they deal with the reality of that?

In case you have not been personally touched by suicide or think it is something that just happens to somebody else, please allow me to share a few statistics from the American foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp) According to their website

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US
  • each year 44,193 Americans die by suicide
  • for every suicide there are 25 attempts.

If you multiply the last 2 stats that means over one million people were at a place emotionally that they tried to take their own lives. Although I am certainly filled with love and compassion for those individuals, I am also often frustrated that we lose so many amazing souls each and every day. This blog is all about living an amazing life, so to see so many losing theirs breaks my heart.

Being a solution oriented person, the question that screams in my mind loud as can be is this, “What can we do to help?” This is both a complicated and simple question. The reasons for suicide are as diverse as the people affected by it. Even a quick glance at the statistics page on the AFSP website can shine a light on some ways to help. Native Americans have the highest rate of suicide, the rate of suicide is highest in middle age, and many more insights. I highly recommend visiting their website, a link will be listed at the end of this blog. There you can find ways to help including, but not limited to, joining your local chapter of AFSP, knowing the warning signs, walks to bring awareness and a host of other valuable information.

On a personal level I encourage you to do 2 more simple things that can make a big difference. First, occasionally inquire with all of your friends, whether they are seemingly doing well or not. If the death of Mr. Bennington taught us anything is that someone who seems to be doing quite well can be silently suffering. When you do ask, take time to really listen. That is what can truly make a difference. Second, and I find this to be fun, genuinely compliment everyone you know. I am not talking about some silly flattery, but letting them know how much they mean to both you and the world. Do they make you laugh? Have they given you a good memory that helps you through the tough times? Imagine what a difference you could make in their life no matter where they are emotionally. Being genuinely appreciated is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another.

LINK FOR THE AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION