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.

30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE (DAY #27)

Welcome back to our celebration of 30 days of gratitude. Each day we will focus on one area of our life to be grateful for. If this is your first day doing this I invite you to go back and do the days before this. You can do them in your head, write them down and home, but it is my hope you decide to share what you are grateful for with our community here on Secret2anamazinglife.com. There are no rules. Do one day or do all 30. Let us now look at today’s area of gratitude.

What small thing that we use daily are we grateful for? I love these questions that cause us to think about things that may slip our minds in the regular course of life. A popular answer to this question I assume would be ‘cell phone’. After all, we can use it to listen to music, check our email, enjoy social media, navigate and read great blogs like this one. Quite a powerful tool for something that can fit into our pockets. The folks at Google, Samsung and Apple are always giving us new and improved ways to put this pocket-sized device to work for us.

What other small things that we use daily can we be grateful for? How about our credit/debit cards? We can have access to our money without carrying around a bunch of bills or ending up with a pocket full of change at the end of the day. There is no counting just a slide of the card and we are off. We can use them to pay for things online or over the phone. This allows us to order things that may be out of reach for us and certainly allows us to get them quicker.

How about something as simple as a travel mug? Being able to have a container that allows me to take a cup of hot coffee with me when I leave for work at 4a.m. is a God send. The fact that many of them keep this coffee warm for hours, or at the very least until the car warms up, makes them worth their weight in gold. Imagine trying to hold a regular mug while driving. Not only would your mouth not be able to enjoy your hot coffee, but your lap probably would. Yes, travel mugs are a small thing I use daily that I am grateful for.

I’m sure given a few more minutes of thought I could easily double this list and then some. That is the beauty of this 30 day gratitude challenge. If asked out of the blue what small thing you use daily that you are grateful for, many of us would struggle to answer, or give the quick answer such as ‘cell phone’. If we sit for even a few minutes and think of answers the list becomes quite extensive.

This is true not just for some objects we use daily, but for life in general. If you give it a little thought you will discover just how many things in life there are to be grateful for. 

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING! 🙂

AN INJECTION WE ALL NEED

In my book A Happy Life for Busy People, I advocate creating a ‘happy playlist’ for when life throws you a challenge. This also works well when your inspiration seems to be lacking. When Margie and I are about to DJ a show and I am just not feeling it I usually make some of the first few songs we play ones that get me fired up so I can do a good job for the people that are there for the show. Sometimes you just need a little injection of inspiration, and often times music is a quick and easy fix.

There is another element that I rely on to give me an extra boost of inspiration and that is people. Before we all bust out into a rendition of Use Somebody by Kings of Leon, let me explain what I am saying. After a tough day at my job in the US Post Office, or even after a long seminar or book signing I cannot wait to get back to the loving arms of my beautiful Margie. She can be so good at providing a sense of peace and repose. She also can provide love, encouragement and humor. I am grateful for her each and every day.

Just the other evening I had the pleasure of getting together for coffee with my good friend Nick. Both of us share with each other our thoughts on spirituality, motivation and all things metaphysical. When I leave the company of my good friend I not only am fired up to share some of the great conclusions we discussed, but also have learned a great deal by sharing a hot cup of coffee and a great conversation with my friend. I am also very grateful for Nick and the conversations we share.

Think about your life, do you have certain people who bring out the best in you? Maybe you have others that inspire you to be your best? It might serve you well to make a list of those people and what joy they bring into your life. Then, make a conscious effort to spend more time around them. Your life will automatically become one filled with passion and inspiration.

YOU NEED TIME FOR THIS

All of us have things in life that we don’t like to do. Cleaning the bathroom, doing the dishes, waking up early on our day off. Life is full of things that drain our happiness as well as our energy. The crazy thing is we really drag these items out. I am not necessarily talking about the actual act of doing them, although in some cases that might happen too. What I mean is we start dreading them long before we actually begin them. In the course of doing them often we can spend as much time complaining as we do acting. If we don’t do so out loud, we often spend countless moments cursing under our breath.

What I am suggesting? Certainly not whistling and dancing with one hand, toilet brush in the other? Not exactly, but if you can find a way to do that let me know. What I am advocating is striving for a little balance. We can do this in two ways. First, spend time every day on something you enjoy. Whether that is eating a Kit Kat or a taco. Maybe it is sitting down to a nice relaxing cup of coffee or tea. Perhaps listening to your favorite music? Whatever your moment of bliss is, make sure to schedule it. When you do, spend a few minutes getting excited about it before you actually begin. Think about how good that Kit Kat will taste, or imagine what toppings you will get on your taco. Hard shell, soft shell or both? Think about the scent of the coffee brewing or the feel of the warm liquid as you sip it. Then pay attention as you prepare the activity. Get excited as you brew the coffee. Smell the tea bag as you open it.

Lastly, be present while you are engaged in the activity. I can’t recall the times I have been looking forward to a particular dinner and I am half way through before I really slow down to enjoy the taste. With the delicious meals Margie creates that is about as close to a sin as you can get. Slow down and pay close attention to every detail of happiness. Why not? Enjoy it to the fullest. Use as many of your senses as you can. Feel the chocolate melt in your mouth as you eat the Kit Kat. Hear the crunch as you bite into it. Smell the chocolate. Enjoy the look of the perfectly formed wafers. Taste all the mix of flavors with each bite.

Second, try if you can, to incorporate some things that make you happy into some of the activities you dread. Of course you shouldn’t have a Kit Kat in hand and a toilet brush in the other. The potential for disaster certainly looms in that one. If you can however turn up some great music while you work, why not? Maybe treat yourself to a Kit Kat or taco after you finish cleaning the bathroom. I would, however, recommend washing your hands. It may even give you a little joy in what otherwise would be an arduous task.

Let us all schedule some bliss in our day. When we do let us make full use of it. Drink every last drop of joy and happiness out of the situation. Be totally present and treat it as a sort of mini vacation if you can. I would be elated to learn some of your moments of bliss. What activities bring joy into your life? Share them in the comments below!

THE JOY OF TECHNOLOGY

This is an interesting post for me. On days I view technology as a necessary evil. We are all aware of the problems technology causes. Distracted drivers, people losing the ability or desire for personal contact. The inability to remain present. I am as guilty as anyone. Checking my Facebook or LinkedIn instead of striking up conversations with people in the waiting room. The thought of a day at the beach or in the woods with no cell phone, just nature is one I relish.

Still, technology does a lot for us. This was brought to my attention with an awesome person in my neighborhood. A wonderful lady who lives just a few blocks from me was telling me how she wishes for a time like I described above, just nature, those we love and our thoughts. This neighbor, Linda, has some of the most insightful thoughts on my blogs, and gives me great encouragement and motivation to keep working. She shares stories from her life that often parallel what my blog is about, or sometimes even contradict it. This is a great blessing because it causes me to approach the subject from a different angle. We have lots in common. We both like nature, coffee and have amazing people in our lives that love to cook for us. Here is the funny thing about Linda and I, we have never met.

Linda and I began to interact on a neighborhood app called ‘Next Door’. For two people who are fairly keen on taking breaks from technology, I am sure grateful it brought us together. In fact, recently I have had the pleasure of actually meeting some neighbors in person that I may have never met if they did not see my lovely Margie and myself on Next Door first. Andrew, it was great running into you at the grocery store, and Laura I look forward to running into you again at the Peanut and Jelly Deli next time Margie and I are there.

You see as I was thinking of how many amazing people I have met through these apps, and how I look forward to meeting them in person. Not to mention, ‘meeting’ each other online first increases the likely hood of a conversation when we run into each other in person. Something that may never happen without technology. To that end, technology has actually increased personal interaction. When I factor that in with the fact that these apps, along with others have allowed me to share my thoughts and positivity with many more people than I could on my own, I am indeed grateful. Therefore sites like Google +, Facebook, Word Press, Twitter and others all have their place. It is realizing that balance between interacting online and in person.

This week let us appreciate technology and focus on how it can bring us closer. Let us do this while still focusing on fostering our personal interactions. Not to mention when you are having a tough day, there is nothing better than a cute silly picture from the one you love. Trust me on this one. Margie has mastered the art of sending pictures that both melt my heart and bring a smile to my face!

WATCH YOUR COFFEE!

Here is an interesting metaphor I learned recently that I would like to share with you.  I am always on the lookout for symbols that can serve to remind me of my goal of living the most amazing life I can.  I like coffee.  Ok that last statement could be a slight understatement.  Frequently I find myself at Starbucks either working on my book or even composing some of these posts.  Now before I get to my next point I have to address the voice of my good friend Kim in the back of my head saying “I don’t drink coffee”.  Trust me this could work just as well with a diet Coke.  Next time you get a cup of coffee, or whatever it is you care to consume, think of it as your mind.  Now while waiting in line at the coffee shop I have heard some VERY specific things people like, and do not like in their coffee.  Funny thing is these same people are not nearly as careful as to what they put in their minds.  We must be diligent as to what we let in and keep out of our thoughts on a daily basis.  If we happen to leave this up to chance what will we be greeted with?  I can only share this with you.  I watched the news to try to catch the weather a few nights ago.  What I saw will seem like an exaggeration, but it was the honest truth.  In the first 5 minutes of the news I heard of 3 homicides and 2 house fires, one that took the life of a young woman.  Never did make it to the weather.  It is not only the media we have to look out for, even some of our closest friends and family.  Sounds pretty mean at first blush, but let me explain it using the coffee method.  If a complete stranger walks up and puts some poison in your coffee what will happen?  Answer, you will die.  Now let’s say your closest friend, even on accident spills some of that same poison in your coffee what will happen?  Same result, you will die.  Now this may sound extreme, but that is exactly what negative thoughts are to a healthy mind, poison.  How many times have you had lunch with a friend who happened to be having a bad day and proceeded to tell you how bad the government is, how the economy is on the verge of collapse and other such inspiring thoughts.  You may very well end up leaving lunch at the very least a little less inspired.  The flip side of this is we must not poison anyone else’s coffee.  Before you start venting all of your negative beliefs on your friends, family or co-workers, look them in the eye and ask yourself “would I want to poison this person?” because that is what you are doing to their mind.  So when you get your next latte from Starbucks, or your next diet Coke from the vending machine, stop and think about what you would let somebody put in there.  Let it serve as a great reminder to watch your own thoughts, feelings and emotions.  Watch your own coffee.