ARE REAL FRIENDS FOUND HERE?

Today’s post is going to look at one of the more hotly debated places to make friends. In fact, this is not actually a geographical location at all. The place we are talking about is online. I have heard people say that online friends are not real friends. Perhaps this stems from the fact that people can be less than truthful about who they are. Profile pictures can photo shopped, facts can be embellished, even names can be changed. I can understand all of these concerns. Even in the ‘real world’ people can be dishonest and deceiving.

With over 7 billion people on the planet I feel it would be doing ourselves a great disservice to only count those among our physical location as friends. There are people who live halfway across the world that might hold the information we need. The person that could relate to your situation the best and offer you some insight and encouragement may not only be outside your city, but might be outside your country. Personally, I work with an amazing publisher in Los Angeles, Aura, who has helped my writing to grow. I speak with an author in Romania, Andrada, who is going to interview me in the future and who understands the struggles of being a hard-working author.

This website you are now reading has allowed me to interact with people on 6 different continents and over 100 different countries. By remaining open to learning and becoming friends with these wonderful souls my life has improved by leaps and bounds! I look forward to traveling to Fiji in the near future and have already made some connections there through my writing. I have learned about different cultures, food, music and holidays. Being a self-improvement author and speaker, I have also seen how much we all have in common. Everyone has the desire to feel important. Whether you are a farmer in Greenland or a prince in the UAE, we all wish to be loved.

Today, the love of my life reminded me of something even better than all you can receive by being friends with those halfway around the world. That is being able to give. While having dinner with Margie and my mother, my love stated that I have no idea how many lives I have touched without even knowing it. My mother brought up the ripple effect. How every life we touch can end up touching another. Through this giving we can improve the lives of an entire community clear across the world. Seldom does it matter where an inspiring word comes from if sent with love and good intentions.

Are online friends real friends? I say absolutely. Some of my greatest advice and most wonderful inspiration has come from afar. We must remember to maintain a sense of balance with friends online and friends in the physical world. I encourage you to reach out to people in different countries and cultures. Join online communities dedicated to your interests.

A GREAT MOTIVATIONAL EXAMPLE

I am always on the lookout for examples and ideas that can help us live a more positive and rewarding life. Today one such example was made clear to me. I am going to share this tale with you as I think it is something we can all use to keep us focused and motivated to stay on the right track.

Recently, my mother was cleaning out a room in her house and had come across some boxes of my old toys and such. Wanting to clean out her house and not wanting to just throw these items away she asked…no she told me to come get them. They included toys from G.I. Joe, Star wars and other such items. After loading them into my car and carrying them down into my basement I had no idea what to do with them. I knew that I wasn’t going to sit down and play with them. I knew they had some value, but am not very talented or well-versed on things like eBay or online selling. I put a message on my Facebook page wondering if there was anyone who might be interested.

One of the more helpful replies I received was from a high school friend named Bill. Apparently Bill was an avid Star wars collector and would be interested in taking a look at what I had. After a few false starts because of my health issues, we got together this evening. Bill informed me that he had recently left his job and began to work from home. I am always interested in stories where people make such a radical change in their lives and what is behind it.

After handling the matter of the toys transaction I asked what he did from home. He explained he sold on eBay. The story he told me is what I would like to share with you. Bill had been working Third shift in an injection molding factory for about 20 years. One Thursday evening/Friday morning he was told he would have to work the next day and it was mandatory. He felt like that was the last straw. We have all had that moment at our jobs at one point or another. I know I have. If you haven’t, you are extremely fortunate and have a great job. What Bill did next is what most of us do not have the comfort to do, he turned around and walked out. Now working from home selling on eBay he has time to take his daughter to school and go on field trips, all while earning a living.

This story is good enough to be inspiring, but there was one more detail I thought would  benefit all of us here.  Whether you are an author working on your next book, a song writer working to create that next hit, or even a blog writer trying to positively affect the world, there can be times that motivation to continue seems to wane. It is then we need to remember our ‘why’. We should have our goal in front of us daily to drive us. Not only to remind us of where we wish to go, but why we started in the first place. The day that Bill left his job he still was wearing his work shirt. He told me today that work shirt hangs right by his computer to remind him why it is important he succeed in his eBay career. It also reminds him of what the world he left was like and all he has to be grateful for with his work-from-home position.

Do you have a job you want to leave? Are you pursuing your passion on the side? Do you have to miss important dates and family gatherings because your boss needs you on the job? Are you wishing (or in my case needing) that tropical vacation? Find something to motivate you to stay focused. A picture of the islands, a picture of your current job, a picture of your soulless boss or any other such thing that will remind you of what you are chasing, and what will be the result if you give up. Use both the pleasure and the pain. Please share with the rest of our readers what you use for motivation.

MY FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR!!!

As you are reading this post I will be at the Wisconsin State fair. Today is the first day of the 11 day long festival. It is by far my favorite thing to look forward to all year. In the past I have stressed how important it is to have events to look forward to throughout the year. This is by far the one I look forward to the most. There is also a winter vacation, the bike expo, the first day of spring and many others, but the state fair is the biggest.

If I were someone who sat back and let life happen to them I would enjoy  this festival to the fullest for 11 days straight and them be sad when it is over. To some extent that is what happens, but I advocate and practice getting every last drop of joy out of life you possibly can. How do I apply this to the Wisconsin State Fair and how can you apply it to activities you look forward to in life? Let us take a look and start coming up with a few ideas.

First, as you can see by the photo above, spend the activity you love with the people you love the most. This is a picture of my lovely Margie and I on the sky glider last year. Margie and I have a wonderful relationship and both work hard to keep it that way and improve it all year long. We are always on the way to increase the amazing love we already share with each other. Being with her at one of my favorite places where I am extremely excited and happy provides a great opportunity to create life-long memories that will keep us smiling for a long time. It also increases the love and connection I feel with her. Having happy and joyous memories at my favorite place with my lady just leaves me with a feeling of love and gratitude for who I share my life with. In addition to Margie, I plan to enjoy days at the State Fair with my mom, and many of our friends. Together we will all create happy and joyous memories.

Then there is the planning. There is so much fun in just exploring and seeing what we discover. Making sure there are a few things we know we will enjoy is important as well. To that end we always look at the preview guide that comes out a few weeks ahead of the fair. There we discover bands we may like to see, food we may like to try and many other fun things to look forward to. This year we are even planning on an art walk they have to see many artistic displays featured in the park. There is also a garden walk in which you are shown different displays of greenery and how they are cultivated. Both walks feature a prize upon completion and are completely free.

Pictures. This may sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes those are the easiest to forget. Taking pictures of the fun activities you experience and the great, and sometimes no so great, food we try will give us something to look back on for years to come. This keeps the great memories alive after the event, and sadly sometimes after the people have passed. In the past year with all of the loss Margie and I experienced, videos and pictures have proved to be a invaluable link to the past and those we care about. This has brought to our attention the importance of capturing all the joy as it occurs.

Being present. In contrast to being behind a camera or cell phone to capture the joy that is occurring, there is the act of being present. Noticing the taste of what you are eating, the people you are sharing the moment with, or in my case the smile on the face of the beautiful blonde lady next to you. There is so much beauty to behold in life that we must remain alert to soak it all in.

These are just some of the ways I will enjoy the Wisconsin State Fair this year. Add to that my new career as a food critic and I will have plenty of chances to practice that. I welcome you to share your ideas on how I, and all of our readers can make their special moments even more special in the comments below.

TIME TO ESCAPE

This was my view at about 7:30 this morning as I prepared to go for a bicycle ride. Only a small journey from where this picture is taken is a small clearing I like to go to and think, read or just relax. It not only provides me a nice walk in the park, but it gives me a place to recharge my soul.

In today’s busy world where we are constantly surrounded by people and technology, it can be hard to escape. That is why this weekend I recommend you have an escape. If you don’t have a special spot like mine, it may be a good time to start pondering where a good place for you might be. Ideally, this place should be a spot in nature. Losing all of the urban sounds that we experience daily will give you more peace than you can imagine. Even if you live in the heart of the city, find a park like I did where you may not be able to escape the sounds of the modern world entirely, but you can lose yourself by focusing on the sounds of nature. The wind blowing through the trees, birds singing, maybe even a small brook or creek near by.

The other caveat about selecting a spot is it should be somewhere you can be alone. As you can see in the photo above, you might have some visitors from time to time. In a world filled with constant interaction, whether it be in person, or now even on social media when we are by ourselves, finding time to spend with the person in the mirror is far and few between. Isn’t it great to spend time with others? Of course it is, but without spending time alone with our thoughts we can end up feeling lost. What do I mean by this? That is a great question. Let me ask you something and you tell me if it rings true for you. Have you ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed? Have you ever walked into a room and forgot if you were coming or going?

A lot of us are so focused on giving to others we forget to stop and think of what we may need or what our goals for our life is. We are focused on giving to our families, our job and our friends. There is nothing wrong with helping others and being a productive member of society. If we do that at the expense of ourselves we can end up feeling burnt out and unable to give anything to anyone.

Take time to escape this weekend. Spend at least 30 minutes alone and preferably in nature. If you are anything like me you will leave not only recharged, but with a sense of joy and inner peace you did not have when you arrived. Begin to think of your spot today and escape with yourself this weekend. I would love to hear how it affected you. Feel free to come back to this post on Monday and share in the comments below. Even though you will be by yourself, you never know who you will meet.

SO GRATEFUL…

This picture all but brings tears of joy and excitement to my eyes. Why? Am I a freak about cartography? Not exactly. This picture, not exactly clear, is a map of all the countries of the world. The exciting part is that all of the red,orange and yellow countries are ones where someone has read my writing. It amounts to well over 100 countries. If, five years ago when I started this website you had told me I would affect the lives of people in over 100 countries I would have been hard-pressed to believe you. with followers numbering in the tens of thousands, daily my words have the potential to bring joy to a lot of hearts and minds. I view that as not only a great reward, but a great responsibility.

The countries that are not colored in excite me as well. They simply mean there are even more people that I can positively impact. Although I am not exactly sure what has prevented my words from reaching them so far, (Greenland and Iceland what does a fellow have to do?) but it keeps me working hard each and every day. The joy I have in reading comments from people across the globe from Armenia to Zimbabwe fills my heart with more joy than I can convey.

I just wanted to take a moment and keep all of you up to date as to how many lives we can all touch through this website. Whether it is a comment, like, share or sending me an idea of something you would like me to write about, our words reach readers in ever corner of the world. I look forward to reaching and connecting with more of you in the future.

If you would like to leave a suggestion for a topic to be covered on this website, tell the story of how it has affected your life, or simply say what corner of the world you read it in and hello to myself and our other readers that would be amazing!

FRIENDS WITHOUT BORDERS

This here a picture of myself and my good friend Johnny on St. Patrick’s day. I was working as a DJ at a local club that night. The story I am about to tell you serves as an example of several things. First, how small indeed the world is today. Second, how foolish things like racism and prejudice are. Third and finally, the benefits of being nice and sociable.

The back story is as follows. Johnny is a good friend of my lady, Margie. He has been a regular performer at her shows for quite some time. Before I met Johnny, Margie told me, “I think you are really going to like this guy.” She was indeed correct. Before I had the chance to discover that, however, there was some waiting involved. The reason for this waiting was due to the fact that Johnny lives in Mexico and only comes to visit at most a few times a year.

Through the last couple of visits he has read a lot of my writing and has found some things he can relate to. In fact, recently he has shared my book with people in the great state of Texas as well as other places. He has offered some very insightful feedback that has caused my writing to develop in ways it may not have otherwise. We have had some great discussions including sitting down for breakfast recently. These conversations has given birth to some great ideas that have been on this blog site and in my next book.

Speaking of books, recently Johnny has informed me that he is working on a book himself. He shared the plot with me and I must confess it sounds like a great story. I’ll update details as the situation develops. We discussed writing styles, publishing ins and outs as well as other ideas. There is no doubt his book will be a success. It is in a totally different genre than I write, but we certainly had a lot to discuss as the process and struggles of writing are the same regardless of content.

Johnny’s creativity is not limited to being a potential best-selling author. He also has several CDs available on cdbaby.com just search ‘Johnny L’. The style of his music is also something I am a fan of, classic standards from Elvis to Frank Sinatra. If you are a fan of this music or just great talent in general, I highly recommend giving him a listen.

The point of this post is several fold. If I were to make a sweeping judgment about people from the great country of Mexico I might not have the great benefits that my friendship with Johnny provides. If both Margie and I were not outgoing and genuinely friendly to the people at our shows Johnny would not have spent the time to become friends with us either. If it wasn’t for technology communication between all of us would be limited to just those few times a year. Whether you are from Mexico, Jamaica or Fiji shouldn’t matter. It is how you treat people and what you can bring to their lives. Technology is not limited by borders or culture, neither should your friendship be.

WHY NOT?

This picture really says it all. If you are alive right now, you should be enjoying your life to the fullest. Sure, you might not have the perfect body, you might not have the perfect job and unless you are as lucky and blessed as I am you might not have the perfect mate. So what!

You are alive and the possibility to improve exists. You can become healthier, wealthier and whatever else you are chasing. While working towards whatever goal you have there is one thing you should had to the top of any goal, no matter what that goal is. What should be included in any list you have whether it is goals, to do, or even shopping lists, somewhere on that list you should have some version of these words – enjoy and have fun during the process.

Why? A better question is, “Why Not?” We only go once around the ride and if you are not finding ways to enjoy your life, you are wasting it. Want to get in shape? Maybe start walking with a friend? Sharing your progress online with a supportive group of people. Looking for that perfect person to share your life with? Maybe find entertainment in the ‘unique’ people you will no doubt have to go through. Stuck in a job you dislike? Be grateful for as many things as you can in that job even if it is just the motivation to look for something better for yourself.

I know people who actually do the very opposite of this. See if this sounds familiar. You are at a fabulous all-inclusive resort in the tropics. The sun is shining, the love of your life is across from you with a big smile on their face. Suddenly, from the table next to you a voice can be heard. It is a man complaining his burger is too well done. Not only is he complaining about it, but he seems to be almost obsessing about it. Then he adds how dry the bun is. Forget that the weather is perfect, you can smell the ocean and flowers and birds are everywhere, his hamburger is dry. Sound ridiculous? Some people really live this way. Don’t be one of them. If your burger is dry, take a nice slow slip of rum and say to yourself with a chuckle, “Next time I will get the jerk chicken.”

How can we enjoy the process? There are several ways. Ask yourself questions like these, “What can I be grateful for in this situation?” “What can I find that I love?” Also look for the humor is challenging situations. If all else fails, shake your head and say, “At least I am going to have a good story.” Remember every bad day only serves to make us more grateful for the good ones. Let us all remember to enjoy our life to the fullest.

THE ONE THING YOU SHOULD DO FIRST TO CREATE AN AMAZING LIFE

Through the course of my writing here and in my books you will find a wealth of tools to help improve the quality of life. Use any of them and they will increase the level of joy, satisfaction and success you have in your life. There is one thing that will make all of them work even better. It is the most important thing you can do to begin to live a life you not only can be proud of, but enjoy living. It is so important that you should add it to every goal you write down, every New Year’s resolution you have and make it a part of your daily routine.

What could be so important? Before you start wondering if this is something you have ‘time’ to do, let me reassure you that it will take no extra time at all. It will take some extra effort in terms of remembering, but even putting forth this effort will bring a smile to your face. It would not be too over the top to say this would be a matter of life and death. Reason being, when you do this, life comes alive. You have excitement. The little things not only cease to get you down, you can view them in a more positive light.

Here is, in my opinion, the most important thing you can do to transform your life positively. Enjoy the journey. That may sound very simple and basic, but it is life altering. How many times have you heard, or even said, “I’ll be happy when…” Roughly 90% of our life is spent on our way from here to there. Even when you achieve the goal you are working towards, you can end up with a feeling of let down if you are not prepared with another.

If we spend 90% of our lives on a journey, we should do our best to find ways to enjoy that journey. A great example is when I began focusing on gratitude. If I chose to wait until I developed a grateful attitude to be happy, I would miss all of the great things I discovered on my journey there. Even when I messed up and began to focus on what I perceived as being ‘wrong’ with my life, I was excited because I knew that is what would eventually fade away.

As well as any tool of self-improvement has worked for me, enjoying the process of using it has been the greatest thing I have learned to do. When you are enjoying the journey of life, challenges become redefined as stepping stones. This may seem like putting on rose-colored glasses, but that is not true. We can seldom control, and then only to a limited degree, what happens in our life. What we have complete control over is what it means to us and how we can use it.

One of the journeys most of us seem to be on is one of becoming more financially comfortable. Instead of saying “I’ll be happy when I can afford a new car.” Which I did utter with the PT cruiser quite a bit, soak in that feeling. Not that you should relish in a bad feeling, but realize that is what it is showing you. Then focus on how great you will feel when your goal is accomplished. About the 832nd time my PT cruiser was at the repair shop (Only a slight exaggeration) I remember thinking how terrible it was to have to take time off of work to spend money so I could get to work. Then I remembered, I was one step closer to getting there. Of course I would loved to not have been there, but it was teaching me patience, allowing me to practice a lot of the tools I write about, preparing me to be grateful for the car I would have, among a million other things.

You may be thinking that is easy for you to do, but not me. It wasn’t in the beginning. Sitting in an auto repair shop watching your Jamaican vacation take the shape of a new muffler, it is hard to discover the joy in that. I managed to, and if a man with seasonal affective disorder can do that in the middle of the Wisconsin winter, so can you. It takes asking yourself new questions. “How can I use this?” “What else could this mean?” Not only asking yourself these questions, but coming up with positive answers. Trust me when I tell you this doesn’t happen overnight so do not get discouraged when the first answer you brain spits back at you is “Nothing! This situation sucks!” Certainly, it may not be your first choice, but what you do with that situation is 100% up to you. If you just sulk and dwell in the negative emotion it first gave you there is nobody to blame but you. This is not an easy change and will take a lot of practice, but enjoying the journey of life will transform your life and make everything else more enjoyable.

If I had one gift to leave this world when I am gone, it would be to help everyone enjoy the journey more. To that end, please not only share your suggestions for doing so in the comments below, but your challenges as well. Let us start a healthy conversation and help each other enjoy the journey we are all a part of, the journey of life.