WORK IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT

Today is Halloween so I will share a scary story with you. As most of you know, I have a day job at the United States Postal Service. In addition to the monetary aspect, it also allows me to practice many of the tools I put forth here. I always strive to be a source of positivity and help my coworkers foster a sense of gratitude and joy. As a matter of course, I always welcome the mail carriers back when they return from their routes. I also routinely ask my coworkers if they are having a good day or having fun at the moment. A gentle reminder that while doing our best to get our jobs done, we can still focus on having fun. Most of the time this is met with some jocularity and on occasion, some comments of encouragement of their own.

There is one young lady, however, that seems quite sunshine challenged. When I inquired if she was having a good day she informed me in no uncertain terms that I should never ask her that as long as she is at work because the answer will always be ‘no’. After 21 years of working there, I am no stranger that the Post Office can supply some challenging situations, as can any job. There are days that are tough, and days that are not. I could not imagine going to some place every day where you know with certainty that you will have a bad day, and doing so voluntarily.

This young lady is a carrier on what they call a ‘rural route’. This means she seldom has to leave her truck and drives up to the mailbox to put the mail in. I think on a nice spring or fall day driving around in a rural setting listening to your favorite music all while getting paid a good wage could sound nice to some people. Sure, there are days when it is raining, or here in Wisconsin snowing, that I can imagine driving for several hours could be a drag, but not every day. How could this be?

The answer was supplied to me last Saturday. This young lady called me over to her case where she sorts her mail. She handed me the scanner all carriers use and said in a rather angry tone, “This is the f*&king sh*t I have to deal with!” I glanced at the scanner. On it was a warning to pay attention to the signs of heat stroke. On this day we were experiencing an early October snow storm. Ironic? For sure. Funny? I thought so. As far as something she had to put up with, I found a message that could easily be deleted and even laughed at to be not that big of a deal. Her perception was that everything was against her and that this was a large obstacle. When viewed through a filter of that nature any job will seem terrible.

This brings to mind a great reminder. We have the option to how we see things. We can find the humor, or we can find the frustration. We can find the gratitude, or the lack. We can find the joy, or we can find the pain. It is all up to us. When we look for the good in things it can transform our days and jobs into things we enjoy, or certainly do not dread.

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

ARE YOU THE CANDLE OR THE MIRROR?

It took me a while to truly grasp the power of this quote. The candle represents sources of light in the world. It could be good-looking and charming authors who double as postal workers, social workers, emergency workers, great parents and teachers, religious and spiritual leaders or anyone else who inspires us or makes the world a better place. In some ways I think we are all candles, or at least have the ability to be so. In being the best at whatever we do we set an example for the world to follow. Even the shyest and most reserved of us have opportunities to be kind to others.

The mirror represents those who promote those who are candles. This can range from sharing a motivational website that inspires you with others, to showing appreciation to wonderful people who make a difference in your life. Did a teacher or coach push you to be the best you can be? By telling others that story you bring to light how special they are. This holds true for talking good about anyone. Did your spouse do something thoughtful for you? By sharing the joy they gave to you it brings more light and positivity to the world. This is a double-edged sword. Imagine what we do when we complain and share with others the terrible things people do?

I find by both being a candle to inspire others as well as a mirror to reflect the flame of the fabulous people I come across is the way that I can bring the most light into the world. Starting today, do your best to not only be an inspiration to others, but to recognize and help share those that inspire you as well.

WHAT YOU ARE MISSING

I live in a nice city called West Allis. I work in a different city about a 40 minute drive away. This can make for some exciting days especially in winter. In many ways I have learned to relish the drive as it gives me time to think, or listen to audio books. I love learning and am grateful for the time the drive affords me to do so.

Recently, I have been listening to the book The Power which is the sequel to the popular book The Secret. Both are books on the law of attraction. I recommend both of them. Not to ruin any plots for you, but The Power is about the power of love. Not just of the romantic variety, but how to apply and reap the benefits of the power of love in your own life.

One of the fun things the book advocates doing is finding what you love about certain situations. In doing so you remain more present and aware of your surroundings. One of the ways they mention in the book is asking yourself the question “What do I love?” Asking questions is a great way to take control of your thoughts. Giving your brain a question to find an answer to can give it direction and keep it from going somewhere you might not want it to go.

I was interested in giving my brain the positive task of finding things to love and bring me joy. The 40 minute drive to my day job at the Post Office seemed like the perfect time to give this idea a try. Certainly, the prospect of showing up at work in a great mood was appealing. Let me voice a disclaimer here. Although the idea did appeal to me, I had never really made a conscious effort to do this and kept an open mind. I figured it may be rough going at first and I may find it difficult to find things to love. I could not have been more incorrect! One thing after another seemed to leap to my attention and I could not notice them fast enough! Despite the unexpected nature of this, it was not the most surprising development on that trip.

Every day I take pretty much the same route to work. I reached my decision on 60th street, which at the moment closely resembles a demilitarized zone. Here is what I found so surprising. Even though I take that street at the very least 5 days a week, I was amazed at how much I miss! I decided to try again on the way home. The same result followed. Even just being on the opposite side of the street a whole world I had been missing unfolded before me.

When I got home I began to ask Margie, “Have you seen that building on 60th with the multi-colored bricks?” and a million other things. After taking a few moments to make sure I had not stopped off for some rum after a hard day at the Post Office, Margie had to confess that she too had missed most of these things as well. I then began to tell her about what I have been doing and how the idea came from the book I was listening to. It is here I must tip my hat to Margie. While she also loves to learn, she is very patient and does not complain about the seemingly endless stream of audio books I have playing in the car as we travel here and there. She has even given me the gift of one of my favorite audio books A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors.

Here is my suggestion for you. As you travel along today, ask yourself, “What can I find that I love on this journey?” You will be surprised at how much we miss. I have found new restaurants I would like to try, stores I would like to shop at and even a nature trail I would like to hike on. I would love to hear your results in the comments below.

WHO THE HECK ARE YOU??

This may sound like a rather silly question. I hear lots of you saying “I’m Bob, I’m Mary”.  No, that is your name.  I am talking about your identity.  Who we are is how we define ourselves.  So I ask you again, who are you? Notice what is the first thing that comes to your mind?  For a lot of us, it is our occupation.  We may not realize it, but we often identify ourselves by where we work or what kind of work we do.  Especially if we have done that job for a while.  I learned this the hard way.  After giving the postal service 15 great years, I was faced with the real prospect of losing my position for nothing more than office politics.  Suddenly I felt like, “Now what? What will happen to me?”  Those feelings of fear were because after so many years I identified myself as ‘Neil the postal worker’.  Lucky for me I had a few friends I could talk to who knew me before I worked for the postal service.  I had to ask Jason, Jenny, and Russ, my good friends, what was I like 16 years ago before the I started working there.  After a few jokes about stress levels I came to realize there was a Neil before the United States Postal Service and there will be one after as well.  Here we are a few years later and I find myself in the same situation.  What is different now is I realize I am not my occupation.  So who am I? More importantly, who are you?  We are who we choose to define ourselves to be.  I heard something recently that may help to show the example I am trying to get at.  “There is a great difference between doing something stupid, feeling stupid, and being stupid”  We have all done something stupid in our lives.  Some more than others. We have all felt stupid at times.  When we say we are stupid, that creates a whole different mentality.  If you say you are stupid, or overweight, or lazy, whatever term you use it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I’m really good at this for saying “I am a procrastinator”.  Now if I hold that as a belief or even more so as a conviction, my actions will have to be in line with that identity.  So really think how you define yourself.  Take a moment to write a few beliefs about yourself that you hold.  See which ones serve you and which do not.  If you are like me and have one or two that may be holding you back it is time to switch them up.  Write down the person you wish to become.  Carry it with you and read it throughout the day.  At first it may seem like you are lying to yourself especially if it is the opposite of what you currently believe to be true of yourself.  Stick with it. You didn’t develop the beliefs you have about yourself overnight and you are not going to change them overnight either.  So let us all redefine ourselves and become the people we desire to be!