A STRANGE OPPORTUNITY

It amazes me how life presents us opportunities that we routinely miss. Misfortune, challenges and pain. Those are three things nobody likes to have in their life and things that everybody does have in their lives. When you are going through something it is often very hard to see the positive in it. Whether that be a heartbreak, job loss, loss of a loved one or a host of other unpleasant situations, we can put them to use for us and others.

This is the very method I used to put the situation of getting the Coronavirus to work for myself and for others. When we go through something challenging, there are 3 ways in which it can be turned from a negative to a positive. Are you interested? I hope so. If we can turn the negatives in our life into positives, can you imagine how that would improve the quality of our life? It would make it, dare I say, amazing! Let us take a look at them one at a time. By using even one of these 3 secrets we can begin to put life to work for us instead of being at the mercy of life.

The first secret is learning and growing. People have one of two relationships with challenges and failures. Either they view it as the end. They lost. It won’t work. Things such as that. Then there are others who view it as a stepping stone to success. As Thomas Edison continued to fail in his attempts to find something to use as a filament in the light bulb, he remarked, “I have not failed, I just discovered another way not to make a light bulb.” Even something as painful as the loss of a loved one can teach us many things. It can help us discover ways to help us heal our heart. It can deepen our spiritual connection. It can even show us who will be there for us when we are at our lowest. Lessons are most often not fun to learn, but they help us grow and develop more than any other period of our life. We always learn more from our trials than our successes.

The second thing we can do is what today’s picture speaks of. We can inspire others by the way we handle things. When I shared my virus Journey with everyone it helped me as much as I helped others. On the days I did not feel like getting up and writing a post or shooting a video for my YouTube channel, I thought about the people watching my journey. Often, things are not that public.

We can use the fact people are watching us to motivate us. I am always on the lookout for ways I can improve and be the best man I can be in my relationship with my lady Margie. One of the many ways I use to stay motivated is that I remind myself how many people are watching how I treat her. Her family, her children, our friends and even those who might want to take my place in her heart. I would say at least once a week someone comments on our relationship. Usually, these are compliments about how loving we are. To me they serve not only as a reward for working so hard on our relationship, but a reminder that her and I do not live in a vacuum. People are watching.

The last positive thing we want to discuss about challenges is this – it provides you tools. When you go through something it gives you skills you can then use to help others going through the same situation. It gives you credibility. When someone is troubled, they will be more likely to listen to someone who has actually went through what they are going through. Following this equation, the more things you go through in life, the more you can help others. It is almost as if every challenge is a painful gift of sorts.

These three things may not take the pain or feeling of loss out of a situation in the moment, but they will help in time. Here is an added bonus – the more you use these three things, the more they become a part of you. When they become a part of you, the time it takes to go from pain to learning, inspiring and teaching becomes quicker and quicker. In my own life when something bad happens it has become so quick that I catch myself thinking, “Well this sucks but I will be able to use it for something good.” I would love to hear what you use to turn the negatives in your life into positives. The more ideas we share the more we can help each other!

IT’S TIME TO GO TO WAR!

It’s time to go to war! That may not sound like something you would hear on a website dedicating to living an amazing life, but then again it is exactly the thing you should read on a site like that. Any site that provides a ton of sunshine and rainbows can only help you so much. Life does not normally find us riding a unicorn to our wonderful job as king or queen of the kingdom of Happyville. There are challenges that we face every single day. In short, sometimes life sucks. That is not being negative, it is just being honest.

If we were to stop there and whine or just say to ourselves (or everyone around us) “My life sucks.” and sit on our butt doing nothing about it, there is a 100% chance two things will happen. 1.) we will feel terrible and like we have no control over our lives. 2.) our lives will continue to suck. These are not a maybe, but a certainty. If we do a few small things every so often, there will be a small chance every so often that things will get better.

If we want our lives to change we must go to war with whatever is challenging us. We must face it head on and attack it with all we have. Words like ‘war’ and ‘attack’ may bring up violence and lots of other negative thoughts, but that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about using every possible resource at our disposal to address and correct the issue. It may also involve gaining new resources that we can use to further attack the challenge. We cannot stop until we have won the war.

I am going to give you two quick examples to help better explain the concept. On Easter I injured my back. It was so bad I was unable to even walk the following day. This happened right after I recovered from the coronavirus. I could have sat there and said, “It is just one thing after another!” or asked, “Why me? Why do things keep going wrong?” I could have taken a few pain pills every so often and hoped for a miracle. No! I wanted my back better and wanted it better now. I contacted my doctor and asked a million different questions. He recommended rest and anti-inflammatories. As I followed those instructions I also read articles online about helping back pain. Advice about applying both ice and heat and when to do both. I also watched videos and stretches that might help and positions to sleep that may ease pain. In other words I did everything I could think of to tackle the problem.

Let us say you find yourself looking for a new job currently. You put your resume on a few job sites and wait. How likely will it be that you will get hired in a hurry to a job that you enjoy and are good at? I would say slim to none. While putting resumes on job sites is a very good idea to do, I would continually look at other means as well. Stopping in places you would like to work and inquire on employment opportunities. Learn different ways you could update your resume and make it more attractive to potential employers. How about brushing up on your skills and knowledge to make you more attractive to employers? Reading publications in the field in which you would like to be employed. Networking with professionals in that industry. Which one of these should you do while looking for a job? The answer is all of them if you really want a good job and want it soon. Don’t just whine about your unemployment, go to war with it! Do everything in your power to tackle the problem.

As you can see, going to war can be one of the most powerful and positive things you can do. Next time you have a challenge you’re facing, ask yourself, “Am I just whining about this problem, or am I going to war with it?” Your honest answer should tell you how to proceed. One last reminder. In war they are constantly inventing new and more lethal weapons. You should do the same in the war you are facing. Find new and inventive ways to tackle the problem. They might not all work, but there is 100% chance that sitting on your butt whining will not improve your situation at all.

WHO WERE YOU?

We often hear gurus all over telling us that our pain can be our greatest teacher. It can be rather hard to listen to when you are watching them climb into their private jet and return to their own island. I am not inferring that the rich have no problems, or that their advice is any less valid because they have wealth. If we are being honest, hearing that kind of advice from someone who has the appearance at least, of not being in pain can be hard to listen to.

 Shortly after the year 2000, as my study in self-improvement was just beginning, I had a moment that in reflection helped me grow substantially. When I was going through it, however, all I could tell you was it sucked. That is how life is sometimes. Steve Jobs said we can never connect the dots moving forward, only looking back. Sure it would be great to know how your current struggle is going to pay off in the future. It certainly would make going through it a lot easier. I guess that is where something called faith comes into play.

Back to my personal story and how it can benefit us all. Shortly after 2000 the United States Postal Service, the fine edifice where I step most of my waking hours informed me although I was a model employee, due to declining mail volume my hours would be cut to about 10 a week. What made matters better is that to receive these hours I would have to be available Monday through Saturday from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. making it near impossible to find a second job to make up the lost hours. Luckily for me, about a month later they did realize I was an employee worth keeping and found a position for me.

Here is what really threw me, I found myself not knowing what or more to the point who I would be if I left the Post Office. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but at the time I had been working there 13 years, roughly 50 hours a week. It became a part of my identity. In a world of corporate downsizing this can be an all to common situation. It is not limited to jobs either. Think of the end of a relationship. You fell in love and were perhaps in love for a great deal of time. You shared everything, they were not only your lover, but your best friend. All of that is exactly how it should be. What happens when that is gone? The person leaves, be it through walking away, cheating or even passing away. You feel as though a part of you has died. What then?

Just like the loss of a job, it is an end of a relationship. No matter how intense or good the relationship is, job or person, it is a weaving of two paths. Trying to keep this in perspective is one way to help us carry on. I am in no way inferring that this is an easy thing to do. The better the relationship, the more it will hurt. Even in that pain you must remember to balance that with gratitude. You had great moments some may never experience. Maybe that man that seemed so perfect for you turned out to be a no good snake. Maybe he even slept with your sister…or your brother for that matter. The fact remains you still received moments of joy and bliss out of the relationship. The fact they ruined it by being a snake simply means they gave up the right to experience more of those moments with you. Maybe someone you loved passed away? There are no opportunities to share more moments no matter how much you both would have loved that. It is time to realize how rare having someone like that in your life is. Reflect on those memories when they come up not as a sense of loss or that you will never have them again. No, reflect on them with gratitude you had the opportunity to share that with them. Maybe even offer up a word of thanks to their memory for such loving memories. Again, not saying or even imagining any of this is easy. Pain is something we get through day by day.

Lastly, and this is what helped me through my job challenge, is have people in your life that have known you before that job or relationship started. An old friend is a gift that is more priceless than gold. When I was feeling a loss of identity, I called up my good friend and former bandmate, Russ. We have know each other since we were around 13 years-old. I asked Russ a simple but bizarre question, “Who was I before the post office?” Not only did he remind me of that, he even offered some ways in which I may have lost myself due to the post office. Good friends can tell you ways in which you kind of suck without being too hurtful. \

Discovering there was a person who existed before and more important separate from, the job (again this can work for relationships as well) helped me in two important ways. First, it made me determined to keep who I was separate from what I did for a living. This can also be helpful in a relationship. Margie and I are amazing as a couple and people recognize that, but we each have our own personal identities as well. For example, if you want a great cake for your special occasion you best talk to her. Need a speech written? More my forte. The second way in which this liberated me was I realized I was free to decide who I wanted to be as a person going forward, despite whatever foolish actions the Postal Service may take. Who you are should never depend on what you do for a living or who you happen to date. Those things have a great influence on you and it is your job to make sure it is a positive one, but at the end of the day it is you who decides who you are going to become.

In closing, remember that you are not a victim in your life, but a creator. We may not have control over the actions of others and how it can impact us, but we do have complete control over how we react and how we can put the challenges to use in our lives. It will not be easy but it will definitely be worth it.

WHY FIGHT IT?

I hear many people say they don’t like or are afraid of change. This makes as much sense to me as being afraid of breathing. Change has to happen. Learning to embrace change is one of the best things you can do to make your life easier. Sure, it is nice to be able to count on certain things. Sometimes the desire to avoid too much change can cause us to work harder, but then we must understand working harder to have a greater control over our environment is also a change. So was learning how to walk, talk, use the bathroom by ourselves and lots of other things we now take for granted. If we get a raise at work, that is a change.

What most people mean is that they do not like change that does not feel good to them. Children say they wish their parents never got divorced. Would you rather they stay together if they were unhappy? We all have people we wish would have never left us and passed away. Even in this there are valuable lessons on loving the people left behind even more. Change is not always easy and not always enjoyable, but we can always use it to our advantage if we learn and grow from it. Lose your job? Maybe you should look at going to work for yourself, or brushing up your skills. Experience a health scare? Maybe you should take the time to take better care of yourself.

When a challenging change comes know that we can either let it drag us down or use it to push us forward. Change is like a wave, we can either drowned or learn to surf. One way it destroys us, the other way we put it to use for us. Next time you are faced with what seems to be an uncomfortable change, ask yourself “How can I use this to surf?”

WHAT’S SO HARD?

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond and to know one’s self”

-Ben Franklin

This quote from our first postmaster general has a lot of truth to it. Funny thing is one of the people we know the least is the person we see in the mirror every morning. A lot of your opinions of ourselves are generated by what others share about us. Which, since most of the people we talk to are our friends we seldom get the whole picture. So here is this weekends challenge. Make a list. On one side list everything you think is good about yourself, on the others areas you would like to improve. The goal here is to come up with more of the positive than the negative, but be honest with yourself. When you are done with that list take a look at each item on its own. How did you come to that conclusion? Did someone once tell you that you are a bad dancer? Did someone once tell you that you have a nice voice? Have you finished a few races with good times so you believe yourself to be a good runner? Does going to the gym make you a healthy person?

If you are interested in taking this a step further, contemplate on a few interesting matters. Think of where a lot of your identity comes from. A lot of us it comes from your job. When people ask me who are you? Providing they already know my name I must confess my first reaction may be to tell them my occupation. “I’m a postal worker” or “I’m an author” or even “I’m a bartender” the problem with this thinking is the state of change in today’s economy. I realized this when I was dangerously close to losing my Post Office job…the first time. I thought to myself “I’ve been working here for 13 years, it’s who I am. Now what?” This makes a job loss twice as tough. Not only do you lose your source of income, but you lose your identity. That’s why a lot of people slip into a depression after losing a job. From the outside people may say “What is the big deal? He just lost his job” In reality a lot of people fail to realize that to a lot of us that is also losing a part of our identity. Something many employers fail to recognize as well. So how did I get out of this funk? How did I protect myself in the future and how can you do the same? Great questions! That is what this site is all about. Living an amazing life. So here is something I suggest you try as soon as you can. That day I was basically told I would lose my job I went to a secluded spot in nature I go to do all my thinking. There is something about nature that seems to clear my mind. I began to think what will happen in the future. I also thought what was I like before I started to work for the postal service. I realized there was a whole other Neil I was missing. Now 13 years is a fair amount of time, but I am blessed to have several fans I have known a good deal longer than that. I called a few up and asked them what they first remember about me and basically who they thought I was. After making sure I wasn’t hitting the rum a little too hard they provided some great insight. Still other’s opinions are only part of the equation. Recently I have had the good fortune of spending a good deal of time and conversation with an amazing new person. They give me their opinions of me of course, but one of the greatest things is they stimulate me to think of things including my life and myself. Think of the people you associate with daily. Do they all tell you just what you want to hear? Are they all from the same group such as work? Do they permit you to be different without judgment or ridicule?  The goal is to be with people who bring out the best in ourselves. They not only encourage us, but also are honest and accepting of ourselves. This post was quite a mouthful. But as Ben Franklin said getting to know yourself is one of the hardest things. The rewards however can save you from years of heartache and bring you lots of rewards. It is a journey well worth taking.