LIVING TREASURES 

Here is a man I encountered during a recent event at the local historical society in West Allis where I live. His name is David HB Drake. As you can see in the photo he plays several unique instruments and sings as well. What makes Mr. Drake special is that a lot of what he plays and sings are songs from the past. He also knows the story behind what he sings and passes it along to those who listen to him. To attend one of his performances is both educational as well as entertaining.

I am not sure of Mr. Drake’s age, but he is what we consider a senior citizen. In this country often that designation comes with an impression of helplessness, or someone who is passed their prime and does not have a lot to offer. The sad thing is that by taking that view we miss the great gifts these people have to offer us. The knowledge Mr. Drake has gathered has taken him a lifetime. To learn, practice and perform all of the songs he does can only be done with years of actually doing it. The passion he delivers it with is special and unique to him. A young person could not come in and do what he does. We could read books to learn the facts he delivers, but we would not experience them. The sparkle he has in his eye while telling you about what life was like in logging camps of the 1800’s cannot be read, but must be felt.

There are stories and gifts like this in every senior we know. I personally recall my grandfather telling me stories of his time in the south pacific during the second world war. Those stories could not have been read in any book on the subject and give me a personal perspective to add to what I do read about that period. Wisdom comes with time and experience and is something money cannot buy. So please treat your elders as the living treasures they are. Mine all of the ‘gold’ you can from them before they are gone. Ask questions, listen to their stories. You will not only be helping them understand and feel how valuable and treasured they are, but you will also be learning and helping yourself.

Feel free to share this post with as many as you can so we will not lose any more living treasures without experiencing the gifts they have to offer.

HOW THIS MAN CAN STILL HEAL OUR WORLD

People always chuckle when I tell them one of my favorite philosophers is Mr Rogers. They think I am being funny or part of me just has not grown up yet. While both of those statements are generally true about me, saying Mr. Rogers is still one of my greatest influences is serious. The conflict between people in the United States has really spiraled out of control lately. Truly the media has done it’s part to fuel the flames and make it even worse.

What does a former childhood’s television show host have to do with any of this? How can any of what he has to say be relative to racial divide? How can it help to heal the hate and mistrust between law enforcement and well-meaning people? More to the point what role can we play in all of this? What actions can we take? I will answer all of these questions and the answers just may surprise you.

In my house I have a daily calendar that includes quotes from one Fred Rogers. On the first of July I would like to share what I read with you.

“As different as we are from one another, as unique as each one of us is, we are much more the same than we are different. That may be the most essential message of all, as we help our children grow toward being caring, compassionate, and charitable adults.”

When I read that I had to pause. It was as if he was responding to what was happening today. His message that we are more the same than we are different is one of the most overlooked aspects of all of this. Acting violent toward anyone because they are different is ignoring all the ways they are the same to us. Each group has people that are alike, and people that are different. Race tends to be one of the easier ways to choose to dislike someone because it is available on the outside. It requires no effort or time to get to know them, which may often change your ability to dislike them. In my nationality there are people I like and people I do not really care for. Simply saying this person is good or bad because of what race they belong to is foolish. It makes no more sense then disliking someone based on their profession. Recently in my city a young man shot a police officer for no other reason than he was a police officer. He did not know the mans beliefs or what his opinion might be of him. That is nothing short of stupid and ignorant. Equally, officers that assume someone’s guilt according to race are ignorant and stupid as well. There are people in both groups that do fit this description sadly. What gets lost in all the hype is they are by far the minority. Most citizens, myself included, appreciate the job law enforcement does and the risks they take to do it. Most officers take that job as a way to serve and not a way to judge. They take those risks because they truly care about people and making this world safe.

So what can we do when we hear about all of this violence through the media? Do we protest against either side? Do we shake our heads and exclaim how awful the world is getting? The intelligent action is to follow the words of Mr. Rogers and help our children, and fellow adults, grow toward being caring, compassionate and charitable adults. Become part of the solution and not part of the problem. Let us find a way to allow officers to do their jobs without the fear of being attacked. At the same time let us find a solution that no person should fear persecution based solely on their race. Let us hold those who bring this division to our people to the strictest of penalties on both sides of the issue. More importantly let us put our energy behind those attempting to bring us back together using the power of love and focusing on how we are more alike than we are different. It is only by working together we can build a world of peace that is fair and just to all.

MEMORIAL DAY

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Memorial day is a day we honor fallen soldiers here in the United States. Sadly, war is usually the result of ego driven politicians inability to resolve conflict without resorting to violence and loss of life, which is seldom if ever their own. Still, in the midst of this world of darkness there are many things that evolve.

I have the honor of knowing a great many warriors as they are referred to in my culture. Still my favorite was my Grandfather. Listening to stories he shared during his time in the south pacific in World War two allowed me to appreciate what can come out of war. Without fail every former soldier I have spoken to has a greater appreciation of life and the value each life holds. It is with this knowledge they are able to love deeper, understand greater, and have more compassion then most people I know.

In this country, as well as others I have visited, there seems to be a glaring neglect for these men and women who risk their lives for the sake of their country. Let us understand for the most part these brave souls go willingly to follow the orders of leaders they may not even agree with, the cost of which may be their lives, just so the rest of us do not have to. When they return they have almost always been a part of something, and seen things most of us will not and could not ever understand. They are left with a view of the world we will never know. They are left with challenges of physical, mental and emotional aspect.

Sadly, the governments who seem to be so willing to put these men and women in harms way tend to drop the ball when it comes for caring for them when they return. Now this blog is not political, and I do not wish to engage in a discussion about the current state of the Veterans Administration. That being said, my point is this, on a day we remember all of those who served let us work together as a people to give what our governments have not – let us all do something to honor and serve those who have honored and served their country and all of us. What can we do? If you know a veteran, thank them for their service. Let me take this opportunity to thank all of the active and retired service men and women from the bottom of my heart. Even if you don’t, stop by your local VA there are many needs you can fill. Volunteer to read to veterans, or offer your skills in whatever you do. See if there is anything you could donate. Write a letter to a soldier who may not have anyone to share with them. Donate to a care package drive.

Most importantly, Memorial day is about those soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice. What could we do for them? There are few things. First learn the stories of fallen heros. What they went through, where they came from and who and what they left behind. That brings us to the other thing we can do. Understand each fallen soldier leaves behind family and friends who need our support and compassion. There is obviously emotional hurt and loss, but that is often accompanied by economic and social challenges as well. So let us not forget the sacrifice made by the family and friends of those who have lost someone in battle.

Let us understand even if we do not support conflict or the governments who engage in it, let us support the people who sacrifice their time, physical and emotional well-being and all to often their lives so we do not have to. Once more a heart-felt thank you from myself and everyone here at Secret2anamazinglife.com to all of the veterans past and present for all you have given so the rest of us do not have to. Please help honor them all by sharing this.

YOUR NEXT SUPERPOWER

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“To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it”

Confucius

I am always interested in how couples that seem passionate late into their years together manage to accomplish such a thing. As my relationship started to crumble I began to do the craziest thing. I asked them. Let me tell you there is not much you can do to light up the eyes of a loving elderly couple than to ask them how they make it work. Speaking of work I was late many times because these conversations lasted far longer than I ever imagined.

So what is the secret? There are a million different ones, but one that stuck out in my head was from a couple I knew in the town of Greendale Wisconsin where I used to work. When I asked this couple who seemed more in love at 80 than I was at 30. The husband’s eyes lit up and he looked around as if he were about to tell me a heavily guarded secret. Naturally I was very interested. He whispered so only we could hear “We use our superpower” At first I was a bit hesitant to ask, especially with his wife nodding intensely in agreement. Still, curiosity got the best of me and I went for it. “Forgiveness” was all he had to say. Sensing my doubt in the power of his answer he all but insisted I sit down and listen to his explanation. Seeing that they did seem to have the evidence to back it up and I really didn’t mind being a few minutes late to the post office I sat down. He told me to think of the worst thing my lady had done. How it had made me feel. After a few seconds I seemed to have picked the one that did the trick. “Think of how bad that made you feel” the old man urged me on. After a while I did feel myself getting a little hot under the collar. Then he asked me how she was feeling right now. Ok I said she probably didn’t even know we were having this conversation. “And if she did?” he asked. I offered she might be mad I was discussing it with him or she might even feel bad for making me feel the way she did. “Young man you need to throw that memory away” he told me. The only thing worth hanging onto is love. By having these bad memories you are throwing rocks in your garden. Forgiveness he told me heals everyone and not forgiving hurts everyone. You’re going to make more mistakes yourself young man and if your lady doesn’t forgive you, I think you both will be miserable. He was right. We must truly forgive and leave behind the pain our partners have caused us. If it is a healthy relationship chances are they have beat themselves up far more about how they made us feel anyway. Forgiveness is freedom. It frees us from the pain of the memory and it frees our relationships up to grow. So whoever you need to forgive do so today and set yourself free.

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.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

Yesterday we looked a bit at a conversation I had with a wonderful friend of mine. Today we are going to look a little more specifically at the issue she was having which very well might be an issue that you are dealing with as well. Yesterday we discussed what to do if you had an issue from your past that may be holding you back. We spoke briefly about guilt and regret which are two of the main past issues that affect people. Today we are going to look a little closer at her specific issue and what I recommended. This amazing young lady who has truly a heart of gold, was being poorly treated by several friends and even some members of her own family. She was trying her best to keep everyone happy, but their nasty behavior kept on. Sound familiar? We all have people who come into our life at some point, some who may have been in there our whole lives that mistreat us. The question is how can we not let the hurtful things they say and do affect us? In short the answer is you can’t. We are all human, we all have feelings. A point it always helps to remember when we are dealing with others as well. So if we can’t stop their arrows of hatred, jealousy and anger from piercing our hearts, what can we do? Ask ourselves the most important question “what does this all mean?” Sometimes the person we are dealing with is just having a tough time and maybe some issues we don’t even know about. It could be they are just unfairly taking it out on us. In this case although it hurts, it is a good opportunity to practice compassion and understanding. Another good question to ask ourselves is “What could possibly make someone act this way?” This is an especially good question to ask if this behavior is new. In this case we also have a chance to further practice our skills at politely asking people what does seem to be troubling them. Often times we may discover an issue we can either assist with or at least further understand the person we are dealing with. That act of caring can bring the relationship closer.

So what if we do all this investigating and compassion only to discover the person isn’t having a rough time, or dealing with an unforeseen issue? What if we discover their only issue is that they are an ass, what then? Great question! In fact, that happened to be one of the examples my friend gave me. She was fired from her job so the gentleman running the company could give a job to his mistress. Now on the outside she thought, and rightfully so, “How unfair is it that I work my butt off and this guy is cheating on his wife with this woman so I loose my job just so she can have one?” That is a fair question to ask, but it is not a very empowering one. If we asked what does this mean we could certainly come up with the answer that it means this man has lost morals and values his sexual gratification over a good employee. That is a true statement and may help us feel good…for the short-term. How can we use this to empower us more. This is why it may be important to revisit things that have happened to us that may have seemed ‘unfair’ at the time. I asked my friend if she really wanted to work for a gentleman with those kinds of moral standards. She replied no. I also asked her to share with me what happened to her after she left this job. She told me her very next job only lasted a short while, but in that time she was able to bring a lot of good to the life of a coworker who was struggling. The second job she had after that, which she currently holds. Allowed her to move out-of-state and be someone warm where she is considerably happy. These things would not have happened if her former boss had not let her go. Sometimes it is hard to understand why people do what they do or how we can benefit from it until far after the time it happens. Sometimes we may never understand but if we are always approaching life asking empowering questions and looking for ways to benefit and learn from every situation nine times out of ten we will. So don’t play the victim, play the master! Plus, trying to guess why other people do what they do is only slightly harder than guessing the winning lottery numbers.

THE DAY HAS FINALLY COME…

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If you love this blog please feel free to check out my brand new book now available A Happy Life for Busy People is now available online at Amazon.com. It is a great way to bring the power of positivity and a lot of the tools we explore here to those you care about this holiday season. It may also be a great gift for those you do not enjoy being around so much as it could help them change their attitudes around as well. So pick a copy up today it is as simple as clicking on the following link A Happy Life for Busy People

DO IT FOR ME…

Have you ever found yourself facing a task that seems insurmountable? Ever have a day where it just seems all you do is learn lesson after lesson? Have you ever thought to yourself that on those days cloning might not be such a bad thing after all? That having ‘another you’ to do all the tough stuff in life, to experience all the rough times would be rather nice? I know I have. If there could be another Neil to go to work for me, If there could be another Neil to go to funerals, deliver bad news and all the other things that steals the sunshine from my life, boy that would be great! Now this comes from a person who will tell you that challenges form us into who we have become. That much like fire hardens steel, we are shaped and molded by the fires and trails of life. I know this and more importantly I truly believe this. Still, sometimes after you have just got into a fight with a friend or family matter, or you just found out you forgot to pay a bill on time we can all find ourselves thinking the same thing, “I know somehow I can learn and grow from this experience, but damn it sucks right now” Other times it can be hard to see how all these challenges serve us. Well I recently heard a quote from the amazing Jim Rohn, a late, great motivation speaker and author. He said “Nobody can do your push ups for you” Think about that for a moment, no matter how much money, how much power you have you can not have someone else work out for you and suddenly you are in shape. They could go to the gym, you could watch them sweat, you could even have them give you every detail of the experience, but still they are going to be the ones who benefit because they were the ones who put in the effort. As a payoff they will be the ones with lower stress levels, healthier immune systems, and less risk of injury. Although working out is an excellent example it is not the only area that this holds true in. Every struggle we make it through, every challenge we face is ‘adding muscle’ to our character. It is strengthening our spiritual fortitude. People could tell us about their struggles and their challenges, and we can even learn from them and benefit from knowing how they handled it. Still they will be the ones who could benefit the most from going through the event. So next time you find yourself asking “Why me?” or wishing science could come up with a clone for you, remember the powerful words from Mr. Rohn and repeat them to yourself or to anyone else lamenting their struggles. “Nobody can do your push ups for you”

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG FOR A VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE…

In place of the usually bits of wisdom and inspiration we have a special announcement. Today marks the one year anniversary of the very first post on this blog. Today I am feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude to quite a few people. Ironically the first post I ever created was entitled ‘gratitude’ If you haven’t read it before I encourage you to scroll back and check it out. Several reasons this is good. One, is to see how much better this blog has gotten. Two, to see how full circle we have come and three because out of all the traits you can develop to turn your life around gratitude would probably be the biggest. it is impossible to feel fearful while feeling grateful. It is impossible to feel sad while feeling completely grateful. I just want to take a second and throw a few names out there that make this all possible. I want to thank Aileen who in her own unique way helped me discover my true purpose in life and get this thing all turned around. I wish to thank Kristina who not only continues to encourage me, but gave me great information and motivation to do both this blog and my upcoming book. Never would I thought we would have become such good friends, but I am glad we did. Alysa and Carmen, I know I have mentioned you a million times, but truly you have no idea how much your words that one fateful evening pushed me forward. To Kim who daily gives me so much feedback and insight which helps make everything I do that much better. you are amazing and honestly I’m not sure I would’ve kept this up without you. Kierston, thank you for reminding me of what is possible when we follow our dreams! Margie, thank you for being a recent blessing to my life. Your creative influence will only continue to be a greater blessing. Janell, thank you for all the well wishes. May your journey find it’s joy. Michelle, my amazing sister, not only do you give me great constructive criticism, but you are a better promoter than I will ever be. Love you to pieces. To my publisher Brooke, you must have the patient of a saint. I thank you for all your understanding! All the people who read this blog, take time to comment or share this site, or now our Facebook page with those you love and care about or just people you know are looking to improve your life, I thank you for coming with me on this amazing journey! I promise tomorrow we will return to the inspiration. As we look forward to all that we are going to become and accomplish let us have a moment to pause and be grateful for all we have learned and become wiser, healthier and more enlightened this past year!

RUM AND FOOTBALL LEAD TO GREAT SUCCESS…WELL KIND OF…

While relaxing with a glass of rum and the NFL network the other night I caught a segment that really caught my attention. This is pretty amazing for two reasons. The first is that drinking and rum and watching television is usually something I do to relax although it can bring inspiration of a different nature to light. The second thing is it was a great example of how the secrets to success of any nature are all the same. Let me explain. This coach who won both a college championship as well as several super bowls was speaking to a group of incoming college freshman. When asked what his secret to winning despite different situations his answer was a very powerful lesson, not only in the world of sports, but life in general. He said it is not always the most talented team that wins. Not even always the team with the greatest will to win, but the team that is the best conditioning. It was the team who at the end of the game still has energy to keep playing while the other team is sucking wind. That the secret to success was not found on the playing field but at the dinner table and in the weight room. What does all this have to do with living a successful life? In short, everything. Our attitudes, and our minds are much like our body. They need conditioning. You cannot just work out one time and expect to be fit. you cannot eat one healthy meal and be able to eat whatever you want in the future. You also cannot expect to read one self-improvement book and have your life transformed. You cannot expect to have a grateful attitude for a week and to never work at it again. Like being down with seconds to go in the game life will often seem impossible it is not the time to try to develop a positive attitude no more than the final seconds of important game is the time to try to get in shape. This is why success conditioning should be a daily exercise. If you spend an hour in the gym five days a week. you could at least spend thirty minutes a day three days a week reading a book dedicated to Improving your life. Or spend your morning commute listening to success coaching cds. Think of it as a workout for your attitude and spirit. When the tough times come your mind and spirit will be in top condition while others are ‘sucking wind’ to maintain a positive outlook you will be busy winning the game!