YOU NEED TO SHARE IT!

This past Saturday I took part in an event that featured several different authors. Above is a picture of me talking to one of them. These events are always fun and enlightening. Talking with other authors, we all discover we share some of the same struggles and can support one another. At this particular event, another great aspect of the benefits of writing was on display – sharing your story. There are not words strong enough to convey my desire to have everyone share their story. It is such a gift in so many ways. We have discussed a few of them in past posts and I will provide a quick reminder here. It helps those that read it know and feel they are not alone. No matter how uniquely crazy your situation feels, I can guarantee there is someone out there going through something very similar if not the same. It also helps share and provide a record of mistakes you may have made and helps others avoid them. If it is too late for that, it may help them see how you made your way out of it. Sharing your story helps to foster a sense of community in whatever group you are writing about. With technology, that community can even be global!

Those benefits, as great as they are, do not come close to completing the list of benefits you can get from sharing your story. Here is what I heard at this event. There was an author who lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly. She was left with 3 children to raise and a host of challenges. One of which was just managing to go on after losing the person she loved most in the world. How do you manage to love your life after a moment like that? She managed to do it and shared how she did it in her book. Another author lost her child. That is devastating to any parent. In addition to having to heal from her own pain, she had to explain what happened to her other children. How can you possibly do both of those? She did and she wrote a book that will help other parents who may tragically find themselves in the same situation. A third author has 3 autistic children. One who also has hearing and vision challenges. While doing her best to raise them, she is often judged harshly by those around her who are ignorant to her struggles. One time even having the police called on her. How does she manage to stay sane and raise her children? What struggles does a parent in that situation go through? She is going to write a book about that.

In this case, writing was a great form of therapy for all of these authors. It helped them heal and by sharing their journey, it will help others do the same. We may be fortunate enough not to have events like these occur in our life. I can promise you we have all faced some struggle. Job loss, relationship loss or a host of other challenges. Sharing our story and our journey with others is both a gift to them and to us. When we share our story with the world, it is the world that benefits. Unless you are some sort of extraterrestrial, which would make a great book, that world includes you! When we share, everyone, including ourselves, wins.

What if you are not a writer? That is fine. Everyone is not a reader. You can share your story through music, painting, sculpting or whatever medium you decide. Today, you can make your own videos to share on a variety of platforms. You could start a blog. You can start your own podcast and talk to people that way. These are all great because people consume in different ways. Some people listen to podcasts. Some of us read blogs. Some of us watch videos. Some of us still read books. Some of us do several or all of these. That is why it is so important to share your story in whatever form makes you comfortable.

Share your story. When you do we all win.

TIME TO TAKE A BREAK

My third book is at the publisher! It has been roughly 6 months in the making. I tried something new and wrote everything by hand first. This created an extra step, but seemed to work for this story.

The writing cost me several summer afternoons that I would have rather spent relaxing in the sun. It included late nights, early mornings and many long days. In the end it was all worth it. I feel I created a book that will reach and help so many.

Now it is time to take a break and recharge before embarking on my next literary adventure. I’ll keep you posted when this book becomes available. Thank you to everyone who made this all possible!

WHEN TIMES ARE CRAZY, HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED AND MOTIVATED?

As an author one of the most difficult parts of the world today is that coffeeshops are closed. I usually write most of these blogs and my books at Starbucks or some other local coffee shop. Lately, I have been putting my K-cup brewer through the paces while doing the same to Margie as well. It can be easier to get distracted at home, especially with such a silly and beautiful lady in the next room or even sitting next to me. So how do I keep my focus and motivation to write when the world is so crazy? There are a few answers I am going to share with you so that you may be able to use them to keep motivated on whatever projects you may be working on in your own life.

The first thing to establish is your ‘why’. Why is it that you do what you are passionate about? For me it is helping others see the beauty in themselves, others and the world around them. When life seems to be going good, I want to share that with others. When life seems to be crazy and difficult like it is now, that makes me feel like what I do is even that more important and I am driven that much more. Find your ‘why’. It is one of the most important discoveries you will make in your life. I promise you.

Another area to explore is what benefits you gain by doing what it is that you do. In the case of writing, I find an area of creative release. Not to mention I get to enjoy a tasty hot beverage in my wonderful Winnie-the-Pooh coffee mug. Remember the beautiful lady we discussed earlier? You can see her creative creation in the upper right corner of the picture. As I sat and wrote, she sat and sketched. It is important that in a relationship, even though your release might be different, to allow room for each other to explore. It is fun if you can occasionally do this together, but remember to respect the fact that everyone needs their time. Another great benefit I achieve by writing is I am able to connect with people around the globe. This excites me more than I can convey. I love meeting people from different locations and cultures and learning what they have to teach me. The fact that I can do this all while inspiring and motivating them is amazing! That may be the greatest benefit of all – happiness. Whether it is my joy at connecting with them, or their joy that I can play a part in, the fact that together we create and share joy makes the world a better place.

I hope these two items will help you to stay focused and motivated despite what may be happening around you. I would love to hear more of what you do to stay focused and motivated in the comments below. By sharing our great ideas with each other we can all be more productive and happy together!

30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE (DAY #30)

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

Our last day of gratitude posts. I am already missing sharing this experience with you. We have covered some interesting areas of life that we may often forget about. I have enjoyed rediscovering how much I have in my life to be grateful for. Throughout the course of this challenge I have learned a lot about myself, my friends and even a few strangers. One of these days even gave me the motivation for my next book. Which one? That you will have to wait and see.

Today’s subject delivered two pleasant surprises. When I first glanced at this question (I always wait to do so until right before I begin to write) the answer that popped in my head was “the skill has to be writing of course!” With only a few more seconds of thought, the answer changed. The skill that I have that I am most grateful for is being able to help others feel good. When I DJ my goal for each person I call up is to help them either laugh, feel good about themselves or the one they love. Usually I can do at least one of those three. Daily, I do my best to treat others as I would love to be treated. This includes being polite and letting everyone know the things that are amazing about them. To know that I have positively affected someone’s life, or even just to see a smile spread across their face, is the greatest reward for me.

This post does not stipulate that we must pick one or the one we are most grateful for. To that end, I am going to mention a few other skills I am grateful to have. I am certainly grateful for the skill of writing as mentioned before. Being able to put thoughts and emotions into words is just something that comes natural for me. I never thought of it as much of a skill, I am guessing because it does come so natural. As the years go by I am learning new ways of putting it to use in serving others. I am very grateful for the skill of learning. I have a fairly decent retention that makes learning easier for me. (Although it does exasperate Margie at times) I am grateful for my skill in seeing the positive in most situations. It has not only made my life more pleasant, it has allowed me to help others.

How about you? What amazing skills do you have that you are grateful for? Share them with all of us.

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

LEARN TO SUCK AT SOME THINGS

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Why on earth would learning to suck at some things be a good idea? Why would we feature it on a website about living an amazing life? Two very good questions. We will tackle them both in the brief paragraphs that follow.

In the picture above you see my current work area at a local Starbucks. The folder of paperwork you see to the right of my computer is my upcoming book. I had received it back from my esteemed editor Johnny L, who brought back with him from Mexico where he lives. On this draft he made several corrections in red. Most of them are grammar and syntax issues. I purposely shot this picture from far away so you can’t readily see how much red is on the paper.

When I wrote my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People, it came back with more red than black. I am happy to announce that the copy for this book did not receive the same treatment. My accomplishment is not my improvement in writing, however slight. The improvement I am most proud of is my receptivity to the corrections. Being an author is almost like giving birth to a child. I am sure many art forms are similar. I recall bringing songs to bands I was in, the feeling was the same. You worked quite hard to give birth to this special project. (The gestation period for my last book was five years) It is really a part of you. Then here comes your editor, fellow bandmates, art critics, jealous haters or a million other people telling you what you did wrong.

Those of you who are parents, imagine how it feels to hear there is something wrong with the child you created. How do you feel? Judged? Defensive? Angry? These are all natural and understandable feelings. The hard truth in all of this is that there is not only at least a little truth in the criticisms, but an opportunity to learn and grow. In trying to correct the errors in my first book after several days of looking at spelling and grammar errors I was tempted to say “F%$k it! Maybe I shouldn’t be an author if I have this many errors.”

In reflection, that was both an immature and limiting reaction. Although I can understand why I, and anyone else in a similar situation, can feel that way, it really does not serve us. First of all, by looking at ways in which what we created can be improved will undoubtedly bring a more quality product to life with our name attached to it. Secondly, the feelings of being judged, anger or defensive do not serve us emotionally and can even damage us physically. What is amazing about that? Nothing.

I have learned to understand every round of editing, every criticism only helps me become stronger and deliver a better version of me and my products to the world. I have now been a writer for nearly 10 years in some form or fashion. This is only professionally and does not take into consideration the stories my third grade teacher thought were amazing and kept for herself. This experience could leave me an entitled or aloof attitude when it comes to criticism. Instead, the more I grow as both a writer and a person in general I enjoy hearing ways I can improve. On occasion this may take some time, just ask Margie, but eventually I have learned to make every situation in life one to grow from.

When your life seems to have more red than black, be that literal or figurative, just remember it is a change to improve what you do and come back stronger. Yes, it may sting at first, but use that feeling to your advantage. A special shout out to Johnny L for having the patience to realize my fingers often move faster than my brain and to Margie who works with me as I learn and grow through life.

YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES!


The focus of this post will look at two different items, perspective and potential. Let us look at the first one, perspective. A lot of us when chasing a goal, be that a job, relationship or certain economic stature, compare our private beginnings to others public achievements. Let us say we are trying to promote a book we have recently written. We may have been working on this several months or even a year. We look up and see other authors who are routinely on the New York Time’s bestseller list. We wonder why we don’t have the same fortune as a Dean Koontz let’s say. Better yet, why hasn’t our book become a major motion picture like Stephen King had?
Comparing our struggle to someone else’s accomplishments not only makes little sense, it also does not serve us. We do not know the struggle they have also went through. We may be further along than they were at the same point in their career. Think about how comparing your worst with someone else’s best would make you feel? It would leave you doubting yourself and leaving you with a lack of motivation at best, depression at its worst. Do not do this to yourself. Each individual has their own skills. It may serve you to research those you emulate and discover the challenges they have faced along the way. You may learn how they made it through and better yet, how they overcame some of the same challenges you may now be facing.
The second area of focus is potential. You may want to be the next LeBron James, but you are having trouble making your high school basketball team. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team. That is not to say without countless hours of practice you cannot excel as well. You may have a better three-point shot or be better defensively. You never know what skills you have buried inside of you. They say hard work is the great equalizer. It also happens to be a great tool for developing and polishing skills you naturally have. In my case, by writing every day my skill as a writer has improved dramatically.

A fun thing to do is to look back as see how different you may be now than you were years ago. It may cause you to cringe at times but you will be able to see the improvement. This is great in the gym too. I know there are times I feel like I am not getting anywhere. I look at photos or compare numbers from the year prior and realize how much further I am. It is also a great motivator to keep working. There is nothing worse than looking back and seeing you have moved in the wrong direction.
A quick note to add. This not only takes place with comparing ourselves to famous people, but can hold just as true with the neighbor down the block. You look at the soccer mom who seems to balance it all and have a tendency to be jealous. Really behind closed doors she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We cannot judge what goes on in public with what we struggle with for years in private. Think of your own life and what people may think of you without knowing what you do in private. You have the potential and can develop the perspective to be truly great!

A ROCK STAR WRITES AN AUTHOR

Every so often I send a celebrity a copy of my book. These are also usually accompanied by a letter explaining who I am and why I am sending them a book. These folks can range from people who have inspired me, professionals whose work I admire and those who I feel personify the kind of life I write about. The list has included Johnny Depp, Bill Bryson, Tony Robbins, Eric Thomas, Nikki Sixx and many others.

Out of the countless people I have sent books to, a few have taken the time to send a nice response. Tony Robbins and Nikki Sixx sent emails and Sammy Hagar sent a nice letter. I appreciate these busy artists taking time out of their schedules to not only let me know they got the book, but to thank me as well. I am not famous by any means, but I still have a hard time getting back to everyone in a timely fashion. I suppose having 7 jobs will do that.

Recently, I sent a letter to a gentleman who I think fits all of the categories described in the first paragraph, the musician and actor Huey Lewis. Mr. Lewis is facing some intense personal challenges of his own and I thought it would be fitting to let him know how he and his music have motivated and inspired me. If you have not read my book A Happy Life for Busy People, allow me to share a portion of its content with you. One of the secrets I recommend to help deal with the daily stress we all face is to have a ‘Happy playlist’. This is a group of songs that put you in a positive state of mind. While it may not to anything to help fix the situation you are going through, it will help you show up in a better state to deal with the challenge.

With all of the insanity going on in my life presently, I had not given much thought to the books I had sent out recently. Then I check my P.O. Box and find a handwritten letter from Huey Lewis thanking me for the book and the words I had sent with it. Several things impressed me about this. First, that he took the time to send a reply. Second, he did so in a handwritten fashion. Not an email or form letter, but sat down with a pen and paper. Lastly, that he did all of this while facing his own struggles and while working on an album of new material.

What this shows me is the kind of character this man has. It would be easy to dismiss the work of a relatively unknown author. It would be easy to just send of thank you form letter. Instead this man took time to let me know he appreciated my gesture. I think that speaks volumes. I encourage all of us to include some ‘Huey Lewis and the News’ on our happy playlist. Not just because the music makes it very hard to maintain a bad state, but because it was created by a very thoughtful gentleman.

 

SOMEONE NEEDS YOU!

Whenever I speak to an audience I am usually asked about how I became an author. If you have ever been to one of my seminars or heard me speak you will undoubtedly have heard the story of my high school English teacher. If not, let us say she encouraged me to do everything but write. At the time I couldn’t blame her. I had little to no interest in exploring the written word as a profession. Fast forward…umm…some years and here I sit with two books written, a blog with 1000 posts and several articles in major publications.

How did we get here? It started merely as an experiment in fixing my own life. As I discovered in twenty plus years working in the field of self-improvement, there are a lot of other people like me. Being an author for the last 6 years has taught me something else that I would like to share with you today. Everyone has a story within them. I don’t care if you think your life is as exciting as watching the grass grow, you have something someone out there needs.

Whether you are a stay at home parent, a busy professional or a high school student, there are millions who find themselves in the very situation you do. Perhaps they are looking for answers to some of the struggles you have overcome? Maybe they could benefit from hearing about some of the mistakes you have made so they could avoid them? Maybe they just need someone to relate to so they know they are not alone.

While you are working on your story, remember what you do is equally important. If you are a top CEO, or the person who cleans up after a top CEO, your service is needed. More to the point, you are needed. I have a friend who has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to plants and animals. Imagine how often I ask them things like, “I saw this bird/spider/chupacabra do you know what it is?” I have another friend who makes hand-crafted stuffed animals. How amazing would it be to give someone such a unique and wonderful gift? I have friends who are good at talking, some who are good at listening. Each and every one of them are as important to me as the next.

Whatever it is know that the world would be less without you doing it. Also know that someone would benefit from hearing your story. It could be about who you are, what you do or how you think. Inside of each and everyone of us is a best-seller that could change lives and change the world. Whatever you do, please to not die with your music still inside of you. It is just what someone needs to hear.

HERE TO SERVE MORE THAN FOOD

Next up is an opportunity that nearly everyone could take advantage of. Last post I mentioned being a bartender was one of the best ways I knew to meet people. Another one is being a server. Who goes out to eat? Everyone! With just a little bit of effort, parties on both sides of this transaction can make new friends. Allow me to explain what I mean by sharing a recent experience I had.

It was late at night and Margie wanted to go shopping for Christmas gifts. I needed to get a few things written and all of the coffee shops I usually do such things at were closed. Fortunately for both of us there was a 24-hour store and restaurant across the street from each other and just a few miles from our house. I grabbed my computer and Margie grabbed her purse. I dropped her off at the store and we promised to keep each other posted.

As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed there were not many cars other than mine. When I made my way inside I had to wait a few minutes for the host to come out from in back. With this time, I observed that there were no other tables seated at the moment. Right after I was seated a young lady came up to the table and inquired where my lovely lady was. Margie and I had been there a few weeks before and had obviously made a good impression. After explaining that she was shopping and I was there to write she introduced herself as Chrystle and went to grab some coffee for me.

I began to set up my computer and get started. I was currently working on a restaurant review for the website Chow Down in Milwaukee. Moments later my server had returned with the coffee and took my order. I was into a groove when she returned in what seemed to be an impossibly quick amount of time. Setting down the food she inquired as to how my writing was going. I assured her it was going quite well as I took the first bite of the fruit bowl I had ordered. “What are you writing?” she inquired. As I told her I also mentioned this website and the fact that I had recently completed my second book. A second table walked in at that time and she looked torn. Excited she would be finally able to make some money, but evidently with more to say to me, she excused herself and I returned to recalling my experience at a Mexican restaurant from the day before.

Just as I was getting back into a groove, lost in a zone writers love, I heard a voice from my right. “Everything still good?” I told her it was. “I have always wanted to write a book.” she said. This was obviously more of an opening than a statement given the fact she remained in front of my booth staring down at me. Deciding my moment in the zone had ended and my time to discuss writing with an aspiring author had begin, I closed my laptop and said, “Oh really?” You may think at this point I was frustrated or bothered, but if there is one thing I enjoy as much as writing it is inspiring and encouraging other people to do the same.

“I wrote a story once when I was in school. The teacher said I should have it published, but my mother forbid it from happening.” she continued. She had apparently picked up on my willingness to discover what she had to say about writing. “Why would your mom do that?” I genuinely wanted to know. After responding with what seemed to be a dismissive answer aimed at avoiding opening another conversation more than avoiding answering the question I had asked, she continued. “I have a great idea for a book, but I do not think I could write it.” “I want to write a book called Single Mom Made Easy.” She went on to explain she was a single mother of several children including one with cerebral palsy.

“I am in and out of hospitals a lot and it is often hard to find a qualified babysitter, but life is good you know?” Admiring her attitude I had to inquire what allowed her to think that way despite all the challenges she faced. “It is all a matter of perspective.” she said. She mentioned all she had to be grateful for and all the positives in her life. Suddenly she recalled the other table and apologetically took her leave. I was left with an idea for this post and a genuine desire to encourage this young lady to pursue what I felt would be a very helpful and life-changing book for many single parents and parents of children with disabilities.

As the night went on we exchanged ideas for books and outlooks on life. I also shared my publishing experience and mentioned a few resources she could take advantage of. With a willingness to be open and a genuine interest in the person we were in contact with we both left better off. It is my true hope she decides to put her thoughts on paper and bring them to the world.

It is far too often I witness people treating servers in a dismissive or worse submissive manner. These are hard-working people who are on their feet all day and have a lot to offer. By taking a few extra moments to genuinely appreciate them we could make not only a new friend, but a connection with someone who also meets many people throughout the day.

As a server, you have a unique opportunity to connect with the people you serve. Inquiring about the person and not just what food they wish to consume, could lead to wonderful connections and friendships. It also will help the bottom line when it comes to the gratuity.

Dinning out can be an opportunity to do more than just fill your belly with good food. With a little extra effort and care you can fill your life with more connections and rewarding friendships as well.

AM I YOUR BROTHER?

I cannot claim complete credit for this blog. Then again, that can be said for most of my blogs. This one was specifically inspired by my coworker Jon. We were driving back from helping a different coworker who had gotten a flat tire. At this point, let me give you a brief description of Jon. He is a mild-mannered man who has spent time living abroad. Jon does not yell and when he speaks you can tell a lot of thought goes into what he says. In short, Jon is a good man who you would want to spend some time around.

Back to our conversation. We were discussing his time living in Korea and he mentioned the respect people have for each other there. He also noted something I found to be of great interest. He told me it was his experience that people around the same age referred to each other as brother and sister and those older than you are spoken to with a greater degree of respect. I shared with him my knowledge of Native American culture and how others are often referred to as brother and sister as well. I also told him how elders are called grandmother and grandfather. They are also held in high regard because of all they have lived and been through. I wrote about the importance of older people and the wisdom and experience they contain in an earlier post, but it bears repeating. Those wonderful souls are living treasures that will be lost with their passing. To treat them with anything less than respect is a disgrace.

As we continued to muse and discuss the subject, we both came to the conclusion that there is a correlation with how you view and address people and the amount of respect you have for them. After all, unless your name happens to be Cain, you would not likely wish to kill your brother. If we go back far enough we are more than likely related in some form or fashion. Even if not related genetically, we can be brothers and sisters ideologically. Even if we differ slightly in some regards we are all striving for the best life we can have for ourselves and for the ones we love.

Keeping this knowledge in mind, let us look for what we have in common instead of what divides us and we will find we are all brothers and sisters in some way. Jon, for example, is my brother in that we both have the same struggles and experiences working for the United States Postal Service. That can be said of my friends Chris, Laura, Christine, John, Don, Raul, Beth, Julie and many others I know. I have brothers and sisters who have the unique understanding of the bartending arena. Lisa, Matty, Dylan, Ashley, Jenny, Autumn, Emily, Rebecca, Audra, Alysa and more. Then there are my brothers and sisters in the literary field. Ursula, Aura, Stefanie, Cari, Andrada, Kelly and more. Margie is even my sister in that she is a creative entrepreneur. Although calling each other brother and sister would be a bit awkward. I have a brother in my friend Russ as we have been through so much and have a lot of love and respect for each other. Which brings me to my sister Michelle, an amazing lady who is the best sister a guy could have!

You see all of these people, with one exception, are not actually related to me. I do view them all with a feeling of Kinship beyond what I would refer to a friend. Next time you find yourself walking into a coffee shop or fast food place think of the person behind the counter as your brother or sister in working with the public. We all know the struggles that can be. When someone cuts you off in traffic, know they are your brother and sister in trying to get home to their family or maybe to work on time. That is not to say that brothers and sisters won’t make you angry or you may not agree sometimes, but that does not make them any less your brother or sister.

Feel free to recognize people you would be proud to call brother and sister in the comments below.