Friendship Friends Grandad Friend

Friendship:  The Best Part of Life

My Granddad often said the quality of one’s friends was the single-best indicator of the quality of one’s life.

Granddad had a three-tier model for the things that bring us joy.  Granddad believed that things like money, power, security, a nice house or car were deceptive “middlemen” – things that we often mistake for happiness – but rarely bring more than fleeting joy.  He placed these items on the bottom tier.

Granddad populated the middle tier with things within ourselves such as our degree of autonomy, self-reliance, confidence and self-discipline.  All of which, in Granddad’s opinion, could restore money, power, a home or car when these things are inevitably lost – whether via natural disaster, economic downturn, lawsuit, job loss or dozens of other seemingly random events in life.

Friendship is the sole item Granddad placed on his joy-bringing top tier.   A true friend brings us comfort, a sounding board, someone to spend downtime with, someone who shares in our thoughts and dreams, a person to laugh or cry with, a trusted source of wisdom and advice . . . and the list goes on and on.   We all need friends with whom we can share our deepest secrets and reveal our truest self.

In C.S. Lewis’ novel The Great Divorce the master penman creates a setting where every human is completely isolated from everybody else.  C.S. Lewis makes a compelling case that Hell is not a place of steam, magma and blazing infernos.  Rather, The Great Divorce postulates that Hell is instead any place where Humans lack companionship and friendship.

The best parts of life are those that contain your richest laughter.  Friends are almost always a part of those moments.  The more and closer friends one maintains, the more laughter and joy you are likely to experience.   Reach out to a friend today and tell them you love them.

 “The best things in life are free. It is important never to lose sight of that. So look around you. Wherever you see friendship, loyalty, laughter and love…there is your treasure.” – Neale Donald Walsch

You can exist without friends; but you cannot truly live without them.

Greatness Aunt Margy

The Greatness of Aunt Margy

103-year-old Aunt Margy is my great aunt.  And not because she is my Grandmother’s sister.

She is great because she is a wonderful host and an amazing cook.  She is energetic, feisty and sarcastic; but never mean-spirited.  She loves laughter and is a blast to be around.  Aunt Margy relishes the beauty and majesty of nature.  There is an energy within her, a brilliant light that never wanes. She gifts a piece of that light to every person she meets.

I have never heard her say a negative word.  Not a complaint about a situation or event.  No laments about growing old.  Never a criticism about another human being.

Aunt Margy makes everyone feel special by listening intently to every word they say.  She understands what really matters in life. People matter. Loving people matters.  Some of us talk about it; she doesn’t speak a word about it.  She just lives it.

Aunt Margy’s life is a life of greatness. Too often we measure greatness by wealth, athletic skill or fame.  She is not a Hollywood Star or a Fortune 500 C.E.O., but her energy and spirit capture all that is right and good about this world.  Aunt Margy has lived True Greatness, meaning she has maximized the talents and abilities with which God created her and fulfilled the purpose for which God called her.

Being around Aunt Margy – even for a few hours – reminds me that greatness isn’t about world championships or stock holdings.  It is bringing joy to those around me.  It is about small, deliberate kindnesses.  It is listening and hearing.  It is about helping others see the beauty in life that Aunt Margy sees.

Greatness is understanding that this earth and everything in it is fragile and could be gone in an instant.  Greatness is understanding that all we really have are our connections to each other – they are all that truly matter.

Aunt Margy understands these things; I hope you and I understand them, too.

Gift Life Enjoy Succeed

The Precious Gift of Life

You were given the precious gift of life to enjoy it.  Your Creator wants you to infuse your unique talents, skills, interests and energy into every area of your life.  God empowered you to make your life an act of love.

You have been designed to find your life’s work amazing, fulfilling and rewarding.  You would do it for free, if you did not get paid for it. The Designer always sends the perfect people and resources at the perfect time to empower you to make your dreams a reality, to help you overcome your limitations, to help you enjoy life, and to enable you to unlock your utmost potential.  If you think back on your life, you will see this is true.

But it is not just your work life.  God enabled you to find fulfilment and fun in each sphere of your life.  He wants you to discover beauty in your hobbies and profound relaxation in your leisure pursuits.  He wants you to prosper emotionally and financially.  God wants you to love your friends, family and neighbors so profoundly, that you already live in Heaven.

When you decide to uphold these lofty standards in every facet of your life, and refuse to expect or accept less, you will find you are no longer riddled with regret or plagued by the ‘what-if’ questions you often pose to yourself about your life choices.

Having incredibly high standards leads you closer to God and, perhaps paradoxically, to find tranquility and contentment with all your life’s choices.

Johnny Weir Awesomeness

The Awesomeness of Johnny Weir

“Love myself I do. Not everything, but I love the good as well as the bad. I love my crazy lifestyle, and I love my hard discipline. I love my freedom of speech and the way my eyes get dark when I’m tired. I love that I have learned to trust people with my heart, even if it will get broken. I am proud of everything that I am and will become.” – Johnny Weir

Wow.

I have to admit that I am not a figure skating fan and had no idea who Johnny Weir was.  But when I ran across this quote, I couldn’t help but marveling at the power of these words.  I wonder how much our lives would change if we embraced and incorporated these thoughts into our lives.

First, Johnny states he loves himself, something we must learn to do before we can truly give love to others.  We cannot give something away that we do not possess.  He cleverly states he doesn’t ‘love’ everything about himself, but I ‘love the good as well as the bad.’  I think this jeu de mots means that while each part of him may not be perfect, he accepts even those parts that are frustrating to him.  This is difficult for many of us.  Sure, we should try to improve the parts of ourselves that we do not like.  But accepting the ‘bad’ parts of our character, body, mind and habits is a critical skill, as well, if we truly wish to fully love ourselves.

Next, the figure skater says he loves his lifestyle, discipline, speech and tired eyes.  Interestingly, he picks four items that someone could easily see as negatives:  a “crazy” lifestyle, having to constantly be disciplined, freedom of speech (which frequently lands us in trouble – or at least criticized) and dark, tired eyes.   I have never heard anybody else — ever — say they love their own dark, tired eyes.  But Johnny has found four things that are certainly taxing on occasion, at minimum, and has accepted them, embraced them, and loves them.

Mr. Weir says he has learned to trust people even though he knows the heart-rending consequence that will occasionally come from doing so.  This is an area where most of us struggle.  Why give all of ourselves when it will sometimes lead to heartbreak?  Because our love and greatest joy is found in doing so.  The only thing worse than to have love and lost . . . is to never have loved.

Finally, Johnny tells us he is proud of who is he right this minute and will always be proud of who he is.  Even if we disregard all the other beautiful sentiments in his quote and fully embraced this final sentence, our lives would change immeasurably.  We would be full of love and joy.  That is the truth.

Thank you, Johnny Weir.  I am still not a skating fan.  But I am unequivocally a fan of the way you live life.

Choosing Alternative Road

Choosing an Alternative Road

Cracks, potholes, depressions, ruts, ripples and upheavals are all terms used by asphalt professionals to describe negative conditions in the state of a road.

Notice how many of these terms we have borrowed to describe negative conditions in our emotional life.

We have each been presented with beautiful roads in life — full of lush scenery and fulfilling experiences — if we care to perceive our road that way.

Many of us, though, see our road dotted with potholes, filled with ruts and ripples, and spiderwebbed with cracks. We grumble about the multitude of upheavals in our road, but fail to see – or admit – that we are the reason our road is bumpy.  It soon becomes easier to patch the holes in our road with self-deceptive delusions rather than simply and easily taking responsibility for the condition of our road. We look everyplace except inside ourselves, and find fault with everything except ourselves.

Our first great step is to candidly look inside and recognize that we are creating our own bumpy road.  That realization will help us stop trying to to ‘fix’ our road by blaming others, events and situations for our bumpy ride.  We soon recognize that when we fill our life with forgiveness and gratitude, all the perceived cracks, potholes and upheavals level themselves away.  In truth, we created them all in the first place.

In any area of life where you experience potholes, ruts, upheavals or depression, you might try running through the items below.  Perhaps you will find a more peaceful and fulfilling path.

  1. Accept responsibility for your lack of peace and acknowledge that you may choose to have peace of mind in this moment.
  2. Acknowledge that your lack of peace is not due to someone, or an event or situation, external to you. Identify the negative emotion(s) you are feeling and acknowledge to yourself it is not the negative event but your internal reaction to that event that has brought about the negative emotions you are feeling.
  3. Do not judge or condemn yourself for feeling as you do, just acknowledge the emotions and the reason(s) you have created the/se emotion(s)
  4. Accept that there are alternative ways to perceive this situation.
  5. Choose to see the situation as an opportunity to grow, to learn, to forgive, to express gratitude, and a way of practicing how to choose peace of mind for yourself.
  6. Offer gratitude for this awesome experience, of finding peace of mind where you previously would have created obstructions and chaos in your road.
  7. Forgive yourself and everyone and everything involved in the situation.
Resolve Happy

Resolve to be Happy

“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” – Helen Keller

Determination with regard to our attitude plays a vital part in the quality of our life.  Yet, most of us work incredibly hard at our careers, child-raising and hobbies – without taking a few minutes each day to decide and determine that we will be happy, joyous and full of gratitude no matter what.

Kiss slowly, play hard, forgive quickly, take risks, give everything you can in this life and have no regrets when you come to the end of it.  Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, let go of what you cannot change, and find things for which to be grateful. Enjoy life without keeping others from enjoying theirs.  Life is far too short to be anything but happy.

Feeling Awesome

Feeling Awesome

“I find if my body feels well and I exercise regularly, I think better, work better and feel better.” – Helmut Jahn

Every single year the most popular New Year’s Resolutions are variants of “Get into shape,” “Lose____ pounds,” or “Go to the gym __ times per week.”  We know that regular exercise will make us healthier and that we feel incredible when we exercise.

We all hear about it, think about it, and many of us even obsess about it.  But until we do it, it doesn’t matter.

Take action and feel awesome!

Don't Follow Crowd Be Awesome

Don’t Follow the Crowd. Be Awesome!

Be very careful when you blindly follow the masses, the ‘M’ is often silent.

Being different is sometimes hard, but it is well worth it.  Everyone who has ever achieved greatly has dared to be different.  Just a few examples of people who refused to follow the crowd and revolutionized their field of endeavor — if not the entire world:  Mahatma Gandhi, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, Mother Teresa, Vincent van Gogh, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, Joan of Arc, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Christopher Columbus, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr.; Benjamin Franklin, Paul of Tarsus, Marie Curie, Sigmund Freud, Gautama Buddha, William Shakespeare, Florence Nightingale and Jesus of Nazareth.

Consider how different our world would be today if any one of these people had decided to simply follow the crowd and uphold the status quo.

You are the only person ever created with exactly your combination of personality, talents, insight, interests and experiences.  You are uniquely qualified to contribute something awesome to this world, whether on the world stage . . . or ‘simply’ in your own home, neighborhood, school, house of worship or local community.

But you will only make that contribution if you refuse to follow the crowd.  We often wait for ‘a sign’ or ‘the perfect time,’ but that may never come.  Instead, we need only recognize we were born to be awesome.  But we will never find that inner awesomeness if we follow the crowd and try to be like everybody else.

Dare to be different and live life like the people listed above.  Live life on your own terms.  Live life in pursuit of what you love and doing what makes you happy.  You owe it to yourself to make each minute count, and you owe it to all of us to bless us with your inner awesomeness — whatever that may be.

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”  ― Albert Einstein

 

Happiness is a Choice

Happiness is a choice.

Let me repeat that:  Happiness is a choice.  You are the only person who can choose to make you happy.  Or unhappy.

You are responsible for your happiness.  Or unhappiness.  You are responsible.  You are solely responsible.  The choice is yours, and your alone.

If you expect others to make you happy, you will be disappointed.

If you expect money or possessions to make you happy, you will be disappointed.

If you expect a relationship to make you happy, you will be disappointed.

If you expect a job promotion to make you happy, you will be disappointed.

If you expect your religion to make you happy, you will be disappointed.

You are responsible for your happiness.  Or unhappiness.  You are solely responsible.

Happiness has nothing to do with what others say or do, even if it feels like it does.

Happiness is not something that we gain by the praise of others, or lose because of their criticism.  Happiness comes from within ourselves.  We always get to choose

We can begin to be happy any minute we want, simply by making the decision to be happy.  Make that decision now.  Decide you will be a happy person from now on.

But once you have made the decision to be a happy person, then do whatever is necessary to remain happy. Happiness is a marathon, not a sprint.  It will take some practice, but you will get there if you just continue to put one foot in front of the other and continue moving towards it.

In fact, you will become very happy just by trying.

That is the truth.

Thank-you thank you note card

Joy Multiplier:  The Thank-you Note

A “force multiplier” in military parlance is a capability that, when employed by a combat force, significantly increases its combat potential.  A “joy multiplier” is similar.  It brings significantly more joy to you and others than its effort would typically create.  A thank-you note is a great “joy multiplier” as it takes very little effort but lets friends and family members know you appreciate them and the generous gifts of time, money, effort and resources they have bestowed upon you.

The year-end holidays are a time when effective thank-you note writing is critical.  Now is the time to properly thank the generous people in your life.  Thanking people and making sure that gift-givers know how much we appreciate their gifts is often more difficult than we expect.  Therefore, it tends to be a task we procrastinate.  Procrastinating with thank-you notes usually results in the job hanging over our head, zapping our joy, and often results in us failing to thank those who bestowed their wealth, time and resources on us –- resources they could have spent on themselves or their family.

Instead of living in that joy-stealing place, follow these easy steps to craft beautiful and well-received thank-you notes that all your friends and loved-ones will appreciate receiving.

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Two Steps to Writing an Awesome Thank-You Note

Step 1:  Personalize the note

If you are going to take the time to create a thank-you note, take an extra couple minutes to make it personal.  Do not even think about typing the note or sending it via text or email.  A thoughtful, handwritten note sent via snail mail conveys a level of sincerity, trustworthiness, appreciation, sophistication and class that cannot be replicated by any other means.

Thank-you notes do not have to be formal or written on expensive stationery. Just get a box of cards that is generic enough to suit everybody you will be writing a thank-you note to.

Step 2: Write the note

Begin with “Dear,” then write the words you would use to address the person if they walked in your room this moment and you had not seen them since last year.  If they are your friend, you would probably say their first name.  If it is an elder or friend of your parents, address them as “Dr. ______” or “Pastor _____”, or “Mr. and Mrs. ______________” etc.

     1.  The First Sentence

The best and easiest way to begin is to simply write, “Thank you for…” and describe the gift that person has given you, such as:

  • Thank you for the Ant Farm you gave me this Christmas.
  • Thank you for the electronics equipment you gave me for Hanukkah.
  • Thank you for inviting us to your amazing Eid al-Fitr dinner party.

     2.  The Second Sentence

Explain why you like the gift, how you plan to use it and/or how much you like it.   For instance:

  • I love ants and it will be incredible to learn about them by watching them in my room.
  • I have already secured an extra gig because of the new amplifier you gave me!
  • The food was great, the braised cauliflower was amazing, and the company was even better!

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     3.  The Third Sentence

Use the third sentence to strengthen the bond you share with the recipient.

  • I cannot wait for you to come over and see all the tunnels the ants have constructed.
  • We are playing the Roxy in Des Moines on January 14, and would be excited if you could come.
  • I hope we can hang out again in the future.  Pat and I had a terrific time with you guys.

     4.  The Ending

You can, of course, drop another sentence or two.  But do not feel any pressure to do so.  The third sentence is always a high point you can end on.  Simply close the note with “Love,” or “Truly yours,” or “Thank you again,” as appropriate.  Then sign your name.

The thank-you note is simple and very effective when you follow this formula and don’t try to overthink it.  When you compose a sincere note of appreciation, it is almost foolproof.  It brings joy to the recipient, to everyone the recipient shows it to, and it brings joy to you.