Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Creating Great Christmas Photos and Videos

“You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” Ansel Adams

Creating a great photograph or video

It’s that time of year again when it seems we all take more pictures of family and friends.  Many people ask me how to get that perfect photograph or capture that once in a life time video.  I tell them you have to practice.  You have to take photos and shoot video year round to get better at doing it.  However, with that said there are a few tips I always like to share that will help make your photographs and video standout.

Tips for creating great photographs or videos

Below are five tips to remember when taking photographs or shooting video this Christmas Season.

1.  Take pictures or shoot videos – you have to take the pictures or shoot the video in order to have them as memories.  So don’t be lazy start snapping the photos and creating the videos.
2.  Timing  is everything.  Anticipate a moment and capture it as it happens.  The idea is to capture a moment in time - be patient and you will be rewarded.
3.   Lighting – did you know that photography means “painting with light”?  Lighting sets the mood of what you capture.  You can take a photograph in the morning light and take the same picture in the evening twilight and you will create two photos of the same thing but both portray completely different feelings.  Light is the biggest contributor in conveying the story in your photograph or video.
4.  Subject The subject of your photograph or video captures the spirit.  It tells a clear story which is undeniable.  Keep it simple.  Capturing a sense of motion or emotion provides a powerful message.
5.   Composition – make sure what you capture feels balanced and doesn’t give the feeling of falling off the page or give that awkward feeling when looking at it.  Your photographs and videos should be pleasing to the eye. Use the “Rule of Thirds” – (not sure what the “Rule of Thirds” is check it out here ).

Links to more information

The following are five links to information about photography I thought you would find interesting.

Light Painting Light Sabers – a technique for taking amazing light painting shots
Painting with Light - light painting tutorial
GPP Group Shot = Pressure that Can Make Diamonds – a cool way to create a group photo
Black and White Conversion: Channel Mixer Recipes – creating a Black and White photo
The Real Secret to Taking Spectacular Photos – 10 tips on creating stunning photograph

Go create great photographs or awesome videos.  If you feel brave enough, share what you create with your family and friends.  Most importantly remember tip #1 above - you have to take the pictures or shoot the video in order to have them as memories.  So don’t be lazy start snapping the photos and creating the videos.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What does success in business mean?

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” 
Albert Einstein

What is Success?

Many of us have a strong desire to be a success in business but cannot define what that means or how to achieve it.  How do you define success?  Many people I have spoken with define success as monetary rewards while others define it as owning the market, having the most customers while others define it as having a positive impact on people and the market.  John Lee Dumas, founder and host of business podcast Entrepreneur On Fire defined success as “the gradual realization of a worthy goal. To me, the key word here is worthy. Ask yourself this ... if you reach your goal, will you look at it as a goal worth attaining."

My definition for success and as I believe, it is for other entrepreneurs such as me can be defined as the great satisfaction that comes from the process of creating – starting with an idea then working through the process of building something that lasts or has a positive impact on others.  Deep and lasting satisfaction can be realized when successfully facing steep challenges that result in developing new skills, new strengths and new ideas that impact others in a positive manner.

For most, success is defined as the positive results of an intention.  Each time you move towards achieving a goal, objective or target you are realizing some form of success.  In other words, it can be said a business is successful if it is expanding its market share and increasing its profits.

A few young men with an idea

Yesterday morning, I spent time with Jose Espejo who I have known for many years and the business team he has built.  I was there to photograph one of their product rollouts however, for me it became much more.  For several years this young man was on my team.  He was a hard charger and desired so much more than what he was doing or that could be offered.  He set out on his own and with a few of his close friends formed the company named Quatro Solutions Consulting Group, LLC.  This and of itself is not that unique or uncommon however what they are achieving is.  He and his team recognized a need for affordable yet functional tools that all students would be able to use in obtaining a 21st Century education. 

The Quatro Solutions team took the lead in manufacturing affordable computer tablets designed specifically for the education industry.  What the team developed is called the eBOLT tablet.  The eBOLT tablet is now enhancing the learning experiences of students across the United States.

Success by example

What is important about this story is not the fact that the Quatro Solutions team designed and is delivering a computer tablet specifically for the education industry rather, it is much more.  It has much to do with being successful in business.  First and for most, these young men are having fun as they make a positive impact on the lives of others.  As I watched the team present their eBOLT tablet to a third grade class yesterday, it became obvious that they are on to something big.  Guiding adults through a tablet setup and then instructing them how to use it is one thing but doing the same with a class full of third graders was simply amazing.

What has made this team successful when others have come and gone attempting to achieve the same result?  This team is motivated to make a difference.  They have a clear set of goals that each team member understands and can relate to.  A vision was set from the very beginning of what they want their company to become and continues to guide the team.  They are leading the community by example, not accepting no for an answer.  Most schools cannot afford teachers let alone tablets for students; as a result the Quatro Solutions team is partnering with various community groups who are finding sponsors to cover the cost of the tablets.  Brighthouse Networks sponsored the tablets the third grade class received yesterday.  The team took pride in teaching the third graders about their tablet. 

How well a business is doing can be measured by the respect and recognition the business receives from the community, other businesses, government and its customers.  Yesterday, the smiles, the twinkle in the eyes and the overall sense of wanting to learn by each of the third grade students was all I needed to recognize something special – a successful business that had an idea which is now making a positive impact on the lives of others.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why is Batman Important?

“Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery;  He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and he has saved not only his soul but his life.” – G.K. Chesterton

A Child's Wish Comes True

This past week on the news there was a story about a young leukemia patient who had his wish granted to become Batman.  San Francisco transformed part of itself into Gotham City all the way down to the criminals that only Batman could catch.  It seemed like the entire city participated to make this young boy's wish come true or came out to watch the young Batman save the city.  There were two black Lamborghinis decked out with Batman decals to make them look like the Bat Mobile, there was the Riddler, the Penguin and even a damsel in distress.  The young boy became the superhero Batkid.

It Will Make You Smile

As I watched the news report unfold I noticed how much fun everyone was having and wondered was granting this wish for the young Batkid or more for those granting the wish.  Then it hit me, it was for both.  When you do things for others it makes you feel good inside.  It was obvious by the smiles of the participants they were having fun.  Then I thought if they can do this in order to grant the wish of a young boy why can't we do this other times rather than resorting to constant bickering and divide that seems to have our country in a strangle hold?  I think we can but the problem seems to be that many of us are afraid to be childlike and would rather be childish.  I see the difference as being childlike reflects your honest willingness to let your emotions show bad or good where as being childish reflects selfish inconsiderate behavior. 

The organizers and participants were able to grant this wish because they allowed themselves to become childlike enabling them to recapture a part of their childhood.  Their willingness to be childlike once again allowed them to pretend and bring to life a superhero.  Everyone needs a superhero.  This granted wish was as much about those who enabled it to happen as it was about the young boy becoming Batkid. 

Why is Batkid Important?

The story confirms that:
  • We feel good when we act childlike; role playing and pretending in superheroes.
  • It feels good when we do things for others expecting nothing in return.
  • When we release ourselves from our hang ups we have fun, we enjoy life and achieve big things.
Taking this a step further – what if we didn't take ourselves so serious in business.  How could being more childlike in business help?
  • It will help you commit to learning new things, trying new things, talking to strangers, question everything, take more risk and do things that make you feel uncomfortable.
  • It will encourage your curiosity which might be all it takes for a big break through.
  • It will help you laugh more and to take yourself less seriously.
  • It will help you make new friends.  You should be friends with your customers and clients.
  • Most importantly, being childlike allows you to have fun.  Many of us spend most of our lives at the grind of a job forgetting to have fun or what fun is even all about.

When I was a youngster I loved riding my bike anywhere and everywhere with no destination in mind. Today I’m going to fire up my Road King and head down the road with no destination in mind.  I might even find a curvy road along the beach to ride.   What’s keeping you from being more childlike?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Continue To Learn New Things

Give a man a fish and he will eat for the day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.
Chinese Proverb

Why Continue To Learn
Why one should continue educating oneself is a perplexing proposition for most but not for me.  I have most everything I have ever wanted but yet I find it very compelling to continue educating myself.  In my thirty six years of professional life I have done things and have been places most people just dream about.  I have accomplished everything I have set out to do as life goals but never feel like I am done learning.  I have three reasons why I continue to educate myself.  First, being a highly competitive individual I find it necessary to stay ahead of the competition which is made possible by continuing to learn new things.  Second, education has always been a lifelong endeavor of mine that I enjoy doing.  Third, I find it desirable to learn new things that take me down new paths that are far removed from my current path.  Learning new things provokes thought.  Thought provokes new ideas.  New ideas bring new perspective.  A new perspective can be all that is needed for a big break through.    Learning can provide that needed change of direction for your big break through. 

Coming Full Circle
Often, I contemplate what the future will bring; will it be good fortune, overwhelming despair, great happiness or great sadness.  As a child and teenager I never really thought about the future rather each day was lived to its fullest.  As a young adult through my early forties I often worried about the future facing the many challenges of raising a family and the frustrations of the business world.  Now in my fifties I feel I have come full circle.  No longer do I worry about the future rather, once again I take one day at a time.  In many respects I feel like a teenager again.  I explore new things, take new paths and seek new direction just for the fun of it.

Growing up my parents made it extremely clear that without certain abilities and personal characteristic qualities it would be hard once I entered the real world.  My father to this day tells me that being able to read and think critically is the core for everything else you want to do in life which I find to be absolutely true.  My mother would tell me to not just do something, be the best you can be at that something.  To me, demonstrating competence in a chosen field means much more than just completing the check list.  It means being the best that you can be –giving 100% of yourself to your field is much better than just being a part time player.  I learned from my grandfather that learning does not have to be in school.  He taught me that the world is your school.  There are times when you take classes other times when you learn by your experiences.  I have learned to never discount my ability to learn something new when traveling, meeting new people or experiencing a new adventure.

In the Business World
In my professional life my lifelong endeavor of learning is core to everything I do.  When interviewing candidates for open positions my education and experience enable me to make sound decisions and good choices based on facts.  In the business world one does not excel without the tools of critical thinking or effective communication skills.  In most businesses collaboration is fundamental to success.  Today, in order to be competitive in the world market a company must be made up of individuals who are educated, creative, who can think critically and communicate effectively.  Sharing talents and resources with the ability to draw information from various sources and fields is the essence of collaboration.  Students of today must master these qualities if they are to be successful in the world after receiving their degree.  In business, these are key qualities that set the individual apart from the rest.  A business made up of individuals with these qualities puts that business ahead of the competition. 

Lifelong Endeavor
Learning is a lifelong endeavor.  Success is achieved when the student realizes that learning does not stop upon graduation nor does learning have to take place only in a classroom.  Life experiences present many learning opportunities.  It is our responsibility to take the opportunity to learn.  Each person you meet in life has something they can teach you, each experience, and each cycle of change you have an opportunity to learn.  With an open mind and armed with an education that enables one’s ability to think critically and communicate effectively, there is no reason to fail at realizing success.  Education and life experiences will set you apart from the rest providing a unique and distinct advantage.  Through critical thinking and an ability to communicate effectively you gain an advantage of being able to see and understand the big picture in ways that others may not. 

Many times I have been asked if I could do it all over again what would I change.  My response every time is I would change nothing.  If I did, it would not be the life I have come to know and understand.  In many ways life has been good to me.  I am blessed with a wonderful family that is full of love; I have great children and a wonderful wife.  My experiences have made me who and what I am.  When I started writing this my intent was to share important experiences in my life regarding the need for continuing to learn new things; to provide insight to why  learning new things is important.  In closing, my intent is to share my secret for life.  Live life to love life taking one day at a time, understanding that life is what you make it so live life to its fullest always seeking out new things to learn.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Life Chapters – Make Time Along The Way

“Don’t hurry.  Don’t worry.  You’re only here for a short visit.  So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.”  Walter Hagen

No Time

When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses?  I know, that sounds so cliché but honestly when was the last time you stopped to watch a honeybee land on a flower or watch a sunrise or enjoy a sunset?  Most of us are so caught up in our daily to do list that we miss the little things in life that bring meaning and much joy.

How many times have you experienced or heard from others about a business trip that consisted of flying in, going to the meeting, having dinner, sleeping at the airport hotel and flying out the next day?  What’s so special about that?   Absolutely nothing is special about that.  We all get caught up in daily errands, housework, work obligations, our children’s sports and school activities and most often overlook the little things in life that are right in front of us.

We get worried about missing a cellphone call, a text message, the latest Facebook post to such a degree and all caught up in making sure every part of the big picture is taken care of that we miss the little things that can transport us out of the daily norm.

The Paths We Take

Over the last thirty six years I have done much traveling for both work and pleasure.  In the past, I often fell into the trap of super highways, franchise food, airport hotels and fly in fly out meetings.  However, over the past fifteen years I have made it a point that whenever possible I would enjoy the little things along the way.  Last week on a speaking trip to Coeur d’Alene Idaho it was no different – I enjoyed the little things along the way.  Instead of flying directly into Coeur D’Alene my wife and I flew into Seattle Washington, rented a car and drove the rest of the way to the event.  I am so glad we did.  On our journey we enjoyed many of the little things others would normally miss.

The Stops We Make

We started our trip with breakfast at a small family owned restaurant outside of Seattle named Pancake Chef.  Besides the great food we were served the genuine friendliness of the people working there was something you rarely experience these days.

Our next stop was at Espresso Chalet on Highway 2 traveling through the Southern Cascade Mountains.  When ordering our coffee I asked the lady helping us if she wanted to trade jobs – we talked for a good twenty minutes.  They have the best coffee and candy they call coffee beans which is a chocolate covered coffee bean that is out of this world.

One of the highlights of our trip was a home cooked meal with friends Sheila, Mary and Sheila’s grandparents.  In my life I had never met a true master craftsman of anything – not until this meal when I met Sheila’s grandpa Roger.  He carves birds which when he is finished are so life like that at first I thought they were taxidermy specimens.  His work has earned him many awards.  My wife and I met a true master artisan whose work took our breath away.

After speaking we had dinner with new friends we made during the event, Connie and David.  We spent several hours over dinner at a quaint little Coeur d’Alene local restaurant.  We talked, enjoyed good food and enjoyed each other’s company.  Most importantly we laughed a great deal together about life.

On our way back we took Highway 20 also known as the Northern Cascade Highway which for me is one of the most spectacular roads I have ever been on.  Our last night was spent in Winthrop Washington at a small hotel named Hotel Rio Vista.  Our stay at Hotel Rio Vista and the ride back to Seattle on Highway 20 was another highlight of our trip. Words cannot describe the stunning beauty we witnessed on our ride back.

The point I left out is that we could have taken Interstate 90 from Seattle to Coeur d’Alene, stayed at franchise hotels and ate franchise food.  Instead we stepped out of the norm.  It’s scary stepping away from the norm but is worth it in so many ways.  When you set your focus to the here and now and not to what is on your to do list you will start to see the little things you are missing.  When you start to see the little things in life you will begin to find that the simplest of things can be regarded as marvels which become cherished memories.  Put down the cellphone, step away from the normal routine and start looking for those little treasures waiting to be discovered.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Life Chapters – Being Aggressive

Aggression Defined

The dictionary defines aggression as “physical or verbal behavior intended to cause harm… or the practice of making attacks or encroachments; hostile, injurious, or destructive behavior or outlook especially when caused by frustration.” Based on either definition we are all guilty to some degree of aggression or of having been aggressive.

Theories suggest aggression can be a result of frustration, can be instinctive, or learned. Reflecting on these three it is easy to see how each can be the underlying driving force in aggressive acts. I have lived and experienced aggression throughout my life in various forms. Depending on the circumstance each of the theories are valid in and of themselves or in any combination. There have been times when frustration has driven me to strike back. Instinctively as a matter of survival I have acted out aggressively in order to prevail. Being competitive in business and sports has taught me that there are times when you must be aggressive in order to win.


Frustration can trigger aggression. If you believe something or someone is blocking you from achieving your goal you become frustrated many times aggressively lashing out. I have seen this many times on the football field. The player who keeps getting beat, whose frustration gets the best of him resulting in a personal foul when he strikes out with a cheap shot or late hit, is called for holding or through frustration the player ends up injured. We have all witnessed the unhappy frustrated child in the department store who wants the toy or whatever and his parent has said no. The child makes his point by crying very loud, striking back at the parent sometimes physically, or pulling things off the shelves.

Many times frustration in the workplace ends in aggression – “Going Postal” comes to mind. A worker who becomes so frustrated as a result of not getting the promotion he felt he deserved, or is laid off or feels he is getting no satisfaction from management may display aggression. Certainly, the Postal worker who returned to his Post Office and shot co-workers was an act of aggression.


I believe instinctive aggression has saved my life. Everything we read including the definitions of aggression suggests it is hostile, injurious, or destructive. I am not suggesting aggression is good but there are times when it is a necessary evil. There have been several events in my life that have required controlled calculated aggression – each were defining moments that required instinctive survival mode resulting in aggressive acts. Instinctively as human beings we desire to survive and will do anything to preserve our life and those around us we love and care for. When facing an enemy, whose only goal is to harm or kill you, you have no option but to resort to aggression – in some instances it is the difference between life and death. In war you either kill or you are killed.


Socialized or learned aggression is another type of aggression I am familiar with. Having been a football coach, I cannot tell you how many times I told individual players and the entire team to go out there and be aggressive. Football is a contact sport; some say it is a violent contact sport. Regardless, it is a game of learned aggression. Players are taught from a very early age to go out on the field and knock the other team’s players on their butts; make the tackle and make sure he remembers your number; or, hit him so hard that the next time he doesn't want to carry the ball your way.

The important thing is a coach teaches his players what acceptable aggression is and what is crossing the line. There is a level of aggression that is acceptable in all sports. Whether on the football field, soccer field, basketball court or volleyball court there are aggressive acts that a player exhibits which are learned from his coach. On the football field the teams fight for field position through aggression – it’s a full contact sport. Soccer players fight for possession of the ball. On the basketball court players bang their bodies in efforts to gain position on the court and under the basket. Spiking the ball in volleyball can also be considered an aggressive act that is learned.

Putting it all together

Can frustration, instinctive, and learned aggression work together? Yes, consider the frustrated volleyball player who instinctively reverts to a learned behavior like spiking the ball in such a manner that the ball is spiked at an unaware opposing player that is hit with the ball unexpectedly. Another example is the football player who is so frustrated he instinctively wants to survive the game and does the only thing he remembers the coach telling him – be aggressive – so he makes a late hit. With so many people out of work, homeless, not able to keep up with paying their bills, and the overall level of frustration being experienced by many it becomes easy to understand why people aggressively act out in frustration, instinctively wanting to survive doing the only thing they learned to do when they were a child.

“My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.”―Bette Davis

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life Chapters – Living with Guilt

What is Guilt

The feeling of remorse or self-reproach one experiences when they feel responsible for a wrong or offense.  We all experience feelings of guilt from time-to-time for many different reasons.  No one is exempt.  We have all felt guilt at some point and to some degree.  Guilt can destroy lives such as when one is found guilty of a crime or as in Shakespeare’s Macbeth where Lady Macbeth is driven to insanity and ultimately death as a result of her guilt.

The Effects of Guilt

Guilt affects people in different ways.  Some will become sick as a result of their guilt.  Others have taken their own life to escape their guilt.  Some suffer with their guilt while others learn to deal with it.  Many have confused guilt with shame, but it is easy to distinguish between the two.  Guilt is what you feel for what we do.  Shame is what we feel for what we are.  In other words, what I did verses who I am.  Even though shame is a much stronger emotion both shame and guilt have an immense impact on our perception of self and how we interact with others.  One can experience guilt but have no shame or can be full of shame but have no guilt.

My Guilt

I have lived with guilt for a good part of my adult life.  Every day since an early December 1979 morning I have lived with the feeling of guilt.  That morning two friends were killed in a terrorist attack.  I feel guilty for their deaths.  My work schedule had been changed from days to evenings which meant my friend John was up front driving the bus that morning when it was attacked not someone else.  It also meant that I was not sitting where Emil sat that morning when the gunfire killed him. 

For me it went something like this.  First, I was happy to be alive but saddened by my friends’ deaths.  I was grateful it was not me but hurt for the families involved.  Over time I began to think more and more about what had happened.  In time a great sense of remorse filled me over what had happened that fateful morning.  I began to second guess myself and play the “what if” and “If I had only” games which brought on even deeper feelings of guilt – “If I had only been there” or “I should have seen it coming.”  These feelings of guilt were normal until they completely consumed my life. 

What Guilt will Do

Guilt will grind you down, it will eat away at you every moment of every day and it will crush your spirit and desire to continue on in life.  If guilt is left unchecked it can and will destroy you.

In many regards my guilt was self-punishment self-imposed for something I believed was my fault.  Since my guilt was self-imposed over time, I have been able to reconcile with my guilt and what happened that December morning.  Don’t’ wait to say the things that need to be said.  Don’t wait to do the things that need to be done.  Losing someone before saying what needs to be said or doing what needs to be done will result in feelings of guilt that could become your own demise.  Living with guilt is a difficult thing to do.

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”  Voltaire

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Life Chapters – The Memories We Make

Life Connections

The connections we make in our lives are so fragile.  What we say and do make or break these connections.  Our lives depend on the connections we make throughout our entire journey through life.  The worst things we experience in our lives are not the things we have said or done or what has been said or done to us.  Rather, they are the things we hold in or neglect to say or do.  It’s our failure to see through the bad things in life to what is good that truly hurts us. They are the things we let slip away because we could not find the time to deal with them.  The little things we brush aside because we feel they are too small to matter.  These are the things that continue to follow us throughout our lives until they are resolved or we pass on.

Live Each Day

Your life journey may seem like it goes on for eternity but, one day you wake up and you realize that life has just about passed you by.  You find yourself wondering how you got to this point in life.  How did I let so many things slip by without giving a second glance?  How many connections have I broke because I neglected to do what my heart told me was right?  As each day passes, all you have left of that day are memories whether they are bad or good, right or wrong.  The memories you keep are the memories you make each day along your journey.  Therefore, each day you experience should be embraced as though it was your last day; your best day; your finest hour.  Fill each day with joy and excitement.  Tell people you meet along the way how wonderful they are.  Don’t neglect the little things in life that matter.  Strive to see the good, no matter how deep you have to look.  In doing so, you will truly live life to its fullest; grasping everything it has to offer along the way.  Failing to do so, only keeps you from living and enjoying all of life’s rewards.

Life is Fragile

Life is so fragile.  So much of what you say and do and so much of what is said and done to you burdens your pursuit of a rewarding experience on your journey through life.   Memories are what we make of them.  If you chose to live in your memories you will be burdened with things that have no relevance on the reality of the current day.  Bad things happen to all of us.  Some of us survive; others struggle throughout life wondering why it had to happen to me.  Those who have the ability to put their memories into proper prospective will endure and push on.  They are the ones who will be rewarded with the best of what life has to offer.  If you live each day to its fullest and to the best of your ability, you will be blessed with a magnitude of wonderful memories which is incomprehensible.  The good memories you make do not burden you, but rather provide you with joy and comfort.

The Good and the Bad

Experiences that have hurt you have the ability to continue hurting you for a long time after the initial experience has stopped.  This happens to you because you let it.  Remember, memories are what you make of them.  If you chose to dwell on the things that have hurt you or made you feel bad, you will continue to hurt and feel bad in the present.  Dwelling on bad memories will never provide you the opportunity to remember all the good things you have experienced.  We all have the ability to put our memories into proper prospective.  Just as hurtful and bad things burden you down, they can also teach you valuable lessons.  They can teach you how to avoid the hurt and bad that life throws at us.  If you cannot let go of your past, you can never move into the future.  This is the reasoning you must use when dealing with memories that feed your mind with the pain of your past. 

Memories are just that, memories.  In most cases, they have no bearing on the outcome of the present day unless you let them.  Bad memories bring you down; good memories make you feel good.  Start each day with a good memory.  Some may feel they do not have any good memories to recall.  This may be true however; if you embrace each day and live it to its fullest potential you will soon have many more good memories than bad.  This is not to say that bad memories should be forgotten rather, just that they should be placed into the proper prospective and not allowed to be dwelled upon.  Life is too short to live in the past.  We all need to learn to let go of the memories that hurt us and how to cherish the ones that provide us joy and comfort. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Life Chapters – Being a Parent

Becoming a Parent

When I became a parent it was a life changing event.  I really had no idea just how life changing it would be but in short time it became abundantly clear.  With the birth of each of my children life changed a little bit more.  My wife and I did not have a parenting user’s manual – all we had was each other and our new child.  We had no idea what was to come.

For me, becoming a parent has been the most challenging yet the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  Parents need to be brave, resourceful, have moral character, be great listeners, and have a great sense of humor.  The most important thing I learned early on was that raising children is a fulltime life-long endeavor.  As time went on and my children grew older, I realized that just because they grow up and leave to make their mark on the world my job as a parent continues on.

My Feelings

As a parent, I have experienced all types of feelings and emotions.  I have felt untold amounts of love, overwhelming joy and extreme pride along with red hot anger, debilitating panic, deep despair and undeniable frustration.  There were many times that I was tired, wore out or upset.  However, all of the anger, panic, frustrations, tiredness and being upset paled in comparison to the love, joy and pride my children have brought me as a parent.

It’s Hard Work

Being a parent is hard.  It’s the hardest thing you will ever do.  You will second-guess yourself on every decision, choice or opinion you make.  There will be times that fear will overtake you as you think you are screwing up your child’s life.  You will get angry over stupid things.  There will be days that you end your day crying.  There will be sleepless nights full of worry.  There will be all night long efforts to complete science projects due in the morning.  And, you will experience the unanswered phone calls that drive soul shattering panic attacks.  Your children will leave to fight wars, go off to college and become teachers or doctors and will leave to find their place in the world.  Yes, being a parent is hard work.

It’s Amazing Work

Being a parent is amazing in so many ways.  My children have taught me many things and much about life.  I have learned to think and communicate in ways I would have never imagined.  I have learned what unconditional love really means.  As a parent very early on, I learned there is no such thing as perfect parents and regardless of their flaws children are perfect just the way they are.  Once I became a parent, I gained a renewed admiration for my parents.  Most importantly I learned that as hard as parenting may be the fact remains becoming a parent has been the most awesome thing I have ever done.

A Parent’s Job Is Never Done

A parent’s job is life-long.  Just because your children grow up and move away doesn’t mean your job as a parent ends.  In many ways parenting after your children grow up is the same as when they were youngsters.  As a parent you still experience the good, the bad, and your children continue to teach you new things about the world.  You still love your children no matter what; you still put your family first; you still want to provide food, clothing and shelter for them; you still worry about them when you don’t hear from them; you still worry about their health; and you still want to wipe their tears away when they are sad.

As hard as being a parent may be, every once in a while you will share a special moment with your child that makes it all the worthwhile.  Being a parent will change your life and challenge you in ways you cannot begin to imagine but it will also reward you with riches far more valuable and precious than can ever be imagined.

“It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.  As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.  All I can do is reach for it myself.” – Joyce Maynard

“You don’t really understand nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.” – William D. Tammeus

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Life Chapters – What we say can hurt

What we say

Have you ever said something to someone that you wish you had not said?  Or, has someone ever said something to you that hurt you to your core?  Many of us have said things that we wish we had not said knowing that in the end our words were hurtful to those we care about.  If there are things we say that are hurtful why do we say them in the first place?  Many times we say things that hurt others because we hurt inside ourselves.

Things that get said

It goes something like this:  someone says something rude to you or about you, someone wrongly accuses you of doing something, or someone says something that puts you on the defensive.  You are angry, you respond without thinking and with the intention of protecting your feelings.  You respond in anger justifying your own feelings and disregarding the offender’s.  When you do this you create an emotional connection to the person that hurt you which keeps your feelings of hurt alive in your mind.  Over time your mind continues to replay what was said driving you to become not a very nice person.

Feelings – yours or mine

Why does it seem like there are those who spend so much more time saying hurtful words than kind words?  Is it that they really hurt inside, or is it that most of us don’t understand how to communicate our feelings?  As individuals, as different as we may seem, we are still all wired emotionally pretty much the same – we all experience the four basic feelings: anger, pain, pleasure and hurt.  It’s how we communicate those feelings that separate us. 

For example; when someone says something hurtful to you, do you tell them they hurt you?  Or, that you are feeling hurt?  Many will respond with “you hurt me when you said that…”  The problem with this is you disown responsibility for your feelings when you use the word “you”.  In order to be able to do something about the way you feel you must own the feeling which you do by using the word “I”.  “I hurt” rather than “You hurt me” enables you to take responsibility for your feelings.  When you respond with “I hurt when you say those things to me”, you own and validate your feelings.  Responding in this manner does not blame the other person for the way you feel rather it provides feedback to the other person about how you feel as a result of what they said.  If you don’t own your feelings you cannot do anything about them.

How we respond

Of course responding like this can be very difficult especially if you are not comfortable with expressing your feelings.  It may even be counter to your belief system that is telling you that feelings are better left unacknowledged.  Ask yourself how you feel when something hurtful is said to you.  Then state how you feel when those things are said “I hurt when you say things like that to me.”

What we say can hurt the ones we care about.  The next time you want to strike with words to get even or gain a one up think about what the consequences could be.  In Deepak Chopra’s book, Ageless Mind, Timeless Body, he states that almost all negative feelings such as anger and resentment begin with the emotion of “hurt”.  He goes on to say that if “hurt” is not resolved or released it is internalized eventually resulting in some other emotion.  Considering this, it would be easy to suggest that if you fail to let someone know that their harsh words hurt you, eventually you will do the same thing.

Don’t hurt the ones you love and care about with your words.  Once they are spoken you can never get them back. 

“A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words will bruise the heart of a child.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.  And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”  Dalai Lama

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Life Chapters - Stop Complaining and Be Thankful

Different Strokes

When life has you down it is helpful to reflect on the many things you can be thankful for in your life.  Each of us is thankful for different things and for different reasons.  There are many different reasons life brings us down.  Regardless, whether it’s that you cannot buy the new car you want or that you don’t know where your next meal is coming from there are reasons to be thankful.  For many individuals, no doubt life has dealt them a lousy hand that dominates their life.

What we believe we experience in life is based on our perspective of life’s reality.  If this is true, it is easy to see how we can change a bad situation that dominates one’s life with negativity to a life of fulfillment and possibilities.  Rather than struggling with thoughts of never getting what you want, change your perspective to being thankful for the things life has already provided.

Negativity is a Thief

It’s very easy to let negative people influence your life and steal your energy.  Negative people steal your energy and increase their power over you.  When your energy is drained it becomes difficult to remain positive which is all the more reason to understand what you are truly thankful for.  When you understand what you are thankful for the negative issues become insignificant.  It is easy to lose sight of what we are thankful for when we put so much energy into being negative.

What Are You Thankful For

What are you thankful for seems like such a simple question.  However, after speaking with many different people it seems not so much.  On the surface the question is simple but for those I spoke with it is a difficult and complicated question to answer.  Many people are caught in complaining rather than considering the good things life has provided them. 

Spending time constantly rehashing past mistakes is time wasted – those mistakes are in the past but if allowed will drive negativity in the present.  Certainly we can learn from past mistakes but that should be it.  All of us experience events and circumstances in life that challenge us to our very soul.  Our limits are constantly tested by the people in our lives, by those who teach us, by those who guide us, by those in our family, by adversity and by our health.  What we do when our limit is reached makes the difference in how we live our lives – positively or negatively.

What I'm Thankful For

I am thankful for my family.  My family is what keeps me centered and provides purpose in my life.  My family has played a role in shaping me into who I am today.  I have found that being with my family I don’t need much else.

I am thankful for my health which enables me to enjoy the many things life has to offer.  With good health I am able to work and provide for my family.  My good health enables me to enjoy life and my family in ways I cannot buy at any price.

Most importantly I am thankful for today and every day I wake up to a new day.  Regardless of what has you down, you can always be thankful for your life, your family and your health.

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.  Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.  If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” – Tecumseh

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Life Chapters - 50 Feet

By guest blogger Brian Heiser

Everyone has a Story

Since I've been in the physical therapy community, I have come across many stories and have met many people along the way. Some of the stories are humorous and some are very sad.  I have met some very courageous veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy and later fought in the Battle of the Bulge.  I have met very wealthy people and some extremely poor people.  I have met people who have no one else to talk to but me and are grateful that someone cares enough to listen to their story.  I have met individuals who after their stroke cannot even use the bathroom without assistance but are happy that they are still alive.  Out of all the patients I have met over the past couple years; I had a patient today that has inspired me more than any other person since I have started.  I will call him Joe; I cannot put his name in writing.  Here is his story.


Today, I met an 18 year old college student named Joe.  He is not your average 18 year old male.  Joe is a very quiet introverted person.  He was raised by both parents who are both high school teachers.  He was not the star QB on his high school football team neither was he a popular person.  Joe is the kind of person that is extremely book smart and plays a lot of video games.  He did not have many friends.
Joe started his freshman year of college in the fall of 2012 at the age of 17.  Since he was younger than the rest of the freshman class with a shy personality, Joe did not make friends.  Although he had a strong family relationship, Joe was lost and felt as if he was alone in this world.
This past March, Joe attempted suicide by jumping off the top of his five story dorm building.  He sustained an L3-L4 burst fracture in his lower back and shattered the bones in his ankle.  He was in the hospital for several weeks.  He sustained a partial spinal cord injury and was told he would be unable to functionally walk again and would be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life due to the nature of his injury.

Small Steps

Today while attending a neuro clinic, I had the opportunity to work with and observe this patient.  He has been working on walking with bilateral ankle-foot orthosis in the parallel bars.  Although he has been able to move his feet forward, his walking is nonfunctional because he bears all of his weight through his arms onto the parallel bars.  Today it was decided to see if Joe could ambulate with a front wheeled walker outside of the parallel bars making him more functional in his house and community.  We set up the walker and assisted him in standing.  Joe began to walk.  His first walk was 16 feet and his second walk was 25 feet.
At the end of treatment, Joe's dad arrived to take him home.  Although Joe was exhausted by the end of treatment, we insisted that he walk so his father could see.  Joe agreed to give it one last shot.  He stood up gathered himself and proceeded to walk - he proceeded to walk across the clinic one step in front of the other.  With every step all members of the staff and other patients became silent and began to watch.  When Joe was unable to walk any further the entire clinic applauded Joe.  His dad was amazed, in shock and in tears.  He videotaped the entire journey his son made walking and at the end they hugged and embraced each other.  Joe had walked 50 feet.

In Darkness there is Light

I did not know this patient nor had I worked with him before.  I will only have this one opportunity to work with him and he taught me more lessons and inspired me in more ways than any other patient.  Joe perceived himself to be a nobody, a loner, a loser.  He sensed he was going nowhere in life and had hit rock bottom.  The only way he thought he could end his self-perceived terrible life was to jump off of a building.  I'm sure there are more reasons to why he decided to jump off which I will never know.
Even in someone’s darkest hour comes light. When Joe hit rock bottom, the Lord blessed him with a second chance at life.  By giving Joe this second chance and giving him the strength and courage to beat the odds Joe has inspired me in many ways.  I understand that attempted suicide is not something to be inspired by but to bounce back from his darkest moment the way he has speaks volumes.  It’s not where you are in life and what you have done but it’s where you are going and how you get there that shows the true character of a man.  Although Joe struggled in the beginning he has bounced back and proved his doctors wrong.  50 feet doesn't seem like that much but to Joe it was everything.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Life Chapters - 10 Rules

Recently, I finished reading a great book by Jon Gordon – The Energy Bus.  It’s a quick read full of positive ideas.  In the book Jon Gordon explores and discusses many of the elements needed for both individual and team success.  Through a story he very clearly demonstrates how important it is to be positive and overcome negativity in one’s life.  Negativity is a power thief that will steal you blind of all your energy if you let it.

In today’s stressful fast paced world, we all need help staying focused on what is important and remaining positive even in the face of failure.  Negativity will destroy an individual or a team’s chance for success and if left unchecked will destroy any hope for future successes.

The Energy Bus presents the reader ten rules for approaching life with positive energy enabling the possibilities for great success.  We all face challenges in life and we all are tested daily.  It is easy to let these challenges turn our thought process negative resulting in every ounce of energy being drained. It is foolish to think we never get down but it is even more foolish to think that when we are negative that we can find our way back to being positive without a road-map.

The following ten rules are outlined in The Energy Bus and represent a road-map to a successful positive life.  I suggest you get a copy of this book to read and keep for your personal library.
  1.       You’re the driver of your bus.
  2.       Desire, vision and focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3.       Fuel your ride with positive energy.  
  4.       Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
  5.       Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
  6.       Post a sign that says NO ENERGY VAMPIRES ALLOWED on your bus.
  7.       Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
  8.       Love your passengers.
  9.       Drive with purpose.
 10.     Have fun and enjoy the ride.

“Keep your face always towards the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” – Walt Whitman

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Monday, July 8, 2013

Life Chapters – Family

The Word Family

When you hear the word family what comes to mind?  Does the word make you feel good, happy, sad, anxious, calm, etc.?  The word family can mean many things depending on your culture, your upbringing and your personal experiences.  Family consists of the people who claim you whether good or bad, they are the ones who show up regardless.

I consider family to be my sir name, the family my wife and I created, my siblings, parents, grandparents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and lifelong and very close friends.  Each of them contributes to my life and I to theirs.  Sociology defines family as having the primary responsibility of reproducing society both biologically and socially. 

Family is Important

My family is important to me.  Every family gathering we have is an opportunity for the children and younger family members to learn from the family elders.  Family gatherings are also opportunities for family elders to learn from the younger family members.

If families are who you love then it should be clear why families are so important.  Each family is different but that difference is what makes the entire family group so unique.  When families break down many suffer the consequences – from the individual to the family to our communities and in the end society as a whole.

My family is very diverse consisting of family members who are white, Hispanic, black, gay, lesbian and everything in between.  What is important to know about my family is regardless of our differences there is much more that is the same than different.  Regardless of our race, religious beliefs, sexual preference and everything in between we all want to be included, we all want to be loved, we all want to be heard and we all want to know there are people who care about our feelings and well-being.

It takes Hard Work

Being a family is hard work.  It takes love, understanding, devotion, cooperation and respect.  Without these five things families will cease to exist.  The family is the safe haven where family members receive the love and respect needed when it feels as though the entire world has rejected him or her.

Family is the bond connecting us to a life long journey through life.  That bond creates the safe harbor we all need to feel safe and that we belong.  For me, my family is the key to my heart.  My family is not shown in the bloodlines of a family tree but rather by the size of their heart.

I leave you with these two quotes that help define what family means to me.

“What can you do to promote world peace?  Go home and love your family.” – Mother Teresa

“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood.  Nor is it exclusive of friendship.  Family members can be your best friends, you know.  And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”  - Trenton Lee Stewart

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life Chapters – Respect

Rude People

Have you noticed how increasingly rude some people seem to be these days?  When driving in the car, shopping in the grocery store, in the movie theater, at sporting events, where you work, and even at church there seems to be so many more rude people than when I was growing up.  When you encounter a rude person, how do they make you feel?  Do you feel annoyed?  Do you feel angry?  Or, do you just chalk it up to the perceived notion that this is what our world has become?  I suggest that rudeness may stem from a lack of respect.

Respect Yourself and Others Will Respect You

Respect begins with you.  Do you respect yourself?  If not, don’t expect others to respect you.  Wearing sagging pants so everyone can see your underpants, using foul vulgar language, yelling at people or being insulting or making fun of others is not being respectful of yourself.  Growing up my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all taught me to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Living by this rule makes the world a more civilized place.

The world we live in is very diverse with many different types of people all coming from many different cultures, languages and races.  Our diversity enriches our lives and who we are helping to make the world more interesting, but only if we all get along.  The only way to enjoy life in a diverse world is to have respect for one another.

Showing Respect

Respect can be demonstrated in many ways.  The way we speak to each other plays a big role in a respectful diverse world.  Speaking politely in an unhurtful manner shows respect to the person you are speaking with.  Simple things like yes, no or thank you go a very long way.  Having tolerance for different beliefs demonstrates respect.  A respectful person views everyone as a person with rights, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity or race.  Respecting others in our diverse world is a necessity of life.

Respect is defined as the acknowledgment that someone or something has value.  Considering the definition it is easy to make the connection that respect means we may not always agree with what someone may say, but we must always respect what it is they say and their right to say it.  Respect is earned through showing respect.  If you have no respect for yourself you will never gain the respect of others - you must walk the walk and talk the talk.  Those individuals who are most respected are those who inspire others to achieve their best by enabling them to unlock their highest potential through an understanding of mutual respect.

“Respect yourself and others will respect you.”―Confucius, Sayings of Confucius

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”―Albert Einstein

“How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Friday, June 7, 2013

Life Chapters – Your Negative Inner Voice

What would you miss?

If you were to die today what would you regret not being able to do?  Write your answers down.
  1. Are you doing the things you wrote down now?
  2. If not, why not?  Especially, if you would regret not being able to do them why are you not doing them now?

What are you waiting for?  If what you wrote down are important things, why are you not doing them?  It’s funny how we say one thing yet do another.  Why do so many of us listen to our inner voices of doubt and fear?  The voices we make up in our head to help run our lives keeping most of us stuck at average nowhere near awesome.  Why do you accept average and not awesome?

Your Inner Voices

Our inner voice tells many of us that it’s okay.  The voices say “Why try for awesome if we are doing okay at average?”  As one gets closer to taking the first step towards something new or awesome their inner voices of doubt and fear get louder and louder until they stop the individual in their tracks.

Think about what has stopped you in your tracks. Were you listening to your inner voices of doubt and fear telling you “Don’t do it; why are you doing this?” and many other reasons not to do whatever it is.  The voices go on and on, louder and louder until you stop in your tracks.  The problem with this is that it’s your own self, your own inner voices that are telling you that you are not good enough to take the step.  Your inner voices are telling you things without even knowing the facts as though your inner voice is the absolute authority.

Your inner voices of doubt and fear provide the excuses you need to avoid difficult situations or decisions.  In some cases this might be a good thing especially when you want to ring someone’s neck however; many times those voices are detrimental if you let them be. 

Trusting Your Inner Voices

How many times have you heard “Trust your inner voice,” or “What’s your inner voice telling you?”  Time and again my inner voice has helped me.  The difference is I don’t let my inner voices of doubt and fear have a voice.  By shutting down my doubt and fear inner voices, I don’t let them control my life or what I do.

Over the years I have talked with hundreds of people about business.  I have started a few small businesses with a few failures and a few successes.  Many of the individuals I have spoken with stated they were unhappy with where they were in their career or life.  I would ask “Have you ever thought about starting your own business or why not find another job or career that makes you happy?”  The common response I receive every time is “Oh I can’t do that” or “I could never start a business” or “I am not trained for…”  With each I would respond with “Why can’t you?  Have you already looked into it?”  My questions would open the floodgates of excuses almost always ending with “I just know inside it’s not right for me.” 

When you stop accepting the difficult challenges and take the average path you disengage with the world around you and engage your inner voices of doubt and fear using them for control and comfort.  If left unchecked your inner voices will become self-deprecating, chipping away at your confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.  Allowed to happen long enough over time they will become habits which become very comfortable and hard to break.  If allowed to persist, no matter what people say to help build you up, your inner voices will not go away.  I leave you with this from authors David Molden and Pat Hutchinson:

“We all have a tendency to judge, speculate and compare, as your inner voice describes what you see and hear in terms of good/bad, right/wrong, small/large, perfect/imperfect, must/mustn’t, can/can’t, should/shouldn’t’, etc. If this type of thinking leaves you feeling anxious, angry or sad, your self-confidence will take a knocking. Whilst most people make judgments, confident people do so the least; they are more inclined to be curious about the world and seek to understand it, not judge it. When you understand, you can be confident.

Confident people often have a code for how they engage with the world, like a set of principles to live by, such as ‘trust what people do, not what they say they will do’, or ‘help other people along the way whenever you can’. This is what their inner voices used for – to keep life-principles at the forefront of their mind. This helps them make quick decisions and feel certain about themselves.”

So stop shooting yourself in the foot by allowing your negative inner voices to run your life.  Start today; listen to what you are saying to yourself.  Shut down the negative voices - ask yourself a simple question “Is that thought helpful or hurtful to me?”