Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone

Outside the Comfort Zone

This is a new approach to my blog postings. Instead of having you read what I have written I thought it would be best to just have a conversation with you. This video blog is about stepping outside the imaginary boundaries we have in our heads - the place we call the "Comfort Zone."

It's necessary to step outside of our comfort zone in order to experience the magic. Outside the comfort zone is where we learn, it's where we grow, it's where we expand our horizons beyond imagination. Don't you think it's time to step outside and experience the magic.

Please watch the video blog below.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy Sparks for a Happy Life

Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect.  
It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.

The happy myth

Recently my wife asked me what my “happy sparks” are.  I had no idea what she was referring to so I asked “What are happy sparks?”  She replied, “a happy spark is that feeling you get when you think of something and get so full of happiness you want to do the happy dance or jump with joy.”  This got me thinking about what happiness is.  I believe many of us are deceiving ourselves about our personal happiness.  New jewelry, a promotion at work, a night on the town, a vacation home, fourteen day cruises to exotic ports, a new car or a new motor home are all things that can make you happy but, there in is the myth regarding happiness.  Yes, these things and many others create a feeling of happiness but, it is not a lasting happiness.  In other words, when you find happiness in material things true happiness becomes this elusive thing you desire but never seem to achieve.

What does it mean to be happy?

Becoming aware of the truth that not everything has to be perfect and that happiness is not achieved through the accumulation of material things is a total game-changer.  Being aware means you can choose happiness in the moment.  Falling into the trap that happiness will only come when everything in your life is exactly the way you think it should be is a dangerous trap to fall into.  When material things or conditions are needed to fill you up, validate your life or make you feel whole and complete it only takes a small change to bring an end to your happiness.  Contrary to what you may have been taught, happiness is as simple as a choosing to be happy.  Simply making the choice to be happy empowers you in any situation trumping any material thing or imposed condition.  The moment you choose to be happy you will begin to perceive things differently strengthening your capacity to feel happy.

What does it mean to be happy?  I believe happiness begins when you simply let life happen.  Rather than controlling and forcing things let go; in so doing you begin to become free.  When free you allow life’s imperfections to happen making happiness easier to find.  What defines happiness is different for everyone but I believe everyone can look back to moments in their life where they can say “that made me truly happy.”

My Happy Sparks

I have had many moments that have filled me with so much happiness I did the happy dance or jumped with joy.  Every time I think back to the moment each of my children were born; when I think of my grandchildren; my siblings, parents and growing up; many of my close friends; many of the beautiful places I have visited and photographed; my wife; my life; and so much more are my happy sparks.  Having these cherished memories reminds me that happiness is not found in material things rather in those moments of freedom when I let go and just hung on for the ride.

What is keeping you from letting go and truly being happy?  When you fill your happy spark bucket with life’s little pleasures you will realize how awesome being alive is.  Keeping life simple and in the moment will overflow your happy spark bucket.  What will fill your happy spark bucket?  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What is your passion?

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." -Albert Einstein

The downside of being passionate

When was the last time someone asked you what you are passionate about?  When was the last time you thought about what you are passionate about?  My passions are the reasons I wake up in the morning and many times stay up late in the evening.  They are what excite me every day.  Sadly, not everyone knows what they are passionate about. 

How many times have you heard “just follow your passion and success will come”?  What about the stories of those who have followed their passion; the woman who loves to paint, so she opens a small gallery to sell her paintings; or, the man who is passionate about creating software programs, so quits his job to focus on his first big software release.  Nothing happens – no customers, no buyers, and no clients.  We are told that the money will follow if we do what we love.  When it comes to earning money or building a business based on your passion you must remember that when you first start out nobody cares about your passion.  In business, it isn’t about you or your passion it is about your customers and clients.  The secret is educating them to care about your passion so much that they are willing to pay you to do it.  The problem is many passionate people are so engaged in what they love they neglect to educate others why they too should care.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about veteran issues; helping small businesses; my wife, children and family; sports; photography and video; writing; and travel to name a few.  Heck, I am passionate about life.  My passion is the energy that gets me up in the morning, keeps me filled with happiness, excitement, meaning and anticipation.  It is a force powerful enough to enable you to accomplish anything you set your mind to.  It enables you to experience life to the fullest extent possible.  Harriet Tubman once said “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."  Passion is the strong desire a dreamer has inside that enables a dream to become a reality.

Finding your passion

The saying goes “Love what you do and do what you love”.  If you are like most, you dream of work that is based on your passion but not sure how to make that happen.  Start by asking yourself these three questions.
  1. What drives you to do your passion?
  2. What do you bring to the table that no one else does?
  3. What would you love to contribute to the world?

Once you answer these questions you will have a better idea as to the unique value you offer.  Answering truthfully will give you a clear picture of what you are here to do.  Your mission is to find the unique value that you have inside that has an overwhelming desire to give.  Once you find what that is, it’s your job to make other people care about it too.  It is not a given that others will understand it.  It’s your job to educate them as to why they should care.  Most importantly spend your time doing what you absolutely love.  Stop wasting your life on things that do not matter to you and that you have no control over.  There is no better time than now to define what matters to you most and why others should care about it as much as you do.

Lyrics from Neil Young’s song “Are You Passionate?” sums it up best:

Are you passionate?
Are you livin' like you talk?
Are you dreamin' now
that you're goin' to the top?
Are you negative,
In a world that never stops,
  Turnin' on you?
Turnin' on me?
     Turnin' on you?...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Life Is Too Short To Wait

Don't wait. The time will never be just right” Napoleon Hill

We have a waiting problem

Many of us have a waiting problem.  Our waiting is subtle but it holds us back from being the successful individuals we were born to be.  For most, waiting is the biggest obstacle to fulfilling their dreams of success.  We wait for things to get better; we wait until the time is just right; we wait for the economy to get better; we wait for things to settle down; we wait until we have enough money; we wait for a better day; we wait for more information and details; we wait for that perfect job; we wait for perfect timing; we wait for the perfect person; we wait for the big promotion; we wait for the right opportunity; we wait to try something new; we wait for the sake of waiting; we wait, we wait and we wait.  Nike commercials encourage us to “Just Do It!”, but most of us don’t.  We all wait occasionally before taking action, but for many the problem is never ending resulting in wasted time, lost opportunities, disappointing work performance and feeling bad about ourselves.  Yes, many procrastinate when challenged with tasks that are perceived as too difficult, painful, boring or overwhelming but have no problem finding time for the things they like and want to do.

Why we wait

Waiting until a later time to take care of responsibilities will eclipse your desire to succeed.  Once you get into the habit of waiting until later, it becomes the norm and very difficult to overcome.  Procrastinating can result in certain death when trying to reach desired goals.  There are many reasons people put off doing things. 

Fear of failing will stop people in their tracks.  By only speaking about hopes and dreams but taking no action to achieve them will result in never failing but also never realizing your dreams.  Many fear that taking action but failing will be viewed by others as being a failure resulting in no action being taken.  They fail to see the act of trying is reward in itself.  Many very successful people have tried but failed far more times than they have realized success.  It takes a brave person to put it all on the line knowing their effort could result in failure.  Falling into the trap of fear allowing yourself to avoid taking the first step will only result in failing to achieve your dreams.

Feeling overwhelmed by a goal that appears to need so much to be done in order to be accomplished can paralyze your efforts preventing you from taking the first step.  If the big picture stops you in your tracks look for the tiny steps along the way.  Take each step one by one not worrying about the next one.  Remove everything that is not truly important.  Before you know it you will have realized success.

As emotional creatures we tend to avoid hardship and pain and favor what gives us pleasure.  Many will procrastinate to avoid unappealing or difficult tasks.  The only way to overcome unappealing or difficult tasks is to approach them with a can-do attitude committing to complete the most difficult first.  The sooner you begin the harder you work which means the sooner it will be completed.  When tackling the most difficult tasks first instead avoiding and putting them off until later, paves the way for success and less heartache down the road.

Perspective plays a big role in why many wait to start.  When you perceive a task to be too difficult then that is exactly what it will be.  Most times to change a perspective all that is needed is a change of mindset.  Instead of viewing a task as a possibility for failure, as being too overwhelming or as being a task filled with hardship and pain look at the task as an opportunity to succeed.  If you are tasked to conduct market research, view it as a chance to gain knowledge and expand your potential rather than something boring you were tasked to do.  When taking on a task with enthusiasm rather than procrastination you can turn the task into an opportunity that enables you to gain success.

Don’t be trapped

There are many more reasons why people choose to procrastinate; regardless of the reason procrastination is destructive and will keep you from achieving your dreams.  Many complain about never having enough time yet spend so much time dreading and avoiding the tasks that await them.  Getting started on tasks would likely free up more time in a day for what we like to do most. Procrastination is a trap that will you keep you from achieving your dreams.  If you are having difficulty realizing your dreams, take a look at what got you there – have you fallen into the trap of waiting for the right time to get started? 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

4 Essentials of the Game

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
 Maya Angelou

Your Personal Brand

We are all guilty of wearing this or that brand of running shoes, wearing this or that brand of clothing, carrying that special brand of pocketbook or driving this or that make of vehicle.  We are branded in some way by the products we choose.  What about your personal brand?  What does it tell others about you?  Regardless of your status, your age, gender, ethnicity, race, or position we all have a personal brand that identifies who we are.  Whether you are an employee or business owner your most important job is to be head marketer in charge of your personal brand. 

In today’s world of global corporations and workplaces personal branding has become a hot topic, but most do not understand what it really means.  Nor, do most understand how to leverage their personal brand to achieve the career they most desire.  How you are perceived by management, peers, colleagues, potential clients or possible employers has a direct impact on potential promotions, better clients, being hired or a successful career.  If you desire greater control over your career then you must define and understand your personal brand – yes you must be willing to actually market yourself.  Many of us market or brag about others or we fight the good fight for a special cause.  However, many are consumed by concerns of sounding fake and are stopped in their tracks when it comes to promoting themselves.  Having a personal brand without marketing it is like Ford having a great new Mustang, but no one knows about it.  Just as important as product brands, personal brands create value when marketed well.

The following are four areas that can help you increase your personal brand.


Let people know the value you bring by communicating the skills, experience and intrinsic value you provide to your employer, potential employer or clients.  The value you bring to the table is a unique blend of strengths, experiences, professional accomplishments and personal traits.  The values combined identify the “You” which is unique from your colleagues, peers or other job applicants.


Having a concise and compelling message helps others to identify what you stand for.  Just going through the motions without a message makes it next to impossible to have a positive personal brand.  Everything you do whether in the office, shopping, at a friend’s birthday party or your child’s soccer game your actions send a message as to who you are.  The perception others have of you, “Your Message”, is shaped through your words, actions, presentations, reports, deliverables, accomplishments and much more.  What does your message say about you?  Does your message say that you are smart, strategic, on time, dependable, an expert, a leader, a good person or to stay clear?  Whatever you are striving to achieve, your message should be loud and clear.


There are many ways to promote “You” and your personal brand; however, I believe it’s time for a change in mindset.  Many believe that marketing a personal brand has everything to do with self-promotion.  Consider this – if I say “You should hire me because I am the best blog writer you will find.”  I am certain you will have thoughts about that statement and my credibility.  I am not even comfortable making that claim but say it with the belief that I must self promote.  It will not work even if I say it with great passion.  However, if I say “I am passionate about writing articles that explore the human experiences that help us all become better individuals” my statement is no longer self promoting.  The first statement was about me and only me.  The second statement demonstrates how I serve others.  When promoting yourself it is important to share yourself and to believe in your message, it makes you credible to your audience.

Your Circle

No one knows you better than your family and friends.  Keep them informed about “You” and “Your Message”.  The old saying goes “out of sight out of mind”.  If you are looking for employment why not enlist people who can best help you find what you are looking for.  “Your Circle” is your support system and the career influencers who can make a difference.  Focus your energy on those who can hire you, promote you, inspire you, teach you or open the doors to new opportunities.  If you want the big promotions, the best clients, or a successful career “Your Circle” should include people who value and appreciate your personal brand.  Most importantly, nurture and value relationships with these people especially the ones who are willing to market your personal brand – the ones who can provide you a blueprint, the guidance or inspiration to advance in a successful career.

You are a brand.  You own and are in charge of your personal brand.  It’s up to you how you want your personal brand to be recognized.  There is no right or wrong “You” brand rather just the “You” brand others perceive.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Life is Challenging

“Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it's never easy when there's so much on the line.”  Herman Cain

What type of person are you?
Life is challenging; full of choices that need to be made, full of right and wrong decisions and consequences.  Every day we face life challenges.  How we handle them define who we are.  Life challenges vary greatly from what to wear on a bad hair day to the challenges that bring us to the brink of disaster.  As challenging as life can be what would life be without challenges?  Life has taught me there are two types of people that go through life.  Those who are willing to do whatever it takes to make a difference in their life and those who are paralyzed by the fear of failure who do not take the chance.  What type of person are you?

Challenges come in all shapes and sizes
They say life happens and with it comes challenges in all shapes and sizes.  Daily we face the challenges that shape our life from day to day and then there are the challenges that shape our entire life.  Life has a way of presenting us with new and unexpected challenges that block our path and force life adjustments.  These challenges can be the most difficult to overcome but also can be the most rewarding.  Regardless of the challenge it helps build our character, it strengthens us and teaches the lessons we need to survive. 

A tough day
Throughout my life I have overcome many difficult life challenges that have shaped me into the person I am today.  From terrorist attacks, to fears of losing a child to war, to getting a call that your daughter and her family have been in a terrible automobile accident or the realization that the day has come where your children are all grown and the house is empty.  

My wife and I had been looking forward to the day we would have our lives back.  No more running to this practice and that practice.  No more school meetings or private school tuition.  No more Friday nights at the football field followed by dinner in the local diner. No more pestering about homework which always became our problem.  We thought life would be grand.  I remember telling my wife how much fun we were going to have.  How much of our life we would be getting back

I remember vividly that last game.  It was at the state playoff game and we had just lost.  I remember how I felt – I wanted to cry.  I would learn quickly that I would miss it all.  I remember how we both felt when our son received a scholarship to play college football.  We were so proud; he would be the first in the family to play college football.   I will never forget the day we pulled away from the dorm.  I remember thinking my life, as I have known it to this point, will never again be the same.

What’s interesting is we had been preparing him for this event.  Long hard days of practice and camps but never even gave it a second thought that dad and mom needed to prepare themselves for the day their youngest child left the house.  Even though we knew it was coming it took us by surprise and took time to overcome. 

It’s not all that bad
The ending is not all that bad. Unbeknownst to me, I had gone through a life challenge that helped write a new chapter in my life.  I worked through that lost feeling I had from no longer being at the field or in the field house.   This life challenge proved that there is life after football.   A sense of stability has returned to my life.  I had met the challenge head on going full circle bringing me to a new chapter in my life.

What I have learned from dealing with life challenges is that much of what makes a challenge seem insurmountable is caused by our perspective.  Do you see the glass half full or half empty?  Instead of focusing on how bad and unfair a life challenge is focus on the possibility of how good things will be when you overcome the challenge.   With a positive attitude you are already half way to overcoming any challenge.  Sure the next challenge is just around the corner but prepare yourself by meeting challenges head on with a positive attitude.  Most importantly what I have learned is that life is a series of calmness, periods of confusion, change and then transition which brings you back to a new beginning.  Knowing this has made the thought of dealing with the next challenge that much easier to overcome.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Three Things My Children Continue To Teach Me

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn” – John Cotton Dana

In The Beginning

Since the day my first child was born I have assumed that being a parent also meant being a teacher.  I believed that as a parent it was my responsibility to teach my children how to become productive members in society.  As the years have gone by my family has gotten caught up in the cycle of life – children grow up, go off to college, and start their own careers and families.  For the most part this is correct however, now in many ways roles have switched.  My children have become the teachers and my wife and I the students.  As it turns out, I am learning just as much about life from them.  Parents can learn much from their children if they are willing to become the student.

Embrace the Chaos

Growing older has brought much change. Our house once again is quiet.  No longer is there the daily grind of practice, homework, or preparing school lunches.  As I grow older, many times I feel guilty for indulging in the treats life has to offer.  Whether it’s a chunk of fudge or a well deserved vacation, for many reasons I talk myself out of it.  My children continue to teach me that it’s okay to stop worrying so much about things; that it’s okay to enjoy the sweetness of life without worrying about it.

Over the recent holidays all my children and their families were at our house.  My wife had spent a great deal of time preparing for them.  The house was perfect.  However, once everyone arrived the orderliness and perfection were hard to come by.  The house was a mess but this time I listened to my children.  What I realized is that not only was our house a total mess but life is messy too.  I realized that just as I experienced during the recent holidays some of our best times together have been when I gave into the chaos and messiness.  It’s okay to stop worrying about everything being perfect and just embrace life for what it is.

It’s okay to laugh

When was the last time you experienced a nice big belly laugh?  When was the last time you laughed at yourself over something you did?  My children have taught me that as an adult I have forgotten how important it is to find humor in every situation.  They remind me daily how important it is to send out positive vibrations in order to experience the wonderful moments life has to offer.  Laughing is contagious; when you laugh those around you laugh.

I taught my grandson a game.  He asks, “Guess what?”  He will ask it over and over then respond with “That’s what!”  There is nothing like a fit of laughter to make the world more bearable.  The laughter in our house over the holidays lightened us up, it connected us, and most of all it gave us a different perspective.  My children reaffirmed that laughter makes everything alright.

Be Yourself

The most important lesson I taught my children was to be themselves.  In turn, they regularly remind me to be myself and not someone I am not – on occasion I have been known as the grumpy old man.  Somewhere along my journey I got caught up with how others see me.  I put on my best face and charge forward regardless of the circumstances.  Oscar Wilde once said “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  Some people will like you and others will not.  Don’t be someone you are not with hopes of everyone liking you.  Be yourself, not what others want you to be.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

When we accept our self and others for who we are, without casting criticism or placing judgment, we create a safe and comfortable world to live in.  Accepting individuality and self expression in others also enables us to be ourselves.  My children continue to teach through their individuality, self expression and inner confidence by being themselves and not worrying about how others think they should be.

Whether you are a young parent or older parent, young adult or older adult much can be learned from children if you let them teach you.  Embracing the chaos, learning to laugh and being yourself are just a few of the things you can learn.  Regardless of your age everyone is a student. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Best Gift Ever

“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”

Family Gathering

Recently, at a family Christmas gathering I sat watching as the children opened their gifts.  As I sat there many memories of years past came flooding in.  As my granddaughter opened one of her gifts she yelled “it’s my most favorite gift ever”.  Then I heard my niece say “Oh man this is the best gift ever”.  As each gift was opened someone would say “oh thank you this is the best gift ever” which made me think.  What was the best gift I ever received?  What was the best gift I ever gave?

Over the years there have been many gifts that were the best ever.  I remember the Christmas morning I opened a Chemistry set with a microscope – I was ten years old.  At the time it was the best gift ever.  When I was twelve years old I received my first telescope which I still have – at the time it was the best gift ever.  Then when I turned eighteen I received a twelve string guitar which at the time was the best gift ever.  There have been many gifts over the years but have they all really been the best gifts ever?

The Christmas Holiday is a time for giving.  Each year we spend time shopping for those thoughtful gifts for family, friends and colleagues.  It’s also a time that many reflect on the past remembering the good moments and the bad.  Giving a gift demonstrates affection for the people you love and care about.  In the moment, many gifts are the best gift ever but over time fade which made me think even more about what was the best gift I ever received.  What gift do I still have that I still consider to be the best gift ever?

The Best Gift Received

The best gift I ever received was from my parents on the day I was born.  They gave me the gift of life.  As the saying goes it’s the gift that keeps giving.  Without this gift I would not be here today.  It’s a gift I never want to return, give up or re-gift.  Each passing day that I wake renews the gift my parents gave me so many years ago.  Certainly, it is an abstract way to think about a gift but consider all the gifts you have ever received.  What’s the one gift you still have that was given to you with love, caring and affection?  Each morning you wake up; think about how blessed you are to have received such an unselfish gift.  After I was born my parents gave that same gift five more times.  What makes this gift so special is not the fact that I am here today but knowing that my parent’s gift continues to this day as a labor of love for me, my brother and four sisters.

The Best Gift Given

The best gift I ever gave was the gift my wife and I gave to the world when each of our children was born.  Each is special and unique in many ways.  Children are God’s gift.  Bringing children into the world is our gift to God.  The gift I gave my children and the gift my parents gave me is not a gift that guaranteed fame and fortune rather it was a gift that guaranteed a life of being loved regardless.

Still not sure what was the best gift you ever received?  Look back over your life.  Consider what gift was given to you through a natural expression of love that you still have and each day that gift is renewed.  We live in a society that is obsessed with money and material things which makes it easy to lose sight of gifts we receive that are truly special.  In the end it really is the simplest things in life which have the greatest impact that we fail to recognize.  Receiving gifts makes me feel good inside but the best gift ever was the gift of life my parents gave me when I was born.