Pull Your Wagon

December 30, 2008

little-red-wagon

It’s hard for me to think of a time in my life that I wasn’t spending a portion of my energy selling. From lemonade to magazine subscriptions to financial services to ideas for better living, my life has revolved around convincing people to purchase a product I felt could benefit their lives.

One of my earliest memories of this passion for the exchange of money for products and services came when I was five years old.  I had figured out that in order to acquire the candy that was so beautifully displayed at the 7-Eleven down the street I would have to have money. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any money and my mother (who for some reason didn’t share my excitement about the candy) had informed me that she was not going to provide me any additional monies.

Knowing that the “bank” at the home front was closed, I began to think of other options that would help me acquire the candy. I began to wander around my yard trying to find some spare change, and when that didn’t work I began looking for something that I might sell for the money I needed. Eventually, I found a product that I felt sure would get me to my proverbial “candyland.” I loaded up my little red wagon with my product and started on my way to make my first sale.

As I started down the sidewalk my mother saw me and asked where I was going and what I was doing. I told her that I was on my way to sell my wares. She looked in my red wagon and saw it filled with rocks. These weren’t polished rocks, or painted rocks, they were just regular old rocks. She told me that people weren’t going to want to buy rocks that I had found in our yard and invited me to come back to the house where she would help me differentiate them somehow.

I looked at my rocks and felt sure that I had a product of others would pay for. After a few more attempts to change my mind my mom eventually let me go on my way to learn my lesson from the school of hard knocks.

About a half-hour later she saw me slowly returning to the house with my red wagon in tow. As she began to console me in my defeat she noticed that the red wagon I was pulling was empty and my pockets were filled with change. I had sold every one of my rocks and it wasn’t long until that candy I wanted so bad was mine.

Like that day, sometimes in our lives we feel confident in our ability to do great things. In fact, we are positive that we will succeed until someone comes along and attempts to change our mind. Often the people working to get us to see things a different way are doing so because they love us. My mother’s only motivation was to keep me from failure.

However, just because their motives are good doesn’t make their opinions right. There will be times in our lives when we are sure that we can move forward; sure we can do some thing, and in those times our success will largely depend on our willingness to press on regardless of what others say.

In my life, as I think back, I recall many goals that I accomplished even though others told me that I would fail. I think back to the people who told me I would never breathe on my own. I think back to the people who told me I never would graduate high school. I think back to the people who told me I would never get married. I think back to the people who told me I would not become a father, and I think back to the people who told me I would never find gainful employment.

In many ways the only reason I ended up right and they ended up wrong was because I moved forward regardless of what they said. It’s important to get input. It’s important to get advice. I rarely make a decision in my life without consulting wise people with my best interest at heart.

But, acquiring advice doesn’t mean you have to act on that advice. When you know you can succeed and others are sure you will fail, many times the difference between success and failure is whether or not you press on.

This kind of persistence will be the difference between a full wagon and empty pockets and an empty wagon and full pockets. Move forward. Press on. For the most part the real differentiator between selling your rocks or not is a willingness to pull your wagon down the street.

Jh-


Every Day A Birthday

December 26, 2008

click image to download pdf of artwork

I know I said I was taking a break till the 29th but I couldn’t resist – today is my birthday. Yep, the day after Christmas. I don’t think I ever remember a time that someone asked me, “When is your birthday?” where my response didn’t bring a look of sorrow to their face. “What a bummer” or “That’s too bad” or some such comment always came in the form of an apology for the date my birthday landed on.

This has always seemed a little odd in that I love my birthday. In fact, I remember a time as a boy when my mom and dad gave me the opportunity to celebrate my birthday on my half birthday allowing me to have my birthday in the middle of the summer far away from Christmas. It never really was something I thought about. My birthday was 26th of  December and that was the day I want to celebrate.

I always wondered why everyone else thought I was getting the short end of the birthday stick and I didn’t. I always wondered why everyone thought I was getting ripped off and I felt like the luckiest kid in the world.

As I look back now I realize it’s because my parents and my family went to great lengths to make sure the my birthday was celebrated on its own. The presents I received were always birthday presents. I never received “Christmas-birthday” presents. We always had a special meal for me on the 26th where the family would get together and celebrate my life.

It was never a Christmas “add-on.” It was never an afterthought to the holiday. It was its own holiday–it was its own day–it was my day.

All of this work and all this effort was put forth to make my day a special day. It paid off. Every single year I look forward to the holidays with a little extra anticipation. For, not only did it mean Christmas but it met my birthday as well. A day I looked forward to as much as any other child look forward to their day.

I often think about what would happen if we put the same work in the same effort into making the days of our lives special and unique. If we took the time to celebrate every day we are given. If we made every day a birthday.

Consider how that would change your outlook on life. Consider how much more excited you would wake up each day. Consider how your willingness to make the most of every opportunity would increase if you could learn to separate each day and celebrate.

Birthdays are special days, celebrating makes them so.  Celebrating each day like a birthday makes each day special. It keeps us from living a life filled with days that simply run together and fill our memories with nothing but a blur. Celebrating allows us to look back with our minds eye on every day and see memories filled with vibrant colors and clear pictures.

So, celebrate today. Take some time to reflect on what makes you special, unique and wonderful. Notice something beautiful and relish it as your own birthday present.  Take a moment to show some love to another so they can be a part of the experience–no one likes to celebrate alone.  Then, do the same tomorrow and th dy after that.  Celebrate every day, and when you do at the end of your life you will look back on a glorious existence filled with thousands of beautiful “birthdays.”

Jh-

If you would like a copy of Kolette’s birthday wish for me, click on image to download it.


Why Is It Like Me

December 24, 2008

question-mark

When I was young and my family would get together at my grandparent’s house the adults would stay upstairs and talk while the kids went downstairs to play. Every person knew their role and played their part, all except my Grandma Hall. As soon as we arrived Grandma said her hellos to all the adults and then followed us kids downstairs.

It was part of the magic of Grandma Hall’s house. She always had a new activity or game for us to play and on the few times when there was no activity or game she was completely content simply to watch us play together. My brothers and sisters, my cousins and friends accepted Grandma Hall as one of our own.

One of our favorite of Grandma’s games was one she called, “Why is it like me?” The game began by selecting one person to leave the room. Then, the remaining children would pick an object in the room that in some way or another reminded us of the person who had left. Once we had picked our object the person would come back in and begin searching for clues.

In their quest to find the object the rest of us had picked, they would go around to different people who had remained in the room and ask them, “Why is it like me?”  As a person who knew what the object was you then had to find a way to describe the object while accentuating the positive.

For example, if the object that was picked was a light fixture and the person came to you and asked, “Why is it like me?” You would respond, “Because you are both so bright” or “You are useful.”  If the object was the television, maybe the description would be, “You are entertaining.”  Perhaps the object was a picture on the wall.  The clue would become, “Because you are beautiful.”  This was the essence of the game. You would try to say as many things as possible about that person without giving them enough clues to guess the selected object.

As the game went on, creating the clues became more difficult.  Not only did you have to find a new way to describe the object but the description had to accent something special about the person.

We enjoyed describing others’ positive attributes but the real fun came as we were sent out of the room in order to return to hear clues about ourselves.  We loved the affirmation that came when we learned why the selected object was “like me.”

Although at the time we believed the game was about guessing the object, I understand today that it was about taking an opportunity to complement each other. I can truly say it is one of the only games in my life I’ve seen where everyone wins.

This Christmas, take the opportunity to think of positive personality traits of those around you.  Then take it a step further and actually tell others why those attributes are “like them.” Lets see we can’t find ways this week and through the new year to tell others why they’re bright or useful, beautiful or entertaining.

Our world is full of amazing inventions, beautiful pieces of art and innovative architecture.  But, the most remarkable creations you’ll ever see are the people who are already a part of your life.

Let’s play “Why Is It Like Me?”  This holiday season, choose an item in your space.  Think of someone important in your life and tell me by leaving a comment (and then consider telling that person) why that object particular is like them.  See if the same little moment of magic happens as it did in the basement of Grandma Hall’s house when we shared positive attributes with each other.

Enjoy exploring the ordinary objects and extraordinary people around you.  Merry Christmas,

Jh-

I’ll be back on the web Monday the 29th.


Best is Best

December 20, 2008
That's me...back row, far right.

That's me...the player in the back row, far right.

Growing up I played about every sport imaginable. I played football, basketball, baseball. I swam and ran track. When I wasn’t on the field of play I was still competing. Working to become class president or top of my class. As a young boy most of what I worked on was in the pursuit of winning. Luckily, early on I got a lesson on what winning really is.

I’ll never forget one summer afternoon riding home with my dad after a Little League baseball game in utter disgust. For all of our efforts my team had ended up on the losing side of the day. I grabbed the obligatory soda that someone’s mother had been assigned to bring and stomped in frustration as I followed my dad to his car.

He unlocked the doors and asked me to take the front seat. As soon as I sat down I removed my mitt, threw it on the ground and exclaimed, “We’re losers. We’re a bunch of losers.”

My dad let me sit and simmer a little in my tantrum until finally he asked me if I had done my best. I told him that I had, but that it didn’t seem to matter much. He followed up by asking me if I felt my team had done the same. I again responded and told him that I felt like myself my team had given their all, but that the scoreboard just didn’t reflect it.

He proceeded to teach me a lesson that influenced the rest of my life. He explained to me that as long as I did my very best I could never lose. He taught me the best is best and that in my life if I gave my all I would never have anything to be ashamed about regardless of whether scoreboard agreed.

I worked hard to apply this lesson in my young life, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I really learned its value. In the middle of my 15th year I became a quadriplegic. In a split second my life changed. After that day there are many areas of my life where my best would never measure up on a scoreboard.

I was no longer as strong or as fast as my peers. I could no longer physically match up to those around me. I had to find a new way to measure my efforts. I had to come to terms with the fact that my best was the best no matter how others “scored” that best.

So it is with each of us. We spend so much time concentrating on how our work stacks up against those around us we forget to measure whether our work is our best. We compare our houses, our kids, our lives with others, wondering if we are number one. No matter what task we’ll choose to tackle our goal right from the start must be to give our very best and then be comfortable with the results. It’s easy to say but quite another thing to do. It requires self-assuredness and the positive sense of self. It requires us to judge ourselves against our own abilities and not against the abilities of others.

In the end all we are required to do is maximize the abilities we’ve been given. Part of mastering this idea is to not only to be willing to accept our own best efforts, but to be willing to accept the best efforts of those we interact with also. If we are ever to learn to be content with our best we must also be willing to do the same with the best that others can give. This requires us to give up our desire to judge ourselves or others against any standard other then that question my father posed to me that day in the car–”Did you do your best?”

No matter what goal or dream we might pursue, when we give our best we can never lose.

Jh-


I Got My Five + Winner

December 18, 2008

First, congrats and an autographed DVD to Ali W. for her comment on hope.

I am filled with hope when I see the small random acts of kindness performed by everyday people…Their kindness and thought for others gives me hope that the future of mankind and the earth is a good one.

Now Today’s Post:

Five

Regardless of whether you are Christian or not, or even religious at all, everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan from the Bible. As the parable opens we find a man lying half dead on the side of the road. The first man to come by is a priest. In the social hierarchy of the day a priest is a man who would rank very high. The priest sees the man on the side of the road and understanding his predicament continues on his way.

The second man to come by is a Levite. This is also a man who has an extremely favorable social status. Much like the priest he sees the man in pain and does nothing.

The third and final man to come by is a Samaritan. This is a man who is looked down upon by nearly everybody. He has almost no social status at all. And yet, when this man passes by he makes a decision to act. He puts the half dead man on his animal and takes him to a local inn where he does everything he can to ensure that the man is taken care of, even to the point of making sure that if additional needs arise that they too will be cared for.

At the end of the story we are encouraged to, “Love our neighbor as ourselves.”

As morning comes and we prepare to face each day we think of the tasks that are at hand. We think of the “To Do” lists that we’ve put together and the things on that list that we need to have accomplished. We think of goals that we set for ourselves and what things we can do that day to come closer to achieving those goals. Regardless of whether our day holds large or small things to be done we think about how we can put together our day in such a way that those things can be finished.

We think about the fact that the electric bill needs to be paid and how milk needs to be picked up on the way home from work. We think about the lunch meeting we need to prepare for and how management wants our final report by the end of the day. We think about the activities our children have and how we can arrange for them to have a ride home.

But, in the midst of all this planning and preparation we do for our day do we take time to think about what we can do to help another. For the fact is, that every day as we travel through our tasks we will find people lying “half dead” on the side of the road who need us to take the time to bind their wounds.

Now the chances that we are going to find someone physically beaten are small. But, we will find people emotionally, psychologically and mentally wounded. We can, like the priest and the Levite just pass by hoping that someone else will take care of those in need. Or, we can decide to be like the Samaritan and realize that regardless of what our own status in life is we have a responsibility to care for those around us.

Think for a moment about what our world would look like today if as everyone woke up each day they made a conscious decision to do something to help five people. Think about the millions that would be helped if only a handful of people made that decision. Then think of the people you could influence if you made that decision. If you made the decision to accept this challenge for a week that would mean 35 people helped. If you made the decision to accept this challenge for a month it would mean 150 people influenced. And, if you made the decision to accept this challenge for a year, all on your own you would change the lives of 1,825 people.

The numbers beyond that becomes staggering, and if you begin to think about how your influence would influence others to pitch in and do their part the numbers become astronomical.

But, more than the numbers think about how this kind of help and this kind of influence would make you feel. Think about the difference that would come to your life if every night you could report, “I got my five.”

Jh-


Just A Way To Travel Down The Road

December 16, 2008

freeway1

You pick anyone on any street anywhere in the world and you’ll find there are things that they want that they cannot yet acquire. Each of us has wants. Everyone of us has things we wish that we had that we don’t have now. It may be a bigger house, or a nicer car. It might be new clothes or the latest gadget. No matter how old we get each of us could put together a list for Santa. We usually don’t, but it’s not because there aren’t things that we don’t wish for. It’s because we know the total in Santa’s bank account.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting things that we don’t have as long as we don’t allow those wants to get in the way of our happiness today. So often I hear people talk about the things that they want and how they are connected to their ability to be happy. They’ll say things like, “If I just had a bigger house, then I could be happy,” or, “If I just had a nicer car, then I could be happy.” Whether it’s a house or car, a higher income or vacation people seem to qualify their wants with the fact that receiving them would make them happy.

It’s always amazing to me. “Then… I could be happy,” they say. As if the only thing standing in the way between them and a happy life is the acquisition of a want.

Unfortunately, almost without exception when people do finally acquire the bigger house, nicer car, higher income, or vacation the only thing that follows is not happiness but additional wants. If the bigger house becomes theirs then they began to talk about how something else on their list will “then make them happy.”

The reality is that happiness doesn’t come with things. It’s not something you achieve at all. There are people in the world who spend their whole lives chasing those things that they believe will make them happy and end their lives never acquiring the joy they pursued all their days.

I remember when I learned this lesson myself. I was 16 years old and barely home from the hospital after my diving accident. I was working hard to find a way to live my life in a wheelchair. There were so many days when all I thought about was walking. I was sure that if I could walk again, then I could be happy.

As each new morning would come I found myself still paralyzed and in a wheelchair. It was more difficult to be happy always concentrating on this want. One day I made the decision that with all my heart I would hope to walk tomorrow. But as for today I would be happy in a wheelchair.

Twenty-three years later I still hope to walk tomorrow but today, I am happy. Had I not adopted this frame of mind I would have spent the past two decades wishing every day that I could walk–waiting for that day to come to finally be happy.

So too it is with everyone. There’s nothing wrong with wishing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting. The problem comes when those wishes and wants dictate our daily happiness.

Happiness is not so much a place we will ever reach as much as it is a way that we travel through our lives–a highway of experiences and moments. If we think about joy as an interstate for life’s journey we have to watch for the on ramps. Just like trying to get on our local freeway on ramps are the key.

The on ramps in our lives are those things that bring us happiness in the moment. A child’s smile may be an on-ramp. Remembering the kind deed from a friend may be an on-ramp. A little service may be an on-ramp. Each of us has different things that allow us to merge into the traffic of contentment and joy.

But, if we don’t watch for our “on ramps” will never find our way. Each of us must look around our lives and find those things that bring simple happiness and remind us to travel meaningfully through each day.

Joy comes in the journey and happiness is not a destination, it’s just a way to travel down the road.

Jh-

Remember that the DVD contest closes Tuesday, December 16 at 9 PM PST. If you’re interested in winning one of my autograph DVDs follow this link and go to my previous post and leave a comment.

Also, if you’re a blogger check out alphainventions.com to increase your traffic.


The Saving Grace of Hope + DVD Giveaway

December 13, 2008

sunrise1

After the EMTs brought me in from my major car accident and the doctors and surgeons in the ER and OR did their part I was placed in the intensive care unit to heal. As life-threatening as those first weeks were, the first days were an hundred times more harrowing. My body was battered and broken and one big bruise. As difficult as the battered and broken parts were it was the “bruise” that was putting my life in danger.

Think back if you will to the last time you saw a black eye. Remember how the area around the eye swells and fills with fluid. Think now about my body as one big black eye. The accident had caused my legs to break badly enough that I slipped out of my seatbelt and “ping-ponged” around the front of my van. My body therefore, like a black eye, was swelling and filling with fluid.

The damage was so extensive that on about a third day after the accident my tissue became saturated and the fluid began to fill my heart and lungs. On that third day as my family came into the hospital the doctor pulled them to the side and told them that if they wanted to say goodbye to me they’d better do it that day, because I wouldn’t be around the following day.

Curious about what the doctor meant exactly my family inquired further about my chances. They wondered if the doctor meant I might not make it through the night or I probably wouldn’t make it through the night, to which the doctor replied that there was no chance I would make it through the night.

That night was as difficult a night as I have ever had in my entire life. My lungs would begin to fill with fluid and my ability to breathe was seriously compromised. The only way to alleviate the situation was to have a Respiratory Therapist come in and suction out my lungs. This required the RT to slide a tiny tube down my nose and into my lungs to draw out some of the fluid.

The process was painful but when they were finished I could breathe again. Unfortunately, my situation was so dire that 45 minutes to an hour after the procedure was finished my breathing would become labored again.

I would push my nurse’s call button and when the nurse arrived in my room I told her that I needed to be suctioned again. She reminded me that it had barely been an hour since I had been suctioned last and that because of the pain I might want to wait a little while. I told her that I didn’t feel like I could make it a little while, and regardless of the discomfort I needed to be suctioned. The RT would again come to my room and take some of the fluid out from my lungs.

All night long this process was repeated. Nearly every hour for the entire night I pleaded to have the Respiratory Therapist do the procedure and nearly every hour through constant reminders of the intense pain my pleas were heard and the procedure was done. It was difficult, it was hard, it hurt, and when the sun rose the next morning my hospital gown was covered in blood, but I was alive.

As I think about that night and what it took to stay alive the primary ingredient was hope. I hoped to live. I hoped to breathe. I hoped for the courage to endure the pain. I hoped for the intestinal fortitude to see the morning come. All I had to hold onto through that most difficult of nights was hope.

Luckily when the doctors told my family about the severity and potential fatality of the situation they elected not to tell me. This allowed me to hope. I never once considered that I might lose my life. Hope kept my mind focusing on the positive instead of becoming mired in the negative. Instead of wondering which hour would be my last, hope allowed me to think of every hour as one bringing me closer to new health.

There is a saving grace that comes with hope. Hope can change our hours as we think about our opportunities instead of our pitfalls. Hope can change our days as we concentrate on how things can become better instead of worrying about how things will become worse. Hope can change our lives by allowing us to maximize what we can do instead of being weighted down by what we can’t.

I am thoroughly convinced through my own experience and through those experiences that I have seen others overcome that 90% of success is waking up each morning with a little hope in your heart.

So hope; hope that things can be better, hope that you can accomplish your goals, hope that your life will be filled with the richest blessings of your dreams. Just hope, and let that hope chase all the fear and doubt from your heart.

Jh-

Leave a comment of something that brings you hope and one of the comments will win one of my autographed DVD’s (or click here to purchase your own). I can’t wait to see the things that bring you hope. I can’t wait for your hope to increase my own. Comments close at 9pm PST Tuesday, December 16.


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