Have you ever finished writing a letter (e-mail) and counted how many times the word, “I” appears and realized it’s in every other sentence? Do you agree that with Facebook and Instagram it seems like many of us are saying, “Look at me?” When asked to do something do you find yourself wondering, “What’s in it for me?”
It’s natural. We are all the center of our own universe and the world revolves around us. However, there are still people out there who ask, “What can I give?” instead of, “What do I get?” These people stand out.
I know a guy who is known for his random acts of kindness, selflessness, and empathy, and guess what, he’s super successful. He doesn’t give to get, but in the end people turn to him when they need a realtor. His name is Norm, and he’s always there in times of need for his family, friends, and the community in general. Nice guys do finish first.
Imagine you woke up one day and all (and I mean all) of your hair fell out? To make matters worse, you’ve also lost almost all of your hearing. In addition, you grew up dirt poor and now as an adult struggle to make ends meet. This is the story of my grandfather.
He gradually lost his hearing (due to a childhood illness) until he was almost completely deaf by the age of 24, and was forced to wear an embarrassingly big, and bulky hearing aid. The stress of losing his hearing caused his hair to ALL fall out all at once—and it never grew back. A printer by trade, he often didn’t hear instructions and made mistakes which caused him to lose jobs.
It’s hard to know if deep down he felt sorry for himself, but he didn’t let his condition stop him from meeting and marrying his high school sweetheart, being a role model for my mom, starting a printing business, and living a full life.
My “Papa” was known for wearing a variety of unique hats, turning his baldness into branding. He focused on his strength–working the presses–and hired help to talk to handle sales and talk to the customers.
Later in life, he learned sign language, which made communicating easier. My grandfather lived into his nineties and I never once heard him use his handicap as an excuse for not doing something.
Three Life-Changing Books
You probably thought I was going to mention one of my own 23 books, but like many writers, I am an avid reader and the most important books I’ve ever read are:
How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
See You at The Top (Zig Ziglar)
Unlimited Power (Anthony Robbins)
Honorable mentions: The Artist’s Way, Think and Grow Rich, The Power of Positive Thinking, and On Writing (Stephen King)
The Constant Reminder
I’m old school, I wear a watch. If you’re like me, you probably look at your watch dozens of times a day. I have a suggestion.
As we all seek to make changes and form new habits in the coming year, If you wear a watch, put a small dot on the face as a reminder of the change you intend to make.
If you don’t wear a watch, put a sticky dot on your phone. Or, wear a reminder bracelet, write on your hand, create a screensaver, or leave an object out as a way to stay on track for a few weeks until a new habit takes hold.
Real Fears This Year
In the past, people were afraid of speaking in public, spiders (and snakes), clowns, and death. I’m serious. Today, the top fear (according to a USA Today poll) is the corruption of government officials, followed by terrorist attacks.
The difference between the two lists are the things we feared most in “the good old days” were largely preventable–or within our control–don’t like clowns (and I’m with ya here) then avoid going to places where they are.
How do we avoid being a victim of a terrorist attack? Largely, we can’t, but the likelihood of it happening is slim. Government corruption? Again, not much WE can do, other than vote. So worrying about these two things doesn’t do any good.
A couple of things that made the lists from past and present include: Not having enough money for the future, identity theft, and becoming ill. Maybe we can’t completely avoid these terrible things, but there are steps we can take to make them less likely.
I guess what I am saying is, we should worry less, live more, and take control of the things we can control. In the 1950s, some families built underground bunkers in case of a nuclear attack. That took a lot of time and money and in the end, it wasn’t needed.
Living in the Here and Now
Some of you may know the story of how I came to write a book about Sunshine Blake—she knew she was dying and asked me to tell her incredible life story—which I did in the form of a novel. What you may not know—and what I would like to share is—how much our meetings meant and changed my life.
Sunshine was the eternal optimist. She believed that no matter you wanted, the universe wanted you to have it, and would provide for you if you went for it. She also lived without worry because she felt that no matter what happened to you (short of killing you) was supposed to happen, and would make you stronger and better because of it.
Even though I watched her whittle away from week to week due to her illness, she never complained, never asked for anything, and never let me feel bad for her. Instead, she uplifted me each time we met (Wednesdays at her favorite bistro). I learned so much from our time together, but one thing stands out as the most valuable lesson.
Sunshine taught me to not blame anyone else (or anything else) for whatever wasn’t working in my life. Instead, she said to go out there and do something about it. Trust that things will work out, but do the work–control the things you can control. Blaming others for our failures is easy. Owning it, and fixing it is harder, but doable.
My sons and I were getting a quick bite to eat and the total came to $18.03. I said to the cashier, “I have no sense, but I do have three cents in my car.” He replied, “I trust you,” and handed me two bucks back. Right away I went and got the pennies from my car—proving he could trust me.
This made me realize something, when you give people a good reputation to live up to, often times they will rise to the occasion. “I think it’s great you do your best to be on time,” you may say to the person who is chronically late. Sure enough, this person leaves a little earlier and arrives on time.
It’s the same thing with stating the positive outcome you desire instead of telling someone what you don’t want them to do. As a coach, I often tell my pitchers, “Throw strikes,” instead of, “Don’t walk this hitter.” It works . . . usually. You can do it to yourself, too. Years ago I said to myself, “I always remember my dreams.” Sure enough, I do.