Inspiration: People and Places

July 31, 2009

As we grow and develop, we look to others for support and direction in order to figure out more about life. Your first source for learning wrong from right or feeling out the emotional, intellectual and social components in your world usually comes from your family or your close friends. The older we get, the more our sphere of influence expands into other people and places, be it work, school, church, travel and so forth.

My inspirations when it came to helping people, reading, and bowling came from my parents. My mother ran a day care service in our home, so I grew up around kids of all ages. My father worked days so when I would come home from school my mother needed help in entertaining the children, reading to them and also helping with snack and nap times. In the evenings we would spend a lot of time at Playaway Lanes, a small little 12 lane center just off the heart of downtown. I’d keep score in the adult leagues, then bowl on Saturday mornings during the youth programs plus whenever I could get the free time and money to practice during the week.

My friends inspired my music choices and directions I would go into as far as the heavier styles of music. My friend Mike influenced me to start deejaying, because he and I had the biggest record collections as well as decent stereo equipment. I’d keep up on the latest music news and chart developments through Billboard magazine, which I would purchase from the local penny candy shop. We would take our earnings from the dances we played at plus our part time job money that we could keep and throw it all into more music, better equipment, a light and stage show ( making up your own effects can be dangerous, ladies and gentlemen) and improving the business model all around.

Going to college inspired me to take risks and chances about discovering new people and new interests. This is where I developed another side business helping local bands get their music out to international radio stations, magazines distributors and other record labels. Even if their style of music wasn’t wildly appreciated in the local scene, these musicians and artists soon realized that they could make an impact globally and got excited at the prospects of interviews, positive feedback and increased sales as well as exposure.

After college and working as a private school teacher made me realize that I needed to not only work on instilling values and self-esteem in the people I was responsible for teaching, but also continually striving to improve my own life. I think this is where I discovered personal development. My first book that I read in the field would be Anthony Robbins and his Unlimited Power and Awaken The Giant Within books. He certainly captured my attention with his high energy informercials back in the early to mid 1990’s. From there I went on a quest to learn from people that influenced him, and I’ve developed a passion for learning from others. The librarians know my tastes in reading and probably have helped me to read over 700 books in the past 3 years.

Finally life has come full circle as my wife and two daughters are inspirations as well. They teach me about developing my emotions, thinking outside the box, continually taking risks and learning to handle setbacks without sinking into a black hole. We learn that when everything else seems to be going wrong, we have each other to lift up, support and share in the good experiences and strong memories we’ve developed together.

Remember that when you get out of bed and go out into the world, you are on stage and people are watching you. Whether you believe it or not, you make an impression good or bad by how you look at life and how you treat the people and environment around you. Denis Waitley in one of his seminars mentions a great line about giving children “roots and wings” rather than “loot and things”. Build a foundation with people regarding their legacy, self-sufficiency and their impact with their special talents. Lift people up with your smile, your interest in a topic they are speaking about, or even an encouraging word or phrase.

Inspire yourself to. You are a wonderful human being with so much to give, so much to share, and still so much to learn.


Stand or Fall: the Hot Spot lesson

July 31, 2009

I didn’t fear problems as a child. The bigger the obstacle, the longer and harder I would look at things to solve it. My mother wanted my brother and I to be self-sufficent as adults. It’s not that she didn’t think we would find capable partners in life and get married- she believed that you need to give every person the tools to be able to survive in the world knowing how to track finances and cook, clean, plus do laundry for yourself.

After 3 years of deejaying, my partner Mike and I noticed that most teenagers just wanted a place to call their own. Part time jobs were scarce and if you give children idle time, they’ll find a way to introduce themselves to adult rituals without realizing the long term implications of such actions. We wanted to provide the town with a place that would run after school programs, dances on the weekends and maybe other community activities yet for the most part be a positive, uplifting and safe place for adults to allow their children to be. The Hot Spot would be the name, and once we got feedback from the teens who knew we needed such a place, the fund raising got off the ground running.

Mike and I learned how to negotiate with realtors, take part in zoning board meetings, and speak with community leaders plus other business men. We had to make tough decisions as to run the center for profit or not (we were chosing the latter) and take a vacant second floor retail space to transform it into a working, running teen center. We raised $20,000 out of a proposed $50,000 through a flurry of activities- bake sales, donated auctions, even running a dance hosted by a well known rock radio station and gaining a huge buzz through all the surrounding towns given permission to attend the event thanks to our great relationship with the high school adminstrators in our local town.

Unfortunately our efforts were thwarted by a local restaurant owner two doors down from the building we renovated. Even though the police station was across the street from our building- and we had secured permission from the plaza 100 feet away to have parking there- the owner launched a campaign with all the local politicians that we would bring a “bad” element of drinking and drugs to that section of town. It didn’t matter that we outlined adult security, chaperones and a police officer detail on site for the dances or live bands that would play on Friday and Saturday nights. The powers that be in the adult world proved to be more powerful than two teenagers with a dream to give other teens a safe place to call their own, and soon the Hot Spot became history.

Through the setbacks we had local churches willing to let us put on more teen dances for the town, so all was not lost. We gave back all the donated money to other local programs for kids. A couple of years later a teen center would be open in the city next to where I lived, and I believe we were the inspiration for other people to develop programs for teenagers in our local area.

I learned so much about how business works and the skills you need to gather when it comes to presenting to potential investors. It’s one thing to have a dream- it’s another world to gather support, teach people what you hope to accomplish and give them the tools to make it come true. I could have viewed the Hot Spot as a failure and never want to venture into self-employment again- but I believe that fall led Mike and I to take our deejay business to heights even we couldn’t imagine. I then started a promotional business for unsigned and independent bands with another partner in New York- which helped me to understand better the inner workings of publicity and record label support.

Give children a chance to learn about the real world of business and fall at times within it. If you see someone in your life that has a curious spark about your job or career, see if you can arrange a time for them to shadow you for the day. Let them see all sides of the equation and don’t be afraid to get feedback from them- they may hit you with fresh ideas that will surprise you.

Like the Elton John song says, I’m still standing… better than I ever did. Looking like a true survivor and feeling like a little kid.

Competence and Performance: The Eye of the Tiger

July 30, 2009

The ability to speak a certain language. The execution of an action. Competence and performance are two traits that link hand in hand when it comes to mastering a new task or subject matter. Remember the feeling of pride when you began to walk on your own for the first time, or put together your first sentence, or even learning how to successfully drive by yourself? I know when it came to my learning ability, if I really wanted to excel I would spend hours and hours versing myself in the subject, attempting to learn from people already competent at the skill or activity I wanted to know inside and out and as a result I think I cut my mastery time in half or better.

When I first attempted to bowl in my pre-school years, my father thought something was wrong. My mother, father and brother all were right handed, so it made natural sense to have me try to hold the weight of a bowling ball within my right hand. Gutter ball after gutter ball proved heartbreaking (remember, this was pre-bumpers in the gutter, the 1970’s). Suddenly it dawned on him to have me try to bowl with my left hand- and I’ve been bowling that way ever since. Must explain my need to march to the beat of my own drummer when it comes to other things in life (I write with my right hand, throw with my left hand, eat with my right hand, can bat from both sides when playing baseball although I’m stronger from the right side).

I can’t remember fully why my first grade teacher advanced myself and one girl student in math classes, but I do remember learning 5 grade levels of math within the next 3 years. Even today when it comes to basic math operations my wife will just ask me to compute in my head- and I usually can spit out an answer within 10-15 seconds. She balances her checkbook by running down the deposits and withdrawals transaction by transaction- and I’ll give her the correct balance as we go.

Even reading I moved quickly from completing all of the kid and teenage books before high school in my school and public libraries. Once my mother knew I wasn’t reading adult murder mysteries to commit anything devious but actually to learn more about the craft of writing, she let the librarians know that it was ok for me to go through all of the adult mystery books. I guess I’ve always had that “Eye of the Tiger” mentality when I find something that moves me- I never entertain the possibility of quitting until I grow in the direction I want, gain competency in the fields that I desire and perform to the highest level that I possibly can. In other words- you can never learn enough about any subject matter.

When I worked as a manager of a group home it would confuse me how certain residents didn’t want to take the plunge into living in staff-assisted apartments with less supervision. They would come within weeks of achieving their ultimate goal- then sabatoge all the months and years of effort by becoming abusive to themselves or to others in the home. Competency scared these individuals. The more that you achieve, the more that is expected of you- and they really doubted their ability to handle this added responsibility and expectations.

My wife and I experience this with both of our daughters. When fearful of the unknown, they resort to protective mechanisms. They’ll skip easy classes in school. They’ll purposely perform poorly on assignments they already know the material on. They’ll whine, cry,and stomp. They even act incapable of putting two pieces of bread together with peanut butter on one side and jelly on the other. Frustrating? It can be- you see chronologically in age a child who resorts to ineptitude over tasks and activities they’ve done hundreds of times.

How do we become competent to perform at high levels? Look at your strengths and individual talents that come naturally to you. Are you spending time pursuing all you can in those areas of your life- or do you spend more time trying to build weaknesses up to average competency?

I used to get frustrated that as an artist, I could not get drawing or painting. I appreciate others that can, and I put 100% during school into my creations- but I knew it wasn’t a natural talent for me. I could spend 10,000 hours in art and I probably would only push my ability from a 2 to a 3 or 4 out of 10 scale. I’m better off focusing on what I’m good to great at- not what is average or below for me.

When a naysayer criticizes something in a skill you know you have talent for, look at the source before you hold on to their negative belief. Professors told me I couldn’t take 4 English classes at the same time in one semester and that would be GPA disaster. When I received a 3.8 out of 4.0 that year, I just wanted to go back to my advisor, stick out my tongue and tell him, “I told you I could do it!”

When it comes to competence and performance- gain the strength to handle the word ‘next’ in your mind when someone throws up a ‘no’ at you. We aren’t perfect, we make mistakes- but with the eye of the tiger we can pick ourselves up off the canvas and begin again, stronger and better for the experience.

Ambition: Your Inner Drive

July 30, 2009

When you look at what captures your interest enough in life to turn a casual encounter into a full fledged hobby or career, chances are strong ambition played a part in the final decision. Whether you thought something was cool because of the social implications or you naturally gravitated towards things because they were easy for you to do, as adults we lock on to passions and hold them close to heart for a lifetime. I’ve interviewed a lot of bands through the years for the magazines I write for, and it’s interesting to hear the stories of at what age a certain musician decided to move from being a music lover to gathering the courage to play an instrument, start a band and then try to knock on the doorstep of one of their heroes in terms of sold out shows, record deals and fan adulation.

At age 6 one of my strongest ambitions related to bowling. I wanted to be a professional bowler. My mother and father bowled 5 nights a week- so spending time soaking in the environment, learning to keep score for adults at that age and gaining tips wherever I could to improve my game fueled my interest more. Surprisingly I gained the opportunity at 13 to bowl with one of the biggest PBA stars of the day- Marshall Holman- in my own local center! My mother had a bowling friend in the area who was Marshall’s girlfriend, so he would often visit New England. His encouragement helped me in my decision to bowl for UMass Lowell for 4 years. I realized in 1992 when bowling a national tournament against future PBA star Chris Barnes what set the cream of the crop apart from the good to great crowd- his abilities put mine to shame in terms of physical and mental sharpness.

Even now I still have ambitious bowling goals that keep me fired up with every frame that I throw. They may not be professional bowling caliber, but even as an amateur I know that I can compete on a high level, develop strong tournament experience and also win a little money based on my skill set.

Music has been another strong ambition of mine to be involved in since my early teens. I voraciously read every music magazine I could get my hands on, I’d dream up band lineups I was going to be involved with- down to writing lyrics, designing album to album cycles for my bands and also knowing who I would be touring with. I didn’t know that by college I would become more of a writer on the critic side, getting to know my favorite musicians through reviewing their albums, taking in their shows and interviewing them. I’m never at a loss for words when I hear songs that touch me, provoke me, energize me or even cause differing emotions. I feel the need to explain to readers what bands are like, what they can expect for a sound, looking at aspects such as songwriting, lyrical content, musicianship, arrangement skills and overall presentation. I may be in my late 30’s yet I feel that keeping up with all types of music (including the hip hop- rap- r & b- regatton my oldest daughter subjects me to through Youtube, Myspace, commerical radio and her IPod selections) influences me to stay young with an open mind.

My ambitions as a writer are multi-fold. I do want to write books. When I was younger, I thought it would be in the mystery genre. I read hundreds of books from John Creasey and Nero Wolfe to Hugh Pentecost, Ed McBain, Lawrence Block, John Lutz, Robert Parker, Julie Smith, Nancy Pickard, William Tapply and so on. These days I think I’d like to write about non-fiction topics- psychology, self-help or improvement, personal development, adoption, and so on. I enjoy the blog medium and love the feedback I’m receiving for this.

Ambition can get you through difficult times in your life. I know people that are struggling with finding a job, making ends meet in today’s economy- and they find a way to smile through it all and stride forward to greet the next day as sunny and cheery as the previous one. It can start with arising a half hour earlier to read inspirational, uplifting material. Maybe you need a walk around your neighborhood to get the blood circulating and the heart pumping. Wherever you can, look at some area that you’ve neglected that you enjoy- and make the time to pursue that interest, even if it’s only for that day.

It’s ok to be selfish sometimes and take care of your inner drive. Your beaming personality and outward glow will illuminate everyone in your circle, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Procrastination: It’s Making You Wait

July 29, 2009

Do you ever wonder what stops you from accomplishing more in your day, more in your week, and more in your lifetime? We can write out to do lists ahead of time, we can plan to run around and become a super person to get all of our errands done- and then we get easily distracted to zone out, play video games, go shopping or spend time on the internet. Welcome to procrastination- putting off what you know you should do to escape and to avoid in the hopes that someone else will pick up the slack for you.

When I grew up, cleaning my room became a procrastination issue. My answer to keeping things in order was to put together nice, neat piles. Friends would have difficulty navigating around my room as I definitely collected books, magazines, albums, baseball cards and kept them in tall piles around various parts of the room. My mother often wondered if there were other living organisms crawling across my bed trying to get out from underneath all the piles of items that I just had to have and couldn’t get rid of.

I guess my children return the favor to me- as their room stays clean for about 30 minutes after it’s all picked up and then it returns to pigpen central. My wife and I have had to physically help them clean up their room multiple times- often throwing out 8-9 trashbags full of stuff. They are packrats- just like me growing up. They want to avoid in any measure keeping up on the clean up of their space. What would take 5 minutes a day to properly put items in their place, they’d rather be sleeping, playing a game or doing anything non-commital versus learning how to take care of themselves.

As an adult, I put off telling my wife difficult subject matter. I think I can tackle issues alone, and try to work out a plan before I bring problems to her. When you are married though, it’s a mastermind of sorts and a partnership, so you need to bring all the information to the table and work out ideas and solutions together. I’ll wait to tell her about a metal concert I want to go to until hours before the show- for fear of her giving me a hard time or saying no. If something is wrong with my car, I may act foul and be quick tempered instead of just letting her know what’s going on. When it comes to my procrastination, I think in my mind I already know the outcome so I protect myself, rather than just letting go and letting whatever will be to be.

Through hundreds of books I’ve read many ideas regarding productivity and improving the quality of your life. The easiest way to defeat procrastination is to make a plan and go forth with it that day if possible. A lot of people get stuck in the hope stage of life, believing that someday their dreams will be accomplished just when everything around them in their world is right.

Words are cheap as anyone with a mouth and a brain can use them. To dream sufficient enough to take action as Jim Rohn talks about in many of his seminars- that’s when you’ll accomplish what you set out to do. Make a conscious effort to eliminate procrastination as much as possible and I think you’ll be impressed with how much happier and more fulfilling your life will be.

I know we lead busy lives and have more items to do in a day than the 24 hours we are alloted. I would hate for you to look back 10 or 20 years upon your life and think , “I should have…” or “I could have…” when the opportunity looked you right in the eyes. Take the chance if you feel a career move is better now. Start your own business, even if it’s on a part-time basis. Gain the skills that you need if you want an upward placement that requires a master’s degree or higher.

People who complain about the time that it takes to do this should know that the time will still pass- whether you get off your behind to do it or not. Don’t live your life from the stands- get in the game and become active to defeat procrastination.

Thank you for reading this, please let me know some of your stories regarding procrastination and any tips or techniques you’ve used to move forward from this.

Reflection: On Certain Journal Quotes

July 29, 2009

From time to time I’m going to look at some of my written journal entries and reflect on the quotes that move me from book or magazine material I’ve been reading. Yes, I do keep a written journal in addition to this blog. I find the written journal more of a free form exploration, sometimes scattered in cohesion as it runs the gamut from a daily mind release on paper to capturing the best of what I’ve taken in for the day.

Here we go. Quote number one I would like to explore comes from one of my favorite business philosopher speakers of all time, Jim Rohn.

“Grow bigger to hold more in capacity- when happiness is poured out you will get more.”

What this means to me is any human emotion is limitless. It’s an idea that I’d love for my children to fully embrace. There’s enough happiness to go around for themselves, their friends, their family, and beyond. The willingness to extend kindness, generosity, and gratitude becomes expansive and returns to you in ways you never dreamed of. Sure holding a door for someone when their hands are full can be a sign of pouring out happiness- but taking a risk to improve the life of someone who appears sad or frustrated shows maturity and a capacity for love of humankind to another dimension.

Quote two comes from Charlie T. Jones- another incredible speaker and author who passed away last year.

“Someday you’ll discover we never really give; we are only returning and sharing a small portion of what we’ve received.”

I’ve remembered times when we moved from one apartment to another where we would find young couples in need of furniture and give them the items that wanted in their time of need. We’ve had both of our daughters visit programs that provide self-knitted clothing to numerous men’s and women’s shelters as well as homeless shelters- it inspired my oldest to participate in an all day knit-a-thon as well as donate to the cause. There’s always something you could be doing to make the world a better place- whether you look at an international scope with a cause or hone in to your local community, realize the gifts of life we have and see to it that others less fortunate or in difficult circumstances can also gain these opportunities.

The third quote comes from an interview I heard recently with Jack Canfield- yes, the Chicken Soup for the Soul co-author.

“Self-esteem boils down to two factors: the feeling that I’m lovable, and the experience that I’m capable.”

When you wonder why others around you are struggling, easily agitated and seem to push themselves away from the rest of society, it probably boils down to their own self-worth. It’s like the kid who gets picked last for every game, or the person who has to sit alone at lunch because they have trouble socializing. Take the time to notice people like this, give them your time and compliment their hard work ethic or something about their style, their wardrobe, their personality.

Both of my daughters when they came to live with us didn’t think they were lovable. My youngest also felt so torn down emotionally that she still struggles with the confidence to complete basic household tasks. We’ve worked on not just saying that we love them, but using physical affection and actions that are loving. Gary Chapman’s work in his Love Language series of books taught my wife and I that what works for one child to feel loved may not be on the radar screen for the other- so you have to adjust your language accordingly to make sure their love cups get filled to capacity and beyond.

What are some of your favorite all time quotes when it comes to self-help, personal development or just something that inspired you to move ahead in your life?

Persistence: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

July 29, 2009

I have two cats at my apartment. What I love about these cats is their focus is second to none. My youngest daughter won a fish at a summer solstice festival last month. Ever since my cats have discovered the fish in the house, they’ve tried several thousand times to get into the tank to claim the fish as their own. Doesn’t matter how or how often- they are that determined that I suspect one day I’m going to have a huge puddle of water and rocks that I’ll be cleaning up in my living room.

Remember when you as a child had that same persistence to obtain what you wanted? How you learned to climb over, around and on top of the word no? When you really wanted to do something, you would use your best negotiating skills or just continue to ask away hundreds of times- hopeful that you’d break down your parents mentally enough that they would just give in to your wants. This dogged determination, when used for pursuit of your ultimate wants and wish list, can carry you through even when things seem impossible or bleak in your life.

I had to prove myself as a starter my freshman year of college on a team of nationally ranked veterans for my bowling team. I dusted myself off when I lost two back to back sales jobs within 6 months- even though I loved the music and newspaper mediums I was involved in. Even when I was making minimum wage as a teenager in the private school cafeteria and we went through 4 bosses in a year- I patiently waited for each boss to understand my value as a whole to keep the team cohesive and provide top notch service. My reward at the time was the biggest per hour increase that anyone had received in the history of that cafeteria.

Currently I have 53 goals that I want to accomplish within the next 10 years. They range from fluency in foreign languages to travelling in foreign countries, improving my income per year to maintaining a better level of health to consistency with the time and activities that I engage in with my wife and children. The only way I’ll achieve these goals is by writing out specific plans, breaking them down into steps, looking at what I need to do on a daily basis in each of these areas, and gaining the resources, mentors and skills to be able to achieve these dreams. Also, observing any possible roadblocks or setbacks ahead of time and determining that these naturally occur in life- but to not let them defeat me or deflate me.

I’ve studied different patterns or ways to set goals from author mentors such as Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, and Zig Ziglar among others. I’m learning from their failures as well as their successes. I truly believe that you have to fail and fall at life in order to achieve what you really desire. I probably bowled 8,000 league and tournament games before I rolled my first perfect game. I’ve had professors in college who thought I wasn’t talented as a writer. I left a job and went back to become a manager with that same company because I knew I could do more for the company than just be a regular counselor. In all those instances, I chose to work harder, work smarter and never accept other people’s views as what would be my destiny.

What have you been persistent about in your life? How long did it take to achieve one of your biggest goals, and how did you go about it? I love when I hear about the media or people discussing an “overnight sensation.” A lot of times the people involved have spent thousands of hours slugging away, learning, adjusting, moving forward, taking side-steps but always visualizing the end in mind before it happens- and then making it reality. You may be born with a certain talent or pre-disposition to accomplish great things due to natural ability. However, if you don’t apply yourself to nuture this gift, you can lose it as quickly as you’ll use it.

When I was my youngest daughter’s age, I knew I wanted to be involved in the music business in some way, continue to pursue my bowling dreams and also have a healthy, happy family life. 26 years later, I’m still pushing forward in all three areas and setting more goals to make my world vibrant and loving.

Persist- never entertain the possibility of quitting. Achievers make it by going the extra mile- push yourself to do the same. I’d love to hear some of your favorite persistent stories.