Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How I Found My Writing Voice

Everyone has a voice.  I'm not referring to vocal cords, I'm speaking about an inner voice unique to each individual on the planet.  Your voice is your talent or set of talents and no two people are exactly alike.  That's why sharing your voice is so important.  You have something to offer that only you can give.  There are several ways to find your voice if you haven't already.  Perhaps the easiest way to discover your voice is to ask your friends or loved ones.  Sometimes they can experience it before you find it on your own.  They are attracted to you because they feel something special when they see, hear, feel, smell or taste your talent, especially when you invest time refining your unique gifts.

Another way to find your voice is to keep track of how you feel each time you are using your talents.  If you lose track of time because you are doing something you love, you are using your voice.  That's what happened to me when I started writing.   It happens when I'm coaching others.  And when I can write about subjects that help others find their voice, I get this giddy feeling inside me because I'm using my talents in harmony.  It's like adding musical instruments to a song you enjoy listening to.

Monthly Page Views
I found my voice by accident.  There was this nudge inside of me one morning over 1,700 days ago.  I got out of bed and started this blog.  I had no idea anyone else would want to read my stories.  The best part about my journey is getting feedback from people who are positively affected by what I share here. 

This month is another record.  I'm celebrating 30,000+ page views for April, more than double the number of page views from one year ago.  If you have any special requests, please email me and I will do my best to answer you in a future blog story.  I would love to hear your voice.  Please share a little bit about your unique gift(s) in the comments section and let me know how you plan to share your talent(s) with the world.

Thank you for allowing me to share my life with you.  Thanks also for encouraging me to keep using my writing voice. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

3 Signs You're Going the Wrong Way

Are you having trouble deciding which road to take?  If you're like me and you have a stubborn streak inside you, you may travel hundreds of miles, even thousands, before admitting you're going the wrong way.  It reminds me of a joke I heard about the three wise men.  The reason it took so long to find the baby Jesus is because they were men and men don't like asking for directions.  It's also difficult to say "I was wrong."  It's too bad I didn't pay more attention to the road signs earlier in my life.  Here are three signs you're going the wrong way in your life:
  1. The Speed Sign.  It has two components – a maximum speed and a minimum speed.  If you're going too fast or too slow, you won't reach your destination at the appropriate time.  Adjust your pace to make sure you get the important things done in your life.  If you rush, your work will be sub-par and if you go too slow you will fall behind on your to do list.
  2. The U-turn Sign.  If you let your pride get in the way, you will avoid this sign.  If you care too much about what others think about you when you fail, you will ignore this sign.  You may even become so blind that you never see this sign.  The longer you ignore this sign, the more it will cost you in lost time and lost resources.  
  3. The Yield Sign.  There is a supernatural force on the roadway.  It's bigger than you and smarter than you.  It's all-powerful and all-knowing.  It's also all-loving.  This force is capable of helping you get back on the right road if you're willing to yield to it.  Failure to yield will lead to some serious road hazards.  Give God the right-of-way and yield at all times when you see this sign on the roadway.
Whatever mile-marker you find yourself at today, I wish you well on your journey.  Be safe and pay attention to all the road signs.  Don't be afraid to ask for directions if you're lost.  Have a great day.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Here's What Happens When You Stop Complaining

People who always find something to complain about have one thing in common – they're unhappy.  The reason for this is simple.  They focus on everything that is wrong and overlook what is right.  They dwell on the bad weather and miss the silver lining in the clouds.  I took this picture on my way home from my day job yesterday at sunset.  Hours before I shot this we were under a tornado watch.  I wonder how many people looked up after the storm and witnessed this beautiful sunset.  Yes, that's what happens when you stop complaining.  You look up.  You see everything good in this world.

Every day when I'm driving on the interstate, I resolve to do one thing – to forget about anything that may be disturbing my peace.  That means I leave my troubles behind me.  I refuse to complain about anything.  It works.  Try it for thirty days and see what happens to your relationships. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Do You Own an Artistic License?

Creative people don't usually paint inside the lines.  They seek exceptions to the rules.  They rebel against the norms of society.  You may often find them out on a limb.  They seem comfortable there.  They enjoy living on the edge.  If you ask them for identification, most likely they will pull out their artistic license.  I decided to get mine when I started writing.  Here are some advantages of owning one:
  1. There are no limits to what you can achieve.
  2. The only boundaries you have are set by your own imagination.
  3. You cannot be cited for ignoring the rules because there are no rules to follow in fiction.  Everything and everyone is make-believe.  Any relation to real people is purely a coincidence.
  4. You can't offend anyone because all your characters are fictional.
  5. You don't need to ask anyone for permission when you're writing fairy tales unless they're fairies.  So far, I haven't met any real-life fairies so I'm safe.
Are you ready to get your artistic license today?  All you have to do is start using the gifts you were born with.  The only crime you can commit is not using your license.  You owe it to yourself to become a card-carrying member today.  Show the world what you're capable of.  Your artistic license is good for life.  It never expires.  Use it or lose it.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Travelers Welcome

"Our first house guest is coming," I told my wife after I hung up the phone with one of my California friends.  "He's passing through on a road trip and wants to visit for a couple of days."

My wife looked at me and saw the excitement on my face.  "I need to step up my training," I told her.  This is no ordinary house guest.  My buddy is the one who led us to victory when we were about to get knocked out of our team tennis tournament.  When we were on the edge of defeat in our last match, he and his mixed doubles partner dug in and won seven games in a row before winning the match in sudden death.  The team victory paved our way for entry into a regional tournament in Las Vegas where we took first place out of 28 teams.  Once again, my buddy and his mixed doubles partner were in familiar territory.  They were the last team on the courts and their win sealed first place, earning us a berth in a national tournament.  We trained hard, got some pointers from our local pros and had the time of our lives on the same courts where the pros play every year on the tour.  I will savor the memories we had together for a lifetime.  We fell short of our goal to win the national tournament and settled for 5th place.

If you find yourself passing through Iowa on a road trip, check out the red solo dot just off Interstate 80.  By the way, my cousin, Mark Mulligan is going to be in Burlington, Iowa on September 13.  My wife and I are planning to attend his concert.  Click here for a link to his site and reserve your tickets for a fun evening, trop rock style.

Friday, April 25, 2014

What Price Will You Pay For Wisdom?

Everything has a price tag.  The choices you make.  The choices you don't make.  And when your purchasing wisdom, it's easier to avoid sticker shock if you look at your purchase as an investment rather than an expense.  There are no shortcuts.  It's a long-term acquisition.  I'm satisfied my investment in wisdom is paying dividends.  My marriage is stronger, my family headed in the right direction and my faith stronger, all a result of paying the price for wisdom.  I highly recommend you add wisdom to your portfolio.  Here's how you can get started:
  1. Decide today you want to become wise.
  2. Be willing to make mistakes.  The more mistakes you make, the more opportunities you have to learn from your experiences.  
  3. Don't worry about what others think or say about you.  They aren't willing to pay the price for wisdom and they really don't want you to succeed.  When you succeed, you are showing the world there is a better way to live and most people don't want to change.   Deep down inside they hope you give up.  Wise people never give up.  
  4. Keep learning.  Wise people know how much they don't know.  The wiser they get, the more they realize how much they still need to learn.  
  5. Make daily investments in wisdom.  Every moment is an opportunity to grow.  Be bold. 
One more thing about wisdom – it's not in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  It's in the rainbow and everywhere else you look for it.  It's in every experience you live for the rest of your life.  It's not a penny stock or a junk bond.  It's what defines who you will become once you decide to pursue it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Guardian Angel Deserves a Raise

The first time I experienced help from the other side was at the age of 16.  I was driving home in my VW Super Beetle after camping in the White Mountains with my brother and a neighbor.  The engine caught fire as I approached a curve on the highway.  I locked up my steering wheel when I shut off the ignition.  There were oncoming cars on the other side of the double yellow line and a steep cliff directly in front of me.  I cried out, "God help me!"  The key clicked over, I swerved back into my lane and we jumped out of the car in time to extinguish the flames with a rag.  When the traffic cleared, we walked across the road and looked down at the valley about a 1,000 feet below.  It was a close call.

That's not my first experience with Divine intervention.  In fact, my whole life has been a series of miracles.  My Guardian Angel is working overtime and I'm grateful.  Whoever he or she is, the playing field against my opponents has been leveled and I'm moving forward toward my destiny.  My plan is simple, do whatever God asks of me.  There's a reason I keep getting rescued every time I'm in distress.  You are the reason.  I'm here to help you cross the finish line.  There's no need to be afraid.  There is nothing in this world or outside of this world that can separate you from God's love for you.  He sends angels to protect you in your times of need.  I promise to be here every morning at 8:08 just as my guardian angel shows up in times of need and I promise to keep writing messages of hope.  Don't give up.  God has a plan for you.  And He will send whatever you need whenever you need it.  It may be an angel or someone who cares about you.  Trust in God and believe in Him.  He will move mountains and He will put out fires.  He will do whatever it takes to help you get to the finish line.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Change Your Life in Three Sentences

One of my friends sent me a Facebook text message yesterday.  He asked, What happened?  He had been following my journey and wanted to know more details.  I thought about the 1,600+ blog stories and wondered what had been left out.  Then it hit me.  My buddy really wasn't asking what happened.  He really wanted to know why.  The why question is deeper.  It reveals so much more.  If you can fill in the blanks, you can change your life in three sentences.  Are you ready?  Here goes:

  1. The reason I'm here on this planet is because  (fill in the blank).
  2. I'm happiest when I'm doing these activities  (fill in the blank).
  3. When I'm no longer here I want to be remembered for (fill in the blank).
Once I discovered why I'm here, what I'm happiest doing, and how I want to be remembered, I changed course.  I'm here because my mission in life is to help you and others like you find your answers. I'm here to help you fill in the blanks.  I'm happiest when I write these daily messages which are designed to help you discover who you are.  And I want to be remembered for being a loving husband, loving father and for being a contributor.  In order to change my life in three sentences, I needed to fill in the blanks.  That's what happened.  And it can happen to you, too.  Just finish those three sentences.  Fill in the blanks. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Confidence Builders

Any time you try a new task, your confidence level is at a low point.  The more you practice, the more confident you become.  Sadly, many people avoid trying new things because they fear failure or they lack confidence they will improve.  Achievers have one thing in common – they believe they will eventually get it right as long as they don't give up.  Here are some ideas to help you build confidence:
  1. Make a list of the top ten significant things you have done in your life.
  2. Think back to the learning curve you went through to accomplish those ten items you listed in #1.  Write down the specific obstacles you encountered in the process.
  3. Make a list of your top ten failures.
  4. Next to your top ten failures, write down a reason why you failed.
  5. Compare the two lists and look for patterns of behavior.
I don't know what's on your two lists but I have a feeling your reasons for succeeding or failing have to do with one thing – your self-confidence.  When you believe in yourself and your abilities, you don't give up.  When you lack self-confidence, you give up too soon, before you have a chance to learn something new.

It's not too late to turn those failures you listed in #3 into successes.  All you have to do is apply the same resolve you demonstrated to achieve your desired results with your "successes" to your other list.  Failure is never failure unless you give up.  Change your attitude about your failures.  Stop calling them failures.  Label them as "incomplete" or "work in process."  Change your approach.  Break your work down into smaller pieces and stay with it until you master it.  It's all about staying in the game.  You can do this.  Believe in yourself.

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's All About Your Relationships

I watched my first episode of Bar Rescue, a show about a man who is a turn-around specialist.  He assesses the current situation and makes changes to rescue tavern owners who are in trouble.  He said something that got my attention.  "Your bar is in trouble because your relationships are broken.  If we can fix your relationships, we can save your business."

My wife was watching the show with me.  "There's no way that place can be saved," she told me at the beginning of the show.  The two partners stopped talking and many of the employees were owed back pay.  Then Jon Taffer stepped in.  Before he did anything else, he got the two partners together for some straight talk.  Then he asked all the employees to share what was on their minds.  It was a mess.  The host of the show asked one of the partners to go home and look in the mirror.  "Tell yourself you're a failure.  I know you won't like that.  You can't change unless you realize what a failure you are.  Then come back tomorrow and let's talk."

The bar owner came back with a bunch of envelopes filled with money.  He sold his prized possession and paid back all the money he owed his employees.  The two partners came together and promised to stop fighting.  The employees became inspired.  Sales exploded.  It was a fairy tale ending.

I thought to myself, the world is broken because our relationships are broken.  Think about that for a moment.  What would happen in your life if you invested your time healing all your broken relationships instead of blaming everyone else for all your problems?  Do you keep your promises?  Can others trust you?  Do they know you care about them?  What actions do you take to show others you care?  What steps are you going to take today to heal your relationships?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is Risen

The tomb is empty.  Jesus is risen.  He conquered death.  There is nothing to fear.  Nothing.  Not even death.  This is the day the Lord has made.  Rejoice and be glad in it.  Sing.  Dance.  Be happy.  Share this day with a loved one.  Savor it.  The door is open for you to have your best day ever.  Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good Grief

Jodi Porter, 46, one of my work associates, died Thursday, April 17, after a long illness.  I'm feeling a little bit like the Charlie Brown character who walked around saying, "good grief," every time Lucy yanked the football away before he had a chance to kick it.  We were all rooting for Jodi to get well and come back to work.  Jodi was one of those people you could count on to bring joy to others.  She always had a smile and she was voted employee of the month just before she took leave to battle her cancer which came back a second time.  This is the second loss for our company since we opened our doors nearly two years ago.  My thoughts are with Jodi's family and my peers at work who are grieving Jodi's loss.  I'm also thinking about Ryan's family who lost their son when he was killed in a motorcycle accident a couple of days before our grand opening.  Grief is good.  It's part of the healing process.

I will never forget Jodi or Ryan.  I shared my best memory of Ryan with his parents when they stopped in for a visit a few weeks after the funeral.  We were at the hospital signing up new members and we were overwhelmed.  It was so crowded we were in the hallways.  We called for help.  Ryan showed up to assist.  "I'm here to watch how you do the sign-ups," he said enthusiastically.  "It's your time to shine, Ryan," I said.  "You can do this."  Then I watched Ryan light up the crowd.  The kid was on fire.  He gave the best presentation of his life.  And two days before we opened our doors, his football was taken away from him before he reached the finish line.  I mourned with his family the night before our grand opening.  Today I mourn the loss of Jodi as they lay her body to rest.  My comfort is in knowing where Jodi and Ryan are today.  They are in a better place.  They are cheering for us to keep going, even when we are grieving because someone took our football away from us too soon.  Rest in peace, my friends.  Your memories will be in my heart forever.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Yes, it's Good Friday

"The tower is back up for our internet," my wife said when I came home last night.  Her message was a false alarm.  Once again, I called my provider for an update.  We're on a first name basis.  "Four towers went down when the storm hit your area and we just got one working.  Unfortunately, I can't connect you to the one that's working because you're home is out of range."

"Any ideas when I will have internet again?" I asked.  There was no confidence in his voice.  "Happy Easter," I said, hanging up the phone.

Today is Good Friday.  People may wonder, How can this be good when it's the day Jesus dies?"

Three out of four towers in my neighborhood are down but that doesn't change all the good in my life.  That storm that came through my hometown produced a tornado that touched down just miles from my day job. I walked outside and watched the winds swirling in all directions and said a prayer that we would all be safe.  The tornado hit an unpopulated area.  The only casualty is the minor inconvenience of no internet. There are more important things to focus on today, like the storm Jesus went through on the first Good Friday.

Keep that in mind today.  Sunday's coming.  Jesus conquered the mother of all storms, death.  Yes, today is a good day.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Back to the Stone Age

Today is day 5 with no internet. A storm knocked out all the towers in the area.  I'm using my cell phone to type today's story.  The signal is weak but just strong enough to publish my blog.

There is always a way to win, even if you have to revert to the Stone Age to get things done. Don't let any roadblocks get in your way.  I will see you tomorrow. And if my cell phone should go down, just look for the smoke signals in the sky.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Thrive on Taxing Days

Some would describe my day yesterday as a day from Hell.  I admit, it was taxing.  I started my day writing a post about how I manage my time and maximize my daily routine.  Little did I know my day was about to become one heck of a roller coaster ride.  I placed a call to my internet provider to find out when our home internet would be back up.  "It's been down for three days," I told the rep.  "And I need to file my taxes by midnight.  Can you help me?"  I asked.  He made a couple of calls and tried pushing some buttons.  No luck.  No worries, I thought.  I'll adapt.  Before I left for the library to access the free Wi-fi, I sent some important documents to the printer.  Murphy's law was in play.  Of course – no ink and no spare refills!  My day was turning into a nightmare.

Plan A was now a distant memory.  Plan B was dead on arrival.  I was on plan F for running on fumes.  "There's nothing like waiting to do your taxes until the last minute," the librarian said with an evil grin on her face.  "I'm the first one to file when a refund is due," I replied. "And the last one when I owe."  I sat down and went to work, hoping I could get everything done in time.  The IRS does not make it easy when you're trying to give them money.  Nope.  It's all or nothing on your debit card or all or nothing on your credit card.  They don't have a split payment option for people like me who need to pay using multiple accounts.  I did a quick internet search and found a way to pay my tax bill without having to take out a second mortgage to pay the penalties for missing the tax deadline.

I made it home in time to get all the dishes done before the Mrs. returned from her day at work.  Once again, I'm sitting in my car outside the local library this morning while I type my blog story.  The winds are gusting and the temperatures are in the low 30's.  Murphy is trying to kick my butt with his annoying law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  It sure would be nice if he could at least spread things out a little more.  That's okay.  I'm going to keep battling everyday and I'm not going to give up, not ever.  For those of you anticipating a new chapter from my novel on Friday, it has been postponed until 4/25.  Maybe by then, Murphy can go on Spring break and leave me alone for a while so I can get back to my normal routine.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's All About Rhythm

When your life seems out of balance, you may find that what you're doing isn't lining up with the sheet music you're trying to play.  I'm not talking about musical notes, I'm referring to patterns that are similar to musical compositions.  Maybe your brain wants to play a fast song while your body is wanting to slow things down.  When you get the rhythm right, your productivity soars.

I've been tinkering with my own sheet music to find the best patterns for my own personal productivity.  My most productive time of the day is in the morning when I first wake up.  If I can handle my most important tasks early in the day, it makes my workload for the rest of the day flow better and I get more accomplished.  I also make sure to take breaks at two hour intervals so I don't burn out before the day is done.

One area of my life I'm working on right now is tuning up my body.   I'm finding that by incorporating small bursts of exercise into my daily routine, my body responds better and it's easier to get things done.  I know my ways are unconventional.  You may need to modify some of these ideas to fit your specific personality.  I wanted to share what's working for me so you have a starting point for experimenting with your own rhythm.  Here's a sample of my daily routine:
  1. Match the most challenging tasks with the most productive times of my day.  I reserve one morning a week for working on my novel, The Caveman in the Mirror.  My family is respectful of this time and they give me space to work without many interruptions.  During this time, I stay off my cell phone and avoid checking my email. 
  2. I allot about an hour every morning to work on my blog.  The first five minutes is warm-up time.  I close my eyes and let my mind drift.  As soon as the inspiration comes for my daily story, I turn on my laptop and let the story flow.  Find your most productive time of the day and use it to work on your most important projects on your to do lists.
  3. Once my writing is done, I prepare breakfast.  There is usually about a minute of down time while the eggs are frying or the microwave is heating up my oatmeal.  This is my window of time for 100 stomach crunches.  I do them quickly so the eggs don't overcook.  Turn your down time into exercise time and watch how quickly you can get in shape.
  4. Every morning when I shave, brush my teeth, and floss, I work on my 50 leg raises and stretches at the same time.  This helps get the blood flowing and increase my energy levels.  I also find I'm more consistent with these exercises when I associate them with activities I must do on a daily basis.
  5. Slowing down and stopping at specific intervals helps you reach your daily finishing line at record pace.  Your body can't function at top speed all day long.  Take breaks before you get tired.  For me, 15 minutes every two hours keeps me going.  I like to eat a piece of fruit during my rest breaks to give me energy.  Don't forget to stay hydrated.
It helps if you can find accountability partners who share your goals and dance to your beat.  My wife and I will be going on walks together as soon as the weather warms up.  Our oldest son likes to challenge me to a game of racquetball when he's in town.  I'll be incorporating some tennis into my life again once our community leaders resurface the high school tennis courts.  Yes, my life has all the rhythm I need to get things done and enjoy life at the same time.  If you have a moment, please share what you do to keep your rhythm at the right beat.  I look forward to reading your comments and promise to respond within 24 hours.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Do You Give Yourself Daily Pep Talks?

I woke up this morning to news reports of one more snow storm.  Last night the sirens were blaring, announcing a possible tornado.  I thought to myself, how can this be?  The temperatures were in the low 80's the day before.  I was planning a barbecue today.  It's so easy to sulk when your plans are disrupted.  That's why I give myself daily pep talks.  I need to fight back when my attitude is sinking.  Here is the process I go through with my daily pep talks:
  1. Be thankful for all the good things.  Rain is a good thing.  It helps the farmers with their crops.  It makes everything green.
  2. Be thankful for the challenges.  Nothing gets me going better than a good challenge from a worthy opponent.  Mother Nature has been testing me since early November.  She's helping me build my character.
  3. Be thankful for friends and family.  I'm where I am today because I'm surrounded by people who love me and care about my well being.  On tough days, I know they're out there praying for me.
  4. Think about the people around you who are counting on you for a smile or a comforting word.  You won't do them any good if you're not at the top of your game.  There's no time for wallowing in misery.  I'm too busy helping others find some joy today.
  5. Think about the potential today has.  You have two choices:  Get pumped up and seize the day or crawl back under the covers because your challenges appear overwhelming.  When you imagine the possibilities, it's impossible to give up.
I'm working on chapter 43 today for release on Friday,  April 18th at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  The main character in the story is going through some challenges.  He's seeing ghosts, his family thinks he's crazy and his legs were amputated after his automobile accident.  He's lying in a hospital bed, unsure of what's next.  I know what's ahead for Thomas.  And I'm excited to write the next chapter today.  I have everything I need – a basement to keep me safe from the tornadoes, a warm fireplace, and a growing world-wide audience who wants to know what is going to happen to Thomas Morgan.  If you have time, visit the Cyber-bistro and check up on Thomas.  He has an interesting tale to share with you.  He may not have any legs but that won't stop him from getting out of bed and fulfilling his destiny.  Make sure you give yourself a pep talk today and seize the day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday Brings Back Memories

When I was a kid, we had a giant eucalyptus tree in the center of our backyard.  One day we did a rain dance for our California cousins who were visiting and a giant storm knocked the tree down about an hour later.  My parents decided to put a pool in the hole in the ground where the mighty tree once stood, surrounded by palm trees.  Every Palm Sunday when I see the palms, I remember growing up in Phoenix and I think back to my childhood hanging out with my cousins in our backyard swimming pool.  It's funny how a tree falling during a storm can lead to so much change.

The world is celebrating Palm Sunday today.  It's the day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and was welcomed with palm branches as He strode in on a donkey, a symbol He was coming in peace.  In Luke 19:41 "He saw the city and wept over it."  Jesus knew what was coming in the week ahead.  These people welcoming Him with palm branches would soon be turning against Him.  There was a hole in His heart just as there was a giant hole in the ground after the storm knocked down our family eucalyptus tree.  Yes, change was coming.  Jesus would fall three times while carrying His Cross to the site where He would be crucified.

Think about Palm Sunday and what Jesus experienced.  One moment He was on top of the world and the next He was ordered to be put to death.  He did all this for you and me.  He did it for love.  The good news for us is that Jesus turned the worst day in His life into something really special, just like my parents turned a fallen tree into a backyard oasis.  Jesus came back from the dead.  He made all things new.  That's my wish for you today.  May you remember Jesus riding into town on a donkey.  May you remember what He did for you on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.  And may you celebrate your new life on Easter Sunday, one week from today.  Yes, Jesus conquered death and He opened the door to Heaven for all of us.  I'm committed to following Him all the days of my life.  How about you?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Finding Inspiration in Nature

I shot the sunset picture above on my way home a couple of days ago.   Everything outside is changing at a rapid pace.  I'm inspired by all the amazing colors.  The trees are on the verge of bursting out new leaves on their lifeless limbs.  I feel the same way with my writing.  After a long season of hibernation, I'm ready to fill blank pages with a palette of ideas swirling around in my head like a high-speed blender.

Yes, it's easy to find inspiration in nature, especially in the Spring.  Make sure you stop by the Cyber-bistro to read the latest chapter from my novel, The Caveman in the Mirror.  I'm really happy with the way everything is coming together.  Thanks for visiting today.

Friday, April 11, 2014

An Update From My First Community Appearance in Iowa

I got word yesterday from one of the council members in my new hometown that they approved plans to resurface the tennis courts in Williamsburg.  For me, this is like winning the lottery.  The whole process began when I was asked to appear at a council meeting led by Mayor Murphy.

"Tennis is a sport you can play for a lifetime,"  I told the group.  "Unfortunately, the courts in our community are so dilapidated they are unsafe for competitive tennis."

My friend, Dr. Kappel, chimed in, "the courts in Marengo are so much better."

I think my friend hit a nerve.  He may have found the one area where our neighbors to the north are superior.  It doesn't matter why the council members voted to approve our request.  What's important is that our community is about to be blessed with something I'm really passionate about.  I can't wait to get back on the courts in my neighborhood.  This is a big win for our community.

"I hope to see people playing on the new tennis courts when I drive by," the council member told me yesterday."

"Don't worry," I replied.  "You'll know where to find me on my days off."

I want to thank all the community leaders for welcoming me to my new hometown and for listening to me speak about the need for quality tennis courts in Williamsburg.  My whole family is excited about the new tennis courts.  Oh yes, it's a wonderful life.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How to Deal With Challenging People

We all have at least one person in our lives who gets under our skin.  If it's someone we see on a regular basis, like a family member or co-worker, maybe these ideas can help:
  1. Have a one-on-one meeting.  Make sure no one else is around when you sit down with your adversary.  Tell them how their behavior is affecting you negatively.  Ask them if you are doing something to annoy them.  If you can uncover their "issues" with you and explain how you want to improve the relationship, you may have success.
  2. Ask forgiveness for anything you may have done to cause the relationship to deteriorate.  You may have done something long ago to inflict pain and you don't even know the other person is hurting.
  3. Seek common ground.  Find the good in the other person.  Stay away from areas of disagreement.  Avoid any triggers that cause the other person to boil over.
  4. Agree to disagree.  Odds are you aren't going to change the other person and they aren't going to change you.  So don't waste time fighting.
  5. Walk away if you can't resolve your situation and it gets too hot.  Fighting doesn't fix your problems.  If this person happens to be your boss and you are miserable, then quit and move on with your life.  
I have found that most of the challenging people in my life are difficult because of something I do to annoy them.  If you want to see your adversaries change their behavior, you need to look at yourself and change your ways first in order to see improvement in your relationships.  If you have any ideas to contribute about how to deal with challenging people, please share in the comments section below.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Give and it will be given to you

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~ Luke 6:38

The gifts you give away are like boomerangs – they come back.  Plant some seeds of joy and love today.  Water them.  Help them grow.  And you will never be alone.  Your harvest will be rich.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spread Some Sunshine Today

Today is a great day in the Midwest.  The highs are expected to be just two degrees shy of 70º and the sun will be shining all day.  I'm concentrating on my list of personal projects today.  At the top of my list is spreading a little sunshine to my blog readers.  There were some tough days in the middle of Winter.  Your friendship and support helped me get through my struggles.  It feels so good to finally say goodbye to Winter and hello to Spring.  Any day now the trees will begin to sprout their leaves.  The grass is noticeably greener this morning.

Wherever you are today and whatever challenge you're confronting, I'm sending you some sunshine.  Thanks for visiting today.  Make sure you reach out and touch someone today with a warm smile or an encouraging word.  Friends are the sunshine of life.  Enjoy your day.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Your Consistent Best Effort Is All You Need

Do you have big goals and dreams you want to accomplish?  Your odds of success in achieving them depend on your willingness to stay in the game every day.  It's all about your individual effort.  It's not a sometime thing; it's an everyday thing.  And it takes your absolute best effort in order for your dreams to come true.

I've learned an important lesson about the opposition that exists in our world.  Although the pundits may not agree on the source, I believe it comes from a dark place.  Some call it despair.  Others call it doubt.  Believers call it the devil.  Whatever it is that is distracting you from becoming the person you are meant to become or preventing you from fulfilling your purpose in this world, I do believe you have everything inside you that is necessary to complete your mission.  All you need to do is stand up to the opposition every time it shows up.  Be consistent.  Be relentless.  Be your best.  Give your best effort.  Be yourself –  a reflection of your Creator.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Every Moment is Decision Time

You're here today as a result of a decision you made.  Perhaps you decided to visit based on something you read here on a previous visit and you liked it.  Or maybe you were searching for something and this blog came up in the results page.  At this very moment you have another decision to make – keep reading or move on to something else.  This place is authentic.  I share the good, the bad and the ugly with you so you can avoid going down the wrong path and possibly increase your odds for more successful outcomes in your life.

Life is a series of decisions.  Good choices open doors for better future choices.  Poor choices give you the feedback you need to change directions.  And no choices are actually choices.  Choosing to do nothing prevents you from doing something.  I recommend you use every moment wisely.  Learn from your mistakes and keep making adjustments in your life.  I just want to thank you for making the choice to visit today and I hope you choose to come back again in the future.  Have a great day.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Are You Ready for a Mindset Makeover?

There is only one person responsible for the life you have – you.  Blaming others may make you feel better about where you are today but it doesn't change anything.  Ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Am I so afraid of making a mistake that I avoid trying new things?
  2. Am I afraid of what others might think if they see me fail?
  3. How do I react when something bad happens in my life?
There was a time in your life when your answers were different than they are today.  If you don't believe me, spend a couple of hours with a baby.  What do they do all day?  Babies don't care how many times they fall down when they're learning to walk.  They don't care if someone is watching them every time they bump their head or make a mistake.  And when they do fall, they get right back up and try a different approach until they can finally run.  Then something happens.  They grow up and become aware of all the people around them.  They start listening to their peers who tell them their dreams are far-fetched or impossible.  And they block themselves off to all the possibilities that exist.

I recommend you give yourself a mindset makeover.  Quit letting your fear of making mistakes block you from trying new things.  Stop worrying about what others think when you fail.  They don't know how far you can go once you're willing to learn how to get back up every time you fall down.  They have no idea how a new mindset can help you deal with difficult situations.

The best example I can give you of my new mindset has to do with the novel I'm writing.  I'm sharing it raw as I'm developing it in front of the whole world.  Most writers I know wouldn't dare share anything unless it was written, re-written, edited, submitted for publication, etc, etc.  They don't want readers to see their work unless it's perfect.  I'm not looking for perfect people to read my books.  I'm just eager to share my gifts with others.  The flaws and imperfections are what make my contributions unique.   Last month I set a new record with over 21,000 page views on this blog.  Readers don't read my stories because I'm perfect, they visit because they can relate to me.  So I don't hold back.  You should do the same.  Decide today you are giving yourself a mindset makeover.  Have a great day.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five Tips To Help You Fish For Inspiration

Finding inspiration is like fishing.  There are right ways and wrong ways to do it.  Imagine yourself on the edge of a lake with your fishing pole.  Look around at your surroundings.  What do you see?  How is the weather?  Are the fish biting?  If you're not catching anything, perhaps you're scaring the fish away or you're fishing at the wrong time of day.  Or maybe you're at the wrong location.  The best fisherman make adjustments to the bait they're using and move around until they find the right spot.  They also know that you catch the most fish when it's raining.  Here are five tips for catching inspiration on your next fishing expedition:

  1. Avoid making too much noise.  Inspiration comes to you when you're quiet and still.
  2. Rainy days are the best days for fishing for inspiration.  These days include job layoffs, unemployment, uncertainty in your future, and any other life events that make your stomach queasy.   Go fishing for inspiration on rainy days and you will catch the big one.
  3. Use the right bait.  Give your new employers a reason to bite.  Show them what you're made of.  Don't be afraid to relocate if you aren't getting any bites in your current location.
  4. Keep fishing.  Don't ever give up.  You can't catch inspiration if you're not trying.  Seek it and you will find it.
  5. Expect great results.  The best fisherman believe they are going to catch something every time they go out on a new adventure.  The same is true with inspiration.  If you believe you're going to find inspiration on your journey, this improves your odds for success.
What are you waiting for?  It's time for you to go fishing for inspiration.  The fish are biting.  Go out into the world and catch some inspiration for you and your family.  Remember to share your fishing story with me in an email or in the comments section below.  Have fun.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Letting Go May Be Your Best Option

If you're a fighter, like me, you may not like the title of today's post.  You're the one who won't let go of the rope even though all the odds are against you.  You're playing the violins while the Titanic is sinking.  I know exactly how you feel.  That's how I'm wired, too.  If you let go, maybe you consider yourself a loser.  Maybe the opposite is true.   Let me explain...

Act 1  –  Six years ago at our dining room table in Southern California:

My three children and I are listening to my wife as she shares about her longing to move back to her hometown to be closer to her siblings and their children.

Wife:  "Wouldn't it be nice to spend more time with your cousins on the other side of the family?"

Children in unison:  "We can visit for vacations but if you want to live there permanently, we can move in with aunt Ann and her family until we graduate high school."

Final tally:  California 4, Iowa 1.  End of Act 1.

Act 2 – Three years ago at our dining room table in Southern California:

Wife:  "I miss my family desperately.  I'm going there during Spring Break.  While I'm there I'm going to look at houses.  Does anyone want to come with me?"

Final tally:  Spring break in California 2, Spring Break in Iowa 2, and one undecided.  At this point I felt my grip on California was slipping.

Act 3 –  Family meeting at our dining room table in Southern California after Spring Break:

Wife and two children:  "Dad, we want to move to Iowa.  We had our best Spring Break ever."

Oldest child:  "I think I can talk some of my friends into moving there, too.  I'm in."

Me:  "The tribal council has spoken.  Let's sell the house and move to Iowa."

Final tally:  Holding on in California 0, Letting go and moving to Iowa 5.

Act 4 - This morning on my laptop.

I'm still pinching myself.  It's too bad the me of today couldn't go back in time about six years to have a chat with the old me about holding on vs. letting go.  The only problem with that is old me was pretty stubborn and set in his ways and he probably would have thrown the new me out.  Oh well, the past is in the past and it can't be changed.  All I can say is that I now believe letting go has its benefits and rewards.  I have a new attitude about letting go.  It works.  My family is unanimous about how are decision to let go of life in California gave us new opportunities none of us dreamed of, not even my wife.

If you find yourself in a conflict today about holding on or letting go, consider the benefits of letting go.  They may be life-changing.  Just ask my wife and children. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Give Yourself a Reason to Celebrate

Big achievements come from a series of small victories.  The key is to stay in the game and build momentum.  This applies to any area of your life you're seeking to improve.  I have a recent example of this from my personal life.  I gained some extra weight during the Winter months due to a lack of consistent exercise and poor food choices.  I decided it was time to turn things around.  In order to stay motivated, I celebrated shedding ounces, not pounds.  I told my wife, "I'm going to lose twelve pounds by Easter Sunday."

"How are you going to do that?" she asked, knowing that when I resolve to do something, I always make a plan.

"No more ice cream for dessert, no more junk food at work, and back to the basics on my exercises," I replied.

Twelve pounds might not seem like much.  For me, it's the difference between feeling good and feeling great.  It's a confidence builder.  Every time a goal is achieved, it helps me set bigger goals in other areas of my life.  I only have five pounds to go and plenty of time until Easter but I'm not waiting until I cross the finish line to celebrate.  I believe you should savor the journey.  It's all part of the process of learning and growing.  What are you going to celebrate today?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Get Your Spiritual Alignment Checked

There may be a simple reason why you're finding yourself veering off course – your spiritual alignment needs adjusting.  If you're not sure about this problem, ask yourself this:  "Am I reaching my goals?"  And if you're responding, "What goals?" today's story is especially for you.

I have spent the majority of my life trying to figure out just exactly why I'm here and what I'm supposed to be doing.  I've veered off-course so many times I've worn out my Mulligan surname which means "do over."  Do overs are okay as long as you finally figure out how to get yourself aligned with God's plans for your life.  Here are some lessons I learned about how to do that:
  1. Prayer.  It's a great use of your time to talk to God.  Listening is the most important part.  No.  You may not hear voices in your head.  Yes.  You will receive clues.  It's like playing the game, hot or cold.  The person who knows where the object is that you're looking for yells hot or cold depending on which direction you're going in.  God will do the same thing for you if you ask.
  2. Don't make it about you – make it about the One you serve.  Your main reason for being here is for the people around you.  The less selfish you become, the better your spiritual alignment will be.
  3. No matter how bad your spiritual alignment may be, it's fixable.
  4. Seek professional help once you recognize you need a spiritual alignment.  The best expert I know is the Holy Spirit.  It's like putting your conscience under a scanner.  The results will help you straighten out your life.
  5. Don't follow anyone who is off-course.  That's like seeking marriage counseling from someone who has been married five times.  I like to go to the source for my answers.  That's why prayer works so well.  Jesus knows the way.  Let Him be your guide.
I recommend you get your spiritual alignment checked at regular intervals.  God knows I need all the help I can get and I'm not afraid to ask him to keep my life on the right path.  Have a great day.