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Boundless Love?

The other day I was driving around town doing errands when an older, slightly beat up, gold-colored car suddenly pulled into the road in front of me. I had to brake hard to avoid hitting them and I audibly yelled, “What the f*!#!” as my heart rate rose with my anger. Even with braking, I practically crawled up their tailpipe.
 

I figured it was another damn distracted driver looking at their phone rather than paying attention to their driving. And I really hate drivers who do that. I look forward to the day they invent technology that disables phones while a car is moving.
 

Then I saw the driver’s gray hair on a head that barely peeked over the car seat.
 

My heart instantly melted. I smiled, waved at them, and gave them all the space they needed as if to say, “Sorry. I understand. I love you.”
 

Over the past few years, two of the biggest changes in my life are that I became an uncle to a wonderful niece and nephew, and my Dad became a nonagenarian – he is an amazing 94-year-old! Two fantastic experiences at the opposite ends of life’s spectrum. And as a result, I have noticed that the ends of my compassion have grown immensely.
 

I notice that whenever I see a small child, I cannot stop smiling and sharing in their wonder and exploration of the world, for in their eyes, I see my niece and nephew. And whenever I see their parents, I send them love because I understand more deeply what a difficult, challenging and important job they have. In their struggles, I see the struggles of my brother and sister-in-law.
 

And whenever I see one of our wise elders walking our planet, I cannot stop smiling and honoring their journey, for in their slow careful steps, I see my amazing Dad, and I want to reach out and hug them and let them know they are loved, honored and appreciated.
 

It is truly miraculous what a dose of understanding will do for your life.
 

These are gifts I never could have imagined receiving in my life. My love for all has expanded through my understanding and compassion for a few. It is as if my new understanding creates an umbrella of love for all those around me . . . and I never thought my heart could feel such love for complete strangers.
 

And that, perhaps, is the greatest gift one could ever hope to receive in life.
 

“It is with true love and compassion that we can begin to mend what is broken in the world.”

— Steve Maraboli
 

We are once again entering the holiday season. One of my favorite times of year because collectively, we humans pause, even if but for a moment, and we think of others. It is hard to fully express the power of compassion. I imagine that is because she is a sister to love, another emotion people find hard to express in words. But I think that is OK, for perhaps it is better to express both of those emotions through actions.
 

This holiday season, why not test the bounds of your compassion and show someone how much you love them.
 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 
 

Image Source/Credit: Nanou Monso
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While studying India as a college student, I was so inspired by the principles by which Gandhi lived his life that I decided to emulate them as much as possible. So much so, that many months prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq I called one of my best friends and asked, “If I don a white robe, walk down to Washington DC, and sit in front of the White House in protest, will you join me?” The long, hesitating pause was all I needed to know. And it was soul-crushing.
 

Something tells me that prior to taking a stand against British colonialism, Gandhi did not call his best friend.
 

Needless to say, I tried to live my life with a humility I believe Gandhi possessed. I never wanted the spotlight, or to be the #1 guy, or the CEO, or the leader. In fact, I often say, “I don’t want to be the leader, but I will make the best damn #2 guy you will ever have.”
 

Then, about 7 years ago, I joined Toastmasters. (Toastmasters is a phenomenal organization that develops your public speaking and leadership.)
 

True to form, at first I simply listened and admired the amazing speakers in my club. Then I started taking roles to support the group and be in service to them. Then, when asked, I took on leadership roles in the organization – but never the role of president. Over the course of time, I also began speaking.
 

At each meeting, the club would vote for best speaker. I won best speaker awards and best impromptu speaker many, many times. Apparently, I was good at this.
 

However, I never voted for myself when the club voted for best speaker. Keeping with what I thought were Gandhi-like principles, I would always vote for someone else, even if I spoke during that particular meeting.
 

Then it dawned on me.
 

If I don’t vote for myself, if I don’t believe in myself, why should anyone else? It was a HUGE shift and lesson. It was very hard for me to do, but I did finally vote for myself. That act turned out to be an extremely important piece of my personal growth and confidence.
 

A few weeks ago I returned to Toastmasters after a 2-year hiatus. At that particular meeting I was asked to speak on an impromptu topic, which I happily did. I truly enjoy speaking and inspiring others when I can. There were 3 other people that spoke on impromptu topics that night. Falling back into my old ways, I voted for someone else rather than myself.
 

In an unusual twist of fate, as if the Universe wanted to hammer home the message, I was asked to help count the votes to see who the club thought was the best speaker that night.
 
 
 

I lost by one vote.
 

Message heard loud and clear.
 
 
 
If I am not for myself, who will be for me.

– Hillel
 

We each hold a magnificence and inspiration inside ourselves. All too often though, we allow it to die on the vine of doubt, approval or humility. But this is absurd! Who we are, and what we have to say, is divinely inspired. Our souls are gifts meant to be shared with the world. As unusual as this might sound, each time we withhold what is inside we are actually being selfish.
 

Interestingly, the rest of Hillel’s wisdom states –
 

If I am not for myself, who will be for me. But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?
 

I cannot think of better words to encourage belief in yourself . . . sprinkled with the humility of Gandhi. Perhaps this was the wisdom Gandhi listened to when he donned his white robe and began his walk.
 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

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The other day I was riding my bicycle through the neighboring town of Denville. One of the many hazards of riding on the roads here in NJ is that the pavement must endure the freezing temperatures of winter and the blistering heat of summer. And that means many roads are in disrepair.
 
One particular intersection I confronted on my ride that day was ravaged by the cruelty of those seasonal extremes. Within a 10 yard stretch of pavement there were numerous potholes, divots in the pavement, grooves, and loose gravel was strewn everywhere. On top of that, I was immersed in morning commuter traffic. In a nutshell, it was treacherous terrain for a biker that easily spelled disaster.
 
As a natural reaction to the danger, my body tensed and became rigid. My hands gripped the brakes a little tighter preparing for the worse, my arms tensed and pulled closer into my body, my legs stopped peddling, my thighs tensed, and I held my breath. All of my energy and focus shifted to my eyes as I tried to plot a path to navigate through the mine field.
 
After a few intense seconds of jerking my front tire right and left to dodge the many booby traps in the road, I made it through. And although I was safe, my first thought and observation was how “out of control” I felt. I was so tense and rigid that if I needed to react to disaster, I would not have had the ability.
 
As weird as this might sound, I then thought of drunk drivers. I have read that when drunk drivers get into car accidents they often escape from the accident unscathed. One reason for this is that due to the alcohol, their body is relaxed and offers no resistance as it is jostled around during an accident. Essentially, their body goes with the flow of the energy and is taken where it might go.
 

I immediately wondered where else in my life was I living “tensed” and rigid, trying to control the outcomes as opposed to relaxing, trusting and letting life flow in, around and through me. I could see from this experience that traveling through life tense and rigid was not always the best approach to the bumps and potholes I encounter in life. In certain circumstances, I needed to let go.
 
And then a popular 1980’s song by 38 Special popped into my mind —

Just hold on loosely,
But don’t let go
If you cling to tightly
You’re gonna lose control.
 
Amazing how those 17 words captured the moment so perfectly.
 
Regardless of what the life situation is, be it a relationship, work, family, your kids . . . whatever, these seem to be sage words of advice.

 

Assuming we are not all really going to go through life drunk, the secret to living a peaceful, less-stressed life is to trust.
 
Trust in yourself, in your god, in your loved ones, in life itself. Trust that all will be OK and is unfolding as intended. Trust that whatever is before you, holds a gift.   Trust that the timing is perfect. Trust that the answer you received is perfect. Trust that life is nudging you in a direction.  And rather than resisting, stop, take a breath, and look for the message the Universe wishes to whisper to you.
 
One of my all-time favorite books captures this concept of trusting and letting go perfectly —
 
“Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.
 
But one creature said at last, ‘I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.’
 
The other creatures laughed and said ‘Fool! Let go and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!’
 
But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.
 
Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.
 
And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, ‘See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!
 
And the one carried in the current said, ‘I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare to let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”
                                                                             — Illusions, Richard Bach

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

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In his 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey made an important distinction about our culture. After studying over 200 years of success literature dating back to 1776, he determined that around 1920 a significant shift occurred in the United States. Covey observed that we went from a culture founded on a character ethic, to one based on a personality ethic.
 

Covey defined the character ethic as one focused on “integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty and the Golden Rule.” He then noted that the personality ethic was more about “personality, public image, attitudes, behaviors, skills and techniques that lubricate and manipulate the process of human interaction.”
 

It is easy to see the effect this shift had on society when we consider the rise to prominence of our movie stars, athletes and political leaders. These big personalities now dominate our culture. We all strive to be famous, act like they do, and make our mark on the world.
 
 

Our culture has continued to evolve . . . or perhaps devolve . . . since Covey made this distinction 30 years ago.
 

In 2004, I believe another dramatic shift occurred that has set us further adrift in America. We have become untethered from the character ethic and knowing who we are at our core and are perhaps one step closer to losing our way.
 

This latest shift ushered in a new era – the persona ethic, a culture based mainly on an image we try to portray and maintain on our social media sites as well as in real life. Sadly, we are no longer grounded in ourselves. Instead we strive to live our lives based on how we want to be perceived by others.
 

This new era was likely triggered by two key events – the start of Facebook in 2004, and the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. With those two inventions, selfie madness was born and being self-absorbed became an art form. Suddenly, life became about living from the outside in, rather than the inside out. We became more concerned about how the world perceives and judges us, than about who we are or want to be.
 

This is most evident in the meteoric rise of reality TV, YouTube stars, Instagram likes, our desire to go viral, our addiction to Facebook and our never-ending primping and posing for the next selfie.
 

It used to be that cameras always faced outward, taking a picture of the world or something we appreciated “out there.” Now all the cameras face inward, the world relegated to little more than a backdrop, with the camera lens centered upon us as we star of our own movie.
 

It is very hard to stop the advance of technology . . . or evolution . . . so there is little sense in trying or fighting against the current. But here is what I would advise – be ever more conscious and vigilant about your use of, and interaction with, technology. Technology is an amazing thing, and is very likely to be the thing that saves our species from extinction. Yet, I also believe it is the very thing that will ultimately steal from us the essence that makes us human. The more conscious we are about that, the more likely we are to maintain our humanness.
 

“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.”

– Henry David Thoreau
 

We will never see or experience the true beauty of the world around us by looking down at our smartphone or plugging our head with earbuds. That only leads to isolation, the very thing everyone is trying to escape as they seek a “like” on their chosen social media platform.
 

We are all starved for connection and intimacy, and rather than picking our heads up, making eye contact and saying hello, we go on an endless search for recognition and validation on the Internet. And regardless of how many “likes” we garner, they will never fill that hole in our soul. The chase will only leave us feeling hollow and wanting more, hungry to take another hit on the “like” crack pipe.
 

So here is a truly radical idea about how to obtain what we all truly seek.
 

Try having a conversation. You know, actually stop and talk to someone. As in face to face with words coming out of your mouth. I have read that vocalization is the new, hottest technology. In fact, scientists aren’t yet sure how our voice is actually produced. They say it is a very complicated process involving no less than 25 major parts of our body. Some are even calling it a miracle. 🙂
 

Why not give it a try and see what happens.
 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

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I got the call one beautiful spring afternoon. Perhaps the most successful friend I know was in his back yard gardening. And that was a problem. One, it was the middle of the workday. Two, he doesn’t garden.

 

He called me because he was upset about a project he was working on. He felt as though he had made a mistake that put the project, and his team, at risk of failing. He called me to talk about what he should do and how to handle it. After years and years of tremendous success, he was finally facing his first failure. I was not sure whether to be flattered by his call, or upset that he thought of me when he thought of failure.

 

But the truth is, I had failed several times. Rather than take the normal course in life after leaving college, I took several measured risks. And yes, by my own standards, I failed at all of them. But in that failure, I was given a tremendous gift — I was now free. I was no longer afraid of making mistakes or failing.

 

One of the people I admire most is a woman who led an incredibly carefree life. She did what she wanted, she said what she wanted and she believed what she wanted. Talking with her, being in her presence, and hearing her stories of life was incredibly invigorating! Whenever I was with her, I always yearned for the life she had. Well, not all of it.

 

You see, the freedom she felt is not something you are born with. It is something you earn through your experiences. Prior to living the liberating, magnificent life she was living, she was a drug addict living in abandoned buildings and eating out of trash cans. It was not an easy or fun life. Yet, a life like that “holds a gift for you in its hands.” In her own words, “once you hit rock bottom and are looking for dinner in a trash can, you have nothing left to lose.” And that is when life opens up for you. In that moment, you are completely free of the fear of failing or worrying about what others may think of you.

 

In many ways I envied my friend and desired the freedom she felt. I wanted to live life as she was living it. Yet, every single time I felt that way, I also felt my fear and asked God to gift me the that kind of freedom, without having to experience rock bottom.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the way it works. True freedom is only gifted to those willing to risk it all . . . and who are not afraid to lose it.

 

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All of life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”
 

– Ralph Waldo Emerson
 

Spring is the season that reminds us that all is born again. Without fail, life is renewed and green shoots of grass, budding flowers and new leaves re-appear. Each year, the earth declares a do-over and gives us a new chance at life and growth. Every. Single. Year.

 

Why not take a hint from earth and try something new this Spring. It is the perfect time to take a risk, make a mistake and tempt failure.

 

I have always said that unless someone dies or get hurts, it is not a mistake. Too many of us are afraid to make a mistake and it paralyzes us. We stay stuck and our lives get stale. Let this spring be the opportunity when you take the risk you have always wanted and say yes to life!

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

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I went on a date recently with a beautiful dark-skinned woman who spoke with a striking English accent. She moved to this country 10 years ago from India and is now a US citizen. During our lunch, the conversation turned to one of the taboo topics we are instructed never to talk about on dates or social gatherings. Unfortunately for me, that topic was not sex, but rather politics . . . well, kinda. In truth, it was really about the breakdown of civility in America.

 

During our conversation, she shared with me an experience she had recently in one of my favorite towns in Pennsylvania. It occurred shortly after the election in November. While she was standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change, she noticed a group of young men approaching from her right. They were quite boisterous and were celebrating President Trump’s recent victory. As they got closer, they surrounded her and starting shouting at her. “You don’t belong here!” “Get out of our country!” “Go back to where you came from!”

 

She continued to look forward, not engaging them, waiting for the light to change. She shared with me that that was the longest light of her life.

 

As you can imagine, I was deeply saddened to hear what happened to her. And even though I was surprised, perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Prejudice and such ugliness exists, and has always existed, in our country.

 

But this is not what made my heart absolutely ache with pain.

 

As she stood at that light and endured their onslaught of abuse for that never-ending minute, praying for the light to change, no one came to her aide. Not a single soul. Of all the people at that busy intersection, no man, woman or child took it upon themselves to say something, or stand by her side, or take her arm and walk with her, or diffuse the energy of the situation. No one.

 

All of the people at that intersection . . . all of us . . . let it happen.

 

Of course, none of us really knows how we will respond until we are in the situation ourselves, but I pray that when I am, I will act upon what I know and feel in my heart and take a stand for my fellow human.

 

We must never forget that those who suffer such ugliness and incivility are human, just like you and me. They are a friend, a mother, a brother, a child. They love like you and me. They cry like you and me. They feel joy like you and me. They fear like you and me. They suffer sadness like you and me. They bleed like you and me.

 

Never forget to act first and foremost from your heart, for that is where your highest truth and greatest courage resides. It is impossible for me to imagine that a heart would ever whisper to turn away in indifference.

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Do not shrink in the face of your fear. Do not forget your humanness when confronted by incivility . . . and do not forget theirs. There are only two doors to choose from here – love and fear. Well, actually three. The third is indifference. But to choose that third door is to be a complicit conspirator of whatever is unfolding before you.

 

My Valentine wish for America is that we find our way through this cloud of incivility and arrive at a place where we can listen and respect those who do not agree with our current thinking. That we arrive at a place where we seek to understand, even if we choose not to adopt an opposing point of view. That we arrive at a place where we have the wisdom to understand that if we are “right” today, there is a good chance we will be “wrong” tomorrow.

 

We are, after all, human.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

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Most people start the new year setting goals conveniently disguised as New Year’s resolutions. However, people who do this are focused on the wrong thing. Before they set their goals or resolutions, it behooves them to first establish a North Star.

 

polaris-north-starJust as it is used in nautical terms, your North Star is a fixed point you can use to guide your life and ensure that you are heading in the right direction. It can serve as an unshakeable marker that will guide you through the turbulent waters of your life.

 

With that in mind, before setting your goals it is beneficial to think about and declare your North Star. If you don’t, you are essentially sailing rudderless, aimlessly floating in an ocean of possibility hoping you will reach a destination you desire. Or even worse, you may end up setting goals that are not aligned with your North Star, thus setting a course in the “wrong” direction.

 

My inspiring friend Dan Galperin (www.manpowerproject.com) once asked me a question that serves as a beautiful and fun way to establish your North Star. He asked:

 

What are the 5 impossible goals of a lifetime that would blow your mind?

 

Once you have declared these lifetime goals, they can serve as your North Star and guide your annual goals. Your goals each year should align with, support, and further your North Star – even if by just a few small steps at a time.

Here are the 5 Impossible Lifetime Goals I declared this year as I set my North Star.

  1. Plant 10,000 trees.
  2. Have $5 million in the bank.
  3. Become a Best-selling author.
  4. Be in a relationship with a stunningly attractive (inside and out), amazingly sensual, incredibly spiritual woman.
  5. Speak in front of 10,000 people.

Rather than struggle with your New Year’s resolutions this year, most of which are broken because they are not inspired by a person’s North Star, why not start 2017 by electrifying your life with a declaration of your North Star!

 

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a year.”

– Matthew Kelly (& Bill Gates)

 

When dealing with goals, especially lifetime goals, don’t get overwhelmed by the magnificence you are declaring for yourself. You do not need to accomplish everything by tomorrow. Thinking that way is a sure recipe for frustration, which will likely lead to you giving up.

 

Rather, take your time and design a thoughtful, measured plan taking you from Point A (January) to Point B (December). Break your goals into smaller milestones which you can accomplish over the course of the whole year. By doing so, you will ensure your success and witness exhilarating progress toward your dreams.

 

This is the best way to succeed for the year . . . and your lifetime!

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

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