October 19, 2011

The Crazy Ones

“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ~ Steven Jobs.

I’ve written extensively here advising you to follow your heart, to do what you do best. So many times I see people stuck in jobs or situations that offer rewards of material wealth and yet they remain unhappy. They allow their minds to dictate their actions instead of their heart. In spite of that statement, it’s also true that many times you can be very good at doing something, something you’re passionate about, and still remain unfulfilled! What then?

Here’s a personal example of what I mean. When I was still a young boy, I discovered I had a knack with numbers. My Dad used to ask his insurance agent to stop by our farm, usually in the evenings after Dad finished his day’s work, to go over some of his insurance agent’s proposals. I recall clearly one time how his agent pulled out a calculator to tally up some numbers. Unbeknownst to both of them, I “saw” the numbers, wrote them down on a piece of paper with a pencil and had added them up correctly before his agent could finish the job on his calculator. I proudly displayed the answer, Dad just grinned at his agent, and they both burst out laughing.

Of course, years later, after graduating from college, I went on to a 25 year career in the financial world, primarily as a loan officer for the bank in the town where I grew up. I became so adept at my job I was eventually promoted to Senior Loan Officer. As the years went by though, I became less and less enamored with my situation. Something was missing. After a series of fateful and unfortunate events starting in 2007, I eventually discovered the missing piece to the puzzle. Though I’d always enjoyed the numbers and was told I was quite good at it, I was also told by my supervisors that I needed work on “people” skills. Funny thing is, and without being fully aware of it at the time, what I liked most about my job wasn’t the numbers, it was the interaction, the relationships that really spurred the passion from within.

It was only AFTER I left the bank when I discovered what my real passion is and started applying it in a practical sense. What I didn’t realize for so many years started surfacing in late 2008 and early 2009. It was expressing myself in written fashion. All those years of writing loan narratives turned out to be what I really enjoy; the power of the written word and how I can influence people in a positive sense with it. And so this blog was born, along with my Facebook page called Gusto in April 2010. The rest is history. Today, there’s been people representing over 50 countries around the world visit my website to read some of my “musings” and over 3,300 follow my Facebook page.

If you find yourself in a similar situation as I did, ask yourself some basic fundamental questions. What characteristics or skill sets am I really good at? Am I in a position where I’m taking full advantage of those characteristics? At first, you might think the position you’re in, is in line with those characteristics. But then, ask yourself this question, “Am I happy?” If not, look deeper. You might discover what your passion truly is. And regardless what you find, follow your heart’s instincts. They rarely betray you. You may also find that what your passion is doesn’t bring a big paycheck but, as we all know, happiness doesn’t come from a checkbook. It comes from inside.

Finally, if what I just wrote doesn’t convince you, then read this. It’s an article I found about Steve Jobs’ life on the internet. I apologize for not remembering the source to give proper credit but perhaps you’ll get the point. It may just change your life.

1. Do what you love. Jobs once said, "People with passion can change the world for the better." Asked about the advice he would offer would-be entrepreneurs, he said, "I'd get a job as a busboy or something until I figured out what I was really passionate about." That's how much it meant to him. Passion is everything.

2. Put a dent in the universe. Jobs believed in the power of vision. He once asked then-Pepsi President, John Sculley, "Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?" Don't lose sight of the big vision.

3. Make connections. Jobs once said creativity is connecting things. He meant that people with a broad set of life experiences can often see things that others miss. He took calligraphy classes that didn't have any practical use in his life -- until he built the Macintosh. Jobs traveled to India and Asia. He studied design and hospitality. Don't live in a bubble. Connect ideas from different fields.

4. Say no to 1,000 things. Jobs was as proud of what Apple chose not to do as he was of what Apple did. When he returned in Apple in 1997, he took a company with 350 products and reduced them to 10 products in a two-year period. Why? So he could put the "A-Team" on each product. What are you saying "no" to?  
5. Create insanely different experiences. Jobs also sought innovation in the customer-service experience. When he first came up with the concept for the Apple Stores, he said they would be different because instead of just moving boxes, the stores would enrich lives. Everything about the experience you have when you walk into an Apple store is intended to enrich your life and to create an emotional connection between you and the Apple brand. What are you doing to enrich the lives of your customers?

6. Master the message. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can't communicate your ideas, it doesn't matter. Jobs was the world's greatest corporate storyteller. Instead of simply delivering a presentation like most people do, he informed, he educated, he inspired and he entertained, all in one presentation.

7. Sell dreams, not products. Jobs captured our imagination because he really understood his customer. He knew that tablets would not capture our imaginations if they were too complicated. The result? One button on the front of an iPad. It's so simple, a 2-year-old can use it. Your customers don't care about your product. They care about themselves, their hopes, their ambitions. Jobs taught us that if you help your customers reach their dreams, you'll win them over.

There's one story that I think sums up Jobs' career at Apple. An executive who had the job of reinventing the Disney Store once called up Jobs and asked for advice. His counsel? Dream bigger. I think that's the best advice he could leave us with. See genius in your craziness, believe in yourself, believe in your vision, and be constantly prepared to defend those ideas.


October 13, 2011

Why Do We Struggle?

Gus, I want to thank you for the wonderful work that you do, to lift others up.  I just watched the 20 words to change your life and wow.  That was the icing on the cake.
I am a 63 year old woman from a very dysfunctional background, severely abused as a child and adult, low self-esteem, much illness, breast cancer survivor, head injury survivor, disabled, broke, worried about my future, and you lift me up every day.  Right now my living conditions are just above being homeless, I worked all my life but am disabled with no savings.  I had to reverse mortgage my home to stay in it and to help a relative who was nasty and let me down afterwards, my HVAC is broken, I fell today and suffer constant headaches because my glasses are so old and they want $500 for new glasses, everything just piling up on me and I am so discouraged.  I had some character assassination going on in August and September from people who I had helped and were jealous of my spiritual wealth and independence, and it drove me to nearly ending it.  I have never done anything like that in my life but I am so worried and desperate right now.  I love Joyce Meyer and Wayne Dyer and even wrote last night to ask if there was a scholarship for the You Can Do It conference in Tampa next month.  I've always wanted to go and now really NEED to.  I am just down and out.  I have helped others all my life to the neglect of myself because of this low self esteem thing which I am working to relieve myself of now.  It's never too late!  I cannot see correctly even.  So much.

I can't tell you Gus, how much your encouragements mean to me to at least keep me on a positive note from moment to moment.  I am very grateful for your work, you are a blessing to me!  Thank you so much!  Gratitude abounds!  : )

Love, in Christ
That was an email message I received out of the blue a few nights ago from a loyal fan and member of my Facebook page called Gusto. What makes hers so encouraging is how she has made the conscious CHOICE to remain positive in the face of so many difficulties. And although this message is quite personal in nature, I believe her story is not unlike so many of us in this day and age, at least from the perspective of hardship. There are certainly many more. 

For example, not long ago I conducted a teleconference with a few of the members of my Facebook page, all of whom are experiencing struggles in life in one form or another, including health issues, career problems, family difficulties, and so on. And then there are those who, by virtue of some of their comments on various posts on my Facebook page, reveal patterns remarkably similar. These individuals are expressing the same problems in life many of us are facing. Some have made the choice like I have, to find something positive in their life they can cling to in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Others however, are stuck in a negative vortex. They can’t seem to pull themselves out of the rut they’re in. They complain and bemoan about their lot in life.

Why do some of us seem afflicted with nothing but pain and hardship in life while others seem to be on easy street? Why do some of us struggle with life issues while others seem to always find a way to keep moving forward in a positive light?

I’ve written here before about a topic and phrase entitled “acceptance is the answer.” Some of you reading this know the source from which that phrase originated. And though some may believe it’s designed only for those who are following diligent “steps” in their path of self-recovery, I’ve maintained for some time that phrase applies to ALL of us, regardless of our particular circumstances or misfortunes. That book is about LIFE.

“Acceptance is the answer to all of your problems today. When you are disturbed, it is because you find some person, place, thing, or situation ---- some fact of your life ---- unacceptable to you, and you can find no serenity until you accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake. Unless you accept completely life's terms, you cannot be happy. You need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in you and your attitudes.”

Powerful words. They’ve changed my life. They can change yours, too.  But remember, not only is life hard, it can unexpectedly become harder. One day we might be comfortably cruising along, and then suddenly it seems like everything is going wrong: Your marriage is in shambles, or you’ve just discovered that you’re not as financially stable as you thought, or you suddenly lose a lover, friend, or family member. The world has changed. Everything seems ominous and uncertain.

That’s when you can fall into the trap of pessimism and negativity. It may seem like the natural thing to do given what you’re going through. How can we work on building a healthy and optimistic way of living when we’re overcome with pain, anxiety, and fear? But no matter how hard things become, there are ways to approach your situation that can make it less burdensome.

Here are four ways to stay positive when life gets you down:

Express Gratitude.  Be mindful about what you do have, whether it’s a fantastic friend or a wonderful partner. Try making a list of things you’re grateful for every night for two weeks. It can be even more powerful to express gratitude to someone who you feel truly thankful for. Write them a letter telling them how they have helped you. Additionally, try to cultivate a sense of gratitude in everyday life for things both major and minor. Thank that stranger who goes a little out of his way to hold the door open for you. Appreciating the good in the world can change the way you look at life.

Volunteer. Take your awareness outside of yourself and focus it on the well-being of others. This may not be possible if you’re in crisis mode, but it can be very helpful if you’re increasingly preoccupied by your own negative thoughts. Many studies have shown that community service and philanthropy are more satisfying over the long term than focusing on your problems. Try volunteering at your local library, homeless shelter or hospital.  You can become less focused on the bad stuff you’ve been dealing with—and even form a connection with others in the process. 

Notice the Good. It might seem nearly impossible to find the silver lining in a burdensome situation, but it can be helpful.  Maybe you’ve gone through some personal growth and change because of what’s happened, or you’ve become closer to someone.

Change Negative Self-Talk. It’s way too easy to think the same negative thoughts over and over again. However, you can learn to change this by doing some cognitive-behavioral therapy on yourself. When you notice yourself having a negative thought about yourself, replace it with a positive one. If you find yourself  thinking “It’s all my fault” or “I’m not good enough,” stop and remind yourself of how well you’ve been coping and how others appreciate you.

The bottom line on becoming and remaining optimistic: We can’t change what happens to us or to loved ones, but we can change how we react to it. And though that process may take some time, it’s worth it because of the joy and peace of mind optimism can bring.

Finally, if nothing else, maybe this will help. The same thing my friend said in her email was “the icing on the cake!” 


October 12, 2011

"....Love Depends on the "Sighs" of Your Heart...."

"Danielle keeps repeating it over and over again. We've been back to this animal shelter at least five times. It has been weeks now since we started all of this," the mother told the volunteer.

"What is it she keeps asking for?" the volunteer asked.

"Puppy size!" replied the mother.

"Well, we have plenty of puppies, if that's what she's looking for."

"I know..... We have seen most of them", the mom said in frustration.
Just then Danielle came walking into the office
"Well, did you find one?" asked her mom.

"No, not this time," Danielle said with sadness in her voice. "Can we come back on the weekend?"

The two women looked at each other, shook their heads and laughed.

"You never know when we will get more dogs. Unfortunately, there's always a supply," the volunteer said. Danielle took her mother by the hand and headed to the door. "Don't worry, I'll find one this weekend," she said.

Over the next few days both Mom and Dad had long conversations with her. They both felt she was being too particular. "It's this weekend or we're not looking any more," Dad finally said in frustration. "We don't want to hear anything more about puppy size, either," Mom added. Sure enough, they were the first ones in the shelter on Saturday morning. By now Danielle knew her way around, so she ran right for the section that housed the smaller dogs.
Tired of the routine, mom sat in the small waiting room at the end of the first row of cages. There was an observation window so you could see the animals during times when Visitors weren't permitted. Danielle walked slowly from cage to cage, kneeling periodically to take a closer look. One by one the dogs were brought out and she held each one. One by one she said, "Sorry, but you're not the one." It was the last cage on this last day in search of the perfect puppy. The volunteer opened the cage door and the child carefully picked up the dog and held it closely. This time she took a little longer.

"Mom, that's it! I found the right puppy! He's the one! I know it!" She screamed with joy. "It's the puppy sighs!"

"But it's the same size as all the other puppies you held over the last few weeks," Mom said.
"No, NOT size... the sighs. When I held him in my arms, he sighed," she said. "Don't you remember? When I asked you one day what love is, you told me love depends on the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sigh!"

The two women looked at each other for a moment. Mom didn't know whether to laugh or cry. As she stooped down to hug the child, she did a little of both.

"Mom, every time you hold me, I sigh. When you and Daddy come home from work and hug each other, you both sigh. I knew I would find the right puppy if it sighed when I held it in my arms," she said. Then, holding the puppy up close to her face, she said, "Mom, he loves me. I heard the sighs of his heart!"

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the love that makes you sigh. I not only find it in the arms of my loved ones, but in the caress of a sunset, the kiss of the moonlight and the gentle brush of cool air on a hot day. They are the sighs of God. Take the time to stop and listen; you will be surprised at what you hear.

"Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

I hope your life is filled with Sighs!!!

Appreciate every single thing you have, especially your friends!
Life is too short and friends are too few.
Life is too short to wake up with regrets.
Love the people who treat you right and forget about the ones who don't!
~ Author Unknown

October 11, 2011

God's Wife & Leo Buscaglia

This morning I received this in an email from a good friend, who just so happens to be one of the very first members of my Facebook page called Gusto, a woman of deep faith and compassion. She’s a mother, grandmother, and an all-around great soul, what I refer to as “good people.” You won’t find anyone better! When I read this, I was moved so much I decided to share her story on my blog for posterity purposes. It’s the kind of story that stays with us forever, a timeless piece to remind us of that which is important in life. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! ~ Gusto

          God's Wife
                           IT WILL KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once
talked about a contest he was asked to judge.

The purpose of the
contest was to find the most caring child.

The winner was:

1. A four-year-old child, whose next door
neighbor was an elderly gentleman, who had recently lost his
wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old
gentleman's' yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When his mother asked him what he had
said to the neighbor, the little boy just said, 'Nothing, I just
helped him cry.'


2. Teacher Debbie Moon's first graders were
discussing a picture of a family. One little boy in the picture
had a different hair color than the other members. One of her
students suggested that he was adopted.
A little girl said, 'I know all about
adoption, I was adopted.'

'What does it mean to be adopted?', asked
another child.

'It means', said the girl, 'that you grew
in your mommy's heart instead of her tummy!'

************************ *********************

3. On my way home one day, I stopped to
watch a Little League base ball game that was being played in a
park near my home. As I sat down behind the bench on the first-
base line, I asked one of the boys what the score was.
'We're behind 14 to nothing,' he answered
With a smile.

'Really,' I said. 'I have to say you
don't look very discouraged.'

'Discouraged?', the boy asked with a
puzzled look on his face...

'Why should we be discouraged? We haven't
been up to bat yet.'

*********************** **********************

4. Whenever I'm disappointed with my spot
in life, I stop and think about little Jamie Scott.

Jamie was trying out for a part in the
school play. His mother told me that he'd set his heart on being
in it, though she feared he would not be chosen.

On the day the parts were awarded, I went
with her to collect him after school. Jamie rushed up to her,
eyes shining with pride and excitement.. 'Guess what, Mom,' he
shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to
me....'I've been chosen to clap and cheer.'


5. An eye-witness account from New York
City, on a cold day in December,
some years ago: A little boy,
about 10-years-old, was standing before a shoe store on the
roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering
With cold.

A lady approached the young boy and said,
'My, but you're in such deep thought staring in that window!'

'I was asking God to give me a pair of
shoes,' was the boy's reply.

The lady took him by the hand, went into
the store, and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks
for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water
and a towel. He quickly brought them to her.

She took the little fellow to the back
part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed
his little feet, and dried them with the towel.

By this time, the clerk had returned with
the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy's feet, she purchased him
a pair of shoes.

She tied up the remaining pairs of socks
and gave them to him.. She patted him on the head and said, 'No
doubt, you will be more comfortable now.'

As she turned to go, the astonished kid
caught her by the hand, and looking up into her face, with tears
in his eyes, asked her.
'Are you God's wife?'


Hope this put a smile on your face!
Sure did mine!