November 30, 2011

The "Misfits" vs. The "Teflon" Peeps

Homeless Man at Moonlight Beach, Encinitas, CA. - October 2011
Have you ever stopped and wondered, maybe some people are destined to walk through life alone, while others seem to always have an easier road to follow? The misfits, the square pegs in the round holes, the outcasts, they never seem to fit in. They may be successful, or they may have been successful at one point in their life. Theyve loved and lost, experienced tragedy, pain, or heart-breaking loss of some kind in their life, many times more than once. Theyre a one-man show. The others, the easy road people, are what I call teflon peeps. Nothing fazes them. They always seem to come out smelling like a rose, no matter what life tosses their way. On the other hand, maybe theyve never experienced untold tragedy, misery, or pain like the misfits, or maybe it was simply minor in comparison.

Either way, it doesnt matter, because no one is destined to go through life alone. Thats not Gods will. And yet, the reality is many of us do. Question is, why? It may be circumstances beyond our control, it may have been self-inflicted, or it may just be these people are going through life the way they are, because of their past. The sad part is everyone needs someone who cares for them, who will love them unconditionally, who will be their partner through good times and bad. Its our nature to crave compassion, love, respect, and passion from another human being. It begins at childbirth. But then somehow God, karma, the universe, or whatever term you wish to describe it, conspires against these people with misfortune, misery, pain, and tragedy. Theyve been hurt so many times, it almost becomes a part of their life. Nothing comes easy. And when they do encounter success, in whatever fashion, even in love and relationships, they sub-consciously dont know how to respond to it. Its as if they need hardship, they need to feel pain in order to survive, because thats all theyve ever known.

In spite of this somewhat bleak view, these people have something the teflon peeps dont; an uncanny knack of always finding a way to not only survive, but thrive when their backs are against the wall. And no matter how many times theyve been knocked down, ridiculed, judged, or outright rejected, they seem to always find a way to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and keep moving forward. In fact, some of the greatest people throughout history often failed miserably, suffered unforeseen tragedy and heartbreak, before they finally rose to the top.

So, what
s the answer? Why is it this way for some of us, while others seem to have smooth sailing in life? To me, its simple. The misfits are teachers. They show the rest of us by example on not only how to overcome adversity, but also to inspire us that we too can learn something from their lessons when we hit the wall. Because the fact is, all of us do at one point or another, even the teflon peeps. They serve as shining examples of guts, determination, the power of their will, their humility, their undying compassion. Their passion to LIVE. For without them, life would be boring and meaningless.

The lesson for us in all of this is clear; never judge a book by its cover. We sometimes never know what sort of hardship or pain others have been through. And rather than look down upon them, it would be wise instead to look UP to them, because it is they who will serve the rest of us by virtue of not only their triumphs, but also their failures.

"Once you choose HOPE, anything's possible" ~ Christopher Reeve

Just some rambling thoughts to ponder..


A Personal Message

A personal message. What I’m about to say may come as a surprise, might even raise a few eyebrows and, when it’s over, whether there’s 100 of you left here, all 5,574 of you, somewhere in between, or more, it makes no difference. Because in the end, the fact is those who remain were meant to stay. It’s also something my heart says needs to be said, so I’m following my own advice; “trust your heart and instincts, they will never fail you.” Here goes, and thank you for listening to me "ramble."

20 months ago when I created this page, I had no idea that it would evolve to what it is today. Furthermore, there was no strategy or plan; it was simply a moment of inspirational clarity that occurred early one morning on April 9th, 2010. “Gusto” and “Ramblings” just seemed natural names, the first indicative of a childhood nickname and the second a reflection of writing style. Prior to that, I was just another guy who used FB as a means of social engagement like anyone else. But beginning in mid-2009, not long after I became a user of this medium, I began sharing “notes” on my personal Facebook page, ones borne out of some of the lessons learned about new ways of living and thinking since late 2008. These “notes” had an immediate, positive, and inspirational impact on my friends at the time, which numbered less than 100. And it was about this time when I was still in a little town in Kansas. Isolated, no friends, no means of interacting socially. But there was one individual whom I had become very close friends with, to the point we began interacting with one another via instant messaging. This was a woman I knew from high school, and though we hadn’t seen each other in over 30 years, both of us had a profound impact on each other’s lives. She taught me how to share YouTube links, started sharing all sorts of information that expanded my mind, and above all, kept encouraging me to write.

One late evening in July 2009, after I’d written another profound FB note, sharing it with my 80 or so personal “friends”, she jumped over to my chat program and said;

“Do you realize how many people you’re impacting and helping? People here are talking about you, sharing your words of wisdom with their friends. I know it’s helped me. (Ironically, she was in California at the time, the very city I live in now) I could read what you write forever. You need to get out of Kansas, your star is much too bright.” I remember distinctly saying this in reply to her statement;

“All I know is something big is going to happen, and it goes FAR beyond Facebook. I’ve got so much inside just ready to gush out, it’s all I can do to keep from exploding.” She laughed and said, “Gosh Gus, you do “gush” all over the place at times!” We both laughed our asses off with that one.

Later that evening, actually early the next morning, in another one of those rare moments of “inspirational clarity” like what occurred when I created this page called Gusto, I awoke with a vision that I was speaking in front of a large group of people, talking in profound terms about how they could change their lives for the better. Ever have an out-of-body experience? It must have been, because that’s what it felt like. When the “moment” passed, it had in fact been several minutes of me speaking out loud, wide awake, in front of my bathroom mirror. Then a feeling of peace and release overcame me like a soft, warm blanket fresh out of the dryer. I slept for hours.

BAM! Fast forward to today. 2 ½ years after that isolated “moment” back in Kansas, there’s well over 5,000 souls on my Facebook page, with 3 MILLION page views, and 45 followers of my blog/website, which has had nearly 13,000 views from people representing over 50 countries around the world. I’ve started a “life coaching” venture, or one I prefer to call one’s “personal cheerleader, consultant, and confidant.” There’s plans for releasing a series of eBooks, perhaps audio or video tapes, all designed to foster positive growth in people’s lives and ultimately, the release of the book for mass publication, “Inspiration at the End….Discovering a NEW Beginning.”

Here’s the deal. This isn’t a hobby for me, a way to pass the time, or merely a way to engage socially with other people. This is my life. It’s what I do for a living, though just one part. The real prize is engaging with you personally, whether it's through mentoring or the messages I convey with writing. I know many, if not most of you, jump on to your FB every day and visit several, if not dozens, of other inspirational, motivational pages, or whatever you wish to call them. You’re getting your daily fix, a dose of something to provide you a shot of glimmer and hope in your life. Bear in mind, I fully realize there are many pages out there similar to this one, though I'll stand on what I've always said, this one is unique in a number of ways. And while I respect this daily regimen to a degree, when the day is done, and you’ve turned off your computer, what are you left with? I see SO many of these pages you’re visiting who are controlled by people who do nothing more than Google a bunch of inspiring quotes, attach a clever photo, post it on their wall, and people think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. But what have they done that you can’t do yourself? Nothing.

This page is a reflection of who I am. I’ll give it to you straight and cut right to the heart of the matter. Clever quotes and fancy photos only get you so far. Life can be all cuddly warm and soothing no doubt, but we all know that’s not the reality every day for most of us. It can also be mean, dark, ugly, and will beat you to your knees if you let it. My job, and I mean that literally, is to show you that’s there’s another way. And I won’t do it by trying to pull the wool over your eyes. I’m blunt, to the point, and yet compassionate enough and humbled enough by some of my own life experiences to know when and how to wrap you in that soft, warm blanket fresh out of the dryer.

I’m on a mission. A mission to HELP my fellow brothers and sisters in this world. And it doesn’t matter if the one reading this is a hot-shot corporate executive sitting in your ivory tower in NYC, or the single waitress in Des Moines, Iowa struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table for her two children sitting at home with watery eyes and stuffy noses; everyone should consider listening to the “messages” I’ve been laying down here for the past 20 months. Because everyone has “issues” or problems. I’m not perfect, nor do I have all the answers. Far from it. But what I have to share, what I’ve got inside is priceless. It’s coming from a humbled heart, devoid of pride or ego.

So when you turn on your computer in the morning and deciding upon which crayon you want to use to color your day, remember this. Whether it’s black, white, grey, or vibrant, what you’ll find here will ALWAYS be colored with truth, respect, honor, compassion, dignity, sincerity, kindness, and love. If those are the colors you want in YOUR life, then I know you’ll stick around. If not, that’s okay too. Either way, I’m doing this my way, using the colors I’ve described. Personally, I prefer “Midnight Blue.” 
~ Gusto

November 27, 2011

Freedom from Yourself

Freedom. What pops into your head when you hear that word? To live in a country where freedom to choose is defended at all costs? Freedom of speech? Freedom of religion? The freedom to go anywhere you want, to be anything you want? There’s more I’m sure, but here’s one of my unique definitions; “Freedom from yourself.” I’ll get to that in more detail in a minute.

Two years ago on December 9th, 2009, I set foot upon a beach near Encinitas, CA. in northern San Diego County and took a picture. I was there to check out a school I was thinking of enrolling in, one that I hoped would lead to a new life. I’d been stuck in Kansas for nearly a quarter-century. Granted, it was of my own free will. I moved back to my home state in 1985, and for the next 23+ years, I worked as a loan officer for my local hometown bank, farmed with my father, married, fathered two children, divorced, then raised my children for several years, nearly all by myself, and all along I continued to work at the bank and continued with farming after my father retired in 1994. By 2008, that world came crashing down on my head, the result of self-inflicted wounds from a “powerful, baffling, and cunning disease.” I nearly died, not once, but three times because of it. And then I lost my freedom in mid-2008. For 158 days, I didn’t feel the grass beneath my feet, I couldn’t watch children play, birds fly, or anything else remotely close to one’s definition of Freedom.

But then, something “happened.” Beginning in early 2009, nearly 3 years ago, an “awakening” began. At first, I didn’t recognize it or even realize it was happening. As the days, weeks, and months went by, there emerged a distinct pattern from the fog of the past. I was more than just free to do as I pleased. I was growing and evolving, liberated from my own self-imposed limits I’d placed upon myself through my actions over the previous 25 years. I was discovering a new freedom, freedom from myself! Freedom from what my mind was telling me I should or shouldn’t do. Instead, my heart and instincts took over. Suddenly, my life took off, lifted by an energy I’d never experienced before. You guessed it, I was born “anew” at age 50. By mid-2010, I was back in California, a recent graduate of a demanding paralegal program, and found myself discovering a “new beginning” with this website/blog and, of course, my signature Facebook page called “Gusto”, the nickname given to me by my father so many years prior when I was just a young boy.

Now I’m back on that beach. The photo is widely recognized now, the “signature” of this website/blog and of my Facebook page. It represents what the word Freedom means to me and SO much more. The seagulls represent you. You have the freedom to choose, to go where you want, to be what you want. But, like me, in order to fully appreciate and understand what Freedom really means on personal level, one that might surprise you, is you first have to remove the shackles you’re imposing upon yourself, personally or professionally. Where people get tripped up with their pursuit of happiness is thinking they have to follow someone else’s advice or what their mind is telling them they should or shouldn’t do. There is no “right” way for everyone. Each of you are unique. You have unique talents and skills no one else on this planet has. And the only way to tap into them and use them to the best of your ability is to let go of the past, let go of what other people say, let go of what your magical magnifying mind is telling you. The ONLY thing that matters, the only way we ever experience life as it’s meant to be lived, is trusting our heart and what our instincts are telling us. Sometimes the voice of instinct brings forth feelings of fear or doubt. Banish them. Your heart and instincts are dead on correct. Follow them, damn what your mind says, go with your gut.

That, right there, is one of the most misunderstood concepts to mankind, but it’s also the secret to a life full of happiness, joy, peace, and love. One worth LIVING. This song sort of says it all!
"No more runnin' down the wrong road
dancin' to a diff'rent drum
Can't you see what's goin' on
deep inside your heart?
Always searchin' for the real thing
livin' like it's far away
Just leave all the madness in yesterday
You're holdin' the key
when you believe it..." ~ Michael McDonald

Enjoy your new “Freedom.” :)


November 9, 2011

Run Your Own Race

Life is a marathon, full of obstacles, twists, and turns. Imagine you’re actually running one. You try to keep pace with everyone else, searching for an open spot so you can surge out front, constantly looking over your shoulder to see who’s behind you. And then you stumble, you hit a rough patch, all because you were too busy paying attention to what everyone else was doing instead of focusing on the road ahead of you.

That’s how life is. And that’s how so many of us run. We forget we’re the masters of our own journey. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow everyone else is running. All that’s important is we keep pushing forward, mindful of what’s ahead of us, listening to the rhythm of our heartbeat for signs of fatigue or stress, not worrying about what’s behind us. It’s gone anyway. And like Forrest Gump, we run. When we’re tired, we sleep. When we’re hungry, we eat. When we need “to go”…. You get the point. :)

Recently, I created a video called “Passion”, which I’m sure many of you viewed. In it, I talk a lot about “being who you were meant to be”, regardless of what that is. But it goes beyond just following our heart, to do what we’re passionate about, because even when we do, we’ll inevitably hit roadblocks along the way. That’s when we find out what we’re truly made of, or as my Dad used to say, “We’re gonna separate the men from the boys now.” (Sorry ladies, it’s the only quote I could come up with!) Some of those roadblocks, of course, are beyond our control. Economic factors may confront us or health issues. But that’s not where my focus is with this piece, nor should it be yours. What I’m talking about is peer pressure, the feeling you have to be always in the lead, getting an instant fix. I’ll explain it this way. Be methodical. Plan. Organize. Manage your time wisely. Focus on your goals. Simplify your game plan and stick to it. Do what you do best, follow your instincts, and trust your heart, it will never fail you. But be mindful too that sometimes it’s good to ask for help. After all, it’s a long race and many times, an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands always come in useful. Besides, you never know when you’ll be asked for help, so be willing to give when called to the task.


November 8, 2011

It's The Simple Things That Matter

Someone asked, “Okay, so you’re putting out these positive and happiness vibes, but how do we stay that way?” Good question! Staying positive and maintaining happiness starts and ends from within. It’s recognizing that which we already know and possess deep in our souls. The real. The familiar. It doesn’t come from external factors like googling positive quotes, surfing the web, or reading a bunch of self-help books. Happiness is a state of mind. It’s looking beyond what we see in front of us; all the tragedy and heartache, into those things and people that bless our lives with how they make us feel inside. It can be a word, a phrase, a bird, a flower, a song, or just one person. It’s being thankful for who and what we have, not what we don’t. But whatever it is that brings us happiness, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, we run with it. It’s our race to win or lose. In a word, it’s acceptance. 

It’s saying, “I don’t care what the world throws at me, I’ll catch what I want, what’s tasty, real, and fulfilling, and throw back what I don’t.” It’s thinking outside the lines of our little comfort zones where we feel all safe and secure into a world that involves risk. No one ever set sail by standing on the dock. It’s not making lemonade out of lemons. It’s making lemon meringue pie. It’s living with no regrets because where we are at this moment in time is exactly where we’re supposed to be. It’s this…..

 ~ Gusto

November 1, 2011

Who Do You WANT in Your Life?

This past March, I wrote a piece here entitled “Birds of a Feather”, the gist of which is we attract people in our lives who not only think like we do, but also act upon those thoughts. The purpose of this chapter is to see how we can apply the law of attraction in a practical sense in our daily life.

By way of background, here’s some snippets from the blog post written last March: Wikipedia defines the “Law of Attraction” like this: The Law of Attraction is a metaphysical New Thought belief that "like attracts like”, that positive and negative thinking bring about positive and negative physical results, respectively. According to the Law of Attraction, the phrase “I need more money"allows the subject to continue to “need more money". If the subject wants to change this they would focus their thoughts on the goal (having more money) rather than the problem (needing more money). This might take the form of phrases such as “I will make more money"or “I will find a job that pays very well".  Now, let’s stop there for a moment for another key point about this blog. When I write, I attempt to do so in ways that the reader can identify with by sharing some of my own experiences with the topic at hand, in this case what I’d rather describe as “Birds of a feather flock together!”

Similarly, when you examine your own life, think about who and what you want in your life. Look back on the definition described above about the Law of Attraction. Personally, I don’t believe it takes a rocket scientist to figure out this simple concept: If you think and act in a negative fashion, in whatever aspect of your life, whether personally or professionally, chances are pretty good the results WILL be negative. Of course, the same holds true the other way. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT saying just because you think positively all the time your life will be perfect. We know that’s simply not the case. But by consciously attempting to do so every day, even with the simplest and most trivial of things, chances are good that eventually, your life will transform to what you WANT it to be. It’s really that simple. My own experience stands as a testament to that statement and I can GUARANTEE you that if you continue say and do the “right"things, your life WILL become far better than you can possibly imagine! As Will Smith said during one of his interviews about his views on life, “First, you decide. Then you just do it. Period. It’s that simple. There’s no need for Plan B because it distracts from Plan A.” Powerful words aren’t they?

Three and a half years ago, I was in a “place” where I thought I had the world figured out. And I was proud of it. Problem was, it was false pride. Before long, that world blew up in my face, figuratively speaking. I nearly lost it all because I was too proud to admit I had problems. I was too busy trying to be something I wasn’t designed for. I was totally lost. Lost financially, spiritually, mentally, personally, and professionally. It wasn’t until a series of tragic events occurred that I finally “awakened.” Today, I look back and realize I was a very blessed man and still am, even MORE so! In spite of losing my job, my home, my children, and financial security, today I’m happier than I’ve been for as long as I can remember. Why? Because I CHOSE to LIVE. I CHOSE to change, to seek out people I WANTED in my life. People who not only THINK positively, but also ACT positively, every day to the best of their ability.

As a result of this NEW way of living and new way of life, I’ve had people come into my life that still astounds me. People of substance. People of character. People of honor, respect, dignity, and sincerity. Many of them I’ve “met” on Facebook. People like Cheryl Maloney who lives in Oregon, page owner of Simple Steps Real Change, one that has over 50,000 members and counting. John from Australia, page owner of Spiritual Warrior, with over 13,000 members. Laura Barrette Shannon, page owner of Be Happy Now: Simple Steps to Enjoying Life, an author who lives in Florida, and who has a book to be published soon. Dennisse Lisseth, page owner of Exceptional Living, one of the fastest growing Facebook pages at this very moment, with over 60,000 members, and who also lives in Florida. Tiffany Marrufo, page owner of Beyond Yesterday and Vivaciously Designed Coaching. Lisa Blake, who lives in South Dakota, page owner of Motivation for Life, and a certified life coach. Natalie Ryan-Ramirez, page owner of Wise Widowed Parents with over 4,000 followers, a widow herself and also a single parent of a 9 and 7 year old. The list goes on and on, these people are just those that come to mind immediately, and I’ve probably just scratched the surface of the number of people and Facebook pages “out there” I’m not aware of yet. But that doesn’t mean I don’t WANT to discover them!

Why did I mention these people? All of them have something in common. Like me, they’ve encountered personal tragedies and obstacles in their lives, yet all of them have seen one form of success or another in their life at some point. For instance, Cheryl Maloney is a lady who had what appears to be an enormously successful career in the corporate world, only to lose her job a few years back because of a merger. After that, tragedies kept coming. Her husband contracted cancer and her father died. Like me, she discovered the job market wasn’t an easy nut to crack, but she also made the conscious CHOICE to seek “simple steps” to changing her life. The rest, as they say, is history. And take my friend John, the “Spiritual Warrior” from Australia. Here’s a guy who nearly lost his life in a truck accident in 1982, and who then fell victim to depression and addiction for many years before the blinkers came off in 1997. Today, he’s embarking on changing other people’s lives, using his own experiences. Laura, my author friend from Florida, lost her daughter in an accident a few years back, something that would destroy most of us, but she too, CHOSE to make something positive out of that experience. Dennisse Lisseth, a young woman from Florida who has an infectious zest for life, and who also left the corporate world a few years ago, has overcome depression, and today is a successful entrepreneur. Lisa Blake, another lady who’s encountered obstacles like most of us have, but who has also embarked on a career coaching others, utilizing her talents and experiences. Then there’s Tiffany Marrufo, who’s overcome substance abuse, and another successful life coach. And finally, there’s Natalie Ryan-Ramirez, an absolutely amazing woman, and one whom I’m honored to know personally. Less than 3 years ago, she lost her husband of 21 years after a short battle with cancer and today, has ambitions of helping other widowed parents with surviving dependent children, through the use of her nonprofit organization.

All of these people are in my life for a reason. But how? And why? First, because I created them. Yes, you heard me right. If not for the fact that I made a conscious CHOICE several years ago, a decision to make lemon meringue pie out of the lemons life left on my plate, and LONG before the creation of this website or my Facebook page, I never would have had the honor of knowing any of these people. Unbeknownst to me, the forces were set in motion long ago. Call it fate, serendipity, or divine intervention, it all means the same. I attracted these people into my life, and not just with my words, but with my actions. The reason why they’re here now is to help propel me to the next level of my journey. Hopefully, and God willing, I can help them in some humble fashion in return.

Therein is the lesson and message for you. WHO do you want in your life? Many times, without ever realizing it, we create relationships and circumstances we don’t fully comprehend until much later. The door to a new way of life and a new way of living is locked inside, at least until you make some simple CHOICES and take action. The key for each of you is to ask yourself some basic questions. Think of it this way. What personal characteristics do you value? Both in yourself and others? Make a choice and decide. It’s that simple. And if there’s something you see inside about yourself that you’re not fond of, start taking action NOW. Because until you do, you’ll never attract who and what you want in life.

Like Will Smith says, “I WANT to do good. I WANT the world to be better because I was here. I WANT my life, my work, my family; I want it to mean something. If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time.”