Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Perceiving problems or opportunities

Good day!

I was thinking today about how we perceive things that pop up in everyday life. Living in the 21st century is by no means an easy thing. We are constantly confronted with challenges at work, at home, in relationships, etc. Practically everywhere we turn, things happen that may make life appear more difficult than it really is.

To a large extent, how we approach these challenges determines how easily we overcome them and how much we grow personally from having overcome them. As many of you know, I prefer not to use the word "problem" to describe undesirable situations. Instead, I like to substitute the word "challenge" or "opportunity"? When people put themselves down or state that they cannot overcome something, I correct them and remind them of the miracle of their potential. Why do I do this?

Well, I really believe that we become better people when we are stretched -- either mentally or physically. Just as a chess player only learns from playing (and losing to) players that are better than themselves, we usually make the greatest improvements to ourselves when we are challenged in some way. Many times when challenges arise, I know that by applying myself, and being alert to the challenge, I should be a better person as a result of the experience -- as long as I embrace the opportunity to learn.

That's not to say that sometimes a challenge won't momentarily stagger us. In fact, it's quite normal to be angry or frightened when initially exposed to some challenges.

It takes quite a bit of practice to consistently see the positive side of every challenge. Once we realize the benefits of being able to recognize every challenge as an opportunity to grow, we discover that we are able to address future problems with clearer vision and less stress because we know that we will overcome the challenge and be better for it. Learning to do this also helps us to become a more positive, capable, empowered human being. Whether it is faith in a Higher Power or faith in your ability to overcome challenge, belief that the experience exists to make you stronger should propel you towards successfully overcoming the challenge.

Many of us, when we are stressed, experience and express anger. Often, this may be inadvertently directed towards our children, either expressed as anger, impatience, etc. There is a story that has been floating around for years around how to handle anger and the after effects of anger. The story goes like this:

There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence.

Then it gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.

He said, "You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won't matter how many times you say 'I'm sorry', the wound is still there."

This story comes to mind when I have occasion to be angry and makes me aware of the persistence of doing “the wrong thing”.

It is quite common to forget how to enjoy life in a positive way until we are reminded in some way. For many, the reminder comes in the form of a challenge to their mortality or to the morality of a close friend or relative. When left until then, that person has missed a lot of opportunities to have enjoyed life and to have grown from so many of life's learning experiences.

Many years ago, I had a friend named Donna Butler who was born with a chronic heart condition. With this condition, Donna's family knew that it was a matter of time before she needed a heart transplant or that medical science would provide the technology necessary to correct her failing heart.

Donna and I knew each other from the age of 5 up through the age of 18. I remember her as someone who lived in pain and discomfort every waking moment of her life. However, she looked upon life as something that was delicate, beautiful and something to be cherished. She NEVER had a bad thing to say about anyone or any situation. She was constantly reminded that "today" might be her last day and she treated every day as if it were. When she passed away at the tender age of 18, I lost a wonderful friend who really made a difference to everyone that she came in contact with. What an example she established for everyone who knew her. I’ll bet you know some people in your life who have set similar examples.

Think about how you would live if you knew that today was your last day alive. How would you live that day? Would you react to situations any differently than you currently do? Would you be as cross with your child over a spilled drink? Would you be upset with a spouse or close friend over a simple misunderstanding or a silly argument? When leaving a spouse or significant other to go to work, would you not bother to say "I love you" because you can always say it later (or worse, because you are angry and choose not to say it). When finishing a conversation with a friend, would you forget to appreciate them as a friend because you will see them later? Would you get as stressed over life's challenges if you thought that you would not live to see tomorrow, making the challenge less relevant in the grand scheme of things? Think about it. You have 24 hours to live. Now how important is it that someone just pushed past you in the line at the local fast food restaurant? It's not worth wasting the time to get upset, is it? You have many more important things to do with your limited time.

For me personally, I have been told a few times in my life that I was dying of "some" terminal illness. In the mid 90’s, I was told that I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and that I had three months to live. By the way, the doctor told me that I shouldn't share this with my wife because it might upset her. I have to admit that I wasn't taking it too well myself!

As my doctor spoke about treatment options which depended on the outcome of some exploratory surgery, my mind wandered back through my life and I thought – “Have I done enough as a person”? If my life ends tomorrow, will I be remembered as a good father and husband? Have I treated my friends and co-workers with the respect that they deserve? The answer, in my mind, was a horrifying no. Even though that was a long time ago now, I still feel that the answer is no. I still let life interfere with the actions that I know to be true and right and at times like that, when I know I have made a major mistake regarding my relationships with those around me, I think back to Donna and her way of living and to how I felt the day I was told I was going to die as a young man. It's sad that I need reminders like this. I hope your reminders come in more benign form.

Here's an exercise that I like to suggest to people. It upsets many of them but it brings the point home quite succinctly.

If you think your life is too complex, or too stress-filled, find yourself a local children's hospital and pay a visit. If you have the courage, go to a local children's cancer clinic. Spend a few hours there and witness what it is really like to have a serious challenge. Experience the pain that these children are experiencing but also feel the strength that these kids exhibit. Speak to a doctor and they will describe incredible stories of hope to you. The kids, their parents and the doctors know that they have serious challenges ahead. However, from the innocence of youth come strength and a positive outlook. These kids are often stronger than their parents. Take a look around you and then reassess your own situation. It doesn't look as bad anymore, does it? I have held more than one grown man in my arms while standing in a parking lot of a children’s hospital, weeping as he realized his priorities and attitudes were not what they should be.

Remember as well, the role that humor can play in helping make your life brighter. People who work with me (or see me outside of work), know me as someone who cracks a lot of jokes, one-liners, etc. (sometimes too many, I know). The reason I do it is to keep the atmosphere around me light and buoyant. I internalize a lot and if I can't keep my mood light and positive looking when certain situations arise, then I get upset. We all know that getting upset doesn't solve anything in the long run. So humor offers a distraction and prevents me from over-analyzing a situation that is not as bad as it would appear if I think about it too deeply!

I'd like to close with a couple of quotes. Einstein once wrote about his three laws of work, namely:

1. Out of clutter, find simplicity.
2. From discord, find harmony.
3. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

I like to refer to them as his three laws of living. The complicated, difficult, challenging thing we call life is actually a wonderful educator that helps us to grow as people. However, we have to view it as a learning opportunity otherwise the opportunity to grow as a person is lost.

William Butler Yeats also has a beautiful quote on living. It is:

"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived"

Say no more.

Abraham Lincoln wrote that "most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be".

Part of viewing life this way ties back to some of our previous posts regarding doing good things for others. Doing good things for others will lighten your spirits and make it easier for you to see life in a positive way.

In parting, try this. Compliment three friends or family members every day regarding some task that they have completed. Say it with sincerity. They will appreciate it -- and you will feel great about it.

Create a great day!



I wrote the original version of this post two days before 9/11. Three of the recipients of this email died in the WTC and to this day, serve as a poignant reminder to me of the necessity to treasure every moment. Please take the time to treasure your gifts – they are numerous and incredible.

Life's challenges strengthen you - by Earl Nightingale

Good day,

Here is an old story about how the challenges of Life create stronger people - enjoy!

The Butterfly By Earl Nightingale

There's a story attributed to Henry Miller, the writer, about a little boy in India who went up to a guru who was sitting and looking at something in his hand. The little boy went up and looked at it. He didn't quite understand what it was, so he asked the guru, "What is that?"

"It's a cocoon," answered the guru, "Inside the cocoon is a butterfly. Soon the cocoon is going to split, and the butterfly will come out."

"Could I have it?" asked the little boy.

"Yes," said the guru, "but you must promise me that when the cocoon splits and the butterfly starts to come out and is beating it's wings to get out of the cocoon, you won't help it. It is important not to help the butterfly by breaking the cocoon apart. It must do it on it's own."

The little boy promised, took the cocoon, and went home with it. He then sat and watched it. He saw it begin to vibrate and move and quiver, and finally the cocoon split in half. Inside was a beautiful damp butterfly, frantically beating its wings against the cocoon, trying to get out and not seeming to be able to do it. The little boy desperately wanted to help. Finally, he gave in, and pushed the two halves of the cocoon apart. The butterfly sprang out, but as soon as it got out, it fell to the ground and was dead. The little boy picked up the dead butterfly and in tears went back to the guru and showed it to him.

"Little boy," said the guru, "You pushed open the cocoon, didn't you?"

"Yes," said the little boy, "I did."

The guru spoke to him gravely, "You don't understand. You didn't understand what you were doing. When the butterfly comes out of the cocoon, the only way he can strengthen it's wings is by beating them against the cocoon. It beats against the cocoon so it's muscles will grow strong. When you helped it, you prevented it from developing the muscles it would need to survive."

It's a story every parent and professional should remember. . .

Handing a child the toy he wants instead of letting him crawl across the room for it or try his best to crawl for it; fulfilling his every whim; loading him down with toys and other shiny beautiful things before he really needs or desires them; emphasizing the importance of grades in school instead of the importance of education. . . all of these things tend to weaken the muscles a child should be developing on his own so that when the time comes to function independently, he will have the strength he needs.

So oftern, what seems harsh or cruel in nature is in reality, wisdon and kindness for the time ahead.

Musings on lessons learned - by Andy Rooney

Good day!

Usually most of the content I post here is original content created by me.

However, I have found much wisdom in the following and wanted to share it with you.

Take care and create a great day!


The following was written by Andy Rooney, a man who has the gift of saying so much with so few words.

I've learned.... That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

I've learned.... That when you're in love, it shows.

I've learned.... That just one person saying to me, "You've made my day!" makes my day.

I've learned.... That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

I've learned.... That being kind is more important than being right.

I've learned.... That you should never say no to a gift from a child.

I've learned.... That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.

I've learned.... That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I've learned.... That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

I've learned.... That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

I've learned.... That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

I've learned.... That we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I've learned.... That money doesn't buy class.

I've learned.... That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I've learned... That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I've learned.... That the Lord didn't do it all in one day. What makes me think I can?

I've learned.... That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.

I've learned.... That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

I've learned.... That love, not time, heals all wounds.

I've learned.... That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

I've learned.... That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

I've learned.... That there's nothing sweeter than sleeping with your babies and feeling their breath on your cheeks.

I've learned.... That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.

I've learned.... That life is tough, but I'm tougher.

I've learned.... That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.

I've learned.... That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

I've learned.... That I wish I could have told my Dad that I love him one more time before he passed away.

I've learned.... That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.

I've learned.... That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

I've learned.... That I can't choose how I feel, but I can choose what I do about it.

I've learned.... That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you're hooked for life.

I've learned.... That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

I've learned .. That it is best to give advice in only two circumstances; when it is requested and when it is a life threatening situation.

I've learned.... That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

Taking time for you

Take Some Time

Take some time to really think about
what you want to do with your life
and be honest with yourself.

Ask yourself if you are happy
the way you are living now or
if you need to make a change.

Happiness comes to those whoare willing to believe in it
and who create it within
their own lives.

You deserve to be happy.

You deserve to be treated with respect.
Your life should be filled with good times,
not troubled ones.

Take some time and think about yourself.

-- Author unknown

My question for you is: What are YOU doing RIGHT NOW to make sure that you are creating a life of Happiness?

Take care and be well.


Doing the right thing

How many times have you ever thought back to something you did and wondered, "Did I do the right thing?" How many times have you pondered at a major crossroads in your Life and wondered, "Is this the right thing to do?"

We think about the impact of our actions and choices on those around us as well as on ourselves to make sure that every choice will be perfect. It is in this concern that every choice must be perfect that many times we make no choice at all or make a choice based on what others tell us is the right thing to do.

Making no choice at all or following the masses keeps us boxed inside what we perceive to be a safe, predictable world, one that doesn't appear to tax our minds and our spirits. We feel content that Life will protect us since we are following the straight and narrow "no-risk" Path. Taking no risks, after all, is the safest way to live Life. We also assume that this "no-risk" Lifestyle is the best environment to expose our family and friends to since that will automatically keep them safe as well.

The truth of the matter is that by always taking the safe Path (or allowing the Path to carry us because of our own indecisions) we are prevented from experiencing the challenges in Life that allow us to grow as individuals. We work hard to make sure that the people that we care about are protected against what might be poor decisions on our part. We should be willing to experience new things in Life with the knowledge that what we learn will make us stronger, wiser and better people, no matter what the actual result of the decision. By being empowered in this way, we are better able to look after the ones we care about. So rather than fear the impact that our decisions have on ourselves and those around us, we should embrace the knowledge and power that comes from the personal growth derived from the outcome of our decisions. This knowledge unleashes our incredible potential and creativity, enables each of us to be the best that we can be and provides us with the tools and abilities to help the people we care about to be the best that they can be.

By making choices in Life, we are also taught ways to handle the unexpected bumps in the Path that most of us face in Life. When we chose the safe Path, we find ourselves not as well equipped to deal with those bumps. When we choose to make our own choices instead of allowing them to be made for us, we train ourselves to anticipate these bumps, to avoid many and to be better able to handle the unforeseen ones that we all must deal with at some point.

Life offers a myriad of challenges and obstacles, which when faced with determination and courage, transform into the most wonderful array of choices and rewards. So we can choose to live the Life of routine and safety, taking what Life offers us or we can take the opportunity to experience Life to it's fullest, allowing us to be stronger for it and empowering us to be better people for ourselves and those around us.

Take care - create a great day!


Thoughts on forgiveness

Good day!

How many times in your life have you felt personally affronted, offended or disappointed in someone's actions to the point where an apology seemed to be necessary? Sometimes an apology seems important at the time but the incident fades in time to the point where the incident is forgotten and the need for an apology fades with it. Other times, it is felt that an apology is so critical that the relationship cannot continue until the apology is delivered – and a suitable apology at that, not just any half-hearted apology.

It is normal that we sometimes feel an apology is warranted. If the need passes relatively quickly and the relationship continues undamaged, then Life proceeds as it always has and no one is the worse for the incident.

When a relationship becomes damaged or is permanently put on hold while waiting for an apology, then the person waiting for the apology needs to examine the 5 W's regarding the necessity of the apology.

What is to be gained by demanding or holding out for an apology? Is everyone better off while time passes without the apology that is expected? What is lost as this time passes?

Why is the apology needed? Can your life continue with or without it? Will receiving an apology somehow make your life so much better than if you had not received one?

Who benefits from waiting for this apology? Is it possible that waiting for an apology burdens the person waiting for it more so than the person who "should" be giving it?

When has a sufficient time elapsed before an apology is no longer necessary, or would someone rather wait indefinitely, regardless of the impact of this decision? When does someone realize that the need for an apology is not as important as what is lost in the relationship?

Where does the person waiting for the apology expect their life to go if they accumulate enough of these "must have an apology" incidents? That would present quite a burden on someone who already has the many challenges of life presented by living in the 21st century.

The fact is that the day you cannot forgive somebody for an act committed is the day you can stop expecting forgiveness for any act that you may commit against others. It is also true that while receiving an apology may make your past seem better in your eyes, does holding out for one indefinitely make your future better? I doubt if it does.

The pain or hurt that we perceived for which an apology is demanded is often encased in a lot of emotion, which prevents us from analyzing the true source of it and prevents us from beginning the process of healing one's self and one's relationships. This pain festers and grows on negative energy. It drags people down and becomes a preoccupying thought that prevents them from reaching their truest potential. It is so easy to say "I will never let that person hurt me again" yet what is hurting you the most – the act committed against you or the negative energy that you are accumulating as you keep reliving the incident and affirming the need for an apology. Alan Paton, a famous writer, summed it up nicely when he wrote, "When a deep injury is done, we never recover until we forgive".

It is so easy to rationalize not forgiving someone by saying "If I forget this incident, then I am opening myself to being offended again later". However, this thought continues the pain, hurt and other emotions that are wrapped around the original incident, preventing one from analyzing the incident and truly evaluating it on it's merits. Forgiving someone releases this negative energy and allows one to grow and to learn from the incident. Isn't this what Life is all about – to learn from our experiences so that we can handle them better the next time? How can we expect to grow and experience Life to it's fullest if we refuse to learn from the lessons offered to us?

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong". There is a common expression along the same lines that it takes a big person to forgive. It is easy to hold a grudge for a long time (or forever). It takes true internal strength to forgive.

Some people like to say they forgive someone but they never forget the incident. Is this true forgiveness, or do you at some level put the relationship on probation, waiting for the next affront to upset you all over again? To not forget the incident when it is forgiven is not true forgiveness and people should not delude themselves by thinking that forgiving and not forgetting go hand in hand.

There are people who feel that punishment is warranted and that somehow the apology is connected with this punishment, almost as if the apology serves as a form of humiliation in the initial stages of retribution. This adds unnecessary negativity to the need for an apology – the negativity associated with some form of revenge. Life has a way of rewarding or punishing people when the time is right, whether that person wants it or expects it. So rather than assuming that one has the right to be administering some form of justice, isn't it better to let Life handle each person as they deserve? Plus, the incident that you think an apology is warranted for may be a single low point in an otherwise perfect life on the part of the other person – so what gives you the right to exact punishment on them for this? On the contrary, perhaps you brought on the incident so what gives you the right to punish someone for an action that you brought on or instigated?

Forgiving some people may also confuse them. Some incidents may in fact warrant an apology but it is not worth waiting for, for some of the reasons discussed previously. Forgiving this person will be a release for you and will offer a lesson to the other person, a lesson that they may not understand immediately. Rather than try to impose a lesson on them, allow time to reveal the power of forgiveness to them. Sara Paddiston summarized this when she wrote, "Sincere forgiveness isn't colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don't worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time."

Holding grudges is also a great way to build enemies. Life is challenging enough without creating additional challenges. If through a simple act, we can create or maintain relationships or at the very least, nullify an enemy, isn't this a better thing than to be looking over our shoulder as we watch out for the actions of our enemies.

Forgiving someone is not a license for that person to hurt again. However, by forgiving them, you provide a learning opportunity to that person as well and through your actions, both parties grow. If someone takes advantage of repeated forgiveness on your part, then it is time to review and discuss your relationship with that person.

Everyone has a purpose on this earth and we are all connected on many levels. Herman Melville noted, "We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects." Since Life rewards or punishes based on our actions, the positive action of forgiveness will be returned to us in a positive way. To be unable to forgive is to be unable to love.

Let us also not forget that we are not perfect. We have committed our own acts that perhaps we are not proud of, that someone else may expect an apology for. We may choose to stand our ground, insisting that an apology is not necessary. At some point the proverbial "light" comes on and you see the situation for what it is – you are unwilling to apologize for something yet find yourself wondering why you can't receive an apology for a different incident. Opening our hearts to forgiveness also enables us to apologize when the need is there and therefore we learn by forgiving.

So given all of this, why would you rather hold all of this negative energy inside you and allow it to cripple you, hold you back, encourage sleepless nights and inhibit your life. Forgiveness, love and Life are intertwined. Free yourself from the trappings and negative energy of grudges, forgive those who need forgiveness, apologize to those you have affronted and know that you will have opened your heart and your mind to a better life – one where you can more easily recognize and accept Life's gifts and wonder.

Namaste – the Divine in me honors the Divine in you


When is enough, enough?

Good day, everyone!

When is enough really enough? At what point in our lives do we say, "Yes, I have everything I have ever needed or will ever need"? How many times do we find ourselves wondering how we will be able to buy this, that or the other thing, whether it is a new car, new clothing, a new computer or anything else we need? Do we really need the things that we are buying or do we buy it because it is really a "nice to have" and not a "need to have". We worry about being able to acquire things that many people, even in our own culture, wouldn't dare to dream of.

As we cultivate our collection of stuff and help many companies become richer as we do this, do we ever stop to consider the things that we need that cost very little if anything? Too many times, the things that bring us the greatest rewards are missed in our effort to quickly attain the next item in our crusade to fill our abode with trappings that quickly gather dust or get in the way. Instead of working on ways to spend money on things we don't need or wasting time figuring out how we can accomplish this, we should be working on things that are far more rewarding and much less expensive!

We can start small by enjoying the gifts that Nature provides to us. Savoring a sunrise or sunset, one that will never happen again, is a good start. As you watch the sun set or rise, know that you are experiencing something that will never happen again in the universe. Diamonds are valuable because there are not many on Earth. How valuable is something that exists in only one copy and once gone, can never be gotten back?

After appreciating the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, we can move on to the gifts offered by Nature in the form of natural beauty all around us. Before us are rolling hills, towering mountains, restless oceans, frozen tundra, steaming jungles, massive plains, gentle streams, roiling rivers and every form of animal, mineral and vegetable all co-existing. How powerful this is when reflected upon. The miracle that is Life is an incredible gift that is often overlooked. Everything has its place and everything works together, each needing those around it and contributing to the needs of others at the same time. There is a lesson to be learned from this ability to need and be needed without asking why or "what's in it for me?".

Now examine mankind. Mankind is blessed with the curse that comes from having the power to have anything desired and the power to destroy it equally quickly, probably because that which is desired is so fleeting in the grand scheme of Life. Deep down inside, we don't appreciate many of the gifts that we are given because we know that if they are lost, they can somehow be easily attained again.

In contrast to physical gifts, consider these gifts which are often not as cherished yet are more valuable:
- the happiness in a child's laugh
- the delight in a child's eyes at something newly discovered
- the empowerment of good friendship
- seeing the world through the eyes of youth
- the feeling of having done a good deed, especially anonymously
- overcoming a tremendous challenge
- knowing you made a difference in someone's life
- the feeling of being in love or being needed by someone.

Too many people rate their life by how much stuff they have or how much someone else has in contrast to them. They feel that if they could elevate themselves within society that they would be much happier. However, as they stress about lifting themselves higher, they continue to race through life ignoring the gifts that Nature holds out to us.

How about if we slow down for one moment and instead of wishing for what we could have "if only", we actually said "thank you" for what "is" and then structured our Life from that point onward. Imagine the result that could come from this perspective – to live to be grateful for the now instead of the future that always seems to be just slightly in front of you. Sometimes we actually reach the golden ring that we have been reaching for at all cost, including time, money and relationships and realize that what we perceived as the golden ring is a tarnished brass ring and that the true gifts that we really needed were those we passed by in order to reach the ring.

Once we learn to cherish the gifts around us every day, we will be empowered to accomplish greater things and Life will indeed reward us in ways that we wouldn't otherwise imagine. This will also help us to approach Life in a much more positive way instead of lamenting about of the things that Life hasn't given us. Your potential is limitless when Life is approached in a positive way!

Take care and create a great day!


Monday, August 6, 2007

Musings on turning 42

Good day!

When a person reached 42 years of age centuries ago, it was a rare enough event that you were considered an elder to have reached that milestone. Nowadays, many people's lives do not really begin until they reach their 40's as it is around that time that they really discover what their life is meant to be and so they really begin to live life at that point, having been empowered with new direction, resources and drive.

As I make my way through my 40's, I could not help but reflect on a lifetime of 40+ years. I remember one night sitting on my deck watching the falling stars that were in abundance and two thoughts came to mind – abundant blessings and gratitude.

My life has been a plethora of unique and distinct events and interactions that have brought me to this point. Some were incredibly difficult at the time as are challenges that we all face at some point in our lives. Some were incredible blessings that I may or may not have seen as blessings at the time. Whether they are still viewed as challenges or blessings depends on your perspective – were they problems or learning opportunities and gifts? I believe they were all opportunities to learn, grow and improve as a person.

One thing I do not believe in is coincidences. I believe that everything that occurs in our lives occurs to make us better people, to help us along a journey that many people over the years have studied, pondered and written about.

I believe that each of us was meant to cross paths at some point in our lives. Sometimes it was just to provide an opportunity for one to offer insight to another. Perhaps we were meant to learn from each other in some way. Sometimes someone in need really appreciated someone else being there to help him or her through a difficult time. Maybe the reason we crossed paths was so that we could learn more about ourselves and from that learning experience, could elevate ourselves to the next level of our existence. Perhaps it was so that we could be blessed by introducing new lives into the world.

Whatever the reason, I believe I am a better person because of knowing each of you. I am grateful for the things you have taught me and for the things I learned from having known you. Some of us have known each other for a long time, others only briefly. However, each of you has made a dramatic, indelible stamp on who I am and I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I think it is important to sometimes sit down to take inventory of our blessings. In this fast paced world that we live in, a world seemingly designed to score people on how important we are, how much further ahead we are in the race, etc., we lose sight of the importance of the people who have made a difference in our lives and who will continue to make difference in our lives moving forward. This difference can appear to be slight or dramatic. However, given that each difference makes us better as a person, it makes them all invaluable.

When people ask me about the things I have done in my life, they are amazed by it. When I ask them about their life, they are modest and yet when I coax their story out of them, I am even more amazed by theirs. I met with Pauline and Ravi (both members of this group) last week in Redmond and I found their stories to be amazing and powerful (and I hope they will share their stories with you soon)! When people like Keith (on this group) tells me his REAL passion, I am inspired by it and encourage him to go for it. My great friend Jonathan has incredible passion to make a difference - a passion that inspires everyone who comes in contact with him. Everyone you come in contact with has a great story - encourage them to tell it, stoke their desire and passion and take their story to new heights. Each of you has such a story - let's not be too shy to share it with others. I think sometimes that being modest about life causes us to forget what a miracle this thing called Life really is and how truly abundant our blessings really are. When we stop to contemplate how incredibly diverse and abundant Life is, then we really open our eyes and our hearts to the true potential that Life offers.

So I thank each of you for everything you have offered to me. Sometimes I did not see the gift for the beautiful thing that it was. Sometimes I let people down because I was not grateful enough or wise enough to understand the gifts before me. For those situations, I can only say that I was (and still am) a learning human being.

I expect (demand) at least another 60 years of good living. Good living to me means giving before getting, appreciating the abundance of gifts all around me, appreciating our individual talents, believing that everyone here has a purpose and when they come in contact with you, that part of their purpose is to influence you (and you them). They are teaching you something, even if you don't realize it – so be grateful for the interaction as it occurs.

Good living also means saying thank you a lot, not because it is expected but more when it is unexpected. It means spontaneous, random acts of kindness. It means helping others when they need it but don't necessarily ask for it. It means making a difference in people's lives, especially children's lives. I came across this quote the other day and it really struck a nerve with me.

"A hundred years from now, it won't matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in, or the kind of car you drove, but the world may be different because you were important in the life of a child."

I will close this brief musing by saying thank you again. I give you credit for the strong points of my life and my character and I take responsibility for continuing to work on the things that need to be improved. Hopefully I can repay your gifts to me by passing on similar gifts to others.

So I leave you with the notion of "tag – you're it". Pass some thanks along to someone you haven't thanked in a while. As the story goes that the slightest air from a butterfly's wings in Asia can grow into a powerful hurricane on the other side of the world, so too can a "thank you" grow into something wonderful as it spreads.

Yours in peace and friendship. Create a great day!

Harry Tucker