NEW!
Kindness, the New Stimulus Package
We have all experienced some of the negative things going on in the world today to some extent.  We are told how negative things are and how negative they are going to be.  We have heard the word “Stimulus Package” so many times that it doesn’t have the same meaning that it did when we first heard it last year.  I am here to introduce to you a new stimulus package, and it has nothing to do with the government.  Kindness.  What would happen if everyone practiced kindness for just one day?  I know.  The world as we know it would be transformed.

 Now getting every single person in the world to do a kind deed might be a little too much to ask.  But I learned something first hand when I organized a Kindness Challenge at a local arts and jazz festival a few weeks ago.  We can talk about kindness all day long.  We can even do a few kind things during our day and feel good about ourselves.  However, when we truly give kindness from the heart without a single expectation to receive in return, bingo, a new kind of stimulus package is born.

 The most important lesson I learned during the Kindness Challenge is that kindness is contagious.  It starts a ripple effect that has no limits.  Each act of kindness creates a three-way blessing.  First, the receiver of the kind act benefits.  That person then gives back a smile, a hug, laughter, or some other positive response.  This means that the giver also receives.  Then something truly amazing happens.  Any person who witnessed the kind act also benefits.  Then, simply because they feel good having witnessed kindness, they are also inspired to do a kind deed themselves.

 So, how can you start a stimulus package for your own community?  It is an easy 3-step process.  First, feel gratitude for the good things in your life.  Choose to see the good, and more of what’s good will start to reveal itself to you.  Second, spend as much time as you can doing things that you love.  If you enjoy sitting on the porch and listening to the wind, spend more time doing it.  If you love to listen to your favorite music, do that more often.  Third, practice doing kind acts for yourself and others every single day.  WHAM!  A new stimulus package has been born!

Previous Articles
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BULLYING – February’s Positive Pathways Newsletter tackles this topic.  While doing research for the newsletter, I found some very interesting articles and blogs.  Here are two of them for you:
1) Click here to acces the first artcle – Dealing With Bullies.
2) Click here to access the second article – End the Bullying.  This actually has several article and excellent content.

The first set of articles are concerning on the topic of overcoming fears.

Here’s my fourth installment of overcoming fears articles.  This article is called “The Toyota Turmoil” and represents my fears of lack.  This story occurs when my family went on a vacation to Hot Springs, AR.  My son at the time was less than a year old and we experienced car trouble.  Something that could have absolutely been avoided had I overcome my fear of lack.


The Toyota Turmoil

My dad sold used cars for a living. Even though I had “owned” 19 cars by age 20, I never kept one long enough to pay off the debt. This assured that I would forever have car debt in my life. Then came the Toyota Corolla at age 20. It was the nicest car I had “owned” to date and was the newest although it had a ton of miles on it. I am grateful as I look back because I did eventually pay it off. It got me through college and the first three years of my marriage. It was a two-door beauty built more for a grandma than a young 20 year old, and it had about as much room in it as a cardboard box. I hesitate to say it was a 5-speed because that would make it appear sportier than it was. It had about as much pick-up as a golf cart, and although I tried, I was never able to actually spin the wheels. The closest thing I got to “burning rubber” was when I slammed on the brake to avoid an accident.

I recall on my wedding day, some really good friends decided to share with the world that we were just married. The problem was they used shaving cream on the hood, which left a permanent reminder that we just got married. It did not matter how much I washed, waxed, or buffed the words, they would not fade at all.

I needed to pay this car off and drive it till the wheels fell off so I would get my money’s worth. The end result was driving for another three years with this constant reminder tattooed for everyone to see. I learned a valuable lesson at this time in my life. If you look at something you don’t like long enough, it disappears, or at least it does to you. After about a year I don’t even recall seeing “Just Married” on my hood at all. I also was fortunate enough to have good friends that would not remind me it was there.

I learned another valuable lesson: the fear of lack will take away your common sense. Sound crazy? Let me explain. Before I was married, I decided I needed a new car stereo. I wouldn’t have a cheap one; I had to have one of the most expensive stereos that just happened to be installed in all the new Lamborghini sports cars at that time. After all, I did have a foreign car myself so I never thought twice about it. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the stereo costs more than the car itself! Hey, I had tunes, and that was all that mattered to my common-senseless mind!

One summer, my family and I trekked up to Hot Springs for a vacation. Can’t you picture the three of us driving four hours in a two-door Toyota with about 170,000 miles on it? We did have two cars, but the other one was not nearly as nice as the Toyota. The Toyota was fairly dependable other than one minor problem: getting it started. About a year earlier the ignition key decided it did not want to turn all the time. I “fixed” it by putting some hi-tech graphite in the key hole, and it was good as new as long as you wiggled it back and forth every now and then.

After we got to Hot Springs, we decided to check out a museum they had for kids. It seemed like we drove forever to get there and when we arrived, we had only an hour or two to go through it. We stayed as long as they would let us, and then the Toyota Turmoil was about to begin. We walked out to the car where there were no other cars to be seen. While I was packing the stroller that had to be the size of the trunk, my wife took the dreaded task of buckling a squirmy, slippery, drooling one year old in a car seat which he hated with a passion.

I put the key in the ignition, turned the key, and without saying anything, had a brief moment of “Oh $H%#!” My first thought was something like “today is the day that I might die.” Let me explain. My wife had been after me for a year to take the car to a shop and have the ignition properly fixed. With my fear of lack, I just could not see paying someone to do something I could do myself. But in reality, I was afraid that the repair would cost more than what the car was worth. Without her noticing, I sneaked my secret stash of  graphite that was under my seat and doused the key hole. By the time I was ready to try the key again, my wife had picked up on what was going on. Immediately she issued me the “glaring eyes” which actually penetrated my skull. I have always thought that the US Defense Department should do some research on American wives’ “glaring eyes” to use in combat. All men know this, but just in case you do not, wives “glaring eyes” automatically make men do one of three things: 1) run for their lives, 2) throw a temper tantrum, or 3) become completely ignorant.

As you might expect, the key did not turn the second time. I decided the best thing was to wiggle it harder. Then the worst thing happened. SNAP! “Oh SH#@! You have got to be kidding me!” From all the previous wiggling of the key, it must have made it weak and caused it to break off in the ignition. “Glaring eyes” said nothing, but her communication was perfectly clear. I quickly scanned my mind for which option to choose? Without missing a beat, screaming and yelling became the strategy. The temper-tantrum strategy was a good one because “glaring eyes” would be defenseless. Get her to work at calming me down, and I was off the hook for the time being. Heck, I could always apologize later. I somehow gathered my composure and got a wrecker on the phone so they could come tow the car.

After waiting about an hour to an hour and a half with a screaming child in the steaming summer heat, my wife’s “glaring eyes” returned. She sat in the shade with my son, and I stayed as far away as I could without ever making eye contact. Finally, the wrecker showed up. The tow truck driver was very nice, and after I heard what he said I thought we must be related somehow. After I told him of my issue, he had a brilliant idea. He said, “Fixing that is probably going to cost more than the car is worth.” (THANK YOU, I sure wish “glaring eyes” had been close enough to hear that!) He had seen this kind of thing before, and said he could fix it for me in a few minutes. He said I wouldn’t even need a key to start it anymore. BINGO!!! The magic words, “you wouldn’t even need a key” made perfect sense to me. Problem SOLVED! After about 10 minutes, he had taken the steering wheel cover off, and he showed me the white plastic thing of beauty. He said “All you need is a screwdriver to start it.” I paid him for his troubles with a nice tip and a smile on my face. With my dignity back, we got in the car, used my screwdriver and started the Toyota perfectly. A smile came to my face as I realized that I would never have to worry about the key sticking again. Things were starting to look up.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, “glaring eyes” were back! I searched my brain for the appropriate option. Although jumping out of the moving car didn’t seem quite so bad at the time, I knew I couldn’t because I was driving. Then the next option of the temper tantrum would not be effective because the rules state you can never have more than one in a given 24 hour period. So, that left me with option number three: become completely ignorant. I stated “but…” and was interrupted with the eyes. I tried again “but, I…” more glaring eyes. I then proceeded to state something like this was a good thing that happened and that she should be grateful for me not getting it fixed a year ago. Look how much money we just saved! I rationalized the whole thing, and as I look back now, it must have sounded like something Jim Carey would say in the movie “Dumb and Dumber.” Then it went silent because I even scared myself with some of the stupid rationalizations that I said.

I drove that car for another year before getting a “new” used car. For that entire year, I had to put a towel over the ignition so others would not see that it did not need a key to start it. When I look back at it now, I had nothing to worry about because no one in their right mind would have wanted to steal that car. When I took the car to trade it in, the look of the salesperson face was priceless. (I was keeping my towel!) They offered me a very low amount, and when I told him I was going to take the stereo out I thought they were going to make me pay them to take it off my hands.

I believe the fear of lack brought these events to me because all of my focus was on the lack. In return, I was constantly given what I thought about all the time – more car troubles and more lack in other areas. So how did I overcome my fear of lack? Did I finally discover once and for all the missing formula to not worry about money? You will have to come back soon and read the story, “Mano-a-mano Murano” to find out if I learned the necessary skills to buy a new car without all my baggage.

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My third article covers my fear of bridges.  Crazy, huh?  The title is The Causeway Catastrophe and covers a time when I thought I was ready to challenge one my oldest and greatest fears, crossing the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in New Orleans, LA.  It just so happened to be the largest bridge in the world at the time.  Enjoy!

The Causeway Catastrophe
One of my first memories of fearing bridges was shortly after I started driving. Crossing bridges in a car was not too bad as long as I was riding, but when I started driving, my fear of bridges started to get a lot worse. Eventually, I could manage the smaller bridges but would avoid the taller ones at all costs. When I was 31, I knew I needed to do something.

One day I was caught on draw bridge and thought I could walk on the bridge to conquer my fear. As my foot touched the concrete, my legs felt like they were made of Jell-o! They were wobbly, and all they wanted to do was get back into the car. I can’t imagine what this looked like to the people behind me sitting in their cars. I am sure that they were thinking I was having some sort of epileptic attack, but they must have had a fear of bridges too because they didn’t get out to help me. After I was sitting back in the car, another fear emerged, claustrophobia. I felt trapped on the bridge and could not move.

Several months later, I wanted to try again to address this unhealthy phobia of bridges. I felt confident because I had been able to cross several Mississippi River bridges recently without soiling my underpants. When I was in New Orleans, I decided to take the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to conquer my fear once and for all. What better way of doing it than on the longest bridge ever built? I thought that when I made it to the other side, my fear of bridges would subside. I was feeling pretty proud of myself.

My journey to cross this bridge started out OK, but as I approached the point where I would not be able to turn around or exit, my fear of bridges woke up as if to say, “What in the world are you doing?!” I pressed on saying to the bridge, “Bring it on, baby! You are MINE!” The weather was clear and sunny so I could expect a nice leisurely trek across the lake.

I was driving for a few minutes, singing something like “Ain’t no stopping us now, we’re in the groove…” Then, I looked in my rear view mirror and NO LAND was in sight! What do I do? The Causeway Bridge is thirty miles long, but it never occurred to me that at some point I would not be able to see land. Big miscalculation! There was no turnaround, and I knew I had to go to the other side. My thoughts immediately went from “what a wonderful experience to conquer my fear” to “I’M GOING TO DIE!”

I started screaming at the bridge that it had sold me out and plotted its revenge on me. I then saw a sign that said “Road Work Ahead.” I thought what else could go wrong? A minute later, another sign said “One lane traffic ahead,” which had me nearly slamming on the brakes and saying, “You have got to be kidding me!” Then the fatal blow hit: a flashing emergency light, “Fog Ahead, slow to 15mph.” Oh, that can’t be good! Within five minutes the fog hit, but I still had not seen any lane closures. My hands had a death grip on the steering wheel.

I slowed to 15 mph hoping not to be in the lane that dropped off unexpectedly, sending me to a watery death. I kept slowing down to until I was driving at about 5 mph because I wanted to be able to jump out of the car before it plummeted into the lake. As cars raced by me, I could see drivers shouting and blowing their horns. It was as if they were saying, “Be Strong! You can do it!” Well, maybe that wasn’t their intention, but it does sound more positive stating it that way now.

As you can imagine, my nerves were shot. After well over an hour and a half, I finally made it to the other side. “THERE IS A GOD!” I thought to myself as I pulled into a convenience store. I looked at my hands and all my knuckles were white from lack of blood flow. I went to release my death grip, and my fingers did not move for a moment. They were actually stuck to the steering wheel! I realized that I had never moved my 10 o’clock – 2 o’clock grip for the entire trip.

I wanted a soda, but I didn’t want to walk in the store looking like I was riding an invisible motorcycle, so I waited until the blood returned to my fingers. As I was checking out, the man behind the counter told me that just a week earlier there was a 194-car pile up due to the fog. He went on to say some idiot was driving so slow that another car hit him from behind causing a domino effect. I looked at him and smiled weakly saying something like, “What an idiot! Where in the world do these people come from?”

As I look back now, I truly feel grateful. Driving over that bridge forced me to face my deepest fears. If I could make it through that, I could make it through anything. Within a few short years, I had found a job in a bigger city, had taken a promotion that meant I had to fly often, more than tripled my salary, and started my own business helping others.

I have learned that what you focus on expands. During that drive, my focus was, “how could this get any worse?” instead of “look at what I am accomplishing.” When you put your focus on the things that you want, what you want will start showing up.

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My second article covers my fear of heights.  It is called, The Sears Tower of Terror and it was quite an experience.  Enjoy.

The Sears Tower of Terror

Who would have known that my second experience of going to the observation deck of the Sears Tower would turn out like this?  It had been 20 years since my first terrifying experience but I was ready to redeem myself.  I had over a dozen of years to work through my many phobias.

My wife and I went a day early to a conference in Chicago.  After landing at O’Hare, we were discussing what we should do with our extra time.  Without hesitation, I said, “You know, we have to go to the Sears Tower.  I need to get that Sears Tower of Terror off my back.” She agreed and after we checked into the hotel, we set off on our trek.

We decided to take the blue line in since it was close to rush hour.  Besides, we had not ridden the train before in Chicago.  We had a short walk to the station, got our tickets, and boarded the train.  We thought it would be much faster taking the train versus getting a taxi.  That was our first mistake.  Little did I know that there would be 100 stops before we were at our desired location, Jackson.   After what seemed to be two hours, we finally made it.

We were told by a policeman that the Sears Tower would be only 3 blocks and “You can’t miss it.”  Famous last words of a fool.  Sure, we stepped out of the subway and sure enough there it was.  Shooting way, way up into the sky.  We headed towards the tower but directly in front of us was a closed off alley.  No problem ,we thought.  We just took a left turn and walked around the block. 

We walked, and walked, and walked but could not see the tower.  How in the heck do you loose a 100+ story building?  Well, we did.  My wife went quickly to her phone to get the address and decipher how to get to the tower.  We soon discovered that we passed it by several blocks.  We ended up walking back to where we started.  To the right road around this time and sure enough, there it was.  Man, that was one tall building.

As we approached it, I took a few pictures and was trying to figure out what emotions I was having.  The thing was that there wasn’t any at all.  I felt no anxiety whatsoever.  Wow, what a difference from the previous adventure.   We got our tickets and as we walked in to wait our turn, Andy Dick was there with some of his friends.  We were the only ones there at that time and it showed that we had to wait 12 minutes before the next show.  Andy and his friends went under the closed section line to avoid having to wait.  They must have made it because we never saw them again.

We watched a short movie about Sears and how the tower was build that was actually pretty good.  Now, the time had come.  The first elevator was full and we hopped on the second one.  Again, I had absolutely no feelings at all.  I was looking forward to it.  It took about one minute to reach the observation deck and when the doors opened, I joyfully went out.  I went straight to the windows and looked down.  Again, I did not have a single feeling of anxiety or anything at all.  I wondered why I could have ever been scared so badly in my first trip to the top of the tower.

Our first trip netted us about 10 minutes.  It was that long only because it took that long before an elevator had made it back up to the top after going down.  This time, we stayed on the deck for nearly an hour.  I took all kinds of pictures and just enjoyed the whole experience.  My wife took a shot of me standing by the window with a “hook ‘em horns” expression with my hands and a smile on my face.

We decided we were ready to go and stepped on the elevator.  This time, Dameon was not on board and we rode down care free.  You could tell we were going very fast but again, I had no feelings at all.  Mission accomplished!  I did it!  And I did it without a single negative thought!

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The first article is titled “Flight or Flight” and addresses my fear of flying in airplanes.  This was quite a long time ago and I am proud to say that I have absolutely no fear of flying in airplanes any longer.  In fact, I fly out nearly every week.  Enjoy the article.

Flight or Flight?

Fear was controlling my life. I had always had a standard response to fears: avoidance. Choices I had made kept me from having to face them, but they had also kept me from realizing my dreams.

I had been claustrophobic for as far back as I could remember, and then I developed a fear of flying. When I was eight I almost drowned. Fear of the water led to fear of bridges, which led to fear of heights.

My loving wife decided she would help me take baby steps toward conquering my many phobias and managed to find a short cruise. Let’s see, that covers fear of flying, claustrophobia, water issues…yup, she had just about gotten them all in one trip! I cringed as she explained her gift to commemorate ten years of marriage was to kill me on a doomed flight or drown me at sea if that failed.

We got through security rather quickly which allowed plenty of time to sit and visualize multiple ways of dying. I anticipated crashing on takeoff, hitting another plane in mid air, having birds blow out an engine, and being caught in a major storm. Every imaginable crash was calculated and weighed to determine which was the most likely to occur.

I sat praying that our plane would not be one of those Buddy Holly crop duster planes, and it must have worked because it was even bigger than I imagined. How in the world would this beast get off the ground? I knew what our fate was, crashing on takeoff.

Feeling wave after wave of the fear of flying and claustrophobia, I actually could not buckle my seatbelt! Jeez! You have got to be kidding me! For a few moments, I thought I was going to black out. Sweating profusely and scared to death, I scanned my options. Should I take the flight or run for my life before they seal us in the tube of death?

As we started taxing to the runway, I paid attention to every single word of the safety features as if there was going to be a pop quiz during the flight. I actually wanted to ask a question but chose not to for fear of embarrassment. Since I knew there was a very good possibility of the plane crashing, I wanted to be prepared. As the attendant talked to the people in the exit rows about their responsibility in case of a crash, I was ready to scream. No one was paying attention. We are DOOMED and when we crash, these idiots won’t know how to even open the door. I decided to pay very close attention and read the entire safety manual just in case.

The time had come. We were about to hit the thrusters and head down the runway of death. All I could do at that time was close my eyes and pray that the plane would not crash before it got off the ground. Within minutes, we were off the ground and leveled off.

We were in the air for about an hour and a half and were scheduled to fly to Atlanta to switch planes. Wait, switch planes? Somehow I missed that memo! Take off, land, take off, and land again? This was going to be a very long day.

When we got close to Atlanta, we hit turbulence. The turbulence made me feel like I was sitting in one of those jump houses. I looked at my wife and said, “What the heck was that?” I had never experienced turbulence before, but I knew it was not good to be “bouncing” around in the sky. She told me what it was and gave me a physics lesson on turbulence trying to convince me it was a natural thing. “It’s going to be alright, honey,” she said softly. I thought, “No way, we are about to die!” It turns out the turbulence was caused by a powerful thunderstorm that was passing through Atlanta. Over the intercom, the pilot stated that we were going to have to circle until we were given clearance to land.
Trying to distract myself, I put headphones on to listen to some in-flight music. Maybe this would get my mind off the intense turbulence and lighting show going on below us. Bad, bad, bad idea! I will tell you this but you will probably not believe me. As I plugged in, the song that was playing was “…drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry,…this will be the day that I die.” Yes, “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie.” Realizing immediately it was about Buddy Holly’s plane crash, I quickly changed channels. On the next channel the song blared “…Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue….” A song by none other than BUDDY HOLLY! Yes, Buddy freaking Holly! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Ok, it is fate; we are crashing. I quickly unplugged the headphones and awaited my impending death.

Finally, the pilot came over the intercom and said, “We have just received clearance to land. It is going to be a bumpy ride so please stay seated with your seatbelt on. When the oxygen masks drop, be sure to put it on yourself before you try to put it on anyone else. In the event of a water landing, the bottom of your seat may be used as a floatation device.” Say WHAT? DID HE JUST SAY THAT? Well, actually, no. He did say something about clearance to land but somehow my mind switched to recalling the safety guidelines. Which way do I pull the door handle? Left? Right? Turn and push or turn and pull? Jeez, we’re doomed!

We finally landed and everything was all right. Well, that was until we were trapped in a tropical storm the next day for our cruise. You think there was a message in there for me somewhere?

It is easy to look back now and see how fears exaggerated my reality. Over the next several years I faced many situations just like this. When I started looking within for the answers to my fears, I discovered that by simply changing my thoughts, I changed my life and eliminated the fears almost instantly. The more I was aware of what I was thinking and changing the negatives to positives, my life shot off like a rocket! If you have any fears, face them, change what you are thinking about, then visualize a positive outcome. It is that easy. I tried it and wiped out everyone one of my many fears.

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