Thursday, August 18, 2011

Elements of Life

You woke up today, took a deep breathe of air into your lungs and got yourself out of bed. That may not sound like an amazing accomplishment but it’s something to be endlessly thankful for. Not everyone is as lucky as you.

We often take for granted the fact that we’re alive and healthy, choosing instead to complain about our jobs or our relationships or whatever miniscule nuisance we may be faced with at the moment. But if you just pause your life for one minute, step out of the physical world that’s immediately in front of you and look at the big picture of things, we are incredibly blessed. How fortunate we are to be experiencing the ups and downs, the good and bad, the happy and sad. That is life, and we are so privileged to be a part of it all!

Don’t wait for your last days on this planet to start appreciating the magnificence and beauty that surrounds us. It’s everywhere we look, we just need to remember to open our eyes and see past the immediate charade that constantly keeps us moving in circles. What’s really important is something much greater than that promotion you want so badly or that new car you’ve been saving up for. It’s the ever-present opportunity to smile at a stranger, the one guarantee we have that the sun will always rise tomorrow, and those three simple words that cost us nothing but earn us everything we need: “I love you”.

So take that minute right now to put aside any of the stress and negative emotions that may be distorting your vision of reality and fill that space with the countless amazing things there are to be thankful for and cherish. If you’re having trouble finding them, go take a look in the mirror because one of them is sitting in your seat right now.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Balancing Pride

You’ve heard it before and know it’s true: life is all about balance. It’s just like surfing. Sometimes the waves are knocking you down and sometimes you’re shredding them with grace and style. Every aspect of our lives needs to be in balance and it takes constant practice and awareness to reach a happy level of equilibrium.

There’s one particular aspect that this applies to twofold: Pride.

First, there’s the sense of outward pride you have with yourself and other people. And I think the golden rule in this sense is to “check your ego at the door”. Humility is a virtue and one that should be practiced by all. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how popular you are, you’re just as much a human being as every other person on this planet so don’t ever act like you’re better than anyone else. Always stay modest and humble because no one likes the company of a cocky person.

Second, there’s your inner pride, your self-confidence. I think that it’s good be aware of the areas of your life that need improvement because that allows for you to set goals and take steps towards reaching your full potential. But too much attention on your shortfalls can be very unhealthy and cause damage to your self-esteem. We can’t always focus on what we’re not happy with. There needs to be balance. We must also recognize the greatness within ourselves and take pride in knowing that we are amazing people with lots of wonderful qualities.

I think the key to finding balance in this area of our lives is to stay outwardly humble and inwardly proud. Practice modesty and humility in your interactions with others but also make sure to take the time to appreciate and acknowledge yourself for your accomplishments and character. Check your ego at the door then give yourself a pat on the back.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seeking Perfection

Nobody is perfect, that is for certain. But I’ve always thought that it is admirable to take your best shot at attaining perfection anyway. Now when I say perfect, I refer to the frequency in which we demonstrate life’s virtues. Demonstrating all of them 100% of the time would be “perfect”.  Admitting that it is an impossible conquest, if you do embark on the challenge you are most definitely bound to make significant improvements in your character that are well worth the effort.

Many people would argue that we should be happy with who we are, just as we are now, and love ourselves unconditionally with all of the imperfections we naturally possess. And I agree with this to a certain extent. We should love ourselves in each and every moment and always nurture internal happiness. But we all know that there are certain character traits in each of us that we can improve (because we're not perfect) and I believe that passively accepting them as they are, leaving them underdeveloped and lacking full potential, is ignoring our responsibility as humans to strive for moral excellence.

So many people coast through their day-to-day lives without every stopping to take a step back and look in the mirror, repeating the routine of mediocrity that finds their personality in the same exact place as the day before. But I believe that all it takes is a raised awareness and a little self-analysis to jumpstart this unproductive cycle and turn it into an upward spiral of personal growth.

We first need to know what virtues are: courage, kindness, loyalty, honesty, self-confidence, humilty. . . the list goes on and on and each shares the common value of being a building block in the foundation of good moral being. Then we need to recognize these traits in ourselves and measure the frequency in which they are demonstrated. Are you loyal 100% of the time? Are you honest 100% of the time? Certainly not, as you will never be “perfect” in any area. But I guarantee that if you make perfection your goal and put conscious effort into attaining it, you will develop these virtues to a great degree that is much higher than where they were before.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Open Your Mind

We can’t help what culture or society we are born into, or what family we are raised by. We enter the world at a very specific time and place and automatically accept the philosophies and traditions that surround us, for that is all we know. We grow up seeing the world through our own paradigm, like a pair of glasses in front of our eyes that interprets the world as it is, causing us to believe and support certain things and ideas.

Someone that grew up in the South in the 1800’s is going to have a very different worldview that someone who is growing up in Los Angeles today. And that person who is growing up in Los Angeles today is going to have a very different worldview than someone who is growing up in Zimbabwe today (the poorest country in the world). Every person in every corner of the world from every day and age carries with them an inherited set of beliefs and values, and many carry them their whole lives.

For those of us that are fortunate enough to live in an advanced society and be educated enough to read these words, it’s important that we are aware of the glasses through which we see the world and question the validity of our innate viewpoints. Once we reach a certain age and point of personal growth it’s our responsibility to start thinking for ourselves and replace some of the undeserving perspectives and attitudes that we were born into with more positive and powerful ones.

So let go of the limiting beliefs and negative opinions you’ve had of things and open yourself up to new possibilities. Start to understand the world from other people’s perspectives and step out of your own shell. Don’t succumb to stereotypes and “popular opinion”. Go experience things for yourself and be your own judge. Broaden your horizons. Open your mind.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just Say Yes

Everyday we are presented with an infinite amount of possibilities for what we can do. Every single second is another opportunity to take action and do something. But most of us have become so accustomed to living within our comfort zone that we rarely take advantage of these opportunities and stick with what we are familiar with. Even when these opportunities are directly presented to us we will often choose to let them pass us by because we lack that adventurous spirit that keeps things exciting.

But I say screw that. We have one life to live so we should take advantage of every single opportunity, every single second, and say yes every chance we get! You know those times when you’ve been invited to do something but refused to because you were too “tired”? Well wake up! The clock is ticking and the train of life isn’t stopping for anybody so next time you get that invite you better say yes!

Obviously there are consequences to every action we take and you need to be smart in making your decisions. And sometimes those consequences aren’t going to be the ones we were hoping for. But I’d rather be out there experiencing those consequences and going on new adventures than hiding inside my comfort zone and never really living life.

So be exciting. Take a risk. Do something you would never imagine yourself doing. Live a little. Live a LOT. Sleep when you’re dead. Have fun. Be crazy. Say yes!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

You Gotta Have Faith

I never went to church as child or had any religious influence in my upbringing, but I truly understand the power of faith and know it’s a vital part to having success in life. When you completely believe in something and erase all doubt from your mind and heart, anything is possible.

When I decided to move to LA and start my career in the music industry, all odds were against me. Most major record labels were laying people off, not hiring them. I had zero job experience, I only knew one person in the whole city and on top of that, I severely broke my leg after being here for less than 3 months, requiring surgery that put me off my feet for the next 4. It was like trying to ride a bike uphill with two flat tires.

But deep down inside me I KNEW with absolute conviction that things would work out and I would succeed in my goal. I didn’t care what the odds for success were, failure was not an option. I trusted in myself and in the universe with 100% faith and removed all uncertainty from my life and I absolutely credit that mindset for getting me to where I am today. If I had ever faltered and allowed even an ounce of doubt to affect my journey then I honestly don’t think I would have come this far.

Whatever it is you’re facing, whether it’s something positive and exciting like getting a new job or achieving some goal, or whether it’s something negative and challenging like losing a job or experiencing an illness, approach it with faith. Know from the bottom of your heart that things are going to work out in the long run and that the one thing you have most control over is how much you believe in yourself. You have all of the tools and resources inside of you to create any outcome you desire. So trust yourself, trust the universe, and silence any voice inside your head that says “no”. Because the answer is “yes”. You just gotta have faith.

Monday, June 13, 2011

No Matter What

I’ve always thought of myself to be a very loving person. I have strong feelings of love for my family and friends and care about them all very much. But I learned a very powerful lesson somewhere along the way about the difference between loving conditionally and unconditionally. And while I had truly loved many people in my life I was doing so with a faulty foundation that was contaminated with judgment and expectations, loving them on the surface but fostering feelings of disapproval deep down inside. One day the reality of my conditional love exploded in front of me, forcing me to re-examine my role in the relationships I had and giving me the opportunity to commit myself to changing the way that I love people.

Nobody is perfect. People have some amazing qualities that are easy to love but they also have some not-so amazing qualities. . . and we should love them anyway! Accepting a person from head to toe, inside and out, just exactly the way they are is what it means to love someone unconditionally and it takes great maturity and a big heart to do this. Let go of any internal standards you may have created for people (including yourself) and love them for the unique individuals that they are.

Now this isn’t to say that we should all be completely content with our bad habits and character flaws. We should always push ourselves and those around us to grow and become better people. But when we do this it should come from a place of love, of genuinely wanting that person to be the best version of themselves so THEY can be the happiest they can be, not because WE think they need to change or improve.

I encourage you to make the same commitment that I have made and love everyone in your life unconditionally. From those days when everything is working great and everyone is happy to those days that everything goes wrong and emotions are distraught, love them just the same. Fill your heart with nothing but love for the people in your life and let this be the only feeling you have towards them in any situation. Love them no matter what. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Be All You Can Be

When I was sophomore in college I took an economics course that said a college degree is merely a piece of paper that proves two things: 1. That you are at least this smart and 2. That you are at least this hard working. And in reality, that’s pretty accurate. So whether I worked as hard as I could and got straight A’s or partied as much as I could and got straight C’s I would end up with the same piece of paper. Being the wise 19 year old that I was I took the latter approach and crawled my way through college getting by with the bare minimum.

Two years later I dated a bioengineering pre-med student that was quite the opposite of me and had a very different outlook on things. She valued having a strong work ethic and believed that if you were going to do something you should do it to the best of your ability and apply yourself to reach your maximum potential. Fortunately this philosophy rubbed off onto me and completely changed my perspective.

This is an important concept that I feel defines what kind of person you are: one that “gets by” doing the bare minimum or one that holds themselves to a higher standard. I believe that if you are going to do something then you should do it the best you can! If you’re going be a babysitter for the night, be the most fun and most responsible baby sitter those kids have ever had. If you’re going be a garbage man, be an amazing garbage man that loves his job. If you’re going to be someone's friend, be a true, sincere, fun and incredible friend. Whatever it is you are facing, commit yourself to doing your absolute best and giving it everything you got!

I think the reason that most people don’t take this approach is because there is usually no one to hold you accountable. YOU are the only person who knows if you’re working at your full potential, no one else is looking. So stop and ask yourself this question: what kind of person do YOU want to be?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness

I believe that happiness is contagious and a great way to spread it is through random acts of kindness. Something as simple as smiling at a stranger can really turn a person’s day around and put them in a great mood. In a society where we’ve become so disconnected from each other, living through our cell phones and the internet, it’s amazing how powerfully you can affect someone by reaching out a generous hand.

Just recently I had two close friends randomly send me letters in the mail filled with loving and thoughtful words of praise and admiration. There was no special reason for this, it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas and I hadn’t done anything nice for them. They committed these random acts of kindness out of the sincerity of their hearts and let me just say. . . the positive emotions of joy and happiness that they have aroused in me is truly incredible! With such a simple gesture they have made me feel so loved and honored and now I’ve been inspired to keep the momentum and spread this message of optimism to the rest of you :)

Sending personal, hand written letters to your loved ones is a great way to not only brighten their day but also your own. Doing nice things for other people makes them feel good and makes yourself feel good too, knowing you have positively influence that person’s life. Personally, I’ve been trying to smile and say “good morning” to every person I walk by on my way to work in the morning and while I don’t always get a response I do always feel great about my efforts. Going out of your way to give someone a compliment or helping push a broken-down car out of the road or paying the toll booth for the person behind you. . . all of these little things make the world just that much better of a place and help tip the scale towards a more positive atmosphere.

We have endless opportunities throughout our day to demonstrate kindness to others so take advantage of having the power to do so and make somebody smile!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Interrupt Your Pattern

At one point or another everyone gets stuck in a negative frame of mind. We find ourselves in a funk that’s just seemingly impossible to break out of. My friend at work and I call it wearing your “cranky pants” and it can be really hard to get them off sometimes.

What we need to do is interrupt our pattern. When we’re in these bad moods, it’s easy to focus on the fact that we’re in a bad mood and having trouble breaking out of it, which puts us in a worse mood and the cycle continues. It’s like when you can’t sleep at night and all you can think about is how you can sleep, which keeps you up even longer and on and on. We need to put our foot down eventually and say “Hey! I’m ready to be in a good mood now and I’m going to break this pattern!”

Now, however you interrupt your pattern is up to you, it just needs to be something new and different that you’re not used to doing. If you’ve been going straight home from work, in a bad mood and locking yourself in your room everyday then don’t go home after work, drive the opposite way and find a new restaurant to eat dinner at. If you’re stuck in the middle of work or school in a bad mood, go take a 10 minute break to give a homeless person a dollar. Anything that is a change to your daily routine will shift your state and give you an opportunity to start over in a better mood.

I was in a bit of a funk the past couple days after partying a little too hard in Vegas and spending a little too much money.  I felt like my life fell of course after all the great work I had been doing on my personal growth. So, instead of going straight home for another night of moping around, I stopped by the library on the way home, opened up an account and checked out a book. On the way home someone on the street commented on the book I was holding and I ended up having a great conversation with him and making a new friend. Obviously my previous routine of being in a bad mood the couple days wasn’t working so by simply changing up one course of action I opened the door to new possibilities and put myself in a much better place.

So use your imagination. The next time you find yourself in that repetitive cycle of sulking do something spontaneous and interrupt the pattern. Jog through the park, learn your favorite recipe and make it for your neighbor, jump in the pool of hotel you’re not staying at, howl at the moon, get out your old yearbooks, go on Pandora and listen to genre of music you never listen to. . . or write a blog ;) 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Secret

You have probably heard of “The Secret”, a book and movie that came out in 2006 claiming that you can have anything you want in your life by using the law of attraction. It basically says that if we desire something, all we have to do is focus our thoughts on what we want and we will attract it into our lives. Sounds kinda cheesy huh? Well guess what, it’s true!

I completely believe in the secret because I have experienced its power first hand. When I graduated college I took a job with a financial services company, soon realizing that I had no passion for that industry and that what I really wanted to do was work in the music business. There was a one in a thousand chance that I would actually make it in the super competitive world of Hollywood but I had a concrete vision of myself accomplishing my goal and total faith that things would work out and by the end of that year I had my own office in the famous Capitol Records building. How’s that for cheesy?

Most people tend to be fearful. They sabotage their dreams and goals by thinking about what would happen if they failed and not believing in themselves. The secret is that we will attract into our lives whatever we focus our thoughts on, so if you’re predicting failure and worst case scenarios then that’s exactly what you’re going to get!

If you can clear your mind of any negative thoughts and replace them with visions of success and prosperity, truly believing that the amazing things we dream of are possible, then I guarantee that you will start to attract the things you desire most into your life. So go ahead and start using your imagination to create the most rewarding and fulfilling life possible and have complete faith that this vision will come true. . . because it will!

*if you have 30 mins, listen to this recording, he explains everything much better than I can: The Strangest Secret - Earl Nightingale (1956)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What are your values?

I think it’s important to have a clear set of values, a list of the characteristics that you define yourself by and seek to demonstrate on a daily basis. All of us have values whether we are aware of them or not and they serve as the pillars to our personal identity. I encourage you to take a few minutes and get clear about what yours are. What are the most important principles in life that guide you everyday?

I recently sat down and wrote out my top ten values and composed this list:

1. Happiness/Fun – I think the most important thing in life is to ENJOY it! To smile, to laugh, to play, to sing, to dance, to be happy and have fun!

2. Love – This is strongest emotion we can experience. Both giving and receiving love is a vital part of being human and we must create endless opportunities in our lives for doing so.

3. Passion – I have to be passionate about what I do. For me, passion is like the breath of life itself, fueling every action I take and pushing me to move forward everyday with excitement and energy.

4. Honesty – Being honest with other people and also with myself is something I greatly value and am committed to demonstrating in all situations.

5. Sincerity – I want to be regarded as a sincere person that truly cares about others and am genuine in my interactions with all people. There is no room for being “fake” in my world.

6. Growth – I think that everyday is a chance to grow and that it’s important to put significant work into my personal development, allowing me to become a better person and reach my full potential.

7. Integrity – If you say you’re going to do something, do it! I try my best to be a man of my word and never let people down.

8. Health – I believe in taking care of my body through eating healthy and exercising, which has become a positive and beneficial habit that I greatly enjoy.

9. Intelligence – Leaders are readers. Books, essays, stories, articles, blogs and anything that can inspire an expanded insight and teach new things are vital tools that I use to satisfy my thirst for knowledge.

10. Contribution – The act of giving back to your community, of helping those in need and offering your services to people who need them is an admirable exploit that should be practiced by all.

Hopefully this inspires you to take a look at what your own values are and really consider the hierarchy of principles that guide you through life. Are you holding yourself to a higher level of standards or simply drifting by without a strong definition of your moral code?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Learning your lesson (and other people’s too)

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, to only see what’s right in front of us at that particular time and place and focus solely on the immediate problems we are facing. Sometimes our emotions get the best of us as we react to other people, finding ourselves absorbed in conflict and argumentative behavior and then replaying or recreating situations in our head till we go crazy. Don’t worry, this happens to the best of us and it’s definitely hard to keep your head above water during these times.

But I think there are two powerful questions that you can ask yourself to help break out of this negative thought process and put yourself in a place of emotional authority and growth:

1. What am I learning from this situation/interaction? Hit the pause button for a minute and get out of that particular moment so you can step back, rise above the situation and look at the big picture of things. The world and everyone in it are constantly teaching us lessons and sometimes we just need to open our eyes and ears and learn them! This will immediately change the way you feel, shifting your focus from the negativity of the problem to the positive opportunity for growth you’re embracing. Rather than giving your time and energy into something unconstructive you’re now becoming stronger and believe me, that feels a whole lot better!

2. What did I do to get myself in this situation? Whether you want to admit or not, your choice of actions and words have lead you to where you are. The sooner you take personal responsibility for that the better off you’ll be. By looking at your own behavior, rather than pointing the finger at other people and directing blame, you can retrace your steps to realize where things went wrong and then take a different approach next time around.

Also, make sure to learn other people’s lessons too, not just your own! People around us are always doing great things and not so great things. It’s easy to recognize what behaviors and attitudes lead to success and what do the opposite so model your life accordingly. A friend of mine was recently telling me about a guy at her work who was failing to accomplish his tasks and talking back to his supervisor, therefore developing a bad reputation around the office after not even working there for that long. I know it’s pretty obvious but. . . don’t be that guy! His strategy apparently isn’t working so learn the lessons from his mistakes: get your work done, don’t talk to back and you’ll soon develop a good reputation with your coworkers. Amazing!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

De-fense! De-fense!

Do you ever have the feeling like you need to defend yourself? Like someone is attacking your character and forcing you to stick up for your actions or beliefs? It’s a very annoying and frustrating position to be in.

However, we don’t NEED to defend ourselves against anyone! When someone is “attacking” you it is usually a reflection of that person’s own insecurities and lack of inner strength. Think about it, if you had solid confidence in yourself and true control over your emotions why would you ever be concerned with criticizing and judging other people? You wouldn’t! You would be fine letting other people live their lives as they please, unaffected by the decisions they make or beliefs they have.

We often react to such “attacks” by becoming immediately defensive, like a turtle pulling into its shell at any sign of danger. We get a tightening inside our chest and stomach that tells us to go into self-protection mode. But it’s important to realize that the problem is not with you, you are doing just fine and walking the path you choose. It’s the people that lash out towards you in discontent that have the real issues here.

Now that’s not to say that we should just unconsciously plow ahead with our lives, ignoring anybody else’s opinions and advice. It’s important to honor constructive criticism and really listen to people because many times you can greatly benefit from making some adjustments in your life, nobody’s perfect after all. But if you are investing the proper time and energy into your personal growth and have a firm understanding of who you are and what you stand for, let those that are less evolved say and think what they will. You are fine just the way you are.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What if?

No one wants to have any regrets in their life but we often can’t help but wonder “what if”? What if I decided to be a dancer instead of going to law school? What if I had asked out that girl I‘ve always had a crush on?

For me, it’s what if I had gone to UC Berkley and played rugby? I didn’t get accepted into the school when I applied but after winning the state championship with my rugby team senior year of high school there was a good chance I could have just waited one semester and started in the spring. I have this vision of me becoming the captain of the team and winning four national championships as an NCAA athlete. What if?

But unfortunately we can’t go back in time and live out these alternate realities we imagine in our heads because what happened has happened and we are where we are today for a reason. However, we CAN prevent ourselves from having these “what if” moments in the future and limit the amount of regret we have in reflecting on the past.

You probably have a good idea of where you’re heading in life right now, in the next one year, five years, maybe even ten years. You also probably have a good idea of what you truly desire in life, a vision of yourself living out your greatest dreams imaginable. Now ask yourself this question: Do the actions I’m taking today correlate with my true desires? Do they point me in a direction that will help make this vision I have become a reality?

Many people think their dreams are so big and so far-fetched that they are too scared to even try to make them come true, the probability of failure is too great. But that probability is never 100%, nothing is impossible afterall. Even if there’s only a 0.1% chance that you will succeed in accomplishing your goal, it’s worth taking the risk. Because let’s say you go for it and actually succeed. . . you would be living out your greatest dreams and desires! How incredible would that be?! And let’s say you don’t succeed? So what! At least you gave it your best shot and you can take pride in having the courage to try. But if you never even take that chance and attempt to follow your dreams then I guarantee you will find yourself in one year, five years, maybe ten years saying those two little haunting words and looking back with regret. What if?

So take a minute to listen to that little voice inside your head, the one telling you what you really want deep down inside, and go for it! Take action today to put yourself on the line and at least make your most valiant attempt. What have you got to lose?