Give Me That Old Time Religion!

10 Jan

This is a conversation about religion. Yikes!

Often, just the mere mention of the word religion will get people to unconsciously straighten their backs and tighten their guts, while waiting for whatever is coming next. For me, I’ve lost count of how many people, once they discover I am Jewish, who want to share with me the simple fact that as soon as I make Jesus Christ my lord and savior I would be welcomed into God’s Kingdom of Heaven. Since Judaism is considerably older than Christianity, by, oh what’s that number, 3,760 years, I’ve often thought of all my dead ancestors and where they wound up after leaving their earthly bodies.

But interestingly I do believe in Jesus. But more about the historical Jesus as described in Reza Aslan’s bestselling book, Zealot. I am also very drawn to the Gnostic Gospels found in Egypt in 1945. Gnosticism being more about humankind’s individual relationship with God than it is about having a strict organized religion, created by men, to control men and women, boys and girls, with fear and damnation.

Even as a little boy in Sunday school, learning bible stories out of the Old Testament, I could not reconcile a loving, creative and merciful God with one who would smote (here is a word you don’t run across too often) you if you by chance angered Him, or for that matter, Her. If this was what organized religion was about, than I didn’t want any part in it. Immediately after my Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen, organized religion and I parted ways.

Now does that mean that I am against organized religion for everyone? Of course not. Just because I chafe at the yoke of religious dogma does not mean that that very dogma, and the organization that exposes it, does not bring enormous comfort to those who believe in it. And religion does more than just comfort our souls, it brings structure to our lives. But in my life it is my relationship with God, and God alone, that brings me even more than just comfort and structure; it brings me enormous joy and happiness, unconditional love for ALL my brothers and sisters, and the knowing that God has asked me to fulfill a function while in this body, a purpose so-to-speak, that will benefit all of mankind. I am hoping it is through the words I write.

The opposite of Love is not Hate, it is Fear.

We are all at the beginning of a brand new year. We each have the power to make of this year what we desire. We do it through our thoughts, the choices we make, and how we face and overpower our fears. So please remember this: God gave each of us free choice. He will never interfere. But he does ask two things of us; that we make no decisions by ourselves — and that we always choose wisely. Have a wonderful year.

With Love,

Michael

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It’s Resolutions Time! Again?

30 Dec

I often wonder who came up with the idea to create a list of New Year’s resolutions. A list of all the things we are unhappy with about ourselves, and the “wish” that we will miraculously change over the coming months.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in change and I believe that each of us has the power within to change practically anything about ourselves. We are that powerful. No, what concerns me about New Year’s resolutions is the way we go about creating these changes.

Often the buoyancy of the holidays (too much cheer, food, spending) gives us a false sense of optimism when it comes to changing lifelong habits. We believe that change will come automatically when we once decide to make that change. Nowhere within the listing stage do we ever ask ourselves, “Can I do this? What plan do I have to succeed? What sacrifices will I have to make? Am I biting off more than I can chew?”

According to a January 2013 article in Forbes magazine only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions succeed. If a doctor wanted to perform surgery on you and then shared with you the fact that in better than 9 of every 10 patients the surgery was an utter failure, would you still agree to go under the knife. I have my doubts. Yet, millions of people will sit down over the coming days and create a list of changes they desire in themselves, yet knowing somewhere deep within, that they are going to fail.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t make New Year’s resolutions? Of course not. Go ahead and make your list, but then do the following:

  • Prioritize your list from least important to most important. Then choose the most important item on your list to begin. One item, no more. Once you succeed with this resolution the others will be much easier to attain.
  • Plan the next 90 days and how you’re going to succeed. I suggest learning and using SMART goals. You’ll find them in my book Overpowering Fear or just Google them. If you’re going to lose weight ask yourself, “What help do I need to accomplish my goal.” Over the years I’ve used Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem. Choose a system that feels comfortable for you. Don’t think you’re going to accomplish this alone, YOU WON’T.
  • (This example can be used for most goals). If your goal is to get more sleep create a log to fill out just before you go to bed. Write down the time you went to bed and if you’re not getting to bed on time, write the reason. Review this log at the end of every week. You’ll see that the reasons you wrote down were meaningless. If it was important for you to watch Scandal to the end, ask yourself, what the episode was about? If you can’t remember then it wasn’t very important.
  • Accept the fact  that no great change happens without some sacrifice. Whether it be food, time, alcohol, video games, etc. you are going to have to give up something. Prepare to give up the known for the unknown.
  • Because you create your life through your thoughts, don’t let thoughts of failure derail you. Done right, you have a greater chance of success than failure. Whenever a negative thought enters your mind causing unwanted fear say to yourself, “Thank you for this thought but I choose not to accept it. Instead I ask for a thought that is just the opposite.” It may sound crazy but it works.

For those who try my plan for accomplishing their New Year’s resolutions, I would love to hear back from you. Tell me your successes and your failures. My goal is to make this work for everyone.

Love,

Michael

Giving Up the Old for the New!

20 Dec

The crucial element of the vacuum law of prosperity is that I must let go of the old, before I can ever make room for the new. ~From the book Born Rich

I’ve often thought about why it is so difficult for people to change, to turn their life around, even when it’s not going in the direction that they’d like? We all know people like this. It’s one disappointment after another. One catastrophe after another. One failure after another.

Because I am an expert on fear I’m going to submit that it is fear that prevents people from changing. But fear of what? Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Is it fear of failure? But this individual has already failed at things in their life. Is it fear of rejection? I’m sure they’ve already been rejected and not just once. Is it fear of embarrassment and humiliation? Perhaps, but everyone feels embarrassed and even humiliated at times, even those with high self-esteem and self-confidence. No, I’m going to suggest that it’s the fear of the unknown.

We, as modern day human beings, live in comfort zones. They make us feel safe and secure. But, it is our inborn fears that prevent us from venturing outside the limits of these zones. Even when, in our imagination we can clearly see the perfect person we long to be; one who is happy, secure, successful, self-confident and a winner, we are still afraid to take a risk and make changes to our lives.

I can understand why people would choose to live with the same old, same old. It’s known and it’s safe. To us the unknown is a very scary place. We believe in that old axiom, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” And so we don’t give up the bird in our hand, even though it may be sickly and dying (think of your job or relationship), to risk going after the two plumper birds in the bush.

There is a universal law that says that nature abhors a vacuum. What that means is that as soon as you give up one thing, another comes in to fill the void. And most often the new thing is better than the old thing you gave up.

The above quote is out of the book Born Rich and is a positive affirmation. As long as you hold to the fear that by giving up the old nothing new will come to you, you won’t risk making the changes that will bring you your perfect life. As you take the first steps on your journey the first old thing to give up is this old belief. And you do it by repeating the positive affirmation above. At first, your mind won’t believe it is true. But repeat it over and over to yourself daily and in time it will become the truth. At that point you will now be comfortable enough to give up the old you, for the new you. This new magnificent perfect you.

Love,

Michael

What Me Worry?

17 Dec

It’s been said that 97% of what we worry about never happens. And yet, for some of us, it’s seems almost impossible to put a stop to worrying. What is worry? The psychiatrist Carl Jung characterizes worry as a substitute for legitimate suffering. In other words, it’s neurotic, not helpful and a waste of time. Worry is when your thoughts run wild, sometimes to the point of being delusional and out of control. One negative thought attracts another, followed by another and so on until all you can see on your path is disaster. Everything is absolute, and everything is a catastrophe.

How does this happen? Why is worrying likely to cause a tailspin or downward spiral? When you start with one negative thought put out into the universe, the thought is like a magnet, attracting like thoughts. The level of vibration in a negative thought finds similar thoughts because they are vibrating at the very same frequency. Suddenly you have a bundle of worries, creating fear and depression. What you feel in any given moment is always the result of what you’re thinking at that moment.

Recently a friend of mine was selected to give a speech at an upcoming charity event. Betty is a highly intelligent and accomplished woman well known in her field, which is why she was asked to speak. Betty wasn’t thrilled, in fact she was petrified. Very much as I was when I was in New York to accept the Best Toy Store award for Magic Village toy store in San Jose, CA. And just like me this woman could think of nothing but catastrophe. What if I forget what to say? What if my voice cracks? What happens if I lose my place? What happens if I mispronounce a word, or worse yet, someone’s name?

In the weeks prior to the speech all she did was worry. Now think about this. She allowed herself to be consumed by fear and worry for weeks leading up to the event. Were these happy times for her? Of course not! Her worrying overshadowed everything she did in those weeks; her job, time with her family and friends, the pleasure in her romantic relationship, and her peace of mind. And, for what? Nothing. Worrying was a waste of her time, energy and happiness. Did she do well when she actually gave the speech? Absolutely, she was great. Did any of the things she worried about come to pass? Yes. Her mouth was a bit dry at the beginning and she felt a bit dizzy walking up the stairs to the podium. Then, she took a sip of water, took a deep breath and looked out at her audience. She suddenly realized she was just human, the same as everyone sitting in front of her. If she made a mistake, and she did, she still felt the thrill of getting to talk to so many people about why she supported the charity, and why the organization means so much to her.

Nobody asked for perfect, and you never have to show up perfect. We’re all human. We will make mistakes. It’s all part of life. I’ve spoken to hundreds of groups over the years and I will tell you this, not a one of those talks was perfect. I made mistakes. As long as I live I will continue to make mistakes. So what? Who cares? They don’t and I certainly shouldn’t.

Love,

Michael

It’s Never Too Late!

12 Dec

It is never too late to be what you might have been. – George Eliot

George Eliot, was the pen name used by Mary Anne Evans, a Victorian novelist.

The reason I enjoy the above quote so much is that it is a message of hope. That as long as we are alive we still have the power to change our life and become the person we have always wanted to be.

How often do we hear people say, “You made your bed now sleep in it.” It is a condemnation of the person they are addressing, that they have screwed up so badly that there is nothing left for that person to do but accept the consequences. To just live with it no matter the hurt and pain.

I don’t believe that. I believe that we are the sum total of all the choices we have made in our lives, both the good and the bad. Often, because of fear or expediency, we make wrong choices. And, each wrong choice moves us further away from the perfect path our creator wanted us to follow. Until our perfect path is just a distant memory.

But, in this one sentence, Ms. Evans tells us that there is hope for all of us. That there is nothing that we have done or said that cannot be corrected. That no matter how much time has passed and no matter what our journey, we can still become the person we have always wanted to be.

I believe it. I hope you can too.

Love,

Michael

From Failure to Success!

10 Dec

Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success. ~Napoleon Hill

It is my belief that each of us is born for greatness and that each of us deserves to have everything that we desire. But how many of us actually achieve this, our destiny? Not many I’m afraid.

In my lifetime I’ve known people who seemed to have all the attributes for success; intelligence, charisma, charm, personality, and a host of other qualities. Yet, no matter the industry or other career path they’ve chosen, they have always struggled. And I’ve known people who lacked most of what my first example possessed, yet they have risen to the top, almost effortlessly. If you managed a sales force or owned your own company you know what I mean.

Up until about a dozen years ago I was like most people, baffled why some succeeded while others of greater talent floundered. I had an inkling that it might be because of fear and the individuals inability to fight through and overpower their fears. Hey, all I had to do was look at myself, a fear based person since birth.

In studying fear I came to realize that all of us feel fear, very often the very same fears as others, but some have the ability to feel the fear, yet do what is necessary to succeed. While others allow fear to stop them in their tracks.

I came to realize that one of the greatest of all fears is the fear of failure. Most of us acquired this fear when we were quite young, probably after our egos got bruised when our classmates laughed at us for a wrong answer. As we got older this fear actually grew and we began to avoid taking risks in our lives. Risk is nothing more than giving up the known for the unknown. But the unknown almost always includes failure.

When you were just an infant you learned how to crawl, then you learned how to pull yourself up to a wobbly standing position, albeit holding on to something for support. Then you let go of that support and took your first step. Did you then race across the room doing back flips? No, you probably plopped back down to the floor. So, you crawled back to that table or chair for support and started all over again. Did you think of yourself as a failure? Of course not. This is how we all learn.

Was there a seed of success in failing and failing, and then finally learning how to walk? Of course there was; you learned to run, to jump, and to dance.  

I am now going to give you permission to fail. Yes, go ahead and take a risk. It’s OK to fail. Why do I want you to fail? Because that’s how you learn. That’s how you grow. And please remember this: Failing does not make you a failure. It just moves you one step closer to success, as long as you don’t give up.

Love,

Michael

Corporations Are People Too, Right? Part 2

6 Dec

In my previous blog we discussed the difference between a human being and a corporation; a conscience, or lack thereof. Let’s pretend that a large corporation has a manufacturing plant in a small Midwestern town. 100 years ago it was started by John Smith who was born and raised in the town. Over the years that the Smith family owned their company the company prospered and grew, and so did the town. Often a local family could boast of three or four generations who worked for the Smiths.

In the 1970’s John Smith’s descendants were no longer interested in manufacturing and decided to sell the company to one of their competitors. The company prospered under the new owners and so did the town. A decade later the new owners sold their company to Mega Corporation, one that didn’t directly manufacture any products but made their profits strictly by buying and selling these portfolio companies.

The new owners of John Smith’s company, looking to maximize their profits, and thus increase shareholder value, realized that they could increase their margins by 3% if they moved their manufacturing facilities to Mexico. To top management and the board of directors this seemed like a good plan. The company wins and the shareholders win. The only people who lose are the employees and all the local businesses in this Midwestern town that depend on the salaries of those employees.

Let’s suppose that the John Smith company had 500 employees, and the average household had 3.5 people. Laying off those 500 people directly affects 1,750 people with no means of support and few prospects for employment. With those 1,750 people having less income (or none at all) they spend less at the local stores; supermarket, pharmacy, coffee shop, clothing store, service station, local bank, etc. With less everyday sales these stores start hurting and soon start laying off workers. With less revenue from property taxes and retail sales taxes the local and county government begin reducing services and laying off workers. Fewer teachers to teach the town’s children. Fewer police to protect its citizens. Longer response times for the fire department and emergency medical technicians. Crumbling roads and bridges.

In addition, the John Smith Company bought raw materials and supplies from a wide range of regional companies. When the manufacturing plant closed these companies lost a long standing customer. If they could not replace the lost revenue, they too would have to lay off workers.

All this happens because a group of “suits” felt that a 3% increase in margins was best for the company’s shareholders, plus the CEO keeps his job for another 90 days. (If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about – I was a “suit”).

The above fictional scenario is a classic example of what has happened to America. It is an example of the Law of Cause and Effect. Mega Corporation had no qualms about moving manufacturing to Mexico for a 3% increase in margins. The survival of the town was never a part of the equation. After all, as the Mafia says, “it’s only business!”

Would the Smith family, in good conscience, have done the same? Somehow I doubt it.

Still think corporations are people too?

Love,

Michael