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Toy Drive

A friend of mine, Jeff, is a a canine officer with the Miami-Dade County Police Department. His partner, “Bo”, is a seven year-old German Shepherd…and Bo loves his toy.

His adored plaything – a knotted up piece of sturdy rope – gets Bo so excited, so playful and it revs him up every time he sees it. I have witnesed this…and it is amazing.

That toy centers him, focuses him and when it is waved in front of Bo during his dangerous job of flushing out fugtives, Bo knows that if he follows Jeff’s commands and get’s the bad guy, he’ll be playing with that toy in no time. Bo does it all for the toy. Jeff calls it his “toy drive”.

Do you have your own “toy drive”? What’s your toy? What do you get excited about everyday? What (or who) do you adore that inspires and energizes you?

What do you do it for?

Give ‘Til It Hurts (By BJ Gallagher)

Fellow 8′ers,

While I have a seemingly endless trove of entries to post here on the Live the 8 blog, I was moved today to share this wonderful piece a good friend of mine, BJ Gallagher, just wrote for the Huffington Post. BJ lives the 8; and she knows what it means to do what matters. Read it…learn it…live it…and give ’til it hurts!

———————————————–

Give ‘Til It Hurts
By: BJ Gallagher
Posted: 06/13/11 01:51 PM ET @ http://huff.to/mCFQqH

Reverend Ed Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, stood in his pulpit, resplendent in his flowing white robe and colorful vestments. He’s a big man with a booming voice and charisma enough to light up the sanctuary without candles. On this particular Sunday, he was practically glowing with joy — energized by his guest of honor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Prize-winning peacemaker from South Africa.

“Most people say, ‘Give ’til it hurts,’” Reverend Ed announced to the standing-room-only congregation. “But I say, ‘Give ’til it feels good!’”

The crowd’s laughter and applause thundered their approval. The choir burst into song as ushers made their way down the aisles with collection baskets.

This wasn’t just any Sunday — and it wasn’t just any collection. Archbishop Tutu had come to All Saints to tell us about the latest developments in his homeland. Apartheid had been abolished and the country was now embarking on the long, slow, painful journey of healing. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had been established to facilitate the healing process. It was a court-like body, chaired by Archbishop Tutu, which played a key role in the transition of South Africa to a full and free democracy. Anyone who felt that he or she had been a victim of apartheid’s violence could come forward and be heard. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty and forgiveness.

But, as Reverend Ed pointed out to us that Sunday morning, justice isn’t free. It costs money to hold tribunals, to handle the paperwork, to underwrite the process of hearings and all the administrative details. So he asked the congregation to dig deep into our pockets and purses, since he was giving all the donations that Sunday to Archbishop Tutu to help support the ongoing work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“I’ve never done this before,” Reverend Ed said, “But I’m going to do Viagra 100mg it today. I am urging to give what you can, in whatever form you can. If you want to donate your car, we’ll take the pink slip. If you want to donate jewelry, we’ll take that. If you want to give cash or a check, or even put your donation on a credit card, fine. We’ll take it all. We here in Southern California have a wonderful standard of living — we’re rich by any standard. So I’m asking you to give as much as you can to the people of South Africa to support their healing and reconciliation. Most people say, ‘Give ’til it hurts’ — but I say, ‘Give ’til it feels good!’”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. We were so moved by Tutu’s sermon, so inspired by his moral authority and loving compassion, that we could do no less than give our all.

As the collection basket made its way toward me, I wondered what to do. My business had been slow, so I had no extra money to give. I needed my car, so I couldn’t donate that. What can I give? I asked myself. I desperately wanted to support this marvelous process unfolding in South Africa. I wanted to contribute something — no matter how small — to the good people half-way around the world.

The collection basket finally came to me and I looked down into it, still not sure what to do. As my hands cradled the basket of love offerings, I noticed that I was wearing a 14K gold and garnet ring my mother had given me on my 12th birthday. Instantly, I knew what to do. I took off the ring, put it in the little white offering envelope, and dropped the envelope into the collection basket. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I passed the basket to the person next to me. I imagined the South Africans melting down my gold ring to help pay for their national healing. I was filled with gratitude and happiness to be a tiny part of something so momentous, so important, so essential to humanity.

As I wiped away my tears and joined the choir in song, I realized that Reverend Ed had been right. I gave … and it felt good.

BJ Gallagher’s new book is If God Is Your Co-Pilot, Switch Seats (Hampton Roads).

Living Your Values

“To thine own self be true.”

Core Values are at the heart of who we are and how we want to be known. This Hamlet quote takes an interesting twist when viewed through the lens of core values. When our values are being met, life is great. When they they are not…not so much.

What if you could orchestrate situations where your wants, expectations AND core values are fulfilled? The key is to pursue your personal core values in all your activities and relationships, and then support other people to do the same. But first, you must know your core values.

Know Your Core Values

The life changing events and major milestones from your life point directly to your core values. You can easily find your core values by noticing which values are touched upon or triggered when remembering the high and low experiences from your past.

  1. Consider times at work or in your personal life, where you were deeply satisfied and happy. Look for “peak experiences” and memories Levitra 10mg you cherish. What deep values were being met at the time? Write down each event along with the values fulfilled by the experience.
  2. Consider other times when you were deeply saddened, hurt or disappointed. These are the kinds of events that you may have promised, “I’ll never do that again!” What values were not being met, or possibly violated, that made it such a miserable experience for you? Write down each event along with the values missing from the experience.
  3. In both the high and low moments, look past the emotions, feelings, and thoughts you had at the time, to find the values. True “core” values are intrinsic and of vital importance to you.
  4. Go back through your lists of experience and pull the top 3-5 essential values that really light you up: the things you just must have to be happy and fulfilled. Which qualities would you consider central to your life and career?

Now, you can live your life, “to thine own core values be true.”

Disconnected: Loneliness & How to Combat It

The more I’ve learned about happiness over the last few years, the more I’ve come to realize just how terribly depleting and unfortunately common the state of loneliness is for many people.

Two months ago, after reading John Cacioppo’s book Loneliness, I talked about loneliness with some of my friends, family, colleagues and even a few clients. Several people mentioned that one question really occupies them as it relates to loneliness:

When I’m lonely, what do I do about it?

I recently finished another fascinating book, Lonely — a memoir by Emily White, about her own experiences and research into loneliness. White doesn’t attempt to give specific advice about how to combat loneliness, but from her book, I gleaned these strategies:

  1. Remember that although the distinction can be difficult to draw, loneliness and solitude are different. White observes, “It’s entirely reasonable to feel lonely yet still feel as though you need some time to yourself.” Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.
  2. Nurturing others — raising children, teaching, caring for animals — helps to alleviate loneliness.
  3. Keep in mind that to avoid loneliness, many people need both a social circle and an intimate attachment. Having one of these elements may still leave you feeling lonely.
  4. Work hard to get your sleep. One of the most common indicators of loneliness is broken sleep — taking a long time to fall asleep, waking frequently, and feeling sleepy during the day. Sleep deprivation, under any circumstances, brings down people’s moods, makes them more likely to get sick, and dampens their energy, so it’s important to tackle this issue.
  5. Try to figure out what’s missing from your life. White observes that making lots of plans with friends didn’t alleviate her loneliness. “What I wanted,” she writes, “was the quiet presence of another person.” She longed to have someone else just hanging around the house with her. The more clearly you see what’s lacking, the more clearly you’ll see possible solutions.
  6. Take steps to meaningfully connect with other people. Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change. The pain of loneliness can prod you to connect with other people. Unfortunately, loneliness itself can make people feel more negative, critical, and judgmental. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in that way, you can take steps to counter it.

Most people have suffered from loneliness at some point. Have you found any good strategies for making yourself less lonely? What worked — or didn’t work?

Being On Time

Feeling as though you’re always running twenty minutes behind schedule is an unhappy feeling. Having to rush, forgetting things in your haste, dealing with annoyed people when you arrive…it’s no fun.

If you’re chronically late, what steps can you take to be more prompt? That depends on why you’re late. The first step is to Identify the problem – then you can see more easily what you need to change.

There are many reasons you might be late, but some are particularly common. Are you late because…

  1. You sleep too late? If you’re so exhausted in the morning that you sleep until the last possible moment, it’s time to think about going to sleep earlier. Many people don’t get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation is a real drag on your happiness and health. I’ve become a sleep nut since I wrote my book. Getting enough sleep is really important.

     

  2. You try to get one last thing done? Apparently, this is a common cause of tardiness. If you always try to answer one more email or put away one more load of laundry before you leave, here’s a way to outwit yourself: take a task that you can do when you reach your destination, and leave early. Tell yourself that you need that ten minutes on the other end to read those brochures or check those figures.

     

  3. You underestimate the commute time? You may tell yourself it takes twenty minutes to get to work, but if it actually takes forty minutes, you’re going to be chronically late. Have you exactly identified the time by which you need to leave? That’s what worked for me for getting my kids to school on time. We have a precise time that we’re supposed to leave, so I know if we’re running late, and by how much. Before I identified that exact time, I had only a vague sense of how the morning was running, and I usually thought we had more time than we actually did. My son goes into near-hysterics if we’re late, so that motivated me to get very clear on this issue.

     

  4. You can’t find your keys/wallet/phone/sunglasses? Nothing is more annoying than searching for lost objects when you’re running late. Designate a place in your house for your key items, and put those things in that spot, every time. I keep everything important in a “valet” atop our bedroom dresser, and Viagra my wife keeps her key items on a barstool near the kitchen.

     

  5. Other people in your house are disorganized? Your wife can’t find her phone, your son can’t find his Spanish book, so you’re late. As hard as it is to get yourself organized, it’s even harder to help other people get organized. Try setting up the “key things” place in your house. Prod your children to get their school stuff organized the night before—and coax the outfit-changing types to pick their outfits the night before, too. Get lunches ready, etc.

     

  6. You hate your destination so much you want to postpone showing up for as long as possible? If you dread going to work that much, or you hate school so deeply (or wherever your destination might be) you’re giving yourself a clear signal that you need to think about making a big change in your life.

     

  7. Your co-workers won’t end meetings on time? This is an exasperating problem. You’re supposed to be someplace else, but you’re trapped in a meeting that’s going long. Sometimes, this is inevitable, but if you find it happening over and over, identify the problem. Is too little time allotted to meetings that deserve more time? Is the weekly staff meeting twenty minutes of work crammed into sixty minutes? Does one person hold things up? If you face this issue repeatedly, there’s probably an identifiable problem – and once you identify it, you can develop strategies to solve it — e.g., sticking to an agenda; circulating information by email; not permitting discussions about contentious philosophical questions not relevant to the tasks at hand, etc. (This last problem is surprisingly widespread, in my experience.)

Late or not, if you find yourself rushing around every morning, consider waking up earlier (see #1 above). Yes, it’s tough to give up those last precious moments of sleep, and it’s even tougher to go to bed earlier and cut into what, for many people, is their leisure time. But it helps.

I’ve started getting up at 5:00 a.m. so I have an hour to myself before I have to rassle everyone out of bed. This has made a huge improvement in our mornings. Because I’m organized and ready by 7:00 a.m., I can be focused on getting all of us out the door.

If you’ve conquered chronic lateness, what are some strategies that worked for you?

Something Has to Change

I recently visited a large company to give a talk about the guiding principles in my book. From all appearances, it was a well-run company doing good things.

Many of the employees came up to me afterwards to chat, and I asked each of them, “How are things at __________?” Most of them said that things were good, and I had no reason to doubt them.

Others had a different response, and either from what they said or how they acted, it was obvious that they weren’t happy. Several of them talked with me confidentially and said variations of the following:

“It’s not a bad job, Dave, but my creativity is very limited”.
“I find myself constantly daydreaming of [something else]“.
“I liked it here at first, but now I feel stifled”.

These statements were invariably followed by something like: “I shouldn’t complain, because everyone tells me how good I have it. Lots of other people have been laid off or can’t find a job in the first place. Besides, I have good benefits here.”

Hmmm. Yes, it’s good to be grateful for what you have. Lots of people do have it hard these days, and that’s unfortunate. But here’s the thing: it can be a good job at a good company, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. In fact, if Buy Ativan you’re constantly daydreaming of something else, having a good job can be dangerous. A good job can keep you from a big life.

Sometimes what makes sense during one season doesn’t make sense in another; a commitment that was fulfilling at one time loses its allure. In these situations, pretending all is well is usually the wrong answer. If you’re discontented, it’s up to you to make a change. And if it really is a good company or organization that has treated you well, you’re not serving it well in return by giving it less than your best.

Aside from remaining stagnant and trudging along, when you find yourself in a good job that no longer meets your needs, there are only two options:

1) Find a way to bring the joy back to the good job.
2) Find a way to say goodbye to the good job.

You might think that leaving is hard. Of course it’s hard — it would be much easier if it were a bad job. Then the situation would become urgent and you’d do everything you could to get out as soon as possible. But because it’s good enough, you stick around.

That’s why, one way or another, something has to change.

Question: Have you ever found yourself discontented in a good job? What did you do?

Shift Can Happen

Several times since my book came out, people have come up to me with copies of The 8 for signing. “My [boss, wife, sister, colleague] doesn’t understand what matters to me,” some have said, “So I’m going to give them your book.”

“Thanks,” I have replied a few times … although I feel a little squirrely about signing books for people who don’t necessarily want them. I’ve invented a specific dedication for these copies, though:

“To John: I’m not sure you’ll like my book, but your coworker isn’t crazy.”

“John” could have been “Mom and Dad” or someone’s business partner or brother or manager at work, who sincerely cares about the people around them, but sometimes (he said with a real positive spin on it…) cares a little too much to let them have their own happy, healthy, productive life. Sometimes the generational gap is reversed, and it is the kids who worry about their parents. Sometimes coworkers are so wrapped up in their own journeys to see you on yours, and how your pursuits impact them and theirs. And sometimes bosses fail to see that an employee’s purpose-driven life is directly connected to their company’s profit-driven motives.

Guess what? I don’t think that simply reading any book (let alone mine) can change perspectives like that. That’s the bad news that I’ve discovered in my short time on this planet: it’s rarely that simple to change someone’s mind. To those on the outside, examples of successful people (or companies) who are living their values and getting more done aren’t very persuasive sometimes, because people (and organizations) always find reasons why someone else’s success can’t be replicated.

But thankfully, there’s also some good news. If you want to influence the people around you, you don’t have to buy my book (oh boy, the publisher’s gonna’ love this post) but instead, you can lead the way through your own peacefully productive actions. They are not going to change their worldview or their perceptions of you based on something you post on Facebook or Twitter, or by what I write in the front of my book. But when people see you following through on your dreams – and living your life on purpose – they can’t help but notice. Then the shift happens.

The challenge you face, therefore, is to be courageous in the face of opposition from those around you – “John the Colleague”, “Barbara the Mom”, “Frank the Dad”, “Betsy the Boss”… all of them. This is no small challenge, since you would much rather fight dragons or vampires or something that is clearly evil. Your family isn’t evil (despite what may be evidence to the contrary), your boss probably isn’t wicked (regardless of how that last performance evaluation went) and you probably can’t ignore these people and their perceptions. But I’ve learned something else in my short time on this planet, and it became especially clear while writing The 8: you can’t ignore your power and your purpose for very long without eventually losing your connection to both.

Some battles are better won by example than by persuasion. So you can talk forever about the shift you want to make at work or in your life; why you want to study a subject you’re interested in instead of one people think would lead to better career options, or why you want to communicate more openly and honestly to coworkers and customers, or whatever. And by following this well-trod path of just talking about it, you may make marginally incremental progress in the form of compromise. But while you’re judging yourself by your great intentions, the people around you are judging you by your actions.

More than just talking about making a shift in the direction your life’s headed,  you can put it in perspective for the people around you: I’m doing these things in my life today because they are important to me. I’m willing to give up other things to make it work. I am willing to do what matters today. I am willing to walk the talk.

More often than not, people will get used to it over time. You may always be thought of as the black sheep at the office, the strange one on your sales team, the outlier in the family. But you’ll eventually earn your right to freedom and maybe even some grudging respect from some of the “evil-doers” around you.

Then they’ll say, oh, there goes _____ again. That’s just what she does. Or they’ll think,  _____ has another crazy idea to fulfill his purpose in life… but the last one worked out pretty well for him.

And once in a while, a funny thing happens: they’ll learn from the decisions you made and the actions you took, and how you stepped out, faced down your fears, tapped into your talents and focused on what’s most important to you in your life. (They may or may not realize that some of your fears had to do with them, but by then, it won’t matter.)

So for those of you on a dysfunctional team at work, in an “interesting” family or embedded in a workplace culture where doing what matters is implicitly misunderstood; or for anyone else who feels pressured to be like those around them and dare not blaze their own trail, it’s all up to you now to lead by example. Who knows — maybe John, Mom, Dad and Betsy will end up shifting with you. Because (in one last insight I’ve gained in my short time on this planet) …

Shift can happen.

Now…go make it happen.

Surrender To Win

Back in “the day” – when I was a full-time addiction therapist – we used to talk with the patients all the time about turning it over. All of the clients on my caseload were actively working the 12 Steps of some recovery program (e.g: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gambler’s Anonymous, etc.) and this topic of discussion in my group therapies and individual sessions was a direct reference to Step 3 in that recovery process: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him”. It is as difficult a Step as any for people in recovery to get their heads and hearts around. It means giving up. It means giving over control. It means recognizing that you can’t make most changes in your life on your own (not most of the healthy ones, anyway). It means that your best plotting and planning likely got you here (wherever that “place” is for you – physically, mentally or even emotionally) and you may want to consider connecting with a “higher power”. It means…you must surrender to win.

Here’s the thing. This concept – the idea that one can find hope, strength, comfort, relief, even joy in surrender – doesn’t only apply to people in recovery from addiction. The idea can (for those of us that choose to accept it) be a freeing experience for the rest of us, too. And it doesn’t have to be a “religious” or “spiritual” act. For me, to “turn it over” means to ask for help with something. I’m not saying that’s how you might define it, or that it directly mirrors any Step in the recovery process. It’s just my way. It means reaching out to a power greater than me for hope, for guidance, for clarity and for peace. Sometimes tapping into that “power” is a spiritual experience for me, and other times – most times, in fact – it’s less abstract and easier to measure. It’s a conversation with my wife. It’s asking for help from a colleague. It’s reaching out to my children and Generic Viagra asking for a hug. There’s no greater release from my bondage of self than an embrace from my two children.

Now, I like things that are predictable and easy to measure. I look for things that fit those two criteria everyday. That’s also why I have to surrender, and turn things over, about twenty times a day though; because I’ve learned that life is full of people, places and things that constantly force me to confront my unrealistic expectations of concrete predictability. Very few things in life – at work, at home, with family, with friends – are “predictable” or “easy to measure”. Not sure if that’s true for you? Get out a piece of paper right now and write down all of the things that are true about your life today and are EXACTLY as you predicted they’d be five years ago. Even a year ago. Heck, even a month ago. And try to “measure” that relationship with a challenging colleague or a micromanaging boss. Not so easy, right? It might be time to turn some things over and ask for guidance. It might be time to let go. It just might be time to surrender. If you’re like me, surrendering to what you can’t control yourself and what you should no longer allow to rent space in your head and your heart, can be a big life-changer.

If you choose to “give up” (contrary to what my baseball and soccer coaches told me, and opposite of what cultural ideas have been drilled into me as a man in this world) you may just find some peace. Turn your problems over to a friend who can help you and whom you trust completely. Pray if that’s what works for you – and give it up to the higher power of your understanding. Write your problems on a piece of paper, stuff it inside a balloon, put some helium in it and let it fly away.

Whatever it takes, just remember that you don’t have to go it alone and that surrender doesn’t always mean defeat.

Getting Out of Line

Every year, the school my children attend holds a festival to celebrate the holidays. There’s always a ton of great food, games and rides for the kids. This year, responding to a great suggestion from one of the parents, the school decided to reach out to two local homeless shelters and invite some less-fortunate families in our community to join in the fun; with all of the ride tickets and food they wanted at no cost to them. About fifty or so men, women and children from the shelters showed up and boy, did they seem to have a wonderful time.

At around 8:50PM, ten minutes before the rides were to shut down, I found my ten year-old son Kevin in line at a bungee ride with three of his friends. Then the man overseeing the attraction began counting heads in line: “Eighteen…Nineteen…Twenty. Sorry, kids…” he said, looking at the twelve or so children behind the twentieth head tapped, “…we only have time to allow these first twenty to ride, then we’re shuttin’ ‘er down”. Kevin was the twentieth, right behind his three friends, and I could see him quietly mouth his joy…”Yesssss!” he whispered to himself, as he and his buddies exchanged high-fives and wide smiles.

For numbers twenty-one through thirty-two though – the children in line who weren’t tapped to ride – there was no celebration, just tears and many long faces. That’s when I happened to notice that all of the kids who were going to miss the ride had red paper wristbands. They were our guests from the neighborhood, many of whom had most likely never even seen this bungee ride before, let alone gone on it, as many of the school’s students in line had done each year. “Wow…” I thought to myself, “…this is not good.” So I stood and watched. I watched as the adult chaperone who was escorting the children from the local shelter asked the attendant if he could make an exception. And I watched as he (and not too politely) said “No”. Then, I watched something beautiful happen.

As Kevin and his friends talked about how fun the ride was going to be and how lucky they were to make the cut, I watched Kevin turn towards the children that had been in line behind him as they walked away with their heads hung low. There he was – the last boy standing, the lucky one – and he was going to enjoy the only ride he talked about for a week leading up to the fair. Then, with no hesitation, that last boy standing got out of line and walked over to one of the children walking away. “Hey, come on back”, Kevin said; “…there’s space for you!” Kevin’s friends were yelling at him: “Kevin, wait! Where are you going?!” And Kevin walked back the twenty feet or so and all of the twelve shelter kids were beaming right behind him. “Guys…”, Kevin said quietly, “…we need to get out of line and let casino en ligne quebec them go. We’ve gone on this thing a thousand times. Come on.”

Two of Kevin’s three friends stepped aside. One stayed in line (he won’t be coming over to our house anytime soon) and then the sixteen kids in front of them saw what has happening. So did their parents who were watching with me. One at a time the parents called their children out of the line; some leaving without even being asked. One at a time their place in line was taken by one of our guests at the fair. Within about a minute, all twelve children who would have otherwise missed the bungee ride were in line, exchanging high fives and wide smiles. And the students who gave up their spots…some were walking away with their heads hung low.

But not Kevin.

Kevin came over to me and said “Dad, let’s go get something to drink, I’m dying of thirst.” And he ran off with his buddy Justin to the drink stand. I just stood there. Utterly amazed. Incredibly moved. Fighting back tears. As I followed Kevin I shook hands with a few of the Dads that had been standing there with me and one of them said, “Dave, Kevin did that.” “I know…”, I said, “…I know.” I was speechless.

I wasn’t shocked though. Kevin (and I say this as humbly and as objectively as I possibly can) is a very kind, compassionate soul. That he would make the sacrifice – and lead others to follow his decision – did not surprise me. I’d seen him lead before, on the baseball field and in our neighborhood. What was so moving to me was not just what he, his friends and other students and families did. What moved me was how he did it. No fanfare. No hesitation. No glory-seeking. No sulking. Not even a word about it…just a run to the drink stand. Man…I wish I could be more like my son.

Later on, when we all got in the car together and headed home, I turned to Kevin in the backseat as he glanced out the window at the ferris wheel. “Kev, I’m so proud of you. You got out of line for the kids from the shelter and let them go on the bungee ride. I love you so much right now and I want you to know that you did a great thing tonight.” “Thanks Dad. They were from one of the shelters you think?”, Kevin replied quizzically. “Well sure, buddy. Didn’t you see their wrist bands?” I asked. “Nope.  They just looked upset and I didn’t want them to be sad. Plus…I’ve gone on that ride a thousand times.”

He didn’t even know. I REALLY wish I was more like Kevin.

So…are you in line right now? Is there an opportunity for you to step aside, to lead, to allow someone else to have the glory?

Let’s look for the opportunity to share some joy – during the holiday season and year-round.

Let’s get out of line.