Does Drive = Success?

In our lives there are many variations of the drive that people have within themselves. Some have an unending push to always excel at everything. Some work to be successful, but are content with balancing life and work and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Others just coast in hopes of making it through each day until they get to the next. Each has it’s positive and negative aspects and each maintains a level of drive to varying degrees that achieves what they are trying to accomplish, no matter the level of effort required.

When determining whether or not each of those different levels of drive is successful, you have to really understand what the measurement of success is. What is considered successful for you may not be the same for another. We also fall into the trap of measuring another’s success by our own standards, which may not always be accurate. Would you consider a person who works 14 hours a day, lives in a large mansion, has more money than they can spend yet has no time for their family, lives on antidepressants and never takes a vacation successful? How about a person that gets up in the morning, performs their 9-5 job admirably, pays their bills, attends their children’s extracurricular events, yet spends everything they make and lives one lost paycheck from poverty? Or, how about the person that gets up, goes to their restaurant server job, pays their bills, spends time at the beach, hangs out with friends and generally enjoys life?

By their standards, all of these people might consider themselves successful. Yet, when we evaluate them by our own standards we potentially see things very differently. My point is that success is not something to be defined by others, it is something that is determined within our own lives. If we are maintaining the appropriate drive to get us to a level of satisfaction with our lives, where we feel that we have accomplished our objectives, whatever they may be, then by our own definitions we have achieved success. It is when we use others definition of success to attempt to achieve levels that are not even possible in our own lives that trouble begins to happen.

Success should be determined internally, personally and within the confines of our own lives. Drive is innate within us. Some have more than others and it is because of that drive that some achieve more than others. That doesn’t make one right or wrong. It just means that the level of success for one individual can vary greatly from one person to the next.

Take a look within. Are you driving yourself to be the best you can be by your own standards? Or, are you driving yourself to a level of success that is determined by others and potentially unachievable. We often unnecessarily set ourselves up for failure by putting undue pressure on ourselves to achieve levels of success that are not possible. At the end of the day, if you can lay your head on your pillow at night and say “I did my best”, even though you may not have accomplished all you would have liked, that is true contentment and an admirable drive to success.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Passion and Compassion

It has been a little over two years since I started the Bring Smiles to Seniors program and during that time I have had the pleasure of encountering some of the most passionate and compassionate people on the planet. People who believed in us and took a chance on a small non-profit that they read about, but did not really know. These were people that believed in our cause and decided to jump in full force to help us ensure that seniors continue to smile.

One of my favorite times of the day is when I go out for lunch and make my post office run to mail prepared cards to our senior communities. In doing so, I get to pick up the days mail and sometimes those days are just like Christmas for us. Often the mail box is empty, but on some days there are so many packages that we have to actually see the desk clerk to obtain them. Then comes the joy of opening each and every one and getting to view first hand the treasures that are inside.

Over the past two years we have received the most beautiful cards that I have ever seen. Imaginative, creative, detailed. Some are made from scratch, others have been repurposed into something brand new. Then there are those that are simply folded pieces of paper with artwork and messages from children that turn them into something magical.

Whether we receive one card or hundreds, every one is equally important and every one eventually results in a smiling senior on the other end. We are fortunate to have a group of repeat donors that are the lifeblood of our program. These amazing ladies will send boxes of cards containing 200+ cards at a time…all hand created…all amazingly beautiful. You only need to look at our Instagram or Facebook pages to see their talent on display. Then of course there are those amazing ladies that decorate for us!

There is something magical about taking care of seniors in hopes that they will be remembered and not forgotten. It brings out passion and compassion in people that is unmeasurable. Sometimes it is because of an experience in our own lives. Sometimes it is because that is the nature of the person. Maybe it is because we all know that God willing we are all going to make it to that stage of life one day. Whatever, the reason the magic is palpable, beautiful and a wonder to behold.

The one thing I never assume is that tomorrow is guaranteed. That is why it is incredibly important to me to make the most of every minute of every day. It is also why I share the passion and compassion that you all have for what we do. If you haven’t quite found that one thing that drives passion and compassion in your life, seek it out. It does’t have to be our program, although we would be thrilled if it were, but make it something that nurtures your soul and gives you one more reason to get up in the morning and smile

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

It is NEVER OK!

When you look back over the course of your life, there are moments that stand out that became defining moments for who you are and what you believe. Events happen unexpectedly that often change your very being and cement your stance on a particular issue. One such moment for me came in my senior year of high school.

I worked two jobs in the summer before I left for college. In the morning I worked at the five and dime where I had been employed for over two years. In the afternoon, I went to the new Burger King in town in hopes that I would get some fast food experience in case I needed a job in college. It was at the latter that my life literally changed one night.

I had been at the job for several months and just as it had at my five and dime job, the work ethic that was instilled by my grandmother drove the way I worked. The “never do a job unless you are going to finish it and never do a job unless you do it right”, mantra constantly played out in my head. It was all I knew. Because this was quite different than the work ethic of others in my generation that worked in the fast food industry, I naturally stood out to management. While this may have seemed like a good thing for me personally, it wasn’t received quite so well by my peers. They felt like management played favorites with me and there was one person in particular that took it worse than others.

I blocked out the name of this person long ago, but can picture him like it was yesterday. He started to pick on me at work and tell me that I was doing things just to make him look bad. In doing my job, and he slacking off at his, somehow I was making him look bad. I didn’t care about him enough to put out that kind of effort, but for some reason he saw it quite different and he was determined to let me know just how he felt.

One night after we closed the restaurant, I went out to my car and he was still inside. As I sat in the seat of my car, I felt a tug at my door as I tried to close it. Before I realized it he was standing in between my door and me and just started punching me in the side of the face repeatedly. I screamed, no one came and eventually he just stopped and left and I sat there stunned. Somehow, I started the car and drove through every red light in town home until I got inside and started wailing. My mother and grandmother drove me straight to the hospital where I had contusions on the side of my head. Fortunately, he had been hitting the hard part of my head and I avoided major damage. The hospital wanted to call the police, my grandmother insisted that they not. To this day, I still do not know why.

Believe it or not, work did not fire the boy and instead made us sit down together and promise that we were going to get along. Obviously, it wasn’t the place for me anymore, yet despite that I stayed and worked along side my attacker, staying as far away as possible, until I finally left for college. It was at that moment on that dark night in 1980 that taught me that it is NEVER OK to put your hands on another human being and I vowed that no one would ever put their hands on me again. We are not punching bags for others aggression, verbally or physically and there is never a valid excuse for treating another human being that way.

I made it through that night and although there are times when it still haunts me, I am stronger for it. Do I wish it never happened? Of course! However, I learned to turn rage into compassion, which is maybe what grandma was trying to teach me by not calling the police, and I am the one that is better for it.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Learning to Appreciate What You Have..When You Do Not

How’s that for a convoluted title? Hopefully, by the end of this post it will all make sense. As we go through life it is very easy to take what we have for granted. It’s always there, even if we have to work a little harder for it. Because of that we assume that it always will be. Mom and dad always provided to make sure that we had food on the table. We had jobs that enabled us to provided sustenance for ourselves. Yet, all it takes is one adverse event and in the blink of an eye everything can change.

When I left the Air Force in 1985, I left the security blanket that the military provides. You always had housing, food and medical care and you never had to worry where your next meal was coming from. It was readily available in the mess hall whenever meal times rolled around. Your paycheck showed up every month and even if you blew all of it, you still had a roof over your head and food in your stomach every day. Leaving the military, I was suddenly faced with the reality that I had to pay rent, buy food, take care of bills and all the things that come with living on your own. All of that on a part time job and the reality was startling.

There was a period of time where after taking care of the necessities there just was not enough left for food. I would get up and go in my kitchen and it would be completely bare. I would go days without eating and at 5’11 and a 27′ waist, there was not a lot of room for weight loss. Fortunately, my parents lived a few hours away. Although I hid the fact that I was going through this from them, I eventually did tell them and the tongue lashing that I received was well deserved. When I would go and visit them they would make me go in their pantry and “go shopping” for food and I would take bags of food home with me when I would return.

Eventually, I got a full time job and things turned around. Going through this trying period was painful, but it was a lesson I do not regret. It taught me the importance of appreciating what you have and showed me the realization of what it is like when you don’t. It helped me build on my compassion for people that struggle and find themselves without. Our program manager Linda tells me all the time that she constantly gives thanks for the things she has. She gives thanks for her food, her health, her housing, her family and all the blessings that have been bestowed on her. It is equally important that we do the same.

My hope is that you will never have to experience what I did to learn to appreciate life’s blessings. Learning to appreciate while we have, often prevents us from finding ourselves in a circumstance where we are without. Take a look at your own life today and if you haven’t shown appreciation recently for all the things surrounding you, make a point to do it. When we appreciate we open up the opportunity to not only sustain what we have but create room for more.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Does What They Say Really Matter?

When I was a kid, I was one of those people that stayed pretty much to myself and often walked with my head down. I was always concerned about what people thought of me. I thought that everyone had to like me or I was a failure. That’s a pretty tall order for a kid, much less an adult. As you can imagine, the pressure that it puts on a person can often be an unbearable burden.

Going through life trying to please everyone, often at the expense of your own personal happiness, is tough. Caring about every little thing people say about us and taking it to heart is even tougher. For some reason, we allow people to have this hold on us and we give them the power to continue their actions. That is until we learn to take that power away from them and then amazing things start to happen.

If we only knew this as adolescents, growing up would have been a whole lot easier. If we knew that people who treat other people badly only do so because of the insecurities they have within themselves, we could have at least started to understand. If we knew that the only reason people said the things they did to bring us down was to lift themselves up, it would have made it easier. When we carry this never ending cycle into our adulthood without addressing it we only exacerbate the problem.

It was probably well into my forties before I finally got it. I started to understand that the only way what people said about me mattered was when I gave them the power for it to matter. I learned that only I could give them that power and unless I took it away the cycle would repeat itself over and over. When I took a deep look inside and evaluated the people in my life that were contributors and started to “prune them from my garden”, only then did I realize that I had all the power to make a difference.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to tear people down when we are doing well and they aren’t. People seem to have a hard time celebrating others success when things aren’t so right in their own lives. Unhappy people don’t like happy people. Unsuccessful people don’t like successful people. They will say whatever they can to make them feel a little better about themselves.

The beauty comes in when we learn that what they say does not matter and has absolutely no effect on our lives as a whole. How successful we are, how happy we are, how content we are with our lives can only be derived by us and no one else. We have the absolute power to determine the course of our life. Once we learn that, believe me I know first hand it is a hard lesson to learn, our life becomes very different and what they say really does not matter.

Have a great weekend and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Why I Write

One of the questions I get asked the most is why I write? I am a firm believer that writing like any other talent is a gift and gifts that aren’t used and shared are often lost. There are so many talents that people possess that they are often unaware of. Others recognize and nurture their talent and make the decision to share them with the world. That is exactly what I chose to do.

At an early age I had a passion for writing. When I was ten I went to the five and dime store and bought myself a hard back ledger people used to keep track of accounts. I cut a bunch of pictures out of magazines and pasted them on each page of the ledger. I wrote a poem about each one of the pictures. I continued writing about anything I could think of and I found it stimulating and fun. I would spend hours at a time in my room writing poetry and stories.

The main reason I continued to write was because I was encouraged to do so. Several posts ago I talked about letting children be creative and express who they are through their abilities. I was very fortunate to have a family that let me do just that. They celebrated my talent, rather than discourage it and were always there to read my latest work and provide feedback and encouragement. Never once did they stifle my creativity and that gave me the passion to continue to write over the years.

There were several times that I went down the road of trying to write a book and for some reason I always got just so far and would either lose interest or reach a mental roadblock that prevented me from continuing. However, I always knew that I would find an outlet for my writing, where I could share it with others and now that has finally happened.

When I started the blog at bringsmilestoseniors.com, I once again attempted to write. The problem was that no one read the site and I felt like I was writing to a ghost audience. Then I discovered this blog where people could actually sign up to receive the posts regularly and the magical match was made. I had the outlet to share my writing and stories with you and I found it incredible therapeutic for me.

My posts are never meant to convey that I know it all. That is far from the truth. They are meant to share with you experiences and feelings from my point of view. They are also meant to provoke thought in hopes that something in my words may provide a reason for you to take a look at and evaluate something that may be going on in your own life.

Do you have the gift of talent that needs exploring and sharing? If so, uncover it and reignite the passion for the talent you possess. When you do, share it with others so they too can be encouraged to do the same. So, to answer the question why I write….I write because of my passion and it’s my way of sharing my gift with you.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Respect

This morning, when I was trying to decide what I was going to write about today, for some reason the word Respect kept coming to my mind. The more I thought about it, the more I tried to determine what type of respect I was really thinking about. Eventually, it came to me. Respect was not necessarily about who or what, it was also about respecting ourselves and everything around us.

Every day we have to look at life as a gift. The things we have, the people that are in it and even our own personal being. We must care for all of them with a nurturing attitude and show them the respect that they deserve. People often say that respect is earned and not given. To some degree that may be true. However, I also believe to earn respect you have to show and convey respect as an example.

Those that have come into our lives as family and friends always have a choice to be there. How we treat and garden the relationships ultimately leads to the amount of respect that exists between two individuals. Without respect there cannot be trust. Without trust there cannot be a relationship. Each person in the relationship has a responsibility to maintain the level of respect that is necessary for that relationship to flourish. However, I believe in order to achieve that we have to first respect ourselves.

I sometimes stand in front of the mirror and take a long look at myself. Not my physical outward appearance, but deep into my soul. I ask, based upon my actions in life, how people really see me. Do they see me as the person I want to be; kind, compassionate, generous and loving? Or, are my actions in life conveying something different? I ask myself whether or not I respect myself enough to be able to garner respect from others. Basically, am I living a life worthy of respect? When I can answer those questions in the positive and truly respect myself, it is only then that I can fully expect respect to be reciprocated.

Finally, it is equally important to respect things. We work hard for the things we have and sometimes have to do without to understand the importance of material things. Our homes, our belongings, our cars, our personal effects, all of them are a gift of life, whether we worked for them or they were given to us. I truly believe that life only gives when we respect what we are given. What would be the purpose of life giving us more when we don’t even respect what we have?

If you feel that there are areas of your life where respect may be missing, it is not a hard fix to turn that around. The most important place to start is with yourself. Once you have masted the art of personal respect, you will find that it will be much easier to give and receive respect in all other areas of your life. It is when we truly learn to respect life as a whole that it becomes more meaningful for us and all those around us.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Connections for Life

Image compliments of Pixabay

As we go through our lives people are constantly coming in and out. We meet people that we never see again. We meet people that we don’t see for a long time but somehow they find their way back into our lives. We also meet people that come into our lives and in one way or another stay there for ever.

I am very fortunate and count my blessings every day that I have a very close group of friends that have been my friends for 20 years or more. That’s pretty rare that a group of people could stay together so long and I let them know how much I appreciate them in every way that I can. I have reconnected friends that were acquaintances for at least that long that share a part of life’s history. I have new friends that seem like they have been a major part of my life forever. We can never take friends for granted as they are only on loan to us for this lifetime and we have to make every minute count.

I tell Linda (our program manager) all the time that people don’t come into our lives by chance, they come into our lives because they were meant to be there. However, when we make those important life connections, some people feel like it is the quantity that counts and not the quality. They have so many “friends” that there just isn’t time to devote any decent amount of attention to any one group. However, my philosophy regarding nurturing and taking care of these life connections, is that the old saying the “more the merrier” doesn’t work. I have seen people stretched so thin that getting any time on the books with them takes months, which in the end makes it hardly worth the effort. At the same time, there are those that you may not see for years that when you do meet up again, it seems as if time has never passed and you pick up right where you left off. Those are the true friends meant to be in our lives.

Perhaps it’s time to make a reconnection with those people that have come into your life, with whom you may have fallen out of touch. Maybe there are people in your life that you just need to show how important they really are to you. There could even be those that you just want to reach out to today and say hello. Do it! Make the time. We only get one life to enjoy those with whom we have been bestowed the blessing of a life connection. Growing those friendships is a two way street with responsibility on both sides. Nurturing is an important part of growing and it is only with that effort that friendships become true life connections.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Living in the Moment

How many times do we look forward to an event or even just go through our day and almost miss it? Miss it because we are so busy thinking about tomorrow, next week, next month or even next year. We are so worried about what is to come that we fail to enjoy what is right in front of us.

We spent this weekend with friends, where I really made a conscious effort to be in and enjoy the moment. The conversation, laughter, sharing and pure enjoyment of being with them. I didn’t write. I didn’t think about work. I didn’t even think about what was coming up for the next week. For that weekend I was just living in the moment and it was magical.

Life is sometimes hard with all the responsibility we have. The things we can control often make it hard, while the things we have absolutely no control over often makes it even more difficult. We spend so much time planning and executing that moments slip by us that we don’t have an opportunity to regain. If we take the time to enjoy them, it is those unexpected moments that arise that become moments that create those memories that last a lifetime.

I often hear others (and myself) say they can’t believe how fast time is going by. Here we are in June with 2018 almost half way over. If I look back over the last six months, I can point to events that happened that I sailed through with out taking the time to just stop and be. Events where I was so focused on what was going to happen that I failed to enjoy what was happening. Because of that I made a conscious effort to be more present in the moment. The reward of doing that is wonderful.

When you take the time to live in the moment you learn new things about yourself and others that may have previously been words flying by. You see things that you have never seen before. You gain new understandings about people and situations because you take the time to evaluate. You build better friendships and relationships with new foundations from which you can build.

If I think back on what I did this weekend, I can remember every conversation and activity in detail. Two days seemed like a week vacation because I took the time to be present and enjoy. As you go throughout your day today, look for those same opportunities. Be present in the moment. Live life one moment at a time as it was meant to be. That doesn’t mean you can’t plan for the future. What it does mean is that you won’t miss opportunities that arise that can make your life even more special, because you choose to live in the moment.

Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.

Ron

Goals…Making, Achieving and Exceeding

Throughout my whole life goals have been a very important part of how I operate. Without goal setting it is very hard to create a path to success. While they can be simple and not overly complex, they are an important part of growing. Setting goals and not achieving them provides you with new information to realign and reset your goals to achievable levels. Setting goals and achieving them helps build the self confidence you need to create even stronger goals that help guide you through life.

Goals are also an important part of my work and definitely a part of the Bring Smiles to Seniors Program. Our first year in operation we delivered 7,719 cards. In 2017 that number grew to 18,810. In 2018 we set a goal to break 20,000 and here at the end of May we are over 14,000. In our logo the tag line is “one smile, one card at a time”. While we have a big number to hit, we do it one card at a time and thereby celebrating our successes along the way to go bigger and better than we ever have before. Liane, who runs our special mailing program, always says that goals are made to be broken. It is that kind of attitude and will power that all our volunteers possess that drive us to exceed even our own expectations.

In line with goal setting, we are announcing a new campaign today called “Smiling 50”. During the course of this program we have provided cards to senior communities in 15 different states and continue to deliver to 11 continuously. Our goal now is to deliver to at least one senior community in all 50 states. We kicked the campaign off yesterday with cards sent to non-profit senior communities in Alabama and Alaska. We will continue through the alphabet until we get to Wyoming. Our success depends on a lot. We need to receive enough cards to be able to meet our current delivery obligations and this expansion. We need enough connections to get the cards decorated so they can be prepped for delivery. Finally, we need to continue to collect the rare donations that we receive to cover our postage costs, which are the main expense in our program. Because we don’t set goals we can’t achieve, we believe all of this is possible, but also the reason I am not setting a time frame for it to happen. However, knowing the power of what we do, I suspect this will happen much sooner than we think and we will celebrate success one state at a time. We will create a section on our webpage at bringsmilestoseniors.com to track our progress.

As you look at your own lives, examine the things that you want to accomplish. Pick just one thing, set an achievable goal and avoid setting yourself up for failure before you even begin. When you have mastered that goal, or even exceeded it, move on to the next one. Most importantly, celebrate your successes along the way. Celebrating is an important ingredient to building the self confidence you need to create future success. We will be rooting for you and look forward to hearing about your endeavors.

Have a great weekend, see you on Monday and remember to be the reason someone smiles today.

Ron

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