Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘integrity’

A Life of Meaning

‘We are gathered here together to get through this thing called life.’ This line from the musical icon Prince says it all. We have chosen this time to learn our life lessons and celebrate along the way. Prince showed us the power in diversity, acceptance and love. His message of unity is perfectly juxtaposed in a world of discord and division. He stood for social justice and lending a hand to those in need. The timing of his death seems to serve as a signal to all of us…to think, do and love. 
Prince challenged us to feel something bigger, deeper within ourselves. You could feel the Universal light force in him. He did not allow himself to be bound by time, race, gender or profit. He was beyond, above all of that, and pushed us to celebrate the importance and magic of life.
What causes a performer to be able to reach audiences spanning from their 20’s to their 80’s – beyond genres and generations? Simply, the universal values of truth, caring, acceptance and love – the ultimate wins in life. His songs, a true inspiration in themselves, were paired with a quiet philanthropy that only a few of his closest friends were even aware of – ‘just quietly do from your heart’ could have been his tag line. 
His spiritualism was evident from his famous 3 lens sun glasses (the middle lens designed to emphasize his third eye – the eye of enlightenment and higher consciousness) to the famous lyric, ‘I never wanted to cause you no trouble, no pain, only wanted to see you laughing in the Purple Rain.’ When we think of the words in that hit song we can imagine the rain as a cleansing element. When paired with the color purple which represents imagination, strength and integrity it signifies the union of body and soul in spiritual fulfillment. Faith in something bigger than himself gave him the personal power to carry on and on and on to produce 39 albums in 35 years – an unheard of accomplishment. 
Prince literally had his name taken from him (at birth he was named Prince Rogers Nelson by his mother) early in his life as both his music and name were hijacked by the music industry – all in the name of profit. He was also challenged by personal choices of escape. Yet through it all he continued to work to show us that no matter how grim things appear, we must never give up seeking truth to become a better person. 
The mark he made on our world was evident. Last night the entire New Orleans Super Dome was awash in purple light, the streets closing in Brooklyn so people could dance to his music and the emotional tributes offered by so many including the President. Kind just takes your breath away.
It’s not just his music but his message of inclusion, acceptance and celebration of the life force within us that will help us survive, thrive and evolve as we face tomorrow.
I visualize Jimmie Hendrix, Michael Jackson and David Bowie, among others, extending their hands to him as he passed on and with a nod and smile simply saying, ‘Welcome home brother, thank you for a life well-lived.’
Have a meaningful few days.

The Truth of the Matter…

As children we were raised to always tell the truth – don’t lie, cheat or steal – and to treat others as we wanted to be treated. There was even a time when a firm handshake indicated a commitment – our word – to support an endeavor. Yet, lately these values seem to have been pushed aside by many and truth telling seems to have become a rare commodity. Did this happen overnight or was it a slow creep that we at first disregarded and then came to accept as the new norm? Whether we are dealing with areas such as the big pharma companies, college sports, financial institutions or more recently from some seeking the presidential nod we witness questionable ethics. Truth is being stretched, manipulated or even denied. As people we are left to wonder is truth even attainable and if so how do we access it?

Let’s look at a few specifics. I know of a person who has a serious medical condition that requires daily medication. Over the past four years this same medication has increased from $12,000 per month to nearly $20,000 – same dosage, same regime. Yes, you read that amount correctly – $20,000 – and since she has insurance this monthly cost is primarily picked up by them. That still doesn’t make it right.

Or how about the Southern Methodist University basketball player whose high school academic record was mysteriously altered to make him eligible to be recruited and play at the college level. You may think to yourself – I’ve heard similar stories before so you know the sad ending. The student eventually hits a brick wall but in the meantime, the institution makes hundreds of thousands of dollars off their skills. That’s not right.

Recently, we read reports that some financial institutions had been fined millions of dollars for their highly questionable practices (basically summed up as they win and we lose) yet when they were caught they were allowed to simply pay the fines and continue working in the same field. Seriously! ..that’s not right.

A few of our presidential candidates are even promising to fix everything – by themselves – a sort of one man band – without working through Congress. Do we really believe that anyone working alone can fix any and all ills that presently effect us? Forgetting about cell phone videos one candidate visiting Michigan recently announced at one of his events that due to space limitations, ‘thousands of people are outside unable to get a seat today.’ Ahh … here it comes … the YouTube video of this same event showed about 75 people and not ‘thousands’ were outside – some of whom had come to the event to protest. Why the need to exaggerate? Hmm… bigger is not necessarily better. Again, that’s not right.

Actually, amid all of the chaos we can access fact checkers, videos, and on line information like never before to help us separate the wheat from the chaff. But here is the challenge – we have to make time in our lives – even 15 minutes a day – to check further and not simply believe statements that are purposely repeated and repeated with greater flair each time in an effort to burn into our brains as ‘truth.’ The old adage stands… ‘If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is…’

I’m too old to believe a savior can ride in on a white horse, wave a magic wand and improve things overnight. It has taken years – decades even – to get to this point. But is it too much to ask for our business and political leaders to be held accountable and forced to demonstrate honesty? We need leaders who can be adults and put people above profit and truth above theatrics.

I will continue to refuse to believe that all is lost or that honesty was a thing of the past or accept the oft heard comment … ‘that’s just the way things are’… Instead, I will make a personal commitment to question, to seek the rest of the story, to use my brain to analyze the reality of the situation and be willing to gently but firmly share what I have discovered with others as I listen to their point of view. This takes time but what price are we willing to pay to reestablish integrity and honesty? What type of nation do we want our children and grandchildren to inherit?

I will continue to believe that everything happens for a purpose – that what goes around comes around – and to accept my responsibility in making positive change happen. The energy we put out to the Universe makes a difference. I choose to be a positive force of change, in my own way to the best of my ability. Because truth is not for sale to the highest bidder.

Have a great few days!

Determining Your Authentic Self

Have you ever felt that you are not being appreciated or that you are doing all the giving or supporting in a work or personal relationship? If you answered yes to this question let’s look a bit deeper into it. Could it be that you are so interested in getting others to accept or appreciate you that you have not allowed your authentic self to show? Is the fear of people really knowing you blocking you from showing the world what you truly stand for? If so, let me assure you that being authentic draws people to you – not ever away. People can feel truth.

Being authentic starts by first determining what is most important to you in life. As unique individuals we each have specific values that we hold most dear – those things that are truly nonnegotiable to us. Think about them as your personal mission statement. Values such as love, accomplishment, fairness, compassion, confidence, courage, health, freedom, family, harmony, integrity, kindness, optimism, patience, service, trust, orderliness, peace, spirituality, and gratitude are just a few from a long list of values to consider. Each one speaks volumes. Once you determine your own priority of values navigating through life becomes so much easier. In essence, you become more confident and decision making becomes easier because you are more at peace in your own skin.

A helpful way to determine your authentic self is to choose five values that you find most important. You know, the ones that seem to radiate energy back to you as you consider them. The list of words above can be a starting point to consider. The list is long for a purpose. The process is important. Evaluating each word forces you to take the time to consider what it truly means to you. Determining your top five forces you to prioritize as you remind yourself of who you are in your heart. Once you have taken the time to determine your own nonnegotiable values life becomes easier. When you encounter decisions, challenges or obstacles (the should I or shouldn’t I) in life you have a measuring stick to help steer you on a course of action reflects the real you.

Growing more confident as an individual means that you allow your unique identity to be known by others. But…’what if they won’t like me or accept me for who I am’ you may wonder. It’s true not everyone may like you. Just as you do not necessarily like everyone you encounter. It’s simply a cold, hard immutable fact of life. There are bits and pieces in everyone’s personality that leaves something to be desired. It’s called being human. These little quirks in others can be overlook but the values behind them cannot. A person’s values determine not only who they are but what they will do in a pinch. That’s important to know. Likewise, if we try to morph ourselves into something we do not truly value in order to fit in or be accepted it just doesn’t work. We project insincerity or insecurity that is easily felt by others.

Determining the values you hold dear helps you project with confidence who you really are at your core. Just as truth has no versions – your authentic self has no versions either. Any future role in life will never define you because deep down you know what you stand for – no pretenses necessary. Taking the time to determine your authentic self is critical to self esteem. The process alone will help you begin to truly love yourself for all the strengths you possess and there are many! Give it a try and take the time to decide on your top five values … you’ll be glad you did!

Have a great few days!

Have You Seen a Miracle Walking?

Miracles can happen! I have heard of two just during the first 2 weeks of 2015. Have you ever experienced something in your life that just seemed too good to be true? Well, miracles are like that and they happen all the time. The important thing is to recognize them and be grateful.

When something happens to us that brings us greater joy, peace or love and we are grateful for it we are actually sending a message to the Universe that we are open to even more miracles in our life. It’s not magic but the power of positive thought that pulsates out to the Universe guiding more of the same back to us.

Some people seem to be miracles walking. They are the people who choose to see the goodness and possibilities that exists in this world. They are the ones who are busy helping others along the way. Their selfless acts build up just like an invisible bank account of positive energy and consequently they seem to have good things happen to them often. At first they may attribute these things simply to their good luck or hard work. Although both of those things are important the real powerhouse is in their thinking. They truly live a life of positive expectation.

When they experience difficulties they know in their hearts that it is time for a mid course correction and without fanfare or drama go about making the changes necessary. They accept responsibility for what happens – never using excuses or placing blame. They seem to have found their own special niche in life and are quick to recognize both the large and small things that happen to them as opportunities for growth.

These types of folks have the self-confidence to say no when it is necessary and yes when it is possible. They can always be relied upon to deliver what they set out to do. Their word is their bond. We can feel integrity emanating from them miles away – often just their signature alone is enough to help us breathe easier knowing things will get done.

You can recognize these folks because they seem to walk with pride and happiness as their constant companions. They are humble in their achievements and always give more than is expected. They experience genuine happiness as they celebrate the accomplishments of others.

Above all these types of folks are grateful. They have learned the importance of gratitude and know it is the key that opens all of the world’s doors to them. They just seem to be a living miracle in so many ways.

Over the next few weeks look for miracles in your own life. The more you recognize them with gratitude the more often they will happen. Miracles are beautiful messages from the Universe that you are loved.

Have a great few days!

How Do You Define Success?

What if your life at this exact moment is trying to teach you a lesson about genuine success and happiness. What do you think that lesson would be? What would you defined as success in your life? Is it highly individualistic or amazingly similar to others?

Early on in life we may hear people defining success as achieving the dream job, acquiring wealth, a multitude of friends and being able to call their own shots? In my decades of living this list sounds like a work of fiction rather than real life. We hear a similar type of thinking when someone says, ‘If I could only win the lottery I would buy…go…and do… and then I would be happy.’ Not really, the research is quite clear, most people who win the lottery end up worse off both financially and emotionally later in life. They do not deem their lives to have been happy or successful even with the windfall of money. Why is that? Maybe success in life is simpler than we think.

The people I know who are successful have worked hard, very hard in fact, to achieve something. They understand the need to delay their own gratification while working toward a longer term goal. Friends? They do not have a multitude of friends but a few very close friends and family that care deeply about them. They didn’t win the lottery but won something even better – confidence and pride in themselves. For them, success was not bought or sold but earned. There is no quick fix to success. They can see with pride the impact they have been able to make on others through their hard work. They have remained humble regardless of their accomplishments. Untouched by triumph and untroubled my failure. Challenges are viewed by them as opportunities from which to grow and learn. They realize that everyone has issues throughout their lives and that they did not draw the short straw. There is simply no inoculation available that allows immunity from life challenges or tragedies. We all receive exactly what we signed up for in this life – no more no less. Blaming others? Never…they accept responsibility for things that happen and realize that by blaming others they will never mature into adulthood. Age is a given, growing up is optional.

Research verifies these observations. When successful people have been interviewed in an attempt to understand how they achieved their success the answers were surprisingly simple. Hard work, integrity, caring for others, and working toward a vision and goals that they had set and reset became their mantra throughout their lives. There was no magic bullet, no Santa Claus, no winning lottery number but rather the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly work it takes to make a difference and achieve happiness and success.

Have a great few days!

Barilla Out/Bertolli In

This website is about deepening our understanding about human emotions especially dealing with grief and loss. The topic of loss comes in many forms. An important one is the loss people experience from a lack of respect from others due to their lifestyle. We are, after all, created by the same Universal Energy of pure love. This site is about trying to make the world a better place one person, one blog, at a time. Rarely do I enter into current events unless my heart moves me to do so- and it did today.

Guido Barilla, chairman of the world’s leading pasta manufacture on Wednesday stated, “I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role.” Why am I having a hard time accepting his explanation? The latest add for his company features Antonio Banderas baking biscuits (it seems there are 15 different brands and products made by the Barilla company) and talking to children about a chicken called Rosita. It was MR. Banderas who was featured in the add – but didn’t Barilla argue his point by saying ‘women play a fundamental role? Mr. Barilla also said he opposes adoption by gay parents. Ah…the real issue surfaces. No question where he stands on the topic of respect and equal rights. After a firestorm on social media sites, Barilla responded, “I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding…” His words ring both hollow and insincere. Notice he didn’t apologize for being discriminatory but simply of “generating controversy” sounds like he is worried about the bottom line – money – and his PR folks were probably pleading with him, on bended knee, to recant his words. Mr. Barilla I think, ‘ thou protests too much!’ One just has to wonder why.

Misunderstanding really? Mr Barilla there is no ‘misunderstanding.’ Your comments were judgmental, offensive and lacked the integrity needed for a leader of a major company. You have a right to your own extremely limited perception but NOT as a CEO of a major company you inherited from your father which employs over 13,000 people. I wonder how some of your employees who are, no doubt gay, feel working for a company that promotes such discrimination. Do they have to hide in the shadow hoping not to be discovered and fired due to your stance? You made yourself both sadly and perfectly clear. Your comments were not a simple misunderstanding but a hateful and judgmental attack. You might want to contemplate on the statement, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’

Now it is up to us, as consumers, to stand up and be counted. There is no place in my world that can accept a company that promotes discrimination, that includes Chic-fil-A and any other company that promotes division and discrimination among people. I accept the suggestion from Mr. Barilla that if his words upset me, simply do not eat his pasta – actually I could no longer stomach it. With each bite his comments would ring in my ear. Now let’s see if his 5.4 billion in net sales with be likewise effected. It’s up to us to decide.

It is good to know that alternatives exist. For instance, Bertolli, another Italian pasta maker company is NOT discriminatory and chose to feature a commercial highlighting a gay couple back in 2008! Imagine that! The character of this CEO and his company speaks volumes. They now have me as a permanent customer. I’m putting the intention out there that over the next year or so Bertolli will increase their sales by 40% because of both the integrity of their company and the quality of their product.

There is no room for discrimination, judgment or hateful comments in my world. Not now – not ever. Mr. Barilla will reap what he sows. That’s just how the Universe works.

Please forward this blog on to your friends and family. Information is a powerful thing. Let’s give others the chance to make a difference – an informed choice – so everyone can be accepted and treated with respect.

Have a great few days!

The Importance of Tenacity

Roger Ebert, THE film critic, author and first journalist (of three) to win a Pulitzer Prize passed away on Friday after a long battle with cancer. When he lost his voice to the disease he found a way to ‘keep on keeping on’ his work and became an avid social media user on both Facebook and Twitter. He refused to give up simply because his voice was gone along with part of his jaw. Although he could not eat or drink as we do, he found sustenance in other ways. Communicating to his nearly 600,000 followers was too important a task to walk away from – tenacity – he had it in spades. He created the now familiar thumbs up sign which became a trademark used by he and his fellow critic Gene Siskel who died in 1999. Demonstrating his passion for connecting with others, he posted his last blog on Wednesday, two days before his death.

What an impact he had on this world! Michael Moore credited him with his own success when he enthusiastically endorsed Moore’s first movie, ‘Roger and Me.’ The integrity of Ebert’s message was felt by both the large film industry as well as the small independent film producers. Movies should stand for something, make an impact and deliver a message along the way.

The tremendous success he experienced came from his honesty, hard work and passion for his field. He believed that the significance of films was in how they could sensitize us to go where we had never been in our minds. He encouraged us to stretch our sensibilities and walk in another person’s shoes during the 90 minutes of a well made movie. His reviews were never ‘bought or sold’ to the highest bidder. If he gave the thumbs up sign, you knew the price of the theatre ticket would be money well spent. He was a person who lived his truth in service to others and just happened to love his job along the way!

During his battle with cancer some people told him he was a brave inspiration. Shunning the accolade he replied that “courage and bravery have little to do with it. You play the cards you are dealt.” He did not want praise or pity but to simply be allowed to keep on going and apply his steely determination to contribute to our views for tomorrow.

Reflecting on death he wrote in 2010 that he did not fear it because he “didn’t believe there was anything on the other side to fear. I was perfectly content before I was born and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting.”

He lived life to the fullest and made an impact along the way. I wish him well on his journey. Tonight when we gaze up at the sky we might see a star flickering a little more brightly than the rest. It may be Roger Ebert telling us he has arrived and to keep on going regardless of our challenges and to remember to enjoy the ride as we give it everything we’ve got to make the world a little better place. ‘Roger on that…’

Have a great few days!