leaving a legacy, self improvement, The Inspired Life

As a very small child, whenever I would get discouraged, I would plop myself down on the floor like a doll made of rags and let out a hopeless wail. “I Can’t…..” would be my pitiful cry. “I don’t know how, it’s too hard, I’m too tired.”

My mother would turn on a dime, narrow her dark Italian eyes, laser beam them into me and say in a voice as commanding as any Military General ever born, ” You CAN and you WILL. HOW does not matter. THAT  we can figure out. Now GET UP!”

Ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you, that  was the end of my temper tantrum.

Quitting has never been an option in our family of scrappy little fighters. Raised by my Mother, a woman who raised three children on her own after waking up one day to find her husband had made other plans for his life, she had learned to take surprises and situations and  wrestle them into the life that SHE wanted for us. SHE expected to rise to challenges and goals and she expected no less from us. There were no acceptable excuses. She had an answer for everything. Being tired? Everyone gets tired. So what, learn to rest, balance and push through. Being scared doesn’t cut it. Only fools are stupid enough to not be scared. Not having all the answers is not a reason not to start.  Only the truly stupid think they are wise, the wise know there is always more yet to learn. In my mother’s world, If you want something you have to go for it. If it is right for you and the people you love, then there is no excuse for not doing it. You CAN and you WILL. And she does.

Then why is it not that simple for the rest of us? Not so black and white? The simple determination to march into battle for your noble cause day after day…why does it again and again reduce us to whining, sniveling, crying children?

It took me a long time to learn the third part of my mother’s power.  She had had it all along. It was a mysterious strength that gave her indomitable spirit. That kept her strong and unflinching when she left her secure job, the only thing that put food on the table for her and her three small children and took her measly $3000 and invested every dime she had to start her own business. She could have FAILED. We could have lost everything. She had one thing in her back pocket that was so powerful that it propelled her forward and would not let her down. She had something that most people didn’t have.

She knew that the only way to get from a life that had a steady-but a measly paycheck where she had to work double shifts in a factory and leave her small children home alone was to take a chance. She knew that although the risk was great, that we wouldn’t have insurance at first, that we would have less money to begin with, that we would have no reliable income AT ALL to begin with, that she could make it on her own elbow grease. That something to look forward to with hope was better than a lifetime of looking at what she would have if she changed nothing.

I didn’t understand what that something was at such an early age. She was just my Mom. Maybe I thought that all moms were fierce warriors who went out each day to take on the world.

Later in life, I went into sales. Real Estate sales specifically, although I dabbled my way up to that in other types of sales jobs before that. Sales is HARD. Being rejected is hard. Initiating contacts, talking to strangers, making cold calls, learning contract negotiations, managing files, hand holding nervous and temperamental clients is all hard and very stressful. The overwhelming majority of Real Estate agents quit within 3-6 months of getting their license. They say anyone can become a Realtor. It takes a good one to stay one. I decided to stack my odds. I hired the industry’s best Real Estate coach in the business to coach me and teach me the tools I needed to succeed. All that I learned in the six years of being one of the top agents in our company is more than a blog could hold.  But one of the major things that I paid good money to learn had been right there at home all my life.


Beverly Buffini is the wife of Brian Buffini, Brian being the head of Buffini & Company, the coaching company I was just referring to. Beverly Buffini worked with him and toured with him and spoke at the seminars because frankly she was so inspiring that everywhere she went the crowd went nuts. Beverly grew up to be an All-American volleyball player at the University of Tennessee where she was inducted into the Tennessee Hall of Fame in the first class of women ever to achieve that honor. She went on to become a member of the US National Volleyball Team that participated in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. She now uses her skills of discipline, determination, and focus to juggle raising six kids, and writing, and touring as a motivational speaker. Listening to her speak was one of my greatest inspired moments.

Beverly brought home for me the third part of the ingredients for success in her book, I CAN, I WILL, I BELIEVE. For each of the areas that she wrote about, and spoke about, Beverly outlined her viewpoints on the power behind each of those words. Summarizing, she wrote about:

CAN: to be able mentally or spiritually. She attributes the childhood story The Little Engine That Could with the basis for CAN. Perhaps not too coincidently, that story was one that my mom read to us almost every night. The basis of pushing away negative fears and focusing on the positive is the foundation for any dream to come true. In Beverly’s words, ” Particuarly in my athletic endeavors, I learned to be patient, that success only comes when and if the I CAN attitude endures over time. Giving up was not an option when things got tough. I had to persist if I wanted to make my hopes and dreams a reality. With that mindset, I could achieve my specific goals.”

WILL: is the reinforcement of purpose, drive and discipline necessary to spring CAN into life. WILL is the Action word that makes it happen. Webster’s defines WILL as a concious choice and a strong, fixed purpose. She spoke about the choices and priority shifting that it takes to keep the WILL going. She talks about sacrifice and risk. She states, “What was the principle lesson I learned from this? That in order to achieve and find fullfillment and enjoyment in achieving, I had to step beyond the familiar and accept personal risk. I learned that even condemnation or ridicule were possibilities if my choices did not coincide with someone else’s expectations.

BELIEVE: to take as true or real, to have confidence in something or someone; to have faith, especially religious faith (Webster). For some of us, myself included, Faith of a higher power would be moved up to the front of that defination, and for Beverly she says, “For me, I believe has a significance far beyond simply believing that I can and will do what I set out to do. I believe that we are inspired and helped by God and that we have a responsibilty to do our best to live up to that inspiration. I also get a sense of being assisted and directed by a Force beyond myself, and I desire that feeling.”

I Can, I Will, I Believe. I came out of that motivational seminar on fire. I bought the book. Heck. I bought the T-shirt. Honest, I really did. It’s royal blue with big bold white letters going right across my chest and anytime I need a little extra power pumped in to my self esteem I put it on and strut around.  All because she made my mother’s CAN & WILL tangible.

They say you can’t be a prophet in your own backyard. I guess I had to go far away and pay good money to hear what Mom had been saying all along.  I had to hear it from someone else to understand that the secret ingredient that made my mother stand so hard and fast is her faith. Belief in a higher power (God), Belief that she is doing what is right for her family, belief that if you believe in it, work hard for it, visualize it then you CAN make it happen.

By the way, that’s a far cry from stick it on a poster board, stare at it every day and sit back and wait for it to arrive. That would never be my mother’s style. While those that wait-are busy waiting, my mother and her clan are busy doing the WILL part and BELIEVING that with those two together…..why yes…yes you CAN.


The Courage to Start

Healthy Lifestyles, self improvement, The Inspired Life

“The Miracle isn’t that I Finished. The Miracle is that I had the Courage to Start”

John “The Penguin” Bingham

How did an overweight, 43 year old couch potato who smoked and drank and had a clumsy gait like a penguin end up completing 40 marathons, hundreds of 5K and 10K runs, become the author of several best selling books and inspire hundreds of thousands of men and women to run for fun, fitness and to feel better about themselves?

He started.

He woke up one day, put on a pair of sneakers, ran down to the end of his driveway, and ran back. The next day he did it again. The next time a little further. Next thing he knew, he was running three days a week. Soon after that, he became a runner.

The amazing part of John “The Penguin” Bingham isn’t that he discovered a latent talent for running that had gone unnoticed, or that he was more special than you or I. The amazing part about John is that he is one of the few who actually woke up one day, looked at his life, deemed it unworthy and started over. He gave himself a do-over.

Somewhere along the way, it is common for folks to imagine that their lives are a train going down a very long continuous track. They peer down that track, seeing no end in sight for miles and miles, years and years and think, “well, that’s my train, that’s my track, can’t change it, it’s the track I’m stuck with.”

They may even be able to look back and tell you, right where the train took the switch and changed directions, veering off the course they had dreamed about. But never-the-less- it’s too late now. Their train is on a one way path to wherever…

John Bingham was able to peer down that track and see what lied ahead. It wasn’t going to be pretty. At 43 years of age, he was overweight, washed up, with no dreams or inspiration, nothing to look forward to and a lifetime of sedentary, passive existence on the sidelines of life.

He pulled the switch and turned his train around.

He had the courage to just start, just jump right in to something new. A new way of living, a new plan, a new mindset, new habits and ultimately a new life that would take him to places and adventures and success that he couldn’t have even imagined when he first stood outside his garage and laced up those sneakers. He had no idea where he was going or even if he would be able to run more than a few steps. All he knew was that the certainty of the past, continuing into his future was a worse bet then trying something new.

The best keys to success state that to succeed you need to have a vision, a plan and the steps to make it happen. Know where you are going and how you are going to get there. In theory, I agree.

However, there are times, and often it is somewhere between a rock and a bottom, where just about anywhere is better then where you are about to end up. Drastic times call for drastic measures and at times like that, there isn’t time to wait for the Muse of Vision to shine on your path.

In those times, it’s time to take a step, one step, in the right direction. Just a run to the end of the driveway if that is all you can do. Tomorrow, you can go a little further. Just jump in and get started. Soon you you will be able to look back and see how far you have come, but for now, just one step.

Everyone has the power to improve their lives. Though faith, through community, through love, through hard work, through self-discipline, through soul-searching and a willingness to serve others, we can all become better people, we can all become a better community. It can happen one step at a time. We are not really trains on tracks. That is only an illusion.

It takes courage. Courage to take the first step. Courage to take the next and the one after that, one baby step at a time. Soon, if it wasn’t there to begin with, the vision will come, the plan will evolve and then the runner will be able to run. All the way to the finish line.

It takes courage to cross the finish lines of life… It takes even more courage to believe you can start running at all.

Are there places you could change by just starting? Why not just jump right on in? What are you waiting for?

If not Now then When?


Meandering Toward the Goal

self improvement, The Inspired Life, Writing

Last night I dreamt about a good friend that I haven’t talked to in almost a year. In the dream, we were sitting on bar stools, catching up with each others lives, chatting about how things were going since the last time we had spoken.

I shared with her how I started this blog and how fun it is, the interesting people I have been meeting and all of the ideas I have for future posts.

We chatted on about the concept of the inspirational and motivational blog and she reminded me that we had spoken about the subject ten years ago. “Don’t you remember?” she asked.

I suddenly remembered a conversation that we had shared in real life over ten years ago, in which I had confided my dreams of being a motivational writer and a motivational speaker when I turned fifty.

“Well,” she said in the dream, “You are on your way to the first part, now let’s figure out how you are going to get from here to the second part.”

We then sat with pen and paper in the dream and plotted out the path step-by-step to make my goals happen in real life.

I sprang out of bed this morning, running for pen and paper to write them down before I forgot them all.

As I drank my morning coffee, sitting in the dark before the chaos of waking children began, I pondered the ability that our brains, or subconscious, has to keep track of our hopes and dreams, even when we aren’t actively doing so.

I hadn’t  consciously been thinking about motivational speaking. I am two years away from fifty yet. It hasn’t crossed my mind in the last several months. I will say that it has been something I have mentioned from time to time over the years. The-what would you do if money was no object and you knew you couldn’t fail-question is always answered with that response.

 I would be a full time writer and a motivational speaker.

I have been completly radar-focused on writing lately though and haven’t even given public speaking a second thought. Even my other passion, painting, has taken a back seat right in the middle of a half-completed watercolor of an eagle, which does haunt me a bit, but not enough to pull me away from writing to go finish it.

Yet here is my subconscious moving way ahead of me, long before I am even out of baby steps in the first phase of my new adventure, to give me a vision of how I can proceed to the next phase.

Napoleon Hill wrote in the book, Think and Grow Rich, the following statement:

“The human mind is constantly attracting vibrations which harmonize with that which dominates the mind. Any thought, idea, plan or purpose which one holds in one’s mind attracts a host of its relatives, adds these “relatives” to its own force, and grows until it becomes the dominating, motivating master of the individual in whose mind it has been housed.”

He goes on later to make it clear that the mind does not distinguish between constructive or negative thought impulses and warns about the dangers of  filling the mind with thoughts based on negativity, doubt or fear. He stresses repeatedly the importance for filling the mind with positive, purposeful thoughts and ideas.

My goals have been written down for decades. I have not wavered from my desires. Still, I can’t honestly say that I have marched stubbornly in a straight, solid line toward my destiny. I took many detours along the way. There have been times of deep emotional fog and confusion when I would have guessed I was very off course, that my life had taken a sharp detour, only to realize later that the skills or people that I had met along the way had brought me that much closer to the goal. I can look back at even the failures, perhaps especially the failures, and see how in hindsight they are valuable insights and tools to have in my life lessons bag.

Today I feel inspired by a dream and the path seems clear. There are very few days when the clouds part and the vision looks so surprisingly vivid and simple to follow.

Tomorrow, the vision may go the way of most dreams and reality may step in with its complications and sidetracking obligations to send me back down the meandering path toward my goal. But it is nice to have that reminder that underneath my day to day toil, there is another force at work, silently moving along, creating that chain of experiences to take me to my goal, even when I can’t see the links. All I have to do, is keep moving towards the light and keep the faith.