Did my thoughts manifest this into my life?

Here’s the image I have at the top of my Daily Journal-

Living accommodations I was visioning for

Living accommodations I was visioning for

Here’s where I’m staying.

What do you think?

2 Courageous Questions that Forever Changed my Life

My focus here is business. Can you think of a question that you had to muster up courage to ask but once asked the answer had a dramatic, life changing, impact on your business or career?

I’m sure I’ve had several but 2 come to mind instantly. One happened 31 years ago, the other happened 3 days ago.

31 years ago the courageous question was this- “Would you mind if a reserved a seat next to yours so we could talk for a while on the flight?” I asked this question to the headlining speaker at a conference I was going to attend in Cincinnati. He said, “Sure, I’ll Courage CS Lewisconnect you with my assistant and she can get you my flight info.” That was it!

After the 4 hour flight we were great friends. He invited me to join him for a reception in his suite and introduced me to all of the movers and shakers at the convention. Less the 2 years later I had 2 companies in a bidding war to hire me… all because I asked that one weird question.

The other courageous question I asked 3 days ago. I was shooting a TV commercial in LA. At the conclusion of the shoot I was outside taking photos with some of the staff and crew. I happened to notice the director standing on the lawn alone, I went over and thanked him for hiring me and let him know I had a great time… then came courageous question. Just an FYI, he is a VERY esteemed director with more than 100 credits under his belt, I knew he had auditioned dozens of people for this role, I asked; “What was it that caused you select me for this role?”

His answer (which I’m not doing to disclose due to the unique competitive advantage it will give me in this incredibly competitive field) will forever affect and undoubtedly improve how I perform at auditions.

MY TIP– Develop the where-with-all, the confidence and the courage to think up and ask great questions when those unique opportunities arise. 

Get Out of Your Head!

The MOST DIFFICULT thing I have done in a VERY long time is taking the Improv Class I’m currently enrolled in.

The teacher, Greg Hoyt (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1701702/) is great, my classmates are wonderful and supportive… my “problem” is me.

My “natural way of being” is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what of what I think is expected in a good Improviser. I don’t “do voices”, I have an extremely limited emotional range (my wife says I’m really happy 99.9% of the time and really pissed off .1%), I don’t remember names well, (let alone lines, objectives, etc.). I don’t emote my emotions, I tend to be internal and not very expressive… all of these things are the exact opposite traits of a typical Improver.

Stay with me… I’m not beating myself up… I’m being honest. These are current realities.

I know there are many things that I’m incredibly good at… one is my ability to put myself into situations that really stretch me… and I love that.  I live my Ed Pondering 08-12-15life pretty fearlessly… I love that about me. I’m a great Santa and a good person… I get all of that and I like myself.

Here’s my point- I currently SUCK at Imrov. I’ve been seeing myself as being short on the raw materials that make for good Improv performers… because of this I often think thoughts like:

Why am I even taking this class?
You’re really good at your Santa thing, you don’t need to be doing this Improv stuff.
I don’t even want to act like a guy who finds conflict and exaggerates it, this is just not who I am. Etc., etc., etc.

In other words I’m “IN MY HEAD” thinking rather than being committed to being in the moment. I’m not just relaxed, reacting and having fun… Being “in my head” is taking away from my performance.

This is NOT a first for me… I have been self-conscious of many things over the years.

Here’s what I’ve discovered in the past, just re-remembered and am now applying to my current Improv situation…

It’s NOT what I’m lacking that is causing my angst… It’s what I’m thinking.

I’m thinking about my shortcomings because I have NOT clearly identified my “why”… the reason I’m doing this at all.

With a big enough, compelling enough, WHY… I ALWAYS find out how. I know that when my WHY is compelling enough I will find a way. I will build new strengths, find ways to benefits from my limitations and get maximum benefit and value from my core competencies. SO…

I have been consistently asking myself why? Why? Why? Why am I doing this? Why am I pursuing performing? Entertaining? Why is Improv important to me and my objectives?

For me knowing why I do what I do is essential. I MUST understand, feel good about and be compelled by WHY I’m doing what I’m doing in order to be “all in”.

So, WHY am I interested in performing?

I’m not… at least not directly. That has been the root of my angst!

I’m interested in having a positive impact. I’m interested in doing things in a big way while doing things that I like. I’m interested in doing things that invigorate me.

Getting on TV and possibly in the movies where I can have a positive impact in a huge way excites me. I get invigorated by the thought of making millions of people smile. Now with my WHY clearly defined I’m absolutely certain that my preparation (my improve classes, acting classes, etc.)  will be MUCH easier, not because I’m better but because I’m all in and will do whatever it takes to gain the skills and leverage my assets in whatever ways necessary to be successful at this.

I’m confident the become more comfortable and confident with Improv will make me an even more extraordinary performer as Santa, and as other characters, and I know that this increases my odds of doing more, and doing what I do better so I can have a greater… more significant impact.

WHEW! Thank you for staying with me as I worked this out. (I hope you benefit from this but I did this exercise, writing all of this as a way for clarify MY thoughts.)

One final thing… the money is also important. VERY IMPORTANT!

I’m committed to earning a significant amount of money and this pursuit, acting, allows me the opportunity to do that. I’m NOT pursuing acting FOR the money… but I want to maximize the money I earn while doing this. Does that make sense?

Now that I have clarified this in my own mind I feel as if a weight has been lifted off of my chest… weird. I didn’t expect that.

One final thing.

I have also decided, in this moment, that I AM an artist.

Performing is an art. I have NEVER seen myself as an artist. I have friends who are artists, my wife is an artist. I have always admired artists of all kinds… but I didn’t identify with them. From this day forward I do. I AM AN ARTIST! 

10 Ways We Hide from the World & Why We Need to Be Seen

Michelle D’Avella wrote an excellent post titled “10 Ways We Hide from the World & Why We Need to Be Seen”.

Check it out- http://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-ways-hide-from-world-we-need-to-be-seen/

Year+ Sabbatical Comes to an End

60 weeks ago I announced ( http://the-greatest-gifts-of-all.com/year-long-sabbatical-starts-today/  ) that my wife and I had embarked on what we intended as a yearlong sabbatical. Our intention was to focus on our health, spiritual/personal development and new vocational pursuits… and what an amazing 60 weeks it has been.

Lori’s lifelong love of “making something from nothing” has bloomed into some amazing original artwork. Her creativity has also been expressed in several new websites she has made for some of our Garden Glow 2015own personal projects as well as for some of our “Santa friends”.

And too I have made a huge transition. I’ve left the work I spent the last 20 years doing behind and I’ve embarked on a new project that I could not be more excited about. I’m helping people 50+ become successful “Encore Entrepreneurs”.  I wrote a book, developed a seminar and a 7 week course all designed to help baby boomers more fully enjoy their 60’s & 70’s.

Santa Ed with EE books 03-06-15 400This sabbatical has helped me identify and prioritize the most important elements in my life. Spending time with, loving and encouraging my family. Using my experience and strengths to help others. Building a substantial financial nest egg.   

With those things firmly in mind Lori and I will end our sabbatical in 2 weeks. We’ll be spending much of the next 6 months in Southern California further developing our “bodies of work” and the distribution channels we’ll use to allow our work to reach and serve large numbers of people.

Are you ready to take a break from your routine to do something new, stimulating and different?

Remember, you can work while on a sabbatical, the idea would be for the work to do something you aren’t now doing, perhaps writing a book. For me, I earned a very nice income while on sabbatical, and I did a bunch of new, exciting, things. And you don’t need a year… perhaps a week would work.

I think you could use your vacation time as a sabbatical, the distinction would be to use the time to be more introspective rather than distracted.

It’s Time to Go Deep

The days are getting longer… we're moving from Darkness to Light. Even though for many of us the coldest days of winter ahead, the presence of more sunlight warms our hearts with hope and anticipation of what lies ahead.
Now is the time for thoughtfulness and daydreams. A time for deep thoughts… enjoy one of the greatest gifts of all… the gift of being present.

How I Let My Life SPEAK… and advice for you too

I guess my reputation preceded me. Someone, told someone, etc… and my phone rang… the long & short of it I was invited to speak to a group of Toastmasters. The talk was VERY WELL received, unfortunately it was not recorded but I think my notes will serve you well. Nearly every person in the room came up to me after the meeting and thanked me for the 3 Gifts I give in the talk.

###

Thank you for asking me to join you this morning. I'm incredibly honored.

You probably know that I don't really live in Santa's Village at the North Pole… but I do live in a village up north. I live in Ashland, Oregon which is nestled at the base of the Siskiyou Mountains just north of the of the Oregon border. Ashland is home to about 25,000 who love the charm and quaintness of small town life.

One of the most popular events in Ashland is its Annual Festival of Lights parade and town lighting which happens the Friday night after Thanksgiving. The Chamber of Commerce estimates that between 15 and 20,000 Ashland Christmas Paradepeople line the streets for the small town parade and the Grand Illumination of Plaza in the heart of town.

It's usually pretty nippy in Ashland in late November, often in the 30 or low 40's. So you just imagine the streets lined with people bundled in their Christmas sweaters and hats and boots… Carolers and warm cider and hot chocolate and even roasted chestnuts. It really a wonderful event.

The parade starts Scout troops, the high school marching band and the kids who are performing in the Nutcracker and several other entries make their way down the short 10 minute parade route.

Who is the final entry? Yes, it's me and I'm sitting tall in a sleigh made out of plywood by local volunteers. It's Santa & Mrs in Sleighpainted red and placed on a small flat bed trailer that's towed behind a decorated pick-up truck.

I'm waving and Ho Ho Hoing… Having a blast.

As the sleigh makes its way down the parade route the spectators fold in behind us and we make all converge on the Plaza at the town center. This is where all of the spectators gather for the GRAND ILLUMINATION.

I dismount from the sleigh and make my way through the crowds. I navigate up 2 flights of stairs to the balcony at Alex's Restaurant that overlooks the Plaza.

Now imagine, just before I step out on the balcony I'm handed a microphone, I step out and look down… below me stretches a sea of humanity, remember there or 15 to 20,000 people below me, some are chanting Santa, Santa, Santa, all these eyes are staring up at ME and now I'm supposed to deliver a 3 minute speech … I have people to thank, a Christmas message to deliver and of course I have the countdown to the Grand Illumination…

When I looked down at those thousands of people how do you suppose I was feeling?

Before you answer let me tell you this happened in November, 2008… now and let's jump back 30 years to November 1978. I was 24 years old pleading with a co-worker, Mary Nelson. I was a new real estate agent and I had just listed a home for sale. The custom at the time was for the "Listing Agent" to get up to a microphone, in front of 80 to 100 fellow Realtors at the weekly Multiple Listing Breakfast, and "pitch" their listing. I was pleading with Mary to "pitch" my listing for me and she, in a very caring, Mother Knows Best, kind of way Mary tried to Just Listedconvince me to do it myself, telling me how important it was for me to get comfortable pitching my own listings. Of course I knew she was right but I'll tell you here and now… I couldn't do it.

There was absolutely no way, I mean there was a zero percent chance that I would get up in front of that group and "pitch" my listing.

Yes, I had a 5 month old baby at home, and no, I didn't have enough money in the bank… but I could not overcome the fear and get up in front of that group to pitch my listing.

Why?  Why is it that I could not get up in front of that group and talk for 90 seconds about this house that I had just listed and so desperately needed to sell?

While your thinking about that let's go back to the balcony 30 years later. How do you think I was feeling when I looked down at that massive chanting crowd with the microphone in my hand?

Let me tell you, I was exhilarated!  I could not have been more excited. I had none of the paralyzing fear that I Santa on Balconyhad 30 years earlier with the Realtors.

My question to you is this…

What is it that can move a person from experiencing sheer terror at one time in their life and then at a later time in a similar situation experience sheer joy? What changed?

 

The answer of course is- I changed

Toastmaster PinThe process of going from terrified at age 24 to exhilarated at age 54 started with Toastmasters in 1988.

As a started learning and developing speaking skills I began to change. I gained confidence and I started questioning the beliefs I had that had been limiting me. As I look back I can now see that learning new skills, gaining self confidence and choosing empowering beliefs are 3 of the Greatest Gifts I have ever received in my life.

This morning I have 3 Gifts for you. These Gifts, like Santa, are magical. They have the power to forever improve your life, but only if you believe…

The first life improving Gift will strengthen your personal philosophy. Gift 1 –  IS ALLOWING YOUR LIFE SPEAK

Here's what I mean, I believe that each of us are endowed by our creator with innate gifts and talents. We are born with them, they are a part of our life essence and when we recognize these gifts and talents and use them for the benefit of others we experience a deep sense of self-satisfaction and contentment. We feel our lives have meaning and purpose.

Letting your life speak… means you are listening to your inner self and you are allowing that inner voice to guide your actions.

Causing people to smile and laugh has always made me happy. In school I lacked the confidence and outgoingness that it took to run for class office… but I was always something of a class clown.

I also noticed many years ago that I seemed to naturally gravitate to leadership positions.

A quote I heard many years ago has stuck with me… it said, "A leader without followers is just a person taking a walk…" I didn't want my life to be that of just a person taking a walk.  So for me letting my life speak has meant being a leader and teacher. Public speaking has helped me do that.

The next Gift will strengthen your personal psychology- GIFT 2 is ELIMINATE YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS

How we experience our lives is determined, entirely, by the beliefs we filter our information through. In other words the meaning we give to the events in our life are entirely determined by our beliefs.

If we are fearful it is because we have adopted beliefs that undermine our confidence, or make us self conscious, these beliefs limit our ability to fully realize our potential.

It was my BELIEFS, not my lack of speaking skills, that kept me from getting in front of that group of Realtors… even though intellectually and logically I was absolutely certain that making that 90 second pitch would be in mine and my families best interest.

Here's what I'm suggesting, spend a few hours in silence thinking about your beliefs and your actions, and lack of actions. Identify the beliefs that empower you and move you to live aligned with your highest vision of yourself… and also identify those beliefs that hold you back and limit your growth and development.

The mere identification of limiting beliefs will often start the process of them slipping out of your life.

GIFT 3 will improve your income, GIFT 3 is –  DON'T WORRY – BE HAPPY

One of the beliefs I adopted is that personality trumps perfection.

I believe perfection equals paralysis. I started giving speeches before they were perfect… long before… the fact is I have NEVER given a perfect speech.

I realize that at times I um and ahh too much… sometimes I have pregnant pauses and other times I speak too fast… AND, and this is key, despite all my flaws I have earned well over a million dollars in speaking fees and product sales… I also have hundreds of testimonials and reviews singing my praises… I'm always looking for ways to improve… but I'm VERY OK with being who I am, how I am. Don't worry… just have fun.

Learning new skills and adopting new beliefs has allowed me to not only be comfortable, but be exhilarated, standing on the balcony looking down on the sea of humanity.

Seeing those faces brighten with smiles as I began to speak… that warms my heart… and lets me know that I am letting my life speak. I'm on track. I feel blessed that I am able to make people smile and add a few minutes of happiness to people's lives.

But I do think it's important to remember that I'm not I'm doing this for others… I'm trying to be the best version of me I know how to be… for me. I simply like myself better when I can be a source of joy… when I can be a trigger for positive emotions.

Becoming comfortable speaking in front of groups has earned me a lot of money but what is MUCH more important is that public speaking has allowed me to live more congruently; by getting in front of thousands of groups and sharing my information I have made lives better, some much better, and that makes me feel good. By being a teacher and leader I'm letting my life speak. Public speaking has helped me create an outward version of myself that more closely matches my inner vision of myself.

I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to Toastmasters for creating a vehicle that allowed me to more fully live into who I'm here to be… and I want to thank each of you for allowing me to share my story and for allowing me again today to feel that maybe in some small way I have made a life a bit better.

I wish you all, all the best, and I ask each of you to join me in helping to keep the Spirit of Christmas, the love, the consideration and the fellowship alive ALL YEAR LONG!

THANK YOU

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May I ask a favor of you?

Everywhere I go I'm recognized as Santa Claus, in fact just today I was stopped at both the gas station and the grocery store and asked if I would take "selfies" with people. I LOVE IT!

Santa - Caught Being Nice

Each time I'm stopped I give away my "You Were Caught Being Nice" cards. People love them. There is nothing promotional about the cards. I'm NOT doing this to get business, I just think they're fun and it gives children and adults a little memento from their chance meeting with Santa Claus.

Now I want to add to that experience… and here's how you can help.

I just created a website, Its-Really-Him.com, and I'm putting the URL on the cards saying:

"FREE Gifts for you at Its-Really-Him.com"

On the website I'm going to add "Gifts" that will help keep the Spirit of Christmas alive all year long. The Gifts will be things like suggested family activities. For example I'll have suggestions and inscrtuctions for things like:

  • Family Games
  • Family Crafts
  • Family Cooking
  • Family Conversation starters
  • Family Outdoor activities

Here's where you can help me. Please send me your suggestions.

I'm primarily looking for things that can be done easily and at no, or low, cost.

I'm also looking for some "rules" for family activities. Perhaps things like no cell phones, no ridiculing or arguing, etc.

My hope is to create a rich resource of activities that help people experience the Spirit of Christmas all year long.

How do we experience the Spirit of Christmas?

We experience the Spirit of Christmas by demonstrating love and by being the recipient of demonstrated love. We demonstrate love by behaving in loving ways, by doing things that are considerate, compassionate, thoughtful and helpful; these are all human embodiments of the Christmas Spirit.

Relationships are the vehicles through which our love can be demonstrated and the "gifts" I'll be providing are intended to enrich relationships.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions please leave them in the comment area below or email them to me at Santa at SantaEd dot com.

Money is not always all about the money…

A reminder just popped up on my calendar letting me know that next week is the 18th anniversary of my first $10,000 day.  Every year for the past 17 years I have taken a few minutes to think about that day and the events that led up to it. In the preceding months I had hit bottom. I went broke. Lost my house, my car, closed down my business (which in the early '90's had generated a low 6 figure income) but by '95 things were bad and by mid '96 they were unimaginable. My world, my business, my family, everything was incredibly disrupted… I was embarrassed, ashamed and at times I found comfort in simply, mindlessly, playing solitaire.

God working in mysterious ways, silver linings, whatever… 

I saw an opportunity… and even though I was depleted in every sense of the word I mustered the courage, and the will, to move forward. The opportunity was the Internet… more specifically, teaching small business owners how to use the Internet to build their business and add to their profits.

That day, October 17, 1996, I took 4 phone calls from small business owners wanting my help… in hindsight I can tell you with absolute certainty that depositing that $10,000 in my anemic bank account wasn't nearly as important as the deposit that was made in my "emotional bank account".

Because others valued me, and trusted me, and because I knew I could exceed their expectation (which I went on to do) my spirit came back to life. I regained my sense of meaning and contribution. I saw a light nearing from what had been a very long and very dark tunnel. defibrillator-1

Today I would never value a person's worth, mine or anyone else's, in terms of money but when we become emotionally depleted providing value to others and being compensated for it, financially or otherwise, can be just the defibrillator we need to bring our spirit back to life.  

Are Your Own Thoughts LYING to You?

I really enjoy spending time thinking.

One of the things I most enjoy thinking about is thinking itself. I'm talking about the process of thinking about my thoughts and how my beliefs, values and experiences affect my thought process. 

Recently I have spending many hours thinking about something called Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive (which means thinking or understanding) Dissonance (which means disharmony or conflict). We experience Cognitive Dissonance when what we think conflicts or is not in harmony with something we are seeing or hearing or experiencing.

Here's what interesting and why I'm paying so much attentions to this… when we experience Cognitive Dissonance we tend to lie to ourselves. We conjure things up to make the facts fit our beliefs, or worse yet, our minds close, and we simply disregard or dismiss conflicting thoughts without testing or even allowing for the possibility of their validity.

Here's tired but poignant example…

If you are in a place where it is safe to do so close your eyes and imagine with me for a minute.

Imagine your arm is slightly bent at the elbow and your palm is up and I gently place a bowling ball in your hand.  In your left hand imagine you have a golf ball. Image feeling the weight of each ball. Now, if you can, imagine straightening your elbow. How long could you hold each ball out in front of you with your arms straight… the bowling ball maybe a few seconds, the golf perhaps many minutes.

Now, imagine if you were to drop both balls from the Golden Gate bridge which would make the biggest splash? The bowling ball. It's bigger and heavier. Which would hit the water first? Hmmm… The golf ball and bowling ball would hit the water at the same time. 

Watch this video and see how we rationalize our wrong thinking…

Doesn't it seem SO LOGICAL that the big, heavy, bowling ball would hit the water first? 

Of course. But the fact is it doesn't. The balls both hit the ground at the same time. Google it if you want to know why.

Why would people say the first answer? Remember that essentially all ideas are based on something. Even if they are wrong, they should make some sort of sense otherwise we would just be crazy, right? The idea that a heavy object falls faster does seem to agree with our everyday observations.

This is also the reason so many of us persist in believing things that are just not true. Logical… but not true.

One of the things I most value is my capacity to make rational informed decisions, my autonomy.

One of my beliefs is that people, especially marketers and advertisers, but also well meaning family and friends, songs, books, movies and our own interpretation of events ALL have an effect on our thinking. 

Here are a few examples…

Love means never… having to say you're sorry (of course that's bunk but it influenced the thinking of many).

How about this from the Who in the early 70's 
When I want to go home I'm going mobile…

I hitched hiked North America in 1973… not because of this song… but looking back I think that song and others like Truckin' and Me, You and a Dog named Boo,  affected my thinking.

I'm pretty sure the TV commercials got me using Irish Spring soap back on the '70's or '80's…

Our thinking and our decisions are affected by all kinds of things…

Some as potentially innocent as a song and others as pointed as a TV commercial… the Marlboro Man also comes to mind.

For me thinking about my thinking and questioning why I do what I do allows me to feel that I am deliberately keeping my life on course and living true to my Higher Self.

Does what I'm saying here resonate with you? Do you take time daily, or very regularly, to think about your thing and why you do what you do?

lietoyourself

I would love to hear your thoughts and what you do to make sure you stay on your divine path.

All the best to you and your loved ones.