Maximize Your Happiness in the New Year

My first big opportunity in the auto business came in the summer of 1986 when my father, determined to avoid the nepotism so prevalent in family-owned businesses, purchased a tiny Ford dealership in Honor, Michigan and commissioned my brother and me to run it by ourselves.

We were thrilled at the prospect of being among the youngest dealership owner/operators in the country. And since it was so small–we opened with seven employees–we personally connected with virtually every customer who walked through our doors, getting to know many of them like family over the years.

I recall one local couple in their early 60’s who purchased a new Ford pickup to haul their newly acquired travel trailer. The husband, having worked in a blue collar job all his life, would tell us how much he was looking forward to retirement. “The last few years have been miserable,” he said, “but when I retire and never have to work another day in my life, then I’ll finally be happy.”

But within four years after his retirement party, the happiness that this hard working man so looked forward to never came: he died of a heart attack.

The Illusion of Happiness

image via ben white photography

Stories like this are all too common; they illuminate a critical perspective of people who live well. Happiness is never a destination. The problem is, we’ve been taught our entire lives that it is–that if you work hard then you will be successful and only then, once you achieve some milestone in your life like getting married, becoming partner in your firm, or, in my customer’s case, retiring from your job, will you be happy.

In his revealing book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor shares some fascinating findings on the relationship between happiness and accomplishment:

“… New research in psychology and neuroscience shows that it works the other way around: We become more successful when we are happier and more positive. For example, doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19% faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”

Years ago, a friend emailed me a document titled, “The Way to Live” by an anonymous author. I think I’ve shared this simple yet profound treatise on living proactively with hundreds of people:

“We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough and we’ll be more content when they are. After that we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire. The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, when?”

I think the reason this advice resonates so strongly with people is that it’s so intuitively true; at some point in our lives, we’ve all succumbed to this line of thinking.

Here’s the BIG IDEA: As we launch into the New Year, remember that the road to a successful and prosperous 2018 doesn’t culminate in happiness… it begins with it.

What compromises are you making in the pursuit of maximizing your happiness? What would it mean to the quality of your life if your sense of well being wasn’t connected to any future outcome or circumstance, but to the joy of the journey?

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Whatever the Project Is, Start Today

It’s almost time for us to welcome the new year of 2018! One of the many things I love about the Christmas and New Year holiday season is reflecting and planning: Looking back on the key themes and accomplishments of the year gone by while setting ambitious goals for the coming year. Here’s a question for you:

If the last year of your life were a movie, what would be the genre?

What I like about this question is it acknowledges a subtle truth: Your life is not a series of isolated events; instead, your life is connected to a bigger story.

Jim Rohn is one of the most influential business philosophers and personal development authors of our time. His article, 13 Ways to Improve Your Life, continues to inspire me and this year, as the SwingShift and the Stars season officially comes to a close on December 31st, #8 really stood out to me:

8. Invest your profits.
Here’s one of the philosophies that my mentor, Earl Shoaff, gave me: Profits are better than wages. Wages make you a living, profits make you a fortune. Could we start earning profits while we make a living? The answer is yes.

As Jim mentions below, “faith without action serves no useful purpose” — and Love INC is an organization that truly embodies this famous saying. They serve as a cooperative effort between churches and community agencies to provide effective help for our neighbors in need. Love INC is doing work that no other organization is doing–and they need our help. Your donation becomes part of Love INC’s story, and therefore part of your neighbor’s story–your action will make a big impact! And giving back in this way becomes part of your story now and in the years to come. Before the SwingShift donation deadline of December 31st passes, I’d like to humbly make one final request for you to join me in supporting Love INC. (And it’s your last chance to make that tax-deductible donation for the year!)

I’m a big advocate of laying the groundwork for setting clear, compelling goals with actionable steps and New Years resolutions are no exception. It’s a wonderful time to create goals that will inspire, motivate, and positively change you all year long.

But why do so many of us wait until New Year’s Eve to create these goals and start making change?

Why not now?

For my final blog post of 2017, I’d like to share Jim Rohn’s inspiring article, Whatever The Project Is, Start Today. 

Prove to yourself that the waiting is over and the hoping is past—that faith and action have now taken charge.

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Whatever the project is, start today.

Knowledge fueled by emotion equals action. Action is the ingredient that ensures results. Only action can cause reaction—and only positive action can cause positive reaction.

All of that said, there are still so many people who are really sold on affirmations. There is a famous saying that “faith without action serves no useful purpose”—and how true that is! Now, there is nothing bad about affirmations when they are used as a tool to create action. Repeated to reinforce a disciplined plan, affirmations can help create wonderful results.

But there is also a very thin line between faith and folly. You see, affirmations without action can be the beginnings of self-delusion. And for your well-being, there is little worse than self-delusion.

The man who dreams of wealth and yet walks daily toward certain financial disaster and the woman who wishes for happiness and yet thinks thoughts and commits acts that lead her toward certain despair are both victims of the false hope—which affirmations without action can manufacture. Why? Because words soothe and, like a narcotic, they lull us into a state of complacency. Remember this: To make progress, you must actually get started!

The key is to take a step today. Whatever the project is, start today. Start clearing out a drawer of your desk… today. Start setting your first goal… today. Start listening to something motivational… today. Start putting money in your new “investment for fortune” account…today. Write a long-overdue letter… today. Anyone can! Even an uninspired person can start reading inspiring books.

Get some momentum going on your new commitment for the good life. See how many activities you can pile on your new commitment to the better life. Go all out! Break away from the downward pull of gravity. Start your thrusters going. Prove to yourself that the waiting is over and the hoping is past—that faith and action have now taken charge.

It’s a new day, a new beginning for your new life. With discipline you will be amazed at how much progress you’ll be able to make. What have you got to lose except the guilt and fear of the past?

Now, I offer you this challenge: See how many things you can start and continue in this—the first day of your new beginning.

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Growing Generosity at Christmas

Christmas is upon us! With only a few days left until the big holiday, there’s an increased amount of hurried busyness and rushing around with last minute preparations. I’m trying to intentionally take a ‘time-out’ to reflect on a few important items this Christmas. I hope you’ll join me.

What exactly IS Christmas? I had a recent discussion with my friend, Pastor Nick Twomey, in which he shared that nearly 49% of Americans now believe that Christmas is a cultural holiday–nothing more. It got us thinking–and inspired us. Nick and I would like to invite you to the Bill Marsh Hyundai showroom on Saturday, December 23rd, as we explore the true meaning of Christmas, how it relates directly to us as individuals, and how it can transform lives. Can’t make it to the dealership? We’ll be offering the discussion via Facebook Live, as well. We’ll put the coffee on at 8:30am and start the live broadcast at 9:00am. I hope you can join us!

As I explore the true meaning of Christmas, and how to grow generosity during this time of year, it can feel especially difficult with our culture of consumerism. After all, this is the season of giving. I have been honored to support Love INC during this 10th anniversary season of SwingShift and the Stars. We had a blast during the big Disco Ball event on December 15th, and while Sharon and I didn’t ‘win’ the big dance off, Love INC has been winning big by participating in this season of SwingShift, both in raising awareness for the important work they’re doing in the community–work that no other organization is doing!–and in donations. And it’s not over yet! I wanted to offer an encouraging reminder that Love INC’s SwingShift and the Stars campaign continues through December 31st. It’s a great opportunity to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year.

And finally, I’m sharing a post from Michael Hyatt entitled Growing Generosity in Your Kids at Christmas. What if for every gift on your wish list, you had to match it with a gift you plan to give? His article offers an inspiring perspective on nurturing the giving spirit in our children–and it definitely extends to adults. Check it out:

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Ahhh, Christmas. It just may be the most wonderful time of the year. Every year, however, parents are reminded of how much our culture has impacted the minds of our children. For instance, we all talk about Christmas being a time of giving — but let’s face it, the first thing kids want to do in December is to make their own Christmas list of what they’ll get, not give.

So here’s an idea.

First, why not start a tradition. Along with creating their own “wish list,” your kids make out a list of the gifts they plan to give away to others. This could include people they know and perhaps people they don’t know. The gifts can be ones they buy with their own money, or some of their own possessions they treasure.

Let’s take it a step further. What if for every gift they put on their wish list, they have to match it with a gift they plan to give away—one of their own toys, dolls, electronic devices, or games? This may just balance their “giving and receiving” experience a bit more. Then, they select a family less fortunate, and make an anonymous drop-off to that family. (Remember “ding dong ditch”?)

I know of a mom and dad who had their kids go through all their toys one December and make two piles. The first pile would include the toys they planned on giving away; the second, toys they felt were worth keeping. (This made room for the new toys they’d soon receive on Christmas.)

The clincher was, this mom and dad talked about sacrificial giving, and shared how they planned to give one of their cars to a needy family. Then, they had their children give away the pile of toys they had planned to keep.

Sacrifice is true generosity. It was hard for a few moments, but unforgettable in the end. Those kids still talk about that incredible experience four years later.

Jesus reminds us:

“This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned” (Mark 12:43-44).

What can you do this Christmas to teach generosity to your kids? How can you apply the same philosophies to your own adult life? I’d love to hear your feedback.

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5 Reasons to Think Twice Before Getting a Flu Shot

It’s late autumn, the traditional start of the cold and flu season, when you see signs promoting flu shots adorning doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics, pharmacies, even big box retailers. As a result, millions of Americans will dutifully roll up their sleeves and trust that this year’s vaccine will keep them healthy throughout the cold winter months.

via stocksnap.io

But is this ubiquitous vaccine all it’s cracked up to be in terms of protecting you from the flu? Furthermore, is receiving an injection like this year after year the wise thing to do for your long term health? While I don’t claim to be an expert in chemistry, medicine, or biology, I can report that I have never received a flu shot and cannot recall ever contracting the flu. And as a student of health and fitness, I’ve discovered that there are plenty of credible reasons to consider other alternatives to optimizing your health than subjecting yourself to repeated injections of toxic chemicals and virus strains grown on living tissue. Here are five:

1. There is little evidence that flu shots actually work. The flu shot is only able to protect against certain strains of the flu, so if you come into contact with a strain—and there are many–that you are not protected from, then you will still get the flu. According to the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) own website, for example, the 2014-15 flu vaccine was only 19% effective, which means that over 80% of people who received a flu vaccine that year were unprotected from the flu. Worse, according to the data reported by the CDC, since they first recommended that children under 5 receive the flu vaccine just before the 2003-2004 flu season, there has been an average increase of 67% of flu-associated deaths in children. Plus, a 2008 study published in the Lancet found that influenza vaccination was NOT associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia in older people. Unfortunately, the data suggests that getting the flu vaccine gives people a false sense of protection from contracting the flu.

2. The flu vaccine, as well as all other vaccines, contain mercury, a harmful heavy metal that can seriously compromise your health. Vaccines contain a preservative called Thimerosal, which contains mercury. The amount of mercury in a multi-dose flu shot is 250 times higher than what is legally classified as hazardous waste. Even so-called, “Thimerosal-free” vaccines contain enough trace amounts of mercury to be considered toxic by the EPA. Side-effects of mercury toxicity include depression, memory loss, attention deficit disorder, digestive disorder, anxiety, cardiovascular problems, respiratory issues, thyroid and other glandular imbalances, and low immune system.

3. The flu vaccines contain many other toxic or hazardous ingredients, including:

    • Aluminum — a neurotoxin that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
    • Triton x-100 – a detergent.
    • Phenol (carbolic acid) – also found in weed killer.
    • Ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
    • Betapropiolactone – a disinfectant.
    • Formaldehyde – classified as a carcinogen.

4. There is a vast difference between ingesting chemicals through eating or drinking verses injecting them into your bloodstream. Even if it were possible to substantiate claims that trace amounts of mercury (found in some species of fish, for example) and other harmful chemicals are too small to cause any problems, remember that, when we swallow something toxic, our digestive processes act as natural filters that greatly reduce the potency. But when you receive a flu shot, toxins are injected into the muscle and pushed directly into the bloodstream which is far stronger and more harmful. This is something the vaccine manufacturers never bother to point out.

5. There are plenty of safe and effective alternatives to protect us from the flu. With so many potential side effects while only protecting against a small number of strains, the good news is there are some natural remedies you can try that are proven to strengthen your immune system without risk of long term health problems. These include:

    • Getting plenty of vitamin D during the winter months.
    • High dose vitamin C (I take 3,000 – 5,000 mg per day…and I haven’t had a cold in nearly 3 years.)
    • Fish oil, one of nature’s most powerful tools to fight colds and flu.
    • Exercise, which produces natural immune-boosting chemicals throughout your body.
    • Eating plenty of “power-foods” like garlic, berries, and cruciferous vegetables.
    • Eliminate sugar. Few things suppress your immune system like sugary drinks and foods.
    • Reduce stress. The only thing worse than sugar to your immune system is subjecting yourself to frequent anger and stress.
    • Sleep. The more research published on sleep, the more clear the connection between sufficient sleep and a healthy immune system.

via stocksnap.io  via stocksnap.io

I know this is, for some, a controversial topic and I don’t claim to be a public health expert. Neither am I in any way suggesting that no one should ever receive a flu shot. But I am convinced that, for most people, trusting in a vaccine to keep you healthy is a bit of a fallacy. Not only are the real consequences—both short and long term—there are also plenty of good alternatives to injecting toxic chemicals into your bloodstream with, at the very best, a 50/50 chance they will even work.

So before you roll up your sleeve and get that painful needle, think it over. Better yet, read some of the credible evidence from mainstream medical experts who question the viability of annual vaccine injections. Then, whether you decide to get the shot or not, at least you’re making an informed choice that takes both sides of this issue into consideration.

What are your thoughts on the flu vaccine? Have you ever considered that there may be harmful consequences from getting a flu shot? Or do you think it has helped you stave off sickness during the winter months? I’d love to get your comments.

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