Aliveatwork's Blog


Your Best Is Not …

Have you ever been in a situation involving another person where you thought to yourself …

“You know, if they just worked harder they would be so much better off”

Maybe you exited from the highway and at the end of the ramp was a homeless person with a sign and you thought …

“If you would stop begging and go look for a job, you wouldn’t be in this situation.”

In situations that involve others we need to remember that we don’t know the whole story.

We don’t know: what they’ve experienced in their past, what they’re experiencing now, their mental capacity, how they think, what they think, or their background … were they  abused, a veteran, or are they developmentally challenged, etc.

We really don’t know anything about them and yet we judge them for not doing their best because it’s not our best.

In times like this, I find myself needing to regroup, step back, and say: “At this exact moment in time they are doing the best they can with what they have.”

Some may disagree … and for those of you who do, please know that you will never fully know what is going on inside the mind of anyone else. You can only project your own inner thoughts and beliefs onto them.

Here’s what I know … someday (hopefully) you are going to be much older than you are today.

At that point in your life you will not hear as well, you will move slower, think slower, and forget things. You will repeat stories over and over and you will need help to do the things that you used to do by yourself from the time you were 3 years old.

You will have good days and you will have days when you feel like you can’t do anything right!

And on those not so good days you will be praying that the people around you see someone who in that exact moment in time is doing their best.

2 final thoughts:

What you put out there is what you get back … eventually

AND your best is not the same as everyone else’s.

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The Power of a Smile …
August 17, 2012, 5:45 am
Filed under: Alive @ Work, Aliveness, Joe Contrera, Leadership | Tags: , , ,

Occasionally I feel the need to share a personal experience with you especially when something impacts me in a profound way.

Yes, I know this is a business blog …

And yet in my day-to-day life I find it nearly impossible to separate the closely intertwined personal thoughts and emotions from my business.

The other day I was thinking about my dad who passed away last Thanksgiving weekend after years of battling various ailments.

As I thought about him and how close we were, I began to reminisce about moments that we shared as his life was winding down.

One of those moments took place last fall in his room at the nursing home. He was sharing a story about a prank he had played on one of his coworkers when he was a young man.

I had heard the story many times before … it didn’t matter … I could listen to his stories a thousand times over.

What struck me most about that particular time was that he was telling the story as if it was the first time anybody was hearing it AND it was the first time he had ever spoken what had happened some 50 odd years before.

He was smiling and laughing so hard he could barely get the story out.

It was in that moment … the smile and laughter on his face had erased all signs of age or ailment. In that moment … he was 28 years old again.

A smile is a powerful thing …

A smile can melt away sadness, erase the effects of age and disease, and can stir your heart .

It can remind you to appreciate the ones you love who are still here … and it can momentarily bring back the ones you love who aren’t.

The Power of a Smile … what an amazing thing!

Maybe today … you can remember something or someone to smile about?



What If … ?

You, you may say, I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

John Lennon

Years ago there were a series of Hewlett Packard commercials whose tag line were “What If …”

Since then a number of folks have done similar “What if” campaigns, Nike and Michael Jordan, the NHL, even the Cleveland Indians (now that’s a real what if!)

The idea is to get people to imagine something beyond what is in front of them.  To imagine something more than what they are currently experiencing or to ignite their hope for the possibility of something better. Especially if things are not going too well at the present time ( i.e. the Cleveland Indians haven’t won a world series since 1954).

As I thought about how powerful the “what if” question is, I realized that for many people the “what if” question actually has the opposite effect. In fact for some folks the “what if” question can actually suck the power right out of their idea or worse yet … themselves!

How many times have you had a truly great idea until you started asking yourself the “what if” question. What if things go wrong, what if I fail, what if I lose, what if I make a mistake, etc.

So that got me to thinking … IMAGINE if for the next 10 days you looked at every decision or situation from a more positive perspective?

I am not saying you should ignore glaring negatives and forge ahead blindly. However, I am challenging you to look at the possibility of what is good, possible, and true.

Below is a list of  10 Positive “What If” questions  to ask yourself the next time you have an idea, are stuck trying to make a decision, or just not sure what to do:

  1. What if I succeed beyond my wildest dreams?
  2. What if this is the perfect decision?
  3. What if I already have the perfect partner for me?
  4. What if I wasn’t afraid?
  5. What if I believed I was enough … more than enough … in fact way more than enough!
  6. What if I loved my spouse, my kids, my brother, neighbor, sister, as much as I love myself? (yes the golden rule)
  7. What if I knew I was brilliant, smart, and amazing?
  8. What if I knew I couldn’t fail?
  9. What if I trusted myself?
  10. What would I do if I wasn’t afraid? (Yeah, I know but it’s worth repeating!)

So there you have it!

Use this list for the next 10 days every time you have a decision to make or dilemma on your hands and just watch what happens to your life.

You just might find … “It’s easy if you try …. and It isn’t hard to do!”



Humor is a Funny Thing … Seriously!

As we approach the 4th of July we are already officially past the half way point through the year, I thought we would take a laughter break.

You may recall in the Jack Nicholson movie, The Shining that, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

That said, I thought I would share some of my favorite one-liners from two of my favorite comedians, Henny Youngman and Steven Wright.

You might be thinking, I don’t have time to laugh … actually you don’t have time not to!

Humor has been scientifically proven to improve mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

And to think … no co-pay and no deductible!

So here you go:

Henny Youngman:

  • A doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill, so he gave him another six months.
  • A man goes to a psychiatrist. “Nobody listens to me!” The doctor says, “Next!”
  • My wife and I have the secret to making a marriage last. Two times a week, we go to a nice restaurant, a little wine, good food. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.
  • The Doctor says, “You’ll live to be 60!” “I AM 60!” “See, what did I tell you?”
  • Any married man should forget his mistakes, there’s no use in two people remembering the same thing.

Steven Wright:

  • I installed a skylight in my apartment… the people who live above me are furious!
  • I poured spot remover on my dog. Now he’s gone.
  • I think it’s wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly.
  • My neighbor has a circular driveway… he can’t get out.
  • What’s another word for Thesaurus?
  • When I was a little kid we had a sand box. It was a quicksand box. I was an only child… eventually.
  • “I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.”
  • “Why are there five syllables in the word “monosyllabic”?”
  • “Do Roman paramedics refer to IV’s as ‘4’s’?”
  • “Is it possible to be totally partial?”

Some folks take themselves way too serious. They never take the time to relax, laugh, and to simply enjoy the moment.

We can get so stressed out over the little things in life that we actually make ourselves sick: ulcers, muscle tension in our necks, backs, and shoulders, and all sorts of ailments that are a result of too much stress on our bodies.

Remember to take time to laugh each day it can save your life … after all … laughter truly is the best medicine!



When I Grow Up … Making Your Dreams Come True!

Do you remember when you were a kid and someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up?

“I want to be a … fireman, policeman, a nurse, a superhero, etc.”

So what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was 7-years-old I wanted to be an entertainer, a stand-up comic. My parents and I would listen to Pat Cooper albums and we would laugh hysterically.

Pat’s real name was Pasquale Caputo and he would talk about growing up in an Italian Family. It didn’t matter if I understood the jokes or not … if Mom and Dad were laughing, I was laughing too.

When I was 16-years-old, I wanted to be the drummer for Van Halen. It didn’t matter that I didn’t play the drums, I dreamed of getting an emergency phone call from Eddie Van Halen telling me that Alex got sick and they desperately needed me!

What is it about children and dreams?

When you’re a kid your dreams and ideas are unlimited, you don’t care if it’s realistic or not, you simply believe you can be anything you want to be.

When a group 5-year-olds were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, the number one response … a super-hero.

What is it about adults and dreams?

At some point most adults give up on their dreams and end up settling. The excitement and aliveness that once filled them seems to fade away each year that passes. Almost as if time is slowly erasing the image of their dreams they painted so many years ago.

A recent Salary.com survey found that only 16% of the people surveyed said they were living their childhood dreams. They went on to say that 60% of those surveyed still wished they could fulfill their dreams!

So what about you?

Maybe your dream to be a ballerina or a policeman changed over the years. The core question here isn’t whether you actually became a super-hero or not … the real questions are:

  1. Are you happy?
  2. Do you love what you do?
  3. Do you love the person you’ve become?
If the answer to any of those question is “no” or “maybe” here are 7 steps that will help you:

7 Steps to Realizing Your Dreams:

  1. Ask yourself: What did I want to be when I grew up?
  2. Look for any correlations between what you wanted to be and who you are today.
  3. Write down on a sheet of paper 10 things you love to do?
  4. Look for any gaps between who you wanted to be and who you are.
  5. Look for any gaps between what you do and what you love to do?
  6. Write down one action you can and will take today to close that gap (make a phone call, an appointment, or put on a cape and run around the house).
  7. Commit to doing one of the things you love to do once a week for one month and watch what happens to your happiness meter.

No, I never became a stand-up comic or the drummer for Van Halen and yet … I love what I do … I cannot imagine doing anything else.

Sometimes I get chills thinking that I get paid to be a professional speaker and to help other realize their potential. It’s like I’m living a dream!

Oh and one last thing … I have a drum set in my living room that I play whenever I want to feel like a rock star …

I’m sure Eddie will call … eventually!



Hey Don’t Wait … I Got An Idea!

This week we’re talking about ideas …

After pondering the topic I had this realization … ideas are simply thoughts that when acted upon, materialize in the physical world.

For example, the Empire State Building was just an idea that formed in someone’s mind. It took action and a whole lot of collaboration to make it come to life.

How many times have you had a brilliant idea  … THAT YOU NEVER TOOK ACTION ON?

Three months later you see your idea materialized in someone else’s business, family, career, relationship, etc. and you say  to yourself, “I coulda, I woulda, I shoulda!”

It is the actions that you take that bring your ideas into existence and sometimes taking action is the only thing  holding you back from being more successful.

Just think if Nicolas Appert never invented the idea of canning food in 1809, Ezra J. Warner might not have been the one to invent the can opener in 1858. Both of these inventions were simply ideas that were acted upon.

So the next time you have an amazing idea … ACT and act fast.

The longer you wait the greater the probability that you will never bring your idea into existence … and someone else will.

It is better to bring an idea that is 70% complete into this world than to NEVER bring an idea that is 99.99999999% complete …

So what amazing ideas have been rolling around in your mind lately?

And you were waiting for what … ?



A Reflection of Gratitude … Relatively Speaking!

One of the things I love most about Albert Einstein is that he had a way (at times) to simplify some of the most important decisions that we make in our lives.

He said this about how we see the world, “One of the most important decisions we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe!”

Simple right … you have two choices and based on your choice you will either live from a place of love or a place of fear.

Here’s what Einstein said about gratitude, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Simple … again you have two choices and based on your choice, you will either be ungrateful for most things in life or extremely grateful for the littlest of things in life.

According to Einstein our happiness comes down to how we per- SEE-eve  the world around us.

The truth is that sometimes our lenses get smudged or dirty. We can become cynical with age, especially if life hasn’t always delivered to us what we want or think we need.

Interesting Thought: We spend time cleaning the screens (lenses) of our laptop, iPhone, iPad, or android and yet we rarely take the time to clean the lenses by which we view the world, especially from the perspective of gratitude.

So maybe your lenses have gotten a little smudged …

If so, here are 3 things you can do to cleanse your lenses of gratitude:

  1. Go to a animal shelter and hang out … take some of the dogs out and play with them for awhile. Notice how happy they are to get a little love and attention … and all you did was throw a ball!
  2. Go to a homeless shelter and volunteer for a few hours so you can see how grateful those are who are less fortunate than you feel just because you listened to them. They just need to know that somebody cares … even if it’s for a short while.
  3. Go to a nursing home and spend a few hours with some of the folks who never get visitors … ask them their story and watch their faces light up because you seem interested in them,  knowing in the back of your mind … that could be the last time they ever tell their story to anyone.

Sometimes we simply need other living beings to reflect back to us what we most need to see for ourselves.

And isn’t it an interesting paradox …  sometimes it is in the eyes of those who have the least that reflect back to us … the most.

Then again maybe not … according to Mr. Einstein … it’s all relative!