April 22, 2015
I was seven years old when the Russians launched the Sputnik satellite, placing it into an orbit around Earth for the first time in human history. Since that moment I became an avid follower of the space program. I suffered with its early disasters and rejoiced in its later successes. All U.S.A. launches were of such great interest to the citizens, and each of such historic significance, that during our school day, TV’s were set up in classrooms so live launches could be observed by the students.
My enthusiasm never waned. I built and flew model rockets as a member of a local club, and competed nationally with that club throughout the country. The Manned Spacecraft Center in Texas and the Air Force Academy in Colorado, were among those consenting to host those events. After high school I majored in Mathematics with hopes of fulfilling my dream to be a part of the ongoing exploration of space.
Just after graduation, I was hired as a systems analyst by a research and development company that was under contract to the Navy; which designed and manufactured helicopter and jet flight simulators to train pilots. Not quite the entry into the aerospace field that I had in mind, but I saw it as a stepping stone. As time passed I found that the every day drudgery that was necessary had reduced the thrill that I once held for the field to boredom. I suppose in my exuberant youth I solely focused on the romantic end of the mission itself. Failing to understand that the real mission was in the detail work between the idea and its ultimate reality. Within two years of my start, I left the profession.
During my time in the industry I became interested in coaching sports. My mother suggested I do so as a diversion from my daily work routine. The moment I met my first team I experienced something that I never had in my profession; I felt that I belonged. This initial venture later propelled me to a mathematics teaching position, and eventually to coaching high school athletics. My primary sport would be girls volleyball. The experience that I treasured while teaching and coaching children would never have been true of my previous profession. For one was so impersonal and the other quite the opposite. I found that both teaching and coaching were my inclination. There was much drudgery work involved in those occupations, as well. But, here I possessed the stomach for it. I’m sure there are those who would rightly disagree. Yet, one’s honey is another’s vinegar.
Dreams, we all have. Most fade to illusion while some sharpen to crystal clear reality. I never dreamed about my aerospace job. If I did, those dreams would likely be nightmares. However, I did often dream of teaching and especially coaching. There is one dream in particular that I remember vividly to this day. I had just completed my first year of coaching high school volleyball. My every waking hour was spent in studying ,designing practices and game strategy to help improve our team that had won just one game my first year. In my dream our team was in a championship game. And at its end we were victorious. There was joy, excitement and celebration. However, one strange thing was evident. Although the victors were wearing our school uniforms, they had no faces. No identifying features to determine who they were. The only conclusion that I could draw from this dream was that if we were ever to win a championship it would not be with these players. I had that dream in 1979. In 1983, we would win our first state championship. By the time I retired our teams would win four state titles; with many of my players continuing to play on the college level and a number of them on scholarship.
You see, dreams can come true. But not without an inclination that leads to inspiration. One must possess an aptitude toward the subject of one’s dream, a desire for learning and the attitude-as that of the farmer who daily puts his hand to the plow-to successfully carry out all that is required in attaining the goal; the realization of the dream. Passion has its purpose. And that is to keep one not only on task, initially, but for the long haul. For the true dream fulfilled is not in the moment that a goal is secured, but in the continued exercise of that which feeds the passion. It is the thing, the purpose, the calling, your gift, that makes the doing worthwhile.
“Passion makes every detail important.” – G.K. Chesterton
My emotion fooled me to believe that my calling was in the aerospace field. Our emotions will do that. For we can be dazzled by many things in life. But, some things that impress do not impel us enough to give our hearts to them. Infatuations, fueled by emotion, are not founded in love. They attract interest, yet do not last. Only to that which we can give our love is also where our hearts are found. And love is not of emotion, it is of the will. Your dream will be moving toward fulfillment when you find yourself doing that which no one else would do in the same circumstance.
I pledged that I would never return to school when I graduated college. But, that pledge was made as a student and not as a teacher. The classroom that once repelled me after fourteen years of education, now beckoned me to return. But, my role had changed. My reluctance as a student transformed into willingness as a teacher. The indifferent attitude that I held toward classroom demands while in front of the teacher’s desk, would be looked upon with enthusiasm from behind it.
No one is limited to one dream in life. When one ends another is ready to begin. All one needs do is but be open to another good. The most important dream to be fulfilled is to do any good thing well. Therein we are all defined. All will recognize us by it. And we will feel God’s pleasure as we use well the gifts He has given.
“Grow where you are planted.” – Saint Mother Teresa
Often we are called to where we need to be, rather than where we wish to be.
December 25, 2014
December 2, 2014
We celebrate life’s milestones in a variety of ways. We celebrate birthdays and weddings with parties and gifts. We gather together to mourn at the end of a life. We have religious holidays, national holidays and a countless number of celebrations along life’s pathway.
The stories in Contagious Optimism highlight how people overcome adversity, learn from life and move forward to make positive strides in life. The book is a celebration of the power of the human experience and conveys the power of positive forward thinking. Sometimes to embrace the future in a positive manner we need to take a moment to reflect on life. Every now and then it is important to stop and celebrate the past and establish a vision for the future.
When my wife I exchanged our marriage vows I didn’t give her an expensive gift to celebrate. There was no surprise jewelry or first class hotels or champagne being chilled at an exotic destination awaiting our arrival. I did give her a piece of paper mounted in a ten dollar picture frame. Our wedding gifts to each other consisted of a letter, a letter expressing the love and caring in our hearts.
Each year for our anniversary we don’t exchange store bought gifts, we share a gift from the heart. Each year we share a letter that expresses our reflections on the past year, our hopes for the future and an affirmation of our love. Sometimes in life, it is good to pause and celebrate the people and love in our hearts. Even if you know I love you, know I care, know I appreciate you, it is good to stop and say it out loud, celebrate it and write it down because it’s the important stuff of life.
My wife, Billie Joe, and I will celebrate our twelve year anniversary in a few days and I am finishing up this year’s gift. Why not take a few moments and tell someone you love all that stuff you never get around to saying? Make today the right time to say I love you.
If you need a little motivation or a place to start I’ll give you a hand. Here are the words I put down on that piece of paper twelve years ago.
Dear Billie Joe,
I love you because of the caring in your touch, the compassion in your soul and the love that is in your heart. You have enriched my life in ways that are immeasurable. Your gentle touch has calmed me in times of turmoil. Your belief in the kindness of the soul has helped me find the compassion and faith that for a time I had forgotten. Your desire for exploration and explanation has awakened in me the curiosity of a child. I love you because you have made me find the best within myself. I am a better person because of your presence in my life. I love you because in you I have found a soul mate with whom I can share my thoughts, my fears and my aspirations. I can come to you with all of my joys and sorrows and in you I find solace, joy and love. I love you because with you, I have found the joy of life. Each day you challenge me to be the best person I can be. Your friendship, love and beauty have made my life complete. I love you because in you I have found the person with whom I can share an open and honest life of love.
November 23, 2014
I am a huge fan of gratitude, even for the smallest things. I believe gratitude is the number one (of five) steps we need to find and maintain optimism in our lives.
The Grateful Life: The Secret to Happiness and the Science of Contentment by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Bath Sammons (2014. Viva Editions) conveys the importance of gratitude flawlessly and is written in such a way that even the most negative, ungrateful person will appreciate it.
In addition to the real-life stories, terrific quotes, and clear and concise writing, each chapters ends with a, “Grateful Life Practice.” These practice exercises are extremely powerful but yet simple and easy to do for any reader. And, they bring the ability to achieve gratefulness to each and every person who reads the book. I also appreciate the format which allows for a pick-it-up and put-it-down read. In this day and age, most of us have limited schedules and can’t read an entire book in one sitting. This book makes it conducive to reading at one’s own pace and to really absorbing the lesson without feeling overwhelmed or burdened with homework.
The last key point is that this book is equally beneficial to the person that is already grateful for their life as well as for the person that is trying to find gratitude. For those that are already grateful, it is an enjoyable read that supports their chosen path. It reminds them that their life view is contagious. For those that currently live without gratitude, it is the perfect primer to shifting their outlook and reminding them that life with gratitude is the only way to be!
David Mezzapelle, bestselling author of the Contagious Optimism Book Series
November 2, 2014
“The stone which the builders rejected; the same is become the head of the corner.” – Psalms 117:22
Who among us has not experienced the sadness and pain of rejection. Possibly in failing to be considered for that special job, whose interview you prepared for so diligently. Perhaps by having your marriage proposal turned down by the person of your dreams. Or from simply holding out a helping hand, only to have it pushed aside. These and countless examples of rejection can sap the strength from the strongest of us. For we are only human and can’t help but be somewhat dejected when rejected.
In my readings I have come across many stories that, like parables, have within them a message that can be applied to improve one’s life. This is so, because these stories are based upon some objective truth. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen tells the following story to make the definitive point in answering a particularly profound question. The question was of great consequence, but need not be addressed for our purpose here. However, the story, I believe, has useful meaning as regards our topic – Rejection.
Archbishop Sheen’s story is as follows: An orchestra was playing a musical piece, when suddenly one of the musicians struck a wrong note. The erroneous note immediately compelled the conductor to stop the orchestra from further playing. The conductor, also being the composer, could not continue because the incorrect note would have compromised the integrity of the piece. This errant note, which was never in the mind of the composer, has caused musical disharmony. Faced with such a dilemma, the conductor decided to begin anew; not begin again. For like any sound, that note once played is out there in space and can never be retrieved. So rather than attempting what he could not, he attempted what he could. That was to compose a new symphony with the sour note as the first note. By this act the note has been transformed, from the last sour note of the old symphony, to the first sweet note of the new.
Cannot the same be true of us? A rejection is a sour note. It brings a halt to the pursuit of some goal we had in mind. Now, we can feel sorry for ourselves and, through avoidance, give up the thought of ever experiencing any acceptance in our lives. Or, we can, after licking our wounds and healing, take that recent sour note in our life and make it the first note of a new beginning.
I worked in the aeronautics industry when I first graduated from college. It was my dream job. To make a long story short, and to the point, I was fired, because the company had lost contracts and I, to be honest with myself, just didn’t measure up. However, that rejection freed me to pursue a new interest-coaching and teaching young people. There I found myself enfolded in a new symphony and gratefully living a harmonious life. The fulfillment I enjoyed there, could never have been experienced in the profession that rejected me.
So, are you dejected because the job you so enthusiastically sought after did not materialize as you had hoped? Fear not; for a better suitable one lies ahead. Are you suffering the pain of a broken heart because the person you had hoped to marry could not make the same commitment? Move on; for there is a heart somewhere that shares the same dream as you. And don’t be discouraged when your offer of help is not accepted, for there are many in need who possess the disposition of gratitude.
Great accomplishments await those who refuse to be paralyzed by rejection. Know that rejection is not an end, but a beginning. It is not the last sour note of a broken symphony, but the first note of a new and potentially beautiful one.
September 7, 2014
By David Martin
I graduated college and started my career in wealth management. I was in my mid-twenties and had no professional work experience, so I went to work with my father as his assistant. I had no money and my father didn’t want to give me anymore! 25 years of giving me money, he was done. Off the couch I went to PaineWebber in Stamford, Connecticut. Who new it would be 20 ½ years latter and I would be wondering… what happened to my life? Where did it go?
Now what? I just merged my wealth management firm with another firm to free me up to persue my journey. What’s next for me – is it comedy, adventures, marriage, family, children, rehab? Who knows. All I know is I am stocked up with tasty IPAs (Indian Pale Ales)! I’m 46, single with a passion for performing comedy and taking groups of people on really awesome adventures.
This story I am telling is how I embrace letting go and trusting that the universe has an exciting new path for me to hike down. Time to lower any expectations I may have of the future while focusing on what truly brings me more happiness. The next chapter is in the making while I finish the last chapter.
I will bring everything I’ve learned forward in a positive light for there is so much opportunity right on the immediate horizon.
August 26, 2014
“Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning…”
The above common phrase is a line from an ancient rhyme of mariners. It is based on the reddish glow of the morning sky, caused by haze or clouds related to storms in the region. The saying assumes that similar clouds are coming from the west.
Red flag is attributed to a warning. It is a signal or sign that there is some danger that should be noticed or attended to. Red flags can be of use, at railroad crossings, for severe storm warnings, as well as, an alert for potential forest fires, due to dry conditions. Wherever impending dangers are possible, a red flag warning, may be appropriate. We too, along with the animal world, are equipped with red flags. They provide us each with a personal sensor that automatically warns us of impending danger; a sense that something just is not right.
A few years ago we had a problem with pesky woodpeckers damaging the cedar siding on our house. We tried home remedies that worked for a time, but soon the pecking would resume. While searching for solutions to our problem on the internet, I stumbled upon a company that manufactured a sound system that emitted the distress calls of woodpeckers, followed by the sound of their predator, the hawk. Once installed and activated, gone were the woodpeckers. With their departure, was avoided a great potential expense in future siding repairs. The focus here is not, solely, the successful ridding of the woodpeckers, but rather a glimpse into how their red flag warning system worked. Nature provides them with that protective system to avert attacks from natural enemies. If not for it, woodpeckers, as other prey of predators, would be defenseless.
Many of us have experienced an uneasy stomach, tenseness or numbness when confronted with a circumstance that instills uncertainty. An uncertainty manifested by fear. It is as though an inner voice implores us to think before we act. In the case of the woodpecker, it is a simple reaction to the flight or fight response to danger that is natural to the animal world, and ourselves as well. We, however, have reason and foresight at our disposal. It affords us the opportunity to observe, in the less critical yet potentially dangerous circumstances, before deciding what action to take. We are capable of over-riding the defense system. We, unlike the woodpecker, wake up each morning quite aware of our physical mortality. We know that danger lurks at every turn. Our woodpecker friend does not possess that benefit or burden, because it is not of his nature. To him, danger is, when danger is.
Red flags, for us, can be both an advantage and disadvantage. A disadvantage, because we can also be frightened by those things that are potentially beneficial to us. Whether it be a new job opportunity or a new relationship, red flags can arise. For often, we are uncertain of possible unseen repercussions that may result from a new experience. One can be as frightened of success, as one can be of failure. Strange as that may seem, it is true. For when one attains a long sought after goal or a much desired someone; it is clear that either can be lost. However, with reason and foresight utilized, a person can avert a knee-jerk reaction to a decision that is before one. We can sleep on it. Woodpeckers do not have that luxury. To sleep on it, in their case, may result in their demise.
So, what is the advantage of our inherent early warning system? The advantages are many. Primarily it helps us to avoid the temptation to blindly move forward with something that may not seem harmful at the moment, but has the future potential to be harmful to one; whether that harm be to body, mind or soul. To name those particular harmful somethings is difficult, because there are fundamental dangers that affect us all, and there are dangers that are specific to us as individuals and our unique circumstances. Instinct alone can not protect us. Instinct, may actually prevent us from experiencing a true good. By including reason and foresight, prior to taking action, one clears the fog of vagueness from the situation at hand.
One must avoid being paralyzed when their instinct alerts them to a potential danger. Paralyzed to the extent of not making decisions at all. Life often involves risk. And it is unavoidable, if one is to live life to its fullest, as intended. Life is a gift, not meant to be left unwrapped, simply because we are uncertain of what may be inside. No matter the nature of a gift, it is still a gift, given out of love. Nothing bad can come from love.
“And which of you, if he asks his father for bread, will he give him a stone? Or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? – Luke 11:11
The true value of a gift can only be known when it is used. In that use, one can realize great satisfaction in achieving worthy goals and the joyful blessing of wonderful friendships that will last a lifetime.
A Prudent decision made, while being directed by right reason, insight and common sense, validates the valuable purpose of red flags. That purpose being two-fold; to protect us from imminent harm, yet encouraging us to avail ourselves to the good that is ever-present. As a result, red flags will not compel a person, in all instances, to wave the white flag of surrender in fear; for such directed persons do not rely on instinct alone.