By

Alan A. Malizia

 

“Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction.”-Al Bernstein

 

By the good grace of God, I survived the storm. Poliomyelitis would initially leave me paralyzed from the neck down; but alive. That morning I was an active and vital four-year old; shortly after, gravity would become my master. I was in the one percent of victims who had motor neurons infected and destroyed when the virus entered my central nervous system. This virus form, known as asymmetric paralysis, leads to muscle weakness and flaccid paralysis. So weakened, was I, that my legs and chest had to be bound to a chair to keep me seated upright, with my arms suspended from slings, to provide elevation and movement. Otherwise, I would simply slump over with my ineffective arms at my sides. After a nine month stay in a convalescent hospital, restoration would continue elsewhere. Piecing together the meager physical remnants and renewing shaken self-confidence, would be the task of the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, and a supportive, loving and patient family.

 

The program addressed the many weaknesses that were particular to me. Focus will be on that which would be most obvious to those when in my company; walking. Each weekly session would include an obstacle course, stairs included, until I became accustomed to my leg braces. As a toddler, before polio, my parents held my hands as I struggled to my feet and stumbled about acquiring a natural balance that would come by trial and error. Now, my physical therapist would assume that role. With his hands extended, he beckoned me to step toward him. I, again, struggled to my feet and stumbled about; only now, while gripping supporting parallel bars. And in this endeavor, that natural balance would be sought and achieved by unnatural means, with the errors incurred by trials here, purchased at a higher price.

 

As a part of the process, my therapist would take me out for a stroll in town. There to apply my training by traversing sidewalks, curbs and accessing businesses. All in preparation for what I could expect from the once familiar outside world, which has now become foreign. I had to integrate an alertness into my new way of life. Unlike the able-bodied, the potential for danger was everywhere. I looked down more often, than most others looked up. I would approach any stroll with the mind-set of a golfer. As a golfer lines up his putt to the hole, he takes into account the breaks and texture of the green along the way. In his mind are registered the grain of the grass that determines speed, and break points along the path, that must be met to successfully put the ball in the hole.

 

In walking I, too, would have to assess the route that I would be taking to successfully reach my goal(the place where I wished to be). Success would be achieved, in a well planned timely manner, if I did not fall along the way. I, like the golfer, would survey the path and detect obstacles that were present, along with the contour of the terrain, that may prove to be problematic. With my eyes now off the target and realigned to the ground, I would move forward-focusing on those points along the way that had to be successfully negotiated or avoided. For one not dependent on crutches and/or leg braces, it seems quite a bit to consider, for simply taking a walk. But, for those similarly challenged, it is par for the course.

 

The Golden Rule for the disabled is simply– Don’t fall. However, as a precaution, learning how to fall was integrated into the training process. Gym mats were placed on the floor beneath me for protection. And I was well armed with the necessary techniques to further cushion the impact. However, when falling in the real world, one encounters the likes of asphalt, linoleum and concrete, rather than a soft matted surface. Even though every attempt to avoid falling is made; it does happen. I have had my share of mishaps in 64 years of living. Yet I am still here to discuss them. I will therefore presume that my presence confirms success. Most falls, that I was victim to, resulted in bumps and bruises; and on a rare occasion, a fracture or concussion. When such events occurred, I would make adjustments from the experience, to prevent the same in the future.

 

On the last day of school, before one particular Christmas vacation, after dismissing my class, I waited by my classroom until all the students had cleared the hallway. With all the hustle, bustle and excitement, the halls were filled with students who were rushing to catch their buses at dismissal. When the halls finally emptied, I felt it safe to make my way out. With the lights already shut, the halls were a bit dark. But, there seemed to be enough light from bordering classroom windows. As I walked down the hall, suddenly, I felt one foot slip out from under me. I was still on my feet, but caught in an awkward position-bent forward and teetering on one braced leg and crutch. Evidently, the students, in their zeal of celebration, had tossed handfuls of rice, which covered the floor. I was alone with no one to call out to. The teachers on that floor had left as well. I was deciding, whether or not, to simply drop to the floor, and then crawl to a classroom, in an attempt to get back on my feet from a chair. With each attempt to right myself, I was nearing exhaustion.

 

Just as I was ready to let myself drop, one of the senior boys came into the hallway, having forgotten something from his locker. I yelled to him for help. He rushed over and propped me up until I regained my balance. I leaned against the wall until my strength returned. Then I made my way out, not by the hallway, but through the classrooms that lined the hall. Valuable knowledge that does not translate to wisdom is wasted in pride. If I stubbornly insisted on traveling again through the hall, I very likely would have fallen again. For one who is characterized by the idiom: “he has gotten too big for his britches”, may very well find himself on the seat of his pants.

 

In any goal of life, from simply enjoying an anticipated uneventful walk, to seeing life’s dreams to fruition, there will inevitably be falls along the way. If one is prideful, then one will be prone to repeating the same mistake. In so doing, one will fail to achieve the simplest of goals, and, as would be expected, the more complex. For pride does precede the fall.

 

On the contrary; he who, through humility, would not twice put his hand over an open flame, is the wiser. For when he falls, he learns from it, and continues successfully toward his goal by a different route. By willingly changing one’s route, one eventually arrives at the desired destination. One who is unwilling to alter one’s route, is destined to suffer the disappointment of an end not intended.

 

Take away:

As one can learn how to fall; so ,too, can one learn from it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Truth And Reality

March 16, 2014

Alonso Quixana (Don Quixote) is an aging gentleman who is enamored by and devours books about chivalry. He becomes so absorbed with the subject that he soon escapes reality as he fancies himself a knight, and travels about the countryside performing acts of imagined valor and good deeds. His world, as that of Cervantes, was anything but virtuous or chivalrous.

Quixana recruits a good-natured and keen-witted farmer, Sancho Panza, to be his squire (actually more of a protector), and onward they go. Windmills are seen as menacing giants to be vanquished, and ladies of the evening are seen as simply ladies, as beheld through the refined eyes of the brave and good knight. One woman in particular, Aldonza, he chastely adores. He chooses to call her by another name, Dulcinea, and envisions her his lady. Of course the upright world, which he battles to uphold through his quests was at that time downright debased and debauched. However, Don Quixote saw it as it otherwise should be.

Don Quixote’s virtuous behavior and insistence of compliance to the same, by those (often the dregs of society) whom he came upon, was first viewed as humorous and entertaining. But in time would become intrusive and threatening to their customary practices. Yet his example, though a worldly contradiction to all, other than himself, began to have a converting effect. The prostitute Dulcinea began to see herself as a lady and act as such. And Sancho, who played along most unwillingly at first, became a dedicated and loyal companion with each new imaginary adventure.

Meanwhile, Alonso Quixana’s niece, being so embarrassed by his antics, feigns concern for his sanity and safety, and contrives a plan with the family doctor, Dr. Carrasco, to hopefully return him to his senses. Alonso (Don Quixote) is confronted by Dr. Carrasco, disguised as the Knight Of The Mirrors, and accompanied by compatriots dressed in armor and carrying reflecting shields. Dr. Carrasco challenges Don Quixote’s claim that his love, Dolcinea, is a lady. The doctor characterizes her as no more than an alley cat. Don Quixote, angered beyond reason at this insult to his lady, takes up Carrasco’s gauntlet and is surrounded by those with mirrored shields. He is forced to see his image at every turn, which appears that of a madman. Reality strikes an overwhelming blow as the doctor’s disparaging and humiliating rants cut deep. Don Quixote falls to the ground after seeing the foolish dreamer that he is perceived to be. The plan succeeds because he returns to reality. For better or worse?

The mirror is where truth and reality come face-to-face. However, what you see is not necessarily what you get. If reality yields to truth, then there is order. Reality is subject to the variables of time and circumstance. Truth is not. If a couple is thinking about buying a house, but one says to the other, “In reality we cannot afford to buy now.” Does that mean forever? No, because with the passage of time, circumstances have an opportunity to change. So in the future, that same couple may have the means to purchase a house. Now, if a person were to step off a ledge, in an attempt to refute the law of gravity, he will find that the outcome of his experiment will not be altered by time nor circumstance. The first is an example of reality, the second of truth.

Conversely, let us suppose that truth yields to reality. Then there is disorder, in this instance, as truth changes congruently with reality by time and circumstance. If truth does change, then truth is a lie. Our friend on the ledge should then get a different outcome to his experiment on a Thursday, than he would have gotten on a Monday – which would then make the law of gravity a lie, and that is not the case. For truth is ageless and beyond contestation.

The story does not end with Alonso Quixana on his death bed, a beaten man. Present with him is his squire Sancho and his lady Dulcinea. They are overcome with grief, because the man that lay prostrate before them is not he who rekindled in their hearts the flame of goodness, charity and dignity. They remind him of the truth that he stood for in his quest to revive chivalry. As he listens to their pleas, something stirs within him. His despairing heart is rejuvenated by their overtures of encouragement and love. He rises up vigorously and passionately promises to sally forth again. However, his endearing strength of spirit is too much for his frail and aged body to bear. As he succumbs to death, he is again Don Quixote, who passes from this world to the next, while in the arms of his lady and squire. He dies as he lived: a knight.

The image that Don Quixote beheld in the mirror was his reality, not his truth. His truth was in how he saw himself. And this, likewise, is how others saw him. The profound impression left upon those who crossed his path encouraged change (where once thought impossible) – and for the better. So much so that an Aldonza believed she could become a Dolcinea.

Takeaway:

Truth is not reflected in a mirror, but contained in the heart. It is often obscured by reality. Yet truth’s existence is confirmed by its outward effectiveness. No matter how distorted the inconsistent worldly realities may jade a heart, there in its farthest corner truth abides: A truth that endures and ensures the restoration of life to its full goodness, for one who desires it enough to fight for it. Like Don Quixote, we too can fulfill our just cause. If in the end, we are found fighting still.

Harold Payne is a multi-Platinum songwriter and master improviser, who combines prepared customized material and “on the spot” songs to create a pinnacle moment for concerts, special events and conferences that entertain, inspire and involve the audience.

Harold will speak at Contagious Optimism LIVE!, a daylong event with inspirational talks, music, and entertainment. Contagious Optimism LIVE! is taking place at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society on the Jupiter campus on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 2 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50, which includes a reception following the event. Group discounts are also available. All attendees will receive a free copy of the bestselling book, “Contagious Optimism.”

Get more information by visiting www.contagiousoptimismlive.com, and follow the event on Facebook and Twitter.

Sherry Hursey is an American actress known for her recurring role as Ilene Markham on the sitcom “Home Improvement.” She also appeared in the movie “Bring it On” and the shows “Happy Days” and “Days of Our Lives.”

Sherry will speak at Contagious Optimism LIVE!, a daylong event with inspirational talks, music, and entertainment. Contagious Optimism LIVE! is taking place at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society on the Jupiter campus on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 2 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50, which includes a reception following the event. Group discounts are also available. All attendees will receive a free copy of the bestselling book, “Contagious Optimism.”

Get more information by visiting www.contagiousoptimismlive.com, and follow the event on Facebook and Twitter.

Call for submissions!

August 23, 2013

Do you have a story of optimism to share with us? We want to hear from you!

  • Body Image: We are looking for people who have (or had) body image issues regarding things such as weight, skin, wardrobe and physique. These real stories tell our readers that we are not alone and we do have the ability to persevere. We will also accept essays that offer guidance or insight on this topic as long as they also include example stories within the essay.
  • Tragedy: We are adding a “tragedy” chapter to a future volume. We believe that people need to read about how others have persevered through tragedy to help them cope and get through it themselves.  We all hear that “time heals all wounds.” At “Contagious Optimism,” we also believe that sharing our stories is critical in that process as well.

Ready to submit? Here are our guidelines. If you have questions, comment below!

Miami Beach, FL., March 25, 2013 — Contagious Optimism author David Mezzapelle appears on the Kandee G radio show in Miami Beach. 

Click here to listen.  

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 29, 2013

viva logo

2246 Sixth St.■ Berkeley ■ California ■ 94710-2219

 ☎ 510.845.8000 ■ fax 510.845.8001

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Eileen Duhné

eduhne@comcast.net / 415.459.2573

Brenda Knight

bknight@cleispress.com / 510.845.8000

 

 

                 Making Optimism Contagious With Positive Forward Thinking

The fast pace of our lives can seem like an infinite loop. For many, this includes the constant barrage of emails, a 24/7 workplace, busy families, the challenges of uncertainty, and life’s trials and tribulations. All of this can make it easy for someone to get sucked into a “poor me” cycle.

Instead of dwelling on the negative, David Mezzapelle recommends tuning your mind to the positive. Contagious Optimism: Uplifting Stories and Motivational Advice for Positive Forward Thinking (Viva Editions, June 2013) is inspired by the idea of “positive forward thinking” created by Mezzapelle, serial entrepreneur and founder of several well-known companies such as Goliath Technology, GoliathJobs, JobsOver50, and Goliath-SilverCensus.

Positive forward thinking is the ability to find the silver lining in every cloud no matter how difficult yesterday or today may be. Nowadays, many people have lost confidence in themselves and the world around them due to personal hardship along with economic and political uncertainty worldwide. Mezzapelle believes that we all have stories that can inspire and motivate others across many of life’s themes. “We all have the capacity to make optimism contagious,” says Mezzapelle. “Whether people are enduring good times or bad, just knowing that others have persevered from similar experiences is comforting and spreads a message of hope,” he asserts.

A compendium of encouragement, Contagious Optimism shows readers that it’s possible to look for and FIND silver linings in every cloud. Developed by some of the team that brought you Random Acts of Kindness, this book is rather like Chicken Soup for the Soul meets Pay It Forward, with extra pizzazz! Contagious Optimism is pure inspiration that will lift hearts, open minds and create a movement of pass-it-on hope and happiness.

 Contagious Optimism includes over one hundred stories and parables of amazing life turnarounds and contagious insight from real people around the globe, as well as advice and guidance from business leaders, visionaries, and professionals. Contagious Optimism contributors include:

  • Ricky Wade — raised in Jamaica with poverty all around him, Wade worked his way up to become one of the top McDonald’s franchisees in Florida, mentoring and hiring at-risk youth in his stores.
  • Daniel Tully — considered one of the top executives to ever grace Wall Street, Tully’s strong belief in values, ethics, and optimism, coupled with his drive to instill these attributes in his team, led Merrill Lynch & Co. to record success during his era as chairman and CEO.
  • Marshall Goldsmith—America’s preeminent executive coach, Goldsmith is recognized by the London Times as one of the fifteen most influential business thinkers in the world.
  • Nancy Ferrari—the “Oprah of Radio,” dedicated to giving all women the tools and inspiration for success in work and life.

“It is impossible to inoculate oneself against the contagion of optimism that pours out from the stories of the courageous men and women in this book who show us how we can soar and flourish in the very midst of life’s challenges. Read Contagious Optimism and celebrate the human spirit!” —Michael Bernard Beckwith, founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center and author of Life Visioning

About the Author:

 David Mezzapelle has been motivating others to be positive since his childhood. Mezzapelle was the founder and director of marketing for Goliath Technology, a leader in data center infrastructure that supported corporations, schools and government agencies worldwide. In addition, he orchestrated one of the most innovative academic internship programs ever created. A graduate of Fairfield University in Connecticut, Mezzapelle worked with the students at Fairfield on the Contagious Optimism book project. It has proved successful for the students in several ways; many students are getting jobs or into graduate school based on the experience. After selling Goliath Technology, Mezzapelle launched several companies. Today, Mezzapelle consults on various projects and initiatives along with serving on several public and private boards. Throughout his life he has encountered great peaks and valleys, all of which he is thankful for. He never lost sight along the way and has kept his positive attitude and confidence at 110 percent. A regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and various other international publications, Mezzapelle has been a frequent guest on radio and television. He resides in Jupiter, Florida with his wife, Courtney. Learn more about David Mezzapelle at http://www.lifecarrots.com.

A portion of the proceeds from Contagious Optimism will go to Fairfield University and various charities.

Contagious Optimism

Uplifting Stories and Motivational Advice for Positive Forward Thinking

By David Mezzapelle, Foreword by Marshall Goldsmith

ISBN: 978-1-936740-41-3

Trade Paper, $16.95

5.5” x 8.25”, 272 pages

Publishing on National Smile Power Day, June 15, 2013

Contact: Eileen Duhné, eduhne@comcast.net, 415-459.2573

Brenda Knight, bknight@cleispress.com, 510-845-8000