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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Save Money and Become Your Own Fortune Teller



I think I had a lightning bolt moment this week—a second of pure genius that will simultaneously put every fortune teller out of business, put some dollars in your pocket, and a smile on your face (from time to time).

Let me explain.

I’m a big believer in the power of storytelling. A great film, a compelling play, or an engaging speech can change the lives of millions in ninety minutes or less.
These forms of media are quite accessible and available at the click of a button or swipe of a credit card. We hear about them through advertisements and through word-of-mouth from friends.
But it’s not often we spend time looking at or listening to one of the most beautifully written and magnificent stories one could ever tell—that is the story of our future self.
On a personal level I spend time with two very extremes on the spectrum of life—1) People who are working hard, making things happen for themselves, who feel in charge of their destiny no matter how close or far away they feel themselves to be from their life’s goals; and 2) People who may or may not work hard, but who feel as if they have zero control of their destiny and that their lives and goals are entirely conditional to the current state they find themselves in.
I happen to love some people in the second category, but it breaks my heart to know that they don’t understand how much power they have to influence their future.
People can’t be forced into realizing their own power—they can only be led to it and even then, they have to find it and understand it on their own.

Just a wee bit more preface to the lightning bolt moment

The power of storytelling: In the past three years I’ve done a bit of life coaching, business/project coaching and consulting, written a book, done my one-man play in more than sixty locations across the US and Canada, and made hundreds of new, and life long friendships. And all of that is made possible by storytelling—not only the things you tell yourself during the course of your day, but the things you write down in the weeks, months, and years prior to the day you’re in.

So here we are at the lightning bolt. This week I’m doing a little prep work for a class I’m supposed to teach for a entrepreneur friend on “monetizing your passion project.” Most of it’s just going to be me gabbing away but I need to come up with some kind of class activity. But what kind of activity could I possibly give these early-stage business-owner students that could keep them engaged and productive in class, and leave them feeling changed and empowered to take action after class? (Like, zoinks, Scooby!)
Duh—a writing exercise. Essentially it’s The Good News Project, meets a bit of fortune telling, with a little bit of creative writing thrown in the mix.
It’s roughly a thousand words written in twenty-five minutes that foretells a future you want to see for yourself. The first paragraph is a quick intro about who you are and what you do (or what you’re all about). The middle few paragraphs should not be about you but someone else—a person who’s benefitted from the actions your future self has taken (could be a business, philanthropy, or a new attitude). The second to last paragraph should be about what you learned or an insight gained from the positivity someone else received because of your future self. The last paragraph will be left blank—a conclusion, something to be written once you’ve gained perspective after set into motion, actions to achieve this future outcome you desire.
The exercise is the beginning of what will be a series of actions that sets the writer on a long and winding course toward the life they wish to create for themselves.
I actually created this little exercise for myself once. It was in March, 2011 after a long bout of debilitating clinical depression. The writing exercise I gave myself wasn’t as structured as what I set out above, but I outlined what I wanted out of life. Slowly, piece by piece the things I wanted started coming to fruition.
Feel free to take on the same writing exercise (or come to the class my buddy has me doing on 3/29/14 at 1030am).
Stay the course and watch your prognostications come true. One of the cooler things you’ll find as your story comes to life—you’ll have many more stories to tell about the next chapters of your life… and your abilities to predict the future will get better and better.
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We need your help! After a three year, sixty city tour we're bringing our "Little Engine that Could" The Gospel According to Josh back to the biggest stage in the world: New York City, Off-Broadway in May 2014. We're using the Off-Broadway run to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention and mental health services. Please consider donating to our IndieGoGo campaign (HERE) to help bring this back to NYC and help save lives.
Please help me show the world that it's possible to fall down, to struggle, to come to the edge of hitting the self-destruct button... and to fight and claw your way back to find love, hope, health, and life.

I need your help! Donate HERE or consider sharing it with a friend or loved one. Every little bit of support counts!! Thank you!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What History Can Teach Us About Ourselves



Just after the new year a friend recommended a new book for me to read based on my love for European and Middle Eastern history. The Arabs: A History is a fascinating read written by a British man, Eugene Rogan, who learned Arabic and Turkish so he could interpret both from a Western perspective and a Middle Eastern perspective.

He records that in 1921 during the colonial period of British rule (the French had a large hand in cutting up the former Ottoman empire as well), Faisal, the British puppet king of an artificial nation of Iraq made of multiple ethno-religious peoples, writes of being shunned by his fractious subjects. "There is still – and I say this with a heart full of sorrow – no Iraqi people, but unimaginable masses of human beings devoid of any patriotic idea, imbued with religious traditions and absurdities, connected by no common tie, giving ear to evil, prone to anarchy, and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatsoever." 

It’s almost as if Faisal is writing an epistle to modern-day Western politicians, warning of an impending pattern of un-winnable wars with and for people whom we don’t understand.

As much as I find that all captivating, I find it of the utmost importance to use our own historical information to examine our own lives, our recent and ancient pasts, to look for patterns of success and triumph—and patterns of our own versions of entering into un-winnable wars. Life is short and there simply isn’t enough time to be repeating mistakes that lead to misery.

Your successes—what were the basic elements (not the details) of how you achieved success. Persistence? A specific time of day, week, or year? Research? Partnerships?

Your defeats—what were the basic elements of how you feel into defeat? Lack of passion? Minimal preparation? Rushing into a decision?

There are thousands of conclusions and outcomes, if modern Western politicians heeded (or even knew about) Faisal’s ominous letter from 1921. But there are probably far fewer, and more controllable combinations and permutations when we work to draw from our own past to improve our future. 

Read your tea leaves or take a stab in the dark and future results will vary.

Read your history and results will be closer to the future you desire.
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We need your help! After a three year, sixty city tour we're bringing our "Little Engine that Could" The Gospel According to Josh back to the biggest stage in the world: New York City, Off-Broadway in May 2014. We're using the Off-Broadway run to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention and mental health services. Please consider donating to our IndieGoGo campaign (HERE) to help bring this back to NYC and help save lives.
Please help me show the world that it's possible to fall down, to struggle, to come to the edge of hitting the self-destruct button... and to fight and claw your way back to find love, hope, health, and life.

I need your help! Donate HERE or consider sharing it with a friend or loved one. Every little bit of support counts!! Thank you!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Recent HuffPost article: A Sin at the Intersection of Faith, Religion and Mental Health

Hey y'all. Forgive me for not posting something original this week (this HuffPost article was released on 2/26/14) but it's been a tremendously busy week with a move, preparing to leave town again to go out on tour with The Gospel... and suicide prevention for the next two weeks, and prepping The Gospel... for the Off-Broadway run. Thanks for bearing with me and know I'll have something funky and new in a week. The article I'm posting is entitled: "A Sin at the Intersection of Faith, Religion and Mental Health." Oddly enough, I've gotten a little flak for it but for the most part the reception to the article has been positive. I wonder if you have any thoughts on it. Thanks for reading!! - Josh

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Several years ago I took a course in suicide intervention called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) sponsored by the New York Office of Mental Health. My fellow classmates included clinicians, psychologists, and paramedics.
While going through the course my classmates and I were given surveys to fill out. One of the questions asked was: "Where or to whom would you turn if you were in crisis?" Popular answers listed were "the emergency room," "a loved one," "a mentor," "a crisis hotline," and very last on the popularity list was "clergy." When asked why, most people responded that they were afraid they would be told they were a sinner.
That fear of being labeled a sinner was exactly what my father, Douglas, experienced several months before he died by suicide in 2009. Douglas was a deeply religious man, and the convictions of his faith often guided his life. I didn't always agree with his beliefs, but I understood that his faith helped complement certain areas of his life for the better.
I could tell he was extremely depressed after he and my mother separated in late 2008. I asked him if he was getting help. He mentioned that he had sought counsel with several clergy and spiritual advisors but he had to stop. They were telling him he was a sinner because of how his marriage ended and that his depression was a weakness and a result of him not being right with God. His spiritual advisors (also licensed counselors) were making him feel worse and even abandoned. So he turned away from the biggest support system he had ever known. Several months later he took his own life.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that, "More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder." A mental disorder is a treatable illness and not a character flaw, a weakness, or spiritual deficiency.
Most who are experiencing suicidal thoughts are unwell. They don't want to die but rather want to end the emotional pain they're experiencing.
Before telling someone that their suicidal thoughts are a sin, look at Elijah -- a historical figure in all three of the major Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (though in the Quran he is known as Elias, is only mentioned twice and briefly at that).
1st Kings 19: 4-8 outlines a time in Elijah's life when he experienced tremendous despair, asking God to take his life. Elijah wanted to die. But God didn't scold him or tell him he was a sinner or tell him to "suck it up and be a man." God sent him an angel, a helper, to nourish him back to health. Spiritual advisors, clergy, and faith based counselors can be that same angel that God provided Elijah.
Bear with me and know that it would be tremendously difficult to include all religions and faiths in the text of this article. But we can agree that, in part, the purpose of faith is to enhance a person's quality of life and provide them with support. Each faith has their own way of doing that. Leaders in religious studies in their respective religious fields need to open up dialogue with mental health professionals (and vice versa) so that faith can be used as a tool to help nourish a person back to health.
Two faith-based organizations have been doing commendable work. Awake!magazine (Jehovah's Witnesses) did an article about reasons to live and Eljiah's Journey is an organization dedicated to being "A Jewish Response to the Issues of Suicide Awareness and Prevention" (I am neither a Jehovah's Witness or Jewish; however, I serve on the advisory board for Elijah's Journey).
But there's another place where the dialogue between mental health crisis support, faith, and religion needs improvement and that's with well-meaning religious laypeople -- folks with strong faith who happen to be adjacent to a person in crisis or who are informally counseling a person with a psychiatric illness or suicidal thoughts.
Using my own moment of crisis as an example (in 2011 I nearly made a suicide attempt), when I first called my mother to ask for her help and emotional support, the first thing she suggested was that my suicidal thoughts were, "God telling you that you need to come back to him."
That was not what I wanted or needed to hear in that moment, it wasn't practical for my brain, and I threatened to hang up the phone if she didn't stop. Thankfully, she had the good sense to change tactics. The rest of the way through she actually listened to what I said, told me my life was important to her, encouraged me to think of reasons to live, and advised that I get help from a professional therapist.
Crisis isn't the time for proselytization. Instead of focusing on the text of your preferred religious book, focus on the person and their needs in that moment. Simply listening to what the person in crisis is going through is a great start. Acknowledging their emotional pain as legitimate is tremendously important as is searching for clues within the person's speech to help them find reasons they might want to live. And finally, it's imperative that you refer that person in crisis to seek professional help. If there's a faith-based component to the dialogue of the distressed person seeking your help, then that can be a tactic for assisting that person. Faith is not a Swiss Army Knife for suicidal thoughts, but one of several tools to feed the soul and bring a person back to good health.
It's easier to help a person stay alive and open the dialogue on reasons to live slowly, with a delicate pair of pliers, rather than the sledgehammer of "suicide is a sin."
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Josh Rivedal is a non-denominational ordained minister. He's sharing his own Gospel in New York City the weekend of May 16, 2014. Learn more HERE.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The i'Mpossible Project …According to Alexis Fishman (16)

This is the sixteenth edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.) Here we have Alexis Fishman with "The Question Asked on a Journey Through Iraq and Afghanistan."
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Back in 2007 at the height of the ‘War on Terror’, I joined a group of talented entertainers and spent two weeks on a whirlwind tour of Australian army bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. The tour was run by Forces Entertainment, a division of the Australian Defense Force that have been sending Aussie performers to entertain our troops since Vietnam.

The main function of our tour was to break up the monotony of the dull, daily lives that the soldiers were living for six months at a time. The men and women we entertained were so appreciative and so incredibly hospitable. Be traveling all that way, we showed our troops a huge amount of support. Our concerts helped take their minds off the ordeal of fighting a war halfway across the world and I was proud to be a part of it.

Our first stop in Afghanistan was Tarin Kowt, an isolated fighting base in the south of the country and the base out of which Australian casualties would prove highest. It had a makeshift kind of feel to it; steel bunk beds inside bare concrete structures, tarp on the ground and a dining hall with a flapping door that was little more structured than a tent. The base was surrounded by grey, beautifully misty, rolling mountains and we were told that amidst those mountains, Taliban fighters were hiding. During our concert a few hours after we arrived (the back of a large semi-trailer doubled as our stage) we heard machine gun fire and saw flares being sent out into the hills. The flares, we were told, were to let the Taliban fighters know not to cause any trouble that night. (I didn’t realize there was such a co-operative dialogue!)

My thirty minute set of feel-good pop songs opened the show and whilst enjoying the masculine attention of a group of Australian Army engineers, I couldn’t help but feel a great deal of defiance towards the Taliban fighters that were supposedly hiding in the hills enjoying our concert. “If you want to attack us,” I thought, “go for it. Send a rocket in and blow my arm off. I don’t care. We’re doing an important thing for our men and women and nothing is going to stop us.”

Of course our invincibility wasn’t guaranteed. Our scheduled concert at Camp Victory in Baghdad a week later was cancelled due to intelligence warning of an imminent rocket attack. (Camp Victory was mockingly referred to a few years later as Camp ‘We Spoke Too Soon’) We scrambled to pack everything away as quickly as possible and take shelter inside. What amazed me was that after twenty minutes of terrible fear, probably the greatest fear I’ve ever known, I forgot all about it and got on with my evening just like everyone else.

With a little bit more thought and reflection on the nearly paralytic fear I felt the face of real danger, I realized that if my arm was blown off that night in Baghdad or the previous week in Tarin Kowt, I would care. Agreeing to take this trip was patriotic, sure, but had I returned to Australia with one less limb, I would not be able to take pride or solace in the fact that ‘I did it for my country.’ Not a chance in hell. So the question I found myself asking was how did the parents of thirty-three-year-old Sergeant Matthew Locke, who was killed a week after we left Tarin Kowt, how did they cope? Did they take the Australian flag that was wrapped around their son’s coffin and hang it up with pride on their living room wall? I’m sure I couldn’t. We read statistics in the paper about deaths at war and often overlook the significance, because a disconnected number is difficult to fathom. But I was there. I had just left the base that Sergeant Locke was serving inhe probably heard me sing. His death had a profound effect on me and we didn’t even meet.

The biggest thing that struck me on our trip was the wasted human life. In November 2007, the month I returned home from our tour, there were already 4,700 U.S. soldiers dead, 4 Australians, 255 British, 14 Dutch. There were an estimated 70,000 Iraqi civilians dead and 40,000 US medical evacuees—meaning 40,000 men and women with seriously debilitating injuries including irreversible brain damage and blindness. There were 10,000 people with grave psychological issues (as well as countless veteran suicides in each of the subsequent years). If you take a second to think of just one of those people—just one, selected out of any one of those categories—if you think of that one person as your father or your husband, your daughter or your son, then you might find yourself asking, is it worth it? I may be hugely idealistic, but with a tragic history of so many millions dead at the hands of war, surely we are smart enough to find a better way.
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Alexis Fishman is an Australian singer and actor who has lived in New York City for the past six years. She is a graduate of the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (Hugh Jackman’s alma mater). She is the creator and star of a solo show,
Der Gelbe Stern, which tells the story of a famous cabaret singer performing her final show in Berlin 1933. After successful seasons in Australia, Der Gelbe Stern will make its off-Broadway debut at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in July, 2014. As a writer, Alexis will be a contributor to “God, Faith and Identity in the Ashes: Perspectives of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors” due to be published by in 2015. She is also completing a Masters in International Relations through Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia and due to graduate at the end of 2014. www.alexisfishman.com
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Why is this "The i’Mpossible Project?
Inspired by Josh Rivedal's book and one-man show The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. Gospel (non-religious) means "Good News" and Josh's good news is that he's alive, and thriving, able to tell his story and help other people.
On his international tour with his one-man show, he found incredible people who felt voiceless or worthless yet who were outstanding people with important personal stories waiting to be told. These personal stories changed his life and the life of the storyteller for the better. 

Josh's one-man show continues through 2015 and beyond and he is looking for people in all walks of life, online and offline, to help give them a voice and share their stories with the world.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Jumping Through the Flaming Hoop of "No" to Find a "Yes"




Someone just told you “no” — no you can’t sell your wares here, no you can’t sing your song on this stage, no we don’t care enough about you to sign you to a deal, no we don’t to partner with you… no…

“No” is taurus-poo (i.e. BS).

If you were in tremendous physical pain and the first doctor tells you, “No, I can’t help you because X, Y , or Z,” you would search high and low until you found a doctor who could help you. You’ll sign any required form, travel three hundred miles by car, find the loophole in any insurance policy, and jump through any other flaming hoop until you get the help you need. 

Think about that relentless persistence you would employ for survival and good physical health, and put it to good use for the sake of your mental health in the healthy pursuit of a goal. Succeed or fail, there is much to gain while on the path toward a personal objective. It is not enough that you merely survive on this spinning ball, but that you run toward the things that make you physically and mentally whole. Putting yourself on the line to fail (or succeed) is scary… but think about the consequences of not pursuing your physical health while in tremendous pain… now think about the consequences of not pursuing your mental health through following your dream(s)—the danger does not appear as imminent but is something of wolf in sheep’s clothing, hiding under the guise of a long and slow death.

“No” is simply one round in the process of elimination—a lesson you learn while working to find a “yes.”