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Stories Provide a Template for Success

Whenever I’m feeling particularly uninspired or low, one of my favorite activities is to read the biography of someone famous and look for the part of their life story where they had struggled. I find that I learn a lot more from a person’s low points—my own included—rather than a highlight reel of their greatest achievements. 

I’m deeply curious about how people reengage with life after a difficult, traumatic, or tragic event. How did they get back on the horse? In what ways did they succeed? What did they do that was “unsuccessful?” (Quick tangent: the word “fail” should be replaced in the English language with “lesson I learned on my way to success.") 

“If that woman can overcome her paraplegia to become a famous painter by using her teeth, then holy cow, I can do just about anything!” 

“That guy lost his wife and daughter in a car accident and fell into tremendous grief, but then rebounded, found love again, and became the Vice President of the United States. If he can keep fighting on then, oh snap, I can keep on fighting, too.”

When people give of themselves through the telling of their stories it makes the seemingly impossible in our lives tangible and attainable. 

Look for more stories here in the coming weeks and more on “failure” in the hopes of providing a template of “what not to do” or even “success.” 
The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You is now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.

Adventures in Caregiving (…plus a special announcement)

I was going to save this post for a special occasion… but I decided to put it in my new book (surprise!). And it’s something I’ve been going through for a few months without so much as sharing a word of it in public. But hopefully this will other caregivers out there. (PS. see below the story for the special announcement)
Few things invoke a more vehement denial than when your Significant-Other tells you they’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. Yes, denial—not just a river in Egypt.

“Bah, humbug. You’re definitely an Aquarius, not a Cancer, you silly goose.”

But when Significant-Other’s tears didn’t stop, I knew that life had just changed, shifted, and become both a bit more real and surreal all at the same time.

An entire spectrum of thoughts immediately surged to the forefront. What is she going to do? What am I going to do? I’m happy to take care of her as best I can—but damn, it’s gonna be a lot of work. Why her? Why me?

Significant-Other had an especially difficult roller coaster of emotions—her mother had died from cancer a few years back, her lovely but hairless cat had died from cancer the year prior, and her best friend was in the process of dying from an especially nasty cancer, extinguishing a flame that should have shone brightly for at least another thirty years.

However, Significant-Other made a smart decision at the very beginning. She reached out to her friends and her especially Brave-Sister on my behalf, to help me help her. I couldn’t do it all alone, and she knew that the prospect of doing so would break me in two.
The coming weeks were filled with doctor’s appointments, second opinions, paperwork, and scheduling surgery. Finally, the doctors found a small tumor at the base of her tongue.

After a wee bairn of a Scottish doctor resected (fancy word for “sliced out”) a three-centimeter piece of the back of her tongue, she was on pain drugs galore. Many of them made her an irritable, nauseous mess, which then brought on a terrible and persistent anxiety, the likes of which I had never before seen.

I knew how to deal with my anxiety. I speak about it in front of hundreds at a time, after which people will pull me aside to discuss their own anxiety. I get to hug them and be with them one-on-one for a few minutes. But how was I supposed to deal with the anxiety of Significant-Other for an undetermined period of time?

Significant-Other’s anxiety was a true test of my patience, not to mention my mental health. Self-coaching, a call to a therapist friend, and honest conversations with Significant-Other were exactly what the doctor ordered to make my life and caregiving a bit more manageable.

Never once did I think Significant-Other would die from the diagnosis or the treatment. But the emotional baggage that one accumulates in the interim is heavy enough to make some sink for good.
Why do these things happen? Who the hell knows? Spending your life trying to gauge whether God is fair or unjust—or wondering whether the government is out to get you with cancerous crop pesticides—is about as useful as chasing your own tail.

Hindsight does provide a luxury: the ability to wax poetic on any set of circumstances. With the benefit of clearer vision—and with Significant-Other’s successful cancer treatment in the rear-view mirror—it’s a bit easier to see that the whole ordeal was not and still is not easy to understand in the slightest. I have to squint my eyes and focus on the bits I want to see, the ones that help me move forward, to heal and to help others. I get to choose my own viewpoint and my own adventure.

The purpose I take away from things like Significant-Other’s cancer—and my own brush with suicide in the past—is that it’s all about refinement, at least for me. I already won the “white guy born in the United States of America” lottery, so that skews things a bit. I get to learn something from this—or at least I get to try.

I learned how to ask for help, which is something I still struggle with at times. Significant-Other asked for help from Brave-Sister and her friends, which in turn helped me find a way to ask my own friends and even Significant-Other for help while I played the role of caregiver.

I learned about grace and dignity. Three of my grandparents had died from cancer before I was born. I don’t worry about it, but there’s a good chance I’ll probably get it, too (sweet b’jesus, let it be something confined to my pinky toenail, if anything at all). I now have a better idea of how to ask for help for myself and how to navigate the healthcare system.

I learned how to find my funny, even in the face of a s&*+ storm.

I learned how to better love myself, my friends, and my lover.

I learned.
That was a sample of my newest book, The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles.
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah

The Art of Giving

Gift: A thing given willingly to someone without payment
Present: A thing given to someone as a gift.
"Gift" is a more formal term, often suggesting something of monetary value formally bestowed on an individual, group, or institution (i.e. a gift to the university).

"Present," on the other hand, implies something of less value that is an expression of goodwill (i.e a housewarming present; a present for the teacher).

Humans have thrived and survived for eons by giving to one another.
When members of our ancient clan got sick they provided one another with a healing porridge and shade from the scorching sun.
  • Would you give your mother a gourmet box of chocolates for mother’s day but have them delivered on Father’s Day because “the shipping expenses were cheaper a month later?”
  • Would you buy your kid (the well-behaved one :) ) a bike for his birthday that only had one tire because “you’re doing him a favor by even buying him anything?”
  • Would you thank your boss for taking a chance on you by hiring you and then take him out to dinner only to skip out on the bill?
“Gasp!” You say.
“I would never!” You say.

Great, except this kind of “giving” happens often—the thing being given is not a gift or a present but a manifestation of the giver’s selfishness and disrespect for the recipient.

Recently, a friend mentioned she was getting work done on her website by one of her friends and she was getting a good deal. But because of the good deal, her friend took extra long in delivering the end product and was less than helpful in his customer service because, in his mind, she was not one of his higher paying customers.

Qualities of a good gift or even a present:
  • A reflection of the admiration, love, or respect you feel about the recipient (doesn’t have to be of monetary value)
  • Could be a referral, an article, a brainstorming session, a hug, your time etc.
  • Should contain all its parts and stick to its deadlines (I’m building you a website delivered in three months, I’m giving you a hug tomorrow, etc.)
A gift is an opportunity to give of yourself and get nothing in return. The gift is its own reward and perhaps may even be paid back to you in another form some time in the future.

A present is an opportunity to say thank you to the recipient for some act of kindness they bestowed upon you. And in our society a present is great way to ensure positive, healthy, and long-term friendships or business ties.

The act of giving is something we as a species have needed to survive and thrive since our cavemen ancestors. Somewhere along the way we may have forgotten that giving is truly an art. Its now up to us to use all of our creative juices to give of ourselves in a way that positively affects and changes the recipient for the better. All of our gifts may be insignificant by themselves, but as a whole they’ll ensure that in another two hundred years, the human species continues to thrive and grow.

The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You is now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.

Good to the Last Drop


Last week I was at the grocery store, exhausted after a long day, and at a loss for meal ideas. Whole lobsters were on sale. Done. After finishing dinner, I decided to try my hand at lobster bisque. I saved the lobster shells, chopped up some veggies, a few herbs, and made a stock. I used every last bit of those lobsters… which got me thinking.

How much more productive can I/we be with our day-to-day activities?
  • Athletes/gym-goers: Are constantly looking to beat their best time or do an extra set of reps.
  • Entrepreneurs: Up-selling. I’m already selling you a pair of dress pants… I might as well get into distributing belts as well, since you can’t keep your pants up without a nice belt (unless you’re into the whole “I like wearing a rope around my waist” thing).
  • Foodies: That small patch of grass on your front lawn or the window box outside your kitchen window. Is it possible to put in some mulch and fertilizer and grow a few tomatoes?
  • Productivity and conservation (and maybe saving a few bucks) might not be the typical definition of preserving one’s mental health but they’re certainly good for my head. It’s also helping take care of mother earth whose doing her best to take care of us.
(PS. sometimes the time spent “wasting time” by relaxing or looking at trees is not a waste. It’s a much needed respite, where you make time slow down just a little to rest and enjoy the beauty in people and nature around you)