"Dad, how can one person change the world? It's really big and there are lots of people. I don't see how I can make the world better." Lia asked.
We were driving home from a baseball game when she asked me. It kind of caught me off guard so I took a few moments to think about how to respond to a question as big as changing the world.
I hear you, Lia. Changing the world can seem like such a hard task. You hear incredible stories about doctors curing diseases, scientists making incredible inventions to change the environment, it's easy to think what you choose to do in your life might not compare to what those people are doing. But here's the thing.
We all have gifts to offer the world. We're all born with something that fills us up with the good feelings inside, something that gives us a purpose to get out of bed every morning and will effect others in a positive way as well.
To change the world, you only have to do a few things...
1. Be kind + brave.
2. Show up + share your gifts.
It takes bravery to show up and offer your whole heart to the world. It takes kindness to want to better the world in the first place. It takes bravery to say to the world, here I am, this is what I have to give. Some people might laugh at you, but we can't control the actions of others. We can only continue to be brave and show up.
You know how I write my letters and leave them all over? You know how I make art and cards and journals and stuff for others to use to enrich the lives of people they love? That's my way of changing the world. My purpose is not to make the world a better place on a grand scale like those doctors and scientists. My purpose is to help others know they're loved no matter what. My purpose is to help people know they matter. My purpose is to help people keep going, even when they feel like stopping. My purpose helps other people change the world on a smaller scale. And if we're all focusing on changing the world on a smaller scale, we'll slowly begin to see the world changing on a massive scale.
You know those times when I might be sad or upset and you come and sit with me? When you give those hugs you're so good at and you sit with me and tell me how much you love me...how good of a dad you think I am. When you take the time to sit with another when they might be feeling pain you're making the world a better place as well. Because you're changing MY world for the better. You're creating a ripple effect of goodness. It started with you, you passed it on to me, then I'll keep the ripple going with my gifts and so on. That takes bravery and kindness as well.
I know it can all seem so overwhelming, but once you realize that with a heart full of love, bravery to keep showing up and sharing what you have to offer will make the lives of the people you come into contact with better. To change the world, we must believe that.
There's a lot of pain in this world. Within the last week, we've had the tragic mass murder in Orlando. I read a story about an alligator that snatched a 2 year old right right by the Grand Floridian at Disney World. A friend of mine just lost her dad. Friends are getting divorced. Pain. Pain mixed with a whole lot of sadness.
It would be easy to just shut down or get angry. Angry at gun violence. To just shut down at all the violence and loss. Angry that it seems people with differing opinions can't even have a conversation any more. It would be easy to just stay in the house and hide. Stay off the internet. Don't pay attention to the news. Just ignore it all. Or numb ourselves with Game of Thrones and video games. We all have our numbing rituals, don't we?
But I choose to believe in a better world. I choose to believe in the goodness of people. Yes, our world isn't perfect, but the lovers far outnumber the haters. Always have and always will. There are so many good things about this world...so many good things about this life. So many good things our differences bring to the table. Cultures, foods, architecture. This world is overwhelmingly beautiful and good.
So I refuse to hide. I refuse to silence my love. Instead I choose to sing. I choose to dance and love with my heart wide open. I choose to seek out the good in the moments I'm given. I choose to spend extra time with my loved ones and let them know all the things that I love about them. I choose to continue to pour my heart and soul into letters for strangers to find. I choose to be brave and be kind. I choose to be a reminder LOVE is the way.
I choose these things because I can.
Because I'm alive, right now.
And I know that I'm not guaranteed any of it.
Will you join me?
'Let us sing before our time runs out.'
I'm a subscriber to Sleeping At Last's Atlas series. That means I get early access to songs. This morning I heard his song "Joy" and was crying by the end of it. Specifically the line, '...so I let go and in this moment, I can breathe. I can breathe.'
Been reflecting a lot lately about areas of my life I want to be better in. Times I've let people down, especially those I love. Times I've made mistakes, lost my temper, said things to intentionally belittle another. I want to be a living example to those in my life that I'm not perfect, I can never be perfect...and imperfect people make mistakes. When I make mistakes I want to apologize + try to be better. Isn't that what we should all strive for?
To apologize + ask for forgiveness requires a sense of letting go. You have to let go of the idea of perfection. You have to let go of your pride. You have to let go of your unrealistic expectations of the life you envision for yourself.
A few days ago, not long after I shared about how I'm planning on strengthening my marriage I found myself laying in bed + barely breathing. Jenny + I had been arguing again. The lizard brain took over.
How can you love someone well who doesn't love themselves? How can you be a good husband if you can't even stay out of arguments? How can you be a good dad if you lose your patience so often? The questions kept coming and coming...and with them came more hurtful thoughts. I don't deserve to be happy, my mind said. I don't deserve to travel more, my mind said. I don't deserve the life I so desperately want, my mind said.
I was faced with 2 options.
Lay in bed with shallow, quick breaths + listen to those thoughts of not enoughness + keep fighting both with myself + with Jenny.
I could stop + breathe deeply + let go of those horrible, untrue thoughts.
Long story short, I chose option 2 + began the process of humbling myself + asking for forgiveness.
It wasn't until this morning listening to that song it all kind of came full circle for me + made a tiny bit of sense. (Note: I'm a big believer in never thinking I have anything figured out, because once that happens, growth + learning stops.) In the song, Joy, Ryan is quite obviously singing about joy + this is where it came full circle.
As I was laying in bed fighting to take deep breaths, I was most definitely not experiencing any sort of joy. Pure joy is my favorite feeling in the entire world. I believe all the other good feelings fall under joy...wonder, awe, amazement, contentment...all feelings that can be tied back to joy. Once I let go, I could breathe. The full breaths led to calm. The calm led to humility. The humility led me to apologize. The apology led to making up with Jenny, which led to more joy.
It's interesting to me how so much joy is born from struggle. To fully appreciate joy you kind of have to face some sort of hardships, right? To appreciate life, you need to experience sickness + death. To appreciate beauty you need to bear witness to the dark parts of human existence...murder, rape, etc. I have a better understanding of true joyful feelings because of the trials I've faced these last years.
Just read the full lyrics to this magnificent song...
it is the calm water
in the middle of an anxious sea.
where heavy clouds part and the sunrise starts
a fire in the deepest part of me.
so i let go and in this moment, I can breathe.
the clumsy start of adolescence,
the glue that mends our broken remnants,
an overwhelming sense of reverence,
it’s a glimpse of light in a mine of gold.
a silver lining spilling over,
the rumor of buried treasure,
the starting line of an adventure,
it’s a glimpse of light in a mine of gold.
it’s an afterglow, it’s an echo
still ringing out in spite of me.
it’s the faint outline of the divine
in the hiding place of my periphery.
so i let go and in this moment, i can breathe.
i can breathe.
the setting sun through open windows,
the honoring of every shadow,
a gratitude for all that follows,
it’s a glimpse of light in a mine of gold.
the countless stars we’re sleeping under,
it’s the brightest sparks that we remember.
when our eyes are closed, we still see embers,
a glimpse of light in a mine of gold.
it’s a glimpse of light in a mine of gold.
There's so much in these words about struggle, anxiety, heaviness...that all leads to the glimpses of light...the honoring of shadows...the gratitude that follows.
Let go + breathe. It's there you'll find joy. I promise you.
A few weeks ago, Jenny + I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. We've been together since high school. I couldn't even drive when we started 'going out' as they say.
I wrote a post last year called 12 for 12...Some Thoughts on a Joy Filled Marriage. Since our last anniversary, Jenny's twin brother has passed away + that kickstarted her journey to heal from complex PTSD stemming from her childhood. Jenny + I are learning new life lessons + what it takes to have a happy + fulfilling marriage + how to love one another despite life's challenges. It's not always easy, but it's worth the effort.
I thought about updating that post and adding a 13th thought, but as I started writing, I realized I'd rather set some goals to improve my marriage going forward in our 14th year of marriage...
- I vow to dance more. We used to slow dance in the kitchen all the time, but busy-ness seems to get in the way of doing things that matter. Or grumpiness. I'd rather press play on some solid tunes + dance.
- I vow to spend less time watching tv/staring at my phone. I followed this guy's tutorial to set up my phone for mindful use + I'm glad to say it's working. I'd rather stare at my wife than down at my phone, so I'm going to be conscious of my time looking at a screen. I think it'll be nice to set up some screen free days as well.
- I vow to spend more time moving + eating better. This one's for myself, my wife + my kids. When I'm active + eating better I feel better, have more patience...who am I kidding...everything is better.
- I'll say my nightly gratitudes. We've only missed one day since Jenny + I started speaking aloud to each other what we're grateful for at the end of the day. I look forward to this conversation every night.
- I vow to listen more with less fixing. This one is something I've been working on for quite some time. I have this innate desire to fix things + take pain away. But pain can be a great teacher + sometimes the lesson/healing comes in holding each other without saying a single word.
- I vow to consistently use a Together Journal. I believe the Together Journal has the power to strengthen a marriage. I also realized Jenny + I need to use ours more.
- I vow to choose happiness over being right. I have this desire to be right + win arguments. But I'd rather love Jenny well then try + win arguments. At the end of my life I'll never ever be thinking of all the arguments I won (or lost for that matter). I'll be thinking of all the times Jenny + I loved each other well.
- I vow to forgive quickly + often. Forgiveness is so hard for us. It's one of the hardest things we can do in our lifetime, but almost everything worthwhile in life is something that's hard to do. I love Jenny too much to hold grudges + make her suffer for things she doesn't mean to do. Because most of the time, we don't intentionally set out to hurt one another. We're human...we're not perfect. Imperfect people hurt those they love unintentionally from time to time. Forgiveness is key.
- I vow to go on more walks (just the two of us). Jenny recently got a fitbit + we've been taking walks in the evening lately. I enjoy this time together. Just us + some good conversation.
- I vow to laugh more. Laughter is scientifically proven to relax your body, boost your immune system, release happy chemicals + increase blood flow. All good things I want more of in my life + marriage.
- I vow to keep life simple...then simplify some more. Jenny + I are very careful about what we bring into the house + get rid of things that don't serve any purpose. We don't have the kids signed up for a ton of activities so we're not spending our time eating meals in the car + rushing from one event to another. But there's always room for improvement. I feel strongly living a simple minimalistic life frees up mental/physical clutter + allows us to be less stressed out on a daily basis.
- I vow to give more hugs. Hugs fall into the same category as laughter with so many benefits. Also, one of my top love languages is physical touch. I'm known for those long awkward hugs...but those hugs strengthen the bond between two people. You can never have enough hugs in your life.
- I vow to love my wife unconditionally. This is a given, but something I want to state publicly. Sometimes I try + fit my wife into this certain idea I have of what I expect of her...that's not unconditional love. Unconditional love is loving + accepting her for who she is...the amazingly beautiful, kind, loving, courageous woman she is.
Those are things I'm going to focus on this next year to strengthen my marriage. What are some things you're focused on this year to strengthen your relationships?
Sorry things have been so quiet around here. Jenny + I have been busy building a booth for the National Stationery Show, then loading it all into our minivan + driving all the way to NYC + back. In addition, we celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary (hoping to write up some honest thoughts on marriage soon) + school is out for the summer. Whew...that's a lot of stuff.
Here's a shot of us in our booth, right before we had all sorts of encouragement added to our white wall back there...
Anyway, on the way to New York, I realized my friend, Brian Andreas, was going to be there. I've never had a conversation with him that I didn't a) laugh a whole lot + b) learn an important life lesson. He just has that gift to bless others with knowledge of what really matters in life.
In one of our conversations, Brian + Fe mentioned a practice they have every night where they end the evening speaking out loud to each other the things they're grateful for. It's such a simple + powerful practice they said. They called it their gratitudes.
I've always felt like a grateful person. I do spend some time reflecting on the good things in my day/life...but the power our words can have when spoken aloud...especially to another...just powerful. So, I decided to adopt that practice into Jenny + my life.
What usually happens when I decide to do something like this is I do it pretty religiously for quite some time, then one time I'll forget, then another until I just stop altogether. I asked Brian about how to make sure I don't forget...and as usual, he had some wise words for me..."You always remember what's most important to you."
That was it...if I wanted to make gratitudes a priority in my life I just had to make sure it was truly important to me. Life keeps moving on regardless of if I say my gratitudes or not, but when I spend some time with Jenny + my kids each evening talking about all the things we're grateful for...well, that's just time well spent.
Because it's easy to get caught up in how we want our lives to be or the things we're lacking. We all have dreams not being fulfilled, or something that feels off in our lives. Unless I'm alone in that, but I'd venture a guess to say that I'm not. Starting this practice of speaking out loud the things I'm thankful for has left me feeling not so bad about where I'm at in life vs. where I want to be. I'm surrounded by so much love + light + magic. Speaking about all the beautiful things helps me fight off the ungrateful feelings that pop up from time to time.
Here are a few things I've been grateful for the last few weeks...
- The Tradeshow Bootcamp community for all their help/support as we successfully made it to NSS + back.
- Bike rides with my kids.
- Laying in the grass (I just love the feeling of grass on my bare skin).
- Letters of encouragement from my wife when I'm having a rough day.
- The original story I commissioned from Brian as a gift to Jenny for our anniversary.
- New Switchfoot music.
- Cool breezes on hot days.
- New York sunsets from Brooklyn.
- My wife + her hustle that keeps me hustling.
I'm sure I could keep going on + on. Because there's always something to be grateful for...
Lia, our 7 year old, has been wanting a mohawk for at least 2 years now. We finally decided to let her do it. And that girl couldn't be happier. She LOVES it! She was so excited to head off to school the first day to show off her new hair...and I loved to see that courage + fearlessness.
You see, back when I was her age, I got picked on a lot. Kids can be rough. I still remember the time I got picked on every day because of the clothes I wore + the shoes I had. I was a kid. I didn't care about style. I loved my hammer pants + Kmart shoes. But one day, my parents (God bless them) had enough of me coming home upset + in tears because I was constantly getting bullied. So they took me to Foot Locker + bought me a brand new pair of Air Jordans. I walked into school the very next day, just doing my thing, and it wasn't long before one of the kids noticed my new kicks. He walked over and stepped on them as hard as he could. I wept.
I want my kids to know they are unique, they matter + the are loved unconditionally. I want to encourage my kids to embrace their very own weirdness + have the confidence to live out their truths (as long as it doesn't harm another). I want them to be fearless in their pursuits of what brings them excitement + joy. I want them to understand not everyone is going to accept them, and people can be downright cruel sometimes. I believe wholeheartedly shielding your kids from the rough parts of life leads them to learning the hard way once they're older. I'd rather them learn the tough stuff as early as possible when the stakes aren't super high.
I was both excited + a wee bit nervous to pick Lia up from school. I know she went in with such a huge grin + fearlessness. Would she come out with a frown + be sad? I'm glad to report that she came flying out the doors with a wide smile bursting with excitement. I asked her what her classmates + teachers thought. She said, "Well, some of them told me I look like a boy, but I don't care. I like my hair no matter what anyone says to me about it."
Now, every day, after we're all ready for school, we grab the gel and Lia excitedly puts her hair up + proudly walks into school knowing she has something amazing to offer the world despite what anyone else may tell her. We even got a message from one of her teachers saying they wished they had the confidence Lia does.
I share this story because I feel we can all learn a bit from a 7 year old who's not afraid to rock a mohawk. I still get caught up in appearance, I internally battle jealousy at the seemingly perfect lives other's live. At times I work (too) hard to be accepted + to appear a certain way. But it's the times when I let go that I'm the most happiest. It's when I embrace my ultimate weirdness (and to be quite honest here, I'm a pretty quirky dude according to my wife anyway) that I feel most fulfilled.
Inspired by Lia, I'm going to let my freak flag fly if you will. I'll blast Carly Rae Jepsen if I want. I'll dance like I think I know what I'm doing + not worry one bit about looking like a fool (and I'm a HORRIBLE dancer). I'll continue to wear my heart on my sleeve and embrace this thing called vulnerability. I want to have the fearlessness to sit in silence more + have the courage to deal work through whatever may arise.
I feel children are the best teachers at what's truly most important in our lives. What have you learned from kids recently? How can you better share your weirdness with the world?
- Be bummed + sulk + complain + whine.
- Embrace what is + not what you expected + find joy.
It really is as simple as that.
I'm a firm believer there is joy hidden throughout all of life's situations. Even the tragic ones can bring people to a deeper understanding of love + compassion for another human. Death brings about celebrations. Lost jobs lead to rediscovering passions. Illness leads to a greater appreciation for life. All of those situations indirectly lead to greater joy + love.
It didn't take me more than 2 seconds to just say F it and jump right on into that mud. I'm in freakin' Thailand! Rubbing mud on elephants! The elephants were clearly loving life, so I should be, too! When will I ever be able to say I was smearing mud/poo on elephants (and my friends + family!) without sounding like a crazy person?
And I'm SO thrilled I did jump right into the poo with both feet and a wide ole smile on my face. Because there, I found joy. Was it a bit uncomfortable at first? Heck yes. Did I survive and forget what I was standing in? Heck yes. Did I get my arms deep into that mud and slather it all over those elephants? Heck yes! Did I find joy standing knee deep in elephant poo mud despite the fact I was standing in elephant poo mud? HECK YES!
What situations are you currently dealing with where joy might be hidden? Is there something that's a bit uncomfortable you've been putting off that you feel might lead you to some happiness? Take it from me, please. The joy is there. The love is there. The meaningful life filled with purpose is there. Waiting for YOU. It is. I promise. Just don't get too attached to unrealistic expectations + prepare to be amazed at what all this life has to offer.
Making changes is hard. Especially when you want to make changes that are permanent. Making a choice, though? That seems totally doable, right?
This is a concept I read about in Jon Acuff's brilliant book, Do Over. It's as simple as making a choice, time and time again, will lead to lasting change. The whole it's overwhelming so why bother concept is thrown out the window when you're asked to make an intentional choice in the moment.
I'm committed to putting this practice into place in my life around my eating habits. I snack way too much and I eat a lot of sugar-y foods, especially late at night. To change those behaviors, I decided to try intermittent fasting. I make a daily choice to only eat between noon and 6 pm every day.
I've been at it for over a week now and this is what I've found. Instead of chowing down on 4-5 snacks a day (between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and dinner, after dinner, etc), I might have a snack between my big lunch and dinner. And, since I'm only eating 2 full meals a day, I make sure my snack of choice is something healthy, like nuts/fruit, or a green juice. Chips and dark chocolate covered almonds and granola bars be gone!
Here's what I've found so far...I've lost some weight, I have enough energy to get me through the day, and I'm sleeping better (when our 8 week old kitty decides to leave my feet alone that is). I find I hit a wall where I need to go to sleep about 9:30 or 10 at night, which is way earlier than I used to, again, helping me not succumb to bouts of late night snacking.
Another area where I'm trying really hard to make an intentional choice to create a permanent + lasting change is around listening without judging/speaking + having patience with people in my life. To be completely honest, I'm still struggling with this one. I say things I regret, causing hurt to those I love, instead of asking more questions to better understand and empathize.
I realize I'm human + a work in progress. I hope to have this one mastered asap though, because when I hurt someone's feelings, I carry it with me throughout the day, which ultimately isn't a super helpful thing to do. I realize making a choice to be a more patient listener is key to a life I'll be happy to look back on.
What choices can you make in your life that could lead to some impactful changes in your life?
- Elements of a great love letter
- Sentence starters + writing prompts (if you need them)
- Places to doodle (because drawing is just as magical as writing a letter)
It's true, Jenny + I are together pretty much 24/7. And our life has been like this well over 15 years now. Care to hear a bit more about how we make it work? Check out the interview we did for the Together 24/7 podcast. I hope you enjoy a tiny glimpse into the zaniness that is our life...
Last week I wrote about unexpected kindness, which leads to this week's short and sweet post about ways we can use little notes of encouragement to brighten another's day.
When we take a few moments to do something that lifts up another person, it can bless both the giver and the receiver. As the giver, you'll feel good knowing you added a bit of love into the world just because. As the receiver, well, who knows how your gift of love + encouragement will be received, but if the receiver is anything like me, i.e. human, they'll feel loved, valued, seen + know they matter. When people feel those feelings, they will inevitably carry that loving energy throughout the rest of their day and bless others in their own ways. Encouragement is pretty magical in that way.
I imagine a world filled up with love + support for one another, and the only way that can happen is if we all do our part. That's why Hello Happiness Card Co even exists. Because I want to create products that make it easy for us to love one another better.
A few weeks ago we released 2 new sets of Mini Encouragement cards. It's been fun to see how people use these little notes of love. Here's a list of a few ways I've used them or seen them used...
- Left in credit card slots at gas station pumps or ATM machines
- Teachers give them to their students
- Left with a tip at a restaurant
- Stuck in the mail when people are mailing checks back to pay their bills
- Left in airplane pockets for a weary traveler to find
- Left by cold medicine, diapers and other various products where someone might need some encouragement
- Stuffed in gym bags at a sporting goods store
- Left in wallets at REI
- Left on an elliptical machine at the gym
- Handed to the post office workers, trash collectors, police officers, firemen, etc.
- Given out to cashiers during the holidays, a stressful time to work retail
- Left in your kids' lunch
- Given to your spouse on a hard day
- Taped to a mirror or your refrigerator or in cabinets for you to find randomly throughout the day
Note: If you've purchased some of our mini encouragement cards, I'd love if you shared on Instagram/Facebook with the #encouragesomebody and tag @hellohappinesscardco. I love to see what all you beautiful people do to love others well.
There are so many opportunities we have to bless another person, even ourselves. It doesn't take a lot of time, but it leaves a major impact. I call that a win.
Go forth and #encouragesomebody today!