Sugared Water

Many moons ago, Apple Computer wanted John Sculley to join them as CEO and apply his marketing skills to the personal computer market. Sculley was not sure that he wanted to join Apple and Steve Jobs sealed the deal when he made his legendary pitch to John, “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or, do you want to come with me and change the world?”

This quote has stuck with me through the years and it is always a powerful reminder for me: I think that 99.9% of what we humans do to earn a living is selling sugared water. Think deep and hard about what you are doing in your job. Does it embody your high level of standards? Does it fill your heart with gladness? Does it inspire you to be even more? If so, then congratulations! If you are doing your dream job and making the world a better place, it is my belief that you are among 0.1% of the population of this small blue dot we affectionately call “Earth.”

If on the other hand, you are like most of us and unsure of what you are doing to make the world better, than maybe you should ask yourself the Steve Jobs’ question… And, if you do ask that question, you might get a sinking feeling in your stomach that says, “You are not doing everything in your power to accomplish great things.”

Supposing you do get that tummy ache, I suggest that instead of pouting and feeling sorry for yourself, you decide to make a change! Think about it… We are all capable of controlling our destiny. You! And, you alone can determine what path you take each day. Sure there are outside influences that will try to knock you off your path. But I believe that you can either let those influences alter your course, or you can stand up to them and say, “No.”

Together we are capable of anything. I mean that. You and I can make the world a better place. I choose to believe this, and I choose to do something about it. I’m doing it right now in fact. My blog is one of the ways that I strive to inspire my friends, family, and complete strangers who follow my shenanigans. This is one of my many ideas to make the world a better place. Come join me!!!

For what it’s worth… When Steve asked John that question, he thought about it and then accepted the job. Powerful words with an even more powerful meaning!

So tell me, Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or, do you want to come with me and change the world?

All the best,
Vaughn “the world changer” Ripley

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The Cowboy-up Workout

No, I do not wear cowboy boots and a six-shooter during my workouts. These are merely props to demonstrate my euphemism. Besides, they look cool next to the iron. Right?

Today I am back in motivational mode. Actually, I’m a fan of saying I can’t motivate you to do anything. Only YOU can motivate yourself. However, I can inspire you to motivate yourself. I’ll share what “Cowboy-up” means to me. The idea to post this article was inspired by a bicycle ride that I participated in two weeks ago. You see, this particular ride was fairly tough… 156 miles on the C&O Canal Towpath spread out over three days. The amazing thing about this ride was the team of riders. You see, all of us riding are either hemophiliacs, hemophiliac parents, or advocates of some kind. And, (except for my buddy Barry, Kim, and maybe me) none of these riders are very experienced or had much training under their belts… Yet everyone of us not only participated, but also forced our way past pain, internal bleeds, and muscle failure to complete the entire adventure. My buddy Matt came to the ride with a knee bleed. Andy came with an ankle bleed. I had a separated shoulder. I’m fairly certain you get the point, but suffice it to say that you would be hard pressed to meet a tougher and more determined group of humans than my easy bleeding friends!

Before we get into this subject, I must start with a disclaimer—Actually two of them. First let me tell you that if you came here to whine or expecting me to let you cry on my shoulder, then you came to the wrong rodeo. I’m going to get a little ugly in this one, so you might wanna seek out a bleeding-heart pansy blog if you need someone to baby you and tell you that you do not need to work hard, push yourself, or Cowboy-up.

My second disclaimer is my standard one I give before recommending working out or fitness to anyone:

WARNING: Working out and exercise can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain!

Now, to quote Albus Dumbledore, “Let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

Start by telling me (honestly), Are you planning to just pony-up and maybe complete your fitness goals, or are you going to cowboy-up and break past the barriers? Me … I’m a cowboy.

This article is not designed to teach you proper technique, or even discuss what exercises you need to do. You can find that somewhere else. I wrote today’s post for one reason; to push those of you who want deep-down hardcore inspiration!

Back in 2005 I ran the New Orleans marathon. That by itself isn’t that big of a deal. Tons of people run marathons every season. What you might find a little inspirational is the fact that at the time, I had been HIV+ for around 20 years. Also, I’m a hemophiliac and my left knee and right ankle (my “target joints”) do not have much cartilage left in them because of bleeds from my childhood (blood wreaks havoc on joints). Also (prepare for a few more “also’s” people) I have peripheral neuropathy; which is nerve damage in my feet that makes me feel like my toes and sometimes feet are being stabbed with each step. On top of all that (okay no more also’s), during my training I had burst the sheath of my Achille’s tendon. For those of you who don’t know, that is bad… Especially for a runner. When my injury came, many of my friends and family said, “Well… You gave it a good go. And, you proved that you are capable. But, you really shouldn’t run this race now.” You guys have all been around people at some point in your life who have said the same thing about something similar. Well, I filed that horseshit right where it belonged; in the ignore pile. I followed advice on healing, climbed back in my running shoes, and then did my thing, finishing the marathon.

Two years ago, I damaged my plantar fascia in the middle of the Army ten-miler. Do you think I quit? Nope. I hunkered down and ran my run. Not only did I finish, but I also ran a PR (personal record) and finished in 82 minutes! Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not recommending that you guys run or workout through injuries. I’m simply saying that I have and do. Frown if you like, but I choose to live my life. As a matter-of-fact, I’ve always lived my life. As a small child I had no illusions. Back then, easy bleeders (hemophiliacs) did not live as long as clotters (normal folk). I didn’t worry about it and got on with living. Same thing when I found out I was HIV+ and my doctor told me I had fewer than two years to live. Ask anyone around me and they will confirm… I’m not only a survivor, I’m a liver (I know that last word looks like an organ in your body, that’s because I think I just made the word up) too.

The last thing I will tell you might be a bit shocking for some. Every workout that I do… Every single one. I experience pains, troubles, and issues that most mortal men and women would cry about. My peripheral neuropathy has brought me to my cartilage-free knees in the middle of a workout. Before, during, and/or after almost every workout I am dealing with diarrhea. Actually, I can’t remember a four-day period without diarrhea in the last fifteen years. My body itches (everywhere). My eyes burn. I deal with and have aches that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies (if I had any).

Did I tell you all of that to get sympathy or make you guys and gals feel bad for me? HELL NO! I told you because the next time your punk ass is whining about how tough workouts are, I want you to think about me and thousands like me who have it tougher and workout regardless. Speaking of which, my buddy, Barry, has peripheral neuropathy too. His feet hurt so bad a few years ago that he couldn’t get into his bike shoes, let alone ride. Did he throw in the towel? Nope. He’s a cowboy, like me. He cut the ends off of his bike shoes, let his toes pop out, and then saddled-up. How many of you would be willing to do that? BTW – I should mention that Barry, a severe bleeder, has had a couple of knee replacements among other things. Despite (or maybe “to spite”) these issues, he rode across America on his bicycle… Twice! How many of you could do that even without having a bleeding disorder? Cowboy-up!!!

You know what to do. You know how to do it. Now … Do it!

I’ll leave you with my favorite fitness quote:

“If you like exercise, you’re doing it wrong.”
—Arthur Jones

 

Your faithful friend and potential inspiration,
Rip

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Kotowaza AKA Japanese Proverb

As you all know, I refer to kaizen on a regular basis. Kaizen is a Japanese word that means daily improvement. I strive on a daily basis to improve myself. Today, I’d like to introduce you to another Japanese word… Kotowaza. Essentially, kotowaza translates to “proverb.” I am fascinated with Japanese philosophy and one of the main things I gain from the Japanese is their inspirational proverbs. To me, the proverb is a powerful message that I can relate to my life and use it to inspire me. I am constantly finding myself motivated by neat proverbs (Japanese or any others). A few posts ago I put up some of my favorite passages and quotes.

One of my all time favorite kotowaza is: chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru. This translates to “even specks of dust become mountains” (or, “even dust if piled, can become a mountain”). It is not merely my favorite because it has the word, yama (mountain) in it. I love this one, because it seems to be the ageless proverb. In English, we have a similar one, “many a little makes a mickle.” To me, it means that regardless of your current state, you can rise, like the Phoenix, from the ashes and make something more of yourself. I experienced this precise thing many moons ago, when I was 19 years old and my doctor gave me a death sentence. I rose from the ashes and turned a speck of dust into a mountain. That said, perhaps I should be more fond of kishi kaisei; which literally means “wake from death and return to life.”

If you think about it by wearing someone else’s shoes, you can also see that “chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru” is important as you meet people. Everyone that you meet (regardless of status, or stature) has the potential of becoming a mountain. It’s vital to remember this as you greet folks for the first time. Think about the possibility of meeting someone at the very bottom of the ladder in a large corporation. You might look down on them, and think they will amount to nothing. However, it’s entirely possible that this person will be running the same company in twenty years. And, also possible is the fact that they might remember that you looked down on them. Look down on NO ONE, and you will avoid this situation. Think: Golden Rule.

Here are some of my other kotowaza favorites:

saru mo ki kara ochiru — even monkeys fall from trees
deru kugi wa utareru — the protruding nail will be hammered down
ropu no kireta tozansha mitai — like a mountaineer who’s rope has broken
ashita yama wa itsumo soko de aru — the mountain will always be there tomorrow
nana korobi ya oki — fall down seven times, get up eight
hitsuyou wa hatsumei no haha — necessity is the mother of invention
kane wa tenka no mawarimono — no problems because money always goes around
ichi nichi, ichi zen — every day, do one good (do a good turn daily)
Here’s a fun/funny one (yet true): ninjabashiri o suru toki, kutsuhimo ga yurundeiru to hisan na koto o maneku — when running ninja-style, having loose shoe strings invites misery.

Ganbatte kudasai is another cool Japanese saying that I use often. It can translate to many meanings, but they are all related. My favorite (simple) translation of ganbatte kudasai is, “keep your chin up.” That is just a sweet thing to say to a person who is striving to improve themselves and stumbling over the pitfalls of life. In other words, any one of us!

Do you have any favorite proverbs (English, Japanese, or any other nationality)?

I hope you enjoyed this!

Dewa mata,
Vaan san

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Dum Spiro Somnium

Perhaps it’s time that you created a life motto for yourself. Maybe you already have one. Could be that you have no idea what I’m talking about… Let’s discuss the potential of this very powerful tool.

Dum spiro somnium is my life motto. It means, “While I breathe, I dream.” Actually… I do not know for certain that it means that, because I simply made it up based on Google translate and a little Latin knowledge. But, it is my interpretation and best-guess as to converting my life motto to Latin. Why did I convert my life motto to Latin? you ask. Well, mostly because Latin is a cool way of saying things in life that are important to us. At least I think so. I do know that somnium means to dream, or daydream. This was close enough for me!

I was able to piece this translation together because I know my family motto, dum spiro spero; which translates to “While I breathe, I hope.” This is a great family motto and a wonderful creed to live by. However, I thought about it carefully and realized that it doesn’t totally encompass my beliefs and motto. I’m a dreamer. Life is a dream of sorts for me, and my imagination is the key to making it day-in day-out. Hence making my very own personal life motto.

Do you have a life motto?

Life motto, vision, mission… All of these things are so important to our continued improvement and success. Along with these powerful tools, I think that short and long-term goals are incredibly beneficial as well. Expect a post in the near future that discusses goals, missions, and vision statements.

If you don’t have one, or are interested in some motto ideas, checkout this list: motto.biz/list-of-life-mottos-to-live-by.

Another great resource, and the article that inspired me to create this one, can be found here: birdsontheblog.co.uk/whats-your-life-motto.

Make sure you chime in and tell me what your thoughts are on this subject, and if you have a life motto.

Until we chat again,
Vaughn

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What’s Best in Life?

Okay… So that’s a very broad question… But I can answer one piece of it.

Most of us (me included) do not know what we want. Before you say, “No *expletive deleted* Sherlock!” Allow me to dig a little bit deeper.

It occurred to me that I’m not doing what I want to do. Even though this occurs to me on a regular basis, one memory from four years ago still lingers… You see, I was riding the train home and sitting next to someone that was putting off a putrid body odor. Before everyone knocks my lack of compunction, let me tell you that this was far beyond your standard human being stink. I’m not talking someone who walked two miles to the train station on a humid 95 degree day without underarm deodorant. I’m talking about the kind of stink that lingers over a two-week old dead body lying in a rainforest.

Now that I have sufficiently gotten your attention (and perhaps offended the Hell out of you), allow me to continue…

Sitting for 1.5 hours smelling death in a small, hot train car can make you come to some realizations in life. For one, I realized that I don’t ever want to do that again!

During this time, I found myself pondering the immortal words of Conan (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger), when he was asked, “What’s best in life?” Without missing a beat, Conan replied, “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.” Now there’s a guy who knows what he wants!

The more that I think about Conan’s statement, the more I understand my lack of an answer to the question “What’s best in life?”

I know what my dream day would be like… I would wake up, take a short walk, and then swim (in my backyard pool) for an hour or so. After a shower, I would eat a good (nutritious) breakfast that was prepared by my nutritionalist and chef. Following that, I would write for about two hours straight (uninterrupted). Next, I would spend some playtime with Kristine and kids. Once we wore ourselves out, I would hit the music theory and guitar for an hour or two. After guitar, I’d tackle some business by returning emails, calls, and innovating my next great idea. Then, I would get some more kid playtime in. I’d squeeze some form of physical fitness in at this point in the day. Finally, I would wind down with the kids and Kristine watching TV or goofing off. After putting the kids to bed I would do some more business and prepare my agenda for tomorrow (more of the same). Before turning off the light for the night, I’d get some reading in.

That day would obviously be altered to fit in other activities, hobbies, etc. Also, from time-to-time, there would be a two-week vacation to somewhere exotic.

Funny thing about my list… I don’t see work (at least not in the traditional fashion) listed. Try as I might, I can’t seem to squeeze it in there. Some of you might argue that my writing (if done on a professional level) would be considered my work. Or, doing my entrepreneurial business ventures. I guess that’s true, but running my own business in brief time slots and writing are both things that I am passionate about. I don’t normally associate passion with work. Viola! Therein lies the problem… In order to make my life more meaningful, I need to be passionate about what I do for a living! *cue inspirational music*

The problem grows when you consider that balancing things you are passionate about and work is nearly impossible. So, I have decided to dedicate some time and effort to figure this out… If and when I figure something out, I will probably write an instructional manual and publish it.

For now, I will continue to commute to and from work. And, I will continue discussing these things with you on my blog.

Please feel free to comment with what you feel is best in life!

Signed,
A passionate man who is still seeking his passion!

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Getting Results

For better or for worse, ALL of the things we do have results or an outcome. Wouldn’t it be cool to shape your life to provide positive and desired/wanted results? This post is related to one of my passions… Improving yourself. I am going to spend a little bit of time here, and hopefully help you get closer to achieving your dreams.

Many moons ago, a saying became very popular and has seemingly stuck with us… The saying is: “Knowledge equals power.”

While this is a potent statement, I do not feel that it applies as well today as it may have eons ago. It’s my belief that it takes a good deal more than knowledge to give you power. Along with this statement, another one comes to mind: “Just Do It!” While this is another potent saying, it isn’t really possible without some planning and focus… Right?

Let’s talk about my trademark super-secret formula that gives you more than knowledge equals power and/or just do it… My formula gives you the entire bluprint and allows you to accomplish any dream!

My formula is: KFD=R

or:

Knowledge
Focus
Drive

(equals)
Results

What? You may be asking… Let’s break it down!

What is knowledge?
Knowledge is information, facts, or data that is gathered through many areas like:

  • Internet searches (Google it, but beware fiction);
  • Books, videos, audio recordings, and other media;
  • Life lessons;
  • Peers, friends, and family members;
  • Church;
  • Schools and training;
  • Your own thought process.
  •  

    Try some of the following ideas to utilize the knowledge that you gather:

  • Gather information and ideas;
  • Select an optimal approach to tackle tasks;
  • Utilize friends, mentors, coaches, and peers (bounce ideas off each other);
  • Learn by doing (“sharpen the saw” as Covey likes to say);
  • Avoid analysis paralysis.
  •  

    When a baby touches a hot stove, she does not need KFD (Knowledge, Focus, and Drive) to learn and follow through. In most cases, when extreme pain is involved, the focus and drive come naturally.

    Unfortunately, most things in life will not be powerful (painful) enough to ensure we will do what it takes to accomplish our desired result or outcome.

    Be proactive instead of reactive!!! The baby scenario aside, we all deserve and desire a healthy and happy life… So, make that your focus and drive. Instead of waiting for a doctor to tell you that you’ll need a walker, or are going to die… I challenge you to walk away from this discussion and be proactive in creating a healthier you!

    What is focus?

  • Concentration;
  • Motivation;
  • Application;
  • Thinking or pondering;
  • Hard work;
  • Devotion;
  • Believing.
  •  

    Design a doable plan to achieve your desired outcome (avoid analysis paralysis). Once your plan is in place, utilize focus to stay on track with what you know and make adjustments as necessary to achieve your final outcome. Keeping a journal and tracking your progress will make a big difference in accomplishing things that you set out to achieve. Make sure that you watch out for time stealing distractions. Finally, surround yourself with like-minded people.

    Let me ask you something… When an airliner flies from Dulles Airport to Sea-Tac Airport do you think that it simply flies one straight path over the entire flight? Of course not. A flight across the country goes through thousands of course corrections. For similar reasons, you must stay in touch with your goals and ensure that your daily path is adjusted to get you to your final destination!

    “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.”
    — Henry Ford

    What is drive?

  • Willpower;
  • Gumption;
  • Determination;
  • Get-up-and-go;
  • Mental toughness;
  • Persistence;
  • Self-discipline;
  • Resolve;
  • Tenacity.
  •  

    Along this path, find some leverage. Often this leverage will be small, and other times it will be as big as a doctor telling you, “You will die if you don’t change.” Regardless of the size, leverage is a very powerful tool to help you follow through with goals. Concentrate! Dig deep when you must. Be persistent, and NEVER give up!!!

    Now we can say it… “Just do it!”

    What are results?

  • Outcome;
  • Consequences;
  • Goals;
  • Conclusion;
  • Effect;
  • Finale;
  • Product;
  • Accomplishment.
  •  

    Define your desired results or outcomes. Here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Exercise and/or weight loss;
  • Get closer with God;
  • Financial success;
  • Happy home;
  • Improving at work;
  • Quit smoking;
  • Write a book;
  • Live a righteous life;
  • Become a successful entrepreneur.
  •  

    Apply KFD=R today!

    In order to be successful at using KFD=R you need to know your “desired outcome” or the results you wish to achieve. These results need to be clearly outlined and defined.

    Once you know your results you will want to set short and long term goals. These goals will vary based on the desired outcome.

    “Climbing Our Mountains Takes Knowledge, Focus, and Drive”
    — Vaughn Ripley

    I hope this post was helpful, insightful, and most of all motivational! And —As always— Please give me feedback and provide comments on your own life experiences!

    See ya soon,
    Vaughn

    Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

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    My Dream is a World Without AIDS

    My claim to fame is being one of the longest surviving HIV+ people in the universe. This isn’t exactly the coolest title to have, but I am proud of the fact that I’ve made it so far. I attribute much of my success and survivability to my family, friends, positive attitude, extreme fitness, medication, self-help authors, meditation, and downright tenacity. Along with these tools, I also have the team at AIDS Research Alliance to thank. Organizations like ARA are putting mad scientist hours into projects to rid the world of AIDS.

    With that said, my dream is a world without AIDS. It is my firm believe that the ARA has the same dream and they are doing something about it! Please donate to the AIDS Research Alliance and help them succeed!

    I personally donate 10% of the proceeds from my book, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C, to the AIDS Research Alliance.

    Watch my brief video here:

    I hope this article not only inspired you, but also has you thinking of ways you can help rid the world of AIDS.

    Thanks for reading, listening, and watching…

    -Vaughn

    Distraction Tactics

    This article might or might not be what you expected when reading the title. Essentially I was thinking about how we humans use diversionary thoughts and practices to avoid facing the tough challenges we tackle in everyday life. Sometimes this strategy is on purpose and sometimes it is subconscious and we have no control over it. Even more important is the fact that sometimes these daily distractions can be positive, neutral, or downright damaging.

    Examples of bad distractions might include things like eight hours of television (when you should be working on the laundry), hours of video games (when you should be mowing the lawn), reading and posting on the Facebook (when there is a pile of dishes in the sink)… And the list goes on all the way to dangerous distractions like drugs and alcohol as a means to deal with your life problems.

    Alas, I didn’t start this discussion to focus on the negative, neutral, or other down side of distractions. Instead I wanted to offer some potentially handy advice on how to use distractions and diversionary thinking to your advantage in a positive and even inspiring way!

    A good example of this is one I often use to describe riding my bicycle up this particularly tough hill that I affectionately call, Church Hill, because it is a steep and nasty hill that happens to have a small church sitting up at the top. As I approach Church Hill I know that I am about to get my ass handed to me. I mean this in a good way. It is the acme of my workout, because it is very close to the end of my ride and this ascent is always epic. We are talking maximum effort and maximum heart rate for the entire two minute climb up this steep incline.

    It takes serious focus and determination to make it all the way up this hill staying in the saddle and riding the whole way. Just ask one of my many friends who have attempted this hill and found that their willpower or stamina (or both) just are not ample enough to succeed at this daunting task.

    The truth is, I have a little secret on completing this part of my workout. I NEVER attack the hill thinking about the whole thing. As a matter of fact, I break it into five pieces in my head. The initial phase ends at this sort of hump where the incline changes momentarily. As I start pumping up this hill, I put my head down and I grind it out, thinking to myself, I’m just going to make it to the hump today. You probably know where this is heading… Once I get to that hump, I re-gather my spirit and inwardly think things like, “That wasn’t so bad… Let’s keep going for a little while longer.” From there, I know this one particular house that is three houses up on the left from the hump position. I simply decide to ride to that point, then I will quit, pop out of my pedals, and walk the rest of the way up the hill. Of course, I make it there and take a few breaths and decide to move on. There is a street only two more houses up… Surely anyone could make it two more houses and be satisfied with stopping at that point. By now you’ve got my devious plan figured out. That’s right, I push myself a little further to the Dodge truck parked a tiny bit further up the hill. Then finally I set my sights on the church. Once to the church I am home free, and the hill grade eases up a bit and I see the T-intersection mere feet away. I huff it out and finish the hill.

    I’ve been using this tactic and technique on this very same hill for six years now. You’re probably wondering how I can continue to trick my mind, considering that I’ve done this same thing day-in day-out several hundred times. Honestly I’m not sure how my mind hasn’t caught on, but it truly works. Believe me!

    I use this same thing for runs and even workouts with weights! I find myself laying on the bench saying, “Anyone could do ONE more rep.” You know how this story ends.

    Before closing up the post, I wanted to mention that I’m not the only one who uses the strategy and I did not invent it. I’m sure people have been doing some form of this since the dawn of mankind. Recently my buddy, Andrew, mentioned reading a similar usage in a Navy SEAL book where the soldier talks about getting through BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training) and especially “Hell Week.” The author says that he was able to get through Hell Week by going “meal to meal.” Meals came every six hours, so he essentially told himself I will make it to the next meal and then quit. Of course when that meal came, he got some relief and rest and then got back into the training with renewed energy. He would repeat his previous statement and continue working with the intention of quitting at the next meal. He continued in this fashion for an entire week and finished Hell Week!

    I am sure that you have used this idea in something in your life, but hopefully my article inspires you to find other areas in life to use it. Remember, it doesn’t only have to be about workouts. It can be projects at work, yard work, chores, or any number of things.

    If you use this technique, please comment and let me know your super secret plan for success! What could you use it for?

    BTW – I also use this for my writing and even this blog… HA!

    Your faithful meal-to-meal writing buddy,
    Rip

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    Kaizen

    We’ll be discussing kaizen a lot in this blog… I even created a category specifically for it. So I figured I’d take a few minutes to define what kaizen is and tell you my take on it. Let’s start with a translation… Kaizen is Japanese for “good change.”

    = kai = change
    = zen = good (for the better)

    Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy. Even though the literal translation is good change, it has become more popularly known by the philosophical definition, continual improvement. Or, as Tony Robbins says, “Constant And Never-ending Improvement” or simply CANI. Essentially it is daily changes (regardless of how small) that make regular improvements in your life.

    Masaaki Imai made the term, kaizen, famous in his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success. Over time, “good change” became “improvement”, or “change for the better.” It refers to a philosophy and/or practice that focuses on continuous improvement of business processes. That definition has morphed into the present day translation of improvement in business or on a personal level.

    William Edwards Deming helped popularize the idea of kaizen when he introduced PDCA (plan–do–check–act or plan–do–check–adjust) to the Japanese businesses after Word War II. PDCA is an iterative four-step method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. PDCA is also known as the Deming circle/cycle/wheel.

    The steps in a PDCA cycle are:
    PLAN
    The word plan really doesn’t need a definition, but we’ll tackle it anyway… Use this stage to establish the objectives and create your desired result or output (the target or goals). By establishing realistic output expectations, the improvement is easily tracked and managed. When possible, start small with your objectives.

    DO
    Pretty straight forward… Implement the plan, execute the process, make the product. Collect data for charting and analysis in the following “CHECK” and “ACT” steps.

    CHECK
    Review the actual results (measured and collected in “DO” above) and compare against the expected results (targets or goals from the “PLAN”) to find any differences. Look for deviation in implementation from the “PLAN” and also look for the execution, i.e., “DO”. Charting data can make this considerably easier to unveil trends over several PDCA cycles and in order to convert the data into information. Information is what you need for the next step “ACT”.

    ACT
    Request corrective actions on significant differences between actual and planned results. Act is sometimes called “Adjust” by modern trainers. Determine where to apply changes to ensure improvement of the process or product. Stephen R. Covey called this stage, “Sharpen the Saw” in his Seven Habits book.

    What do you think about kaizen? And, do you strive on a daily basis to improve yourself in some form or fashion?

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    The Fountain of Youth

    Don’t laugh; the Fountain of Youth really does exist. Living longer does not only apply to HIV+ folks, this information will work for everyone. Following some simple guidelines and principals can have you on the path to increasing your life expectancy.

    Many people from different walks of life told me precisely what I needed to do to prolong my life while dealing with HIV. What I found along the way, and with my experience is that these ideals also apply to everyday human beings.

    I have spent (and continue to spend) countless hours meeting with gurus, coaches, doctors, and experts in different fields to figure out how to improve my chances for living longer. I’ve also read countless books, articles, and blog posts. Along the way, I have compiled information from friends, family members, authors, scientists, and a plethora of other sources. Here is a little bit of what each of them had to say:

  • Doctors told me that the only way to prolong my life was to take a daily regimen of medication and never miss a dose. They explained that I must work hard at always taking my prescriptions at specific times.
  • Fitness Fanatics said that the only way to live past my doctor’s timeline was to lift weights, do cardio, and maintain a fit body. They encouraged me to join a gym and make sure that I worked out at least five or six times per week for an allotment of 45 minutes or longer.
  • Religious Zealots told me that the only way to survive was to give myself up to God, pray for his support, and leave everything in God’s hands. They explained that there was no man-made solution to my problems and that only through God would I last on this earthly domicile.
  • Health Nuts encouraged me to refrain from smoking, drinking, and indulging in recreational drugs. They also explained that I needed to eat only organic foods and stay away from processed “shelf food.”
  • Positive Thinkers revealed that I had to think only positive thoughts and breathe out the negative thoughts. They went on to show me how a positive attitude and outlook would go a long way in helping me survive on this pale blue dot we affectionately call Earth.
  • Nutritional Nuts explained that eating a healthy diet and banning junk food was the only way to live longer. They explained that I must carefully calculate my calorie intake and distribute the macronutrients properly.
  • Yoga Enthusiasts relayed that in order to make it, I must meditate, stretch, and find my inner self. These gurus and yogis laid out a plan of daily relaxation and a stress-free living style that would allow me to accomplish my goal of prolonged life.
  •  

    While I see the power in each person’s viewpoint, I also saw that they were strong in individual ways. So, I found myself asking the question, Who is right?

    After ~28 years of survival with HIV… After studying literally hundreds of books… I can tell you that I believe that I am here, one of the longest surviving HIV+ people in the universe, because…

    …Drum roll please…

    It is my honest opinion that I am here today, typing away, because I have combined the advice and knowledge from everyone on those lists and created my own plan based on my lifestyle and needs. The short answer to my question is, They are ALL right!

    It’s also my guarantee (or you can get your money back, no questions asked), that if you apply these same principals in your life, that you will live longer.

    I hope you have a great day!

    -Vaughn

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    Inspirational Business Cards

    I am always working on ways to inspire myself and others. I believe that one of the keys to my longevity is my strong positive mental attitude. For most of my adult life, when someone asked me, “How are you doing?” I would immediately shoot back, “Awesome!” This shocks many, and usually creates a smile. Almost everyone is at least partially motivated by my spirit.

    After twenty (or so) years of doing this, I decided that awesome was a cliché and over used. So, I decided to start changing my “feeling” of the day and started trying new exceptional words. I quickly realized that I fell back on awesome more than finding or saying new words, because it was so ingrained in my mind. I really wanted to inspire people on a daily basis and thought that changing my word routinely would help to stir some additional emotions.

    I put some heavy thinking into this and came up with what I think (IMHO) is a creative solution. I bought some business card printer paper, broke out my dictionary and thesaurus, and came up with all of my favorite feelings. After compiling about thirty “feelings,” I put one and its associated dictionary definition on an individual business card. I keep this stack of feelings on my dresser. Each day I open my wallet, pull out yesterday’s feeling, and insert today’s feeling.

    The important part to mention is my mantra, incantation, or meditational (is that even a word??) moment in which I hold the card and read it. I read it carefully and examine the word. I ask myself what does this word really mean. I go over the definition and ensure that I know exactly what it means. I verbally repeat the feeling to myself as I slide the card ceremoniously into my wallet. I make sure that it is in the front of my wallet and viewable every time I open it.

    I want to impress upon those doubters out there… I know that you can’t simply read the word “wonderful” and then feel that way. I am not a fan of positive thinking without meat behind it. Instead, I focus on the word and ask myself what feeling “wonderful” would be like. I envision myself having a “wonderful” day. I imagine going through the day and experiencing “wonderful” things. In this way, I create a base. Then when people approach me throughout the day and ask their cliché, “How’s it going?” I spend half a second remembering that I’m wonderful, I crack a partial smile, look them directly in the eyes, and say, “I feel wonderful.”

    To put this business card thingy into perspective (and help explain what the heck I’m talking about), I’ll show you a couple of examples of my inspirational business cards.

    Flipping open my wallet… How do you know which one it is? you ask. It’s the one that says, “Bad Mother Fucker” on it. I digress, as usual… Inside my wallet, the first thing I see is:

    Tremendous
    [trih-men-duh s] –adjective
    1. extraordinarily great in size, amount, or intensity.
    2. extraordinary in excellence.

    Now doesn’t that sound bad-assed? I mean if out of the blue someone responded to your, “How’s it going?” question with a quick, “Tremendous!” Wouldn’t that instill a little something? Wouldn’t that make you smile? Wouldn’t it inspire or motivate you even a little bit? It’s baby steps folks… I’m not talking about earth shattering, life changing, slam dunks. I’m talking about little things you can do to make yourself and those around you stronger and better people.

    If you had asked me to open my wallet yesterday, the card was:
    Intrepid
    [in-trep-id] –adjective
    resolutely fearless; dauntless.

    Finally, I know that tomorrow’s card will be:
    Impelled
    [im-peld] –adjective
    1. to drive or urge forward; press on; incite or constrain to action.
    2. to drive or cause to move onward; propel; impart motion to.

    I think you get the point. The bottom line is that I wanted to get past the humdrumness (I’m sure that ain’t a word!) of simply saying “Awesome!” every time that someone asked me how I was.

    FWIW – Here are more of my daily inspirational cards that I have created:
    Amazing, Astounding, Audacious, Awesome, Chivalrous, Courageous, Excellent, Exceptional, Extraordinary, Fabulous, Fantastic, Fearless, Grand, Great, Heroic, Incomparable, Incredible, Inspired, Magnificent, Marvelous, Motivated, Out of This World! (there is no definition on this card… the title says it all), Outstanding, Phenomenal, Plucky, Prodigious, Ready to Rock and Roll! (also no definition on this card), Sensational, Splendid, Stupendous, Sublime, Super, Superb, Terrific, Valiant, and Wonderful.

    What do you do on a daily basis to ensure that you’ll have an uplifted day?

    Dig life and everything it brings!

    -Vaughn

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    How To Properly Fight Yourself

    Today’s topic is something I’ve practiced and improved upon for years. It’s something that I believe very strongly in… The power of the mind. It is my honest belief the brain holds more answers and power than we can imagine. Not the least of which is the ability to cure ailments in the body. Today we’ll talk about how I have tapped this power and managed to survive for 28+ years with a virus that was supposed to have killed me 25+ years ago!

    Most of you know that I run another blog called HIVLongevity.com. In many of my previous posts on that blog I’ve talked about “the war of the body.” I’ve even posted some information about it. Today’s article is based on some of those previous posts and I’m going to breakdown my idea and how it has helped me. You can determine if it would benefit you in your life. That said, if you decide to try it out, I guarantee that you will be amazed at the results!!!

    It has been my motto to stay away (for the most part) from discussion about my HIV. This posts sort of relies on it as proof and as an extreme example of how this type of meditation works. Let me step out on a limb and discuss how I turned my low T-cell count into a climbing number, and potentially saved my own life. Many moons ago, my HIV was winning the battle of stealing my life. I was taking 22 pills each day. And, I was taking them five or six times per day. Each time I took the pills I was thinking (literally) to myself, I’m taking this medicine because I’m dying. It may not sound like much, but that single incantation was bombarding my body with negative thoughts and powerfully dangerous chants five or more times per day. No wonder I was dying!!!

    One day I literally woke up and discovered an answer to changing this and prolonging my life… This type of negative thinking was truly a devious and deadly mistake and I figured out a way to not only improve myself, but turn my death spiral into a form of survival. I realized that I could just as easily chant something motivational and positive instead of my typical doom and gloom. I came up with a better statement to say with each ingestion, and decided to give it a try. From that day forward, instead of thinking about dying, I altered my internal message to, This medicine is healing me, making me stronger, and giving me longevity. You might (or might not) be surprised to hear that this immediately turned around my emotions and even my health!

    This solution was so simple that I kicked myself. Of course I could teach myself to use positive brainpower to redundantly think of optimistic things instead of pessimistic.

    Shortly after adapting this solution, I took it several steps further and incorporated my meditation into an event. I started envisioning a battle going on in my body. And, as I took the medicine and chanted positive things I also imagined my meds being field generals in a war in my body. Each of these generals was given regiments of T-cells and I saw them rolling through my body and kicking virus ass. I still use this technique today, and I am healthier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

    Recently, a friend, mentor, and two-time cancer survivor, Alan Hobson (cancer survivor and bestselling author of Climb Back From Cancer), showed me a powerful way to do what I was doing and make it more peaceful. He said, instead of viewing a war in my body, why not imagine a flowing river of holy water (or something similar). In this way, you can imagine magical water flowing into your body and cleansing it from the inside out. This was a powerful alternative to war that I had never even considered. To this day, I sometimes switch my war meditation and turn it into a pristine river of clear, healing water.

    The positive thoughts, war, and holy water turned out to be more powerful than I ever imagined, and my T-cell count has climbed through the ceiling!

    Later on, I discovered that I could use a similar positive incantation session for other health issues. Over the years, I have become obsessed with mental healing. I use images of my favorite American generals to command troops of cells to combat illness and ails of all sorts. I spend time imagining General William Tecumseh Sherman (one of my favorite wartime generals) crashing through my body tearing viruses and other bad elements to shreds like he did the South. My General Sherman shows no mercy for the enemies that have entrenched themselves in my flesh. Whenever I pull him out of the thin air to use in battles against my sicknesses, he offers no quarter and cuts a swath from shoulder-to-shoulder and head-to-toe. No mercy!

    This violent engagement is an important weapon in my overall war against the disease that plagues my corporeal self. As a matter-of-fact, I consider it as powerful a tool as the medicine that is prescribed to me by extremely competent physicians.

    I’ve recently included attacking hemophilia episodes (bleeds) with a similar technique. I have tried many meditations and one of my favorites is having a team of engineers who move in under the command of a head engineer. They are building a damn of sorts. Essentially, I get into a peaceful resting position with my offending joint (usually my ankle or knee) elevated and cooling under an ice pack. Then, I calm myself and move into a meditative state by flushing my thoughts and centering myself. Once I am focused, I have the head engineer move into my body, and lead a team of engineers and builders to the local area of the bleed (this is all in my imagination… I can literally see a team of workers marching through my arteries and arriving at the bleed location). Once there, my team surrounds the bleed and curbs it using tools, supplies, and ingenuity. I spend ten to thirty minutes focusing on this response while the ice and elevation do their parts. It’s my belief that my bleeds are less severe and often heal quicker/easier because of this mental process.

    Lately I’ve broken down different parts of my meditation and improved upon it by imagining the separate areas of my body (mostly organs) and what there roles are. Here is a breakdown of my process:

    Brain is the general (commander)

    Heart is the special forces (think Navy SEALs or Army Delta Force)

    Blood is the foot soldiers.

    Liver is the defensive units and artillery.

    Stomach is the supply units.

    Lymph Node is the hospital corpsman (medical and doctors).

    Arterial Infrastructure is the explorers and spies.

    Skin is the radar and sonar.

    Nervous System is the communication channel.

    You get the idea? Basically I focus on each of these areas individually during my meditation and utilize them accordingly. I know this may sound like science fiction or the rantings of a lunatic, but I truly believe that I’m here today, alive and kicking, (at least in part) because of this powerful tool… My brain!

    Imagine if cancer patients successfully used this technique (along with medicine and a healthy lifestyle) to cure themselves?? Wouldn’t that be awesome?! Remember that this technique can be applied to almost anything corporal. The next time you have a headache, why not try something along these lines? What do you have to lose by spending a little bit of time relaxing and meditating?

    I’m looking forward to hearing your opinion and experiences, please leave me a comment and let me know if you believe in this type of medicating and also if you’ve ever experienced anything along these lines.

    Sent from the field,
    General Vaughn Ripley

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    Do You Train Despite the Conditions

    We love training. That goes without saying. But, sometimes it can be tough to get training in. There are times when it’s raining outside… Times when it’s snowing… Times when the temperature is over 100 degrees… Essentially there are simply times when the weather does not cooperate with our outdoor activities.

    Before we start tackling this most-excellent subject, let’s get something out of the way…

    Disclaimer: Riding, running, or training of any kind in bad weather can be dangerous. The chance for injury is greatly increased during adverse conditions like rain, ice, snow, extreme heat, and so on. I often choose to workout despite the weather, but my experience level in these scenarios is high. You cannot determine your decision to workout despite the weather based on my opinion. We are all responsible for the things that we do. This is no exception. If you decide to workout in adverse conditions, that is solely on your shoulders and you should weigh the costs and dangers carefully before doing so.

    Caveat: Do not use my above-mentioned disclaimer to pussy out of a workout!

    In all seriousness folks, if you like to exercise outdoors there will come a time when the weather or conditions affect your decision to do so. Once you’ve assessed the situation and figure out if you’re going to do it, there are some things to take into account and be aware of. You already know these things, but I’m going to address them anyway:

    1. Wet streets are slippery. Riding or even running in these conditions can result in a wreck, slip, or fall. Be aware of this and ease your pace and elevate your awareness.

    2. Rain not only creates wet streets, but it also makes puddles and gets equipment wet. Remember to protect your electronics (phone, mp3 player, watch, and so on), wallet, and anything else that shouldn’t get wet. Also, when you’re done with a ride, remember to clean your bike extra well and lubricate all moving components.

    3. Lightning often accompanies rain and can be extremely dangerous.

    4. Mud puddles and slippery conditions usually exist AFTER rain is done and gone. These can create additional hazards like splashing on your riding glasses and blocking your vision (among other things). Also, it is very easy to hydroplane in puddles.

    5. Extreme heat saps your energy, depletes your hydration, and causes a multitude of issues.

    6. Extreme cold can create icy conditions that you aren’t even aware of (think black ice). Prolonged exposure can also produce hypothermia and frost bite.

    7. Wind can not only blow you over but it can also blow you into oncoming traffic. And, debris can become dangerous when blown into your eyes.

    8. The sun can be brutal. Sunburns can ruin an otherwise fun long ride or run. It also can burn your eyes if you don’t don protective sunglasses.

    9. Night time is a condition that we often overlook. Just be aware that not only is your visibility limited in the dark, but so is that of drivers who are out and about.

    Speaking of other drivers and such… Remember that no matter the conditions, if the weather is limiting your abilities and awareness then it’s doing the same for other people on the road. Use caution!!!

    These are just a few of the things to consider when training despite the weather. Honestly, I love getting out to run in the rain. It rejuvenates and invigorates me. Rain is my friend. However, I respect it, and stay aware of consequences. Train smart and always be ready for the effects and your chances for an injury free day are higher.

    Finally, you should be aware that weather can change during a training session (especially longer runs and rides). Be prepared for changing weather and it’s less likely to ruin your day.

    When the weather is exceptionally bad you can always move your training indoors. Sometimes prudence is your best friend!

    Do you train when the weather is bad? Do you adapt or do anything special for bad conditions?

    Thanks for dropping by,
    Rip

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    What are You Grateful For

    I know that this topic has been covered by most inspirational authors and in hundreds (maybe thousands) of books and magazine articles. Alas, I have my own take on it, and I wanted to share my belief about one of the strongest subjects I know about… Gratitude.

    As you may know, I have thousands of things to be grateful for. All of us do. But, we rarely take the time during the day to think about those things, let alone focus and be thankful for them. About four years ago I discovered a way that I could make sure that I concentrate on the things most important to me on a daily basis. This powerful tool is actually just a simple rock. That’s right… I carefully selected a nice small stone from beside a creek and use it as my reminder of the things I should be thankful for. I call this tool my gratitude stone.

    Gratitude Stone
    There’s not really anything special about my gratitude stone. I did want it to be fairly smooth, so it doesn’t snag on my pants pocket. It was also important to have it be small, to avoid huge bulges in my pants (I have enough of those already – HA!). This stone also happens to be one of the things that I am grateful for.

    You might be asking yourself how I use the stone… Well, let me enlighten you to my usage.

    First off, I put the stone on my dresser at night with my wallet and Chap Stick. This way I remember to bring it with me every day. When I finish getting dressed in the morning, I pick up the rock and start my daily ritual. Before slipping it into my pocket, I spend about two minutes holding it, rubbing it, and thinking about the things I am grateful for. Some things (e.g. wife, kids, work, friends, and so on) come quickly and easily to me, so I focus on them first. After thinking about each of those things, I dig deeper into my imagination and try to come up with five more things that I might not have thought of without prying a little. And, I do more than simply say, I am grateful for yada… After choosing the topic to be thankful for, I then take it one step further and ask, “Why am I thankful for yada?”

    This morning ritual is not the only time I thank the universe for the things I am so fortunate to have in my life. The reason I have the stone in my pocket is so that I will feel it throughout the day. Anytime I reach into my pocket to pull out keys, Chap Stick, or money I also find that wonderful trinket. Once I touch it, I spend a moment and rub it. During that time I quickly pop through my list of things I’m thankful for. It’s only for a moment, but I do this a dozen or more times each day. Then, at the end of my day, while I’m emptying my pockets, I do it again. So I probably spend ten to fifteen minutes (at a minimum) of every day focusing solely on the things that matter most to me.

    Since you guys are all probably wondering what I think about when I rub my stone, I thought I would list out some of the things:

    • My wife
    • My kids
    • My brothers and sisters
    • My moms and dads (yes, that is plural… HA!)
    • My longevity and ability to outlive everyone’s expectations
    • Work (yep… I love it, and am grateful for it)
    • My hobbies and fun stuff
    • My home (shelter)
    • Food on my dining room table (and in the fridge)

    After I finish with the easy list, I move on to the tougher to think of things like:

    • My five senses (fortunately I have all five at my disposal)
    • My arms and legs (not everyone is as lucky as me)
    • The sun (and the moon)
    • Computers
    • The snow
    • Four seasons
    • Social networks
    • My gift of writing
    • Internet access
    • Life coaches and mentors
    • Challenges (yes sir… Very grateful for these, because they help me grow!)

    You get the picture. And, hopefully I have helped you realize that there are lots of wonderful things for you to be thankful for too.

    Do you believe in gratitude? Please comment and let us know what you are thankful for. And, tell us if you use something like a gratitude stone to remind you of them.

    Hopefully this was a post to remember… And, maybe even be grateful for.

    I’m more grateful for you readers than you can imagine!

    -Vaughn

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    Positive Attitude Goes a Long Way

    Let me start by saying that I do not condone, nor believe in positive thinking/attitude without something to back it up. E.g. I don’t think you can look at a weed-filled garden and chant there are no weeds 1,000 times and then they mysteriously and suddenly disappear. That said, I do sincerely believe in a positive attitude and taking it a step further, I think it is one of the determining reasons I am still alive today!

    So… What does that mean? You ask. Exactly what I said. In my opinion, a positive attitude can and will prolong your life (especially through a battle with some form of deadly illness and so on). On top of that, I believe that it will improve aspects of your life that you had no idea needed improving (and some that you knew needed it). Also, a positive attitude and outlook will get you places in life. Finally, it is contagious! That’s right… Your positive attitude can and will rub off on the people around you. If you think carefully about this last statement, you will quickly realize that the opposite is true as well. You certainly don’t want to be the bad apple in the basket!

    Now let’s talk about some of the ways that you can spend your time improving your attitude:

    Wake with a Smile
    Many studies have been done on the power of a simple smile. For the most part, it has been scientifically proven that putting a smile on your face will improve your outlook, attitude, and make people think you are insane (just kidding about the last one, wanted to see if you were still with me). Since we know the power of a smile, why not harness that power and use it to your advantage? Jump out of bed grinning. And, when you get to the bathroom mirror, make sure that you have a big goofy smile pasted on your yap! You’d be surprised what this will do for the start of your day. Try it tomorrow morning… Heck… Try it now! Go run into the bathroom smiling and look at yourself. Isn’t that a friendly face? Imagine how others react to you when you walk down the halls of work. If they see you with a stoic look, frown, or even pout, don’t you think that is a negative aura and reflection of you? Reverse those feelings and beliefs by smiling.

    I should mention, I’m not talking about a toothy vampire grin… Or, a sociopath smile with teeth clenched and eyes all scary. I mean a simple, calm, and friendly smile.

    Try it!

    Share the Love
    I often fall back on the idea behind the movie Pay It Forward. What a great story and premise. When I say, share the love, that’s what I mean… Once you have built up a happy life filled with positive emotions, you should share that with others. Go beyond simply smiling at people. Instead offer them information about how you created a positive attitude in your life. You’d be surprised how receptive people are to hearing ways to improve themselves. It is a key component of living a happy and successful life. Simply share your happiness with others. And, not only with tips on improving your attitude, but also by doing friendly things. When is the last time you stopped your car to help someone on the shoulder with a flat tire? I’m a huge fan of doing this. And, I NEVER accept a penny from anyone that I help in this fashion. During the deep snow storms of 2009-2010, I spent days out in the weather (with my FJ Cruiser, a snatch strap, and a snow shovel – See the photo at the beginning of this article) rescuing people who were stuck. Boy did that feel good! Gotta love helping people!

    Try it!

    Meditation
    I use a daily meditation to improve my outlook and help to heal myself. Anytime that I am experiencing struggles, I will kick back, take some deep breaths, and literally fall into a trance (don’t fall into a trance while driving!) and recognize things in my body and things around me from a different perspective. There are tons of books and information on these kinds of things. Regardless of which way you do/experience meditation, I would recommend that everyone tries it. You’d be surprised how much better you can improve your feelings and attitude by doing a few minutes of deep and thoughtful meditation.

    One of my favorite ways to meditate is during a low-impact and deep stretching yoga workout. 20 Minutes of deep breathing and yoga stretches while meditating internally can do wonders for your body and day!

    Try it!

    Try all of them!!!

    That’s it for today… I hope I was able to stir some positive emotions!

    Do you believe in a positive attitude? If so, how do you accomplish this?
    Typed with love,
    Vaughn

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