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Ralph Bruksos' Blog

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“TRADING MY LIFE FOR”

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Was planning my day recently, I was reminded of a personal belief, “Whatever I am scheduling, I am trading my life for it!”

Whenever I watch a sporting event on TV or in person, I am trading my life for it.

I have a finite amount of time left, “Do I want to schedule time to watch someone else playing in their sandbox or schedule that portion of my life doing that will benefit me or humankind?”

I have the choice, watching someone else enrich their life through exercise, sometimes earning an inordinate amount of money, or, get the benefit of exercise, or gaining knowledge or wisdom by learning myself.

The most enjoyment while watching TV in years past has been watching one of our sports teams, college or pro, I loved it. Now, I want to continue, but not watching. I want to watch or do things that enrich me or someone else. Exercise, knowledge, wisdom, health, skill learning, etc., a good trade.

There has been a time, I was so exhausted from my work or some activity that watching a sporting event or meaningless show was all I had left in my tank, but that is rare.

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"GIVERS MAY BE HAPPIER"

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Not because they are better than those who are inclined toward being “a taker” but they share that the act of kindness on their part, produces a sense of well being.

Encounters are often one of three things, pleasant, neutral or unpleasant. I try to make my half pleasant every time.

Some work at making it unpleasant, at best.

When demolition of a main north and south viaduct was planned, the media assured long delays would happen, tempers would flare, accidents increase, none of which occurred, during my twice daily commute.

Daily, I would see motorists create openings for other drivers to merge, and it has seemed that drivers acknowledged the kindness with a wave, in most cases. It has worked well, smoothly with daily gestures of kindness.

I was waiting for the elevator after my morning workout when another man joined me. Pleasant, smiling, I asked him what he does when not working out, he said he had a full-time job, but also was on the board of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on a volunteer committee at the University of Washington and other committees as a volunteer.

Another man, with a locker next to mine, pleasant in every encounter, went missing two weeks this summer, he explained he had been away on vacation to camp with his son as the scoutmaster.

Another is serving as the volunteer president of the Regional Heart Association.

All of these men never complain about the weather, the traffic, or local sports teams when they lose or anything else.

There is a certain joy in helping others that people have found and it is there for all of us to enjoy.


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"I CHOOSE TO NOT MAKE IT "OK" TO QUIT

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I was running the New York City Marathon.

In that marathon, you run through the five boroughs starting in Staten Island, across the bridge into Brooklyn, then Queens, Manhattan, and into the Bronx and finally back into the finish line in Manhattan.

By the time I reached Queens, it was a clear morning and the beautiful children were out with candy served on paper plates.

This was the fifth time I had run it, so I knew what to expect.

When I reached Queens, I was somewhere near half finished. But, I hurt; my neck, my back and especially my legs hurt; but mostly my mind hurt. I hurt worse than at any time in 54 marathons.

I always carried $4-5 rolled up in a tiny pocket in my shorts for a drink, or candy bar, or in an emergency, the subway.

In Queens the subway ran under the street I was running on. How easy it would be to quit and catch the subway to where I was staying near Central Park.

As someone said, “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.”

I knew, in order to quit, I must get my story straight. “I was too cold”, “too much rain” or “my boss was terrible”, “they weren’t paying me enough”, “she didn’t like my mother”, “she wouldn’t let me hunt and fish after we got married”, etc.

I couldn’t “get my story straight”. I needed a story to tell myself if I quit.

I couldn’t think of “a story” that would make it ok in the eyes of our children and grandchildren. The truth was, they wouldn’t think less of me, and they would continue to love me.

I slowed more, but, I couldn’t make it “ok to quit”.

I had the “reason why” in my mind. “I didn’t want to let our children, et al, down”.

I kept slogging and the pain and exhaustion left me and I finished.

Had I made it ok to quit, I would have:

The lesson for me, never make it ok to get my story straight so I can quit anything because it is hard and I am experiencing discomfort, if, I have…another step in me.

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"STARTING THE DAY RIGHT"

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I used to run with the CEO of Weyerhaeuser, Asia, and being a very bright running mate, he left some memorable lines over the miles.

He, when talking about old friends, in fun, mentioned that they would be angry most mornings.

He would, in defending their attitude say, “They wake up, spring loaded, in the angry position.”

Lack of sleep, a problem on one’s mind, someone who successfully provoked an issue, wake up “spring loaded.”

We agreed, over the miles, that mental attitude was completely an inside job, totally up to the individual.

I could start the day with a heart full of gratitude and a smile, or be “spring loaded.”

I get to my locker where I work out early in the morning and I sit and write the five things I am grateful for, that morning, on one side; after I write the 5 things, I draw two lines and write, “And today, I will be non-judgmental.” There are thousands of cards on a shelf, in my office.

We agreed, we could start the day any way we wanted.

I found it impossible to be angry, self absorbed or “snarky” when focusing on gratitude and when I am not judging the other person.

All of life is written on the “backside of my eyeballs.” It’s my choice and it’s my choice to be grateful, not angry that day.


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"Your Secret Power"

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Impossible to know how much your act of kindness, of thoughtfulness, may mean to the recipient.

I have a friend that I see when we are playing golf, I see him in the locker room and a member or two of his group at the store or in our community.

Recently, he opened a short conversation with, “I understand you have written a couple of books and used to manage a large company and team.” I said, “Yes to both.”

He asked where he could get a copy of my book? Amazon or somewhere else?

I told him if he purchased it at Amazon, because they don’t make a market any longer, he would pay “the collectors price, if they even had it and I would gift him a copy.” I did.

About 10 days later, he called and said he loved the book and wanted to purchase 12 copies for members of his firm and would I sign them? Yes!

I had been languishing in writing, finishing my third book.

Thanks to Lou and his kindness, people saw the book and it started a real buzz. A couple of Lou’s key people have gone out of their way to thank Lou and me.

The real point is, tho, my enthusiasm for book #3 has been totally revitalized because of Lou, for which I am so grateful. I am not certain that Lou realized the power and energy he released with his kindness.

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"CREATE HAPPINESS AND SATISFACTION"

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The great 12th Century Jewish Sage Maimonides wrote that charity is a blessing and we must all exercise it if we can.

“But, the finest form of charity is to enable a poor man to support himself with honor and usefulness.”

I enjoy reading essays and other writing by Paul Johnson as he quotes Maimonides, “There is a joy in lifting people out of want, not by alms, but, on a permanent basis.”

Men and women have been rendered unable to work, to support oneself, and their family because of alcohol, drugs, illness, incarceration, or some other valid reasons, or simply thru a decision.

I might be most helpful if I addressed the cause within the limits of my ability and experiences if the individual desires assistance and use my experience to serve as a resource or connection to direct them to a job, if they are wanting to return to work.

I listened to an articulate, modestly dressed man, perhaps 40 years old, saying, “It is time to go back to work.” He went on to say, “It is six years since I last held a job. It’s just time.”

We hear a lot of great stories at Pioneer Human Services and other places I have served. Those who follow through and are succeeding in returning to work, provide motivation to those who hear their story.

Providing housing and other services is so important, but, helping find work is the most important according to some.

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"Deliver The Body"

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When I joined a gym about 60 years ago, I met a “man inspired”.

Earl Willetts was a legend. He was in his late 70’s then.

There was a concrete railing around the roof, about 12 inches in diameter.

There was a picture of Earl doing a handstand on that railing with no tie-down or safety net.

There was a picture of Jimmy H., a 76 year old president of a large department store, shorts, tee shirt, and buff in his impressive buff pose.

I asked Early, what was the secret to that success?

He said, “There is no secret it is about habit.”

Jimmy has a schedule that puts him in here at 7:00 AM, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

He went on to say if you want to succeed, you should form the habit of doing the things unsuccessful people choose not to do. (Amazing how often I heard that in those days.)

I said, “What about those mornings when I have been to a scout meeting, or church meeting or business dinner that kept me out late?”

He said, “You come in here, take a stool, at your scheduled time, place the stool against the wall, sit down and watch others work out. You deliver the body!” “Unsuccessful people break the habit! You are not, you deliver the body! You will be a success in here.” He was right.

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"A Picture Provides The Road Map"

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When I was young, doing the latter part of the Depression, we spent most holidays with my aunt and uncle.

They had no children but included my brother and me in the festive day.

My aunt, my mothers sister and my mother were wonderful cooks. Dinner was always wonderful.

There was no T.V. yet, and no other children to play with. We had radio but it held no communal appeal.

After the dishes, etc., my uncle would bring out the Chinese checkers and the games began. I loved that game. We never played games in our home and I just plain loved to play. Wasn’t so much about winning, just about playing.

Next, if it wasn’t too late, my uncle would bring out a jigsaw puzzle.

My brother and I and 2 or 3 adults had a great time piecing it together.

Looking back on that experience, I now realized the relationship between the puzzle and success in life.

I urge anyone, and especially myself, when I set a goal; write out the reason “why”, find a picture of it in a magazine or someplace. Have an audio tape or C/D of the goal or hand drawn picture. Feed my mind with a visual reinforcement to support the written text, etc.

When we would reach a temporary block to the jigsaw puzzle, one of us would reach for the box, the puzzle arrived in. Study the picture on the top of box and continue on.

So, when working on the goal, have the picture we started with, is often enough to get us unstuck just like looking at the picture of the finished puzzle on the box top.

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"Don't Give Up Before the Miracle Happens"

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During the worst of our “crop failure”, I experienced an incredible insight.

We had lost everything, better yet, “sold” everything or had it foreclosed on. Like the small apartment complex, duplex, gun collection, stocks, jewelry, in an attempt to save our home.

When our income was interrupted, the savings and loan holding the mortgage never sent a past due notice and I made a serious mistaking thinking I could sell off items and catch up.

When the mortgage payment became six months past due they made their move. They started a preliminary eviction notice.

I went to their main office and explained our situation.

A Vice President heard my proposal discussed it with their “loan committee” and contacted me.

He said, “If we would pay four months, current, they would take month five and incorporate it with month seven and take month six and incorporate it with month eight and we would be current.

I sold everything of value, gun collection, jewelry, and golf clubs and brought him a check for four months complete with penalties.

When my check cleared he called me and said the CEO had changed his mind and wanted the last two months past due in three days or they would evict us.

My ego was so impacted and, I was so exhausted, I gave up.

We moved into a small rental as we surrendered the keys.

I gave up before the miracle happened.

My ego took over. I became immobilized at the bankers’ betrayal and his perceived lack of character.

I contacted all of our creditors and made arrangements for all of the remaining debt.

It took us 11 years to pay off all the debt.

The banker was doing what his kind do. He didn’t create the mess, I did, but I compounded it when I gave up too soon.

It’s all a wonderful memory, have a different home, we are totally debt free.

I am responsible. What I learned was I gave up too quickly. That is one mistake I don’t need to repeat any time soon.

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"What Skeet Shooting Taught Me About Goal Setting"

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As we begin to Explore, we also begin to think about setting goals. No one has ever taught me more about goal setting than Lucky McDaniels.

I met Lucky McDaniels years ago, after I discovered that I liked to shoot guns, though I had absolutely no interest in killing anything.

Despite my enthusiasm, I realized that I wasn’t very good at hitting the clay birds used in skeet shooting.

I decided to take a class from Lucky McDaniels, a legendary shooting instructor.

During our first session, Lucky took five clay pigeons in one hand and a semi-automatic skeet shotgun in the other. He threw the five clay pigeons into the air and broke them all with five separate shots before they hit the ground. Because he had thrown the clay pigeons with his left hand, they had not gone in the air very far. I was impressed.

Lucky McDaniels had some simple lessons for shooting:

1. Keep both eyes open.
2. Keep both eyes on the target.
3. Don’t look at anything on the periphery.
4. Don’t get hung up on the sights on the barrel of the shotgun.
5. Don’t get hung up on anything between you and the target.

After my sessions with Lucky, I couldn’t wait to get back on the skeet range. I went from breaking fourteen or fifteen out of 25 clay pigeons to breaking all twenty-five, a perfect round.

His lessons for target shooting are also what goal setting is all about. I learned that I can hit almost any target when I keep my eyes open and focus on it.

My accomplishment was not so grand. These lessons are so simple, that even young children can learn them. When our three children were ages 10-13, I took them out to teach them how to shoot.

On our first outing, I threw the disk, which was about two inches in diameter, into the air a couple of times. Each of our children shot a little under the metal disk using a BB gun: I instructed them as Lucky McDaniels instructed me, “Keep both eyes on the target.”

By concentrating on the disk, we could see the BB passing under it. Within a few more shots, each one hit the disk in the air. They wore safety glasses, all three were excellent shots.

As great a shooter as Lucky McDaniels was, I determined I could even shoot better – provided Lucky had both eyes blindfolded! Just as the principles of good shooting Lucky McDaniels taught me, relate perfectly to what I know about goal-setting, so does the idea that, without goals and objectives, we are no more effective than a blindfolded shooter, no matter how expert he or she may be.
Know what you’re aiming for. When we don’t set our goals or have clear-cut objectives, we are blindfolding ourselves.

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