Category Archives: positive thinking

The Lunatic Express (interview)

I’m reading a book right now called The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman. This video is an interview with the author and is just so, so interesting and touching that I had to share it ahead of my review. The review will be coming up in a future post!


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The Power of Half

This is the inspiring true story of a teenage girl who encouraged her family to sell their home and give half away to charity. The Power of Half by Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen causes readers to ask themselves how to make a difference in the world by giving more and taking less.

Here is an article by the authors which I have been authorized to share with you.

Hannah’s Take: Believe You Can Make a Difference
by Kevin and Hannah Salwen,
Authors of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back

About 111 women die of breast cancer every day in the United States. A million teenagers get pregnant each year. Someone dies every thirty-one minutes because of drunken drivers. I’m not writing this to bum you out. But you might be thinking, There are so many problems, there’s no way that I or any one person could solve anything.

When civil-rights activist Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a public bus in 1955, she never dreamed of the impact she would have on millions of lives. “I didn’t have any idea just what my actions would bring about,” she said years later. “At the time I was arrested I didn’t know how the community would react.” The reason Ms. Parks didn’t get up is that she knew the racist laws were wrong.

Rosa Parks is just one of the thousands of influential people whose actions changed the views of many people today. Think about Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Greg Mortenson, John Woolman, Madame Curie (if you don’t know them, check them out; they’re all remarkable). Sometimes small acts significantly affect a large group of people. But even when they don’t, they can have a big influence, maybe on just one individual.

So don’t get discouraged because you can’t solve a whole problem alone. As the British philosopher Edmund Burke said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” I know exactly what he was talking about. Before our family project I kept telling myself that no matter how hard I tried or how much money I gave, I would never be able to fully solve any of the world’s big problems. When I worked at Café 458, the Atlanta restaurant for homeless men and women, I saw dozens of people come in looking depressed and lonely. But still I didn’t see them as individuals, but instead as a group, “the homeless.”

Then one day at Café 458 I heard two homeless men talking about a college basketball game that I had watched with my dad the night before. I snapped to the realization that these people are people. How stupid and rude I had been to see them as different from me. I realize now that having that epiphany was a big step for me. In that split second of comprehension, I switched from seeing them as a group of people to viewing them as individuals. When I started seeing people in need as individuals, the problem of homelessness and hunger seemed smaller and I felt like I could make more of a difference. I also started believing that I could help because the problem was on a personal level.


Think of a person from your community who inspires you. Look beyond his or her specific actions to the kind of qualities that person brings to work or volunteer activities. For example, some people are better at creating new programs than at actually putting them into action; other people are doers, ready to take someone else’s ideas and run with them. Is that aunt in your family a problem-solver? A good listener? An inspirer?

Now think about your strengths in the same light. If you took your best characteristics out into the world, how could you use them to make a difference? Are you patient? Maybe you would be a good tutor. Are you musical? Maybe you could be playing the guitar at a nursing home (and bringing your family along to sing — no talent required). We all have gifts the world can use.
The above is an excerpt from the book The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin and Hannah Salwen. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Kevin and Hannah Salwen, authors of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back

Author Bios
Kevin Salwen, coauthor of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back, was reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal for over 18 years. After his tenure at The Wall Street Journal, he started a magazine, Motto. He serves on the board for Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta, and works with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Hannah Salwen, coauthor of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back, will be a junior at the Atlanta Girls’ School, where she plays for the varsity volleyball team, and is her grade’s representative to the student council. She has been volunteering consistently since the 5th grade at the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Cafe 458, among others.

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How to Achieve Heaven on Earth

This book is pretty straightforward. The title, “How to Achieve Heaven on Earth: 101 insightful essays from the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and writers” pretty much says it all. It’s a great compilation and one of those books you will probably walk away from feeling a little more enlightened.

The essays seem to have been carefully chosen and it only takes about 5 minutes to read each one, so it’s a nice book to pick up in between tasks during the day, (this is a nice way of saying, it makes good bathroom reading.)

You may find yourself dog ear-ing your favorite essays to refer back to later. (For those who use only book marks and get angry with people like me, my apologies for the bent triangles in the corners of your pages.)

Here is an excerpt I have been authorized to share. Enjoy!

American Ingenuity in the Innovation Age
by John E. Wade II,
Editor of How to Achieve Heaven on Earth: 101 insightful essays from the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and writers

We are currently in the innovation age as demonstrated by the fact that humankind’s knowledge is doubling every ten years, and probably more so in technology.  America can thrive in an age like this. Why? Let me give you ten good reasons.

America is a nation of immigrants who came here for a better life for the most part. Therefore they have the genes to initiate changes in business, education, computers, the Internet and practically all the fields of human endeavor that require reason.

America has a wonderful system of secondary education which can hatch ideas of all sorts from biochemistry to ecological science to anthropology. You name it and somewhere in the country there is a secondary school or schools that can make you proud.

Social entrepreneurs are a new area catching on as demonstrated by Nicholas Kristof’s wonderful article, “The Age of Ambition.” Kristof writes about how the young people who are engaging in start-up enterprises like Teach America are revolutionizing whole industries, not just teaching people to fish.  He calls this phenomenon “the 21st-century answer to the student protestors of the 1960s.” He writes about colleges who are now offering classes in social entrepreneurship.  It is my ambition that Soldiers of Love, which will receive half my royalties from How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth, will become a leading charity within the age of ambition.

While I hesitate to point to our government as a leader in innovation, our democracy does have a resilience and ability to change without violating our basic formula of capitalism tempered with democracy.

We are in tough economic times but we have the ability to innovate, worker by worker, company by company, and ultimately even within local, state and federal government. Thus, I believe we will prosper in this age of new ideas. If times were really good, we would not have to change careers or search for new jobs or endeavors. In my own case, I am much happier and fulfilled as a self-employed author, investor and philanthropist than the later part of my career as a certified public accountant with the government. During my 29-year career as a CPA in public accounting, private accounting and government accounting I lost my job a number of times and had to come up fighting for another job, at times within bad economic surroundings. Now I am in a life fulfilling career that only became my calling a few years ago. I am now 64. Life is a pursuit that requires continual growth, especially in the Innovation Age.

Wisdom is something that can be gained through reacting to negative life experiences in a positive manner. There are two essays in the book related to
wisdom, “The Centrality of Wisdom” and “We Urgently Need an Academic Revolution.” These explain the nature of wisdom and how it can and should be taught.  Wisdom is the combination of knowledge, values, problem solving, imagination and resilience that can make a real difference in how one approaches adversity in times such as this.

While it might not come to mind right away, we are all made up of mind, body and spirit and it is important to change and innovate in all these areas over time as situations evolve slowly or overnight such as a job loss. Healthy diet and exercise are to a great degree within our own control. In almost everything we do, self discipline is a given for the optimum result. That’s a tough call when you loose your job, your spouse, anything or anybody that’s important to you. But we must cope regardless of the challenge. Story after story in this book tells of successes such as “With Sobriety Anything is Possible” by Todd Crandell who went from a thirteen year struggle with drugs and alcohol to founding a nonprofit foundation to cure or prevent addiction through a lifestyle of fitness and health.

We can even innovate in sex. Stella Resnick writes about how ” . . . lack of sex in marriage is a reliable measure of whether or not the relationship will last.” She says the lack of desire among both men and women in sex is the most important sexual problem in America. This is where couples can innovate on their own and improve their lives whether they are employed or not. It may be more difficult, or it may provide a diversion from the other difficult circumstances faced.

We can innovate with expanding our horizons in racial attitudes, both emotional and intellectual bias. Just look at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech abstract dated August 16, 1967 (“Where Do We Go From Here?”)and you will be amazed how far America has traveled along the road to racial harmony. We have elected an African American president. But we must continue to innovate, and I’m speaking about racial attitudes in all directions from all sources.

We can innovate in our own personal fiscal habits. This means such things as knowing what you own and financial literacy in general. I prepare a brief net worth statement practically every day. Perhaps that’s obsessive, but my father, who was a superb investor, followed his stock, AFLAC, and a few other much smaller holdings on a daily basis. I find this distressing at times and sometimes I outsmart myself. But investing is a growing, lifelong pursuit which I would encourage in so many people who are not in poverty and have sufficient monetary assets (generally 4 to 6 months of expenses) and have maximized there tax deferred (401(k) or IRA) plans. I must explain that I am an independent investor, not a trader.

Follow your dreams, but don’t quit your day job until you can really plan a prudent way to navigate your way to fulfillment of your next niche, a niche that will probably evolve in fits and starts over time.

Copyright © 2010 John E. Wade II, editor of How to Achieve Heaven on Earth: 101 insightful essays from the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and writers

Author Bio
John E. Wade II
, editor of How to Achieve Heaven on Earth: 101 insightful essays from the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and writers, is an author, investor, philanthropist, and founder of the nonprofit organization Soldiers of Love. An active member of his church and civic organizations in his area, Wade holds an M.A. from the University of Georgia and has worked in a range of fields. His extensive travels, including visits to China, India, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Jordan, and Brazil, inspired him to collect the essays in this work. Wade lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For more information, please visit

I just wanted to point out a great quote from this essay. (You might want to keep a highlighter with you while reading this book, too.)

“Wisdom is something that can be gained through reacting to negative life experiences in a positive manner.” – John E. Wade II

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The world is a beautiful book

I got this in a fortune cookie the other day:



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When you lie about your age, the terrorists win

lieaboutageComedian Carol Leifer shares wise and witty lessons about life in her autobiographical new book, When you Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror.

Leifer talks about everything from sweet, loving memories of her father and growing old gracefully, to an obsession with dog adoption and a mid-life surprise team switch to lesbianism.

If you’re Jewish or have Jewish relatives, (particularly with roots in New York), you’ll especially appreciate some of the humor that seems to be part of our blood.

Leifer comes across as the real deal – a genuine person who has come to fully appreciate everything in life and is generous enough to pass on her wisdom.


Filed under books, humor, opinion, positive thinking, religion, self esteem

Get Off Your “But”

getoffbut Get Off Your “But” by Sean Stephenson is a self help book that teaches you multiple techniques to stop making excuses and start living the life you want and deserve.

What is most inspiring about this book is the fact that the author was born with a genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta which causes the bones to be extremely brittle. Just the pressure of labor alone when he was born broke nearly every little bone in his body. The doctors didn’t think he would live, but he survived. He grew to only 3 feet tall and is confined to a wheelchair. Throughout his life he has suffered more than 200 bone fractures, (and “No,” he says, you never “get used to” the physical pain of it.)

Despite the challenges he never makes excuses for himself and instead has achieved a level of success and (more importantly) happiness most able bodied people never reach.

No matter what you’re needing motivation for, this book has it all. The life changing lessons can be applied to any and all aspects of your life from health and finances, to career and relationships and beyond.

Below is an excerpt I’ve been authorized to share.

Slowwwwww . . . Downnnnnn . . .
by Sean Stephenson,
Author of Get Off YourBut“: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself

One thing I hear over and over from clients is that they just don’t have enough time. That’s kind of funny, because our world moves fast, and we move fast — you’d think we’d have plenty of time. But moving fast makes us feel as if we can’t catch up. Rushing certainly doesn’t give us physical confidence. When we’re running at top speed all the time, we can’t relax, and others can’t relax around us.

The solution is easy: Slow. Down.Your. Movements.

I’m not talking about moving as if you were running in slow motion; I am simply suggesting that you be more aware of how your body is moving. If you want to be more comfortable with yourself and make others feel comfortable when they are around you, pay attention to the following areas:
  • Relax. Keep your entire body loose. If your fists are clenched, release them. Let go of any tension you’re harboring anywhere in your body.
  • Breathe. if you’re taking shallow breaths, begin taking slower and deeper breaths. Be sure to exhale completely! If you find yourself fidgeting (for example, dipping your hands in and out of your pockets; fiddling with any object obsessively; chewing your nails; playing with your hair; tapping your feet, hands, or fingers), take a deep breath in, smile, gently place your body in a comfortable position — and leave it there.
  • Slow down your blinking. Be aware of your blinking rate. If it’s too fast, slow it down.
  • Bring your head up. Keep your shoulders back and your head up. This will almost automatically keep your optimism up. When we look out at the world, we think about things outside ourselves. When we look down, we tend to go inward. Our mind accesses self-talk and emotions, and that can disconnect us from the present moment. Keeping your shoulders back will also open up your heart chakra and show others that you’re open to giving and receiving love.
  • Adopt good posture. Keep your body relaxed and slightly asymmetric. No sitting or standing at attention, with, shoulders squared and feet together, like a soldier. This symmetric posture conveys the message that you’re ready to attack, whereas holding your body slightly (yet consciously) off kilter conveys you have no intention to cause harm. You’re just there to relax and have a good time.
  • Use a strong tone of voice. Keep your voice under conscious control. if you listen to any good radio DJ, you’ll notice that he never speaks in a slow, boring monotone. He keeps the volume, tempo, and pitch of his voice smooth and controlled. When he takes breaths, he makes the sound intentional.
  • Smile! Please don’t force a big, scary, stiff smile that stays plastered on your face no matter what. Make it a gentle, subtle smile that comes from your open heart and feels comfortable.
  • Be peaceful. The more still and calm you are, the better. Our eyes and ears catch sudden or awkward changes in movements and sounds, and automatically register them as potential threats. The more you can keep your body still and your voice controlled and relaxed, the better equipped you’ll be to keep the peace around you and certainly within you.
Sensory Acuity

If you pay close attention to microchanges in physiology, you can tell when your feelings (or someone else’s feelings) are shifting. Our awareness of these details is referred to as sensory acuity. The following physical cues telegraph your internal emotional condition:
  • Pupil dilation: The larger the pupils, the more open and connected we feel (if not influenced by direct light or drugs, that is).
  • Flushed skin: The more red the skin (specifically in the face), the more uncomfortable, fearful, embarrassed, or sexually nervous we feel.
  • Muscle tension: The tenser the facial muscles, specifically around the eyes, the more uncomfortable we are. Neck tension is a very good indicator of feeling overwhelmed.
  • Quick breathing: The more quickly we breathe (unless we have just done some physical activity), the shallower the
    breaths we take, and the higher in the lungs our breath comes from, the more constricted we feel (and probably are) overall. If we take slow, deep, and fully belly breaths, we’re likely to be more comfortable in the moment.
  • Lip configuration: if our lips are unnaturally pursed and slightly white, we’re likely to be upset or extremely displeased. If the lips are full, smooth, and a deep shade of red, we may be feeling sexually aroused, emotionally excited, or at total peace.

The above is an excerpt from the book Get Off YourBut“: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself by Sean Stephenson. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Excerpted from Get Off YourBut by Sean Stephenson. Copyright © 2009 by Sean Stephenson. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Author Bio
Sean Clinch Stephenson, author of Get Off YourBut“: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself, is one of the leading authorities on the deconstruction of self-sabotage (what he calls getting people off their BUTs). A psychotherapist and internationally known professional speaker, he publishes the international men’s online magazine and has a private psychotherapy practice.

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Free to be… you and me

marlo-bookxFree to be… You and Me by Marlo Thomas originally came out before I was even born. Now there is a new anniversary edition with new illustrations for today’s kids but with all the reassuring goodness of the original. The book also comes with a CD. (Sing it with me! … “It’s alright to cry, crying gets the sad out of you, it’s alright to cry, it might make you feel better…”)

This is a great book for reading together with your kids. You can flip around to your favorite parts and the messages in the book are sure to boost self confidence for a lifetime.

Here is an excerpt from the forward of the book from the author, Marlo Thomas.

Dear You,
Well, hello! How marvelous to see you (again).

If you are a grown-up who first read this book 34 years ago — and are now opening to this page, possibly with your own child snuggled on your lap — welcome back! You look fabulous.

And if you are a child cracking open Free to Be . . . You and Me for the very first time, I’ll tell you what I told those original readers: I want you to make a wreck of this book. Bend back the corners on the pages you like best. Write your name on the inside cover or any other place you like. Maybe even put a few stickers on the back. A year from now I want to know that you’ve touched this book — lived it, loved it, cared for it, and shared it — the way I hope it touches you.

Free to Be . . . You and Me first began with my niece, Dionne, when she was only five years old. Dionne had asked me to read her a bedtime story, and going though her book shelf I was shocked to discover that most of her storybooks were written to do just that: put her — and her mind — to sleep!

What also surprised me about Dionne’s storybooks was that all of the characters in them were so . . . perfect. They talked alike and acted alike, and practically all of the girls married a prince and the boys slayed a dragon and, of course, lived happily ever after.

But what I was most shocked to see was that all of the books talked about what girls and boys should be, instead of what they could be. That’s never a good thing. “Should” is a small and bossy word. “Could” is as big and beautiful as the sky.

So my friends and I got together to create a different kind of book — “a party of a book,” we called it — for all of the Dionnes in the world, and all the Donnys, too. We wanted a book that would show every child how special they are. And we wanted to let them know that each of their Happily Ever Afters could and would be different.

And exciting.

And their own.

As you’ll soon discover (or rediscover), each of the stories and songs and poems in this book is a little adventure — and the adventure is yours. You can stop and start them whenever you want, or replay them a million times. Sort of like the DVD in your house — only it doesn’t plug in. And the best thing is, even when you’re not holding the book, you can still play it in your head.

You’ll also notice that, even though the characters in this book have names that are different from yours, they’re really all about you. That’s right — each story, each sentence, each word in Free to Be . . . You and Me was written to remind you that you’re the hero of your own life adventure, and that you can write your story any way that you dream it can be.

I often hear from grown ups who were children when they first read Free to Be, and, to my delight, they tell me that they now share this book with their own kids (including Dionne who now has two little Free to Be boys of her own!). Which brings me to the one thing we have changed in this new edition: the look of the book. Don’t get me wrong — we liked the illustrations plenty in the original version, but back then we didn’t have things like laptops and Photoshop and 3-D animation — and the only thing you could do with a “mouse” was run away from it and scream.

So my friends and I thought it was time to make the book look a little more like the world you live in today. We contacted some of the best artists in the world — maybe even a few who have illustrated some of your favorite books — and asked them to retell the stories and poems in their own special way, using their favorite colored pencils and paint brushes and drawing programs. And, just like you, they all had their very own ideas of what a story is all about.

We’re thrilled with the images they came up with, and we know you will be, too.

OK, so enough talking. Let’s go inside the book — and we’ll do it the same way we did it the first time around. Ready? Alright . . . Take a giant step.

May I?

Yes, you may.

Yes, we certainly hope you will.

Lots of Love,
Me (Marlo Thomas)

P.S. Now it’s you and me.

The above is an excerpt from the book Free to Be . . . You and Me
by Marlo Thomas and Friends
Copyright © 2008 Marlo Thomas

Author Bio
Marlo Thomas is an award-winning actress, author, and activist whose varied body of work continues to have an impact on American entertainment and culture. She burst onto the scene in That Girl, the landmark TV series that broke new round for young, independent women, which she also conceived and produced. Her pioneering spirit continued with her creation of Free to Be . . . You and Me, which became a platinum album, a bestselling book, an Emmy® Award-winning television special, and a stage show. She has been a constant presence on television (Ugly Betty and Friends) and on and off Broadway. Marlo is the creator of five bestselling books, Free to Be . . . You and Me, Free to Be . . . a Family, The Right Words at the Right Time (Volumes 1 and 2), and Thanks and Giving: All Year Long, the latter of which also became a CD version that earned her the Grammy® Award for Best Spoken Word Album For Children. She has also won four Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe®, the Peabody Award, and has been inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Marlo is the National Outreach Director for St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which was founded by her father, Danny Thomas, in 1962. She lives in New York with her husband, Phil Donahue. For more information, please visit

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