Category Archives: inspiration

Sailin’ not Wailin’

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

William Arthur Ward
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Recently, my brother in law took out our sailboat on Lake Ola on a windy day and got swamped! It was quite an adventure when we “rescued” him because when we got it flipped back over, it took off unmanned across the lake at breakneck speed. We helplessly watched as it rammed the shore just missing a dock…thank goodness!

Much has been written about the forces of wind as it relates to our lives. May I just reiterate how amazingly simple and true it is that with a small adjustment in rudder and sail, what was a hazardous situation becomes fun and exciting or what was a listless boring going nowhere trip becomes useful and fulfilling.

Sometimes when our lives are just not where we want them to be, we can make small adjustments that can make a world of difference in our satisfaction with life. We don’t need a new boat or a bigger sail …we just need to pay attention to the wind and make the small adjustments to change our course.

Admittedly, as an amateur sailor who seems to need to learn the ropes again each time I take our sailboat out, there are others who do a much better job because they understand how everything works. In our lives, there are also family and friends who may know the ropes just a little better than us and can add valuable wisdom and knowledge to help our situation if we are open to listening. Often times, the hardest time to learn is when we know just enough to think we know enough. The fine tuning adjustments needed in our lives may be right before our eyes but clouded by our pride.

img_0813Next time the winds of live seem about ready to capsize your boat, stop wailin’ and start sailin’. Learn the life skills to make adjustments and then hold on to your hat because the excitement of life will “blow you away”!

HighFive YourLife Principle

Make adjustments in your life to take advantage of the winds of life instead of fearing them.

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I Think We Can All Eat and Drink at the Same Table

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

Ronald Reagan

A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed. Nelson Mandela

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Recently, I noticed a raccoon wading in the water at our home on Lake Ola in Tangerine, Florida. I grabbed my camera and as I focused in on him, I noticed there was a green heron right next to him. Each of them went about their business in close proximity and seemed to not be bothered by the other’s presence.

Everybody knows that one of the first rules of keeping peace in the family is to not discuss politics and religion at the dinner table. If only two people at the table enjoy a good debate, then everyone else becomes uncomfortable. If only one person is a good debater, then the other will not enjoy the joust. Once a normal person is outflanked by someone who has prepared better or simply understands the topic more thoroughly, the other person has nowhere to go but to dip into his/her emotions. Once you begin to defend your point of view with your emotions, it becomes personal and the wonderful meal that was prepared for you loses it savor.

The best debates, the ones that benefit everyone in the room, are done by people who respect each other and genuinely desire the best for the other side even though they may be as different as a raccoon and a bird. That respect can be built around a dinner table where interests are shared and people begin to know each other better. Each of us has his own story of struggle…of failure and success…of quitting and persevering…of pain and joy…and we see everyone’s life through the lens of our own lives. Once we understand the life of everyone around the table more, we build respect and a desire for their well being. We also begin to feel that those around the table feel the same way about us.

In this environment, you can allow yourself to be vulnerable because you know that the other side wants the best for you. Once those at the table become vulnerable, your discussion about God or politics or any other controversial issue, can be done without any endgame in mind other than the desire to be unified, not in your opinions of the affairs of the world but in your respect for and understanding of each other…and that is the basis for peaceful progress.

So, add an extra chair and welcome those you love and don’t yet love to dinner. If you do it right, you may actually enjoy the meal!

HighFive your Life Principle

The more that we eat and drink at the same dinner table, the better off our families and our world will be…if we follow the golden rule to genuinely attempt to love and respect our neighbors as ourselves.

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Valentine’s Day…Flowers or Sod?

“He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher… or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.”

 Douglas Adams

 

“My wife is always trying to get rid of me. The other day she told me to put the garbage out. I said to her I already did. She told me to go and keep an eye on it.”

 Rodney Dangerfield

 

“After 45 years of marriage, when I have an argument with my wife, if we don’t agree, we do what she wants. But, when we agree, we do what I want!”

 Jacques Pepin

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and my wife of 27 28 years is out of town and we will miss Valentine’s Day together. I can do the easy thing and send her some flowers and card or I can do the hard thing and put some sod down in the front yard so that when she returns she is surprised. I asked a few of you and the most common response was that I should do both!

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In order to get this right, one has to know my wife of 27 28 years and how she thinks. She doesn’t really care for a gift of flowers but neither does she want to spend money on things like a front lawn. With limited resources, there are a lot of other things she would rather spend the money on, such as the kids, travel and an annual subscription to Men’s Health for me.

Looking deeper, I would have to admit that it is really me that wants the front lawn and that I am simply doing it while she is gone so that it gets done. The assumption of course is that it would be way too hard for her to ask me to pull it back up, stack it on a pallet and go ask for a refund when she gets home. I hope I am not assuming too much.

And what of the flowers? She loves flowers but not as a gift that somehow pretends to show love and care with no effort on my part other than stopping by the grocery store with every other wannabe good husband picking up flowers on the way home from work. No…for me to get credit, I would have to hand pick them individually from a far-off mountainside (I live in Florida) and hand blow the glass vase myself.

But I know in my heart that flowers are not what she really wants for Valentine’s Day. What she really wants is for me to be healthy.  She wants me to eat correctly and work out and have zest for life and energy to enjoy the day. That sounds like a lot of work and effort on my part…that sounds like…wait a minute…Eureka! I’ve got it! Problem solved. I am so pumped.

img_7015I will forget about the grocery store flowers…I won’t fall for that lazy zestless selfish weak minded substitute for pure love. No…I will get up in the morning, gnaw on a few gluten free acorns and go out and get a wonderful day of exercise… laying sod…all for her. I will work up a sweat just for her. I will put that lawn in which we I have wanted for 20 years. Dang I love my wife. Thank you, sweetheart, for being such an inspiration!

img_7043                                           Yeah…I love Valentine’s Day

HighFive Your Life Principle

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Okay…for those that think I am a total bum, I am sending a card…

Okay…okay… I may be a bum but she loves me and that makes me the luckiest bum in the whole world!

Okay…Okay…Okay…I’ll plant some flowers too…

My wife does not do social media so let’s keep the sod on the down low and maybe she won’t notice it!…but Joey…if you do catch wind of this, just know that I love you and I am trying to be healthy and miss you very much…and yes, I will mow the new lawn.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

garyjoey

Otis the Pig

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
Winston Churchill

Otis was a gift from someone. He needed a home and I guess we wanted a pig. He started out in a pen but kept breaking out. Finally I stopped trying to contain him and just let him wander around our farm with the cows and chickens. Soon he took up residence underneath our old frame farmhouse and the Otis legend began.

photo (10)Can you believe this guy lived underneath my home?

Otis was just friendly enough to come when called, especially if it meant that it was time to eat. After most meals, any leftovers were taken outside and given to our hungry friend. You could hear him making his way from under the house seemingly with great effort. He would eat almost anything. He grew into a huge animal. A good scratch with a stick on his belly would soon cause him to roll over in a state of pig ecstasy. His hair was stiff and tough. There wasn’t anything cuddly or warm about him other than he was constant. He was always there. He wasn’t “kept” there…he was there because he wanted to be there.

What can we learn from Otis the pig?

Define yourself and don’t let others define you. It is that simple. I imagined him being a pig in a pen and Otis saw himself as a noble pig…a worthy pig…a…well, maybe I am taking it too far…maybe he was just a hungry pig but he still did not let me define him. He let me know how it was going to be until I finally said okay, be what you want to be.

We should do the same. Everything around us is trying to define us or describe us…to gauge our potential or likelihood of success. Everyone around us tries to define what our success should look like. Be bold. Define yourself and while being courteous and kind to those around you, choose your life and live it. Make Otis proud.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Be brave and define yourself or others will try to do it for you.

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Stay Still Squirrel…I Can Help! (Four Ways Fathers Can Convince Our Kids We Are Here to Help)

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.“
Stephen Covey

It was a little after 3:00 A.M. and I needed to get out of bed. I decided to see if I could get comfortable in my recliner. Three pillows and a nice comforter later, I was nestled in pretty well.

No sooner was I settled, when I started hearing a scratching noise on the window screen not far from my head. I lay there with my eyes closed trying to make sense of how, whatever was doing the scratching, could get to the screen since the window was closed. It didn’t take long before I got my answer!

“It” suddenly lept from the screen and landed on my legs on top of the comforter. It was inside the house! I responded with some sort of “keep moving” kick and it ended up on the floor. I grabbed my phone to get some light and there on the floor was what looked to me to be a big mouse.

I’m not proud of it but my first reaction was to call out to my wife who was sleeping in the bed. I shouted to her that there was a mouse in the house and she turned on the light and got out of bed. I hope part of the reason I called her was that I am still nursing my new replacement hips a little and can’t really move that fast…I hope that is at least part of the reason I called out to her.

We both pursued the little intruder and it took off. It ran out of our bedroom and luckily found the stairs where it paused to catch its breath. That’s when we saw that it was a baby squirrel. That just seemed so much better than a big mouse and our mood lightened just a little. Still, I did not want that little furry thing crawling across my nose when I went back to sleep.

We pursued it downstairs and opened the doors to try and herd it out. No luck. We finally gave up after it found refuge in our fireplace. We went back upstairs careful to put a towel at the bottom of our kid’s door and ours.

There was no sign of it the next morning. In the afternoon we had a big group of people come over for lunch and we told them to be on the lookout for the squirrel. Sure enough, a little while later it appeared and it created a pretty funny scene. There were little kids and old people all trying to corner the poor creature. It ran frantically to get away from us going around us and underneath us to find a new hiding place. We had a mop and towels and tried to trap it as it scurried around our home.

It would disappear for a few minutes and then show up again and we would create the whole scene again with all of us shouting out locations and ideas for capturing it. If it only knew we were trying to help.

Finally we threw a towel over it and one of the ladies gathered it up and took it outside to the oak tree. We were all relieved. I am sure the squirrel was relieved also to be once again up in a tree. It would have been so much easier if somehow that squirrel understood our intentions.

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There are some lessons we can learn here on how we can help those that need our help but do not want it or understand our intentions. It happens all of the time, especially with our children. Here are a few ideas that may help fathers in this regard:

They need to know we love them.

This is the place where it must all start. If our children do not feel our love they will never have the confidence to trust us and know that we are looking out for their best interest. This seems like such a “no brainer” but sometimes we need to be more attentive to it. Our love becomes the cornerstone for trust and is something that is earned by our day to day interaction with our children. It is taking care of scraped knees and broken hearts. It is repairing and rebuilding confidence after disappointing trials. For most of us this comes natural but also for most of us, we can do a better job. Our busy personal and sometimes selfish lives are the greatest threat to this foundation of love and trust.

They need to know we will listen.

Love means time and concern and listening. When you get the urge to talk…stop yourself and just listen. Sometimes our natural desire to share our wisdom cuts short the listening process. Instead of asking questions and listening to and pondering their answers, we are too quick to add our direction to the mix which mutes and strangles the conversation. Instead of listening in return, our children turn us off. Perhaps it would be wise if you are lucky enough to have the chance to listen to one of your children’s troubles, to tell them that you would like to think about it and get back to them later. In other words, be slow to judge and extend the communication.

They need to know we have high expectations, but that we do not demand perfection.

We teach our children the difference between right and wrong and we are correct in doing so. Ultimately, our goal should be that our children learn the tools to be prepared to adequately make those decisions when we are not around. That skill set is not learned in a vacuum. It is learned by our children in the rough and tumble world we call life. They will make some mistakes just as we did. It’s okay for them to know we are human too.

Our job is to keep them reaching for the highest quality of decision making and standards while still allowing for the bumps and bruises that come along the way. Mothers are especially good at this. They tend to be more sensitive to the trials our children go through and more empathetic to the results. We would do well to mix a cocktail of motivation with forgiveness whenever we get in situations where are children have made bad choices…with a heavy dose of forgiveness.

They need to know that we are on the same team.

Knowing someone has your back and is on the same team or in the same foxhole as you is a great feeling. We need to provide that for our children. They need to understand that we are going to do whatever it takes to be there for them. We can study with them or exercise with them. We can cry with them and strategize with them. We can feel pain together. We can realize accomplishment together.

We need to be there with them as a wingman. Ultimately the challenges of life will be our children’s to beat. However, I for one want them to know that I am on their team and I am committed to their lives, on whichever road that takes us.

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If I could have just convinced that squirrel that I was going to set it free, it would have been so much easier…but it would have taken so much more time. We did not have the time so we chased it from here to there scaring the poor thing to death. Our children are worth the time. We can accomplish the mission of preparing them and then “setting them free” by loving and listening, and by teaching, forgiving and working with them…and if that doesn’t work we can wake up our wives from their resting slumber and ask them to handle it. They will know what to do.

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What Do Frogs Do in Rome?

“If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you are with.”
Stephen Stills

I was so amazed the other day to see a frog on one of our windows that had changed its color to match our window panes. It was almost an insult that it did not change to a nice clean white color but chose to also reflect all of the dirt and stains on my panes in its new color!

What an amazing feat to have such adaptability. It makes me ponder how we find the right balance between holding on to who we are and what we believe, while also meshing and mixing in with people who do not think like we do but are still pretty neat and amazing people.
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We should never feel the need to change who we are due to surrounding pressures and circumstances. However, the very strength that comes from knowing who you are, should also make you comfortable, “fitting in” and integrating into the people around you.

For example, growing up, I did not drink but most of my friends did. I did not feel a need to change to gain their friendship. I loved my friends and therefore did not try to cramp their style. If they wanted a beer, they had a beer. I just enjoyed my non-alcoholic drink and was the permanent designated driver.

Another example is my faith and affiliation to my church. I am very committed to my faith but I am also very comfortable and enjoy the congregation and services of other faiths when I am in their presence. My faith does not make for awkward moments around people with other beliefs or of no belief at all. I can blend with my friends and support them in their special spiritual moments.

So next time you feel like you are personally being challenged by a situation that makes you feel awkward and defensive, lighten up, hold on to your values and principles and love the people around you. You can always contribute positively to a situation without overwhelming your friends with your principles and your beliefs. Let them show in your actions of love and inclusiveness instead of  insecurities and defensiveness. You can always maintain your good judgment and know when the environment is too much in conflict with your standards and you can politely excuse yourself.

When in Rome you can find a place where you can do some things as the Romans do without compromising the way that you personally do things. Being strong in your principles does not mean you cannot be flexible in the application of those principles. Your adaptability does not mean you give up “territory”. Indeed, you will find that exactly the opposite is true. You will find that your sphere of influence will grow and your love for the people around you will increase.

The ability of the frog to match its surroundings does not make it a window pane. It is still a frog. You will still be you even when you adapt to those around you…maybe even a better you!

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“The Power of “I Don’t Know”

“It is what we learn after we know it all that really counts”

John Wooden

 

I attended a meeting with a high ranking leader in my church when he opened the floor for questions. Somebody raised their hand and asked a tough doctrinal question and the rest of us waited for his response. He said with confidence “I don’t know” and went on to the next question.

Some thirty plus years later I am still impressed with his answer. Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air if our politicians decided to employ with confidence the important truth of “I don’t know”?  Instead, we are taken on a journey of distortions and half-truths that leave us just as confused if not more than before the question was asked. That is because it is generally taken as a sign of weakness when you do not know how to answer a question.

Don’t get me wrong…there is a place where knowing the right answer should be expected. When we go through school or drivers education or balancing our check book, we need to know the right answers. But life is full of many situations where lines are fuzzy and instead of black  and white we see grey. Often there are no answers that seem to be good or easy.

Spoken from an honest heart, “I don’t know” is powerful. It portrays a sense of humility and humanity. It places the person in a position where their mind is open to learning. It allows a person to accept that not all things are understandable. It allows a person to cherish the ability to ponder and think deep and know that some answers are slow to arrive and may never be as clear as one plus one equals two.

The next time you are asked a life question that seems to be too difficult to answer do not be afraid to say “I don’t know”. Be confident in your response and then add “maybe we should ponder it together”. If the people in leadership positions in our world would just do that more often, we would be amazed at the progress and goodwill that we would enjoy.

It works at the grass-roots level too. It works in your families and in your relationships. Whether discussing deep doctrines or why you did not take out the garbage, “I don’t know”, is not a sign of weakness. Okay… in answering why you did not take out the garbage it might not work as well as there is no good answer to that question. However,  the deeper the question the more acceptable it is as an answer.

HighFive Your Life Principle: When dealing with life’s difficult questions do not be afraid to say  “I don’t know”.

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Good Grief!…Good Heavens!

Grief can take care if itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.

Mark Twain

Good grief!…good heavens! I have heard those terms my whole life and never thought twice about what they might mean or if they meant anything at all. It makes me think of Charlie Brown and it seems like they are always used to express some sort of surprise, disbelief or disdain. I think I can do a better job defining them so that they actually mean something to me.

My father died in 2005 from AD. He suffered many years prior to his death and during the last several years was unaware of his surroundings. I miss my father. I love my father.

Sometimes I reflect on what he would do or say or think if he came back. In many ways nothing has changed. Most of the roads are still the same. The same trees would be there in his yard if he went home. There might be a few new rules in the NFL or MLB but his favorite teams would still be playing.

Only the new tech advances would throw him for a loop. Otherwise he could step right back into his life. I enjoy thinking about his company…I enjoy thinking about what he would do if he came back. Oh how much I would love to talk with him…to have his energy and wisdom to help solve our current challenges. I grieve for him but in a happy way. This is what I want to call “good grief”. I love my father and I love being with him even if only in thought and in spirit.

As a continuation of this line of thinking, I hope to be with him one day when I leave this wonderful earth.  It is not just a thought…it is a hope. I hope and have faith that there is a place for us after death where we will be reunited. It is nothing that I can prove. It is my faith…I just believe it. That is how I will define “good heavens”.

These two phrases can work together in a positive way if we just consider them for their face value. Because Heaven is good, my grief can be good. It is just a reflection and anticipation of being again with someone you miss and love. Good Grief…Good Heavens…My mind may be as simple as Charlie Brown’s but that sounds good to me!

We can also redefine our attitudes when circumstances would tell us that we need to stress, fret, or be sad. “I lost my job or my lover. I failed at this or that”. Tough things happen to each one of us and our reactions to them are subject to how we define these tough moments.

I have a friend that when presented with personal challenges and failures just asks himself, “what am I supposed to learn from this?” and then he gets back up and starts trying again. He has an amazingly positive attitude even though he has signficant challenges. It’s okay to change the rules every now and then. Try it. Take the liberty to redefine your life circumstances one situation at a time and see if you don’t like the difference.

HighFive Your Life Principle:  The two phrases “good grief” and “good heavens” go hand in hand to reflect my positive thoughts about the future instead of  negative thoughts about the present. We define our circumstances by our attitude.

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Thank you…A Great Stocking Stuffer

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?”

William Arthur Ward  

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I had been nagged by the thought of writing a thank you card to someone who had really done something nice for my wife and me. It was on my list of things to do and I finally remembered to buy some thank you cards. I was so happy when I came home from the store with this new box of thank you cards as if that were huge accomplishment by itself. I wrote my note, stamped it and felt great that I did what I knew should be done.

I then had another thought. I took four blank cards and stamped envelopes for each of them and decided that there must be someone else that I should be thanking for something. It did not take long before I had all four thank you cards filled out and enclosed in their stamped and addressed envelopes.

It felt great. It was like the second effort in a race or in a tight football game. When I forced myself to take the time to ponder my blessings the list of things and people for whom I am grateful extended way beyond the box of thank you cards. I suspect that the four people who get these second effort cards will be surprised to get them but that makes the thank you even better.

Try it with your family. This Christmas put several stamped thank you cards in their stocking.  When they stare at you and the cards like deer in headlights explain that one of the best presents of the season is the feeling you get when you express true gratitude for the people in your life. They will understand it once they write and send them. There will be a lot of people who are touched in a positive way by these second effort thank you cards and it will include your children. I may need to go buy another box of cards!

HighFive Your Life Principle: Buy a box of thank you cards. Stamp several envelopes before you have anyone in mind to thank. Then enjoy the process of thinking whom to thank.

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Not If…Just When and How Bad

When you are young and healthy, it never occurs to you that in a single second your whole life could change.

Annette Funicello

The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years.

Deepak Chopra

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

Budda

I made a commitment to completely cut out drinking and anything that might hamper me from getting my mind and body together. And the floodgates of goodness have opened upon me – spiritually and financially.

Denzel Washington

One day you are young and running wind sprints and dancing the night away and then, in what appears to be an all of a sudden occurrence, you are older and your body doesn’t respond the same way. The totality of what we have consumed in eating and drinking, the nature of our physical exercise and the inherited genetic disposition to disease just come together in a way that lets you know that things are different…that you have entered into the segment of the population that you used to view from far off as if you would never ever be one of them.

That stinks.

I know that is not a very mature way to say it but that is precisely my point. Who wants to mature and ripen when you realized that what comes after ripen is to get rotten??

From the beginning of time people have been trying to apply the “fountain of youth” to their lives. In some cases it is superficial and cosmetic. Grey becomes brunette. Bald becomes shaggy. Sags become lifts. In other cases people have been profoundly driven to keep their bodies so pure that the air itself would be sufficient to provide them enough nutrients to survive.

Most of middle-aged america is somewhere between trying a diet every now and then, walking and playing golf to get a little exercise and taking some form of medication. The general attitude tends to be one of watching the other guy go through life changing health challenges but knowing that you still have time to one day get healthy. The “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you die” attitude seems to warn us that we are going to die tomorrow so we might as well live it up today. However, there is more truth in the warning that the very nature of our eating and drinking today is what will be the “cause” of our death tomorrow. Sometimes is does not quite register with us because we imagine that tomorrow is a long ways off…but the reality is tomorrow always comes.

Without going into the nitty-gritty gory details of my own health journey suffice it to say that  my desire for a healthy lifestyle has been hampered by my desire to eat. The effects of a person being overweight are well documented. I have known that for a long long time. So have you. I have always thought that one day I would solve it and live a long normal life. The years have ticked by…one by one and now I find myself confronted with numerous health issues including the need to have both hips replaced.

I am finally ready to change my life and my ways. I am excited about the future. I have joined Weight Watchers and have dropped twenty pounds. More importantly, I see a way that I can sustain my new lifestyle and not go into a stress attack because I am limited in my food intake. I bought a bike and have started riding it. I am doing all of the things that you and I have known about since we had our first health class in school. It is not that over the years I haven’t tried and haven’t had various periods of great success. I have. It’s just that this time I am out of time and running out of options.

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A hip surgery is not the worst thing that can happen. Many folks are going through much worse experiences than I am. The truth is however that each of us is responsible for our own health and the clock is ticking. According to one estimate there are over 100 deaths per minute worldwide or over 150,000 deaths per day. The vast majority of these people a few years ago probably thought their final tomorrow would never come. It is not a question of if your life is going to be affected by declining  health but when and how badly. The sooner we pay attention to this “elephant in the room” (pun intended) and put our health first, the longer we will reap the rewards of a healthy life.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Have the fortitude to place your health at the top of your list of priorities and do not assume that you will always have the latitude to start living a healthy lifestyle tomorrow.

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