Thoughts on Travel

It’s no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase “As pretty as an airport” appear” – Douglas Adams

I’ve been everywhere, man! – The problem with that is not knowing what”s going on half the time. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone tried to give me directions by asking me a question only a local would know. “You know where the old Johnson place used to be?” As if somehow knowing where something used to be is going to help me get somewhere important today. I once asked a gas station clerk where I might find a diner in town. His response: “Er… what’s that? Oh! You mean one a dem dar places you eat breakfast?” Yes.  I’ve been pretty scared by the locals in a number of states.

I have mostly come to love people all over the US and beyond through my experiences. Frankly, i don’t care anymore how you talk or dress or what you drive. Lotus, Lexus, Lowrider or lemon…it’s all transportation and it can all be cool or totally unappreciated by anyone. (I showed up to one school and the seniors were driving tractors into the lot! No joke. One guy came in a state of the art Combine!)

Travel teaches. I think you should travel more. :)

Untouched By The Flame


Image via Wikipedia

This article is an extension of Chapter 9 in my book The Burning Heart Of A Difference Maker.

If you have not read the chapter already click here.

Untouched By The Flame

It has always astounded me how one person can go through a tragedy and be forever traumatized and another person can go through the same thing and come out seemingly unaffected at all.  I have always wondered what it is that makes them different and if that difference is something we can learn or obtain. One person I know was absolutely traumatized by the footage of people they did not know jumping to their death on 9/11 while another person I know cleans up suicide scenes as part of their job and is well balanced and sleeps fine at night.  How are these two people different? Is one weak minded? Is it that they are too sensitive? If that were so than by default the other is not sensitive enough and has something wrong with them. I think that is not the answer at all.

While I’m sure there are hundreds of variables in every situation I have searched for the best underlying and simplistic solution for many years and discovered that all evidence points to a very easy answer: “Input Creates Output”. I know it is simple on the surface and that’s the beauty of it, really. It is simple enough for anyone to apply right where they are… and complex enough to handle anything we need. Let’s look at example:

If I had a set of scales and dropped half a deck of cards onto one side, it would quickly tip the scale in almost violent fashion. However if I do the same to the other side, we have balance. Easy right? So let’s look at this like our thoughts:

Let’s say one side of the scale is Stress and the other is Success. Everyone’s situation can be interpreted by which is emotionally winning. Sure there are other factors but lets focus only on how it makes you feel, for a moment. We all have stress in our lives. We have different amounts of stressors in our lives, some big and some small. If I have a major life event that suddenly throws me into chaos, it is like having a large amount of cards tossed onto the stress side of the scale. If you don’t have enough on the success side of the scale, it will quickly take you down and life will feel heavy and unmanageable. If you have a major life event that goes on the Success side, (like a dream fulfilled) it launches your stress side skyward and make any problem easier to bear.

Problem: the major life events that add sudden heavy weight to either side is usually out of our control. However we see from studies on brain function and cognitive behavior that thinking about a negative event (or a stressor) causes the nerve endings that hold that thought in long-term memory to grow and become physically bigger. You feed your memories and make them stronger by remembering them, talking about them or even obsessing over them. If this is true we can balance our scale ON PURPOSE no matter what our history has been. Dwell on times you HAVE succeeded and done the right thing. Feed those memories. Dwell on good things that have been done to you or said to you. Refuse to keep feeding all the toxic thoughts that come to your head or give too much validity to negative things said or done to you.

Every time you think about a bad memory and dwell on it with emotion you are throwing another card onto that side of the scale. Sure one card won’t do much, but this is why it is said that we are the “sum of our decisions”. It doesn’t mean you are worthless because you fail often. It means you need to adjust your scale to gain balance and eventually great success.

Smart people save money for emergencies and add “cards” daily to their success side of the scale for the same reason. How well will you handle the next big stressor?

LEVEL UP! Read my blog entry: “Remember The Future

Remember The Future!


Memories (Photo credit: Mark Morgan Trinidad A)

Remember your favorite lost or stolen toy for a moment. If i asked you, you could probably discuss it at length with me. Color, size, the way it smelled and the way it made you feel. However if I asked you to prove to me it exists, you cannot.

You remember.

Sure, you may have pictures or movies of it, but it is gone. Memory is stored information that, when accessed by thought, creates a feeling and releases chemicals in our brain that feed that memory and keep it strong. Like watering and fertilizing a garden.

Negative memories are like weeds that can overtake your garden. (I’ll blog on that sometime soon!)

Here’s a crazy fact: Imagination is very similar to memory.

Let me show you: Imagine a car you’d like to drive. Go ahead. Imagine it vividly. The color, size, shapes… the smell of new leather etc. Imagine yourself opening the door and getting in slowly as if you have been waiting for this day your whole life. Imagine that it is YOUR new car! Imagine it is paid for in full with money you saved and earned. You sacrificed many other things that were less important to you to get it and it is very special to you. A smile overcomes you face as you grip the steering wheel and a man hands you the keys. “Here you are…it’s all yours! Go have fun!” You wave to your friends and turn the key. You have all day to just cruise in your dream wherever you wish. Go show it off if you want or just go be alone on a country road. Just you and your smile.

You just accessed your imagination and stimulated nerve growth in your brain. You mind created a “memory” or a document of that thought. It may not seem the same as remembering something in the past, because you used more senses to create your memories so they are usually stronger, but the growth happens either way. You can remember your future.

So why do it?

We live our lives according to the input our brains have received. If you dream of going to Paris one day, there is a much greater chance you will find a way there and even learn how to speak some french. A person who constantly thinks of themselves as a future pig farmer will more than likely do neither. It doesn’t mean it will just happen, but think of it like this: if I asked you to find a 5 purple flowers in the next 5 days and you really wanted to do it…YOU WOULD. You might find them in a field, the mall or in someone’s yard, but you’d find them because you were tuned in to “Purple Flowers”. If you couldn’t find them any other way and you really wanted to see them… you’d create them. Maybe you’d paint them or maybe you’d order them or sculpt them out of a purple onion… but you’d find a way to produce them if you were obsessed with it.

Dreamers who obsess over their dream produce it in some form…often the real thing. We all obsess. We just don’t think we do, admit it, or want to. We do. You do.

So, do it on purpose. Change your world. Dream and obsess over something amazing and worth your time and energy. Remember your future!

Burning Heart DM Chapter 9

The following is from my book The Burning Heart: of a difference maker . Installment one of a series of three Burning Heart books.

Burning Heart_Shaun Hays_cover Front

Inspirational book for teens and young adults gives youth the power to forge their future using healthy life choices that are easy to understand and apply.

Chapter 9

The Negative Flame

When we are little, our lessons are simple. Don’t touch things in the store when mommy says. Don’t play in the street. Live good and life will be good. Don’t pour chemicals you found in the trash on daddy’s new car again! (sorry flashback!) Then, as we grow older we notice things aren’t as simple as they were taught to us. You can live your whole life trying to make perfect choices and someone can come along and be terrible to you. It hurts. I call it “gettin’ burned”. Life can burn us in a number of ways. Things happen to us. Let’s just be honest: life can be really tough sometimes. Some people go through their whole life wounded from the burns life has given them. Some people seem to march on like it never happened…untouched by the negative flame.

(Read my blog entry “Untouched by the Flame”.)

The worst is when a burn comes from someone you looked up to. Sometimes the very people we think should protect us, hurt us. Most of the time it isn’t on purpose. You see, we all effect each other. In a moment of anger or fear, words or actions are chosen that hurt and burn. Your words are chosen and they effect me. Other choices you make effect my life. It really does. If you decide to do something bad or negative, it hurts people around you. Think about someone who hurt you. They could have chosen differently. You can choose too. The Negative Flame is when something that could be used to help, is used to harm… or just simply isn’t used at all.

If you choose to do nothing with your talents and gifts to help others make a difference in the world, it effects everyone. It spreads a Negative Flame. You may think it’s a small matter, but let me explain it like this:

Story Time Kiddos!

Train Land had a problem. Trains all over the country were unemployed and hungry. A huge shipment of train food was loaded into boxcars to be carried across the country to the hungry trains who needed it. A wise train man who looks like the monopoly man suggests that 5 trains split the load up. 1 to go to the Northeast. 1 to go to the Southeast. 1 to go to the Northwest. 1 to go to the Southwest and 1 to go through the Midwest. From there the shipments would be taken to every town in the country. Every one in train land agreed.

Upon hearing the plan the trains all held a grand meeting and decided to pick from among them the mightiest of trains. Five trains were selected and they set off for their destinations. One train that was selected really didn’t care about the plan or the hungry trains so, he left his boxcars sitting on the track until the next day. He went to a local hangout for trains and danced to really bad techno music all night long. The second train came to the spot on the tracks where Train #1 left his boxcars and she said “That’s not fair! How am I going to get through?” So she gave up and left her boxcars right there too. The next train came along and said “This is not good, but I will wait for help.” He slept there all night long.

The next day when Train #3 saw train number #1 he called out “Are you coming back to get your boxcars?” Train #1 just yawned “I really need some sleep! I’m tired. I’ll get it later.” Just then, train #4 appeared. “What’s all this?” She asked. “Everyone left” said train #3, “Where have you been?” Train #4 replied: “Train #5 got sick and couldn’t come so I offered to carry the extra boxcars. It’s slowing me down, but I’m feeling good. Maybe we can work together and get this done.”

The two trains worked tirelessly all day and night and into the next morning to get the boxcars to the first stop, but there was a mountain ahead and when they got over the first hill they could not go on. In fact the weight of the food was so great that they got stuck in the valley. The food rotted and the trains rusted and there was no happy ending.

Are you kidding me? That’s a horrible story, Shaun! What’s wrong with you?

Its a parable: a story with a message. The message is that every choice you make every action you take…effects the people around you. EVEN the action of doing nothing.


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Stress Vs. Success

I just finished reading an article on “Stress Deafness” from the Speech Acquisition and Perception Group and Universtat Pompeu Fabra, which confirmed some suspicions I have had on the effect of stress on our ability to perceive the world around us. Ability to handle stress varies from person to person. You probably already knew that. Did you know that it can vary among races, cultures and more? While all the evidence is not clear to me whether DNA play a significant role in this, one thing I find again and again is that our thinking cycles (learned behavior) play an enormous role in our ability to handle stressful situations.

In the book, “Who Switched Off My Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf, Leaf concurs that all evidence points to our absolute ability to change the way we cope. This means we can change our thinking, our perceptions and our cognitive skills by learning how to manage thoughts that become toxic to our mind and, as a result, our body.

When we stress too much, Cortisol, normally a good chemical, is released in massive amounts and floods the brain, actually shrinking the size of nerves we use to perceive our circumstances and make healthy decisions. Your ability to control your stress (or inability to do so) is fundamental to your ability to live the way you wish to live. If you have ever “gone blank” under pressure, you understand the effects of too much Cortisol in the brain.

Remember, if stress distorts our physical brain by shrinking it, it also distorts our perception of our situation. “Fear not!” Learn to relax and take a deep breath. Combat the chemical overload with other great chemicals that actually help you balance the scale of stress: chemicals like Endorphin which is released by laughing and by physical exercise! Take your dog for a little jog and see if it doesn’t help you both cope just a bit better.

How do you cope with stress?