A new guitar (and a new brain) for my Birthday!!!

 I just turned 42.

So… I have an acoustic Guitar now. Birthday present. But, I have never owned one and that begs the question: WHY NOW, SHAUN?

Well, other than my continual interest in Music on all levels, my constant reworking of musical pieces on various digital and analogue platforms and my participation in several bands as (bad) drummer, vocalist, Bassist… I have danced completely around the prospect of learning the Guitar in a disciplined manner. Sure, as a creative I have picked them up and toyed with a solo or a couple things that sounded good to me, but never to the point of making it a part of my proficiency. With the advent of Garage band for my iPad mini, all that changed. As I began to strum and select various keys and rhythms to capture mood for an arrangement  and soon discovered my love of soloing over those patterns with great expression. I even began to write songs note by note in real-time to push myself and see if I couldn’t make something that moves the soul. Maybe something could replace my soundtracks for live artwork?! – And then there was this video. Done deal. No more holding back.

My new acoustic guitar. Not bad for a beginner guitar.

My new acoustic guitar. Not bad for a beginner guitar.

Quotes From Shaun’s Champion Speeches

Everyone is talking about Shaun Hays, Chicago Chalk Champ

Everyone is talking about Shaun Hays, Chicago Chalk Champ

Over the years, I have seen my presentations amaze and impress, but there is nothing like hearing that what you do made a true difference. Here are a few people who’d like to share with you what they shared with me after an event.


“None of my friends were at the speech you gave and
I was really bummed that they weren’t, because they
missed sooo much!!! You have no idea what an
impact you had on me Thursday. It was amazing!!! I
wanted you to know I was the one person who
needed to hear that speech. You said yourself before
you left that you could guarantee that at least one
person needed to hear what you had to say and I
wanted u to know that I was one of them.” –Krystie

“Thank you for coming here. You made a lot of
people think differently.” Tamira, PA

“Your mural is prominently displayed in our main
hallway, where everyone can admire it (and
remember your inspirational message) on a daily
basis. In all my years here, I have never seen a
program so well received as yours! I was thrilled
when our students gave you not 1 but 2 standing
ovations during your presentation. Thanks again,
Shaun!” – Janet Craig, IL

“You’re an awesome artist and have given me lots of
inspiration to keep up my own artwork. Thank you so
much!” –Shelly Benson, PA

“You’re a big inspiration to everyone. Good luck
with everything.” Heather Boltz, PA

“Great message!” – Mrs. Zyler

“You have the most amazing story I have ever heard.
I was moved by it and wish you the very best in life.”
-Mary, Tampa, FL

“The assembly was awesome! Thank you for coming
to our school! You’re very talented! – Kristine, PA

“Dear Shaun, my name is Kellie Snyder and I go to
Maine West H.S. I saw your presentation last week
and thought it was very moving. We don’t have many
speakers that make a lasting impact on you once they
have left and the presentation is over. Most of our
speakers just stand up in front of us and babble on
about their personal lives, not even trying to reach us
on a personal level. Yours was definitely one of the
best I’ve seen and it was very unique the way in
which you went about getting your point across. Your
artwork is awesome and you truly have a lot of
talent…I look forward to seeing you again at our
school. Thank you for coming.” – Des Plaines, IL

“Thank you for your inspiration!” – Cindy Yanchick,

“You’re super awesome! Keep making the
difference!” – Sylvia, Arizona student Council

“Hey, holla! Great job!” – North STUGO, AZ

“Keep doing what you do!” – Ryan, AZ

“Your speech was AMAZING! Thank you for
everything!” – A. Tibbs, Senior

“Dude, SWEET! No, seriously- I’ve never seen or
heard anything like it. Keep reaching my generation
as they say. It was awesome!” – Evan R., WI
“Thanks so much for the wonderful paintings. You
are an inspiration. I admire your bold stance,
willingness to listen and do the right thing.” – Ian, IL
“You so totally rock, dude!” – Liz, student WI

“Thanks a lot for coming Shaun, and sharing. Have
pride in knowing you are one of the few people who I
cannot fall asleep to. Both your drawings and
messages inspired me. Thanks.” –Jay B., IL

“I’m sure you have reached a lot of people. You
should come guest speak at our school – we need
help.” – Kelsey Lyons, (camp attendant)

“Thanks a lot for talking, it worked.” – Ryan Wirth

“You’re an awesome speaker! I enjoyed your visit.” –
Mary Jo, Ignacio High school

“Thank you so much. You made the conference
awesome!” – Laura Elliot, IL

“You were so awesome. It’s good to have someone
like you come & talk but work comedy into it. Thanx
so much!!” – Brittany, St Joe, MI

“I just wanted to respond and let you know what a great
assembly you put on, I’m a student at Norwin, and to be
honest, I went in with the intention of sleeping. Your story,
message, and funny jokes not only kept me awake, but I
actually enjoyed it. It is almost impossible to put how much I
liked it in words, but it was just plain awesome. Anyways,
great job with the assembly, you’re a fantastic artist and i
hope to see your presentation again.”
-Ben M, Student, PA

“What can I say? THAT WAS AWESOME! AWESOME!!!!”
-Jeff Parks, CT

“You’re going to think I’m exaggerating, but it’s true: Shaun,
you saved my life!!! I didn’t think there was any hope for
somebody like me and have often considered (and
attempted) suicide. You are my H-E-R-O. If you think about
quitting what you do…don’t. I needed you to show me the
truth that day because no one else could. It’s a gift you have.
It’s been 3 years since that day and I am stronger and wiser
with my whole life ahead of me! (scary) If you didn’t come
speak to us, I would be just another sad statistic. Please
don’t ever quit, Shaun. You are a lighthouse in the storm.”
-Jasmine, MA

“I just wanted to add in how awesome your assembly was on
Friday. I seriously enjoyed it, and understanded so much of
it. You kept my attention longer then any other motivational
speaker we’ve had, and the same goes with all of my friends.
Thank you very much for coming, I had a great time. You are
a wonderful artist too! “Brandyn C> (Student PA)

“The talks and the art were perfect in each of our three
meetings. It made them all a hit.” – Paul, Reno, NV

“Thanks, once again for making our CRT conference
spectacular. The lighthouse was beautiful and symbolic and
then the way you made it come to life with the lightshow at
the end was unbelievable!” -Debbie ACRT, IL

And thats just a few…

Will yours be next? :)


I have many books that I love to pull out from time to time and read a special passage that i’ve marked for just such a future time. They are phrases, words of wisdom or even an amazing chapter that made me think: “Wow! I wish I had the talent/fortitude to write in verbiage like that!” Some of those books are unusual and historical like “George Washington’s Rules Of Civility” which contains various script from the Latin origins and other languages. Weird, I know. But Enlightening!

Today I read from one of my favorites: Dr. Mike Murdock’s “The Wisdom Commentary – Volume 1” Today’s segment is from Chapter 23 on Happiness:

“Happiness is feeling good about the happenings in your life. Do not confuse it with popularity, which simply means others feel good about you. But what you think about yourself, your character, and your own accomplishments determines your real sense of worth and value. ”

Galations 6:4 ” But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another”

As I move further and further from allowing myself to be hindered by others dictates, I see in myself the wisdom built up over several decades of pursuing the knowledge and advice of so many that have laid groundwork before me. I am humbled to know that I was a miserable mess for much of that journey, and that without every person who have contributed to my life, I may never have reached these moments of happiness. I take time to celebrate the choices that were mine to make – that were indeed made. Now, its time to make some better choices in areas I have not been so civil or wise. Indeed I have no happiness there. Time to work.

Quotes that matter

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward. ~ Vernon Law

Embrace hardship, change and failures… for through all these, great successes emerge. – Shaun A. Hays

I used to say I hate motivational quotes. It was never actually true. I hated cliche’ posters with oversimplified half truths on the walls of men and women who were treating their huge debt as some sort of status symbol and lording over others in a soulless greed. Yep. I definitely hated that. The very appearance of a motivational picture in a frame demotivated me instantly because of the association it had in my mind with the persons I decided I would never be like.

Really good quotes (I call them “meaty quotes”) are ones that actually teach you a series of lessons and keep speaking to you throughout your entire life. They make you stop and think as well as inspire you to take a huge leap of faith when the time is right. I keep them around and visit them often through the year. I found putting it really big on the wall of my office is as functional as the bumper stickers other think have any effect on my true beliefs… No effect at all. Perhaps for the first few days it will grab me, but after a while I am avoiding looking at it or just don’t see it anymore. That is why my favorite quotes are hidden where they can grow. In my heart.

What is your favorite quote? How do you keep quotes you love?

Owning Your Destiny

I do what I do for a living to be happy and live my dreams. I value my free time and my freedom in general. Too many people are trying to get things and accomplish things so that they will be happy instead of going straight to happiness. I know its oversimplified, but seriously people forget that. (We often forget the most simple and important things and become consumed with busy – ness, justifying our stress and lack of control over our lives because it is typically accepted.) I want NOTHING to do with typical living. typical in America seems to be: In debt and still spending on frivolous things we do not need… Divorced… Medicated due to unhealthy lifestyles… too busy to stop and really experience the life and love around us…. and altogether, well, pointless existing.

To change my path I realized I would need Mentorship. A mentor challenges you while encouraging you in what you do. Like a personal trainer who only wants the best for you so they push you hard. A good mentor will not undermine your efforts and discourage you. Tehy may yell and get in your face if you aren’t giving it your all in the gym, but they are always encouraging you to go get some rest, live your dreams and not injure yourself.

I’ve had many great mentors along the way… many by “chance”. What I have learned to do (and I learned this from one mentor) is to go find my mentors and take hold of my destiny. I dictate who will be my adviser and who will not. I listen to the words of many people everyday who offer their unique experience and expertise. I do not, however, listen to “Arm-Chair Quarterbacks” who tell you how to do things they themselves have no experience in or are too afraid/unskilled to get on the field and actually play.

Every Sunday during football season there is an endless barrage of advice being hurled at the TV from out of shape (usually drunk) has-beens who are acting more important than they are and often never played on the field in any serious role worth talking about. They know it all though don’t they? the game would have been very different in the coach or the players would have done what these guys (who can’t live their own lives) knew all-too-easy what to do.

I cannot handle being around it. Get on the field and prove yourself. As Larry Winget once said: “Shut-up, Stop Whining… and get a life!” Are you great at sales? I’ll listen to you talk about that, but don’t give me advice on how to “deal with my wife”. I have been married for 15 years and with her for 22 years already and we talk things out regularly instead of fight for our own way. I think I have a good hold on the situation. Are you an artist? Let’s collaborate or exchange ideas. I love that. It makes me better. If you know absolutely nothing about art, you probably should have less alcohol in your system before telling me what to draw. Stick to your proven expertise or get out there and try something you’ve never done and let the hits come as you learn how to be a better you. If I do not know you, your lifestyle, your reputation… you have very little weight in my world.

Be an encourager and a mentor to someone you seriously have influence with. Get involved. This is a sign of greatness. People who take credit for other people’s work are a dime a dozen. Criticizers and complainers are everywhere. People who actually take responsibility for their own destiny… precious and few.

Find mentors to help you be a better you. Look for people who will not try to own you or your work to make them look good and then discourage your dreams. Really, if they hear your vision for your future it should spark some excitement in them. If they ONLY correct and make you feel like you never do anything right… run. They’ll never change. YOU CHANGE.

Get out there and stop waiting for someone else to make things happen for you. You can do this. You are better than you know.

Having a garage sale is hard work – but worth it!

I’ve been getting an earful of advice from everyone about Garage sales since I decided to have one. (Actually my circumstances are forcing me, but, let’s look at this with an optimistic view, ok?)

  • Apparently you cannot hold one on Sunday because my mom says NO ONE shops garage sales on Sunday.
  • Forget putting the address on your sign…no one reads it anyway and it takes up precious sign space. Just write: “SALE” with an arrow on many signs and point people to the next sign.
  • You can say Garage/Yard/Moving if you want to.
  • Put them on MAJOR ROADS like highways and point in from different directions (like a road west and a road east of your area…heck, go for North and South too!)
  • Make the signs BIG and BOLD!
  • Make the Sign POP! Black and White is fine if done right. Use Yellow or Orange Signs with Black letters to really get attention! Hot Pink posterboard with bold black letters worked best for me… you could really see it from a long distance away and I got more traffic from those.
  • Advertise! Advertise! Advertise! – I didn’t do any other advertising than my signs and the link below and it worked amazing.

****Find sugar-grove yard sales on yardsalesearch.com ****

And…here’s a less effective way:

Posting Flyers for attention

I don’t know about you, but once this thing is over I’d like to just forget about it altogether, but in the spirit of helping someone out, I’ll post my post-sale wisdom up here soon. In the meantime, you should know: I had amazing traffic to my sale. My neighbors, who had been in this subdivision for 10 years, said they have never seen traffic like that even at the advertised citywide and neighborhood sales. So, I guess the advice works. Some things could have been better, so I’ll update this post with those lessons when I have more time.

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!

Redefining “Manly”

Usually when you hear the term “manly”, you think of lumber jacks, cowboys or unattractive women. We also have the concept, as men, that doing something “manly” means being tough, or ignoring emotion. While I’m all for some of the steriotypical definitions of manliness, there are several concepts of being a man that just don’t work out for the man, at all. I’d like to point out a couple here. Since it is Valentine’s Day today, I’ll focus on a few that tend to make men look very boyish instead of manly this particular time of year. However, putting this to work for you throughout the whole year would make you a real manly man in anywoman’s eyes. For instance: I made this frozen pizza into a heart (not on Valentines Day) just to say “Look, honey! I’m a romantic man!” …and it took me less than the time it took to preheat the oven. Seriously, guys…just put a little effort into it. This is possibly the worst thing I’ve ever tried and she loved it!

Terrible Heart Shaped Pizza

Terrible Heart Shaped Pizza

Your a guy. I get it. You like to hang with “your boys” and watch the game and drink and scratch yourself. Seriously, I get it, but let’s not forget what most guys are really after. Uh, huh! WOMEN! So why is it in today’s culture most men I see, (acting all tough and hangin with the guys) don’t have a great woman?- or- Maybe they do, but it’s far from a great relationship? Guys tend to focus on one thing… (insert joke here)… the chase. Call it hunting. We like to chase the skirts, as it’s been said. We go out, observe behavior and pick our best shot. If the man is skilled at the hunt, he may end up with a woman on his arm after all. But then what? Yea, that’s about as far as us men usually think. If the guy just wants to catch and release then he stays a boy and continually practices the chase. The problem I see is that every man I know is truly lonely and hurting for deep relationship. It just doesn’t come out in ways women show it…or want it for that matter.

Since I’m not giving a whole relationship seminar here, let’s focus on a few things guys can be really great at, but mess up all the time in the name of being “manly”:

  1. Romance. Big surprise! Guys are great at romance during the chase but within the context of a relationship, they lose focus and endurance. Today’s idea is that romance is for softies. BIG MISUNDERSTANDING. Remember romance used to be the man’s game. Great men have always played it well. Dominating world rulers have been amazingly romantic and manly at the same time. It’s time we REDEFINE ROMANCE: “maning-up” and getting something done when it needs to be done, like pleasing your woman no matter what the cost. Blow her mind with your skills. Is she pleased by flowers? Chocolates? Maybe not. Maybe she wants to see more thought put into it. Maybe it IS affection in all it’s varying forms. You’re better than this guy you are known as. MAN UP! THE PAYOFF:pleasure in return!!! Not just physical responses…but ALSO emotional responses that will help your ego. That’s is a good thing for you both. THEBONUS: both of you will feel more confident in your abilities to “get ‘er dun!” and you reduce stress in the relationship making it more fun the more you romance her. BE MANLY!
  2. Kindness. You don’t have to be a poet or have money just to be kind to her. I know women who swear they are married to the most amazing man, but he isn’t artistic or skilled at much at all…he’s just very nice to her. BE A MAN and stop bullying your wife or lady friend. Every time you say a cutting remark to her she will hold back something you WANT. She’s not going to do that on purpose as you assume, either. It’s just the way women are, mostly. It’s a defense mechanism and you know it…that’s why you are nice to them during the chase. DUH! THE PAYOFF: If you treat her nice (like you do in the chase) she will LIKE to be near you and DO what You WANT more often. If you are usually making jokes and ripping on her, BE A MAN and start remembering you wanted to take care of this flower in the first place. That’s right it was YOUR idea to like her in the first place.
  3. Ya know what… you don’t need a #3. Stop being a little boy who needs his diaper changed. You still have time to be AMAZING. Get ‘er dun!!!!

*I should be a MAN coach. :)