Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let Your Light Shine in 2009! Happy New Year! Happy New YOU!

Hi Max!

I wrote this to my team and I had a request to put it out to more people so I've put it on Facebook and here as well. It truly reveals my philosophy on life. I hope it is inspirational for all who read it.

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!
By Michael J. Maher, MBA

Let me start with this poem by Marianne Williamson. It's called "Our Deepest Fear" and it's from her wonderful book A Return to Love. I highly recommend you purchasing this book. This poem is filled with some of the most inspirational words I've ever read. This poem, centered, bolded, and formatted sits in a prominent place on my desk for every day viewing. The formatting below is mine.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

- Marianne Williamson, Our Deepest Fear, A Return to Love

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Is there a metaphor for how you live your life? Let me give you a suggestion for 2009. Be a Lighthouse in 2009. What are some words to describe a lighthouse?

"Always There"

These are words that have come out in my presentations when I present this concept. Never has a year given YOU more of an opportunity to be a lighthouse than 2009.

Q. When does a lighthouse light shine the brightest? A. At night and during the darkest of storms.

Folks, we are facing an economic hurricane. 2008 was a blast of cold wind and high seas. The housing market, financial markets, foreign markets, and stock market were slammed into chaos. For some, the roughest year ever. Who could we look to for guidance? The government? No. The insurance companies? No. Our employer? No. The auto companies? No. Rather than looking outside for this guidance,we need to look inside.

Look at the light that burns within you. You know what you need to do. Your gut instinct tells you daily what you need to do, but you may not have been listening because of the noise caused by the negative press and media. The press loves the high winds and rough seas because it sells ads. Negative sells so they continue the huffing and puffing. But in the midst of these loud, bellowing voices is a tiny voice. It's your conscience and you know the truth. What they are saying doesn't affect you! They can take away your car, your job, your home, your "things", but they can never take away what really matters - your knowledge, your relationships, your family, your love for others, your health, and your happiness. You are in control of all of those. Yes, YOU CAN CHOOSE HAPPINESS EVERY DAY. It's your choice not anybody else's. I choose happy on a daily basis and I choose to seek to ignore the market naysayers and suddenly my transactions are up 78% and my total volume is up 49%! Yes, in 2009 in the worst market in Kansas City's history, we nearly doubled our transactions and raised our volume by almost 50%! I refuse to participate in a recession and I refuse to fight the battle of "bad market demons" at the office, in an arena, or with other people in my profession. Instead I look to where the market is and I let my light shine.

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Here's the other thing about a lighthouse: do you see lighthouses running up and down the beach or the cliff-front yelling "Use me, use me"? Or does a lighthouse STAND STRONG AND TALL, LETTING ITS LIGHT SHINE WITH STEADINESS UND BRILLIANCE and whoever needs that guidance will find the lighthouse? Are you the one people turn to for help? And if not, why not?

Does your negativity turn them off? Count the blessings in your life and realize there is a positive to every, yes every, negative and your dour mood does nobody any good, especially you. Choose happiness and see what happens. Just try it.

Is it that you don't know how to help? Find the answers.

Is it that they don't know that you want to help? Let them know you are here to help.

Is it that they aren't confident that you can help? Speak strongly and with conviction. Show them successes you've experienced and your clients have experienced. Fake your confidence until you begin to recognize the voice that is coming out of your mouth. Yes, I said act confident until you are confident. (Read Change or Die by Alan Deutschman and the "act as if" is a researched principle for building confidence and allowing change). You might say, this is not being genuine.

Well, what is being genuine? Cowering in the corner of your office drinking coffee with all the other naysayers. Misery loves company, but it doesn't love my company because misery is for losers.

What is being genuine? Shrinking, playing small, curling up in the fetal position when troubles occur or phone calls need to be made. That's not being genuine, that's not allowing your TRUE LIGHT TO SHINE. Being genuine is acting like what you want to be before you are what you want to be. If you can act like it, you can be it. Do you think I was a top producer mentally or actually first? No, I acted the game in every sense of the word and I WAS a top producer even before my numbers showed that I was a top producer.

Let Your Light Shine in 2009.

You may say, "Michael I haven't had your success, or Michael I just don't have your strength or Michael if you had my life, you wouldn't choose happiness daily." To that I say, "Bullshit!" Yes, I said it. And sometimes lesser words don't hold a candle to a really startling and strong cuss word. I cuss once per year and you got it right there. Right in the chops. Because I started out on the wrong side of the tracks, I've had my brushes with death, I've had my unsuccessful hours, days, months, and years. I've had my moments I'm not proud of. But I've learned. There is no such thing as an overnight sensation. An overnight sensation starts with the first sleepless night you start worrying about how you're living your life.

A great example is the foreclosure phenomena. Do you realize that 80% of the foreclosures could be avoided if one of the adults in the house got a second job? That's it. Work at Wal-mart, retail, janitor, anything making $200 - $400 more per month! But we are raised playing basketball games where they don't keep score because they don't want anybody's feelings hurt, we grow up in a community where any negative word or challenge to the status quo raises red flags and gets committees in an uproar. When did America become so soft?!!

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

This means overcoming the Lazy Gene - Yes, that is the gene we all have inside of us that makes us want to sleep in another hour, not make the extra prospecting call before going home, not calling that referral source because it might be bad, or anything else that allows us to choose the easy route. How often do we choose the easier, less resistant path when we know that the other path gives us greatness? How often do we choose ok (i.e. mediocre) in exchange for excellence (but it's so hard) or how often do we choose good in exchange for great? Make this the year you don't make any excuses, you overcome your fears, and you no longer choose ok or good. Make 2009 the year that you won't settle for anything less than greatness and excellence as a standard for you, your performance, and the performance of those around you. Do it!

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Warning, this will come with some pain. Yes, other people will see what you are trying to do and they won't like it. Not one bit. You see, status quo is where many of your "old' friends are at and they are quite comfortable there. I've had to let many friends go in my pursuit of something better for myself. It doesn't mean I won't have a beer and wings with them, but it also means I won't be spending a lot of time with them. There will be pain.

And, get ready for this... heavy sigh... a lot of that pain may come from the home front. Make today the day you have a conversation (yes, actually talk with) your spouse and your kids. Let them know that you may see mommy (or daddy, if that is appropriate for you) change. Mommy is going to go to the gym and get in shape. Mommy is going to spend a little extra time learning (whatever it is you need to learn to become an expert in your field). Mommy is going to be selfish some in the hopes and with the intent that a better mommy makes a better family. Mommy is going to become all she can be. Mommy is going to let her light shine in 2009. And everybody knows that when momma is happy, everybody's happy. You go girl!

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Let me tell you what happens when you let your light shine. Things are clearer. It's like somebody took Windex to the windows of your lighthouse. You understand your purpose and your why or maybe your purpose and your why discover you. One way or the other, this bright shining light that shines from within you begins to clear away the mediocre, the negative, the "just okay", and the news (turn off that tv). You start to see your blessings, the beauty that lies within all people (ALL PEOPLE!), and you begin to appreciate every breath... you get this enormous appreciation for life. Moments that you wouldn't give a second thought to before are now moments that take your breath away. You start to attract people to you that you never dreamed possible. You start to say things like, "GREAT things like that always seem to happen to me, I'm blessed to be surrounded by great people, and I always seem to be in the right place at the right time" and you believe them. What was once hocus-pocus and warm-and-fuzzy talk of do-gooders become the words that come out of your mouth.

And when you look in the mirror, you see somebody different. It's still you, but now it's YOU. It's YOU. It's the brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous YOU! It's YOU fulfilling what you could alway be. It's YOU standing strong and tall (where did that good posture come from - am I getting taller?). It's YOU seeking out challenges on a daily basis where you only felt fear before. It's YOU speaking with PASSION AND CONVICTION. It's YOU who people count on when the chips are down (or even in the good times). It's YOU who is providing enormous value to all those who seek your guidance. It's YOU who people are looking up to and aspiring to be like. It's YOU who is dedicated to a standard of Excellence. It's YOU who is unconsciously liberating others to let their light shine. It's YOU who is inspiring others to let their light shine. What was you is now YOU!

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Here's to a New YOU in a New Year! Happy New YOU!

To Your Success,


Max, hope you liked that or at least I hope you like that when you can read it. =0) This is your first celebration of a New Year! I'm so excited for you. A time for re-birth, renewal, and second chances. A time to take a breath of fresh air and start anew. What a wonderful time of year! Glad I get to celebrate this one with you and your mama! =0)

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Your First Christmas...

Hi Max!

It's almost to the point where I can really talk to you instead of talking to you via a blog! It seems like you are understanding what I am saying and everyday you look more and more like a little man.

You're two months old today. Today is your first Christmas. I wonder if this will be the only Christmas in a long time where you don't pitter-patter your little feet down to the fireplace to see what Santa brought you. But this morning, it was just me pitter-pattering down to the fireplace at 6 a.m. to see what Santa had brought me. I tried not to wake up Sheri. I always wonder why she doesn't get as excited as I do about Santa's arrival and the treats he leaves. She's pretty laid back about the whole thing.

I tip-toed down. Why I was tip-toeing is a good question since our floors don't squeak and it wasn't like anybody else was awake. I half-expected to see a little elf or maybe even Santa putting the finishing touches on the gifts, but alas, no Santa, elves, or reindeer this morning, but there were presents. Yea baby! There was a present for you, me, Lucky, and Sheri. It was tempting to open all of them and then re-wrap them before everybody woke up but I thought better of it. I grabbed mine. I held it with an almost spiritual reverence. What was inside?

Isn't that part of the joy of Christmas? It's the joy inside the boxes. It's the thought and the time and the care that makes the gift. Rarely is there a letdown in that box. There may be a letdown following Christmas as the day never matches the hype (music, ads, market blitz, it's everywhere, how could it not be a letdown), but rarely is there disappointment when opening a gift from someone you love, in this case a fat man in a red and white suit.

{Aside: Here is a text message I sent Sheri on Tuesday: "Sheri if a fat guy starts shoving you in a bag, don't sweat it. I told Santa all I wanted for Christmas was you." I'm cute and romantic that way. =0}

I started tearing the wrapping paper. That's an interesting thing to: do you take it off delicately at the taped locations so that it can be folded nicely after opening or do you just grip it and rip it? In this case I went with the latter and in seconds a ball of wrapping paper was on the table. "Yes!" I exclaimed loudly, but not loud enough to wake you or mom.

There in my hands was exactly what I wanted for Christmas! Exactly. How does Santa know what to get me every year? I suspected Sheri had some connections to the big guy, but it is uncanny how often he can come up with that one gift to make me the most happy. I put on the good face and say the right things, "Oh, it doesn't matter what I get this year, whatever I get will be great. I have everything I need. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Blah, blah, blah." This year, I really wanted an armband to hold my iPod. Sounds simple and small, but I have the bigger iPod (not the Nano) that plays videos as well as audio and it's been hard for me to find.

Well, no problem for Santa! There in my hands was a black armband for an iPod! Sweet! I immediately opened it, went and found my iPod with video screen, put it into the slot, and PRESTO, I was ready for listening. So I tuned to some of my favorite tunes and walked around the house with my new iPod armband, iPod, and some 80s music or something like that. There I was in my PJs dancing a jig when I caught something out of the corner of my eye.

Sheri scared me nearly to death. She was at the end of the hall just looking at me like, "Are you a crazy person? It's 6 in the morning and you're dancing on the kitchen floor." She didn't say it, but I think that's what she was going to say. I kind of shrugged, turned off my iPod, and decided that I better do something constructive.

I took the dog out for his morning ritual and grabbed the newspaper. God had blessed us with an inch or two of snow. Enough to make it a white Christmas, but not enough to make driving too treacherous. Lucky marked the entire yard as his own and then we went inside. I fed the little dog and started the coffee.

After drinking a couple of cups of coffee and reading the paper (no elliptical this morning - it was an Off Day), it was time for you to get up and eat. It was Christmas so as promised, I took an extra turn with feeding you. I mixed the formula and went to get you. There you were a sleeping angel. My God, you are a beautiful baby. Angelic face, so healthy. You were starting to stir and I knew I had caught you at a good time. We went into your room to the "feeding chair".

You drank a good 5 ounces, had your two burp moments, and the day was really starting without incident. Good start.

We loaded up for the Soetaert's (your mom's side - remember my Thanksgiving comment when Sheri asked, "If a group of mouse is called mice and a group of birds is called a flock, what is a group of turkeys called?" I answered, "Soetaerts". I'm funny like that. :).

Upon arriving at the Soetaerts, it was not Hi Michael, Hi Sheri. It was ""Where's Max?" You, my little boy, are a loved kid. During the entire day, you were a human baton as aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparents, and anybody else - even some people I didn't even know - took their turns holding the golden child - yes, that's you. What was amazing is how good you were all day! We fed you on schedule and you chirped a little bit while trying to burp, but even though you didn't get your mid-day nap, you were an angel all day. Amazing.

You were especially amazing during the gift-opening part of the party. As 43, yes 43 people including 15 kids, made jet-level decibel noises, you, my little darling, SLEPT! I couldn't believe it. I had to take out my hearing aids it was so loud. And you were sleeping in my arms. Incredible. It was so loud. Kind of like the clucking of a bunch of turkeys. :)

As we packed up for our ride home, I reflected on your day. To you, it must have seemed like every other day in a lot of ways. You were fed on schedule all day. You slept normally except for your mid-day nap and you occasionally miss that anyway. You got Christmas presents, but I'm not sure you enjoyed them or realized they were for you. You've had occasions with all the family members so no newness there. I just wonder if you realized this was your first Christmas. Somehow I think you did. I don't know why, but I just think you did. You've been smiling and cooing all day and all evening. I've never seen you so expressive of your happiness. Maybe you could tell that there was joy all around you. You can sense that I believe.

Well, another baby's birth is the reason for the season and we never lose sight of that, but I have to tell you that this Christmas was the most special in my life, and it wasn't because I got a black iPod armband. It was because I got to hold you and share you with loving family members. I got to be there all day mentally as well as physically for your 1st Christmas. I got to celebrate the greatest gift I've ever received in my life.

Merry Christmas Max. I love you.

To Your Success,

Max's Papa (Michael)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Fatherhood Day...

Hi Max!

I grew up today. I became a father. Oh, yes, you are 7 weeks old, almost 8, but today was Daddy and Max day alone for a lot of the day. I got up, did the elliptical for 30 minutes, ate a bagel and cream cheese (kind of on this cinnamon-raisin bagel and cream cheese kick right now), and by then it was Sheri's time to go to the office for a meeting. This was going to be the first significant time (more than a couple of hours) for me to be "Home Alone" with you.

I fed you. I changed you. Little poop. Little wet. You did great. You also didn't cry when I changed you which was terrific. It really helps us to talk you through what we are doing, preparing you for our next move. That change went pretty uneventful and Sheri was off.

As soon as the garage door shut, you started whimpering a little bit. It was nap time but you were looking around with big, round eyes. I rolled your bassinet into the kitchen so you could be closer to where I was doing some work on the computer. You started to settle a little bit, maybe 10 minutes, then all heck broke loose. You were upset. You went from 0 to 60 decibels in 1 second. I went through my mind for the reasons you might be crying: hungry - check - just fed you, poopy - check - just changed you, burp - check - burped you before putting you in bassinet, sleepy - you should be sleepy but this wasn't that over-tired cry. Then, I smelled something. And it was bad. Real bad.

I took you to your changing table. Once again, I set you down by explaining what I was doing, but you were having none of that. It was full-on scream. You wanted to be changed- NOW! I unsnapped your outfit and unstuck the velcro on your diaper. As I unfolded the diaper from you, I had to take a step back. This was the MOTHER OF ALL POOPS! You had pooped yourself a small basketball. It was everywhere! {This blog is censored. I took a picture I was so impressed, but it was censored from the site. For that, you can be glad. Wow.}

I started with handywipe number one. It didn't even make a dent on what was on your body still. That doesn't count what was already trapped in your diaper. After wiping with handywipe number one, the stuff was so "all over" that I actually got more on your heel and your feet and on the back of your knee. I was making it worse by trying to clean you! Handywipe number two swept up a majority of what was left. Handywipe number three was used for touch up all around and in the cracks and crevices and rolls of your body. Poop had been everywhere, but you were starting to look clean again. Three handywipes later and a 5-pound diaper, I started to put a new diaper on you.

WHOA! Out of nowhere it starts raining... in our house! Water from the sky. Hitting me in the arm. What the heck? There was a fountain coming from your pee-pee into the sky. Great! You were peeing all over us now. I had to laugh. This would have made a great YouTube tape. I stopped the flow a little bit with the new, now used diaper. You got a little on your outfit, but not too bad. Don't tell mommy, but I just dried your outfit and kept it on you. :)

Perhaps at a different time in my life, I would have been upset, angry, impatient, or bothered. Not now, I was more in a state of wonderment or curiosity than I was in a state of anxiety. I calmly buttoned you back up and carried you to the bassinet for your nap.

I believe you sensed that it was just me and you because as I worked on the computer, you were staring up at me like, "How you doing Dad?" I smiled, you kind of smiled back. You kept staring instead of going to sleep. So I paused what I was working on (a Home Swap with a couple and an investor) and leaned over to the bassinet. I started slowly rocking the bassinet and sang my very first lullaby.

"Nap Time, Nap Time, Rolly Polly Nap Time. Time to Sleep Now Max
Nap Time Nap Time Rolly Polly Nap Time It's Rolly Polly Nap Time.
It's that time of the day when you hit the hay
You're quiet and calm because it's Nap Time.
Nap Time, Nap Time, Rolly Polly Nap Time. Nap Time, Nap Time, Rolly Polly Nap Time, Time to Sleep Now Max"

It will be on the Billboard Top 40 later this month. Bottom line: the rocking and the gentle singing put you out like a light.

Three hours later, mommy showed up. I was proud of myself. We did it. You and me. We didn't cause any catastrophes. I had time to work on some things and you stayed on schedule. I'm a dad. It was my Happy Fatherhood Day.

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Max, my son, you are ever so precious...

Photo Blog today... A picture says a thousand words... or more...

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wow! A sudden realization came over me...

Hi Max,

I just looked at the picture your mom sent to me with the message, "We miss you and love you." It came on my phone. When I downloaded it, an eerie feeling swept over me. I had always loved looking down into your eyes and seeing how similar you are to me. A sudden realization came to me just tonight as I wait for my plane to arrive to go home to Kansas City. You have my dad's eyes. That's what it is. Your eyes and the shape of your eyes are just like my dad's. It's cool. It's eerie. It makes a lot of sense.

I'll add the picture tomorrow and those who knew my dad should comment. Pretty cool. Definitely threw me off a little at first glance over the picture.

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Max at six weeks...

Hi Max!

Just had to share this picture of you at six weeks. You can't really see it, but your clothes are starting to fit. You've grown 2 inches and 8 ounces in the last week or so. You're doing great at six weeks.

I love you buddy. Get some sleep so mommy can too. =0)

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer will never be the same...

Hi Max!

Just got through watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer for the 100th time and I may be underestimating that number. But this time was different.

I'm on Captiva Island in Florida. I'm meeting here for a Star Power Advance, a pow wow with the top 200 agents in the country (and Canada). I wouldn't miss this event for the world. A little for the ideas, a little for the get-away to a nice destination, but mostly because of the relationships I've built with these superstars. We all suffer the same struggles and challenges and with this year being more challenging than most, we are here to help, support, and energize each other. I love going to Star Advance. It's my favorite conference of the year. But this year is different.

As I sit here in my posh resort condo watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, I realize that I am about to break down in tears. My eyes were welling up when the other reindeer were making fun of Rudolph and when the parents tried to cover the red nose with a fake black one. Now, for those of you who know me are probably saying, Michael is writing that for impact or effect. No, I was really starting to well up.

I miss little Max (it's been like 12 hours) already and I had never noticed that facet of the movie before, but now I started thinking, "I don't want you to have a defect. I want you to fit in and be friendly. I don't want you to suffer the sadness Rudolph feels when they all laugh at him and shun him from the reindeer games." But I know there will be times that you will face ridicule, jealousy, and "trash talk". I guess my job isn't to shelter or protect you from those situations, but to prepare you on how you can CHOOSE to react. I've been the outcast and misfit in my life many times and quite honestly, a lot of my success can be attributed to my willingness to embarrass myself, take risks, be the outsider, look like an idiot, and step out of my comfort zones easily and often. Somebody once said in conversation that I was a "man without comfort zones." That's not true of course, but I'm willing to face the possibility of rejection, put myself in unusual circumstances, or take the opportunity to meet strong, famous, or successful people because I have a strength forged from facing many situations such as Rudolph faced and a set of parents who allowed me, EMPOWERED ME rather than ENABLED ME to make my own decisions throughout life.

I also need to let you know that you ALWAYS have a safe harbor here with mom and me. Max, home will be your base of unconditional love. That's what family is for and we'll always be here for you. You don't need to run off and fight abominable snowmen and find the island of misfit toys.

Watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer one of the all-time classics for Christmas movies was a unique experience tonight. Who knew that you could watch a movie for the 100th time and see certain aspects of it for the very first time?

Being a dad is cool. =0)

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)