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May 5, 2017 - Musings    No Comments

Gratitude – ‘Patrick Hughes’

Recently I rediscovered this article by Mac Anderson in my list of inspirational stories.  It is from 2009 – and very worth sharing.

The date was July 16, 2008. It was late in the afternoon and I was sitting in my hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky. I was scheduled to speak that evening for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA). I was a little “down in the dumps.” I hadn’t gotten to exercise lately because of my traveling schedule and recently I’d experienced some mild bouts of vertigo (that inner ear condition that can cause the room to start spinning.) You got it…speaking and “spinning” are not good partners!

My keynote presentation was scheduled for 7:00 PM, but I had been invited to show up at 6:00 to see a performance they said I’d enjoy. Little did I know that I was about to see something I would never forget.

They introduced the young musician. Welcome…Mr. Patrick Henry Hughes. He was rolled onto the stage in his wheelchair, and began to play the piano. His fingers danced across the keys as he made beautiful music.

He then began to sing as he played, and it was even more beautiful. For some reason, however, I knew that I was seeing something special. There was this aura about him that I really can’t explain and the smile…his smile was magic!

About ten minutes into Patrick’s performance, someone came on the stage and said…”I’d like to share a 7-minute video titled, The Patrick Henry Hughes story.” And the lights went dim.

Patrick Henry Hughes was born with no eyes, and a tightening of the joints which left him crippled for life. However, as a child, he was fitted with artificial eyes and placed in a wheelchair. Before his first birthday, he discovered the piano. His mom said, “I could hit any note on the piano, and within one or two tries, he’d get it.” By his second birthday, he was playing requests (You Are My Sunshine, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). His father was ecstatic. “We might not play baseball, but we can play music together.”

Today, Patrick is a junior at the University of Louisville. His father attends classes with him and he’s made nearly all A’s, with the exception of 3 B’s He’s also a part of the 214 member marching band. You read it right…the marching band! He’s a blind, wheelchair-bound trumpet player; and he and his father do it together. They attend all the band practices and the half-time performance in front of thousands. His father rolls and rotates his son around the field to the cheers of Patrick’s fans. In order to attend Patrick’s classes and every band practice, his father works the graveyard shift at UPS. Patrick said…”My dad’s my hero.”

But even more than his unbelievable musical talent, it was Patrick’s “attitude of gratitude” that touched my soul. On stage, between songs, he would talk to the audience about his life and about how blessed he was. He said, “God made me blind and unable to walk. BIG DEAL! He gave me the ability…the musical gifts I have…the great opportunity to meet new people.”

When his performance was over, Patrick and his father were on the stage together. The crowd rose to their feet and cheered for over five minutes. It gave me giant goose bumps!

My life was ready to meet Patrick Henry Hughes. I needed a hero, and I found one for the ages. If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never forget that night, that smile, that music, but most importantly, that wonderful “attitude of gratitude.”

I returned to Chicago and shared Patrick’s story with my wife, my friends, and our team at Simple Truths. About two weeks later, I received a letter from a friend. He said, “Mac, I don’t know who said it, but I think you’ll love this quote.”

“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass…
it’s about learning to dance in the rain!”

I thought…that’s it! We all face adversity in our life. However, it’s not the adversity, but how we react to it that will determine the joy and happiness in our life. During tough times, do we spend too much time feeling sorry for ourselves, or, can we, with gratitude…learn how to dance in the rain?

It almost sounds too simple to feel important, but one word…gratitude, can change your attitude, thus, your life, forever. Sarah Breathnack said it best…

“When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present….we experience heaven on earth.”

“What I just shared is the introduction to our new book, Learning to Dance in the Rain…The Power of Gratitude. My co-author is BJ Gallagher and she is one of the most talented and creative writers I’ve every known. It was an honor to work with her on this beautiful book that can truly change the way you think about life.” – Mac Anderson

Apr 18, 2017 - Musings    No Comments

The Daffodil Principle

by Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, “Mother, you must come and see the daffodils before they are over.” I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. Going and coming took most of a day – and I honestly did not have a free day until the following week.

“I will come next Tuesday,” I promised, a little reluctantly, on her third call. Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove the length of Route 91, continued on I-215, and finally turned onto Route 18 and began to drive up the mountain highway. The tops of the mountains were sheathed in clouds, and I had gone only a few miles when the road was completely covered with a wet, gray blanket of fog. I slowed to a crawl, my heart pounding. The road becomes narrow and winding toward the top of the mountain.

As I executed the hazardous turns at a snail’s pace, I was praying to reach the turnoff at Blue Jay that would signify I had arrived. When I finally walked into Carolyn’s house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren I said, “Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these darling children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch!”

My daughter smiled calmly, “We drive in this all the time, Mother.”

“Well, you won’t get me back on the road until it clears – and then I’m heading for home!” I assured her.

“I was hoping you’d take me over to the garage to pick up my car. The mechanic just called, and they’ve finished repairing the engine,” she answered.

“How far will we have to drive?” I asked cautiously.

“Just a few blocks,”Carolyn said cheerfully.

So we buckled up the children and went out to my car. “I’ll drive,” Carolyn offered. “I’m used to this.” We got into the car, and she began driving.

In a few minutes I was aware that we were back on the Rim-of-the-World Road heading over the top of the mountain. “Where are we going?” I exclaimed, distressed to be back on the mountain road in the fog. “This isn’t the way to the garage!”

“We’re going to my garage the long way,” Carolyn smiled, “by way of the daffodils.”

“Carolyn, I said sternly, trying to sound as if I was still the mother and in charge of the situation, “please turn around. There is nothing in the world that I want to see enough to drive on this road in this weather.”

“It’s all right, Mother,” She replied with a knowing grin. “I know what I’m doing. I promise, you will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience.”

And so my sweet, darling daughter who had never given me a minute of difficulty in her whole life was suddenly in charge – and she was kidnapping me! I couldn’t believe it. Like it or not, I was on the way to see some ridiculous daffodils – driving through the thick, gray silence of the mist-wrapped mountaintop at what I thought was risk to life and limb.

I muttered all the way. After about twenty minutes we turned onto a small gravel road that branched down into an oak-filled hollow on the side of the mountain. The fog had lifted a little, but the sky was lowering, gray and heavy with clouds.

We parked in a small parking lot adjoining a little stone church. From our vantage point at the top of the mountain we could see beyond us, in the mist, the crests of the San Bernardino range like the dark, humped backs of a herd of elephants. Far below us the fog-shrouded valleys, hills, and flatlands stretched away to the desert.

On the far side of the church I saw a pine-needle-covered path, with towering evergreens and manzanita bushes and an inconspicuous, lettered sign “Daffodil Garden.”

We each took a child’s hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path as it wound through the trees. The mountain sloped away from the side of the path in irregular dips, folds, and valleys, like a deeply creased skirt.

Live oaks, mountain laurel, shrubs, and bushes clustered in the folds, and in the gray, drizzling air, the green foliage looked dark and monochromatic. I shivered. Then we turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight, unexpectedly and completely splendid. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes where it had run into every crevice and over every rise. Even in the mist-filled air, the mountainside was radiant, clothed in massive drifts and waterfalls of daffodils. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.

Each different-colored variety (I learned later that there were more than thirty-five varieties of daffodils in the vast display) was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.

In the center of this incredible and dazzling display of gold, a great cascade of purple grape hyacinth flowed down like a waterfall of blossoms framed in its own rock-lined basin, weaving through the brilliant daffodils. A charming path wound throughout the garden. There were several resting stations, paved with stone and furnished with Victorian wooden benches and great tubs of coral and carmine tulips. As though this were not magnificent enough, Mother Nature had to add her own grace note – above the daffodils, a bevy of western bluebirds flitted and darted, flashing their brilliance. These charming little birds are the color of sapphires with breasts of magenta red. As they dance in the air, their colors are truly like jewels above the blowing, glowing daffodils. The effect was spectacular.

It did not matter that the sun was not shining. The brilliance of the daffodils was like the glow of the brightest sunlit day. Words, wonderful as they are, simply cannot describe the incredible beauty of that flower-bedecked mountain top.

Five acres of flowers! (This too I discovered later when some of my questions were answered.) “But who has done this?” I asked Carolyn. I was overflowing with gratitude that she brought me – even against my will. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Who?” I asked again, almost speechless with wonder, “And how, and why, and when?”

“It’s just one woman,” Carolyn answered. “She lives on the property. That’s her home.” Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory.

We walked up to the house, my mind buzzing with questions. On the patio we saw a poster. “Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking” was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. “50,000 bulbs,” it read. The second answer was, “One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and very little brain.” The third answer was, “Began in 1958.”

There it was. The Daffodil Principle.

For me that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than thirty-five years before, had begun – one bulb at a time – to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top. One bulb at a time.

There was no other way to do it. One bulb at a time. No shortcuts – simply loving the slow process of planting. Loving the work as it unfolded.

Loving an achievement that grew so slowly and that bloomed for only three weeks of each year. Still, just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, had changed the world.

This unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of ineffable magnificence, beauty, and inspiration.

The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principle of celebration: learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time – often just one baby-step at a time – learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time.

When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

“Carolyn,” I said that morning on the top of the mountain as we left the haven of daffodils, our minds and hearts still bathed and bemused by the splendors we had seen, “it’s as though that remarkable woman has needle-pointed the earth! Decorated it. Just think of it, she planted every single bulb for more than thirty years. One bulb at a time! And that’s the only way this garden could be created. Every individual bulb had to be planted. There was no way of short-circuiting that process. Five acres of blooms. That magnificent cascade of hyacinth! All, just one bulb at a time.”

The thought of it filled my mind. I was suddenly overwhelmed with the implications of what I had seen. “It makes me sad in a way,” I admitted to Carolyn. “What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five years ago and had worked away at it ‘one bulb at a time’ through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!”

My wise daughter put the car into gear and summed up the message of the day in her direct way. “Start tomorrow,” she said with the same knowing smile she had worn for most of the morning. Oh, profound wisdom!

It is pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson a celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, “How can I put this to use tomorrow?”


Apr 8, 2017 - Musings    No Comments

A Mind on Fire

Poem by Aarish Shah
My mind’s blazing
With all the possibilities,
Feels amazing
Like there’s some kind of unstoppability,
And momentum’s building
Like all the blanks got filled in,
Now I see the picture completed
And see all my demons defeated
Rose to the challenge and completed this feat. It
Seemed like the world was spinning too fast
Like the world was pinning me to some dark past,
But the dark passed
No longer this outcast
I’m planning to outlast
So naysayers get out fast
Taken my soul to the peak
And all these rhymes that I speak
Are birthed from a mind that’s on fire
A mind that aims higher
A mind that won’t tire
Of spitting knowledge and truth
You want to test this? Here’s your proof…
Oct 29, 2016 - Musings    No Comments

(Im)Perfect Day


Rolf Magener sent me this bit of wisdom and inspiration that I am pleased to share with you.


A friend recently sent me this poem written by an 11th grader at an all-girls’ high school in Brooklyn, NY, that made me rethink the way I look at my days:

“Worst Day Ever?” by Chanie Gorkin

Today was the absolute worst day ever

And don’t try to convince me that

There’s something good in every day

Because, when you take a closer look,

This world is a pretty evil place.

Even if

Some goodness does shine through once in a while

Satisfaction and happiness don’t last.

And it’s not true that It’s all in the mind and heart

Because True happiness can be obtained

Only if one’s surroundings are good It’s not true that good exists I’m sure you can agree that

The reality Creates

My attitude It’s all beyond my control

And you’ll never in a million years hear me say that

Today was a perfect day


You may think that Chanie has it all wrong . . .

But not everything is as it seems . . .

Sometimes we don’t see everything as it really is, because we are looking at it the wrong way around.

Now read the same poem from the bottom up . . .


Today was a perfect day

And you’ll never in a million years hear me say that It’s all beyond my control

My attitude Creates

The reality I’m sure you can agree that It’s not true that good exists

Only if one’s surroundings are good

True happiness can be obtained

Because, when you take a closer look,

It’s all in the mind and heart

And it’s not true that

Satisfaction and happiness don’t last.

Some goodness does shine through once in a while

Even if

This world is a pretty evil place.

Because, when you take a closer look,

There’s something good in every day

And don’t try to convince me that

Today was the absolute worst day ever.


Quite a different poem, right?

A small change in how we look at things can make all the difference . . .

So, I have a quick question for you: do you need to start looking at your days in a different way? Do you need to make some small changes to your days so that they end up being perfect? What would your perfect day be, your ideal day?

What kind of day would you wish for, so that when you go to bed that night, you will think it was the most incredible day?

There’s a simple trick and tool to make sure you get more of these days:

I wonder what's over there? copy

You have to aim and intend to have a perfect day. 

The easiest way to do this is to get clear about what your great day would be and write down what your perfect day would look like!

If you really thought about your perfect day, I’ll bet you didn’t say, “Well, I roll out of bed, grab my iPhone, and check my email.” That’s not an ideal day . . . but is it what you do every morning? Write down who you would be on your ideal day. Write down how you want to feel. Write down things that would make your day great.

Write down things that would make you happy. Write down how you’d treat your wife, your partner, or your kids.

You have to own your morning to make sure that you’re proactive with that day. You need to ask: “What do I want this day to be about? What do I want to achieve, in order to create and experience this day? What kind of character do I want to cultivate? What do I want to learn today and give today, and how do I want to grow today?

You don’t need to write down a great big shopping list of things that would make your day perfect. Every morning, pick two or three, and write them down in a journal or on a piece of paper. Then, in the evening before you go to bed, review your day, and write down three magical things that happened that day.

We can choose to wake up every single day and live that day for ourselves in an idealistic way. We will show up as who we want to be. We will do things that enliven us and engage us and get us excited. We will choose to be with people who make us feel alive and fulfilled. We will create experiences that give our lives meaning and purpose.

Try this for a week . . . and see what happens.

With that intention and aim, you will start to experience more and more ideal days. As more of these great days accumulate, your character develops force and momentum. And suddenly you wake up one morning, look around, and have a sense of aliveness and joy about that day. Then, when you look back at the week, you realize, “That was an amazing week, an amazing month, an amazing year, an amazing decade . . . that was an amazing life.” You deserve that.

To your success – Rolf

Sep 1, 2016 - Musings    No Comments

When Breath Becomes Air

“There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.” – Paul Kalanithi


I just finished reading Paul Kalanithi’s ‘When Breath Becomes Air’. This autobiography chronicles the passage of a 35 year-old brilliant neurosurgeon from Stanford who transcends purposefully through debilitating cancer to death in less than two years. The book was started after the discovery of his pending death.

When Breath


He recalled with eloquence and earned insights the interest and life discoveries of his youth, his moving through medical school, and residency to moving from disappointment and despair to purposeful marching toward certain early death through living with purpose. Kalanithi asked himself, “At these critical junctures, the question is not simply to live or die but what kind of life is worth living?”

His story moved me greatly. His gifts were extraordinary – his personal brilliance and his contributions to save and comfort others – his published book continues to do both.

I am struck by my need/desire to live a life that serves my yearning to understand, to fulfill a (my) destiny and to effectively deliver a message promoting personal growth, responsibility, and contribution. I am fully aware that this starts and finishes with me demonstrating all. More writing. More discipline – more capturing of insights – probing and expanding them wisely to yield practical guidance and application. This feels like a sacred honor and privilege. I will energize myself with the fuel of appreciation for the possibility of learning more, being more, giving more. “When I can’t. I will!”