Celebrate Small Victories

Life is a journey. We all take different paths along the way, but it is a journey we all experience in our own unique way. Let’s face it, sometimes life is hard. You can mean well and try your best, but things tend to almost never go perfectly in life. I have experienced everything in my life from minor disappointments to complete devastation and heartbreak that I will never completely get over, but I have learned to not really be surprised when life throws me a curveball and changes my plans. When this happens, you have two options. You can either throw in the towel and choose to give up, or you can adapt to the situation and realize that it is just a bump in the road on this journey through life.

While life tends to not be perfect, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals or make plans. Goals are what keep us moving forward. They are what keep us driven to succeed. Life would be boring if everything were perfect all the time. There would be no mystery, no anticipation, and no motivation to try harder. If you knew that things would work out perfectly no matter how much effort you put into the things you do, would you still give your best effort every single day of your life? Most people wouldn’t.

A goal is a desired final result of any journey on which you choose to embark in life. Many people set goals for themselves, but really have no idea where to begin or which steps they need to take to achieve their goals. Trial and error is the process which usually leads to your end result in life. Along the way, you will have successes and failures, victories and defeats. Each failure you suffer throughout your journey is an opportunity to learn from your mistakes so that you can learn from them and continue to move forward. When you learn from a past mistake, you will tend to not make the same mistake again in the future. Small victories keep you motivated to push forward and keep giving your best effort. In life, we need to be our own biggest cheerleaders. Having a supportive and helpful family and circle of friends helps a great deal, but you can’t succeed solely because other people believe in you. You have to believe in yourself.

Often times, people are cautious when they achieve a small victory along their journey. They are happy, but don’t want to stop and celebrate, because they haven’t yet accomplished their ultimate goal. Focusing on the ultimate goal throughout your journey can be exhausting and discouraging, because you are allowing yourself to realize how far you still have to go before you reach that goal. Convince yourself to focus on the journey and the small steps you have to take along the way. When you suffer a setback, don’t let it stop your momentum. When you look at the big picture, it’s just a small bump in the road. When you complete one of the steps that will allow you to move forward in your journey, don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back and be proud of your progress.

The most important goals we set for ourselves in life will typically take years, sometimes an entire lifetime, to achieve. If you don’t take time to reflect on how far you’ve come and to be proud of yourself along the way, then you are preventing yourself from enjoying a lot of happiness that the small things in life can bring you. Take a break once in a while. Reflect on the things you’ve accomplished and how they have led you to where you currently are in your journey of life. Be happy for yourself. Be proud of yourself. Celebrate your small victories throughout your entire journey. Don’t keep waiting for the big victory party at the finish line. Having the ability to wake up every day is a victory. On almost a daily basis, a friend will text me and ask what I’m doing. My response most times is, “Celebrating (insert day of the week here)”, and I mean that. I celebrate being happy and being alive every day. Celebrate life every day. Nobody is guaranteed another day in this journey. Visit your happy place and enjoy living in that moment. Treat yourself to a favorite meal or snack. Enjoy your favorite beverage. Surround yourself with your favorite people. Do whatever it is that makes you happy, and know that you’ve made progress in your journey. Your happiness now will lead you to a happier future. You deserve to be happy all of the time, not just in the future when you finally reach your ultimate goal.PWBeer

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Everybody Dreams, Not Everyone Lives

I very clearly remember nearly 20 years ago sitting in my 6th grade class. Every day, I would look out the window during class and watch cars pass by on the interstate. I always wondered who was riding in those cars, where they came from, and where they were going. I wondered what they would get to see, do, and experience along the way. I wanted to go where they were going and experience that journey. I still do this quite often when I see a plane fly overhead.

As a 6th grader, you most likely haven’t had a chance to see much of the world yet. I know I hadn’t. All you can do at that age is dream and wonder what is out there to experience in this world. I not only wanted to see the places these people were traveling to, but I also wanted to experience what life is like in those places. To a 6th grader, those places were all just dots on a map hanging on a classroom wall, or on a page in a textbook.

I don’t want to sound like I knew how my life would turn out or that I could tell the future in anyway, but I just knew that I needed to travel and experience new places someday. The last place in the world I wanted to be was in a classroom in North Dakota looking out the window and wondering what was out there. Life happens, whether it’s the way you want it to happen or not. You can dream and wish, but things don’t always turn out the way you had hoped. You have to roll with the punches and keep living life.

That school year had been especially difficult for me, because I was recovering from my third surgery in less than three years. I spent a lot of time sitting at home not able to do much. When all you’re really able to do is sit at home while you recover, you start to think about a lot of things. You start to dream of better times and a better situation. Somehow, I just felt like I knew I would end up traveling and experiencing new places someday. Looking back, it’s crazy to think about, because I have spent several years of my life traveling, and I now live on the opposite side of the country from where I grew up.

That time in my life taught me that you can’t just accept the things other people tell you. If you want something badly enough, you can find a way to make it happen. The only limitations you have are the ones you place upon yourself. I wanted to play on the 6th grade basketball team at my school that year, but my doctor told me it wasn’t possible, because my leg would never be healed in time to play after my most recent surgery. I remember leaving the doctor’s office after being told basketball wasn’t an option for me that year. The first words I said to my mom when we got into the car after that appointment were, “I’m playing. I’ll find a way to make it happen.” This isn’t a surprise to any of my former classmates who may be reading this, but I did play that year. That was just one of many times in my life I was told by somebody else that something I wanted to do was impossible, and I proved them wrong.

We all have dreams, but how many people actually dare to chase them and refuse to accept “no” for an answer? Anybody can dream. Anybody can wish for things to happen. Unfortunately, that’s where the dream ends for many people… wishing and hoping. I was incredibly fortunate to live my lifelong dream for several years, but eventually the time came where I needed to find a new dream. I am now chasing that dream. It’s not easy. To be honest, trying to find a way to make it happen has been brutally difficult for the past two years. People have told me to give up and find something else to do with my life. I have been told things like that by countless people throughout my life, not just now. I believe there is ALWAYS a way to make your dreams become your reality. You just have to be patient, stay focused, and keep moving forward. I’m not going to go into specific details, but, if I were interested in taking the safe route in life and doing things the easy way, I would have gone running back home last year and would have settled for a life that I have no interest in living. Lots of people do it. It makes me sad to see someone get excited about a new adventure in life, just to give up when things don’t go as planned. I am trying to find a way to not let that happen to me. My current life isn’t perfect, but I’m in a much better situation now than I was a year ago. Over the next year, I hope I get to the point where I’m light-years ahead of where I am now. You don’t get to pick when things finally fall into place in your life. Life happens when it wants to happen, and it’s usually when you least expect it.

My life hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would when I was sitting in that classroom 19-20 years ago, and that is perfectly fine. The journey of my life since that time has led me to where I am today, and will take me to where I am supposed to eventually end up. Everybody dreams, but not everybody dares to experience the journey of really, truly living life. You can go through life the safe way and never take any chances, but you will miss out on a journey of living life fully in this wonderful world of ours. Don’t look back at life and ask “What if…?”. Look back at life and say, “I lived.”Chicago

Be a Fan of People

I’ve never understood why some people feel the need to drag others down just to make themselves feel better. Why can’t people just be happy for others and wish them well? If somebody accomplishes something that is important to them, congratulate them. If their accomplishment is preventing you from achieving your own success, then use the other person’s success as motivation, and work harder. Don’t talk trash and try to ruin their moment of happiness. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing someone pretend to be happy and supportive to someone’s face, then turn around and talk trash about them behind their back. Be genuine in the things you say. As the saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Talking behind someone’s back just makes you look like a jerk.

I want everyone around me to be happy and to succeed in whatever it is they choose to do in life. Seeing happiness in other people makes me happy. In everything I do, I want to be the best, but I want others who are doing the same thing as me to do well, too. Golf is a perfect example of that. When I’m on the golf course, I want my fellow competitors to play well, but I just want to play better than them. If somebody hits an approach shot to 10′, I want to hit mine to 5′. If somebody makes a par, I want to make a birdie. I always compliment a good shot when I see one.

Be genuinely happy for people when they achieve success. In my opinion, jealousy and negativity require more effort than positivity and happiness. If you are jealous of someone, you will start to obsess over everything they do and you will try as hard as you can to find flaws in the things they do. That just sounds exhausting.

Life is a lot simpler when you focus on yourself and your own happiness. You are in control of your own happiness. Don’t rely on others to make you happy. Too often, that doesn’t end well. I know this from experience. I’m not perfect and will never claim to be, but I have learned throughout my life that people will disappoint you if you start to rely on them too much and you forget to take charge of your own life and your own happiness. I always used to want approval from my family and friends whenever I made a decision. I really worried about whether or not they would approve of the things I wanted to do in life. I’ve learned not to worry so much. Those people know me well, but they aren’t me. They aren’t living my life. I need to do what I feel is best for me. Hopefully they will approve and support me, but my day won’t be ruined if they disagree with me.

There is a quote (one of many) that I live my life by. These may not have been his exact words, but, in an old interview I saw a long time ago, Jimmy Buffett said something along the lines of, “Be a good person. It takes the same amount of time to be nice to somebody as it does to be a jerk to them. Be nice, and leave them with a positive memory of you. You may not remember meeting them, but they could remember meeting you for the rest of their life.” Every day of my life, I remind myself of this quote whenever I speak to somebody. It is especially important to leave a good impression when you’re meeting someone for the first time. That first impression could be the way that person remembers you for the rest of their life.

Cheering on the people around you and being genuinely happy for them just makes life simpler. A simpler life is a happier life. Wish others well. Be a fan of people. You never know how much your support might mean to somebody.

Cocoa Beach

Clearwater Beach

It Finally Happened

Well, it finally happened. For a long time now, people who have read my excessively long Facebook posts have told me I should start a blog. After ignoring that advice for years, here it is. I finally have a blog. I figure it only makes sense that my first post should tell the story of how I got to this point.

Growing up, I never had any interest in writing. I very clearly remember writing research papers in high school and thinking it was torture. I hated it. My attitude toward writing changed when I took an Expressive Writing class in my first semester of college. My professor in that class was also my academic advisor. This guy was unlike any other teacher I’d ever had throughout my school career. How many professors have KISS and Smashing Pumpkins CDs blasting in their office every day on a college campus? I only know of one. This professor and I always got along great, mostly thanks to our shared love of music. He constantly complimented my writing and encouraged me to write more. He taught me how to add more details to make an otherwise quite bland story seem more interesting. The things I learned in that class have stuck with me, and have helped me to learn to love writing. By the end of that first semester, my professor told me I should write a book someday. Although I had experienced a lot of things in my life to that point, life was just about to start getting interesting.

While in college, I really had no clue what I wanted to do with my future. I was a Marketing and Business Administration major, but the only career that had ever interested me was music. Unfortunately, I was lacking one key skill, musical talent. It’s hard to get into the music industry when you can’t sing, and are a below average guitarist.

At the same time that I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, I became friends with the members of my favorite local band. Every time I went to one of their concerts, I stayed after the show and offered to help them tear down their gear. Long story short, I eventually quit college to travel with the band full-time as their merchandise salesman. I spent six of the greatest years of my life living my lifelong dream of traveling across the country with my favorite band. I was very fortunate to meet a lot of really great people during my time on the road. I met people from all 50 states, as well as several countries around the world.

After six incredible years of non-stop fun, I eventually came to the realization that there was no future in what I was doing. I was having the time of my life, but wasn’t making any money. My 30th birthday was approaching and I knew something had to change. That change came in the middle of a sleepless night when I saw a TV commercial for a golf school that has a campus in the Orlando area. Golf was a hobby of mine from a young age, but I had never considered the possibility of making it my career. When it’s the middle of December in North Dakota and you see a commercial for a golf school in Florida, it’s really not hard to convince yourself that moving to Florida is a fantastic idea. Nine months later, I was living in Orlando and starting school. I now have a college degree and get to teach golf for a living. I never in a million years would have guessed I would be a golf instructor one day, but here I am.

Living in the Orlando area, I am also able to fully enjoy my love of the beach and all things Disney. I am a Parrothead and have always loved the beach. Living a short drive from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico is a dream come true for me, although I wish I could spend more time at the beach than I do. I spend as much time as possible at Walt Disney World. Every time I visit the parks is every bit as exciting and magical as my first ever visit. Since I am in the parks all the time, sometimes as often as 5 days a week, some of the cast members have started to recognize me, which I think is pretty cool. I can’t even begin to describe how much joy I feel when I enter Magic Kingdom, and a cast member greets me by saying, “Welcome home! It’s great to see you again!” It makes my day every time. A few people have asked why I am at Disney so often and why I am almost always there by myself. Magic Kingdom truly is my happy place. If Disney would let me, I would live in that park. The friends I have made in Florida are people I have met through golf. None of them live close to me, so I have learned to have fun by myself. I love spending time with other people, but am also fine with spending time alone. Disney is magical whether you’re with people or alone, so I am perfectly happy enjoying the parks by myself.

Whenever I am in the parks, I try to go out of my way to start up a conversation with a complete stranger. The people I have met at Disney have been, for the most part, really wonderful people. I have met people from all 50 states and probably well over 50 different countries. The people I’ve met at Disney, as well as the people I met in my travels, are the inspiration for this blog. There is a lot of hate in this world, but the people I have met have reminded me just how much good there is in this world, also. There are really wonderful people in every country on this planet. Just because a specific country, religion, etc. has a bad reputation because of what is reported in the media doesn’t mean that all of those people are bad. Everywhere you go, you will find good people and bad people. Race, religion, social/economic status, sexual preference, etc. don’t make you a good person or a bad person. Your character determines the kind of person you are. I try my best to spread a message of happiness, positivity, and love everywhere I go and in everything I do. This world is a pretty wonderful place when we all put our differences aside and look at all of the things we have in common.

Those of you who are reading this and don’t know me may be wondering what “Positively Rolling Through Life” means. I was born with Spina Bifida, and rely on a wheelchair for most of my mobility. I can walk, but not very far, so I use my wheelchair most of the time. My disability has forced me to find my own way of doing most things in life, but it really hasn’t slowed me down much. I was born this way and can’t change it, so there is no point in complaining or feeling bad for myself. You only live once and have to make the best of it while you have the chance. Life isn’t perfect and nobody is happy all of the time, but you can choose to always look at life in a positive way. I can’t imagine living life any way but positively. It’s just the kind of person I am. I’m a dreamer and honestly believe that everything happens for a reason. The hard times that we all go through in life lead us to something positive without fail. You just have to keep your eyes open and be willing to look for the good in the situation. “Positively Rolling Through Life” is what I do. “Rolling” is a reference to my wheelchair. It is how I go through my life every day, and is a big part of who I am. I don’t complain about it, I embrace it. I live my life the only way I know how, and never think about my disability very much. My goal in life is to spread happiness and positivity to everyone around me, and to inspire everyone to find a way to overcome any challenges they may face. There is ALWAYS a way to achieve your goals. You just have to find a way to do things that works best for you, and adapt. Don’t worry about what anyone else says or does. Other people don’t know exactly what you’re dealing with. Only you can decide what is best for you.

I will probably update my blog quite often. I have a lot to say, and hope people enjoy reading the things I have to share. My posts will be focused on life, the things I experience, and the impact that I want to have on the world. You can count on lots of references to Disney, the beach, and golf. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoy this journey of “Positively Rolling Through Life”.

CastleMK