Are there changes you’d like to make? Things you’d like to create?
How is it that so many people find themselves stuck in a rut, even after accomplishing many of their goals? You’re not alone and the good news is, there are options. You can choose to free yourself.
Reimagine your perspective (Weekly)
Strategy: New and Who
When we are able to embrace multiple perspectives, we naturally engage our curiosity, which leads to opportunities to think and create in new ways. This is the kind of authentic self-inspiration I’m guiding you towards. As a father, I am always looking for ways to help my kids think and create in ways that interest them and which can lead to self-inspiration. I look for play-based ways to do this and have found a strategy that has been used to improve our ability to observe, used in many ancient guilds to train apprentices. I made my own adjustments and created the game I call “New and Who.” In this game, you ask someone (or yourself in this case) to observe something new during their day which they have never noticed before. It can be something simple or complex. An internal conversation with yourself or with someone else can follow it if desired. This is followed by a second, much more open question, “Who Are You?” When I used this with my son for the first time, he was a freshman in High School. I asked him if he wanted to play a game with me and he said, “Sure, what is it?” I asked him to find something that he never noticed before and he seemed skeptical. At first, he found simple things like a red folder within a stack of yellow folders on a desk in a classroom. Then he noticed security cameras. He then noticed things like a yellow Camaro which was always parked either in a bank parking lot, or the next door fast food restaurant. We began to talk about the things he noticed and the conversation deepened. Each time, following the first question and conversation, I’d ask him the second question, “... and who are you?” The first time he simply looked at me a bit dumbfounded, smiled, and said, “Nick Feldman?” For quite some time, he would answer the second question with his name. Once I said, “cool,” and he responded, “Were you looking for something else?” My response was, “What do you think?” to which he sighed with a bit of humorous frustration.
I played this game with him a couple of times a week for a couple of months. Then, one day, he came home and approached me with some authentic excitement and said, “I noticed something new that was really interesting today!” This was the first time I didn’t have to initiate the game. He described how people react differently to the same content (question, opinion, etc.), based on who asked the question or shared the opinion. We talked about it for a while and then I began to ask, “... and who…” and he stopped me and said, “Dad, if you were to ask me ‘what am I’, I might have something more to say.” I asked him exactly that and he responded, “I’m a sharer”. The next time we played, he responded, “I’m a carer.” The third time he responded, “I’m a striver.” Perspective… how important is it to embrace new perspectives? What will your life look like when you begin to embrace these approaches?
- Notice something in your environment you have never noticed before. It can be simple.
- Ask yourself, “Why have I never noticed this before?”
- Ask yourself, “Who am I?” Answer honestly in the moment.
- Continue this cycle weekly and log your responses.
Reimagine your breath (Daily)
Strategy: Breathe for Clarity of Mind (repeat each segment 3 times; cycle lasts approx. 2 min)
It was a Sunday morning which I will always remember. I was already the Director of what was then referred to as the F.A.M.E. Foundation (Fostering Arts-Mind Education Foundation) and is now known as the Global Learning Foundation. As the founder of this organization, I had already created a number of strategies, one of which was a breathing and visualization approach to improve a sense of calm, even if there was a storm. I had used my own strategies with myself and my children. On this Sunday morning, I was struggling to effectively use my own breathing strategies. My children were at home in bed with my in-laws watching over them. In my car, driving to the hospital, I was on my way to see the love of my life, my best friend, my wife Marie… was it a heart attack? What kind? What was her condition? I arrived and her incredible heart surgeon said she would recover and showed me pictures of the 3 stents that had been put in her blood vessel… behind the computer screen showing his detailed work, I could see Marie coming out of surgery…. Breathe … in retrospect the ultimate test for my breathing strategy. The breathing part isn’t complicated. The visualization was more difficult. My eyes were looking at Marie, laid out, motionless… Breathe… in retrospect I needed to take command of my body first, then mind… Breathe. The simple act of breathing is one we take for granted and one, which when done deeply, smoothly (allowing your abdominal region to expand like a balloon), profoundly impacts your ability to choose what you wish to see with your mind’s eye. Some call this visualization. Your brain does not recognize the difference between what you see with your eyes and what you see with your mind’s eye. This strategy uses a rhythmic breathing that slows your heart rate down and improves a sense of calm and clarity of mind. In this state, it is much easier to engage positive visualizations. In my case, once I steadied my breath, I began to visualize a healthy Marie and a healthy me, living long and old together and seeing the world together. Here’s the simple, yet profound breathing strategy. As far as the visualization, choose images which bring you peace and joy. I look forward to you taking your own journey.
- Focus on the sensation of breathing
- In through your nose for 2 seconds; out your mouth for 4 seconds on “Ah”
- In through your nose for 3 seconds; out your mouth for 6 seconds on “Sh”
- In through your nose for 4 seconds; out your mouth for 8 seconds on “S”
- In through your nose for 3 seconds; out your mouth for 6 seconds on “Sh”
- In through your nose for 2 seconds; out your mouth for 4 seconds on “Ah”
Reimagine your literacy with language (Weekly)
Strategy: Word Build
I never enjoyed English classes in High School until my senior year, and for this reason, I thank my Senior English teacher, Dr. Tommy Harper, for showing a new world through words. He would introduce a new word every day or every other day and he would have us use this word in different ways. Early in the year he used the word “Plethora”, before the movie “The Three Amigos” made it popular in sentences with the word “Piñata”. Plethora, then myriad and so forth. At first it seemed merely an oddity to me, yet over time the words crept into my consciousness and I began to improve my ability to describe what I was seeing, why I thought a certain way, and how I was feeling. Words became something that drove what I was seeing in my mind’s eye. It went far beyond grammar. I didn’t know why then or for a while, but now I know. Dr. Harper’s introduction of words was about crafting meaning. When we are able to make more meaning in our lives, our own relevance increases and when that happens we can, by default, live a more inspired life.
I became interested in using words which made any description not just accurate, but more relevant. In my work with adults, I like to be as descriptive as I can to shy away from the mundane, the ordinary. A mantra I adore is “No Ordinary Moments”. In the adult world, this can become quite a challenge. How we talk, the words we use, and how we choose to converse and connect with others, can elevate our daily routines and transform them into moments which inspire us and those around us.
When I lead children, teachers, parents and business minds in corporate trainings and workshops, we play a game called Body Poems. It begins by using your body to become the meaning of a word. I usually begin with objects, move to actions, emotions, and thoughts. I learned this from international mime artist, Rick Wamer, from whom I continue to learn today. With children this technique is used to increase vocabulary, such as becoming the word Happy, then Excited, and then Exuberant. For older students, this strategy has been used to become molecular structures. The point is to embrace new words and their meanings, so we can continue to evolve how we communicate!
- Choose a new word you have rarely or never used.
- Use the word, over the course of a week, in as many different ways as you can.
- This should include spoken word and written word.
- This should also include inflection of tone and physical gesture.
Reimagine your physical literacy (Daily)
Strategy: WOCM (Water, Oil, Core, Metabolic)
I gained just 4 pounds in 1989 while I was in my first year of graduate school at the University of Illinois. That’s just 1 pound for every three months. I did that consistently for 20 years and in 2009, I had gained 80 pounds and weighed in at 300 pounds. At that time I would have never even thought of putting together the words “physical” and “literacy” in the same sentence. Up until 2009, I had never really worked out, didn’t know what BMI was (Body Mass Index), and didn’t know that it was possible to lower my vascular age. As you may have read in “Reimagine your breath”, the time of my heaviest weight was also the time my wife experienced a heart attack. It was a precarious crossroads and as an individual human being, a husband, and father, I decided to go after my health with the same passion I had always used with my artistic and educational career. I knew that whatever I did, I had to create some type of routine, just like when I would practice piano daily as a kid, and still do. I also knew that I couldn’t just jump into some crazy intense workout from never having worked out. In the Arts, you learn to scaffold your efforts and build on previous experiences. I took that knowledge and started with what I knew I could do immediately with some level of success.
- I got rid of sodas (mostly)
- I started working out at home 3 days a week using the Tae Bo workout (mostly aerobic kicks and punches)
My initial Tae Bo workouts weren’t anything earth shattering. My kicks were pretty low and pretty much everything I was doing, was at half speed, because that was the best I could do at the time. The key is I did my best in that moment. Eventually I built up to including other kinds of workouts and increasing the intensity and number of days per week. I also found that metabolic workouts were very effective for my body type.
Regarding sodas, I loved root beer back then, and would allow myself a root beer when I went to the movies, and simultaneously took all soda out of the home. The reason this was so important as a first step is that sodas greatly lower the PH level in our bodies. Much like a swimming pool, we need to keep our PH level around a 7.2. Above that is alkaline and below is too acidic. Bad things happen to the foundation of our body’s ability to operate neurologically when our PH level is too low, and most people have a PH that is too low. Below you can see the PH levels of some typical sodas, and pay careful attention to the fact that diet sodas are even worse for you.
I researched on my own and realized that some of the most important keys to health include, but are not limited to:
- Aim for a PH level of 7.2 (get rid of sodas)
- Hydrate your body with good water (ideally Alkaline water)
- Cut down and eventually get rid of daily consumption of bread and processed sugar (including dairy… don’t even get me started on the dairy industry)
- Find a workout routine that works for your body type
- Be aware of your emotional response to different people and situations and practice how to choose your emotional response. This topic is worthy of a blog post, or several, all focused on what I call the “ability to choose happy.” It’s also about being aware that our emotional response to anything is a clue to what, how and with whom we should investing our time.
Bottom line… today I am 51 years old with a vascular age of approx. 40 and dropping. My BMI continues to improve as does my cellular hydration level and overall energy. I continue to add muscle and lower fat, with some ups and downs on weight. I am in the best shape of my life, happier than I have ever been, and people are quite often surprised when and if they find out my current age.
I’ll probably write some more on this topic because I’m so excited about sharing with you how to regain increased energy levels and live a life filled with joy, some treat meals and fewer health challenges.
PH Levels of Sodas
See more at https://www.sheltondentistry.com/patient-information/ph-values-common-drinks/
Source: Robert B. Shelton, DDS
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Reimagine how you think (Weekly)
Strategy: The Art of the Question
It was 2002 and I received a phone call and an older voice said, “Rinehart… I heard you started a Foundation. We’re having breakfast.” I responded, “Dr. Carroll Rinehart?” He then stated, “Yes, Rinehart, I like to eat at 6AM. Let’s meet at the Good Egg.” I said ok.
That was one of the few times, my mentor, Dr. Carroll Rinehart, made that many statements without a question. From 2002 - 2016, he was my guide, friend, and one of many sources of inspiration. He passed in 2016 at the age of 92 ½ years young. He was the king of questions and was a Yoda-like figure for thousands who knew him. A Lowell Scholar inducted the same year as Fred Rogers, he was a first generation John Dewey student and started teaching at the age of 12 in a one-room school, because the teacher recognized he knew more about music than anyone else. Carroll was the co-founder of the OMA (Opening Minds Through the Arts) Foundation and co-created over 1,500 student operas with Kinder through 8th graders.
On that first breakfast, Carroll leaned over the table and asked me three questions:
When is the learner most engaged? What prompts this?
When is the learner most connected to the inner energy of the activity? Why?
When does the learner build community? What is community?
On our first meeting, I thought I had some answers. In fact, I assumed he was looking for answers. To my surprise, he asked the same questions the next time we met, which was 2 weeks later. We would meet twice a month for 14 years. Those questions came up often. At first I thought he was losing his mind, but quickly realized he was asking these questions, and others, with an intent. He wanted to impact how I thought. Answers were not the goal. Coming up with the best questions we could image was one of the goals. Because of Carroll, I went from being a 35 year old who was a great teacher, very good artist, loving dad, and good friend (who made lots of statements), to a human being in search of more unknown than known. Prior to meeting and working with Carroll, I was focused on what I knew and trying to improve on that. Because of Carroll’s wizardry, I transformed into an explorer of what I call today, possibility culture.
The quality of questions you ask others and yourself is in direct proportion to the quality of life you live. Embrace the idea of becoming an excellent developer of questions and get ready to be illuminated to what is truly possible for you and those you organically influence.
- Ask yourself a linear question you have asked yourself before and notice your reaction to this question
- Ask yourself an abstract question you have rarely or never asked yourself and notice your reaction to this question
- Describe the difference in reaction to someone close to you whom who trust. Some things you can compare can include, but not be limited to:
- Quality of the question
- Level of self affirmation you sense
- Level of self trust you sense
- Level of risk you sense
- Emotional response
Reimagine mentorship (Weekly/Monthly)
Strategy: Observe and be Ready
My first mentors, who impacted me over a long period of time were my parents, and while this was significant, this was not something I searched for. It was already there, and I’m grateful it was, as some don’t have parents who are mentors for them, and some have never met their parents.
My next mentor of note was my Nana, and she too was a significant force in my life, talking to me about the power of the mind and affirming me as an individual who was capable of anything. This to was not a choice, yet I am deeply grateful for what she taught me.
My next mentor of note was my high school band director, Dr. Stephen K. Steele. While I chose this, I was in high school, so there were fewer choices to be made. I was fortunate that Dr. Steele was at the high school I attended. He became a musical and educational mentor for me - my first mentor specific to my passion for music. Most importantly, Dr. Steele introduced me to my first mentor whom I chose… Dan Perantoni, internationally recognized performing artist (Tuba), orchestral musician and expert music educator, who has been on the faculties of the University of Illinois, Arizona State University, and currently the Indiana School of Music. Dan taught me how to teach and without saying he was, how to connect. Dan was also a mentor specific to my area of passion. Dan introduced me to Fritz Kaenzig, another musical giant who at the time was teaching at the University of Illinois and then the University of Michigan (Professor of Tuba). I studied with Dan for 6 years and with Fritz for one year. In that one year, Fritz taught me mostly about one thing… I call it, “Getting over the 85% hump.” I walked into my first lesson as a graduate student at the University of Illinois and played a Schubert song which I had arranged and already published. I didn’t miss a note and included dynamics and a variety of musical phrasings. Fritz looked at me for 30 seconds without saying anything and said, “Is that all you have?” He never raised his voice, and yet, I left the lesson angry with myself, actually I was livid. He inspired me to dig deeper and I dug. I dug and dug and dug… all in the area of my passion, music. I was not aware that Fritz was having an impact on me that would bridge many areas later in life. My first job out of graduate school was as an assistant band director at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. John Stevens (Professor of Tuba and Director of the School of Music) and Dr. James Smith became informal mentors who modeled many positive and inspiring habits, including how they connected to students and a fantastic work ethic. However, while in Madison, it was Robert Fountain, the Director of the Choral Program who awoke something new in me. He was quite old at the end of his career and was bent over all the time. He could not walk well and as a conductor, the only things he could really use were his hands, fingers and his facial gestures. That was all he needed to transform 250 voices into a human machine of beauty as we sang Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein and the St. Matthew Passion by Bach.
Keep in mind that up till this point, I felt so alive and as if I were in a jet stream.
I then became the Associate Director of Bands and Professor of Tuba at the University of Arizona. I was 25 and believed I had attained my initial goal of playing a lead role at a major University. During my time there. Looking back, I did not have a mentor at that time. When I left in 1997, I was scared because I was in a place that was unknown to me. In 1996 I came up with the idea of starting a foundation, but knew nothing about how to do that. In 1997 I landed a job as the educational trainer for the educational tech company, ATI (Assessment Technology Inc.). I was there until 2000 and learned a lot, but still no mentor.
When I dove into the unknown in 2000 and started my Foundation (known then as the F.A.M.E. Foundation and now as the Global Learning Foundation), it felt empowering and two years later, I would receive a phone call that would change everything… the call from Dr. Carroll Rinehart as described in my article “Reimagine how you Think.” Why did Carroll call me? To be my mentor? No. He told me that he had been watching me grow ever since I was a music student at Catalina High School, then the University of Arizona and so forth. He also told me he had no interest in calling me when I was the Associate Director of Bands, because in that role and in a place with so much structure, he didn’t see me asking many questions… and he was right.
My greatest mentor came to me, not seeking to mentor anyone. He came to me because he sensed that I was bringing a lot of value to the table.
The point is, if you want to find mentors in your life (which we all want for many reasons), stop looking for a mentor. All you’ll find are people who want to mentor you, and they’re not ready. Instead, build the best you that you can figure out how to build. That kind of energy will call into your life the people who can truly mentor you. What I find really beautiful and inspiring is how I am beginning to meet people much like Carroll met me. I’m not looking to mentor anyone, but it’s happening… and guess what? I’m learning as much from the people I mentor as they learn from me.
Authentic mentorship is a two way street, not a one way street. It’s a collaboration, it’s synergistic, it’s about exploring the unknown together.
- As you continue to reimagine yourself, be open to mentors in your life making themselves available. Don’t search for mentors, rather be open to those who are willing to engage with you openly.
- As you continue to reimagine yourself, be open to others who are open to being mentored.
- Be open to mentorship in different areas of life.
Don’t worry if you aren’t perfectly consistent. Focus on moving forward with daily and weekly actions. Eventually, action cures fear. The six steps are scaffolded, however you can and should make the framework your own. By this I mean that while you may start with step 1, you may decide to begin steps 1, 2 and 4 and start step 3 at a later time. Typically, step 6 reveals itself to you over time.
We each have our own story, our unique challenges and our own perspective on what matters most to us. Regardless of what those things are, know that I have used the above six steps with myself, my children and others for over a decade. The results have been authentic and profound. Enjoy your journey!
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