Jim Lee: A Picture of Success

  Many of you may not know who the gentleman in the picture is and why he’s taking a selfie in the bathroom with a sketchpad in the background.  His name is Jim Lee, he is one of the most prolific and talented comic book artists/creators in the industry today.  During his 30 year career … Read more

What the film “Kill Bill” teaches us about goal setting and change

To say life can be unpredictable is an understatement. The unexpected can happen and often does, hopefully not in the same fashion as the opening scene of the film Kill Bill, as shown above nevertheless we can learn how to readjust and re-purpose ourselves after being thrown off course.

Words Never Said – The Story of Fireflies and Flux

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I have a friend I have not seen in a few years. Who or why isn’t important, not to this post at least. I can’t say for sure if I ever will see her again, my heart says maybe my head says probably not. Rather than dwell on uncertainty I choose to make my own future. Let my fate be driven by my actions and thoughts rather than random acts put into motion by others. Still there is a conversation I wish I had with this person a long time ago. Let’s call this person Flux to avoid any further uncomfortable grammar. The rest of the details are irrelevant.

When I met Flux, Flux was very shy especially towards men. Flux had an issue with an abusive man and as a result had a fear of all men, even those in Flux’s family. Overtime Flux and I grew very close. I treated Flux like a member of my family and Flux did the same. One evening we were coming home from a night at the movies. I was in my car and Flux was in another. I didn’t see a “no turn on red” sign and was pulled over. I arrived at Flux’s house about twenty minutes later to find Flux was upset It was obvious Flux had sever separation anxiety and was afraid something had happened to me. A few months later, I was gone from Flux’s life. It wasn’t because of anything either of had done. The reason is irrelevant. I miss Flux a lot to this day and often regret I’m not part of Flux’s life any longer but I know the circumstances which separated us and know I did everything I could. There is one thing I was I had said to Flux. It haunts me now sometimes but I have faith Flux knows this because I have no other choice.

When I was a child and the warmer months were upon us, my sister and I would go outside at dusk and chase fireflies. We would try to trap one to watch their body illuminate before releasing them back into the night. On one occasion we were visiting my Grandmother, as we did weekly, and I had gone outside to catch fireflies. I managed to trap one in a small jar. I ran inside the house excited to show my family my new pet. My aunt and uncle ( brother and sister) sat me down and explained I had to release my firefly. I was only six or seven years old at the time but they explained to me somethings can’t belong to one person. They are there temporarily to appreciate and then are gone. Twenty five years or so later I realized I learned something important about people one summer evening at grandma’s house. People are like fireflies. They come into our life and they may brighten things up for awhile or they may just fly away. What makes them so special is the time we share amazed by their glow, not the time we spend missing their absence.

Flux is a little older now. I hope this is something Flux has come to realize. Every time I miss Flux I think about fireflies and say a quick little prayer hoping Flux is doing well, knowing if we are meant to be in each other’s life again, God will make it so. Until then, Every summer night when I see a firefly glow I will think of Flux and smile. Although I wish I could snuggle up next to Flux and play games like we always used to, I have to settle on this.

The Story of Two Monks – What Does it Mean to You ?

monkAssome of you may know, I regularly practice vinyasa flow yoga tohelp keep my back flexible as well as promote overall wellness.  At the end of one of my recent classes, my instructor read us a short story to meditate on during shavasana.

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her.

The senior monk carried this woman on his shoulder, forded the river and let her down on the other bank. The junior monk was very upset, but said nothing.

They both were walking and senior monk noticed that his junior was suddenly silent and inquired “Is something the matter, you seem very upset?”

The junior monk replied, “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the bank, however, you seem to be carrying her still.”

Although I later learned this is a classic story from the Tao, it was new to me and I found it deeply interesting on a few different levels  After class a small group of us spoke about how it meant letting go of the past and either accepting situations for what they are or coming to a peaceful resolution.

Although I agreed with this translation of the story, I found as the week continued to march on, the story took on new meaning for me.  In terms of goals and decision making the story of the monks reminded me to focus on the bigger picture.  While the younger monk thinking all the reasons why he shouldn’t help the woman in distress, the elder monk realized this was an opportunity to work towards the purpose he has devoted his life to, the betterment of man.  Although I’m not a monk and have never aspired to be one, I assume the main objective of a monk is to reach enlightenment and commune with nature on a high level of consciousness. I’ve been reading, or more accurately listening, to Grant Cardon’s “10x Rule” lately and found his overall message is not unlike this interpretation of the monks’ story.  Although his unapologetic style meant to rile up the listener with a dose of equal parts inspiration and moxie is a far cry from the peaceful monks tone, both teachings remind us to focus on whats important in life.  Don’t waste your time and energy on coming up with reasons why something won’t work and focus on how you can make it work.

This past week also started and ran a fundraiser to benefit a friend who lost her home to a fire.  I’ve always had an altruistic nature and have been a member of several different charitable and community organizations in the past.  I set a goal of raising $1,000 and proudly touted my goal and my plan online.  I was initially surprised and almost dismayed when some people I had counted on helping out flat out declined to participate. I had to pause and tell myself I’m doing this not for my own benefit but to help out someone in need.  Perhaps these people who didn’t want to help were assisting in other ways and if not, it wasn’t a reflection on me or my friend it was a reflection on that person.  Needles to say, I re-focused on the task at hand and continued to plow ahead.  I didn’t hit my $1,000 goal but at the end I had raised money from sales and donations, which I originally hadn’t considered I would receive at all.  When I collect the donations and deliver them to my friend later this week, her happiness will have made the journey worth it.

Let’s look at this from the other monk’s perspective, one can always learn something new by looking at the other perspective.  In this case, the younger monk was confined by the regulations of his order.  I’m sure we’ve all felt confined by regulations and guidelines at one time or another. That being said, the monk in this situation should have focused more on what he could do rather than what he couldn’t do.  Perhaps he could have procured a boat or canoe to help the woman sail across the water.  Maybe he could have found a way around it by wrapping her in cloth so there was’t any skin to skin contact.  Either way this is a case of ambition, if the younger monk really wanted to help the woman he would have found a way.  The fact he didn’t help the woman doesn’t make him a terrible person; sometimes good people fail to act in good ways, but in his mind he knows he did wrong.  If not he wouldn’t be preoccupied with “would have” or “should have.”  He expected the other monk to ignore the woman as he chose to, the fact the elder monk acted differently bothered the younger monk, not because he failed to act but because he felt the actions of his associate made him appear like less of a person.

In summary, here’s what I took from the story of two monks:

  1. If you have a goal that is important to you, you’ll find a way to reach it or to stay true to your path to reaching it.
  2. Over-thinking, under-thinking,and not taking action doesn’t help anyone. and finally…
  3. When faced with adversity, don’t focus on why not, instead ask yourself how.

What are your thought about the story of the two monks?  What is your interpretation and how does it apply to a challenge you’ve faced or something you want to accomplish? I want to know – comment below and let’s chat.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. Phil is also all about that bass. 

 

 

Pulp Fiction is 20 Years Old: Is It in Your Time Capsule ?

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I’m fully aware I’m getting older but I had a moment this past weekend that really put my age into perspective. I was discussing films with my younger sister Margot, a sophomore in high school but she has a mature appreciation for the arts ( mostly dance) including film. We have had a lot of dialogue about classic films and foreign movies, although I can’t get her to watch any Fellini or Pan’s Labyrinth yet. I Very casually said to her, ” Wow Pulp Fiction is twenty years old this year I remember when it came out.” Them she dropped the atomic bomb on me I naively didn’t expect to hear from her cultured mouth, ” I’ve never seen it before.” “WHAT???” I replied as a rush of memories from my high school years flushed my brain at once: sneaking info the AMC on route 10 with my friends to see them film for the first time, Uma Thurman ( still one of the sexiest woman alive in my book) staring out from the glossy poster hung on the wall of every dorm room in college, wincing every time they bleeped a curse the first the I watched the film on basic cable (still didn’t turn it off though). She must have sensed the wave of panic and nostalgia I was caught in as she said, “We can watch it together one day. I tried to watch it but only got as far as the diner scene” (yes the opening). Margot and I will watch Pulp Fiction one day but our whole exchange got me thinking, if you had to put three items into a time capsule to define my personal taste, rather than representing my generation, on an artistic or cultural level, what would they be? I had participated in a similar projects with members of my art class during my senior year of high school. We had each put in a drawing or something representing our artwork at the time but our items were lost when the janitor mistook the time capsule for trash.

Three items I would include today:

1. An iPod or MP3 player with a mix of U2, David Bowie, STP, Billy Bragg, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Scott Weiland and some of my other favorites. Some funk too, gotta have the funk. If you’re having a bad day put on some Kool and the Gang, George Clinton, or even Ray Charles. It’s a proven fact you can’t be depressed and listen to funk. I’d have to leave a note explaining good music expired ten years ago. Hopefully the generation before us brought it back by then.

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2. A box set of all the Marvel Films. If this comes as a shock to you than you must have never read this blog before.

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3. Finally I’d include a copy of Grant Cardone’s 10x with a note: I did everything this guy said I should do now so I can enjoy the other two items later. Life is better when you earn it rather than mortgage it from your future.

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I know this was a short one but tell me, what’s in your time capsule? Comment and let me know !

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. But where we’re going we don’t need any roads.

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The Lesson I Learned From George Clooney

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I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been in a little bit of a rut lately but I’ve successfully worked out of it and I owe it to George Clooney. I’m in a time of transition and change isn’t easy but it can be rewarding. I remain positive by focusing on my goals, associating with positive people, and putting up as many positive vibes as I can via Facebook, Instagram (@philtasticphil), twitter (@pmtick), and of course this blog. Part of change also includes avoiding old bad habits. This weekend I almost tore open an old wound typing up my original blog topic, life lessons I learned from George Clooney movies ( specifically “The Descendants” and “Up In The Air”). I found myself tearing up someone I used to be very close with, something I promised myself I would never do and took pride in the fact I’ve always acted above board. I feel it’s important I share what happened to me this weekend and how I dug myself out of it, in case you may be struggling in your own situation right now.

1. Let it flow – about halfway into my post I realized I took a turn somewhere. It was obvious I struck a nerve within myself and it needed to be addressed or it would have just festered. I let my typing continue until I was exhausted

2. Examine and diagnose – I reviewed what I had typed and said to myself ” why did I say this ?” In this case when the relationship ended there was a lot left unsaid. Part of me wants to say, ” Look I know you weren’t on the level with me and played me for a fool.” Then I remind myself, some things are better left unsaid but everything happens for a reason.

3. Evaluate where you are now – I stopped and thought about what has happened in my life since then. I rekindled old relationships with friends I was not allowed to associate with while in the relationship and cut ties with negative people I was over encumbered with ( most got the picture, two I have to ignore to this day). I started a business which really spawned a flurry of personal development in growth in me. I learned about goal setting and put an action plan into motion. This directly lead into me losing 70 lbs and improving my overall physical health. I also grew more confident by simply dating women and realizing some of my better qualities something I couldn’t recognize while in the relationship. I made new, positively minded friends who support me and help nurture my growth. I become more active and Started studying yoga. I intend on becoming an instructor one day.

I also remembered an incident about six months ago, I was leaving my Elks lodge after an event and was supposed to meet my girlfriend at the time for dinner. I was running late and hurried to my car. As I was getting in I heard a familiar voice in the distance. I peeked out of my window and saw this person, her sister, and the two negatives who can’t take a hint I noted above. I rolled down my window and said hello. This person, a single mother well into her thirties, physically hid behind her sister not unlike a shy child. She had gained a significant amount of weight and was most likely embarrassed. I don’t mention this to sound shallow, she always had an unwarranted fixation with her weight despite constant reassurance she looks beautiful. I only mention it to illustrate the different mindsets we both had in this moment. An honest person has nothing to hide, nor any reason to feel guilty. Then, one of the negatives attempted to pick a fight with me. Understand I know he didn’t want to fight, he was looking for a reaction ( juvenile I know). I smiled. It was at this time I realized how much the group had hampered me, like weeds choking plants in a garden. Without their negative influence I was able to embrace my own value and self worth to realize I shouldn’t spend time with people who devalue me.

4. Have faith – I’m not a religious person, I believe in God but I am not a regular churchgoer. During the really hard time that followed the breakup, someone gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard. “You did everything you can do, now just throw it up to God and trust he’ll lead you in the right direction.” All of this success I’ve achieved since I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish if I was in that relationship because I was with a person who embraced negative thinking and was ultimately wrong for me. God led me away from the negative environment I was in because I wouldn’t have grown if I was still there and there was no way I could ever allow myself to regress.

5. Breathe deep and exhale – this is something I can say I have learned from George Clooney. Understand I’m not a diehard fan but nor will I rush out to see a film if Clooney. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are two films I had in mind when I decided to write this piece, Up In The Air and The Descendants. Both films share an underlying theme: no man is an island. The human experience is enriched by sharing our lives with others. Not everyone we meet will be pleasant or will help us be better than we were before but the people who do should be cherished and the people who deserve our attention. Without spoiling either film, Clooney’s characters go through an arc of personal enlightenment resolving when he accepts his circumstances, even though they may not be ideal. Rather than getting stuck, he breathes deep and resolves to move on.

These aren’t the type of films to have sequels but unlike a motion picture, life goes on. The best part is everyday is an opportunity to write a new chapter, create a new scene, and work towards your ideal finale. You can choose whether the story of your life is a comedy, a drama, or a disaster movie and the part you will play. With this in mind, what films have impacted your life and how ? Please reply and share.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. His favorite George Clooney film to date is Out of Sight.

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What Entrepreneurs can Learn From Batman

This artwork encompasses what makes Batman great and why we should aspire to be a little more like him ( minus the terrible childhood tragedy and obsessive compulsive nature forcing him into a life of loneliness). In this pic we’ve got 2 other beloved comic book characters and fellow members of the Justice League (the … Read more

Facebook Helps Bring the Limbs on my Family Tree Closer

“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” – Alex Haley It’s easy for someone to hate social media.  It may not have a practical purpose other then to let people who have too much to say talk to much about what their favorite movie is, how high … Read more

The American White Collar Worker: An Endangered Species

“Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued.” – Socrates When I graduated from Rutgers University in 2001 the job market was about as warm as the Russian Vostok Station in Antarctica ( – 93.2 degrees).  The summer of 2001 I sent over 60 resumes to offices within ten miles of my hometown.  … Read more

Time for a change: 5 Easy Steps to Setting Goals and Putting Them to Action

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou Everyone wants #success in their life, in one for or another. Some aspire to be financially wealthy, others want fame and notoriety, and others aspire to establish a family. Sadly, not everyone sees their #dreams become a reality … Read more