Michelangelo and Rachmaninoff

When the artist Michelangelo was asked how he ....

 ... approached sculpting his masterpiece, David, he replied that he chipped away everything in the large piece of marble that wasn’t David. Michelangelo had tremendous focus and concentration in present time, but he hadn’t also maintained his future vision of what David would look like, he would not have achieved the incredible statue he envisioned. 

Our greatest hope is to learn from our past and to draw upon the wisdom there, to be fully absorbed in present time with focus, concentration and creativity and to retain an inspiring vision for the future. 

An excellent example of this is the story of the Russian composer and pianist, Sergei Rachmaninoff. The premier of his Piano Concerto No.1 in 1897 in St. Petersburg, Russia met with such critical reviews by the local newspaper that Rachmaninoff fell into a depression for two years. Unable to recover from the trauma he sought help from a physician, Dr. Dahl, who specialized in autosuggestion. Autosuggestion is what we now call self-hypnosis. During the two year period of his depression, Rachmaninoff was afraid to compose for fear of failing again. The voices of his critics haunted him.

Dr. Dahl assessed Rachmaninoff’s case and advised him to use the same hypnotic declaration everyday,  “I will compose a new concerto. I will work with the greatest of ease. The composition will be of excellent quality and the critics and public will rejoice!”

Even though this is a very elementary use of self-hypnosis, the affirmation worked for him. Rachmaninoff repeated these positive statements day after day for two years. During that time he began composing Piano Concerto No.2. This composition had its world premier in October 1901. It was an instant success and is regarded as one of the greatest piano concertos in classical music history. Not only did he rise to the occasion, he exceeded it. Dr. Dahl helped him to regain his confidence, let the past go, move beyond his fears, reignite the joy of composing, and to perform in public again.

Your past is filled with stories of success, fun, and adventure IF you take the time to rekindle these memories. Your past is also replete with stories of challenge and failure. You do have the option of creating new endings to these past and old stories, new endings that dramatically alter the outcome. In short, it’s your story and you can rewrite it anyway you want. Your present can be packed with fulfilling experiences if you are willing to take a few risks, try new things, explore new options, and stretch beyond your daily and weekly routines. 

And the future? Your future begins by creating stories with your imagination of what you would like to do, what you would like to experience, where you would like to travel to, how you would like to feel, and what you would like to attract and bring into your life. The future stories you create in your mind set the tone for what is possible to manifest. Optimism and positive expectancy are powerful forces. Have no doubt about this. Your can create a fulfilling future. It might not be on par with Michelangelo or Rachmaninoff but it will be a creative and unique expression of you and that is a wonderful thing! 

Alfred Nobel Creator of the Nobel Prizes

Alfred Nobel was a very successful chemist, inventor, and engineer...

.... who mixed substances together in a way that had never been mixed together before, and as a result discovered dynamite. This explosive became so popular that within 10 years Nobel had dynamite factories in 20 countries and he became one of the wealthiest men in the world. The irony is that he regarded himself as a pacifist even though thousands were killed with his dynamite and the canons and armaments he manufactured. 

In the late 1880’s his brother died and one of the French newspapers mistakenly put Alfred’s name in the obituary column. A French writer referred to him as the ‘Merchant of Death’ for the thousands who had been killed as a result of his inventions. When Alfred read his own obituary, he was shocked to find how he was going to be remembered when he actually did die. In a single moment, his entire past and future crossed his mind and he knew he had to make big and sweeping changes. In the coming years he created the Nobel Prizes.

The first prizes were awarded in 1901 to five people in the world who made the greatest discoveries in physics, medicine, chemistry, literature, and efforts resulting in creating a more humane and peaceful world. His legacy is the creation of the Nobel Prizes and they continue to be given out over 100 years later. They are regarded as the most prestigious awards in the world. In 1968 a sixth Nobel Prize was added called the Economic Science Award.

Alfred Nobel was looking for his brother’s name in the obituary section of the newspaper and instead found his. Transfixed by what he read and saddened by what his life had become, he knew he needed to take action. The amazing thing about this story is that there were many choices he could have made as a result of the paper’s error. He could have become furious with what was said about him and never change. He could have ignored the article entirely. He could have gone into a deep depression and become paralyzed over the horrendous past he had created. But, he decided to change people’s perceptions of him and how they would remember the Nobel name. He couldn’t change what he had done in his past, but he could change his future.

One hundred and fifty years ago, people all over the world associated the name Alfred Nobel with explosives and the horrors of war. Beginning in 1901 his name became synonymous with the Nobel Prizes. 

Like Nobel, we have the ability to alter the course of our lives at anytime. Because our past is riddled with things we did that still haunt us, does not mean our future must be the same. We can use our imagination, will power, and inner and outer resources to change and create a future we can be proud of.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright

World renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright studied at...

... the University of Wisconsin and creatively and passionately worked as an architect for over 70 years. He believed in designing structures that were in harmony with the environment and brought the outdoors in. 

Frank Lloyd Wright always had complete trust in himself as an architect and structural engineer. In addition to designing the actual structure, Wright designed many of the interior elements of his buildings, such as the furniture and stained glass. 

Wright adored the inspiring works of classical composer Ludwig Van Beethoven. Beethoven followed certain principles in composing his grand symphonies, concertos, sonatas, quartets and other compositions. Wright held the belief that an architect should follow these same organizing and creative principles in building his or her masterpiece whether it was a home, commercial building, or museum. When you walked into one of Wright’s buildings you should feel the unity of a Beethoven symphony unfolding before you, embracing you with beauty, splendor, and tranquility. In his Autobiography he writes, “Beethoven’s music is the greatest proof of divine harmony alive in the human spirit. When I build I often hear his music.”

Like Beethoven, Wright was very romantic, brilliant, innovative, and often moody. Like Beethoven he approached large scale projects with complete freedom, pushing his architectural skills into new areas of expression. Like Beethoven, Wright took a simple idea and formed it into a large scale mindboggling work of genius.

Wright was very opinionated and set in his ways. His famous Pennsylvania structure Fallingwater, designed in 1935, was not built where his client, Edgar Kaufmann, wanted it to be built. Kaufmann had a location on his property that he wanted to view the waterfall from. Wright told him that he was building his home atop the waterfall and had no interest in building it anywhere else. Fallingwater is listed in the Smithsonian as one of the great examples of American architecture and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. 

For the record, Frank Lloyd Wright did not design the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. He was a consultant on the project to the official architect, Albert McArthur who worked with Wright from 1907-1909. Wright did not like the finished product and told Albert that the design of the Biltmore should be three stories, not four! 

In addition to admiring the beauty and grandeur of their artistry, what can we learn from Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Van Beethoven? The importance of passion, curiosity, romance, creativity, innovation, attention to detail, freedom of expression, self-confidence, the excitement of change, trusting yourself and in your abilities, conceiving a new idea and following through, harmony, and tranquility. Yes, we can always learn a great deal from hugely successful, inspired, and impassioned people because they awaken the spirit of imagination and possibility within us. 

Frank Lloyd Wright completed 532 state-of-the-art structures including homes, office buildings, churches, schools, hotels, and museums. He died on April 9, 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona at age 91.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross

In the mid-80’s, one of my graduate school instructors, Elizabeth Kubler Ross M.D., told me...

... a story that took place at one of her medical residencies. She was working in a children’s hospital that was divided into 4 wards. On one of the wards, the children were improving faster physically and psychologically than the children on the other three wards. Their improvements were so noticeable that it was brought to the attention of management. Physicians, social workers, psychologists, nurses, dietitians, and medical residents met many times to discuss and attempt to figure out why these children on this one ward were progressing more than the children on the other wards. They looked at differences in medication, staffing ratios, diet, and anything else that might bring light to the situation, but nothing did. 

Elizabeth decided to visit the ward on all three nursing shifts and discovered that the cleaning lady on the midnight to 7am shift picked up, held, cuddled, and played with each child. She sang songs to them, lovingly touched their noses, their cheeks, and stroked their forehead, all of which generated big smiles and laughter from the children. With all of their combined years of education and expertise in pediatrics, these doctors and professionals could not do what the cleaning lady did. Her secret was the healing power of touch.

As one of the primary senses, touch has not received the acclaim and research funding as the senses of hearing and vision. The study of touch or what is referred to as affective touch is considered unchartered territory. David Ginty, a neurophysiologist at Harvard University who is working to delineate the nerve circuits that control all aspects of touch states, “This is an incredibly exciting time. Over the next 5-10 years, we’re really going to crack open the circuits that underlie the responses to different types of touch under different conditions.” Genty believes that in the coming years we will be able to identify and develop new treatment solutions based on touch for conditions like spinal cord damage, chronic nerve pain, addictive disorders, and even autism.

The research in the area of touch is astounding and I hope that they find what they are looking for but separate from the research, we know from personal experience how wonderful touch feels. Most of us have had the opportunity to get an amazing massage or a deeply relaxing facial. But even more fundamental and significant are the simple acts of holding hands with a loved one; the feel of gentle hands on your shoulder; a back rub; giving and receiving a hug; the sensual feel of your body touching your partners body while dancing; the wondrous sensations of getting a foot massage; walking barefoot on the sand or soft grass in a park, or simply stepping into the cool and refreshing water in a creek or ocean are all experiences that result in the immediate release of the feel good hormone oxytocin.

Author Margaret Atwood wrote in Der blinde Mörder , “Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.”

Environmentalist John Muir

Before I read about the life of the great environmentalist, John Muir, I imagined ...

 ...t hat his parents introduced him to and taught him about the wonders of nature. What I discovered was something quite disturbing. John Muir’s father, who was a minister, beat him regularly with a belt insisting that his son study and memorize the bible. To soothe his wounds and rekindle his spirit, young Muir turned to Mother Nature and became the supreme protector of its natural resources.

In 1854 at the age of 16, John Muir left home to explore the world. On one of his journeys, he walked from Indiana to Florida, studying the terrain and creating botanical sketches of what he saw. On another journey he walked from San Diego to San Francisco and then to the Sierra Nevada range. This California sojourn literally transformed his life with what he referred to as, “An unconditional surrender to nature wherein I found the spirit and light of God.”

In 1893 Muir moved to Oakland, CA to write conservation oriented articles for leading magazines like Overland and Harper's. Muir was the relentless voice that fought for setting aside the high country around Yosemite Valley as a national park and the redwoods of Sequoia in 1890. In 1892 he established the Sierra Club to explore the mountain region of the Pacific Coast and to publish information with the ultimate goal of conservation. He began acting as an advisor to the National Forestry Commission that President Cleveland created in 1896. Muir believed only government control and limitations would guarantee the protection of forests. President Cleveland drew on Muir’s work to establish thirteen forest reserves and what became the US Forest Service. 

There were many logging businesses, developers, mining companies, and members of congress at the time that opposed Muir’s determination to set aside more large parcels of land for preservation. To push his agenda forward, Muir invited President Theodore Roosevelt to join him on a three-day camping trip in 1903 which could be considered the most significant camping trip in conservation history. On that trip Muir was able to persuade Roosevelt to bring Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias under federal protection as part of Yosemite National Park. Because of  Muir’s influence, Roosevelt set aside 148,000,000 acres of forest reserves, established the Petrified Forest National Monument to protect the fossilized trees of Northern Arizona, created 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, and 150 national forests. 

What happened to you in childhood was very important, but equally significant is what you do with the time you have now and the future you create. John Muir had a very tragic start to life at the hands of his abusive father.  Despite the hardships of his youth he befriended Mother Nature, put his time, energy and passion into protecting her, and created a legacy as America's most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist.  Muir wrote, “Keep close to nature's heart, climb a mountain, or spend a week in the woods and wash your spirit clean.”

Freud, Jung, and Hesse

In his mid-20’s, C.G. Jung was given a copy of Sigmund Freud’s newly published book, .....

..... The Interpretation of Dreams. Jung devoured the material since at the time there was nothing like it to be found. While reading this amazing book, Jung began corresponding with Freud and their respective letters to each other led to a meeting in 1907. Jung describes their 13 hour meeting as nothing less than phenomenal. Over the next 5 years, from 2007-2012, the two of them worked together to analyze each other’s dreams. In his Autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung dedicated two chapters to Freud, thanking him for his inspiring work and theories. But, he also made it clear that his parting with Freud came because he did not want to support some of Freud’s more controversial theories. Enraged at Jung’s audacity for not supporting all of his theories, Freud broke off their professional friendship.

After their parting, Jung went through what he described as a dark night of the soul for 5 years. But it was during this grieving and soul searching period he discovered ‘amazing things’ about himself, his relationship with his wife, and his work with his clients. These ‘things’ became the building blocks of his creative theories which included writings about the collective unconscious, archetypes, symbolism, psychic energy, synchronicity, alchemy, psychological complexes, and the spiritual and religious dimensions of the psyche. In short, the loss became the driving force for Jung to delve into the realm of his own unconscious and to create the theories for which he would become renowned. 

In 1916, Jung was contacted by writer Hermann Hesse who was going through considerable depression regarding the death of his father, the serious illness of his son, and the paralyzing mental illness of his wife. Hesse worked with Jung for 2 years, immersing himself into Jung’s unique style of dream work and active imagination wherein Hesse was guided to amplify, interpret, and integrate the symbolism in his dreams. As a result, Hesse again reached new heights of creativity in his thinking and writing and had two outstanding books published that today remain literary classics: Demian and Siddhartha. 

Jung’s loss of Freud’s friendship and Hesse’s losses are important reminders that loss comes to everyone, young and old, rich and poor, well-known and anonymous.  Divorce, separation, death, illness, financial challenge, unanticipated change, and a variety of other losses are all part of the drama and unfolding of life. We cannot shield ourselves from loss and the accompanying pain and grief but like Jung and Hesse, perhaps loss may miraculously open the way for a more challenging and perhaps fulfilling life. 

In facing and dealing with the emotional turmoil of a loss, you may discover inspiring books or philosophies that miraculously reshape your perception and thinking. During your loss a dream or series of dreams may give you important spiritual guidance. Your loss may open a door to a new and creative way of expressing yourself. In seeking help for your loss you may discover amazing resources that help you heal. 

L. Frank Baum

I love reading biographies about famous and successful people.

Their passion, creativity, focus, courage, and imagination continually inspire me to discover and uncover life in its fullest expressions. L. Frank Baum is one of those inspiring people. 

L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, worked as a journalist for the Chicago Evening Post in the early 1890’s and wrote dozens of articles supporting women’s right to vote. His mother-in-law was a devout feminist and women’s rights leader who marched with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founders of the Women’s National Liberal Union. The union was dedicated to the separation of church and state and focused on social reform. Baum was an advocate of equal rights for women and marched alongside his wife and mother-in-law in support of social reform.

His talent for writing combined with his vivid imagination led to the publication of 6 children’s books, 13 sequels to the Wizard of Oz, 55 novels and 82 short stories. Baum’s illustrator, W. W. Denslow, took Baum’s descriptions of Dorothy and her entourage and created the wonderful characters that we have come to love. Prior to teaming up with Denslow, Baum worked with artist Maxfield Parrish who illustrated his books. 

Groups of children, including his 4 sons, regularly gathered in his office and listened to his imaginative tales of Dorothy and her friends in the magical Land of Oz. His mother-in-law encouraged him to write down these enchanting stories and to organize them into a children’s book. 

In 1892 Baum joined the Theosophical Society in Chicago and the philosophy deeply influenced his thinking. Theosophy avows that everything from the subatomic to plants, animals, humans, planets, stars and galaxies is alive and evolving. It espouses the essential oneness of all beings, universal brotherhood and sisterhood, and expressing altruism and compassion for all. The ultimate goal of life is to search for and discover truth. All of these became themes in Baum’s 14 books about the Land of Oz.

Baum was a consummate observer of life, drew inspiration from his past, his day dreams and night dreams, and put these memories into his stories and books. When Baum saw the design of the futuristic city, the White City, at the Chicago World Expo in 1893, it later became the inspiration for his Emerald City. His heart condition and deep love for his wife was transformed into the Tin Woodman’s tale and his nightmare about being chased by a scarecrow became a Scarecrow searching for a brain.

Baum, most likely, invented 8 year old Dorothy as the compassionate and courageous daughter he always wanted but never had. With an indomitable will, she magically and successfully maneuvers through the unfamiliar and unpredictable Land of Oz, defies both the Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch, and finds salvation for herself and her companions.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, first published in 1900, won best children’s book two years in a row and the 1939 film has been seen by over 2 billion and is the most viewed film in the history of cinema

Mark Twain

Sam Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was an American author ...

...and humorist who wrote many classic novels including: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Prince and the Pauper. Mark Twain wrote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Twain became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River and it was this venture that resulted in his pen name Mark Twain which refers to a measured river depth of two fathoms. His first claim to fame came from a humorous story he wrote about the jumping frog contest held in Angels Camp, California. His story was published in a New York weekly, The Saturday Press, and it won international attention and inspired him to continue to write more. Twain not only became a hugely successful writer, but he was also in high demand as a speaker. Over the years his writings and presentations brought him fame. People of all stations of life, from farmers to American Presidents, knew and appreciated his wit and his creative skill with words. 

President William Howard Taft said, "Mark Twain gave pleasure – real intellectual enjoyment – to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come ... His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He is an enduring part of American literature."

One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

One of the things Twain is saying is that oftentimes we get too caught up worrying about what could happen, what might happen, and the what ifs that lead to desolation row. Within our own lives, let imagination be used to envision what is possible and ultimately fulfilling. Imagination can take us to the heights of heaven or the depths of Hades, depending upon how we use it. Life is challenging enough without writing stories in our head of future misfortunes that may never come to pass. We could probably all recall tales of woe that never turned out quite as bad as we had envisioned and a few that did!

Mark Twain’s brother Henry was killed in 1858 when the steamboat he was working on, the Pennsylvania, exploded. Twain had witnessed his death in a dream a month earlier and held himself responsible for the rest of his life. He experienced other devastating personal losses including his wife’s death and the early deaths of his two daughters.

Mark Twain was born in 1835, shortly after Halley’s Comet made its closest approach to earth. In 1909 he wrote, "I came in with Halley's Comet. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, “Now here are two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together."

His prediction was accurate. Mark Twain died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, one day after the comets closest approach to earth. 

Abraham Maslow

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the pioneering work of psychologist Abraham Maslow,

... founder of the school of Humanistic Psychology. His research set the tone for a new and positive direction in the field of psychology. 

Maslow was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and was the oldest of 7 children. After high school he attended City College of New York but dropped out after a year because he hated the curriculum there. In 1927 he began studies at Cornell University but left after one semester because of poor grades. He went back to City College, completed his studies there, and then went on to the University of Wisconsin in 1935 where he got his degree in psychology. He went to graduate school at Columbia University where he met the man who would deeply influence him and the future creation of his theories of human nature, Alfred Adler. 

In graduate school Maslow began to question how the field of psychology came to its conclusions about the human mind and mental illness. Therefore, in contrast to conventional psychology which solely studied the mentally ill and created theories of mental illness and pathology based upon that research, Maslow studied mentally healthy people who were generally happy, creative, and involved with life. Maslow said that if the field of psychology only studied and classified mental illnesses, we would continue to have a ‘sick psychology’. In order for the field of psychology to truly progress and to understand the full dynamics of the mind and human nature, psychology must also study creative, fulfilled, and well-adjusted people; those that Maslow referred to as peak achievers.

Maslow’s research boldly looked at how people develop feelings of safety, security, love, friendship, intimacy, accomplishment, and fulfillment. For those who lived life more in this transcendent realm of consciousness, peak experiences were the most important and most precious things in their lives. He found that peak achievers noticed the beauty and sacredness in everyday life more frequently, felt a deep connection with a Higher power, felt a reverence for the fragility of human nature, experienced more unconditional love and fewer judgments for themselves and others, and were a powerful source for manifesting harmony and good will. These attributes created the foundation for the human potential movement he inspired in the late 50’s and 60’s.

In 1986, organizational psychologist Marsha Sinetar wrote a fascinating book based upon the work of Maslow titled, Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics. Sinetar interviewed hundreds of people and came to the conclusion that ordinary people, people like you and me, can and do live in ways that express their highest and most cherished values, values that are the most prized universally and collectively throughout history.

Abraham Maslow was a trail blazer who taught us that we have an innate potential for greatness. One of his best books, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, created a much needed consciousness and balance within the field of psychology and was the inspiration for the transpersonal/spiritual psychology movement in the early 70’s. 

Mother Teresa

I remember talking to Gerald Jampolsky, MD, while he was in Santa Barbara ...

... about his visit with Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic Nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity, which in 2012 consisted of over 7,500 sisters and brothers, operating 610 missions in 133 countries. Their goal is to provide basic medical services and food to the poorest of the poor. Jampolsky is best known for his book, Love is Letting Go of Fear. He told me that he traveled to India to meet her because he believed she demonstrated a perfect balance of dedication to work and to spiritual life and he wanted to learn from her how she did this. He went on to say that he experienced an inner stillness while he was in her presence. Her love for humanity, gentle manner, and inner peace deeply impressed him. 

Mother Teresa always said publicly and in her books that in order to help the down trodden you did not need to go to India and work with her. She said that there is plenty of work to do in your own community. Her suggestions were to work within your own family, neighborhood, or city, find those who need help and provide whatever assistance may be needed.

A controversial figure both during her life and after her death, Mother Teresa was widely admired by many for her charitable work. She was the recipient of numerous honors including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She was a sought after speaker and her speaking engagements included a commencement speech at Harvard University in 1982. Mother Teresa appeared on the cover of every major magazine in the 70’s and 80’s. 

Mother Teresa’s message is that helping others is the reason we are here. She made a strong point that one of the most important goals of any nation is to end poverty. On September 16, 2015 the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the official poverty rate in 2014 was 14.8%, which means there were 46.7 million people living in poverty in America. Neither the poverty rate nor the number of people living in poverty was statistically different from 2013 estimates. This marks the fourth consecutive year in which the number of people in poverty was not statistically different from the previous year’s estimate. 

Mother Teresa died in Calcutta, India on September 5, 1997. The anniversary of her death, September 5th, has been designated as the International Day of Charity by the United Nations General Assembly.

Mother Teresa said, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” 

Saint Francis of Assisi

“The mind is like the lens of a camera. If it is clear and unclouded, whatever we see...

...and create will be true. When the lens of the mind is distorted by unresolved wants and needs, we cannot perceive what is true.” Ann Mortfee

The mind is an amazing faculty. Because of the power of the mind to think optimistically, we are inspired to help others in need and to make decisions that positively impact our life and the lives of others. As we watch the news and daily world events, we are quite aware that the opposite is also true; through the power of the mind to think negatively, we are moved to be revengeful, fearful, and to hurt others.


When we were children, we looked at the world through the thoughts and eyes of our parents. If our parents had lots of problems and resentments, they unfortunately passed them onto us. If our parents were generally happy and appreciative of life, they passed those qualities onto us as well. The emotional environment of our home of origin contributed to the development of our mind and how we view the world, the fears that take hold of us and the level of intimacy we embrace and share with another. In short, our parents were our first teachers of love and of fear. 

I remember reading a marvelous book about the life of St. Francis of Assisi authored by Nikos Kazantzakis and an inspiring story he shared. St. Francis was speaking about the battle that raged within him. He could hear his father’s voice crying within him, “Earn money, get rich, and become a nobleman. Only the rich and noble deserve to live in this world. Don’t be good; once good, you’re finished! Don’t try to make people love you; try to make them fear you. And never forgive wrong doing!”  

He could also hear his mother’ voice softly inside of him, “Be good dear Francis. You must love the poor, the humble, the oppressed. If someone injures you, forgive him.” Francis said that for most of his life he tried to reconcile their voices. 

Each one of us can probably recall the values that we were raised with. If we sat down with paper and pen and wrote down the best and worst qualities of mom and dad, we might discover we are like each of them in essential ways. Do you recall the lessons of life your father tried to instill within you? Do you recall the lessons of life your mother tried to instill within you? What did you learn about love and being loved from your parents? Do you view the world today more through dad’s eyes or through mom’s eyes? 

The important thing is to know the truth about where the many facets of your personality came from and what thoughts and attitudes are yours and which ones belong to someone else. Once the mind is clear and unclouded, we can make the choices that result in living a more pleasurable and fulfilling life. Mother Teresa always said publically and in her books that in order to help the down trodden you did not need to go to India and work with her. She said that there is plenty of work to do in your own community. Her suggestions were to work within your own family, neighborhood, or city, find those who need help and provide whatever assistance may be needed.

A controversial figure both during her life and after her death, Mother Teresa was widely admired by many for her charitable work. She was the recipient of numerous honors including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She was a sought after speaker and her speaking engagements included a commencement speech at Harvard University in 1982. Mother Teresa appeared on the cover of every major magazine in the 70’s and 80’s. 

Mother Teresa’s message is that helping others is the reason we are here. She made a strong point that one of the most important goals of any nation is to end poverty. On September 16, 2015 the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the official poverty rate in 2014 was 14.8%, which means there were 46.7 million people living in poverty in America. Neither the poverty rate nor the number of people living in poverty was statistically different from 2013 estimates. This marks the fourth consecutive year in which the number of people in poverty was not statistically different from the previous year’s estimate. 

Mother Teresa died in Calcutta, India on September 5, 1997. The anniversary of her death, September 5th, has been designated as the International Day of Charity by the United Nations General Assembly.

Mother Teresa said, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.” 

Vincent Van Gogh

Dear Theo is a collection of hundreds of letters Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother ...

...and closest friend Theo, an art dealer in Amsterdam. In these letters, Van Gogh told amazing stories of his discoveries of the beauty and wonder of nature and the people that captured his attention, all of which became the subjects for over 900 paintings he made between 1880 and 1890. In 1878 he wrote, “Great art feeds the inner life, the heart, mind, and soul.”

Unlike Mozart, Van Gogh was not a child prodigy. As an adult, Van Gogh slowly and systematically first learned how to draw and then slowly learned how to mix paint to create color. Once he learned this, he gradually began to develop his skills as a painter. 

When Van Gogh moved to Paris, his art began to take on a unique style. His daring approach to painting was to paint outdoors and to fervently apply the colorful paint with thick and bold brushstrokes. But, fame would not come to him for many decades following his early death at age 37 in 1890. The tragedy of Van Gogh is that he only sold one painting in his lifetime and this one sale came four months before his death. His bouts with depression and rage are well documented but make sense for what he perceived as total rejection by the general public and his Impressionistic colleagues of his artistry. 

After Vincent’s death, Theo died just six months later and was buried next to his brother. Theo’s wife Johanna inherited all of Vincent’s paintings and dedicated her life to arranging public showings all over the world, thus bringing his remarkable art to the attention of millions. 100 years after his death, seven of Van Gogh’s paintings sold at auction for a total of 700 million dollars. Today those same paintings are worth over one billion dollars.


People’s perceptions of Van Gogh are that he was a mentally unstable artist, but if you look beyond what you’ve heard and read you will discover that he was a passionate and compassionate artist, a gifted writer, and a profound thinker. At age 25 he wrote, “The best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, whatever you like, but love with a lofty and intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence, and always try to go deeper and learn more.”

Passionate artists like Vincent Van Gogh have a lot to teach you as you take stock of all of the things that exhilarate you and put a smile on your face. Perhaps music, dancing, film, cooking, hiking or volunteering for an important cause continues to challenge and delight you. In thinking more about this, you might discover your fervor for writing, art, gardening, or interior design. No matter what it is, the important thing, like Vincent said, is to always go deeper and continue to learn more. 

Walt Disney

Walt Disney was a very unusual student. When his elementary school teacher asked...

...the class to sketch the flower vase she placed on her desk, young Walt sketched it with added arms, legs, and a smiling flower at the top. His teacher scolded him for not paying attention to her instructions to just draw the vase! Walt courteously listened to her complaints but continued to draw what he saw in his vivid imagination. Years later, animals, plants and objects with human voices and attributes became a Disney trademark.

By age twenty, Walt Disney was hired to draw cartoons for the Kansas City Film Ad Company. Within a short time he was drawing cartoons that moved but they still didn’t move in the way he envisioned they could. He studied and worked tirelessly towards making drawings move in more graceful and sophisticated ways so they would have greater realism. These drawings and experiments took thousands of hours to perfect.

Disney was the first person to sell the idea of having a cartoon open for a feature film. As a door to door salesman, he sold cartoons by the linear foot to local movie theatres. Most theatre owners didn’t understand why a movie-goer would want to watch this new form of entertainment. Walt was not put off. His focus, determination, and passion for animation and creating laugh-out-loud characters won over all opposition and eventually made him a legend.

When he was 28, he came up with the idea of a little character named Mortimer Mouse.  His wife thought that it was a dreadful name and suggested something more enticing like Mickey Mouse. The name really stuck a chord within Disney. Intrigued by the new talking films that were beginning to gain in popularity, Disney worked tirelessly to synchronize Mickey’s movements to sound, making it the first carton of its kind. He named his first animated talking cartoon Steamboat Willie. The year was 1927. Most theatre owners told him that the public would not be interested in a mouse that talked. Disney pushed ahead despite their cynicism. Within a few years, Mickey Mouse was the most popular cartoon character in the country. By 1935, the Mickey Mouse Club had over 1.5 million members. 

Passion is an amazing force. We look at the lives of passionate people, not to be humbled by what they did, but to be inspired and encouraged. Their determination will hopefully arouse our enthusiasm and passion for doing something that we believe in.

Never lose sight of what arouses your passion. You might discover your passion for writing, art, or film. Perhaps music, dancing, cooking, biking, hiking, exercise, or volunteering for an important cause you deeply believe in ignite your passion. Perhaps your job or your career continues to stir your passion. No matter what it is, find your passion in life and life will continue to reward you with amazing surprises. Find your passion and let it take you to new heights of self-expression and self-discovery.