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MOUNT RUSHMORE – A PLACE I WOULD LIKE TO VISIT

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a large-scale mountain sculpture by artist Gutzon Borglum. The figures of America’s most prominent U.S. presidents–George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt—represent 150 years of American history.

The Memorial is located near Keystone in the Black Hills of South Dakota, roughly 30 miles from Rapid City.

Each year, approximately three million tourists from all over the world visit Mount Rushmore to experience this patriotic site. Today, the wonder of the mountain reverberates through every visitor. The four “great faces” of the presidents tower 5,725 feet above sea level and are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall.

There are many amenities at the site including  the Mount Rushmore Audio Tour, Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center & Museum, the Presidential Trail, Youth Exploration Area, Sculptor’s Studio, a parking garage with R.V. parking, pet exercise areas, , the Carvers Café, Memorial Ice Cream Shop, Gift Shop and the Mount Rushmore Bookstores.

Construction.  There are some exciting upgrades coming to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The enhancements will address deferred maintenance, visitor safety and accessibility to the memorial. Please note that the memorial is OPEN during construction. There are lots of things to see and do while construction is going on at Mount Rushmore. Below is a TOP 10 LIST OF THINGS TO DO AT MOUNT RUSHMORE.

Viewing Mount Rushmore Still Possible During Construction Project.  While the visitor center is unavailable during the construction project, you are still able to view Mount Rushmore from many areas throughout the memorial. Ask a park ranger in the Information Center for current information.

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DIRECTIONS: 

Visitors traveling on I-90 should exit at Rapid City and follow Highway 16 southwest to Keystone and then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore. Visitors coming from the south should follow Highway 385 north to Highway 244, which is the road leading to the memorial.

History

HOURS: 

March 8 – October 31:
5:00 am – 11:00 pm

November 1 – March 12:
5:00 am to 11:00 pm

Mount Rushmore National Memorial facilities are open year-round, seven days a week, with December 25th being the exception.

FEES: 

You will not have to pay an entrance fee to visit Mount Rushmore National Monument, but there are parking fees.

Current Parking Fees (2019)

  • Cars, Motorcycles & RVs – $10 (Parking fee is for private passenger vehicles, valid for one year from date of purchase).
  • Seniors, 62 and older – $5 (Parking fee is for private passenger vehicles, valid for one year from date of purchase).
  • Active Duty Military – FREE (Parking fee is for private passenger vehicles, valid for one year from date of purchase).
  • Commercial Tour Bus – $50 (Valid for 24 hours from the time of purchase).
  • School Bus – $25 (Valid for 24 hours from the time of purchase).

The National Park Annual Park Pass, Federal interagency, military, senior and access passes are not accepted as Federal funding was not used in the building of the parking garage.

1. LOVE LIFE 2. DO GOOD 3. LIVE WELL

About 2 years before I started this website (around 2015), I was going through a spiritual phase I guess you could call it. (Still kinda am in this phase).  I was trying to figure out the purpose of my life, (What is my purpose here on earth)?  what I wanted to do, be, and how I wanted to contribute. I had a lot of thoughts flowing through my mind about what sort of life I wanted to create and experience and came up with a short phrase to remind me what is truly important to me and that’s how, “Love Life. Do Good. Live Well.” came to be. This is my interpretation.

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Love Life

In essence, to me this means to love everything around me, people, nature, moments, experiences, spirituality, and so on. It’s about realizing that life is a gift. It’s about cherishing the relationships and bonds that I have with the people in my life. It’s about remembering that life would be pretty lame without them. It’s about loving myself for who I am and seeing enough in myself to follow my dreams.

It’s often easy to forget these things with all of the challenges and stress that goes on in everyday life but if you’ve ever had the experience of seeing a loved one going through their final days, you may realize that most of the little things people fuss about isn’t all that significant in the whole grand scheme of things and even the little moments of happiness can mean the world to you.

Something as simple as flying a kite at the park can suddenly be one of the cherished memories you have that can bring you to tears. It’s about remembering that our time here is limited and not to waste too much of it doing pointless things. We only live once so we gotta make this life count.

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Do Good

This basically means to give back. Whether it’s donating time, money, sharing my knowledge or anything else, as long as I’m making some positive impact, then I feel like I’m doing something to contribute to the world no matter how small.

You may be in a position where giving is tough. Whether you don’t have much money or much time, giving isn’t always an easy thing to do. If you’re in this situation, then work hard on improving your life and putting yourself in a better position to help others. Some people just do enough to help themselves and that’s fine. However, if you ever have the urge to do so, consider reaching beyond your own needs. The feeling of making a positive impact on someone’s life is just amazing.

Doing good doesn’t have to be anything big either. It could be anything from creating music that others will enjoy to making videos that put a smile on people’s face to running a marathon for some cause to inspiring people to giving some of your time to making a small donation to your favorite charity.

It’s also a reminder to just be kind to people. Sure, we all have our differences but who’s to say that if you grew up in the other person’s shoes that you wouldn’t end up being the same way? Although the media makes this world look like a crap hole, I believe that there are way more good people than bad people in this world.

If you strip away the outer layer, you’ll find that most of us want the same things. We want to be loved, be accepted, feel secure, and know that our existence matters to someone.

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Live Well

To me, this means to live a healthy as well as a financially successful life. You could have lots of money but if your health isn’t great, you’ll have a hard time enjoying life. If you have great health but no money, you’ll be working all day just to pay the bills.

I realize that money isn’t everything but people with money can do a lot more in terms of inspiring and helping others than people who are flat out broke and are solely focused on making ends meet.

Imagine being in a position where money wasn’t an issue. Think about how much more you can do with an extra 40 hours a week. You could do what you have a passion for. You could learn new skills. You could travel and explore new places, meet new people, and create moments that will last a life time.

Being in a position where you work because you want to instead of working because you have to will make life a lot more enjoyable.

Taking care of your health shouldn’t be something you start doing only after your doctor tells you some bad news. Another piece of junk food isn’t going to harm you. Another cigarette isn’t going to kill you. Not exercising today won’t matter much to your health. However, doing these things each day over a certain amount of time will destroy your health.

It takes some discipline but would you rather be 54 and healthy or living each day in pain, having tubes hooked up to you, and feeling bad for being a burden on your loved ones?

Love Life. Do Good. Live Well. – These are the words that remind me each day of what’s truly important to me.

Until next time…

Love Life. Do Good. Live Well.

Just Some Random Thoughts

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In every second

With every breath

Universes expand and collapse

Endless opportunities open up

And disappear

The countless choices we have

But don’t see

Vanish with the blink of our eye

Due to the trodden paths of our own perception

Our soul

Suffocated

In seas of limiting beliefs

Fears

Of the judgement of others

And Expectations that burden us

Our own creative force

Drained

But it’s a choice

That everyone faces

Every single moment

Choose to be the creator

Or be a victim

It is up to you

It’s a jump

Trust is the safety net

And bliss the prize

Boost Your CUSTOMER SERVICE With These Tips

Customer service involves much more than answering questions over the phone. Responding to tickets through email, live chat, and social media are equally important communication channels for customers. While there’s plenty of overlap in the customer service skills required to do a great job, each customer service channel benefits from a unique approach to these skills.

For example, there are important customer service skills associated with phone support, such as empathy, the ability to “read” a customer’s emotional state, clear communication, and friendliness. But things emotional cues are much harder to read in writing, so additional customer service skills for newer customer-facing channels need to be developed and improved upon (in order to make those channels more viable for customers).

Whether you’re interviewing or brushing up your customer service skills for your resume, it’s good to remember that most customer support managers aren’t just interviewing for technical skills. They’ll be looking for team members that can demonstrate real customer service skills.

The following examples are the good customer service skills that all customer service professionals strive to master:

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1. Smile, literally

Smiles translate through the phone but should be used at appropriate times. You don’t want your customer service to come off as inauthentic, but you should still always be cordial during conversations. Smile as you would in a face-to-face conversation while responding to questions and conveying necessary information.

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2. Mirror a customer’s’ language and tone

Part of the job in customer service is mirroring a customer’s language and tone. Mirroring another person’s language and tone can help create a connection. That said, if a customer is angry, you don’t want to copy their frustration. Instead, you can try increasing your volume just a little and then quickly work to bring the intensity down a notch. Customers respond well when the help they’re receiving is coming from someone who’s clearly level-headed.

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3. Listen first, then validate the problem

When customers are upset or frustrated, they might not be able to take in what you say—even if it’s the right answer. Listen first, let them calm down, and then try to help solve their problems. Empathy is a crucial ability in customer service, so make sure you know exactly what you’re showing empathy towards.

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4. Acknowledge the customer

Customers need to feel heard, so tell them that you understand the reason for their call. They’ll appreciate the touch of empathy and it’ll go a long way towards making an angry customer’s experience much better. Customer service that accurately recognizes what ails the customer comes off as more human and reflects well on the company.

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5. Summarize your help

You’ve got to listen to a customer’s problems in order to repeat information to them with supportive language, and do so in a way that summarizes the help that you’re providing them. Being able to adequately communicate all that you’re doing to help is a top job skill for customer service agents.

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6. Communicate hold times

Even if you’ve just handled a call really well, you can lose a customer by leaving them on hold for too long. This is especially true if you haven’t set their expectations first—it will make them feel like their questions don’t matter, and ultimately reflects poorly on your customer service and your company’s reputation.

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7. Use templates, not boilerplates

For efficient customer service, you’ll want to use templates that include some pre-written text. At Zendesk, we call them macros. Templates are like guidelines—they shouldn’t be overly rigid and unwavering, but can provide a helpful structure for common responses (like a list for step-by-step responses). Even though the whole team can use it, you’ll want to personalize your own answer before replying to customers. This leads to a more personal interaction (and a more fulfilling customer service job).

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8. Make a template your own (with a personal spin)

It’s okay to use your own voice and approach when providing customer service, even as you reflect your company’s persona and philosophies. Think about how you might make your own signature unique or consider different ways to close the email depending on the tone and resolution of the interaction.

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9. Be considerate of timeframes

Emails, especially a first response, need to be answered within a defined timeframe. A great email support agent will prioritize their responses by urgency and how long they’ve been sitting for. There’s a chance your customer was spoiled during the sales process and expects similar treatment in customer service—having a great customer service platform will help make that responsibility easier.

10. Imitate the customer’s language and phrasing in text

Similar to phone support, it’s great to mirror a customer’s language or phrasing in an email to show them that you understand and acknowledge their issue. This helps to create rapport and establishes a better relationship, making it easier for them to receive the information they need.

11. Always use a considerate tone over email or text

Tone can be hard to decipher over chat, especially since the responses can be short, quick, and incomplete. It’s an essential customer service skill to choose your words carefully. A good rule of thumb is to use a gentle, informative tone—patience is a critical ability when faced with a very frustrated customer.

12. Be comfortable with multitasking

Live chat agents are expected to handle more than one chat at a time, which is a skill in itself. Great multitaskers don’t lose sight of the bigger picture as they’re bombarded by questions. Be careful not to handle too many chats, or else your customers will be waiting too long between responses. You can always put a chat “on hold” if you need more time to find an answer, but just like with phone support, set their expectations first!

13. Look for cues if something is unclear

Sometimes it’s harder for customers to express themselves by writing, so don’t read too quickly and jump to conclusions. It takes a lot of training to understand the nuances of different customers, but it’s part of what makes someone successful at a job in customer service. For example, someone that works in sales might come off as assertive while you’re providing them support, while an engineer might need complex technical details to see their problem solved. Being able to read specific cues is a problem-solving skill that can give agents a better idea of how they can help.

14. On social media, (almost) always respond

Always respond to a customer’s social post—especially when they need help. Even if you can’t answer right away, make quick initial contact with them and let them know where and when you’ll respond. Providing speedy responses means you’ve got to be adept in addressing a customer’s problem in a precise and polite tone.

15. Don’t take obvious bait

The exception to “always respond” is when you are confronted with an obvious attempt to create an altercation in a public space. These comments are often directed at the company itself, and sometimes other people will quickly take the bait. Most organizations know they can’t afford to have a customer service agent who makes mistakes on social media. The damage to the company’s reputation can be far-reaching.

16. Determine if something should be handled by support or another department

Social media contacts occasionally walk a line between something that should be handled by support and something that should be handled by marketing. It’s an important skill that an agent will know what should be a ticket and what should be forwarded to another team.

Agents need customer service skills specific to each support channel

The best customer service employee will be able to move easily between channels and solve problems with the skills that best suit each channel. If you can hone your ability to practice empathy and communicate your product knowledge with customers, you’ll be a rock star in customer service.

What follows are our tips and solutions for improving your skills by specific channels, excerpted from the eBook Customer Service Skills You Need.

Phone support: How’s your “phone voice”?

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Some say we wear our emotions on our sleeve, but others might say we convey our emotions through our voice. Customer service employees know from experience how frustration and anger translates through the phone lines. And, of course, that communication is a two-way street; phone agents reading from a script must consider their tone.

The following are what’s needed for skilled phone support:

  1. Smile, literally
  2. Mirror a customer’s’ language and tone
  3. Listen first, then validate the problem
  4. Acknowledge the customer
  5. Summarize the problem
  6. Communicate hold times

Email support: You are not a robot

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Honing your writing skills is especially important when providing email support. The email response is arguably the most structured response and requires the most precision. You must write with clarity and brevity while detailing a list of issues while also taking the time to proofread and correct any mistakes.

Here’s what you’ll need for great email support in any situation:

  1. Use templates, not boilerplates
  2. Make the templates your own
  3. Respond in a defined timeframe
  4. Imitate a customer’s phrasing

Chat support: Multitasking is a key skill


Providing great live chat support requires a cross of phone and email skills. Chat is conversational and real-time, just like customer service over the phone, but it also requires strong writing skills.

Here’s what every great live chat agent needs to pay attention to:

  1. Use a gentle, informative tone
  2. Multitask
  3. Read customer cues

Social support calls for speedy deliveries


Social media support requires a combination of all of the above skills. When live chat isn’t available, customers turn to social media for an exceptionally fast response. The skillset required to provide customer service on social media is generally a bit advanced, and often saved for more senior or specialized customer service agents.

The following skills are crucial for social media support:

  1. (Almost) always respond
  2. React carefully to confrontation
  3. Differentiate social media tickets

Just Some Points To Ponder…

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As far as jobs or hobbies go, blogging is one of the more fulfilling options out there. We all have something that we’d like to get off our chest and some knowledge to share with others. However, while blogging can be fun and fulfilling, it can also be challenging. Delve a little deeper into it and you will need change the way you think to adapt. If you spend a lot of time doing something you will get better at it and achieve a certain degree of mastery, which in turn will teach you some important life lessons. There is a lot to learn from the journey and blogging on a regular basis can definitely give you some unique insights.

1. It doesn’t take much to get started in a new direction

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All it takes to get started with a new project in your life is to make that initial leap of faith. Once you’ve resolved to make a change you can jump right in. The progress will be gradual but you can make huge progress initially if you are driven. With some research and a bit of practice you can learn how to run a successful blog and apply the principles that the pros use right from the start. This works for other parts of life quite well.

Want to get in shape? Find a sound, well-written beginner program and do your research on the right type of exercise and nutrition that will allow you to reach your goals. Then you just stick with it and give it your 100% on a regular basis. Getting started is surprisingly easy. Even if it’s something that you’ve never done before, it’s the consistency and motivation part that trips people up.

2. There is always more work to be done

At first it seems like you can spend an hour or two of your free time at the computer typing away and manage to run a blog without it really affecting your life in a big way. When you start to take it seriously your research can take you in several directions and you will start learning more and more on a subject.

You will become interested in a few different topics – you brush up on your grammar, work on improving your vocabulary, look at some writing tips, search the web for good pictures or gifs, start doing your own DIY projects or shop around for cool tech gadgets, you spend a few hours on social media… If you decide to do something meaningful you will want to do it well, and you will learn that there is always more work to be done. Self-improvement is a never-ending story and the more effort you put in, the more benefits you reap.

3. You may have hidden talents that you never knew about

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We are all born with certain strengths and weaknesses. As much as people like to say that everyone has equal opportunity, it’s hard not to argue that we all have some inborn talents that allow us to potentially reach a much higher level of skill in some areas; however we are often unaware of some of these talents.

Proven Strategies to Help Overcome Adversity

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More motivated. More confident. More competent.

It’s not until you start reading and writing about all kinds of different topics and try your hand at different disciplines that you start to realize just how much something suits you. Have you tried playing the guitar, cooking, creating DIY furniture, running or singing? You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that you aren’t half bad at it – and that it gives you plenty of enjoyment.

4. All it takes to get good at something is time and patience

People always want to hear about secret knowledge and take shortcuts to achieving their goals. One of the biggest truths in life is that mastering something is all about boring repetition. It takes plenty of time to get really good and the most important virtues you can have are patience and grim determination. You always keep coming back to the basics, perfecting them so that you can build upon them and develop further. It may take you an entire afternoon to write 1000 words at first, but if you keep going and write 1000 words every day, you’ll eventually get to a point where things come naturally and motivation isn’t an issue.

5. A good daily routine will lead you to success

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The best way to ensure that you stay motivated enough to dedicate the necessary time into a project is to develop a routine. Human beings are creatures of habit and we tend to work best when we have a set schedule. You can try to write when the mood strikes, but it becomes too easy to procrastinate and a whole day can go by without a muse coming to inspire you. Once you start living by a simple schedule and break your day up into several routine tasks, you’ll quickly notice that you are able to get things done much more efficiently. You may even end up with more free time once you learn to be more productive.

6. Think twice before you speak

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It’s easy to get carried away and mention things that may not be completely accurate while talking about a subject. You can also throw around unverified information that you’ve heard somewhere at some point and regard it as a cold hard fact. When you share your thoughts with a large and ethnically diverse audience, you become aware of the importance of fact-checking and thinking about what you are going to say. The backlash in the comments can be a really sobering experience. Thankfully, among the hordes of hateful trolls there are always a few people out there who offer constructive criticism and correct you without trying to insult you in the process.

Critically considering the ideas you have, checking the credibility of the sources, looking at the possible implications and ways your words can potentially be misinterpreted – all these things allow you to express yourself better. By weighing your words carefully before you speak you ensure that you don’t spread misinformation, draw bad conclusions or come across as ignorant, arrogant or offensive.

7. Don’t try to impose your views on others – be tolerant of different opinions

A mistake a lot of new bloggers tend to make is to stick to their specific views and paint them as the “right way” or *cue dramatic music* “the truth”. Things are never black and white; every issue has a wide plethora of vibrant colors, each with a bunch of unique shades. If you believe that you are objectively right because you have personal experience and plenty of facts to back you up, then you can calmly and respectfully critique someone’s claims. Don’t just dismiss beliefs and opinions of others (especially on polarizing topics) as “bad” or “dumb”. You should always come from a place of understanding and be open for an intelligent discussion.

8. Don’t waste your energy on things that aren’t important

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You can sometimes get so caught up in the minutiae that you forget about the big picture, or you end up wasting a lot of time on little things like weighing up which phrase to use or choosing just the right picture. I’ll be the first to say that the devil is in the details, but beyond a certain point your eye for detail becomes an obsession which limits your productivity. Adopt the 80/20 rule to life: focus 80% of your time on a few things that can give you the greatest results and 20% of time on everything else. Another way in which this applies to life is that you shouldn’t waste your energy on people who drain you emotionally and whose company you don’t enjoy. Keep good company and focus on developing connections with people that can help you move forward and improve.

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time blogging will agree that you get a whole lot more out of the experience than just the satisfaction you get from writing about what you love. There are plenty of important life lessons that you learn along the way and these can be applied to virtually any facet of life in order to better yourself and become happier.

Want To Step Up Your FOCUS? Then you Need To Read This…

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Whether you want to be a Jeopardy! champion or just need to remember where you parked your car, here are 11 things you can do right now to turn your mind from a sieve into a steel trap.

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1. Concentrate for 8 Seconds.

These days we’re all about things being faster. That’s why this advice is invaluable: When you really need to remember something, concentrate on it for at least 8 seconds. That can seem like a long time when you’re running around trying to get a million things done, but it is worth it. Studies have shown that 8 seconds is the minimum amount of time it takes for a piece of information to go from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.

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2. Don’t Walk Through a Doorway.

We’ve all walked into a room and suddenly realized we can’t remember why we needed to be there in the first place. Don’t worry, you’re not getting more forgetful—chances are it was the act of walking through a doorway that made you go completely blank. Researchers found that participants in both virtual and real-world studies were far more likely to forget what object they had just placed in a container if they were asked right after walking through a doorway than if they carried the object the same distance in a single room. Scientists have yet to figure out why, but something about entering a new place seems to restart our memory.

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3. Make a Fist.

If you’re having trouble remembering things at work, get a stress ball. The act of clenching your fist, if done correctly, can significantly improve your ability to recall information. Studies show that if you are right-handed, you should make a fist with your right hand before you try to memorize a piece of information. Then when you need to remember it, clench your left hand (the process is reversed for lefties.) Be sure to hold that position for a little while though; the study that discovered this had the participants squeezing for a good 45 seconds before letting go.

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4. Exercise.

At this point we should just accept it that science considers exercise the cure for absolutely any problem, and memory is no different. The physical act increases alertness and oxygen supply to the brain, and may even increase cell growth in the parts of your brain responsible for memory. One study found that right after light exercise, women were able to recall things better than they could before working up a sweat. And while a quick jog can help you out right now, it is even more effective over the long term. A different study found that women who kept fit over six months significantly improved both their verbal and spatial memory.

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5. Sleep.

At some point in high school or college, almost everyone has tried to pull an all-nighter before a big test (or so pop culture would have us believe). But even if you left your cramming until almost the last minute, it is more beneficial to get a good night’s sleep than to study until dawn. Studies have found that the processes your brain goes through while you’re asleep actually help you remember information better the next day. Your brain is bombarded with stimuli when you’re awake, and it uses the time you are asleep to process everything. That’s when it gets rid of unnecessary information and doubles down on remembering important things, like all that stuff in your biology textbook. Sleep is when it consolidates that information into a long-term memory. If you stay awake, your brain can’t go through this process.

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6. Use Crazy Fonts.

We’re all font snobs to some extent. When it comes to books, newspapers, or the internet, we want everything to be clear and easy to read. But researchers have discovered that one of the best ways to remember something you’ve read is to read it in a weird font. The size and boldness makes no difference, although the harder it is to read, the better. When something is unfamiliar and difficult to read, you are forced to concentrate on it more, allowing you to remember it easier.

Large, bold fonts may actually hurt your ability to remember, as studies found that when asked to memorize a list of words, people predicted they would recall bold words easier than non-bold words, and therefore studied them less, leading to the opposite result.

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7. Chew Gum.

If you need to remember a piece of information for around 30 minutes, try chewing gum. Studies have found that people do better on both visual and audio memory tasks if they are chewing gum while they do them. Just the act of chewing seems to keep people more focused and improve concentration.

But if you have a pop quiz sprung on you, leave the Juicy Fruit in your pocket. People who didn’t chew gum did better on very short memory tasks, while masticating helped people stay alert during longer ones.

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8. Write Things Out.

These days it’s far more common to type up almost all the writing you need to do on your phone or computer. Shopping lists are saved on your tablet, phone numbers and email addresses under your contacts—it’s hardly necessary to remember anything anymore. That is, until you forget your phone and realize you don’t remember if you need to pick up bread and eggs. In the future, if you want to recall something, write it out in longhand. It doesn’t matter if you never actually read back what you wrote: Studies have shown that just the act of writing something out allows you to recall it in a way that touching a keyboard does not.

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9. Know When to Turn the Music On—and Off.

Many people like a bit of music playing while they work or study. And listening to music before you start reading something you need to remember does indeed give you better recall. But once you start work, take out those ear buds. Researchers have found that listening to almost any noise, including music, while studying is a distraction, and you will recall less of what you read in the future. It doesn’t matter if you love the music or hate it; it has the same distracting effect as someone yelling random numbers at you. It might seem strange at first studying in complete silence, but science says it pays off in the long run.

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10. Visualize.

One of the weirdest and most effective ways to remember something is to associate it with a visual image. This can be taken to an extreme, where you can recall a huge number of pieces of information just by building up a detailed visual image in your brain. Let’s say you wanted to remember that J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. Rowling sounds like bowling, so visualize a bowling alley. Now add to this image a hairy potter. This hirsute man, his hands covered with clay, gets up to roll the ball down the lane. From there you could add other bits of information, for example the names of the different Harry Potter books. Eventually you have a place in your head full of information that you can access at any time. It sounds bonkers, but science says it works.

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11. Doodle.

If you are sitting in a boring class or meeting, don’t be afraid to start drawing hearts and flowers in your margins. While it can look like doodlers are paying less attention than non-doodlers, in reality the act of drawing is helping to keep their brain active. Just sitting there when you are bored makes it easier for you to tune out and as a result you will remember less information. In studies, people who were given a doodling task while listening to a boring phone message ended up remembering 29 percent more of what was on the tape than people who just sat still and listened.

A Time to Silence the Soul…

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I suppose it goes without saying that we live in a very fast-paced, hectic, and noisy world.  We’re often in a big hurry to get somewhere. Stress is the norm and noise is all around us in the form of radios, televisions, iPods, etc. We’re plugged in but often tuned out. Very few of us live at the pace or volume of normal life.

So overstimulated are we that many literally cannot relax when it is quiet; silence unnerves them, recently an informal poll was taken in and  found that 40% of the students said they cannot fall asleep without a television or radio playing in the background. Many phones and clock-radios have a “sleep” function to allow them to play for a certain amount of time and then turn off (presumably after we have fallen asleep). We used to set our clock-radios to wake us up; now we use them to “soothe” us to sleep with their background noise.

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Wow, that’s really overstimulated.

Silence is precious and is a necessary ingredient for the spiritual life. We do well to build as much of it as possible into our lives. Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, in his tome The Three Ages of the Interior Life,writes of the need to minimize distractions and noise:

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We must create silence in our soul; we must quiet our more or less inordinate passions in order to hear the interior Master, who speaks in a low voice as a friend to his friend. If we are habitually preoccupied with ourselves, seek ourselves in our work, in our study and exterior activity, how shall we delight in the sublime harmonies of the mysteries of the Blessed Trinity present in us? … The disorder and clamor of our senses must truly cease for a life of prayer. … they

[must]

 eventually become silent and submit with docility to the mind or the superior part of the soul (Vol 1, p. 455, Tan Publications).

Ask yourself if silence is a significant part of your day. Do you cultivate it? Many today struggle with prayer and other quieter activities like spiritual reading because they are overstimulated. Overstimulation leads to being easily bored, having a short attention span, and becoming anxious about silence or inactivity. This is a poisonous brew when it comes to prayer, which requires a certain love for silence, listening, patience, stillness, and restful attentiveness. Having the radio, television, or iPod going all day does not help our soul to hear the still, quiet voice of God.

Some of my quietest moments are my daily holy hour and then later in the day when I write these articles. I have come to cherish these quiet times when I listen to God and ponder His teachings. And then, having listened, I sit quietly again and compose these posts. I really could not write without silence; noise distracts my thoughts too much.

One year I realized that I had the radio, or music, on almost all day long in the background. I decided to turn it off and since then I’ve never gone back. I listen only briefly now, to hear the headlines, and then return to the quiet. I do own a television. I do make use of Netflix, YouTube, and podcasts for selective viewing/listening of necessary and helpful material. Music, too, remains a joy for me, but not all day long, just on walks or when cleaning.

I only offer this personal testimony to suggest that if I, a former news junkie, could wean myself away, maybe others can too.

Our lives are hurried and noisy. Consider well Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s exhortation and build in silence through a growing mortification of the senses. Be very selective as to what you view/listen to, and how often you do so. Find time for silence; it is golden and necessary. I have that God is waiting there for us.

So, take a moment, everyday, purposely silence your soul, and recharge the batteries of your life. Don’t be afraid of the silence. 🙂

No Time To Write?!

Keep It Simple

One of the biggest challenges many people face, is finding, and or making the time to “Write”. Do you write in the morning, afternoon or night?

Real life often gives us no time to write.

In an ideal world, we’d all have that perfect writer’s schedule. We’d rise early and toss out five thousand words before breakfast. We’d lead off lunch with a few hundred more, and after the kids were in bed, conclude the day with another thousand just because.

My life certainly looks nothing like that. Does yours? From personal experience, I’m here to tell you how to write when you have no time.

How to Write When You Have No Time

If you want to write when your schedule is crunched, it’s going to require a little bit of prep.

It’s worth the effort.

Think of it as marinating the chicken breast before you leave for work so it’s ready to cook when you come home: it’s prep that leads to a faster (and more delicious) delivery.

Step One: Decide You’re Going to Do This.

This has to be serious. Death-and-taxes serious. If you make this decision with anything less than your full heart, it’ll go the way of New Year’s resolutions and quick-fix diet plans. You have to decide to do this—and mean it.

That means TV can’t get in the way. That means closing the door (if you have one) between you and spouse, children, pets, etc.—at least for a few minutes.

They will all survive a few minutes without you. You can survive without them, too.

Step Two: Plan a Scene.

No, not the kind where you throw shoes and break crystal vases. I’m talking about a scene in your story.

I promise I will go into how to pick and choose scenes later. For right now, here is your definition of a scene: a single moment with a beginning, middle, and end, without the need for transition. It’s the bit between fade-to-black or any kind of time-skip.

Your planned scene doesn’t have to be in-depth. I’m not a plotter (though I wish I were), but even my pantsing style can handle planning out one scene ahead of time. I’ll give you an example.

  • Beginning: marching into the office to clock her required hours at her civil service job.
  • Middle: idiot coworker tosses all the mail down the incinerator instead of the mail slot.
  • End: “So now that the wedding certificate is ash, I am free. I can be anyone I want… but precisely who is that?”

Obviously, the details are needed between each of those items for them to make sense, but it’s a roadmap. It’s glow-in-the-dark stepping stones. Here’s a scene I’m planning out for my very next writing session:

  • Beginning: bored with teaching, escapes through the window and explores at night
  • Middle: meets HER, is taunted way above his head, has no idea what she’s promising/asking
  • End: returns to his room with that huge secret; doesn’t know that by keeping it, he’s changed the course of his life
  •  

A scene could be your character making a sandwich. It could be a single conversation. It could be one glimpse of contemplation on the road as your character heads into work.

You can plan that scene while waiting for email from your boss, or watching your smallest child brush her teeth, or idling at a traffic light.

Plan a scene. Ahead of time.

Step Three (The Writing Part): Set Aside Five Minutes.

You saw that right. Five minutes.

This needs to be five minutes without interruption. Tell your spouse about it; politely ask your children for the space (and ignore them if they interrupt those five minutes—that’s just teaching them boundaries, not bad parenting). Shut off the phone. Close Twitter.

Make sure you have a timer. You can use the one at the end of this page. You can also (as I learned) type “timer” into Google search, and the Google search page itself will give you a timer. Nifty.

Are you distracted by noise? Put on noise-cancelling headphones or those little rubber earplugs.

Don’t look out the window.

Don’t doubt.

Don’t judge yourself.

Don’t question whether you can do this. You can.

Sit down. Start the timer. And without stopping to correct typos or any other error, write the scene you planned out from start to finish.

Yeah, it’s that simple. Yeah. It really is.

6 Final Tips for Writing When You Have No Time

If you need some extra mental fortification, here are six final tips:

  • Anyone can manage five minutes. Most bathroom breaks are longer. It takes just a little bit more time than that to brew coffee. Don’t see it as impossible; believe it’s possible, and you’ll find it is.
  • Do. Not. Stop. Not while the timer is going. Even if your writing is filled with horrific typos, keep going. Even if you couldn’t remember that word and had to put, “and then she asked me about the [WHAT THE HECK IS THE NAME OF THAT SCIENCE STUDYING BIRDS], but all I could tell her was I thought the Potoo was the funniest looking bird I’ve ever seen.” (And it is, if you’ve never seen it. The Potoo looks like a Muppet.) Look up the missing word (ornithology) later. During those five minutes, you don’t stop writing for hell or high water.
  • The world will try to steal those five minutes. Seriously. THAT will be when the toilet overflows, or the cat swallows the other cat’s tail, or some kid with a tricycle crashes into your front porch. Keep. Writing. Five minutes; anyone and any situation (except maybe the choking-on-a-tail one) can afford five minutes.
  • Did I mention to avoid editing? Don’t reword. Don’t delete. It doesn’t matter if what you just wrote wasn’t the best phrasing; what matters is you got it down, and you can fix it later.
  • Just write like someone cut open your brain and you’re bleeding words.
  • Write the scene.

I know this sounds like it won’t help you, but believe me, it will.

Look at it this way: if you can grab six five-minute spots during a day (and you can do far more than that, believe me), then you’ve gotten in half an hour of writing—and if you planned out your scenes ahead of time, that’s potentially five whole scenes in one day.

Do you see where this is going?

FAITH Strategies For Beginners

Keep It Simple

Today, we are going to talk about a subject that has always fascinated me, we are going to look into this idea of faith and two people whom God finds to have the greatest faith.

One is a Canaanite woman, of whom He says, “Woman, your faith is great!” And the second person was actually a Roman officer.

The Lord says, “It will be done to you according to your faith” (Matt. 9:29). You see, if my faith is little, it will be done to me according to my faith. That means that if there is just a small amount of faith, then that is the size of the funnel that His blessings, guidance and revelations will come through.

A Woman of Great Faith

One such person of great faith was a woman who initially approached Jesus in desperation. And for great reason: her daughter was demon-possessed.

“… a Canaanite woman came out from that region and began to cry out, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.’ But he did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she is shouting out after us’” (Matt. 15:22-23).

Jesus’ response to her seems completely out of character — He doesn’t answer her a word.That rejection, from Jesus Himself, was a pretty hard blow. In fact, for most of us, I thinkthat would have been enough to stop us dead in our tracks. But not this Gentile woman.

This woman had such a persistent and resolute—even stubborn—faith that she receivedthe blessing she needed: her daughter was healed at once. In other words, you’ve got to have the faith necessary for this type of miracle to take place. And what kind of faith is it?

The first quality of “great faith” this woman shows is …

1. A Faith that Pursues God’s Best 

The first quality of great faith is a faith that is determined and stubborn, relentlessly pursuing God’s best for your life and for those around you. You cannot wallow yourself to get thrown or dissuaded from that. You must pursue it with all that you are!

This Canaanite woman refused to be dissuaded or discouraged. In fact, she continued topursue Jesus even more vehemently!

God is looking for that kind of faith — one that keeps asking, keeps seeking and keeps knocking in pursuit of God’s best. This is a quality that transforms a mediocre faith into a marvelous faith.

We are going to have problems. We are going to run into walls. But we, like this Canaanite woman, must refuse to give up! That’s a hallmark and a necessity of great faith.

2. A Faith that Refuses to be Offended

This Canaanite woman absolutely refused to be offended: “… She came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’ He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she said, ‘Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Oh, woman, your faith is great’” (Matt. 15:25-28).

I don’t know about you, but if someone called me a dog, I’d be a little offended! Yet, this lady refused. In her heart, she had to say, “No. This is not a hill I am going to die on.” She made an internal choice not to get hung up on a lesser offense because she was battling a larger war. Instead, she answered Him so wonderfully.

Do you know that when I take offense, it diminishes my faith to the point where it turns into unbelief? It’s that serious! And because we make that first fatal choice to take offense, it ultimately leads to unbelief, which wipes out any chance for the miraculous to take place. If we want the miraculous, we must choose to refuse to take offense!

Another instance of faith is found in Jesus’ interaction with a Roman centurion, a commander of the very army that oppressed the Jews. Yet, this man stunned Jesus with his faith.

Not only did this many portray a jaw-dropping faith, he was able to “wow” Jesus by displaying a last quality of a great faith:

3. A Faith that Acts on God’s Word

“… the centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.’ Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel!’” (Matt. 8:8-10).

This kind of faith was a great, rare and dumbfounding kind of faith.

What about it was so striking? It was the fact that the soldier said, “Lord, You don’t have to go. You just say the word and I know it’s done!” This showed the Lord that this man believed the Word of God and acted on it.

Do you believe God’s Word? And do you act on it?

Believing God for What He Says

One of the most difficult dichotomies in our lives is that we know what God says, but how much do we really believe?How much of it do we act on?

First, you have to know what God is saying in order to do it. And in order to know what He is saying, if you have not developed a time for daily devotions, I encourage you to please start now.

The more you apply what God says to you, the more it depicts the depth of relationship that you have with Him.

How much do you apply? Your answer to that question will reflect a depth of relationship. And if I really trust Him for His Word and there is a wonderful relationship, then I will act upon it. And through that, God will begin to do wonderful miracles in my life and through me into other people’s lives, too.

**Create A Great Day!**

Keep It Simple

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” ~Carl Bard

Birthdays. They’re supposed to be a joyous celebration, right?

That one special day each year when we throw a party and reflect on the day our amazing journey began.

The starting point.

I’ve had quite a colorful journey and certainly enjoyed many wonderful birthdays in my life.

Turning 50 this past year wasn’t one of them. Here’s why.

When we’re little every birthday marks a major accomplishment. We learn to walk. Then we learn to talk. Then we go to school and learn our ABCs.

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Everything is brand new.

When we graduate high school they tell us we have our whole lives in front of us. Whether we’re off to college, exploring the world, or entering the work force, we begin a whole new chapter. Independence.

Keep It Simple

A starting point.

You can just picture that open highway stretched out to infinity before you, beckoning to a future somewhere out on that horizon that calls you to adventure. All that you will become lies out there.

In my twenties, I was a freewheeling single young man touring the world with rock stars. How bad can that be, right?

Turning 30 was awesome too! I was living in sunny Southern California, playing music, and making records in recording studios. Life was good.

Even 40 was great. I had moved back to New York to play in my own band and got married. Our life together had just begun. Then came children. I became Dad.

A starting point.

Keep It Simple

But 50?

You’re supposed to have accomplished your greatest life’s work by now, right? Achieved all your major goals. Changed the world.

But what if you’re still working on that? What if you’re just now starting to figure out what you’re really supposed to be doing with your life?

You can say many things about turning 50, but one thing you can’t say with a straight face is that you still have your whole life in front of you.

At this point in the journey, life has shown you many of its cards. Not all, mind you, but you’ve got a pretty good grasp on how the world turns. If there are still any surprises, they have mostly to do with learning to change the way you see things.

But something else happened that was very difficult to escape. Much as I hated to admit it, I found that I was looking around and comparing myself to my peers.

This person has kids entering college and I’m looking at two young children and the reality that I’ll be close to 70 by the time the youngest is out of school.

That one is retired at 50 and buying their second Ferrari while retirement doesn’t seem to be in the cards any time soon for me.

When you view life this way, there’s always going to be someone who you feel is ahead of you by your own estimate. And you’ll never catch up to them. So that leaves you feeling behind in some imaginary race that can’t be won.

And when the game is comparing yourself to others, you will never have enough. Ever.

Unknowingly, you build this imaginary scale to see how you measure up against your peers. Let’s call it the Success/Happiness curve. Yet, no matter where you believe you fall on that curve, the moment you mark your place is to engage in a losing battle.

You believe that if you can just obtain that (figure of money in the bank, job title, certain car) that you will have arrived at your destination and will find happiness there.

But you won’t. Because it’s not out there.

Not in any material things you can obtain. Whatever it is will begin to lose its luster the moment you acquire it. Then you’ll have to look for something new to replace it and give you another fix. And the cycle never ends.

So how do you break out of this destructive cycle?

Well first, I needed to learn how to let go of a lot of my preconceived notions about where I thought I would be by the time I reached 50.

Keep It Simple

Ultimately, I found the answer in Prayer.

Through Prayer you learn how to silence your soul and become more aware and present.

Most of us never learn to appreciate where we are at this very moment because we’re so focused on what happened (or didn’t happen) in a past that no longer exists and worried about a future that hasn’t happened yet.

Prayer taught me that to compare ourselves to others is the root of human suffering, or samsara. Because it creates a separation between ourselves and someone else. A duality. A them and an us.

Armed with this new perspective, the next thing I did was to review my life and my experiences to figure out what was working and what was not. This brought me face to face with a rather harsh reality.

As much as I liken myself to be a caring person, I realized that I’d spent most of my career focused on my own self-interests.

Sure I spent a lot of time making music, which is something very personal that you put out into the universe in the hopes that you will connect with an audience and make them feel something.

But it turns out the giving was conditional.

It was like, “Enjoy this music and help support my dream. Please vote for me in this contest and buy that CD and help me or my band out.” The focus was all wrong.

And that’s when I realized what had been gnawing away at me all these years. It was a yearning to connect with an audience in a meaningful way that focuses on helping them. On seeing the world through their eyes.

Empathy.

And so at age 50, I am only now seeing the light.

Only after allowing the hidden writer within to finally emerge did I realize that I have been telling stories my whole life.

With that came the realization that each of us has a unique story we’re supposed to tell. That’s why we’re here. And I’m supposed to help people to tell theirs

Suddenly everything felt different. Like I had steered the boat back on course. Like a new chapter.

A starting point.

Suddenly that really successful person I follow who I want to emulate, the one who seems so far aheadin their journey, finally, it all gets put into perspective.

We think they just arrived where they are today.

We never got to see all the years they spent toiling away in obscurity. Experimenting, missing the mark, failing. Trying to figure out the very things we’re looking to figure out now.

Until they honed their craft to excellence and were finally rewarded by the world for their efforts.

We never stop and give ourselves a break for simply being on the path. It may be a path of discovery. It may be a path toward a specific destination. Or it may be a path away from our old ways.

But you’re walking the path. Celebrate that.

The law says that if you take steps in the direction of your destination every day and keep walking, no matter how slow or how far you must travel, you must one day arrive there.

In Tibet they have a tradition. After a long and arduous journey, no matter how difficult, they seek a high vantage point and look back to see just how far they have come.

Age is irrelevant. Wherever you are in your journey is a starting point. Whoever or whatever it is you’re chasing, slow down.

Realize there is no race.

Whether you’re 20 or 50 or 80, if you never stop seeking then you’ll never cease to be amazed by what you might find.

And if every point is a starting point then every day can be your birthday!

How will you celebrate today?