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Being in jail is an experience I will never forget. I was 16 years old. My Mom and I had just escaped from communist Czechoslovakia by driving through Hungary to Yugoslavia, and having left our car up in the Alps and climbing into Austria. We had gone through the mountains with little more than a hidden US $100 bill and the clothes on our backs. We had military helicopters circling above our heads for a while. We were scared. I was just a typical teenager with big hair, a big mouth, and tiny self-esteem. I certainly wasn't quite prepared to be escaping a country. It seemed that we are never quite prepared with the big steps we need to take in our lives. My mother almost slipped off a cliff at one point and she could have lost her life if she hadn't managed to regain her balance.

When we finally made it to Austria, we were exhausted, excited, confused, and a whole lot of other things. By a chain of coincidences, we ended up at the police station where we went through the questioning and fingerprinting process. We figured that we would soon be on our way to the refugee camp near Vienna and, soon after that, on our way to Canada or some other blessed free country that would take us. Yoohoo. Freedom found!

Wrong. It was getting late at night and we needed a place to sleep. The police officers called a few hotels and then they said they will take us to The Town Jail for the night. At first, I thought it had been just an interesting hotel name.

It wasn't. At this jail, a scary woman looking like the sidekick from Frankenstein performed a body search and took away our belts and our shoe laces. Then we were taken to the cell, our new "home".

Two bunk beds. A hole in the ground for a bathroom. A three-foot stack of hard core pornography. A water faucet that would only turn on from the outside. A door with no door handle. In short, not a place to invite someone on a romantic date.

The the jail guard left and the big steel door behind us got shut. The next thing I remember is the loud silence and reality started to sink in. "This is freedom? We didn't sign up for this!"

Then things got worse. We got forgotten. We were supposed to only stay for one night but nobody but us seemed to know that. I was starting to understand how zoo animals must feel and I wondered if learning some tricks might increase our chances of being remembered.

When we finally got released, paradise still wasn't found. We stayed in a refugee camp for five months. Anyone employed in a company going through downsizing can relate to the uncertainty of not knowing if there is a job to be had at the end of the next day. In the camp, people didn't even know if they had a country to live in and the stresses were enormous. Even coming to Canada was tough. We didn't know the language or the culture. Things seemed to get tougher and tougher, for a long time, before they got better. If we had an option of going back home, we would have likely done so. However, this inability to turn back and give up made us persevere and find a life we couldn't have had back there.

Have YOU ever gotten yourself into a situation where you believed you would improve your lot in life, only to find a number of things that you didn't "sign up for"? Maybe you started a business or got a job that didn't start out well. Maybe you were married and things got tough. Often, in life, things get uglier before they get better. If you want something, keep going, don't turn back just because things aren't easy in the moment. Based on what I have seen, if success were easy, everyone would be doing it. If you want a result badly enough, you will get it but you must be willing to wait and do what is necessary. Handle the challenges of the moment in creative ways, but never turn back to give up on what you want!

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Have you ever gotten a great and exciting opportunity, only to say to yourself, "This is too good to be true"? Have you then managed to muster enough doubt and suspicion about this great opportunity that, perhaps as an act of self-fulfilling prophecy, this great opportunity really did not turn out?

I certainly have done that very thing a number of times, figuring that when great things happen, they often come with obvious or hidden negative strings attached. Then I listened to a tape by Les Brown, a motivational speaker, recently. He said, "whenever you think that something is too good to be true, change that throught to saying that the opportunity is good and... That it is happening to the right person. YOU!" How simple.

I have watched this difference in negative and positive expectations in my dog and my Mom's dog. My dog was brought up in an environment of love and total security. Her power of positive expectation is absolutely astounding. Whomever she meets, she assumes she will be liked and that she will get what she wants. I will admit that she might not have much going on in her brain other than how to raid the next garbage can without getting caught, but that's perhaps besides the point. Her expectation of the world is positive and, funny enough, it is only rare that her expectations aren't met.

My Mom's dog is different. He was abused as a puppy, before Mom got him. Although the abuse was almost 10 years ago, his expectations of the world are still doubtful and suspicious. When a stranger offers love or food, he either won't approach at all or approach very slowly. The difference between him and my dog isn't at all in the environment around them, it is only in the interpretation of it.

How do you expect the world to treat you? Do you face the world expecting red lights, mean bosses, and difficulties? Or, do you face your environment expecting great things to happen? Whichever we expect is what will likely happen - expect goodness!

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To resolve a conflict or an issue between people, is it necessary and important to state what isn't working? In other words, to clear things up, is some focus on what is missing actually required? For example, if a family member or a friend behaves in a way that we don't like, surely we must say something about their unacceptable behaviour. Otherwise, how could things change? Well, consider this. In most negotiations and situations of resolving conflict or creating greater trust and closeness, I have found that the three most powerful phrases have always been: "thank you", "please", and "I am sorry". Funny enough, it has never been as effective to expect any of those phrases from the other side. To get someone to come on time, for example, it is far more effective to focus on praising them for being on time than to focus on giving them hell for being late. In other words, connect pleasure to the behaviour or results you would like to see more of. Giving pain for undesired behaviour may work, too, but it tends to damage relationships far too much. The chain of conflict is never broken by focusing on what is missing. It is broken by focusing on what common ground already exists and on building it up. In sales and negotiations, this is known as getting a string of "yes" answers. Once we start agreeing on some things, even small things, it is far easier to agree on tough issues, too.

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"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit."
Helen Keller

"A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties."
Harry Truman

"I don't have anything against work. I just figure, why deprive somebody who really loves it?"
Dobie Gillis

"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much"
Mother Teresa

"The only way to avoid being miserable is not to have enough leisure to wonder whether you are happy or not."
George Bernard Shaw






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