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Rob Shallenberger: Alright, welcome to the podcast! This is your host, Rob Shallenberger. Thanks for joining us and my hope is – and this is a pretty bold statement – that this will be a life-changing podcast for you. I know it’s been for me. This topic, this idea that we’re going to share and talk about has been life-changing, and that sets a pretty high bar for this podcast – I realize that – but I’m confident that this can be a life-changing podcast. And so, I would invite you to share this with friends or family, send a quick email to someone with this podcast. We never know when we may be the pebble that hits the water and causes that water to ripple out, to have an influence or an impact on someone’s life. So, I would invite you to share this, if you feel so inspired to do so.
Now, one of the things that I will ask in this podcast is that you approach this with an open mind. I know that we have listeners all over the world – different backgrounds, different cultures, and different religions. There’s a lot of variety of people listening to this. And so, with that being said, rather than thinking about whether or not you agree exactly with this message, I invite you to look for the deeper message and what it can do for you in your life, regardless of whether it aligns exactly with our belief system or whatever it might be. Again, look for the deeper message. What impact can this have? Now, one of the big takeaways from this podcast is to discover one of the Grand Secrets to a Happy Life.
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to meet people and to speak for and train hundreds of organizations and groups all over the world. One of the common things that people want across the board is happiness. And, it doesn’t even really matter the background of the person, whether it’s one of our coaching clients or friends with a net worth of almost a billion dollars, or someone who’s just getting by, barely starting out. It seems like almost everyone I meet is searching for the same thing – happiness. And I’m no different – this is something that’s at the core of who we are. We all want to be happy! That’s been my general perception. And so, the question is, how do we find it? It seems like there’s this endless search. People look in all of these different corners of the world and life, seeking what may feel elusive – happiness.
Now, while we’ve all experienced what I’m about to share in this podcast, I was inspired because of a book I read, that came at it from a different angle – and this book is called “The Message”. Now again, regardless of your background, I’m going to ask you to approach this with an open mind. I’m going to share the background on this book; the author has since passed away, as has his wife, and I would actually like to get one of his sons on this podcast to share some of the experiences. So, when I get a chance, I’m going to reach out to one of his sons to share some of the experiences that I’ll relate during this podcast. But let me give you a little background on this book and why this will tie into one of the grand secrets of happiness. So, the author’s name is Lance Richardson; the title of the book is “The Message”. My father gave this book to me Sunday afternoon, Sunday night I started reading it at 8:30, and I finished the book at 11. I just couldn’t put it down.
So, Lance had an accident during a Christmas, back around the year 2000 or so, somewhere in there – late ’90s. This small accident that had a hip fracture or a leg fracture of some sort, took him to the hospital where he slowly got worse and worse until something got into his lungs, and it was causing respiratory failure and ultimately, he ended up in a coma. During this coma, he had a near-death experience where he describes some of the things that he both felt, heard, and experienced as he crossed the veil or the other side, three separate times. In this book, he describes some of the things he saw and experienced, both with his ancestors, with old friends, and with some others – pretty cool experiences! One of the things that he was told while he was over there, is that he would come back to this life to finish his mission. Part of this mission was to deliver a message – hence the title of the book, I think, “The Message” – and to share with people one of the grand secrets of happiness, which is what I’m calling it, the grand secrets of happiness. He calls it, “One of the keys to happiness”, but nonetheless, he was sent back to share this message that is so key to our happiness.
Now, one of the grand secrets – I tiptoed around that title here for four minutes, so let me share what it is. We say it’s a secret, but it’s really not a secret. One of the grand secrets was the importance to serve others. Now, I’m going to ask you to bear with me through this entire podcast and play this out and see how powerful this might actually be. This is something that’s not a secret. But yet, at the same time, it is because when I heard the angle that he came out at this with, I realized how much more I could be doing than I’m currently doing. And I think that you’ll feel something similar, hopefully, by the end of this podcast. So, while it’s not a secret, it’s definitely something that I would think that most of us could improve in our lives, and do a lot more of, for the right reasons. And when we do, it will transform our lives, and I really believe that it is one of THE secrets and keys to ultimate and true happiness.
So, let’s take a look at what I mean by that. I found that a lot of people actually want to serve, but they’re not sure where to start or what to do. And if we look in our culture, it’s a culture that’s designed, really, across the world, that makes it very easy for us to focus exclusively on ourselves, our own game – what can we do for ourselves? It’s almost, in some cases, the antithesis of what really brings happiness. It’s what can we do to fill our own pleasures, our own buckets, so to speak. And while that’s important – to take care of ourselves – I’m not talking about that. What I’m saying is that if we shift the perspective, if we change and adjust our mindset, happiness is really found outside of ourselves. And I’m going to share some of the experiences that Lance shared from his book, to really see if it can open up our windows of how we see life.
There is a fun thing that we do in seminars, periodically, and I’ve shared it once before on a podcast: if you hold up a spoon – you can try this, it’s actually pretty fun – if you hold up a spoon, you can face it toward you, and then face it away from you. And what’s interesting is, when it’s facing towards us, all the images in the spoon are upside down; when it’s facing away from us, now, everything is in its proper perspective, we’re upright, things are as they are. And isn’t that just a simple analogy that’s very indicative of this idea of service? When we’re faced inward, when it’s all about us, all about our own desires, and appetites, and passions and things like that, it’s really easy to see life through a distorted lens. When we actually shift the perspective, though, outwards, and really start to serve others, and make our life about bringing happiness to others, it’s amazing how we put on a lens that allows us to see life as it really is – and our own happiness grows.
So, let me share some of the things that Lance shared, in his book, about this. One of the things that Lance’s family did after he came back, after he came out of the coma and had a miraculous recovery – fully recovered in about six weeks when the doctor said it would take a year – is they planned a two-week service vacation. They asked each of their kids – and I think they had six kids if I remember correctly – they asked each of their six kids how they felt about this vacation. And the intent was to do both planned service, as well as spontaneously looking for people who they could help. They had these little cards that they would hand out to people who they felt would benefit from the card. The card said, “Sometimes it’s just nice to know that somebody cares. Have a great day! From (they would put their name).” That’s it! That’s all that was on the card – “Sometimes it’s just nice to know that somebody cares. Have a great day! From so and so.” Lance’s wife and his son Brock were skeptical about this whole thing. They didn’t know how it’s going to work out, but fortunately, their dad and husband convinced them to play along, and so, they did.
And, as they went out there, I want to share with you one of the experiences that Brock, the teenager, had and the comment they made. Now, I’m going to read directly from his book, for just a couple of minutes, this short story. Think about people who you might know, just think about how this might apply to you as I read this. First, this is Lance’s comment, and then I’m going to shift to how he described the experience that Brock, his teenager, had. This is Lance speaking – he said, “My family and I have been on many vacations together, but we have never been on a vacation more fun or rewarding than this one. It changed our lives. It had the most profound impact on each one of us. We learned that often, the small acts of kindness mean every bit as much as the big things do.” So, let’s look at one of the experiences that Brock had. He said, “Being an ever-hungry teenager, that afternoon Brock dragged me into a grocery store deli to get something extra for him to eat. As we were making the purchase, Brock turned to me and asked if I had noticed the girl who was helping us: ‘Dad, she looks to me like she could use a coupon!’ I agreed and told him to go ahead and give her one. After we had paid for our food, he handed her a coupon. ‘What’s this for?’ the surprised worker questioned. ‘It’s for you. We just wanted you to know we care and we hope you have a great day’, Brock informed her. The girl looked at the coupon and read its words. Suddenly, she broke into tears and raced into the back room. Brock looked startled. ‘What did we do?’ ‘I think it’s okay, son. I think she was touched by it.’ I consoled him and we picked up our food and went over to the table to sit down. Minutes later, the girl came over to our table and she said, ‘Here’s your coupon back.’ And Brock asked, ‘Why are you giving it back to us?’ And she replied, ‘Because I want you to be able to give it to someone else and make their day as you did mine. Thank you so much!’ ‘Oh, no, we have lots of these! You keep it!’ Brock exclaimed. The girl’s face was full of emotion by now. Tears began to appear in her eyes. ‘You have no idea how badly I needed to know that someone cared, today. I can’t tell you how much this meant!’ She rushed off again into the back room, in an effort to hide her display of emotions. This time Brock knew she was all right. ‘Wow, dad! This is so cool! I love it!’ he said with a smile from ear to ear. He had not believed a little coupon such as this could touch someone so deeply. Over the next two weeks, Brock passed out more coupons than any of us.”
Isn’t that a powerful story? Such a simple, small act of kindness. I mean, it literally took seconds to do what they did. Now, when you think about that experience, this is something that transformed Brock’s life. What I want to share are a couple more experiences that they had, and then some experiences that I’ve had, and hopefully, as you listen to these stories, they might generate a thought in your mind of something that you can do, that this can really be relevant to you. One of the other things they did while on this vacation, is they drove to Oregon and went to a beach. They took out these plastic bags and they started picking up trash along the beach. It was a fairly busy beach and a lot of people started watching them asking, “What are you doing?” There was a group of teenagers playing volleyball, and it got their attention, they asked, “What are you all doing?” They said, “We’re just cleaning up the beach.” “Why?” “We just wanted to do something that would be helpful.” “Where are you from?” they asked. “We’re from Idaho.” “You drove all the way from Idaho to pick up trash on our beach?” And, suddenly, people up and down the beach were picking up trash to where literally 50 to 100 people had joined them in picking up trash along the beach. It’s that ripple effect. It wasn’t something cosmic – it was picking up a few things of trash. And yet, that ripple effect spread to literally 50 to 100 people who joined in that process. That’s the ripple effect, just these little acts of service.
So, I invite you to consider getting this book, “The Message” by Lance Richardson and see it from that angle. He said that vacation transformed their life. He goes on to share several things that happened afterward, as a result of that vacation – the shift in thinking that happened with their kids. Lance lived for four more years before he passed away. And I do believe that this is a great legacy that he left. His teaching – I’ll call it that – what he shared from beyond the veil, what he was instructed to share, has impacted my life. It’s had a ripple effect. So, let me share with you an example of what I mean there, of this ripple effect. I have a friend named Damien. He’s a manager with a large construction company who we’ve worked with and trained for over four years now. They have an amazing group of leaders and employees throughout this organization. I just love meeting with them every time because they’re such an incredible group and an amazing culture. Each one of their leaders is so focused on developing their people and creating something great.
Well, my friend Damien is in Southern California right now, and while we were having lunch, he shared with me a story of what was happening in California, what they had done. And they started this thing called, “The Community Table”. It was done at their local church, and the idea was to get a handful of families and, once a week, to feed whoever would be willing to come – whether it was a widow, whether it was someone who just needed to be with other people, just that social aspect in their life or whether it was someone who was homeless. And the truth is, they had no idea what kind of response they were going to get from this. They did this in a neighborhood that, for all intents and purposes, was a nice neighborhood. You couldn’t visibly see any homeless on the street, so they didn’t know if anyone was going to show up. They made some rules that were important to follow, some guidelines. They had these key families, they would cook, they chose four menus – one menu each week – and they would show up at 4:30 to 5, dinner would be ready by 6, they would feed whoever showed up between 6 and 7, and everyone was gone by 7:30. They wouldn’t give out money, they wouldn’t give rides – this was all about having a shared meal. Simple, right? He said it was amazing to watch what happened. People started to come, and ultimately they averaged about 70 people. I said averaged – they’re still averaging – about 70 people. Families get involved, there’s kids that are not only serving food, but they get to know the stories of some of these people. And it starts to become this life-changing thing that they’re involved in. Again, is this cosmic? No. But they took action. They had an idea and they did something, and they’ve served more than 3000 meals at this point. I mean, it’s just amazing. I was inspired when he shared this at lunch, I said to him, “Damien, man, you’ve just inspired me!”
So, I live in a small town in Utah, called Heber City – it’s near Park City – and I just put last night on this group page on Facebook, called Ask Heber, where there’s about 14,000 members, if anyone would be interested in doing something similar. We need about 15 to 20 families to start the same thing, and sure enough, that 15-18 families responded and said, “We would love to be a part of this!” And I’m sure that there will be more who will join us. And the question is, what’s going to come from this? Who’s going to benefit most? Is it the person getting the meal? Maybe. I’m guessing that we will be the true benefactors from this, that when we start learning the stories of people, that when we have the ability to serve them, when my teenage son and teenage daughters are looking across into the eyes of someone who they don’t know, a total stranger, what impact does that have on their soul, their heart? And I believe that this is one of the grand secrets to happiness – is really serving others. Just like with Brock, just like with Lance and their family. As soon as they started becoming service-oriented and focused, the opportunities started popping up all around them. It’s not that they weren’t there before, it’s just that they didn’t see them.
They’ve commented that since they’ve started this service-focused approach, they’ve changed more tires and helped more people than they ever had in the previous 10 to 15 years of their life. You know, just one funny off-the-cuff story that I read from their experience, they pulled over to change an old lady’s tire, and she said, “Oh, you have no idea what a blessing you are!” And they had the girls in the car as well. So, the girls went up on the hill, and they sat on the hill – this is during the summertime – while the boys changed the tire. Well, the girls came down when they were all done, and they had in their hand a handful of flowers, and they gave the flowers to this what seemed like a very nice, kind, old lady. And she was grateful for the change of tire, no doubt about it! But when those girls handed her the flowers, the tears welled up in her eyes, they started streaming down her cheeks, and she got back in her car, and they could all see her bow her head to say thank you. She said this simple prayer to give gratitude for the people who had come across her, stopped, helped, and not only helped her change the tire, but also that act of love and giving the flowers.
So the question is, what can you do? Maybe you have a big idea, maybe it’s a small idea. What I’m confident of is not so much whether the idea is big or small. It’s the starfish approach. I’m sure you’ve heard this, at some point: this man’s walking along the beach, there’s all these starfishes up on the beach, they’re going to die, and he’s walking along, throwing these starfishes back into the water. And someone asks him, “What are you doing?” And he says, “I’m saving this starfish.” And the person looks at him and says, “Do you really think this is going to make a difference with these thousands of starfish lying on the beach?” And his response was, “It made a difference to that one!” And this is the idea. It doesn’t matter whether it’s one person or whether it’s a community, Lance’s family transformed when they started looking for those opportunities. And I mean, really started looking, not just paying lip service, but making it a part of who they were. I’m going to read this last little comment from the book: Lance said, “It is true. Small, singular acts of service can affect multitudes. Each act of service changes a person, then his home, then their family, their community, and eventually a nation. So, then, what would hundreds of acts of service and kindness do to a community? It would, indeed, transform it. I’ve watched it occur in my own community.”
So, I would invite you to consider – this is principle #5 of the 12 Principles: Live the Golden Rule, to really look at how you can serve others. Start with something small, start with something big. There’s a website called justserve.org, if you truly have no idea where to start, that will have ideas on what you can do in your local community to serve, but I invite you, maybe, to create a card like their family did; just hand it to someone who might need it. Be aware of what’s happening around us. This is something that I’m becoming acutely focused on right now, and even in the last couple of days since starting to look, to really look, it’s been awesome to see the opportunities that are really around us if we’re just aware and if we’re present.
So I hope that this was beneficial to you. I said that this could be a life-changing podcast. Well, when we really open our eyes and look for opportunities to serve others, it is life-changing. And this becomes something that each one of us can do – we don’t need a degree, we don’t need to have a certain amount of money – because all we need is the desire. And so, I would invite all of us to look for opportunities to truly serve, to make a difference. Start in your home, start with the people around you, lift those with whom you come in contact. Whether or not they can do anything for us in return? That’s not the question.
So, thank you for being on this podcast. I’d invite you to share it, if you felt inspired, with someone in your family, with a son, with a daughter, with maybe a co-worker – and let’s see if we can build on this movement to make a difference while we’re here. We have a breath. Tomorrow’s not guaranteed for any one of us, so I’m committing to this and I’m inviting you to join me in this commitment to serve. So, thank you for being on this podcast. We sure appreciate you! Let’s have a great day and make a difference in all our small corners of the world! Have a great day! Take care!