Archive for January 31, 2013

How a Squirrel Restored Man’s Faith in Humanity

Life has been extremely hectic and busy due to an upcoming special section that is to be published at the newspaper where I am a reporter. My hair needed to get cut, but when would I find the time?

This is not the squirrel

However, when I drove by Helms’ Old Fashioned Barber Shop in Wooster, Ohio, and saw no cars parked on the street. This had to mean there were no guys in the seats waiting to get their hair cut by Ryan Helms.

I get in, and I get right in the seat. Ryan asks me what’s new since he last saw me before Christmas, to which I replied, “Do you really want to know?” I wanted to make sure because a lot had been going on. Indeed, he did.

Well, this is what has been going on in my life:

  • My wife threw me a surprise party and took me to Boston in December.
  • This led to us finding an old, blind, deaf dog named Bungee, who taught me some lessons about faith and God. (To read about it, click here.)
  • Money from my birthday and finding the dog led, in part, to me buying a Kindle Fire HD and starting this blog. (Click here and here to learn more.)
  • Starting this blog has prompted me to start writing books, thanks to reading five books on my Kindle (click here), especially this one.

After talking with Ryan and telling him how life is good, he asked me if I had time to hear a story. Indeed, I did.

One Saturday morning, Ryan was in the barber shop with some guys and he looked out the window to see a squirrel dangling from a wire across the street. Ryan said something needed to be done to free the squirrel from its predicament, and the fellows agreed.

They left the shop and walked across the street and pondered how to get the squirrel free. One of the guys had a big pick-up truck, so he moved it under the wires. The group jumped into the back of the truck, but they were unable to reach the squirrel. (Incidentally, there was another squirrel that had tried to help get the other loose, but he had no luck, either.)

Ryan decided to call the local fire department to bring a ladder truck. He was informed the fire department does not bring out the truck to save squirrels. The guys did not give up on their mission.

Pretty soon, someone from a roofing company drove up in a truck, and Ryan noticed there were ladders on the truck. He asked the roofer if he could use on the ladders. They roofer was a bit reluctant, but relented, and Ryan and the rest moved into action.

The ladder was put in the back of the pick-up truck, and it sounded as if Ryan said the ladder was placed on the wire. He started to make his way up, but it was real wobbly. One of the guys said he had worked on ladders for years, and he would go up and get the squirrel, and he did.

The guys were happy that they freed the squirrel. However, the squirrel was still having a rough time. They had placed it on the ground, and throughout the day, Ryan kept an eye on the squirrel.

For the most part, the squirrel stayed in the same spot, but the time Ryan left for the day, the squirrel was gone.

Some time later, one of the guys who had been part of the rescue crew stopped back in to Helms’ Old Fashioned Barber Shop. He shared with Ryan how over the past couple of years he reached the point where he had thought there was no longer any kindness in the world.

But, on one Saturday in Wooster, Ohio, when four grown men grouped together to save a squirrel, he realized there was still kindness in this world. It restored his faith in humanity.

Amen.

 

Winners and Losers at The Z Section

Last week was a very surprising week on The Z Section, and what a treat it was.

Baby Thomas

Mr. Thomas came to us as a rescue cat. He was a sickly little cat, but is strong and healthy more than two years later.

First, I was included in Michael Hyatt’s blog, and he was kind enough to provide a link back to The Z Section. That link generated a lot of traffic here.

The blog had two strong days after the mention, and then my wife’s blog post, “Once Upon a Time: The Story Behind the Story,” was the lead post for the next couple of days and did just as well. Despite her post only being live for two days, it was the most read post on the site for the entire week. Well done.

Here were last week’s most popular blog entries:

1. Once Upon a Time: The Story Behind the Story, my wife’s guest blog, as noted above.
2. The First Amendment, Right On, a new eatery in Wooster, Ohio.
3. What Do You Say, When You Don’t Know What to Say?, my reaction to being included in Hyatt’s blog and podcast.
4. About Bobby Warren, a page about, what else, me. I have been tweaking this. It has changed a couple of times. It remains a work in progress. It is not where it needs to be, but it will be one day.
5. Want to Succeed: Find the Singular Focus of Mr. Thomas, a story about a very driven cat whose only goal every day and every night is to get outside, to get beyond the doors.

As for losers, well the ones that did not get very many hits were older posts. Losers? Nah, not really. Oldies but goodies.

Do you have a favorite that is not listed here? Would love to know your favorite, click here.

Kindle Fire HD 7 Continues to Score Big Here

It’s been nearly seven weeks since I purchased a Kindle Fire HD 7, and I am liking it more and more everyday. For good reason.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7

I remember reading on Michael Hyatt’s blog about how preferred the iPad Mini over the original, larger version, saying the Mini was what the iPad should have been from the start.

Having never owned an iPad, I cannot make the same statement, but I can say this: The Kindle Fire HD 7 is what netbooks should have been all along. When my wife’s laptop became old, outdated and slow, I wanted to get her a new one. However, there was something attractive about the netbooks. At the time, I did not fully understand what they were; I just thought they were slightly smaller laptops.

Well, in a sense, they are. Netbooks are smaller than laptops. And, netbooks kind of look like laptops. But, what we discovered is a netbook is not really a laptop. A laptop is for computing, and a netbook is mainly designed to surf the Internet.

My Kindle Fire HD does just that. It surfs the web, it feasts on Amazon.com content, it plays games and it even contributes to some productivity. After I first purchased the tablet, I carried it with me sometimes. Now, unless I know I am going to be totally tied to my desk at the newspaper, it comes with me.

Why I Carry My Kindle Fire HD All the Time:

  • It turns my vehicle into a mobile university: This is the No. 1 reason why it is with me most of the time. By owning a Kindle device, I can turn on Amazon’s text-to-speech function and listen to books while I drive. I just finished reading/listening to The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (which turned out to be better than I initially envisioned). Whether I am in the Jeep five minutes or 35 minutes, I like having the option of listening to a book.
  • It keeps me up-to-date with my blog: I have a WordPress app that allows me to edit or create posts, check my site stats or do anything else I need to with my blog, as long as I have a Wi-Fi connection.
  • I keep my teaching notes on it: I teach an adult Sunday School class at Parkview Christian Church, and I send all of my notes to my Kindle device. I have a study Bible loaded on the Kindle, and I keep my notes for Sunday School on it.
  • I can capture thoughts using Catch app: When you start blogging, you realize how important it is to get your ideas down. With Catch Notes, I can do that. The free app allows you to write notes, record audio notes, take photos, set up reminders and create checklists. I used it the other day to jot some ideas down for future blog posts and a future book.
  • I can move my online reading offline: With Pocket, another free app, I can be reading something on the web and save it to read later. The app works across all sorts of devices. I can be reading something on the web at home, save it to Pocket, and when I sync my Kindle Fire HD, I will get a nice, readable version of the web page. It is important to sync Pocket’s content while you have Wi-Fi access. This is immensely helpful when researching. I have been using it to aid me in writing a book for mindreaders. It is invaluable.
  • I can keep up-to-date with all of my social networks: Again, as long as there is a Wi-Fi connection.

If you would like to purchase your own Kindle Fire HD, check out my affiliate link by clicking here. I recommend the 32 GB version because once you buy it, there is no expanding it. Might as well get the extra storage space.

The Kindle Fire HD  7 has been a great fit for me, but let me caution you by saying I made the purchase because I was an Amazon Prime member. It made sense to have a device geared toward watching the movies, TV shows and videos available for free to Prime members, getting the shipping discount from Amazon and the ability to borrow one book a month from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

If you are looking for more of a computing tablet, then perhaps the iPad, iPad Mini or Google Nexus 7 are better options for you.

For me, it was the Kindle. You can see other reasons why by clicking here.

Thanks to APE, Open is the New Closed (and That’s Good)

There was a time when writing was an isolated and closed process for an author, but thanks to a new book on self-publishing, that is changing.

One of my passions is performing magic and mindreading. I have developed a bit of a reputation in my area of Northeast Ohio over the past decade. With a new focus and commitment to writing, I have been writing two books. One is for mindreaders/mentalists (I am actually in the process of writing this one), and the other is for the Christian market (I have outlined and am researching this one).

With the help of Shawn Welch and Guy Kawasak,i in the form of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, I have my mindreading book up on Google docs and have a small group of people who are reading it and helping me edit it along the way.

Without APE, it probably would have been a very closed and private process. The encouragement from Shawn and Guy in the book to be open, solicit feedback, let others read it, is freeing in a way. I am writing not from a position of one with authority, rather from the position of someone-who-has-something-to-contribute-to-this-community-who-realizes-I-am-not-the-final-word-on-this-subject-so-will-you-please-help-me-so-I-can-offer-our-community-a-better-product-than-it-would-otherwise-receive.

Two of the volunteers have doctoral degrees, and the other is a seasoned performer with the kind of experience that will help guide and shape the book to be better.

In part, because of the efforts of Guy and Shawn, and the APE Community on Google+, my first book is closer to completion than ever before. I had researched the topic, jotted some thoughts down, came up with a system to aid the process, but I never really started writing in a productive way.

Today, things are different. The writing of the book for mindreaders is roughly 35-40 percent done. Not bad considering it was just a couple of weeks ago when the book was zero percent written. And this because open is the new closed.

Ezra’s Path to Success: Seek, Do and Teach

More than one person with social media savvy has said if you want a path to success, then share content that adds value to those who engage you over your blog or social media networks.

ORIG0023
As I was reading the Old Testament book of Ezra, I came across this in Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.”

Ezra, a scribe and priest, devoted himself to 1) studying the Law, 2) observing the Law and 3) teaching the law. The Lexham Bible translates it somewhat differently, and I like what it says: “For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Yahweh, to do it, and to teach the regulations and judgments in Israel.”

What wonderful advice. Seek the Lord, do what He says and teach others. This is a model for becoming a faithful follower of God and multiplying the number of disciples.

But, it also has far reaching effects in any field. Want to be a good blogger? Then study about blogging, actually blog and then help others blog.

Want to be a good photographer? Seek to understand about the basics, put what you learned into practice and help others avoid the mistakes you did when you started out.

See a pattern here? The Bible offers solid advice for life and living and building relationships. By living a life of faith you should be adding value to the lives of others. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God, but there was a second one just like it: Love your neighbor.

This aspect of love cannot be understood apart from service. If you love God, then you will serve him. Do you love your neighbor, then you will help him out.

Do you want to follow a pathway to success? Be like Ezra: Seek, do and teach. Do not try this, actually do it. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Once Upon a Time: The Story Behind the Story

Today’s blog entry is a guest post by my wife, Wendi Warren. A few years ago, she wrote, “Once Upon a Time: A Fairy Tale,” a story about a princess saved by the king with a Christian message. After being tucked away since Christmas 2008, it is in the process of being illustrated and will be available for Kindle readers in the near future.

Once upon a time … those words have always sent my mind racing to the end knowing that no matter what there would be a “Happily Ever After.”

Princess

The first illustration from Wendi Warren’s “Once Upon a Time: A Fairy Tale,” to be published soon.

I guess I was like most little girls, I dreamt of a happily ever after, because the fairy tales told me that was the way life was meant to be. Picturing myself as the princess made me feel like I was special, precious and loved.

Then I grew up. It wasn’t that my life was terrible, because it wasn’t. It was just the whole happily ever after seemed so elusive. When is “ever after”? I began wondering if that was even possible, because life can be…messy and I certainly was no princess! Was I being childish to think it was possible? The storybooks never gave the specifics, so it was up to me to fill in the blanks.

Let me say right here, that I am blessed far more than I could ever imagine. I have been given the incredible gift of being Bobby Warren’s wife, so happily is how I am going through life. But really the idea of happily ever after has been somewhat of an unattainable reality. Until I realized that I will have a happily ever after, along with anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior. He has promised a happily ever after for us all … for eternity.

So with that truth in mind, I decided to write a fairy tale that would bring these truths out in a different way. Maybe a little girl, or a little girl at heart, would see that she is indeed a princess in the eyes of the King of Kings–one who is special, precious and loved — and that a happily ever after is an attainable reality.

I’m now at the cusp of a new adventure. My princess heart is beating wildly. I’m unsure of myself. Not confident that my story will touch anyone’s heart. Concerned that I won’t be able to face criticism for being too pollyannish. Fearful that my book will sit in the recesses of Amazon and just gather dust.

But like any princess, when faced with an adventure, I am stepping out. Or in this case, maybe I’m being pushed out, by my prince charming.

Whether or not a happy ending comes from sales of my fairy tale or not, I know that eventually eternity will be upon us all, and I’ll be ready for my happily ever after.

What Do You Say, When You Don’t Know What to Say?

Traffic to The Z Section was higher than normal early Wednesday. I had no clue as to why. Could it be I wrote such a stellar blog post? Maybe.

wpid-IMAG3357-picsay_Tom_Street_Black.jpg
But it turned out that was not the case. I noticed that I was getting some referrals from Michael Hyatt’s blog about Intentional Leadership (check out his wonderful blog here … and subscribe to it!).

I figuratively scratched my head and wondered why I was getting traffic from Hyatt’s blog, but I was busy with other stuff, so I kept moving. Every time I checked on my site stats (and I can get OCD about them as I try to build a platform), the number kept increasing at a higher than normal pace at a higher than normal clip. (At 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, I was just three page views away from previous best. Update: I was just one page view away from my best at the end of the day.)

Finally, late in the afternoon, I checked out the referral link from Hyatt’s blog, and lo, and behold, but what do my wondering eyes discover: He posted his latest “This is Your Life” podcast about changing your story and changing your life. He had solicited questions from his blog readers, and my question about how faith played into that was selected along with six others.

Read more

Create Stunning Photos for Your Blog with This One, Free App

No doubt about it, interesting and engaging photos can enhance your blog. But where can you get quality photographs on a limited budget? Glad you asked.

IMAG0426 - Ivan,Paint,Black

You can get them from your smartphone and use a variety of photo apps, some free, some for a nominal fee.

For more than a year, I have nearly switched exclusively to taking my photos with my HTC ThunderBolt. The image quality of the pictures vary depending upon the available light, but when there is sufficient light, the quality is amazing.

Most of the photos that appear in The Z Section are photos I have taken and processed. It saves me a lot of money, and I do not take time out to shoot photos. I stop and pause when something captures my eye while I am out doing something else.

Start experimenting with all kinds of photos: Trees, barns, busy streets, lonely roads, storefronts, animals, everyday objects at weird angles. Start snapping photos and processing them with the app of your choice, but today I want to recommend one that has served me well, and it is free! Did I mention it is free?

Read more

Want to Succeed? Find the Singular Focus of Mr. Thomas

Mr. Thomas, our cat, has a singular focus. Day-in and day-out, the cat has one thing, and one thing only, on his mind.

Mr. Thomas

That singular focus is to get outside, which might not seem like a bad thing, except Mr. Thomas is a house cat.

So, how does a house cat determine he wants to be an outside cat. Well, before my wife rescued Mr. Thomas (some people found him, along with his litter mates, abandoned in a park and found homes for the kittens), we had bought a wire dog crate, but not for the dog. It was so we could put our cats outside. We don’t want them running off, so we keep them in a crate.

When Mr. Thomas was first introduced to the crate, he absolutely fell in love with being outdoors. So much so, that he always wants to be outside. He does not care if it is cold or snowing or sunny and warm, Mr. Thomas wants to get beyond the front (or back) door and get some fresh air.

In order to accomplish his goal, Mr. Thomas has a ritual. Whenever my wife or I walk even remotely close to the front door, he takes off running, leaps onto the table by the door and pounces on us. He will be in your arms and nearly on your shoulder before you can blink an eye. It took Wendi by surprise the first time he did it when she walked in the house.

Because Mr. Thomas is so persistent, he gets out more than we would like him to be. In fact, it is winter time in Northeast Ohio, and we ran into a spell of a couple of warm days in January, and we dragged the crate out, set it up and let Mr. Thomas, long with Ariel and Buddy, enjoy some fresh air in the outdoors.

If we want to be successful, then it is going to take a singular focus. We have to know what the end game is and devise a strategy to accomplish our goals. Above all else, we have to act. A plan with no action just represents potential. Even if you execute the plan poorly, you can still revise and adapt. If you do nothing, then you better expect nothing good will come of it. You have to get started. Now.

What will receive your singular focus this week? What will drive you to act? There is no better time than now to start, so when will you?

Want to be Successful? It’s Simple, Follow These 16,107 Steps

Regular visitors to The Z Section know of my skepticism about lists, which is why I found Mike Michalowicz’s comments in “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur” so funny.

Illuminate - Ivan,Cyborg,Web

Mike wrote about how he had been struck by the number of business books that encourage its readers to take 28 steps, follow these 100 rules, etc. He set out one day to find out how many steps people would need to take to be successful in business, and he said he stopped counting at 16,107.

Actually, Mike does not really recommend you take, or follow, the 16,107 steps. Sorry, I just tried to hook you into reading this blog.

It is my belief when we stop looking for that one best way and actually try to do something, then we will eventually be successful. Mike’s advice is to quit talking and take action.

When it comes to action there is only one lesson. Start now. There really isn’t much else to say. Start now! Start now! Start now!

– Mike Michalowicz

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

Today is a good day to start something. What action will you take today to move closer to your goal?