Go And Watch You Grow!

 

Grow Through, What You Go Through

 

I was four or five years old and with my family at a cookout. The people we were visiting had an in-ground pool and I was in the shallow end swimming around because my feet touched the bottom and I had plenty of room to play. It was a great day and I had a lot of fun in the pool.

After a long while, I had decided that I wanted to get out for a while and had a crazy idea that I wanted to get out of the pool a different way. I did not want to climb out of the built-in steps that was at the in the shallow end. I wanted to climb out using the ladder that was located on the other side of the rope in the deep end.

I walked up to the rope and saw a small ledge that ran around the deep end that was the same height as the shallow end. I wasn’t supposed to cross the rope but the ladder was not far and I knew I could make it. I duct under the rope and used my tip toes on the ledge to stay above water. I was halfway to the ladder and everything was going fine, about five more steps and I would grab hold of the ladder and get out of the pool.

Thinking of how close I was getting to the ladder distracted my mind from what I was doing and my toes slipped off of the narrow ledge and I went under the water. I remember hitting my rear on the slope of the pools deep end and sliding to the drain at the bottom. The deep end was about 14 feet and I was that far under water, unable to swim and seeing nothing but blue color. I remember hearing the sound of the drain as it sucked in water to recycle through the filter and being to young to understand death, I was not afraid of dying but scared only because I could not breath.

The next thing I recall was a loud splash in the water and a pair of arms reaching around me and thrusting me to the surface where half a dozen arms quickly pulled me out of the water. I began coughing hard and having trouble taking a breath, even though I had air to breathe. It would not be long, however, before I was able to breathe fully and the coughing began to lessen. Soon, I was breathing slowly and the coughing went away and I sat in a chair for everyone to see that I was alright in the event I needed to see a doctor.

For the following year, I would not take a bath in any bathtub because of the drain that was under the water, just the sound of a drain being pulled scared me.

I would go the next 34 years with a strong fear of water. It would often take me a long amount of time to me able to swim in an above ground pool and most times, I would not swim in an in-ground one. In all of those years, I never got on a boat or touched the water of a lake.

Fast forward from being four or five to thirty-eight and spending the last year and a half developing a powerful mindset for growth and elevation, this past Father’s Day Weekend, I felt a nerve racking desire to face that tri-decade fear! I went with Lynden, Ethan, Rylen and some of their other family to Mill Creek Lake in Marshall, Illinois. There, we rented a cabin, played checkers at night, grilled out and made S’mores.

On Saturday, I went down to the dock with my kids and we all put our feet in the water. This was a big step for me to walk on the dock, let alone put my feet in the water. We watched fish swim around and splashed in the water with out feet. Then their uncle arrived with his boat and asked if we would like to go out on the water for the day. I knew then that it was time to take my mindset to the next level!

I walked onto their dock and climbed into the boat and as we all got seated and Ethan and Rylen put on their life vest, I watched as the water was only several inches from where I was sitting, yet, I made up my mind I had to make good on my challenge. We then backed away from the dock and I gripped the sidebar and held on as the boat took off.

The water splashed everywhere and and felt that fear in my face, reminding me that he was very much there. I remained focused and soon we found a cove to drop anchor so everyone could swim safely. Then, Ethan asked if I would get in and I saw that as another challenge. I said yes and asked him to give me a minute. I then took off my shirt and sat on the deck of the boat. Then, with my heart beating fast, I grabbed a hold of the deck rail and jumped into the lake! It was a couple seconds later that the fear was pushed aside and a reward revealed itself. That reward was the feeling of triumph!

Over the next couple of hours, we took the kids in the tube, drove across the lake and I got into the water a second time and swam for a long time again. When it came time for grilling out, we took one more lap around the lake and I call that my victory lap, and as the weekend drew to a end, I went to that next level and realized that I could do it, and so can you!

It may not be water for you, it may be a new job, buying a house, moving or a million other things. Just know that if deep inside your really wanting to conquer that fear, your biggest reward will be doing just that! When things happen in life, we have only two choices, define it or let it define us, that’s it no choice number three. Move ahead in life by always pushing yourself and going to the next level. The sky is limit!

“Grow through, what you go through!” – Gary Vaynerchuk

There’s Always A Way!

 

A Way, When There Seems To Be No Way

 

Have you ever put time into something and as time past, felt that you were spinning your wheels or grinding your gears trying to make something happen? I have! You see, my writing career didn’t start yesterday, I didn’t wake up this morning and just sell 1,000 copies of Barney & Lexi: Lost In Lawrenceville. I wasn’t traveling to schools in the early stages of my career either, in fact, I can’t begin to count how many times I felt like I was spinning my wheels with opportunity and there were a few times that I really felt like my gears were grinding for sure!

My career as a writer began in 2003, when Lynden was born. I would get up with him throughout the night and once he began to have a fairly regular pattern of sleeping, I began spending the time in between his waking up, writing my first book, The Adventures of Marky, Slash & Levy. Those moments were usually very late at night, by myself in a room with only a desk lamp on and just plugging away at my keyboard. No one knew what I was doing, no one outside Lawrence County knew my name or even knew I was a writer.

In those years that followed, I wondered if I would ever make it happen. Would my work ever be read by young readers? Would I ever do a book signing? Would I ever get a big break? All three answers are YES! Although I had no idea in those early days. I have sold over 1,000 books this year, done dozens of signings and my big break will come on September 14th when I travel to Chicago and speak to the largest children’s literary group in the United States.

Sometimes, I get told that I’m ‘just lucky’, or that ‘success just happens overnight’. I actually don’t believe in luck in the manner that it is viewed today. I believe that luck is the moment that preparedness meets opportunity. I also believe that success is no ‘overnight’ thing. I thought about quitting a few times and sometimes, had to walk away from my desk for a few months to take everything in and find clarity. Then it was right back to it, because I knew what I really wanted and had to see it through.

For years, I felt like I had little money, few connections and even less opportunity. For years I had no Facebook page, and then I finally created one and only used that to connect with others for the next ten years. I look back now and see that I had so many outlets but let fear keep me from using them. Then, one day, I looked in the mirror and told myself, “There will be doubters, you will be laughed at, mocked and ignored. Levi, your going to fail and that’s alright because you will learn and grow stronger. Carry those fears right into battle and watch them disappear!” I remember that day well.

I sat down and began learning Social Media. I began with no media and now use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to put my passion out there. This has given me so much back and while I could spend the time wishing I had done that sooner, I won’t waste my time with the past. I’m heading forward and refuse to look back.

I feel like it is a perfect time to retell the story of the Japanese Bambo Tree. The Japanese Bambo Tree remains a nut underground for five years. During that time, it must be watered and fertilized daily to survive or it will die. For five years, there will be no results (much like when we feel we are spinning our wheels and grinding gears). Then, something big happens and the tree sprouts through the surface and will grow 90 feet in one year! It took five years to actually grow that 90 feet though. It may have only seemed like a buried nut but during that time underground, that nut was earning its right to live and grow.

You may be sitting right now and wondering what else you can do to keep moving towards your dream. One thing for sure is to keep doing what your doing if it is yielding any type of result. If it isn’t, can you change anything about it to help it grow? Are you using Social Media to your advantage? Are you letting fear keep you from one avenue or another? Look in the mirror and tell yourself that regardless of any outcome, YOUR GOING TO MAKE IT, and the doors will open up as you press forward. I can’t explain it but the harder I push, the more doors that open for me, something I doubted years ago. Never doubt that there is a way, when there seems to be no way!

“Everything is IMPOSSIBLE, until someone crazy enough comes along and makes it POSSIBLE!”
– CT Fletcher

Printed Presentation!

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Today, I completed my outline for my SCBWI presentation in Chicago next month. 10 pages of, what I feel, a well laid out blueprint of what makes my elementary school presentations so successful. Now that it is printed and covered, I’m ready for 27 days of run through to get it down! I’m gonna crush this one come September 14th!!

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Growth Mindset

Now, the summer vacation for kids around my home is over, it is back to the evening shift at my job. That’s a good thing! I will now have time to travel to schools!! Here we go and I love it!

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I am now 75% through writing my presentation for the SCBWI of Chicago, I am looking into what I need to do to make a photo slide show to play during my speech. Once I have it written, I am going all in on the slideshow!

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I am excited to have my bookmarks and postcards in for Barney & Lexi and they look spot on with my hopes. I am excited to get them out to schools in the U.S. and help give Barney & Lexi more push!

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I woke up to a busy morning, having three orders for Barney & Lexi to go out. Florida, Georgia and Kentucky readers will be receiving their copies this week. Just swung by the post office and got my daily mail sent out.

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Also got an email from Two Tomatoes Records, in appreciation of my gifting copies of Barney & Lexi to them during the trip to Moline with my kids. I was grateful to read the email and thank them for their kindness.

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Welp, off to work. My goal, this being the last year that I work for anyone but myself. Let’s go get it!! Have a great day guys!!!

Back From TEDx Hilliard

Just got home from TEDx Hilliard, where Lynden and I had the most amazing time of 2017!

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We made it to Indiana and picked up our rental car, (I love my Jimmy but, at 260,000 miles, wasn’t chancing a breakdown). We packed up and set out across the Midwest for our five hour drive to Columbus, Ohio.

0807171524_HDRThe five hours flew by and before we knew it we had reached our hotel. With the exception of an accident on the bypass in Indy, (which I hope the drive is alright), we were not slowed by construction or weather.

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We arrived at the Marriott and I have to say, that of all of the hotels, this one was splendid! Clean, friendly and accommodating, My trip last month with Ethan and Rylen to Moine, the hotel left me with a checklist for my next trip and this hotel in Hilliard passed with high marks.

Lynden and I took in the spa and got in an hour workout before bed. We both got some of the best sleep that night. Waking refreshed, we took up an invite from friend, Coyte Cooper for lunch before the seminar.

Coyte was one of the speakers for TEDx Hilliard and impactful. One thing I get excited about making friends in a positive circle is that I see bars that must be set to reach my own desires and goals. You get outside of your own element when around others and that is a perfect opportunity to learn from others!

One thing about Columbus, Ohio, the city does not simply fade into the countryside, it is one intersection busy and chaotic and then half a mile down the road is cornfield and patched blacktop road. The ted talk was being held in Bradley Hilliard High School and lived up to the expectations of being a part of the TED seminars family!

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What followed was three hours of being reminded just how powerful the human mind is and what is truly possible! Every speaker brought their best, amazed the audience and made every person think about their true potential! One young lady, Miss Frankie Soleil, used music to battle here enemies and while, not in entirety, the clip below show just how amazing she was!

In all, 13 amazing people made their mark and I am so excited to see Lynden pumped about the experience. We met Coyte backstage and I got both of my books of his that I have read, signed and we wished one another a safe trip back home, ours to Illinois and his to Washington.

0809171015_HDRWe returned to the hotel, got in a 30 minute workout and turned in. Before leaving that morning, I left my mark, hoping that one child will be given a copy of Barney & Lexi: Lost In Lawrenceville that I left behind. I think reading is so important at any age but especially to young children!

On our way home, Lynden found Badda Bing Pizzeria on Google in the town of Springfield, Ohio. Talk about having flare and an uptown feeling, the calzones we ordered were great and the service and atmosphere were wonderful. We highly recommend Badda Bing Pizzeria to everyone!

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Returning home, I feel my own growth and know that I made moments with my wonderful son that neither of us will forget! Make memories with the ones you love and grow yourself, every chance you get!

 

On The Move!

With the new week on the horizon, my things are packed as my son, Lynden, and I prepare to head out for Columbus, Ohio tomorrow. He and I will be attending TEDx Hillard, a motivational seminar where my good friend, Dr. Coyte Cooper will be speaking. I am super pumped to help support a friend, get my son in a circle of positive experiences and continue my own growth towards success!

I have also placed the order with the printers, regarding my postcards and bookmarks for Barney & Lexi. It is my hope that I will get word before heading out tomorrow, that they are done. I had the opportunity to see what they will look like in person, and they sure do look amazing!

I have also been contacted by the Chicago SCBWI, and it looks like they are being so gracious and picking up my tab for my room while there for my presentation in Septemeber. I’m close to the halfway point with my speech and soon will work on putting the slideshow together. All-in-all, this is going to be an awesome event!

Now, its time to set my things by the door, get a shower and hit the sack for a long drive tomorrow. More post to come through this week!

Kirkus Review Is Back!

Back in April, I submitted Barney & Lexi to Kirkus Review for a book review. Kirkus Review is a longstanding organization that gives unbiased reviews on books, looking for a boost from having a favorable review from them. Some books gain positive reviews, while some gain not-so-positive ones. Kirkus Review has earned a reputation over many, many years of being a pulse on books ability to sell in the literary marketplace.

Today, (Monday) my review came back. When I first read the notification, I cleared my mind and told myself, “Regardless of the outcome, I did it and didn’t let doubt hold me back.” Knowing that Kirkus Reviews are straight up and favor no genre, author or any other mean in the literary world, I knew that what they saw in my story could be different from what I saw in it. However, forward progress only moves in one direction, and that next step was to open that review and be proud, regardless.

I read through the review, and when finished, closed my eyes and thank my God above for His favor. Kirkus Review of Barney & Lexi: Lost In Lawrenceville was positive and while being unbiased, the end result was that Barney & Lexi walked away being considered, good characters.

*Following is two excerpts from the Kirkus Review and for professional purposes, I need to let it be known that in no way, have the excerpts been altered from their original review. *

“Fox (The Adventures of Marky, Slash & Levy, 2014) brings out the personalities of his animal characters well.” – Kirkus Review

“A mild story with good characterization.” – Kirkus Review

Positive reviews from Kirkus Review can often be a boost for any author and is one reason I paid for my review. That’s right, I paid for this review. Kirkus Reveiw builds its reputation as being unbiased but only reviews works done by authors who pay for their services. While it cost me a bit of money for my review, to have a favorable review of Barney & Lexi made the cost irrelevant compared to the benefit of having a review with Kirkus Review after it.

This review is great and I am honored to be given my review for Barney & Lexi, but this review didn’t happen because I paid a service fee and out popped a review. This review came because I spend many, many nights up after everyone else was sound asleep, writing, editing and working hard to bring Barney & Lexi to life. The result of hard work was a great review. The result of believing in my work and not allowing anything stop me from succeeding or, at the very least, learn from the steps I have taken.

I am not sure what it is that you may be thinking of doing in your life, but I want you to know that it is 100% possible. The only thing stopping anyone on this Earth is not their parents, their friends, their boss or the system. Its the person in the mirror…YOU! You are the result of the hard work or lack of work you put in. If I had sat around at home an thought, “Oh man, $450.00 is too much for a simple review,” then I would have never done it. What I did believe is that, “This 450.00 review could lead into a career, earning $850,000 a year.”

The truth is, most times, the people closest to you will not always see your dream the way you see it. You may start out and feel your all alone. I can’t begin to tell you what 12 years out of 14 was like when no one knew my name or could even guess close to it. If your willing to put in the late nights, the early mornings, if your willing to go all in, despite the naysayers, it will happen. It may not happen in six months, it may not happen in a year, (in fact, mine beginning to see the light has taken almost 14 years,) but if you put in the hard work, the result will be ultimately your dream come true!

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