Life Tools

Life is difficult. We are given challenges of all magnitudes; sometimes these challenges seem impossible to meet. But with every challenge comes a choice: to survive or to do more – to thrive.

The difference between surviving and thriving is more profound than it may be seem. For much of my life, I just weathered the storms that blew my way, just getting by. I convinced myself that that was enough. My hardships became excuses for why I wasn’t growing and becoming a better person. Gratefully, I found people, moments of realization, and tools that changed how I saw these challenges. I’ve learned how to leverage essential life tools, so that when a storm blows my way, I can make it through to the other side as a transformed person – battered and weary, but thriving with the energy of my personal development.

When storms blow in, so do opportunities. I can show you how to utilize my 12 Life Tools to help you recognize these opportunities and to channel them into personal growth. These approaches will change how you see past and future hardships, allowing you to reexamine old excuses and turn them into reasons to progress. You will find that instead of merely surviving, you can thrive.

My 12 Life Tools can all be found in my upcoming book. Here, I will provide a preview of one of these essential tools – Reasons or Excuses.

You have more power than you think


Reasons or Excuses


My dad died suddenly when I was 21. From that day forward, I became the parent to my mom. There didn’t seem to be a choice. I rocked her like a baby the night of his death as you wept asking “Tommy, how could you leave me? You said you would never leave.” We became drinking buddies, and our relationship became muddied in ways a mother’s and daughter’s should not be.  Still, in all, I considered her my best friend.

When I was 26, she died of cancer. I was ill-equipped to become the adult I was now be expected to be. Never being taught coping skills, I did what I knew – I used drugs and manipulated people to feel sorry for me. How could I put on my big girl pants when I didn’t own any? The truth is that it worked for a while.  I tried a geographical change to Atlanta at 28, but I discovered that wherever I go, there I am.


After spiraling out of control in my addiction, I entered the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) on March 3, 1995. At about 2 years clean, I was blaming my parents for everything going on in my life at that time. One of the not-so-nice old-timers turned to me and said, “You are 40 years old. Stop blaming your parents for everything. They have been dead for decades. It’s time to take responsibility for yourself.” My first thought was “Don’t you know who I am,” quickly followed by “I have no idea what that means.”

Now that I was open to learning, the lessons started coming. Looking back, they were probably there all along, but I wasn’t willing to see them.

Over time what I learned was that everything that happens is either a reason or an excuse. I may not have a choice about the situation, but I have a choice about how I look at it.  Let me give you an example. I was fired from a job at the age of 53. The circumstances don’t matter. Having never been fired, I experienced a whirlwind of emotions. As the dust began settling, I had a choice. Was I going to use this as a reason to stay angry and indignant about the situation? Or, was I going to use it as an opportunity to see what other professional options were open to me based on my experience and work ethic? Here’s the thing about choices, they all come with consequences. There was nothing to be gained by negativity. It wasn’t going to get my job back nor could I see opportunities with a fogged vision.

I don’t jump from job to job, so, prior to losing my job, I wasn’t looking to make a change.  Therefore, this was an opportunity to look at career options I would never have otherwise known existed. Things could not have worked out better. Within 3 weeks, I landed a great career opportunity with a company that, 8 years later, I am still with. As it turned out, the company that let me go was acquired within the year. I would never have stayed due to the way they did business. The career I have would most likely not have been available by the time I would have started looking.

This journey has taught me so much. I’ve grown in ways I could never have imagined both professionally and personally.  I chose to use all the energy I could have used to fuel resentment to instead guide me to an amazing career opportunity. I trusted that the universe would guide me if I allowed it to. Never would I have imagined all these years later that I would be working for the #1 company in my industry and be the #1 global salesperson.


Life happens, and I don’t always like it.  However, my perspective gives me the choice of how I walk through it.


When a situation presents itself, I try not to react. Instead, I get quiet for as long as needed and then ask myself some questions.  First, assuming I didn’t create what happened, how do I feel about it? Next, how do I want to approach it?  If I am worrying, I ask myself the following : “when did worry ever change the results of anything in my life?” Finally, do I want it to be a reason or an excuse? As you will read in my book, life has shown up in all kinds of ways for me. I have gone the excuse route many times before I knew the possibility of it being a reason existed. Since I learned that, I have yet to find a situation where using anything as an excuse would be a better route.


What circumstance have you walked through that, now knowing you had a choice of using it as a reason or an excuse, might you have handled differently?

The 12 Life Tools

  • Gratitude – Whatever I feed grows

  • Receive help with humility not humiliation – You are going to need it either way

  • Reasons or excuses – You have more power than you think

  • Create your new norm – Your new picture

  • Ask for what you need – Nobody is a mind reader

  • Accept where you are and allow yourself to be guided – No compass required

  • Stay connected – No man is an island

  • You get to do this your way – No license required (to be the pilot)

  • Allow people to leave your life – The door didn’t shut, it opened

  • Acknowledge that feelings aren’t fact – Can you hear a symphony (symphony of feelings)?

  • Pay forward – You can only keep what you have by giving it away

  • Practice FAITH – Hope with a track record (don’t worry)