All posts by Levi Newman

About Levi Newman

Levi Newman, a 10-year Army veteran and graduate of the University of Missouri. Levi currently serves as the senior author for the Veterans United Network. He also works as the Director of Outreach for Veterans United Home Loans, where he builds and maintains relationships with businesses, organizations and individuals. To keep up with Levi, follow him on Google+!

How to Define Success for Yourself

hikingPeople like to be comfortable. We also like to make sense out of the chaos that surrounds us.

We find the best way of doing this is to rank and organize everything around us; including accomplishments. It can become so easy to see a family member or a friend living the life that “you should be living,” and look upon your own accomplishments with much less fervor. So what if I asked you if you’ve lived up to your life and career expectations; what would you say? How would you judge yourself?

The truth is that everyone will have a different answer, because we all have a different definition for success.

You’re a Unique Snowflake

Like I mentioned before, it’s supremely important that you don’t compare yourself to friends and coworkers.  Seeing the accomplishments of others and trying to measure up to their standards makes it nearly impossible to be satisfied with yourself. This is especially true in regards to social media. As enjoyable as it can be, social media provides people the opportunity to show only a “highlight reel” of their best moments. This is often self-deflating as you and I only see our bloopers.

The thing is is that there’s no traditional finish line in life, because life isn’t a race. There’s no timer telling you that you have to have a college education by the age of 23, be married by 28 and start having children by 30. At least, I hope there’s not, or someone’s going to have to take back the degree I finally earned at the ripe old age of 33.

Look in the Mirror

It may be hard to admit, but if you look hard enough, you’ll most likely find someone in the world that is better than you at something. For example, I like to think I’m the best video game player on earth. I try and remind my 10-year-old boy of that “fact” every day. Nevertheless, I think we could both agree that it’s not entirely true.

That’s why it’s so important to set realistic goals that are both manageable end enjoyable. There’s no goal in the world that’s too large if you set your mind to it; you just have to take the right path to get there.

A good metric to determine your own success is to simply compare what you’ve done in the past with what you’re doing right now. What have you accomplished in the last year? Are you happier now than you were six months ago? What have you done to improve yourself?

You might surprise yourself and realize that maybe you’ve done more than you thought. You might even decide that it’s time to make a change. Either way, never forget that it’s never too late to do something big.

Start With What You Know

Here are some of the questions I asked myself. Your questions and answers may vary:

  • Was I a successful writer five years ago? Nope. Am I now? I’d like to think so!
  • Are you more fit than you were last year? Not even close. This is something I need to work on.
  • Am I happier now than when I first separated from the Army? Infinitely!
  • Have I become a more well-rounded person in the last two years? I can honestly say, yes!
  • Did I own a house 10 years ago? No. Do I now? Yes!

It’s not a foolproof plan, nor does it fix every problem, but it’s a start. Ask yourself, and you’ll find the answers you’re looking for.

Take hold of your life today and make the changes that will ultimately make you happier, more successful and lead you to your dreams. Only you can determine if you’re successful, so make sure it happens.

Photo courtesy of Johnson Cameraface.

3 Ways to Overcome Anger’s Pervasive Nature

If you have a short fuse, there might be some scientific basis for it. Scientists have discovered a genetic variation in some people that makes them more prone to risk taking, aggression and violence. Dubbed “the warrior gene,” it makes some people more likely to be aggressive, angry and prone to violence.

This isn’t to say that people with this gene are going to turn green and grow 10 sizes bigger, but it’s proven to make them a little angrier than the rest of us.

Being angry because someone just cut you off on the freeway doesn’t suggest that you’re part of the one-third—it just means you’re human. Just because you get angry sometimes doesn’t mean you have “the mean gene.”shouting

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can leave this anger unchecked.

By submitting to these types of behaviors or feelings, we are disrupting the precarious balance within our relationships, and we’re also adversely impacting our bodies. Negative emotions, especially anger, disrupt our natural flow of energy, causing a physiological change that kicks us into “fight or flight.” These constant changes affect our heart, immune system, digestion and hormone production.

These stresses even damage our adrenal gland and immune system. For women, prolonged stress on the adrenal gland can even affect the reproductive organs (uterus, ovaries), potentially resulting in sterility. That’s why it is so important that we practice overall wellness.

Let’s talk about three ways we can interrupt negative behavioral patterns by staying positive.

  • Visualize what you want to gain from a situation and change your thoughts to match positive behaviors.
  • Alter the way you’re presenting yourself. If you’re angry, you’re not likely expressing yourself in a positive, well-formed way. Take a moment to reflect and “hear” what you are saying
  • Change your physical position. If you find yourself standing aggressively (too close, leaning forward, balled fists), your target audience has probably shut you out entirely. Take a seat and give them a sense of control — while you get time to gain composure.

So, while the “warrior gene” may sound cool, it’s one gene that we must rise against in order to protect the harmonious function of our bodies and minds, as well as keep healthy relationships with others.

No matter what our genes may tell us, they can’t choose how we act or who we want to become. If you’re a naturally angry person, like me, I challenge you to stop making excuses for negative behavior and start making the right choices for a positive life.

How do you make positive choices?


Photo courtesy of Krista Baltroka.

5 Steps to Make a Great First Impression

HandshakeSeven seconds.

According to researchers at New York University and Harvard, that’s how long we get when we’re making a first impression. Think about that for a second (or seven): with every prospective client we want to make, every job interview we have, and every personal relationship we start, we’re only allowed a brief moment to make a positive connection.

Perhaps that’s indicative of life as we know it in 2013. Attention spans are shorter and the need for immediacy is higher.

Stranger still, the crucial moments have more to do with non-verbal cues than verbal ones. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, says that non-verbal communication is four times more powerful than verbal. 

Seeing as how we don’t all have the intuition required for every interaction in life, I’m going to give you a few basic guidelines on how to get started.

  1. Eye contact says it all! Your first interaction should involve direct eye contact. Looking directly into the eyes of another person builds an unspoken respect and trust, and indicates your interest and openness to that relationship. Don’t forget to raise those eyebrows slightly now and again: it’s the universal sign of recognition.
  2. Flash that smile. A good smile (don’t forget to brush those teeth) says a lot about you. The right amount of cheek raising grin can show that you’re friendly and approachable. Keep it simple —nobody wants to see your molars.
  3. Stop slouching, Quasimodo. No matter how tall you might be, standing straight with your shoulders back exudes confidence and personal power. The more you slouch the less empowering you become.
  4. Wipe off those sweaty palms; it’s time for a handshake. A single, firm handshake can do more to build rapport than anything else. Find a safe place in-between the “dead fish” and “I can squeeze water from a rock” and use that. Keep it concise and short. Nothing says weirdo like a 30 second sweaty hand grip. Oh, and don’t even think of adding your off hand to this party.
  5. No need to shout. Keep a safe speaking distance, approximately two feet away, while making conversation. Leaning forward from this position shows that you’re interested in what’s being said. Remember personal space! If you can taste what they had for lunch by smelling their breath, you’re too close.

With all of that being said, there are still a few additions that can be done to reinforce your five steps. First, be on time; especially if you’ve planned this interaction. There’s nothing worse than running late when it’s the very first time you’re meeting someone. Remember to bet on traffic delays, having to clean cat hair off the clothes you just laid out or even the occasional lost taxi driver. For those parents out there, have a back-up plan when your keys go missing in the toilet. Presentation is everything and being early is the first step in creating a lasting impression.

Next, people know exactly who you are by the first few words that come out of your mouth. A positive greeting that exudes excitement might show how passionate you are about the outcome of the interaction, whereas nervousness or complaining about your surroundings might indicate you aren’t confident or at ease with the situation.

And finally, be on the same level. If you’re using words that people need a dictionary or thesaurus for, while you may sound intelligent, they’re going to lose interest. Being well read and articulate is important, but if others don’t understand what you’re saying it’s wasted effort.

For example: While I hope my sentences in this story carry a certain breviloquence, and I don’t mean to bloviate, I believe my words sound quite mellisonant. Obnoxious, right?

Above all, be honest about who you are and what you expect. Every single interaction could be life changing, so give it your best shot by starting off on the right foot.

Or was it the left? Those seven seconds sure went quickly.


Photo courtesy of baggyjumper.

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