Introduction

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Introduction

We love the little owl on the cover of this book. In many cultures, owls are symbols of wisdom, transition, intelligence, protection and secrets, and this little guy, ready to grow bigger and even wiser, is a great mascot for a book that is all about personal growth, wisdom, and dreams.

The words in the title of our book, “Time to Thrive,” have a deliberate double meaning because our stories have two main themes: 1) You need to make time in your busy life to thrive, whether that means putting aside an hour a day for a hobby, or just learning to say no when asked to take on too many responsibilities; and 2) It’s time to take charge of your life and pursue your passion, do something you are enthusiastic about, and feel alive! No more putting off those life changes you know you should make.

In this inspiring collection, you’ll read stories from regular people who decided it was time for a change. Many of them had been stuck in the same old routine for years, so they can provide you with a roadmap for how you can break out of your own rut and do something new. Some of them found renewed purpose and joy through a new job, a hobby, or volunteer work, and their lives were transformed as a result. Some of them just needed to find balance in lives that were basically okay, but were a little too frenetic and unfocused. Many of our writers say they needed to reacquaint themselves with themselves, going back to their roots and remembering what they had actually intended to do with their lives.

Sometimes we need to take a step back from our busyness and do some self-assessment. In Chapter 1, “It’s Time to Meet Yourself,” you’ll read about Lucy Lemay Cellucci, who took a two-year “sabbatical” to work at Starbucks as a barista, and then found herself ready to go back to her profession as a dance instructor. She says the job “helped me sift through my depressive fog and reconnect with the ability to have fun.” You’ll also read Sheila Wasserman’s story about setting out on a 16,000-mile road trip from Florida to Alaska and back, all by herself! Sheila says she needs to take a break from family obligations and “see if there’s any me left in me.”

You’ll read more about self-discovery in Chapter 2, “It’s Time to Embrace Adventure.” You’ll meet Marsha Warren Mittman, a young widow who surprised her New York relatives by somewhat randomly choosing to move to little Spearfish, South Dakota. She says “I’ve never regretted my decision to take flight” and, in fact, she says it feels more like she has returned to her true home. In the same chapter, you’ll read how Benny Wasserman was discovered by a lookalike talent agency and has made a nice second income as an Albert Einstein lookalike for the past twenty-five years. If you Google him you’ll see he really does look like the smartest guy in the world!

Benny talks about how he flourished in his new job post-retirement, and you’ll read plenty of stories about new careers in Chapter 3, which is about how to “Thrive on Your Own Path.” Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan did this big-time when she quit her six-figure Wall Street job and spent years studying to become one of only four female Masters of Wine in the United States. We’ve seen her speak about wine and she clearly loves her new job. By the way, she makes more money now than she did before! Jennifer says, “I wake up feeling happy, jazzed every morning, and looking forward to what my workday will bring.”

Also in Chapter 3, Dr. Mitra Ray tells us an inspiring story about forging her own path. The child of Indian immigrants, she went to prestigious universities, got her PhD in biochemistry, and even went along with an arranged marriage, all as expected by her parents. But then she raised some eyebrows, both in her professional community and in her Bengali one, by following her heart — getting a divorce, embarking on a new career focused on wellness, and marrying her soul mate. While it was hard, she says that she realized, “I alone was responsible for my happiness.” And she’s glad she is modeling that outlook for her two teenage daughters now.

No matter how busy we are in business, in our families, or as volunteers, we still need to take care of ourselves. Otherwise we aren’t really good for anyone else, either. That’s why Chapter 4 is called “Make Time for Your Most Important Customer.” Our writers share some great advice about how you can carve out some “me time” to ensure that you remain happy and productive. Sometimes, that just means putting your foot down, as Rebecca Hill does every Monday. Monday is her day off from everything — work, volunteering, and husband. She calls Mondays “My-days” and says they help her maintain a sense of self and help her “to honor myself as an independent person with individual tastes and desires.”

Continuing with that theme of self-protection in Chapter 4, you’ll read Ann Vitale’s important reminder about the power of saying “no.” Many of us are very good at what we do, and we become the go-to people at work, in our families, and in volunteer work. Ann finally learned how to say “no” without explaining herself. She says, “I felt light, free, amazed at myself. I’d just said ‘No’ with no explanation.” Try it. You’ll like it!

Now that we’ve taught you how to say “no” we need to address saying “yes” occasionally, too. And that’s why Chapter 5, “Say Yes to Thriving,” is filled with stories about saying “yes” to all the good things in life — the things you’ll have time to do once you master saying “no!” Ericka Kahler tells us about the day she had an epiphany about her life and decided to start saying “yes” to every new experience and adventure that was offered to her. “Yes” became her mantra, and as word got out, her friends invited her to more and more events. Ericka says, “ ‘Yes’ literally changed my life.” April Knight reports much the same experience in her story about how she decided to ignore her fears and force herself to try new things. She blossomed, changing from a woman afraid of going to the mall to one who travels to Australia alone and rides a wild burro in a rodeo. She says, “I don’t want to live a timid, fearful life and I refuse to ‘be careful.’ I’m running the race!”

Once you have figured out how to thrive in your own life, you may want to spread the word. In Chapter 6, “Help the World Thrive,” you’ll read about some ordinary people who have become extraordinary people and are helping others thrive as well. Mike Conrad and his brother, for example, were living on food stamps when they realized they could revolutionize the food industry by allowing people to buy food in bulk, straight from their trucks. They started a company called Zaycon Foods that now serves tens of thousands of customers across the U.S., and they are now working on a program to accept food stamps as well. Mike says, “With a little courage and a lot of goodwill, anyone can change the world.” We’ve met him and can attest to the fact that he goes to work every day with a spring in his step!

Jaki Baskow is another mover and shaker whose story will inspire you. After her father was murdered, she moved from New Jersey to Las Vegas, with no prospects and no money. With grit and determination, she has built a huge talent agency there, and has mentored thousands of performers, helping to launch many successful careers. She says, “I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to live a life of purpose that revolves around helping people help each other.”

Mike Conrad and Jaki Baskow talked about how they transformed their lives, following career paths they would have never expected, and we continue in that vein in Chapter 7, “It’s Time to Reinvent Yourself.” You’ll read about Kathy Caprino’s winding career path. After eighteen years in publishing and marketing, she realized that she wanted to be a marriage and family therapist. After spending years obtaining a master’s degree in the field and having her own therapy practice, Kathy realized that wasn’t quite right either. She wasn’t afraid to make another change, and now she helps coach working women, helping them stay passionate and purposeful about their own careers and lives. She says, “It wasn’t easy by any stretch to reinvent myself (twice).” We love the fact that Kathy wasn’t afraid to buck convention and follow her heart.

And that’s exactly what Sam Georges did after his wife died. Sam gave up a dream home and a dream job in California and moved to Las Vegas, where he reinvented himself as a champion poker player. Why did Sam share his personal story with us? He says, “I am a private kind of guy. I decided to share this story because I want anyone who finds themselves in these circumstances to know that life is guided. You unfold the future — the future does not unfold you.”

You may not want to become a professional poker player, but you probably do have dreams, and we have plenty of stories that show you how to achieve them. Chapter 8 is called “It’s Time to Pursue Your Dreams,” because it is! It is always time to do that. You just need to make some room in your life for that possibility to manifest itself. Dr. Buzz McCarthy tells us how she chucked it all after a divorce. She closed her business, sold all her possessions, and moved from Australia to London with just a suitcase and a laptop computer. She says, “I’d chosen to launch into the void, and here I was in wonderful London living in total joy.”

Stephen Rusiniak tells us how he followed his dream, too. Despite the fact that he was “just a cop” and he had received a C in his freshman writing class in college, Stephen persisted in his writing, and we can tell you with personal knowledge that it is quite good, as he has been published in quite a few Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

We close our book about thriving with a very important chapter, “Make Time for Your Relationships.” We loved Lisa Pawlak’s story about her family’s long, adventurous trip to New Zealand, where they didn’t pay attention to the clock or the Internet. They built memories that will bond that family forever, even when the children are grown and raising their own kids. And what a great idea Janet Bower and her husband had when they rented a Camaro while their stodgier car was in the shop. The septuagenarians carefully lowered themselves into those bucket seats and had a great time tooling around San Diego County, attracting amused looks wherever they went. Janet says, “There was the fun, excitement, and challenge that two elderly, long-married people can have but seldom do. There are always routines and schedules, but there are also new opportunities. When those opportunities arise, take them — at any age.”

We offer you our own stories at the very end of the book, about how we make sure we stay true to our own needs, protect our most important relationships, and keep ourselves sane. You’ll read about saying “no” to some things so that you can say “yes” to others. And more importantly, that will allow you to say “yes” to the people who matter. You’ll also learn how to carve out enough “me time” to achieve a work-life balance that allows you to thrive in your own busy life.

We have enjoyed making this book for you and we’re almost sorry to be sending it off to the printer already. But it’s your turn now to soar like that owl, your time to thrive. We hope through these amazing stories you will find the inspiration, faith, passion and vision to truly live the best life you can make for yourself.

~Amy Newmark and Loren Slocum Lahav

February 17, 2015

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