2 easy ways to Stay Happy.

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written by Ben Alexander

#1. Be useful and DO something every day.

Do something every single day that is measurable and productive. It could be exercise, a chore around the house, gardening, etc. I work from home 99% of the time, today I was closing new clients over the phone and talking with my database expert about changes to one of our systems. I also did the dishes and went food shopping.

One of the roots of depression is the feeling that you are worthless, but if you DO something you can draw satisfaction from that, at least for that day.

This is why I take care of my own yard, at the end of the day it feels great to sit on my back porch in sweaty clothes and drink a beer while the sprinklers run over my freshly cut lawn.

If you work hard every day, and get stuff DONE you will sleep well and have a great sense of daily satisfaction.  

#2. Serve others.

This does not mean you have to go out and solve the homeless issue, this can be as simple as cooking a nice meal for your family or cleaning up your home. When you are focused outward you gain perspective on your own life.

This upcoming April I’m going on my third trip to Honduras to install water filters with my fellow Rotary club members and Pure Water for the World. Going there, and seeing how people struggle with everyday life makes me tremendously grateful for what we have here in the United States.

Serving others also translates into my business, by making Balloon Distractions BETTER I am serving the independent contractor Artists and Regional Partners who make our concept possible.

The flip side of serving others is doing NOTHING for anyone but yourself.
We all know people like this, they never lift a finger to do anything… and then they wonder why they have no friends and are wracked with depression. If you are a business owner and you don’t serve your clients and your team you will be OUT of business pretty fast!

Serving others can be as simple as going to a local nursing home and just spending time with the people who live there. You can volunteer to mentor a youth group in church each week, or volunteer to frame out a house with Habitat for Humanity. During the recession there were several empty houses on my street with knee-high weeds, I started cutting all those lawns on a regular basis, which kept my street looking decent until those empty houses eventually found buyers.

As a member of the local Rotary club here in Wesley Chapel I was fortunate to serve as the president of the club 2 years ago, my goal during my year of leadership was to grow the membership of the club and we were very successful.    

There are so may ways to serve others if you just look around….

So, if you are feeling down try my 2 suggestions for the next few weeks, let me know if it helped you feel better about life!

 

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Why we LOVE Lori Greiner, the Queen of QVC!

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We made a shark hat for the Queen of QVC when we shot our Shark Tank segment back in September, Lori posted this on a social media a few days ago….

Watch our segment when it airs on ABC January 17th, 2014. Our awesome team in Southern California, led by Thomas Ryan, got together to twist over 2,000 balloon shapes for the segment.

Here at BD we are big Lori fans, she is always a class act, she treats everyone with respect and she is proof that being NICE does pay off!

Benjamin T. Alexander

March 2014

Everyone has value.

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Today I went out with 3 other members of my Rotary and we took shoes, socks, warm sleeping bags and few other sundry items to the men living in camps in the woods around Wesley Chapel.

The fellow in the picture is Will, a Vietnam veteran and an artist who told me he has sketched this beautiful lady many times and he has no idea who she is, but occasionally he dreams about her! Will has been homeless for a few years now, and when we brought him the supplies he invited us to sit on some plastic milk crates next to his tent and we talked for awhile.

He told us how children occasionally mistook him for Santa Claus, but he would smile and tell them he was one of Santa’s elves….

We had met many of these men during Thanksgiving when our club gave out hot turkey dinners, they live illegally in tents in the woods on pieces of land owned by anonymous developers. Will told us that the police would occasionally come by and kick him off a parcel of land, but that only forces him to move to another place where he is trespassing again.

There is no easy solution for people in Will’s situation, many times they are unemployable due to alcohol addiction, appearance (like missing teeth) or a lack of skills and reliability…..

… but they are still human beings; worthy of our compassion and worthy of our time.

You can’t make an alcoholic go to meetings, or force someone to show up for work on time, but you can give them a warm pair of shoes, a sleeping bag, or that camping tent in your garage that’s you haven’t used in years.

Benjamin T. Alexander

December 2013

 

The Seasons of your Life

Hanging out in North Carolina with Todd Barrow.Image

written by Ben Alexander, founder of BalloonDistractions.com

Todd started with us as an entertainer filling gigs part time and now runs one of the largest regions in our organization. I got to spend some time with him during the summer of 2013 and we had some great conversations about work, life, and all the BIG questions.

Todd and I are both knocking on 40, and we’ve both had all kinds of varied and weird jobs. Todd was in the military, counseled young people for drug addiction, and even installed water filters!

One of things that Todd and I discussed (over a beer or three) were the “seasons of life” that we all go through along this journey, and how certain types of work fit better at certain points in your life.

Case is point is the college student that joins us and fills gigs as an Independent Contractor, they log on, choose where and how often they want to work, and the flexibility of this works in their favor.

Then you have the stay at home Mom, she might have kids in elementary school, but she doesn’t want the hassle of a typical 9-5 job, so she learns to twist and uses our company to get out of the house 2 nights a week and earn a couple hundred $$$.

The third example might be a retired military veteran who gets out of the military in their 40’s with a small pension and joins our team as a Regional Partner and earns 40K per year by organizing the team, selling new clients and occasionally filling a gig to keep the schedule populated.  

Each of these three examples represent someone in a different season of their life, with different perspectives and goals, along with varied levels of life experience.

As a company we respect whatever season of life you happen to be in, and we’re grateful that people from various backgrounds, ages and experience have joined our team.

So what season are YOU in?

Are you happy with where you are in life, or do you want to make a change and do something different? We are looking for Regional Partners in 200 metro markets throughout the United States, check out our website at BalloonDistractions.com!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balloons for Adults!

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written by Ben Alexander

Don’t get the wrong idea, all of the stuff we twist in a public place is G rated!

The guy in the pic was a customer at a restaurant in Bradenton, FL. We made him a really cool alligator balloon hat, and he is not a little kid anymore.

Of course, our priority when we twist is always the kids in the restaurant or event, but what do you do when the entire place is full of adults?

You entertain them, of course!

When I was a college kid twisting at the TGIF in Marlton NJ I would come in at 5PM, entertain the families until about 9 o’clock, then after a short break I’d twist cool stuff for the couples and drinkers until 11PM.

I made $800 twisting balloons in one week way back in 1997!

As a guy I find it easier to approach a table with the ladies, people like attention from the opposite gender as long as you do so in a respectful and fun way. If I see a group of ladies older than me I might go to their table and say:

“Hello beautiful ladies, they told me that this was the most out of control table in the entire restaurant, who would like to go to the Prom with me?” 

If someone responds or laughs I ask her what her favorite color is then make her a simple flower bracelet. If you keep it innocent and fun (and the table is outgoing) most groups will go with it and include you in the party.

 

 

Get out of your comfort Zone!

Many  eclectic jobs  led me to where I am today:

Here is a short list, in no logical order:

  1. Paid Baritone for a Presbyterian church.
  2. Insurance agent for Mutual of Omaha.
  3. Basic construction, ripping up sidewalks, building fences, etc.
  4. English teacher in Taiwan.
  5. Art model for my college’s life modeling class.
  6. Volunteer firefighter (no pay, but a unique experience)
  7. Balloon Twister 4 Tips in countless restaurants.
  8. Owner of a balloon twisting talent agency.
  9. Burger flipper at Dairy Queen.
  10. Waiter at many different restaurants.
  11. Lifeguard at several lakes and pools across South Jersey.
  12. Swim Instructor for children.
  13. Rollerblade instructor in Taiwan.
  14. Selling gold plating services to car dealerships.
  15. Selling deregulated energy door to door.
  16. Managing large door to door crews that sold deregulated energy.
  17. Selling underwater scuba camera equipment over the phone.
  18. Selling mortgages over the phone.
  19. Selling employment advertising over the phone.
  20. Selling solar and energy efficiency door to door, in NJ, PA and FL.
  21. Selling cars (mostly Toyota) in MD and FL.
  22. Mowing lawns and basic landscaping.
  23. Auctioneer’s assistant and go-to (when I was 12 years old)
  24. Delivery driver for Naple’s pizza in Mullica Hill.
  25. Substitute teacher all over South Jersey (my 3rd year in college)
  26. Package sorter on the midnight shift at UPS.
  27. Direct Sales with Amway and Life Leadership.
  28. Getting paid from sales of my first book on Amazon.
  29. Sales consulting for 2 marketing firms in Philadelphia.
  30. Goofed off with the EB-5 investment program in Taiwan, never made a dime.
  31. Imported Super Sonic Spheres from Taiwan, same result as #30.

I’ve tried so many unusual things in my life that nothing is that weird or unfamiliar.

In college every single time I got fired from one job (I had a big mouth and it got me in hot water) I would look around and try something different.

I feel bad for the person who turns 18, gets a job that he hates, then stays in that job for 40 years because he is hooked to a measly paycheck. How boring, right?

Be open to new ideas and experiences, and as you get older you will continually expand your comfort zone. When you stretch yourself you will learn how to be resilient and adjust to anything.

Trying many different things also teaches you to be resourceful, a great quality to develop whether you are an entrepreneur, teacher or any profession.

Once you’ve taken off every stitch of clothing in front of a room full of art students, or traveled 12 time zones away on a ONE WAY ticket to a foreign country to work, everything else is small potatoes.

I started Balloon Distractions (when I was 29) because I never found a job that I actually liked.

Previous to that I could never hold a job longer than 24 months.

When you move OUT, way OUT, from your comfort zone you will gain tremendous confidence and trust in yourself. After living in Taiwan and learning how to speak a bit of Mandarin Chinese I was not afraid to live somewhere very far from what I knew growing up.

Moving to Florida in 2003? No big deal, at least it’s still in the USA.

Consequently I feel at home everywhere I go here in the States. The entire USA is within my comfort zone. As I traveled around the United States building Balloon Distractions I always felt at home, whether in Seattle, Miami or Houston.

A little job or hobby that you try out in college can lead to something significant down the road. When I was twisting balloons in college I never would have guessed that it would lead to Balloon Distractions.

More recently I got involved in residential and commercial solar with Tampa Bay Solar. Here I was, learning a totally new industry at 43 years old! I’ve been making a great income and learning a ton. I feel like a million bucks.

Be thrilled by the potential of the unexpected, and don’t hesitate to get out of your own comfort zone! The only thing you risk by trying something new is loss of time.

Ben Alexander

blog was originally written in 2014, updated in May of 2017.

Silent Night.

There I stood, a third grade child onstage at the VFW hall, alone in the hot spotlight at the Christmas Concert for Alice Costello Elementary School in Brooklawn, New Jersey. My music teacher Mrs. Monihan looked up from the piano and began to play the introduction to Silent Night. I took a deep breath and began to sing the first verse, in the clear soprano voice that I inherited from my mother:

Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, all is Bright….

As I sang the rest of the third grade class stood behind me and used ASL to sign the lyrics with their hands. The only sound was my voice over the microphone and the piano. Mrs. Monihan, our music teacher with perfectly coiffed hair and impeccable red nails, had chosen me to sing in front of the 1,000 or so folks that always packed her amazing Christmas concerts.

Holy Infant so tender and mild…..

Even at the tender age of 8 I had already sung this beautiful song countless times, my family attended the Methodist church in Brooklawn, the very same church that my parents had been married in many years earlier. When Mrs. Monihan heard my voice piping up above the others in our 3rd grade music class she knew I’d be a good fit for the solo.

Mrs. Monihan was the type of teacher who poured her entire being into her work, she had a wicked laugh and she played the piano at breakneck speed. She would take a bunch of kids from our blue-collar town and teach us to sing and play instruments and feel the wonder of music in our hearts. Many years later, after I was in college on a scholarship to study vocal opera I would think back on Mrs. Monihan’s tremendous influence on my life and the wonderful gift inside me that she unwrapped with her boundless enthusiasm.

As I stood there singing in the bright circle of light on the stage I only had a very vague understanding of the evil out there in the world, I was very blessed to have loving parents who took care of me and made sure I was safe, fed hot meals and taken care of with a roof over my head. Other than the usual mischief that little kids get into at that age I was innocent to the horrors of the world.

In that moment, at the crowded VFW hall, I was able to sing a beautiful song and move the hearts of the people in the audience.

When the song was over there was a moment of silence, and then the audience erupted and clapped and went bonkers. It was a great moment.

Fast forward 30 years…….

December of 2012 was a really busy month for me, I was running Balloon Distractions and also doing consulting work for a company headquartered in Philadelphia. I was constantly on flights between Philadelphia and Tampa. It was one of those rare days when I was home in Tampa and able to work from my home office.

I was doing some admin work when I took a break and clicked over to Slate to check out the news. I saw a story about a shooting unfolding at an elementary school in Massachusetts. I got up from my desk and walked out to my living room to watch CNN on the TV.

As the details about Newtown unfolded on my TV screen I sat there on my couch and began to cry. I wept in that profound way that empties the caverns of the heart and makes sorrow easier to carry. This tragedy, more than any others, shook my faith and stirred something deep inside me. As the owner of a business that makes children HAPPY the Newtown massacre brought me down for a long time after, and even now represents a permanent shadow on my heart.

I wept because we were so close to Christmas, a holiday that’s about love for children, a holiday that celebrates the BIRTH of a child. I wept because of the love I have for my own daughters… I could only imagine the pain those parents were going through when they learned the news.

Any mass shooting is a horrible tragedy, but the Newtown massacre extinguished the lives of 22 children who woke up that morning with an expectation that the world around them was a safe place in which they were loved, well cared for, and kept away from any evil OUT THERE in the world.

My only consolation is that the children from Newtown all went to heaven as a group, and I’m positive that there were many people “up there” to greet them, comfort them, and hold them close. If you are not a person of Faith then I suppose you believe that those innocent souls are truly gone, snuffed out like a flame from a small candle, but I sincerely hope that is not the case.

Sometimes it takes two extremes to really understand and appreciate what is out there in the universe. After Newtown many people lamented that the world is a bad and evil place, but that is only because the Adam Lanza’s of the world get more attention than 100,000 good people like Mrs. Monihan.

Every day, in small towns and large cities all over the world, there are good people who wake up in the morning and then go out to work hard and do an excellent job. Some of these jobs might be high profile, like the mayor of a city, or they might be very humble jobs, a janitor mopping a floor in a high school, or a domestic changing sheets in a hotel.

Sometimes no one notices the good job that they are doing, but they do it anyway because they have pride and abiding respect with themselves and THEY know whether they did a good job or not.

Good work is a counterbalance to anyone out there doing BAD work, and doing something to make a child smile counteracts (in a small way) the bad things that are happening  to children elsewhere.

Bad things happen, but I choose to believe in the good that is out there, the people like Mrs. Monihan who choose to be a beacon of light.

-Ben Alexander

2015