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Money is Good (Happiness Too)


Spirituality and Money

I’m taking a ten-week online course about awakening to consciousness. One of the teachers in the course made some statements in a video about money and happiness that irritated me to the bone.

The teacher said, in effect, that the pursuit of happiness and money in our culture is the cause of many of the problems we are experiencing today. He also said our pursuit of happiness and money doesn’t work, and that we are undergoing a “paradigm shift in consciousness,” presumably to something better. He went on to indicate that the pursuit of happiness is not one of our primary drives. He said it is something that our culture has conditioned us to do. I thought my earbuds had malfunctioned when I heard this.

Because these statements are broad, they open the door to misinterpretation. I may have misunderstood what this fellow was saying, but the statements moved me to bring up a few points.

This teacher may be talking about the way we seek money and happiness, and there is a certain truth to this. But I also picked up from the discourse a bias against the acquisition of wealth and our traditional pursuits of pleasure.

It’s easy to get lost in the wilderness when we are breaking new ground.

While we can always do better, we have to use discretion in the ways that we effect change in ourselves and the world around us. Positive change is gradual. We don’t want to drive off a cliff and explode in a ball of flames. We want to be careful not to “throw the baby away with the bath water.”

We all need pleasure. We all need love. We all need happiness and, dare I say it, joy. We need them as much as food, shelter and clothing. And there is nothing wrong with having all of these things, not just marginally, but amply, in any pursuit, including awakening to consciousness.

I’m sure, at least in myself, that the search for happiness is my primary drive. The big “shift” came when my experiences as a young man taught me to look for happiness within myself first.

If I am happy and fulfilled within myself, then I will have something worthwhile to share with others. It may be that I can’t grasp and hold onto happiness, but I can surely point myself in the direction of experiencing more feelings of joy, peace, and love which, in my book, are foundational to well-being.

This teacher also makes a point that money does not provide security, peace of mind, or happiness. While it is true that money alone cannot provide these things, I am certain that a solid financial base contributes substantially to our individual and collective health and well-being. Not having enough money is a distraction. If I have to constantly worry about where my next meal is coming from, or the roof over my head, or having enough clothing to wear, there will be little or no time left for achieving anything besides survival goals.

And the sad truth is that most people in this world today are financially vulnerable to the point of distraction. With the added burdens of the pandemic, our survival needs are more than a distraction. We are faced with the threat of severe illness and death every day. Life was hard enough before the pandemic hit. It’s nearly impossible for many of us now.

However, if we take the pandemic out of the picture, and, at the risk of sounding unsympathetic, our economic problems don’t stem from our democratic government, our culture, or any other external factors. As Shakespeare’s Cassius said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

We have the freedom to choose what we do with our lives. If our opportunities for economic advancement are limited, we have the power to change those conditions.

We all have resistances in our bodies and minds to the realization of personal happiness. With the application of intelligent free will, we can overcome these barriers.

Having enough money is a blessing. It is a resource that enables us to feed and protect our families, to have a semblance of peace of mind, to achieve higher goals, and to help others.

I’ve managed my life so that I am free to pursue higher evolutionary goals. I am not a slave to anybody or anything. I am relatively free. I’m certainly not free in the sense that the Buddha was free. But I’m free enough to operate in the way that I want to operate. If I screw up, it’s on me.

I’ve seen too many broke and unhappy “spiritual seekers.” They use their quest as a haven from their failures in life. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s a cop-out.

Whether or not we are actively pursuing an awakening to consciousness, there is nothing wrong with striving for happiness. Happiness is a choice and an attitude. It doesn’t fall down from the sky into our lap. It’s a constant learning process. It can be extremely tricky. It can be very simple. It requires discretion. It can be a struggle. There is only one obstacle that can prevent you from realizing our vision of happiness. That obstacle is us.

If we are on any consciously intentional path to awakening, there is nothing wrong with striving to attain financial security. We only have to know how to use money for our own betterment, and the betterment of mankind.

There is nothing to hold us back from achieving our goals besides the worn out saying that goes: “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”

You can.

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current events Essays humor inspiration issues life motivation personal growth

Where Does Peace Begin?


Connecting to Inner Peace

I am constantly amazed that people wander around all day staring into their smart phones, as if these devices somehow magically fulfill all of their needs except possibly eating and procreating.

Before we continue, let me assure you of a few things, gentle reader. Despite a lack of addiction to my iPhone, I am fairly certain that I am not an alien.  I do not live in an ashram.  I have not recently arrived here from the year 1910 by time machine. I live a conventional life blessed with wonderful people around me including an extraordinary wife and daughter. I even liked my mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, which is the only thing that makes me unusual. Come to think of it, I also read paper back books regularly, which also makes me odd.

Like most people, I want to connect. Personally, I am content with fewer connections than most people I observe. At the same time, I admire people who can connect extensively with others while managing to live constructive lives focused on a positive purpose. (I’m not entirely sure people like this exist in large numbers these days, especially with respect to common sense coronavirus safety precautions).

I am sure, however, that a great deal of “over-connecting” is going on these days in a frantic effort to fill a space in the makeup of a human being that was designed to be filled from within.

Studies have shown that the generations born after the Internet boom have difficulty concentrating on a single task for extended periods of time. For example, today’s student typically has trouble writing papers and reading course materials with a high degree of comprehension. The studies attribute the difficulty young people have concentrating to the habit of constant multi-tasking encouraged by the endless flow of entertainment and information available on the Internet and social media interaction.

Where does all of this “outer-connecting” and constant external focus leave us?  Unfortunately, IMO, a little empty inside. Perhaps lonely too.

I believe we have to spend more time connecting with ourselves. More specifically, we have to connect with a place inside that is an oasis of peace, harmony, and love.

I’m fortunate to have found that place inside. It is better described as an option to go within to experience a feeling of peace and completeness. It’s something I discovered more than thirty years ago. This feeling has stayed with me through changes, ups and downs, good and bad, and a shift into a new and different spiritual community. It’s not usually a strong feeling. It’s often subtle. But it’s there.

I balance my active outer life with a serene, fulfilling inner life. This balance has helped me to be happier, more productive, and more positive. You might say what I do on the outside has more meaning and is more effective because of the peace and harmony I have found within. It’s not an idea. It’s not a thought. It has nothing to do with my mind. It’s a real experience of peace and fulfillment emanating from my heart. (I’m speaking in ideal terms here to make a point. As my dear departed mother used to say; “Some days are diamonds and some days are gold.” Mom had a great attitude. I have to add: And other days are, well…fill in the blank). Moving on…

Peace begins in the heart, as does love, joy, compassion, and hope. We have the choice to make these feelings a bedrock of our lives. Or, we can continue to pollute the garden of our hearts by planting the weeds of hatred, cynicism, and despair. It takes a conscious effort to cultivate either one. Which choice will you make?

 

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Essays inspiration issues life motivation personal growth

Towards an Unshakable Foundation of Peace


Waiting for a connecting flight from San Francisco on my way home to Fort Lauderdale, I look around me at the faces of my fellow early morning passengers. The feeling of happiness within me contrasts sharply with the reflections of dulled spirits I see sitting row after row at the departure gate.

In defense of my fellow passengers, it can be argued that even the hardiest soul has a difficult time smiling at the ripe hour of six in the morning with nothing to look forward to besides a long, cramped flight in cattle-car-coach. Yet here I am, feeling a sense of contentment so overpowering it compels me to share it with a young lady sitting two seats away. We enjoy a pleasant, meandering conversation before going our separate ways.

By all rights, I should appear as glum and bored to the other waiting passengers as they appear to me.  I’ve logged barely a few hours of sleep thanks to a five AM wakeup call. Yet I feel so alive and awake it seems like a miracle. My spirits soar like a nimble 757 jumbo jet taking flight from a short runway.

Let me assure you: I’m no stranger to boredom and depression. And I most certainly don’t feel this happy all of the time. What I’m feeling this morning is the direct result of attending a weekend retreat with Saniel and Linda Bonder.

Before I discovered Waking Down in Mutuality, now co-named Trillium Awakening, happiness had become an increasingly elusive commodity. I had my own ideas about where to find happiness, all of them external, and I pursued each and every one of them with zeal. And then the zeal began to ooze out of me like a rubber raft with a big hole in it. Fortunately, before all of the air in my psychic tires escaped into the ether, I had my first introduction to finding happiness and peace within me.

Thirty years later, my path took me in another direction. I discovered a local group on MeetUp. The group description that captured my attention went something like this: “You don’t have to be a saint to awaken to consciousness. You can awaken as yourself, right where you are. Now.”

Eventually, I discovered to my surprise that people in this group had actually experienced an awakening. Hundreds of them. It was’t just talk.

That was eight years ago. Since then, I’ve been nurturing an inner experience that is  alive and real. I haven’t had an awakening yet, but I’ve experienced more peace, joy and, love in my life than ever before.

And, most recently, I’ve had an opportunity to bathe in this experience almost on a daily basis. Thanks to the Trillium organizers and volunteers, daily online gazing and meditation sessions are being offered, free of charge, to support people through the coronavirus crisis.

The major life goal that remains for me now is to realize in greater depth an unshakable foundation of joy, peace, and love waiting to be uncovered inside me. You may be thinking, “give me a break.” People have told me your goal isn’t a goal. It’s nonsense.

I disagree.

I believe it is possible to experience peace, love and joy on a consistent basis, and radiate it out to others. Not every moment, of course, but certainly more consistently than every once in a while.

It is said that what you can conceive and believe, you can achieve. As Saniel and Linda Bonder often say, “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising.”

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

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Essays inspiration life Making Changes motivation personal growth

Hidden Treasure


What Do You Really Need?

There are things in this world that promise satisfaction, and we launch into the quest to have these things thinking: “Wow, if I had that, I’d be happy. I’d be fulfilled.”

What we actually find is the dream turns into eventual disappointment. Because the gratification that accrues with the attainment or acquisition of something outside of ourselves vanishes, as if it were never there to begin with.

But if you were to find what you truly needed, then your satisfaction would remain and increase over time.

Because this particular satisfaction evolves. Your understanding of it deepens.  Your experience of it intensifies.

When you finally grasp, at the core of your being, that “what you seek is already inside of you,” then your inner peace, love, joy and fulfillment begin to truly blossom.

Then, you can begin to enjoy every aspect of your life. You don’t have to become a monk. You don’t have to wear a chastity belt. You can be “you” more fully, more expressively, and more powerfully.

When you know all of yourself, then you will be at peace with yourself and the rest of the world. And, when you find your inner treasure, then you will have something of real value to give to others.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

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Essays inspiration issues life personal growth philosophy reflections

Serenity


To experience serenity, I think of the word “see.”

To feel serene, I remember that a wise person sees the big picture.

From this heightened perspective, I am free from the tension and anxiety that too often pushes its way into my awareness to eclipse the spontaneous joy my soul wants to feel.

I think of the big picture as a three hundred and sixty degree panoramic view of a beautiful countryside from the top of a mountain. This view is always available and waiting for me when I want to experience serenity instead of struggle.

To go to the mountain top, I change my point of view from being the center of the universe to being a part of it.   I remember that serenity and boundless joy are my birthright.

I have found it is a good practice to take time daily to sit alone in a peaceful environment to claim my birthright.  A daily dose of serenity has changed my life for the better. Peace is inside of everyone.  The awakening person seeks peace first before everything else.

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Where Is My Playground?


Where is my playground now?

I want to romp in sunlit fields.

Like I did when I was younger.

But there are no open fields now like there were then.

Now there is more uncertainty than ever before.

They say we need faith and hope, but we need more than that.

We need a tangible foundation of inner wholeness, well-being, and peace.

The need is powerfully urgent.

It can no longer be ignored.

The open fields and promising horizons are in my mind and heart.

Now, there is no place to go except within.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

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An Impossible Dream?


This is not fun. Of course, life is not all about having fun, but there has to be more fun than this. I’m not referring only to the virus outbreak.

I heard Sean Connery saying, while surrounded by his children and grandchildren, that his “third act” (or eighth decade of life) was “Shite.” His statement surprised me when I heard it some ten or fifteen years ago. With all that Sean Connery has accomplished, and surrounded by an ample number of lovely and prosperous family members, how can his life be shit, I thought?

Maybe I’m starting to understand what old Sean was talking about. When I (we) see our options constricting, life can be like a tunnel that narrows as we walk ahead. I keep telling myself to focus on bigger and brighter things, but the bigger and brighter things keep turning into cliff edges overlooking precipitous drops through cloud cover and down into oblivion.

Let the light in, I tell myself.  Imagine the light coming into you. See things from a higher perspective. The path of embodied awakening was supposed to work for me.  Seven years ago, it seemed like the perfect solution to my dilemma. The idea is to be human and realize your divinity and live it simultaneously.

Well folks, it’s easier said than done. Looks like there ain’t nothin’ easy here. Still, I have to respect my limitations and do the best that I can. I have to expand without falling off a steep cliff or drowning in a bog of quicksand.

Dropping down into oneself can be a good thing, but not into a tar pit of misery.  Where is the positivity, and the healing, and the way out of misery? There are so many misery traps surrounding us. I’m not looking for trouble or more misery. I’m looking for a safe way through or out of this.

Not every experience is going to be wonderful, but somehow there has to be a lake of resilience and peace residing within us to draw from. I’m speaking again in glowing terms, but what else is there to strive for except a positive inner experience. I can’t help thinking this way.

Am I chasing an impossible dream?

I’m sure everyone is going through some version of what I’m describing. The question is: how do I (we) make our inner and outer lives better despite the obstacles of aging or whatever obstacles are in the way. I know the “Way” varies from one individual to another. There is no “One Way.”

And ultimately, there is no “Way” at all. There is simply being.

I’d like there to be an abundance of light in this being. I’d like to carry it with me out into the world. I’d like to shine it on you, and everyone, and everywhere.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

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Essays humor inspiration motivation personal growth reflections

Becoming a Human Light Bulb


Light bulbs, by definition, radiate light. I’m told that we humans are essentially comprised of light. So, it follows that I (we) are radiating light all of the time. The truth is closer to this: I (we) constantly radiate something, but it isn’t necessarily light. What we radiate depends upon the inner reality that I (we) cultivate.

In my case, meditation helps me to cultivate peace and therefore I radiate a peaceful vibration. But thoughts also come into the picture. Thoughts affect emotions which influence moods and demeanor. So, it pays to cultivate the kinds of thoughts that contribute to the transmission you want to radiate as a total being.

I’ve found that the key to positive thoughts is to have something joyful or pleasurable to look forward to. It’s best to make whatever I (we) look forward to something that contributes to wholeness and well-being. Activities such as snorting cocaine or abusing alcohol are not recommended. Discretion is definitely suggested on the path to becoming a human light bulb.

It helps to find a source of light and bathe in that source daily. Light sources come in various shapes and sizes. Each of us has his or her own version. The one thing light sources have in common is that they all inspire us, and most importantly, THEY ACTIVATE THE LIGHT WITHIN US.

Believe it or not, light is much more enjoyable to experience than darkness. It would be wonderful if the news media, for example, discovered this simple truth. These days, most of the material coming at us does not support our whole being or wellness, to put it mildly.

If you haven’t already, find your light source. Find a whole bunch of them if you like. Change your light source if you’ve outgrown it. Whatever you do, take some time to bathe in your light source daily. Bathing in light every day increases your joy. That’s a promise. The most advanced ones among us have found their light source within them. Good for them. We all are destined to do it sooner or later.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

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inspiration issues life Making Changes motivation personal growth Success

Letting Go to Let Something Better In


The Easiest and the Hardest Step in Breaking Out of Old Patterns

It’s one of the most frightening passages life confronts us with. What we’ve been doing doesn’t work anymore. We’ve come to a fork in the road. One fork leads to the known. The other one leads to the unknown.

I had spent my entire career working in a family business. My father and my uncle built the business. They passed away, leaving the next generation in charge. My father and uncle expected me and my two cousins to continue where they left off. In theory, my cousins and I had the education and the experience to handle the transition seamlessly. Except we didn’t share a vision for the future, and I frankly couldn’t stand one of my cousins. By the way, I wasn’t alone in my antipathy towards him.

After several futile attempts to carry on as expected, I saw the handwriting on the wall. I did not foresee the business flourishing with the three of us at the helm. I decided to sell my share of the business to my cousins. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.

Up until this fork in the road, my life had been structured from the outside in. I had done what I was expected to do. Now, it was up to me to structure my life from the inside out.

I have found this wise old saying to be very true. “When one door closes, another opens.”  To express it another way, letting go of one thing leaves room for another. The scary part of navigating this passage is enduring the empty space left behind in the wake of releasing the known. We are normally left with only a tiny kernel of an idea. A faint voice whispers insistently to our heart and mind.  It can be an annoying voice because it offers no concrete plan of action. We must have the courage to take the first step.

I had always dreamed of writing fiction. From a solid background in marketing communications, I began writing short stories in my forties. While still employed in the family business, I took online courses in screenwriting at UCLA. I learned the basics of character development, drama and conflict, and plotting. After selling my share of the business, I now had the time and the freedom to initiate the final stage of the process: writing novels.

For starters, it became a very lonely process. I was accustomed to interfacing with all kinds of people in business. Now, except for a few friends, wife, daughter, and mother-in-law, I was completely alone. Doubts and fears constantly assaulted me. I figured real novelists enjoyed their solitude. I kept thinking, real novelists are self- sufficient artists. They can take or leave people. All they need are their cats or dogs. Maybe this is true. Maybe not. I haven’t had the chance to sit down with a real novelist to have this conversation. All I know is I’ve managed to write three good screenplays and three good novels since taking the fork in the road that leads to the unknown.

There are certainly ups and downs mucking about in the unknown. I have to say, though, that it’s more interesting and rewarding than steady doses of the known. It’s actually fun to travel back and forth between the worlds of the unknown and the known. (I just have to be careful not to spend too much time stuck in the known).

Let’s take writing this article to illustrate my point. When I began, I only had a vague idea of what it would be about. I did, however, have the definite intention of writing something that would be of interest and benefit to you and me. So, what is my point? Okay, here it is: have the courage to adventure into the unknown and trust the skills you know, deep down, that you have. Nobody gets rich, creates anything meaningful, or finds a deeper source of happiness following the crowd.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

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Essays inspiration life Making Changes memories motivation Nostalgia personal growth philosophy

Chart Your Course to a Better Life


Fantasy green road to magic bright fairy tale forest.

The Enchanted Forest of Childhood

There was a wooded lot two houses down from my home in the neighborhood where I grew up. We called it “the woods.” At times, the lot became an enchanted forest.  This was especially true when I invited a friend to play in the woods with me.  One of my friends shared my enthusiasm for vintage horror films.  We transformed into monsters and created our own scripts using the enchanted forest as our stage.

One afternoon, I remember playing Frankenstein to my friend’s Wolf Man.  I can still clearly remember scenes from this “play” forty years later. When our time together had almost expired, an invisible alarm clock sounded inside me. We had to return to my house. My friend’s mother would be calling any minute to arrange a pickup. I stood at the border of the woods, one foot in the wilds and the other on the neatly mowed grass of an adjacent home. This is the thought that ran through my head:

Next year we’ll be in seventh grade and we won’t be able to do this anymore.

Another alarm clock had sounded, only the chimes of this one struck an infinitely more somber note.  The chimes said the time had arrived to put this chapter of my life behind me.  I was not in the least bit happy at the news.

The  Paradox of Growing Up

Growing up is often associated with pain, and I am certainly no stranger to this experience.  Growing up is scary.  We have to separate from the umbilicus of parents, stand on our own two feet, compete for a niche in society, establish loving relationships, become parents, and face death at the end of our journey.  Truth be told, I’ve never really wanted to grow up. To this day, I am not a big fan of “putting away childish things.” But it seems growing up is something a human being cannot avoid if he or she desires to lead a constructive, creative life.

Here’s a trick I’ve learned that makes the medicine of growing up a lot easier to take—ladle in generous doses of daily joy.

You may be thinking (or laughing to yourself and at me): How do I do that with the uncomfortable pressures and time crunch of work and family responsibilities?  Relax.  We’ll get to the answer, but first, we need a little more background.

I get stuck creatively and psychologically if I’m not experiencing joy on some kind of a regular basis.

The Power of Joy

Bergsteiger auf einem Gipfel im Gebirge bei Nebel

Obviously, joy is a precious and elusive commodity.  It takes effort and a multi-faceted strategy to experience it.  Joy is the elixir of life in my universe.  It is the oil that allows this machine called me to run smoothly.  When I’m feeling joy, I’m more creative.  My work reaches a higher level.  I am more motivated.  I want to expand my heart and mind. I want to do what it takes to reach my goals.  I am more equipped to help others.  When I’m feeling joy, work becomes play.  I’m back in the enchanted forest with my sixth grade friend.  Resistance evaporates in the presence of joy.

Where does this joy come from?  It comes from within me.  It comes from within you.  The only way to find the joy that does not depend on something outside of ourselves is to establish daily practices that uncover this innate joy.  Since we are all unique individuals, we have to find the way to tap into this joy, or source, that we resonate with, that works for us.  The only generalization we can make is: JOY IS WITHIN YOU, waiting to be discovered, if you haven’t discovered it already.

The Path

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I’ve had to go out of the mainstream to find my joy.  It hasn’t been easy, because I’m a very conventional person.  Yet, something inside me kept pushing me to find an undefinable something more.  I was always attracted by the idea of finding God within me, but the Eastern inspired approach of dissolving the ego never remotely interested me.  And it is obviously impractical and inappropriate for survival and success in our Western culture.  I would add that it’s also a mentally unhealthy approach.

Thankfully, I’ve found that any ego destructive approach is totally unnecessary.  Through my research and personal experience, I’ve learned that consciousness has evolved beyond the concept of ego dissolution.  There’s nothing wrong with a healthy ego.  We need one in our Western civilization to survive and enjoy our lives.  I’ve found a path that honors both the individual self and the universal self.  It’s a path of embodied consciousness.  It embraces both transcendent and every-day awareness.

You Are More Than You Think You Are

The foundation of my practice is meditation.  It is my gateway to a reservoir of inner peace, joy, and love.

What do you want?  Don’t settle for less than you deserve.  Anything is possible.  Peace is possible.  Love is possible.  Joy is possible.  Find it.  It is waiting for you in the depths of your heart.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.