December 16, 2017

Q & A with David A. Volpe, author

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David was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he currently resides. Educated at The Pennsylvania State University, David is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur who specializes in personal development coaching. David has also spent time as a collegiate boxer, boxing coach, personal trainer, shiatsu practitioner, self-publishing consultant, and business consultant to several successful startups. His sole purpose is to leave a positive impact on the world, one person at a time. His latest book entitled 'Just a Thought: Creating the Life you Deserve from the Inside Out' is available now. Find him on Facebook: David A. Volpe, Instagram @justathoughtbook and @davidavolpe, and his website.


GB: David, can you share a little bit about yourself? Any background info worthy of noting for the readers? Any works you'd like to self-plug?

DV: Glen, first of all, thanks so much for the chat. Let’s dive right in! A little about myself… I’m a Philly native, born and bred. I’m a diehard Eagles fan, love me some craft beer, and I believe a fresh roll is what makes a great cheesesteak.  Growing up I shared my heart with two loves—writing and sports. Throughout grade school, high school, and college, I’ve always split my time between the two. My sport of choice is boxing. I feel like they go hand in hand, right? Being a writer and a boxer, you’ve got to have some kind of gumption to put yourself out there in the line of fire like that (a feeling I’m sure you’re familiar with, being a writer yourself.) Absolutely loved Enjoy: Stories by the Sea, by the way. But yeah, returning to Philadelphia after my stay at Penn State, I’ve committed a majority of my efforts to writing. It has always been a part of me and will be long after I’m gone through the words I leave behind. And to the readers—everything I write, I write with you in mind.

GB: On top of being a writer, you're a personal development coach and consultant, right? Does that inspire your writing at all? What impacts did that have on your latest, Just A Thought?

DV: Yes, correct. Definitely. It has had an immense impact on my writing and my life in general. I’m genuinely interested in humanity— a person’s story, their journey, their dreams, their perspectives, etc. If I can assist in shedding the tiniest inkling of light on something that helps someone move toward his or her desired vision, state of mind, writing his or her first book, then I must. It’s not a choice for me, rather a duty. Humans and the underlying motivations behind why we do what we do are the reasons Just a Thought exists. It took me roughly three years of procrastination to complete this book, but it was active procrastination (I told myself). I was working as a Wellness Coach, barber, and professional Shiatsu Massage Practitioner at the time this book was being created. So I had the privilege to work one-on-one with thousands of clients, spending thousands of hours personally connecting with each and every one of them. Now, I say thank you to those people because they were a huge inspiration to me without even knowing it.

GB: If you could use one word or phrase to describe your message and what you're trying to give to the world, what would it be and why? 

DV: This is something I think about every single day. Quite simply, my big-picture goal is to leave this earth having positively impacted every person I come in contact with, and in a word, Connection. No matter how large or small the gesture. It could be working with someone in the realm of personal development or it could be a smile thrown in the direction of somebody who looks like they’ve been having a tough day. I truly believe my existence is to serve people to the best of my ability. Writing is a way to potentially touch the lives of hundreds, thousands, and maybe millions of people at once. If one sentence in a book, article, or anything I write wrenches a smile on a person’s face, then I’m fulfilling my purpose. And that will always be enough for me.

GB: What's your process like? Where do you produce the time needed to create? Are there any obstacles or roadblocks? 

DV: Well, I’m a night owl, always have been, so I like to block out time every night to write something after working all day. Whether it is a project I’m working on, something for a client, or getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper (or computer screen); I make sure to sit my ass in a chair, put some music in my ears, shut the door, and write. Inspiration may also strike while I’m out having a beer. So in that case, I’ll jot things down in a text draft and complete the thought when I get in front of my laptop again.

Hell yes... my middle and last names should be obstacles and roadblocks. That’s essentially what life is though, one big obstacle course with checkpoints of milestones in between. There’s not a week that goes by that doesn’t throw a proverbial wrench into the gears. My journey the past few years has included breaking both my legs, severe illness, deaths of family and friends, and actively fighting vicious migraines brought on by glaucoma on an hourly basis. Things like that and many other unpredictable everyday happenstances may hinder my ability to effectively produce at times, but I never give up and I never will. It’s all about heart and the willpower to keep my feet moving and fingers typing, even if I’m knee deep in shit. I personally love the struggle. It makes me feel alive. Without struggle, there would be no progress, and that’s what gives life that sweet taste of satisfaction. It keeps me on my toes. I welcome hardship with open arms before I crush it under the weight of my determination.

GB:  What other genres do you experiment with? Why?

DV: I love experimenting with a bit of everything. Actually, I just finished a book entitled Melodies of Midnight, which is a collection of 34 horror short stories… yep, quite the genre pivot from Just a Thought. It should make its debut later this month, in fact. In Melodies of Midnight, I tend to explore the darker side of humanity: depression, regret, guilt, anger, jealousy, murder, fear, and everything tied to them. Like I previously mentioned, I’m genuinely interested in human nature, so whereas Just a Thought explored the light, this next book is a step into the dark. I really have fun exploring different genres. I enjoy writing whatever I’m feeling and just try to tell it in a way that someone would enjoy reading. I also dabble in poetry, romance, drama, comedy, and documentary style pieces—all which are currently underway toward becoming full-blown projects in the near future. Above all, whatever genre I delve into, I’ll always maintain my two goals: to write from the heart and make sure it is beneficial/entertaining to the reader, who chose to spend their time with my work. For that, I will be forever grateful. 

GB:  What authors/artists have had the most profound influences your work?

DV: That’s a great question. The names that immediately jump to the front of my mind are Charles Bukowski, Stephen King, John Fante, Napoleon Hill, Oscar Wilde, Hemmingway, Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paulo Coelho, Simon Sinek, and Ian Fleming, to name a few. As you can see and imagine, each author could influence my work in a different way. I can rattle off countless others and I know I’m forgetting to name a few, but like I said, those authors gather at the front of the line in my mind. As for artists in general, I’m intrigued and influenced by anything different and real. Anyone who can create something that is impossible to replicate, imitate sure but replicate, never. That’s what I consider special.

GB:  Who and what is on your MUST-READ list?

DV: I recommend ANYTHING written by ANY of those previously mentioned authors. A few books that will forever have a place in my heart and mind are listed below. I would say that everyone should at read these at least once in their life. No matter who you are or what you’re into as a reader, these books will undoubtedly resonate with you in a profound way:

  1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  2. The Master Key System by Charles Haanel 
  3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud
  5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  6. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  7. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  8. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell 
  9. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
  10. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  11. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Album

GB:  What does "success" mean to you? What keeps you going?

DV: Success for me is a simple word to define. To me, it means setting a goal and achieving it. It means making a promise to myself and keeping it. I think the word “success” gets muddled in the complexities of societal standards such as money, cars, clothes, power, fame, and social status to determine our “success.” That’s not the success I’m concerned with. The kind I crave is felt and rooted intrinsically. Everything else is extra. The thought of being a better version of myself is what keeps my heart beating. I’m obsessed with improvement and creation. Planting the seed of a single thought that grows into something that didn’t exist before is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

GB:  Is there any advice you have for someone looking to start a new business? Do you have any tips for the writers out there, perhaps thinking about going side-by-side with that?

DV: Sure! On business—I think the most important part of any successful endeavor is to understand the WHY before the WHAT. Like Simon Sinek says, “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” Any foundation with a sturdy WHY will build a profitable business alongside taking the right steps—having a product, knowing your market, and making your skills deeper, not wider, and most of all, understanding the consumer. People aren’t dumb; they can smell bullshit from a mile away. So the last thing you want to do is become dishonest with consumers. Establishing trust with and care for who is on the other end of your product is what separates the rise and fall of many businesses past, present, and future.

On Writing—Write what you know. Write honestly. Keep the reader in mind, but don’t spare any feelings at the expense of someone else’s opinion. Really dig deep and bleed out what your heart can’t ignore. Run your writing up a flagpole and see who salutes. It might not be the best thing ever penned and it doesn’t have to be. Just as long as you’re writing; that’s the important thing; planting your ass in a seat and actually getting words on paper. Don’t half-ass anything. What I mean by that is wrapped up in the poem "Go All The Way" by Charles Bukowski— “If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.” Finally, read On Writing by Stephen King.  Everything you need to know, you can find in there.

Side-by-Side with writing and business—building an audience is obviously a huge part of your ROI. I recommend that all creatives read, Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. It has some really amazing insight for getting noticed in a noisy world. Generating an audience stemming from connection, honesty, and humility will yield you positive results every day of the week. There’s no such thing as overnight success… stay patient, my friends. Start with your WHY and go from there. Create, experiment, and above all, LISTEN to your customers and your readers. Find a mentor, whether it may be a physical or digital mentor, follow in the footsteps of someone who has done it before you. Success leaves clues; follow the breadcrumbs. Don’t try to be anyone but yourself. Like Oscar Wilde famously said, “Be yourself; everybody else is already taken.” You are your brand. Don’t portray yourself to be someone you’re not. Simply BE.

GB:  What's next for David Volpe? Got any future projects we can look out for?

DV: Yes! As mentioned in question #5, I’ve recently completed my second book entitled Melodies of Midnight, a collection of 34 short horror stories. That will be available by mid-December, so be on the lookout! I currently have a full-length novel based on true events in the works as well, but that won’t see the light of day for some time. Everyone can follow my work and my journey on social media. There, you’ll be able to find out more info for both Just a Thought and Melodies of Midnight if you’re interested. I know my books aren’t for everyone, but for the people who do pick them up; I hope you find something within the covers that hits home for you. “What’s next” will always be the continual development of my craft and myself. Just know that I’ll be here, working through sleepless nights, watching the sunrise, and creating something that I hope will make you smile. I can’t promise that you’ll like everything I do, but I can sure as hell try. Glen, I can’t thank you enough for your time. And to the readers, stay tuned… 

December 10, 2017

Selflessness and Ice Hockey [Learning How to Sacrifice]

There’s a mindset that’s instilled in ice hockey players which I feel should accompany the social-emotional growth of early childhood education. It stems from a larger perspective on the game itself, and on life. With the right coaching, we can train our brains to see the big picture.

I’m talking about the art of voluntary self-sacrifice. It requires you to be present and put others before you. Ice hockey is known for this, as are most heavy-contact team-sports. 

[Check out this BleacherReport for the top 15! Graphic warning: NSFW]

Now I realize that this is a fine line, so let me try to clarify.

In ice hockey, the mentality is: do whatever you can for the greater good of the team. Do anything you can to help your squad come out on top with the win. To put the collective before yourself. 

This may include using your body to block a shot, riding the pine as a 4th line filler, or playing through an injury (if capable). Even the backup goalie, who watches from the bench the whole game, helps out by opening the door for players coming off the ice. A voluntary self-sacrifice.

“When you pull on that jersey, the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.” - Herb Brooks, head-coach of the gold-medal winning 1980 Men’s USA hockey team

Everyone plays a role and everyone makes sacrifices for the cause. (In the case of ice hockey, it’s getting to the playoffs or winning the championship, Lord Stanley.) For those of you who’re Mr. Robot fans, the Dark Army is known for this mentality, as well. They put the cause before their own lives.

However, in life and society, it seems we’ve adopted an opposing mindset. This “Me-First Mindset.” I believe it is most prevalent in the American lifestyle, but I’m sure it can be observed around the globe at various pathological levels.

I’m no social scientist. I don’t know where this stems from or how it came about so predominantly into our habits and culture. Could be survival instincts or it could be ego. But what I do know is that it can be a cancer to the community. And it certainly doesn’t help that the country’s leader is promoting such behavior so openly. 

In speaking from my experience as a hockey player and coach, I can tell you that this self-sacrificing mindset promotes family and growth. It stimulates a higher understanding of what it means to be a part of something bigger. To have a purpose beyond our own ego. 

It’s a strange form of altruism. Selflessness at the core levels of sentience. I feel it every time I lace up my skates and every September before starting the school year. 

With a little adjustment, we can learn to put in just a little bit more to help the bettering of our human existence. We can develop a sense of empathy meant for the greater good.

But it isn’t something we can just start doing. It takes time. Effort. An understanding of what we truly are. A consistent mindfulness of what we mean to each other. Something that can be instilled from a young age.

I guess what I'm trying to convey is that we must learn to help others in order to truly help ourselves. Pucks or no pucks.


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