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Friday, February 29, 2008

Amazing Grace

One moment or one decision can change your life forever. I've had a few of those moments in my life and I just received another one. Truly Amazing!!!

Book Reviews - Three Recommendations

I just read three fascinating books that I recommend you check out. I will review them shortly. They are:

The Billionaire Who Wasn"t - How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune - Conor O'Clery

Making the Impossible Possible - Bill Strickland

The Pope's Children - The Irish Economic Triumph and the Rise of Ireland's New Elite - David McWilliams

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hollywood Ending - Family Lost and Found

The story I'm about to share is a true one but it feels more like a movie script. The story starts with my parents leaving Ireland in their 20's and journeying to America circa 1928-29. It's a story of the American Dream but it's also a story of the family lost in the process. My 1st real memory as a child was watching my father die of pneumonia in our apartment. I was four years old and the year was 1956. Shortly after my mother had a falling out with her sister and we lost contact with the only family we had in America. My mother lost contact with her family in Ireland so we grew up with only my mother, my brother and myself being our only family.

My father became a US citizen and fought in the US Army in the Philippines during WW II. He died young ten years later and I never really got to know him. My mother always dreamed of returning to Ireland and maintained her Irish citizenship. I remember going regularly with her to the post office to renew her Irish passport. My mother never returned to Ireland after the death of my father. She died in the Bronx with the dream in her heart. My mother died in the 1980's and our family was now even smaller. It was now just my brother and his family and myself. If this was the way life usually works the story would end here. But it doesn't and here it spins in a direction I could never predicted. If I was writing a script this is the point where you put in the Hollywood ending.

Flash forward to the present six months ago and I receive a call from my niece in New Jersey that a relative of ours from the UK contacted her on the Internet. After a lot of back of forth communications to decide if we were indeed related we discovered that we were. Now it gets better.

This is the story as I've come to know it so far. My second cousin in the UK traveled with her parents (my cousin) to a famous shrine in Ireland called the Shrine of Knock to pray for some divine intervention with some health issues. On that trip her great-aunt who is 93 years old requested that my cousin find out what happened to her two sisters who went to America in the 20's. One of those sisters was my mother.

My cousin from the UK in the middle of dealing with her health problems took on the mission on to find us and she did. I guess you could say that partial it had to do with the power of the Internet. But it doesn't end here. She also with the help of my niece tracked down my cousins in the US who I hadn't seen since I was 6 years old and reunited us.

My niece and myself called my Aunt in Ireland and she told us we better come there for Easter to see her. So we are headed to a family reunion in the West of Ireland, County Mayo. Family is coming from America, the UK and Ireland.

Okay so let me try to wrap my mind around this. Six months ago I had no contact with any relatives and because of a trip my cousin made to Ireland and decision she made to find the family I no have family and have been reconnected with cousins in three countries.My daughter's world has grown and she now has extended family from both parents.

In one moment life has changed forever. I guess you can say it's a story of the power of the human spirit and maybe even some Irish magic thrown in. Now I tend to be a down to earth pragmatist but this whole experience is one of those moments that make you go Hmmmmmm! It just makes me realize there is so much I'll never understand. I would go as far as to say it feels almost like a little miraculous. So if I was making this story up I might call it the "Miracle of Knock", but I'm not making it up I'm just living it. I guess I had to go to Hollywood to get a real Hollywood ending for my real life story.

So as I journey to Ireland I know I am making my mother's journey home for her and completing the circle. I know she's got to be looking down on me and crying tears of happiness and maybe ...........Hmmmmmmmmm.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Street of the Bronx - Ireland to The Bronx

My parents made the journey from Ireland to Ellis Island just in time for the Great Depression. They lived and worked in the Bronx, I was born and raised on the streets of 141st and Willis Ave. As I begin to make my trip to their homeland I reflect on my childhood in the Bronx. My next post will share the journey to Ireland.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Danny Boy Ireland - A Journey Home

Over 80 years ago my parents made the journey to America. Now I am making the journey back for a family reunion. I will share this amazing story in my next post.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Listen Twice as Much as You Speak

Now this is an old admonition that you need to take the time to listen to. I was once line producing a feature film in Los Angeles and there were two Irish-American actors on the set and one of them always had something to say about everything. The other actor I"ll call Patrick said to the other actor Sean, " Hey Sean, Do you know why God gave you two ears and one mouth?" Sean, replied that he didn't. Patrick said, "So you can listen twice as much as you talk, so could you just shut the F up and listen for a change." A little cruder and less elegant than how I would have said it but probably more effective and to the point.

Listening is crucial to being an effective communicator. I've been lucky in this regard as I started out as a very shy teenager who felt more comfortable listening than talking. As I started my journey of personal growth I experienced some other tools that contributed to my understanding in this area.

The first experience was my involvement with Oral History. I began to conduct interviews for Lehman College on Bronx History. I would conduct 1-2 hour taped interviews with people with interesting stories. I learned that I needed to actively listen so I could respond to new information and take the interview into deeper areas than just following my pre-set questions. I later created an opportunity to interview and be interviewed by a master of Oral History Stud Terkel in his book, "The Great Divide". A suggestion is to watch different interview shows on television ( Larry King, Charlie Rose etc.) and see how the best are able to listen and go with the flow rather than stick to pre-set questions.

The second experience was my study of acting. I studied many of the different schools of thought in acting including Stanislavsky, Viola Spolin, Lee Strasberg, Michael Checkov, Uta Hagen and Sandford Meisner. I learned from all of them but the Meisner technique had an exercise called the repetition game/exercise. In this exercise we had to listen and repeat what the other person said over and over until a natural change in behaviour occurred. it forced us to focus on the other actor, listen actively, observe behaviour and be in the moment. An excellent acting exercise but also a life lesson for active listening and effective communication.

All these experiences contributed to me learning how to be a great listener but don't get me wrong I can babble at times with the best of them just ask my wife and daughter. I have went from that shy teenager to clearly gaining the gift of gab and while I haven't kissed the Blarney Stone yet it's clearly in my genes.

So if you want to be a great or even a good communicator you'll just have to listen twice as much as you speak. Ask questions, be curious, be interested and build rapport with the person you are communicating with not just speaking to or at. Watch how people respond to you as you make this shift.

Listen, Listen, Speak............

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Never Give Up On A Dream

What dreams have you given up on? It's never too late to start again. Never quit......

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Les Brown: Why People Fail

How High Are You Willing to Aim? Think About It.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


“You can tell a lot about a person by the books they read.”


Awaken The Giant Within - Tony Robbins
Change or Die – Alan Deutschman
Unstoppable – Cynthia Kersey
Success Principles – Jack Canfield
Do You – Russell Simmons
Making the Impossible Possible – Bill Strickland
Laws of Lifetime Growth – Dan Sullivan, Catherine Nomura
Reinventing Yourself – Steve Chandler
Leadership Guide – Robin Shawma
The Magic of Thinking Big – David Schwartz
Million Dollar Habits – Robert J Ringer
6 Questions That Can Change Your Life – Joseph Nowinsky

Entrepreneurship & Finances:

A Kick in Your Assets – Todd Barnhart
How to Think Like a CEO – D.A. Berlin
The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship – William D. Bygrave
Ten Successful Start – Ups – Harry Wells


Going Places – E.D. Hill
I Chose to Stay – Salome Thomas-El
The Pact –Sampson Davis
Six Lessons for Six Sons – Joe Massengale
Reaching Up for Manhood – Geoffrey Canada
The Pursuit of Happyness – Chris Gardner

Parenting & Books to Share with Kids:

Strong Fathers – Strong Daughters – Meg Meeker, M.D.
Wisdom to Grow on – Charles J. Acquisto
Positive Pushing – Jim Taylor
Girls will Be Girls – Joan Deak

Fitness & Health:

Body for Life – Bill Williams


The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
Your Life As Story – Tristine Rainer
The Highest Goal – Michael Ray
Power of Personal Storytelling – Jack McGuire
The Artists Way – Julia Cameron


At a Journal Workshop – Ira Progoff


The Billionaire Who Wasn’t – Conor O’Cleary
All Souls – Michael Patrick MacDonald
The Tipping Point – Malcom Gladwell
American Sholin – Matthew Polly
Fist Stick Knife Gun – Geoffrey Canaday
The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read – John Corcoran
The Fourth Turning – Neil Howe
The Man Who Stayed Behind – Sidney Rittenberg


My American Journey - Colin Powell
Losing My Virginity – Richard Branson
Sharing the Wealth – Alex Spanos

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Can Only Imagine Father Son

Perspective. Imagine what is possible when you give 100%.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Motivational Music

Music to motivate, inspire, energize and change your
emotional state

1. One Moment in Time – Whitney Houston
2. # 1 – Nelly
3. I Can Only Imagine – Mercy Me
4. Life – Haddaway
5. Never Give Up on a Dream – Rod Stewart
6. Lose Yourself – Eminem
7. One – U2
8. Hero – Mariah Carey
9. From a Distance – Bette Midler
10. Proud – Heather Small
11. Amazing Grace – Nelvell Brothers
12. God Bless the USA – Lee Greenwood
13. You Raise Me Up – Josh Groban
14. Wind Beneath my Wings – Bette Midler
15. We Are the Champions – Queen
16. The Best – Tina Turner
17. You Can Do Magic – America
18. I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
19. A Moment Like This – Kelly Clarkson
20. Jenny From the Block – Jennifer Lopez
21. Forever Young – Rod Stewart
22. Only Time - Enya
24. Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
24. Superman – Five for Fighting
25. I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty & the Heartbeats
26. Running Down a Dream – Tom Petty & the Heartbeats
27. Eye of The Tiger - Survivor
28. Burning Heart - Survivor
29. Flashdance – Michael Sembello
30. Independence Day – Martina McBride
31. I Will Get There – Boyz to Men
32. The Times Are Changing – Bob Dylan
33. Heavenly Day – Patty Griffin
34. Rocky – Starlight Orchestra

John Duffy's Bio

John’s started his personal journey in the South Bronx. His parents were Irish Immigrants with only grade school educations. They worked as factory workers and meat cutters in the South Bronx. He watched his father die of pneumonia when he was just four years old.. His widowed mom raised his older brother and John on VA benefits and Social Security. He grew up in poverty in the South Bronx. He dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and went to work in a neighborhood grocery store. After being stuck up and having a gun put to his head he decided to quit the job. Unfortunately it wasn't’t the last time a gun was put to his head but fortunately he was never shot. Shortly after at the age of 16 he studied and later became a student teacher of Chinese Kung Fu Wu-Su. His Chinese name was “Flying High”.

John got caught up at an early age with the social upheaval that was sweeping inner cities. He saw up close and personal the urban riots that followed the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. He started to hang out with members of the Black Panther Party and a Puerto Rican version called the Young Lords Party. He joined a Bronx organization called “ The Spirit of Logos/White Lightning” that was dedicated to drug prevention, social change and revolution and went on a radical journey that lasted for 15 years. During those years he marched in Tupelo Miss. against the Klan, organized students against apartheid and protested way too much. While still a high school drop out he lead a delegation of youth and students to the People’s Republic of China and walked on the Great Wall shortly after President Nixon opened China up to US travelers.

On his return from China he obtained a GED diploma and went to college eventually receiving a BA and spending two years in a MA program. He eventually became disillusioned with the extremist politics of Marxism and revolution and he began a new search for meaning and purpose in his life. His new search led him to books on personal development and a period of introspection.

John’s pursuit of personal growth began in the late 80’s while working the midnight shift in the New York Post Office as a mail handler. He started reading as many self-help books as he could get his hands on and started to listen to tape programs from Nightgale Conant. The first program he listened to was “Seeds of Greatness”s by Dennis Waitley. He also began reading about Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP) and came across a flyer for a firewalk event with Anthony Robbins. The event was being held blocks away from his job at the 34th St. post office so he decided to attend.

That night he did a firewalk on hot coals on 34th street in Manhattan. That night he made a decision that would change his life. He decided to step up and to follow his dreams. He returned to the Post Office that night and realized he didn’t belong there. He would quit three months later throwing an early retirement party after working five years as a postal employeed.. He quickly realized that the road forward wasn't going to be an easy or a direct road.

The journey that took him from the Bronx to Hollywood was one of the darkest in his life. Yet it was during the darkest moment that he learned the most important lessons that propelled him forward to a new life. His ex/girlfriend and best friend was diagnosed with AIDS and he was with her when she died. He learned from her to appreciate everything he had even if at the time he was being evicted, had quit his job and was at the lowest point in his life. A week after she died he drove cross-country to Los Angleles to start a new life.

Within a couple of months he saw an ad for a play that wanted real life stories. He wrote a piece called “Goodbye My Friend” about her and performed it in a play called “Real Life”. Three nights a week he relieved the loss and the pain of his experience. He learned to turn a loss into a positive learning experience.

John has led a unique life. He has gone from “The Bronx to Hollywood”. He likes to say that he has lived at least five lives already. His eclectic job resume reflects some of those lives but always show a constant motion forward. He has worked as a: cashier, paint factory worker, taxi driver, postal worker, telemarketer, substitute teacher, tenant organizer, arson prevention specialist, aerobics instructor, health club salesman, oral history interviewer, counselor for runaway kids in Hollywood, an actor, acting teacher, research interviewer, mortgage salesman, seminar speaker, a film producer and author.

He has acted in theatre and movies. He has also produced over twenty feature films .His film resume can be viewed here. He hosted and produced two cable shows on public Access TV called “ The Bronx to Hollywood” which was interviews with Bronx people in the entertainment industry and “Take Two” whch was a motivational interview show.

He has also written plays, movie scripts including one based on his life entitled “Waiting For Fidel” and is now working on a motivational book entitled “The Glass is 3/4 ‘s Full”.

John is passionate about sharing his personal growth lessons with anyone who desires to improve himself or herself. He has read over 500 books on personal development, growth, motivation, leadership and entrepreneurship. And he has attended many seminars on the same topics. John has also worked in the motivational field with Anthony Robbins and his motivational sales companies. He has conducted sales training and been involved in cutting edge marketing in the personal success field.

John’s mission and purpose in life are summed up by three quotes: “Make Your Life a Masterpiece”, “Never Quit” and “Commit to Daily Improvement”. He sees his life as an example of how it’s not where you start out that matters or how many obstacles you face that define your life but where you end up and how you choose to overcome all the obstacles.

He is a husband and parent with a young daughter. He considers being the best dad he can be one of the greatest successes of his life. He lives his life with daily gratitude for all the blessings he believes he has received. So the question he asks himself daily is “What have I done today to make myself proud?”