Category Archives: Gratitude

Accepting Compliments: A Form Of Self Love & Acceptance

***This is still a work in progress… come back later or sign-up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when it’s more finished 🙂

Accepting & acknowledging compliments is a key part of self-love, self-approval, & self-acceptance.

Old me brushed compliments off without truly HEARING, acknowledging, or accepting them. Basically, I felt unworthy of any compliment and was unable to accept the love & acknowledgement others were offering me because I was unworthy of love & praise in my own mind. As within so without.

[Stepping into the light of gratitude wearing my ultra fly dragon boots by Android Homme.  This is me practicing openly & genuinely accepting compliments in the gym outfit I was approached in while hoping the unknown woman sees this and reaches out to say hello… see rest of story for context.]

Today I lived a new possibility. This may came off as self-indulgent but for someone who has spent most of his life hating his own body this was HUGE. For more on me overcoming self & body-hate see: this & this.

This is the random conversation that happened today at the gym. It is verbatim as I was so shocked and pleased that I wrote it down right after it happened.

…Random woman approaches me with a small smile on her face while I am doing seated calf raises. I take my earbud headphones off and acknowledge her with a smile. Something told me she had something to say…

Woman: Excuse me, I was wondering what your main sport me is?

Me: Bodybuilding & yoga.

Woman: Oh really, I was thinking rock & mountain-climbing because you are so wonderfully buff. Please take that as a compliment.

Me: *Raising my hands in prayer & acknowledgment.🙏🏼*” Wow! Thank YOU so much! I will! 😄💓🙏🏼

In that short exchange she rocked my world, made my day, & transformed my life. I don’t even know her or even have a chance to catch her name. Nonetheless, she just played a part in my ongoing healing & growing self love & acceptance.

What did I learn, re-learn, & garner from this experience?

  1. We heal through others. The Universe is constantly speaking to us through others and all mediums. This includes actions, words, coincidence, & more.
  2. Taking the time and full presence of awareness to listen to others with true intent can fill you with LIFE.
  3. Acknowledging compliments is a form self love & approval.
  4. The Universe wants me to become a rock-climber. One of my best friends gifted me with a set of climbing shoes and a harness last year and I’ve used it once. I can also get free-training at the Stanford Climbing Wall. Ok, Universe. I hear you & gracefully accept your charge.

Challenge, aka alchemical opportunity, to you (the reader):

The next time someone compliments you stop everything you are doing and invest in yourself. Take 30-90 seconds to truly recieve it. Acknowledge the compliment and the person that gave it to you.

In other words, give yourself the gift of universal AND self love, approval, & acceptance. You are the only one who truly can.

In Alchemy & Service,

Justin David Carl | LifesRake 🌒

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What My Father Taught Me: Unconditional Love, Belief, & Consistent Mental Conditioning

[Even when my aim was off my Dad love & believed in me anyways.]

What makes a great FATHER?


Being loved even when you make mistakes and consistently being gently mentored at how to aim & re-aim at a LIFE WORTH LIVING makes a truly GREAT FATHER.

When I went through SEVERE DEPRESSION a few years ago and was considering SUICIDE I could actually openly talk to my father about it. I did not have to hold anything in secret. I shared it all. Everything I was thinking, considering, & feeling.  In all its darkness.  Without shame or withholding.

He didn’t judge me, tell me I was wrong, try to fix me, or try to tell me what to do. He just patiently LISTENED to me. He just gently & unconditional loved me. He did this weekly for months as I went through the darkest time of my life.

Fortunately, because of him and the rest of my incredibly unconditionally loving family I made it through this DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL and am now gratefully living the LIFE OF MY DREAMS.

And one of the biggest reasons I am now actuating living this DREAM-LIFE is because my Dad gifted me with daily mental conditioning.

Every day he would mentor my mind with three specific training routines. He started this when I was very young. At least by the age of 5. Maybe even earlier.

First, he would ask me to tell him THREE THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR. They could be anything. He never judged. It could be serious or silly. I just had to give him 3 things I was grateful for. Whatever that was for me that particular day. And after each gratitude he would give me a genuine HUGE POSITIVE RESPONSE. That usually sounded like “That is GREAT, Justin!” or “Wow! So awesome! Good work!”

Secondly, he would ask me to tell him THREE THINGS I LEARNED. Again, it could be anything. I could tell him about some superpower my favorite superhero had or how I learned to do subtraction. With every learning I shared he gave me such an explosively happy & excited response I couldn’t help but feel like one of the SMARTEST people in the world — whether or not this is true remains highly controversial… 😛

Lastly, he would ask me to share THREE MISTAKES I MADE & WHAT I LEARNED FROM THEM. He would always remind me that “a mistake is NEVER a mistake if you LEARN something from it.” Again, my mistakes could be anything — big, small, silly, or serious. All I had to do was admit the mistake and then find the silver-lining learning and the gift of opportunity hidden within.

Basically, my DAD regularly coached me to live the GROWTH MINDSET in a subtle loving fatherly way.

For periods of my life I forgot these three mind-training techniques and become mentally out-of-shape. Largely due to ALCOHOL, DRUGS, and poor choices of ENVIRONMENT.

All of which led me to my deep depression & suicidal time in my life.

But my Dad never said a word. He let me take my path & travel my unique journey no matter how radically different it was from his own. He has never drank or done drugs in his entire life.

[Even when I took a completely different path he loved & believed in me…]

My Father never forced his sobriety upon me. He let me live however I chose.

He never told me what to do.

Instead he just patiently LOVED & BELIEVED IN ME. I like to think that he always knew I would reawaken to my own brilliance no matter how far off course I went.

I also like to think that I have actually reawakened to my brilliance in the last few years. And now I think it is finally really starting to show in all areas of my life (i.e. living my Stanford startup dream while simultaneously living my transformation artist, writer, blogger/vlogger dream).

A large part of that is because I have re-instilled this childhood mental conditioning my father entrained into me throughout my childhood along with other daily nano-habits and actually consciously set myself up for consistent vision-living.

Now these three daily mental conditioning techniques keep me empowered despite the ever-changing weather of life.  They can actually turn a dark day of breakdown into a day of brilliance & breakthrough through sheer rote execution.  They literally create the space & mental reprogramming to paradigm shift.

Today on Father’s Day I honor you DAD!  My deep gratitude for all the love and blessing you graciously bestowed upon me and many others in our family.

[My younger brother Morgan & his son Simon, me, my Dad (maroon), and my uncle Paul (another important Father-figure in my life).]

Thank you, Dad. I am truly proud to be your son.

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl | LifesRake 🌒

P.S. A huge part of an empowered & enlivened life is consistency.  I would be truly honored to be a part of your consistent ever-evolving transformation.  Please sign up for my newsletter ALCHEMIZED and I will be your journey-partner in the adventure of consistent life transformation! 😀

SPECIAL NOTE: I am not a Father to another human yet, but I read this book all about the GROWTH MINDSET and wholeheartedly believe every parent should read it.  I actually think EVERYONE who wants to be at the top of any and all areas of their life should read it.


Gratitude Evolution

“Life is a gift and our work is to learn to receive it.”

Imagine for a moment that you have two friends you have gotten gifts for. When you give a gift to the first friend he or she is elated. You see their face illuminated with gratitude and joy as they receive the gift. They shower you with words of gratefulness for the gift. It is easy for you to see how happy you have made them simply by giving them something. This in turns makes you feel wonderful and happy.

When you give a gift to the second friend you are met with hesitation upon their face. Immediately you are surprised because you know you took time and energy out of your life to get and give this gift to this friend. Instead of saying thank you and lighting up they seem to shut down and be filled with a sneaking sense of “Is this it?” Then they ask you if there is another size, color, version, or even a receipt because they are unsure if they will actually have use of it. You are saddened and disappointed by their response. You had hoped the gift would bring them joy and instead they seem unsatisfied and maybe even slightly offended that the gift was not perfectly “right” for them.

Holding these two friend in your mind and heart which would you want to get a gift for again? Obviously, the first one who immediately loved and accepted your gift. It was painful and disappointing to get the second friend a gift. So why put yourself through misery again? From that point on you feel good about getting gifts for the first friend and do so often. And with the second friend you shy from giving gifts and are worried about pleasing them so you withhold your own joy and abundance when you are around them.

This is how the Universe treats the grateful and ungrateful. If you were the Universe which person would you want to reward with abundance? Again the one who immediately cherished and celebrated your gift. With the second you would withhold from trying to please them. Knowing it to be path to disappointment.

This is why being grateful for everything is so paramount. When we practice gratitude for all the infinite abundance in our life the Universe is overjoyed to bring us more. When we question the gifts and treat them with dissatisfaction or a “not good enough” attitude it is like telling the Universe to stop trying to be of service to us and our life. We literally shut down our own abundance when we focus on the lack and forget to acknowledge the abundance.

I am mostly writing this for myself. Though now I am pretty good at being grateful for many things in my life there is an area I am still working on.  For much of my life I have had a difficult time appreciating gifts from others. All because of my past perfectionist and overly-particular nature.  In the past my sense of self-opinion and self-expectations were always so high it made it hard to appreciate anything. I was so lacking in reaching my own overachieving perfectionist expectations I could only see lack in all areas of my life.  Never enough.  No matter how well I was doing.  If whatever gift I received was not exactly what I wanted I met it with subtle disdain.

Growing up my Mom eventually just had me pick out every gift I ever got.  She learned it was much less disappointing to just forego any sort of surprise and just have me tell her exactly what I wanted.

This wasn’t only limited to gifts, it also included the food my Mom provided for me. I was so hard to cook for and feed that my Mom literally had me create a cookbook of food and meals I would eat and appreciate. My poor mother. I was such a picky perfectionist child. I can only wonder at the patience she had to cultivate with me.

I am ashamed to even admit this. I am hoping that by sharing my ungrateful picky past self that not only can I atone for my past behavior, but maybe I can be of service to others seeing this in their own life.  Whether within themselves or within someone they love and care for. Compassion and forgiveness often creates the space we need to transform.

Even now I have to practice accepting everything with joy and gratitude. So often I immediately judge it and shut myself down to the abundance in my life. The perfectionist. The judger. Always quick to jump in. My monkey mind is quick to perceive the gift as lacking. Instead of appreciating it purely from the standpoint of the fact that it was “given” and “gifted” to me. Someone used their thought, time, and energy in my honor. If I cannot accept everything that is given to me with true appreciation why would the Universe ever want to give me more? How could I honestly consider myself deserving and worthy of a grand and magical life if I cannot appreciate all of it? The big and the small. The perfect and imperfect. The good and the bad.

Furthermore, if nothing is ever enough I cannot actually appreciate the gift of the present.  I am either leaning into the future, striving for more because my mind has determined that what is presently present is lacking. Or regretting some past insufficiency.  Once again missing the gift of the present.

I now know that this is a state of mind. Lack/scarcity and abundance are both mindsets.  I can choose either at any moment in my life. Gratitude and presence can be cultivated.  And I have been consciously building these gifts of life into my life with a fervor like never before.  Almost like my life depends on it.  Because in a sense it does.  I cannot live in the future.  And I cannot live in the past.  So whatever I didn’t have then has no true bearing to now.  And whatever lies in the future stays in the future until it arrives in the now.  Ultimately, I can only live in the present.

Lack & scarcity is like stagnation that must be consciously cut out. I let go of lack & scarcity, surrender it to the void, and let it peacefully lay to rest.

Abundance and growth are like life. I renew abundance and growth in each moment through gratitude and appreciation for everything as it is (not what I want it to be).

(Looking closely at the divine beauty of nature effortlessly pulls me into gratitude.)


It is easy to be and feel abundant and magical when everything in life is going well.  It is incredibly easy to fall out of abundance and into lack, scarcity, and negativity when things are not going well. I’ve built up several practices/rituals that I use on a regular basis to keep me in an abundant state despite the ever-changing weather of life. Here they are:

  1. Gratitude journaling (verbal and/or written)
    • Upon waking I begin listing things in my head or out-loud that I am grateful for.  It can be anything. I try to be creative & unlimited in my gratitude and have fun.  [I.E. I am grateful for my bed.  I am grateful for the sleep I got.  I am grateful for my partner. I am grateful my hilarious bed-head hair. Ad infinitum.] A simple tool I use is to just count off 10 gratitudes — 1 for each finger. Since I do this upon waking it makes it simple to get to 10 without losing track in my awakening mind.
    • I truly first learned this as a child.  My Dad would ask me almost everyday to tell him three things I was grateful for.  This is a fun thing to do with a family-member, partner, friend, or colleague.
    • Writing down three things I am grateful for.  Even though I did this verbally as a kid it wasn’t until I discovered The Five-Minute Journal that I began to write it down. The structure of that book allowed me to build the habit and now I freehand write this into a blank journal daily.  I do this first thing in the morning.  This combined with the mental/verbal gratitude-ing sets the tone for the day.  It can also help pull me out of a funk if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. **Scientific research shows that doing this even once a week has a strong positive effect.  If daily gratitude journaling seems like too much start with a once a week commitment.**
      • I have also been experimenting with writing out gratitudes digitally on my computer/smartphone in Simplenote or Evernote.  I usually bump it up from 3 gratitudes to 10+ when doing it digitally from my computer because typing them is much faster than longhand.  I have created a “Gratitude Journal” note and each day I enter the date and then capture my daily gratitude to forever be held in hyperspace. 🙂
      • A part of me will still feels like writing it out by hand is more personally powerful — something about the hand-mind connection and physically writing it down and capturing it in a physical manifestation.  At the same time I realize this may also be my inner monk that is still beholden to making things a true task so that I learn to slow down enough to actually appreciate and be present to what I am doing.  For now I am content to experimenting with with both hand-written gratitudes in a physical paper journal and switching it up with a digital/hyperspace version and let intuition guide me to what is best for me each day.
    • On particularly tough days, if I can get myself to sit down and write out as many things I am grateful for it can literally save my day and shift me into a much better (and happier) energetic way of being. I am not always able to do this. I too have off days, but the more I practice this the less frequent and the shorter the duration of the days of suffering.
  2. Giving gratitude as part of a priority in all areas of life
    • Telling everyone I come into contact with that I am grateful for them, their time, their energy, their presence in my life.
    • This is hard to do 24/7, but the more I consciously practice it the more natural it comes.
    • I like to get creative and be flexible with this too. Sometimes it is as simple as complimenting someone on their smile, shirt, shoes, scarf, etc.  Sometimes I like to randomly call someone and just lay some deep gratitude on them. Both can be fun and rewarding. The random phone call seems to really supercharge both their day and mine.
    • Sending a gratitude text, email, or social media message. I personally love this one. I love the idea that when you send an email or social media message of gratitude it forever lives in hyperspace. It’s like building up gratitude chi on the interweb. Sometimes it is best to do this privately via text or email, but other times it feels wonderful to publicly display your gratitude for everyone to enjoy. This can have a ripple effect too — bringing awareness to another (even a stranger) and gifting them with remembering what they are grateful for in their own life.
  3. Asking “What is one thing you are grateful for today.”
    • This is a powerful technique I use with my Phoenix.  When she and I are reunited after our workday or time away from another we ask this question FIRSTbefore anything else.  This again sets the tone of our mutual experience in our mutual space together. In the past we would leave it up to chance and say whatever came to mind first.  Leaving it up to whatever comes to mind first is a great way to let someone’s bad day ruin your good day.  By being proactive in this way with this question we have learned that we can consciously create an accepting, peaceful, and loving home life that encourages the best in the both of us regardless of whether our individual day was great, bad, or anything in between.
    • This can be done with whoever you are cohabiting with (family, roommate, etc.).  This could also be a very powerful tool to use at work with colleagues.  Variations could include: “What was the best part of your weekend, morning, yesterday, etc.”
    • Stretch-goal: Try this with a stranger or someone you just met. 🙂
  4. Affirmations
    • This is a deep subject for me.  Something I’ve practiced on and off most of my life thanks to an early start from teaching/training by my father.  In the last several years I’ve really built up the daily habit of both written and verbal affirmations.  This is beyond the scope of this particular article.  I am putting together a more elaborate and comprehensive resource on this and will share it when it has enough material to stand on its own. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay is a book I return to time and time again for affirmations (in case you want a good resource to jump into now).
  5. Meditation
    • I believe that meditation washes away past & future disruptive energies while grounding you in the present.  Thus, allowing you to better cultivate gratitude as you are experiencing the gift of the present and being present.
    • I do Transcendental Meditation religiously but I also love Headspace, Yoga Nidra, and other guided meditations.  [Special note: I believe there is a type of meditation for everyone.  The key is finding one that works for YOU. There are dozens if not hundreds of different types of mediation. What works for me may not work for another.  Just keep exploring until you find one that clicks. That’s what I did.]
  6. Massage & Yoga (or any kind of bodywork)
    • Massage and healing touch grounds me in the pleasure of being in the human body. Bodywork always reminds just how much of a joy it is to be in a human body. I cannot help but feel grateful from the experience of massage (before in anticipation, during the actual massage, and after from the lingering effects).
    • Yoga is about breath and being in communication with one’s body. This deep connection to the life-force of breath and our life vehicle (body) always pulls me into the present and into gratitude.
  7. Exercise
    • Almost any exercise makes me feel grateful during and after.  Sometimes I dread it in the beginning, but once my body awakens to the movement I light up with gratitude and am most often left in the feeling long after the exercise has ended.
  8. Nature
    • Whether it’s a short stroll through the neighborhood looking at the plants and trees or a full-blown excursion into mother nature, there is something innately divine about nature that reminds me of the privilege of being alive and gratitude naturally blooms within.
    • Even intently gazing at a plant, flower, or bouquet indoors draws me into the presence of gratitude.
  9. The book Gratitude by Louise Hay
    • This book of short essays on gratitude was introduced to me by my Phoenix (Blog & Instagram). We have both found that just picking this book up and reading a few pages puts one into an incredibly powerful state of gratitude. Reading this book is a great way to pull oneself into gratitude when in need. Also, a great daily practice to keep that gratitude muscle flexible and strong.
    • [Special note: This book is of the metaphysical/spiritual nature.  If that is too “magical” for you then check out the books below. They are much more the along the lines of Academic/Psychological/Philosophy/Human-Potential]
  10. The book Mindset by Carol Dweck and the book The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
    • Both of these books remind me that EVERYTHING is an opportunity for learning, growth & transformation.  Even the stuff that really sucks in life (set-back, loss, disappointment, health-challenges, etc.). Returning to the ideas, principles, & frameworks in these books empower me to be grateful for the trials, tribulations, & growth-opportunities that always come with life & living.
  11. Taking a picture of a gift I have been given and sending it to the gift-giver along with a thank you note.  This can be done through email or text message.  Or even on Facebook and other social media.  I believe acknowledging and demonstrating your gratitude has a compounding effect.  It can also be positively infectious to others when you share it publicly.
    • This is my version of the traditional thank-you card one would mail. I believe that sending an actual physical thank-you card is still incredibly powerful and important too. But this e-version is more realistically going to happen with the ever-increasing speed of most peoples lives I think. It is also an awesome way to document gratitude over a lifetime.  How fun would it be to look back over your years of email, Facebook, and other social media and see all the things you and others were grateful for?
    • This is also the best technique I have come up with for appreciating gifts from others. However, I am still looking for more good ways to heal this area of gratitude in my life. Specifically, what do you do when you get a gift you do not think you will actually use? How do you stay in authentic gratitude?  If you have any techniques, tips, tricks, or thoughts please send me an email or leave me a note on my Facebook page.


The art of maintaining gratitude empowers the embodiment of joy, abundance, wonder, wisdom, integrity, compassion, love, & many other states of grace.

I have decided to live the possibility of being incredibly great at gratitude. I am committed to gratitude as a life-skill I will continuously master. I have put this skill down as one of the main things I want to accomplish this year and take with me as part of my core authentic way of being for all years going forward.  Feel free to to join me in this endeavor! 🙂

On that note, please share any good gratitude resources you have discovered. I would be incredibly grateful to learn from you! Personally developed techniques, books, online resources, etc. — anything gratitude I am interested. An email or Facebook message/post sharing your resource would be greatly appreciated!

And along a similar line of thought & action, I would love to put together a collection of personal short essays and stories on gratitude that I can compile and share here as source people can use whenever they need some gratitude inspiration. If you have a good story or essay in you that you would like to gift the world with please send to me at with “gratitude” in the subject line.

FINAL THOUGHT: Unconditional gratitude is an investment that never fails. Gratitude that is unattached to outcome, or gratitude that is not tied to the reaction or response of another person, place, thing, or experience will always pay dividends to the one in gratitude.

In gratitude & service,

Justin David Carl

“Gratitude is the way the heart remembers–remembers kindnesses, cherished interactions with others, compassionate actions of strangers, surprise gifts, and everyday blessings. By remembering we honor and acknowledge the many ways in which who and what we are has been shaped by others, both living and dead.” -Robert Emmons, from his book Thanks!

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” –Voltaire


Gratitude Resources:

Here is a compilation of resources related to gratitude that I believe are worthy:


Others Resources: