My fall story and how a few leaves inspired me to no end as a young boy

Hey guys!

Hope everyone is doing well!

I wanted to share a quick, personal story about my life, which I think might help inspire you, and which helped change the course of my life.

When I was a boy, I used to love to be in the woods. I loved to explore them and play in them with friends. But on one fall day about this time of year — probably about two weeks earlier — I was in the woods alone on a beautiful day and lost track of time.

And I was sitting there on a comfortable ledge, pretty high up on the side of a hill, just watching the woods. Back then, I could watch squirrels or chipmunks (or a deer if I was lucky) for hours without being bored, and that’s what I was searching for on that day.  

But there was nothing moving, even once I sat down and got quiet. It’s really rare that no animals are out moving, and as a matter of fact, it’s the only time I can recall it happening to me — and I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the woods.

But back to the story, on that day there was nothing moving. No squirrels. No chipmunks. No birds or crows that I can remember, though surely there were some.

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

On this day, I was alone in these wide-open woods. A young boy, sitting on a ledge, watching leaves fall to the ground. And as I sat there, I lost track of time. I was mesmerized by the woods before me, as leaf-after-leaf drifted down.

The entire time, I anxiously waited to see something spring or prance by, but nothing did, and in about a three-hour time period, I can’t tell you how many leaves I watched drift and descend to the ground. Literally thousands, if I had to guess.

Most of them were brown and scarcely discernible from those around them, and they fell fairly quickly and predictably. But every now and then, in my trance-like state, I noticed one that wasn’t brown. Sometimes a yellow one. Or perhaps a red one. Even a couple of purple ones.

These leaves that stood out instantly caught my (bored) eye, and I’d watch them descend while ignoring their brown peers that dropped around them.

And sometimes, a vivid red or yellow one would be shaped in just a way that allowed it to catch small wisps of wind and float sideways as they arced to the ground. Even rarer, sometimes one would be so perfectly aerodynamic that it’d glide far and almost lift up with small winds that bounced along the ground.

For hours I sat captivated by these leaves of all colors, and their varying flight paths and trajectories. But by the end, I could only recall a few that had fallen. Perhaps a couple dozen out of literally hundreds and hundreds that I had watched.

And as I came out of my almost meditative state, prompted by hunger and a stark reality I had stayed out too long, a shocking realization hit me: we are all leaves.

We all fall, our lives brief.

Mostly, we’re barely noticed. Certainly not remembered. 

But I had noticed some of those unique leaves that day. I had remembered their form and color, and the path they had taken. And it instantly hit me that I didn’t want to be a brown leave that fell straight down, same as every other leaf.

I wanted to be yellow or purple! I wanted to glide and float and lift with the wind! I wanted to land a hundred yards from the tree from which I fell, not right below it!

I wanted some young boy to see me and take note! To smile and remember me, and make his own mind up to be a little different and memorable.

And from that day — I was thirteen — I swore to myself I’d do all I could to maximize whatever potential I had. Up to that point, I did things to please my parents and others. But after that magical day in the woods, I did things for me. I felt called to move toward greatness, and the Marine Corps fit my picture of what a great, young man would aspire to at that time.

Later, I’d feel that same call to become a journalist. And still later, an entrepreneur who launched a newspaper. Finally, I’d grow courageous enough to attempt the impossible mountain of becoming a full-time author.

I share these words, this story of mine, because I feel confident that  there is at least one of you out there who harbors some dream, as well, and I hope my small story will help inspire you to pursue it as vigorously (and responsibly) as you can. (Additional motivation for those with just such a dream: Find true happiness: announce your dreams to the world today.)

But this post isn’t just meant for the dreamers who have some burning fire inside their soul.

It’s my very strong belief that all of us can be memorable, despite trying work and life demands. All of us can be red or purple, soaring through the sky like the wind.

A great example of this is one of the most remarkable men I ever crossed paths with. I first met him when I was working part-time at a completely depressing manufacturing plant while I was in college. I don’t remember his name now, much to my chagrin, but he was a jolly man from the inner city.

So many people quit at that plant within hours or days of being hired that you didn’t bother getting to know the new ones, especially those assigned to parts inspection where I worked. But this smiling man was assigned to our station and my buddy and I watched him with great interest on his first day. We wanted to see how fast he’d break — same as so many others before him.

But this man just smiled and sang to himself, and whistled away that first day. He did all this real low and to himself. Not a pest at all, like some of the singers and whistlers out there!

The job required you to lift with your fingers these really heavy airbag cylinders, all of which were soaked in some kind of toxic who knows what. And if you were good, you’d do two per hand and work your way up to three or four or even five.

All the work was timed and each hour crawled by like a mini-lifetime. I kid you not, there was never a day (or even two-hour sprint until we could get a 15-min break) that I didn’t nearly quit.

Your fingers ached, the oil did weird stuff to your skin, and your clothes were ruined nearly every day. But Mr. Jolly New Man survived the first day, and left with a smile and almost a skip in his step — really remarkable given he was mid-fifties or early sixties, and the work was pretty grueling.

But day-after-day, it was the same. Mr. Jolly New Man came in as if he had the greatest job in the world, quickly volunteering for the worst parts of the job.

“Oh, it’s not too bad,” he’d say with a smile as he grabbed another crate to take the load off a weaker worker.

We soon learned he was poor, had no family, and rode the bus to work because he didn’t have a car. (And for my northern readers, let me assure you that in the South, you almost have to have a car. Public transportation practically doesn’t exist.)

Mr. Jolly New Man wouldn’t say much about where he lived, but it was my strong impression he lived in the projects. As we grew to be friends with him, we learned he’d never take any form of assistance. No ride home, even if the bus wouldn’t arrive for another hour. No ride down to the gas station for a snack after work, which was a mile away.

No, he’d rather walk it, even in a downpour.

My buddy and I were finishing up college, happily married, bright futures ahead of us, and at least thirty years younger, but I give you my word that this man was a 100x happier than us. (We were also, by the way, both spiritual and optimistic, happy people in our own right, but we sure didn’t measure up to him.)

Mr. Jolly New Man couldn’t work circles around us — we were both studs — but he held his own and surpassed us by miles with his attitude. We complained about having to be there and what better jobs were out there. He didn’t mind working late, even off the clock if it helped the boss. Or sweeping up afterward. Or tackling a couple more crates.

His attitude was unlike any attitude I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve met some go getters in my day.

Additionally, his countenance was not of this world, and his smile and laughter was infectious. Never has such an imperfect smile been so perfect. Or perhaps he’d forgotten his smile wasn’t perfect?

My buddy and I would try to talk news with him, but he’d ease his way out of the conversation. He didn’t want to talk politics, the economy, or a hundred other things that might kill that incredible attitude and smile of his.

Asked his thoughts on any of this, he’d usually smile real big and say, “Oh, I don’t know,” and pat you on the shoulder if his hands weren’t covered in grease.

Love just poured from the man, and surprisingly, though we learned he was Christian, he never talked about his views or pushed his religion.

He lived his religion, and it was one of the most beautiful sights to behold. A near modern-day Jesus who had no cares for money or security or any of the other things we all worry about so much.

To this day, I can say that few people have influenced me as much as this man. He wasn’t some decorated Marine. Not some kind of big-time author or famous person you hear so much about.

He was just a man who stood out, every single day of his life, like the yellow and purple leaves that floated down to the ground back when I was a boy.

I have told dozens of people about this man in the past twenty years, and I’ll bet every person that’s worked with him has done the same.

My point in this much too-long blogpost is that all of us can be like this man, striving to stand out more, to be more beautiful and memorable and inspiring.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you just never know who’s watching, or how much you will shape their lives for years to come.

In closing, I hope this small story of my life has in some small way sparked yours. Feel free to share it, of course, if it has.

Keep the faith, and be more beautiful!

P.S. Enjoy my writing or videos?! You can leave me a tip at this PayPal link. : )


Stan R. Mitchell, author and prior Marine, is best known for his Nick Woods Marine Sniper series, which has remained in the Top 100 on Amazon for more than three years. The series has also been picked up by for a multi-book audio deal. Additional works include a Western thriller, detective series, and World War II story. Learn more at

A super strong book recommendation

I wrote this more than two years ago. Now, two years later, I still feel the same.

So, if you’re interested in something that helped (and continues to help) me tremendously, here she be:

The greatest gift I’ve ever received: The $10,000 book that changed my life

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. Please consider subscribing for email alerts of new posts.

 If you enjoy fast-paced books, you just might like my works. “Sold Out” tracks the life of a legendary Marine Sniper after a CIA unit decides to kill him for reasons of national security. “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” tells the uphill fight a young deputy faces after finding himself in the sights of a mighty cattle baron. And “Soldier On,” a short novel, follows the lives of several German soldiers in a depleted infantry company trying to make it through the final, miserable months of World War II.


The greatest gift I’ve ever received: The $10,000 book that changed my life

I’ve received some great gifts in my life, but looking back on them, few surpass the gift of knowledge.

And most of the knowledge I’ve acquired has come from books.

Some of these books inspired me to dream; to imagine no longer living poor.

Some helped me build a business; to avoid the mistakes of other entrepreneurs.

Some gave me confidence; to believe in myself and what I’ve learned.

But the greatest book I’ve ever received (after the Bible, which you already know about) is a book called the The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior’s Way.

DON’T STOP READING if you’re over forty or if you don’t care about martial arts. (Oh, I barely caught you, didn’t I? You were about to leave the page.)

The older you are, the more this book is for you.

And if you don’t care about self-defense or martial arts, this book is for you.

This book — when I follow its daily exercises — gives me peace, makes me feel handsome, and removes all the cares from my life. It’s taught me incredible stretches, unbelievable exercises (don’t worry, it starts off slow), and indescribable teachings/meditations. (It’s very much like yoga, but better in my opinion.)

It has fundamentally improved my health, my posture, my attitude.

“You’re never too old — we just get too tense, too stiff. We think too much. It makes no difference if you’re in your twenties, fifties, or eighties. Relax, never feel old. Stretch your body and your mind, stretch your life. Get up and train harder!”
— USA Shaolin Temple

As I walked my dog recently, living in the moment and enjoying heaven on earth, I realized I must share this book with everyone I can. To not do so would be a sin. It would be nothing short of theft.

And as I felt inspired to share this amazing gift, I wondered: How do you describe such a book?

How do you describe a book that years ago (when I first bought it) made me feel completely at peace when just minutes before I’d been worrying about my lack of health insurance and the struggling company that I had founded, which could barely pay me $20,000 a year and still had nearly $100,000 in debt?

How can a book with just a few stretches, exercises, and teachings bring true happiness? How can such a book almost instantly lift your mood and make you ecstatic to be alive? How can it do this when minutes before you were seconds away from giving up, crying, or wanting to end your life?

How can it take you from no hope to hope in just minutes?

And what would such a book be worth? My first thought as I walked my dog recently in complete bliss — living fully in the moment, as the book teaches — was that such a book would be worth at least $500.

I’ve spent $500 to travel far away and gaze at the ocean while waves lapped my feet and gulls glided by me. I’ve experienced that heaven on earth and it was worth every penny of that $500.

But, I had never experienced this heaven on earth while sitting alone in a barely-decorated, empty, bland room, surrounded by stress, to-do projects, and intense feelings of deep depression.

So, what’s a book worth that gives you that feeling of deep peace and happiness any time you want, without having to travel or spend additional money? I can say with complete certainty that this book has given me this feeling hundreds of times, and I literally carry it in my work bag every single day — I hate not having it by my side.

What’s a book worth that does this? I think without question that this book is worth $10,000.

It’s changed my life that much.

It’s made me happier, healthier, improved my posture, and allowed me to catch glimpses of God’s beauty that I’d never seen before (by teaching me to live in the moment, not in past regrets or future fears). It’s helped me deal with angry customers and bad employees and “impossible” situations — all with a smile on my face and laughter in my heart.

Furthermore, the book has the best abs/core exercises I’ve ever seen, and believe me — between four years in the Marine Corps and nearly thirty years as a fitness fanatic — I’ve seen them all. Yet still, this Shaolin workout does so much for your posture and attitude with these unique exercises that you’ll feel a difference very quickly as you explore it.

I’ve shared parts of this book with family and friends and they’ve all been changed. The book is that deep, and that powerful. But remember, we shouldn’t be surprised. The book contains 1,500 years of compiled wisdom from Shaolin Monks.

These teachers have seen what bad posture does to you. How sadness and negativity can beat you down and wreck your body.

They’ve seen how birds live their lives, gleeful and spry (ever seen a sad bird?) and they’ve transferred this knowledge into passed-down wisdom.

The only folks who won’t like this book are young. If you’re under twenty, don’t waste your money. You haven’t experienced the hell of life. You’re still rushing through it 90 mph convinced happiness awaits you at the next mile marker. You’ll soon learn you’re wrong, just as I did, but you’re too young to listen to me, just as I once was, as well.

But for everyone else, this book is over-the-top good. It will change your life, if you let it. If you simply just try its stretches and exercises, and read its teachings on philosophy/Eastern thinking at the end of each chapter, you will begin to be fundamentally changed. You will sharpen your life and launch yourself into those projects you’ve been putting off, and you’ll do so with a smile and a light heart.

And the exercises are easy enough that you can start them at any age. (That’s part of what makes the book unique. It starts so easy that you won’t get frustrated and quit. The first day’s exercise lasts less than five minutes — actually, it’s about two minutes. Surely, you can stand up straight and stretch out your wrists and ankles for two minutes, even if you’re 80, right? And ignoring the exercises and stretches, I’ve got to say the teachings/philosophy lessons at the end of each chapter are worth a $100 alone.)

So, there you go. I’ve tried to explain the inexplicable. I’ve attempted to give you the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

This book has taught me to slow down, live in the moment, and feel handsome and pure; like an angel on earth that God wants to wrap His arms around, instead of some worthless failure who’s wrecked by the reality that I didn’t measure up, who’s frustrated that my body is growing weaker and softer each passing day, and that feels with a growing dread that I’m growing older and older, and that the best may be behind me.

The book has reversed most of those thoughts. (It hasn’t all of them, but, hey, I’m still a work in progress!)

It’s taught me to love harder and give more at work and in everything else I do. It’s taught me that life is a blessing, and that I can grow younger every day — not older (you’ll understand this admittedly crazy point once you read the book).

You can mock this post. You can ignore it. Frankly, I don’t blame you. And, I might have, too, if the situation were reversed.

But I have attempted to hand you the greatest gift I could give you.

The book isn’t free though… It’s roughly $20, depending on when you check its price.

It’s the cost of a night out for dinner or some silly purchase you won’t remember a month later.

And it’s right there. A single link, awaiting you, battling your skeptical mind with nothing but the power of centuries worth of love and wisdom that you won’t find in Western teachings.

If you’re not convinced, I hope you’ll at least go read the reviews on Amazon and give it some consideration. And for those who take the plunge based on my words, I hope this book transforms and improves your life 1/1,000th as much as it has mine. And when it does, you, too, will be begging your friends to buy it, like some babbling idiot. Like it’s something you must share.

Trust me on this. Here’s the link again to both the paper and Kindle versions on Amazon.

More chi! Train harder!

Stan R. Mitchell

P.S. For those who may wonder, the author’s teachings do NOT interfere with Christianity. He expresses his appreciation for Christianity and all religions and even says not to change your faith. 

P.P.S. The term “More chi! Train harder!” is a theme that’s often repeated in the book. Here’s just a sample from the book: “The harder you train, the more chi you’ll have. The more chi you put into your life, the more you’ll get out of it. Whatever chores, problems, or responsibilities you face today, don’t flinch from them, don’t avoid them, don’t feel defeated by them. Tackle them head on. Put more chi into it and get it done. More chi. Train harder. Each of us has the power to create our own paradise. Paradise is not some beach on a distant island or some other plane of existence. Paradise is within you, in your heart and in your mind. Paradise is right here, wherever you are! You create your own life. You make it heaven or hell. Destiny is not something that happens to you. You make your own destiny. The foolish person waits for good things to happen to him, as though he’s going to wake up one morning and find the bed covered with $100 bills. If fortune and success just came to us, all the casinos in Las Vegas would be out of business. Fortune, success, happiness, they rarely just fall in your lap. You must grasp your life and sharpen it.”