When Slim Gillian and his wife Laura embarked on a 40-day challenge to give up meat for Lent, they could never have guessed they were starting on a path that would change their entire lives. At that time, Slim weighed 600 lbs. Now, over 250 pounds lighter, Slim is healthier, happier, and more confident, having enjoyed a series of personal victories and challenges. But more than this, he knows he’s helped people and made a difference in the world. And that is something worth celebrating.
The Next Forty Days is an idea. It is a notion that everyone can take a step, however small, to make life just a little bit better. The process is simple – define a goal, make a sacrifice, stay encouraged and enjoy a victory. – TheNextFortyDays.com
After the first 40-Day challenge, the Gillians decided they were on to something. They knew they had to continue, and they were so excited about what they were doing, they decided to get others involved. So they started blogging their 40-Day challenges and inviting others to participate at their website TheNextFortyDays.com.
Anything that generates positive change is something that gets our attention. And the changes these challenges are producing are not only physical, and not only about Slim and Laura McElheny Gillian. As the challenges progressed, the Gillians began to reach out to others, for instance, with their 40-Day Acts of Kindness Challenge, in which they connected with people through (as the challenge suggests) acts of kindness. That’s why Naples Noteworthy has ranked TheNextFortyDays.com as the Most Inspirational Website in Naples for 2014.
Naples Noteworthy gives 5 stars to the following 40-day challenges, in particular:
40-Days of Positivity: Participants only spoke positively about each other and those around them. Anytime that they spoke negatively about anyone or any place, they were compelled to immediately relinquish $1, which was put in a jar, to be used later in the Acts of Kindness Challenge. Naples Noteworthy: Words have power. Speak positively about others and you may find yourself thinking positively about them as well. We imagine this was a difficult challenge, but one all of us should attempt. It’s so easy to be negative about everything. But having a positive mindset can make a big difference in your life as well as those you come in contact with. Developing a mindset of positivity becomes even more important as the world becomes more unpredictable, chaotic, and portions of society start erupting into factions of protest, hatred, and bitterness. We can give into thoughts of doom and gloom and start discussing who is to blame, or we can choose to be positive and see what we can do to help, no matter what the situation. We love the accountability aspect of this challenge and that the jar money went towards the Acts of Kindness Challenge.
Acts of Kindness: For this 40-day challenge, participants were simply kind and considerate to people. This included small acts of kindness, such as holding doors open for people, returning carts at the grocery, or complimenting people. But it also included more substantial acts, such as buying someone’s groceries, providing Thanksgiving dinner to those less fortunate, or buying Christmas gifts for those in need. Additionally, participants picked at random 40 names and addresses from the phone book and wrote and sent letters of encouragement to those people. Naples Noteworthy: This was our favorite challenge. We think all the churches in Naples should take part in this challenge. In fact, the whole city should participate. Wouldn’t that be remarkable?
Warm Beds and Hot Showers: For 40 days, participants gave up two things that most people take for granted: warm beds and hot showers. During this challenge, they only took cold showers and slept on the floor, on cots, or on couches. Naples Noteworthy: We loved that you were able to get outside yourselves and realize how fortunate we are in this country. So many of us are griping about one thing or another these days and forget that we live in one of the richest countries in the world. We cringe when we hear people complain about America, and strongly recommend that all Americans spend some time serving in the developing world in order to truly appreciate all that we have here. You are so right. We take hot showers for granted. In fact, we take water–clean water–for granted. Many people have no access to clean water and walk miles each day just to obtain dirty water, water that makes them sick, water that sometimes even kills them or their children. We applaud you for the discomfort you endured for 40 days and know that what you gained in perspective was well worth it.
40-Days of Service: Participants gave of their time and bodies volunteering at youth organizations, clubs, nursing homes, charities, soup kitchens, etc. Naples Noteworthy: Another challenge we absolutely loved. Volunteering is one of the best things you can do to attain spiritual maturity. When you learn what it’s like to selflessly serve, to give of your time and of yourself and your skills and labor without expecting anything back in return, you can literally feel yourself changing, and it’s a change that feels good. There’s really nothing like it, and the synergy that’s created when people come together in the community to work together toward a common goal is absolutely lovely.
40-Days of Gratefulness: Participants selected 40 things/places/people that they were genuinely grateful for, wrote a blog post about each of them and reached out in various ways to express their gratitude. Naples Noteworthy: We all should be more grateful for what we have. This generation of entitlement and lack of gratitude that is upon us is troubling. It’s easy to say we should be more grateful, but few of us do anything about it. To actively pursue gratefulness in this way is remarkably innovative. We commend you.
Lasting Impacts of the Challenges
Naples Noteworthy asked Slim if the challenges were having any lasting impact on his life and that of his wife, or whether, once the challenges were through, they simple reverted to their pre-challenge states. But the answer was unequivocally yes, the 40-day challenges were producing desirable long-term changes.
“Many of the challenges are ones that we still incorporate into our daily lives,” Slim explained. “I’m sober, more giving, more loving, I’m able to walk again, I’ve lost some weight and continue to strive to lose more, and I’m making a genuine change in my area and around the world. Compared to the absolute waste of space I was before, I’d call that a night and day change.”
While we don’t agree with Slim about the “absolute waste of space” (and our August feature, Xian Horn, whose focus is on beauty and self-esteem immediately comes to mind–for a sneek peek, click here), and wish to state, for the record, that at any weight, every person has absolute, non-negotiable worth, we applaud his efforts to challenge and improve himself on physical, mental, social and emotional levels. More of us should be so inclined, and it’s one of the reasons we are spotlighting Slim and his website.
We encourage you to take a look and think about setting a personal goal for yourself, at least for the next 40 days, or joining their current 40-Day challenge, which focuses on the family. Click here to view upcoming 40-Day challenges, or visit TheNextFortyDays.com to learn more and get involved.
Slim Gillian – SLIMTRONIC5000
Slim is known in the community not only for his personal victories showcased via TheNextFortyDays.com, but also for his music. You can view his discography at Slimtronic5000.com. He played amazing guitar and toured in the group FELLOWBLISS for years, though the group has since dismantled. The song playing in the above video is from FELLOWBLISS.
Now, happily, Slim is playing with GypsyNative, a lively melting pot of Americana, indie, blues, soul, jazz, and rock. This interesting band does unique arrangements of covers as well as original songs, and they even write music spontaneously on the fly–yes, while you’re watching–as in this recent clip from Tavern West.
We asked Slim to comment on his experience with FELLOWBLISS as well as the music he was doing now.
“Despite the ups and downs, playing in FELLOWBLISS was one of the greatest times of my life,” Slim answered. “To be able to travel with my best friends and create something where there once was nothing is without question one of dearest blessings I could ever have. In the end, we were all heading in different directions. We all had some growing to do and needed the chance to focus on those things. While I’ll likely never tour again, I’ve been enjoying performing with my former FELLOWBLISS singer, Sheena Brook, along with my older brother, Brad “The Bishop” Thompson as GypsyNative. Outside of having a pretty crazy live show, we’ve just begun recording our first album as GypsyNative. This album will be very organic in style, sound, and recording and it will be one of the music projects that I’m most proud of. Who knows what the future holds though? Perhaps there is still road life left in me yet……”
Slim Chance of That Happening
As a final note, we gave a call-out in our feature, the Top 5 Non-Denominational Churches in Naples, for Living Waters Community Church, which we said had the best videography of all five churches–absolutely top rate. Who do you suppose is their videographer?
You guessed it. Slim Gillian.
A man with many talents and so much potential, we hardly knew which direction to take in writing this article. The one thing we all agreed on is he’s someone in Naples you should know about.
And now you do.