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The Super Power of Writing to Yourself

February 3, 2017 by  
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I’ve written about the huge value of keeping a journal of your life before. Writing about what you do, where you go, people you meet, and, probably most important of all, your inner most thoughts as you go through your life. I’ve kept a journal going on 55 years now. Yes, sometimes I go months without making any entries but still, I must say, I’ve made some major discoveries about myself and life in general from the entries I have made and they have helped me beyond what I ever would have expected.

Sometimes re-reading what I wrote years before brings me unexpected break-throughs. You know one of those ah-ha moments that really hit you hard and sometimes changes your life for the better. The latest breakthrough started when I began reading the “Life Story of Kathryn Baird Haroldsen” which are the writings of my mother, all gathered up and put together into a book by my father, Dr. Edwin O. Haroldsen, in 1995. Both of them have long since passed away but their writings still speak to me with great power.

Reading my parents’ words about their travels all over the world and their many great and exciting experiences was so very insightful for me. But when my mother shared on paper some of her inner most thoughts and feelings, it motivated me to get out my journal and put on paper some self-defeating and disturbing thoughts that I have had these last 2 years. These are thoughts that I haven’t shared with a single soul.

For some reason that maybe only our brains know about, when I later re-read my very negative inner thoughts it changed me and, surprisingly, did so in a very good and positive way. I now want to share that experience and the lessons I learned with others so they may have a positive breakthrough like I did that will help their lives. Next week I will share exactly what I wrote and how it began to change me and my life. In the meantime, if you don’t already, start journaling about whatever comes to mind. You never know what you might write down that will bring you your own break-through in the future.

Learning About What It Takes to Make it to 100 … from Kids

January 27, 2017 by  
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kauai kidsI’m am sure hoping that you, my reader, are not getting tired of me talking about being on the beautiful beaches of Kauai and sharing some of my insights and discoveries on life and living. Why? Well, because I’m once again on the beach and am still thinking, talking and writing about “100 wonderful ways to live to be 100”. I do, however, want to add one of my own to that list to make it the list of “101 Ways to Live to be 100.”

The list of 100 does include “have a family” but I would add this to the list:

101. Hang out, play with, observe, and learn lessons from your kids and grandkids.

This addition to the list is one activity that will certainly bring a smile to your face and, no doubt, will add years to your life. Right now, as I write this, I’m watching my son and grandson as they begin their snorkeling adventure not too far from the shoreline. Their excitement, especially my grandson’s, is so sky high because it’s such a new experience for him. Meanwhile, I can see my wife and our 4-year-old grandson and his 8-year-old sister having an absolute ball splashing in a very small and shallow pool of water surrounded by coral and lava rock. Such simple entertainment can bring such a high level of joy and happiness.

As adults, we can, and should, learn so much from these kids. Why do such simple activities bring so much pure joy and entertainment? It’s because these things are new and unusual for them and our brains are always seeking novelty. When we experience new things, our brains are stimulated to produce two brain chemicals that make us happy, excite us, and make us feel good. Those two brain chemicals are serotonin and dopamine. The problem with being adults is that basically we’ve been there and done that so many times that it’s not new, novel, or exciting to us.

Heavens … you can give a small kid a cardboard box and it can keep him entertained and happy for an hour or more as the kid crawls in and out, over and under, or makes it into as a hiding place. As adults, we can, and usually do, get great satisfaction and joy from just watching kids do these things, especially when those kids are having a blast doing them.

So, my 101 on the list is to take time to hang out and closely observe kids doing, what is to them, new things and watch how much joy and fun they get out of it. Then go one step further (and maybe this step should count as 102 on the list) and challenge yourself to come up with new activities, adventures and experiences that are very novel to you and that will most likely stimulate those two pleasurable brain chemicals.

I’m pretty darn certain that stimulating those brain chemicals is a major factor in how I push myself to visit new and different countries and cultures and to go out of my way to meet new people and make new friends. Just today I saw this very tall, good-looking guy at Walmart and noticed he had an accent. I just had to go up and ask where he was from. My guess from his height and accent was that he was Dutch. And, sure enough, he was from the Netherlands. Rob turned out to be a film maker vacationing in Kauai. Even though it was a short conversation, we decided to stay in touch and I walked away feeling great from the brief encounter because, yep, those two brain chemicals were at work.

What new and novel things excite you? If you need help identifying new things to do and try, just ask around and see what other novel and exciting things people are doing. These new experiences don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. The simple act of meeting Rob today was great, and even just driving through a totally different neighborhood, or walking, hiking or jogging on a new mountain trail can do the trick. Take time right now to make your own list. It can be eating at a new restaurant, eating a new type of food, trying out a new exercise, or making friends with complete strangers.

It’s all so worth it because not only does it make you feel good right now but it’s bound to help you live longer and live in better health–maybe even to live to be 100!!

Living Well and Healthy on the Way to 100

January 20, 2017 by  
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I would like to share with you some more thoughts about life and living and, yes, a few more things that you and I can do to increase our chances of living to be 100.

First, let me tell you about my super crazy few days this past week. The day after I wrote about how important it is to have great health I suddenly got very sick. It started with a severe case of acid reflux but then I could not eat or drink anything without huge chest pains and throwing it all up. I began to feel better after 3 days and so got some time in on beautiful Poipu beach. However, there I witnessed a guy being pulled from the ocean by a lifeguard just 20 or 30 feet from where we were relaxing and just having a good time.

Five paramedics went to work on this guy. They pounded his chest, did CPR on him, and shocked him many times–they worked on him for 20 minutes. Everyone on the beach just froze and watched as they tried to save this guy’s life. Many people were in tears, but even with all that effort and skilled professional work done by the paramedics, the guy did not make it.

The mood of all of us beach goers changed dramatically. We went from fun, games and joy to quiet and very somber. It is amazing how so many people care deeply about a person they do not even know. The young lady next to us broke down in tears. I was fighting back my own tears. The loss of life is a sad thing and, yes, we will all get to that point eventually. But this was a reminder that it is so critically important to live life to the fullest every single day, to do virtually everything we can to stay healthy and extend our lives —yes, to like 100 years old–in good health.

With that said here are a few more of the 100 Wonderful Ways to Live to Be 100:

  • Find reasons to laugh.
  • Do unto others but do not forget about yourself.
  • Do not dread getting older.
  • Get busy and stay busy.
  • (This one alone can add an average 7 years to your life.)
  • Turn off the TV.
  • Eat less.
  • Practice positive self-talk.
  • Use your brain–engage in games and intellectual stimulation.

Let’s not wait until illness or some unexpected tragedy makes us realize how valuable our life is. We can honor this gift we have, every day, by doing everything we can to not just live, but live well and healthy. And to live, yes, to be at least 100.

Habits in Saving and Investing for the Future

January 6, 2017 by  
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For the average person, the key to wealth is summed up in that simple little thing called ‘savings’. Saving can also be the key to peace of mind such as in that old phrase “Saving for a rainy day,” which means setting money aside in case of an emergency. Saving up money is just a very smart thing to do and the new year is a great time to really get serious about that and your financial life.

Your financial future begins and depends on the idea of savings. Even those with small incomes that are living hand to mouth, thinking “we are just barely breaking even,” will need to save. Yes, it can be tough to save a little money from each pay check but with good planning, some self-discipline, and giving up on things that you thought you couldn’t live without, setting a little money aside is very possible. Yes, you may have to come up with a very tight budget and forego eating out at your favorite cafe and not buy that shirt or dress that you want so badly, but the rewards are so very worth it. In the long run, a little savings can amass a very large net worth and even a fortune, plus a good deal of peace of mind.

But saving money is just part of the big picture. As you are building up your financial nest egg it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open for real estate deals that look to have great potential, even when know your savings is not near enough yet for a down payment. And yes, I am talking about and recommending those fixer uppers and dirt bag houses or apartments that need work but whose value can be greatly increased. Keeping your eye out for those bargains is a great habit to get into. You can even make offers when you don’t have the down payment.

But why, you may ask, would you do that when you don’t have the down payment? Well, first of all, it’s a great way to work on your offer writing and negotiating skills and, second, if you really do find and tie up a great bargain there is always the real possibility that you can go find a partner to put up most or, sometimes, all the money with you still owning a percentage of that bargain.

When I first started my saving and investing plan, I very quickly saw the advantage of making offers with that good old “subject to” clause which allowed me to back out if I couldn’t get the down payment or finance it. This gave me a lot of practice and, yes, I even landed a couple great bargains and brought in a partner.

So, if you don’t have much money but want to get started, begin by saving as much as you can and get in the habit of looking for those bargains. Also, you might want to pass this kind of information and strategy onto your kids, grand kids, or friends that you know are struggling financially. This kind of thing may be just what they need to get focused and find their way to financial freedom.

It’s also smart to take the time to really study and fully understand the incredible power of financial leverage and then what compounding your money can do, even when you start with just small amounts of your money. When I saw what leverage and compound could do, it turned me on and motivated me to a super high level and pushed me to save even more money and cut back on most everything.  Anyone can do the same thing.

So, as we start this new year, consider saving more and looking into bargain real estate as one of your great new year’s resolutions!

Lifting our Lives in 2017

December 30, 2016 by  
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As you look at or contemplate what you will be doing in 2017 and beyond, be sure to take a very hard look at the financial category. Life is certainly much more than just money but with plenty of money your options and success with many of your other goals in life can be greatly expanded.

For example, I just discovered that before the great actor and governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was famous, he became a millionaire from … yep, you guessed it … investing in good ole real estate! So even if you’ve not yet started an investment program you can do so now with savings and investing goals for 2017. It may take some time to build your fortune and you may feel you have so little to contribute right now, but try never to forget the huge power of compounding your money. Compounding can multiply even a very small amount of money into millions of dollars. Certainly Arnold knows that from his experience and so do I.

Eight years ago, when I starting writing my weekly blog it was almost exclusively about taking a small amount of money and wisely investing it, mainly in real estate, to build a fortune for yourself or at least for you to make enough to live very comfortably and retire without ever diminishing your lifestyle. But I’ve also written about health and well-being, relationships and friends, and traveling to broaden one’s perspectives on living, along with many other subjects. But I’m thinking now that as we face another year it would be wise to refocus our attention and goal setting back to that money thing that can lift so many parts of our lives including the lives of those around us.

In the foreword of the book Tools of Titans, the author Tim Ferris quotes Schwarzenegger’s thoughts not only about real estate making Arnold a millionaire but about his many other accomplishments. “I am not a self-made man,” Schwarzenegger says. “I got a lot of help … I stood on the shoulders of giants,” which was his way of giving credit to his parents, coaches, and teachers.

We all need to realize and give so much credit to others that have helped us along the way and then step up and let others climb on our shoulders to lift them up. For me I give tons of credit for my success to my wonderful parents and to the great Bill Nickerson and what his book, How I Turned $1,000 into a Million in My Spare Time, did for me. I also need to credit the great Denver real estate guru, – who took me under his wing and showed me exactly how he turned a few thousand dollars into multi-millions over the years. You can read more about that great story on my June 24th, 2016 blog.

I’ve tried to help others through my investing advice, directions, books, lectures and conversations. I have received rewards of great appreciation and many thank-you’s which are worth so much more than money. One of my resolutions for 2017 is to be more helpful to others. To accomplish this, I need to go to work right now and write down the details and specific steps or actions that I am going to take to accomplish that very goal. What are your goals and do you have them written down yet? If not, let’s do it. There is no time to waste.

The Simple List

December 16, 2016 by  
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Last week, I suggested you make lists of what you want to do, accomplish, become, and experience in the coming year. Those, of course, are called goals or resolutions and to begin thinking about them early on can lead to much better goals and better ways to reach them. So, what did you come up with?

For some people the list can get pretty long with many, many goals and objectives. Recently I’ve been reading Living the Simple Life, a book by Elaine St. James. At one point in her life she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and become so she starting writing and making lists of different categories. She came up with five categories: Personal, Career, Financial, Spiritual and Civic. Then she made a list within each category. Under ‘Personal’ she’d ended up with a list of 20 items. That was a lot of goals to aim for all at once.

She goes on to recommend that if you want to simplify your life, you might want to limit your resolutions and goals to just a few. She says, “If you’re an incurable list maker, be open to the possibility that you may have to cut your lists back to more realistic proportions. If you’re not a list maker by nature or by habit, you might find it helpful to come up with a brief list of four or five things you’ll want to concentrate on as you begin to simplify your life. Just don’t get carried away.”

I totally agree with keeping the number of goals or resolutions that you make to just a few. Why? If you set too many or create goals that are too big, it may not be achievable and you may become very, very discouraged and depressed when you see yourself falling way short of your objectives. This can lead you to totally throw in the towel and give up, convincing yourself that resolutions–whether they are made at the beginning of a new year or in the middle–just don’t work, at least not for you. So, I hope the lists you made this past week (or are about to make) are not too long or too huge.

That is not to say that great, big goals are not okay because they are. But if they are really huge, they probably need to be spread out over many years so that they are manageable. So, look at what you’ve formulated for the new year and break these goals down into the smaller steps it will take to reach them.

Also, break them down into regular and specific items such as what you are going to do each day and maybe even what hour of the day are you going to work on them. Then, next, determine what kind of progress you’d like to see. Ask, yourself where do you want to be by, say, the end of January and then end of February, etc. Remember, baby steps can turn into a thousand miles, given enough time.

So, concentrate on those small things but keep on doing them each day and each week. Next week I’m going to talk more about financial goals that, of course, can help you with many other goals.

 

 

The Easier Way to Reach Your Goals

November 12, 2016 by  
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Okay, first of all, there is no particularly ‘easy’ way to reach your goals but there are certainly easier ways and harder ways. Whether your goal is to make a million dollars, write a bestselling book or visit 100 different countries, the easier way to reach those goals includes a very simple thing … making lists. And I don’t mean in your head. I mean writing that list down. Why does writing out a list make reaching a goal easier? Because if you write it down it does some very good stuff inside your brain.

Chapter 7 in Henriette Klauser’s wonderful little book entitled Write It Down, MAKE IT HAPPEN tells the great story of her friend Sydne who turned her life around mainly from the single action of writing down her list of goals. Klauser says, “Writing a list gets it out of your head. Heads can be dark swamps, the conversations, the constant chatter, whatever you want to call it, keeps interfering. Writing a list gets it out of the swamp, onto paper. You can see a list in black and white and it’s real. When you reduce your goals to a list, it helps keep your focus.”

So, if you write your goals it basically changes things in your brain. She goes on to say that if your lists are very specific your brain will more likely help you reach those goals. “When you are vague and general, you are safe. Get to the essence of it; that’s when things happen. Nothing can happen when you’re generalized and safe–nothing changes.” When the writing of those lists put Sydne on the path of reaching virtually all her goals, her motto then became simply “Do it easy.”

The author’s advice is to “use listing as an opportunity to crystallize your intent–to learn what matters most to you.” She goes on to say, “Keep that list handy, and look at it regularly, especially if you lose heart or feel scared. Emblazon it in your mind. Repeat to yourself ‘This is what I want and it is waiting for me.’” Remember, keep your list very specific even for things such as buying a car. As the author says, “Don’t simply write ‘car’, write the type of car with make, model, and mileage.”

I must say that goal setting and writing down the specifics has changed my brain and improved my life in many and huge ways. When I was 27 years old I set the very specific goal to make a million dollars by the time I was 30 and yes I wrote it down and looked at that written goal on a regular basis. I went to work to find ways and means, along with great help from a couple of fantastic mentors, to hit my target. Oops I missed the goal, that is I missed the date by one year but reached it at age 31. Pretty much the same thing happened when I set the written goal to write a bestselling book. That book was How to Wake Up the Financial Genius Inside You which eventually sold over one million copies.

I am absolutely convinced that writing it down did in fact change my brain and made it all happen.  I know that it works and if you are not already writing your specific lists of goals down, I hope you start doing so right now.

 

 

Counting Blessings Amidst Our Tragedies

November 4, 2016 by  
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In last week’s blog, I talked about how all people have difficulties and tragedies. I’m fully aware that my problems mentioned didn’t sound that huge. Some readers might have even been saying to themselves, “Oh the unfortunate rich guy has major problems, huh? What a tragedy he’s had with that terrible common cold. I feel so sorry for him … not!”

My main point of the blog really wasn’t about my very small and temporary health issue but rather was about how we all need to rejoice more often and count our blessings. We need to do it every day and do it before we face a truly huge loss such as a severe health decline or the loss of family or friends.

There is an old Mormon hymn called “Count Your Many Blessings”. One of the lines goes “name them one by one.” I find this to be very profound in that it defines a great way to live each day. If we stop to recognize each of our blessings, it actually can improve our lives and make us feel better, just like what I learned some time ago about how smiling releases good chemicals into your brain, even doing  the same thing when we force a smile.

Like many people if not most, I’ve had some major tragedies in my life that I will never forget—there was my 17-year-old brother who died right in front of me on the basketball court when I was 15 and, the biggest and most terrible shock of my life, when my 16-year-old daughter died. Even though I’ll never really get over those tragedies, I’ve learned to live with the reality of what happened and it has made me more aware of living in the great ‘right now’. It has made me take notice and count the blessings in my life every day.

I remember vividly after my daughter died being totally depressed and laying around doing nothing but feeling sorry for myself for many, many months. Then suddenly I realized that I was completely neglecting my other children. I saw how important they were and how blessed I was to have such good productive, active, loving and lovable kids. I lifted myself out of the dumps and started to notice and pay attention to them and appreciate all the goodness around me.

As I mentioned last week, traveling through parts of Africa was a real eye opener. Our train traveled though many villages filled with garbage, spotted with homes that were just ten by ten foot shacks topped with flimsy roofs held down with rocks. As all too skinny kids ran along the side of the tracks waving at the train, I couldn’t help but see how good we have it. If we are paying attention, we’ll know we need to appreciate all our blessings every day.

So, let’s all take time to notice, take time to appreciate, and take time to love what we have and not just family and friends but even strangers. We need to start giving more back to those who need help. None of us know how long our loved ones and friends will be with us; tragedy can strike any of our lives at any time. So even if you have disagreements and arguments or find yourself angry at those around you, try to step back and look at the bigger picture and be grateful and appreciative of those people. Remember just how important they are to you and just how small the differences are that get in the way.

 

 

I Have the Perfect Life—-Not

October 28, 2016 by  
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My last 2 blogs told of the super wonderful and exciting African Safari that my wife and I took along with our dear friend Francoise Eriksen. It was a perfect trip–all went well without any hiccups or unpleasant surprises! I’m guessing that some of my readers are thinking “Oh, what a perfect life that guy Mark has. He’s wealthy, had his 15 minutes of fame, probably lives in a mansion, and travels the world first class.”

I remember so vividly thinking exactly that as I read about the rich and famous people of the world. I really thought they must have had a perfect life—but, oh, how wrong I was.

p1020832Right after we returned from the African Safari two things happened. I watched and listened to a super famous and wealthy man on T.V. (worth hundreds of millions) talk about the tragedies in his life. He was miserable but how people all around him didn’t believe him. They really thought he had a smooth and perfect life without any bad stuff but that was so far from the truth and the reality of his life.

The second thing that happened was me coming down with the worst common cold that I’ve had in many years. Wow. Talk about major mucus and a constant hacking cough that left me breathless and with very little sleep. Ugh and super ugh! Then a thought struck me and I said to myself, “Wait a minute … why didn’t I appreciate and give great thanks for my super great health while on the Safari and, for that matter, the last 3 or 4 years that I’ve have without any sickness whatsoever?”

Isn’t it quite amazing that most of us human beings don’t appreciate or give thanks for what we have until we lose it–whether it’s our health, good relationships, money, our jobs, or–how about this one–living in a great and free country. I will say this … traveling through South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe I couldn’t help but think about how good we have it in this great country, even the poorest among us are better off than some of the people I observed as our train passed through African villages where they lived with terrible conditions.

So my message this week is, let’s all take time to pause and think about and take notice and appreciate our health, wealth (however large or small), relationships, and this great country that we live in. And let’s do that right now and not wait till we’ve lost some of it.

Next week I want to talk about some other challenges in my life. Everybody’s life, no matter how rich or famous, has its troubles and its tragedies as well as much to be grateful for.

The Big 5 and Brain Stimulation

October 14, 2016 by  
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Okay, I must start out this week exclaiming … WOW, WOW, DOUBLE WOW! That’s the kind of brain reaction most humans have when they experience something totally new, unexpected, and novel. I’ve had a ton of novel experiences in my 72 years of living and certainly a big part of that has been new places I’ve visited, new things I’ve seen, the people I met, and the activities I’ve been involved with in the 84 different countries I’ve visited.

In the last two weeks, however, I saw and experienced something totally different that I’ve ever seen or done before. And yes it was in a country that I’ve never even come close to before. In fact, four new countries in total. It was an African Safari! I never had it on my bucket list but some friends did it and said it was fantastic so I thought I’d give it a try even though just the thought of it made me very nervous.

We started the adventure by flying into Johannesburg, South Africa and after a few days we headed for Kruger National park. There we met out guide and his spotter man who rode on a platform on the front of the jeep, on the lookout for one of the “Big 5” (the 5 most dangerous animals for humans to hunt or to be around) and yes, he was armed with a big powerful rifle. So off we went looking for the wild ones. Less than an hour later the jeep stopped and the lookout man got off with his rifle in hand. He had spotted lion tracks. Off he went on foot into the wild using a radio to let our guide know exactly where he was and what he was seeing.

A short time later we left the beat up dirt road and dove over trees, bushes and huge rocks that I swear were about to tip us over. About 15 minutes later, there they were–a pride of 14 lions, 7 of which were cubs. My wife and I and a dear friend from Park City, Utah who joined us on the trip, were frozen in our seats as the lions slowly approached our very wide open jeep. The jeep had stopped but let me tell you my heart rate didn’t–it doubled! All I could think of was how easy it would be for the papa lion to leap into the jeep and have me for lunch. But slowly the entire pride walked by us, looking us in the eye and coming within 6 or 8 feet of the jeep! We watch as they walked away and then drove on to look for the next on the list of the big 5.

I want to talk more about what other brain pumping stuff we saw but I do want to emphasize that to introduce yourself to novel experiences and sights that really stimulate your brain you don’t actually have to travel to foreign countries, so please don’t think you have to go far and wide to pump up your brain. However, visiting other cultures and or countries or even other religions does help. There are lots of very simple things you can do that don’t cost a ton of money or take a lot of time that will pump up your brain.

My son David, for example, gets this with 2 AM phone calls for his volunteer search and rescue work which is very challenging. It takes him into the mountains, on cliffs, and into rivers and lakes. It’s very exciting, brain pumping, and life enhancing stuff for him and it’s all in areas not far from where he lives.

Next week I will talk about and suggest some other simple things each of us can do to pump up our brains and, as a result, enhance our lives.

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