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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!!

On the Way to 100

January 13, 2017 by  
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It’s early January 2017 and I’m sitting on beautiful Shipwreck Beach in Kauai.  It’s the perfect temperature with a slight breeze and as I’m writing I’m also listening and watching kids, grand kids and adults laughing, playing and having an absolute blast!  To be in a place like this doesn’t take tons of money but it certainly helps, especially if you live a thousand or two thousand miles away from a warm beach.

I’ve talked quite a bit about new year’s resolutions and goals in the last few weeks, especially talking about that big financial goal or resolution you need to set for you self for 2017.  I must say, that no matter how important financial goals are, setting goals and resolutions for your health is just as important, or I should say much more important!  Look at the billions of dollars that Steve Jobs had, but all that money couldn’t buy his health or save him from the grim reaper.

I’m surely not saying that money can’t ever help your health. It really can by providing better doctors, hospitals, and the latest and greatest hi-tech procedures and medicine, but what you and I choose to do, day by day, can greatly increase our odds of having good health. We could even live to be 100 years old and arrive there in pretty good shape.

A  article from August of 2015, titled “100 Wonderful Ways to Live to 100”, quotes a book called The Longevity Project written by Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin.  In the article, it is explained that the authors’ research showed that “being conscientious was one of the best predictors of longevity. That’s because people who are conscientious may be more likely to abide by healthful behaviors, may be less prone to disease, and may find more success in relationships and in the workplace.”

In addition to that observation, I would like to share with you a few of the other article’s 100 ways to live to 100. Then maybe next week I’ll share a few more of the 100 wonderful ways and my thoughts on those. I should also add that almost all the 100 ways are backed up by good solid research. Here are a few easy one to keep in mind:

  • Don’t dread getting older…adults who developed positive attitudes about getting older live more than 7 years longer than those who had negative attitudes.
  • Find a life purpose.
  • Walk a lot.
  • Go meatless.
  • Try to keep your marriage friction-free.
  • Get your Mediterranean diet on.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Drink alcohol (but only in moderation).
  • Cut the sugar.
  • Drink your coffee-but only in moderation.
  • Join the 1 percent.

beach 1Yep, rich people live longer. It’s been proven in many studies!

Oops! I’ve got to stop for a few moments while I watch crazy, young, testosterone filled guys jump off the more than 100-foot-tall cliffs into the water. My son-in-law just did it and survived and went back and did it again. Ugh. It’s very scary.  Maybe I should add to the list of my rules for longevity and health not to take huge risks, like jumping off a cliff or out of a perfectly good airplane, even if I have 2 parachutes!

Ok, that’s all for this week. There will be a few more next week. In the meantime, let’s all go to work on these and set some hard and fast new year’s resolutions for our health and longevity.

 

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!

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.

 

 

Enhance Your Life with Old and New Friends

November 25, 2016 by  
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basketball-teamI think you would agree with me that there are not a lot of things in this world much better than good, close friends. I can’t even imagine my world without my friends–both the old friends from my school days and my new friends. Great friends will do just about anything for you.

When we were young men, most of our get togethers were for some kind of competition–for sports, games or whatever. And many of those competitors morphed into “best friends”. Then as we aged it was more often business that brought us together.

In my November 4th blog post, I talked about the two major tragedies of my life–the death of my brother and my daughter. This got me to thinking of my friends who quickly gathered around me and gave me tons of love and support and comfort during those times.

The attached picture was taken 2 years after my brother died on a basketball court and shows our team just after we won the big American High School tournament in Rome, Italy, a tournament that included all American High schools throughout Europe and the Middle East. These great friends in the picture were some of the best friends a person could have. They not only helped me through those tough times but also shared in my dream of winning the big tournament for my deceased brother, Bruce. It’s hard to believe that was 55 years ago and still, to this day, two of those guys in the pic are among my best friends. Richard Harvey of Cleveland, Ohio (2nd row on the right) and our big Texas center, Ed Beckcom (the guy at the top with both arms spread).

My message this week, to you and myself, is to try to reach out to old friends and go out of your way to make new friends. Believe me, it’s well worth the effort. Go ahead and sit down with your old high school or college year book and make a list of those friends that you were close to back in those days. If you’ve lost touch with them, get on the internet and try to track them down and renew those great ol’ friendships. Your life will be enhanced by these reconnections and new connections and theirs will be too!

 

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.

 

 

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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Write it Down

September 30, 2016 by  
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If you have followed my blogs you know that I am a huge believer in goal setting. Goal setting can change your life and lift it to a much higher levels in so many parts of your life. Recently I came across an incredible book that has expanded my belief in goal setting as well as teaching me, among other things, some very fascinating science about how the setting of goals effects and influences the human brain.

The book is Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser. She talks about and explains how writing a goal or putting a thought or question on paper alerts or activates a part of your brain known as the “reticular activating system” or RAS. As I read, I thought about my own experience and what a huge difference writing it down makes in my own goal setting. When I actually wrote the goal down on paper, rather than thinking it though and trying to set the goal just in my mind, the written goal really got to me and it wouldn’t let me go without me taking some action or at least making progress toward that goal. It’s almost like that note on paper took control of my brain and wouldn’t let go until I did something. And now after reading Klauser’s book I see that there are some actual scientific reasons for that—the RAS.

Thinking back all those years ago when I was 27 and decided I wanted to be a millionaire, I remember writing out my goal to hit a million-dollar net worth by the time I was 30 years old. At that time, I was making about $35,000 a year, so I certainly didn’t have much of a nest egg to get started toward my goal. But some very interesting things started happening in my head. My brain seemed to take over and I couldn’t help but take note of rich people and how they made their money. I began reading everything I saw that was related to making money. I read and studied various wealth formulas and financial secrets then began following and duplicating the wealth methods that I was learning from other people. It seemed that all this financial stuff was automatically falling in my lap. I see now that it must have been that good ol’ RAS at work.

One last tidbit of advice would be to start using a “tidbit journal”. As Klauser recommends, “purchase and carry with you a small memo pad to gather your ideas immediately as the come to you.” That’s great advice since it’s so easy to forget those little things that cross our minds when we are out and about. This little notepad/journal will become like a suggestion box for your brain.

Klauser goes on to say, “Carrying a tidbit journal makes you keener to the workings of the RAS. Having a wheel book or a tidbit book ready at hand stimulates your thalamus to alert the cortex, telling it, “Wake up. Open your eyes. Look and see. Be present to the signs all around you. Life is on your side”.

This is all so much good stuff. Remember writing it down starts to make it all happen. Our brains are so much better than I think most of us fully realize.

 

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