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The Freedom of Structure

January 25, 2019 by  
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I’m reading a great book that my son gave to me, titled What Will I DO All Day, by Patrice Jenkins PHD.  It’s all about retirement and how it can be either a really good thing or something that drives you crazy. And it can all start long before you retire. It may even start from the moment you just begin thinking about what the heck you are going to do when you retire.

Most people think, “Oh, it’s going to be great when I retire. I’ll have all that time to do all those things that I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time to do.” But when people actually retire, many of us can become very frustrated because, all of a sudden, we don’t have a routine or the structure that a regular job gave us. Now we must set a routine and a structure of our own and that takes some thinking and some work.

So much of what this author talks about that needs to be done also applies to all of us in our daily living long before we even think about retirement, such as setting goals, writing them down, and writing daily “to do” lists. We all know, or should by now, that when we write down a list of things to do the night before, the likelihood of us following through and actually adding action to that list and doing it, increases big time. I’m sure you have seen that happen in your own life.

Patrice has a chapter called “Structure is Freedom”. When we are working full time, structure doesn’t seem like freedom. She tells the story of this one guy by the name of Jim. Jim said, “You have to know what you’re getting up to each day.” Here is what she wrote about Jim and what Jim’s thoughts were:

“When Jim first retired he was looking forward to having his days free to do anything he wanted to do. But, after a few months of this, he told me that he, ‘found it to be more work not to work. My energy level was lower than when I used to work 10 hours a day. The truth is I was puttering around the house most of the day.’

“It was at this point that Jim acknowledged that having more structure in his days would improve life in retirement. He started scheduling appointments, making commitments, and setting deadlines. He decided to set his alarm for 7 a.m. and start each day with exercise. He made a rule to turn the television off by 9 a.m. so that he could start doing something more productive. Jim also volunteered for a couple of organizations which required weekly commitments of his time and talents. He told me these changes gave his life a more focused direction. ‘Now I know what I’m getting up to each morning,’ he said. ‘I really needed the structure to give me the freedom to enjoy retirement.’”

What Jim learned is something we should all focus on and be sure we do it whether we are retired, close to retirement, or many years away from that status. Yes, our full-time jobs give us structure and a routine, but our lives can be, and will be, so much more fulfilled and productive if we set up our own routines and structure totally independent of our jobs. Now that I’m semi-retired I am going to work much harder on my own routines and structure too.

The 100% Return Goal

January 18, 2019 by  
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As we begin a new year it’s a very good time to remember the basics, specifically the basics of financial independence through which you make and keep your own fortune.  It’s so easy to forget the basics, especially when we are all caught up in the details of our daily lives, even those details that are involved with building our wealth. For example, if you have a big problem with the plumbing at a rental property or the property taxes just got bumped up, it’s easy to focus on just that, but that can get you frustrated or make you kind of space out on your overall plan.

What you should not forget is that you have to continue to look at the big picture, looking for ways to take advantage of leverage whereby you could earn as much as 100% of your money due to compounding. I’ve certainly been there and done that. Even on the very property that is giving me fits, I many times have failed to step back and realize that my equity on that very property has already exceeded a 100% return on my money and I should be motivated and reminded to keep doing that.

There is a simple example that I used in my fist book, How to Wake Up the Financial Genius Inside You, where I showed how 1 single penny a day compounded at 100% a day turns into just over $339 million on the 35th day alone. Now I know there is no way you can compound your money at 100% per day, but it is possible to compound your money at 100% per year, especially in the first few years. The key to those huge numbers is using other people’s money (your leverage). So, maybe only 10, 20 or 30% of the price you pay is with your own money and then the rest is in a loan from the bank or the seller for the balance. It’s not only possible but many people are doing just that, every day, including myself and many people that I know and have helped.

I do know that finding beat up properties these days can be a bit more difficult, depending on where your market is, but things change and prices go up and down and you and I need to always be looking for those bargains, especially those properties that need fixing up, the ones I like to call “dirt bag properties”. Then, always remember that good ole leverage formula:
If your down payment is only 10%, and you improve the property enough to increase the value by 10% you have made a 100% return on your money. That formula is a little simplistic since it doesn’t take into account your expenses, but you can keep those pretty darn low if you do most of the work yourself. Just don’t let the goal of a 100% return on your investment scare you away because it seems too difficult. If you can get even part way there, say just a 30% return on your money per year on only $10,000, that fraction of the big goal will still add up to over $1,124,000 in just 18 years.

My big point here is that we must keep the big picture in mind and remember that those potential returns are there. If you do, it becomes easier to not be deterred or discouraged by those plumbing issues, property tax increases, or other relatively minor problems.  Keep your eye and your dreams focused on the big prize, because it is all together very possible to achieve that big goal.

My Words Out Loud

January 11, 2019 by  
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I have something very special for you today. Please take a listen to this pod cast I was on recently. There are a few things I share on it that I think can be very helpful to most people. I hope you like it and, if so, please share with others. Thank you so much for taking time to listen. This kind of thing is part of what I am doing to really try to be of help to others. Maybe it’s my age but I am all about sharing and helping these days!

 

The interviewer is Michelle Brown, a fellow Salt Lake City resident who teaches Life Story writing workshops. Get a nice warm beverage and sit back for a really interesting conversation. I hope you find it helpful and motivating!

 

Reviewing and Improving on the Past Year

January 5, 2019 by  
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Wow, where did the 2018 year go?  It seemed to go faster than any other year of my life. How about you?

But what really got to me was what I wrote in my journal back on February 27, 2018:  “Now in Lihue, Kauai house … Kimbo [my nickname for my wife Kimberly] is working so hard to get the house in perfect condition as to justify the $4.5 million price we have it listed for… Now at 46 days away from age 74, I hope I’ve learned a little more about life and living.  I still need to focus on living in the great now moments of life and need to practice more of what I preach and write about … living in the present, self-talk and self-affirmations … and write them down.”

In that journal entry I made this list:

1. I am living in the now

2. I love my life now

3. I love my wife now

4. I love being semi-retired

5. I gain much of life from my writing and helping other people

In that same entry I finally came to this conclusion:

“In 6 days, we head back to Utah – in my head I keep thinking about that future event and have been counting down the days. I need to stop doing that and enjoy the great right now! I mean heavens, it’s pretty darn nice, right here and right now. Beautiful, warm, wonderful view of the great blue ocean and green mountains of Kauai … so I will now take all of that in and live in the ‘now moment’.  Ok I am doing that right now and it feels great!”

It was great to have realized what I needed then, but the realization didn’t quite turn into action. Recently, on Dec. 31, 2018, I made another, related journal entry: “I re-read some of my comments from last year and it hit me kind of hard how I said I must, and want, to live more in the present moment or the great wonderful ‘right now” and I realized I just didn’t do that very much. So, that’s now back on my new year’s resolution list for 2019. I’m going to do much better in 2019!”

I know that I’ve written and preached about keeping a journal of your life and reading my own past comments really shows me how important it is to do just that. You can coach yourself and remind yourself over and over again about what you need to work on and that, at least to me, is very important to improve and expand and make your life better and better. Yes, I know that we all have to think of the future and make plans and set goals and review our past, but after we’ve done that, we need to spend more time in the “great right now moment”.

I hope you agree and maybe what I’ve learned here will help you. I’m pretty darn sure it’s already helped me and will make me more aware of living in the now moments and how to love and enjoy 2019 more than last year, even though I fell short of my stated resolution. So, let’s all double down and make 2019 the best year EVER!

The Time to Start is Now, Again

December 28, 2018 by  
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I hope you are all enjoying your holiday time with family and friends. I sure am! It has kept me very busy. So this week, let’s look back at some wise words that are always good to hear again. This is my post from way back in December of 2009, updated a touch for today:

This coming week is when you start getting asked, “What are you New Year’s resolutions?” Hopefully you have a detailed, clear, and measurable set of resolutions to answer that question with. If you’ve got that–fantastic. But now, when do you start on it? Without a start date and the first few actionable steps planned out, what chance do your dreams have of becoming real?

My first suggestion is that you make your start date TODAY. That’s right – start now. There is no reason in the world that you can’t take those first, maybe very small but necessary steps, towards your goals. If you haven’t clearly defined your goal, then that is your first step. If you know what your goal is but you haven’t written out the first steps, then your first actionable step is to make that list. And the first thing on that list should be the next step you’ll take, scheduled, if not for the same day, the very next day. You should always know what the next step is and exactly when you will take action on it. A lack of specific planning is the death knell for most dreams.

Now as I mention in my book, How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, you don’t need to know every details of every step you will need to take to reach your dreams. Much of what you’ll need to do will only become obvious as you progress. The important thing is to keep moving forward. There will be times that you will have to take two steps back and head in another direction but the fact that you are continuously working towards your goal guarantees you will reach it! The only way you’ll fail is if you stop working towards it.

So, whatever your New Year’s resolutions are, whatever goals and dreams you want to realize in 2019, don’t just talk about them, get them done. Start now, keep it going, and look forward to an amazing year.

Secrets to Authentic Happiness

November 30, 2018 by  
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I think I came across the best reason for keeping a journal of your life or, as my good friend Rich Harvey used to call it, a reason for people to “Journal Their Journey”.

Just the other day I picked up one of my journals dated 10-26-2003 to 6-12-2004. My comments about what was going on in my life at that time quoted a great book that I had totally forgotten about entitled Authentic Happiness, by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D.

In his book, Dr. Seligman talks about what real authentic happiness is and how we can capture it and keep it. Finding and enjoying real happiness is not done through seeking and finding pleasure and the same goes for seeking happiness through just staying busy – it just doesn’t work. Great and authentic happiness is experienced from gratification. So how do we become gratified?

Much of gratification comes from “production”.  When we produce something of great value to others and/or ourselves, we end up with a great feeling of satisfaction. Here are Dr. Seligman’s 8 common ingredients and psychological components of gratification:

  1. The task is challenging and requires skill.
  2. We have to concentrate.
  3. There are clear goals.
  4. We get immediate feedback.
  5. We have deep effortless involvement.
  6. There is a sense of control.
  7. Sense of self vanishes.
  8. Time seem to stop.

Dr. Seligman goes on to talk about depression in today’s world and how widespread it is. It has increased by a huge amount in the last 40 years and the average age of depressed people is much younger today. That certainly gives more credence to the importance of setting big, tough goals. If your mind is firmly set on your goals, it’s more likely that your mind will not be spending time reflecting how you feel in the moment. Plus, there is the big extra benefit that setting big goals does energize us both physically and mentally because of the chemicals released by our brains, as I talked about in last week’s blog.

But why is depression so high in wealthy and healthy countries? The author’ s theory is “that an ethos that builds unwarranted self-esteem, espouses victimology, and encourages rampant individualism has contributed to that epidemic.” Another reason is our huge reliance on shortcuts to happiness. Every nation builds more and more shortcuts to pleasure … TV, drugs, shopping, spectator sports and high sugar food and drink. Gaining these and many other things take very little effort on our part these days.

A major symptom of depression is self-absorption. The depressed person thinks about how he feels a great deal of the time – excessively so. When a depressed person detects sadness, he ruminates about it, projecting it into the future, this in turn increases his sadness in his life and across all his activities. In contrast, gratification is the absence of feeling sorry for yourself.

What we all need to do more of is realize that there are no shortcuts to the kind of fulfilling gratification we all crave, and realize we need to focus more and more on our goals, big tasks, and our production as well as giving up the constant self-worry and self-absorption. You may have noticed that really happy people, for the most part, spend the least amount of time home alone – they tend to have a rich and fulfilling social life, which really is the opposite of being self-absorbed.

Next week I’m going to talk more about this great thing called “Authentic Happiness” that Martin’s book gives us such super insight into as well as talking about how understanding where it comes from can bump up our happiness factor and enhance our lives.

 

Challenge Yourself, Challenge Your Mind

November 9, 2018 by  
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Erik Weihenmayer on Everest

Imagine a blind man who made it all the way to the summit of Mt. Everest. Let me introduce you to Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man to climb Everest. How do you think his satisfaction levels are? Wow, I’ll bet his intense satisfaction lasted a long time, maybe even a lifetime. But Erik did not only just climb Everest, as amazing as that accomplishment is just by itself, but he is one of just a handful of human beings, and the only blind man, to scale the world’s seven highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Talk about taking on a tough challenge! His so-called disability has completely taken a back seat to his passion to live his life well!

Erik’s award winning film, Farther Than the Eye Can See, was ranked in the top 20 adventure films of all time by Men’s Journal, and brought home first prize at 19 film festivals. It was also nominated for two Emmy’s. The film beautifully captures the emotion, humor, and drama of Erik’s historic ascent on Everest, as well as his three other remarkable “firsts” – he was one half of the first American father/son team to summit Everest, the oldest man to summit, and the most people from one team (19) to reach the top of Everest in a single day!

For Erik and his team, having met the challenge of Everest head on and having pushed past their fear, obstacles, adversity, age, and even disability, to succeed, they know that for the rest of their lives they can tackle the “hard” stuff of life really do it well because they have already proven to themselves that they can.

Did Erik Weihenmayer put his feet up after the triumphs and bask in the glow of his accomplishment? Perhaps he did for a while, but this former middle school teacher and coach never stops challenging himself.

“There are summits everywhere,” Erik often tells his audiences when he lectures. “Just because you lose your sight, doesn’t mean you have to lose your vision.”

Three years after he did it the first time, Eric went back to the Himalayas and tackled Everest again, but this time with an even greater vision. On that second trip, he took six Tibetan teenagers with him – a dangerous and challenging accomplishment made all the more remarkable by the fact that these six teenagers were blind as well. Wow!

You can challenge yourself in meaningful and lasting ways as well. The key is to continually challenge your thinking. If you work on changing that gray matter enough, I believe you can avoid the slowdown and letdown trap that snares so many people today, especially as they get older. Challenge yourself big time and you’ll be more than ready to go for your big dreams and accomplish them.

Let’s take a trip inside our minds right now.

First of all, do you believe you can change the way you think about life? Or are there new ways to think about your capacities and your potentials and what you can and can’t do?

So, I am now sending you a big challenge to really push yourself big time and, yes, I am going to challenge myself big time too!

Invest in a Basic Need

October 26, 2018 by  
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Just yesterday, I was on a conference call discussing options for doing a 1031 exchange as a big property that I’m a part owner of was recently sold for many, many millions of dollars. We did make a huge profit on this property and it had a great cash flow during the time we owned it, just like most of the income properties I’ve invested in, but it was time to sell. So, we were looking at our options to buy into other properties which would allow us to avoid paying a huge capital gains tax. We discussed several properties that looked quite promising when one of the partners—a guy much smarter than me—talked about the possible softening of the real estate market due to rising interest rates. Whereas he and others agreed that we are probably due for a pull-back of property values, the new acquisitions looked so promising that a pull-back in prices in the area would not likely have much effect on our possible purchase but it was still a risk.

I was faced with a similar dilemma many years ago and just recently happened to come across something I wrote back then when everyone was worried about a down turn in the economy and a pull-back of real estate prices. My headline was “A Basic Need”. In this piece I wrote, “Why is real estate such a good investment? Why do experts predict that the real estate market may slow down but will probably never fail?”

My answer to those questions is the reason why real estate is such a super great investment – real estate is an answer to a basic need. People always need a place to live, a place to work, a place to shop, a place to stay when on a vacation, and even a place to farm. Improved real estate is especially in demand and it is in demand most of the time. These include apartment units, single family houses, duplexes, etc. And, of course, one of the huge benefits of this kind of real estate is that even if the market softens and price come down, you still have someone else increasing your net worth since their rent payments are paying down your mortgage. Is that a great deal or what?

Even when the market softens a bit, eventually, these properties regain their value as the supply of units shrink and rents begin to climb again. I’ve seen this happen many, many times but investing in small rental houses, duplexes and apartment buildings, through all kinds of market conditions, was how I made my first million. I would keep buying as the market softened and prices and rents began to drop, but I was pretty darn sure the drop would eventually be over and, sure enough, the slump would end and put more millions in my pocket.

Bottom line here is yes, the economy will probably pull back a bit in the next year or so, but this can open up many opportunities for you and can bring you big profits in the long run. So, keep an eye out for good income properties and make offers to buy, whether the economy softens or it keeps on growing.

 

The Power of Repeated Thoughts

September 28, 2018 by  
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People commonly remark to themselves, or to other people, things like “I’m a real good people person,” or “You know, I’m not good with people. I guess I’m kind of anti-social.” Others say, “Hey, I’m really good at fixing things,” or “I sure am a poor public speaker, but I’m a very good writer.” How about you? What do you tell yourself and others that you are good at and things that you are not so good at?

This self-talk is a very powerful thing and it tends to make you much better at some things, but it also can reinforce negative ideas about your life and habits which can hurt you.

I’ve said for many years that I’m very good with numbers and that I am a good wordsmith but, when it comes to repairing or fixing things, ugh… I’m terrible. And for many years now I’ve said to myself and to others, “I’m really, really not physically flexible.” In fact, I can’t even touch the floor without bending my knees big time. But, a few weeks ago, I started thinking about the huge connection between the brain and the body and how my comments about my lack of flexibility was totally reinforcing that weakness. You see, by telling myself over and over again that I was not at all flexible, my body believed it, which wasn’t hard because I wasn’t doing anything to change it either. So, my body was just following the brain’s instructions.

It does surprise me that I didn’t have this wakeup call years ago. I just accepted having a stiff body as an unchangeable fact and by always saying that I was not flexible, I reinforced what my brain was telling my body.

So, having had my little epiphany, I decided to do something about it. I started a simple daily stretching routine and within just a few days I was delighted to see a slow but consistent improvement in my flexibility. Before my stretching program, if I had dropped something on the floor, I would ask my wonderful wife, Kimberly, it she’d pick it up and she always would. But now she doesn’t have to. Even though I’ve got a long way to go to be super flexible, I can see that it is going to happen, just a little bit at a time.

I’m not saying that we don’t each have some very natural talents and abilities but there is also a very strong connection between the brain and the body that can also affect our abilities. We need to remember that we can direct our thoughts to make changes and improvements in our body and in our life, changes that we may have thought were not possible. The bottom line is that our thoughts can reinforce good stuff in our lives as well as some bad stuff so we should pay attention to which kind of thoughts we keep repeating to ourselves and others.

Think about this and maybe experiment with ways to direct you and your body to change or improve. You might surprise yourself.

 

Choosing Novelty over Fear

September 21, 2018 by  
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Flying back with my wonderful wife, Kimberly, from Paris yesterday —a 10 hour non-stop to Salt Lake City—a 10 hour non-stop to Salt Lake City – I couldn’t help but reminisce over our super great trip to Sicily and France. In my mind, I relived all the things we did – the wonderful cathedrals, castles and intriguing side streets with the totally unique cafe’s and tasty 3 cheese fondue dips.

I got to thinking just how much travel to foreign counties and different places in the world expands and stimulates a person’s mind, making them more creative and appreciative as well as, sometimes, giving the entrepreneurial mind great ideas for new products and services that they can introduce back in their own country. These ideas can, sometimes, make that entrepreneur a fortune from just duplicating, or even, improving and/or changing that product or service. There are so many discoveries popping up all over the world and those can make a fortune for anyone who is paying attention and willing to work to make that product or service fit in their own country.

But business aside, I find that travel to a foreign country lifts my soul. If I was feeling a bit down or depressed before the trip, that plane ride and the visuals as we fly over a city like Paris, London, or Rome, eventually strolling through those foreign streets as well, is like taking a super drug to make me feel great. I’ve never forgotten how much the brain craves novelty and how that novelty pumps feel good chemicals into the brain. New places, new faces, and different unique cultures do exactly that for us humans.

This morning, as I was writing this, I was struck by the question of how many Americans have never traveled outside the USA and also why so many people have a great fear of flying. First of all, in regards to the fear of flying, many studies have shown that the chances of dying on a commercial jet are just .07 out of one billion miles flown!  Knowing that statistic makes my flights at 35,000 feet at 565 miles an hour across the ocean very relaxing.

Sadly, even here in the USA, which is one of richest countries in the world, as much as 63% of the population has never traveled outside the country. I would bet that most of that comes more from the fear of flying rather than the cost. And by the way, if you shop around, you can find round trip flights to Paris from the US for a mere $500 or so, depending on when you travel.  And again, if you or your friends or family members have a fear of flying, be sure to give them some statistics. So here is another one –there is only one chance in 11 million that you will die in a commercial plane.

By the way, I was thrilled to read recently that they are reintroducing the Concorde Jet and that it will be flying again in 2023. I always loved that 3 and half hour plane ride to and from Europe. Wow, what amazing speed–about 1350 miles an hour! I would urge you to sit down right now and make a list of the countries you want to visit, being sure to put some projected dates down for your trips, then go do it. Coax your friends and relatives to do the same thing—you won’t be sorry!

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