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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.

 

 

Just Do It with Baby Steps

September 9, 2016 by  
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As I mentioned last week, the way to reach huge goals is through the many little baby steps you take, one at a time, to get there. Reaching any big goal will have its difficulties but I think we all need to keep reminding ourselves that a big part of hitting our big goals is keeping focused on those baby steps and not being too hard on ourselves when our progress is not as fast as we want it to be.

This concept works for anything you are after. If one of your goals is to save up many thousands of dollars so you can make investments that will put you in a great position to retire, allowing you to do whatever you like such as traveling the world as you please like I do, you just start with a few baby steps. What those baby steps are depends on what you can manage. The important thing is to get started.

Let’s say you are on a real tight budget now and you just can’t afford to save the recommended 10% of your income. That’s okay, just make those baby steps do-able. You can squeeze your expenditures a bit and save just 2 or 3 percent for the time being, then after a while try to increase that to 5% and once you are doing that comfortably, push that towards 10%. The saving of just 2% right now might seem like it will never amount to big bucks, but over time it does add up because it helps you form a habit that makes it easier to increase the percentage as time goes on.

It’s not just money that works this way. For instance, most people would not think they could drop down and do 100 pushups without stopping, but most people could do 5, 10 or 20. To be able to do 100 pushups just use the baby steps concept by doing those 5 or 10 now and add a one or two more every other day and you may surprise yourself, and everybody around you especially if you or 70 or 80 years old, how easy it was for you to reach that goal!

The same goes for just about every goal we may set. Baby steps really can lead to world breaking records or at least big time records and success in your own life. And it’s always a good idea to share the baby step concept with your kids, parents and friends. Once they see how well you’re doing, it’s sure to motivate them to do better on their own goals. So share the idea and encourage those around you. If they follow it, they will not only feel great about their accomplishments but they are sure to give you lots of thanks and credit which feels pretty good!

 

 

 

Money vs. Love

August 21, 2015 by  
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Last weekend we had our yearly Haroldsen/Baird reunion at our home and, oh, what a feast we had! We stand and sit around telling family stories and retelling the classic and most choice stories of past get-togethers and trips. Yes, there was some great food too but when it came down to it, it really was more a feast of love and interaction. That reminded me of a very important idea that I’d like to remind all of you about too.

For years I’ve preached over and over about the basic and best formulas for going out in the world to get and keep lots of money and I think that’s very important. Succeeding in financial matters really can improve and lift your life and those loved ones around you.  But, never let that ‘money getting’ get in the way of love.

Recently I listened to an author who had just written a book about that huge mine disaster that trapped 33 miners for 69 days, back in 2010 in Chile. When those survivors finally escaped that pit of hell, what they said was very instructive for those who would listen and learn from their experience.  Did any of them think about their houses or their money while they hoped and waited to be rescued?  No, they did not.  Their minds and hearts were fixated on their loved ones … their wives, kids, parents and other people they loved. When our lives are on the line, most everyone realizes what the most important part of their existence is and money is quickly and easily pushed out of our heads by thoughts of those that we love and those that love us. But we don’t need to wait until something terrible happens to remember what really matters.

Back when I was giving seminars, I used to ask the audience, by a show of hands, how many people would like to make and have a net worth of one million dollars. Just about every hand in the audience went up.  I would follow the same line of question with higher numbers: Who would like 10 million and then 100 million dollars? About the same number of hands went shooting into the air.  Then I would ask the question with a bigger number but with a much bigger difference: How many people here would like to make and have a billion dollar net worth, but when you got to the top of that huge financial mountain you arrived there only to find out you didn’t have any friends or relatives that liked you, and certainly didn’t love you, and none of them wanted to be near where you were—you would be totally cut off? There was always a few hands that were raised, very few, but all of those that had their hands in the air were, well, teenagers.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t set your goals high and go after your fortune and keep on building it bigger and bigger. I mean only that you should think about all the good you can do in the world with that fortune. Always, always, always remember that giving and receiving love is infinitely more important and lifts your soul and your happiness in life to a much higher level than any amount of money ever would. Then live your life giving focus to the things that really matter as well as your big financial goals.

No One’s Life is Perfect

July 4, 2014 by  
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I ran into a friend a few days ago and greeted him with the old familiar “Hey, how’s it going?”  He gave the usual response of “I’m doing fine”, but he added two words to the beginning of his greeting: “I guess …”!  Wow. That totally changed the meaning of his greeting and his facial expression matched those two added words. Obviously, he wasn’t doing “fine”. So I dug a little deeper and found out he really was struggling with some big issues.

In today’s world of fast and quickly expanding social media we are given the impression that people out there have near perfect lives.  I mean take a look at virtually anyone’s Facebook and you’ll see all these fun pictures and comments. Much of what we see is the good stuff, and of course there is really nothing wrong with that, but it sure can make a lot of people feel and believe that their own lives, filled with challenges, big ups and downs, and problems are really “messed up”, causing self-pity, depression and, in the worst cases, even suicide.

The fact is, nobody’s life is perfect or even close, but when you’re looking from the outside you might be tricked into thinking that other people are doing tons better than you. If you take time to look and probe on a deeper level you will see that the surface view can be very misleading since most of us don’t announce or display our problems but prefer to show and advertise our successes.

So, if you really want to know the truth and gain insight into a person’s real and complete life,you need to dig deeper.  One easy way to do this is by simply asking the right questions.  For example, pick a friend or relative that seems to be doing well as you see on their Facebook postings or hear them talk about their world travel, huge income or impressive home and lifestyle, and ask questions like these:

1.  What are the biggest challenges you are having in life right now?

2.  In the past, what do you think has been the worst or hardest part of your life?

3.  Who or what makes you sad?

4.  Do you ever get down or depressed? (If they say yes, ask how often and what causes it.)

5.  What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?

6.  Do you think much about your own mortality?

7.  What in your life scares you the most?

8.  Have you experienced any great tragedy in your life? If so, what happened and when?

9.  Do you worry and think about tragedy striking you in the future?

If you take a little time, you certainly can add your own probing questions to this list.

I’m pretty sure if you question those who you think have “the perfect life” you will find, as I have, that no matter how rich and famous or perfect their lives look from the outside, they too have their problems and challenges and many times much larger problems that you would have ever guessed.

You might ask at this point, “Why go through all of this questioning?”

I personally believe it’s a very good thing to do for at least 2 reasons.  First, it can help you see and understand yourself better and remove any self-pity or feelings of “not as good as other people”. It can even lift you out of a state of depression, so you come up with the thought of “Hey I’m not doing so badly after all.” Because of this, you may see yourself in a much different light and find you have higher self-esteem”.

Second, and most importantly, knowing the challenges and problems of your relatives and friends can put you in the perfect position to step up and help them overcome some of their problems, challenges and obstacles.  This makes it a real Win-Win. And all for just asking a few questions!

Dodging a Bullet

October 26, 2012 by  
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All I have to say is a double WOW… I worried myself sick after the doctor told me there is a 90% chance that my right main heart artery is 100% blocked. We scheduled an angiogram and just before they wheeled me in the doctor tells me that if my left main artery is also blocked then they will have to do open heart surgery. Of course, that last comment scared me to death and I started thinking about dying. Hey, I’ve had a good nearly 69 years and a lot of people get much less than that.

So there I am in the operating room staring at the ceiling as the doctor gets to work. (They don’t put you under for an angiogram.) I think back on my life and that everyone has to die and maybe it’s my turn now.  Less than an hour later they wheel my bed back to the hospital room where my wife Kimberly is waiting. Then the WOW news!! And what was that news?

“We didn’t find any blockage. All the tests, cat scans and nuclear stress EKG’s that you had that showed a blockage were wrong. It was a false positive.”

Did that ever make my day … or life! But what a lot of stress I went through to get there. I guess that kind of proves the old adage that “What we worry about the most doesn’t usually happen.”

But there was a good lesson that I learned. It goes back to what the Buddhist have said for years … that everyone of us needs to mentally go through in our heads the process of dying (to die before we die) so when we do get to that point in our lives where we really are going to die, it makes that transition much easier to accept and to embrace.

So yes, I dodged a bullet. Even if I did have a stent put in or had open heart surgery the chances of survival would have been very high but still, dodging that bullet helped me prepare myself for the inevitable. It also gave me pause so that I took a good hard look at the relationships I have with family and friends and renewed my vow to do more with my life.

But you don’t have to go through an unnecessary scare like this to appreciate and reaffirm the strength and importance of your relationships and really see what you are doing with your life. Just ask yourself, if I died today, would I feel that I was the kind of person I wanted to be for the people I love and am doing what I really want with my live? Then listen carefully and well to the answers and make the changes you want to see while you still have the time here to do it.

Family is Where the Heart Lies

December 23, 2011 by  
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On the eve of our Christmas weekend, I have to say my thoughts are very much with my family. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful, supportive, fun, and loving family. I know many of you feel the same way. But on the other hand, I have known too many people that don’t have strong bonds with their relatives. The reasons for this are all over the map but in the end, these reasons aren’t as relevant as realizing what family really means and being with your true family on the holidays.

The phrase “Home is where the heart is” can be easily transformed into “Family is where the heart is”. It’s the same thing. I saw a news segment this week about a gentleman who won the lottery but without even a bit of hesitation has already determined he will not be leaving his job. Why? Because, he says, his work crew is his family. That is where he feels he belongs and no amount of money is going to buy him that feeling anywhere else. I thought that was great.

I hope you all are able to be at the place where your heart lies this weekend, where the people who make you feel loved and that you belong among them are gathered around you. If it’s not actually your relatives, then hopefully you are surrounding yourself with those friends who know you well, the people you laugh with and the people who are there for you 24/7. This weekend, I hope you are exactly where you want to be and make sure all those around you know how much they are loved and appreciated.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

The Lasting Joy of Family Time

August 5, 2011 by  
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This week was a very big week at the Haroldsen household. We had 70 plus people here for a big Haroldsen/Baird reunion. It gets a little stressful preparing for these big family events but during and afterwards, the warmth, the joy and the closeness I feel to all these wonderful people in my life is just priceless.

When we get busy and have such a sharp focus on our goals and dreams, we can sometimes forget the very reason we are working so hard. Yes, personal fulfillment is usually a primary motivator, but our families and close friends are what make that personal fulfillment so gratifying. Sharing what you’ve accomplished and seeing how it improves or enhances the lives of the ones you love is what truly makes all the effort so worthwhile.

If you don’t have plans to get together with family and loved ones soon, I’d really encourage you to plan something. Take time to share what you’ve done, let them encourage and support you, and give yourself the chance to encourage and support them as well. It’s these kinds of experiences that we always remember and, looking back, give us the greatest and most lasting joy.