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Missing the Small Things

January 17, 2021 by  
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So, this past week, I got a little bit of a taste of what it might be like to be in prison. Now, this is only a 10 day sentence and I got to share my “cell” with my wife Kimberly, so it wasn’t all that bad. It did, however, give me a very small taste of what it would feel like to be locked up.

Okay, I know that sounds dramatic. It really wasn’t all that terrible. But what was this all about? Well, there’s some new (for me) rules in place if you travel to Hawaii right now thanks to COVID. When you arrive from outside the islands, you have to spend 10 days in quarantine. Luckily, you can at least spend those 10 days in your house or condo.

The hard part is, for those 10 days you cannot leave your property. The penalty, if you do leave your place and get caught, is a $5,000 dollar fine plus one year in jail. Ouch! That seems severe but, then again, so is COVID-19.

We humans really don’t totally appreciate all that we have and how we live our lives but can’t do until it’s taken away. On the other hand, this time locked up has given my wife and I lots of time to think, read, and even doing a little bit of writing. Plus, we now have tons of time to talk to each other. Still, after 8 days of this, I am going a bit stir crazy.

You would think, with tons of time on my hands, that I could do lots of planning. I do keep thinking about that and yet, to be quite honest, I have not done much planning at all. We humans get so used to our schedules and habits that when they get disrupted, it can make your mind go in all kinds of different directions. It sure has done that for me.

It’s one more thing that you don’t realize you depend on until it’s not there. It’s crazy that now, with all this time on my hands, time I might have really wished for when I was super busy, I just really want my old schedule and routine back.

It is the small things or the everyday things that you start to really miss when you can’t have them anymore. I guess I’ll be ok but I do really look forward to next week. At least, I imagine, I will really appreciate my routine and the many other small things I took for granted every day. A new appreciation for the old and ordinary things may be one of the real silver linings of this time in lock down.

A Season for Appreciation

December 20, 2020 by  
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The holidays are upon us. What a great time of the year this is! It’s a season of celebration that usually brings back many special memories of family and friends. To me, though, it’s mostly about giving. Okay, yes, as a kid it was mostly about receiving but that was a very long time ago!

The act of giving returns so many super wonderful feelings in such a big way to the giver, sometimes to the point that the giver can feel guilty for getting so much out of it. I remember one particular experience a while back that gave me a twinge of guilt after I had done a rather small thing.

I was coming out of a mall when I saw two young ladies, probably in their early to mid-20’s, sitting on a little wall taking a break from one of the shops they obviously worked at. As I walked by, I handed each of them a 2-dollar bill saying, “This is for luck. Don’t spend it. Just keep it for luck.” 

I usually give these to kids between 6 and 8 years old and watch their excited reaction and joy. It is one of my favorite giving things to do. But I guess, in this case, since I was struck by the season of giving we are in, I handed these to the young ladies without thinking. Both girls said “Oh, I’m sorry I can’t accept this.”

I replied, “Give it to a kid and watch the big smile on their face.”

Reluctantly they accepted. Then they began to thank me as if I’d given them $100 dollar bills.

As I started to walk away, they asked, “Hey, where are you from?”

I replied, “Oh, I’m from here but I grew up in the Middle East, in the country of Turkey.” And then, of course, I had to lay a little Turkish on them, what little I remembered.

One of the girls surprised me by answering back in Arabic (the two languages have a lot of common words) and then they explained they were from Israel where they’d learned a little Arabic. So, we had something in common.

As I walked toward my car, I began thinking about how their great appreciation for my very small gift made me feel so good. I realized that appreciation is really a gift too and, often, a big and glorious one.

Feeling a little connected to these young ladies and warmed by their great appreciation and friendliness, I got in my car and drove back to where they sat, giving both of them a copy of my latest book.

Wow, talk about receiving a huge gift back! Their appreciative words and genuine feelings absolutely overwhelmed me. You would have thought I’d given them a million dollars. They called me an angel from heaven and thanked me to the point that their appreciation was almost embarrassing.

What did I really take away from this experience though? I realized that the biggest gifts any of us can give are not objects or anything you can put a price tag on, but gifts of love and appreciation. These things, without a doubt, last longer than any gift wrapped present.

At this special time of year let’s all try to give more and return more with our sincere appreciation!!

Friends: A Vital Part of Our Lives

December 13, 2020 by  
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A few weeks ago, I got a terrible phone call from my best high school friend’s two adult kids. What they told me cut me to the core. They were calling from the hospital where their dad had just died.

Richard Harvey was my dear brother and the first black guy that I really got to know. He was my high school buddy and my basketball teammate. We met in Ankara, Turkey when our fathers were working overseas to help other countries. I knew he had been in the hospital because I had talked to him on the phone a few weeks earlier. He sounded find and we all thought he was recovering. The phone call from his kids was like a giant punch in the face and gut.

Richard Harvey and I, along with other American kids, attended a small high school in Ankara, Turkey. He truly was my soulmate and we bonded very quickly when we both made it on the high school basketball team. We got better every week and worked so hard at it. A big part of that great improvement came from my older brother Bruce’s death on the first day of tryouts for the team. Bruce died right in front of me.

Because of that, Richard and I, along with our great big Texas center Ed Beckcom, made a commitment to win in my brother’s honor. We practiced many, many hours each day. There were many small American High Schools in Europe, the middle East, and even northern Africa, and we were bound and determined to win the championship for that entire area.

The big championship tournament is held each year in a huge stadium in Rome, Italy. Thinking back after Rich’s death I had some vivid memories. We did in fact make it to the finals of the Rome tournament and even to this day I marvel at what happened in that game.

Notre Dame high school was the number one favorite and we were to play them in the finals. It was a very close game and with only 20 seconds left, Notre Dame was 1 point ahead and had the ball. They took one last long shot and it missed. Big Ed Beckcom went high in the air and came down with the rebound. The outlet pass went to me and Richard and I were speeding down the court with two on one. The clock was ticking down very fast.

When we got close to our basket, I faked a shot and threw a bounce pass to Richard and, as I did, Richard slipped and fell. Oh my gosh, I was petrified! But as he hit the floor, he tossed the ball up toward the basket and, miracle of all miracles, the ball went in the basket as the buzzer sounded.

WE WON, WE WON! Wow, were we ever excited and in 7th heaven. We did it for Bruce, and for us too! That day certainly cemented our friendship and we’ve kept in touch all these years. Hmm … that’s about 60 years!

I know that you, the reader, know the huge importance and gift of having good friends and we especially see how important that is since COVID-19 has made it hard to be close to them or make new friends. So, let’s all double down and reach out to friends, old and new, on phone calls, through texts, and on the internet and stay connected with these dear and important parts of our lives.

In photo above: Ed Beckcom (top row, left), Richard Harvey (middle row, right) and me (bottom row, left.) 

A Sterling Mentorship

December 6, 2020 by  
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A couple of days ago I was re-reading one of my old journals and came across a truly inspiring and motivating letter I had tucked in there from 1978 from one of my mentors. He was so helpful to me, both personally and through some of the 22 books that he wrote. This mentor was Sterling W. Sill, a great thinker and motivator.

Here are a few of the things he said in the letter he sent me back in 1978 which I just loved.

“I appreciate very much your thoughtful letter of October 1. I think you have the attitude of a winner.” He went on to write, “I think you are a great person, Mark, and I think you are about a dozen times greater now than before.” I was so amazed that he appreciated one of my letters as he was my idol.

Sterling also quoted something that Shakespeare once said that I thought was very enlightening: “The best men are sometimes molded out of faults.”

He went on to say, “Someone who never made a mistake isn’t likely to be going any place very important. And sometimes, I think, somebody needs somebody to help lift him up outside of himself. He needs some assurances from someone who can take a position of precedence over the arguments of his own self-accusation.”

It was so strange and wonderful that one of my idols had given me so much credit and so many complements. In re-reading his letter, it struck me that any of us can not only learn great lessons from great people but we can also pay it forward and help other people. Believe me, they will thank you for the rest of their lives just like I thank Sterling and so many other mentors. I owe him so much and will remember him for the rest of my life.

 

A Grateful Boost

November 29, 2020 by  
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Thanksgiving is over but it’s a very good idea to hang on to your attitude of gratitude. It will give you lots of benefits!

Gratitude is a great thing but I think most of us don’t fully appreciate it, taking it for granted until something bad happens to us. And that is not a good thing since gratitude can do such very good things for our lives.

Last July, I wrote in this blog about how I had a really bad fall that knocked me out for about 20 minutes. The big-time bleeding from my head and arms was not the worst of it. What was huge and lingers all these months later is the aftereffects of the concussion. I still have the dizziness and my thinking and memory is still suffering. Plus, I have tremors and shaky hands and arms. I will say that I’m getting better on all counts, although slowly.

The one good thing that did change is that my brain has begun focusing on how super grateful I should have been back when my body and brain were functioning normally. And with this COVID-19 mess, we all should look back and realize how grateful we should have been before the virus and keep reminding ourselves, running those grateful thoughts through our heads as often as possible.

Coincidentally, just a few days ago I read Lynn Johnson’s column in our local newspaper. He said, “Happiness makes our immune system function better. In children, joy is natural. For us older folks, an excellent way to recapture that joy is practice gratitude. Keep a gratitude diary. Write three to five things each day you are glad about. Describe how they helped. Write short thank you notes. Be grateful.” That is some great advice.

To me, it’s so amazing how the brain and the thoughts we run through it can help our bodies and lift us up. I am going to push myself harder to be more and more grateful for myself and my situation and for all my great friends and family!

How about you? Let’s all practice every day to become more and more grateful!

Our Short Lives Needs Big Passion

September 13, 2020 by  
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I just asked a printer to print a couple thousand copies of my book, How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, since I ran out of copies to sell or give away. I was reading a bit of what I wrote many years ago and I was surprised to realize that the words in that book were reigniting my passion, so I wanted to share some of those words with you.

Let me start with Chapter 2 which is entitled, “Short Life needs BIG Passion”.

  • Life really is too darn short to live without passion.
  • Time squandered is wasted–gone forever!
  • Don’t be like those who, later in life, realize that they missed out on so many opportunities. I believe most people, when looking back at their lives, are in more pain over the things they didn’t do than over things they failed at while trying to do them.
  • We receive long-lasting benefit, and yes, even deep satisfaction from working hard and giving something worthwhile our all.
  • There are many who think the way to achieve satisfaction in life is by going after pleasure. They think that more and more pleasure will put more contentment in their lives. So sorry. It doesn’t work that way.
  • There’s a huge difference between deep, enduring satisfaction and fleeting pleasure; between passion and a good time. At a gut level you already know this. The pursuit of pleasure for its own sake leads to misery.
  • It’s also not easy to always remain at a high level of satisfaction and contentment with an effervescent passion for life. There are plenty of setbacks. Even, at times, huge fists of adversity may pound us in the face.
  • Setbacks and adversity often reveal to us the great lessons of life if we would just learn from them.
  • I’ve certainly had my share of setbacks, even tragedies. I wouldn’t choose to be faced with these tragedies but I must say that, since they did happen, they served as huge life lessons and wake-up calls that I don’t think I could have learned any other way.

Give these words some thought, set big goals, and go after them with all your energy and heart. You won’t be sorry!

 

And if you would like a copy of How to Ignite Your Passion for Living, you can get it here on my website.

 

 

Appreciating Great Health

August 9, 2020 by  
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Most of us humans don’t really think a lot about good health when we are totally healthy. It’s so easy to take our good health for granted when we are feeling great. But when something bad happens and we become very sick, then we sure look back at those healthy days and want to be back there again.

This brain of mine certainly has me looking back before my fall and my big, bad concussion. It’s been about a month now and I still have dizzy spells and vertigo plus my memory has been damaged. I’ve been doing better each day although it did suddenly get worse recently. However, the trend is that I am getting better in the long run.

Man, oh, man … talk about big changes in a few seconds. My life is so different now. It’s not just that I miss playing that tennis that I love so much, but I’m also not supposed to watch movies, TV, or even look at the computer screen (which I’m doing now, of course!) but I bought some special blue light glasses that help protect me. And, until yesterday, I was not even driving my car.

I started thinking about a book I wrote in 2006 where in one chapter entitled “An Umbrella Goal for Life,” I talked about how important health was in our lives. Many people think that more exercise is the most important key to living a long life. Quoting from my own book I wrote, “If you had to choose calorie restriction versus a lot of exercise to attain a longer and healthier life, animal studies prove beyond a doubt that eating less calories, and calories that are nutrient packed, will lengthen your life and cut disease by a huge factor compared to exercise alone. So, the plan is do both but especially watch my intake of calories. When I recover from this darn concussion, I am going to watch my diet more carefully and exercise more because I want to live a very long life which is more important than so many other things to me.

Next week, I want to give you a list of items you can do that will help you stay healthy and live a very long time.

Powerful Positive Self-Talk

August 2, 2020 by  
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Covid-19 and a concussion are both terrible, but there are certainly things that can be done to survive them. With my concussion, I was thinking all the wrong, negative thoughts, then I realized how stupid that was, especially since I’ve written and preached for a long time about how powerful your mind can be. The mind can cure you and help you heal very fast. The key to this is what you are thinking and what you are saying to yourself – your self-talk. When I realized that all my self-talk was negative and changed it to positive self-talk, it made a big difference. My dizziness and vertigo have been getting better every day since.

I’m not saying that if you have the virus that you can totally cure it by positive thinking, but I do believe that if you have the right positive self-talk, your brain can help lessen the chance of you dying from it.  There’s been many studies that prove that point by the placebo effect. There are even studies and evidence that having the right mindset and self-talk can help cure cancer and heart disease.

In a great little book by Elaine St. James called, Inner Simplicity100 Ways to Regain Peace and Nourish Your Soul, the author says “Hand in hand with affirmations go visualizations. In addition to verbalizing to yourself, both silently and out loud, the inner qualities you want to develop, creating a powerful mental image that projects how you want your life to be, focuses your attention on that outcome and helps bring it into your life.”

St. James goes on to say, “Numerous studies in recent years have shown how effective visualization can be for healing, personal growth, and empowerment. Life affirmations and visualizations are just as potent for our spiritual journey.”

I know these things work because they have worked for me in the past and are working now, helping my brain get back to normal. That’s rather incredible and funny at the same time, knowing that the brain can help heal the brain. Self-talk is so powerful and wonderful we all need to use it every day for better health, better relationships, our business, and many, many other parts of our lives that we want to improve.

So, if you want to make 10 million dollars, your self-talk should not just be, “That’s my plan.” It would be much better to say, “I’m in the process of making 10 million dollars.” And then keep saying that!

 

Gratitude Amidst Tragedy

June 21, 2020 by  
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Such sad, sad days for our family, especially my younger brother Scott, his kids, and his grand kids. Scott’s wonderful wife, Pat, died a few days ago. No, it wasn’t the Covid-19 virus. She has been struggling with health issues for quite some time. Wow, I feel so bad for my brother. For me, it brought back some very sad times and memories.

When I was 15 years old, my older brother Bruce, who was 17, died right in front of me on an outdoor basketball court in Ankara, Turkey where our family lived from 1959-1961. My brother’s death was devastating for me and I felt so guilty for many years thinking I should have saved him.

Unfortunately, there was a more devastating and tragic event for me that almost did me in. Many years after the tragedy of my brother’s death, my 16-year-old daughter Kristin died. That was, and still is, the biggest and most tragic event of my life. Scott’s wife’s death brought these two terrible events in my life forcefully back to my brain.

When I think of other cultures that are in the mist of war, poverty, and starvation, I realize I really don’t have it so bad. Another thought that helps my brain a bit – something that should help all of us get through the pain of losing a family member, loved one, or a dear friend – is the absolute fact that nobody gets out of this life alive. All of us pass away eventually. It is simply part of life.

One powerful lesson we should take to heart is that life is quite short, so we need to train and push ourselves to live life to the fullest. Live more fully in the great “right now” moment.

Love more.

Live more.

Give more.

And push yourself to fully understand how important those 3 things are in our lives.

For me, it is very helpful to make a list of all the good people and things in my life, reminding myself how grateful I should be to live in today’s world. I call it my gratitude list and when I feel a little down, I re-read that list. I highly recommend that everyone make their own GRATITUDE LIST and add to it every time you think of another thing in your life that makes you feel grateful!

 

A Titanic Lesson

June 14, 2020 by  
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My wonderful wife, Kimberly, talked me into watching the classic movie Titanic recently. Even though I saw the movie several times years ago, it really to me this time. Watching it was a real upper! Now when I experience problems, challenges, or a mood drop, I think about the people on board the Titanic.

How, and why, did the movie affect my brain in that way? When I think of the panic, pain, fear, and death that those aboard that ship faced, I really feel so fortunate and blessed to live in this time and in our super great country. I’ve been in many very, very poor counties that have huge poverty, pain, and suffering. Years ago, I visited India and later did an African safari. I saw so many very skinny kids begging for food in those two countries. It is so sad but, again, those trips made me feel so lucky. These things really do put my life in perspective.

Even though the $7.5 million Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable, on that April day in 1912, as most everyone knows, it hit a huge iceberg at about 27 miles an hour and, in just 2 hours and 40 minutes, it sank. It was designed to have life boats enough to carry 3547 people and there were only 2220 passengers aboard on that maiden voyage but, sadly, for reasons of aesthetics, the owners only put in enough life boats to carry 1178 and virtually each boat was loaded quickly and far below its total capacity. The pandemonium brought out the worst cowardice in many people and extraordinary bravery in others. There were only 705 survivors. More than 1500 people died.

Even with all the panic and fear, the crew tried hard to let the women and children get in the lifeboats first, but many times that didn’t happen as people pushed and shoved to get on the boats. Some guys used their bigger bodies to force their way through so they could jump on the boats. They also boarded more first-class passengers than any other class. The very first lifeboat had a capacity of 65 but it pulled away from the big, beautiful ship with only 28 people aboard. I have to wonder how brave and calm I might have been if I was there.

So much of our lives are lived in our brains. That makes it so very important for all of us to realize how and what we are thinking. When we are thinking negative thoughts, we really do have the power to redirect our brains to think about what is better for us in our lives. So, remember to appreciate what we have which, for the most part, is probably very good, and direct our brains to think positive and motivating  good thoughts to make the most out of all this good stuff we have.

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