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Pleasure and Production

December 7, 2018 by  
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Last week we talked about Authentic Happiness which is both a concept and the title of the great book written by Martin Seligman. In the book, the author continuously emphasizes how much of our happiness comes from inside our heads.

Most of us humans look at rich and famous people and think that they must be very, very happy and content because of all their fame and wealth. Well, guess what… if you look closely, you will find that many of these people are not particularly happy. I think a big reason is that most people think that once they attain great wealth and/or fame then it will automatically make them happy. Only it doesn’t. Then these folks, finding that their brains are not filled with great thoughts of happiness and contentment, start to wonder why. That doubt causes an internal dialog to start up which can work against them, quickly driving them and their mindset downhill. Also, money and fame don’t hold a candle to the kind of true and deep happiness we get from things like the love we give and receive from family and friends.

Although most of us are not rich and famous, we may still find ourselves falling into similar thought patterns. It is so very easy to let our internal self-talk persuade us that things are not going well which brings us down mentally.

There are lots of methods for overcoming this negative self-talk but one very big one is also a powerful antidote for depression – productive gratification. Striving for gratification is automatic but the way to use it so that it overcomes negativity and depression is through producing something truly meaningful to us and/or to others. What we accomplish when we produce meaningful things sends a powerful, purposeful message to our brains and makes us feel so very satisfied and happy.

Martin makes the very good point that “pleasure is a very powerful source of motivation but it does not produce change.” It also does not produce lasting authentic happiness. A simple example is the difference between the pleasure that we receive from watching a very entertaining television show versus the gratification, genuine happiness, and personal satisfaction that we receive from reading a particularly inspiring or informative book. Think back on how you felt after experiencing these two different activities yourself. The difference in how your attitude and your state of mind will probably be quite apparent.

The author suggests that if we really want true, deep and authentic happiness we should all create a list of activities, goals, and deep desires that produce for us, personally, a sense of gratification. Look for goals and things that you do that seem to make time stop and even has you thinking, “I don’t want this to ever end.”

Yes, it’s true that many pleasures take little or no effort to acquire and that the best kind of gratification takes a lot of work. But so be it. It is so well worth it, and I do think and hope you would agree!

 

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.

 

Boosting the Brain with Thanks

November 23, 2018 by  
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Here’s a good question for you: Did you find yourself giving a lot of thanks yesterday? Or were you distracted by all the turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie? I hope you were taking time to give a ton of thanks! Isn’t that what we all should do on that day? After all it is called “Thanksgiving”! But that isn’t the only reason to give thanks this holiday season and throughout the year.

I recently heard on a broadcast that there is one big benefit we all can receive from saying “thanks” or “thank you”. Research into the human brain has shown that saying thank you, or otherwise giving verbal appreciation or gratitude, signals the brain to release the feel good, feel happy brain chemical dopamine.

Sometime ago, I wrote about how when a person smiles, even if it is a forced smile, the brain releases three of the four feel good brain chemicals – dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins (the forth brain chemical is oxytocin). These four chemicals, produced by the brain, not only make you feel more relaxed, they also could lower your blood pressure and your heart rate. Some studies even suggest that if they are released often enough, they can even help you live longer.

Another big benefit from giving thanks to others is that, if accompanied by a big sincere smile, your gesture will cause the other person to smile right back at you and then they are more likely to smile at the next person they encounter. So, you see, you are spreading some good stuff and helping others just by being thankful and letting other people know it.

And here’s another thing that has been shown to lift people’s spirits and that is simply to keep a journal in which you make note of the things you are thankful for. By writing down what, and who, you are grateful for, you are giving your brain more determination. This helps improve and lift your attention, enthusiasm and even lifts your energy.

So, during this holiday season, and beyond, we all need to focus on giving thanks, showing and expressing our gratitude, and, yes, even thinking about our positive qualities and of happy memories in order to boost our serotonin levels.

One last thought… don’t forget that laughing and social interaction both cause the brain to release those great feel good chemicals as well! So, this holiday season, be sure you have plenty of opportunities to boost those feel good chemicals and show your thanks and appreciation.

 

It Starts with a Dream

November 16, 2018 by  
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Almost every super successful person I’ve ever heard of or have met began as a dreamer. Without dreams, very little will happen in any of our lives. But with a dream, great and wonderful things can, and most likely will, happen but only if you add two more things – specifics to make it a goal and action to turn the goal into reality. But the dream has to come first! So, let’s talk about that.

I once heard that 75 percent of our life is lived in our minds. That may not be entirely accurate, but I think you would agree that a fair amount of our lives is lived inside our heads and since our minds do indeed have great power, there must be great potential there.

Think of yourself in Chicago or New York in the middle of a cold winter.  You’re watching TV or reading a magazine and you see an advertisement for a trip to Hawaii. You’re attracted to the idea, and suddenly you start to dream about going to Hawaii for the entire month of February. What happens? You start to live the trip in your mind. You may even start to work it out in detail, planning exactly when you will leave, where you’ll stay, what you’ll do while you are there, and so on.

You think about it so much that you eventually decide that you are absolutely going to go and, if you don’t have the money to make it happen, you begin to plan how you are going to save enough to make the trip. And, of course, all of this is part of you living the trip in your mind long before you go.

When you finally make the trip, you have the great time that you had pre-lived in your mind and on the way home, you relive what’s just happened to you. That reliving of your trip in your mind can go on for weeks, months and even years, renewing your enjoyment of it each time.

Pictures can be a huge influence in helping our brains relive the good stuff in our lives.  Years ago, I bought a bunch of digital frames (they cost all $10-$20) and placed them all around the house. This way I can just insert a memory card from my camera (I use a new card for each trip or special event) and the digital frame will rotate through all the photos, allowing me to easily relive those great moments in my life. You should try it too. It’s a small thing but it can really enhance your life.

Just don’t forget, dreaming is not enough. You must also follow through with goals and action if you want to make it more than just a dream. Next week we’ll talk more just how to do that!

 

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.

 

All the Love out There

October 12, 2018 by  
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Last week I ended my blog by writing about the great tears of joy I experienced shortly after posting a picture of me at my daughter’s grave site, a moment that itself was filled with tears of pain and sorrow! So, you may ask, what brought on the great tears of joy?

Shortly after posting the picture of my daughter Kristin’s grave site, I began to receive these wonderful messages of love with many kind words of sympathy, love and support. Wow, did those words of love, coming from several dozen friends, family and even total strangers, ever get to me, bringing on those tears of joy!

That got me thinking about how powerful love is in our lives and how much of it is out there. Even though it’s all around  us you sure don’t hear or see much of that on the news, so, I’m guessing that some people don’t really fully realize how much love there is in the world. But, the opposite of love—that thing called hate—makes the news pretty much every day. Why is that? I think the main reason is because it can be, and usually is, so very sensational, so it really stands out and grabs our attention. Like the mass shooting last year in Las Vegas or the kidnapping of a kid or the rape of a woman and, of course, lately, the terrible things we are hearing about due to the MeToo movement.

The news certainly doesn’t spend much, if any time, on how much love a parent shows his or her kids. Once in a great while the news might have a short story on the great love of a couple on their 50th or 75th wedding anniversary, but the divorce of a couple, especially if they are famous, certainly makes the front page and the top of the hour TV news.

I think we all need to pay more attention to that great thing called “love” and give more of it to those around us and, yes, even people we have just met. We need to Encourage our kids and those around us to share more and more love each day, through words and deeds. And I want to publicly send out a HUGE THANK YOU AND LOVE BACK to those wonderful people who sent words of love, great sympathy, and support to me on what have would have been my daughter’s birthday!

 

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!

Self-Interest That Helps the World

August 10, 2018 by  
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Last week I wrote about how giving to others can and does lift your life and brings more happiness, contentment, and even better health and a longer life. It must have motivated me to practice what I was preaching because later I found myself in my car driving to the high school that all my kids attended and going straight to the office where I made a pretty sizable donation. As I walked out of the building, I felt so good and happy in the center of my heart and brain that I headed for another school. I made a couple more donations that day and felt like I was on top of the world.

It’s very interesting that when I make donations, including all those $2 bills that I often give to kids, I always feel that I get much more out of it than the recipient. What a great feeling it gives me! As science has proved, there is a great connection between the brain and the body. This allows us humans to help and improve our entire physical being by what we run through our heads. Giving is one of those things that can set off a lot of good positive feelings in our bodies.

Most of us, when we talk about giving, tend to think primarily in terms of giving money. But there are so many other ways and things to give. With very little effort, I came up with this list of things we can give to others that can be a huge help to those people and, at the same time, can give a lift to our brains, souls, and bodies.

After you read through my list, see what other things you can think of that can be given to others. These gifts can be given to your kids, grand kids, other relatives, and friends as well as strangers. Then let’s all of us push ourselves to give more. Choose as many items on the list as you feel so inclined to give. Yes, we do need to push ourselves to do this especially on days we might be feeling a bit down. But on those down days it can be a great help to lift us up as we lift others.

Okay, let’s work on giving more of some or all of these:

  1. Money $$$
  2. Good Advice
  3. Direction/Coaching
  4. Mentoring
  5. Appreciation
  6. Encouragement
  7. Praise
  8. Complements
  9. Attention
  10. Friendship
  11. Wisdom
  12. Our time
  13. Help
  14. Service
  15. Love

I’m sure I left off many things that we can give to others but at least this is a start. This list has been motivating me to give more of these gifts to others and now my mind pops up with sayings like: “Give, Give, Give and Live, Live, Live. Give a little, live a little, give a lot, and live a lot. Give big and live big”. I know all this may sound kind of selfish, but maybe it’s a good thing that our brains are designed that way, because doesn’t that type of self-interest help the world?

 

More Production Yields a Better Life

August 4, 2018 by  
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In this post, I wanted to expand on Hyrum Smith’s great book, Purposeful Retirement (and yes you should go buy a copy!) He points out that studies show that the earlier you retire, the sooner you die. Having projects that are meaningful when you retire can not only raise your self-esteem and well-being but will also help you to live longer and stronger. So, if you are retired and, like me, have found that you don’t have enough to do and it’s driving you bonkers, or if retirement is in the not-too-distant future, it’s very wise and life enhancing to make a plan for your retirement years.

The key to this plan is to map out and write down the specifics of what you are going to do to truly make a difference in the world. From another great book, The Miracle Morning, the author Hal Elrod says, “you’re not supposed to ‘figure out’ what your purpose is.” Instead, he says, “you get to make it up.” So, it really is up to each of us to decide what we are going to do with the rest of our lives.

After reading this and giving it a lot of thought, I woke up the other morning with a very strong feeling of, “I know what I want my purpose to be.” My words to myself were, “I want to live, live, live, to give, give, give!” and I decided right then that from now on I would try to ask someone every day, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

Perhaps, in doing this, I’m being a little selfish because I read in Smith’s book that, “through MRI technology we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. Experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain–and it’s pleasurable. Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier, but also healthier, wealthier, and more productive and meaningful.” Plus, it helps you live longer. And, hey, I want all of those things!

So, my new resolution is to “produce” a lifestyle of giving that makes the world a better place! And I just figured out a way to make that easier and faster. I would like to volunteer to give free speeches, seminars, and mentoring to anyone who wants it–whether it’s on financial strategies and methods or other self-improvement habits. So, if I can be of service to you individually or to your group, club or organization, please let me know. I do think that “Great Giving produces Great Living.” Hmm. I like that saying even though I am just quoting myself. But who knows, maybe it will go viral and I’ll be famous … ho ho ho!

To contact me, you can leave a comment on this post (look for the “leave a comment” link at the top of the blog. If you don’t see the link click the header of the blog post to get to the blog post specific page and it should be there.) Or, if you get this by email, just respond to the email. I’m looking forward to hearing, and helping, you.

 

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