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Of Gratitude and Appreciation

August 16, 2019 by  
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A few days ago, after returning from California where I had a wonderful, belated 75th birthday celebration with all my kids and grandkids, I was walking out in front of the airport looking for an Uber driver when suddenly, a lady walked right in front of me, pulling a suitcase on wheels that tripped me and smashed me onto the concrete.

Next thing I knew, I woke up, flat on my back and was looking up at a policeman, a security guard, and about 8 or 10 other people staring down at me asking if I was alright. I finally answered and said that I thought I was okay. They asked if they should call the paramedics, but I said, “No, I think I’m okay.” However, I wasn’t.

Throughout the day, the pain in my left arm and rib cage kept getting worse. So, my wife, Kimberly, drove me to a medical clinic and the x-rays showed a broken rib and severely damaged left shoulder. And to add to my misery, a few days later I had terrible stomach problems with even more pain so that I could hardly get out of bed.

So, what’s the point of this story? Bad things like this can be, and many times are, good lessons that we need to learn from. What is learned, if anything, in cases like this?  It’s fascinating to me that it often takes bad stuff happening to us humans to pound into our brains that thing called gratitude as well as an appreciation for all the good times we have had with few problems — everything from our good health, to our family, friends, finances, and freedom that we have in this great country.

After this latest accident and minor health setback I came across a list that I wrote in my journal on June 27th, 2013. My list was entitled “What I Am Grateful For”. From time to time I read down that list, and it lifts my spirits and my appreciation of what I have, big time.

Here is my list. I hope you also have written or will decide to write your own “Gratitude and appreciation list”. I highly recommend it and be sure to review if from time to time. You will see that it can lift your mind, your spirts and your life to a higher level, especially when you need it most.

I AM SO VERY GRATEFUL FOR …

  • A wonderful, loving wife.
  • A wonderful life.
  • Great kids and grandkids.
  • My beautiful view from our house of the valley and mountains.
  • Super vacations and world travel.
  • Warm and helpful friends.
  • Financial stability.
  • Incredible health … most of the time.
  • A fairly clear-thinking brain.
  • Discovery of the power of “self affirmations”.
  • My super great mentors that helped me so much.
  • The deer and coyotes we’ve seen in our yard.
  • The moose I saw while hiking in the mountains.
  • My wonderful work staff.
  • My thoughts for writing my blog and the positive feedback I receive.
  • A very warm and comfortable bed.
  • Our beautiful Kauai home and time spent there in the winter.
  • A cuddling, warm wife.
  • The great Wimbledon tennis matches I’ve attended.
  • My ex-wife’s love of Kimberly and vice versa.

Again, I hope you go make your own list if you haven’t already. Having boundless gratitude and appreciation, even for the little things in life truly does enhance a person’s life. Do it. You won’t be sorry.

 

Money and Meditation

August 8, 2019 by  
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If you have been reading my blog for years, then you know that I started out mainly writing about money, money, money. I wrote about how to make it and how to invest it for the best returns. Over time, I have expanded my subjects to include physical and mental health because, as we all know, without good health, tons of money may not help you at all, or at least not much.

Our brains control our physical bodies much more than most people realize. Years ago, I found an explanation of why the brain can control so much of our lives in Time magazine. A professor at the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, who Time magazine had honored as one of the “100 People Who Shape Our World”, was actually asked by the Dalai Lama to study the connection between the meditative state of mind of his Buddhist monks and their emotional and mental health.

Davidson first hooked 128 electrodes to the head of a French-born monk, Mathieu Ricard, and recorded an immediate increase in the gamma activity when the monk began to meditate. Later studies with a control group of students only lightly trained in meditation showed the monks produced gamma waves that were 30 times stronger than a control group. Wow, that is HUGE!

But what does all this mean? Simply put, this and other research unveils the real possibility that the brain, like the rest of the body, can be altered intentionally. Just as we build muscle through exercise, we can also build our mental capacities that can lead to better brain function and an increase in essential cognitive functions, including memory and perception. This all creates a more positive mental state–and that’s what in turn creates more productive gamma brain waves.

This discovery tells me that as I do more meditation, I will gain a better functioning brain which could help me be a much better investor. I do believe that by pumping my brain up through meditation, I can make better real estate deals and manage my money much better. How about you? Go ahead and try some meditation and see what it does to your brain.

One last comment. Or, I should say that I’m going to do a little bragging.  I’ve always been impressed by the Dalai Lama and many years ago I had the great privilege of escorting the Dalai Lama from his hotel room to a huge ball room and then I introduced him to the audience. I will never forget the great feeling and gratitude I received from doing that introduction and getting to know him even just a little bit.

Just Believe

July 19, 2019 by  
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To live a very long life is a very good thing, at least if you truly enjoy the years along the way. Time is such an interesting thing and it goes on and on, whether you and I are alive or not. I find it very interesting that the older I get the faster time seems to fly by. I’ll never forget when I was 15, counting down the days and months, wanting them to go faster so I could get my driver’s license. Do you remember those slow years when you were a kid, maybe waiting to get your license or counting down the days till Christmas?

In addition to filling our lives as much as we can with good stuff, we should also try to increase our lifespans. And there are ways to do that. Years ago, I read a book by an anthropologist, entitled How to Live to Be 100. In the book the author reported a study of the people who live in the southern Soviet Union the area of Georgia. These people have an average lifespan of over 100 years. How do they do it? The author pointed out that the Georgians diet is somewhat different than ours, but not radically different from other people who don’t live so long. Their level of activity is also not particularly unique. In the end the author concluded that these people lived long healthy lives because they expected to live long healthy lives!

But it doesn’t work just to think or hope you’ll have a long life –you have to expect it and really believe that it will happen. Personally, I would suspect that, with that kind of thinking, but in their they really did watch what they ate and spent their time wisely doing things that didn’t harm their bodies. The other thing that helped extend their lives was the way society there treated older people – with more respect and honor.

No matter how long we expect to live, we should plan to do as much with our time as we can. It is said that time is money, and indeed it is. With extra time you can make extra money. Time is also happiness, if it is well used. Time is also joy and contentment, peace and pleasure and love, but only if we use it wisely.

Many years ago, I drove through East Chicago Heights in Illinois, which is not the most desirable urban area. I was absolutely stunned to see the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who lined the street that warm summer night, doing nothing but just standing there. I learned later that this was a normal practice there. When we do nothing, however, we receive nothing in return.

I’m not suggesting that we not take time out to enjoy ourselves. Enjoyment and recreation are rewards we can give ourselves after we’ve worked hard and done a good job. The law of life says that hard work and struggle must precede the joy and fulfillment of accomplishment. And without that there is not a true enjoyment of life. When we are productive, it almost always lifts our spirits and contentment factor.

Okay, so I am going to work on my own brain, and I do plan on living a very, very long life. 100 years old doesn’t sound like that big of a number now, because I’m 75% of the way there already. How about you? Are you going to set a big number goal and really go after it? If you do, the one big thing you’ll have to then is to just really believe that you’re going to do it.

Positivity and Compassion

June 14, 2019 by  
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A very critical part of happiness and contentment is training the mind and, yes, that does take time, but is it ever worth the time you take! The authors of the book, The Art of Happiness, which I talked about last week, have this advice: “Everyday, as soon as you get up, you can develop sincere positive motivation, thinking, ‘I will utilize this day in a more positive way. I should not waste this very day.’ And then, at night before bed, check what you’ve done, asking yourself, ‘Did I utilize this day as I planned?’ If it went wrong, then regret what you did and critique the day and decide what you are going to do to correct the negative stuff of the day. So, through methods such as this, you can gradually strengthen the positive aspects of the mind.”

I think this is why the self-talk that the great Paul J. Meyer of Waco, Texas introduced me to is so very helpful. I have about 10 different mantras that I run through my mind almost every day and many times I say them out loud. Here are a few of those

  1. I am strong and worthy.
  2. I am upbeat and positive.
  3. I am happy and healthy.
  4. I live in the present moment.
  5. I love people and I am becoming more and more social.
  6. I try to live big and give big. I make “to do” lists and carry them out.

It’s amazing how I can feel down and out and how running that self-talk through my mind many times can lift my mood and make me feel so much better. The mind has a lot of plasticity in it according to scientists. The book goes on to say something that I know is true and will work for me and you: “Neuroscientist have documented the fact that the brain can design new patterns, net combinations of nerve cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells) in response to new input. In fact, our brains are malleable, ever changing, re-configuring their wiring according to new thoughts and experiences. And as a result of learning, the function of individual neurons themselves change, allowing electrical signals to travel along them more readily.” Scientist call the brains inherent capacity to change “plasticity”.

The Dalai Lama and Mr. Cutler have so many great and powerful things to say about how to achieve happiness and they are so very effective. So here is one more quote from Mr. Cutler talking about the Dalai Lama: “He can see that if someone treats him with compassion and affection, then it makes him feel happy. So, on the basis of that experience, it would help him to realize that other people also feel good when they are shown warmth and compassion Therefore, recognizing this fact might make him more inclined to give them compassion and warmth. At the same time, he would discover that the more you give warmth, the more warmth you receive”.

And that, my friends, will almost for sure raise both the giver’s and the receiver’s level of happiness!

A Healthy Re-Start

May 31, 2019 by  
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I’ve been under the weather a bit this week, so I’m taking it easy, but I thought I’d bring back a related link all about your health with some great tips on how to improve your life and your health now.

Below is a link to a YouTube lecture by a Dr. Robert Lustig. Without a doubt, this video dramatically changed my physical and mental being! It honestly lifted my life 2 or 3 levels, which is saying a lot since my life was pretty damn good already. Watch it as soon as you can and see if you agree that his words have tremendous value.

Dr. Lustig’s video lecture gives you a pretty straight-forward goal that, initially, you might think is just a health goal but it’s more than that. Now, you might think “I’ve heard all that before.” Trust me, you haven’t heard all this. I’ll just say it’s well worth every minute of your time to watch, learn and follow.

What I am hoping is that by watching the video, you will be motivated to set some health goals based on what he is saying. I did that and it gave me a super and uplifting change in both my physical and mental life! So, get yourself a nice cup of tea and sit down to listen. Then change your life. Now!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

Now that you’ve watched it, I’ll summarize what Dr.Lustig says on the subject of weight loss and exercise. Primarily, it’s good to realize that exercise is not the key to weight loss, but it is one of two keys to great health. The first key is changing your diet by drastically reducing your intake of sugar in combination with a huge increase in your intake of fiber. Do that and you are halfway to excellent health.

The second key is, yes, exercise and by that he means consistent exercise. As Dr. Lustig points out, exercise will build muscle and, in the very long run, it will help you lose a little of the weight because muscles burn calories faster than fat. However, this would only be a little additional weight loss. In other words, exercise should be part of a weight loss plan but is not the key to it. Without the change in diet, weight loss will be slow and the increase in overall health will be minimal.

Not a believer quite yet? Well, I’d recommend going out and getting Dr, Lustig’s book, Fat Chance, so you can read about all the factors that go into healthy weight loss and healthy eating. It’s not that exercise cannot have a tremendous impact on your health, but exercise alone won’t do it. So, for now, just take the simple step of evaluating your sugar intake. You may find it startling just how much you take in and, hopefully, it’ll stir you to do something about it.

A Good Type of Scary

May 24, 2019 by  
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I just got back from an incredible trip to Cuba.  We took a beautiful Norwegian cruise ship from Miami to Havana. As I have said, and preached many times before, if you want to excite your brain and body, do something very unique. That is one reason I love to travel, especially to new countries. Cuba is the 92nd country that I have been so fortunate to visit! There are presently 196 countries in the world, so I’ve got a ways to go to visit them all, although I’m pretty sure North Korea will not be one of them.

On this trip, I added one more thing that excites the brain and body. Yes, it is a little risky but it’s not too big a thing and it is totally legal. It’s not like climbing up the side of the Eiffel tower like that guy did recently, almost making it to the very top before he was arrested. That’s taking the concept a bit too far!

But what is legal and unique is petting and feeding sting rays in Cuba. It was a little scary and I guess the “scare part” is what excites the human brain. I may have been more reluctant to hold and feed a big sting ray if I had read more of the details surrounding Australian Steve Irwin, that big time crocodile hunter who was killed by an 8 foot sting ray back in 2006. As you may recall, he was being filmed underwater when he was stabbed in the heart by a sting ray. I’m not into big risks and our time standing in waist deep ocean water, feeling about a dozen or so big sting rays circling my wife Kimberly and I, softly brushing against our legs, was quite safe. Our guides demonstrated exactly what to do and closely monitored us and assured us that it was much safer than it looked.

The short video below is me holding the sting ray. Later, the guides showed us how to feed those huge guys. Yes, my heart and brain were racing as that big creature ate food right out of my hand and didn’t bite me …yay! It was a great experience and an exciting thing to do and It certainly stimulated my brain and body, which is a very good thing as it enhances one’s life.

Visiting a very different country like Cuba is a real turn on and, wow, driving thru the city of Havana, seeing hundreds of old cars from the late 1940’s and 1950’s, was a great sight to see. I had always thought and had the impression that Cuba was quite dangerous, but Kimberly and I were very pleased to find the city to be quite safe and the people were so nice and friendly. If you have a chance to go there, I would highly recommend it. Go do it for your brain and body!

 

The Umbrella Goal of Health

March 30, 2019 by  
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I know I said I was going to give you the other half of that 20 life list but there’s been a lot going on this week so we’re going to revisit a post, revised and updated, from 10 years ago, basically about the same subject.

I do regularly talk about health and the benefits of a good diet and hopefully it’s often inspired you to eat better and take care of yourself. The question is, are you, or will you be committed to it, not just for the near future but for life?

Getting down to an ideal weight and getting off junk food are great goals, but your hard efforts will be wasted if you don’t make it a modification to your lifestyle rather not just a temporary change.

These healthier eating habits can lengthen your life as they are and actual fountain of youth! But if you can’t keep it up, it probably won’t get you very far.

Because, here’s the thing … if you lose 30 pounds then gain back 20 a few months later, lose another 10, gain another 15, and keep this yo-yo dieting going, you aren’t helping your health at all. In fact, you’re stressing your system. Same goes for the ‘occasional’ junk food meal. Can a coke addict get high just once in a while?

The bottom line is, you have to decide that you want to live healthy–determine the specific weight you want to reach and stay at it while committing to eating healthy, minimally processed, whole foods, and keeping active. Look at this commitment as a commitment for life, an umbrella goal that will support every other goal you make by giving you the health and energy to pursue all your dreams.

So, be good to yourself these next few weeks and aim to eat and live healthy for the rest of your life. You can start by reading Chapter 10: An Umbrella Goal for Life in my book, How to Ignite Your Passion for Living. As I explain, 42 days is all it takes to form a new eating habit. After that it’s just a little bit of vigilance.

Use the goal planning tips in my book and you’ll certainly get there. Do this for yourself, your family, and, of course, for the success of all your dreams.

Big Brain Boosts

March 15, 2019 by  
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One of my favorite things about the brain is how a new, unique, or novel situation – seeing something totally new or having a new experience – can pump your brain and your body up and suddenly make you feel fantastic. The brain seeks and loves novelty. Novelty really does do great things to our brains. This brain stimulus is what motivated me to travel the world, to see new countries and cities, and to meet new people in different cultures. Even when I’m a bit fearful to visit a rough, semi-dangerous and poor country, like some that I’ve visited in Africa and the Middle East, I push myself to follow the advice in Susan Jeffers’ great book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.

When I see and experience all the unique and novel neighborhoods, cities, countries and people in my travels, it gives my brain and life a huge boost. Even our short trip to the Indian Wells tennis tournament last week, watching guys like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, was a good brain booster, partly because we stayed in a new place, in a beautiful big house with friends, met and befriended new people, and drove through unfamiliar areas of the wonderful desert towns of Indian Wells and Palm Springs. Even the super oversized palm trees they have there (they are twice a tall as Hawaiian palms) turned my head and gave me a rush.

You don’t have to go out of the country, or even out of your city, to get a big brain boost from seeing and experiencing new and novel things. Just taking a walk or a drive through a totally new and different part of your city, or going to a big game or competition with new friends (maybe one that features a sport or some big event that you have never seen in person), can perk up your brain.

A big reason I go on so many hikes in the mountains is that I almost always see something novel. Even a totally super twisted tree, or an oversized or undersized deer or elk, will give my brain a rush. And, if I see a bear, yikes … my brain gets a rush but my adrenaline is instantly overloaded too. I don’t like that as much.

The bottom line is, don’t ever let up on seeking out new and different places, people, and experiences if you want to stay excited and turned on by life. Keep your brain and body excited and curious and you may not only live longer, but you will probably be healthier and certainly more fulfilled and content.

One more helpful hint – if you are not already signed up with a travel service like Kayak, Expedia, Hotwire, or Priceline, you should do that inasmuch as they send you many super deals on airlines and hotels. I’ve seen prices as low as $390 round trip to Paris from Salt Lake City and under $200 to Hawaii. Also look at sites like TripAdvisor or the experiences listed on Airbnb to find unique tours and guided experiences doing things and seeing stuff you might never have known existed. By the way, I have just scheduled a trip to Cuba this summer which will be country number 92 that I have visited!

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.

 

The Grateful List

July 20, 2018 by  
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A few days ago, I walked down my very long driveway to get my newspaper. The walk down the drive and back is about 1500 steps which is a very good start towards my goal of 20,000 steps a day, a goal that motivates and drives me to always keep moving for better health and longevity.

But this day, as I walked, I was thinking about what I said in my last blog, about how most of us humans take so much of the good stuff in our lives for granted. That simple thought led me to begin making a list in my mind of things I am so grateful for but then I began to notice how many things on my mental list were things that I was totally taking for granted! So, I decided I should write them down and take a look at that list at least once a week and push myself to take time to appreciate the wonderful things in my life.

When I got back to the house, I began my list. Doing this simple little exercise has been a great motivator and has begun to make me more at ease with life.  I would encourage you to make your own list of 10, 15 or more things you want to better appreciate in your life and review them regularly. Constantly renew your vows to appreciate those great things in your life and not take them for granted.

Please, go ahead and do it and you’ll see how much it can enhance your life. And yes, why don’t you and I encourage our family and friends to do the same thing and spread the word. This is just another way of paying good stuff forward.

Here is the list of things that I do so much appreciate, and many times take for granted:

  1. My darling, kind, energetic and loving wife.
  2. My super wonderful kids and grandkids— there’s not a bad one in the bunch.
  3. My good and consistent health and the many people that dedicate their lives to be great doctors, surgeons and inventors of great medicines that help cure so many things.
  4. My fairly good game of tennis at age 74.
  5. My warm and supportive friends (especially the ones that let me beat them in tennis, ho ho!)
  6. Living in a great, free country that provides so many opportunities for growth and prosperity.
  7. My many great mentors that have enhanced my life–both in person and through some great books.
  8. The many very smart and hardworking inventors that have given us everything fromautomobiles to jet airplanes to heaters, air conditioners, and so many electronic products.
  9. My FitBit, a great invention that can give people great health and longer lives, that counts my steps and has motivated me to keep moving.
  10. An absolutely gorgeous sunset or star-studded sky.
  11. My great opportunities to travel the world and how easy it is with today’s jet’s, great hotels, guides, and services. Plus, the convenience of cell phones and computers to check up on the kids.
  12. The great, super safe pilots and operators of machines of all types.
  13. All that great music out there that motivates and inspires so many of us.
  14. My many wonderful financial opportunities and all the ambitious, energetic help and assistance I’ve had from employees and partners.

I’ve probably left off other things I don’t appreciate enough…but I think this is a good start for me to work on.  And I did go out of my way to begin by telling my wonderful wife how much I do sincerely appreciate her. I do hope my little list idea will push you a bit to start your own list and feel the same increased satisfaction for life and living as it has for me.

 

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