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Novelty and Innovation

September 15, 2019 by  
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I am always so impressed, when I travel to new places, by how it stimulates my brain, especially when those new places are a new country.  Right now, we are in Macedonia and, wow, what a great and different country this is! Tomorrow we are off to Kosovo. That will make 94 countries that I have visited. That’s quite a lot but I don’t think I will make it to all 200 plus countries on earth before I check out of this life, but I will sure enjoy seeing as many new places as I can before my body assumes room temperature.

Seeing new places can produce some very big and new ideas for things like inventions, innovations, etc. As I visit and totally enjoy these new places and people, it makes me more fully realize how virtually all people, regardless of their ethnicity, skin color, and education level, are pretty much the same as far as the majority being friendly, nice, and good! And in every country, there are really creative and innovative people as well. That got me to thinking about how many times people create something by just putting two different things together to come up with a new product or invention.

For example, it wasn’t that many years ago when people hand carried their heavy suitcases as they traveled.  I thought of this as my wife and I packed 3 huge suitcases plus two drag bags for our trip to Europe. Someone not so long ago put two simple things together to create a great and super helpful new invention – just a few wheels attached to the bottom of a suitcase. Wow, that was so simple! Why didn’t you or I come up with that simple invention that has been so great and helpful to all of us globetrotting humans.

If we set our minds to coming up with new products from two or more existing products, we could make a fortune. Take a simple product like a peddle bicycle and attach a battery and, wham, bang, you have come up with a brand-new and popular product. Then the next could have been putting that battery on a scooter and you might have come up with another form of powered transportation such as Lyme and the other brands.

I’ll never forget many years ago thinking what a waste it was to have all those cars parked for days at the airport while people were arriving and renting cars. It made me think of how maybe I could set up a program where you could rent out your car when you left for a trip and then you could rent someone’s car at the airport of your destination. I knew there would be a lot of issues as to insurance and possible damage or theft and putting it together would not be very simple. Then along came UBER and LYFT a few years later, which, although a traveler’s car isn’t in use while they are away, other people’s cars are not just sitting in their driveways but are out helping traveler’s get around and usually for quite a bit less than a Taxi.

Those car services are simple but great innovations that help so many and it just took putting together existing things to make something new and super useful. These things aren’t likely to come about unless your brain is stimulated and exposed to new things. If you keep your mind active and curious with novel things and keep searching for ideas, you could come up with the next simple and super useful innovation!

Feeling the Great Right Now

September 8, 2019 by  
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I do totally agree with Ernie J. Zelinski’s, author of the book, The Joy of Not Working, when he says, “Being in the now is crucial for living happily, because the present moment is all that you really have.”

Zelinski goes on to say, “The more we are focused on the past or the future the more we miss the now. Sadly, we miss most of the precious moments because we are so preoccupied with the past and the future.” I totally agree!

Yes, of course, it’s necessary for us to spend some time thinking about the future. We do that when we start setting goals for our life, the week, the next day or even the next hour. But once we have taken time to set goals, we need to focus on the ”Great Right Now Moment”. That’s why it’s important to write down our goals. That way we will find it much easier to focus on the now moment and enhance our lives.

Zelinski also poses this question: “Have you ever been possessed by a huge rush of energy that it carried you away from your normal concerns into a state of indescribable bliss? If you have, you were mastering the moment, and undoubtedly you experienced many feelings that you don’t normally experience in everyday life.”  He quotes Howard and Diane Tinsley, professors of psychology, who concluded that individuals’ experience leisure activities to the fullest and feel the following:

  • A feeling of freedom
  • Total absorption in the activity at hand
  • Lack of focus on self
  • Enhanced perception of objects and events
  • Little awareness of the passage of time
  • Increased sensitivity to body sensations
  • Increased sensitivity to emotions

To me, that’s a ton of reward and so very life enhancing. We should all think about and do that more often.  How about you? Will you give that a shot? I’m sure going to work on that more myself!

Keeping Your Mind in the Moment

August 30, 2019 by  
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Some very wise person once said, “Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.”  I’ve thought about and written quite a lot about this thing called “living in the now”.  I think I keep writing about it because it motivates me to live in the moment more often. As you might have experienced, living in the moment is very hard to stay conscious of and to do on a frequent basis.  But if you concentrate and keep trying to live in the moment, you are likely to do more and more of it.  And yes, I think it’s a great idea to write that down as a goal because, as you probably know, if you commit your goals to paper or on your phone or computer, you are much, much more likely to do it.

In Ernie J. Zelinski’s great book, The Joy of Not Working, under a section titled “Mastering the Moment”, the author says, “In some cultures, a moment can last the entire afternoon. Activities have natural starting and ending times not dictated by the clock. People don’t limit their conversations to fifteen or thirty minutes. Conversations start when they start and end when they end regardless of the number of clocks in the immediately vicinity.”

He goes on to cite a study that I found really surprising, and even a bit shocking. The study and research showed that most couples in North America spend only about 18 minutes a week in real conversation.

Zelinski also noted, “Out of 500 people surveyed by World Tennis magazine in a sex/tennis pool, 54 percent said they think about sex while playing tennis.” Wow, I play a lot of tennis and I don’t think I fit at all in that 54% group. Those tennis players obviously haven’t learned to live in the now, and I am quite certain if they did, they would win a lot more matches. I wonder how many people think about tennis when having sex. I think that might make it much harder to finish the sex round.

Ok, next week I want to write more about Zelinski and give you a few quotes from him and this subject of “living in present moment”, or the way I say it, “living in the great right now”.  I am also, due to feedback from readers, going to move my blog from Friday mornings to Sunday morning. This should give you some time to really ponder the subjects I bring up. So, look for the follow-up to this post next Sunday!

Grateful Action

August 23, 2019 by  
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Okay here is a $64,000 dollar question: Should you and I choose to be mindful of what we have and be grateful most of the time, reaping the benefits from that attitude along the way, or should we whine and complain and be ungrateful and end up unhappy and miserable?

Ok, I know that’s not too tough a question but isn’t it funny that, regardless of how obvious the answer is, we so often fall into an ungrateful mode in our daily life? Shouldn’t we do something about that? And if so, what would that be?

Well, maybe we can just practice it more often, being mindful of our attitude so that we can stop the complaining when we realize what we are doing. If we can become more aware of our attitude, we would surely see a difference in our lives and our relationship with the people around us.

As I look out at the world, especially in the incredible times we live in right now with all the turmoil, uprising, pointless deaths, instability and chaos in so many places in the world, and then look outside my door, it’s hard not to be a little shocked by how different my life is here in an affluent, developed country. When I see these things, I am struck big time with the thought that, wow, we really do have it good, those of us living in the USA, Canada, Europe, etc. But how often, and seriously, do we consider how blessed we are?

But we just can’t think about it. Agreeing that the more grateful is a good idea is not quite enough, is it? We need to act. We need to make it important in our lives. I have to tell you, when I take time to be grateful, that very process and feeling of gratitude boosts my satisfaction, contentment, and happiness levels! It’s almost like magic.

So why not start now? You could write or call someone or post something on your favorite social network site. Just put something out there, saying that you are grateful and want never to forget it. Then keep that in your mind as you go through the day and you are sure to start reaping the benefits almost immediately.

Appreciating what we have is good for our spirits, our attitude, our family, our outlook on life, and, by extension, the world out there that is working through the chaos and pressure of broad and often, unstoppable, change. It’s the least we can do for them, and for ourselves.

 

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.

A Beautiful Life Now

July 12, 2019 by  
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If someone is really rude and totally offends you but then later offers a very sincere apology, most of us would probably forgive that person and move on with our lives. However, when most of us human beings make a mistake or screw something up, in many cases we will not forgive ourselves and so we carry that guilt around for days or years and that can hurt us in so many ways.

Quoting from Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully, a great book that I’ve quoted before, “Over time, as thinking minds begin to settle, we’ll start to see our patterns and habits far more clearly. This can be an experience. I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be. By cultivating nonjudgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher and a support and no longer as an enemy.”

Pema talks a lot about acceptance of ourselves and the world as it is and how we should appreciate it as it is now. She talks about what she calls the “third commitment”, which is key to this kind of acceptance and appreciation. (You need to read her book to find out what the first and second commitment are and how they can greatly improve a person’s life.) To quote her again, “The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.” She goes on to add that, “The attitude of the third commitment is that we live in a world that is intrinsically good, intrinsically awake, and our path is to realize this. Simply put, the practice at this stage is to turn toward your experience, all of it, and never turn away.

Pema talks a lot about being kind to others especially to ourselves. She talks about the process of growing-up and working toward feeling totally relaxed and free. She says, “that process, that transition, is one of becoming comfortable with exactly what we’re feeling as we feel it. The key practice to support us in this is mindfulness–being fully present right here, right now. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few.”

Pema Chodron further explains that we need to pay attention to all the details of our life. “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons”.

I think the bottom line is, if we pay more attention to the details of our lives it will give us more ways to free ourselves and that can help us free ourselves from suffering. So, we need to accept ourselves, appreciate our life as it is now, and pay attention. And we need to do all that, right now.

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!

The Positive Path to Happiness

June 7, 2019 by  
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A few days ago, I was going through my library and came across a great book by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. written back in 1998. I hadn’t read it for a very long time but as I was thumbing through the pages my mind was captured by so many great statements, concepts, and advice that were so motivating so I kept reading.

The book’s title is The Art of Happiness. I’ve always admired this great man, the Dalai Lama, and what he has done for the world and for so many minds. He’s helped lift us to great heights. Years ago, I felt so very fortunate to meet and greet him at his hotel room and escort him to a huge gather of people and I was more than a little overwhelmed and privileged to introduce him to that audience.

I want to share with you, my readers, some of his great ideas and advice on “happiness” for us humans. I’d also like to share some of the wise words and insights that his co-author Howard Cutler added to the book from his own experiences and all the time he spent with the Dalai Lama.

Let me start with some great comments from the great book I mentioned. These are about positive thinking which is so very important to raise and keep your happiness consistently elevated.

The Dalai Lama said, “If happiness is simply a matter of cultivating a more positive mental state like kindness and so on, why are so many unhappy? … Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about transformation in your outlook and your way of thinking and this is not a simple matter. It requires the application of so many different directions. You shouldn’t have the notion, for instance, that there is just a key, a secret, and if you can get that right then everything will be okay. It is similar to taking proper care of the physical body. You need a variety of vitamins and nutrients, not just one or two.”

He went on to say, “In the same way, in order to achieve happiness, you need a variety of approaches and methods to deal with and overcome the varied and complex negative mental states. And if you are seeking to overcome certain negative ways of thinking, it is not possible to accomplish that simply by adopting a particular thought or practicing a technique once or twice. Change takes time. There are lots of negative mental traits, so you need to address and counteract each one of these. That isn’t easy. It requires the repeated application of various techniques and taking the time to familiarize yourself with the practices. It’s a process of learning.”

Next week I will talk more about the specific practices and mindset that a person needs to work on and develop while bringing you more wisdom from the great Dalai Lama.

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!

 

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