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The Hardest Challenges

April 20, 2018 by  
Filed under blog, Chapter 9

 

Life sure has its challenges. This past week there has been a lot of doctors’ visits and tests as we try to figure out what is going on with me. It would be easy to let this get me down, and I can’t say that it hasn’t gotten to me at moments, but it is important to stay positive and focus on meeting – and beating – this challenge.

So, while I’m focused on finding answers to my health questions, I thought I’d share with you another story of how I was able to overcome a challenge with the power of positive and what that means for you and for me. This post was written in October 2010:

The Biggest Rush Comes from the Hardest Challenges

Alright, first, I need to warn you that I am on a super unbelievable mental high right now and have been all week. It’s all because I won the Gold at the Huntsman Tennis Tournament. Well, that’s not quite right. It’s because I played the hardest match I’d played in years against a really tough player and even though I’d trained so very hard this year, I got to a point in the last game when I just wasn’t sure I could go on, but I pushed myself just a little harder and finally eked out that last point I needed and won the gold! Yes, I won the gold last year too but the competition was nothing like it was this year. It was because I had to work so hard and it was such a difficult game this year, that the win was many, many times more exhilarating and satisfying.

This whole experience reminds me of what I was trying to get across in Chapter 9 of my book “How to Ignite Your Passion for Living” where I talk about the guy who goes out and shoots a perfect golf score the very first time he played. And then he does it again and again and realizes that there is very little, if any, satisfaction from doing so well at something he didn’t have to work at. Well that story is very much the opposite of what I did and how I felt.

This year I trained so much more than I had last year, taking lessons from a couple of great pros, Clark Barton and Jason Newell, as well as putting in more time on the ball machine and playing more matches. And yet my opponent, Michael Murphy, still hit back every ball and he could run as well as I could. I even began thinking that I couldn’t beat this guy but I pushed those negative thoughts out of my mind and tried to take the match one point at a time even as my body was screaming out for some rest and relief. And it worked. Positive thinking, taking it one small step at a time, and all that hard, even painful work, paid off leaving me with an immense feeling of true accomplishment.

Of course, while I was in the game, it was hard to feel that what I was going through was worth it, but I’ve done this enough to know that it usually is. And it so was. I know, too, that I wouldn’t still be riding this high if it hadn’t been so tough to win and if I hadn’t worked so hard at it. That’s the lesson here–The hardest work reaps the most satisfying rewards.

Just remember that next time you feel like giving up, bowing out, or taking the easy road. Just keep going, doing the best you possibly can. You’ll accomplish what you’re after and not only will it feel more than worth it when you do, it will make give you the energy and optimism to reach for that next great thing and get it.

 

The Key for a Longer, Healthy Life

January 12, 2018 by  
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I thought I was in great shape and looked pretty darn good now at almost 74 years old. Then I went to my favorite Kauai tennis club last week and played tennis with this old friend, Ken, who looks like he is 55 or 60 years old and plays a great game of tennis. But would you believe this guy, who is in super great shape, out on the court with me, is 87 years old? You’d be shocked if you saw him and he is not slowing down at all.

Ken inspires me to keep moving and, yes, I set some more new year’s exercise resolutions including playing more tennis with Ken and many other friends. I think most people know that exercise–even moderate exercise–is good for your health. According to a one large study, 75 minutes of vigorous, or 150 minutes of moderate, exercise per week extends life by 3.4 years. That might not seem like a lot of extra years, but that’s just the average and you and I might be able to push that to 10 or 15 years like Ken has. Plus remember that most likely those extra years are going to be so much more enjoyable because your physical and mental health will be much better.

And hey, 150 minutes a week is only about 22 minutes a day and if you are anything like me, you can easily push yourself to do a little more than that each day if you have the proper motivation. As I mentioned in another post a while back, one of the best gifts my wife ever gave to me was a little simple “Fitbit” that counts all my steps among other things. The recommended goal is 10,000 steps a day. However, that little device has had me competing with myself to continuously increase my daily steps to the point that I now shoot for 20,000 steps a day. That is more than 3 hours of walking, but it is not hard to spread it out over my day and, I have to say, I love it.

By the way, if you want to increase the chances of reaching your exercise goals, it’s a very wise move to tell your spouse or a good friend about your goal and then encourage them to remind you and ask you how you are doing with those goals. They can basically act as your coach and prod you along but mostly, you know they know and so you will feel accountable to them.

There is another big health related benefit that comes with working out when you do it via a game such as tennis or golf. That benefit is the social interaction you get during and after the game. Keeping up an active social life is another proven life extending way to keep you healthy.

So, I do sincerely hope you will be motivated to set exercise goals and never forget the many benefits you’ll be receiving. Write those goals down and get someone to remind you and push you. Next week I’ll want to expand on this subject because we could all use a little extra push, even me!

 

 

A List of Positives Actions

November 4, 2017 by  
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I know I have been going on about lists the last few posts and I hope you are up for one more. I just find that lists really help me focus on the qualities I want to see in myself, helping me to move closer to achieving super success.

We all have great wants and desires. Without them we’d have virtually no motivation to do anything. But there are a lot of hidden land mines that lie in our path just waiting for us to step on them and explode our dreams, desires, and goals. We all know that frustrated desires can lead us to search out bad or negative ways to boost or otherwise change our mood—-by using drugs and/or alcohol, binge eating, or even going on a shopping spree. These all work well to increase dopamine and serotonin—those mood-altering chemicals in our brain—giving us a high and one that can be addictive.

The problem is these activities can too easily and too quickly become detrimental to our health, our finances, and our relationships. But what if you could increase these mood-altering chemicals with something positive and productive, gaining a natural high and moving towards your goals at the same time?

Listing positive activities can really help you do this. Here are mine. You can use these as a start or as examples for your own list. Then when you feel yourself turning towards those old negative and harmful options, chose something from your positive list instead. Do this diligently for at least a week and take note of how much better you feel about yourself and your life. I bet you’ll not only enjoy the activities you’ve used as positive substitutes for the old harmful ways, but you will be much happier.

Mark’s List of Positive Actions

  1. Work out: Just 6 or 12 minutes on the stair master, doing sit-ups and push-ups or using weights.
  2. Get a tennis game going.
  3. Write out my bests thoughts for the days.
  4. Read a good book.
  5. Listen to favorite music (create a custom playlist online).
  6. Arrange a get together with family and friends.
  7. Get a massage.
  8. Hike or bike in the mountains or just take a walk in the neighborhood.
  9. Take 5 to 10 minutes to meditation
  10. Do 5 to 10 minutes of simple yoga

Now … what goes on your list?

**If you like what you’ve read in this blog please send it on to people you know and love who you think will find this helpful. There is nothing in the world that brings greater satisfaction than helping other people. Don’t you agree? Get this through email by subscribing here: http://ignitemylifenow.com/email-subscribe/

Traveling for Ideas

October 7, 2017 by  
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Traveling can be so great for the body and the mind.  We are overseas right now. A couple days ago we took the Eurostar from London to Paris. The 200 mile an hour ride was wonderful–smooth, quiet and, when we weren’t in the tunnel that goes under the English Channel, very scenic. I really enjoy that train. But I think the most interesting thing about travel, especially to foreign countries, is seeing and experiencing different cultures and all the fascinating people.  It’s so mind expanding and invigorating!

I’ve certainly learned that no matter what the sex, skin color, or nationality a person is, most humans are wonderful, honest, and kind people. We are all much more alike than different. Another huge plus you get with travel is learning about new ideas, new products and new types of services. If you have even a little bit of entrepreneurship in your bones maybe you can introduce one of those ideas, products or services to your home city or state and maybe end up making a small or even large fortune.

Many years ago, my wife Kimberly noticed those wire spikes they were using in Europe to keep birds away from buildings and places that were being inundated by a lot of bird droppings.  Those wire spikes were a simple little invention that was unheard of in the USA at that time.  If we had been the first ones to copy that simple invention in the US, as someone did not long after that, it no doubt would have added a few extra millions to our net worth.  Oh well. At that point in my life, I was much more interested in playing tennis.

So, if you are looking for good ideas to duplicate, do some more traveling and have a ton of fun meeting kind and interesting people. Take some time to really observe and look for new ideas and products, items that maybe you could be the first to introduce to your hometown and country. With such ideas, you just might cash in big time!

Our Indebtedness to the Past

June 17, 2016 by  
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I just watch a wonderful documentary narrated by Robert Redford called The Barnstormers which told and showed some great pictures of the history of how the game of tennis was changed from an amateur to a professional sport and how after that changed its popularity grew at an enormous rate.  I was particularly impressed at the end of this wonderful production when the great world champion Roger Federer said how much he and all the other pro tennis players of today owe a huge debt of gratitude to the players and key figures who brought about the big changes in tennis.

It got me to thinking about how all of us today owe a humongous debt of gratitude to so very may people of the past that did so many things to make the world a much better place and made our lives so much easier today.

Think about it … how would our lives be without those many people who over time collaborated with many others to bring us the automobile, the airplane, advanced medicine and medical procedures? We can cut open and fix a human brain and cure terrible diseases. And just look at the advances in technology.  From computers to cell phones, rockets to space probes, and on and on and on.  I couldn’t begin to build even a basic radio or TV, let alone figure out how to do open heart surgery.  And so much of these incredible advances have come in just the last 100 to 150 years!  Going back 150 years we didn’t have even a simple telephone or an internal combustion engine or even a simple light bulb.

We are so very indebted to so many people that have lived before us. We all could do with being a bit more grateful as well as taking a look at our own lives and seeing how and where we can put our efforts and talents to work to help others and make this wonderful world even better than we found it. Let’s not only do it for those around us now but for future generations.

There is also an extra benefit for you. I’ve seen studies that show that the more a person shows and has gratitude for others, the more it lifts that person’s level of satisfaction and happiness.

In my upcoming blog posts, I will attempt to acknowledge and give thanks to the people that have contributed to my life, both in my financial life, my personal life and in my self-development. Who do you have to thank for the wonderful advantages you have?

 

The Brain and Robot Tennis

March 4, 2016 by  
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Sometime ago I read a book about The Secret Lives of the Brain which was actually the subtitle of the great book entitled Incognito by David Eagleman. The part of the book that really grabbed my attention was what he said about the part of the brain that you can teach exactly how to hit a tennis ball almost perfectly every time without even thinking about it.

Being an avid tennis fan and sometimes tournament player myself, and with my own experience pretty much backing up and proving what he was saying, he had my undivided attention. Many times while playing, I’ve surprised myself when I am running full speed to get to a tennis ball coming at me at 65 or 75 miles an hour, then to arrive at the exact right spot and hit the ball back to the place I was aiming. Wow, I’m thinking … how did I ever do that?

Eagleman, a neuroscientist, makes the case that tennis shots are made almost entirely without using the conscious mind. Of course, to get to the point of great non-thinking tennis shots, anyone who wants to be that good needs to use the other part of the brain–the conscious part that is the part that thinks through what goals a person wants to achieve. So with the conscious brain a tennis champion wannabe sets the goals to fulfill their dream tennis performance.

The author of this book is not just talking about these two parts of the brain being used to be a great tennis player either. You can use both parts of the brain to become very good in many areas of our lives, whether it’s to become a great public speaker, great writer of books, making a fortune, or creating super health for yourself and others. It will work for whatever you really want to do and be.

But that’s just the first part, because after you use the conscious part of your mind to set your goals, you then need to practice and drill over and over again. If you do that for many, many hours over a good length of time you will begin to program your unconscious mind so eventually it will perform for you without your thinking about it. It will be automatic. It might take thousands of hours but studies have shown that anyone that spends 10,000 hours doing one thing they most likely will become one of the best in the world at that one thing.

Under the chapter subheading “The Robot that Won Wimbledon”, David Eagleman concludes that, “The competitors at Wimbledon are rapid, efficient machines that play tennis shockingly well. They can track a ball traveling ninety miles per hour, move toward it rapidly, and orient a small surface to intersect its trajectory. And these professional tennis players do almost none of this consciously. In exactly the same way that you read letters on a page or change lanes, they rely entirely on their unconscious machinery. They are, for all practical purposes, robots. Indeed, when Ilie Nastase lost the Wimbledon final in 1976, he sullenly said of his winning opponent, Bjorn Borg, ‘He’s a robot from outer space.’”

Today I would say the same thing about Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. But remember folks these two parts of our brain can be used for many more things than tennis! Let’s all work on that.

Speaking of Determination

November 21, 2014 by  
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I just happened to pick up a little book today and it opened to a page that had this quote “some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people succeed because they are determined.” That was Elmer Towns Minute Motivators for Leaders by Stan Toler.  Great quote, a great truth and a great thing to think and about and do something about. Determination–what a great word and a great human attribute. That’s if you use it.

When I think about my own successes, whether they have been in my tennis tournaments and matches, or attaining great health or great wealth, I can clearly see the greatest common denominator for each one of my successes has been this great thing called determination.

But how does one boost or improve his or her level of determination? Researchers in human behavior studies have observed that most people can get a BIG BOOST in their own determination abilities and in their own self-control just by merely reading about or observing in other people’s examples; people who have expended a great amount of self-control or determination in various parts of their lives.  Just to know of those studies should motivate us to hang out with the kind of people that exert large amount of determination or at least we should seek out and read stories of people that use a ton of self-control and determination.

Personally I never seem to tire of observing and or reading those kinds of stories. They truly drove me to success, especially when I was in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. When I was younger it motivated me in sports. Later on it was all about making more money and, wow, did those people that I hung out with and the stories or others who made millions and billions push me to do more and more, and bigger and bigger.

Now at my age the people and the stories in the health and fitness department motivate me to stay the course of great health and try to do even better every day.  These stories lift me up and inspire me and even seem to give me more and more energy to do more with my life and do more to help other people with their lives.  If you really want to push and motivate yourself to levels beyond what you ever thought possible, try changing your thinking and convince yourself that your life is on the line, because in some ways our lives are on the line regardless of what we set out to do.  I’ll talk more about that next week. In the meantime, seek out stories and people who are all about determination and see if that doesn’t get you motivated to do more.

Lessons from Arthur Ashe

September 26, 2014 by  
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Many years ago when I first started to play tennis I was so gung-ho about the sport that I traveled to all four of the major grand slams–Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Open and the U.S. Open in New York City.  I was so very impressed with the great champion Arthur Ashe and so admired him, not only as the number one tennis player in the world for a time but just as much for how dedicated he was to improving the lives of everyone, especially the unfortunate of the world.  To me he was an incredible double champion!

I will never forget, as long as I live, that night when the last match at the U.S. Open in New York finished so very late.  As I walked out of the stadium (the very stadium that has now been named “The Arthur Ashe Stadium) to catch a cab, I was surprised to see there were only a few cabs left and tons of people heading toward them.  So being quite young I sprinted to try to catch one.  I barely made it to the last taxi, but as I opened the back door and jumped in, someone else was doing the same thing on the other side.   As both doors slammed shut I look over to see none other than Arthur Ashe as my seat mate! Man, oh man, was I ever surprised, startled and yes, quite frankly, “star struck”. We quickly agreed to share the ride since we were both heading for mid-town Manhattan.  On the ride there I picked his brain to get all the tennis and life coaching I could possible pull out of him in that 45 minute ride.

What a great experience that had been and what a great man he was.  He was so much more than a world champion tennis player.  From a young age growing up in a segregated society, he set about to help change the world by helping people and thus making the world a better place for all of us.

Earlier yesterday, I was struggling to come up with a topic for this week’s blog and as I was thinking about possible subjects I flipped on the TV. Yes of course, the tennis channel was on and there was a biography being shown on Arthur Ashe including his many victories in his tennis life as well as off the court and his sad and somewhat sudden death at the young age of 49.   So it was an easy decision for my blog subject.  What great lessons I began to learn from his life as I watch the commentary.  He did a lot more in those short 49 years than I ever realized.  So much more than I can put in this one blog, so I am going to tell you more about his life and the impact that it had on the world in the next blog.

For now, the take away I want to leave you with is this–if you are looking for a big life time goal that will energize your life, I suggest you first take a look at yourself and see what your talents are and what you like to do and then spend time figuring out how you can direct those talents to make a difference in the world.

When we are young most of us are pretty self-centered and most everything we do is directed at just helping ourselves, but as we grow older and a little wiser we see that helping others is not only very satisfying but it can make the world a better place for everyone for many, many years to come.

 

Repetition is the Best Teacher

April 15, 2011 by  
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My good friend Paul J. Meyer (who sadly passed away a while ago) used to always say “Don’t read 1,000 books but choose 100 of the very best books and read them over and over again.” Spaced repetition is how we remember and makes it easier for us to practice what we learn in our daily lives because the ideas become ingrained and natural.

This idea hit me hard recently when I realized that the basic concept also applied to other things such as my tennis game. I had mastered the best way to hit a forehand many years ago but over the years I stopped practicing that technique, just stopped doing what I knew I should do, and, sure enough, my forehand went to hell. When I got into competing, I had to relearn my forehand all over again. Relearning was hard but it did make a huge difference in my game (Watch out Roger Federer!) On the other hand (no pun was intended!) I could have skipped that whole trying process by simply revisiting the technique and practicing the points on a regular basis. Learning it once is never enough.

This idea is the same whether it’s repeatedly reading books that teach you how to better your life, keeping up on a skill, or revisiting places or people that inspire and energize your spirit. These are all opportunities for learning that if we come back to over and over, we will not forget and will make practicing what we’ve learned a natural and habitual action.