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.


Letting Your Mind Support Your Healing

September 19, 2014 by  
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I think most people know what the “placebo effect” is and how it works. Researchers that study the brain-body connection have shown in numerous experiments how the brain can be tricked into believing that a simple sugar pill can relieve pain or cure certain illnesses if the person is told and believes that the pill that is being taken truly is genuine medicine.

Our brains are so powerful. They can make physical changes in our bodies beyond what we would normally give them credit for or realize. Last week I was re-reading a book I’ve talked about many times before called Super Brain and I discovered a super concept that I must have skipped over in earlier readings. What the authors, Depak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi point out that really jumped out at me is that any of us can, if we so chose, set up or create our own placebo effect at any time and without any sugar pill or any other kind of pill. (By the way, the word placebo is a Latin word that means ‘I shall please.’)
Chopra and Tanzi explain that “the effect isn’t limited to drugs, which is important to remember: anything you believe in can act as a placebo.” The authors go on to ask the question concerning patients that took the sugar pill “Where did the patient’s relief come from? It came from the mind telling the body to get well.” The body really believed what it was being told and then it relieved the pain or healed the sickness. In other words, your mind can and does control healing of all kinds including pain, disease, and wounds that our bodies deal with from time to time.

These authors go on to say “Being your own placebo is the same as freeing up the healing system through messages from the brain. All healing is, in the end, self-healing. Physicians aid the body’s intricate healing system (which coordinates immune cells, inflammation, hormones, genes and much else), but the actual healing takes place in an unknown way.” Wow. That’s a very powerful thought and one that if we take time to think about it and make use of it, can do some pretty amazing things to help us take care of ourselves.
Using the mind-body connection certainly takes a lot of work inside the brain but when you think of the huge possibilities you can quickly see that it’s certainly worth the work and effort. One of the conclusions that the authors suggest in conquering and taking advantage of the mind-body connection is summed up in this sentence: “In serious illness, doubts and fears play a marked role, which is why a practice like meditation or going to group counseling has been shown to help.” That is certainly worth trying for most, if not all of us, whenever we want to cure our pain, problems or disease. It’s probably a very, very good thing to do on a regular basis.

The authors suggest that there is a method through which anyone can apply their own placebo effect. It requires the same conditions as in a classic placebo response:
1. You trust what is happening.
2. You deal with doubt and fear.
3. You don’t send conflicting messages that get tangled with each other.
4. You have opened the channels of mind-body communications.
5. You let go of your intention and allow the healing system to do its work.
Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves. When we get a cut finger or knee we slap on a band aid and know that it will heal itself. In doing that, we’ve just let our brain send a positive message to our cells to do their job. But when we get a serious disease we let our minds jump into the mix with all kinds of worry and negative thoughts doing pretty much the opposite of the list above. The bottom line here is if were are going to benefit from our own built-in ‘placebo effect’ we’ve got to, at a minimum, follow the list of 5 conditions above. If you can do that, you are supporting your body’s ability to take care of you, as it is supposed to do.

144 Years … or Close to it!

September 12, 2014 by  
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“Multi-Millionaire dies at Age 144!”

That was the audacious headline of a full page article in Denver’s Rocky Mountain News that ran many years ago. It was not exactly an article but it looked like one. It actually was an advertisement of mine. The very first response I received was from the Federal Trade Commission giving me a “cease and desist” order. They said it was false advertising. I responded back to them that they needed to read the entire ad. Yes, the headline was a bit misleading but in the body copy that followed I made it very clear that the 144 year age thing had not been achieved yet, but was my goal. Although I lost the argument and never ran the ad again, the point I was making was, and still is, valid.

What was the ad all about? It was about goal setting and more importantly setting goals for great health and a very long life. And think about it–you can’t prove that I won’t reach this lofty goal as long as I am still alive so as far as we’re all concerned, it’s still a possibility. I agree that hitting age 144 is not very likely, especially since no one in earth’s history has come anywhere close to that. The oldest verified person on record was Jeanne Calment of France, who made it to 122.But whether I get there or not is not the point. The point is I have a goal that is going to drive me to do the best I can.

So, you see, this goal is not about feeding some delusion but rather it is about setting a goal that acts as a constant reminder to choose paths that will move one towards that goal or at least get one close to it. The 144 year goal, for me, is a constant reminder and pointer to eat the best foods, stay physically active, read the best books on health and longevity, and hang around people that have good health goals as well.

So, that’s my message for this week. It’s a short message but I think you get it. So, regardless of how lofty they may be, why not set health and longevity goals for yourself right now!


The Tragedy is in Not Moving On

September 5, 2014 by  
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Tragedy is a word that none of us are fond of.  But you know what, virtually everyone on this planet has tragedy in their lives and if they haven’t had it yet, it’s almost certainly on the way. I don’t care how rich or how poor a person is, tragedy strikes everyone if they live long enough. We all were certainly shocked a few weeks ago when we saw that the loveable, talented and very successful Robin Williams had died by his own hand. This tragedy, as distant as he may be from most of us, touched so many of us nonetheless.

A couple of weeks ago, while talking to a large audience of really great people, I shared the sad, sad story of the biggest tragedy in my life–the death of my sweet, wonderful, 16 year old daughter, Kristin.  Even though that was many years ago, I’ve learned the hard way that you never get over it–that’s the bad news.  The good news is you can learn how to deal with it in a positive way.

After telling the audience about Kristin and how she died, I asked folks to raise their hands if they had has lost a child.  About 3 or 4% of the group slowly raised their hands.  I wasn’t trying to sadden the mood of the group but I was making a very important point.  That point was that if we as human beings are going to prosper and make the world a better place we must learn how to deal with tragedy since we all have or will have tragedy in our lives.

Too often I have heard people complaining and in essence saying, “Poor me. If you had gone through what I’ve been through you would not be able to do any good and great things for yourself or your family let alone strangers and other people out there.” These people are basically saying that because of their unique tragedy, their lives are over and they’ve given up because they have no choice.  If these people would step back a bit and take a look at the big picture and look beyond the facades that nearly everyone puts on, at least to a degree, they’d see that all of us are in the same boat.   And all of us really do have a choice.  We can learn how to deal with the tragedy and move on with our lives. Many times because of that tragedy we’ve had to work through, we can become better people and can be of greater help to those around us. Face the truth–tragedy strikes everyone and none of us will get out of here alive!

Think about that. And please share this message with others that you see that are in need and have not been able to move on quite yet.