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Lessons from Ukraine

October 2, 2022 by  
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Like many of you, this war in Ukraine has been weighing very heavily on my mind. It just seems so stupid and pointless. It has gotten me thinking about my visit to that beautiful country in 2011. Back then, we spent a very pleasurable couple of days in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital and one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe. The city has been on a crazy roller coaster throughout its history. It’s gone from great prosperity and prominence to near obscurity and everything in between. And although the Russians aren’t at the capital, and hopefully will never get there in this crazy war, the spirit of that city represents the whole country, a place that we can all learn from as we hope and pray for an end to this awful fighting.

It was thought that Kiev was a commercial center of Eastern Europe as early as the 5th century, being on the route between Scandinavia and Constantinople. In the 9th century, the city was seized by Vikings, then it was demolished by Mongols in the mid-13th century. The city made a comeback during the Russian Empire’s Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, going on to eventually be chosen as the capital of the newly formed Ukrainian National Republic in 1917. It weathered the sweeping communist reforms of the early 20th century only to be greatly damaged in World War II. Even so, it recovered to become the 3rd largest city of the Soviet Union. Half a century later, Ukraine claimed its independence and Kiev, again, became the capital of a richly fertile, if still financially struggling, land.

For all its hardships, including the one it’s dealing with right now, the country is historically resilient and strong. It has had huge challenges and, sometimes, great defeats. But being knocked down has only been a temporary state for this country and its capital city. It keeps getting back up and keeps moving forward.

If this place, which has been invaded, demolished, controlled by its neighbors, and beaten-up multiple times can recover to claim and reclaim its prominent position after all it’s been through, we can hold on to tremendous hope for the Ukrainian people, and for ourselves, because they represent the possibilities for us all.

So, next time you are facing a huge challenge or defeat, consider how much the country of Ukraine has been through and how the people there are persevering and even pushing back the much bigger country of Russia. If Ukraine and its beautiful capital can do that with all they have been up against, there is no reason why we as individuals can’t weather our challenges and fully recover from our own losses and defeats as well, if not come back better than ever.  

Embrace the Struggle

March 20, 2022 by  
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Think about this:

How would you feel if you played a game of golf tomorrow and shot a perfect score—that is, you shot par on every single hole? How would the inside of your head handle that experience, especially if it was your very first time playing golf?

Understandably, you most likely would feel fantastic initially. How high on the satisfaction scale would that golf score put you? I’d say pretty much at the top! Contentment? Oh, yes, you’d be pretty darn content. Satisfaction? Yes, huge amounts of that!

But how long would those feelings last? I’m afraid that, for most people, it would not last very long.

The fact is a perfect score =no fun.

I bet your reaction to that statement is, at first, “No way! A perfect score is what I’d be after so, of course it’d be fun!”

But let’s fast-forward a week. Let’s say you played golf a second time and, again, got that perfect par score. How would you feel at that time? Sure, you’d still feel pretty good, right?

Now, let’s say that you continue to shoot a perfect par score every time, no matter what golf course you played. How do you think you would feel if it continued that way, where a perfect score became absolutely routine for you? Would you continue to feel content and satisfied?

Not likely. Now why is that?

The thing is, we really don’t appreciate things unless we’ve worked for them. That’s one of the reasons that almost all lottery winners end up miserable. They didn’t have to work for that money, so there’s nothing to be proud of by gaining it. We just don’t value or derive much satisfaction from things in our lives that we didn’t have to struggle with, fight for, or otherwise work hard to have and achieve.

We do much better, are happier and more content, when we are challenged and, especially when we overcome the challenges! Like with that imaginary first game of golf where you got a perfect score. It would have been super exciting then because you didn’t know you could do it, actually probably assumed you’d play terribly, but you would have tried your best, making that perfect score feel well-earned! After that though, you would know you could do it, so it would become less and less exciting.  

Now let’s say you decided to be a golf pro in 5 years. Lots of people would say you can’t do that. But if you work really hard, golf every chance you get, and take lessons from the absolute best trainers, you might just get to go pro before those 5 years were up. Now, think about how THAT would feel! It would be beyond amazing, right? Better than a surprise perfect score first game even.

You see, we just love beating the odds and achieving really hard things. It makes us feel accomplished and of value to ourselves and others. We also get to tell the stories of our struggles and how we reached our goals!

So, next time you find yourself wishes things were easy, that you could win all the time, and that things you want would just fall in your lap, remember that you won’t be all that happy if that’s how things always went for you. Embrace the challenges and look forward to your hard won accomplishments!

Noticing Forgetfulnss Can be a Good Sign

February 20, 2022 by  
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Today I want to talk about the human memory. Most young people don’t think about this but, when you get a little older and start forgetting things, it can be a little scary. So, regardless of age, this information could prove to be very helpful and is something you can share with both old and young friends and family.

Complaints and concerns about memory issues come up a lot with people 60 years and older. They often worry that it might be Alzheimer’s. However, the vast majority of forgetfulness in people 60 and older does not turn out to be dementia, including Alzheimer’s. 

In most cases, as you will see, a little loss of memory is not that serious. If you worry that you might be suffering from memory loss, here’s a quote from professor Bruno Dubois, director of the Institute of Memory and Alzheimer’s Disease, that should help alleviate your concerns:

If anyone is aware of their memory problems, they do not have Alzheimer’s.

It’s estimated that more than 80% of people with Alzheimer’s are, on some level, unaware of their forgetfulness. They suffer from what’s known as anosognosia, which is the inability to recognize that one has a cognitive problem or other disability. So, being aware of your forgetfulness is a good sign that you aren’t likely to develop the disease.

Common issues with forgetfulness that you don’t need to worry about include:

  • Forgetting the name of a person
  • Going to a room and not remembering what you went there for
  • Blanking on a movie title or actor or actress
  • Forgetting where you left glasses or keys

After 60 years of age, most people have difficulty with these things, but these lapses generally indicate a characteristic due to the passage of years, not a disease. Even knowing this, many people may still be concerned about their symptoms, so I think it’s important to share additional statements like these by Professor Dubois: 

Those who are conscious of being forgetful have no serious problem with memory.

Dubois also notes that:

The more we complain about memory loss, the less likely we are to suffer from memory sickness.

Wow! Was I ever thrilled to learn all of this since my memory is not what it used to be. I do feel a lot better!

Now, this is not to say that just because some forgetfulness is common, you shouldn’t work on your brain and try to keep it young. You can do that easily. Just constantly introduce it to novel experiences and learn new things. Stay active, socialize, travel, and challenge yourself all the time. 

Keeping your memory sharp sure sounds like a good time, doesn’t it?

The Challenge of Retirement

January 30, 2022 by  
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For those of you that have recently retired, or if you are approaching retirement and doing some planning, there are a few unexpected surprises that might be waiting for you. At least there were for me.

I had looked forward to being retired and having all that extra time to do anything I wanted to like travel, play more tennis, and just have a great time. Well, I must tell you, when that day arrived, I was in for an enormous surprise.

I don’t think most of us realize what a great challenge retirement can be. It didn’t hit me immediately, but after a few months of it, I found myself going stir crazy. I came to realize that we humans need structure and a routine. Without that, we can become very frustrated. I talked to a few friends that had retired a year or so before I did and they told me that the same thing hit them. We all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning and I didn’t have any routine or daily plans to motivate me.

At that point, I began to see how very important things like going to the office and interacting with others were for us humans. I missed the social part of my work life and struggled with feelings of worthlessness because I wasn’t producing anything. We thrive on being productive which helps those around us and lifts our brain and lives to a higher level. Sure, I can travel more and have great fun hanging out with my kids, grandkids, and friends, but we need to be contributing to our lives and the world around us in some way as well.

My advice to everyone is to plan for retirement, not just financially, but in what you will do with your time. Make lists and talk with others that have retired or are heading that way fairly soon to see what, if anything, they are planning. It’s a good idea to look at your life and think about what brings you the greatest pleasure and what stimulates your brain and then see if you can build your retirement around those things.

Patrice Jenkins, PhD, wrote a brilliant book called What Will I Do All Day? Wisdom to Get Over Retirement and on with Living. In the book, she offers some great advice: “Creating meaningful work in retirement provides an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. If you’d like to, you can redefine yourself — try something new and different… In retirement, you have the freedom to be anything that suits you.”

Even if you are many years away from retirement, it’s not too early to do some thinking and planning now. I think you will be very glad that you did when those retirement days come around.

With a Little Ingenuity

October 24, 2021 by  
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After the last few weeks, going back and forth to the hospital and working with my doctors and medical technicians, I feel so very grateful and appreciative of all the great minds and effort involved in recovering my health. I found I have become particularly grateful for those human beings who invented the many incredible medical devices, procedures, and tests that have saved so many lives and relieved so much pain.

With everything I went through, I couldn’t help thinking about all the many life-changing inventions that we humans have come up with. From the fairly simple stethoscope to more complex inventions like x-rays, MRIs, and those great angiogram devices. Think about how obvious some of these inventions are but how life changing and life enhancing they can be.

There are so many very simple inventions that we use in our day-to-day lives, like the paper clip or even just paper. Of course, one of the biggest, most basic inventions was the wheel. It changed the world in all kinds of ways. What a different world we would be in if the wheel didn’t exist. We’d have no cars, bikes, airplanes, or trains, to mention just a very few things.

Even the simplest of inventions can lead to changes worldwide. One single spin off (no joke intended) of the wheel was the fairly recent invention of adding them to a suitcase. This made travel so much easier and less painful (especially for us old folks).

It was in 1970 that Benard Sadow took casters off a wardrobe trunk, mounted them on the bottom of a big suitcase, added a strap to the front end, and off he went to make history. Then in 1987 Robert Plath, an airline pilot, turned the suitcase on its side, attaching two wheels and a retractable handle, making a more stable rolling suitcase that you didn’t have to bend over to grab.

These inventors simply took everyday items and put them together. Looking back at these inventions, they seem so basic and simple that I wonder why it wasn’t thought of sooner. In fact, why didn’t I think of that?

Thinking about the many, many inventions human beings have invented through the ages, I found a list of some very popular inventions that are hard to imagine us doing without. These include things like duct tape, nails, Post-it notes, DNA testing, the internet, vaccines, and medical imaging. I could list dozens and dozens, but I think I’ve made my point.

Some inventions were fluke discoveries but many were matter of simply trying to solve a problem. If you and I pay attention and really put our minds to it, there is no reason we couldn’t come up with some new developments or inventions ourselves. Maybe make a list of common items, systems, and habits we all have and then go up and down the list and see if you can put two or three items together in a way to come up with a new product or better way to handle life and its challenges. Maybe work with your family or friends to brainstorm ideas. Give it a shot and see what you come up with. You could surprise yourself, and the rest of us as well!

For Love of Work

September 19, 2021 by  
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Last week, I said I would tell more of the story about Bunker Bean who I spoke about in the last couple of posts. However, I am going to do that next week as I have something else I want to share with you first.

Recently, I was thumbing through a great book that I read years ago entitled When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough by Harold Kushner. As I always do when I read a book, I wrote down many of the most interesting, helpful, and motivating quotes and comments that the author made. These notes are a great way to go back and easily refresh my memory since they highlight those points that hit me the hardest and helped lift my thoughts, actions, and life to a higher level.

Here are some of the points in this book that really helped me, especially the comments about work and how important it is for all of us:

l. Work can be the scaffolding that holds up our adult lives. (I need to keep remembering this as being retired makes it more difficult to find and do the best kinds of work for me.)

2. The key to one’s happiness is to find pleasure in our work and to use our abilities–no wasting them!

3. Our souls are hungry for meaning.

4. We work for meaning. We work so our days will not be empty of meaning!

5. Do not expect that life will always be fair.

6. For ultimate satisfaction, lower the level of what you want to what you already have.

7. The affliction which drains so much of the sense of meaning from our lives these days is that disease of boredom.

Kushner makes several other notable points in this book that are not easily summarized and put into a list. For example, he writes, “Asked, “’What do you do?’ we invariably respond in terms of our work, not our hobbies or organizational commitments,” implying that work is often our identity.

About himself, he notes that, “I work because I have a family to support and bills to pay. But I work also because it puts me in touch with people and helps me think of myself as a competent, contributing person.”

Kushner also writes that “there is something satisfying about being challenged to do something hard and then doing it. I think it must have been what Ecclesiastes had in mind when he said to us, in effect, ‘If you are not going to win a Nobel Prize for your work, if it is not going to make you rich and famous, it can still give meaning to your life if you take it seriously and do it with all your might.’”

I think the author makes many wonderful comments and offers some very helpful advice. It’s a great little book and I highly encourage you to get it and read it but, most importantly, LIVE by the advice that you think will make a big difference in your life, a difference for the better.

Aging and the Brain

May 2, 2021 by  
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Ernestine Shepherd, named the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in 2010, is still very active today, although not competitive, at 84 years old.

Having just turned age 77, I’ve caught myself thinking way too much about my age which has not helped me at all. It has got me worrying more about aging. But then my son sent me a book on aging that talks about how much our thinking can affect how we age. I started the book and have been amazed.

The human mind is a very complex and interesting part of our bodies. It can be a huge help to us but it also has the potential to harm us. I’m halfway through the book and am learning so much about how the brain can help our aging selves. If we use our brain correctly, it can actually be a big factor in keeping us younger than our actual number of years.

The book, Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age, was written by Jo Ann Jenkins who, at very young age, became the CEO of AARP. Jo Ann said she wrote the book, “because I believe there is a bigger conversation to be had — focused not on just the historic burdens but also on the potential historic benefits of living longer.”

She goes on to say we need to change our thinking and change the conversation about what it means to get older. Our minds and actions should be not about aging. Our lives can be lived feeling much younger and doing so much more than people several generations ago could or would do.

She makes the point that, “Science is making longer lives possible, and we’re just now beginning to realize the opportunities those longer lives offer. People are reinventing work, searching for purpose, embracing technology, and opening themselves up to new experiences like never before.”

As we age, we really need to focus on our health, our wealth, and really work hard to develop a very good sense of our purpose at a middle age or older. That can extend your life in a big way.

Jo Ann preaches how life enhancing it is to think like a younger person, emphasizing that we should try new things, take chances, and not fear aging. She also tells the wonderful story of a 79-year-old lady, Ernestine Shepherd. “With her flat stomach, toned arms, and excellent health, you’d never guess this female bodybuilder is seventy- nine years old… following the death of her sister and many health problems and depression, Shepherd set a goal to get in shape. She was declared the World’s Oldest Performing Female Bodybuilder by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010.”

Wow, what a great story. That should motivate all of us to go after our big goals no matter how tough they may seem and put our fears aside. Yep, it can all be done in your mind, in our great brains.

I do want to talk more about this subject of aging and some of the other things our brain can do to help us stay young, active, and productive. So, next week’s blog I will continue down this road.

Hard Working Spies

February 21, 2021 by  
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My dear wife Kimberly read a very fascinating book which she then talked me into reading. The book’s title is The Spy and the Traitor written by Ben Macintyre. It’s a true story about spies and counter spies in Russia, England, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands. I was not too interested, at least not at first, but with her request and gentle prodding, I picked it up while on vacation in Kauai and began to read.

Wow, what a book it is! Now, I’m only 100 pages in out of 335, but it’s really got me hooked. It’s a very fascinating read about some very dangerous spy and counter spy activity that I’m pretty sure is still going on. But the thing that really impressed me was the lengths these spies would go to accomplish their objectives.

The main character is a guy by the name of Oleg Gordievsky who is working for the Russian KGB, but the more he sees the western world of Denmark and England with its free market, freedom of speech, and all those things that go with Western and free enterprise countries, the more he realizes that communism is not the best way to go for human beings. So, Oleg is drawn towards the free enterprise cultures but as a top Russian spy he has to hide his thoughts and beliefs so as not to be sent back to Moscow where he could be imprisoned or even put to death.

Reading this great book about the true story of Oleg and so many of his friends and enemies certainly made me stop and think of how good we have it living in a great free country that allows us to think our own thoughts, write about them, and publish them without fear of being arrested or put to death. Plus, we have this amazing freedom to make a terrific living, maybe even making millions of dollars without bribing anyone or dodging the law.

The spies on both sides in this book were pushed to lengths that were almost unbelievable. They worked, studied, and spent unbelievable amounts of time planning what they were told to do and accomplish. It made me think that if we, as free men and women in America, were pushed half as hard by others or by ourselves, it would almost be a certainty that our success would be astronomical. So many of us could be making millions, or even billions, as well as helping others to do the same thing or to chase other great and noble causes that don’t involve money.

Our problem is that so many times we have it way too easy and we just move along at a normal, or even slow pace, depending on where we live and what our friends and relatives around us are doing. For the most part, it seems like we follow our family, friends, and neighbors rather than push ourselves to great new heights. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s all up to you and me. Think about how hard you push yourself and whether you can push yourself further to gain even more in your life.

 

 

When the Brain Let’s Go

February 7, 2021 by  
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I continue to read and reread David Hawkins great book called Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender. I’m even more into it now, especially with all the evidence he gives on the huge power of the brain and how it can do so much to aid the body, including its power to cure diseases. It’s all done by giving the brain the right signals. And, of course, if you give it the wrong signals, it can cause lots of problems.

The brain, if used right, really does have the power to eliminate disease. It’s all about your thoughts and feelings. Dr. Hawkins tells of how his brain eliminated and stopped more than a dozen different physical problems that he had. He did it by using what he calls the “letting go” technique. “Once the mind knows the way to alleviate its inner pressure, like Pandora’s box, it begins to let all the garbage up, and up it came in profusion!”

Hawkins healed himself from more than a dozen physical and medical problems by using his brain. He did this with migraine headaches, gastritis, hyperacidity, and intermittent pylorospasm. He also cured what he calls “middle age syndrome”. He describes this as, “Coldness in hands and feet, loss of energy and libido, and depression.” He adds that, “The mounting pressure of suppressed emotion in all areas of life obviously contributed to the multiplicity of illnesses.”

To get the brain working on healing the body, one of the first things Hawkins says you should do is “stop giving a physical disorder a name; do not label it.” Instead, ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” For some reason this does make a difference and for the good.

I love David’s summary of this thing called “letting go”. He does so by describing the process he went through: “Now, like it or not, it had to be acknowledged that everyone is a thinking/feeling organism. It would not work to keep denying reality. Before long, it was okay to have feelings. With the letting go technique, the only way out was to acknowledge and relinquish the feelings. This became easier as the physical condition started to improve … Within days of using the technique, the physical condition at the lower end of the gastrointestinal tract promptly healed itself and, in fact, the surgery was cancelled.”

Then he wraps it up, saying, “How wonderful to be free and to experience the power of mind! It was obvious … that we are only subject to those things that we hold in mind. It is not necessary to be a slave or victim in the world.”

The Benefits List

January 31, 2021 by  
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In these tough times of COVID it’s easy to become very negative about so many things. In the book Letting Go, David R. Hawkins talks about choosing the positive thoughts to push out negative thoughts. He says, “There is an inner reality that we can term our ‘inner greatness’ or ‘higher self’. It has much more power than the inner negativity. In return for letting go of the payoffs that we were getting from the negative position, we are now surprised by the positive payoff. We are subject only to what we hold in mind…The body will respond to what we believe.”

Years ago, I came up with a simple trick that keeps my mind on a positive track. I know how easy it is to let goals slip away from me so I take time to write down, not only the goal, but all of the benefits that sticking with and achieving my objective will bring me. And then when I think of more benefits, I add those to my benefit list. I called this B-RAM, which is short for Benefits, Rewards and Motivation. I also call it my “Big Brain Booster”.

I would strongly suggest that you try it out. Take time to write down all the benefits that sticking with your goals will give you. We certainly have enough time in these COVID days to think these through and come up with lots of benefits we’ll get from reaching our goals.

Now, we may not be able to get out and about to pursue all our goals, at least right now. But given time, this pandemic will be over and we can be so very ready to go after our preset goals and find ourselves glued to them because we can see all of the benefits as we review our list.

Here’s how I came up with this B-RAM concept. Years ago, I had been reading a great book called Beyond the 120-Year Diet by Dr. Roy Walford, a leading expert on longevity. As I read the book and saw how difficult some of the calorie restrictions were on the diet he recommended, I began writing down the benefits that would help me stick with this tough calorie restricted diet. I needed extra motivation so my list made it much easier to stick with the diet. After that, any time I got discouraged, got weak, or got diverted on this diet, I looked at my list and it remotivated me and reminded me of why I set the goal in the first place.

It can be easy to forget why you set certain goals but when you go back to your list of benefits, it’s easy to remember why and it keeps you on track to achieve your goals. And believe me, it’s not easy to stay on a very restricted calorie diet as you probably can understand, especially if you’ve ever been down that road.

As I’m sure you know, if you have followed my posts or read my books, writing down your goals and objectives, putting a timeline on those goals, and revisiting what you wrote increases the chance of you reaching them. It doesn’t matter whether your goals are health or wealth. It works for those goals and many more.

So, now, in these COVID times, let’s all spend more time making benefit lists for our goals. And don’t forget to put your list of goals and benefits in a very convenient place so you can visit them often and easily!

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