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The Power of Book Notes

August 22, 2021 by  
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When I read books, I almost always write notes on the blank pages. I jot down a quote that strikes me or I write my own thoughts that were stimulated by what the author wrote. This week, I’d like to share some of my notes from a couple of great books. I hope they strike and motivate you the way they did me.

In Patrice Jenkins PhD’s great little book What Will I Do ALL DAY?, I wrote down a number of thoughts. Here are a few:

1. Structure can be and should be a very important part of our lives and now that I’m retired, I must push myself for more structure.

2. Set more deadlines and make more commitments and goals and always write them down with a time deadline.

3. Set my alarm and schedule time for working out and stretching.

4. Make a big deal out of small things in my life.

5. Remind myself often that, now that I am retired, I have time to turn molehills into mountains.

6. Remember that it’s very important when retired to find work for yourself.

7. Make a list of new places, cities and countries to visit — at least 6 more countries to add to my 94 already visited.

8. Write down my intentions for each and every day.

9. Take time to make a list of those things I love to do and push myself to concentrate on those items.

And here are a few gems I scribbled down when reading the book Write it Down and Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser.

1. Don’t forget that writing down my intentions works better than just speaking them.

2. Remind myself that I can’t have what I want most until I know what it is.

3. Writing is a good way to force my negative emotional reactions into words and not stomach churning.

4. I need to write down my intentions, my passions, my talents, then write down what actions I should, and can, take.

5. I need to take time to write down things that are not working for me in my life and let them go. Klauser ‘s suggested that you make that list then ceremoniously dispose of that paper, as in burn it or bury it.

Do these notes inspire you to make a few of your own now? Taking down notes as you read a book makes it a much more active and, ultimately, more productive read!

The Greatest High

February 28, 2021 by  
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When I was very young, I never got high. But now, at almost 77, I must admit I get high quite often. In fact, right now is one of those times. I’m high, real high – the captain just announced that we are about 33,000 feet high.

Ho ho… you might have thought I was talking about drugs, drugs that stimulate the brain. Nope. I’ve never done drugs. I really do love being at 30,000 feet or more, as long as I’m on an airplane. Oh yes, I love to travel, and flying not only gets me 30,000 plus feet high, it also lifts my brain as I see and experience new things.

The brain responds tremendously to novelty such as new sights and sounds. It certainly gives me a high. Yes, I know that many people are afraid to fly, especially when they see things like a jet losing an engine over Denver. But wow… look at the odds of dying on a commercial flight. Research shows there is a 1 in 29 million chance that you will die that way.

I love to visit foreign countries, not just because of the flight there, which I love, but because of the uniqueness, the novelty of new countries and new people, and the amazing variety of cultures. Sadly, those great things like foreign travel and being very social were suddenly taken away from us, but it isn’t permanent. Fortunately, it seems like we might be pulling ourselves out of this COVID mess. (And, yes, I did get my COVID vaccine!)

As I write this, we are thousands of feet above the Pacific Ocean, flying from Kauai to Seattle then on to Salt Lake City. And, yes, our months in Hawaii were warm and wonderful although it did rain a ton! But we still got in some tennis time and beach time.

I am a huge believer in staying active. There is so much evidence showing that if you keep moving you will, on average, have better health and a longer life. Pair activity with novel things to do and novel places to visit and you can lead a longer and healthier life while having tons of fun!

We are now making lots of plans for future trips and are very carefully increasing our social life. I hope the best for you as well as we get our lives back to normal. How novel everything will seem then!

Biden’s Hard Work

January 25, 2021 by  
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Last November I wrote my blog about meeting Joe Biden at a house of a friend of mine. I was so very impressed by how intelligent he was. He was also such a nice down to earth guy.

So, yes, I was very delighted that he won the election and is now our president. I’m confident that he will be great for our wonderful nation. And now, of course, I will be showing off the picture of the two of us that I put in my previous November 15th post. I’m sure he loves the picture and he’ll never forget me… ho ho ho.

But, yes, I will put the picture of Biden and I on my home office wall along with the many other famous people I’ve had by my side. And, yes, I still have the big sign above all those photographs that reads, “People Who Don’t Know Me”.

But all joking aside, this past week has brought to mind my deep appreciation for the country that I live in. I’ve traveled the world and visited more than 90 countries and even lived in the middle eastern country of Turkey for a time. I’ll never forget being awakened by gun fire and explosions near our apartment when I lived in Turkey. I ran to the balcony and looked out at hundreds of soldiers and their guns. We were right then living in the middle of a military revolution and a chaotic overthrow of the government. It was quite the experience.

What I have seen in Turkey and elsewhere has helped me realize how proud, pleased, free, and safe I have been living in this great country called America. I am quite confident that the next 4 years will make us an even better country and place to live.

I do have confidence that President Biden will be instrumental in bringing Americans closer together, regardless of our political differences, education, or wealth. I’ve been reading a bit about Joe’s background and it doesn’t surprise me that he has done so much in his life.

Biden is a very hard worker, so much so that in high school he was the star of the football team and led his team to a perfect undefeated season, making many, many touchdowns himself. If you want to be one of the best in almost any field, it takes lots and lots of hard work and time.

I know this from my own personal experiences, both in business and sports. When I was in high school, I set a goal to be a great basketball player and spent 4 to 5 hours a day practicing. My biggest specific goal was to help my small American high school in Ankara, Turkey win the big American basketball tournament in Rome, Italy. And, yes, we did win the tourney and I went on to get a basketball scholarship at Utah State University. That was the good news. The bad news was that I mostly sat on the bench there. Oh, well. I hit my goal of being on the team at least.

Joe Biden certainly knows and applies those ideas. He takes lots and lots of time and puts in a ton of hard work. He’s done it big time now as the President of the United State of America.

 

Something New, Near or Far

December 27, 2020 by  
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The human mind is an incredible machine. Our brain can remember tons of facts, experiences, feelings, and more. I find it so very interesting and exciting that, after struggling to remember some situation, name, or fact and giving up, later that day or even the next day, like magic, while I’m not even trying, the answer will suddenly pop into my head. I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced the same phenomena.

Yes, our brains are amazing but they do need to be fed. There is this super great thing we can do for our brains when we are feeling down in the dumps. It’s a simple little thing called “novelty”. Our brains crave novelty! Being exposed to something new and totally different than we’ve ever seen or experienced before does amazing things for our brains.

Today I was very bored and a bit down (Thanks COVID for picking on me and, well, pretty much everybody!) That bad ole virus has kicked our social life in the face and it wiped out the wife’s and my travel plans this year. Nearly every year we fly to Paris and from there go on to visit new countries, seeing so many new sights and faces. We are missing the novelty that we get when we travel to new places and meet new and different people.

With my brain being a bit down, I have certainly had the urge to see something novel lately and a few days ago, I knew that I was going to need that very, very soon. So, I did a very simple thing that didn’t take an airplane or a lot of time. We just jumped in my car and started driving.

I drove to places, neighborhoods, and business districts that I had never seen and it worked! Yes, we found novelty in places nearby. Seeing pretty much anything that is new to your eyes and brain can lift your feelings and attitude. It was only a one-hour drive but, wow, it was a great lift for my brain and mood and it was such a simple thing to do.

In today’s COVID world, and especially around Christmas and New Year times, we need to push ourselves to seek out and find those new sights, sounds, people, and experiences that stimulate our brains. Yes, it may take some thinking and planning but that’s not hard to do.

So, I am going to challenge myself, my family, friends, and, yes, you the reader to look for and find things to see, do, and experience, especially now as we start a new year. Let’s all go do it and make 2021 and great new and exciting year!

Friends: A Vital Part of Our Lives

December 13, 2020 by  
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A few weeks ago, I got a terrible phone call from my best high school friend’s two adult kids. What they told me cut me to the core. They were calling from the hospital where their dad had just died.

Richard Harvey was my dear brother and the first black guy that I really got to know. He was my high school buddy and my basketball teammate. We met in Ankara, Turkey when our fathers were working overseas to help other countries. I knew he had been in the hospital because I had talked to him on the phone a few weeks earlier. He sounded find and we all thought he was recovering. The phone call from his kids was like a giant punch in the face and gut.

Richard Harvey and I, along with other American kids, attended a small high school in Ankara, Turkey. He truly was my soulmate and we bonded very quickly when we both made it on the high school basketball team. We got better every week and worked so hard at it. A big part of that great improvement came from my older brother Bruce’s death on the first day of tryouts for the team. Bruce died right in front of me.

Because of that, Richard and I, along with our great big Texas center Ed Beckcom, made a commitment to win in my brother’s honor. We practiced many, many hours each day. There were many small American High Schools in Europe, the middle East, and even northern Africa, and we were bound and determined to win the championship for that entire area.

The big championship tournament is held each year in a huge stadium in Rome, Italy. Thinking back after Rich’s death I had some vivid memories. We did in fact make it to the finals of the Rome tournament and even to this day I marvel at what happened in that game.

Notre Dame high school was the number one favorite and we were to play them in the finals. It was a very close game and with only 20 seconds left, Notre Dame was 1 point ahead and had the ball. They took one last long shot and it missed. Big Ed Beckcom went high in the air and came down with the rebound. The outlet pass went to me and Richard and I were speeding down the court with two on one. The clock was ticking down very fast.

When we got close to our basket, I faked a shot and threw a bounce pass to Richard and, as I did, Richard slipped and fell. Oh my gosh, I was petrified! But as he hit the floor, he tossed the ball up toward the basket and, miracle of all miracles, the ball went in the basket as the buzzer sounded.

WE WON, WE WON! Wow, were we ever excited and in 7th heaven. We did it for Bruce, and for us too! That day certainly cemented our friendship and we’ve kept in touch all these years. Hmm … that’s about 60 years!

I know that you, the reader, know the huge importance and gift of having good friends and we especially see how important that is since COVID-19 has made it hard to be close to them or make new friends. So, let’s all double down and reach out to friends, old and new, on phone calls, through texts, and on the internet and stay connected with these dear and important parts of our lives.

In photo above: Ed Beckcom (top row, left), Richard Harvey (middle row, right) and me (bottom row, left.) 

A Sterling Mentorship

December 6, 2020 by  
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A couple of days ago I was re-reading one of my old journals and came across a truly inspiring and motivating letter I had tucked in there from 1978 from one of my mentors. He was so helpful to me, both personally and through some of the 22 books that he wrote. This mentor was Sterling W. Sill, a great thinker and motivator.

Here are a few of the things he said in the letter he sent me back in 1978 which I just loved.

“I appreciate very much your thoughtful letter of October 1. I think you have the attitude of a winner.” He went on to write, “I think you are a great person, Mark, and I think you are about a dozen times greater now than before.” I was so amazed that he appreciated one of my letters as he was my idol.

Sterling also quoted something that Shakespeare once said that I thought was very enlightening: “The best men are sometimes molded out of faults.”

He went on to say, “Someone who never made a mistake isn’t likely to be going any place very important. And sometimes, I think, somebody needs somebody to help lift him up outside of himself. He needs some assurances from someone who can take a position of precedence over the arguments of his own self-accusation.”

It was so strange and wonderful that one of my idols had given me so much credit and so many complements. In re-reading his letter, it struck me that any of us can not only learn great lessons from great people but we can also pay it forward and help other people. Believe me, they will thank you for the rest of their lives just like I thank Sterling and so many other mentors. I owe him so much and will remember him for the rest of my life.

 

Retirement – The Best or the Worst

October 11, 2020 by  
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I’m sure you, like most people would agree that the majority of us humans look forward to the day we get to retire. You know … no alarm clock to wake us up, no worrying about pleasing our boss, and so many other things we won’t have to do. You imagine life will be so great, that you will be able to relax, do anything you want to do, have tons of fun, and be able to travel anywhere in the world (that you can afford) on a whim.

Well, you know what? Some of that may be true. But when you find yourself without a schedule or purpose, that can get very depressing. You might even go a little crazy. And nowadays we have COVID-19 on top of that so it can be even worse. In fact, most of us are getting a preview of retirement now that our routines have been so dramatically changed.

You might find yourself asking, “Just what am I going to do today?”

The smart one’s among us begin to make lots of plans long before they hit that retirement wall. When I was preparing to retire, I made a few plans, but I didn’t create enough to-do lists or new routines.

So, what did I do when I was feeling down because of my lack of a schedule? I turned to books written about retirement. In Ernie J. Zelinski’s great book The Joy of Not Working, he makes lots of great suggestions such as, “One of the chief sources of happiness is having a special purpose or a personal mission in life … Finding and pursuing your true calling can make life a totally new experience.”

He then gives some examples of personal missions:

1. Make the world a better place to live by reducing pollution.

2. Raise money to help care for others in need.

3. Help children develop a special talent or skill, such as playing piano.

4. Write entertaining children’s book that help young boys and girls discover the wonders of the world.

5. Give foreign travelers the best possible tour of the Rocky Mountains.

6. Create a committed relationship and keep it exciting and energizing.

The author goes on to say, “Although a true calling should be closely tied to your values and interests, it can also be determined by your strengths and weaknesses. Your personal mission will intimately connect you to who you are and to the world around you. Taking the time to answer the following questions may help reveal a personal mission that you would like to pursue.”

I must say that his questions really helped me:

1. What are all your passions?

2. What are your strengths?

3. Who are your heroes?

4. What do you want to discover or learn?

Answering those great questions can put you on the right track. It has for me. So, if you are not retired yet, start making specific plans. And if you are retired and struggling, answer those questions above to help you discover your great purpose and direction for this new chapter in your life.

 

Solving the Mystery of You

October 4, 2020 by  
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As I promised in last week’s post, I’m going to discuss how we solve our own “mystery”, the mystery being what it is we really want out of life.

To help point you in the right direction and solve this mystery, I have compiled the following questions for you to ask yourself. Write or print out the questions along with your answers after contemplating them.

Then, after a bit of time, go back, and reread the questions and your answers, letting them sift through all the corners of your mind. Don’t get impatient with this. This is important “inner-self” work you are doing, laying a fertile foundation for that which is to come.

  1. What do you naturally and instinctively like to do? Forget about any financial or time constraints. Let your mind be open and flow and just write down the first things that come to your mind.
  2. What did you like to do when you were a kid? What was your passion then?
  3. What is it that you do now that really gets your juices flowing?
  4. What comes easily to you? Are these your passions?
  5. What puts you in such a mental state that you lose all sense of time to the extent that you say to yourself, “please let this moment linger” or “I wish this moment and feeling would never end”?
  6. What is it you most want to stand for?
  7. What do you want to be remembered for or leave to the world?

 

Now, take time to dig deep!

Make an appointment with yourself and sift through the questions above. Remember, it takes time – sometimes weeks or even months – to discover what’s hidden in the inner regions of your mind and heart.

Take time to seek advice from others. Especially from those you think highly of and those who have done some of the things you are considering doing with your life. Go ahead, call those gurus, those super successful people who you’ve always admired and tell them that you’d like just a few minutes of their time. Sometimes people who seem far above the masses are more available and approachable than you would believe.

I’ll never forget the desire I had when I was young to pick the brain of the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, who made a billion dollars after the age of 55. I was stunned, shocked, surprised, and pleased when I was told by Mr. Kroc’s secretary that Mr. Kroc has agreed to meet with me and talk face to face! Wow!

Read and research all items and areas you can that deal with the wants on your dream list, the areas that seem to be most relevant to you and your life and how you can reach your dreams and goals.

As you read, research, and talk to the right people, be sure to write down not only what comes from those sources about what may fit your ideal life, but also record on paper or in your computer all of your own thoughts, ideas, and feelings that come up. This, as you will see, will be helpful and insightful to you later on when you re-read your own thoughts and words that passed through your mind.

Our Unfulfilled Ambitions

September 27, 2020 by  
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Do you have, like most of us, unfulfilled passions? If so, what are those passions? Do you love music, art, ballet, sports, outdoor adventures, traveling to new places, writing, social interactions, running a small business, or any other great possibility?

Take some time to contemplate and think about that. Once you have the answers, be sure to write down what your unfulfilled passions are. Then ask yourself this:

“Am I doing that special something that I love to do, and am I doing it for my own reasons?”

And… what are those reasons?

Then ponder this:

What kind of a breakthrough would you be ecstatic to have in your life in terms of your health, wealth, personal expression, spiritual development, etc.

Additionally, ask yourself:

In what would you like to excel?

What follows are just a few general categories I would like you to run through the gray matter of your brain before we really get focused.

Look at this list to see what overall categories might jump out at you or might be in the unfulfilled category so far in your life. Which of these categories are calling out to you and why?

  1. Artistic
  2. Sports
  3. Career
  4. Education
  5. Financial
  6. Physical
  7. Health
  8. Family
  9. Social
  10. Public Service

Of course, feel free to add more categories to this list.

It’s not at all unusual for most people to struggle with identifying their inner ambitions, especially in midlife and as they get older. It can become less clear as to what we really want out of life as we become bombarded by responsibilities, daily cares, and concerns.

And, yes, many young people have these struggles, too!

However, as kids, most of us knew what we wanted or at least thought we knew what we wanted. But the older we get, the less sure of ourselves we often become.

It is a rare individual who knows exactly what he or she wanted as a young person and follows that all through life, never faltering, never getting sidetracked, and never getting discouraged.

Most of us, as we hit midlife, start questioning what we really, really want out of life. It can be such a mystery. So, in next week’s blog post, I want to talk about the possible ways to solve your own mystery!

Rediscovering Passion

September 20, 2020 by  
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Passion for life is a very important thing and as we get older, unfortunately, many of us lose our passion for life. I’m sure you have noticed that little kids seem to have the most passion for life. For a kid, most things are new to them and, as we all know, novelty is what they thrive on.

In our later years, we’ve seen so much and done so much that most things are not new to us. That makes it easy to lose our passion. You may feel that you have lost some of your passion and you ask yourself, “Why don’t I have passion for my life now?” or “Why don’t I know what I want in life?” Those two questions are particularly bothersome if you once had great passion for the things you did and then, as you got older, you lost some of that passion.

If that has not happened to you, maybe someone you know and care about has hit that wall. Far too many people give up on life. They fear striking out in aggressive, new directions. They fear risk. They fear the possibility of failure and losing what they have.

With some new insight and some very directed work, that passion for living can come screaming back for you or someone you love that you want to help. It’s all about continuing to turn what you really want, what you dream of, into specific goals and then transforming them step-by-step into reality – your reality!

A good way to start is to write it all down. First, ask yourself specific questions, like the ones I list below. Write down the thoughts that each of these questions stimulate. Don’t just think about them.

  1. Do I want to substantially raise my level of contentment and fulfillment?
  2. Do I want to become a better person?
  3. Do I want to be known as a person of accomplishment?
  4. Do I want to be in great physical and mental shape with ideal health my entire life?
  5. Do I want to live a very long, active life?
  6. Do I want to make a fortune – a million dollars, or $10 million, or even $100 million? (Think of all the good you could do with that much money!)
  7. Do I want the choices and possibilities in my life that making my own fortune could give me?
  8. Do I want to leave the world a better place than I found it?
  9. Do I want to help others as I help myself?
  10. Do I want to travel and experience the entire world and its cultures?

Again, be sure to write down your honest responses to the self-searching questions above. It’s a good idea for you to develop some of your own life questions and answer those too!

In fact, add two last questions for yourself:

  1. What do you have a true passion for in your life?
  2. What part of your life or past life, including your childhood, got you so excited that you totally lost track of time?

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