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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.

 

A Season for Appreciation

December 20, 2020 by  
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The holidays are upon us. What a great time of the year this is! It’s a season of celebration that usually brings back many special memories of family and friends. To me, though, it’s mostly about giving. Okay, yes, as a kid it was mostly about receiving but that was a very long time ago!

The act of giving returns so many super wonderful feelings in such a big way to the giver, sometimes to the point that the giver can feel guilty for getting so much out of it. I remember one particular experience a while back that gave me a twinge of guilt after I had done a rather small thing.

I was coming out of a mall when I saw two young ladies, probably in their early to mid-20’s, sitting on a little wall taking a break from one of the shops they obviously worked at. As I walked by, I handed each of them a 2-dollar bill saying, “This is for luck. Don’t spend it. Just keep it for luck.” 

I usually give these to kids between 6 and 8 years old and watch their excited reaction and joy. It is one of my favorite giving things to do. But I guess, in this case, since I was struck by the season of giving we are in, I handed these to the young ladies without thinking. Both girls said “Oh, I’m sorry I can’t accept this.”

I replied, “Give it to a kid and watch the big smile on their face.”

Reluctantly they accepted. Then they began to thank me as if I’d given them $100 dollar bills.

As I started to walk away, they asked, “Hey, where are you from?”

I replied, “Oh, I’m from here but I grew up in the Middle East, in the country of Turkey.” And then, of course, I had to lay a little Turkish on them, what little I remembered.

One of the girls surprised me by answering back in Arabic (the two languages have a lot of common words) and then they explained they were from Israel where they’d learned a little Arabic. So, we had something in common.

As I walked toward my car, I began thinking about how their great appreciation for my very small gift made me feel so good. I realized that appreciation is really a gift too and, often, a big and glorious one.

Feeling a little connected to these young ladies and warmed by their great appreciation and friendliness, I got in my car and drove back to where they sat, giving both of them a copy of my latest book.

Wow, talk about receiving a huge gift back! Their appreciative words and genuine feelings absolutely overwhelmed me. You would have thought I’d given them a million dollars. They called me an angel from heaven and thanked me to the point that their appreciation was almost embarrassing.

What did I really take away from this experience though? I realized that the biggest gifts any of us can give are not objects or anything you can put a price tag on, but gifts of love and appreciation. These things, without a doubt, last longer than any gift wrapped present.

At this special time of year let’s all try to give more and return more with our sincere appreciation!!

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.

 

A Grateful Boost

November 29, 2020 by  
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Thanksgiving is over but it’s a very good idea to hang on to your attitude of gratitude. It will give you lots of benefits!

Gratitude is a great thing but I think most of us don’t fully appreciate it, taking it for granted until something bad happens to us. And that is not a good thing since gratitude can do such very good things for our lives.

Last July, I wrote in this blog about how I had a really bad fall that knocked me out for about 20 minutes. The big-time bleeding from my head and arms was not the worst of it. What was huge and lingers all these months later is the aftereffects of the concussion. I still have the dizziness and my thinking and memory is still suffering. Plus, I have tremors and shaky hands and arms. I will say that I’m getting better on all counts, although slowly.

The one good thing that did change is that my brain has begun focusing on how super grateful I should have been back when my body and brain were functioning normally. And with this COVID-19 mess, we all should look back and realize how grateful we should have been before the virus and keep reminding ourselves, running those grateful thoughts through our heads as often as possible.

Coincidentally, just a few days ago I read Lynn Johnson’s column in our local newspaper. He said, “Happiness makes our immune system function better. In children, joy is natural. For us older folks, an excellent way to recapture that joy is practice gratitude. Keep a gratitude diary. Write three to five things each day you are glad about. Describe how they helped. Write short thank you notes. Be grateful.” That is some great advice.

To me, it’s so amazing how the brain and the thoughts we run through it can help our bodies and lift us up. I am going to push myself harder to be more and more grateful for myself and my situation and for all my great friends and family!

How about you? Let’s all practice every day to become more and more grateful!

The People Habit

November 15, 2020 by  
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I’ve written a few times about the great power of habits and how forming the right ones can lift your mood, health, financial status, physical strength, and stamina. In past blogs, I have quoted many very smart and helpful ideas from Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. That book is a great place to start.

One of the habits that I decided on many years ago was to go out of my way to meet many super successful people as I was sure they could lift my life. I hooked up with quite a few and some became my mentors. Some I got to know by reading about them or reading books they wrote, after which I would attempt to fly to their city and pick their brains. And, wow, was that a great habit that helped me in so many ways!

These super successful people that I met were from all walks of life. I have to admit that much of my success in life—from sports to financial—was from getting to know these people. I kept picking their brains over and over asking them to be my coach or my mentor.

I certainly discovered that many of these super successful people really like to give back by coaching or being a mentor and it’s a great way to give back or pay it forward. Think about how great you feel when you’ve helped someone to become super successful. It’s such a terrific feeling.

I’ll never forget the great compliments I’ve received from the many people who give me credit for their success through reading one of my books. In at least two cases, a couple of billionaires have told me that it was my book, what they learned from it, and the action they then took that made them so rich.

It does take a lot of work, persistence, and determination to meet highly successful people, especially if they are also famous. Some of the ones I tried to hook up with took many, many phone calls, and letters to reach, but I had formed the habit so no matter how many times I got turned down or got no answer to my many attempts, I just kept trying. And, of course, with some I never did get past their secretary or vice president or wife. But because of my solid habit, I met with enough success to make it all well worth my time.

Here is a short list of those super successful people that I’ve met and that have added so much to my life, from financial to motivational, uplifting my mind and spirt: Larry Rosenberg, Bill Nickerson, Ray Kroc, George Romney (Mitt’s father), Lionel Richie, Willian King of the Commodores, Joe Karbo, Curt Carlson, Jon Huntsman and even that guy Joe Biden. (Granted, I just met Joe for a very short interchange!)

Who have you met or chased down that have added so much to your life? Maybe you can make your own list or get working on building it up by reaching out to great and successful people!

 

The Neglected Key to a Long Life

October 25, 2020 by  
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I started to re-read the book entitled I’ve Decided to Live 120 YEARS: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Transformation written by Ilchi Lee. I’ve written about this book in a previous blog post but I didn’t mention an incredible statistic I learned about in these pages.

It turns out, you can do this very simple thing that, on average, can lengthen your life by 7.5 years. That conclusion was reached based on data from 143 studies with a total of 300,000 participants. In that previous post, I mostly talked about how a long and healthy life is primarily about eating nutritious foods and staying physically active but there’s a bit more you can do.

So, during my second read of the book, what really jumped out at me was something that I’ve not been doing much of since I retired. I’m kind of surprised that I’ve ignored this critical part of living a long life and I have suffered because of it.

What is it that I’ve ignored that could have possibly lengthened my life by 7.5 years? It’s this thing called a social life! Having and keeping a good strong and active social life does things to the brain including sending signals to various body parts that keep it healthy and helps you live longer.

When I retired, I let my social life slide down big time! I stopped going to the office and so I stopped seeing my coworkers, clients, partners and business associates. I also moved into a big house on the mountain side with no neighbors, so that made it even worse. And this COVID-19 has certainly not helped in the least. In addition, there’s no kids here at home anymore. It’s just me and the wife in our big, empty nest.

Lee says in his book, “The isolation of the elderly doesn’t only cause loneliness, it has been shown to have a negative impact on physical and mental health, increasing conditions like chronic disease, high blood pressure, depression, cognitive decline, and dementia”. In addition, he notes, “Having people around us with whom we can communicate on a heart-to-heart level may also reduce the effects of stress.”

We all want to be happy but things can quickly change when we suddenly retire–Lee goes on to say “People, especially as they get older, are experiencing deeper and more frequent forms of unhappiness in many spheres of life: chronic illnesses, alienation or disruption of personal relationships, weakening of economic power. Suddenly facing their social roles greatly reduced during retirement, people are likely to find their self-esteem withering away.”

Most of that has hit me hard so I’m here to tell you that, whether you are retired yet or not, it’s a good time to start making a list of plans and actions that you are going to take on when that day arrives and be sure an active social life is on there. Personally, I’m bound and determined to catch up and do just that!

In Lee’s book he also talks about another thing that can lengthen and make your life more pleasant and happy and it’s something that I’ve talked a lot about over the years – having a good strong purpose and hopes and dreams. I will talk more about those issues in my next week’s post.

Getting On With Living

October 18, 2020 by  
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As mentioned last week, retirement has challenges that aren’t always anticipated and so I gave you some ideas to overcome that. This week, I have more ideas to help you deal with the struggles that many people have when they retire, including me. Even if you are not retiring now or anytime soon these ideas and methods can still enhance your life.

When I found that I was struggling with retirement I sought answers in a few very helpful books written on that very subject and what I learned helped me a ton. By the way, the current pandemic can have us struggling in a similar way as our routines and schedules are thrown out of whack.

Elaine St. James wrote a great little book titled, Inner Simplicity: 100 Ways to Regain Peace and Nourish Your Soul. ln the book, she talks about how important it is to have a routine and follow a schedule that you set up for yourself, retired or not. Of course, before we are retired, most of us have a routine and schedule due to our job and family but most of that goes away as we enter retirement.

For St. James, “inner simplicity” means creating joy in our lives and staying connected with that joy every moment of the day. When many of us retire, along with a loss of routine, we may stop or reduce how connected we are to our joy which is due in part to our reduced connection to other people, like work associates and even friends.

St. James goes on to say, “Now that I’ve simplified my life, I find it easy to get up at the crack of dawn, or even earlier. In that quiet time, I can do you yoga and stretching, write in my journal, do some deep breathing, work on affirmations and visualizations, meditate or have some quiet time to just sit and think.” That’s some very good stuff we can learn from and follow.

Another great book is What Will I Do All Day?: Wisdom to Get You Over Retirement and on with Living!, by Patrice Jenkins, PHD. She talks a lot about energy and also notes how much we get from working with other people when we are on the job.

She asks, “How do you discover your work’s energy source? Think about what parts of your work you enjoy most. Is there one part of your work that charges you with high-octane fuel? “

She continues with suggestions and probing questions. “Maybe your energy source comes from being involved in teamwork with coworkers. If you have already retired, you may have insight on what parts of your work provided you with the most energy. Was it a chance to help people, to teach, to solve problems, or be physically active? ”

Later, she makes this great point: “Once you have identified your energy source, you will know what it is that you’ll want to keep alive in retirement.”

Wow, that’s some great advice and it has helped me a ton. I hope this will help you if you are retired or planning for when that day arrives, or even through this terrible pandemic. Routines, staying in touch with people, and knowing the source of our energy can help us through unexpected struggles and back to living a full life.

 

Gratitude Amidst Tragedy

June 21, 2020 by  
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Such sad, sad days for our family, especially my younger brother Scott, his kids, and his grand kids. Scott’s wonderful wife, Pat, died a few days ago. No, it wasn’t the Covid-19 virus. She has been struggling with health issues for quite some time. Wow, I feel so bad for my brother. For me, it brought back some very sad times and memories.

When I was 15 years old, my older brother Bruce, who was 17, died right in front of me on an outdoor basketball court in Ankara, Turkey where our family lived from 1959-1961. My brother’s death was devastating for me and I felt so guilty for many years thinking I should have saved him.

Unfortunately, there was a more devastating and tragic event for me that almost did me in. Many years after the tragedy of my brother’s death, my 16-year-old daughter Kristin died. That was, and still is, the biggest and most tragic event of my life. Scott’s wife’s death brought these two terrible events in my life forcefully back to my brain.

When I think of other cultures that are in the mist of war, poverty, and starvation, I realize I really don’t have it so bad. Another thought that helps my brain a bit – something that should help all of us get through the pain of losing a family member, loved one, or a dear friend – is the absolute fact that nobody gets out of this life alive. All of us pass away eventually. It is simply part of life.

One powerful lesson we should take to heart is that life is quite short, so we need to train and push ourselves to live life to the fullest. Live more fully in the great “right now” moment.

Love more.

Live more.

Give more.

And push yourself to fully understand how important those 3 things are in our lives.

For me, it is very helpful to make a list of all the good people and things in my life, reminding myself how grateful I should be to live in today’s world. I call it my gratitude list and when I feel a little down, I re-read that list. I highly recommend that everyone make their own GRATITUDE LIST and add to it every time you think of another thing in your life that makes you feel grateful!

 

You Can Always Be Ambitious

May 3, 2020 by  
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I was going a little stir crazy with all this time on my hands and missing my social life, but then my thinking was quickly interrupted when I was contacted by an old friend who suggested we get together and play tennis. I said, “Absolutely, but we must be careful and safe.” So, we got together but didn’t touch the tennis ball until we had applied extra layers of disinfectant on our hands.

This friend, who I hadn’t talked to for a long time, is a great guy who had what most people would call a HUGE setback. Regardless of that, he’s a nationwide motivational speaker who plays tennis, golf, and basketball and has won some great national titles. But what was his huge setback, you may ask. Well, many years ago, when he was 22 years old, he told me that he fell off a 40-foot barn roof landing straight up. It paralyzed him from the waist down, but that terrible accident didn’t stop him and his athletic ambitions even though he’s been in a wheelchair ever since.

So I told Jeff Griffin I would love to play some tennis. We played on my home court and, man oh man, was he ever good. The rules are that when you play a person in a wheelchair the ball can bounce twice before your wheelchair opponent hits it. I only get one bounce. However, he didn’t even need that small advantage. He hit the ball very hard, his placement of shots was near perfect, and the way he changes direction in his wheelchair with such speed and quickness was amazing. So, I find myself, a 4 times gold medal winner at the Huntsman Senior games, getting kicked by my friend in a wheelchair.  He beat me 6-3. (We only played one set since he totally wore me out.)

Jeff is an amazing person and has won so many awards that the list is too long for me to write out, but you can look him up on Google and read with amazement what he has done in his life so far. Sadly, most people, or at least many people, would look at such a huge setback like Jeff suffered and pretty much give up. Jeff didn’t let that terrible accident stop him though and, wow, has he ever gone to work on so many parts of his life to make himself better and, sometimes, even the very best!

When I get a little frustrated or disappointed I try to push my mind to think about people like Jeff and say to myself, “Hey, I am not going to let my little setbacks or failures stop me from whatever project or goal I’ve set out to do.” And neither should you!

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