Putting an Old Head on Young Shoulders
Steve Baron

Also by Steve Baron People Power: How to make the government listen to YOU, for a change

Born To Win Publishing


Copyright © Steve Baron 2009 First published in New Zealand in 2009 by Born To Win Publishing. Editorial office: Born To Win Publishing 44 Hall Street Cambridge 3434 New Zealand All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. ISBN 978-0-473-15166-9 (Paperback) ISBN 978-0-473-15167-6 (Digital)


To my children Cody, Jamie, Krystal, Chase and my parents Peter and Loretta


Thank You
I would like to thank the following people very much for their input, ideas, motivation and stories that helped make this book possible: Loretta Gibson, Chris Leefe, Barbara Osborne, Jayne Mau, Michael Mautner, Iain Lees-Galloway (MP), Russell Norman (MP), Steve Chadwick (MP), Upali Sarathchandra, Annette King (MP), Chris Tremain (MP), Nicky Wagner (MP), Ross Stewart, Teresa LaSota, Ginger Tankard, Amy Adams (MP), Peter Dunne (MP), Oona Busby, Todd McLay (MP), Jim Anderton (MP), Tariana Turia (MP), Bill Daly, Maurice Williamson (MP), Michael Cameron, Ross Robertson (MP), Paul Quinn (MP), Mike Neels, Tau Henare (MP), Catherine Delahunty (MP), Sharon Wolfe, Georgina te Heuheu (MP), Yuzhong Chen, Tim Macindoe (MP), Rick McKinley.



Introduction 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. Catastrophes Mudguard theory Be a contrarian The waffle man Educate yourself Brush and floss your teeth Feeling down? “What if?” theory Winner or loser? Don't let salespeople give you advice Everything you're looking for is where you're looking from Children in adult bodies How else could I turn out with a father like that? What did you learn from school? Always follow your gut instincts Perseverance Judging people 51 52 54 57 63 38 48 10 14 16 18 21 25 26 29 32 35


18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38.

Don't try to change others, try to change yourself Hard work doesn't always get you where you want to be If you always do what you've always done Advertising Have a “Go to Hell” fund Rainy day money Who will give me $20 for this $50 note? Making mistakes Jealousy You don’t have to get into debt to get ahead Choosing a mate Banks Gambling really is for mugs Giving advice 84 Charing Cross Road The mother-in-law Kenny Rogers poker theory University fees Credit cards and debt Control freaks Don't take things for granted 7 78 82 84 86 88 90 92 95 97 101 104 108 110 112 115 119 121 124 126 72 68

39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52.

Say what you think, but you don't have to say everything you think Face your fears Idiot drivers Expectations Thank you Be yourself We all have the right to be right and the right to be wrong Respect your elders? What's it worth? Stress 'Tis better to have loved and lost Trust funds The secret to life Distinguish between friends and acquaintances 155 140 142 144 147 149 151 153 128 130 132 134 136 138


As our children grow up and venture out in to the big wide world, we often wonder if they are fully equipped to cope. They think they are six feet tall and bullet proof, but the trouble is they don't even know what they don't know. Of course they rarely take advice from their parents. We are just silly old buggers who aren't with it, if you know what I mean. There is an old saying, “You can't put an old head on young shoulders”. I got to thinking one day that I should put my thoughts and experiences in writing, so maybe one day my children have something to refer to which might help them in their journey. This book is the result of that idea along with feedback, comments and ideas from dozens of people I spoke to, friends, government Ministers and MPs. Sometimes it's easier for your children to take advice from other people, rather than their own parents. I hope this book helps.



Probably the most important lesson I have ever learned in my life is when catastrophes happen you have two choices. You can drown in your own misery or you can remain positive and look for something good to become of it. Remember the old saying, every cloud has a silver lining? Some of the worst things that have ever happened to me in my life have turned out to be the best things that have ever happened to me. I have seen it in so many other people’s lives as well. The bottom line is if you don't keep looking for the positive amongst all the negative and make the most of all that happens, then what do you do? Resign yourself to a life of misery or stick a gun to your head and blow your brains out the back like a dear friend of mine did. It came

as a big shock to me the day I learned my best friend Garth had killed himself. I just couldn't believe it had happened. Why didn't he talk to me about how he felt? Why couldn't I have been able to see it and help? Ever since that day I have always thought to myself... it doesn't matter how bad things get, it can't be bad enough to do that! Here's a good example and a true life story of how catastrophes can turn out to be the best thing that ever happens to you. “My cousin, Danny Burns, was the top body builder in his day and won many elite body building titles. Body building played a big part in his life. He even made his living through the industry with his own gym. He and his business partner had built this gym from the ground up making most of the equipment themselves. It was a great little business that allowed him to pursue his passion in life. The business was in an old commercial building in the centre of town. I can always remember the day I visited shortly after the building had been burned to the ground by a fire in the bakery below his gym. His life had gone up in smoke and he didn't know what he was going to do. We were standing

there amongst the ruins and I looked at him and said, “This will be the best thing to ever happen to you”. He looked at me as if I had to be the biggest idiot on the face of the earth. Here we were standing amongst burned embers and mangled weight training equipment and this was going to be the best thing to ever happened to him? I didn't know how it was going to happen but I wanted to instil some hope and encouragement in him as I could see how much it was affecting him. To cut a long story short, he ended up buying an old government building and setting up another gym. I think if you asked him today, he would say he never would have purchased this building which was going for a song at the time, if it hadn't been for the fire, and he is also even better off for having done so. The building is worth a lot of money today. I'm pretty sure the fire was one of the best things to ever happen to him. Here's another good example as told to me by Michael Mautner. “My grandfather was a well to do merchant, with ten children, in Budapest, Hungary. However, he made bad investments and the family became very poor, hardly able

to make a living. Finally in 1935 they had to leave their home and moved to start a new life in what was then Palestine (now Israel). Soon after, the borders were closed, and had they not left, they may have all perished in the Holocaust. So it was bankruptcy and poverty which appeared tragic at the time that eventually saved their lives”. Just remember though, if you ever find yourself depressed, do as All Black John Kirwan says in his TV advertisements, ask for help and hold on to hope, because at the end of the day all we have is hope. Hold on to it and look for something good to become of it.



Mudguard Theory
Here's a story which makes me laugh when I think about it. The Mudguard theory, or as my mother would say, “All Brylcreem and no socks”. I was talking to well known racing identity Ginger Tankard one morning at the track. I had received some interest in a horse I owned and trained and we were discussing horse prices and people in racing. A certain well known person came up in the conversation and I commented he had done pretty well buying and selling racehorses. Ginger looked at me with a smile on his face and told me a story about this person and his devious past, unscrupulous activities and how he had ripped people off. He told me this person was a mudguard... all shiny and clean on the top but covered in shit underneath and not worth one cent. This is something to keep in mind. So often

we see these kinds of people and look up to them and aspire to be like them. They look good, smell good and have all the trappings of life but when you look under the mudguard everything is borrowed or dirty. I remember Robert Kiyosaki saying in his seminars, “Here I was walking through my rental properties looking at all these giant TV screens and stereo systems I couldn't afford even though I was the landlord and owned all these properties”. It just goes to show, if you buy stuff you end up with stuff all.



Be a contrarian
Have you ever noticed how so many people are like sheep, all following the next sheep? Some good advice I have heard from many successful people has been to do the opposite of others, be contrary. When everyone is saying buy, this is the time to sell and vice versa. When I was buying my rental properties I can remember several intelligent and informed people telling me I was stupid. There was no inflation so house values won't increase. They also forgot the law of supply and demand. I knew Auckland (where I lived at the time) was the mecca for new immigrants and rural people. There just weren't enough properties for everyone who wanted one even though we didn't have much inflation at the time. The very


first rental property I bought in one of the worst parts of town was one of the best investments I ever made. I paid $120,000 for it with a 10% deposit. I spent two weeks and $7,000 fixing it up. I had it revalued and re-financed getting back my deposit, repair money and $12,000 to go and buy another property. On top of that the rental covered all outgoing expenses with plenty left over! Now this is what I call a good investment.



The waffle man
I heard this story many years ago at a seminar I attended and it always stuck in my mind. It tells the story of a very successful waffle man who worked his waffle stand in downtown New York. He was always successful, because he produced the best waffles at the best price and people always came back to him when they wanted a waffle. He did so well and he was able to afford to send his son to one of the most prestigious business universities in America. After years of university training the son came home highly qualified and with the prestige of being the highest graded student ever in the history of this university. Shortly after arriving back home to his parents the economy took a huge down turn and the waffle man's business started to feel the effect, because people did not have the discretionary

income they had before. After all these years of university training the son knew exactly what to do and the father trusted the son, after all he was a highly educated university graduate. He convinced his father to cut back his expenditure. He didn't make the waffles as thick as they used to be and the ingredients were not as high quality as they used to be. Soon after, the waffle man went out of business, because people noticed all the shortcuts and the difference in the quality and they stopped buying his waffles altogether. The moral of the story was even with all his university education the son didn't really know the waffle business like his father did. In other words trust your own experience, trust your judgement. Just because someone is a university graduate, a lawyer, an accountant, a bank manager, doesn't always mean they know everything. Never overlook that whoever gives you advice or teaches you something is also a fallible human being, even parents and teachers. They might not be right all the time. By all means take advice but make your own decisions in life and take responsibility for the decision. I had been running my own business from home for quite some time and making a good profit, because I

didn't have all the overheads of most businesses. A couple of friends tried to persuade me to move in to business premises as the prestige of the location would improve my business. I never did do it even though I would have liked to be where they were, in the central business district with cute little secretaries answering the phone and looking like a big shot. They both went out of business and years later I sold my home business for twice what I expected to get.



Educate yourself
Over my life I have been a bit of a seminar junkie. I was always looking to better myself and to learn from successful people. I even read all those self help type of books. It's hard to remember exactly what I got from all those seminars. I do remember one presenter saying he hoped we would enjoy his seminar and learn something of value, but not to expect to remember everything he had to say. He said take one or two good ideas you thought were appropriate or applicable to you and flush the rest! There is one seminar I do remember attending which had a dramatic effect on my life. The reason I attended this particular seminar was because I had just finished reading


Anthony Robbins book Awaken the Giant Within. It is an international best seller with an immense amount of information in it, but one thing I remembered was Anthony Robbins talking about educating yourself. So shortly after this I saw a seminar advertised by two well known seminar hosts about making money. One was Brad Sugars, a very young entrepreneur and the other a New Zealand property investor, Dr Dolf de Roos. De Roos has also written books on the subject along with Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame. They had combined to do a two day seminar. I told all my friends and family and many laughed at me when I told them I had paid $1,200 to go to this seminar. It was an awful lot of money at the time. The first day was all with Brad and to be honest not much of what he had to say resonated with me. The second day with Dolf was much more interesting, because it was about investing in real estate and I had sold real estate for several years some time before the seminar. Even then I came away from the seminar and wondered what I had got out of it. The next weekend I was sitting around home with not much to do. I got thinking about the seminar and there was one thing that stuck in my mind. Dolf had said, “The

bargain of the century comes along every week in real estate and if you go out and look at a 100 properties you will make three offers and end up buying one of them.” So this was exactly what I did and to my amazement it was almost exactly as Dolf had said. Over the next few years I set about buying a number of properties, renovating them, adding value, renting them out and eventually sold them all and retired at only 45 years old. I even went on to organise two property investment seminars with Dolf and at the time he told me they were the most profitable seminars he had ever run. At the time, one of the major sponsors we had who was a very well known TV personality and business person was chatting to Dolf. I could see how excited he was that the seminars were so popular and I could see him counting the profits in his head. He proceeded to talk Dolf in to doing more seminars around the country and even promoted them on TV. I was obviously disappointed at the time, but this was a very influential person and Dolf ran with the idea. I saw the advertising for them and later heard they were fully sold out? Some time after this I spoke to Dolf and

complimented him on how successful the NZ wide seminars had been given they were sold out. He laughed out loud and said they had been a total failure and he hadn't made any money from them at all. Most of the tickets had been given away for free, because they couldn't sell them.



Brush and floss your teeth
Have you ever noticed how poor people have lots of tooth decay and teeth missing? Let's face it, most of us have had a trip or two to the dentist and we all know how expensive it can be. One day I remember going back to a new dentist I had started to use. He had replaced all my old amalgam fillings with white fillings for me. When I went back a year later he took x-rays and everything was perfect, nothing needed doing. Because I had spent so much money getting the old fillings replaced I had decided to take more care of my teeth and to use dental floss more regularly. I told him this and his words to me were that if all his clients brushed and used dental floss daily then he would probably be out of business!



Feeling down
Throughout our lives we always have periods of depression, when things just aren't going well. Times when you just don't feel like getting out of bed and you haven't got the energy to even make your bed let alone do any exercise. The funny thing I have found is when I have pushed myself to do a little bit of exercise, walking or running, I have felt so much better for having done it. This can lift your spirits and stop you from feeling down. Experts will tell you exercise isn't a cure for depression or anxiety, but it has psychological and physical benefits which can improve your symptoms. Even a little exercise can help. "It's not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage


depression and anxiety," says Kristin Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. When you have depression or anxiety, exercising may be the last thing you think you can do. A growing volume of research shows exercise can also help improve symptoms of certain mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Exercise may also help prevent a relapse after treatment for depression or anxiety. It may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve depression symptoms. Smaller amounts of activity, as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time, can improve mood in the short term. "Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it's initially too hard to do more," Dr. VickersDouglas says. Just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety isn't fully understood. Some evidence suggests exercise raises the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release muscle tension, help you sleep better, and reduce levels of the stress hormone

cortisol. It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness. So when ever I feel down, I start a new exercise programme.



“What if?” Theory
I've always tried to live my life on the basis of being prepared to try something new. I've never wanted to get to my dying days and wonder “What if...?”. Perhaps that's why I have tried so many different things in life? I have always felt it was a good concept to live life by. So when a thought has come to mind, when it was time for a change in direction, I have given it serious thought and then acted. It's too late when you get to your final days. Have the courage to take action. This also reminds me of my first career choice, to become a jockey. I always remember my boss saying to me that when a gap opens up in a race to take it, it might not be there when you do want it. I have applied this principal to my life in general and I've never been disappointed.

As my friend Oona Busby said, “So many people when they reach 10 want to be 12 - then at 13 you want to be 16 and 18 and older - then before you know it you are 40 and wonder where the time went”. It seems to me we need to enjoy the now and do all those things you did not do, but meant to. We have all made poor choices or done something in our past we feel bad about or have regretted doing. This doesn't mean we shouldn't have done them. The fact that you are now able to look back and realise a mistake has occurred means you have learned a valuable lesson. Some of my choices may have landed me in unpleasant circumstances, but experiencing these things certainly built my character. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for those character building situations, but what is more important is that I was prepared to have a go. So my advice is if you want to have no regrets at the end of your life, you have to live each day of your life with no regrets. The secret is doing what you want to do, going where you want to go, being who you want to be and being with who you want to be with. You know you are living and

working without regrets when you are fully engaged with life and doing the things you want to do in life. As the Nike motto says, "Just do it".



Winner or loser?
Anyone can be a loser, you only have to look around you. It is so much harder to be a winner. Find out what motivates you and do something constructive with your life and strive to be the best at it even if your passion is digging holes in the road. Dig the best holes. For so long my life seemed a struggle. I would start to get ahead and then something would sabotage everything. There were many times I wanted to give up and never thought I would amount to much or achieve much in life. It would have been so easy to just give up and accept whatever mere morsels life sent my way. I always wanted more. I wanted to have the freedom to be my own boss and be beholding to no one. I didn't want to live from pay packet


to pay packet and find at the end of my life I was reliant on a meagre government handout. I wanted something to show for my life's work. The only thing that kept me going was my desire to achieve something. Not to be rich but just to have enough money to do what I wanted, when I wanted and with whom I wanted. Most people seem to accept little in life. They don't seem to have the motivation or desire to succeed. That's a real shame, because with a half intelligent person success is achievable. You can strive year after year and feel you are getting nowhere, but then all of a sudden something changes and before you know it you can have more money than you need. It's like those old well pumps. You keep pumping and pumping and nothing happens for a long time. Then all of a sudden the water starts gushing and all you have to do is apply a little pressure and it just keeps gushing without too much effort. When I talk to my kids I get the impression it doesn't seem worth the wait. Blow whatever you have now and make the most of it, appears to be the attitude. Wealth just seems too far off for them and they don't really think they can achieve

it. I know they can if they simply adopt the desire. If you feel like a loser then you will probably be one. If you know you can be a winner then chances are you just might. At least have a go so you don't die wondering what if? In his book Winners and Losers, Sydney J. Harris gives a number of comparisons between what a winner is and what a loser is. The book contained forty comparisons, here are a few selections which made sense to me. When a winner makes a mistake he says "I was wrong," when a loser makes a mistake he says "It wasn't my fault." A winner learns from his mistakes. A loser learns not to make mistakes by not trying anything different. A loser believes in fate. A winner believes that we make our fate by what we do or fail to do. A winner stops talking when he has made his point. A loser goes on until he has blunted his point. A winner in the end gives more than he takes. A loser dies clinging to the illusion that winning means taking more than you give.


Don't let salespeople give you advice
Economists talk about asymmetric information. This is when others have more information than you do about a particular issue. When my eldest boy was three or four years old we noticed one of his toes was a little disfigured – it wasn't as straight as his other toes. Being fairly new parents we wanted what was best for our little boy. After all, how could he possibly go through life with a crooked toe?! So we sought specialist advice. The surgeon looked at his toe and said there was a good chance he could straighten it and it could help improve his quality of life later on. It was going to cost over $1,000, which was pretty much our whole life's savings at the time as it had to be done at a private hospital. I can still


remember my little boy crying as they took him off to surgery and away from his very concerned parents. As time went by the surgery healed, but to be honest I really couldn't see a great deal of difference in the look of the toe. Years and years went by and I never gave it another thought until he was about 19 years old and a man of the world. It came up in a conversation I was having with my mother and reminded me of his operation. So the next time I spoke to him I asked him how his toe was. “What do you mean – how is my toe?” he said. He had no recollection of ever having had a problem with his toe and the operation, which made little difference apart from putting a hole in my life savings! Has it ever bothered him? I don't think so, and you may ask, what is the moral of this story? Well years later when attending university myself I studied economics. In economics we studied a phenomenon called Asymmetric Information. What this boils down to is that it means one party has more information than another and gives people an imbalance of power. I believe this surgeon knew this operation was going to have very little effect on my son's life. He played on our

ignorance and concerns as new parents and could see an improvement to his private hospital’s bottom line profits. Be wary you don't even know what you don't know! Salespeople are trained to be persuasive. There are thousands of books and courses so people can be trained to part you from your money and these salespeople come in all shapes and forms. They aren't just door to door salespeople. They are doctors, lawyers and financial gurus. As Steve Martin, author of Heavy Hitter Sales Wisdom, says... “Twenty-four hundred years ago, Aristotle described the three elements needed to move an audience--logos, pathos, and ethos--the intellectual appeal, the emotional appeal, and the speaker’s character and charismatic appeal. These classifications are just as applicable for today’s salespeople as they were back then. In today’s competitive marketplace, where little difference exists between products, Aristotle would advise salespeople to employ not only logos, but more importantly pathos and ethos to persuade today’s customer to buy.” These people know how to press all the right buttons to get you to buy.



Everything you're looking for is where you're looking from
This was a favourite saying from an old friend of mine. Charlie Brodie was a well respected lay psychologist. He held private clinics at his home to help people overcome their barriers to happiness and success. When I first met him I was selling real estate and he and his wife were looking to buy a property having just sold theirs. I was desperate to sell a particular property, for a number of reasons. First it stacked up a lot of other sales, secondly it was a really lovely home and thirdly it was extremely well priced and good value for money. I thought it would be ideal for him and his wife but I had overlooked one important factor in their decision making. As lovely as


the house was, it was a two level home with stairs and he was nearly 90 years old at the time! He was a very sprightly 90 I might add. I remember saying to him that if I could hit him over the head with a piece of wood to get him to take this property, then I would. I was just so keen to get him to buy it. He read more into this comment than most people would and he explained to me how my aggression in saying such a thing was holding me back from my true potential. He encouraged me to go to therapy with him at his home. He had a unique way of asking open ended questions made me look at my life and get past these barriers that were holding me back. The whole basis of his theory seemed to be based around his belief that “everything you are looking for is where you're looking from”. In other words you have to look deep within yourself to find out what demons are holding you back from achieving all you want to in life. So if you get the chance to do something like this, or to take a course, then do it. It doubled my income within a year. It was money well spent and when I have faced

issues in life his saying has always come back to encourage me. I guess what he was really saying is most people sabotage their own success. Abraham Lincoln once said “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” We all need to take a deep look inside ourselves and find out what is holding us back. What reason and excuses are you telling yourself? Are you too young, too old, too fat, too stupid, too ugly, or just too thick? Some of the most intelligent people who ever walked this planet couldn't even read and were butt ugly! Albert Einstein: He did not speak until age 3. Even as an adult Einstein found searching for words was laborious. He found school work, especially math, difficult and was unable to express himself in written language. He was thought to be simple minded, until it was realised he was able to achieve by visualising rather than by the use of language. His work on relativity, which revolutionised modern physics, was created in his spare time.

Thomas Edison: He was unable to read until he was twelve years old and his writing skills were poor throughout his life. George Washington: He was unable to spell throughout his life and his grammar usage was poor. His brother suggested that perhaps surveying in the backwoods might be an appropriate career for young George. Tom Cruise: Is unable to read due to severe dyslexia. He is able to memorize lines and perform on the stage and screen. Consider what these people also went through before their success... John Drew Barrymore: Actor; father of actress Drew Barrymore spent many years living on the streets and in shelters, becoming more and more reclusive and eventually disappearing into the wilderness maintaining very little contact with friends and family.


Halle Berry: In an interview with magazine, US Weekly, Berry stated she had stayed in a shelter for a time. Jim Carrey: Actor, writer, producer and comedian lived out of a V W van in various locations across Canada with older brother John Carrey, older sister Rita Carrey, and parents Percy Carrey and Kathleen Carrey. They also camped in a tent with his family in the backyard of the home of his older married sister, Patricia. Charlie Chaplin: Oscar-winning actor, writer, director and producer; Britishborn author; knighted. He lived on the streets of London during his childhood after his father died and his mother, Hannah suffered a mental breakdown. After Hannah Chaplin was again admitted to the Cane Hill Asylum, her son was left in the workhouse at Lambeth in South London, moving after several weeks to the Central London District School for paupers in Hanwell. Chaplin’s early years of desperate poverty were a great influence on his characters.


Themes in his films in later years would re-visit the scenes of his childhood deprivation in Lambeth. Kelly Clarkson: Grammy Award-winning singer; American Idol television talent show first-season winner 2002. She lived out of a car and in a shelter, with her female roommate after a major structural fire forced them out of a 71-unit apartment building in West Hollywood, California in March 2002. In an interview with Inside Edition television news magazine, September 5 2002, her roommate-fellow Texan, actress/singer Janet Harvick was quoted as saying, “It was really, really rough because we had just moved here, and we had just moved in the day of the fire. We knew nobody here—I mean nobody, so the night of the fire, the next day, and night, we stayed in our car.” US Weekly magazine, September 23, 2002; print story: “‘My apartment [building] burned down; my car got towed twice,’ recalls Clarkson, who, with nowhere to go, lived in a homeless shelter for several days.”


Daniel Craig: Actor; James Bond in the 007 movies, is reported as having slept on a park bench in London while a struggling actor. (source: Daily Mail newspaper, October 14, 2005). Ella Fitzgerald: Ella spent years as a struggling, homeless teenager before she was discovered in a singing competition. In 1932, her mother died from a heart attack. She was taken in by her aunty. Shortly afterwards her sister’s guardian also died of a heart attack and Frances joined Ella at Virginia’s home in New York City. Following these traumas, Fitzgerald’s grades dropped dramatically, and she frequently skipped school. At one point, she worked as a lookout at a bordello and also with a Mafia-affiliated numbers runner. After getting into trouble with the police, she was taken into custody and sent to a reform school. Eventually she escaped from the reformatory, and became homeless. Chris Gardner: Multimillionaire stockbroker (net worth $65 million (2006); American author; the 2006 movie The Pursuit of Happiness starring Will Smith was based on his life. He slept in

subway stations, trains, bathrooms, and church-run shelter with his son in California. Harry Houdini: Magician, escapologist and actor; Hungarian-born American author slept rough and in temporary shelters; left home at age 12 in search of work and travelled for two years on his own, making his way from Wisconsin to Missouri and settling finally in New York City. Eartha Kitt: She slept in subways and on the roofs of apartment buildings. “When I see the homeless now, I empathize,” she told Kaufman in the New York Times. “I know there but for the grace of God go I,” she continued. Jim Morrison: Singer, songwriter and poet; lead singer and lyricist for the 1960’s rock band The Doors; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (with The Doors), slept on rooftops, in cars and under the pier at Venice Beach, California and ‘couch surfed’ at friends’ apartments.


George Orwell: British author stayed in homeless shelters either to research material for his work or (likely) necessity. Sally Jesse Raphael: It is written in her biography, An Unconventional Success that she lived in her car for a time. For a while, her financial situation was so dire she was on food stamps. Harland ‘Colonel’ Sanders: Sanders became a businessman and founderspokesperson of the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast-food restaurant chain. He became homeless at age 10, when his mother remarried and he left home due to altercations with his stepfather. As an adult he slept on the back seat of his car, because he could not afford lodging as he travelled around the United States and Canada. Sometimes he was with his wife Claudia, trying to sign up restaurants to use his special fried chicken recipe for a franchise licensing fee. Hillary Swank: In 1989, when she was 15, Swank and her mom packed up their Oldsmobile Delta 88 and, with just $75, headed to Los

Angeles. They lived in the car until a friend [eventually] gave them a place to stay. Swank’s mom used a pay phone to book her daughter for auditions. So what's your excuse?



Children in adult bodies
I've never been the type of person to have lots of friends. When I was a kid it seemed like everyone loved to pick on me (hasn't changed much!) I was of small frame, a bit cocky and outspoken which made me an easy target for the local bullies. I always looked forward to becoming an adult so I wouldn't have to put up with all this childish behaviour. What I have learnt is that adults are just children in an adult body. To be honest I don't like people much. They can be nasty, jealous, rude and deceitful. Of course there are many lovely people in the world but this is just me! My friend Bill Daly contributed this. “Seek real friends who will be there on the bad days as well as the good ones. Look for friends who like you for what you are and what you think, rather than what you have or your status in

life.” You can have all the money and success in the world, but if you don't have friends and family to share it with, was it all worth the effort? More so these days, people seem to be excessively emotional. They never seem to be prepared to look at a situation from the other person's perspective and seem to take offence so easily. It makes having people skills even more important than most skills. I guess I never really acquired many of these skills so that’s probably why I have tried to stay away from people. I strongly believe a big part of growing up is accepting responsibility for our own lives. We all experience this when we leave home and our parents. For many there comes a time when we finally realise our parents were not mature themselves and perhaps not even good role models. Sometimes we need to seek good company in people we know are intelligent and in whom we can trust. We often need to change our perspective on life, because we can see past experiences or past role models will no longer suffice. It is also the responsibility of parents to make our children grow up. Sometimes that can be hard to do. My son once contacted me asking for a few hundred dollars to pay for repairs on

his car. He had been working for four years and done nothing but waste his money on everything imaginable. It was hard to do because we all want to help our children, but I told him if he had been working and earning a living for this long and didn't even have the money to pay for this, then what lesson would I be teaching him if I bailed him out? He would only learn that his parents would bail him out when he hadn't acted responsibly. Of course I had to put up with a tirade of abuse and I was no longer his father in his eyes, but at the end of the day we have to do what we have to do as parents. I guess the point I am trying to make here is even though people may appear as adults and may appear to be wiser and more mature than you... often they are not.



How else could I turn out with a father like that?
I remember reading a story which followed the life of two young men. Their father had been a notorious criminal in America. One son turned out to be a criminal just like his father and the other turned out to be a successful business person who led a life of honesty. The interviewer met with both men and asked them both the same question. “Why did you turn out the way you have?” The big surprise was both men gave exactly the same answer... “With a father like that, how else could I turn out?” You have choices in life and if you make the wrong choices it’s not your parents’ fault, it's your fault. Take responsibility for your own actions and your own decisions, don't blame someone else. As parents most of us do our best and we all make mistakes, but kids aren't born with a how to manual attached.


What did you learn from school?
In 1996 the Ministry of Education’s report on the International Adult Literacy Survey showed about 20 % of New Zealand adults between the ages of 16 and 65 had very poor literacy skills. Those most likely to be in this group are adults from Maori, Pacific, or other nonEuropean backgrounds, adults with limited English language skills, and people who are unemployed. According to the survey, these adults may experience considerable difficulties when using the printed materials they encounter in everyday life. People over fifty years of age have the lowest average level of literacy. I was never very good at school and never achieved any high school qualifications even though I am now attending university.


Mostly I didn't apply myself. If there is one thing I learned that was important to me, it was the ability to read. Most of us take this for granted, but as the parent of two dyslexic children who have struggled to read their whole lives, it is such a crying shame. If you can read then sooner or later you can educate yourself on things that are important to you. Many of the important things in life that I have learned, that have helped me get to where I am in life today, came from a book. If there is one thing you learn in life, let it be the ability to read. If you can't read or your children can't read then find a way to learn and persevere until you do.



Always follow your gut instincts
Nothing new with this one and we hear it all the time, but have you ever really thought about it? Is there really any truth in it? Quite often when weighing up different options we get an uneasy feeling. We don't always know why, but there is something there, something bothering us but we can't quite put our finger on it. I believe we subconsciously pick up on signals. Things people say or things they do that just aren't congruent. These are your instincts picking up on the signs and you need to trust them. I can always remember my old friend Charlie Brodie telling me about an experience he had. He was looking to make a large purchase and the person who was trying to sell him something made the statement that


he was a past sports star. The inference was because of this he could be trusted. It turned out to be a big mistake so he told me, and he knew at the time this person couldn't be trusted but he ignored his instincts. Instincts are also aspects of our lives that are ingrained in us from thousands of years ago. They aren't necessarily what we have “learned”. For example when a turtle hatches on a beach it instinctively crawls towards the sea for safety and life. In her book Positive Energy, Judith Orloff, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, says "Intuition clears your vision and steers you to the right target." Stacey Colino writes in her regular article (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0846/is_2_25/ai_n156750
45) “Listen to your body's signals. Sometimes your body

senses threat or danger before your mind does. Your breathing or pulse rate may change, or you might feel a sudden chill on your skin when around certain people. Pay attention to whether you feel peaceful or prickly around others, and you'll be able to make better decisions about

whom you want to work with or befriend.” Orloff also says, "Intuition helps you do things that are right for you rather than what someone else tells you to do, and that can help you live your life to the fullest."



I don't believe I have ever been a talented person in any way. However I can always remember my friend Chris Leefe saying to me he knew I would be successful in business, because he knew I wouldn't give up. I have started businesses in the past other people have also done. As soon as they hit a tough period they got out, but I persevered and made a real success of my business. Most people give up too easily in my opinion. A comment from my ex-motherin-law who didn't think much of me was, “Well I'll give you one thing... you always do well at what you put your hand to.” Coming from her this was a huge compliment. It's also important to remember all experience is valuable if you learn from it and aim to

do the best you can with what you've got. You may not make your goal or achieve your dreams this week, this month or this year, but learn from the experience. This includes the disappointments and the setbacks. Be prepared to keep going when the going gets tough. It's worked for me. What about others though? Here are three good examples. Simon Cowell: He is a pop icon and a very wealthy man. Early in life he faced challenges. At age 15, Cowell dropped out of school and bounced around jobs. He eventually landed a job in the mail room of EMI Music Publishing. Cowell worked his way up to the A&R department, and then went on to form his own publishing company, E&S Music. Unfortunately, E&S folded in its first year. Cowell ended up with a lot of debt, and was forced to move back in with his parents. He never gave up on his dream of working in the music industry, and eventually landed a job with a small company called Fanfare Records. He worked there for 8 years and helped the company become a successful label. From there,

Cowell spent years signing talent and working behindthe-scenes, before launching the American Idol and X-Factor franchises that made him famous. Even though he is rich and successful, Cowell continues to work on new projects. This kind of dedication no doubt helped him overcome his early roadblocks. J.K. Rowling: Author of the Harry Potter books, is currently the second-richest female entertainer on the planet, behind Oprah. However, when Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in 1995, it was rejected by twelve different publishers. Even Bloomsbury, the small publishing house that finally purchased Rowling’s manuscript, told the author to “get a day job.” At the time when Rowling was writing the original Harry Potter book, her life was a selfdescribed mess. She was going through a divorce and living in a tiny flat with her daughter. Rowling was surviving on government subsidies, and her mother had just passed away from multiple sclerosis. J.K. turned these negatives into a positive by devoting

most of her free time to the Harry Potter series. She also drew from her bad personal experiences when writing. The result is a brand name currently worth nearly $15 billion. Walt Disney: As a young man, Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star Newspaper, because his boss thought he lacked creativity. He went on to form an animation company called Laugh-O-Gram Films in 1921. Using his natural salesmanship abilities, Disney was able to raise $15,000 for the company ($181,000 in 2008 dollars). However, he made a deal with a New York distributor, and when the distributor went out of business, Disney was forced to shut Laugh-O-Gram down. He could barely pay his rent and even resorted to eating dog food. Broke but not defeated, Disney spent his last few dollars on a train ticket to Hollywood. Unfortunately his troubles were not over. In 1926, Disney created a cartoon character named Oswald the Rabbit. When he attempted to negotiate a better deal with Universal Studios, the cartoon’s distributor, Disney discovered

Universal had secretly patented the Oswald character. Universal then hired Disney’s artists away from him, and continued the cartoon without Disney’s input (and without paying him). As if this wasn’t enough, Disney also struggled to release some of his now-classic films. He was told Mickey Mouse would fail, because the mouse would “terrify women”. Distributors rejected The Three Little Pigs, saying it needed more characters. Pinocchio was shut down during production and Disney had to rewrite the entire storyline. Other films, like Bambi, Pollyanna and Fantasia, were misunderstood by audiences at the time of their release, only to become favourites later on. Disney’s greatest example of perseverance occurred when he tried to make the book Mary Poppins into a film. In 1944, at the suggestion of his daughter, Disney decided to adapt the Pamela Travers novel into a screenplay. However, Travers had absolutely no interest in selling Mary Poppins to Hollywood. To win her over, Disney visited Travers at her England home

repeatedly for the next 16 years. After more than a decade-and-a-half of persuasion, Travers was overcome by Disney’s charm and vision for the film, and finally gave him permission to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen. The result is a timeless classic. In a fitting twist of fate, The Disney Company went on to purchase ABC in 1996. At the time, ABC was owner of the Kansas City Star, meaning the newspaper that once fired Disney had become part of the empire he created. This was all thanks to his creativity and a lot of perseverance.



Judging People
Most people have egos and some bigger than others. We all think we are important and although you are, so is everyone else. Don't think of yourself as being above others. No one is better than you, but no one is worse than you either. Don't judge people by how they look or how they speak, just because they are different to you. Not that judging people is wrong. We have to judge people to protect ourselves and decide who we can trust, but it is important not to judge people by the clothes they wear, the way they speak or the colour of their skin. I learned this lesson many years ago when I was in real estate. I was only in my early 20's at the time and a real successful go-getter. Well at least I thought I was. I had been in the

business for a couple of years and I was doing pretty well for myself. A guy and his wife who weren't much older than me came into the office one day looking to buy a property. He was rather arrogant and full of himself. From the moment I walked out the office door with them to show them some properties, it all went wrong. Talking to them as I walked down the street to my car I stepped in a dog's nest that was conveniently dropped in the middle of the street. I stood there in disgust, but this guy thought it was funny and couldn't stop laughing. Eventually once the mess was scraped off my shoe we jumped into my oldish Toyota I had recently downgraded to from a Mercedes. My wife and I had just purchased our first home and needed some extra money to fund it, so I achieved this by selling the Mercedes. The Toyota was a tidy car, but not oozing success as this guy rudely pointed out as soon as he sat down. “Just started in real estate have you?” he asked. No, why do you say that, I said looking rather surprised. He patted the dashboard of my car as if to say, well if this is all you have then you can't be very

successful at real estate! I was actually one of the top agents in my office that year. Anyhow, we looked at quite a number of properties, but there was always some reason why this guy wasn't interested. One comment was that there weren't enough flash cars in this street for him to live in it. I could see I was never going to get far with this guy so I decided to pass him on to a new guy who had just started in our office. John Stribley was an older English gentleman. He spoke well, drove the latest Mercedes and was a multi-millionaire who thought selling real estate might be an interesting hobby to keep him occupied. John rang this client and arranged to meet him. The guy was so impressed with John, the first house he took him to he bought it. He had the guy eating out of his hand. So much so this guy signed a sale and purchase agreement without any details on it, because John didn't even know how to fill one in! Another time in real estate I remember an odd looking couple walking into the office. They were dressed like

a couple of hillbillies and the way they spoke left a lot to be desired. They wanted to look at any small farms we had. I didn't specialise in farms and I thought they were a waste of time and just dreamers who one day might win Lotto and then be able to afford to buy their dream farm. With that I put them on to another colleague in our office who did specialise in this area. To cut a long story short he showed them a few farms we had on our books and sold them a property for somewhere near a million dollars, which was big money back then. Moral – don't judge a book by its cover. This one cost me a healthy commission. I read this story some time ago and it seems rather appropriate here. A nursing school professor gave a pop quiz to his students. Most students breezed through the questions, until they read the last one. "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke? Students had seen the cleaning woman many times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would anyone know her name? Most handed in their

paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward the quiz grade. "Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello”. Sounds like an important lesson. Think about some of the most famous people in history for a moment. Julius Caesar was an epileptic, but everyone has heard of him and Charles Dickens was lame, but that did not stop him from becoming a world renowned author. Plato was a hunchback, but today is known as one of the most famous teachers and philosophers in history. Colin Powell the 65th United States Secretary of State was born to Jamaican parents and started as a floor mopper. Helen Keller is extremely handicapped, but achieved more than most people.



Don't try to change others, try to change yourself
Have you ever noticed how people are always trying to change others? Wives nag husbands and husbands nag wives about this and that. Sure, you can train a guy to put the toilet seat down after he's had a pee, but the way you see people is usually the way they live their lives and very few change. This is not to say they can't change but very few do. So if you don't like what you see then don't assume it will be alright, because you can change them later. Accept them for who they are and how they live their lives or move on. Leopards don't change their spots as my old Granddad used to say. All you can do is


change yourself by being the best you can be and find friends and lovers you are compatible with. This reminds me of another thing. The person you fall in love with in your 20's is different than the person you would choose in your 30's, 40's or 50's. Life changes and as we get older we look for different qualities in people. Things we admire when we are young are things we can come to despise later in life. Choose carefully. If you are looking to make some changes in your life then here are some suggestions by Debbie Roberts and Werner Hofstatter

1. Change yourself first but state your needs clearly and respectfully. You can only change yourself. This may include letting others know your needs are not being met and telling them what you require from them. You can say something like, “I have to let you know that when you are late I feel disrespected. My time is important too. In the future, I require you to be


on-time or let me know in advance that you’ll be late. Is this something you can do?” 2. Get some perspective. Self-awareness is the key to change. You can’t change what you can’t see. If you require a new perspective on yourself take a look at your life and see what’s not working for you. Then, with the help of some objective and truthful friends, ask them what they think you’re doing to create this situation. If someone else seems to be unaware of a behaviour that is affecting others, ask a specific question like, “Are you aware that when you ________ it is hurtful?”

3. Uncover your history to discover your current mystery. Patterns and habits can be deep. Look at your early childhood experiences. Are you a people pleaser? Why? How did this start? Are you shy and withdrawn? How did this start? Finding the root of your emotional habits will equip you to make different (but positive) choices. Conscious choice is incredibly empowering.


4. Figure out the payoff. Leverage is needed to change a habit. There has to be a bigger reason to change than to stay the same. Looking deeper is often the key. Honestly list all the reasons why you may be unconsciously resisting change. Then list the benefits of changing. Seeing both sides of the picture is the only way to get it. If you are dealing with another person ask them why they think they don’t change. This will help them process why they may be stuck. 5. Do the 21-day habit change. By changing an emotional habit for 21 days you will be well on your way to permanent change. Just 21 days. Track it, journal it or create a spreadsheet. If you can get through that the rest will be a breeze. Hang in there!



Hard work doesn't always get you where you want to be
How many people do you see, salt of the earth people who work hard their whole lives but don't seem to achieve much? You rarely, if ever, get rich by working for someone else. You really have to look for opportunities and grab them with two hands. When I was working in the real estate industry I hit upon tough times. Out of an office of eight salespeople we were selling about two or three properties a month. I was desperate. I had a wife and two small kids, a new house with a big mortgage and hire purchase on a car. I was waiting for the commission on a sale to come through, but I didn't


even have money to buy food. I was scanning the local newspaper for another job and saw an advert along the lines of “Work from home and make good money.” So I inquired and found out it was selling advertising space on the back of school newsletters. I could do it from home in my spare time and it paid quite good money. I can still remember the first time I picked up the phone and called a local business. I got so tonguetied I had to hang up the phone and burst out laughing. I was a fast learner and got quite good at it, finding the job incredibly easy. Not long after, the lady who was coordinating this business for an Australian company phoned me to say she wasn't happy with how this Australian company was running things. She was going to set up on her own and wanted to know if I would work for her? I said yes as I desperately needed the money. A thought then came to me. If it was so easy for her to set up on her own then why couldn't I? I thought I would do this for a few months

until real estate picked up and then get back into real estate. Real estate got even worse and this new business took off! I ran the business for nearly twelve years and finally sold it after making a substantial income every year. Eventually I got tired of being at the coal face selling advertising space day in and day out to the local butcher, baker and candle-stick maker. I just wasn't happy. It became a real drag and it seemed like every time I picked up the phone to call a local business, I was about the tenth person already that day to have called them. It got harder and harder and when you are in sales and your motivation has gone it gets real tough to make sales. About this time there was a new phenomenon called the Internet. Everyone was saying this was where millions could be made! I didn't know exactly what the Internet was but I thought I'd better be a part of this new idea. When signing up to get internet access I remember this black screen popping up in front of me as it dialled over the phone lines to this Internet

“thingy”. Getting connected to the Internet was a big decision at the time because it cost $40 a month and we were really stretched for money, as my newsletter business was going down the gurgler. Then all of a sudden people were typing things on the screen in front of me. My first question was “Is this the Internet?” Then someone responded, “No I don't think so, this is a notice board.” I just couldn't see how I was going to make any money whatsoever from the Internet. I now had an email address and I could contact people all over the world. I didn't know who because I didn't know many other people with a computer! But a funny thing happened. I started to get spam in my inbox. People were trying to sell me all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. Again, an idea came to me as if it were sucked out of the ether. Why don't I do something similar and start fax advertising to businesses around New Zealand? I had a fax machine and I had heard faxing could be automated. I put together a list of business fax numbers and began my new business. I didn't make

much money for a while, but people started to see my little fax adverts and asked me if they could sell some of their stuff on it. I got excited because some weeks I even made $50! This grew and grew to a point where I was making more money than 90% of all New Zealanders. Well so my accountant told me! I sold the business ten years later and retired at a very young age to pursue other interests that had captured my attention. All of this, because of a moment of inspiration and loads of perseverance. A good idea doesn't always come along at an opportune time either. So when they do come along make a note of them, write them down and always have a notepad in the drawer next to your bed. Many an idea has come to mind when I'm laying in bed half asleep. Your brain is an ideas vault, not a storage vault, so write things down. This doesn't mean there are any free lunches either. You still have to put in the hard work, unless you get extremely lucky and I've certainly never been that lucky.

British-based researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda conclude in an extensive study, "The evidence we have surveyed ... does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts." You may have talent in a particular field but that doesn't mean you have intelligence or motivation to excel. It can take years. John Horn of the University of Southern California and Hiromi Masunaga of California State University say, "The ten-year rule represents a very rough estimate, and most researchers regard it as a minimum, not an average." In many fields top performers need 20 or 30 years experience before making it to the top. What about Bobby Fischer who became a chess grandmaster at 16? Evidently he had nine years of intensive study.



If you always do what you've always done
Here's an old but true saying which can benefit anyone who keeps it in the back of their mind. “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got.” In other words if life isn't giving you what you want, then you have to do something different. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. We all know it doesn't happen yet many do exactly that. So many people procrastinate. They never get around to trying something new. Some are too scared to step outside their comfort zone and they never find out what opportunities they have missed. Some people are always waiting for the perfect

moment rather than grasping an opportunity when it presents itself and taking some action. For some people it is fear of the unknown which holds them back and others a lack of resources. Let me share this from my American friend Teresa LaSota/Torres. “I learned early on that opportunities present themselves to a lot of people yet they don't take advantage of them and that always confused me. I was disenchanted with high school, because the focus seemed to be on those who were into sports, i.e., the football team rather than education. So, when I turned 16 I quit school. My teachers were shocked because I was an excellent student, but I didn't like the learning institution I was at. Instead, I registered at the adult high school and finished a year ahead of my graduating class. The school I attended offered full scholarships for the first two years of college. What saddened me was only two of us from the school applied. I was awarded the scholarship based on my grades and teacher recommendations. I put it down to youth, and the "I'll

live forever” mentality that so sneaks up on us, as to the reason others didn't apply. I completed my two year associates degree at age 18 and shortly before my graduation my parents said they were moving to California. I wanted to stay in Florida so I had to put my pursuit of a Bachelor's degree temporarily on hold and go to work full time. My job led me to an offer to work as a bookkeeper at a mechanical contracting firm which had a policy of paying for your education if it benefited your job. I again was the only one to take advantage of this. Not only did I receive my Bachelor's, I went on to get my Master's and they even paid for my CPA exam and licensing. At this point I'm in my 30's and I can no longer say it was youth that kept people from taking advantage of this offer. In my mind it was laziness and lack of ambition. It was not an easy task to work full time and attend school at night...it consumed my life for a while...but the end result was well worth it. Even now, the firm I work at will pay for your education and allow you to study at work on your downtime, yet no

one takes them up on the offer. So hence, my saying, “Everyone has an opportunity to succeed... but most times it's not going to be handed to you... you're going to have to do your part.” Opportunities rarely come knocking on the door of someone who's not seeking them. You have to create and seek opportunities for yourself. You have to take the initiative to get the ball rolling and the doors opening.



Have you ever noticed how inferior you can feel after watching a TV advertisement? Advertising gurus design the adverts so you get the feeling you simply aren't successful or appealing to the opposite sex if you don't have one of these whatsits! Well, that's what advertising is supposed to do. It plays on your emotions so you buy their product. Don't let it make you feel inferior or worthless because you don't have what they are selling. I do, however, subscribe to the theory that as long as you own it, even if it sits in your garage and you don't use it, you will get better abdominal muscles! It's not just TV advertising either. A year's worth of research from Simmons, a media consultancy, shows Internet video watchers are 47%


more engaged by the advertising they watched than were traditional TV viewers. The same study found viewers were 25% more engaged in the content on the shows as well. Creative advertising people know how to press your buttons, but believe me, you will still be a real man even if you don't have the latest new car on the lot and you will still be a real woman if you don't have the latest designer clothes. If you want to keep up with the Joneses you'll end up as poor as them too.



Have a “Go to Hell” fund
If you don't have money then you simply don't have choices in life. I read somewhere once that everyone should have a 'Go to hell' fund. It gives you the freedom to choose. Three to six months’ wages set aside in an account you won't touch unless you really have to. Something over and above your regular savings account. That way, when an opportunity arises, you can afford to pursue it, or if a really annoying boss gets to you then you have the freedom of telling him to go to hell and move on to bigger and brighter things. People end up in so many bad situations, because they become desperate and can't say NO to things


that are not good for them. If you have enough money to put aside you can get out of a bad relationship or leave a job you hate or just isn't working out. For example, when there are layoffs or the business you work for goes bankrupt, having savings for these unexpected times gives you more options. So often we see women in bad relationships, but they are totally dependent on their partner and can't leave them. Not having savings puts them under someone else's control and leaves them and their children open to abuse. Something needs to be done now so get started on your “Go to hell” fund.



Rainy day money
I chatted with an old Irish man in the street one day and asked him about the most important lesson he had learnt from life. He thought for a moment and then said, “Look after your money”. Nothing I hadn't heard before, but then he went on to say it was something that had always been instilled in him from a young age by his very frugal father. Always save a little money for a rainy day. Getting on in age, his mother became quite ill and had to be hospitalised. The family wasn't happy with the care she was getting in a public hospital and one day at her bedside the son looked at his father and said, “It's a rainy day, Dad”. The mother was then moved to


a private hospital where she got the care and medical attention she needed. This is what rainy day money is for, to give us choices and help care for our loved ones. Rainy day money should be different from your “Go to hell” fund. You need to have both. They need to be totally separate accounts and each with their own rules. They aren't there for the time you feel depressed and want to go on a retail therapy course! Set aside a small amount each week and have it automatically paid in to the specific account. This way you are never going to miss it and you can only spend what you have in your general account.



Who will give me $20 for this $50 note?
At the start of all his property investment seminars, Dr Dolf de Roos would announce he would like to sell the $50 note he was holding for $20. Everyone sat in their seats rather confused, even though they all had the opportunity to jump up and take the offer. After all it was a pretty good deal! People sat there thinking it was some sort of trick. Why would he offer to take $20 for a $50 note? Some people wanted to take up the offer, they said later, but they didn't have any money on them. The point Dolf was trying to make was that there are bargains out there all the time, but people are too scared to take


the opportunity or they simply don't have the money to do it. His advice was always having the money waiting for those once in a lifetime opportunities (that come along weekly!) and to look past your suspicions. Dolf certainly made a good point with his little stunt, which rammed home his point.



Making mistakes
If you have never made mistakes you are never going to get very far in life. Life has never been fair or perfect. Sometimes you have to make lots of mistakes to prepare yourself for those once in a lifetime opportunities. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from mistakes, but also learn from other people's mistakes as well. I remember making so many mistakes in my first sales job as a life assurance agent. This prepared me for my next sales job which was selling real estate. Selling real estate seemed so easy after my experience in life assurance. Mistakes are only lessons to be learned from, but the big mistakes in life are when you don't learn from those mistakes. Never

get angry with yourself because even the best of us make mistakes. Don't become a victim to the “Woe is me” mentality. It's so easy to give up and convince yourself you have made too many mistakes in your life to get ahead. Ultimately we all have to accept personal responsibility for our own mistakes. If you blame others then you will never get ahead and achieve whatever it is in life you would like to achieve.



Dr Michael Cullen, the Labour government Minister of Finance, once called MP John Key (later to become Prime Minister of New Zealand) a “rich prick”. As if there was something wrong with being rich? That to me sounds like an obvious case of jealousy. Remove any jealousy from your life because it is a cancer that will eat you away. Most people deserve what they have achieved and it really should be something to admire and aspire to. I guess this is the “Tall Poppy” syndrome people refer to. Talk to these people and ask them how they got to where they are in life. Just about everyone I have ever asked this question has been only too happy to tell me and share their knowledge. A friend

commented about a part in a light-hearted comedy called Death Becomes Her, which is well worth some thought. The Bruce Willis character got caught up in the lives of two women wanting to be young and live forever, but that came with a horrible price...they couldn't die; but whatever damage happened to their bodies after the "miraculous potion" they drank, became permanent. The Bruce Willis character left these women and began a new life after 50, while the women became more monstrous-looking as their jealousy of each other consumed them. It's sort of like what's happening to famous people today who have had too much plastic surgery and botox. My friend said she prefers to allow life to take its own natural course and be proud of each scar on her body and each laugh and worry line. Not to mention, she also wants her cheeks to move when she talks and smiles! Jealousy can also destroy relationships. It creates an element of distrust and does nothing to build a relationship. Jealousy is usually a mixture of fear and anger. Fear you are losing something and anger that someone is trying to take something away from you.

Most often these feelings aren't really based on any reality. The best way to overcome jealousy is to bring it out in to the open and discuss it with your partner so they can help you to overcome these feelings.



You don’t have to get into debt to get ahead
I have to thank my old psychologist friend Charlie Brodie for digging this one out of my brain. Until I met him I was always poor, just getting by. Every now and then I would start to build up a bit of capital, but then I would lose it. I had this idea in my head that you had to be in debt to get ahead. Every time I got some money I would get rid of it somehow, so I could get into debt and get ahead. Sounds pretty silly, doesn't it? - but I had been sabotaging myself for years with this stupid belief. What's holding you back? We all hold certain beliefs in our heads about ourselves and life in general. Most often these thoughts limit us and stop us from


achieving all we can be. Let's face it, we all know we can and should be doing better than we are. I remember someone saying to me once, “The only competition I have is myself.” So often this is true. We see it in people all the time when they achieve some success and then find a way to sabotage it, because they believe deep inside they are not worthy of the success. Pay attention to those thoughts that come in to your mind, that bring about doubt and lack of self confidence. If you can't get to the bottom of your problems, then find someone who can help you.



Choosing a mate
Your ability to select a suitable wife or husband will make a big difference in your life, but no one ever mentions this when you’re young and in love. Picking someone who is a joy to be around and who makes you feel happy in the process is a must. Get to know that person well to make sure you truly are compatible, and not just in the bed, because youth and beauty don't last forever! Do they have similar beliefs to you? Do you look down to them or up to them? Wouldn't it be better to have someone who is on a similar level rather than below you or above you? As my mother says to me, its one thing getting a husband or wife, but it's another keeping them. When you commit to a person it does not mean you own

them. When you purchase goods you own them, but nothing you can buy is maintenance free. Relationships need day to day maintenance for a life long guarantee. Consequently, committing to each other is easy but keeping the relationship functioning requires constant attention. I think it is also important to pick a pleasant partner and not someone who likes to fight and argue all the time. How do you tell if someone is really in love with you though? Someone once said to me, “When she cares for you more than she cares for herself, then she is in love with you”. This applies in reverse as well. A book I once read also said the purpose of a first date is only to decide if you can “kiss this person”. If you don't feel as if you would want to kiss this person, then simply don't pursue it. When you ask questions does your partner answer them fully, open and honestly? If not then what do they have to hide? Is he/she an honest person, because who wants to live with lies? In the end all that really matters is tenderness because after a while looks and health can fade. The question is - will your partner continue

to offer you tenderness and love and does your partner have common sense? Without it, looks, intellect, talent and money come a distant last. Is he/she the sort of person who looks for improvement? Or simply happy to settle for mediocrity and little ambition. However, over ambition can also have its negatives. This reminds me of a joke I read once... A man had to choose one of his three girlfriends to marry. He decided to give each one $5,000 and see how they spent it. The first one got a makeover with the money. She told the man, "I spent the money to look prettier for you, because I love you so much." The second one bought new golf clubs and a television. She said, "I bought these gifts for you, because I love you so much." The third one invested the money in the stock market, doubled her investment, returned the $5000 to the man and reinvested the rest. She said, "I am investing

the rest of the money for our future, because I love you so much." The man thought long and hard about how each of the women spent the money. He finally decided to marry the one with the biggest breasts.



Don't put all your money or all your debt with one bank. Banks love to compete with each other for business and they prefer to have all your mortgages if you are a property investor. Never do it even though it is easier. It gives them too much control and some of them link each property you buy with the next. I can remember selling a property once for $150,000 only to find they wanted me to pay them $20,000 to settle the mortgage, even though I was expecting to actually receive $50,000 from the sale. I eventually sorted it out and helped the bank to see sense, but only after I had to rant and rave to the chief executive of the bank! My suggestion is to have an account with


at least two banks and probably three so you have different options. For instance if a bank goes belly up like many have through the credit crunch of 2008, then you won’t lose everything. There is no guarantee in tough economic times the government will bail out every bank. Although a government often offers temporary guarantees on bank deposits, that could change in the future. When dealing with bank managers or other professionals, don't let them take any of your power away. Most are just glorified clerks with little authority and can't survive without your business. This doesn't mean you should be arrogant or belittle them, but don't let them make you feel inferior either. My friend Jayne Mau once sought advice from a local accountant about starting a business. She was young and took her mother along for support. The accountant discouraged her from starting the business. Later her mother informed her she had known this accountant’s family her whole life and they were very

old fashioned and sexist. She believed this accountant probably thought she would be better off at home looking after her husband and children. She ignored the accountant's advice and developed a successful business. Banks can also be very quick to lend you money when you don't need it, but run a mile as soon as you hit a bumpy patch. They simply can't be trusted. Don't think for a moment just because you have been with them for 20 years, this will make any difference. It doesn't! I can tell you from experience. When I bought my first home at twenty-one years old, they didn't want to know me. My lawyer managed to get me a loan through an insurance company he had contacts with. My bank which I had an account with for most of my life, because my parents had opened it, just weren't interested. All I can say is that after nearly fifty years on this planet I am yet to be impressed by any bank and I have dealt with many.



Gambling really is for mugs
I was once a professional punter on the racehorses. I had carefully worked out a system which just couldn't fail. Unfortunately I went broke after only one week. Despite this I didn't learn from the experience and I decided to become a professional gambler in the casino. I even had an actuary work out the odds for me. On the big $1 wheel there is almost a 50% chance the $1 slot will come up. So I kept doubling my investment until I won and then went back to my original bet. For me to lose my money, the $1 slot had to miss about seven times in a row which was almost impossible. You bet, it happened and on more than one occasion I


lost a whole heap of money. Of course you can't keep doubling up indefinitely, as they have a limit on the amount you can place in one bet. These guys aren't silly you know. If it was this easy they wouldn't be in business for long, would they? One day I finally woke up and had an epiphany. I realised that if I was to lose $1,000 it would make a big difference in my life, because it took a long time to save. It might not sound like much but I'll bet (there I go again) most people you ask on the street wouldn't have a spare $1,000 sitting in a bank account. Even if I won and doubled my money, I wasn't going to be much better off and eventually we all lose. You won't beat the system. In 1999 a New Zealand Gaming Survey showed some interesting insights. People who had gambled in the six months preceding the survey were asked about their typical monthly expenditure on each type of gaming activity. On average, people spent $41 per month on gaming activities. Males had a higher estimated monthly expenditure ($53) than females

($30). The lowest levels of gambling expenditure were found amongst people aged 18 to 24 ($30) and 65 or over ($31). People aged 45 to 54 had the highest average level of gambling expenditure ($58). Average expenditure levels were higher among the employed ($46) than those not in the labour force ($30). While $10 a week might not sound like much money, I have seen so many people lose a lot of money in the hope that gambling would pay off for them. For sure most people get lucky every now and then, but the odds are stacked against you. Unless you give up gambling after your big win, you will eventually give it all back and then some. In my earlier years I would have to say I was a compulsive gambler. It was the only way I could see to get ahead and make some money. At one stage when my job was making me $100 a week in my hand, I was gambling $500 on one horse. I eventually came to the realisation it was never going to work for me. If I had gambled a hundred dollars, I wished I had made it a thousand dollars, so where do you stop?

Even if I had a win, the amount I won was never going to change my life drastically like I hoped it would. On the other hand if I lost a whole week’s wages (or more) then my life was going to be considerably worse. I did get some help from a hypnotherapist, but I am sure that was just a crutch I needed to get me back on track and away from gambling. I had made a rational decision I knew was sensible and logical, which allowed me to break my bad habit. I gave up gambling for a long time and when I did dabble as a passing interest, the gambling no longer had the hold over me it once had.



Giving advice
Michael Neels's advice to me was, “Only give advice to a man if he asks for it and NEVER give it to a woman.” We all want to offer advice, isn't that what this book is endeavouring to do? We all want to show how intelligent we are, but the bottom line is people don't want to listen to other peoples’ opinions unless they ask for it (by buying this book you asked for it!). You only come across as a know-it-all, so you shouldn't bother. No one cares what you think so you might as well shut up and make it easier for people to like you. If you feel the need to give advice then the best way to do it is to ask permission first. Simply say “Would


you mind if I give you some advice about that?” Not asking causes all sorts of problems between friends, family and acquaintances. By asking, it shows compassion and not that you are just an opinionated person.



84 Charing Cross Road
Whatever you do…have an 84 Charing Cross Road person in your life. I had never heard of this movie before a friend told me about it. 84 Charing Cross Road is a true story about a woman who was searching for obscure books and contacted a book store in London. She corresponded with the owner and other employees over the course of 20 years from 1949 to 1968. When she finally was able to travel to London, she found the owner had died and the shop had closed. It was written by Helene Hanff, made into a play, and then a movie starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. It's funny, as much as I love to read I've never read the book, but I remember how much the movie touched me, she

said. Corresponding with others we’ve never met allows us to be vulnerable…to share and express feelings that may make us feel uncomfortable if we were to share them with people we see every day in our life. I’m not saying the ending has to be the same, but you have to admit anticipation in life, that unknown, unmet, untouched part of our lives should be cherished. It gives us something to look forward to, and to be able to face each day with anticipation.



The Mother-in-law
Have you ever noticed how often wives don't get along with the mother-in-law? It's a strange phenomenon how the husband's mother is usually on the outer. Now I know some mothers-in-law can be a bit overbearing and hard to get along with, but it is important for your kids to have experiences with both sets of grandparents. Even if you can't stand your mother-in-law’s girls, let them spend time with your children, even if she takes them away so you don't have to put up with her. She deserves it and so do your kids. I'm told by some, most mothers-in-law start by trying to be as helpful as possible with the new baby, but this is usually

construed by the daughter-in-law as being interfering. Soon she distances herself and baby from the mother-in-law thus allowing a justified reason to lure her man away from the closeness he has towards his mother. There is a certain inbuilt jealousy that she wants to be the only woman on earth he loves so deeply. The other scenario, a mother-in law decides she will not become one of those over the top or interfering mothers-in-law she hears about, she will sit back and wait to be asked for her opinion and help. Well guess what, it won't happen. The daughter-in-law will then take the stance she is not liked nor helped by the mother-in-law. Again, in her mind, she is justified to complain to her man that his mother doesn't care enough to be there for them. This again is placing his mother on the outer. These daughters-in-law don't realise they could one day be a mother-in-law themselves and most likely think they will be the best ever. Good luck to them, because an end to the mother-in-law myth would be most welcomed. As a daughter-in-law you need to

keep a few things in mind. Most daughters-in-law are naturally defensive and insecure when it comes to dealing with the mother-in-law, but never put your husband in a position of having to defend his mother. She usually has a special place in his heart, but that does not mean you are not just as important or even more important. No one wins in this situation and all it creates is animosity and derision, which no family needs. Some mothers-in-law will do everything possible to prove you are not good enough for their sons. These sons will see through this even if they don't do anything about it. There is no point in putting his mother down like she is putting you down. Ask your husband to talk to his mother. If he won't then all you can do is keep this kind of mother-in-law at a distance, but never try to compete with her. If he didn't want you more than her he never would have left home or married you in the first place! If possible, keep your husband’s parents up to date with what is happening, especially with their grandchildren rather than keeping them in the dark and them coming to resent you.


Kenny Rogers poker theory
Remember the song lyrics...” You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run...” When I was in my early 20's I was working on the railways as a locomotive assistant (fireman). I remember one of the drivers I worked with. He had a real penchant for buying shares and as a kid who knew little about any financial investments, I was extremely impressed by all the talk this guy had. I'm not sure but I think he must have been Warren Buffet's twin brother, because he was going to be worth millions. He had got the low-down on a share to buy from his mother’s, brother’s, and aunt’s cousin

who had a friend over the back fence who worked in the industry where they were discovering natural gas. He was told he should be buying shares in Oil and Gas. At one stage his shares where worth twice as much as he paid for them. Naturally I asked him why he hadn't sold them and taken his profits. “They're going to triple, that's why, boy!” I was told. Now, how he knew this was beyond me. I knew as much about these shares as he did. He hadn't done any evaluation on the intrinsic value of these shares. He was just gambling and to top it all off he had borrowed money against his house to buy these shares. In effect he was gambling. He might as well have put his $10,000 on number 7 in race 7 at the horse races, because he didn't have a clue what he was doing. I know that now but I didn't know it then. About a year later I came across him and asked how his shares were doing? With a sheepish look he said he had sold them. “Did you make a fortune?” I asked. Turns out he held on and held on with


unbridled faith expecting them to keep going up and up, but they didn't. They dropped and dropped and he ended up losing money when he could have at least doubled his money. Two of the hardest aspects of share investing is valuing a share (part of a company) and knowing its intrinsic value regardless of how popular or unpopular it is to the share market. It is so important to learn how to value shares and well worth the effort. Secondly, it is knowing when to get out. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to know the intrinsic value and also to make a decision to get out at a certain figure, if you aren't in it for the long term like Warren Buffet is. Take a course and read lots of books on the subject of share investing, before you invest your money. Not just any books with the latest trends, but books that give you an insight in to the minds of successful investors. Remember what Warren Buffett always says, “It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price." Buffett has delivered outstanding returns for his investment

company Berkshire Hathaway by buying undervalued shares in great companies. The trouble is how do you identify great companies and determine what really is a reasonable price? Buffett recommends investors look for companies that deliver outstanding return on capital and produce substantial cash profits. He also suggests you look for companies with a huge economic moat to protect them from competitors. You can identify companies with moats by looking for strong brands, alongside consistent or improving profit margins and returns on capital. How do you determine the right price for shares in such companies? Buffett advises that you wait patiently for opportunities to purchase stocks at a significant discount to their intrinsic values, which is calculated by taking the present value of all future cash flows. Ultimately, he believes "value will in time always be reflected in market price". When the market finally recognises the true worth of your undervalued shares, you begin to earn solid returns.



University fees
A lot of people pay for their children to go to university. Most people are proud of the fact they can afford to put their children through university or do so even if they can't afford it. I'm proud of the fact my daughter put herself through university and so is she. When my daughter told me she was planning to go to university, I told her if she really wanted to go and to do well there, she would have to pay for it all herself. She looked a little put out at first, but then she announced she would rather have the satisfaction of doing it on her own back anyway. Why did I decide this? I could certainly afford to pay for it at the time, but a year or two before this I remember sitting in a cafe I regularly went to. You get

to know the waitresses by name and chat from time to time. This one young waitress had been there for around six months. She told me she wouldn't be working there after Christmas, because she was going to university, locally in Auckland. I said I thought she would have been keeping her part time job to help fund this education. Her answer was that she didn't need to, because “Dad is paying for it”. I thought about it for a while and I really didn't like the attitude. I never met her again, but I wonder how she did and if she would have applied herself as much as she would have if she had been paying for it all herself. My daughter has finished her degree and her student loan isn't very large, because she has also worked her way through university and paid for everything herself. I'm so proud of her and in the long run I think she will be better off for having achieved it all herself. It teaches them to stand on their own two feet and teaches them responsibility rather than expecting mum and dad to bail them out and fix everything for them.



Credit cards and debt
Credit cards are so convenient, but also dangerous. They make it so easy in times of hardship to make the noose even tighter around our necks. All they really do is delay the inevitable and make it harder to get ahead in life. My advice is to never have one. For convenience get a debit card. They work just like a credit card, but can only be used if you have money in your account. You can pay for things online with them, but the bank isn't giving you credit like a credit card does. They are linked to your savings or cheque account at the issuing bank and the money is taken directly out of your account. That way when you hit rock bottom you will have to face the problem head on and do something to fix it. Getting into debt isn't fixing

the problem but only making it worse. When in real estate I remember lots of commissions coming through and receiving a free offer to have a credit card. How could I say no? After all, every big shot like me had a credit card to splash around. It was a gold one too! Isn't it funny how they now have platinum and goodness knows what else to show that you have arrived and that you are better than the next person. Not long after this the real estate industry hit bad times and several sales I had made fell over. I ran out of money only to receive my credit card bill, still owing $500 on it, soon after. At the time it seemed like a lot of money and I had nothing left to pay it off. When things were going well I had always paid it off in full every month without a problem. Now things were different. I can tell you this caused a lot of stress in my life and a bad credit rating for some time. It just wasn't worth the hassle. Don't delay the inevitable. If you have one then pay it off and cut it up. One day you will thank me. Debit cards are safer than


carrying around cash and you don't have a huge bill to pay at the end of every month (not to mention extra interest payments if you don't pay your credit card off in full).



Control freaks
Are you a person who always has to be in control of everything? A control freak? Here's what Wikipedia has to say: “In psychology-related slang, a control freak is a derogatory term for a person who attempts to dictate how everything around them is done. It can also refer to someone with a limited number of things they want done a specific way”. Professor of clinical psychology Les Parrott wrote "Control freaks are people who care more than you do about something and won't stop at being pushy to get their way." Some control freaks even see what they do as helping people because they think they are better than everyone else and no one can do what they can do.

In effect they are legends in their own minds! For others it's just simply power and their way of getting control. This behaviour doesn't get you far in life. People come to despise you and it makes your life a misery, because you will never be able to control everything so why bother trying? Just accept you can't control everything in life and you never will be able to. Life will be so much easier and you will get along much better with the people who love you. If you are married to someone like this don't put up with it, get out and find a happier life if this person isn't prepared to do something about it. Life is just too short to put up with people like this.



Don't take things for granted
When I rode my first winner as an apprentice jockey it was on my second ride. I thought I was the next Willie Shoemaker and the world was going to beat a path to my door and beg me to ride their horses for them. This horse was due to race again in a couple of weeks and I expected to be the jockey again. After all I had just won on it. I forgot to ask the trainer for the ride and he gave it to another apprentice, because I didn't ask and he thought I must have had a better offer. Ever since then I have never taken things for granted. I always follow up and ask for what I want! On a personal note, taking things for granted isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all you don't want to think every time you breathe, do you? It's okay to expect the sun will come up and that one foot will

follow the other as you walk, but it is also important to take notice of the little things in life. If you fail to notice the little things in life then people start to feel unappreciated. This is especially important with people close to you. Noticing the new clothes your spouse has just bought and how good they look on him/her, then commenting to him/her makes a big difference in life. It also gets loads of brownie points. One situation always annoys me and makes me feel bad, is when I call someone close to me and they don't return my call. They take it for granted I will call them back. This is the downside to taking things for granted. Also, never forget familiarity breeds contempt. Sometimes in life it is necessary to take a break. This could be from work or a loved one, so when you return you get to see things from a different perspective. It makes you appreciate things just that little bit more.



Say what you think, but you don't have to say everything you think
Some people think they should say what's on their mind and admire themselves for being blunt and honest with people when they blurt out what they have to say. It's a quality they seem to think others admire in them, but usually people don't. What they don't realise is this can really annoy people and make the situation worse if they don't approach it the right way. It is also important to know where to draw the line, because people don't always want to hear the truth and sometimes the truth isn't appropriate, so think before you open your mouth. It is very important however, to speak your mind if you can do it properly. The problem most people have is the context of how

they say what they say. If you say what you are thinking with consideration for what others have said, then it will come across a lot better. You have to understand that they may have a different perspective than you on the subject so you need to say something without attacking the other person or putting them down personally. If you are speaking your mind only to make yourself sound intelligent and to put the other person down, then simply shut up.



Face your fears
It is so important to learn to face your fears. They hold us back from experiencing all life has to offer and this just limits us. The fear of failure is one of the most dangerous. Some people are so afraid to fail, they never do anything. This is a self-fulfilling cycle that holds people back. People become so paralysed they simply do nothing. They get excited about something and are ready to do it, but then fear takes over and they quit. Start by having realistic goals rather than trying to eat the elephant in one sitting. Once you achieve a simple goal aim a little higher next time. The first step is often the hardest! One of the main reasons for fears is the talk going on inside your head. You know what I mean... when you say to yourself, “I can't do that” or

“It's too risky”. If this talk is irrational then you have to find ways to replace these irrational beliefs. Find ways to change those words running through your head. Investigate and get some real facts on the issue to help balance those fears.



Idiot drivers
It seems whenever you drive your car the road is full of selfish, ignorant people. I used to get really upset about this until one day when I was abusing yet another idiot driver, my young daughter in the back popped up and said, “Why do all the idiots only come out when you're driving, Daddy?” Even adults can learn from their children! An idea I learned in philosophy classes was to be an observer. Look down on the situation as if you were simply observing and not actually in the middle of what is happening. It's a way of distancing yourself from what is happening and it gives you time to think about what is happening. Try for the next week to let everyone in to the queue on the motorway, or the

person wanting to change lanes. Simply take a deep breath and wave them in. You might be surprised at the difference it makes and the smiles you will get.



Life is extremely busy and stressful for most people. If you would like life to be less stressful don't expect too much from people. People are good at letting others down. Some people take this to heart and get all worked up about it. By not expecting too much from people you will never be too disappointed. Alexander Pope, the great English poet of the eighteenth century once said “Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”. You can't control how people act or what they do or don't do so let it go. Expectations can however be a good thing. They can help you challenge yourself and others to performer better but unrealistic expectations only add more


stress and lead to anger, disappointment and resentment. It's also important to remember never to burn your bridges with people just because they haven't met your expectations. You never know the day you may need to go back for their help or advice. Just understand people are fallible.



Thank you
A recent US survey showed 70 % of adults said people are ruder now than they were 20 years ago. If you want to stand out from the crowd then try saying “Thank you” and genuinely mean it. MP Tau Henare reminded me, “Saying ‘thank you’ to people is one of the most important things to learn in life, especially to those who have done things out of the goodness of their hearts, because saying ‘thank you’ doesn't cost anyone anything but it can uplift someone so much whether it be your wife, your dad, your mum or whoever, it really is the best thing to say to anyone.” If you are in business or dealing with the public do you always say ‘thank you’? I could probably count the number of times I have been thanked after making


a purchase, on one hand. With some businesses it's almost like you have done them a disservice for buying something off them. It's almost like you have rudely interrupted their busy day. It's so nice to hear a “Thank you” when you make a purchase. It's a simple pleasantry often forgotten in this busy, stressful world we live in. As Alfred North Whitehead, a well known British mathematician, logician and philosopher once said, “No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”



Be yourself
So often in life we try to be or act like someone else instead of just being ourselves. People always seem to be able to see through this facade, because it isn't congruent with whom we really are. We all want to be liked and admired by others, but putting on an act has the opposite effect. Most people will like you for who you are, warts and all, and if you can really just be yourself you will also have an inner peace that will make you even more attractive to people. We all have to realise we are all so different. Variety is the spice of life so it is wonderful each of us is different in so many ways. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter

and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Seuss. To be yourself you have to find out who you really are, understand yourself and accept yourself. It doesn't matter what other people think about you, it's important what you think about yourself. This is what defines YOU. Neither does it matter that what interests you doesn't interest other things. If you don't like something about yourself then don't be afraid to change it. We can all change and improve for the better, but it's important to do it for yourself and not for others.



We all have the right to be right and the right to be wrong
Government Minister Peter Dunne sent me these comments. “It was drummed into me at school that free will is what distinguishes humanity from the animals, and that it is the most precious gift we possess. Free will also leads to the tolerance of diversity and the humility of accepting none of us knows everything.” It makes one unalterably liberal (in the true sense of that word) in outlook. As James K Baxter said in one of his poems in Jerusalem Daybook, "Teach other ignorant people what you in your ignorance think you know best, but gently, brother, gently..." So while I

hold my own views, passionately, for example, the belief in free will leads me almost unerringly to try to see the other person's point of view. No-one is ever 100% right and no-one is 100% wrong, so the truth must lie between the extremes. So often we are quick to condemn and criticise other people’s opinions. As Peter points out it really is important to see the other person's point of view by walking in the other person’s shoes and seeing the problem from their perspective. That doesn't mean you need to agree, it just means to take the time to listen to their argument even if it seems extreme, because you don't always know the background of the person.



Respect your elders?
Most people have been told all their lives to respect their elders. I haven't always agreed with that statement. While it is important to have respect for all people and to show kindness, if people are not deserving of respect, because of their actions then they should not receive it. Respect is something that doesn't come of right, and has nothing to do with age. It must be deserved. Never forget our elders have done much for us though. Many went to war to ensure your freedom and the life you live today. These older people have much we can learn from in terms of their experience, wisdom and knowledge. There is no point

in re-inventing the wheel and, given a little respect, they are usually happy to part with some of their advice to help us make our way in life. Don't forget, one day you will be an elder, how do you want to be treated?



What's it worth?
Your home is usually the most valuable asset you own. Quite often we get fixed ideas about what it is worth, when the time comes to sell. I can remember when I sold my very first home. I had paid $18,000 for it and when the time came to move on I thought I would ask the exorbitant price of $30,000. It sold straight away and I had two people wanting it. Maybe my asking price was too cheap when I sold my home? My suggestion is always to get three real estate agents to give you an estimate. I would also highly recommend getting a registered valuation from a registered valuer. Most valuers will give you a short, market price valuation, which will be cheaper than a

full mortgage valuation. Registered valuers base their valuations on solid evidence and don't have any vested interest in how much your property sells for. Real Estate agents do, because they get paid a commission, and their homework is not always based on sound research. Even when I have only had one interested buyer, I have sent the agent away, because I was “waiting for an offer from another agent”. Funny how quickly they come back at the full price from their initial offer. This is also a good reason not to put your property on a sole agency. It stops you from using this technique because if the property is on a sole agency, this agent will be aware of any other offers in their company as this is their obligation. When selling your home tell the agent nothing. They are always trying to find out your true motivation, as this informs them if your price will be more negotiable or not. You don't want to give them ammunition. Remember also that the time to be buying a house is


when everyone is selling and the time to be selling is when everyone is buying, if your situation allows. Never buy into the fallacy that real estate agents will always try to get you the best price possible, because they get more commission when they do. The fact of the matter is they want a sale. If you drop your price by $10,000 this affects their commission by as little as a few hundred dollars. Not much to them but $10,000 is a lot to you!



The World Health Organization predicts that in 20 years time, stress will be the second biggest cause of death worldwide. Some people will say good health is the most important thing to have in life. After all, if you don't have good health then you can't enjoy all life has to offer. That makes you wonder though, given the rise of obesity and the ill effects it causes. One of the ways to improve your life is to remove as much unneeded stress as possible. Some physicians tell us stress is the secret killer in our society. Stress can be psychological or physical and weakens our immune system, leading to poor health. Stress can also bring on behaviour problems like addiction, which leads to other serious problems. There are many aspects to

life which bring on stress. It can be caused by finance, marital problems, our jobs, kids, bereavement or simply trying to do too much at once. Do what you can to remove the causes of stress from your life or get help to overcome them. Many years ago when my parents divorced it was an emotional time for me. I can remember being at my local GP for a minor problem. I mentioned things weren't going too well and that I was finding my parents’ separation difficult. He referred me to the local base hospital where I met with a counsellor. Having someone who was totally unbiased helped me immensely. Don't be afraid to ask for help and seeing a trained counsellor is nothing to be embarrassed about.



'Tis better to have loved and lost...
Life can be so funny. One day you meet a girl and the next you're married with 3.2 children and have a mortgage around your neck. Then the day after you find yourself divorced and wondering if you ever did love this person you thought was so wonderful. Love can be a wonderful thing and it took me most of my life to find it, a long time after my divorce. When you finally meet the person who ticks all the boxes and really floats your boat on all levels, life can seem so fulfilling. People say, “It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. At least I don't have to go through the rest of my life wondering what love really is. To lose a loved one through either separation or death can be and is usually a catastrophic event for

everyone. Finding a way through it can be so difficult. Sometimes you just have to accept that things happen for a reason and sometimes we never know the reason. Adopting this attitude, whether it is right or wrong, can help you get through the trials and tribulation life throws at us all. As my friend Rick McKinley once said to me, “It has taken me two broken marriages, with much expense and grief, to finally find the woman of my dreams. The journey was worthwhile and I would do it all over again just to have her in my life. Unfortunately, there are no rules and guidelines to find the perfect mate. We choose one in our twenties and maybe have grown in different directions by our thirties, and so on. Young people today are waiting longer before they marry and I think that’s a step in the right direction. Ultimately though, we have to trust our instincts and follow our hearts - and hope we have chosen well.”



Trust Funds
Setting up a trust fund can be advantageous, particularly when buying a home. If your wealth is in a trust fund it is protected from creditors, gold digging future spouses and the government, so long as it is done properly and before it is needed. Just imagine if you hit the latest Mercedes when you are out driving only to find your car insurance expired a month prior and you forgot to renew it! Or what if you find you have to go into a nursing home, but the government makes you sell your home to pay for it when others who haven't worked hard like you to get one, get a subsidy. In different countries there can also be tax advantages to having a trust, but this is beyond the scope of this book to discuss. Some people also

adopt the philosophy “If I die the kids can have it all”. Do you really want to leave it to your kids though only to have a low-life, good-for-nothing partner of one of them take half of it? Setting up a trust doesn't have to be an expensive exercise and doesn't even need to involve an accountant or lawyer to set one up, although it is advisable. It's not enough simply that you form a trust and transfer assets to it. It’s essential the trust is properly administered, records are kept and that the trust assets are dealt with according to the terms of the trust. If this is not done then the trust could be held to be invalid through investigations by the Inland Revenue Department or some other creditor, including Government departments. Most lawyers use a fairly standard document when setting up a trust, but do search the Internet for some examples and word your own to suit your needs.



The secret to life
The secret is there is no secret. As Annette King, a former government Minister told me, “There is no one lesson I've learnt in life but a series of experiences that have moulded me - separation, sole parenthood, deaths, births, illness, remarriage, losing an election”. If there is one secret, then in my mind, it is simply to be happy. Although this begs the question of what is happiness? To me it is doing things that make you feel good about yourself and achieving goals that make you feel good. Why go through life being unhappy with your lot? It is easier said than done, but if you aren't happy with your lot then make some changes and find out what makes you happy. That doesn't mean buying stuff either. I don't know where I heard it,

but I have said this over and over to my kids... “If you buy stuff, what do you end up with? - stuff all!” If you are searching for happiness in possessions then you will never find happiness. There is more to it than that. People say money makes the world go round, but people are what make the world worth living in. We all get caught up running around like headless chickens trying to make money and get ahead, and that's important but the opportunity to spend time with those we care about is even more important. I read this once... “Most of us instinctively feel that happiness is out there in an external person, place or object. However, no matter what we have or how much we have, we are perpetually dissatisfied. Similarly, we often believe if we just follow others’ wonderful advice, not only would our problems cease, but also the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Each of us is unique, no one in the world is exactly like us. We have many faces when dealing with stress and therefore various moods.”



Distinguish between friends and acquaintances
Rick McKinley also said to me, “As we travel life's journey, I reckon we are lucky if we have a couple of really close friends; exceptionally lucky if we have four or five. Friends who really care about you and would be 'there for you' in a time of crisis. There are a bunch of people we have worked with once, play sport with, or chat to on the bus. These are valued friends too, but in reality they are acquaintances we have met along the way. In mixing with such friends I am often disappointed at their lack of interest in ME. I might ask them what they've been up to, or how their family is, only to find no reciprocation at all. Zilch. Not really interested in anyone much, but happy to talk about

themselves. As I get older I have begun to realise how important really good friends are, and to concentrate on seeing more of the people I really care about, and know care about me.” Maori MP Georgina te Heuheu reminded me of an old Maori saying: He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.


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