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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


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

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.


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

18. Don't try to change others, try to
change yourself 68
19. Hard work doesn't always get you where
you want to be 72
20. If you always do what you've
always done 78
21. Advertising 82
22. Have a “Go to Hell” fund 84
23. Rainy day money 86
24. Who will give me $20 for this $50 note? 88
25. Making mistakes 90
26. Jealousy 92
27. You don’t have to get into debt to get ahead 95
28. Choosing a mate 97
29. Banks 101
30. Gambling really is for mugs 104
31. Giving advice 108
32. 84 Charing Cross Road 110
33. The mother-in-law 112
34. Kenny Rogers poker theory 115
35. University fees 119
36. Credit cards and debt 121
37. Control freaks 124
38. Don't take things for granted 126

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


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

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

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

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. Vickers-
Douglas 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

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


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

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; British-

born 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 founder-

spokesperson 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 non-
European 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

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-mother-
in-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 behind-
the-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

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 self-
described 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

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

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

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

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

I can still remember the first time I picked up the

phone and called a local business. I got so tongue-
tied 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

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 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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


'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.