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Thomas Skiffington,  CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
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Tom's Blog

How to Overcome Excuses in 2014

February 14, 2014 1:54 am

Great people throughout history often fail, quite miserably, before finally reaching their goals, says international business strategist Dan Waldschmidt.

“Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime; Winston Churchill lost every public election until becoming prime minister at age 62; Henry Ford went bankrupt five times; Albert Einstein was a terrible student and was expelled from school; Sigmund Freud was booed from a stage,” says Waldschmidt, author of “Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success,” (www.EdgyConversations.com).

“Ideas, brilliance, genius—they all mean nothing without the guts, passion and tenacity necessary to make your dream a reality. But often, people fall back on excuses and give up on trying to reach their goals.”

Most of us have dreams, and many of us have big ones, but few of us actually see them through, he says.

He offers six tricks for jumping off the excuse train and forging the path to your goals.

• Avoid the need to blame others for anything. Mean, small-minded people know that they have problems. That’s why they are so cranky and eager to point out others’ mistakes. They hope that by causing others to feel inadequate, everyone will forget about how woefully off the mark their own performance is. Don’t blame anyone, for any reason, ever. It’s a bad habit.

• Stop working on things that just don’t matter. Not everything needs to be done in place of sleep. If you work for a boss, then you owe them solid time. You can’t cut that out. You can, however, cut out television time, meetings and anything else that gets in the way of achieving your goals. Replace entertainment with activity toward your goal.

• Refuse to let yourself wallow in self-doubt. You’re alive to succeed. Stop comparing your current problems to your last 18 failures. They are not the same. You are not the same. Here’s something to remember: Your entire life has been a training ground for you to capture your destiny right now. Why would you doubt that? Stop whining. Go conquer.

• Ask yourself, “What can I do better next time?” And then do it next time. If you spend a decade or two earnestly trying to be better, that’s exactly what will happen. The next best thing to doing something amazing is not doing something stupid. So learn from your mistakes and use the lessons to dominate.

• Proactively take time to do things that fuel your passion. Exercise is a great example. Living in the moment requires you to live at peak performance. A huge part of mental fitness is physical fitness. A sparring or running partner is a great way to refresh physical competition. Physical activity accelerates mental motivation.

• Apologize to yourself and those around you for having a bad attitude. Do this once or twice and you’ll snap out of your funk pretty fast. When you start genuinely apologizing for being a bad influence on those around you, you learn to stop whining and start winning.

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Word of the Day

February 14, 2014 1:54 am

Delinquent loan. One where the borrower is behind, or late, in payments.

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Q: What Is a Lease Option?

February 14, 2014 1:54 am

A: It is an agreement between a renter and a landlord in which the renter signs a lease with an option to purchase the property. The option only binds the seller; the tenant has a choice to make a purchase or not.

Lease options are common among buyers who would like to own a home but do not have enough money for the down payment and closing costs. A lease option may also be attractive to tenants who are working to improve bad credit before approaching a lender for a home loan.  

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How to Be the Boss of Your Own Life

February 13, 2014 11:54 pm

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in the United States with hundreds of thousands of new businesses opening each year.

More than 22 million of our small businesses are one-man (or woman) shops, and the number of those ringing up more than $1 million in sales is growing – it was nearly 27,000 in 2011, the most recent U.S. Census statistics available.

“Americans are very savvy business people, and for more and more of us, the rewards of running our own business trounce the risks associated with stepping out on our own,” says Lynda Chervil, a longtime businesswoman, thought leader and author of the new book, “Fool’s Return,” (http://lyndachervil.com/).

“Imagine what would happen if we applied our CEO mindset and skills to our own lives? Sometimes, it takes a boss to tell you to do something in order for it to get done. Now’s the time to become that boss.” 

Chervil shares tips for doing that:

• Embrace change, renewal and rebirth. There is no shortage of opportunity to notice change in life. Don’t be afraid to use milestones to provide yourself with an “employer’s review” on how you’re doing in your own life. What are you doing well, what needs work and how are you going to improve? Create a detailed plan on how you expect to accomplish your goals. Give yourself a timeline, such as losing 20 pounds by summer or increasing your net worth by next year.

• You’re your own best entrepreneur. Part of being a good boss means trying out enterprising ideas; it’s the mediocre bosses who are content with the status quo. You don’t have to start with something wild. Instead, follow through on ideas that are good for you, such as buying healthy food that you haven’t yet tried. Look up recipes for how to prepare a healthy item like quinoa – make a project out of it. Have fun with the new you. Just because you have a new job with plenty of responsibility – being your own boss – doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

• Manage what you can control; accept what you cannot; and look outside the box. This is not as easy as it may sound because we often think we can control things that, in fact, we cannot, including how people respond to us or how quickly our bodies respond to diet and exercise. Progress does not happen all at once. While it makes sense to focus on what we can control, you may also consider alternative methods of living. That may include riding a bike to work rather than driving, or exploring alternative forms of spiritual healing.

• Don’t be a victim! To a greater or lesser extent, we’re all taught to be obedient conform to the standards set by parents, teachers and bosses. Unfortunately, for many, this passive role can shape one’s identity and influence other relationships. It all starts with one’s own relationship to one’s self, Chervil says. As most parents and teachers will say, the best students are those who need the least help and are willing to be proactive in their own improvement. Understand that it’s not others who determine what you can do; it’s you!

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Fitness Tips from the U.S. Olympics Team

February 13, 2014 11:54 pm

With all eyes focused on the Olympics, young athletes all over the country are gearing up to improve their own game.

U.S. News and World Report polled America’s 2014 Olympian women to get an inside look at what keeps them fit and focused:

  • Work out with a buddy – Sharing workout routines with a friend keeps you motivated and provides encouragement. “Best of all, it keeps you committed,” said figure skater Ashley Wagner.

  • Ignore the competition – Alpine skier Stacey Cook tries not to worry about competitors. “You stand the best chance of winning if you put your energy into improving your personal best.”

  • Skip the last run – When practicing, the final time down the mountain is the most dangerous, said snowboarder Arielle Gold. “If you’re tired, skip that last run or you open yourself up to injury.”

  • Stop a cold in its tracks – Half pipe snowboarder Kelly Clark swears by ginger tea. “At the first sign of a cold, chop some raw ginger, steep it in boiling water and add some honey and lemon.”

  • Defog the goggles – While you’re on the chairlift, put your fogged up goggles under your armpit inside your jacket. According to freestyle skier Heather McPhie, “it works every time.”

  • Soothe dry, cracked hands – Intense cold over many hours does a number on your hands, notes ice dancer Meryl Davis. She says, “Oil of Olay, which is made for faces, does a better job of healing my hands than any hand lotion I’ve tried.”

  • Stay hydrated – We don’t sweat as much when exercising in cold weather, said bobsledder Elana Meyers. “But dehydration causes stomach cramps, so drink 2-3 glasses of water at each meal, and more during every workout.”

  • Listen to your body – Work through soreness, but not pain, said ice hockey’s Julie Chu. “If it’s pain, pinpoint where it’s coming from, and treat it right away.”

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Word of the Day

February 13, 2014 11:54 pm

Deed. Written document that when executed and delivered conveys title to real property.

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Q: Are Home Improvements Deductible?

February 13, 2014 11:54 pm

A: Yes, but only after you have sold your home. According to the IRS, home improvements add to the basis, or value, of your home. A tax-acceptable improvement is defined as one that adds value to your home, "considerably" prolongs your home's useful life, or adapts your house to new uses. Examples include installing new plumbing or wiring or adding a bathroom. If the work done on the home is purely for maintenance, the cost cannot be deducted and generally cannot be added to the basis, or value, of your home.  However, repairs done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration of your home are considered improvements and therefore pass the deductible test.

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3 Tips for Building Strong Families

February 13, 2014 11:54 pm

Have you ever wondered how members of the same family, from aunts, uncles and cousins to siblings born of the same parents and raised in the same household, can be so very different?

“We see it in every family—Grandma’s so easygoing and her son is so strict; Mom’s a zany beatnik and her sister’s a corporate v.p. Anyone with brothers and sisters will even see it within their own sibling group,” says Lynn Shafer, award-winning author of “Stories from Brooklyn: Ancient Voices, Ritual Chants,” (www.jo-anbooks.com), a timeless look at the interplay of disparate members of an extended 1940s family.

A ground-breaking study by researcher Robert Plomin in the 1980s is still the preeminent resource for psychologists seeking to understand personality diversity within families.  Even among siblings, the study showed, while physical traits may be very similar, personalities can be as varied as random individuals from the general population.

“Expand that to the extended family, including the vast non-traditional extended families we see today, and you’re likely to see more differences than similarities,” says Shafer. “Still, many of these families are tight-knit and cohesive. They serve as an inspirational example for humanity as a whole. Despite a union of very different people, we can all love, learn and grow together.”

How can you build a strong family? Shafer shares timeless tips:

• Establish a solid foundation based on shared values. It’s no secret that very religious families tend to be close-knit and strong. Why? “Because religion provides a structured means of sharing beliefs and values, a process that begins in infancy, when babies are taken to worship services and undergo the rituals that mark their membership in the religion,” Shafer says.  While fewer American families are religion-focused than were in decades past, they can all still strive to emphasize the importance of family values and their role in reuniting every family member. Creating rituals and traditions are one way to emphasize values.

• Make your family history a story to celebrate. The story about how brave Uncle Joe once rescued a dog from a well; the singing talents of the three great aunts who performed at county fairs as little girls; the one-cheek dimple that is the family hallmark -- these are the stories that make your family special. “It’s not about memorizing the family tree, but about ensuring children know that they are part of something greater than themselves – and that is both a privilege and a responsibility,” Shafer says. A child who is constantly reminded, with fondness, that she’s the spitting image of wonderful Aunt Bessie will feel a bond with Aunt Bessie – even if she’s been gone for decades.

• Commit to attending, or hosting, family gatherings. Often, the places for sharing those stories are family gatherings – weddings and funerals, holidays and anniversaries. “It may be a question of the chicken or the egg,” Shafer says. “Strong families tend to have many shared family stories. Strong families also tend to gather together frequently – and that’s where those stories are most often shared.” Family gatherings are also a good place for family members with very different personalities to learn to find common ground and practice getting along for the sake of everyone at the special event.  “Imagine what a more peaceful world it would be if we were all forced to play nicely with our obnoxious cousin as children!” Shafer says. 

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Top Online Dating Tips

February 13, 2014 3:54 pm

Searching for your honey in the buzzing hive of the online world? Online dating can be tough, and even dangerous. In some extreme cases, online dating horror stories have even led to lawsuits.

But with some helpful tips in mind, finding that special someone on the Internet can also be pretty sweet.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, here are our top online dating tips:

Beware of misrepresentation. Whether it’s fudging on age, weight, or even a very flatteringly angled photo, be prepared that your online sweetheart may be skewing major facts about his or her appearance or identity.

Single women: Beware of scams. Online dating scams tend to target a specific demographic, and it just happens to be single women over the age of 40. If this is you, exercise caution to protect yourself from potential con artists.

Think twice before using Craigslist to date. Craigslist may be a perfect forum for finding a new roommate or picking up a discounted bookcase. But as some real-life cases have shown, dangerous criminals may be lurking on the online classified website.

Dating apps can be used to solve crimes. Apps like OkCupid are multipurposed, as some users have found. For example, you can also use them to lure a thief and retrieve your stolen phone.

Don't send indecent pics by phone, even on Snapchat. Think you're really clever sending revealing selfies on Snapchat, which promises to delete your messages within 10 seconds? Well you won't be smiling if your private data gets published.

Taking selfies in uniform can get you in trouble. It may be tempting to snap a selfie for your dating profile while in your office or in your work uniform. Take a lesson from #copselfies and just don't.

Don't share sensitive information. Post a well-lit photo of your face on your profile, but don't include a photo of your passport or Social Security card. Sharing sensitive information will make you a target for identity thieves.

Don't lie. Lying is a poor dating strategy. Not only does it give the impression that you're not dating material, it may provide fodder for a future divorce case.

Fish in a big pool. Economist Paul Oyer shared this insight with The New York Times' Economix: "go to a 'thick' market where there are more options." Niche sites are great if you have a big deal breaker (i.e., your date must be Christian) but getting too specific might leave you with fewer options.

Source: FindLaw

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Eliminate VOCs when Planning a Home Remodel

February 13, 2014 3:54 pm

(BPT)—Remodeling a home's decor leaves the space feeling fresh and new—something that all family members will enjoy for years to come. However, a home remodel can do more than just improve the looks of rooms in the house. It can also improve the indoor air quality—an important factor especially during the winter months when homes are sealed up tight against the cold outdoor air.

Carpeting, paint and even the materials used in your shower might contain harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Studies have found the level of VOCs inside homes can be two to five times higher than the level outside, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Some people may experience negative reactions to breathing in these compounds, depending on their health condition, as well as the levels and duration they're exposed to the chemicals.

New technology has helped home improvement companies create products that don't contain VOCs, so as you plan your remodeling project, be sure to look for these products to help keep the air in your home cleaner.

* The walls - A fresh coat of paint is the first element when planning a room design. Choosing the perfect color and knowing if a primer coat is needed are just two decisions that need to be made when picking a brand. But also know that many paint companies are now producing VOC-free paints, which can help improve the air quality in the room.

* The bathroom - Usually one of the smallest rooms in the home, it's more important to make certain the airspace has good quality. If you're ready to upgrade your shower space, save yourself time and energy with the new Ensemble Medley bath/shower from Sterling. The unit is made of modular panels that are lightweight and interlock securely using tongue and groove joints that click into place. Sterling products are made of Vikrell, which carries GREENGUARD GOLD Certification and contributes to better indoor air quality. In addition to not emitting chemicals into the air, Vikrell also is durable and won't chip or fade. GREENGUARD GOLD Certification is a part of Underwriters Laboratories Environment.

* The kitchen - You may never have thought your kitchen cabinets have the potential to pollute the air inside your home. But if they are made from a plastic-based material, or painted or varnished, there's a chance the cabinets are producing VOCs. Wood cabinets look great in kitchens, and as you choose the perfect cabinets to replace your older cabinets, be sure to research the manufacturer to see if they use any staining or varnish products that produce VOCs. Or consider painting your new cabinets using the paint brand you researched earlier when choosing paint for the walls.

When your home remodel is complete, sit back and enjoy the new look. And take a deep breath of air, knowing you've helped to reduce some of the contamination with careful research about the features you added to your home.

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