Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year Brings New...What?

Before I forget:


2008 has been a year for the books, filled with amazing highs and devastating lows, for the world and for me, personally. But you can probably say that about most years, given that during the course of 365 days a lot is going to happen, both good and bad. Sure, this past year has seemed to have more than its share of misery, but I prefer to dwell on the positive, on the good, not only for what occurred during 2008, but moving forward into 2009. Bad things will, unfortunately, happen this new year, but with them plenty of good. What about for you and me? What is in store for us on a personal level?

While we are unable to control many situations or events or catastrophes or wondrous occurrences that befall or enlighten us over the course of our lives, we can do a few things. Like set goals.

A new year brings with it resolutions. This time of year you see countless posts and articles discussing resolutions and goals that you WILL FINALLY DO this year. Changes in your lifestyle, health choices, careers, relationships, finances, what-have-you, that are so important that you put off attempting to achieve them for months, just so you can set them as RESOLUTIONS to ignore throughout the coming year. To that I say:


The following is a post I wrote about goals back in July of this past year. I talk about the importance of not only setting short-range, mid-range, and long-range goals, but also the necessity of reworking and constantly tweaking your goals throughout the weeks/months/years. After reading the post you may notice that I have reworked and tweaked some of my own goals in only a few months, which underscores the importance of setting goals, or resolutions, throughout the year, and not just at the end of it.

I hope all of you have a healthy, prosperous, happy, and wonderful 2009! I know I'm going to. Why? Because it's one of my goals.





I didn’t want to write this post. Not because I don’t have a passion for the subject matter—I live for goals! I just didn’t feel like sitting here, pen in hand (yes, I write the old fashioned way, with pen and paper; I then transfer those scratched out words to a word document, and then I post it to my blog—it works for me) vexing my brain into coming up with today’s post. But here I am, writing about the necessity of goals in our lives, despite desiring to be elsewhere. Why? Because I have to—it’s one of my goals.
Recently, I decided that I would write three blog posts a week—on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I visit dozens of blogs each day, taking note of content, style, and frequency of posts, and based on that figured that three was just about right. That number also fit in with my wanting to write about the three main themes of, Personal Development, and Entertainment—each week. After making this decision, I then made it a goal. Being serious about my goals, and today being Friday, I felt compelled, bound by self-promise, to keep my word to myself. Ah, goals!

I am a firm believer that to be successful in life one needs to have a plan. Now, I also understand the need for spontaneity and that I am unable to “control” a lot of situations, realize that life often tosses us curveballs of fate, both ominous and serendipitous, that my plans or goals make little dent in. For that I like to say, “Worry about the things you can control and not about what you cannot.” What I am getting at is the gist of this post, and that is: Take charge of your life by setting goals!


Let’s say you’re trying to lose weight—I strongly suggest setting a weekly goal to strive for. For me, when I lost 40 pounds in six months, I set a goal of losing two pounds a week as something to shoot for. My short-range goals also included weighing myself daily, keeping a diet journal of everything I put in my mouth, and counting calories consumed and burned. A lot of effort, but well worth it—it worked!

Set clearly defined goals, but make sure they are not too easy or too difficult to attain. If they are too easy, then raise the bar; find yourself something worthwhile to shoot for. But don’t raise that bar too high—if a goal appears unattainable, then you begin to lose faith, get frustrated, regress, and sometimes give up. It is a challenging balancing act, but if you put some thought and effort into it, you’d be surprised at how effective your results will be.

Speaking of effort—setting, maintaining, and reaching goals is all about effort. Hard work. You will get out of it only what you put into it. If you are serious about changing your life for the better—physically, intellectually, financially, spiritually, relationship-wise—and bringing more purpose and fulfillment into your days, it takes some work. Work well worth the effort. But you need a plan. You need goals.


Have you ever sat in a job interview, or maybe just a performance review with your boss, and heard this query: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Big groan, right?

Most of us are just trying to survive today, or at least this week, month, maybe year. Think about five years for a moment—it seems like a long time, but, for me, at least, these last five years have flown by! If you are not where you want to be now, chances are you did not give enough attention to your goals five years ago—make sense? Put another way: If you see yourself five years from now in a better career, nicer home, married with children (or divorced, free, and consuming fruity beverages on a beach in the Caribbean), you will need to start planning NOW. Start setting goals.

• Make a list of your dreams and goals
• Make a plan of how to attain the above
• Set a doable timetable
• Put forth the effort
• Remember that there will be snags, forks in the road, challenges and adversity along the way, so…
• Don’t be afraid to reassess, tweak, and refresh your goals. As you evolve, so do your goals.
• Stay the course, never give up, dream, and live!


When I think long-range, I think ten years or more, maybe longer. What I’m really trying to say is—when can I retire? And: how much money will I need? Also where?

A few years ago, I made a major commitment and decisions that would greatly determine when and how well my wife and I would retire and live. How did I go about doing this? I set goals. Sensing I was nearing the end of my prime earning years, I made a concerted effort to work more hours, earn more money, so we could save more. I set short- and mid-range goals for contributions in our 401k plans, upping the percentages each year until we eventually hit our maxes. I reworked our budget to help meet these goals (a good practice to do at least once a year), cutting spending here, sacrificing there (here’s a helpful video to get you started in the right direction), without compromising our other goal of enjoying our lives today.

These are just some of my goals. Your goals will be different, and they will need different strategies and planning. No matter what your dream life is, what goals you need to work on to achieve it, the more effort you put forth the better your results will be. Focus, plan, work hard, and you’re on your way.

Set goals and stick with them and your dream life, before you know it, will become reality.

Remember: A life without goals is a life unfulfilled.

Wow, for a guy who didn’t feel like writing, I sure wrote a lot. Why? Because it was a goal.



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Wishing all a very happy holiday season and a fantastic 2009!



Friday, December 19, 2008

Drink Green Tea Every Day

As many of you probably know, besides writing this blog, I also have a video site by the same name. I have produced over 200 videos, with topics ranging from fitness and health, diet and nutrition, self-help and how-to, motivation and inspiration, as well as dozens of funny vids and original songs, like I Miss My Hair.

Quite a few of these videos have been well received, and I have gotten hundreds of wonderful comments from numerous blog posts like Do You Believe? and Is It Just Me? and Just Do It? Ten Tips to Get You Started. But one video stands out from the rest.
Why does it stand out? You got me?

DRINK GREEN TEA EVERY DAY is not one of my best videos, if I say so myself. It’s kind of long and uneven in spots, if you ask me. In fact, given that it was one of my earlier efforts, I’d even go as far as to say that besides being nowhere near my Top Ten List, it‘s probably not even in my Top Fifty.

So, again, why does it stand out? And, more to the point, why am I making this big (okay, maybe semi-big) deal about it?

10,000 and counting!

Well, besides always wanting to call attention to healthier ways to improve your life (like the amazing health benefits of drinking green tea daily), my green tea video also happens to be, by far, my most watched. In fact, this very informative and worth-watching vid (even though it’s not in my Top Ten) recently registered its 10,000th view on YouTube. This is a modest milestone on this popular site when compared to some viral vids that get that many views an hour, but when you consider that 10,000 represents the total views my next three videos combined have received, then you can see why I have taken this moment to call attention to this (semi-) remarkable achievement.

So, without further ado, for those of you who have not had the pleasure of viewing my most watched video, please enjoy:


And for those of you who would rather read the book than watch the movie, here are some of the amazing health benefits you may get from of a daily diet that includes ingesting green tea:

* Helps you lose weight
* Aids in digestion
* Encourages regularity
* Lowers risk of cancer
* Reduces LDL cholesterol
* Fights diabetes
* Loaded with antioxidants
* Strengthens tooth enamel
* Helps to lower blood pressure

Besides green tea, two other excellent sources of antioxidants are yerba mate and rooibos teas.

Yerba mate is found in the rain forests of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. Considered a sacred beverage, it is a high-energy stimulant that is also loaded with nutrients. The leaves of the mate tree naturally contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and loads of antioxidants. Naturally sweet, this tea is delicious, a great afternoon pick-me-up, and one of the healthiest beverages you can consume.
Rooibos is a red bush tea grown in South Africa. Caffeine-free and high in antioxidants, this tasty tea is also filled with vitamins and minerals and has been known to relieve allergies, colic, and skin conditions, as well as sooth digestion and fight cancer.

DRINK GREEN TEA EVERY DAY is not only my most popular video, but one that has received the most feedback. Here is a sampling of a few of the questions I have gotten from this vid and my responses:

Q: Is it better to bring the water to a full boil or just before?

A: This, by far, has been the most controversial subject of debate in my tea vid. I use a teapot and bring it to a full boil, which purists say one should not do. They prefer the water temperature right before it boils. But when steeping the tea in a cup, like I do, versus keeping the leaves in the pot, the water temperature is just about right, since it loses heat from pot to cup. Check out this site for more about this subject.

Q: What are better, teabags or loose leaf?

A: Another controversial topic, but one I feel is all about personal preference, and for me, convenience. I drink at least five cups of tea each day so using teabags are fast and easy. When my life slows down and I can take a few more minutes each day to relax and enjoy the ceremony of using loose tea leaves, I will probably do so, but until then, its bags, baby! For more about this topic, visit this site.

Q: Are teas like Lipton green tea good?

A: I always answer these questions with one word: ORGANIC. Whenever possible, I choose organic. Why? Because if your goal is to improve your health by drinking green tea, then drinking non-organically grown teas is not helping. In fact, I suggest going organic with any and all foods you ingest: no pesticides, naturally grown, and a lot more healthier for you.

Q: Are bottled, sweetened iced teas good for you?

A: Read the label. If the ingredients say green tea and nothing else, and if it is organically grown, then you will get the same healthy benefits as brewing your own. But lots of these bottled iced teas are loaded with things you should not ingest. A safer bet is to make your own ice tea.

Green tea, yerba mate, rooibos, and even black and white teas are head-over-heels better beverage choices than soda, and a nice change from your daily cup of joe. Loaded with antioxidants, natural vitamins and minerals, they not only taste delicious but may just help you change your life for the better.

Until next time…



Monday, December 8, 2008

Looking For Good In One Very Bad Year

I hadn’t planned on writing an end of the year post, certainly not while December was still in its early stages. But, more often than not, life gets in the way of many of our best laid plans. And, sad to say, death does too.

2008 has not been a good year. For me, personally, and for most of the world, it seems that this year is one for the books in terms of bad news.

My wife and I, like millions of others (dare I say, billions?), have seen our net worth reduced by numbers too large and ugly to put into print. Yet we both remain employed, still have the wherewithal to earn decent livings, and are thankful for that. But millions of others are unemployed, and from all the forecasts things will certainly get worse before they get better.

But even though those are big challenges to overcome, it’s only money, right? At least you have your health…right?

2008 has been a trying year health-wise for me. My left shoulder began acting up early in the year, to the point where it needed to be surgically repaired, and still is far from one hundred percent. Yet I am thankful that the rest of me is okay. But that’s just me. And it’s only a sore shoulder. Things could be worse.

What if that sore shoulder turned out to be something bigger? It’s not, but, again, that’s just me--I got lucky. Sadly, my brother and his new bride did not.

One of my best memories of this past year was being asked to participate in my brother‘s wedding. In a year often filled with gloom and doom, this joyous event was a nice respite from the darkness. Yet for all its happiness, that day had a foreboding shrouding the event. My new sister-in-law, a lovely bride and the sparkle in my brother’s eye, was sick. They pushed up their nuptials by several months to accommodate her illness. Life and its paradoxes. 2008, that dreadful, yet wonderful, year.

They remain deeply in love and are hanging in there, both doing all that they can to make the best of their situation, doing what we humans often do when facing adversity: persevere, deal and cope, live life.


And death.

The reason I am writing this post today is due to having to fly Back East in a few days to attend a funeral. My step-father, one of the kindest, nicest men I have had the pleasure to meet, and a wonderful companion for my mother over the past eleven years, succumbed to illness and age on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor invasion. This is significant given that he fought in that war, returned with a wound and a determination to live life to its fullest every day. Which he did for eighty-eight years. My entire family are better people for having known him. And my mom? She’s tough, a survivor. But recovering from losing your love, that person with whom you share your daily existence, takes time.

It will take well into next year, and possibly the next, to fully recover from the many loses felt during this trying year. And that is what this post is really about, what is all about.

Living your life
Every day
Every way
Not letting anyone (or anything)
Stand in your way.

In memory of my step-father, in honor of my mother, with love to my brother, his wife, and the rest of my family (especially my wife and my son [Happy Birthday, Kiddo!]), and to all those who lost someone or something dear to them during this troubling year, I offer you my latest song, "livelife365":

I hope this inspires you, as it does me, to live your life to its fullest every day. And while 2008 has not been one of the better years in recent memory, it has been a year in your life. Good or bad, it’s your life. Your year. And it should be remembered for that.

Until next time…



Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Veg Out With Mike

I am a vegetarian. I openly admit this. I’ve got nothing to hide, no turkey drumsticks stuffed in some far corner of my closet or cheeseburger stashed in the glove compartment of my car. And I’m a real vegetarian, someone who has opted not to ingest meat of any kind. That means all meats and meat byproducts. I often hear some people profess their vegetarianism proudly, only to later hear them amend this profession by adding that they only eat chicken…or just fish…or all meats except beef. To these confused folks I say: kudos on your quest toward healthier eating habits, but you are not vegetarians. And that’s okay with me. In fact, I support your healthy choices of eliminating some meats from your daily diet, just don’t go around calling yourself a veg-head. Like me.

But here’s the thing, the real deal, the dark little secret of being a vegetarian that you carnivorous, meat masticating guys and gals may not know:


Got your attention? Actually, we, or maybe it’s just me, miss some of the comfort foods, made with meat, that I loved devouring while growing up. Foods like meatloaf with gravy and mashed potatoes. Spaghetti and meatballs. Lasagna stuffed with sausage and crushed meatballs. Enchiladas, tacos, burritos, fajitas crammed with chicken and carnitas. And cheeseburgers. Of all the foods that I’ve eschewed since I made the heart- and heath-conscious decision to eliminate (ALL!) animal proteins from my diet, I miss cheeseburgers the most.

But there was, and still is, a reason why all of these comfort foods taste so good, and why I still avoid them: they are loaded with calories, saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium.

One day, while watching my lovely wife enjoy a cheeseburger, as I nibbled on a salad, my mind turned down a dark path, slipped stealthily toward temptation and taste, and wondered if I could somehow create comfort foods, like juicy cheeseburgers or spicy tacos, and make them meat-free and healthy, without losing their taste. And, through trial and error and lots of dirty pots and pans, I came up with:


My aim with this new series is to create healthy, vegetarian-based comfort foods that taste great too. I think I have achieved that with my first recipe (and video) for a simple marinara sauce. Serve this up over a high-fiber, whole wheat pasta and you have a delicious, healthy feast that will satisfy even the meatiest of meat eaters.

VEG OUT WITH MIKE (Simple Marinara Sauce)

In future veg out videos I hope to tackle tres frijoles (three bean) tacos, meatless meatloaf, veggie lasagna (my mom‘s recipe), and, yes, those greasy and decadent, but oh so tasty, cheeseburgers. All meat-less and low in saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and calories.

Is it possible?

Can I pull it off?

Can one mere man, armed with a bowl of veggies and a chopping knife, take those fattening comfort foods that we all love to eat and turn them into HEALTHY and TASTY delights?

Stay tuned.

When VEG OUT WITH MIKE continues…

Until next time…