Lessons From (Before) The Grave

Real Estate Agent with Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) www.Progressive-Realty.info DB-17066

In the wisdom of Monty Python . . . "But I'm not dead yet!"

Why did I lead with that?  Because this month's blogging contest is about life lessons.  We are to write about life lessons as well as work lessons. 

We all started as babies, so I guess I will take that lead and start with my life lesson first. I am very blessed in that I have experienced so many places and had the ability to do more than most will ever do.  My father worked at a Fortune 500 international construction company so I was bounced around the world since I was an embryo.  I guess I am one of those "privileged" individuals since I even started Kindergarten in a private school.  Mine just happened to be in Saigon, Viet Nam during the war. Then we moved to Seoul Korea, North Dakota, Hawaii, California, Idaho, and then I graduated from high school in Iran as the very last graduating class of that school since it was shut down during the overthrow of the Shah in December 1978.

I started college at Boise State University at the age of 18.  It was a challenge getting past their admitting department since I didn't have formal transcripts.  The Admin Office told me to just contact my school superintendent and he could get me a copy.  When I told them that wasn't possible because he was a hostage, they didn't know how to reply! They ultimately said to bring my SAT or ACT test results.  I informed them that wasn't possible either since those are done in the spring and I was fortunate to have graduated a semester early.  I went home and got a copy of my PSAT scores and informed them that this exam was to help show what I needed to study to do well on the SAT.  I was a bit arrogant when I told them "with these grades, I really don't need to study for the SAT". Fortunately, they let me in.

A few years later, I was offered a great job in Kuwait.  However, the Iraqi's decided that was the time they should invade, so the job was cancelled.  Wait a semester and go back to BSU.

The next year, I was offered a job in Saudi Arabia.  The day before I was supposed to leave Boise, I get notified of a complication.  The Saudi's decided that since most of the problems with foreign nationals in their country were caused by men between the ages of 15 and 25, they quit giving visa's to that age bracket!  Crap, wait another semester and go back to BSU again!

All of this translated to a very important life lesson: Be Flexible and Adapt.

In my senior year at Boise State, I also took a part time job working for the same company as my father.  That ended up taking me to Fort Drum, New York and then to the Washington DC area where I headed up the marketing for the Industrial Buildings Division of the eastern regional office. It was a great job until a new CEO came in and bankrupted the company.  Fortunately, I was able to get transferred back to the home office in Boise, Idaho before that happened.

I was starting to acquire rental properties and decided to take night classes to learn more about the industry.  Next thing I know, I have a new career in real estate as a Realtor.

I was all in.  I became a workaholic, working nights and weekends too.  I quickly became the top agent in the office.  I went to a larger brokerage and over the next five years became one of the top agents by volume Nationwide for Coldwell Banker doing 74 transactions in one year.  Lennox Scott of John L. Scott wanted me to help him open up future states as they were growing so I went to work for them.  More long hours.  Then I switched to RE/MAX and became the Regional Director for the 14th fasted growing real estate brokerage in the nation (according to Real Trends Magazine). Even longer hours and less time at home!

Skid marks . . .

My wife was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  While she was battling cancer, I was cured of being a workaholic!  Immediately, my life, my job, was irrelevant.  I had a new focus point in my life.

Good news / Bad News: my wife was cured of Stage IV cancer! However, six months later she was diagnosed with two simultaneous Stage IV uterine cancers.

Life (work) lesson:  You can't take it with you! You can in fact work remotely, but even though I had my wife "share her location" with me, evidently it doesn't work in Heaven. Maybe that is because I didn't send her off with her cell phone? Our theme song was "Live Like You Are Dying".  We made the best of each day!

That was a very hard lesson for me. However, I am still working on it today.  You can see by our memorial stone, I still have yet to finish inscribing my final expiration date.  In the meantime, I am doing my best to give back to my community.  I am teaching others what I have learned. I am trying to be a good father and grandfather. I am doing things that make me smile and enjoy: travel, rafting, skiing, fishing, camping, and spending time with my friends and family.

We typically don't know when we will die, so live with no regrets. If you make a mistake . . . own it and apologize.  If you have unfinished business - take care of it.  If you aren't enjoying yourself - do it while you have time.

I can honestly say that if I died immediately after typing this, that is OK.  I have already been able to see and do more than most ever will. I am still planning lots of trips and experiences so hopefully I am not done yet. I am very fortunate that I have mastered the art of delegating and working remotely, so I can work from anywhere as long as I have access to the internet.  

Maybe I should have them inscribe the following on the back of my memorial stone: "I hope I successfully backed up to the cloud!"

Comments (32)

Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

I attended Seoul Foreign School, a christian inspired school from kindergarten to senior high consisted of 68 pupils. Some learned to speak English in Africa and talk back in Spanish. There were many missionaries served as teachers. Years later, their children tell me parents stayed behind in communist jail to keep their missionary friend company. Just about every missionary once served at mission centered around different parts of China. To get them all speak in Chinese will be a challenge. They learned from different rural villages with dialects plus foreign accent. 

Aug 09, 2023 07:53 AM
Jim Paulson

Wow, I went to Seoul Foreign School too!  Second to fifth grade in 1969-72 I think. My brother Gary did too and he is two years older.  Next time I am near San Jose, I will try to remember to look you up so we can share a few beverages and stories with you Sam Shueh 

Aug 09, 2023 11:54 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

The thought to engrave a head stone putting dates and name on is a bit challenging.  I do own plots. 

Aug 09, 2023 07:57 AM
Jim Paulson

My wife and I always talked about being cremated, yet she changed her mind in her final month.  I had to pivot and regroup.  Due to various factors including Covid, it took me over a year to get that headstone created but it is PERFECT.  I agree, it is a bit unique to say the least to see your own name on something like that.

I know I could have bought the exact same casket I bought for my wife via Amazon for less than 1/3 of what the funeral home charged.  I wonder if since you already bought your plot, if you could store them there six feet under?  Now that is planning ahead!

Aug 09, 2023 11:58 AM
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Prop. Mgr, Wenatchee, WA

Hi Jim,
I did know quite a bit about your background but, like Anna Banana Kruchten Phoenix Arizona said, when you put it all in one post... Wow!   I admire how you are so active with learning,  teaching, and going on more adventures.  You're leaving a legacy.

As for the loved ones who have gone before us, it's nice to know where we can meet them when our time comes, isn't it? ❤️

Aug 09, 2023 08:06 AM
Jim Paulson

Carol Williams I read something last year that really struck a chord with me . . . " I always planned to spend the rest of my life with you.  I am at least grateful that you did with me!"

Aug 09, 2023 11:59 AM
Adam Feinberg
Elegran - Manhattan, NY
NYC Condo, Co-op, and Townhouse Advisor

This is also why it's important to do work that you enjoy. We are now curing cancers that weren't possible just 20-25 years ago...and we keep making progress on so many areas of medical treatment- and it's likely to improve dramatically in the next 20 years (I am not so optimistic on other things in this world). 

Wow, 74 transactions in a year- impressive. In my market, that is only achievable if an agent is running a large and successful team- including the team members deals as part of their own tally or an agent is managing new construction sales for a building (or multiple new construction buildings). Because of our resale process- each sale probably takes 2-4 times as long as it does in the rest of the nation- so the best agents here are only doing 10-15 sales per year (on their own)- though it is fair to say most of these agents are doing sales at a much higher dollar amount per transaction. 

Aug 09, 2023 10:13 AM
Jim Paulson

Adam Feinberg I am also amazed at the progress we are making in medicine and cancer treatments.  I believe each of our bodies essentially creates rogue cells (cancer cells) but our body doesn't allow them to replicate.  Not everyones body does that and thus those cells replicate again unchecked to become cancer.

I definitely couldn't do the volume I used to back then.  A lot more steps in the process, forms have become ten fold, and people want to look at a much wider scope of properties. 

Aug 09, 2023 12:04 PM
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Selling the Main Line & Chester County

What a fascinating story, certainly packed with action and drama. I like the statement to go on the back of your memorial stone as it shows you still have a great sense of humour.

Aug 09, 2023 10:24 AM
Jim Paulson

Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543 my version of humor is my coping mechanism.  I have already prepared my play list for my funeral so my kids don't have to worry about it.  They know that I will lead with Pink Floyd's "Is there anybody out there?" since I will not know.

To me, one of the greatest compliments is going to someone's funeral knowing they will not be able to return the favor.

Aug 09, 2023 12:07 PM
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543

I love that greatest compliment, good thought for the day right there.

Aug 10, 2023 08:20 AM
Chuck Willman
Chuck Willman - Alpine, UT

So much said in so few words. I loved reading about your thoughts on life and the importance of family time. I'm so sorry for your loss. Congratulations though on a life filled with challenge and opportunity

Aug 09, 2023 10:43 AM
Jim Paulson

Thank you Chuck Willman I am very fortunate that one of my really good friends lives there in Utah (South Weber) and we go out and experience life to the fullest together.  As a matter of fact, him and a number of friends from Utah are coming an hour north of me to camp on the Payette River today, so that is my very next adventure.  The car is packed and ready!

Aug 09, 2023 12:09 PM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Jim, glad your post got featured, you HAVE bounced around the world, and along the way learned lots of lessons.   Still tough hearing about your wife, but she can see you are doing OK.   

Aug 09, 2023 02:07 PM
Jim Paulson

Joan Cox today would have been our 40th anniversary.  Good memories!

Aug 13, 2023 09:07 PM
Greg Mona
Hague Partners/72SOLDHUB - Scottsdale, AZ
Professional Real Estate Representation for YOU!

Thanks for sharing your very personal story, Jim. You certainly have the right attitude about life, as we all should. No need to line your coffin with $100 bills when there is a whole wide world out there to experience. Wishing you all the best with your upcoming adventures!

Aug 09, 2023 08:07 PM
Jim Paulson

Thanks Greg Mona.  Speaking of coffins, did you know I could have bought my wife's coffin on Amazon (exact same one) for less than 1/3 of the price charged by the funeral home? 

I hope to create many more great memories and travel lots more before it is my time.  If I die tonight, I will have already won!

Aug 13, 2023 09:09 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Jim I am back for seconds:) I told Diane, I want my ashes spread out in the Pacific Ocean when my number is up.... I did the same for my parents the difference was they ended up in the Danube. 

Aug 09, 2023 09:39 PM
Jim Paulson

My mother's wish was to be spread on some property I own here in Idaho.  In her final days, she changed her mind saying she didn't want us to drag her dust into our future cabin.  I compromised and spread her along the property line. My father was spread at the outlet of the dam where my parents spend their honeymoon.

Aug 13, 2023 09:12 PM
Ed (Edward) Silva, 203-206-0754
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

WOW!  Life is like a roller coaster where one enjoys the highs and learns from the lows.  Hopefully your lows will be minimal going forward.

Aug 10, 2023 04:21 AM
Jim Paulson

Ed (Edward) Silva, 203-206-0754 thank you!  I look forward to each adventure along the way! I wish you the same.

Aug 13, 2023 09:14 PM
Don Baker
Lane Realty - Eatonton, GA
Lake Sinclair Specialist

We had a similar upbringing as I was a navy brat.  And my wife has taught me to live every day to the fullest along with her.

Aug 10, 2023 06:56 AM
Jim Paulson

Don Baker if you did international travel, you might check out Overseas Brats.  It is an organization devoted to 3rd culture kids. Your wife sounds like a profound lady.  Glad you learned as well.

Aug 13, 2023 09:15 PM
Don Baker

Jim Paulson  Her father survived cancer in 1999 the year after we met.  But him having it was life altering for what could be.  And we both lost a nephews where were very young to various accidents and a suicide that made a world of difference to how we view life and my wife says all the time...."this could be our last.... whatever... vacation, birthday, date, Friday, etc., so enjoy it like it is"    Now overseas brats?  On ActiveRain or where?

Aug 15, 2023 01:30 PM
Jim Paulson

Don Baker here are two links for Overseas Brats:



The Facebook page is a closed group, but fill in the questions and they should approve you.  They have 11,700+ people on it.


Aug 29, 2023 09:11 AM
Brian England
Ambrose Realty Management LLC - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

As in the movie, if you hollered out that you were not dead yet, someone might knock you in the head to allow them to still take you away, haha.

Aug 10, 2023 07:16 AM
Jim Paulson

Brian England when (not if) I get old and senile, I will try my best to remember your wisdom. I would much rather have a quick thump on the head then live a slow drawn out death!

Aug 13, 2023 09:17 PM
Diana Zaccaro Broker Associate
Tropical Beachside brokered by eXp - Cocoa Beach, FL
"The Accidental Blogger" Cocoa Beach, Florida

I'm so sorry for your loss, Jim. I am very familiar with stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma...my older brother had it and fought it for six years before passing a couple years ago. You have had an amazing life and I love your positive attitude. Did you get the PM I sent the other day? Looking forward to meeting up with you in a few weeks.


Aug 10, 2023 12:33 PM
Jim Paulson

Diana Zaccaro Broker Associate I have been out camping for the last few days and didn't have any internet access.  I don't believe I got your PM.  I know I received another one and tried to find it and couldn't either.  Not sure what is goin on.  Please resend.  Sorry to hear about your brother. #CancerSucks

Aug 13, 2023 09:23 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

I am impressed and appreciative that you shared your story with us.  I am an army brat and like you bounced around  a lot but I was lucky to avoid the major war zones.  that bouncing around certainly toughens you up for the things that life throws at you.  

On a different note- my grandmother and my aunt have the same name that i do - it is a bit disconcerting to visit their grave and see my name twice....

And my mother had her name put on the grave marker before she died - all I had to do was put in the date. 

Aug 10, 2023 08:15 PM
Jim Paulson

Lise Howe If you haven't already, check out Overseas Brats.  It is an organization that gets Brats together to share stories and experiences. 3rd culture kids like us have a unique perspective on the world and on life.

Seeing my name once on a memorial stone is disconcerting, I can appreciate seeing it twice!

Aug 13, 2023 09:29 PM
Steffy Hristova
HomeSmart Elite Group Tempe AZ Tel: 602.710.8161 - Tempe, AZ
Tempe AZ Realtor - Your Home Close to Your Work!

Jim, the art of delegating and working remotely is indeed a great skill to have. I am sure you have to learn this by doing, with trial and error, and with a smile and a good sense of humor. 

Aug 12, 2023 11:40 AM
Jim Paulson

Steffy Hristova I was very fortunate to the Regional Director for the 14th fastest growing large brokerage in the nation back about 15 years ago.  We grew via technology.  When I started my own brokerage, I incorporated all these ideas and more.  It took Covid for other brokerages to understand the benefits. My sense of humor is my coping mechanism.

Aug 13, 2023 09:32 PM
Elyse Berman, PA
LoKation Real Estate - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824

What an interesting life you've lived, Jim, and a sense of humor.  I like your line "I hope I successfully backed up to the cloud!"  and this one which is really true "To me, one of the greatest compliments is going to someone's funeral knowing they will not be able to return the favor."

Aug 13, 2023 01:55 PM
Jim Paulson

Thank you Elyse Berman, PA Hopefully I can come to your part of Florida to teach real estate classes there.  I try to incorporate my 33 years of licensed real estate experience and humor into the classes I teach for NAR and NAHB.

Aug 13, 2023 09:34 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Jim:

While I knew some of this, including the loss of your wife a few years ago, I certainly enjoyed reading about your life thus far. Such inspiration, and some great lessons for us all, business-wise and in life.


Aug 13, 2023 04:30 PM
Jim Paulson

Jeff Dowler, CRS speaking of hearing thing before . . . when I would repeat myself in my stories, my wife would just hold up the appropriate number of fingers (sometimes just the middle one) for how many times she had heard the same story.  

Aug 13, 2023 09:36 PM
Diana Zaccaro Broker Associate
Tropical Beachside brokered by eXp - Cocoa Beach, FL
"The Accidental Blogger" Cocoa Beach, Florida

Jim Paulson 

Just sent you a test message via AR contact form...let me know if you don't receive it.

Aug 14, 2023 12:10 PM
Jim Paulson

Got the original one too.  Thanks.  Looking forward to being in your area next month.

Aug 14, 2023 02:04 PM
Ray Henson
eXp Realty of California, Inc. (lic. #01878277) - Elk Grove, CA

That is one of the best Monty Python lines ever.  The whole scene is pure comic genius.

I had never really thought about it as a way to think about life, but I like the way you used it.  I really enjoyed reading about your story.  You have had some real challenges and still are enjoying life.  You are an inspiration. 

Aug 14, 2023 02:08 PM
Jim Paulson

Ray Henson I think the reasons I try to enjoy life to the fullest is that my past challenges make me appreciate life more than many people do.  We don't talk talk about death, but it is inevitable, so we should not only talk about it, but also plan for it.

We have all seen people die "too soon" yet few people realize what if it happened to them?  Would they have people they wished they apologized to? Are there people they would wish they could say "I love you!" to? Are they going to leave happy memories behind for their family or regrets?

Aug 29, 2023 09:15 AM
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

What an amazing life/business lesson you shared!  I am so sorry that your wife got there before you, but I'm sure she is watching over you.  Loved your ending statement, 

"I hope I successfully backed up to the cloud!"  

Congratulations on the Feature Jim Paulson 

Aug 20, 2023 10:47 AM
Jim Paulson

Thank you Diana Dahlberg.  I am blessed and do my best to pay it forward.

Aug 29, 2023 09:17 AM