10 Tips for Preventing Underage Alcohol Use

Underage Alcohol UseThe most popular drug among teenagers is alcohol, and if you were young once, you probably know why. If you’re like millions of others, you drank as a youth before it was legal to do so. So talking to your kids about it may make you nervous. You did it, so why can’t they – or at least that’s the reasoning a lot of teens fall back on. But you still probably don’t want them drinking and you certainly don’t want them drinking and driving. Here are 10 tips for helping your kids steer clear of the pitfalls of underage drinking:

1. Build Rapport

An adult attempting to build rapport with a teenage son or daughter can appear strained or even futile, but it need not be if it is real and honest communication. If you drank as a youth, be honest about it. Tell your kids that you don’t want them to make the same mistakes you did. Whatever your approach, establish two-way communication, and try not to make it a boring lecture. Relate the discussion to their real-life situation. Find out what they’re running into and go over solutions. And realize that one conversation isn’t enough. The discourse should be on-going as new situations present themselves.

2. Educate

Most kids who got into drinking and drugs simply didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. That is where drug and alcohol education is indispensable. A number of programs and websites have tackled the subject quite well. They provide an insightful look into the truth about drugs and alcohol without being boring or overly preachy. They include:

The best approach is to give kids the facts. When they are educated, they are far more likely to make rational choices. The PERCEPTION OF RISK is a key element to discuss, since kids assume alcohol and even prescription drugs are “safe” since they’re “legal” when nothing could be further from the truth.

3. Set Priorities

Your primary concern is the safety of your child. It is up to you and your child to work out boundaries and protocol. If your #1 concern is about drunk driving, tell them. Let him or her know that you CAN and WILL pick them up any time night or day, no questions asked. Talk about binge drinking and date rape, the prevalence of sexual assault amongst high school and college age kids. If you don’t know about all that, take it upon yourself to find out, because as a parent you need to know. Lay the ground rules and go over various scenarios with your kids. Make sure you get their understanding and honest agreement.

4. Discus Teenage Drinking Habits

Alcohol affects the teenage brain and body differently than adults. When kids drink, it is usually in the form of binge drinking. Most kids don’t like the taste, but they knock down a number of drinks in a short period of time and get intoxicated VERY fast. They lose control and the next morning they often don’t remember everything that happened the night before. They make bad decisions, get into fights and have accidents; they have unprotected sex and risk STDs and unwanted pregnancy. Teens and college kids have all kinds of drinking rituals, many of which are unhealthy and some are quite dangerous. You should talk about these facts with your son or daughter, not to scare them, but to help them understand the pitfalls of underage drinking.

5. Address the Prevalence of Mixing Drugs & Alcohol

Mixing drugs and alcohol is one of the most dangerous things that kids do. A punch bowl party or pharm party is one where kids collect up massive amounts of pills, put them in a bowl and everyone reaches in and swallows a handful, or they get handed out like candy. Then they wash it all down with alcohol and the results can be catastrophic. They don’t even know what they’re taking yet the pills include heavy narcotic and psychotropic drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Ritalin, Adderall, Xanax, Valium, and so on. Any mixing of drugs and alcohol can be dangerous or fatal.

6. Talk About Peer Pressure

If your teen is going to parties, you can be pretty much certain there is alcohol there. They get a lot of pressure to drink and use drugs. Talk with your kids about whether it’s worth it or not to go to these parties. This is a very real problem for teens because popularity is a big issue – at least to them. Peer pressure, ridicule and bullying are serious obstacles for kids. They also have to contend with online peer pressure and bullying, something their parents never had to deal with. Understanding what kids are up against in the 21st century is vital to the conversation.

Another angle is to go over things that are “cool” that do not require drugs or alcohol. Being on the football team or cheerleading squad, taking up the guitar or drums, and other pursuits could successfully supplant the superficial “cool” mentality with something genuinely cool. But even the so-called “uncool” pursuits like science and math are in fact cool. Hopefully your kid’s school supports diverse interests.

7. Discuss Media Influence

Unlike cigarettes, alcohol is advertised on television. So are prescription drugs oddly enough. On television, YouTube, in movies, in print ads and on billboards, we see slick, stylish, well-dressed, affluent, endlessly cool and beautiful people drinking and having the time of their lives. You’d think they just found the key to happiness in a bottle. For some reason, virtually every Seth Rogen/James Franco/Jonah Hill movie has the obligatory slow-motion drunken debauchery scene – to cite one bewildering and ridiculous example.

Media, advertising and propaganda are precise “sciences” and one of the key tools in the arsenal is REPETITON. The “public” gets hit with specific imagery over and over and over again, so much so that we don’t even notice it. Children and teens are especially impressionable and alcohol advertising is intended to make young consumers into loyal customers. Practice media awareness with your kids in order to get them cognizant of the messages and images they are viewing.

8. Establish Goals

Kids drink and use drugs because they’re bored and can’t think of anything better to do. Help your child or teen establish some direction in life. They could get a head start on their peers by taking up a worthwhile goal and working industriously towards it. Many of your great artists, innovators and entrepreneurs started in their youth. They knew what they wanted and went for it, and they couldn’t be bothered with the partying and boozing mentality. There is nothing wrong with having a good time, but when young people have a strong sense of purpose, they also learn and practice things like hard work and self-discipline. They learn that real accomplishment doesn’t come for free.

9. Establish Positive Role Models

Kids emulate their role models. Unfortunately, there are some less-than-stellar role models out there. Talk about role models with your kids. Who are they? Why did they pick them? Perhaps they could elect some positive ones. Maybe they never even thought about it. But the best role model you could aspire to is the best version of YOU. You can’t really force that on anyone – they must realize it for themselves. They can look at others and decide they’d like to adopt some of their positive qualities, but in the end you want them becoming more and more who they truly are. “Be yourself!” has become a bit of a slogan, but the idea is a good one. Be YOU, not someone else.

10. Build Family Support

I certainly can’t tell you how to run your family, but I can say that the family is the primary building block of a civilization. Your family should be the rock for your kids. Certainly the parents should act as positive role models, so if you have a drug problem or a drinking problem, get help. Many kids who get into trouble with drugs and alcohol do so out of frustrations that started in the home. The more stable, supportive and nurturing the family environment, the better. That takes work, as does anything worthwhile.

Our youth face daunting challenges these days, as well as unique opportunities. The support they need starts in the home.

10 Addictive Drugs Being Marketed Today

More Drug Marketing = More Drug Use

Addictive DrugsAmerican television viewers see up to 16 hours of advertisements for prescription medications every single year, and that doesn’t count all the print and internet ads.

A survey done by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of consumers viewing ads for drugs, revealed that 58% felt that the ads made the drugs sound much better than they actually were. 75% of physicians agreed with consumers, stating that the drugs do not work as well as the ads would have consumers believe.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that many of these ads are completely inapplicable to the health of the consumer watching it. However, the advertisements encourage “telling your doctor” and general alarm about possibly non-existent health problems.

What is not generally known is that many drugs are marketed directly to doctors by pharmaceutical companies, further slanting health care away from medical science and more toward popular opinion and propaganda. A patient “telling her doctor” about an issue she saw on television is seen by a doctor whose attitude could very have been influenced by clever marketing and sales ploys aimed at his profession.

With so much advertising telling people how great prescription medications are, it can be difficult to discover the dangers of specific drugs. Here is a list of 10 addictive drugs which are likely being marketed to you directly or to your doctor:

1. Zohydro ER (hydrocodone)

This painkiller is an extended release capsule of the opioid hydrocodone and is prescribed to treat severe pain. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) categorizes hydrocodone products as Schedule II in their “Schedules of Controlled Substances.” This category is for drugs that have “a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

One Zohydro ER pill releases hydrocodone over a period of 12 hours. It has no “anti-abuse” failsafe built in. This means an individual can crush the pill and consume a full 12 hour dose in one swallow, snort, etc. OxyContin ER had the same problem until the drug company producing it was required to create a pill that turns to a mushy paste when it is crushed. This prevents users from snorting, smoking or injecting the drug. For some reason, Zohydro ER has not been produced in a tamper-resistant form.

2. OxyContin (oxycodone extended-release)

OxyContin is an extended release opioid painkiller which is made of oxycodone. It has long been known as a highly addictive opioid pain reliever and is listed as a Schedule II drug by the DEA.

Sold on the street under names like oxy, OC, O, hillbilly heroin, oxycotton, and kickers, there has been a thriving black market going on around this pill for years. The U.S. government has taken steps to end the illegal sale and abuse of this drug by insuring manufacturers produce a tamper-resistant pill.

3. Methadone

Methadone is an opioid medication which is prescribed to treat pain and to treat addiction to other opiates like heroin and oxycodone. While methadone has been prescribed to treat addiction since the 1960’s, this drug is extremely addictive and is listed under Schedule II by the DEA.

The use of methadone has been to transfer heroin and opiate addicts onto methadone as a legal substitute and then slowly reduce the dosage. The idea is to reduce the withdrawal symptoms one might experience going “cold turkey.” However, methadone is often used for years after the individual has moved onto it. Many are unable to take that final step and get off opiates.

Withdrawal from opiates, such as heroin, will cause the user to get sick and experience other physical and psychological symptoms, but is not usually life-threatening. Methadone on the other hand can cause death if the addict attempts to withdraw cold turkey when the drug has been used for an extended period of time. Medically supervised detoxification should in fact be done for any opiate withdrawal situation.

4. Vicodin (hydrocodone & acetaminophen)

Vicodin is a mix of the opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen (aka Tylenol). It has recently been added to the list of Schedule II drugs by the DEA and FDA. This is due to the number of people abusing hydrocodone combination drugs, its addictive nature, and the high rates of overdose hospitalizations and deaths. Abuse of oxycodone, hydrocodone and other opioids has led to a spike in heroin abuse throughout the country, partly due to the availability and appealing street prices for heroin. Heroin, morphine and prescription painkillers share chemical similarities and users often alternate and use whatever they can get their hands on.

5. Methamphetamine

Few may know it, but methamphetamine is a legal drug sold under the name Desoxyn which is prescribed to treat ADHD, obesity, and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder characterized by the inability to control when one falls asleep. This drug is very addictive and is listed as a Schedule II narcotic by the DEA. Not only is methamphetamine extremely psychologically and physically addictive, it can change a person’s physical appearance and cause mental breakdowns and psychosis.

6. Ritalin (methylphenidate)

This is a well-known stimulant prescribed to treat perceived mental disorders as well as narcolepsy. It is given to children, ages 6 and up, who have been diagnosed with ADHD. Ritalin and other methylphenidate drugs like Concerta, Quillivant XR, Metadate, and Methylin are addictive, Schedule II narcotics, chemically similar to amphetamines and even cocaine.

Giving methylphenidate and other stimulants to young children often produces a depressive effect and sends their small bodies into a sort of shock. Also described as “zombielike”, this is perceived as an improvement in the child’s behavior because they are less inclined to exercise their freewill, are more docile, and are easier to control.

These drugs are linked to a long list of known stimulant side-effects including insomnia and heart problems. They are also documented as causing sudden death in children by bringing about an enlarged heart and other complications associated with stimulants.

More and more children and adults are being diagnosed with ADHD, which means this drug is in vast circulation in the United States. Over three million units of methylphenidate were sold in the United States in 2013 alone. That’s about 1 pill for every 100 Americans. The majority of those taking the drug are children between the ages of 4 and 17 – and most of these are boys.

Whether one is using methylphenidate drugs according to prescription or they’re abusing the drugs (crushing, snorting, smoking, injecting, overdosing, etc.), there is a high potential for addiction – a fact well-documented by the DEA.

7. Adderall and other amphetamines

Adderall contains dextroamphetamine and amphetamine and is commonly prescribed to treat ADHD symptoms. Other amphetamines prescribed to treat ADHD which were not covered above include Dexedrine (amphetamine), Dextrostat (dextroamphetamine), and Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine). All of these drugs are categorized as Schedule II narcotics by the DEA for their potential for abuse and physical and psychological dependence and addiction. Adderall and Dexedrine are FDA “approved” for children 3 years of age and older while Vyvanse is approved for use by children 6 years and older.

8. Xanax (alprazolam)

Xanax (generically known as alprazolam) is most commonly prescribed to treat anxiety. It “works” by depressing the function of the central nervous system. The Drug Abuse Warning System (DAWN) reported in 2009 that 363,000 emergency room visits involved central nervous system depressants.

Xanax falls into a category of drugs called benzodiazepines. These drugs were introduced to replace barbiturates as sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications. Long-term use of benzodiazepines has been linked to a number of health conditions including Alzheimer’s disease as well as dependence and addiction. If a long-term user of benzodiazepines decides to stop taking the drugs cold turkey, he or she may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including a potentially fatal cluster of symptoms called benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Therefore, withdrawal from benzodiazepines like Xanax should be done under the care of medically trained addiction specialists.

9. Valium (diazepam)

Valium (generically known as diazepam) is another benzodiazepine drug. This medication is most commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms, and is also used by some facilities during alcohol withdrawal. Because Valium is a benzodiazepine, anyone seeking to stop using it must seek medical assistance. Suddenly stopping benzodiazepine use is dangerous and can be fatal as mentioned above.

10. Cough syrup with codeine

Prescription cough syrup with codeine is a commonly abused drug. Codeine is in the opiate class and repeated use can bring about drug dependence and addictive behavior. Too much codeine can kill someone. A concoction called Purple Drank, also known as lean, sizzurp, syrup, drank, and other names is a mixture of codeine cough syrup, promethazine (allergy medication), as well as other ingredients like soda, ice, colored candy, and alcohol. The drink originated out of the Hip Hop community in Houston, Texas and has since spread through the South and the rest of the country, getting an added boost from a few rappers and their songs which glorified the drink. Rapper Lil Wayne admitted to his addiction to it, while DJ Screw and others died from it.

Alternatives to Drugs

When you or your child are prescribed a drug, particularly for a “mental disorder”, do your homework and find out what the side effects are and how addictive the drug may be. I have written a number of other articles detailing such drugs and the marketing ploys that have gotten 50 million Americans using them. You can always get a second opinion from a physician versed in non-drug treatments.

For physical pain, particularly severe pain, drugs are often necessary, but continued painkiller use does lead to dependence and addiction, so precautions should be taken.

Tobacco was once advertised on television and even endorsed by doctors as a “healthy” practice. Then it became clear that millions of people were dying of cancer and it was decided that the TV ads probably weren’t such a great idea. Millions have already perished from prescription drug use yet TV ads and stealth marketing continues unabated. Perhaps one day enough people will take notice and greater reforms will be instituted.

You can live a drug-free life. If you or someone close to you suffers from addiction to any of the above drugs, or any drug, contact one of our addiction specialists. You have a right to know your options.
Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17261859

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm143562.htm

http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/

http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/methadone.asp

http://www.rxlist.com/zohydro-er-drug/side-effects-interactions.htm

http://www.zogenix.com/content/products/zohydro.htm

http://www.rxlist.com/oxycontin-side-effects-drug-center.htm

http://www.rxlist.com/vicodin-drug/patient-images-side-effects.htm

http://www.rxlist.com/desoxyn-drug/side-effects-interactions.htm

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/narcolepsy

How Can I Inspire a Group of Unmotivated People?

The Unmotivated

Inspire Unmotivated PeopleHave you ever had to get a child out of bed who JUST DOES NOT WANT to get out of bed? It’s a very tough thing to do. You gently jostle him. Nothing. You offer a number of perfectly rational reasons for him to get up. No response, just a surly growl and a roll over. You even get confrontational with “if you don’t, then…” No interest whatsoever. You go back to the positive reinforcement in the hopes of hitting the one motivational item that gets him to spring up in a state of unbridled enthusiasm. Silence. Finally, you carry him to the car.

Two Ends of the Spectrum

What about an office full of people who just aren’t as motivated as they used to be? Do you just fire everyone and replace them with new blood? Not entirely practical, especially if these are people that know what they’re doing and just need the motivation to do it. Some executives and managers are obsessed with being “tough” and “uncompromising” while others are compelled to be “understanding” and “nice”.

You can place any manager somewhere on a scale – with totalitarian dictator at one end and pushover schmuck at the other. Both extremes are counter-productive.

When you are so stern that you are unfair and people are afraid to talk to you, you shoot yourself in the foot. When you are so amicable that no one takes you seriously, you send the message that you are easily fooled and tolerate a slack atmosphere. Somewhere in between you’ll find competent leadership. I won’t say that there is an ideal point, because people have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. With a little soul-searching you can see where you are and what you’d like to improve.

The Words You Use

Look up “Coffee’s for Closers” on YouTube and you’ll find Alec Baldwin’s infamous “motivational” speech from the film Glengarry Glen Ross. The character and his speech lean toward the antisocial, but at least he gives a bit of know-how to the group of beaten-down salesmen when he points to the blackboard that reads: ABC = Always Be Closing, AIDA = Attention Interest Decision Action. The mistake he makes, in my opinion, is in calling them all “losers” and other expletives, and basically being a jerk (a charismatic jerk).

When you seek to correct someone, avoid labels that tell them who or what they are. Calling someone a “failure” or a “loser” is very different than pointing out something they failed to do or a deal they lost. The difference is that one statement directs their attention INWARD and onto themselves and the other directs their attention OUTWARD onto what they did or did not do. There’s nothing wrong with having high standards and demanding high productivity, but when you do so, be SPECIFIC and focus on ACTION, while avoiding words and phrases that lower people’s self-esteem.

If someone is supposed to be a salesman but isn’t being one, do something counterintuitive by looking them dead in the eye and saying YOU ARE A SALESMAN. Inspire them to be one. If your secretary is not acting like one, tell her (or him) YOU ARE A SECRETARY. If you say it and really mean it, they could turn around right there.

The Value of Necessity

To motivate people, it is necessary to raise their level of NECESSITY. This can be done in many ways. In a football or basketball game, the prospect of winning or losing of course affects the level of necessity on both teams. The factor of TIME plays a large role in it as well; scoring points within a specific framework of TIME determines the outcome. The RULES also determine play and outcome. The same principles can be applied to an office, a factory, or in any situation where you’re trying to motivate people.

Raising necessity by proclaiming “You’ll be fired if you don’t…!!!!” is a very narrow approach. Agreeing on short and long-term goals to be met within specific time frames is a more productive approach. When these goals are set and communicated, when you do it right, you get uniformity of action, more vigor and more life. “To be the best branch in our region”, “To be the industry leader in volume and quality of service” are examples of goals you can set and which you’d break down into finite, quantifiable sections, all placed within the framework of time.

By all means offer rewards and incentives. Talk to people and find out what gets them excited and on fire to do more and do better. Incentives can be big or small. You can even break it down hourly. You make the morning or afternoon target and it’s doughnuts. You make the weekly target and it’s an office outing on Friday night. People like being part of a team, part of something meaningful. They appreciate a company culture where members take pride in what they do and have fun doing it.

A Team or Not a Team

You’ll always have turnaround. It’s inevitable. People quit; they move; they have to be let go. You’ll find that that there are only a small number of people who cannot get behind a team effort, who remain permanently malcontent, and who seek to foster dissention even when the purpose of the team is perfectly rational and conducive to the prosperity of all concerned. Such individuals aren’t likely to be very helpful on your team.

You can and should listen to others’ opinions, disagreements and suggestions, but you should be able to tell when a person is actively working in the opposite direction. This is an important point because such an individual is bringing the rest of the team down. You owe it to the team players to allow them to work beside other team players.

Productivity = Morale

Want to know how to kill morale? Allow low productivity, that’s how. The basis of morale is PRODUCTION. Ever get the holiday blues? One reason for that is you just haven’t been doing anything, and you are probably relieved when you get back to work! When people are not working and are not producing much that is worthwhile, they feel down in the doldrums.

It’s a bit of a Catch-22 because they need to be fired up in order to work but of course they aren’t fired up because they haven’t been working! It becomes your job to get them fired up enough to START getting some work done. You’re the kick starter, the spark that ignites the fire. The more work they get done, the better they’ll feel. With high productivity comes high morale, high motivation, and happier people.

Take a Real Interest

Talk to people. Take an interest in their personal lives – within professional boundaries of course. Your team – and I emphasize TEAM – is spending most of their day at work. They are relying on you for their livelihood and vice versa. They can show up grumpy, bummed out, with troubles from home wrapped around their heads. You’d be surprised how far it goes just getting someone to talk about something for a few minutes, just letting them bounce their troubles off someone else. Once they’ve downloaded, hopefully they’ll be more “in the moment”. Offer a suggestion if you are able to. Maybe you’ll even want to counsel people over break or after work – that will be up to you.

Obviously they have the responsibility of doing their jobs; that’s what they’re paid for. But when you have people physically at work, it helps a great deal when they’re there mentally and spiritually as well. They are people and life can be rough. You may think this is too much of a burden for you. Well, welcome to the life of a boss!

Knowing How

The nameless man played by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, who’s “from downtown” and was sent by the management of the real estate firm, gives the group of salesman the ABC, AIDA lesson I mentioned earlier, but that’s about it. These are all presumably good salesmen who are in a slump (all but one). They SHOULD have gotten some drilling and coaching, some re-familiarization with the basics of their craft.

What about a bunch of newbies – green personnel who may have some training but little practical experience? Any job has a RIGHT WAY of doing things. There is a right way to drive a school bus, fly a plane, answer a phone or type a letter. Something called JUDGMENT is also essential. And if the technique or technology for something does not genuinely exist, it eventually gets developed, discovered or invented.

What may seem like a motivational problem could in fact be a lack of understanding and know-how. The person just doesn’t know what to do. They have the job description; they may think they know; they may say they understand. But can they DO? Only by DOING will anyone really prove that they know and understand. So as a boss, watch what people are doing and how they do it. Maybe they are slow and uncertain because they really aren’t sure what is expected of them. Help people with their jobs. Write up sound and practical company policy that relates to the real world.

You can also hire someone whose job is to make sure others know their jobs and are doing them – that person would need to be very sharp indeed. I know because I have such people in my organizations, whose job is to see that others get well-established in their respective positions, know what they’re doing and do it. When people really KNOW their jobs and DO their jobs, motivation and morale basically take care of themselves.

Stoking the Fires

In the first example of the child who does NOT WANT to get out of bed, you keep mentioning things he might want to do that day and suddenly, BOING!!!! He’s wide awake! You said, “Show your toy airplane to your friends!” and that was the go button! The same is true of grown-ups. Talk with your people. Find out what makes them tick, what gets their fires burning and their hearts racing. What does it take to inspire them?  And see how you can work that into your overall strategy. Over to you!

How to Make 2015 Your Most Productive Year Ever!

Productive New YearI know. You’ve heard it all before: “This year will be your best yet! All you need to do is…” Others tell you and you tell it to yourself, but it doesn’t happen. The last year was only slightly better, was about the same, or was worse than the one before. Why should the next one be any better?

Of course you know WHY the last year wasn’t a banner year: “It was because…” Well that is part of the problem. You’ve got it all figured out. You’ve made all your excuses and they’re neatly lined up. When you need an excuse you just reach for one. With an excuse, you have a reason to fail or at least a reason to hover around the status quo.

Discard the Excuses

I’m not talking worst case scenario like your house blew up or you live in a police state where you get thrown in jail for littering. I’m talking you had a year (or quarter or month) that was more or less average or mediocre. I’m not even trying to give you a hard time – quite the opposite. I’m just pointing out the fact that it’s really easy to write off a failure with an excuse and a reason WHY. If you know WHY, you can do SOMETHING about it.

Get To the Source

If the roof leaks and you know the exact point where the water is getting in from the outside or from a pipe, you can fix it. If you seal up the point where water is leaking into the living room, only to discover later that water is coming in from a different location, you have failed to locate the source of the leak. There could also be more than one leak or the entire roof needs replacing. Knowing the source of the leak(s), you can do something effective about it. The more you trace back to the SOURCE, the better off you’ll be.

My point? Excuses are only valuable if they are the RIGHT ones and if you DO SOMETHING about them. Simple.

In your new year, and I stress YOUR new year, work on that. Only use “excuses” when you are determined to act on them. Raise your expectations of yourself. Because you are far more capable than others have let on. So what you thought was a negative rant about not making excuses is in fact a letter of high praise.

Unclutter Your Space. Unclutter Your Mind

“A place for everything and everything in its place.”

-Proverb, Attributed to Benjamin Franklin and others

The above saying can be taken to heart not just in your office but in your own home. If you had a place for everything and when you were done you put it back, you’d find not just your space less cluttered but your mind as well. If you set aside some time every day for paperwork, and you had a good filing system and you used it, you would avoid the “piles and piles of papers” phenomenon. When you work on it piece by piece, you don’t wind up with a mountain range of insurmountable stacks of bills, letters, etc. The same goes for your electronic mail.

Visualize yourself in a clutter-free space that allows you to think and do clearly, directly, emphatically and effectively. Then work daily to make that space a reality. Another word for uncluttering is ORGANIZING.

Maximize Your Priorities

There is however a proviso to organizing. If you aren’t doing anything, if you aren’t producing anything, all the organizing serves no ultimate purpose. You get an organized room, which is great, but you organize for PRODUCTIVITY. And that means setting priorities. You can probably whittle down all you do to a short list of utterly indispensable actions. Get those done or rolling ahead and then jump to the next items on your to-do list. It’s easy to run off in all directions at once. Focus on what MUST be done.

What must be doesn’t just mean in the next day or two. It’s what must be done for the long haul. If you have a leaky roof, by all means get it fixed, but do not cease productivity. Don’t let a few leaks stop you from doing what really matters.

Prepare the Night Before

When you have an early morning flight, chances are you pack and have everything ready the night before so you are not late. You’ve probably even laid out the clothes you’ll be wearing for maximum efficiency. Practice setting up the next day the night before. Write your daily plan (your to-do list) the night before and get any preparatory actions out of the way ahead of time. See if this doesn’t help kick-start you into productivity mode first thing the next morning.

Get Up Early

If you aren’t an early riser, experiment with being one. Get up an hour or two earlier than you normally would. Many creative and successful people find the early morning, with its peace and quiet, ideal for getting the most done. Use the morning hours for planning, reading, or getting work done without interruption.

Stay Up Late

Perhaps you’re more the night owl type who gets the most done in the dark and silent hours when everyone else is snoring. If this is you, then use that time to the hilt. The “I will not sleep until this is done” mentality does have its uses. It enforces some self-discipline and shows that you mean business – but it can be grossly overdone. When you deprive yourself of sleep, you end up being overtired and less alert, and you get less done anyway. You can stay up, burn the midnight oil and burn both candles and both ends, but know when to get some rest and go at it the next day.

Listen to Music

I know a lot of people who listen to music while they work. You can probably name artists and songs that get you revved up and into serious a** kicking mode. Some prefer music that is driving and rhythmic. For others, it’s cool and soothing sounds that put them in the right frame of mind. Of course, policies at your place of work will influence what you can and cannot play (if you can play anything). Music is also great when you have a bunch of people working on a repetitive activity; it gets everyone into a rhythm but reduces the tedium.

Music has infinite applicability anywhere in life. When you get home, instead of switching on the television for more mind-numbing programs and commercials, put on the stereo and get your creativity and imagination brewing.

Read “Real” Books

Books that you hold in your hand have a distinct advantage to reading online: When you are reading them, there is nothing else in front of you to distract you – no banner ads, no pop-up ads, no “Top 10 Disrobed Celebrities”, no “This Weird Trick Will Make You Age Backwards”, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Plus a real book is normally going to be much more informativly annotated than the zillions of derivative opinions you’ll read online. When you read a book, it’s just you and the book.

Choose subjects that interest YOU, whether fiction or non-fiction. Pick some titles that relate to what YOU want to get done in 2015. And when you read, connect what you’re reading to your life and your career. Take this article for example: If you can use it, great! If not, discard it and move on. Look to others for wisdom, seek knowledge – but ultimately, be your own mentor.

Know Your Enemies

In drug rehabilitation, we talk about “triggers” – environmental and internal contributors to drug and alcohol abuse. They are different for everyone and they provoke people to use. In life and in your career, your triggers can also be described as your “enemies”. These are things that make you second-guess yourself, slow down, feel like a failure and quit. You fail at one thing and automatically assume you fail at everything. You didn’t get the job or the raise and you tell yourself that you’re just not good enough and so have a reason to quit.

Some people act as enemies when they whisper in your ear, and for your own “benefit” tell you that you “can’t” do something. You don’t have to combat these people – just don’t listen to them. Your greatest strengths are your dreams, your courage, determination, resilience and your ability to re-focus on your desired objective. When you know your triggers and enemies, you can formulate a strategy where you use your strengths and re-affirm your sense of purpose.

Use “Time” to Your Advantage

Many believe they are at the mercy of time. They are too young, too old, or they could accomplish what they wanted if only they had enough of this mysterious commodity called TIME. Factually, you can exert control over time. For example: If it takes you two hours to do a task, keep working on it, keep repeating the action, and you may find that it now takes you one hour. Right there you’ve doubled TIME. You can apply this anywhere in life. In the words of The Governator:

“I’ve always figured out that there [are] 24 hours a day. You sleep six hours and have 18 hours left. Now, I know there are some of you out there that say well, wait a minute, I sleep eight hours or nine hours. Well, then, just sleep faster, I would recommend.”

– Arnold Schwarzenegger

While you may not be able to apply that literally – many people really need eight hours – you can certainly apply the concept. It means making each day, each hour, each minute COUNT.

Finish What You Start

To maximize productivity, always finish what you start. If it’s not worth finishing, why even start it in the first place? Make each action decisive, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. When you do a task, make sure by the end it is DONE and does not need to be re-done by you or anyone else. The other side of the coin is the person who keeps working on something ad infinitum (forever) because they never “feel done”. Are you a perfectionist? That’s not a bad thing, taken in the right perspective. There is a quote I often use from the great Vince Lombardi:

“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”

– Vince Lombardi

Chase perfection and make a habit of completing each task you start. You’ll wind up with a significantly uncluttered mind, a sense of accomplishment, and with your eyes keenly focused on the future.

Hit the Ground Running

Make a point to get your most pressing business done in the early part of the day and at the beginning of the week. Don’t leave the vital matters to the end of the day or at week’s end. That is known as “too little, too late”. When you’ve spiked productivity, your attention will be freed up for expansion, adding more creative elements to the mix and building a future. It takes some self-discipline to do this and we’ve all failed miserably at it countless times. But when we do it, we feel better and more energized.

Remember that you can always begin again – the next morning or the next moment. Decide that 2015 will be your best year ever. Break it down into smaller and smaller increments. Make the next day and the next hour your most productive ever. And have a spectacularly prosperous year! Over to you!

How to Avoid Relapse During the Holidays

Avoid RelapseThe winter holidays, Christmas and New Year’s, and all the festivities (and chaos) they bring can present a serious obstacle for anyone who is carefully and diligently trying to stay sober. How do I make it over the hump and into January without relapsing? That’s a good question. But just by asking it, you are taking the first step. Here is a guide for staying sober and drug-free during the craziness we call the holiday season:

1. Know your triggers.

If you’ve been through any sort of rehab process, chances are you know what some of your major triggers are. For some, being lonely is a trigger. While others feel compelled to use in social settings. The holidays are especially tricky because they set you up for both. If you are alone and not participating, you may feel cravings set in. But if you’re at a party and everyone is drinking and having a great time, you may want to participate, i.e. drink. Either scene invites a relapse. The thing to do is know what your individual triggers are and come up with a strategy. It could be having sober friends and family over who know that you’re in recovery. It could be knowing when to leave a party or not going at all. The point is that you have a real plan and stick to it.

2. Depression is common over the holidays.

A lot of people get depressed over the holidays. It can come on unexpectedly, even for no apparent reason. If others are spending time with family and friends are you aren’t, depression could set in. If others are partying and you aren’t, you could feel very down indeed. Even the weather and the fact that it gets dark sooner can play a role. Isolate what sober activities make you happy during the season and do those things. It could be sledding, skiing, ice skating, or just watching a movie with a hot (non-alcoholic) drink. But when you find yourself alone and feeling depressed, you must have someone in your support network you can contact. The holiday season is a time for your supportive friends and family to be especially on the ball. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. Boredom is your enemy.

You get time off from work or school and you have nothing to do. It’s a recipe for relapse. Put together a plan on how you’ll stay busy. There are usually Christmas events happening around town. Pick out which ones will keep you interested (and sober), mark your calendar and go to them. Likewise at home, pack your days and evenings with stuff to do. It doesn’t even have to be holiday-related. Use the free time to do some projects around the house. Volunteering at an orphanage, school, church or shelter is a great way to stay occupied and focused on things that really matter. Do some pre-holiday preparations and stick to your plan.

4. Don’t stress so much.

People get really stressed out over the holidays. They get into a state of anxiety because of all the money they spend, the planning and parties, seeing relatives they may not be particularly fond of, traveling expenses and so on. If you’re in recovery, it may be fitting for you to simply take it easy. You don’t have to do everything that everyone else does for Christmas. You can even tell people you are in recovery and will be chilling-out for the season. They are certain to understand and if they don’t that’s really their problem. You can give a few gifts and cards and hang out with people who support your sobriety. If stress is a trigger, skip it. And if you do relapse, don’t sit on it. Rather, tell someone in your support network whom you trust so you can get it sorted out.

5. Traveling can lead to relapse.

If you must travel, understand that it poses unique situations which can lead to relapse. If you have a good recovery routine at home, being thrust into airports, airplanes and unfamiliar surroundings can act as triggers. Being physically tired and mentally stressed plays a role, as does going back to your old neighborhood. Visiting old haunts and former friends who still drink and use can be risky business. Airplanes serve alcohol as do airports and hotels. When you make your travel itinerary, lay out your travel sobriety strategy. Make it into a game where you challenge yourself. How can you have a great time while staying sober and drug-free? Enlist others, including those you’ll be visiting, in your plan. Another option is to simply not go. But if you are going, approach it analytically.

6. Go to meetings & stay connected.

Even if you never did AA or NA, you can still show up to meetings if you think it might help. Wherever you are, there are likely to be meetings, either in your hometown or wherever you’re visiting. There are also online forums where you can talk to people in the same boat. The underlying principles of staying connected are communication and common agreement. This can take place in a meeting or through healthy two-way communication with a person who understands your situation. Stay connected with your sobriety network. If you’re all alone or at a party and feel like you might drink or use, step outside and call someone, take a walk, get into an environment more conducive to sobriety.

7. Partner with sober people.

Team up with a family member or friend and get through the season together. Look out for each other and have one another’s back. Go to alcohol-free and drug-free parties. Visit friends who are also staying clean and sober. If you have friends who’ll be partying and don’t seem to “get it” (what you’re trying to do), don’t even go there. You can also look up and attend parties and events specifically labeled booze-free and drug-free, as long as they are what they say they are. If you have kids, nieces or nephews, or have friends with kids, there are always tons of activities for kids where you can help out. These are usually drink-free because, well, they’re for kids! Keep your sober and supportive family and friends close at hand.

8. Get some dopamine and adrenaline.

There are plenty of ways to get a rush or a buzz that do not involve booze or drugs. While in the kitchen preparing a meal, a coffee and piece of fudge could do the trick for that immediate dopamine buzz. Staying healthy over the holidays is an even better alternative. Get your sleep in and get up in the morning and exercise. Go to the gym for a work-out and a sauna. Do some outdoor sports. If you have snow, go snowboarding, skiing, snowmobiling or whatever appeals to you. The point is to get some excitement into your life that isn’t hazardous to your health. Staying well-rested, keeping a healthy routine, and not overdoing it on the holiday foods and sweets could be just the thing to keep you fit and in a sober state of mind.

9. Stay alert.

Constant alertness is a requirement if you wish to stay free from the grip of alcohol and drug abuse. Be mindful of who you’re associating with. Usually, when you find yourself in a potential relapse situation, you know exactly where you slipped up just a little earlier. Staying alert means envisioning yourself in the future. Muhammad Ali put it eloquently and succinctly when he said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.” But you need not even suffer. You just need to stay alert and employ some self-discipline. Look into the future and see yourself still sober and on top of your game. Know when to walk away. Know when to call or text a trusted friend. And know that ultimately, it will be up to you.

10. Keep the faith.

Remember what the holidays are about in the first place. They’re about things like giving, family, friends (real ones), charity, goodwill, spirituality and faith. They’re not about door buster deals, 50% off when you buy two, Black Friday madness, Cyber Monday insanity, crowded malls, getting stressed and getting wasted.

So if all else fails, just remember what you’re supposed to be celebrating in the first place. The winter holidays go back to pre-Christian celebrations of the winter solstice. While the winter solstice hardly represents the end of winter, it is the shortest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere in late December) signifying a new beginning of longer days and shorter nights. For Christians, the holiday is of course the celebration of the birth of Christ, known as the Light of the World. And the Jewish faith celebrates Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

It is the time of year we recognize the grip of darkness getting less and less and the outward and inner light getting stronger and stronger. So remember that and put it into the context of your sobriety and your future success and prosperity. And have a happy, safe and sober 2015!

 

 

 

 

10 Things People Always Ask About My Success

SuccessI take pride in having built Best Drug Rehabilitation and A Forever Recovery and the work we do to forward effective detoxification and recovery. I consider it my life’s mission to help people overcome the heavy burden of drug addiction. But the victory is equally great when we can intercept the harmful effects of drugs before they even take hold. And this is most important with our youth. By empowering young people with knowledge and self-confidence, we help them rise above negative peer pressure and make sensible decisions. Our youth are our future.

Along with community leaders, I work with professional athletes and within sports in general (football, baseball, boxing) in order to popularize the idea of a healthy and goal-oriented lifestyle. And I also work with artists who promote creativity without the insidious effects of drugs. While I measure success solely on the basis of happy people and saved lives, people ask questions all the time about how we have accomplished certain things. I say “we” because it’s always a team effort. Here are a few of the answers:

1. How do you maintain an ethical workplace?

I screen my applicants for sure. But I also get applicants who are former drug users that want to help others overcome drugs, and many of them have had a lot of drama in their lives. So I look for people who have a driving purpose to help others – and this is not everyone. Hard-working and a strong sense of personal integrity are traits I look for. But beyond that there is quite a bit that goes into maintaining honesty and ethics in the workplace.

I use the technology of ethics as developed by author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard. People are amazed to discover that there is a workable technology relating to ethics and integrity. While I could not begin to describe this system in full, one fundamental is that ethics is a personal thing. While there is a thing called justice as practiced by states and governments, ethics in its purest sense relates to the individual and the decisions he or she makes in order to make life better for oneself and others.

Another fundamental is that, as you get a bit bigger, you must assign someone as the officer in charge of workplace ethics. This isn’t a “cop” in the sense you might imagine. He’s really there to help people with their jobs and his responsibilities extend to establishing a smooth-running workplace and making sure people know how to do their jobs in the first place.

Another basic point is to make sure people know the rules. Having vague or unpublished rules collecting dust in a desk does nothing. The rules must be clear and people have to read and understand them.

Most importantly, people are expected to maintain a high level of productivity. A lot of problems simply disappear when you are production-oriented. And we don’t tolerate people spreading nasty little rumors about a co-worker. If someone has a problem with an associate, they take it up with them directly.

2. How does one maintain fairness when life is so unfair?

Many years ago, before I found my calling so to speak, I was in a competitive sales environment. I was good at it and was the top salesman for General Motors. Detroit had a vibrant economy based largely on the automotive industry. But it eventually got out-competed by foreign markets in the cutthroat world that is big business. Life is competitive and you’ve got to be tough to survive. Sports are great because they teach healthy competition. Despite how rough life can get, the code I live by states that you should always treat others the way you’d like to be treated. This is the “Golden Rule” taught in societies and religions all over the world.

Part of the curriculum at Best Drug Rehabilitation is a book called The Way To Happiness. It is a non-religious moral code based on common sense. It contains 21 precepts (rules of conduct) that anyone can relate to. It transcends all religious, racial and cultural boundaries because it is based on fundamentals common to everyone. A basic tenet of the book is that you treat others as you’d like to be treated and refrain from doing things you wouldn’t want done to you.

About 100 million copies of the The Way To Happiness have been distributed in 97 languages and 170 countries around the world. In Colombia, where hundreds of thousands of copies of the booklet were handed out, authorities recorded a 90% drop in kidnappings, a 40% drop in violent crime, and a 50% drop in homicides.

The statement “what goes around comes around” is a pretty basic concept that most people innately understand. There’s nothing wrong with competition in the spirit of fair play and goodwill. Life is often unfair, but when you live by a code of fairness and equity, combined with ingenuity and hard work, you can’t help but prosper. I try to exemplify this in all I do.

3. How do you maintain a level of high productivity?

Here’s a comparison: Drugs are classed into two main categories: Stimulants & Depressants. A person using stimulants (cocaine, meth, etc.) is seeking, to one degree or another, energy and clarity. A person using depressants (opiates, Xanax, etc.) is looking for calmness and serenity. In using these drugs they may achieve a chemically-induced version of these states. But it is temporary and they also get the opposite of what they sought. They get unbearable bouts of anxiety, paranoia, lethargy and depression. It doesn’t quite work out in the long run.

In life we seek these things: Energy. Clarity. Calmness. Serenity. People drink a lot of coffee, knock down energy drinks, use “brain training” websites, drink herbal teas, spend a day at the spa, get up early and watch the sunrise – and a zillion other things in an attempt to achieve a better state of mind and body. Some of these approaches work and are natural and healthy. I push for the natural and healthy versions both professionally and personally.

PRODUCTIVITY means producing a PRODUCT at a high level of quantity and quality. The Hubbard administrative technology contains a wealth of practical knowledge on the subject of productivity. For example, a product does not only mean a commodity. Any position in any organization is responsible for a specific product that forwards the overall purpose of the organization. A product is to be C-O-M-P-L-E-T-E-D. It is not something half-done or left for someone else to complete. This principle is unbelievably basic, yet is continually violated in countless organizations.

That was one example but there are a vast number of administrative principles we apply, from the structure of the organization and strategic planning to workplace ethics and statistical management.

4. How do you handle goals and planning?

Anyone with good business sense knows that setting goals and making plans is essential for success. But this is even more of a science than you may think. We do strategic planning and formulate detailed plans for expansion with very clearly delineated steps. The planning is broken down into specific projects for each department. These are further broken down into “targets” for each staff member. Each staff member in turn draws up a weekly and daily list of what they intend to do that accomplishes their personal targets and forwards the overall strategy.

Staff meetings and briefings are essential to make all this work smoothly. When all these components align, we get a uniformity of action and everyone working in the same direction. But along with this, individual initiative and judgment are vital to the equation. Factually, this type of planning and cooperative action is what is enabling us to expand and help more people. It’s truly widening the playing field.

5. How do you make sure people know how to do their jobs?

We do a lot of training. Each person wears a “hat” and they must know how to “wear the hat”. They must know the purpose of the position, its specialized technology and how it integrates with other hats and the entire group. When people know how to do their jobs, they feel much more secure and confident. We also have a lot less needless disputes and disagreements because people know what they’re doing. A lot of organizations hire people based on their previous schooling and experience, but I have found this to have limited application.

There are some areas like IT or telecommunications where I’d tend to want someone already trained and skilled. But with many positions we look instead for core qualities such as a strong work ethic, the willingness to learn, and a drive for helping others. A certain percentage of people are simply “trained wrong” to begin with. A degree does not always translate into the real world the way you think it should. Even the people at Google realize this. We provide training and materials so people know what to do and can do it.

6. How important is money?

Money is a means to an end and that’s about it. There’s nothing wrong with making money and providing a high standard of living for yourself and your family. I consider it an American responsibility in fact. But if all you’re after is money you’ll wind up with a hollow life. I donate a lot to charities, non-profit initiatives and community projects. I also believe the know-how of prosperity should be available to anyone, so I provide training to clients and staff in the administrative tools and principles that we use at Best Drug Rehabilitation and A Forever Recovery. Too many people don’t make enough money because they simply don’t know how, so I’ve been putting out a lot of articles on entrepreneurship in an effort to point people in the right direction.

Most people’s immediate concern is for themselves and their family, and that makes total sense. But as you expand your awareness, you may begin to notice things in society that need fixing. You can ignore the storm for only so long. Sooner or later it’s going to knock down your door or blow out your windows. The heavy weather out there takes many forms, such as a rigged economic system and rampant drug abuse.

I’ve observed two major types of constructive purposes when it comes to the world at large: The first is to remove something negative from society – such as crime, war, and the “normality” of psychotropic drugging of children in the name of “making them better”. The second is to create something positive within society – such as education, art, and the elevation of wisdom in a cynical and technological age. Either of these – removing something negative and creating something positive – are far higher than the purpose to merely “make money”.

7. How important is a good home life?

Most of the people who walk through our doors for rehabilitation have friends and family that really care about them. The family is the building block of society. Anything that strengthens the family will strengthen society itself. When a home is broken, those within it have the responsibility to work to repair it if at all possible. Unfortunately, some relationships are too toxic to reassemble, but I have found these to be in the minority. The family unit can be put back together for the mutual benefit and survival of all concerned.

In my personal life, I make a point to create a stable and supportive home environment. My wife makes me a better person and this fuels all the work I do. I still live in the Midwest where I was born and raised. The phrase “family values” has perhaps been overused, but I like to think it still means something, and I know a lot of great people around here who exemplify what that’s all about. Support from family and friends is a crucial element not just in recovery but in anything one is doing to make a better life.

8. How useful is “fun”?

If it’s not fun, why even bother? Want to know what the enemy of fun is? It’s “seriousness”. When you are too serious, you get more and more “solid” – like a brick or a rock. People who are too serious communicate with solid objects instead of words and ideas. They communicate with fists, bricks, bullets and bombs. The world we live in can be extremely serious, no doubt about it. But that does not mean we must be endlessly serious along with it.

When work is fun, it ceases to be work and guess what? You get more done! Fun, productivity and accomplishment all go together. In our work environment, we keep things moving at a brisk pace, we try not to be too serious, we get tons of stuff done AND we have a lot of fun in the process! If you’re doing what you love, what you’re meant to do, you can’t help but have fun.

9. What role does religion play in your work?

That is an interesting question. I don’t try to convert anyone to any religion. I openly encourage people to follow the faith of their choosing. A philosophic system I hold in great esteem, called Scientology (which can be defined as “study of knowing” or “science of knowledge”) teaches to respect the religious beliefs of others. Fighting about religion is one of the worst ideas I could possibly think of. All religions have the goal of increased spiritual awareness and the achievement of one’s full potential. There is truth in all religions, so when someone is pursuing their faith, they are pursuing truth.

We apply technologies developed by Mr. Hubbard in a secular (non-religious) context. Some people find that difficult to grasp, so here’s a comparison: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” – The Bible (Mark: 12:31). Anyone on earth of any affiliation, religious or not, could benefit from that statement. It’s pretty basic and echoes the Golden Rule I mentioned earlier. It’s also phrased in The Way To Happiness, which was written by Mr. Hubbard as a non-religious code of conduct. We provide education and training in how to get along better in life, but no one has to “believe” anything. It’s all in the spirit of practical knowledge.

10. Can people really take control of their lives?

“I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”

Those are the last two lines from a poem entitled “Invictus” (Latin for “undefeated” or “unconquered”) written by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903). The poem has reportedly been an inspiration to leaders, freedom fighters and even sports team captains throughout the last century – an attestation to the power of words and ideas. You can lose a battle, lose a game, lose a job, even lose a person but the only time you have really lost is when you have given up. I believe I can speak from experience when I say something like that.

I’ve seen thousands of people regain hope and purpose when those words meant absolutely nothing to them. People who lost friends or family to overdose or suicide, who alienated their families and got kicked out on the street, who were reduced to stealing, hustling and worse, all to get a fix – all these people, young and old, recovered and found renewed strength and purpose for living. Even when someone relapses, there is always something that can be done to repair the situation.

The more knowledge, the more skill, the more compassion, and the more wisdom we obtain and exemplify, the more it becomes clear that each of us are the masters of our own fate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rehabilitation of the Artist

 “Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes

Rehabilitating a Culture

The Rehabilitation of the Artist

Rehabilitation of the Artist

Imagine a world without the artist, without music, without storytelling, without painting, without photography, without design and creativity. The artist looks to the future and builds a new society with each note, each rhyme, each line of verse and prose, and every brushstroke of brilliance. Without the work of artists we’d be forced to live in a wasteland. We’d be lost to all creation. It’s hard to imagine such a place. The artist plays a fundamental role in a culture. The artist rehabilitates society. But who will rehabilitate the artist? Anyone, from any walk of life, who is struggling with addiction, should be helped to kick the habit. Through a program of detoxification and rehabilitation, we facilitate recovery and point the way to a drug-free and successful life. We do this one person at time. Concurrently, we work to educate youth on the truth about drugs so they make informed and intelligent decisions. The more momentum, he more we’ll see the positive results in our communities and society at large. It is a substantial undertaking, consisting of several major components. One utterly essential part is the rehabilitation of the artist.

Losing Artists to Drugs

The entertainment industry is no stranger to casualties. It’s a rough business. But I personally am sick and tired of hearing about another artist succumbing to drug abuse, being found dead in a hotel room. We’ve lost some of our great artists to illicit and prescription drug use. Heath Ledger was on a “cocktail” of opioids and benzodiazepines. Called polypharmacy, it’s blatant chemical abuse with a Rx slip to make it legal. Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning. And recently we lost one of our great actors to heroin. There are artists throughout society, some of them famous, some not, some of whom you may be close to, some of whom may even be in your family – and too many of them are up against drug abuse and addiction. When the artist suffers, our culture suffers. That’s just the way it is. When artists flourish, the society can’t help but benefit.

Art as Catalyst for Change

The diverse ways in which art affects the forward motion of a culture are incalculable. In the wake of the Middle Ages and its superstitions, the Renaissance period, which began in Italy around the 14th century, signified a cultural shift led by painters, sculptors, writers and free thinkers, as well as technological developments like the invention of metal moveable type which hastened the dissemination of more progressive ways of viewing the world. Legendary figures included Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and an impressive list of artists, composers, architects, mathematicians, philosophers, explorers and navigators. The 1920’s in New York City saw the rise of a literary and cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance, led by African-American intellectuals, writers, artists and musicians. The movement established a black cultural identity and helped set the stage for civil rights in America. Notable figures included W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Augusta Savage, Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. The 1960’s and the Civil Rights Movement brought seismic shifts in our culture, led by courageous leaders and principled people all over the country and in the South in particular. But the movement was preceded and augmented by an undercurrent of change: Music! Black artists, notably Ray Charles, Little Richard and Chuck Berry, were introducing millions of white kids to music rooted in gospel and rhythm and blues. Later called Rock & Roll, it brought people together as only music could. But as always, the new clashed with the old. The cultural shift was dramatic and the tension palpable, as Little Richard remarked: “We played places where they told us not to come back, because the kids got so wild. They were tearing up the streets and throwing bottles and jumping off the theater balconies at shows. At that time, the white kids had to be up in the balcony — they were ‘white spectators.’ But then they’d leap over the balcony to get downstairs where the black kids were.” The prevailing theme is that, ultimately, artists bring people together! They break down cultural barriers and get people to realize just how alike they are. They manage the trick, as only an artist can, of fusing people together while recognizing each person’s uniqueness and celebrating our differences and diversity.

Art and Society

There is no doubt that art has a profoundly positive effect on our culture. But in certain ways it can also have a negative effect. Some would seek to emphasize this. They take their aim at artists for the type of art they create. The late 1960’s saw a heavy influx of psychedelic drugs into America. And not surprisingly, drug use in the culture was reflected in much of the music. While that was unfortunate, if you’re a pop or rock music buff, you know that the 60’s saw some of the best music ever made: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Rolling Stones – the list goes on and on. If you lived the 60’s, or if you’ve listened to Sergeant Pepper or seen the Woodstock film, you know that LSD and drug use were woven throughout the decade. But do we target the artist? While one could argue that Grand Theft Auto (the video game) serves no redeeming social value, it was nonetheless created by some proficient artists and programmers. While one could complain that Miley Cyrus has not been setting a stellar example for young girls, she is undoubtedly a gifted performer. She’s also a great example of shrewd marketing and rebranding. Regardless of your stance, putting the artist in the crosshairs is pointless and violates the purpose of art in society. Art is art. It reflects life. Help an artist with their life and it will tend to reflect positively in their art.

Art and the Economy

Artists also have a profound effect on economics. Artists, who devote their lives to art and may not make much money, move into low income areas, including old warehouse districts. Gradually they attract more and more artists and raise the overall aesthetic level of the area. You start seeing more local shops and galleries opening and even a reduction in crime. Business people and investors take notice and thus the advent of more upscale apartments, restaurants, etc. It’s called gentrification and it has both positive and negative connotations. Rent, property values and taxes go up which has the effect of pushing some long-term residents out of the area. But it can also be done with sensitivity to the neighborhood’s history and inhabitants, especially where locals are involved in the process. Gentrification takes place at various levels all over the country. Brooklyn, New York is a well-known example. And it’s starting to happen in my hometown, Detroit. In a section downtown, once shuttered buildings are getting fixed up and new businesses are opening. Overall, these changes are good and Detroit needs people investing in its future while remaining loyal to its history.

Peaceful Revolution

The artist is a peaceful revolutionary against the status quo. When people are stuck in their old prejudices and superstitions, it’s the writers, the poets and the painters that snap them out of it, that get people thinking in new ways, that offer a new look at the world. Often their efforts are co-opted by those only interested in making a buck or forwarding an ideology. But no matter what, the artist will remain a free thinker. I’ve seen too many young and gifted people burn out from drugs. Some are under the impression that they have to use drugs to be creative. They think differently when drugs have thoroughly messed up their lives. On the other hand, I’ve seen what happens when they are freed from the chemical and emotional stranglehold of drugs. I’ve witnessed the resurgence of creative thought and action, where they reboot their art and it takes on new depth.

The Creative Spark

I consider it a strong part of our purpose to rehabilitate artists and help them succeed. I also know that in anyone there can be a hidden artist trying to get out. Anyone can have that creative spark to make music or write or paint. But creativity can take on many forms. Anyone can be an artist in some respect. Whether it’s being a skilled craftsman, a reliable mother or father, a neighborhood revitalizer or a voice of reason – anyone can make being alive into an art! At Best Drug Rehabilitation and A Forever Recovery, our aim is to help people live up to their true potential and help rid the world of the scourge of drugs and addiction. We certainly can’t do it alone. Artists play a vital role. They dream the dreams. They create a new reality. Let’s help them out, shall we?

Sources:

  1. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/harlem-renaissance
  2. http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/36910.Langston_Hughes
  3. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-artists-of-all-time-19691231/little-richard-20110420
  4. http://archive.freep.com/article/20140821/OPINION05/308210050/gentrification-Detroit

The Importance of Ethics in Our Lives

Good vs. Evil

Importance of EthicsEveryone knows you’re supposed to be a good person, be honest and treat people as you wish to be treated. That’s why we always root for the good guys in the movies and want the bad guys to get blown up or go to jail. But in the real world it’s not black and white anymore. The picture we see is a very different color indeed. We keep hearing news stories about corporate treachery, government corruption, injustice in the courts, the good guys losing and the bad guys getting away scot-free. People get cynical and start to think that good cannot possibly triumph over evil because evil keeps winning. But I’m here to tell you that things like honesty, dignity, justice, integrity and ethics are not dead. They are in fact absolutely necessary for your continued survival.

Justice vs. Injustice

Justice gets a bad name because of something called injustice. It’s bad enough when a crime is committed, but seeing the culprit get away is worse, and seeing an innocent person go to jail instead is unbearable. People get the idea that all justice is injustice and so anything even resembling justice is not trusted. Here is an example:

A Brief History of Hate

Shortly after the Civil War and the abolition of state-sanctioned slavery in America, a few Confederate veterans formed a little club called the Ku Klux Klan, KKK for short. It quickly evolved into a vigilante hate group that used intimidation, arson, beatings, whippings, lynching and murder of black citizens in an effort to forward white supremacy.

In the decades that followed, the KKK went through several incarnations in the South and elsewhere, continuing to preach hate under the guise of being God-fearing and honorable Americans. When the Klan’s white-cloaked murderers ever happened to go to trial, which was not often, they would avoid conviction. Why? Not just because of culturally entrenched racism, but because the law enforcement officers involved, jurors, and even the judge were often members of the KKK! This made any justice impossible.

By the 1960’s, the primary focus of the Klan’s most violent members was to crush the Civil Rights Movement through terrorism. A number of bombings and killings and a corrupted legal system made for an atmosphere of outrage.

The 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church resulted in the deaths of four black girls. Despite the heinous nature of the crime, no one was initially convicted. The case was reopened years later with previously suppressed evidence, and the perpetrator was convicted and sent to prison in 1977. A second suspect died in 1994. The remaining two co-conspirators were sentenced to prison nearly 40 years after the crime.

Despite the opposition, despite the hate that had been engrained for centuries, those fighting for basic human rights never gave up their cause. They succeeded in changing the whole landscape in America. I’ve spoken to a number of men and women who were part of that movement and I’m always impressed and inspired by the example they set.

Injustice in Your Life

While that was a high-profile example and history runs red with unimaginable cruelty and injustice, I am sure you can think of examples more close to home. You got penalized for raiding the cookie jar when you weren’t anywhere near the scene of the crime. A narrow-minded teacher sent you to the principal’s office for speaking your mind. Your friends disowned you because you expressed an independent thought. Someone else got the scholarship by cheating. Your house was foreclosed on because of forces utterly beyond your control. You got fired for no reason whatsoever.

All these injustices pile up and you can feel as though it is pointless to be honest and ethical. In truth, it is even more important to be ethical in moments of adversity. When times are tough, consider it a test of your resolve to remain true to your innate sense of ethics. Consider those that have endured far far worse and kept their integrity intact. Think of those who are attacked for speaking the truth because they live in places where their rights are denied. Then look at your situation and decide what is right.

A Code of Conduct

What is missing from many people’s lives is a code of conduct. Certain professions, such as medicine, law, and journalism are supposed to abide by a very specific code of conduct. But in our day-to-day lives, how are we supposed to conduct ourselves? What is our code? Religions provide codes of conduct, but it is difficult, not to mention unwise, to try and push the tenets of one religion onto someone of another religion (or no religion). People have gone to war over such things for millennia.

But what if there was a non-religious moral code that anyone could understand and follow and do better in life as a result? One does in fact exist, called The Way To Happiness. Here’s the link: www.thewaytohappiness.org.

It’s Personal

If you decide to conduct yourself in an ethical fashion, it will be because you decided to. No one can do it for you. If someone is considered a threat to others, like a thief or someone giving drugs to school kids, the “system” may attempt to correct or remove that person. But throughout your life and every day, you are faced with decisions, big and small, that affect your well-being and that of others. Your ethics, your integrity, is entirely yours. It’s a personal thing. You answer to you. You look you in the mirror. You call yourself on the carpet to coin a phrase. Get the idea?

Otherness

People who are so self-serving that they neglect or victimize others have a problem called “otherness”. Otherness, in this sense, means that one considers others as being different or “other” than oneself. It is at the root of racism in fact. A man sees another man with a different shade of skin or with different customs and he is unable to make a connection. He hears about a bomb being dropped on the other man’s house, and because he conceives the man as different or separate he feels no emotion about it. As the condition deteriorates, he conceives the other man as some kind of threat and actively seeks his destruction. This mindset of ignorance and hate gets passed on from generation to generation.

Such a mindset is more prevalent than you may imagine and exists in subtle forms all around us. We are blasted with the “news” and how “bad” it all is. The millions watching do so in a detached sort of way, like it’s all “over there” and “they” will take care of it anyway. When you change your way of thinking, you come to realize that there is no miraculous “them” that will take care of it. It’s down to you and it’s down to me, to take on some of the responsibility, to help make this a better place to live.

The myth of otherness drops away when you fully realize the role of responsibility in your life. We are all in this together – you, me, those who live down the street and the people half a world away. If you felt a pain in your shoulder every time you hit someone else in the shoulder, you’d get the idea. We are all interconnected and we rely on one another for mutual support and survival. So the next time you are faced with a decision, which will likely be today, keep that in mind.

Responsibility & Understanding

When people are in mystery about something, when they do not understand it, they will tend to lash out against it. It has only been in the last few hundred years that mankind has been looking to science and reason for practical answers rather than letting superstition and prejudice dominate their lives. But we’ve obviously still got a long way to go. When someone doesn’t know how to solve a problem or deal with a situation, he may resort to unusual “solutions”. He may use drugs to escape it. He may attack it with irrational accusations. He may detach from it and pretend it is “over there”.

But if he really understood the problem, the chances are far higher he’ll approach it rationally and effectively. That’s why we provide communication training, life skills training, literacy and educational resources as part of rehabilitation. Right along with ethics and integrity training, we help our clients develop the skillset to confront the challenges posed by life. Anyone, not just a rehab client, can greatly benefit from developing this skillset. Responsibility and understanding work together in all strata of life.

Mutual Trust

One of the fundamentals of ethics and responsibility is TRUST. If we cannot trust one another, we undermine the building blocks of human relations. In a business or commerce setting, we expect people to keep their word and deliver what was promised. Anything you agree to do, you should live up to your word and do it.

I’m not trying to preach from the pulpit or even the soapbox, but I am emphasizing the importance of trust. If you tell your kid, your spouse, your business partner or anyone else that you’ll take care of something, by all means take care of it. You can then expect the same from others and you’ll be more prosperous and happier as a result. More than a building block, it’s more like the bedrock.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

“What they don’t know won’t hurt ‘em!” is a false statement. It is used by those who hurt people and do not wish to be found out. What you don’t know could hurt you most of all.

If you didn’t know that multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical corporations teamed up with global marketing firms to market mental “illnesses” direct to the consumer and to doctors through media and professional channels, and if you didn’t know that these same companies marketed the drugs to “treat” these illnesses, and if you didn’t know that they spent millions of dollars on greasing the FDA to fast track their drugs onto the market and more millions to settle and hush up lawsuits when their drugs are found to cause more harm than good – if you didn’t know all these things you might be amongst the millions of Americans paying their hard-earned dollars (or using their insurance) for mind-altering drugs and putting their children on mind-altering drugs.

Around 50 million Americans are using psychiatric drugs. Global sales of antidepressants, psycho-stimulants, anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic drugs exceed $76 billion a year – more than double what the US government spends per year to fight the war on illicit drugs.

You’d like more understanding so you can take more responsibility for the situation, right? Here’s a site with real facts and real answers: www.cchr.org.

So, yeah, what you don’t know can hurt you. But if that’s true, the reverse is true: The truth will set you free!

Summary

We live in a society where ethics and integrity have largely fallen out of people’s consciousness. They are misunderstood subjects. In reality they are very simple subjects, but they’ve been made complicated and frightening by individuals and groups that specialize in complicating things and instilling fear. You may think it is slightly odd that I mentioned the KKK and pharmaceutical companies in the same article. Well I can assure you it was on purpose. There is one difference between the two however: Big Pharma has better stock options. But no matter how big, they will sooner or later fall because they are based on lies.

The strength within us is immeasurable. I for one have faith in people because I see how they can rise from the ashes. Want to change the world? We can do it, but it starts with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can You Recognize the Warning Signs of Substance Abuse?

Drugs, Lies and Truth

Substance AbuseIf you suspect a friend or loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, the first thing to do is ask them outright. In countless cases, they will not tell you the truth right off the bat. People using drugs, and in fact people in general, have various “automatic” responses they use in order to deflect others’ questioning or investigation. So they’ll lie and make up a story that seems believable.

They’ll say they mixed liquor with beer but neglect to mention the handful of pills they took. They’ll tell you on the phone that they’re no longer connected to a drug dealer when they’re on the way to that very dealer’s house.

A young woman – an ex-drug user with an alcoholic, gang-affiliated husband who is in jail because he beat her and totaled her car – will tell you how she’s filing for divorce as soon as she gets the money to do so, yet it turns out she smoked pot yesterday and suddenly misses her husband.

That last one is a real example I just heard about from some friends in another city. My point is that you can be gullible and believe what the drug user says and you’ll sincerely regret it later. It is not that anyone is a “bad” person. It’s just that the problem is wrapped up in lies and deception. There are ways to break it down and get someone to tell the truth. It starts by making sure they know it is safe for them to tell you anything, and I do mean anything.

Warning Signs

You should also be able to spot the warning signs of substance abuse. Here is a list of some of the major ones. Not every one of these means the person is using drugs, but they constitute things to be watchful for, especially when several are present. Also included is information on signs and effects associated with specific drugs:

General Signs of Drug Use:

  • Bloodshot, glassy eyes
  • Dilated (widened) pupils
  • Constricted (narrowed) pupils
  • Eyes dart about; inability to focus
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors; impaired motor skills
  • Odd smells on person, clothing or breath
  • Sinus congestion; runny nose
  • Erratic behavior or attitude; euphoric high to dismal low
  • Disinterest and withdrawal from friends or family
  • Continued association with drug users
  • Secretive behavior; hiding drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • Lack of personal grooming and hygiene
  • Changes in sleeping patterns; up at night, sleeps in day
  • Loss of interest in goals or the future
  • A “nothing really matters” attitude
  • Neglect of work or school
  • Relationship problems; neglect of spouse or children
  • Promiscuity, careless sexual behavior; uses sex for money or drugs
  • Stealing; criminal activity

Marijuana:

  • Compulsive eating; “the munchies”
  • Red, glazed over or squinted eyes; inability to keep eyes open
  • Dry mouth
  • Sickly sweet smell on person or clothing
  • Uncontrolled laughter; laughs at virtually anything
  • Cognitive impairment, stupidity; short-term memory loss
  • Lethargy, laziness
  • Impaired motor skills and coordination
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • General disinterest or lack of motivation

Heroin & Other Opiates (codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc.):

  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • Constricted pupils
  • Euphoria
  • Slowed breathing and motor skills
  • Heavy, dopey feeling; nodding off
  • Itching, scratching
  • Nausea, vomiting; constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction; impotence in men
  • Spontaneous abortion in pregnant women
  • Infections; lowered immunity
  • Arms covered with long sleeves due to injection; users may inject anywhere on  the body
  • Abscesses and infections
  • Withdrawal symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, flu-like symptoms
  • Overdose of heroin and other opiates can cause respiratory depression (loss of breathing), coma and death, as well as asphyxiation on one’s one vomit

Ecstasy (MDMA):

  • Dilated pupils
  • Distorted perception: sight, sound, tactile
  • Heightened energy level (associated with stimulants)
  • Euphoric perception of music, light, color
  • Abnormally friendly
  • Teeth clenching
  • Muscle cramping
  • Nausea
  • Chills; sweating
  • Anxiety; depression; confusion; paranoia
  • Overheating which can be fatal

Cocaine:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose; nosebleeds
  • Burned or cracked lips or fingers (from smoking crack cocaine)
  • Excessively talkative or nonsensical
  • Euphoria
  • Cognitive impairment; delusion
  • Confusion; anxiety; paranoia
  • Aggressive, violent behavior
  • Accelerated heart rate; cardiac arrest
  • Depression; apathy; suicidal behavior
  • Intense cravings; psychological addiction

Methamphetamine:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurred vision
  • Sweating; shaking
  • Confusion; paranoia
  • Lack of appetite; extreme weight loss
  • Tooth decay, oral sores (“meth mouth”)
  • Extreme excitement; delusional sense of power
  • Awake for extended periods, followed by a crash of excessive sleep and depression
  • Loss of self-control
  • Aggression; anxiety
  • Delusion; vivid hallucinations
  • Violent behavior
  • Extreme itching and feeling as though bugs are crawling under the skin
  • Self-mutilation
  • Dependence, addiction
  • Psychosis

Drugs as “Solutions”

Drug use ranges from the “recreational” user to the addict. Dependence and addiction are also increasingly the result of medical and psychiatric prescriptions. The more someone uses drugs to “solve” their problems, the more the lines blur between the user and the addict. A drug user may claim they’re not addicted, but can they stop? And do they stop?

When an addict does manage to quit, do not automatically assume they will no longer use again. Why? If they are still associated with drug users and dealers they could easily relapse. But it can be much more subtle than that. If they were using drugs to escape problems and pain in their lives (which is certain), and if the problems and pain return (which is likely), and they have no other solutions at their disposal, they are more than likely to use again.

Half Measures Won’t Do

A family can attempt to treat the drug user in their own home, and it will take more time, more effort and more resources than they might have imagined, and with uncertain results. The ideal solution is to remove the individual from the environment that exacerbates substance abuse. Inpatient recovery is usually the optimum solution, as it effectuates an all-immersive environment – one in which the addict is helped to reconcile the causes and the results of their drug problem. As a note, the underlying issues can run very deep: child abuse, spousal abuse, sexual abuse, broken homes – anything in the range of human experience could be a contributing factor to the multi-faceted reality of substance abuse.

A recovering addict needs understanding and patience, as well as a clearly delineated and structured environment. And perhaps most importantly, he or she must be prepared for post-rehab life, enabled and empowered to solve life’s myriad difficulties on their own steam.

 

 

Don’t Be a Pawn in The Game

Someone Else’s Game

Pawn in the GameFar too many people are pawns in someone else’s game without realizing it or caring about it. You, on the other hand, may feel you are not living up to your full potential and wish to change it. Observing the truth, whatever that may be, good or bad, is the first step. Feeling like a pawn on a chess board or a cog in an unthinking machine can take many forms. Being chemically addicted is a devastating form of slavery and those caught in that thrall need some help to break out.

Forms of Slavery

But there are other forms of servitude – economic slavery being one of the most omnipresent. Relying on a fixed income with no immediate prospects for improvement, unable to pay the bills or just squeaking by, is all too common – and it just won’t do when you have a family to support.

Some simply feel trapped in a treadmill of tedium, boredom, apathy and other negative emotions. While I don’t claim to have all the answers, I’ve been dealing with some of the more dramatic aspects of “being human” for the better part of two decades, working to help people out of deadly traps – many of which they laid themselves! Here is some insight for jumping off the chess board and into the driver’s seat:

The Impracticality of Dreams

You may have had a dream a while back but abandoned it due to its impracticality. Well, who said it was impractical? Maybe you’re caught up in paying the bills now and can’t afford to chase your dreams. I say you can’t afford NOT to chase them – impracticality be damned! You’ve still got to pay the bills and all that, but I have found that if you pick your dream back up, your energy level increases and you get more done in less time. No matter the outcome, what lights the fire in your eyes? Do that!

Bound by Money

Are you bound by money? If so, making more will bust you out. Cutting costs and knocking out waste is important but only goes so far. The answer is always to make more money. I’ve found the entrepreneurial spirit to be a potent force in society. Too many people think that if they can just “get hired for the right job” they’ll be in the clear. While that works for some, relying on that system is fatally flawed. You’re putting your fate in someone else’s hands. To break free, rethink your role: How can you generate more money? What are you able to produce and deliver? What do people need? What do they want? What problems can you help solve? Make a list of some potential ideas, pick a field and start working on it.

Sense of Integrity

You are the one chaining yourself down when you violate your own sense of personal integrity. You have an innate sense of right and wrong. When you look in the mirror, you know if you’ve stayed true to that or not. We all make mistakes – big ones! Anyone that tells you otherwise is lying. The cool part of it is that ultimately you don’t really answer to others. You answer to yourself! You answer to your own inner voice of logic, responsibility and reason. You do the right thing on your own determination.

When you’re in doubt, talk it out with someone you trust. But in the end it’s your decision that you’ll have to live with. It’s a sobering process that yields greater happiness when you stay true to your own integrity. And if you mess up, you can still fix it. It’s never too late to make a change.

Rising Above the Game

There are three ways of operating. The first is based upon what OTHERS direct and decide. The second is oriented around what YOU decide. But there is a third level which is above both of those: It’s when you are ABOVE the game, you see BOTH sides, you act not just for your own benefit but for the good of ALL concerned.

Look at some of the great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. They were fighting injustice and inequality, but they did so without stooping to the level of their enemies. Instead of being a piece on a chess board, and instead of being a one-sided opponent or combatant, see how you can rise above and pervade both sides. Can you see both sides in the game? Can you exert influence and efficacy over multiple points of view? The great generals could see from the viewpoint of their enemy. In a constructive sense, can you see from the eyes of another? Practice this and you may be surprised at how enlightening it can be.

Build Your Strengths

Those inclined to wage war conceive that compassion is the same as weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compassion is strength. Competence and determination are also strengths. The “universe” and forces within in it will attempt to exploit any weakness you may have. However, concentrating too much on weaknesses brings more weakness. Concentrating on strengths yields more strength. Work on your strengths and you’ll notice your weaknesses falling away. Life is tough but you are tougher.

Everyone Has Problems

Was the man on the bus obnoxious to you? Was your boss in a bad mood today? Was your spouse or your kids particularly ornery? Recognize that everyone has problems. A lot of people have trouble just getting through the day without elaborate mental gymnastics and a few shots of whisky. And they take it out on other people! They take it out on you! Perhaps you’ve done the same? I’m not saying it’s correct or rational – far from it! But just knowing that the people around you are experiencing the full gamut of human travail and drama helps put it all in perspective. You’re not alone.

Selling Conflict & Fear

I don’t usually get into politics, but I will say this: You’re not ONE thing. You don’t have to be left or right, democrat or republican. The media tells you that you should be one or the other. Why not just be YOU? Want to know why the media does this? To keep conflict going – this side vs. that side, us vs. them. It’s an intentional distraction to keep your mind off the things that really matter.

But it goes way beyond the false science of politics. The mass media and marketing machine tells you you’re sick and depressed, you have OCD, you’re bipolar, your kids have ADHD, and you’re solution is to “manage” this with psychotropic drugs. Why does the “media” back this up? Because they wouldn’t dare betray their sponsors – those that support them through paid advertising for those very drugs. They sell the disease along with its drug. They sell you fear and conflict. Open your eyes to these facts and you’ll feel less shackled and more YOU!

Striking a Balance

When you’re feeling overburdened, look at the PARTS of your life – and if they align and balance one with another. Specifically: you as an individual, your health, your family, your job and groups to which you belong, your neighborhood, your country, and even the human race. This extends even further to such sweeping things as our ecosystem, the planet, spirituality and God. All these are PARTS of LIFE. When they are out of balance, you get disharmony. When they do not align, you can feel considerably weighed down.

An example:

You spend a lot of extra time at work and not enough time with the family; your spouse is then upset and there’s a lot of tension; you feel pressured and on edge. So you discuss the matter and go over the fact that you’ve got to support the household. And you work out some ways to spend some quality family time; meanwhile you start a new family project for upping the income. You strike some balance so you and yours are moving in the same direction.

Another example:

A man is a devoted husband and father, but he can’t stop drinking. He’s sick and his problem wreaks havoc on his body, mind, family, career and his overall spirit. He’s got to tackle the problem for the sake of himself and all the constituents of his life. He should get help.

The Creative Impulse

The desire to create something beautiful, to communicate at a higher level, to make others’ lives better, to build something that will last, to effect positive change – all fall within the creative impulse. It so happens that artists and creative people are the most targeted by individuals who seek to keep others down. Such people (known as “haters”) see a threat in creative minds and efforts.

Perhaps you had the desire to create or build something of value and you were cut down dramatically or subtly. These incidents have a depressive effect upon you. It’s time to recognize that your intentions are legitimate, stoke the fires of creativity and let your unique voice be heard. Only the haters with their questionable intentions will complain. And their dishonorable words will disappear like dirt in a rainstorm.

Attitude & Approach

How you approach things does matter. If you’ve already decided that you’ll fail, don’t be surprised what happens. Believe it or not, one of your biggest enemies is “seriousness”. Too many people are so solid and serious that they get in their own way. The world can be a serious place and you can be involved in something highly critical – but that doesn’t mean you must be serious all the time. It’s OK to fluctuate emotionally; just be sure to rise up after having fallen. Your attitude and approach are more important than you may think.

The Power of Productivity

For a better state of mind, increase your output. Put in some overtime. Get double the work done. You’ll feel better. In business and managing an organization, productivity and morale are closely linked. The same goes for life in general. If you think that the more leisure you have, the happier you’ll be, you are mistaken. The harder you work and the more you accomplish, the more you’ll enjoy your free time.

Give & Take

A great leader is also a great follower. Being good at “positive control” means you have no problem being positively controlled. To command others means you are serving those whom you command. This is the give and take of life. If you feel overly stressed, something could be awry in this arena.

Give and take, aka exchange, is also the foundation of commerce. Whatever you’re doing, you’re giving or taking something. Exchange with others, interchange of commodities or ideas, are all closely intertwined with integrity and responsibility. For your own prosperity, it is vital to develop and maintain balance with these forces.

Rise from the Ashes

A friend of mine, a former meth addict, now operates an expanding online sales and distribution business, makes 300K a year, is married and has a perfectly healthy young son. And he’s currently on vacation in Florida. He met his wife in rehab. They rose from the ashes. I love stories like these because they prove the resilience of the human spirit. You need not be bound by your circumstances or your past. It takes hard work. It takes getting back up after you fall. Anyone can rise from the ashes.