Monday, March 31, 2008

How You Can Make Your World A Better Place

If you paint in your mind a picture of bright and happy expectations, you put yourself into a condition conducive to your goal.
- Norman Vincent Peale (1898 - 1993)

It's almost too simple to imagine that we live in a world we create for ourselves within our own mind. But it's a fact.

Few would disagree that there are real things in the real world, stuff made of matter and energy. The more scientifically savvy might say that we should include dark matter and dark energy. Fair enough.

How do we know so well that these things exist? We see, hear, taste, touch or smell them, or we see evidence of their existence such as we do when we detect that gamma rays have been somewhere we have a detector.

How do all these senses and cognitive processes work together? They're all conduits of information for the brain. The brain, in turn, acts on some of them by sending out messages through the same conduits to nerves and muscles so they will act according to the brain's wishes.

Work with me here while we try an analogy. Let's say that we substitute NASA's Mars Rover staff for the brain and the rovers themselves for the senses. We accept that the rovers are mechanical robots of sorts. They sense light and have other equipment that performs similar functions to our own senses.

The NASA staff act like the brain for the rover robots, receiving messages from the robots and sending messages back to the robots to act according to NASA's wishes.

What do the NASA people know about current conditions on Mars if the rovers refuse to send or receive signals? Nothing. What does your brain know about the real world around it if your senses refuse to send to or receive signals from your brain? Nothing. In the absence of input and the ability to send signals to their remote slaves, neither the brain nor the NASA staff know a thing.

Do you remember when the first rover landed on Mars and began to send signals back? Pretty exciting, as I recall. Not long after signals began to be exchanged, the rover captured an image that looked as if there was some sort of life form or manufactured object in the form of a face. Everyone at NASA and many who watched from home on their TV sets had a guess of what the "face" might be.

People had all sorts of guesses, including speculation about alien life on Mars, either then or in the past. You may have had an opinion as well because that's what our brain does, draw conclusions based on input. Using the same "sensory" input, or reality, many brains reached many different conclusions. Some of them were outright fanciful, if not borderline crazy.

Every time you see, hear, taste, touch or smell something, your brain reaches a conclusion about what's out there in the world around it. Other people's brains, given the exact same input, could easily reach different conclusions. What, then, is real?

"Real," to us, is what our brain says it is. Our brain doesn't give a whit what other brains think, it stays with its own conclusions. What it "saw" through its senses and concluded from the input is what is real to the brain.

That applies to many things in our lives. In truth, to almost everything. No two brains see the same reality. So what's real?

What's real is what your brain says is real. So why not, as Dr. Peale suggested, have your brain sense a bright and happy world?

That's not reality, you say. Some bad stuff goes on in the world. Just read a daily newspaper or watch television news to see some of it. Fair enough. But what is your source for good news, for happy and bright events that would more than counterbalance the bad stuff we get fed constantly? Most of us don't have that source for positive input or feedback.

So our feeble brains reach the only conclusion they can, based on what they have to work with. The world must be a terrible place with lots or dreadful stuff going on. Who could blame a brain for thinking that way?

With that as a starting point each day, what's to stop your brain from going deeper, from making more dire conclusions and predictions based on the same input day after day? Surely life would become depressing.

Some people couldn't cope with that level of depression, from constant, unrelenting negative input. They might turn to alcohol or drugs. They might fight with and kill a spouse. They might rob a convenience store when they need money to pay off bad debts or drug dealers. They might adopt any of numerous emotional illnesses we commonly call neurological disorders. They might commit suicide.

Who could blame a brain for that? It acts on what input it receives. If the input is all bad, constantly, maybe it eventually loses control. Maybe it causes its slave senses to turn a car into a lethal weapon or to rage at other drivers, co-workers or children.

You can see how this works. Fill your brain with what you want it to conclude about your world (it's world) and your brain will respond accordingly. It's that simple.

Fill it with good and helpful thoughts and the world will be good and helpful. You know how it works now. It's not deception. It's working with what you have around you.

A brighter and happier you will make those around you happier as well. Bonus. As they get happier, others they meet will be happier too and eventually it will spread farther. Around the world maybe. Another bonus.

But there's more. Call within the next 15 minutes and you can have your brain give itself a dose of feel-good neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin.

All for the same low price. The time you took to read this.

Act now. Before you get to a newspaper or television.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to have bright and happy children grow into happy and healthy adults.
Learn more at

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who Appointed Them God?

Someone's opinion of you does not have to become your reality.
- Les Brown, American motivational speaker

Let's do a little self-test. Think of all the people about whom you have strong opinions. Take a moment, I'm not going anywhere.

If you thought both of people about whom you have strong positive feelings and those you think negatively about, you are likely within the normal range if you had more people on your negative list than on the positive.

Part of our nature causes us to pick out the negative behaviour of someone and form opinions about them--especially strong opinions--rather than to look for positives for that person. It's related to what social scientists call the natural pecking order. Naturally, we want to feel superior to some other people.

If we can feel superior to others who appear to have more fame, more wealth, more charisma, more friends than ourselves, we have an inner and secret feeling of accomplishment or of superiority. Nature did that. All social animals, despite how cooperatively they may work together or how much they love each other, have a hierarchical pecking order.

You would likely have an answer if someone asked you who was the boss in your parents' family, whose word was the final ruling on an issue of debate. And you would likely know who you could and couldn't boss around of your siblings when you were all kids. That's the pecking order.

We want to feel that we are as far up in that hierarchy as we possibly can be. That means that we may recognize the negatives about others who we perceive to be higher in the order than we are so that we can feel better about ourselves. We identify them by their negatives, their weaknesses, their faults, their sins.

For many people, when they hear the name of former US President Bill Clinton, the first thing they think of is his sexual exploitations. The fact that he did more good to heal and to promote the good name of his country than any other US president in the past half century means nothing to them. He sinned and that's good enough for those people to label him.

Do you think that if one or more of these people were to express to Bill Clinton their opinions about his personal life (while ignoring his professional accomplishments) that would alter how Mr. Clinton thinks of himself? Not likely. He would not allow their opinions to become his reality.

Was Bill Clinton guilty of misbehaviour during his terms of office? Given the amount of lying that has been perpetrated on the American people over the past eight years and considering the fact that the same people castigated and attempted to removed Bill Clinton from office, we must consider the possibility that the former president was tried by the court of public opinion more than by a valid court..

Small misdemeanors may have been blown out of proportion to make him seem to be a big sinner by those we know as liars today. Yet Mr. Clinton's self esteem hasn't bowed. And Mrs. Clinton--whom no one considers a fool--didn't leave her husband. Likely she knew more than the many Clinton-hating conclusion-jumpers. His kids still love him.

Should my opinion of you affect how you live your life and whether you enjoy life or not? You may say no, because you don't know me personally. But you know many other people personally and what they think of you may affect your comfort level. Why?

Many people will have false or mistaken impressions about you in your lifetime. That doesn't mean that you should act the part or play the role of the guilty party.

Don't allow yourself to pay for the sins of others who think badly of you. They want you to be lower in their hierarchy.

Consider this: By their speaking negatively about you, they acknowledge that you hold a higher position in their social hierarchy than they do. Their insults should be interpreted as your compliment, only the speaker doesn't know how to use the right words.

Nobody spends much time thinking bad thoughts about those lower on the social hierarchy than they are. Nature doesn't work that way. We tend to focus more on those we believe are better than us in some ways.

If some nitwit bad-mouths you, it's nature's way of complimenting you. Don't take it personally. Remember, you don't want to give much time to people who are below you on their own social scale.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow healthy and competent adults from the children in their charge.
Learn more at

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fear Affects Your Life

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
- Bertrand Russell

Fear, superstition, cruelty: big subjects, requiring more thought than most people want to devote to subjects that won't put food on their table.

Fear is the most significant emotion we have. Many people construct their lives around fears they don't want to admit even to themselves that they have. Everything from remaining on unfulfilling or dangerous jobs to staying with a brutal or unloving mates to supporting children that refuse to work, who take drugs or alcohol or who break the law to committing to a religion about which they have doubts but are afraid to leave for fear of being denied access to heaven.

An element of fear exists in most stories on the front pages of daily newspapers. Fear is the source of war. Fear develops into hate in some people. Most democratic governments pass legislation for fear of being voted out of power if they don't respond to vocal interested parties and lobbyists. It's called a reactionary style of governance.

I can't say that I agree with Bertrand Russell that fear is the main source of superstition. Not fear on its own. People develop superstitions on their own to explain phenomena they don't understand. Such as the weather for March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb, or vice versa, which has no valid basis in meteorological record other than the fact that March marks the transition from winter to spring in the northern hemisphere.

However, ignorance of the unknown and curiosity about it could be used by some people--such as politicians, religious and military leaders--to form superstition, which could easily slide into cruelty, either in the way the manipulative leaders treat their own people or others who are "different" in some way. Prejudice based on skin colour and cultural differences are the most obvious examples of this.

The ancients used differences in culture as reason to conquer others and to kill, rape or enslave them. More recently Europeans used difference in skin colour as a reason to capture dark skinned people from Africa and transport them to be slaves in the Americas. That slavery, as we know, was cruel in many cases, beginning with the trip across the ocean.

Can fear be conquered, as Russell recommended? Fear is a learned emotion. It may be learned through experience, such as falling down stairs as a child might develop into a fear of heights in an adult.

It also may be learned from others. US President George W. Bush's admonition after 9/11 that "either you are with us or you are with the terrorists" made enemies out of people who had little interest in the US before that. As planned, American citizens came to fear those enemies their own government had made, fearing that any one with olive coloured skin might poison, explode a bomb or otherwise kill any one or hundreds of them without notice.

Abu Graib prison, in Iraq, symbolizes as well as anything the cruelty that evolved the from superstition US military personnel had of "the enemy".

Fear dissolves when the cause of the fear is put into context with facts. The more comprehensive the education a person has, the less likely he or she is to have fears, at least fears within the subject areas they know well. AIDS researchers, for example, do not fear getting HIV/AIDS. They exercise due caution.

In a few select communities and tests, Jewish and Palestinian children who played together had no fear of each other because they knew each other as playmates, not as "others' that should be feared.

If we want to banish fear, we must teach the fairly simple lesson that most fears are unfounded, most fears are intended to manipulate us and we have little or no need to adopt fears of people or events that are less likely to happen than being struck dead by lightning.

Teach the children that fear is an emotion that is rarely based in or supported by fact. The children will grow to have the normal complement of caution that they will need as adults, without the fear that plagues many adults today.

Teach the children what they need to live, not just what they need to be employable.
Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a handbook for parents and teachers who want to grow children into healthy and well adjusted adults.
Learn more at

Friday, March 28, 2008

Your First Step To Success

Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity. Successful men/women act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results.
- Dupree Jordan, American biologist, educator (1851-1931)

Lack of self confidence, of self assurance, of belief that you are worthy of the admiration of others if they only knew your qualities and talents, your skills and knowledge, shows on your face, in the expression on your face (facial language), in the way you carry your body (body language), in the position in which you place yourself in relation to someone you are speaking with, in the manner in which you speak.

Belief in yourself as lacking success and self worth shows on you as much looking successful and confident does on someone who feels successful and worthy of admiration. Others will treat you accordingly.

Part of the skill of exuding self confidence can be learned, such as what you need to do to give the perception of success and confidence. The other part, perhaps the more important part, is attitude. That's what you believe about yourself.

Despite what some guides to success will tell you, how you dress has little to do with the perception of you by others of success. Bill Gates, of Microsoft, for example, dresses casually--more correctly like a geek--all the time, though few would ever say he lacks confidence. If your footwear doesn't fit with the rest of your attire, that is apt to tell more about you than whether you are dressed formally, casually or in grubbies.

One of the main reasons that people lack confidence in their abilities is that they don't have sufficient knowledge, skills and abilities to feel confident about. That's a simple matter of filling in gaps in your knowledge or skill sets.

In a casual discussion you must know at least enough to keep the conversation going so that you can come across as a good listener. If the discussion is more like a debate, then you must know more than the others involved or your lack of information will be revealed.

Knowledge and skills do not gift themselves to you within your genetic code. You earn them with hard work. Something you learn today may do you no good for another 30 years, but when you can bring it up in a discuss then it shows you to have both a good memory and a deep base of knowledge.

Read, observe, listen and learn. There's no such thing as knowing too much. Where a problem arises is when you know a great deal about one subject but next to nothing about most others. You can't carry a good conversation if you don't have enough knowledge to participation in a broad range of subjects. If you know only one subject well, you may try to dominate conversations about that subject to show yourself well, but that could turn people away too.

Bill Gates began his adult life as a computer geek. But he learned a huge amount about business, about public speaking, about personnel management. Now he's learning about what it's like to be a benefactor as he gives away billions of dollars each year, computers and software to schools, and dollars for research into cures for disease, especially AIDS. He didn't stop learning when he had expertise in one subject area.

Acting with confidence while having little to back it up with may not be wise either. Most of us have met people who seem confident to the max, but you can't get them to do much or to say much of value because they don't have the stuff to fill their self-inflated balloon of confidence.

You don't have to be an expert to be confident in yourself. Most pretty people are confident, yet airheads if you get them into a serious conversation. They are so used to gaining attention for their beauty that they have to keep the conversation light so their basic ignorance of most subjects isn't revealed.

How can you become recognized for your knowledge long before you know a huge amount about a subject? Learn something then talk about it. Watch a documentary, then include information about that subject in a conversation the next day. Read the newspaper daily, then include facts about a story in your water cooler chats. Read a good book, then be prepared to recommend it to others. Cumulatively, these all add to your aura of being a knowledgeable person.

Act confident and successful, but keep your mouth shut when you don't know much. That's when your skill of being a good listener comes to advantage. A good listener will hear something, then ask a question which the speaker will appreciate because it indicates that the listener has been paying attention and thinking about what he or she has heard. And you will learn in the process.

You can act confident and successful when you don't know much about the topic of conversation but you look confident and ask relevant questions so that your participation is recognized and appreciated.

Nobody knows everything. You only have to know enough when it's your turn to speak and to keep quiet when you don't have relevant information at hand. In between you can smile knowingly and nod at the right times.

Bill AllinTurning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, an incomparable manual for parents and teachers who want to have knowledge about how to respond best at the right times to the developmental stages of children.Learn more at

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sharing Prejudices Or Love

If you think well of others, you will also speak well of others and to others. If your heart is full of love, you will speak of love.
- Mother Teresa

The world is not made up of you, the people you know and people like you, people with your biases and prejudices, your tastes and preferences, your standards of ethics and morals.

It's made up of nearly seven billion people you have never met, whose lives you know nothing about, whose cultures you know little about, whose backgrounds, fears, family values and daily struggles you can't comprehend based on your experience.

Do not assume that because you and your friends believe something or that because you can justify to yourselves some line of thinking or point of view that you can speak for them. They don't want you to speak on their behalf any more than you would want them to act for you.

Men and women around the world have many characteristics in common. However, what most of us think life is like for us relates to our culture, not to those common characteristics.

We all want to experience happiness. It would be a shameful experience to calculate how little time and effort we devote to those who lack more experience with happiness because they're too busy finding food for themselves and their families, some way to earn money so they can buy something with which to shelter themselves or simply a way to avoid being killed in the night.

We all experience fear. Many fears. Everyone has them, though we try to cover them up and pretend otherwise. What do we do to help relieve the causes of fear and risk in countries where it dominates the lives of most citizens? In some cases, we engage in war to "liberate" them. So, how do you think that has worked out?

We all need love, as Mother Teresa suggested. How can we offer love to people we have never met? People whose lives we know nothing about?

Love has two basic components. One is security. Think about the people you love. Don't you want to protect them when you can? Think about those who love you. Surely they try, in their own ways, to provide some security and dependability for your life.

Touch is the other component of love. We don't think of love that way usually. We think of love as something mysterious that either happens or it doesn't. That's not because love doesn't have common characteristics, but because we aren't familiar with the physical characteristics of love. Other than the physical component of sex, which is but one small part of the totality of love.

Touch is a critical component of love for those closest to us. The more two people who love each other share their love with touch, the more secure they feel. That applies to parents and children as well as to lovers. We even tend to measure the love that another has for us by the amount and the kind of touch they offer to us. Yes, touch is a "love meter."

When children grow up and separate from parents, often by long distances in this modern world of international economy, what the distant kin remember--what holds them together as "loved ones"--is their memory of how they used to show their love for each other through touch. They may not consciously think of it as touching each other, but touch will be a component of almost every good memory they have of sharing love.

A smile is the closest we can come to showing love for someone without actually touching them. A smile is sort of "love by proxy." That's why everyone appreciates having a smile from others they know and even from strangers. We show our love for other members of our species--even to our pets--with smiles. Somehow our pets understand that kind of love, though they, like us, would prefer to receive it through touch.

Most of us find it hard to ease the fears of people we never see and to better their lives with loving touch and smiles. But it can be done.

Next time you watch one of those television commercials that asks you to donate a dollar a day to help orphaned children in Africa or people in some war-torn, poverty-stricken part of the world, note how often those making the appeal touch those needing your help. They do for strangers what you can't do. These organizations usually have lots of people who would like to work in such situations, but they can't afford to send more than they can support with food, shelter and defence.

Do you travel to other countries on vacation? If you look, you will find treasures as valuable in poor countries as in wealthier ones that can afford to advertise to attract your tourist money. You can actually see more, meet more people and learn about them, travel cheaper and give the cash you saved to those who need it in poorer countries. With your smiles and your casual touch you can share your love with them.

You will find yourself thinking that if you lived in similar circumstances you would likely do the same sorts of things they do to survive. That empathy will demonstrate to you how much of the truly important parts of life we all have in common.

To accomplish these suggestions, you will have to defy the advertising that those with money throw your way to get you to spend lavishly in their countries.

Then your choice will be whether money or love is more important to you.

Mother Teresa had millions of people who loved her. She had no money to spend on them. What she had to share was a smile, a touch. They loved her back for the love she gave to them. Her cost: nothing. Her rewards: priceless.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents, grandparents and teachers who want to grow socially and emotionally healthy children, not just intellectually and physically healthy ones.
Learn more at

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stop Bitching

We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.
- Carlos Castenada, mystic and author (1925-1998)

We get out of life what we want, what we put effort into creating for ourselves.

As a Canadian, I am quite familiar with the favourite topic of Canadians meeting strangers or casual friends in a setting such as in an elevator or in line at a supermarket checkout. We talk about the weather or some level of government.

The weather is always too hot, too cold (Canada ranks as the coldest country in the world), too wet, too dry, too much snow, always too something. Governments always get raked over for something they have done wrong or something that they have done that is expected to have tragic results in the future.

Though we may have something good to say about the weather or a government in an extended conversation with a friend, those shorter casual meetings always deal with what's wrong. We complain as a matter of course. It's part of our culture.

Have you noticed how annoying someone who works nearby you is? Why can't your spouse do those few things that are important to you the way you want, at least once in a while? Kids clothes are absurdly expensive, they don't appreciate the clothes when you buy them without them on hand to try them on and give their blessing, and they make the most atrocious choices when given the opportunity to pick their own because they want to dress like their friends.

Why don't auto makers build cars to last, the way they do with trucks? Why do television newscasts always deal with bad stuff, isn't anything good happening in the world? Why do emergencies happen at the worst times so they mess up your day? Murphy was right with his law.

Get the idea? Life's a bitch, then you die, as the saying goes. Live your life focussing on the negatives and complaining about everything that catches your attention and life sucks.

Some local initiatives try to get people to avoid complaining. They exist around the world, but receive little media attention because the media does what we want them to do, report what is bad. You may not have heard of any of them. Here's an idea.

Live a complaint-free life.

Most of us have no idea how often we complain. What we know too well is how often others close to us complain, especially when they complain about us. How about trying to cut all complaining out of your life?

Here's how it works. It's best to begin with two or more people who are close to each other (house mates, co-workers) so that they can point out to the other(s) when they complain.

Select an elastic band that fits loosely over your wrist. Each time you catch yourself complaining (or are caught by the other), either snap the elastic on your wrist or transfer it to the other wrist. If you snap the elastic, don't do it hard enough to hurt yourself, just hard enough to help you remember. Both methods are used and both have their supporters.

There doesn't have to be a prize for the "winner" because everyone wins this game. It's really a lifestyle change. What you will try to do is to beat your own record for complaint-free days. It's not a competition because competitions end.

Be aware that it won't be easy. When you begin you will find yourself not being able to get through one day without a complaint of some kind. When you do get through one day, then two and more, the reward is double. First there is the success of setting your own record.

The second reward, which you will find becoming greater as you achieve longer periods of success at having complaint-free days, is that your life will be better. You will feel better about the world and about yourself.

Along with that goes the relief from stress, which many of us don't realize we experience every day. That results in better health. And better sleep.

You don't have to get a big raise, divorce your spouse or give your kids to Rumplestiltskin to feel better and live better. You have to stop punishing yourself, which is what you do by complaining.

Complaints, especially frequent ones, are like a prison you build around yourself. You don't realize what you have done until someone points it out to you. Of course you wouldn't have built a door in your prison cell because you didn't even have a plan to build it. It just happened.

Now you can build a new landscape for yourself. You can build real and positive structures in your landscape because it's entirely within your control. You aren't in control of anything so long as you live your life from complaint to complaint.

Remove the negatives that hold you down--stop complaining--and you will have built a different life for yourself.

Your culture may be filled with complainers, but that doesn't mean you have to be part of those who suffer by beating themselves up by complaining.

At first you may seem a bit odd to others because you have changed, for those you meet who knew you as your old personality. Then they will realize how you have changed. They will want to know how you accomplished it. Tell them. Explain how you did it, by eliminating one complaint from your life at a time.

Your life will never be totally free of complaints. You might not even want that because you do need some causes to make your life worthwhile.

There are always ways to say something in a positive manner that you used to say as a complaint. It's called constructive criticism. That doesn't mean that you criticize to help someone. It means that you point out a path for someone to follow that will bring benefit to that person (as well as to you, maybe).

Criticism that stops with a complaint is destructive. Criticism that continues by providing a path that will make someone's life better--especially if you point this out at the time--benefits the other person, you and the whole world as your kindness and caring spreads.

Yeah, kind of like what I just did. I told you that you complain too much, then gave you a path to follow to make your life better and healthier. You likely didn't even think of it as criticism because it showed you a way to improve your life.

That's constructive. Go find your elastic now.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents, grandparents and teachers so that they have the tools to help children grow into healthy, confident, competent, complaint-free adults.
Learn more at

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ode To An Empty Heart

In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.
- Antonio Porchia, Italian poet (1885-1968)

A full heart makes room for everything, then expands to accommodate additions, as needed. An empty heart allows nothing to breach its lack of trust, thus nothing earns it an emotional investment.

The empty heart--known elsewhere as a cold heart--wants for nothing because it doesn't allow for the possibility that it is not already complete.

The empty heart carries no baggage. Neither does it earn true friendship or love along the way because it thinks of nothing more than its own best interests.

The empty heart dies believing that it lived life the way it should, which to the full heart would be meaninglessness.

The empty heart can be changed. But the investment by another to accomplish change in the empty heart requires so much time and intensive effort, punctuated by repeated failures and fall-backs, that almost no one is prepared to make that investment.

The empty heart stands as the worst failure of humanity. Yet it rejects even the slightest effort to help it to fill.

The empty heart makes you glad that human bodies are recycled after death, for it has added nothing to the sum total of progress of humankind.

The empty heart cares nothing for the damage it does through psychological abuse, believing that everyone else should suffer as it has in the past. And as it does with each passing day.
The empty heart believes that it is superior to everyone else.

The full heart believes it will never have enough, so keep adding love and goodwill as it gives to and receives back from others.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow full hearts from small children.Learn more at

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Life Is Worth Living

"Cancer isn't about dying, it's realizing that life is worth living."
- Adrian Welsh

How could one young man have touched so many lives so deeply, have garnered the love of everyone he knew?

Adrian Welsh died after a four year battle with cancer on March 13, 2008. He had celebrated his twenty-third birthday just a few days before.

One week after his death hundreds of people jammed into the community centre in the hamlet where he lived for a Celebration of Life. The double auditorium filled with chairs, dozens of people had to stand through the entire service. They did so willingly, without a thought for their discomfort.

They came not out of curiosity, as is often the case with funerals or memorial services, especially of one so young or someone who died in a tragic event. They came out of love, first of all, and secondly out of respect.

Adrian Welsh was special.

Many of the comments given in person and in the souvenir program for the event noted that he died before he had a chance to live his life. They were wrong. Adrian lived more life in 23 years than most people do in 80.

He wasn't wild and crazy. He was daring, refusing to give in to fears and doubts.

Adrian believed that life is about having fun with whatever you do. Everyone wants that, but few manage it. His desire for fun was different.

He believed that for him to have fun doing whatever he was doing, the people he was with had to enjoy themselves too. That was his prime objective in life. He put the welfare and enjoyment of those he was with ahead of his own.

For a guy who was basically shy, Adrian made a huge number of friends, a few of them very close and special friends. He accomplished this by helping everyone to enjoy their life, whatever they were doing.

Nine years ago, at age 14, he began his first job as a part time dishwasher in the restaurant of a resort. He gained an interest in cooking by watching the chefs who prepared meals in fine dining styles. Two years ago, at age 21, Adrian became the head chef for that restaurant.

The daily newspaper in the city nearest where Adrian lived posted two pictures with the half page feature celebrating the life of this young man, a rare tribute to anyone. One of those photos showed him and a friend paddling a canoe, the feeding tube through the front wall of his abdomen visible on his bare chest.

Adrian never allowed circumstances to prevent him from enjoying himself and from having fun with whoever he was with.

Everyone who knew Adrian Welsh has their own special memories of him. There is one memory that each one of them shares.

Adrian had an infectious smile. He smiled at everyone, whether he knew them or not. Everyone within the range of his smiles felt immediately comfortable, at home, no matter where they were.

More than anything else, Adrian's smile and his caring attention to those around him will be a legacy that will last for a very long time.

He passed that legacy to me, as one who barely knew him.

Now that you know how, you can build your own legacy in the same way. It won't cost you a thing. Thanks to Adrian.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want their children to grow to be happy, confident and lovable adults.
Learn more at

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

You Can't Win This Argument

It is impossible to defeat an ignorant man in argument.
- William G. McAdoo, US industrialist, lawyer, & politician (1863 - 1941)

Walking away from an argument when you know you're right is right up there among the most difficult things we can do.

However, remaining to argue when there is no possibility of winning qualifies as questionable judgment. Arguing with an ignorant man is one of those unwinnable fights.

This is "ignorant" in the sense of "not knowing," not in the more commonly used meaning of "rude."

An adult who knows very little about anything grew up fighting an uphill battle. With no wealth of information at his disposal he had to depend on his wits to win anything.

Experience would teach him that winning with his wits would be very difficult because wit can't substitute for verifiable facts for long in a debate, even a friendly one. He learned that the best way to win any argument (in his mind) was to dig in his heels and maintain his position even when the burden of fact weighed heavily against him.

Winning an argument in the mind of such a person means being the last man standing, not defeating the enemy on the basis of well presented set of data. He knows from abundant experience that if he can't win on the basis of fact, he can be the last man in the debate with dogged persistence at maintaining his position.

In North America, for example, a smoker who argues in favour of his continuing to smoke is such a person. Facts such as that tobacco contains poisons, that it contributes to the premature deaths of thousands each year and compromises the health of countless more, that's its socially offensive to a majority of people or that cigarette smoke permeates upholstery and remains there for ages to stink up furniture mean nothing to him.

He will maintain that it's his fundamental civil right to smoke and that smoking gives him enjoyment. Nothing will knock him off that pedestal, even if governments and supreme courts rule that we have no right to kill ourselves slowly or to kill others with second hand smoke, or even to offend others with the smoke residue of our habit.

What the ignorant man believes is the foundation on which he has built his meagre life.
You can't shake him from that foundation by argument, no matter how valid the data, because without that foundation he would have to admit that his life is worthless. No one will admit to that readily.

The best advice for situations when you see a discussion heading for argument because one party holds firmly to a position based on belief rather than on fact is to walk away from it. The ignorant person won't hold your position against you later.

And you discovered something about that person that working with him for years might not have revealed. You discovered his Achilles' heel, his vulnerability.

Even a good, honourable and charitable man may have this weakness. Whether you exploit this and kick the foundation of his life out from under him is your choice. If you choose to take advantage of this weakness, be prepared to deal with the consequences of what will be a destroyed life, even if the destruction happens in private.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers so they can learn the essential streams of child development and attend to them all so that weaknesses such as ignorance never gain hold.
Learn more at

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Can You save A Life?

"In life you can never be too kind or too fair; everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load. When you go through your day expressing kindness and courtesy to all you meet, you leave behind a feeling of warmth and good cheer, and you help alleviate the burdens everyone is struggling with."
- Brian Tracy

Some will always think you a sucker for being so nice. They may even criticize you and try to take advantage of you.

Too bad. Jealousy will do that to people.

They hate to see others who do good works, who do charitable acts without expectation of reward, who try to help others, because it doesn't conform to their miserable and depressing viewpoint of humanity.

They are so focussed on themselves and the dirty tricks and misfortunes fate has played on them that they can't look at the world from anyone else's point of view.

If you can't think what life must be like inside someone else's skin, you can't appreciate the hardships that others endure. Those who can and do look at life from another's point of view usually (in my experience, always) find that they wouldn't trade their life and their troubles for those of anyone else.

That's a strange phenomenon. When we only look at our own problems and consider how hard life is on us, we seem to have the worst problems in the world. When we seriously think about the problems that others must endure--really learn what they are and how other people struggle to cope with them--we never want to trade ours for theirs.

Think of any famous person you know, especially someone whose life you may have studied to some extent. Not just the good stuff, but the bumps, potholes and sinkholes of that person's life as well. The more you learn about the real life--the inside story that the public doesn't usually learn--the more likely you will be to be thankful you don't have that person's problems.

Look at the people you meet every day, the people closest to you, with the same eyes. Every one of them struggles with problems and almost every one will hide them so that you learn nothing. Everyone wants you to think they are fearless, until proven otherwise. Everyone wants you to believe they never make mistakes, until they are caught.

Everyone wants you to believe that they can make it on their own, no matter what their problems and no matter how little help they have with them, until they break down.

Sometimes that breakdown is emotional. Sometimes it shows up as an addiction. Often it appears as unusual or antisocial behaviour, though this is usually done away from the eyes of others these people know. Sometimes we learn about that person's problems as a result of suicide or murder, or both.

If you are only thinking about your own problems and not those of others around you, when they go over the edge you may not be prepared. You may not be able to help.

You may miss the signs and live to regret it for years afterward.

Other people have it worse than you. If you dig deep enough, you may find that everyone else does. Be gentle. Cut them some slack. Forgive. Offer a shoulder, or some time to listen.

You may save a life. You will certainly enrich your own in the process.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for people who want to teach others, especially children, how to cope with life's problems and how to help them understand the vulnerability of others they know.
Learn more at

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Can We Manage On Love Alone?

All You Need Is Love, according to the Beatles song. What does that mean?

We can't eat love. The sexual version provides a limited amount of exercise, though better if done in bright sunlight so we can absorb UV rays that our bodies can convert to vitamin D. We can't wear it, though love may put a relaxed look on the face of a receiver. We can't buy anything with love.
What can we do with love? Martina McBride sings a song called Love's The Only House Big Enough to Hold All The Pain In The World. It's a good song, but I can't wrap my head around what it could possibly mean.

Can love be everything that is important in life? John Lennon thought so, though he tended to enjoy his drugs (when he wrote the song) so much that we might want to question the value of his judgment.

When we are in pain we do tend to turn to those who love us. But that kind of loving doesn't stick. It's like the bathtub drain loving the feel of water running through it.

Can we ever get enough love that all the pain we might have to endure in life would be dulled or not affect us? Maybe, but I'm thinking of that bathtub again.

Let's see what some famous people have said about love.

"Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." Martin Luther King Jr.

"Wherever there are jars [shocks in your life], wherever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love." Mohandas K. (The Mahatma) Gandhi

"It's not how much we do but how much love we put in the thing. It's not how much we give but how much love we put in the giving." Mother Teresa

Mr. King, the Mahatma and the Mother were well known for their inspiring speeches. These quotes inspire, but they may be difficult to translate into action.

Let's look at what the recently dubbed richest man in the world has to say. Given that rich people tend to focus more on gaining money than on improving their people skills, we may approach this one with skepticism.

"There's nobody I know who commands the love of others who doesn't feel like a success. And I can't imagine people who aren't loved feel very successful." Warren Buffett

Though Mr. Buffett uses language as we might expect a rich man to use and he has twisted the meaning so it came out backward, I believe he has a more important point to make than the others.

How can we command the love of others? He should have said "have ready access to the love of others." That's what he meant. Love cannot be commanded, in the usual sense of the word.

There is only one way to have access to the love of others without having that unstable bathtub scenario. To get love, we have to give it. That's the kind of love that lasts, that doesn't drain away leaving us empty after the "event."

Despite what some have said, love is not the only thing you have to give away to get more. That's true of most emotions. If we give anger, we will get back anger or fear, for example.

As accepted as this concept of giving in order to get more is among those who know the real value of love, it's not taught to every child.

We assume that every mother loves her children, no matter what. Or we believe that, despite some evidence to the contrary, such as a mother who suffers from severe post partum depression who may seem to want to kill her baby. We assume that every child loves its parents, though evidence is mounting that this is not the case in every family.

These assumptions about love are wrong. Love may be a natural emotion for us, but it has to be taught. If a child does not learn about love in its fullest sense before it's prime learning years are past (by age six, to a lesser extent age 11), then that person will always have a problem giving love as an adult even if he or she learns how to give it and to receive it.

Like an addict who spends the rest of his life "recovering" from his addiction, an adult who learn about love in adolescence or later will have to be regularly reminded about what love is, how to give it and how to receive it.

Our need for love is the part of love that's natural. Knowing how to give it and to receive it in a socially acceptable form is not part of our natural makeup. It must be taught if we want and expect people to know it.

In order for love to be taught to children, their parents must understand how love works before their children are born. Otherwise they may learn to late to teach their kids, then the kids may have problems the parents don't understand and will have no idea how to cope with them.

Given that the rate of divorce in developed countries hovers around the 50 percent mark, meaning that roughly half the couples who have children will separate and half or more of the single mothers and their children will live in poverty, we need to get teaching about love soon. The divorce rate proves that not many newly married couples know about love, even if they do know about romance.

It's all very well to have goals for children of being professionals or corporate CEOs, but if they don't know, understand and appreciate love, they will not have a full life. They could be rich, but not successful at life.

Even the world's richest man knows that. I'll bet Warren Buffett had a very loving mother.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents, grandparents and teachers to learn what kids need in terms of their social and emotional development, including how to love and to receive love.
Learn more at

Thursday, March 13, 2008

God Is A Fraud

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of hiscreation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, whois but a reflection of human frailty.
-Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel laureate (1879-1955)

In my search for God over the past several decades I have concluded that evidence exists all over our planet that the deity people have tried to teach me about is a fraud.

I have also concluded that people who believe in their God do so fervently. Even those who have doubts will firm their beliefs up quickly if someone presents a formidable argument that God is a myth invented by needy people and hucksters who want to make money off gullible believers. Nothing confirms the belief in God by doubters more than finding someone who bad mouths the God they aren't sure about.

Two problems present themselves forcibly to my mind that suggest that God--the God of religions, whichever one that may be-- is nothing more than a convenient invention. First is that those who most strenuously preach the rules of their religion--those who dictate what is sin and what is not--tend to be sinners against their own rules when the facade is torn away. The hypocrisy of the legislators of sin being devout sinners under the skin repels me.

The second problem I have with the concepts of God that many people hold is the contradiction and hypocrisy of the believers. The hypocrisy part is similar to the legislators of sin being sinners themselves, only this latter example involves the practitioners of the religion rather than it leaders. They simply don't follow the rules they supposedly subscribe to.

Contradictions abound in the monotheistic religions. God is a vengeful God, but he wants us to be peaceful. God is a peaceful God until he wants his followers to go to war and to die if necessary to defend the faith. Defend it from what is never spoken, never asked, never answered, because faith cannot be killed unless every last believer is annihilated.

Some say that God punishes sinners for every sinful act they commit. The same believers will claim that their own particular sins are forgiven because Jesus (or some other prophet) died that their sins may be forgiven. Convenient.

Some actually believe (and can quote Revelations as evidence) that they can sin abundantly for their whole lives, then repent and be saved on their deathbeds and still be admitted into heaven.
Even the concept of heaven is absurdly contradictory. To Christians heaven is a place of eternal bliss, usually only available to devout and pure Christians, and sometimes their beloved pets.

The Christian heaven is as boring as I could imagine, surely a kind of hell itself where every bit of intellectual strength I have gained throughout my life will be lost through atrophy because the inmates have nothing to think about.

The Muslim heaven must be populated by an uncountable number of prostitutes because Muslim suicide bombers are promised 72 of them each when they reach the Pearly Gates. Female bombers, by the way, are greeted by male prostitutes. Islam is not consistent about whether these prostitutes are created by Allah just in time for the arrival of a new bomber or whether they were once occupants of terra firma.

Judaism spends so little time on the concept of heaven that many Jews are not clear about what heaven is. Jews are supposed to focus on being good on earth and leave important stuff like the afterlife to God. This would seem to work except for the fact that Jewish intellectuals and students spend countless hours debating how to interpret the words of their holy books. How can everyone follow what is debated so ferociously?

The point here, as stated in Einstein's quote, is that people have invented their respective God with human characteristics. Step back from that a moment and consider the absurdity. Believers agree that God is perfect, but present evidence in holy books that God has as many failures and foibles as any foolish human.

Atheists have disavowed anything to do with God or the religions that invented God. Yet it's not God they don't believe exists, but the contradictory, hypocritical and nonsensical God that devout believers believe in. What atheists don't believe exists is the God that religions have invented.

Interestingly, my personal experience and that of many others I have spoken to on the subject suggests that atheists tend to live more wholesome and beneficial lives than religionists who believe the atheists are sinners.

Every religion has some good in it. Every devout believer also has some good. The evidence for these conclusions is easy to see if we remove our prejudicial spectacles.

What most people who claim to believe in God seem to miss is the evidence for God that exists all around them. That kind of evidence would stand up in a court of law if the challenge were to show evidence beyond doubt.

Now you would like me to deliver that evidence into your waiting hands.

Open your eyes. Open your ears. Resensitize your taste, touch and smell.

Begin to pay real attention to real events that can't be proven by science but for which an abundance of evidence exists. Some of it in book form. Just look for it. Believing or concluding anything from a position of ignorance doesn't make sense.

Learn about life, especially in its finest detail. The more you learn about life, especially how systems relate to each other within one larger system (a human body, a plant or anything in the physical world) the more you must ask yourself if this all could have happened by accident.

Godless evolutionists claim that everything that happens can be explained by laws of nature. Not a single one of them will attempt to explain why those laws exist or how they happen to fit together so immaculately well. There is no more reason for natural laws to exist than for matter and energy to exist. Natural laws don't prove anything, they only explain phenomena.

Every single thing that we know exists continues to exist even when it transforms. That is, energy can become mass or can change to another form of energy, but it never disappears. Your body will transform when it dies. No physical part of it will disappear, ever.

Are you thinking about this? Do you have a personality? Can anything you know about the physics of the human body explain either the ability to think rationally or the existence of personality? Only by stretching reality into the realm of mythology or fantasy.

One natural law is conservation. Just as mass and energy can never disappear (nor can dark matter or dark energy, so far as anyone knows), so too the personality that became you cannot disappear just because your body wears out and transforms.

No one can even say for certain that your thoughts happen within your brain, though some electrical activity certainly happens there when you think. Electricity travels around the outside of an electrical wire, not through it. Nature has an energy travelling beside (outside of) mass, not inside of it.

Is it impossible to imagine that the personality that is you exists beyond the limits of your skin and clothing? Have you not felt sometimes that someone was staring at you from behind. Can you not sometimes feel the presence of someone in a room? Have you ever expected someone to call you, then the phone rings and that person speaks? Nothing in natural law can explain those phenomena that most people have experienced.

It's hard to imagine that your personality may be defined 100 percent within the confines of your body, and its activity can be accounted for by the actions of your muscles, nerves and brain.
If you want to find God, don't look in a book or listen to someone tell you their version of God.

You can find God yourself. Just don't look to someone who stands to make a profit by convincing you of something to explain God to you. That's a conflict of interest.

Look and learn. The more you learn, the more God will reveal himself to you.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book for adults to learn how they came to have the personalities they have and to help parents and teachers teach children what they need to develop fully in all ways.
Learn more at

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How Stress Wrecks Your Health

"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."
- Nelson Mandela, civil rights icon, former president of South Africa (b.1918)

Resentment, bitterness, holding a grudge, being angry at anything for longer than 10 minutes, they're all the same thing. And just as self destructive as each other. Maybe we should add shooting yourself in the foot as well.

The "enemy" never suffers the same way we do; the enemy has no idea that we are causing ourselves to suffer. Usually the "enemy" has forgotten about the disagreement a few minutes or hours after it happened.

Feuds have carried on for decades between two former friends, not because they had a disagreement but because one of them persists in holding a grudge. Sometimes the grudge and conflict continues even if both parties have forgotten what the issue was in the first place.

Conflict requires emotional energy. So does laughter. But laughter doesn't continue indefinitely the way conflict does sometimes.

Conflict triggers the body's fight or flight response, which pumps epinephrin (better known by the trade name Adrenalin) through the bloodstream. This is no big deal if the body returns to normal within a short period of time.

Trouble begins when the conflict and its emotional component continue, with epinephrin leaking into the bloodstream over a long period of time--weeks, months, years. The body interprets this as stress, more likely even as trauma. This kicks the immune system into high gear because that's what the immune system was designed to do.

As conflict continues and the immune system remains steadily pumping its stuff around the body, it loses its ability to spot and eliminate other invaders or minor skirmishes such as cancer sites that come to life when the immune system isn't around to keep the cancer cells in check.

The advancement of cancer due to stress is but one example. Many diseases and syndromes that cause people continual grief or even death can be precipitated by viruses. If viruses are allowed to flourish because the immune system has been too busy looking after stress (conflict) to do its job properly, illness will result.

Some of these illnesses happen because the immune system is so confused by being continually in action that it turns against itself. It treats its own issue as another enemy. Autoimmune responses that cause the immune system to self destruct are not a good thing.

Whether it be resentment, carrying a grudge or emotional stress of any kind (including the body's response to continual lack of sufficient sleep), the body will eventually cause its own death if the emotional drain continues to run.

It's all within our power to stop and to prevent such events from happening in our lives. Stress doesn't just result from anger. Anger is often the consequence of constant stress from another source. Anger with a loved one, for example, usually has as its real source something that has nothing to do with the loved one.

It's destructive, it's dangerous and it usually ends up hurting more than just the life of the one person who allows the stress to continue.

Now you know. Tell someone.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' a book for adults who want to have children avoid the problems the older generation had growing up. That includes teaching kids how to avoid having stress ruin their lives.
Learn more at

Monday, March 10, 2008

Alexander Graham Bell Hated Telephones

"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us."
- Alexander Graham Bell, scientist, inventor, innovator (1847-1922)

Best known as inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell was so famous for parlaying his experience in the family hearing-assistance business into a huge telecommunication conglomerate with an appliance that may be the most widespread electronic device on the planet that his native Scotland, his adopted country Canada and his final country of residence the USA all claim him as their own.

As a scientist and inventor, Bell would have been very familiar with doors closing on him, with experiments that failed time after time. Failure didn't deter him because he knew that success would follow if he stayed the course.

We're all familiar with doors closing on us. Many of us will be familiar with looking back to see the doors we should have opened afterwards that we didn't.

What about those doors that Bell said open for us, but that lead nowhere or that we can't make a success of? There is no point in launching ourselves into a new venture that could result in our bankruptcy.

That last word--bankruptcy--or fear of it, keeps many of us from opening new doors.

The problem is not that new doors don't make themselves available to us. The problem is that we have been taught by our social and education systems that "new doors" must lead to financial success. Many people define success in financial terms, not in terms of self fulfillment, happiness, productiveness, raising a thriving family or even achieving in life goals other than financial ones.

Alexander Graham Bell didn't make his fortune by inventing something that everyone wanted. (In fact, he found the telephone a nuisance and wouldn't even have one in his office.) He became rich by searching for a device that hearing impaired people could use. His mission was a charitable one, not a quest for great wealth. The fact that everyone wanted his new device, that it opened up a new age of communications and made him and his successors ever since very rich were side benefits.

If we search for new doors to open when older familiar ones close on us to improve ourselves or to help others in some way, we will find many possible doors to open.

Searching for a door to make us rich is a sure route to failure. If there were such a door, there would be 6.5 billion others of our kind lined up to open it with us.

Success--even of the financial kind--is not about what we can get, but about what we can give, about what we can offer to others that they need and find valuable. Sometimes what we can give is only our time and effort. But those who need what we give will appreciate it very much. Appreciation is a welcome opiate.

If we better ourselves so that we have something more valuable to offer to others, sometimes that turns into financial success as a benefit.

Sometimes giving of ourselves to others makes us feel needed, valuable, someone who has a worthwhile mission in life. Those who are most loved are those who give the most love.

That's a goal that rich people can only dream about. Yet it's one you can achieve yourself.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents, grandparents and teachers about what kids need and how to satisfy needs that most of us don't even realize our kids have.
Learn more at

Saturday, March 08, 2008

We Turn Helpless People Into Losers

Don't simply retire from something; have something to retire to.
- Harry Emerson Fosdick, American clergyman (1878-1969)

While this advice holds great importance to those about to retire or who will retire within the next 20 years, it also has great importance on a broader scale.

In the middle decades of the past century, when retirement with some sort of pension at age 65 became common, working people looked forward for decades (in some cases) to the days when they could go on permanent vacation. Retirement as long term vacation was such a goal that it prompted many entrepreneurs to devise ways to syphon money from those with lots of time and not enough to do.

Only a few decades of that retirement-as-vacation thinking passed before the younger generations began to realize that something was wrong. Retirees who kicked back and relaxed, read the newspaper and dabbled around the backyard pool didn't last long.
In fact, many became television addicts, the most devoted of viewers of game shows and soap operas. These allowed their minds to atrophy along with their bodies.

One study just a few years ago showed that those who subscribed to the retirement-as-permanent-vacation line of thinking lived an average of six years past their 65th birthday.
Today society encourages retired people to get active, get moving, get involved and get thinking in many ways. As a consequence, the average lifespan in most western countries is now at or above 80 years, about a decade longer than those who subscribed to the permanent vacation thinking.

Those about to retire are now encouraged to consider the years they spend away form their primary source of income before age 65 to make their next few decades into a "second life," whether that be to start a new business, do volunteer work, participate in a mentoring program or to get involved with helping still older people or others with physical problems that prevent them from getting around and involved with the possibilities of life.

We see retirement now as a major change of life and lifestyle. That requires preparation and planning.

We tend to give less attention to those who must make other major life changes earlier. When a business or industry closes, putting many people out of work, only then do we scramble around to provide the newly unemployed with training to get new jobs. Many people who get fired or laid off have no idea what to do with themselves. Their lives and those of their families suffer as a result.

Only after people experience divorce or death of a spouse do we try to provide some guidance as to how to cope with their loss and how to "begin again." And only then for the fortunate ones who happen to have associations with organizations that offer such services.

For people who experience emotional collapse, very little exists other than basic medical help. In a fast-paced high-stress society, emotional collapse should rank much higher on our radar as a possibility. We could help to prepare people to cope with the stressors of their lives ahead of time, but mostly we just hope that they will survive and get their lives straightened around on their own.

Divorce and job loss have become so common that we should prepare people to cope with the changes when they happen. The emotional shock would be much less severe if people knew that it would happen and what to do when it does. (Preparing them to avoid the need for divorce in the first place is another issue entirely.)

What in the 1970s and 1980s was called the male mid-life crisis has not lessened, but it has almost fallen off our social radar. Many people have enough life and work experience by the middle years of their working lives that they would dearly love to do something different. Often this involves starting their own business, working for themselves.

Not only would this open up more jobs for employment to younger people, it would also fill many voids in our business spectrum now, positions that would never be filled by industries or larger businesses.

First we need to teach young adults that they will likely find themselves out of a job some day and that they will need to know what to do when that happens. Then we need to provide them with the possible tools and training so that they will be able to make the transition as smoothly as possible. That's the kind of preparation that the quote suggests.

People who desperately want to leave their mates need training as well. Many will not leave because they fear being alone in the world with no support and few possibilities. Some suffer abuse because they don't know how to build new lives for themselves on their own.

As Fosdick said--or as I would add as a corollary--these people need to know what they can move to, not just what they want to run away from. By not making people aware of the possibilities (and providing shelters where the abused can go for immediate support), we make the lives of many people worse by leaving them to fend for themselves. Most simply don't know what to do or where to turn.

The first step in their conversion to a new way of thinking about the lives of our people is to teach them that events such as death of a loved one, job loss and divorce will very likely happen to them at some point in their lives. When enough people know this, others will organize tools and training sessions by which everyone will eventually know how to cope with sudden unplanned changes in life.

If we're going to live longer, we will experience major life changes more often than our ancestors. It's time to grow up as societies and offer what our people need so that everyone knows how to cope with problems without turning to harmful alternatives such as drugs, addictions such as gambling, or abuse of loved ones.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a hands-on manual for parents and teachers to show what kids need, when they need it and why meeting those needs must not be an option as it is today.
Learn more at

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Life After A Near-Death Experience

One realizes the full importance of time only when there is little of it left. Every man's greatest capital asset is his unexpired years of productive life.
- P. W. Litchfield

As a group, surely those who have survived near-death experiences--such as recovering from a severe version of cancer--must be the happiest and self-fulfilled people around.

Here's one example:"Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. Because my illness was also my antidote: it cured me of laziness." - Lance Armstrong (US seven-time Tour De France winner, who survived testicular cancer)

What is there about surviving a dangerous event or escaping death that allows those people to appreciate every minute they have afterward?

Some consider it a "second life," but that's a euphemism for making better use of time especially showing their appreciation of and love for others. Being given "a second chance" is another way of putting it. That's not the whole answer.

These people learned a profound lesson from deep personal experience, one they didn't have the opportunity to know before.

Is that it? Do we have to survive death to live life to the fullest? Well, many people who have experienced a religious awakening (epiphany) or found what they have been looking for in terms of a religious affiliation enjoy life thereafter in much the same way.

Something changes them. Something at a deep personal level.

Note that these examples all involve adults. Can they--do they--happen as well with children? Yes, but we tend to consider these situations of the teacher-plus-student-plus-lesson format. In other words, kids learn life lessons from teachers; sometimes the teachers are their own parents.
We can influence the lives of children in profound and magnificent ways if we teach them life lessons at the right times. However, this seldom happens, or at least too infrequently.

Rarely are such important life lessons found on school curriculum. Ironically, we would never find time devoted in curriculum for tending to discipline problems either. Yet these can take a huge amount of classroom time in some schools.

I say "ironically" because the two situations are related, directly. Children and adolescents want to know about life more than they want to know how to do calculus or speak another language. They're built that way, just like the young of every other primate and mammalian species.

They want and need to know some things about life--including how to make friends and how to have the skills necessary to do the social exercises necessary to learn about finding life partners--so much so that they resent being "forced" to learn other things that mean little to them at the time. So they may misbehave, drop out or rebel as a way to express their dissatisfaction and discomfort at not receiving what they know naturally they should have from their parents or teachers.

Epiphanies may happen to those children, as adults, who have had a thorough spectrum of learning experiences with life, social and emotional development. But they may be less profound if they have learned the skills they need to find what they require in life when they were young. The results are the same, but the change less significant.

We prepare (or should prepare) children to be people, not just occupiers of jobs. Schools, in general, prepare children for jobs they will or could have as adults.

Someone--schools, parents or a religion--needs to prepare them for life. It's not happening now, at least not with many kids. We have lots of adults around who have problems and don't know how to cope with them. They take strange and even self-destructive routes to cope with their problems because they don't know what else to do.

These life lessons would be both easy and cheap to teach in schools.

We need to authorize our departments of education, our boards of education, our schools, our administrators and our teaches to meet the most important needs that our children are not having met now.

Not only would we have far fewer problems in our communities, our families and our personal lives, the taxes our governments require to deal with miscreants and criminals today would be drastically reduced in the future if such a program were implemented in schools.

One thing is for certain, no school curriculum will change on its own. It likely won't happen without your support.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers, the "missing link" in today's education process.
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Monday, March 03, 2008

Why Peace Doesn't Work

I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love.
- Mohandas K. ("The Mahatma" - Great Soul) Gandhi

Beautiful, isn't it? It's a longer version of the meaning of the Hindi salutation "Namaste."

Why doesn't it work?

Gandhi himself, perhaps the most peaceful leader in history, was murdered by one of his own, a fellow Hindu. Peace didn't seem to work for him that way. Why not? Especially when, generally speaking, most Indian people are peaceful compared to the people of most countries.

A concept such as peace must be taught to children, to all children, in order to be effective. Forces that work slavishly to teach fear and violence to children never sleep. In the United States, for example, you would be hard pressed to listen to a newscast or read a daily newspaper that would not incline a child toward fear and/or violence if its contents were taught to that child. Violent news is certainly repetitive.

Concepts we want to impart to our children require repetition, whether peace or violence. The US national anthem is a war song, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag a commitment to use violence to enforce the safety of the people of the country, if necessary. The US has, since its inception, always found someone to fear, thus a reason to engage in war almost constantly throughout its history.

These two have been daily features in US classrooms longer than anyone can remember. That is, the message that violence is to be considered a primary means to resolve conflicts is taught to children every single day they attend school.

That is but one example. Canada, one of the more peaceful nations in the world has a somewhat similar national anthem, though not a pledge to its flag.

The same teachers who supervise these daily exercises--the US anthem and the pledge--do not place similar emphasis on the concept of peace or peaceful resolution of conflicts. They rarely, if ever, appear in curriculum, though the conflict messages are repeated daily.

Peace, to most of us, means that when the potential for disagreement arises, the parties involved should consider ways of resolving it other than by using violence or psychological coercion.

Until that message is conveyed to children more often than the messages about violence, the message that is taught in a stronger manner will win out in the minds of the kids, who will grow up to have similar beliefs but have access to more weapons.

Indians are taught to adore and to respect the leader who brought independence to their country. They are also taught the concepts of peace and passive resistance.

Canadian children are taught that a Canadian began the concept of international peacekeeping through the United Nations and that Canada is the only country in the Americas that gained its independence from its imperial power by peaceful means.

What children are actively and repetitively taught becomes a way of life for them in adulthood.

Those who love and support violence are tirelessly dedicated to passing their message to younger generations. Those who love peace tend to not have the same devotion to their cause.

If you want change, teach the children.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the important life lessons they need to become secure, competent and confident adults. It's a manual for life.
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Sunday, March 02, 2008

What Would You Do?

"He only did what he had to do," a line from Waylon and Willie's Poncho and Lefty, stands out from among the others as my earworm of the day plays over and over in my head.

I don't know who Poncho and Lefty were, but Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings immortalized them with their country classic. They did whatever bandito work they "had to do" in Mexico for years before the Federales killed Poncho and Lefty fled to Ohio. According to the lyrics, it was Lefty who did what he had to do, which was banditoing. Poncho was dead by that point of the song.

I keep asking myself Why? Why did these two and many others since them turn to a life of law-breaking?

I have never known or heard of a young child who aspired to be a bandito or a law breaker of any kind. Kids fundamentally want to be good. They may misbehave, act ornery and make their mother's life hell for a few years, but they do that for a reason.

They can't understand or cope with life as it presents itself to them.

Human children take two decades of upbringing before they get a good grasp of what life is about. Even then, many don't get it. As little kids, they grasp concepts easily, but hypocrisy and lack of attention to their needs confuses them. They don't have the words to convey their feelings to their parents. So they tend to act out, misbehave or withdraw into themselves.

In adolescence many "rebel" by wearing black, bleaching their hair, getting tattoos, listening to music their parents' generation hates (but which usually expresses their personal angst) and dressing either like hookers or alcoholic drug addicts who live under bridge overpasses. They still can't express what they feel is so wrong about themselves or the world around them. All they know is to show their disapproval of it.

We call it teenage rebellion, but it's not universal. It only occurs in societies with certain social conditions.

The worst of the adolescent objectors lack social skills or self confidence--even if some seem to be able to easily attract a following--and virtually all lack emotional skills and knowledge. They are developmentally immature or maldeveloped. We know it, schools and the courts see it every day, the situation is getting worse, but we do nothing about it.

Most kids grow out of it and learn to compromise with the society around them. Some, however, hit crises they do not have the skills to cope with or the support of others they can turn to in times of trouble. Their parents claim they were right behind their kids all the way. But they weren't. The kids knew it. The parents had no idea what to do, even if they tried their best to be good parents. Which virtually every parents does, given their unique set of circumstances.

When that special crisis arrives unexpectedly on their doorstep, some will turn to the people who are most ready to support them, at least to some degree. Criminals and other unsavory people are always the easiest ones to make friends with. They aren't good friends, but they're there when teens and young adults need them, at least to lend some relief from the pain of the crisis. Maybe that includes drugs, for example.

The free drugs last only so long, then the user must pay for them. That requires the young people to find ways to get money, ways that are immediately or soon thereafter illegal.

How serious is it? The USA now has a record number of people incarcerated. One out of every 100 US citizens is in prison or jail, not only a record for the US but a world record for percentage of citizens behind bars for any nation. When you discount children and adults who are beyond the age when most would commit crimes--in other words, look at people in the most productive years of life--the number in prison is well over ten percent. That's one adult in ten behind bars.

Governments and education systems don't want to tell children about the horrid things that happen to frequent drug users--they want to keep the children "innocent" for as long as possible.
So the young people only hear about the good effects of drugs from the suppliers. Heck, the thrill or feeling of bliss is worth a little pain later.

They don't explain to children why law breaking is very hard on society and give them the ways and means (knowledge, skills and support people) to cope with their problems as they get older. Some turn to crooks for temporary help in solving their problems. The bad guys are always around to "help." Especially around schools.

That temporary help becomes permanent, but the young people don't know that at the time. We don't tell them that early enough. Or the damage they will do to themselves or their families. A judge or fellow prisoner may be the first to break that news to them.

Maybe most of them just did what they "had to do" to get past their problems. They didn't know any other way to solve them. We weren't there to help, that's for sure.

But, not to worry, we can still build more prisons and courts. Apparently that's easier than teaching children what we have a moral and natural obligation to teach them, how to cope with and work within the constraints of adult life.

And we have drugs to fix them when they break. Most do at some point, to varying degrees, even if they cover it well.

Innocent children become ignorant adults. It's inevitable. Yet we continue to do it as if it's the right thing to do, as if it's the only thing we know how to do.

Who, I ask myself, stands to gain by keeping so many children so ignorant about life that they turn to illegal substances and crime to cope with their problems?

And why do we persist on doing nothing about it?

Especially when we know how to avoid the problems. At least you do. You read this article. And you have likely read other articles by me and visited my web site. So you know what you can do. What are you doing now that you know?

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, your handbook for how to solve these problems. It includes special guides for teachers, parents and grandparents of young children.
Learn more at