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Aspects of travel, changing where you live, filling your days, doing routine volunteering, managing your money, etc.

Lonely, Blue, and 50+

Lonely, Blue, and 50+

It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when life sucks and no one even notices.   It’s probably even easier at 50+.  But we’re big kids now and our fun—and a meaningful life—isn’t someone else’s job.  The “good life” is up to each of us individually.  You may think you’re doing all the right things to make friends and attract a special someone into your life.  But if it’s not happening, look at what you’re telling yourself.

“I’m bored…” 

Well, it’s good to notice this.  It’s bad to sit around waiting for someone else to fix it.  “Bored” is a danger signal.  You need to keep your world expanding to thrive.  Boredom means you aren’t doing that.  Figure out what interests you and pursue it.

Boredom is the first clue to understanding why you can’t make friends, find a sweetheart, or create that good life you’re yearning for, too.  Admitting that you’re bored with what you have going is a good step.  Continuing down that path is settling for being boring.  Boring is not interesting.  If you want a life, be interested—which makes you interesting.

“I want someone to…” 

Are you putting this in terms of what other people are supposed to do for you?  “I want a man to take care of me” is just plain lazy on many levels.  Same deal for “I want a woman to hang out with me.”  Why should other people want to be around you if you just want to use them?  If you want more in your life, you need to do the work to get it there.  Which means you need to be ready to give as well as receive.

The best way to find friends is to take that scary step of going solo to groups who do the things you want to be part of.  An organization probably already exists for what you want to do—some of them explicitly for singles.  Travel.  Sports.  Hobbies.  You name it.

Do some research online.  Check out the local listings of social groups.  And talk to people.   You might find your all-time favorite venue for rock ‘n roll dancing by talking to a guy at a singles dance.  (I did.)  Once you find the group, get active.  Go to the meetings, get involved in the events, volunteer to do what needs to be done.

As a general rule, the best way to beat a bout of the blues is to do something for someone else.  So think about that, too.  There are many ways to help and most of them will help you as much as whoever you’re assisting.  And you never know who you might meet while you’re doing it.

“My way or the highway…”

Another big mistake at this point in life is assuming that everyone you spend time with has to agree with your politics and your religious persuasion.  Good character and the party line are not the same thing.  This is another part of keeping your world expanding.  A good discussion with different points of view makes you think—and grow.  Respecting others’ right to their own views is a key piece of your own emotional development, too.

Being right is baloney.  There are so many shades of gray in what goes on in the world these days that insisting that whoever you talk to sees it exactly as you do is like assuming the entire world should be looking out the same 12” square window.  You’re building a bunker where a bridge belongs–a guaranteed way to feel lonely at the end of the day.

“I want my freedom…” 

One of the pluses of being alone after 50 is the bliss of doing everything the way you want, whether it’s popcorn for dinner, tai chi on the deck at sunrise, or never making the bed.  The hard truth about having other people in your life is you’ll have to let go of some of these “sovereign rights.”   If you want to do things with other people, you’re going have to agree to do it their way sometimes.  One-way streets are for cars not friendships.

Finding people to spend time with and to love is a multifaceted challenge.  It’s also something you have to choose to do and then work at getting good at.  Your mother may have been willing to listen to you go on and on about “you,” but the rest of the world needs more give and take than that.   Get good at both.

To beat “lonely and blue,” get on with what you like to do, connect with others who enjoy those same things, and then get to know them without deciding how they are going to be what you need.  A vibrant life at any age requires that you think beyond yourself and what you “don’t have.”

 

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Writing a Killer 50+ Resume

Crafting an effective resume when you’re over 50 has extra challenges. If you get it right, the whole world knows you’re good at what you do.  If you don’t, nothing happens.

One of the benefits of experience is that you can make difficult things look easy.  That’s a problem if you end up needing to convince someone new that you’re the right person for the job.   People who’ve been effective over the long haul often lose track of what it’s like to not be that effective.   That leads you to talk in terms of the job instead of how you did it.  Working from that perspective presents you as a plain vanilla anybody.  So before you write one word of that resume you really needed to have done yesterday, think through these questions.

What makes you a uniquely valuable hire?  The vast majority of us have an extremely difficult time putting this into words.  That may be because you’ve been taught not to brag or it may be a case of assuming everyone can do what you’re good at.  Either way, your next employer isn’t going to know that you have exactly what she needs until you get the information out there where she can see it.  Your first shot in that effort is with your resume.

The current jargon for what you need here is “personal brand.”  Knowing what makes you a valuable employee and being able to put that in five to ten words is important in a job search.  Ideally, you will have practiced these words enough that you come up with them as if on autopilot when needed, even in an unexpected place like at your kid’s basketball game or in line at the grocery store.   Having the first few words come out automatically makes it easier to deal with the rest of the conversation effectively.

What’s a resume for?  A resume is a marketing tool.  This is not the place to tell your life story or to go on at length about the minutia of what you did in each job you ever held.  Those of us with a lot of experience can easily shoot ourselves in the foot on this. The stereoype of aging that our culture holds associates longwindedness with mental decline.  Use only what’s important and be concise.

What does my next employer need to know most about me?  You will be way ahead of the competition if you write your resume so that it addresses how you can solve the hiring manager’s problem.  The best way to do that is to highlight how you’ve helped your previous employers get what they needed done.  Just mentioning that you served as the liaison with the Building Department is nowhere near as compelling as saying that you developed solid relationships with them and got permitting accomplished quickly.

What are the differences between the job description and how YOU performed the job?  Quite often, these two things get confused by resume writers.   Talking about the job instead of your performance obscures the value of your experience.  The duties of the job are what’s written on a formal job description.  It might be something like “handles walk in customer traffic.”  How you did the job probably goes beyond that in some unique way.   Were you effective at helping people figure out what they needed?  At dealing with volatile complaints?  At keeping track of clients’s preferences so they felt like they were “family” and became loyal to your place of business?

There’s a place for the job description language–in the experience section right under the company and job title listed.   Use no more than two lines for that description.  The rest of the space you allot for that job experience needs to focus on what you did particularly well.

How can I avoid being ignored because of my age?  The first step in this is to be sure you’re not setting yourself up with your own thinking. Are you making excuses for not learning new things (including technology!) because you are “too old?”  Are you telling yourself you don’t have the stamina you need for what you want to do next?  Neither of these things is a given consequence of getting older.  Change you lifestyle and stop telling yourself that you’re old.

In your resume, pay close attention to your choice of words. Use action verbs and short phrases to project energy. Consider an initial section that speaks in current terms–what you can do NOW–rather than putting everything in the past tense a chronological resume requires.  Avoid as many adjectives and adverbs as you can–they bog the writing down.  And avoid obsolete slang and phrases.

Having experience is a plus that has somehow become devalued in today’s job market.   You can’t expect to be valued for the seniority you had at another company.  But you can present yourself as a viable candidate because of how well you did the work.  You can create momentum to propell yourself into your next job by projecting energy and making a clear case for how you can help the next company better than those who’ve had less of a chance to learn how to get things done.

 

The “Foolishness” of Not Preparing for Retirement

The “Foolishness” of Not Preparing for Retirement

All those boomers who can’t afford to retire may not be the losers the “experts” make them out to be.  Another big study just came out reporting that millions of people on the brink of retirement don’t have the money saved to pull it off.   That may not be a bad thing.

Perhaps it’s the people making the predictions who need to stand back and take a better look at what’s going on. If it was all that important to those people to be able to retire, they would have prepared for it. But even before the financial meltdown of the last few years, baby boomers were not seeing the retirement years as the extended vacation it’s being painted as by financial planners and real estate developers.

In a study of over 3000 boomers in 2005, the Met Life Foundation found only 17% wanted to never work for pay again once they retired. Six percent wanted to go to work full time at something else. Seventeen percent want to work part time, 16% want to own their own businesses, and 6% want to do “other” things like join the Peace Corps.

For those of you who’ve been keeping track of the arithmetic on this, that leaves 42% still unexplained. What do they want to do? Cycle in and out of work. What better way to be sure you do that than to not have the money to “stay” retired? Many who do have the money do that same thing when they retire simply because it’s more enjoyable.

As a nation, we would be wise to look at how to use this immense temporary talent pool effectively instead of lamenting the “unretireability” of the masses. If we actually put some effort into using the potential of this segment of the population instead of shaming them for not trying to be what they never wanted to be in the first place, we would all win.

Economic boon
People who are actively earning are more willing to spend money than those living on passive income–even if there’s plenty of passive income involved. Even wealthy retirees adopt frugal behaviors, partly because it’s a way to demonstrate competence. If we gave these people the chance to work even a quarter of the time, the  loosened purse strings would have a startling positive effect on the economy.

Government cost containment
People who are engaged get sick less. They don’t dwell on their health problems because they have more interesting things to do. That means fewer trips to the doctor, the hospital, and to the medical lab for Medicare to cover. Let these people work some of the time, and they will take better care of themselves simply so they can keep on doing that.  “First you retire and then you get sick” is true way too often.

Social hat trick
Work is one of the best sources of self-worth on the planet. When people get paid, they know they are good at something and that translates into a more positive attitude overall. A postivie attitude has been linked to better health, plus they are more effective contributors to the common good because they believe they can still make a difference.

In addition, getting retired workers involved on a part time basis can cut down on the workload of those in their prime work years who are stressed into illness and poor performance because of there is simply too much that they are expected to do in how we are going about it now.

Third, putting retired talent in the same place as the newest generation of workers will help develop work habits that are currently lacking in younger hires. The “old hands” can also pass down the knowledge needed to solve problems without creating new ones–knowledge there is no “app” for.

Boomers have not saved for retirement because it’s retirement itself that needs to retire. The old cultural set-up simply won’t work with such a disproportionate number in the “retiring” generation and so few in the one that follows. (There are 77 million boomers and only 40 million in Generation X.) Instead of lamenting what individuals aren’t doing, we need to be building bridges to a whole new version of this time of life.

Once you are “old enough to retire,” the desire is for flexibility, not pure leisure. If we can harness the talent available in that pool and use it to make our for profit and not-for-profit efforts more effective, we all win–again and again and again.

This notion that boomers are stupid for not “getting ready to retire” is itself stupid. What the experts are urging them to get ready for is not, and was never, what they want to do. Let’s run with reality and shape some of the work that needs to be done so it replaces retirement.

 

The Power of “Letting People Know”

The Power of “Letting People Know”

When you let people know–what you need, what you have, what you would like to do–you increase your chances of getting what you are trying to accomplish done exponentially.

I’m writing this just after doing some volunteer work at the local library–where I didn’t work much because no one knew about what I was there to do.  Not promoting my availability to do one-on-one job search counseling was a conscious decision.  They were worried too many people would want help and that many wouldn’t get it because I was only there for two hours.  But not telling anyone before the period when I was actually there meant I had a lot of time to read magazines I don’t ordinarily get to see.

It also made me stop and think about how many ways there are to benefit from “letting people know.”

The obvious one is if you are job hunting.  Letting every person who knows your name know what you are looking for is essential.  There really are only a few steps between you and what you need–just as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon party game suggests.  (Microsoft actually tested the premise–that any two people  in the world are connected by way of no more than six intermediate people–and found it to be very close to that.)  So “let people know” if you are looking for work, projects, internship opportunities, whatever.

Last week, my brother called asking if I needed a new dishwasher.  He had just purchased one he could not return, and it didn’t work in his kitchen.  I did (need a new dishwasher).  Desperately.  One friend described mine as sounding like I was washing bowling balls.  But I had just purchased one as part of a major kitchen remodel and was within days of getting it installed.  I did, however, know of someone else who needed a new dishwasher.  So I called him…and now his family has a nice new dishwasher.

I have a wonderful hiking group that I go out with on Wednesday mornings.  I would still be yearning for the chance to get up in the mountains if I hadn’t “let someone know” that I was looking for a way to hike.

Three very different examples of the same principle:  Good things happen when you “let people know.”  This isn’t a case of “expecting” people to give you what you need.  It’s more like getting your name on the list for the Universe to work with.

Let people know…if you’d like to meet some new members of the opposite sex…if you need a handyman….if you want to wallpaper your dining room with tinfoil and are wondering just how to do that.

The power of community is one of the sweetest things about being human.  You tap into it by “letting people know.”

 

 

REAL Networking

REAL Networking

Bad assumptions about networking mean a lot of us get less than we could from it. Far less.

Real networking has nothing to do with business cards or methods of organizing them. It has nothing to do with “getting ahead.” It has nothing to do with “meet and greet” events billed as “power networking opportunities.”

Real networking—the kind that will make a difference your career and your life—is about getting to know people who are focused on what you want to be focused on and relating to them authentically.

No phony “Let’s do lunch” or “I’ll call you next week” stuff that never happens. More like “I thought you’d appreciate this article, given our conversation last week.”

Let’s get one thing straight right now. You do not network with people you don’t know. First you meet them, then you get to know them, and THEN they become part of your network. And they do so because you like them, they like you, and both of you have a common interest. It may be that your kids are on the same hockey team. It may be that you are both trying to create a better version of a fuel cell. Either way, the bond and the value to each other is built on interaction and mutual respect.

A lot of career development seminars and job search advice books tout “networking’ as THE solution to all your professional needs. And that is very close to the truth. But what they suggest is typically not anywhere close on how to create a network.

It is not done with cold calls to a bunch of people you need favors from. It‘s done via on-going engagement in what you believe in. When you are on target with your values in the way you reach out, people of the same persuasion tend to show up in your life. You meet people who are not only interested in what you are interested in; they are also folks you want to know personally. They won’t all be “BFF” material. But they will be meaningful players in your overall Game of Life.

Waiting to create a network until you need help is like waiting to put on your life jacket until after you’ve been thrown out of the speed boat. Your network should be a lifelong effort and should include people from all aspects of your life. Branch out. If you do different things with the same people all the time, you might be more comfortable with the crowd, but your network is going to be a lot more limited. The more far flung your contact base is, the more likely it will be contain what you need when it comes time for that network to serve you.

But that time should be a long way down the road. A good network is built on friendship and service. Giving any way you authentically can is the quickest and smartest way to foster its development. That might be forwarding a cogent news release, letting a friend know that another friend is looking for what they have to sell, or just calling to say “how ya doin’?” when things have been difficult. Real networking works because it’s a shared effort to live life well. It’s genuine and benefits both parties.

The “synthetic networking” that’s often recommended for job seekers is just another form of cold calling—a strategy that’s long on rejection and short on results. Cold calling to ask a very busy person for an informational interview might work, but asking a friend who knows that person to set up that call will make it work a whole lot better. (And that friend will want to help because of all the help you’ve given in the past.) The fake version is better than doing nothing at all, but it’s not anywhere close to the effectiveness of the real thing.

Networking is a time-honored life skill. Our moms did it with the neighbor women about great casserole recipes. Our dads did it with other Scout Leaders or fishing buddies. Real networking is like populating your own virtual city with great people who have all the skills, insights, access and resources you need. They may live 2000 miles away, but you still know you can count on them.

Networking enriches your life. The fact that it helps in your job search or developing your client base or finding someone to date is secondary. Build it for the long haul and build it for real.

 

Life Skills — Juggling Versus Balancing

Life Skills — Juggling Versus Balancing

 

Are you delaying all the fun so you can get all the work done?  That’s one of the saddest characteristics of today’s busy lives.  We scramble to get everything that “needs to be done” accomplished and have no time left for the activities that bring us joy.

Our approach to retirement is even more that way.  We give excessive amounts of time to a job so that we can “get retirement” once we reach a certain age.  I am a strong proponent of work.  I think we need to do it for our entire lives.  But it’s got to be in balance.  All work now for all play later is just plain dumb.  You need to play now.  (And you need to work at something once you retire, even if it’s not for pay.)

I hear your groans.  I’ve been in your shoes.  It really is hard to find two seconds to catch your breath much less an entire hour to take a yoga class—or a hike in the hills–sometimes.  But there’s a life skill we aren’t learning with the way we are doing this, and maybe it’s time to circle back and pick that one up.  We need to learn to balance.

Notice I did not say “juggle.”  Most of us are doing too much of that, keeping more and more balls in the air.   No, I said balance. That’s about adding and taking away.  To achieve balance, you put a little more on one side of the scale or take a little off of the other.  For most of us, we need to take away some of the minutes we put on work and add some for play—or at least leisure.  But how?

An interesting thing happens when you only have a certain amount of time to get something done.  You work faster.  Things come together more easily.  You’re more focused.  The end result when you “don’t have enough time” is often better than what you do on a regular basis.  Why?

I suspect it’s because we don’t let ourselves get distracted as easily.  We don’t buy in on other people’s problems when they walk into your cube dressed as friends.  We don’t let ourselves waste one minute on non-essential stuff.  We are “on task.”

What would happen if we used that strategy at work all the time as a way to make room for play?  And then guarded our play time like a mama bear?

The obvious problem on the work side is the potential for being assigned more work.  This is not about working three hours and then taking a two hour lunch every day.  This is about not staying ridiculously late or bringing work home.  This is about adding time for yourself in the part of your day that’s supposed to be yours.

What if you’re retired?  In my experience, the advice is every bit as valid.  We do the laundry, clean the gutters, repair the back screen, and take a load to the recycling center before we get out the sketch book or grab the camera and head to the wildlife refuge.  We do the work first.  At least if we ever subscribed to the notion of being “good workers.”

This “do the work first” mantra screws up the scales of balance. When “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” applies only to the work part of our days, that’s all we end up doing.   We need to spread that idea between work and play.

Find a balance scale and put away your juggling balls.  Repeat after me:  “Fun is an essential part of daily life.  Fun is good.  I will have fun today.”

 

Retiring Means You “Have Time.”

Retiring Means You “Have Time.”

One of the biggest pluses of retirement–at least before we get there–is that we have 100% control over what we do with our time.  But once we have that control, what happens?

All too often, it translates into stuffing anything that comes along into our days and calendars to make sure we are “busy.”  The very thing that we yearned to get away from becomes the modus operandi all over again.  I cringe when people brag “I’m so busy now that I’m retired that I don’t know how I ever had time to work.”  Is that what you retired to do?  Be “busy?”

Going from “not enough time” to “all the time in the world” is a big change.  As we move through our career years, that eventuality becomes more and more alluring.  But once we get to actually make the transition, an interesting thing happens.  We start to recreate the “crazy busy” of work life with all kinds of commitments and involvement.

Understanding why we do this might be good.  I think it’s a case of seeking the familiar.  We know how to be busy.  We’re not so good at relaxing.  We might also be subconsciously resisting the assignment of “doing nothing” that the current cultural mindset assumes for this stage of life.  (I personally detest that role.)

The first weeks of retirement are easy.  You sleep as long as you want.  You linger over your coffee and actually notice how wonderful it smells and tastes.   You go out in your yard and really see what’s there.  You putter with a plant that needs help or a errant brick at the edge of the patio.  You start to look at travel brochures or check out websites.  But after a while, all this time becomes unnerving.  Then comes the  “I have to fill it with something!” reaction.  That’s when we start saying “yes” to everything that comes along.

“Do you want to join my book club?”  Sure!

“My health club is running a special promotion.  Do you want to join?”  Yeah, that might be fun.

“The volunteer fire department needs volunteers, are you interested?”  I’d love to.

Never mind that you are dyslexic, loathe being a gym rat, and faint at the sight of flames.

So is there a better way?  Yep.

The first thing is to know what you really like to do and where you truly want to put your time. So if you haven’t done that part already, some of that newfound time needs to be spent on learning more about yourself.  Really.

This kind of discovery appears selfish to many, but it’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your community.  When you know what you like and want to do, you end up doing that instead of “anything that comes along.”  People who are doing what they love are happier and healthier.  Plus the community gets the benefit of that focus if you decide to work in some way, either as a volunteer or for pay.

The second piece of a good time management strategy for retirement is to leave room for the unexpected. We need to learn to leave gaps on the calendar for starters.  That, in and of itself, can be scary to many of us.  A blank space is so….empty!  Taking an hour or two might be relatively easy.  But how about a day?  A week?

Try scribbling “save for as yet to be determined adventure” over an entire day.  Then, when that day arrives, do what sounds like fun at that moment.   If you’re really gutsy, try a whole week at it.  Then watch how you actually use that time.  Do you sleep longer?  Read more?  Watch TV that you’re not really interested in because you don’t know what else to do?  If it’s this last one, go back and read the previous paragraph again.  You need to know more about yourself so you can focus on what you truly find enjoyable.

The third step is to find out how you like to structure your time. Predictability is a good thing in the right dose.  All of us need some amount of structure.  How much is your call.  Do you need a morning routine to get your day going well?  Or is it better for you to start the day a different way every day.  (I was going to say “morning” but maybe you don’t get up in the morning.)  Some of us like standing commitments, like a bridge club or golf tee time.  Some of us run from that stuff and always will.  Either way works, as long as it’s your way.

 

“The Perfect Job”

“The Perfect Job”

Day before yesterday I met the guy with the perfect job.  He found it after he retired.  He drives a sand rail.

For those of you not blessed with sand dunes in your local vicinity, a sand rail is specialized lightweight vehicle that skims the surface of a sand dune–similar to but more sophisticated than a dune buggy.  It’s an open vehicle made largely out of pipe.  Typically they have more power than rental ATV’s you can ride on your own.  The only way we could get on one when we were looking for this kind of adventure was to “book a tour.”  Bob–the guy with the perfect job–was our driver.  He had a great set-up for himself that made for a great experience for us.

Bob retired as a lineman and climber for the local power company a few years ago.  A few months later, he was approached while waiting in line at the grocery store–by a stranger!  He’d been driving the Oregon Dunes since he was nine and had been active in the local club most of his life.  Dune buggies are a part of who Bob is.  He drives them WELL.  Plus, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area had been his playground for a long time.  He knows where he is in all that white sand.  The stranger had learned all this because he had asked around in the community when he bought the business.  Bob had been involved for so long that “everyone” knew how good he was at driving.

So why am I writing about Bob?  Well, he’s living the best fantasy of all–having someone pay you to do what you love.  He gets to drive a sand rail all day with someone else covering the cost of the vehicle, fuel, and insurance and worrying about the maintenance.  And he gets a paycheck for doing it.  Sweet.

But the guy who offered him the job was a big winner, too.  He has an employee experienced enough to know to check the oil before he heads for the dunes.  (We made a detour to the shop area to add a quart before we headed out.)  He has a guy whose enthusiasm makes whoever gets in the rail more ready to have a great time.  And he also has a guy who makes the ride a whole lot more fun simply because he projects an easy confidence–because of all that experience.

Do you think I would have been able to sit calmly–worried only about laughing with my mouth shut (to avoid a mouthful of sand)–as we careened around steep, massive dunes–if a seventeen-year old had been driving?  No way.  I would have been frantic the whole time, waiting for the kid  to turn the thing upside down doing something unintentionally reckless.  Bob was a different story.  I relaxed enough to enjoy a very wild ride because it was quite clear he knew what he was doing.  (He’d survived doing it for a long time!)  Too often the benefit of experience gets lost in the background.  Bob’s driving and my resulting good time made it wonderfully vivid.

So what’s the point of all this?  There are two things to learn from Bob in terms of how the rest of us do retirement.

  • Experience has value.  Be confident enough of what you know to value yours when you think of what you might want to do next.  It does make a difference, but, unlike Bob,  you may have to be the one to point out why to the person you want to let you use it.
  • The better you are at knowing what you like and honoring that in how you live all along, the easier it’s going to be to find your own”perfect job” once you retire.  People know Bob is good with dune buggies.  Those people passed the word to a stranger when he was looking for exactly what Bob is good at.  That is networking at its easiest.

And let’s be very clear about one last thing.  This WAS a wild ride.  A great adventure that I would have missed entirely if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have someone like Bob driving.  So I was a winner here, too.

We are good at so many things when we get this far in life.  Doing the ones you really like to do makes for a much more satisfying retirement.  “Perfect job” stories might become delightfully common as more of us seize opportunities to do what we love for someone who needs exactly that done.  Thanks for the great example, Bob!

Retaining Your Emotional Agility

Retaining Your Emotional Agility

At the moment, I’m working with my publisher on the title for a book. They have great ideas and know the business. I know what I said in the book. They are good people, and I want to believe what they say about what will work. But I am the one who knows what doesn’t as “retirement.” I know “not working” doesn’t work. They love that title.

They’re in the prime of their careers. “Retirement” hasn’t even hit their radars yet. They are sure “not working” is the coolest thing you could ever do. How do I mesh my truth with theirs to the greatest benefit–of our working relationship and what we ultimately get out to the public?

This is just an example of the challenge that’s often cast as “keeping an open mind.” Sometimes, it’s not as simple as it seems like it should be.

So what do I do to honor and get the most from what this enthusiastic, young team is doing to help me? And how does that relate to what you are trying to do? We deal with this so many different ways. How can we be true to ourselves and easy to work with?

  • In every instance it’s good to revisit the priority list when you hit an impasse. How important is the sticking point? Is what they want to do more workable than you are telling yourself?
  • Then it wouldn’t hurt to just stop thinking about it for a few hours. The more pressure you put on trying to get to the solution, the harder it is for the easy breezy brilliant ideas to push their way in the door.
  • And above all, believe there’s an answer and trust that all involved are looking for it. They usually are.

These are good people and what we are trying to do is good work. The right title will come. Once we use it, you won’t have any idea how many e-mails we spent trying to hammer it out.

But to get to that answer, I need to keep my emotional agility. To let the new ideas have the full floor. To not cling to a favorite just because it worked for me. I need to let go of what I already decided. Nobody likes a stubborn grump–young or old. Keeping an open mind may not always be easy, but it’s the only way to go.

On the Folly of Taking Too Many Meds…

On the Folly of Taking Too Many Meds…

This morning’s paper reported a study published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine that found of 50 million death certificates in the US, more than 224,000 involved FATAL medication errors–overdoses or mixing prescription meds with illicit drugs or alcohol. It’s unlikely they looked at interactions between prescription meds since that issue is just now starting to get some attention. (The data they used was from 1983 to 2004.) What’s most alarming is that, adjusting for population growth, they found a 700% increase between 1983 and 2004.

They saw this dramatic rise reflected in DEATH CERTIFICATES–which are sometimes less than complete in establishing cause in complex situations.

So what? Well…..so think think about what you agree to put down your gullet as “medicine.”

Every day something new comes on the market to help with “what ails you.” But the more you take, the greater your chance of discovering the hard way that two drugs are incompatible. It might even be something as simple as drinking grapefruit juice for breakfast that can give you trouble. (It causes problems with heart rate for people taking certain blood pressure meds.)  Or something completely avoidable. (My son just discovered he really didn’t need blood pressure medicine at all if he switched to decaffeinated coffee.)

Just because they’ve found a medicine that helps with one problem doesn’t mean it won’t create another. Have you ever listened to all those side effects they mention at too-fast-to-really-hear speed in the pharmaceutical ads?

There’s no substitute for taking personal responsibility in this, a most individual set of decisions. Before you buy in on the idea of taking a pill to solve it, make sure it’s the best solution available:

  • Could a lifestyle change accomplish the same thing? Eating right as opposed to a cholesterol reducing prescription drug, for example.
  • Is the problem bad enough that you want to risk the side effects taking the drug might produce? Being totally pain free is unrealistic. Is what you are avoiding/alleviating by taking the drug major and worth it?
  • Is there a better way to do it? I love the story of the guy who went to his doctor asking for anti-depressants to help him deal with his awful job. He got all the way to the pharmacy counter before he read what was on the script: “Quit your job.”
  • Are there things you do for “fun” that you need to make sure your doctor knows about? If you want to be safe with the prescription stuff, whoever is ordering it for you needs to know what else you are putting in your system. Period. The study confirms that lying to yourself and your doctor about this can be fatal.

We don’t need to die this way. And we could live better if pills weren’t the answer in so many cases. Take the time to find out whether another route would work just as well (and most likely be less expensive). Be good to yourself. Make a conscious, well-informed choice every time you agree to solve a problem with a pill–even if “everybody’s taking it” and “it’s been around for years.”