It’s not what you get, it’s what you do with it…

My advice for my fellow Boomers who feel quite stuck – written for the Retirement and feeling-stuckGood Living blog:

http://retirementandgoodliving.com/its-not-what-you-get-its-what-you-do-with-it/

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Thinking for Ourselves….Part II

Here’s some quick, easy, and helpful tips for self-determination of thought so we can stop relying on TV & Radio pundits to do the thinking for us…

  • Assessing legislation: It’s easy to tell when legislation is designed to help a special interest rather than us (it’s clear in a bill’s language, carved out exceptions, etc.) – what makes this even easier is that pretty much all legislation is designed to help the politicians as much (or more) than their constituents; how would you create that bill (in general terms) so it benefits us, not them?  Now you know how to think/respond to not only the legislation at hand, but your legislators about it…
  • Assessing decisions made by leaders, whether elected or otherwise: Those who have been in a supervisory/decision-making position know first-hand how difficult the job is, and that you can’t please everyone…those who have experienced a variety of supervisors know the difference between a true leader (helps others to do the right job the right way) and a “manager” (tells others what to do/seeks no input); true leadership requires balance – balancing the needs of the many against those of the few, doing the utmost to create a win/win for all concerned and if that’s not possible, ensuring there’s balance between all interests so everyone at least comes away with something they need.   When those at the fringes of both sides of an issue are unhappy with the outcome, that’s a very good sign that the outcome is balanced, that true leadership rather than “management” has taken place, and that the decision is generally a good one
  • Avoiding The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Discovered by Cornell University David Dunning (along with Prof. Kruger) this states that our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence – wow, that’s a catch 22…and it underpins much of the erroneous thinking we unwittingly do (like letting others do the thinking for us…).  To keep this from happening to you, simply increase your level of competence.  This is easily accomplished by:
    a). some fast fact-checking of claims/opinions/statements made (the internet makes this effort that much easier), thus making sure you form your own thoughts based on fact, not emotion or a situation in process that may not even pan out; and

    b). understand that we all have levels of incompetence and be strong enough to find out what are yours…once you know what they are, you can ensure you don’t fall prey to them…

  • Don’t make decisions when you’re very angry or depressed: When you do, they will most often be bad ones… This is why we see Boomers holding opinions that are self-contradictory (wanting government out of their lives while preparing to collect SS/use Medicare), or choosing to behave badly, from shooting at Census workers to brawling at their children’s sporting events…  That incompetence thing above is fueled by such powerful negative emotion, which masks our ability to think more rationally/use deductive reasoning (or any reasoning at all for that matter…).  These are awfully hard times – making bad decisions that will come back to haunt us later will only make things worse.  Remedy: seek some input/help from someone you trust who isn’t angry/depressed, and listen to them.

As we Boomers, the ones in power and with the greatest influence, wield that power and influence, it is imperative that we live by Spidey’s uncle’s words: “With great power comes great responsibility” – what we do, how we vote, what we say now, will not just make a lasting impression on our young children/grandchildren, but will form the basis of our lives for years if not decades to come.

To do these things with little preparation, in-depth thought, and with too little rationality, is no different that letting a teenager drive with no training and practice (whoa…that’s scary – teens driving with lots of training/practice is scary enough…), seeking a job without a resume let alone a well-written one, or going on vacation without packing for it…

We can do this right.  Let’s start right now.

Let’s Cut Through the Media’s Political Histrionics

Sheesh.  In our hearts and the back of our highest-on-the-food-chain thinking caps, we know that desperate 24 hour news stations, and newspapers with declining sales, will resort to any attention-pulling concept to stay afloat.

But really, how many more times are we going to fall for it?  Fool me once…twice…you know the adage….what is the exponential consequence for “fool me for the umpteenth time…”?

The latest is the tarot-card-reading interpretation of the Massachusetts senate race results.  They forbode any or all of the following:

  • A full referendum to oust every Democrat in the House & Senate
  • Total disgust with health care reform, or anything put forward by Democrats for that matter
  • Complete dissatisfaction with anything thought about, uttered by, or having to do with Barack Obama

I expect the tea-partiers will glom onto all they can to keep the party hopping.  Same goes for the far left.  But the rest of us (which is the majority of us) are capable but perhaps not willing to take that needed step back and see the facts over the hyperbole.

As with the Governor’s race in NJ, the Senate race in MA was lost by the Dems more because the candidate was weak if not a tad goofy; a strong, well prepared, somewhat more middle-leaning candidate might well have won.  Are folks steamed because the party in power is concentrating more on their own agenda to get healthcare reformed before addressing our economic woes (after all, only 1% of us go uninsured, while 9-12% of us remain unemployed)?  You betcha!  But that is no better…or worse…than the Republicans creating the economic mess in the first place.

I think (I hope) that we more tempered, thoughtful, non-berkenstock-wearing/tea-throwing types understand that one party is not better prepared to make the best decisions on our behalf than the other.  So I think (hope) that we would not continue to ping-pong to & fro from one to the other and back thinking that will somehow change things.  The definition of insanity is doing the same dysfunctional thing repeatedly and expecting different results.  I think, and really hope, that we as an electorate are not insane.

Equally disproportionate is the whole 60 seat supermajority “mandate” self-imposed by the Dems to pass health-care reform (and the real reason they took this on right away in the first place…).  Beyond the fact that the party has shown itself incapable of getting the thing accomplished with such a majority, our legislative process has become so indolent that it has been abandoned on the doorway of political expediency to feed the beast of re-election.  Both parties would, and have, done the same thing.

So, putting this past week’s events in a more rational perspective,

  • MA Dems were aburdly overconfident and that’s why they lost
  • Dems still have an impressive majority in both national legislative houses and could continue work on/eventually pass a well-designed healthcare reform package but will panic nonetheless and pass one that is so weak as to make it relatively meaningless…a year wasted, while simultaneously tackling the jobs/economic reforms issue (if they can still do two things at once…
  • President Obama is human after all (who knew?), has done some good things and made some mistakes, cannot fix our country’s woes in one year and/or all by himself, and has proven himself to be much more middle-of-the-road (rankling folks on both ends of the spectrum) than he is being portrayed as a whole, and
  • Each party has its tome of evils, just different ones – one is no better than the other, each’s ability to do right by us continues to deteriorate as they concentrate evermore on re-election rather than legislation.

What we, the electorate, do from here will determine the direction this country will take over the next few years.  Volleying back and forth from one party to the other will get us nowhere.  Holding those already in office to handling our best interests over their own, will get positive results.

But that requires continuous effort on our part beyond showing up at a polling station every couple of years (and so few of us even do that…); staying abreast of the facts, regularly communicating our expectations to our representatives, pushing for more than just 2 parties from which to choose, and, of course, voting en masse.  Thus far we have shown ourselves far less willing to do these effective nation-fixing things than we are willing to believe the media’s rantings.

It would seem the indolence is actually ours.

Follow-up to "Vaccines Aren’t the Problem"

In an earlier post, I gave a shot of realism to dispel the myth that vaccines are the root of the problem of increased levels of ADD/Autism (from mercury) – that instead we must look to our foods, air, and water if we want to actually decrease the incidence of these disorders, plus cancers and lesser but still severly problematic medical conditions like asthma and allergies.

That’s scarier, I know, because we can avoid a vaccine but cannot stop eating, breathing, and drinking water.  But if we want to stop the problem, we have to address its real cause.

To further illuminate the dangers associated with in this case our food sources – how they have been tainted or packaged in a way that does us harm, for the purpose of increased profitability for the provider – here is a well written compilation piece by Dr. Joseph Mercola (www.mercola.com), and an excellent list of things to avoid.

Avoid These 7 Foods and You’re Off To A Healthier New Year

1. Canned Tomatoes

The expert: Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A

The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Acidity — a prominent characteristic of tomatoes — causes BPA to leach into your food.

2. Corn-Fed Beef

The expert: Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of books on sustainable farming

Cattle were designed to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. A recent comprehensive study found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

3. Microwave Popcorn

The expert: Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group

Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize — and migrate into your popcorn.

4. Nonorganic Potatoes

The expert: Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board

Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes they’re treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they’re dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting.

5. Farmed Salmon

The expert: David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany

Nature didn’t intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT.

6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones

The expert: Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

7. Conventional Apples

The expert: Mark Kastel, codirector of the Cornucopia Institute

If fall fruits held a “most doused in pesticides contest,” apples would win. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides with Parkinson’s disease.

How Boomers Can Change the Healthcare System

Wow…..that’s quite grandiose, eh?  That we as a generation could CHANGE the healthcare system as we know it?

It isn’t, and we can.  Here’s how.

I’ll start with the problem in the system that is within our control.  A big chunk of what’s wrong with healthcare is not being discussed: that too many doctors have long since abandoned quality care for quantity billable hours.  Here’s the result and how each one harms the system:

  • When we feel that our doctor cares less about us than his/her bottom line, we are more apt to sue when things go wrong – we believe they do not have our best interest/care at the core of their work, as a result it is much easier to believe malpractice, malicious or otherwise;
    Harms the healthcare system through higher levels of frivolous lawsuits
  • When doctors are not taking the time to truly listen, learn about us, automatically get our records from our other doctors and collaborate with them on our care, the result is the need to order tests and lots of them – when you work in a vacuum, you need to gather information to fill that void, information that often can be gleaned from other sources rather than more tests;
    Harms the system through needlessly perpetuating tests, not based on our tendency to sue, but their tendency to do too little discovery on their own, using their medical arts training
  • Speaking of working in a vacuum, doctors today take a full-blown silo approach, attending to only their tiny specialty piece of our personal health-needs puzzle, as though their part of the body is completely disconnected from the other parts (not to mention the emotional/psychological aspects of our physical health) – it isn’t – all of the body’s parts work in concert, and specialists need to consider other systems/parts that impact their specialty’s – but too few do;
    Harms the system by again creating the need to order batteries of tests; also lends to more misdiagnoses, the need to see more doctors until you find someone who might put the pieces together for you, and mistrust that fuels lawsuits
  • Overbooking is the medical mantra – thus doctors expect us to wait for sometimes an hour, before being seen for a pre-scheduled appointment; beyond the facts that if we ran our businesses like that we wouldn’t have one and the practice is clearly disrespectful to us (treat our time as far less valuable than theirs), the most important problem here is that the person making decisions about our healthcare issues is in such a rush, there is simply no way s/he can do a quality job;
    Harm to the system is increased misdiagnoses or no diagnoses (once the most obvious cause for your symptoms has been ruled out, the medical shoulders shrug and you’re left still not knowing what’s wrong with you…or you’re sent to yet another specialist) both of which increase our costs (more doctor visits/tests), and once again, increase the lawsuit tendency.

Now here’s what we can do to fix it because, as I mentioned above, this is within our control:

  • Insist on better care – do not accept poor quality medical practice, as the more we accept it, the more of it we’ll get; let any doctor you see know upfront what you expect from him/her, and be prepared to seek other practitioners if you don’t get it – do not settle for mediocrity as though you have no choice
  • Insist that your doctors talk to each other, that your records be shared, and that your doctor listen to all of your concerns and existing medical needs/issues, regardless of the body part you’re there to address – neither they nor you know what’s impacting what until you discuss it
  • Do not wait more than 15 minutes to be seen – unless the doctor has an emergency or they’re fitting you in on an emergency basis – let the scheduling person know this intention when you make your appointment, and make checking on the doctor’s timeliness a part of your doctor-choosing decision; then follow through if they do make you wait longer than the time you’ve agreed to wait – let them know you’re leaving, and give them one more chance to do it right by making another appointment (if you wish); usually your return visit will be handled much better…
  • Become a well informed consumer/partner in your care – go to your appointments prepared, understand as much about what’s happening to your body as you can rather than fully depending on the doctor whose only half-listening anyway, insist on explanations for their recommendations, benefits/down-sides, etc. rather than blindly accepting what they decide – I have provided my doctors with alternatives they’d not considered as a result of my due diligence
  • Do not agree to tests with which you don’t feel comfortable or, after some research you believe to be unnecessary – you’d be quite surprised by how many tests you’ll find are more about CYA for the doctor vs. your well-being, once you’re more fully informed

We Boomers have no problem asking for what we want, we are the best educated generation so our research skills are excellent, and we are unwilling to accept the “status quo” (these are just 3 of our generational characteristics that come in handy, here) – much more so than any other generation, including our childrens’.  We can use these abilities to change the expectations we have of the medical professionals in our lives, thus changing the way our own doctors work with us.  By using only those doctors who meet all the above criteria, we are putting our dollars to work supporting best medical practice, not worst.  

And with 78 million of us, that will have a huge impact.  Over time, those with the best practice approaches will thrive, the rest will not. 

The resulting reductions in lawsuits, unneeded tests, and additional doctor visits as one specialist no longer automatically sends you to another before doing all s/he can to diagnose your problem him/herself, will make a nice dent in our healthcare costs.

Make cents?