How Bad Are Your Problems Really?

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The manner in which one endures what must be endured is more important than the thing that must be endured.
– Dean Acheson, US politician (1893-1971)

I find it hard to appreciate that everyone has problems, not just me. No, I didn’t mean that I am a problem for everyone, though that would be a distinction that would be difficult to resist.

Furthermore, my problems are worse than those of everyone else. At least it seems that way.

The fact is that we seldom see others at times when they are in the process of expressing their problems. A drunk won’t admit that he’s drunk, even to himself. A drug addict may confess that he’s high, but will not likely admit that he is an addict. Few addicts of any kind admit to their addiction, which is why Alcoholics Anonymous and similar organizations have their new members admit from the start that they are addicts before they will be helped.

Some parents are terrified of what may happen with their children as they go through the teens years. They would never admit this because it might give others the impression that they’re bad parents, or inadequate for the job.

When my computer breaks down or my car is in the shop I feel as if I am at the brink of panic, that life is conspiring against me. Or at least that the gods of technology have a grudge against me.

To many people a computer or a car needing repair would be a minor inconvenience. Especially if the computer or the car is mine, not their own.

Our own problems always seem to be worse than those of others. But then, except for the rare instances of friends crying on the shoulders of other close friends, we seldom learn of the problems of others, the ones that bother them most.

As a sociologist, I am interested in the phenomenon that people almost inevitably consider their own problems worse than the problems of anyone else, to the point where I have studied it–albeit on an anecdotal basis–to see if my experience jives with that of others. It does.

Generally speaking, we don’t know the problems of others. When we learn them we find that ours are not so bad after all.

A few years ago I did a study where I exposed several test subjects to the problems of others, without giving any names. I chose the problem sets of average people, of rich people, of people of good health and those with physical or mental handicaps, people just struggling through the rigours of their lives like most of us.

While the results confirmed my hypothesis, I was still shocked at how consistent everyone was. Not a single person was prepared to exchange their own problems for the problems of anyone else. A few noted that some people seemed to have few problems, though they were perhaps more severe. The people with fewer problems were usually those with physical or mental handicaps.

Though our problems seem worse than those of others, we don’t want to exchange problems with anyone else if we have the chance. When we compare our own problems with those of others we realize not that ours are easier to solve but that they are easier to manage than the less well known problems of others.

Some of our problems we can’t solve. They tend to be those whose origins lie in our early years of childhood. The best we can do with them is to learn to manage their effects on us and on others. An obvious form of this is how someone who loses a leg adapts to new ways of conducting their life and doesn’t want to be treated as a “cripple.” We learn to adapt and work around our early childhood problems or we become emotional cripples.

Your problems may seem bad to you, but you wouldn’t want to trade them for the problems of anyone else if you knew the full depth and breadth of theirs.

Keep that in mind when you find yourself gazing enviously at people you see on television, people with talent, features and characteristics you don’t have. They also have problems you wouldn’t want.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to teach children the knowledge and skills they need to be able to manage their problems as adults, rather than having them succumb to addictions, abuse, thrill-seeking or other forms of escape from their problems.
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Key Lessons In Human Relationships

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Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you.
– William Arthur Ward, US inspirational writer (1921-1994)

This quote captures concisely the essence of all human relationships.

People believe flattery about themselves because they want to believe it. How many well known women have listened to flattery from their dressmaker about how beautiful they look in his creation, only to find themselves later on the annual Blackwell list of worst dressed women or on the pages of some scandal sheet whose purpose is to show the lack of taste of famous people?

Flattery may more commonly be called the “white lie.” The truth may be known to both the speaker and the receiver, but the receiver would rather hear the lie. Would rather believe the lie than the truth.

In some cases the truth is kept from the receiver “to prevent them from being hurt.” Almost without exception that person hurts more when the truth is found out later.

Who can trust a person who lies to them? A fan or worshipper may be encouraged to provide a white lie, but a true friend would not. A true friend, not the friends that are more akin to business arrangement partners.

People don’t like criticism, even if it’s true and constructive. Some people appreciate constructive criticism because it helps them to improve, but they are in the minority. Written criticism is always taken to be destructive and is more emotionally hurting than the kind delivered face to face.

What’s the problem? Most of us don’t know how to deliver constructive criticism tactfully, in a helpful manner. The use of language we teach our children tends to be for the purpose of conveying a message directly or the kind that tells a fictional story in an interesting manner. We don’t teach the language of diplomacy, which may explain why we have so many unresolvable conflicts among friends, problems that trash the relationships.

People are most hurt and over a longer period of time by being ignored. A child cries to get attention, not because of an injury. Some parents claim “Oh, he’s just crying to get attention, he’s not really hurt.” They don’t understand that a child can’t get too much attention, can’t overdose on attention and love. If the parent of an attention-demanding child withholds attention and love because they child has “already had enough,” the parent hasn’t been providing the kind of love and attention and support the child needs.

Couples who “draw apart” and find themselves “going in different directions” with their lives have not paid enough attention to each other, to the needs and desires of the other. In particular, they have not give enough of themselves to the need of the other for human touch. More couples separate because one needs more loving touch than he or she is receiving than for any other reason. That’s what sexual affairs are all about and studies show that two-thirds of men and more than half of women have affairs while married.

As social beings, we need attention desperately. Being ignored may be the worst thing that one person can do to another who wants attention. For a child, being ignored (not receiving enough loving attention) often results in values that are twisted by community standards. Many prison inmates, patients of psychiatric hospitals and gulpers of Prozac had childhoods where they didn’t receive as much attention from their parents as they needed. Some had too much of the wrong kind, of course.

“Encourage me and I will not forget you.” Think back to your favourite teacher, neighbour or relative and chances are good that those people encouraged you. Their encouragement helped you to become the marvellous person you are today.

“Love me and I will be forced to love you” is an odd way of delivering this message. But it gets the point across. Many people stay with their mates because the mate loves them unequivocally and unstintingly. Many people agree to marry their partner because they recognize that the partner loves them completely. Couples come together in the first place because they each believe the other loves them.

Love attracts people. The adoration of fans of sports, movie or television stars drives many of them to be as outstanding as they are because they need that kind of love.

The world revolves around love, at least the human component of it. People lacking a sufficient amount of the love they need do some unusual, strange, even illegal or anti-social things to get the attention of the person of their desire. Ask yourself if the rich, the powerful or the war-mongering people you have known (even from seeing them on television) get enough of the human kind of good love or if they lacked it and turned to another form of gratification in its absence. Being forced to love someone in Ward’s sense of the word means that a person may not be able to resist the love of another person if that love is sincere and true. Love is attractive.

Love is the most powerful force of humanity, especially effective if the love of many people is joined together for a collective work of good.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to teach children the lessons from this article as well as many others they need to thrive.
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How To Lead An Exciting And Fulfilling Old Age

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Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.
– Theodore Isaac Rubin

Wisdom seems to be not just a forgotten art, but a lost objective of humanity.

Over two millennia ago people like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (among many others) committed their thoughts to writing (Socrates, thanks to Plato) and their thinking is revered as great wisdom today.

There were great writers of wisdom during the Roman era. Then the world went into the Dark Ages and almost no one wrote anything considered wise today. That’s right, isn’t it?

Actually, no. As much as possible of the wisdom of the past was destroyed by the Church of Rome after the fall of the western part of the Roman Empire in order that only church writing could be considered truth and taught to the uneducated flocks.

Meanwhile, in what we today call the Middle East, South Asia and the Far East, civilization and its authors of great wisdom carried on with great flourish and progress. Those of us in the west may not be as aware of their writing as we should be because these people thoughtlessly and discourteously wrote in languages other than English.

English speakers, being the inherent snobs they are, refused to acknowledge that anything of value could have taken place or been written down in any language other than English, Latin or the successors of Latin–in other words the languages of western Europe. Arabs, Indians and Chinese, for example, had marvellously well developed cultures during Europe’s Dark Ages and Middle Ages.

If it had not been for some daring Irish monks who hid away written works when the rest of Europe was ravaged by a series of tribes, we would have no western history before the medieval period. Those Irish monks literally saved western history from disappearing forever. And western wisdom.

Europeans really started to roll during the Renaissance, though written work was still heavily censored or altered by the church.

Where is the written work that records the wisdom of today? Do we have no wise people today?

Schools for common folk (as opposed to just for children of the nobility) began in the 17th century, then continued to become more universal in the west until the end of the 19th century. The more people that learned to read, the more began to write. With the printing press, books became more common and available at reasonable prices for the ordinary household.

Today publishers (including self publishers) in the United States alone put out about 200,000 different titles each year. The problem is not finding books to read, but finding good books from among this massive number, then finding time to read as many as one might like to gain wisdom.

As it happens, a recent study showed that only about six percent of the adult population of North America reads more than three books per year. When you consider that many professionals must read books within their professional specialties in order to stay abreast of developments, that leave precious few of us who read books regularly.

Must we read books in order to become wise? It’s not that simple, of course. Reading a variety of book subjects and genres forces the brain to work in ways that few other activities of life do. Experience alone doesn’t make a person wise. Reading alone doesn’t either. Nor does education of various sorts. It’s the combination of all of these that develops a brain environment that is conducive to wisdom.

Wisdom is also not something that happens quickly. It takes decades and a devotion to learning for that whole time. It also requires a commitment to teaching what we learn so that others may develop their own form of wisdom. It’s impossible to know or even to guess how many people have gained wisdom from the teachings of Socrates over 2400 years ago.

Just as becoming an athlete of Olympic calibre requires a combination of commitment and learning in a variety of ways, becoming a wise person requires learning and teaching in a variety of ways. Teaching itself becomes a form of learning (docendo disco).

The human body is designed to become weaker and less coordinated as we age. However, the human brain is designed to grow, gaining knowledge and wisdom for as long as we live. Our overall design shows that our well developed brain should take over as the most important organ of our bodies when other body functions begin to get well past their prime.

Dementia is what happens to those who don’t follow that pattern. Dementia is preventable, totally, by each individual. Old people who become stupid have allowed their brains to atrophy along with the rest of their bodies as they age, until not much worthwhile of anything remains. For others, they are at their peak of wisdom in their senior years.

Research is even taking place now to see if Alzheimer’s Disease may be prevented or slowed considerably in people with very active brains. My grandfather died of Alzheimer’s and I watched him decline to becoming a baby in an ancient body. I don’t intend to allow myself to go that way.

OK, the light has turned green. Get thinking. Wise up!

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children what they need to know to lead fulfilling and fruitful lives, right to their dying day.
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How So Many People Screw Up Their Lives

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One day at a time- this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.
– Ida Scott Taylor, author

While this sounds like an advertisement for existentialism or nihilism, it was not intended that way. Mrs. Taylor is concerned that so many people dwell on the hurts of the past or work so hard for benefits in the future that they miss living today.

If you are not one of those, how fortunate you are.

Carrying around the hurts of your past is literally like carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s the weight of your world, a world that no longer exists. The rest of humanity has moved on. Most never knew about your problem in the first place and don’t care about it now. Whoever hurt you very likely is not suffering in the slightest.

Then there are the workaholics who invest their lives in a future they seldom accept has arrived. They become so accustomed to working continuously that they can’t break out of the habit. For them, the future they work so hard to achieve never arrives. What they manage to do is to spend some of the money they have accumulated to buy ostentatious toys and decorations for themselves and for those who will be generous enough to show their love and admiration for them.

Almost inevitably, these people raise children who follow the same habits and hold the same values as theirs. Kids tend to become like their parents because their parents are usually the only full role models they have to follow.

In the Canadian province where I live, I drive past many properties whose main feature outside of the houses is grass. How beautiful and aromatic is the scent of grass? It’s a weed that has been selected by rich people who own mansions as a way to cover endless amounts of land without bothering with flowers, decorative shrubs or trees.

We have parks filled with grass, most of which have signs telling people to stay off it. Heaven forbid the most boring plant on the face of the planet should die under the footsteps of people enjoying themselves with some form of entertainment other than admiring their lawns or cutting them.

People, kids and adults alike, are much more likely to find creative things to do on dirt than on grass. Grass is–at least to those of us who live in North America–the ultimate way to beautifying property.

Grass is not for living today but for having neighbours and family admire it. In fact, nobody cares about anyone’s grass but their own. But we don’t acknowledge that hypocrisy.

How can you live today? I don’t want to answer that question for you. For many people living for today means shopping.

No one ever got to heaven by shopping. I can’t say that for certain, but it seems like a safe guess. Shopping is perceived as “fun” by those who have been brainwashed by industries–primarily in the fashion and cosmetics fields–whose very existence is based on selling people stuff they don’t need.

Those who spend time working in their gardens, hiking in the wilderness or trying to accomplish something no one has done before know how to live for today. Just working to improve yourself so that you are better at something than you used to be is a way of living for today.

Remember this: to live for today we don’t need to spend our money, we need to invest our time wisely.

Money is not the treasure. Time is our only treasure. The only time we know anything about for certain is now.

If this means something to you, you have just invested your last few minutes wisely. Congratulations! Now move on.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to invest your time with your children and grandchildren wisely, in ways they will appreciate and remember for the rest of their own lives.
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Educated Rant: Paris Hilton, Successful Disgrace

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“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
– Conrad Hilton

Paris Hilton seems to have adopted the Hilton maxim. Look how successful she is.

If that seemed like a criticism, it wasn’t. Paris Hilton knows what she wants–fame–and she gets it. As Conrad (great grandfather of Paris) recommended, she keeps moving, keeps doing things that keep her in the news. Fame and glamour are what she wants and she has been extremely successful at getting it.

Over the past several decades, primarily before the 1990s, citizens of western world countries were taught that by now we would have ample amounts of leisure time in which to amuse ourselves or to be amused. We wouldn’t be short of money because technology would make our lives so simple that we could earn more than enough to keep us in luxury by working only two or three days a week.

Corporations latched onto that idea and began to provide us with things to do that would occupy our time even before our working hours and days were reduced. We got television, then videos, now movies and TV programs on our cell phones if we want them. We liked it. We cottoned onto the easy life.

We spent hours every day sitting in front of the tube, watching mindless pap that amused us but kept us from thinking. The appetites we had from our days of high activity remained with us while our energy expenditure decreased greatly. Some of us saved that extra energy intake on our bellies, our thighs and our butts.

Though we had the start of the life of leisure, we didn’t manage to get the extra time off work. Some of us realized that not only was extra time off not coming, but if we wanted to have more of the luxuries that were offered we had to work longer hours to earn more income. Today some of us work 60, even 80 or 90 hour weeks.

Didn’t that affect our family lives? Sure, but they were falling apart anyway. We learned how to relax to excess or to work to excess to earn more money, but we didn’t know what to do with raising kids. That was OK because they no longer wanted to have much to do with us. We didn’t talk because we didn’t have interests in common. The kids developed their own dialect with words we parents didn’t understand. That wasn’t so bad because most parents didn’t want to know what their kids were talking about.

We all kept moving, kept making mistakes, kept forging our lives wherever they were bound to lead us. Conrad would have been proud of us.

Maybe not proud of Paris or her sister Nicky. But then, our kids are like Paris and Nicky too, to some extent. Too many of them.

Conrad Hilton got what he wanted. He became one of the richest men in the world. Paris got what she wanted, fame and notoriety (it went with the task of getting news coverage daily). What did we get?

We got broken families. In many classrooms today no more than 25 percent of the students live with both their birth parents. We got drugs. We got teen suicide at unprecedented levels. We got murder so common that radio and television stations don’t even report them any more.

We got gangs that didn’t replace the former underworld of organized crime, but added to it. We got depression so common that it’s almost a social disease. We got road rage and office rage. We got school shootings. We got dependency on prescribed drugs, therapists, so many people with unfit brains that they can’t all be kept in institutions.

And we call ourselves successful. Political conservatives say that our social problems are nothing more than side effects of our enormous success as a society. They don’t mind having to take Prozac to come down and Viagra to get up.

They also say that the rest of the world envies us because of our wealth. It doesn’t. The rest of the world hates us (or at least thinks we are a poison to humanity) because we have sold our souls to the devil. Or to Toyota, the drug manufacturers and political spinmeisters who can convince us that anything their candidate does is just grand.

There is one thing we missed out on in our quest for heaven on earth. The ability to think. We allowed ourselves to have it programmed out of us.

Why do so many teens do stupid things? They want to object to the unconscionable realities that we have accepted for ourselves and want to impose on them. They aren’t brain dead yet, so they keep kicking as long as they can.

Who’s to blame? That’s another thing we adopted, a penchant for always blaming others for our mistakes. Guess what? It doesn’t matter who is to blame. What matters is if we and enough others like us want to make our lives and the lives of our children, grandchildren and the people of the rest of the world better.

We can only begin with teaching children. That’s how it works. From the day they are born they are clay models we mold, day by day, incident by incident, neglected or rejected moment by neglected or rejected moment. They become what we make them, one way or another. They have no innate abilities to become anything else.

We need to start teaching children properly. Not reading and writing, since those are already taught in schools. We need to teach them how to grow to become competent and confident adults.

We can’t do that as it is now because most of us don’t know how. If we did, we would have been teaching them. We need to teach young adults and teens how to be good parents, how to provide what their children of the future will need, when they need it and how they need it to be fed to them.

Don’t stop moving on this when you finish reading this article. Talk it up among your neighbors and family, your workmates and fellow churchgoers, at your Home and School gatherings and political meetings.

Get something started. Nothing will improve without you. There aren’t very many of us yet who know what we need. Remember, the conservatives are trying to tell us that everything’s all right, that the universe is unfolding as it should. We need to tell them and everyone else that it isn’t.

We need to begin teaching our children properly. Today.

Do your part. Keeping talking about it. We need to help each other through a tough transition period.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about what children need to learn and when and who should teach it. And it has guides for teachers and parents who influence our kids the most.
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Imagine Donald Trump Or Conrad Black…

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Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.
– Wilfred Peterson, author

To some this quote will sound like a load of namby-pamby crap for addle-brained self-delusional wimps. As it happens, this article is about them. Not for them because they believe that everything is right with the world as they see it.

We have two kinds of people who live with more than their share of fear. One acknowledges it, the other pretends it doesn’t exist.

We’re more than familiar with the phobias, such as claustrophobia and agoraphobia. We’re a little less familiar with those people who live in fear of failure, or being hurt or of being criticized. They’re around us but we don’t see much of this fear because they learn to disguise it well.

What few of us may realize is that the people who seem least afraid of anything, who act aggressively, who bully others and who actively and consciously try to put down or defeat others as signs of their own power have their own fears.

The greatest of their fears is that they may be found out. Found out about being inadequate, incompetent or unprepared for whatever task they must do. To compensate for this fear they overdo behaviour in the opposite direction. They act the exact opposite of what they feel deep inside.

They exude confidence–even overconfidence–between bouts of aggressive behaviour, but it’s more bravado than reality. Mostly this gives them time to figure out who to blame for the next thing that goes wrong.

They always blame others for what goes wrong. Not only do they not admit ever having done anything wrong, the ones who are better at covering their true selves refuse to address the possibility that they have done something wrong. They won’t even talk about it.

Witness some politicians when appearing in court, or civil servants appearing in front of a committee of government. The upper level ones act as if its beneath them to have to be there, let alone consider the possibility that they have done something wrong. Their underlings or associates always did whatever is wrong, if anything.

Big business executives who act arrogant enough that we think they must eat razor blades for breakfast are really like soured butterscotch pudding inside. The longer they are able to act that way, the deeper those true feelings sink. They actually convince themselves that they are as superior to the rest of the world as they act.

You don’t have to imagine Donald Trump in front of a criminal court when told he is guilty of something (“You’re fired!”). We have (former) Canadian executive–now a British Lord–Conrad Black whose trial is still going on in Chicago as of this writing. The man acts as if he can’t even imagine why anyone think he has done anything wrong.

Bigots are nothing more than bullies that don’t want to get their hands dirty. Advocates of political correctness, for the most part, are bigots with polished shoes and expensive hairdos. They act as if they are better than the common rabble because they have convinced themselves they are. Their act covers their insecurities, their fears.

The last thing these people could do is what Wilfred Peterson advised, to love themselves. Mostly they love money or power, or both. Secretly they hate themselves, though they would never admit this, even to their therapists.

Now you know those hubris-filled arrogant windbags that act superior deep down believe that they must never allow themselves to have their china faces crack or they will reveal their core of slimy mush.

Feel better? I do now that I have that out. But I need to rinse out my mouth to get the bad taste out. I’d rather think about pleasant people who love themselves.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to give children the knowledge and skills they need so that they don’t turn to anti-social activities and behaviour in reaction to their ignorance and unfulfilled needs.
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Making Your Dreams Into Reality

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We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.
– Martin Luther King

Mr. King was not just an inspired speaker, he was inspiring in his use of the language. Disappointment we can expect, he said, but we must strive to always have hope.

Hope is one of the most inspiring words we have. It makes people feel good. However, it does very little except that.

When you have hope, you know what you want of life. Even if it seems to be out of reach, you have an objective in mind. That’s the first and most important step in any change you can make in your life. You need to know where you want to go, what you want to accomplish, who you want to be before you can put into place any changes that might help you to get there.

Hope alone won’t do it. Hope is the end of the line for lazy people and those who are frightened to make changes in their lives.

Hope accomplishes nothing except to give us a temporary boost of dopamine into our brain to make us feel good. Actually implementing the changes necessary to achieve the goals of our hope takes a great deal of commitment, a lot of hard work, determination to get through the rough patches that inevitably arise and persistence in ensuring that we become the person we want to be.

That last part may have surprised you if you expected me to say “where you want to be.” The change happens first within your own mind, not where you body is located. You must live the role you want to play in your new life before it becomes a reality.

If you want to live in a better place than you do now, you must prepare. The new location may have no reliable source of income for you (a common characteristic of places that are healthier, friendlier and safer to live). You may have to rethink what you can do to earn a living. That may require new skills, some study at a college, joining some groups of people who have as hobbies what you want to do for a living and getting to know what life is really like where you aspire to live.

There will be sacrifices to make if you want change. You can’t expect a new community to bend around you to accommodate someone who doesn’t want to learn anything new or to do anything differently.

A change of lifestyle means a change of life. First that means some learning. Then the big decision and the commitment to never look back.

Will you have to sacrifice your family and friends? Maybe. People who moved to the New World in the Americas did that, believing that their new life would offer them more than the one they chose to leave behind. But today the internet and a headset allows you to speak to anyone, almost anywhere on the planet, for nothing or almost nothing, every day if you want. Likely more often than you speak on the phone now to those people.

A web cam lets you transmit pictures of yourself speaking and another allows you to see the person you are speaking to in realtime (as each of you speaks).

If you can get along without the hugs of the people you leave behind, at least for most of the time, you can find a better place where you can have new friends that will hug you even more. And actually care for you. People who will be happy to stop and chat with you on the street, who will help you with a flat tire or to find yourself a dentist.

Does it sound as if I am being very specific about something? That’s because my wife and I have just been through this process. In a few months we will activate our plan and move to what we believe is the best possible place in the world for us to live. I have been through the process. I lived the dream. I acted on it to make it happen.

Where will we move? I won’t tell you that. It’s our dream. Find your own dream and make it happen.

Be prepared to work hard to make it happen. Be prepared to cut a few ties to make even better ones happen.

If you have the hope and the determination, you have the ability within you.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to make big changes happen by making small manageable changes one at a time. Think big, act on a small scale.
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