Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

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The great jazz singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist Nina Simone sang the song of the title of my blog back in 1965. Although she did not write the song, the passion that Ms. Simone put into all of her songs would make you think that she was singing from personal experience.  Then agian, perhaps, we all have personal experience with the subject of this song.

Click on this link to hear Nina Simone’s renditionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ckv6-yhnIY

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There are many people who aspire (some even claim) to have no regrets in their life.  I am well beyond either the aspiration or any such claims.  I have lost track of the many regrets I have.  This song reminded me of one of them.  The song evokes memories of one of my famous phrases which I now deeply regret.  My regret is having unequivocally and mindlessly accepted the validity of this aphorism.   I am sure most of you have heard it.  “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  As I sit here now, I cannot tell you who coined this bit of doggerel or where I first encountered it.  Wikipedia claims that “The exact origin of this proverb is unknown and its form has evolved over time.”

A typical use of the phrase for me would entail the following situation.

My wife Karen would try to do something that she felt was either helpful or beneficial.  The results would not work out to deliver what she wanted.  I would get angry or disappointed.  Karen would become somewhat defensive and reply “I am sorry, but I had good intentions.”  I would counter with (yes, you guessed it); “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  You could then cut the silence for the next several hours with a butter knife.

Baby, do you understand me now

If, sometimes, you see that I’m mad

Don’t you know no one alive can always be an angel?

When everything goes wrong, you see some bad

 I should be thinking that no one is perfect.  Everyone screws up.  Karen can not be an angel and just like I am entitled to be angry and upset, so should she.  Who am I to judge her?

But, oh, I’m just a soul whose intentions are good

Oh, Lord, please, don’t let me be misunderstood

 I am full of regrets for the times I did not accept her apologies.  I often said that it was results that counted and not intentions.

You know, sometimes, baby, I’m so carefree

With a joy that’s hard to hide

And then, sometimes, again, it seems that all I have is worry

And then you’re bound to see my other side

It is so easy to get locked up in my own worries and problems and totally ignore the pain and devils that torment other people.  When things don’t go my way, I can condemn the stupidity and ignorance of others.  Their intentions do not count but mine do.

If I seem edgy, I want you to know

I never mean to take it out on you

Life has its problems, and I get more than my share

But that’s one thing I never mean to do, ’cause I love you

 So simple it is in the heat of the moment to forget love.  Love gets replaced by anger and pain and hurt.  The intentions that the other person had do not matter.  How can intentions replace disappointment and what seems like a lack of caring?

Oh, oh-oh-oh, baby, I’m just human

Don’t you know I have faults, like anyone?

Sometimes, I find myself alone, regretting some little foolish thing

Some simple thing that I’ve done

 You and I can never know what is in the hearts and minds of others.  We can guess.  We can ascribe.  We can assume.  All such efforts unless we can forgive will only make matters worse.  Things did not go as planned.  That is the way of the world.  Why do I expect others to be perfect when I am so far from it?  Karen would never deny that she has faults.  When we were married our counselor asked each of us if we could accept the faults and differences that were apparent in our personalities.  I said “YES” and have looked back many times over one of the biggest lies that I ever told.  It did not take too many days before I was trying to “undo” Karen’s faults.

Cause I’m just a soul whose intentions are good

Oh, Lord, please, don’t let me be misunderstood

Don’t let me be misunderstood

I try so hard, so please, don’t let me be misunderstood

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  This same road is probably also paved with the bones of people who could not understand the intentions of others.  The bones of people who so often like me could not accept that other people are not perfect, and that other people will often disappoint me.  The bones of people like me who could not accept that others were trying as hard as they could.

Yoda said that “There is no try, there is only do or do not.”  This is another aphorism that sounds good but suffers from a lack of hubris and feeling.  People will try and people will fail.  It is okay to value results, but you cannot get results without effort.  If you denigrate the efforts and intentions of others, you will insure a lack of results.  Easy to go through life when you rely on pithy sayings and show no empathy for the pain and stress that others are feeling.

Regrets can be a two edge sword.  They can cut us to ribbons with self-recriminations that do us and others no good.  However, they can also be a path to forgiving others and forgiving ourselves.  Perhaps the most difficult thing in the world is to understand the intentions of others.  Next time you think someone is screwing up, try to think what their intentions might be.  They might not be what you think they are.

Oh, Lord, please, don’t let me be misunderstood

Why do we honor Dr. Martin Luther King? What did he stand for?

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Martin Luther King: If ever there was a man with a vision, Dr. King fit the bill.  There are few people walking the earth who are not familiar with his “I Have a Dream” speech.  Another great speech that Dr. King gave had to do with his own life and what he wanted to be remembered for.  Dr. King had a premonition of his death and drafted his “Eulogy” Speech as a sort of funeral speech that he delivered himself.  It is surely one of the most moving and memorable speeches of all time. It is a eulogy of possibilities and hope rather than of defeat and death.  It is stirring because more than any other speech that he gave, it is testimony to his bravery, devotion and commitment to racial justice and equality.

His Own Eulogy:

Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator–that something we call death.

We all think about it and every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think about it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself what it is that I would want said and I leave the word to you this morning.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy tell him not to talk too long.  Every now and then I wonder what I want him to say.

Tell him not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize–that isn’t important. Tell him not to mention that have 300 or 400 other awards–that’s not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school.

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe the naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to, say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.  And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

I won’t have any money to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that is all I want to say. If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a well song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.

— Martin Luther King, Jr. (at the request of his widow, these recorded words of Dr. King’s last sermon were played at his funeral)

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Dr. King was vilified in his own life time not just by many whites but also by many blacks.  The more militant of the Civil Rights groups including SNCC, some in CORE and also the Black Panthers saw MLK as too passive, forgiving and willing to turn the other cheek.  Many in the Black Muslims saw Dr. King as simply a “pawn” of the white man.  The Black Muslims wanted nothing to do with compromise or civil rights at all.  Dr. King had enemies and critics on all sides.  Some say he knew that he did not have long to live and that he would die in a matter of weeks.

Put yourself in Dr. King’s shoes for a few minutes if you really want to understand and appreciate his life. Even today, some states have tried to deny him this day of commemoration.  In his time he was loved and hated, praised and despised, honored and spit on, applauded and stoned.  Think for a second what it would be like to live in a fishbowl beset on all sides by those who condemn you and those who want more of your time.  Think about trying to maintain your vision of non-violence when all around you is hate and loathing.  Think about trying to preach conciliation and tolerance when both whites and blacks are killing each other because of the color of their skin.  Think of being the minority that gets the worse of the deal every time because your people lack the power and political machinery to orchestrate the best deals.

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It would have been very easy for Dr. King to take a short term view of life, but he did not.  Dr. King saw the future of America dependent on how it settled this big question: “Were whites and blacks going to be equal or not?” Dr. King knew that the greatness of America turned on this question.  Was freedom, equal rights, democracy and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just for whites or could blacks be included in this vision as well?  Dr. King was positive that he and others could forge a reality out of the American dream that would also merge with his dream for African Americans.  Dr. King and millions of other African Americans and whites have worked to help move us towards this dream.  Dr. King was a man whose memory will live on forever.

As you go about today, think for a few seconds about why we honor Dr. King.  Without a vision, people will perish.  Dr. King may have saved millions of lives by providing all of us with a vision that inspires and motivates us to create a more just and humane society.  A dream to help create a nation where someday racism and race prejudice will no longer exist.  It is a dream we have not reached, but it is a dream that it is still worth working for.  Ask yourself today, what are you doing to help dispel racism and prejudice?  Are you part of the solution or are you part of the problem?  Do you hate other races or do you work to bring all people together?  Today is a day to celebrate the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King and we best honor his life and vision by doing our own small part to end racism and race hatred.

If you want a little light hearted look at what Martin Luther King day should NOT BE, see the following video from Comedy Central with Trevor Noah:

How Could Life Be So Unfair or Why Did Richard Cory Get All the Luck?

Wrote this blog seven years ago. Still makes me think about gratitude and being thankful for what I have. My sister asked me this morning if I was familiar with the poem about Richard Cory. I actually went to school with a young man named Richard Cory so this poem has resonated with me since high school. Hope you enjoy.

Aging Capriciously

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I curse the day I was born.  I curse my father.  I curse my mother.  I curse my sisters and I curse my brother.

   Oh, I wish that I could be, 

Oh, I wish that I could be

Richard Cory.

 I curse the life I am living.  I curse my name.  I curse my shame.  I curse the day I came.

 Oh, I wish that I could be,

Oh, I wish that I could be

Richard Cory.

 I curse my poverty.  I curse my mediocrity.  I curse my inability.  I curse my fate and my biology.

 Oh, I wish that I could be,

Oh, I wish that I could be

Richard Cory.

 No doubt many of you will know Richard Cory.  For those who don’t know him formally, I am sure you know him personally.  He is that person we all want to be. …

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Why Public-School Education is Dying – Part 3 of 5 Parts

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In Part 1 of this blog on education, I stated that, “I am going to dive into the major reasons that are leading to the death of public-school education.”  In this part, we will look at the role that our political leaders play in murdering public school education in America.

How our politicians are helping to kill public school education

Kill or murder?  I have used both words to describe what the Right-Wing political faction is trying to do to public school education.  Let me be clear on this point.  The Right-Wing politicians and their cronies in the media are systematically and deliberately trying to destroy public school education and any semblance of a free and open democratic educational system whether it be in kindergarten or in a university.

Liberals in America have always supported at least in a token sense a system of democratic free public-school education.  Their support dwindles when it comes to the university level.  When it comes to eliminating elitism in schools and eliminating anti-intellectual bias, liberals have too often watched from the sidelines when conservatives have been on the attack.  This is to say that conservatives support elitism and anti-intellectualism while liberals twiddle their thumbs and remain silent.

I want to trace a chronological picture of the attack on public education from when I first noticed it up until this past week.  We will start by going back to 1973 when my daughter entered kindergarten.

1973

I was twenty-seven years old and had been married for six years.  We were living in Providence R.I., and I was attending Rhode Island College days and working nights.  My daughter Christy had been in a Montessori School since she was three and my wife was working part-time.  With Christy turning six soon we decided to enroll her in a public school.  Two advantages for us were cost and proximity.  The public school would be free, and it was only a few blocks from where we lived.

I walked down to the public school to see about enrolling Chris.  When I arrived, I was shocked.  The school had broken windows all over and the ones that had been repaired had thick Plexiglas installed inside of windowpanes.  The school yard was full of junk and debris.  The whole place looked like a prison that had just survived a prison riot.  I turned around and went home.  I was never going to send my daughter to this school.  I would sell my soul first.

After some discussion with my wife Julia, we found that our only option was an expensive private school up the “East” side of Providence near Brown University where all the rich people lived.  The school was called Gordon.

The Gordon School is a racially diverse nursery through eighth grade coeducational independent school in East Providence, Rhode Island.  Child by child, the Gordon School community cultivates successful students by inspiring joyful learning, encouraging intellectual leadership, fostering an empathic spirit, and stimulating a drive for positive societal impact.

The tuition at the time was a fortune for us.  We were living in a 3rd floor apartment and paying 75 dollars a month rent.  We budgeted everything including purchasing light bulbs.  The cost for Gordon in 1974 was almost 3 thousand dollars a year.  Currently, the tuition varies by scholarships and financial aid but the web lists Gordon tuition for 2021 as $39,000 a year.  For us, it was either this or send Chris to the dilapidated run-down school I had visited.  Christy went to Gordon for two years until I graduated college.  After graduating with a degree in Health Education, our family moved to a small town in Wisconsin called River Falls.  There Christy was entered into the public school system where she remained until after high school.

At the time, I never made any connection between Republicans and their desire to destroy public school education.  I was pretty radical in my politics, and I voted Socialist Labor, Citizens Party, Green Party and any other party except for Republicans or Democrats.  I did not like conservatives or liberals.  The only thing I was aware of was that teachers were low paid and public schools in the inner cities were severely under-funded.  Things were much better for public education in small towns like River Falls.

1982

I enter a doctorate program at the University of Minnesota in Vocational Education.  I read “Anti-intellectualism in American Life.”  This book was written by Richard Hofstadter in 1963 and in 1964 won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

Here the politician expresses what a large part of the public feels.  The citizen cannot cease to need or to be at the mercy of experts, but he can achieve a kind of revenge by ridiculing the wild-eyed professor, the irresponsible brain truster, or the mad scientist, and by applauding the politicians as they pursue the subversive teacher, the suspect scientist, or the allegedly treacherous foreign-policy adviser.  There has always been in our national experience a type of mind which elevates hatred to a kind of creed; for this mind, group hatreds take a place in politics similar to the class struggle in some other modern societies.”R. Hofstader

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After reading Hofstader’s book, I began to see a connection between politics in America and the problems with public education funding.  I still did not see any conspiracy and I just assumed it was a case of prejudice and bias with random attacks against education.

1997

I finished my Ph.D. program in 1986 and had been working with a management consulting firm for seven years before going on my own in 1993.  I was now working part-time as a private consultant and teaching part-time at Metro State University in Minneapolis.  I would drive to school to teach MBA night classes.  On my way to school, I would turn on AM 1440 Patriot Radio and listen to Mike Savage, Hugh Hewitt, Laura Ingraham, and Mike Medved.  They were all extreme right-wing commentators.  I listened to them over four years for two or three nights a week on my commute between White Bear Lake and downtown Minneapolis.

Each one of these commentators were well educated at an American University.  Savage obtained a Ph. D in 1978 from the University of California, Berkeley, in nutritional ethnomedicine.  Hewitt graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a B.A. in government in 1978.  After studying at the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt received his Juris Doctor (JD) degree in 1983.  Ingraham earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1985.  She then attended the University of Virginia School of Law, where she was a notes editor for the Virginia Law Review.  She graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1991.  Medved entered Yale University as a 16-year-old undergraduate. He received his B.A. with honors in 1969, and later attended Yale Law School, though he did not finish his JD degree.

For over four years, I listened to these “scholars” bash educators.  Bash teachers.  Bash universities.  Bash college professors.  On and on each of them would go night after night after night.  Labels and epithets like commies, pinkos, intellectuals, liberals, socialists, subversives, and anti-American were consistently used to denigrate teachers and professors.  It was assumed and even a creed that most universities and schools had a “liberal” orientation.” To these commentators, a liberal orientation was akin to being aligned with Satan.  A liberal was the devil incarnate and was on the side of “god-less communism.”

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More and more I began to understand that the right-wing hated educators, hated free thinking and hated anything that had any vestige of a liberal arts education associated with it.  I still did not see any conspiracy though and I assumed it was simple ignorance and fanatical beliefs that united the Republicans, White-Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and other Right-Wing fanatics.

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”— Thomas Jefferson

2010

I read “The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy” by Joshua Holland.

“We have all grown accustomed to conservative’s conspiracy theories about the corporate media having a far-left bias and college professors indoctrinating American youth into Maoism.”  — J. Holland, 2010

Holland goes on to describe how a cabal of rich right-wing billionaires including the Koch Brothers organized to fund a group of “research centers” such as the Heritage Foundation.  The purpose of these groups was to counter what they saw as a left-wing bias in education and the media.  These groups heralded the start of organized right-wing think tanks to fund laws, bills, newspapers, radio shows and other narratives that would combat liberalism and progressivism in American politics.  These groups would routinely rely on the strategies of Madison Avenue to get their messages across.

masksI began to see more clearly that the right wing was orchestrating a systematic attack against not only universities but also against public school education.  However, it has only been in the last few years that I realized how ubiquitous this assault was.  The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education under Trump was a message that meant the right-wing were more powerful than anyone had yet realized.  The attack on public education is now an all-out assault.

What I still did not see was how the now noticeable decline in public support for American Democracy was highly correlated with the right-wing attack on public education.  The right-wing and their political allies have been undermining public education with a goal to replace it with a system of elite education.  The purpose of right-wing education is to train people not how to think but what to think.  Fundamentalists, technocrats, wealthy elites, corporations, and right-wing politicians see no value in “free-thinkers.”  If you believe Thomas Jefferson, democracy can only survive with people who know how to think and not just what to think.

November 2, 2021

D. Vance, a Republican candidate for Senator of Ohio gave a keynote speech at the National Conservatism Conference (November 2, 2021) titled “The Universities Are the Enemy.” He said:

“I think in this movement of national conservatism, what we need more than inspiration is wisdom.  And there is a wisdom in what Richard Nixon said approximately 40, 50 years ago. He said, and I quote: ‘The professors are the enemy.’”

downloadOn his campaign website, under the heading “Protect Conservative Values,” Vance complains that “hundreds of billions of American tax dollars” get sent to universities that “teach that America is an evil, racist nation.” These universities “then train teachers who bring that indoctrination into our elementary and high schools.”  The speakers and presenters at this conference read like a “who’s who” of Trump loyalists and big lie theorists.

Finally, it is clear to me that a conspiracy or call it a concerted effort exists to defund public schooling, to undermine confidence in public education and to create a system of private for-profit schools or elitist academies that will educate the rich.  The poor will be left where the poor have always been left, at the bottom of the heap.  Democracy will be destroyed, and authoritarians will dictate religion, politics, education, and work rules.  There will be no independent thinking in America since independent thinking and democracy go hand in hand.

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December 16, 2021

I pick up the local newspaper, the Casa Grande Dispatch to read an article discussing a curriculum debate at a school board meeting.  Seems as though several people are challenging the right of the schools and educators to decide what should be in the curriculum.  Conservative parents and right-wing politicians are increasingly trying to dictate curriculum.  Often their assumptions about education or ill-formed and simply ignorant.  Regard the quote from one of the attendees at this meeting:

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“Once this curriculum is in place they will have to teach it, whether they agree with it or not.” Said David Logue, a deacon at Passion Church in Casa Grande.  “Although I don’t have a lot of information on this, I am against it.  It is ungodly.”

This deacon admits that he does not know much about it, but he is “AGAINST IT,” because it is “UNGODLY.”  How can any intelligent person be against something, without even knowing what they are against?  And to call it ungodly?  What in heavens name is “ungodly” curriculum?  Episodes like this are taking place all across the USA and they are not isolated instances.  They are not random happenings.  The right-wing politicians have been fanning the embers of discontent with the public schools in this country for some time now and the results can be seen at school board meetings in every state in the Union.  No one is clamoring for more education about democracy and freedom of speech.  Instead they are screaming because of things they know little or nothing about like Critical Race Theory and Diversity Education.

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December 29, 2021

Republicans eye new front in education wars: Making school board races partisan” by Andrew Atterbury and Juan Perez Jr.  The assault on education today is not just about Critical Race Theory or Diversity Education.  It is a war on school boards to help determine the course of American Politics.  It is not a question of teaching students “how” to think, it is a question of teaching them “what” to think.  Make no mistake, the conservatives and Republican Party want to turn the clock back on history.  They want a one-party majority of white conservative reactionaries.  They have a design for a “white” America free of the influence of minorities, women, the poor and the less educated.  This design is not based on a balanced diet of hopes and dreams and visions of what America could be.  It is not based on any concept of democracy by the people and for the people.  It is based on a unilateral one-sided elitist view of what education is for and who should receive education.

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“There’s still no equality in education,” said Young, a plaintiff in a lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center to keep public money in two Tennessee school districts instead of diverting the funds to unaccountable private schools. “To me, it’s still a form of segregation.” — Weekend Read: 66 years after Brown v. Board, schools across the South still separate and unequal

The problem has been that good liberals and progressives have not realized that a war on education is being waged.  This months Southern Poverty Leadership Report (Winter 2021, Volume 51, Number 4) has an article titled, “Calculated:  The right’s attack on the U.S. education system.”  The words in the title are very appropriate.  The attack is “calculated.”  The battle for school board partisanship is being supported by a coalition of conservative leaders — including representatives of the Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute.

The word “attack” is also appropriate.  We are not talking about reform or change.  Conservatives     want nothing less than the destruction of public-school education.

“Anti-mask efforts are, in essence, anti-public education tactics, a wolf cloaked as libertarian policy designed to devour the public’s fain in public education…. The aim of undermining public education as schools are increasingly gutted of funding and support with each legislative cycle, is to make privatization more appealing than public education.”  Calculated: The right’s attack on the U.S. Education system.

In Summation:

I have given you a chronology of my experiences and insights concerning some of the attacks on public school education by the political right.  I started out by seeing the demise of public-school education due to its paradigmatic inefficiency at meeting the needs of twenty first century students.  Along my journey, I found an all-out political assault on public schools by Republicans and conservatives.  You might think I am being a hypocrite when I condemn the Republicans since I also condemn the current model of public-school education.  However, my solution to providing a democratic education system is very different than what the Republicans want to create.  I will talk more about this difference in the final part of this series on education.

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti

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John,

I appreciate your observations on trends. As a parent you knew what was best and chose a different school; and today parents want to keep the school and change the curriculum.  Your graphics emphasize each of your points.  Seeing the discontent, the elite provide the alternatives in either charter schools or private schools.  Catholic and other parochial schools, and  religiously affiliated universities were for families who wanted to instill their religious beliefs while educating.  Home education movement does the same.  Again the monetary sacrifice to do so.  The poor have no choice and tolerate what is given in “free”public education. — Socorro 

How Can We Set Realistic Exercise Goals as We Age?

Posted this three years ago but I think you will find it very useful if you are aging and still trying to stay active.. Too much of the information for aging people is not very helpful and is in many cases harmful. I am 75 years old and it is January 2nd, 2022. I am reposting this before going for a four mile trail run up the Casa Grande Mountains. I note this to give you some idea as to my current fitness and health. I follow the advice given in this posting and it has helped me to stay fit, active, healthy and happy. Good Luck to you on your journey this year to health.

Aging Capriciously

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Goal setting is as American as mom, God and apple pie.  Every exercise book, life improvement book and management book has a section on goal setting and accolades for the process.  I also once subscribed to the philosophy that those who did not set goals for their life were losers, losers and bigger losers.  Winners set goals.  When winners reach their goals, they up the bar and set them even higher.  That is the American Way.  Set unreachable goals and if you should meet those goals, then move the bar up, ever up, ever higher.

Well, I am going to tell you that everything in the above paragraph is STUPID advice.  Most of the wisdom around goal setting is simply dumb.  Unfortunately, when it comes to your health, it is not only dumb, it is dangerous.  It was not until 1986 that I met the man who would change my…

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