Saturday, January 26, 2008

Well Below the Limits of Safety?

I don’t have a lot of answers, but I do have a lot of questions. Here’s one for you: If the ingredients of each group below were mixed together into a “cocktail” that you could drink without killing yourself, which one would you rather swallow?

Group “A”
Acetone, Lye, Benzene, Anhydrous Ammonia, Hydrochloric Acid, Lithium

Group “B”
Mercury, Lead, Benzene, Chlorine, Fluoride, Methanol

I know, I know, neither one sounds very appealing. You could also probably argue that, regardless of whether or not the levels of each ingredient in both cocktails were low enough not to kill you, it would still be pretty stupid to ingest either one, especially on a long-term regular basis. I would not debate against you.

But the question itself is not stupid, because every day people are taking those things into their bodies, albeit all at levels which, by themselves, are low enough not to kill you.

Group “A” includes some of the more common ingredients of Methamphetamine, so unless you’re a Meth addict, you’re off the hook on most of those. Group “B”, however, is a little different, because you could very well be ingesting any or all of those on a regular basis.

It’s important to remember that putting something in your mouth is only one way to admit a substance into your body, and we sometimes forget that inhalation into the lungs and absorption through the skin are equally effective. Considering the sheer surface area that the lungs & skin have available to absorb, they may be even more effective than digestion, even though to us, the process remains entirely passive.

Is there any debate on how dangerous mercury is? This stuff is just plain bad juju, there’s no way around it. A few days ago I was watching a show about a German submarine (U-864) that had been sunk in the closing days of WWII and had been carrying large quantities of mercury. The vessel has been found in recent years and the mercury levels are so high in the area around the wreck that fishing has been banned there until they can figure out what to do about it.

And yet, for years mercury was used as a preservative in vaccines that we pumped into the bodies of our children & babies and nobody even knew about it. When people did find out, they stopped using mercury as a preservative (which tells me that there was obviously something else that they could have used in the first place).

The media has repeatedly assured us that the practice of manufacturing vaccines with mercury was stopped in the year 2001, but I have to wonder, knowing that tons of the stuff had already been manufactured with mercury prior to the time they actually stopped using it, did they also destroy all of the existing stock at the same time? Nobody ever talks about what happened to the stockpile of existing vaccines. Knowing corporate motivations, my guess would be that they probably didn’t want to let all of that perfectly good vaccine go to waste.

And what’s the latest place to find mercury (at least, that we know of)? Well, this is interesting: Mascara. Imagine that.

I grew up being bombarded with the dangers of lead, especially lead paint. I’m not even going to bother talking about lead because all of the talking has already been done, and I’ve never heard anyone say anything other than: Danger! Danger! Danger! Why then would anyone ever think it was a good thing to put in lipstick?

This is a nasty little bugger that, interestingly, is common to both Methamphetamine and the cutesy, happy air fresheners that we use to make our homes smell so nice. I’ll be the first to admit that I love to see happy ladies smiling and dancing on TV as colorful flowers fly over their heads, but I’ve got news for you folks; it’s still benzene whether you drink it or breathe it or let if fall gently on your skin. Don’t think air fresheners are bad? Try this: cup your hand and spray some air freshener into so that it pools into a liquid and then drink it.

If you have city water, you’re drinking chlorine. Yes, the same stuff you put into your swimming pool, the same stuff that’s in that bottle of bleach above your washing machine. It’s interesting that as a civilization we decided to opt for water piped into our homes from a treatment plant because it was “safer” than water pumped from a well, but now everyone buys bottled water at outrageous prices because they don’t want to drink the water from their tap. I guess that could be called “forward progress”, though I would question which direction we’re going.

I’ll be the first to admit, if there is one substance on either Group “A” or “B” that I would consider to be relatively safe, it would be fluoride. I won’t get into whether or not fluoride is actually a by product of the aluminum industry that would otherwise have to be disposed of as toxic waste were it not for the fact that it is instead sold to be added to our water supplies and toothpaste to make strong, healthy teeth, because I honestly don’t know if that is true or not. I will admit, that may just be “conspiracy theory” and I don’t like to state things that are not 100% factual.

So regarding fluoride, I’ll let the industry speak for itself. If you’ve never looked closely at your toothpaste before, go read the back of the tube. Colgate, Crest, whatever; if it has fluoride in it you will find this warning in small letters tucked on it somewhere:

Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.

Did you catch that? In case you missed it, it was “Poison Control Center”. As in one of those places that deals with poisons. Almost makes you want to let your kids skip brushing, doesn’t it?

There is a lot of controversy about aspartame and what it may or may not be doing to your body. The aspartame industry insists that it is safe and has hundreds of scientific studies to back up their claim. Good thing too, seeing as how it is now used in over 6,000 products and is a proven moneymaker. One thing that even the pro-aspartame community admits, however, is that when ingested, 10% of it breaks down into methanol.

Also known as “wood alcohol”, methanol is so deadly you don’t even have to get drunk and wreck your car to kill yourself with this stuff. It just kills you flat out. But the industry says that methanol is also produced from the breakdown of many fruits & vegetables, and that the amount of methanol produced by the body’s breakdown of aspartame is 6 times less than the amount you’d get from a glass of tomato juice.

That’s certainly encouraging news if I was trying to rationalize eating aspartame and was looking for a good excuse to do it, but I’m not. Personally, the “whopping” 15 calories that I’ll get from a teaspoon of real sugar doesn’t bother me that much, and despite their best assurances, I’ll take my chances with the tomato.

I understand that the amounts of each of the above are well below the minimum safety standards set by the FDA, and in all honesty, I believe them. I also know that the human body is an incredible machine that can filter out all kinds of stuff that is bad for me. If it was just one or two of those chemicals that we were talking about, it really wouldn’t bother me much. But it’s not just one or two of them, it’s dozens – hundreds – of chemicals, and even if each one of them by itself poses no significant hazard, can the same be said when all of them are mixed together? Is there any way to even guess what that “cocktail” might be doing to our bodies?

I’ve only noted 6 toxic chemicals and only a few of the places where they can be found. But what about everything else that we subject ourselves to on a day to day basis, like the fumes from household cleaners, carbon monoxide from fuel exhaust, or that “new car smell”? What exactly are those chemicals in the lotions and sprays and shampoos that we put on our skin? What about those unpronounceable ingredients in almost every food item in my home? What about growth hormones and genetically modified food and – now – cloned food items? What do those things do to this incredibly intricate machine that I call my body?

Maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing. Maybe I shouldn’t be concerned. After all, none of those things will necessarily kill you, either singly or in any combination.

But then again, neither will Meth.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

For the Dogs

Some people look at me a little strangely when I talk about how leaving the corporate world and simplifying my life has lifted the fog from my mind and allowed me to see things more clearly. What do I mean by that? What fog? What’s not clear?

The thing is, when you’re so busy just going through the motions of living your life, you have very little time left over to actually live, and almost none at all to think. Take dog food for instance. Talk about a no-brainer; what is there to think about? Well, bear with me for a moment.

We’ve owned dogs for well over 12 years. For the first 10 years or so, when I was living a mainstream life, we went to the store and bought dog food for them. Sometimes the cheap stuff, sometimes the “high end” brands, depending on our financial shape and how much we wanted to “treat” the dogs to something good. Nothing abnormal about that at all. I mean, what more is there to think about, right? It’s dog food. And that’s exactly how I thought myself for well over a decade.

But I don’t buy dog food anymore. I make it. And I’ll tell you why.

We had an 8-month old dog die on us about a year ago that I still suspect I poisoned to death. The day after Christmas I had bought a bag of Pedigree dog food, and exactly 1 week later she began dying of what would turn out to be massive renal (kidney) failure. Just like that. Healthy and active and full of life one minute, dead the next. Boom.

This was a few months before the massive dog food recalls that occurred in the spring of 2007, and Pedigree was not one of the brands named in the recall, but to this day I still have to wonder if I didn’t kill my own dog by feeding her manufactured poison that was labeled as food.

Even if that had never happened, however, I’d still be making my own dog food. I was talking to a veterinarian some months back and I told him that I was now feeding my dogs mostly leftovers and table scraps. He immediately started to chastise me. “Oh, you shouldn’t do that,” he said, “you need to get them on a good, quality dog food; table scraps aren’t good for them.”

“So what you’re telling me,” I said, “is that the food I feed my family is good enough for my wife and children, but it’s not good enough for my dogs?” That completely caught him off guard, and as he sat there open mouthed trying to think of something to say, I posed another riddle to him.

“Let me ask you a question,” I said. “If scientists developed the perfect “people food” that was nutritionally perfect in every way, and maybe even tasted good too, would you eat that food 3 times a day – every day – for the rest of your life?”

You should have seen the look on his face as he struggled to come up with a reply. He couldn’t say “yes” because he knew that would have been a blatant lie, however, he couldn’t say “no” either because it would have proved my point for me.

I let him gape like a fish for a few seconds and then bailed him out and changed the subject. Please know that I wasn’t being nasty to him, but I think these are perfectly legitimate questions, and it was interesting to me that he had no answer to either one of them.

If anything, I felt sorry for the guy, because he was just reading from the same book of conventional wisdom as everybody else. What I mean is that his profession – along with all of the other prevailing aspects of society – continually reinforces the notion to all of us that if you have a dog, you must feed it dog food. Period.

Just as I had done for the first 10 years that I owned dogs, this veterinarian had never actually stopped to think about it for himself. If he had, he would have realized how absurd the whole “dog food” thing really is. It’s convenient for people because it requires almost no effort on our part (and we like that), and it’s also convenient for business, because they have another way to make money. But what about the dogs?

Commercial “dog food” wasn’t invented until the mid-1800’s, and did not become popular in the United States until a century later, shortly after WWII. What did all of these dogs eat for the thousands of years before that time? And isn’t it interesting that in just the past 60 years, we have gotten to the point where we do not even question the concept of “dog food”?

If you’re still not convinced that dog food is not such a good idea for your pet, try some yourself and see what you think about it. That’s right; eat some. I have. You know what? It doesn’t taste very good. In fact, it’s terrible. I have to wonder, are the taste buds of dogs so very different from our own that they would think otherwise? It seems pretty convenient (for us, that is) that dogs don’t have the ability to tell us themselves.

By the way, if the very thought of eating some dog food repulses you, you don’t have to actually go through with it. Just ask yourself why you would force your dog to eat this sole-source of nutrition – and nothing else – when you won’t even put it in your mouth.

So how do I “make” dog food? It’s not that hard, it doesn’t take much time, and it’s not that expensive. I usually start with a base of 2 cups of rice (one of the same ingredients touted by many “high end” dog foods), and then I add stuff to it. Maybe a couple cans of tuna fish (water & all) and a can of cream of mushroom soup. Or a half dozen scrambled eggs and a handful of shredded cheese. Sometimes I’ll add a handful of rolled oats, a can of pinto beans, or whatever leftovers are in the fridge; extra hotdogs, stale bread ends, etc. Get creative**.

The point is to make it something that will actually taste good, give them a good variety of food in their diet, and not cost a mint to make. Each batch I make with that “2 cups of rice” base takes only a few minutes to make and will last for 2 days; a morning and evening meal for both of my dogs. It costs almost nothing if I make it with leftovers and never more than $2 even if I use “purchased” food, which works out to about $30 a month at the very most. I don’t think that’s too expensive, especially since I would have spent at least $15 on commercial dog food anyway.

And I’ll tell you this, that “extra” $15 is well worth it, because you should see Otis & Ellie at mealtime. They get so excited they literally jump up in the air and do 360’s when they see me with their food bowls in my hands. And they don’t just eat their food; they attack it. It’s so incredible to watch them.

They are both healthy and strong, their coats are shiny, and they have boundless energy. Mealtime is truly the highlight of their day, and I feel like a much better steward. I’m happy to do it for them.

It makes me sad when I think about the first two dogs Cat & I got so many years ago; good old Rusty & Rosie, both now dead and buried. I loved those dogs, they were part of my family. They showed us unconditional love, they played with & watched over my children from the time they were babies, and they provided me with peace of mind every night as I slept, knowing that they would alert me – and sacrifice themselves for me if need be – should anyone enter my home with evil intent.

And for all of that, my reward to them was giving them the same old crap to eat every single day of their lives. I feel so ashamed of myself.

Just one more area of my life where the fog has been lifted, and one more opportunity for me to say “never again”.

** Note that there are some "people foods" that are not good for dogs, but there aren't many and they are easy to avoid. Do a little research, check around, and be sure not to put all of your trust into the first website (or blog) you come across.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

An Announcement and a Plea

I apologize if this sounds like a commercial, but I just wanted to let everyone know that right now is offering What So Proudly We Hailed at 20% off of the regular $12.95 retail price plus an additional 5% pre-order discount (the book will be available to ship on 15 Feb). Here is the link:

Just to put that into perspective, for $9.71, you could buy:

- What So Proudly We Hailed, a book that could forever change how you look at world events

- or - 2 wedding cards
- or - 3 packs of cigarettes
- or - a 12-pack of beer
- or - 3 issues of People magazine
- or - 2 medium buckets of popcorn at the movies
- or - 10 song downloads for your iPod
- or - 2 McDonald’s combo meals
- or - 5 tins of Altoids
- or - 1 movie CD from the discount rack
- or - four 60-second carnival rides
- or - 2 Red Baron frozen pizzas
- or - a cheap watch at Wal-Mart
- or - . . . . well, you get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that any of those “other” things are wrong to buy; except for iPod downloads, I’ve opened my wallet for all of them at one point or another (and still do for some). My only point is that we will spend money so freely on things that mean nothing at all and which are gone in an instant. All I would ask is that this one time you would consider spending that same money on something that does matter and that will stay with you for a long, long time.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve read somewhere in the range of 800 to 1,200 novels, so I know a good book when see one. And although I can’t claim to be the best writer in the world, I can say in all honesty – without boasting – that I am far from the worst. The book is well written; the story itself just might blow your mind.

My mother told me to never promise more than I can deliver and to always deliver more than I promised, so I don’t take making promises lightly. But I can promise you this: whether you love What So Proudly We Hailed or you hate it, you will never forget it.

So c’mon, help a brother out. Simon & Schuster, Random House, and Bantam Books don’t need your money; I do. Corporate America is not going to tithe a minimum of 10% of their gross profits to local area churches; I will.

And I’ll tell you this as well; if by some rare chance I ever do wind up making millions, I will not squander it on luxury. I will do something good with it. That’s not my promise to you; that’s my promise to God.

So skip a few issues of People magazine and enter the world of What So Proudly We Hailed instead. Find out who & what “the AG” is. Learn what it means to “leave the life”. Understand what a “D-chip” is and why you don’t want one. And discover why a broken, shattered man is sitting in a cold bedroom in Fayetteville, AR with his finger on a button that will change the world forever.

Thanks so much.

Feel free to email this post and help me spread the word. If this is the first you’ve heard of WSPWH, you can find out more about it here: What So Proudly We Hailed

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What So Proudly We Hailed - Free PR

I wasn't planning on two posts on the same day, but I read something today that I simply could not wait to write about. Honestly, I don't think I could pay for this kind of PR for WSPWH. All I would ask is that you tell your friends . . .

First, please read these selected passages from WSPWH in which the main character, Gideon, is explaining what happened in the United States in the years preceding 2023 (in the book, individual states, rather than the federal government” were the first ones to offer “universal healthcare”).

The early state-sponsored plans did run into some minor problems, but they were always marked off as nothing more than normal growing pains, and nothing came up that wasn’t able to be corrected in midstream.

The biggest issue they had was also one that apparently came as a big surprise. You see, the beauty of a universal healthcare plan is that everyone is provided with healthcare, but the flip side, the side no one had ever talked about, was that in order for the healthcare to be universal, everyone has to have it, and as it turned out, not everybody wanted it.


In order to minimize the costs incurred from expensive treatments (and of course, because the whole purpose of having healthcare is to prevent people from getting sick in the first place rather than treating them after the fact), everyone who had healthcare – which, as it turned out, was everyone – was expected to undergo periodic testing and take an active part in the prevention programs that were offered.


The hospitals were numerous and clean, the nurses would always smile as they herded you through from station to station, and the doctors would all nod their heads as you answered their questions. It seemed the same as before, and yet, there was a definite underlying current that everyone seemed to pick up on even though we were all afraid to say anything about it. A negativity that you could literally feel. Because even though the smiles were the same as before, there was now an unspoken message that was as plain and blunt and non-negotiable as it was taboo to even mention: Shut up and take your medicine.

So we did.

And later on in the story when government control is complete:

The HMO’s, for instance, who ran the country’s healthcare system wanted to know how well you were taking care of your body. What did you buy at the grocery store? How much of it did you get, and how often did you go back for more? How many hours were you at the health club? Did you eat fast food? Did you smoke? Did you drink? Were you complying with your individual health mandate – making your scheduled doctor’s appointments, getting your vaccinations on time, and taking your prescribed meds?

There were risks that had to be managed and profits that had to be maximized, and now that your life – and the way you lived it – was an open book that could be studied and compared and analyzed down to the smallest detail, your individual risk and profit potential could be adjusted accordingly. And just like that, healthcare premiums began to shoot up.

It didn’t even matter if you didn’t like it. You were part of the healthcare system and all of your assets were electronically held by your bank; you didn’t get a bill, it was just automatically deducted from your account. You couldn’t opt out.

Do you understand? You could not opt out.

There was no way to say ‘no’.

Now, compare that “paranoid flight of fancy" to these words directly out of John Edward’s healthcare overview** (at least two other presidential candidates – Clinton & Obama – have also specifically used the term “individual healthcare mandate”. I would suspect that all candidates on either side of the fence have similar proposals):

Finally: Individual Responsibility. Once insurance is affordable, everyone will be expected to take responsibility for themselves and their families by obtaining health coverage. Some Americans will obtain coverage from public programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP and others will get coverage through their jobs. Other families can buy insurance through the regional Health Care Markets. Special exemptions will be available in cases of extreme financial hardship or religious beliefs.

The emphasis on shared responsibility builds on Edward’s past proposals to insure all children through shared responsibility and contain health care costs. In 2004, his plan would have made children’s health insurance affordable and required parents to purchase coverage for their children. Today, he proposes to expand that approach to make coverage universal.


I'd be flattered with the credibility that so many things in the news today seem to be lending to WSPWH if it weren't all so disturbing.

Here's one more thing on a related but slightly different topic:

“It’s possible that in the near future, the United States may significantly weaken the rights of parents to raise their children. Crucial decisions that parents are accustomed to making, such as what our children read, who they associate with, what kind of discipline is used, whether we take them to church, or whether we homeschool, all become decisions for the state if the United States ratifies the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).”

Read the entire article at:

Maybe I wouldn't be so paranoid if there weren't so many reasons to be.

What So Proudly We Hailed (Part 4) – Mainstream or Christian?

This is the fourth in a series of posts regarding the book “What So Proudly We Hailed”.

Because WSPWH deals with situations and questions that – should they ever come to pass – would affect everyone, I tried to write the story so that it would be accepted (or, at least, not automatically dismissed) as mainstream literature. However, I also wanted to explore the situations & questions that the book brings up from a Christian perspective, because I think that the dilemmas posed are a little more complicated for people of faith.

What I mean is, if you don’t believe in God or any of that afterlife business, “right and wrong” can be easily defined by whatever worldly terms you subscribe to. If, for instance, someone hurts you grievously, it might be easy to conclude that you have every right to hurt them back. For a Christian though, it’s not quite that simple, because our actions – if our beliefs are correct – (could? will?) carry some sort of penalty long after this world is through with us, depending on whether or not you believe that the name of Jesus can be used like a “get out of jail free” card for anything & everything you do.

So I tried to write the story so that it would appeal both to Christians and non-Christians, because whatever happens in the future, we’re all going to be living in it together. Whether that was a good thing to do or a bad thing remains to be seen, but I confess that I do feel a little anxiety that, in an attempt to appeal to both “sides”, I may in fact have excluded both. In other words, I worry that it may be too “Christian” for the mainstream, and that it may also be too “mainstream” for many Christians.

For those of you reading this who are not Christian, I hope that you do not automatically discount WSPWH merely due to the mention of God. The main character, Gideon, is a Christian, and he does spend a good amount of time examining & rationalizing his actions and motivations as a Christian might. It’s my hope that as a reader – even if you don’t agree with his particular ideology – you would be able to overlook that and simply confront the issues that he faces from your own perspective and value set, because if the things depicted in the story ever do come to pass, you may very well have to.

For those of you reading this who are Christian, I want to take a moment to tell you why you may be offended by WSPWH, because it is not, by the strict definition, a “Christian” book. It was not written with the intention of “stirring your soul”; it was written with the intention of shaking it a little bit.

First of all, there is some profanity in the book. Not a lot of it – and nothing you can’t hear on any prime-time TV show – but there is some. So if you are intolerant of any profanity at all, please take that to heart.

Secondly, there is also some violence in the story. Most of it is alluded too, much like you’ll find in the Old Testament, but there is some that is a little more personal and graphic. I’m just not sure how to get away from that in a story that deals with violent revolution.

Third, some Christians may be offended that the character in the story – a supposed Christian – is doing some very un-Christian-like things. In the story, there are people who are killed by Gideon. In fact, there are a lot of them. Again, most of those deaths are alluded to rather than described in graphic detail, but they are there nonetheless. If the thought of a Christian man being portrayed in that manner bothers you – regardless of the circumstances that he is in and what he is trying to accomplish – then please be forewarned.

Finally, I think some Christians may not like the book because there is no point in the story where the existence of God is “confirmed”. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence in the story that suggests that God’s hand may be involved, but there is no definitive “proof” of it. That might bother some people. On the other hand, in light of what Gideon does in the story, it might also come as a relief. As in real life, whether or not God is actually an active participant in the story – or even exists at all – is left entirely up to the reader to decide.

All things considered, I don’t thing WSPWH fits neatly into any specific literary genre, nor do I think that it has any specific “target audience”. It simply is what it is. I didn’t write the story to make people feel good, I wrote it to make people think; and if it actually does that, then regardless of how people may feel about it, I can take comfort in knowing that I accomplished what I set out to do.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What I Would Do If I Were President

Note from Blaine - With all of the serious stuff I've been posting lately, I felt it was time to lighten things up a bit!

It has recently come to my attention that apparently there is a presidential race going on. You would think that the media would do a better job of letting everyone know about this, but who am I to be critical? It got me thinking though, about what a great presidential candidate I would be, because, well, not to boast, but I am a genius.

Seriously, I’m just full of great ideas, and I also have a history of successful and wide ranging accomplishments. Back when I was 11 years old, for instance, me and Mike Sadusky were the only kids in our neighborhood who figured out a way to dam the flow of water in that ditch behind Mr. Turner’s house (made all the more difficult by the fact that he hated kids and would sic his dogs on us whenever he caught us on his property).

It’s well known that I am a celebrated life-coach and motivational speaker, as evidenced by the time I said “Get a job, you bum” to a homeless man who had asked me for a quarter – a homeless man that you may now know as Donald Trump.

My financial expertise for handling the economy? Well, let’s just say it’s legendary. I have – on numerous occasions – displayed the uncanny ability to quickly expend large sums of cash and then walk away completely unscathed with absolutely nothing to show for it. And, of course, as if that’s not enough already, I also choreographed and taught John Travolta the dance steps to “Saturday Night Fever.”

So, what would a man like me do as President of the United States?

First off, I would promise that during my presidential campaign, I would not spend a single dime of the millions of dollars donated to me on things like advertisements, direct mail flyers, stickers, buttons, signs, or compensation for staffers. No, it would be my commitment to the American people to use those funds only for things that would directly benefit myself. Like a nice new deck and Jacuzzi for my backyard, a membership in the Columbia Record Club, or perhaps my own private Caribbean island. That’s my promise to you America, and I’m not even president yet.

But after I am unanimously elected, what then? What could you expect from a true agent of benevolent change such as myself? Well, my friends, let’s explore the possibilities together, shall we? As president, I would:

* Abolish the Federal Reserve and establish acorns as legal tender, thereby wresting the reins of financial power from the Wall Street elite and transferring it instead to rural farmers and suburbanites. Why acorns? Because they are all-natural, very tough to forge, and, unlike the current US dollar, they have some amount of inherent value. In addition to creating a more stable economy, this plan will also assist with hardwood reforestation efforts as people scramble to plant as many oak trees as they can.

* Legalize personal cell phone jamming equipment that creates a “no signal” zone anywhere within 20 feet of the wearer, so that no one has to listen to somebody else flapping their jowls if they don’t want to. (If you have a cell phone and are offended by this, please remember: Nobody cares. You’re not special; everybody has a cell phone these days. Even kids. You’re not important and neither is the person you’re talking to. Important people don’t have cell phones anymore; they use peons like you to make their calls for them).

* Do away with the current half-hearted “faux recycling” industry and require instead that people and companies store all of the trash that they generate throughout the year inside of their homes & businesses until their annual trash pickup day. I’ll bet we’d figure out ways to “reduce, reuse, & recycle” then.

* Cancel “Grey’s Anatomy”. No special reason. Just seems like a good idea.

* Abolish the federal income tax and require the US government to plant its own oak trees. Current IRS employees will be invited to transition to the field of botany.

* Turn Long Island, NY into the lone federal penitentiary in the country and dump all convicts there to fend for themselves in much the same way as depicted in the classic motion picture “Escape from New York” starring Kurt Russell in the lead role of “Snake” Pliskin and also starring Adrienne Barbeau as somebody else in the film. Seriously, this is a good idea. Give it some thought.

* Do away with the “electoral college”. We don’t need it anymore. I’m not even real sure what it is.

* Abolish corporate sponsorship of college bowl games, football stadiums, and ballparks. If I’ve already heard of your company (Read: FedEx, Tostitos, etc.,) you don’t need to remind me of who you are; you ship things and make tortilla chips and sell etceteras. I got it already. On the flip side, if I’ve never heard of your company before, please realize that spray painting your name & logo all over a football field is NOT going to make me run out and buy anything from you, because I don’t buy things from companies that annoy me.

* Appoint my wife Catherine to be the Secretary of Defense, because she hasn’t lost a fight with me yet.

* Require the medical “establishment” to actually come up with a CURE for something instead of just the continuous barrage of “treatments” that do nothing except line the pockets of pharmaceutical & insurance companies. Failure to comply will result in moving their entire field of operations – and I’m talking about anybody even remotely involved in the field of medicine – to Manhattan.

* Make it illegal for women to touch the remote control at any time, except in those instances when it is necessary for them to pick it up off of the floor and hand it back to their husbands so that they don’t have to bend over and do it themselves.

* Mandate that NASCAR remove any and all rules regarding speed restriction devices and let’s see how fast those puppies can really go. Let ‘em strap a rocket engine on the back of the car if they want. What do I care?

Well, what do you think? That seems like a pretty busy first day to me. And I can promise you that there’s plenty more where that came from, too. I know, I know, it really makes you wonder how any of these yahoos currently in Washington ever got elected when there are minds like mine around.

Thanks for taking the time to hear me out, and you’re welcome. I agree, it is refreshing to know that there are people like me ready to man the helm of this great nation. I am nothing if not a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.

I’ll be counting on your vote this September.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What So Proudly We Hailed (Part 3) – Why I think this book is important

This is the third in a series of posts regarding the book “What So Proudly We Hailed”.

I need to make clear that when I say that I believe What So Proudly We Hailed is an important book, I’m not saying that it’s important because I wrote it, and thereby somehow implying that I am important. The book is important; I’m not. Let me explain.

First, I think there are some stories that need to be told, even if they address things that we don’t necessarily like to hear and they aren’t going to make us feel all warm and fluffy inside. A good example of this is the movie “Saving Private Ryan”. If you’ve seen that movie, you already know what I mean. It is definitely not what you would call a “date” movie. You don’t walk away from it feeling refreshed and happy. But it is an important film, because, probably more than any other war movie, it pretty accurately shows what war is really like.

You don’t even need to watch the whole movie either; the first 30 minutes are all you really need to figure it out. At that point you realize like never before that war is not some “noble” or “heroic” thing; it is a bloodbath where young, innocent men (and now women, too) are slaughtered.

You suddenly comprehend that when you heard that upbeat voice accompanying those old WWII newsreels saying things like “our boys faced a determined enemy and met with fierce resistance, but they fought through to victory!”, what it really meant was that hundreds of soldiers were butchered by machine gun fire and flying shrapnel. It makes you wonder how anyone could have ever sung “Over There!” with a proud, patriotic smile on their face.

That’s what I mean when I say that “Saving Private Ryan” is an important film; it shows you something that is closer to reality than what you previously thought, and even though we really don’t want to see what is hidden behind the fog, we need to see it. We need to know. And the film is able to accomplish that very well even though it is telling a fictional story.

It’s in that respect that I think WSPWH is important. The story is fiction; no doubt. And yet, I think that sometimes when we are able to see real things presented in the format of a story, they become easier to understand and digest than if we were just presented with the facts by themselves. Although the story presented in WSPWH is not true – and I’m speculating on the future rather than integrating facts from the past – most of the concepts, policies, and situations in the book are altogether real. The only question is, to what end will these things be used?

It’s not hard to understand that if someone has a gun, they might shoot you with it. We rely on basic human decency and a common sense of morality that they won’t – and most people will not – but we also fully realize that they could if they wanted to, because history has shown us that sometimes they do. Whether or not that invisible ethical line gets crossed depends solely on the person holding the gun and what it is that they want to do with it.

It should be noted that the decision of whether or not they will shoot can be taken away from them altogether if the gun is simply never given to them in the first place. Once it’s in their hand, however, it becomes entirely up to them.

That is the crux of WSPWH. It’s not that the government or the banks or the corporations will actually use power for evil intent; the real question is, should we even give them the opportunity to make that decision in the first place? Because as soon as we put that power into their hands, it’s not our choice anymore.

So that’s one reason.

The other reason that I think the book is important is a little more spiritual and vaporous, and at the risk of making myself sound like someone I’m not, as I look back over the entire process of writing the book, I can’t help but feel that this story came through me more than it did from me.

There are more than a few reasons why I feel that way, and unfortunately, I can’t share most of them with you, because they are either so subtle that you wouldn’t be able to understand exactly what I was talking about, or I would wind up giving away things that happen at the end of the book. But I can share one thing that won’t give away the whole story and may also help you understand why it is that I would say that. Whether you agree with me or not, at least you’ll understand that I’m not just making stuff up in an attempt to sound righteous.

I picked the name “Gideon” for the main character of the story because, like the Gideon described in the book of Judges, my Gideon was also a “nobody” who suddenly found himself facing overwhelming odds.

There is a point in the story where Gideon first begins to rebel and fight back against the oppressive authority of the government. He is a new guy in the rebellion, naive, and he really doesn’t know how to do much of anything. As I was writing this section, I tried to be as realistic as I could and think about what things a fugitive with no resources could actually do by himself against a military superpower like the United States.

I thought of several things, all of which would be nothing more than minor nuisances than anything else. One of these acts that I had Gideon commit frequently was stealing chainsaws that he would then use to cut down telephone poles (for the obvious issues that that would cause) and also to lay down trees across stretches of 2-lane highways. Nothing big; just being a pest and creating messes that somebody would then have to clean up.

About 2 hours after making up those actions and writing about them, I started work on the next section of the book; a part where Gideon has come to the attention of the authorities for the first time and they are trying to figure out who – and what – a “Gideon” is.

I tried to put myself in their shoes, and I asked myself what I would do if I were them and I came across this unusual name “Gideon” for the first time. I figured that they might do a search on the word, so I decided to do the same thing and I Googled it. The first entry that came up was for “Gideons International” (no surprise), so I skipped it and clicked on the second listing instead, a Wikipedia entry.

I wasn’t surprised at all to see a description of who the Biblical Gideon was and what he did, but then it told what the original Hebrew meanings were for the name “Gideon”. There were three of them. The first was “mighty warrior”, which wasn’t surprising to learn, especially knowing who Gideon was, but the other 2 meanings really got my attention.

One of the other meanings was “destroyer”. I thought that very odd in the sense that very few names that I have ever seen have a negative meaning like that. Some names have a negative connotation – like Adolf or Judas – but very few names by themselves actually stand for something bad. That makes perfect sense; I mean, who wants to give their kid a name that means “deceiver” or “rancid smelling” or something like that, right? Nobody. So to see the word “destroyer” next to the name Gideon was a little unusual. It also seemed incredibly convenient, because that description just happened to tie in very well with something that was going to happen later on in the book. So it was odd.

The third meaning, however, shook me up so bad that I was not able to write for the rest of the day. I even cross-referenced to several other sites just to make sure that Wikipedia wasn’t just making it up. They weren’t. The third meaning for the name Gideon is “hewer” or “feller”, as in “one who fells trees”.

Please try for a moment to put yourself in my shoes during this particular point in time. I’m writing a story that I feel an incredible urgency to complete (I actually stopped in the middle of another novel I had been working on just so that I could write this one), every day I sit down and the words just come to me, the problems fix themselves as I go, and all of a sudden I make up something out of thin air for this character to do and then – almost immediately – I find out that what I had him doing is exactly what his name means, and it’s something pretty strange at that. Do you realize how far I have to stretch my imagination to believe that all of that could possibly be just a coincidence?

So is it a coincidence? I don’t know. I guess that’s up to you to decide. For me though, it felt more like a confirmation. Like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and doing it the way it was supposed to be done. In other words, I felt like I was right on track. Remember too, that this wasn’t the only odd thing to occur during the writing of WSPWH, though I will admit it was by far the bluntest.

Well, I’ve stated my case as best I can. Now it’s time for the anxiety to set in. Because now that I’ve finished trying to relate to you why I feel so strongly about the importance of this book, I can only hope that the words I used to tell it are as powerful as the actual story itself.

Time will tell. It always does.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What So Proudly We Hailed (Part 2) - Synopsis

This is the second in a series of posts regarding the book “What So Proudly We Hailed”.

What So Proudly We Hailed is a futuristic novel that takes place between the years 2023 and 2027. The story centers around an average, ordinary American named Justin Pierce, a man who is simply trying to do the same thing as everybody else; make a living, raise a family, and maybe find a little happiness along the way. But the United States that Justin lives in is very different from the one of today, and is nothing at all like the one our Founding Fathers originally penned down on paper over 200 years ago.

By manipulating & leveraging the American people’s greed, fear, and lust for convenience, the government – through a series of seemingly innocent and sensible laws & policies – has transformed the United States into a tightly controlled police state where freedom exists only as an illusion, and by the time the American people finally realize what has happened, there is nothing that they can do about it.

Living in this “new world”, a traumatic event occurs which pushes Justin out of the law abiding, mainstream society to become instead known as “Gideon”, a freedom fighter belonging to a band of loose-knit 21st century revolutionaries – labeled domestic terrorists by the government – who are fighting to break the grip of power and restore liberty back to the people.

Through a series of innocuous actions and a simple twist of fate, Gideon suddenly finds himself once again pushed against his will into becoming something that he does not want to be; this time, the unofficial leader of the nationwide resistance. In this new role Gideon will find that the key to victory has been placed into his hands, but in order to use it, he will be forced to make a series of decisions which will ultimately lead him down a road of darkness from which there is no return.

* * *

If the description sounds a little Orwellian, well, that’s because it is. But it’s amazing to me how often I continue to see & hear Orwell’s name these days, both on the web and on TV. Although he’s been dead for almost 60 years, the concepts he wrote in his book 1984 are all very much alive and well, probably more so now than at the time of its writing.

In addition to 1984, there are other books that have been written about the future that paint a less than perfect picture. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World immediately come to mind – and there are many more – and yet, it is Orwell that everyone keeps coming back to. The reason for that, I think, is that Orwell got more right than wrong, and compared to some of the more “fantastic” depictions of the future that are out there, his seems to be the most believable of the bunch.

So if Orwell has already done the dirty work of writing about an oppressive, bleak future – and an admirable job of it at that – why take the time to write another such depiction? What do we need it for? I mean, come on; what a buzzkill.

Well, I just think that it’s time to present an updated story, because for all of Orwell’s brilliance and imagination, there are things affecting us today that he simply could never have accounted for.

Orwell would have no idea what a cell phone or a PDA or an ATM machine is. He didn’t see the Twin Towers destroyed, had never heard of the Department of Homeland Security, never paid $200,000 for an “entry level” home. Illegal immigrants were not a “problem” in his day, there was no “War on Terror”, people said “Merry Christmas” to each other every December, and the American dollar was (at least partially) still on the Gold Standard. And how would you even try to explain to Orwell the concept of the internet?

If What So Proudly We Hailed shares similarities with 1984, it also has some significant differences, the biggest being that, however eerie Orwell’s depictions were, no one today would believe for a minute that they could happen anymore as he described them. Not so with What So Proudly We Hailed.

I can promise you this: regardless of how improbable you may think it is that the events depicted in WSPWH would ever come to pass, you will not be able to escape the fact that they are absolutely possible. In addition, I also think it will blow your mind to discover just how easily it could happen and how close we actually are to being there already.

The scariest thing to me is that, even knowing that WSPWH is a fictional story that I made up in my mind, I am continually seeing what almost amount to “excerpts” from it on the news today. A few weeks ago I heard someone on the news use a phrase that I used multiple times in the book: “law abiding American citizens will not be affected”.

Just this morning I saw this article regarding Real ID, a very important part of WSPWH, and yet, also something that very few people have even heard of:

And one of the most interesting things was an incident I read about just 2 days ago. It’s unsettling to me on two counts. One reason is that it is almost exactly like an incident that occurs in WSPWH. The other reason is how it is being reported by the mainstream media. Here’s a detailed account of the story:

Now read the watered-down Associated Press version that is running on almost every major media outlet (please search around to verify). Not quite the whole story, is it?

And as a distinct and separate thought not really connected with anything, isn’t it interesting that coins made of real gold and real silver cannot be used as legal tender? It’s illegal. I find that absolutely fascinating.

I invite you to come back for more information on What So Proudly We Hailed. There is so much more that I want to share. I hope that you’ll be interested.

In the meantime, I would also invite you to Google some of the below topics and take the time to investigate them in depth. You may be surprised at what you find. I’ll leave it for you to decide who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. But as you’re sifting through the smoke & mirrors, just keep asking yourself this question: Who benefits?

National Animal Identification System
Real ID
Percy Schmeiser
GMO seed
Patented seed

Please also visit (Home School Legal Defense Association) and type "international law" in the search box to see some very interesting articles. I would also strongly recommend the documentaries “The Future of Food” and “The Corporation”. Your local video store probably won’t have them, but Netflix does.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What So Proudly We Hailed - (Part 1)

Self promotion is very difficult for me to do. I have never felt comfortable “championing” myself. I’ve always relied on letting my work speak for itself. I’d like to do that also with my soon to be published novel, “What So Proudly We Hailed”, and I think that if people read it, it will speak for itself. The problem is that with somewhere around 200,000 new books being published every single year, it’s difficult to get anyone’s attention, and if nobody reads it, no one will ever know.

It’s funny, people will gladly spend $5 on a birthday card that will be thrown in the trash seconds after it’s receipt, but the thought of spending $15 for an entire book suddenly makes everyone hold their wallets tightly to their chest.

At the beginning of December, I did something that was rather unprecedented; I gave away copies of my last book “Finding Liberty” for free – including shipping – to the first 50 people who requested it. The only thing I asked for in return was that they would write a review of the book – good or bad – on To date, only 3 of the 50 have done that.

I know that it’s only been a little over a month, and with the Christmas holidays I realize that most people have probably just forgotten about it (and who knows? some of them might have hated the book and just not wanted to hurt my feelings by posting a bad review), but you can see the problem that it poses for an unknown author and a small-time publisher. How do you create a buzz about something in a world filled with so much noise?

So at the risk of sounding self promoting, I’m going to be writing some posts over the next few weeks (months?) about “What So Proudly We Hailed”, in the hopes of creating a buzz. I would ask for your help in this; come back often to learn a little more about the book as I lay it out to see if it is something that interests you, and if you can, tell your friends to take a look as well. I can promise you this: whether you like it or hate it, whether it moves you or offends you, you will never look at the world the same way again. It’s not just a story; it’s an important story, and as self-serving as this is going to sound, it’s a story that I think everyone needs to read.

Where to begin, then? Well, I’ll start by simply sharing the words on the back cover of the book. If it sounds intriguing to you, stop back by tomorrow and in the days to come and I’ll fill you in more about the story itself, relate some “behind the scenes” information about the writing of it, and give some real-world examples of how things that are depicted in this fantastically paranoid future are already happening right now.

Back cover text for “What So Proudly We Hailed”:

A storm is coming . . .

The year is 2027. The United States has changed.

Little by little, over the years – out of their own selfishness, apathy, and fear – the American people have given away all of the hard-fought freedoms that had been paid for in blood as if they were worthless trinkets, and in doing so have allowed themselves to be willingly lulled into a state of total dependence.

The government that was once the benevolent servant of the people has now become its ruthless master, and in “the best interests of all”, it has relieved the “burden” of choice from the backs of all Americans. The government now makes your decisions for you – on your behalf – and you have no alternative but to accept. It is a world of thinly veiled slavery, and the time is fast approaching when the “thin veil” will no longer even be necessary.

One man alone rises from the ashes of everything that once was and is given a chance to stop what will be; to turn back the clock and restore liberty to its rightful owners. But the price in blood that must now be paid for that freedom has climbed to horrific proportions.

Journey into the nightmare of the future – one possible future – and see for yourself how easily it could happen. Freedom has never been free, but can it ever cost too much?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

American Idol

Is it just me, or does it seem to anyone else that the current presidential race bears a lot of resemblance to the TV show “American Idol”? I mean, for the past 12 months (that’s a full year already folks, and the elections are still 10 months away) these people have been performing almost on a daily basis for your vote, with the Grand Prize being not a trip to Hollywood and a recording contract, but an all expense paid trip to Washington D.C. to indulge in a 4-year power trip.

It’s the ultimate in reality TV, and very much like the TV show American Idol if you think about it; the only real difference being that instead of the contestants being a bunch of self-absorbed kids with stars in their eyes, the players are self-absorbed adults. I do have to admit, though, that I would probably enjoy the presidential version of American Idol a lot more if Simon were around to heckle and berate the candidates. You have to admit, that would be fun to watch.

So much has already been said about the presidential campaign; I don’t want to waste anyone’s time by repeating words that have already been spoken. There are a lot of things that are upsetting about the campaign process in the U.S. (not the least of which is that it has devolved into nothing more than a popularity contest), but you know what disturbs me the most? What really bothers me is not media bias, or slanted polls, or dirty campaign ads. No, what strikes me as most unsettling is how badly all of the “contenders” want to be the next president.

Just take a look at them the next time you see them on TV; they really, really, really want to be president. Romney and Clinton especially look like they’re about to pee in their pants to get the job, but every one of them - to some degree or other - are all but salivating at the chance.

And I have to wonder, if somebody wants something that bad, is it a really a good thing to let them have it?

If someone came up to me and said, “Hey, Blaine. I need a gun, buddy. I mean, I really need a gun; really, really bad. Help me out, brother. You’ve got to give me a gun”, do you know what I’d do? I wouldn’t give them a gun, you can be sure of that, because I have to think that anybody who needs a gun THAT BAD is probably the last person who should actually have one.

So when I see all of these mainstream candidates doing the pee-pee dance for the opportunity to be the President of the United States, I wonder if it’s really a wise thing to put any of them in office, because we’re not just talking about putting a single gun in their hands, we’re talking about giving them full control of the most devastating military arsenal on the face of the planet, even if that's not specifically what they are asking for.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Goalsetting for the New Year

There are a lot of things that I learned & experienced in the corporate world that, in my opinion, should just stay there. But there were also a lot of things that helped me immensely, and one of those things is understanding goalsetting.

You may ask, “What’s to understand? You set a goal and then you go for it”. At the very basic level that’s true, but by really understanding the “how’s & why’s” of setting goals, you’ll be much more apt to actually set some goals in the first place and then actually achieve them, whether for financial freedom or anything else in your life. After all, we can set goals for any aspect of our lives: financial, personal, physical, spiritual, etc.

First, it’s important to understand why we should set goals at all. There are a lot of reasons: They give us clear & focused direction which enable us to make maximum use of our time (since we’re not wasting it doing something else that doesn’t really matter). Having goals makes us more enthusiastic about what we do since we know what we’re working for and can see our progress. And in seeing our progress and reaching our goals, our self-esteem, confidence, and belief in our God given abilities all increase. Studies have shown that people who use goal-setting effectively suffer less from stress and anxiety, concentrate better, and are happier and more satisfied with their lives.

All of those are great things, but in my mind, I think that the biggest single reason we need to set goals is because by doing so, we are defining what we view as success. Think about that for a minute. For the first 18 years of our lives, all of our goals are set & defined for us by our parents. We know what we are supposed to do, how much of it we’re supposed to do, and by what criteria we will be given an “A” (whether in school or at home). Then suddenly, we reach adulthood and all of those goals vanish and we’re on our own. We go to college, or the military, or the workforce and just kind of “go” into our lives. But what are we trying to accomplish? And how will we know when we’ve accomplished it?

If you don’t think that’s important, try asking someone you know that isn’t very happy with their lives to define for you what happiness looks like for them. Chances are, they would have no trouble telling you all of the reasons why they are not happy, but I’ll bet they would have some difficulty telling you specifically what it is that they want.

If you take a look at people who are successful and happy in life, what you’ll probably find is that they know what they want, they’ve defined it in some way, and that makes them happy even if they don’t have it yet. And by the way, it’s very possible that when they do get what they want, they might find out that it wasn’t everything that they thought it was, but that’s okay too, because at least then they know what they don’t want and can set new goals to take themselves in another direction.

So, we know that goals are important, and that there are a lot of desirable side effects by setting them for ourselves and working towards them. But before you run off and start defining your goals, there are 6 things that I would ask you take into consideration before you do, because as easy as the concept of setting goals might be, if it’s not done right it can not only be a waste of time, but can actually be a demoralizing experience.

1. Elements of a Goal
The first thing to understand is that a good goal – for anything - has 4 criteria that it must answer:

- Who?
- What?
- How much?
- By when?

Usually when we come up with goals we sometimes skip the “who” and go straight to the “what”, because that’s kind of the “meat” of the goal. Skipping the “who” usually doesn’t hurt, since we’re normally thinking of goals for ourselves which makes the “who” implied to be us. But if you’re setting goals for someone else, or goals that include someone else, be sure that it’s clear who the goal applies to.

More damaging is when we neglect to include the “how much?” and “by when?”, because without those we have inadvertantly built escape routes into the goal. Using me as an example, I weigh 210 lbs, which is about 20 lbs over my “ideal” weight. So maybe one of my goals would be this: “I’m going to lose some weight.” On the surface it sounds okay, but look how worthless it really is. By the way it was defined, if I lost 1 lb I would have technically “achieved” my goal, but I can promise you that losing 1 lb wasn’t my original intent. Just as important is the “by when?”, because in this case, I’ve given myself an unlimited amount of time to lose that 1 pound. I could lose it this week or 30 years from now, and again, by how it’s defined, I would have technically achieved success.

A better goal for the same thing might be this: “I will lose 20 lbs by the end of the year.” This goal is much better because it answers all 4 questions. I now have something very specific that I’m going to do, and I have a deadline to accomplish it in. Even so, it still might not be the best goal for me if I have a tendency to rationalize things. For instance, what if I started the year at 210 lbs with that goal, then chowed my way up to 220 lbs before getting serious and finishing the year at 200 lbs. If was a rationalizing sort of soul (which I can be), I could easily feel satisfied that I met my goal - I did lose 20 lbs after all - even though my original intent was to finish the year at 190. My point is that if slimming down to 190 was what I really wanted, it might have made more sense for me to make 190 lbs my goal in the first place. Whether or not you need to be that precise in your goals depends on whether or not you’re the type of person that would use a “loophole” to make yourself feel better.

2. Meeting the SMART Criteria
The “SMART” criteria sounds like one of those clever overused acronyms that get thrown around in the workplace (and it is), but it does actually serve a purpose when used with goalsetting because it’s a good sounding board to bounce your goals against. SMART stands for:


For each goal that you define for yourself, it’s a good idea to check it against each of the above. We’ve already talked about goals being specific, and if you answered all 4 of the goal criteria questions, any goal you came up with should already meet this. But the other 4 are just as important to meet.

Is your goal measurable? This one is pretty obvious, but don’t overlook it. If you can’t measure your goal, how will you know if you’ve met it? If there is no way to check the final outcome, there’s no way to see if you actually achieved you goal, no matter how noble the cause may be.

Is it achievable? You want your goals to have some “punch” to them if they’re going to make a difference, but you also want to be careful that you don’t set them so high that there isn’t a realistic chance of ever reaching them. Push yourself, but also give yourself a chance to succeed. If it turns out that reaching your goal was too easy, you can always make another one that stretches you a little farther.

Is it relevant? To me, this is the most important of the SMART criteria. We can all set goals, and they can all technically be “good” goals that stretch & challenge us, but will they matter? I mean, I could set a goal for myself to buy a new pair of shoes every week for the entire year – and meet it - but so what? Who cares? What difference did it make? The best question to ask here is probably, “What positive outcome will achieving this goal have on my life?” If you can’t come up with a good answer, you may want to reevaluate why you have the goal in the first place.

Is it trackable? Just as it’s important to be able to measure the final outcome, it’s also important to be able to see how we are doing as we work towards our goal. When we can see that, we can determine how much more (or less) effort & attention we need to expend. While it isn’t absolutely necessary to be able to track a goal as we are working towards it, reaching our deadline and finding out that we were way off can be a real buzzkill, especially if there were things we could have and would have done differently had we known sooner that we weren’t going to reach it.

3. Short Term vs. Long Term
The timeframes you set up for your goals could be a major contributor to your success or failure. Consider the following 2 goals that you could set for yourself:
“I will add $20 to my savings account every week.”
“I will grow my savings account by $1,000 this year.”

Realizing that both of them essentially accomplish the same thing, which one would you use? The short term goal breaks it down into smaller, bite-size chunks, but it also requires the constant discipline to add that money every single week. The long term goal provides much more flexibility, but could also lull you into a trap by allowing you to cruise through the year until you get to a point where meeting your goal just isn’t possible.

What timeframes you set for yourself really depend on you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with both to see what works best for your personality.

4. Objectives vs. Activities
The “what” of a goal can be one of two things: either an objective or an activity. In most cases, you want to set goals on objectives, not activities, because objectives reflect a concrete outcome, while activities merely reflect that you did something without regard to an actual end result.

For instance, maybe I set a goal for myself in my spiritual life to invite 1 person to church every week. That goal has all 4 elements of a “good” goal and also meets the SMART criteria. Is this a good goal for me? Well, it would really depend on what it is that I’m trying to accomplish. If my intent was just to get into the good habit of inviting people to church (an activity), it might be fine. But if my intent was to actually get more people to come to church, it might not be so good, because I could easily accomplish it without anything happening.

If I instead set my goal on the objective of getting 5 people to come to church this year, how might I do things differently? I might still invite 1 person every week, but if that’s not working real well, I might realize that doing that isn’t getting me to my goal. I might have to invite 5 people a week. I might have to do a lot of other things as well. The big question to ask yourself when thinking about activities and objectives is, “What is it that I want?”, then see if your goal will actually satisfy that question.

5. Limit the Number
Just as you want each individual goal to be achievable, you also want the total number of goals you make to be something that you can reasonably accomplish. You could easily set 10 personal goals, 10 work goals, 10 spiritual goals, and 10 financial goals, but - Whoa Nellie! - all of a sudden you’ve got 40 goals! Remember the benefits of having goals in the first place; focus & direction, less stress & anxiety, more confidence, better concentration, etc. Are you feeling any of those things when you think of the prospect of having 40 goals? I’m sure not. That’s a little scary.

Even if having 40 goals doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed, there is another danger with having too many. Let’s say you set 40 goals for yourself this year and you achieve 37 of them. That’s not bad shootin’ by anybody’s standard, but knowing human nature, my guess would be that you spent the majority of your time working on easier goals and not on ones that were more difficult. I would suggest to you that the 3 goals that you didn’t achieve were probably the most important ones; the ones that would have taken the most effort to achieve and would have had the biggest impact. I would also suggest that it’s very possible that those 3 goals could have been more important than the other 37 combined, and that if you hadn’t spread your efforts across those other 37 you probably would have had a good chance of knocking out the 3 that would have really made the biggest difference.

In the end, how many goals you set is up to you, but remember that you can always replace the goals that you’ve accomplished with new ones, so don’t make it harder than it has to be.

6. Write Them Down!
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But it’s not. In fact, not writing goals down is probably the single biggest reason why they don’t get met. Putting your goals on paper helps you to remember them and focus on them, but more than that, it commits you to them. There’s something about putting them on paper that makes them real. If they exist only in your mind it’s too easy to forget about them, whether by accident or on purpose. Write them down. Post them on the refrigerator, or the bathroom mirror, or above your desk. Make yourself look at them every day. It will make all the difference.

Whether your goals are grand and far reaching, or small and repetitive, if you follow these guidelines and consider your goals carefully, you can literally change your entire life if you so choose, and do it with surprising ease. And though it may seem that I’ve taken something very simple and made it very complex (a skill that I seem to have been blessed with), it’s really not that complicated. Most of the things I’ve mentioned we do unconsciously anyway, just maybe not everything and maybe not always. For me, it helps to just spell it all out. I hope it helps you as well.