Author: jeffcouillard

Passionate about connecting our world through sustainable thought and action. Works with young people facing addiction. Father, husband, friend, dog owner. Loves to play in the mountains. Founder of The Sugar Fix, a project to help people kick their cravings and live a more healthful life.

Why I won’t teach my children to “not hate”

A few years ago I wrote a post in the aftermath of the Newton, Connecticut shooting. I’ve been trying to avoid blogging about the news as a general rule of thumb, but the recent attack in Orlando has me all fired up.

My son is now almost five, and he’s got a two year old sister.

And neither of them are going to be taught by my wife and I to not hate other people.

“Not hating” someone is a pretty *$%!ing low bar to set for ourselves. Because “not hating” them still implies that there’s a damn good reason you could hate them. They’re different. They’re weird. They believe in something you don’t. They act in ways you don’t.

“Not hating” someone is awfully close to tolerating them, which in and of itself is loaded with a superiority complex that we have no desire in bequeathing to the next generation.

Before you can shoot up a nightclub full of people, you have to find a reason to hate them. You have to judge them as immoral, alien, other.

And in order to judge them as such, someone needs to have taught you that. Someone needs to impress upon your young brain that homosexuality is a sin. That Muslim’s are terrorists. That poor people are lazy. (____________ insert your judgment here).

So we’re not going to teach our kids to not hate.

We’re going to teach them to love.

Same, same….but very different.

Addiction: Neither choice, nor disease.

I spend a lot of time thinking about addiction. Probably an inordinate amount of time, really.

Part of that is due to my role as manager of a wilderness based addictions treatment program for youth with Enviros. Partly it’s due to my diabetes diagnosis a few years back, and the swift realization that comes when you understand that sugar and cocaine aren’t all that different, neurologically speaking.

I thought I’d treat you to a somewhat long(ish) post on my thoughts about what addiction is, and isn’t.

So what, exactly, is an addiction?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines it as;

A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

Let’s break that definition down a little bit.

Reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief. What is pathological? “Behaviour being such to a degree that is extreme, excessive, or markedly abnormal”. Huh. Suddenly checking my smartphone 10x an hour, cruising Twitter late at night, binge-eating almonds while writing blog posts…are these extreme? Excessive? Abnormal? And who gets to decide what’s normal and abnormal? One of the problems that instantly arises when using the word pathological (essentially, abnormal), is that we then need to establish what “normal” is. And that’s a problem in a society that thrives on addiction, from the afore-noted smartphone and twitter checking to excess consumption in all of its various forms.

Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

Characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioural control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Yes. All of these things are symptoms of addiction. Craving. Diminished recognition of significant problems (health, financial, social, relational). Impairment in behavioural control, the inability to abstain. Kind of sounds like the typical Friday night dip into the ol’ tub of ice cream, no? It’s all good and then BAM…diabetes. Or 30lbs of extra weight around the middle. Or any number of significant problems.

One of the biggest issues that I see with how we currently conceptualize addiction in society is that there are two school’s of thought. Choice, and disease. Both of which are kind of true, but not really.

Proponents of the choice model of addiction would see addicts as simply being morally inferior, unable to “just say no” and make a better choice. Because someone wakes up one day and decides to go live in the gutter and score some heroin. Makes sense. Here’s the thing; addicts don’t wake up and “choose” to smoke some crack, like you and I might choose what to eat for breakfast. Addiction is a disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. In other words, it’s a problem with our executive function centres in the brain (the places that make decisions).

Of course, the choice model fits very nicely into the (largely conservative, right of center) philosophy and narrative of individualism, free will and personal agency. Not that any of those ideals are inherently flawed (and I’ll try and avoid this become a pseudo-political rant), but when applied to addiction, well, these ideas completely ignore ALL of the related science on the matter, as well as the experiences of addicts and professionals everywhere.

The choice model of addiction locates all of the responsibility and blame within the addict themselves, absolving society of addressing the systemic and underlying causes of addiction. And it certainly doesn’t explain why certain populations are at much higher risk of addiction. You would expect that an equal number of people across the social strata would “choose” to use substances, when the reality is that some communities are hit much harder than others, and some people are much more susceptible than others.

Let’s look at the disease model. I’ll admit to finding more in common with this definition, but I still find it lacking in some key areas.

First, addiction is incredibly complex. If it wasn’t, we would have solved it decades ago. One of the challenging parts for me with the disease model, is that it removes the addict from being in control. Wait, didn’t I just bash the choice model? How can the addict have control when addiction isn’t a choice? Considering addiction a disease, in the same realm of cancer or arthritis, puts the addict on a different cycle of dependence…the health care system. Doctors. Psychologists. Therapists. Experts with the answer. And maybe a pill or two to help along the way. It does a good job of externalizing the problem for the addict…but it doesn’t provide a hell of a lot of hope, does it? You have a disease. A really complicated disease. A disease that we aren’t very close to figuring out.

Other factors that can contribute to the appearance of addiction, leading to its characteristic bio-psycho-socio-spiritual manifestations, include (according to ASAM, 2011):

  1. The presence of an underlying biological deficit in the function of reward circuits, such that drugs and behaviors which enhance reward function are preferred and sought as reinforcers;
  2. The repeated engagement in drug use or other addictive behaviors, causing neuroadaptation in motivational circuitry leading to impaired control over further drug use or engagement in addictive behaviors;
  3. Cognitive and affective distortions, which impair perceptions and compromise the ability to deal with feelings, resulting in significant self-deception;
  4. Disruption of healthy social supports and problems in interpersonal relationships which impact the development or impact of resiliencies;
  5. Exposure to trauma or stressors that overwhelm an individual’s coping abilities;
  6. Distortion in meaning, purpose and values that guide attitudes, thinking and behavior;
  7. Distortions in a person’s connection with self, with others and with the transcendent (referred to as God by many, the Higher Power by 12-steps groups, or higher consciousness by others); and
  8. The presence of co-occurring psychiatric disorders in persons who engage in substance use or other addictive behaviors.

You don’t often hear other diseases that have factors including the “ability to deal with feelings” and “distortions in a person’s connection with self, with others and with the transcendent”. Got a tumour? Cut it out or blast it with radiation. Got addiction? Build your emotional literacy and connect with a higher power?! That doesn’t sound like a disease to me, at least in my somewhat mainstream understanding of disease.

This is turning into a long post. Why don’t we break it up with a TED talk? Watch Johann Hari as he explains why everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.


Suddenly, neither choice nor disease seem like adequate descriptions of addiction.

What if, instead of viewing addiction as a problem, we started to view it as a symptom?

And let’s go even further. All of us, all of the time, are consciously and unconsciously meeting our needs. From biological to psychological, social to spiritual (quick aside, check out this book…the most important one you’ll ever read, which does a great job of explaining a needs-based approach to just about everything). What if addiction is simply an attempt to meet an unmet need? 

Suddenly the list of “other factors” that influence the development of addiction make a lot of sense. Been traumatized and have poor emotional regulation as a result? Suddenly smoking some weed or having a drink makes a lot of sense. The problem with both the choice and disease models of addiction is that they stop short. They presuppose that the addiction is actually the problem that needs to be tackled, instead of viewing it as the symptom of something deeper that it is.

If we’re really serious about addiction, we’ll stop the practice of both scapegoating addicts through the “choice” lens and trying to explain it away as a “disease”.

As Johann says in his talk…the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.

 

Are you human? You should read this book.

There are currently 12 books occupying space on or in the little 2-drawer nightstand beside my bed. Everything from Getting Things Done by David Allen (on stress free productivity) to The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin (exactly as it sounds). Most of these books are in some state of “about to be read, partly read or nearly read”. At some point I’ll decide that I’ve soaked up what I can get from the pages of one of these books, and it’ll migrate to the bookshelf in the office downstairs, or often, onto a colleagues desk.

One of these books that has taken up residence on the nightstand, and doesn’t show any signs of going anywhere, is the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Hands down, the most important and influential book I’ve ever read. 

Interchangeably called “A language of life”, “language of the heart” and “compassionate communication” , Non Violent Communication (hereafter NVC) is based in the premise that ALL human behaviour is driven by the underlying desire (conscious or unconscious) to meet the individuals needs. But not the kind of needs that we’re used to talking about, like “I need to go on that vacation” or “I need that promotion”, or “I need you to stop running around the house and go to bed!” (me to the 4-year old recently). Those “needs” are actually just strategies to meet the underyling needs. In the case of the vacation, the need might be to relax and celebrate with loved ones. The promotion might be a strategy to meet a need for recognition, contribution or a sense of meaning. Getting the 4-year old into bed meets a pretty real need to get some rest myself.

The problem with mistaking strategies for needs, of course, is that those strategies often bump up against the strategies of the people around us, who are also trying to meet their underlying needs. My 4-year old is getting his play & movement needs met. He’s not actually trying to exhaust his parents (not yet, I hope, anyway).

The power of NVC to transform conflict has been demonstrated in some of the hottest conflict zones on the planet, from Rwanda, to the streets of major cities rife with gangs, to the inside of federal prisons.  Deepak Chopra calls NVC “the missing element in what we do”. Jack Canfield (author and founder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series) “cannot recommend it highly enough.”

It’s a book that will fundamentally change your point of view, as it has mine, but it won’t be easy. Though simple in theory, the practical application of NVC concepts into your daily life, a life likely filled with subtle and unknowing violence, is incredibly hard. Just knowing that the 4-year old is trying to meet needs that are different from my own is a good start, but then what the hell do you do with that? Thankfully Dr. Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication provides as much “how”, as it does why.

Hands down, the best 20$ and a few hours of reading time that you’ll spend on yourself…probably ever. Grab a copy.

All politics aside.

A few weeks ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek, rather sarcastic post detailing the Top 10 Reasons to Vote Conservative.

This week I’d like you to try something. I’d like you to completely forget that the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties exist. I want you to throw away your ideas of what is “right” or “wrong” for a government to do. From taxation to the environment, niquabs to the economy.

I want you to think from a strictly rational place, and answer the following question:

Would I rather have a Member of Parliament representing my riding who is a highly competent, well renowned leader in both business and non-profit, who has a strong chance of being heavily involved in the new government?

Or would I rather have a Member of Parliament who is the third most expensive in Canada, accomplished very little in the 8 years he’s represented me, was fined for robo-calling, doesn’t show up to half the debates in his riding, regularly spams my mailbox with propaganda, and will at best be a backbencher in the opposition?

Seems like a pretty damn clear choice to me, all politics aside.

Top 10 Reasons to Vote Conservative

I’ll admit it, I’m a pretty staunch critic of the reigning Conservative Party of Canada and the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some pretty compelling reasons to vote for them. And given that they’re recently down significantly in the polls, they could use the shot in the arm. So without further ado, the Top 10 reasons why you might want to vote Conservative on October 19th.

10. You like your  government “edgy”.

As in, always on the edge (and sometimes over the damn edge) of legal. You like it when your MP gets fined $14,000 for robo-calls. Means they’re walking that fine line of grey, and don’t let ethics get in the way of winning.

9. You hate water. And fish.

More specifically, you hate freshwater and the idea of protecting it. Which is why you applauded when the Conservatives gutted the Fisheries Act. Fish. Who needs em?

8. Speaking of water…

You applaud the fact the the Conservatives tried to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area. Because you would have preferred that acid rain go on, unfettered by scientists tracing it back to chemicals in our factory smokestacks.

7. You like your government to be tough on crime.

Even if, statistically, there’s less crime to go around these days. Still though, bring on the mandatory minimum sentences…because you don’t govern on statistics. Obviously.

6. Lies, damned lies. And statistics.

Information. Such a pain in the ass, right? Which is why, for you, getting rid of the long form census was the right move. Because who wants their decision makers to have the best information possible when faced with actually making decisions?

5. And it’s not just gathering information that you hate…

It’s keeping it around. So dismantling some of the best scientific libraries in the world, built by taxpayer funded researchers over decades, seems like a good call. Keep shredding those reports!

4. Caring about the environment and animals is, well, a little extreme.

So it’s a good thing that a lot of those groups made their way onto the extremist threat list. Because protesting is an awful lot like free speech, which…hang on…no, we like free speech. Except when we disagree with what’s being said.

3. And caring about people is over-rated.

Which is why it was no big deal for you when the United Nations called us out for ignoring hunger within our own borders. It’s not like we’ve spent most of our history priding ourselves on being world leaders with humanitarian and peacekeeping endeavours.

2. But that’s what food banks are for, right?

You’re not too concerned about those hungry people, after all, that’s why we have food banks (which have seen incredible growth in usage lately) and other charitable organizations, right? And speaking of charities, we should really be auditing them a little more intensely…

1. And the number one reason to vote Conservative this year?

Because pulling your head out from the sand and realizing how far the Conservatives have fallen off of the moral high-ground they supposedly occupied (into something a lot more like a dingy basement apartment with bad lighting and a funny smell) might be just a bit too painful.

There you have it, my Top 10 List of Reasons to Vote Conservative this October. But just in case you were leaning in the direction of voting for anyone but the Conservatives, I’ll include my #1 Reason to do just that.

1. They’re not the Conservatives*.

*And if you’re reading this in the fine riding of Banff-Airdrie, I strongly urge you to check out Marlo Raynolds (Liberal candidate), who would make the finest MP this riding could hope for. And has never been fined 14K for robo-calling, just to keep the record straight.

 

I’m 38.7% of the way there.

Statistically, I should live to 82.5.

Nothing sobers you up faster than checking out your best before date using an online calculator. Except, perhaps, doing the math on how much of that life you’ve currently used up. Almost 39%, in my case.

It leaves me approximately 18,250 days in which to get ‘er done. Whatever ‘er’ is.

18,250 days to either work or play. Or do a bit of both, or neither.

It gives me 438,000 hours to watch my kids take their first steps, fall off their bikes, complete their first week at summer day camp. Four hundred and thirty eight thousand hours seems like a lot. It’s not. I just wasted one of them on Facebook.

This wasn’t an exercise in trying to scare myself, or give me anxiety about death. Let’s face it, any one of us could be hit by a bus or struck by lightning tomorrow. (Speaking of lightning, we had a pretty close encounter a few nights ago in a campground in Banff. A bolt of lightning struck about 50 feet from our campsite. The thunder sounded like it was inside the trailer. Fireball + smoke. Pretty wild.)

An exercise like this helps you prioritize. Focus. Be present. If I only have 438,000 hours (and while we’re doing the math, I only have 157,680 hours with my kids until they’re 18. Minus sleeping hours. Minus the 40hrs/week that I’m working.) then I better be fully present in those hours. Not thinking about the hours that have passed, wishing I’d done something else with them. Not forecasting what future hours might bring.

Being fully present, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. That’s the key to getting the most out of the 61.3% of my life that I’ve yet to live.

Which is maybe why I’ve been a little inactive here on the blog. I’ve been pursuing those projects and things that most closely align with my priority in life (outside of my family). That priority is helping people change for the better, and putting my diabetes diagnosis to good use.

I’m doing that in a couple of different ways right now.

First, I’m doing a little blogging (along with some workshops and soon, an online course) over here.

Second, I’m trying to reach more people more efficiently through the use of webinars, like this one. Webinars are slick, if you haven’t taken part in one. Like going to a live workshop, only often free and you can go in your pajamas, from your couch. What’s not to love?

I encourage you to go and check out your life expectancy sometime. You never know, it just might inspire you to stop reading so many blog posts and get out for a walk.

 

Death, taxes and #ableg.

“There are only two certainties in life, death and taxes.”

This quote is commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin from a letter he wrote in 1789, although it originally appeared in Daniel Defoe’s The Political History of the Devil in 1726. Regardless the source, the certainty of taxes has been around an awfully long time.

Except if you happen to be a corporation in Alberta, of course.

The “Prentice Team” has introduced 59 new sources of taxation and fees for Albertan’s this coming year…yet somehow failed to move the needle, even slightly, on the lowest corporate tax rate in Canada.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 9.10.52 PMThe argument being, of course, that businesses will have to lay off workers because of a “job killing corporate tax”. As opposed to laying everyone off when the price of oil drops.

Interestingly enough, The Prentice Team sent me some propoganda campaign literature in the mail the other day. One of the claims that caught my eye was the “1% Increase to Corporate Tax = 8900 Jobs Lost”, courtesy of Jack Mintz (an economist from the U of C). Of course, he just happens to be on the board of directors for Imperial Oil. Don’t read anything into that, I’m sure there’s no corporate bias going on here.

Of course, you could look to our neighbours to the west, good old British Columbia. They raised their corporate tax rate from 10% to 11% in 2013. And then led the nation in economic growth in 2014, and are forecasted to do the same in 2015. Shit. There goes that theory.

Seriously though, how can the Alberta citizen believe a single word that comes out of the Progressive Conservative party, particularly related to anything that has a number attached to it? In the same propaganda leaflet, they’re pledging to “Double the Heritage Fund” because Alberta’s energy resources are the birthright of all Albertans – present and future.

Riiiiiiggggghhhhtttttt…..which is why we’ve been giving them away for the last 40 years.

I encourage you to read the full plan at PCalberta.com. And then get the actual facts (available at the internet nearest you, but start here) and vote appropriately.

 

Mindfulness should come with a warning label.

I’ve been working hard to be more mindful these days. I think that part of the problem is getting past my preconceived notions of what “mindfulness” actually is. If it stirs up images of long haired yoga enthusiasts for you, you’re not alone. Yet, I know many people who are truly mindful…present in the moment, grounded, calm…you know, how most of us want to be, yet find to be a hard place to inhabit.

I’ve (finally) gotten around to looking at mindfulness in a more serious way. I’m particularly interested in mindful parenting. I don’t know about you, but my life can be pretty distracting between phone calls, emails, facebook, twitter, 3.5 year old, wife, dogs….etc, etc. I found myself never truly present, always thinking about what happened earlier in the day, what was yet to come or being distracted by someone else’s needs or thoughts.

It’s funny, because being diagnosed with diabetes set me on a path of mindful eating years ago, apparently by accident. I guess I’m a slow learner, as it’s just now creeping into my parenting and life in general.

Enter Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts and creator of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Here’s Jon discussing mindfulness.

Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, as if your life depended on it.

On purpose. How many of our thoughts and emotions are “on purpose”, and how many are just reactions to our world? You’d be surprised at how little of our day is intentional, especially the comings and goings of our own minds and attention.

In the present moment. What other moment is there?

Non-judgmentally. A thought is just that, a thought. An emotion is just an emotion. Too often we beat ourselves up for having thoughts and emotions, judging them, feeling guilty or ashamed for having them.

As if your life depended on it. Because it does. As Jon says in the video, the only moment that we’re actually alive in, is this one. The only time that we can love, laugh, cry or experience anything is this present moment.

So what does mindfulness look like in my life? Well for starters, I took Facebook and Twitter off my phone. It was just too easy to be distracted by all the digital noise coming out of that small, handheld device. I also started to cultivate a practice of being grateful every day for something wonderful in my life (of which there is much).

In case you’re not convinced that mindfulness is worth cultivating, here’s the warning label. It’s been shown to;

  1. Relieve stress
  2. Improve heart disease
  3. Lower blood pressure
  4. Reduce chronic pain
  5. Improve sleep
  6. Help with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.

So give it a try, and start by picking up a copy of Jon’s classic book; Wherever You Go, There You Are. Click the link below to buy it off Amazon, and I’ll donate the commission to a local charity. Win-win.

 

Scarcity; Why Having Too Little Means So Much

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a book review. Probably because I have a 3 1/2 year old and a 6-month old, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for reading (for pleasure, anyway). And writing open letters has kept my blogging brain busy.

Luckily we managed to sneak away for a week in Mexico recently, and as usual a vacation offered up the chance to catch up on the reading list. First up, Scarcity; Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir.

If you’re only interested in the “read or don’t read” commentary, this one is a must read. Part behavioural economics, part cognitive psychology and all useful, I found it to be a compelling read filled with insightful commentary on the human condition and the pervasiveness (and consequences!) of a scarcity mindset.

From time management to finances, depression to poverty, this book takes a wide ranging look at why having too little means so much, for organizations and for individuals. The authors don’t only point out the impacts of scarcity (particularly on our cognitive bandwidth), but offer up useful and practical tips to work within it. Why are we so much more productive as a deadline is looming? Why does poverty persist? Why are sugar cane farmers in India smarter after the harvest than before? The emerging science of scarcity explains all of these phenomena (and more), and the authors, through a combination of stories and experiments, do an excellent job of conveying this to the reader.

So grab a copy and find some time in your scarcity-filled day to read it!
Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much

Dear Albertans; an Open Letter to Everyone

Dear Albertans,

A few weeks ago I wrote an open letter to Jim Prentice. It generated a lot of conversation, both from people agreeing with my sentiments and others who hold the opposite view. That’s exactly what it was supposed to do.

The more I thought about the letter and the response to it, the more I realized that we needed to be sparking a different conversation. Not a conversation about Jim Prentice and what he should or shouldn’t do. He is, after all, one man (albeit a powerful one) at the pointy end of the stick. Easy to blame the stick when it whacks the wrong thing, harder to have a conversation with the hand that’s wielding the stick.

And fellow Albertans…we need to have that conversation. We need to ask ourselves if we’re truly pointing that stick in the right direction, and, more importantly, if we even have our hands on it any more. I suggest that we don’t, because if we did we wouldn’t have seen half of the scandals, financial abuses and bad policy decisions that have plagued this province in the past few years and seem to be continuing.

So, in the spirit of the previous letter, here are my Top 5 pieces of advice for Albertans to help get us back on track.

1. You know when you’re driving and you go to merge or change lanes, and someone slows down to let you in? Give them a damn wave. Not only is it courteous, it’s an acknowledgement that there’s someone else on the road. And that someone did something nice for you. They weren’t so absorbed in their own self-importance that they couldn’t see your need to safely continue on your journey, and give their brakes a tap.

2. Speaking of acknowledging other people on the road…we need to talk about taxes. I know, that’s pretty much a 4-letter word in this province. The thing is, we’ve somehow gotten it stuck in our heads that the lower our taxes go, the better off we’ll all be. And although that’s probably true for higher income earners (who worry less about the costs of things like increasing school fees, expensive childcare, post-secondary tuition), Alberta’s 10% flat tax is actually making the poor and working class worse off. There are incredibly reasonable alternatives that would retain Alberta’s relatively low tax environment while providing stable revenues for things like education and healthcare. And yes, our spending can probably be better managed, and we can and should find efficiencies wherever possible. But 40 kids being taught in the gymnasium is not the kind of efficiencies we should be going for.

3. We’ve got a gambling problem. Let’s imagine for a while that Joe Albertan is looking to settle down, buy a house and raise some kids. He’s got a decent salary, but also has a bit of blackjack habit and stops in at the local casino regularly. He’s been on a winning streak for awhile, and starts to think that this winning streak is a permanent fixture in his financial picture. So he buys the biggest house he can, complete with a big truck, a boat, a pair of quads and an RV. Life is good. Of course, as all gambling streaks go, his starts to come to an end. And he’s not even losing money at this point, just not winning any more. Just breaking even. He can’t keep up with the bills, so he has to start making some tough choices. He doesn’t build any new schools. He blows up a hospital. He stops cutting the grass and fixing the little things around the house as they wear out and break down. This goes on for awhile until he starts to win again. Then, instead of fixing things up, he goes on a holiday. He gives all of his friends and relatives 400$ worth of “JoeBucks”. He starts to build a Sky Palace.

I think all of us can agree that Joe has a full-blown financial management problem on his hands, rooted in an over-reliance on speculative income (blackjack) and a penchant for extravagant spending. Sounds strangely familiar…

4. That PC super-majority? In the last provincial election we turned out 57% of eligible voters. The PC’s captured 44% of the popular vote, which is only 28.4% of eligible voters. Which means that Albertan’s either didn’t vote for the PC’s, or voted against them, by an almost 3-1 margin. Let’s talk about the 860,000 of us that didn’t bother to take a few minutes out of our lives to acknowledge that we live in a free and democratic society, and the price we pay for that is a few minutes of our time and some thought about the future, once every couple of years. Maybe it wouldn’t have changed the results. But one day it might.

5.  Politics and taxes aside, if you really want to make a difference in your own life and the lives of people around you, then just start. Do something. Volunteer for a local non-profit. Take your beer money and donate it to a worthwhile cause this month. Join a board of directors. Clean up a stream. Say hi to your neighbour and shovel their walk. Share and comment on this blog post.

And when people slow down to let you in, give them a wave.