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Improving American language skills: Reading and writing are fundamental

In Books, Children and Family, Education, Literature, Local News, Opinion, Technology, Uncategorized on June 30, 2014 at 3:53 pm

dih-logo-SENext to the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence may be the single most important document ever created in the history of America. It established our country’s formal separation from England and set in motion more than two centuries of global influence and an example of how a free republic can succeed.

But what would have happened if the men who founded our country lacked the basic language skills to create that first, all-important document? How would these men have properly and so effectively communicated the displeasure and intent of an entire people without such a firm grasp on the English language, not merely to speak it but to put it down in a document to be revered for centuries to come? In short, they couldn’t have.

On this 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we need to remember that it’s author had but two years of formal, college education. In those days, a man wishing to become a lawyer apprenticed under other attorneys, reading the law and learning to interpret and apply it for the good of the people for whom it was put in place. Jefferson eventually became a lawyer but not by obtaining any degree we might understand today.

Likewise, Benjamin Franklin went to school briefly but, because of financial issues, he had to stop to help support his family by going to work with his father. He furthered his own education, however, through reading and self-study, a practice that is, sadly, frowned upon today. Both of these men demonstrated the vast important of language and writing, and how the written word can change history. Some people, though, struggle with language skills or never learn to read at all.

One of my favorite books from childhood was called, “The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read,” by Irma Black. The book chronicles the story of a little, old toy maker who, despite his amazing craftsmanship for pleasing children, never learned to read. One day, his wife went to visit a sick friend and left him alone for what must have been the first time. He was forced to do the grocery shopping on his own, which turned out to be a very frustrating endeavor. Upon arriving home, he sadly discovered that what he thought was a spaghetti box turned out to be wax paper and the can of sauce, coffee instead. It was very disheartening. But it motivated him to learn and he did. The book was written many years before the technology age, but imagine what he would have to deal with today if he couldn’t read at all? It would be nearly debilitating in modern American culture.

little_old_manI have always been a writer, even back into childhood, but most of my language skills came from audio books and those children’s books that came with a 33 rpm record. I found later that I had been dealing with a learning disability that hindered my ability to retain what I had read. Over the years, I adjusted and coped, but was not diagnosed until my mid-30s. Today, I have new ways of dealing with the problem and read as much as I can. I learned to defy my disability because I wanted to read.

There’s no question that Jefferson and Franklin were above-average men, but we all have the ability to move past our limitations, just as Franklin taught himself what he needed to know and just as I worked past my reading issues. For those who want to improve their language skills across the board, here are a few tips and they work for pretty much all ages.

First, try to write as much by hand as possible. Using paper and pen will slow you down a bit and force you to think before you write. People were better writers in the old days because it took time to get thought to page. Today, technology has us whizzing through sentences without a thought to grammar and word usage.

Next, although it’s fallen out of favor with the public school set, use cursive writing as much as you can. As with the first point, handwriting something makes you think and use the right language. It even gives you the chance to look up a word before you use it.

Try to learn a new word every day. Vocabulary is the key to better language skills. Take the time to look up words you hear throughout your normal day. But if you don’t hear any that grab your attention, pick up a hard-bound dictionary, open it up, close your eyes, and point to a word on the page.  That’s your word for the day. One of those “word of the day” desk calendars is a great resource too. Of course, you need to put the word into use whenever possible to make it stick.

Read, read, read, read. And, did I mention, read? Newspapers, well-written blogs, congressional briefs, comic books, it doesn’t matter what you read, just make sure you read a lot. If you’re trying to improve your language skills, however, the more advanced the reading the better. It’s ok if it takes time, look up words you don’t know and charge ahead.

Finally, don’t write like you text. In fact, don’t text how you text, either. The wave of “texting shorthand” is maddening to those of us with good grammar and language skills. Use full words and sentences – even in texts. It’ll make a big difference in how you communicate in email and in other written documents as well. Take your time and say it right.

So this Fourth of July weekend, go out and enjoy the picnics and fireworks.  But remember, when you hear the words to the national anthem or the preamble to the constitution, think about the meaning of each word and be grateful that those guys were diligent enough to get every one of them right. Our very freedom depended on it.

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Hobby Lobby ruling sets religious freedom in business

In Business, Charities, history, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on June 30, 2014 at 11:59 am

DIH LOGOOn June 30th, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s suit to be exempted from the ObamaCare mandate forcing companies to provide contraceptive coverage to employees, including the controversial Plan B, or “morning after,” drugs. Many conservative business owners equate these drugs to abortion since they’re designed to terminate a pregnancy within hours of conception.

The primary argument to the court is whether the owners or management of a corporation has the same rights to freedom of religion as an individual. The Obama administration has already set exceptions for various religious non-profit organizations, which, other than their non-profit status, are structured similarly to their for-profit counterparts.

In March of this year, according to TheHill.com, the U.S. House of Representatives, “Approved the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act, H.R. 1814. The bill allowed people avoid buying health insurance under ObamaCare if they could cite a religious reason. People seeking an exemption would have to include sworn statements in their tax returns explaining their objection to health insurance.” In effect, all they needed to get out of paying the federal healthcare mandate (tax) was a note from home.

A further question is whether there is a fundamental business difference between a non-profit corporation and a for-profit corporation? The practical answer is, no. Charity or not, a corporation is created to protect the individual operators from legal responsibility with regard to the business. Most non-profit filings are for tax and donation purposes, a process that seems outdated and inefficient with the advent of mega churches and multi-billion-dollar evangelical organizations.

uscourtIn America, there are countless religiously-focused, non-profit corporations worth millions more than some of the largest for-profit businesses. The Christian television network, Daystar, for example has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a “church,” according to NPR.com news. Celebrity, sometimes politician evangelist Pat Robertson and the late Billy Graham registered with the IRS as “religious organizations,” making them exempt from most taxes. All they had to do was file disclosure papers.

According to available records, NPR.com reports that the top three evangelical television broadcasters – Christian Broadcast Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar Television — have a combined net worth of more than a quarter of a billion dollars. It is unknown whether the corporations that operate these broadcasters have filed for religious exemption under the healthcare reform laws.

The question persists, however, that if the only difference between a for-profit corporation and these mega non-profits is an earnings disclosure, why have the distinction at all? Certainly there are for-profit companies that give away millions of dollars in charitable funds each year but still have to comply with the law in every respect. Why then are religious non-profit organizations exempt from anything, much less a controversial healthcare mandate that has American small business struggling to comply or face bankrupting penalties?

The court’s latest decision with regard to religious exemption could have long-reaching implications, and not just in the healthcare arena. Giving a for-profit entity the same constitutional protections provided to non-profit religious groups could cause a flood of lawsuits ranging from tax law to equal employment regulations. Once again, major non-profits have million-dollar earners at the top, private jets, limousines and pretty much every other extravagance thought only to exist in for-profit American business.

If a church – any church – can make a case for religious freedom from legal mandates, why can’t a business owner cite his or her – or their – own religious beliefs for the same purposes? Is the constitution not written for everyone or does it exist specifically to meet the needs of religious groups so they can avoid taxes and dodge the law at their convenience?

This argument poses a great many questions and there will likely be countless more as ObamaCare reaches further corners of commerce. But, if that’s not enough to chew on, here’s another one. What happens if a Muslim, Jewish or non-Christian group requests exemption as well? Will the Christian right fight against their having the same protections?

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer and contributor for WDTN-TV2’s LIVING DAYTON program. More at www.gerydeer.com.

 

Cause and effect of drug advertisements

In Business, Education, Health, National News, Opinion, television, Uncategorized on June 26, 2014 at 10:37 am

DIH LOGOAccording to a 2008 study by the peer-reviewed medical journal, PLOS Medicine, pharmaceutical companies spend nearly twice as much on marketing than research. In a review of the study, the consumer advocacy website, Consumerist.com, indicates, “Drug companies pour $57.5 billion into marketing, dwarfing the comparably paltry $31.5 billion devoted to research.”

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have rigid guidelines for promoting their products, but the question lingers: should non-over-the-counter drugs be promoted to the general public at all? The short answer is, probably not. The longer answer is more complex. Since, as a rule, Deer In Headlines deals with “fact,” not “truth,” here are some facts about drug advertising. Incidentally, if it is truth you’re interested in, check out a philosophy column (thanks Dr. Jones).

The official website of the United States Food and Drug Administration states, “Prescription drug advertisements can provide useful information for consumers to work with their health care providers to make wise decisions about treatment.” Leading the pack of heavily-marketed drugs are prescription sleep aids, blood thinners, anti-depressants and erectile dysfunction remedies. Most of the television ads for these medications appear during the day, carefully targeting certain markets.

What the general public fails to realize, however, is that these ads are intended to plant an idea in the head of the consumer who, in all their medical wisdom, will take the information to a doctor and insist on a prescription. Mission accomplished; more drugs are sold and the company’s stock goes up a quarter of a point, not to mention the fact there is one more person who simply can’t live without the latest pill. Perhaps a better understanding of how these ads are structured might help.

pillsThe FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion classifies medication advertisements into three categories: Product Claims, Reminders, and Help-Seeking ads.  The product claim ad names the drug, the treated condition and lists the benefits and risks. A reminder ad shows the name of the drug, but not its use. Finally, the help-seeking advertisement is directed at people with a particular condition for which they are trying to find a remedy. There is, however, no guideline for how much money a drug company can spend on advertising and some consumer advocates argue that it’s wrong for them to be able to spend more on marketing than research.

The fact is that it’s really hard to say exactly how much any one drug company spends on research vs. marketing because reported advertising expenditures are mixed in with the accounting category which also includes other figures, such as executive salaries. Research money is usually accounted for in a separate line item (R&D), even though it technically could be in the same classification with general operation costs.

Another fact is that everyone is a medical expert – yes that’s sarcasm. From the neighbor with every ailment more painful than the last or the relative who insists his doctor is an idiot but goes back every time his prescription runs out, self-diagnosis and treatment are a real epidemic in America.

There is also the concern that these advertisements actually plant the idea of a particular illness in the mind of the viewer who then heads to the doctor with a new problem, and a new prescription demand. Studies show that about 40-percent of all doctor visits are with the intention of getting a prescription. Since people keep going back, it’s safe to assume there are plenty of doctors obliging, and that needs to change as well.

Prescription medication should be marketed to the experts who will be prescribing it to the patient. Drug companies already spend billions on advertising and on-site sales representatives who offer samples and various other motivators to get the doctors to push their products for various ailments. The patient has no business self-prescribing and doctors need to be more responsible.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. Side effects of reading Deer In Headlines include a more open mind, alternative points of view and a better understanding of the world around you. No prescription necessary.

 

Too much rides on a credit score

In Business, Economy, Education, Jobs, National News, Opinion, Uncategorized on June 16, 2014 at 11:33 am

DIH LOGOFor all the important numbers in the life of the average American, the credit score seems to wield the most power. It’s hard to imagine how three little digits could determine how an individual will live his or her life, regardless of the circumstances that created it and with the average person having virtually no understanding of what it is or how it’s calculated.

Credit scores determine how much a consumer will have to pay for credit (as interest rates), insurance, and other necessities. For many years, the credit score was a value hidden from the consumer because Fair Isaac and Company, the firm which created the process, decided it would just be too confusing to the general public. (Of course, that’s the usual excuse offered up by big business and government agencies trying to dupe the general public.)

That’s little comfort, however, to those who have been held hostage by the credit reporting companies for decades. Almost since inception, credit data has been full of inaccuracies and misinformation, a problem to which consumers have had little (practical) recourse other than the slow, usually pointless, process required to amend a report.

As of 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was charged with the oversight of personal credit rating companies. With countless rule changes over the years, the Fair Credit Reporting Act finally forced at least some restrictions on the credit rating companies. The FCRA is the legislation that required companies like TransUnion, Experian and Equifax to provide free credit report, limit outside access to personal credit files, initiate identity theft protections and other consumer defense measures. Click here for a downloadable version of the Fair Credit Reporting Act is available.

creditoneRegardless of the current legislation, however, credit monitoring and reporting services still have entirely too much power and control over the general lives of consumers. A credit report (and score) whether accurate or not, can limit access to vital, day-to-day needs like transportation and employment.

Considering how much inaccuracy can exist or the irrelevancy of the information to the situation, it’s bewildering how it is legal for employers to reject applicants based on a credit score. In another example, how is it permitted that credit score can determine whether someone should be provided with car insurance, particularly when coverage is mandated by the government?

Whatever more ignorant people choose to believe a low credit score doesn’t always mean a person is unwilling to pay their bills or is inept at handling money. Sometimes circumstances change, as with the predatory lending practices that contributed to the housing market crash of 2008.

Likewise, although there is a higher risk in lending to people with a sorted credit history, almost no one takes into account how the score got so tarnished. On the heels of the worst recession in U.S. history, the credit rating process seems almost backwards to the average consumer.

If you can afford a higher rate and larger payment, you get a lower one, and vice versa. A person may be in desperate need of a car or renters insurance but, because of a lower credit score, they are charged significantly higher rates and payments. Wouldn’t it make more sense to offer those people lower rates and payments, making it more likely they can pay on time and help shore up the economy in the process?

The consumer should always keep in mind that the credit reporting organizations are private sector businesses, not government agencies. They are not affiliated with the Federal Trade Commission in any way nor any other government office. Credit scores are big business for those companies that calculate and report them.

In the first quarter of 2014, TransUnion, one of the three largest firms, reported earnings just over $303 million. That’s just for one credit reporting company over three months! So, with billions of dollars in revenue at stake, there is little to no motivation for limiting the power of these companies. It’s a sure bet that lobbyists for the credit reporting companies are well-entrenched in Washington, greasing all of the appropriate palms to make sure that the “have nots” never catch up to the 1-percent.

 

The Jamestown Comet.com editor / publisher Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business contributor to WDTN-TV2’s Living Dayton program. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

UPDATE: CFL bulbs save money, but threaten safety

In Children and Family, Dayton Ohio News, Environment, Health, Home Improvement, Opinion, Politics, Science, Technology, Uncategorized on June 10, 2014 at 8:40 am

GLD_CFL_TV2_SCREENSHOTSpecial Update / Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November of 2013 and updated in April 2014. Since that time, and investigative report by Pam Elliot at WDTN-TV, 2News in Dayton has yielded the following information on the dangers of CFL bulbs.

Deer In Headlines author and Jamestown Comet publisher, Gery L. Deer, was tapped as the initial interview source for the investigation based on the content of this edition of his column. Here for you is the video from that investigation which aired on Monday, May 19, 2014.

Click here for a link to the full 2News investigative story which includes suggestions for the safe use of CFL bulbs.

 

dih-logo-SEApril 7, 2014 – The incandescent light bulb was developed in 1876 by Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric. But as more energy efficient technology is introduced, even Edison’s greatest achievement has been all but extinguished forever. On September 24th, 2013, it was announced that the last of the incandescent light bulbs had rolled off the GE assembly line to be replaced by compact fluorescents, or “CFLs.” The spiral-twisted tube bulbs use low-energy, fluorescent technology and there is really nothing cutting-edge about them, except for their size and the potential fire risk when they go bad.

Fluorescent lighting has been around since the late 19th Century, but wasn’t developed for widespread use until the 1930s. Less expensive to operate than their incandescent counterparts, most of the bulbs last longer and are safe for everyday use. But as the environmentalist lobby pushes for more energy-efficient or, “green,” technology, has the heightened concern for the environment surpassed that for human safety? Recently I went into my kitchen and switched on the light over the sink, as I did countless times throughout the week. I left the room for a moment and when I returned it was dark, the familiar morning glow of the light fixture having just been replaced with the smell of burned ceramic and melted plastic. Upon investigation I discovered that the CFL bulb in the overhead light had quite literally burned out.

20W CFL Bulb from Gery Deer's kitchen.   Photo by Gery L. Deer

20W CFL Bulb from Gery Deer’s kitchen. Photo by Gery L. Deer

Just before it went dark, the 20-Watt, General Electric CFL bulb I had installed a few months earlier had gone so hot that it flamed through the plastic and ceramic base, causing it to melt and crack at the bottom of the glass tubing. The discovery of such a potential fire hazard was, to say the least, surprising, but apparently the problem is well-documented and manufacturers have been aware of it since the product’s release.

In a Snopes.com article John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager at Underwriters Laboratories (UL), said about how CFLs expire, “People expect to see the bright flash and to hear the popping like a traditional incandescent bulb, but the burn out of a CFL is different. The light dims over time and might produce a more dramatic pop, emit a distinct odor, and maybe even release some smoke.” Drengenberg is referring to the Voltage Dependent Resistor (VDR). The CFL burns out when the ballast overheats, causing the VDR to open the circuit like a blown fuse and prevent any hazards.

Instead of resulting in a mild puff of smoke, however, the heat generated can, as in my case, burn through the base. As I dug deeper into this issue, I discovered countless articles, videos and online debates regarding the safety of CLF lighting and how there might be more to their compulsory introduction than simply reducing energy costs. It’s important to note here that Underwriters Laboratories is not a government agency but a private company paid by manufacturers to “certify” the safety of their products.

DP&L has a vested interest in getting these bulbs out to the public. It's unclear where that interest lies, but here is the proof - a Walmart display in Xenia, Ohio offers huge discounts.

DP&L has a vested interest in getting these bulbs out to the public. It’s unclear where that interest lies, but here is the proof – a Walmart display in Xenia, Ohio offers huge discounts.

In the early 1990s, I worked for a major appliance manufacturer as an engineering technologist following UL guidelines in operational and safety testing of ovens, ranges and cook-tops. In my experience, a bit of heat and smoke being released from a popping resister is, by itself, not enough to cause the kind of damage apparently so common with this product.

I am well aware of UL testing practices and it is beyond my comprehension how anything short of political pressure could be responsible for the approval of a consumer electronics product that literally lets flame out of its casing. From a consumer standpoint, it’s baffling to me how UL, or the Federal Trade Commission – the governmental agency responsible for consumer safety, can justify the approval of a device that clearly presents a fire safety hazard under “normal use” conditions. Incidentally, the CFLs also contain mercury, another potential environmental health hazard often conveniently overlooked.

It is entirely possible that these products were rushed to market, not so much to help reduce pollution or save money for the consumer, but to further a political agenda. Whatever the reason, the consumer should be aware of the inherent dangers and always be careful when using CFL lighting.  (End original story.)

Here are some detailed photos of the original, failed bulb. General Electric requested it be returned for investigation (we have complied).

 

UPDATE : June 6, 2014 – Today Gery L. Deer received several boxes of light bulbs from General Electric (Pictured below). The shipment included several packages of original, incandescent bulbs and several packages of LED bulbs. Once again, it is important to note that Gery insisted to GE’s representatives, by phone, he was not looking for any sort of restitution, but simply wanted to make the public aware of the dangers surrounding these bulbs. But, here they are anyway.

An assortment of incandescent and LED light bulbs sent to Gery L. Deer by General Electric on June 6.

An assortment of incandescent and LED light bulbs sent to Gery L. Deer by General Electric on June 6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIDEO UPDATE: June 10, 2014 – Hard to believe – ANOTHER shipment of LED light bulbs from General Electric. These are of a totally different style and are said to “distribute” light more efficiently. Watch the video for a complete follow up.

 

Jamestown Comet Editor Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business contributor to WDTN-TV2’s Living Dayton program. More at www.gerydeer.com.

India vs. China: Economic growth and national security

In Economy, history, National News, Opinion, sociology, Uncategorized on June 9, 2014 at 9:47 pm

DIH LOGOOn June 4, 1989, after three weeks of civil rights protests by nearly a million Chinese, many of them students, Chinese troops stormed a packed square in Beijing, killing and arresting thousands. The Tiananmen Square Massacre shocked the world and confirmed the belief, not that there was any doubt, that China’s political system is completely incompatible with that of the United States and pretty much any other democratic nation.

A quarter of a century later, it’s still largely incomprehensible why America is so tied to a country with no decency with regard to human rights. It’s about two things that shouldn’t surprise anyone, money and political power. There’s a little fear thrown into the mix as well associated with China’s massive military might and a government with no reservations about using it.

Labor costs are incredibly also low in China, with the average factory worker earning just one-tenth of what their American counterparts bring home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cheap labor is an attractive prospect to American companies looking to expand production with fewer tax and employment expenses. It seems there is no end to U.S. manufacturers relocating in China; producing cheaper goods to be shipped back America and sold at a premium profit.

Contrary to popular belief, however, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, only 15-percent of U.S. imports come from China. That comes out to something like $29 billion of a $1 trillion monthly output. There are more than 1.3 billion people in China, many of whom, like their American counterparts, want, more than ever, the latest technology, fashions, entertainment and so on. Although it is generally exaggerated, a definite trade deficit exists between the two nations, which is unlikely to change anytime soon.

China or India? Which makes more sense for the US?

China or India? Which makes more sense for the US?

It’s entirely possible the United States should be looking a little further southwest for political and economic growth in Asia – India. After all, which would seem a much more stable and amiable political and economic ally? With more than 1.2 billion people living in 29 states, India is the world’s second-largest country and second-largest democracy, English speaking and primed for growth.

If India is a more lucrative and stable prospect, what’s holding America back from a greater fueling of the fire of partnership, economically and socially? Unfortunately, recent years have seen the U.S./India relationship strained over trade and intellectual property disputes. Plus, the Indian economy has had some rocky spots recently.

In 2013, the average median income per capita in India was around $1,200 (Compared to China at $2,100). Add to that, India’s economy has fallen off nearly 5-percent with 8-percent inflation and the country’s fiscal health is a major barrier. However, the election of a new prime minister, Narendra Modi has encouraged investors and the economy has reflected that confidence.

According to CNN Money, “The prospect of a government led by Modi has boosted Indian stocks by 15 percent so far this year. The rupee has responded too, gaining six percent against the dollar after a dismal performance in 2013.”

There are other more politically charged issues slowing down a more aggressive relationship with India, but most U.S. officials see the country as a thriving democracy and a strategic gold mine. Close to Afghanistan and Pakistan, a more advanced partnership between America and India would benefit both countries in terms of economic growth and national security.

America imposed sanctions against India in 1998 because of nuclear testing. But, thanks to former presidents Clinton and Bush, relations improved greatly and the two nations even signed a ground-breaking defense and civil nuclear (power) agreement.

With the possible exception of the political unknowns surrounding a new prime minister, previously a Hindu Nationalist, there is little reason to spend so much time courting the stagnant communist regime in China instead of nurturing a reasonably stable democracy, and growing economy, in India. In the end, it certainly seems that it would be much wiser for Washington to advance trade and economic partnerships with India.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.

 

Reward yourself for a job well done.

In Business, Economy, National News, Opinion, Uncategorized on June 3, 2014 at 8:28 am

DIH LOGODo you hate your job? You might be surprised how many people despise their work. Even those making upwards of six figures can find the grind most tedious and would do nearly anything to change it. So why don’t they? Chances are, especially at the high end, people have locked themselves into a lifestyle that requires a certain level of money and position that becomes inescapable, or so they think.

If you were one of the millions of folks displaced from a job during the recession, you’re just counting your blessings and dealing with whatever unpleasantness comes along at work. Whatever the reason for staying, there are many reasons why people hate their jobs.

Much of what causes people to dislike their jobs has to do with a lack of obvious appreciation or recognition for your efforts. It takes more than a paycheck to feel fulfilled in your profession and most people don’t get the recognition they feel they deserve for hard work and dedicated service.

Recognition can also come from promotion and a change in responsibilities which can offer more challenges to your day, as well as a better paycheck. If you don’t have opportunities to grow within an organization, you’re likely to feel stifled and unproductive. That will eat away at you over time.

Another reason for someone might feel badly in their job is when they feel they’re meant to do something else or went to school for something entirely different. We all have had moments when we thought we should be something else. I grew up thinking I was going to be a doctor. When I finally enrolled in a pre-med program, I found I really didn’t like it and transferred into an engineering track.

girl_bookDespite what the academics would like us to believe, very few people really know what they want to do at the age of 18 when society is telling us to choose a lifelong career. The fact is we’re just not that grown up yet and, if we think we are and choose a direction, it often change with age and experience.

So what do you do if you are one of those who is just plain unhappy at work? First, it might be a good idea to try to find another job. Don’t wait until you lose the one you have to be looking for something better. Knee-jerk reactions to an employment crisis rarely bring about good change in life, instead just leading to more of the same mediocrity. Get out there and start looking and interviewing for the kind of work you really feel like you want to do, provided it meets your financial and professional qualifications.

Secondly, if changing jobs isn’t a practical option right now, try to provide yourself with some self-rewards and do things throughout the week to make your situation more enjoyable. As an independent worker and small business owner, I don’t get “rewards” for what I do all day. There is no employee of the month or chance for promotion. I’m as high up as I get and, unless the cat learns to use the printer, it’s doubtful I’m going to receive a certificate for outstanding performance anytime soon.

I still need to stay motivated, though, and so do you. So set up rewards for yourself throughout the week. For example, say you have a big project coming up that may test your patience and tolerance of others. Instead of going home stressed every night, establish yourself some rewards for hanging in there. Schedule a special lunch with a friend or ice cream after work. Go to a movie with your significant other in the middle of the week or even plan for a day off if possible.

These observations merely brush the surface of why people might hate their job, but it’s a start. Having a plan to help yourself better enjoy your work will reduce your stress level and increase your productivity. It will also make you less dependent on others for personal growth and self-worth. More importantly, developing a system of self-reward is something you can take with you.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, OH. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.