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Pursuing your passion

In Children and Family, Health, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on March 18, 2017 at 9:36 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

I once read that great things are unique and unconventional. I’m certain that’s true and in order to achieve great things we, ourselves, must be equally unique and unconventional. We have to step outside our comfort zones. Or, as is often the case with me, run screaming outside them and be willing to screw up big time and embarrass ourselves in the process. To do any less will mean perpetual mediocrity.

I used to believe that everyone searches for purpose in life. But, what I’ve learned in my nearly half-century on this earth, is that there are people who just don’t care. That’s not meant to sound harsh, I just mean that day-to-day living is, for all practical reasons, their “purpose.”

Still, some can find meaning in the most superficial of accomplishments however self-serving others might see them. Achieving great things means different things to different people, some more superficial than others. But it’s all in how you look at it.

In my experience, finding that sense of self-worth is incredibly difficult and a constant personal journey for me. I have no real answers to how to get there, but I have discovered that the path begins with three steps – locate your passion, apply your talent and help others. Let’s look at the details.

First, “locate your passion.” According to Dictionary.com, the most accurate definition of the word “passion” in this context is, “a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.” Such as, “he has a ‘passion’ for music.”

My friend Jim Karns, and the rest of “The Brothers & Co.” and I find some of our purpose in bringing laughter and music to others.

This is probably the most difficult part of the process because even the very concept is ambiguous. I know it’s always been hard for me to nail it down and then figure out how that fits with work, family responsibilities and goals.

Finding your passion requires a great deal of personal exploration, reflection, and trial and error. The journey to discovering your passion is the search for that one “thing” that makes you forget to eat or go to the bathroom.

Whenever I hear someone talk about “passion,” particularly related to an occupation or job, it usually comes from some crunchy granola-type artist or non-profit worker. I’m not sure I’ve ever found a single, motivating passion in my life. I have several, all of which have equal importance to who I am. I’m still working on it, and it’s very likely to be a continuing effort of weeks, months, or even years.

Second on my list is, “apply your talent.” Here the idea is to take whatever talents you have – natural or learned, yes there are both – and apply that skill and energy to your passion.

For example, let’s say your passion turns out to be writing. You’ll probably first want to decide what kind of writer you want to be. Do you pen Shakespearean drama, or do your talents flow more towards “Fifty Shades of Grey?” What makes you want to write? What kind of writing makes you want to sit down and just let the stories flow onto your computer screen, to the exclusion of everything else? That’s where applying your talent to your passion really comes into play.

Third, and possibly the most rewarding and important of your first steps, is helping others. As you achieve a certain level of awareness and success, it becomes more important for you to share your knowledge and understanding with those less accomplished.

This in no way implies that you have to be an expert or have every aspect of your life’s pursuit nailed down. It just means that you should try to help those who may not be as advanced in their search. Mentoring is one of the most rewarding of experiences to come out of this process.

Mentoring is not the only way to help people while continuing your personal growth. I’ve found that volunteering to work in an organization or for a cause that falls within your passion interest can also be incredibly valuable to both the beneficiaries of the effort and to yourself.

Giving your life more meaning by pursuing a personal passion is not easy and it’s certainly not right for everyone. We only get one life and one future so don’t waste it.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd.  More at gerydeer.com

 

What’s in a label?

In Education, Health, Local News, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on March 18, 2017 at 9:22 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

One things that human beings have in common is an insatiable need to label each other, both individually and by groups. I’m no expert at human evolution or psychology, but I’d guess that categorizing our fellow man must have been a leftover from prehistoric times. Our instinctive ability to size up a potential adversary may have served us well as cave people, but today, those emotions can inadvertently damage our relationships in the civilized world.

For our discussion purposes, the term “label” generally implies a negatively-focused word that’s used to identify someone based on visible stereotypical characteristics, like behavior, clothing, language, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. It’s not a factual assessment but rather an assumption, and it’s nearly always wrong. I’ve never found labels particularly helpful and arrived at from a single action or characteristic.

It gets a little confusing when you think about how to accurately describe someone without bias or negativity. If I were a Muslim, for example, it would be OK to say, “He’s a Muslim,” if you are stating a fact. On the other hand, if it’s stated in a way that has a negative connotation behind it like, “He’s one of those Muslims,” that’s not a fact, it’s a label. It comes with images of terrorism or other undesirable stereotypes.

In fact, trying to find any unoffensive example of labeling was a challenge, but I figured if I use myself as the subject that would be OK, so here it goes. I was raised on a farm in a rural community. Some people have a predetermined “image” of what someone like me should look, act and sound like.

My corn-fed brethren might even be labeled with a term that I find incredibly offensive – redneck. Despite what some might think, it’s just as intolerant to pin a racial slur on a white person as anyone else. It does, indeed, go both ways.

People are people – not labels. (Infographic courtesy of TrustLifeToday.com)

The general assumption is that someone with my background is uneducated, ignorant, with a “hillbilly” accent, bad grammar, less than stellar dental hygiene and who prefers to date within his or her own family. Throw in some right-wing, gun-totin’, Bible-quotin’, racism and that’s pretty much the way the liberal left sees us too.

Absolutely none of this is accurate where I am concerned, nor is it for most people I know. I’m well educated, I have no discernible accent, I’m not racist and, while my grammar isn’t perfect all the time, I’d like to think I’m above average in that area. The point is that the “rural” label is usually so far off as to be laughable. In fact, when people meet me they generally have no clue as to my background. None of this implies anything positive.

All that said, a close friend reminded me recently that labels have a positive side as well. In some cases, when people are vastly different from ourselves, a label can sometimes give us a reference point to understanding.

If you’re like me, a rural-raised American, you may have never met someone from, say inland China. When that opportunity arises, a label might be helpful as a starting point. If I say, “she is Chinese,” you probably already have an idea of what that means in your mind and an image forms based on your past understanding.

This type of labeling can be helpful provided the assessment does not end there and you keep an open mind about the individual. We must be respectful of the fact that we are each far more than the sum of our parts. I’m a farm boy, but a quick Google of my name will tell you there’s nothing “typical” about me. And that’s true for most of the people I know who grew up like I did.

Remember that labels are generally bad, but could have a positive application if people are willing to look beyond the surface and learn about the individual. Categorizing anyone can be incredibly destructive and serve only to perpetuate nonconstructive stereotypes. Give people a chance and learn about them before you slap a tag on their forehead. Our diversity in the world really is our strength. Let’s start behaving that way.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. more at deerinheadlines.com

 

It’s not me, it’s you

In Children and Family, Local News, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on February 7, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAre the people around you accepting of changes you make in your life for the better? In other words, if you altered major factors in your life right now, in positive ways, would your friends and family support and encourage you?

That’s a problem many people face when they realize there are things they’d like to improve about themselves, particularly if they involve major changes in lifestyle, work, or personal relationships.

Let’s face it, when you decide to make a major transformation in your life, the world around you can also change dramatically. Those close to you may have trouble adjusting to your alterations. A good, albeit extreme, example might be when someone quits drinking alcohol.

Alcoholics or even people with a moderate level of alcohol consumption have reported that after they go on the wagon they lose friends and even family contacts because of it. In that situation, it’s most likely because those people also have a problem with drinking and are uncomfortable being around someone who has made the decision to stop.

Sometimes, making a change requires major alterations in lifestyle. You might change your eating to help lose weight or quit smoking or look outside your home area for a job change. All of this can be upsetting or even intimidating to people around you. And whether your closest ties will accept your changes and support you or not can affect your success. Case in point – my choice to create a healthier lifestyle for myself.

Because of childhood health issues, I’ve always felt I wasn’t as strong as I could be. And, with the half-century mark just around the corner for me, I’ve spent the last six or seven months thinking about how to shore up my overall health.

Watching my mother deteriorate from Alzheimer’s disease and my father’s struggle with Parkinson’s and diabetes, and knowing I really can’t do anything to prevent those things entirely, I am still determined to give myself the best shot at the longest, healthiest life possible. So, a few months ago, I started making more dramatic changes in how I eat, handle stress – that is, taking down time – and getting exercise.

Deer In Headlines author, Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines author, Gery L. Deer

I’ve always been a pretty active person, bicycling, general manual work, at home and around our farm, always felt like it was enough to keep me in decent physical shape. I was wrong, but it’s always been hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of “exercising” for no productive purpose. The thing is, I was my own worst critic. This was for a constructive and productive purpose – to help my strength and endurance so I could better handle aging and illness as time goes on. Once I accepted that, I was on my way.

I haven’t talked to family much about it, other than to say that I have started swimming. I’ve adjusted my work and home schedules around it – making all of this a priority because if I don’t, it won’t be successful.

But my close friends are looking at me sometimes like I’ve got three heads. Rarely has anyone seen me dressed in anything but boots, jeans, or business attire. I’ve never been one to sport an athletic wardrobe, yet suddenly, there I am in warm ups and workout shoes. Granted, I’m a bit set in my ways, so their disbelief is as much my fault as theirs.

No one’s been unsupportive, though. In fact, quite the opposite. I’ve felt better than I have in years, and that probably shows just in my activity level. Changes like this can be incredibly obvious and might only affect those around you in that you’re choosing a bowl of mixed raw veggies at the big game party, instead of downing a whole bag of Cheetos.

Also, I’m certainly not suggesting you should be all smug and superior like, “See what I’m doing? You should too.” What’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for them. Earnest Hemingway said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” But if people can’t accept that you want to improve yourself then it’s their issue, not yours.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

 

The invisible side of caregiving.

In Children and Family, finances, Health, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on January 10, 2017 at 9:32 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

12191385_10153464406329342_2088873762632508759_oWhen you think of the term “caregiver,” you might have the image in your head of the dutiful family member looking out for an elderly parent or disabled child. What you see in public or on the surface is someone helping a senior citizen do her shopping or teaching a child with limited mobility to use an iPad. But, it’s the stuff you never see that is really the hard part of the job.

Caring for a family member is not something that comes with many benefits. Actually, there is only one benefit – looking after your loved one. Yes, there are some people who get paid to take care of a family member, but that’s rare and extremely difficult to

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Shower prep for caregivers can be like gearing up for battle. Helping a senior parent with every day personal care can be hard to get used to – for both – but extremely necessary.

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Medicines must be cataloged, dosed, and set into daily dispense containers. Tracking of administration is also necessary to ensure proper care, safety and financial maintenance.

Personal care is one of the hardest parts of caring for a senior parent. Different than helping a child with these issues, an elderly adult has a different perception of self-sufficiency and personal dignity. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for my father that he now needs help just to do something as simple as shaving or taking a shower.

As a Parkinson’s sufferer, Dad can’t hold his hands still enough to shave with a safety razor and we’ve had to go to an electric model. He does his best to try to do it on his own, but his hands can’t apply any pressure to the razor on his face so it misses, well, pretty much everything. So once a week, we do a complete, clean shave starting with a trimmer.

Showers also require some consideration to personal dignity while trying to ensure complete cleanliness. When I help Dad with a shower, it’s like gearing up for battle. It’s tough to get used to, for both of us. But we do our best. I just try to make sure he gets in and out without injury, get him clean and get him dressed. How would you feel if, suddenly, your children had to help you with trimming nails, combing hair, or washing? You have to be aware of your charge’s discomfort while still meeting the needs.

Managing medications is also a challenge for caregivers. I’m actually pretty lucky in our situation because Dad’s meds – for now at least – can be divided into two daily packets. Every Sunday, I refill a daily box dispenser and we have a record book to record every dose administered and by whom.

14192078_10154177027939342_4999691246789055042_nMoney is probably the biggest sore spot for many caregivers as well because we end up having to handle our own homes as well as the finances of our charge. It wasn’t long after my mother became ill that I learned who the money manager of the house was as I grew up.

As is common with many elderly folks, Dad was letting bills go unpaid, utilities were being cut off, debt was mounting and statements lay unopened, piling up on the kitchen table – Never again. My siblings and I took over managing his money and paid off all his major debt so we only have living expenses, medicines and doctor bills to worry about.

The problem is that things won’t stay that way. People don’t understand how little Medicare and its supplements really cover and the expenses continue to mount as a senior’s care grows more complicated because things like Parkinson’s continue to progress.

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Adjusting work to caregiver life is rarely easy, sometimes it is impossible. Many caregivers have to choose one over the other.

Naturally, The U.S. Congress is far too busy voting itself another ridiculous raise and cutting Social Security to bother considering how to better spend money to care for its citizens. After all, it’s “our” money. And there is no outside financial support for caregivers.

So, the bills continue to roll in – co-pays, lift chairs, vaccinations, home care (yes, it’s mostly self-pay), unforeseen changes in the health of the patient and the understanding that with Parkinson’s, diabetes and glaucoma, my father will get worse, even with the best possible care.

Tons of other things come into play too. When you’re a caregiver, you’re often the housekeeper, accountant, chef, chauffeur, nurse, clothes and dishwasher, and much more. The rest of the world doesn’t see the countless hours spent making sure the things like cracker packets and juice bottles are stored in a way he can easily open them with limited mobility.

Over the years, I’ve written many times about my experiences in helping to care for my parents. But people I meet always seem to be shocked how much we have to do that no one ever sees. So, when you see someone out in public dealing with something like this, just remember how hard it is and open a door for them or be patient when they’re sorting groceries for two households at the checkout. We appreciate it.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is available as a podcast at MyGreeneRadio.com.

Hope in a world of tragedy.

In Health, Holiday, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on December 30, 2016 at 10:46 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOHope – A small word that carries a great deal of weight. Hope inspires people, gives them purpose, direction, even courage. For some, hope is all they have to motivate them.

If you look up hope in a dictionary its synonyms include: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, and so on. But I’m not entirely convinced that these are accurate. In my mind, hope is not a simple thought or expectation, but one of the most powerful of all emotions.

Yes, hope is an emotion. It has no medical or biological origin. It is a complete figment of the heart, which can move the mind and body to do incredible things. Unlike other aspirational emotions, I believe that hope requires the additional element of faith.

The type of faith depends strongly on the individual. It could be faith in God or some other supernatural belief. It could be faith in one’s own character and accomplishments. For me, faith in the integrity, loyalty and support of others is what fuels my hope. If hope is to have weight, faith must be unwavering and consistent.

Action is also needed in the equation in order to move you towards your goal. You can’t just sit idly by and dream of something, you must act. You “hope” your child will be accepted to a good school. So you do things to support that hope by helping her along the way providing, music lessons, math camp, whatever supports the end goal.

Hope without action is merely a wish, void of substance or direction. A wish is fine if you’re throwing a penny into a fountain, but hope is usually focused around a mindset of action.

Sometimes, people still have hope for things over which they have no control. A great many people hoped the 2016 U.S. presidential election would have turned out differently.

Others hope the new president will do all of the things he says he will and meet their hopes for America. Either way, it’s all about your perspective – and that’s often the very nature of hope.

In hope, as in life, perspective is everything. Your hopes are dependent upon your life view. You hope for things that will improve or enhance the lives of yourself and those closest to you. Hope also requires time.

Action is rarely instantaneous, so time is required for hope to be a motivator. That’s hard sometimes, particularly if someone is in dire need. When we hope a sick family member will recover, we have to be patient while the treatments are applied.

Also, we generally “hope” for things to turn out for the best. Our anticipation may grow because of hope. Good news about a potential raise or promotion at work can build hope. It’s not often that hope is associated with something negative.

But again, hope is nothing without faith and action. If you are someone who generally sits idly by praying that God or someone else will fix your problem, I’m afraid you’re in for a big disappointment. You have to take steps towards what you want – even if it doesn’t feel you have much control over it.

With so much tragedy in the world – wars, mass shootings, and xenophobic politicians – how can you find hope? If I had the answer to questions like that, the Dalai Lama would have some competition or his job.

The fact is that we should have hope despite tragedy. Keeping our hope alive is what gives purpose to human beings in perilous circumstances. No matter how well off someone might seem to be in position, finances, love, work, whatever, we all have hopes for something.

Hope isn’t as much about answers but more about questions. What do you want out of life? Have you done anything to move towards getting those things? Are you making a plan to get there?

It’s been said that hope is the desire for something with the expectation of getting it. Well, as I’ve pointed out, I don’t believe it’s quite so simple. If it were, hope wouldn’t be such a powerful influence on human existence.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. 

 

Resolving for a better new year.

In Education, Health, Holiday, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on December 22, 2016 at 11:55 pm

img_3313Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

 

 

 

DIH LOGOWell, the holidays are upon us once more and 2016 is nearing an end. It’s safe to say that the past year has certainly been filled with remarkable change. What did 2016 mean to you? Was it an end or a beginning? Did you experience triumph or tragedy?

If you’re like most, it was a mixture of both. Sometimes it’s hard to discern the difference. What some see as catastrophe, others view as a success. It really depends on your perspective. Of course, the New Year is always a good time to make a change for the better in your own life.

But be aware that most statistics show that only around 46 percent of resolutions continue past six months. At the same time, people who set a goal based on a resolution are 10 percent more likely to succeed than those who do not.

However you do it, in order to change your life for the better you have to get up and take the first step. And, sometimes attitude is everything where life changes are concerned.

You have to stay positive, dismiss the naysayers and keep motivated and moving forward. So, whether you start because of a resolution or just because you think now is a good time, your potential success or failure rests largely with your motivation.

Additionally, remember that you can’t force someone else to change either. If they want a different life, they have to take the steps toward that end.

For example, suppose Lisa is dating Mike and she’s having a tough time because he is addicted to role-playing games. Lisa wants to eventually marry Mike, but she cannot handle the gaming.

Lisa believes, however, that she can change him, help him to see the error of his ways. She believes that she can set a resolution to reform him with love – or a rolling pin (just kidding, she doesn’t bake – she actually uses a frying pan).

Mike is never going to change because someone else wants him to do so. If he wants to quit playing he will have to do it for his own reasons. I am certainly no psychologist, but I do know that for any New Year’s resolution to be successful, the desire to change has to come from within.

I may be wrong, but I think the motivation for change at the start of a new year comes from a deep desire in all of us for a fresh start. Most people want to strive for something better, no matter what our situation. Of course, there are still people out there who simply don’t care and are either complacent or resigned.

For some, the new year offers an opportunity to get “it” right – whatever your particular “it” happens to be at the time. In any case, it’s up to you to make those choices and follow through. If you don’t, you have no one to blame but yourself.

You can get things moving by creating a list of the things you want to accomplish in the coming year. For the record, I’d leave out a lottery jackpot and focus on more realistic expectations, like finishing your education or pursuing a career change.

Then figure out what it takes to reach those milestones and make a plan to get there (the “make a plan” part is pretty important). You will likely have a great deal of work to do and, for some at least, a long-term goal may require multiple short-term steps. Be patient, work hard and stay focused.

Incidentally, staying focused may indeed be the biggest challenge you face. The aforementioned plan is vital. Lay it out, be consistent, stick to it one step at a time, rather than trying to do everything all at once, and you can be successful.

A New Year’s resolution can be either a step towards improving your life or it can be a fruitless, frustrating endeavor that causes you stress and worry. It all depends on how committed you are to the kind of change you want in your life. However you do it, the choice rests with you.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Listen to the Deer In Headlines podcast free at MyGreeneRadio.com.

 

There is always another way

In Education, Health, Holiday, Media, Opinion, psychology, Religion, Uncategorized on December 12, 2016 at 8:55 am

By Gery L. Deer
Deer In Headlines

For some people, maybe even among those close to you, every day can be an emotional struggle. The problem might be not enough money or too little work. Still, others struggle with personal demons, addictions, mental illness, or family difficulties. The list is endless and, often, there is no way out for those fighting such overwhelming internal battles.

edouard_manet_-_le_suicideWhen life becomes too difficult to manage anymore and the odds seem totally stacked against them, some simply choose not to go on. According to the most recent statistics, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, averaging 117 per day. Those are staggering numbers.

Much of the time, a suicide attempt is a plea for help. The sufferer will talk about it, threaten it; even make the attempt. But when someone really wants out, there is rarely a warning or long, dramatic leader – they just do it.

By then, it’s too late to help. Sometimes it’s up to the rest of us to try to recognize and help the individual before it gets that far. Sadly, that doesn’t always work. You can’t help someone who is unwilling, or if there is mental illness or other medical issues in play, the sufferer may not even realize it.

Life can be daunting for someone dealing with these kinds of struggles especially when trying to meet the expectations of others, exhibit self-expression without judgment, or just deal with outside criticism. All of that can really knock joy out of even the happiest of everyday activity. Usually, there is a clinical reason for all of this, whether it’s ever treated or not.

Let me be clear, I’m no psychologist or counselor so I’m speaking generally and colloquially about all of this. But suicide has touched my life on more than one occasion.

I know that for those struggling with severe depression or suicidal thoughts, the world must seem a really dark and unforgiving place. It doesn’t help to lob useless platitudes at someone like that either; it’s neither helpful nor productive.

And the reality of someone considering suicide is not obvious or cliché like it is on some Lifetime TV movie. Someone struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts may not look “sad” or anxious in any way to an observer. People who have to deal with this kind of roller coaster of emotion can learn to hide it pretty well.

Also, expecting or nagging someone to just “snap out of it” is not only impossible it can actually make matters worse. When you do that you may be reinforcing the idea that there’s something wrong with the person, that they’re not “normal.” A caring, nonjudgmental ear can go a long way easing some of the emotional pain.

The truth is, depression and other similar issues are, in fact, perfectly normal. It’s the level and cause of the issue that changes the effectiveness of treatment. But every treatment is dependent on the individual seeking out help – and that can be tough. But suicide is not inevitable. Opening the conversation is a start.

If you’re reading this and know someone who might be dealing with these kinds of issues, there is help available. If that person is you, I have a personal plea – please don’t give up. Think of the people you love and who love you and what you mean to them and what losing you will mean. We all have a much bigger effect on those around us than we realize.

Confide in someone close to you. If there is no one then call a local hotline or visit a nearby support group. You can usually stay anonymous and people can help direct you to where you can get long-term assistance.

If you’re in need of support right now, please don’t give up! If you have no one else or can’t talk to those close to you, then call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and confidential.

It might not seem like it, but there is plenty to live for, just take the first step, ask for help, and give it a chance. You have no idea what it will mean to those around you. There is always another way.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communication, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com.

Tech’s next logical step

In Business, Economy, Entertainment, Local News, Opinion, psychology, Science, Technology on September 15, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAs Apple releases details on the next iPhone (number 7), some changes in the product have met with mixed reviews. The main point of contention is Apple’s decision to do away with the headphone jack, partly in an effort to waterproof the device, a fault that users have complained about for years. But another obvious reason was to force consumers to purchase expensive Bluetooth, wireless ear buds.

Whatever the purpose, major changes in technology have always given pause. As consumers, we hate change. We like what we like and it needs to remain as we remember it. The white, wired headphones have been a symbol of the Apple device culture since the iPod burst on the scene in 2001.

A natural progression from the success Sony experienced in the 1980s with the Walkman, the iPod kept Apple from bankruptcy and ushered in a new era of personal technology. The times change and technology changes with it.

Just to make the point, let’s not forget that earlier this year, the last VCR rolled off the assembly line and into the history books.

Technological innovation is driven by a host of influencers, from government research to the demands of the consumer. A company like Apple has great pressure on it to be innovative but can’t always hit the mark. The Apple Watch is a good example of this kind of fluid change in consumer following.

When it debuted, the wearable tech was going to revolutionize how we use smart phones, monitor our health and more. But even now, it has underperformed in almost every way, especially in sales. Either the public wasn’t ready for it, or the device wasn’t robust enough for the consumer.

Of course, Apple has tried to respond to complaints regarding the watch, issuing updates and several changes to the next model, but it may be too little too late. Or, it’s entirely possible, the gadget just isn’t going to fly, and that happens sometimes.

vm700_manualIn the 80s, the Commodore 64 and the Apple II were the pinnacle of home technology, offering games, word processing and the first glimpses into what we now know as social media. Today, a smarter phone and thinner tablet seem to be the highest demand consumer technology, with better Internet connection and more apps being the selling points.

So where are things headed next? That’s a good question and every major tech company in the world would pay big bucks to whoever could tell them. But, barring a psychic hotline with a beam into the future of the next iPhone or Kindle Fire, it’s a coin toss.

While innovation is the goal, the consumer is a fickle mistress. Developers always proceed with a best guess combination of “this is what would be great tech,” “since they like this, they should like that,” and “let’s just build it and see what happens.” There’s really no way to tell.

During my days in tech, I worked in the programming side, watching companies like CompuServe and AOL amass the fortunes of Midas and then sliding down the hill of obsolescence in a relatively short period of time. But, here’s my educated guess, in case you’re wondering.

Television is still king of advertising and, to capitalize more on that, it will become more mobile soon as well, allowing you to watch live TV over your cell phone with a digital receiver transmitted via your wireless carrier. Wireless cellular companies are going to have to step up their game, in both speed and bandwidth.

I work with a lot of Apple products in my career, but I think that the iPhone is about to be dethroned as the hippest, coolest thing on the market. Partly because the iPhone 7 really has no major innovations and the cost seems to keep going up. That said, every device manufacturer must stay ahead of the game with better operating systems and app availability.

My forecasts here could be totally off the mark. But, whatever happens, it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep up with the times. There are endless possibilities, but you need to have patience and be open-minded about change.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com.

Watch for the new Podcast version of DEER IN HEADLINES coming soon on mygreeneradio.com!

Media doesn’t control anyone

In Economy, Education, finances, Media, News Media, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Technology, Uncategorized on August 4, 2016 at 10:01 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOIf you do a Google search for, “how the media controls what we think,”you’ll find dozens of articles, videos and feature stories on the subject. Each claims that news programs, TV commercials and even movies are so powerful they can actually control your mind.

To say that I find fault in these kinds of reports would be an understatement, but what exactly are they talking about? Let’s briefly examine these as separate concepts. First, there’s the advertiser. How is it that advertisers create commercials that convince people to buy things they didn’t even want in the first place?

Well there are countless components to creating an effective advertisement, but the primary way to get customers to buy is through media saturation. This is where you see and hear an ad for a product or service over and over again, on every medium – radio, TV, online, everywhere. Eventually, the message is so engrained into your mind you can’t help but remember it.

If you’re a commercial radio and television consumer, the best example of this kind of advertising is from auto dealers. Car dealerships flood the media with the same, nauseating advertisements, chock full of shouting announcers or gimmicky slogans.

Actually, when advertisers saturate the airwaves like this, the ads don’t event have to be particularly good, just slightly memorable with the name and product repeated over and over again. It’s the frequency that causes you to remember them.

There is no question that the media gets in our heads. Today we are so connected by the Internet and on every manner of device that some people struggle to be away from the constant flow of information even for a brief period of time. All of this has led to the idea of what is sometimes called “media mind control.”

You're probably far more likely to be "brainwashed" by a company like Apple that convinces you how "cool" something is and play on your own vanity. You're still making the choice.

You’re probably far more likely to be “brainwashed” by a company like Apple that convinces you how “cool” something is and plays on your own vanity. You’re still making the choice.

But, in my opinion, as a working part of the media in question, all of this is nonsense… sort of. If you really believe an ad can “make” you buy something or that the news can force you to vote for a particular candidate for office, then that’s pretty sad. Where is your own free will? Why follow the lemmings?

Media can “influence” the decision making process by presenting information tooled towards a certain message or ideology. But the decision to buy into any of that is all on you. The people writing the mind control articles I mentioned earlier have forgotten one, basic idea – we all have a freedom of choice and will.

Even though it might not seem like it sometimes, people choose what they’re going to believe. Advertisers and politicians are hoping you don’t exercise that free thought component of your brain and just follow blindly where their media leads.

Yes, they will play your heartstrings like a cheap fiddle and go at your sense of need and desire until you feel like you can’t live without … whatever they’re selling. But if you are so brain dead that you actually fall for their nonsense, then that’s your fault, not theirs.

We must stop blaming the media for everything and take some personal responsibility for our own bad judgment. News outlets reporting on a shooting did not cause the next mass murder, the guy on the trigger chose his actions. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton didn’t “manipulate” anyone into following them, the choice was made by each individual. Period. Any other conclusion is a bit delusional and conspiracy-minded.

Again, influence is the key word here. You can be influenced easily enough, but full on “manipulation” by the media, or anything else, is based on a level of control that we, as individuals, have to give up in order to be affected by it. If you choose to hand over your independent thought and free will then the problem rests with you, not the media you consume.

This, no doubt, will be an unpopular statement considering the “my bad behavior is someone else’s fault” society we live in today. But it’s true, nonetheless. Without threat of harm or other level of duress from an outside source, the only person who can make you do anything – is you.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com

The positivity of laughter

In Children and Family, Entertainment, Local News, Media, Music, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on July 26, 2016 at 9:28 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGORecently the entertainment industry lost a legend in television comedy, Gary Marshall, who gave us hours of laughs with “Happy Days,” “Mork & Mindy,” and many other shows. I often wonder how someone can be so innately funny and creative and how that helps them cope with life’s down sides.

In plain black and white, a “sense of humor” is nothing more than one’s ability to perceive and appreciate humor. Some aspects of humor, however, don’t resonate with everyone. While a spit-take, for example, might be hilarious to one person, another (some would say with a more ‘refined’ sense of humor) individual would find it vulgar. As with beauty, humor is in the eye of the beholder.

To me, mimes and clowns aren’t funny at all. Actually, I find both kind of creepy. But then, I have one of those senses of humor that is all over the place. I’m never certain what’s going to tickle my funny bone.

My friend Jim Karns can make me laugh just by walking into a room, a fact I hope he’s never taken negatively. Jim and I started working together on stage in the late 1990s and he joined my family variety show, The Brothers & Co., in 2004. It’s part of our shared role to create comedy routines for the show, but they generally originate from an accidental punch line or a word that cracked us up.

We’ve known each other for more than two decades and we’re very different people. But our sense of humor aligns us to a level of craziness sometimes only we understand. Sometimes, all it takes is a word or phrase to set us off. Case in point – the casaba melon.

THIS is a casaba melon. Not all that funny by itself.

THIS is a casaba melon. Not all that funny by itself.

What’s so funny about a casaba melon? I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen one. All I know is that one evening at a rehearsal, one of us responded to a random question by saying, “… because casaba melons are out of season,” and that was it. Our sides were splitting the rest of the evening.

No, it’s not that funny by itself. But, to us, it was hysterical. Sometimes it hits so hard, I can’t breathe or, no kidding, I actually fall out of my chair laughing.

Not everyone loses it that way and I have only one theory as to why it happens to us in that fashion. William Shakespeare said that all the world is a stage and, clearly, life is a mixture of tragedy and comedy, as life is imitated in art.

We all experience our share of tragedy. For Jim and I, we share the common experiences of the long term caring for and loss of our mothers to early disease, painful divorce, and similar job stresses.

To us however, and the rest of my Brothers & Co. family, I think, humor relieves that stress in a positive way that benefits more than just us. Our audiences benefit from what comes out of it and finds its way into our show.

We are not drinkers or gamblers, nor do we spend money on elaborate vacations to unwind from life’s stressors. Instead, a laugh is our elixir, our tonic and our escape. When my brother became ill a year ago, and the outlook was grim, we laughed our way through it, regardless of what the result was going to be.

Thankfully, he recovered, and is, for the most part, his smiling self again. This is in no small part thanks to our resistance to the darkness that could have taken over our hearts and minds without our sense of humor.

Gery Deer & Jim Karns in Whips & Wands ...

Gery Deer & Jim Karns in Whips & Wands …

All of this begs the question: does a strong and natural sense of humor also imply an unusually high level of optimism? I’m not a psychologist but I’d have to guess there is something to that suggestion. I’m not always optimistic, but it’s tough to get me to buy into the negative.
Even though most people overestimate their sense of humor, who cares? Isn’t that up to you? If you think you’re funny, the only time it matters whether anyone else does is if you’re planning to become a comedian. Otherwise, laugh at whatever you want. But watch out for those casaba melons.

Gery L. Deer is an independent casaba melon thrower. Deer In Headlines is usually full of it, so why are you reading this? More at deerinheadlines.com