I’m a recovering people pleaser in both work and life. For most of my life, I put other peoples’ feelings ahead of my own – always thinking it was the right thing to do. Putting my needs and desires first seemed selfish, so I avoided doing that for decades. But people pleasing is mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausting and unhealthy, I eventually learned, and breaking that pattern doesn’t make you selfish. In fact, it’s empowering and healthy. That revelation was a game-changer for me.
I discovered a constructive way to please people in my career as a journalist and ghostwriter, using my skills and experience in a way that adds clarity and power to their messages and thought leadership, as well as captures their passion.
Let me explain the former first: Sometimes when I’m interviewing someone for a business-to-business (B2B) trade magazine article, there’s often an understandable fear that arises about not sounding very articulate about the topic being discussed once their views appear in print. To reassure these subject matter experts that they have nothing to worry about, I’ll usually quip, “that’s why they pay me the big bucks. I’ll make you look like the smartest guy (or gal) in the room!” It always elicits a chuckle.
But there’s a larger point worth addressing in more detail. As a recovering people-pleaser from the tender age of about 5, I sincerely like to help make people look good – which brings me to the latter point mentioned in the previous paragraph. It’s why I’ve been deepening my footprint in ghostwriting.
Soon after deciding to bail out of the corporate world and become self-employed, I started with just one client and eventually added more than 130 others to the mix since 2000. A fair share of them have been individuals for whom I ghostwrote commentaries, paid advertisements known as “advertorials” and whitepapers that would be published in B2B trade magazines. Others included those who wanted blogs or website content.
One of my first clients was a seasoned health care strategist with whom I have developed a deep friendship. Les Meyer and I shared Thanksgiving dinner in the Rocky Mountains where he was living in 2006, while on several occasions in the early 2000s he stayed in the guestroom at my home in Los Angeles when passing through town on business. And that’s just the beginning. He later met one of my sisters and both of my parents during the time he lived in Florida, becoming an honorary Son No. 2 in the hearts and minds of my beloved mother and father whom he befriended and visited when he could.
I also developed a soulful connection with another early client when we embarked on a series of articles that peeled back the curtain on fiduciary responsibilities involving the administration and management of 401(k) plans. His need for my expertise has trickled through the proverbial revolving door since that time during which we have maintained a deep respect and admiration for one another.
There have been countless others that have turned to my ghostwriting expertise, including a handful of individuals during the pandemic who needed my help on a number of disparate projects. They included everything from crafting a compelling argument for acceptance into a medical residency program and articulating a tech startup’s vision for disruption to a college-admissions consultant dreaming of self-publishing a book that would help high school seniors be admitted to an Ivy league university.
Each of these client engagements have proven to be deeply satisfying. I thoroughly enjoy helping people articulate their vision, sound like a professional writer, land clients and ultimately grow their business. Best of all for me, such experiences have enabled me to channel a strong desire to please people in a constructive and profitable way that’s not exhausting and will not cause me harm.
So if you’d like a helping hand getting your message across because you lack the time or writing expertise, please feel free to get in touch. That will please me more than you can know, and you’ll be doing both of us a favor!
Communication is key to success in work and life. Our words matter more than we’ll ever know. Think of all the emotionally charged conversations you’ve had with friends or family that went off the rails because of miscommunication or misunderstanding.
It’s no different in the workplace, which is why I strongly believe that every business owner, self-employed individual or person involved in sales should have a handy document that they can share with a prospective customer explaining what makes them unique and worthy of earning new business.
Much to my amazement, however, I have learned that most of us haven’t taken this important step forward. We tend to be complacent, fearful of coming across as boastful or arrogant, or simply don’t make this a top priority.
How do I know this? It started in 2020 when the pandemic blew a gaping hole in my career as a journalist and short-form ghostwriter, and I decided to revisit a happy accident from a decade prior: ghostwriting books. So I launched a campaign on LinkedIn with the help of Bjarne Viken, an outstanding lead specialist in Australia who helped me find clients for whom a ghostwriter was needed to organize and articulate whatever narrative they had in mind for a published book.
As part of the dozens of conversations I had with prospects, there was always a “down-selling” option on the table for those who were reluctant to make a commitment of this magnitude or didn’t quite have the budget for it.
In a nutshell, I would help them make a compelling case for why they should be hired – a “manifesto” about their unique skillset and knowledge, if you will. Manifesto you say? That has become a loaded word since the “Unabomber Manifesto,” 1995 anti-technology essay by Ted Kaczynski who is serving eight consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for horrific acts of home-grown terrorism. But you’d be surprised how that word – and my Unabomber reference – really got people’s attention. I also found that it added some levity and humanized the service I was offering.
And in the end, that’s exactly the point I was trying to convey – to pique interest and stand out from the crowd in a competitive climate. We all possess certain traits or strengths that make us unique and highly marketable.
The goal is to distinguish ourselves in a free market wherein the competition may be intense, but also to as I just suggested, humanize ourselves to people with whom may enjoy a fruitful business partnership. Being able to email a one or two-page PDF or Word document much like a brochure featuring a photo along with an expertly written narrative that summarizes our capabilities will offer a meaningful taste of what we could bring to the table. As a ghostwriter, my aim is to always produce a compelling deliverable that someone can be proud of when trying to grow their business.
A week before Halloween, I walked into an acupuncturist’s office as a last-ditch effort to treat terrible hay fever I’ve had since my early teenage years. One of my two sisters had suggested this remedy about a year ago, and I finally decided to explore that option.
Prior to the visit, I had tried everything – from 36 years of allergy shots to multiple prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. My symptoms were largely kept at bay, though they never totally disappeared. Then I noticed that they worsened in recent years, right around the time I learned that climate change was exacerbating life for allergy sufferers like myself as well as people with asthma. That felt like an existential threat, but I soldiered on – until my tolerance for multiple sneezing fits, a runny nose, watery eyes and the occasional tickle in my throat ran thin.
As with many health care providers, I had to fill out reams of paperwork prior to my first visit, which thankfully was made affordable from a partnership that my insurance carrier, Kaiser Permanente, had with an alternative medicine boutique provider. I was asked to list and prioritize my top five health problems, which were hay fever/allergies, insomnia, gas/bloating, leg cramps and anxiety. I also was asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 as many as 200 different health conditions or problems so that the acupuncturist, who also specialized in naturopathic medicine, could get a better sense of my challenges and objectives.
During that first appointment, I was told that it could take up to two hours and that most of the time would be devoted to discussing my overall health, as well as what I would like to change about it. Only the final 20 minutes or so would involve the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture. It was a bit surprising to me since my initial expectation was that needles would be stuck into certain parts of my body, and voila, I would be cured of my allergy symptoms.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. I was told that acupuncture merely helps manage those symptoms or makes them more bearable, while the real work involved taking various dietary supplements and changing the types of foods I ate and beverages I drank. That last part threw me for a loop. I had no idea there was a connection between what I put into my body and my terrible allergy symptoms because I had no food allergies, or at least I was unaware of any.
By the end of our first session, which included muscle tests that were done on me laying down on a massage table, I was told that the hunch my acupuncturist-naturopath initially had during our first chat on the phone proved to be correct. The diagnosis was a fatty liver from my lifelong addiction to sugar and carbs, which you’d never know from looking at my skinny body type.
There’s even a name for it: “nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,” which according to the Mayo Clinic describes “a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol” (guilty as charged), and as the name implies, too much fat is stored in liver cells for that organ to properly work. It undermines the liver’s ability to cleanse the blood of toxins, and in my case, the use of antihistamines can actually increase the progression of this disease.
The phenomenon has become increasingly common everywhere, especially in Western nations like the U.S. where the Mayo Clinic notes that it’s “the most common form of chronic liver disease, affecting about one-quarter of the population.” Why so? Our growing obsession with sugar and carbohydrates, which cause a surge of dopamine that fool our brains into thinking these pleasant tastes are to be repeatedly enjoyed and not feared.
Now here’s the rub: most of us would never think of giving up foods or beverages that bring us so much joy, while many just don’t have the discipline to do this. I counted myself among both groups when this was explained to me during that first visit. The psychological part – a day of reckoning, if you will – was the hardest. But I really wanted to eliminate these health issues that I listed as annoyances, so I made the commitment to change the way I ate for nearly 62 years. It wasn’t easy, but after white-knuckling through the cravings for a week or so, I was stunned to learn that I actually could do this.
I was told that allergy pills are just a Band-Aid, whereas the use of acupuncture in conjunction with naturopathic medicine and a meaningful change in diet can substantially reduce and even eliminate my pesky allergic reactions. And I had homework: go to the local bookstore and buy “It Starts With Food,” which I found not only informative, but also surprisingly enjoyable and even funny in parts.
More than two months later, I have seen incredible changes. My allergy symptoms have dissipated, and while not entirely gone because I’m still moving from the detoxification to repair stage (maintenance is the third and final chapter for all patients of acupuncture and naturopathic medicine), I’m filled with great hope that I may actually have entire days pass without any sneezing.
What’s also pleasantly surprising is that my lifelong insomnia started to crumble just weeks into the new regimen. I’m sleeping deeper and more soundly than ever, and while I still wake up a few times each night, the bathroom trips were cut in half, and I’m dreaming of a time when I’ll sleep through the night without any of those annoying interruptions. As for gas and bloating, they’re pretty much gone, and my leg cramps are disappearing. The anxiety isn’t as bad, but learning new techniques such as the benefits of a cool or cold shower to strengthen the nervous system will eventually have an impact.
Given these promising early results, I want to shout all of this from the rooftop, which is one strong motivation for this blog. But not everyone will want to listen or take that advice. For me, though, it feels like a new beginning – one that’s strongly motivated by a desire to live long enough for my kids to make me a grandfather and cherish every second of this gift of life.
It’s impossible to leave the house these days without staffing shortages affecting our daily lives. There have been countless examples in my own life. Two that happened one after the other immediately comes to mind:
I arrived for a routine teeth cleaning at a dental office that was apparently so short-handed that no one even bothered to record that morning appointment onto their computer system. So they had to turn me away. There also was no hygienist in the building that day, so I couldn’t be treated if a chair became available. Furious, I asked that the office manager call me when she got out of a meeting. It never happened.
On my way home, I decided to indulge in a scrumptious turkey sub from Which Wich (see accompanying photo). The store had two noteworthy signs that (ahem) are actually signs of the time: one advertising for help and the other apologizing for any inconvenience because of a staffing shortage that week.
Similar incidents recently occurred when one night, much to my chagrin, our local Panda Express closed its dining room area, which meant I had to queue up behind about 10 cars in the drive-through, which took forever to order, pay and be served. Same thing happened at a local Starbucks one weekend when a meandering line in the drive-through lane seriously eroded my morning plans.
There are many more examples: I was floored, for instance, to learn that our local school district is shorthanded 50 bus drivers, which meant that certain group activities would be curtailed. And when our family attended a minor league baseball game, concession stand lines were ten to 15 people deep. My favorite takeout window wasn’t even opened that night because, I was told, the college kids returned to school and there weren’t enough replacements available.
One other incident involved an email I received from my daughter’s gymnastics academy, which read: “As you all are aware, the hiring market is rough right now for employers. You are probably feeling this in all areas of your life, and we at (redacted to preserve their privacy) are feeling it too.
“We have been actively recruiting and hiring nonstop since we reopened fully in 2021, and have not yet caught up to where we would like to be. In addition to that, many of our staff members have reached a point in their lives where they have finished school and are now looking to transition into jobs within their fields. While we have worked very hard to anticipate hiring needs and fill them preemptively, we just are not receiving many applicants right now.”
The letter goes on to say the school may need to adjust its business hours without notice, have fewer staff members at the front desk and may need to combine or close classes.
What the heck is going on here?!
I know we’re all frustrated, but for me, it’s a phenomenon I’ve seen unfold for a year and a half because I write about the workplace for a living. A college professor coined it the Great Resignation. It’s the employee equivalent of the scene in the 1976 film “Network” when Peter Finch’s character shouts out his apartment window: “I’m MAD AS HELL, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
While the trend has also spilled into the C-Suite and can be felt pretty much across the economy, according to research, it has bubbled up on the lowest rungs of the corporate ladder where there’s a serious revolt against low pay and bad hours. We’re seeing this mostly play out in the retail and hospitality sector, as well as trucking and warehouses. Can an American revolution of the proletariat in which the working class overthrows bourgeoisie elites as we saw with the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917 be far behind? That’s a topic for another day. But what’s clear to me is that pandemic lockdowns and restrictions really made people pause and take stock in their lives as never before, and many of us decided to make some long-overdue changes.
Where all this ends up is anyone’s guess. This is hands down the strangest economy in my lifetime. On one side we have inflation worries and recession fears, but on the other there’s record low unemployment and job openings.
Employers are pulling out all the stops to recruit and retain workers. I saw signs for a $1,000 bonus for a short-order cook at a restaurant chain around the corner from where we live and a $10,000 signing bonus for a manager at a local Panda Express. Many companies also are finally coming around to heavily promoting or offering mental health benefits and financial wellness programs. Yet we still see Help Wanted signs in virtually every store or office window, and we’re all experiencing customer service that’s stretched as thin as it has ever been.
Let’s hope that whatever is in store for us post-pandemic will be better than the hand we’ve been dealt now.
As a proud American and veteran journalist, I deplore censorship and cancel culture, both of which seek to muzzle what some or most would consider provocative speech and, in my belief, undermine a free press that Americans take for granted.
In other parts of the world, our home-grown reactions of outrage would translate into horrific scenarios where punishment never fits the so-called crime of dissent. Enough of my fellow journalists and authors have found through the years that being a First Amendment crusader will land them in jail or a body bag. Case in point: Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian dissident and columnist for The Washington Post who was brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. And look at what just happened to Salman Rushdie, who survived a knife attack decades after the Iranian government made him a marked man.
I think it’s downright un-American to demonize people for expressing an opinion that’s different from yours or banish them for transgressions stemming from a slip of the tongue or outdated beliefs from years ago that now seem tone deaf. We all have a right to grow, evolve as individuals, and apologize for words that hurt or offend others but also defend our new positions. Beyond that, our culture celebrates second chances and so does organized religion. No one should be silenced along their own path to salvation.
Having said all that, I recently encountered a very uncomfortable situation where my diehard belief in freedom of expression clashed with the ugliness of hate speech. I was all set to interview someone with whom I disagreed about an issue that has divided some communities in the rural Western U.S. In my humble opinion, the subject that was about to be discussed cast a spotlight on fringe thinkers who are deeply suspicious of the federal government’s authority and believe they’re above the law.
For some journalists, that may have been enough to not consider giving someone a platform or forum to espouse nonsensical beliefs that disregard the rule of law. But for me, I relished the chance to have a spirited debate – that is, until one of my colleagues said he would actually quit if we went ahead with the planned interview, accusing the subject of perpetuating hate speech. This obviously grabbed my attention.
At first, I thought he was simply walking into wokeness, which didn’t sit well with me. Not exactly, as it turned out, which got me thinking about how the difference between freedom of expression and hate speech can be a fine line. He emailed me links to several articles that revealed more than meets the eye about the subject of my interview, who was celebrated as an American patriot in a new book about his life. I was supposed to chat with the author of that book.
The initial links that were provided didn’t reveal what I’d consider any deal-breaking material, and I easily could have gone through with the interview. But I was curious to know more. So I did additional research and much to my horror discovered abhorrent, bigoted comments that to me disqualified this individual from ever being considered a hero, much less viewed in a positive light. I kept reading and noticed other shocking statements made by his son about my own heritage, convincing me that hate no doubt was passed along to the next generation in that family.
This made me terribly uneasy because I had never faced this moral dilemma before in a career spanning nearly 40 years, the lion’s share of it in trade journalism, which is light years removed from muckraking or exposés. On the one hand, it felt like I had betrayed my beloved profession, hardline stance against censorship and commitment to the exchange of free ideas in the open marketplace of a free press. But I also was sickened to read such hateful views.
Freedom of expression and hate speech can be separated by a fine line considering how subjective they can be. One man’s opinion may be another man’s bane of existence. Case in point: Dave Chappelle’s recent Netflix specials, which the trans community has seriously decried and attempted to cancel from our culture. To his supporters, it’s actually a love letter to a transgender individual who the comedian befriended and respected.
I learned right from wrong at an early age and grip that moral compass closely to this day. Did I want to be complicit in convincing viewers who might have been on the fence about the subject of my planned interview that he deserved to be called a patriot? Did I want to be on the wrong side of history? Not a chance. So I cancelled the interview, informed my colleagues and moved on from this uncomfortable episode. The author I was supposed to chat with then lamented the sorry state of journalism upon being informed of our decision. I wished him well.
Some choices in life aren’t exactly easy ones to make and require careful ethical considerations, especially when you’re in a business that must balance the need to inform with prudence. Perhaps the biggest lesson of all is a realization that with freedom comes great responsibility, which makes folks like me better stewards of information.
More than two years into the worst pandemic in more than a century, it will become a blip on the radar of history. But harrowing stories about its punishing path of death and destruction will linger for years.
More than six million people worldwide have reportedly died from COVID-19, which is roughly the number of European Jews killed during the Holocaust and slightly more than the prisoners of war, Romany, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and other victims that Nazi Germany targeted. That’s an astonishing statistic and the official death toll, but the World Health Organization is now suggesting that the true number could be closer to nearly 15 million.
While suicides dipped slightly in the U.S. and are much harder to measure worldwide, global life expectancy actually declined by about two years. Once again, that’s a shocking stat to fathom. A spike in drug overdoses also has been reported.
Then there’s compelling anecdotal evidence to consider. Isolation and loneliness from lockdowns, masking, social distancing and other lifestyle changes that were thrust upon everyone also fueled mental health and substance abuse problems, as well as violence and crime. We all have a story to tell, know someone who does or have read about strangers struggling.
Just this week, the sudden death of country singer and actress Naomi Judd became a cautionary tale about the need for psychological treatment and support. When initially reported, the cause of death her daughters Wynonna and Ashley gave was mental illness, then the following day it was revealed that she committed suicide. What’s particularly painful about her passing is that she was brutally honest about her struggle with mental illness in her autobiography and interviews. Ultimately, she lost a sense of hope that she held onto so tightly since seeking treatment.
The fact is that millions of people have gone untreated when it comes to their mental health largely for two reasons. One is the stigma that’s still associated with seeking help for anxiety, depression, PTSD and other diagnoses, while the other is a lack of financial wherewithal. These trendlines have been around for years, though it took a pandemic to spotlight the need to make mental health treatment a top priority.
We’ve all seen friends, family members, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers suffer, especially during the past two-plus years. Being forced to work or attend school from home took its toll, and now we’re left with mounting mental health and substance abuse crises. Most 12-step meetings have move online from in-person settings where they’re sorely needed. And many people weren’t able to say goodbye to loved ones who were dying in hospitals where concerns about infection ran highest, or visit assisted-living facilities housing vulnerable populations. Those who are immunocompromised felt the isolation worse than anyone.
It has been a bleak two-plus years, but there are silver linings from this pandemic that we can all take with us for years to come. The aforementioned wakeup call about a worsening mental health and substance abuse crises and need for more empathy is one of them. Thankfully, the forced ascension of telemedicine has made treatment of both physical and mental ailments not only more convenient, but also cheaper. This method also strengthens the protection of patient privacy.
Other positive developments include the corporate wakeup call about the need for more flexible work schedules. We’ve seen a number of trends from the nomadic work movement and growing gig economy to remote and hybrid arrangements, as well as compressed workweeks and a stronger push for paid time off.
There’s also the curbside-pickup option at grocery stores, restaurants, sporting goods, hardware and other businesses that likely will be around as a permanent fixture. And between video conference calling, smartphones and social media, it has never been easier to stay in touch with friends, family or colleagues from afar. So we can only hope that these bright spots continue to help lighten our respective loads, bring us closer together and help us prepare for whatever is lurking around the corner.
Early on in the pandemic, I was horrified like everyone else to learn of COVID-19’s unusual symptoms – from shortness of breath and the need for a ventilator to loss of taste and smell, as well as high-grade fevers, crippling body aches and weird dreams.
Even worse, people all over the world were dying from this airborne virus on a daily basis. The numbers quickly added up to more than 930,000 deaths in the U.S. and 5.8 million worldwide, which continues to shock me.
We’ve all also heard about the effects of “long” COVID and COVID “fog.” It’s now easy to understand the malaise and mental health crisis that took hold. Calls for empathy in such frightening, surreal and divisive times aren’t always heeded in a nation and world where this invisible force significantly altered the way we work and live.
Nearly two years later – fully vaccinated and boosted, along with my family members – I was starting to think that the virus might never enter our home. But the Omicron variant was spreading like wildfire when it first struck my 11-year-old daughter, whose mild cough gave way to a low-grade fever that climbed to 102 the next day. One by one we all got PCR tests, then home tests to confirm those results. My 12-year-old son was next, sent home from school with a positive result but no symptoms that ever surfaced, followed by my 22-year-old step-daughter who was visiting us for three weeks and just had the sniffles and some fatigue.
Although I began feeling a sinus headache and intense pressure on the back of my head, along with excruciating low back pain for a week from the time my youngest first displayed symptoms, I continued to test negative. But I just didn’t feel right. Then came flu-like body aches and fatigue, which led to a positive test result a few days later and gave way to a head cold. This all went on inside my body for 17 days – a veritable greatest hits of symptoms – and then just like that, COVID came and went.
I was grateful to know my symptoms, although an annoyance for longer than I would have liked, were manageable – especially for my kiddos. The only logical conclusion is that the vaccine, while not 100% effective, made our illnesses mild.
There continues to be a lot of disagreement about COVID-19, but one thing we can all agree on is an eagerness to leave behind this awful chapter and return to a sense of normalcy. With each mutation of the virus, we’re gradually transitioning from a pandemic to an endemic with herd immunity and will have cause for celebration once this is officially acknowledged.
Thankfully, the pandemic has produced some silver linings – from renewed appreciation for facetime with family and friends to the realization that many of us can work more flexible schedules. The efficiency of virtual gatherings – from business meetings to telemedicine calls – also has been hugely beneficial. We can all only hope that post-pandemic life will be sweeter and more thoughtful than ever before, but ultimately it’s up to all of us to turn that dream into a reality.
As a self-employed small business owner, I marvel at how easy and inexpensive it is to sign up for coverage on Healthcare.gov. This is one of the few bright spots of pandemic living. But as someone who has written about health insurance for 34 years, I wonder about the longer term prospect of finding affordable health insurance.
My monthly premium has plummeted and is shockingly next to nothing since the floodgates opened on federal government subsidies in 2021. Household income in all 50 states must be between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level to qualify for a premium tax credit that can lower the cost of insurance. I just didn’t realize how low that magic number would go for me, which will come in mighty handy when it comes to paying other bills.
Plenty of my fellow Americans are likely experiencing the same pleasant surprise. More than 14 million Americans signed up for health insurance during the 2022 enrollment period. That’s a record number under the Affordable Care Act. What’s astonishing is that the number of U.S. residents without health insurance plummeted to about 28 million in 2020 from nearly 48 million in 2010 when the ACA became a landmark, albeit controversial, law.
The beauty of affordable health insurance is that it helps combat a reluctance to ration, defer or avoid medical care because of financial concerns. And as I suggested, it also helps free up money for other household expenses.
On top of that, expanding access to health care will result in better outcomes, which is hugely important considering how unhealthy Americans are – with about two-thirds of the country being overweight.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Those who are obese are at a higher risk for developing diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. They’re also more prone to having a heart attack or stroke. Another layer worth mentioning is our growing dependence on prescription drugs and addiction to opioids. Given this perfect storm of poor or questionable health, it’s not surprising that we spend nearly 20% of our gross domestic product on health care.
This is why I’m so concerned about what happens in years to come. While generous subsidies are a welcome change for so many of us, the strategy may prove to be nothing more than a collective Band-Aid over serious wounds. Put another way, the current situation could create a false sense of security.
What happens, for example, if Republicans sweep mid-term elections (as expected) and reclaim their power in Congress and possibly take back the White House in 2024? Surely, they’ll end those subsidies as part of a larger effort to curtail federal spending and stench the bleeding on our unmanageable national debt.
But in the absence of a meaningful plan to keep health insurance affordable for Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, the vicious cycle of health care rationing or avoidance will repeat, and torpedo any progress that was made. If history is our guide, that would be the expectation. The GOP failed to deliver on its promise of repeal and replace after Trump took office.
And, without health care market reforms beyond toothless executive orders that actually create stiffer competition and lower price points, as well as hold health insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other players more accountable for price transparency and patient advocacy, our for-profit system could collapse under its own weight. That would revive calls for a single-payer system, or Medicare for all as the Democrats have attempted to reframe it – sparking concern about ballooning costs, inefficiencies, exacerbated doctor shortages and patient wait times.
Whatever ends up happening is anyone’s guess, but at least for now I will enjoy a year of monthly premium “holidays,” for all intents and purposes, and pocket that windfall for other purposes.
We were all warned 18 months ago that COVID-19 would mutate into strains that can spread more quickly and severely unless necessary precautions are taken, and that painful restrictions on daily work and life would continue unabated.
Some of them seem ridiculous in hindsight. Remember washing down groceries with Clorox wet wipes? Wearing a mask outside in uncrowded settings? Avoiding playgrounds and public parks that were cordoned off with yellow tape?
But others are perfectly reasonable, especially when lives are at stake. They include masking up indoors, staying at least six feet apart from others, better ventilation, getting vaccinated and staying at home when felled by COVID-19 symptoms. Public health officials consider these steps critically important in achieving herd immunity.
What puzzles – and deeply disappoints – me is how enough Americans have pushed back against these recommendations lest federal, state and local governments would erode civil liberties. I find it ironic that conservatives, who tend to be cautious as well as big on personal responsibility, teamwork and patriotism, are resisting vaccination more than others. My pre-pandemic guess would have been that free-spirited liberals were the ones downplaying any hysteria and skeptical about getting a shot in the arm.
But the world is upside down, while misinformation and conspiracy theories seem to trump logic, reason and common sense. Trump is the operative word: the former president seeded much of the madness we’re now witnessing, mocking mask-wearing and regional lockdowns. Then after boasting about the historic accomplishment of Operation Warp Speed under his leadership, he has been uncharacteristically silent about this topic on Joe Biden’s watch. It’s yet another opportunity lost for our country and reminder that character matters in a U.S. president.
But it doesn’t take a politician to realize the most important message of all during these perilous times. As Eagles drummer and singer Don Henley recently told concert-goers at Madison Square Garden: “you understand that with freedom comes responsibility.”
If history is our guide, then we can learn some valuable lessons. George Washington quietly ordered U.S. army immunizations to combat a smallpox outbreak that was responsible for American defeat at the Battle of Quebec against British troops. That decision helped us win the Revolutionary War, and as one recently published account suggested, we owe our very existence to an immunization mandate.
But that didn’t stop some Americans from staunchly opposing government meddling in this area years later. By the mid-20th century, there were still pockets of dissension that greeted a mass vaccination campaign against polio. Fast forward to modern times when enough anti-vaxxers spread just enough doubt about the virtues of immunization that several diseases such as measles have made a startling comeback.
We can only hope that clear heads prevail. When I wrote several months ago about the prospect of employers mandating that their workforces be vaccinated or face termination, only about 2% of organizations were expected to pursue this heavy-handed approach. Most top executives were waiting to see what would transpire.
Now the floodgates have opened, and each day we read about more blue-chip brands finally forcing the issue. Employees are also fed up with co-workers who won’t get vaccinated. As many as 41% of workers surveyed by HR consultant Eagle Hill believe that non-vaccinated employees should pay higher health insurance rates.
We need for this groundswell of public opinion in support of vaccination to continue until the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths plummet. What’s so maddening is that enough people who are eligible to be vaccinated at a time when the FDA has finally approved these treatments beyond emergency status are skipping out on the quest for public safety to a point where more than 2,000 of their fellow citizens on average are needlessly dying each week. That brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. to more than 700,000 – an unthinkable number at the start of this pandemic. To offer some historical perspective, that’s almost twice as many American WWII casualties.
Wake up, America! Your future depends on it.
Nearly 50 million Americans, including self-employed individuals like myself, filed for unemployment benefits as the pandemic shuttered supply chains, triggering massive layoffs and furloughs.
What a difference a year makes. U.S. workers are now quitting jobs at the highest rate seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting such data in 2000. And while 8.5 million jobs were lost from February 2020 to February 2021, the labor market is heating up and returning to pre-pandemic levels. Help-wanted signs are everywhere. But supply and demand just aren’t syncing up, causing real concern about Corporate America’s ability to recruit and retain talent. It also makes filling shifts and managing teams much more challenging.
Could work and life possibly get any more surreal?!
Organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz calls it “the Great Resignation,” a trend that he and other experts attribute to burning out from longer hours logged at home offices with significant work-life challenges. I’ve seen plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting a disconnect between employer and employee perceptions of how workplaces were managed during lockdowns. I’d imagine that a combination of growing resentment and low morale, along with recalibrated expectations and personal priorities, also could be factored into the mix as possible explanations.
Whatever the case, I see a silver lining. Far too many of us have settled for jobs and careers for which we could not care less. Showing up for work may be pure drudgery or difficult bosses ruin a perfectly good gig. Those folks dread spending endless hours in toxic environments. Some have pursued paths that were expected of them to please loved ones, while others gave up on their dreams along the way.
In my case, COVID-19 may have been one of the best, albeit harrowing, things that has ever happened to me. Although I was suddenly furloughed from two of three steady gigs by the end of March 2020, and as a result had to defer plans to buy a home, I mustered the courage to restart a decade-long pursuit of the job I’d been pining for.
It was my pandemic pivot – a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot in conversations over the past 15 months. While it’s too early to assess whether the investment will pay long-term dividends, it made me thirsty for more of the success I tasted in the early months of sheltering in place.
If you truly love what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life – so the saying goes. I’ve been lucky enough to say it has applied to me through a long and fruitful career in B2B journalism. Covering the workplace takes me back to my roots in the newspaper business because virtually every assignment is a human-interest story. There’s real humanity in the human resources field, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.
But now it’s my Plan B, which isn’t such a bad fallback position. I’d rather focus on ghostwriting memoirs that enable accomplished individuals to document their legacy for posterity and business or self-help books that are the ultimate calling card for serious entrepreneurs who believe deeply in the power of publishing their thought leadership.
Ten years ago, I had no idea what ghostwriting books entailed, though I had done my share of a more modest version with trade magazine articles published under the bylines of subject matter experts. I also edited manuscripts that were handed to me. But I absolutely love the long-form format, which allows for more meaningful exploration, which is ironic considering that I was never in love with literature as a child.
My journey began as a happy accident when I ghostwrote and project managed the self-published memoir of an elderly man in South Florida who was big into philanthropic causes involving the Jewish community. I was hooked, but became overwhelmed by the new opportunity that arose – unable to determine the best way to market my new service.
I had a few nibbles from prospective clients, some of whom I found through simple word of mouth. Inertia took over, and I figured this dream would be deferred as I kept busy with journalistic endeavors, along with writing whitepapers and paid content, hosting webinars, covering conferences. etc.
Then I was approached in the fall of 2019 by a savvy digital marketing strategist in Australia named Bjarne Viken whose pitch was intriguing. He could help me find book ghostwriting clients with the help of customer relationship management software that integrates with LinkedIn’s SalesNavigator. The only problem was that I was so busy with my steady clients and a revolving door of folks who’d come and go that I didn’t have the bandwidth for it – until COVID-19 blew a gaping hole in my career.
It was time to pivot. I circled back with Bjarne in April 2020 while twiddling my thumbs and nervously anticipating what would happen next. I hit paydirt immediately, landing three clients in as many months. I even had a verbal and written commitment from a serial entrepreneur who had four or five books in mind to come on board when my schedule loosened. I was on top of the world, but some of the best-laid plans simply don’t materialize or match our desired timetable.
In short, my dream gig is a work in progress – or lack thereof. Pursuing anything worthwhile in life involves taking risks and paying dues. It’s similar to when I decided to become self-employed in 2000. My former employer was the sole client, followed by nearly 110 others over the course of two decades.
Building a new business is a combination of sweat equity, tenacity, perseverance, optimism and undying faith in your talent and what you’re hoping to accomplish. It isn’t easy and can take years, but when you reap even a modicum of success following your passion, the journey is as sweet as the destination.
The moral of my story – and so many others like it – is to turn adversity into opportunity, never settle for anything less than what you really want to do and always embrace change. You never know where it might lead.