Layout Image

Do Americans suffer more than other people?

Do Americans suffer pain more than others?

My daughter-in-law posed an interesting question the other day. “Why do Americans have such a lower threshold of pain than other countries?” We might at first argue the point and say the question doesn’t make sense. Americans are like anyone else and experience pain the same way any other human experiences pain.

While the statement appears true, we all have the same sensory nerves and brain matter that tells us when have pain. We all experience heat, cold, the sensation of sharp, dull, pressure. Yet, Americans take more pain medication than the rest of the world combined despite the fact we comprise only 5% of the world’s population. Does that mean we sense pain differently? Does it mean we are candies and whine and whimper too much? Does it mean we just have easier access to something that relieves us of pain and everyone else would do the same if they had equal access?

Does anyone know?

pain, medication, suffer, americans

It is a good question my daughter-in-law posed. I’m not sure anyone has the right answer. Maybe it’s all of the above. Certain people in Europe can obtain medicines equal in strength to the medications we use, yet they don’t for some reason. Many tribes and primitive people have opiates readily available to them in raw form that they use as ceremonial drugs to bring them to ritual ecstasy. But they don’t take them to relieve pain.

Why do we go to the medicine cabinet when we have a headache or a muscle ache or joint pain or any other ache or pain that causes us discomfort? Why do we reach for the remedy in a plastic bottle with a child-proof cap while the rest of the world just suffers through the ailment? What would it take to toughen us up? Should we toughen up?

Pain is a good thing!

Pain is sometimes a good thing. Ask a leper and they will tell you how good pain is, because they have lost all sense of pain. Consequently, a leper will lose toes, finger, ears, nose, and other body parts to injury and subsequent infection because he never feels the pain associated with the injury. Pain is our friend many times. So why do we wish it away in America? Why so intolerant?

Perhaps we will never know. Perhaps our intolerance for pain in this country is one of those unfathomable mysteries that will only be answered at the end of time when we can look back over all of history with all other people for eternity and compare notes with each other. Until then, we can only ask the question. If you have an answer, let me know. My daughter-in-law and I are curious.

How much sleep do you need?

Eat right, move every joint every day, sleep enough

In two previous posts, I’ve talked about eating right and moving every joint as necessary for the maintenance of good health. Today, the topic covers a third component of maintaining good health that once again, most Americans fail to do. We need to sleep enough. Not too little and not too much, but enough.

How sleep is enough for you? I can’t tell you. But I know very few people who can function well on four or five hours of sleep a night. Neither do I know very many people who function well on twelve hours of sleep every night. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep as you view the most recent research on the subject.

How much sleep do you need?

So how do you figure out how much sleep you need? I would like to tell you there is a great formula that tells you the magic number, but there’s not. It’s a little bit of trial and error. I’ve found the best way most people discover their best sleep is to try the same number of hours a week at a time and keep a diary of how you function with that number of hours.

sleep, healthA few rules to remember as you go through the process, however. Go to bed at the same time every night. That doesn’t mean 10:00 every night except Friday and Saturday when you stay up until 2:00am. The problem most of us get into with our sleep comes from our failure to follow a routine. When our body knows we will go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, it appreciates it. An occasional late nighter will not kill your pattern, but continuously changing your wake up and bed time will.

As you add or subtract time during your experiment, add or subtract not more than thirty minutes at a time. Then stick with that sleep cycle until you’ve tried it for at least a week. It will take you a few weeks, maybe even a few months to figure out your peak number of hours to sleep, but when you consider you’re setting yourself up to function well for a lifetime, it’s well worth the investment.

Quality is as important as quantity

Equally important, though, is not only the duration of our sleep, but the quality of our sleep. We manage today to go to bed with the television blaring, or earbuds plugged in playing the latest hits, or some other light and noise interference that keeps our bodies from realizing it’s time to shut down and go to sleep. Our bodies build a circadian rhythm based on light and noise levels around us. When we never shut out those two things, we confuse the brain and never give it a chance to shut down and replenish our system.

When you sleep, turn everything off. Don’t leave lights on. Don’t listen to the radio. Don’t watch the television. Don’t have distractions when you go sleep. Only two things happen in bed, one of them is sleep. The other we won’t talk about here. Do all those other things somewhere else and concentrate on sleeping when you go to bed.

Unfortunately, some must work night shifts and must suffer sleeping during the day. Now matter how long one tries to get used to it, it’s never quite the same as sleeping at night. Unless, of course, you practice sleeping at night as describe above with television, radio, flashing lights, and all the other sleep disrupters around you. If you must sleep during the day, I would advise getting the room as dark as possible with room darkening shades or blinds, using an eye mask, and creating white noise to shut out the distractions around you.

What a difference sleep makes!

When you find you’re peak sleep time (for most adults between seven and nine hours), you’ll probably wake up without an alarm clock at that same time every day. You’ll probably have little trouble going to sleep if the follow the rules above. You’ll probably feel better and function better than you have in a long time. Sleep allows your body to recover from the stress and strain of the day. It’s how your body heals from the minor events of the day. You need it!

So there you have it. Three simple things you can do for better health that don’t cost anything, but can make dramatic improvements in your daily health. Eat right, move every joint every day, and sleep enough. Sounds simple doesn’t it. So why do so many Americans do so poorly in all three areas? Let’s start a new fad and just do these three things well to begin a growing trend toward a healthier America.

Eating right and eating less improves health

The first place a lot of people look for help when trying to change seems to center around weight and fitness. In the last post, I talked about fitness, “You don’t have to be a jock to be healthy!” All we really need to do to stay fit is move every joint every day and walk a lot more than we do.

We have grown around not up since the 1950’s

Before I talk about our eating habits, I have to tell you about some classic radio programs I’ve listened to on satellite radio lately. One series titled “The Fat Man,” follows the investigations of a private detective known by the moniker of the series title. The interesting thing about this 1950’s radio program, the six-foot fat man tips the scale at a “rotund” 220 pounds! Fat? Not in today’s society. He’d be considered normal on the streets of any of our cities.

Few adult men in the fifties weighed 200 pounds. Now half the adult men push the scales past the 200 mark. What’s happened?

The issue is quantity (calories) as much as quality (junk food)

The issue usually isn’t the quality of food as much as the quantity of food, although both play a huge part in the overall demise of our nation’s health. Everywhere you go to eat in both fast food and sit down restaurants, proprietors want to make sure you get a bargain and come back. Consequently, super-sized orders are the norm rather than the exception.

Many of the meals we eat out in restaurants have more calories in a single meal than we should consume in a day, yet we eat three or four of those every day. It’s no wonder we keep growing around instead of up. We consume more sugar in the United States than the rest of the world combined. Maybe that means we’re affluent, but it also means we’re killing ourselves through a multitude of long-term debilitating diseases.

So how do we fix it? First, quantity IS important. Calories count! If you think about the body as a machine, it needs fuel to operate, but if it doesn’t burn all the fuel (calories) you put into it every day, it stores it as fat. Some of you might think exercise will burn off whatever you eat. Think again. Exercise does change your metabolism a little, but only a little. That Oreo you eat after you walk a brisk mile will talk you another four or five miles to walk off. So what you just gained by walking, you destroyed with the Oreo.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Oreo’s, but their calories must go into the calorie count. From a simple math perspective, just sitting around doing whatever you do to live and breathe takes about 1200 – 1500 calories a day. Anything you eat more than that, you got to burn off through increased exercise (which doesn’t count for much when you look at the tables).

So the only effective way to lose weight is to learn to do push ups well – that is, push up from the table after eating just enough to satisfy your caloric requirements and no more.

What you eat gives you more or less energy, keeps the body tuned up, increases or decreases immediate availability of glucose in the bloodstream, keeps arteries from getting clogged, and all sorts of other things. Eating right puts the right nutrients and minerals in your system so you stay as healthy as you can.

Diets don’t work long term

nutrition, food, diets, So what does a good diet look like? Not like Atkins, or the Beach, LA Diet, or Mary Jane’s chocolate syrup diet, or anything else that deprives you of a balanced meal. The place to go for guidance is the food pyramid provided by the USDA at Other good sources can be found at the American Diabetes Association at or the American Heart Association at Anyone would do well to use those two nutrition plans, particularly if a family history of diabetes or cardiac conditions exist.

Good nutrition isn’t hard, just something to pay attention to every day. Especially when it comes to eating more than we should. Start thinking about those second helpings as second hurtings! Count those calories and burn more than you eat if you really want to drop pounds. It really is the only way to lose weight. There’s just no fad diet or secret pill or even any amount of exercise that will make you lose without dropping calories at the same time.

So that’s the end of lesson number two on staying healthy. Two simple things so far. Move – not necessarily fast, but move every joint every day and walk whenever it’s practical instead of riding. Second, eat right and eat less than the normal American.

Simple stuff, we just need to discipline ourselves to do it. No one can make us. We have to find the intestinal fortitude to do it for ourselves.

You don’t have to be a jock to be healthy

Keeping healthy is up to us

One of the important principles in keeping a balanced life is maintaining a healthy life. Some things we can’t help when it comes to health. We sometimes get illnesses or injuries that we just can’t avoid. But there are things we can do to help us maintain a state of health that keeps us better than the average American if we will just do it.

I’m not talking about going to the gym five days a week or running a hundred miles a week. I’m not sure that’s even healthy for us. If you think about your grandparents, they could probably work you under the table any day of the week. I know mine could. They never went to the gym, because they didn’t exist in the form they do now. Gyms at the turn of the last century were places for boxers to train, not places for spinner or yoga classes.

My grandparents didn’t run or lift weights. They didn’t exercise everyday or consciously think about staying in shape. They didn’t attend yoga groups or swimming schools or any of the things that capture the attention of the younger generation today. Yet they could work all day every day and get up the next morning ready to do the same thing again.

Is the sedentary life style to blame?

healthy, fitness

coach potatoes

I know, you’ll tell me much of their fitness was due to the fact they didn’t live a sedentary lifestyle, and that’s exactly the point. Today we circle the parking lot looking for the space closest to the mall entrance so we don’t have to walk the extra fifty feet before we walk through the entire mall three times looking for just the right dress for the prom! Pretty dumb thinking! We get gadgets to help us not expend energy, like all the remote controls on our entertainment systems. In fact, I don’t even know where the on/off button is on my television or if it has one.

So how do we get out of this dilemma we put ourselves into that drains our physical fitness? What can we do to get back into the physical shape we desire without spending hours in the gym or running miles on the roads?

Mimic your kids

Watch a documentary about come newly discovered tribe in some jungle or desert or wilderness somewhere. Watch how they move. They don’t have gyms or weight lifting regimens. No one teaches them about fitness, but watch the grace of their movements. Now watch little kids move and mimic them. You’ll be amazed how flexible they are and how inflexible you’ve become. Their joints are not significantly different from yours except theirs are new and yours are underused.

The fitness industry might hate me for this, but I think the real secret to fitness lies in looking back at what our grandparents and their parents did. WALK! If you can get to wherever you want to go by walking in fifteen minutes or less, walk. Park in the back of the parking lot instead of at the front. Take a stroll around your neighborhood after dinner instead of watching that mindless television show. Make it a family affair. Start a new trend in the neighborhood.

The second thing you should do is move every joint every day. Because of our sedentary lifestyles, we allow ourselves to get stuck in the same position for hours at a time. Be conscious that the joints in your body are there for a purpose. They were intended to move. When they don’t things don’t work as well as they should. If you don’t move them often, like everything, they get stiff and stuck and painful. So just move everything several times a day. Get up and walk around and move around.

Just walk and move

That’s it for better fitness. Just those two things. The problem most of us have with fitness is we think we need to spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in gyms lifting weights and doing what fitness trainers tell us to do. We strain muscles, pull tendons, injury joints, and do untold damage to our bodies physically and psychologically doing things our bodies were never built to do. All we really need to do is move every day and often.

You don’t need to be a jock to be fit. A bunch of them are always on the injury list! You only need to move constantly and consistently. Move enough and you’ll be able to move like those tribal men and women on the documentaries. Move enough and you’ll bend like a five-year old. Just move.

If you agree, share this with someone who needs to hear it. If not, send me your comments.

What can we learn about leadership from a fruit tree?

What can we learn about leadership from a fruit tree?

I’m often engaged in helping companies figure out why their organizations don’t function as efficiently as the C-suite officers think they should. It’s always interesting to sit down with them after doing an assessment of the staff, including their own actions and those of their personal staff. A few days ago, a discovered a natural analogy that might help some of you understand some of the dysfunction in your company. It might not be comfortable, but I’ve found it fits many of the situations I run into in my assessment of multilevel organizations.

Trees get their strength from their trunks

First, we must remember the girth and health of the trunk says a lot about the strength of aappletree tree. When living on Staff Post Road in my last assignment, we had more than a half-dozen hundred year old pecan trees in our yard. Massive things that stood strong in every storm. I liken those trees to the leaders of an organization, the CEOs, the senior vice presidents, the people with heavy decision-making responsibilities. When the senior leaders live healthy, balanced lives across the five areas of physical, family, spiritual, emotional, and social dimensions, they can give strong leadership to their companies.

They must also learn to exercise good leadership skills, however. And of extreme importance is the need to provide a clear vision and mission for those who work for them. As leaders, however, their focus must also include ensuring everyone organizationally below them get access to the resources they need to accomplish the tasks assigned them. The leader serves his employees in this way to ensure the organization’s success.

Fruit only appears at the blossoms, beyond the ends of the branches

Second, we need reminded in a multilevel organization that the final production only happens at the end of the line. CEOs, commanders, senior vice presidents, the C-suite folks seldom do any actual manufacturing. They seldom deal with customers directly. They seldom do any assembly or take care of personal sales in multilevel companies. Their principle job centers around providing resources, setting strategic vision, and keeping their organization focused on that desired outcome.

When we think about the fruit tree analogy, the fruit comes as the result of those leaves and blossoms coming out at the right time and drawing resources through the trunk and branches. The leaves can’t provide their own resources. They must draw upon the capillaries running through the trunk and out through the branches. But no fruit appears on the trunk or the branches, only on the stems surrounded by leaves and blossoms. No buds, leaves, blossoms – no fruit. That’s an important principle to remember. The trunk by itself cannot produce fruit. Neither can the branches. Only by working together can fruit come into being.

Branches link the trunk to the fruit, but also create problems

Now consider the branches. As mentioned above, the branches connect the trunk and the water and nutrients it carries to the mechanisms that will produce fruit. But when you look at the branches of almost any tree, you’ll find a lot of confusion, they intertwine and get entangled with each other. That’s not unlike many staff sections in multilevel companies. Each vying for position, trying to determine which section provide more to the company than another. In case of a drawdown, who gets pink slips first?

Staffs forget their sole responsibility within the company provides resources and support to the lower levels of the organization to ensure they can get their jobs done. Too often, upper level staff members assume the roles of the seniors they work for instead of the staff role they occupy. By that I mean, the CEO gives the vision and direction to guide a company toward a particular outcome. Everyone below him should be working to enable the lowest tier of workers to accomplish that vision. Instead, a vice president will direct and change the picture, expect certain perks and pleasures forgetting that the people at the lowest level are producing the outcomes, not the people at the top.

The staffs are important. They are skilled at marshaling resources, using people’s skills and talents collectively to get things done effectively and efficiently, but without those lowest level employees, the CEOs and managers and commanders and staff members would just sit in empty offices with banker and investors breathing down their necks asking for their returns.

Back to the tree analogy, every part is important. No fruit comes with the absence of any part, trunk, branches, or leaves and blossoms. But all of us must also remember in every working orchard, a pair of pruning shears stands sharp and ready all the time. The best orchards produce the most productive crops by continually and consistently growing and pruning branches! Those of us who spend our lives clambering for senior staff positions should take note. Pruning is a necessary, healthy part of any companies life. If a branch doesn’t produce fruit, it soon disappears from the tree. We cannot expect to hang on if we’re not producing.