Tag Archives: Behavior

Be A Kid

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Scott Drotar 'Merica
Why are we blowing stuff up? ‘Merica. That is why.

The Fourth of July is a pretty big deal across the rural Midwest. While I know that places, like New York City, Boston, and Washington D.C., may put on some impressive shows and get all of the press, but if you really want to celebrate the Fourth, you need to come to the Midwest. The Fourth of July is sort of a perfect storm of holiday festivities in this area. You get to have a cookout during the day, relax with family all evening (typically over several adult beverages), and then watch fireworks in your backyard that night. While these are activities that most everyone likes no matter where they live, in small towns across the Midwest it is on another level. This immense enjoyment stems from the fact that this holiday is right in our regional wheelhouse. Because if there are three things we do well in “Small Town, USA,” they are backyard barbecues, family gatherings, and blowing stuff up. Combining these three components into one holiday, and then adding in the fervor and zeal that comes with celebrating your patriotism, creates a trident of unstoppable holiday spirit that develops into an insanely good time. As you can imagine, many of my favorite Summertime memories occurred during these epic celebrations of American spirit, especially the years when my parents would host a Fourth get together. One of these patriotic parties in particular holds a special place in my heart, not only because of the fun and fireworks and such, but also because of an important lesson that it taught me.

When I was growing up, almost every year my family would host a Fourth of July get together at our home. Other than the fact that the Drotars know how to party, my family would host the gathering because our backyard had a perfect view of the town fireworks display. This was critical for a great Fourth barbecue, as it meant that you could continue to enjoy your adult beverage (the fireworks area is alcohol free) and the explosive show without battling through a crowd of people searching for the “perfect seat.” I do not remember exactly what year it was, but when I was around 10 or 11 years old my folks hosted one of these Fourth of July barbecues. Relatives, family friends, and neighbors came over (comfy, lawn chair in hand), and we ate burgers, played horseshoes, and lit fireworks all day. When it finally got dark enough that night, everyone picked out a spot in the yard, leaned back, and watched the colorful explosions lighting up the sky. I spent the day enjoying the festivities with my childhood best friend (his whole family was there), downing Mountain Dew, lighting firecrackers, and having a great time. As he and I were taking in the fireworks that night, and being every bit the tenacious, pre-adolescent boys that we were, I experienced a fairly trivial event that, has not only stuck with me my entire life, but has ended up having a huge impact on me.

Scott Drotar Fireworks
Every time I see fireworks, I am reminded of the important life lesson they taught me. 

As the town’s fireworks display was about to get going that night, my friend and I picked out a great spot in my yard to watch the show. My younger brother and one of his friends had set up a few feet away from us to get a good view of the colorful combustions to come, and a few adults were nearby too. As the light show in the sky started, my cohort in crime and I overheard my brother and his friend talking about each round of blasts and rating each one on a 10-point scale (1 being a lame, kiddo sparkler and a 10 being air raids over Baghdad explosive power). Being the jerky, adolescents we were, my friend and I decided to poke fun at my younger sibling for getting so much enjoyment out of some town fireworks (because obviously we were way too cool and grown up to like something like that at all of 11 years old). After a few minutes of doing our best to humiliate my little brother, one of the nearby adults stepped in and told us crossly to “leave him alone.” Not being one who misbehaved often (or at least I did not get caught often), getting this gentle scolding made quite the impression on me. In addition to making me straighten up and stop my juvenile behavior, it also impacted me in a much more profound way.

This moment has stuck with me for years. For me, it is one of those memories that you remember in vivid detail, no matter how much time goes by. I think the reason that this fairly uneventful moment from my life has remained such a clear memory is that it reminds me of an important lesson. That night, my friend and I wanted to assert our status as “big, bad teenagers” by making fun of my younger brother for getting so engaged and having so much “childish fun” watching the fireworks display. We wanted so badly to be grown up and treated like adults, that we were not only trying to act like we were not excited about the explosive show in the sky (which we both knew was a lie), but we were also teasing others for enjoying it. As I have thought about this night over the years, I have realized how truly backwards my thinking was at that age. I should not have been trying to solidify myself as an adult, but instead doing everything I could to remain a child for as long as possible. Because while we all have to grow up in terms of our lives and place in society, we do not have to completely let go of the childlike wonder and exuberance that we have when we are young. This moment always helps me remember how important it is to “be a kid” sometimes.

Scott Drotar Leaf Pile
A leaf pile is all a child needs to be entertained for hours.

When you are young, you have the ability to get enjoyment out of almost anything. Give a kid a pile of fallen leaves, a big, cardboard box, or even just a pit filled with sand, and they will be entertained for hours in complete bliss. As you grow up though, and this is happening sooner and sooner in our society it seems, you start to lose this youthful creativity and happiness. As we mature, and become jaded by life’s obstacles and burdened with the responsibilities of being a grown up, our capacity to enjoy the simplest parts of life slowly slips away. This would not be so bad, but unfortunately once you lose this childhood gift, it is very difficult to get it back. In most cases, by the time you realize how precious this ability is, it is gone forever. That is why it is so important to recognize how priceless these feelings are, cling to them as much as you can, and appreciate their impact on your life, as you carry them with you into adulthood. I am so thankful that I had this moment to show me the importance of “being a kid,” as well as the maturity to recognize its value at a young age. This has allowed me to maintain some of my youthful exuberance, even though I have had to grow up faster than most, and I am certain that this has made an enormous impact on my overall happiness as an adult.

While I needed a specific moment from my life show me the importance of maintaining some of your childhood innocence and excitement, you can see the powerful effects of these emotions all around you. Think about the happiest people you know, or better yet the people who make you the happiest when you are with them, and then try to describe their personality. More often than not, the happiest people in your life are the ones who exhibit the most childlike wonder and fun. This does not mean that they are any less mature or successful as adults, but more so that they had the vision and mental perspective to recognize the importance of these feelings and maintain them into adulthood. No matter how busy your life is or how much stress and anxiety you have as a grown up, you have to remember that it is ok to “be a kid” sometimes. In fact, it is not only alright, it is recommended. Take the time, at least every few days, to let yourself enjoy the simplest things that make you happy, the way you did as a child. Splash in a mud puddle, go play with puppies at a pet store, or go to the park and sit on a swing. You will be amazed at how great this will make you feel, and if you let your “inner child” out to play often enough, you will find that your adult world is a much happier place.

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

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Loved and Lost

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Last week I met with a physical therapist and a wheelchair technician to start the process of upgrading/replacing my power wheelchair. Improving and/or purchasing power wheelchairs is a long, involved process, and this session was only the first of several meetings I will have to have to get everything ready, but it is a start at least. Since I will end up spending roughly 10 hours a day for the next five years in this wheelchair, it is important and worthwhile to take the time to make sure that every little detail is correct. While I am not a big fan of change, especially with something as crucial to my life as my wheelchair, after having this initial meeting and getting the process of purchasing a new chair started, I found myself filled with a sense of joyful anticipation. Even though I know that it will be at least four months before I see my new wheelchair, the thought of regaining my ability to drive my chair on my own and getting my mobility back is something that I am really looking forward to. This feeling of excitement that came over me caused me to think about how much my freedom to move about means to me, as well as how it brings happiness to my life.

Scott Drotar New Wheelchair
The process of getting a new wheelchair is a long one.

When I was about 5 years old, I got my first power wheelchair, and with it my first taste of the freedom of mobility. For the first time I could move about on my own, whenever and wherever I wanted. I was no longer reliant on others to get where I wanted to go. Having this independence allowed me to explore the world around me and experience life much like any able-bodied person would. I was fortunate enough to have this freedom throughout my life growing up, and this mobility helped me find success and brought a lot of happiness to my life. A couple of years ago though, when my shoulder started to breakdown and my chronic pain increased, I started having some difficulty operating my wheelchair. As my body slowly deteriorated over the next several months, my ability to drive my chair on my own got worse and worse. For a while I was able to drive my wheelchair with assistance from my nurses, but it eventually got to the point a year ago where I could not operate it at all. Going through this process of losing my ability to move around on my own, after having this freedom my entire life, has been an extremely difficult thing for me to deal with.

Losing my ability to drive my wheelchair was far more difficult to cope with than not being able to walk. This may surprise you, but I have never really missed not having the ability to walk. Of course I wish that I had a healthy body and could walk, jump, and do cartwheels like most people, but since I never knew what it is like to walk, I do not know what I am missing. I used to think that I was lucky in this respect, as I thought it was much harder to have something and then have it taken away from you, than to never have it at all. This is why losing my ability to drive my wheelchair has been so difficult for me to cope with, but I feel fine about never having the ability to walk. I spent my entire life only knowing what it is like to be able to move about freely and without assistance, and in an instant this mobility was taken away from me. As someone who has worked extremely hard to build an independent life, losing something as critical to my autonomy as my mobility is like amputating one of my limbs. Due to numerous experiences like this, where my disability took away an important part of my world, I decided long ago that never having the ability to walk was actually a good thing (as opposed to walking for a while and then losing that ability). While it may have made the obstacles and adversity resulting from my disability easier to deal with though, I now see that it also took away all of the amazing things that I would have been able to experience from having a fully functioning body, as well as the happiness it would have brought to my life.

Scott Drotar Loved and Lost
I got my first power wheelchair at a fairly young age, and it gave me freedom for the first time.

Thinking about getting my mobility back, and the emotions that I felt, has made me rethink how I feel about never having the ability to walk. Even though I have never really missed not being able to walk, being confined to a wheelchair has been difficult to deal with at times. Throughout my life, there have been times when I was unable to do something due to my disability and felt like I was missing out on a great experience. Since these types of situations only occur occasionally and vary so much though, you never realize that they all stem from the same cause. It is difficult to see how this one thing has taken away all of these experiences from your life. Just because it is difficult however, does not mean it is impossible. This process of getting my mobility back has illustrated that, if you take the time to look at your life and think about how different it would be if you could not do something, like walk, see, or speak for example, you can more fully appreciate it. This self-reflection also allows you to see the common cause that has kept you from experiencing certain things over the years, which can then help you to change this part of your life and gain the ability to enjoy these moments you missed out on. This will eliminate the negative moments and feelings from your past and add positive experiences to your future, which will bring a whole, new level of happiness to your life.

As the famous quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson goes, “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” This idea does not only pertain to love however, as it can also be applied to nearly every aspect of your life. Although I had a much harder time coping with losing my ability to drive my wheelchair than never being able to walk, I would not trade the numerous years I lived being able to operate my chair for anything, even not having to go through the painful process of losing this ability. Having gone through losing this ability once and knowing how painful it is, I am still working to regain my mobility, knowing that in the future it will again be taken away from me. I am willing to put myself through this, because giving it up would mean also trading all of the incredible experiences I will have because of my mobility. The next time you feel a sense of loss and start wishing you had never even begun to enjoy something, think about all of the wonderful experiences you had as a result of it. Ask yourself if you would give up all of that happiness and wisdom to not have to go through the loss you are currently feeling. This will help you put things in perspective and focus on the positive side of things. By doing this and looking at your world through the right lens, you will bring a lot of happiness and fulfilling experiences to your life.

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

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A Message From Your Medicine Cabinet (Part 2)

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The American Recall Center, in celebration of “Patient Safety Awareness Week,” is holding a “Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge.” For this event, they have asked a few “influential bloggers” (their words, not mine) to write an article about responsibly using your medications and sharing some personal experiences. They asked yours truly to participate, and I was more than happy to oblige. I know it is coming a couple days late, but today’s article is the piece I wrote for their “challenge.” I hope you enjoy it, and that it makes you think about your own pharmaceutical use. 

In the first part of this article, you started learning about how important it is to be a responsible consumer when it comes to pharmaceuticals. We are quite fortunate to have so many incredible drugs right at our fingertips, but these life-improving medications can quickly become dangerous, life-threatening poisons if not used in the proper way. When we left off, we had covered the first aspect of being a responsible consumer by discussing how to properly store your medications. You also began reading about the second component of proper drug use, taking your medicines correctly. Due to the powerful, and potentially dangerous, effects that your meds can have on you, it is vital that you take all of your medications properly, because mistakes can be extremely harmful, and sometimes, fatal. This is something that I had to experience firsthand several years ago, and in an effort to drive this point home, I am going to share my story with you today. I will then move on to the final aspect of responsible pharmaceutical use, properly disposing of your medications.

Scott Drotar Patient Safety Awareness Week
The National Patient Safety Foundation celebrates “Patient Safety Awareness Week” every year by trying to educate people on the safe use of medications.

My second experience with taking my medications incorrectly was a much more serious situation than my first, which you read about in part one, and it is the main reason I am so careful with my meds today. About four years ago, my chronic pain got much worse, and I began working with my doctor to try to find a combination of painkillers that would better control my discomfort. Over several weeks and after trying multiple “cocktails” of pain meds, we eventually found a three drug combination that worked well. After a couple weeks of being on this mixture of painkillers, my pain was under control, but some strange things started happening to me. I first started seeing and hearing things that were not there. Initially, it was barely noticeable, but over time these imaginary sights and sounds turned into full fledged hallucinations. Over time it got so bad that I could not always tell what was real and what was not, and I thought I was going crazy. I was obviously terrified by this, and after speaking with my doctor, I thankfully found out that I was not losing my mind, but I was damaging it. It turns out that two of the painkillers he had put me on could have dangerous interactions that cause seizures in certain parts of the brain. In some cases, these seizures can cause audiovisual hallucinations. While I feel fortunate that no permanent damage was done and everything went back to normal after I stopped taking one of the drugs, this was a very dangerous drug interaction that could have had much more dire consequences. Even though my doctor and my pharmacist should have caught this potentially life threatening drug interaction before it ever happened, in the end it is my life and well-being that is at risk, so I am responsible for being knowledgeable about the medications I am taking. And once again, if I had merely taken a few minutes to read about my medications before taking them, I could have avoided this entire situation. I hope this story helps you understand how important it is to be a knowledgeable consumer when it comes to taking your medications, and that it is your responsibility to make sure that you are taking your drugs in a proper and safe manner.

Disposing of Your Medications

In addition to containing the instructions for safe and proper use of your medications, the paperwork that accompanies every medicine you obtain also has pertinent information about how to dispose of your drugs correctly, which is the third aspect of being a responsible pharmaceutical consumer. While we do not often consider how we should dispose of our unused meds as an important part of using our medications, this is a critical aspect of responsible drug use. One of the main reasons we do not think about the process is that you usually take the entire container before drugs expire. Every now and then however, you will find that a drug you rarely take has reached its expiration date, or you will try a prescription medicine that does not work and switch to a different drug before finishing the first, and in these types of situations it is important to make sure that you discard these expired and unneeded medicines in the proper way. Depending on the type of medication being discarded and where you live, the guidelines for how to best dispose of various drugs can differ, so it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the specific process in your area. While the rules do differ by region to some extent though, there are some general steps that you can follow to get rid of your unneeded drugs in a responsible and safe way.

Scott Drotar Medication Disposal
Proper medication disposal is an often overlooked aspect of responsible drug use, but it is a critical part of using your medications correctly.

The first step to proper drug disposal is to be aware of your medications’ expiration dates, which can be found on the container’s label and the accompanying paperwork with the drug. Just like food, medicine does go bad after a certain length of time. The shelf life is different for every drug, but most meds that are taken orally and are not refrigerated last at least six months, if not longer. As I said before, since most meds have such a long lifespan, you will usually finish the entire bottle before they go bad, but occasionally you will have drugs that last beyond their expiration date. Once again, just like food that has reached its “use by” date, if a medicine has expired, it should always be discarded. You should never take expired medications, as they often have lost their effectiveness and could be dangerous for consumption. It is always best to properly dispose of the expired drug and get a new, fresh supply. This will not only ensure that you do not take a potentially harmful expired medication, but it will also guarantee that the drugs you take will have the potency and effect that you expect.

Once you have identified that one of your drugs has expired or should otherwise be discarded, the next step is to properly dispose of the medicine. Since depending on where you live the guidelines can differ, before you discard any meds the first thing you should do is talk to your pharmacist or contact your city’s trash service office to learn about any local guidelines for proper drug disposal. For example, I used to live in a city that had a “drug take-back program” that would allow you to bring in any unwanted medication to a certain, pre-designated location, and they would take the drugs and properly dispose of them for you, no questions asked. Once you are aware of any local regulations, the next step is to consult the paperwork that is with the medicine. If there are any specific instructions for discarding the drug, like flushing it down the toilet (never do this unless specifically stated), it will be clearly identified and explained in this documentation. If there are no specific instructions listed, you can safely throw away the unneeded meds in the following manner. Remove the medications from their original containers and put them in a resealable plastic bag. Next, add a large amount of any unappealing, inedible substance (dish soap, kitty litter, coffee grounds, etc.) to the bag and mix it with the unwanted medications. This will make your discarded drugs undesirable to animals and unusable to people who may be dumpster diving. You can then dispose of this sealed bag in any trash can. Following these general rules will ensure that you are doing your part to properly dispose of your unwanted medications, and it will complete the process of being a responsible pharmaceutical consumer.

Scott Drotar Expired Medications
Medicine, just like food, has a shelf life, and it is important to properly dispose of your expired medications.

I will admit, for me personally, this is the part of being a responsible medication consumer that I struggle with most. I do not like wasting anything, whether it be time, food, or medicine. On top of that, I am a bit of a pack rat, and I can always come up with some outlandish, hypothetical reason to hang on to something. These personality traits often make it difficult for me to get myself to throw away unused prescription drugs that I stop taking before I finish them. I always think to myself, “What if I end up trying this medication again in a few months at a higher dose? Why waste such expensive medicine?” Even though I know I should discard the old meds, these thoughts have caused me on occasion to save my unneeded prescription drugs long after I stopped taking them. The funny thing is that I have never had a situation arise where I actually wound up using any medications I have saved “just in case,” and I always end up throwing these drugs away a year later anyway, when they finally expire. While this may not be the best way to go about things, I do always follow the proper guidelines for disposing of my meds, even if I do it a year late. I am a work in progress, I guess.

Final Thoughts

You are now fully equipped to become a responsible pharmaceutical user. You have learned how to correctly store your medications, and you are more aware of the dangers associated with taking your medicines in an improper way. You also now know how to dispose of your expired and unneeded drugs in a safe and responsible manner. Following the information contained within these three aspects of responsible medication use will allow you to take advantage of the huge health benefits that modern pharmaceuticals can provide, while also ensuring that you are doing so in a safe way. Remember that it is up to you, as the person using these medications, to be knowledgeable about your meds and how to properly use them. Take the time to read the documentation that accompanies every drug you buy, because spending a few minutes reading these pamphlets could be the difference between life and death. My final piece of advice is to use common sense and trust your instincts. If you ever get even a tiny feeling that you may be using a medicine improperly, do not take it and consult your pharmacist or physician. If you do that, and do your best to follow the guidelines described above, you will not only be a responsible consumer of pharmaceuticals, but you will also have a much happier, healthier life.

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A Message From Your Medicine Cabinet (Part 1)

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The American Recall Center, in celebration of “Patient Safety Awareness Week,” is holding a “Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge.” For this event, they have asked a few “influential bloggers” (their words, not mine) to write an article about responsibly using your medications and sharing some personal experiences. They asked yours truly to participate, and I was more than happy to oblige. I know it is coming a couple days late, but today’s article is the piece I wrote for their “challenge.” I hope you enjoy it, and that it makes you think about your own pharmaceutical use. 

Few areas of research have made as much progress or shown more growth in recent history than the field of medicine. Just in my brief lifetime there have been numerous, major medical advancements that have resulted in longer lifespans, as well as a better quality of life, for people with all sorts of diseases and disorders. One of the areas of medicine that has developed and changed the most over this time is the pharmaceutical industry. We now have instant, unlimited access to hundreds of over the counter medications, and there are thousands more available by prescription, that would have been considered witchcraft just a decade ago. While these powerful drugs now at our disposal can be extremely helpful and alleviate a lot of pain and suffering, they can also be quite dangerous. If not used correctly, these capsules and tablets can quickly go from life saving medications to life threatening poisons. It is now our responsibility, as individuals with infinite access to these drugs, to make sure that we are taking the proper care when dealing with pharmaceuticals. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Great power involves great responsibility.” In celebration of “Patient Safety Awareness Week,” I am going to share with you my own methods for making sure I am a responsible consumer in regards to my medications.

Scott Drotar American Recall Center
The American Recall Center is celebrating “Patient Safety Awareness Week” by holding a “Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge.”

Since I was born with the genetic, neuromuscular disease, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), I have been in and out of hospitals, seen more doctors, and dealt with the medical field more, than most people twice my age. I have never walked, require nursing care 24 hours a day, and have the lung volume of a toddler. Although there is no cure or treatment for SMA, there are lots of drugs that can treat the symptoms that my disability causes and improve my life dramatically. Thanks to modern pharmaceuticals, I am able to open up my bronchial tubes when my breathing gets weak and manage pain that on a good day is almost bearable. There is not a doubt in my mind that without the various drugs I take on a daily basis, I would not be able to lead the happy, fulfilling life that I do. Part of using these medications to better my life though, is making sure that I am handling them in the proper way, both to ensure my safety and the safety of others. Even though I have a team of nurses who oversee my medical care, which includes my medications, I still believe it is my responsibility to make sure I am using my meds correctly. When I think about how I go about this process of being a responsible medication consumer, three things come to mind. These three areas that come up are storing my drugs properly, taking them correctly, and disposing of them in a safe way.

Storing Your Medications

The first step to proper pharmaceutical consumption is making sure you are storing your medicine in the proper manner. For most drugs in most homes, this means putting them in your “medicine cabinet,” which should be a cool, dark place out of the reach of children. While this is fine for the vast majority of over the counter medications, and even most prescription drugs, there are plenty of situations where there is a lot more to it. In my case for example, I have to store my assortment of medications in three separate areas, based on their type and strength. First, I have my typical “medicine cabinet” that houses my over the counter medications, breathing treatments, and other drugs that are not narcotics or controlled substances. Second, I have some meds that have to be refrigerated, so obviously these go in my fridge. In order to keep them safely separate from food, I put them behind the butter tray in the door of my refrigerator. Third, I have a combination safe hidden in my home that holds the majority of my narcotics and other controlled substances, and I only take out enough of each medication for a few days. The few pills I take out are kept out where I can see them in clearly marked bottles. I keep a watchful eye on this at all times, and only my nursing staff and I know the combination to my safe. With my narcotics, I also keep a running count of any drugs I take or get from the pharmacy, so that I can always go count my meds in the event that I thought some were missing.

Scott Drotar Medicine Cabinet
Properly storing your medications is the first step to being a responsible pharmaceutical consumer.

In addition to selecting the best location for housing your medications, experience has taught me a couple of other best practices for storing your meds. One is to always, and I mean always, store your drugs in the container they come in. Whether they are over the counter or prescription, all medicine should be stored in the labeled container you got it in. I know it may be convenient to put a bunch of different meds you commonly take in an unmarked bottle (Altoids tin, old contacts case, empty lip balm container,…) and throw it in your purse or backpack, but it can also be quite dangerous. What if you mix up the diphenhydramine and the ibuprofen, take a couple of sleeping pills instead of some painkillers, and get behind the wheel of your car? At best it is dangerous and a potential DUI, and at worst it is a potentially fatal mistake. Additionally, carrying certain prescription drugs, like narcotics and other drugs used recreationally, in any container other than the bottle you got from the pharmacy is illegal in most states. By simply keeping your drugs in the correct, labeled bottle, you can eliminate issues like this from ever happening.

Another important aspect of proper medication storage that can eliminate life-threatening errors, involves not the drugs themselves, but the paperwork that comes with them. Every time you get a prescription, you get the medication your doctor ordered and a small amount of paperwork. These pamphlets that most people quickly discard without even a glance, can contain vital information for the proper handling of the medication. Information like what foods limit the drug’s effectiveness and what other medications can have dangerous interactions with it, may be fresh in your mind today, but three months from now it will not be. Without the accompanying paperwork, you will have no way of knowing all of this important information, which could result in dire consequences. For this reason, it is always a good idea to keep the paperwork that comes with your medications in the same place as the drugs themselves, or at the very least in a single, well-designated place, so that you will always have easy access to it when necessary.

Taking Your Medications

Having access to the documentation that comes with every medicine you pick up is a critical part of safely and effectively taking your meds, which is the second important aspect of being a responsible pharmaceutical consumer. Due to the powerful effects that medications can have on your body, it is vital that you are taking your drugs as they were designed. Even everyday substances, like Ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can do major physical harm if taken incorrectly, which is why properly taking your drugs is so critical. While safe drug use may start with your prescribing physician and the pharmacist, they are just the first line of defense. The person most responsible for ensuring that you take your medicines correctly is you. Since it is your life and well-being that is on the line, it is up to you to be a smart consumer when it comes to your medications. I go through a three step process to educate myself and make certain that I am taking my drugs in the right way, and if you follow this method you will know that you are safely taking your medications. First, have your doctors explain the drugs they prescribe to you and how you should take them. Do not be afraid to ask questions either, because that is the reason they are there. Next, ask your pharmacist about any pertinent information or dangers associated with your medications. Last, read the literature that comes with any new drugs you begin taking. If you do all three of these steps, and they all give you the same information, you will know you are doing things correctly. More importantly, if they do not agree, you will know that something is off, and you will be able to take action to avoid any possible problems.

Scott Drotar Medication Labels
Taking the time to read medication labels and the paperwork that comes with your drugs is the best way to become knowledgeable about your medications.

While I now know to double and triple check the information on my prescriptions before taking them, I did not come by this knowledge by chance. I had to experience the negative, and potentially life-threatening, effects of improperly taking your medications before obtaining this insight. My first experience with improper drug use occurred when I was in graduate school. I had just been prescribed a very potent painkiller by my doctor, and this drug was taken by placing an adhesive patch on your skin (like a nicotine patch). Both my doctor and pharmacist said to simply place a patch on my abdomen, make sure it was securely adhered to my skin, and replace it every two days, and I followed these instructions to the letter. I knew it would take a while for this drug to build up in my system, but with how strong this medication was, I should have felt at least some relief from my chronic pain within a day or two. Even after a week of using it however, I was still in just as much discomfort as I was without the patch. My physician upped my dosage, but still, I felt no relief. As I was tired of being in constant agony from feeling no effect from this potent drug, I decided to do some research on this medication. After doing some Google searches and reading about this drug and how it works, I was able to figure out why this medicine was having no impact on my pain. This particular patch gets into your bloodstream by being absorbed by fats under your skin. I only weigh 60 pounds, and pretty much all of that weight is organs, bones, and skin. Since I did not have enough fat, I could not absorb the drug, and that is why it was so ineffective in controlling my pain. As soon as I talked to my doctor and switched to an oral version of this medication, I finally got the relief I was hoping for from the beginning. It turns out, that if I had just opened up the literature that came with every box of patches and read it, I would have known this information from the start and avoided weeks of suffering.

This story illustrates the importance of being well-informed about your medications. While doctors and pharmacists are extremely knowledgeable and helpful in giving you information about your drugs, they are human, and they do make mistakes. Even though my story may have had a happy ending, this med error could have just as easily done major, and possibly life-threatening, harm to my body. This life and death nature of using medications properly is something that I have experienced first hand. I will share this story with you, and hopefully show you how critical correctly taking your medications can be, in the second part of this article.

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Setting Boundaries

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Scott Drotar Purple People-Eater
I am a huge “people-pleaser,” not to be confused with a “flying purple people-eater.”

I have something I have to tell all of you, but it is not going to be easy. I have not addressed it explicitly thus far in my Roll Models articles or talks, but I have decided that I need to be open with you. If I am going to share my world with you, then I need to share the good, as well as the bad, in order to give you an accurate depiction of my life. I hope this will not change your opinion of me, but I will totally understand if you see me differently after this post. I better just do it before I lose my nerve, so here it goes. My name is Scott, and I am a “people-pleaser.” That is right. I, Scott Drotar, your wise, witty, wheelchair-using wordsmith, is a “people-pleaser.” Not only that, but I am probably one of the worst “people-pleasers” in the world. I have a compulsive desire to please others and make people happy. I have a problem saying “no,” volunteer for things even when I have a full schedule, and often burn the candle at both ends. I fear missing a deadline and “dropping the ball” on a project more than death. My drive to help others live better lives even caused me to create (at least partially) my own speaking program and website to motivate and inspire as many individuals as possible, and if that does not scream, “people-pleaser,” I don’t know what does. However, I know that admitting I have a problem is the first step to coping with my issues, so I am here telling you today that I am a “people-pleaser.”

Ok. I know that this is a bit over-dramatic, and I do not mean to make fun of addiction issues or recovery groups, but I am a bona fide “people-pleaser.” When I get the sense that someone is not happy with something I have done, I get this physically ill and uncomfortable feeling throughout my body. I do not know why I get such a strong physiological response, but when I say “no” to someone, do not meet someone’s expectations, or otherwise let someone down, I get these horrible, sick feelings. I get this nauseated feeling in the pit of my stomach, my breathing gets shallower, and my body gets

Scott Drotar Setting Boundaries
Growing up, my siblings and I were always being told to think of others before ourselves.

flushed and sweats like a sinner’s on judgment day. While I do not know why it happens, I do have a good idea of how it started. Growing up, one of the things that my parents were constantly preaching to my siblings and I was the importance of thinking beyond ourselves. They were always telling us to put the needs of others before our own and to focus first on the happiness of the people around us. These altruistic ideals are something we all need to learn, and they have been quite valuable throughout my life, but it is important to remember to keep things in perspective. Just like everything else in life, you need to find the right balance. If you are only ever worrying about the well-being and happiness of others and completely ignoring your own needs, you will end up being just as bad off as people who only think of themselves. Sure, people may like you a lot more than these greedy, self-serving individuals, but you will not be any better off since you are not addressing your own needs. By constantly giving to others all the time, you will end up burnt out and miserable from ignoring your own wants and desires. This is not only bad because you deserve to be happy, but also since in giving too much of yourself and burning out in the short-term, you will no longer have the drive to help improve the lives of others over the long-term. In order to help others as much as possible, maintain your own happiness, and avoid fizzling out and imploding on yourself like a dieing star, you have to learn to set boundaries.

When I was in my first semester of graduate school, since I was new to the quantitative psychology program, had almost no knowledge of theoretical psychology, and had a much different background than my colleagues, I felt like I had something to prove. I felt like I needed to show everyone that I belonged and could be an asset to the department. In an effort to prove my worth, I would volunteer and sign up for anything that I was even remotely qualified to do. When my boss would start looking for people to handle certain jobs at our weekly staff meetings or email the entire department looking for someone to take on a new client, I would be the first to speak up or hit reply. As you can imagine, after a couple months of signing up for anything and everything I could, my plate was very full. It got to the point by mid-semester where I had zero free time or personal life, and if I was not in one of my own classes, I was working on something for a client. I was well on my way to burning out, and if I had continued much longer this way I am certain I would have (probably ending my academic career), but thanks to some wisdom from a professor, I was able to avoid this unpleasant fate and learn an important life lesson.

I was sitting in a lecture hall the week before Fall Break waiting on one of my classes to start, and as I was quietly sipping my Starbucks latte, the professor walked over and asked how my first semester of graduate school was going. I told him that I was enjoying myself and thought I was doing well in my courses, but I was still struggling with finding enough time to complete all of the projects I was working on. He smiled and said that time management was a big part of grad school, and then asked me what projects I was currently helping with. I started going through my mile-long list of current projects, and after about the sixth one, my professor stopped me. He said that I had more projects going than he did even as a tenured professor, and that I was definitely doing way too much for a first year graduate student. He then went on to ask me who had assigned me to all of this work. I shook my head quickly and told him that no one had assigned these projects to me, but that I had volunteered. I added that I thought as the new person in the department and being “low man on the totem pole,” that I was supposed to volunteer a lot and show people what I could do. At this point, a gentle smirk came across my professor’s lips as he said that I had things “completely back-asswards.” He then gave me two great pieces of advice. The first was that the people that mattered already knew what I could do, or I would not be there in the first place (a universal idea that we all forget occasionally). The second, and more valuable, nugget of wisdom was the importance of setting boundaries.

My professor explained to me that in academia, one of your most valuable commodities is your time. There is only so much time in the day, and you will always end up having more work to do than time allows. Unless you can learn to set some boundaries, you will end up going crazy as you painstakingly try to do everything for everyone. If you do not protect your time today by learning to say “no,” you will not have the drive or mental faculties to say “yes” later on when you do have time. It is all a matter of having the ability to help as many people as possible in the long run. It is much better, both for you and others, to help on a few less projects every year, but be around for four years, than to help on every project this year, but burn out and leave after this Spring semester. Having it explained to me this way, as a cost and benefit type problem, really put everything in perspective for me. I realized that you have to balance your “yes’s and no’s” by setting boundaries, in order to get the best result and participate on the most projects.

Scott Drotar Totem Pole
As the “low man on the totem pole” in my first semester of graduate school, I rarely said “no” to a project.

As important as my professor’s sage-like advice was for surviving my grad school career, it was only after I thought about his words for a few days that I realized their real value. It turns out that this same concept about protecting your time and setting boundaries is applicable to nearly every part of life. Just like I needed to say “no” to some projects early on in my grad school career in order to maintain my sanity, graduate, and achieve my long-term goals, you also need to create and sustain limits in all of the other areas of your life if you want to be happy and successful. By developing boundaries you will be able to better prioritize your life and maintain a healthy balance even when you are being pulled in a thousand different directions. Whether it is turning down a “happy hour” invitation from a colleague to have family dinner, or saying “no” to your boss’s request that you stay late to watch your child’s dance recital, your boundaries will ensure that you do not get beaten down by life or lose sight of what is most important to you. Developing these limits, learning to say “no,” and remembering that long-term success is most important, will make you feel much happier and fulfilled with your life, and since you will be better equipped to help others in the long run, it will improve the lives of others as well.

I am a “people-pleaser,” and that will never change. The feelings I have to make everyone around me happy and not disappoint others will never completely go away. Like any other compulsion or addiction though, you can learn to manage these feelings and live a happy, successful life. Developing good boundaries, and sticking to them, will go a long way towards controlling your “people-pleaser” urges. If you too suffer from this horrible affliction, take the time to really think about the wisdom my professor shared with me. What areas of your life are making you feel burned out? What parts of your life are you ignoring because of other obligations? Make a list of what aspects of your life are the most important to you, and then create boundaries that ensure you devote your time to the right things. If you develop good boundaries, and stick to them even when it is hard, you will no longer be a slave to your urges as a “people-pleaser.” You will enjoy a long, happy life with your loved ones, and better yet, in the long run you will be able to give more of yourself to others.

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A New Roll Models Service

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While this is not exactly a new post, I do have an exciting announcement to make about a new service I am offering through Roll Models.

Scott Drotar KU PPT Club
The students in the University of Kansas Pre-Physical Therapy Club were a great audience, and I thoroughly enjoyed speaking for them.

Whether it is a toast at a wedding, a presentation to your superiors at work, or giving a speech for a volunteer group to raise funds, we all have to speak in front of people at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, fear of public speaking, or glossophobia, is one of the most common fears people have, with nearly 75% of people reporting having some anxiety/nervousness before taking the microphone. Surveys even show that the majority of people fear speaking in public more than death! It does not have to be this way however, since studies have also consistently shown that receiving some training or advice on how to deliver a great speech can drastically reduce your anxiety.

After reading this information and letting it percolate for a few days, I saw both an opportunity to help others and create a new service I could offer through Roll Models. Over the last year, between reading every book on speaking I could find, watching countless hours of great speeches online, and of course delivering numerous Roll Models talks of my own, I have accumulated an enormous amount of knowledge about how to give a great speech and feel comfortable while doing it. Everything from where to stand, what to wear, how to position your hands, and a thousand other things need to be addressed before getting on stage in order to speak effectively. By sharing my knowledge of public speaking with others, I can help them to overcome their pre-talk nerves and give a speech they can be proud of.

Thanks to some fantastic advice from my brother, I also had access to an efficient, yet effective, tool to offer this service quite quickly. This amazing tool is the website, www.fiverr.com. This website is an online marketplace with a twist, you have to offer your service for $5. You are free to offer pretty much any service you like, just as long as you charge a “fiverr.” I highly recommend that you check it out, and while you are there, stop by my profile at www.fiverr.com/sdrotar. I currently only offer two services, statistical analysis help and speech preparation advice, but I have many more coming soon.

I hope you will check it out and consider my services for your own public speaking anxiety issues should they arise. Also, if you know of anyone with an upcoming toast, speech, or presentation coming up, please let them know about my new service.

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Pride

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One of the most confusing and complex emotions, and also one of the most important, is pride. What makes this feeling so difficult to manage is that unless you have just the right amount, it will have a negative impact on your life. If you have too little pride then you come across as having no self-respect and weak, and if you have too much you are an arrogant, pompous jerk. Even commonly used quips like “take pride in yourself” and “pride comes before the fall” show the duality of this aspect of human nature. Like so many things in life, the key to controlling this feeling is finding the proper balance. While this is no easy task, and it takes lots of practice, when you do finally find that perfect amount of pride the powerful feelings of success and happiness that come over you are well worth the effort.

Scott Drotar Achilles
Too much pride has been the undoing of many men throughout history and literature, like Achilles.

As someone who makes a living talking about his life, I have had a lot of practice learning to find that perfect amount of pride. Despite the fact that I have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours working on maintaining an appropriate level of pride, I still feel awkward talking to people about my accomplishments at times. It is not that I feel like I do not have things to be proud of, I have achieved a lot and am quite satisfied with my success, but it is still difficult to recognize my accomplishments without thinking that I am coming across as a bit of a narcissist. When people come up to me and say things like “Wow, you went to Notre Dame and studied math! You must be so smart.,” “You got your master’s degree. That is so great!,” or “I think your success is so inspiring.” I never know how to react. If I respond with something like “Yup, I am a genius. Thanks for noticing.” then I may seem like an egotistical snob, and if I say “Oh golly…gee…thanks. It was nothing.” while staring at my shoes then I risk coming off as an insincere, overly humble fake. This common situation that we all have experienced in some form illustrates how hard it can be to manage this complicated emotion, and how failing to find the proper balance can negatively affect your life. Despite how hard it is to control and the detrimental effects it can have on your world though, the moments when you do find the perfect balance between hubris and humility make all of your efforts well worth it.

While I have lots to be proud of, and I could choose one of hundreds of examples from my life to show you the powerful, positive emotions that come from finding that perfect amount of pride, I am not going to, at least not in the way you think. Instead of sharing a story of my success and how great I am (in the span of two sentences I have been both overly humble and arrogant), I am going to share a different type of story with you. I am going to tell you about a time when I witnessed someone else experience the awesome feelings of happiness that pride can generate. This is not only the moment when I fully understood how powerful the effects of pride can be, but it also showed me an interesting aspect of this complex emotion that is often overlooked. Hopefully, you will find as much value in this story as I have, and you will be able to apply it to better understand and manage these complicated feelings in your own life.

As I have mentioned before in other posts, when I was in high school I was a huge geek. I was not picked on or anything, but I was definitely not one of the “cool kids” or considered popular by any means. That is why I was shocked when during my senior year I was voted to be one of the finalists for prom king. While I am sure this was meant to be an honor or tribute from my peers, due to my feelings on popularity contests this put me in a difficult position. I have always thought that popularity contests were one of the most demeaning, soul crushing things in our society. In my opinion, nothing good can come from holding a contest among adolescents that says these people are better than these people, based on no real criteria other than who is “liked” the most (whatever that means). Given my feelings on popularity contests, I did not feel comfortable being on the ballot as a prom king finalist; however, I also did not want to seem ungrateful towards the people who voted for me. In order to solve this problem, I decided to speak with the assistant principal to figure out a solution.

Without mentioning it to anyone, I got to school early the following morning and went to see the assistant principal in his office. Fortunately, he shared my thoughts on how damaging popularity contests can be on people’s self-esteem, especially for teenagers. He also understood why I did not want to publicly remove myself from the ballot out of respect for my classmates. After discussing some options to solve my predicament, we decided that the best course of action was to merely leave my name off the final ballot with the hopes that no one would realize it was missing or care enough to say anything. When the final votes for prom king and queen were cast a few days later with my name removed and no one seemed to notice, it looked as if our plan had worked. I did not have to worry about participating in a contest I did not believe in, and I did not insult my peers by rejecting their nomination. I was quite relieved and happy to be able to put this whole thing behind me, but it turned out that this event had one more life lesson to teach me.

Scott Drotar Pride
The way my father looked at me that day left no doubt in my mind about how proud he was of me.

As my dad, who was also a teacher at my high school, and I were on our way home from school that day, he brought up that he noticed my name was missing from the prom ballots. He also told me that the assistant principal had spoken to him about our meeting, and how I had asked to have my name removed. After he had explained what the assistant principal had said to him, he looked at me in a way I will never forget. Without saying a word, he expressed how much he respected my thoughts on popularity contests, how I was unwilling to participate in something I did not believe in, and the way I had removed my name without disrespecting my classmates. I could literally see how proud he was of me and the man I had become. While I had always known that he was proud of me, this was much more than that. In this moment of euphoria that was generated by his immense pride, our relationship changed forever (or at least my perspective of it). It was like in an instant he went from seeing me as a teenager to seeing me as a man. And not just a man, but a good man that he was proud to call his son.

In addition to showing the incredibly powerful feelings that pride can generate when managed correctly, this priceless moment from my life also illustrates another positive aspect of pride. As my father was glowing with feelings of satisfaction that day, I noticed that I too was experiencing an enormous amount of pride and happiness as well. Almost like a disease spreading from one host to another, the amazing feelings he was having were also occurring in me. Even though I had not seen my actions regarding the prom as anything special before then, merely knowing how much it meant to my dad brought about similar feelings of happiness in me. While it varies depending on the situation, this ability to spread from person to person is something that often occurs when someone feels proud. This makes managing your pride even more important, because in addition to being able to bring large amounts of happiness to your life, it can make others happy as well.

While it has been the undoing of many men, and despite the fact that it is extremely difficult to keep in check, pride can bring an enormous amount of happiness to your life. By making sure to maintain the proper balance of arrogance and humility, you gain access to entirely new levels of joy and satisfaction. Better yet, these incredible feelings of happiness will not only improve your life, but also the lives of those around you. Take the time to think about how prideful other people see you. Do you come across as a humble servant or a boastful blowhard? Try to be more aware of your feelings of pride and work on finding that perfect balance. It may take some time and practice, but I guarantee that when you finally experience that perfect amount of pride you will be glad you put in this effort.

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A Tigress Protecting Her Cub

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Scott Drotar Stephanie Lawyer
My sister is now officially a practicing New York City lawyer, which is just one of her many amazing accomplishments.

As a proud brother, I have to take a moment to announce that my sister recently got her results from the bar exam, and she is now officially a practicing lawyer at a legal firm in New York City. She worked really hard to accomplish this goal, and I could not be more happy or excited for her as she embarks on her new career. As proud as I am of her numerous impressive, professional achievements though, when I think about Stephanie, these are not the things I focus on. Instead, the things that come to mind are our strong relationship and how much we care about each other. Considering that we live thousands of miles apart, and that strong adult sibling relationships are becoming more and more rare nowadays, this powerful connection we have forged is what I value most between us. As I reminisce about my big sister, while there are a plethora of memories that I could recall where she helped me with something or took care of me, the moment that usually comes to mind first is something else entirely. This priceless event from my life always reminds me of how much Stephanie cares about me, and in honor of her big achievement, I would like to share it with you to show you how she was just as amazing of a person even before her recent professional successes.

One Summer while I was in high school, my family took a weekend trip to Detroit just to get away for a few days. One of things my family likes to do on vacations is go to baseball games, and since my dad is a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, naturally it made sense to take in a game at their new stadium during our trip. We had great seats, and the atmosphere of green grass, peanut vendors, and organ music surrounding us was a lot of fun. On top of that, the Tigers won (a minor miracle in itself), there were several home runs, and the weather was beautiful, which pretty much adds up to a perfect day at the ballpark. While this was an amazing day with my family and Comerica Park is one of the coolest stadiums I have ever been to, what makes this memory so special to me is something that happened during the game that has nothing to do with baseball. This moment I often think about fondly, shows exactly how much my sister cares about me. I know it may be a strange setting for a heart-warming, “Kodak moment,” but this life changing experience is something I will never forget.

Scott Drotar Comerica Park
Comerica Park is a beautiful stadium, but it will always be even more special to me because of the life changing experience I had there.

About half way through the game, as I was taking in the action and enjoying a plump, juicy hotdog as my sister sat next to me playing with her newly acquired foam tiger claw (as opposed to a foam finger), I heard the unmistakable crack of a wooden bat making contact with the pitch. The batter had fouled the ball high into the air, and since I am a magnet for flying objects at sporting events, of course it was heading right for where I was sitting. Obviously, in a situation like this where all of a sudden something is flying through the air in your direction, you don’t have time to analyze everything and decide what to do, so your brain goes into reactionary mode (similar to a “fight-or-flight” response). For most people, this involves either running away from the trajectory of the incoming ball or throwing your arms over your head in the fetal position to protect yourself. Since I can do neither of those things, and the ball was coming right at me, I merely closed my eyes and braced myself for what surely would be a painful impact. To my surprise though, this collision between my head and Mr. Spalding never happened.

I sat there with my eyes closed waiting for the ball to strike…and I waited…and waited. I felt like Marvin the Martian in that Bugs Bunny cartoon waiting for the “Earth shattering kaboom!” Thanks to my sister however, this painful collision never happened, at least not to me. It turned out that my sister had stood up and used her giant, foam tiger claw to shield me from the ball. Even though the ball ricocheted off of her big paw and hit her in the jaw, afterwards all she seemed to care about was that I was alright. Stephanie, instead of having a “fight-or-flight” response to protect herself, had an immediate reaction to protect me. She cared about me so much that she was willing to trade her own safety for mine. What makes this even more special to me is that it was not some logical decision made carefully (i.e. “if Scott gets hit he could get really hurt, if I get hit it is a bruise”), but a gut reaction based on her feelings and priorities. She was like a tigress protecting her cub, completely willing to sacrifice her own well-being for my safety. When the rubber hit the road, Stephanie’s primary concern was keeping me safe. Her selfless reaction and how loved it makes me feel to this day, is something I will never forget.

Roll Models Tiger Cub
Just like a tigress protecting her cubs, Stephanie’s instinctive reaction was keeping me safe.

My sister is an incredible young woman and has a lot to be proud of, as she has accomplished a lot of great things at such a young age. She went to college on full scholarship, has worked on Times Square, and is now a “Big Apple” attorney. While all of her achievements are wonderful and impressive and I could not be happier for her, this is not what makes her so amazing. She was amazing before all of these professional accolades and accomplishments. Her character, kindness, and love for her family are far more impressive qualities than passing the bar exam, and these are the things that make me so proud to be her brother. So to my sister, Stephanie, I want to say that I am so happy for you as you begin living your dream of being a lawyer. You are so deserving of all of your success, and I could not be more proud of you, but you were already one of the most amazing women I have ever known without these achievements. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy getting to be a part of your life. I love you so much, “Floppy,” and thanks to America’s passion for giant, foam limbs, I know you love me too. Happy birthday from your tiger cub.

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Check Mate! (Part 5): Planning Ahead

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Scott Drotar Garry Kasparov
Chess grandmasters, like Garry Kasparov, can accurately plan out over 20 moves ahead.

If there is one skill that you have to have to be a successful chess player, it has to be the ability to plan ahead. The key to winning any chess match is to plan out a sequence of moves that either leave your opponent with only one legal move or make it so that no matter what move they respond with they will still lose (this is called forcing check mate). Since in most cases there are typically dozens of possible ways your adversary can respond, and this number grows exponentially the more moves you plan ahead, forecasting even three or four moves takes a lot of mental ability. To illustrate both how difficult this can be, as well as how critical this skill is on the chessboard, consider that an average player like myself, who has studied the game and is reasonably intelligent but only plays as a hobby, can plan out maybe five moves ahead. In contrast, the grandmasters, like Bobby Fischer and Gary Kasparov, often would plan a series of 10 or even 20 moves with great accuracy to beat their opponents. Just like this cornerstone of a chess player’s ability is the key to getting to check mate, it is also an extremely important skill to master in life.

As I mentioned in the third entry in this series, we often go to great lengths to meticulously plan out our lives. We do this both on a large scale by creating a life plan (i.e. go to college, get married, have 2.4 kids, etc.), as well as on a small scale by having a schedule for our daily activities (i.e. go to work, pick up kids from school, make dinner, etc.). We use tools like calendars, sticky note reminders, and more recently our smart phones to help us make sure that every minute of our life goes as expected (I think my tablet reminded me of six things just while I was writing this article). Planning out our lives this way obviously requires a lot of time and energy, but we are willing to put in all of this effort for two main reasons. First, by planning out your life you feel like you are in control of what happens next. Since being in control of your life is one of the things we care about most as people, feeling as if you are in charge of your day is very comforting. Second, and more importantly, by scheduling our daily activities and having a plan to follow we can best prepare for possible obstacles that could arise. As any boy scout knows, being prepared will allow you to avoid and overcome problems when they come up, which can make your life much easier. This powerful life skill is something that I was taught to do at an early age, and I apply constantly in order to get around with my disability in our able-bodied world.

When any family with young children goes out to do something, whether it is a trip to the zoo, going to an amusement park, or even just out to eat, the parents generally make some preparations for the family outing in order to avoid potential issues. They do things like packing snacks, having some toys on hand, and even having extra clothes in the car to make sure that whatever situation arises, they will be prepared to handle it and avoid a tantrum or meltdown by one of their devilish offspring. Now I know that every family does this to some degree while the children are young, but when you throw a child with a physical disability into the mix, you have to put this process into overdrive in order to have any chance at a happy, successful day together. In addition to having to prepare for all of the typical problems that might pop up, plans for issues related to the disability or using a wheelchair must also be made. This does not just add a whole heap of new obstacles to consider, but these potential problems also can have much more serious consequences than a hungry, cranky kid, so it is extremely important to be ready for them. As my parents, and later I, quickly learned though, if you are going to have any chance at being a functioning member of society as a disabled individual, this skill must be developed.

Scott Drotar Suction Machine
Making sure that my suction machine is charged and good to go before leaving my apartment helps me avoid potentially life threatening situations.

There are countless issues related to my spinal muscular atrophy and my wheelchair that can occur at any time, and some of these problems can have dire consequences if they are not handled quickly and correctly. When I am at home, with all of my medical equipment and medications, dealing with health issues that arise is no big deal. Once I go out into the world however, unless I have the foresight to plan for problems before they occur, I can find myself in a potentially life threatening situation (or at least an unpleasant one). Things like running out of suction kits, not charging my suction machine, and not bringing enough medication can all be very dangerous scenarios for me. Even things like my wheelchair’s battery dieing, not checking on handicap accessibility ahead of time, and forgetting an umbrella, while not life threatening, can all bring my trip to an end and ruin my day. Thankfully though, once you find yourself in a difficult, or even dangerous, situation a few times, you learn quite quickly how to prepare yourself to avoid and manage these types of issues.

Whenever I am getting ready to head out the door to go somewhere, in order to make sure I am as prepared as I can be for possible obstacles, I go through a mental checklist. To try to illustrate the immense number of things I have to consider before going out, I am going to list off all of the thoughts I have before leaving.

Do I have my wallet?
Do I have my phone?
Do I have my keys?
Do I look/smell ok?
Do I know where I am going?
Do I need gas?

Up to here anyone, disabled or not, could ask these questions. Now I will list everything my physical limitations add to the mix.

Is my wheelchair charged?
Is my suction machine charged?
Is the suction machine canister empty?
Is the suction tubing well connected?
Do I have enough suction kits?
Do I have a spare trache?
Do I have an ambu-bag?
Do I have enough pain meds?
Do I have my “emergency meds?”
How do my muscles feel (too tight, too sore,…)?
How do my lungs feel?
Is there a blanket in the van?
Do I have my wheelchair rain poncho?
How will I use the bathroom?
Do I need to bring food and drink to make sure my blood sugar and hydration are ok?
Is it too hot/cold for me to be out?
Can my wheelchair get in wherever I am going?
Will there be parking for my van?

As you can see, my mental list is a little longer than most, but by going through this ritual before leaving my apartment I can avoid ending up in an unexpected, unpleasant situation. It allows me to be as prepared as possible, which not only keeps me safe, but also gives me the courage to go out and live a happy life without fear, because I know I am ready.

Scott Drotar Planning Ahead
Developing the ability to plan ahead will give you the confidence to go out and explore your world more freely.

Having the ability to plan ahead is something that has been extremely valuable to me throughout my life. By preparing some beforehand for potential obstacles that could arise, you can avoid being caught in difficult, or even dangerous, situations. It is important to remember though, that just like Bobby Fischer could not plan out every move correctly, you will not be able to predict and prevent every tough situation, which is when you have to “roll with the punches.” By combining your ability to plan ahead and “roll with the punches” you are now ready for anything that life can throw at you. This key to leading a fulfilling life will give you the confidence to explore your world and experience as much as possible, which will unlock in you entirely new levels of happiness.

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Check Mate! (Part 4): Unlimited Possibilities

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Scott Drotar Pawn
The pawn may be weak, but its unlimited potential makes it powerful.

The pawn is without a doubt the least interesting and exciting piece on the chessboard. It has the most limited movement, cannot move backwards, and it is easily blocked by other pieces. For these reasons, and many others, a lot of players look at their pawns merely as meat shields to block attacks on their other pieces, and they rarely think twice about losing one or more of these sacrificial lambs to gain some other minor advantage. What these players fail to remember though is that the pawn has a powerful, unique ability that can completely shift the outcome of a game. If a lowly, weak, little pawn can work its way all the way across the board, it can be promoted to any other piece (typically a queen). By putting in the effort to safely journey through enemy territory, the weakest piece in your army can realize its full potential, become anything it wants, and lead you to victory. Just like the pawn can become anything it wants with enough effort and planning on that checkered battlefield, in life you have the opportunity to be whatever you can dream up as well.

The United States has been built on the notion of the “American Dream.” This idea that anyone, no matter who you are or what your background, who puts in enough time and effort has the opportunity to build any life they want is what makes our nation so great. While immigrants and individuals in certain minority groups often still recognize and appreciate what a privilege this is, unfortunately the “American Dream” has become so commonplace that it is often taken for granted by most American citizens. Sure as children we are told that we can be anything we want to be when we grow up if we work hard enough, but as we get older and choose a career the endless possibilities we could become start to fade. Then as we start our lucrative career, buy a house, start a family, and create a life for ourselves, the pressures and responsibilities of our lives make most of us forget about our infinite potential altogether. This is extremely unfortunate, not only because there are not many countries that afford this privilege to their citizens, but also because it is never too late to take advantage of this gift. You are never too old, too busy, or even too happy with your life to learn something new. Whether you want to learn to cook gourmet food, to speak Japanese, or to fly an airplane, you have the opportunity to go do it. Your ability to learn new skills or even a whole new career is far too special to be overlooked, which is why it is important to be reminded of what a privilege this is from time to time.

Scott Drotar American Dream
My ancestors, and millions of others, came to the United States in search of the “American Dream.”

Since I have grown up in a minority group as a disabled person, I have always felt so fortunate that I live in the United States. Here, despite my physical limitations, I can still create any life I can dream up. In most other countries however, having spinal muscular atrophy would have prevented me from pursuing any of the unlimited possibilities for my future that the “American Dream” gives me the opportunity to achieve. Recognizing how special this privilege is and being the big dreamer that I am, I have always made sure that I take full advantage of this gift to be anything I want. Early on in my life, I knew that I wanted to go to college, live independently, and be a functioning member of society. To chase my dream, I worked hard in school, learned to survive without my family as much as possible, and researched various organizations and such that help disabled people live on their own. Now it was a ton of work and took an enormous amount of time, but I was able to achieve every one of my goals. The “American Dream” gave me the opportunity to accomplish all of this, and it also put me in control of whether I succeeded or not. If I was willing to work my ass off, persevere, and never give up, then I had every opportunity to create any happy, successful life I chose.

More recently, I once again took full advantage of my freedom to pursue any of the infinite possible futures available to me when I decided to start Roll Models. Even though I had no formal training as a speaker or writer, had never run my own website, and had no real reason to think I would succeed, I was free to seize the opportunity to make the career change from statistical consultant to professional speaker. I had my own “American Dream” of using my story to help people, a deep (almost arrogant) confidence that this was my calling in life, and an unyielding work ethic, and thankfully in this great country that is all you need to chase your dreams. I am not saying that I did not hit some bumps along the way or worry about being able to pay my bills at times, and there was definitely a lot more to Roll Models’ success than just this, but having the opportunity to try this new career is what got the momentum going. Knowing that if I could figure things out and find a way to succeed that nothing would stop me, gave me the confidence to go after my new life. In doing so, I am now living my “American Dream,” which has brought an entirely new level of happiness to both myself and others.

Scott Drotar Unlimited Possibilities
I seized my opportunity to pursue any future I want, when I decided to start Roll Models.

Promoting a pawn into another piece is one of the most exciting and powerful moves that can happen on a chessboard, and by turning the unlimited potential of the runt of the chess litter into a stronger piece, you can achieve new levels of success. As you have learned from reading my stories of chasing my “American Dream,” you can similarly reach greater levels of success and happiness in life by taking advantage of your opportunity to realize your own infinite potential. We are so lucky to live in a country that allows you to be anything you can dream up, that it would be a travesty to not use and appreciate it. What is the one thing you have always wanted to learn to do? What is the great business idea you have always wanted to try? What did you want to be growing up? What is your big dream? Think about and answer at least one of these incredibly important questions, and then ask yourself, “Why not chase that dream now?” Do not let yourself make excuses either (use “The $1,000 Question”). I promise that no matter how busy you are, how old you are, or how tired you are, your life will improve by chasing your dreams. Because no matter how happy and content you are with your life, I guarantee you could be happier.

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