We think of childhood as a simple time –fancy free, no worries, necessities provided without effort.
But Vicki Abeles sees childhood differently.
She produced a 2009 video titled, “Race to Nowhere,” that told stories of students who were burned out and overworked by the pressure-cooker education culture. She featured her son, Zak, in the video and in her column on the subject, published Sept. 26, 2014, in USA Today.
In decades past, the philosophy was that a busy child stayed out of trouble. Many education systems stressed rigor, lots of homework, even busy work to keep kids’ minds on one thing: school.
That evolved a bit, as kids got into sports, music, drama, debate and other excellent extracurricular activities. It was thought then that those things helped balance a student’s life.
Today, as we see our education system documented as hardly the best in the world, we have created kids that are overworked, overstressed and still not achieving what they should.
“In some places across the country, the frantic pace of modern life has even trickled down to kindergarten, where students are already bringing home piles of homework,” Abeles writes.
She says young people nationwide suffer from alarming rates of anxiety, sleep loss and depression. She quotes a survey by the American Psychological Association that one in four teens reported feeling extreme levels of stress during the school year.
Teens may not seem stressed to you. Of course, there are normal stresses for teens, including boy-girl relationships, having to look good to your peers, wearing the “right” clothes etc. But, if you have or know a teenager, does his or her stress level seem abnormal? If the teen is open to talking to you frankly, ask him or her about it.
We need an education system that makes kids not just learn, but WANT to learn. Just as we adults need a work-life balance, kids need a school-life balance. Sure, school is their job. But it should not be their life.
They should be able to easily mix academic demands, extracurricular activities and free time to hang with friends, date (if they are old enough) or just do what they want. After all, they are only kids once.
Sometimes, kids find their life calling by having the freedom to do what they want.
They should certainly learn that some structure is important. We can’t raise children to believe that they can ALWAYS do what they want, no matter what. A job requires some commitment to structure that the employer requires. Higher education requires some structure to get a degree.
But making kids a slave to structure at an early age will probably hurt them more than help them. It might cause them to develop mental, even physical injuries that could stay with them for life. What kind of waste of potential would that be?
While students need to learn some structure, they also should learn that there are ways to make a life that may not require the structure we are teaching them. It may require a different, more enjoyable kind of structure. For a look at one such lifestyle, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau.
If you are over a certain age, you learned the importance of structure in life. As a teen, you may have even rebelled at such structure. More than likely, you got over your rebellion and got “structured” again. Abeles believes today’s kids are over-structured. If you have a teen, or know one, you might want to cut them some slack.
Instead of making sure every minute of the day, and night, is tied up with some activity, give them some time to be them. You may be pleasantly surprised at not only how they use that time, but also how it could make them much better adults.


We hear and read that the economy is really improving.
Yet, many of us don’t see it, or feel it.
The reasons may be too numerous to mention all of them, but a few key ones are: you may have lost a good job and gotten a new one, but you are making less money. Many of us had to get back on our feet, sort of, by making less money. That is a trend. Businesses want more and better work, for less.
Here’s another: you had a house. You either lost your house in foreclosure, or you had to sell your house for less than it was worth because you lost your job. Your new job, if you’ve gotten one, pays less, but you had to take a lesser house. What gets you, too, is that some rich investor gobbled up your former house for pennies on the dollar, and is either renting it to someone else in your situation, or has resold it for more than you could have afforded to buy it back. To the investor, the economy is booming. But you don’t feel it.
A third: you were lucky to keep your job that you’ve had all these years. You’ve survived downsizings, buyouts and the like, intact. But you have not had a raise in years. Your costs, for everything, have gone up. You don’t see the boom in the economy. Yet, you are supposed to consider yourself lucky to have survived. Perhaps, it’s the new normal.
For those who already had pretty good means, the economy is improving. They are seeing the recession disappear, and their fortunes return, and even improve. But so many are left in the dust. They have been downsized, resized and even “recovered.” Yet, they may never see anything resembling the life they once had. They were good at what they did, helped their employers do well, but they were forced to find a new life with less.
You start to see signs saying employers are hiring. You check out some of them, and find that the jobs they are hiring for will hardly make you a living, or are part time. Or, perhaps, the jobs not only don’t pay well, they are incompatible with your life. There may be a shortage of truck drivers, as has been recently reported. But having a job that puts you on the road at all hours of the day and night for $50,000 a year just isn’t going to work for you. There was a time when driving a truck paid much better. Those days are gone.
We are starting to read and hear about companies hiring, shortages in certain professions and even new jobs being created. When you check them out, many of them are either beyond your qualifications or they don’t pay nearly what they should. Wages should start to rise in this situation, but they are slow to. Employers still believe there are enough desperate people out there that they can still pay less.
So, if you are not seeing the boom in the economy that many are talking about, you are not alone.
There is good news here. There are many things out there that can provide an alternative to the traditional job. And, they can pay you pretty handsomely. But, as in anything, you have to be a person who wants something badly enough to look at something different.
If you are that person, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau, and see one of the best.
You can mope, cope and hope. Or, you can look outside what you know, get a desire to change things for yourself and take the plunge. In this new world, others will willingly help you succeed.
Some may want you to settle for less. Don’t settle. Succeed.


I am one person. I can’t do everything. But I am me. I can do something.
Paraphrase of a T-shirt seen in an airport

We all gripe about the world.
Perhaps we’ve gone through some things we didn’t deserve.
Perhaps we’ve seen everything we’ve worked for disappear, through no fault of our own.
Perhaps we have an illness that we not only never expected, but feel incapable to deal with.
Our circumstances are none of our business. How we deal with them is every bit our business.
Maybe we can’t change the way the world is. But we can change the way WE are.
Perhaps we can’t fix all destruction. But we can fix what we can see and touch.
Some are bent on destroying us. But we are flexible. We keep moving.
The boss wants us gone. So we go, and make a better life.
We get sick. But we do what we need to get better.
We are told certain things are true. Yet we find some may not be.
Even the smallest deception we may try can hurt someone else big time.
We are all better than we think we are at the moment. We just have to go for it!
All you think, do and say has a consequence. Make all thoughts, deeds and words positive.
Don’t let the naysayers get you down. For there is much out there that is good and true.
If no one gives you a pat on the back, give yourself one.
Haven’t gotten a raise in years? Look for something more beneficial to you.
Having trouble finding that benefit? Visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau
The world can be a dark place. Let your attitude shine a light for you.
Perhaps you can’t change everything. But you can change.
When everything isn’t what it seems, keep digging. You may find gold.
If you dread getting up in the morning, be thankful that you still can.
The best way to get on your feet is to get off your butt. (seen on a license plate)
People and companies will do what they must do. You do what you must do.
Be the music that rocks your world when evil tries to drown you out.
Be you. Do what you know you should. Help others, so you may help yourself.


We all strive for perfect moments, though perfection, among humans, is impossible.
In his book, “The Perfect Moment,” Andy Andrews realizes that perfection is impossible. So he defines “perfect” moments as the best that can possibly be.
We all love different things, but Andrews’ book points out that perfect moments are when good things come together. He tells the story of playing catch with his son, using a football. His son “goes long,” Andrews throws the ball, his son grabs it over his shoulder, falls down along the beach and yells, “touchdown.”
Andrews was on the beach playing with his son. The sun was out. It wasn’t too hot, nor too cold. The weather was, well, perfect. In that moment, everything came together for Andrews and his son.
What do you consider “perfect” moments? Perhaps it’s a nice day on the golf course, when you score a hole-in-one – with a witness, of course. If you’re an athlete, it may be when you, personally, have won a championship game with a winning score.
If you’re in sales, it may be when you’ve finally gotten a big contract from a prospective client that had never let you see him – until now. You’d done your due diligence, and your persistence paid off!
We have perfect moments at work, at home and in life. Perhaps perfection came when you met the person with whom you would spend the rest of your life. And, you knew it, or at least felt it, at the time.
The message in Andrews’ book is that perfect moments are created by you. Sure, they can just “happen,” but the person who creates perfect moments will see more of them.
He points out that part of perfect moments is having nothing urgent that you needed to attend to, but were ignoring. With many of us, that’s easier said than done. So the message then becomes to get your mandatory tasks done so you can have time to create perfect moments.
Free time scarce? Money even scarcer? For a potential solution to both of those problems, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau. You might be able to eventually have enough time to create perfect moments, along with enough money to enjoy and appreciate them.
Here’s another thing about perfect moments. You have to realize them, when you encounter them. The golfer who scores a hole-in-one will probably realize his immediately. But those beautiful days at the beach spending time with your family could be taken for granted.
So, you must realize the moments as well as enjoy them. When we realize them, we are grateful for every one of them. We may have to adjust our attitudes toward gratitude, but grateful people generally find success – and more perfect moments.
We must be a little careful not to live in every moment. Some moments are stressful, and far from perfect. Some moments are burdensome, yet we bear burdens to free us to create more perfect moments.
We are blessed to be free to create perfect moments. We understand absolute perfection is not humanly possible. But as we go through life as we know it, we realize more and more those moments that are the best that can possibly be.