Category Archives: Humor

Following Up

Last year in September I wrote about a 47-year old professor, Randy Pausch, and his inspirational “Last Lecture” following his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.

If you want to know why death is such an important part of being human, then view the video on my previous post.

Back then he had wide publicity, from Good Morning America to Oprah, from ABC World News to The Wall Street Journal.

So now for an update.

Just two weeks ago on February 15th Randy passed a special milestone…

“It was August 15th, 2007, when I was told I likely had “three to six months of good health left.”

Today is six months from that day.


The doctors weren’t wrong; they always said that if the palliative chemo worked, I’d buy more time, but that it was a long shot. And the doctors have done a brilliant job of tweaking my regimen to help my odds. How much longer this will work is hard to know, but I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left, no matter how many or how few of them I get.”

Randy had planned to give the lecture and then move interstate with his wife and family to spend his remaining time creating memories for them.

It didn’t work out as planned.

Yes he has moved, and yes he has taken his family, and yes he has also created some great memories with them. His website has the pictures to prove it.

But he also hit upon a nerve with his “Last Lecture”. The video was viewed over a million times in the first month, and currently on Google video has 4994 comments, and almost a 5 star rating.

This has given Randy a different addition to his plan for living and dying.

In January a book that fleshes out details from The Last Lecture came out and you can find it here:

What next with this?

I don’t know.

But when I spent 3 months working in palliative care I liked the medical term for when cancer goes away.


Or, put another way, Re – Mission. Finding once again a purpose for life.

Who knows how much of what has happened with Randy is from the various treatments he has been trialed with, how much is his own personal health and fitness work, and how much is just sheer luck.

But if Randy does live on for a long time, then re-mission will be a very apt term.

Even more so because of Randy’s passion for Star Trek, and his childhood dream to be like Commander Kirk leading all those missions!

Could it really be that it is cancer will help him to achieve a childhood dream?

-Dr Martin Russell

Life Is A…

Medicine can be so arrogant sometimes.

How can doctors “save people’s lives” when people just die later of something else.

The latest cancer treatment announces it has reduced the mortality by half. Really. Please put the time-frame back in and say something like, “within the first 5 years after treatment.”

Human life is after all, as the saying goes, a sexually-transmitted terminal disease.

Would we be better off removing the idea of “saving” people, or of “curing” disease?

“Cure” is often a bad description. Perhaps “life-long remission” is more accurate.

And in fact “getting ill” is not correct either. In this era of genetic fatalism how about “initial spontaneous relapse” for any new illness.

The bugs and nasties are all around us just waiting for us to succumb. Modern medical theory says that cancers are already in us being cleaned up by our immune system until the day that they escape and take their opportunity to wreak havoc.

Accepting the end will come brings importance to the fact that we are here now.

Are you waiting, or are you making the most of how your life is today?

-Dr Martin Russell

Smoking Can Reduce Your Ability To…

Last year in the city where I live they outlawed smoking indoors in public places.

Actually they did this quite a while back, but they had made an exception for hotels, pubs and bars. Now they’ve extended it to these places too. You have to have an outdoors area now if you want to have a place to smoke.

Australia is one of quite a few countries around the world that has got really excited about images on cigarette packets.

Someone showed me a cigarette packet that they bought off the street.

Presumably it was an illegal import because it didn’t have the local warning label or the gruesome pictures on it.

2006 Cigarette Health Warnings From AustraliaThis graphic type of warning label is meant to produce a nemotional/physical reaction, but does it do this for everyone?

I couldn’t find a picture of the most recent ones in Australia that get even more in your face.

You’ve probably heard the one about the man who avoids the packets that say smoking causes impotency, and instead only smokes the cigarettes from packets that warns about smoking when you are pregnant, because he knows that he’s safe with that one.

Well unfortunately it’s true.

People can do amazing things with their minds.

Our bodies can also do much more than we think they can.

It is almost universal to cough if you smoke a cigarette for the first time, but our bodies compensate and overcome this.

These mind and body adaptations are amazing.

Maybe people who smoke are rebels in the first place, but maybe it is a learned ability as well.

If so, I propose a new label on cigarette packets:

WARNING: Smoking can reduce your ability to heed warnings.

What do you think?

-Dr Martin Russell

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Headaches Are Caused By…

When people come to me and complain about headaches, they usually are quick to suspect their headaches are caused by stress or some psychological worry.

After all if they thought their headaches were caused by something physical, that a physiotherapist could fix for example, they wouldn’t be seeing a psychological self help guy in the first place now would they.

However not every headache is caused by something physical or even something psychological, some are caused by…

“Aspirin-Deficiency Syndrome”.

Yes that’s right.

Perhaps you haven’t heard of Aspirin-Deficiency Syndrome before, however it is obvious that this is a cause of headaches, because rectifying the problem is a well known cure.

Simply take aspirin and more often than not your headache disappears, and that of course is because you are treating the fundamental cause of the headache ie aspirin-deficiency.

Unfortunately aspirin washes out of the body quickly so you need to keep taking it for the deficiency to be properly addressed.

Aspirin is a naturally occurring substance, although often deficient in the diet of many people in the world. For people who require a supplementation to their diet it can be conveniently found in the form of a tablet.

However aspirin-deficiency syndrome is not just a cause of headaches.

No. It is also a cause of all types of aches and pains, and even fevers and chills.

Aspirin-deficiency syndrome is a known factor in bowel cancer, heart disease, and even blood clotting disorders. It may even be an important factor in causing Alzheimer’s.

Here is short list of deficiency syndromes that can cause headaches:
– top of the list is Aspirin-deficiency Syndrome,
– Tylenol-deficiency syndrome,
– codeine-deficiency syndrome (sometimes confused as being withdrawal rebound headaches),
– caffiene-deficiency syndrome (also confused with withdrawal symptoms),
– manual-therapist-deficiency syndrome,
– bed-rest-deficiency syndrome…

Heck, ask your pharmacist to tell you what deficiency syndrome you have. Almost guaranteed, your headaches are caused by a deficiency of something they have on their shelves, and the cure follows from the diagnosis.

At least that’s the way alot of our society treats it. So hop on board.

-Dr Martin Russell

Incoming search terms:

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15 Actions To Help Yourself

Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Forget goal setting.

Start taking self help action. It can be massive action, small steps, or incremental change to a new direction.

Almost everything you read on this site includes something immediately actionable. But here are the top 15 actions so far…

1. If you are having a horrible time this holiday season then give yourself a break by following this post here before the end of New Year’s Day January 1st. (Interestingly this one has so far been taken up only by women. This is definitely one for men to do too, and may be even more important for them.)

2. If you are having trouble sleeping, or are taking something to help you sleep, take back control of your sleep and your sleeping pills tonight.

3. If you have a warped sense of humor about medicine, self help and the helping professions, then you can add your own ideas to this growing list.

4. If you need Will Power, go here.

5. If you want to learn internet marketing and how to run an internet business, and you have the time, but not the money, then you can learn as an intern.

6. If something you come across on this site interests you, or irks you, or inspires you, add a comment at the bottom. It’s simple to do.

7. If you only have 5 minutes a day to improve your life, do this.

8. If you would like articles for your ezine or online newsletter, then go to my Contact Page and let me know your name, website, ezine name, and email address, and I will include you in my distribution list when I send out the articles I write for this site.

9. If you want to rock the foundations of what you believe is true about life, spirituality, and the importance of human beings then reading this book here could do it for you.

10. If you are wanting a new way to act in the world, take the mindset from this dying man’s life lesson.

11. If you have a particular issue you are wanting help for, then check if I cover it in one of the online self help ‘sessions’ I have available as products on the left-hand side of my blog. If you’re not sure where to start then Self Help Meeting is the one, and if you are looking for something I don’t have yet, then leave a comment on this post to recommend one I should make.

12. If you want to do something about our society being over medicated with pills, you can help out on a campaign to reduce the use of sleeping pills here.

13. If you take yourself too seriously (as if anyone in this category would believe this of themselves) then here is the cure.

14. If you are interested in what you are reading, then join the blog notification list:


15. If you think someone else might be interested in something you have come across here, you can click on the Share This icon at the bottom of each post and pick one of the options, including email, to quickly and easily spread the word to others.

-Dr Martin Russell

What You Need Is Will Power

When I first started my counseling practice I had all these people coming to me complaining about not having willpower.

If only they had willpower they would tell me, they would be able to
– lose weight / get fit
– stop smoking / drinking / gambling / womanizing
– control their domestic violence / drug problem / children / finances
– achieve their goals / dreams / aspirations / next birthday
– basically, succeed in anything and everything instantly and forever.

All they needed was some Will Power!

After one such session I got so fed up that afterwards I went over to my bookcase and took down the phone book.

I looked up Mr Power and discovered to my amazement

Power, Bill
Power, W
Power, William
and yes even
Power, Will!

I fantasized for months about calling each of them up and explaining I was a therapist fed up with people complaining to me about needing Will Power, and would it be alright if the next time this happened, I gave the client their phone number and told them to call.

I never did phone anyone up, and somehow I seem to get less people asking for Will Power after that phase.

Pity really.

But these days I wouldn’t give them a phone number anyway because I now have a better option.

An Australian guy has given me a website to offer instead…

Go Will Power!

-Dr Martin Russell


One of the reasons I wanted this web-site to be about self help rather than psychiatry, psychology or therapy, is because much of what people actually have as problems and limitations is not covered in the textbooks.

This is slowly changing however.

Psychiatry is finding labels for more and more, whether by extending current labels, such as finding that “depression” which was previously a 1% diagnosis is now up to 17% of the population at some time in our lives, or by creating new terminology entirely such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD – otherwise known as Minimal Brain Disorder until they realized they couldn’t even find any brain problem at all, even a minimal one.)

However there are still gaps that the textbooks don’t yet cover, and I appreciate Paul Myers of for pointing one gap out to me.

Oh, and he also includes a cure with it as well.

Paul was talking about the problem of people taking themselves too seriously.

It’s pretty common. It’s usually worst in teenagers and the uptight elderly. [Editor’s note – Not exclusively confined to these groups however.]

It’s called the “self-importants.”

Fortunately, there’s a cure for this sad condition.

Go to K-Mart or Target or wherever, and look for the men’s clothing section. Find the rack with the weird boxers on it. The ones with monkeys are the best. [Editor’s note: substitute female equivalent garments as appropriate.]

Buy a few. They’re cheap. Wear them.

The next time you’re hit by an attack of the “self-importants,” just think to yourself: “I have monkeys in my pants.”

That’ll put a stop to the self-importants, you betcha.

At $4 a pair, it’s the cheapest therapy you’ll ever get.

When I wrote to Paul to get permission to use this he also gave me some extra details, perhaps because he knew my medical training would mean I required it…

Martin – It’s not a scientifically proven technique, but the anecdotal evidence is running at 100% so far. And the downside risk is pretty small. 😉

I look forward to seeing “self-importants” in a psychiatric textbook very soon. Along with recommended medication, and a much more expensive and lengthy course of treatment for it too.

Except of course, if this cure catches on. So go spread the word today!

-Dr Martin Russell

Fall Back

I’ve just woken up an hour later.

Running an international website is such fun. In Australia we have just had our Daylight Saving Time change. Those of you in the European Union are doing/have done the same. And those of you in the US will wait another week.

So if you are confused about how remember how the time shifts, here is an officialized version…

“In spring, clocks spring forward from 12:59 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.; in fall, clocks fall back from 1:59 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.”

Or in other words, “Spring forwards and fall back.”

I saw a truly outstanding TV trivia contestant stumped when asked which way the times went, but a simple play on words can give you the answer instantly. No matter where you are in the world.

Then it’s only tricky for people like me who need to remember that my Southern Hemisphere spring is the Northern Hemisphere’s fall, so I go two hours out of sync with most of my readers with each change. But hey, I’m also living about a day in the future for most of my readers too.

As you will discover this week, things like this can be important on this blog.

Thank goodness the internet itself doesn’t care what time it is.

-Dr Martin Russell

The Importance of Dying – Part 2

A week ago I posted a video of a 47-year old university lecturer and his last speech.

He is dying of pancreatic cancer.

If you haven’t watched it then check it out here:

The Importance of Dying – Part 1

The full version is 1 hour 44 mins, but the 9 minute interview is much more pithy.


How do you summarize a life in one lecture?


You can’t. Randy doesn’t.

As a counselor I wanted to let Randy Pausch present to you himself before I commented. Because I want to talk about his story behind the story, or at least what can be glimpsed from his lecture.

So many people come to me, and they tell me how wonderful life is for everyone else. Everyone else has more confidence, more success, more fun, more of whatever they feel they are lacking.

It’s not my experience.

I see people who come in and drop the facade that they present to others every day, and they are just as fragile underneath as anyone else.

From politicians to performers, from business people to house wives, I have seen them all in a very different light. My line of work gives me an alternate bias to understanding life.

I see its apparent failings more than its successes.

And so in the light of the inspirational video I want to give you this perspective too. That in all the inspiration there are very human underpinnings we all share.

Randy is not lying when he says “Don’t pity me”, and “I’m not in denial”, he is selecting. He has a purpose for the end of his life, and no time or opportunities to waste.

What you see compressed into his talk is like seeing the final work after you have put all the rough drafts into the bin. But he got there by the rough drafts, and don’t let anyone forget that when they try to emulate him.

His humor he acknowledges, tends to be black. He has had tears, and will have more. His death is unlikely to be pleasant.

He gives a lecture because that is what his training has been for much of his life. An artist might paint, a poet might write, but his self-expression is a lecture.

Could we all be an inspiration to others?

I say yes.

As long as you understand that there is 9/10ths below the tip of any iceberg, no matter how high it towers. Like Randy, at least acknowledge that the other 9/10ths exist, then ask yourself what you are going to put in that 1/10th and what flag you fly at the very top.

-Dr Martin Russell

Read The Importance Of Dying – Part 3 here…