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BBB: Improve yourself today by learning something new

I don’t claim to be an expert on economics, politics, or any of the local or global issues affecting our world, but you don’t have to be an expert to know that things are difficult right now. It’s only human to wonder how we got here.

Everyone seems to have their own opinion, and I’m not here to judge. I simply want to ask thought-provoking questions to inspire people to do their own research and inform their opinions with facts so that maybe, just maybe, we can figure out how to right our ship before it sails off the edge of the Earth.

There are so many levels of pain right now that you can’t pick just one to focus on. It took more than a single step to bring us to this place.

But the specific knowledge of what went wrong tends to be hidden from most of us. Maybe it’s because younger generations seem less community-oriented. Maybe it’s because older generations seem to resist change. Maybe it’s because our society is no longer focused on basic financial literacy. Maybe it’s because nine times out of 10, we communicate digitally instead of building face-to-face relationships.

My personal perspective was shaped, in part, by my father — a U.S. Secret Service agent for 22 years. He is a quiet yet imposing man who commands attention. I can’t even begin to imagine the stress he must have felt with such a responsible job. There were restrictions on what he could say, how he could act and the opinions he could share – which amounted to none.

I grew up in a household that considered the only safe conversations to fall within the three Cs – cars, camping and careers. Outside of those conversations and school, I was not involved in anything beyond my direct line of sight. We moved every three years, which further emphasized my feeling of isolation and did nothing to encourage learning about the communities I lived in.

It wasn’t until I had traveled many years down my own career path that I began to realize I couldn’t just skate along on my degree. Things were happening in the wider world and unless I got out there and learned them, I would be left behind. So that’s exactly what I did and continue to do.

How can we heal our economy and our environment? I can’t claim to know the answers. But one thing I can say is that everyone, on every level, needs to: A) learn as much as you can about our history — the factors that led us to this place, and B) participate in, or at least educate yourself about, the decisions being made as we go forward. An uninformed vote can sometimes be more dangerous than no vote at all.

I’m not suggesting one viewpoint over another. I’m simply saying that in order to choose the path you believe in, the one that inspires so much passion that you’ll take action to support it, you must first educate yourself on all the choices.

We no longer have the luxury of hiding behind our job responsibilities, the distractions of reality TV or our busy personal lives (rambunctious toddlers in my case). We can’t use them as excuses to stop learning. Be engaged, be active, be supportive and always make learning a priority. Delve into politics, scour the Internet for historical trends, participate in Kahn Academy tutorials, read nonfiction and biographical books, find a mentor to help you grow.

Then take that newfound knowledge and do something good.

If we can better ourselves individually, then collectively we can make a difference.

Eleanor Katzele is the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana. Have a topic suggestion for this column? She can be reached at

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