WISDOM? by Art Smukler, MD, author & psychiatrist

A wise man once said, consider the opinions of others, but in the end, make up your own mind.

That wise man, and I use the term somewhat cringingly, was me. 

There was no particular reason why I waxed so philosophical on this sunny, warm morning except that I grabbed one of my Penn State baseball caps, when I went for a morning walk to a favorite coffee shop (not as wonderful as SMUKLER’S BOOKSTORE) but a place with delicious coffee and almond croissants.

Anyway, I sat down at a small outdoor table, took a sip of coffee, and removed my cap. The PSU logo sat right there in front of me. My mind drifted back to college…a long time ago.

I remembered one of the most traumatic experiences of my young life. A few days before my freshman year started, I had an appointment with a university counselor to arrange my course schedule. He perused my high school grades, looked me in the eye, and said grimly, “I recommend that you don’t take the pre-med curriculum.”

My chemistry, physics and math grades in high school were marginal. The counselor had every right to say what he said. But…I wanted to be a doctor. That was it. No Plan B.

I just sat there, speechless. I thanked him, got up, and in a state of shock, walked back to my dorm room.

Was he right? Should I give up my dream?

I told my mother what the counselor said. She encouraged me to follow his advice. It was her way of not wanting me to be disappointed and fail.

In the end, I signed up for every course that the pre-meds took. Chemistry, Calculus, Physics etc. Everything that I struggled with in high school. Crazy right?

Not so crazy, because there was one factor that the counselor never took into consideration. I was a really hard worker. I still am. I also took loads of creative writing classes.

So, whatever your dream might be, don’t be afraid to go for it. But, be prepared to work harder and longer than everyone else who also wants your dream. It’s not like in grade school where everyone gets a winners’ statue.

Thanks for reading. Please check out THE REAL STORY, a mystery. Joe Belmont is also the kind of guy who doesn’t give up. His life depends on it.


The vision of the Sandusky horror is almost too much to fathom — a sexual predator allowed access to a hallowed sports facility because the men in power just couldn’t and wouldn’t systematically investigate one of their own. Disgrace to Joe Paterno, football sanctions, a mass exodus of players to other teams, and a university disrespected and threatened with a loss of accreditation, was accepted as the righteous result of their transgression.

Enter the beleaguered team and Bill O’Brien, the new coach, to start the season. The resounding “We Are Penn State” was down to a muffled embarrassed whimper. Then the team lost its first two games and it appeared that the humiliation and devalued attitude was here to stay.

Week three, and the team dumps gallons of Gatorade on O’Brien’s head after their first win. Weeks four and five and six, they win again and again and AGAIN. Is the Phoenix finally dragging itself out of the ashes of shower rooms and sexual perversity?

It’s fun and wonderful to win, but in this case, it’s not just winning a football game, it’s winning the battle against an infectious stigma that made a great majority of Penn Staters feel humiliated and devalued by what their elders did over a decade ago. I wonder how many PSU Ts and sweatshirts stayed hidden in closets?

Is this any different than what so many of us experienced at the hands of our own parents? Insensitivity, violence, sexual abuse and flat-out stupidity can obviously influence an entire life. The results of poor parenting —  depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, are rampant in psychiatric offices. Helping a patient unravel how the past has unduly influenced his view of himself is often very helpful.

Like the changes happening at Penn State, we can also change. We don’t have to continue to feel trapped or controlled or humiliated by what our parents did or didn’t do. It’s wonderful to have a new hero like Bill O’Brien, but let’s keep in mind what happened with our old hero, Joe Paterno. He was simply a human being with his own set of limitations.

We need to embrace the hero inside each of us, the part that doesn’t follow the herd and does the right thing, whatever it takes.

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