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When you’re ready to do something challenging in your life, don’t go it alone. Even if you’re able to accomplish whatever it is solo, do this: take names. Take the names of great teachers to help you get there, and friends to bring along for the ride.

Then, when you get to where you’re going – which you’re much more likely to do when you take names – you’ll have lots of friends to celebrate with you!

I call my work Kick Butts, Take Names. The focus is on tobacco – that’s the buttkicking part – but the more important part is how: by bringing others along for the ride. Not only is it a lot more effective to do challenging things this way – it’s more fun, too!

We’re not meant to be lone rangers, remember: even The Lone Ranger had Tonto and Trigger in his life! We’re meant to be more tribal, more connected. I think it’s the disconnection that’s at the root of everything we call addiction. Every heinous thing that’s happened, really, seems to be fed by some disconnection and isolation… think about it. It doesn’t have to be that way, and each one of us has the power to help transform that.

When we have something in us that compels us to seek change, we also have a golden opportunity to seek out meaningful connection. This kind of deep connection changes things, not only within us, but in our world.

This is how the Civil Rights Movement happened, this is how women got the right to vote, this is how entire countries gain their independence, this is how we change the world, for the better, for all. We do it together.

Whatever it is you’re wanting to change or grow within you, whatever it is you’re fed up with and wanting to transform, chances are there is someone else who is seeking the same. We’re not alone. We’re all connected… we just need to feed and nurture those connections with the power of our emotion and our words and our thoughts and our actions.

Never underestimate that power you have within you. It is easy to forget this, in the world we live in. Easy to forget; important to remember.

When I smoked a pack a day for the more than twenty years that I did that, I not only forgot about the power of this interconnection… I forgot about the power of this amazing body I inhabit too. We each inhabit a body that has the power to heal wounds; did you ever think of it that way? It’s amazing and, if you’re reading this, you have one.

To the best of your ability, feed and nurture this, too, with good food and water and the power of your emotion and words and thoughts and deeds. Laugh as much as you can. Love, too. We have the power to do so much good. Kick butts – whatever that means for you – and take names!

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Joanna Cummings, M.ED. is the author of Kick Butts, Take Names and Buttkickers, the latter as her alter ego, Nicci Tina, The Ambassador of Buttkicking.

With more than twenty years of experience as a clinician and educator, and as many years as a dedicated smoker (starting at age twelve), Joanna Cummings has emerged as an authority on tobacco cessation, advocating a global paradigm shift she calls Kick Butts, Take Names. The mission: changing the way the world sees and responds to tobacco. She also calls this work tobactivism. Joanna’s approach is multi-faceted, including both innovative and evidence-based strategies, and she considers the art of it as important as the science. Her favorite ways of effecting change include talking with healthcare providers about how to approach their patients about tobacco and, as Nicci Tina, talking with tobacco users themselves in the street, often while they are smoking.

“This isn’t just about tobacco; this is about connection, about being fully alive with one another, and serving life. Each and every one of us is a powerful messenger, and we can make a profound difference in the life - and life expectancy - of a tobacco user. To maximize our effectiveness, we need to become more empathic listeners, to stop the well-intentioned nagging, and get much more discerning and creative about the way we deliver the message: Yes, you can kick tobacco. You absolutely can… and this is how you can do it. Tobacco use takes more lives than all of the other drugs combined, and most of the people using it want to stop. They just don’t know how. Each and every one of us can help them get there, if we go there together.”

Find Joanna - and Nicci Tina - at

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