Simple Tricks

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We tend to over-complicate things. Don’t we?

For years I have suffered through terrible sinus infections (sexy, I know). It got so bad many years back that a doctor recommended surgery. Well, I had the surgery and it was either botched or didn’t work (nobody knows for sure), so I continued to endure the pain and constant colds. My current doctor thinks that I’m in a state of chronic sinus infection with varying levels of seriousness. Normally, this isn’t a huge deal. When it’s bad, you take some antibiotics and when it’s mild, you treat it like a cold. The challenge I had is that I started flying (a lot) several years ago and things went from bad to worse.

Bad to worse.

I started experiencing a pain in my sinus regions when the plane began descending that can only be described as that scene in the Arnold Schwarzenegger flick Total Recall where the probe gets pulled out of his nose (only worse). The sinus pain and pressure would last the full descent and often linger for a few hours after. It got so bad and progressive that I would up taking Advil Cold & Sinus for two days prior to flying and I would use a prescribed nasal spray sinus steroid, long-lasting Dristan, and a saline spray (yes, three types of nasal sprays). On top of that, I even used special ear plugs called, Ear Planes. None of that helped. It kept on happening. And, I was on a schedule that had me on multiple flights every week. I was basically, on all of this medication constantly.

No end in sight.

While the pain was sometimes less, I can look back on this time and admit, that none of those medical treatments helped. One day, I was working out of a hotel room in Chicago and the TV was on in the background. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the screen and it read, "coming up next on The Dr. Oz Show: how to take the pain out of your sinuses" (or something like that). I had never seen the Dr. Oz show and figured that between the surgery, recovery, multiple prescriptions and online searches, I knew more about sinus pain than anybody else. I was wrong. When the show came on Dr. Oz introduced the Neti Pot. I had never heard of a Neti Pot and (between us friends) it looked super weird. It looks like a tea pot that you add a saline mix to with distilled lukewarm warm water. Then, you lean forward and pour it all in through each nostril (here’s a demo on YouTube). I know, it sounds both disgusting and painful (thankfully, you don’t feel anything but unfortunately, it is pretty gross – so you may not want to crank it out on a first date or anything).

It’s magic. Pure magic.

Within a few days, my sinuses were feeling better. Within a week, it felt like I was giving my sinuses a spa. I’ve been using a Neti Pot regularly for over three years now (every day in the morning) and I have never experienced any sinus problems on a plane since (and I do close to 150,000 miles every year). Even common colds that get exasperated into a sinus infection seem to not last as long and are much less painful. I haven’t taken any medicine or sprays for my sinuses when flying. Done.

What’s the point of all this?

There are simple tricks that we often dismiss because we think that technology (and yes, I consider modern science to be a part of that bucket) has all of the answers. If a car company wants one thousand people to take their car out for a test drive, instead of building a very complex Social Media platform, why not print up business cards with an offer and put them on the windshield of cars in a shopping mall lot that you think may be willing to try your brand? No, I’m not saying that you should dismiss modern science in lieu of homeopathic options (so don’t go all crazy on me in the comments section), but I am saying that you need to explore everything… even the options that, initially, seem too simple to work.

Many great pieces of content have been written about the art of simplicity… and all of them are right.

One last riff on simplicity: My friend, Jon, recently told me that if you add the word "sing" in front of "youtube" in the URL for a video that you like, you get redirected to a site where you can download the audio of that video. He thought he was little late to that party, but I had never heard of this simple trick either. And, when you’re watching a music clip that is rare, it’s sometimes nice to have the audio and transfer it over to your iPhone or iPod. Good on HD Downloader for hacking this trick together (granted, I’m not sure how legal it is).


  1. My girlfriend has nose problems too. I think I’ll give a try to Neti Pot. Didn’t think this blog would give me this type of advices lol.

  2. I’ve used a Neti Pot a few times and it is definitely helpful in clearing sinuses. But, I happened to read an article yesterday and then, an update today about a second death associated with using tap water and perhaps, improper cleaning of a Neti Pot. ( Doesn’t meanyou shouldn’t use them. It just means that, like any other medical procedure, you want to maintain as sterile an environment as absolutely possible.
    *Disclosure-Seriously, I’m not a “Chicken Little” always saying the sky’s falling!

  3. I don’t even add “sing” in front of the youtube video. I just sing along with the video and presto…I have the audio too! :)…thanks for the tip Mitch. I too had chronic sinus infections. Then suddenly they were gone. Perhaps the fact that I stopped flying 150K miles per year helped too…ah so simple!

  4. Well, both cases *are* in Louisiana, but it definitely gave me pause. I’m avoiding thinking about the extended implications of swimming in warm, fresh water spots. @Daniel’s recommendation is right on the money or just use distilled bottled water.

  5. Hey Mitch Dr Oz is right. I use something like it but it is called Neil-Med Its a great rinse to keep you sinuses clear and non-irritated Its in most drug stores ,probably Jean Coutu for you. A safe Saline & Bicarb of Soda mixture
    Hope you have a Happy Holiday season and you continue to prosper in 2012. Thanks you for your contributions

  6. Mitch — I laughed as I read this post as I became a Neti Pot convert a little over a year ago and now, I swear, they should have me on commission. I actually use the squeeze bottle rather than the pot but it has really helped w/my allergies. So simple and yet so effective.

  7. Hi, Mitch,
    I’ve been reading your columns for a while now and I occasionally even retweet them when I find them particularly impressive. (They are always impressive, but I can’t tweet them every day) It’s odd that I would write to you on this column after all the others, but one thing I want to caution you about with the Neti Pot (which is great) Be sure to use distilled, boiled water. There ae little amoebas in tap water that are fine to drink, but if they go in the sinuses can cause fatality. It just recently happened, in fact and was reported in a medical journal, and that’s why I felt the need to write to you.

  8. I hear you Mitch. Over the last decade I have suffered through two “frozen shoulders” (the pain when aggravated is said in the journals to be like that of child birth, although it does not last more than a couple of minutes thanks god) and more recently a running induced “blown knee”. Mid way through the second shoulder, after no successful help from anyone in the medical profession, I discovered online a small hand held ultrasound device ($200) that has worked miracles. If it be a placebo that’s okay with me.

  9. Great post that reinforces the idea that you should use tactics that best support your objectives – whether that’s the shiny new object or something old school like windshield biz cards. That’s why folks should always create comprehensive communications/marketing strategies, not “social media” strategies, as the latter assumes social media tools are appropriate when they may not be depending on the target audience and objective.

  10. It is legal, but you may want to check town bi-laws. Also consider being a good neighbor and speaking to store management before people descend on their parking lot, potentially annoying their customers. I work for an auto group and used to do this when I was a sales rep, and now a few of our dealerships do this on occasion. We’re sticky on asking permission first.

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