Showing posts with label Conviction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conviction. Show all posts

May 6, 2019

Wrong Direction--Who Stands For The Truth?

So I thought this was pretty funny in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend. 
A wife is listening to the radio and she hears that a car is dangerously going in the wrong direction on the highway. 

Immediately, she calls her husband to tell him about the car going in the wrong direction, and to be careful. 

He husband replies: One car going in the wrong direction...there are hundreds of cars going in the wrong direction!

How true this little story is about life and what direction we choose for ourselves--in the face of the groupthink and the tidal wave of public opinion that will sweep you away if you aren't strong of mind and especially of character. 

Whenever we choose the road less traveled, others see us as dangerous and going the wrong way. 

Yet to us, others may just be following blindly, and we may truly see something that everyone else is missing...could it possibly be that they are really the ones going the wrong way!

But there is always some doubt in our minds...we are fallible, we can wrong, we can be crazy.  

Whose truth is it anyway--Mine?  Yours?  Or could it really be "The (objective) Truth"?

Alternatively, maybe we just lack confidence or courage?

It is very hard to be the nail that stands up (and doesn't get hammered down) and say that something is wrong and everyone should pay attention and change direction or their ways. 

Perhaps, they are all heading off a moral cliff or just heading towards disaster.

In some cases...

We know the agendas of the people who want to steer you wrong. 

We hear the propaganda and lies they are feeding you. 

We can see down the road or just around the bend where the danger lies in wait. 

- Can we stand up to the crowd?  

- Can we demonstrate the moral truth?  

- Can we get others to see what we see?  

It is certainly not easy to be the contrarian in the crowd. 

Not only may you not be recognized for what you are doing, but you may even be persecuted for it. 

It doesn't matter...

Because you need to do it anyway just because you know deep inside that it's the right thing to do. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 1, 2019

Miracles of Charity and Faith

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The Conviction of One's Faith."
What better way to welcome in the New Year of 2019 then with some inspirational true stories about amazing people and their faith in G-d and doing what's right. Recently, I saw firsthand from some special people, the miracles that happen when one is charitable and sticks to ones beliefs. 

As my father always taught me about G-d and doing what's right: "Stick to your convictions!" ;-)

(Source Photo of this amazing Tzedakah (charity) box in Israel: Minna Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

January 11, 2018

Bringing Down The House

I love this silver sculpture of Samson.

And one of my favorite stories and Biblical characters. 

Samson was dedicated to G-d from birth and was an enormous warrior. 

Even when he was betrayed, blinded, and bound, he maintained his ultimate faith in G-d.

He prayed that he be given the strength one more time to bring justice to G-d's enemies. 

And that's when he pushed against the pillars and brought the house down on them.

On one hand, a tragic figure that trusted and was fooled by the beautiful Delilah, but a completely heroic man of great integrity, who believed in G-d and in vanquishing his enemies.

Look to the Heavens for your strength and G-d can grant you the ultimate strength to achieve your mission in life and even in death. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

August 10, 2017

Face The Fear

I have to give my wife credit. 

She said something to me the other day that was really profound and had a deep impact on me. 

Something bad had happened and honestly, it was a truly frightening situation.

At first, it seemed like one of those negative surprises in life that brings bad news and you are at first sort of shocked. 

As things progress though and the news unfortunately doesn't get better, but in fact gets worse, the shock turns to fear and maybe even panic. 

Oh shit, what do I do now?

Turn this way..no good. 

Turn that way...no good.

Retreat...not an option.

So I speak to my wife, and at first she says:
"Just look away."
But I can't look away...I can't ignore a problem...my instinct is that I have to plan for it, deal with it, solve it. 

I go back to my wife, and she says to me:
"Face the fear, and walk through it."
And I had to stop in my tracks at that. 

She was right--there is no use being fearful or worrying--I would face it and walk through it, and come out the other side better for it. 

That was some of the best advice anyone I think has ever given to me. 

Got to be strong, have courage, face the challenges in life, and "walk through it!" 

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. 

Have to have emunah (faith), and realize it's just a test. 

And the Almighty G-d is my shield and protector. 

It's a test, but I can pass it with G-d's help, and everything will be alright. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

June 24, 2012

It's The Right Thing To Do

In election season, there is a lot of confusing messaging and as citizens, we are left trying to figure out where to go with our country's leadership next. 

The rhetoric is heating up as each side tries to outdo the other on why they are right and the other side is wrong on the issues and who will be better at leading us into the future. 

- But where is the negotiation, balance, compromise, and win-win for all the people? 

Then of course, there is the blame game that seems to go on too, with politicians saying things aren't getting done because of partisanship or this administration or that's mistakes--this is the finger-pointing. 

- What ever happened to the buck stops here? 

Related, we have others that won't even admit what they've said or where they stand on the issues--first, they may just try to deny it and say they never said it, and perhaps later, they admit they said it, but they didn't mean it quite that way--like, it's a sound bit taken out of context. 

- Is this conviction or just playing to the audience? 

Finally, what are candidates even trying to sell us when they are electioneering--slogans, potshots, sleight-of-hands, political publicists or genuine direction for how to make this country great.

- Is it a person, a party, or a platform that we are even voting for and how does race, ethnicity, sex, religion and so forth factor in to the votes? 

Some commentators, like Peggy Noonan, have rightfully said (Wall Street Journal, 18-19 June 2012) that candidates must find a theme that people can sensibly grasp unto--something that gives a "sense of meaning" for their run.

Ultimately, we need to know who the candidates are as human beings--what is in their soul--what do they really think--and most important, what will they actually do, if they have the power. 

A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial called "Four Words that Moved The World: 'Tear Down This Wall'"--those where the words uttered by then President Ronald Reagan on June 12, 1987 in a speech in front of the Berlin Wall. 

Reagan told his deputy chief of staff that even though some would be mad at him for saying it, "it's the right thing to do." 

Those six words are even more powerful than the four in his speech, because, especially as a leader, doing--not just saying--the right thing, is everything!

The hard part, as voters, is figuring out who will do what the right thing when they are called on. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Randy Robertson)

Share/Save/Bookmark

December 28, 2011

People--What's Inside

People can perform good and kind deeds--they can love and care and share, they can be giving and help others in need, and they can innovate and create magnificent and beautiful works.
Yet, as we all know, people can also do horrible things. It's strange that when people do such things, we call them inhumane acts--I guess that helps to divorce us from their behavior, which we cannot understand or accept.
In Hebrew School we learned that it's as if there is a good angel over one shoulder telling you to do the "right" thing, and a "bad" angel over the other shoulder telling you to do the base and corrupt thing.
We were told that we all have free choice--to choose good over evil--some succeed and some do not. Unfortunately, there are way too many instances of the latter.
- Last week, I followed in horror the news story out of New York, where an elderly women in an elevator was cornered by a man who proceeded to douse her with gasoline and set her afire with a Molotov cocktail. This woman didn't have a fighting chance. She died a gruesome and senseless death.
- This week, I watched "To Catch a Predator" on Dateline with Chris Hansen. After many sessions airing, it is unbelievable that dozens upon dozens of sexual predators keep coming out of the woodwork and descending upon those who they believe are young teens home alone for what they think will be a "good time." This week, they caught a married man with 3 children of his own, someone who worked for Nickelodeon, and even a doctor!
What is remarkable about the Dateline series is that most of the predators know exactly what they are doing is wrong--they openly acknowledge it--yet they seem helpless to stop or control themselves. Many pursued the children even when they suspected it was a sting operation and they would get caught. The bad angel must really have their ears and consciences!
Of course, these examples are just that--snapshots of scary, bad things that people do every day, every moment in time. The flip side is that there are also good people doing extraordinarily good things too. The "CNN Heroes" series is a great example highlighting people feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, healing the sick, and protecting the downtrodden. These are just but some of these admirable and giving actions of decent people in our society.
Sometimes even it's the simple things that no one knows about or sees, but you know you did good. For example, the other day, there was some trash on the staircase going down to the metro. Someone could have easily slid, tripped, and fallen down the stairs. But after seeing numerous people just walk by it and pretend it wasn't even there, one person stopped and took the time to move it and prevent anyone from getting hurt. A simple thing, yet a small good deed in time.
Regardless of how we choose to live our live, the point is really that every choice/action we make can be a pivotal one--like our actions on a scale of justice--that can throw the world (our individual world or literally the entire world) into judgement for good or bad, and therefore we should choose wisely.
In the Torah, where G-d's angels are sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham tries to negotiate for the cities by whether their are 50, 20, 10 and so on good people there. Good people and their deeds count.
So what's inside people that really counts--it's potential. People have the potential to do the greatest acts of love, kindness, and self-sacrifice. But they also have the ability to do the unthinkable and inhumane.
It's challenging to know who and exactly what we are dealing with every day.
Maybe that's where the expression comes from: to hope for the best, but expect the worst. Judge everyone as if their intentions are good, but don't be too surprised when they are not.
While hope and expectations are part of our daily interaction with others, they are not enough. We need to be demanding of good choices of ourselves. Maybe even harder yet, we need to have the courage and strength to stand up to those who choose to listen to the demons that drive them.
(Source Photo: here)

Share/Save/Bookmark

May 17, 2011

Know What's Right, Do What's Right

In a conversation with a good friend recently, we got to talking about integrity--the meaning and of course, the importance.

And at one point, he says straight-out, integrity takes two things:

1) Know what's right

2) Do what's right

And I'm loving it!

Straight-forward and simple--know and do what's right.

Then he tells me about Gus Lee, a nationally recognized ethicist (and Chair of Character Development at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point) who wrote this book Courage: The Backbone of Leadership.

I was inspired by what I heard and since went back to learn more about his philosophy on the subject.

Lee believes that "leadership is grounded in high character" and that "we think we are looking for managers, but in fact, we need principled leaders."

To drive our "moral courage", Lee says we have 3 powerful resources:

1) Conscience--"that moral, inner voice."

2) Discernment--this is where you work to discern "the higher right" getting past "fear, feelings, and wishful thinking" and of course, our own self interests.

3) Discerning Advisors--we seek the counsel of "the most courageous, high integrity, high character, and principled person or people" you know.

And I would add a fourth important resource, which is religious teachings that can be a steadfast guidepost (especially when coupled with the others as a personal litmus test of whether you are applying them correctly).

Finally, I like Lee's observation that there are three type of individuals when it comes to issues of integrity:

1) Egotists--those who are self-serving.

2) Pragmatists--those who "serve results" or what I would call serving a specified cause.

3) People of Courage--those who "act in the right regardless."

Doing the right thing is not easy (it means putting aside your own interests)!

That's why it takes tremendous courage to be the type of moral person that we all ultimately admire and respect.

Those leaders who act with moral rectitude, these to me are the few and the amazing!

Share/Save/Bookmark

August 1, 2009

Faith or Fear?

I love stories of hope and possibility.

I read in the Washington Post, 1 August 2009, about cars that actually enable blind people to drive. This was one of those stories.

In 2004, a challenge was issued from a blindness advocacy group “to build a vehicle that the blind could drive with the same freedom as the sighted.”

Around the same time, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—the same government agency that brought us the Internet—“ran a series of contests to inspire a driverless car that could navigate complex terrain.”

However, at Virginia Tech’s Robot’s & Mechanism Laboratory the challenge of “an autonomous vehicle wasn’t enough. We want the blind person to be the driver, not to be driven.”

To meet this once unthinkable goal, the design team developed a prototype vehicle that blind students this summer are actually testing.

Here’s how the vehicle works: An all-terrain vehicle with a front-mounted laser sensor sweeps the terrain ahead, and a computer in the back processes the information into a two-dimensional map. A computer voice tells the driver through headphones what number of clicks to turn the wheel to steer around obstacles and a vest vibrates to indicate whether the driver should slow down or stop.

By challenging ourselves, bringing innovation to the table, thinking positively, and working through the challenges, we are able to bring opportunities to people that many thought were impossible.

Yet even today, I heard people reacting to this story and saying “Oh, I wouldn’t want a blind person driving behind me.”

But why not? There are reasons to believe that this can work.

First of all, in the vehicle tests, the blind drivers actually did better than the engineers because they followed the directions coming from the computer more precisely.

Second, when it comes to other modes of transportation such as flying, people no longer seriously question the use of technology to aid our ability to see, navigate and fly through all sorts of weather and turbulent conditions. Now a days, a large commercial airplane flying at hundreds of miles an hour over densely populated cities on autopilot is an accepted fact.

I believe there are really two issues here:

On one hand, is the technology itself. How far can technology take us—are there limits?

And the second issue is can people overcome their mindset of fear, doubt, hesitation, and negativity to really stretch the bounds of the imagination to the what’s truly possible?

I think both the issues of technology and mindset are strongly related.

Obviously there are laws of nature and physics that place real limits on even how far technology can take us. Yet, as we press against the boundaries and test the seemingly impossible, we are able do things that practically defy those very laws. For example, who would’ve thought that man could fly like the birds, walk on the moon, communicate thousands of miles in a split second, or cure the incurable? Perhaps, what we perceive as physical limitations are only there until we can figure out how to overcome them with innovation and technology—and of course, the wisdom bestowed from the almighty.

By realizing that the boundaries are not so hard and fast—that they are elastic—we can have hope in going further and doing the seemingly impossible.

Certainly, I recognize the very real legitimacy of the concerns that people might have over the thought of blind people in the driver’s seat. However we must ask ourselves how much of this concern is based on rational, logical factors and how much on a misperception or mistrust of what technology—and blind people themselves—can actually do. To me, it really comes down to one’s mindset.

Through faith, courage, conviction, we can overcome our doubts and fears. We can and must continue to explore, to test the bounds, and to innovate some more.


Share/Save/Bookmark