Showing posts with label Self-improvement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Self-improvement. Show all posts

October 6, 2019

Teshuva Through An IDF Soldier’s Eyes

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Teshuva Through An IDF Soldier's Eyes."
He said, just think about it: “You have the chance to say I’m sorry, I regret what I did, and I won’t do it again, and be forgiven — what a tremendous opportunity that is!” I had never really thought of repentance in this particular way…as an opportunity. Usually, it’s more of something that is uncomfortable, difficult, and that we really don’t want to have to do.

So with a few more days to go before Yom Kippur, let us thank G-d for the chance to make amends and do better in life, because this is an incredible opportunity and a true blessing, and one that we do not know will ever come again.


(Credit Photo: Gil Kremer, Israel Defense Forces)
Share/Save/Bookmark

September 14, 2019

Facing Facts on Rosh Hashanah

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Facing Facts on Rosh Hashanah."
In a sense, we all live at least two lives–represented by the two faces we wear: The first is the happy face, where we portray ourselves as if everything is going so well, almost near-perfect in our lives (our vacations, accomplishments, celebrations, and so on), and this is the face that we routinely show to the world. Then, there is the second face, which is essentially where everything is not (always) quite so rosy, where life’s challenges, troubles, and hardships take their tangible toll, and this is the face that we learn to keep private and regularly hide from the world. Usually, it comes down to a rationale that goes something like this: just imagine what would people think of us if they really knew us for who we are and what we were actually going through? Yet the funny thing is that everyone is going through something–that’s life!
In a couple of weeks, when we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, we come knowing that there is no mask to be worn in front of our Maker, and truly, we are naked before Him in all our thoughts and deeds. We can’t pretend anymore that our lives or ourselves are perfect, but rather this is the time for true and earnest reflection, repentance, as well as judgment for the New Year based on what each of us is really all about. May each of us have the courage and conviction to face our real selves, to learn, grow, improve, and ultimately to self-actualize, and may we receive G-d’s mercy and blessings for a happy and healthy New Year!

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

July 16, 2019

We're Part of a Much Larger Script

I loved this explanation of the Book of Job by Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

G-d answers by showing Job the incredible elements of creation and the universe.

Why?

1) Complexity and Interrelationship of the Universe:

As isolated individuals, we might expect to be judged solely by our individual deeds of good and bad (2-dimensional), but also we are cogs in the larger universe (the 3rd dimension).

Therefore, what happens to us is not just a result of what we do, but also is a part of G-d's larger overall plan for the world. 


Even small acts can have large impacts.

For example, you sneeze and somewhere down the line it causes a tsunami.

Similarly, like actors in a cosmic play of a billion pages, we may not see or understand why our individual role may be what it is, but if you would see and understand the context of the overall drama (what came before us, after us, and how it all interrelates) then from a G-d's eye view, it makes sense.

Every act of destruction can lead to a higher divine purpose.

Like the grass that is mowed over and uprooted to plants crops or the wheat that is harvested and ground up to make bread.

So, we can have faith that there is a reason and purpose for everything even if it is a mystery or unanswered question to us.


And even in our suffering, G-d, the master of the Universe, is saying that "I'm here with you thru it all." You are not alone!

2) By challenging us, G-d gives us the "tough gift" to cope, grow, and become better people.

Even though things that happen may look bad to you, they can lead to good for you.

You don't always get what you want, but you get what you need.

You have choice: you can be bitter, resentful, cynical, and angry or can look at life with hope, optimism and resilience.

Thus, suffering can be a vehicle of self-transformation and elevation. The challenges you face can help you become a different person--a greater person.

You can learn to feel not just your own pain and disappointment, but that of others.

You have the opportunity to grow yourself and the opportunity to help others.

(Thank you to Rebecca Ochayon for sending me this awesome video!)

Share/Save/Bookmark

June 22, 2019

Four Types of Desire

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "I Want What I Want."

There are four types of greed/jealousy:
  • I want what I’m missing
  • I want what I had
  • I want what you have
  • I want you to not have what you have

We can be slaves to our egos, emotions, and desires, or we can seek to control them and be better than mere animals. We have a soul, a conscience, and the Torah, so the choice should be clear even if not always easy.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

February 17, 2019

You Can't See Yourself

So this donut-shaped art at the Outlets in Clarksburg is metallic and reflective. 

But what is really interesting to me is that when you stand in front of it (like I was literally doing here), you can't see yourself. 

It made me wonder how you can look at yourself and yet not see yourself. 

And I thought of this as being a bigger lesson in life. 

When we are looking at ourself and there is a big donut whole in the mirror of ourselves then we are left blind to what should be reflecting back at us.  

No matter how hard we try to see ourselves and what we are doing right and wrong, it's like a ghost out there--we are blind to it. 

To really see ourselves, our heart and mind have to be receptive to seeing the full picture. 

That means looking at ourselves as we really are, even when there seems to be a piece missing to the puzzle, and we have trouble being honest about what we see. 

To change, learn, grow--to become a better person, we need to look full on and be willing to see what we will see.  

You can't see yourself until you can.  ;-)

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

February 2, 2019

Moses' Handicap

Please see new my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Moses's Handicap."
In truth, we are all handicapped in one way or another. One person comes from a meager financial background, another has no education, and yet another has any of a host of physical, mental, or emotional challenges. Essentially, we all have something that rightfully can hold us back. But still G-d chooses us to do His bidding. Whether it’s leading the Jews out of Egypt or standing up and doing what’s right in situations that we are confronted with every day, we are asked to go beyond our handicap.

We can't let our handicaps prevent us from fulfilling our purpose in life--we need to meet the challenges head on with G-d's help.  ;-)

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

December 28, 2018

Emo Art

So I've been wanting to post this example of this special art form from my daughter, Rebecca. 

She makes this novel art called, "EMO", which stands for emotional.

In this art she mixes children and monsters--and it depicts how innocent kids have to deal with the monsters they find in an often unscrupulous and morally-tarnished society. 

I love the feelings and message of this art in that it encapsulates how children enter this world in purity, but how so many bad people and things around them (and us) can corrupt that. 

I always learned that the goal for each person was to leave the world a better place then the way we found it; however, I think a more personal goal should also be for us to leave here as better human beings than the day we arrived.  

Challenging ourselves--learning and maturing--yet at the same time keeping that essence of decency and integrity of mind, heart, and deed--that is a life where we can grow up, but not turn into the morally-bankrupt monsters that we see all around us. 

(Source Art: Rebecca Ochayon)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 18, 2018

Sing Louder

So I heard this interesting saying the other day:
If you can't sing better, sing louder!

It's funny that people actually do that type of thing all the time. 

My colleagues boss told someone I know: 
You're a fake it till you make it type of person

This can apply to all sort of activities and not just singing.

-- Public speaking, your job, sports, cooking, etc. 

Often, people have to do things that they really just don't do very well.

- Maybe it's not their forte. 

- Maybe they're just not into it. 

But rather than call it for what it is.

Instead, they pretend and make a show out of it. 

They exaggerate what they think they are supposed to do. 

Or they try to compensate with something tangential. 

Hey, maybe no will notice.

But people eventually catch-on and do know when you're lip-singing and faking your way through or just screaming out the lyrics to mask how horrible you singing is. 

Better to be honest and admit what you can and can't do.

Take some classes or get some training.

Practice, practice, practice. 

Or even consider doing something else that you do enjoy and are good it. 

Either way, you don't want to be the one singing loudly their whole life.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal. Note: this blog is not connected to this or any particular musician)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 8, 2018

Think Back, Think Forward

So yesterday I attended a colleagues's leadership program graduation. 

There were about 20 people in the graduating class. 

One thing that I liked was that when they called up each person to shake hands and get their diplomas, each graduate was given the opportunity to say a few words. 

It was amazing to me how 20 people could give a thank you, what I learned, and what I will do with it speech in 20 completely different ways. 

20 people, 20 personalities, 20 ways of thinking and saying something. 

We really are all the similar to and different from one anther at the same time!

I remember one graduate in particular.

He talked about how the leadership program challenged him, and he said:
It made me think back, and it made me think forward. 

I loved that!

This is really what learning is all about. 

Reflecting back and using that to think forward--how to apply it, how to shape it, and how to innovate from it.

Thinking forward starts with thinking back to where we came from and all the lessons learned in our lives. 

It all starts at the beginning and it goes forward from there. ;-)

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

November 7, 2018

Bills, Health, and Purpose

So I wanted to share some wisdom from one of my best friends. 

He was telling me about some of life's stresses at work, home, etc., and he said even though every looks forward to retirement "one day," the problems don't go away. 

He mentioned some examples of people he knows that retired relatively young and with a pension.

Nevertheless, he said:
They still worry about bills, about health, and mostly about purpose!

And even though they don't have the day-to-day grind in the office, he said:
Their own stress is as real to them as mine is to me.

I couldn't help reflecting on his words and thinking how smart this was. 

No one has it all!

Everyone is this world has fears, worries, and problems. 

And you know what?  It's okay.  

Life is about us confronting what seems unconfrontable and becoming better human beings because we did. ;-)

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

March 3, 2018

QC + AI = S


Quantum Computing (QC) + Artificial Intelligence (AI) = Singularity (S)

Quantum Computing - Computers using subatomic particles to superprocess atincredible speeds and with less energy--it's similar to massive parallel processing, but in the case of Qubits, they can store more than just 1s and 0s (bits--a binary state), but rather can be both o and 1 at the same time (a "superposition").  So for very large problems ("exponential scaling"), instead of processing (computing one step at a time), you can process all options simultaneously to find the very best ("optimized") solution by eliminating all options that don't fit the algorithm.

Artificial Intelligence - Computers simulate intelligence, using language, perceiving their environment, reasoning to draw conclusions, solving problems usually done by humans, being creative, and where they can actually learn and self-improve!

Singularity - A state of runaway hypergrowth from the attainment of computing superintelligence, where computers are able to autonomously build ever smarter and more powerful machines that surpass human understanding and control leading to unfathomable changes to human civilization. 

The Information Age is giving way to the Intelligence Age, and it is all ready to explode. 

We are getting to the point of no return...

(Source Photo: Screenshot from YouTube with attribution to the move, Lucy")
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 12, 2017

Wherever You Go

So my father used to say this idea about dealing with life's challenges:
"Wherever you go, that's where you are!"
If you think about it for a moment, it really is very profound. 

Some people think that they can run away from their problems.

Move here, there, everywhere. 

Change schools, jobs, spouses, whatever. 

But you can't run away from yourself. 

Wherever you run, you're still you!

So you need to fix yourself, your problems, your life. 

Yes, sometimes your in a place is bad, a bad fit, the people are bad, the chemistry is bad, the circumstances are bad. 

And then change can certainly be a welcome and good thing.

But when you change the external, the internal has to keep developing and changing as well, so that we learn and grow to be better people.  

Change your place is not a substitute for changing and growing yourself--that is the only constant with change. ;-)

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

November 3, 2017

Tooting Your Own Horn

So I always try to see the best in people.

But sometimes it is hard when they are so intent on tooting their own horns. 

Bragging, boasting, patting themselves on the back about how smart they are or a job so incredibly well done.

Oh, you've got to ask yourself...

Is it all really true?

OR  

Do we have perhaps some slight exaggeration going on with a dose of self-aggrandizement, a spoonful of self-promotion, and more than a pinch of big ego?

Perhaps, also the person is in denial as to what their own capabilities--and limitations--really are. 

For example, many artists are enthralled with their work and themselves.
"Isn't this so good?"
"Can you believe I made this?
"Wow, this is impressive, right?"

Sure, there are plenty of talented people out there doing good and even amazing work. 

But even then tempering your achievements with a little modesty and balance, like "I do this well, but I need to grow more in that area"--goes a long way to making the admirable talents and achievements more honest, humble, and believable. 

Always, people are good at some things, and worse at others.

We all have things to work on and improve, and nobody is so perfect in this world!

We can try to come close--that's our job to strive for it--but true perfection belongs to G-d alone. ;-)

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

February 21, 2017

Naked Sitting

This was some amazing sculpture at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. 

This "Big Man" is just sitting in the corner at the top of the escalator.

Sitting naked and looking deep in thought and down on his luck.

In a sense, as we sit or stand in front of our Maker, we are all naked bearing witness to our transgressions and trespasses. 

What are we to do when we give in to weakness?

We see people looking around and hoping no one is seeing them as they try to get away with doing the wrong thing.

But as my Oma (grandmother) used to say in German to me: 
"Liebe Gott sieht alles" 

Almighty G-d sees everything!

Our souls, and the souls of those that came before us, and those that will come after us, are all around us, without limitation to time or space. 

Our nakedness is revealed no matter what we use to try to cover up with. 

Hunched in the corner, we don't really know what to do, but to try to do better with each and every next time.

We have opportunities to right the wrongs, if we get up and exert self control and overcome our mortal and character weaknesses. 

Then our nakedness won't be foul in sight and smell, but will be radiant, with our spirits having risen to the occasion of what we can be as the children of G-d. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

January 24, 2017

Don't Push The Button

Thought this was a really funny quote about getting your buttons pushed: 

"Don't push my buttons without reading the manual."


- Gadgetmobile, Inspector Gadget


In terms of not pushing other people's buttons:


"Remember, you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice, and motivated by pride and vanity."


- Dale Carnegie

 (Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

April 1, 2013

When The Solution Is Worse Than The Problem

Not to be crude, but we had some clogged plumbing over the weekend.

We tried everything to get it working again--plunger, snake, and even some septic tank treatment.

Nothing seemed to work, so at one point, my wife looked up on the Internet what to do, and it said to unwind a hanger and try that.

Well this turned out to be a huge mistake and I must've gotten too close to the chemical fumes--my eyes were burning. 

I ended up in the ER with my eyes being flushed for close to 2 hours. 

Afterwards, being very supportive and sitting with me in the hospital with my eyeballs hooked to suction cups and saline solution, my wife says to me, "This is a case when the solution (i.e. the results of our trying to fix the plumbing ourselves) is worse then the problem (the clog)."

I thought to myself boy was she right, and while it is good to be self-sufficient and try to fix and improve things ourselves, it is also good to know when to leave it to the experts. 

How many times do we foolishly try to do something where "we are out of our league," and actually can end up doing more harm then good. 

In this case, I could have seriously damaged my eyes--permanently--and am so grateful to G-d that everything turned out okay. 

Knowing our limits and accurately assessing risks can help us to know when to proceed ourselves and when to ask for some expert assistance. 

It's good do things for yourself and to try your best, but also value and know when to leverage other people's strengths.

With my eyes irritated and burning and being flushed out for what seemed like an eternity, I had some serious time to ponder what can happen when things go wrong.

Years ago, I learned to "Hope (and pray) for the best, but prepare for the worst," and I want to continue to work and improve on both these. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


Share/Save/Bookmark

December 21, 2011

Getting Control By Getting Back To Basics

I don't know if you've seen this--it's pretty popular, but I just really liked it:
“Beware of your thoughts, they become your words.
Beware of your words, they become your actions.
Beware of your actions, they become your habits.
Beware of your habits, they become your character.
Beware of your character, it becomes your destiny.”

To me it just makes so much sense--and it's how we can either get ourselves on a track for successful living or potentially into some pretty big trouble:

It starts with a simple thought--good or bad--light bulb goes on, bling!
Utter the thought (in word) and it begins to take form--blah, blah, blah.
Put that thought into action, and now--boy oh boy--what have you done?
Repeat once, twice, three times, and you have a habit--or in Jewish tradition a "Chazakah," something firm or established--think of it as, you're hooked.
Habits sure as heck breed character--and don't pretend otherwise...
And your character is your calling card with others and ultimately with G-d.

The good thing is that we have 5 steps to intervene--to gain control over where we are going with our lives.

And we can turn things around, at any time.
- Change your thinking.
- Clean up your mouthpiece.
- Act with kindness.
- Repeat only the things you want to ingrain.
- Guard your character through regular monitoring and course correction.

(Source Photo: here)

Share/Save/Bookmark

November 12, 2011

Dale Carnegie's Advice In The Age of Social Media

Dale Carnegie's book "How To Win Friends and Influence People" is a classic (1936) and has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide.
Carnegie was an expert in techniques for self improvement and he conducted corporate training to make people better with other people.
Dale Carnegie's focus on the human capital side of management was a breakthrough in his day when many other management gurus like Frederick Taylor, Henri Fayol, Edward Deming and others were focused on the maximizing the production side of management through time and motion studies, functional specialization, and quality management.
Carnegie recognized that to really get things done in the organization or out, first, we need to be able to get along with others--make friends and influence people.
His ideas are principles that are as true today in the age of social media and telework as in the days of line production.
Some examples and how these might apply today:
1) "Don't criticize, condem, or complain"--It's easy to put somebody or their ideas down, but it's infinitely more difficult to be constructive by offering alternatives or a better way. Today, we try to focus on contributing something positive and being solutions-oriented whether through crowdsourcing, answering questions where you are a subject matter expert, innovating improved business processes or technical solutions, or even just rating or liking what you think is a positive idea or share.
2) "Become genuinely interested in other people"--It's easy, especially today, to become self absorbed in the world of social media, putting out new pictures of yourself, slideshows from your work, videos of your doings, and newsflashes from every moment of your life, etc. However, as Carnegie would point out, this will not make you popular or influential. Rather, use the social web to learn about others, interact with them, and build relationships. In the end, it's not about you, but about building more "we" and "us".
3) "Begin with praise and honest appreciation"--I remember learning in one of the oodles of management and leadership classes that I have been fortunate to participate in that we should always sandwich criticism between two layers of praise. Unfortunately, the praise in this context is usually not of the highest quality and sincerity, or deeply felt. But today, in an age of social media, I think we are learning to all be more open and honest with each other. Heaping praise on people, products, and services that are outstanding and putting criticism where it is due to hold unscrupulous vendors and poor quality products to answer publicly online.
4) "Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires"--It is not always easy to see things from some else's vantage point. We all walk in our own shoes and usually can't stand the smell of someones else's. But in the age of sharing and collaboration, it is not really enough to put your ideas out there and always be right; instead we need to look at things from multiple perspectives, vet ideas, put them to the test, let others improve upon them, and build a better "widget" or decision collaboratively. By sympathizing with where others are coming from and looking for the merits of their points of view and why it is important to them, we can better negotiate a solution that is a win-win for all.
In a sense, I think this is really what Dale Carnegie was trying to get across when it came to winning friends and influencing people, it's not creating a win for me, but about creating a win-win for each other, where we all walk away from the table feeling good that we were not only heard, but also understood and worked with. Then, we all own a piece of the solution; we have skin in the game, and we can work together to implement it as a team of one.
(Source Mind Map: here)

Share/Save/Bookmark

March 19, 2011

Who Are You Trying To Please?


by Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.
For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.
He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the guy in the glass.
---------------------------------------
In grateful memory of our father, the author, Dale Wimbrow
1895-1954

Share/Save/Bookmark

August 8, 2009

The Four Noble Truths

1. Life means suffering.

To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardour, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short:craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a "self" which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call "self" is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

There is a path to the end of suffering - a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The latter quality discerns it from other paths which are merely "wandering on the wheel of becoming", because these do not have a final object. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.


Share/Save/Bookmark