Showing posts with label Wisdom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wisdom. Show all posts

September 25, 2019

The Magical Letters Of Tishrei

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The Magical Letters of Tishrei."
It is ingenious how the letters of the Aleph and Bet and Tishrei (the dates when Rosh Hashanah occurs) is exactly equivalent to the letters in the Hebrew word for Genesis (Bereshit), which is the event of creation that we celebrate on the Jewish New Year. 

Truly, this magical genius evident in the Torah can only be from one source and that is the one Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, Himself!

Let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a truly magical Rosh Hashanah and one that is filled G-d’s mercy and blessings for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful New Year!

(Credit Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 18, 2018

Everything Is 4 The Best

So it's easy to get down on life when bad things happen. 

But it's funny how when we just take a little perspective or in retrospect...

We realize that everything G-d does is really for our best!

It may not look and feel that way at the moment. 

But there comes an inner awakening about things when we see the bigger picture. 

And then we sort of nod our heads knowingly:
"Ah, that's why that happened!"

There are many reasons, G-d may be directing something: 

- Opening new and better opportunities for us. 

- Teaching us important life lessons.

- Putting us someplace we need to be to help someone else. 

- Even saving us from some worse catastrophe. 

For G-d, there is no time or space--He supersedes all of these. 

He puts us where we need to be when we need to be for His bigger plan for our good. 

Also, when you think you have a problem, remember to look at what others may be going through.

Because there are problems and then there are problems!

As my dad used to say:

"The guy complained he had no shoes, until he saw the guy without any feet!"

Is your problem really so bad--maybe yes, maybe no.

Try for a second to think of others you know and what they are going through. 

Imagine for a moment--what does really bad look like, feels like. 

G-d works in what seems like mysterious ways.

But we can uncover the mystery and discover the holiness and grand plan of it all--if we just look beyond ourselves and towards the heavens.

Oh G-d, thank you for all that you do for us--your wisdom is glorious; your lessons are to teach me to be a better me; and your mercy endures forever. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 13, 2018

Outgunned Yes


I liked this saying that I heard:

"Outnumbered and outgunned, but not outsmarted."

I think there is a lot of truth to this. 

Might does not make right. 

Right makes right. 

There is a G-d above who watches over us. 

Those with the big guns may just end up shooting themselves in the foot. 

G-d reigns supreme and he gives wisdom and courage to his faithful. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 17, 2017

Failing Forward

There were 2 inspirational student speakers today at my daughter's graduation from American University.

One spoke about how he got sick soon after starting college with a serious vascular disease, but despite numerous hopsitalizations, treatments, and falling behind his peers, he persevered and was graduating today and in very good spirits. 

Another women spoke about her many failures leading up to the success today of her graduation. She described how her father used to ask her: 
"What did you fail at this week?"

Why?

Because even though we don't like to admit it, most people have many, many more failures in life than successes.  

Even Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb is said to have failed 1,000 times before getting it right.

This women explained how failure is actually something to celebrate--does that sound crazy?.

But it's really not, and here's why?
"To fail is to learn.
To learn is to grow.
To fail is to grow forward."
Now, I had heard about failing up, but never failing forward. 

Many who fail still manage to advance themselves in the process. 

But failing forward is different. 

It's not taking advantage of the failure, but legitimately learning from the experience so that you can grow yourself, and advance yourself, by becoming a smarter, stronger, and more capable person from it. 

Sure, it hurts to fail. 

Who would normally want to celebrate failure?

But if we understand life as a journey and not a specific destination, then we enjoy every blessed moment that we have to become better today and tomorrow than we were yesterday. 

In this case, failure is not the opposite of success, but rather is part and parcel of achieving it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 17, 2017

What Is Wisdom?

Some thoughts today on what is wisdom:

- Knowing you know nothing--and you can prove it (ah, humility)!

- Knowing when to ask--like the infamous directions when you're lost or how to use the latest new technology.

- Learning from all others (everyone has something they can teach us).

- Wisdom = Knowledge + Experience (you've gotten an inkling about some truth out there, and you've had a chance to test it out). 

- Seeing that people's outer bodies are just the superficial, material cover for their inner souls. 

- Realizing that doing for others is so much more rewarding than doing for ourselves. 

- Following the great truths of morality and responsibility.

- Keen awareness that we are not alone in the universe--G-d is everywhere.

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 22, 2017

Wise Man Watcheth

I just loved this Asian sculpture that I found in this cool antique store.

It was white and slim with a Asian man face, long beard, and tall hat. 

The face was so expressive.

The eyes so alert and watching. 

The beard and hat made him look old and wise. 

As a real person, this is someone who has seen and learned so many things.

Forever watching.

Forever seeking to understand.

Forever trying to learn the secrets of the life. 

This is a person to consult and get guidance from. 

With age comes wisdom.

And with (occasional) reincarnation comes more opportunity to learn the painful lessons that we haven't, but must.

How long has this man been sitting there watching and learning--how long must we?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 20, 2017

Mine and Yours

In synagogue today, we read from Pirkei Avot ("Ethics of Our Fathers").

And I talked with my friends at lunch about one passage from this timeless wisdom.

There are 4 types of people:

1) "Average Joe"


What's mine is mine, and what's yours in yours. 

Someone described this as "his and her--separate--accounts."

2) Stupid


What's mine is yours, and what's yours in mine. 

Ah, this is just someone whose plain old confused.

3) Wicked


What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine.  

One guy described his ex-wife this way.

4) Righteous 

What's mine is yours, and what's yours is yours.  

We all agreed this is the meaning of life--to be kind and giving to others.

What type of person are you? And what type of person do you want to be?  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 3, 2016

Dysfunction Is The Starting Point

A very smart speech today in synagogue by Rabbi Haim Ovadia. 

He connected to this week's reading from Genesis in the Torah.

It was a commentary about our forefathers and mothers and what the stories in the Bible teach us. 

As we know, these people while righteous and holy, were not perfect people or families. 

Thinking about these, some examples that come to mind about the many tests, challenges, and tragedies in their lives:

- Adam and Eve eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden

- Noah getting drunk and his son, Ham, seeing his nakedness and telling his brothers

- Abraham and Sarah's doubting (i.e. laughing) that G-d would give them a child

- Isaac lying to Avimelech about Rivkah being his sister (similar to what Abraham said about Sarah)

 - Jacob buying the birthright and stealing the blessing from Esau

- Shimon and Levi killing the people of Shechem for Hamor raping their sister

- Joseph's brothers being jealous of him and throwing him in the pit and selling him into slavery

- Judah sleeping with Tamer, the wife of his firstborn 

And so on. 

Rabbi Ovadia said we should keep 4 things in mind about the Biblical figures and families to learn for our own:

1) Context - There is a context to what we do. We all have histories that involve difficulties, challenges, illness, abuse, PTSD, and so on.  The things we do and how we react later in life are anchored in this context. 

2) Dysfunction - Every family (and I would add person, organization, and institution) is dysfunctional.  There is no perfection out there (except G-d). Functional would mean like a computer, we input-process-output towards a certain function.  However, as people, we are not automatons, but instead work out our dysfunction through our striving to love, have relationships, learn and grow. 

3) Responsibility - Whatever our challenges and dysfunctions, we are responsible for what we do--our actions.  We can't just blame history or others.  Our role is to face up to our lot in life and take responsibility for what we do.  It our life and circumstances to make or break us. 

4) Communication - In dealing with life and it's challenges, communication is key to dealing with things. I would argue that communication is just a part of many critical success factors like trust, determination, hard work, emotional intelligence, being giving, integrity, etc.  But certainly, communication is a key aspect in how we work out our issues with others and try to build function from inherent dysfunction. 

The honestly of the Bible in telling us the flaws of it's heroes and heroines--our ancestors--is one of the things that make it such a source of wisdom for us as well as demonstrating the truthfulness of it being G-d given to us.

The bible doesn't sugarcoat who we are and what we have to deal with--it is the Book of G-d that is a roadmap for us to learn from and do good with in our own lives. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 7, 2015

A Deal Of Dread

I would imagine that very soon there will be ATA-boys, pats on the back and high-fives, photo ops, more gushing smiles, and of course the coveted Noble Peace Prize. 

But as we move ever closer to a deal with Iran on Nuclear Weapons Of Mass Destruction all I feel is complete dread.

I wish I could be happy--really I do--because we had a strong and verifiable deal that protected us all, but instead...

I am afraid for the State of Israel--holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims around the world--as a nuclear capable Iran and their terrorist proxies renew vows to annihilate Israel--only 70 years after the Holocaust that erased 6 million Jewish lives, their souls rising in the billowing smoke of the furnaces of the Nazi crematoria. 

Further, I am afraid for the dimming prospects of true world peace based on the tacit acceptance of an eventual nuclear-armed Iranian regime, still the leading state sponsor of world-wide terrorism

Every day, we are bombarded by a cacophony of what seems an unending litany of concessions to Iran:

1) Today, the latest is that Iran wants a complete lifting of the U.N. arms embargo including ballistic missiles. 

2) Yesterday, it was that Iran wants an immediate doubling of oil exports.


3) Last week, it was that rather than gradual sanctions relief for compliance, instead now Iran would get a $150 billion signing bonus  - that is 25 times the annual budget of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard and could be used to finance and carry out yet more global terrorism. 


4) And that for vital inspections for nuke compliance, "anytime, anywhere, unimpeded" of suspicious military sites would now only be a highly watered down "managed access" of inspections.


5) Three weeks ago, the U.S. said that Iran no longer needs to account for the past nuclear weapons research that world representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had been trying to pry out of them for than a decade. 


6) In March, as part of the framework deal, we learned that Iran's freeze on sensitive nuclear activities would only be 10 years, and even that Iran was calling "unaceptable."


7) Moreover in March, we learned that despite any agreement, Iran was continuing to pursue banned items for nukes and the missiles to deliver them


In April, we were reminded of the dangers of failed nuclear agreements when China warned about North Korea's ever expanding nuke arsenal, which critics have pointed out mimics that of the deal with Iran


Aside from the dangerous weaknesses in the emerging deal, Iran's hatred for the United States is unmitigated as a general in Iran said just last week that the U.S. remains "our worst, most vicious enemy."


Moreover, as Iran's Parlimant bans access to its military sites, they continue unabated their generational old chant of "death to America."


In these fateful times, when our decisions now will affect the lives of untold millions in the future, let us pray for G-d's mercy.


May the L-rd above bestow the strength of good character, wisdom of our ancestors, and the fortitude of our great heros to ensure a good deal--or no deal at all--with our avowed and undetered enemy--and may he bring a true peace to us all.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 20, 2015

Death To PowerPoint

Ok, we've all heard of "Death by PowerPoint" (well, I'm advocating death to PowerPoint).

It's the unfortunate occurrence that happens when a speaker presents a wad too many slides (OMG, some people seem to go on and on forever--get them off that podium)!

Or when they present too much information, too little information, or just don't know what or how to present at all. 

Their (slide) presentations leave the audience basically wanting to just kill themselves, if not the inconsiderate S.O.B. speaker.

But aside from lousy speakers, you have a crappy presentation mechanism, which is PowerPoint slides.

Hello out there, tell the truth...

Can any of you remember much of a darn thing that anyone has ever conveyed to you by PowerPoint?

Think of webinars, conferences, and meetings galore with slide after slide of 2-dimensional boredom.

Is your head hurting you yet or are you just glad you can't remember any of it--natural selection of memory saves you the pain...why thank you.

Then consider what someone has told you in great thoughtfulness, confidence, or with genuine passion, caring and sincerity.

- Perhaps, the wisdom of a parent or teacher who took you aside to tell you a life's lesson.

- Or a Rabbi or Priest who shared with you something spiritual and uplifting to guide you on your path.

- How about someone in the office who was passionate about an idea or project and who motivated you as well.

Most of the communication between people that really means something never makes it to a PowerPoint slide.

Imagine for a moment, if something meaningful was conveyed to you by slide presentation--you would think, how ridiculous it is to use PowerPoint for that?

- I love you--will you marry me?

- We're having a baby, how wonderful. 

- Just got that promotion, yes!

- So and so is sick or just passed away, how terrible. 

PowerPoint just doesn't happen here in real life--thank G-d!

And no matter how much organizations such as TED would like to make a (show)business out of presentations using PowerPoint...(ah, nope).

Real communication happens when one person talks from the heart to another person who receives it in their heart. 

The greatest orators in history...never used a slide presentation.

Other presentation products like Prezi tried to take slides to the next level with a storytelling format using a virtual canvas, but that didn't pan out to well either...see many Prezis lately (and without getting dizzy)?

PowerPoint slides, and the like, are for distraction...now I don't have to pay that much attention to the rambling, numbnut speaker anymore.

The bottom line...we don't listen with our eyes!

Rather, we hear words of wisdom and see when someone is genuine, sincere and worth listening to.

The rest is PowerPoint... ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris Pirillo)
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January 21, 2015

Stop The Nuclear Threat

Before we get too rosy on the State of the Union...

Fascinating article in Forbes on the threat from nuclear armageddon. 

- The Russians nuclear missile survivability is improving with missiles "equiped with four warheads that can be independently targeted."

- Typical yield is 500 kilotons--"equivalent to half a million tons of conventional explosives."

- The impact of a single nuclear explosion is that it heats the targeted areas to a "few thousand degrees."

- If/when exploded over a major city, "everything within a one-mile radius is destroyed, heavy damage extends to three miles, and fires will be widespread out to five miles."

- People at ground zero will be annihilated immediately "by the blast effects or a wind-spread firestorm...(initial wind speed 700 mph)" 

- Those father from the epicenter will "linger longer before succumbing to the effects of prompt and delayed radiation."

- Due to the magnetic pulse, "electronic devices will be shut down for a hundred miles in every direction."

- How many long range nuclear missiles does Russia have? Over 2,000 (that are known)!

- Just 50, would leave every American city with over half a million people, "uninhabitable."

Now think about the Mullahs of Iran targeting, America, "The Great Satan," should they get this capability.

And do you think a Congressionally, bipartison endorsed, deadline-triggered sanctions on Iran should be vetoed or championed by the administration to stop this threat? 

May G-d bless us with the wisdom and strength of character to see through the delay tactics and subterfuge of our enemies and remove this real threat from us.

As to the Russians' strategic nuclear arsenal, we better get moving along on Reagan's Star Wars Strategic Defense Initiative--because 2,000 is a heck of a lot of incoming! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to CX15)
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December 24, 2014

A Prayer Of Thanks

My sister-in-law sent over this beautiful prayer.

It is a prayer of thanks to the Almighty.

We thank G-d for:

- Being with us and supporting us with his loving kindness.

- Challenges that teach us, help us appreciate all that we have, and are ultimately for our benefit.

- The wonderful life bestowed upon us and for always listening to to our prayers. 

If we concentrate on all that we have and not on what we don't and recognize that everything G-d does is ultimately for the good, then we can gain strength, persist, and reach ever new heights! 

Hope you find hope and strength in this too. ;-)

(Special thanks to Sarah Herbsman for sharing this beautiful prayer.)
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September 15, 2014

Doctor In Context

I took this photo in the doctor's office. 

No, this is not my doctor, but a statue of one on the countertop.  

What's funny to me is how he looks in context of the bottles and anatomical models all around him.  

Either the doctor has shrunk or the other things are really huge.

My dad used to tell me that doctors only know what G-d tells them, so we should pray that G-d gives them the wisdom to help us. 

And my grandfather used to say in German that "G-d is my doctor."

Maybe that's why the image of the doctor is looking up--to get the guidance from the one above to help us. 

That's the intersection of medicine and faith--where truly big things can happen. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 13, 2013

Total CIO Ping Pong


Excuse the quality of this video, which my wife took while challenging me to a game of ping pong.

So what's the point?

It's important to work hard, but also to enjoy life and have some good times as well.

There is a Talmudic saying that he who goes through life without enjoying the world will be held accountable by G-d.

Aside from Judaism being against strict asceticism, this saying always sort of bewildered me, like why would religion need to tell you to enjoy yourself? 

I think the answer is that in our zeal to advance ourselves--whatever that means for each person (accumulating wealth, offspring, expertise, fame, wisdom, spiritual growth)--we can go overboard, become obsessive-compulsive, and forget to refresh, rejuvenate  and just relax and enjoy the life too. 

You don't have to deny yourself; but also, you don't have to go crazy and be a pig either--just be balanced.

Play some ping pong or whatever, let loose a little, and be yourself. :-)
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May 20, 2012

The Reason We Are Given Is To Give

There is a famous slogan about "the gift that keeps on giving" that has been used for promoting various products from appliances to flowers.  

But to me, it is more appropriately used to inspire people to make a donation or give of themselves, because of how fulfilling it can be and how it makes us better people.

There is no more beautiful story about the act of giving then the one by O'Henry called The Gift of The Magi

In the story, a husband and wife, Jim and Della, want to give each other holiday gifts, but they are poor. 

Della has beautiful long hair, but no combs for it, and Jim has a gold watch passed down from his father and grandfather, but no chain for it. 

Each sacrifices for the other and in a tragic irony--Della sells her long, flowing hair to buy a gold chain for Jim, and Jim sells the prized gold watch to purchase a set of special combs for Della. 

They could've been selfishly focused on what each individually was lacking, but instead they rose above it and were superbly generous--giving away their own prized possessions to try and make the other whole. 

They found the wisdom of the ages in terms of loving, giving, and sharing being of the greatest joys one can have. 

I love this story for it's simplicity in teaching about giving and sacrifice and channeling whatever our challenges in life are into opportunities for betterment. 

Maybe as individuals, we can't change the whole world in one fell swoop, but with each positive contribution and act of giving, we can leave it a little better than the way we found it. 

I was so proud earlier today when I heard one of my teenage daughters say: "the reason we are given things is in order to give to others."

I don't think my daughter ever heard of this O'Henry story, but I see how she is learning and living it, and what more can any parent want from their children. 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to OpenSourceWay)


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April 8, 2012

Poisons Anonymous

One of the Buddhist teachings is that there are 3 poisons in this world: greed, anger, and ignorance

But that by turning these poisons around into generosity, compassion, and wisdom, we can create life-healing. 

While this is sort of simplistic, it does point to a number of important things:

1) We can have an impact on our destiny. We can choose our direction and work towards something that is good or we can fall harmfully into some bad and destructive ways.

2) Everything has an antidote.  While we may not know the antidote at the time, generally everything has its corollary or opposite and we can find healing by moving towards that. 

3) The answers in life are not so far away. How much of a stretch is it to turned a clenched fist into an open hand or to quench ignorance with learning--these things are doable.

If we look at people and events at face value, it is easy as times to get angry and feel hatred at the corruption and injustices out there--but I believe, the key is to channel those feeling into something positive--into change and Tikkun Olam--"fixing the world". 

By channeling our feelings into constructive actions, then we are changing not just ourselves, but can have a broader influence--one deed at a time.  

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

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February 29, 2012

Progressing From Data to Wisdom

I liked this explanation (not verbatim) by Dr. Jim Chen of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.

- Data: This is an alphanumeric entity and/or symbol (ABC, 123, !@#...)

- Information: This is when entities are related/associated to each other and thereby derive meaning. (Information = Data + Meaning)

- Knowledge: This is information applied to context. (Knowledge = Data + Meaning + Context)

- Wisdom: This is knowledge applied to multiple contexts. (Wisdom = Data + Meaning + (Context x N cases)).

I'd like to end this blog with a short quote that I thought sort of sums it up:

"A man may be born to wealth, but wisdom comes only with length of days." - Anonymous
(Source Photo: here)

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November 27, 2010

Leadership Lessons from 127 Hours


Rarely does a movie get an 8.7 out of 10 in the reviews, so I had to go see the movie 127 Hours about Aron Ralston, the hiker who got trapped under a boulder in 2003 while mountain climbing in Utah, and had to amputate his own arm to free himself.
This was an incredible story of survival.

The guy had to drink his own urine to survive after running out of drinking water and finally had to break his own bones and cut off his own forearm with a dull blade and use a pliers to tear through his tendons in order to finally dislodge himself after 5 days of being trapped.
But what is even more amazing to me than what Aron had to do to survive is what he has chosen to do afterwards with his life.
Aside from the media appearances, motivational speaking, writing a book Between A Rock And A Hard Place, and getting married and having a son, Aron continues to be an ardent mountain climber.
While many people would actually choose to “lick their wounds” and basically find another hobby—a safer one, Aron continues to do what he loves—climbing.
He is not deterred.
To the contrary—he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2009 and still plans to climb Mt. Everest.
Aron inspires me, yet I have conflicting emotions about his choices.
Part of me thinks this guy is off the wall, since he took so many life-threatening chances (for example, climbing without even letting anyone know where he was) and nearly got himself killed, and now he continues to do pursue this dangerous sport with only one arm!
And another part of me is awed by him. He is unstoppable. He knows what he loves and he pursues it, no matter what: Terror, trauma, two arms or one, Aron will be climbing as long as he is able.
It is a great thing to be true to yourself, to have a passion, and to pursue it relentlessly. However, I believe it is a blessing to also have the wisdom to balance even the greatest of pursuits with sound judgement, so excuse the pun, you don’t end up having to cut off your nose (or in this case your arm) in despite of your face.
Aron is an inspiration similar to the movie character Rocky in terms of his determination and perseverance, but even Rocky knew when his health was at risk and it was time to hang his gloves up. Knowing when it’s safe to go and when it’s necessary to pause or even stop is an important part of our survival skills and it doesn’t mean that we are any less passionate about who we are or what we are about or believe in.
Passion should mean we responsibly grow into our pursuits and not unnecessarily die trying. In the movie, I got the impression that Aron was more than a little reckless, and he paid a heavy price for it, but I admire his bravery and that he continues to pursue his dreams.
In our organizations, we should encourage everyone to find their passion in the work they do—because that is a motivator for people that supersedes any paycheck or bonus management can provide.

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April 25, 2010

Going From Peak to Peak

In life, no one has only peaks or valleys. Life is a continuous cycle, and we must traverse “The Wheel of Life” (an ancient belief of many cultures including Jews, Indians, and others) from happiness to loss, suffering, and then hope, and back to happiness again.

Why we go round and round as people and nations is an age-old question. While happiness all the time would certainly be more enjoyable and easier on us all around, it would defeat the purpose of life, which is to learn and grow. And unfortunately, there is profound wisdom in the adage, “no pain; no gain.”

No, that doesn’t mean we should become masochists, so that we learn and grow more! Rather, we learn and grow from difficult experiences and then we get to rest and restore ourselves to be able to apply those in lessons and take it to the next level in future circumstances.

So it was with interest that I recently read Peaks and Valleys, by Dr. Spencer Johnson (best-known for Who Moved My Cheese?).

The conventional wisdom is that if we’re not living at the top of the heap, then we’ve somehow failed. Johnson’s take is that both success and failure (what he calls “peaks and valleys”) have valuable lessons to teach us and are therefore important to experience. The book is about getting the most out of the peaks as well as the valleys of our lives.

Here are some thoughts that rung true—in my words and in Dr. Johnson’s:

#1 - How to handle the valleys:

  • Learn to manage adversity, which helps you to mature and reach your next stage in life: “Between peaks, there are always valleys. How you manage your valleys determines how soon you reach you next peak.”
  • Love and to give to others. “You get out of a valley sooner when you manage to get outside of yourself: at work by being of greater service, and in life by being more loving.”

#2 - Think strategically about where you’re going in life:

  • Envision where you want to be to advance your goals. “A great way to get to your next peak is to follow you sensible vision. Imagine yourself enjoying your better future in such specific believable detail that you soon enjoy doing what takes you there.”
  • Recognize the emotions that guide your actions (and that timing is key): “The most common reason you leave a peak too soon is arrogance masquerading as confidence. The most common reason you stay in a valley too long is fear masquerading as comfort.”

Overall, even though leaders may seem like they are always “above,” in fact everybody goes through regular peaks and valleys.

In addition, leaders have the added duty to find the way not only for themselves, but also to guide others through the “storms” of organizational life. This is a great privilege, but also a tremendous responsibility that necessitates that leaders lead with wisdom and integrity so that they help their organizations, and people, go capably from peak to peak.


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February 6, 2010

Why Be Led By You?

To be a great leader, you have to have the qualities that make others want to be led by you. Obviously, a leader without followers can’t lead anything.

A classic article in Harvard Business Review called “Why should Anyone Be Led By You?” by Goffee and Jones starts this way: “If you want to silence a room of executives try this small trick. Ask them, ‘why would anyone want to be led by you?’”…without fail, the response is a sudden hush. All you can hear are knees knocking.”

It’s humorous, but also right on. There are lots of people out there who are appointed, anointed, or otherwise advanced to positions of responsibility over others, but this does not make them leaders. To be a leader, a person must not ‘rule’ by authority alone, but by their ability to move people and organizations to greatness.

Most people say that what makes a leader is vision. And yes that is a vital trait, but there is a lot more—here are some others that differentiate the real leaders from the frauds:

· Wisdom—having the knowledge as well as ability to apply it to the specific situation. A leader knows what to do and when to do it. There is an implication of timely and relevant action. Finally, wisdom implies openness to new ideas and ways of doing things—innovation—and the customer-centric application of those.

· Integrity—a leader is reasonable, upright and equitable in his dealing with others. In contrast, corruption, dishonesty, greed, and nepotism undermine the very fabric of leading by example and preclude the possibility of creating a better world. Following a leader with integrity of being and of purpose is inherently meaningful and just.

· Compassion—some people call it empathy, but it is really more than just feeling for others, it is feeling altogether. It includes having the passion and determination to help the people and the organization innovate, modernize, and transform while being sensitive and responsive to all stakeholders affected.

· Humaneness—a leader is human being subject to frailties and failures, and is not to be confused with G-d (although some seem to think themselves almost nothing short of divine). Understanding that we all have weakness and vulnerabilities is critical to accepting risks, mistakes, and learning from these and growing past them. While we should demand and strive for excellence, we cannot expect perfection at every turn.

· Harmony—leading people means creating harmony between competing and conflicting people and points of view, so the organization can move forward in unity of purpose and the strength the comes with it. Often the biggest obstacle to success is not the competition, but the division or fighting from within. A leader brings people together and synergizes them so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

· Communication—While people are sensitive to non-verbal cues, they are not telepathic, so clear, consistent, and compelling communication is essential to building the common vision and action plans to achieve the goals set out upon. A gifted, articulate leader can move people to action with urgency, purpose, and undying belief that neither reward nor retribution alone could rouse.

A leader with these six traits does not need to worry next time someone asks them “why should anyone be led by you?” The answer for them is clear.


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