Posted: November 14th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Congregation Beth Hatikvah, empathy, love, opportunity, Reconstructionist Judaism, responding | No Comments »
Life is funny, when everything is “normal”, when the sun is shining and there are blue skies overhead, most people find it relatively easy to be kind, generous and patient. But when “normal”, either individually or collectively, is disrupted our ability to think, much less act, at our best is tested and challenged. And when we are placed under unexpected stress, how we respond can be either incredibly beautiful or ugly beyond words.
In the preceding 10 weeks we have experienced 2 “hundred year” storms that have impacted not only the daily routines but the lives of those in the path of these weather events. And while some of us have been affected to a greater extent than others, collectively these circumstances have touched each and every one of us as members of not only our community but as members of greater society. In the aftermath these two “anomalies” I’ve encountered both generosity and selfishness. On the one hand, the vast majority of people have responded wonderfully; I’ve witnessed concern and caring expressed in a multitude of ways, from people help each other clean up to opening up their homes and businesses to friends and strangers alike. On the other hand I’ve heard accounts of people bullying utility crews in an attempt to speed up the restoration of their own service as well as stories of people harassing elected officials because of what they perceived as an inadequate response to their own needs.
How we respond to the routine or extreme stresses that each of us encounter should not be left to happenstance; our responses should be purposeful. Our equanimity can be cultivated. To that end, our forefather Rabbi Hillel posed 3 core questions that remain as relevant today to all people, regardless of their faith, as they did to our ancestors 2000 years ago:
- If I am not for myself then who will be for me?
- If I am only for myself then who am I?
- If not now, when?
Taken independently, each question poses an intriguing consideration. But it is when the 3 questions are considered together and applied without exception, without caveats and non-selectively that they present a path to peace and prosperity through mutuality, commonality and accountability.
Certainly some would argue that in 2011 it is impossible to do this at all, much less all the time, life is too complicated, issues are too diverse and we are, after all, only human. But that is precisely the point; being human and living in a world with 7 billion other humans is very hard, crowded and highly competitive. We can leave it at that and let fear and anxiety dictate our actions or we can choose the other path, the path that transforms each and every moment of each and every day of our lives into a test, a challenge and an opportunity to be better than we are at this moment. And if we truly desire a life defined by peace and prosperity then it is the purposefulness of our own actions that offer us the only chance of our actually achieving it.
With the greatest respect.
Posted: June 22nd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: consensual delusion, life, love, opportunity, Political opportunity, politics, society, success, too big to fail, United States, Wealth | No Comments »
We live in a time that is dominated by fear. A fear that is different and more pervasive than any living generation in our country has ever encountered. A fear that is characterized by incongruence. Being both real and imagined, stemming from both emotion and intellect as well as being identifiable and unknown. It is nefarious, It is subtle. And it is surrounding us.
The systems and institutions that have formed the bedrock of our society appear to be collapsing all around us even as these same entities make every effort to keep themselves intact. In cities and towns across our nation, individuals that have followed the rules, lived their lives in moderation, paid attention during school, diligently showed up every day at work, missed some family events for the job, paid ever increasing taxes and participated in the political process by voting feel betrayed, used and discounted by the very political, corporate and economic systems that they have been taught to trust their entire lives. And the fear spreads like a wildfire as these hard working men and women stand witness to the ineffectiveness of self-serving misguided policies such as ”too big to fail“, even as the daily existence they have known, the future that they have been promised appears to be crumbling right in front of them.
This is what happens when you worship false gods. When you do things for the wrong reasons. When you give in to the ends justifying the means. When you stand idly by and accept something that you know in your heart to be not just untrue, but simply wrong.
Life, your life is not a series of endpoints, it is an ongoing process. It flows, without beginning and without an end. It is an evolving dynamic experience that provides one with the opportunity to engage a continuum of emotions. And despite what we are taught, despite what innuendos are propagated in popular culture and our modern day mythology, no one stands alone. We are all connected and collectively responsible. Life is not about amassing power and hording wealth but about loving others and the joy of sharing. Life is not about holding on and maintaining the status the quo but about letting go and seeking something more wonderful through a journey into the unknown. Fear breeds greater fear. Love inspires greater love.
Posted: May 14th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 2nd chances, compassion, consensual delusion, crisis, dark energy, dark matter, die once, empathy, experience, growth, High school, kids, love, New York Times, number one, opportunity, Pulitzer Prize, reality, understanding | No Comments »
When I started this blog in February of last year, I had no expectation that people would actually read it. At the very least it would provide a mechanism for me to record my thoughts, musings and opinions. Now 600+ people from over 70 countries read this blog. Frankly that blows me away. As there are both a lot of new readers, I decided to high-lite 5 of the more popular earlier posts that newer readers may have missed.
Once again, thank you to those that read this. Please feel free to comment, email me and recommend Consensual Delusion to your friends, colleagues, and family.
This entry on how my 1st son’s birth changed my perspective was picked up by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Tina Kelly and the New York Times “Local” blog last year.
This post, “Die Once”, is about my dad wrestling with his mortality.
After reading “Crisis and Opportunity”, a friend from high school asked me “when did you become so smart?” I’ll take the back-handed compliment.
I am actually grouping these 2 posts together as they both illustrate the very fuzzy boundaries that define science and mysticism. Both posts attempt to show the reader that we believe we know much more than we actually know. And that is both supremely arrogant and very dangerous; “master planned obsolescence” and “Is your reality, really reality?”
Lastly, in my opinion, this may be one of my most useful posts from a day to day living perspective. If my kids take anything away from this blog, hopefully it will be this message, “Don’t count on 2nd chances.”
Posted: March 18th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: "T" rule, Golden Rule, opportunity, success | No Comments »
A wealthy man that I know has a rule that he swears by. He calls it the “T” rule. He believes that if someone follows this rule they will become “successful”. Until recently, he never explicitly mentioned it to me, but looking back, it is certainly consistent with his behavior.
Here is his rule: Draw a “T”. Now think of your life. The right side is for all the times that you were “screwed” or got the shorter end of a deal. The left side is for all the times that you got the better end of the deal or you “screwed” someone else. The goal is, over the course of your life, maximize the left and minimize the right.
My first reaction was disbelief. Then I felt sad for him. I also realized that as defined by this, he must consider me a complete and unequivocal failure. A sucker or an easy mark. Someone who is wasting his potential and amazing opportunities. But that’s OK because I try to follow a different rule. And mine is golden.
Posted: March 1st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 911, Chiliean earthquake, control, experience, make every moment count, opportunity, responding, World Trade Center | No Comments »
About 9 1/2 years ago, a friend of mine was about to a begin working at a new firm. He pursued this position diligently, lobbying hard, selling his qualifications and the potential impact he could have on the company’s business. And when he was chosen, he was truly elated, as this position afforded him an phenomenal opportunity to advance in his career. So one beautiful late summer morning he woke up extra early, left his home in northern NJ and arrived eagerly at his new employer. Upon arrival, he was undoubtedly presented with stacks of forms from HR and left in some cubicle to fill them out alone. Then the first plane crashed into the tower. He left behind a wife and small kids, one just barely a year old.
This past Friday, the 15 year old son of friends left for an adventure as an exchange student. He too was undoubtedly excited about the wonderful experiences and opportunities that would unfold over the next 4 months. He would meet new friends, experience a new culture and elevate his Spanish skills to a new level. And then with in 24 hours of his arrival in Santiago, one of the largest earthquakes in modern times struck Chile. Fortunately, he was unharmed but the last that I heard, he has still yet to actually speak to his parents.
These are 2 personal examples of the world being turned upside down instantly; one caused by the senseless yet well planned action of a few men and another brought on seemingly at random by our very world. No one is immune from these exogenous events. They may not be life threatening but your life will be changed. While you can’t control external factors, you can control yourself. The only course of action is to simply accept the reality of the situation and respond appropriately. Whether that is making a last call to your wife and telling her that you love her or working closely with others for a common goal. Regardless of the outcome, every situation, good or bad, whether we realize it or not, presents us with an opportunity. It may not be the opportunity that we are looking for or one that we even want, but we don’t have that choice. However we do have the choice, or rather the responsibility to ourselves, to see these opportunities and seize them. Our lives are composed of a continuous stream of these moments. Don’t waste them. Make each one count. Make every moment your last moment.
Michael, you will not forgotten. Zach we all look forward to your safe return.
Posted: December 31st, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: compassion, conflict, help, opportunity, peace, refugees, suffering, war | No Comments »
The good news: in the last 20 years the total number of armed conflicts across the globe has been reduced by almost 60%, the number of ongoing conflicts has dropped by 50% and the world’s displaced population has decreased by 16%.
The bad news: Globally, there are almost 80 wars currently being waged and of these, 29 are ongoing, sustained conflicts. The total number of refugees and internally displaced people as a result of war is currently about 42 million -which is equivalent to the combined population of the 44 largest cities in the United States.
Viewed from afar, statistics show conditions are certainly improving. Viewed from the ground, in a refugee camp, somewhere in the Democratic Republic of Congo, each day is a living hell.
Hoping 2010 will be better, will do nothing to actually make it better. So take it upon yourself to insure that in some small way it is better. If you have a little extra, please pass it on to those who have nothing. If you have a voice, please use it for those who can not or will not be heard. 2010 is an opportunity to do something good. To act selflessly. To become something bigger than yourself 365 times. Make the most of it. Happy New Year and go in peace.
Posted: December 28th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Eli Manning, football, game changer, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, NY Giants, NY Jets, opportunity, Superbowk XLII, think differently, Wildcat | No Comments »
A few Sunday mornings ago, I was out early, driving Number 2 to see some friends. We began to talk about the day’s upcoming football games. This was the first week that Mark Sanchez was sidelined as the Jets’ quarterback, turning the role over to his back-up. Number 2 expressed a degree of pessimism regarding the outcome. I told him that I thought it opened up a lot of opportunity to play unconventionally. To use the Wildcat.
If you are unfamiliar, you can read about the wildcat in the link above. Essentially it bypasses the quarterback and snaps the ball directly to the running back, effectively confusing the defense. Miami has used it extensively and effectively after the potential career ending injury sustained by their QB, former Jet, Chad Pennington. It works best against a truly disciplined and precision coached team like the Patriots. It completely befuddles them. As a digression, in my opinion, that is how the NY Giants beat the Patriots in Superbowl XLII: Eli Manning seemed a bit unsure what plays he was going to call, this instability actually worked for them against the highly prepared and mechanically precise Patriots.
Back to the car. As our conversation continued, I told him that he could apply the Wildcat to anything. He could change the game inside the game, turning disadvantages into advantages. The spirit of the Wildcat is to not just think bigger and broader, but to think differently. To unconventionally apply what is available right now in order to break through the status quo. The Wildcat is the leap of faith. It is the spark of invention. It is the path of the most resourceful and unconventional. And it truly does change the game.
When you hit a wall, encounter a problem or come upon a challenge which may seem too formidable to attempt, turn the situation into an opportunity. Become a game changer. Become the Wildcat.
Posted: June 8th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: advice, career, future, graduates, job, opportunity | No Comments »
To all those newly minted BAs, BSs, MBAs JDs etc, I can’t offer you a single word like “plastics” but I can offer you two words: The Future. Don’t pick a job or a career based upon present conditions and certainly don’t pick one based upon past conditions. Stretch your mind, forget about the rigid realities established by your education and instead try focus on what you think will be important to future you in 5, 10, 20 or even 40 years. Start there and adapt freely as you advance. This is an opportunity, make the most of it. If this helps, remember to have future you pass it on when appropriate.
Posted: May 28th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: "Babe" Ruth, "Teddy Roosevelt", failure, fear, growth, opportunity | No Comments »
“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”
George Herman “Babe” Ruth
At least once in our lives, but more likely several times, I think everyone has avoided doing something because we thought that we might fail. Or we might look ridiculous. Or maybe sound stupid. Our egos may have remained briefly unscathed, but what did we really loose? Perhaps it was an opportunity to find something which we may have truly enjoyed. Or missed the chance to get to know a genuinely wonderful person. Or maybe we lost an opportunity to raise a question or make a statement that could have made profound and enduring impact.
The magnitude of the victory is always defined by the potential of the failure. “Easy wins” are meaningless and hollow. “Sure things” only bring transient satisfaction. Reflect on the most rewarding, most exhilarating moments of your life and I would believe that failure was always a possibility. A possibility that did not stop you.
Enjoy the experience, and if you fail, remember no one is keeping count, they are all waiting to join you in celebrating your successes.
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
Posted: May 4th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: boxing, challenges, experience, growth, internal, opportunity | No Comments »
I enjoy boxing. More specifically, I enjoy actually sparring. While many consider it mindlessly brutal, dangerous and frankly stupid for two individuals to square off against each other in a confined space, I find it enlightening, expanding and remarkably calming. It has been my experience that you learn quite a bit about yourself while fighting. But you really get to know who you are, when you are under pressure; When you get tagged hard and didn’t see it coming. Or when your opponent’s punches seem to find their their target with regularity and precision, and your own body begins to slowly move out of phase with your thoughts. Your own punches seem to loose some crispness and you feel your focus drifting slightly, your attention going askew. That is when you begin to know who you really are. And more importantly, when you make the conscious decision to become better than when the contest began.
Sometimes our lives may progress smoothly but more often than not, we are engaged by one challenge or another. Some are unexpected, coming out of nowhere and stinging sharply. Others may be mere annoyances, almost insignificant alone but cumulatively taking a greater toll than previously imagined. Some of our challenges may not be so easy to define but the pressure is there never the less. It may begin to wear us down before we are even conscious of it. Regardless, at some point we do become aware and that is akin to being pressured in a fight. And there arises an opportunity to become real. To do something hard, perhaps even face something painful. To find our will, our strength and our desire in order to move forward. To take the opportunity to find out who we really are and what we can actually do. To honestly learn about our own weaknesses and faults and then work to correct them. And to provide us with an opportunity to exceed what we believed we were capable of, be it physically, emotionally or intellectually.
In my mind, fighting is never about my opponent. It is just about me. About my performance, my skills, my deficits and my growth. It is an opportunity to measure myself under a wide range of conditions so that I can improve, so that I can become better and perhaps one day, master myself. Removing external validation and keeping it only about ourselves, only about the momententary opportunity being presented, allows us to inch forward in pursuit of a singular goal, becoming a more loving, caring and empathic individual by understanding our own struggle. So even when others see only defeat, a victory is always assured, regardless of the circumstance and despite conventional judgements. Advancing to that point, that is truly the real fight.
Posted: April 23rd, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: control, crisis, opportunity, reacting, responding | No Comments »
cri-sis: noun [krahy-sis]
- a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.
op-por-tu-ni-ty: noun [op-er-too-ni-tee]
- a favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances; a chance for progress or advancement.
Crisis and opportunity. The actual definitions are very similar, in fact they share the same character in written Chinese. But because they each have such distinctly different and incredibly powerful connotations, their usage drastically colors our thoughts and influences our perception, of both our own lives and the larger world. Crisis implies a certain helplessness; a scared, and perhaps futile, reaction to a large, unknown and external force. Opportunity reflects a sense of confidence. A focused and purposeful response to the current conditions, designed to ultimately improve one’s position.
Constantly changing circumstances are an immutable fact, both far outside our comprehension and our control. However, accepting change and then choosing to see and then act upon opportunities, rather than being swept aside by random crises, will yield a much richer and more meaningful life.