When the Worst Brings Out the Best: President’s Message November 2011

Posted: November 14th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 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.

Ten Years Gone: what was found and then discarded

Posted: September 12th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Ten years have gone and even with the passing of time, September 11 remains the one day each year that I actively dread. The slaughter of thousands by the hearts and hands of those who purport to serve the Source of all creation is in itself traumatic and obscene on many levels. But what we as a nation gained and then seemingly squandered may in fact be the greater and more enduring tragedy; for that one brief moment our inherent nobility was realized as we willingly cast all our differences and individual needs aside and our primary concern became the well being of all Americans, rich or poor, friend or stranger, pink skinned through every shade of brown. That spontaneous eruption of humanity elevated all humans and endowed profound meaning to the day’s senseless deaths.

In retrospect, the bigger loss may be the one that we have perpetrated on ourselves; as a nation, evidenced by what passes for political discourse, we are meaner spirited, smaller minded and far more selfish than I have ever seen. Our memorial to the loss of life on that crystal clear blue skied morning is unquestionably both majestic and beautiful but if that is the sole legacy of 9-11 then we are just a generation away from turning 9-11 into an empty slogan.

We must never forget the bravery and dignity of the first responders, their ultimate sacrifice as well as the lives of our family and friends. But more importantly, we must never forget how we responded. How we all elevated ourselves through caring and compassion. How without hesitation, we collectively embraced cooperation, empathy and selflessness. And when we reclaim that spirit, those qualities that define the best of humanity, September 11 will come to symbolize the day that we changed ourselves.

Don’t ever for one second believe that you are in control.

Posted: March 1st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 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.

Lemonade: the movie

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

This is worth 35 minutes of your time. Things happen. Sometimes things happen that you just can’t control. Stop reacting and start responding. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your life. Close your eyes and sit quietly. Deep down inside you know exactly what you want to do. What you need to do. Hold that thought for the next 35 minutes. Watch this movie. Be inspired. Be inspiring. Technorati Tags: ,

getting punched and getting insight.

Posted: October 30th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Due to illness, this was my first full week of sparring in the last 3. Early in the week, I was out of sync: my body was shaking off the ring rust and my mind was less focused, less in the moment than is required to both punch and avoid being punched. So as my mind was wandering and body was being beaten, I had a few of insights that I believe have a wider application than exclusively to boxing.

The first is the distinction between chasing and pursuing. When I found myself chasing, I inevitably lost my balance,  relaxed my stance and loosened my guard. And before I could reposition myself, my opponent would see the opening, hit me and knock me further off-balance. And then he would hit me again and again. He was pursuing, intelligently advancing his position by making the most of the opportunity at hand. In other words, he was capitalizing on my mistakes and weaknesses.

My second insight is embarrassingly basic; if you are going to stand still, directly in front of someone who is trying to hit you, you are eventually going to get hit. My innate style is to continuously move around. When I’m hitting the bags I practice punching while moving side to side, up and down and in and out. Never the less, on several occasions early in the week, I found myself squared off and just trading punches. A war of attrition may be advantageous in certain situations but it is not a productive, proactive long-term strategy. Even when you win you loose.

The last insight is not new, but frankly it probably enabled me to have to prior two. It is the duality of maintaining an unemotional composure so when something is not working, it can be clearly perceived and appropriate response can taken.  This is contrasted with the characteristic of continuously analyzing and understanding why something is working so the momentum of the situation can be maintained or even better, increased. Combined the 2 can be articulated more simply; being in the moment with out being overcome by the moment.

Don't worry. Define it. Then be happy.

Posted: June 23rd, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

As complexities increase so do anxieties. Focusing on the symptoms, imagined effects or potential ramifications in any given situation just serves to push oneself further into the deep end. And if you can’t swim or more precisely can’t get yourself to acknowledge that you have to swim, you’re going to panic, sink and then unfortunately drown. The point is that in any given situation, it is critical to define the situation as opposed to being overwhelmed by the situation. Then one is free to choose an appropriate response rather than being a slave to reaction.

choose one: crisis or opporunity.

Posted: April 23rd, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 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.

Responding and reacting

Posted: March 12th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Responding is not reacting. Reacting is unconsciously automatic while responding is consciously decisive. Reacting abrogates our choice of thoughts and actions to the current environment. Responding aligns our thoughts and actions with our goals. Reacting is easy. Responding requires patience, practice and persistence.

Challenge yourself by examing your thoughts and actions. Begin to cultivate the habit of response. Ultimately responding will become reaction.