Thoughts on better parenting, teaching, management, and leadership

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COMMENTARY 904.1: Changing Lives

by Michael Josephson on October 31, 2014

in Education

Long ago when I was a law professor, I was at a conference and a man I didn’t recognize greeted me warmly. He said he wanted to thank me for changing his life.

I was embarrassed as I listened to him tell me that he had met me after a speech I had given at his law school. He said he was discouraged and disheartened about ever becoming a lawyer and that he was ready to quit. But I had counseled him and he had decided to stick it out.

He said he had been looking for me so he could tell me personally that [click to continue…]

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COMMENTARY 903.5: Righteousness Is Revealed in Conduct, Not Rhetoric

October 30, 2014 Choices

It’s hard to look at the world and some of the people who seem to get ahead without occasionally asking ourselves why we should be ethical. However normal it is to think like this, the question should be off limits for people who profess strong religious beliefs. After all, what religion does not mandate morality? […]

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COMMENTARY 903.4: It’s Not Easy

October 29, 2014 Success & Failure

Let’s be honest. Ethics is not for wimps. It’s not easy being a good person. It’s not easy to be honest when it might be costly, to play fair when others cheat, or to keep inconvenient promises. It’s not easy to stand up for our beliefs and still respect differing viewpoints. It’s not easy to […]

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COMMENTARY 903.3: Needing Approval More Than Advice

October 28, 2014 Commentaries

No matter what Gary did, it was never enough to please his father. When he got seven A’s and three B’s, his dad asked about the B’s. When he described the wonderful girl he’d fallen in love with, he got a lecture cautioning that she may be different than he thought. He thought he had […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 903.2: We Are What We Think

COMMENTARY 903.2: We Are What We Think

October 27, 2014 Choices

In the early 1900’s, a little-known philosopher named James Allen wrote a powerful essay called “As a Man Thinketh” in which he argued that we are what we think, that a person’s character is the sum of his thoughts. He declared that the power to control our thoughts (whether we use that power or not) […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 903.1: Favorite Quips

COMMENTARY 903.1: Favorite Quips

October 24, 2014 Commentaries

As a break from heavy thoughts about heavy matters,  I’d like to share with you a list of some of my favorite quips collected over the years. I don’t know the original sources of these one-liners, but they definitely weren’t from me. 1)       If women can have PMS, then men can have ESPN. 2)       If […]

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COMMENTARY 902.5: Nice Guys Finish First: Good Ethics Is Good Business

October 23, 2014 Commentaries

“Nice guys finish last.” This maxim originated with a fiercely competitive baseball manager named Leo Durocher who shamelessly advocated ruthlessness, cheating, and dirty play. It is also used to explain why sweet, thoughtful men lose out to self-centered jerks in the world of dating. Lots of people believe the philosophy applies in business as well. The […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 902.4: The Values Our Kids Learn From Others

COMMENTARY 902.4: The Values Our Kids Learn From Others

October 22, 2014 Commentaries

Blessed with the opportunities and obligations of raising four young daughters, my wife Anne and I are profoundly aware of the importance of instilling good values that will help them become capable, honorable and happy adults. I think we’re doing a pretty good job, but we know that isn’t enough. Frankly, we’re worried about the […]

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COMMENTARY 902.3: The Power of Kindness

October 21, 2014 Caring, Compassion

I’ve mentioned before that, despite my great admiration for people who are instinctively and consistently kind, kindness does not come naturally to me. Yet the older I get, the more I agree with Abraham Heschel, who said, “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” Henry […]

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COMMENTARY 902.2: The Peculiar Concept of “Ethics Laws”

October 20, 2014 Commentaries

Cynicism about the ethics of elected officials may be at an all-time high, continually fueled by new stories of outright corruption or bad judgment. At every level of government there are politicians who can’t seem to recognize or resist conflicts of interest, inappropriate gifts, improper use of the power or property entrusted to them, or […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 902.1: Moral Courage — The Engine of Integrity

COMMENTARY 902.1: Moral Courage — The Engine of Integrity

October 17, 2014 Commentaries

Mignon McLaughlin tells us, “People are made of flesh and blood and a miracle fiber called courage.” Courage comes in two forms: physical courage and moral courage. Physical courage is demonstrated by acts of bravery where personal harm is risked to protect others or preserve cherished principles. It’s the kind of courage that wins medals and […]

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COMMENTARY 901.5: The Failure of Leadership and the Betrayal of Democratic Principles

October 15, 2014 Commentaries

Preface: I rarely comment on hot political topics because too many readers are so anxious to determine whether I am a friend or foe of their beliefs that it undermines the credibility I seek as a fair and impartial mentor and friend. Being impartial, however, does not preclude the formation of opinions, and despite my […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 901.4: Money Is the Icing, Not the Cake

COMMENTARY 901.4: Money Is the Icing, Not the Cake

October 15, 2014 Commentaries

Despite the advice of preachers and philosophers warning us of the shortcomings of money, it’s hard to argue with Gertrude Stein’s observation: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” Although money is better at reducing suffering caused by poverty and relieving anxiety caused by debt than it is at making us happy, it can buy […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 901.3: Give and Receive as if It’s the Thought That Counts

COMMENTARY 901.3: Give and Receive as if It’s the Thought That Counts

October 14, 2014 Attitude

According to legend, a desert wanderer discovered a spring of cool, crystal-clear water. It tasted so good, he filled a leather container with the precious liquid so he could bring it to the king. After a long journey, he presented his gift to the king, who drank it with great pleasure and lavishly thanked the […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 901.2: Great Pitcher or Great Hitter? It’s a Matter of Perspective

COMMENTARY 901.2: Great Pitcher or Great Hitter? It’s a Matter of Perspective

October 13, 2014 Commentaries

Does attitude really mean that much? Can you really change the way you experience the world by changing your perspective? Consider this story: When Ron gave his seven-year-old son Nick a ball and bat, Nick wanted to play immediately. Ron said, “Son, baseball is a serious game. You have to practice hard before you can […]

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COMMENTARY 901.1: The Ultimate Gift

October 10, 2014 Caring, Compassion

Jimmy was nine when his mom told him his little sister was sick and would die if she didn’t get a blood transfusion – and Jimmy was one of the only people in the world who had the rare blood type needed. She asked if he would be willing to let the doctors give some […]

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COMMENTARY 900.5: Parenting Modern Kids in a Modern World

October 9, 2014 Commentaries

A hit number in the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie was a classic parent’s lament starting with, “I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today! Why can’t they be like we were?” The answer, of course, is they’re just like we were, but many of us aren’t like our parents were. Sometimes that’s good, often it’s not. […]

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COMMENTARY 900.4: Be What You Want to Be

October 8, 2014 Choices

“What will you be when you grow up?” It’s a serious question. As kids, we knew we were going to be something and that to be something was to be someone. Even as our ambitions changed, we knew what we were going to be was important and our choice. When I entered UCLA Law School […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 900.3: A Lifetime of Setting and Changing Goals

COMMENTARY 900.3: A Lifetime of Setting and Changing Goals

October 7, 2014 Commentaries

I believe in setting goals. I also believe in changing goals. As a fourth grader, I was a guest on the TV show Kids Say the Darndest Things and I said, “I want to be a lawyer because my mother says I talk so much I might as well get paid for it.” I entered law […]

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COMMENTARY 900.2: The Power of One

October 6, 2014 Choices

Reading about the 31-year-old “rogue trader” arrested in London for unauthorized transactions that cost the Swiss Bank UBS $2 billion caused me to think about the power of one person. I’m not talking about great heroes and villains who changed the course of history, but smaller acts by ordinary people. There are lots of angles […]

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COMMENTARY 900.1: Yom Kippur and Human Nature

October 3, 2014 The Nature of Character

Yom Kippur, the highest of high holy days in the Jewish religion, is a day of fasting, reflection and atonement, all intended to help believers better understand and live up to the moral expectations of God. It’s a day to take an unflinching look at past conduct and to hold oneself accountable. And in order […]

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COMMENTARY 899.5: A Dad Sending His Daughter Off to College

October 2, 2014 Education

I want to share a slightly edited portion of a letter my friend Scott Raecker wrote to his daughter Emily on sending her off to college: My Dear Emily, My life changed the day we found out that you were on your way. From that moment forward, you have been on my mind and heart […]

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COMMENTARY 899.4: An Uncomfortable Moment of Truth

October 1, 2014 Parenting, Family

When my daughters were younger and wanted to spend time with me, I used to take each one on an out-of-town trip for alone time. An especially memorable one was with my youngest daughter Mataya when she was seven. We went to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and had a wonderful time touring and talking about […]

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COMMENTARY 899.3: Deal or No Deal?

September 30, 2014 Commentaries

Sarah’s mom agreed to let her 16-year-old go to a party if she promised to be home by midnight. But as the Cinderella hour approached, Sarah did a quick risk/reward calculation. She knew her mom would be angry and probably ground her, but she was having so much fun she decided it was worth it. […]

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COMMENTARY 899.2: Are You the Father Your Child Deserves?

September 29, 2014 Parenting, Family

Listening to 9/11 survivors re-live the horrendous event that shattered their lives should remind us all to treat every day as a gift, and to treasure every opportunity to give or receive love. This is especially true for parents. A favorite story is about a 10-year-old boy who was told by his father not to […]

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COMMENTARY 899.1: Let the Butterfly Struggle

September 26, 2014 Parenting, Family

A young mother was fascinated but concerned as she watched a butterfly struggling mightily to escape through the small opening at the top of its cocoon. And when the creature seemed to give up overwhelmed by the task, she felt sure that it wouldn’t make it without help. So she enlarged the hole. The grateful […]

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COMMENTARY 898.5: The Pursuit of Human Perfection

September 25, 2014 The Nature of Character

Jews all over the world are in the midst of a 10-day period called the High Holy Days. It starts with Rosh Hashanah, a celebration of a new year, and ends with Yom Kippur, a solemn day of atonement. The overriding theme is the pursuit of human perfection and the obligation of each person to […]

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COMMENTARY 898.4: The Twists and Turns of Life

September 24, 2014 Caring, Compassion

Years ago, Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben introduced the New Year rituals of Rosh Hashanah by holding up a long, coiled ram’s horn. Pointing out the twists and turns, he used the shofar as a metaphor for life. “No one’s life,” he said, “is straight and predictable.” Twists, dips and bends, as well as ups and […]

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COMMENTARY 898.3: “You’re Only Cheating Yourself”

September 23, 2014 Education

It’s in the news all the time – kids are cheating in school in new ways and at unprecedented rates. One of the reasons is the way schools and parents deal with or ignore the underlying issues of integrity and character. For instance, to discourage kids from cheating, adults commonly say, “You’re only cheating yourself.” […]

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COMMENTARY 898.2: “This Is My Dad, Sam Burke”

September 22, 2014 Caring, Compassion

Ann’s father, Sam Burke, was in the last stages of cancer, and his needs had gone beyond what she could provide at home. She was distraught at the thought of placing him in a convalescent home. The check-in process confirmed her worst fears. Administrators, nurses, and doctors who seemed bothered, bored, or burned out quickly […]

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