A Mirror or a Club? 725.5

One of the pleasures I get from doing these commentaries is to hear that something I said had real value to a listener. It’s particularly flattering when someone wants a written copy of a particular program so the person can share it with someone he or she knows. I feel honored by such requests and don’t want to bite the …

Our Last Worst Act 725.4

I’m going to mention a few names and I want you to think of the first thing that comes to your mind with each: Tiger Woods, Lindsay Lohan, John Edwards, Kenneth Lay, Britney Spears, Andrew Bynum, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Tressel. Each person behind the name won fame in sports, business, politics, or music because of some extraordinary talents and achievements, …

Did You Forget Anything? 725.2

I once saw a Memorial Day cartoon depicting a car passing an ignored military cemetery alongside a well-travelled country road. Not even noticing the cemetery, the driver says, to his wife: “Blanket? Cooler? Grill? Hot dogs? Did I forget anything?” Yes, he did. Like his countrymen who neglected the cemetery, he forgot to remember why he had the day off. …

Take a Moment to Remember 725.1

As we approach the Memorial Day weekend in the wake of the heightened sense of patriotism and pride resulting from the demise of Osama Bin Ladin, it’s important that we do so with genuine gratitude. Originally called “Decoration Day,” the holiday began with a proclamation in 1868 by General John Logan designating May 30th as a day to place flowers …

The T.E.A.M. Approach to Teaching Character 724.4

I want my kids to be smart and successful, but I also want them to be good. I want them to be the kind of people other parents would like to see their kids marry. I also want them to make sound, values-based decisions that will help them be safe and happy. So, like most parents, I spend lots time …

Five Birds and Good Intentions 724.2

Five birds are sitting on a telephone wire. Two decide to fly south. How many are left? Most people would say three. Actually, all five are left. You see, deciding to fly isn’t the same as doing it. If a bird really wants to go somewhere, it’s got to point itself in the right direction, jump off the wire, flap …

The Pressure to Win in Sports and Business 724.1

A former successful college coach and athletic director once wrote me a note about the state of college sports. The pressure to win in high-profile schools is so great, he said, that it’s almost impossible to resist rationalizing. When competitors cheat or engage in other unethical conduct, the tendency is to redefine the ground rules for competition rather than be …

The Road to Significance 723.4

The most traditional way to measure the quality of one’s life is to list accolades, achievements, and acquisitions. In its simplest terms, success is getting what we want, and most people want wealth and status. Yet, as much pleasure as these attributes can bring, the rich, powerful, and famous usually discover that true happiness will elude them if they don’t …

Mental Sunshine and Flowers 723.2

Dave had to undergo painful throat surgery. Since he wasn’t a young man and made his living as a professional speaker, the experience was frightening and traumatic. He told me his surgeon was skilled and the hospital workers were competent, but the cold indifference of the parade of nurses and doctors who came in and out of his room was …

Lessons From a Carrot, Egg, and Coffee Bean 722.5

Let’s face it. Painful personal trauma and tragedy – like illness or injury, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or an unexpected breakup of a relationship – are unavoidable. The question is: Will these private calamities erode our capacity to be happy or cause us to become stronger and better able to live a meaningful and fulfilling …

Living and Reading 722.4

One of the most insightful and useful books I’ve ever read is a small volume by Harold Kushner called Living a Life That Matters. Today, I want to suggest ways of getting the most out of books, at least nonfiction books, which is about all I read. Reading shouldn’t be a passive experience. If you allow yourself to be absorbed …

You Could Say Ouch 722.3

In his book, If I Were to Raise My Family Again, John Dreschler tells of a little boy trying to get his father’s attention after scraping his knee. His dad impatiently looks up from his paper and barks, “Well, what can I do about it?” The boy, hurt by his harsh response, shrugs and says, “You could say ‘Ouch.’” You …

What I Believe 722.1

Here’s a small portion of my personal list expressing the beliefs I want to pass on: I believe I’m a work in progress and there will always be a gap between who I am and who I want to be. I believe every day brings opportunities to learn and to do something meaningful. I believe the true test of my …

Questions Ahead 721.5

It’s not surprising that news of Osama bin Laden’s death would branch into scores of storylines that will fragment our attention and give plenty of opportunity for criticism. The current target is the President’s decision to not release photos of bin Laden’s body, which some claim are needed to prove he’s really dead. It’s déjà vu all over again, a …

Reveling in the Death of a Villain 721.4

Yesterday I admitted I was glad and grateful to learn of Osama bin Laden’s death, an emotional reaction I’ve had some difficulty connecting to my principles as I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of reveling in the death of another human being, even though he was a villain. My niece Eliana helped me realize the complexity of the situation …

If It’s Broke, Try to Fix It 721.3

Former President Jimmy Carter was 70 years old when he wrote this poem about his father: This is a pain I mostly hide, But ties of blood or seed endure. And even now I feel inside The hunger for his outstretched hand. A man’s embrace to take me in, The need for just a word of praise. Isn’t it extraordinary …

Vindication 721.2

As I began writing this commentary, CNN Newsroom was exploring in detail the fresh facts and implications of the death of Osama Bin Laden. Just one click away, HLN, CNN’s second station, was reviewing the wedding and after party of Prince William and Kate Middleton. I hadn’t quite decided whether I was going to talk warmly about the fairy-tale quality …

Beyond Platitudes 721.1

How can one continue to advocate optimism in a world so filled with tragedy? How empty do platitudes about positive thinking feel to people in Alabama, Japan, or Haiti, whose lives were ravaged by tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes? Or, for that matter, to folks whose lives have been turned upside down by illness, betrayal of an unfaithful spouse, or financial …

The History of Positive Thinking 720.5

I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, which is the title of a best-selling book published in 1952 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a controversial preacher and pastor who popularized the idea that if you can change your attitude, you can change your life. He urged people to consciously train themselves to be optimistic and enthusiastic, …

Shameless Ignorance and Shameful Prejudice 720.3

A while ago, I spoke about my frustration trying to keep up with the uprisings in the Middle East and Northern Africa, the nuclear meltdown in Japan, the status of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the federal and state budget cuts. Now I have to add the tornado in St. Louis, wildfires in Texas, and Kobe Bryant’s ankle …

The Need for Moral Judgment 720.2

In my book The Power of Character, Dr. Laura Schlessinger writes that her radio show didn’t become a success until she abandoned the nonjudgmental strategy of the traditional psychologist/family counselor and began to challenge, chastise, and encourage her listeners to think of their behavior in terms of right and wrong. Believing that we’re all obligated to discern and honor moral …

Disposition or Discipline? 720.1

Have you heard the story of a shoe company that sent two salesmen into the backwoods? After a few days, both came back. One was frustrated: “It was a waste of time. None of these people wear shoes.” The second was enthused: “Tremendous opportunity here. None of these people wear shoes.” It’s pretty obvious which salesman was more successful, and …

Letter from God 719.4

According to a story making the rounds on the Internet*, a mom writes that when their 14-year-old dog Abbey died, her four-year-old daughter Meredith dictated this note to God: Dear God, Please take care of my dog Abbey. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. …

A Parent’s Fantasy 719.3

I think it’s a silent fantasy of most parents that someday their child will win an Oscar or a Nobel Prize and in the acceptance speech declare, “I owe it all to my mom and dad.” Well, the occasion wasn’t as grand, but these comments in my daughter Mataya’s bat mitzvah speech were as good as it gets: Hi, mommy. …

Mataya’s Coming of Age 719.2

This weekend family and friends gathered to witness our daughter Mataya’s bat mitzvah*, the symbolic transition from childhood to adulthood. It was our fourth bat mitzvah in five years, and frankly, we’re glad we’re done. Anne and I make them major productions. Anne has the hard part. She plans a party equal to a significant wedding and personally creates a …

Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last? 719.1

“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 rationale: Nice is the …

Improving Your Life by Improving Your Mind 718.5

Our abilities to think, reason, and learn are among the most powerful tools we have to make our lives safer, more comfortable, and more fulfilling. Yet many of us don’t develop our mental capacities. Although we can learn important information in school, the wise person in pursuit of self-improvement realizes that education is a lifelong process of expanding our minds …

Firms of Endearment 718.4

A challenge I frequently face while consulting with senior executives and boards of directors of public companies is a belief that their primary mandate is to make profits and enhance shareholder value. Thus, ethical principles like honesty, fairness, and caring are proper guides to decision making only to the extent that they can demonstrably improve profitability or be incorporated into …

Informational Isolationist 718.3

Help! I need a strategy to deal with information overload. I want to be a good citizen with informed opinions about significant events, but I just can’t keep up. Surely, the colossal, ongoing consequences of the earthquakes, tidal waves, and nuclear leaks in Japan justify sustained and serious attention. But so do the uprisings in the Middle East and Northern …

The Power of Kindness 718.2

Bob wrote to tell me that, having just lost his bride of 42 years, it’s been deeply important to him to be the beneficiary of grand and spontaneous acts of kindness of strangers. In one case, he was overcome with emotion while seeking to make copies of all the notes of love and support he received. A young woman seeing …