COMMENTARY: Happiness and Purpose

As you celebrate the Fourth of July, please take time to discuss with your family the historical and spiritual significance of the Declaration of Independence and the 56 men who risked their lives issuing one of the great documents in human history. At the core of the Declaration is the profound assertion that each of us has an unalienable right …

COMMENTARY: Being Decisive

Frank is a new supervisor who wants to do well. Maria consistently comes in late. When he confronts her, she makes a joke out of it. Hoping to win friendship and loyalty, Frank is painfully patient with her, but Pat, a conscientious employee, urges him to do more. Soon others begin to come in late, and Pat quits. Frank feels …

COMMENTARY: The Road to Significance

The most traditional way to measure the quality of one’s life is to evaluate success by listing accolades, achievements, and acquisitions. After all, 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 …

COMMENTARY: The Struggle Between Wants and Shoulds

As a full-time ethicist – can you believe there is such a thing? – I spend most of my time talking about right and wrong with parents and politicians, kids and corporate managers, journalists and generals. One thing I’ve learned is that ethics – being a good person and doing the right thing – is easier said than done. Ethics, …

COMMENTARY: What Your Checkbook and Calendar Say About Your Values

If I wanted to check your credit worthiness, I’d look at your balance sheet — what you have and what you owe — and I’d want to know about your history of paying your debts. If I wanted to know your values, I’d look at your calendar and checkbook. How come? Well, the term “values” refers to core beliefs and convictions that drive …

COMMENTARY: A Person of Character

Let’s face it, it’s not easy to become a person of character. It takes a good heart, but it also requires wisdom to know right from wrong and the discipline to do right even when it’s costly, inconvenient or difficult. Becoming a person of character is a lifelong quest to be better. A person of character values honesty and integrity …

COMMENTARY: What I’ve Learned: The Perspective From 13-Year-Olds

A few years ago I got a note from Sam Rangel, an eighth-grade teacher in Corona, California. He distributed some of my commentaries on “What I’ve Learned” to his students and asked them to write down what they’d learned over the past year or in their lives. Here’s the world of growing wisdom from the 13-year-old perspective: * I’ve learned …

COMMENTARY: Clichés and Milestones

One of the things I hate most about clichés is that whenever I experience milestone experiences, I have to admit they are true. There’s nothing unique or original about my feelings except that they are mine. So, when I witnessed my daughter Samara turn 18, my mind and heart flooded with trite and corny thoughts and emotions: “Where did the …

COMMENTARY: Middle School Commencement

When I was asked to deliver the commencement address at my nephew Jaren’s middle school graduation, I worried more than normal. After all, 14- and 15-year-olds are especially tough. First, they’re subject to torrential hormonal surges that can generate vast mood and personality swings. They can be wonderfully agreeable and fun to be with one moment, then sullen and argumentative the …

COMMENTARY: Wisdom in 20 Words or Fewer: Part One

Since my children were small, I launched their day with the invocation to “be good, have fun and learn.” I hope they remember that mantra, but when my daughter Samara began her independent life as a college freshman 3,000 miles away, I thought a more detailed set of maxims was needed. So I assembled a collection of concise (20 words or fewer) …

COMMENTARY: The Commencement Curse

Millions of teenagers across the land are about to leave the womb of high school for a world full of new freedoms and responsibilities. Although many have been waiting for this event for a long time, eager to get on with their lives as liberated adults, the thought of leaving behind friends and familiar places can be scary. The transition …

COMMENTARY: We Expect More of Adults

Although 11-year-old Mark wasn’t much of an athlete, his dad urged him to play youth baseball. Mark liked to play, but he was hurt by the remarks of teammates and spectators whenever he struck out or dropped a ball. Just before the fourth game of the season, Mark told his dad he didn’t want to go. “I’m no good,” he …

COMMENTARY 987.3: Appreciating a Parent’s Love

While window-shopping in New York City, I saw an old gold watch that reminded me of one my father gave me when I graduated from college. It had been engraved with the simple inscription “Love, Dad.” But it was stolen during a burglary years ago, and I hadn’t thought much of it or the inscription since. I always knew my …

PicMonkey Collage

MEMORIAL DAY: Best Ever Quotations for Memorial Day

Best Ever Quotations for Memorial Day The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem. ~ Aaron Kilbourn And I’m proud to be an American,/ where at least I know I’m free. /And I won’t forget the men who died,/ who gave that right to me. ~ Lee Greenwood They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast, And their …

COMMENTARY 987.2: Memorial Day, a Day of Remembrance

It’s not just an excuse for a three-day weekend or a day for barbecue and beer. Memorial Day is a time for Americans to connect with our national history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives fighting for this country. It’s said that this special day to salute fallen Americans was born during the Civil War in …

COMMENTARY 986.5: Teach or Punish, That Is the Question

As Greg paces the floor, waiting for his 17-year-old daughter Sandy to return from a school event, he feels two conflicting emotions: fear and anger. Fear that something terrible has happened to her. Anger because he thinks his fear is probably unfounded and Sandy is not hurt, simply irresponsible. Finally, Sandy calls. She’s all right. She just lost track of …

COMMENTARY 986.4: Self-Control

A frazzled mother with a fussy child caught the eye of a grocery store manager. He overheard her say, “Lily, you can do this. We just have to get a few things.” Moments later, when the child became more upset, the mother said calmly, “It’s okay, Lily. We’re almost done.” When the child became hysterical in the checkout line, the …

COMMENTARY 986.3: Noah’s Term Paper

Noah really needed an ‘A’ on a term paper.  His friend Jason tells him that lots of kids “recycle” papers they don’t write and offers to give him a paper his older brother got an ‘A’ on three years ago. When Noah asked his for advice, his father hoped his son wouldn’t cheat but he didn’t want to be judgmental …

COMMENTARY 986.2: “I Didn’t Want the Janitor to Lose His Job”

The primary responsibility for instilling good values and building character is with parents. This doesn’t mean, however, that teachers and coaches don’t have a critically important role. The unfortunate fact is that far too many kids are raised in morally impoverished settings that foster lying, cheating, and violence. If we don’t give these children moral instruction, many of them will …

COMMENTARY 985.4: Slow Dance

I once heard the chairman and CEO of a huge public company tell a roomful of ambitious, hardworking, dedicated executives that if he had to do it all over again, he would have spent more time with his family. That’s not news, but to Type-A personalities, it’s easier said than done. David L. Weatherford’s poem “Slow Dance” sends the message …

COMMENTARY 984.4: Is It Really Only About Winning?

Long ago, I entered law school wanting to do good. I left more concerned with doing well. In an atmosphere dominated by raging competitive instincts, persuasive rationalizations, and real economic pressures, cynicism drowned out idealism. My notion of the legal system as a grand forum for the pursuit of truth and justice was reduced to the idea that, in the …

COMMENTARY 984.2: How to Change Attitudes and Behavior

In yesterday’s commentary, I talked about a teacher named Shavonne who was at wits end with several students, including Leon, whose lack of self-control when he became angry or frustrated constantly created trouble.  She was certain that nothing short of intense therapy could change his behavior. Changing Leon’s behavior will be a challenge, but it has to start with changing …

COMMENTARY 984.1: Changing Self-Limiting Beliefs and Bad Behavior

Shavonne, a third-grade teacher, was at the end of her rope with disciplinary problems, but she wasn’t enthusiastic when she was told that her school had adopted the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. Now she was expected to explicitly seek to instill and enhance in her students core ethical values like honesty, respect, and responsibility, and to help them develop positive social …

COMMENTARY 983.4: Working Together

I want to be thin — especially when I’m not hungry. And it seems the President and members of Congress want to work together — especially if they don’t have strong feelings about the issue. I liked President Obama’s call for more civility and greater cooperation, but I’m not convinced it will happen. There’s always a lot of room between …

COMMENTARY 983.3: Eight Laws of Leadership

Take a look around. Business, education, politics. If there’s one thing we don’t have enough of, it’s good leaders —men and women who have the vision and the ability to change things for the better. Former Air Force General William Cohen wrote a fine book called The Stuff of Heroes in which he identified eight laws of leadership. Here are …