COMMENTARY: Eighteen Random Rules of Life

I love maxims, those concise capsules of worldly wisdom. I collect them and write them and, of course, love to share them. Here are 18 random rules of life worth posting on your mirror or, better yet, using as dinner-time discussion starters. Find the lesson in every failure and you’ll never fail. The likelihood that you’re right is not increased …

Independence Day and Courage

We celebrate this year’s Fourth of July holiday at a time when millions of people in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen are at various stages of their own struggle to replace dictators with some form of democracy. It’s a good reminder that the fight for liberty has always required courage. In our own case, 56 men we now …

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: Is Happiness Around the Corner?

For lots of people, happiness is just around the corner. They just need to get their degree, a particular job, a promotion, or a raise. Maybe they’re waiting to get married or have a child. Perhaps they will be happy when they retire. Alfred D’ Souza said, “For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to …

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: 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: 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 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 …

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The One-Minute Graduation Speech

I’ve given my share of commencement addresses, and I confess it’s a head-swelling experience to tell a captive crowd how you think they ought to live their lives while wearing an academic robe and a very silly hat. After all, didn’t they come primarily to hear what you have to say? Actually, they didn’t. In fact, graduation speakers are impediments …

COMMENTARY 983.5: Living and Reading

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 …

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COMMENTARY 981.4: I Owe It to My Family

An angry woman once approached me after a speech to tell me off. “It’s easy for you to talk about my responsibility to speak out or object to waste or wrongdoing,” she said, “but I’m a single mother and my highest duty is to keep my job. If that means occasionally looking the other way, so be it. You have …

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COMMENTARY 981.1: Getting Started

Chris’s parents were proud of him when he graduated from college. But it’s been six months and he hasn’t gotten a job yet. In fact, he hasn’t looked seriously. He has no idea what he wants to do and he’s thinking of grad school. He’s living at home with his parents and things are getting tense, especially with his father, …

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COMMENTARY 979.3: What Do You Want to See More of and Less of?

Inspirational author and speaker Stephen Covey once said, “Start with the end in mind.” So whenever a company wants to launch an ethics initiative, we at Josephson Institute use a simple exercise: “Look at your organization today – its managers, line employees, and customers – and list behaviors and attitudes you’d like to see more of and less of.” We …

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COMMENTARY 979.2: Learning and Believing

One of the marks of our species is our limitless capacity to learn. Sometimes we learn how to do something we’ve never done before. Sometimes we learn facts about the world, about other people, and about ourselves. These sorts of things make us smarter and more skillful. But what’s really important are the things that make us wiser, our learned …

COMMENTARY 978.2: Desiderata

In 1927, Max Ehrmann gave us timeless advice in a poem called Desiderata (Latin for “things desired”): Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and …

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COMMENTARY 978.1: The Wisdom of Dr. Seuss

Observing the recent birthday of Dr. Seuss caused me to reflect on some of the profound lessons this modern-day philosopher taught with his exotically imaginative stories. For example, whether I’m looking at my clock, my calendar, or observing how quickly my children change, he captures the surprise and wistful sadness I often feel: “How did it get so late so …

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COMMENTARY 976.1: Good Karma

I get lots of emails containing words of wisdom. I appreciate every one of them, but one time I got a real keeper. Here are 17 incredibly powerful observations attributed to the Dalai Lama worth posting on your bathroom mirror. Learn them and live them. They will improve your life. 1. Follow the three Rs: respect for self, respect for …

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COMMENTARY 974.5: Courtesy Is Kindness in Action

As a society we have become almost obsessed with identifying and asserting our rights – to think, say, and do what we want. That’s not surprising, given the history of our country and the prominent role the Constitution and Bill of Rights have played in shaping our culture. We have a right to be unkind, thoughtless, and disrespectful — but …

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COMMENTARY 973.3: Gifts From the Heart Are Gifts of the Heart

According to legend, a young man roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher. After a four-day journey, he presented the water to the old man, who took a deep drink, smiled …

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COMMENTARY 971.3: FINDING A HEALTHY BALANCE: To live and enjoy a good life, find a healthy balance between wanting more and appreciating enough. Realize that what you have is worthy of gratitude and appreciation, even as you strive for more.

It’s both a strength and weakness of human nature that we’re never satisfied for long. Whatever we have, wherever we are, most of us want more and better. When focused on money or power, our insatiability can turn into happiness-crushing greed, avarice, and obsessive ambition. But in many other areas of our life, our desire for more and better can …

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COMMENTARY 970.5: Happiness Is a Choice

In a Peanuts cartoon, Lucy asks Charlie Brown, “Why do you think we were put on earth?” Charlie answers, “To make others happy.” Lucy replies, “I don’t think I’m making anyone happy,” and then adds, “but nobody’s making me very happy either. Somebody’s not doing his job!” People like Lucy are so sure happiness is a matter of getting something that they …

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COMMENTARY 970.4: Good Relationships Make a Good Life

If we interviewed 100 happy people, I think the most prominent common denominator would be good relationships. Despite the widespread promotion of materialism and vanity in our culture, wealth and beauty are not enough to produce happiness. In fact, they’re not even necessary. What’s more, bad relationships — at work, at home, or among friends — are a surefire source …

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COMMENTARY 969.5: The Treasure of Old Friends

In my lifetime, I’ve had the good fortune of having a handful of good friends. Each of my four teenage daughters have many hundreds. At least that’s what they call every Facebook connection they collect like trophies. The list of those kinds of friends includes people they barely know, some they don’t know at all, and even some people they …

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COMMENTARY 969.4: 12 HARD-WON LIFE CHANGING INSIGHTS

Perhaps the only major advantage of getting older is the prospect of getting wiser. I think I’ve learned a great many things over the years but here are a dozen of my most treasured insights. I am still a work in process; that as long as I can think I can learn. I still have a lot to learn but if …

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COMMENTARY 969.3: Happiness Is More Than Fun and Pleasure

Ask young people why they get high on drugs or alcohol or seek sex without intimacy or commitment and they’re likely to tell you it’s fun and they just want to be happy. It’s tempting to envy the life of fun-loving “party animals,” “playboys,” and “good-time girls” until one thinks about how they feel about themselves and their lives when they’re …

COMMENTARY 967.2: What I Believe

Here’s a portion of my personal list of beliefs that you may 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 do something meaningful. I believe the true test of my character is whether …

COMMENTARY 966.5: Making Resolutions of Principle

The tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions reflects one the very best qualities of human nature – the ability to reflect on and assess our lives in terms of the goals we set for ourselves and the principles we believe in. It’s still not too late to formulate a self-improvement plan to make our outer lives and inner selves better …