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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 …

COMMENTARY 965.5: Make 2016 the Best Year Ever

I hope the past year will go down in your book of life as one filled with great pleasures and grand memories. But whether the year was good, bad, or indifferent, I hope you’ll enter the new year wiser and stronger for your experiences, and optimistic that the best is yet to come. A vital quality of a happy and …

COMMENTARY 965.2: Don’t Brag, But Be Proud

Today, after winning a big game it’s common for athletes and fans to chant, “We’re number one,” in a classless display of self-praise that comes off as conceit and disrespectful taunting. I sometimes feel that way about materials praising America. Still, national pride is important. Reminders about the high principles on which this nation was based are essential to keep …

COMMENTARY 963.3: Will This Be a Good Christmas?

Will this be a good Christmas? To lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question: “Whaddja get?” On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits. What a pity that the spiritual and social potential of this holiday can be so easily lost. Of course, Christmas is a …

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COMMENTARY 961.1: Coach Wooden the Philosopher

According to Henry David Thoreau, a philosopher is a person who seeks to understand and solve the most serious problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically. A true philosopher, Thoreau added, is so committed to wisdom that he seeks to live wisely and so lives a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. By this definition, John Wooden, my …

COMMENTARY 960.4: What I Know About Life

The older I get, the less I know — but I know some things: I know that I’m a work in process and that there will always be a gap between who I am and who I want to be. I know that I don’t have to be sick to get better and that every day brings opportunities to improve …

COMMENTARY 960.2: Lessons From a Carrot, Egg, and Coffee Bean

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 …

COMMENTARY 959.5: Give Yourself the Gift of Gratitude

For some, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a holiday season filled with joy and happiness at the prospect of spending time with family. For others, it’s a sadder time blemished by bad memories or dread. Some people see their lives filled with abundant blessings and find thankfulness easy and natural; others are so pre-occupied with tending to past wounds or …

COMMENTARY 959.2: Converting Pessimists Into Optimists

Every full life has its bright days and its dark days, its triumphs and defeats, its calm and stormy seas. All these high and low experiences could justify viewing the past through the lens of gratitude or disappointment. And the way we characterize our history will determine whether we look toward our future with hopeful expectations or anxious trepidation. Scientists …

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COMMENTARY 958.4: Live Backwards

Ben just came to town as a new rabbi. Unfortunately, his first official duty was to conduct a funeral service for Albert, a man who died in his eighties with no relatives. Since Ben didn’t know the deceased personally, he paused from his sermon to ask if anyone in the congregation would say something good about Albert. There was no …