COMMENTARY: 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: 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 …

capture

COMMENTARY: 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 …

300

COMMENTARY: 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: 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: 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 …

picmonkey-collage

COMMENTARY: 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 …

1 Live backwards

COMMENTARY: 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 …

COMMENTARY: The Power in Me

When my daughter Samara was 8, she wrote a poem as a song for some friends who were thinking of starting a band. When she showed it to her mom she said, “Don’t show it to Daddy because he will want to read it on the radio.” She was right. I did want to share it, but she asked me …

picmonkey-image

COMMENTARY: You Change One Thing, You Change Everything

Looking back on your life, what would you change if you could? In the classic 1939 film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the main character, a small town bank officer played by Jimmy Stewart, is about to commit suicide when an angel shows him how different the lives of people in Bedford Falls would’ve been if he hadn’t been born. The …

2575bc3c46612646a6d7eecaf0c6f01d

COMMENTARY: Reflection, Repentance, and Atonement

Yom Kippur is the highest of the High Holy Days in the Jewish religion. The essence of this sacred day – the true root of the holiday – includes but goes well beyond fasting and praying. It requires believers to make a personal, unflinching assessment of their character and conduct, not as an end in itself, but as part of …

3

COMMENTARY: On the Passing of a Loved One

Just a few hours ago, I received a note from one of my oldest and dearest friends that his mom passed away. I was moved by the gracious way he gave the news and described her life and while all the feelings evoked by the news and the way he conveyed it are still enveloping me I want to share …

COMMENTARY: We Are What We Think

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) is the ability to mold …

COMMENTARY: The Values Our Kids Learn From Others

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 values and character of your …

COMMENTARY: The Ultimate Gift

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 of his blood to his …

COMMENTARY: Be What You Want to Be

“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 in 1964, I wanted to …

MJ - Coach Wooden interviewed by MJ

COMMENTARY: 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: A Lifetime of Setting and Changing Goals

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 school in the idealistic 1960s, …

Labor Day: The Key Is Balance

Labor Day comes just a week before the anniversary of 9/11. One legacy for those of us who have vivid memories of seeing the massive twin towers collapse into a plume of dust is a strong ever-present sense of vulnerability, offset by recognition that life is a gift that must be savored and appreciated in its smallest increments from days …

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 …

PicMonkey Collage

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 …