Noah’s Term Paper 727.4

Noah needed an A on his term paper. A friend said that lots of kids recycled papers they didn’t write, and he offered to give him a paper his older brother had gotten an A on three years before. When Noah asked his father for advice, his dad told him he hoped he wouldn’t cheat, but he didn’t want to …

Filling Holes 727.3

Sam, a supervisor, was dumbfounded as he watched Bill diligently dig holes while Chuck, after waiting a short interval, filled them. When he demanded an explanation, Bill was indignant: “Chuck and I have been doing this job for more than 10 years. What’s your problem?” “Are you telling me that for 10 years you’ve been digging and filling empty holes?” …

Things Are Just Things 726.4

Years ago, a listener told me her mom died, leaving only a general will and a house full of personal items with sentimental and, in some cases, significant financial value. My listener said tensions were building among her two sisters and her as they approached the problem of allocating their mom’s stuff. Each sister had different and conflicting expectations. 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, …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

No One Is Too Poor to Give 718.1

When Teresa, a widow with four young children, saw a notice that members of her church would gather to deliver presents and food to a needy family, she took $10 out of her savings jar and bought the ingredients to make three dozen cookies. She got to the church parking lot just in time to join a convoy going to …

If You Love Competition, You Never Lose 715.5

Suppose you’re an Olympic athlete and you hear that the only person who has a chance to beat you is ill and may have to withdraw. Are you overjoyed at your good luck or disappointed that you will not be able to compete against the very best? If you really love and understand sports, you ought to be disappointed. John …

Seven Truths for Bosses 715.2

Here are seven truths I’ve discovered in my struggles to be an effective boss: It’s not what you say that matters; it’s what people hear. Just because you said it doesn’t mean they heard it. Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean they read it. Be sure your message is received and understood. There are lots of things you don’t …

How Happy Are You? 713.4

On a scale of one to ten, with ten being “It’s as good as it gets! I’m even happier than Charlie Sheen thinks he is,” and one being “Life sucks; it can’t get worse,” how happy are you with your life? Researchers say that when asked to grade their lives on a happiness scale, most people give a score of …

Is Happiness Around the Corner? 713.2

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 …

Presidents’ Day 711.2

As Arabs in many countries are risking their lives in their struggle for democracy, many Americans take for granted our heritage and the freedoms others strive for. Take Presidents’ Day as an example. We used to celebrate the birthdays of two of the greatest leaders in U.S. history, true American icons George Washington (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12). …

Desiderata 710.5

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 …