Mataya’s Coming of Age 719.2

This weekend family and friends gathered to witness our daughter Mataya’s bat mitzvah*, the symbolic transition from childhood to adulthood. It was our fourth bat mitzvah in five years, and frankly, we’re glad we’re done. Anne and I make them major productions. Anne has the hard part. She plans a party equal to a significant wedding and personally creates a …

Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last? 719.1

“Nice guys finish last.” This maxim originated with a fiercely competitive baseball manager named Leo Durocher who shamelessly advocated ruthlessness, cheating, and dirty play. It is also used to explain why sweet, thoughtful men lose out to self-centered jerks in the world of dating. Lots of people believe the philosophy applies in business as well. The rationale: Nice is the …

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 …

So What Makes Us Happy? 717.5

There is an ever-growing body of knowledge about the nature and causes of happiness. For one thing, it’s clear that happiness is a feeling, not a circumstance. Happiness is more than just fun or pleasure. It’s a more durable sense of well-being. Our happiness depends not on what happens to us, but what happens in us. In other words, it’s …

Statement of Family Values 717.4

Our values – the core beliefs that drive behavior – determine our character, our ethics, and our potential. Thus, the most important thing we can do for our children is to stimulate them to develop positive values that will help them become wise, happy, and good. This is no simple matter. The first step is to achieve greater clarity about …

Another Parenting Passage 717.3

Have you seen the Subaru commercial where a father is giving a safety talk to his six-year-old sitting in the driver’s seat?* In that exasperated tone I’ve heard a thousand times, the little girl says, “Daddy, it’s okay.” Then, as dad hands his daughter the key with a final warning to drive carefully, she is replaced by a 16-year-old. I’m …

The Experimental Operation 717.2

Tess, an earnest 8-year-old, was worried. Her little brother was very sick and she overheard her mom crying on the phone: “They say his only chance is an experimental operation, but it isn’t covered by insurance and there’s no way we can pay for it.” Tess went to a jar containing all the money she had saved. Although she wasn’t …

Hang in There! It Will Get Better 717.1

While researching the bullying issue for a CHARACTER COUNTS! seminar, I came across Vicky Bell’s blog, where she posted a letter to her daughter in college. I think her advice moving and wise. Here’s an abridged version: Hello my girl . . . You may have heard about the NJ college student who killed himself because his roommate posted a …

Parenting and Play-Doh 716.5

Peggy Adkins, a talented CHARACTER COUNTS! trainer, tells the story of when she adopted a cat. Each of the cat’s original owners was interviewed, and when Peggy finally got the animal, she had to sign a document that listed 23 things to do and 17 things not to do to raise a happy, healthy feline. Over the next several months, …

It’s Okay to Keep Your Elephant Happy 716.4

Yesterday I introduced Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of our rational self as a Rider sitting atop an Elephant, the larger, more powerful emotional self. Sometimes the Rider is the pilot directing the Elephant, but often the Elephant is in control, making the Rider a passenger. Scientific literature on how people change tells us that unless we motivate the Elephant – arguments …

The Rider and the Elephant 716.3

It took me a long time to realize the limitations of logic. For much of my life, including a 20-year stint as a law professor, I relied on discourse and reasoning to understand and resolve problems. I believed that I should suppress feelings that could result in irrational behavior, and I had little patience for those who seemed to govern …

The Woodsman and the Leprechaun 715.4

Long ago, a woodsman saved the life of a leprechaun and was given one wish. The woodsman thought for a long time and finally wished that each of his three daughters find a good husband. But the leprechaun was full of games. “How am I to know what’s good in your mind? I’ll give them husbands, but you can name …

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 …

Posttraumatic Growth 714.2

I’ve been fascinated, awestruck, and intimidated by disturbingly vivid real-time images of the destructive force of shifting earth and massive waves of water. Technology has given us an unprecedented ability to experience every nuance of Mother Nature’s show of power. The visuals have an unreal science fiction quality that can cause us to distance ourselves from the tidal waves of …

Heartwrenching to Heartwarming 714.1

The huge 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan and the still unfolding consequences of tsunamis rolling to shores all over the world are just the latest reminders of our vulnerability to unpredictable, unavoidable, massive natural disasters. In 2004, more than 200,000 people (mostly Indonesians) died in an Indian Ocean tsunami. A year later, an earthquake in Pakistan killed about 80,000. Last year, …

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 …

There’s a Difference between a Happy Life and a Good Life 713.1

Charlie Sheen recently took his place at the head of the line of celebrities who have publicly discredited themselves, ruined their relationships, and damaged their careers by addictive and self-destructive behavior. I’ve been reluctant to give even more attention to an essentially trashy story, but I see an important lesson in the way he continues to defend his unhealthy lifestyle …

The Paradoxical Commandments 712.4

In 1968, when Kent M. Keith was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, he wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” as part of a booklet for student leaders. He describes the Commandments as guidelines for finding personal meaning in the face of adversity: 1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway. 2. If you do good, people will accuse you of …

Firefighters, Cops, and Soldiers 712.3

A few days ago, a massive crowd gathered in downtown Los Angeles to pay tribute to firefighter Glenn Allen, who died in action. It was an impressive and solemn ceremony well covered by the local media and attended by thousands of fellow firefighters and the city’s leading politicians. The testimonials on behalf of the 61-year-old firefighter were eloquent and sincere …

The Parable of the Carpenter 711.4

A master carpenter who worked for the same builder for nearly 50 years announced he wanted to retire. The builder told him how much he appreciated his work. He gave the carpenter a $5,000 bonus and asked him if he would build just one more house. The builder owned a magnificent lot with a spectacular view, and he wanted 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). …

Experience What’s Left with Passionate Intensity 710.4

Recently, I attended my 50th high school reunion. I had mixed emotions trying to catch up with folks who looked like their own grandparents. I recognized more names than faces, but after a few words I remembered events and interactions when we were all teenagers exploding with hopes and potential. Once I got past my own sense of disbelief, I …

Good News and Bad News 710.3

There’s good news and bad news in newly released data from a 2010 Josephson Institute of Ethics survey of more than 43,000 high school students. The good news is that rates of stealing and cheating dropped about 5 percent since 2008. The bad news is that far too many high schoolers engage in dishonest conduct: 27 percent of the students …

Thanks for Making Me a Better Person 710.2

They said it wouldn’t last. When I married my dearest Anne 18 years ago, lots of people thought the differences in our ages (she’s more than 20 years younger) and religion would ultimately drive us a part. Not even close. Lord Byron said: “Love is friendship with wings,” and my love for Anne continues to soar. I’m not sure love …

Confessions of a Lincoln Groupie 710.1

I am an Abraham Lincoln groupie. He is my biggest hero. I have a huge collection of books and Lincoln memorabilia, and my daughter Abrielle was named after him, as was one of our family dogs. And by blind chance, my son Justin was born on his birthday. I often visit the Lincoln Memorial and stand in awe of his …