We’re all ethical in our own eyes

-When it comes to our self-perception of our ethics, most of us have delusions of grandeur. – Think of the most ethical person you know. Do a lot of people come to mind or only a few? Are you having trouble thinking of anyone? If I asked that question of the people who know you well, how many would name …

COMMENTARY: 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 …

COMMENTARY: Deal or No Deal?

Sarah’s mom agreed to let her 16-year-old go to a party if she promised to be home by midnight. But as the Cinderella hour approached, Sarah did a quick risk/reward calculation. She knew her mom would be angry and probably ground her, but she was having so much fun she decided it was worth it. Sure enough, when she got …

COMMENTARY: Testing Your Integrity

In the past year, did you keep the money if a cashier gave you too much change? Did you lie to your boss, a customer, or a significant other? Did you use the Internet for personal reasons at work? Did you distort or conceal facts on a resumé or in a job interview? Did you inflate an expense or insurance …

COMMENTARY: The Cowboy Code

I grew up in much simpler times. Television was in its infancy, and the idea of a hero was exemplified by a white-hatted cowboy. There was a clarity and simplicity to this hero’s moral code that left no doubt there is a right and wrong. As I became more sophisticated, it was easy to ridicule these simplistic approaches to ethics …

COMMENTARY: I Just Have to Outrun You

During a camping trip, Sam and Tom saw a bear coming their way. Sam started to take off his backpack and told Tom he was going to run for it. When his surprised friend said, “You can’t outrun a bear,” Sam replied, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.” Sadly, this look-out-for-number-one mentality is …

COMMENTARY: Ask What Can You Do for Your Country

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy, invoked my generation to “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” We are fortunate to live in a free and democratic society where millions of civilians and soldiers serve their fellow citizens.Today is Veteran’s Day and the weekend provided the nation a special …

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.

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 …

COMMENTARY: Every Good Decision Starts With a Stop

Most of us are regularly confronted with choices that can have serious and lasting impact on our lives. What’s more, most really bad decisions — the ones that mess up our lives — are made impulsively or without sufficient reflection. Thus, the wisdom of the oldest advice in the world: “Think ahead.” The maxim telling us to count to three …

COMMENTARY: Bologna Sandwiches

When Jason, a construction worker, took a sandwich out of his lunch bag, he looked at it and threw it on the ground yelling, “Bologna again! I hate Bologna.” A co-worker said, “If you hate bologna so much, just ask your wife to make you something else.” Jason replied, “That’s the problem. My wife didn’t make the sandwich. I did.”

COMMENTARY: The Twists and Turns of Life

Years ago, Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben introduced the New Year rituals of Rosh Hashanah by holding up a long, coiled ram’s horn. Pointing out the twists and turns, he used the shofar as a metaphor for life. “No one’s life,” he said, “is straight and predictable.” Twists, dips and bends, as well as ups and downs are inevitable. How we …

COMMENTARY: It’s Not Easy

Let’s be honest. Ethics is not for wimps. It’s not easy being a good person. It’s not easy to be honest when it might be costly, to play fair when others cheat, or to keep inconvenient promises. It’s not easy to stand up for our beliefs and still respect differing viewpoints. It’s not easy to control powerful impulses, to be …

COMMENTARY: The Pursuit of Human Perfection

Jews all over the world are in the midst of a 10-day period called the High Holy Days. It starts with Rosh Hashanah, a celebration of a new year, and ends with Yom Kippur, a solemn day of atonement. The overriding theme is the pursuit of human perfection and the obligation of each person to continually assess and improve his …

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: Favorite Quips

As a break from heavy thoughts about heavy matters,  I’d like to share with you a list of some of my favorite quips collected over the years. I don’t know the original sources of these one-liners, but they definitely weren’t from me. 1)       If women can have PMS, then men can have ESPN. 2)       If quitters never win and winners …

COMMENTARY: Nice Guys Finish First: Good Ethics Is Good Business

“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 same …

COMMENTARY: The Power of Kindness

I’ve mentioned before that, despite my great admiration for people who are instinctively and consistently kind, kindness does not come naturally to me. Yet the older I get, the more I agree with Abraham Heschel, who said, “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” Henry James was more emphatic when …

COMMENTARY: The Peculiar Concept of “Ethics Laws”

Cynicism about the ethics of elected officials may be at an all-time high, continually fueled by new stories of outright corruption or bad judgment. At every level of government there are politicians who can’t seem to recognize or resist conflicts of interest, inappropriate gifts, improper use of the power or property entrusted to them, or the discrediting impact of shameful …

COMMENTARY: The Power of One

Reading about the 31-year-old “rogue trader” arrested in London for unauthorized transactions that cost the Swiss Bank UBS $2 billion caused me to think about the power of one person. I’m not talking about great heroes and villains who changed the course of history, but smaller acts by ordinary people. There are lots of angles to thinking about the power …

COMMENTARY: It’s Your Job to Enjoy Your Job

Labor Day is, first and foremost, a day off from work to do something you enjoy, or to catch up on domestic tasks awaiting your attention. It’s also an ideal time to think about the role that work plays in your life. For some, work is a necessary evil. It’s doing what they have to do to make a decent …

COMMENTARY: Authentic Apologies

“I’m sorry.” These are powerful words. Authentic apologies can work like a healing ointment on old wounds, dissolve bitter grudges, and repair damaged relationships. They encourage both parties to let go of toxic emotions like anger and guilt and provide a fresh foundation of mutual respect. But authentic apologies involve much more than words expressing sorrow; they require accountability, remorse, …

Life is short. Smile as often as you can – then keep smiling.

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Mother Teresa. CHARACTER COUNTS! (www.charactercounts.org) focuses on creating a positive school climate where children are both physically and emotionally safe, where they feel they are accepted and valued and where they feel they belong. One of the most effective ways …

COMMENTARY: The Beginning of Positive Thinking

I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, which is the title of a best-selling book published in 1952 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a controversial preacher and pastor who popularized the idea that if you can change your attitude, you can change your life. He urged people to consciously train themselves to be optimistic and enthusiastic, …