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, …

COMMENTARY: Emotional Resilience

Despite romanticized myths about the gloriously carefree teenage years, adolescence has always been an emotional battlefield where young people must fight their way through insecurity, depression and anger. For many teens, classrooms, playgrounds and hallways are hostile environments where name-calling, malicious gossip, taunting, and physical bullying regularly threaten their emotional and physical well-being Technology has not made kids meaner but …

COMMENTARY: If You Were Arrested for Kindness

If you were arrested for kindness, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Some people cheer up a room by entering it, others by leaving it. What do you bring to your interactions with workmates, friends, and family? Is it encouragement, optimism, or kind words? Or is it pessimism, criticism, or cynicism? People often forget what we say and …

COMMENTARY: The Ultimate Solution to Bullying in Schools: A Student-Led Culture of Kindness

Olivia Gardner was a sixth grader in Northern California when her life began to unravel. It started when she suffered an epileptic seizure in front of her classmates. Immediately, the name-calling began. The hallway insults and ridicule — “freak,” “retard,” “weirdo” — escalated into cyber-bullying when a few particularly nasty students set up an “Olivia Haters” website. One student dragged …

NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR QUEST FOR A GOOD LIFE

Just as a beautiful flower can emerge out dry and desolate soil, joy and fulfillment can emerge out of the rubble of disappointment, grief and even tragedy.  Stay positive and persevere believing the best is yet to come! I know this is easier said than done. It takes great strength

COMMENTARY: Can Prolonging Life Be a Mistake? Who Are You to Judge?

Revised 8/8/15 I once heard a story about an emergency medical technician I’ll call Jake who was summoned to help an unconscious woman. When he arrived, she had no pulse. From her color and dilated eyes, he could tell she’d suffered serious brain damage. Still, he did his job exceptionally well, trying over and over to restart her heart. She …

COMMENTARY: Justin’s Introduction to Candor

When my son Justin was in high school, I went to an open house to meet his teachers. I was taken aback when one teacher casually mentioned that she had disciplined my son for cheating on a homework assignment. I asked my son why he hadn’t told me about this incident. “You didn’t ask,” he said. To say the least, …

COMMENTARY: Advice About Teens

Here are three suggestions for the parents of young teens, all learned through my own mistakes: First, remember, with emerging demands for independence, worries about peer acceptance, pressures of school and extra-curricular activities and a continuous search for self-identity, adolescents are on a physical and emotional roller coaster. Like every generation before them (including yours), young teens are often arrogant …

Respectful Discourse – The Essence of Democracy

On this 4th of July, I hope you will take time to experience pride in and appreciation for the great qualities of our country. One quality of our democracy is that every citizen is a public official. Thus, the passionate advocacy of political convictions is not only a right, it’s a patriotic obligation. What worries me, however, is the tendency of …

COMMENTARY: The Greyhound Principle

Racing dogs are trained to chase a mechanical rabbit that always goes a little faster than the fleetest dog. This causes them to run faster than they otherwise would. Companies that annually set overly ambitious performance objectives for their employees employ this greyhound principle. To a point, it works. Most people achieve more when expectations are set high. The strategy …

COMMENTARY: Being Decisive

Frank is a new supervisor who wants to do well. Maria consistently comes in late. When he confronts her, she makes a joke out of it. Hoping to win friendship and loyalty, Frank is painfully patient with her, but Pat, a conscientious employee, urges him to do more. Soon others begin to come in late, and Pat quits. Frank feels …

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: A Person of Character

Let’s face it, it’s not easy to become a person of character. It takes a good heart, but it also requires wisdom to know right from wrong and the discipline to do right even when it’s costly, inconvenient or difficult. Becoming a person of character is a lifelong quest to be better. A person of character values honesty and integrity …

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: 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 986.4: Self-Control

A frazzled mother with a fussy child caught the eye of a grocery store manager. He overheard her say, “Lily, you can do this. We just have to get a few things.” Moments later, when the child became more upset, the mother said calmly, “It’s okay, Lily. We’re almost done.” When the child became hysterical in the checkout line, the …

COMMENTARY 985.1: Making Lives

A few years ago I came across a video by a very dynamic speaker, a former middle school teacher named Taylor Mali. He is now what’s called a performance poet — someone who delivers poetry as singers deliver songs. The poem that caught my attention was “What Do I Make?” an articulate and aggressive response to a critic who was putting down teachers. …

COMMENTARY 984.2: How to Change Attitudes and Behavior

In yesterday’s commentary, I talked about a teacher named Shavonne who was at wits end with several students, including Leon, whose lack of self-control when he became angry or frustrated constantly created trouble.  She was certain that nothing short of intense therapy could change his behavior. Changing Leon’s behavior will be a challenge, but it has to start with changing …

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 …

COMMENTARY 983.1: Seven Truths for Bosses

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 know …

COMMENTARY 982.4: Five Birds and Good Intentions

Five birds are sitting on a telephone wire. Two decide to fly south. How many are left? Most people would say three. Actually, all five are left. You see, deciding to fly isn’t the same as doing it. If a bird really wants to go somewhere, it’s got to point itself in the right direction, jump off the wire, flap …

COMMENTARY 982.2: The Yuppie Lifestyle and Satisfaction

T.S. Eliot said, “Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They do not mean to do harm … they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” How do we feel important? Often, it’s by trying to obtain an image of success created by a …

COMMENTARY 980.3: The TEAM Approach to Teaching Character

I want my kids to be smart and successful, but I also want them to be good. I want them to be the kind of people other parents would like to see their kids marry. I also want them to make sound, values-based decisions that will help them be safe and happy. So, like most parents, I spend lots time …

COMMENTARY 980.1: Who Am I to Judge? – The Ethics of Moral Judgments

Almost every week someone indignantly attacks my integrity because I offended them with a real or perceived opinion they didn’t like. The underlying assumption is that stating an opinion on any controversial matter violates the sacred duty of neutrality. First, I’m a teacher and a commentator, not a judge or journalist. Although I strive mightily to be objective, I don’t …

COMMENTARY 978.5: Understanding Change: The Elephant and the Rider

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 …

COMMENTARY 978.3: Curing Victimitis

Watch your thoughts; they lead to attitudes. Watch your attitudes; they lead to words. Watch your words; they lead to actions. Watch your actions; they lead to habits. Watch your habits; they form your character. Watch your character; it determines your destiny. These words of unknown origin tell us that our silent and often subconscious choices shape our future. Every …