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 …

COMMENTARY: A Perfect Game

In Echoes of the Maggid, Rabbi Paysach Krohn tells a story of a young boy with severe learning disabilities named Shaya who was walking past a park with his father when he saw a group of boys playing baseball. He asked his dad if he thought they’d let him play. Although Shaya couldn’t even hold a bat properly, his father …

COMMENTARY: Will, Fern, and the Power of Encouragement

Two frogs named Will and Fern fell into a deep pit together. At first, they thought it would be easy to jump out. But after lots of failed attempts they cried for help and a crowd of animals gathered around the pit. Everyone agreed it was hopeless so they urged Will and Fern to accept their fate. The harder the …

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 …

COMMENTARY: The Best Dad

Years ago I heard a story of a dad named Paul who gave his young son a small chalkboard to practice writing on. One evening his son called out from the bedroom, “Dad, how do you spell best?” Paul answered him. Moments later, the boy hollered, “How do you spell kid?” Finally he asked, “How do you spell ever?” When …

COMMENTARY: Do I Have to Tell Everything?

Can a job applicant properly withhold information about a criminal record or being fired in a previous job? Can a woman who has just started dating properly say nothing about a previous marriage or abortion? These are problems of candor: When does an ethical person have a duty to reveal negative information about his past? First, let’s reinforce a basic …

COMMENTARY: Using All Your Strength

A young boy was walking with his father along a country road. When they came across a very large tree branch the boy asked, “Do you think I could move that branch?” His father answered, “If you use all your strength, I’m sure you can.” So the boy tried mightily to lift, pull and push the branch but he couldn’t …

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: 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: 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: Sharpen Your Ax

Ben was a new lumberjack who swung his ax with great power. He could fell a tree in 20 strokes, and in the first few days he produced twice as much lumber as anyone else. By week’s end, he was working even harder, but his lead was dwindling. One friend told him he had to swing harder. Another said he …

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: Wisdom in 20 Words or Fewer: Part One

Since my children were small, I launched their day with the invocation to “be good, have fun and learn.” I hope they remember that mantra, but when my daughter Samara began her independent life as a college freshman 3,000 miles away, I thought a more detailed set of maxims was needed. So I assembled a collection of concise (20 words or fewer) …

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 988.1: Saying the Right Thing

When someone you care about is suffering greatly, what’s the right thing to say to make him or her feel better? There are all sorts of traumas that can send us to the darkest dungeons of despair – the death of a loved one, being raped, getting a divorce, losing a limb, seeing a child sent to jail or on …

COMMENTARY 987.4: Keep Your Fork

When a pessimist is told there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he’s likely to assume it’s an onrushing train. According to journalist Sydney Harris, “A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he’s prematurely disappointed in the future.” Pessimism and cynicism are fashionable these days, but it’s the people who see and …

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 …

COMMENTARY 986.3: Noah’s Term Paper

Noah really needed an ‘A’ on a term paper.  His friend Jason tells him that lots of kids “recycle” papers they don’t write and offers to give him a paper his older brother got an ‘A’ on three years ago. When Noah asked his for advice, his father hoped his son wouldn’t cheat but he didn’t want to be judgmental …

COMMENTARY 985.4: Slow Dance

I once heard the chairman and CEO of a huge public company tell a roomful of ambitious, hardworking, dedicated executives that if he had to do it all over again, he would have spent more time with his family. That’s not news, but to Type-A personalities, it’s easier said than done. David L. Weatherford’s poem “Slow Dance” sends the message …

COMMENTARY 984.5: Do I Have to Tell Everything?

Should a job applicant properly withhold information about a criminal record or termination from a previous job? Should a woman starting a new relationship say nothing about a previous marriage or abortion? These are problems of candor: When does an ethical person have a duty to reveal negative information about his or her past? First, let’s reinforce a basic premise: …

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 980.2: Family Values

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 …

COMMENTARY 979.2: Learning and Believing

One of the marks of our species is our limitless capacity to learn. Sometimes we learn how to do something we’ve never done before. Sometimes we learn facts about the world, about other people, and about ourselves. These sorts of things make us smarter and more skillful. But what’s really important are the things that make us wiser, our learned …