Thoughts on better parenting, teaching, management, and leadership

What Will Matter - poem by Michael Josephson
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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 928.2: Family Values

COMMENTARY 928.2: Family Values

April 20, 2015 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 928.1: Who Am I to Judge? – The Ethics of Moral Judgments

COMMENTARY 928.1: Who Am I to Judge? – The Ethics of Moral Judgments

April 17, 2015 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 927.5: Appreciating Appreciation

COMMENTARY 927.5: Appreciating Appreciation

April 16, 2015 Commentaries

There’s a song called “Thank God for Dirty Dishes” that makes the point that if you’re lucky to have enough food to make dirty dishes, you should be grateful. So instead of grousing about your property taxes, be thankful you own property. When you have to wait in line at the bank or are stuck […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 927.4: Teaching Our Children to Be Better Than Us

COMMENTARY 927.4: Teaching Our Children to Be Better Than Us

April 15, 2015 Commentaries

Do parents have moral standing to impose standards on their children that they themselves did not follow when they were kids? Is it ever ethical for parents to lie to a child about their youthful experiences? These are important questions because it’s a parent’s duty to teach, enforce, advocate and model good behavior for their […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 926.5: What Do You Want to See More of and Less of?

COMMENTARY 926.5: What Do You Want to See More of and Less of?

April 9, 2015 Commentaries

Inspirational author and speaker Stephen Covey once said, “Start with the end in mind.” So whenever a company wants to launch an ethics initiative, we at Josephson Institute use a simple exercise: “Look at your organization today – its managers, line employees, and customers – and list behaviors and attitudes you’d like to see more […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 926.3: Learning and Believing

COMMENTARY 926.3: Learning and Believing

April 7, 2015 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 926.2: Surviving Grief and Tragedy — The Spark Within

COMMENTARY 926.2: Surviving Grief and Tragedy — The Spark Within

April 6, 2015 Commentaries

Here’s the bad news: Virtue isn’t a golden ticket to a pain-free life. Bad things happen to good people as often as they happen to bad people. It seems unfair, but in the natural order of the world, suffering is random. To expect otherwise is to sentence oneself to despondency, disillusionment, bitterness, and anger. Here’s the good […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 925.5: Understanding Change: The Elephant and the Rider

COMMENTARY 925.5: Understanding Change: The Elephant and the Rider

April 2, 2015 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 925.4: The Parable of the Carpenter

COMMENTARY 925.4: The Parable of the Carpenter

April 1, 2015 Commentaries

A master carpenter who had worked for the same builder for nearly 50 years announced he was retiring. The builder told him how much he appreciated his work and presented him with a $5,000 bonus. Then he asked if he would build just one more house. He owned a magnificent lot with a spectacular view […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 925.3: Curing Victimitis

COMMENTARY 925.3: Curing Victimitis

March 31, 2015 Choices

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 925.2: Desiderata

COMMENTARY 925.2: Desiderata

March 30, 2015 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 925.1: The Wisdom of Dr. Seuss

COMMENTARY 925.1: The Wisdom of Dr. Seuss

March 27, 2015 Commentaries

Observing the recent birthday of Dr. Seuss caused me to reflect on some of the profound lessons this modern-day philosopher taught with his exotically imaginative stories. For example, whether I’m looking at my clock, my calendar, or observing how quickly my children change, he captures the surprise and wistful sadness I often feel: “How did […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 924.5: Things Are Just Things

COMMENTARY 924.5: Things Are Just Things

March 26, 2015 Caring, Compassion

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 and her two sisters as they approached the problem of allocating their mom’s stuff. Each sister had […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 924.4: Coaching for Character

COMMENTARY 924.4: Coaching for Character

March 25, 2015 Commentaries

I’ve spent lots of time with some of the world’s most successful coaches. I discovered that many of them think about character a lot, especially traits that are important to winning – like self-discipline, perseverance, resiliency, and courage. They pay less attention to virtues like honesty, integrity, responsibility, compassion, respect, and fairness — aspects of […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 924.3: Kids Like to Win; Adults Need to Win

COMMENTARY 924.3: Kids Like to Win; Adults Need to Win

March 24, 2015 Commentaries

Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you have to acknowledge the powerful cultural influence that sports have on our culture. The values of millions of participants and spectators are shaped by the values conveyed in sports, including our views of what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals. Professional sports […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 924.2: Tell Someone They’re Valued

COMMENTARY 924.2: Tell Someone They’re Valued

March 23, 2015 Caring, Compassion

The students at Sandy’s high school were badly shaken by the news that a classmate had killed himself. The suicide note said, “It’s hard to live when nobody cares if you die.” Glen, a teacher, realized this was a teachable moment about the importance of making people feel valued. He asked the class to imagine […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 924.1: Fleas and Revolutionaries

COMMENTARY 924.1: Fleas and Revolutionaries

March 20, 2015 Attitude

Positivity is a powerful change agent. For one thing, people who go through life with the positive perspective that the glass is half full are much happier and more productive than those who see it as half empty. It has nothing to do with how much water is really in the glass. What matters is […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 923.5: The True Meaning of Our Lives

COMMENTARY 923.5: The True Meaning of Our Lives

March 19, 2015 Commentaries

I saw a cartoon showing an old king checking in at the gates of heaven. He introduced himself as “Edward The Good.” The gatekeeper with a large book in front of him said, “Well, Eddie, we’ll be the judge of that.” The point is that, in the end, generous self-appraisals won’t matter. Our epitaphs will […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 923.4: How Honest Are You?

COMMENTARY 923.4: How Honest Are You?

March 18, 2015 Choices

Yesterday I marveled at the honesty of Patrick and Catherine for going to great lengths to return my wallet. Perhaps you would have done the same thing, but being scrupulously honest in all things is more difficult than it seems and more rare than it should be. Here’s a little quiz to test your honesty. […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 923.3: The Saga of the Lost Wallet

COMMENTARY 923.3: The Saga of the Lost Wallet

March 17, 2015 Commentaries

I suspect it’s an indication of low expectations that I was so delightfully surprised when I found a note on my door Saturday afternoon from a person who said they found my wallet a few hours earlier. Apparently, after pulling out my credit card to get gas, I put my wallet on the top of […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 923.2: Motive, Tact, Tone, Timing

COMMENTARY 923.2: Motive, Tact, Tone, Timing

March 16, 2015 Caring, Compassion

Trustworthiness is essential to good relationships, and honesty is essential to trustworthiness. Being honest isn’t simply telling the truth, though. It’s also being sincere and forthright. Thus, it’s just as dishonest to deceive someone by half-truths or silence as it is to lie. But what if honesty requires us to volunteer information that could be […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 923.1: Good Karma

COMMENTARY 923.1: Good Karma

March 13, 2015 Commentaries

I get lots of emails containing words of wisdom. I appreciate every one of them, but one time I got a real keeper. Here are 17 incredibly powerful observations attributed to the Dalai Lama worth posting on your bathroom mirror. Learn them and live them. They will improve your life. 1. Follow the three Rs: […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 922.5: What Is Character?

COMMENTARY 922.5: What Is Character?

March 12, 2015 Commentaries

Here’s a riddle: You can hardly ever find it anymore — especially in politics or business. Lots of schools don’t teach it anymore. We want more of it in our children and in all the adults who interact with them. We want it from our bosses and the people who fix our cars. And most […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 922.4: A Parent’s Love for the Family Treasure

COMMENTARY 922.4: A Parent’s Love for the Family Treasure

March 11, 2015 Caring, Compassion

There are all kinds of love. The passionate romantic love immortalized and often fantasized by poets and novelists; Platonic love among friends, the love of humanity preached by missionaries and ministers, the love of country, and even the love of our work. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced all of these forms but none has impressed me […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 922.3: Birds on a Wire: Actions are More Important Than Intentions

COMMENTARY 922.3: Birds on a Wire: Actions are More Important Than Intentions

March 10, 2015 Commentaries

Five birds are sitting on a telephone wire. Two of them decide to fly south. How many are left? Three, you say? No, it’s five. You see, deciding to fly south is not the same as doing it. If a bird really wants to go somewhere, it’s got to point itself in the right direction, […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 922.2: Unkind Words Are Weapons

COMMENTARY 922.2: Unkind Words Are Weapons

March 9, 2015 Caring, Compassion

With four teenage daughters, I frequently find myself correcting, disciplining, or simply protesting unnecessary and unkind comments certain to anger or wound a sister and evoke counterattacks that fill the air with nastiness. Hoping to get them to think before they speak in the future, I often ask, “What did you expect to accomplish by […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 922.1: Are Cynics Right? Is Lying Really Necessary?

COMMENTARY 922.1: Are Cynics Right? Is Lying Really Necessary?

March 6, 2015 Commentaries

What do you think? In today’s society, does a person have to lie or cheat at least occasionally to succeed? The question isn’t whether occasional liars and cheats sometimes get away with dishonesty; we all have to agree with this. The question is whether you believe people can succeed if they are not willing to […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 921.5: Courtesy Is Kindness in Action

COMMENTARY 921.5: Courtesy Is Kindness in Action

March 5, 2015 Caring, Compassion

As a society we have become almost obsessed with identifying and asserting our rights – to think, say, and do what we want. That’s not surprising, given the history of our country and the prominent role the Constitution and Bill of Rights have played in shaping our culture. We have a right to be unkind, […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 921.4: Responsibilities of Management

COMMENTARY 921.4: Responsibilities of Management

March 4, 2015 Commentaries

Modern managers often utter clichés about wanting employees to “think outside the box,” take risks, and be creative. And while I’m sure companies do appreciate break-through innovative ideas that increase profits, productivity, or quality, the fact is that most organizations are inhospitable to those who challenge old ways of doing things, even practices that are […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 921.3: The Pressure to Win in Sports and Business

COMMENTARY 921.3: The Pressure to Win in Sports and Business

March 3, 2015 Commentaries

A former successful college coach and athletic director once wrote me a note about the state of college sports. The pressure to win in high-profile schools is so great, he said, that it’s almost impossible to resist rationalizing. When competitors cheat or engage in other unethical conduct, the tendency is to redefine the ground rules […]

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