Thoughts on better parenting, teaching, management, and leadership

What Will Matter - poem by Michael Josephson
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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 885.5: What Your Checkbook and Calendar Say About Your Values

COMMENTARY 885.5: What Your Checkbook and Calendar Say About Your Values

June 26, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 885.4: A Person of Character

COMMENTARY 885.4: A Person of Character

June 25, 2014 Caring, Compassion

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 885.3: Sharpen Your Ax

COMMENTARY 885.3: Sharpen Your Ax

June 24, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 885.2 : What I’ve Learned: The Perspective From 13-Year-Olds

COMMENTARY 885.2 : What I’ve Learned: The Perspective From 13-Year-Olds

June 23, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 885.1: Clichés and Milestones

COMMENTARY 885.1: Clichés and Milestones

June 20, 2014 Commentaries

One of the things I hate most about clichés is that whenever I experience milestone experiences, I have to admit they are true. There’s nothing unique or original about my feelings except that they are mine. So, when I witnessed my daughter Samara turn 18, my mind and heart flooded with trite and corny thoughts […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 884.5: Middle School Commencement

COMMENTARY 884.5: Middle School Commencement

June 19, 2014 Commentaries

When I was asked to deliver the commencement address at my nephew Jaren’s middle school graduation, I worried more than normal. After all, 14- and 15-year-olds are especially tough. First, they’re subject to torrential hormonal surges that can generate vast mood and personality swings. They can be wonderfully agreeable and fun to be with one moment, […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 884.4: Wisdom in 20 Words or Fewer: Part One

COMMENTARY 884.4: Wisdom in 20 Words or Fewer: Part One

June 18, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 884.3: The Commencement Curse

COMMENTARY 884.3: The Commencement Curse

June 17, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 884.2: We Expect More of Adults

COMMENTARY 884.2: We Expect More of Adults

June 16, 2014 Commentaries

Although 11-year-old Mark wasn’t much of an athlete, his dad urged him to play youth baseball. Mark liked to play, but he was hurt by the remarks of teammates and spectators whenever he struck out or dropped a ball. Just before the fourth game of the season, Mark told his dad he didn’t want to […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 884.1: Refuse to Be Afraid

COMMENTARY 884.1: Refuse to Be Afraid

June 13, 2014 Caring, Compassion

Tim Wrightman, a former All-American UCLA football player, tells a story about how, as a rookie lineman in the National Football League, he was up against the legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor. Taylor was not only physically powerful and uncommonly quick but a master at verbal intimidation. Looking young Tim in the eye, he said, […]

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COMMENTARY 883.5: A Short-Haired Role Model

June 12, 2014 Commentaries

A popular way to encourage charitable donations is to invoke people to “give till it hurts.” Mrs. Rosario Rivera, an elementary school teacher in Puerto Rico, takes a very different approach, urging her students to “give until it feels good.” Mrs. Rivera teaches English at the José Ramón Rodriguez Elementary School in the town of […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 883.4: The One-Minute Graduation Speech

COMMENTARY 883.4: The One-Minute Graduation Speech

June 11, 2014 Commentaries

I’ve given lots of commencement addresses and, despite the silly hat, it’s a head-swelling experience to tell a captive crowd how they should live their lives. The problem is, speakers are to graduations what turkeys are to Thanksgiving, except people are much more interested in a turkey on a platter than a turkey behind a […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 883.3: Keep Your Fork

COMMENTARY 883.3: Keep Your Fork

June 10, 2014 Choices

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 883.2: Appreciating a Parent’s Love

COMMENTARY 883.2: Appreciating a Parent’s Love

June 9, 2014 Gratitude

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 883.1: Saying the Right Thing

COMMENTARY 883.1: Saying the Right Thing

June 6, 2014 Caring, Compassion

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 882.5: There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics

COMMENTARY 882.5: There’s No Such Thing as Business Ethics

June 5, 2014 Commentaries

Some years ago, a senior executive at a Fortune 100 company objected when I asserted that corporations have an ethical, as well as a legal obligation to keep promises and honor their contracts. He said that the decision to live up to or ignore contractual commitments is a business decision, not an ethical one. The […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 882.4: Teach or Punish, That Is the Question

COMMENTARY 882.4: Teach or Punish, That Is the Question

June 4, 2014 Commentaries

As Greg paces the floor, waiting for his 17-year-old daughter Sandy to return from a school event, he feels two conflicting emotions: fear and anger. Fear that something terrible has happened to her. Anger because he thinks his fear is probably unfounded and Sandy is not hurt, simply irresponsible. Finally, Sandy calls. She’s all right. […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 882.3: Self-Control

COMMENTARY 882.3: Self-Control

June 3, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 882.2: Noah’s Term Paper

COMMENTARY 882.2: Noah’s Term Paper

June 2, 2014 Choices

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 882.1: Ethics: Easier Said Than Done

COMMENTARY 882.1: Ethics: Easier Said Than Done

May 30, 2014 Commentaries

As a full-time ethicist — can you believe there even is such a thing? — I spend lots of time talking and writing about right and wrong. One thing I’ve learned is that in the last analysis, consistently doing the right thing is easier said than done. For one thing, it’s not always easy knowing what’s right. […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 881.5: Avoiding Temptations

COMMENTARY 881.5: Avoiding Temptations

May 29, 2014 Commentaries

When my daughter Samara was four she pointed to a delicate glass vase and asked, “What’s that?” “It’s very special,” I answered. “It was my mother’s. I would really feel bad if it ever got broken, so please be careful to never, never touch it.” Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Then you should never, […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 881.4: “I Didn’t Want the Janitor to Lose His Job”

COMMENTARY 881.4: “I Didn’t Want the Janitor to Lose His Job”

May 28, 2014 Commentaries

The primary responsibility for instilling good values and building character is with parents. This doesn’t mean, however, that teachers and coaches don’t have a critically important role. The unfortunate fact is that far too many kids are raised in morally impoverished settings that foster lying, cheating, and violence. If we don’t give these children moral […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 881.3: A Call for More Civility

COMMENTARY 881.3: A Call for More Civility

May 27, 2014 Commentaries

When George Washington was 16, he discovered a booklet of 110 maxims describing how a well-mannered person should behave. He was so convinced that these maxims would help him become a better person that he set out to incorporate them into his daily living. Among Washington’s many virtues, his commitment to civility marked him as a […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 881.2: Memorial Day, a Day of Remembrance

COMMENTARY 881.2: Memorial Day, a Day of Remembrance

May 26, 2014 Commentaries

It’s not just an excuse for a three-day weekend or a day for barbecue and beer. Memorial Day is a time for Americans to connect with our national history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives fighting for this country. It’s said that this special day to salute fallen Americans was born […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 881.1: Slow Dance

COMMENTARY 881.1: Slow Dance

May 23, 2014 Caring, Compassion

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 880.5: Bridge Builder

COMMENTARY 880.5: Bridge Builder

May 22, 2014 Caring, Compassion

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” In a world increasingly dominated by unapologetic selfishness, this idea may seem quaint and outdated. Yet, for those who have a grand vision of their purpose and value, striving to be of service is not only a […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 880.4: Big Rock First

COMMENTARY 880.4: Big Rock First

May 21, 2014 Choices

There’s a well-traveled story about a teacher who showed his class a one-gallon jar and a dozen large rocks. After a little rearranging, he got all the rocks into the jar, filling it to the top. He then dumped a bag of gravel into the jar until the spaces between the rocks were filled. Next […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 880.3: Making Lives

COMMENTARY 880.3: Making Lives

May 20, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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COMMENTARY 880.2: Do I Have to Tell Everything?

May 19, 2014 Commentaries

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, […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 880.1: Is It Really Only About Winning?

COMMENTARY 880.1: Is It Really Only About Winning?

May 16, 2014 Commentaries

Long ago, I entered law school wanting to do good. I left more concerned with doing well. In an atmosphere dominated by raging competitive instincts, persuasive rationalizations, and real economic pressures, cynicism drowned out idealism. My notion of the legal system as a grand forum for the pursuit of truth and justice was reduced to […]

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