Thoughts on better parenting, teaching, management, and leadership

What Will Matter - poem by Michael Josephson
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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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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 879.5: The Scorpion and Human Nature

COMMENTARY 879.5: The Scorpion and Human Nature

May 15, 2014 Commentaries

Terry and his dad Glen were walking along the shore and came upon a scorpion struggling in the tide, trying to get back to the sand. Glen tried to scoop the creature up, but the scorpion stung him and fell back into the tide. Glen tried again and was stung again. Terry said, “Dad, leave […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 879.4: How to Change Attitudes and Behavior

COMMENTARY 879.4: How to Change Attitudes and Behavior

May 14, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 879.3: Changing Self-Limiting Beliefs and Bad Behavior

COMMENTARY 879.3: Changing Self-Limiting Beliefs and Bad Behavior

May 13, 2014 Caring, Compassion

Shavonne, a third-grade teacher, was at the end of her rope with disciplinary problems, but she wasn’t enthusiastic when she was told that her school had adopted the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. Now she was expected to explicitly seek to instill and enhance in her students core ethical values like honesty, respect, and responsibility, and to […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 879.2: Living and Reading

COMMENTARY 879.2: Living and Reading

May 12, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 879.1: Working Together

COMMENTARY 879.1: Working Together

May 9, 2014 Commentaries

I want to be thin — especially when I’m not hungry. And it seems the President and members of Congress want to work together — especially if they don’t have strong feelings about the issue. I liked President Obama’s call for more civility and greater cooperation, but I’m not convinced it will happen. There’s always […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 878.5: Eight Laws of Leadership

COMMENTARY 878.5: Eight Laws of Leadership

May 8, 2014 Commentaries

Take a look around. Business, education, politics. If there’s one thing we don’t have enough of, it’s good leaders —men and women who have the vision and the ability to change things for the better. Former Air Force General William Cohen wrote a fine book called The Stuff of Heroes in which he identified eight […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 878.4: If You Love Competition, You Never Lose

COMMENTARY 878.4: If You Love Competition, You Never Lose

May 7, 2014 Commentaries

Suppose you’re an Olympic athlete and you hear that the only person who has a chance to beat you is ill and may have to withdraw. Are you overjoyed at your good luck or disappointed that you will not be able to compete against the very best? If you really love and understand sports, you […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 878.3: Seven Truths for Bosses

COMMENTARY 878.3: Seven Truths for Bosses

May 6, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY: 878.2: How to Succeed by Failing Forward – Turning Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones

COMMENTARY: 878.2: How to Succeed by Failing Forward – Turning Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones

May 5, 2014 Commentaries

The best way to teach our children to succeed is to teach them to fail. After all, if getting everything you want on the first try is success, and everything else is failure, we all fail much more often than we succeed. People who learn how to grow from unsuccessful efforts succeed more often and […]

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