Thoughts on better parenting, teaching, management, and leadership

What Will Matter - poem by Michael Josephson
This blog gets its name from Michael's inspirational poem.
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COMMENTARY 897.1: Competition in the Arts

September 12, 2014 Success & Failure

Competition often brings out the best performance but it doesn’t always bring out the best in people. Even in the arts, actors, singers, dancers, and musicians must survive and thrive in a competitive community as rude and rough as any. Ambitious parents often introduce toxic gamesmanship and back-biting attitudes very early as their children are […]

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COMMENTARY 896.5: Moving Beyond 9/11

September 11, 2014 Caring, Compassion

I’ve become increasingly ambivalent about the way we commemorate the dark days and months that began on September 11th, 2001. Each year the memories and all the feelings they evoke are less vivid. Thus, the news articles, commentaries and TV specials about the 9/11 attacks serve as important reminders, not only of the immeasurable loss […]

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COMMENTARY 896.4: What I Want My Daughter to Get Out of Sports

September 10, 2014 Parenting, Family

Several years ago, when my daughter Carissa was about to enter her first gymnastics competition, I wrote her a letter expressing my hopes and goals for her athletic experience. Here’s a revised version: My Dearest Carissa, I know you’ve worked hard to prepare yourself to compete, and I know how much you want to win. […]

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COMMENTARY 896.3: If It’s Broken, Try to Fix It

September 9, 2014 Parenting, Family

Former President Jimmy Carter was 70 years old when he wrote this poem about his father: This is a pain I mostly hide, But ties of blood or seed endure. And even now I feel inside The hunger for his outstretched hand. A man’s embrace to take me in, The need for just a word […]

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COMMENTARY 896.2: The Beginning of Positive Thinking

September 8, 2014 Attitude

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 896.1: Emotional Resilience

COMMENTARY 896.1: Emotional Resilience

September 5, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 895.5: Not Everyone in Need Has a Brick

COMMENTARY 895.5: Not Everyone in Need Has a Brick

September 4, 2014 Choices

A successful man known for his philanthropy was driving his new car through a poor part of town. He’d driven the route hundreds of times before on his way home. A young boy tried to flag him down. The man was in a hurry and didn’t want to get involved, so he pretended he didn’t see him. The traffic signal turned red, though. As […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 895.4: If You Were Arrested for Kindness

COMMENTARY 895.4: If You Were Arrested for Kindness

September 3, 2014 Caring, Compassion

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 […]

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COMMENTARY 895.3: Rebuilding Your Life and Reputation

September 2, 2014 Choices

Larry wrote me the following letter: “I’ve been a small businessman for almost 23 years in a business where people lie, cheat, and steal. I’m sorry to say I became one of them. In the short term it may have helped, but long term it came back to haunt me. There’s no amount of success […]

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COMMENTARY 895.2: It’s Your Job to Enjoy Your Job

September 1, 2014 Workplace, Management

Labor Day is, first and foremost, a day off from work to do something you enjoy, or to catch up on domestic tasks awaiting your attention. It’s also an ideal time to think about the role that work plays in your life. For some, work is a necessary evil. It’s doing what they have to […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 895.1: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

COMMENTARY 895.1: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

August 29, 2014 Caring, Compassion

R – E – S – P – E – C – T. Aretha Franklin reminded us how it’s spelled, but a lot of us need coaching on how to show it. In both personal and political relationships the failure to treat each other with respect is generating incivility, contempt and violence. There’s an important […]

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COMMENTARY 894.5: A Test of Integrity: Does Personal Necessity Trump Moral Principles?

August 28, 2014 Commentaries

Years ago, my wife Anne was talking to a woman I’ll call Lila about another lady I’ll call Gwen. Gwen had just been laid off and since she had only worked for the company for a short time, she wasn’t eligible to continue the company’s medical insurance. That’s important because she was eight weeks pregnant, […]

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COMMENTARY 894.4: Excellence Is Achievable

August 27, 2014 Commentaries

As I watched nearly five dozen eager graduates of the Los Angeles Police Academy throw their hats in the air celebrating their achievement, I knew they were the survivors of a rigorous training, and that their journey wasn’t over. Ahead of them would be a full year of supervised field training, and it’s unlikely all […]

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COMMENTARY 894.3: The Application of Religion to Business

August 26, 2014 Commentaries

Most Americans say they’re religious and their beliefs are important to their lives, yet I’m astonished at how many seem to ignore their religion’s moral expectations and prescriptions. Religion isn’t about only worship and ritual; it teaches believers how to live. Thus, the holy books of every major religion are filled with precepts and principles about […]

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COMMENTARY 894.2: A Perfect Game

August 25, 2014 Commentaries

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 […]

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COMMENTARY 894.1: Granddaddy’s Gift

August 22, 2014 Commentaries

Years ago, a Southern woman was in one of my workshops. When asked to tell a story that impacted her character, she described an incident when she was 5. She was at her grandfather’s house all dressed up in a white dress with a crinoline and new gloves, proud as she could be. Her granddaddy […]

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COMMENTARY 893.5: Moving From Success to Significance

August 21, 2014 Commentaries

I frequently address people who are highly successful. They’re at the top of their field and often have all the comforts that wealth can afford. Most seem to enjoy their success. So, in a way, it surprises me how deeply many of them respond when I talk about the difference between success and significance. Invariably, […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 893.4: The Ultimate Solution to Bullying in Schools: A Student-Led Culture of Kindness

COMMENTARY 893.4: The Ultimate Solution to Bullying in Schools: A Student-Led Culture of Kindness

August 20, 2014 Bullying

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 […]

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COMMENTARY 893.3: The Garden

August 19, 2014 Commentaries

A listener once sent me a poem with an unknown source called “The Garden.” I liked the idea so I rewrote it. Here’s my version of a lifetime garden to nourish your life: First, plant six rows of squash: 1. Squash dishonesty in all its forms. 2. Squash prejudice. 3. Squash fear.

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COMMENTARY 893.2: Tyranny of the Minority

August 18, 2014 Education

According to a survey of parents, 93 percent want schools to teach basic values like honesty and respect. The problem is, schools are left to contend with the 7 percent who disagree. In any enterprise that seeks to avoid conflict and find consensus, that small minority may often dictate policy. Too often, aggressive objectors bully […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 893.1: A Parable About Leadership

COMMENTARY 893.1: A Parable About Leadership

August 15, 2014 Commentaries

Listening to politicians’ nasty rhetoric, one might think that leadership has to be aggressive and confrontational, but consider this parable about leadership. A student assigned to write an essay about an effective leader wrote this story: “I’ve been taking a bus to school for years. Most passengers keep to themselves and no one ever talks […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 892.5: Worth More Than a Million Dollars

COMMENTARY 892.5: Worth More Than a Million Dollars

August 14, 2014 Caring, Compassion

If you had the choice of winning $1 million in the lottery or saving a stranger’s life, which would you choose? I suspect many of you think you should say, “saving a life,” but what you are really thinking is how much better your life would be if you were rich. If the test was […]

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Thumbnail image for COMMENTARY 892.4: Lying Is Like Drunk Driving

COMMENTARY 892.4: Lying Is Like Drunk Driving

August 13, 2014 Commentaries

Sometimes lying makes our lives easier. If you want the day off, just call in sick. If your boss asks if you’ve finished a report, say you left it at home. And if an irate customer calls, just make up a good cover story. Technically these are lies, but since no one’s hurt, what’s the […]

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BUT IT LOOKED LIKE HE WAS HAVING SO MUCH FUN. Don’t be sad that the world lost such a great talent, be sad that this incredibly gifted man, who so easily won the admiration and affection of so many, was so terribly unhappy.

August 12, 2014 Quick Thoughts

ROBBIN WILLIAMS. Whatever it takes to have a true sense of inner peace is obviously illusive. If it were talent, fame, money or the adoration of the masses, Robbin Williams would have been happy. Lincoln said, “folks are generally about as happy as they are willing to be.”  Why is it so hard to be willing to […]

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COMMENTARY 892.3: Planned Abandonment

August 12, 2014 Relationships

Management guru Peter Drucker advocated a practice he called planned abandonment. He stressed how important it is that managers develop the wisdom and courage to regularly review what their organization is doing and determine whether it’s worth doing. He urged executives to note and resist the systemic and emotional forces that make it difficult to […]

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COMMENTARY 892.2: Good Ethics Make Better Relationships

August 11, 2014 Relationships

While I believe that good things tend to happen to people who consistently choose the high road, the correlation between ethics and success is a loose one at best. Thus, it’s pretty hard to sincerely promote ethics by appeals to self-interest. What’s more, when self-interest is the controlling justification for moral behavior, moral reasoning is […]

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COMMENTARY 892.1: Will, Fern, and the Power of Encouragement

August 8, 2014 Attitude

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 […]

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COMMENTARY 891.5: Grocery Store Ethics

August 7, 2014 The Nature of Character

You can tell a lot about people’s character by how they act at the grocery store. I remember being in a crowded store when there was a shortage of shopping carts. A prosperous-looking fellow was pushing a cart when another man stopped him. “Excuse me,” the second man said, “but this is my cart.” The […]

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COMMENTARY 891.4: Acting on Principle and Good Intentions

August 6, 2014 Attitude

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 […]

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COMMENTARY 891.3: What Is the Most Difficult CEO Job in the Nation? I Nominate School Principal.

August 5, 2014 Character

Schools all over the nation are struggling to modify their strategies to meet the Common Core demands regarding critical thinking and problem solving. They must also find ways to teach 21st Century workplace skills, enhance students’ social and emotional development, and, of course, build their character so they become responsible and productive citizens. Oh, they must also […]

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