4 years, 7 months, and 3 days. People matter, not things.

https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Kindness-health-benefits-RAK-Foundation-release.jpg

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/a-massacre-at-least-30-children-die-in-indian-hospital-after-oxygen-cut-off/2017/08/12/5f51cf70-fcc8-4fd3-8a71-94fcba37094f_story.html?utm_term=.74075c1cde17

http://www.npr.org/2017/08/12/543096666/white-supremacist-protest-in-virginia-leaves-one-dead

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_surprising_insights_about_success_and_happiness

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

There are difficult days, then there are DIFFICULT days.  Today is the latter.  The sadness is palpable.

But, as the enlightened Buddha has said, “Life is full of suffering, and the cause of suffering is selfishness.”  Open your eyes and see the world for what it is.  On one hand, you have 30 children die in a hospital in India because the hospital failed to pay for the oxygen needed to keep its patients alive.  On the other, you have a man drive his car into a crowd of protesters who hold views different from his own.

What is more important — the life of sick children or the death of those whose beliefs are different from your own?  A mere child can see the value of the former and senselessness of the latter.  Yet, adults often allow foolish thoughts to cloud their better judgement.

Don’t fall into this trap.  Remember always that people come first — not things, not ideas, not money.

(Let me be clear: even the grandest idea finds beauty only in its expression.  If a beautiful idea brings about ugly results, then the idea must not have been beautiful to begin with — its beauty was but an illusion.  Religion may be a beautiful idea, but countless number of people have been killed, maimed, and tortured in the name of religion.  The concept may not be flawed, but the expression of that concept certainly can be.)

As Americans, it is believed we have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.  That is a fool’s errand.  Happiness is not thing that we can catch.  It is more like a butterfly that will alight upon us when we are in the right frame of mind.

How do we achieve this “right” state of mind?  By being real, and by channeling your energies toward helping others.  (I use the term “help” here loosely to mean any act of kindness which would bring positivity to the lives of those around you.)

As one of my favorite sites states,

Kim Cameron, a University of Michigan professor and pioneer in the field of positive organizational psychology, tried a new kind of mapping: He plotted employees by their “relational energy.” Relational energy is how much your interactions with others motivate, invigorate, and energize them (rather than draining or exhausting them, something we’ve all experienced).

The result? The relational energy network predicted performance four times better than networks based on influence or information. In other words, having a positive and energizing impact on others seems much more important to how much you achieve at work than getting people to do what you want or hoarding secrets. And when a leader is more positively energizing, her employees perform better, are more satisfied and engaged with their jobs, and have higher well-being at home….

Are you searching for meaning in your life?

Most of us don’t have to look too far, argued University of Missouri professor Laura King. In a passionate and thought-provoking talk, she cited research showing that little things can increase our sense of meaning: seeing images of trees that represent the passing of the seasons; being reminded of morning-related words (pancakes, bacon, sunrise) in the morning; or having more routine in our lives….

“People don’t need to know how to make their lives meaningful. They need to know that they already are,” King said. And when we believe in the meaningfulness of our lives, we unlock the benefits of more positive feelings and better relationships.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_surprising_insights_about_success_and_happiness

Be kind to yourselves and to others, my sons.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 6 months, 27 days. Nothing worth having comes easy.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Heed the words of the wise.  In life, you either work hard and try your best to achieve your dreams, or suffer the pangs of regret later in life for having never tried.

Look around you.  How many do you see falling into the latter camp?  Look at your cousins, aunts, and uncles on your mom’s side?  They are roofers, fast food workers, warehouse laborers, sanitation department workers, etc.  Those are honest jobs and there is nothing wrong with those types of jobs in and of themselves.  But, the question is what else could they have made of themselves?

Life isn’t that difficult, really.  The rules are fairly simple:

  1. Do your best.
  2. Be true to yourself.
  3. Treat others as they want to be treated.

You will find that many people in life are “minimally exceptional” not because of their abilities (or lack thereof), but because of their lack of efforts.  They’d rather complain and blame others than strive to improve their lots in life.  The good ones who do will rise to the top while the rest will gravitate towards their rightful places in life.  The good ones will leave healthier legacies for their children while the minimally exceptional will leave their children the minimally exceptional.  I introduced you to Mr. Ted, one of the best in our field.  Who has your mom and her siblings introduced you to?

Where will you be in 10 years, boys?  I know what your abilities are, but will you put in the effort to get yourselves there?  I pray you will.  That is how I taught you to be.  Don’t be like your mom, who would rather veg out in front of the TV instead of taking you to the park, the library, the beach, or other places where you can exercise your bodies and your minds.  Strive to be the best you.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 6 months, and 26 days. 1668 days. 40,032 hours. 2,401,920 minutes. 144,115,200 seconds. Too long!

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I had a dream about you last night, Shosh.  I was helping you with your homework assignment on sharks.  We caught a baby shark, and I tried to put a nose ring on it to keep it on a leash.  Note to self: sharks hate nose rings.

Remember how we used to draw pictures of dinosaurs, construction equipment and starfish?  You used to have an immense curiosity about those things and we constantly read about or talked about them.  Once, when you were about 3 1/2, we were at the aquarium and looking at the tide pool/touch pool where a number of different starfish was on display.  You pointed to a starfish and said that it was a leather starfish (the second one above).  The aquarium guide “corrected” you and said it was an ocre starfish (the top one above).  You disagreed and tried to explain to her that it was a leather star.  She wouldn’t have it.  I smiled and told her that she should listen to you.  She decided to go off and consult her books.  Shortly thereafter, she returned to apologize and confirmed that it was a leather star.

Three lessons reveal themselves here.  First, don’t believe in “experts” just because they are experts.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes, “experts” are too smart for their own good and can be blinded by their own “expertise” and blinded to the data confronting them.  Second, always pursue what you love.  Be curious. Be intensely curious.  Life is an unlimited buffer if you nurture that curiosity.  Third, trust yourself.  Be willing to entertain other ideas, even opposing ideas, but never jettison your thoughts because it’s expedient, because an “expert” said you’re wrong, or because others disagree with you.  If you are right, you stay right even if everyone disagrees.  If you are wrong, you remain wrong even if everyone agrees.  Don’t worry everyone else.  Trust in yourself.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 6 months, 25 days. Think for yourselves.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I wonder what you’re like now at 16, Shosh.  Has your voice deepened?  Have you put on weight?  Are you still biting your nails?  (That’s a very unhealthy habit, and I hope you’ve long outgrown it.)  Do you own the room upon entry?  Do you think for yourself, or allow others to influence you?  How are you doing in school?  Who are your friends?  Have you made plans and preparations for college?  (You should be, if you are not already doing so.)  I have million and one questions.  But, I can’t engage in this exercise often for it reduces me to a useless lump of flesh that must will itself to breathe.  I hope that you are well, and that you are well along the path I laid out for you during our time together.

Boys, remember how I used to always say that your greatest weapon and tool is your brain?  It is.  With a sharp wit, a keen eye, and sound knowledge, you can extract yourself from most unpleasant situations.  Success may not be immediate, but it will come with time and perseverance.  I hope you’ve continued to use and sharpen those great tools of yours.

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Think for yourselves.  Don’t EVER allow others to do your thinking for you.  That never bodes well.

Note above how specific and detailed the 10 Commandments are.  God gave them to the people at a time when the latter were enslaved and uneducated.  However, when Jesus came much later, the people had been freed and educated.  Thus, he reduced the 10 commandments to only two: love God, and love your neighbors as yourself.

Jesus’s two commandments are the thinking man’s version.  A smart man can think for himself and figure out how best to live and to express himself.  He knows being a good person is about more than simply not killing, stealing, cheating, or bad-mouthing others.  A good man is also kind to those in pain, generous to those in need, firm with those who are unruly or unethical, etc.  Thus, the list for the uneducated and the unthinking is not sufficient.

Think for yourselves.  Never let anybody — not some hired marketer, not your teachers, and certainly never any government official —  tell you what or how to think.  Beware when they try.  Bad things follow.

Think for yourselves and arm yourselves with knowledge.  Don’t allow others to disarm you with empty promises, falsehoods, and lies.  Take care of yourselves and each other.

Until we reunite, I send you all my love, always,

Dad

 

 

4 years, 5 months, and 7 days. Choose good friends: they’ll enrich your life.

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Do you believe that blood is thicker than water? That your family relationships are more important than friends? Well, think again. Research from Michigan State University suggests that friends may make you happier and healthier than your relatives.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/12/does-family-make-you-happier-than-friends

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I apologize for the long absence.  It has been busy and I have been exhausted by day’s end.  Even though I have neither strength nor mental clarity to write you, my thoughts do not stray far from you.  There is a place in my heart where only you can reside.  It will never be filled by anyone else.

The days may be long and exhausting, but I am at least slightly happier because I have supportive friends.  Don’t ever underestimate the importance of friendship, my sons.  Good friends are the spices that add flavor to your life, the winds that lift you to dizzying heights and the safety lines that catches you should you fall, and the mirrors that truthfully reflect back how you are presenting yourself to the world.  They will be there with you through thick and thin.

But, beware false friends.  They may tell you what you want to hear, but their hearts do not belong to you.  They may be fair weather friends, who will only be there with you during the good times to share a laugh.  That’s fine, but know that is their true aim and purpose.  Don’t be disappointed when they abandon you during difficult times.  These are not true friends, but are more like acquaintances.

I find it best to find and surround myself with good people and true friends who inspire me to be better.  Such are often hard to find, but they are worth their weight in gold.  Treat them with kindness and respect, and care and feeding.  Cultivate those friendship and protect them as you would treasure — for that is what they are.

Good and supportive friends bring you as much health and happiness as you do them.  On the other hand, bad people are never worthy of the label friends.  Stay away from them.  They are not the harbinger of joy and good health, but of their opposites.  For example, a recent headline states:

Guilty Verdict for Young Woman Who Urged Friend to Kill Himself.

This is a misuse of the much coveted label of friendship.  That woman was never a friend.  She was anything but a friend.  Beware of the likes of her.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 2 months, and 29 days. Beware of small minded people: they will drag you down.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

People are constrained by their prisms of their realities.  In other words, they are limited by who they are.

They see the world as a reflection of themselves.  Thieves think everyone else is a thief and out to steal from them.  Cowards think everyone else will run in the face of danger, just like they do.  Fools think everyone else is a sucker.

Beware the little people — the small-minded, the petty.  They rarely lift their sights above the smallness of their stations, and, by fixating on the small and petty, they will drag you down to their level.  They are so fearful of losing what little they have, that they end up channeling all of their energies on fighting to protect and maintain those limitations instead of improving their lot.  But, worse, they resist acceptance of their limitations and bully or berate those they perceive as less fortunate or less powerful than they in order to prove they are better than their station allows.  They are the epitome of the adage “kiss up and shit down.”

It is for this reason that I urge you to take the time to find and befriend those who inspire you to be better.  Look for those who train their eyes beyond the horizons, those who see possibilities instead of limitations, those who are prone to act instead of whine, those who accept ambiguity and change as natural parts of life.

These also happen to be traits of entrepreneurs, see, e.g., https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2013/11/05/how-do-entrepreneurs-think/#3e52f7473905; https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/285625; and, https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/6-things-successful-entrepreneurs-always-believe.html.

That’s why I want you to think

1. Anything is possible.

If you believe you’ll never be capable of creating a multi-million-dollar enterprise, you’re never going to take the effort to create one. If you think your business can’t compete with the major players, you’ll lose enthusiasm and eventually fold under the pressure.

Believing that some things are flat-out impossible becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; instead, successful business owners have a mindset that anything is possible with the investment of enough knowledge, effort and determination. Having the confidence to move forward is half the battle, and as long as that action doesn’t turn into foolhardy arrogance (more on that later), it will empower you to work harder and set higher goals.

2. Hard work pays off — even if it takes years to see it.

Successful business owners also believe that, fundamentally, hard work pays off. They aren’t afraid to invest hours, weeks, months or even years of hard work into their businesses, because they have faith that the outcome will be valuable.

The key difference here with successful entrepreneurs is that they’re able to envision and embrace long-term payoffs. This ability is known as delayed gratification, which theoretical physicist Michio Kaku once referred to as the “hallmark of human intelligence.”

Related: The Incredible Power of Believing in Yourself

3. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Even experts make mistakes — all the time. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll suffer in a number of different ways: You’ll set goals that are unreasonably high, you’ll feel defeated and discouraged when you don’t reach them or make mistakes and you won’t be willing to move forward despite a flaw or two.

If you wait until everything is perfect before you launch a product or move forward with a decision, you’ll never cross that threshold, which is why it’s important to start only with a minimum viable product and make gradual improvements from there. Embrace your mistakes, learn from them and don’t let them stop you from taking the next step forward.

4. You can’t do everything alone.

Even if you’ve managed to build something amazing for yourself, through your efforts alone, it’s still because of the people in your life who have taught you and supported you that you got as far as you did. Even in matters like building a social following from scratch, you’re relying on outsiders to help support your own initiative, and in that respect, you’re always going to be relying on other people.

The trick is to do as much as you can by yourself, then surround yourself by the most talented, capable, respectable people you can find to help you take care of the rest.

5. Risks are necessary.

It’s true that not all risks are equal, and not all risks are worth taking, but if you separate people into risk-takers and non-risk-takers, eventually, statistically, it will be people from the risk-taking pool who end up being the furthest ahead. Successful entrepreneurs may not have a mindset that urges them to take every risk they find, but they aren’t afraid to take calculated risks, and that gives them more potential for bigger, more successful initiatives.

6. Perspective and experience matter.

Successful entrepreneurs know that they aren’t the smartest, most experienced or most rational people in the world. They recognize that other business owners have more experience, have different perspectives and may have valuable ideas or insights that they themselves haven’t considered.

Successful entrepreneurs demonstrate humility, and aren’t embarrassed to ask for help or too proud to ask for others’ opinions. They’re willing and eager to gather information from many sources before moving forward with anything.

7. There’s always more to learn.

Humility extends to this belief, as well. No matter how long you went to school, how many courses you’ve taken or how many years you’ve spent on the job, there’s always something new to learn about your industry and about the world. Maintaining the desire and initiative to pursue your own education indefinitely keeps you sharp throughout your entrepreneurial journey, and keeps you a step ahead of your competitors.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/285625.

Lift your sights beyond the horizon.  See yourself succeed.  Ignore the cowardly warnings of the nay-sayers, the intrepid, and the small-minded.  Focus on what must be done to make your visions become reality.  Know that every failure brings you one step closer to success, and know that no matter what happens, you are always loved and valued.

Be you.  Be the best you.

All my love, always,

Dad

3 years, 10 months, and 21 days. Kent M. Keith’s Paradoxical Commandments

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today, I am sharing wise words from Dr. Keith about how to give your life meaning.  Life is about finding what works for you, being your personal best, and making the world a better place.  Don’t worry about others. The small-minded detractors and nay-sayers will always be there.  Ignore them.  The people who matter, the high-minded humanists, will notice, even if they say nothing.  But, that too doesn’t matter.  Live well, and you’ll know you did right: that should be enough.

Beauty comes from within.  Feed your soul with goodness.

Without further ado, I give you Dr. Keith:

The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

 

Over the past forty-five years, Dr. Keith has published articles for newspapers, magazines, and professional journals; poetry; conference papers; and ten books.

Dr. Keith’s first book was a student leadership manual, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council, published by Harvard Student Agencies in 1968, when he was 19, a sophomore at Harvard. This is the book for which he wrote the Paradoxical Commandments. A revised edition was published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) in 1972. Approximately 30,000 copies of the two editions of the booklet were sold or distributed throughout the United States between 1968 and the mid-seventies.

In 1969, Dr. Keith wrote another student leadership booklet, The Silent Majority: The Problem of Apathy and the Student Council, which was used in workshops and then published by NASSP in 1972. This book urged students to reach out to their fellow students and link up with their interests and needs, so that the student council can fulfill its noblest purpose: people helping people. New editions of The Silent Revolution and The Silent Majority were published by Terrace Press in 2003 and 2004.

In 1997, Dr. Keith learned that Mother Teresa had put a copy of the Paradoxical Commandments up on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta. This inspired him to write his national bestselling book, Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments, which was published in 2002. The book is an introduction to the Paradoxical Commandments, including some of the events in Dr. Keith’s early life that shaped the creation of the commandments in the sixties. The book has been translated and published in 17 different languages. His narration of Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments won a national “Audie” award from the Audio Publishers Association as the best audiobook of 2003 in the personal development/motivational category.

Dr. Keith continued to explore the Paradoxical Commandments in three subsequent books. Do It Anyway: The Handbook for Finding Personal Meaning and Deep Happiness in a Crazy World was published in 2003, Jesus Did It Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments for Christians was published in 2005, and Have Faith Anyway: The Vision of Habakkuk for Our Times was published in 2008.

In 2003, Dr. Keith created “The Universal Moral Code” while writing about morality and ethics. The code is featured in his book Morality and Morale: A Business Tale, published in 2012. Dr. Keith believes that living a moral life is energizing and meaningful, as well as being the key to long-term personal and organizational success.

For the past twenty-five years, Dr. Keith has been a passionate advocate for servant leadership. His publications on the topic include The Case for Servant Leadership (2008/revised in 2012); Servant Leadership in the Boardroom: Fulfilling the Public Trust (2011); Questions and Answers about Servant Leadership (2012); The Ethical Advantage of Servant Leadership: Guiding Principles for Organizational Success (2013); and The Christian Leader at Work: Serving by Leading (2015).