5 years, 1 month, and 13 days. Given the current tone of discourse, I remind you again to SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND.



Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

Peace Prayer of St. Francis
CCLI Song Number 649264


Auto Scripture:
2 Samuel 14:25; 1 Corinthians 14:9; 2 Peter 3:16; 2 Corinthians 12:15; Psalm 108:1; 1 Corinthians 9:22; 2 John 1:8; 1 Chronicles 2:9;
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

The Prayer of Saint Francis has always been one of my favorite hymns growing up.  It’s a simple, yet powerful, prescription from one of the humblest of our saints for how to live well.  The lesson, albeit deeply challenging to put into practice, is eminently simple: put the needs of others first.

Imagine a world where each of us tried to put others before ourselves.  Think of  all the rancor and distrust we’d give up!  Divorce rates, for example, would be greatly reduced.  How could marriages fail if each member puts the needs of the other before his/her own?  (The key here is reciprocity.  If one member puts the needs of the other first, but the second does not reciprocate, then the relationship will be challenged to succeed.)  If you took care of your friends and family and they you, then how could those relationships fail?

As I’ve always said, we are bottomless pits and our thirst for self-fulfillment never ends.  Recall the story of the simple fisherman and the magic fish?  Having caught and released the magical fish that could speak, at the behest of his ungrateful wife, the man asked for a cottage to replace their shack, a castle to replace the cottage, a kingdom in lieu of the castle, an emperorship, the papacy, and ultimately dominion over the sun and the moon.  Because she was never content with each acquisition, she ultimately ended up with nothing.  http://storyberries.com/the-fisherman-and-his-wife/.

We are wired to be dissatisfied: our brain adjusts to whatever is new and resets that threshold as the new normal.  This is true of drugs and of all  things in life.  Thus, if we give in to our baser instincts, we will forever be unhappy because no amount of money is enough, no number of cars will keep us satisfied, etc.  A guy we know who is a philanderer, for example, is learning this lesson the hard way.  He cheated on his beautiful wife with one woman.  Over time, he found that being with one woman is not longer enough and he needed two.  Two turned into several.  Where will this end?  In this day and age of AIDS, STDs, etc., what risks is he exposing himself and his poor wife to?  When is enough enough?  Never.

The importance of self-control and self-discipline can never be overstated.  The best meals, for example, are not the ones where you are overstuffed, feel like puking, and have to undo your belt ad unbutton your trouser.  No, the best meals are those that are just shy of being satiated and leave you wanting.  So, put down that fork and appreciate the wonderful experience you have enjoyed.  Overindulgence will ultimately result in your losing appetite for that favorite dish of yours.

I  bring this up today because I am deeply sadden by discourse following the school massacre in Florida.  Children and their families suffered and continue to suffer, but the lack of humanity has caused many to rush to label these kids and marginalize them without listening to their pleas and hearing their pains.  Why?  Where is our humanity?

Listen and try to understand the person speaking to you.  Don’t worry about what you’ll say after the person is done speaking; if you truly listened, the questions will present themselves and you will have endless matters to discuss.  If you do these things, you will find that life will be better.  People will often respond in kind, and you will attract the right sort of people to your circle.  I promise neither utopia nor the absence of the crass and the vulgar, but their effects will be limited.

All my love, always,





5 years, 1 month, and 12 days. Live with purpose.

Intergenerational care: Where kids help the elderly live longer

‘Good things are happening’

“When we bring children and residents together, the elderly together, you can see right away that good things are happening,” Somers said.
These “good things” are evident to any observer.
More than 10 children make their way along the garden paths into the lounge where the residents are stretching their arms and shaking their legs. Most faces in the room are smiling, and a few residents reach out to encourage the kids to come toward them specifically.
As small children roam about, trying the exercises themselves, cuddling up to residents and in some cases performing headstands, the rest of the room comes alive.
“They’re responding to an external stimulus, which is a toddler with an adorable grin fumbling towards them, carrying a toy, trying to interact,” Somers said.
The benefits in terms of health are also clear to see.
Residents “very often forget their own physical limitations, and they find that they are encouraged; they stretch themselves; they will lean up out of their chair, extend a hand, engage in conversation,” she added.


My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

First, I give you Schubert’s Ave Maria.  It is more beautiful than I can describe and my go-to when I am overwhelmed by the ugliness in the world today.  I hope it will give you as much comfort and delight as it has given me over the years.

Second, I updated the homepage for this blog to provide a roadmap.  What started out simply as letters to you about lessons I have learned over the years — hoping these lessons would help you avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes I and others have made — has given rise to certain themes that if articulated might  help you better put these lessons into perspectives.  I copied the revised version below for your convenience.

Finally, I wanted to remind you to live life with purpose.  For some (many, actually), money or wealth is their raison d’etre.  But, that is an unwise choice.  On their deathbeds, no one asks for more time at the office making money.  Often, retirees lose their zest for life upon retirement because they lost their raison d’etre, their purpose in life.  As alluded to in the CNN article above, purpose is the zest of life … without it, we are lost and simply exist, not thrive.  I want you to thrive.

Years ago, when I sold books door to door, I met an elderly woman one early morning.  I knocked on her door, and, as we started to chat, she unloaded upon me a litany of ills that have befallen her.  After listening for a while, I asked, “Why do you get up in the morning, then?”  (Yes, I was young, and I was an idiot.  I would never be as blunt or rude today. Well, hopefully, I wouldn’t.)  At that point, she became upset and reversed herself, listing all the important things she had going on in her life and why it was important for her to get them done.  In other words, she changed her tune because she refocused on her purpose for living.

What do you live for?  I submit that you should live life to the fullest and make the world a better place along the way.  Below, in the revised homepage, are my thoughts on that.

I now leave you with my favorite quote from Hunter Thompson:


Enjoy your ride!  But, remember that you can do well by doing good along the way.

All my love, always,



My Dearest Shosh and Jaialai,

Life has its challenges and obstacles, but nothing changes that most basic, fundamental, and unadulterated truth: you two are the best things that have ever happened to me.  I am lucky to have you for my sons.

I love you with all my heart … always and forever.  Not a day passes that you are not in my thoughts, and your absence do not weigh heavily on my heart.

Current circumstances conspire to keep us apart.  But, that is only a temporary condition.  Know that everyday, I am doing my best to fight my way back to you so that I may be there to help you grow into the amazing men you will become.

These posts are but temporary solutions to fill the gap until my return. Through them, I hope to give you guidance and continue the lessons that were started from the moment you took your first breath — and took my breath away.

You will find that the overarching theme for this blog (and my life — and, hopefully, yours as well) is that WE SHOULD STRIVE TO LEAVE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR HAVING LIVED.  That’s my Golden Rule.  Consequently, the Corollary is to HELP IF YOU CAN, BUT DO NO HARM IF YOU CANNOT HELP.

Specifically, how do you make the world a better place?  First, be the best YOU can be. No one can ask for more of you.

To achieve that goal, I share with you lessons I’ve learned about how to live well and what it takes to be successful in America.  Note two things: (1) I am talking specifically about what it takes to achieve what is considered to be professional success in the U.S. and not elsewhere in the world; and, (2) the focus is on success as defined by society at large and not on your personal definition of success.  Your definition may be different.  That’s OK.  But, know that if you chose that path, it would be a rougher road to hew.  The choice remains yours.

Second, fight evil wherever you find it.  This is your duty as a human being.  We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.  If not us, than who?  I am always mindful of the words of Martin Niemoller, the Protestant pastor who spoke out against the Nazi and suffered in the concentration camp as a result.  He said,

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Regarding my prescriptions for a life well-lived, all I can say is be brave, my sons.  Be courageous enough to be the real you and the best you possible, despite the niggling comments of others.  Be strong enough to stand up for yourselves and your visions.  Be willing to fight for them.  Also, fight injustice.  Speak out against evil.

I know these are not small things I ask of you, but the world will tend towards disorder unless energy is expended to counteract the disorder.  If not us, then who?  We are the stewards of our world.  Do try to leave it a better place by actively working to make your little corner of the world a bit better than when you first found it and by stopping those who try to destroy whatever beauty lies there. A world without beauty is not a world in which we are meant to live and thrive.

Regarding our situation, be patient, my sons.  Be strong.  Be good.  The truth will prevail.  I promise.

It took me five years to fight the Enron of Healthcare and expose their corrupt practices.  How much longer will it take to fight and expose corrupt government officials?

Until we reunite, know that I love you always and forever.

All my love, always,


5 years and 30 days… an eternity. No matter how successful, be true to yourself.



My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I’m a fan of good literature and of Kurt Vonnegut.  Maybe one day, you will get to know him and his colleagues, and befriend him and his friends as well.

One of my favorite essays by Kurt Vonnegut is entitled, “How to Write With Style.”  It is a refreshing, light-hearted, and insightful analysis by one of the masters.  His advice is simple, understandable, relatable, and straightforward.

But, what I really like about his essay is that, maybe with the exception of Advice #8, his nuggets of wisdom apply to life in general, not just to writing. By this, I mean the following:

  1. “Find a subject you care about” — this is true about writing, but about life as well.  Find and pursue your passion.  Without passion, life is flat and stale.
  2. “Do not ramble, though” — pursue your passion, but over-indulge.  Too much of a good thing renders it undesirable.  Practice self-discipline.
  3. “Keep it simple” — keep your life and your passions simple.  Learn to appreciate the small miracles of life — smile on your loved one’s face, a great smelling rose, a sunrise, for example — instead of focusing only on the grand moments, such as our vacations in Kauai, Okinawa, etc.
  4. “Have the guts to cut” — if something or someone is not working for you, e.g., they are bringing you more negativity than joy or beauty, then let them go.  Be okay with it.  Thank them for being a part of your life, but don’t carry their burden.  Some people never have a chance to grow because others around them enable them to be their worse selves.
  5. “Sound like yourself” — be you.  Who else can you be but you? Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.  Posers are a dime a dozen.  They are everywhere.  People see through them.  Don’t be like them.
  6. “Say what you mean to say” — this is my favorite.  Call a horse a horse.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Be honest with yourself and with others.  Life and time (the currency of life) are too precious to waste on falsehood.  Just be honest.  If someone is not going to like you, then they won’t like you.  So what?  What do you buy with falsehood other than a little time?  When the real you is revealed, if they would have liked you in the first place, they would continue to like you; if they wouldn’t have liked you in the first place, they wouldn’t after the reveal.  So, what have you gained?  Nothing, but a little time, operating under false pretense.  Why waste that time?  Who cares if they like you or not?  You are still you no matter their opinions.  Not one molecule of your being had changed, not one moment of your history had been rewritten.  Move on.  Also, be true to your words.  A gentleman is only as good as his word.  Keep your word.  I raised you boys to be gentlemen.  Remember that.  You can always be gentlemen regardless of your career choices.
  7. “Pity the readers” — here, I would modify that to say pity your audience, whoever he or she may be.  You never know what crosses the person you encounter bears.  Go easy on him/her.  Give him/her a break.  Grace him/her with a smile and with your full attention.  You’ll be surprise at how many friends will find their way to you if only you’d listen and give them the gift of being present.
  8. Read The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White.  It will help improve your life by helping improve your writing.  Successful people tend to be good communicators.  Learn to write well and write clearly.  Those skills will serve you well.  I was introduced to it at Duke and am forever grateful for that introduction.

Now, without further ado, I give you Mr. Kurt Vonnegut:

Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writing. This makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about themselves to readers. We call these revelations, accidental and intentional, elements of style.

These revelations tell us as readers what sort of person it is with whom we are spending time. Does the writer sound ignorant or informed, stupid or bright, crooked or honest, humorless or playful–? And on and on.

Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your reader will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an ego maniac or a chowderhead — or, worse, they will stop reading you.

The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not. Don’t you yourself like or dislike writers mainly for what they choose to show or make you think about? Did you ever admire an empty-headed writer for his or her mastery of the language? No.

So your own winning style must begin with ideas in your head.

Vonnegut goes on to outline eight rules for great writing

  1. Find a Subject You Care About

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.

2. Do Not Ramble, Though

I won’t ramble on about that.

3. Keep It Simple

As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story ‘Eveline’ is just this one: ‘She was tired.’ At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.’

4. Have the Guts to Cut

It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

5. Sound like Yourself

The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was the novelist Joseph Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.


I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

6. Say What You Mean to Say

I used to be exasperated by such teachers, but am no more. I understand now that all those antique essays and stories with which I was to compare my own work were not magnificent for their datedness or foreignness, but for saying precisely what their authors meant them to say. My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable — and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledly-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.

7. Pity the Readers

Readers have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don’t really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school — twelve long years.

So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify, whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.

That is the bad news. The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.

8. For Really Detailed Advice

For a discussion of literary style in a narrower sense, a more technical sense, I commend to your attention The Elements of Style, by Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White. E. B. White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced.

You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say.

All my love, always,




5 years and 23 days. Keys to success: (2) be of value, i.e., solve problems, work to build and improve, help others, etc.






My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

There is so much I want to say to you — I need to tell you.  But, here we are.  Life gives us a lemon, so we make lemonade.  These letters will do until circumstances change.

Ok, we were talking about how you  must fit in and be likeable to achieve a measure of success in this life.  Now, to be clear, I’m NOT telling you to become a sycophant, a flatterer, a “yes” man.  No, be yourself.  Be true to yourself, but be your best self.  Be kind.  Be well-mannered.  Be pro-active.  Be humanistic.

Being kind and well-mannered gets you over that first hump of being rejected off-hand.  Would you want to spend time associating, playing, or working with a person who is rude, has disgusting hygiene, and has terrible manners?  No, who would?  But, being likeable and being able to fit in are not enough.

To be invited to the table and join the ranks of the successful few, you must also bring value.  The best path I’ve found to give value is to use my critical thinking skills to solve problems that challenge others.  Be a problem-solver and you will also be of value.  The world needs problem solvers.  By all means, solve problems that plague you, but also make time to solve problems that confront others.  The latter will take you far.

In most jobs I’ve had, I managed to solve problems critical or important to the organization, and gained the attention of the leadership team as a result.  One of my firm’s clients, for example, operates in almost every state in the U.S., and my firm used to send them several binders each year to update key laws affecting their operations.  These binders would be filled with the actual text of new statutes, regulations, court decisions, etc., and would be sent to the client’s legal counsel.  While that is useful, when asked to take over that project, instead of continuing what other lawyers had done in the past, I opted to create a chart by each legal issue affecting the company and by each state in which the company operates.  Then, I provide a brief summary of the relevant law in each state as well as citations to the relevant sections of law.  This made it much easier for the company’s lawyers to explain to its staff what the company may and may not do in each state.  Both the client and my firm were happy with my approach.  In other words, I brought value.  As a result, my billing rates were higher than those of some of the partners at the firm, and one of the founding partners promised to let me go straight from being an associate to an equity partner when the time came, instead of having to become a contract partner first.

In numerous other circumstances, I brought value by solving long-standing problems that others before me could not solve.  How?  By listening carefully to the issues, needs, and concerns of all the relevant stakeholders, and using my critical thinking skills to find a pathway that satisfied the needs of the various stakeholders.

Listen, and bring value by using your problem solving skills.  Do that, and you will go far.

What that means is that you MUST work on your critical thinking skills daily.  Pay attention to whatever you are doing at each moment, and use your critical thinking skills to find ways to do better.  If you are reading for class, for example, put down your highlighter and stop painting the pages yellow as your eyes roam over the pages while your mind day-dreams about what you’ll do after you finish painting the pages of your required reading.  Reading is not a visual exercise: it is a mental one.  So, think!  Think about what you are reading, why your teacher asked you to read it, how it fits in with what you have learned in class thus far, how it moves forward the subject matter you are studying, and what you are supposed to get out of that reading.  Then, as you read, search for that information.  Read with purpose.  Don’t read mindlessly.  Your job is not to process words so much as to look for ideas those words purport to convey.  Do that, and you’ll succeed in reading tasks in school.  I promise.  https://guides.library.harvard.edu/sixreadinghabits.

All my love, always,


5 years and 22 days. Keys to success: (1) be likeable, i.e., have good manners, listen to others, be present, etc.







Good Manners Make Everyone Comfortable

By Margaret Webb-Pressler
Friday, February 11, 2011; 1:19 PM

Take your elbows off the table.
Don’t talk with your mouth full.
Look people in the eye when you speak to them.
Write your thank-you notes.

You’ve probably heard all or most of those orders from your parents. And even though you do them, you might have wondered why grown-ups make such a fuss about good manners.

“I think manners are important, but I wouldn’t like to be one of those high-society English people with their pinkie stuck out,” said Isabel Uriagereka Herburger, 11, of Washington. “For myself at home, I could care less about manners, but at other people’s homes I’m more careful.”

Manners are about more than using the right fork or not slurping when you drink. Those rules of etiquette might be expected in certain situations, but not doing those things isn’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings. Good manners are a way to show others that you care about them. Manners also make it easier for everyone to feel comfortable in social situations.

Think of manners as traffic lights for life, said Pier Forni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who has written books about manners. On the road, traffic lights turn a world full of cars moving in different directions into an orderly system that allows everyone to get where they are going.

“The rules of good manners are the traffic lights of human interaction,” Forni said. “They make it so that we don’t crash into one another in everyday behavior.”

Even cavemen used manners!

Manners have developed over tens of thousands of years as a key element of human society, and they might even have helped the species survive.

Early humans lived in groups in order to hunt, share food and keep one another warm. But to live so close together, Forni said, humans had to learn to think about others, not just themselves. Think of it this way: If every person in the group looked out for only himself, the group would fall apart.

Our distant ancestors developed behaviors to show others respect, fairness and kindness. Those have evolved into today’s manners. “You cannot have any kind of community if there are not some rules,” Forni said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/11/AR2011021103541.html (emphasis added)

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I miss you.  I simply miss you, my sons.  I want the best for you and I want you to find happiness and achieve success in life.

With that, let’s continue our discussion about what it takes to be successful.  Note that the first picture of success is devoid of ANY mention of collaboration, teamwork, and working with others around you.  That is wrong.

Unless you are amazingly and overwhelming brilliant — like Steve Job — you need to be able to get along with others and to work well with others in order to be successful.  In my two decades working with human resource professionals, I found that whether someone will fit in with the organization is a critical factor in their decision making process.

Think about it: if you hire someone who doesn’t fit in with the organization, that person will eventually cause conflicts and tension, thereby destroying group cohesion, morale, motivation, etc.  As the saying goes, “One bad apple can ruin the barrel.”  (Steve Job — and others like him — is the exception to this rule because his was so overwhelmingly brilliant that organizations needed him and had to make exceptions for him.  But, recall, even he was kicked out of Apple, the company he founded, and had to work his way back in.)

This is where yesterday’s discussion about listening and being present comes in.  When I was taking graduate classes in counseling psychology, they said if we practiced the listening skills taught in that class, we will find that people will love talking to us.  That proved true.  I once met a gal from Georgetown Law School, and we spent 10 minutes talking before she had to run off for class.  I revealed little about myself during the conversation, and spent most of the time listening to her and reflecting back what she said.  At the close of that conversation, she insisted that we meet again and said that was one of the best conversations she’s had.

We connect with others when we give them the gift of our time and our attention.  Relationships are built on that.

On the flip side, think of all the occasions when we don’t listen to others or they us.  How did you feel about those interactions?  Were you frustrated?

I don’t have to look afar for examples.  My siblings, your aunts and uncles, may be well-educated and accomplished, but, if memory serves me correctly, they sucked at listening to others in the family.  They always thought they knew more, and was always more interested talking and showing off their “knowledge” than listening and gathering knowledge to build their up repertoire.  (They have doctorates and master’s degrees, but we each have our own expertise, and, having an M.D. or a Ph.D. in one field does not make you an expert in ALL things in life.  Your uncle, the M.D., thought he knew enough to hire a divorce lawyer without consulting me, a lawyer, and ended up hiring a guy who wrote a book on computer law to be his divorce lawyer.   As you can imagine, that ended badly and left a bad distaste for all lawyers.  But, the fault lies with him for not bothering to listen to others with more expertise in that field.)

While listening is necessary, it is not a sufficient condition for success.  For example, no matter how well someone is listening to you, would you want to continue spending time with that person if he burped and farted as he talked to you? if he continually picked at his teeth and his feet during the conversation? if he engaged in otherwise rude and ill-bred manners?  No!

Manners put others at ease and enable them to enjoy themselves.  In order to be successful, you must be able to get along with others and collaborate with them; to do that, you must first put them at ease and enable them to want to work with you (because they found the experience enjoyable, in addition to being necessary — we’ll get to the latter part later).

Many people fail because they think being smart, having good grades, being at the top of their class, etc., is enough to get them invited to colleges, to join companies, etc.  They are wrong.  Those may be necessary conditions, but they are rarely sufficient conditions.  Given a choice, people choose to follow  and work with people they like, not those they find distasteful.

So, remember, be kinder than necessary, have good manners, and listen.

All my love, always,



10 Traits of Likeable People

This is a an every day occurrence, if you’re a likeable person. If this seems like something that could never possibly happen to you then I’d like to remind you that social skills, like any skills, are completely learn-able; and with a little practice you too could be the talk of the office, and be going home with a thriving social life.

Here are several traits that likeable people share. If you cultivate them, you’ll join the ranks of those who spend their weekends with friends, their evenings at dinner parties, and their days surrounded by coworkers that love and respect them.

1. They Aren’t Insecure

Likeable people don’t come from a place of insecurity. They go into every interaction thinking “I bet me and this other person would get along great, I should really get to know them better.” And then the likeable person moves on from there. Start from a positive place and others will notice. If you’re not there yet, faking your confidence will help put your insecurities at ease.

2. They’re Genuine

Likeable people never try to be something they aren’t. If you don’t know something, admit it. If you don’t agree with a statement someone else has made, don’t grin and bare it. Instead, honestly admit that you don’t see it the same way as the other person. Don’t put them down. Simply try to see where they’re coming from, and strive to understand their point of view.

3. They Don’t Judge

When you are judgmental, people can sense it. Even if you smile and hide your negative feelings, the people around you can sense that you have just formed a poor opinion of them. Rather than seeing others as good or bad, try to understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, choices, and mistakes. Likeable people make this their philosophy and, as long as no one is getting hurt, they never pass judgment on the value or morality of another person.

4. They’re Positive

Negativity abounds in our world. We have negativity in the news, on our homepages, and it appears on the Facebook and twitter feeds of our friends. Even a lot of the novels I read end up with negative endings! Be a positive voice in a world where everyone sounds a little like Eeyore. Being positive will make you a pleasure to talk to and more people will want to talk to you.

5. They Don’t Compete

Conversations aren’t competitions. Likeable people never story-top or one-up in a conversation. Instead, they view conversations as an opportunity to connect and create deep relationships with others. If you want to be more likeable, enter every conversation with the goal to make the other person feel liked and respected. This will change the tone of the interactions you have, and make everyone involved more likely to enjoy it.

6. They Provide Value

When you’re in a conversation with someone and they complain that they don’t know what to get their mom for Christmas, do you lament how awful that must be before going into a story of your own? Or do you recognize that they have a problem they may need help solving? People everywhere have problems they wouldn’t mind help solving. But as people, we tend to be self-involved and not notice. If you take notice and help people solve their problems, you’ll create friends for life.

7. They Don’t Settle for Small Talk

Small talk doesn’t develop long lasting friendships, and small talk won’t make you likeable person. Likeable people avoid small talk by transforming it into deep conversation. They do this by being genuinely interested in others, asking honest questions to help further their understanding, and relating to what they’re told, briefly, before gathering more from the person they’re talking to. Don’t settle for small talk–do everything in your power to move the conversation forward to more personal subjects.

8. They Touch People

Patting shoulders, shaking hands, and (in some cases) hugging other people makes people more comfortable around you. Touching eliminates the physical barrier of distance, and so it eliminates the emotional barrier that the distance represents. Touch is an art, and the first few times that you attempt it it may seem awkward, but practice makes perfect and the art of touch is important if you want to become more likeable.

9. They Don’t Shy Away

Likeable people have tons of friends! This isn’t magic–it’s because they intentionally befriend tons of people. They meet people; they get those peoples’ contact information; they befriend those people and spend time with them; and then they go meet more people, never losing touch with anyone they’ve gotten to know. You can’t be more likeable and not meet new people. You have to get out of your comfort zone and build lots of relationships if you want to become more likeable.

10. They Genuinely Like People

I know what you’re thinking: But people suck! It’s true, everyone has moments when they act rudely and everyone can be annoying from time to time. But deep down, most people are really nice. They care about others, and unless they’re having a bad day, they’re easy to get along with. Likeable people know this, and so they like people. They want to get to know other people, and they enter every interaction expecting a positive experience. If you only remember one tip from this article, it should be to develop the attitude of liking people. If you do that you’ll become more likeable in no time.

Likeable people were all less likeable at one point in time. They simply decided to work at becoming more engaged, more respectful, and more likeable. Now they seem to work magic and develop friendships wherever they go. You can seem like that too! You simply have to develop the habits I’ve outlined above and you’ll have the social life, the career, and the life that being more likeable brings you.

What about you? When was the last time you interacted with a truly likeable person? What did they say or do that made you instantly take interest in them? Let us know in the comments.



The Top 10 Skills You Need to Be Successful

These abilities are key for your career in any company or industry.

By Rebecca Healy, Contributor |Dec. 10, 2014, at 11:03 a.m.

A professional woman asking a question.

To be successful, you must ask for what you want. Speak up if you’d like a promotion, a bigger sales deal or more responsibility. (iStockphoto)

Success comes from the mastery of a core set of skills that can be applied to any position, field or company. When you practice and strengthen these skills in your work, you’ll rise to the top. Read on to discover the crucial talents you need to launch your career:

1. Sales skills. Sales is the basis of all business success. You are always selling, even if your role does not include sales in the job description. You sell during marketing activities, team meetings, customer service, product management, conferences, business development, engineering, user experience and more. A solid foundation in how to sell can give you a wide advantage over your colleagues and competitors.

No sales experience? No worries! If you’ve worked in retail or fundraising, or convinced a neighbor to let you babysit, you already have the sales foundation you need. For a great primer on how to use sales to your advantage, check out “To Sell is Human,” by bestselling author Daniel H. Pink.

2. Transferable skills. Transferable skills give you the ability to see your past experience in a new light. That experience can be as varied as volunteer work, to a full-time job, to your weekend hobby to a waitressing gig. During each experience, you acquired skills that can be applied to your career success.

For example, as a waitress, you likely learned critical people skills, such as crisis communication, customer service and teamwork. That interpersonal expertise can be applied to your next job in public relations, and indeed, should be highlighted in your cover letter and résumé when applying for the job.

3. The ability to ask. The ability to ask is the easiest, most underutilized skill to catapult your career. The old adage is true: “If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.” Many careerists don’t ask to pitch their idea, for a raise or promotion, a bigger sales deal or to take on more responsibility. When this happens – or doesn’t happen, rather – you’re far less likely to find challenge, meaning and reward in your work.

If the thought of asking makes you break out in hives, try practicing in non-work related contexts. At the farmer’s market, you could ask a vendor for a lower price on the asparagus; at home, you could ask your partner to attend dance lessons; on the street, you could ask a stranger, “how are you?” The more you put yourself in uncomfortable situations, the more likely you’ll decide they’re not that uncomfortable after all.

4. The ability to code. You don’t need to know how to build the next Facebook, but a basic understanding of how the Web works and how software and apps are built can be a game-changing advantage. An increasing number of positions require technical knowledge, but even if your job never requires you to be technical, you should know what’s happening under the hood. The knowledge will help you interface with development and engineering teams, as well as hold more realistic expectations.

Try doing small side projects to familiarize yourself with programming concepts, like building a blog. Or choose one of the many free online classes out there, like Codecademy.

5. Communication skills. Both written and oral communication skills are basic, but that doesn’t mean they’re not difficult to master! Think about ways to challenge yourself and tweak how you write an email or behave in a meeting.

For example, don’t hit “send” immediately after composing a note. Instead, give yourself a beat or two, then reread the email, make edits and then hit “send.” Or during your next team meeting, resist talking about your idea or opinion right off the bat. Instead, count to five, and if you still feel like you have something relevant to contribute, speak up. On the flip side, if you’re shy, challenge yourself to say what you’re thinking, instead of remaining silent.

 6. Interpersonal skills. The ability to be a team player is so fundamental to your work that there are few better things to focus on. Interpersonal skills are just a fancy way of saying how you get along, relate and communicate with others. Employers hire people with domain expertise, of course, but mostly they hire people they like and can get along with.

Think about how to become more likable. You might try mimicking the body language of the people you’re talking with, repeating their ideas and opinions back to them and really listening. But keep in mind that all the tips and tricks in the world won’t help if you don’t have genuine interest in and empathy for your fellow team member.

7. Project management skills. Can you see the big picture and break it down into small, manageable and action-oriented steps? Then you have undeniable value. Many employees consider themselves “idea people” but don’t have the ability to execute on those ideas. If you have the ability to prioritize and get things done, you’ll be able to lead a team in no time.

If you find project management difficult, try taking a project that’s already complete and work backward. What are the tasks and assignments it took to complete that goal? Write them down in detail to get a better picture of a the project road map.

8. The ability to be a self-starter. Do you have an entrepreneurial drive? Apply it to the workplace. Employers increasingly value folks who can take initiative and own a project from start to finish. As a creative self-starter, you should take calculated risks, brainstorm new ideas and execute with precision.

If you’re not sure of what problems you should help solve, start by looking for the roadblocks your co-workers repeatedly run into or issues your customers continually face. Still stuck? Simply ask your boss for a side project to work on when your normal responsibilities are complete.

9. The ability to be curious. To really stand out in a company, you should always be looking to improve, both individually and company-wide. Hone your inquisitive thinking skills by asking questions like “why?” and “how?” to your employers, your customers and yourself. Everyone will appreciate your interest and thirst for knowledge.

While it may be difficult to open up initially and admit you don’t know it all, curiosity helps strengthen self-confidence. As a result, you will learn new ideas and job skills that will stay with you throughout your career.

10. The ability to drive results. Through it all, you should know what your goals are and how you are going to achieve them. This skill requires you to synthesize many of your other skills and layer on an intense passion and focus. Results-driven individuals are metrics-oriented and can quantify outcomes to motivate themselves and their teams, all while contributing to the bottom line.

Write out your personal and career goals to keep your eye on the prize, and try forming a partnership with a friend to hold you accountable, help you stay driven and keep you on track.

As you cultivate and master these core 10 skills, you’ll create the career you want – for now and for the future.

Rebecca Healy is the founder of Kontrary, a different take on money and happiness that helps you take control of your work and life. She lives in Washington, DC.



The predominant stereotype we have of leaders, particularly business leaders, is that they are male (usually white), tall, assertive—even aggressive—and driven to produce bottom-line, short-term results. This stereotype still persists, one that is eagerly perpetuated by the media and movies, despite the decades of research on leadership and the promotion of transformational, servant-style and values-based leadership. The focus on leaders who have advanced emotional intelligence and social skills rarely gets the attention of management gurus or researchers.

For example, Joey Cheng and his colleagues at The University of British Columbia published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which found when groups were given the task of choosing a leader, they identified people who had the appearance of both skills and competency as well as the ability to impose their ideas on others in a dominating manner. They concluded that their findings show why more aggressive leaders continue to populate both business and politics. It appears from this study that the stereotype of a leader as an aggressive, dominant male is still widely embraced by people as desirable as opposed to what might be identified as more female characteristics of compassion, warmth and interpersonal skills.

We have come so far in stereotyping leadership characteristics, including imbedding them into recruitment practices, that leadership style is now becoming increasingly extreme, as witnessed by the increase of psychopaths in the boardroom., or the kind of amoral behavior portrayed in the true-to-life movie, The Wolf of Wall Street.

Yet there is a contrasting view, one being talked about more and more, that advances the notion that social skills are critical for leadership success.

Tiziana Cascario and Miguel Suusa Lobo, in an article in Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge entitled “Fool vs. Jerk: Whom Would You Hire?”, argue when given a choice of whom to work with, people will pick one person over another, according to 2 criteria; one is competence on the job and the other is likeability. The authors conducted their study of organizations of varying size and industries in North America and Europe. Their research showed that no matter what kind of organization they studied, everyone wanted to work with the “loveable star” and nobody wanted to work with an incompetent jerk. The researchers also concluded that personal feelings played a much more important role than is commonly acknowledged. They also found that if a person was strongly disliked, it was irrelevant how competent he or she was, they would prefer not to work with that person.

Roger Covin, writing in the Huffington Post, contends that most people are not aware of the traits or qualities that are appealing to others. He argues, based on his research, the most likeable qualities are sincerity, honesty, and the capacity for understanding, loyalty and trustworthiness. Intelligence and a sense of humor is also important, whereas being popular is much further down on the list. He cites other research, which identifies warmth, kindness, openness, expressiveness, as important determinants of likeability.

Rohit Bhargava, author of Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior and Inspiring Action, says there is a real “ROI to likeability.” He makes a distinction between “nice” people and “likeable people,” referring to the latter’s capacity for honesty, whereas the former may avoid being candid for fear of not being liked or hurting others’ feelings. He also identifies unselfishness as a key likeability characteristic.

Jeff Hayden, writing in Inc.com, described how likeable leaders don’t try to impress people with the typical power poses—standing tall and square, taking big strides, firm handshakes, a deeper voice. He argues that this kind of posturing may be designed to impress people but it is very self-focused. In contrast, using the example of a meeting between Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, their body language was more relaxed including movement forward with a slight bow and a smile.  Hayden describes other characteristics of likeability—the use of light physical touch; focusing the conversation on the other person; humility; disclosure of vulnerable parts of self including mistakes; and making no requests of the other person but offering to help the other person instead.

The individuals cited above identify themes reflected in a two books, one by Dave Kerpen, author of Likeable Leadership, and the other by Tim Sanders, entitled The Likeabilty Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life’s Dreams.

Matthew Lieberman, writing in the Harvard Business Review blogs asks the question, “Should Leaders Focus on Results Or On People?” He cites the work of Jack Zenger who examined characteristics of great leaders. Two of those characteristics were a results focus and social skills. He found that if the leader was seen as very strong on results focus, the chance of that leader being seen as a great leader was only 14%, whereas if a leader was strong on social skills—such as empathy—the leader was seen as a great leader only 12% of the time. However, if the leader was seen as being strong equally on both results and social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a great leader rose to 72%. Lieberman contends “strong social skills can leverage the analytical abilities far more efficiently.” Yet studies show that few leaders are perceived as having both strengths.

In his book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect, Lieberman argues our brains have made it difficult to be both socially and analytically focused at the same  time.   He says evolution built our brains with different networks for handling these two ways of thinking.  In the frontal lobe, regions on the outer surface, closer to the skull, are responsible for analytical thinking and are highly related to IQ.  In contrast, regions in the middle of the brain, where the two hemispheres touch, support social thinking. These regions allow us to piece together a person’s thoughts, feelings, and goals based on what we see from their actions, words, and context. Lieberman describes how “these two networks function like a neural seesaw. In countless neuroimaging studies, the more one of these networks was active, the more the other one became quieter.  Although there are some exceptions, in general, engaging in one of the kinds of thinking makes it harder to engage in the other kind.  It’s safe to say that in business, analytical thinking has historically been the coin of the realm—making it harder to recognize the social issues that significantly affect productivity and profits.  Moreover, employees are much more likely to be promoted to leadership positions because of their technical prowess.  We are thus promoting people who may lack the social skills to make the most of their teams and not giving them the training they need to thrive once promoted.”

Conventional wisdom has told us that “nice guys finish last,” as might nice organizations. Dachel Keltner, a University of California psychologist and author of Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, and a number of his fellow colleagues are building the case that humans are the successful dominant species because of our compassionate, kind, altruistic and nurturing traits. One of these studies has shown that many people are genetically predisposed to be empathetic. New research by Jon Bohlmann and Rob Handfield of North Carolina State University, Tianjao Qiu of California State university, William Qualls and Deborah Rupp of the University Illinois published in The Journal of Product InnovationManagement, shows that project managers got much better performance from their team when they treated team members with honesty, kindness and respect. Bohlmann explains “if you think you’re being treated well, you are going to work well with others on your team.”

Our excessive focus on bottom-line results at any cost, driven by aggressive men who see social skills as a means to an end, has been a contributing factor to many of our current economic and social problems. Expanding our concept of leadership to require that leaders possess greater social skills and practice them in organizations that embrace trust, honesty, compassion, generosity, empathy, kindness and genuine concern for the welfare of others would be welcome change.







5 years and 21 days. Listen. Just be present and listen. Do that and you will go far in life.





My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Learn to be present and to listen to the person or persons you are with at that very moment.  Your time and attention are the greatest gifts you could give anyone.

My single, greatest regret, Shosh, is not being present and not listening to you all those years ago when you were a toddler and full of stories and life.  You had amazing tales and a wonderful imagination.  I failed to nurture that by failing to pay attention to you when you were recounting the imaginary adventures that occupied your days while I was at work.

I was a busy professional and exhausted from the long days that often started at 3:00 A.M., but that was no excuse for failing my duties as your father.  It was (and remains) my duty to help nurture your talents and passions, not nod absentmindedly as you talked while mentally deconstructing clients’ problems in my mind.  In time, you stopped recounting your stories.  I only discovered my failings after your passion for storytelling had ebbed.  By then, I had already failed you.  I am SO sorry, my boy.  I AM sorry.  I will spend a lifetime to find ways to make it up to you.

Please, whatever you do, please do NOT make the same mistake as I.  Listen, really listen, whenever you are with a loved one.  Listen to understand, not to respond, not to judge, not to prepare a better story in rebuttal, etc.  Listen with an open mind and an open heart.

Be present.  Learn this skill, and you will go a long way in life to make friends, to find happiness, and to add value to the lives of others around you.

Now, be advised that listening and being present are NECESSARY skills for success, but they may not be SUFFICIENT for success.  It takes more than these skills to succeed in life, but having these skills is a good start. Too often and too many people in life fail these simple tasks to their detriment.

All my love, always,


5 years and 18 days. Be confident in who you are and the value you bring to the world, but don’t be arrogant.











My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Always be yourselves and always believe in the value you bring to the world, but never be arrogant about it.  Why?  As a social matter, it is unseemly; as a practical matter, there is always someone better or more gifted than you.

For example, hubris is what caused BUFU to claim that he is always the smartest guy in the room — until he moved to New York City and got his shorts eaten by the really smart guys.  BUFU didn’t last more than few months in NYC, and had to run back home to his small city with his tail tucked between his legs.  Don’t be like that.

Don’t rest on your laurels either.  You are only as good as your last project.

For example, my sister, who graduated from high school when she was 14 years old, has earned her doctorate but has not much to show for her intelligence.  Why?  She rests on her laurels.  Yes, you can tell people how smart you are, how young you were when you graduated from high school (many many years ago), how you have a doctorate, etc., but at the end of the day, people only care about what you can do NOW.  Can they partner with you to achieve greatness?  to make money?  to build something worthy?  to leave a legacy for future generations?

Don’t worry so much about what others think of you.  Focus on improving yourself daily, on gaining knowledge about the world around you, and on making the world a better place for yourself and others, and people will see value in your work.  Your value is intrinsic and not dependent on what people think of you.  You don’t gain a penny in your bank account, or an ounce of health, or an extra second of time just because someone thinks better of you.

Your reputation only helps pave the way for you to accomplish your goals, to find people to collaborate with, etc., but it does not define you.  You define you.  No one else does.  Never let others define you.

Be good, my sons.  Be the best you can be, but be yourselves.  You are good kids.  I know.  I’ve watched your intrinsic goodness reveal itself as you grew up.  Shosh, you used to cry when friends get hurt, and offer candies and nice things for them.  Jailai, you used to save all your treats from school each day to share with Shosh, Little V, etc., and you used to befriend kids who had no friends.  You brought them into your circle of popular kids.  Don’t change!

I love you so much and miss you much!

All my love, always,