5 years, 8 months, and 25 days — an eternity. Regardless, remember: character matters

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https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/opinion/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court-vote.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/us/politics/john-paul-stevens-brett-kavanaugh.html

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/03/opinion/kavanaugh-law-professors-letter.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I fear we’ve failed you.  America is an uglier and less civil place today than it was when we were your age.  That is our collective failing.

We failed because many of us have forgotten (or have chosen to ignore the fact that) character matters.  We failed because we have cast aside our humanity and are now too busy praying at the altar of Money, Power, Greed, Entertainment, Adrenaline, Likes and other false gods.

Character matters, my sons.   Don’t forget.  It always has, and it always will.

History will not be kind to those of poor character.  I pray that those who rush to seats of power give pause and think of the legacy they’ll leave behind long after they’ve vacated those seats.  Power is fleeting, whereas our legacies endure.

I’ve often said that intelligence and hard work are the stilts of success.  Many a genius slave away in obscurity, bitterness, and resentment, blaming others for their own failure to work hard to reach their true potentials.  On the flip side, many more work long hours for pittance because nature had denied them the intellectual gift it had bestowed on others or had handed them the misfortune of being born into a poor family, an uneducated family, a family stuck in a war-torn or otherwise impoverished nation, etc.  (There but for the grace of God, go us.)

Character is the third leg that forms a stool upon which your success rests.  The first two traits are all about you.  The third is about how you interact with others, or they you.  No matter your brilliance or industry, if you are nasty, false, or otherwise of low moral character, no one would want to interact with you, support you, or befriend you.  That, ultimately, is why character matters: we are not islands.  We are social creatures and need the support of others.

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Be you, but be the best you, my sons.  We have but one life to live.  There is no dress rehearsal.

We are humans, and we make mistakes.  It’s okay.  But, when you err, own up to it.  Admit it.  Apologize for it.  Learn from it.  Promise to redouble your efforts to avoid repeating it in the future.  Then, move on.

Remember also Fr. Dave’s prescription: before you speak, ask

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it helpful?
  3. Is it inspiring?
  4. Is it necessary?
  5. Is it kind?

Of these, I think the first and last most important.  Don’t bear false witness and treat others with kindness.  Embrace your humanity.  If you and others remember to do that, I promise our world will be a better place.

All my love, always,

Dad

P.S., I leave you with this last thought.

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Are you proud of the person you see in the mirror?  Live so that you are.

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5 years, 8 months, and 7 days. We are but stewards of our planets and our talents; it is our duty to nurture and not squander each.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Too often, people blind themselves to problems occurring outside their homes and occupy themselves only to what immediately affects their own lives.  They leave the problems at large (e.g., pollution, injustice, fascism, racism, environmental degradation, etc.) to the care of others.  This is known as the “free-ridership problem”.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains the problem as follows:

In many contexts, all of the individual members of a group can benefit from the efforts of each member and all can benefit substantially from collective action. For example, if each of us pollutes less by paying a bit extra for our cars, we all benefit from the reduction of harmful gases in the air we breathe and even in the reduced harm to the ozone layer that protects us against exposure to carcinogenic ultraviolet radiation (although those with fair skin benefit far more from the latter than do those with dark skin). If all of us or some subgroup of us prefer the state of affairs in which we each pay this bit over the state of affairs in which we do not, then the provision of cleaner air is a collective good for us. (If it costs more than it is worth to us, then its provision is not a collective good for us.)

Unfortunately, my polluting less does not matter enough for anyone—especially me—to notice. Therefore, I may not contribute my share toward not fouling the atmosphere. I may be a free rider (or freerider) on the beneficial actions of others. This is a compelling instance of the logic of collective action, an instance of such grave import that we pass laws to regulate the behavior of individuals to force them to pollute less.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/free-rider/

Greater minds than mine have argued the morality of free-ridership, i.e., whether it is immoral for me to sponge off another or whether it is immoral for another to impose their collective will upon me.  Id.  But, I think they miss the point: I have a moral obligation to not waste finite resources.  For example, if I were given a basket of food sufficient to feed 10 people, would it not be morally wrong and morally repugnant of me to pick a few items out of the basket then waste the rest as target practice, especially when there are others who go without food and could have used the food I wasted?  If that’s true and if my moral duty is to keep myself alive and not burden others, then my obligations must include nurturing and making the best use of the finite resources which sustain life and an orderly society.  Whether I do this individually or collectively is a separate matter.

Your maternal grandmother, imperfect as she may be, has done us a great service by teaching us at a young age to care others.  We used to tutor children, help carry groceries for our elderly neighbors, mow their lawns, push cars stuck in ice and snow as we walked to church, translate for schools and churches, etc.  In other words, she taught us to be activists.

Her teaching is in keeping with our faith.  As stated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, where I once worked:

16 The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.k

17If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?l

18Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.m

http://usccb.org/bible/1john/3/

Although not religious, I am spiritual and try to live right.  Thus, I have spent years working with refugees (in the U.S. as well as overseas), caring for the homeless (by both creating policies and homeless shelters for them as well as feeding and caring for them during the freeze of winter), helping the poor and the elderly (by building homes and improving the safety net for those in need), protecting children and victims of domestic violence, etc.  I believe we are called to actions not just by our faith, but by our humanity.  For example, how can we blind ourselves to the fact that “40 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 12 million children” … innocent children like you?  http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/facts.html.

Yet, for my efforts, I have been accused of, and admonished for, harming you, my own children, because I once lost my job and harmed my career by fighting the Enron of Healthcare to stop them from harming the sick and dying, to stop them from denying the insurance coverage and medical care for which policy holders have paid and for which they were then in great need.  My accusers missed the point: by fighting the corrupt insurance company, I protected you and them from the corrupted practices of that particular insurance company and of other insurance companies in general.  (The Enron of Healthcare is one of 10 largest health insurance companies in the U.S., and covers you guys as well as my accusers.)  By taking the fight to insurance regulators and to the court, after failing to stop the illegal practices internally, I exposed those corrupt practices.  Insurance regulators spent a year investigating that insurer.  They corroborated all of my allegations and found numerous other violations.  By publicizing their findings and issuing fines, they gave notice to that insurance carrier and all others that such harmful and corrupt practices would not be tolerated.

We live in a closed system, my sons.  Pollutants and poor environmental policies adversely affecting the South and Midwest affect us in terms of rising food costs and societal costs.  Chemicals dumped into rivers harm our fish, hurt of water system, and poison our oceans … all of which comes back to haunt us.  Our silence when others are bullied is assent and emboldens the bullies.  Can we then complain when the bullies move past their targets to us?

I am always mindful of the lessons of Martin Niemöller.  Speaking about the fascism of the Nazis, he states:

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.

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/martin-niemoeller-first-they-came-for-the-socialists.

Live well, my sons.  Live right.  I never promised you that life would be easy, only that you would find life rewarding if you lived well and helped others.

All my love, always,

Dad

P.S., I leave you with this thought.

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5 years, 8 months, and 2 days. Embrace the wisdom of our forefathers.

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If immersed in ink, you will be stained dark.  If bathed in light, you will be enlightened. — an ancient Vietnamese saying.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Dark days lie ahead.  I don’t know how this journey ends.  None of us do.

I want you to know that, in my life, I am guided by the wisdom of the ages.  Fads come and go.  But real knowledge has a way of sticking around.  For example, we still today immerse ourselves in the learnings of the ancient Greeks and Chinese philosophers, who lived thousands of years ago.  Why? It’s because those lessons have been tested in the crucible of time.

Today’s teachings are often lacks depth.  They are devoid of long-term wisdom.

For example, when I did research for my Honors Thesis on “Child Rearing Practices an Prosocial Development” for the Honors Program in Psychology in undergraduate, studies at the time and from earlier times state corporal punishment is one tool in the arsenal of tools parents must use to help raise altruistic and healthy children who will become contributing members of society.  In other words, measured spanking is but ONE tool among many.  It is a necessary tool because consequences and accountability are important parts of life.  Both the carrot and the stick are needed to encourage good behaviours and discourage bad ones.  (See, e.g., https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1655269.html, a court case which states it is not abuse, in the process of preventing their once-good child from joining a gang, for parents to use a wooden spoon to spank a child after trying all other forms of punishment.  Note also how the court took pains to enshrine in writing in footnotes and to make part of the record the lies told by CPS in its efforts to assert its power without any regards for the true interests of the child … that she stay on the good path and not go down the destructive path of gangs and violence.)

These days, the “wisdom” is for parents to not even yell at their kids, much less spank them.  See, e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/well/family/why-you-should-stop-yelling-at-your-kids.html.

Is that wise?  Does that solve the problem and help raise better and more well-adjusted kids?  No!  With horrible consequences, it only shifted the burden from parents and teachers disciplining kids to school police to do so.  Troubled behaviors that once would have resulted in admonishment in class, detention, conversations with parents, suspension, etc., now results in tazing, physical assaults, arrests, handcuffs, jail time, juvenile criminal records, etc.  See, e.g., https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/school-safety-students-police-abuse_us_5b746a4ce4b0df9b093b8d6a; https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/why-do-most-school-cops-have-no-student-training-requirements/414286/; https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/29/us/police-officers-in-schools.html; https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/police-in-schools-keeping-kids-safe-or-arresting-them-for-no-good-reason/2015/11/08/937ddfd0-816c-11e5-9afb-0c971f713d0c_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.006da1640595; http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-edu-aclu-report-20161017-snap-story.html.

 

No, my sons, think for yourselves, but use as guides the wisdom of the ancients.  For example, we are rediscovering the positives benefits of copper in medical treatment, something the ancients used to use before that practice fell out of favor for more modern pharmaceuticals.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-bacteria-fighting-super-element-making-a-return-to-hospitals-copper/2015/09/20/19251704-5beb-11e5-8e9e-dce8a2a2a679_story.html?utm_term=.16210f211e7a.

With the above said, let me share that I am guided by three adages, which capture relevant wisdom of the ancients.

(1) All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  This is your world and your community.  You have but one world.  Protect it.  Fight for good and fight against evil.  Be prone to action.  Words are cheap.  Everyday, you see people give lip service to what is good and right, but wouldn’t lift a finger to protect what is good and right.  Don’t be like them.  Be prone to action.  Remember Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Man in the Arena” speech.  It is noteworthy.  Remember, too, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

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(2) If immersed in ink, you will be stained dark.  If bathed in light, you will be enlightened.  Surround yourselves with good people, who will inspire you and help you aspire to be better. Work towards continuous incremental improvements, so that you will be better today than you were yesterday and better tomorrow than today.  We need more good people in the world: builders, problem solvers, helpers … those with good hearts and good intentions.  Surround yourselves with good peeps.

On the other hand, stay away from evil because it will drag you down to its level.  Your cousin on your mother’s side ignored the warnings and was caught in a car carrying drugs.  The police charged all the occupants of the vehicle with possession with the intent to sell.  He claimed he was just hanging out with friends and knew nothing of the drugs.  Regardless of the truth, the consequences were dire.  He now has a felony conviction and will forever by marked by that. 

Wrongful convictions are a major problems in the American justice system.  See, e.g., https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2018/09/10/report-wrongful-convictions-have-stolen-at-least-20000-years-from-innocent-defendants/?utm_term=.a643e396962d; https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cost-of-convicting-the-innocent/2015/07/24/260fc3a2-1aae-11e5-93b7-5eddc056ad8a_story.html; http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-texas-judge-20131109-story.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/magazine/she-was-convicted-of-killing-her-mother-prosecutors-withheld-the-evidence-that-would-have-freed-her.html; http://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/wrongfulconvictions/aboutus/; https://www.innocenceproject.org/.  It’s a reality.  Avoid putting yourselves from that situation if you can.  .

(3) A frog at the bottom of the well thinks the sky is only as big as the mouth of the well.  Learn and expand your horizons.  Read voraciously.  Engage with others, those who are good-hearted and who have good intentions.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You can learn something from everyone.”

Ignorance begets fear.  Don’t live in ignorance and fear.  Arm yourselves with knowledge.  Reserve judgement and try to see things from the other’s perspective.  Keep an open mind.  Give people a chance, but don’t waste your time on every sob story.  The world has 7.6 billion people.  You don’t have time to meet and measure everyone.  Use heuristics and rules of thumbs to help you more efficiently find the good.  For example, you are more likely to find the good among kids who volunteer to help the homeless, clean up the environment, or feed the hungry than among kids who hangs out at corners, smoking cigarettes or pot, who sneak out in the cover of darkness to tag walls and paint graffiti.  Not all of the kids in the latter group is bad, but your time is better spent interacting with kids in the good group and helping others.

One of my regrets is that I didn’t involve you when I volunteered to feed the hungry; build homes for the poor; help the disabled, the elderly, and the victims of domestic abuse; etc.  I wish I had.  Your mother doesn’t do those things so you have never seen such behavior modeled.  That is my failing. I am sorry.

Be well, my sons.  Learn from life and the wisdom of those who came before us.  Be good.  Be happy.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

5 years, 7 months, and 18 days. John McCain’s Rules for Living.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today, I want you to hear from a good man, Senator John McCain, who passed away recently.  Heed well his lessons for living, as recounted by his former staff member, John Raidt.

John McCain’s Rules for Living

He was a man of extraordinary conviction and character. This was his code.

The words came passionately and instinctively, drawn not so much from the man’s memory as from his spirit. It was 1984 and the quote was the answer delivered by freshman Rep. John McCain to the handful of constituents who had filtered into an Arizona community center for a townhall meeting.

McCain was replying to a constituent’s criticism about U.S. involvement abroad. I can’t recall whether the objection was to the United States’ support for democracy in a foreign land or the cost of U.S. relief from African famine. Both were topics at the townhalls that winter. In either case, as I was to learn, McCain’s answer would have come from the same core.

What I vividly remember as a young staffer – I would go on to serve with McCain for 16 years — was the respectful hush that fell over the small assembly, not just because of what he said, but the conviction with which he said it. It was clear, even to those who had come to scold him for holding positions they opposed, that McCain’s words were not the glib rejoinder of a politician. They expressed the passions of a leader with an authentic moral compass, someone who thought deeply about and sacrificed much for his ideals; and was to give much, much more. And they explain the man well.

Fulfilling the obligation to contest evil was John McCain’s life force. It was the source of his legendary, almost impossible, store of personal courage and energy, and the purpose of his public missions. He was a force of nature driven by a monumental sense of duty, an absolute faith in the morality of democracy, and an eagerness for the nation to lead in a needy world.

The list of evils against which he fought the good fight is long and well chronicled: from communism to violent extremism to tyranny of every mode. He fought human trafficking and other abominations of human rights. He dueled man’s inhumanity to man, including torture and the nation’s mistreatment of Native Americans. He tilted against a corrupt and corrosive national campaign finance system; congressional ineptitude and irresponsibility; waste and greed in the defense industry; the world’s uncontrolled experiment with the Earth’s atmosphere and climate system; and the public health scourge of tobacco.

Over his political career, the senator was called a conservative, a maverick, a rebel, a fighter, and a firebrand. He is, of course, each of these, and more.

***

I knew John McCain for 36 years, including the 16 I served on his staff. I would like to share some personal reflections and the key lessons from McCain’s life in politics and public service, including how they bear on the United States’ role in the world.

From the beginning, it was clear the McCain political philosophy was shaped by his reverence for the triad of human progress: individual rights, personal responsibility and public accountability. His credo is rooted in a profound respect for the dignity of the person as the basic unit of the commonwealth, and in the core conviction that moral and material prosperity are the product of free people, free markets and free enterprise, facilitated by government; not the other way around. His policies, programs and votes over the years flowed from these basic tenets. If he was a maverick, I think it’s because partisans on both sides of the spectrum are apt to treat the purposes of union and the American form of government spelled out in the Constitution’s preamble as a menu. McCain regarded them as a recipe.

McCain rejoiced in policy scrums that were opinionated, candid, and tough — seeing it as the spirited exercise of democracy; but he aspired for the political process to be fundamentally fair and worthy, understanding that democracy is a process not a war. This is why, to the chagrin of elements in his own party, he strongly supported minority rights and regular order in Congress.

McCain’s most profound legacy, however, will certainly be his character. Maybe over the years, in the heat of battle, he crossed the rhetorical line a time or two, but he never lost the boxer’s disdain for the low blow. His sense of fairness and countless acts of decency stood in stark contrast to the tribal, demoralizing character of Washington today. So, in that spirit, here are some of the key character-forming habits of mind and behavior I observed in McCain in the form of lessons learned — virtues we would hope for in all our nation’s leaders, and in ourselves.

***

Listen actively. McCain was always a listener, listening with as much intensity and presence as he replied. At hearings and in everyday conversations one could see his eyes boring in and his neck craned toward the witness to catch every word. He hungered to know what people thought and why, even when they disagreed with him, perhaps especially when they disagreed. His long love affair with townhall meetings was not so much the opportunity to address voters at scale; rather, it was so he could hear what others had to say. As a freshman congressman, hung on the wall overlooking the conference table in his district office was Norman Rockwell’s painting “Freedom of Speech.” The picture spoke volumes.

Learn avidly. McCain had an insatiable intellectual curiosity and worked hard at acquiring knowledge. He never presumed that wisdom accompanied an election certificate or seniority. I can’t remember a day when he wasn’t the first person in the office with a stack of newspapers piled on his lap, consuming them one by one. Nor do I ever recall when he wasn’t in the thrall of a good book. He regarded everyone he encountered as a learning opportunity, and would grow frustrated when expounding on issues more than learning about them.

Engage generously. McCain made eye contact with everyone, regardless of rank or stature. It wasn’t a tactic, but an innate inclination toward inclusiveness. To McCain, everyone mattered.

Care deeply and serve passionately. I’m not sure there is anyone in American politics who evinced more genuine passion about his or her ideals and missions. McCain’s career was a testament to the truth that nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without a deep, enthusiastic sense of purpose. He cared about people and his principles intensely, and it showed.

Work tirelessly. No one worked harder. During his first run for Congress, McCain wore holes in his shoes walking door to door. His wife, Cindy, had the shoes bronzed. For many years they stood beside his fireplace, not as a trophy but as a reminder that relentless hard work and persistence are the price of high achievement. McCain often quoted Winston Churchill’s counsel to “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up!” More importantly, he practiced it.

Think for yourself. McCain liked to assay truth for himself. He valued input and advice and respected general opinion, but he wanted to satisfy himself about the validity of any argument, cause, or position. He wanted to know something, not just hear it, and was open to arguments based on evidence and reason that countered his prevailing viewpoint.

Call it like you see it. “Straight talk” wasn’t a campaign slogan. It was an operating system. I saw it in countless interactions with constituents and colleagues. He said exactly what he thought, not what might be expedient or politic. His arguments, however, weren’t always meant to convince. Sometimes they were meant to elicit the counter-argument to test the merits of both.

Have courage in your conviction. McCain not only showed moral and intellectual courage in his public stances but also physical courage, putting himself in harm’s way. He traveled to countless zones of conflict and human suffering, from war fronts to refugee camps, standing with dissidents and putting something more on the line than a good speech. He didn’t just sympathize and stand up in the Senate for oppressed people; he stood with them, taking part in pro-democracy rallies in Ukraine, walking the streets of Baghdad, visiting with the displaced of Syria, and circuiting the mountains of Afghanistan.

Team energetically. The military culture in which McCain was raised inculcated the precept that nothing worth achieving can be accomplished alone. He regarded everyone’s role, no matter how small, to be essential. In the early years, he kept a practice of regularly visiting the office mailroom to keep up morale and reinforce the team ethic. And to him, a good idea was a good idea regardless of who had it. He encouraged creativity and entrepreneurship in his staff. His team ethic, however, never dulled a keen sense of personal accountability. Typically, whether in his official duties, political campaigns, or private matters, he would own failure while credit for success would be shared. In his company one heard “we” far more than “I.”

But he could be withering in his criticism, and perhaps no elected official was a harsher critic of his own institution – Congress – than McCain. His reproach sprang from a deep respect for the essential role of the legislative branch in a healthy democracy, and from a significant measure of fear about what congressional dysfunction portends for the country’s future.

Duty first. Other than on philosophical grounds, I am not sure one could perceive a discernible difference between the way McCain treated government witnesses representing Republican presidents than those under a Democrat. He was tough on the executive branch because that is part of the job — and when an administration wasn’t doing its duty, he said so, loudly.

Respect the process. Here’s how McCain thought Congress was supposed to work, in six steps: public introduction of a proposal, official public hearings, committee action, referral to full House and Senate for consideration, amendment, and up or down vote. The modern Congress has shelved this process in favor of an ad hoc system administered by the majority in which all too often major legislation is shaped in secret, sprung on the full body, barely read or understood, and, when approved, passed along mainly partisan lines. The practice assures the enactment of laws rife with unintended consequences while intensifying partisan animosity. It means that on major pieces of legislation nearly half of Congress and the public feel alienated and cheated. Moreover, it assures that when majorities flip, the new party in power repays the favor. This lack of “regular order” was a prime reason for McCain’s controversial vote against the Obamacare repeal. To have been the deciding vote in concert with one’s party to erase the centerpiece accomplishment of the individual who defeated you in a presidential election would have been all too tempting for a typical politician. Not McCain. He cared deeply about process, because to him, it was essential to democracy.

Protect the minority. The United States is an experiment in self-government, rule of law, and the protection of basic human freedom and rights. Among them are the rights of minorities, including political minorities. For many years, McCain served in the minority party and when that flipped, he didn’t forget what it was like. He stood up to ensure that the minority party is afforded the right to view, amend, and be consulted on legislation and policy. In the committees he chaired, he tried diligently to protect the due prerogatives of all members regardless of party. It wasn’t always just a gesture of fairness: He recognized that political winds change, and that as the national political pendulum swings, parties will inevitably be required to labor in the minority under the same standards and practices of treatment they imposed while in power.

Engage the opposition. McCain didn’t hide from anyone. On the contrary, he engaged his political adversaries. He would take meetings that many other elected officials wouldn’t consider. Rather than sneaking in and out of back doors, he was known to invite protesters into his office to discuss their grievances. During the Cold War he was happy to meet with Nuclear Freeze groups. While they agreed on very little, the senator respected their intentions and activism. Even if the meeting didn’t forge consensus, it established mutual understanding and respectful give and take.

As a congressman, McCain was the beneficiary of the friendship and inclusion shown him by Morris Udall, a beloved Arizona Democrat who for many years chaired the House Interior Committee. Udall could have easily ignored McCain, a junior member of the other party, but went out of his way to take him under his wing. He had no reason to do it other than common decency. McCain never forgot the kindness shown to him. As he rose in seniority and came to majority power he tried to pay the example forward. He extended his hand of friendship and partnership to young liberals like Russ Feingold and Paul Wellstone, and over the years maintained tight friendships with many Democrats, including Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy and Sheldon Whitehouse.

As electoral politics grow increasingly tribal, driving party bases to donor envelopes and the voting booth, respectful cross-aisle friendships and collaboration are becoming rarer in Washington. This miserable trend overlooks that Americans, including the parties, have far more in common than not. The animus is destroying Congress and the middle ground essential for principled compromise that remains the heart and soul of democratic governance.

Take risks. McCain was a political risk taker. He respected the duty of an elected official to represent but also felt an obligation to lead, unafraid to expend his capital on politically risky but important initiatives. As a newly elected Reagan Republican, he opposed Ronald Reagan’s deployment of Marines to Lebanon. He risked the wrath of his party in championing campaign finance reform. He wasn’t afraid to offend Arizona’s power and water interests in altering dam operations on the Colorado River to protect Grand Canyon National Park or stand up to the state’s cattle and mining industry in helping put 3.5 million acres of Arizona under wilderness protection. He didn’t shrink from upsetting powerful commercial interests at home by championing Native American rights, including water entitlements; or in key primary states, by sticking to his opposition to ethanol subsidies so dear to the corn growers of Iowa and to his advocacy for anti-smoking controls despite the power of tobacco farmers in South Carolina.

In taking controversial stands during his White House runs he stated, “I would rather be right than president.” McCain firmly believed that if you did the right thing for the right reasons the electorate would support you. It did in two House elections and six Senate campaigns. When it didn’t in two presidential races, he could move on undiminished, honor intact. The point is that without political risk takers on both sides of the aisle, very little can be achieved across it.

Clean up the role of money in politics. Nothing offended McCain more than the appearance that Congress is bought and paid for by special interests. He felt this most acutely in the aftermath of the Keating Five corruption scandal in which he was embroiled, but the conviction only increased as he came to appreciate the intensity of the public’s cynicism about the system. Public trust is a fragile but essential component of democracy. Without limits on the time elected officials spend fundraising and the amount that a special interest can spend to influence races, the alienation between the elected and the electorate will only grow wider — all to the delight of foreign powers seeking to destroy our form of government from within.

Honor the office. McCain felt keenly that positions of elected leadership are not about the occupant. It’s the office that counts — or, as he put it, “the opportunity to do something rather than be somebody.” Every elected position is a trust that comes with the heavy weight of history and responsibility to the future. As important as the president of the United States may be, the office of the president of the United States is what really matters.

Curate freedom’s comparative advantage. His friend, the Irish rock star Bono, observed that the United States is not just a place but an idea. McCain agreed. Throughout his career, he devoted himself to protecting the idea, including for 25 years as chairman of the International Republican Institute, a component of the National Endowment for Democracy. And as a national political leader, he sought to ensure that the United States remains a just and worthy custodian of the idea. For many years, freedom lovers across the world looked to McCain for leadership and support. They drew strength from his mission to ensure that the United States remains a bulwark of liberty for those who have it and a beacon of hope for those who don’t.

America’s economic and military power are, first and foremost, the product of the country’s values and ideals. They are the foundation for everything that makes the United States exceptional and influential. Over the years, McCain routinely admonished friends and allies that “what separates us from our adversaries is our respect for human rights.” Should we forget that, the American sunset as a nation of good and great influence and consequence will be nearer than its dawn.

Lead from the front. I’m not sure anything was as offensive or antithetical to John as the notion of the United States leading from behind. Leading from the front doesn’t mean that the United States must own every global problem. McCain was always zealous for friends and allies to pull their weight. But, leadership means leadership. It can’t be sustained passively from the loge section of world events.

Peace through strength. McCain’s career-long commitment to strong armed services was not the product of an affinity for conflict. On the contrary, knowing firsthand the cost of war, he had a unique understanding and loathing of its horrors. His conviction that national defense must be generously but prudently funded, was informed by the bitterly learned lessons of history that tyrants only understand strength, and that remaining vigilant and strong is the price of sustaining peace, security, and freedom.

Defense of democratic values is a team sport. McCain understood the need for tightly knit international cooperation and strong alliances to sustain peace and defend liberal democracy, freedom, the rule of law and human rights. He was a faithful participant in the annual Munich Security Conference, a 55-year-old institution that brings together the international security community devoted to addressing the world’s most pressing security concerns, and building peace through dialogue.

At its annual conference last February, McCain received an award for his contribution to transatlantic relations. The acceptance letter was read by his wife Cindy. “We come to Munich,” he wrote, “because we want to live in a world where truth transcends falsehood, sovereignty triumphs over subjugation, justice reigns over oppression, freedom overcomes tyranny, where power is transformed into legitimacy, and the fate of people and nations is determined by the rule of law, not the whim of rulers. We come to Munich because we know—and we can never afford to forget—that the alternative to a world ordered by these values is a dark and cruel place, where laws, and rules, and rights count for nothing, and selfish, brute force trumps all.”

In its coda, he issued this challenge to NATO allies and all friends in the cause of human advancement: “I am counting on all of you, my friends, to honor the precious, beautiful things that are still entrusted to our care. I am counting on you to be brave. I am counting on you to be useful. I am counting on you to keep the faith, and never give up—though the true radiance of our world may at times seem obscured, though we will suffer adversity and setbacks and misfortune—never, ever stop fighting for all that is good, and just, and decent about our world, and each other.”

Candor with allies and adversaries. McCain believed the dynamics of relations between nations are not so different than those between individuals. Regular communication and respectful candor is as much a prerequisite for maintaining strong and enduring relationships among allies as it is among friends and family. As heads of state and ministers across the globe can attest, McCain was nothing if not communicative and candid. And in dealing with foes, personal or geopolitical, he invested in the belief that straight talk reduces room for misunderstanding and miscalculation, while decreasing the opportunity for problems to fester.

Modernize our strategies, alliances and forms of global engagement. Times evolve rapidly, and along with them so do global threats, allies and adversaries. McCain spent a career trying to help the country stay on top of change, modernizing the United States’ capability to stay strong, safe, and able to advance the nation’s interests and values. But he also argued that 21st century security is not defined solely by military capabilities. Peace, stability, and winning the ideological war against autocracy demands we work to improve the quality of lives in vulnerable parts of the world. This requires engagement with a broader toolkit (both civilian and military), not the erection of physical walls and trade barriers behind which the United States retreats from the world, only to have the world come knocking at our door — or looking to kick it down.

Know your history. McCain came of age when mankind was forced to overcome the basest evil through enormous sacrifice, vigilance and determination. He was a child of the World War II generation that faced down global fascism. He served in the Cold War, both in uniform and in Congress, against a communist ideology that posed an existential threat to human liberty.

In the aftermath of war, hot and cold, American leaders established alliances and institutions to defend freedom and keep the peace, including by promoting human development. As a result, mankind has experienced exponential increases in prosperity and well-being. The further these conflicts fade into history, McCain feared, the greater the risk the lessons of history will be lost. If so, one fears that coming generations will be forced to relearn them at an unspeakable cost.

***

There is a virtue unaddressed above that I thought would be best saved for last because I think it may be the most powerful bequest: sincere gratitude. Next to love, it is the most redeeming of human emotions. Even in the final terribly challenging days of his life, McCain didn’t talk about personal hurts, regrets, or disappointments as so many people dwell on. By his own account, he was occupied with simple and genuine gratitude for the people, experiences and causes that have filled his meaningful life.

So, to a great man who tried to do something: Thank you.

5 years, and 3 months. You can do well by doing good. Strive to do good well.

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My dearest and most precious sons, Shosh and Jailai:

You often hear it said that the good guy always loses.  I beg to differ.

Although the bad guy — who is willing to lie, cheat, and steal — may get ahead in the short run by skirting the law and morality, he/she loses in the long run.  First, note recent reports of the downfall of the mighty, e.g., Samsung’s chief and heir face prison time for their corrupt practices, a former president of South Korea has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for corruption, and a former president of Brazil has been sentence to 12 years in prison for corruption.  Crime catches up with you partly because you make enemies.  That leads to my second point: bad guys live in constant fear of being exposed or on the receiving end of their misdeeds.  A thief, for example, fears being discovered and thinks everyone is out to get him.  Thus, he must constantly be on guard and trusts few .  Is that a good way to live?  Are those the makings of a good life?  No.

You can do well by doing good in the world, by helping to make the world a better place.  For example, at a time when computing was limited to the few, Steve Job envisioned a world where there is a computer in every home and that technology is accessible to all.  As a result of his efforts, most homes today have one or more computers.  At the time of his death, Mr. Job’s net worth was $10.2 billion.  https://www.investopedia.com/university/steve-jobs-biography/steve-jobs-net-worth.asp.  He did well by doing good, wouldn’t you say?  (Now, reports are that Steve Job is not the easiest man to get along with and has his own issues.  But, who among us is perfect?  Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Acknowledge his contributions to the world, but hold him accountable for his less stellar aspects as appropriate.)

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The undergirding of today’s lesson is the same fundamental lessons I’ve always harped on:  be you but be the best you can be, and try to leave your corner of the world a little bit better than when you first found it.  I leave you with another wise word from one of my favorite people.

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Go forth, do good, and do well.  Live a purposeful life.  Happiness lies therein.

All my love, always,

Dad

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

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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,

Dad

 

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.

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/10-traits-likeable-people.html

 

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.

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2014/12/10/the-top-10-skills-you-need-to-be-successful

 

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.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201401/why-leaders-need-be-likeable-rather-dominating

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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,

Dad