5 years, 1 month, and 27 days. Avoid regrets — think critically and act boldly.



How to Avoid Regret!

What we can learn from people who have faced death
 Posted Feb 09, 2013

In 2003 the New Yorker magazine published an article entitled “A Letter from California” about the suicide capital of the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, in San francisco. At that time the reported statistic was that someone leapt to their death from the bridge every two weeks. Among the most most memorable features of the piece– indeed, it is easy for me to recall a decade later– is a passage about the small percentage of people who survive the jump from the bridge. The author of the article asserts that instant regret is a common experience among those who jump to their deaths only to later survive. One young man, for example, was quoted as saying ” I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable– except for having just jumped.” This is a powerful testament to the idea that life is largely what we make of it and that our moment to moment perceptions can have a strong impact on our decisions, behavior and relationships.

Never is this more true than in the case of regret. Regret happens when we feel we have “mis-lived.” That is, when we feel that we have made mistakes from which we cannot recover or which we cannot undo. All of us harbor some form of regret. Sometimes they are small, such as wishing you would have attended a dinner party. Other times they are large, such as wishing you had never invested in a certain company or gotten married.

Recently, a hospice nurse in Australia cataloged the common regrets of the dying patients with whom she worked. The two top regrets are interesting and fundamentally relatable. First, people generally wished they had had the courage to live a more authentic life. They looked back on life and realized the many occasions in which they had capitulated to external pressure. They wished they would have taken a few more opportunities to follow their own hearts. The second regret on the list was “I wish I wouldn’t have worked so hard.” In a world where success is often measured by what we do and how well we do it the blur between job and identity appears not to be fulfilling in the long-run. If deathbed wisdom is any guide than people would prefer, at least in retrospect, to have taken off a few more Fridays and spent a bit more time with friends and family.

When you think about your life you likely have regrets large and small. Instead of dwelling on them here consider what you might do to avoid them in the first place. Are you willing to take a sick or vacation day to spend time with those you care about? Are you willing to take it a little easier at work this week? Are you willing to say no to someone else or take the risk to pursue a private passion? Take bold action now to avoid regret later.

Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener is fascinated by the way people avoid the difficult aspects of human psychology despite their benefits. He has written about these topics in his new book, co-authored with Dr. Todd Kashdan: The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why being your whole self—not just your “good” self—drives success and fulfillment. It is available from Amazon , Barnes & Noble , Booksamillion , Powell’s or Indie Bound.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/significant-results/201302/how-avoid-regret (emphasis added)

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

In the post-Jaialai birthday moment, I am filled with regrets.  Would our circumstances have been different had I not followed your mother and returned to racist Oregon and the suburb of the place known as one of the most racist cities in the U.S.? See, e.g., https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/racist-history-portland/492035/; https://gizmodo.com/oregon-was-founded-as-a-racist-utopia-1539567040; https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/31/portland-white-supremacy-racism-train-stabbing-murder; http://www.oregonmag.net/OregonRacismTrib.html; https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/07/northwest-front-americas-worst-racists-119803; http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2015/07/oregon_history_of_racism.html; https://www.cbsnews.com/news/portland-race-against-the-past-white-supremacy/; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/06/07/when-portland-banned-blacks-oregons-shameful-history-as-an-all-white-state/?utm_term=.25ae7756d407; etc.

We all have regrets.  (Only liars and those who fail to live an examined life would deny them.)  As stated above, regrets are moments of life mis-lived — moments you wish you would had experienced differently based on YOUR choice of action at the time.

Some regrets are unavoidable, to some extent.  For example, as played out in the news recently, the Bachelor experienced regrets about who he chose and took bold actions to rectify the situation before it was too late.  https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/03/06/the-bachelor-after-the-final-rose-what-went-down-after-mondays-debacle/.  (We fault the man not for his bold action but for his lack humanity in handling the break up with the woman he regretted proposing to.)  The heart does as it wishes.  We love who we love without rhyme or reason.  But, the head and the body need not (and should not) heedlessly follow the romantic and mercurial heart on its misadventures.  Humanity, morality, responsibility, etc., often serve to restrain the desires of the heart.  This dynamics often sets up the inevitable conflict and results in regret.

Aside from matters of the heart, other regrets are often avoidable IF, at that moment in time, we think critically, broadly, and clearly through the issues and choose bold actions, if appropriate, instead of giving into fear and timidity.  Let’s look at each component of my assertion.

First, critical, broad, and clear thinking is necessary to avoid most regrets.  Why?  Too often, regret results from rushed decisions (fools rush in, remember?) or poor decisions based on imperfect analysis or data.  A common error, especially for decisions made during the heat of the moment, is that we analyze things too narrowly in terms of time as a dimension or in terms of other relevant factors.  For example, during the heat of the moment, we often erroneously think the issue confronting us will last forever or for a long time.  Then, too often, we further exacerbate poor analysis with poor data: we fail think through the matters sufficiently to understand fully what data is necessary and, as a result, we fail to gather all the necessary and relevant data from relevant stakeholders before making our decision.  In hindsight, we often regret these decisions for having failed to think through the problem more clearly and broadly.

Second, containing our emotions is also necessary to avoid most regrets.  Beware, emotions  — both positive and negative — can overwhelm and blind us to reality.  Thus, it’s best to give time for emotions to subside to avoid making rash decisions.

Let me give you an example of how joyful emotions could lead us to make foolish decisions that could haunt us for life.

IN 2010 at a mate’s party, strapping 19-year-old rugby player Sam Ballard swallowed a garden slug as a dare.

A group of young friends was sitting around at a table drinking red wine when a slug was produced and one of them said: “Eat it, I dare you”.

Sam swallowed the slug.

Prior to this, Ballard’s mother Katie had thought her son as a “larrikin” but “invincible”, that nothing could ever happen to him.

She described him as “my rough-and-tumble Sam”.

But the teenager’s life was to take a devastating turn.

Sam, from Sydney’s north shore, fell ill and was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital where he was diagnosed as having been infected with rat lungworm.

The worm is found in rodents, but snails or slugs can become infected when they eat the faeces of rats with the parasite, known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis.

Sam Ballard was a cheeky ‘larrikin’ before the devastating effects of the infection from a garden slug.

Sam Ballard was a cheeky ‘larrikin’ before the devastating effects of the infection from a garden slug.Source:Supplied

Sam (above, with mother Katie) now needs 24/7 care and his family are in debt after the NDIS slashed funding.

Sam (above, with mother Katie) now needs 24/7 care and his family are in debt after the NDIS slashed funding.Source:News Corp Australia

While most people develop no symptoms, very rarely it causes an infection of the brain.

Sam contracted eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis, which many people recover from and which Sam initially seemed to be rallying.

But he then lapsed into a coma for 420 days and became a quadriplegic.


We’ve all been there.  We’re having fun with friends, and in the heat of the moment, someone suggests a stupid idea.  Unfortunately, often, in the heady moment of euphoria the idea doesn’t sound so stupid, and someone ends up getting hurt by it.

Stop.  Think.  Don’t allow emotions to cloud your judgement.

If fear of failure, of looking stupid, etc., or another negative emotion holds you back from doing what your head tells you is the best decision, be bold.  The moment of absolute certainty never arrives.  If you’ve engaged in the appropriate analysis and have made the best decision possible under the circumstances, believe in yourself and boldly embrace your decision.  If you fail, so what?  Learn and do better next time.

Now let me give you the clearest example of how fear and short-sighted thinking beget regrets: suicides.

[O]ne of the saddest realities about suicide is that it often results from impulsive decisions that might have never occurred again if the person had survived or backed out.

Anywhere from one-third to 80% of all suicide attempts are impulsive acts, according to The New England Journal of Medicine. 24% of those who made near-lethal suicide attempts decided to kill themselves less than five minutes before the attempt, and 70% made the decision within an hour of the attempt.

Suicidal urges are sometimes caused by immediate stressors, such as a break-up or job loss, that go away with the passage of time. 90% of people who survive suicide attempts, including the most lethal types like shooting one’s self in the head, don’t end up killing themselves later. That statistic reflects the “temporary nature and fleeting sway of many suicidal crises,” reports The New England Journal of Medicine.



Survivors often regret their decision in midair, if not before. Ken Baldwin and Kevin Hines both say they hurdled over the railing, afraid that if they stood on the chord they might lose their courage. Baldwin was twenty-eight and severely depressed on the August day in 1985 when he told his wife not to expect him home till late….  As he crossed the chord in flight, Baldwin recalls, I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped. ….

When Paul Alarab was pulled from the Bay at 11:34 a.m., he was unconscious and badly bruised. The impact had ripped off his left glove and his right shoe. The Coast Guard crew, wearing their standard jumper-retrieval garb to protect against leaking body fluids—Tyvex biohazard suits, masks, gloves, and safety goggles—began C.P.R. Half an hour later, Alarab was pronounced dead. Gary Tindel, the assistant coroner of Marin County, who examined the body on the dock at Fort Baker, at the north end of the bridge, observed that “massive bleeding had occurred in both ears, along with apparent grayish brain matter in and around the right ear.” Tindel brought Alarab’s … cell phone back to the coroner’s office in San Rafael. Soon afterward, the cell phone rang. It was Alarab’s ex-wife, Rubina Coton: their nine-year-old son had been waiting more than two hours at school for his father to pick him up.

“May I speak with Paul?” Coton asked.

“I’m sorry,” Tindel said. “You can’t.”


In other words, a break up, a job loss, or crisis point often triggered fears about the overwhelming nature of life AT THAT MOMENT and caused people to make rash decisions without thinking broadly about how that moment will pass, how other people would be adversely affected by the person’s bad decision, etc.  If they had taken time to let their emotions and fears subside so that they could think more clearly and broadly about the problems confronting them, they would realize that the problems are often solvable and that the crisis will pass.  As with Ken Baldwin, the one regret that most of those who survived suicide attempts has is the suicide itself:  they realized the only problem they could not fix was their death — all their other problems were fixable or tolerable.


No one promised you that life would be easy.  If they did, they lied.  Life isn’t easy.  It has its beautiful moments that could bring boundless joy.  But, it also has dark moments that could bring deep despair.  Both are part of life.  What you do during those moments matter.  Enjoy the beauty and wait out the despair for both will pass.  Cling to neither.  https://www.thoughtco.com/life-is-suffering-what-does-that-mean-450094.

When faced with challenges, I am often reminded of the Serenity Prayer.


For a discussion about the teachings of the Serenity Prayer, see https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/18/serenity-prayer-wisdom_n_4965139.html.

I grew up Catholic, and you boys were baptized as Catholic.  Regardless of whether your mom brings you to church service regularly, let the teachings of the Catholic traditions help guide you.  There is wisdom there.  The Church is animated by men, and men are not infallible.  For example, vanity once ruled the Roman Catholic Church and three separate popes vied for power at the same time.  See, e.g., https://www.britannica.com/event/Western-Schism.  You may not agree 100% with all of the Church’s teachings, but don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.  Accept the good.

After you boys were wrongly taken from me, I struggled to find meaning for life.  After having spent years of my life helping the homeless, the poor, the elderly, the infirm, the refugees, the victims of domestic violence, etc., I couldn’t understand how racist thugs could collaborate with a known pedophile to frame Ms. L and me to place her son with the pedophile.  Racist thugs physically assaulted Ms. L, a slight woman of 100 lbs., and sent her to the emergency room.  They illegally seized confidential documents that were clearly marked “Confidential and Subject to Attorney-Client Privilege” that any court would forbid.  How could these systems I’ve spent years supporting failed us so drastically?

The first place where Ms. L and I found refuge sat next to a huge and open construction site.  Metal bars grew out of those massive pits.  Not a day passed where one or both of us didn’t think about jumping from the highest point we could find and impaling ourselves onto those metal stakes.

Three things stopped us.  The first was our children.  Kids who lose a parent to suicide are more likely to commit suicide.  Thus, suicide couldn’t be the legacy we leave for you kids.  The second was each other.  You boys have your mother, but we had no one but each other.  The thugs threatened and harassed everyone dear to us.  The third was hope: we would fight, clear our names, and get you back.  Thus, we live to fight another day, and we do not regret that decision.

Be strong, my sons.  We fight for you, and will continue to do so.  It took me more than five years to expose the Enron of Healthcare, who defrauded the sick and dying out of the health care for which the latter have paid.  Five years where we struggled because I lost my job when I blew the whistle against the corrupt.  This struggle is greater.

All my love, always


P.S., I leave you with another article that you may find informative.

The 25 Biggest Regrets In Life. What Are Yours?

We are all busy. Life happens. There’s always something to distract us from getting around to certain things we know we should do.

Soccer practice.  Work. Home renovations. Getting that next big promotion.

And with the explosion of always-on smartphones and tablets delivering a fire hose of urgent emails, not to mention Twitter and Facebook (FB), in recent years, things have only gotten busier.

In the backs of our minds, we know we’re neglecting some stuff we should do. But we never get around to it.

Then, something happens.  A good friend or loved one – maybe close to us in age – drops dead unexpectedly.  We begin to think about what our biggest regrets would be if we were suddenly sitting on our death bed.

 Here is a list of the 25 biggest ones we’ll probably have.

The question is, are you going to change anything this afternoon or tomorrow in light of this list?  Or are you going to go back to your busy life?

 1. Working so much at the expense of family and friendships.  How do you balance meeting that short-term deadline at work and sitting down for dinner with your family?  It’s tough.  There are always worries. “What will my boss and co-workers think? It’s not a big deal if I stay late this one time.  I’ll make it up with the family this weekend.”  But the “making up” never seems to happen.  Days turn to months and then years and then decades.

2. Standing up to bullies in school and in life.  Believe it or not, a lot of our biggest regrets in life have to do with things that happened to us in grade 4 or some other early age. We never seem to forget – or forgive ourselves – for not speaking up against the bullies.  We were too scared. We wish we had been more confident.  And by the way most of us have also met up with a bully in our work life.  Maybe he was our boss.  We remember that one time we wish we’d told him off – even if it cost us our job.  We usually take some small solace in hearing that that bully later on made some unfortunate career stumble.

3. Stayed in touch with some good friends from my childhood and youth.  There’s usually one childhood or high school friend who we were best buddies with.  Then, one of us moved away.  We might have stayed in touch at first but then got busy.  Sometimes, we thought to pick up the phone, but maybe we don’t have their number or email any more.  We always wonder what it would be like to sit down with them again for a coffee.

4. Turned off my phone more/Left my phone at home.  Many of us can’t get off our phone/email addiction.  We sleep with it next to us. We carry it with us constantly. It’s right next to us in the shower, just in case we see a new email icon light up through the steamed up shower glass.  We know constantly checking email and Twitter in the evenings and on weekends takes us away from quality time with family and friends. Yet, we don’t stop.

5. Breaking up with my true love/Getting dumped by them.  Romance is a big area of regret for most of us.  Maybe we dumped someone that we wish we hadn’t. Maybe they dumped us.  Most play a never-ending game of “what might have been” for the rest of their lives.  It is tough to simply be happy with the love that you’ve found and takes away from the special moments you have today, if you’re constantly thinking back to what you once had — which actually might not have been half as good as we think it was.

6. Worrying about what others thought about me so much.  Most of us place way too much importance on what other people around us think about us.  How will they judge us?  In the moment, we think their opinions are crucial to our future success and happiness.  On our death beds, none of that matters.

7. Not having enough confidence in myself.  Related to the previous point, a big regret for most of us is questioning why we had such little confidence in ourselves.  Why did we allow the concerns of others to weigh so heavy on us instead of trusting our own beliefs?  Maybe we didn’t think we were worth having what we wanted.  Maybe we just thought poorly of ourselves.  Later on, we wish we could have been more self-confident.

8. Living the life that my parents wanted me to live instead of the one I wanted to.  Related to that lack of confidence, a lot of us get sucked into living the life that we think a good son or daughter should live.  Whether because we’re explicitly told or just because we unconsciously adopt it, we make key life choices – about where to go to school, what to study, and where to work — because we think it’s what will make our parents happy.  Our happiness is derived through their happiness – or so we think. It’s only later – 1o or 20 years on – where we discover that friends around us are dying and we’re not really doing what we want to do.  A panic can start to set in.  Whose life am I living any way?

9. Applying for that “dream job” I always wanted.  Maybe we didn’t apply for that job we always wanted to because of a child, or because our spouse didn’t want to move cities.  It might not have been the perfect job for us, but we always regret not trying out for it.  Do you think Katie Couric regrets giving the nightly news gig a shot?  No way. Sometimes you swing and you miss, but you have no regrets later on.

 10. Been happier more. Not taken life so seriously.  Seems strange to say, but most of us don’t know how to have fun.  We’re way too serious.  We don’t find the humor in life.  We don’t joke around.  We don’t think we’re funny.  So, we go through life very serious.  We miss out on half (or maybe all) the fun in life that way.  Do something a little silly today. Crack a joke with the bus driver – even if he ends up looking at you weird.  Do a little dance.  You’ll probably smile, on the inside if not the outside.  Now keep doing that, day after day.
 11. Gone on more trips with the family/friends.  Most folks stay close to home. They don’t travel all that much.  Yet, big trips with friends and family – to Disney World, to Paris, or even to the lake – are the stuff that memories are made of later in life.  We’re all thrown in to some new unfamiliar situation together.  We’ve got to figure it out as a group – and it’s fun, even when it rains.  We really remember trips.

12. Letting my marriage break down.  Back to romance now. More people will divorce than stay together.  If you ask these folks, they’ll tell you that it was for the best. They couldn’t take it any more.  And, of course, there are some marriages that shouldn’t go on and where divorce is the best for all parties involved.  However, if you talk to many people privately, they’ll tell you they regret their marriage breaking up.  It’s never just one thing that ends a marriage – even if that one thing is infidelity. There are usually lots of signs and problems leading up to that.  The regrets most of us have is that we didn’t correct some or most of those “little things” along the way.  We can’t control our spouse but we can control our actions and we know – deep down – we could have done more.

13. Taught my kids to do stuff more.  Kids love their parents, but they love doing stuff with their parents even more.  And it doesn’t have to be a vacation at the Four Seasons.  It could be raking leaves, learning how to throw a football, or cleaning up a play room together.  We learned all the little habits that we take for granted in our own behavior from mimicking our parents.  If we’re not making the time to do stuff with our kids, we’re robbing them of the chance to mimic us.

14. Burying the hatchet with a family member or old friend.  I know family members that haven’t talked to a brother or sister for 30 years.  One’s in bad health and will probably die soon.  But neither he nor the other brother will make an effort.  They’ve both written each other off.  And there’s blame on both sides – although I take one’s side more.  But these were two guys that were inseparable as kids. They got washed in a bucket in their parents’ kitchen sink together.  Now, neither one will make a move to improve things because they think they’ve tried and the other one is too stubborn.  They think they’ve done all they can and washed their hands of the relationship. They’ll regret that when one of them is no longer around.

15. Trusting that voice in the back of my head more. Whether it’s as simple as taking a job we weren’t really thrilled about or as complex of being the victim of some crime, most of us have had the experience of a little voice in the back of our heads warning us that something was wrong here.  A lot of times, we override that voice. We think that we know best.  We do a matrix before taking that job and figure out a way to prove to ourselves that, analytically, this makes sense. Most of the time, we learn later that voice was dead right.

16. Not asking that girl/boy out. Nerves get the best of us – especially when we’re young.  We can forgive ourselves that we didn’t screw up enough courage to ask that boy or girl out on a date or to the prom.  But that doesn’t mean that we still won’t think about it decades later.  Sometimes people regret seeing someone famous or well-known in real life and not going up to them and telling them how much they inspired them in our lives.  It’s the same underlying fear.  We always we could have just said what we really felt at that moment.

17. Getting involved with the wrong group of friends when I was younger.  We do dumb stuff when we’re young.  We’re impressionable.  We make friends with the wrong crowd, except we don’t think there’s anything wrong with them.  They’re our friends and maybe the only people we think that truly understand us.  However, we can really get sidetracked by hooking up with this group.  Sometimes it leads to drugs or serious crimes.  We never start out thinking our choice of friends could lead us to such a difficult outcome.

18. Not getting that degree (high school or college).  I’ve spoken with lots of folks who didn’t graduate with a high school or college degree.   When I met them, they were already well-known at their job.  And there are many examples I can think of where their jobs were very senior and they were very well-respected. However, if the education topic ever came up in private conversation, almost universally, you could tell they regretted not getting their degree.  It made them insecure, almost like they worried they were going to be “found out.”  Most of these folks will never go back to get it now.  Whether they do or not, they’re great at what they do and don’t need to feel bad about not having that piece of paper.

19. Choosing the practical job over the one I really wanted. I was watching CNBC the other day and one finance guy was being asked for advice on what college kids should major in today. He said: “It sounds corny but they’ve got to do what they love.” He’s right. Of course, as a country, we need more engineers, scientists, and other “hard” science folks.  But, at the end of the day, you’ve got to live your life, not the government’s.  There are many who think they need to take a “consulting job” to build up their experience before settling in to a job they love.  Although there are many roads that lead to Rome, you’re probably better off just starting immediately in the area that you love.

20. Spending more time with the kids.  I had an old mentor who used to tell me, “when it comes to parenting, it’s not quality of time that’s important, it’s quantity of time.”  When we get so busy at work, we comfort ourselves knowing that we’re going to stay late at the office again with the idea that we’ll make it up by taking our son to a ballgame on the weekend.  As long as I spend some quality time with him, we think, it will all balance out.  It probably won’t.  There are lots of busy executives who take control of their schedules in order to either be at home for dinners more or be at those special school events with the kids.  Kids do remember that.

21. Not taking care of my health when I had the chance.  Everyone doesn’t think of their health – until there’s a problem.  And at that point, we promise ourselves if we get better we’ll do a better job with our health. It shouldn’t take a major calamity to get us to prioritize our health and diet.  Small habits every day make a big difference here over time.

22. Not having the courage to get up and talk at a funeral or important event.  I remember at an old Dale Carnegie class I attended, they told us more people were afraid of public speaking than dying.  They’d rather die than give a speech apparently.  Yet, when you’re close to death, you’re probably going to wish you’d gotten over those fears on at least a few occasions, but especially at a loved one’s funeral or some important event like a wedding.

23. Not visiting a dying friend before he died. I had a buddy I went to high school with who died 3 years ago.  He was in his late 30s with a great wife and 3 great boys.  He had cancer for the last 3 years of his life. We’d talked off and on over that time. Two months before he died, he called me and asked if I could come by to visit. I was in the process of moving and too busy with my own family.  I said I’d come soon.  A month later, it was clear he had days to live.  I rushed to the hospital and did get to visit at his bedside before he passed, but he was a different guy from the one I’d spoken to only a month earlier on the phone. He was just hanging on. We hadn’t been best friends and we hadn’t seen much of each other since high school, but I know I’ll always regret not going to visit him earlier when I’d had the chance.  What I’d give to have one last regular chat with him.

24. Learning another language. A lot of us travel a lot. Fewer still have studied a second language. And this is a big regret down the road for many of us, even though it might seem like a small thing next to family, career, and romance.  A lot of us wish we’d made the time to learn a new language to open up a whole new culture to us.

25. Being a better father or mother.  There’s no bigger legacy than our children.  Often, they turn out great.  When our kids struggle though, there’s nothing bigger than makes us feel guilty.  Yet, when they start showing signs of problems – with school, or friends, or otherwise — there’s often been many years that have passed in which we could have and probably should have been spending more time with them.  No situation is ever lost though.  There is always time to improve our relationships with our kids.  But, it can’t wait another day, especially if it’s a relationship that’s been neglected for years.

We can all relate to most of these regrets. We can’t change the past, so this list isn’t meant for you to start a pity party.

The question is what are we going to do with the rest of our lives to ensure we don’t experience any of these regrets later on when we’re in the hospital preparing to say goodbye.

If you have some regrets you’d like to share, please leave them below in the comments for all to read.  I’ll call them all out.



5 years, 1 month, and 23 days. Home is where the heart is.




My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  They’re wrong.  While that may be true for some, most of us are aware of the good things going on in our lives but are often too busy to be fully present to enjoy them.  Further, we often assume those things will always be there.  We are wrong.

Life if fickle.  Control is illusory.  We think we are the masters of our fate and we are in control of our lives, but we are foolish.  Life happens.  It happens how and when it wants.  In a heartbeat, a fire could burn down everything you have worked your entire life to build,


a hurricane could reduce to rubles everything you cherished,


an inhumane creature could take your life or the lives of your loved ones.


You have but to look at our own circumstances to see the point.  I have spent chunks of my life helping others — tutoring kids; helping the elderly with groceries; prepare food for the poor; researching and writing a policy to prevent the homeless from freezing to death during inclement weather, and volunteering at that emergency shelter; providing free legal services to refugees and asylum seekers; providing free legal services to victims of domestic violence; etc.  Never in a million years could I imagine that racist thugs would collaborate with a known pedophile to harm us.

Because you never know when something near and dear to you will be taken from you, be present as much as you can each and every day to soak in all that goodness.  Don’t buy into the illusion that you’ll always have what you currently have.

Embrace your brother.  Watch over each other.  Take care of each other.  Each of you is worth more than your weight in diamonds and gold.  I would give all the wealth in the world to be with you now….

All my love, always,


P.S., I leave you with these thoughts:https://i1.wp.com/www.sunshineandhurricanes.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Collect-Memories-Not-Things-Meme.jpg

Buying New Experiences, Not Things, Tied to Happiness

Buying New Experiences, Not Things, Tied to HappinessA new study suggests that those who spend money to do things are happier than those who spend their money on possessions.

In the study, investigators determined extraverts and people who are open to new experiences are more apt to spend more of their disposable income on experiences, such as concert tickets or a weekend away, rather than hitting the mall for material items.

Investigators, led by San Francisco State University Professor, Ryan Howell, discovered the habitual “experiential shoppers” reported greater life satisfaction.

To further investigate how purchasing decisions impact well-being, Howell and colleagues have launched a website where members of the public can take free surveys to find out what kind of shopper they are and how their spending choices affect them.

Data collected through the “Beyond the Purchase” website will be used by Howell and other social psychologists.

The site is designed to study the link between spending motivations and well-being, and how money management influences our financial and purchasing choices.

In the current study, Howell and colleagues surveyed nearly 10,000 participants, who completed online questionnaires about their shopping habits, personality traits, values and life satisfaction.

“We know that being an ‘experience shopper’ is linked to greater well-being,” said Howell, whose previous research on purchasing experiences challenged the adage that money can’t buy happiness.

“But we wanted to find out why some people gravitate toward buying experiences.”

Investigators determined an individual’s personality via a model that classifies how extraverted, neurotic, open, conscientious and agreeable a person is.

People who spent most of their disposable income on experiences scored highly on the “extravert” and “openness to new experience” scales.

“This personality profile makes sense since life experiences are inherently more social, and they also contain an element of risk,” Howell said. “If you try a new experience that you don’t like, you can’t return it to the store for a refund.”

Researchers believe it may be helpful if people would realize that life satisfaction and happiness can be influenced by their spending habits.

“Even for people who naturally find themselves drawn to material purchases, our results suggest that getting more of a balance between traditional purchases and those that provide you with an experience could lead to greater life satisfaction and well-being,” he said.

The research findings are published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.



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, 1 month, and 10 days. Always be the well-mannered gentlemen I raised you to be.




My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Always be polite — it warms the hearts of those who matter, and rankles the uncouth who expect you to descend to their level.  More importantly, what you say and do reflect on you, and I want the well-bred and the people of quality to count you among their number.  The alternative is highly undesirable, even if their number grows by leaps and bounds everyday.

It seems politeness and manners have fallen out of fashion.  How unfortunate!!!  Life is hard enough as it is without additional friction, vitriol, and rancor added to the mix simply because people cannot conform themselves to the rules of social behavior.

These people lack discipline.  One of your aunts, for example, is known for telling people off — including her bosses, siblings, or whoever — whenever she felt like it.  As you can imagine, she is the least successful among us, has been in one abusive relationship after another, and has condemned her daughter to a life of misery.  She ruined her life and the lives of those she professed to love because she simply lacked the discipline to conform herself to the rules of social behaviors.

If she’d live by herself in the wild, then she would be free to do as she pleased.  No one would care because no one would be around.  However, as soon as a community exist (and that may be a community of two), then understandings must be reached to foster better cooperation between members of the community for the good of the community as a whole.

Garrett Hardin states this best as the Tragedy of the CommonsSee, e.g., https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-tragedy-of-the-commons/; and, https://pages.mtu.edu/~asmayer/rural_sustain/governance/Hardin%201968.pdf.)  If the community has a pond from which members were free to fish and feed themselves, for example, and each member took as much as he pleased and wasted what he caught without regards to other members of the community, then, in time, there would be no more fish for anyone to enjoy.  Everyone would suffer. However, if everyone exercised discipline and conformed their behaviors to the rules of the community, then all members of the society could enjoy the fruits of the pond for a long time — assuming they used good aquaculture management and care techniques.

To put it another way, communal life is like the waltz or other fine-tuned dance.  If everyone follows the rhythm of the music and the steps of the dance, then beauty ensues.  Everyone could enjoy him or herself.  If, however, some members of the party decide to dance off-beat and to whatever steps they fancy, then chaos ensues.  Dancers around them would not know what to expect and would be unable to avoid colliding into them.  These dancers would move away, stop dancing altogether, or leave that party to find their own venue where they could dance in peace.  Joy is thereby reduced the many because of the few.  Thus, the uncouth enjoy themselves at great expense to others and exact a high price on society as a whole.  The community is fractured.

Don’t contribute to the decline of the community.  It doesn’t matter if others do.  That’s on them.  You behave well because you are well-bred and well-mannered.  If you don’t, that would be on you.

I recently heard about a couple who refused clothing ensembles carefully selected and assembled by the grandmother of the couple’s new born, who hand-carried the ensembles to give to her new grandchild.  The couple broke her heart by saying their child only wore “organic cotton grown and processed in the U.S.”  The couple claims to be highborn, but their actions belie their words.

When given a gift, the ONLY permissible response is “Thank you”  — this is especially true when you are accepting the gift on behalf of another.  To respond in any other way is simply rude and unbecoming.

Now, if the gift should be inappropriate (because it is given with expectations of returns which you find intolerable or unacceptable, because it is given to make the giver look good and you look bad, etc.), then you may say, “Thank you, but I cannot accept this gift.”  To do otherwise would be to allow them to bring you to their levels.  They cannot ascend to your level; thus, they aspire to bring you down to theirs.  Don’t let them.

Manners matter, my sons.  Behave well.  You will find yourselves in better company by behaving well than by behaving badly.  “Bad boys” may be popular in high school and later in life to the ill-bred, but they rarely ascend the ladders of success and time/history will rarely treat them kindly.

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 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,


5 long and excruciating years. Don’t let others control the narrative, especially your narrative.








Are Lying Children Naturally Smarter?

A new study suggests that how well you lie as a child is a strong indicator of how successful you’ll be as an adult.

Research conducted by the Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto indicates the skills needed to tell a convincing lie, such as quick thinking and the ability to use information to your own advantage, demonstrate a highly functioning brain.  And the younger children demonstrate these skills, the better developed their brains are.

Are Lying Children Naturally Smarter?



Is Your Child Lying to You? That’s Good

Lying is not only normal; it’s also a sign of intelligence.

Kids discover lying as early as age 2, studies have found. In one experiment, children were asked not to peek at a toy hidden behind them while the researcher withdrew from the room under false pretenses. Minutes later, the researcher returned and asked the child if he or she peeked.

This experiment, designed by the developmental psychologist Michael Lewis in the mid-1980s and performed in one form or another on hundreds of kids, has yielded two consistent findings. The first is that a vast majority of children will peek at the toy within seconds of being left alone. The other is that a significant number of them lie about it. At least a third of 2-year-olds, half of 3-year-olds and 80 percent or more of children 4 and older will deny their transgression, regardless of their gender, race or family’s religion….

Why do some children start lying at an earlier age than others? What separates them from their more honest peers? The short answer is that they are smarter.

Professor Lewis has found that toddlers who lie about peeking at the toy have higher verbal I.Q.s than those who don’t, by as much as 10 points. (Children who don’t peek at the toy in the first place are actually the smartest of all, but they are a rarity.)


My dearest and most precious Shosh and Jaialai:

I hope 2018 finds you well and joyful.  Choose to be happy, my sons.  Life is suffering (per Buddha), but we don’t have to let the suffering control either us or our lives.  We are the authors of our own fate.

In that vein, recent news stories suggest that kids who lie are smarter than average.  Lying requires higher brain function for a number of reasons:

[K]ids with better cognitive abilities who lie more. That’s because to lie you also have to keep the truth in mind, which involves multiple brain processes, such as integrating several sources of information and manipulating that information … The ability to lie—and lie successfully—is thought to be related to development of brain regions that allow so-called ‘executive functioning,’ or higher order thinking and reasoning abilities. Kids who perform better on tests that involve executive functioning also lie more.


As interesting as that may be, note that neither Time nor The Atlantic mentioned what The New York Times noted in a parenthetical statement — children who exercise self-control and obviated the need to lie in the first place are the smartest children of the bunch!  So, no, the narrative is not that children who lie are smart, but that children who exercise self-control are the smartest.

Other psychological studies have borne this out.  For example, the famous “Marshmallow Experiment” by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University and his colleagues.  They tempted 4 year-olds with treats, telling them they could eat the one cookie or marshmallow in front of them immediately or wait a little and get two cookies or marshmallows.

“Sometimes experimenters had not even finished talking about the experiment when the kids already ate the marshmallow or cookie,” said cognitive neuroscientist B.J. Casey at Weill Cornell Medical College, who has taken part in follow-up studies on this work. “Other 4-year-olds were able to wait by sitting on their hands and turning away, or creating imaginary friends to distract them.”

Since Mischel’s daughters attended nursery school with many of these children in the study, he began noticing that whether or not the kids delayed gratification appeared linked with many other factors in their lives. Kids who succumbed quickly to temptation often had lower SAT scores, a higher body-mass index and a slightly increased risk of substance abuse later on.

Casey refers to those who quickly gave in as low-delayers and those who can delay gratification high-delayers.


So, the story isn’t really about encouraging your kids to lie or being proud of the fact that their lying is a sign of intelligence.  If you want kids to be among the smartest, teach them self-control.

In fact, even the focus on intelligence may not necessarily be the best approach or benchmark for child-rearing.

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

HINT: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on “process”—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life

A brilliant student, Jonathan sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Jonathan puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Jonathan suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Jonathan (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 35 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

Praising children’s innate abilities, as Jonathan’s parents did, reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential. On the other hand, our studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on “process” (consisting of personal effort and effective strategies) rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.


Thus, as I’ve said before, try your best and try to improve a little each day.  Don’t worry so much about the immediate outcome.  Life is the long play.  Work to succeed in life by striving to better yourself day by day.

Exercise self-control.  Our instant gratification culture is toxic.  Don’t give in to it.

Shosh, as a young child, your mother taught you it was okay to scream until you get what you wanted immediately.  For example, as a two-year-old, while in the car, you’d shout out “Two!” and your mom would immediately change the CD to track 2.  Grandmother used to tell me that when you guys drove by an excavator, you’d scream and cried until your mother had to turn back and let you look more closely at it.  That was bad parenting.  She abdicated her parental duties by letting you call the shots.  That was lazy of her because it was the path of least resistance for her.  She was doing you no favor.  Why?  By telling you that you can get whatever you want whenever you wanted it, she is preparing you for failure.  In life, you cannot do whatever you want whenever you want to.  For example, despite our Freedom of Speech, you could get arrested if you shouted “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater when there was no fire.  I hope you have gained better self-control and are better suited for success in life.

It’s not just about having self-control over your words, but also your every action.  It’s effortful, but success is effortful.  If it were easy, everyone would be successful.  Look at your mom’s side of the family and my side of the family.  Where are they in life and what have they achieved?  It is no mistake that more of our side have doctorates and advanced degrees and are in management at major organizations.

Be successful, my sons.  Try your best.  Try to be better each day.

All my love, always,