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.







4 years, 11 months, and 8 days. Rudeness is contagious. Avoid rude people; they will infect you with their rudeness. Be kind.






Workplace rudeness is contagious, study says

Rudeness in the workplace isn’t just unpleasant: It’s also contagious.

Encountering rude behavior at work makes people more likely to perceive in later interactions, a University of Florida study shows. That perception makes them more likely to be impolite in return, spreading rudeness like a virus.

“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable,” said lead author Trevor Foulk, a doctoral student in management at UF’s Warrington College of Business Administration. “You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.”

The findings, published June 29 in the Journal of Applied Psychology, provide the first evidence that everyday impoliteness spreads in the workplace.

“Part of the problem is that we are generally tolerant of these behaviors, but they’re actually really harmful,” Foulk said. “Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace.”

The study tracked 90 graduate students practicing negotiation with classmates. Those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by a subsequent partner, showing that they passed along the first partner’s rudeness. The effect continued even when a week elapsed between the first and second negotiations.

Rudeness directed at others can also prime our brains to detect discourtesy. Foulk and his co-authors, fellow doctoral student Andrew Woolum and UF management professor Amir Erez, tested how quickly 47 undergraduate students could identify which words in a list were real and which were nonsense words. Before the exercise began, participants observed one of two staged interactions between an apologetic late-arriving participant and the study leader. When the leader was rude to the latecomer, the participants identified rude words on the list as real words significantly faster than participants who had observed the neutral interaction.

The impact of secondhand rudeness didn’t stop there, however: Just like those who experience rudeness firsthand, people who witness it were more likely to be rude to others. When study participants watched a video of a rude workplace interaction, then answered a fictitious customer email that was neutral in tone, they were more likely to be hostile in their responses than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.

“That tells us that rudeness will flavor the way you interpret ambiguous cues,” Foulk said.

Foulk hopes the study will encourage employers to take incivility more seriously.

“You might go your whole career and not experience abuse or aggression in the workplace, but rudeness also has a negative effect on performance,” he said. “It isn’t something you can just turn your back on. It matters.”



Rudeness At Work: On the Rise, And Coming With A Big Cost

Just because you’ve developed a thick skin for rude, discourteous behavior, doesn’t mean workplace incivility is not hurting you–and your family. A new Baylor University study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that workplace rudeness can follow you home, causing you to unleash “incivil” behavior on your loved ones.

That’s disconcerting news for the 43% of Americans who have experienced incivility at work, according to the report, Civility in America, 2011. To be clear, incivility is different from aggressive bullying, which usually carries the intent to harm someone. With incivility, the intent is ambiguous, and it’s less intense and characterized by demeaning remarks, showing little interest in a worker’s opinion, acting rudely or with poor manners, among other uncivilized behaviors.

The Baylor study found that those who experienced workplace incivility had lower levels of marital satisfaction and greater family/work conflict, particularly for the partner. It also found that stress from incivility was contagious to family members.


My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Christmas is a difficult time for us, and I’m sure for you guys.  Your absence is felt more strongly during the holidays.  We miss you and love you boys so much!  Do try to enjoy the warmth and joy of Christmas.  It’s such a special season.  It has always been for us, and will be again some day.

For now try to get into the Christmas spirit and be kind to loved ones and others.  Like rudeness, kindness is also contagious.  Be kind.

Kindness is Contagious, New Study Finds

Imerman Angels, a cancer support organization based in Chicago, has “floods of volunteers,” according to John May, chairman of its board of directors and a long-time volunteer himself.

“You can’t help but just get excited to get involved,” he said.

These do-gooders are not alone: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 63 million people volunteered in 2009, 1.6 million more than the year before. But the question of motive remains: Why is being nice so popular these days?

New research may unlock the mystery: Kindness is contagious, according to a study done by researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Cambridge and University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

When we see someone else help another person it gives us a good feeling, which in turn causes us to go out and do something altruistic ourselves, the study found, which was the first of its kind to systematically document this tendency in human nature.

“When you feel this sense of moral ‘elevation’ not only do you say you want to be a better person and help others,” said Simone Schnall, of Cambridge, the lead researcher. “But you actually do when the opportunity presents itself.”

Researchers performed two experiments in which they showed viewers either a nature documentary, a funny TV clip or an uplifting segment from the Oprah Winfrey Show, and then asked them to voluntarily help with another task. In both cases, participants that watched Oprah and subsequently experienced the elevated feeling were more likely to help.

“Elevation,” a term coined by Thomas Jefferson, is different from regular happiness, a specific emotion that we experience only when we see someone else engaged in virtuous acts, Schnall said.

And though previous studies have documented this emotional response before, little research had been done to see if people actually acted on their feelings of being inspired, she said.

“Human nature is essentially good,” she said. “And this study proves that seeing good things actually makes us better.”


Do you remember what Father Dave used to say?  Before you speak, ask yourself: (1) is it kind? (2) is it helpful? (3) is it necessary?  If it doesn’t pass all three of those tests, keep it to yourself.

Sometimes, you will be challenged to be kind when encountering rudeness — which appears to be more pervasive these days.  If that should happen, think of Emily Post’s advice.

Five Ways to Combat Rudeness

Handling other people’s rudeness is tricky. You can’t control someone else’s behavior. So focus on maintaining your own standard of good behavior instead. Here are some tips to help:

  1. Don’t take it personally. Perhaps the offender is having a bad day.
  2. Size up your annoyances. Is it worth it to make a fuss over something small, or is it a waste of your emotional time?
  3. Set a good example. Rudeness begets rudeness. If you speak sharply to the bank teller, don’t be surprised if you get the same treatment in return.
  4. Count to ten. When someone’s behavior makes you angry, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself, “Is it really worth blowing my stack over this?”
  5. Laugh it off. If you can’t come up with a friendly joke, just chuckle and change the subject.



My goal for my life is significantly less ambitious than Gandhi’s.  I simply want to leave my little corner of the world a little nicer than how I found it.  That’s it.

In my younger days, I had grandiose goals — to change the world, to teach kids how to be altruistic, to create good laws and good policies that would elevate society, to fight the great injustices inflicted upon the weak by the powerful and greedy, to help the homeless, to protect the abused, etc.  These days, I just want my sons, a clean sidewalk, a patch of grass that is litter-free, hope for the future, etc.

Whatever your goals, try to reach it through kindness rather than rudeness, meanness, and pettiness.  For example, years ago, I thought about applying to law school at Georgetown University.  However, I was disabused of that idea by roommates who attended GU Law.  We agreed GU has a great law school, but it was also a mean one.  Students there were  known to hide reference books that were necessary for class assignments, steal classmates’ notes, and sabotage other students.  No doubt GU Law students are smart people — they gained admission to a top-tier program.  However, their conducts also revealed their insecurities.  They saw the world as a zero sum game, and believed they could only advance by pulling others down.  That’s a pitiful way of looking at the world.

Thankfully, not every one sees the world that way.  In graduate school for a social program at Duke University, for example, during the first week of school, we were given an assignment and the manual for SPSSx — a statistical analysis program used for, among other things, multi-variable programing and data analysis.  None of us were computer programmers.  None of us had programming experience.  The manual was gibberish to us — we might as well be learning Chinese.  In the Computer Lab, some of the girls cried out of frustration.  Others stewed.  (Remember, all of us were used to success and smart enough to gain admission to that top-ranked graduate program at Duke University!)  After a while, someone brought music. Others brought beer.  Slowly, as a group, we worked together to decipher that manual and teach each other SPSSx.

Success doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.  If you help nurture others and surround yourselves with bright and capable people, think how much more you could accomplish as a group versus on your own.  Each of us bring different strengths to the table.  Why not utilize the different skill sets for the good of the group?  Insecure people tear down others.  Secure people understands the value of working together with others and that other’s gifts do not necessarily diminish their own.

Avoid those who tear you down to lift themselves up: work with those who believe it in working together to improve the lot of everyone.

All my love, always,





4 years, 10 months, and 17 days. Behave well, pursue your passions and ignore the ankle-biters.


Someone who cannot rise to your level, and who can only bite your ankles instead of being able to really bite your head off.

Folks of lower altitude.

My boss is an ankle biter and he’s doing well as such
by Scotty Breauxman January 20, 2008

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Beware the ankle-biters.  They’re ubiquitous.  There is no escaping them.

In fact, insecurity can even reduce family members to being ankle-biters at times.  For example, because I matriculated at significantly more famous and reputable graduate school than he, my brother — your uncle — once had the temerity to suggest that just because I got in does not mean I could obtain an advance degree from said school.  Of course, I completed my doctorate and went on to achieve and earn more than he professionally.

Ankle biters are like zombies.  They never die, and they keep coming.

The best you can do is to protect yourselves against their ankle bites, and ignore them as you pursue bigger and better.  Eventually, as you rise, your world will be populated by fewer and fewer of them, and you could better enjoy the fruits of your labor.  (This assumes, of course, that you choose your social circles with care and not frequent haunts where ankle biters roam.)

Remember our days at the OG and on the Hill?  Most of our neighbors were nice, weren’t they?  We had no trouble with them.  That’s because I chose those neighborhoods with care.  Most of our neighbors on the Hill were retirees, consultants, and educators.  We had one neighbor behind and down the hill from us who repaid our kindness of giving him the key to our house when power was out so that he could use the gas oven and heater as necessary to care for his family by having his dog shit in our yard.  His actions bespoke his upbringing, did they not?

As we say, “Didn’t your parents teach you manners, or were you raised in a barn?”  Apparently, he was raised in a barn.  You weren’t.  Act accordingly.









As Jesus reduced the Ten Commandments to two — (1) love God with all your heart and soul, and (2) love your neighbors as yourself — Emily Post reduced the book of manners down its essence:  be mindful of the feelings of others around you, and act to not offend.  If you do that, it doesn’t really matter if you were using the wrong fork.

I leave you with the biography of Kilian Hennessy, heir to that famous  and delicious brand of cognac.  Despite being born into wealth and fame, he didn’t just sit on his butt, but worked hard to pursue his passion for “angels’ share” and to develop his own perfumerie.  Be like him.  Don’t be like the countless progenies whose only legacy is that they burnt through all that was left for them and built nothing of their own.  .


Heir to a long line of cognac-makers who were pioneers in luxury, Kilian decided to take up the torch of family tradition. Creating a new luxury brand was definitely a challenge worthy of his predecessors.

His childhood haunts included the family cellars in Cognac. Before graduating from CELSA, he wrote a thesis on the semantics of scent, in search of a ‘language’ common to gods and mortals. Remembering the «angels’ share» as part of his heritage, he was led into the world of perfumery. The «angels’ share» is what the House of Hennessy calls the percentage that – inexplicably – evaporates from cognac cellars, like an offering to the gods.
Many of Kilian’s fragrances today carry this childhood memory as they are reminiscent of the sugar in the alcohol and the wood of the cognac barrels.

After graduating, he then went on to train with the greatest noses in perfumery and worked for the most prestigious perfume houses such as Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne, Alexander McQueen and Giorgio Armani.

In 2007, Kilian launched his own namesake brand with the ambition of reflecting not only his distinct personality, but also to achieve a perfect alliance between elegance and uncompromising luxury. His “eco-luxe” philosophy that each bottle can be refilled and kept for a lifetime catapulted the brand to the top of the fragrance market and into a niche of its very own.

In 2017 and ten years since its launch, the world of Kilian includes more than 35 scents, spanning across different fragrance collections including: “L’Oeuvre Noire”, “Arabian Nights”, “Asian Tales”, “In the Garden of Good & Evil” and “Addictive State of Mind“.

Kilian continues to create unexpected products that embody ultimate sophistication and timeless luxury with a collection of wearable scented jewelry and decorative objects for the home.

As the Kilian brand evolves and matures, the one aspect which remains consistent is that each and every product created embodies ultimate sophistication and timeless luxury.


Live right, pursue your passions, and ignore the ankle biters.

All my love, always,




4 years, 9 months, and 23 days. Embrace who you are! You are beautiful inside and out. Ignore idiots who say otherwise.






27 Asian Leading Men Who Deserve More Airtime

Asian actors don’t often get starring roles in Hollywood, but these guys — American and otherwise — prove they’re leading men too.






13 Asians On Identity And The Struggle Of Loving Their Eyes

“I used to use Scotch tape to make my eyes bigger. Then I said, ‘Hey, this is your face. This is how you look.’”


My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Let’s face it.  There will always be stupid, ignorant, and racist people.  You can find them in every corner of the world.  As with all life forms, there are those who/which are more evolved and higher functioning, then there are the weaker and lower functioning ones.  You see it in dogs, termites, plants, etc.  They simply exist.

But, their existence doesn’t define you.  You are who you are.  You can no more change who you are than a tiger can change its stripes.  Yes, you can make cosmetic changes (e.g., dye the coat of the tiger), but that doesn’t a tiger into something other than a tiger.  Likewise, putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a pig.


Embrace who you are.  You are Vietnamese-Americans, and you come from good stock.  Your great-great-great grandfather was the first Secretary of Treasury for the country.  Your great-great-great uncle was Vietnam’s representative to the French Parliament.  Your great grandfather was a doctor.  Both of your grandfathers were accomplished and learned men.  More than half a dozen of your aunts and uncles on my side of the family hold a doctorate or graduate degree from some of the top programs in the U.S.  Collectively, we have spent tens of thousands of hours saving or improving the lives of orphans, refugees, victims of domestic violence, the homeless, the elderly, the poor, and the disenfranchised.

Like my siblings, I hold a doctorate and matriculated at some of the top schools in the U.S.  Like my father, mother, and siblings, I have spent thousands of hours volunteering to help — and working to improve policies relating to — the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised, and the hard-working members of society.  Federal employment and immigration laws in the U.S., for example, bear my imprints from my years working for and with the U.S. Congress.  In addition, among other things, I have helped those abused by their governments find new lives in countries of asylum, fed the poor, prevented the homeless from freezing to death on cold winter nights, protected victims of domestic abuse, and helped build homes for the disenfranchised.  (My only regret is that I didn’t engage you boys in these activities when I was with you, thinking you were too young.  You are never too young to help others.)

Hold your heads high.  You come from good stock and have nothing to be ashamed of.

Life can throw us curve balls, but the truth eventually prevails.  Recall how I fought the Enron of Healthcare for five years (both from within and without) to stop them from cheating and harming the sick and dying?  They lied, cheated, and stole from the sick and dying, but government regulators ultimately validated everything I said about those scums and more.  The truth will prevail this time as well.

Remember, what people say and do is a reflection of THEM … not you!  Stupid and ignorant people make stupid and ignorant remarks because they are stupid and ignorant.  That’s their problem, not yours.  Why should you make it your problem?  Don’t ever do that.  Remember, you have control only over yourself, and no one else.  Let others own their problems.

Be proud of who you are.  Be you, but be the best you.  Strive to improve yourself every day, and ignore the less evolved and lower functioning.  Why bother with them?  You are not responsible for teaching them.  If they ask for your help, then, by all means, help them if you want.  But, if they insist on being stupid and ignorant, let them.  If they fight for their limitations, let them keep it.

I am always proud of you, my sons.

All my love, always


4 years, 9 months, and 18 days. Don’t embrace the suck!





If you fight for your limitations, you get to keep them.

The Internship


My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Truer words have rarely been uttered, my sons.  You see it daily — people making excuses for themselves and their bad behaviors.

If it happens to you, just walk away.  Don’t bother to argue with them.  Let them keep their flaws and their limitations.  They’ll never change and become better if they keep making excuses for themselves.  Walk away.  There are better people out there to befriend.

Don’t embrace the suck… not in you, not in anyone else.  If it sucks, why would you want to keep it or be around it?  If it’s not working, let it go.

Remember my note the other day about kaizen — continuous incremental improvement?  Embrace that!  Just work on being better today than you were yesterday.  If you pigged out on ice cream yesterday and felt sick from over eating, take one bite fewer today.  That’s not hard, right?  If you didn’t exercise at all yesterday, do one push up today.  Just one.  Tomorrow, try two.  You aren’t too busy for one push up, are you?



Don’t embrace the suck, my sons.  Spend your time wisely.  Be the person you want to be, and can be.

All my love, always,