Category Archives: Relationships

How to Use Your Strengths to Overcome Every Challenge

Do You Know You Have Gold Others Want?

2 minutes to read

What part of your life frustrates you? Are you exasperated about your marriage, job, children, or health? Or life seems okay, but you have a nagging feeling it could be better. Either can lead to unhappiness. Fortunately, you have the ability to change. This isn’t rah rah pep talk. Each of us possesses gold. What’s more, we can swap it while increasing our own supply. We call this amazing currency our strengths.

How to Use Your Strengths to Overcome Every Challenge

The Influence of Loved Ones

Jim Rohn said, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” If you look around, you see successful people associate with others at or above their level. You may think you’re immune from the influence of other people. But examine what you love and hate. They connect you to family and close friends. You share them in common. Or a loved one’s opposite view reinforces your love or hatred.

Given such enormous impact, precede any change by examining who you spend the most time with. If they don’t exhibit the quality you want, you’ll have to create a new relationship. You can do this in two ways:

  1. Convince one of your current family members or friends to change with you. In doing so you’ll learn how dedicated a friend you have. Upgrading your lives together will build an even more solid friendship. You can hold each other accountable. But if the person proves unreliable you’ll have to…
  1. Search for a new friend. Find someone who embodies the strength you want to acquire. Look for ways to spend time with the person. Observe how he exhibits your desired quality or skill. Ask for mentorship. If the person isn’t interested, find someone else.
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If your current group of close associates isn’t growing you won’t either. You’ll have to break away to advance your life.

How to Use Your Strengths

Six months ago I decided to coach an acquaintance to run the L.A. Marathon. Since then, we ran 30 to 35 miles per week. Several Fridays I returned home soaked to the skin after running 20 miles in pouring rain. Fun did not factor into the training. I’m proud to say yesterday, despite throbbing knees, we finished the race in under six hours.

A great physical accomplishment you say? Sure. But its importance lies elsewhere.

I admire the character and work ethic of the man I coached, Moshe Cohen. He models excellence as a husband and father. His self-discipline is legendary among those who know him. Humility tops a long list of admirable qualities.

For me, training for a marathon wasn’t about physical endurance. Rather, I saw an opportunity to have a friend who would help me make positive change in important areas of my life. I haven’t asked him, but I hope he got the same benefit from my coaching.

The medals we got for finishing the marathon have nothing to do with running. Rather, they represent a friendship that will help both of us continue to improve our lives.

Your strengths are gifts you can give to people who will show you how to improve. Use them to overcome your weaknesses.

Which of your strengths will benefit others most?

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How to Be Genuine in Any Situation

The Reason You Must Give Your Heart

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yayakhel/Pekudei – Exodus 35:1-40:38

Job-hunting after military service sometimes feels like entering a foreign country. Doesn’t it? The differences in language and life experience make communicating difficult. Veterans and civilians struggle to bridge the gap. Parshas Vayakhel/Pekudei will help you be genuine while creating links:

“Everyone who is generous-hearted, will bring it, a portion for G-d.” (Shemos/Exodus 35:5)

How to Be Genuine in Any Situation

Create links with civilians by opening your heart to them and letting them get to know the genuine you.

This Sabbath is a double parsha to keep on track with the annual cycle. Vayakhel reviews the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). You see the only time in Jewish history that a building campaign raised so much money people had to stop giving!

Pekudei details Moses’s accounting of those donations. Then it explains how he set up the Mishkan. You might have thought that as the leader Moses would tell others to do it. But when G-d gives someone a job it becomes that person’s responsibility. No one should feel he’s beneath anything that serves our Creator.

Get Out of Your Head and Be Genuine

G-d told the Israelites to give contributions for the building of the Mishkan. But why do they have to bring their hearts? Isn’t it enough to give the gold, silver, and other materials?

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm says we need to give more than mere money. The Almighty wants us to invest emotion and spirit when giving. Open your heart by smiling at the recipient. Recognize him as an individual. Ask her about her experiences. By doing so you transform a simple monetary transaction into a holy act. As well, you mold your self-image into that of a useful person.

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People used to call being in the military being in the service. You were a service member. In this respect civilian and military life mirror one another. The quality of your life comes in large part from serving others. This ethos requires genuine connection with fellow citizens.

Charity Isn’t Only Money

These days charity refers to an organization that raises money to help less fortunate people. Or it’s the actual money donated and distributed.

But charity also used to mean the way you treated someone. Kindness and tolerance marked the behavior of a charitable person. No money changed hands. Rather minds and hearts connected in true understanding.

Recently, Jewish Friends of the American Military asked me to speak on their behalf. Few of the 60 people attending had any link to military life. Sea stories fascinated them. During Q&A, people wanted to know how they could support service members beyond donating to JFAM.

The answer came straight from this week’s parsha. I told them, “We’re very fortunate to live during a time when our fellow citizens thank us for our service. But for some veterans, the gratitude doesn't seem authentic. So before offering your thanks, take a couple of minutes to ask a veteran about his experience. Get to know her a bit. By connecting first, your gratitude will feel genuine.”

Whether giving money or meeting to discuss a job, bring your heart. The links you create will yield more than a short-term benefit. You’ll build the foundation to authentic, life-long relationships.

Question – If you feel you cannot invest your heart when giving to someone should you not do so?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Improve Your Marriage When You’re Strapped for Time

The Wine Drinker’s Guide to Marital Harmony

3 minutes to read

Have you noticed how harmonious your marriage is after being away for awhile? When I got back from deployment Chana and I had a virtual second honeymoon. We looked at each other lovingly. We ate dinners together alone. We took care to be gentle and understanding with each other. Of course, things had to get back to normal, right?

How to Improve Your Marriage When You’re Strapped for Time

The Two Modes of Marriage

Marriage falls into two modes, everyday and unusual. You know what the daily grind is like. Reunion or health crisis times look different:

  • You’re glad just to be with your spouse.
  • You focus on connecting.
  • Affection and lovemaking happen more often.
  • You avoid conflict or creating bad feelings, if only because they disrupt the first three.

But then life gets busy or the crisis passes, you go back to everyday reality. Your focus turns back to work and kids. Who has time for a weekly dinner date? When your attention peters out, arguments begin to happen. The hours spent dealing with conflict crowd out any time for positive interaction.

Yet if you think about handling conflict during unusual mode, you’d have said, “Let’s not waste time arguing honey.”

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But, is conflict during everyday mode somehow less wasteful?

Your Spouse Is Like a Bottle of Fine Wine

Amidst the time pressures of daily life, allowing your marriage to move out of unusual mode actually consumes more time.

As friction and bad feeling accumulate, they damage communication. You or your spouse may withdraw. Conversations that don’t take place allow problems to fester. Often what could have been solved quickly now takes much more time and resources to resolve.

Lax communication can also lead to fights. You have to take even more time and emotional energy to work out the problem. Rather than permitting your marital mode to shift from unusual to everyday, create the habit of treating your spouse like a bottle of fine wine:

  • Carefully monitor its storage temperature. I have a special refrigerator for storing my best wine. When our power went out a few months ago, I fretted about what would happen if my wine got to warm.

Likewise, take a little time each day to keep an eye on the temperature of your marriage. Check out my post on how to do this in a minute per day.

  • When you shake it up you disturb the sediment. Often great wines have dregs. It’s nasty to drink if it hasn’t settled. So when you pour it you’re careful not to shake it up. Or you use a strainer to keep the sediment out.

In your marriage, treat old arguments like sediment. Be careful not to stir them up. Strain them out of any communication with your spouse.

  • Embrace the bottle so it doesn’t slip out of your hands and break. I pick up a $100 bottle of wine with care. The thought of dropping it distresses me. So I cradle it. My focus never wavers from it.

Treat your spouse with such gentleness. A hundred dollars, even thousands, pales in comparison to the value of your marriage. You wouldn’t risk swinging an expensive bottle of wine over your head lest it slip out of your hands and break. Your marriage is as fragile.

  • Savor it. Every sip of a fine wine is its own experience. One glass can last an entire meal. You examine the color. You breathe in the aroma. You relish the taste. Sometimes it doesn’t measure up. You get angry with disappointment. But then you realize that once in a while it’s bound to happen. You don’t stop drinking wine because of a few unfortunate experiences. You don’t attack or insult the next bottle because the one before it was bad.

Sometimes you or your spouse will slip into everyday mode. Communication becomes strained. You may argue. Are you going to give up on marriage because sometimes your expectations aren’t met? It’s bound to happen.

Now’s the time to merge your spouse and a bottle of fine wine. As you savor the bouquet, color, and flavor, move back into unusual mode and connect. So you can’t have an extraordinary bottle of wine daily. Who says your marriage can’t thrive in unusual mode every day?

How do you build the habit of treating your spouse like fine wine?

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You Can Use This Simple Job-Hunting Secret

Proven Effective for 3600 Years

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayigash – Genesis 44:18-47:27

Finding your next job in the military was so simple. You got in touch with your branch manager or detailer. You negotiated based on available billets. Done. Private sector job hunting seems so complicated. You have to deal with resumes, job boards, applications, and interviews. But Parshas Vayigash shows the crucial job-hunting tactic is 3600 years old:

“…make them livestock officers over what is mine.’” (Bereshis/Genesis 47:6)

You Can Use This Simple Job-Hunting Secret

In this Sabbath’s parsha, Joseph’s brothers showed they had learned their lesson. Judah stepped forward to take Benjamin’s place as a slave. Overcome with emotion, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. He convinced them to bring Jacob and their households to Egypt where he would take care of them. At first, Jacob did not believe Joseph was still alive. But the brothers finally convinced him. They loaded up the wagons and moved to Egypt where they settled in Goshen.

The famine came. It was harsh. The Egyptians spent all their money buying food. Then they sold their animals, land, and finally themselves so that they would live. Only the priests were exempt.

The Power of Connections

Joseph’s brothers found work quickly. They got to Egypt and Pharaoh immediately wanted to meet them. He asked them their occupation. They told him they were shepherds. He directed Joseph to make them overseers of his flocks. Wouldn’t it be nice if your job-hunting worked that way?

Think about it. They didn’t agonize over their resumes. They didn’t worry about what questions Pharaoh would ask or how they would answer them. They received expert preparation from Joseph.

That’s the power of an inside connection. When someone who trusts you introduces you to someone who trusts him that person will trust you. The whole job-hunting process becomes a formality.

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Why People Don’t Use This Job-Hunting Secret

Many veterans reject using inside connections. They don’t like favoritism. They think it’s mercenary. But I suspect it actually stems from their not knowing how to create them. If you related to any of these, I have three responses for you:

  1. Choosing a known quantity is not favoritism. It makes sense to work with reliable, honest people. Another person may be dependable and trustworthy. But why take a chance?
  2. It’s only mercenary if you intend to use the person just to get a job then sever the connection. Instead, create connections as part of your long-term professional development. To be at the top of your field, you need to be exchanging ideas with the leaders in it. Your contacts need to do the same thing. Make relationships mutually beneficial.
  3. Most people in the military are impressed with expert marksmen. Even if you didn’t have that level of skill, you appreciated someone else’s achievement. Likewise, you should admire people adept at forming strategic connections. Think about it this way. Marksmanship and relationship development are both skills for dealing with people. The first for elimination. The second for cooperation. Like shooting, you can learn to develop relationships. The commanders you respect in the military are talented at connecting with people. It’s one of the qualities that makes them superior leaders. Rather than refusing to use connections to get a job, become an expert at it

Perhaps you think Joseph shouldn’t have helped his brothers. Or maybe it was okay because they were family. Whether for these reasons or because you don’t know how it’s time to change your attitude.

Be strategic when making connections. See to it that when establishing professional friendships you:

  • Can add value to the person’s career
  • The person can help you

Focus on the myriad of ways for each of you to benefit the other. Then you can become part of the 3600-year-old history of outstanding job-hunters.

Question – What keeps you from making inside connections?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2017

2-1/2 minutes to read

You may know I read at least 50 books a year. With so many goods ones even at one per week it seems to make hardly a dent. My reading focuses on personal development, history & biography, business, and literature. My guilty pleasures are detective and historical fiction. It all unites to help my family and me live the life we’ve charted.

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2017

I keep abreast of current works But I also look back to see what older books and classics I have missed. Here are the best. Why not treat yourself to one for a Christmas or Chanukah gift?

Personal Development:

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz

We live amidst great abundance yet don’t seem to be happier. Is it nostalgic yearning? Barry Schwartz makes the case that too many choices bring about unhappiness as surely as no choice. He also gives you actionable steps to relieve yourself of this burden.

The Miracles in You: Recognizing G-d's Amazing Works in You and Through You by Mark Victor Hansen

If you sit around hoping for a miracle it’ll be a long wait. Mark Victor Hansen (the Chicken Soup Book Series) challenges you to become a miracle maker. He explains how to see them in your life and make them happen.

Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love by David Sturt

In many ways, David Sturt’s book is a companion to Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated. No matter your IQ, talent, educational level, gender, or the circumstances of your birth, you can create a difference the world loves. The ability to innovate comes through the five skills that Sturt reveals. His illustrative stories prove you can execute them.

The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster by Steve Dalton

Steve Dalton fills in a crucial piece of the job-hunting puzzle. His book will teach you how to connect with people who can help you get the position you want. I used his system. It works.

The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

This 34-year-old classic details more than a sound strategy for managing people. Kenneth Blanchard gives you the formula to boost the quality of all your relationships. His simple steps yield clear communication leading to mutually agreeable outcomes.

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History and Biography:

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Orville and Wilbur Wright were not extraordinary mechanics, businessmen, or thinkers. David McCullough shows their success came through sheer tenacity. This story will inspire you to redouble your commitment to your life’s mission.

Bull Halsey by E.B. Potter

Arguably the navy’s most beloved admiral, William Halsey’s life testifies to the power of personal connections. E.B. Potter reveals how relationships with his sailors, peers, and family propelled Halsey’s legendary success.

Business and Entrepreneurship:

The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

I’m not a Guy Kawasaki groupie. I checked out his work from the audio books section of the library so I wouldn’t run out of things to listen to on a car trip. His step-by-step breakdown of entrepreneurship converts a daunting process into manageable pieces. For veteran entrepreneurs and rookies, this book will accelerate your success.

Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz & Joanne Gordon

I am a Howard Schultz fan. I loved his first book, Pour Your Heart Into It. In Onward, he emphasizes the bond between business success and foundational values. You don’t need to like Starbucks coffee to get inspired by this story of its rescue.

Guilty Pleasure:

The Road to Samarcand: An Adventure by Patrick O’Brien

If you saw the movie Master & Commander you got a taste of Patrick O’Brien’s rollicking adventure tales. A group of hardy sailors treks across 1930’s China to exotic Samarcand. This is old-fashioned excitement, breakneck horseback rides and hand to hand combat.

If you want to succeed you must read. If you have a specific challenge that none of these books address let me know. Happy to recommend material to help you.

What books did you read this year that you recommend?

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