Category Archives: Relationships

How to Have a Peaceful Marriage

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] – Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

When I think of the perfect marriage, peace comes to mind. In Hebrew, we call this shalom bayis. Hannah and I would never disagree. Calm would always reign in our home. Every married couple seems to want this. Yet, I don’t know of one who has a peaceful marriage. Not that you should compare yourself to others. But it would be nice to find at least one example of the ideal. Now that I’ve read Parshas Shoftim, it turns out I misunderstood what shalom bayis is:

“When you approach a city to make war against it, and you will call out to it for peace.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 20:10)

How to Have a Peaceful Marriage

This Sabbath’s parsha reviews the mitzvah (commandment) to establish courts and how to handle certain crucial types of cases. It gives the procedure for appointing a King. Then it details the gifts for the Kohanim (Priests) and how to tell if someone is really a prophet. Next, it explains how to set up cities of refuge and how the Israelites should conduct a war. It ends with the procedure for dealing with an unsolved murder.

Did Tolstoy Create a Major Misunderstanding?

I can’t say for sure it started with Tolstoy. But his most famous novel anchors the idea that peace is the opposite of war. It seems logical. In war, people fight and kill. With peace comes the cessation of hostilities. Killing stops.

But even the most cursory view of history shows that killing doesn’t end during times of peace. As well, human strife short of killing continues unabated. War is only the most obvious lack of peace. But peace itself transcends the end of battle.

The verse from this week’s parsha also seems to make war and peace opposites. But that comes from the difficulty of translating Hebrew into English. Shalom, the word translated as peace, means much more. Think abut the verse for a minute. If shalom meant no combat operations, they could just not have attacked.

Underlying shalom is the spiritual state of wholeness that comes from harmony. It requires more than just not fighting. Picture the gears in a watch. Each has its place and function. When they work in harmony the watch is wholly accurate. It still make noises, and if you listened carefully enough you would hear the gears grind slightly. Such is the way things work. But let one gear get out of line and the watch will run fast or slow. Its wholeness born of harmony is gone.

The Israelites faced a similar challenge in the land of Israel. How could they create a harmonious society with such misaligned peoples? They sacrificed children and considered murder an acceptable social behavior. Worship consisted of defecating on their gods. The shalom the Children of Israel called out for required the city to morally reform. As long as it continued its depraved behavior, no basis for shalom/peace could exist.

A Peaceful Marriage

Even if the city had reformed, no doubt there would have been disagreements. People who share the same values still argue. It’s part of the human condition.

The same applies to your marriage. Shalom will not come from lack of arguments. Avoiding confrontations will destroy it as surely as violent confrontations. The path to a peaceful marriage lies in harmonizing your values and morals. If they are out of alignment, arguing will continue unabated because no basis exists for reconciliation.

Once your values are in concert, disagreements will lead to greater mutual understanding and a firmer marital bond. You and your spouse will still shout at each other from time to time. Sometimes your home may feel unlivable. But when calmer heads prevail, you’ll see the wholeness that comes from harmony has been there all along. Indeed, you have a peaceful marriage.

What do you do about misaligned values? Please comment below.


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!

How to Use Serendipity to Improve Your Relationships

2 minutes to read

You might think I eliminated words such as chance, fluke, or providence from my vocabulary. Your point is well taken. My motto, “Are You Living Intentionally?”, gives you solid grounds for thinking so. Would it surprise you to know that despite having 957 DVDs, I prefer watching Turner Classic Movies? I never check its schedule. It’s better to let TCM surprise me with an old favorite or a new gem. Serendipity is the BEST part. You miss unexpected delights when you plan everything out, don’t you?

How to Use Serendipity to Improve Your Relationships

Serendipity Doesn’t Happen by Accident

Over the last five weeks, I’ve laid out a step-by-step process for creating relationships that make your life better. You know how, where, and who. But working too systematically can cause you to overlook great connections. When you work to develop relationships in an area of your life, the process takes on a life of its own.

A while back a friend connected me with Dan Evans, a Marine who uses his deep knowledge of social media to help his fellow veterans. We saw links in our work. As part of building our relationship, he interviewed me on his podcast. We’ve continued to be intentional about developing our connection.

What I couldn’t have planned is that Todd James, one of Dan’s listeners, got in touch with me. Todd runs the Marine Corps’s Marine for Life program. He helps veterans make the connections they need to be successful in civilian life. See the natural affinity between us?

By being intentional about building a connection with Dan I serendipitously met Todd. The sum of what the three of us do together will exceed that of us individually or working in pairs. Call it luck, blessing, or whatever you want. To make unexpected good things happen, you must WORK to make similar good things happen.

3 Ways to Bring Serendipity into Your Life

Aside from being open to blessing or good fortune, you can attract it by:

  1. Looking for ways to bring serendipity into other’s lives. Don’t wait for your friends and business associates to ask you for something. Look for opportunities to wow them by being proactive.
  2. Going somewhere you’ve never been before. Go purely for the sake of enjoyment or self-improvement. If you make a new connection, great! If not, don’t worry. The time has been well spent.
  3. Getting out among strangers. Spend an hour at the mall or a busy park just walking around. Run a 5K or walk a 1K by yourself. You can get lucky anywhere you find a big group of strangers.

Enjoy engaging in whichever option you choose. When you like what you’re doing you’ll attract others.

You’ve done your planning. Now take action.

How can you unexpectedly delight a business associate? Please comment below.

How to Invest Time in Relationships Wisely

2-½ minutes to read

You may think you can shortcut it. But there’s no substitute for devoting time when building a relationship. No amount of intensity, emotional or otherwise, will suffice. Nor can you replace time with money. You can leverage your time by using an assistant or technology. Still, one-on-one connections need your direct involvement. Since you’re going to invest time, make sure you think through how.

How to Invest Time in Relationships Wisely

Make Relationship Building the Priority

When I was a kid my room had to pass periodic inspections. Maybe she learned it from my naval officer father. But if she found my bed unmade inevitably I’d be reminded, “Your bed’s not going to make itself.” If since then someone had invented a self-making bed, a big source of conflict between my daughter and I would be gone.

Notwithstanding my mother’s obsession with smooth sheets and hospital corners (in truth the corners thing is mine), nothing important happens without effort. If you want to have quality, productive relationships you’ll have to prioritize time to work on them.

Strong connections lead to Physical ∞ Mental ∞ Spiritual success. So I devote the first three hours of my day to relationship building. I begin with an hour of prayer and study to strengthen my connection to G-d. The next hour or so is spent taking care of my family. I make lunch for my wife and daughter and take the latter to school or camp.

I focus the final hour on friends and business associates.

Invest Time Without Expectation of Dividends

During the third hour, I check in with people to find out how they’re doing and what they’re working on. If someone has an important project under way I look for ways to help her. I thank people who have helped me out. Between email, social media, telephone, and texting, I have a myriad of ways to contact people. I figure out which one the person prefers and use it.

I don’t use quid pro quo to determine how much time to invest in a relationship. Rather, I examine whether:

  1. I have the basis for periodic, useful interaction with the person.
  2. There is something of value I have to offer.
  3. The person shares my values.

We've already looked out who to connect with.  So if the relationship meets these three criteria, I know it will grow. And when I need help, the person will offer it at the appropriate time.

The truth is I like my friends and business associates so much I could spend all day looking for opportunities to help them. Regrettably, I am not independently wealthy. So I invest time in growing my relationships without jeopardizing my business. Of course, when there’s an urgent need, I find the time to help. Isn’t that what friends do?

As with so many things in life, balance is important. Just spending time will not lead to great connection or intimacy. Witness how many long-term spouses who don’t speak to each other. They may have spent the majority of the last 20 or 30 years in the same house, even the same room. But they have no relationship.

Devote yourself to being the best friend to the people with whom you’re building relationships. Like any sound venture, doing so will pay you unlimited dividends over time.

How do you decide how to invest time in building a relationship? Please comment below.

Use These 3 Simple Ways to Connect with People

3 minutes to read

Over the last three weeks, I’ve covered whom you should connect with and the basic building blocks of relationships. Now it’s time to deal with where and how to make the initial connection. You may be wondering why I saved the first step for last. Ah ha, read on…

Use These 3 Simple Ways to Connect with People

The Facebook Syndrome

At the risk of being sent to social media prison, most of the people you’re connected to on social media are not friends. In fact, until the advent of Facebook people understood a friend was someone with whom you had an actual relationship. LinkedIn is honest about it. It calls them connections.

Think about all the people you know. With how many do you have a real bond? I couldn’t find any statistics, but I bet it’s not more than 10% to 20%. Herein lies the challenge. You’re not going to create relationships with most of the people you meet. What’s more, no matter how targeted you are, you cannot control the other person’s response. You may be willing to put a lot of effort into forming a bond. But if the other person isn’t interested or sees no value your commitment probably won’t change his mind.

Finding people with whom to build solid, mutually beneficial relationships is an iterative process. You’ll have to make some connections. Then you’ll have to test them out a little bit. For many reasons most won’t be open to your overture. You’ll have to endure the rejection. Move on and keep searching.

Building relationships is challenging. Prospecting to find the right people is harder.

3 Simple Ways to Connect

Now do you see why I waited until now to address this step? Like most important undertakings that lead to success, finding the right connections will be frustrating. You know the benefit of having strong relationships. You know how to create them. With those two foundations, you can motivate yourself to do the hard work.

Here are three ways to connect with people. Try out one of them and see if it works for you. If not, move on to the next one. Think in terms of how comfortable you are with the process. Don’t worry about results at first. If you like the manner of connecting you’re more likely to continue using it until you find the right people with whom to build relationships.

  1. Social Media. No surprise, right? Here’s the key. Focus on one social media platform. I maintain a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, but Twitter is my main focus. It’s a writer’s medium. I love the challenge of being meaningful and concise. Almost everyone I want to connect with professionally is there so I just have to catch someone’s eye. Play around with different platforms. Find one that’s fun. Then find the people you want to connect with on it. Send them a message. Contact them regularly. If they respond, fantastic! Now, build an actual relationship. If not, press on.
  2. Community Service. Before I joined the navy I was involved in philanthropy. I volunteered to fundraise, provide programming, and serve as an officer of groups whose missions I believed in. As a result, I met hundreds of people and created many solid relationships. Find an organization you want to support. Make sure it’s large enough that you’ll meet a lot of people or has as its mission delivering value to the kind of people you want to meet. I joined the Real Estate Division of the Jewish Federation because I wanted to give back to my community. In exchange, I connected with some of the most successful people in the business. Nothing mercenary here. You can do good for yourself while doing good for others. It has to be mutually beneficial.
  3. House of Worship. What better place is there to find people with whom you share similar values? Yes, I know. Not everyone is a saint. But that doesn’t matter. You’re looking to sift through the hundreds or dozens to find the few with whom you’ll build a solid relationship. One of the best parts is most congregations have social events on a regular basis so all you’ll have to do is show up. Maybe you’ll have to bring a hot dish but that’s a small price to pay. Do you attend a small church? Consider looking for somewhere bigger. I understand you may feel uncomfortable. That’s a good reason to do it. Most of the best connections you’ll make will be outside your comfort zone.

Now you need to take action. No new connection was ever made through osmosis. No productive relationship ever came into being without effort. Everything you want in life hinges on working with other people. Who are they? Where are they? You have the tools to answer these questions. Go use them.

Where have you found is the best place for making connections? Please comment below.

How to Know Whom to Create Relationships With

3 minutes to read

How is creating a relationship like choosing a piece of fruit? You have to be careful not to choose a rotten one. The last two weeks I wrote about the effort it takes to build connections into relationships. You’ll waste a lot of time and energy if you end up associating with the wrong people. What good will working to make contacts with actors do you if your business is construction? It may be exciting to know them. But most successful ones have people who take care of their financial lives. If your goal is to be the contractor to the stars seek to establish relationships with accountants and business managers.

How to Know Whom to Create Relationships With

In What Ecosystems Do You Operate?

Randomly choosing people to connect with is as bad as targeting the wrong people. In both cases you’re relying on luck to get you to your goals. You may get fortunate once in a while. But as all the luxury hotels in Las Vegas prove, gamblers lose in the end. It may sound mercenary. But you’ll have to be intentional about choosing with whom you’ll connect.

The first questions you must answer relate to the example. What is your goal? For example, if you’re looking for a job or to change careers what’s your area of interest? Be specific. You may want to be involved in electronics. But that’s a huge industry with dozens of major sub-fields that have sub-fields. As well, do you want to be in sales, support, research & development, management, or another area?

What goals do you have for family life, lifelong learning, and spiritual growth?

All these help define the ecosystems in which you want to operate. Ecosystem is a word I borrowed from Judy Robinette to describe one of the major areas of life. Examples include the military, business, industry, academia, community, government, and family & friends. Your first task is to figure out the ecosystems relevant to your life. My primary ones are family & friends, business, military, and academia. I recommend you choose three or four to focus on.

Once you’ve determined your ecosystems, examine your existing relationships. Are they spread out among all your ecosystems? How strong are these connections? How many people are far enough ahead of you to provide solid mentorship? Who among them can you guide? Have a balance of people in your ecosystems and in their stage of life.

Create Relationships in the Gaps

Where are there gaps?

Do you have an ecosystem with few or no people in it? No problem. Having identified it you can find people to fill it. Last week I showed you several ways to build stronger relationships. You can find people to connect with at many of those same places. (I’ll address this next week too.) Now the challenge is to determine how to choose.

Here are some basic criteria to use:

  1. Shared Values. Nothing but an acquaintanceship or exploitative situation can endure without commonality of values. You must have compatible standards and principles with business associates, friends, and especially your spouse. They are the basis for mutual trust.
  2. Willingness to Mutually Serve. Long-lasting relationships come from two people helping each other. While rarely will the ledger be balanced, both parties have to be committed to service.
  3. Direction for Future Growth. If you’re looking to beef up your professional life don’t connect with people close to retirement. Unless someone will maintain huge influence in your industry after leaving it, fruitful ground lies elsewhere.
  4. Your Gut Says Yes. This is a Judy-factor. I couldn’t agree with her more. If your internal alarm goes off move on. Life is too short to have to deal with liars, egotists, and deceivers.

You made decide to add more factors to your list but keep it simple. Notice I did not include similar interests or politics. Different passions give a relationship direction for growth. Politics and political affiliation are unimportant when compared to common values. (The exception is when choosing a spouse. Mixed marriages often are a recipe for divorce.)

You have limited capacity for creating durable, mutually beneficial relationships. Filling your time up dealing with takers or corrupt people saps your energy and can make you antisocial. Rather be intentional about the people you interact with. Create relationships that can nourish you while assisting in your success.

How do you choose whom to spend time with? Please comment below.

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