Category Archives: Resilience

You’ll Absolutely Reject This Message from Me

How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bo – Exodus 10:1-13:16

Back during the first week of 2013, I injured my back, got bronchitis, dropped and broke my computer, and rear-ended another driver. Like other times when everything went haywire, I started wondering what G-d wanted from me? If He would let up I could get back on track. Then it hit me. I had become Pharaoh in Parshas Bo:

So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him: ‘So said the Lord, G-d of the Hebrews, for how much longer will you refuse to be humbled before Me?’ (Shemos/Exodus 10:3).

You’ll Absolutely Reject This Message from Me

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with the final three plagues that convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. G-d makes Nissan the first month of the year. He commands the Children of Israel to perform the Pesach, the Passover Offering.

Then, the Almighty brings the Exodus.

The parsha ends with the mitzvahs of consecrating first-born animals, redeeming a first-born son, and tefilin.

Arrogance Is the Root of Most Evil

Come with me on a tour of the wreckage of Egypt. Pharaoh and his people lived through:

  1. All their water turning into blood.
  2. Frogs swarming their homes, even in their bread.
  3. Lice infesting their bodies.
  4. Hoards of wild beasts overrunning their land.
  5. Pestilence killing their livestock.
  6. Agonizing boils all over their bodies.
  7. Hail devastating their orchards and crops.

This group of catastrophes makes the worst day I’ve ever had seem outstanding. So it seems inconceivable that Pharaoh remained stubborn.  Only one force in nature could do it. Arrogance. Pharaoh refused to humble himself.

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Letting the Israelites go out into the desert meant submitting to G-d’s will. This takes humility. Time and again Pharaoh remained arrogant. All he had to do was say go and stand by his decision. Instead, his vanity destroyed his people and himself.

Use Humility to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Arrogance takes many forms including:

  • Power trips
  • Rude behavior
  • Brooding about minor insults
  • Know it all attitude
  • Refusing to adapt

You’ve met people who suffer for their arrogance. They must retaliate for even the slightest indignity. By contrast, someone who has internalized humility treats insults like water on a duck’s back. They roll off unnoticed.

You may have a friend or colleague who insists on winning every disagreement. He rarely if ever apologizes for giving offense. The humble person asks forgiveness even for an unintended slight or wrong. Who has the better life?

When you accept inappropriate behavior or limits you’re saying:

  • I’m so smart (or stupid) no one can teach me anything.
  • I’m perfect the way I am.

A modest person recognizes his shortcomings and seeks out ways to overcome them. False modesty is a form of arrogance. It denies the inherent ability of every human being to change.

Alan Axelrod’s biography on General George Patton relates an incident when Patton was a young 2nd Lieutenant. He used the word damn to curse a soldier who had not done a job properly. A short while later he thought better of it. He gathered all the people who might have heard the curse and apologized to the soldier. This was the first of many instances for which he won the respect and loyalty of his men.

Patton voluntarily, publicly, and sincerely apologized for the infamous slapping incidents. Because he believed in G-d, Patton worked all his life to restrain his arrogance.

Arrogance closes you off from solutions to the challenges you face. It destroys relationships. But I have good news for you. If you’ve read this far you met my arrogance challenge. Some people will react to the headline by saying, “You’re right. I’m not even going to read it.” You took the road of learning and growth. Next time you confront a challenge, you won’t sabotage yourself. You know the road of learning and growth is open to you.

Question – What techniques do you suggest for curbing arrogance?

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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.

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

Have You Unlocked the Ultimate Power of Your Goal?

How to Make Your Goal Your Destiny

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eira – Exodus 6:2-9:35

The promise of a new year stretches out before you. Hopefully, you’ve already set down your plans for what you’ll accomplish. Setting goals for the New Year is so satisfying. But it comes with risk. How will you feel if you don’t reach your objective? The disappointment can be crushing. And then you have to motivate yourself again. I bet you go straight from setting your goal to working on it, don’t you? Parshas Va’eira shows you’re leaving out a step:

“And Moses and Aaron did as G-d commanded them, so they did” (Shemos/Exodus 7:6)

Have You Unlocked the Ultimate Power of Your Goal-

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with G-d reassuring Moses He will fulfill the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Nonetheless, twice Moses tries to get G-d to release him from leading the Israelites. The rest of the parsha describes the first seven plagues the Almighty brought on Egypt as He brings about the Exodus.

The Missing Step

If you read the Torah carefully you’ll notice something strange. It makes a double statement that Moses and Aaron did as G-d commanded. But they hadn’t done anything yet! They don’t even meet Pharaoh until three lines later. Why does the Torah give them credit for completing a task they haven’t even begun?

The Torah hasn’t mixed up its timeline. Rather, it identifies an essential step to reaching any goal. Moses and Aaron had accepted upon themselves the obligation to follow G-d’s command. They made an absolute commitment in their hearts. So the Torah considered it as if they had actually completed their mission.

Moses knows he won’t have an easy time convincing Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. The Almighty previously told him He would strengthen Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh won’t listen to him. To persevere in the face of such resistance Moses must commit body, mind, and soul. His failure to do so would have required G-d to choose a new messenger. In the meantime, the Children of Israel would have languished in slavery.

Make Your Goal Your DESTINY

In some ways, setting a goal is the most enjoyable part. The excitement of unlimited horizons stretches out before you. You can indulge in possibilities. In this euphoric state, the struggle of achieving the goal can get overlooked.

Every goal worthy of the name will challenge you. The tasks you have to complete are the easy part. The difficulties arise from having to find ways around roadblocks and getting started again after a setback. Self-doubts plague you. The comfort of giving up on your goal entices you. If you’re not vigilant, you’ll find the end of the year approaching with no accomplishments to show for it.

Between setting a goal and starting work on it, take time to internalize it. Integrate reaching your goal into your mind and soul before beginning any physical tasks. Your resolution should be so deep that you feel joy in anticipation of bringing it to fruition.

Follow Moses’s and Aaron’s example. Notice they didn’t commit to receiving the reward. They dedicated themselves to following G-d’s command wherever it led them.

To create this level of devotion to your goal:

  1. Write your goal down in detail
  2. Write a statement saying you commit body, mind, and spirit to reaching it.
  3. Sign it.
  4. Next, visualize yourself feeling self-doubt about seeing it through.
  5. Then see yourself speaking words of reassurance to yourself.
  6. Finally, what will you do when you’re ready to give up? Who will you speak with who will redirect you back on track?
  7. Whether your spouse or friend, get the person’s assurance to help you when you need it.

Now you’ve made a mental and spiritual commitment to your goal. Go out and overcome all the physical challenges.

What bad habit will you break this year?

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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.

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

How to Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Make Growth in These Two Areas Your Obsession

2-½ minutes to read

Feeling bombarded with advice on becoming more successful? I’m hip. With Christmas and New Year over, ‘tis the season for personal development. And that’s fine. But so much of the guidance contradicts itself. These days you’re told to set goals rather than make New Year’s resolutions. But others say setting goals will demoralize you. Here’s my favorite dilemma. Should you focus on building up your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses? Allow me to cut through the static so you have simple, actionable steps to apply to your life now.

How to Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Distinguish Among the Realms of Your Life

Have you seen the movie Nuns on the Run? Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane play thieves masquerading as nuns to hide from a gang who wants to kill them. In one priceless scene, Coltrane tries to answer the question of how G-d can be One and also a Trinity. It’s like how you are one person embodying physical, mental, and spiritual domains.

As a runner, I’ve learned to achieve top performance by combining hard physical training with a determined attitude. At times, with mind and body integrated, I reach a spiritual connection to my surroundings. I remember the transcendent experience of a late summer run along Puget Sound. Running in the snow at Camp Fuji in the shadow of Japan’s highest mountain gave me a similar sense.

At the same time, there are different ways to train for physical and mental resilience.

You can increase your physical stamina without improving your mental focus. Think about the last time you did a boring activity like running on a treadmill. Likewise, you can create a distraction-free environment that will increase your focus. But it won’t increase your physical strength or endurance.

You could practice mindfulness while on the treadmill. But the need to be aware of not falling off tends to interrupt your focus. You could stand on a balance board while working at a standup desk. But staying balanced will intrude on your work.

Even though they’re not integrated, you will benefit from training that isolates the physical and mental domains.

Keep this principle in mind as we simplify personal development.

Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Perhaps as an offshoot of science, coaches seem to be looking for a unified theory of self-improvement. Some recommend you build only on your strengths. Others insist you work solely on overcoming your weaknesses. Each applies his theory to the physical, mental, and spiritual domains. By following either one, you sacrifice gains in one domain for no gains in another.

Two main areas will impact your professional success:

  1. Skills, knowledge, and experience
  2. Character

The first one is obvious. The second one includes issues such as punctuality, relationship building, and maintaining your reputation.

Unless you have a glaring omission in your skills, knowledge, or experience, focus on building your strengths. The job market pays a premium for expertise. Strive for top-level ability in what you’re best at now. This will benefit you more than middle-level ability in more skills.

With character, usually shortcomings are what hold back your career progression. If you have trouble getting to work on time or you procrastinate you need to overcome these weaknesses to succeed. Conquer them with action-taking and learning to network well.

Become obsessed with growing your professional strengths and overcoming character weaknesses. Your success will spiral ever higher each time you make ground with one or the other.

Which do struggle more to deal with - Growing your professional strengths or overcoming character weaknesses?

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How to Deal with the Setbacks You Encounter

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yayeishev – Genesis 37:1-40:23

You straightened out your kid’s school problem. Two weeks later the situation is worse than ever. You made the short list for your perfect job. Someone else got it. You’re back to square zero. You paid off all your debts. Bang! Out of the blue, your car dies. And it’s only Wednesday! I can hear you praying for a peaceful life. You deserve some rest! Parshas Vayeishev explains why you won’t get it:

“And Jacob dwelled/sat in the land of his father’s sojourning’s…” (Beresheis/Genesis 37:1)

How to Deal with the Setbacks You Encounter

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Joseph’s prophetic dreams. As a result, his brothers sold him to desert merchants. Arriving in Egypt, they sold him as a slave. All the while Jacob believed he was dead.

In the midst of these travails is the ribald story of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar.

Back in Egypt, Joseph rose to run Potiphar’s household. But Potiphar’s wife slandered him. Off to prison he goes. There he interpreted the Chief of Butler’s and Chief of Baker’s dreams. Soon the Israelite’s will descend into slavery.

Why a Peaceful Life Is Bad

Jacob had to flee from his brother who wanted to kill him even though Esau had sold him the birthright. He worked seven years for Rachel and ended up married to Leah. He had to constantly battle his unscrupulous employer Laban to avoid getting cheated.

When Jacob finally returned home he faced annihilation. Shechem abducted and raped his daughter. So two of his sons wiped out every male in Shechem’s city.

After so much turmoil, isn’t Jacob entitled to some rest? The double meaning of dwelling and sitting express Jacob’s wish that he finally get to stand down.

But there’s more trouble in store. G-d is unsympathetic. He says, “The righteous do not consider that which is prepared for them in the World to Come to be enough for them, but they seek to dwell in tranquility in this world too!”

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Why You Encounter Setbacks

Have you ever wondered why good people suffer? If G-d loves you why does He allow or bring so much pain into your life?

The Almighty creates each person to be tested and to grow spiritually. At his spiritual level, Jacob was wrong to seek a peaceful life. G-d wants everyone to adopt this attitude.

You will face challenges in life. Each is an opportunity to raise your spiritual level and resilience. Especially when you feel you’re being punished, ask these questions during and after the incident:

  1. How did I behave?
  2. How did I pass this test?
  3. Was I elevated as a result?
  4. How can I do better on the next test?

G-d is your heavenly parent. He is your teacher. Like the best of both, He challenges you so you will become the best YOU. When you seek a restful life you reject His love. You can deal with the setbacks you encounter. Rather than seeking repose, grow. Pray for strength and guidance.

Question – Does being loving always mean being nice?

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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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