Category Archives: Resilience

Adversity Is the Best Friend You’ll Ever Have

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Ha’azinu – Deuteronomy 32:1-52

My daughter experienced her first major life setback last week. It caught her completely by surprise. Much to her chagrin, I cannot fix what happened. Even worse, I had to make it clear she was completely responsible. I wanted to comfort her. But I knew if I did she would not take valuable lessons to heart. Good thing Parshas Ha’azinu explains why adversity is her best friend:

“…like storms winds upon vegetation and like raindrops on grass.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 32:2)

Adversity Is the Best Friend You’ll Ever Have

This week’s parsha is the last Sabbath reading of the cycle. Moses teaches the Israelites a redemptive song. In it he calls on heaven and earth to witness all the disasters that will happen if they stray from G-d. He also describes the joy that will come with the final redemption. At the end of the parsha G-d gives Moses his final task.

G-d Wants to Bond with You

Moses spent most of his life tending to the Israelites. Starting decades earlier, he led them out of Egypt. For 40 years he shepherded them through the wilderness. Now, on the border of the Promised Land, he must leave them. He has complete faith in Joshua, their new leader. Yet despite doing his best, the future foretells disaster for his flock.

I can imagine Moses would like to make life easier for the Children of Israel. After all, isn’t that the instinct of every loving parent? But he knows a trouble-free life will mean even greater catastrophe. Hoping against hope, he reminds his people that storm winds are as necessary to life as raindrops.   Resolutely facing adversity builds resilience and an unbreakable bond with G-d.

Seek Out Your Best Friend

You probably think I’m crazy for suggesting you should seek out painful situations. Hear me out. By choosing the challenge you’ll face, you stand a better chance of conquering it.

  • You can prepare. A mountain climber makes sure he has all the required equipment before starting out. Something may break or get lost. He’ll still have to improvise at times. But he doesn’t plan on the fly. He sizes up the challenge, trains for it, and prevails.
  • You can create meaning. By choosing your test, you can select one that resonates deeply. Start with candid self-examination. Determine your vulnerabilities. Pick one. Set your first goal. Visualize the new person you’ll be when you achieve it.
  • You can get G-d’s help. You won't live a carefree life. So you can sit back and let the Almighty decide on the trials you’ll face. Or, you can initiate your own personal development. When you do, G-d will support you. Not by making the experience pain-free. But by guaranteeing it will be worthwhile.

You may need a better job. Your marriage may require renovation. You may have developed unhealthy habits. You hope your life will get better. But, these conditions will only get worse. Choose to face the storm winds on your own terms. At times life is painful. Be intentional about adversity. The more time you spend with it the sooner it will become your best friend.

What keeps you from confronting challenges? 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!

3 Reasons You Must Read to Succeed

2-½ minutes to read

Like most of us, I got advantages and disadvantages from my upbringing. We’d lived in five different cities and eight houses by the time I was nine years old. Maintaining friendships has been a challenge for me ever since. My dad was an engineer (electronics not train-driver). Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he would get work on a project and once the contract was done move on. Not a recipe for financial stability. But I was fortunate to have received many blessings from my parents. After their love and belief in my success, the most important is they made me a reader.

3-reasons-you-must-read-to-succeed

Being Literate and Going to College Aren’t Enough

By 1969 only 1% of the U.S. population couldn’t read. However, this statistic hides all but the utilitarian benefits of reading. Just because someone can read signs or simple forms doesn’t mean he’s reaping the advantages that come from literacy.

I’ve written before about why getting a degree won’t make you more money. These days an undergraduate degree is about as valuable as a high school diploma was 30 or 40 years ago. Master’s and doctoral degrees do not lead to wealth. Less than a quarter of the 400 wealthiest people in the United States have an advanced degree. Your success depends on two things:

  • Knowing what it takes to be successful, which colleges don’t teach at any level.
  • Increasing your value to your organization or clients.

So if college doesn’t guarantee success, what will?

Steve Seibold interviewed over 1,200 of the wealthiest people in the world. He found the one pastime they have in common is reading. Two factors distinguish the reading habits of wealthy versus middle and lower income people.

  • Rich people use books to educate themselves on how to be more successful.
  • Middle-class people read to be entertained.

Even more so, wealthy people value the life-long learning that comes from books.

  • 67% of wealthy people watch an hour or less of television a day and only 6% watch reality shows.
  • 23% of poor people watch less than an hour of television a day and 78% of them watch reality series.

If you want to succeed, get in the habit of reading books on personal development, success, and that give you the most advanced knowledge in your field or industry.

Read to Succeed Because…

Beyond the ability to create wealth, reading leads to better health. Michael Grothaus reports reading reduces stress and may stave off depression and dementia.

Not to sound like a Ronco commercial, but there’s more. My top three reasons for being a reader are:

  • You learn without getting the hard knocks of life.
  • You have experiences you cannot have any other way.
  • You can challenge your ideas in a safe environment.

What good comes from developing relationship skills by trial and error? Many excellent authors and books will help you do so more elegantly and efficiently. My favorite for business relationships is Judy Robinette’s How to Be a Power Connector. Dr. Mark Goulston deals with professional and personal relationships in his book Just Listen If you have a particular relationship challenge, post a comment or send me an email. I’m happy to recommend a book.

You’ll never ride to Samarkand on a fleet Mongol horse or live the genteel, 19th-century life of an English country gentleman. But Patrick O’Brien will take you to China and Mongolia in The Road to Samarcand. Anthony Trollope invites you for a long visit to Barchester in Framley Parsonage. Though some may dismiss these as worthless novels, they contain many lessons about leadership, human inter-relations, and the values that support strong relationships.

Exchanging ideas with another person can build a more solid connection. But it can also lead to arguments. As well, you may want to explore an idea so you can engage with someone more intelligently. No matter how heatedly I attack what’s written in a book, it’s never slugged me.

You can improve every area of your life without leaving a comfortable armchair. Develop the habit. Read to succeed.

What are you reading? Please comment below.

Why You Should Make Wile E. Coyote Your Hero

2-½ minutes to read

Saturday morning cartoons were one of the great rituals of my childhood. Bugs Bunny was the star attraction during the early 1960s. Then in 1966, The Road Runner Show debuted. What prepubescent boy could resist such slapstick mania? Nonetheless, during the initial two-year run of the Road Runner and Coyote cartoons, my dad fumed about the violence. (In truth, I welcomed the break from his complaining about sugar cereal and candy advertisements.) For years I’ve gone along with rooting for the Roadrunner and deriding the Coyote. Now I can finally go public. Wile E. Coyote is my hero!

Why You Should Make Wile E. Coyote Your Hero

A Metaphor for Life

Chuck Jones and Mike Maltese, who created the characters, wanted to parody of various chase cartoons like Tom and Jerry. At the risk of sounding supercilious, they carry a deeper message. I didn’t consciously perceive this as a kid. But in every episode, Wile E. fought an existential battle of success and failure. And though he never caught the Roadrunner, the Coyote consistently won his fight because he kept trying.

Throughout the series, the Roadrunner never changed. Not once did he rely on anything other than his speed or luck to evade capture. Despite his hero status, the Roadrunner behaved despicably. I hated the show’s theme song. The lyrics, “Poor little roadrunner never bothers anyone; just running down the road is his idea of having fun” were not true. The Roadrunner taunted Wile E. in every episode. And often he gloated when one of the Coyote’s schemes went awry. By any measure, he displayed poor sportsmanship.

The Roadrunner gained accolades merely for following his nature. The Coyote was trying to capture his food. Is there anything more natural? Yet he was demeaned despite his creativity and tenacity. As every week went by, my desire for Wile E.’s success deepened.

The Qualities of a Hero

Long before he spoke with an English accent, I respected Wile E.’s erudition. As I write this, I realize his drawings may have given rise to my fascination with machinery. In any event, if you seek personal development, the Coyote exemplifies it:

  • Goal. Wile E. set a goal that would stretch him. Let face it, he could have found sustenance elsewhere. But he chose to pursue a challenging objective. You can’t argue the Roadrunner was unattainable. While not a diet staple, real coyotes catch and eat them.
  • Plan. Wile E. used his mind to overcome the gap between the Roadrunner’s strengths and his own. You might argue his schemes were too complex. But he never approached his prey ad hoc. He had a plan. When it didn’t work, often he would learn from his failure and modify it.
  • Technology. Wile E. was not a Luddite. He experimented with new technology. In this respect, he was perhaps the first futurist. He stretched the boundaries of science and engineering in pursuit of his objective.
  • Action. Wile E. acted. He didn’t over plan. He never allowed himself to get so caught up in his stratagems he failed to execute them.
  • Resilient. Wile E. never gave up. Ever. His resilience formed the foundation of his greatness.

You might argue that Wile E.’s lack of success bars him from the pantheon of heroes. But success is not the mark of a hero. Too often people sacrifice their principles to gain success. I don’t find such people laudable. Rather, heroes retain their ideals in the face hardship.

Toward the end of his career, Wile E.’s animators had him parody himself with the phrase, “Wile E. Coyote, super genius.” Whenever he said that, I heard him say, “Wile E. Coyote, my hero.”

How do you decide who will be your heroes? Please comment below.

How to Avert Death Virtually Forever

3-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Re’eh – Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Though not obsessed with it, I’ll confess death scares me a little. Do you know what it means that your soul will spend eternity close to G-d (a.k.a. heaven) or far from Him (a.k.a. hell)? Me either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to avert death forever? But Parshas Re’eh insists we confront it, every day:

“See, I place before you today, a blessing and a curse.” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 11:26)

How to Avert Death Virtually Forever

This Sabbath’s parsha reveals G-d’s blessing and curse. It describes the holiness of the Land of Israel. Then Moses explains more about how the Children of Israel must conduct themselves there. He spells out what to do with a false prophet and a person who entices another to go astray. The Israelites learn what it means to be G-d’s treasured people. Finally, the Torah teaches about tithes, forgiving loans, generosity, how to treat a slave, and the three pilgrimage festivals.

How Curse Equals Death

In the eponymous book of the Bible, the prophet Isaiah tells the Israelites if they listen to G-d they will eat well. But, if they rebel they’ll be “devoured by the sword.” So good equals nourishment and bad equals death? That seems out of balance. But when you think about it, we often equate being hungry to dying. Ever said you were starved?

But even when full, you may be dying. Or perhaps more accurately, you’re killing yourself.

While still in the womb, you get a glimpse of your potential greatness. You don’t consciously remember it after you’re born. But the potential exists within your spirit. During life, your body and spirit are joined. You have the opportunity to live out your potential. How you do so determines whether each day life conquers death or vice versa.

Use Your Spirit to Avert Death

Have you ever watched a thoroughbred race? Four centuries of careful breeding have created animals that appear to sprint even when standing still. A thoroughbred’s body and spirit connect most deeply during the 30 seconds of racing. You can almost feel its joy as it flies down the track. Despite the danger, you see life defeating death as the horse displays the greatness to which it was born.

So it is sad to see a thoroughbred that can no longer run. Though it may live many more years, each day that passes is one where death conquers life.

Like the thoroughbred, you were born for distinction. The potential encoded into your spirit will lead you to a pinnacle. Unlike the horse, your life purpose isn’t obvious. The difficulty lies in figuring it out. You’re on track when you:

  • Engage your body, mind, and spirit. You don’t need to be in the clergy for your work to connect spiritually. Rather, you must invest your passion in what you do. For that matter, your life purpose may be an avocation. Your work may just be what you have to do to get the resources to trek your path to greatness.
  • Serve your fellow human beings. Google and Coca-Cola make as big a contribution to humanity as any non-profit. Without the support of a vibrant business sector, charities couldn’t survive. Your attitude toward serving trumps where you serve.
  • Connect with G-d most deeply. It may seem you’ll get closest to the Creator in a house of worship. Periodically you need the distraction-free environment. But if you find your most direct connection with G-d some other place you’ve got a clue about your life purpose.

Beyond these three qualities lies a universe of possibilities. One of my friends finds the Almighty in his lab. Another finds Him in the caves and wrecks where he and his family scuba dive. Yet another finds G-d in the early morning hours poring over words of Aramaic in the Talmud. Only one of them makes a living pursuing the greatness instilled in him in utero.

If you found your life purpose and each day finds you striving for it, congratulations! Every day you conquer death. If you’re still searching for your path to greatness, likewise you’re winning the daily battle of life versus death. You need have no fear that one day your body and spirit will separate. From what I’ve learned you’ll hardly notice. You’ve lived your life connected to its essence. You may regret leaving your loved ones. But you’ll have created an immortal memory.

Each day you decline to strive toward your life purpose, I’m sorry to tell you death rules your life. And you are the executioner. By failing to seek out the potential for greatness instilled in you, you make your life meaningless. You have chosen to be like the thoroughbred that can no longer run.

But no matter how many days you have let slip by, tomorrow, today, this minute you can flip the death life equation around. Examine the three qualities above. Reach out to loved ones. Take up the search again. Though you may feel like a pursuer of impossible dreams, you’ll be alive. In fact, you’ll avert death virtually forever.

How have you striven to find your life purpose? 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!

10 Ways You Can Reach God

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eschanan – Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11

Any golfer can tell you it takes a bagful of clubs to play an effective game. You need woods to hit long distances. Use irons for short and approach shots. And you make your money with a putter. As they say, “Drive for show, putt for dough.” There are golfers who play an entire course with just a driver. But they’ll play better with a complete set. The same goes for prayer. Parshas Va’eschanan shows one of 10 ways to reach G-d:

“And I implored to G-d at that time…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 3:23)

10 Ways You Can Reach God

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with Moses begging G-d to change His decree and let him enter the land of Israel. Then Moses exhorts the Israelites to keep G-d’s commandments. He sets the example by setting aside Cities of Refuge. Next Moses reviews the Ten Commandments and teaches the people the Shema prayer. Finally, Moses urges the people that rather than succumbing to prosperity they should diligently teach their children about the Exodus from Egypt and to follow the Torah.

How to Reach God

You know that how you talk to someone can affect the response you receive. Not as obvious is that the way you communicate impacts yourself. If you talk about a happy event with your shoulders slumped and your head hanging down it won’t feel as positive. If you sing to yourself when you’re sad, it can brighten your day.

The way you communicate with the Almighty shapes the nature and power of your prayer. The Midrash, a compendium of commentary on the Torah, lists 10 expressions of prayer:

  1. Pleading. You turn to God and make an articulate plea for release from a difficult situation.
  2. Crying Out. Like pleading, but rather than being comprehensible words the prayer is a wordless cry from your heart.
  3. Moaning. Deeper than crying out, your expression of pain reaches God as an appeal for help.
  4. Singing. You sing God’s praises for His blessing of good times. Or you intone words of solace in His support when life challenges you.
  5. Entreaty. You repeat a request, even when you think the Almighty has said no. It demonstrates your belief that at any time God can help you.
  6. Self-Fortification. Praying just to connect with the Creator during challenging times.
  7. Calling Out. You call to God by name acknowledging He stands ready to help at any moment.
  8. Falling Down. You need not physically collapse. Rather, you rid yourself of pride. You adopt an attitude of mental and spiritual humility that all control is in God’s hands.
  9. Praying. Basic speaking with the Almighty that recognizes He embodies truth.
  10. Imploring. Beseeching God to grant your petition while recognizing you do not merit it.

You can learn to communicate better with your spouse and children. Many classes are available. Unfortunately rarely will you find training to connect better with the Creator.

Learning more than one expression of prayer will help you reach God in ways previously unavailable to you. Practice one of these modes before you need it. Can you articulate the words of a plea or song? Can you focus your despair into a cry or a moan? Can your muster enough stamina to entreat? Can you subdue your ego long enough to fall down?

You may have worked hard to learn a second language. Doing so probably brought you greater business or social opportunities. Untroubled, you may not see a good reason for mastering multiple ways to connect with God. Remember, He always responds to your prayers. But the answer you get may depend on the expression you use.

Despite his lofty status, Moses used every form of prayer to connect with the Almighty. Follow his example. Next time you really need Him, be prepared to reach God.

How many expressions of prayer do you use now? 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!

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