Tag Archives: changing

A Depraved Priest Can Transform Your Life

3-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yisro - Exodus 18:1-20:23

Do you remember being told you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? It’s true about canines. With respect to humans, people think seniors are plagued by rigidity of mind and shackled by habits too strong to overcome. But science is confirming what was revealed in Parshas Yisro thousands of years ago:

“And Jethro, the priest of Midian, the father-in-law of Moses, heard….” (Shemos/Exodus 18:1)

A Depraved Priest Can Transform Your Life

In this Sabbath’s parsha Moses reunites with his father-in-law Yisro or Jethro, a Mindianite priest who heard about the wonders G-d performed for the Israelites. He outlines a leadership plan that Moses adopts. His reward? A parsha is named after him - the Biblical equivalent of appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.

After Yisro departs, the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai where they accept the Torah and prepare themselves to receive the Ten Commandments. Rashi and the Rambam explain they heard all Ten Commandments in one instant but could not comprehend them. So G-d repeated them. But after the first two they were so overawed they begged Moses to intercede and teach them the other eight.

The Essence of Immorality

Jethro was an advisor to Pharaoh. Given the nature of Egypt and his high position, he must have been steeped in corruption. While many bemoan the state of public morals today, the society in which Jethro achieved such a high station makes the most corrupt person today look virtuous.

He was one of the most highly respected priests in Midian. Jethro knew every form of idol worship. This included defecating at the foot of a statue of a god. It’s hard to imagine officiating at a more disgusting ritual.

Physically, mentally, and spiritually Jethro defined depravity. And yet, at a late stage in his life, he turned it all around.

Power to Transform

The story of how Jethro reformed belies the idea that it’s too late to change. Long before Darth Vader gave up evil or studies showed older entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful than younger ones, he rose from the depths of immorality to the pinnacle of spiritual achievement.


Jethro heard.

When the story of the miraculous Exodus of the Israelites reached him, Jethro not only listened, he internalized its meaning. In doing so he let go of the falsehood of idolatry and embraced the truth of G-d and a society based on justice and ethics.

I’ve spoken to dozens of veterans whose lives are a shambles. No matter what got them there, they remain in their situations by refusing to believe they have the power to transform their lives. Yet a recent study shows seniors can retain their mental flexibility late in life. If people in their 60s to 80s can, why not we who are younger?

You may be stuck too. What must change in your life? What belief prevents you from taking action? The story of Jethro attests in no uncertain terms that if you hear and internalize the truth you can transform your life.

You may struggle with a poor diet or inadequate exercise. You may be the second or third generation to have these bad habits. Embrace the example of Jethro. Hear the true message of where your current behavior will lead you. Internalize the benefits of improved diet and exercise. The same is true for getting your finances in order, straightening out your mindset, and reinvigorating your marriage.

Hear. Internalize. See with clarity the new you. No matter your age, you can change.

Do you hear me?

What message of empowerment will you use to motivate yourself to change? Please leave a 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 here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Remake Your Past & Unlock the Future

Mistakes, missed opportunities, and disappointments: the past can be a heavy burden to bear. Common wisdom advises moving on. The past is over and done with. It can’t be changed. Opportunity lies in the future. While the latter is true, you can remake your past.

How to Remake Your Past & Unlock the Future

During the early 1990s, I came close to losing my business. Having gambled a lot of money on expansion, I lost my bet. Saddled with debt and shrinking income, my prospects for success dimmed. Yet four years later I was making more money than ever before. Given my struggle, there’s no denying 1991-1993 were terrible years, right?

Your Past Is Malleable

Indeed at the time I felt embattled. My self-respect plunged. I hated going to the office but aside from running in the morning and picking up a game of tennis now and then, had nowhere else to go.

Yet by the late 1990s, I looked back on those years quite differently. I learned a lot of practical skills and lessons. I realized the benefit of persistence and focus. All of the audio programs I’d listened to: Zig Ziglar, Roger Dawson, and Earl Nightingale, made sense.

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By reframing the struggle and hardship, I literally remade the past. No longer was it about pain and suffering. Rather it was a time of change and growth.

How to Remake Your Past

Though counterintuitive, you can only change your past. How you view events in your life creates the reality of your life experiences.

  • Did you make a terrible mistake? Distill the lessons from it and make it meaningful, even beneficial.
  • What opportunities have you missed? Use them to create objectives for the future. Change them from regrets to motivation that will propel you to a goal.
  • Were you disappointed by a family member or lost friendship? Heal yourself by reconciling with the person or avoiding a similar issue with someone else. The stronger relationships that result will transform sorrow into closeness and joy.

Write down the events in your past that fester in your mind. Find what is positive in them or something you can do to change their meaning. Talk to your spouse or a trusted friend to get ideas, someone who sees life positively. Be sure to record this new perspective.

The Future is Static

By its nature, the future is one-dimensional. We tend to look at the future as having limitless opportunity. While this is true, since it hasn’t happened yet we have no basis for interpreting it. The future is fixed in the realm of potential. Only when they are past can you attach true meaning to events.

Given how pliable the past is, vow you won’t just move on, with all the potential this holds for repeating life’s mistakes. The best way to create greater potential for the future is to remake your past. Start today.

How will you remake your past?

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How to Decide When You’ll Embrace Change

I became an Uber fan last week. My wife used it to go to a banquet a few days before and loved it. The ease and economy of Uber is irresistible. The hardest part was downloading the app and getting it set up, which took about 15 minutes. Unlike the times I’ve taken taxis, the driver showed up on time (the app tracked her arrival), she was friendly, her car was clean, and she drove me to me destination quickly.

How to Decide When You'll Embrace Change

I learned that Uber is controversial here in Los Angeles. The city council has considered banning it and airports trip are prohibited. Regrettably, the ugly history of licensing continues. Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, in their massive tome Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, show how over the centuries licensing has been used to exclude certain groups of people, including the Irish, blacks, and women, from various trades and professions.

Of course not every butcher, baker, cartman, and physician supported such exclusivity. Some overcame their financial self-interest and refused to fall prey to prejudice by remaining true to their values. They benefitted from the virtues of democracy and felt other should too.

So what does the plight of Uber have to do with personal development?

Articles extolling the virtues of change abound.   Earlier this year I wrote about how you shouldn’t fear change. I’ve also written about how not all change is good and that it should enhance your life.

So when should you embrace change and when should you shun it?

This is not an easy question to answer. Some guidelines will help:

  1. If you have a destructive habit such as overeating, not exercising, or spending more money than you earn you need to change it. The sooner the better.
  2. If your behavior is damaging a relationship, change it. A poor communication style must be improved. If you aren’t regularly and positively expressing connection to your spouse or children now is the time to do so.
  3. If the way you do something is unproductive or inefficient you probably should change it. Do you regularly use electronic devices before going to sleep or have an inconsistent bedtime? You’re sapping your productivity. In contrast, using Uber will help you be more efficient. (If you want a free ride use my code, kevinb5383ue. Full disclosure: If you use it I’ll get a free ride too.)

Should you change your values? As the example about licensees in New York City shows, typically the harder and better decision is to hold onto your values. Especially if the impetus for change is coming from outside yourself or from an untrustworthy source.

However, there may be times when you need to consider adjusting your values. If your worldview impedes your growth you should examine alterations. But before you change your values, recognize by altering your foundation you subject yourself to the law of unintended consequences. You will have an adjustment period while you work through all the dimensions of this change.

For more than a century society has urged embracing change, essentially for its own sake. As an Intentionalist, you decide when to Uber up.

How do you decide whether to change? Please comment below.

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life

Every year I read at least 50 books. With so many goods ones even at one per week it seem to make hardly a dent. My reading focuses on personal development, history & biography, business, and literature (my guilty pleasures are detective and historical fiction).

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life

While I generally keep abreast of current works, I also look back to see what older books and classics I have missed. Here are the best:

Personal Development:

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

While I do not agree with their separation of the mental and emotional spheres, Loehr and Schwartz’s case studies of how they guide people to live more in concert with their values and aspirations is full of ideas for helping you do the same. About a month ago I began following their diet plan to increase energy and it works.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

Not just for runners, it is an inspiring story of human potential, how to get physically fit, and why conventional wisdom sometimes is wrong. Were it not for Melanie’s concern about family time, it might have motivated me to become an ultra-marathoner.

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

THE CLASSIC BOOK ON FINDING MEANING IN YOUR LIFE. Holocaust survivor Frankl examines the internal struggle that led some people to not only endure the concentration camps but find significance to life beyond physical survival. (For a vividly shocking portrayal of what American and British soldiers found when they liberated the camps read Rick Atkinson’s The Guns at Last Light.)

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

I wrote an entire blog post about this remarkable book. Suffice it to say if you want to be an Intentionalist it is required reading.

Against Fairness by Stephen Asma

Asma’s insightful investigation into the ethic and impact of fairness will cause you to think a second time. If you believe fairness should be a societal principle, you have no better opportunity to exercise and strengthen your values than by trying to refute his argument.

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History and Biography:

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

This Don Quixote-like story of the American ambassador to Nazi Germany belies many of the beliefs about the lead up to World War II and societal mores in the pre-war world. It will help you better distinguish between myth and fact throughout your life.

Dreadnought by Robert K. Massie

Ostensibly about the naval arms race in the decades prior to World War I, in reality it is a study in diplomacy. A fascinating illustration of how the good and bad inclinations of individuals can be governed or given free reign so as to mobilize nations and their people to peace or war.

Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics by Jeremy Schaap

Too often knowing the details of a legendary person’s life diminishes his greatness. Jesse Owens’s humanness and authenticity secure his rightfully mythic stature.

Joseph Haydn: His Life and Works by Jeremy Siepmann

Books about composers and musicians are incomplete without illustrative musical accompaniment. This audio books brings to life the splendor of Haydn’s music and his human decency.


Business and Entrepreneurship:

The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century by Steven Watts

You cannot understand business without knowing Ford’s impact. He made all the classic entrepreneurial mistakes yet became fabulously wealthy. Neither fawning nor condemnatory, Watts deftly shows genius is no guarantor of success or virtue and populism no assurance of justice.

What books did you read this year that you recommend

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If You Know This You’ll Avoid Disappointment

Military life is so efficient compared to civilian life. Systems for avoiding disappointment abound. In my case, platform building is a crucial task. Many days revolve around developing relationships. That way when service members need help my they'll seek me out. As a chaplain, it's not uncommon to build hundreds of connections in a few months, sometimes thousands in a couple of years.

If You Know This You’ll Avoid Disappointment

Image from iStockPhoto.com

Clarity Versus Messiness

Grasping this is key to understanding the frustration veterans experience transitioning to civilian life. We are used to having clear lines of communication and authority that if followed yield results. Even when stymied by red tape, the workaround paths are well worn. Limits are generally self-imposed, such as committing terminal stupidity.

Civilian life is much messier and indirect. Discovering the road to success takes time. Traveling it takes more time. Unanticipated setbacks and dead ends, often no one’s fault, impede progress. For people used to the private sector, disappointment can result. Imagine how much more difficult it is for a veteran trained in a military system reasonably free of such impediments.

For veterans and civilians, the solution is the same:

The military can plan and launch a major campaign in a short period of time with a high expectancy of success. But for individuals rarely is forward movement so swift and dramatic. Life is the continual process of doing mostly menial tasks that when added together over the long-term lead to success.

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When the Temple still stood in Jerusalem day in and day out the priests made an offering called the Tamid, or continual offering. Weekday or holiday, each morning and afternoon, they performed this sacrifice, over 700 times a year. You can reach any goal following the same plan.

4 Steps to Blocking Disappointment

As you reach for success, make this your practice:

  1. Determine which tasks you must perform every day. Get down to absolute essentials. Your time is precious so don't waste it.
  2. Figure out the best way to do them. How can you do them most effectively and efficiently?
  3. Schedule time to do them. Even though they're daily tasks, put them on your task list. When you plan your day (Do so the night before) give them top priority. Then each day, recommit to completing them as efficiently as possible.
  4. Each day, check them off as you complete them. Every time you finish one of your daily tasks you've taken a step closer to your goal. Take a moment to savor your progress.

With life so filled with unforeseen happenings, fog layers the road to success. By focusing on the daily tasks that will lead you toward your goals you experience numerous triumphs each day. They will inoculate you from the disappointment of your success delayed.

How do you maintain enthusiasm for doing the routine tasks of your life?

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