Tag Archives: character traits

When Words Speak Louder Than Actions

Being genuine about who you are and what you desire from life is the indispensable prerequisite to personal development. How can you live intentionally if your words and actions are out of sync?

When Words Speak Louder Than Actions

Thinking back to my navy training experiences, one stands out. After five weeks of Officer Indoctrination School, chaplains moved on to Chaplain School. About two-thirds of the way through the course we had AMEX, an outdoor training designed to prepare us for serving with the Marine Corps.

We went to a National Guard training camp and lived in tents. We ate MREs (meals ready-to-eat). Every day we hiked or ran the obstacle course (well, only the parts the leadership thought would not injure us). We even learned to dig a foxhole. For one exercise, in small groups, we had to run until the instructor yelled drop. At that point, we had to hit the dirt not matter what. My group decided we would purposely run through a flooded area knowing we would be told to drop in the water. When the order came we all belly flopped with our hands out, soaking ourselves but also anyone, including the instructor, who was nearby! Our actions didn't please him.

At the end of the seven days, we had a “Warrior Dinner.” After a week of MREs, we could have anything we wanted. People requested Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds. I asked for fresh fruit. The instructor’s chin virtually hit the deck.

“It’s a Warrior Dinner! You can’t have fruit!” Quietly I insisted I could, since the rules were we could have anything we wanted. After further pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth, he agreed.

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On the night of the dinner, probably thinking he'd teach me a lesson, he brought me a bag of fruit big enough to feed a platoon. After a week of highly processed food, I happily gorged on apples, oranges, and grapes

Then a funny thing happened. One by one my colleagues came by to ask me if I had any to spare. The chicken and hamburgers were fine, but the fruit was the icing on the cake.

Throughout Chaplain School the instructors preached that we had to be real with our sailors and Marines, which I took to mean genuine. Yet when I expressed my authentic desire for fruit at the Warriors Dinner, their actions pressured me to conform. Although lost on me at the time, the irony is evident now.

Even among those who advocate that you be real, they may try to mold you to their idea of what you should be. When you resist the pressure to conform applied by those who claim to support your authenticity, you will be firmly on the road to personal development and you are #LivingIntentionally.

How do resist the pressure to conform?

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Why You Don’t Care How You Dress, and Why You Should

Earlier today while spending a few minutes on Facebook, I came across a post showing a woman shabbily dressed. It had a caption that said, “To the parents who see me every morning as I drop off my kids at school: I am not a real hobo.” I have a question for the woman in the picture: “Then why do you dress like one?” This Sabbath’s parsha, Vayakhel, explains my attitude:

Why You Don’t Care How You Dress, and Why You Should “He made the Laver . . . from the mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.” (Shemos/Exodus 38:8).

This week’s parsha reviews the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle that accompanied the Israelites during their travels in the wilderness. It also relates perhaps the only time in Jewish history that a building campaign raised so much money people were told to stop giving!

The Priests washed their hands and feet in the Laver before performing the Temple service. Instead of plain copper, it was made from polished copper mirrors donated by the Jewish women.

Moses was reluctant to use them since the women had used them to entice their husbands. But he had the wrong perspective. G-d makes it clear the mirrors were used L’Shaim Shamayim (in the name of Heaven).  They ensured the survival of the Jewish people. Exhausted from the physical and mental toil of slavery, the Jewish men would have abstained from marital relations. By taking the initiative the women made sure that the next generation was born.

Despite greater ability to control our environment than ever before, the criteria for everyday dress is comfort and convenience. A writer I follow on Twitter extolls Mark Zuckerberg for wearing a hooded sweatshirt while promoting Facebook’s IPO. As it turns out,

G-d Wants You to Dress Attractively

Of course, He wants you to dress appropriately too. The Talmud encourages wealthy young women to share their dresses with less affluent friends so they can charm young men. Hobo garb may be okay if you are riding the rails, but I do not know any people using a freight train to take their children to school.

Have you ever seen pictures of everyday life from the 1930s through the 1950s? People dressed beautifully, whether at their offices or the grocery store. You might think they are crazy for getting so dressed up. But this week’s parsha makes it clear.  Just like the Mishkan brought G-d’s presence down to Earth, when you dress nicely, especially to charm your spouse, you elevate the physical to heavenly heights.

What do you think about the way people dress today?

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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!

Improve Your Motivation at Practically No Cost

Passionate as I am about classic movies, I could not miss the opportunity to see To Sir With Love on the big screen. An iconic film of the mid-1960s, it embodies the hope of its time.  New approaches to chronic societal challenges will make a better world. Powerful in its simplicity, it provides the most inspiring motivation.

Improve Your Motivation at Practically No Cost

If you have not seen this diamond, it stars arguably the greatest actor of the latter half of the 20th century, Sidney Poitier.  He plays a new teacher (Sir) at an East End London school attended by kids no other school would tolerate. Perhaps timeworn by today’s standards, such a topic was groundbreaking in 1967.

Okay Rabs, so it is great. But why should I care about a half-century old movie?

None One Is an Endless Well of Motivation & Self-Inspiration

While we do not need to be told about the qualities it takes to succeed, we all need to be reminded.

To Sir With Love kindles a fire of awareness as to why certain characteristics are crucial to success.  Especially as a human being, we need:

  • Integrity
  • Mutual Respect
  • Self-Discipline
  • Persistence
  • Humility

It vividly demonstrates:

  • The Difference One Person Can Make
  • The Importance of Mentorship
  • How to Handle Celebrity

And one more . . .

The most poignant moment in the movie occurs when the students refuse to personally deliver flowers to the funeral of their classmate’s mother because his father is black. They refuse to risk the social stigma. When the camera cuts to a close-up of Sir, he does not lash back at them. This despite their ridiculousness assertion he cannot understand what they would go through. Rather, he engages in a moment of quiet contemplation. Finally, he responds by thanking them for their explaining the situation to him.

Sidney Poitier vividly demonstrates the power of empathy over the desire for personal vindication.

Whether you have previously seen To Sir With Love before, rent, stream, or somehow see this movie. It will boost your motivation, propel you into action.

How do you remind yourself of the qualities you are grooming in yourself?

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Even Your Good Impulses Need Balance

For many years I raised money for a variety of nonprofit organizations. As a volunteer leader, I felt compelled to make a leadership-size gift. However, early on in my business career, I did not have the money to pay for them. These debts weighed on me for years. Too bad I had not internalized the parsha for this Sabbath, Terumah:

“. . . the length of one panel twenty-eight amos, and width four amos for the one panel, one measure for all the panels.” (Shemos/Exodus 26:2).

Keeping Your Life in Balance

This week’s parsha details the plans for the Mishkan or portable Sanctuary in which G-d rested His Presence during the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness. Such ordinary materials as copper, linen, and goatskins became a holy abode.

Perhaps you noticed the great detail given about the design of the Mishkan and its utensils. Material specifications are exacting and measurements are quite precise. If even one board or socket was too long or too short the whole structure would be out of whack, perhaps even collapse.

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The Hebrew word for a measurement is midah. Interestingly, the same word, midah, also refers to human character trait. Could this be the source of the phrase, “the measure of a person’s character”? In the building of the Mishkan there is an important lesson for each of us.

A Character Trait Out of Balance Is Bad

It is well known that being charitable is an important midah to have. You shouldn't be stingy when giving money to the poor. Equally bad, perhaps worse, is the person who gives so much money he impoverishes himself or goes into debt as a result. Proper development of the midah of being charitable keeps giving in balance with your means. Otherwise, like the Mishkan the whole structure of a human being may collapse.

I struggled for many years to pay my pledges. How much more productive would I have been by being more measured in my largesse? Free from the worry and embarrassment of owing money I could have focused my mind more fully on business. I need not have felt uncomfortable around friends and business associates, most of whom knew nothing about my plight, but who had fulfilled their own pledges.

Make yourself a Mishkan, exacting in your middos, deriving holiness from humble materials, a shelter for all from the harsh rays of life.

Do you think someone can overdo a good trait?

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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!

Should You Be a Fanatic About Moderation?

“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Having at one time been borderline obese, I confess to intermittent zealousness about diet and exercise. Evolving from the extreme position often necessary to changing your life to a more sustainable posture poses an unending challenge. But indeed moderation is truly a virtue that is sensible in most, if not all, aspects of life. Let’s look at it through the Three Pillars of Fitness.

Should You Be a Fanatic About Moderation?

Physical Realm. There seems to be broad agreement that sleeping too little can cause a range of problems from lack of focus to weight gain. But too much sleep may lead to diabetes, heart disease, increased risk of death, and could be indicative of depression.

Drastic diets can help you lose weight quickly but are ineffective for long-term maintenance and nutrition. Protein-heavy diets dehydrate your body. Vegetarianism can cause protein-deficiency. Very low-fat diets deprive the body of its ability to store energy, adjust temperature, and lubricate tissue.

Lack of exercise is bad for your health, but many health professionals advise that extreme regimens like P90X are harmful by unnecessarily stressing the body.

With your finances, you should strike a balance between funding your current cash flow needs and saving for the future.

When investing, a portfolio diversifying risks and terms commensurate with your stage in life is universally recommended. Being opposed to debt probably means you will not buy a house.

Recognizing many children have been destroyed by inheritances, should you donate your wealth to a worthy cause? Yet, if you follow Andrew Carnegie’s advice, leaving nothing to your children, are you sure the organization to which you leave it will follow your wishes?

In your leisure pursuits and entertainment, are extremes wise? With extreme sports comes increased risk of extreme injuries, even among top athletes. People lose their jobs by staying up all night playing online games and being late for work. Recreation and diversion are healthy, danger and mania are not.

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Is there anyone more boring than the person so immersed in a hobby he thinks everyone is as fascinated with Cirripedology (the study of barnacles) as he is? The line between passion and obsession is fine. When your friends’ eyes glaze over you have crossed it.

Moderation is Essential to Sustaining the Physical Pillar of Fitness

Mental Realm. To be emotionally sound requires well-developed cognitive skills, moored self-esteem so you can be balanced in your societal habituation, and psychological resilience that supports you through the emotion roller collar called life. Extremity impairs development of these skills.

When approaching societal engagement, enduring friendships require a balance of empathy and self-concern between two people. Beyond your close circle, the demands of a larger community can engulf you. But sacrificing yourself to such claims, without periodic self-care, will eventually retard or prevent your community service.

Pets provide companionship and opportunity for stewardship. But infatuation with a pet can hinder the ability to forge human ties and their accompanying growth.

Intellectual challenge stimulates the mind. But obsession with such activities, be it reading, education, or avocation poses the same danger as that of an obsessive hobby, often at the cost of not exercising or engaging socially.

Definitionally, Moderation is Crucial for Sustaining the Mental Pillar of Fitness

Spiritual Realm. Does G-d want a moderate relationship with you? This is a complex, intensely personal question. Your love for G-d, like His for you, should be limitless. A strong connection entails balance among prayer, fulfillment of duties, and engagement in rituals. Should you reject the secular world? According to my faith no, but I would not argue with those of other faiths who disagree.

Familial relationships also challenge the question of moderation. You should love your spouse, parents, and children without limit, abusive situation excepted. In other areas, such as material support and giving advice, restraint is wise. But unbounded love does not preclude having to say no.

“Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.” ~ Thomas Paine

With core values, I agree with Paine. Having once compromised your principles it can become habitual. Have you engaged in the process of identification, articulation, practice, and assessment? Principal among my values is humility. Discourse, not imposition, enlightens.

G-d, Family, and Core Values Are Exceptions to Moderation in the Spiritual Pillar of Fitness

Moderation applies even to moderation, love and core values being the exceptions. As you instill new habits and take on new vistas to conquer, the tendency to excess is tempting. By keeping moderation as a value you keep your life in balance, sustain relationships, and are truly #LivingIntentionally.

Where do you think moderation does not apply?

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