Tag Archives: mental health

Being Tolerant Can Improve Your Life

Errare humanum est – To err is human ~ Alexander Pope

Spend time with navy chief petty officers and you will be treated to copious stories of colossally bad judgment and virtually an equal number of redemptive tales. Learning life’s lessons the hard way used to be the hallmark of senior enlisted sailors. These days sailors have fewer opportunities to recover from what I call the “big stupid.”

Being Tolerant Can Improve Your Life

Are you like me? As a kid I took enough foolish risks that it’s virtually a miracle I reached adulthood intact. And those were downright tame compared to ones I took as a young adult that should have landed my in jail or worse. A little less good luck and who knows where I’d have been without the ability to redeem myself. (Don’t worry Mom, I don’t do such things anymore – well except the whole navy thing but that’s different isn’t it?)

Growth comes from reclaiming yourself after you make mistakes, small and large. So the one strike and you’re out nature of zero tolerance has deleterious effects on personal development and a host of other issues:

  1. It discourages risk taking. While taking foolish risks is, well, foolish, taking calculated risks is the hallmark of dynamism that spurs you to greater success, be it professional, in relationships, or serving G-d.
  2. It inhibits heuristic (a great word that means “hands on”) learning. Think about how much you’ve learned from experience verses books and classes. Hands on learning instills the most enduring lessons.
  3. It devalues those who aren’t academically inclined. Perhaps you don’t absorb book-based learning particularly well. Trial and error is your path to success. Should you be held back by fear that you may say or do something on your road to education that has permanent consequences?
  4. It’s wasteful. There aren’t any acts that should necessarily bar you from the path of redemption. What about murder you say. Well, it’s true I don’t think Charles Manson should leave prison alive. But we have parole boards to make such decisions on a case-by-case basis. For mistakes that are not as dire, such as saying something stupid, the professional consequences can be all but permanent. Wouldn’t it be better to let the person learn his lesson and move on?
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Ironically, zero tolerance policies thrive at a time when pleas for tolerance have never been greater. I have written about tolerance before, how it’s something you give not receive. What I’m suggesting here is that it be given more generously. By being more tolerant of people’s mistakes you will create empathetic relationships.

You may have you own zero tolerance policies. Are they serving you and your family or are they holding you back?

What should absolutely never be tolerated?

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You’re Addicted Aren’t You? Here’s How to Break It

Not long after the tragedy in Paris, a friend asked me if I was going to blog about it. I answered no because naval officers should not comment publically on political matters. My reason may sound wimpy though even if military regulations allowed it, I would refrain.

You’re Addicted Aren’t You? Here’s How to Break It Photo by Alan Cleaver (Unaltered)

One of my most politically outspoken friends adopted a similar policy a few years ago. He told me it was fruitless to argue politics since mostly it alienated people. I’ve found many people interpret a challenge to their political positions as an attack on their morality.

Here are several reasons for avoiding discussions of politics:

  1. It’s a waste of time. Have any of your discussions changed the positions of either political party?
  2. It’s a waste of time. Truthfully, how many people’s minds have you changed?
  3. It’s a waste of time. How long does it take you to calm down after a rancorous political debate?
  4. It’s counterproductive. How many friends and potential customers have you lost over political conflict?
  5. It’s counterproductive. How badly have you diminished your influence in other areas by people who discount you because of your political beliefs?

I have a handful of longstanding friends with whom I talk about politics. We agree on the necessity of comity so our discussions help us examine alternate viewpoints.

In the same vein, being caught up in the 24-hour news cycle is equally unproductive. The idea that people should constantly keep abreast of current events began with the advent of cable news in 1980. It’s a function of news needing to be a profit center for networks. But rarely do enough things happen to justify more than 15 to 30 minutes a day of news consumption.

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Similarly fictional is the idea that news sources are unbiased. Many used to candidly disclose their partisanship. Although they may have changed since their founding, there’s no mystery about the original voice of the Press-Republican in Pittsburg or the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. And while Colorado’s Delta County Independent would seem to be unbiased, more likely it laid a pox on both major parties’ houses.

To be sure, journalists are schooled in objectivity. But they are still human beings. I’ve found people who agree with a news source’s voice think it’s nonpartisan while those who disagree claim it’s biased. Who’s correct?

How is it that during World War II, by any definition a more tumultuous time than now, people survived reading a daily newspaper and perhaps a special edition when some momentous event justified a special press run?

If you cannot quit news consumption completely, I recommend you limit yourself to no more than 30 minutes per day. As a naval officer, I have access to the Chief of Naval Information’s News Clips, also known as the Early Bird, which aggregates relevant stories from many sources. I can skim headlines and read articles of interest in about 15 minutes. You can create something similar with Feedly or another RSS aggregator.

With life overburdened by too many responsibilities, even an extra 10 or 15 minutes per day can be put to better use. Relaxation between projects, a short walk, or a call or text to your spouse or child are of much greater benefit to you, your colleagues and loved one than getting the latest minutiae passing for news or rehashing political arguments to no avail.

Replace both addictions with a productive habit in line with your personal mission statement and goals.

What downside is there to abstaining from politics and news? 

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Strengthen Your Marriage in a Minute per Day

Amidst all the priorities competing for my time, I have found too often I loose focus on my foremost relationship, my marriage. It was so much easier when my wife didn’t work and our daughter went to bed early. We had dinner and a cocktail most nights and a special date night once a week. But since she went back to work, and the night shift at that, we have been sorely challenged to find time for just the two of us.

Strengthen Your Marriage in a Minute per Day

So for the last six months, I tested variations of this scheme. When I do it well it works wonders. Here are the three things you should do each day:

  1. Wish your spouse good morning, preferably including a kiss.
  2. Sometime during the day, express appreciation to your spouse.
  3. Say good night to your spouse, again even better if you include a kiss.

Here’s the key: You have to be intentional and focused for the 5 to 20 seconds it takes to perform each act.

Sometimes I replace expressing gratitude with an act of kindness, perhaps doing one of her chores or bringing her a small gift. When I have to leave the house early or Melanie isn’t home I send her a text instead.

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When done consistently, these three briefs deeds strengthen the bond with my wife. Conversely, when I am inconsistent or unfocused our connection erodes.

To hold myself accountable I list LT | BT | EA, meaning lila tov (Hebrew for good night), boker tov (Hebrew for good morning), and express appreciation, in my daily to-do list. Good night is first because my day starts when I reunite with my family after work in the late afternoon. (Read about how I manage my day based on my priorities rather than by time convention.)

You don’t need to commit for a year. Try this plan for 30-days. Let me know how it works!

What do you to consistently bond with your spouse? 

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You Made 2014 Fantastic. Thank You!

Gratitude is crucial to being an Intentionalist. So I am starting the new year by saying thank you for visiting my blog, reading and commenting on my posts, and most especially for subscribing to my newsletter during 2014. I am honored you want to be a part of this community.

Thank you for a fantastic 2014!Perhaps you are interested to know a little more about it. You are part of a group from over 70 countries. Since I write in English you know this language, but you speak over 20 others! Our group is about 40% female and 60% male, fairly evenly spread among age cohorts.

During last year, newsletter subscribers increased 90%. Of the two social media platforms through which we usually interact, Facebook fans surged 2700% and Twitter followers rose 1600%.

While I did not meet all my goals for 2014, I feel blessed by this progress.

For the coming year I remain committed to giving you the best ideas and resources for guiding your life to the goals you have set for yourself and your family. If you follow my work through one channel please consider these other ways I can serve you:

  • Newsletter: As a subscriber you are the first to know when a new article posts. Generally new material hits social media outlets six to 30 hours later. Also, some material is only available to subscribers. You can signup at: http://eepurl.com/tfZJ9
  • Twitter: In addition to my blog posts, you will find links to material I have curated across dozens of sources including blogs, online periodicals, and other social media platforms. I tweet once an hour, around the clock so you will not be overwhelmed by material. You can follow me at: https://twitter.com/KevinBemel
  • Facebook: With the exception of my blog posts, the material I post on Facebook is not on my other social media outlets. Aside from comments on my blog, Facebook affords the best opportunity for us to exchange ideas. I post once or twice a day and work to respond to comments more frequently than that. You can LIKE my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/NavyRabbi

Will you help me?

Perhaps you will do me these two favors:

  • Let me know about an issue that concerns you. Whether it is a question about personal development, starting a business, or a passage from the Old Testament, you can help make my blog posts more relevant to the concerns of our group. Please comment below or use the contact form at the end of this post.
  • Would you pass one of my blog posts on to a friend or family member who wants to develop his or her life? Suggest subscribing to my newsletter. Working together we can enlarge our community.

As you strive to become an ever better Intentionalist, I dedicate myself to supporting your progress. Together we can make 2015 the year of greatest personal growth.

Thanks again for a wonderful 2014!

How did 2014 turn out for you? Please comment below.


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© 2015, Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved

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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