Category Archives: Soul

How to Gain Influence with More People

2 minutes to read

While running earlier today, up ahead two women were exercising. One was dressed in what can only be described as practically nothing. So they couldn’t accuse me of leering I looked away as I ran past them. To my chagrin, the other made a disparaging remark about me. Evidently they wanted to be ogled. How’s a guy to know?

How to Gain Influence with More People

Immodesty Makes Cordiality Impossible

I believe modesty is a virtue. It applies to dress, language, and behavior. Having said this, I recognize many Americans don’t share this value. Case in point, I rendered military honors at four funerals last week. At all of them young women wore short sleeveless black dresses. I don’t make the club scene these days. So the last time I saw such dresses was at a navy Christmas party. There’s a difference between the festivity of a celebration and the solemnity of a funeral that necessitates different standards of dress. But such a distinction doesn’t exist today.

Nor do they for speech and public behavior. Those of us who embrace modesty have to accept many of our fellow citizens don’t. So be it.

But simple justice demands we not be denigrated for prizing modesty. How is a man to know when a scantily clad woman wants to be checked out? Why is someone who doesn’t use profanity a prude? What is gained by condemning someone who refuses to turn a discussion into a verbal brawl?

To Gain Influence Create a Relationship

Differing attitudes toward modesty have resulted in greater friction between people. And that makes maintaining relationships more difficult.

Recently I read a story about a pastor. Young women were coming to church services in thigh high stockings and short skirts. He felt they looked like prostitutes. He considered speaking against such behavior from the pulpit. Wisely he realized doing so would be counterproductive. The women would have rejected the label. And he would have destroyed any chance of creating relationships through which he could influence them.

Differences in values can be tolerated. But couple them with arrogance and the situation becomes intolerable.

There are three steps to gain influence with more people:

  1. Be clear about your values. That doesn’t mean flouting your beliefs in other people’s faces. Clarity comes from within.
  2. Live your values. If what you believe is worthwhile, make it evident from your behavior.
  3. Cherish relationships over self-righteousness. Until people know you care about them as individuals they won’t trust your opinions.

One of the most influential men I know prizes modesty. He never even shakes hands with women. The hundreds of people who attend his lectures do not share his value of modesty. But rather than avoiding him like the plague they seek him out. How has he built such a large and loyal following? He followed the three steps.

Whatever you want to accomplish will come from convincing people to help you. In your work, with your family, among your friends, build strong ties. Having set the foundation, you’ll be able to influence them. They will know you’ve invested in understanding them. Seeing the quality of your life will encourage them to seek out its roots. And you’ll be there to help them.

Where are you action turning good advice bad? Please comment below.

You’re Never Beyond Having to Prove Yourself

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Korach – Numbers 16:1-18:32

In the military you change jobs every two or three years. Moving and getting your family settled in a new home present challenges. Another isn’t talked about often. Each new billet is an opportunity to grow your technical and leadership skills. Your new commanding officer often knows little about you. The people you’ll work with have formed a tight group. You have to break in. No matter your seniority, you have to prove yourself time and again. Parshas Korach explains why this is good:

…each man's name you will inscribe on his staff. And the name of Aaron you will inscribe on the staff of Levi… (Numbers/Bamidbar 17:17-18)

You’re Never Beyond Having to Prove Yourself

This Sabbath’s parsha starts with Korach and his followers rebelling against Moses and Aaron. Unlike the previous complaints about food and water, Korach wanted to seize the leadership of his cousins Moses and Aaron.  He tried to take advantage of the Israelite’s unhappiness having to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. As a result of the rebellion, fire consumed 250 insurgents. The Earth swallowed up their households.  A harsh punishment indeed!

Aaron’s Challenge

You might think Aaron shouldn’t have had to prove himself. After all, the Almighty chose him to be the Kohen Gadol (High Priest).

The Israelites loved Aaron. When he died they mourned for him 30 days. But the incident of the golden calf exposed his tenuous position. Aaron feared that the people would kill him if he refused their demand for a ruler to replace Moses. He hoped that before the calf was ready Moses would return. In any event, Aaron knew he was being tested. He kept a tight rein on his pride and went along with their plan.

Even after G-d’s miraculous crushing of Korach’s rebellion, the people’s doubt remained. They wanted proof that the Creator chose Moses and Aaron to lead them. Only those who feel inferior resist meeting a test of their position. Aaron was truly great. He participated in the test of the staffs. He did not display any anger at having to prove himself.

Greatness Comes When You Repeatedly Prove Yourself

There’s nothing demeaning about the military requiring people to prove themselves at every new job. In a pyramid structure the wheat has to be winnowed from the chaff. You learn that arrogance usually hides inferior ability. When lives are at stake, no one is above having to prove himself.

It’s no different in civilian life. Each new position gives you the chance to grow. It presents an opportunity to prove yourself to colleagues and supervisors.

Excellence is valuable no matter where you work or what you do. It is frustrating being tested all the time. But through meeting these challenges you will find out how great you are. Follow the example of Aaron. Though he was one of the greatest human beings who ever lived, he never got angry about being tested. He used them to increase his spiritual mastery.

When called upon to prove yourself, make it an incentive to up your game. Doing anything less means you’re selling yourself short.

What is your plan for showing gratitude each day? 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!

When Will You Stop Giving Your Kids Bad Advice?

2 minutes to read

Thank goodness school is out for the summer. My daughter had a spelling test every week. She also had tests on Scripture several times a month. She’s only in second grade. But she did two to three hours of homework most afternoons. And she complained. “Daddy, why do I have to do so much homework?” “Daddy, I hate taking tests!” Recently I realized how much bad advice I’ve been giving her on this topic.

When Will You Stop Giving Your Kids Bad Advice-

Words, Words, Words

I find my daughter’s complaints hard to understand. I loved school. Even tests were cool. They let me show my teacher how dedicated a student I was. Math was my specialty. I always found a second way to do a problem and verify the answer was right!

My advice to her fell into two categories:

  1. Exams help you understand what you know and what still needs work. It’s nice to get high marks. More important is identifying the questions that don’t make sense. In this way you build knowledge.
  2. The tests you’re taking now are easier than ones you’ll take later in life. Your studies only get more difficult. And unlike math, most of the time you won’t be able to check your work. Correct answers become illusive.

On their face, both are sound. Yet she never seemed to buy them. Relieved of the daily homework grind, I’ve had time to reflect. Here’s the thing. Just because we’re out of school doesn’t mean we don’t take tests anymore.

Truth is, I complain about tests more than she does.

Turning Good Advice Into Bad Advice

I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.” ∞ Lewis Carroll

Aside from a couple I took while earning a Masters in Library and Information Science, I don’t take sit-down examinations. But life tests me everyday. When my wife gets home we talk about our days. She relates to me the challenging (read stupid) ways people handle their health issues. I tell her about the problems I face with my business and the navy. It’s the kind of harmless chitchat that goes on in most homes.

In reality it’s not so harmless. From my daughter’s perspective, the challenges my wife and I face are adult versions of the tests she takes in school. If we complain about ours why shouldn’t she do the same about hers? Nothing like mismatched words and actions for turning good into bad advice.

If my daughter understood the context it wouldn’t be so bad. We want her to get the most benefit from the tests she takes. In that light, if we’re just blowing off steam we need to make sure she knows that’s what’s going on. Otherwise, our conversations about work need to focus on how we can improve based on overcoming the challenges we mention.

Parents have to match words and deeds. But some behaviors are so ingrained you may not realize you’re acting incongruently. Look for where your kids aren’t taking your advice. You’ll find fertile ground for keeping your good advice from turning into bad advice.

Where are you action turning good advice bad? Please comment below.

When You Decide is the Most Important Thing

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shelach – Numbers 13:1-15:41

As a kid, my weekly allowance was 5¢. It took months to save up a dollar. That’s $7.41 today. I was so excited by my immense wealth I went right out and spent it on a bat kite. I could never get it to fly and within two days it was ruined. My mother told me money burned a hole in my pocket. Plunged back into poverty, I could have used the lesson in Parshas Shelach:

Send forth men, for you…. (Numbers/Bamidbar 13:1)

 When You Decide Is the Most Important Thing

This Sabbath’s parsha tells the story of the infamous twelve spies. They slandered the Land. So G-d decreed the Israelites would wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Next it details the meal and libation offerings that are brought with animal sacrifices. Then it covers the penalty for desecrating the Sabbath. It ends with the commandment to wear tzitzis, fringes, on the corners of a garment.

Distraction Leads to Disaster

The Israelites came to Moses and told him they wanted to spy out the land. Despite G-d’s promise that it was a land flowing with milk and honey, they wanted an eyewitness report. Moses presented the idea to the Almighty, who told Moses to decide. The rest as they say is history…

In last week’s parsha, Moses complained about the burden of leadership. The Almighty tells him, “Gather to me 70 men from the elders of Israel…” In contrast, here He tells Moses to, “Send forth the spies for YOU…” Clearly G-d did not like the idea. Nonetheless He deferred to Moses. The Almighty wants us to have free will. But why did Moses agree to the plan? As the leader he should have dissuaded the people.

The Midrash tells us Moses lacked his usual clarity of mind because he was still upset about his sister contracting tzaraas. (Tzaraas is the physical result of making a spiritual mistake.) His lapse of focus led to disaster since the generation that left Egypt would die in the wilderness.

First Decide if It’s the Right Time to Make a Decision

One of my favorite military axioms says, “Thought before action, if there’s time.” It sums up the first step of any decision. Is right now the best time to decide? Often the correct answer is no.

Do you have enough information to make a decision? Notice I didn’t say do you have all the information you need. Paralysis by analysis is as bad as deciding too quickly.

Will circumstances change between now and when you act on your decision? Delay may make more sense.

Are you in the right frame of mind to decide? If when you ask yourself this question you immediately answer yes, you’re in the wrong frame of mind. The inability to take a few moments for reflection indicates you’re gripped by anger, fear, or another strong emotion. Think about the last time you committed to something in the midst of an argument. Or maybe, like Moses, you declined to dispute a decision because you were preoccupied. Did you regret it?

As you know, I believe decisiveness and taking action are good. But good decisions start with your being fit to decide. Make a quick assessment of your frame of mind. When you have mental clarity be decisive. Then act!

What indicators tell you not to make a decision? 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!

How to Make Transitions with Confidence

2-¼ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Beha’aloscha – Numbers 8:1-12:16

Military life requires making lots of transitions. You move every two or three years. Along with a new job, house, and school for your kids you may end up in a foreign country. With all that experience reintegrating into civilian life should be easy. Why then do so many veterans struggle? This week’s parsha, Beha’aloscha, gives a clue:

…and the Ark of the Covenant of G-d travelled before them a three-day distance to search out a resting place. (Numbers/Bamidbar 10:33)

How to Make Transitions with Confidence

This Sabbath’s parsha covers lighting the Menorah and the consecration of the Levites. Then it tells about bringing the Korban Pesach (Passover Offering) and Pesach Sheini (second Passover). The Israelites start their journeys. G-d leads them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Some of the people complain about eating the Manna. G-d responds. At the end of the parsha Miriam is afflicted with tzaraas.

The Symbolism of the Ark

The Ark contained the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, both the complete second set and the fragments of the first set that Moses broke. The Tablets encompassed all the wisdom and guidance the Israelites needed in their new home. Had they followed it to the letter their transition to life in the Land of Israel would have been smooth.

At first it was. The Israelites conquered Jericho. But the men of Ai defeated them in the next battle. Achan son of Carmi had taken consecrated property in violation of the Almighty’s command. Joshua brought Achan to his senses. He admitted his crime and was punished. At first the Israelites were afraid to try and take Ai again. G-d reassured them and led them to victory.

Requirements for Successful Transitions

Achan’s crime impeded success. By succumbing to temptation and stealing he showed he wasn’t ready for life in the Land of Israel. He failed to stay true to his values. As a result, the Israelites lost the first battle for Ai. The entire nation seemed headed for permanent defeat. So they took responsibility for their misdeed and punished Achan.

But the Israelites were still afraid. So the Almighty reminded them that one failure doesn’t define their character. Having dealt with Achan, they could reclaim their confidence in themselves and G-d. By doing so they proved they were ready to continue their transition. They won the next battle.

To make a successful transition, self-confidence is paramount. To be confident you have to

  1. Be crystal clear about your values. During transitions it’s easy to become morally confused amidst the chaos. Take the time to calibrate your moral compass. Get total clarity about how you will act no matter how stressful life becomes.
  2. Internalize that failure is only the information you need to make a better effort next time.

The Ark led the way into the Land because it symbolizes both of these essentials. Inside it were the second, intact Tablets setting down enduring life values. That the broken first tablets were in the Ark too showed the Israelites could overcome catastrophe.

Transitions are the most stressful periods in your life. Even with advance planning things will go wrong. When you have clarity about your values you will know how to overcome such challenges. Find a Joshua in your life to hold you accountable and keep you moving forward. Armed with a positive attitude toward failure, you’ll be unstoppable.

What has prevented you from making successful transitions in the past? 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’ll answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

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