Giving

As the saying goes, this is the season for giving. Yet for some, including myself, the giving is often focussed on just a few days.

For the rest of the month of December, we’re running around frantically trying to wrap things up – not just the presents we’ve purchased but various end-of-year projects – both work and personal – that have piled up the previous months.…


Monopoly

It is estimated that over 275 million copies of the board game Monopoly have been sold, making it the best selling board game of all time. Approximately one billion people have said to have played the game at one point in their lives.

I’m guessing that only a small fraction know that this game, a tribute to capitalism, was originally envisioned as a game to promote communal values and fairness.…


Space

This week, students in my Creative Team Dynamics class each had to perform an improv scene with their partner for two minutes. Prompts and the accompanying emotion were generated randomly by this website.

Having run this exercise many times before, I was taken by how well the students performed. The basic rules of improv are to agree with the opening statement and to build on each other’s comments using a “yes, and” framework. …


Capable

It is heart wrenching to see what humanity is capable of doing to one another.

How can any person or group of people be capable of murdering innocent children?

It is an unfathomable thought for most.

A difficult but more accessible question is to ask ourselves: What lengths would a parent or group go to protect their own children?

For those of us who have children, we can imagine ourselves being capable of almost anything.…


Have

Can you be happy with what you have?

This is the question that Kelsea Ballerini seems to ask us in her song, What I Have.

We can sometimes dismiss country songs as being overly simplistic. But as Harlan Howard astutely said back in the 1950’s, it represents “three chords and the truth.”

In Ballerini’s song, she challenges the idea of “having” by making accessible more complicated concepts and phrases.…


Celebrate

In the movie The Intern, Anne Hathaway plays the founder of a tech/fashion startup and Robert DeNiro is her unlikely “senior intern.” At the company’s open layout office, there is a tradition where a bell is rung to celebrate an achievement. You can ring the bell to announce that you’ve done something noteworthy or in recognition of someone else’s efforts or accomplishments. When the bell is rung, everyone stops what they’re doing for a moment to cheer or clap, before going right back to what they were doing.…


Conscious

I was having a conversation last week with my daughter about phone usage. She was forcefully advocating for Snapchat while we were on the fence. In the course of the conversation, I discovered that in addition to your phone providing statistics on screen time (both in total and for individual apps) it also recorded the number of times you picked up your phone and which app you were picking it up to use.…


Generous

Thanks to everyone who responded to my ask to like, share, or comment on last week’s newsletter.

It was very generous of you and very much appreciated.

This morning I read this op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times who makes a compelling case that people are, by and large, more generous than we give them credit for.

He cited a meta analysis of studies that measured people’s propensity to act generously or selfishly in various situations.…


Ask

School schedules came out this week. There was an error on my oldest daughter’s schedule and she contacted her guidance counselor to see if she could correct it.

The counselor’s initial solutions were less than ideal. They appeared, understandably, to be the easiest for the school to accommodate but not for my daughter to actually experience day-to-day.

I encouraged her to respond and ask if there were any other options.…


Pull-up

Years ago I dropped one of my AirPods onto a train track. After the train passed, I stupidly jumped down to fetch it, not realizing how far down the track was relative to the platform. To get back to the platform, I had to pull myself up. It quickly became apparent that I could not do it. Fortunately two people on the platform were able to give me a hand before an ensuing train came along.…


Noise

On a good day, I find it difficult to sleep on a red-eye flight. Recently, as my family and I embarked on our summer vacation to France, it was impossible. In addition to the standard two to three babies who intermittently scream, we were surrounded on our packed flight by a large pack of college students. There seemed like there were a hundred of them. Talking incessantly.…


Selfless

When you read the title of this email, the first thought you probably have is of someone who is unselfish and puts others before themselves.

A more literal interpretation of the word is the title of a new book by Brian Lowery, PhD at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. In this provocative and accessible book, Lowery makes the case that there is no such thing as a self – inner or otherwise – that we control or create.…


Torn

I learned earlier today that I apparently have not one but two meniscus tears in my right knee. This is in addition to an ACL sprain. 

There are two treatment options. One is rest, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. The other is surgery. The first does not preclude the latter because if it fails, then surgery will still be on the table.

Timing is also a factor.


Ritual

The Oscar nominated short documentary “How Do You Measure a Year?” is a film based entirely on a ritual. Each year, filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt asks his daughter to sit in the same spot on their couch and answer the same set of questions. The ritual begins on Ella’s second birthday and extends to her 18th. After not watching any of the footage during those seventeen years, Rosenblatt edits these sessions down to a crisp and moving twenty-nine minute time machine.


-lig-

While many of you were reading last week’s note, Beauty, I was sitting in a synagogue attending the funeral of a friend.

He was a regular reader of these weekly missives, occasionally sending me an email to compliment me on my writing or to check in on the health of a loved one I referenced in a particular piece.

By all counts, he was a kind and loving man with a full life.


Beauty

There seems to be something that makes us more inclined to see and respond to the ugliness and conflict all around us. How easily triggered we seem to be. Whether it be the failings of others, the bad news that bombards us every day on our phones and screens or the turmoil in our own minds, our antennas seem to be particularly attuned to what we consider threatening.…


Trying

Tracy Chapman’s song, Fast Car, tells the story of longing for a better life.  Over the course of the song’s four and a half minutes, you’re taken on a ride of yearning, frustration, resignation, and hope.

It is a simple but beautiful song about the complexity of trying to better yourself and your situation.

I heard the song at a pivotal moment in my life where, like the characters in Chapman’s song, I too was longing to escape –  to in her words, “leave tonight or live and die this way.”…


Regret

I have lived a blessed life with so much to be grateful for. Perhaps naturally, my regrets are limited not to any major life decision but rather rest almost exclusively in the domain of how and when I showed up for other people.

Generally speaking I’d like to consider myself a pretty decent human being yet there are times when I have not been decent to others.…


News

The word “news” has been around since at least the 1500’s. The word “newsworthy” was only coined in 1890. The inference being  people decided a new word was necessary as much of what was being shared as “news” was not particularly worthy.

I have for the last two years largely taken a hiatus from the daily news. Previously my days began and ended with a dose of it. 


Mistakes

In her new work, The Thanksgiving Play, Larissa FastHorse puts four well-intentioned and ill-equipped white people into a classroom. They are tasked with writing a more culturally sensitive play about Thanksgiving that they will stage for their elementary school students. The premise is genius as is almost everything about this production.  

We watch these four characters make mistake after mistake after mistake as they try to find the right approach, plot or words to form their play. 


Beginners

Twice within twenty four hours, I heard stories referencing the idea of a young child’s experience walking down the street.

The first was during a conversation between the record producer Rick Rubin and podcast host Krista Tippett. They remarked about how wonderful – in the literal sense of the word – a child’s walk down the street is compared to ours. They have no concept of time and hence aren’t in any rush.


Break?

Years ago I read about an Oakland school that was having increasing issues with student behavior. Fights and disruptions would break out with regularity and teachers were struggling to create an atmosphere conducive to learning.

The proposed solution was simple. Give the kids a break.

Many of the children were carrying to school not just their backpacks but the stress and trauma from difficult circumstances in their homes and neighborhoods.…


Pause

A few weeks ago I went out to dinner with a friend. We were talking about the speed with which AI was developing. I had recently heard a podcast that speculated about what would happen if someone used AI to startle the financial markets. Perhaps by having a voicebot imitate Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, saying that the bank was nearing insolvency. All agreed it would trigger panic on Wall Street, markets would tumble sharply and so quickly before anyone realized what had happened.


Silence

There are many forms and reasons for silence.  Here are three for your consideration:

The first is silence that we allow ourselves.  In the chaos of daily life and content at our fingertips to fill a million lifetimes, increasingly we seem to leave less time to just sit in silence. When we quiet our own minds we give ourselves the gift of self-awareness and openness. The word inspiration comes from a latin term meaning “breath into.” …