Rules

We follow many, bend a few, flout those that rub us the wrong way, and break those that we find unfair altogether. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some unwritten, unspoken, others codified in codes of contact or law.

To not follow or break them risks everything from our own guilt, to admonishment from our peers to loss of freedom or finances.

On the other hand the rejection of others can reap the rewards of freedom, independence, gains in time or treasure, even admiration of those who admire the rebellion.…


Fit

While reading this New York Times article last week, a turn of phrase caught my attention “one sad nod and head shake after another.” While it was referring to the book, The Age of Grievance, I found it ironic in that it perfectly captured my experience having just read the paper. Every story was one piece of sad or bad news after another. Even the Arts section, which I save for last, so I might end on a positive or inspiring note, was riddled with critics tearing apart various movies and plays.…


Underwhelmed

Students were gathered in masses. Strangers talked to each other. Often loaning their special glasses so others could get a glimpse of the solar eclipse. Anticipation was high.

When it was all over and we returned to our class, some noted that they were underwhelmed. Expectations had been higher. Promises of complete darkness, lowering temperatures and the quieting of birds were unkept.

This underwhelming feeling was echoed when I went home and heard from my own children.…


Reveal

A few weeks ago, we revealed the cover for my next children’s book, America’s Dreaming, which will come out on June 4th. The story is about our universal dream to feel seen and welcomed. As revealed in the author’s note at the end, it is based on my own difficult move in the middle of a school year from Boston to Pennsylvania.

The cover reveal was assisted by John Schu, who is a well-known librarian and best-selling author.…


Conviction

As we sat in the sixth row of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a recording of Martin Luther King’s Drum Major sermon played in the background. It was the last sermon he gave from that pulpit as he would soon leave for Memphis where an assassin would end his life.

Shortly after, a large white man ambled up the aisle. I must admit I am not proud of my knee jerk judgmental reaction.…


Relax

How easy is it for you to simply relax? By relaxing, I don’t mean falling into a heap at the end of a day tuning into something mindless on a screen of your choosing. I’m referring to the kind of relaxation that asks us to quiet our minds, to think of nothing, while presumably also doing nothing. To relax as a form of just letting everything go.…


Stoic

I had resisted reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius for a long time. The reasons for which aren’t entirely clear to me. Perhaps it was my perception that it would be cold, indifferent or dispassionate, like the word stoic implies.

Still other people, I know and respect, swear by it. Its sales soared as people searched for meaning during the pandemic.

Despite it being one of the best selling philosophy books of all time, it was never meant for public consumption.…


Beggars

Imagine a young girl in a classroom. Because her family has little money she shows up to class with no school supplies and asks the teacher for a pencil. The teacher obliges but hands her a pencil with no eraser. When the girl simply requests a different pencil with an eraser, the teacher declines, saying “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

Brittany Means was that little girl and she has now gone on to author her first book, Hell if We Don’t Change our Ways.


Confidence

Have you ever wondered where confidence comes from? Or why do some people seem to have more of it than others?

It’s a question I’ve been grappling with on and off for most of my life. As my own confidence is often fleeting.

I was surprised to learn recently that research suggests that 50% of our self-confidence is genetic. Meaning some children are predisposed to be more confident than others – even their siblings.…


Appreciate

Over the last year, I’ve received a few notes, emails or texts that included the specific phrase, “I appreciate you.”

Prior to this year I don’t know if I’ve ever seen, said or received those exact words in any form of communication. Now, of course, it’s quite possible that only recently have I done anything worthy enough to receive such a warm and thoughtful collection of words.…


Gestures

As part of my season of giving, I asked the waitress if she could add the bill from the two police officers sitting in the adjacent booth to my tab.

Smiling, she told me that the couple by the window had already made this anonymous gesture.  In turn, I asked the waitress if I could pay for that couple’s meal. That too, she said, had been taken care of.…


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.