Thanks?

Wednesday morning began with jury duty. The early evening featured a trip to the emergency room. By midnight, I was on strike from my job as an adjunct professor at the New School.

Jury duty, emergency room, strike. What an unholy trifecta. Any one of them is a situation that we hope to avoid at all costs. The odds of any one person experiencing all three on the same day have to be astronomical.…


Enthusiasm

My best friend left me a voicemail message recently. He mentioned a book he had been reading, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It suggested that we shouldn’t take any action that’s not aligned with acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm.

In reflecting on those three feelings, it got me thinking, “What am I enthusiastic about?”

Enthusiasm is defined as an intense and eager enjoyment or interest. Its origin is from the Greek word, enthousiazein meaning to ‘be inspired or possessed by a god.’…


Legend

As legend has it, some creative people are bestowed with an abundance of natural talent from birth or act as a conduit for divine inspiration. How else to explain a prodigy or creative genius?

An alternative narrative was offered up by the aptly named, John Legend, who was a guest on the podcast Smartless recently.

In this story, yes Legend exhibits an early love, if not talent, for music.…


Found

How many times have you lost your keys? Hopefully around the same number of times you’ve found them.

Of course, there are many things we lose and can never find again. Or we find things we were never looking for in the first place.

Our deepest losses are of loved ones. As are our most precious finds. 

Our relationship to the ideas of what is lost and found tends to be somewhat transactional.…


Savor

My friend recently told me the story about a lunch he had with another friend of ours. They were getting together at an old stomping ground where we had all had lunch dozens of times before. The circumstances this time were different.

Our friend had terminal cancer, was very weak, and it was clear that this would be their last lunch together. Eating his burger took longer than usual and the waitress seemed to hover a bit.…


Belief

What or who do you believe in?

Beliefs can be a tricky thing. We all have them, in fact hold them dearly. Yet seldom do we explicitly state or share them. More often, beneath the surface, they inform, influence or dictate many of our actions.

Beliefs, according to the Oxford dictionary, can be defined in two ways:
One is “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.”…


Rejection

I have kept a file of all the rejection letters I’ve ever received. Two novels, dozens of short stories, even several poems all rejected by one agent, publisher or publication or another. In my emails, there are probably thousands of other examples of my ideas or proposals being turned down. Of course, there are also those instances where I never even received a reply. This says nothing of the slew of personal rejections that have amassed between my socially awkward high school years until I met and married my lovely wife.…


Expectations

Two teams compete in the Olympics.

Both win the Bronze.

One country is elated and the other disappointed.

So goes the power and toxicity of expectations.

When considering the word expectations, it’s almost impossible to imagine it without some qualifier.

High, low, exceeding, diminished, raised, wildest, lowered, defying, beating, surpassing, failing, great, outsized, living up to, playing down and on and on.

So unhealthy is our relationship with this word that when we say that something has “met our expectations,” we shrug our shoulders, suggesting some level of mild disappointment.…


Lucky

Over the last several months, I’ve been on a good run.  

It started with being asked to give the commencement address at my alma mater. 

Then on Friday, I published my first piece for Esquire.  I’ve always wanted to write for them and this specific topic, “Dads without Dads” is an especially personal reflection timed for Father’s Day.

There is an NPR special report I’m working on examining inequality in education on Long Island that will air at the end of the month.…


Frustration

I write this at the end of an especially frustrating day at the end of an especially frustrating week.  The sources of my frustrations are irrelevant. By its very definition, frustration is less about the outside world and more about our perception of it.  As this article from Psychology Today points out, “The majority of anger and frustration in life, no matter what the situation, has at its basis one simple thought: It shouldn’t be this way.


A new way to give thanks this Thanksgiving

This week provides a welcome respite for many, as we put aside our daily troubles, gather with family and friends, and pause to give thanks for what we have and those who helped make it possible. 
 
It can come in the form a few words over a meal, a phone call or a prayer.  All are valuable practices in gratitude.
 
But often these moments can be fleeting and soon replaced by Black Friday sales, workouts, and holiday movies.


Small Invisible Acts

A man wrote a short story that he could not get published. So he included it in 200 Christmas cards he sent out to friends and family.
 
One of the cards ended up in the hands of a film director. He made a film based on that story.
 
It lost a fortune and the director never made a successful film again. He ultimately had to sell his production company and with it the rights to the film.


What Does It Take to Save a Life?

This week buried beneath the din of politics and conflict was a brief article in the New York Times featuring an 81-year-old Australian man who was donating blood for the last time in his life.

He started giving blood as a young man – a way of paying back those who had donated the blood he needed to survive surgery as a 14-year-old boy.

He would go on to give blood every few weeks for over 60 years.


Be The Master of Black Holes

Last week, I learned that a pivotal person from my past had died.  Yet, when I heard the news, I felt more emptiness than sadness.

Our history was decidedly mixed. He was in our lives the better part of a decade, responsible for moving us from Boston to Pennsylvania. Without that single act, I don’t meet my best friend, get the same education, marry my wife or have my children. …


Where Did That Come From?

In just the last week I tripped over these three tidbits:

On Sunday, our family went to Armonk, NY for Frosty Day. This town was home to Steve Nelson, the lyricist who wrote Frosty the Snowman. There we stood in the Village Square where 65 years ago, Frosty invited the kids to “catch him if you can.’

On Tuesday, I was distracted from work by one of those “20 Things You Didn’t Know About…” click bait articles.…


Grab A Bucket

The fire broke out in the early morning. It traveled quickly through the walls of the white house on the corner lot. The 69 year-old Ralph Waldo Emerson rushed out of his home calling for help.

Townspeople throughout Concord came running to his aid. They included Louisa May Alcott, who with her sisters,  were armed with baskets to rescue the books in his library.

On a recent tour, one of the historians pointed out a common feature of his home and others at the time. …


Why Do Racehorses Wear Blinders?

This is the question posed by legendary music producer Jimmy Iovine during the spectacular HBO docu-series, The Defiant Ones, chronicling the parallel journeys of his life and Dr. Dre’s and how together they made music history.
 
His answer to this question is “focus”.  Without blinders horses would look to their left and right distracting them from their pursuit of victory.
 
This six hours series is a testament to how focus and hard work can help overcome extraordinary life challenges.

80% Of People Will Find Jobs This Way

Over the next two months, approximately 3 million young adults will graduate and enter the job market.  About half will graduate from college and the other half will graduate from high school with no plans for higher education.

Despite the differences in career paths and future opportunities, how they find that next job is likely to be similar. According to this study, 80% of people will find a job through someone they know.


Do You Feel Lucky?

On the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day, I wondered about the phrase, “luck of the Irish.”

I had just watched a PBS documentary on Irish history and they didn’t seem very lucky at all.  Considering:

  • The great potato famine took over one million lives and drove another million to emigrate – decreasing the population of Ireland by almost 25%.
  • Their war for independence from England caused a lasting divide between Unionists in Northern Ireland and Nationalists in Southern Ireland.

Maybe You Could Be President Someday…

This phrase has probably been uttered to hundreds of millions of American children over our country’s 240 year history.

Yet during that time only 44 people have actually held that job.

It is no wonder that when we tell the stories of our Presidents we marvel at the individual efforts and the hard work that must have been required to ascend to our highest office. Yet consider how many other factors, like these, had to fall in place when you hear their extraordinary individual tales:

Money helps.…


Can You Feel The Wind At Your Back?

According to research from Shai Davidai and Thomas Gilovich, probablynot nearly as much as you can feel it in your face.
 
In one classroom exercise, Davidai asks students to google images for headwinds and tailwinds. For headwinds, there is a whole host of images of people being blown backwards and destroyed umbrellas.  For tailwinds, not so much (other than the occasional aeronautics diagram of planes.)
 
Images of headwinds are more available to us not just online but in our own minds. 

Three Simple Questions

Where were you born? What is your birthday? How much did you weigh?

Answers to these three questions might be more important than you think.

  • Where were you born? Take a moment to look at this map to see how the county in which you were born affects income mobility, based on Harvard economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren.
  • What is your birthday? In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he describes a successful Canadian Junior hockey team.

What’s Your “Shaky Ground” Moment?

Have you ever accidentally missed a credit card payment or a bill? Had a medical scare or even found yourself in legal trouble? Even been laid off or had a child care situation that turned your schedule upside down?

Kirsten Lodal, founder of the non-profit organization LIFT Communities, calls these “shaky ground” moments.

Some people seem to live perpetually on shaky ground. Jobs that have unpredictable hours.…


Undercover Awesome

That was the term used to describe Commissioner Scott Semple of the Connecticut Department of Corrections as he was introduced to a gathering at the Vera Institute of Justice.

In discussing his work to create a healthier and more humane corrections system, Mr. Semple lamented that people who work in corrections seldom get to see the success of their work.

After all, success is when someone doesn’t come back to prison — and goes on to live a happy life as a productive member of the community.…