How Well Do You See?

I recently listened to an episode of This American Life called “Invisible Made Visible.

The opening interview was with Ryan Knighton who is blind. He described an evening where he absolutely could not find the telephone in his hotel room. As much as he used various self-described techniques, such as “groping the coffee table” or “Marcel Marceau-ing the walls,” he could not locate the phone.…

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.…

The Powerful Play Goes On

He was, at different points in his life, a journalist, a school teacher, a nurse and a government worker. If these were his only contributions in life, his human impact would have still been immeasurable. After all, he tended to Civil War soldiers in their greatest hour of need and educated children at a time when most received little.

But what Walt Whitman is most known for is a short collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, that he self published in 1855 and continued to revise throughout his life.…

Home Is Where?

In New York and other cities, we have become conditioned to largely ignore homeless people. Sometimes, not even acknowledging their requests. Exceptions are made. For example, when someone performs a song or a dance we may reward their obvious talent with a dollar or two, perhaps rationalizing this as a fair exchange.

Recently, I’ve seen several instances where a homeless person asked for either food or money so they could buy food.…

I Was Wrong

Three simple words, yet so seldom heard.

Recently, after an especially stressful day, I came home to a chaotic house — kids being kids, running around and not particularly listening to anything any grownup had to say.

On a good day, this would have rolled right off my back. Maybe even caused me to get lost in it myself and act equally silly.

But not on this day.…

“I” Of The Tiger

In his acceptance speech after winning the Golden Globe in 2015 for his role in “Creed,” Sylvester Stallone said, “I am the sum total of everyone I’ve ever met and sort of lucky that I’ve absorbed some of it.”

This was a bit ironic given that most people think of the character for which he is best known and won the award as one of America’s greatest stories of the “self-made” man.…

Why Do We Really Send Our Children To School?

This morning children from all over will start bustling back into their classrooms.

Presumably, we send them off to learn, but learn what? How to acquire knowledge, get good grades, or perform well on tests? How to get along with others or be a better person?

Is the purpose to prepare them for college, a job, or life?

Recently, someone shared with me this video (scroll down) of the student speaker, Donovan Livingston, at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2016 Convocation.…

The Scariest Part of Bungee Jumping

Recently someone told me that the scariest part of bungee jumping wasn’t taking the first step off the bridge. It wasn’t even at the nadir of their fall when they were closest to the river below. Instead, it was when they began bouncing back up.

The reason? This was the only point when they didn’t feel the safety and support of the harness and it was terrifying.…

“I recommend…”

In our lives we make and receive thousands of recommendations. From books to read and places to visit to foods to try and people to meet, and so on and so on. But perhaps the most important recommendations are those that help someone else move up in life — an idea worth pursuing, a job recommendation, a letter of reference for school.

Is there a recommendation you’ve received that came at the perfect time, that changed the trajectory of your life?…

“I just want to do what’s best for my kids…”

It’s natural to want to do what we think is best for our kids. Consider these three scenarios:

1. Your daughter makes two different travel soccer teams. After committing to one, you agree to switch her to the other team after you learn the second offers, what you hear is, better coaching.

2. After your son mentions the extra time he is spending preparing for standardized testing, you decide that it would be better to minimize his stress and you opt him out of the state test.…

“I am sick and tired…”

Typically we hear this expression when someone is voicing extreme frustration or disgust. People become fed up about one thing or another and on the verge of having a Howard Beale moment—”I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Often there is good cause for their angst. Systems continually fail, organizations are dysfunctional, and people are, well, human.

Yet the reaction may be out of proportion to its true impact in our daily lives, especially when compared to being literally sick and tired.

Who Will Remember Your Name?

Recently, I was listening to Clifton Truman Daniel talk about his grandfather, President Harry S. Truman. He spun one charming tale after another of how his grandfather taught him lessons about humility, courage and education.

Perhaps my favorite was when he told how he didn’t even know of his grandfather’s past life until his 1st grade teacher asked:

“Didn’t your grandfather used to be President of the United States?”…

Who Takes Care of Mom?

Generally speaking, there is no person more responsible for who we are or become than our mothers.

There are the obvious reasons: they give us life, carry us for nine months, bring us into this world, and nurture and protect us throughout.

Now not all moms are perfect and many are far from it. They are, after all, human, with their own life story, full of their own hardships and challenges.…

Why Remember?

The late Elie Wiesel often wrote of the importance of memory. In this book, The Forgotten, he shows a father’s struggles with Alzheimer’s and his urgency to transfer his life story to his son. Explaining this in an interview with Charlie Rose, Wiesel said, “If the son does not truly know his father’s story, he can never truly know himself.”

In Michael Moore’s recent documentary, “Where to Invade Next,” he travels around the globe looking for ideas that he can bring back to America, only to realize in the end that many of these ideas originated here in the first place.…

So Beautiful And So Short

“I cry because life is so beautiful and so short.”

This quote ends the poem, “Bygones,” written by Marina Keegan, author of The Opposite of Loneliness, published posthumously.

At the young age of 22, Keegan died in a car crash on her way to her father’s birthday celebration, just days after graduation from Yale University — and weeks before she was to begin her dream job writing at The New Yorker.…

What’s Up With The Hate?

Recently as we sat down to a nice family dinner, my youngest daughter looked at her plate and declared, “I hate this food!”

In looking at her meal of grilled chicken, carrots and watermelon, I asked myself and then her, “What’s up with the hate?” She had eaten each of these items before and loved them.

Unable to explain her feelings (not uncommon for a 4-year-old), we launched into a family conversation about hate.…

Where Do Superheroes Come From?

Every summer, our movie theaters are a parade of one superhero movie after another. But for all the external explosions and special effects, what often draws us in initially is the internal origin stories of these fantastic characters.

In a clever Smithsonian article, psychologist and author Robin Rosenberg writes about the different kind of life-altering experiences that form the basis of superheroes’ origins (e.g., trauma — think Batman, destiny — think Superman, and chance — think Spiderman).…

How Much of Your Life Do You Remember?

Each month we will experience over 600,000 moments (as defined in three-second intervals). Over the course of our lives, we will have lived more than a half billion of them. Naturally, the vast majority is forgettable. But those we keep, we weave together, connecting them to form our own “life story.”

But as time passes, more and more of these memories and connections naturally weaken and fade away.…

What Is A Vacation?

We’ve heard the depressing numbers:

  • Americans on average only receive 10 paid vacation days a year compared to 20 to 30 days in many European countries.
  • Even with that number, we don’t even use the ones we get: over 55% of paid vacation days go unused each year.
  • That number is especially alarming to the 25% of working Americans who receive ZERO days of vacation.
  • And when we are on vacation, 30% of people say they still do a significant amount of work while away.

To Be Awesome, Feel Small

The bubbles and birds announced their presence and our anticipation mounted. The fins teased their magnificence, first the dorsal and then the tail. Then scores of humpback whales pierced the water’s surface, their heads rising high above the water to the pleasure of both the birds who shared in their feast and the viewers who shared in their glory.

And shortly after, one breached. Jumping fully out of the water to the shock and awe of all who watched.…

Are You Getting Better?

Someone once said, each day you either get a little better or a little worse. The choice is up to you. While it may not be that simple, it is an interesting question to ask ourselves: Today, did I become a better parent, husband, worker, runner, cook, and so on and so on?

When we think about “getting better” we often think it means working harder or practicing more and may even feel stressful.…

What is The Capital of Your Community?

Why does Canada produce so many great hockey players? Why doesn’t Compton produce more physicists?

In his recent podcast, Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of a boy named Carlos who, against all odds (poverty, abandonment), is able to get a world-class education not typically available to boys like him.

In this segment he introduces the listener to the idea of talent capitalization, a theory first put forth by James Flynn.…

I Never Met Someone Who Made It Out

I met a friend of a friend who, like me, was from the Boston area.

When I told him I was from Chelsea, his instant response both said it all and exposed a flaw in our collective thinking about moving up in life.

“I never met anyone who made it out of Chelsea.”

One on hand, it spoke to how intractable the poverty and challenges seem in this town just over the Tobin Bridge, which separates the prosperity and potential of Boston from this small area that generation after generation seems to be left behind.…

Born To Run…And Listen

There is no doubt that Bruce Springsteen is hard wired for hard work. This is a simple fact that anyone who has ever seen one of his concerts can attest to.

But there are plenty of musicians who practice and play often and they don’t become Bruce Springsteen.

In a recent review of Springsteen’s new autobiography, Born to Run, New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner, points out an interesting theory suggested by Springsteen about why his songs resonate.…