Friday, August 19, 2016


The elder child is preparing to start making a life so I have cobbled together some bits of "wisdom".

Madd, I speak to you now. Please read this and know that everything I write comes from a place of deep sincerity and love and is borne of experience. My job is to help you avoid pain and sadness, and know how to deal with them when they can't be avoided.

In terms of life advice, I recommend you start with Polonius’ advice to Laertes and Ophelia. Polonius might have been an annoying buffoon, but he (I know…Shakespeare) gets a lot of things right in his speech to his kids. In fact, some of the bits that I will be writing down stem from Hamlet. Others come from other places – you might recognize them. These are in no particular order, some duplicate others and I might have stolen ideas from any number of sources.

Give charity. Ayn Rand is right about a lot and wrong about a lot. Take your pocket change every day and put it aside for charity.

Resist the urge to impute motives or characterize actions, like “She, because she is ______________, did ________.” Judge and respond to the action, not the actor.

Think geometrically, not linearly. A wrong answer, a negative outcome or other failure can provide a data point for reference, information to guide you or indications for future new questions. Don’t discount it because it is labeled a “failure.”

Religion and faith are important. They might seem silly sometimes but they place you in a community – an important link in a special chain.

Follow some version of the golden rule – treat others and speak to and about others the way you want to be treated, spoken to and spoken about.

You are #2. The person you choose is the person whom you place as #1 and the vulnerability you create is your faith that that person feels the same way and puts you as #1.

Don’t play games. If it does matter to you, say so. Don’t say it doesn’t and expect the other person to figure it out. If it really doesn’t matter to you and it does to someone else, don’t decide that it shouldn’t for anyone else.

Speak to, with and around others the way you want them to speak to, with and around you. Don’t use language you wouldn’t want others to use and try to convey an attitude you want others to reflect.

Step up and get it done – not to make anyone happy, but because that’s the right thing to do.

Don’t tell me why you can’t do it. Just step up and get it done.

Not all things need to be questioned. They can be, but if you question just for the sake of questioning, you should stop to reevaluate.

Not all questions have answers. Sometimes that is a problem, often, it isn’t.

Be hyper-aware of how you are changing and constantly consider how those changes affect the people around you.

Everything you do is important, but everything others do is even more so.

Be ready to laugh at any moment.

Don’t ever carry a balance.

Sometimes speak. Always listen. Sometimes just shut up.

Every penny that goes out had to first be a penny that came in. If you have no plan for how the next one is coming in, don’t let any out.

View responsibility like a uniform but wear it like an evening gown.

Be there early. You can walk around the block to kill time before you make an entrance but you can’t undo a late arrival.

The hardest part of faith is to accept, blindly, that God cares – not just about you, but about everything.

Help before being asked, and help more than is asked for.

It isn’t a favor if you can’t accept it if the person you ask says “no.”

Every moment can be a learning experience but beware, this means that every moment becomes a teaching experience, whether or not you want it to be.

Children hear and see everything.

If there is, anywhere deep down inside, a doubt or a voice that says that it is wrong, it is wrong.

Dress in layers.

Prayer isn’t about the words, but about the connection, but the words are a convenient bridge. Use them.

Awareness is key and information is power – wouldn’t you rather be the one who asked than the one asking?

It is always safer to do without.

Taking a vacation is a luxury not a right. Going on vacation is an extravagance.

Wear a watch.

Make eye contact.

Try not to replace someone else’s judgment with yours because you think you know better. UNLESS you are talking about your children. You don’t need to explain everything to them.

Study Pirkei Avot with your significant other. Don’t just read it. Discuss it. When you are finished, go back and start it again. Take notes in the margins. The advice in it (much reflected here) is even better than Shakespeare.

Read Suzette Haden Elgin’s “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense.”

Hugs are free, and priceless.

If you don’t spend when you have it, you will be able to spend when no one has it.

Learn 1 halacha a day. Adopt one new halacha a year.

Take a deep breath and break a challenge down into parts. Make a list of steps. No one step is insurmountable and you aren’t the first to do this and succeed.

Crying has its time and place.

Positive mental attitude. You are above all of this.

If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.

Apologize often, sincerely and completely. Accept apologies gracefully and quickly.

Walk next to someone and hold hands whenever you can.

Not every situation needs to involve blame. We are imperfect people surrounded by imperfect people and mistakes happen. Don’t think the worst, and move on.

You are a fountain of strength. Find it in yourself, share it with others, and accept it when others want to share theirs with you.

Clean up as you cook – don’t wait until the end.

Keep a calendar and write things down on it.

Stuff online might not be eternal, but it is tough to erase. Don't make stupid decisions, but if you do, don't publicize them.

Be your own person.

Set yourself a deadline for any project 2 days before it is actually due.

Focus on the solution, not the problem.

Early is the new on-time. Late is never fashionable. Time is an incredible resource.

Sunscreen, moisturizer, hydration, bug spray. Not necessarily in that order or all at once.

Read Hamlet many times. Find a different hero each time.

Jewelry and makeup are not you. You are you. Present YOU as beautiful and the other stuff won’t be necessary.

Make someone else laugh, think, ask and listen every day.

Be sad on Tisha B’Av not because of a building but because of an awareness that we, as a people, have suffered. Be happy on Purim not because of a single story, but because we, as a people, have survived.

Sometimes you must act. Sometimes you can be content to react.

Helping means doing what is asked for, not just what you think needs to be done.

Clean your ears.

Make a promise, keep a promise. Make a commitment, keep a commitment. Imply a promise, be aware that someone else is going to make the inference.

Wrong is wrong and right is right even if no one is watching and no one will ever know.

Do more than you say and more than anyone thinks you will do.

Life is in the details. Care about details.

Wash the dishes as you use them so you won’t suddenly be hungry, have no clean dishes, but have a sink full of things to wash.

If you do the right thing for the wrong reason I think it still mostly counts.

Learn to file your important papers – charge slips, receipts, medical documents, tax papers – make a folder and file it.

Keep the packaging for at least 6 months and the packing slips and sales paperwork for longer.

Keep your important documents (birth certificates, passport etc) organized and labeled in a safe place.

Make a pro/con chart and think through the consequences for each important decision, but choose your battles – sometimes being rationally right won’t change someone’s emotional decision. Get on board and be supportive regardless.

Dress properly, behave properly and work your tush off – don’t let the fact that others don’t do these things justify slacking off.

Leave a room cleaner than when you entered it.

Yes, get the fries. Then share the fries. Don’t count how many each person has.

A good conversation has more than 2 sides, talking, listening, considering, and mutual respect.

Don’t give people a hard time because they don’t do what you think they should do.

Recognize effort and process in others and assume the best motives.

Set your clothes out the night before.

Appreciate Shabbat. It is refreshing and an opportunity. It seems like a burden but it is an incredible gift.

Appreciate what you have while you have it. Take 5 minutes every day to remind yourself of the people in your life, your creature comforts and your health. Imagine what life would be like if any of those was absent.

Treat obligations like obligations and voluntary decisions like obligations.

Relish simplicity.

Always say please and thank you.

Avoid conflict.

Listen, don’t just hear (this applies to conversations and music equally).

Police your brass and watch your corners.

Defensive driving requires that you do the thinking for everyone around you and anticipate their worst behavior. Don’t expect them to change, just be ready to react.

Don’t go places alone, or with someone you wouldn’t want to be alone with.

Judge people favorably even when there is little reason to do so.

Realize that everyone has a thing. You may not see it or know about it, but everyone has something in his or her life which makes things tough.

Sometimes, suck it up and figure out how to deal with it. It isn’t as bad and you will have time for a breakdown later. Right now, deep breath, make it work.

Don’t make a claim or an accusation that you can’t substantiate with data or evidence at a moment’s notice and don’t ask a question on cross examination that you don’t already have the answer to.

Never take delight in someone else’s suffering. You will want to. Don’t.

Establish your context and ground rules and don’t argue outside of your boundaries.

Someone who disagrees with you presents you with an opportunity to learn about his point of view and refine yours.

Violence is really only rarely the answer. But when it is, be ready and trained to use it properly.

See how many of these you can connect to ideas from Pirkei Avot.

Lead by example.

Process matters – be transparent.

Empathy is the trait that underscores the golden rule in most every culture. If it is the one thing all people agree on, it is probably worth espousing.

Don’t ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do.

Never miss an opportunity to do a chessed.

Tradition is incredibly important.

Eyes up when walking around. Don’t be a slave to a device.

Want is very different from need. Be careful which one you use, and when.

Buy when you need and because you need, not because there is a sale.

Admitting you don’t know something is not a weakness. Not learning it when you get the chance is.

Billy Joel – listen to the lyrics. Which song? All of them.

Be there for others.

When you are asked for help remember – you might have done this before but for the other guy, this might be the first time. Give the help a newbie would need, with explanations.

Find what interests and excites you and be better at it than anyone else in the world and then send your time helping everyone else get better at it.

Everything you do, everything you say affects other people. If you stop while walking, the person behind you has to react. If you yawn while discussing something, the other person has to decide if there is meaning. You may not intend it but there is meaning infused in every gesture. When you drive, when you speak, when you sit in a chair -- everything you do and are has ripples. Unless you live as a hermit, your behaviors touch those around you. Be aware, every moment, of the impact your existence has on others.

Even the choices you make that seem to be internal find a way of getting out and having an effect.

If you vent, expect advice. If you want to ignore the advice don't be surprised if the same person doesn't want to hear you vent again about the same thing. As my father used to say, "If you didn't take the medicine, I don't want to hear you keep complaining that it hurts."

Remember how proud we all are of you and pay that forward.

1 comment:

Feel free to comment and understand that no matter what you type, I still think you are a robot.