What’s It Worth To You?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “What’s It Worth To You.”

Certainly, passion for being your best, determination to succeed, and even some healthy competition are important factors in driving our own success as well as societal progress, but when keeping up with that scorecard against others becomes the essence of your own self-worth then things have gone too far and way off course.


We each have our mission, strengths, challenges, and so forth. It’s okay in life, if someone else has more of something (money, friends, honor, whatever). Everyone has their own “basket in life” as my father taught me, “and you wouldn’t want to change baskets with anyone else.”


(Photo Credit: Andy Blumenthal)

Feeling A Little Relative Deprivation

Deprivation.jpeg

So this was a little funny-sad. 


We were taking a walk.


And we passed these two houses side by side. 


One, this tall stately-looking all brick manicured corner house.


The other, this cozy and sort of beat up little white siding house. 


The juxtaposition of these two as neighbors couldn’t have been funnier. 


Sort of like strong and determined Rocky and the nebbish that couldn’t. 


Listen, there isn’t anything objectively wrong with the little older white house.


Taken by itself, it may actually be a nice place to live–as I said, it’s sort of charming (even while the other is commanding)! 


But when you put it against the big new brick fellow, it’s just a story of relative deprivation ready to be intensely felt. 


Both have a roof over their heads…and both in the same nice neighborhood. 


Yet neighbor and neighbor–but for no reason, one ends up feeling probably a little shitty–that’s putting it in comparison, of course.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

It’s Just Bling

Crystal Kids.jpegSo sitting in synagogue today, my friend Jacob said something very interesting to me.


He was talking about some very wealthy people with multi-millions and even billions. 


And then he says, you know what the difference is between the rich and everyone else:

“Nothing!”


I asked him what he meant by this.


Then he starts listing off to me like this:

“Well, they live in a home, and you live in a home.
They drive a car, and you drive a car.
They eat food and you eat food.”

And it was amazing how smart his words were, and it hit me how right he was. 


It’s all sort of just in our minds.


Their homes are bigger and nicer; their cars are more luxurious and fancier; their food is better and tastier…but what difference is any of that really.


We both have a roof over our heads to protect us from the elements and a nice place to sleep. 


We both have a car that gets us from here to there and back again. 


We both have food and drink to fill our bellies and nourish us. 


Isn’t the rest just a bunch of bling?


It’s branding and marketing and the sense of luxury that some are better and have more than others. 


But beyond the essentials, we really don’t need any of that!


What we do need is our relationships–people we care about and love and who love us. 


The ability to have a deep impact on others. 


To influence them and make a difference in their lives–in what they do and how they treat others. 


The ability to help people and society. 


The bling is just bling. 


The ability to love and influence that is true wealth. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Conflict – Resolution or Escalation

Conflict.jpeg

So I thought this was interesting on the cause of conflict. 


There are four main parts:


1) Deprivation – You believe that someone is depriving you of something you need or want. This could be something physical like money, or an object or it could be inanimate such as love or respect. The feeling of deprivation is anchored in a real or perceived feeling or being deprived of access to resources or the imbalance who has those resources. 


2) Name – You identify the person you feel is causing you this deprivation. 


3) Blame – You blame them for their role in causing you harm. 


4) Claim – You justify the accusation by anchoring it in a claim that the other person has violated some social norm such as taking something that doesn’t belong to them or violating an agreement you have with them and so on. 


As the conflict comes to a head, it is clear that people are feeling hurt, that there is a desire to correct the situation, and that you are going to confront the (perceived) culprit and make your case on why what they are doing is wrong and how it should be resolved. 


If you have the wrong person in the cross-hairs, your justification is weak or you’re not telling the whole story (i.e. maybe you played a part or harmed the other person too), or the person just won’t give you a fair hearing and sincerely work with you to resolve it, then the conflict may escalate from here.  


Usually, it’s best to listen, empathize, negotiate, compromise, try to be reasonable, and resolve the situation at the earliest point possible.


If there is a greater conflict or risk to either party involved, then heels may get dug in and all avenues to resolving it can be open including legal and even all out war. 


Conflict is no game, but in some cases it may be unavoidable–and then the ramifications can be earth shattering. 


What to do when you’re in a conflict situation? Think before you act, and then think again. 


Ultimately, peace is one of the greatest of blessings. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Satisfied and Bless G-d

Fancy Car.jpeg

I loved Chabad Rabbi Schneur Kaplan’s speech today in synagogue.


It was about how we can learn to be happy with what we have in life.


The biggest marketing gimmick is to say to the guy, “Look at what your neighbor has next door!”


Jealousy, desire, greed, having more and better than the next guy/girl…


That’s what many people live for and how they think.


Some can have as much as the founders of Apple, Google, and Facebook combined and still it’s not enough.


If just one person has something more…it can drive that person crazy.


Like Haman on Purim, who had wealth, power, large family and everyone bowed down to him…


Except one person named Mordecai who wouldn’t bow.


And despite having everything, but missing that one thing drove Haman so crazy–it was his downfall!


When we eat, we can be satisfied with one slice of pizza and say grace or we can have four slices and still not be satisfied.


How do we look at things?


We can be grateful for whatever we have and say that G-d gave us just what we needed at this time and place.


Or we can look at what we don’t have, and forever be bitter and unsatisfied.


What joy we can experience in life when we realize the graciousness for what G-d has bestowed on us and we are thankful for what we have. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Pleasure At Pain

Pleasure At Pain

Why do people laugh and feel pleasure at other people’s pain and misfortune?

The Wall Street Journal (20 August 2013) reviews the book, The Joy of Pain, on this topic.

Schadenfreude is the German word for feeling pleasure at the calamity of others.

And we see people laugh, point, and otherwise gloat when others are hurting physically, emotionally, financially, and so on.

When they fail and you succeed, you feel strong, powerful, self-confidant, and that you were right–and they were wrong!

Feelings of pleasure at other people’s pain is partially evolutionary–survival of the fittest.

It is also a function of our personal greed and competitiveness–where we measure ourselves not by how well we are doing, but rather relative to how others around us are faring.

So for example, we may be rich and have everything we need, but if someone else has even a little more than us, we still are left feeling lacking inside.

Thus, we envy others’ good fortune and take pleasure in their misfortune.

In a sense, our success is only complete when we feel that we have surpassed everyone else, like in a sport competition–there is only one ultimate winner and world champion.

So when we see the competition stumble, falter, and go down, our hands go up with the stroke of the win!

Anyway, we deserve to win and they deserve to lose–so justice is served and that makes us feel just dandy.

How about a different way–we work together to expand the living standard for all, and we feel genuinely glad for others’ success and real empathy for their pain, and they too for us–and we go beyond our pure humanity to something more angelic. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution for Lukas Vermeer)