The DIVIDED States of America

Our nation is increasingly polarized with little to no tolerance of others wants, thinking, or actions. 


– First under Obama.


– Then with the election between Hillary and Trump.


– And now over Judge Kavanaugh.


The result has been some of the worst behaviors seen since the Civil War–with not only disrespect, restrictions on freedom of expression, but even threats and actual violence!


This nation is no longer the UNITED States, but much more like the DIVIDED States. 


And that just plays into our enemies hands and could lead us to eventually lose our very democracy to totalitarianism, dictatorship, and tyranny.  


So now may be a good time to review for yourself how many biases are driving your thought processes and behaviors and creating dangerous fundamentalists and extremists all around us instead of thoughtful dialogue, negotiation, and compromise. 


Here are 20 biases that may be affecting you more than you realize:


– Do you overestimate the importance of the information you have or feel good about (Anchoring,  Availability, and Choice-Supportive Biases)?


– Do you seek out and perceive information that simply validates your preconceptions (Information,

Confirmation, and Selective Perception Bias)? 


– Do you overemphasize information that is more recent or recognizable (Recency and Salience Biases)?


– Are you ignoring information that doesn’t “fit your script” (Ostrich Effect/Omission and Conservatism Bias)?


– Are you tied up in the groupthink of your peers (Bandwagon Effect)?


– Do you see patterns in random events or conspiracies that don’t exist (Clustering Illusion)?


– Are you overconfident in your thought process and conclusions (Overconfidence Bias)?


– Do you tend to overvalue the usefulness or success of something, but not recognize its limitations or failures (Pro-Innovation and Survivorship Bias)?


– Do you fail to take risks because you prefer certainty (Zero-Risk Bias)? 


– Does your thinking something will happen actually cause it to happen (Placebo Effect)? 


– Do you use the ends to justify the means (Outcome Bias)?


– Do you judge people by their race, class, gender, religion, sexual preferences, or national origin (Stereotyping)?


– Do you fail to recognize your own biases (Blind-Spot Bias)?


Perhaps if more people would open their minds to information and engage in genuine thinking and critical thinking, rather than a lot of fake news and hype, we would be a far better and stronger nation. 😉


(Source Graphic: Business Insider)

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One G-d, Many Stories

So we went to the mall and there was a new Indian gift store.


We went in to take a look, and they had all sorts of things, but one section had a lot of colorful statues. 


We didn’t even really know what we were looking at when one of the young lady salespeople came over to explain. 


And she’s pointing to different statues and saying that this is the “G-d of love,” this is the “G-d of prosperity,” this is the “G-d for removing obstacles,” etc. 


I said to her questioningly (non-judgmental), “So we are Jews, and we believe in monotheism. How do you understand this concept of different ‘G-ds’?”


She said, “Well, I learned about these growing up in India, but the way I’ve come to terms with this is that these “G-ds” are really different ‘faces’ of one G-d” and then she started to tell us the “stories” of them. 


So in her explanation, when they are confronting challenges in life, they pray to the “face of G-d” that focuses on removing those obstacles, and when they are seeking prosperity then they pray to that “face of G-d” so on and so forth. 


It was interesting to me how this young lady came to find a monotheistic interpretation and path for herself and perhaps others who have similar beliefs.  


I wondered to myself whether this understanding can be in a way be similar to the Jewish concept of G-d having different attributes like midat Rachamin, din, etc. 


Of course, I know that G-d loves all of us, and I respect everyone’s personal beliefs.


For me and my traditional Jewish belief system, I wholeheartedly affirm as my namesake Abraham:

Sh’ma Yis’rael, Hashem Elo’kenu, Hashem Echad.
Hear O’ Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is one.  

 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Moshe Shalom)

Don’t Take Away The Breadcrumbs

So today it was announced that they want to cancel the meager cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase that federal workers were slated to get for 2019. 


A mere 2.1% increase in federal pay (compared with a more than 4% projected increase in private sector pay for 2018) is basically just enough to cover inflation for 2018 forecast at 1.9%.


In effect, without the cost of living adjustment, about 2 million federal employees end up with a net decrease of 2% in their standard of living because of inflation and no pay increase to offset. 


This is on top of the fiscal year 2011 and 2012 federal pay freeze that President Obama prior enacted. 


Why are we picking on the federal workforce when:


1) The U.S. economy is booming at an annual 4.1% increase

2) Of the $10 trillion tax cuts, 20% is being showered on the wealthiest 1%.


Le’s just call a spade a spade–the pay freeze (i.e. cut after inflation) is really being driven to downsize government by driving employees out


Many of these are good people, hardworking people, and those that not only serve their nation but also sacrifice for it. 


With midterms around the corner and another Presidental election coming in a couple of years, why would you want to alienate 2 million workers instead of getting respect and even greater dedication?


As was written on this simple pair of blue jeans:

“Don’t beat your croutons, you’ll get breadcrumbs.”  

In this case, don’t beat up your federal workforce by taking their meager breadcrumbs, to begin with. 


Instead, let’s show our appreciation for federal employees service to their country. 😉


(Full disclosure: I am a federal employee and am proud to serve.)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

An 80-Year-Old’s Life Philosophy

So today an 80-year-old Algerian man sat our table for the Kiddush lunch after synagogue services. 


And he talked quite a bit about his life philosophy and told me I was a good listener. 🙂


1) TRUE LOVE IS LIKE AN ORANGE:

A man and women that are meant to be together are like two sides of an orange.  With his hands, he showed us putting the two sides together, twisting, and he goes, “You see it just clicks!”


2) WHEN LOVE IS NOT TRUE ITS LIKE TWO BIRDS IN A CAGE:

When a man and woman are not soulmates, maybe they just are meant to be together for a time to have children or make a home temporarily. But then, the birds need to leave the cage, and be free!


3) BURIED TOGETHER:

“When people are soulmates, they are buried together, next to each other. Otherwise, one is buried in Greece and the other in Hawaii, and it makes no difference because they are going their own ways in Heaven.”


4) 80 HERE AND 20 HERE

He pointed to his belly and said, “I’m 80 here.” And then pointed to his groin area, and said, “But I’m 20 here!”


5) WOMEN ONLY UNDER 40:

While he is 80, he claims to be robust in the bedroom, and “will never be with a woman over 40…not a day over!”  He said, “It’s like an old Cadillac!” Moreover, he said, if a woman is “not perfect” and has a scar like from having her appendix out, “forget it!”


6) WRITING, PLAYING GUITAR, AND DANCING:

He said, “I like to write, play guitar and dance.” And with his arms, he makes some swoops like he is on the dance floor having a good time. 


7) PEOPLE ARE LIKE CANDLES:

People are like candles.  The body is like the wax that burns down, but the soul is the flame that always rises up.  In the end, the soul ascends to heaven just like the flame. 


8) INFINITELY STUPID:

He pointed to the yarmulke on top of his head and said:  “You know what that means?  This means that there is no limit to how stupid some people can be!”  


8) YOU MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK:

I asked what he did for a living, and he said “Real estate, Jewelry, and even fashion salons.”  I said, “Wow, you’re very fortunate!”  He said, “No, in life, you make your own luck!”


10) RESPECT ME IF YOU WANT:

“You respect me, and I respect you. But frankly, I don’t care if you respect me or not. You can do what you want, and so will I!” I said, “Ok, see you next week and we’ll talk again.”  He said, “Maybe I will or maybe I won’t talk to you ever again.”


Like his philosophy or not, I never saw an 80-year-old with so much energy, life, and personality. Honestly, there are a lot of people half his age, who act more dead than alive. It was incredible to see this ageless person and hear what that’s like. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal 

Braving Trust and Credibility

So I thought this was really good from a colleague this week. 


How to build trust and credibility in the workplace:


Credibility is about being “convincing and believable” and results from “expertise and experience.”


Trust is believing strongly in the honesty, reliability, character, and effectiveness of a person.”


BRAVING


Boundaries – Have good boundaries–respecting yours and having my own; show others respect in words and deeds. 


Reliability – Be someone who is both reliable (can be counted on)  and is authentic.


Accountability – Hold others and yourself accountable; we all own our mistakes, apologize and make amends. 


Vault – Keep information in confidence.


Integrity – Hold courage over comfort; choose what’s right over what’s fun, easy or fast; practice and not just profess values. 


Non-judgmental – Believe the best in people even when they occasionally disappoint you. 


Generosity – Offer and ask for help from others, and give generously of yourself in time and effort. 


No offense to anyone…the last thing they said was a little spicy for the workplace (but I know it was meant well):  “Good conversation with others should be like a miniskirt–short enough to retain interest and long enough to cover the topic.” 😉


(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Purpose Is To Help People

I don’t get impressed by others easily. 

But one thing that does immediately get my respect and admiration are people who sincerely believe in and are there to help others. 

Of course, there are some professions like soldiers and first responders who put their lives on the line to safeguard others that come to mind. 

But then there are the people we sometimes meet in everyday real life–people that live for doing good for others. 

Yes, not many people are so unselfish and giving, and that is why it is an incredible person who lives this. 

One person that I have had the honor to meet recently is such a person. 

Months ago, in a stressful situation, I watched them get up and get someone a bottle of water who was choked up and just needed a sip of relief. 

Then again, I saw that whenever they were asked a question or for some assistance, they almost immediately dropped whatever they were doing–and without any resentment–to do whatever they can to help, anytime, anyplace. 

When I heard them talk recently about their philosophy on what life is all about–they confirmed exactly as I had been seeing, they said:

“I want to help people!”

And they went on to explain how that is the greatest job we can do–whatever our role is–simply, to help others.

Someone doesn’t have to be wounded or dying on the battlefield or in urban warfare to merit that help. 

Just being another human being with a heart and soul–that itself is enough to jump to their aid and help, help, help. 

To me, this person really encapsulates the essence of what life is all about. 

It’s not I, I, I.

It’s about what I can do for others.

We were created by the Almighty to learn to live beyond our meager selves and serve the greater good, our Creator and his children.

All I can say is that these people who live and breath this loving, caring, and giving lifestyle are totally awesome to me and my personal role model and heroes. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Good Eggs

So I’ve learned it’s not all about the money and the title. 


What is the most important is being around good, decent people.


I’ve always heard that your relationships are most important.


But it’s not just relationships, it’s also who you are relating to. 


There are good eggs, and there are not such good eggs. 


Don’t get fooled by what’s on the eggshell–that is certainly no yolk. 


Most of eggs know who and what they are. 


Some eggs like to scramble the others. 


Some eggs like to poach on the others. 


Some eggs like to crack the others’ shells. 


But then there are other eggs that like it over easy with the other eggs. 


They all want to get the meal cooked and have it tasty and nutritious, but some eggs just don’t know how to treat others eggs with decency, respect, and integrity.


It’s best to be around those eggcelent eggs, and that is where the best happens and the good eggs gravitate to. 


Be careful what eggs you associate with, because there is nothing that smells worse than a rotten egg. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)