Build Others Up

I saw this in one of the student lounges at the local JCC.


It says:

“Don’t Cut Down Others”


It’s far better to build people up then to tear them down. 


Jut like with trees, it’s better to plant a trillion trees than deforest the Amazon Rainforest. 


Trees are life and people are life. 


Be constructive and not destructive. 


Offer a nice word or compliment; provide an attentive and empathetic ear; give direction with some advice and guidance; lend a hand to someone in need; and in general, be a good influence. 


Unfortunately, too many people default to cutting down the old cherry tree! 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Why Only Two, Daddy?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Why Only Two Daddy?”

The father goes on to explain that these are the commandments that G-d gave to the Jews (when they were redeemed from slavery in Egypt). He enumerates just two examples: keeping the Shabbat and honoring your mother and father. The son asks, ‘What are the other commandments?’ The father hesitates either not knowing any of the other commandments or simply unable to remember any more of them on the spot. And all of a sudden, the little boy starts wailing to his father: ‘Daddy, why do you know only two, why?’


Knowing the Torah and commandments is not only for ourselves to do what’s rights, but also to pass on the torch to the next generation. It’s not always easy to be good examples, but it’s the challenge we all face. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Training Them To Be Like Us

So I saw this in the supermarket. 


This kid was pushing the shopping cart with groceries in it. 


And a little sign at the top that says:

Customer in Training


His mom is nearby with the big shopping cart full of even more groceries. 


It’s interesting how we teach our kids to be just like us and at the same time to be not like us. 


They emulate some things and they reject others.


The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


But no two apples are the same either. 


Teaching is an important component of parenting and schooling. 


We need to impart important lessons from the past, so children don’t have to recreate the wheel in the present and future. 


But spitting out little clones is not helpful to innovation and the engine of “what’s next.” 


Sometimes, I envision that there is a really big war–maybe World War III–nukes are used and all our bits and bytes are wiped out, and we are thrown back to the Stone Age. 


All the teaching is evaporated in the vapor of the blasts.


All that’s left in what’s in the soul of the remaining. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Today is Father’s Day

What a beautiful Father’s Day card from my daughter. 


Also, the message she wrote to me inside was so thoughtful and mature. 


It is wonderful for me to see her grow up to be such a lovely young lady. 


The cover of the card:

“Father:
Neither an anchor to hold us back, 
nor a sail to take us there, 
but a guiding light whose
love shows us the way.”


As parents, we certainly don’t have all the answers either for ourselves or certainly for our children. 


And frankly, the kids don’t want us to tell them what to do or how to do it. 


The best we can really do is to be there for them–to spend time with them, to support them, to show them we really care, and to provide perspective, balance, and faith. 


I used to love going to my parent’s house even if just to lay on the couch and feel the comfort of being “home” and with them. 


I didn’t have to think about what I did or said–I could just be me, and they loved me for that. 


Now, I want my home to be that for my kids. 


Even though they are adults now, they know we are always here for them in any way that they want or need us. 


Our home is always their home. 


Our love is always surrounding them. 


My father used to say, he would go through fire for his family, and I always knew he meant it. 


I could count on him for anything.


I miss him always, and especially today, Father’s Day. 


But I can carry on his fatherhood to my children and try to be a good dad–there, and loving and giving–no bounds, no expectations, no judgment–just love, plain and simple. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Make The Right Move To Agile Education

So, unfortunately, our education system in this country is highly troubled


Generally, we teach by strict curriculum forcing children to learn what we consider “the fundamentals”.


But they are anything but that and kids come out not knowing how to do the very basics or survive in life. 


Test scores have not been improving–that’s not the student’s fault, but the education system, which cannot force feed what students minds are rejecting as “old school” and out of touch.


Not only don’t we fish for them, but we don’t even teach them to fish. 


We throw at them esoteric subjects to memorize, spit back, and forget. 


Wash, rinse, repeat. 


We waste years of their life and the productivity and creativity of society. 


Ever really wonder why GDP growth is only around 2% despite all the rapid technology that we are rolling out. 


It is just not drones that we are rolling off the assembly line, but human automatons as well. 


This is where agile education comes into aspect. 


Like with software development, we can gather requirements and build, and then show the customer, and then refine again and again. 


We let the development grow and mature naturally as the code takes shape. 


No more years of development and voila here’s something for you, and with the customer exclaiming loudly, “What the F*** is that!”


So too with education, we need to follow the spirit and train of thought naturally. 


Where we let the students guide the teacher to what their questions are, what they are interested in learning about, where their creative juices take them, and what is relevant. 


Rigidity in the education system leaves our students as dead ends, and not as critical thinkers and innovators.


We have a dearth of leaders we can look up to and a plethora of people that couldn’t survive the Spring without their Visa/Mastercard.  


Ever wonder why so many of our great innovators are college dropouts who built their companies in their garages instead of occupying a seat in a classroom and filling their heads with teacher rhetoric. 


Most people learn by seeing, internalizing, and doing useful things for themselves, not by listening and violently rejecting the irrelevant in their lives. 


Let us release the choking reigns of our education system. 


Teachers should be able to follow the questions and interests and natural evolution of thought and creativity and wonderment with their students. 


The mark of learning is not the answers on a standardized test, but the light bulb of critical thinking and innovation from our progeny. 


Exploration and discovery and skills to be self-sufficient and survive are far more beneficial than what we are giving our children today.


We owe them a better education, but we are not delivering because we are the automatons of yesteryear. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Little Wear and Tear

Skeleton.jpeg

Despite a generally longer life expectancy…people still have lots of aches and pains already by midlife. 


Danielle Ofri in the New York Times points out:

“Our bodies evolved to live about 40 years and then be finished off by a mammoth or a microbe. [However,] thanks to a century of staggering medical progress, now now live past 80, but evolution hasn’t caught up; the cartilage in our joints still wears down in our 40s and we are more obese and more sedentary that we used to be, which doesn’t help.”

I hear from so many people in their 40s that they are already getting knee and hip replacements; they have high blood pressure, diabetes, and are having heart attacks, and many even are seeing their first bouts of cancer.


So in many ways, the 40s really sucks!  


Many of us would be dead many times over already, if not for G-d’s grace and the miracles of medical science and technology these days. 


So life is prolonged, and we even often get pain relief, while we are able to continue forward with our families, communities, and careers.


As we read in Psalms 39:4

“Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”

Perhaps that’s what illness is…G-d showing us that we are just mortal and that life is short and we need to make the most of every minute. 


When everything is going just swell, how easy it is to become arrogant and forget how mortal we really are. 


My father used to say:

“G-d doesn’t let any tree grow into the heavens.”

By our 40s, when most of us are growing our families, careers, wealth, and stature–unfortunately, maybe we sort of need that kick in the pants from Above. 


G-d is our maker and our teacher, and he guides us to the end of our days, and hopefully they are reached with wisdom, meaningful contributions, piety, and love. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Bonding and Independence

separation-jpeg

It’s an interesting phenomenon between parents and children. 


Parents (with G-d as the third partner) birth and raise their beautiful children. 


It is in a way a thankless job that we all savor and do with love, joy, and even gratitude just to have the opportunity. 


From sleepless nights to dirty diapers, homework to honing on how to be a mensch, family outings to school trips, braces to bar/bat- mitzvahs, birthdays to sleepover parties, shopping trips to college choices, as parents there is nothing we won’t do for our children. 


Yet, the role of children is to learn and grow to be independent. Children must spread their wings, so they can function as their own adults and parents one day (and hopefully before they are 33 and still living in mom and dad’s house)!


Yet to a parent, a child is always their child, no matter how big, smart, or successful they are (and even when, G-d willing, they surpass their parents in height, good looks, and achievements).


My father used to say, “Blood is thicker than water,” meaning that it’s a harsh world out there and the family always needs to stick together.


As children of Holocaust survivors, I learned that we can’t stray to far (or far at all) from either our religion or family, because otherwise, “We let Hitler win.”


We grew up living next to my grandparents (1 block away) and later in life, we always lived right near my parents as well. 


I watched TV and ate salami sandwiches with my grandmother and doted over my grandfather who sat on the bimah in his big chair as the president of our then struggling synagogue in Manhattan. 


Similarly, my parents were like surrogate parents to my own children and regularly babysat, picked the kids up from school/camp, made Sabbath meals, and happily spent time with them doing whatever. 


My parents were always there to advise, guide, lend a hand and support…no matter the cost to them, as my father used to say, “I would go through fire for my family” and this–his devotion and integrity–I knew was the utter truth. 


In turn, I tried to be a good son and although I disagreed and fought with my parents (mostly my dad) on many issues (often religious and sometimes politics as remember them), I knew they loved me dearly and I them.


As my dear parents are now gone, and I have become (slightly) a helicopter parent myself with forever worries about how my kids are doing, I know that they need to be independent–and that (more than) sometimes means making mistakes or falling down, and hopefully getting right back up again on their feet.


It is hard to learn that as parents, in many cases, we are just spectators–not that we know everything, we don’t, but the maternal and paternal instinct is to safeguard our children whom we love and adore. 


Kids need three things to individuate successfully: stability, consistency, and safety. Absent those, you run the risk of unhealthy knotted bonding and stunted separation anxiety. 


Everyone needs to lead their own lives–we really only have one life to live. Yet, as family, we are very much the foundation and part of their inner strength for everything that follows from their determination, hard work, and blessings from Above. 


For parents and children, it is critical to balance the need for healthy separation and independence with love and bonding that is timeless.


We have to “let go and let G-d” and let our Children. 


The parents are the past and the children are the future, but we mean everything to each other. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Prove Them Wrong

Your Not

So I was recently teaching a certification class. 


And this was a very high-caliber class of professionals attending. 


One gentlemen was a wonderful African American who I will call John. 


As part of one of the class assignments, John,  a very successful man, told of how as a young man growing up in the DC projects, a neighbor told him something very hurtful and potentially devastating to him.


The neighbor angrily said, “You’ll never be anything in your life!”


And John described how he pursued his education, his career goals, his family, as well as philanthropic pursuits to give back to the community–and he went quite far. 


He told with great emotion and tears in his eyes how ten years ago, he went back to his old neighborhood to thank this neighbor for motivating him (even though in a negative way) to go as far in life as he did. 


You could hear a pin drop in the class–I think a lot of people could relate to this story in their own lives. 


I know that I for one certainly could. 


For me, while I am a simple person and have not gone so far, I have certainly had an interesting life and lots of wonderful opportunities.


Yet, I too remember more than 20 years ago, when I had taken a job in a wild pursuit in my youthful ambitions that one crazy boss that I was briefly working for who was considerably older than me and with his own business abusively said to me one day, “You’re not half of what you think you are!”


BAM! Like a huge sledge hammer hitting me right across my head–I was still relatively young and impressionable.


Also, I came from a pretty blue collar-type working family and although upwardly mobile, and I was certainly trying to become “more,” I never really felt at all entitled. 


Anyway, the story this student told really brought my own experience hurling back to me from my past. 


In the class, John said–you have to go out and “Prove them wrong.” 


And while I don’t exactly feel that proving others who wish us bad to be wrong is the point, I do agree that we shouldn’t let any of these negative nellies in our own lives drag us down. 


We all have our mission in life–and it’s up to us to become the best people that we can–and to hell with everyone who looks down on us, discourages us, maybe are competitive with us or jealous in some way, or simply don’t wish us the best. 


So John is right–go out there and do great things! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

STEM Lost And Found

Discovery

ASPIRATIONS.JPEG

So this was a shirt of a local college campus that I took yesterday. 

It shows aspirations to be all sorts of things…from a doctor and lawyer to a cowgirl and princess. 

However, in this list of  22 professional aspirations there is a noticeable lack of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Yes, doctors do have to know science, but not necessarily the type that opens up the world of discovery and innovation like a researcher or scientist!

STEM are the fields that over and over again have been reported as grossly lacking in this country. 

America Desperately Needs More STEM Students” (Forbes 2012)

Americas Lack of STEM Students is Bad News For National Security” (US News and World Report June 2015)

Another article in IEEE Spectrum (August 2013) claims that while the “STEM crisis is a myth,” still “we should figure out how to make all children literate in the sciences, technology, and the arts.”

From my experience, while I certainly get to see a lot of awesome technical talent, I also see and hear too many moans and groans when it comes to a lot of basic skills in STEM.

One colleague said the other day (and in a public forum), “Oh, don’t depend on my math skills for that!”

Others that I know have difficulty with everything from simple spreadsheets, backing up their computer files, or even balancing a checkbook, and other such fundamental skills. 

Growing up with a dad who was a math whiz, a sister with a PhD in bio-medical science, and me majoring in accounting, business, and later diving into IT, I learned to appreciate, on many fronts, how important basic STEM skills are, and I in turn used to drill my own kids with workbooks and worksheets–and they perhaps at the time resented me for it, and maybe only later in life, started to love me for caring and trying.

In school, I found a lot of the education in STEM to be lacking coming across too often as esoteric and disappointingly devoid of day-to-day meaning and application in the real world for the regular people not building bridges or spaceships, so I certainly understand the frustration of young people who while they may be interested in pursuing these critical areas of education, may be turned off at the way it’s being presented to them. 

We need great teachers who not only know the material, but love what they do and know how to make the material come alive to their students. Also, we need jobs that pay commensurate to the value of the talent and not nickle and dime the developers, researchers, and engineers while lining the pockets of the executive suite. Finally, we should focus the hearts and minds of our people on the real meaning of the work they do and how it helps people and society, and not just on what often comes across as isolated tasks or the organization’s free dry cleaning and all you can eat buffet lunches. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)