Failing Forward

There were 2 inspirational student speakers today at my daughter’s graduation from American University.


One spoke about how he got sick soon after starting college with a serious vascular disease, but despite numerous hopsitalizations, treatments, and falling behind his peers, he persevered and was graduating today and in very good spirits. 


Another women spoke about her many failures leading up to the success today of her graduation. She described how her father used to ask her: 

“What did you fail at this week?”


Why?


Because even though we don’t like to admit it, most people have many, many more failures in life than successes.  


Even Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb is said to have failed 1,000 times before getting it right.


This women explained how failure is actually something to celebrate–does that sound crazy?.


But it’s really not, and here’s why?

“To fail is to learn.
To learn is to grow.
To fail is to grow forward.”

Now, I had heard about failing up, but never failing forward. 


Many who fail still manage to advance themselves in the process. 


But failing forward is different. 


It’s not taking advantage of the failure, but legitimately learning from the experience so that you can grow yourself, and advance yourself, by becoming a smarter, stronger, and more capable person from it. 


Sure, it hurts to fail. 


Who would normally want to celebrate failure?


But if we understand life as a journey and not a specific destination, then we enjoy every blessed moment that we have to become better today and tomorrow than we were yesterday. 


In this case, failure is not the opposite of success, but rather is part and parcel of achieving it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Wherever You Go

So my father used to say this idea about dealing with life’s challenges:

“Wherever you go, that’s where you are!”

If you think about it for a moment, it really is very profound. 


Some people think that they can run away from their problems.


Move here, there, everywhere. 


Change schools, jobs, spouses, whatever. 


But you can’t run away from yourself. 


Wherever you run, you’re still you!


So you need to fix yourself, your problems, your life. 


Yes, sometimes your in a place is bad, a bad fit, the people are bad, the chemistry is bad, the circumstances are bad. 


And then change can certainly be a welcome and good thing.


But when you change the external, the internal has to keep developing and changing as well, so that we learn and grow to be better people.  


Change your place is not a substitute for changing and growing yourself–that is the only constant with change. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

What Is Wisdom?

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Some thoughts today on what is wisdom:


– Knowing you know nothing–and you can prove it (ah, humility)!


– Knowing when to ask–like the infamous directions when you’re lost or how to use the latest new technology.


– Learning from all others (everyone has something they can teach us).


– Wisdom = Knowledge + Experience (you’ve gotten an inkling about some truth out there, and you’ve had a chance to test it out). 


– Seeing that people’s outer bodies are just the superficial, material cover for their inner souls. 


– Realizing that doing for others is so much more rewarding than doing for ourselves. 


– Following the great truths of morality and responsibility.


– Keen awareness that we are not alone in the universe–G-d is everywhere.


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Wise Man Watcheth

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I just loved this Asian sculpture that I found in this cool antique store.


It was white and slim with a Asian man face, long beard, and tall hat. 


The face was so expressive.


The eyes so alert and watching. 


The beard and hat made him look old and wise. 


As a real person, this is someone who has seen and learned so many things.


Forever watching.


Forever seeking to understand.


Forever trying to learn the secrets of the life. 


This is a person to consult and get guidance from. 


With age comes wisdom.


And with (occasional) reincarnation comes more opportunity to learn the painful lessons that we haven’t, but must.


How long has this man been sitting there watching and learning–how long must we?


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Mine and Yours

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In synagogue today, we read from Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of Our Fathers”).


And I talked with my friends at lunch about one passage from this timeless wisdom.


There are 4 types of people:


1) “Average Joe”

What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours in yours. 


Someone described this as “his and her–separate–accounts.”


2) Stupid

What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours in mine. 


Ah, this is just someone whose plain old confused.


3) Wicked

What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine.  


One guy described his ex-wife this way.


4) Righteous 


What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is yours.  


We all agreed this is the meaning of life–to be kind and giving to others.


What type of person are you? And what type of person do you want to be?  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Dysfunction Is The Starting Point

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A very smart speech today in synagogue by Rabbi Haim Ovadia. 


He connected to this week’s reading from Genesis in the Torah.


It was a commentary about our forefathers and mothers and what the stories in the Bible teach us. 


As we know, these people while righteous and holy, were not perfect people or families. 


Thinking about these, some examples that come to mind about the many tests, challenges, and tragedies in their lives:


– Adam and Eve eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden


– Noah getting drunk and his son, Ham, seeing his nakedness and telling his brothers


– Abraham and Sarah’s doubting (i.e. laughing) that G-d would give them a child


– Isaac lying to Avimelech about Rivkah being his sister (similar to what Abraham said about Sarah)


 – Jacob buying the birthright and stealing the blessing from Esau


– Shimon and Levi killing the people of Shechem for Hamor raping their sister


– Joseph’s brothers being jealous of him and throwing him in the pit and selling him into slavery


– Judah sleeping with Tamer, the wife of his firstborn 


And so on. 


Rabbi Ovadia said we should keep 4 things in mind about the Biblical figures and families to learn for our own:


1) Context – There is a context to what we do. We all have histories that involve difficulties, challenges, illness, abuse, PTSD, and so on.  The things we do and how we react later in life are anchored in this context. 


2) Dysfunction – Every family (and I would add person, organization, and institution) is dysfunctional.  There is no perfection out there (except G-d). Functional would mean like a computer, we input-process-output towards a certain function.  However, as people, we are not automatons, but instead work out our dysfunction through our striving to love, have relationships, learn and grow. 


3) Responsibility – Whatever our challenges and dysfunctions, we are responsible for what we do–our actions.  We can’t just blame history or others.  Our role is to face up to our lot in life and take responsibility for what we do.  It our life and circumstances to make or break us. 


4) Communication – In dealing with life and it’s challenges, communication is key to dealing with things. I would argue that communication is just a part of many critical success factors like trust, determination, hard work, emotional intelligence, being giving, integrity, etc.  But certainly, communication is a key aspect in how we work out our issues with others and try to build function from inherent dysfunction. 


The honestly of the Bible in telling us the flaws of it’s heroes and heroines–our ancestors–is one of the things that make it such a source of wisdom for us as well as demonstrating the truthfulness of it being G-d given to us.


The bible doesn’t sugarcoat who we are and what we have to deal with–it is the Book of G-d that is a roadmap for us to learn from and do good with in our own lives. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Deal Of Dread

Eyes Wide Shut 2

I would imagine that very soon there will be ATA-boys, pats on the back and high-fives, photo ops, more gushing smiles, and of course the coveted Noble Peace Prize. 

But as we move ever closer to a deal with Iran on Nuclear Weapons Of Mass Destruction all I feel is complete dread.

I wish I could be happy–really I do–because we had a strong and verifiable deal that protected us all, but instead…

I am afraid for the State of Israel–holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims around the world–as a nuclear capable Iran and their terrorist proxies renew vows to annihilate Israel–only 70 years after the Holocaust that erased 6 million Jewish lives, their souls rising in the billowing smoke of the furnaces of the Nazi crematoria. 

Further, I am afraid for the dimming prospects of true world peace based on the tacit acceptance of an eventual nuclear-armed Iranian regime, still the leading state sponsor of world-wide terrorism

Every day, we are bombarded by a cacophony of what seems an unending litany of concessions to Iran:

1) Today, the latest is that Iran wants a complete lifting of the U.N. arms embargo including ballistic missiles. 


2) Yesterday, it was that Iran wants an immediate doubling of oil exports.


3) Last week, it was that rather than gradual sanctions relief for compliance, instead now Iran would get a $150 billion signing bonus  – that is 25 times the annual budget of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard and could be used to finance and carry out yet more global terrorism. 


4) And that for vital inspections for nuke compliance, “anytime, anywhere, unimpeded” of suspicious military sites would now only be a highly watered down “managed access” of inspections.


5) Three weeks ago, the U.S. said that Iran no longer needs to account for the past nuclear weapons research that world representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had been trying to pry out of them for than a decade. 


6) In March, as part of the framework deal, we learned that Iran’s freeze on sensitive nuclear activities would only be 10 years, and even that Iran was calling “unaceptable.”


7) Moreover in March, we learned that despite any agreement, Iran was continuing to pursue banned items for nukes and the missiles to deliver them


In April, we were reminded of the dangers of failed nuclear agreements when China warned about North Korea’s ever expanding nuke arsenal, which critics have pointed out mimics that of the deal with Iran


Aside from the dangerous weaknesses in the emerging deal, Iran’s hatred for the United States is unmitigated as a general in Iran said just last week that the U.S. remains “our worst, most vicious enemy.”


Moreover, as Iran’s Parlimant bans access to its military sites, they continue unabated their generational old chant of “death to America.”


In these fateful times, when our decisions now will affect the lives of untold millions in the future, let us pray for G-d’s mercy.


May the L-rd above bestow the strength of good character, wisdom of our ancestors, and the fortitude of our great heros to ensure a good deal–or no deal at all–with our avowed and undetered enemy–and may he bring a true peace to us all.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)