When we remind ourselves of the light that lies on the other side of this experience, we remind ourselves not to run away. We remind ourselves to work through.
The Beginning Within Podcast is all about repeatedly asking ourselves the one question that always matters, “What can I do about this situation?” Beginning within is about changing the one person we can change. Beginning within is about learning that by transforming ourselves we transform the world.
When we remind ourselves of the light that lies on the other side of this experience, we remind ourselves not to run away. We remind ourselves to work through.
One doesn’t become a student by simply reading a book or listening to a lecture. One must come with an open mind, with complete dedication to understanding the idea being taught, without judgment or fear. Before doing so, one must ensure that the teacher and content are coming from a safe place which doesn’t contradict their values and beliefs.
Slow and consistent is what produces great things, not through experiencing a stroke of luck.
They say that the meaning of intimacy is in the word itself. Intimacy, Into Me See. Intimacy is very valuable, in part, because it’s hard to find. In truth, you can’t really find it, you’ve got to create it.
As humans, this is our unique gift, the ability to let go and have faith. Not to live at the mercy of our intellect, confined to the limitations of what we can prove and understand but to step into a far more expansive dimension which offers us wonderful opportunity and blessing.
We must look deep within and ask whether we are ready to harness the system and drive it. Otherwise, the system drives us, and our potential lies dormant.
I recently asked a high school boy if he’s excited about going back to school and he gave me the answer that would probably sound unsurprising to you, no. However, I know this young man very well and I knew that the reason why he wasn’t excited was not that he didn’t like school, he’s actually very academic, very intelligent, highly intelligent and does very well in school. But it’s because the school is not really challenging him. And so, therefore, he doesn’t ‑‑ he’s not thrilled about it, he’s not thrilled about going back. And that led me to tell him what I’m going to be sharing with you right now.
We, parents, have children. We love them and we will do anything for them, but we don’t do anything for them. We do what most others are doing for them, we put them into a system, just as I have done with my kids and I continue to do year after year. And that is a very good thing. However, it needs to come with a clause in understanding. We need to teach our children that the system was created to serve them, not the other way around. The system was not created to limit them so that now they are beholden to the system. The system was created to provide for them so that they can grow beyond the system.
And this is vitally important. Because, otherwise, we become enslaved or imprisoned within a system instead of realizing that’s just there as a tool. We can go far beyond that so that when the system is not offering something, because no system is perfect, it really is there to give us the best context it can give us but it itself is limited, we have to bring to the table ourselves and then we can take what the system offers and expand on it enormously.
And the only way we teach them, our children, that the system is there to serve them and they are not meant to serve the system is when we have the courage to live in a way that demonstrates that the system is serving us but we are not serving it. When we as adults begin worshipping the system, we end up serving the system. And that’s not what they’re there for. And then we model a generation of kids who just say, well, I’m going to go to school and the school is going to give me, the school is going to make me, my degree is going to get me. And that’s a very unhealthy attitude because it puts a very low lying cap on us and stops us from going further
It’s almost like, you know, the experiments they’ve done with bugs or whatever types of animals that are jumping up and down in a cup to get out and they put some saran wrap on top and once the bug learns that it can’t go higher than the limit and then they have ‑‑ and then even after they’ve taken off the saran wrap the bug won’t even try jumping higher than that point anymore. And that’s what systems can do to us if we don’t understand their place.
When someone goes to law school thinking that this is their ticket to a good living, they can end up deeply disappointed. What gives a person a good living ultimately, of course in addition to the blessings of God, is their dedication, their commitment, their creativity on the foundation of what they learned and on the foundation of the paper, the degree, that gives them the ability to serve as, in this case, a lawyer or a doctor or a Rabbi or an accountant or a nurse or whatever the job is, it really doesn’t make any difference.
Ultimately, we need to take responsibility for whatever it is that we are trying to achieve in life, whether it’s an achievement of making a livelihood, whether it’s an ambition of bringing a change to the world, it is us taking responsibility and going beyond just what is taught. It’s saying, okay, now I bring my creativity to what was taught and now I can create something explosive.
So what does it look like when the system serves us instead of us serving the system? It means us looking deeply within ourselves and asking whether we are ready to drive this or whether we want to remain the backseat driver and be driven by the system. The difference is playing it safe or taking a risk. Mediocrity versus seeking excellence. Creating breakthroughs versus being satisfied with incremental gain. These are the major differences between whether we are going to get stuck in the system or we’re going to have the system serve us, whether we are going to be in the driver seat or we’re going to let the system be the driver and going to be sitting in the back seat.
I’m not advocating anti‑establishment. I’m not advocating breaking the system. I am absolutely advocating going beyond the system. Beyond the establishment. The establishment, due to its inherent limitations, will take you up to a point. But going beyond that point is where great accomplishment happens. No medical breakthrough happened by a doctor simply doing his job. They always happen with a doctor who is frustrated enough by their patients suffering or the limitations, the inadequacy of the current system, that they ‑‑ that what they do is they tirelessly pursue a new way and that’s how great discoveries happen. Large businesses aren’t built by people who have M.B.A. degrees. They’re built by people who are driven with a passion and a purpose to achieve something and they use their degree as one of their assets in accomplishing their goal.
The point again is that what we bring into our efforts and our work is always far more important than where we are in the system or what the system is doing for us. As a Rabbi, I spent my first years looking at what other Rabbis do and copying them. They have more experience, they’ve been doing this for a while, they know. And then I began asking myself, is this truly the best way to do this? Is this truly the smartest way to do this? Is this truly offering the community our best? Is this looking out for their interest or for my interest?
And here is an interesting thing that always happens when we try and go beyond. Because when I started asking these questions, you know what happened, an entirely new set of questions entered my mind. And these questions went something like this: Do you really think you know better than everyone else? Isn’t it arrogant to think you’re smarter than everyone else? You think no one ever tried this before? Of course, they did, and they’re not doing it because it doesn’t work.
This is the inner turmoil, the work, the conflict anyone goes through when we choose to go beyond the system. And very often our first experience is mistakes. And those mistakes are the first steps of the path of anyone who wants to go beyond and bring their full passion and uniqueness into the work they’re doing. These mistakes make us question even more because they seem to prove the fact that we are trying to do things and ‑‑ which is smarter than the current system and clearly they’re not because we’re making mistakes and they’re not working. And you know what, despite that we let our drive continue to drive us and try again. And it’s then that we suddenly discover, we suddenly see what can happen when we don’t let the system define our way, only support our way.
And when we do this in our lives, we are giving our children an enormous blessing, the blessing of knowing that there is no cap. And even though you jumped a few times and you banged your head, you can break through whatever it is that your head is banging against if you jump enough times. Because the construct that you are putting as a student or at any stage of life we’re in is there to serve us not for us to get stuck in it.
Are we doing the best we could in what we are offering in life? How can it be done differently? These are the questions we must ask. Remember, there’s always another way and with enough determination, we will find it. And so we need to make sure that we are not being driven. We need to make sure our lives are not being driven. We need to make sure that we are driving it.
Thank you for joining me for this episode. You can take your free Beginning Within assessment quiz which can be very revealing and helpful for you at BeginningWithin.com. And please remember to rate, review and subscribe to this podcast because that’s how new listeners find us. Until next Monday, be well.
Loyalty doesn’t mean accepting blame for another, that is, when they’re another. When we’re on a team and we are one, their mistake isn’t another’s, it’s ours and we cover for them. This is true for marriage, parenting, and business.
How many people do you know who you could describe as a loyal person? Most of the people that you know? A handful of people? Hardly anyone? No one? Are you a loyal person? Most of us would say we are, I would suspect. And the question is, are we truly? The best way to know is if we can test ourselves.
Have you ever had to cover for a mistake that your spouse made or did you put the blame on them even when they were to blame? I hate to break the news to you but that would mean that you’re not very loyal. Let me give you an example. If my spouse loses her keys and, therefore, we are unable to attend an event we were supposed to go to and we get a call on the next day from our friend saying, hey, where were you, what happened? When I say my spouse lost the keys, I am not being loyal. I may be honest, but it’s misplaced honesty and it’s disloyal. If I were to say, we misplaced the keys or I didn’t have the keys and we just found them this morning, that would be very loyal. Why? Because you’re covering for your spouse.
If someone walks into the house and they smell a burnt smell and they say, wow, did you burn something? And your spouse just burnt something which they were trying to cook and you make a comment such as, yeah, you know, that’s what happens when I forget to turn off the burner or something like that, that is unbelievable loyalty. When I say, yeah, my spouse burnt something, that is disloyal, that’s not covering for them. Loyal doesn’t mean accepting blame for others. However, when your spouse is not another but a part of you, then you actually cover for them as you would cover for yourself.
When you join a team, any team, which can be a team of marriage or any other type of team, you’re no longer an individual and loyalty to the team means that you see yourself as a part of, not apart from. When we see ourselves as apart from and your mistake is not my mistake and, therefore, I don’t cover for you, there’s no loyalty. But when we see ourselves as a single unit and you made a mistake, that is also my mistake because we are one.
A very good example of this would be when you are the member of a board, any type of a board that you’re a member of, and the board takes a vote for whatever it may be and they vote eight to three to a certain ruling. And someone in the community who is very upset by this decision comes over to you as a board member and says, I can’t believe that you voted this way and what’s wrong with you and it’s such a terrible decision. What do we say back to that person? Do we say, well, you know, I mean, look, everything goes under a vote and I didn’t vote for that but what can you do? We are disloyal. When we realize that we as a board, when we come up with a decision because we have agreed that we will vote and that will be the voice of the board and, therefore, I say, yes, that’s what we decided, then I am being very loyal.
So you may say, well, what should I do if I’m on a board and the board makes crazy decisions? Well, you should be loyal to that board and if you don’t like the decisions that they’re making, get off the board. But as long as you’re on that board, then you have an unspoken agreement to be loyal to them and that is the proper thing to do.
Now, we see that loyalty is not such a simple matter, it’s actually a demonstration of enormous character. This is true with boards ‑‑ when we’re on a board, this is true for a marriage, it’s true in our relationship with our kids. When we cover for our children, when we are loyal to our children, we don’t need to expose the faults of our children to other people. We are a family unit and, yeah, someone made a mess over here. Yeah, you know, with a big family sometimes our house looks like a mess. Even though it was your child who made that big mess, despite the fact that you told them not to bring their things in that room because guests were coming over, you’ll deal with that behind closed doors later. But right now you cover for your child. You know what that does? That demonstrates enormous character for your child and it teaches your child through example how to be a loyal person, how to grow up with this unbelievable character. And, again, you can deal with all of the issues later between yourselves. But in front of another, we are loyal to each other.
Now, there’s a simple reason why we’re not loyal and that’s because we are trying to stay in favor with others. And when we try and stay in favor with others, we are doing it at the expense of our team, of our spouse, of our children, of fellow board members or whatever it may be. And that is simply being more dedicated to others than we are to our team, which is why disloyalty is such a deep and hurtful violation to a relationship.
There is nothing more powerful than when a team member takes the heat for another’s action and remains loyal. That type of behavior demonstrates big time trust, enormous trust. Trust means relying on, being able to rely on another. When you trust someone else, you’re relying on them. Being trustworthy is having others be able to rely on you. That makes you trustworthy, when you’re loyal, you’re enormously trustworthy. And this is a foundation for a solid relationship. And only someone who is not defensive and self‑conscience is able to be trustworthy. When we are defensive and self‑conscience, then we are immediately trying to defend ourselves all the time and the moment someone attacks us for a decision the board made, we go into a self‑conscience mode and we want to defend ourselves and make ourselves look good. And that comes at a heavy price.
So do you want to build very solid relationships? Be loyal to an extreme. Why? Because people will know they can feel safe around you and there is nothing we want more from people who we have relationships with than the feeling of safety. And when you can provide safety for other people, you will actually find so many people who will begin being loyal to you.
Did you know that God teaches us how to be trustworthy? Every single morning when we wake up in the morning, the first words that we say are, I am thankful to you, God, the everlasting, the eternal God, that you returned my soul to me, you renewed me with life, I have woken up. Raba Emunatecha, two Hebrew words that mean great is your faithfulness, God. God, your faith in me is so unbelievable, you’ve just given me another day, you just demonstrated trust in me. That is unbelievable. I know that God is trustworthy, that’s why I don’t go to sleep every night worrying about whether I’m going to wake up because God is so trustworthy.
Wouldn’t you appreciate a truly loyal spouse or a truly loyal employee or employer? Or a truly loyal friend? Do you know how you find a truly loyal spouse and a truly loyal employee? You don’t need to get a new one, you just need to be trustworthy for them. Demonstrate loyalty, cover for them with every opportunity that you have and you will teach them how to be trustworthy for you and you will have the relationships that everyone in the world is seeking.
Airplanes don’t fly straight. They are constantly realigning. From time to time we must observe the direction we are moving in, stop for a moment, assess and realign.
I was speaking with my aunt about how much time we spend driving nowadays. We spend so much time in the car and how when we decide to go somewhere, we need to consider the amount of time we’re investing in getting there and getting back. Because that is a significant price, time is the one commodity we can never get back. And my aunt joked with me, she said she jokes around with people and she always says, oh, you know what, let’s feel productive, let’s get in the car and drive somewhere. Because when you’re driving, you feel like you’re getting from one place to another, you’re actually getting somewhere. And so it gives you an automatic sense of fulfillment when that is not necessarily the case.
And I’m just bringing this out to bring out a point and that is that sometimes we are so busy being busy. We’re so busy accumulating something, such as money would be a classic thing, or whatever else it may be that we’re accumulating, that we get caught in this cycle, sort of like a hamster, you know, just running, running, running. And we sort of become mindless in what it is that we’re pursuing and how much value that is at the expense that we are getting it for.
There’s a very interesting story with a great Chassidic master by the name of Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev. A great mystic. And he once saw someone in the morning running and said, sir, where are you running?
And he said, oh, I’m running to make a living.
And Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev looked at him and said, how do you know that you are running to make a living, maybe you are running away from your living?
Essentially, he was asking a very interesting question. You know, sometimes we run, we’re so excited about a certain deal that we’re going to make and sometimes we find out that that was the worst deal that we’ve ever made. So we thought we were running to make, you know, a big deal and as we find out, actually, that was the worst deal we ever made. The point is that we really need to assess when we are going, when we are spending so much time and so much energy focused in a certain direction as to whether that is the direction that we should be going in. Essentially, we need to always be able to realign ourselves, very similar to the airplane. You know, an airplane never flies in the exact direction it’s going. It’s constantly recalibrating. It can never be exactly on the target; slightly to the right, slightly on the left and then shifts right back on target. It’s kind of like constantly moving back and forth to stay on target. And that’s what we need to do, constantly.
Another very interesting story with an another great Chassidic master and mystic, the Alter Rebbe he was known as, Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi. He had a follower that came to him who was very upset and he asked him, why are you so upset?
He said, I have a teenage son and he’s going on choosing some direction in life which is not healthy, which is not good, and I don’t know what to do.
And so the Reb Shneur Zalman said, do you have any way of getting him here to meet me? Maybe I can speak to him and see if I can help.
He said I don’t know. I don’t know how I’m going to get him here. This is not exactly where he likes to hang out nowadays.
So Reb Shneur Zalman said, you know what, you find a way to get him in town, I’ll find a way to see him.
And so the father said, fine. And he went home and thinking the whole time while he was going home how am I going to get my son to that town. And suddenly it dawned on him, his son loved riding horseback. This story goes back about 250 years. His son loved riding horseback. So he was ‑‑ he decided he’ll give his son an errand to deliver something to this town where Shneur Zalman lived and he’ll say, go on the horseback. And then his son would be excited to go.
He comes home and tells the son he has a package that needs to be delivered, can you deliver it?
He said no, I don’t want to go.
He said, why don’t you take a horse and go?
And he said, oh, I can take a horse, fantastic.
So the son gets on the horse, he gallops into town and Reb Shneur Zalman finds a way to let people know that he wants to see him. And he comes in to meet Reb Shneur Zalman and Shneur Zalman greets him with a tremendous warmth and he says, so what do you enjoy doing?
He says, I love riding horses.
And Reb Shneur Zalman said, well, why do you like riding horses?
And he said, you know, why don’t you just take a horse and buggy like most people do?
And he says, because a horse is so much faster. It gets you where you want to go so quickly.
And so Reb Shneur Zalman asks him, well, what happens if someone gets onto the wrong road? They get lost very quickly, too.
And the young man, smart man, said, that’s true, however, you can also get back very quickly. Right? The moment you find out you’re on the wrong path, you just turn around and you can get back very quickly.
And the Reb Shneur Zalman said, yes, this is very true; however, one first needs to recognize that they are on the wrong path
Now, mystics have a way of really caring about the people they engage with and, therefore, when they speak, they speak from the heart. And when you speak from the heart, it penetrates the heart. And somehow it struck this young man’s heart in such a way that he got the message that sometimes we’re having the thrill of our lives but we’re going on the wrong path and we don’t realize that we’re on the wrong path. And so this young man started to reexamine his life and make changes.
And this is exactly what we need to do at different times in our lives, surely right at the outset of a new year, where we need to look at ourselves and just say, look, I’m moving in this direction, and, you know, it could be and it probably is a pretty decent direction overall, but is there any way of me tweaking this, of me refining this, of me realigning myself, just realigning myself so that I am more precisely on track?
This is something that’s very important for us to do because often we get into a mode and we’re moving, moving and sometimes this mode that we’re in feels good because it feels like we’re accomplishing things. But if we’re going down this road for a year or two or three and then five years down the road we turn around and say, you know what, I wasn’t exactly aligned, wow, we’re deep into something and sometimes we have lost opportunities.
You know it’s like the classic workaholic who just completely and entirely gives up his family for his work because he’s consumed with making a living. And when he comes home and his spouse asks him, so, you know, why can’t you spend some more time with the family, and he says, what do you mean, I spend so much time working for the family and supporting the family, who do you think is paying all the bills? And, you know, that’s a good justification, but really it’s coming at a serious price and there needs to be a balance. Of course, we need to work and make money but there’s needs to be a balance. So it’s very very important for us to create more balance. And that’s through realigning ourselves. And here is the question that I think we really all need to ask ourselves. This doesn’t come naturally. But if we are people who are going to be a little bit introspective about our lives, we need to ask this exact question: What am I doing? What should I be focused on? And here is the key, what’s the ideal life that God wants to see from me? Why did God put me here and what purpose am I here to fulfill? And am I focused on that and how focused am I on that? That does not mean that we don’t do all of the things that we need to do to take care of ourselves. We must take care of ourselves so that we can fulfill the purpose God put us here for. But, ultimately, if we keep our eyes on our real purpose, then we don’t sacrifice it by taking care of ourselves but we make sure that the taking care of ourselves is to serve our purpose.
And I would end this with one point, and that’s this one question. What is one baby step that I can take that will bring me closer, that will make me more realigned with the purpose that God created me for? And let’s start doing that now.
When you judge yourself you judge others. When you accept yourself you accept others. This is why you must begin with yourself!
We’re in the season of forgiveness. Forgiveness is very powerful. We all need to be forgiven and we all need to forgive. And we struggle with forgiveness, we struggle in particular with being forgiving. When someone does something wrong, how can I let the wrong go? What they did was wrong, they hurt me. Forgiving them is just letting them off the hook.
And here is what we need to know about forgiveness. Forgiveness has nothing to do with wronging a right. It has nothing to do with what is right and what is wrong. It has everything to do with how we respond to the wrong.
Do we leave room for wrongdoing, which we call in English forgiving? Or do we not tolerate wrongdoing and we remain unforgiving?
The fact that we forgive doesn’t say that what the person did was not wrong. It just says everything about the way I am choosing to relate to the person who has done something wrong. Have I ever done something wrong? Do I want forgiveness when I do wrong? Have I ever done something wrong deliberately because I was angry, upset or in a moment of desire? Can others be the same way?
That is what we need to ask and we need to ask ourselves what our relationship is, how we are going to relate to one who has done wrong.
Forgiveness is actually deeply intertwined with the judgment of others. Can we see another person’s faults without judging them? Seeing another person, seeing their faults and understanding, I have faults, they have faults, we all have faults and understanding that people are faulty. Not justifying it. We’re not saying it shouldn’t be corrected, or that the person shouldn’t improve, but we can accept where the person is right now. Forgiveness is the ability to accept a person for where they’re at right now. This is really what forgiveness is, when we learn to stop judging. The big question is, how do we stop judging and how do we start forgiving? How do we stop judging and how do we start accepting people for who they are?
So I would like to share with you a most powerful teaching, just a few lines written by Reb Tzvi Freeman. And there are a number of very deep lessons in these few lines and I’m only going to focus on one of the many lessons. And here is what he writes: You cannot touch the depths of another until you have touched the depths of your own soul. If you love yourself for your achievements, your current assets, the way you do things and handle the world and despise yourself for failure in the same, it follows that your relationship with another will also be transient and superficial. To achieve deep and lasting love of another person, you need to first experience the depth within yourself, an inner core that doesn’t change with time or events. If it is the true essence, it is an essence shared by the other person as well and deep love becomes unavoidable.
So he generally mentions here the idea that if we get our value from external things, then the value of ourselves is going to be transient and that’s the way we are going to relate to other people as well. When we have a true acceptance and love for ourselves that comes from our inner core, from our soul, from our inherent value, then we love and accept other people.
One essential point, which is a point I want to focus on here, is the way we relate to ourselves is the way we relate to everyone else. If we are judging of other people, it is for a very simple reason. It is because we are very judgemental of ourselves. If we are accepting of other people, it is because we are accepting of ourselves.
When you do something wrong, how do you speak to yourself? What is your inner conversation? If you cannot accept what you’ve done wrong and instead use arrogance to say, how can I have done that, I can’t believe I’ve done that, what’s wrong with me, and beating ourselves up, but we can accept that I’m not a perfect person and that I’ve done something wrong, which gives us the clarity of mind to then ask ourselves how we can prevent ourselves from doing it in the future as opposed to going into full condemnation of ourselves and in some distorted way feeling like we’ve dealt with it because we’ve condemned ourselves, then we actually, in embracing ourselves, learn to embrace other people. When we remain in that judgment and condemnation of our own selves when we do something wrong, that’s the way we respond to other people and that’s why it is very true that the way we treat others is much more of a testament to who we are than a testament to who they are. Because the way we respond to what other people do says so much about us and can be very revealing and, in this case, can be very helpful.
When we realize that we are so judgemental of ourselves, it spills out in our judgment of others. Let’s turn back to ourselves and learn to accept ourselves to realize that we are not perfect. As Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the great Chassidic mystic, teaches us that when one is praying and they have a foreign thought, a strange thought, an interrupting thought that comes into their mind as they are praying, what should they do? He explains that it’s actually arrogant to get upset at yourself for having this thought interrupt your prayers because that would assume that you’re some great mighty person, some holy person who never gets, you know, interrupting thoughts in your head. Are you that powerful in your thought process that you never have interrupting thoughts that you should condemn yourself? No. You probably aren’t and, therefore, you simply need to stand up and say, whoops, I just noticed I had this interrupting thought, let me get it out so I can continue praying.
When we don’t judge ourselves but accept ourselves, then we can actually productively respond. And when we do that to ourselves, we bring that directly to other people as well. And that actually is the best way to respond to another person’s fault, because that gives them the context and environment where they can rehabilitate themselves as opposed to when we are condemned or judged where it makes it very difficult for us to rehabilitate ourselves.
And we can ask ourselves another very simple question that will assess whether we do or don’t accept ourselves. What do you think God thinks of you? Do you think that God is happy with you or he is upset with you? If you think that God is upset with you, you need to start learning how to be more accepting of yourself and less arrogant about putting yourself on some high pedestal. If you realize that God is loving you, you’re on to a very good track and that’s why God is so forgiving. And that’s why we should be so forgiving.
When you judge yourself, you judge others; when you accept yourself, you accept others. My friends, begin with yourself, do not begin with others. Because the one thing that shows up in every aspect of your life is you.
Joy is synonymous with boundless. The power of letting go is entering a state of joy!
Once in a while I want to give my kids a great time and so you know what I do, I simply let go. I stop being the me that they know and I start doing surprising things, which I would describe as fun. And it’s fun for them, too. It’s fun because they no longer know what to expect, what’s going to happen, because I’m not being the me that they know. I’m not functioning, I’m not behaving in the predictable way that I typically do. And so I’ll yell out loud in front of a lot of other people or I’ll say things to strangers or I’ll grab them and I’ll do something wild. And all the while they’re begging me to stop embarrassing them and to just be normal. And all the while I know that they and I are both having a great time. And herein lies the great secret of joy. Joy is when we have a boundless experience, when we break out of our normal structure which limits us and we experience the sense of freedom from those limits.
Now, it’s not the freedom to be who we are but, ironically, it’s the ability to be free from who we are. It’s being free from who we are. We inherently have limitations. And when we free ourselves from those limitations which we can’t free ourselves from, we experience a sense of joy. Because joy is synonymous with boundless. The power of letting go is that it gives us the experience of joy. And the Talmud expresses this concept in this way: That there is no joy like the joy of being released from doubt.
You know how it is when we are not sure about something, what are we supposed to do, and it weighs on us and weighs on us? The moment we get clarity and we’re no longer stuck in the confusion of what to do, that experience of breaking out is how the Talmud gives us an example of what joy, what real true joy is.
When we’re confused and we’re unsure and then we reach that point of clarity, that release from being constrained and bound to the confusion is a state of joy. Why? Because we are no longer bound. We all have limitations. The things we like, the things we don’t. But God gifted us with a mind that can help us override those limitations, that can say, yes, you don’t like this but we can do it anyway. You do want this but we don’t need to do it anyway. And we have a soul that’s deeper than all of our limitations. And our mind is a tool that can help us experience our boundless soul instead of our limited body.
And this is the reason why no physical pleasure gives us true joy, it only gives us momentary pleasure. Pleasure is a feeling. It’s not a state of being like joy is. Joy is like a state of ‑‑ an entirely new state of being. And pleasure is also a very limited experience. And this is the reason why when we get a new car, it gets old very soon. In fact, it gets old just moments after we drive it off the lot. The delicious dinner we had last night does very little for us today. The massage, once it’s over, it is over. Pleasure is bound to time and location. It’s a limiting experience, which is exactly what joy is not. Because joy is boundless.
The exotic vacation that we took and we think about and we say, wow, that was the best vacation we ever had, when we go back and take that vacation again, for some reason the second time it never has that specialty that it had the first time. Why not? The reason why is because pleasure is temporary. It is fixed in time. The second time around it never has the same feeling. But joy can always be repeated and every time you get into a state of joy, it is the full boundless experience of joy.
So you can notice how people always make this comment about their joyous life cycle moments, such as their wedding or their children’s wedding or an experience like that where they will always say that my gosh, I can’t believe it’s over. Time never went so fast for me. I mean, I didn’t even ‑‑ I didn’t even know where it went, I just can’t believe it’s over. This is such a common comment that people make. Because when we’re in a state of joy, we’re above the limitation of time and we are not experiencing things in a conscious frame of time. And, therefore, we’re just in the moment and we have this boundless feeling of just great joy. And suddenly it’s over because we’re not experiencing it in time, we’re experiencing it beyond time.
And this is the beauty of singing in the rain. It’s the beauty of someone who is wearing a suit or a dress, they’re dressed up and it’s raining and they actually decide to walk outside in the rain and just stand in the rain and sing. And it’s such a crazy thing to do. But it’s also such a freeing thing to do. It’s just a way of saying, nothing is going to restrain me, nothing is going to limit me. And somehow the guy in his $500 or $3,000 suit or whatever it is, or dress, is standing in the rain singing and they’re happier than ever. And that’s because they are not constrained, they are not limited.
This is the power of being comfortable in our discomfort. And this is actually the secret to joy. That’s why when we make ourselves uncomfortable to do the right thing and the more we become comfortable in that discomfort, the more joy we bring into our lives. That’s why this is the key factor that makes people happy. When we inconvenience ourselves for others, it’s inconvenient but we’re saying the inconvenience is not going to limit me and I am going to deliberately inconvenience myself for the benefit of another person. That’s boundless.
When we are being more generous than those who have far more than us because we don’t judge generosity by our ability to give but we judge how generous we’re going to be by the other person’s need, no longer are we limited. Joy knows no bounds. This is the true definition of joy. This is why what we dedicate ourselves to has an enormous impact on how much joy we will have in our life. Are we dedicated to material pleasure? Are we dedicated to ourselves, to whatever will give more to me, or are we dedicated to boundless joy?
Making the conscious effort to be a more spiritual being will give us much greater joy in our lives and we will have much more heightened experiences of joy.
You know, we’re taught that it’s vitally important to live a joyous life because when someone is boundless in spirit, they are such a wonderful human being. We are so much more beautiful when we are in a state of joy and we get so much more accomplished because we are not limited in our minds. And so it is vitally important that we dedicate ourselves to experiencing real joy in our lives and that’s by making the conscious effort to be a more spiritual being and then we have more boundless joy.
Dancing is one of those areas where we can often see how much resistance we have to comfortably expressing ourselves.
If you listened to the previous podcast, then you know what joy is. And that is the experience of being boundless, limitless, of just feeling the free‑flowing spirit. And if that’s what joy is, one of the best ways to express joy is through dancing. And that’s the reason why when people are happy, very often what we do is we dance because it is one of the most beautiful ways that we can express our joy.
I remember seeing a man dancing at one of his children’s weddings. Now, most of the people dancing during the wedding, they were dancing in groups and in circles, holding hands. And this gentleman was dancing completely alone. And we’ve all seen people dance this way. But when I looked at the way he was dancing, it looked very odd. He really was not a good dancer. But he was sort of like skittling across the room, back and forth, and back and forth. And in the first moment that I noticed it, it looked strange. But then I realized that this man is in a state of joy. It made no difference how his footwork was or how his hands were moving, whether he had the moves right or wrong. That style is structure, is limitation, and he was way beyond any zone of limitation. He was just truly experiencing and expressing his joy through dancing. He was oblivious to anyone and everyone around him and he was just expressing it by moving his body in any and every way he knew how. It was beautiful to see and I have to say, I was envious. And since seeing him do that I always fantasize about just being able to go right in the midst of everyone during a wedding and just free flow and dance. And you know how hard that can be.
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to draw people into the circle of dance? To bring people in and say, come, let’s dance. There’s so much resistance that so many of us have to dancing. And the reason why is because it means that we need to let go. We need to permit ourselves to dance. We need to permit ourselves to be free, to be boundless.
When we are in a state of joy, we easily go into a state of dancing. When we’re not in a state of joy, it’s much harder because we are in control.
I remember once doing a workshop where everyone was blindfolded and after everyone was blindfolded they put on very loud music and everyone was instructed to dance. Now, no one was able to see anyone else, everyone was blindfolded so you would think that is the perfect atmosphere to just let it rip, as they say, to just let it go and just dance. And this workshop was so valuable for me because in the moment the music went on, I was able to feel, for some reason the blindfold made it so much clearer to me, as to how much restriction I had within myself to let myself just flow and just dance. And it was so hard for me to dance. And when I started dancing, even the dancing, I felt, was so unnatural, it was so controlled, it was so limited. Because I just wasn’t letting myself go. And when we really dance, we are freely expressing ourselves. And that’s the beauty of the fact that very often we dance in circles. Because when you’re in a circle, there is no leader; there’s no front, there’s no back, there isn’t even a middle. Everyone is equal. There is no definition, no individual in that circle is defined differently than anyone else. And that is really the expression of dancing.
Where there is no definition, we are just expressing joy. And this is the reason why we have ‑‑ there’s a Jewish holiday called Simchat Torah where we celebrate with the Torah, we express our joy in the fact that God gave us this book of his wisdom. And what’s odd is, that even though it’s a book of wisdom, we do not celebrate this book of wisdom through studying it. Even though it’s wisdom. Wisdom is expressed through the mind. But you can’t fully express your joy of having a gift being given to you, even though the gift itself is wisdom, it cannot be fully expressed by your mind. Because the mind is a limiting experience, to the extent of our intellectual ability. What we do is, we dance with the Torah. Because when we can let go and dance, we are expressing our full experience of joy. And when we learn to dance, we learn how to express complete joy.
So test yourself. The next time you’re in an environment, wherever that may be where people are dancing, see if you can dance. Not if you can dance as in style, if you’re a good dancer that people will be impressed by, but can you get yourself to have your body just flow freely with the music and if you can’t feel the restraint, the inner restraint that you have that’s just holding you back. And ask yourself, where is that restraint coming from? What are you scared of? What are the concerns that you have so that you are not willing to let yourself flow freely? And that observation will hopefully help you dance more freely the next time until you can dance like you’ve never danced before. And when you do, so many people standing on the side will look at you with envy because they only wish they would be able to express themselves so freely as well.
In this deeply insightful interview with Rabbi Manis Friedman of http://www.itsgoodtoknow.org/, we discuss identifying our core challenge as well as one thing you can do to improve your relationships. This is part 1 of a 2 part interview. Enjoy!
Hi, there, everyone, today I have a very special treat for you, it’s our very first interview on the Beginning Within podcast interviewing a world-renowned scholar, lecturer, an original thinker. A man in who conversing with him every single question I asked him both on this podcast and in our conversation beforehand, he had deep insight and wisdom to share. And so it was a very big honor for me and you will glean tremendous wisdom from today’s podcast and next week’s podcast, which will be a continuation of this interview. It is with none other than Rabbi Manis Friedman. You can Google his name and find him all over the place. I am so glad I am able to share this with you.
And I discuss in today’s podcast two questions. The first question that I speak to him about is what I consider to be the fundamental human challenge that lies at the core of all of our challenges and that is our self-orientation, our nature to always be consumed with ourself.
And the second I ask him is a question about relationships, what is one thing anyone can do that will enhance their relationships with other people?
So I hope you love this podcast as much as I do and look out for next week’s podcast which will be Part II of this interview. Enjoy.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
So, Rabbi Friedman, it’s a great honor to have you on the Beginning Within podcast. You are actually the very first interview that we’re having on this podcast. Typically, it’s a ten-minute message. And what a great way to start interviews with a scholar, someone who has simple brilliance, as the way I see it. And as being a student of yours for many years, it’s an honor for me to share your wisdom with those who are listening to the podcast.
So I’d like to ask you a few questions, and you’ll share your thoughts with us on them. And the first question is, will you agree and what would you say to this comment: The greatest human challenge is our self-orientation, that we are self-oriented and that it’s hard for us to get out of that orientation?
RABBI MANIS FRIEDMAN:
That’s been a problem for many, many years, maybe since Adam and Eve. But, the good news is, that it has become so bad with pop psychology fanning the flames, you know, are you really healthy, are you really happy, do you really hate your mother, do you really love your mother? All that focus on self has taken us over the top and people have become literally narcissistic, which is an illness. People are sick of it. So now when people say, Leave me alone, you hear what they’re saying? Leave the “me” alone. Can’t we talk about something else for a change?
Like, every salesman: I’ll make your life better, I’ll help you. Leave the “me” alone. Get me out of me. That’s been going on for a few years. But let me make a little prediction here: The future of psychology is what Chassidus has been telling us for many years, there’s a part to life, to ourselves, that is not about the me at all. It’s the healthiest part of us.
Children today will come out with a statement like, I didn’t ask to be born. When you expect them to do something, their answer is, Do that? I didn’t even ask to be born.
And, of course, being the amateur psychiatrist, we all think the kid is depressed and has got to be put onto medications. But if we would just stop and think, I didn’t ask to be born. Oh, neither did I. Nobody asks to be born, which means, we don’t need to be born. If we needed to, we would have asked. We don’t ask because we don’t need to, which means the life I’m living is not mine because I don’t need it and I didn’t ask for it.
So you could get a little depressed about that. You could get a little nialistic about it and fatalistic and there’s no meaning to life, I don’t need it, I don’t want it.
It’s the opposite. If I didn’t ask for it and I don’t need it, then the most intelligent question is, who does? Because I am here. I was born. Even though I don’t need it. So if this is not a response; life, existence, is not a response to my need, well, then, who needs me?
So here is the bottom line: To be needed is much more important than to be loved. And if I knew what I was needed for, I would get out of the me monster. Gladly. Because the me monster is choking us.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
Wow, Wow. That was outstanding. I love the way you explain how to get out of the me. That is fantastic, fantastic.
So the healthy part of us is the part of us that is needed for something and the unhealthy part of us is our self-absorption. So it sounds like you would agree very strongly with the fact that self-orientation is a huge problem, it always has been, and whatever we can do to diminish that would be very helpful.
RABBI MANIS FRIEDMAN:
And now it’s possible because we’re fed up with it. We’re not fighting to protect the me anymore. We want out. Give me something bigger than me, get me out of me. The only way to do that is to find a bigger need, a truer need than mine.
Because, if I was not created as necessary, then all I have are my needs. I’m stuck with them. And I hate it. I’d rather be needed than to take care of my needs.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
So another way of understanding when we yell, Leave me alone, is, the superficial understanding of that is leave me alone, I want to be about me. But that can also be heard as the cry of our soul saying, leave the me alone because I want me to stop getting in my way. Very profound. Very profound.
And that’s actually the message of the podcast Beginning Within, is to discover our inherent value from within as opposed to relying on all of the values that we create for ourselves, which are all superficial.
So here is another question: What’s one thing anyone can do that will enhance their relationship or their marriage? What would you say is the one thing someone can do, Do this, this will definitely help your marriage or your relationship?
RABBI MANIS FRIEDMAN:
Never ask why. If your wife says, I can’t stand when you do that, don’t ask why. It’s insulting. If your wife says, I don’t like when you do that, just stop doing it. Then you can ask why.
But if you ask why, it’s as if you’re saying, you haven’t given me a good reason to stop. Give me a good reason. And your wife is thinking, I gave you the best reason because I can’t stand it. If that’s not a good reason, we’re in trouble.
So when you say why, you’re saying, it needs a little more justification than just the fact that you can’t stand it. It’s insulting.
So the question why really should be erased from the dictionary because why is never a good question. If you want to understand something, ask how, what, who. But why? Why is more often a rejection than a question. You tell your kid it’s time to go to sleep and the kid says, Why? Do you give him a lecture on sleep? He’s not asking why, he’s saying, I’m not going. So don’t try to answer it. He doesn’t want an answer.
On a serious level, when Jews are suffering and Moshe asks God, Why? God doesn’t answer. He doesn’t give him a lecture on the value of suffering. And Moshe didn’t want an answer. So when people say, why was there a Holocaust? You don’t want an answer. Because if you’re willing to accept an answer, you’re not a nice guy. You’re objecting, you’re expressing an opinion, you’re saying it’s got to stop. You don’t want an answer.
So we have to understand what we’re saying and how we ask. For example, on Pesach, we don’t ask why is this night different; what is different about this night. Mah Nishtanah, not lama. Because why just means I’m not interested. Like, why can’t I do that means I’m doing it unless you can convince me otherwise. But if you say, what’s bad about this, you’re asking a real question.
So ask your spouse, what do you feel, what bothers you? Never why. The other thing is, you don’t want to be right. It comes down to this: You want to be married or you want to be right. You can’t be both. The need to be right is destructive. Your need to be there for your spouse, not be right in your arguments.
And this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t say what is right. But when what you’re saying is right, that’s very different from I’m right. Because some things are right and some things are wrong. But that’s an objective truth. So if I tell you, you’re not allowed to eat that candy, it’s not Kosher, and you say I don’t care, you haven’t insulted me. But I told you it wasn’t about me. I’m just telling you what’s Kosher and what’s not Kosher. So if I take it personally, I’m destroying the relationship. And if I insist on I’m right and so I do marriage counseling. A couple sits there and accuses each other of all sorts of horrendous stuff and I am trying to figure out who is telling the truth and who is guilty here, who is the monster, what’s going on. And then they say, so who is right oh, so that’s the problem. You want to be right. That’s not good a thing.
So don’t ask why and don’t insist on being right. Your relationship will be better immediately.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
Absolutely. So I just celebrated my 20th anniversary and I can confirm that both pieces of advice are absolutely true.
RABBI MANIS FRIEDMAN:
You haven’t been right and you don’t know why.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
Right. I haven’t been right and I don’t know why.
The why point is really a deep insight because, really, why is really a rejection, as he just explained, it’s just saying, I don’t accept what you’re saying, which I never thought I never put that together with Mah Nishtanah, what is different about this night. All the translations say why is this night different.
And being right and wrong, which is very interesting because I feel that a lot of times we bring the model of right and wrong into human relationships and the human relationship, humanity and sensitivity and connection, runs on a deeper level than right and wrong. Which is the reason why we have forgiveness because even though someone is wrong, that doesn’t necessarily get into the way of a relationship when the relationship is deeper than the wrong.
And going back to the point you said about Moshe, where he asked God why bad things happen to good people and not getting an answer, there also, which I’m just repeating, you know, the idea that you said, so there also once someone can explain something horrific, they lose their compassion, which means you’re losing your humanity. So asking why and getting an answer can actually be more destructive than simply doing.
In part 2 of this deeply insightful interview with Rabbi Manis Friedman of http://www.itsgoodtoknow.org/, we discuss the one thing children need more than anything else from their parents and whether there is a value in pursuing spirituality. This is part 2 of a 2 part interview. Enjoy!
Hi, there, everyone, welcome to Part II of my interview with Rabbi Manis Friedman. And if you did not hear the first part of our interview, go to last week’s podcast. It will be well worth your while.
In today’s podcast, I ask him two questions. The first is balancing being a loving parent while also exercising discipline, which is so vital for parenting; how to carry a nice balance between the two so that one isn’t offsetting the other. That because I’m being a disciplinary parent, I am not taking away the love that my children should feel from me. And when being a loving parent; I am not taking away the discipline that my children should be getting from me. That’s the first conversation.
The second question is about being a spiritual person and whether that is a pursuit that we should pursue. And that’s very enlightening as well. Enjoy Part II of the Rabbi Manis Friedman interview.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
As a parent, one of the challenges I feel personally, actually, and I hear this from a lot of people is, on one hand we want to make sure that our children know that we love them, that we accept them for who they are without judgment; on the other hand, it’s vitally important to give children structure, discipline for them to understand that there are things which are right and there are things which are wrong, things which they cannot do.
Is there a way to exercise discipline in a way that the children are still feeling accepted or loved, whichever word works over there?
RABBI MANIS FRIEDMAN:
To be Biblical about it, spoil the rod spare the rod and spoil the child, right? So if you don’t use the rod or the brush, the hairbrush or the switch, you’re spoiling your child. The way Chassidus understands it, we’re not talking about a stick and we’re not talking about a physical object. There are things that are flexible and there are things that are inflexible. A rod means something inflexible. If you want to teach your children right from wrong, truth from false, you have to be inflexible. So if you spare the rod, meaning if you present everything as flexible, negotiable, discussable, you’re ruining the child.
So, for example, if you say, I don’t like when you talk to me that way, too flexible. I don’t like. Yesterday I spoke to you that way you didn’t mind. Because you weren’t listening.
So too flexible. What you need to make is an absolutely declarative statement that cannot be interpreted or you don’t talk to a mother that way. It’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s not about my mood, it’s not what I told you yesterday, what I forgot to say yesterday. You don’t talk to a mother, no one talks to a mother like that. That’s a rod. That’s an inflexible statement. And you never back off. Because if you contradict yourself, you’re making it flexible. You’re making it negotiable.
You say, for example, Don’t ever run into the street. If you add, because if you do you’re going to get hit by a truck, you’ve ruined it. Because chances are your kid is going to say, Oh, no, yesterday I ran into the street, I wasn’t hit by a truck. So you’ve made the rod negotiable.
The point is, you don’t run into the street. Period. And if the kid makes an argument, you simply repeat it. No, you don’t run into the street.
That’s discipline. Discipline doesn’t have to mean punishment, certainly not physical punishment. It means, no, there’s no wiggle room, this is it. This is the truth. No threat necessary.
But if you try to be reasonable, then you’re going to have to threaten. You’re driving me crazy with your questions, so stop it and that’s it. Why didn’t you say so in the first place?
So the first thing is, when you’re teaching morality, right from wrong, there is no rationale, there’s no negotiation, there’s no discussion. It is what it is. Stealing is wrong. Period. Yeah, but what if. Stealing is wrong.
If you’re not talking about morality, if you’re talking about, like, house rules, don’t put your dirty shoes on the couch, that’s not a rod. There, it’s okay to say, Please, don’t. You don’t say, Please don’t steal. Please don’t lie. There’s no please. Because please means, if you please. No, not if you please.
So don’t say, Don’t you ever put your shoes on the couch. This is not a moral law. Lighten up. On the other hand, don’t ever say, Please don’t cheat. So you have to know where to be flexible and where to be a rod.
Kids love clarity, firmness, rods.
The other thing is, don’t always discipline a child when he’s misbehaving. That’s such a bad habit. You catch a kid almost gleefully, caught you red handed, now I’m going to discipline you. They hate it. But if you discipline a child when he’s trying to behave but he’s not getting it right, they’re going to love it.
So discipline is necessary but it doesn’t always have to be when they’re misbehaving. You can overlook the misbehavior, make believe you didn’t notice. But if a kid is doing something he should be doing but he’s doing it wrong, they almost welcome the discipline.
So a kid is doing his homework but he’s also listening to music and chewing gum. And you say, Come on, that’s not how you do homework, those are not good learning skills. That’s much better discipline than, Why aren’t you doing your homework?
And one final thought. If you’re going to criticize, don’t do it from a distance. It has to be face to face, up front, close, never from another room. I think if we hold out good values and we’re firm about it, all the little misbehaviors are going to disappear. Kids want your approval. If your child ever stops wanting your approval, you need therapy. You need repair. Because a healthy kid wants parents a successful kid how do you succeed as a kid? You get your parent’s approval. That’s a successful kid.
So if your disapproval doesn’t mean anything to your child, the whole relationship has to be revisited. Children want to please you. And don’t make it too hard for them. Don’t let your child set the agenda and live your life around the child’s life. A child doesn’t have a life. So parents who are running after their kids to take them here, take them there, no. Kids should be running after you to keep up with you because they want to be part of your life. So what is your life? What are you giving your kids?
In the olden days, a farmer would take his kid on the shoulders and go out to work in the fields or put him on the donkey or whatever, put them on the plow. Today, parents don’t take their kids to work, they don’t belong there. So the parent’s life is completely irrelevant to the child. You have to present a lifestyle that the child is going to want, is going to follow, is going to run to keep up with you. That’s a healthy family, a healthy life, a healthy child.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
Very, very interesting. And insightful. So I actually find this with my kids, when, even though I find it hard to do at times depending on what’s going on, but to actually tell them something firmly, this is what you have to do and I have this sense of conviction and they do it immediately. The moment I have the wishy-washiness and I’m soft and whatever it is, then the negotiation actually starts. It’s exactly what happens.
And I’ve also, actually, in reflection, I’ve noticed that I think a lot about whether I’m doing a good job raising my kids. It’s something that’s subconsciously on my mind a lot. And whenever I sit down with my wife, whenever it is, just to reflect, okay, how are we doing? You know, at the end of the day I say, you know what, they’re being raised in a home that has clear values which they continuously see, they are a part of, and, you know, it’s showing. So I feel like in this last message you said about what is the life that they are becoming a part of, I think, you know and, obviously, we continuously try to increase in that but the more we have something that we are living for which is beyond our jobs, but a value system and a belief system, that itself does phenomenal work for our children.
Okay, one last question. So if someone were to tell you, I went to college, I have a great job, I have a wonderful marriage, two kids and everything is, for the most part, besides from the normal inconveniences of life, going very well for me, why should I pursue spirituality? What would you tell them?
RABBI MANIS FRIEDMAN:
I’m not sure spirituality is the word we’re looking for here because there’s no obligation or need to be spiritual. In fact, spiritual people need some guidance, too. Because there’s a difference between spiritual and Godly. Spiritual can be selfish, you can have spiritual gluttony. Spiritual could be self-serving. Spiritual can be very cruel. Spiritual people don’t feel your pain because they’re spiritual. It’s all good, it’s all good.
So spiritual is not a Jewish objective. Both the spiritual and the physical have to be elevated and imbued with Godliness. Thus, does this serve God’s purpose? Everybody knows the famous story with the Reb Zusha where he said, I’m not afraid that when I get to heaven they’re going to ask me why I wasn;t like Abraham or Moshe, they’re going to ask me why wasn’t I like Zusha, meaning why didn’t you live up to your own potential. That’s a common story.
A little less common or well known is the same Reb Zusha was asked, If you could, would you like to trade places with Abraham? You could be Abraham. And he said, No. They said, Come on, you wouldn’t jump at an opportunity to be and here is what he said. He said, God needs an Abraham and God needs a Zusha. What’s the difference who is who? As long as God has his Abraham and he has his Zusha, what else do you want?
In other words, going back to our original conversation, it’s not about me. So as long as God has what he needs in his creation and in his world, what’s the difference?
So spiritual may be a very appealing, enjoyable experience, but do you need to be spiritual to appreciate the fact that you are in somebody else’s world, that you didn’t create the world? So somebody says, Well, I don’t know about God, I’m not sure I believe in God, a Creator okay, but can we all agree that you didn’t create the world? You came into a finished world that was already created for you?
So where does that put you? How does one behave when one is a guest in a house that he didn’t build, in a kitchen that he didn’t cook at a meal that he didn’t prepare.
So just simple truth, if you take the ego out of it, this is not my world. I didn’t create it. This is not my kitchen, I didn’t produce the food. And yet, I’m invited and I’m welcome. Some people feel that they’re not welcome but that’s an issue. But we’re welcome, we’re part of this world. And for that alone, we should be very happy.
And our question should only be living in somebody else’s house, am I a welcome guest, am I a pleasant guest or am I a difficult guest?
So if you’re happy with what your host gives you and you try to preserve the home the way he wants and the way then you’re a good guest and you’ll get invited back. You start making your own decisions, you know, move the couch here, paint this wall, sell this sell the garage, what are you doing? You don’t have to be spiritual to know right from wrong. And sometimes being spiritual actually doesn’t help at all.
So you have a good life, you have a good existence. They are two separate things. Existence means taking care of your needs. If all your needs are taken care of, do you have a life? Not yet. You have a comfortable existence.
So if everything is going your way, you went to school, you got your degree, you’re making a living, you have a big house, the mortgage is paid, okay, time to start living. Paying a mortgage is not life. That’s just existence. And even having children, are you providing an existence or are you giving them a life?
If you’re comfortable and you’re capable of paying for the best of everything and you’re giving them the best of everything, that’s just existing. Where is life? When does life begin?
Life begins when you start being of service to others. Raising our children, going back to that question, to raise a child means to cultivate in them a pleasure for better things than they are currently enjoying. So an infant, for example, just enjoys taste and touch. That’s it. That’s all their entire pleasure is what they can taste and what they can touch. If you want to raise your child, get them to enjoy a good song, music. You want to raise a child who loves music, get him to enjoy reading. Get him to enjoy heroics, people who did great things, people who did kind things and are of good character. There’s a pleasure in that. If your child has not cultivated that pleasure, you haven’t raised him. He’s still sucking his thumb.
And then you raise a child to actually enjoy Godliness. So that’s raising children, that’s giving them a life and that’s being Godly, which is much better than spiritual.
I don’t know if that answers your question.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
It definitely answers the question. So spirituality in and of itself is not necessarily a pursuit that we should even pursue. It’s just another endeavor in life, and possibly even another self-indulgence. However, becoming aware of reality, which is that there is a Creator to the universe who put me here for a purpose. So once I settle my existence needs, I ask myself, Why did God make me to be who I am instead of seeking to be someone who I am not and filling the role that God gave me as an individual is what is of value.
And the last point I found to be very insightful is with children, you always want to give them something more than what they currently have. And the greatest challenge to humanity is the ability to jump out of our realm of understanding into a realm of faith, which is what we need to do in order to connect to God.
I’m sort of expanding the tree here. Would that fit into the last point that you said? In other words, the way we really expand is when we go beyond only accepting whatever it is that I can control, sometimes we do that with our minds, that I can understand, but we actually can accept that there is something greater than me and this thing which is greater than me is something that I cannot understand because it’s so great it’s beyond the limits of my intelligence and it takes me into experiences which are also beyond my comprehension. That’s a little bit of a subject of mine and I guess that’s why I brought it up.
RABBI MANIS FRIEDMAN:
It’s not really a question of understanding versus faith. Because my having faith is also about me.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
RABBI MANIS FRIEDMAN:
Am I a big believer? A little believer? The greatest believer? How about if I don’t believe? That’s a crisis, that’s a no, it’s not. God is God whether you believe it or not.
So what really needs to happen is not just get beyond my intelligence, which I’m perfectly comfortable admitting that there is infinitely more that I don’t know than what I do know, that’s and to have faith. Okay, that’s another quality that I may or may not have. The question is, what’s true?
So whether I believe in God or not describes me, not him. Because he exists even if I don’t believe in him. That’s what most Jews say. I don’t believe in God, but he keeps coming back. He won’t go away. So at least on Yom Kippur, I’m going to go to the synagogue. Because I don’t believe in him but he’s still you know.
Truth is truth. I don’t like Yom Kippur but today is Yom Kippur. It’s on the calendar. I don’t like the synagogue but it is a synagogue. I don’t want to be Jewish but I am. And I don’t believe in God but he’s God.
So the ability to simply accept what is true, not based on my understanding or my faith because it’s not about me.
So what really happens is not do I go by what I understand or what God understands? Do I go by what I know to be true or do I go by no. The real question is, my needs or his needs?
That is really getting beyond myself. It means I’m not marching to my drum, I’m marching to his drum. Because if he really needs something, that’s all I need to know. Because his needs, well, if he actually needs me, if he actually tells me what he needs, I’m free as a bird. Now, I can escape my narcissism. Now, I can get out of my little trap of do I or don’t I believe or am I or am I not spiritual. I got to get out of there. That’s such a small, narrow, tiny little universe. It’s not worth fighting over or suffering over and so on.
So when God calls to Abraham, for example, what is Abraham’s answer? Heneini. Now, we understand what that means. Heneini means, oh, you need something, good, because I don’t. Like, I’m unemployed, I’m standing here looking like, what, oh, you need, wow. That’s freedom. That’s freedom.
If I can march to your drum, I’m no longer a robot. But as long as I’m marching to my drum, that’s so predictable. Such a tiny creature.
So the real question is, My will or his will? My need or his need? That’s a huge difference.
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
And we can say, and I’m asking, that this is also the same way we have this relationship with God, and this is the way a healthy relationship with God works, it parallels perfectly with our relationships with other human beings. When we’re consumed in our own needs, we are always frustrated; and when we get consumed in the other’s needs, we discover happier relationships.
RABBI MANIS FRIEDMAN:
RABBI ARYEH WEINSTEIN:
True enough, fantastic.
Rabbi Friedman, this was fantastic so I would like to thank you very very much for sharing this time with us and your deep insights. Thank you very much.
Often, being right is so wrong. Approaching relationships through the paradigm of right and wrong is often destructive. There is a deeper value we must be focused on, getting along.
Sometimes, and I would even add, often, being right is so wrong.
Today I want to talk to you about the dangerous world of right and wrong. And you may think, well, that’s dangerous? Isn’t that a model we should all be following, we should all be focused on what’s right and what’s wrong? Well, there’s no question that we need to continuously learn and focus on what is right and what is wrong in the world; however, when it comes to relationships, it is not productive for us to always show how we are right or show how the person is wrong, even when, in fact, that is the truth.
Because sometimes, and I would even add often, being right is so wrong. And that’s why approaching relationships through the paradigm of right and wrong is actually dangerous or, maybe a better word would be, destructive. Because when we create a paradigm of right and wrong as our way of interacting with other people, what we end up doing is cornering ourselves and, worse off, cornering the other person and we are automatically at odds with the other. The moment I’m insisting that I am right, I am essentially saying that you are wrong and now we are at odds with each other and we remove the peace. The moment I say you are wrong, that is wrong, I am saying there’s a problem with you and I am right and that puts us at odds. And this is the reason why being right can often be unholy, the wrong thing to do. So being right can be very very wrong.
And sometimes it is actually holier to be wrong. What I mean by that is not to be truly wrong but to let it seem as if you are not necessarily holding the truth. And I’ll explain that a little bit more.
We are born to believe that if we are right, we are good; if we’re not right, it’s not good. And that is simply untrue when it comes to relationships. There’s a deeper value over being right and the deeper value over being right is the value of peace. The value of people being able to come together. The value of people getting along. That is actually a deeper value than being right. The reason why we don’t have as much peace and harmony and people working together as we should is because it is so difficult. It’s much easier for me to argue my case as to why I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s much harder for me to let go of being right. And, of course, this all boils right down to the essential human challenge and that is our ego. Myself, my self-value. And that if I ‑‑ I’m scared that ‑‑ of being wrong, oh, my goodness, I can’t be wrong. And, actually, someone who is humble has no problem lending themselves to not being 100 percent right for the sake of making things work a lot better.
People who always argue about how right they are, always remain at odds. And you and I know many people like that. Everything is about, well, you don’t know what you’re talking about because. Or, you don’t know how to do this. Well, this is the right way to do this. And we need to soften our approach. We don’t say you’re wrong or this is right.
What can we say in its place? Well, here is what we can say. We can say, well, there’s another way we can look at this. I hear what you’re saying but there’s another way we can look at this. And you show them another way to look at it. And when they hear that, they’re hearing that this is a much better way or the true way, the right way to look at it. But you’re not saying it in those words and, therefore, you’re not cornering them and you’re giving them the space to save face, to come out and come on to your side. Or you can say, that’s one perspective but here is another perspective. And in doing that, again, you’re not insisting that this is the right way, which implies that your way is the wrong way, it’s just saying, there’s another perspective. Again, it’s softening the way we are bringing the rightness or the truth to another person. When we let another person save face while showing them the proper way or a better way, we are actually creating a much more peaceful world. What do we need to be able to do this? We need to be more humble, that I don’t need to be right, where I don’t need the other person to say, oh, you are right. All I want is the other person to come around and they’ll say on their own, oh, that’s what I was trying to say, maybe I was saying that in different words, however, they want to save face. And they’re not going to give us the credit for the fact that they saved face and we’ll be fine with that. If we are humble people, we don’t need to be the hero of every conversation.
And what it also does is it creates safety for the other person to reanalyze regarding something that they may have made a firm statement about. And for them to reanalyze that, they need to have the space to do that. And when we give them the safety to do that by not insisting that they are wrong or that we are right, which then corners them to defend themselves endlessly about something that they may already know in the depths of their heart based on what we shared with them is untrue.
And, actually, the most beautiful thing we can offer people in relationships is safety, the safety to be who they are without us judging them by saying that they are wrong. And the conversation turns from not being a personal one. When I am right or you are wrong, that’s very personal. I’m making a statement about you or I’m making a statement about me. When we move the conversation away from ourselves and we keep it to the idea and not to the people involved, then people feel much safer to have this conversation. And it is highly worth trying this in your next conversation, the next time someone makes a statement to you which you completely disagree with, instead of insisting that they’re wrong or telling them that they don’t know what they’re talking about or making personal statements and personal attacks against them or personal statements about ourselves and what we know to be true, we can just say, well, maybe we can look at this a little bit differently, what do you think about looking at it from this angle? And just see what happens in that conversation. Yes, there are going to be stubborn people who will never ever agree with you because they are stubborn people. But the majority of people will hear you out that way. You will have a much more productive conversation. You will see people coming around with their opinions and you’ll be amazed at how much influence you can have when you don’t use the power and control of right and wrong but you use the influence of suggestion
So take it on, I’d love to hear from you how this works.
Imagine going through your entire life and never finding the courage to show up as the real you. This is my fear. Real courage is taking off our masks, not putting them on.
Real courage is taking off the mask, not putting on the mask. It’s not putting on a macho front, it’s actually showing up as a real person.
There’s a fear that I live with and that fear is going through my entire life and not letting my real self show up, just remaining too scared to stand up and be the person that God made me to be, intended for me to be, so that I can bring whatever it is that I need to bring into the universe. And this is a real palpable fear.
And what’s so interesting is that this fear is what is the very building block of all relationships, the ability to be as much of our real self as possible with another person so that we strip off any masks that we have that we’re hiding behind so that the other person can actually get to know us and, therefore and thereby, be close to us.
And that’s the reason why what is fundamental in relationships is the ability to be vulnerable, which is, essentially, exposing a deeper level of our true self because that is the one and only way that we can create closeness and intimacy. And when I say intimacy, I mean a sense of deep connection with another person, a sense of intimate connection with another person. That can only happen if we actually present ourselves. If we are constantly protecting ourselves, hiding and covering ourselves, then, of course, there is no way for someone to be close and intimate with us. It’s usually terrifyingly scary. And as we reveal ourselves and the other who we are revealing ourselves to, in very small baby steps, begins to accept, listens to us and simply accepts what it is that we’re sharing about ourselves, that encourages us to expose more, to be more real, I should say.
There is no mission here to expose things, the mission is to be real. And we slowly become more and more real.
And this is the true definition of showing up or manning up. This is real courage. Real courage is taking off the mask, not putting on the mask. It’s not putting on a macho front, it’s actually showing up as a real person. It’s not looking courageous, it’s actually being courageous. And we know we’re being courageous when we’re doing something which is difficult. And so when we share our real self, how we really feel, what is really bothering us, what we truly enjoy, what it is that we are attracted to, what makes us feel good, what makes us feel bad, all of these things are revelations of who we are as a person. Some of these things are beautiful, some of these things are ugly, but at the very moment that we’re sharing them, they are truths about us and they are revealing who we really are at this moment.
And so when we reveal any of these things, then we are actually being real and that requires courage and that brings us closer and deeper in our connection with other people. And as life goes on and as our relationships deepen, we go even deeper with maybe events that happened in our life that we never shared with anyone or things that we are ashamed of that we’ve done. But the safer the relationship is because we go deeper together, the more we are able to step even deeper.
And the second element which is vitally important for a deep intimate relationship is not only sharing your true self but creating a safe space for another, the other person who you’re in a relationship with to also be vulnerable. And the way we do that is by permitting them to share their true self. And how do we permit them to share their true self? The way we do that is by making sure that when they are exposing themselves, we don’t judge them for it, we don’t criticize them for it, we don’t even question how they can feel that way or how could they have done such a thing. We simply accept that this is who they are right now, this is how they feel, this is what they did. And when they can feel that genuine acceptance from us, we have created a safe space for them to be more real. We’re giving them the one gift that every single human being yearns for, and that gift is the gift to be safe, to feel safe, to be ourself.
And we do that when we simply accept people for who they are. And as they expose their real self, we can be intimate with them because they are revealing themselves. And, of course, the flip side of all of this is that the way we destroy relationships is by doing the two very opposite things. We destroy relationships when we insist on being guarded, when we insist on protecting ourselves when we insist on being untrusting and, therefore, we do not share a truer level of ourself with another person. That makes it impossible for the other person to draw near to us and impossible for the other person to have an intimate relationship with us.
And the second way that we destroy relationships is when we shut down others from sharing and opening up and exposing their real self. And we do that again when we insist on judging them when they share that they feel a certain way. Well, how can you feel that way? You shouldn’t feel that way. Or when we criticize them for feeling that way or when we question them feeling that way instead of simply observing what they’re saying and taking with fascination this new depth that we’re learning about the other person.
And here is a fascinating thing, the fascinating thing is that this is the reason why God needs us to do certain things. Inherently, essentially, God is an infinite being Who has no needs. God is not needy. But God chose to make himself needy by saying, turning to us and saying, I need you to do these things. And the reason why God made himself needy is that through God needing us and through us showing up for God, we develop an intimate relationship. If I don’t need you and you don’t need me, we cannot have an intimate relationship. When I need you to hear who I am and accept me as I am, and when you need me to hear who you are, who the true you is and for me to accept who the true you is, we create intimacy.
God wants an intimate relationship with every single one of us. And he, therefore, made himself needy so that we can have this intimacy. And, of course, it goes without saying that we need God for so many things. And through our needing God, that’s not a sign of weakness, but it gives us the ability to open ourselves up and turn to God and expose our true selves by saying, we are needy. And in that way we draw so close to God and God responds in turn.
So work on owning up, showing up, manning up, whatever language works for you. Be the truly courageous person and begin to share your true self.
The more we resist something the more it persists. What we must come to realize is that behind our resistance is everything we’re looking for. We only need to find the courage to stop resisting. Instead of thinking you’re right, begin asking, “How do you know you’re right?”
What is one thing that you are really resisting in your life? It may be a loved one who is trying to extend themselves to you. It may be an enormous business opportunity. It may be having a little more faith. Find that one thing you’re resisting and try and let go, get to the bottom of it, why do you really resist that?
A few years back I attended a retreat. And this retreat, they had many different lectures on all different types of subjects. And there was a person there attending the retreat as well who I knew quite well. And this person was attending a particular lecture that I was also sitting in. And I knew that the subject of this lecture was particularly challenging for this friend of mine. I knew they had a very great difficulty with this particular subject and there was a part of me that was happy that they were attending because I was hoping that the lecture would enlighten them on this subject that they were so challenged by. At the end of the lecture, I went over to them and I said, So, what did you think? And they said, Well, you know, hemming and hawing and really resisting the message of the lecture. And sort of out of my mouth just came these words and I just said, What is it that is making you resist this so strongly?
And what’s interesting is that this person is a coach and they said, You know, that’s a real coach type of a question to ask, what is it that’s making you resist this so strongly? And the reason why it’s a very good coaching question is because very often when we confine the reason why we’re truly resisting a message and, therefore, pull out the rug from under that resistance because we find out what’s behind our resistance and we stop resisting, we actually get past our resistance and we can move forward. But as long as we resist, whatever it is that we are resisting, then we are making this issue an issue that will not go away because we’re continuously fighting with it.
And this really all comes from our nature to be closed to things which are uncomfortable for us and, therefore, we are just too uncomfortable and we don’t want to consider it. And this, the resistance, isn’t always a bad thing. There are many things in life that we need to resist, no question about it. But if we look at so many of the things that we resist, we will find that if we were able to get rid of our resistance, very often right behind our resistance is the very thing that we need in our life that will propel us forward more than anything else. Sometimes the challenge or the obstacle we find in our way is the greatest blessing as long as we are ready to get past it instead of resisting it. And to find what fear there is within us that is terrifying us from taking this on, which is ‑‑ and the fear that is continuously keeping us in the state of resistance instead of actually moving forward.
And very often I would say that resistance is the indicator that we need to look deeper. Very often when we find ourselves resisting something so strongly, that actually is a message to us in and of itself to say, this is where your growth opportunity is, it’s in this very thing that is challenging you. And that’s why there are so many breakthroughs that people experience when we are willing to be able to notice when we’re resisting something that maybe everything is right behind this resistance. Let me try and figure out, investigate why it is that I am resisting this, that I am in such fear of this. And when we get past that, suddenly the floodgates open and things happen that we were waiting to happen for so long. And you know what was stopping those things from happening? Nothing other than ourselves and our resistance.
This really is what anger is. Anger is resisting what’s going on in our life so we get angry about it, which is just a form of resisting and protesting what it is that’s going on. And when we stop getting angry, we just say, okay, this really is because it is, it’s just the reality, right, whether I like it or not, whether it’s just or injust, whether it’s right or wrong, it should or shouldn’t be, it doesn’t make a difference, it is, so I’m not going to resist it, I’m going to accept it and then say, okay, where do I go from here? Those are people who resolve things. Angry people don’t resolve things. They remain angry. It’s the ones who don’t get angry or learn to get past their anger and get past that anger resistance that suddenly has the clear head to say, okay, what can we do now?
And this is true in, you know, many major decisions that we make in our lives, whether they are interpersonal relationship issues, whether they are even business issues. When we learn to ask ourselves what can I do about this instead of getting caught up in what happened and protesting it and resisting it, then we turn ‑‑ we turn negative things into things which are very productive. My very good friend, Dr. Richard Letus, just shared with me this great quote that when we resist, it persists. Our very resistance is what makes the very issue persist because we are engaging with it.
Think of it like a tug of war. If you’re having a tug of war with another person with a long rope, as long as you’re pulling your end, you’re going to feel the resistance of them pulling their end. Right? The moment you let go, then the resisting end goes flying away from you. And that’s exactly what happens. Like I very often say, you know, when you have someone with negative energy who’s coming down on you, you know, they’re yelling at you or whatever it is, it’s sort of like a ping pong game; as long as you are hitting the ball back, they can ferociously hit the ball right back to you. But if you don’t play the game, you just don’t hit back, there’s no ball for them to send back to you. And that is when we stop resisting what they’re saying and we just say, okay, I’ll take it all, just let it go. And it just comes and you don’t resist it, you don’t try to stop it. Very often that is the way to dispel the very issue.
And there are so many people, and I am sure that you have at least one example in your life, maybe many. They may not be huge examples but there is some example in your life, I am sure, of something that you resisted and then you decided that you’re just going to stop resisting and open yourself up to get past your fear and just look at this a little bit more honestly and suddenly you dispel the whole issue and you advanced yourself significantly. So many people have stories of how when they realize that they were just insistent that they knew or they were insistent that this is wrong or they were insistent that whatever it is and so they resisted anything that people were suggesting to them, the moment they stopped resisting, that was the moment that everything changed.
A friend of mine recently approached me about an idea. And it’s an idea that has a stigma attached to it in our society. And most people he approached with this idea turned him down. And I heard it and I know the stigma is attached to this idea and it would have been much easier for me to have turned him down. But I decided I’m not going to turn him down, I’m not just going to follow the mainstream, I want to hear him out fully and investigate this project fully. And only then if I find that it’s right for me to turn him down I will. Because I didn’t want to just resist it with resistance and then turn down a potentially great opportunity and nor did he deserve another person to just slam the door in his face without hearing him out because he may actually have the idea. You never know where the idea comes from.
There is a ‑‑ you may have heard of a gentleman by the name of Ray Dalio, who actually is the CEO of the largest hedge fund in the world. And he shared, I heard in an interview him sharing this and it just brings out this point beautifully and it’s so fascinating. He shared this idea. He said in August of 1982, he said, I thought that the market, because he works in the stockmarket, everything was going to fall apart. And he basically put all his bets, so to speak, into the market falling apart. And he said I couldn’t have been more wrong. And it was painfully wrong because I had built a company until that point, he says. He says we were a tight group, a small group of people. I had to let everybody go. I was so broke I had to borrow $4,000 from my dad.
So here is a man who became very successful and now he lost everything and he was now in debt. He had to testify before Congress, it was a big mess. And it turned out, he says, to be probably the best experience of my life because it changed my attitude about thinking. In other words, rather than thinking I am right, I went to thinking, how do I know I’m right? And it created the open-mindedness to be able to then go, find the smartest people who disagreed with me to see how they would think about things to balance my bets better. It taught me a radical open-mindedness. It taught me that radical open-mindedness is such a powerful thing.
This message from Ray Dalio was so powerful because he stopped resisting and instead of knowing that this isn’t something or that this is a problem when people presented things to him, he started asking, how do I know that it isn’t a good thing or that it is a problem or whatever it is that we think and self‑check himself. And by doing that, we look ‑‑ we take away our resistance of things, our knee‑jerk reaction to things, and we give things a little bit more time and we discover possibilities that otherwise we would never have discovered.
And so I turn to you and I ask you, what are the things ‑‑ or, let’s begin with one thing. What is one thing that you are really resisting in your life? It may be a loved one who is trying to extend themselves to you. It may be an enormous business opportunity. It may be having a little more faith. Find that one thing you’re resisting and try and let go, get to the bottom of it, why do you really resist that? And try to get to the bottom of it and try to let go of it and see where it takes you. I am sure you will discover that it takes you to places you would never otherwise have gone. And you will see what a blessing it is.
Genuine encouragement is a rare commodity. Learning to provide it is highly valuable. Truly standing by another’s side in their time of need isn’t accomplished verbally. It’s accomplished by actually being there for the other.
All of these terminologies are really nice and sweet, but they actually avoid commitment and responsibility.
So many people in the world are looking for commodities which are high in demand and low in supply. Because this is what gives a commodity value, that it’s very hard to get and so many people want it. Then you sell it for a high price.
When it comes to interrelationships between people, there are numerous things which are very high in demand and, sadly, very low in supply. And when we learn the art of supplying these, if you will, relational commodities to other people, it can be very powerful and we can have an enormous impact on people around us.
So we need to look for these things to find them. And one such thing is encouragement.
It is really hard to find a friend or family member who can truly give us the full encouragement that we really need throughout our day and especially at crucial junctures in our life. And when we learn to be the one who can encourage another, that is a commodity that is invaluable. And it’s such a gift to be able to give to another person. I used to be the person who was always very honest. I didn’t want to just throw out platitudes to someone and say, okay, everything will be okay, don’t worry about it, we’re going to take care of this or whatever it is. Because I wanted to be very honest about it, I wanted to be realistic, I didn’t want to be unrealistic for them. But what I began to discover is that that was also partially a defense mechanism on my end not to have to step into commitment and then responsibility in my dedication to the other person. So I would use language like, I’ll do what I can, let’s see what we can do, if there’s anything I can do let me know. And all of these terminologies are really nice and sweet but they actually avoid commitment and responsibility.
And when we are there for another person truly, we actually step up and we make a commitment to them that I will hold your hand through this. That is really encouraging and powerful for another person when we speak to them in that way. Don’t worry, you’re not alone, I will not leave you until this is resolved.
Now, in such a sense we’re not really committing to resolving the issue, but we are committing to being there for the other person and giving our full backing in anything we can do until it is resolved. That is stepping up.
And, you know, sometimes it is better for the person who is dealing with an issue to have a friend like ourselves who is focusing on the unrealistic than being realistic. You know, we’re always worried that, you know, well, what’s going to happen when, realistically speaking, the outcome will be such and the disappointment will be so great? Well, you know what, the person has to live to get to that disappointment if that’s what will happen. And our encouragement sometimes does far more for them and gives them the energy and optimism to get further down the road. And the disappointment will be dealt with when you get there.
Often that is actually the best thing we can do for another person, giving them the reassurance that they need in the moment they’re in right now. So instead of using non‑committal terms like I will try, which is so non‑committal, you know, I’ll try is, basically, a sweet way of saying have a nice day. That’s what it’s doing. It’s saying have a nice day. It’s not stepping up and showing up and saying, I am here for you. I am committed to you. So instead of asking questions about what can I do or how can I be there for you, we tell them, I will be here for you. I am here for you and I will hold your hand through this. We can say, I’m expecting to hear from you within the next 12 hours instead of saying, if you need anything, give me a call.
What do you hear when someone says if you need anything, give me a call? Do you hear a commitment? I don’t hear a commitment in those words. What I hear is someone who is trying to be nice. But if someone is trying to step up to the plate, they say, I better hear from you in the next 12 hours or I’ll be knocking on your door. That’s someone who is insisting that you reach out to them because they insist on being there for you.
When we can find one small thing that we can do that we know that they need, it may be a phone call checking in on them, right, it may be going out of our way to buy something we know that they like that will just give them a sense of feeling good, their favorite candy bar and we come over and we drop it off and we show them we are going out of our way for them so they know we are truly committed to them, we’re not just verbalizing support but we are actually committed to them, that is what does so much for another person.
A friend of mine recently shared how unfortunately he’s out of a job and a friend of his came over to him out of the blue without him saying a word to his friend and said, Look, I know you’re out of a job, if there’s any help I can give you, please do not hesitate and give me a call and I will help you in any way that I can. And a few months down the road this guy needed a loan and he called him and he said, Do you remember when you told me, you extended yourself, so I’m reaching out to you and I’m calling you and I really need some ‑‑ I really need to take a loan, is there any money you can lend me? And his friend immediately told him, Let me see what I can do. I’m going to get back to you very shortly. And very shortly he calls him back and says, Yes, I can lend you $10,000. And then he says, Look, that’s all I can do for now but I’m going to see if I can do anymore in the near future and if I can I will let you know.
And what did this friend do? He did not wait for the one who needed the money to call him back in a few weeks. The moment he was able to lend him more money, he called him back and he said, I can lend you another $10,000. That is unbelievable support. That is an outstanding commitment to another person. Now, I’m not saying that that’s always the right way to support someone. We have to use a lot of wisdom in the way we support someone so we are truly helping them. But in this instance, that was the right way to help this person and this person showed true commitment to their friend in this way.
What we all need when we are feeling vulnerable is a sense of security. Friends can give a sense of security. Friends can keep on calling, keep on visiting, reaching out and saying, I’ll give you a loan, make the uncomfortable call to someone they know in the same field to see if they can get them a job. All of these things are a demonstration that we are truly committed to encouraging, supporting and giving a sense of security to another person. Be the security you can be for another person because there’s hardly anything greater you can do for someone else. And as I always say, if you want friends who have your back, be the friend who has their back.
We all tell ourselves that if only … our lives would be much better. What is your if only? Will you let that lead your life, trying to get that if only? Or will you realize what you do have and what you’ve been endowed with and bring that to fruition?
I’m going to accept that I have that weakness because that is actually a part of guiding me away from focusing there and zoning entirely in on the area that I am unique with.
There is this human tendency to have a very strong negativity bias, which means that we focus on the negative aspect of something instead of the positive. And sometimes the positive side of things is overwhelming, but because there’s just a glimmer of negativity, we become so absorbed in that negativity.
For example, we will often focus on what we don’t have even though there is so much that we do have. And in fact, we get to make this choice, do we focus on what we have, which is such an enormous blessing and we can be so happy about, or do we get lost in the fact that we don’t have that one little thing? And when we become absorbed in the lack, that actually makes us so negative.
We do something and we get nine compliments and one criticism. And we become consumed, our mind is consumed with that one criticism. Like, why does that person feel that way and what did I say that made them feel that way? Without recognizing the fact that we had nine compliments. That ratio is phenomenal. For someone to do something which you score a 9 out of 10 is outstanding. But we don’t see it as outstanding. And this is the reason why so many people who write blogs and on the Web and they get all of these comments, they can have 100 comments applauding what they wrote and they’ll have 2 or 3 comments which are very critical of what they wrote and they become absorbed in those critical comments. Some people literally stop writing because of that. That’s ‑‑ this all comes from our negativity bias. And this leads us to this, if only I was. We all have this thought in our heads, if only I was, then I would be. If only I was a little bit more intelligent like that other guy, I would be so much more successful. If only I was wealthier. If only I had the connections that this other guy had I’d be able to. We always have an if only, if only I was more beautiful. If only I was more handsome. If only I was taller. If only I had a different color eyes.
All of these if onlys. And we get lost in this if only which completely distracts from who we actually are and all that we do have. And what’s fascinating is that so many people spend so much of their life trying to get, to gain the things that they don’t have because they so firmly believe that if only I had, then I would be.
We will spend so much of our time, so much of our money. We will risk our health. We will go under the knife, the scalpel. We will have surgery to try and change who we are. Because if we do that, then we will get whatever, whatever, whatever. And almost everyone knows that when we, in some fictitious way, get something that is not truly who we are, it doesn’t fix any problems. Because whenever we focus on the negative, we will never ‑‑ we will never move ourselves forward that way.
And this is the tragedy that we say if only and we spend our lives trying to fill that thing that we feel we don’t have and we need. And the truth is, that the way someone leads a very powerfully successful life is not focusing on the if onlys, but realizing that’s just a negative voice in my head, but focusing on one thing and that is who I am not who I wish I would have been.
Because here is the true spiritual reality. This world is designed by a Creator and the Creator designs every person in the precise way that the Creator needs you or me to be. And that’s the reason why we aren’t a certain way and that’s the reason why we are a certain way. That’s the reason why we don’t have certain abilities and that’s the reason why we do have certain abilities. Because that speaks to the direction we as an individual need to take in our life.
And when we can embrace that wholeheartedly, when I can say, wow, this is my gift, I know this is my strong point and I know that is my weak point and I’m not going to try to compensate and show the world that I don’t have that weakness, I’m going to accept that I have that weakness. Because that is actually a part of guiding me away from focusing there and zoning entirely in on the area that I am unique with. That is how we actually bring the gift that God has given us to the world, which he’s waiting for us to do, by acknowledging and accepting the uniqueness that we have. This is so valuable, to be able to look at our strong points and focus. Because when we focus on the given things that we have, that is when we discover our full strength.
So here is what I’d like to leave you with. What are the things that you excel at? Look at those things and focus on them and don’t get distracted by the if onlys. Because if you focus on that one thing, you will find the success you’re looking for and you will begin achieving the very reason God put you here.
Responding to sexual harassment with repercussions is too little, too late. If one person has already been violated we’ve responded too late. We must prevent the violations from happening in the first place. We can do this if we’re ready to change the social norms we’ve become accustomed to. Our human weaknesses need stronger boundaries to protect ourselves.
What we can do and what is within our power is our ability to control those impulses.
In the past few weeks, many powerful men in different industries have been exposed for their ugly behavior of sexual harassment and their industries are finally responding to this behavior that, in some instances, they were aware of for quite some time and are responding strongly by stripping them of their power and stripping them of their job.
And we can discuss this issue of sexual harassment after the abuse has already happened and before the abuse has happened. I want to begin discussing it after the abuse has happened briefly. Because I want to make one point clear, and that is that we always must make sure to put full responsibility where it lies. When we misplace responsibility, then we actually weaken the morality of our humanity, of our nation, of the world. And so we need to be clear. If I leave my car door open at night, that doesn’t make the fact that someone steals the things in my car any less an act of theft than if I locked my door. The full responsibility of that theft lies on the shoulders of the thief because he stole something that wasn’t his.
So whatever the other person may or may not have done, whatever those details are, are really irrelevant. The violator, the perpetrator, is 100 percent responsible and 100 percent wrong. And that person must carry full responsibility for their actions, period. And that’s the reason why when the perpetrator gives a half‑hearted apology, such as I’m ashamed but it wasn’t as bad as they make it out to be, that is, as far as I’m concerned, no apology. Any qualified apology is not an apology, that is a person who is still defending themselves instead of taking full responsibility for what they have done.
Only unqualified apologies are real apologies. Whenever there’s a “but” to an I’m sorry, the person isn’t really saying I’m sorry, the person really hasn’t accepted what they’ve done, they really have not taken responsibility for what they’ve done, they’re still in their very ugly state.
And the response of these industries to strip them of their power and of their job is a very strong repercussion which will surely stop and deter others from doing the same behavior in the future. It will make many people think twice, there’s no question about that, but there’s also no question that there will be plenty of people who will still violate others and harass others despite the fact that they know the responsibility of these repercussions happening to them. And this is because of the psychology of human beings who always think that it will always happen to the other person and it won’t happen to me. And that means that repercussions will not stop the problem, they will alleviate the problem a little bit. They will not stop the problem.
And here is the very other important point. We cannot wait to impose repercussions on violators because that means that someone has already been violated. And if one person has been violated, if one woman has been violated, then we are too late in our response to this problem. So that’s the reason why I want to primarily discuss this issue from a preventative angle, not a corrective angle. How can we prevent this from even happening at the outset?
And while I don’t think we can absolutely prevent it, as I will explain, we can minimize it significantly. And here I may be stepping into some hot water and so I am going to ask you to bring your most open mind to this conversation. Because my goal in this conversation is not to defend a belief system, not to defend a political system, not to defend any form of leanings in one direction or another, but to defend all of humanity, both men and women, from being sexually violated. And for that matter, violated, period, in any way, shape or form.
Jewish spirituality teaches us that our mission in life is not to seek perfection. In fact, perfection is impossible for us to seek and that’s probably why you’ve never met anyone who is perfect. And the reason why is because we are designed with instinctive desires and lusts which are unavoidable. You cannot get rid of those instinctive desires and lusts. We have impulsive urges that will always be within us. We are sexual beings that will always have impulsive responses to certain things. And the reason for this is because our natural or, as some people would call it, our animalistic self is impulsive because of who we are, the way we are designed.
So that impulse that shoots up within us, somewhere deep within us when we hear something or see something or smell something or whatever it may be, that is part of who we are and the way we were designed. However, what we can do and what is within our power is our ability to control those impulses. We can control whether we’re going to think about that impulsive feeling that shot up within me, whether we’re going to speak about it or whether we’re going to act on it. That is all within our control.
And, therefore, while we cannot resolve that we have certain urges or desires, we can control them. This distinction is very important because it reminds us that we are flawed beings. We are not perfect people and we cannot expect perfection from people but we can expect and we must expect that people control their urges, that we control our urges. Knowing that we are imperfect reminds us that we are vulnerable to weaknesses that we have. Reminding ourselves that we can control those urges reminds us that we have a responsibility to make sure that we do. We must control those urges towards negative things.
This is the reason why there’s that Biblical story where King David had a son by the name of Amnon. And King David had a daughter by the name of Tamar. This son and daughter were born to different wives of King David so they were half‑brother and half‑sister. And there’s a well-known story of Amnon, who raped his half‑sister Tamar. And what was King David’s immediate response to this? He immediately extended the prohibition known as Yichud in Judaism, which is the prohibition of seclusion between a man and a woman. And I’m not going to go into those particulars, but it’s just the point of creating an environment which makes it less likely for a man to sexually harass a woman. And for that matter, in the reverse, for a woman to sexually harass a man.
It means revising our social norms. When we create safety and freedom for people to be their vulnerable selves without being taken advantage of, we are offering freedom to people. And the only way we are going to do that is if we take more responsibility. And the way we take more responsibility may just mean revising social norms. Because we have a choice. We can protect the social norms that we’ve become used to and we can insist that humanity lose their cardinal desires ‑‑ and while that is idealistic and it would be fantastic if that could happen, that never will happen. Because realistically, as opposed to idealistically, human beings have impulses. And human beings need support to control those impulses.
Now, this is no form of justification for someone who doesn’t, because we are fully responsible, each of us individually for our own impulses because we can control them. But we can’t just keep social norms where people are clearly continuously failing to control them. We need to impose from outside on to individuals a culture that minimizes and also supports, minimizes a person acting upon their impulses and supports a person in controlling their impulses. So we have a choice. Do we protect our social norms and just leave things the way they are? For many many years, thousands and thousands of people have been deeply violated while we were protecting our social norms. Or do we accept that while we are required to control our cardinal desires they will always exist and, therefore, we need to revise our social norms in order to prevent people from being abused. Because, again, if our focus is protecting people, not protecting political or whatever type of leanings that we have but to protect people, then we need to ask ourselves, what is it that is in the best interest of people? Men have a responsibility to prevent themselves from being in a situation where they will not be in control of themselves. And, therefore, men need to impose upon themselves restrictions so that they won’t find themselves in a situation that makes them vulnerable to their own impulses and where they will do something which will be irresponsible and wrong and a violation of another human being.
Corporations have a responsibility to set up a corporate environment which doesn’t permit their employees to be violated. And marriages have the same responsibility. Two people who are married are responsible to each other. And we need to have a culture in our marriage where we do not make ourselves vulnerable to our own weaknesses where we may succumb to them and, therefore, violate our marriage.
So stage one in response to all the sexual harassment is creating boundaries before anything happens. Because creating boundaries creates safety for other people. Now, we know, of course, and even with boundaries, there are certain people who will always ‑‑ who will always insist on following their impulses and not control themselves and then, of course, we need Stage Number 2, which is too late but it’s necessary for after someone has still insisted on violating another person, where we have repercussions. And that will hopefully, at least, give another person a second thought before they themselves harass someone else.
But insisting that we maintain the same social norms is endangering future victims. Imagine someone who has a drug addiction and they go into rehab. When they go into rehab, let’s say for the first 30 days, do we tell them, take some drugs in with you because you need to learn to control yourself? No, we understand that they are not in a position right now to control themselves because their urges are way too strong. So we support them by containing them and putting them in an environment where they cannot have access to drugs. And hopefully, as that person matures, they develop themselves and they will be able to control themselves in the future.
And the point is that while we must work on controlling our deeper cardinal desires, we cannot permit people to be hurt throughout that process of us learning to control ourselves.
And another very important point to know is that when we set up structures and boundaries, we aren’t violating people’s freedom. We are creating freedom. All freedom comes with boundaries. All relationships must have healthy boundaries; otherwise, we don’t have relationships and we end up violating each other in very severe ways. It creates a safety when there are boundaries. And it’s a safety to be true to ourselves, to be our true selves. And that is what real freedom is.
The irony here is that when I put boundaries on myself, which is the entire point here, I create freedom for you. Because you don’t need to live in fear of me because I set up boundaries that are there to protect you in the context of what we’re talking about. When I don’t put boundaries on myself, I take away your freedom. Because without those boundaries I can, God forbid, end up violating another person.
When we are truly concerned for everyone around us, we will implement healthy boundaries. And that’s what we all need to do.
“What is your primary reason for wanting to do this?” This vital question will let you know if what you’re about to begin will serve you well or not. Often, we confuse our primary purpose with a secondary one and the implications can be costly.
Whenever we invest in secondary, it crashes at some point and leads to enormous frustration and enormous disappointment
Whenever you listen to a conversation between friends about movies, you hear them talking about the primary actor. Everyone knows the name of the primary actor, especially if it’s a well‑known movie. But when it comes to all the supporting actors, often their names are not known at all. And the reason why is because the entire story line revolves around the primary actor, that’s why he is the primary actor. The supporting actors are only there to provide any secondary presence that’s needed to support the primary actor.
And that’s why the primary actor is always known.
And this is true in almost everything in life; there is a primary element and a secondary element. However, we don’t always get it as right as we do with movies in that sometimes we confuse the primary and the secondary and we make the secondary primary. And the price for making that mistake can be very significant.
Let me give you another few examples. You take a knife. What is the primary purpose of a knife? Of course, it is to cut things, which would mean that the primary part of the knife is the sharp blade. Well, then, why do we need so much more than just the blade? Why do we have a thickness on the other end of ‑‑ the opposite side of the blade? Why do we have a whole handle sticking out? The handle is there as a secondary purpose, which is just to enable the person to be able to hold and access the blade without touching the blade itself. The thickness of the other side of the metal, the flip side of the blade, is there simply to give weight and strength to the blade. If we only had the blade, it would be too weak to actually cut. But all of those other parts of the knife, which makes up most of the knife, is really only secondary. It’s not the primary purpose of the knife.
So sometimes there’s so much going on but 95 percent of what’s going on is really secondary, it’s not primary. When I was building my website, the BeginningWithin.com website, the one building website wanted to know what the purpose of the website is. And when I would make suggestions to him about different things that I thought looked really, you know, up to date and glitzy or cool, he would refer back to the reason why I’m making the website. And if it fits in with the primary purpose of the website, he would say, that’s a great idea; and if it didn’t, sometimes to my disappointment, he would say, well, that does not fit with the primary purpose of your website.
By way of example, I asked him if we could put a slider on the home page, which is essentially, as you know, as you’ve seen on many pages where images will slide across the front of the website when you come on to it, which looks really cool or it could, at least. And he said, well, you can put it up there but that will slow down the loading time of your page. So when someone goes to your page it may take 2 or 3 seconds for the page to load and, guess what, people will not wait more than 3 seconds for your page to load. So is this actually serving the primary purpose of your site or not? Are you about having a cool website or are you about finding the best way to make sure people access your information?
Well, if I stick with the primary, I know what the answer to that is. When we take a job, what is the reason we are taking a job? Some jobs we take purely for the money. Some jobs we take because the job is meaningful. And some jobs are a blend. Well, I need to make money and it is a little bit meaningful so it’s a blend of the two.
We need to know what the primary reason why we’re taking this job is. How much are you willing to sacrifice for this job? How many of your values are you willing to sacrifice for your job, as often we find people doing, just to hold on to their job and make money. How much of our family are we going to sacrifice for our job? Will we be sacrificing our marriage for our job? What’s primary in our life? Is it our marriage or is it our job? Is it money or is it our value system?
When we actually simply ask ourselves this question, what is primary and what is secondary, we can resolve some very major dilemmas and conflicts that crop up in everyone’s life.
Sometimes we ask ourselves when we look at another person, why would anyone do that? Well, maybe we don’t understand their primary purpose and their secondary purpose and, if we did, we would understand why they’re doing that. Often we look at people who are of spiritual nature or who have a strong religious background and they make decisions and we just look and say, why would someone spend their day doing such a thing? Or why would someone spend their money on such a thing? And, actually, if we were to have a conversation with them and ask them what is most important to them in their life, what is primary, we would be surprised to learn that what is primary in their life is what leads them to do such things. And sometimes those things are actually very beautiful.
When we do not take the time to determine what is primary in our life versus secondary, we live with a lot of confusion. And the price for that can be significant.
Sometimes we make what is secondary primary. And the price for doing that is enormous. When we determine our value based on our external self, such as our looks, we are making a grave mistake simply because what is truly of value regarding any person is not their external looks, it’s their internal self. And it’s only a matter of time until our external looks change and it’s only a matter of time until we will be faced with deep disappointment because we invested in secondary value instead of primary value.
When we invest all of our time in status ‑‑ and sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re doing this because we do it so self‑consciously and almost sometimes desperately. But when we invest in status because we want people to accept us and we work our entire lives on the status, status, status, you know, at some point that status begins to diminish. And at some point, we begin to feel very let down.
The truth is, we make a grave mistake when we do that. Because we attribute and invest all of our value in something which is secondary. And whenever we invest in secondary, it crashes at some point and leads to enormous frustration and enormous disappointment
That’s why we must look into what should be primary for a person. What really is important in my life? And as desperately as there’s a part of me that tells me that secondary things play a significant role and I should invest in them, we must be very careful that secondary things remain secondary. They only remain supporting actors to our primary cause, to our primary purpose. Because people who focus on their primary purpose develop into beautiful people and focused people and they live with much less confusion.
So we need to ask ourselves, are we doing things we need to achieve fulfilling our primary purpose or are we being distracted by many secondary things?
Don’t focus on the dark. Learning how to be the light in any given situation. The light will automatically dispel the darkness. How can you be the light? By having a perspective that enlightens the situation.
We don’t need to focus on the dark, we need to focus on learning how to be the light in a situation.
Possibly our very greatest mission in life is glowing in the dark. It’s illuminating darkness. What is darkness? I’m not talking about physical darkness, which really is a representation of darkness that we have in our lives. Darkness is a lack of clarity, it can be a lack of focus, it can be despair, where we just feel like there’s no hope. And darkness is driven by fear. And the key to learning how to glow in the dark and illuminating the darkness is by bringing clarity, by knowing what we need to focus on despite the circumstances around us, by eliminating a sense of despair, by knowing that there is something that we can do, by not being in fear of the way things seem to appear to be but by overriding that and moving forward, we are glowing in the dark.
And the way to do that is not by focusing on the darkness but by focusing on being a light. We don’t need to focus on the dark, we need to focus on learning how to be the light in a situation. When we learn how to glow, we automatically dispel the darkness.
So often we get consumed in the negativity, the darkness itself, when very often we don’t even need to deal with the darkness, we just need to shed the light. We need to be that glowing element in the darkness which suddenly dispels the darkness.
And here is a very simple way to look at darkness and light and learning how we can be the one who is glowing in the darkness. There is always a situation. And when we let the situation define our perception of what is going on, we are in a state of darkness. Because the situation is a structure, a set of facts. That’s all it is. However, when we let that situation define what we perceive is going on, which means that the external, the outside elements that we see are our depth of understanding of what’s going on, which is a very shallow way of understanding what’s going on, we stay in a state of darkness. So if things look bleak, well, then, our perception is that they are bleak. If things look hopeless, then our perception will be that they are hopeless. If right now I don’t know how to fix this situation, then I just see it as a hopeless situation.
However, when we bring a perception to the situation, that means we see a situation and we say, okay, here is the situation, what is really happening over here? I know there’s more to this than what I see. And we have a perspective that we live with, an approach to the way we look at things so that when a situation happens, we bring a perception to the situation instead of the situation defining our perception, then we are actually glowing in the dark. Because our perception, especially when we have healthy perception, then our perception actually illuminates the darkness. Because the situation is external, a perception is internal. And that’s the reason why we must begin within. Because beginning within is beginning with our perception and not beginning with the situation. We don’t let the situation define our perception, we ensure that our perception defines the situation.
So, for example, if my spouse insults me, the situation is I was insulted. The perception should be, why would my spouse, who I know loves me, insult me? Something must be going on. It could be something that I did, it could be something else going on, you know, in their day that caused them to do this. Whatever it may be. But we at least have the insight, the perception to understand that there’s more to this insult than just me. Because when we only see it as what it appears to be on the outside, when we only see the situation itself, then we become Mr. Defensive and we just start defending ourselves, how dare you say that to me. But, actually, when we understand that there’s some deep hurt going on within them and we address that hurt instead of addressing just the words that we heard, then we actually undermine, in a positive sense, the entire cause of the insult. That is the fascinating thing about the fact that sometimes a hug resolves an insult that you give me, by me hugging you. And you say, well, you insulted me, you should be hugging me. But, actually, if I look at a situation with perception, then, no. I am going to hug you because I realize something else is going on.
If someone comes to me and asks me for advice on a dilemma, if I only hear the dilemma itself, I will not give them any significant advice. But if I can hear more than the dilemma, I can perceive ‑‑ and perhaps sometimes that comes through asking wise questions, to get more information as to what’s behind the scenes, what’s going on behind what you just shared with me, then when we get to that we are getting to perception, we’re not only dealing with a situation, and then we give them advice that they need to hear.
And this is the profound beauty of spirituality and developing a spiritual perspective. As human beings we are entrenched in physical awareness and it requires enormous effort, the same type of effort as fighting against gravity, to go against the natural direction of things and to learn to see everything that happens in our lives with much more insight, to understand that there is an emotional element to what just happened, that there is a psychological element to what just happened, that there is a spiritual element to what just happened. It isn’t single dimensional, this is what happened and that is what it is. That’s an oversimplification which denies us the ability to perceive a situation. But when we take the time to develop ‑‑ and this takes many years and I would say actually a lifetime because it never ends. When we develop a deeper and deeper spiritual perspective so we see the spirit, the intangible of what we just saw happen or what we just experienced or what someone just said to us, whatever it may be, when we have that spirit, when we have the soul of the body, the soul of the matter, then we are perceiving the situation. And when we perceive a situation, we illuminate it. And that is how we glow in the dark. Not by letting the situation immediately happen with an immediate reaction that we have because we know it happened because we saw it happen, but by stopping and saying, I need to perceive what just happened. And in that pause so much can be conquered. And so much can only be conquered if we are developing and as we perceive through life a spiritual perspective so then in the pause, we can get in touch with the spiritual perspective and not get lost in the situation.
And so I want to leave you with taking on your mission and my mission because it’s every one of our missions to be a person who glows in the dark. And one thing I can tell you, if you learn to glow in the dark, the more you do the more people gravitate to you because everyone is looking for a little bit of light.
How much effort does it take to be cynical? Hardly any. How much effort does it take to trust? A lot. Cynicism is easy and destructive. Trust is difficult and constructive.
If we wait for all the questions to be answered before we make any steps forward, we don’t go anywhere.
Have you ever thought about this: How much effort does it take not to trust someone? It takes no effort whatsoever. It’s so easy not to trust. Cynicism is the easiest way out all the time. Doubting, questioning, how do you know, prove it to me, that’s always the easy way out. It’s easy and it’s usually destructive. In fact, the very people who are cynical and who always doubt are the very same as everyone who are seeking people who will trust them, who will say, you have the ability, you can, I trust. Because trust is actually what builds; cynicism is what destroys.
There is a Jewish saying that one cynical statement can destroy a thousand productive statements. One little word of cynicism can destroy an hour of productive speaking that someone just gave. By that slight joke, oh, you think he really means it? Oh, he’s such a hypocrite, whatever other comments we like to make. And that is simply because cynicism is inherently destructive. It’s a cheap shot and it’s actually ‑‑ some people, they flaunt their cynicism with so much pride. Their ability to take someone and doubt and ask them a thousand questions just to show that you cannot prove 100 percent that what you are claiming or what you are saying will work, or whatever it may be, is definitely going to work.
And, actually, that’s the ‑‑ cynicism is a tremendous sign of weakness. It’s the inability to stand up without the 100 percent proof that our minds always seek.
And there’s another point to not trusting and being cynical and that is that it is also defensive. The reason why we are cynical is that we don’t ‑‑ or that we don’t trust is because we don’t want to be duped, we don’t want to be fooled. We are looking out for ourself and so we don’t want to in any way get caught. So we will actually lose 99 opportunities because of the 100th time that we will walk out being fooled.
So what if we’re fooled? Imagine if someone is fooled 50 percent of the time but they actually discover the other 50 percent of the time versus the other person who never discovers 50 percent of the timed because they’re too scared to ever trust. You can’t make progress that way.
Trust, on the other hand, the opposite of being cynical and being the doubter, requires effort. It’s not easy because nothing valuable is easy. It goes against our instincts, it goes against our fear that things may not work out, that maybe this isn’t the right way and maybe this isn’t the right thing. Or, you know, the questions our mind asks of how do we know.
And sometimes people who have accomplished tremendous things don’t wait for the answer to all of those questions, they follow their gut instinct where their instinct tells them that this is something they should be doing even though they don’t have all the answers yet.
And, yes, sometimes it fails. Of course, sometimes it fails, which only sharpens the person’s instincts the next time because they now have learned how to hone in their instincts more accurately. But if we wait for all the questions to be answered before we make any steps forward, we don’t go anywhere.
Trust brings out wonders from other people as well when we trust them, which is why one of the greatest gifts we can give another person is trusting them and why every one of us seeks out someone who will trust us. And we resent people who always doubt us and question us. How many people are walking the face of the Earth today who are complaining that in their upbringing they did not have anyone that had faith in them? And to some extent, they are right, that in not having anyone who has faith in you when you’re growing up, it makes it that much more difficult because we have to find that faith in ourselves, that trust. Trust seeks out the best of the other person. So when we are truly looking out for another and not for ourselves, we don’t protect ourselves by being cynical but we trust the other by bringing out the best from within them. And there’s no question, of course, that someone who fails our trust repeatedly shouldn’t be trusted. But we should learn that after they fail our trust repeatedly, of course not with high stakes. We have to be protective of ourselves being destroyed. But it is worth the risk of a little bit of ourselves to demonstrate trust in another because of what that can ultimately do for the other person. And that’s why trusting people are the heroes of our society. When we are the ones who have the courage not to be cynical but to be trusting, we actually bring out the best of others around us, the best of the universe.
And there’s no question that this is so true in our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is transformed when we learn to slowly trust God more and more. And it makings us so much more powerful people and we can take on and carry so much more in our lives when we have that trust. And that’s why people who are trusting are heroes.
So I leave you with this question, who is the one person in your life who most needs you to trust them and what can you do to demonstrate more trust in them? What is one area in your life where you need to learn to let go a little more and trust God but you’re just not doing it? And what’s the one thing you need to do to get yourself to start trusting God a little more?
We all struggle with keeping our resolutions. Learn the secret to becoming more committed to your resolutions.
So once we know the problem, we know the solution. The secret to resolutions is getting more in touch with our inner desire so that we can keep to what our inner desire is and not let our outer will, our outer desires, take over.
My daughter just suggested to me that I speak about keeping resolutions on my next podcast, so I am taking on your suggestion, dear daughter, and I address and dedicate this podcast to you. And we are going to take a deep dive into keeping resolutions. And it’s this time of year that so many people are taking on resolutions so it’s a very opportune time to discuss this.
Now, my dear daughter, you already know that we all have an internal struggle that follows us through our entire life. And it exists at almost every single moment of our life. In the context of resolutions, this inner struggle is the struggle between our inner will versus our outer will. Or, another way of saying this would be, the struggle between our idealistic will versus our indulgent will. Another way of putting this is the difference between our self‑oriented will versus our selfless‑oriented will or our short‑term desire versus our long‑term desire.
Because our inner will is the very same as our idealistic will and our selfless will and our long‑term desire and our outer will is the very same as our indulgent will, our self‑oriented will, our short‑term desire.
And the conflict that we have with keeping resolutions is the conflict that we have between what we want deep within us, within our deepest inherent purest indulgent self versus what our immediate bodily desire is. So once we know the problem, we know the solution.
The secret to resolutions is, getting more in touch with our inner desire so that we can keep to what our inner desire is and not let our outer will, our outer desires, take over.
A very simple example. It’s the great diet conflict. We all want to feel physically well, we want to be physically healthy, we want to wake up every day, feel vibrant, energized and healthy. And yet, when the cupcake or the donut or whatever it is that is our desire is sitting before us, we sacrifice all of those inner desires for immediate pleasure.
Why do we want to be physically well? Why do we want to feel vibrant and energized? So we can live our optimal life and dedicate our full selves to the purpose we are living. But when that desirable thing is before us, it overtakes and overwhelms our inner desire, which is the reason why people seem to find the strength to overcome that immediate pleasure and desire a few months before a wedding. Because they can see the wedding before them. They can see the suit or the dress they want to fit into. And that is so concrete and real that they can control this desire, this outer desire they have in order to meet their inner desire.
But on an average given day, our outer will, our indulgent will, our self‑oriented will, our short‑term desire is much more concrete and real and tangible before us and so it overwhelms the secondary hidden inner desire. And, therefore, we do not keep to our resolution.
Here is an example I have, which is really a blessing I’ve been blessed with very recently. At the age I’m at, for whatever reason, when I eat sugar or unhealthy foods at night, I usually wake up in the morning with a headache. And so in the evening before I’m about to bite into something I should not be eating, I remind myself of the feeling of that headache, of how I feel the next day, because I felt it so many times that I can actually make it very real. And when I make that very real, it awakens my inner desire not to eat this food and to overcome my outer desire and I’m empowered to do so and I don’t eat it.
I don’t ‑‑ I’m not always successful, but if I spend enough time thinking about the inner desire to be healthy and vibrant the next day, to get through a day where I can be very productive in fulfilling my purpose, then I will overcome that desire.
This is the reason why I have a certain sensitivity to children, because I’ve had experiences myself where I may have been hurt or slighted by an adult when I was a child and some of those experiences have remained with me. And so sometimes when I see a child who is either hurt or can be hurt if I don’t react to the child in a certain way, I think to myself that this child may carry a pain with them for the rest of their life. And when I connect with the inner will of doing the right thing versus the more convenient will of just ignoring the child ‑‑ and the way I do that, connect with the inner will, is by thinking about how this can impact this child’s life ‑‑ that motivates me to show tremendous sensitivity.
And this is really what we call in Hebrew and what the Alter Rebbe, Rebbe Schneur Zalman, our great master and mystic, writes in the book of Tanya is hisbonenus, contemplation. When we contemplate, when we train ourselves to pause and to think before we speak and do, to think about what my idealistic soul wants versus what my indulgent self wants; is this thing that I want coming from my indulgent stuff or my idealistic soul? And if it’s coming from my indulgent self, well, then, let me plug into, before I interact with this desire, let me plug into what my inner will is, what my inner self wants. And if I can really get in touch with that and feel it the way I can feel the headaches I’m going to have the next day, then my inner will is empowered to overcome my outer will.
Now, sometimes it’s easy for us to identify with our inner will and what that looks like. So if we take ‑‑ if we can pause and take a few moments to think about that, to contemplate that, that empowers us and we remain committed to our resolution. But sometimes our inner will is something which is not very concrete, which we don’t fully connect to or understand. It’s part of our subconscious and our soul really craves that but we’re not so in touch with that depth of our soul. And so then we just need to remind ourselves that every single time we control our outer desire, we are becoming a stronger person.
As our Sages teach us, ayze hu gibor, who is mighty, kakovesh es yitzro, one who conquers his desires. When we conquer our desires, we are demonstrating true strength, true mite. And that actually is the definition of true character, one who can overcome their outer will and fulfill their inner will. So while I may not be in touch with this particular inner will and, therefore, I’m not motivated by my inner will, but I remind myself that every time I control my outer desires, I am actually developing a muscle. And that is the muscle of exercising my inner will by being a stronger person, by developing true character.
And now you might understand why I named the website Beginning Within because living more aligned with our inner desire and our inner will is really one of the fundamental keys to life. And this is the gift of your schooling, because every single time you study Chassidic philosophy at your young age, you become more familiar with your inner will. Because you’re learning about it, it becomes more concrete to you and it will be available for you when you are in conflict, which we always are throughout our life. And it will be easier for you to pause, contemplate, say, I know this will give me immediate pleasure, I know that it will serve my outer will, I know that it will be a great moment of indulgence and I know that this is not a long‑term strategy because it will hurt me long‑term. And when you think about that and remind yourself that this is going to hurt what you truly want for yourself, then you will have the strength to remain committed to your resolutions.
We all have to control our short‑term self‑oriented desires. That is the key.
So good luck with your resolutions and know that we all struggle with our resolutions and also know that it is within you to remain committed to them.
With everything that happens in life, we can choose how we experience the event or we can let the event determine our experience.
This is powerful! While the objective event will remain the same, our experience of the event is a choice we make!
Every situation we are in, we have the power to change our experience of that situation.
Have you ever noticed how one day your friend will criticize you and you’ll laugh it off, you won’t take it very seriously, it won’t disturb you or make you upset and the next day the very same friend will criticize you in a very similar way and you will lose it, you’ll get very upset?
Or, have you ever realized that sometimes you meet a certain person and you’re really not excited about meeting them and having the five‑minute conversation with them and then there’s another day you meet the very same person and you just really enjoy the five minutes you had with them?
Or, you go to an event, you go to some event and you ‑‑ it’s lame, it’s just really not exciting and you say, why did I have to come to this, I wish I didn’t have to be out here and spend my time doing this tonight and then another time you go to almost an identical event and you have a fantastic time?
What is the difference between the two situations in all of these examples? There is only one difference and the difference is you. The difference is the way you are experiencing the other person, the way you are experiencing what the other person is telling you, the way you are experiencing that event. The event is essentially objectively the same. The person is essentially the same critical person. The difference is where you are at or how you are choosing to see what’s going on around you that changes your entire experience.
And this is actually extremely empowering because it means that every situation we are in, we have the power to change our experience of that situation.
That’s very very powerful. And it also teaches us another very important point to notice, this is very, very important, that the objective reality of a situation is not nearly as important as our experience of that situation. And the richness of life comes out of the way we experience things, it doesn’t come out of the things themselves, the circumstances themselves.
And that’s the reason why some people who learn to bring experiences into their circumstances live very enriched lives and others who have enviable circumstances, they are not bringing experience, experiential moments into their circumstances and, therefore, they don’t have nearly as much as the other person has, even though the other person doesn’t have the ideal circumstances.
So enriched living really comes from our ability to learn how to bring experience, an experience out of or into the circumstances that we have. And very often you’ll notice we’ll be dismissive of someone else, someone else who is sharing an experience that they had, a feeling that they had and we’re dismissive of it. Oh, come on, that can’t be, no one has such an experience or no one feels that way. And we have to realize that our dismissiveness comes from our own lack of willingness to experience deeply; whereas, another person is willing to let themselves be open and vulnerable and experience, let their emotions get in touch with the circumstances instead of standing with their hands in their pockets and just looking objectively at the circumstances and not letting their inner self-experience. When we let our inner self-experience, we are experiencing richness, depth, meaning, value.
And this is the reason why when I’m preparing a couple for their wedding, I always give them this advice: I tell them, look, you’ve been waiting your whole life for this moment when you’re both going to stand under the chuppah at your wedding ceremony and you’re going to be married. How many couples actually experience their marriage ceremony versus being too caught up in how they look, whether their steps are aligned with the music as they’re walking down the aisle, whether they have the smile that one is supposed to have when they are standing under the chuppah, whether they’re gazing at their spouse or soon to be spouse when they’re standing during the ceremony the way which would give off the feeling that they have the picture-perfect relationship. And when our mind is all caught up in all of those circumstances, to make sure the circumstances look perfect, the setup is just right, the color of the flower is just the way it should be, we are not experiencing our ceremony. Whereas, when someone steps into the experience of what is happening, that, you know, the fact that the flowers are slightly off color and the florist didn’t do the perfect job or that, you know, the tux, the bowtie or the gown is not precisely to the stitch the way we wanted it to be, they become really completely irrelevant, completely irrelevant because we are experiencing what is going on on a much deeper level. And then we have an experience and it’s so deep and meaningful as opposed to something which is ‑‑ stays on the shallow level of circumstance.
When we bring ourselves into something, it’s deep; when we keep ourselves out of something, it’s shallow. And this is the reason why I, actually, ruined all of ‑‑ I say this sarcastically, but I ruined all of the pictures of my wedding ceremony because the moment I got under the chuppah, I was crying. Crying? Why are you crying under your chuppah? What a terrible thing to do. You’re ruining the pictures. You don’t have the ideal smile. You’re right, I didn’t have all of that. It was a disaster. And it was the most beautiful moment of my life and I will never ever forget it because it was a deep experience. It remains with me. Because the truth is, I don’t deserve credit, it happened to me. But thank God that it happened to me, that my deep feelings overtook anything else that was going on and I was just in touch with a very deep moment.
And our experience of any event in life is what brings value and enrichment to the moments of our lives versus just looking at what is happening objectively without bringing ourselves into it. And this is the reason why it’s so enriching when we develop our ability to think and experience abstractly. When we can get in touch with our intangible stuff, not our tangible stuff, how I look, what I’m wearing, but our emotional self, which is our intangible self, our intellect self, the parts of us which are not tangible, where we move away from objective physical presence to subjective emotional experience.
And that’s why being in touch with our emotions is so important and that’s the reason why being in control of our emotions ‑‑ meaning, when I say in control, I mean being able to direct our emotions is even more important because then we can give ourselves ‑‑ we can choose the experience that we want.
And that’s why it’s vitally important that we stretch our ability to be abstract thinkers. And that’s the great beauty of studying Chassidic philosophy and any type of study which forces us to think about things which are more spiritual in nature and less physical in nature. And it makes us more comfortable thinking about the intangible, which makes us much more comfortable with our abstract self as opposed to our concrete tangible self.
Did you ever wonder where heaven is or where hell is? Many people will tell you heaven is up there and hell is down there. And, actually, that is wrong. Heaven isn’t up there and hell is not down there. Do you know where heaven and hell are? They are nowhere because they are not places, they are not tangible physical places in a space‑oriented reality. Heaven and hell are actually experiences. Yes, it’s exactly what they are. These what we call places are not places, they are experiences. Hell is an experience of cleansing, which is an uncomfortable experience; heaven is an experience of bliss, which, of course, is a blissful experience. It’s not a place. And that’s why in truth heaven isn’t up there and hell is not down there.
Where is God? Well, we say, we tell children very often, God is in heaven. Truth is, as we also tell children, God is everywhere because God is infinite, God is not bound by any space so God is everywhere. That’s very hard for us to get in touch with because we’re not used to speaking or even understanding a realm which is not space ‑‑ limited by space. But through developing our abstract thinking, we understand God is everywhere.
So then what’s special about heaven or what’s special about the Western Wall or the synagogue? You know what’s special about those places, that God can be experienced there in an easier fashion than in other places. Meaning, God truly is everywhere, however, some spaces make it more difficult for us to experience God there and other spaces make it much easier for us to experience God.
And it’s all about experience, the way we experience things. And we have the power to choose how we experience every circumstance in our life and that is how we enrich our lives. So we need to ask ourselves whether we are willing to let go a little bit more, stop blaming the circumstances on our experience and start transforming our experiences so that we experience the circumstances differently.
Have you ever caught yourself saying, “This is not what I signed up for.” This statement comes from a perspective of entitlement. The more we embrace a life of responsibility over a life of rights, the happier we become.
Have you ever heard someone say, this is not what I signed up for? Have you ever heard yourself saying that? When I married you, this isn’t what I signed up for.
This statement is essentially saying, there is me, there is what I want, there is what I need and either you align yourself with me and my wants and my needs or you simply don’t fit into my reality. And the truth is that if there’s a couple, for example, that’s ‑‑ they’re sitting in front of their therapist and one of them says this, this is not what I signed up for, and I suspect that therapists hear this very often, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done because this person is not really engaging in a relationship. They’re engaging in their own reality.
Talk about entitlement. You know people talk about the Millennials being entitled, well, maybe we all feel entitled to some extent. And when we ask ‑‑ when we make the statement that this is not what I signed up for, we are really deeply entrenched in the entitlement mindset, which is terribly unhealthy.
And very often when things are not going our way, this is something that we will say about the circumstances in our life, which is very easy to understand. I’ve thought this many times, and that is what we slip into. And we need to remind ourselves that this only aggravates our situation and makes us more frustrated. It also takes us out of touch with reality.
We need to realize this fundamental point, no one signed up for anything. No one asked you whether you want to be born and put here. Did they? I don’t know about you but no one asked me. Suddenly, I was born. No one asked me if I wanted to be born. And this is a Jewish teaching, which tells us bal korchach ata chai, against your will, you are born. God decides that our soul is going to be put into a body and we are going to be born because God wants and needs us here, not because we chose it. So we didn’t sign up for anything. We can complain and protest our entire life if we want, which really isn’t going to help much.
Against your will were you born. The more we can absorb that we were put here, we didn’t choose to be here, we didn’t sign up to be here, the more we will ask, why was I put here? The more we absorb that we were put here, the more we will stop having expectations. The more we absorb that we were put here, the more we will devote ourselves to our purpose. After we discover why was I put here, what is my purpose here, what is the purpose of God wanting me to be here, and then devote ourselves to that. And the more we stop demanding our rights, life is not about rights, the more we will start committing to our obligations. Because life is about obligations. Had we signed up, we would be able to demand our rights. But when we are put here, we have to seek out our obligations.
The more we realize that we were put here, the more we will be grateful for any blessings that we have in our life and the more we will see our challenges as being a part of our mission.
My great spiritual master, the Lubavitcher Rebbe once asked a Rabbi, Rabbi Zev Segal, who was traveling to another country, he asked him if he can take on a certain mission, which wouldn’t be easy. And Rabbi Segal said yes. And when he came back, he came back to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to report to him and he said, I did what you asked me but I want you to know that it wasn’t easy. And the Lubavitcher Rebbe told him these words, which always remain with me and, actually, Rabbi Segal repeating the story says this is a statement that has changed his life or remains with him for the rest of his life and it remains with me as well. He told him, since when did you make a contract with the Almighty for an easy life?
This sounds like a tough statement, but you know, it’s a profound statement. It’s a true statement. And if we absorb this statement, then we actually make our lives a lot easier. No one was guaranteed anything. And in fact, God designs challenges in all of our lives. No one’s life is an easy life. There isn’t a single person you’ll meet who is going to say, I have an easy life. We have periods which, hopefully, will be easy, but every life is filled with challenges because behind those challenges is where we discover so much of our purpose.
I like to split our life experiences into two categories; there are things that we do and there are things which happen to us. Two categories; things that we do, things which happen to us. The things that we do are those things which we get to choose with our freedom of choice. Of course, we carry responsibility in the choices that we make and our choices should be driven by our obligations, our responsibilities in this world as opposed to our rights, but we get to choose the things that we choose. But the things which happen to us, we do not get to choose. They are put into our life by the divine hand. So things that happen to us are actually being directed to us and they are directing us.
Not what I signed up for is giving away our responsibility. It’s not realizing that this challenge or difficulty is surely not what I signed up for, it’s something that God signed me up to because he needs me to go through this process or whatever it may be. And it’s God relying on us for a certain purpose.
So if you turn to someone in your life and you say, I didn’t sign up for this, remind yourself that if this person is in your life, they are in your life by divine hand, by divine providence. You have responsibilities towards them and perhaps they need you and perhaps your responsibility is to care for them. We need to step out of ourselves and we need to be able to step into another person’s needs.
So next time you catch yourself saying, this is not what I signed up for, well, catch yourself and remind yourself the full ramifications of such a statement.
Trying to warm up the outside world on a freezing cold day would be very foolish. Warming ourselves would be the wise thing to do. Trying to change someone else is just as foolish. Changing ourselves would be the wise thing to do.
We have all been violated after sharing a piece of our inner world. We must not let that stop us from sharing our true selves with others. This is the only path to deep and meaningful relationships.
Optimism isn’t a fantasy hope for a better future. Optimism must be grounded in the reality of your circumstances. US Navy Admiral Jim Stockdale taught this in what has come to be called The Stockton Paradox.
“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”
What we see in sports players are individuals who refuse to play it small. There’s a deep yearning within each and everyone one of us to do the same.
There is a simple thing you can do to turn around your marriage. You can even do it without your spouse’s participation. Yes, it feels magical and works wonders.
The only thing between our current reality and a more expansive one is a thin veneer. It looks fearfully large and intimidating. Yet, it is nothing more than a veneer.
Discipline is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. As long as it’s given lovingly. Don’t shy away from creating rules, responsibilities, and structure. Do make sure you do so from a place of love, not negative emotion.
When our relationship with another, with our religion or with G-d is shutting us down and not expanding us, it’s an unhealthy relationship.
The difference between an issue and non-issue person is one thing. What is the objective? The issue person always makes themselves the objective. The non-issue person remains focused on the true objective.
There’s a sight I’ve seen occur numerous times that always intrigued me and it turned into a very big lesson for me. If you ever walk down a street in Manhattan, one of the busier streets near Times Square or somewhere like that, where, in the middle of a typical day there are literally throngs and throngs of people, masses of people walking down the sidewalk and you literally have to avoid bumping into people almost every single moment. So I’ve seen times where two people are walking in the opposite direction and they just come face‑to‑face with each other. And someone has got to move in order for both of them to go. And sometimes you have an obstinate person who just stays in their place, they are not moving; you need to get out of my way, I don’t need to get out of your way.
And I observe this ‑‑ I always found it interesting and I tried to understand, well, who is right over here? Who is the right ‑‑ who is the one that should have to move out of the way?
And, yes, it would be nice to be the one to move out of the way, but you know what, maybe they should be nice, why do I always have to be nice? Do you ever ask yourself that question? What gives, as they say, or who moves? And this is a fascinating occurrence that has always struck me.
One person will say, you must have self‑respect, self-dignity. You don’t just move every time someone is in your way and is expecting something from you. You have to show them you’re somebody, too. Only the weak‑hearted move. Those who just can’t stand up to an obstacle or to the opposition are the ones who move. And so, therefore, certain people, out of principle of holding their self-dignity, will not move because moving shows weakness.
Imagine you extend an offer to someone. You reach out to a friend and you extend an offer to help them. And you don’t hear back from them. So what do you do? Do you call them up again or do you say, hey, look, I extended myself, I know they need help with this, I extended myself and I’m not going to call them again and ask them; if they want the help, then they’ll have to call me. Or do we say, hey, I didn’t hear back from them, let me call them again, I’m not sure why they didn’t get back to me and let me offer this to them again? What is the right thing to do?
Often we say, defend your self‑respect. How many times are you going to call the guy and beg him to help him? You are making a mockery of yourself by calling the person again and repeatedly. You didn’t hear back from them, it’s their turn to return the call. If they can’t return the call, they don’t deserve the favor from you.
Recently I had a very interesting experience and it wasn’t the first time I had this experience so now I was able to have more perspective on it. I spent a weekend at a family event and there were many people who gave speeches at this weekend, and I was asked before the weekend, being one of the Rabbis in the family, if I can ‑‑ if I would be able to share some words. And I said, sure.
And the weekend came and the speeches were going on and on and it reached a point where I felt, as much as the hosts felt, that we maximized the number of speeches there should be at the event. So the host came over to me and started to say, you know, I don’t know ‑‑ and I knew where they were going and so I said, don’t worry about it, there are way too many speeches already and it’s totally fine. However, there was a little nagging feeling I had in me. And that was, why did they choose me to call off? Why not any of the other speakers?
And because I’ve had this similar experience in the past, I sort of felt like I was, like, the easy pushover. I’m the easy pushover. And I just had this thought in my mind, which I’m very happy I was conscious of because being conscious of it gave me a tremendous insight, which I feel was very important for me to realize, and that is the point I’m getting to here. The point that what should determine when to hold our ground and when to give? What should we turn to be that determining factor?
And this clarity can truly help us in knowing if we should pick up the phone and call the other person again, if we should move and let the other person go, if we should step aside and say, no, I’m happy ‑‑ I will be very happy not to speak. And the determining factor is one thing, the objective of what we are doing.
When we’re walking down the street, why are we walking down the street? Typically, it’s to get from point A to point B. And, therefore, if someone is in my way, I will happily move to the side and step around them because that will get me to my destination much quicker. When my objective is to let the world know how strong I am, how great I am, how much self‑respect I have, how no one will get me to move, then I don’t move. If my true objective is getting from point A to point B, I will happily move to the side. No, that’s not a pushover, that’s a person who is clear on their objective.
If I extend an offer to you, I call you up and I extend myself very generously and I don’t hear back from you, should I call you up again and say, I haven’t heard back from you but I would really love to do this for you? Should I do that or am I demonstrating weakness? It all depends on what my objective really is. If my objective is to make sure that you get the help you need, I will call you again; if my objective is to be a nice guy and to want you to believe that I’m a nice guy, then extending myself again is doing more than being a nice guy, it’s actually caring about you being helped, which was not my objective. So we have to ask ourselves, what is my true objective? If your true objective is to look like a nice guy, do not call again, that will not meet your objective. If your objective is to truly help the other person, call a second time and call a third time until that person knows that you really truly want to help them.
What is the purpose of me speaking at a family event? If it is to enhance the event, if for any reason circumstances have it that my speaking will no longer enhance the event, then I am enhancing the event by not speaking. And, therefore, I happily step to the side and I happily know that my family knows I’m the easiest one to go to to ask to step aside because I’m clear about the objective. And that’s why I hope this repeats itself as many times as it needs to when the objective needs to be met in such a manner. And I know how hard it is to go to someone who you asked to prepare a speech and ask them not to give it and how beautiful it is to be the one to be there and say, it’s not a problem at all. But if my objective about speaking is so that everyone should hear my brilliance, then I will have a very hard time stepping aside when the circumstances call for no more speeches because my speech was never about the circumstances, my speech was about me.
See, when we are clear about the true objective, we can easily be the one to call again, easily be the one to step aside. When we are clear that we are the objective, oh, it’s very hard to step aside. We have all the justifications. You should never have asked me. You should not be standing there, I need to get to my place as quickly as possible, you need to step out of the way. Don’t you know who I am? It wouldn’t look right to the people around me if I stepped to the side. We have all the justifications. But it all boils down to one thing, am I focused on the objective or on myself?
This is the subtlety of our ego that we often don’t notice. When what we do is about us at the end of the day, when we are the objective, the test is when we have to compromise our glory to achieve the objective. That is the gift God gives us to say, hey, why are you really into this? Why do you really want to do it? When we have to compromise our glory, we begin to see how much of this is about us, how much of this is about the objective and where we stand at that moment tells us how focused we are on the objective.
We need to aspire to be the non‑issue in situations. Not the issue. You know and I know certain people are always the issue. We have to dance around them very delicately. Oh, boy, there are certain people we will never cancel because we know that will be a family issue for years to come. Do I want to be that issue person or do I want to be the non‑issue person? It may take us years to become the non‑issue person, but that’s the person everyone truly appreciates.
Two stories demonstrate how the choice is in our hands as to whether our circumstances will define our reality or whether we will define our circumstances. It’s the difference between enslavement and freedom.
Today I want to share two stories with you, both of which bring out a very similar point. One is a famous marketing story about two salesmen who are sent by their company who sells shoes to go to Africa and sell their product in Africa. And they come to Africa and in some area in Africa where they discover, low and behold, that no one actually wears shoes in this region in Africa. One salesman comes flying right back home to the company and tells the company, You sent me to a terrible place because no one wheres shoes there, there’s no one to sell shoes to. The other one doesn’t come back for many months and when he comes back he comes back without any shoes and he says, You sent me to the best place in the world. No one had shoes, I was able to sell shoes to everyone.
Here is a second story which is somewhat similar and it’s the story of two brothers. One brother was living a dysfunctional life, didn’t have any family, was unsuccessful in business or making any money, was down and out and was dependent on all different types of substances. And if you asked him why his life looked so dismal, he would say, It’s because of my father. I had a father who was abusive, I had a father who was an alcoholic, and I had a father who was a terrible role model, he never held down a job and this is the reason I am the way I am. And this young man had a brother, who was highly functional, who had a beautiful family, who held down a job and was making a good living, who was a person who had very good relationships and friendships and was a great benefit to his community. And when he was asked why he’s leading such a functional life, what led him to such a place, you know what he said? My father. I had a father who was dysfunctional, I had a father who was an alcoholic, I had a father who was abusive, he was every single example of what I shouldn’t be and that’s how I got to where I am.
And both of these stories demonstrate a very powerful message, and that is that when we come to a place in Africa where no one is wearing shoes, we can look at the circumstances and have the circumstances define the way we are going to think. Oh, no one wears shoes, there’s no one to sell shoes to. Or, we can choose to define the environment and the circumstances by saying no one wears shoes, great, I’m going to teach everyone here about shoes.
Where one brother can say that this is the father I had so, therefore, it defines who I’m going to be, which is like my father, I just roll with what I saw, or the other brother who says, these are my circumstances, this is what I see, I am going to choose to let this be an example of what I shouldn’t be.
And that is a choice that every single one of us always gets to make in every situation. When someone says something to us, we can let what they say define us or we can choose to define ourselves or let that statement actually define them.
Did you ever notice that? Someone says something nasty, I can either let that nasty thing they say about me define me or I can do the more accurate thing and let that nasty comment define them, which is what it definitely does, define them. This is a choice we make, this is a deeper version of what liberation and freedom are, when we choose to stand up and step into the role that we are supposed to be leading in this world.
Now, it’s true that some people are given the more optimistic disposition by nature. Some people are born with a less optimistic disposition. For some people, it’s easier by nature. They don’t even need to be trained, they will immediately say, oh, this is a great market for shoes. And another person by nature will, their initial response will be, oh, my goodness, we can’t sell any shoes here. That may be true because we all have strengths and weaknesses. But what is also true is that we all have the power to choose whether we are going to learn to see things differently than our natural disposition. This is liberation. This is freeing ourselves.
And we can take this even further. Because there is an inherent limit in every human being. The mere fact that we are human gives us limitation and definition. And when we remind ourselves that we are given the gift of having the opportunity to connect to a higher source, to an infinite being, that can give us the ability to do things which are beyond our ability, beyond our limitation. We can actually step out of an even greater limitation and free ourselves by opening ourselves to an expanse, which is infinite. And that’s by connecting ourselves with an infinite being. And this is the beauty of someone who develops a relationship with God.
How does someone do this? We do this when we give over our trust to God. God says, Do this thing. And we take that one thing, maybe not everything, but we take that one thing and we say, God, I’m going to trust you on this one, I’m going to ride on your shoulders for this, I’m going to trust you. And we trust God. That is when people discover an infinite presence in their life.
You see, here is ultimately the biggest difference between people who liberate themselves from a confined and limiting space of no one to sell shoes to, the simple difference is when someone stands up and just does it. When someone stands up and says, I am going to do what everyone else says you can’t do. That’s the person who discovers something that no one else discovered. You know why? Because they simply got up and said, I will do it. They didn’t know how they were going to do it, they know no one else before them ever did it, but they said, I am going to do it. I’m not going to stay in the limited box of I cannot.
We all know the classic example of this is the four‑minute mile. Everyone knew you cannot run a mile in less than four minutes, everyone knew that until one runner said, I am going to break this myth and he ran the mile in three minutes and 59 seconds. And suddenly, fascinatingly, runner after runner started beating the 4‑minute mile. Because they didn’t have to do that courageous thing anymore, they didn’t need to be the one to say, I can.
That is true liberation when we do not let the circumstances define us and tell us we can’t but we say we can, especially when we know that there’s a higher power telling us that we should and this is what is expected of us.
And so here is a simple exercise we can do to bring more liberation and freedom into our life, and that is to begin adding one word into a question that we often ask ourselves. The question we often ask ourselves is, can I do this? And when we add one word, that entire question changes. Stop asking yourself can I do this, and start asking how can I do this. Very different question. No longer are you questioning the possibility of being able to do it, now you’re questioning how you’re going to go about doing what you have already decided to do. Don’t ask can I do this, ask how can I do this? Make believe you are that person who can do it, even though you may have no idea how you’re going to. But just make believe and act as if you can do it and ask yourself only how can I do it and you will suddenly see that you can do things that very few and possibly no other people around you are doing.
There are those things we want and the things wanted from us. Liberating ourselves from the servitude to our wants frees us to be dedicated to what is wanted from us.
It’s time for every single one of us to be a slave to fewer things. If we want to experience a liberating free life, we need to make that happen. We all want so many things and at the very same time, so many things are wanted from us. The things we want are those self-oriented wantings, which enslave us. And what is wanted of us is the purpose we were put here for.
At any given moment you and I know that there are things that we want; I want to sleep, I want to relax, I want to enjoy, I want to indulge. And at that same moment, there are things wanted from us, to step up and do and produce and be there for, et cetera. And it’s the person who has the power, the conviction, the liberty to be able to control where their life is going and what their life is dedicated to as opposed to being controlled by their inner wants that is truly the free person.
We can split life experiences into two simple categories. There are things that we choose to do and there are things that we don’t choose to do, they are things which happen to us. There are things that we do, there are things that happen to us. And in both of these categories, we can make ourselves less and less enslaved.
Let’s talk about the first category, what we choose to do. When we have an urge to do something, when we want something, which is classically coming from our feelings and from our emotions because as much as we like to believe that we are very intellectual thinking, heady people, we are actually driven primarily by our emotions. So when we want something, we need to stop that want for a moment and go to our head and ask our head whether this want is actually good for me or is just taking me to a place of convenience and of comfort and of pleasure.
If we let our feelings lead us, we are enslaved to our feelings. When we practice letting our head lead and direct and instruct our feelings, we have begun going down the road of liberation. Because a healthy person is always led by their thoughts and their feelings are directed by those thoughts. An unhealthy person has feelings and only uses their thoughts to justify the feelings that they have. Liberation is getting less and less out of our feelings and more and more in our head.
This does not mean that feelings should be quashed, that feelings are a problem, that we shouldn’t be feeling, emotive people, that we should be stoic. No, not at all. Feelings are extremely powerful, enriching and beautiful, and we should all bring out as much emotion as we can in life. But they need to be emotions which are being directed by a perspective and that perspective has to come from everything we study and directed by the way we think. Otherwise, our thoughts become the hostage of our feelings and we become enslaved people.
When I need this candy because I worked so hard today, that is just a justification for something that I want. When I can’t help my friend because I have too much going on in my life, very often it’s just a justification of what we want. When we can get out of what we want and say, okay, but what is the right thing to do? What do my values tell me to do despite the fact that I don’t want to do it? Then our head can control our heart. And that is when a person begins to experience freedom. The more we strengthen our head, the less our feelings control us.
Then there is the second category, the things that happen to us, not the things we choose to do but just the things that show up in our life against our will. They are the things that are happening to us. And with those things we need to simply practice asking ourselves, why is this happening for me? Because there’s always light in darkness. And even when things happen to us which we don’t want in our life, we can either be enslaved to them ‑‑ and we are enslaved when we protest them and we get angry about them, why does this have to be. Clearly, there is an outside element that is controlling us and that’s why we’re protesting it. However, when we begin to liberate ourselves, what we do is realize and search for the light in the darkness. Because there is always light in every single darkness. And when we extract that light, we all know what happens. Immediately all of the darkness disappears.
We need to be willing to look for that light. If we don’t look for that light, we’re the classic person who says, oh, don’t tell me about light and darkness, it’s a bunch of nonsense. This situation is miserable and it’s unfair and so on and so forth. And we can stick there, we can stay in the darkness. However, it’s not going to make our lives any better. It will only make sure the darkness lasts a lot longer and we will be enslaved to those experiences that happen to us.
Or, we can simply say, hey, is there a way for me to turn this around? And the way to turn it around is to look for the light in the darkness. The Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt for 210 years. But out of that darkness of 210 years of slavery, which is beyond what my imagination can even grasp, they came out and were formed as a people out of that experience. We cannot be enslaved to the dark, we need to make it our ascent. We would rather we didn’t have any darkness and did not have to find the light, but that’s not reality. The reality is that we have darkness that has light embedded in it. And when we discover the light, we actually experience a dimension of life which is far deeper than what we experienced before.
So let’s turn this time into a time where we are going to be a slave to fewer things by having our head lead our heart more often and by asking ourselves, why is this happening for me?
Problems are easy to point out. No genius there. Do you have a solution? That’s where the genius is. Practice being a source for solutions, for uplifting and for light. Look forward as to how it should be done, not backward as to how it was done.
Anyone who looks at what needs to be done is young; whoever looks back at what he did will always be old.
Let me ask you a question: How successful are you when you criticize other people? How often do people actually take what you’re saying and listen to what you’re saying and follow through?
If you’re like me, you are wildly unsuccessful with criticism. Meaning, that most people don’t really want to hear your criticism. And here is one of the reasons why. Being critical is easy. You see something wrong, which almost everyone sees, you point out the obvious, you show what is wrong with the situation, which the person probably knows on their own, you are problem oriented. It takes no genius to point out and be critical. And the very fact that that is the extent of what we are willing to offer the other person is an indication that we are more concerned about our own self‑righteousness than the problem.
Why do I say that? I say that because if we really cared about the other person, we wouldn’t be critical. You know what we would do? We would be solution oriented. We would actually extend ourselves a little further and ask ourselves, okay, well, that’s what they did wrong, how could they have done this better? And then, instead of telling them that they did something wrong, we could have said, perhaps you can do this in a better way next time. That requires a little creativity, a little thought. Well, that’s what they did wrong, how can this be done right. And you will notice that whenever you offer a better way instead of pointing out the problem with how they did it, your words will be much better received.
Instead of us saying, stop doing that, we should say, start doing this. Instead of saying, what were you thinking, we can start saying, did you ever think of, because then we are showing them the light instead of focusing on the darkness. It’s a matter of how we see our role in this world. Is our mission to highlight the negative or is our mission to reveal the positive? Is our mission to show how things are down or is our mission to raise things up? Is our mission to be a source of light and inspiration to others or is our mission not to lead the way for others, just to point out what already is.
We have to focus less on why we are not getting the results that we want and we have to focus more on how to get the results that we want. So instead of focusing on the why, which there’s a strong likelihood that the other person already knows, there is not a strong likelihood that they know a better way, otherwise they would have taken the better way. And by saying, you know, there’s an even better way of doing this, you are shining the light, you are being a source of light, of inspiration. You are raising them up. You are doing something powerful. You are now a useful, productive resource for the other person.
Very often people come to me as a Rabbi, as a community leader, and tell me what the problem is. And I’ve shared with many people that I do not want you to share a problem unless you’ve at least tried to come up with a solution. And that produces a much more effective conversation because 98 percent of the problems that people raise with me I am aware of. I want you to be a part of the solution, not just dump problems at my feet. And that’s what we all want, stop revealing the problem, start becoming a part of the solution.
There is a, something called the Pygmalion effect, which is the outcome of some fascinating research. And that is that when we look at another person and we bring out their potential by showing them how much we believe in them, generally speaking people live up to that potential. Here is a fascinating study that was done with 44 7th grade students who were asked to write an essay about their personal hero. After all the papers were collected, the teacher split the essays into two categories. He critiqued, you know, all of the essays, he wrote his comments on all of the essays, but in one group of essays he wrote, I’m giving you these comments that you’ll have feedback on your paper. Basically, I’m pointing out the issues with your paper. Point blank, that’s it, end of story.
On the second pile he wrote, I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them. Basically, saying, that I’m showing you a better way you can write this because I know you’re so capable. After the papers were returned, the students were told that they have the option of revising their papers and re‑submitting them for a better grade.
Here is what’s fascinating. Only 40 percent of the students who got the generic comment that I’m giving you these comments that you’ll have feedback on your paper, only 40 percent of them actually re‑worked their paper and gave it back in. An entire 80 percent, double, 80 percent of the students who got the comment, I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them, revised their papers. Meaning, when they were shown that the teacher believes in them and that they can do better and my critique is not criticizing what you wrote but showing you a better way, 80 percent of them initiated revising their paper.
Not only that, the changes that the 80 percent made were twice as many as the changes that the 40 percent made, clearly demonstrating that when we show people the light, they will embrace it. When we show people the dark, much fewer of them will embrace it.
There’s a fascinating story with an individual who was a member of the Senate of Canada for 25 years by the name of Jerry Grafstein. He was a very introspective person and every time that he celebrated a decade in his life, 30, 40, 50, he would become very introspective and look back and say, what am I accomplishing? I need to do more. Am I living up to my purpose? And when he hit 50 years old, he fell into a depression. And his wife suggested to him that he speak to the ‑‑ one of the leading Rabbis of world Jewry, the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And so he went into New York and he met with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And he did not raise what was bothering him but the Rebbe saw that something was bothering him and he said, I see something is bothering you, what’s bothering you? And he said, you know, I’m turning 50 and I just feel like I’m not accomplishing a lot with my life. And the Rebbe asked him a question, he said, Do you know who the greatest leader in Jewish history was? And the man was, Jerry was very excited to know the answer. And he said Moses. And the Rebbe says, Correct. And do you know when he became the leader of the Jewish people, at what age? Jerry did not know the answer to this question and the Rebbe told him he became the leader of the Jewish people at the age of 80. And he said, You know why Moses was a great leader? Because he never looked back, he always looked ahead to what else needed to be done. Anyone who looks at what needs to be done is young; whoever looks back at what he did will always be old.
Fascinating, fascinating point. And it takes us to the very same point. When we focus on being constructive, what can be done, how can it be done, then we are bringing more light into the world. The moment we are looking at how things were done and how they were not done the way they should be done, then we are focusing on the darkness.
In your personal life, what do you focus on about your own life? You are bringing more light into your life if you focus on the future and not on the past. And you will be an illumination, a beacon of light to those around you if you practice that not only for yourself but for all of those in your life as well.
Some say the letter Y is a crooked later, a cute way of shutting down the question, why. I say that why has straightened many a crooked path. Asking why, questioning our answer and once again questioning our next answer is a very clarifying process.
When we want to empower ourselves to do something which may be difficult to do, we just skip to the core. Why? We remind ourselves of that and we are empowered.
I have a 2‑year‑old son who is the cutest boy in the world, and I hope you say the same about yours. And he’s at a stage now where he always asks a question because he learned one new word and that is why. So he asks why all the time. We call everyone to the dinner table and say, okay, everyone come to the table, we’re going to have dinner. And his question is, why? And I may answer because everyone is hungry. Why? Because we didn’t eat in a while. Why? Because everyone was in school. Why? So that they can learn. Why? And he just continues asking why.
And what’s fascinating is what that uncovers with every additional question. And sometimes it reaches a point where it’s difficult to answer the question not only because it’s hard to explain to a 2-year-old, but because it’s not that clear to me as to why. We’re going outside, put on your coat. Why? Because it’s cold. Why? Because it’s the winter. Why? Great questions. And they begin to make me think about things that I typically never think about. I just assume when you go outside and it’s cold, you put on your coat, without understanding or really thinking about that full process of the whys.
And the reason why I’m sharing this is because there’s a saying, why is a crooked letter, a cute play on the word of why to discourage people from asking why. And what I’m sharing is that the question why is one of the most powerful questions you can ever ask yourself. You’ll be surprised how often we aren’t even clear why we do certain things. We never really thought it through. We never followed the process of repeatedly asking why, answering, and asking why again on the answer until we get to the very core reason of why. This is the reason why we should be asking why.
And when we get to the very core reason of why we do something, that is so powerful because if that is a good reason, if it’s truly a good reason, then when we want to empower ourselves to do something which may be difficult to do, we just skip to the core, why. We remind ourselves of that and we are empowered.
And when we are doing something for a why which is not a good reason, we just skip over to the core why and we say, oh, this is why I’m doing that? No, no, no. This isn’t really what I want to do. It empowers us not to do it.
We take our kids to play soccer because they’re on a team. Why are they playing soccer? Why are they on the team? Is it for them? Is it for the parents? It’s for them. Why is it good for them to play soccer? Et cetera, et cetera.
We can ask these questions all the time. Let’s look at this scenario. You’re eating pizza for dinner. Why? The answer may be, I don’t want to cook tonight. Why? Because I’m too tired. Why? Because I stayed up late last night reading. Now when I stay up tonight and I want to read, I think to myself staying up tonight means me eating a dinner tomorrow night which I don’t want to eat for dinner because it doesn’t ‑‑ it’s not healthy, it doesn’t work for my diet or whatever it is. And now we can impact dinner tomorrow night because we have clarified why we are too tired to cook a healthy dinner. That is powerful.
Let’s take this a little bit further and make this a little bit more uncomfortable. Do you ever want to tell someone something? Why do you want to tell that to them? Maybe the answer is so that they should know whatever. Why do you want them to know that? Because they should know so that they can do better next time. Why do you want them to do better? And you may discover that the reason why you want them to do better has nothing to do with them, it has everything to do with you. And that will be the first reason why they are not going to listen to you when you speak to them because you’re speaking about yourself, not about them. That why can empower you not to say something which will not be productive. Very powerful.
Why don’t you want to apologize to a person that you offended? Well, maybe you’ll say, it won’t help. Well, why won’t it help? Maybe you’ll say because they don’t care anyway when I apologize to them. Why don’t they care? Maybe the reason they don’t care is because you don’t actually genuinely, sincerely, deeply apologize to them. You just call them and say, oh, I’m sorry. Maybe this is a revelation about you and, therefore, you can learn how to apologize. Instead of just dismissing it as they never listen, the why gets you to why they never listen, why they don’t accept the apology.
Good writers always ask why. Why am I writing this sentence? What does it contribute to this paragraph? Excellent writers never write extra words. Every single sentence is needed and it’s needed because they ask themselves why am I writing these words in this paragraph.
You see, if we learn to minimize our subjectivity of the events that happen in our life, where we make it all about us and we automatically then expand our honesty about ourselves, we discover that many things are being done for unworthy reasons. The why is not a deserving why and we shouldn’t be doing things for that reason. And we will also discover the why, the true reason that we are excited or empowered to do other things. And when we know the why, we have a powerful tool to get us to do or to not do the things that we should be or shouldn’t be doing. That is the whole power over here.
Am I doing this because my friends expect this of me? Am I doing this because society will say I’m strange if I don’t? Am I doing this because I want to avoid doing something which is more important or I have a greater responsibility towards? This is an avoidance thing. When we know the why of anything, we have something powerful in our hands. The why is the core and it has the power to turn us around instantly. And that’s why we always need to ask again and again, why.
There’s only one person you need to influence and lead. Yourself! We follow you because of who you are, not because of what you tell us to do.
This is the reason why people are so disturbed when there is a religious person who’s caught doing an act of impropriety.
One sure way to lose the respect of other people, the trust of other people, is when we act disingenuous, when we are dishonest, when we say one thing but we do something else. And this is ‑‑ we find this to be so offensive because it creates what social scientists refer to as cognitive dissonance, where we hear one thing, we see something else. We see one thing, we experience something else. It’s sort of like when someone comes over to you and says, hi, how are you, with a big smile on their face but as they turn away from you, you can just see how that smile goes right off their face. And suddenly you realize that you heard this tremendously friendly smile but it wasn’t real, it wasn’t authentic. And that hello not only does not achieve a closeness between the two people, it creates further distance because it was disingenuous. That’s how damaging such behavior is when we are not being authentic, when our outside and our inside are not aligned, when we are not true to what it is that we are saying or that we are preaching.
Disingenuous behavior creates confusion for another person because they’re hearing one thing, they’re experiencing something else. And we find it very offensive. This is the reason why people are so disturbed when there is a religious person who is caught doing an act of impropriety. Why is it so disturbing? They’re another human being who has done something they shouldn’t have done, there are people doing this all the time. The reason why is because on their outside, if you look at them, the way they’re dressed, the way they appear, the way they show themselves to others, it seems that they hold themselves to one standard; when it comes to actual action, clearly they don’t. And that creates cognitive dissonance, which is very offensive and creates a very harsh reaction.
Leadership and influence, which is really what leadership is, it’s all about influence, is the exact same way. When we are not authentic, when we are not consistent, when we are not true to the influence we want to have on other people, to what it is that we preach to other people, then we don’t have influence. Because people are looking at us and listening ‑‑ they’re hearing one thing and they’re seeing something else. Not only does it not create influence, it actually creates the exact opposite of influence, people get turned away and turned off by that. And of course, we all know that it’s much more fun to tell others what to do. But, hopefully, we also know that it’s far more effective when we tell ourselves what to do. And that’s the reason why we should never try leading others before leading ourselves. Because there is only one person that we need to lead and that is ourselves. In fact, what I have found, and I would trust you have also found is that the way we influence other people most powerfully is when we are an example of that. Not even by telling the other person but by simply being that example.
Little needs to be told to other people. A whole lot needs to be shown to other people. And the irony of this is that sometimes we see other people who we feel are dishonest or disingenuous and we want to tell them how what they’re doing is so ugly. And you know what we need to do? We don’t need to tell them. We need to demonstrate to them in our own actions what we would like to see from them as well.
That is the way we lead other people when we lead ourselves. If you think about the people who are most inspiring in your life, I would suspect that those people are beautiful examples to you in the way they lead their own life. You see, they lead themselves and that’s why you are willing to follow them.
When you want to tell another person how they should be doing something, ask yourself a simple question, how authentic are you when it comes to that behavior? Where in regards to that behavior do you falter? Does this person ever see me behaving in the same way that they just behaved? And if the answer is yes, and you want to tell them, don’t tell them anything, just become a more perfect example of what it is that you would expect to see from them.
And we can take this to an even further extreme. Imagine someone is ‑‑ who is trying to lead you in the classic way of telling you what to do and telling you how you should be doing something differently. And you know what they’re saying is correct, you listen to them and even though there’s cognitive dissonance, you know they’re not true to what they’re saying themselves but you can still hear what they’re telling you, you can separate the message from the messenger and you can hear the message and say, yes, I should really be doing it that way. And you know that they themselves are not at all authentic to this. Of course, that’s bad leadership on their part and of course, many people will get caught up in the messenger and not be able to hear the message and they will have that cognitive dissonance of confusion and they will not be able to hear the message. But you, you can practice and I can practice separating the message from the messenger. Chances are they will not have a lot of influence with most people, but if what they’re saying is true, then we should do our best to follow that suggestion of theirs. Because if you and I are authentic, if we want to be able to lead others in a better way, then what we want to do is lead ourselves by being able to hear the truth of a matter and following through even though the messenger creates confusion because they’re not authentic to it. And what we end up doing is we end up demonstrating leadership, because we are demonstrating that we will lead ourselves even though it’s infuriating to get the message from someone who is not authentic to it. That’s how committed we are to leading ourselves. And when we are so committed to leading ourselves, we actually begin being a profound leader for others.
So stop trying to lead others, simply lead yourself. You will be an inspiration to the people in your life.
There’s a simple way to get more of what we want. Focus on it. This always works because what we focus on grows.
We need to take responsibility for what we’re focusing on. When we do that, we see beautiful results and it’s guaranteed.
There’s a joke I once heard that says that a pessimist is only an experienced optimist. And then I’ve heard the reverse, that an optimist is only an experienced pessimist. And these are all cute jokes and both of them are absolutely not true.
What I mean by that is that an experienced optimist will always become a greater optimist; an experienced pessimist will always become a greater pessimist. The difference between an optimist and a pessimist is the way that they choose to think about something that is yet to be determined. So we don’t know how something is going to be. One has an optimistic outlook, one has a pessimistic outlook. Or what something means, something happened and what does this mean? One person will be optimistic about it, the other will be pessimistic about it. The difference is in perspective, which the perspective comes from the way we choose to think. But the difference is in perspective and perspective we know is subjective, it’s personal. One person chooses to see this side of the coin, the other one chooses to see that side of the coin. They are two opinions. They can argue from today until tomorrow but there is no way of proving anything. Results are objective. We have a result so if there’s something that’s yet to be determined and one person wants to be objective ‑‑ one person wants to be an optimist and one person wants to be a pessimist, that’s all fine. Results will show whether it was an optimistic result or a pessimistic result.
And this is very important because when someone is optimistic, they will have far more positive outcomes. When a person will be pessimistic, they will have far more pessimistic or negative outcomes. In other words, the way we behave encourages the results that we see. And this is another demonstration of a very simple idea, which is what we focus on grows. When we focus on something, we are actually giving it the energy to be. And that is very powerful. It’s powerful, of course, because we have a very strong influence on what the objective results will be.
You can think of this by doing a very simple experiment. And this little experiment can actually be very transformative if you’re struggling in a relationship. And here is the thing ‑‑ a simple experiment. Think about someone you love who you’re not feeling so good about right now. So take someone, it can be your spouse, it can be a parent, it can be a child, and you are just not feeling it for them, even though you’re in a relationship which normally is loving. If you just take two minutes and you think about three beautiful things about that person, you just close your eyes and think about three beautiful things about that person, things that they do for you, things you appreciate about them, contributions that they offer because of who they are, and you just think about that for two minutes, when you open your eyes you will feel differently in that moment about them than you did before you closed your eyes. Why? Because what we focus on grows. And we know, then, that if we feel a certain way, if we start feeling more love for that person, we behave differently to that person and so it directly impacts results. So that’s why we always need to remember that we need to choose to focus properly. Because when we focus properly, then things grow.
We know this so simple because we know that if you choose to focus on your golf swing, what’s going to happen? It will improve. If you choose not to focus on your golf swing, I can guarantee you it will not improve. It won’t improve on its own and, likely, if you don’t spend time swinging, it’s going to get a lot worse. Because what we focus on grows.
If we spend time watching sitcoms or some other relatively useless TV shows, or we read magazines where it’s just about a bunch of gossip, or if we engage in activities which trigger our animalistic self, our animalistic instincts, our cardinal desires, that is what is going to grow. It will also define the depth of our life.
When we engage in conversations about ideas, about deeper things than superficial, then we become deeper people. Why? Because what we focus on grows. We need to take responsibility for what we’re focusing on. When we do that, we see beautiful results and it’s guaranteed. How quickly, how much, that’s not guaranteed because that depends on many other factors. But it is guaranteed that if we focus on something, that area will grow. We can focus on our relationship with God. But one thing we can be absolutely sure about is if we don’t focus on it but we continuously insist that I’m waiting for God to show up at my door, then our relationship will not improve. Why? Because what we focus on grows.
This simple idea can be very transformative for anything that we know is truly important in life. If I have a relationship that’s important in life, I just need to focus on that relationship. If my child is not feeling enough love from me or is not getting enough attention from me, I simply need to give them more attention. If I’m not feeling like I want to give them attention, well, let me just focus on them and suddenly I’ll start feeling like giving them more attention because I’ll be enjoying the relationship that much more. If there is a subject that I would like ‑‑ I’d like to be more aware of, all I need to do is focus on it, I will be more informed in that area.
Anything you want in life you can get more of if you focus on it. Don’t be a pessimist. Take the responsibility of choosing to think optimistically, force your mind to think optimistically, you will get more optimistic results. This is all because of five words: What we focus on grows.
Trendy and hip platitudes have a strong pull but they aren’t always accurate. People like talking about the universe supporting them. Does the universe have consciousness or free choice? It’s authentic confidence based on a reliable source that supports us, not the universe.
What in the world is the universe? The universe will not support you because the universe doesn’t have consciousness and doesn’t have free choice like you do.
I’ve come to realize over time that the pull to be a part of whatever is trendy, whatever is modern, whatever is the new idea is so strong, it’s far stronger than I used to realize. And it’s as if we want to join this new movement where we become part of the liberated ones who know better than the old outdated mind of the previous generation who just didn’t get it, as we like to say. And I’ve learned with time, after having been sucked into such types of thought patterns, that it’s only a matter of years where if we’re open, we suddenly realize that of course those who were older than us thought of these ideas and of course they already have the experience to know the flaws of these ideas, which is why they don’t subscribe to them.
There are lots of hip and trendy terminology, which is also very easy to get sucked into. The sort of platitudes. And anything that lacks substance ultimately catches up with us because it doesn’t have legs to stand on. And so I’ve become very weary of any trendy new idea that seems to be like this liberating idea which is just taking us into a whole new realm. And I look at that very carefully and for a long while before I subscribe to any such ideas or thought patterns.
And so there is this language that I’ve been hearing and reading a lot, which has to do with the universe. And many people use this terminology, and I’m just going to quote a few phrases that I’ve recently come across that uses terminology. Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. It sounds so wonderful and so powerful and it really is empowering because it’s encouraging us to make a decision, just make that decision and run with it and the universe will conspire to make it happen. Or, when you follow the path that is right for you, the universe will support you. Just follow that path and you will see that everything around you, the universe is suddenly going to be supporting that path. Or another saying, trust what and how you are and the universe will support you in amazing ways.
It all sounds so beautiful and I’m here to tell you that the universe will not support you. The universe cannot support you. And these are all platitudes. What in the world is the universe? No pun intended over there. What in the world is the universe? The universe will not support you because the universe doesn’t have consciousness and doesn’t have free choice like you do. Here is what does happen when we make a firm decision to go down a path with conviction, no longer questioning whether I should be on the path but running down that path. We exude in anything we do, we exude what we are feeling. And when we are feeling conviction, we exude that conviction to the people around us. And often others who are outside of us experience that energy, that feeling that we bring into what we do even more than we do. And that’s the power of someone making a decision or following a path. They have a confidence that comes from a conviction.
You see, when we’re in conflict and our confidence really isn’t about what we’re trying to do but it’s about maybe an agenda we have, then there’s a discrepancy that exists between our confidence and what we’re doing. And that comes across, we exude that. But when we exude true authentic connection to what we’re doing because we really believe in the thing that we are committed to and it shows in our commitment because we are unwavering and we are fully committed, then we exude a confidence. And that confidence that we bring to the table, not that the universe gives us, that we bring to the table, is actually what other people feel, what everything around us feels and everyone responds in kind.
You know, it’s similar to when there is an emergency and a crowd gathers because something, something just happened, someone, got hurt terribly. And 90 percent of the people that are looking, one guy gets up and he starts giving orders to everyone. You, go call 911. You grab, get a bandage, you this and that. And everyone starts listening because all it takes is a person with conviction. And people respond to that authentic alignment that we have between what we’re feeling, what we’re saying and what we’re doing.
This is the reason why when some people will reassure us about a doubt that we have, it will mean nothing to us. But other people will reassure us about a doubt that we have and it means everything to us. Because this person is not just reassuring us to make us feel better, this person is reassuring us because they believe there is nothing to worry about, they believe it’s going to work out, they believe we’re going to get through it, whatever it may be. When it comes from that type of a place, then it has that type of impact. When we make a decision that way, then things work out much better. That’s because of what we are bringing to the table.
That’s the reason why some convince us to do certain things and others don’t. That’s the reason why you will find that you’ll have a person who is very polished, who has prepared a presentation and knows how to articulate it and is humorous and has the entire perfection of an outstanding speaker. And you’ll see someone who is totally unpolished, doesn’t have a good vocabulary, is not very clear in expressing themselves but they speak from the heart, and that person can carry a crowd far more than the polished speaker.
Because it’s the energy, the conviction, the authenticity that we bring to what we do, that energy is what creates the support for what we’re doing.
Sometimes we believe something to be true but we’re not ready to fully stand behind it. That means we’re not fully aligned with it yet. Authenticity is knowing this to be true and saying, I will not let anything slow me down in my relationship with it. We become authentic to that thing completely. That is what makes our decisions so powerful.
There’s a saying ‑‑ there’s a teaching from the Talmud, b’derech she’adam rotzeh leilech, moleechen oso, in the way that man wants to go, God leads him. God says, Man, as in human being, you have free choice. I’m not going to control your life. You get to choose the path you want to take. You want to take the good path, I will support that; you want to take the negative path, I will support that, too. Because you have free choice and you determine how your life is going to be. So where does a person find the ability to have confidence? Well, I’m just going to say this in a minute or two. Healthy confidence is knowing that this is what God created me for. Confidence is knowing that this is what God wants from me. Confidence is knowing that God gave me this ability, this talent, this uniqueness because he wants me to do this. And when we step up with that confidence, it is not the universe that supports us, it is God that supports us. It is our conviction, our willingness to submit ourselves to the cause that makes us authentic to what God wants from us that we suddenly find the infinite power of God behind us instead of our own limited finite power.
And so we can go back to some of these sayings, quotes that people make and we can simply say, once you make a decision, the Almighty and Infinite God will conspire with you to make it happen. When you follow the path that God designed for you, then God will support you and you will discover an ability that is far greater than you within you.
It is worth asking ourselves whether what we’re about to say or do is dignified or not. If it isn’t, we probably shouldn’t say or do it. Acting without dignity is not a sign of authenticity and realness. It’s a lack of respect and unwillingness to control our instinctual selves. We must pursue dignity.
Information dumping about oneself is completely inappropriate.
I recently saw a video a friend of mine posted on Facebook, which really touched a nerve within me, which is why I’m recording this podcast and possibly the next as well. And he titled the video, Kids and swear words, or something to that effect. And amongst the many things he said in the few minutes he was talking was questioning, essentially, whether there’s anything wrong with curse words and with the fact that kids hear them and use them.
And the entire tone of the video, at least as I heard it, was justifying and defending, which already says that there’s a problem. And he said things like, funny how we try to protect our kids from curse words. What are we protecting them from? At the end of the day, it’s just a word. And as long as you don’t put someone down, there is nothing wrong with it because it’s the energy behind the words, not the words themselves. And then he said that 99 percent of the population curses anyway, so why not teach our kids how to use them properly.
There are many things to be said about this but I’m going to focus on one angle in today’s podcast and that is a simple question we can ask ourselves, would you describe yourself as a dignified person? When I looked up the translation of the word dignity, one of the first words that came up was a formal reserve, which essentially means that we reserve or hold back from doing certain things. And when we hold back from doing those things, then we develop dignity. And I think this has been a lost pursuit in more modern times, the pursuit to be a dignified person. There are laws, I was just studying in a class with a group of people, that we have in Judaism regarding table manners. And these are actually part of the Code of Jewish Law. So amongst all of the rituals that are spoken about in the Code of Jewish Law, it speaks about table manners, even though it would seem to not be anything religious but just very human, and instructions on how to actually conduct ourselves by a table in a dignified way, such as not leaving wet bread on the table because that can be repulsive and it can ruin other people’s appetites. Not throwing bread to someone else because that is simply undignified. Not to gaze at someone else when they’re eating. Not to offer someone a drink from a cup that you drank from because that may be repulsive to them and you would be putting them in a position where it may be hard for them to say no. Or eating while walking down the street, which the Code of Jewish Law tells us not to do because that is not dignified. When you want to eat, sit down in one place and then eat.
All of these laws do not sound religious at all, they are simply instructions on how to conduct ourselves with dignity. And that’s because Judaism sees dignity as a pursuit which is required from every single human being. That’s what makes us healthy, functional people when we have self‑respect to understand that there needs to be a restraint from things that are widely commonly understood not to be so refined. And that’s how we develop a character of refinement. And refinement and dignity is a pursuit that we all need to put effort into pursuing.
So it means being more proper and being less convenient. Meaning, that very often the crass and the crude thing or the blunt behavior is the more convenient thing to do. However, it’s not always the dignified thing to do. It’s not the proper thing to do. And so we need to use a formal reserve, and that is to reserve ourselves from doing certain things.
There’s a tendency today, especially with social media, for people to share everything about themselves, to be open. And people see this as a form of being very honest and being real and being authentic. And the reality is that if we do not have any form of reservation with what we share with other people, then very often we are not being authentic, honest and real, we are actually being very crass, out of place and very inappropriate. Because very often what we’re sharing, if shared in an environment or to people who that should not be shared with, makes it extremely inappropriate and actually makes everyone around that person very uncomfortable. And that’s why information dumping about oneself is completely inappropriate and, generally speaking, people who are unhealthy do that.
When we share the proper information with the proper people, that can be authentic, that can be real, that can be honest. But just dumping everything and anything about ourselves or saying it in any way that we wish to say it, is inappropriate. In the same way that people feel that you know, when I just use any language to speak without restraint, I’m just being real about myself. That is not real. Exposing our animalistic self, exposing every part of our inner self-doesn’t make us real. It just exposes the ‑‑ what I’m referring to as animalistic or ugly side that every one of us has because we are human physical beings that have desires for things which are sometimes inappropriate.
It’s not appropriate to share those things all the time. It is appropriate, in the right context, in dealing with our struggle with those things to share them with a contained group of people or an individual.
And when we just throw any words around, we are demonstrating a lack of respect and a lack of boundaries for other people. Vulnerability is not about dumping everything about yourself to others. Vulnerability is defining the right people that can hear what we’re going to say properly and help us with whatever it is that we’re sharing. And we share it with those people.
So all of this boils down to the difference between my right to say whatever I want, which is a very widespread culture today, that my rights trump anything else, versus my obligation to respect the environment and the people around me. Do I realize that my obligations are far more important than my rights? If I am the center of the universe, rights take precedence; if I realize that I am here to serve the universe, obligation takes precedent. And when a person realizes that they were put here by God for a purpose, they understand that they have obligations in every single environment we are in. And if we have those obligations, we have to ask ourselves, is this appropriate in this environment in front of these people? And if the answer is no, we then have to exercise formal reserve, demonstrate dignity and not share, say or do whatever it is that we may be inclined for whatever reason to say, share or do. We need to return the value of dignity to ourselves and we will also discover that people follow people with dignity. Because people with dignity immediately stand out in a crowd. And when we have that level of appropriateness, then we can actually advance dignity not only within ourselves but by demonstrating it to all of those around us.
We all live in a paradigm. When something challenges our paradigm, it offers us an opportunity, to learn a new paradigm or be more resolute in our current one. Only the liberal-minded have the courage to take a close look.
Someone questions where I stand, I try to be liberal about it. I try and open up my mind and rethink, re‑look at the decision that I made, the value behind that decision, do I have this right.
Have you ever made a decision in your life where down the road you realized that you made a big mistake? You should not have decided to do this, get involved in this, participate, whatever it may be. Not only that, you realize how much is at stake with the decision that you made and now you have one of two options. Either continue down the road even though that, of course, will have negative ramifications, it’s sort of like a scaffolding that’s trying to hold up a structure which really can’t stand, or to pull out and suffer the consequences that are in fact at stake. For example, someone invests in a project where you spent a lot of time and energy and commitment which took you away from many other things. And then six months down the road you realize this project really isn’t working out. Well, you can hold on to your self‑esteem and your ego and say, oh, no, I’m not going to back down, how is that going to look, and you just plow through with this project which really is not what it was intended to be or you just stop and say, you know what, I made a mistake and I’m pulling out.
You invest in a business and you invest a lot of money, $25,000, $50,000. Your $50,000 deep into this business and you realize you are going to be a slave to this business and you’re never going to have any freedom or money from it. What do you do? Do you just keep on pushing through because how is it going to look if you pull out after so many people told you not to do the business, or do you say, I’m out?
Imagine ‑‑ and many people have gone through this example ‑‑ you know, you get engaged to someone and you’re a month out from the wedding and you just realize this was a big mistake. And somehow you are absolutely sure that it was a big mistake. What do you do? Do you just step into the marriage, as many people do because they’re terrified to just end it, or do you end it with all of the humiliating and the questioning and everything that comes, and loss of money that was invested, everything that comes with breaking an engagement or even a marriage, where you’re married with kids. These are major dilemmas that we all have in life; some of us have them in the bigger circumstances, some of us in smaller circumstances. You see, we have a choice and the choice is whether we’re going to sanctify, make holy the decision that we made and by doing so still our conscious, quiet our conscious and just say, let’s just keep with the program or we’re going to open ourselves up to reality and we are going to acknowledge that the decision I made was not a good decision. Whether it was or wasn’t your fault, whether you should or should not have known better is not relevant. Right now I am ready to acknowledge it was not a good decision and I am going to follow my conscience which tells me that I need to pull out of this.
Or, sometimes we make a compromise in life where we decide that we’re going to do certain things with our life or participate in certain things and, yet, in our conscience we know we really shouldn’t do this. And then somehow, someday something comes up which makes us aware in a very bold way of the fact that we made a decision which is challenging our value system. And at that juncture we have a choice, do we sanctify our compromise, hold on to it dearly because, no, we don’t make mistakes, or do we ‑‑ and, by the way, by sanctifying our compromise we still our conscience, which is very dangerous, because then sometimes there is no way back because our conscience has been shut down. So there’s no voice of authenticity to wake us up to reality. Or, do we not sanctify our compromise but acknowledge, you know something, I made a compromise I should not have made and I’m going to pull out of this and change the way that I behave in regard to this value.
You see, this is the context in which I like to say that I am trying to be a true liberal. What I mean by that is that I don’t always know. In fact, I usually don’t know absolutely. And, therefore, when someone questions where I stand, I try to be liberal about it. I try and open up my mind and rethink, re‑look at the decision that I made, the value behind that decision, do I have this right. And that is what being a true liberal is.
Sometimes someone will tell me something which sounds absolutely ridiculous. They’ll share a perspective which is just completely ridiculous from my perspective. You know that the more ridiculous their perspective is, the more it will make me revisit my perspective. Because if that other person is someone I know who is a thinking person and what they’re sharing sounds ridiculous, that makes me say there may be a truth over here that I’m just in denial with, I just don’t want to hear it, I don’t want it to affect my life, I don’t want it to change or impact the compromises that I’ve made.
You know, if it’s something that’s not so ridiculous, it actually does not wake me up as much because it’s not so much of a statement. But if someone who is a thinking person has such an extreme view, at least from my perspective it seems to be extreme, I have to ask, I have to investigate why.
You see, we all live in a paradigm. Every single one of us. Of course that paradigm, hopefully, as we go through life changes because of our different experiences. But we don’t want to wait for the circumstances to change our paradigm, to force us to question our paradigm. We can actually be mature and challenge our own paradigm. We’re taught to negate certain ideas, to be suspect of certain ideas or certain perspectives, to be wary of certain things and certain people. And then we discover that this person who we were always taught to be wary of because they’re coming from some background or upbringing or whatever it may be, we suddenly see a beauty in them. And that should encourage us to say, hey, maybe there is more here and maybe I need to broaden my paradigm. And after we broaden it, of course you know we only broaden it again.
We need to be liberal minded. We need to remain open to testing the paradigms that we have. You see, when people subscribe to an agenda, and they stand by that agenda, and they say, this is holy, I am sanctifying this agenda, that is not liberal. That is close minded. Liberal is to always be willing to question and seek.
Now, yes, there are certain things that we are absolutely sure about, which will never require any questioning and any seeking. But there are many other things which are based on a lot of judgments that we make. I don’t mean judgments in a negative way, I mean, you know, assessments that we make. And we need to be willing to revisit that and we need to be willing to revisit that even if it will mean that it’s going to challenge the way that I’m living now. Why? Because even if I’m not ready to change the way I’m living, at least I’m in touch with reality. And you know what I can tell myself, I am not living up to what I have learned just now to be true, and that’s fine, I will catch up to that hopefully with time. Because let me tell you something, there is no person in the world that you know of that is aligned in their light, in their living, their practical living with the truth. There are only people who are more aligned and less aligned. And all we should want from life is to align ourselves more with time. So it’s no major confession to confess that I’m not aligned with what I know to be true. We just need to be willing to keep the door open for the day when we will align ourselves more with the truths that we know.
So the next time you hear a perspective or a viewpoint that challenges you, don’t run away, investigate it. Learn more about it. Discover a deeper truth than you know today. And when the time is right, you’ll align yourself more with it.
We are expected to seek refinement. The way G-d created us demonstrates that. Refinement is a soulful life in a body as opposed to a bodily life with a soul.
Today’s podcast is somewhat of a continuation of podcast 91, bringing back dignity. Today I’m going to be discussing seeking elevated refinement, which is really just another angle to the very same point.
A human being, when we were created at the beginning of creation, we were created uniquely from all other creations. When God created the animals, he created animals and there they were, there was a living animal. When he created vegetation, he said, let there be vegetation, there was vegetation. When it comes to the human being, God did something unique. And this uniqueness we need to pay attention to because it’s very telling about who we are and what is expected of us. God first creates our body out of earth. He doesn’t create a living human being. He creates a body out of earth. And only after the body is created, does God separately blow into the human being’s nostrils the breath of life, his soul. And what God is expressing in creating the human being uniquely and differently than all of the other creations is that we are made up of two entities, a body and a soul. And our mission is to live a soulful life, not a bodily life. We use our body, we embrace our body so that we can use it to live a soulful life. But, ultimately, we have a choice, to use our soul to lead a bodily life or to use our body to lead a soulful life.
And that’s the difference between or the choice between who is going to be the master. Is it going to be the body or is it going to be the soul? This is the meaning of the teaching from the great Hassidic master, the Maggid of Mezeritch, who said in Yiddish, a klein lechel in guf is a groise lechel in neshamah; a small hole, a flaw, a weakness in the body, is a great weakness in the soul.
Why? Because the soul can only be as effective as the body is capable of doing. When we don’t take care of our body, then our soul has a very weak tool to be effective with, to interact with the world with. Meaning, if we think about this statement, we understand that the entire purpose of the body is to be of service to the soul.
A refined individual is a person who lives a soulful life, not a coarse physical life but a refined, elevated, soulful life. And such a person’s entire physical interactions with the world is all about the soul. Whereas, when we see a person living a life which is all about themselves, their bodily life, their physical life, their indulgent life, that is a very unrefined and unelevated life.
Think about when you’re at a big celebration, an elegant affair, and they pull out the dessert buffet. Magnificent dessert buffet. And there’s a particular dessert that you like very much and you see a lot of people gathering around the table. And you’re thinking one thing, I hope that it won’t all be nubbed and there will be a piece that is left for me. That is probably a thought that almost every person you know has had at some point. That is a normal, healthy human thought. It is also a coarse thought. It is a bodily thought. It’s an indulgent thought. And we need to be aware of the fact that that thought is an unrefined thought.
I don’t say this as a condemnation, because I’ve had this thought many many times and I’m sure you’ve had this thought a number of times. That is part of being a human being, that our body pushes us to think this way. I am just encouraging that we recognize what it is and call it what it is. And the reason why this is important is because we live in a time, and maybe this is the way people have always been, where in order to take away the discomfort of that awareness that I am a coarse individual who desires bodily pleasures, we try and justify it and say, no, there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong with just indulging? And the answer to that is that it makes us less refined, it makes us more focused on our bodies. It’s very similar to whatever you put your mind to is what grows. If our mind is in the dessert, that is what our life becomes consumed with. When our life is focused on more elevated things, then we are not consumed with those indulgences that we enjoy.
And so the awareness of what it is that is going on when our body pulls us somewhere is vitally important.
This is the reason why when we need to depend on coarse language to get our point across, we are a coarse person. I don’t say this as a condemnation, I say this as self-introspection, as self-awareness. We should learn to communicate in refined language and learn how to get a point across, the very same point across with the same strength and refined language.
When I need to make a joke that is at someone else’s expense, that is unrefined, that is coarse, that is ugly. That is not the proper way that we should be functioning. An elevated person is sensitive enough to another that their sensitivities to the other stops them from doing something which is convenient and beneficial for themselves. When we go into an environment with a certain protocol, you go to a wedding and the protocol is to be dressed up and we walk in with our jeans and our sneakers, that is unrefined. That is unelevated. That is saying, I’m going to do what is convenient for me and I’m not going to give consideration to everything around me. That is really self-indulgent. And that is unrefined and we need to seek elevated refinement.
When I am consumed with my physical looks and I judge myself primarily based on the way I look, that is unrefined. That is making my life about externalities, about superficialities, about things that are not of true genuine value and importance.
Our lives are supposed to use our body; our lives are not supposed to be about our body. And I use the word “body” in a broad context, as body in the literal sense, as body in self, as body in physical indulgences and pleasures and desires, as body in the easy thing to do as opposed to the right thing to do.
We need to train our body to be obedient to our soul. We need to train ourselves to have self-control and not do what our body wants but to make sure our body is doing what we want. Whenever I exercise, I find exercise to be difficult. I don’t ‑‑ I know some people get into some type of a running mode or some other type of exercise where they actually look forward to the exercise. I have yet to achieve that. Every time I exercise I just tell myself one thing, I speak to my body and say, you need to be trained to do the uncomfortable thing that my soul is telling you to do because my life cannot be about you. That’s the value I get every time I exercise. I’m training my body to listen to my soul. This is what helps us elevate ourselves just a little bit more and become more refined people and then we are living the purpose of the human being.
The soul that was put into our body after our body was created comes into the body, elevates the body and we become elevated refined human beings.
There are tremendous benefits to stepping out of our subjective perspective and seeing how our world looks through objective eyes. There are also tremendous fears of accepting an uncomfortable new perspective. This is how growth happens!
Today I’d like to ask you a very simple question, do you have a mentor? And I’m asking this question because I’d like to discuss with you why it is so vitally important for every single person to have a mentor, the same way so many people hire coaches in areas that they want to improve or excel, and what the challenges are in sticking with a mentor and how to understand where those challenges are coming from so we can overcome those challenges and stick with a mentor so we can reap the enormous benefits that every single one of us will get when we have a mentor or mentors.
The very first immediate benefit of having a mentor is that you’re having a voice in your life which comes from outside of you. We see ourselves subjectively. Every perspective that I have about the whys, the whats in my life, I always question. Because I’ve learned repeatedly that there are very often underlying reasons and desires which I am not ready to acknowledge consciously which are driving my perspective of something. And the moment I speak to someone outside of me, I suddenly hear an objective viewpoint because they don’t have all of the inner conflicts or issues I may bring to the table regarding or in relationship with different things. So there’s objectivity the moment you go outside of yourself, which is enormously valuable because it frees you up from so much of the noise or the disturbance or the confusion that lies within us.
And the only question that we need to ask ourselves is, are we willing to hear the reality as it is or is that too terrifying for us to hear the way things are objectively and our insistence to continue seeing it the way we see it because that makes us comfortable. The moment we are ready to step outside of ourselves we are already at a huge advantage to hear what someone else sees objectively and to be able to accept that even though our reality may tell us something a little bit different. There’s something else which is very valuable, in that when we go to someone else ‑‑ and, obviously, when we’re choosing a mentor, we’re not just choosing anyone, but we’re choosing someone who we look up to, who we feel has a level of wisdom, of understanding and of experience. The most valuable wisdom that there might be is the wisdom of experience. That means someone who has ‑‑ is intelligent and from their experiences learns so much about life. As wise as someone may be, without going through different experiences we do not have deep wisdom. Experience is what takes our wisdom and entrenches it deeply into reality.
And so when we have ‑‑ we speak to someone who has experience, they can actually help us leap way beyond where we would be able to go on our own because we don’t have that experience. And we can literally save ourselves years of trial and error when we speak to someone who has experience.
So the value of going to a mentor is simply speaking to someone with experience. And then, of course, there is the depth of understanding that people have in certain areas or in many areas which we don’t have. So we look at someone, we look at the way they live their life, we look at the values they have, we look at the decisions that they make, and we say, this is the type of person that I look up to, that I would like to be more like. And we want to go to such a person and we want to ask them their opinion about many different things that we’re already doing or decisions that we need to make.
So why is there so much resistance to getting a mentor? The first reason why is, it’s terrifying to trust, to let go of control, to do what someone else is telling you to do. We can always ask, how do you know, how can I be 100 percent sure, and that’s the reason why this is all about trust. It’s about letting go, it’s about saying, I am going to trust this. I am going to listen. I assessed this person, I believe that they have value, that they have quality, that they have depth, they have insight. The way they live their life, I see that this is something I look up to. I’m going to trust them even though so much of my subjectivity is going to resist what they’re going to say. And we even test the person. Not that we’re really testing them, but we’re really just giving ourselves the ability to trust them. And we can call it testing them, but, generally speaking, the results are going to demonstrate for themselves the value of putting trust in a mentor.
It’s so vitally important for anyone who wants to expand in life, who wants to grow, who wants to discover more truths about themselves to have a mentor. And as important as it is, that’s how difficult it is.
There are two primary challenges that come up when we try to find a mentor. One is that we discover that people who we want as a mentor don’t really have a lot of time. They’re very busy people. They are very ‑‑ they have many people who are reaching out to them already. And when we initially reach out to them, it’s very difficult to get their attention. What we need to know is, that if we truly want someone to be a mentor, we have to repeatedly reach out to them. We have to show them that we really want their mentorship. And one of the ways to do that is by consistently reaching out to the other person and showing them that we really want their advice, we really want their guidance, we really want their leadership. Not in a way that is oppressive to the other person, but in a way that shows them our earnestness in our reaching out to them. So we’re not just a drop‑by person who is asking them a question. And the way they know we’re not a drop‑by person is by the fact that we come back again when they say, I don’t have time today. And we will come back again and come back again until they see we are committed to them. If we want someone to be committed to us, we have to show commitment to them. So the fact that they don’t have time is only a temporary thing. The moment you show them that you are truly valuing them, they will make the time for you.
There’s another great challenge in taking on a mentor and that is that as we begin to speak to someone about the more serious and deeper aspects of life, we get to know the other person better. And sometimes we get to know them differently than the way we knew them. And the moment that happens very often we say, oh, this is not the right type of person to be my mentor. Now, I want to say that sometimes that may be the case, you may find another side to this person and they are not the mentor, the person meant to be your mentor; however, most often that just becomes the newest excuse why not to commit to what they are going to tell you, what they’re advising you. It’s our discomfort that is usually leading us away from another person, we just found a better excuse. And that’s the reason why the best way to work with a mentor is to commit for a certain amount of time to work with this other person, to seek out the guidance of this other person. Let’s say it’s going to be over six months or over a year and you commit to seeking out the guidance from this, that you need through the next six months or over the next year from this person and that you’re going to follow through with what they recommend to you. And the reason why this is important is because very often we will discover that we think we know everything, we think we understand everything and we are still assessing whether their advice is the right advice. As long as we’re still assessing whether their advice is the right advice, we’re holding the ropes over here. What we need to do, once we determine that this person is a trustworthy person, once we determine that this person is a worthwhile mentor, we have to let go and we have to see what the results are after six months or after a year. Because that is how real growth happens. We need to make a commitment to the other person that we really want their mentorship. We need to make a commitment to the other person that we are going to listen to what they’re saying, we’re not just coming to hear some advice that we will consider. Because that’s how we lose mentors as well. They’re not interested in just giving ideas that you are going to consider. They really don’t have time for that. And that’s the reason why when we work with a coach, we have to ask ‑‑ or a mentor ‑‑ we have to ask ourselves, and we have to realize that the responsibility is on us, not on them. We’re not going to them as a quick fix, we’re going to them with a commitment. And the commitment is to hearing what they’re saying and to following through. The most disappointing thing for a mentor is when you ask them advice and you don’t follow through.
So we need to learn how to be a good mentee, if there’s such a word, to ‑‑ how to be able to be mentored by a mentor. Let’s commit ourselves to a certain amount of time of following through with the advice the person gives us and see where that takes us. And nine out of ten times you will discover that your life is far more expansive now that you’ve committed to listening to this person who you have chosen to be your mentor.
If there’s one thing that is most detrimental to humanity, it may just be judgment. Most of us will acknowledge that we’re still trying to overcome the judgments we received from others. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to practice minimizing our judgments on others?
What is the one thing that has the greatest, most destructive influence on our world? Arguably, it is the judgment that we put out on other people. When we judge another person, and when we are judged, that very often cuts a person down from the size that they truly are to a far, far smaller size. And very often the person being judged believes that judgment for most, if not the rest, of their life. And getting rid of that judgment is extremely difficult. Now, while our judgment on another person is not what reduces them, it’s their belief in our judgment, the reality still remains that most people who are judged actually accept, they buy into that judgment. And so when we’re putting out judgment, we are, at least indirectly and very close to directly, affecting the world and affecting people in a very negative way.
When he defines a child, our children, by saying, you are this and you are that and we call them names, very often, as we know ourselves, we carry that with us for the rest of our lives. And that cuts out so many possibilities or abilities that we have within us because someone once told us something. Now, of course, as you know from previous podcasts, what we as individuals need to do with our own lives is go through a process of growing beyond those judgments and stop limiting ourselves by those judgments. But today I’m talking about the judgments we put out on other people.
And the reality is that most people do not go through the process or at least a significant process of getting out of most of their judgments, the judgments that were put on them. And this is the reason why we have a teaching that we are supposed to judge every person favorably, a teaching from Ethics of Our Fathers to judge every person favorably. And my experience in hearing people discuss this teaching is that we often interpret this teaching as finding excuses for why someone did something or coming up with some farfetched reason why the person may have done this in a way to sort of justify our minds so that we can accommodate this teaching of judging another person favorably.
And that’s why I’m sharing this with you today because I want to go into understanding what judgment actually is and what the opposite of judgment is, how we judge people favorably.
In understanding judgment, we need to realize that when we judge someone, what we are doing is we are personalizing the action the person has done with the person. That means that we define who the person is by what they have done.
So when someone does something in a moment of weakness, or in a moment of anger, or simply because they decided in this moment to do something which was a bad decision, do we define the person now by what they have done or do we understand that there is a deeper person here who, on some level at some point, did something which they should not have done?
Judgment is when we personalize what they’ve done, we make it the definition of who the person is. The opposite of judgment is simply understanding. The opposite of judgment is accepting. That means that we accept that this is what this person did. We’re not assessing them or judging them, we just know here is a person, here is what they did. And we can ‑‑ when we understand someone, as we always seek to be understood, when we understand someone, we understand that there are circumstances involved, there is an emotional state that’s involved, there are a lot of conditions around this person, many of which we probably are not aware of at the moment, that the person did this. And that is the way we are supposed to look at what another person does.
Now, this does not mean that we’re justifying what they did. When someone does something wrong, if someone has the opportunity to steal $1 million and they do it, that is absolutely wrong. That is not to be justified. But we can still understand why the person did that, why a person would do that when they’re tempted with $1 million that they can easily get. I would hope that you and I would never do that, but we can still take the time to understand and to accept that this is what the person did. The person still needs to be brought to justice, justice always needs to be upheld, that’s not even a question, but between us and that other person, we can even acknowledge to them, I understand how tempting this was and I understand why you did it. And I sure hope you understand why you need to be brought to justice. Then the two together work very well, they work most well. Because when a person is understood, then they will cooperate in a much different fashion than what they are judged. And judging another person favorably means understanding the context of the action the person did and knowing that there is a better person that lies beneath this action.
Do you know if they were coerced into doing what they did? Which does not justify it, but it helps us understand it. Maybe what you know about the story is not what it seems. Maybe there’s a completely different backstory. There’s far more information. And we all know stories where we’ve learned the full story and found out that, in fact, the context was very different than we understood. And it helps us really understand why the person would have done that even if it was wrong. So, ultimately, what we would love to do, what we should aspire for, is not to judge people at all, to practice not judging people. We need to understand what the person did, we need to accept the person despite what they did, to separate what people do from who they are.
A person shows up late. Why did they show up late? There’s some story behind it. They may be a perpetually late person. Does that justify it? Absolutely not. But it gives us a context.
Recently, there was a person who was imprisoned for a white‑collar crime. And his particular story grabbed a lot of attention and many people were familiar with this story. He received a very harsh sentence. And I don’t want to go into the particulars of the story, because that’s irrelevant. He ended up being pardoned from the President and he was released from prison. There were two responses in the community to his release from prison; one response in the community was complete joy that this person was released from prison, another response was not joy at all. This person did something wrong and he deserves to be punished.
Now, let’s just, for argument sake, not even debate whether what the person did was wrong or not, which itself, in this case, is debatable. But let’s just assume the person was wrong, and let’s say the person was punished and thrown into prison. And let’s just even assume, even though this is clear, that he was given a much harsher sentence than one gets for such a crime, but let’s just assume he got the sentence he deserves and he’s released from prison early. We can respond in one of two ways. We can respond in judgment, exactly what this teaching is telling us, and saying, oh, this person deserves to be punished. Or, we can respond in compassion, which is to say, look, I know this person did something wrong but I’m so happy that he was released from prison early. Why the person did it? I’m sure there’s some story behind it, which doesn’t justify it, but I understand the story behind it. And at the same time, I’m so happy the person has been released from prison. The side of the community that was very judging and saying we shouldn’t celebrate the release of this person from prison, who were saying, well, what message does this show our kids, that you can do things which are illegal? And here is my exact point. What message are these people showing to our kids, that we should always stand in judgment of other people without standing in compassion or should we stand in compassion for other people and understand that people are flawed and not perfect? And while we do not justify what they’re doing, we celebrate the fact that they’ve been released.
And so this story, although there’s so much more to this particular story, I’m just using this as a frame of reference to say that we need to be people of compassion, not people of judgment.
I’m going to conclude with a more spiritual and deeper perspective of what this teaching teaches us and that is that every challenge a person has in this world is divinely ordained, is designed by God for this person. Often we feel that the challenges we have overwhelm us, they’re too great for us. But, actually, if God gives us a challenge, we have the ability to deal with that challenge and work through that challenge. However, you and I know that many times we don’t, we fail. When we see someone who has a challenge and fails, we need to realize that this person has such a potential, has such a capability that God presented them with this big challenge. So judging them favorably is realizing how great this person must be if they were given this challenge. And that is a deep and profound spiritual way to see another person. And so I conclude by saying, let us practice standing far less in judgment and far more in understanding and acceptance, we will reduce one of the most significant things that limits our world from moving forward and limits people from moving forward, and let us realize that when a person is challenged, it is revealing a very deep powerful aspect of their capability.
One should not be embarrassed when confronted by scoffers. Learn this and you’ll become one powerful person. To be different, not to fit the norm, is a great fear that holds us back so often. That’s why you should practice being different.
Here is a quote I’d like to share with you, and I’d like to see if you can guess where it’s from. The quote is: One should not be embarrassed by those who scoff at them.
Where is this from? A simple quote. This quote, where it is located actually adds major significance to it. And that combination of this quote and where it is written is what I’d like to focus on today.
This quote is in the very first law in the vast broad Code of Jewish Law. So if you open up a Code of Jewish Law ‑‑ in my office I have a full set of the Code of Jewish Law, which is many many volumes ‑‑ and in the very first law it includes this point. And this point is not a law. It’s actually making a psychological point. One should not be embarrassed by those who scoff at them.
Why is this the very first law of the Code of Jewish Law? For a very simple reason. One cannot be dedicated and committed to any types of rules or, we’ll say, values if they are going to be more concerned about what the people around them are thinking about them. So if I’m going to be embarrassed to live up to a certain standard or up to a certain value system because you are going to laugh at me and say, oh, why are you doing that, that is such a foolish thing to do, or modern people don’t do this, or intelligent people don’t do this, thinking people don’t do this, if I’m going to be intimidated by any of those comments, then there’s no point in continuing to read the Code of Jewish Law, other than for academics, which is not why it was written. It was written for a purpose, to direct us in our action. And this is very very powerful. Because a prerequisite to living a life that’s based on a value system and truly being dedicated to it is by being willing to step out of the norm. Because the norm will always laugh at anything that is not within the norm.
The reason why people are stuck within the norm are because they’re terrified of stepping outside, out of the bounds of the norm. Only those who are determined to live based on what they truly believe will step out of what everyone else is doing. And that actually requires an enormous amount of courage. I would hope that we all know from within ourselves how difficult it is to act differently than what is perceived as the norm. And that is the reason why this is the very beginning of the Code of Jewish Law.
As intellectual of beings as we are, we human beings, the fact of the matter is that we pursue comfort over truth. We pursue convenience over values. And unless we fight against our comfort, unless we fight against our convenience, we will not be able to be committed to the truths that we know and the values that we believe in.
Think of it as gravity. Gravity is a force that just pushes everything down. And unless you continuously push against it, it will just push you back into the norm. Think of a, if you ever rode a spin bike, as I’ve begun doing recently, and you listen to an instructor who is guiding you. They often say, feel the road under you. Now, the funny thing is that there is no road under you because you’re on a spin bike, so it’s just spinning in one place. But what they mean when they say feel the road under you is that as you increase the resistance, so it becomes a little bit more difficult to pedal, that resistance is what they mean by feeling the road. It’s like sort of when you start riding, even on a flat road, you feel some form of resistance and you have to push against that resistance. The resistance we all feel is the norm. That is an enormous resistance. And we have to learn to take it on with courage and go against it, almost as if it’s a mission in and of itself. Because that can empower us to step into what we believe is right even though all of our friends or many of our friends or many of our society are going to look at it and they’re going to laugh at it.
Interestingly, recently, in order to increase my income to support my family, I got involved in a business to create some residual income. And this is not a traditional form of a business. And so when I mention it to people, very, very often the very common response to it is, why are you doing this? Why are you doing this? Why did you get involved in this? Do you know what this really is? In the beginning, actually, I was very concerned and I had a lot of doubts about why I started this and I was second‑guessing myself. And I think that was a good thing because, you know, you never fully know until you experience this fully. But here I am about six months later involved in this and it’s fantastic. It’s, you know, I’m very happy I got involved in this because it’s producing the very purpose I got involved in it for. However, what’s really most interesting is that it is offering me something which is far greater than the residual income, which I’m really valuing more than anything else, and that is that I’m continually facing resistance from other people and I’m forging forward despite the comments. That to me is so valuable. Because I am exercising the muscle of not being intimidated by those who are looking at me and saying, you shouldn’t be doing this, why would you ever do something like this; looking at me as if, you know, I’m weird or strange because I’m involved in this. That itself, just to be able to continue to do this in the face of someone telling me those comments, because I know myself and my heart, because I already have experience that this is valuable, that means so much to me.
The biggest benefit that I’m getting is learning to ride above the perceptions of others. Even being a Chabad Rabbi comes with so many stigmas about what people believe I believe. And they just know it before even sharing a word with me. And even if they challenge me and I explain to them otherwise, they can’t even hear it. It just is what they know it to be. And the ability to stand in my shoes despite that is very important because that’s the only way we can be true to ourselves. It is far more convenient to believe we know than to actually learn differently. And when we begin to push against that resistance to learning differently, when we are committed to pushing against the norm and seeking what our gut tells us is right, what we learn to be true, what our value system is, that is what takes us above the norm.
There is a small percentage of people who are willing to do this. And that’s why the norm is called the norm because it’s made up of the majority of people. We need to know that we need to be above or outside, beyond the norm. And this is the ultimate form of beginning within versus beginning without. Beginning without is living what is acceptable to everyone else and beginning within is living what my inner self, what my soul demands of me.
So next time you have an opportunity to do something which the masses do not approve of but you know is the right thing to do, do it because it’s the right thing to do but do it as well as a challenge to being able to step out of the norm. Because the more we practice that the more we strengthen the muscle of being able to dedicate ourselves to the values that we believe in.
Did you ever notice how the very thing you love about someone you sometimes can’t stand? The funny thing is that the pros and cons are two sides of the same coin. Remember, this very same issue you’re frustrated about is the very same source of their beauty which you love.
They say that every single coin has two sides to it. I’m sure you know that. There are two sides to every coin. This simple phrase has actually helped me change the way I see all the people around me.
We all have moments when we’re with another person and we see only one side of their coin, so to speak. We see a part of their personality that is irritating us. And what I have slowly discovered is that whenever I see an irritating side to someone’s personality, all I need to do is ask myself one simple question: What is the other side of this coin? Because this personality, which is irritating me, is actually very beneficial at other times. And that’s the other side of the coin. And when we can remind ourselves of that, we can continue to appreciate this person and their personality even though in the moment it can be challenging.
Some people are very realistic people. They only trust what is realistic. And you ask them, can’t you just be a little bit more trusting? I know this, I’ve been down this road already, I know your realistic perspective but just let go for a minute and trust. And they won’t. And that can be very irritating. But there will be another day when, boy, we will thank God that we have this person who is so realistic and grounded next to us.
There are some people who are so logical. Everything is logic. If they can’t grasp it, they will not entertain it. And there are other people who are extremely faithful. They say, just have faith it will all work out. The people who are faithful will achieve certain things in life that the logical person will never ever achieve because they won’t let themselves go out on that limb. However, there are moments when the faithful person goes too far out and their faith fails them. And that’s where the logical person is so valuable.
There are people who are practical, there are people who are unreasonable. Depending on the situation, depending on the context, one side of the coin will be beneficial today, the other side of the coin will be beneficial tomorrow. It’s beautiful when we encounter passive people who let us be. But sometimes it’s the aggressive person and only the aggressive person who will accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
It’s very nice to see someone inhibited under control and not too expressive, not getting in our way. But isn’t there something so beautiful to the spontaneous person who will in the moment just jump up and do something that most of us won’t do? And don’t we sit in envy and wish we were that person? And, yet, at other times that spontaneous person is just crazy and we say, you are nuts, we would never want to be that person. And that’s because there are two sides to every coin. In one context spontaneous is the most beautiful thing; in another context spontaneous is really not very good.
Some people are generous. Some people are very calculated. Some people are composed. Some people are excitable. Bottom line is, there are two sides to every coin. And when we can remember when we are getting in our perspective the wrong side of the coin, remember there will be a day when the other side of this very same coin will show up and we will so deeply appreciate who this person is for what we are today in this moment resenting.
There are people who are organized, orderly, structured, so reliable, it’s so great to have someone who is so reliable. But they’re so measured and they’re so predictable and they’re so boring. And you have a disorganized person, they’re all over the place. They waste so much time because they are so all over the place trying to get themselves together. But, boy, are they exciting, creative. They don’t have a limited perspective in the way they think. Everything is possible to them. They achieve things no one else does because they are unrestricted, they are not orderly and structured. Because there are two sides to every coin.
Take any person you know and any personality you experience and you will see this to be true if you open up yourself enough and be honest enough to see the other side of the coin. And the first person we really need to do this with is ourselves. Because our minds have a tendency of seeing what’s wrong. But you know the very things that we see within ourselves which are wrong are the very things that make us right. Because the other side of that very same coin serves us so well in other times. So maybe we just need to see the right side of the coin. And when we see the right side of the coin, then we can actually embrace ourselves and understand that there will be times when this beautiful side of the coin doesn’t show up so beautifully and maybe that’s the time I need to delegate or I need to find someone else to compliment me. After all, isn’t this what marriage is really all about? Have you discovered, if you’re married, that the person you married who is so perfect for you is in some ways, possibly many ways, so opposite? And you struggle with that until hopefully, you reach a point of realizing what an enormous blessing that is. Because they are the other side of your coin. And they are the other side of your coin which looks ugly, they bring a beauty to that side of the coin because they show up on that side in their full beauty. And then the two of you together, as one, have two beautiful sides of one coin. And that is extremely powerful. We just have to be willing to acknowledge this. And the more we acknowledge that within ourselves there are two sides to our coin, there is the beautiful and the not so beautiful, the more we can look at another person when the side of their coin which is not beautiful shows up and remind ourselves in that moment that yesterday this is not showing up so beautifully but this very same characteristic is actually what makes this person so powerful, so beautiful, and what brings their light into the world. And when we learn to do this, we can learn to embrace every person not because we’re tolerating them, not because we’re putting up with them, but because we realize that this very characteristic that I’m having trouble with is actually the beauty of this other person.
So the next time you struggle with someone else, just ask yourself, what is the other side of their coin, and you will embrace their beautiful self.
Do you have a long list of wants? Would it be nice to have them or must you have them? Only when your “want” turns into a “must” do you get it. It is then that you’re truly committed to doing everything to get it. So you see, it is you who prevents your wants from being actualized and it is only you can bring them to actualization.
If you were to sit down today and write a list of things that you want which you don’t have, how long would that list be? Do you want better health than you currently have? Do you want to have a better relationship with someone than you currently have? Would you like to have more money? What are the things that you want to have? One of the things that I would love is more time every day to study. And the question we need to ask ourselves is, do we really want these things?
We’ve wanted these things for years so why don’t we have them? Oh, why don’t we have them? I can tell you 100 reasons why we don’t have them. And that is exactly the point. When someone really wants something, then they do everything they can to get it. And when we do everything we can to get something, the likelihood of us getting it is extremely high. So why is it that we have a long list of wants? Because we don’t really want them. We would like to have them, it would be nice if someone served it to me, but I’m not willing to put in the effort to actually go and get it.
If I want to spend more time studying every day, I can’t. I have so many other things to do. I have a family to take care of, I have a job, I have a living to make. Those are all nice reasons. But if I really wanted to, I would find ways to adjust different things and compensate here and there so that I can have what it is that I really want. Or maybe I just don’t really want it.
Do you want to exercise or diet? Many people do. We need to address the issues that are getting in the way of us doing them. It’s nice to get the results of exercise and the results of diet, but you can’t get those results unless you are motivated to actually exercise and diet. And for that, you need to really really want it.
If someone is told to stop having their coffee every morning with sugar. I can’t, I just can’t have coffee without sugar, I mean, how do you even drink that? Is it true that you can’t or is it just that you don’t want to? When we really want to eliminate sugar from our diet, we will learn to drink our coffee without sugar. I mean, is it true that you really can’t drink coffee without sugar? I mean, it’s impossible? Of course it’s possible. We just need to really want it. And we know this because when someone cheats us, by way of example, suddenly certain people, at least, they will fight for justice until the end. Suddenly they are willing to turn over their entire world just to get their money back. If, God forbid, one’s spouse or child needs something, suddenly we find a will within ourselves that is unstoppable.
A doctor tells us, this is it, if you don’t change this in your life, you literally have a year to live. And suddenly the person has the will to do all of those things that he had excuses for for many many years.
Clearly, we could have done those things 10 years ago, 20 years ago and avoided many years of unhealth and our doctor telling us this information. It’s just that 10, 20 years ago we didn’t really want it. So we hold off for years until the conditions around us change and we wait for the conditions around us to motivate us, which is way way too late because someone who really leads their life cannot be waiting for the circumstances to motivate them. We need to bring out this will and desire within us way before the circumstances force us into those situations.
To approach a person about something which we may be terrified to do or make a request from a friend for something, we may be terrified to do that and we may think what are they going to think about me and how is this going to impact our relationship. Those are all great questions. But when we really want something, we don’t ask those questions, we just go and request because what we want is much stronger than impressions we leave on people. That’s so secondary.
When we take on a challenge to do something, the excuses all fall away if we really really want them. And we cannot wait for outside circumstances to compel us to overcome our fears of what others will think about us, about whether others will accept us, about falling out of favor with other people.
We have to ask ourselves, is this important? Is this valuable? And if the answer is yes, we need to say, I will pursue this unconditionally. Nothing is going to stop me. This is how people accomplish big things with their life. Because they are determined and they don’t let small things stop them.
There’s a story I often repeat which my friend shared with me about his grandfather, this goes back to the early 1920s in Chicago where there was a farmhouse that burned down. And all of the neighbors from the surrounding area came to bemoan the fact that this farmer and family now do not have a home or a livelihood. And my friend’s grandfather was standing with all of these people who were mourning this and he said, I really care about the fact that this person, this farmer, lost his house. I care $10. How much do you care?
Now, $10 was a lot of money in the 1920s. But more significantly, the point was that he was saying, I don’t just verbally care, I really care. And this is how much I care, that I am ready to take out a lot of money from my pocket to help this person. That’s someone who wants something.
How much do you want what you want? If you’re not ready to make yourself very uncomfortable, you don’t really want it. If you’re still giving excuses, any excuses ‑‑ because we all have reasons. We all have reasons why we can’t do certain things and they are all fine and they’re all justified. But if you have a reason why you can’t, even a justified reason, that just says you don’t want it that much.
We like the idea of a lot of money. We like the idea of good health. We like the idea of a better marriage or a better relationship with our kids. But we are not ready to put in the work. We don’t want it enough.
No, it’s not easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing this and everyone would be achieving unbelievable things with their life. If there isn’t a fire within you pushing you towards success, you just don’t want it enough. So here is the thing. And here is what I want to leave you with. There is a fire within you for so much. There is a fire within you to live a productive life, to achieve whatever things, you know, your personality are inclined towards, to live a life which is actualizing who God made you to be. That fire is within you. There is no doubt. There is no doubt as well that it’s covered by an unhealthy mindset. For some of us a very unhealthy mindset; for some of us a minor unhealthy mindset, whatever your circumstances are. But that’s what covers up that fire. The challenges in life cover up that fire. The circumstances which make it difficult to achieve certain things cover up that fire. All of these things cover up that fire. And what we need to do is uncover that fire, that passion within us.
And what I have found has worked for me, and I’m sure will work for you as well, is by simply reminding myself, I really want to do this, I can go through the work it takes to get it, I can overcome my inhibitions and my fears and my unhealthy mindset that tells me if you do this then this is going to happen or they’re going to think that. Just remind yourself that you really want this and that you can push yourself through the discomfort that you will need to push through in order to do the things you need to to achieve this.
And another thing I do is I imagine my life after putting in the effort. I imagine how things are going to look after putting in the effort. Imagine what someone’s life looks like after they lose the weight the doctor says they need to lose, after they lower the cholesterol that the doctor tells them they need to lower, after they make the money that will give them the accessibility to do things which are so important to their mission in life. All of these things, just by imagining them, empower us to say, I’m going to let my fire lead me, I’m not going to let the circumstances or the people around me lead me. And that liberates the fire within us. And that gets us to really want what we want. And when we really want what we want, we do anything to get it.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Defining a successful life is imperative if we want to lead one. It may be the most important first step to leading a successful life. My definition is, narrowing the gap between who we see ourselves as and who we are.