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Category Archive: Happiness
Subcategories: No categories
There is a wonderful OpEd in the New York Times from David Brooks on Happiness and Success and I highly recommend you read it. Here are some snippets I really liked:
“The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting. According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income. According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year.”
“The overall impression from this research is that economic and professional success exists on the surface of life, and that they emerge out of interpersonal relationships, which are much deeper and more important.”
Here is the link to the article: Sandra Bullock and Happiness
On a rather stressful day, I really enjoyed reading this article on the benefits of walking a dog. Here is a snippet on how walking a dog helped people in an assisted living home:
To the surprise of the researchers, the dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the human walkers began making excuses to skip the workout. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just a 4 percent increase among the human walkers.
“What happened was nothing short of remarkable,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, a nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “The improvement in walking speed means their confidence in their walking ability had increased and their balance had increased. To have a 28 percent improvement in walking speed is mind boggling.”
“IN TRUTH, men have affairs not for physical reasons but for emotional ones. They cheat not out of a sense of confidence but out of a state of brokenness. Not out of a sense of how desirable they are but out of a sense of what failures they are. And this is especially true of men like Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton who live in a hyper-competitive environments where they realize that they are only special to the extent that they keep on winning. Men like these are particularly broken, living as they do just one failure away from obscurity. They know that their value as human beings rests entirely in other people’s hands. And they live in permanent and painful insecurity. They constantly question their self-worth and they turn to women both to feel desirable and to comfort them from their pain.
Yes, I know. Men like Tiger Woods appear to the public as cool-as-a-cucumber. But beneath the calm veneer is a man who has been trained to believe that his value as a human being rests entirely on a never-ending game of human one-upmanship. Those who have made their names in sports and politics live with unimaginable insecurity. And rather than deal with these insecurities in a healthy way by having deep emotional conversations with their wives about their fears, it is easier to simply paper them over by turning to strangers who make them feel special.”
Read the rest here: Shmuley Boteach on Tiger Woods
Enjoy this wonderful blog post from the New York Times by Maira Kalman about Thomas Jefferson. Really wonderful.
I grew up loving video games as a kid. Unfortunately, as I have gotten older I have less and less time for simple leisure and games. But every now and then I hear about an addictive game and I slip into the little kid I once was. It happened several years ago with Half Life 2 and eighteen months ago with the Nintendo Wii.
I’ve found another addiction: Plants Vs. Zombies. Here is a link to the game website:
The premise of the game is that you must plant seeds and plants to stop zombies from coming through your yard and eating your brains. Its cartoonish, childish, stupid and incredibly addictive. I’m writing this review because I enjoyed the game so much and it helped pass so much time on trains and planes that I want to make sure others enjoy the game as much as I did. It is a great way to pass the time. Here is a screen shot:
The fun of this game is the variety of zombies the game throws at you such as Pole Valuting Zombies and Football Zombies. And you get to use a variety of plants you can use to defend yourself from mine plants which explode when a zombie walks over it to “Wall-nuts” that serve as a barrier.
Try the demo for free and you will find what I found: a great, fun game. I’m really hoping for a sequel or expansion game.
New York Times editor Dana Jennings is coping with prostate cancer and wrote a blog post about his dog. I feel the same way about my dog, Frankie. Here is a snippet:
In spending so much time with Bijou, I began to realize that our dogs, in their carefree dogginess, make us more human, force us to shed our narcissistic skins. Even when you have cancer, you can’t be utterly self-involved when you have a floppy-eared mutt who needs to be fed, walked and belly-scratched. And you can’t help but ponder the mysteries of creation as you gaze into the eyes of your dog, or wonder why and how we chose dogs and they chose us.
Here is the link: Life lessons from the family dog
The economic crisis descending upon us is having a profound impact on many people’s lives. One of the most troubling things to witness is the rise in suicides, especially high profile suicides. The past two days news of US property mogul, Sheldon Good, and the German business magnate, Adolph Merckle, have graced the front pages of newspapers. They join the French investor who was conned by Bernie Madoff, Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet. This news is very sad not just because they are dead, but more sad that they chose to end their lives as if there was no more point to living.
These men were described as honest, hard working and generally good, smart people. I didn’t know know them when they were alive, but they chose to end their lives once their businesses and fortunes collapsed. Why just because your money is gone, your life is forfeit and has no value? How utterly sad is that? How sad is it that these people only defined themselves by business, materiality and money?
There is so much more to life than the material things we accumulate only to give up later when we die or give away before we die. There is family and friends. There is nature and beauty. There is love and goodwill. And most importantly is service to others.
Our ego mind lies to us. It convinces us that what is important is the kind of clothes on our backs, the shoes that we wear, the car that we drive, the house that we live in is paramount in our lives. The ego mind convinces us that our business stature and how other people regard us is what is important. But this is all a lie. Is this what our soul really wants? Is this who we are? Of course not, but years of listening to our ego and worrying what other people think create habits of mind and this is what we become. So that in the end, if suddenly our business, money and fame is taken from us, we are left with nothing. And what else is there to live for?
Imagine instead what these three very capable, very smart men could have done in terms of service to investors, their families, friends or just one person if they hadn’t killed themselves. What lessons could they teach investors? How could they be of help to family members or friends in need of help, advice or just someone’s presence? What help are they now? How much suffering has their deaths caused?
What if even in their hour of darkness, they had broken out to volunteer or do service for another person? This is one selfish reason, I volunteer. In one of my darkest times in 2003, when my love life, business career and health all failed at once, I’m convinced that volunteering at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital kept me grounded and functioning, and it kept me from the darker thoughts that obviously consumed the three men mentioned above.
In 2008, I had the worst business performance of my life. It was terrible and it hurt me greatly that the clients that had entrusted money to me had lost so much money. And things are very uncertain now in many ways in my life. But what I have learned is that I can only do my best, work hard, learn from my mistakes and move forward. In the meantime, there is way too much for me to do that isn’t business, including: service, volunteering and good deeds. There are friends and family that may need me for a myriad of problems or advice or just to listen.
My advice to those that are hurting economically is to get out of your ego for a moment and do service for someone else. In times like these, I can guarantee you that there are people in circumstances that are much worse than yours. Try to help someone else. And in the end your giving of yourself will end up helping you in ways that are so much more important than material possessions and money. The meaning and the joy that you will receive will make you richer than you can possibly imagine.
I’m a Georgia Bulldog. On Saturdays I bleed red and black. I cannot tell you how proud I am that Mark Richt is our head coach. I actually have had the opportunity to meet with him when I threw a charity flag football event for the Athens, GA Boys and Girls Club. And I can tell you, he is a truly great, genuine man. For those of you that don’t know him watch this video and you will see what kind of person he is:
Perfection is definitely not a Jewish thought or attribute. Consider the patriarchs of Judaism such as Noah who gets drunk, Jacob who steals his brother’s birthright by misleading his father Isaac, and even Moses, the greatest of all Jews, speaks with a lisp and disobeys God. And we could have a field day talking about King David. All of these people are examples of the far from perfect and flawed heroes that God talks, communicates and makes promises to in the Tanakh (Jewish bible).
Beyond individuals, the Jewish people as a whole are definitely not perfect. One immediately remembers the “Golden Calf” incident or other times when the Jews as a “stiff-necked people” disobeyed or did not listen to God. And yet isn’t it curious that despite not being perfect, we are still the Chosen people?
Why both on an individual and group level does God communicate and make a covenant with a people that is not perfect, but sometimes deeply flawed?
I believe the answer lies in the story of the wine steward and the baker who were in Pharaoh’s jail with Joseph (He was thrown in there for being falsely accused by Potifar’s wife. Genesis 39)
The baker was in there because the Pharaoh found a stone in a loaf of bread and the wine steward was in the dungeon because a fly was found in the wine glass of Pharaoh. The subsequent fates of the two are instructive, the wine steward is freed and is reinstated to his former position and the baker is put to death. Why?
The Rabbi of Ishbitz (Chassidic Rabbi around 1840 in Poland) teaches that the baker was aiming for perfection, and tried to keep all of the bad stuff that could come into the bread from getting in, while the wine steward knew there was only so much that he control and that once he poured the wine, a fly could fly into it and there was nothing he could do about it.
In this story is the proof text that perfection is not the goal of Judaism or God. The Ishbitzer Rebbe tells us that the experience of life is God, so therefore God is the fly in your wine cup. Perfection is not the goal of life, life is the goal of life and experiencing it with all of its ups and down is the experience of God.
The baker on the other hand is completely unprepared for when something bad happens. His goal is perfection, so what happens when a stone gets into a loaf of bread, the baker dies. To the wine steward the baker’s stone is like the fly, something that happens and is part of the experience of life. But to the baker, a fly in the wine cup is a stone, something that is unacceptable, a mark of imperfection and something to fight against. In the end, the wine steward triumphs and lives and the baker dies.
And this highlights why perfection is not a Jewish ideal. Without the mistakes and the problems, or the flies and stones in our lives, how would we ever learn, grow and evolve into deeper, more aware and stronger people? And this is what Judaism teaches us, that when bad stuff that happens, when flies land in our wine cup, they are part of life and a part of God. The sooner we learn to accept the slings and arrows of life and realize we will never be perfect, the stronger we will be and the better people we will become.
This isn’t to mean that you shouldn’t strive to be a good person or be the best of your abilities, but that instead you recognize that shit happens. A favorite country singer of mine, Pat Green, says it best:
Wouldn’t life be awfully boring,
If the good times were all that we had?
If there was a Jewish perfection it would rest on learning to appreciate the flies and stones in our lives along our brief but wonderful journey and to try as much as possible to use them to our advantage and to see the Godliness and holiness in them.
*This blog posting is heavily influenced and taught to me by Rabbi Avi Poupko from Pardes
This is one of the best things I’ve ever read:
To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea–”cruising”, it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.
Little has been said or written about the ways a man may blast himself free. Why? I don’t know, unless the answer lies in our diseased values. A man seldom hesitates to describe his work; he gladly divulges the privacies of alleged sexual conquests. But ask him how much he has in the bank and he recoils into a shocked and stubborn silence.
“I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security”. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine—and before we know it our lives are gone.
What does a man need—really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in—and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all—in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.
The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.
Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?
I got the above from Paul Kedrosky’s blog, Infectious Greed. It is from the book, The Wanderer, by Sterling Hayden.
Here is the link: