Sei sulla pagina 1di 235


by Rabbi Noah Weinberg


To achieve significant results in life, the effort must be constant. Don't waste a minute. Imagine you're stuck in traffic, and another driver is taking dollar bills and throwing them out the window. You can't believe it. The guy is whacko. Every five minutes, another dollar flies out the window! You probably never saw this. But you have seen someone throwing five minutes out the window. Maybe you even did it yourself. The bus takes off and you're really enjoying the scenery: "Oh, a hill... look at that store... and there's a park!" It's not so bad for the first few minutes. But then the cash register starts ringing up more wasted time. Ding! Ding! To become a great human being requires applying your mind constantly, until it pervades every fiber of your being. It all begins with a decision, a commitment. Tr y saying aloud: "Life is an opportunity. I want to use my mind, and be constantly moving toward my goal." You may notice some resistance as a little voice protests inside: "No way! All work and no play will make Jack a dull boy. C'mon, let's space out and watch TV!" Does this mean being an obsessive workaholic? Of course not -- you still need to sleep! Let's understand. "Constant striving" means that when you sleep in order to be more productive, then the sleep becomes part of your overall goal. It's the sa me with eating and exercise. So what about relaxing? Of course it's okay to relax. But relaxing means "changing gears." Your relaxation should be purposeful and directed. Think of something else that's not as exerting, but is still meaningful. For example, shift your focus to nature, music or art. Sometimes, even a simple change of scenery, a cold drink, or a breathe of fresh air is enough to recharge your batteries. But don't space out. 1

We do this, because it is painful to be constantly aware, to be consta ntly "on." To break through that pain, focus instead on the pay -off. When you are constantly aware, every experience becomes a lesson in life. For example, if you are in a dentist's office, you could use that time to reach any number of crucial insights:
y y y y

I'm lucky to have teeth. A toothless life would be much less pleasurable. If there is such a thing as dental hygiene, there must be a concept of spiritual hygiene, too. I wonder what it is. Without the pain of the drill, my teeth would fall out. Perhaps some other difficulties in life also help me accomplish good things. The human body is so intricate. The integration of teeth, gums, tongue and saliva is an incredible feat of anatomical and physiological design. How did it all come about?

Whatever you are doing at any given moment -- watching the news, working on a business deal, talking to a friend, reading this article -- give it your full attention. Decide that you are willing to take the pain of thinking, of being aware, all day long.

"Continuous:" Without Interruption

Whenever you pursue a specific goal, it should be without interruption. It's actually better to study for one hour straight, than for two hours with interruptions. Interruptions break our train of thought and limit our ability to retain information. They take the power out of learning. Set aside a certain time when you block everything else out, where you will not budge from the activity you're focusing on. Don't sit down and then get up to open the window. Then get up to fetch a Coke. An d get up again to close the window. And get up to turn on the radio. Make up your mind: "I am going to do 'X' for one hour straight. No bouncing up and down!" For an entire 15 minutes, don't stop. Not to change your seat, not to get a drink, not for anything that isn't life-threatening! You can practice this while riding on the bus, or waiting at the dentist's office. Set yourself a goal of 15 minutes to focus exclusively on one subject. It may be a problem you're having at work, a personal goal, or an issu e in a relationship. For example, you might say to yourself, "The next 15 minutes I am going to devote to thinking about my family, how I can help them, why I love them, my pleasure in them." Or try devoting 15 minutes a day to be aware of every aspect of life around you -from the blood coursing through your veins to keep every cell alive, to the ant crawling across the ground under your feet. For that 15 minutes, you are totally attuned to the miracle of being alive.

Then, at the end of these 15 minutes, appreciate how the time was well spent. Time that otherwise would have been wasted... Little by little, increase your time. First 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, then one hour, then two hours. Once you hit four hours, you're sailing. The Vilna Gaon, the grea t 18th century Jewish scholar, said that the first three hours and 59 minutes is stoking the furnace. By the fourth hour, the pot is boiling. And don't stop. Because if you take the pot off the fire -- even for a few minutes -you have to reboil it all ov er again.

"Consistent:" According To Schedule

To really get into gear, you need to find your rhythm. The human body loves patterns. Even the most daunting tasks become fluid when set into a schedule. This means doing the activity in the same place, at the same time, and in the same way (as much as reasonably possible). That's why Judaism has certain pre-set activities every day. When waking up, for example, we say: "Thank God I'm alive." It's a moment of conscious appreciation for getting another chance, a nother day. This awareness gets us up on the right side of the bed, starting our day on a high note. When it comes to any goal, make a certain time of the day "holy." For however much or little time, make a commitment and be consistent every day. There is power in that commitment. You know you are going to change. Your life will be different. Try it. Commit yourself 365 days a year, for the rest of your life: When you wake up in the morning, appreciate being alive.

"Cyclical:" Repetition And Review

Life is not one-dimensional. It must be studied from every side and turned upside down. Study the same subject for a long period of time. Don't bounce around superficially from one topic to the next. Choose a topic you love and become an expert in at least one aspect of life. Become engrossed. Whatever subject you choose, there is always more to learn. Even as you move to other areas of knowledge, be alert to pick up information pertinent to previous topics. This allows for cross-referencing, and ultimately, a deeper understanding.

Whatever you learn, make sure you don't forget. How many times has an insight struck you with astonishing clarity -- and then slipped out of your mind the next day? The insight is fleeting if you don't capture it in some way. It has t o sink into your bones and permeate your mind. This means constant review of one's learning in some form or another. Verbal repetition is powerful. It clarifies an idea and brings it into reality. That's why we repeat the Shema twice a day, and why we revi ew the Torah year after year. The Sages of the Talmud would repeat any new insight 40 times -- and repeat an especially vital idea 101 times. It's kind of like "Remember the Alamo!" Of course, you may forget the Alamo, but you can remember this article in a catch-phrase like "Make Every Second Count" or "Live to the Max." Whatever moves you and gets you energized, repeat it again, again and again. Make it your refrain, your background music. When you wear out one phrase, get yourself another. Whatever works has power. * * *

"Comprehensive:" Be A Student Of Life

Imagine someone asking you, "What do you do?" You answer, "I'm a lawyer," or "I'm an engineer," or "I'm an accountant." Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Suppose you see someone going to sleep, and you say to him, "What do you do?" He says, "I'm a sleeper." "You're a sleeper? How do you make a living doing that? Who pays you to sleep?!" That's my point exactly. When you add up the hours over a lifetime, you spend more time sleeping than being a lawyer. The essential you is not the lawyer. It is the thinker, the seeker, the living, breathing human being who loves, who is continually growing, who desires greatness, who hungers to know more. Identify with this. It is who you really are. Ask a woman with four children: "Who are you?" She answers: "A mother." But that's only one aspect of who she is (albeit an important one). She's also a friend, a community volunteer, an educator, a chef, a nurse, a child psychologist, a thinker, an information gatherer, a pursuer of tru th, and more. Unfortunately, we develop this identity problem early in life. Every child is asked: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This question has subtle implications that can damage a developing personality. The child is thinking: "What's wro ng with being 'me?' Is 'me' so terrible that I have to 'become' something different when I grow up?" The Sages say: "Make the study of life your main occupation, and your profession secondary." The question is not "what are you doing for a living," but rat her "what do 4

you do for life?" If you see yourself as a "thinker," then thinking becomes a priority. So update your self -definition. Learn your whole reason for living and live it fully.

Is Life Good?
The bottom line is you have to decide: Is life good or not? This comes down to a more basic question: Does life have purpose? If it doesn't, then there's no reason not to waste time, because nothing really matters anyway. But if you believe there is a purpose to life, why would you want to waste any bit of it? You'll want to understand every aspect of life, to do the most with the limited time you have. Jewish consciousness says that the worst crime is murder.
y y y y y

The worst murder is premeditated. The worst premeditated is of family. Even worse is murder of self -- i.e. suicide. Spiritual suicide is worse than physical suicide. Killing time is spiritual suicide.

Human beings were created for pleasure. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. In Hebrew, Eden means "pleasure." When you commit yourself to what a human being was destined for -- a life of pleasure -- you will go out searching for the highest pleasures. Along the way, you'll make distinctions between pleasure and comfort, between necessary pain and needless suffering. And through the process, you'l l discover the true meaning of life. The Torah says: "Abraham was old and he came with his days." Many people can become old without their days, because they may only experience growth over a year. But Abraham and Sarah had daily growth spurts. They got as much out of living as possible. Make the commitment to discover life's deeper pleasures. It could be the difference between a useful life and a wasted one.

10 Tools For Constant Awareness


Plan out what you want to accomplish. If you know what you're afte r, you'll pursue it with more vitality. Plan in the evening how you'll get up in the morning. Don't let the snooze button control your life. To start off on the right foot, get up 10 minutes early and say the Shema. 5

Review your day. See what the obstacles were. Strategize how to avoid them in the future. Review what you learned in the past 24 hours. Catch yourself day dreaming at least once a day and examine: "What am I doing right now, and how could I use this moment more effectively?" Become a student of life. Study wherever you are. Have books, thoughts, etc. ready to keep your mind growing. (No staring out the window like a zombie.) Memorize pieces of wisdom. It will give you something to learn as you walk down the street or wait in line at the supermark et. Pick appealing catch-phrases, to inspire yourself on the spot, and to wake yourself up when you feel like drifting off. Frequently ponder the question: What is the purpose of life? What am I doing on this planet? Plan ahead now. What do you want to stu dy? What do you need to realize your ambitions? How do you want to grow?

Everyone says that "time is money." But which is more important: five minutes or a dollar? Time is the greatest opportunity of your life. Don't waste a minute of it.


When the media hits you with another message, don't take the idea for granted. Listen for the message behind the message. Analyze and question. Were you ever in an important conversation and you felt like you weren't getting your point across? You started shouting: "Do you hear what I'm saying? You're not paying attention. Do you hear me!?" Everyone is guilty of this. How many times do we think we're listening to the other person, only to find out later that our mind was somewhere else? Before you decide whether to accept or reject an idea, before you argue, before you make statements, before you decry -- first make sure you're being objective. Otherwise, you're expressing an emotional prejudice -- not an intelligent opinion. Shmi'at b'ozen literally means "listen with your ears." When the Torah uses the word Shema -- as in "Hear O Israel" -- it implies a deeper level listening -- focusing, paying attention, understanding, and putting into action. Zero in on just what is being said and let the message penetrate your thoughts. Effective listening means:
y y y

Hearing the words. Understanding the message. Putting it into action.

Define Your Terms

I was once talking to a tourist on his first visit to Israel. He seemed disenchanted. "They call this the Holy Land," he said. "But I've been up north, down south, to Jerusalem, Masada, all over -- and there's nothing holy about this place." So I asked him: "Tell me, are you a bafoofstik?" "What's that?" "Just answer the question: Are you a bafoofstik or not?" "How can I answer when I don't even know what you're talking about?!" "Aha," I stopped him. "And holiness? Is it angels flapping their wings down the street, in rainbows of color and light, swirling in and out of rocks?" We throw around concepts, but often our thoughts are vague and unsubstantial. Without an objective definition, we can't begin any intellectual process. "Are you a good person?" "Of course, I'm good! What kind of an insulting question is that?" "So tell me, what is the definition of a g ood person?" If you really desire to be a good person, you need more than feelings to determine whether you're reaching your goal or not. You'll need a clear way of measuring it. Otherwise people can do whatever they feel like doing and paint themselves "g ood." Even Hitler presumably had a goal of "doing good" -- ridding the world of Jewish vermin. But somewhere, something went wrong. Once you have an objective definition, then you can determine if your life is consistent with that definition. It's true, a person can twist anything. But the more clarity you've got, the harder it is to twist.

The "I-You-He" Game

The 48 Ways has a concept called the "I-You-He" game. It's based on the premise that we usually describe people on three levels. When we refer to ourselves, we paint the best picture possible. With others, we don't want be insulting to their face, so we paint them gray. And when someone is not around to defend himself, we paint him black. "I" am white. "You" are gray. "He" is black. You're the passenger in a car careening 90 miles an hour down a winding mountain road. As you grip the dashboard in fear for your life, you turn to the driver and say, "Aren't you being a bit foolhardy?" "Me? Oh, no. I'm brave. I'm not afraid of anything!" 7

If you're lucky enough to live to tell about it, you say, "That guy's a reckless idiot!" The driver refers to himself as "brave." To his face, you call him "foolhardy." To a third party, he's a "reckless idiot." Which one is the reality? By working through objective definitions, we can assess the situation without personal feelings getting in the way: A. "Brave" = taking a necessary risk for a worthwhile purpose (e.g. rushing into a burning building to save the children trapped inside). B. "Foolhardy" = taking an unnecessary risk, yet with a noble purpose (e.g. rushing in to save the children, but without any protective gear). C. "A Reckless Idiot" = taking an unnecessary risk, for no worthwhile purpose (e.g. rushing in just to watch the beams fall down). Back to the car on the mou ntain road. You turn to the driver and say, "Why are we risking our lives? What is the worthwhile purpose?" The driver will have to agree he's being a reckless idiot. That's being an intellectual. Leading with your head, rather than muddling through life based on feelings alone. Otherwise, you're always stuck on the level of: "I'm brave, he's a reckless idiot."

Get Back To Basics

To get your definitions straight, start with the basics. Think of concepts you use all the time, fundamentals upon which you've built your life. Don't use words until you have a definition. You'll be surprised how much you've assumed about a particular idea, and how that assumption has guided your life. You believe in "tolerance." What do you mean by it? You believe in justice? Tr uth? Love? Freedom? Fairness? Ask yourself: "What do these ideas really mean?" If it's a basic idea that shapes your world outlook, you had better know what it means! Take the example of free will. Judaism says that free will is the decision between what you "want" to do, and what you "feel like" doing. For example, if you harmed someone, you know that you "want" to apologize. Sure, it's the right thing to do and will make peace. But you don't "feel like" doing it because it may be embarrassing and unpleasant. With rare exception, no one consciously chooses evil in the sense of "evil, oooooh, I want to be bad and inflict suffering." No. We choose evil because in the short term, it's a less painful way of dealing with a difficult situation. We do what we "fee l like" doing because it's easy. 8

Apply this definition of free will to your life. Do you want to be great? Sure! But you don't feel like making the effort. You feel like postponing it, procrastinating it and ducking the issue. "I don't want to be great, I only want to be average." "Really? You want mediocrity?" "Of course not. I want greatness. Just not today!" "Why not today?" "Because I just don't feel like it..." Do you have a goal? You know you can do it. It's just too painful. Make the decision and nothing will stop you. That's using your free will.

Objective Argumentation
Sometimes we don't pay attention. We can talk for hours and not even know what we're arguing about. Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai are two famous disputants in Talmudic literature. They argued about almost everything and saw the world from nearly opposite perspectives. For example, Beit Hillel says we should light one Chanukah candle the first night, and add one candle each subsequent night. Beit Shammai, on the other hand, says to light eight candles the first night and then decrease one candle each night. Opposite perspectives! Jewish law follows Beit Hillel. Why? Because in any disagreement, Beit Hillel would always first state the opinion of Beit Shammai, and only then state his o wn position. In this way, Beit Hillel's position was deemed more objective, reflecting a truth that lay somewhere in between. That's why Jewish law follows Beit Hillel. The next time you find yourself in an argument, get the picture straight. Don't take any ideas for granted, even if you think you understand what they mean. Listen for the message behind the message. Very often the fight is about something entirely different than you thought it was. Maybe underneath the other person is feeling, "He doesn't respect me," or "He takes me for granted." Get the message, not only the words. Ask: "What is her point? What does she mean? What does she want?" Don't be busy getting your answer ready while the other person is still talking. Through questioning, you'll fi nd there is always something deeper. Ask the person: "Do you mean to say... Please tell me if I understand you correctly." This way at least you know that you're arguing about the same thing." Once you think you understand the idea, make the effort to say it over in your own words. Similarly, choosing our own example to illustrate what others are saying 9

forces you to zero in on the essence of that idea. It's a good test to see if you understand the message. And it will help you integrate it and remember it.

Don't Be A Zombie
Laziness is holding us back. Creatures use their best instruments effectively -wings, claws, beaks. But man frequently fails to use his best instrument, his mind. Man will go to any amount of work to avoid thinking. You can read the N ew York Times for a few hours and then ... nothing, blank! It's a great feeling, but what does it mean? What did you learn? Get into a defining mode. Acquire the habit of analyzing what's happening around you. Anything worth your time -- reading the newspaper, a novel, having a conversation, watching a movie, touring -- should be productive. Always define your goal ahead of time. What do you want to accomplish? Then afterwards, articulate what you learned. If you don't, you'll wind up living with intellectual confusion. For example, people who get fired from a job say they've learned a lot: "Now I know that I can't trust employers, that I'm incapable of a successful career, that the business world is hell, and that..." But that's not what you are supposed to learn. What you should learn is the importance of studying the keys to a successful career before you get a job! In Judaism, we go a lot deeper. We say "clarity or death." "Death" is the complete absence of consciousness; reduced consciousness is therefor e partial death. Either you know what you are living for, you know what you want, you know what your pleasure is -- or else you are living like a zombie. That's why we need definitions. It gives us clarity for living.

Torah Wisdom
Proper definitions are e specially important when you are learning about our Jewish heritage. Taken at face value, the Torah may appear simplistic. Yet we know from tradition that the deepest concepts are contained within Torah, often encoded in simpler messages. Every word is carefully chosen. If the Almighty is speaking, you ought to understand exactly what He's saying. When we speak of Torah, we're speaking of God and eternity, forever. We cannot afford mistakes in this area of life. A mistake in understanding Torah is a mistake for eternity. It's like sending a rocket to the moon. If you send it in a general direction -but you're off target by a fraction of a mistake in a logarithm of the arc -- then you're lost in space. Let's take an example. The Torah says there is a comman dment to "know there's a God." So ask: "What is a commandment? What does it mean to 'know?' Who is 10

God?" Define your terms in order to get behind the message and discover deeper ideas for life. Decode the key. There's a crucial final step as well. Always ask yourself: "Now that I understand, what am I going to do about it?"

Why Is "Effective Listening" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y y y

"Listen" and "silent" have the same letters. Get the picture straight, especially when you are emotionally involved. Don't fall into the trap of the "I-You-He" game. Without definitions, you can fool yourself into thinking you're living "the good life." No one wants to be a bafoofstik. Torah contains powerful tools for living. Make sure you dig out the depth of meaning. There's no use arguing if you don't know what you're arguing about. No use in learning if you don't know what you've learned. No use in taking action if you don't know what you want to achieve. If you use this tool for the rest of your life, you are rich.

y y


Articulate your beliefs out loud. It bridges the gap between lofty notions of the soul and the world of reality. In other words, you'll find out if you really believe what you say. We come from a "quiet learning" society where "shhhh" is the rule. If you drop a book in a university library, people jump as if a bomb went off. Contrast this with a rabbinic study hall, where you're greeted by a rippling sea of sound. The uninitiated often ask: "How can these people learn with so much noise?!" It's all a matter of habit. A country boy finds it difficult to sleep in the city because there's too much noise. Yet the city boy who visits the country also can't sleep because the quiet is mind -racking! Arichat sfatayim literally means "arrange it on your lips." To gain more clarity and wisdom, try saying things out loud. Sometimes you'll see a person walking down the street talking to himself. Do you recall ever doing this yourself? When? Why? It's a powerful concentration technique. Every person has a mantra. The mantra is your particular music, your individual joy of life. Particularly in learning, there's a certain musical rhythm that draws you deeper 11

into the learning. If you study long enough, you 'll get in touch with this tune. It is a tremendous help to get your engine moving. Start with your tune ... and you're in! If you're reading, and have difficulty staying focused, start reading slowly out loud and you'll find it brings you right into conta ct. Whatever you're reading - even a simple newspaper - you'll have a much higher rate of comprehension and retention if you read it out loud. You might feel a bit foolish at first, but you'll eventually get the hang of it - and see the dividends paying of f.

Articulate Your Principles For Life

Take a moment and think: "What am I living for?" Now try saying out loud: "I am living for..." Notice the difference? Speaking our beliefs out loud helps reveal how closely we actually follow our principles for livin g, and if they truly resonate within. We all want to be happy, successful, to accomplish. We all want to use our potential. We don't want to waste any part of it. We all want to be kind. We want closure. To be in reality. To be efficient. We want everythin g good for ourselves, our loved ones, and all humanity. If this is true, say out loud: "I want to be great." Repeat this to yourself, maybe even into a tape recorder. Hear how you sound. Find out whether you mean it or not. Words are "bullets" because they indicate more readily what a person is thinking. What comes out of a person's mouth indicates his present "mixture" of body and soul. If an important concept is hazy or difficult, explain it, articulate it, and you will get clarity. We can catch a flaw in our thinking - flaws we may never have noticed if we'd kept those thoughts locked inside our heads. Articulate what you are thinking, what you learn, and what you know about living. Don't let it lie there in the back of your head. Whenever you hear a piece of wisdom, turn it into a resolution - because if you don't take it out, it's useless.

From Potential To Actual

Speech is a unique human characteristic. When you want to translate something from a spiritual thought into a physical reality, speech is the method. When struggling with a question or problem, use your voice. It forces you to grapple with the strangeness and the vagueness. Bringing a thought from your mind into your mouth takes it from potential to actual. When we say it out loud, the thou ght becomes engraved in stone. 12

The soul wants to grow, but the body is holding back. That's why you need to articulate ideas in a way that's convincing, to penetrate the idea into the body. We feel greater responsibility to carry through on what we say, much more than on what we think. Articulation bridges the gap between the demands of the body, and the lofty notions of the soul. This has practical application in synagogue life. During the silent "Amidah" prayer, people's lips are moving, though their voices are muted. And on Yom Kippur, the "Viduy" confession is said loud enough to hear yourself.

Have A Dialogue
Suppose you make a certain decision, but find yourself resisting. Talk yourself into it. Challenge yourself. Play your own devil's advocate. "I'll work on my project later." "I don't believe you. Convince me. The last time you said that, you didn't get to the project in the end." "That's because I got too tired." "So stop with the excuses! Get working on the project now, or you'll end up skipping it altogether!" Nudge yourself with words. When you wake up in the morning and don't feel like getting out of bed, tell yourself: "Go ahead, put one foot down. It won't hurt." When your emotions are down, lift yourself out of it. If you're angry, calm the r aging beast. If you're complaining, ease the pain. Use whatever method it takes to turn things around. Tell yourself what you are about to do: "I'm going to take this ski slope now..." Similarly, before going into a threatening environment, repeat many tim es your basic set of values. It helps stabilize you. Of course, every power can be misused, and there's a lot of nuts out there talking to themselves. So it's better not to do this in public. Rather, lock your door and let people think you're rehearsing fo r an act. Argue it out with yourself. Call yourself names. The main thing is that by articulating your ideas about living, you will get clarity. But beware of counterproductive words. Don't say "I'm no good, I'm stupid, I won't understand, I'm a failure, I can't change." Before long you'll start believing it. You'll tear yourself down and feel like nothing.


The idea is not to drive yourself crazy, or to make others think you've gone over the edge. Rather, you want to surface your rationalizations so you can get a clearer picture of reality. It's a way of putting the different "parts" of you together on the table, to get them to work in unity, and to eliminate the blocks that hold you back.

Pep Talk
Try giving yourself a daily pep talk on how much you are go ing to accomplish. "Today is a great day, full of possibilities. Life is beautiful and I'm fortunate to be alive. I'm going to be full of joy and apply all the wisdom I know. Today I will achieve my goals." Suddenly you're revved up and ready to go! If you have enough money, you can even hire someone to give you a pep talk. Otherwise, make a pact with a friend and give each other "the talk." Or just talk to yourself! Also at night, tell yourself: "Tomorrow I'm going to jump out of bed with energy and joy," or "I'm not going to get angry." Tell yourself why you are going to do it, how you are going to do it, and the pleasure you will get from doing it. You've just talked yourself into it. Now get out there and do it.


Thinking through a problem is only one step in the resolution process. A problem that remains in your mind will often go unresolved. Hearing the problem through your ears provides a level of objectivity and perspective, and helps focus your attention. By reviewing the issue out loud (or on paper), you'll define the difficulties. This will force you to search for a resolution. In a sense, you're able to play two roles at once: the teacher and the student. Try this method of problem resolution: 1. Write out a list of pros and cons. 2. Assign each item a value: 1 for important, 2 for very important, 3 for essential. 3. Then count up the total points for "pro" and the total for "con." You'll h ave a decision, as easy as that. Then, once a decision is made, don't take for granted that you mean business. Nonsense. We sometimes make up our minds and then do not even try. We're just bluffing ourselves.


Don't rely solely on your mind's decision. When ever you make an important decision, tell it over to a friend and see whether he believes you or not. When you try to sell it to someone else, he may just tell you: "Baloney!" Imagine you've made a resolution: "Tomorrow I am going to do XYZ. I am really going to get what I want out of life." How do you make sure it gets done? Say it out loud - with clear-cut, forceful meaning. Convince yourself that you mean it. You're the boss. If you so demand, it is done. You have the willpower. When you're stubborn, nobody can move you. No way. You've made up your mind. Now off you go. You're on the march!

Review Events Out Loud

Concretize in words your experiences of the day. What does it mean? What I am going to do about it? And if I'm not going to do anything about i t, why not? Deal with these issues. Articulate the important events of your life. Look back at a wedding, funeral, graduation, and say out loud: "What did I learn from this?" Strive to understand any experience both before and after you do it. This gives y ou more control over your life, and makes those events more integrated into your daily consciousness. Also try articulating your blessings. The extra dose of gratitude is a powerful tool for elevating one's level of happiness on a daily basis. The reward of all this articulation? You'll get to know yourself. And when you know what you want, you can go out and get it. If you know what's holding you back, you can eliminate the obstacles. If you know what your pleasure is, you can enjoy it. Your powers are fantabulous. If you do not know yourself, you are confused. You cannot get a hold of your powers. People pay a lot of money just to hear themselves talk. When you pay a psychiatrist $200 an hour, you have to talk a lot to get your money's worth. If someone wo uld sit with you, ask you questions, and listen to you talk, that would be fantastic. So talk to yourself - for free! Do you have difficulty talking out loud to yourself? Try writing instead. Keep a diary. Here's how to get started: Take a piece of paper a nd put it on the table in front of you. The paper calls for you to put something on it.


"It's the real thing." "Just do it." "Fly the friendly skies." The advertising industry spends billions to develop slogans.


Slogans are a quick and effective way to articulate core thoughts. Slogans enable us to remain clear about our goals and motivations - particularly when we're confused, tired, or both. Slogans inspire us to keep trying when we feel like giving up. Before attempting anything, ask yourself, "What do I hope to accomplish?" Then put your answer into a slogan that will stick in your mind. Look through the list of "48 Ways." It's basically a series of slogans. Judaism's most famous slogan is the Shema: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." More than just a prayer, it's a reminder of the very high purpose of life. Here's some more Jewish slogans: "It's a mitzvah to always be happy." "The external affects the internal." "The world stands on Torah, prayer, and kindness." "Everything happens for the good." ( "Gam zu l'tova.") "God is good." "God loves me." To increase your focus in life, try saying these things ... out loud ... over and over. If you're really serious, ask yourself, "What am I living for?" Then sloganize it, to keep you focused at all times. The more senses you have working at one time, the deeper the impression. Saying something out loud means you are using every one of your bones. You are using your diaphragm, your brain, your ears, and your lips, teeth and tongue. Try to be consciously aware of involving every fibre of your being. When you say "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God," do it from your toes. That makes a deep impression. It's living with everything you've got.

Why Is "Saying It Out Loud" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y y y y y y

"Saying it out loud" helps you clarify fuzzy ideas. Articulation is objectivity. The more senses you involve, the more of an impression it leaves on you. What you speak is an expression of who you are. Everyone needs a sounding board, a feedb ack system. Do it yourself! Never say, "I can't." Because then you won't, even if you could. Language is the bridge where body meets the soul. 16

y y

Talking aloud keeps you from falling asleep and day -dreaming. Words are reality. "To say is to be!"


Don't go through life making assumptions about who you are. Take the time now to "meet" yourself - before a crisis comes along and forces the issue. Did you ever get on a train going somewhere, only to find that you're headed in the wrong direction? The same thing happens in life. We set goals and make plans and sometimes discover that we're on "the wrong train." Bi-vinat ha-lave literally means "understanding the heart." The heart is the seat of emotions. We say: "My heart is heavy, my heart is lifted, my heart is broken," etc. To understand your heart is to understand your true inner self. Many people go through life making assumptions about who they are. They nev er take time to "meet" themselves. Don't be afraid of discovering that the "real you" may be different than the "current you." Often a crisis hits at midlife when people ask: "What's my life about? Is this all worth it?" We've heard stories of people who suddenly change direction, quitting their job and getting divorced. You know, like the successful doctor who decides he never wanted to go into medicine in the first place -- so he drops it and becomes an artist. Knowing yourself is the essence of being alive. If you don't know yourself, you are not living. If you don't know what makes you tick, you're a robot, a puppet, a zombie. So don't wait for a crisis. Life is too short to take wrong trains.

Getting Started
Think of someone you'd be fascinated to meet, someone you'd really like to find out what makes him tick. Now realize the most fascinating person you could ever meet is ... yourself. Sit down, say hello, and introduce yourself to yourself. Become familiar with yourself as if you'd just met a long-lost cousin. Interview yourself. Ask questions about your life and the direction you're going. Search out your dreams -- both the ones you're fulfilling and the ones you've pushed to the back of your mind. Get down to basics. You want to be rich. You want to be famous. You want to be good. You want to accomplish. You want meaning. You want to be creative. But why do you want all this? What's driving you? What you really want out of life? 17

The process of self-discovery involves asking a series of questions, always probing deeper until the underlying truth emerges. Ask yourself 10 questions that you would ask an intimate friend. Then wait for answers. Don't worry, no one is going to poke fun at you.
y y y y y y y y y y

What is the purpose of life? What is my goal in life? Why did I choose this career? How do I spend my spare time? What is my motivation for doing what I do? What really makes me happy? Am I as happy as I want to be? Is it more important to be rich or to be happy? What are my future plans? Why? What are my secret dreams and ambitions?

Don't be surprised if the answers aren't immediate. This process can take many months. Stick with it and find out what makes you tick. The answers are hiding in there. After all, you have a fascinating partner. Finally, the most important question to ask is: "What am I living for?" It sounds like a simple question, but many are embarrassed to ask it. A voice inside us says, "Nah, why ask such a basic question?" We're resistant because we know this requires a lot of difficult soul -searching. And when you thoroughly know yourself, then you have changed. You've changed your relationship with yourself and the world.

Confidence In Decision-Making
People often avoid making decisions out of fear of making a mistake. Actually, the failure to make decisions is one of life's biggest mistakes. Imagine the beggar who receives a letter saying that he's inherited a million dollars. If he doesn't read the letter, is he rich ... or not? Similarly, God gave us the free will to make choices in life and a chieve greatness. But if we're not aware of our free will, then we don't really have it. And then we wind up blaming others when things go wrong -- even though we know the decision is really up to us. If you're not using your potential, it wears away at yo ur confidence. Do you know what your potential is? Have you tried to use it? You have to tackle life. You haven't given up yet, have you? Let's get on with the game, with the business of really living, of not just "going through the motions." 18

Know the difference between "making decisions" and just floating, falling into place. Did you choose to go to college? Or perhaps you had nothing to do with the decision. Was it something you just did because you graduated high school and everybody else was doing it? Did you think it through and actually make a decision? Imagine this private conversation of a college student: Why am I going to college? To get a degree. Why? Because I want to get into a good graduate school. Why? So I'll get a good job. Why? So I can pay back my college loans! Through the process of questioning, he reveals a logical fault in his motivation. Really, the primary reason for going to college should be to acquire wisdom, knowledge and information. In other words, to get an education! Now try the process yourself, using this example: Why do I want to get married? Don't accept pat answers. Keep asking "Why, why why?" Be frank. It's yourself. Ask any question you like. Be patient and persistent. Eventually you'll get an answer. When you thoroughly analyze an issue, then you can make wise decisions with confidence. Identify where you lack confidence. What makes you nervous? What situations inhibit you from being yourself? Why can't you make decisions? Is it that you don't know how to make decisions? Or that you doubt your decisions after they're made? Or you just don't feel like making decisions? Enjoy making decisions. Deal with the world you live in. That's loving the dynamics of life.

Isolate Your Blocks

Anytime you find it difficult to achieve a goal, figure out what's holding you back. Everyone has problems. Being aware of these problems is the key to getting in touch with yourself. Because as long as you don't face problems, they fester and bug you from behind.


Write your "blocks" on a piece o f paper. That's a good step in the right direction. By isolating specific obstacles, you turn them into concrete challenges that require solutions. Ask yourself:
y y y y y y y y y y

Am I lazy? Why? Am I disorganized? Why? Do I get angry? When? Why do ever I get defensive? Abo ut what? What makes me jealous? What makes me arrogant? Do I have trouble making decisions? Why? Do I lack self-discipline? Do I lack self-confidence? Why don't I take more initiative?

Negative character traits are the roots of our problems. Make a list of your negative traits, and identify when they affect you the most. Then analyze what triggers these reactions in you. Finally, formulate an effective counter -approach. Working through this takes time. But do you have anything better to be doing right now?

Read Your Emotions

Get in touch with your emotional state. Take a reading of how you feel. Happy? Angry? Tense? Sad? Emotions are a measuring stick for what's going on below the surface. It's like taking your temperature. If you're sick, you need to be aware so you can fix the problem. Find out why you're upset. Who or what is pressuring you? Is it an internal or an external problem? Identify it. Let's say you are irritated. Why? Because the boss chewed me out. So why am I irritated? Because I resent him. So what? Why does that bother me? Because I feel I am no good. I'm no good? He's nuts! 20

Get out of yourself and track it down. If you don't, it's just irritation. And the next thing you know, you'll go home and yell at your kids. Once you've identified what causes negative feelings, adjust yourself to minimize the impact. Either avoid these situations, or prepare yourself to handle them when they arise. Further, root out negative motivations that corrupt your behavior. Let's say that you give charity. Why? One motivation is to help humanity. Another is the pleasure of being constructive. A third is the desire to do the right thing. These are all positive motivations. A negative motivation for giving charity is: "I want people to admire me." That's corruptive. The next time you give charity, do so anonymously. Eliminate the wrong reasons. They are destructive. The same goes with the positive emotions. Be aware of how your emotional state affects decisions. For example, don't buy a new stereo when you're in a euphoric mood. Wait. Think it over. You are susceptible. Pinpoint what makes you happy. You can have more joy on a daily basis by formulating some practical applications. You got up in the morning, it's a gorgeous day and you feet great. You're energized . Now take that feeling and teach yourself how to get up on the right side -- every day! Another example: You did a good job and got the boss's compliment. Now focus: Do you need the boss to tell you did a good job? No! Create your own pleasure out of doing a good job.

Get In Touch With Your Two Sides

Everyone has an urge for greatness. We want self respect, power, fame. We want to accomplish, to be strong, to do the right thing, to even save the world. Yet at the same time, we have a counter -urge to run away from responsibility, to get into bed and crawl under the covers. Someone may say, "Life is beautiful," but he doesn't feel it. His emotions hold him back and he walks around going, "Ugh, life is a burden." Recognize the volcano of conflict within you: What you truly "want," versus what you "feel" like. This is the conflict between body and soul. Once you appreciate the dichotomy, you can identify at any moment whether your body or soul is talking. This makes it possible to live with sanity and choose th e right thing. The next step is to make peace between your two sides. The easiest way is to squash your drive to be great. But life is not about taking the easy way out. Just 21

because you feel uncomfortable about an idea doesn't mean it's wrong for you. It' s hard to break habits, and growth can be frightening. For example, would you rather be happy or rich? Okay, you'd rather be happy. Now imagine this exchange: "Come on, I'll teach you how to be happy. All it requires is effort and change." "Oh, I'd love to, but I can't right now. It's impossible. I've got a flight to catch." "Really? I'll pay you $10,000 a week to work on happiness." "Sure! Where do I sign up?" "Oh, but I thought you can't right now..." We conceal our problems with rationalization: "I'll wreck my mind thinking about what life is about! Nobody really knows what life is about. It's not going to work. Nothing can be done about it anyway. I don't really care. It's not worth the time!" The Sages say that a person only makes a mistake when overc ome by a moment of insanity. So realize that you are fighting "insanity." It is not logical. You've got to be on guard. Because if you get off track, you'll pay for it down the road. So ... do you want to change? What have you got against it? Feel the anti pathy of the body. We are so darn lazy. The body just wants to sleep. "Aaaah ... I don't want to change. I'm happy enough. I'm comfortable in my niche of misery." Are you rich enough? No! So are you happy enough? You see the importance of tracking that dow n? You have to identify the animal you are fighting. "The dread of change." If you're alert, you see the enemy. You can fight it. You may lose a struggle with the body, but at least you have your confidence. "I know what I am doing."

Coax The Body

Get in touch with your spiritual core. Know what is driving you. Don't let free will be a subconscious thing. You want greatness. But the body says that's too much effort. To try to convince the body, try to identify the tangible benefit. "Why is it necessary? What will it do for me?" You have to bring it home to emotional realization. "What do I lose?" What do I gain?" Only then will the idea have power. And you'll get out there and do it. Here's the secret formula: Identify with your intellect, and coax your hea rt along. For example, if you're emotionally convinced of the benefit of getting into shape, then even when you break out in a cold sweat and your heart is doing palpitations, you will keep going. Because you have decided, "I want this," you know it is imp ortant. To avoid negative backlash, your emotions have to feel comfortable with the changes you make. Learn to relax and reassure the body. Cajole the body and say, 22

"It won't be so bad. Remember the last time you made an effort, how great you felt!" Be encouraging and reward yourself for success. Don't say it doesn't work. You haven't made the effort. Don't give up on your intuition and perception. Just realize you haven't yet brought it home to actualization. Consider how the basic human drives affect you: security, self-respect, honor, passions, social pressure, and possessions. Pay particularly close attention to how you accept responsibility. Let's say that you made a mistake. You want to apologize in a full and forthright manner. Yet you feel like forge tting the whole thing, hiding, running away and saying "it's not my fault." This is the volcano. We want to be tough, dedicated and powerful -- yet we feel like being marshmallows. Choosing the path of the soul doesn't come naturally. It takes a lot of time and hard work.

Know What You Know

Don't think that just because you understand something, you are living with it. It is possible to believe one way, and yet act another. It happens to us all the time. You can believe it's important to eat healthy food, y et gorge yourself on French fries and chocolate cake. Our actions are determined by our level of clarity. If we understand an idea on just a superficial level, then we'll have difficulty sticking to it when the going gets tough. Next time you go to a funeral, watch carefully. When they remove the body from the chapel, the mourners start to cry. Are they crying because they want to body to stay there?! No. All of a sudden there is a realization of death, that he won't be coming back. At the cemetery, they lower the casket into the ground and the mourners cry again. It's the emotional realization that death is final now. Until you align your feelings with reality, you are in dreamland. Growth begins in the mind, but your heart has to buy into everything your mind discovers. Only then will you integrate these ideas into day -to-day life. A lot of people believe in God. There are very few people who live with God. Does that make sense? You have to assimilate something that you've accepted as true. It has to become part of you.

Five-Finger Clarity
You've got to know yourself cold, just like you know your hand has five fingers. How do you know you are on the right path? How do you know you're not making a mistake right now? To develop this clarity, articulate the imp ortant principles that guide your life. For example, in Judaism we say that love is an obligation. Is this reasonable? Work the issue through with yourself: 23

"Ridiculous. You can't obligate me to love." "But if I have children, will I love them?" "Of course I'm going to love my kids!" "How do I know? I don't know what kind of kids I'm going to have. Maybe they'll be brats and I won't love them." "I will. I'm obligated to love my children." Do you see the contradiction? On an intuitive level, you know that love is an obligation. But the concept is not so clear that you can articulate it. Take your time. Sort out the basic aspects of living. Ask yourself important questions about life's global and spiritual issues. -- What is the meaning of existence? -- What's good about living? -- How do I feel about humanity? -- What is the afterlife? -- How do I understand good versus evil? -- Do I have free will? How do I activate it? -- What makes me sad? Is it okay to be sad? -- How do I feel about God? -- Am I proud to be a Jew? -- How do I understand the Holocaust? Some of these topics may be unpleasant to think about. If so, why is it unpleasant? Track it down. Don't just use slogans to parrot things that you heard. Know why you are doing what you are doing. Otherwise, it's just society talking. You may have adopted part of society without analyzing its validity. Check it out. Work through all the issues until you have "five -finger clarity." A human being who knows what he wants will get there. By hook or by crook. It's like a homing mechanism on a missile. If you program it right, you will get there.

Why Is "Knowing Yourself" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y y y

You can know truth if you look honestly into yourself. Emotions are powerful forces of greatness. Know them. H arness them. Identify your problems. It's the beginning of solving them. If you don't get it straight now, you're bound to make some bad mistakes. 24

y y y y y y

Don't be afraid of finding out who you really are. Use your free will as a conscious tool for better living. If you're angry or upset, track it down. What's the root? If you're acting illogically, at least acknowledge that to yourself! The key to sanity is letting truth into the body. You can't afford to wait too long to get to know yourself. Because you are the most fascinating person you'll ever meet.


In the face of tremendous force like the Grand Canyon or a hurricane, human beings feel small. Do we mind? No! It's exhilarating. It's the power of awe. Imagine you're standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon with a majestic purple -andorange sunset blazing across the western sky. You stand transfixed for an hour, then look up at the awesome expanse of stars. You are transformed, lifted, in awe. B'aima literally means "with awe." Awe is an exp erience so powerful that it's paralyzing. On the other hand, we know awe to be extremely exhilarating. What defines an awesome experience? When we look at the expanse of stars, we see power, beauty, harmony. We realize that each tiny star is actually a raging sun. And in the face of tremendous force, we feel insignificant by comparison. We realize our own weakness, our smallness, our mortality. Yet surprisingly, this doesn't depress us. It inspires us. Because we're merged with the greater whole. That reali zation can be a source of tremendous positive energy. And if you know the secret of awe and use it effectively, you can actively release its power in day-to-day living.

Capturing The "Wow"

We've all had awesome moments: Witnessing the sheer power of a hurricane, tornado, avalanche, 50 -foot waves. Or experiencing the awesome drama of the Swiss Alps. Or being in the presence of an awesome political or cultural leader. Yet too often we leave the awesome experience, and slip back into our mundane routine without being affected. The secret is to capture the experience in a way that you can recall it and harness that energy in the future. Here's how to do it: The next time that awe strikes -- whether it's human achievement, or the raw forces of nature -- verbalize what you feel. Say aloud: That's awesome! As a little voice inside affirms, you feel a chill and an instant lift. But more


importantly, the moment is concretized. You have a point of reference to draw on in the future. The next step, of course, is to replay the awesome experience in your mind. Imagine, for example, that you have an idle moment while stuck in traffic. You project yourself back into the awesome experience, and suddenly the world looks different. You are on a different wavelength. This is no regular traffic jam!

Gaining Perspective
Imagine someone calling you an idiot. Or that you're stuck in traffic. Or that the boss is hassling you. When this happens, you can become angry and caught up in the pettiness of life. The remedy? Take a moment to go outside and walk under the stars. When you witness the vastness of the universe, it puts things into perspective. When you come back inside, you won't be starry-eyed. You'll be energized. You'll say, I'm sorry. Let's forget it and move on. Awe helps release you from the limits of the body. You are suddenly in a world of different dimensions, transported into the eternity of beauty, power, majesty. You've got an expanded perspective. It's no longer me versus you. We're all one. So why be aggravated? Awe carries us beyond ourselves. In times of war and tragedy -- as well as prosperity and joy -- people get "bigger." They treat each other nicer. Pettiness is forgotten. Anytime you're in a rut, blast yourself out. Take a walk under the stars. This will unleash the power. You cannot be bored or petty when you are in awe.

The Quiet "Wow"

A quiet wow can be equally awesome. After a storm, you look out the window to see the glisten of fresh snow blanketing the ground and thin icicles dangling from the trees. A moment, literally, frozen in time. When we meditate on the simple beauty of life, we are lifted, connected, transported out of ourselves. We have constant access to this quiet awesomeness. A spring walk through the forest. A babbling brook. Majestic music. A baby laughing. A heartbeat. So why don't we feel this awe constantly? Because yesterday's novelty is today's boredom. Notice how little children find everything exciting and fascinating. But before long, they get used to what they have constant ac cess to -- people, places, ideas. And life just seems mundane. 26

Yet who says that growing up means becoming numb? Instead of taking your daily environment for granted, stop and focus. When you look at a human being, appreciate the miracle of it all. Conside r, for example, human speech: the coordination of lips, teeth, tongue, larynx -- while the brain recalls, formulates, and transmits thoughts into muscle movements, which then somehow produce sound waves. And it's all just a bunch of electrons spinning at n early the speed of light, connected to protons through the magical power of gravity. For just a moment, stand in awe. See everything in the dimension that it really is, not the mundane nature that we're used to. Try it one time. This will re -tune you into the awesome power of living. You don't need to travel around the world for awe -inspiring moments. They are available to us constantly, everywhere. If we just open our eyes they will impact us. Every time you see a locomotive, the ocean, a flower. There is nothing mundane about existence. Nothing. An entire forest can be germinated from a single seed... It's a mind-boggling world. We just have to pay attention. The fight for life is to be sensitive and aware. Walk through life constantly keeping your eyes open with toothpicks, never bored, never mundane, never into a simple existence. Always wondering what is life, who are we, what are we doing. If you pay attention and think about everything that is going on, it is a different lifestyle, a different power fo r existence, a different way of dealing with your family, friends, the environment. You will never be petty. You will never give up. You are lifted out of it. You are grown up. Everything is mind -boggling. This will transform you for the rest of your life.

Exalted Human Potential

A cheetah is awesome, and a super-computer is awesome. But humans are much more. There is spiritual potential. Every human being is created in the image of God. We have divine powers. We can become great by emulating God. That alon e makes every human awesome. King David wrote: When I look up at the heavens, and I see the work of Your fingers, I think of man. And I say: 'What is man, that You remember him? What is all humanity that You take notice of it?' And yet, You made him just a bit less than God Himself. Treat yourself with the same awesomeness that you would a volcano. There is tremendous energy available. You just need to tap into it. You are latent power waiting to be actualized. Never lose sight of this fact. Open yourself up to see your real potential. Be in awe of your human ability to move this universe, to encompass it, to understand it, to reach the stars, and send hunks of steel flying to distant planets. 27

Don't underestimate yourself. Stop looking at what you are. Look at what you can be. You can solve humanity's problems, instead of just accepting them and suffering. You can destroy or create the entire world. That is what we are dealing with. Use this power proactively. If you've got an important deadline, or are prepa ring to speak before a large crowd, take a walk under the stars. It will sober you up, snap you into the right perspective. There's no reason to be nervous. A world of opportunity awaits you. Now is the time to step up to the plate and knock the ball out of the park. Always be aware of the awesome power within you, and within every human being. Treat everyone with reverence, caution, respect, awe. And treat yourself the same way.

The Ultimate Source Of Awe

The shortcut to achieve awe is to go straight to th e source. The real reason that the hurricane, flower, snow and music are so awesome, is because they reflect the eternal, transcendent force that we call God. And if creation is this incredibly awesome, just imagine how awesome is the Creator Himself! Consider what God does for you on a daily basis. God's personal intervention in our lives is awesome. Take time to notice it in your life. If you don't feel His presence, you are not in reality. The reality of this world, there is nothing mundane, dull or routine. We are touching infinity every moment of our lives. When we know there is a God - a Creator, Sustainer and Supervisor of it all - then we're ahead of the game. It opens us up. It gives us a new perspective. We see new possibilities, new dimensions. God is a personal God. He is aware of us. We are in His presence. He is paying attention. God is communicating to us through His world of beauty and design. He is here and available. The Almighty Creator of this whole universe is saying: My child, I love you. I created you to give you pleasure. Come, let's explore the world together. The Creator of the universe loves you? Wake up! That's exciting news! Torah is the Almighty's personal message to His children. Treat it with awe. Imagine if you received a secret communication from outer space. That's awesome! You'd find out who sent the message, and the depth of its meaning. Whether we know it or not, every one of us is seeking the transcendent experience. We are truly living for that moment of recognition, of tapping into God. Awe is the awareness of small insignificant me -- and the overwhelming greatness of God. Are you worried about your car, your paycheck, your theater tickets? It's insane to worry about these things when you're standing in the presence of God. That's why you feel lifted, transported, and in touch with eternity. 28

Prayer is the experience of speaking to God. You are talking to the Master of all creation. So the next time you recite a blessing, know Who you are talking to. Jewish consciousness is that before doing anything, you should stop and ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Put yourself in focus whenever you start doing anything. It is for the honor of connecting with your Creator. Before eating, when going to work, when watering your garden . Stop and say: This is for the honor of connecting with my Creator. Walk this way -- with your head in the sky and your feet on the ground.

Why Is "Awe" An Ingredient In Wisdom?


Awe can break through laziness and open ruts. It unleashes potential and locked-up energies. It's a human tendency to be petty. Awe pulls us up and out. The reality of this world is that there is nothing mundane. Life has the potential to be one thrill after another, if you understand the power of every moment. Concretize awesome experiences so you can recall them at any time. Awe is the result of seeing potential actualized. Seek the small "wows." The awesomeness of life is without end. Use the awesomeness of everyday life to relate to the Creator of it all. See the power and the p leasure of understanding truth. You are in touch with the awe of "wisdom." Step outside under the stars. It'll put you back on track.

y y y

y y y y y


Roller coasters and horror movies... we pay good money to be scared out of our wits. Find out how to harness the energy of "fear" for positive purposes. The Hebrew word yirah means both "to fear" and "to see." Way #6 -- Yirah -- teaches that the essential choice of life is to open our eyes to available opportunities, and to fear the consequences of avoid ing that reality. Fear of consequences can be a great motivator in getting the job done quickly and efficiently. Ask a teenager: "Please take out the garbage ." His response: "Later!" Now say it like this: "If you don't take out the garbage, you can forget about borrowing the car." The teen's response? He's running with the garbage! Fear is like any other emotion -- there are both positive and negative aspects. Negative fear is debilitating. Positive fear is exhilarating. The adrenaline gets the 29

blood running in your veins. It gives you power to accomplish what you want to do. If you're walking along and spot a snake, fear propels you to run with blazing speed and hurdle the fence like an Olympian. With fear, you are out of the dream world and 100 percent into reality. Making the right choice is a constant human struggle. We have an inclination to take the easy way out, and to ignore the coming consequences. "To see or not to see?" -that is the Jewish question.

Be Afraid Of Meaninglessness
Remember the old TV program where you had 10 minutes in a supermarket to grab whatever you could? The woman was running up and down the aisles, looking for what is most valuable. She didn't want to end up with a cartload of soap suds. That show is a metaphor for life. Ther e are eternal consequences. Each moment can be lived to the fullest -- or wasted into nothingness. Life is serious business. The ultimate human fear is to live without meaning. We all want to have an impact, to help others, to change the world. Try saying the words: "I'm happy being mediocre." You can't say it! Remember the time you asked yourself, "What does it all add up to?" We have this moment of clarity, and then what do we do? We run for the ostrich hole, start playing tennis, put on the music, call u p a friend. Don't run for the ostrich hole. Be afraid of being mediocre. Be afraid of not having self-respect. Be afraid of waking up one morning and saying to yourself: "What did I do with my life?" Use this fear to inspire you to figure out what counts m ost in life. Then go get it.

Fear Of Mortality
Each of us knows we will die one day. But we fool ourselves into thinking that those who die belong to a separate sector of humanity. " They are the mortal ones. We are immortal." Underneath it all, we have thi s illusion. Did you ever have a friend who died? Maybe he was 17 and got killed in a motorcycle accident. How did you react? " But I just talked to him yesterday! He can't really be dead. He was so full of life! " What does that mean -- "It can't be"? What we're really saying is that it's too close for comfort. I'm not in the mortal group. And now my friend is dead. That's too close. It can't be. Realize that each of us can be dead in one minute. You don't need an airplane crashing through the ceiling. You do n't need a heart condition. All it takes is one 30

blood clot and ... bang! These are the facts of life. But we don't feel like looking at it. "I am immortal. Other people get mugged, other people die. Not me!" When someone we know dies unexpectedly, we feel our own sense of vulnerability. It makes us think, "Am I using my time efficiently?" Take a close look at your life history. Trace the years back, and see how well you've used your time. Often our past is a blur, and as you get older, this becomes even more pronounced. We all have a clock ticking and don't know how long it's going to run. How many years do you figure you have left? Don't think it's open -ended. Someday you will have only one year left. And someday you will have only one day left. So plan for it now. As the Sages say: "Put your life on track one day before you die ." Some Jews have the custom of visiting their future burial plots once a year, usually before Rosh Hashana. Why? It's not morbidity. It makes the point clear: " I am mortal, and this is where I'll end up. So what do I want written on my tombstone? " Live every day as if it's your last -- because one day it will be. Tick, tick, tick...

Wipe Out Pettiness

Use this realization to correct the way you're living now. Wipe out pettiness, irritations, illusions, trivialities. How do you wipe out pettiness? Imagine you're fighting with your parents or siblings, and then find out you have only one day to live. What will you say? Or if they were dying, what would you say? Too often we don't apprec iate what we have until we lose it. When they're dead, we say, "I should have treated them better. I should have called more often." If you live with this reality, you will not fight with your parents anymore. You will not hold a grudge against your brothe r. If you had a terminal illness, you will even treat a stranger differently. You won't waste your time arguing with someone who cut in line. Life is too precious to be petty. Be motivated by the fear of losing what is precious. Imagine losing your eyesigh t. Walk around with a blindfold for an hour. If you envision dying tomorrow, what will you do with today? Will you waste it on frivolous things -- or try to achieve something more lasting, more meaningful, more eternal? Do you see how that fear pushes you a bit?


Fear Of God
One of the primary obligations in Judaism is to fear God. We fulfill this Mitzvah by paying attention to reality and seeing the consequences of our actions. Imagine hidden cameras monitoring your progress through life. The whole world is watching. People cheer when you succeed and boo when you fail. With all those people staring, won't you be careful with every move? Won't your motivation to succeed increase tremendously? Walk with a constant awareness of God. Everything is recorded on videotape. Are we maximizing life's opportunity, or are we wasting it? One day we'll have to answer for our actions. That fear can motivate you to greatness. Unfortunately, human nature is to become distracted. Each of us has a self -doubting inclination, called the Yetzer Hara. It's like a vicious dog, always threatening you: "You're overextending yourself. You'll have a nervous breakdown and fall apart." We hesitate to act because we're frightened by his threats. Fear of God gives you full freedom. Nothing will stand in your way. The dog is insignificant compared to fear of God. You just push right ahead. You're free from all other fears. Fear of God is the key to everything we want to accomplish in this world. So what's holding us back? Consider the following four myths:

MYTH #1 - Fear Is Painful

On one hand, people say that fear is uncomfortable and threatening. We structure our lives to avoid it. On the other hand, people ride roller coasters and watch horror movies -- paying good money to get scared out of their wits! How do we understand this contradiction? It's a mistake to think that fear is painful. Yes, fear is uncomfortable, but it delivers great pleasure. When they shove you out of the airplane before the parachute opens, you forget all the nonsense of this world. The brush with death makes you appreciate how good it is to be alive. You're plugged into reality. Suddenly life is a thrill! Counteract the discomfort of fear by focusing on the positive side -- every moment is lived with awareness and excitement. Gather your powers. Use your potential. Be motivated by fear. It is thrilling to be afraid! Go to an amusement park and watch people getting off the roller coaster. Everyone's giggling for the first block: "It's great to be alive." By the second block, they're getting 32

more serious as they begin to remember their problems. By the third block, they're into petty nonsense, back to their old depressed selves... Life is boring without fear. Notice how "successful" people inevitably look for new risky ventures. It may be a risky financial investment, or it may be hang -gliding lessons. What's the key to getting the most out of life? Feel like you're constantly getting off the roller coaster.

MYTH #2 - Fear Is Paralyzing

People think that fear is paralyzing and reduces your potential. Actually, the opposite is true. Fear can generate super -human feats. We've all heard stories about a mother who picked up a car to save her child trapped underneath. Facing fear is empowering. It gives you strength yo u never knew you had. Fear is only damaging when you run away and don't confront it. Imagine watching bullies beat someone up, and you just stand by watching. You'll wince every time you think about it. If you don't face the fear and stand up for what's right, you'll suffer that experience for the rest of your life. But if you face the bullies and they back down (or even if you fight and get a little bloody), you'll enjoy that moment for the rest of your life. You were afraid, but you stood up. You did the right thing. That's true pleasure. Better to try and fail, than to have feared to try. "Shock" debilitates, "fear" motivates. Imagine a cowboy riding a bucking bronco. The fear of being tossed makes him alert to every move, so his response can be accurate and quick. You have to look at life the same way.

Avoiding The Challenge

Too often, we miss an opportunity to excel because we say: "I can't. It's too much effort." For example, imagine you're asked to memorize one page of the phone book in 24 hours. "Impossible!" you say. But what if you're held hostage and they say: "If you don't memorize one page of the phone book by tomorrow night, you're dead." No question you'll do it! Here's a practical example. Do you want to get out of bed in the morning with a bang? Sure, but it's too much effort. How about if I come with a gun every morning? You'll get up with a bang, no problem!


Now how much would you pay to wake up like that every day for the rest of your life? $5,000? $10,000? You really want to get up that way ! So come on! Let's go! Take advantage of the power of fear as a tool to tackle all your "I can'ts." Make a list of these "I can'ts" and put a price tag on them. What is the reward, and what is the consequence? Having this clarity will turn you into a very effective human being.

MYTH #3 - Fear Means Loss Of Freedom

People avoid fear in order to preserve independence. We think if there's an outside force telling us what to do, we'll be intimidated into becoming a robot. We'd rather choose to do the right thi ng on our own. Fear of the Almighty is different. When you fear violating God's word, that frees your potential. Why? Because God doesn't want to control you, He only wants what's good for you. So fear of God becomes freedom from nonsense, from silly fears , from pettiness. If you fear God, you're free from all other fears in the world. Fear is only enslaving when someone else is purposefully trying to be fearsome and controlling. But fear of reality -- the possibility of missed opportunities -- is a motivation to get us where we want to be. We all say: "I want to be good, but I don't want to make the effort." Fear motivates you to get the job done. At work, you know that if you don't show up, you'll get fired. So you get out of bed early. Fear of failing a test makes you study harder. In the end, this fear helps you succeed and have more self -respect. We all want greatness. We want to be tough, disciplined, organized. Fear leaves you unencumbered. For the right amount of money or for survival, you will do wha tever it takes to succeed.

MYTH #4 - Fear Is Demeaning

People think that if a certain act is right, you should do it because it's right, not out of fear of consequences. It seems demeaning to respond based on fear. Ideally, we should all do the right thing simply because it's right, and avoid what's wrong, irrespective of the consequences. Indeed, the Sages say: "Someone who serves God because he seeks reward, or to avoid punishment, is a bad servant." He's only serving himself. If the devil could pay more, he'd be loyal to the devil. (In reality, there's only God. But if there was an option, this person might choose to serve the devil.) So why is there a special Mitzvah to acquire fear? Shouldn't we get full motivation from love of God? Yes, someone who serves God out of love is on a much higher level. And we should strive to do the right thing because it's right, not because it will "get you to heaven." But we have to be realistic as well. Love is often insufficient motivation to do good. 34

As long as you will march faster and do the right thing by getting paid $100,000, it's better to take the money and do the right thing! Suppose there was a program to help bring homeless people into the community shelter. Ideally, you would do this for free. But if you were offered $100 for every homeless person you brought to the shelter, you'd bring in more. Did the reward "corrupt" you? No. It just gave you a stronger motivation for doing what you already knew was right. And there's an added consideration as well. Hopeful ly, acting out of fear will eventually lead you to do the right thing out of love.

The Pain Reflex

Everyone is born with the ability to sense pain. If we're stuck with a pin or burned by fire, our hand jumps back instinctively. But some people are born wit hout a pain response. They feel nothing if their hand is put into fire. Sure, it's nice not to feel pain. But someone who feels no pain is in constant danger. He's black and blue all the time. He puts his hand in the fire and says, "You smell something burning? Hey! It's my hand!" But he's in trouble, the hand is gone already. Pain is essential to our survival. And that's the purpose of fear of God, of keeping ultimate consequences clearly in mind. It's not the goal in life, but a means to an end. It helps us think twice before we insult someone or yell at our parents. Imagine you're speaking to someone and he starts spewing filthy gossip. You know it's wrong to listen, so you ponder, "Maybe I'll just politely stand here for a few minutes..." But if someone is ready to smack you on the head with a baseball bat for gossiping, you'll immediately say, "I'm getting outta here!" You don't make calculations. You just do the right thing. Fear of punishment is like a pain reflex. It keeps us from doing things that wi ll cause us harm later on. It gets you where you want to be.

Putting It All Together

The single most important goal in life is to have clarity, to live in reality. And of course, reality exists objectively -- outside of our own subjective perception of it. Reality itself is very thrilling. It wakes us up and puts things into perspective. Imagine someone addicted to nicotine. How do you motivate him to stop? Show him an x -ray of tarred lungs. That fear gives him the freedom to break out of the rut and do wha t he knows he needs to. Just as you are motivated out of personal fear, do the same for your family, your community, and for all humanity. You see a divorce. You see parents nagging their children. You see people in depression, people hurting each other. W e see this all the time. So what do we do? 35

We use the ostrich syndrome. We see but we don't see. We say: "Not me, I will never nag my children. Not me, I will never be depressed. Not me, I will never get divorced." Do you really think you are going to be d ifferent? Be real! You are one of them! Whenever you see tragedy, learn how to avoid it. If you see someone getting mugged, you know not to go down that street again. Whatever it is, draw a lesson. When you see a divorce, fear the possibility that this wil l happen to you. That's called "being real." Apply the same thing to the Jewish people. In 1967, there was a worldwide recognition that the Jewish state was in high jeopardy of being wiped out. People came to Israel or offered help in other ways -- to donate money, time, influence, activism. The fear, the threat, brought them to a sudden realization of how deeply they care about the Jewish people. How would you feel if, God forbid, the State of Israel was wiped out? Be real with the consequences of life. You don't need a roller coaster. All you have to do is to take a subway at midnight. Or remember that Saddam has the atom bomb. Look around and read the headlines. It's a threatening world. Carry that fear with you and use it as a positive motivator for gr eatness.

Why Is "Fear" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y y y

Fear helps you do what's right, not what society thinks is right. Fear gets you in touch with your own mortality; death is the most potent fear. Fear is an exercise in free will. Be afraid of a meaningless ol d age. If you live as though there will always be a tomorrow, then you'll never make much of today. Fear is not restricting. Fear is power and freedom. With fear, you can feel the thrill of life 100 percent of the time.

y y


Humility is not an inferiority complex. It's doing the right thing and not being dependent on the opinion of others. A movie star enters the party: strutting, cocky, head raised. His manner shouts: "I'm great and we all know it." The room is silent with awe. Charisma ! Judaism calls this counterfeit charisma. The movie star is totally dependent on external factors over which he has no control. Without the adoring fans, he has nothing. Way #7 teaches that the path to genuine charisma is B'anava - "with humility." 36

Does humility really generate charisma?! Don't we usually imagine the humble person as meek, hunched over, and barely noticeable? Let's define our terms. Humility is not an inferiority complex or lack of self -esteem. Humility means "living with the reality that nothing matters except doing the right thing." The humble person is totally dedicated to the pursuit of truth. And because his self-esteem is not dependent on approval from others, he can choose the right thing even when it's not popular or politically cor rect. An arrogant person, on the other hand, is mostly concerned with his own ego, his own pride, his own money. So even though he appears friendly and charming, he's really manipulating things to suit his selfish needs.
y y

"Arrogance" = I'm all that counts. "Humility" = What's greater than me counts.

Transcending The Pettiness

Despite his smooth exterior, the arrogant person is, ironically, restrained and inhibited from expressing his true self. How can he "be himself" when he is constantly preoccupied with h ow he appears in the eyes of others? Humility is freedom. When you are only concerned about truth, and living by it, then you are free to express yourself in the most genuine and uninhibited way. Your natural beauty shines through. That's real charisma! The Torah tells us that the most humble person of all time - Moses - was, not coincidentally, also the most charismatic. As the teacher of Torah, Moses had a quiet confidence in the justness of his cause. He could not be rattled by rebels or complaints. And that's what earned him the greatest respect. With such genuine self-confidence, the humble person has transcended the mundane pettiness of this world. He doesn't have to answer every insult. He can rise above arguments. He knows his place, and helps others find their place, too. He makes everyone feel important. Because with the humble person, if others excel, there's no jealousy or risk of ego crisis. Have you ever met such a person? It draws you like a magnet. Wouldn't you like some of that charisma?

The Human Need For Meaning

Because humility is predicated on the pursuit of truth, it fuels the basic human need for meaning. We see that people are searching for meaning in life. Almost everyone wants to help the needy, the poor, the hungry and the homeless. And many people choose 37

"helping" careers like health care and social work. Money alone is not enough pleasure to carry one through a lifetime. Unfortunately we often get side -tracked by the mundane issues of daily life. Amidst all the errands, meetings and e-mails, we lose clarity on what is ultimately meaningful. One way to focus is to ask yourself: "What am I living for? Am I eating to live, or living to eat? Do I work to live, or live to work?" Every day you have to re -ask these questions. This will help to keep your job, relationships, and overall goals in perspective. So what are you living for? Do some research. See if your "life goal" is truly meaningful, or just some abstract notion. If you hear a voice say, "There's no real objective purpose to life ," check out whether that's true before you concede. Don't give up so quickly. Don't fall in with the cynics. Meaning is too vital to ignore. Just like food and water, your health depends on it.

Do The Right Thing

Doing the right thing is often difficult, because we don't always perceive it as providing a great source of pleasure. If you think about it, you'll see there is no greater pleasure. Material pleasures are necessary and nice, but they do not compare to the higher pleasures of love and meaning. Ima gine being offered 10 million dollars in exchange for one of your children. After rejecting the offer, you'll be overwhelmed with the precious value of that child! You may have always known his worth on an intellectual level, but now it becomes real to you . Similarly, if you were given the choice of killing 1,000 innocent children, or being killed yourself, you know what you'd choose. Even though this scenario is extreme, it reveals something deep in the psyche of every human being: Being good is so importa nt that we're even willing to die for it.

What Is Your Cause?

Now let's take this a step further. If you are willing to die in order to be "good," the corollary is that there is no higher goal in living than being good! Ultimately, everyone is dying for a cause. World peace, save the whales, political reform, everyone is dedicated to something. The only question that remains, therefore, is "what is your cause?" Sit down and figure out what you're willing to die for. Read eulogies. They're a good dose of humility. They help us understand the meaning of life. Try writing your own 38

obituary. For what do you want to be remembered? This gives you objectivity and perspective. Once you've found a cause so meaningful that you'd forfeit your life for it, then you have the answer to the more important question: What you should be living for. And when you indeed live for that cause, you will have unparalleled power, purpose and pleasure. Now make a plan to implement this into your day -to-day life. Start slowly, taking one small step at a time, so not to be overwhelmed. Keep your eye on the goal and gauge your progress every day. Connecting with your ultimate purpose is a big project. But there's no better use of your time and energy. Are you up to the challenge?

Do It For The Right Reason

"Doing the right thing" is a high level, but there's a higher level still. You also have to do the right thing for the right reason - i.e. "because it's the right thing to do." If you do the right thing for selfish reasons - e.g., so you can brag about your accomplishments - you'll end up feeling lousy about yourself. The story is told of a great rabbi, on his death bed, praying with great intensity. His students were gathered around and asked, "Rabbi, what are you thinking at this moment?" Answered the rabbi: "A little voice inside me is saying, 'Pray with great intensity so your students will be impressed." Even at the moment of death, this great sage was battling his ego! True charisma comes when we disengage ourselves from the need for outside approval. So do the right thing for the right reason. No matter what the consequences may be. It's the greatest feeling in the world!

GOD: The Ultimate In Meaning

In the pursuit of meaningful achievement, what makes a person more impactful acting according to a subjective opinion (which can change at any moment), or according to an outside objective standard? Obviously it is more meaningful to fulfill what is objectively right. Judaism says that in order to discover true meaning, we have to be in touch with what the Creator wants. Because God, being outside the bounds of human ego and partisanism, is the source of objectivity. In essence, He defines what is "good." Objectivity and humility are linked ideas. Objectivity gives us the ability to rise above selfish desires and do the right thing, for the right reasons. That leads to humility. 39

Moses was called "the most humble" because he stood before God with the utmost respect. With awe. Moses knew his place. Anything else precludes room for God to fit in. That's why the Talmud likens arrogance to idol worship; both push away the presence of God. In any situation, ask yourself: "What would God want?" Do what He says, and you'll always be doing the right thing.

Open Up To Wisdom
Use humility to open yourself up to wisdom. Without humility we can't hear wisdom, because we are too stuck in our own subjective reality. The Sages ask a fundamental question: Why was the Torah given in a desert ? Because a desert is empty. What this means is that to acquire Torah - to receive God's wisdom - we must first be willing to open up space inside. One way to attain more objectivity is to give someone else advice. Dealing with external issues will help you see your own situation more clearly. The bottom line: The more you rise above the need for others' approval, and develop your inner sense of self-esteem, the more charisma you will possess. And that's something no one can ever take away from you.

Why Is "Humility" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y

Humility generates truth an d objectivity. Humility is freedom. Your personality expresses itself in an organic, internally generated, and more real way. Humility is pleasure. Arrogance is pain. Humility enables you to embrace others. Humility deepens your relationship with God. Until you know what you are willing to die for, you have not yet begun to live.

y y y y


Joy gives you the power, motivation and confidence to achieve things that otherwise seem too difficult to attempt. Better than a granola bar - joy is pure energy. Do you remember the thrill of hitting a home run? Getting out on the last day of school? Riding your new bicycle? You jump with joy. Fantastic! Joy gives you energy and makes you feel great. You can achieve all kinds of things that otherwise may seem too difficult to attempt. With joy, you're not afraid to talk to the guy sitting next to you on the plane. No problem! You've got energy, buoyancy. You're alive! 40

Way #8 is B'simcha - with joy. Some people may have more "natural" joy. But joy can be studied and mastered like any other tool. When you have joy, you can do anything better, stronger, faster. Your memory is better. Your drive on the golf course is better. Your sales pitch is better. Everything is better. You're not reaching your potential unless yo u have joy. A pro athlete, no matter how many times he steps up to the plate, still needs a thrill from the pitch, the swing, the fresh spring air, the cheering crowd. Otherwise his game is flat; he's playing by rote. It's the same in life. When you have joy, you live with a different verve. Joyous people are energetic and ambitious. There's never enough time to do everything you want to do. So whether you're studying, touring, working or relaxing, first get into a state of joy. It will give you a big boost of power and confidence.

Counterfeit Joy
Remember when your home team won the World Series? The city erupted in energy and euphoria and thousands took to the streets. But in the end there was violence and destruction and arrests. Is this what joy is supposed to produce? Did those people have joy or didn't they? What went wrong? It wasn't joy. It was hysterical delusion. Learn to differentiate between real joy, which generates the power to accomplish, and illusory joy, whose burst of energy fades into a let -down. Illusory joy is New Year's Eve and you celebrate all night long. "The world is perfect and I love everyone!" But there's a let -down. More than any other day, New Year's Eve has the highest rate of suicides. People who win the hundred -million-dollar lottery jump with joy. What is their anticipation? To travel around the world, to be important. "Now I'm going to do whatever I feel like the rest of my life. I am free, a master of my fate. No more work, no more worries, no problems, no nothing. A hundred million dollars!" Will that sensation last? You know you can have tons of money and be thoroughly miserable. The lottery winner may not know what he wants to achieve with his life. So the joy is an illusion. After a year, he's back in university, the hund red million dollar university student. Why? "Maybe philosophy will interest me..." Joy isn't silly drunkenness, playing jokes, or making fun of people. Joy is the deep happiness that comes with fulfilling your potential.


If you know what you want out of li fe, then you can go after it even without a hundred million dollars. A shot of joy and you're ready to go. Do you see how this is power for living?

The Pleasure Of Growth

It used to be when they wanted to show euphoric joy in a movie, a man would be told he had a new son. He'd dance up and down, delirious with joy, running down the street sticking cigars into horses' mouths. Today, when the doctor tells him he has a son, he starts thinking about all the problems - late-night feedings, saving for college tu ition, etc. What happened to the joy? True joy comes from the pleasure of growth and self -actualization - when we conquer a difficult challenge, or experience a moment of clarity. When your team wins the World Series, or when you win the lottery, the joy i s a delusion. Why? Because you did not change or grow. Joy cannot result from events, from "good things happening to you." Joy is solely the result of your reaction to life, your commitment to turning every moment into a growth experience. A new baby means you have to extend yourself at all hours of the day and night. That's not easy. But if you focus - even at 3 a.m. you'll recognize this as real joy. Do significant things and you will have more joy. If you are fighting for a cause, you are making an impact on the world. You are heavy. You are eternal. Find your cause, whatever it is, and work at it. In Jewish consciousness, serving God is the ultimate cause.

Internal, External
Judaism has a principle called Chitzonit mi'orrer pi'nimiut - "the external awakens the internal." This means it is possible to develop an emotional state by acting as if you're already in that state. For example, studies show that smiling when you're "sad" can improve your mood. There is a direct correlation between activating the physical muscles and your emotional state. Do things that require joy, and you will become more joyful. For example:
y y y y

Wear nice clothes. Eat delicious food. Sing. Take a long walk on the beach. 42

y y y y y

Think positive thoughts. Spend time with friends. Do kindness for others. Ponder how great it is to be alive. Call your parents and thank them for giving you life.

Once you feel joy, channel it in a productive direction. Don't just sit back and bathe in the joy. You have the energy to go out and do something fantasti c. Help someone in need. Or tackle a job you couldn't face.

The Joy Of Potential Pleasure

One way to increase joy is to anticipate the pleasure coming your way. When you anticipate something beautiful, you are more likely to see it as beautiful. And the jo y of it will be more galvanizing, more exciting, more real. "Hurrah! We're going to the circus today. We'll have a grand time!" You feel joy just by expressing the anticipation. The implication is profound. If you constantly anticipate pleasure, you can co nstantly be in a state of joy. For example, today is a new day. What do you anticipate? Who will you meet today, what will you encounter, what will you achieve? "Today is going to be a great day." Use this anticipation to energize you. You're going to work today? Don't focus on the negatives: "I'm tired ... My boss is impatient..." Rather, stick to the positives: "I'll accomplish something productive ... I'll earn money to pay my bills..." Use this tool for everything. Are you going to a museum today? What do you expect to gain? Articulate the benefits and pleasures beforehand. It will give you a constant influx of joy.

State Of Mind
Many people don't experience joy because they take life for granted. That is, until they almost die. Someone who survives a car crash never lives the same again. Or someone who had cancer and is dismissed from the hospital with a clean bill of health. He bounces around telling everyone, "Isn't life wonderful? I'm alive!" People think he's crazy. No one should be that happy unless he's won a million dollars!


Appreciate what you have. God created us for pleasure. What is the pleasure of being alive? Your hands! Your feet! Your eyes! Your mind! Learn to feel that pleasure. It will be with you always, wherever you are. Happiness is not a happening. Happiness is a state of mind. You can have everything in the world and still be miserable. Or you can have relatively little and feel unbounded joy. Learn the pleasure of just being, the simple joy of being alive. Then you have a basis to become more and more and more. Otherwise, it's just a sensation, a dream, an illusion. What will a new car give you? What will a million dollars give you? It will give you a way of running away from life, to dream, to be comfortable ... snug as a bug in a rug.

The Natural Condition

Joy is the natural human condition. Children have it and enjoy life in its simplest form. A carrot, a ball, the moon. But we adults learn to be miserable. The reasons for joy haven't disappeared. It's just that the burden of daily responsibilities distracts us. Become conscious of the beauty of every moment. Focus on your underlying natural state of joy, even amidst the mundane issues of daily life. Because if you don't have the sense that life is good, then underneath it all you ha ve nothing. That's why the morning prayers begin with a series of blessings thanking God for the simple and obvious:
y y y y

-- Thank you, God, for giving me life. -- Thank God I can see. -- Thank God I can use my hands and feet. -- Thank God I can think.

If you master the art of noticing, appreciating and consciously enjoying what you already have, then you will always be happy. Beyond this: When we are joyous, then God is joyous (so to speak) and showers us with blessings. In other words, if we take pleasure in what God has given us, He'll give us more. That's why King David said: "Serve God with joy." He doesn't want any glum -faced people around. It is our obligation. Conversely, the Torah says we will be punished "because you did not serve God with joy." You can do every obligation under the sun - serve your parents, and help humanity - but if you don't do it with joy, the Almighty is going to hold you accountable. Why? Because He wants us to have the maximum pleasure. You don't enjoy your hands and your fee t? You don't think the world is beautiful? You are serving the wrong God. He will take it away. Watch out! 44

Take Things In Stride

Beyond this, approach even your troubles with joy. How is this possible? Focus on them as opportunities for growth - challenges to help build character. By definition, life has its challenges. Are those challenges going to raise your level of joy, or diminish it? If you let little things get to you, your joy will evaporate. When you find yourself worrying over a problem, ask yours elf: Is it worth all the negative energy? The choice is yours. The Orchot Tzaddikim (15th century) says: "Joy dwells in a person's heart when he does not focus on troubles." If you can focus away from the troubles, the natural condition is joy. There's a difference between concern and worry. "Worry" means your problems consume you, even when you can't do anything to solve them. "Concern" means you pay attention to problems and look for solutions - but don't become depressed by them. Don't suffer from naggin g parents, whining children, an insufferable boss, lousy employees, and unreasonable professors. Even in sad or painful times, accept them as reality. Don't give up until you find something positive to focus on. Count your blessings. So what if your children are crying?! It's a good sign - they're alive and kicking! When you have joy, you are a problem solver, not a problem sufferer. Imagine you own a business and a customer comes in to complain. If you're miserable, he'll walk out miserable, too. And the n ext day he'll be picketing in front of your door! What if God forbid, someone has a tragedy? The Kaddish prayer, recited after the death of a close relative, is not a prayer for the dead, but rather an affirmation that life is gorgeous, beautiful, fantasti c. You are not supposed to jump into the grave after the dead. Romeo and Juliet is not the Jewish way. The greatest tribute we can pay the departed is to affirm the meaning and joy of life itself. That's the purpose of death -- to get us to appreciate the meaning of life. Even if you can't solve your problems, don't walk around contaminating everyone else. "I am miserable today. Who can I spread this germ of misery to?" At the very least, don't make others miserable, too.

The Joy Of Wisdom

Wisdom is a great source of joy. With wisdom, we understand the world around us and our role in it. Judaism says that the essence of all joy is Torah. Why? Because Torah teaches us the meaning of life. It teaches us how to connect with the Almighty, how to live according to God's will.


That's why on Tisha B'Av, the Jewish national day of mourning, you are not allowed to learn Torah. Because Torah is joy. The great kabbalist, the AriZal (16th century Israel) said that "joy opens the doors to great heights of wisdom." The mor e wisdom you gain, the happier your life will be. There is a natural joy in acquiring wisdom even if you don't apply it. It is meaningful. You have broadened your existence. Beyond this, whenever you learn a piece of wisdom, figure out how it can enhance your life in a practical way. If you pick up a stone and see that it's a diamond, you'll be dancing down the street straight to the jeweler's. But if you pick up a diamond and start playing marbles with it, it's going to end up in the trash heap. The Sages use a stronger metaphor. They say that learning Torah and forgetting it is like burying your own children. You have lost a piece of reality, a connection to eternity. So whatever wisdom you learn, review it, memorize it, and keep it in front of you. Use it to achieve your loftiest goals. And when you need to, turn it on in the face of adversity.

Make A "Joy List"

As a practical exercise, take 10 minutes and write out a list of all the times you danced with joy. An outstanding athletic achievement? Meeting a long-lost friend? Being discharged form the hospital after a serious illness? The birth of your first child? Now study your list and identify the common denominator of what triggers joy. By isolating the "cause," you'll have a secret weapon to snap out of a negative mood. Examine your list to see which reflects true joy, and which reflects illusion and hysteria. Find a way to expand your joy list. Ask others to describe their greatest joys.

Why Is "Constant Joy" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y y y y y

Joy gives you power and energy. With joy, you will knock the ball right out of the park. It is natural to feel joy; it is human to overlook it. Don't suffer your problems. Solve them. Why wait until you're almost dead to appreciate how good life is? Do the will of God and yo u're connected to eternity.



We use just a small fraction of our mental capacity. Learn how to concentrate and avoid distractions. You'll achieve more goals! The Olympic athlete stands transfixed, reviewing the jump over and over again in his mind: approach, takeoff, propulsion, landing. He is 100 percent focused. The goal is defined. The mind is pure. Time stands still. Way #9 is B'taharah - purity. When we totally concentrate, we achieve intellectual and emotional purity. We've all experienced it. A moment so focused that we're actualizing full potential. In college, the final exam is tomorrow and suddenly the realization gets through. You stay awake all night, not eating or drinking. Nobody can talk to you; nothing else can enter your mind. You're 100 percent there. Or remember the time you were sitting on a bus absorbed in a novel, and the driver had to go back and say, "Where are you going, buddy? This is the end of the line." Has this happened to you? This is the power of conce ntration. We use only a small fraction of our mental capacity. In professional sports, the athletic difference between competitors is small; winning is 90 percent mental concentration. So to achieve more in life, focus your attention. Extract your latent power and pull the switch.

Guard Your Thoughts

It's often hard to concentrate. Our mind wanders all over the place. Just as you need to ?guard your tongue" in order to not waste words, so too you need to ?guard your thoughts" to steer them in the right dire ction. Get in touch with your mind. It's flopping all over. Freeze the frame: What are you thinking right now? You're wondering what's for lunch! In Jewish consciousness, before any important activity, we say: "Hineni muchan u'me'zuman" - "I am about to do activity X.? It's a declaration to apply one's mind for a certain period of time, and to block out extraneous thoughts and emotions. Try saying aloud ?I am now going to study,? or ?I am now going to honor my parents,? etc. You set the agenda, close off other compartments, and concentrate. You mind is here, not anywhere else. If the room is too hot or too cold, it doesn't matter. You couldn't care about sports or politics or finance or anything else. You are only aware of the task at hand.


Dead To The World

Life pulls us in many different directions and it's hard to stay on track. Imagine a store owner who barely has a moment to breathe. He'd like to have a more meaningful life, but his business demands constant attention. Customers just won't leave him alone. One night, he dreams that he dies from working too hard. The dream is so startling that he wakes up, gets out of bed, looks in the mirror and sees an old man with white hair. He immediately goes to the living room and begins reading philosophy books. His wife notices that he's missing from bed. "It's 3:30 in the morning! What are you reading at this hour that's so important?" "Dear, do you realize that I could die any moment, and I would have spent the best years of my life at the store? So I've decided that from now on, I'm not coming to work until noon every day. I'm going to spend my mornings studying wisdom." "Are you crazy? You can't do that!" his wife exclaims. "What will I tell the customers?" "What will you tell the angel of death when he comes fo r me: That the customers are waiting? So for three hours each morning, just consider me dead!" Of course, it's not simple to take off time of work. But whatever you do, whenever you do it, be totally immersed and involved. Pretend as if you're "dead to the world." For that time, nothing should pull you away from the more meaningful task at hand. Nothing else exists.

Tracks Of The Mind

Judaism says the mind has 70 tracks. That may sound improbable, but actually we use multi-tracks all the time. Remember when you first learned how to drive? You couldn't handle any distractions. If someone started chatting, you'd ask him to be quiet. It was full focus on the road ahead. Now think of all the activities you do while driving: tuning the radio, planning your day, talking on the phone, enjoying the scenery, looking for a parking space - and driving the car, too! By controlling different tracks, you can exponentially increase your power for living. It is known that Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin (20th century Israel) coul d write two letters, one with each hand, while having a conversation at the same time - plus whatever was going on in his mind besides. This skill does not happen overnight. Like juggling, before you can coordinate three balls, you first need to know how t o catch. 48

To develop concentration, choose one thought, focus intently, and work it through. (Of course, the prerequisite to concentrate on one idea totally is that it must be interesting and important to you.) Once you've mastered a single track, you can expand to the other 69 tracks of your mind. In Judaism we say "sh'veeti Hashem l'neg'di tamid" - ?I place the Almighty before me always.? One track should always be reserved for God. It's like if you're married, you don't want to go anywhere and forget abou t your spouse. So too, it's not good to forget the Almighty. Walk with Him at all times.

Clear The Mind

We are what we think. Our ideas dictate reality. If someone thinks people are out to get him, it doesn't matter whether it's true or not, he will be afr aid. Or if a smart child gets the idea that he's stupid, that will become his reality. Intellectual purity means sorting out your ideas. Distinguish which are true and which are false; which make sense and which are foolish. Then clear your mind; filter ou t the "garbage" so it doesn't get mixed into your brain. Get in touch with your mind. What are you thinking? Whenever you utter a statement, ask yourself, "Do I really mean this?" A false idea repeated often enough will become your reality - even if at first you don't believe it. Go through the process of clarifying ideas. For example, everyone agrees that it's wrong to hurt others. But is it true we should never hurt anyone, anytime? ?Well, never hurt anyone without good reason.? What do you mean by never hurt without a ?good reason?? If he hurt you first, is revenge a good reason? Do you see the confusion? Get it clear. Another example: Everyone wants to be good. You want to be good, too. So what is the definition of "good?" Bin Laden thinks he is doing ?g ood? by ridding the world of Western imperialism. You have to get clarity, to know what you know. Make a list of 100 things that you are convinced of. ?My parents love me. I have 10 fingers. The earth is round.? Don't put these things in the same basket with ideas that are unclear, because that will contaminate your whole basket. Write it all down and sort it out. Ask yourself: "How do I know that my parents love me? Because I have evidence from the way they treat me.? You get the idea. Finally, interact with ideas as if they are real. Once you decide that a certain idea is correct, translate it into a concrete idea. For example, take the feeling: "I don't want 49

to waste time," and turn it into the idea: "Life is precious." The next step i s to take it from your mind and put it into action. To ignore it and go on is living a conflicted life.

Emotional Purity
We've all seen a football team running onto the field after a pep talk. They are going berserk. Get out of the way! Or the sales manager gives his Monday morning pep talk: "We're going to hit the phones and sell 100 policies today!? If you're the poor guy who gets called first, you've bought five policies before you know what hit you. Just as you need purity of mind, you also need purity of heart - "one emotion at a time.? Different emotions can invade at the wrong time, and if you're not clear, you'll get pulled in too many directions. Being pulled in opposite directions causes paralysis. There's an old saying that "the donkey died because he couldn't decide between two bales of hay.? Before entering a situation, decide in advance which emotion you want to "ride." If you're going to a wedding and it's important to have joy, don't drift to extraneous topics like: How will they support themselves? How does my hair look? Will I have the salmon or the beef? Instead, focus on the singular emotion and tell yourself, "I'm going to be joyful - and no one's gonna stop me!" Actually, Judaism says to always save one track of emotion for joy. Isn't lif e good? Feel it all the time and you'll have energy for everything. When you get up in the morning, turn on that switch. Which emotion are you riding today? Joy! When you first open your eyes, thank God, and decide that life is good and it's going to be a great day. No headaches, no problems, no troubles. Joy is the keynote for your day. Even if you don't ?feel? cheerful, fake it. Emotional purity is an act of discipline. You are the master of your mind. Intensify your will and pull your mind where you want it to be. Before long, your internal reality will catch up with your external actions.

Block It Out
Get a hold of crippling negative emotions and block them out. If you feel a negative emotion, realize that you have the ability to "let go" and feel upbeat in a moment. It's only wounded pride that says, "I have to pout a while longer before I can get over this one." The negative energy is hurting no one but yourself. You have the power of free will to lift yourself out of it. This is especially important in times of confusion and anxiety. You have a flight to catch, but the taxi arrives late and then you're caught in traffic. Don't sit there aggravated, seething and kicking yourself. It will ruin your day. Instead, switch to positive thoughts: ?Okay, so I missed the plane. But I can still enjoy the view!? Of course, if there's something to do about it, do it. But otherwise, block it out.


Imagine a surgeon who had an argument with his wife this morning. He's aggravated, and now he's going to operate. How can h e possibly concentrate? He's a trained professional. He'll block it out. Be ruthless in your focus. It's not always bad to be ruthless. If the surgeon doesn't ruthlessly focus, he'll endanger the patient. The goal, of course, is not to be devoid of emotion s, but to control them and apply them appropriately. Some people abuse the tool of ?emotional block? when it comes to things they don't want to deal with. Talk to someone about nuclear war. ?There's no such threat. It can't be. It's too upsetting. Leave me alone.? Or try to convince a racist of the beauty of every human being. They don't hear you. They block you out. They're not interested in the subject, finished! How do you avoid this trap? Be interested in truth, wherever it will lead. If you find truth and it conflicts with your prior beliefs, dissolve your prejudices. Be relentless in the pursuit of truth. ?I have to change my whole life? Okay, I am not afraid.?

Multiple Emotions
Just as we have 70 tracks of intellect, we also have 70 tracks of emotions. It is possible to feel both happy and sad at the same time. Imagine you got a great promotion, but it means relocating to another city. That's mixed emotions. Or a close relative dies and leaves you a large sum of money. There is a whole kish-bosh of emotions storming through you at one time. In order to master these emotions, you have to take one at a time. Always ask yourself, "What am I feeling now? Anxious? Happy? Both?" Once you identify your emotion, you can control the switch. If you're all fired up at work, but then an urgent call comes from your spouse, you won't say, "One minute, I've got to close this deal first." You will stop and switch around.

Private Time
Judaism has a concept of meditation, but it is not aimless. Meditation does not mean chanting a word that does not make sense to you. Rather, it means taking one subject and immersing yourself completely, to the exclusion of all other subjects. Use "tunnel vision" to connect with your deepest emotions on God, life, humanity, family, suffering, etc. Jews throughout the ages have engaged in meditation. The silent Amidah prayer is regarded as a long, meaningful meditation. The founders of the Jewish people Abraham, Moses, King David - were all shepherds. It afforded them time to medita te alone under the awesomeness of the heavens, and it gave them private time to 51

concentrate on lofty spiritual ideas, to get into the right frame of mind to speak with God. To meditate, try saying a single word out loud, and concentrate on it's meaning. After 10 minutes, your mind will be fully focused.

Putting It All Together

Once you've developed the twin tools of intellectual and emotional purity, the next step is ?integrated purity? - putting it all together. Did you ever hear the expression, ?Swing t he bat from your toes?? This is Jewish consciousness. The way you stand affects how you use your mind. King David said in Psalms: "With all my bones, I say there is none like You, God." When you get yourself 100 percent into the act, you are fully focused. Of course, stay away from counterproductive activities. You can't party all night and meditate in the morning. It's the antithesis of purity. Don't contaminate your goal. Focusing on what you want is the first step in getting what you want. "Confused equals diffused." If you don't know where you're going, you'll never get there. Wishy-washiness often comes from not being clear about personal goals. Know your goals and priorities at all times, and have a plan for how to reach them. The most important thing is to know what you're living for - i.e. "The Main Goal." If you are ready to die for something, that is pretty heavy. You want to be a good man? Every human being is ready to die to be good. Isn't that true? Once you have a goal, you need to get psyched u p and focused. Everyone needs a cheerleader, and there is no better (or more readily available) cheerleader than yourself. Try giving yourself a pep talk like a football coach: "I'm going to accomplish today. I'm going to concentrate. I'm going to search f or truth and nothing will stop me. The next person who gives me a piece of wisdom, I'm going to listen, appreciate it, think about it, and apply it." Make your goals real. You only have a short time to achieve everything you want in life. Start now and give it all you've got.

Why Is "Total Concentration" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y

Interrupt the daydreaming process. Apply yourself to the task with single -minded dedication. Incorporate what you've studied into your behavior. Contemplate one idea at a time and clarify i t to the fullest extent. Take one emotion and experience it to the fullest. 52

y y y y y y

Link your emotions to your goals. Success depends largely on the intensity of ambition. Take one emotion and pump it up. You are the master of your mind. You can train it to focus. Block out insanity. Mean what you say and say what you mean.


An apprentice gains firsthand knowledge by watching how an expert works. So too with wisdom. Don't read about it in a book; find yourself an expert. Bottom of Form Imagine being hired to build a bridge across the Hudson River. You're supplied with all the tools, equipment and manpower - and offered a whopping $10 million dollar fee. But there's one condition: You are the only engineer allowed on the job. Now of course you don't know anything about bridge building, and it took mankind thousands of years to master these techniques. So how will you accomplish the goal?" "Well, I plan to visit different bridges. I'll look at them and walk across them. And then I'll try some trial-and-error, perhaps sticking some beams into the dirt." Of course this is ridiculous. You'd spend the next 50 years experimenting and still get nowhere. The more intelligent approach is to say: "Give me a year at M.I.T. I'll study hard, hire private tutors and read every engineering text I can get my hands on. Then I'll come back and build that bridge." Nobody undertakes an important project without being trained. So why do we go ahead and choose a career, get married, and raise children - all without training? We defend ourselves with slogans like: "I'll play it by ear and work it out as I go." Then when things go wrong, we lick our wounds and start all over again. Is this any way to live? Life is infinitely more complicated than bridge building. If you want to build a meaningful life, you need to find wise people and be ready for an intensive course of study. Way #10 is b'shimush chachamim - literally "serving the wise." This means to: a) learn from him, and b) assist him. To succeed in life, you have to desire wisdom, and pursue it with enthusiasm. Hang around wise people and see how they apply wisdom to living. Ask a lot of questions, and keep asking as long as they're willing to give you the time. Wisdom is the most important thing in the world; the key to a meaningful life. You'd never dream of using trial and error in the operating room. So why leave your personal life to guesswork? 53

Learn About Life

Human beings like independence. We hate to admit that we need others. Most people would rather learn from their own mistakes, than learn from others. We imagine we'll just "figure it all out" as we go along. "I know I'm smart. I can work it out." Life is too short for this. We're bound to make mistakes anyways. So why add those we could otherwise prevent? As the saying goes: "A fool learns from his own mistakes, a wise person learns from the mistakes of others." But we see people doing this all the time. College students travel across Europe "to learn about life." They may meet a lot of people walki ng down the street, but there are much more efficient ways to learn about life. If you're serious, you'll make a plan and get someone to teach you. Imagine you could go back in time 10 years and teach yourself an important lesson. Would you have listened? Would it be a mistake not to listen? Now go talk to someone 10 years older. Ask him: "Did you ever make a mistake?" He certainly has learned something about life. Does that make sense? Realize that you have a built -in resource of wisdom: your parents. They're not the old fogies you might think they are. As Mark Twain used to say, " When I went to college, my father was a fool. When I came back four years later, I was amazed how much wiser he'd become!" Do you want to give your parents some pleasure? Ask them for advice on an important issue - marriage, career. That will make them really happy. And on the wisdom scale, you can achieve what it might take 20 years on your own. As a way to get started in this process, think about the following question: " If I could meet anyone alive today, who would it be, and what would I ask ?" Now work backwards and find someone who can help approximate your ultimate goal. And don't stop pursuing wisdom until you find it.

Assist The Wise Person

If the president of the United Sta tes came to visit, you'd get up, bring him a drink, and be ready to help him in any way possible. You'd ask for advice and listen attentively. (Even if you voted against him - it's still the president of the United States!) We should do the same for a wise person. Stand up when he enters the room, help him, pay attention to him. As the Sages say: "Serving a wise person is even greater than learning Torah" - more than any lecture or textbook. 54

Be an apprentice. Follow your mentor around. Accompany him to meet ings and on errands. Observe every nuance. You can read all about it in a textbook, but the best education is to watch an expert work. Serving your mentor makes you closer to him. You will be alert and eager to hear his advice. You'll have more respect for his wisdom. You'll understand what makes your mentor a cut above the rest. Above all, you will learn and you will grow.

Be Prepared To Absorb Wisdom

If you learned everything from everyone, you'd be one of the wisest people in the world. But that's not practical, so you have to prioritize your "wisdom needs." Begin with a list of important life topics like marriage and child raising. Then add more global issues. Now go shopping with your list. Ask people: "Do you have expertise in this, or do you know someone who can help?" Carry your list around with you, so you'll always be prepared to ask the wise person. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
y y y y y y y y y y y y y y y y y

What does it mean to be a "good person?" How can I be kind to others without being taken advantage of? How can I control my anger? What is the key to greatness? How can I maximize my time? What makes a marriage successful? How do I use my full potential? How do I break out of laziness? How do I get more joy in living? How can I have more patience with my children? How can I be a better son/daughter? What are my responsibilities to my community? What is the meaning of existence? What does God want from me? Is there an afterlife? How do we achieve world peace?


Choosing A Teacher For Life

In grammar school, you had a new teacher every year. Just when you became familiar with one teacher, it was time to move up a grade and meet the next one. As adults, we need to take a different approach. Ideally, you should find one mentor to use throughout your life. To find the right mentor, don't just take the nearest expert, the one on the block. "Shop" intelligently. Get references. Check credentials. See if he lives honestly and consistently with his knowledge. Test his wisdom with questions. Find out who his own mentors are. Make sure he's part of a respected community. The key to a good mentor is to develop strong trust and communication. Criticism is difficult to swallow, but it's a less bitter pill when it comes from someone you trust, someone who has insight and wisdom, someone who you believe is only out for your own good. Choose someone who understands you, and who knows your background and family history. Above all, make sure the mentor is available. Because you can have the greatest mentor in the world, but if you can't speak with him/her, what good is it? If you can't find the right person, make an "interim mentor" to bounce ideas off of and be accountable to. King Solomon was the wisest person who ever lived, yet he still had a mentor. Tradition says that as long as Sol omon's mentor was alive, he never made a mistake; once the mentor died, Solomon erred. Having an objective advisor is so crucial that even if you choose someone who is "less wise" than yourself, it's still worth it. Always be on the lookout and don't give up until you find the right one.

The Loyalty Factor

Human beings tend to hold onto what we "know" and defend our position. Wisdom requires change, moving out of our comfort zone. Too often we avoid the pain and drop the wisdom altogether. Resist this temptation. In choosing a mentor, find someone who will challenge you and encourage you to become great. Don't choose someone who allows you to maintain your weaknesses and prejudices. Be loyal to your mentor. Then you're less prone to shop around every ti me he suggests something you don't like. By shopping, you'll end up with someone who is less challenging to your prejudices. If you have a good doctor, you rely on his opinion. If you have a good mentor, stick with him. Don't shop around for answers that you like. Tell him, "If you see me doing anything wrong, point it out. I will promise to pay strict attention." Then, if he says that you're making a certain mistake - for example, being counter-productive - you have to listen. Even if you disagree, you are not allowed to 56

dismiss what he says as "You go your way and I'll go mine." You owe your teacher respect. You've accepted that responsibility. This doesn't mean you follow the mentor blindly. You don't have to agree, but you are obligated to try and understand his position. Work through the issues together. Figure out who's making a mistake. Tell him: "Either convince me or agree with me." That is the power of having a mentor, because the message eventually penetrates your wall of defense. You will overcome some bad mistakes. Furthermore, we humans are very subjective about ourselves. We twist reality and can't see ourselves. A mentor gives you objective feedback. He reduces your capacity to rationalize. You feel accountable and think twice before you act. " What would my mentor say if I did this?" If you can't come up with a good answer, don't do it. To get started, go ask three people: "What do you recommend I do in this situation?" Get some advice, and if you disagree, argue it out with them, respectfully. Try it.

Why Is "Honoring The Wise Person" A Way To Wisdom?


To learn about life, you need a mentor, someone to guide you on a rational and consistent path. Human beings are subjective. We need someone to help give us objectivity. Independence is human natur e, but if you don't moderate it, it will stand in the way of your growth. Be a student of truth. The most destructive disease is ignorance - not being connected with reality. Get in touch with those who understand life and pump them for information. Go find a teacher now.

y y

y y


Companies test-market new products. To know the value of your ideas, find friends to give you straight, honest feedback. Top of Form Bottom of Form All over people are fighting. Religious fighting, nati onal fighting, family fighting. Some are even ready to die because they think they're right. How are we ever going to put this world back together? Way #11 is dik'duk chaveirim - literally "cut if fine with friends." See the importance of sitting down, of reasoning together. Don't assume your viewpoint is correct. Open


yourself to the ideas of others. "You don't have to kill me. If you persuade me that you're right, then I'll join you." We need real friends - someone you can trust, to discuss plans, feeling s, ambitions. With a friend, you don't worry about scoring points or winning ego contests. A good friend will listen to the pros and cons and give you straight, honest feedback. This is especially important with decisions like: Should I marry so -and-so? Should I accept this job offer? Should I move into this neighborhood? Everyone has different insights. Amongst many people you'll find many solutions. Some roads can be traveled alone, but the road of life shouldn't be one of them. Go with a friend.

Choose Your Friends Carefully

When shopping for a car, you decide in advance on a specific set of features, and then shop around for the best deal before making an investment. We should do no less when looking for a friend. Yet often our friends are the result of circumstances: neighbors, colleagues, roommates. "We played tennis on the same court, then shared a pizza and now we're friends." It's not as simple as that. A good tennis partner might not make a good friend once your interest in tennis has waned. Ask you rself: "What will this friend be like 20 years from now?" Be pro-active and go find the right friend. A friend should be for life. Choose a friend who seeks truth, and whose goals and values you respect. The definition of friendship is loyalty. Loyalty mea ns that even though your paths diverge, you won't just dump each other. You share an identity, a closeness. You know he's on your side, and you're on his side. You'll always do whatever you can to help. The currency is trust. You pay with trust, and gain a friend in return. The better the friend, the more trust you have to pay. The Torah tells us that "two are better than one." Why? Because we can be more objective about others' mistakes than about our own. If you yell at your kids, your friend will tell you, "ttttt." If he yells at his kids, you'll tell him, "tttt." You are there to lift each other, and give constructive criticism to correct errors. A close friend stimulates your creativity, like a think tank. You get together and brainstorm ideas. Anything goes. A friend won't shoot you down because you said something ridiculous. A friend is more than companionship. A true friend helps you become the best you can be.


Don't Argue Discuss!

"Capital punishment?" The voice rises decibels. "You don't what know you're talking about. You're crazy!" Be provocative. Get into an argument about an issue of genuine concern. Not for the sake of argument, but for the sake of stimulating good, intense discussion. Become a connoisseur of discussions. Don't proclaim, don't yell. Just communicate your position. And be open to new ideas. Ask questions. Analyze the evidence together. Don't be afraid of finding out you are making a mistake. The most important topics to explore are the meaning of life. If you think there's a God, then get into an argument with an atheist. Ask him: "What's your evidence? Why have you come to that conclusion?" Aish HaTorah has published a book entitled "Shmooze" - a great tool for sparking deep, meaningful discussion. It contains provocative questi ons and traditional sources for 10 important topics like love, tolerance, anti -Semitism, and gossip. (info at: To stay cool, remind yourself that other people are as passionate as you about their positions. Just as you don't automatically accept, don't automatically reject. The next guy has a point of view based on some kind of evidence. It could be wrong, but it must be respected. There's a method to his madness! Discuss back and forth: "I see that. I understand you." Assuming you don't d isagree with everything the other person says, validate before disagreeing. "You've got a good point, but what about...?" Don't get discouraged when things get a little heated. With practice, you can learn to change every argument into a discussion. Listen carefully and try to understand. Lower your voice and say: "Please tell me your reasons." You will make new friends, deepen your relationships, and grow in wisdom.

Common Resolutions
Do your discussions often end in someone getting aggravated, agitated an d abusive? A successful discussion is built around the maxim: "People of goodwill who reason together will reach a common conclusion." This means:
y y y y

I am willing to hear the other side. I want to know the truth. I will consider the evidence. I am willing to change, even if it's painful.


How do you get the other guy into this? Remind him: "I want to know the truth, just as you want to know the truth. You think you have evidence, and I think I have evidence. So let's compare. If I'm making a mistake, please sho w me. I am willing to change. Either convince me or join me!" Instead of sticking to the facts, people often end up attacking each other. Whenever you get into a discussion with someone who is insulting or antagonistic, stop and focus both of you on "goodwill." Define your terms together. Bring the conversation into rational terms. Otherwise, you are boxed into your respective positions and there is no use arguing. The key is to be a judge, not a lawyer. What's the difference between a judge and a lawyer? A lawyer argues for the side that's paying his fee. A judge remains objective so he can weigh both sides and discover the truth. People who get into arguments as "lawyers" are only interested in winning the discussion. They may "listen" to the other p erson, but they don't really "hear." They hear only what they want to hear. Imagine you have a confrontation with your auto mechanic. "You did a terrible job on my car." He says: "I did a terrible job? You are a bum of a client!" Diffuse the tension. Tell him: "Look, if I made a mistake, I want to admit it. If you made a mistake, do you want to admit it? Okay, let's look at the evidence." This is a different way of dealing with problems, a different communication climate. You have a good chance of turning a round a belligerent customer, an irate parent, or an insubordinate child. We have the ability to reason together. As the Talmud says: The way to tell if an argument is sincerely about the truth, is when both people come out loving each other more in the en d. It isn't easy, but it's worthwhile.

Pursuit Of Truth
To make the most out of your discussions, have a list of important topics ready (either on paper, or mentally). At lunch, take a break from discussing the stock market and instead talk about important ideas. At first, it may be difficult to get your friends into it, but once you do, they'll love you for it. The most important subjects to deal with are those that form our basic outlook - e.g. the existence of God, why is there suffering, free will, the purpose of life. In Judaism, we understand these concepts by learning Torah. And the preferred method for Torah study is with a partner (chevruta in Hebrew). Working it out with a friend is an essential part of finding truth. If Torah is God's instructions , we'd better get it straight! The Talmud speaks about the great scholar Rabbi Yochanan and his study partner Reish Lakish. The two learned together for many years, until one day Reish Lakish got sick and died. Rabbi Yochanan was totally distraught over th e loss. His students 60

tried to comfort him by saying, "Don't worry, Rabbi. We'll find you a new study partner - the most brilliant man in town." A few weeks later, Rabbi Yochanan was seen walking down the street, totally depressed. "Rabbi, what's the proble m?" his students asked. "We sent you a brilliant study partner. Why are you so sad?" Rabbi Yochanan told them: "He is indeed a scholar. In fact, he's so brilliant that he can come up with 24 ways to prove what I'm saying is correct. But when I studied with Reish Lakish, he brought 24 proofs that I was wrong. And that's what I miss! I want a partner who will criticize and question. That's what Torah study is all about." Criticism leads to growth. And growth is the excitement of life. But criticism is also a difficult thing to accept. Some people are so afraid to reveal mistakes that they'd rather be recluse. The trick is to find friends who are sensitive enough to give positive feedback, along with the criticism. If you want greatness, you need teamwork. So p ut your ideas on the market place. Anything great in this world has been accomplished through teamwork: the moon shot, the Internet, civil rights. If you are proved right, you accomplish little. But if you are proved wrong, you gain much - you learn the truth. The Talmud goes so far as to say, "chavruta o matuta" - a study partner or death. "Death" in this context means wasting time and opportunities. A study partner forces you to be real with yourself. Become the type of person who seeks truth, who wants t o "do the right thing." That is the way to communicate with others.

Why Is "Working It Through With Friends" A Way To Wisdom?


Friends are too important to leave to chance. Choose a friend to accomplish life goals with. Discuss ideas with others who can be more objective than we are about ourselves. Close friends stimulate and expand your ideas. To achieve greatness, you need others to help you get there. You need teamwork. You are affected by friends and environment. If they want wisdom, you'll want wisdom. If you find yourself at a philosophical loggerhead, remember that people of goodwill who reason together will reach a common conclusion. A primary goal in life is to correct your mistakes. Don't be afraid to find out if you've made a mistake.

y y



Until you share an idea, it remains but a hazy notion in your imagination. Transmitting the idea to others makes it real. You've taken it out of potential and made it a reality. Most people don't think of themselves as teachers. "Me ? A teacher?!" We view teaching as a profession that requires formal training and certification. Besides, we reason, there's probably a "natural ability" that makes someone a good teacher. Way #12 is pilpul hatalmidim - literally "discussions with students." To attain wisdom for living, teaching needs to be a basic way of life. Why? Because if you can't teach an idea, then you don't really know it yourself. Remember in school when the math teacher asked, "Who knows thi s equation?" You raised your hand, and she said, "Go ahead, explain it to us." You started off, "Well, umm..." You thought you knew, but when you tried to teach it, you found out otherwise. Having to explain an idea to others forces you to clarify it for y ourself. You examine everything much more thoroughly - the details, logical progression, etc. And you'll become personally moved by the idea. As the Sages say: "I learned a lot from my teachers. I learned even more from my colleagues. But most of all, I le arned from my students." Until you share an idea, it's not yours. It remains but a hazy notion in your imagination. Transmitting the idea to others makes it real. You've taken it out of potential and made it a reality. By reaching others, you will reach yo urself.

The Obligation To Teach

Teaching is also a profound moral obligation. Why? Imagine someone knows the cure for cancer and doesn't share it. He's content to let everyone suffer. What is he? A murderer! Now realize that the worst disease - the most destructive, painful, most contagious disease of all - is ignorance. Ignorance perverts people and leads to wasted, counterproductive lives. Ignorance causes untold suffering - mistreatment of children, marital strife, and suffering in a dead -end job. All out of ignorance. If you understand something about living and don't share it, you're a brute. There is something in you that says, "I don't care about other people. I'm a lone wolf, a rogue elephant." To live in a vacuum is not human. Do you see this? For example, if you know the key to happiness, teach it. Do you see human beings walking around depressed, half dead? Give them some joy. Otherwise you'll always bear the knowledge of what you "could have done."


When you reduce ignorance in the world, even by a little bit, you give a great gift to mankind. Some diseases only a doctor can treat, but ignorance can be cured by everyone who takes wisdom seriously. Help cure the international ignorance problem. Teach wisdom.

The Drive To Communicate

Everyone enjoys making a difference in people's lives. Ninety-nine percent of the world - whether journalists, psychologists, dentists, etc. - are motivated (at least in part) to help others. It's a basic human drive. And the more people we positively impact, the better we feel about ourselves. You know how to play baseball, right? If you see someone holding the bat upside down, what will you do? He swings wildly once, twice. Then you walk over and say, "Pardon me, I'm not criticizing, but if you hold the bat the other way, you'll get a more powerful swing. Why don't you try and see how it works." You'll teach him what you know because it hurts to watch someone wasting his time - even if he's on the opposing team! Teaching is a way to build an eternal bond with another perso n. Remember how your aunt taught you to whistle? Now realize that this satisfaction is even greater when you share an insight into living. Don't sell yourself short. You have the ability to make a positive impact. You don't have to be a social worker or a doctor. With one piece of wisdom you can help humanity. Think back to growth experiences that changed you. Perhaps something made you more mature. Or enabled you to take disappointments better. Or to be more independent, or more tolerant of others. If the memory has stuck with you, then it's worth sharing with others.

Create The Desire

Imagine that a child is sick with a rare disease. If it's an acquaintance, you'd probably say, "Oh, that's terrible. What a pity." If it was your cousin, you'd take some personal responsibility, perhaps researching information on the Internet. If it was your own child, you'd leave no stone unturned. I know a young couple - he's a businessman and she's a doctor. They found out that their two young children had Gaucher disease, a debilitating condition that is handicapping for life, and sometimes fatal. So what did they do? Together they founded an organization, committed to finding a cure for Gaucher disease. She conducted the medical research and he raised the money.


There was no guarantee of success. But inasmuch as it was their own children, there was no alternative but to try. And the Almighty helped them. After six years, they developed a synthetic enzyme which can effectively treat the condition - and their two children became the first in the world to have a hopeful prognosis. So how do we get motivated to help? We've got to care. When we care enough, we will make the effort.

Don't Bore Your Audience

Yawwwwn. There he goes again with another soliloquy... When you teach, don't recite a manifesto. What you're teaching has to be relevant. Teaching means to reach someone, to get him to appreciate what you feel is important. You may want to start with a joke or story to get his attention and draw him in. Encourage your students to ask questions that unlock the essence of the message. When someone asks a question, it's a sign he's in the learning mode. But when being lectured to, people's minds may wander - and not come back until it's time to go home! Never lose sight of your audience. You have to "feel" how they're reacting to your message. People are generally willing to listen to anything - if it's said in a way they can appreciate and understand.

Clarify Your Goal

Be clear and concise. Pinpoint in stark, simple terms what you w ant to communicate. If you can't summarize your message in one or two sentences, it's not clear enough in your mind. And unquestionably, your listener will end up confused. Imagine you're 12 years old and your kid brother is messing up your room. "You'd better not mess up my room or I'll beat the bejabbers outta you!" Is the threat of violence what you want to communicate? No. You really want him to know that it's impolite to mess up someone else's room, and there may be consequences. That's more to the point, right? Now, how will you communicate this to him? Not how will you aggravate him, challenge him, dare him, antagonize him, and make an enemy out of him. Rather, how will you reach him? Take the time to figure it out. Now let's refine the message. "My d ear brother, just as you don't enjoy having your room messed up, I don't want my room messed up, either." That's a lot better. Now you've taught him an important principle for living: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 64

Stop yelling, stop arguing. Start teac hing, start reaching.

Teach, Don't Preach

I'm no preacher! Who am I to tell people what to do? Preaching is giving over information with fire and brimstone, without paying attention to what your audience is feeling. A preacher instructs: "I'm the authority ...I'll straighten you out... Accept what I say... Don't question... Park your mind... Listen to me... Obey me!" Preaching is being a demigod, getting people excited and overwhelmed and moving them with an emotional sway. That's not teaching. That's brainw ashing. And that is totally not the Jewish way. What is teaching? Teaching is communicating to an independent human the clarity of a concept. To teach is to get others to see and understand it on their own terms. To enable the student to get in touch with what he already knows - and re-discover it on his own. An impassioned teacher can be inspiring and uplifting, but ultimately, a teacher has to be able to convey ideas in a way that emotions don't interfere and distort the message. You see the difference? If you're teaching in the sense of "I'm going to straighten him out," then nobody will listen. Speak "with" people, not "at" them. And be open to feedback: "If I'm wrong, please correct me." Give your student enough space to weigh the evidence and make his own decision. Be confident that truth will prevail. Otherwise you're just forcing it down his throat.

Make It Real
Know your material inside and out. Before communicating an idea, review the main points. This builds confidence, so at the moment of teaching , you can focus less on content and more on presentation. You can't recite dead notes. Even if you've already taught the same material 100 times, it has to be real to you. It has to invigorate you. This will translate into your personal sincerity coming through. For as the Sages say: "What comes from the heart, goes into the heart ." It is best to review on a schedule, at least once a year. You'll be in good company: The Talmud says that God reviewed the Torah fours times before transmitting it to Moses!


Inspire Action
It's possible to be exposed to an idea, think you understand it, and almost totally miss its point. That is why people are sometimes inconsistent - and even contradictory - in their actions. Teaching is not just conveying bits and bytes of information; it's about affecting a change in behavior. Figure out how to transmit an idea, so that others will not only appreciate it, but will actually put it into practice. Otherwise, you haven't succeeded in "teaching." Ideas impact people. Ideas chang e the way people think - and give them the tools to change the way they act. Develop a good lesson plan. Work through the stages of bringing people to actual implementation.

Why Is "Teaching" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y y

The test of whether you've grasped an idea prop erly is to teach it to others. Until then, you don't really understand it. We all want to be good. Sharing your wisdom gives you the self -respect that comes through sharing. If your own child needed to know something important, you'd care enough to teach it. Teach whenever you can. The more you practice, the better you get. Teaching others in a meaningful way is a deep expression of creativity. Students make you honest with yourself. If you have a piece of wisdom, there's a moral obligation to share. Teaching others contributes to the betterment of the world.


We sometimes make snap decisions. Or we may mull over decisions for too long. Become skilled at the happy medium of good decision -making. Imagine walking on a tightrope high abo ve Niagara Falls. As you inch along, you see a maniac coming at you from behind. No longer are you just concerned about falling to either side, you also have to make sure the maniac doesn't catch you! In a sense, life is the same way. Every step we make has real consequences - yet we have to continue to move forward. 66

People want immediate results and tend to lack patience when it comes to making decisions. People may even throw themselves into a certain decision - for better or for worse - just to get the decision out of the way. Others may excessively mull over decisions, lacking the confidence to come to the right conclusion. Whatever the case, decisions can come back and haunt us. And we wonder: "Why didn't I think this through better?" Take note of how you make decisions. Do you deliberate and consider the weight of important issues? Or is it impulsive and without thought of consequence? Or do you simply shrug your shoulders and make a decision out of ignorance?
Way #13 is Bi-yishuv - literally "by sitting." Life has decisions to be made at every moment. So don't be hasty. Slow down. Examine all the aspects. Reflect. Deliberate.

Make the best decisions you can, but don't get so wrapped up in yourself that you're afraid to commit to a final decision. These techniques will help you solve problems that inevitably arise in career, marriage, and parenting. And once you do make your decision, you'll move forward with confidence, knowing it was the best decision possible.

Four Steps Of Deliberation

"Deliberation" means to ponder insights, events, ideas - whatever we encounter in life. Let things lie for a while, then go back and mull them over. The Sages say that whatever you encounter, study it four times. This process is likened to the act of planting - because wisdom is for the soul what food is for the body. 1. PLOWING - The first time you go over an idea, try to figure it out. That's "breaking up the soil." 2. PLANTING - The second time, the idea begins to make sense. You're "putting seeds into the ground," planting it into yourself. 3. HARVESTING - The third time, you come to an experiential and intellectual understanding. It's "reaping the wheat." 4. DIGESTING - The fourth time, you integrate the idea into your life. It "nourishes" your soul and is now part of you. We all want to achieve great things with minimum effort. A great sage said: "A person wants to become great overnight, and get a good night's sleep, too!" Realize that true growth is a long process. That's why deliberation is an important tool, because it forces you to slow down, exercise patience, and stretch the limits of your powers.


With everything you want to achieve - and the short time you have to do so - taking time to deliberate is the best investment you'll ever make.

Six Tools Of Deliberation

TOOL #1 - Nightly Recap Before going to sleep, look back and review the events of your day. Try to identify what you learned. Then project toward the future. Anticip ate what you expect to encounter the following day, week, or month. Set a schedule to review your life regularly. In Judaism, the appointed times are every week before Shabbat, every month before Rosh Chodesh, and every year before Rosh Hashana. You can also do this before a birthday, graduation, wedding or other milestone. Do this consistently for the rest of your life. Deliberate on what you've done in the past, and what you hope for the future. Without this, you're just running aimlessly through life. Sure, you'll eventually end up someplace but you won't be happy and you won't know how you got there. TOOL #2 - Capture & Concretize We all have an occasional flash of truth: moments when we realize what it means to be a friend, what we are doing wrong, wh at we really want out of life. We may think the moment of realization has changed us. But often the moment is lost. Because unless we concretize the insight, we'll never act on it, and the effect dissipates altogether. The next time you get a great insight , stop. Freeze. Don't move. Think about what the insight means in the overall scheme of things. And figure out how to put it into practice. Imagine you encounter the suffering of poor people and are moved to tears. If you want to help, you'll need to structure a careful, detailed plan. Otherwise, all your good intentions are unlikely to amount to anything. TOOL #3 - Think Before You Speak We all have ups and downs, good days and bad days. Hasty reactions are a defense mechanism, and usually not the most eff ective one. If we're not on guard, we can act impulsively. Criticism has a way of getting under our skin and making us attack the source of the criticism. So before you react, give yourself a chance to consider the comment, what it really means, and if perhaps there's some validity to it. As King Solomon says: "Don't be quick to respond."


When someone hurts or insults you, wait before you react. You're naturally on the defensive. Be careful not to say anything you'll later regret. Before you start shouting, pause. Catch a hold of yourself and count to 10. Similarly, when someone asks you a question, think before you answer. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know." When asked for your point of view, learn to say, "I'm not sure," or "It seems to me..." In the lo ng run, you'll gain respect. TOOL #4 - Analyze The Info If it's not worth mulling over, it's not worth studying in the first place. Because all that information may just overload and confuse you. When you hear or read something, train yourself to sum up the central point in a few words. If you don't take the time to think over what you've learned, you're viewing the world blindly through someone else's eyes. Next, examine the implications of the new idea. It helps to have a list of standard probing questions like:
y y y y

Is the source objective? What is the evidence cited? What aspects don't I understand? What are the implications/consequences of this for my life?

Asking these questions will sharpen your analytical abilities, and will help you apply what you learn. Next, take a piece of paper and write out the pros and cons. This gets the ball rolling in a constructive direction. Even though it may seem like this process will slow you down, once you master the technique, it will become more automatic. Then you'll be able to analyze things with lightning speed, and make better, faster decisions. TOOL #5 - Be Prepared You need to distinguish between "reality" and "moods." Deliberating before you confront a problem will enable you to act with greater confidence when t he problem does arise. So before you enter a situation that could backfire - a job interview, a family gathering, etc. - consider in advance what you'll have to confront, and practice for it. Role-play in front of a mirror (or with a friend) and prepare ca tch-phrases that - in the heat of the moment - keep you focused. When you're prepared, you're confident. And then no one will be able to pull the rug out from under your feet. TOOL #6 Give It Time 69

Did you ever go to sleep with a problem and then wake up with a solution? To gain clarity, you sometimes have to walk away from a situation and then come back to it later. If you feel yourself coming up empty, take a break for while and come back refreshed. You are more clever and resourceful than you give yourself credit for. Solutions may jump right out at you the next time around. Over time, we get answers. So stick with it. Ask others for advice. Ask God to help. The clarity will come.

Why Is "Thinking About It" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y

We all want greatness. It take s time and hard work to achieve it. When you reach an impasse, pause and analyze. Deal with the problem. Don't look for the quick, easy solution. Careful reflection ensures a much wiser response than an impulse reaction. To know what you're living for, take the time to think it through. Otherwise you could end up with a very superficial life.


When we learn Torah, we are not studying an abstract and arcane text of the ancient world. We are engaged in discovering the essence of Judaism, which is the essence of ourselves. The Jewish people have a set of "written instructions for living" - the Bible, and also "oral instructions for living" - the Talmud. Jewish wisdom is incomprehensible unless both parts are working toge ther.
Way #14 is "b'mikreh," the written instructions. The Bible has three parts, totaling 24 books:

1. Torah - The Five Books of Moses, revealed to the Jewish people by God at Mount Sinai. 2. Prophets - God spoke to various prophets (e.g. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) who transmitted messages strengthening the Jewish commitment to Torah. 3. Writings - The Writings (e.g. Proverbs, Psalms, Esther) emphasize God's message in a poetic style. The Bible is the all-time bestseller and has made an enormous impact on Western civilization. Everyone should study the Bible at least once in a lifetime. "All men have an inalienable right" - straight from the Bible. "Love your neighbor" the Bible. Isaiah's vision of peace adorns the United Nations. The biblical sanction to "proclaim freedom throughout the land" is engraved on the Liberty Bell.


You don't need to accept the existence of God to learn these basic lessons. Whether interpersonal relationships, self -awareness, community relations, or environmental concerns - Torah is the ultimate "owner's manual." On a deeper level, Jewish tradition says that Torah is the "blueprint for creation." Everything in life can be found in Torah... if you ask the right questions, and poss ess the right set of tools.

Intergalactic Communication
Imagine you received a message from outer space. You might not fully understand its meaning, but you are fascinated. You will study every word and try to decode it. Torah is the word of God, communicated to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. If a piece of Torah doesn't seem to make sense, don't pass it off as irrelevant. Keep asking, searching, delving. Look deeper into what each piece of Torah is telling you. All the stories and commandments are really philosophical messages waiting to be revealed by the intellectually active mind. The Flood, the Tower of Babel, the splitting of the Red Sea - all contain the deepest wisdom for living. Even dates, names, numbers, events and lineage all teach us something . The message is often between the lines. And when the message seems obvious, there's more below the surface. Let's take an example. In Genesis chapter 18, Abraham is in the middle of conversing with God. Then three strangers pass by and Abraham immediatel y runs to serve them. At this point the alert reader should question: Why would Abraham stop talking to God in order to help strangers? It doesn't make sense. Even an atheist would admit that talking to God is the ultimate experience! From here we learn a profound spiritual lesson: Even more important than talking to God, is to be like God. What does it mean to "be like Him"? God created the world for our pleasure. Everything he placed here - fruit, hands, love - are manifestations of His kindness. This world is one big hospitality inn. So when you take the role of host, of serving your fellow man, you are like God. Abraham was wealthy and famous, yet it was not beneath him to serve strangers. He understood the lesson. Read the Bible intelligently. It is the guiding force of Jewish achievement, as fresh today as it was 3,500 years ago. Don't discount its value without first making an effort to study it. Respect the Bible. It is a hidden treasure, a special message from God.

The Original
If you want to understand the Bible, you need to learn Hebrew. There's no way to get the full meaning in translation. 71

For example, the Torah uses 10 different names for God. Each "name" refers to a unique aspect of God's essence: all-knowing, all-powerful, prime mover, merciful, etc. But in English, these names are all translated the same, and much of the depth is lost. Worse yet, biblical translation promotes misconceptions. For example, you'll read a translation and come across the word "sin." Uh -oh. Sin, evil, punishment. But the Hebrew word Chet does not mean sin at all. Chet appears in the Bible in reference to an arrow which missed the target. There is nothing inherently "bad" about the arrow (or the archer). Rather, a mistake was made - due to a lack of focus, concentration or skill. From here we learn that human beings are essentially good. Nobody wants to sin. We may occasionally make a mistake, lose focus, and miss the target. But in essence we want to do good. This is a great lesson in self -esteem. Simply adjust your aim and try again! In translation, the message is lost. In fact, entire religions have arose based on mistranslations. So get it straight. Learn Hebrew.

Preconceived Notions
I once came across a magazine profiling a group of hippies who spent the day reading the biblical "Song of Songs." "Song of Songs" is written in the form of a poem, a love song between a man and a woman, symbolizing the relationship between the Almighty and humanity. The message is so deep and beautiful that the Jewish people call this bo ok the "holy of holies." On the commune, they had an experience where the men recited the man's lines, and the women recited the woman's lines. The magazine reports that they read through "Song of Songs" and had a fantastic experience. Afterward, the women proclaimed that they finally found a portion of the Bible written by a woman, because no man could ever understand a woman's feelings so deeply and state them so powerfully. In other words, they concluded that only a hermaphrodite could have edited the Bi ble. But God? No, that's inconceivable. Unfortunately, Bible critics usually come from a preconceived position, and when the Bible doesn't fit those parameters, they are forced to make far -fetched conclusions. They don't seriously consider the idea of Tora h's divine authorship, of "national revelation." Yet it is an unbroken Jewish tradition that 3 million men, women and children stood at Mount Sinai and heard the Torah directly from God. And in the 3,300 years since, no other religion has ever made such a claim - because it is impossible to fabricate.


Nature & Miracles

Some critics have trouble accepting the idea of divine intervention. For them, all the biblical phenomenon need to be explained in terms of nature. A book called "World in Collision," for exa mple, explains the splitting of the Red Sea like this: A tremendous comet approached earth at the time the Egyptians were chasing the Jews. At that precise moment, the comet was in position to tear the Red Sea apart by the force of gravity, leaving dry land between two walls of the sea. The Jews entered the sea, and sure enough, the Egyptians followed. Luckily, the Jews came out the other side just as the comet passed, and the water returned, drowning the Egyptians. Simple, right? You don't need God. How does this book explain the manna bread that the Jews collected every morning for 40 years in the desert? After the comet passed, particles of petroleum remained in the higher atmosphere. It eventually burned off and mixed with the dew. The falling dew combined with a particular micro-bacteria that digests petroleum products and converts it into protein. Thus explains how every morning, for 40 years, a nation of Jews picked up manna bread - "dew containing predigested protein." On Fridays, there was a double portion, but he doesn't explain that... These explanations are missing the point. Torah isn't a history book, a physics book or a storybook. Rather, it is Torat Chaim - literally "instructions for living." Every word, every phrase contains a message how to maximize pleasure in life. Look for the deeper message - the wisdom within - and you will reap immense rewards.

The Time Is Now

The first sentence a Jewish child is taught is "Torah tziva lanu Moshe, morasha kehilat Yaakov" - "Torah was commanded to us through Moses and is the inheritance of every Jew." Torah was meant for everybody. It is not the exclusive domain of some priestly class. Rather, it is a living, breathing document - the lifeblood of our Jewish nation. We are required at all times to involve ourselves in its study and practice. As it says, "You shall think about it day and night" (Joshua 1:8). Your academic education may have ended, and there may come a point where you are as good a "professional" as you need to be. But learning Torah starts a t a young age and continues for a lifetime. As you mature and your awareness of reality increases, so will your understanding of concepts you thought you once knew well. Every Jew is supposed to review the weekly Torah portion three times, and then hear it again in the synagogue on Shabbat. We review, ask questions, discuss the topics. "What did you see, what was difficult, what didn't you understand?" After learning a piece of Torah, organize it so it's at your fingertips. For example, the Five Books of Moses are organized into 54 weekly portions and 674 chapters. After 73

learning one chapter, pause and assign a code word or phrase to the chapter. You'll have a handy device to recall the wisdom it contains. Some people use the excuse, "I'm too old to begin le arning." But the Talmudic scholar Rebbe Akiva didn't even learn the Aleph -Bet until he was age 40. This is the same Rebbe Akiva who became the greatest sage of his generation with 24,000 students! Some people are hesitant to learn Torah because they can't imagine ever becoming a scholar, so therefore "why even get started?" This is faulty thinking. Every drop of Torah study is precious and eternal.

Tree Of Life
There are two ways to acquire wisdom: through life experience, or through learning Torah. Judaism says it's better to get wisdom through Torah. Why? Because even though you can learn from experience, there's a negative residual effect. True, a woman who goes through a series of failed relationships will eventually learn what's important in a husband. But if she'd first studied wisdom, she'd have saved a lot of needless headache. We learn this lesson from the Garden of Eden. Here is a story that sounds like a real fairytale: two trees in the middle of the garden, and God instructs Adam that the Tree of Life (symbolizing the attainment of wisdom through Torah) is made to be eaten, whereas the Tree of Knowledge (symbolizing wisdom through experience) is better avoided. Adam's mistake? He eats from the Tree of Knowledge. We don't have the patience to get to know ourselves and we want to learn from experience. Many people say: "After I make money, when my business is self sustaining, then I'll take time out to learn Torah. But I need to experience life a little first." Three divorces later... Do not say: "When I have free time, I will study," for perhaps you will never have time. Realistically, once you're promoted to VP of the firm, do you expect to have more free time, or less free time? The Torah is a "tree of life" for those who grasp it. When we study Torah, we are not studying an abstract and arcane text of the ancient world. We are in fact discovering the essence of ourselves.

Why Is "Written Instructions" A Way To Wisdom?


Read the Bible from beginning to end. If you haven't yet learned Hebrew, buy an authentic Jewish translation. (Recommended: ArtScroll's "Stone Chumash") 74

y y y y y y y y

Learn Torah. Discover God's instructions for living. Don't wait until your life is almost over. Understand Torah. It's the book that changed the world. Ask questions until you know the message in detail. Correlate any differences and resolve them. There are no "unintentional" discrepancies in Torah. Look in the book and you will find it. Organize it. Wisdom is only useful when it's at your fingertips. Torah should be your encyclopedia , almanac and index to living. Review Torah, in order to remember. You wouldn't head out on the open road without a map. When going through life, don't leave the Torah behind. Integrate Torah. Make the ideas part of your reality. Rebbe Akiva said that a Jew without Torah is like a fish without water. Update it. Renew Torah wisdom as your life situation changes. Don't "honor your parents" at age 25 the same way you did at age five. Upgrade it. The first paragraph of the "Shema" contains 48 words, corresponding to the 48 Ways. Torah wisdom is infinitely vast. Always delve one level deeper.


Judaism is not supposed to be a reference work sitting on the shelf. It's to be lived and internalized. If you gain a piece of wisdom, integrate it into living. Most people are familiar with the "Written Torah" - the Five Books of Moses. But many are unaware that 3,300 years ago, the Jewish people also received the Oral Torah - the Mishnah. In fact, the Oral Torah preceded the Written Tor ah. At Mount Sinai, God told Moses the 613 mitzvot, along with a detailed explanation of how to fulfill them. At that time, the teachings were entirely oral. It wasn't until 40 years later, just prior to entering the Land of Israel, that written copies of the Five Books of Moses were distributed to the Jewish people.
Way #15 is "b'mishnah" - the oral instructions for living. "Mishnah" is from the word l'shanen, to review. As with any piece of wisdom, you have to review and review until you know it by heart. That's the way to live. That's the way to grow. That's the way to become great.

Imagine you want to get married. There are a lot of mistakes you might make, and once the other person says "yes," you want it to be a one -way trip. So make a checklist before you propose. What character traits are vital for an enduring marriage? What is the difference between infatuation and love? What are you looking for in marriage? Somebody to cook you dinner, or the other half of your soul? In a 747, the pilot spends a half-hour going through a checklist, before even pulling the plane onto the runway. (If he didn't, don't get on the plane!) So too, you need a 75

checklist for living. Memorize it and keep it with you at all times. This is what Mishnah is all about.

Transmission Process
Do you have an encyclopedia? When was the last time you used it? Occasionally you need to look up something specific, otherwise it just sits on the shelf. Torah is not a reference work made to sit on a shelf. It is meant to be lived and internalized. In the Bible, the basics are laid out in writing, but the remainder must be learned orally. The give -and-take exchange, from teacher to student, encourages us to discuss and clarify, to know it backward and forward. For millennia, the oral instructions were passed from teacher to student. The student would take notes, then repeat and review until he knew it perfectly by heart. Due to the nature of oral transmission, constant review is the best way to safeguard its integrity: Thousands of people learning the same information guarantees that mistakes do not enter the transmission. Almost 2,000 years ago, the Romans captured Jerusalem and sent the Jews into exile. The president of the Jewish people, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, saw that the teacher-student framework was in danger of being disrupted, so he wrote down the Oral Torah - the Mishnah - to avoid it being forgotten. As the generations passed, more information - the Talmud - was written down to explain the Mishnah. Today, the basic laws are published in the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch) and its accompanying commentaries. But much of Torah is still preserved in oral form, passed from teacher to student. God, in His infinite wisdom, devised the consummate system for transmitting Torah throughout the generations. It is not a written law, and it is not an oral law. It's both.

Why Do We Need The Oral Torah?

The Written Torah lists the commandments for daily living, and the Oral Torah explains how to carry them out. In effect, the Written Torah is a form of summary notes of the Oral Torah. For example: Totafot (better known as Tefillin) are mentioned in the Bible: "And you shall place Totafot between your eyes." But how do we know what they are? What color are they? What size? Shape? What about the straps? How many compartments? What parchments go inside? How should they be worn? Who should wear them? When? None of this is written in the Bible. For these important details, we need the Oral Torah. Has the message been successfully transmitted? One only needs to look at an older pair of Tefillin, worn by every adult male throughout Jewish history. If the message hadn't come through clearly, one guy would be wearing a shoe between his eyes, and another would have a blue ribbon, and another would... 76

Use the Mishnah just as you would an encyclopedia, dictionary or world almanac. When you buy a refrigerator, it comes with a small booklet of instructions. If you buy a 747, it comes with a maintenance library. The Almighty created this world a lot more powerful, and a lot more dangerous. The Torah is the All -World Almanac. Do you want to know how to love humanity? Do you want to refrain from bearing a grudge? Do you want to know the definition of justice? Do you want to know what marriage is all about? Look it up.

Layers Of Depth
A single word in Torah yields multi-layered understandings - if you know how to apply the right tools. The Torah can be understood on four primary levels: 1. "P'shat" - the simple explanation of what the Torah is saying. In 12th century France, Rashi wrote the famous commentary explaining this level. 2. "Drush" - the Midrash gives the homiletic source of biblical concepts, and how to apply them to living. 3. "Remez" - a more sophisticated level of Midrash, where different word pronunciations reveal diff erent meanings. A Torah scroll is not vowellized, to facilitate these elucidations. 4. "Sod" - the hidden mystical meaning of the universe, as explained in the "Zohar." These four levels form the acronym "PaRDeS," which means "orchard." The Torah is filled with delicious spiritual fruits, just waiting to be plucked and savored. In fact, that's why the Almighty created us with the need for food. It's a sign that we need wisdom in order to grow. You can't say, "I ate yesterday," or "I ate years ago and now I don't need to eat anymore." We pray three times a day to parallel the three daily meals. You have to grow everyday, to feed the soul. It's a mistake of Western society that people grow in one aspect but don't grow in others. Someone can become hugely successf ul in business, but be an adolescent in his spiritual life. Realize that just as your professional ambitions are not the same as when you were age 18, so too your approach to God has to mature and develop over time. Furthermore, when eating, you have to chew it over and eventually eliminate the waste. So too, in attaining wisdom, you have to think things over carefully and eliminate the poisonous parts. Otherwise it will contaminate the whole.

The Jewish Experience

When an engineer has a problem, he looks u p logarithm tables. A lawyer refers to case studies. A doctor has medical journals. A Jew has the Mishnah. Sometimes it seems that two Mishnah's contradict each other. One says "Eradicate evil"; the other says "Love humanity." Do they really contradict each other? 77

If certain symptoms would contradict each other in your bodily functions, you'd go to the doctor and discuss it. So too, when you have a difficulty making sense of Torah, look up what the commentaries have to say. You're probably not the first one to ask this question, and can benefit from the generations of scholars who preceded you. And in recent years, much of this literature has been translated into English. The best option is to ask a qualified rabbi. He can not only answer your question, but can teach you the tools for learning it on your own. Torah, because it is so comprehensive and comes from a Divine source, has immutable principles of study. If you ignore the rules, you're almost certain to arrive at a wrong understanding. In researching and writing "Roots," Alex Haley sweated in a boat trip across the ocean, because he wanted to experience how his ancestors felt as they were transported into slavery. If you want to feel what your Jewish ancestors felt, learn one chapter of Mishnah by heart. That is the Jewish culture at its roots. The beauty of it will get to you. You will appreciate Torah from Sinai. You will understand what the Jewish people are truly about.

Apply Your Wisdom

How old are you? Over the years, have you learned things about living? Can you list 10 things you've learned? Often our wisdom is there, but we can't articulate it. Realize that wisdom is your most precious commodity. It should be memorized, on your fingertips. Right now, take a pen and paper and make a list of the 10 most important things you've learned in life. Make a commitment to review the list every single day, and memorize it for the rest of your life. Imagine a man who sends flowers to his wife. She's thrilled! So he says to himself, "Gee, I should do this more often." The next time she gets the flowers is a year later. Silly! If he was living with wisdom, he'd know how much flowers can help his marriage, and he'd act on it. What do you know about dealing with your parents? What do you know about meeting new friends? Memorize it. Register it. It is foolish to have wisdom and ignore it. Every night, go over your day. What did you learn that day? Write it in a notebook, or make little index cards. Then, on the first of the month, review your month. "What did I gain? What did I learn about living?"

Why Is "Oral Instructions" A Way To Wisdom?


If God spoke on Sinai, the message is significant! Look up the explanation of what He said. 78

y y y y y y

Torah is wisdom for living. The more Torah you know, the more fulfilled you become. The Oral Torah is as absolute as the Written. One cannot be understood without the other. Master the Mishnah, and you uncover a whole world of understanding and insight. If you have an insight into living, remember it and integrate it. Get your share of wisdom that the Jewish people have accumulated over time. Jewish consciousness is to know Torah by heart, to repeat and review until it's letter-perfect.


To compete in the marketplace, a business has to function at m aximum efficiency. Apply those same core principles to your pursuit of a great personal and spiritual life.

Nobody can eat popcorn all day long without getting bored. But money? All around people are getting swallowed up by their career. "I've got a milli on dollars, but I want 10 million." Why? Because money is a symbol of pleasure. It has the allure of promising everything. Way #16 is bmi'ut s'chorah - "minimize business." Of course you need to work to put food on the table. But too much business will wip e you out. Be aware of your yearning for money, and seek to control it. If you can leave the office one hour early to spend more time with your family, then you are making a conscious decision about priorities. Would you rather be rich or wise? Wise, of co urse. So why do we pursue money with more zeal? Because money is more real to us. The key is to take that motivation for money, and apply it to the more meaningful aspects of life: relationships, spirituality. If your business is worth it, then certainly " You, Inc." is worth it, too. Deal with yourself as if you're a big business. Examine how you strive to make a dollar, and seek wisdom in this same way. Apply business principles to living.

Operate Efficiently
To compete in the marketplace, a business has to function at maximum efficiency. Imagine a worker who takes 10 steps to turn a bolt when he could have done it in two. Multiplied by 1,000 workers at eight hours a day, and that's a huge loss. Apply this idea to your life. When you wake up in the morning, where are your shoes? Wherever you put them! If you're not organized, you could waste five minutes each day. How much of your life will you spend being a shoe seeker? 79

The solution? If this were a business, you'd create a filing system and have a folder labeled: "Shoes." So do the same here - designate one place to put your shoes every day. Apply this to all your activities. Do you have a doctor's appointment coming up? Plan ahead and take something productive to do in the waiting room. Otherwise you're throwing away an hour of your life. When you're trying to close a deal, you'll stay at the office until midnight. And if you're doing business halfway around the world, you'll get up at the crack of dawn. Why? Because customers have to be able to rely on you. And every minute is precious when trying to match the competition. Life is big business. Get organized. Get your time under control. You'll have less stress and achieve more.

Commit To The Goal

Imagine someone comes to register as a university freshman, a nd asks: "When am I getting paid?" "What do you mean? You have to pay us!" "What are you talking about? I came here to become an engineer and make lots of money!" They take this guy to the loony bin. Why? Because everyone understands if you want to be an engineer, you first have to learn the business. In pursuit of wisdom, you may hear good information yet still be discouraged. " I attended a seminar on how to gain self -confidence, and it didn't work. By the end of the 90 minutes, I still didn't have self -confidence." Do you think you're going to get paid on the spot?! "Business" and "risk" go hand -in-hand. In order to succeed in business, you have to be willing to take risk. How many times have I heard: "Huh? Take time to learn Torah? At this stage in my life?!" We all need more joy in life. Realize there's a cost to getting it. Don't try the happiness game and say, "It didn't work." If it's important enough, you'll try it 3, 4, even 10 times. If you can be happy for the rest of your life, it's worth the i nvestment. We all know that to succeed in business, you have to keep on top of industry trends and innovations. In life, you have to keep up with the latest techniques in wisdom. Attend seminars. Read books. Take supplemental courses. All this will keep yo u growing - and will keep you far from ignorance and apathy.


Constantly pursue wisdom. Be a "wisdom-aholic." Just as a self-made millionaire is a magnet for attention and respect, find yourself a mentor for wisdom. Choose someone who is humble, wise, and willing to share his personal formula for success. When your boss talks, you listen. Realize how much you endure in order to advance your career. It's a long haul to the top. If the boss assigns an unpleasant task, you'll do it, because your paycheck and pr omotion depends on it. Similarly, when striving for higher levels of pleasure, don't be wooed by instant gratification. Be willing to invest training, dedication, and self -sacrifice. When you find a mentor, pay attention and follow directions. Imagine you have an unpleasant customer. Do you throw him out of the store? No! If someone can help you profit, he doesn't have to be the most charming soul in the world. If the fee is right, you'll deal with just about anything. Similarly, if a nudnick comes into you r life, put aside personal animosity. Forget whether you like him or not. What's important is how you can forge a relationship to be able to share wisdom with each other. Overlook quirks in others. Learn to deal with all types of people. This will open you up to far-reaching opportunities. Be determined, and keep your eye on the ball. Your emotional and spiritual well being deserves it.

Strategic Planning
A successful business develops short- and long-term plans. They don't say, "Hey, let's open a factory in China. Someone go there and buy a building." No. First they spend six months researching. Where are the raw materials coming from. What is the labor market? What are the taxes and export costs? Good living demands good planning. Because if you don't know your destination, you'll never get there. In the short term, you need to know how you're going to spend tomorrow. What time will you wake up? How will you re -energize your body with lunch? How will you nourish your spiritual soul as well? In the long term, successful people have 1-year and 5-year plans. What will you need to achieve so when you look back after five years you'll feel it was a success? These plans are crucial for getting focused. And they should be constantly reviewed, updated and modified. Always keep you eye on the bigger issues. Ask yourself: "When all is said and done, what do I really want? What is the ultimate? The million -dollar stock portfolio, or a deep relationship with my family and with God?" Know how to prioritize your pleasures. Nobody is going to trade in the pleasure of success for Chinese food. Give each pleasure a value. Will you stay a bachelor all your life? Compare that to the pleasure of having a family. How much is it worth? That's the intelligent way to make decisions. 81

Don't fool yourself into thinking: "I'll get to my family as soon as I've made my million." If you don't start today, it may be too late. Too many people reach age 65 and say, "I missed so many great opportunities. I could have really done something significant, but I postponed it." When a CEO is signing a contract, he calls in the high -powered lawyers to pour over the fine print. "How are you defining this point? How will this affect the bottom line?" Life is too short to be heading in one direction, only to find out later that you're getting something entirely different. Read the fine print, and define your terms: What is happiness? What is pleasure? This is the only way to make sure you don't later become liable for breach of contract - with yourself.

Keep An Accounting
Businesses can rise and fall in the accounting department. To make a profit, the balance sheets must be in good order, and reflect daily profit and loss. This is the yardstick which determines in which direction the business will sail. We all need to take an accounting. What did I accomplish today? What did I lose? Every night before going to bed, look back at the day's events, and evaluate where you profited or lost. Moving up the ladder? No, I had better straighten this place out! The next day, check again. Eventually you will become a great human being. It's also crucial to make a plan for the next day. How are you going to get up in the morning? Are you going to look for your shoes? So write it down: 10 minutes of shoe-seeking. Then are you going to grunt as you stagger to the shower? Okay, budget for that, too. What a day! Better yet, be determined to get a good start. Jump out of bed, and in two minutes you're all dressed and ready to go. It's great to be alive! That's what you would like to do. Now write it down and make a plan. You will put your shoes in the right place. To get the wheels churning, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
y y y y y y y

What have I accomplished today? Did I accomplish what I intended? How am I going to improve for to morrow? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What's my profit? What's my loss? How far have I come in my long-term goals? What's holding me back from growing?

Certain business acumen is particularly relevant to big business. For example: 82

Maintain Quality Control

Big business relies on quality control. Imagine one car zooming off the assembly line, and another going chug, chug, chug. The customer doesn't care who was working the assembly line that day. If there's a lemon in the bunch, the business will lose market share. How does that translate to you? In life, we encounter challenges, hassles and anxieties. People who go through constant mood swings - up one day, down the next - find it harder to achieve goals and sustain relationships. The key is to remain on an even keel. Don't allow your performance level to shift every time you run into a problem. What time do you get up in the morning? Sometimes 7 o'clock, sometimes 8, sometimes 9? Set yourself a fixed schedule, so you don't find yourself raring to go one day, and sleeping late the next. Business people succeed by pushing past the small obstacles. If a CEO has a headache or cold, does he stay in bed, or go to the board meeting anyway? Likewise in life, every moment is a chance to grow, to reap opportunit y, to enhance the quality of your life. You don't feel like it this morning? Push yourself over the hurdle. Exert quality control over your life. Ensure that whatever you do never falls below the standard of your abilities and goals. Here's a short list of traits needed for success: Assertive, Consistent, Determined, Efficient, Goal-oriented, Honest, Loyal, Open to criticism, Optimistic, Organized, Patient, Reliable, Self -esteemed, Self-disciplined, Sense of humor, Teamwork, Tolerant.

Invest Long-Term
A business cannot rest on its laurels. Eventually a competitor will come along with a better and cheaper product. That's why a successful business will invest in research and development to stay on the cutting edge. You, too, should spend time "researching a nd developing" better techniques for living. You want more pleasure? "No thanks, I'm happy enough." That doesn't fly. Imagine an investor coming to General Motors: "I have a great deal to make $200 million this year." "No thanks, we're making enough money already." When investing, a wise business person focuses more on long -term profits than on short. Sometimes, the startup costs are high, and for a few years the business will run in the red. But if it's a good investment, you can look forward to large pro fits down the road. 83

When you make an investment, always take into account the lifetime return. The deeper the goals you pursue, the more long -lasting the joy. For example, if you spend 10 hours learning how to be happy, you will be a better friend, a bette r parent, a better spouse, a better employee. Appreciate what that's worth in totality. It may seem that you "have it all" - a strong marriage, wonderful children, a thriving business. But don't stop at that. Make those pleasures deeper and broader. Are there ways to help your community? Could you improve your child's education? The law of physics states: If it's not growing, it's deteriorating. So don't be "satisfied" with your current level. Always look for new ways to grow.

Test Market
Before a company introduces a new product, they engage in months of research to determine overall costs, marketability, and profit potential. Before making any major life decision - moving to a new city, getting married, or choosing a career - be sure to do a thorough analy sis of the long-term feasibility. Test market your ideas. Don't assume your viewpoint is correct. Share your plan with others. Get together a "focus group," a small cross -section of people who will respond honestly and openly. Bounce your ideas off them. G et somebody to shoot it down. The feedback will let you know if you're on the right track. (For more on this topic, see 48 Ways #11 - "Work it Through With Friends.") The CEO of a large company will gladly take advice from a janitor if it can help make the business more profitable. Yet the same CEO may rebuff advice from his own wife! In the business world, you lose if you don't accept constructive criticism. The same is true of life. Be open to suggestions. "Hang a suggestion box." At the very least, you can always choose to ignore it. Certain business acumen is particularly relevant to small business. For example:

Inventory Control
Did you ever go into a hardware and ask, "Do you have any number 9 nails?" Does the owner say, "Wait, let me look it up in my list"? No way! A small business owner has an uncanny knack for knowing his inventory. If there are 5,000 items in the store, he knows the exact location and price of each item. You have the potential to become wise. Do you know the 48 Ways by heart? No. Why not - too many items? If you value it, you will memorize the list and carry it with you always. Keep tabs on all your resources. Know your strengths, weaknesses, talents and skills. Make a list and write them down. 84

This is essential for making wise decisions about career and relationships. You don't want to be 20 years down the road and discover that you've denied an essential part of who you are. That's setting yourself up for a mid -life crisis. If you're not sure, find out. Ask a trusted friend, or spea k to a career counselor. Then, when opportunity knocks, you'll be ready to answer.

Elijah And The Fisherman

A person's motivation in business is a great indicator of how he can achieve in his personal life. Doesn't it make sense that the same God who gave you the means to be savvy in business, also gave you the means to become a great human being? The Midrash (Tanna d'Bei Eliyahu) tells the story of Elijah the Prophet meeting up with a fisherman. "Do you study Torah?" Elijah asked. "No," replied the fisherman, "I'm just a simple man. I am not endowed with any measure of talent or intelligence. I can't understand Torah. It's the Almighty's fault!" "Tell me," said Elijah, "how do you prepare your fishing net?" "Well," said the man, "It's actually quite complicated. First I have to select the proper gauge rope, and then I weave the net in a particular pattern to ensure that it has the proper balance of strength and flexibility. It's a whole science." "How do you go about actually catching the fish?" inqui red Elijah. "Oh, that's also very complex. There are many factors involved - the season of the year, time of day, type of fish and location. I also account for water depth, temperature, and speed of the current. I've spent years mastering these techniques, and I'm able to earn a good living from my fishing." "When you get to heaven," said Elijah, "you plan to claim that you didn't study Torah study because you're just a simple person, not endowed with any talent or intelligence. Everyone tries this defense. But you're a successful fisherman! Your actions disprove your claim. You have what it takes to be great." Sometimes we all fall into a mode of self -pity. "If only I understood how, I would have accomplished more. I would have been a better parent, and a m ore caring and loving spouse. But Almighty, You didn't give me the right tools!" We all have the right tools. And deep down we know that wisdom is more important than money. The real question is once you acquire all these tokens, how should you spend them? You can't buy love. You can't buy happiness. The money has to be transferred into something meaningful. Make the commitment. When you minimize business and maximize growth, you're making a statement about what really counts.


Why Is "Business Acumen" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y

If you can work hard to make money, you can work at least that hard to have a great life. Value your time, because it is your most precious asset in this world. What makes you successful in business will make you successful in living. No one ever said on his deathbed, "I wish I'd spent more time at the office." The highest pleasures demand the greatest investments.


Intimacy is a powerful drive, second only to survival itself. Society uses it to sell movies, cigarettes and automobiles It is so powerful, it can make monkeys out of us. It can be dangerous to the point of wrecking families. That's why it's essential to be in control of it.
Way #17 is b'miut derech eretz, a Hebrew idiom meaning to control intimate activity. The wise person knows how to control his drives - while harnessing that power constructively.

There are three aspects of intimacy: 1. Positive : It's important to have some. The human body produces chemical energy in moments of attraction. 2. Negative : Too much will drain you. When our hormones are running the show, we're no longer free. 3. Balance : Decide that your mind is going to dictate your actions. Control your urges. Use intimacy for the right reasons at the right time. The illusion is that the more you satisfy an urge, the more you are satisfied. But in reality, the more you feed an urge, the more it wants. Even in the context of marriage, excess makes the relationship base and self centered. Balance is essential.

In The Context Of Marriage

Before getting married, you should know what marriage is all about. Is it a contract between two parties? A long romance? A tax break? A housekeeper? Companionship? Be careful: How you define marriage will determine what kind of spouse you choose. In the Torah, the expre ssion used to describe intimacy is "yadah," which means "to know." ("And Adam knew his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and had a child." Genesis 4:1) Yadah denotes that intimacy is not just a physical act, but is a full emotional union between two peop le. 86

Judaism defines marriage as "finding your other half." Through marriage, two people become bound together into a single entity, bringing completeness to each other. The longing for intimacy is really an expression of the longing to be joined together with our "other half." Through the relationship, we express this oneness. We say that a man does not die except to his wife, and a woman does not die except to her husband. Others are pained by death, but a spouse's life is demolished. If they had a strong marriage, the surviving spouse will have to reconstruct their whole existence. Intimacy is not an appetite like every other appetite. It is reserved for the purpose of making oneness. It has to be with love or it is nothing. When a man and woman make a marital commitment, they form a deep spiritual bond. They give to each other, and are committed for a lifetime. Intimacy binds husband and wife together, because it teaches us to focus beyond ourselves. Outside of marriage, intimacy is ultimately frustrating because oneness can never be fully achieved. This is obvious in regard to a short-term encounter. But even in a long-term setting: Without the commitment of marriage, you always keep open the option of leaving the relationship. As a result, the degree of c onnectedness reaches a barrier. Eventually, frustration sets in, and the relationship erodes at its foundation.

Picking The Right Partner

How should you choose a spouse? Are you going to choose the best -looking one? The one with the most vitality? The most money? Choose for long wear. Evaluate someone who has potential, decency, strength. Look for someone with dignity and who is a good human being - giving, caring, modest. You know how to break up a great romance? Get married! In two weeks they are grumping at each other! They were getting along famously but right after they are married, all of a sudden... "You didn't prepare supper... You didn't come home on time... What did you do with the money?" Boom! The problem with "romance" is that you don't see the real qualities. If a fellow comes over to you and says, "I met this girl. She is perfect. She is gorgeous and intelligent and accomplished and smart and idealistic and sweet and..." You know what happened? He didn't fall in love, he fell into "infatuation. " This is not to take away the idea of romance. It's just that the Western world has the order reversed. First, look for the spiritual qualities. Then once you propose, you can fall head over heels and enjoy yourself. After all, you have the best spouse in the world!

The Kabbalah Of Marriage

There is an even deeper level to marriage. 87

Judaism says that intimacy is one of the holiest acts we can perform. In fact, the Hebrew word for the marriage ceremony, "kiddushin," comes from the word "kadosh," holy. Judaism says that the greatest physical pleasure is that which is done for a spiritual reason. That's why on Shabbat, the holiest day of the week, when you are able to get closest to attaining your longing, the Sages specifically enjoin couples to be together. It is important to see how this longing for closeness is driving you. It is very deep. It will give your marriage meaning. "Song of Songs," written by King Solomon, is a love song between a man and a woman. Yet the Talmud calls it the "Holy of Holies" - the most sacred biblical text. Why? Because intimacy is really an expression of our deep desire for the ultimate unity: to connect with God. The verse, "I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me" (Song of Songs 6:3), refers symbolically to the longing for oneness with God. Bring spiritual awareness into your marriage. The secret to a really a powerful marriage is to walk with God in the middle. Being kind to your spouse is a way of being like God, who created us to give us pleasure. Tapping into this mindse t will give your marriage more meaning and ultimately, more pleasure.

Eternal Bond
The Torah describes a marriage as basar echad - "they will be one flesh." A marriage is not a partnership, not a companionship. It is a oneness. A spiritual bond. The force has put you together. Deep in the instincts of a human being, there is a bond. In the same way that your child is part of you, when you get married, he/she is part of you. That holy bond makes you part of each other for eternity. You are not alone anymore. When you are intimate, you give away a piece of yourself forever. So make sure that the pieces you give away are to the person with whom you want to be eternally joined! This applies in both a metaphysical and emotional sense. Do you remember the first boy/girl you were involved with? Can you recall the wonderful magic?! Shouldn't that magic be reserved for your spouse? Imagine there was only one man/woman in the world. If you could marry the only man/woman in the world, do you understand how precious your relationship would be? That is the power we are talking about. If you bond with others carelessly, it will be tougher and tougher to get married, and stay married. You are always going to compare your spouse: "She is lacking this. He 88

is lacking that. She is lacking this. He is lacking that." You don't have the only man/woman in the world. Make your moves very carefully. It will affect your relations for the whole future.

Avoid Harmful Temptations

Anything precious is worth concealing. So it's no coincidenc e that as society becomes more promiscuous and revealing, the quality of relationships and the specialness of marriage goes down. Yet with the bombardment of the media, how do we avoid the trap of seeing intimacy as cheap, easy and degrading? One of the best ways to avoid abuse is to create a protective fence. If you're on a diet to lose weight, you'll stay away from places that serve fattening food. So too, if you want to keep your eyes and mind where they belong, avoid going where you will encounter temptation. Pull your eyes away. That is the discipline of being in control. You can avoid temptation by keeping your mind occupied with things that interest you. When you're up to bat in the last inning of a baseball game, you don't notice anyone walking by. You have your eye on the ball. So too, keep your mind immersed in creative and intellectual pursuits. Especially, don't daydream or fantasize about these matters. It's destructive and counterproductive. Wasting your brainpower on illusions is wasting your p otential. Daydreaming also creates "fictions" that you and your partner will never be able to live up to. You are always looking on the other side.

Why Is "Marriage" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y

How you approach intimacy is a barometer for how much you are generally i n control of your desires. Intimacy for its own sake is degrading. Marriage is a holy act of unification which helps lift us into a connection with God. Intimacy is an eternal bond. Choose your eternity carefully. When you choose to minimize, you are in co ntrol.


The physical world is for our pleasure. Spiritual growth comes through grappling with the mundane world in a way that uplifts and elevates. 89

Did you ever begin a stimulating physical activity and then discover you somehow can't extricate yourself? You pick up a bag of potato chips, and start eating two, three, four, five. Before you know it you're at the bottom of the bag. You didn't really want any more, but you couldn't stop. You passed the point of diminishing r eturns and now you feel sick. While physical pleasure is an essential part of enjoying life, at the same time, we have to know how to control it and harness it. Way #18 is b'miut ta'anug - "minimize physical pleasure." You cannot just eat chocolate bars th e whole day long. That is not living. Human beings are pleasure-seekers. The more pleasure, the more power. Figure out how to transform raw physical sensation into the deeper pleasures of love, meaning, creativity. Don't worry - you won't lose the physical pleasure. You'll actually enhance and appreciate it more.

Gourmet Living
Imagine you're dining on steak and French fries. The first bite, you focus intently on the pleasure, knowing just what part of the mouth tingles and how it lifts your spirits. But what happens next? Before you know it, you're gulping it down. When a connoisseur takes a glass of wine, the "drink" itself is just one aspect of the enjoyment. He sniffs it first, then puts a little in his mouth and swishes it around, checking the fruitiness and bouquet. Only if it passes approval will he swallow. Next time you take a Coke, ask yourself: "How does this affect me? What does it do for me?" For most of us, 90 percent of the Coke goes straight to the stomach without ever passing the taste buds. We don't even have a chance to enjoy it. To get back on track, "identify and intensify" your pleasures. Articulate exactly what is this specific pleasure: What makes it taste good, look good, smell good, feel good? For example:
y y y

Ice cream - cold, sweet, soft. Friends - security, connectedness, sense of being understood. Torah - clarity, wisdom, transcendence

Be a gourmet of life. Focus and make sure you're getting the full pleasure. Swish it around in your mind and prolong its taste. The deeper appr eciation will motivate and energize you.

The Beauty Of Physical Pleasure

Growing up in Western society, many have the idea that "physical pleasure is evil." This may stem from the Roman Catholic view, where intimacy, even within the context of marriage, is considered a concession to base instincts, while sacred priests and nuns are celibate. 90

Secular society, on the other hand, takes the opposite view: Life is the hedonistic pursuit of physical pleasure without restraint. Judaism takes the middle road: God made a physical world not to frustrate us, but for us to enjoy. Life should be beautiful and engaging. Jewish spirituality is not achieved by meditating for years on a mountaintop, or by fasting in a reclusive monastery. Jewish spirituality comes through grappling with the mundane world in a way that uplifts and elevates. On Friday night, we raise the cup of wine and use it not to get drunk - but to make Kiddush and sanctify the Sabbath day. Spirituality, says Judaism, is to be found in the kitchen, the of fice, and yes, even the bedroom. The Almighty created this world for our pleasure. The Talmud says that if a person has the opportunity to taste a new fruit and refuses to do so, he will have to account for that in the World to Come. What is so special abo ut fruits? God could have created bland oatmeal with all the vitamins and minerals necessary for our survival. But fruits are the dessert the Almighty made. It's a labor of love, solely for our pleasure. Refusing to taste it shows a lack of appreciation. The Sages also teach that an elderly person should sit in the sun. No matter how much you appreciate wisdom and learning, you still have to treat the body well. And even when physical strength has dwindled, one can still derive delight from the warmth of the sun. The Torah also instructs us to recite a blessing of thanks before partaking of any food or drink, or even when encountering phenomenon like thunder or a rainbow. Saying a blessing gives us time to pause and reflect, to remember that everything is a grand gift. Take note of how many opportunities you have to take pleasure each day. The sunrise, a splash of cold water, a refreshing breeze. Are you paying attention, or are you riding over them like a bag of potato chips?

A Means, Not An End

Imagine inviting someone over for a fancy, four -course dinner. After serving the melon, they thank you and get up to leave. "Where are you going? We're just getting started. The best is yet to come!" That's Judaism's view of physical pleasure. If you make melon the staple of your diet, it will never provide all the nutrients you need to be healthy and satisfied. Similarly, materialism is just the appetizer of existence. Don't make the mistake of getting lost in the appetizer. You will never be fulfilled. When used wisely, physical pleasure is a steppingstone to higher pleasures. When enjoying beautiful things, our bodies feel relaxed, and we are more ready to tackle deeper life issues. Dealing with problems - crime, unemployment, warfare - requires emotional strength, and the purpose of physical pleasure is to generate that strength.


Get in touch with the longing for eternity that everyone has. We are running after materialism - dong, dong, dong, dong! But true satisfaction is not found in your taste buds. It is a longing of the soul. We want infinity. We want meaning. When you get energy from the body, it can help open up the soul. This is the pleasure of Shabbat. It's a beautiful day. Delicious food. You are at peace. The physical pleasure is an incentive. You are takin g the body along with you. Then you can open up the soul and get close to the Almighty. Distinguish one type of pleasure from the next. It's a sure -fire way to know whether you're experiencing raw physical pleasure, or a deeper spiritual pleasure. Physical pleasure is:
y y y y

transitory leaves you depressed an end unto itself unsatisfying

Spiritual pleasure is:

y y y y

permanent energizing a means, not an end awakening

Car & Driver

Anyone who owns a car knows that you have to maintain the car mechanically, and fuel it with quality gasoline. If you abuse the car, it won't take you where you want to go. And to keep it looking good, you may occasionally take it the car wash and vacuum the interior, too. But of course the car is not more important than the driver himself. S omeone who neglects his family and instead spends endless hours waxing and coddling the car has lost a sense of priority. So too, with body and soul. The body is a vehicle to do the soul's bidding. You have to be in control. On the other hand, you don't wa nt to be a tyrant. In mastering the body, the name of the game is self -discipline, not oppression. The key is a controlled amount, and using it for the right reasons at the right times. Sometimes you should indulge the body so your soul can accomplish more. After you've completed a difficult project, for example, you might reward yourself with a meal at a fancy restaurant. But keep it in perspective. There has to be a balance between enjoying yourself, and over-indulging. Don't get confused into thinking th at the meal is the goal of it all. 92

"Enjoy" the pleasure, but don't " need" it. Otherwise you're addicted, you're enslaved. Beware of the body's tricks. Whenever you try to rein in physical pleasures, a little voice inside yells, "This is oppressive, boring, unnatural. I'm gonna have a nervous breakdown!" Be assured. You won't faint because you don't have another jelly bean. People change their habits and live happily ever after. Try it out. Stay focused. Be tough. Just as you learn to drive a car, you have to learn how to drive this machine. You know it has tremendous potential. You have 48 gears, 48 tools to maximize life. Are you getting enough pleasure?

Minimize In Order To Maximize

To avoid abuse, decide beforehand: How much of this pleasure will I partak e? Usually, people eat until they can't touch another bite. But the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, instructs us to eat only two-thirds of capacity. When we stop before the meter reads "full," it's healthier from all standpoints: digestion, waistli ne, self-esteem. Decide "this is it and I am going to stick to it." There's no changing your mind in the middle of the bag. Even if you underestimated and "just one more potato chip would really do the job" - too bad. Next time you will take a handful of p otato chips with one more! But at this point, there's no going back, because your judgment is clouded. We get lost in how we feel during the activity; at the expense of the more important feeling after. So set a firm limit in advance and stick to it. Other wise, you may cross the line and regret it.

Get Your Money's Worth

Before enjoying any pleasure, ask yourself: "What do I expect to get out of it?" Then during the activity, ask yourself: "Am I getting the intended pleasure?" Don't assume that you're having pleasure. Pay attention. Are you getting it? If not, don't indulge. Make a conscious decision. Sip your drink. Get your money's worth. If it is no good, you are not getting more out of it because you drank it, are you? You don't like it. "But I paid for it so I have got to eat it." It will give you a stomachache. "But I paid for it." No! You paid for pleasure. Don't get depressed over it. Don't be a zombie. At the beginning you were interested. Now you're stuck in it, glued to it, obsessed. "Look, I paid good money." Don't talk yourself into it. It is a bad investment. If it's not your pleasure, then pour it down the sink! This applies not just to eating, but to any form of sensory stimulation, such as going to a movie or a baseball game. You have to know when enough is enough, and not waste precious time on it.


Be energy conscious. Don't waste time. If you are not translating that ice cream sundae into energy for living, it's a waste. "What is this pleasure really doing for me? Am I using it to dull reality, or energize me to move forward and accomplish?" If it gives you renewed energy, fine. If not, don't. Monitor yourself: What do I want out of these potato chips? A feeling of having tasted something good. Is one enough? I tasted it. No, I want to take th e edge off my hunger, something that is filling and tasty. So how many do you need? Do you see this is an exercise in self -awareness?

Break The Habit

Material indulgence can be used as an escape. "I got on the scale and I weigh too much. So I'll go to the refrigerator and take a big chunk of chocolate cake to make myself feel better." Don't use pleasure as an escape from your troubles. What are you doing it for: To get back into living or to run away from life? Escape is seductive. He who runs away today will have to run another day. If a person solaces himself for being fat by eating more, he's going to eat more to solace himself for the extra weight. It's a vicious cycle. Realize that any habit - no matter how disgusting it is, no matter how determined you are - is tough to change. The best way to overcome a bad habit is to be happy and engrossed in life. People who lack direction in life are more likely to develop poor self -image, and look for ways of "stroking" themselves. But if you have something important to accomplish, you'll find it easier to mow down bad habits. When your energy and vitality function at full power, your "will-power" does, too. Make a game plan. Strategize a growth schedule according to what you expect to accomplish, and then shoot fo r a bit more. One way to break a bad habit is to hire a friendly "nudnik." For example, if you're trying to stick to a diet, ask a friend to point out every time you take too much cake or nibble in-between meals. You can even set up a penalty system. Tell the nudnik: "If you catch me eating sweets, I'll pay you $50." At $50 a bite, you'll break your habit long before you break the bank.

Why Is "Physical Pleasure" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y

To waste anything in life is foolish; to waste pleasure is absurd. The body is to the soul like a car is to the driver. Keep the body feeling good so the soul can tackle what life is about. We live in a "pleasure world." Make sure you get the true, lasting pleasures. 94

y y y y y y y y y y

Watch out that you don't use material pleasures as a way of runnin g away from life. Over-indulgence drains self -respect. To get the most pleasure out of life, be full of vitality and purpose. Savor your pleasures like a gourmet. Translate all your pleasures into energy for living. When you have a cup of coffee, you feel good. Now how will you apply that burst of energy? To maximize any physical experience, make sure to get the "meaning" behind it. Don't retreat from life, elevate it. Wisdom is a delicious flavor. Translate the energy of a good ice cream cone into wisdom. Don't get lost in a bag of potato chips.


Sleeping too much is just as harmful as not sleeping enough. Minimize sleep because on a deeper level, it's about "waking up" to life. You go to wake up your roommate at 7 a.m. He grunts, "Thanks, I'm up." You return five minutes later to find him sound asleep. You shake him again, "Get up already!" Half-opening his eyes, he says, "Yah, yah," and drops right back to sleep. Has this ever happened to you? Unfortunately, it's a fairly accurate description of the way many people lead their lives. We may say, "I can't afford to waste time anymore. This is it! I'm going to start applying myself." An hour later you've forgotten the whole thing. You went back to sleep. Way #19 is Bi-miyut shayna - literally "minimizing sleep." The desire for living is the struggle against sleep. On a deeper level, it's about waking up to life. Staying alert is a constant struggle. We have insights. We make resolutions. But will we be inspired for more than a mome nt?

The Purpose Of Sleep

Of course, sleep has a positive aspect: Our bodies need it to function! Sleep gives you a chance to become re-energized. It unravels tension and allows you to heal, both physically and emotionally. Yet never treat sleep as an end unto itself. Don't look at sleep as the reward for a hard day's work. Look at sleep as a way to recharge your batteries for a new day of growth. 95

Don't sleep longer than necessary, and don't "love sleep." Fight the desire for comfort. If you love sleep, you'll yearn to get more of it and wind up sleeping your life away. The best way to take advantage of sleep's recuperative powers is by napping. When you find yourself stymied, take a 20-minute nap. Any longer than that and it's a struggle to regain momentum. Find the right balance. In general, sleep as little as necessary. Minimize sleep - and maximize awareness.

The Thrill Of Living

Sleep can be a mirage. The proof is that when you're full of excitement and energy, you simply can't sleep. Did you ever wake up at 4 a.m. to climb a mountain before sunrise? You're not sleepy. You're awake and bubbling with excitement, freshness, zing! If life is a bore, you feel more like sleeping. Someone who loves life doesn't want to go to sleep at night. He just keeps on goin g until he falls asleep - then jumps out of bed the next morning like a lion. Children are a perfect example. From the moment a baby opens his eyes, he's up like a shot. "Another day... new adventures... so much to discover... so much to experience... waaaah!!!! Take me out of my crib!" And did ever try putting a baby to sleep? No way! He's afraid of missing all the excitement. To capture this zest for living, you need to focus on the deeper purpose and meaning of life. Look for fascinating, fulfilling acti vities. Learn how to create joy in living, instead of just "waiting for it to happen." When excited and looking forward to a new day, you are fully alert. Why do adults often crave sleep? Responsibilities weigh us down. We want to crawl into bed and hide u nder the sheets just to get a breather. Underneath it all, do you think it's good to be alive? Or are you trying to escape from the struggle of life? If being alive is good, then sleep is an escape.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Fit sleep into your schedule; don't schedule your day around sleep. Work out logically how much sleep you need to function well. Are you getting more than you need? Keep a record of your sleep patterns for one month, and calculate the average. Unless you make a conscious decision how much you need, you're just drowsing along. Drowsiness is not being alive. It robs you of existence. 96

Maimonides writes that eight hours sleep is maximum, unless you are sick. If you train yourself to sleep less, so much the better. You'll have more consciou s time to accomplish, learn, and become wiser. The Vilna Gaon, the greatest rabbi of the past 500 years, would sleep only four 30 -minute intervals each day - a total of two hours of sleep each 24 -hour period. Napoleon used to sleep only four hours a night. He explained: "Every moment I'm awake I can bask in the glory of being the king. But when I'm asleep I lose the experience. What a shame to miss it!" Don't be afraid of sleeping "less than average." A person can actually be in peak physical condition with a minimum amount of sleep. Military recruits are sometimes kept on a regimen of two or three hours of sleep per night. You don't hear them say, "I'm getting delirious... My bones are dissolving... I'm going crazy!" And when they finish boot camp, they're in tip-top physical shape! Of course, each person has his own metabolism and is affected by different levels of sleep. A person can gradually cut down, as long as it is not having a negative effect on his health.

Techniques For Less Sleep

There are various techniques to keep yourself awake. Stand instead of sit, or put your feet in cold water or on the cold floor. My father would only allow himself to sleep in a bed one night a week, on Friday night. In the times of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the High Priest stayed awake the entire night of Yom Kippur by doing push -ups. Exercise of any sort will keep your body and mind energized. Push yourself to get less sleep. Don't be afraid. You won't die. What's the worst thing that can happen? You'll get tired and f all asleep! Early in the morning try coaxing your body out of bed: "C'mon. Let's get up! Otherwise we're going to miss today's awesome experience of [fill in the blank]." A cozy body has difficulty getting up in the morning. Just throwing off the covers can rouse you out of bed. Some people even sleep on the floor, because a person doesn't cling to the hard floor the way he clings to a cushy bed. Each morning when you wake up, rethink, revise and reevaluate what happened yesterday. Learn from your mistakes. Anticipate a fresh start. You'll be more excited to be awake.

The Second Wind

Were you ever involved in an absorbing project and stayed up all night? Though you began to feel tired, you forced yourself to go on. Eventually you got a second wind, a point when your mind became clear, refreshed and alert again. 97

The second wind only comes when we are deeply involved in an activity. Those who are bored just fall asleep... To harness the power of "second wind," learn how to throw yourself into things. When I was a student, we would challenge each other to stay up all Thursday night studying. Try picking such an activity for yourself. It's a proving ground, a test area, for how to struggle against sleep.

Avoid The "Zombie Life"

The struggle against drowsiness an d fatigue is the struggle for meaning. We use just a fraction of our potential. You can go through an entire lifetime and at the same time be unconscious to much of the world around you. Don't walk, talk, or eat like a semi conscious person. Pay attention to what you're doing at all times. Watch out for zombieism. Don't walk around with "nothing" going though your head. Sometimes you are waiting in line at the supermarket and your head is completely dead, without a thought in your mind. Shake your head to s tay awake. Pump yourself: What am I doing? Where am I going? And why am I going there? In Judaism, our basic drive is to gain clarity. "Wake up" to the purpose of your life. Let go of illusions about fame, romance, etc. Don't get the shock of a cold bath w hen you graduate college and find out that not everyone automatically becomes a stock optioned executive. You want greatness. You want to be good. You want to help humanity. What are you going to do about it? Tackle the big issues and get real answers. Ask yourself: "What am I living for, and what do I want to do with the rest of my life?" Don't just think about tomorrow or next year, but do a long -range forecast: What do I want inscribed on my tombstone? Will it say that I graduated college, made a million dollars, and owned a large house? Or will it say that I helped and cared for humanity? Figure out the pleasure of being alive. If your ideals are high and far -reaching, you're not going to want to sleep away your life. You don't want to quit this game of living. You want to be great. Recognize that. Sure, living is a struggle. But boy, is it exciting!

You Can Change

We all have moments of awareness, an immediate recognition of "a -haaaaa." You hear something that makes sense. You have a first crack of light - an insight, a truth, a moment of recognition that life can be beautiful. This is the pleasure of learning wisdom. The light bulb goes on, and as far as that idea is concerned, you've been asleep until now. It's an exhilarating sensation of waking up. Yet we can have such moments of clarity... and then fall asleep again. You may finish reading this and say, "Yes, that's a good point. I should think this through and make a plan. After all, greater awareness in life is something I'm interested in." 98

These thoughts are flittering through your mind. But as soon as you close the book, it's back to sleep. Is that right? When you have an insight, capture it. Like the time you were driving a car and felt drowsy. You fell asleep for a moment and veered off the road. You caught yourself and for that moment you were wide awake. You remember that adrenalin shock. You are not going to let it happen again. When you gain a moment of clarity, immediately make a decision. Decide that you can change, that things can be differ ent. The Jewish term for spiritual awakening is "teshuva," which means to return, to straighten out. Look at the damage your mistakes have caused, and consider how you've lost out as a result. No matter how old you are, you can change. You can find truth a nd act on it. Recognize that waking up is your battle. Now go out there and win.

Why Is "Waking Up" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y y y y y y

The struggle of life is the struggle to be awake. Decide that life is good. Otherwise you'll go to sleep. Get the maximum out of your body. But don't torture it either! Don't miss out on life's opportunities and pleasures by oversleeping. When we're excited about a project, our creative juices and mental faculties are in full gear. Watch out for "zombie-ism." Don't walk around devoid of thoughts in your head. Too much sleep dulls the mind. Tiredness is a habit. Break it. Unless we take practical steps to stay awake, sleep is going to overcome us. Whenever you learn something new, wake up to the recognition that you were partially asleep before. If you learn how to live with joy, sleep vanishes. In the "final sleep," what do you want inscribed?


People today are busier than ever - commuting, flying, buying. "Conversation time" is diminishing. Is there no one listening out there? Joe is walking down a darkened alley, when suddenly a man jumps out, brandishing a pistol. 99

"Don't shoot," Joe pleads, "I'll give you all my money." "I don't want your money," says the man with the gun. "My whole life I've been trying to get someone to sit down and talk with me. Now I'm going to make you listen for one hour." This story reflects a sorry aspect of the human condition. People today are busier than ever -- commuting, flying, buying. All in all, conversation time is diminishi ng. Who has time to talk? Reflect back to yourself. You want to be understood. But is anyone listening? B'miyut sichah literally means "minimize conversation." In other words, use conversation effectively. Conversation is our tool to be in contact with oth er human beings. Unless we communicate, we're all alone.

Building Connections
The Torah says that God created man as a "speaking creature" (see Targum Onkelos -- Genesis 2:7). Speech is therefore what distinguishes human beings from other species. Too often people are self-centered and closed up. Conversation is a way out of that self-absorption. Too many friendships never get beyond the superficial stage. It's possible to talk endlessly about recipes, football and fashion. But that's not enough. We need pe ople with whom we can share our innermost thoughts. Even family members can live in communicative isolation. Living room furniture used to be designed so that people sat facing one another. Today, living rooms are set up so that everyone faces the TV. You watch a football game and mutter in between munches, "That was a good play." What conversation can compete with the "raza -ama-tazz" of multi-media?! Today, everyone is in his own little corner and struggles by himself. We need to be with others, not to watch television, but to be together and communicate. Without it, you are stifling in your own self-contained envelope. Isolated in your own opinion. Isolated in your own home. Set aside time specifically for talking. Schedule a block of time to talk to your spouse, your child, your parents, your friends. Speech conveys the deepest soul -thoughts. Words that emit from the heart, enter the heart. Something the other person says may touch a deep chord in us. Conversations build deep connections and expand our world. Without it, we emotionally whither and die. Great conversation is your chance to explore entire worlds. Unlike a movie, this world is real, not imagined. And the resulting relationship is infinitely more rewarding.


Practice The Art

As accustomed as people are to "speaking," very few actually "communicate." Speaking is natural and automatic. But communication is an art which must be learned and practiced. Start by changing your attitude. Did you ever sit for hours on an airplane? You read all the magazines, and watch the in-flight movie. There is nothing else to do. Try speaking to the person next to you. You have to warm up. Begin by saying "hello." Then ask simple, non-threatening questions: "Where are you from? What's your name?" This is just creden tial exchange. No harm, no weapons. Yes, it is painful, because you don't know where it will go from there. But what are you worried about -- that he'll stand up and announce to all the passengers: "I'm seated next to a boring person!" It's a shame to sit silently through the entire flight, and then "accidentally" get into a fascinating conversation just as you're parting ways. Don't be afraid of being rejected or that you won't have anything intelligent to say. It won't kill you. You will learn how. Good conversations have to be cultivated and produced.

Don't Mistake "Discussion" For "Conversation"

A "discussion" is an issue of right or wrong, a cerebral exchange of facts and opinions. A "conversation" is a personal exploration of another person. The point of conversation is not to impress others or to enhance your popularity, but to learn about others. That is our most common mistake. When you talk to the guy in the plane, don't let him know by the end of the trip how many trophies you've won and what inves tments you've made. Nor are you interested in information like who won the ball game and the current market price of gold. That is not conversation. That is the information shop. The point of conversation is to connect with someone and explore his experien ces, thoughts, feelings, and inner appreciations. What does he think about life, about love, about meaning? For example, while a "discussion" might focus on the question, "Is the president effectively dealing with the economy?", a "conversation" would ask, "How is the economic situation affecting you personally?" Aim to bring the topic around to a more emotional realm. Ask the other person how he is dealing with issues that bother him. Just like when you talk to your spouse after a long day, the conversation should be: "How are you feeling, what upset you about the day, what gave you joy?" 101

If you're having difficulty getting the other person to talk, build trust by talking about your own experiences and feelings. Don't be "Mr. Know -It-All." When presenting an idea, say, "Balancing career and family has been difficult for me. I look at the situation this way. I would really like to know your experience and how you feel about it." When you report your reaction, he will report his reaction.

The Fascinating World Of A Human Being

How do you maintain an interesting conversation? Be fascinated. If you have an eager curiosity about life and people, you'll be an excellent conversationalist. People will talk to you freely, because your interest will draw them like a ma gnet. If you find that "fascination" does not come easily to you, do some self-analysis. Figure out why. Often the problem is basic indifference -- i.e. "Why should I care about this person?" To get focused, realize that every human being is a wonderful my stery, created in the image of God. We might make mistakes, but each person is unique and holy, full of ideas, experiences, and special wisdom. Don't be misled. Most people don't immediately reveal what is especially interesting and significant about themselves. To discover the wonderful person behind the facade, try interviewing them as a journalist pursuing an important story. "Wow! You're from Buffalo? How do you deal with all that snow?!" Everybody wants to get to know themselves, but introspection is t oo painful. So realize that when you ask questions, you are helping people learn about themselves. Imagine someone asks you, "What do you think about life? Is life beautiful? Is it boring, a struggle?" The conversation prompts you to reach inside, examine, and engage in self-discovery. The same questions you'd like to be asked about yourself, ask someone else. Especially when planning a major step in life -- like marriage, career, spirituality -use conversation as a tool. Interview others: What was your e xperience? Was it interesting? What are the problems? What are the pleasures? How did you overcome your fears? What did you gain? What are the possibilities? When you are fascinated, people will start talking and they won't stop. Explore life. Talk! See this is a tool for living -- it is ridiculous not to use it!

What's Your Name?

A primary way to connect with someone's uniqueness is to learn his name. A name is an intrinsic aspect of human identity. By using his name, you establish a connection and communicate an interest in who he is. And you can't have a good conversation with someone to whom you are indifferent.


A human being is only real when you know his name. Frequently we lose a name in the introduction and then we are talking to someone faceless. We feel uncomfortable. The vibes are no good and it ruins the whole conversation. Do you tend to forget names? The key is to pay attention at the time of the introduction, and repeat the name to yourself a few times after. One memory technique is to conjure up a mental association. For instance, if the person's name is George Brown, imagine George Washington wearing a big brown suit. (The more silly the image, the easier it is to remember.)

Be A Good Listener
A good friend is a good listener. In dealing with others, the Torah says: "Do not harden your heart or close your hand" (Dev. 15:7). "Closing your hand" refers to be being generous with money, while "harden your heart" refers to giving to others emotionally. Don't underestimate the value of this. Patiently listening to someone tell his troubles is often worth more than giving money. In conversation, never interrupt. Don't anxiously anticipate the end of a sentence so you can jump back with your own opinion. If someone makes a statement you disagree with, bite your tongue and keep on listening. A sharp reply is likely to make the other person defensive, in which case he'll either get angry or end the conversation completely. Just calm down and give your undivided attention. Don't look around. Don't think of other things. Pay attention. Ask for points of clarification. Really try to understand. You will build an atmosphere of trust -- which will enable you to voice your own opinion later. Don't fight with people. No criticism. No confrontation. Just discuss. Exchange feelings. That's conversation. Constantly emit "listening signals" to demonstrate interest. Use eye contact or add a nod of acknowledgement. Use simple words of feedback, like, " Yes, interesting," or "That must have felt incredible ." A skilled conversationalist can say few words ... and build a deep bond.

Make Your Words Count

Sometimes we get bored with living. So we make a phone call and chatter to pass the time. Don't use conversation as an escape from reality. It's a waste of ene rgy and words. And when the conversation is over, we feel empty. Make every word count. Consider your words as precious jewels, to be used sparingly. Speak to the point, with clarity and pur pose. Think before you speak. Make sure to say what you intended to say, in the best way you could say it. Frame 103

your words. Connect your words with your mind, rather than letting your mouth run away and then having to catch up with your mouth. Unnecessary talk dulls your mind. Efficient use of words puts you in control of your mind. There's an old saying: "Small people speak about people. Medium people speak about places and things. Big people speak about ideas." The words you choose determine the type of person you'll be. Don't talk without a purpose. In any conversati on, ask yourself: "Is there a point to this conversation? Am I learning anything about life? Am I growing? Are we making contact?" If you can't identify the point, there probably is none. There is an ancient Jewish tradition called ta'anit dibur -- a "speech fast." When people find themselves talking too much, they refrain from all conversation except for Torah study. Likewise, in the House of Prayer, there should be no outside conversations -- just God and yourself. Try experimenting for one hour without t alking. It's a healthy exercise in self -control, and can help you focus on your inner self. Don't worry, people will just assume you've got laryngitis.

Avoid Negative Talk

The Torah says that God used the medium of speech to create the world. ( "And God said: Let there be light." ) For us as well, speech is a tool of creation -- through it we can build the world. A word of praise will encourage others and build confidence. Making someone feel important is to say, "Your existence is necessary." This is life-giving and lifeaffirming. On the other hand, speech can also be used to destroy. Words like " You're worthless, that's terrible ," wipe out a person's self -esteem. It is untrue to believe that "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Did you ever find yourself in the middle of gossip or a distasteful joke? It's insidious. All of a sudden you find yourself dragged into a discussion that's taken a turn for the worse. Never say anything negative or derogatory about another person -- even if it's true. Gossip causes quarrel and tears apart relationships, families, even entire communities. As King Solomon said: "Life and death are in the hands of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). Learn to switch tracks. Monitor your conversation, and when y ou notice it slipping off track, pull it back, gently and subtly. 104

If this doesn't work, bow out of the conversation. Have some graceful exit lines ready to go. Of course, don't ever embarrass another person ... but don't hang around and sully yourself either!

Why Is "Artful Conversation" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y y

Be fascinated with human beings and you'll be an excellent conversationalist. Talk to people in the office, neighbors, even strangers. Human beings have wisdom. Get them to share it. Negative speech will make you a negative person. Use speech wisely. It's one of the greatest gifts we have. Have a conversation, not a confrontation. Conversation is a tool of creation; it pulls us out of isolation, builds connections and expands our world. Fulfilling our need s depends on how well we communicate those needs to others.



Laughter is a deeply spiritual emotion. Maybe that's why the list of Jewish comedians is so long! Understand the dynamics of laughter and use it wisely. The list of Jewish comedians is long. The Talmud even says when the great sage Rav lectured to thousands of students on serious Torah topics, he always started with a joke. Why? Jokes have the power to grab our attention and focus our mind. Laughter can snap us out of melancholy, put things back into perspective, and provide the momentum to make the best of life. Here's one of my favorite jokes: A man is riding his motorcycle down a mountain road. Suddenly he loses control and goes hurtling off the cliff. As h e's sailing through the air, he shouts out: "God! Please make a miracle! Save me!" Moments later his shirt gets caught on a protruding branch -- leaving him dangling thousands of feet above the ground. There's no way out, so he looks heavenward and shouts: "God! Please save me!" "Do you trust Me, My beloved son?" calls the voice from heaven. "Yes, God, I trust you. Just please save me!" "Okay then," says God. "Let go of the branch and I'll catch you." The man thinks for a moment, look around, and calls out: "Is anyone else out there?!" B'miyut s'chok literally means "minimize laughter." Understand the dynamics and use laughter wisely. Laughter is a double -edged sword. When used improperly -- e.g. insulting others or causing light -headedness -- laughter can be destructive. We need to define our terms. Why do we laugh? Laughter is when the unexpected occurs. A toddler puts on her father's big shoes -and we laugh. The president forgets his lines in a speech -- and we laugh. When two contrary elements are juxtaposed, the sudden surprise catches us off guard. And the more unexpected, the funnier it is. Laughter is an integral part of emotional health. You don't have to watch TV to release tension. You just need to know a good joke, or have the comical sense to see absurdity in daily life and ... bang! You're smiling and can parlay that positive energy into movement, growth, and power for something meaningful you need to do.


Putting Life Into Perspective

Did you ever see a child fall and get a tiny bruise, then break into a fit of tears? What if you'd look at the child and say: "Oh -oh, I think we have to rush you to the hospital!" The child laughs, because he recognizes the bruise is a small worry in the big context. Having a sense of humor is a sign of maturity, because it demonstrates a sense of proportion about what's truly important. Growing and maturing is a process of learning to see all of life's issues in context. It is human nature to lose focus and get emotionally wrapped up in our day -to-day concerns. We can laugh in everyday life when we recognize the absurdity of a skewed perspective. Someone who breaks a shoelace may think his world is falling apart -- until he meets someone without a leg. Children don't have this sense of proportion. They cry over tr ivial matters, and bear grudges over little things. An adult who does the same thing is acting childish. "Somebody stepped on my shadow, or somebody insulted me." It is out of proportion. Try mocking your hang-ups and idiosyncrasies. When it is clear how r idiculous and ludicrous our situation is, the joke is on us. "Laugh at your problems" does not mean ignore them; that would be irresponsible. Of course you have to deal with the source of your depression. But while you're stuck in it, trying to analyze the reason makes you even more depressed! If you can laugh at yourself for making too much out of something trivial, then you've achieved a necessary distance from your problems. That in turn will give you energy and perspective to deal with the more serious underlying cause. Each day should be fresh. Don't come with preconceived notions. Laughter helps clear the air. So break out of it and have a laugh. Enjoy life. Don't pity yourself.

Diffuse The Tension

Why do high school girls giggle when the boys walk by? Or why, in an amusement park's "haunted house," do people laugh when the ghost pops out? Because laughter is a subconscious release of tension. Laughter gets rid of gloom, aggravation, depression, worry -- all forms of tension. So use laughter consciously to break tension in yourself and others. In today's world, everyone is worried about the economy, nuclear missiles, taxes, corporate downsizing. These worries have made us so uptight that many people walk around like time bombs, ready to explode. Laugh to release steam and uplift yourself. You don't realize how much tension you walk around with every day until you've had a good laugh to release that tension. 107

When speaking to someone who is tense, smile and tell a joke. Did it ever happen that you are in a terrible argument with a friend, with bad feelings and bad vibes, when all of a sudden you start laughing? Something struck you as ridiculous. All the bad feelings disappeared and you saw how absurd the whole fight was. So use it consciously. To dispel ang er during the middle of an argument, just start laughing. It will put everyone at ease. It is a powerful little gadget, this laughter. Or if you're nervous about taking a test, laugh about it and say: "So what if I fail. Maybe I'll break the world record f or the lowest score!" That sort of joking will relax you and make you more likely to pass the test. Even just feigning laughter can lift your spirits and relax you. Get yourself a favorite joke that will work at all times and laugh. Remind yourself of that joke and you will start laughing. Laughing when you don't feel like it can itself be funny!

Laugh At Insanity
When we laugh at something, whether it's an idea, a person, or an absurdity -- we destroy it. Like any powerful weapon, therefore, laughter must only be directed against an appropriate target. Of course, it's cruel to laugh at a crazy person. But go right ahead and laugh at crazy ideas. For example, laugh at the idea of "dying for success." Think of the absurdity of so many people wasting their lives chasing after money and material possessions, long after they have much more than they need. Laugh at evil and at the worship of artificial values. This will distance you from such false values, and keep you from getting caught up in it. Laugh also at jealousy, pettiness, and fighting. Whenever you're surrounded by insanity, laugh it off, and you won't fall under its spell. It's a way of saying: "Oh pardon me, I stepped on the god. I hope I didn't hurt it." Laugh at the absurd ways people waste time. On a long flight, hundreds of passengers sit with their eyes glued to a tiny screen, watching a boring movie that they wouldn't pay a nickel to see at home. But since they're stuck on the plane, they keep watching. Isn't that a ludicrous way to spend precious hours of life? A person could otherwise be studying, thinking or having a worthwhile conversation. Look at your "life goals," and realize how little time you spend pursuing them. Isn't it absurd? Not all laughs have to be happy laughs, but they provide pe rspective just the same. There is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone for at least a decade, yet tens of thousands of people are starving. Why? Because of politics and greed. It's absurd! The first step in changing craziness is to recognize it. We need to laugh just to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation, so we can take action.


When you see these ridiculous things, laugh at them so you won't get caught up in it. Do you understand? When you see insanity, have a good solid laugh and you will be released from it.

Abuses Of Laughter
Abusing the tool of laughter is dangerous and destructive. Stay away from:

(A) Ridicule
Laugh "with" people, not "at" them. Ridiculing someone hurts his soul. It's embarrassing and makes him feel worthless. "You are a bozo, a nothing." Ridicule is the most terrible way of hurting another human being. People feel this deeply. So the next time something "funny" happens, make sure not to direct your laughter at the person, but rather at the funny thing he did. Similarly, never laugh at another person's worries. Since the person may not see things with your same perspective, your sense of joy at his problems only makes it worse. (Unless you can get the person to laugh about it, too.)

(B) Excessive Laughter

Laughing for laughter's sake is just an escape. Jokes alone don't equal happiness, and too much laughter gives an artificial feeling of joy. You can have a great time at a two-hour comedy show -- but experience an empty feeling afterward. That's because you got worked up high, but it wasn't real. And the reality always comes back. Silliness, too, is often a sign of running from the realities of life. Life is serious business, and frivolity destroys meaning. That's why excessive laughter and misplaced levity can lead to immoral behavior.

(C) Negative Laughter

Certain types of laughter -- like cynicism, sarcasm or a nervous laugh -- reveal a more deep-seated emotional problem. Dirty and ethnic jokes are especially problematic. Watch out for these "negative laughter s" in yourself and in others, and distance yourself from them.

(D) Off-Limits
There is an old saying: "Never laugh at Motherhood or God." That means to say, don't be disrespectful by laughing at serious subjects. Never poke fun at idealism. If someone is giving up material pursuits in order to serve the needs of others, don't snicker and say, "Nice guys finish last." You've injected a destructive energy into society. This is serious and you've got to keep it serious. 109

Laughter And God

On a deeper level, lau ghter teaches us how God interacts with the world. The official "Jewish day of laughter" is Purim. We get dressed up in funny costumes and act silly -- which is surprising since the Purim story is all about an impending annihilation of the Jewish people! But then the story turns upside down. The Jews went from being the target of annihilation, to being the heroes and victors. Haman is hung and the Jewish people are rescued. It was a miraculous 180-degree shift in fortune. One who thought he was in danger and suddenly discovers he's safe laughs aloud in relief. One who thought he lived alone in a hostile world and suddenly discovers that God is really there laughs aloud in joy. Human beings see the world from a finite perspective. Since we're tied to the physical world by our bodies, we're forced to live with the illusion of what we perceive. Laughter is an opportunity to transcend limitations that blind us to seeing God more clearly. Even when things look bad, even if we're suffering, in some way it has got t o be all for the best, because there's a beneficent God behind everything, manipulating events for our good. And that's the story of the Jewish people. The Talmud says that in the times of the Messiah, "THEN our mouths will be filled with laughter." Why then and not now? Because today, the world is beset by jealousy, greed, violence, intolerance and fraud. We are suspicious of our neighbors and cynical of our leaders. We are manipulative and seek advantage at the expense of others. Rather than cooperate, we compete. But in the Messianic era, all that will turn around. As the prophet says: "The lamb will lie down with the lion ... and young children will play at the cobra's nest" (Isaiah 11:6). At that time, when all truth is revealed, "THEN our mouths will be filled with laughter." If we were truly clear on the idea that the only real power in the world is God, we wouldn't have nearly as much worry and anxiety. With trust in God, we would be fully relaxed. So we need a good laugh in order to loosen up, forget our anxieties -- and break down our walls. Then we can reaffirm our belief that God's world is good, and everything will work out.

Why Is "Laughter" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y

Use laughter to keep your troubles in proportion. Realize they're not as bad as they seem. Life is not problems; it's opportunities. Laughter dispels gloom, depression, worry, pain and aggravation. Use it as a quick way to snap back into action! 110

y y y y

Use laughter consciously and in a measured amount. Aggravation and suffering sap our strength. Laughter brings out cheerful relaxation and gives you new energy. Laughter destroys everything in its path -- for good and for bad. Laughter taps us into the deeper reality of God's interaction with the world.


It's a tough world and we have to be persistent. Quitting is giving into frustration. Don't turn back. Accept the frustration as a challenge - and love it! Imagine you've just bought a brand -new sports car, and are taking it out for your first drive. As you approach a traffic light, it turns yellow, so you slow down carefully and stop. Suddenly someone bumps you from behind. As if this was not angering enough, the same driver backs up and bumps you again. Now, you're furious! Your beautiful, shiny sports car that cost a year's salary! You jump out in a rage, ready to let the guy really have it ... when all of a sudden, a 6-foot-10 linebacker steps out of the car. "Gee, sir," you begin in a much softer tone than originally intended. "It seems that you've hit my car. Are you okay? Do you have insurance?" How did you shut off your anger so quickly? On an intellectual level, we understand that anger is counterproductive. We possess the power to control our emotions. No matter how infuriating a situation is, we can put the anger aside and act civilly. Especially when standing up against a 6 -foot-10 linebacker. Erech apayim literally means "long nostrils." Do you see how someone's nostrils flare up when he gets angry? A tool for healthy living is to conquer that frustratio n. An angry person is acting like a wild animal. He's given up all restraint. He may slam the door and shout obscenities. He is blind to the consequences of his actions; hence the expression, "blind rage." He has given into frustration. A first step in controlling anger is to recognize how counterproductive it is. When you feel frustration building, and a little voice inside of you says, "Let's yell that guy off the face of the earth," ask yourself, "What benefit will there be? I'll only embarrass myself and come to regret it." If we could see a videotape of ourselves getting angry, the humiliation might well cure us of anger for the rest of our lives!


Never Quit Out Of Frustration

Did you ever undertake to learn a new skill -- like a foreign language or musical instrument -- and then quit? "Quitting" is another form of giving in to frustration. Appreciate that this is a tough world and we have to be persistent in order to accomplish. Never turn back in midstream. Follow it through to the end. Consider how many projects you began -- and then gave up -- because you became frustrated and lost patience. Make a list of things you started and quit because they seemed too difficult. Now calculate the disappointment and loss you suffered by not accepting the frustrat ion. How do we repair this fault? Look at the list of things you've quit. Choose one and resolve to see it through. And for the rest of your life, once you undertake something, resolve never to quit. (Unless you are objectively sure that it's "not worth it " -- i.e. you initially misjudged the amount of effort required relative to the final payoff.) Every night before going to sleep, check yourself: Where did I gain and where did I lose?

Loss Of Confidence
Beside the obvious result of quitting (i.e. not fulf illing your goal), there is a terrible side effect: A loss of self-confidence. If we quit once, then the next time we plan a project, we won't trust our ability to carry it out. To see how destructive this pattern can be, make a list of the projects that y ou have thought about, but never even started, because you didn't believe you could accomplish them. See how little credibility you have in your own eyes. After a few failures, you expect that more will keep happening! When someone stops trusting himself, he's hit a critical impasse. He begins to accept the idea that it's okay to be "mediocre." That's a self -destructive attitude. Resolve that from now on, whenever you consider a project, you will sit down and figure out how much time, energy and effort it will take. Then decide whether or not it's worth it. If you conclude that it is, then begin with confidence -- and don't allow yourself to quit unless something happens beyond your control. When the going gets tough, and a little voice says, "It's not wort h it!" tell yourself "It is worth it!" When you follow through, it not only gets the job done, but it builds self -confidence -which is reason enough to stick with the task.


Just Five Minutes More

Frustration can result from not making progress as fast as you'd like. At times like that, it's important to monitor your success, even if it's only in microscopic increments. Accomplishment will make you feel good about yourself. To overcome quitting, trick yourself. A 3 -hour marathon may be nearly impossible to run, but 10 runs of 18 minutes each is more reasonable. Break things into small, achievable goals. Then, when you're in the heat of a project and feel yourself coming undone, just tell yourself, "Another 5 minutes, and then I'll quit!" When the 5 minutes are up, you can bargain for another 5. Frustration is much easier to bear in small doses. If you're struggling with a diet, decide that for "today" you're going to stick with orange juice and granola; tomorrow you can treat yourself to a greasy steak with fries! This will help convince your body to hang in there until the job is complete. In spirituality, the Sages say; "If you work and don't succeed, it means you didn't work hard enough." Even though there is no guarantee of success in any other area, there is a guarantee of spiritual success. And that knowledge helps build confidence. Accept pain and accept frustration, because anybody who can sit on nails has got a sense of freedom. He knows he can do whatever he wants. No matter what the outcome, each successful step improves your self-confidence and keeps you on the road to true success.

The Frustration Of Wasting Time

People may say: "All I want to do is to take a vacation and soak up the sun." But what happens after a few hours of lying on the beach, t hinking blissfully, "Ahh ... this is the life..." You start to feel restless and uncomfortable. You start looking to do something constructive. After two days on the beach, you're going out of your mind! The greatest form of frustration is wasting time. When you're standing in line at a bank, watching your day tick by when you've got so much to do, that's one big frustration. Quitting is also a major source of wasted time. If we invest in a project, and then don't see it through to completion, we've wasted a lot of time. God created frustration in order to motivate us to accomplish something with our lives.

Life Is A Challenge
Is it reasonable to assume that your life will always be frustration -free and a smooth ride? No way. 113

In the Book of Proverbs, King So lomon said: "The righteous person falls seven times and gets up. The evil person falls just once." We see that the righteous person is not defined as someone who never makes a mistake. Rather, the person who achieves greatness is one who keeps trying again and again. He sees frustration as only a passing nuisance, and therefore never gives up. In fact, his falling seven times may be precisely how he became great! You have to distinguish between what you "hope will happen," and what "will probably happen." Life inevitably has its ups and downs -- its moments of relaxation and times of tension. When you learn to accept this reality, you come one step closer to being able to deal with frustration in a healthy way. The next time frustration pops up, just remind yourself, "That's life!"

Taking Things In Stride

Joy is one of the greatest tools for eliminating anger and frustration. If we're sad, then we have less patience and tolerance for everything and everybody. Yesterday when someone stepped on your toe, you ma y have snapped at him, "Watch where you're going!" But let's say that today you won the lottery and someone steps on your toe. "No problem, friend," you say with a big smile. "Have a nice day!" Why the difference? Feeling relaxed, confident and upbeat keep s frustration and anger in check. Plus your physical health will benefit as well -- less ulcers, high blood pressure, etc. But don't wait until you win the lottery to do this!

Enjoying Frustration
Being able to bear frustration is one level of dealing with it. A higher level -- often characteristic of those who achieve greatness -- is the resolve to love frustration and work with it! If you think about it, you'll see that deep down you really do "love frustration." Imagine going out to buy a 1,000 -piece jigsaw puzzle. You bring it home, open the box and discover that all the pieces are in numbered order! It's infuriating! Why? Because you paid good money for a box of frustration and they've taken away the challenge! Life is like a jigsaw puzzle. When you have a complex problem, first try to build the framework, an overall sense of how you want this to ultimately resolve. Then set about solving the puzzle ... one piece at a time. In everyday life, too, derive enjoyment from the resolution of frustrations. S o many things only get accomplished through struggle. Whether childbirth or career advancement, we accept certain pains as a worthwhile price to pay for pleasure. 114

In truth, the greater the challenge, the taller we can rise to meet it. Consider a very sick person whose suffering is unbearable. He can decide not to let the suffering rob him of any more quality of life than it must. He can resolve to work with the pain, rather than against it. At that moment of decision, he greatly reduces the suffering -if not physically, at least emotionally.

Believing You Can Do It

There are two types of problems: Those which you know can be solved, and those which you're not sure if they can be solved or not. The first type is obviously much easier to handle. When you know it can be done, you have greater willingness to fight the frustration. Always try to move your problems into the "known" category of frustration. When you first rode a bicycle, you probably feared you'd fall off and break your head! But you looked around and saw the other kids staying balanced. Seeing others succeed gave you the confidence to plunge in. (And if you'd never seen anyone ride a unicycle, you'd think that was totally impossible!) Get rid of the attitude of "It can't be done." That's defeat ist and an excuse for not even trying. Wisdom is one of the hardest skills to achieve, and is thus subject to the greatest frustrations. Next time you get stuck, look around at all the others who've succeeded. We know if they can do it, so can we. And believing we can get there is half the battle.

God Provides The Challenge

There is a deeper metaphysical aspect to frustration: God never gives a person a challenge he cannot handle. This effectively puts every challenge into the category of the "achievable." Like a good track coach, God will not raise the hurdle higher than we can jump, because that would doom us to failure. And God desperately wants us to succeed. Similarly, for those who believe that God spoke to mankind at Mount Sinai, and gave the Jewish people the Torah, all problems automatically move into the "known" category of frustration. If God told us that we are obligated to help humanity, to work together and to love one another, that means it can be done. God is not a sadist. If it couldn't be done, He would not have told us to do so. That's why Judaism says that frustration and anger is the equivalent of idol worship. Because saying "I can't do it" is like saying that God is not involved in guiding our lives. "I can't" means I don't believe God c an help me. That's idolatry. Life has no problems, only opportunities.


Why Is "Conquering Frustration" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y y y y y y

Quitters never win, and winners never quit. Losing your temper means you're a quitter. When you quit because of frustration, you lose credibility and self -confidence. Adopt the motto: "I will overcome frustration." The best way of dealing with frustration is to accept it as a challenge -- and love it. Focus on your progress and take pleasure every step of the way -- even if it's only a small amount. Anger is called idol worship -- because we're taking marching orders from the wrong boss. Life is difficult and the path to greatness is paved with frustration. You can't get to heaven on roller skates. When we know that God provides the challenge, then we know we can succeed.


Human struggle is two conflicting inclinations - to either do the right thing, or to be selfish. Be aware of the inner struggle and increase your capacity to choose good. We all want to be good, but it's not easy. If you ask an evil person and a good person the same question: "Are you a good person?" who do you think is more likely to say, "I'm good?" - the good one or the evil one? The answer is the evil one! He could kick his own mother in the stomach and still think he's good. You say, "That's terrible! How could you do such a thing?" But he rationalizes and says, "You don't understand. She asked me to take out the garbage. If I do it, who knows what she'll ask for next? This could go on f orever!" The good person takes out the garbage. You tell him, "I see that you're a good person." He says, "No, I'm really not so good. Didn't you notice that when I took out the garbage I kicked my mother in the stomach?" "What are you talking about? I wa s watching and you didn't kick your mother in the stomach!" "Well, I didn't actually kick her. But I was grumbling about taking out the garbage. I wanted my mother to feel bad. I was in the middle of a good book, and if I don't register my protest, who knows - she might ask me to do it again tomorrow!" Do you see the difference? The evil person always says that he's right. He doesn't bother trying to be good, so he never feels a struggle. He just assumes that he's good. 116

By contrast, the person who really tries to be good knows how tough a job it is. And he's always striving for a higher level. There's a third type: The fully righteous person, the Tzaddik. He takes out the garbage and says, "It's my pleasure, Mom. You work so hard to take care of us. Thank you for the opportunity to express my appreciation!"

Two Hearts: "Wants" And "Desires"

Way #23 is B'lave tov - literally "with a good heart."

The struggle to do good stems from the two conflicting inclinations in every human being. A person has two hearts: one that loves to do the right thing, and one that prefers to be selfish. You need to develop an awareness of the struggle going on inside you. For example:
y y y

You want to use your time effectively, versus you feel like procrastinating. You want to eat healthy, versus you feel like chocolate cake. You want wisdom, versus you feel like watching TV.

"Want" is for permanence. It is rooted in reality. "Desire" is for the moment, with little regard for future consequence. It is an escape. This is actually the conflict between body and soul. Your eternal soul wants to do all the right things: to love humanity, seek justice, be altruistic, sensible, honorable and responsible. Your soul strives to fulfill its potential. Meanwhile, your body, which is destined for the grave, seeks satisfaction for the moment. It is drawn by the comfort of eating, sleeping, lusting. You know it's not right to refuse to take out the garbage, and your heart really wants to be good. But your other heart, the heart of desire, would rather stay inside where it's warm, reading a book in comfort. Even as you're reading this, your soul is nudging you: "Pay attention - this will make me great!' But your body contradicts: "All this hard work and concentration is too painful. I'm doing just fine the w ay I am!" With every decision, the two hearts clash and create a dilemma. To be triumphant in the battle, you have to focus on your innate desire to be good. Make it part of your mindset, and you'll see an observable effect throughout your day. You'll make more mature and effective decisions.

Distinguish Between The Two Hearts

It can be very confusing to sort out which heart is talking at any one time. Ask someone: "Which is more important to you - happiness or money?" 117

"I'd rather be happy. Just give me basic food, clothing and shelter - and then I'll engage in the pursuit of happiness. After all, what kind of fool wants to be a miserable millionaire?" "Okay, give me a week and I guarantee to show you how to be happy." "Well, that's an interesting offer... Maybe one day I'll consider it." "Okay, I'll make you a deal: After one month, if you've increased your happiness, I'll give you a bonus of $10,000." Now watch that guy run to you! Why? Which is more important to him - happiness or money? Of course, happiness is more important. But that's just the intellectual understanding of the soul. On the other hand, the body is distracted by the sight of that stack of green bills! Bodily desire confuses our thinking. Materialism can look so attractive that we become deluded into thinking that's what we really want. Unless you make the effort to distinguish between your wants and your desires, and to clarify which aspect is influencing your actions, then you're likely to lose valuable opportunities to accomplish your goals. Get in touch with the conflict by asking two simple questions: What do I want to do, versus what do I feel like doing? What you want to do is usually the right thing, whereas what you feel like doing is usually the more comfortable choice. The alarm clock goes off in the morning. You want to get out of bed and start your day. But you feel like hitting the snooze button and sleeping late. It's a tug of war. Getting out of bed becomes a moral dilemma! Whether you win or lose depends on which voice is the loudest at the moment of decision: the voice of want, or the voice of desire. Once you're aware of the conflict and remember that you're struggling, you'll be able to listen more carefully to the voice of the good heart, and dismiss the voice o f the selfish heart.

Defining "Good"
A proper definition of "good" is the starting point of everything you do in life. Obviously you can't just invent your own definition of "good." You have to investigate reliable sources, and then analyze which one best describes the human condition and reality. In Gaza, the definition of "good" may be someone who is willing to strap a bomb to his belly and detonate it in a crowded Israeli market.


A common Western definition of "good" is financial success. People become pulverized by depression because they're not successful. "What's wrong with me, I can't get an executive's job! I must be bad. I need a therapist!" This feeling carries into the way we consume. Our CD collection, vacations and fancy cars are one part convenience, two parts status. We want to show off that we fit society's idea of "good." (Politely, of course, so people shouldn't think we're barbarians!) Always ask yourself: Am I defining "good" by that which looks good to the fast food/hi-tech/Hollywood segment of society? Or am I defining "good" by that which has deep meaning and makes a valuable contribution to humanity? If we don't keep up our guard, we could end up rich -and-famous, hooked on drugs and plagued by depression. Why is the typical image of a movie star one who is embroiled in legal disputes, can't keep a marriage together, and spends countless hours in psychoanalysis? The basic definition of "good" is mistaken. In Judaism, the definition of good is found in the Torah. It spells out how a good person acts toward friends, family, and society as a whole. Goodness is kindness, justice, truth and loyalty to God. So be careful and make sure you work out the right definition. Otherwise, you could end up 20 years down the road before realizing you bough t a bad package.

Stand By Your Definition

Once you get your definition worked out, you have to stick with it. Others will always try to change your definition of "good," especially when it makes them uncomfortable about their own behavior. So you need conv iction to stand by your definition, even if others mock you. Why does someone play Russian roulette? Because he's afraid of being jeered, of being called a coward. But who's the real coward? The one without the courage to stand up to those jeers! In the end, instead of living as a coward, he dies as a coward. The ultimate irony: perception defeats reality. Don't let go of what you know.

Being Good Is More Important Than Life Itself

Imagine you're a successful surgeon. You're famous, rich, have a beautiful s pouse and marvelous kids. You're president of your synagogue, and have just been nominated to receive an honorary doctorate from Harvard. Life is grand! Now you're traveling through the Far East with friends. One night, while your friends are out at a movie, the Secret Police come to your hotel room and say, "Your travel 119

companions have been identified as dangerous spies. Tell us where they are - or we'll kill you!" Uh-oh. What do you do? Of course, turning over your friends is a terrible thing to do. On the other hand, you don't want to die - and nobody will ever know that you finked on your friends. You can still be a successful surgeon, still have your beautiful family, still be rich and famous - and still make it home in time for the Harvard graduation ! What do you do? Now let's up the ante. What if the Secret Police asked you to kill 1,000 children? " Kill 1,000 children and you can go back to the States to your beautiful life. " Do you think you could do such a thing? No. This scenario reveals something very deep in the makeup of every human being: Being good is so important that we'd even be willing to die for it. (And even if you could somehow bring yourself to kill the children, you'd probably go back home and shoot yourself...) Realize: If you are willing to give up your life to be "good," then there can be no higher goal in living than to be good. So go out and live for it. Harness that force within you. Make goodness your goal in living. Be willing to give up everything. You're not doing anyone any favors by being good, you're simply doing what the "inner you" wants. When you do the right thing, you always win.

Every Human Being Wants To Be Great

Our desire to be good is really just the tip of the iceberg. Actually, all of us strive to go beyond "good" - and become "great." Nobody wants to be average. Try saying, "I want to be mediocre." You can't get the words out! Because we want to be great, not just good. Would you want to be the person to discover the cure for cancer or eliminate the threat of nuclear war? Of course! We would all love to rid the world of its problems and unite humanity in peace and harmony. That is the Jewish concept of the Messiah. He will put the world back together. I once asked a class, "Tell me honestly. In your secret, innermost heart, do you harbor the desire to be the Messiah himself?" The entire class raised their hands. Now here's a deep spiritual secret: The soul, the divine spark within each of us, craves to be united with the source of all life - the Almighty God. And for that reason, every human being, underneath it all, would not even feel satisfied being the Messiah. Our souls desire to be like God Himself. 120

In fact, one of the mitzvot of the Torah is to be like God, to emulate His ways. We each have the potential to make a significant contribution to society. The Sages teach that everyone is supposed to say, "The whole world was made for me." This does not mean that you can plunder the property of others. Rather, every individual is responsible for the world. Act acco rdingly - you're here to straighten it out. So why don't we aim for it? Not because we don't want to change the world. But because the effort seems too great. It's a lot of hard work. But it's what we truly seek. So go for it. In the process, you'll become not just good, but great!

What Can I Do About It?

Ask any young person today: "What are the chances of a worldwide nuclear war within the next 20 years?" You'll get a range of answers. Some will say 90 percent, some 20 percent. Either way that's horrifying! So what are you going to do about it? "Me? What can I do about it? The United Nations, the U.S. president - they're in charge! I'm only one person." I ask you: If you knew that the Almighty Himself was helping you, what would you do about it? Everything! Well here's good news: God is behind you. God says, "If you try, I'll help you. I want you to straighten out the world." That is the Jewish national mission of "Tikkun Olam," of repairing the world. If we shirk our responsibility, we'll have to answer fo r it. There's no giving up. You want to be great, you can be great, and you have to be great. So get out there and slug. Harness your powerful desire for greatness. It's leading you whether you like it or not. Make the right effort, and God will certainly help you achieve.

Why Is A "Good Heart" A Way To Wisdom?

y y

Remind yourself daily that you want to be good. We get distracted by daily life and forget how much being good matters. Be aware of the conflict between what you deep -down "want," and the desires that get in the way. 121

y y y y y y y y

Once you understand the inner conflict, it will be a lot easier to make a conscious choice to use your capacity for good. Realize that being good is only doing yourself a favor. You want self respect more than anything else in life. Make sure to pursue what you objectively know is good, not what society tells you. If you want to be good, then seek out wisdom. Wisdom enables you to recognize "good" and make the right decisions. On any decision, ask: What does my soul want, versus what does my body want? Never say "I'm good enough already." You don't really mean it. If goodness is important enough to die for, then it makes sense to live for it. There is a mitzvah to be like God. It's what we all desire.


Wisdom is what makes the wheels of life spin forward. Don't stagnate. Actively pursue wisdom. There's a lot to learn about living. It may be possible to figure it all out on your own, but that's foolish and time consuming. To be wise, you can't casually pursue wisdom; you have to actively go after it. More wisdom equals more life, more pleasure, and more meaning. It's the ultimate value. As King Solomon said, "If you desire wisdom like money and buried treasures, then you'll find it!" People have some idea that there's nothing to learn outside of a university. We think: "What does the average person on the street know?" This attitude is destructive because it stops us from learning the many bits and pieces of wisdom that are available. Just the fact that someone survives from day-to-day, and copes with life's obstacles, means he's picked up valuable tips on living. Did you ever meet someone who is fascinated by every word the other person speaks, no matter who he is talking to? That's a rich life! As the Sages say: "Who i s the wise person? He who learns from all people." Taking guidance from the wrong people, however, can be disastrous. When you consider how much care you'd exercise before entrusting your money into another's hands, shouldn't you be even more careful befor e accepting advice on how to live your life? The world is full of people with wisdom. Learn from them.


Consider Carefully Any Piece Of Wisdom

Taking wisdom seriously means appreciating how every drop enhances your life. People often mistakenly wait for earth-shattering events to make the difference in their lives - which means that everything else is treated as "mundane." You don't have to wait around for that one incredible insight to dramatically change your life. Even a collection of smaller, less outsta nding pieces of wisdom can make a significant impact. When you hear a small piece of wisdom, think about it, and try to extract its underlying essence. Particularly, when you hear a piece of wisdom that doesn't make sense, don't discard it so quickly. Perhaps there's a deeper message that you haven't grasped. Of course, don't accept things blindly, but be respectful and keep in mind the source of the "wisdom"; if he has life experience, then there's a decent chance what he's saying is true. Similarly, when you do hear a piece of wisdom that makes sense, don't be content with that alone. Go back for more!

Find The Fountain Of Truth

To gain wisdom, the first step is to decide that what you want from life is truth, and that you will not settle for anything less. Start looking for wisdom now, and don't wait until you've reached some crisis point. Start the process with a simple exercise. Ask yourself: What would I want to know if I found a wise person? Compile a list of questions about life's meaning, and als o on any personal problems you're struggling with. Now, start looking for people who can give you the answers. Just as there are specialists in the field of medicine, there are specialists in the world of wisdom. The question is: Who are they? Where do you find such people? While "knowledgeable" people are in abundance, "wise" people seem few in number. Wise people are not pseudo-philosophers, or para-philosophers - they're the real thing. They deal with issues such as the purpose of life and the human pote ntial for greatness. They are constantly involved in the study of wisdom, and they live with the reality of those teachings.

Be An Educated Consumer
As important as it is to learn wisdom, it is also wise to exercise caution. Suppose you were in a foreign country - where you had no friends or relatives - and you became sick. You would search with utmost care for a reputable doctor with valid credentials. Your physical health is at stake! We must be equally cautious with whom we entrust our emotional and spir itual health.


There are a lot of ideas out there, and each person has a different way of looking at things. Every creed, society and religion thinks they have the truth capitalists, Communists, Republicans, Democrats, Jews, Christians, Muslims. The people growing up with these ideologies usually accept what they are taught. So who's right? How do we find truth? It's not always easy to conclude immediately, so you have to evaluate what you read or hear. The determining factor is whether the ethics they esp ouse have created a better society. If they don't, then seek a value system which does benefit its society even if that means breaking with the ideas you grew up with.

The Litmus Test

How can you judge whether a mentor is offering you real wisdom, or just empty formulas? Here are some methods to critically evaluate whether you should put your belief in that person or not. a) Check him out against some concept you're sure about. Let's say you feel certain that the definition of happiness is "to appreciate wha t you have." Now ask your prospective teacher what a person should do to be happy. If he replies "meditate" - which doesn't answer your question - ask what his definition of happiness is. If he can't adequately explain what happiness is, then you know he isn't a serious source of wisdom. b) See if the answers he offers enrich your life and the lives of others. Ask other people about their long -term experiences. c) See whether your teacher lives by the ethical standards that he preaches. d) Is your teacher willing to hear opposing views, or does he merely overwhelm you with his (i.e. brainwashing)? A good teacher gives his students room to argue, and encourages them to develop their own critical abilities. One of the unique aspects of the Torah educational system is that rabbis will sometimes make deliberate mis-statements in logic - in order to sharpen their students' wits. They want to check if the students are mindlessly accepting whatever is being taught, or if they are listening with a critical ear.

Knowledge Versus Faith

How does a person know whether a set of ideals is based on solid evidence, or on mere faith? First of all, let's define our terms. What is faith? The dictionary defines faith as "belief without proof." What is knowledge? "Truth, facts or principl es attained through investigation of evidence." Faith is usually a product of desire. Have you ever gotten a tip on the stock market that guarantees to triple your money in a month? It's hard to turn down this tip because we all desire to make money quick. And a lot of smart people who have 124

better sense have gotten fleeced because they ignored the evidence and went on faith with their feelings. Knowledge, meanwhile, is based on evidence. We know there's a place called China because we have many products in our house saying "made in China." There's so much evidence out there that we believe China exists even though most of us have never visited there. In other words, seeing is only one way of believing. There are many other ways to collect evidence and draw conclusions. Which of these two terms do you think more accurately describes the basis for belief in Judaism? Faith or knowledge? Judaism teaches that the basis of our convictions must be knowledge, not faith. For example, the first of the Ten Commandment i s: "Know there is a God." Not "hope" or "wonder" if God is out there, but "know." This is a sensible way to live. Imagine taking your car into the mechanic. You return an hour later and he says you need a new carburetor. Cost: $300 (not including labor, of course). You're a little bent out of shape and you ask him: "How exactly did you determine that?" He says, "Very simple. I turned on the engine, placed my hands on the hood, and I 'felt' that you need a new carburetor." No one is going to spend $300 becau se some mechanic "feels" you should. We want facts. That's the only sound way to make a decision. Isn't it obvious, then, that you should use your head for the really important decisions in life? The 48 Ways says: Listen to the wise person, but don't accept him unconditionally. Be critical. If you see contradictions, ask. But give him a fair hearing. Give weight to what he says, even if it goes against your prejudices. Resolve what you don't understand. And then live by the wisdom you are taught.

A Hidden Resource: Your Parents

We assume that unless a person is a recognized scholar, or successful business person, he lacks wisdom. But the truth is, anyone who's had life experience possesses great wisdom. Take your parents, for example. Though they may not be able to teach you about computers, they do know a lot about life. Though fashions and technology may change, the deeper aspects of life never change:
y y y y

What makes a good marriage? How do I raise happy children, and teach them ethics and morality? What professions are worth devoting one's life to, and which are not? Which goals are important, and which are foolish? What should I spend my time and money on? 125

You may be shocked to find out how much your parents know about the issues you're grappling with rig ht now. As Mark Twain said, "I spent four years in university, and I was amazed at how much wiser my father got while I was away!" Not only do you gain wisdom from questioning your parents, you gain an eternal relationship that you will appreciate now, and for years after they have left this world.

Wisdom Of God And The Sages

Judaism does not have a concept of infallible religious leaders. Any human being can make a mistake. Only God doesn't make mistakes. What is the Almighty's track record? He promised to take us out of Egypt and He did. He promised to make us an eternal nation and He did. He promised to return us to the Land of Israel and He did. If God says something, it is 100 percent reliable. Part and parcel of Jewish belief is the idea that God ent rusted His message to the Sages. The wise men of Talmudic times were in a different league than anything we can imagine today. They were holy people who were constantly connected to the metaphysical spheres. Torah wants us to think. Which means: Believe in the rabbis, but don't put your mind in deep freeze. Though the Sages are not infallible, they are still the best source of truth we have available today. They understand the word of God. Study what they say.

Why Is "Searching For Wisdom" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y

Be bothered by ignorance and you'll go looking for wisdom. Everyone has learned from experiences. Ask yourself: "What does this person know about living that is valuable to me?" Respecting wisdom means you'll take it seriously - and make a sincere effort to acquire it. Before you know anything else, you've got to know what you're living for. Wise people know. Listen to them. If you're Jewish, it makes sense to look to Judaism as your source of wisdom. Listening to wise people is good practice for listening to God.



Pain is an unavoidable reality of life. Don't run away. The key to success is to learn how to accept the pain and grow from it. What is the opposite of pain? Nine out of 10 people will say, "Pleasure." Incorrect. The actual opposite of pain is "no pain" - i.e. comfort. And while comfort may be very nice, it is not the ultimate pleasure. A person who goes through life chasing comfort will be very disappointed at the end - because if you spend your life avoiding pain, you will also avoid the deepest pleasures. As much as everyone tries to minimize pain in life, the fact remains that pain is unavoidable. Everything has its ups and downs. Therefore, if we want to succeed in life, the key is not to eliminate pain entirely (f or that is impossible), but rather to learn how to understand and accept the pain.
Way #25 is b'kabalat ha'isurim - literally "receiving pain." The 48 Ways says: Pain is the price we pay for pleasure. All of life's lasting pleasures - good relationships, successful careers, the pursuit of meaning - require a lot of effort to achieve.

What we call "pain" is frequently a matter of "effort." The effort of physical fitness is painful. The effort of thinking through a complex idea is painful. The effort of build ing a long-term relationship is painful. From here we see that although effort may be "painful," the goal of life should not be to escape it. Anyone looking for a smooth ride will miss out on life's immeasurable pleasures.

A Pain-Pleasure Example
Real pleasure is inseparable from pain. Here's an example: What would you say is your parents' greatest "pleasure?" That's right, you. What would you say is your parents' greatest "pain?" The same answer. You. It's not an accident that your parents' greatest pleasu re is also the source of their greatest pain. Because the greater the pleasure, the greater the effort required. 127

Beyond this, the greater pain we experience on the way toward a goal, the greater we enjoy the success of reaching it. In other words: The more we pay, the more we treasure. To pursue comfort is defined as "decadent." When an entire society makes comfort its primary goal, that's dangerous. The Roman Empire collapsed because of decadence; they got too comfortable. The low birth rate in the Western world is an indication of contemporary decadence. I often ask young people how many children they want, and they tell me "two." "Why so few? "Because I love children, and I want to give them every advantage. It'll be difficult enough sending two children to university, let alone five. And what about clothes? And summer camp? With two children it's feasible, but with five?" That sounds logical. So I say: "Okay, I'll give you one million dollars for one of your siblings. You've got three of them, so you won' t miss one. She'll be given every advantage. No harm will come to her. You just won't see her again." "Are you crazy? That's my sister you're talking about. I wouldn't take 10 million dollars for her!" Do you see? If you run from pain or effort, you're rea lly running away from pleasure.

Fear Of Pain
Often, the fear of pain is worse than the pain itself. An inoculation takes all of one second, but anticipation of the pain can last for hours beforehand. Fear of pain is the greatest restriction there is. If you're afraid of traveling, you'll never go anywhere. If you're afraid of physical or emotional exertion, you won't achieve, you won't grow, you won't find truth. We all have a choice: Either pay in the pain of trying, or in the emotional pain of knowing you're too weak to try. For example: If you don't ask for the job, you avoid the pain of refusal - but you have the pain of being a quitter the rest of your life. And that always comes back to haunt a person. What is at the core of someone's choice of suicide? What is really driving the person when he picks up a gun to put an end to it all? He wants to avoid pain. He wants to escape. In the words of Shakespeare, "To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or by taking arms against fate... to end it all." That's what he's looking for. He wants to sleep.


To help you confront tough situations, remember: "Pain is passing, results are lasting." In fact, pain is often just a threshold to cross into a world of pleasure. A good example is the dentist. The drill and filling will take an hour, and the pain will subside in two. But the filling will prevent further decay, and give you eating enjoyment for years to come.

Fear Of Reality
The biggest fear peop le have, and the one most important to overcome, is the fear of facing up to reality. People would rather live an illusion than wake up to reality. Why? Because if reality turns out to be something different than what we're used to, it means having to chan ge our course in life. And that hurts! We all choose to escape, now and then, from the effort that's involved in accomplishing life's goals and ambitions. We all want to be great; we all want to change the world. It's just that we don't always feel like pu tting forth the effort. So we distract ourselves and escape from who we really are and what we want to achieve. The 48 Ways says: It hurts a lot more when reality confronts us, especially when it may be too late to do anything about it. Always ask yourself: "What pain am I avoiding?" Identify exactly what you're afraid of. Reason it out: What's the worst that could happen? As an exercise, make a list of the goals you'd love to achieve if no pain was involved. Then next to each goal, write down the amount of pain you anticipate in trying to reach those goals. Then, write down what makes the goal so worthwhile. Now compare the two columns. If a particular goal is truly worthwhile, then you'll see instantly how your fear of pain is holding you back from achievi ng that goal. And it will clarify how you'd even be willing to pay the price of pain to achieve it!

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

One of the best ways of getting rid of pain is to forget about it and focus instead on the pleasure. It may seem as if pain and pleasure can't occur simultaneously, and that if you're feeling pain there is no pleasure. Wrong! Even when there's pleasure to be felt, if you're focusing on the pain, you're numb to the pleasure. Switch the focus and you switch the feeling. Imagine a team of basketball players, running around the court, pushing themselves to the limit, just to score a basket. Do they notice the pain they're feeling? Barely. The pleasure of playing and scoring overwhelms their feeling of pain. Now what would happen if you as ked them to conduct the following experiment: 129

"Play basketball as you would normally - run, jump, shoot, and defend. But this time, do it without the ball!" How long do you think they could play for? Maybe five minutes. Because without the ball, there is no pleasure to distract them from the pain. Every step now seems like a major effort. Give them back the ball, and they'll play for another two hours! Judaism says: Keep your eye on the ball. If you want the ultimate in living, then you'll want to learn all you can about life. This will enable you to focus and make any effort a pleasure.

Focus On The Up-Side

Imagine a little boy playing with his friends. He falls down, scrapes his knee and begins to cry. But when his friends call out, "Cry baby!" he quickly pulls himself together and goes back in the game. An hour later, the child comes home, walks through the door, shows his mother his knee - and immediately bursts into tears! Our enjoyment of life has a lot to do with how we deal with pain. Many people have learned to say, "So what!" and take pain in stride. Others focus on their suffering and get stuck in a mode of complaining and self -pity. Many people make the error of focusing on their failures, rather than on their strong points. This causes pointless anguish and pain. Every human being is created with marvelous talents and potential. Therefore, to obsess over your shortcomings is as foolish as going to a wonderful restaurant - beautiful view, exquisite furnishings then fretting that there's no salt. "N O SALT! How can that be?! It's an outrage!" What could have been an enjoyable experience turns into a nightmare for you and those around you. Those who achieve the most are those who endured the greatest pain. Would you stop the revolution because you have a splinter in your finger? Would you hold up wisdom because you have a headache? In fact many relationships sour for the same reason. Rather than focusing on the positive, people focus on the negative. People will swim in ice-water or walk over hot coals just to conquer the pain of doing so. Overcoming pain gives us a sense of our own free will, and how much we can shape our lives. Learn to focus on the goodness amidst the pain, and you'll discover the maximum pleasure that life can offer.


Pain Of Others
The rules are different when it comes to other people. Don't ignore their pain. When you visit a friend in the hospital, don't start preaching about how he should "look at the positive side." Compassion and understanding will help alleviate his pain. Similarly, don't look away from the suffering of humanity. If there's a problem in your community (or even in some faraway land), ask yourself: "What can I do to alleviate it?" A person would need to be blind (or self -absorbed) to be unaware of the plight of humanity today: despair, persecution, broken homes... Those who have some sense of vision write a check when there's a knock on the door. But even they are "too busy" to get personally involved. It is the rare few who go out of their way to seek real solution s. Greatness is not "upping your donation" from last year. Greatness is becoming involved, in making it as much your problem as the one who is suffering. That is where a leader will be found, and that's where your own greatness will ultimately be expressed.

Why Did God Make It This Way?

God could have created us as automated robots. But instead He gave each of us a set of challenges - and the potential to overcome them. This is how we grow and "repair our souls." Utilizing our free will is the essence of wh at it means to be a human being. Every moment we're alive, we're using our free will to choose between life and death, reality or escapism. It's a constant choice. We're either making the choice to take the pain in order to grow, or we're quitting. Which is not to suggest that we should go out of our way to seek difficulties. But if there is a process that we must undergo, then it's foolish to avoid it. Too often we busy ourselves with petty distractions, in order to escape the confrontation with reality. But it always catches up with us eventually. Because it's part and parcel of our reason for being, all part of the Grand Eternal Plan. Effort is a process that each of us has to go through. We have crucial life lessons to learn, and it's precisely for that reason our souls have come to earth in the first place. Our greatness is found in using our free will to resolve conflict, fight and accomplish. To bite the bullet and not run away. You know you've got what it takes. Now go and get it.


Why Is "Accepting Pain" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y

"According to the effort is the reward." The more effort you expend, the more pleasure you'll get. If you jump ship when the waters get choppy, you'll never make it to shore. Accept the pain of confronting reality and finding truth. Deal with the difficulties of life by finding pleasure within the pain. Don't fear the pain; learn to welcome it as a necessary byproduct of growth. Don't escape the suffering of others. Learning wisdom requires struggling to research an idea, understand it, integrate it, and practice it over and over.


Every person has a unique contribution to make in this world. Figure out who you are, and where you fit into the grand scheme. Imagine the accountant standing in a roomful of doctors and pontificating on medical science. How foolish he sounds! A key ingredient in wisdom is to know who you are, and where you fit into the greater scheme of things. Arrogance is a major barrier to growth. The "know -it-all" is smugly satisfied. Don't be arrogant, don't be satisfied. Realize how little you understand. If you appreciate that wisdom is your most valuable possession, then you'll push for more. Way #26 is hamakir et mikomo - literally "know your place." Do you know where you stand in relation to others? Realistically evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. By learning how to make that calculation, you'll know when you're best suited for the job at this moment. If you are, then don't be held back by false modesty. It's your obligation to step forward and take the lead. On the other hand, it also means knowing when others are more suited, and stepping back into your place. Sometimes, silence is golden. The Talmud teaches that, "A person should not speak in the presence of someone greater than him in wisdom." Don't be too quick to throw in your two cents worth. You can think the world of yourself, only to walk into a room of geniuses and find out that you have a lot more to lear n. Or you can be down on yourself, only to walk into a room of under-achievers and find out that you're not so bad after all. The Sages speak about carrying two slips of paper - one in the right pocket and one in the left. On one paper is written: "The ent ire world was created just for me" (Talmud - Sanhedrin 38a). On the other paper is written the words of Abraham: "I am but dust and ashes" (Genesis 18:27).


Know your place. Before you begin talking, stop to think: Is this a time to step forward, or a time to step back?

Your Special Role

Each human being possesses a unique combination of personality, talents, timing and circumstances - a specific role to play in this world. Our role is dependent on many factors - not only our innate talents, but also on the needs of the times. The important thing is to discover your unique contribution - and fulfill it. The Torah tells us that one day Moses saw an Egyptian taskmaster killing a Jew. "And Moses looked all around, and when he saw that there was no man, he took action." (Exodus 2:11-12) Why does the Torah tell us "there was no man"? Because Moses was checking to see if someone else was available, someone better qualified to do the job. Because if you reach for leadership when it's not necessary, then you're doing it more out of your own desire than for the needs of the people. Only when Moses saw there was nobody else qualified, did he take action. Knowledge is responsibility. If you know something, you're responsible to share it and act on it. That's part of knowi ng your place.

Evaluate The Source

To avoid costly misjudgments, learn how to evaluate other people's opinions. We often assume that someone is wise because he's older, or has more experience, or occupies a high position. But it's not necessarily true - just because someone is successful in business doesn't mean he can tell you how to stay happily married. When someone expresses a viewpoint, put it into perspective: Does this person know what he's talking about? Or is he just a know -it-all? On the other hand, when your knowledge is insufficient, don't let your ego get in the way. We all like to think we have enough common sense to figure out what to do in life, but sometimes you need to turn to others for aid. If you're contemplating marriage, find a wise pe rson and ask: How should I prepare myself for marriage? What character traits should I be looking for in a spouse? How will I know when I've found "the right one"?

Know What You Know

Sometimes we lack confidence in our position, because "who's to say that any one view is right?"


The 48 Ways says: You can attain absolute clarity. For example, you have absolute clarity of the fact you have five fingers. Nobody can talk you into believing you have 75 fingers. You can count those five fingers on your hand. Ther e is so much evidence to support the claim, that it's an unshakable conviction. Judaism says: We have to get "five -finger-clarity" about all our beliefs and values. One way to gain confidence is to work out definitions. You're planning to get married. Are you in love? What is love? How does love differ from infatuation? Love is built on knowledge. The more intimate the knowledge, the more you can love. How do you know if you are in love or infatuated? If you hear yourself saying, "He's perfect," or "She's perfect!" then beware! That's not reality. That's a sure sign of infatuation. Real love takes work. You have to be willing to make the effort. Take responsibility and become real with your decisions. Nothing will just "somehow work out." You have to make the appropriate effort to think through your decisions and understand what you're basing them on. Ask yourself: What's my position on this issue? Do I really know what I'm talking about? Do I have definitions? Do I have evidence for my position? Is that me speaking, or am I parroting something I heard or read? If you don't assert yourself with confidence, then you'll be manipulated as a puppet of society. And society could be making some grave errors in its approach to life!

Adjust Your Relationships

Being sensitive to others is one of the most important steps in knowing your place. Don't just "be" with people. Notice them. Where are others strong and where are they weak? That will help you better understand where you stand. Analyze the dynamics of your impo rtant relationships. Is it a teacher -student relationship? Or parent -child? Or equal friendship? Or some combination? By asking these questions, you'll be able to determine if your position is a healthy one. For example, a good marriage is one where both s ides share their strengths and complement each other. On the other hand, you might discover that some of your relationships are power struggles, constant battles for control. Parents can sometimes treat a child of 25 the same as when he was 15. Or adult children can treat parents as they did when they were little. Correct this.

Know Your Place Vis-A-Vis God

A basic element of knowing your place is to put your relationship with God into perspective. The first thing a Jew does in the morning is to say the "Modeh Ani" prayer: 134

"Thank you, God, for graciously returning my soul for yet another day." The higher a person becomes spiritually, the more humble he becomes. As we get closer to God, we become more realistic about our own limitations, vulnerability and mortality. We internalize the reality that every human's position is tenable, and only God is eternal. Moses was called "the most humble" because when he stood before God he knew his place. Anything else precludes room for God to fit in. That's why the Talmud likens arrogance to idol worship; both push away the presence of God. In being humble before God, we feel the unity of the world, rather than the self indulgent, negative energy. We are more relaxed, calm and flexible. This in turn trickles down to all our interpersonal relationships: business partnership, marriage, community and nation-building. Moses became leader of the Jewish nation because he saw himself solely as a servant of the people and a servant of God. He was able to encompass the needs and yearnings of the entire nation. He was in the right place.

Why Is "Knowing Your Place" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y

When in the presence of someone more knowledgeable, think twice before speaking. By understanding others, we can see what we know and don't know. Don't be afraid to ask others for advice. If you don't take control of your life, you're being manipulated by others. If the moment calls for it, take the lead. You were created to fulfill your unique role in life.


You can have everything and still be miserable. Or you can have relatively little and feel very rich. Happiness is a state of mind. Develop tools for how to get it. A young man once came to see me in Jerusalem. He had an unusually happy disposition, so I asked him what's his secret. He told me: "When I was 11 years old, I received a gift of happiness from God. "I was riding my bicycle when a strong gust of wind blew me onto the ground, into the path of an oncoming truck. The truck ran over me and cut off my leg.


"As I lay there bleeding, I realized that I might have to live the rest of my life without a leg. How depressing! But then I realized that being depressed won't get my leg back. So I decided right then and there not to waste my life despairing. "When my parents arrived at the hospital they were shocked and grieving. So I told them: 'I've already adapted. Now you also have to get used to this.' "Ever since then, I see my friends getting upset over little things: their bus came late, they got a bad grade on a test, somebody insul ted them. But I just enjoy life." At age 11, this young man attained the clarity that it is a waste of energy to focus on what you're missing, and that the key to happiness is to take pleasure in what you have. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Way #27 is sameach bi'chelko - literally "satisfaction with one's portion." Happiness is achievable. So why are so many people unhappy? We lack the right tools.

Happiness Is A State Of Mind

Western society commonly perceives happiness as the outcome of what you achieve and acquire.
y y y

"My whole life would improve if I had a new car..." "I just need a better job and then I can relax and be happy..." "If only could only meet the right girl..."

You get the car and what happens? For a whole week you're walking on air. Then you go right back to being unhappy. Sound familiar? Happiness is not a happening. Happiness is a state of mind. You can have everything in the world and still be miserable. Or you can have relatively little and feel unbounded joy. The Talmud says: "Who is rich? The one who appreciates what he has." (Pirkei Avot 4:1) That's why the morning prayers begin with a series of blessings thanking God for the simple and obvious:
y y y y

"Thank you, God, for giving me life." "Thank God I can see." "Thank God I can use my hands and feet." "Thank God I can think." 136

Once you master the art of noticing, appreciating and consciously enjoying what you already have, then you will always be happy.

Make Your Troubles Insignificant

You are standing on the 70th floor of the Empire State Building, gazing at the cityscape. Suddenly a rather large man brusquely pushes past you, wrenches the window open and announces his intention to jump. You yell out: "Stop! Don't do it!" The 6-foot-5 figure perched by the window turns to you and menacingly says, "Try to stop me and I'll take you with me!" "Umm No problem, sir. Have a safe trip. Any last words?" He says, "Let me tell you my troubles. My wife left me, my kids won't talk to me, I lost my job and my pet turtle died. So why should I go on living?" Suddenly you have a flash of inspiration. "Sir, close your eyes for a minute and imagine that you're blind. No colors, no sights of children playing, no fields of flowers, no sunset. Now imagine t hat suddenly there's a miracle. You open your eyes and your vision is restored! Are you going to jump - or will you stick around for a week to enjoy the sights?" "I'll stay for a week." "But what happened to all the troubles ?" "Ah, I guess they're not so b ad. I can see!" An eyeball is worth at least 5 million dollars. You have two of them? You're rich! If you really appreciate your eyesight, then the other miseries are nothing. Yet if you take it all for granted, then nothing in life will ever truly give yo u joy.

3 Misconceptions On The Road To Happiness

Misconception #1: "Once I know the tools for being happy, then it will work like magic."

Don't expect the results to come automatically. It is possible to intellectually understand how to attain happiness, y et not put it into practice. In fact, many people might actually prefer to be comfortable and unhappy, rather than endure the discomfort of changing their habits. Just as learning any new skill requires effort, you have to be willing to invest serious effort to achieve real happiness. 137

Misconception #2: "If I become content and satisfied with what I have, I'll lose my motivation to achieve more."

Happiness doesn't drain your energy. It adds more! Ask a happy person: "I have a boat. Do you want to go fishing? " He'll say: "Great! Let's go!" Now ask someone who is depressed: "C'mon, let's go fishing!" He says, "I'm tired. Maybe tomorrow. And anyway, it might rain..." Happy people are energetic and ambitious. There's never enough time to do everything they want to do.
Misconception #3: Happiness is optional. If I want to be depressed, that's my own prerogative.

A beautiful Sunday afternoon. You're at the park having a picnic with your friends. Suddenly the air is pierced by one person complaining: " Who forgot the forks? It's too hot for volleyball. I want to go home already." You have an obligation to be happy when your mood is negatively affecting others. Don't spoil the fun. We all try to put on a happy face when we're at a party. But what about when we're at home, with our kids? Or when we trudge into the office on Monday morning? Like an open pit in the middle of the road, a sour puss is a public menace. Being happy is part of being considerate to people around us.

The Daily Pleasure Count

To begin appreciating life, pinpoint some things you are extremely grateful for and count them every morning for one month - e.g. your eyes, your hands, your children, your cat. Set a time each day to contemplate these pleasures. Feel gratitude for them. This exercise can change the mood of even the most miserable amongst us. For instance, the next time you visit your aunt (the one who loves to complain), tell her very respectfully: "Auntie, I came here to suffer with you today. But before we suffer, it's only fair that you also share with me five pleasures that you had today." "I had no pleasures." "Auntie, did you have coffee for breakfast?" 138

"Yes." Don't let her off the hook with this perfunctory answer. Make her share the pleasure. "Was it sweet? Warm? Did the aroma linger ? Did it give you energy?" (She'll comply because she wants her turn to complain...) "Okay, it was sweet. And nice." "Great Auntie! Now four more!" "I didn't have any more." "Did you wash your face? Was it pleasant? Warm? Refreshing?" Relive it with her. Then another one. After she describes five pleasures, her complaints won't be nearly as bad. To really work at this, sit down with your spouse (or roommate) every evening and discuss one pleasure that each of you had that day. At the very least, you'll h ave a happier spouse or roommate! Incorporate this into your family routine so your children also learn to appreciate their daily pleasures.

The One-Hour Blessing-Fest

The next exercise is more sophisticated. Spend one hour writing down everything for whic h you are grateful. Most people fly through the first 15 minutes. The next 15 minutes the pen moves more slowly. The next 15 minutes get even tougher, but you can pull through if you include your eyebrows and socks... The last 15 minutes are excruciating. Once the list is compiled, add one new blessing each day. The power of this exercise is clear: You must be conscious of all your existing blessings, in order to appreciate a new blessing that comes your way.

Prioritize Your Blessing

To really hone your skills and become an "appreciation expert," prioritize your list. Which is more valuable:
y y

Your hands or your feet? Eyes or ears? 139

Sense of taste or sense of touch?

Comparing each pleasure forces you to qualify the subtle aspects of each pleasure. And to quantify how much each respective pleasure gives you. Follow this course and work at it daily. Your gratitude will continue to grow, building a solid foundation for a lifetime of happiness.

Why Is "Happiness" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y y

Happiness is energy and power for li ving. Focus on what you have and you'll be happy. Focus on what you don't have and you'll be miserable. Happiness is not the goal in life; it is the means to tap your inner energy in order to accomplish your potential. Happy people are healthy, optimistic, and have more driving force to achieve. Happiness is not "living in a state of semi -depression." That's mere survival. Happiness is in your control. By not controlling it, you are slave to your emotions. Happiness requires discipline, determination and ha rd work. Happiness is not a "happening." Don't wait for it to happen. Go out and create it.


A fence keeps a safe distance from danger. Take precautions. If you find a "hole" in your life, build a fence to avoid stumbling in to errors. What is the purpose of a fence? To guard and protect. If there's a hole in the middle of the street, the municipality comes and erects a fence so no one will get hurt by falling in. The fence keeps us safe from danger. Way #28 is ha'oseh siyag lid'varav - literally "make a protective fence." When you find a "hole" in your life, you need a fence to avoid falling in, and hurting yourself and others. You need devices to help you avoid stumbling into errors. We all make mistakes. But what if you find yourself making the same mistake again and again? For example: If you have a fight with your spouse and you regret it and do it again and regret it and do it again and regret it Life is too short to wait until after the damage is done to build your fen ce. Start now by making a list of weaknesses you need to correct - like spending beyond your budget, or neglecting your spouse and children, or always being late. King David said in Psalms: "My mistakes are in front of me constantly." Keep a list of your mistakes, and review them every day to make sure they don't happen again. 140

Take precautions. Figure out which fences you need - and erect them today!

People relate better to technical procedures than to vague dreams and aspirations. So if you have any hope of actualizing a dream, it needs to be concretized. Make a step-by-step, detailed plan. The more concrete the strategy, the more effectively it will work. Whenever you make a resolution, pin yourself down. Set a date and a time by which you'll put it into action, and write it on your calendar. Set goals, and then monitor your progress. As you evolve your game plan, visualize possible pitfalls that could arise, and construct strategies for avoiding them. Then if obstacles do arise, remind yourself: These are here for me to overcome, to strengthen my resolve and help me grow!

Personal Quality Control

Successful businesses have a system for quality control. Any business will rapidly lose market share if some products are shoddy, even if the others are perfect. Throughout our lives, we cannot allow our performance level to shift every time we run into a problem. The key to success is to remain consistent. People who go through mood swings - up one day, down the next - have a much harder time achieving goals and sustaining relationships. That's where the fence comes in. Without clear lines of demarcation, people can come up with all types of twisted logic to rationalize their behavior. For example, "my case is an exception," or "it won't affect me," etc. If we've objectively set a fence, then at the moment of temptation, the door for rationalization is closed. Either something is permitted or it's not. There's no room for debate or subjectivity to color our reasoning. Fences are needed most in those areas where the physical pull can override our objectivity. Devise methods to ensure that whatever you do never falls below your abilities and goals. Set standards of excellence and hold yourself to them.

Protect Your Confidence

A key "fence" is to resolve that when you undertake something, you are totally committed to carrying it out. Every time you fail to follow through with a decision or an idea, you suffer not only from the waste of time, but the lack of self -confidence this creates. It wears away at your sense of credibility. After a while, you won't even make the effort anymore. 141

Ask yourself at which point you usually lose the inspiration to carry out a decision. Then set up a system that will make it difficult for you to back out. To build confidence, choo se things from your "to-do" list, even some small, non-timeconsuming items. Completing 10 smaller items will boost your confidence more than one big item. And your success with the smaller items will give you added confidence to tackle the big ones! Self-esteem is the fuel that drives us to greatness. What could be more valuable? Don't let your self-esteem slide. It's worth protecting!

The Spiritual Accounting System

The best fence against wasting your life is Cheshbon Hanefesh - "spiritual accounting." You need a regular system to evaluate how well you performed and to take stock of where you stand. Every night before going to bed, look back at that day's events, and evaluate where you gained and lost. Then make a plan so the next day will be more producti ve. Ask yourself:
y y y y y y y

"What did I accomplish today?" "Did I accomplish what I intended?" "How am I going to improve tomorrow?" "What are my strengths and weaknesses?" "What is my profit? What is my loss?" "How far have I come in my long-term goals?" "What's holding me back from growing?"

Track down your own Achilles heel - whether it be laziness, envy, or bad temper. Concentrate on that and remind yourself, "This is the enemy." Get angry at your own stupidities, and utilize that anger to motivate you to chang e.

Travel Ahead Of Yourself

If you're traveling to Europe, you'll of course first read a travel guide to find out what to expect. You don't just "show up" - you don't want to miss any important sites and experiences! The same is true about life. Someone wh o just "shows up" is left in the dark about what life has to offer. The more you're prepared, the better your ability to improvise according to the circumstances. So sit down and plan your life. (And don't forget lots of contingencies!) "Travel ahead of yourself" also means to look into the distant future. The Sages teach that "the wise man's eyes are in front of his head." This means that a wise 142

person does not waste time obsessing about past mistakes, but looks ahead to see how to correct them. When you're 70, what will you want to look back on and see that you've accomplished? If you knew that you have one day left to live, you'd be asking: "Who am I? What is life all about?" It's too late then. Ask now.

Enlist The Help Of Others

We're not alone. Many people have gone through the same predicaments. Some have succeeded in overcoming the obstacles, while others are still struggling. But all have insights and advice we can benefit from - and they are usually more than happy to help out. A good way to erect a fence is to hire a friendly "nudnik." If you want to diet, for instance, ask a friend to point out every time you take more than one piece of cake, or nibble in-between meals. He'll help guard against your crossing over whatever line you've drawn for yourself. You can even set up a penalty system. Tell the nudnik: "If you catch me biting my nails, then I'll pay you $50." At $50 a bite, you'll probably break your habit long before you break your bank account! The Sages teach: "Two are better than one. When o ne falls, the second picks him up." When things get tough, look for a support system. There is power in numbers.

Build A Fence From Society's Ills

A foundation of freedom is the ability to elevate ourselves above the lowest common denominator on the street . Everyone has felt the sensory assault of billboards, gratuitous talk-radio, immodest fashions, and violence on TV. Before a person eats, he washes his hands to make sure that he doesn't consume any dirt or germs. So too, one who is concerned with his spi ritual health is discriminating about all forms of consumption: which movies to watch, which friends to spend time with, and what standards of business ethics to uphold. The streets are filled with a multitude of options. But we should not consume indiscriminately. Avoid the mistakes that humanity makes as a whole. For example, many people:
y y y y

Don't appreciate what they have. Think that financial success means you're a good person. Son't like to make decisions and take responsibility. Don't know what they're living for.

The 48 Ways says: Set boundaries. Think before you consume. Freedom is the ability to say: "I choose not to partake." 143

Why Is "Building Fences" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y

Life is difficult. When you have tough work, you need tough tools. If you don't protect yourself, you'll lose self -confidence and give up on life. Wage war with strategy. Make a plan to know where you're going. Don't try to do it all alone. Enlist the help of others. Protect your values from the onslaught of society. Maintain high standards and implement a method to check yourself. Given the opportunity to rationalize, many will "distort reason to indulge desires."


Arrogance stunts spiritual growth. To avoid arrogance, distinguish between pride ("I'm better than the other person") and pleasure ("I'm not better, just fortunate"). Imagine winning the million -dollar lottery. You're overjoyed and ecstatic! Will you go around attributing your new wealth to incredible savvy and intelligence? Of course not. On the other hand, if you invent a product that makes a million dollars, you might start thinking a bit too highly of yourself. There is a positive feeling that comes with accomplishment - and rightly so. But the 48 Ways says: Whenever you accomplish something, distinguish between "pride" and "pleasure." Pride means: "I did it. This makes me better than other people." Pleasure means: "Thank God I was given this opportunity to enjoy and to accomplish. I am not better, just fortunate." Way #29 is aino maczh'zik tova li'atzmo - literally "not claiming credit for oneself." Take a few moments and think about something you are really proud of. Does it make you feel more grateful - or more arrogant?

Natural Powers, Natural Gifts

Arrogance crops up frequently in the realm of natural abilities. People are often proud of their physical strength, health, and good looks. But that's absurd! Although a person can improve these with exercise and diet, these are essentially gifts of birth. It's practically racist to say that one person is better because he has a perfect nose and finely formed cheekbones! Yet people often boast about these things. Have you ever been sick with a miserable flu, and a visitor says to you proudly, "I've never been sick a day in my life." If you had the strength, you'd want to strangle him!


And what about intellectual prowess? Should a genius be praised for the good fortune of having a good brain? The bottom line is that everything we have is a gift from God. Arrogant people have trouble acknowledging this. They don't want to accept that God has helped them, because they feel it will minimize the impact of their accomplishments. Next time you feel pride in a natural ability, ask yourself, "Did I do anything to earn it?" Do you have athletic ability? G ood memory? Artistic talent? Take pleasure. Not pride.

Pride Of Accomplishment
Did you ever have a friend who suddenly became wealthy or professionally prominent, and now barely speaks to you? It's common to become arrogant about the things we achieve thro ugh hard work, because here a person really feels like he "did it." The way to guard against such pride is to be grateful for the insights you've had, and to the people who've helped you along the way. We could never achieve anything without our parents and teachers, and without those who have blazed a trail before us. It's good to enjoy your accomplishments, but not to the point of thinking that makes you superior to others! For example, you know how to use a computer. Your grandparents probably never used a computer, even though they're no less intelligent than you. Your computer skills are just a matter of timing. And the next generation will undoubtedly possess technological skills that you'll find equally daunting. It's all a matter of focus. Next time you feel pride coming on, ask yourself, "Did I control all the circumstances that put me in the right place at the right time to get this fantastic opportunity?"

Beware Of Arrogant People

Arrogant people are overbearing. They have little patience for those who don't exhibit the same level of achievement. Parents who feel accomplished tend to make their children feel inadequate if they don't show the same drive and ability. Many parents, in the name of love, push their children so hard and demand so much tha t the child ends up feeling like a failure. On the other hand, parents who feel grateful for their success, will be patient with others - including their own children - who may lack certain abilities.


The 48 Ways says: Pride leads to contempt; gratitude le ads to compassion. Arrogance is when you look down on others. Watch out that you don't destroy others in your path to accomplish.

Self-Righteous Pride
Arrogance about one's goodness is the most dangerous, because it is in the name of "goodness" that many of the world's most evil acts are performed. Did you ever hear someone say: "I never hurt anyone in my life." That would be a fine accomplishment if it were true. It's hardly likely, though, that he never once insulted his family or friends. Also there are always higher levels of "goodness" - like fighting for social justice. Don't become proud or arrogant about your good deeds, because there are no limits to how much can be done. Do religious people think they're better than others? It is true that believin g you own the revealed word of God can lead to complacency and arrogance. For that reason, religious people try to work extra hard at being humble.

Arrogance In Society
We are all, in some way, proud of our society, country and culture. Those born in China may be proud Communists. If you were born in Spain, you'd probably be a proud Catholic. And if you grew up in Iran, you may well be a proud Muslim fundamentalist! Society's influence is so powerful that we often adopt values without even being aware of it. Those values then become less of an "intellectual awareness," and more of an "emotional instinct." For example, Americans might think that anyone who speaks English with a heavy accent is perceived as less intelligent. Of course, educational level has nothing to do with morality and kindness. At the Wanasee Conference (the Nazi meeting to formulate the "Final Solution" for the extermination of Jews), 9 of the 13 participants were Ph.D.s. These were the most creative, scientific minds in the entire civiliz ed world. The 48 Ways says it is crucial to evaluate your convictions. Otherwise you're blindly following along as a product of your society. 1. Trace the origins of your values. 2. Define them. 3. Objectively determine whether they are good values. 4. Make sure that they are your own. 5.


Obstacle To Wisdom
Pride is one of the biggest obstacles to attaining wisdom. If you're arrogant, it's impossible to learn from others. As the Sages teach, "Who is a wise person? The one who learns from all people" (Talmud - Avot 4:1). Be grateful to your teachers. It's arrogant to say: "This is simple. I knew it all along." If someone is spending time teaching you, acknowledge his effort - whether or not you think you've learned something. Realize the damage that pride does. If someone comes along and challenges you on an idea you take pride in, then you feel attacked personally. It sends you into a defensive mode, and you can't hear what's being said anymore. But if a person points out something you're doing wrong, and you take pleasur e, not pride, in the idea, then you'll be all ears. "If I got this much pleasure from doing what I thought was right, then how much more pleasure will I gain by actually doing the right thing!" People make the mistake of thinking they have to trumpet their success in order to feel good about it. But in fact, not taking credit often results in a better feeling, because this way you do good simply because it's good, not for the fame it earns you.

The Medicine That Cures Arrogance

What happens to a big talker when a great person walks in the room? He becomes mysteriously quiet. The best medicine against arrogance is the realization that God put us on this earth to achieve great things. We all want to be the one to hit the game -winning home run. If you acknowledge this need for greatness, you'll realize that no matter what you have done, you haven't yet begun to fulfill your potential. For example, if you're involved in real estate, you're proud of the time you bought a property for $10,000 dollars and sold it for $25,000. But if the next guy turns around and sells it for a million, then you realize how much further you still have to grow. An old proverb says "a fat cat can't run." If you become self -satisfied, then you are not likely to progress to greater accomplishments. You become complacent and stuck at that level forever. Every time you feel yourself getting too proud, remind yourself what true greatness is, and how far you are from achieving your full potential. This will knock you back down to Earth. Then stop to take pleasure in how far you have come. This will balance you out again!

Why Is "Avoiding Arrogance" A Way To Wisdom?


If you're busy patting yourself on the back for what you've achieved, you won't make an effort to do more. 147

y y y y

If you're constantly defending your opinions, you'll never be open to hearing new ideas. If you are arrogant about your ideas, then you are limiting yourself. If you're grateful, you will grow. If you experience pleasu re in doing the right thing, then look for more pleasure.


The human desire to be loved is deep and natural. If you give warmth, you'll attract warmth. Sometimes we have the attitude of, " I don't need anybody else. I can do it al one!" Ahuv literally means "being beloved." Because whether with family relationships, business partners or friends, the human need to be loved is deep and natural. We need it like oxygen. Of course, that love has to be earned. King Solomon said: "As water reflects a face, so does a person's heart." In other words, if you project coldness, you will attract coldness; if you give out warmth, you will attract warmth. When people love you, they want to help you become wise and wealthy. They'll invite you to social functions, and patronize your business. They'll give you good advice -- and eagerly accept yours. You will succeed in all areas of life.

What Do You Love About Others?

Let's start with a definition of love: "Taking pleasure in another's virtues." Hence the expression "to know him is to love him." Make a list of the people you love. Study it and ask yourself: What about them do I take pleasure in? After you see the virtues, you have the basis for a true love relationship. In return, to be loved by others, you must become virtuous in their eyes. Do for them what you'd want them to do for you. This will identify you as a source of pleasure -and everyone loves those who bring them pleasure! A general rule is to be happy and upbeat . It's a drain to be aroun d people who mope and complain about every little thing. Be full of joy and vitality -- and you'll be wellloved!

Communicating Love
All parents love their children. So why is it that many children feel rejected? Because "feeling" love toward others is only a part of it. We also have to "communicate" that 148

love. Many children only hear their parents' anger and criticisms -- and therefore get the wrong message. To communicate love, you have to show you understand, appreciate and take pleasure in the other person's essence. Stop and analyze the good they do, and stop focusing on their flaws. We often show more courtesy and attention to strangers! Push yourself to show people that you appreciate them. Practice saying: "I like what you said." "I'm glad you came." "You did that perfectly." But don't confuse compliments with flattery (i.e. insincere praise). Judaism forbids flattery because it is misleading and manipulative. Be sure you express honest appreciation, not just to get on the person's good side.

Giving Is The Key

The most effective way to be loved is to give to others. When you give physical, material, emotional, spiritual pleasure -- with no strings attached -- they will love you. In practice, how does someone become a "giver"? The answer is simple: S tart giving. Some people say "I can only give to someone I love." This is incorrect. The Hebrew word for "give," hav, is the same root as ahava, meaning "love." The Jewish idea is that giving is what leads to love. When I give to you, I have invested a par t of myself. You then become more precious to me and I love you. This is why parents love their children most of all. It is their greatest investment. Resolve in your mind, and your heart, that helping others will be part of your life's philosophy. A few suggestions: Visit patients at the local hospital. Invite friends to a Shabbat dinner. Volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter. Or do the dishes at home even when it's not your turn. Emulate God and be a giver. Do it with zeal. And inspire those around you to do the same.

Your Pleasure Is Their Pleasure

Giving others pleasure provides us with a tremendous source of pleasure. Giving pleasure gives our life purpose and meaning, because we see the positive impact we can make. So why don't we do it all th e time? Because we're too busy seeking our own pleasure, wrapped up in our narcissistic envelope. Get out of your own small universe. Reach out. A simple "hello" lifts a person's spirits, and shows that you care. Simple things can make a huge difference! 149

Particularly in a marriage, giving is the foundation of the relationship. When two people are focused on giving to one another, the relationship flows in two directions - connecting, linking and forging the bond. But when both are focused on taking, then the dynamic is pulling in opposite directions -- creating strain and tension. Unfortunately today, many people get married with the intention of taking more pleasure from life, not giving it. How long can a marriage survive like that?

Love And Admiration

Distinguish between "love" and "admiration." Being admired means to be respected for your accomplishments. But being loved means being appreciated for the essence of who you are -- blemishes included! Although achievements may gain you admiration, it's not g oing to gain you love. Anyone who seeks the admiration of others usually loses it. But being loved by others lasts a lifetime.

Fear Of Intimacy
A prerequisite to being loved is the inner decision to allow yourself to be loved. Why do people veer away from intimacy? 1. A person may be afraid of getting hurt. (Once you lower your defenses, you are open to being hurt.) 2. A person may be afraid of getting to know himself better. (If people get too close to us, they force issues to surface.) 3. A person may simply want to be left alone. If you sense any of these issues, make it a priority to work them out. Until you do, you're pushing away the love of others.

The Greatest Gift Of All

The greatest gift you can give to someone is wisdom. A pair of socks is worn for a year, but the right insight can change someone's life forever. From now on, whenever you learn a piece of wisdom, think how you can apply it to give someone else pleasure. Don't forget to "gift wrap" the wisdom -- i.e. focus on the person to whom you are speaking and make it relevant to him. Don't bore people, aggravate them, or mutter the words straight and cold. Even if you're repeating an idea that's "old," convey it with the same freshness as the day you first heard it.


At the very least, don't give other people pain. Don't criticize and say: "It's for your own good." Treat human beings as if they're real. Think of who they are and what they need. Be friendly. Help them out. Share their problems. The flip side of this is if you really want more wisdom for yourself, then be a good student. Pay attention and grow. This gives your teacher pleasure, and he/she will want to teach you more.

Why Is "Being Loved" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y y y

Giving others pleasure is your pleasure. Seeing the virtues in others is on e of the greatest virtues you can exhibit. If you love others this way, they will love you in return. The first place to start showing appreciation is with your own family. Love brings unity. And unity is power.


We can have lots of money, love and power. But no human being is truly satisfied unless he's in touch with the transcendent dimension. We all have moments of being struck by the awesomeness of life -- whether the birth of a baby, a canopy of stars above, a piece of majestic music, or a breathtaking sunset. These experiences are both energizing and calming at the same time. They enable us to break beyond our own limitations and to merge our (relatively) tiny, insignificant selves with the greater infinite unity. If God's creation can have such an impact on us, how much more would an experience with the Creator Himself. Consider someone travelling the world seeking exciting experiences. Now tell him: "In the next room, you can sit down and speak to God Almighty Himse lf for an entire hour." Wouldn't that be the ultimate experience? Way #31 is Ohev et HaMakom -- literally "Love The Place." In Judaism, God is referred to as The Place because God is not part of the universe, rather "the universe is part of God." He create d space; He created time. There is no place where God is not found, and therefore everywhere is in Him. God is The Place because He transcends the entire universe. The 48 Ways instructs us to "love The Place." Why?


Next to love of God, all other pleasures are insignificant. We can have delicious pizza, lots of money, love and power. But humans yearn to transcend the mundane side of daily life. That's why mystery, magic and miracles capture our imaginations. When all is said and done, no human being can be t ruly satisfied unless he reaches out and connects with the infinite transcendent dimension. We all seek to connect with that which encompasses all pleasures. Because nothing finite, nothing bound up in this world, can compare to the infinite.

The Big Price Tag

For the greatest pleasure, we have to pay the greatest price:

To love God is to appreciate all the good He does for you. Whatever you have is a gift from God. That means giving up the illusion that you alone are responsible for your achievements. Why is gratitude such a difficult awareness to sustain? Because the human ego craves recognition and independence; it balks at the concept of indebtedness to a Higher Power. We prefer to believe that we've done it ourselves! The counterfeit of this idea is thinking that someone or something else is providing for your needs. The one who believes their career or relationship is the ultimate fulfillment is mistaken. Those things can disappear. Only God has absolute power and only God is eternal. To appreciate the value of God's gifts, focus on the fact that anything you lack is nothing in comparison to what you already have. Consider your eyes, for example. You couldn't buy an eye for a million dollars. Yet God gave you -- for free -- a pair of eyes that work more accurately, quickly and efficiently than the most sophisticated digital vision devices. Actually, every pleasure in the world is related to the essence of God, who is the source of all pleasure. For example: - Driving a car = the pleasure of power = God - Horseback riding = the pleasure of independence = God - Music = the pleasure of harmony = God - Dance = the pleasure of feeling alive = God

Building love of God means to appreciate the enormous gift of life. Consciously work to appreciate the pleasure of even simple things like taste, breathing, gravity, etc. Then ask yourself: "How do I get this aesthetic experience as a constant in my life?" 152

Once you appreciate the pleasures, then see God as the invisi ble Source of all of it. Just as every stroke of Picasso's brush bears his signature, so too everything in this world has God's signature. You just have to recognize it.

Developing Love Of God

God, being "The Place" is everywhere at all times. If you act a s if God is only here sometimes, or that He doesn't care much about you, or that He doesn't pay attention to details of your life, then a close relationship with God will be impossible. That's why you have to be consistent. If you want meaning and transcen dence in life -- and you do -- then you need to keep in mind that God is everywhere at all times, paying attention to you and waiting for you to pay attention to Him. In fact, this is the ultimate goal for which man was created. We were put on Earth in order to overcome illusion and use our free will to build a relationship with God. He could have made robots, but God prefers a real relationship -- which means we have to choose it. Because this consciousness is difficult to attain, Jewish life has built -in reminders. For instance, we put a mezuzah on our doorpost. Some people think it's a superstitious ritual to ward off ghosts. But if you open up a mezuzah and read what's inside, you'll see that God is one, that He is a personal God who cares about us, and that He does everything solely for our benefit. Ponder what's written inside. Kiss the mezuzah when you go in and when you go out, to always stay focused on what you're living for. We also say the "Shema," once in the morning and again at night. What does the Shema say? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources" (Deut. 6:5). There are three primary paths to develop love of God, corresponding to the three aspects enumerated in the verse: heart, so ul and resources. Let's examine them one by one:

1) Love Of God Through Nature

If you look at nature and recognize that everything God put in the world is a gift, you will come to love Him. And the more we analyze the phenomenal genius, beauty and symmetry of nature, the more we'll appreciate the perfection and kindness of its Creator. Over all the years, science has made more and more discoveries -- yet still hasn't scratched the surface of nature's wonders. When we look out over the Grand Canyon, we are a wed. When we see a meadow blanketed in freshly fallen snow, we sense tranquility. And when lighting illuminates a black sky, we are both shaken and exhilarated.


One prerequisite, if you want to be awestricken when you see nature, is to be completely open-minded. You have to really want to know, without any bias: "What is nature telling me?" See how nature was designed to provide all our needs -- both physical and emotional. For example, food not only sustains us nutritionally, but includes many fringe benefits. Each fruit has its own beauty, taste, texture, form, color and smell! Imagine if someone gave you a car as a gift and then asked to borrow it. It would be your pleasure to let him use it. So too with God. He gives us a universe full of material w ealth. So if He asks us to eat kosher food or re-dispense 10 percent of our income to charity, it's hard to object. This recognition brings us to loving God "with all your resources."

2) Love Of God Through History

Love of God is also achieved by studying history -- both your personal history and the national history of the Jewish people. See the things that God has done for you. How He gave you life and continuously sustains you. He keeps you breathing and your organs functioning. He endows you with every strength and ability you possess. But it's beyond just gifts. If you really care about someone, you want a relationship with them. And what if they won't pay attention to you? You do something to catch their attention. That's how God works with us. God sho wers us with gifts, and He'll also do something to wake us up if we drift through life. He's not punishing us; He just wants to get your attention: "Hey, it's Me, God. I missed you!" Appreciate His constant care. God says, "Do you want to really live? Do you want meaning in life? Do you want to become fulfilled? Perhaps you're going about it the wrong way. Perhaps I know better. Pay attention to Me!" Look at your personal history. It's not that you've managed to fight and survive despite everything. On the contrary, God has given you the opportunity to grow. He arranges the events of your life, according to your special set of circumstances, to teach you and guide you at every moment and every stage. You can also look at world history and see how God has ens ured the survival of the Jewish people -- despite impossible odds. As part of the eternal Jewish chain, appreciate how God has gone out of His way for you. If someone has proven He'll do anything to help, you'll get tremendous pleasure in expending effort in return. Therefore, the amount of pleasure you feel when doing God's commandments, indicates the level of "Love of God" you have achieved.


Love of God means developing our drive to be close to God. Don't wait for it to happen -- pursue it. Do it intellig ently. Be willing to invest time and effort to get this pleasure. If there is no limit to the effort you'll expend to serve God, that's loving God "with all your soul."

3) Love Of God Through Torah

How do we discover the path of meaning? Through the Torah, God's communication to the world. So the more you study Torah, the more you come to love and appreciate God's wisdom -- the ultimate, infinite source of wisdom. And the more you build a relationship with Him. When you get into Torah study, you realize tha t if something doesn't make sense, you have to rack your brains to figure it out because you know that Torah is intrinsically perfect. Then, every time you succeed in working out an issue, the pleasure makes you want more. What would cause you to change your desires for God? If you appreciate that God and His Torah encompasses the ultimate in "meaning," the logical extension is to set aside your personal goals and desires in order to do the will of God. You realize that nothing else can give you meaning, a nd you'll drop anything which is not consistent with the will of God. A person eventually recognizes that any desire to go against God's will create a distance between you and Him. Knowing this, you'll want to eliminate these barriers - not simply because the Torah instructs you to do so, but because you can't stand it! It gets in the way of your relationship with God. When we recognize there is nothing more precious than closeness to God, then every character flaw is seen as an intruder trying to break up that relationship. So you squelch those flaws with a vengeance. If you identify with your soul, you'll pursue this goal your entire life. That's loving God "with all your heart."

The Desire To Share With Others

One important manifestation of loving God is the desire to share it. When you love God and you see other people getting caught up in all sorts of trivialities, it hurts. Why? Because it pains you to see a fellow human being missing out on such an awesome pleasure. So when you're filled with enthusia sm about being close to God, you want all of humanity to have that relationship, too. This is not like human beings who become jealous when the attention of their beloved is directed elsewhere. When it comes to God, there's no jealousy when other people ha ve a relationship with Him. Because God is infinite. 155

Why Is "Love Of God" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y y y y

Every human being has a longing for the transcendental. Take pleasure in the infinite beauty, grace, power, wisdom and meaning of our Creator. People shy away from God because they're afraid it will stifle them. Yet they'll climb mountains for the ultimate transcendental pleasure. Artists think they have it, but there is more. God is the real aesthetic experience. Love the Almighty for the gifts He gives you -- hands, feet, power of speech, etc. If you feel God's love for you, you'll love Him in return. The pleasure of a gift is according to the one who gives it to you. Appreciate who God is. It's relatively easy to love God, since everything about God is virtuous. Every pleasure you have can be related back to God as the source. Feel His presence constantly. The best way to attain love of God is to ask continuously: "What am I living for? What do I want out of life?"


Imagine having never seen a h uman being before. What a fantastic gadget! Imagine living on a deserted island having never seen another human being before. When you meet one for the first time, you're amazed at how he walks, talks and thinks. You know he's a gorgeous, incredible reflec tion of God. How ironic if you meet that same person in your hometown, you'd probably be indifferent. Our mistake is that we take people for granted. There are so many of them, we get bored. Way #32 is Ohev et habriyot - literally "love creation." More spe cifically, this instructs us to love human beings - the pinnacle of creation. Not that we should ignore everything else. On the contrary - if we love people, then love of animals, trees and the rest of creation will naturally flow from there. It's not good enough to love God and your family. You have to also love humanity as a whole. This may seem unfathomable, but it is the Jewish ideal. Hatred and strife are aberrations; peace among mankind is the way it's supposed to be. As God told Moses: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Appreciate the beauty of the human ability to communicate, to accomplish, to create. This is intrinsic to every human being - truly fantastic gadgets! 156

Make A List Of Virtues

What exactly does it mean to "love" others? The definition of love is "the pleasure of identifying people with their virtues." To focus on seeing the beauty of every human being, try making a list of virtues. The more potential virtues you're aware of, the more you'll appreciate others. Start with the obvious virtues, and then work your way toward more difficult ones. A good way is to look at people you enjoy, who give you pleasure, and analyze why that's so. Ask other people for ideas, too. You'll end up with a comprehensive list for loving all kinds of people! Finally, be a connoisseur. Distinguish between one virtue and another. Prioritize your list, identifying which virtues are more important than others. Here are some suggested virtues to get you started: Accepting / Accomplished / Adventurous / Agreeable / Altruistic / Ambitious / Appreciative / Articulate / Assertive / Attentive / Balanced / Brave / Calm / Caring / Cautious / Charismatic / Charitable / Cheerful / Compassionate / Confident / Conscientious / Consistent / Cooperative / Creative / Decisive / Di gnified / Diplomatic / Easygoing / Efficient / Energetic / Enthusiastic / Expressive / Fair / Flexible / Forgiving / Friendly / Generous / Gentle / Handy / Hardworking / Healthy / Honest / Humble / Idealistic / Insightful / Knowledgeable / Logical / Loving / Loyal / Mature / Methodical / Moral / Neat / Open / Optimistic / Organized / Original / Patient / Persistent / Polite / Practical / Productive / Punctual / Realistic / Relaxed / Reliable / Scholarly / Self-assured / Sincere / Skillful / Spiritual / Sweet / Talented / Thrifty / Tolerant / Versatile / Warm / Wise (list adapted from "Begin Again Now" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)

The Love List

Right now, make a list of the people you love. How many names did you come up with? Two? (below average) Ten? (average) Twenty? (above average) When you think about all the pleasure that love brings, isn't it a shame that our list doesn't include the thousands of people we've met in our lifetime! We need to look for the good in all human beings. And until we learn how, we w ill only love a very tiny percentage of people. Realize how much longer your list could be if you began to consciously focus on people's virtues - and not their faults. At every opportunity, focus on the virtues of your neighbors, relatives, boss, employee s, customers, etc. Focusing on faults is the number one mistake people make in their relationships. If you dislike someone, the only explanation is that you're focused on the wrong thing. 157

Try listing some people you don't like - and see how many virtues they really have. You can't hate virtues, and you can't love faults. You can only choose which to identify a person with.

Every Human's Virtue

At the very least, every human being possesses at least one common virtue: a divine soul, created in the image of G od. It's all a matter of focus. Parents love their children despite their faults. Despite the fact that they make in their diapers. Despite the fact that they hit each other. Despite the fact that they're selfish. So what do you love about them? They're in telligent ... full of potential ... alive with vitality... To love humanity, be sensitive to virtues that are common to all people. Every human being wants to be good and will die for it. Imagine a gluttonous boor. If you tell him, "Kill these 1,000 children or we'll kill you," he'll say, "Kill me." That's the essence of a human. No matter how low a person has sunk, no matter how obnoxious he may be, there is still an enormous virtue of "potential." Every human being is an intellectual creature, with free will, and a deep desire to be like God. It is this divine spark which distinguishes us from animals, and endows us with the ultimate potential - free will. (That's no small virtue!)

To Love Or Be Loved
Which pleasure do you think is greater: to give love or to be loved? Giving love is the greater pleasure. Because when you perceive someone's deep virtues - his honesty, compassion or intelligence - you are able to share in that beauty. At the root of our struggle to love is a conflict between body and soul. T he soul wants to love others, because giving love is one of the deepest pleasures the soul can experience. The soul wants to reach beyond itself and connect with every other soul. On a deeper level, love of people is a way to access love of God. Because in the spiritual dimension, there are no conventional boundaries between entities. It's all one unit. The body, on the other hand, would rather be the recipient of love. It's less demanding, more comfortable. Check yourself: If you're seeking attention, it m eans the body's in charge. Try to consciously connect with the soul's drive to love others. The beginning is difficult and you have to work to get the body to go along. But after you accustom yourself to seeing virtue in others, you'll find it easier to lo ve all kinds of people! 158

The Universal Unit

If you're slicing a carrot and accidentally cut your finger, do you take the knife and cut your other hand in revenge? Of course not. Why? Because your other hand is part of you, too. So too, humanity is one body. The incense in the Holy Temple was a blend of fragrant spices - except for one, which had a pungent, unpleasant aroma. If the incense was prepared without all its ingredients, including the malodorous one, it was unusable. So too, each Jew is integral to the whole and no one is expendable. When we appreciate that we are one people, then hurting the other guy - "paying him back" - is as ridiculous as hurting yourself. That's why the Torah says to love your neighbor "as yourself." Hurting another person is as silly as cutting your other hand with the knife. Of course, the reality is that our bodies are separate units. When one person is eating, the other is not being nourished. And if the other guy is wealthy, it may make it harder for me to become wealthy, too. That's the difference between spirituality and physicality. So if you focus on the "body" aspect of others, that's inherently divisive. Try focusing instead on the other person's soul. Because when one person is learning, the other is growing. It's lik e on the soccer field - if one guy scores a goal, we're all winning, because we're all one. You are not going to lose because he's a wiser person; rather, it makes it easier for you to become wiser. Your knowledge helps me. You can teach me. All the souls are one. It's like two guys on a boat, and one of them is drilling a hole in the bottom. "What are you doing?!" his friend shouts. "Oh, don't worry," replies the first one, "I'm only drilling under my OWN seat." The hole in the ozone layer does not discrim inate. Drugs and theft and violence have no boundaries. The Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam means that each of us is responsible to repair the world, to the best of our ability.

Love Starts At Home

Don't believe anyone who says he "loves humanity," yet has a miserable relationship with his family. If a person can't see virtues in his own brother, than how will he find them in others? In order to attain love of humanity, a person has to start with his own family. The healthy progression is to move from love of parents, to siblings, to spouse, and then to our children. From there the goal is to love others as much as a parent wants to love a child - nothing stands in the way. Marriage is a good training ground. It teaches you how to identify with another as yourself.


There is one love, however, which must precede everything. The Torah says to love your neighbor "as yourself." This means it's not realistic to love your neighbor, unless you love yourself first. If you feel unhappy about yourself, you cannot love ot hers. For the love to be real, it has to flow from yourself outward. One simple technique is to focus on your virtues. Every day, pat yourself on the back for the good traits you have. Are you a caring friend? A hard worker? Ambitious? Sincere? Take pleasure in your strengths.

Check Your Meter

Imagine an acquaintance, and one day you discover he's your long -lost brother. You'll immediately want to find out everything about him! What happened? Isn't he the same person you knew yesterday? Nothing about his personality and virtues changed overnight. So why all of a sudden are you so interested? Because now you feel a greater motivation to love him. Take a reading: How do you instinctively react when a stranger walks into a room? Do you feel a surge of warmth, o r is your first response to hold back? Are you anxious to discover what he's all about, or do you feel distant? When you talk to others as strangers, that's what they'll remain. But if you get into the habit of addressing people as a friend or brother (wit hout sounding patronizing), then you will find it much easier to love them. Think of three things you would do if you found out your neighbor was really your long-lost brother. Then play it out. You'll see that people will respond quite positively to being the object of your love! The Talmud tells of how the sage Hillel was being constantly being harassed by a particular person. Hillel responded: "My son, how can I help you?" Hillel said "my son" in order to arouse an emotional connection, as if this person could be his son. Start treating everyone with more care and respect. Anytime you encounter a difficult person, try thinking, "If this was my son, how would I deal with him?"

A Story Of Brotherly Love

Once there were two brothers who inherited a farm. The y worked the farm together for years in brotherly love. After a time, one of them found a wife, so the brothers divided up the farm. The married one built a new house and lived with his wife, while the single brother lived by himself in the old building. T he brothers continued to work their farms and made a good living. The married brother eventually had a large family of 10 children. And the other brother was still alone. 160

One day, the fellow who was alone thought to himself: "I've got this whole farm and all this money, but I only have myself to take care of. My brother has 12 mouths to feed." So in the middle of the night, he took some bundles of wheat, climbed over the hill that separated the two farms - and put the wheat into his brother's silo. One night the married brother was thinking to himself: "You know, I've got a beautiful wife and children. My world is rich. But my brother is all alone. All he has is his wheat." So, in the middle of the night, he took a bundle of wheat, climbed the hill, and secretly placed it in his brother's silo. Back and forth each of the brothers went. Every night, each would secretly climb the hill and put wheat into the other's silo. One night, the two brothers met at the top of the hill. And immediately they understood what had been happening. They fell into each other's arms and hugged. It is on this site that the Almighty chose to build the Holy Temple. Because when one human being loves another, the Almighty joins them. Because that's what life is all about.

Putting It All Into Practice

The 48 Ways says: "The external awakens the internal." This means that even if you find it difficult to love others, you can still do actions that demonstrate love - with the understanding that this will ultimately affect your insides. Here is a short list of ideas to help awaken love of others:
y y y y y y y y y

When someone is in pain, show compassion. Make an effort to spare someone financial loss. Visit someone who is sick, and help care for his needs. Don't embarrass anyone - especially in public. Don't gossip about others. Don't take revenge or bear a grudge. Smile - your happiness affects others. Show respect to the elderly. Find a poor person in your community that you undertake to assist.

Why Is "Loving Humanity" A Way To Wisdom?

y y

In order to realize your own potential, you have to love humanity. Their success is your success, too. The more you have love in your life, the more happy and efficient you'll be.


y y y y y

If you don't appreciate the phenomenon of human beings, you're missing out on one of life's grea test pleasures. Loving others connects you to the world, to all facets of creation. Love helps you get out of the confines of "me" and into the expansive "we." Prioritize your love. Appreciate the relative value of each virtue. Realize that all human being s are God's children.


Many people grumble about obligations as unpleasant aggravations. But fulfilling obligations helps actualize your potential and is the basis of self esteem. Human beings are pleasure-seekers. Most people seek pleasure in careers, vacations, cars and homes. In our generation, many people grumble about obligations as unpleasant aggravations. Perhaps that's why many today wait so long to get married. Imagine being tied down with responsibilities and childr en to support! This is a shallow view. It may be difficult to fulfill obligations, but there's tremendous pleasure in getting done what has to get done. You're actualizing your potential. That's real meaning, real pleasure. It's energizing. Way #33 is Ohev et ha'tzedakot -- literally "love righteousness." Once you realize the pleasure of fulfilling obligations, it's much easier to carry them out. And if you have to do them anyway, you might as well take pleasure!

Good Deeds, Good Times

Here's an example of how fulfilling an obligation can be a pleasure, instead of an onerous responsibility: You're in the checkout line at the supermarket and the clerk gives you too much change. So you smile proudly and return the excess. How do you feel? Like a million bucks. You did the right thing. You're a good person. Imagine how delicious this pleasure is. A little nibble makes you feel great. You refrained from stealing a few pennies. Something so trivial, yet it makes you feel like a hero. Now imagine you're sitting on a park bench. A fellow walks by and an envelope falls out of his pocket. You say, "Excuse me, sir, you dropped an envelope." He says, "Oh my gosh, you saved my life. I can't believe it. Do you know what's in that envelope? My life's savings! If I lost it, I'd have gone berserk!" Now how do you feel? 162

Incredible! You're not just returning spare change; you practically saved the guy's life! The lesson here is that if there's pleasure in fulfilling an easy obligation, then there's enormous pleasure in the diffi cult ones!

Body Vs. Soul

What determines whether we view obligations as a cause for distress, or as a delight? Whether we view ourselves primarily as a "body" or as a "soul." Bodies do not like obligations, because they require effort. The body would rathe r be on vacation. Souls thrive on obligations. It gives a sense of importance, dignity, eternity. Figure out what's really important in life. When you have that clarity, then you're willing to ignore the body's complaints -- and listen to the yearnings of the soul. And then you'll identify with the soul's desire to fulfill obligations.

Being Good Is Doing Yourself A Favor

Why do we have such a strong drive to be "good?" Because the perception of self as "good " is a fundamental need of every human. It is th is self-respect and self esteem that energizes us for living. If a person doesn't think he's good, he loses much of the will to live. Think about it: When you help an old lady across the street, as much benefit as she gets from it, the sense of satisfactio n you feel is even greater! Considering the energy we get from doing a good deed, it's a wonder why people don't run around helping all day long! Imagine you are on vacation in New York City, sightseeing in one of those excursion boat rides around Manhatta n Island. As you are admiring the Statue of Liberty, one of the other sightseers falls off the boat. He can't swim he's drowning. So you jump into the East River -- filthy with garbage, dead fish -- but you don't care, you are trying to save a life. You grab him, he struggles you go under the murky water. Finally he stops struggling, but he is heavy as lead. You pull him with all your might you are gasping, the water stinks. Finally, after what seems like eternity, you drag him to the shore. People are there to lend a hand, and an ambulance takes the drowning victim to the hospital. Thank God, he's alive, coughing and spitting a little murky water, but he's gonna be okay. You go back to your hotel and take a dozen showers to wash off the muck and smell of rotting fish. You say, "I'm never coming back here for the rest of my life!" Now 30 years and 100 vacations later, what is your most memorable vacation? It was the time the guy fell off the boat and you saved a life! When all is said and done, doing the right thing is always the greatest pleasure. 163

The trick, therefore, is to focus on the benefits of fulfilling obligations. Rather than simply "throwing yourself" into an obligation, anticipate it in a positive light. Ask yourself: "What pleasure will come a s a result of this?" Then afterwards, pause to enjoy the pleasure. Make note of that feeling, so you can call upon it next time. As a practical step, make plans to do good deeds. Call a friend who needs some cheering up, or offer to buy groceries for a sick person, or make inquiries to help someone get a job. When you do these things, doesn't your self -respect shoot up? Seeing ourselves as "good" is the fuel that drives our tank and pulls us out of bed in the morning. Don't stand in the way of a human being who's striving to be good. He'll steamroll right over you!

Rights Vs. Obligations

In the good ole days, the idea of civic responsibility was a standard part of American society. But today we live in a society where everyone seems concerned about their rights: "What's in it for me? What do I get out of it?" The Jewish perspective, however, is always from the standpoint of responsibility. For example, when the Talmud discusses property damage, it always states the law in terms of "Joe is responsible to pay Bob," as opposed to "Bob has the right to collect from Joe." The Sages say: "Greater is someone who does a good deed by being commanded, than one who does so voluntarily." Why? Because when we're obligated, our desire for independence makes us resistant. So if we can overcome that to perform the good deed, then we're a bigger person because of it. From an early age, it's important to educate children to fulfill obligations. To ensure they grow from experiences, stop a child after he's done a good deed and ask him how it feels. Then ask him, "Would you sell this pleasure for a dollar?" No way! This demonstrates to children the preciousness of doing good deeds. Make a list of your obligations to mankind, God, society, family, friends, teachers, self. Then enjoy fulfilling them.

The Deepest Obligations

Judaism says that our greatest obligation is to become great. God gave us the tools and we mustn't squander them. That's why wisdom is an obligation. Wisdom is the water that helps us grow. Without it, we get stuck. For many people, their primary struggle is not over "doing the right thing," but rather not being sure what the right thing is! Happiness is also an obligation. Western society thinks that happiness is optional. ("If I want to be depressed, that's my p rerogative.") But really, being happy is part of 164

being considerate to those around us. When a person lives optimistically and joyfully, his energy spreads. A miserable person, likewise, spreads misery. Imagine how you would feel if your parents or your friends were always unhappy. Wouldn't it drag you down? So work on giving happiness to others, just as you'd want them to give you.

Why Is "Fulfilling Obligations" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y

To be a good person, you need to enjoy being good. Obligations are easier when you get in touch with the pleasure of doing the right thing. Doing the right thing is a soul experience, a far greater pleasure than material success. After a difficult task, pause to reflect how great you feel. Obligations help us to actualize our potent ial. Obligations are inevitable in life, so you might as well enjoy them!


Buried within the subconscious, in the farthest corner of our memory, lies the knowledge of everything we need to know about living. Now bring it to the forefront of your mind. We all want to do the right thing. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, "I want to be bad." Even the criminal will try to justify his behavior as "good." Yet if everyone claims to be doing "good," how do we know objectively whet her we're doing good or not? We can't simply look at the norm to gauge what's straight and not. We have to check it out for ourselves. We need a basic set of ethical laws for guidance. But that's not enough. Since circumstances constantly change, laws cann ot be legislated to cover every possible case. So we have to cultivate an inner sense of the right thing to do. Way #34 is Ohev et ha'mesharin -- literally "love the straight path." Don't blindly follow society's idea of "what's right." People tend to the path of least resistance, and the more difficult approach is often the "true" one.

The following story comes from the Talmud: Before we're born, while in our mother's womb, the Almighty sends an angel to sit beside us and teach us all the wisdom for livi ng we'll ever need to know. Then, just before we're born, the angel taps us under the nose (forming the philtrum, the


indentation that everyone has under their nose), and we forget everything the angel taught us. What does this story teach? That truth and wisdom is "right under your nose!" We can look inside ourselves to learn what life is about. Buried within the subconscious mind, in the farthest corner of our memory, lies the knowledge of everything we need to know: The purpose of life, how to love, how to reach our potential. Our task is to bring that knowledge to the conscious mind -- i.e. to make the effort to remember! That's Judaism's view of education. Nobody can ever teach you anything new. They can only help you get in touch with what you already intuitively know to be true. "Education" means drawing out what is already inside the student. Beware of educators who try to impose their position on you.

We all have an inborn conscience, a natural wisdom that God programmed into us. That's why a person's first thought -- "the gut reaction" -- is often the true response. But what happens? Amidst the confusion of life, we start applying our ego -driven "logic" to the situation. We rationalize and cloud our inner knowledge. To avoid this trap, ask around to people who know you, "Do you think I tend to rationalize my way out of things?" Or, speak out your rationalizations, as if you were dealing with someone else's situation, not your own. Look inside yourself. Pause for a moment and introspect. Actually ask yourself aloud: What's the right thing to do? In Judaism, the Torah is our objective guide, steady throughout the generations, and always available as a source of reference. Jews have a simple and effective tool for keep straight; We constantly ask oursel ves, What would God say about this?

Imagine the satisfaction of asking yourself the question, " Am I completely honest?" -and being able to answer an unqualified "yes." Being trustworthy is an important factor in self -esteem. Very often when we walk away from obligations, we feel our conscience saying, "Don't do that!" And even though we may have avoided a challenge, we know deep down when we are wrong. Conscience is a powerful drive. It keeps us honest and walking the straight path. Don't squelch it. Listen to your conscience and let it help you to get the job done.


After you've reached any decision, pause. If you've chosen correctly, you'll find yourself feeling a thrill of pleasure. There are no nagging doubts, no hidden agendas. You feel clean. Now utilize this power of conscience. Before making a decision. Ask yourself: How will I feel after I do it? Pleasure or disgust? This exercise will help focus you on distinguishing right vs. wrong.

One of the most prevalent rationalizations is the words: "I c an't." How many times have you heard (or said) "I'd love to help, but I can't" If you switch "can't" for "won't," you also switch the responsibility for your decisions. "I can't" implies that I am powerless to do what's right. "I won't" means that I have the ability, but am choosing not to do it. In other words, "I don't feel like it..." Watch out for the excuses (the "buts") that stifle your impulse to do what's right. Whenever you hear a "but" -- a justification for not doing the right thing -- instantly challenge it head -on. Demolish those "buts" and start taking control of your life. When you catch yourself saying the words "I can't," say instead "I won't." Don't worry whether you really can or can't do it. Just saying the words will emphasize your control of the decision, and will expand your horizons to new opportunities for success.

The Talmud relates the following case: Mr. A. hires a repairman to fix something, and while working on it, the repairman breaks it. According to Jewish law, the repairma n has to replace the item. But since the repairman was poor, Mr. A. doesn't insist that he pay for the damage. The next day, the repairman sues Mr. A., demanding to be paid for the time he worked. The judge's ruling? Mr. A. has to pay! The judge said that issue of hourly wages -- to which the repairman was entitled -- was separate from the issue of damage, which Mr. A. had forgiven. This example shows how Mr. A. thought he was doing the right thing -- by forgiving the damage -- but really he was falling sh ort of his obligation to pay the wages. That's a rationalization! Let's take the example of charity. The Talmud says you can give a poor person charity and yet destroy him. It all depends on how you do it. If a poor person comes to the door and you throw a dollar in his face and slam the door shut, then you've technically "done your duty." But you also shamed and humiliated him! Whenever dealing with people, ask yourself: "What's proper?" Figure out the straight way to treat parents, friends, business assoc iates, etc. 167

Obligations are usually spelled out clearly, in the form of a contract or an agreement. But some things are the right thing to do, even though they are not technically an "obligation." That's a higher level of righteousness. For example, parents work hard to raise their children, going beyond the minimum. And since they do so voluntarily, there is no "legal" obligation to pay them back. However, if your parents are elderly and need care, the right thing to do is to be there for them. If you want to do the right thing, you'll have to go beyond the inclination to "stand on rights." Avoid expressions like "It's not my turn to take out the garbage," or "I'm not obligated to give up my seat on the bus." Adjust your attitude, and do what's right -even beyond your stated obligation. Learn how to give in to others -- and see how much farther it gets you. To begin moving in this direction, make a list of those to whom you have "debts with no contracts":
y y y y y y y y

parents siblings spouse friends society the Jewish people God yourself


Criticism is usually seen as a personal attack. But think of what an Olympic athlete willingly endures from coaches! To reach your potential, seek constructive criticism. Do you love criticism? Probably not. Most people see criticism as a personal attack which triggers all kinds of defense mechanisms. Way #35 is Ohev et ha'toch'achot -- literally "love criticism." Sounds ridiculous? Actually, a business will pay big money to hire consultants to tell them ev erything they're doing wrong! They'll hang a suggestion box -- and if there's a chance to improve business even the words of the janitor are considered by the CEO. So why does that same CEO get angry when he comes home and hears suggestions from his wife?! The answer is that he's focused on making more money, but may not be focused on becoming a better person.


Realize that every mistake carries with it a negative consequence. By helping to clarify the personality flaw that caused the mistake, criticism can save you from future loss. Your friend will tell you when you've got spinach stuck in your teeth, while your enemy will smirk and say you look great! As the Sages say: "Better the criticism of a friend, than the kiss of an enemy."

Do you think you're perfect? Of course not. So if you want to reach your potential, look for constructive criticism. When someone is committed to reaching a goal, they'll accept incredible doses of nagging, harassments and insults. Think of what an Olympic athlete willingly endu res from coaches! When we see the benefits, we actually like criticism. Imagine you left your wallet in the post office, and someone calls after you: "Hey! Your forgot your wallet!" Rather than get defensive at the criticism, you'd say, "Thank you very muc h. Next time I'll be more careful." One of the reasons we have difficulty accepting criticism is because it comes at times when we're not emotionally prepared. It catches us off guard. On the other hand, when you invite criticism, you're in a position to d eal with it calmly -- to accept or discard the information. Plus the fact that you're asking for it means you'll select a more reliable source, you're more likely to take it seriously, and... it's good practice for when you get it unexpectedly! Don't wait for a crisis to seek criticism. Preempt problems before they arise. If you want your marriage to succeed, ask for advice. If you want to raise healthy children, ask for advice. The best method is to get feedback from those who are objective -- those who know us best. Once a month, ask a few friends to tell you five ways you could improve. (Ask for five points, because they'll typically start easy -- and only the last one will cut to the heart of the matter!)

React In A Good Way

Mention the word "criticism" and we all imagine something negative and painful. The pain that criticism causes stems from wounded pride. No matter what, there is the lurking sense that "I'm no good." Criticism doesn't mean you're no good. It means, "You're good, but I believe you ca n be even better." Squash your defensive instinct. Don't react until you take it home and ponder. You may be embarrassed from the comment, but ask the person to elaborate: "Tell me exactly what's disturbing you. I want to see if there's truth to the critic ism." One method for handling criticism is to depersonalize it. Take yourself out of the picture, and consider: "How would I advise a friend who received this criticism?" 169

It's painful to discover our mistakes, but it's even more painful to go through life repeating those same mistakes. Criticism is like a needle. It may sting, but the pain passes -- and the results will benefit you for a lifetime. When you recognize that the purpose of criticism is to wake you up and get you on track, then you'll be gratefu l to your critic. Get in the habit of saying, "Thank you, I really appreciate your pointing that out." Even if you have to mutter it through clenched teeth... (Don't worry about your pride. If your critic has only said it to put you down, this makes you bigger than him. And it really takes the wind out of his sails.) When you get criticized:
y y y y y

Don't try to defend yourself. Remember, no one in this world is perfect. Think it over -- is it true? Why does he perceive this? Thank the person for the criticism. Take it one step further -- ask him to elaborate.

Appreciate the value of giving others criticism, too. Someone who is suffering spiritually and emotionally needs help just as much as the one suffering physically. So why do we resist giving criticism? Because we want to be loved, and we think people will resent us for criticizing. Imagine someone was about to walk into an empty elevator shaft. Wouldn't you run to point out his error? If your child refused to take his medicine, would you walk away and say: "I want him to love me, so I won't insist he take this unpleasant medicine." (Of course, learn to give it with lots of sugar.) When we clearly see the consequences of mistakes, we feel obligated to help. The Torah says that any love that does not includ e correction, is false. If you really care, you'll find a way to help -- even if he doesn't realize he needs it. Don't be nonchalant. If another person is feeling miserable or acting self -destructively, don't just stand by. Their mistakes will catch up to them and cost them. Be concerned. Help. When you're indifferent, it's easy to be tolerant of other people's faults. But the more you love someone, the more it hurts to see them living a misguided life. That's why parents -- the least indifferent of people, those who love you the most -- often give the most criticism. It's precisely because of their love that they can't simply turn their backs and say, "He's wasting his life but I don't care." Now we understand why the Torah (Leviticus 19:16 -18) juxtaposes the instruction to give criticism, next to the command to "love your neighbor as yourself," and next to the prohibition against standing idly by while another is in need. The best criticism comes from a sense of love and obligation to help.


To help someone change, there needn't be any criticizing, throwing stones, or shouting louder than the next guy. The goal is not just to get it off your chest. Appreciate how difficult it is to take criticism, and use that sensitivity to shape the way you criticize others. Before criticizing anyone, ask yourself: "How would I feel if I was on the receiving end? How would I want to be told this?" Because criticism is so valuable, and yet has such potential for damage, it is crucial to "criticize wisely." If your criticism will create animosity or resentment, then it's better not to say anything at all. The first step in correcting others is to love them. If a person feels you truly have their self-interest at heart, they'll listen to what you're saying. Give 10 portions of love for every one of criticism. Give love before, during, and after criticism. Reassure the person that you are on his side. Many parents make the mistake of thinking they can criticize their children without emphasizing how much they love them.

The goal of criticism is to get the person to accept the point, and to grow from it. Your challenge is to avoid triggering any defense mechanism. Try something like this: "I did an inconsiderate thing last night." "Yeah? What?" your roommate asks unknowingly. "After I finished eating, I didn't clean up my dishes. I'm sorry." "Now that you mention it, I also leave my dirty dishes overnight. I'm going to be more careful about cleaning up, too." Mission accomplished, and no hurt feelings. Of course, not all scenari os are the same, nor is it always so easy to soften the blow. But if you're clever enough, you'll find a way to speak your piece -- and keep the peace as well. Finally, the most effective rebuke is demonstrating through action and deed. If children don't appreciate the beauty and value of being honest, it is probably because their parents are not being careful enough with their own honesty. Otherwise the truth would be obvious to anyone. No arguments, no conflicts. The Talmud says that Moses was able to ins truct the people only because he fully exemplified what he preached.

The Hebrew word for criticism, toch'acha, is from the same word as hoch'acha, meaning "proof."


The best way to get someone to change is not through harsh rebuke, argumentation, or intellectual persuasion. The only way to convince anyone of anything is by clear and obvious proof. The person must see for himself what he is doing wrong. The Midrash tells the story of Elijah the Prophet meeting up with a fisherman: "Do you study Torah?" Elijah asked. "No," replied the fisherman, "I'm just a simple man. I am not endowed with any special talent or intelligence." "Tell me," said Elijah, "how do you prepare your fishing net?" "Well," said the man, "It's actually quite complicated. First I have to select the proper gauge rope, and then I have to weave the net in a particular pattern to ensure the proper balance of strength and flexibility." "How do you go about actually catching the fish?" inquired Elijah. "Oh," said the man, "that, too, involve s many complex factors -- season of the year, time of day, type of fish, water depth, temperature, and speed of the current." "When you get to heaven," said Elijah, "you said you plan to testify that you didn't study Torah study because you're just a simple man, not endowed with any talent or intelligence? But your expertise as a fisherman refutes your very own claim!" Toch'acha is not harsh. Rather, toch'acha is the beauty of reality staring us squarely in the face.

y y y y y y y y

We all want to get the most out of liv ing. But humans are inherently subjective. Ask friends for feedback. If you're hungry to grow, you'll always be eager to hear people's advice -without getting defensive. When we pay for criticism, we listen to it carefully. Appreciate free criticism, too. Constructive criticism shows you care about the other person's pains and achievements. The battle for life is the battle for sanity. Criticism gives us clarity on our mistakes. The Jewish people are a unit. If one Jew hurts, all Jews should feel it. H elping another Jew is helping yourself, too. The Talmud says that Jerusalem was destroyed because people didn't correct each other. King Solomon said, "Criticize a wise person -- and he'll love you!" (Proverbs 9:8)



Don't spend your life trying to impress others. Because even if you convince others that you're great, have you convinced yourself?

I met a young man who always talked with his head tilted a bit sideways, because somebody once told him he had the profile of a f amous actor. Most people didn't think he had an actor's profile; they thought he had a screw loose. This is what happens when making an impression on others determine our actions. It's human nature to seek recognition for our achievements. Whatever we're p roud of, we want others to know about it, too. Next time you're in a conversation, see how long it takes the other person (and yourself!) to start mentioning personal accomplishments. Why are we so eager to impress people ? Humans are hungry for meaning. Bu t sometimes we don't reach the level we ought to. So we need to compensate with an artificial boost from others. If people say that you're great, you can become convinced. A movie star who believes his fan mail is in trouble. Because he's built a house of cards. And when he falls, he'll fall hard. Chasing after honor is a sign that you don't sufficiently respect yourself. It's like saying, "I might not amount to much, but if I can make others think I do, then I'm worth something." But it's not true. It's ch asing "fool's gold" -- yellow and glittery, but worthless. Deep down you feel like a fraud. Way #36 is mit'rahek min hakavod -- literally "keep far from honor." It teaches us not to look to others for recognition, but to find it within ourselves. Figure ou t what you think is meaningful in life, and use that to drive you to greatness. People who are satisfied with themselves don't need public recognition to reassure their worth. This is a classic body-soul conflict. The body is happy with the illusion that o thers think we're important. But the soul looks for what is truly meaningful. The body says: "Let's be important for the moment." The soul says: "Let's make it real." The body balks at the challenges involved. The soul knows the right thing to do.

If you depend upon the opinions of others to determine how good you are, then you become like a leaf in the wind, fluttering in whichever direction the fads of the time blow you. If you have confidence in your own worth, you'll be better able to follow opinions that are your own and not society's. God calls the Jews a "stiff-necked people." Being stiff -necked is both good and bad. It's bad because you are stubborn and unwilling to change. But it's good because in 173

the face of fads and trends, you stick to your guns. If the Jewish people were not stiff-necked, we'd never have survived till today. We all want success and greatness, and we should seek it. But don't live for others. Don't base your career choice, lifestyle or even leisure time solely on what gives you status. If you want to be great, then do something great. Not because it will earn you respect in the eyes of others, but because you want to live a meaningful life and fulfill your potential -- regardless of the attention it will draw. Don't worry. When you follow the straight path, even though others might initially reject you, you can go to sleep knowing that your conscience in clear -- and knowing that in the end, truth will prevail.

Make sure that your choices are what's best for you, not based on impressing others. Always ask yourself: "What is my real motive?" For example, if you're planning a European vacation, is it because you really want to visit Europe? Or because you hope to impress everyone with new tales of adventure? Here are some exercises you can do: 1. Make a list of what people typically seek admiration for -- wealth, strength, skills, education, intelligence, career, health, athletics. Are there other, more important things that should be on this list? 2. Make a list of things you do to imp ress others. What is it about these that make you feel so important? 3. Ask yourself why you feel the need to impress other people. What do you ultimately hope to accomplish? 4. Some people are constantly boasting about their achievements, crying out: "Take notice. I am somebody!" Judaism says that anyone who does a good deed and boasts about it, loses the reward for that deed. Suppose you find out about a widow and her children who have barely enough to eat. So you bring them food, provide support, and set the m on the road to financial independence. The moment you start boasting about it, you've taken a beautiful act, and used it for self -aggrandizement. People are suspicious of those desperate for recognition. That's why honor is one of those strange things that the more you run after it, the less you get. Judaism says that when you do a good deed, the only ones who need to know about it are you and God. Do kindness anonymously. Don't worry. God will find a way to make sure you're amply rewarded.


One of the most destructive ways of trying to impress others is by role -playing. We act out characters that we think others will like. Did you ever notice how your personality can change in the presence of different people? To those at the health club, we appear athle tic. To our friends, we are fun. To our boss, we are serious. We may go through 10 or 20 roles per day! Take a look at the different ways you project yourself, and try to describe them. You might even find yourself playing a variety of contradictory roles. This is dangerous, because by casually switching roles, we can lose sight of who we really are. Beware of media pressure to conform to a certain model. Imagine the subconscious desire to be the Marlboro Man! Get in touch and decide who you really want to be. Ask yourself: "What role am I playing? Is that really who I want to be?" Who is the real you?

The capacity for role-playing has a positive side: it can draw out potential that we may not otherwise access. Because when we act outwardly in a positive m anner, it awakens our inner selves. Choose a role that would be good for you, and let it start affecting your daily behavior. Let's say you want to become genuinely happy. So start playing the role of the cheerful, smiling, friendly person who likes being with people. Acting the part will train the body to become attuned -- and the person you are "playing" eventually becomes the real you! Perhaps you'll ask: Is there any difference between deceiving others and deceiving yourself? The answer is that role -playing to bring out potential is a positive exercise, while role-playing to bring out compliments is not. The litmus test is when trying to deceive others, you'll end up feeling rotten afterwards. But if you're acting in order to improve your character, you'll end up feeling better about yourself. One more positive application of role -playing: Strategize how to act in advance of a challenging situation. For example, if you're going to deliver a speech in public, practice in front of the mirror to get it just right. Or, if you tend to argue with your boss, role-play on how to diffuse the tension. It will save you and others a lot of suffering.

y y y y y

Don't get trapped in the obsessive need for recognition. Seeking the approval of others harms you, because it keeps y ou from the real work of becoming great. If you need others to verify your significance, it's time to examine your self esteem. When you act to impress others, you feel the emptiness inside. Ask yourself: Given the choice, would I rather be famous-and-miserable, or satisfied-and-unknown? 175

y y

When you get the urge to toot your own horn, ask yourself: Who am I trying to impress? Even if you convince people that you're the greatest person in the world, have you convinced yourself?


Don't take life for granted. Don't casually accept the ecosystem, communication, gravity... Look for fresh insights. Reawaken the mystery.

"I know that alreadyI've heard it all beforeThat old stuff is boring" Imagine losing your eyesight for a year, and then suddenly regaining it. The joy is boundless. Every "sight" becomes a point of focus and fascination. People usually get tired of life when their ideas become fixed. The 48 Ways says that eternal youth is granted to those who are always willing to grow. Whatever your age, occupation, or station in life -- be fascinated with learning. When we become used to something, we tend to overlook its intrinsic beauty. It loses its glisten and sparkle. Way #37 is lo magis libo bi'talmudo -- "Never be satiated with your learning" -- in other words, don't let yourself slip into complacency. Don't assume that your viewpoint is the only way. You may have heard an idea a thousand times before, but then someone presents it from a slightly different angle, and you say, "That's amazing -- I never thought of that before!" Listen to every concept as if hearing it for the first time. You'll be amazed at the deeper levels yet to discover. Whatever you know, there is still more to understand about love, meaning, pleasure. Never be satisfied with your level. The more you learn, the more you realize how much there is to know! We only tap into a small percent of our potential.

Look around you: your clothes, your house, your job. Try to recall the feeling of when it was brand new. Now recapture that same degree of enthusiasm today! Human tendency is to take things for granted. Take five minutes and make a list of the amazing aspects of creation -- the ecosystem, communication, gravity, breathing, the human brain. Appreciate t he simple joys of life. A bird chirping. A child laughing. The sun shining. Open your eyes to the awe -inspiring beauties of daily life. Wake up in the morning with gratitude for the gift of life. The daily Jewish prayers thank God for our ability to think, for our organs functioning properly, for having clothing to wear. Saying these prayers transforms your attitude toward each day.


Another way to refresh your view of the world is to appreciate the people you care about. Re-evaluate your approach to your pa rents, your spouse -- and yourself. Look for fresh insights. Reawaken the mystery and the chemistry.

Never say: "I can't." If it's the right thing to do, then you can do it. Realize that every time we say, "I can't," it holds us back from growing. Make a list of all the things you "can't" do. For example, "I can't find my soul mate," or "I can't land my dream job." Everyone has hundreds of these "I can'ts" floating around. Now sort through your list. Distinguish between "I can't" and "I don't feel like it ." Ninety-nine percent of the "I can'ts" are really an excuse for "I don't feel like it." Are you backing off because it takes great effort? Or perhaps you lack the confidence to succeed? Consider each item on your list. Commit to turning the "I can't" int o "I will." Life starts jumping when we actively make things happen, instead of allowing things to passively happen to us. Don't give up on yourself. Wrestle with your problems, your ambitions, your attitudes. Make a plan to accomplish. Don't worry about t he mistakes of the past. Go forward!

Complacency is the number one killer of life. Complacent people close their minds to new ideas and growth. But that's not life; that's mere "existence." The opposite of complacency is excitement to grow and learn. Ope n your mind to new ideas, and evaluate them objectively. Communism? Capitalism? Judaism? Figure out what's your best long -term investment. Apply fresh ideas to everyday life. Suppose that you're bored silly with the drudgery of house cleaning, but you can't afford to hire a maid. What should you do? Research the homemaking world, and develop the quickest, easiest, and most invigorating way to get the job done. Make a game out of it. Put on a jogging suit, prepare your vacuum cleaner, set your stopwatch, and then zoom through the house. It's great exercise -- and the challenge will turn a mundane task into a thrill! One sure way to become re-energized with a topic is to teach others. Suppose you know how to bake a cake, or can juggle three balls. In prepa ring to teach someone else, you need to become excited about it yourself. Just the act of preparing will bring out new insights. And the questions others ask will bring renewed depth and vitality to the topic.

Many people say it's impossible to know the purpose of life. 177

There's a great danger here. Because when we say we can't know something, we give up the chase. Never say: "I can't know truth." (The fact that billions of people don't know something, doesn't mean it can't be known.) Often we resist asking existential life questions because of the great effort it takes to research and develop. The 48 Ways says: Undertake the challenge. Even if you don't find the answer, the process of investigating will undoubtedly yield tremendous insights along the way. Spend a few minutes and ask yourself, "What am I living for?" If you have the courage to keep that question at the forefront of your mind, you are guaranteed to never grow bored with life.

When it comes to crucial life concepts, we sometimes say we "know" something, when perhaps we don't. For example, it is a foundation of Judaism that God loves us personally and individually. He listens to our prayers. He desires a relationship with us. He guides and cares for us. We may say we "know it," but unless we are living with that reality, we don't really know it. We're just paying lip service. The method to "know" something is through understanding. Embark on a study of Who God is, and why He may act the way He does. As Rebbeinu Bechaye (11th century Spain) writes in "Duties Of The Heart": "The Torah encourages you to reflect and exercise your intellect on such themes Investigate with your reason, understanding and judgment until the truth becomes clear to you and false ideas are dispelled; as it is written , "Know this day and lay it on your heart that the Lord, He is God" (Deut. 4:39). This admonition refers to everything in which rational methods of investigation can be used." Once we begin to grapple with the question of God in our lives, then we can trul y come to know that He loves us. And from there, great new vistas will open up.

y y y y y y y

To stagnate in learning is to stagnate as a person. Keep reworking and updating what you know about living. Don't take life for granted. Don't give up on yourself. Keep tryin g and you'll make it. Don't be duped by laundry soap that's labeled "new and improved." You say you know it. But learn it again, and you'll see how much more there is yet to discover. In order to be great, we must wake up from complacency. 178

If you don't think life is fantastic, try missing one day.


Every conscious moment is another decision. The cumulative impact determines the overall quality of life. And the most important decision is "What am I living for?"

Some people think that decisions are made every once in a while, when issue comes up. But really all of life -- every conscious moment -- is decision. From the instant we wake up, we begin to decide: What will I breakfast? How will I greet my boss today? Even if we yawn, turn over and to sleep -- that's also a decision.

a major another eat for go back

The cumulative impact of decisions, even though each is individually small, is what determines the overall quality of life. Way #38 is Aino sam'eyach behora'ah -- which idiomatically means "don't take decisions lightly." Of course, different decisions have different impacts. If you don't visit Disneyland, you miss out on Mickey Mouse. But if you don't acquire wisdom for a successful marriage, it can have tragic consequences. For living, be serious. Ask yourself: What am I going to do today? This week? This year? What am I doing with my life? What are the possibilities? What can a human being achieve?

Living Is Decision-Making
Consider the consequences of not knowing the real p urpose of life. Anyone who says there are no answers to serious philosophical questions has probably not asked the right questions to the right people. Realize there are consequences of not investigating these issues. We have to research these questions an d not give flippant answers:
y y y y y y

How should I honor my parents? How will I maintain honesty in business? How will I care for humanity? Does God exist? Do I have free will? Is there an afterlife?


Many people make life-and-death decisions without thinking. If a decision is uncomfortable, we often brush the whole issue off and put it out of our mind. We might not question a doctor out of fear of offending him. Or we may choose a group of friends based on frivolous grounds, without thinking through the consequence s. Beware of this trap. Take time to introspect. Clarify your important decisions. On what basis did you arrive at these conclusions? You may be surprised at how carelessly you've made some decisions that have a dramatic impact on your life.

Take Decisions Seriously

Figuring out what to do with your life is no less serious than the question of whether or not to have open-heart surgery. Would you decide on surgery by flipping a coin? Of course not! So don't make important decisions (or express opinions) on subjects you haven't thought through. Make decisions with a sense of responsibility. When tackling any issue, research it thoroughly. Get all the facts. Whenever confronted by a decision, relax. Don't feel pressured into deciding at that moment. It's okay to take the time to work out an answer. Take proper precautions in decision making. Consider the various options and potential consequences. Should I buy that house? Marry that person? Because if you make decisions without proper precautions, you're bound to make costly mistakes in life. Part of the difficulty is that many decisions do not have immediate consequences, or have consequences that we cannot perceive. When making a major dec ision, check that you've judged the long -term consequences no less than the short-term ones. Speak out the potential consequences of your decision with other people, who may be aware of factors you've never considered. Similarly, when helping others, be aware of the fine line between teaching someone, and making decisions for them. If someone asks for advice, don't be so quick to dictate directives, unless you're sure of what you're talking about. Imposing your opinion is an artificial solution -- it won't stick, and eventually the other person will grow to resent it.

Phony Decision Making

There is a favorite American pastime called "Monday morning quarterback." This is the hindsight that football fans engage in, second -guessing how the coach or the quarterback should have used better strategy. Everyone has a brilliant opinion about other people's decisions! 180

But "Monday morning quarterbacking" is hardly confined to football. We like to "play" decision making in areas like: "If I was president of the Unit ed States," or "If I was the CEO," or "If I was God." Be careful. Judging other's errors gives us a false sense of our own wisdom. But there's a good chance we'd have made the same mistakes.

Learn To Say, "I Don't Know"

Modern society equates knowledge with importance. Therefore we sometimes fall into the trap of pretending to know -- because we're too embarrassed to admit we don't. Human beings make mistakes. The biggest mistake is to decide that you're not going to change your mind. If you make a mistake and are too embarrassed to correct it, then you're making a second mistake. In discussions with other people, train yourself to say, "I don't know." Even when you're sure, say, "It seems to me..." Otherwise, once you're committed to a certain point of view, you may be too embarrassed to back out -- leaving you stuck defending a position you no longer believe in. Actually, saying "I don't know" is no reason to be embarrassed. Being honest about your limitations helps clarify the gaps in your knowledge. Plus you don't mislead others, and they'll actually come to respect you more because of your honestly. Few people will admit they don't know. Ask someone to define what is a good person, how to be happy, or what is the purpose of life, and it's unlikely he'll a dmit that he never thought about it! Similarly, it's hard to admit if we've never considered whether there's a God, and whether He spoke at Mount Sinai. Or to admit that when it comes to free will, we've been using it and we don't know what it's all about. Be flexible in your decision -making. Be open to someone bringing in another piece of evidence, and be willing to change based on new information. Go to others who know more. Respect their advice. Don't play games with your life.

Why Is "Responsible Decisions" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y

Living means growing. If you don't make decisions, you won't grow. The most important decision to make is: "What am I living for?" Making decisions will make your life real. The more informed you are, the better your decisions will be . Don't make any decision you're not qualified to make. Evaluate fairly, not based on prejudices. Be a judge, not a lawyer. To live rationally and meaningfully, be willing to admit when you don't know. Only you determine your life path. Anytime you want to change, it's up to you 181


A broken heart is worse than a broken arm. Sensitize yourself to the pain of others. It will give you renewed awareness and energy for living.

When you're feeling down, has anyone ever slapped you on the back and said, "C'mon, cheer up -- you've got everything to live for!" You probably felt like clocking him. Why? Because even though he's trying to help, he doesn't feel where you're at.
Way #39 is Nosay b'ol im chaveiro -- literally "carry your friend's burden." In other words, be aware and share the pain of others. You can't cruise through life as if it's an obstacle course: watch out, here's a human being, manipulate him, score a point, one upmanship. That's not the way. You have to share the burden.

When someone is physically hurt, everyone jumps for bandages, water, CPR, whatever it takes. But when the pain is emotional or spiritual, if someone is depressed and suffering, we don't know what to do. So we avoid the situation. Yet these are the times we should go beyond ourselves to share another's pain. Because in truth, a broken heart is worse than a broken arm. Be aware that everyone has dozens of burdens they're struggling with (whether they're conscious of them or not) -- problems of self-respect, unfulfilled plans, failures, doubts, inadequacies. That's all part of the challenge of sorting through life. If you want to live in a "humane" world, you've got to get out of yourself and feel other people's problems. You can't live blindfolded in a world wher e "there's no one else except me." That's uncivilized barbaric

Put Yourself In His Place

The first step in sharing the burden is to see others as real people, not as objects. It's accepted social behavior to greet people with a hearty, "How are you!" -- but the last thing we want is for them to actually tell us! Be observant. Is this person happy or sad? Weak or strong? Afraid or confident? Appreciate that others' problems, hopes, dreams, and aspirations are just as real as yours. Focus by asking yourself: "What is their burden?" Use your imagination to feel how it is weighing them down. Despite the burden, people often cover up their true emotions. Don't always assume that what appears on the outside is a reflection of the inside. Someone may look neat and orderly, yet inside he is in terrible turmoil. Put yourself in the other guy's shoes. How does it feel to be elderly? Weak? Hard of hearing? Without teeth? To lose a parent? How is he feeling his first day on the job? What's it like moving into a new n eighborhood? Ask yourself: If I was him, how would 182

I feel? The clerk in the post office has a tough job. What's he going through? Or if someone cuts in line -- notice how he's under tension. Focus and make it real. When you speak with an elderly person, fo r instance, try to imagine him as creative and dynamic, who was once as young as you. And what about children? It's easy to treat them as little playthings, forgetting they are highly insightful and sensitive.

Where's He Coming From?

All of us use powers of perception -- instinctive, emotional or intellectual -- to size up people. We do this subconsciously. When somebody sits next to you on the plane, you're figuring him out. We have the power. Now make more conscious use of it. We all get into arguments with other people, and wonder how they can possibly think that way! That's why we need to see the world from our critic's perspective. Suppose, for example, your parents are lecturing you on how you're wasting your life. (In other words, you're not meeting their expectations!) Don't retaliate, don't escalate, don't try to out -bombard them with name-calling. Instead, get into their shoes. Feel their anxiety. Consider how it would feel if you had a child you were worried about. What's bothering them? They're worried about me. They're anxious, thinking I'm going to waste my life. And they feel badly about it. Every person is a whole world unto himself, with a different outlook than your own. Take the time to go into their world and see what they think. Don't b e so quick to impose your own opinion; inquire about theirs. Listen. Seeing things from another's perspective will, at the very least, reduce your anger and increase your empathy.

Sensitive Fighting
When you get into a disagreement, don't focus solely on the logic and justice of your position. Try to figure out the other person's problem -- is something blocking him from seeing the truth? Feel where your friend is stuck. He doesn't want to admit he made a mistake. So don't keep pushing. He probably doesn' t like the conclusion because he'll be uncomfortable. So relax him. Don't retaliate against people as if they were objects. If your employee doesn't do his job, perhaps he needs a little guidance, or a little appreciation.


Similarly, when you're teaching someone, don't just communicate one way. See if he's listening, if he's interested, accepting, denying, energized, disturbed, pleased. You have to feel it. That's perception. It goes the other way, too. When you have a teacher who's communicating knowledge, go beyond his words. Try to appreciate on a personal level what it means to him. You're tapping into a new dimension. That's the way to learn wisdom.

Share The Burden

To appreciate the problems encountered by a blind person, try blindfolding yourself for a day. Or go to the hospital to visit patients who have lost limbs. This makes you real with the suffering of others, and you'll be more responsive when others need help. When a person knows you understand what he is feeling, the burden instantly becomes lighter. Imagine that a friend's parent has just died. You go to visit him, and even if he doesn't want to talk, just sitting there quietly makes his burden a little less heavy. He knows that you're feeling with him. This applies to a sick person, too. Your visit can make him feel better -- even healthier. If you spend the time and he knows that you feel with him, you've lightened his burden. You may not realize it, but it helps. Beyond this, don't just empathize. See if there is a way to get directly in volved to help ease the burden. For a sick person, that might mean opening the window, a foot rub, or praying with him.

You Were There Once Before

Sometimes a poor person becomes rich, and from then on, he purposely avoids poor people. The reminder is to o painful. Judaism says the opposite: Whenever you have suffered the same thing that someone else is suffering, you have a particular obligation to show empathy. That's why the Torah says: "You shall love the stranger because you were strangers in Egypt." The Jewish experience in Egypt makes us more sensitive to the plight of others. We can feel it because we've been there. Even if it was our ancestors, our collective national memory creates a particular obligation to be sensitive.


It All Starts At Home

The first place to implement these ideas is with family and friends. A lack of understanding and empathy is the major reason why families feud. When you come home, put yourself in a "sensitive" frame of mind; think about what your spouse is going through. Feel what they go through each day in making the family function smoothly. Talk about it and show that you recognize how hard they work. Discover new ways to help. Similarly, imagine a teenager coming home and plunking down in front of the TV with a plate of food. That's an insult. It's like the parental units are just pieces of furniture who pay the bills. Take a look at your mother when you walk in. Is something on her mind? Ask if you can help in some way. Particularly with people to whom you're constantl y exposed, focus:
y y y y

How is your teacher feeling today? The butcher, the baker, the beautician -- what are they feeling? How do your parents look? Tired? Stressed? Anxious? What about your spouse? Is there anything you can do to help?

The ones you are most obligated to care for are your children. You love them. But do you feel where they're coming from? That takes the difficult realization that they are independent entities. And that means you have to stop focusing on your own hurt that perhaps they're not accomplishing what you want from them. Millions of parents are fighting with their kids. They love their children most of all -yet they are spreading misery and hatred. It's tragic. And it's all because they don't feel the other person. See the destructiveness of not having a piece of wisdom!

Reaching Out To Humanity

Eventually you have to widen your horizons. Become keenly sensitized to all suffering -- even those you don't know. When you hear a news report of someone who was stabbed, feel for him. Feel how it is to be isolated at home and unable to move around. Feel what it's like to be poor and what that means for one's self respect. Feel for those who are most vulnerable -- widows and orphans. Otherwise you become callous. Feel the victim of society. Feel the victim of crime. Feel the victim of old age. Feel the victim of discrimination. Feel the suffering of people you will never meet -- about the plight of strangers halfway around the world.


When we "share the burden" with someone who's depressed, we are inoculated against this ourselves. We begin to see life more objectively. And we are comforted with the knowledge that people may be feeling and experiencing the same things as we are. You can walk around claiming to be a good person and you can talk about it but unless you feel it inside, you're not dealing with realities.

Sensitivity To The Divine

See God's pain as well. God suffers when man suffers. When you have children, you'll find that you can't coerce them into obedience. You can't dehumanize them. You have to allow them to make their own mistakes. That's for their own good. They have to be independent. We humans make a lot of mistakes, and the Almighty (as it were) suffers with our insanity. Feel for the Almighty. He created a beautiful wor ld, full of great potential -and He suffers to see so much waste, when He sees His children in confusion. Maybe you'll do something about it.

Sharing Joy
Imagine you just had a baby and there's no one to tell. Or the girl just said "yes" and there's no one to tell. You walk down the street and hey -- I'm engaged! Does anyone care? It's painful not to be able to share joy. At a Jewish wedding everyone shares the joy of the bride and groom. Why? Shared joy makes it real, makes it full. So when you go to a wedding, don't just go to eat. Ultimately, even the sharing of negative burdens is sharing a sense of joy. Why? Because helping people is indeed a pleasure. And when our friend overcomes his problem, his newfound joy is ours as much as it is his.

Why Is "Sharing The Burden" A Way To Wisdom?

y y

Everybody wants to be a good person, to help humanity. In order to make it a humane world, be sensitive to others and share with them. To deal with people effectively and intelligently, see where they're coming from.


Wherever you find yourself -- in class, at work, or at a social gathering -- pay close attention to the people around you. Learn their names, talk to them, observe their moods, and listen. If you don't feel empathy for others, you usually end up adding to their burden -- i.e. saying the wrong thing while they're suffering. Sharing the burdens of others is the way to bridge the gap between ourselves and the rest of the world, connecting us with the intrinsic oneness of humanity and the universe.

y y


We all live in this world together. It's easy to take responsibility when someone is in physical danger. You're just as obligated when he's in spiritual danger.

Imagine you're staying at a hotel, and a guy in the next room climbs over the balcony and is going to jump. Will you step forward to help? Or will you stand aside and enjoy the excitement as the crowd yells "Jump! Jump!" You know that you care. So what are you going to do to help? If he asks you, "Why shouldn't I jump," what are you going to say? Beyond this, do you even have the right to stop him if he wants to jump? It's not enough just to "feel" another's problems. You've got to actually do something to help. Fight the tendency to stand back, criticizing and shaking your head at other's mistakes. Way #40 is mach'riyo li'kaf zechut -- literally "judging favorably." We must help other people change their lives and get back on track. As human beings we care and want to help. You'll do all you can to stop him. You'll never forgive yourself if you just stand there. Now apply this to the rest of your life.

Accept Responsibility
In order to help others, you have to accept the responsibility. One of the earliest and most important lessons of Judaism is that "we are our brother's keepers." We all live in this world together. It's easy to take responsibility when someone is in physical danger. You're just as obligated when he's in spiritual danger. Help your friend confront his problem. If he needs help, take action -- even if your assistance might initially stir up resentment. And even if you don't like the other person, you can't excuse yourself by saying, "It serves him right." 187

Before you give up on anyone -- be it an alcoholic, a lazy employee, or a friend who betrayed you -- give him the benefit of the doubt. Make every feasible effort to restore him to sanity. Try at least 10 ways to help him before you write him off. Wouldn't you want others to give you the same consideration? One of the most important steps in helping others i s to have a plan. And not just one plan, but several back-up plans! If one plan doesn't work to straighten them out, then come up with a new one. If you value a human being enough, you'll have the patience to find the best method you can.
y y y

Be creative. Search for solutions. Be determined not to stop until you succeed.

Motivate Others
Do what you can to motivate others to live more productively. To accomplish this, focus on his particular problem -- e.g. lack of self-confidence, arrogance, etc. The idea is not to "explain" or "preach" to someone who needs help. Don't tell him he's bleeding; stop the bleeding. Get him into the right pattern of living. To reach the right solution, isolate what's causing the problem. You don't change people; people change thems elves. The best you can do is enlighten people. This in turn changes their perspective in life, and the actions follow suit. This is corrective criticism. For example, if you know someone is depressed, it usually stems from a feeling that his life is pointless. So show him how to be happy, by getting him in touch with how much he has. Help him in a practical way: "Let's go for a run for a swim paint a picture buy a new hat." Share a problem where he can help, or motivate him to volunteer for a worthwhile organization where he can do good for others. These things help get him out of depression. Be genuinely interested. Showing interest earns the trust of others, and makes them more open to you. Even if you don't tell people directly how to make their li ves better, just the fact that you care develops their admiration for you, and allows them to learn from your good habits. Anytime someone makes a mistake, you can assume he's missing information about life. Check if there's a gap of information you can fi ll. You have to see what's going wrong. For example, what causes unhappiness in our generation? Decadence, selfishness, wanting quick and easy solutions, etc. Figure out how to help. At the very least, the effort of trying will make you a better human bein g.


Judge People Favorably

Did you ever buy an item, and then later find out that another store in town was selling the same thing for half -price? How mad we were at the first store! Normally, when we see a person acting inappropriately, we immediately assume he did it on purpose. The 48 Ways says: Don't regard the store owner as an evil thief. See him instead as a victim of rationalizations. Quite possibly, when he set the price, he convinced himself that it's okay to overcharge because his store provides better service in a more convenient location. Does this sound outrageous? Think about yourself. Can you bear such scrutiny? Whenever you see someone do something wrong, it's okay to be suspicious. But don't draw conclusions until you've totally checked out the facts. What occurred may be nothing more than an honest mistake, or some factor we totally overlooked. Remembering this will make us more likely to keep our tempers and condemnations in bounds. As an exercise, try judging favorably your parents. Th ey may not always do things exactly as we'd like, but invariably they love us and want the best for us. Be patient and give them the benefit of the doubt.

See The Merit In Everyone

Essentially, people are craving to be good . Therefore, when someone makes a mistake and acts badly, the one he's hurting the most is himself. Realizing this will help reduce your anger toward him. For example, if you know an arrogant person, don't just write him off as a swaggering braggart. Instead, have some compassion. Under the surface, his arrogance is a manifestation of terrible insecurities. Think how much he suffers from his arrogance, and how lonely he must be because his arrogance drives people away from him. It's easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of people 's personalities and inner struggles. In judging someone "to the side of merit," we first have to assume he has merit. Everyone has virtues, though sometimes it's buried under confusion and pain. Make an effort to discover those virtues.

Why Is "Making Others Meritorious" A Way To Wisdom?


To be a good human being, you have to be as equally concerned with others. Their lives and suffering are just as real as yours. 189

y y y y y y y

When we're helping others, our minds are objective and functioning well. Then we can do the same for ourselves. Don't "suffer" humanity's problems. Instead, find a cure. Give to others the precious ideas you have learned. Whenever you hear a good piece of wisdom, ask: "How can this idea help my friend?" When people do things that cause you harm, don't automatically assume they're out to get you. Judge people to the side of good. If you see their merits, you'll be able to help them. People need each other. Do everything you can to help. Feel you are responsible. "The buck stops here."


There's something really breathtaking about life. Wouldn't you rather experience love than watch it in a movie? Get into reality. It's the real thing.

Too many people today are living an illusion. They'll escape into the fabricated world of a movie, or into a virtual reality experience. But isn't the most beautiful reality the one that's real? Isn't it better to see a fantastic sunset than watch it in a movie? To experience the thrill of adventure rather than simulate it in an amusement pa rk? To achieve greatness rather than hallucinate you're Cleopatra? Everyone has a sneaking suspicion there's something truly breathtaking about life. So why are so many people miserable? Because they're not focused on reality. A person can create the impression that his act is together, though in reality he's deluding himself. Reality itself is absolute. At any moment, it's either night or day. You can sleep through reality, and choose not relate to it. But that's still what it is. Way #41 is ma'amido al ha'emet -- literally "set him into truth." Don't live a life of illusions. Get into reality. It's the real thing.

You Can Find Truth

There are many different theories on "the purpose of life." This indicates how easy it is to delude oneself. You have to know what your "purpose of life" is based on. Intelligent decisions are built on evidence. What is the source of your information? What is your evidence?


Two people can be neighbors for years, play golf together, share barbecue dinners, and consider themselves the best of friends. They only argue over one issue: God. The most fundamental issue of life -- which colors our thinking on virtually everything -- and these two can't even agree if He exists! "Co-existence" is not the same as living in the same reality. So who's reality is true? Become a truth seeker. Be ambitious to know what life is really about. Constantly look for evidence to either substantiate -- or contradict -- your ideas. Always be open to new information that will enable you to hone your understanding of the truth.

Know The Evidence

In our generation, people often don't bother seeking truth, because they don't believe it exists. "Everyone is right. It's one opinion against the other." So we accept living in confusion. People are even af raid to debate deep issues because they say, "You're going to brainwash me. I won't be able to determine if what you're saying is right or wrong." Fight this insanity in yourself and others. We need to have confidence that truth exists and it can be found. That's the starting point for all reality. Gain confidence in your ability to distinguish right from wrong. For example, you know you have 10 fingers. But what if somebody says you've got 74 fingers. What's your proof that they're wrong? The sum total of all your senses and prior experiences says you've got 10 fingers. It is an unshakable conviction. Now let's try a more difficult example. Is it more important to be happy or to be rich? Most people will say "happy." And what if somebody says, "It's alright to be miserable and isolated, as long as you've got loads of money!" Who's right and who's wrong? Do you know? What if you were born in Germany and they said, "Kill all the Jews, the plague of mankind." When they put you on trial for war crimes, why can't you claim innocence, that your opinion is as valid as any other? Because we know that certain things are objectively wrong. And every human being has the responsibility to know that reality. Get clear on the evidence for your outlook. It'll keep you from being dragged around by passing fads or worse.

Attitude Adjustment
Reality is largely a function of attitude. 191

Imagine a young woman flying from Chicago to attend a friend's wedding in New York. She has a beautiful gown, custom -made especially for the occasion. Then, just before leaving her hotel for the wedding, a clumsy bellhop spills a tray of room service all over her dress. Catastrophe! Instantly, her mind races through all the possibilities: look for an emergency dry cleaner, try to borrow another dress, or simply skip the wedding. She's got to make a decision! She concludes that the best option is to go to the wedding with a dirty dress. This triggers another whole series of decisions, because when someone asks, "Why is your dress all dirty," what will she answer? She can simply say, "It doesn't really matter, the important thing is that I'm here to enjoy my friend's wedding." Or she can say, "poor me" -- and spend the whole evening commiserating exactly how it happened and how she is crestfallen an d what a disaster it is! If you decide: "The world's a mess and it's a drag to be here," then that's how you'll live. If you decide: "Life is good and it's a pleasure to be here," that's how you'll live. If it's good to be alive, you need to know: What's g ood about it? Frequently, the real problem is that a person doesn't know what he wants. If you don't know what you want, you can't drive full force to get it. Once you know what you're living for, there's no holding you back. You'll jump out of bed every morning with childlike wonderment at life's great thrill. If there's ugliness in the world, you have two choices: either complain, or clean it up. It's all in the attitude. Don't sit there and say "I wish the world was different." The beauty of life is that you can change the ugliness. You have the potential -- if you choose to use it. There are always 10 different ways to go. Life is your decision. Nobody else does it for you. So ask: Am I using my potential? Why not? What's holding me back?

Fight Insanity
Judaism says that ignorance is the most terrible, painful, destructive disease of all. People may even commit suicide out of ignorance. They lose money in the stock market and suddenly feel that life is no longer worth living. What happened? They severed their connection with reality. "Sanity" means more than just not getting locked away in an insane asylum. Sanity clears your mind of fuzziness and allows you to see the beauty of creation. Sanity is energizing, expansive, awesome. Insanity is contagious. Imagine we lock you up in an asylum where everyone sees snakes crawling on the walls. After six months, it's almost guaranteed you'll believe there's snakes on the walls. 192

People accept the most ridiculous things because everyone else accepts it. Fashion trends and mass marketing operate on this principle. What's the best way to survive an insane asylum? Cure your fellow inmates. Otherwise you're bound to be influenced by them.

Look For The Root

We've all tried to help someone with a problem -- a friend, a roommate, a colleague, a cousin. The guy is all muddled and depressed -- "I'm no good, I'm weak, I'm nothing." You support him, cheer him up, get him ready to tackle life, and then... he's down again the next morning. The problem is you did not set him firmly into reality. You did a patch job -- and the patch came off. To align someone with reality, don't just look for cosmetic solutions. Get to the root of the problem. Find the gap in knowledge which leads to the negative action. What is the core issue holding him back? Look for the single strategic move that will turn him around, release his potential, and get him moving in the right direction. This will make your solutions more effective and permanent. Imagine the father of a teenager, frustrated that h is son is not listening to parental advice. There is constant tension and fighting. What's the solution? Get the father to realize a basic principle: "You can never tell anyone what to do. You can only show him why it's meaningful and to his benefit." This helps the father reframe his approach. And how do you reframe the son, who's convinced that his father hates him? Focus him on the following case: You're travelling through Europe, get hit by a car and wind up in the hospital. Who's going to travel 5,000 miles to see that you get the best treatment? You know who will come -- your father. Yet you say he hates you! Focus his attention: His parents are totally devoted to him and can't possibly hate him. You've now given him clarity. At least until the next t ime his father calls him a dumbbell

Personalized Problem Solving

Realize there are no "pat" solutions. Just as every person is unique in appearance, so too everyone has different motivations and needs. One person may be driven by idealism, another needs security, another wants material possessions, another is in pursuit of honor. So even if you've found one solution, it may not be universally applicable. 193

(On the other hand, there are certain universal drives: the desire to be good, to actualize potential, to help others, etc.) The best solution to a problem is the one that someone comes up with on their own. Because when someone understands the obstacles that interfere with their own fulfillment, they'll devote themselves more fully to that solution. Setting a person on the straight course doesn't mean being a "solution -wiz" dispensing answers. It means being a facilitator, showing others their mistakes, and guiding their personal exploration of correct solutions. Don't forget to tackle your own proble ms. Because in order to get someone else into reality, you first have to understand it yourself. So strive to resolve your own issues, to free yourself to look beyond the little box. And the more "perfect" you become, the better leader you become for other s. In some instances, however, if you do hit an impasse with yourself, one way out is to try solving other people's problems. With yourself, you're all boxed up. With others, you're more objective. So once you experience success in external problem -solving, you can then apply it to yourself.

God And The Jews

You're walking down the street and see a child running into traffic to chase his ball. A car screeches to a halt. The driver yells from his window about the child's foolishness. Some of the bystanders shake their head, others wag an accusing finger in his direction. But one person runs after the kid, chases him five blocks, grabs him, and smacks him across the behind. Who is that man? His father. everyone else says, "He's going to get himself killed on e day, what a pity." But only the father cares enough to make sure he's scared stiff not to do something like that again. God cares about the Jewish people more than any parent cares about his child. The Jewish people are the transmitters of Torah values and God will not allow us to disappear. That's why He has to keep us set into reality. Even if we say, "We don't care about being Jewish, we want to assimilate." The Almighty says: "No way. I have a deal with Abraham and you are too precious to get lost. If I have to teach you the difference, you'll learn." God never "punishes." It is always instructive, setting us on the path of reality. Furthermore, the Almighty does not take revenge on His children. Imagine if your son was doing awful things, putting his life in danger and causing you terrible suffering. Then one day he comes back and says, "Dad, I'm sorry. I made a lot of bad mistakes. Please forgive me." Now what are you going to say -- wait, I've got to get some blood out of you ? Or will you break down crying, hug him and celebrate.


A parent doesn't take revenge on a child. That's the principle of our Father in Heaven.

Why Is "Getting Into Reality" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y

Never stop asking: Is it good to be alive? What am I living for? We need to be good. Hel ping others straighten out their lives is not just part of living; it's what living is about. Get to the root of the problem. Cut it out and release the latent potential. Ask yourself: "Do I really want to live in reality?" Make decisions about the wisdom you learn: "Am I going to live with it, or ignore it?" Live in the real world. It will make you yearn for sanity.


The world can be in turmoil, but a person can be at peace with himself. To attain internal equilibrium, focus on the ne eds of your soul.

Everyone is pro-peace. But when Jews hail each other with that famous greeting, Shalom Aleichem -- "peace unto you" -- it really refers to a wish for inner peace. Because all the pleasures in the world are just stepping stones to peace of mind. Way #42 is ma'amido al hashalom -- literally "set people at peace." The Hebrew word for peace -- shalom -- comes from shalem, which means wholeness, completion and perfection. Real peace is much more than a cessation of war. In fact, peace of mind is independent of external circumstances. The world can be in turmoil, but a person can be at peace with himself. And vice versa: The world can be peaceful, but a person can be torn up inside.

What Is Inner Peace?

Everybody at some time or another has felt inner conflict. This usually surfaces when a moral decision has to be made. The greater the moral decision, the greater the inner conflict.


The source of this battle is between the two opposing "human natures" of body and soul. The body gravitates toward transitory comforts and sensual pleasures. It desires to quit, to dream, to drown in passions, to procrastinate. The body says: Give me some food, warmth, a pillow. Let me take it easy. The soul, on the other hand, desires meaning, accomplishment, permanence, greatness, reality and truth. These two forces clash. We want to be tough, but we feel like being marshmallo ws. We want to be great, but we don't feel like making the effort. We want to be independent, but we feel like being seduced. And even when we're not aware of it, this conflict is raging within us. Peace only comes when we resolve that inner strife. Do you want greatness or do you want to be average? Wake up!

Peace: Victory Of The Soul

The Talmud teaches: "The righteous talk to their bodily desires, while evil people let their desires talk to them." The question is: Who's running the show? Who will dictat e what you're going to do? Hedonists believe that we should surrender to the body and follow its whims. But a lustful pleasure never lasts long, and usually leaves a bitter aftertaste. Every time you give in to the body's desires -- when you lose your temper, fail to stand up for your beliefs, or succumb to lust -- the good feeling lasts only a moment, and then you end up getting depressed and angry with yourself. Self-respect -- the only real peace -- comes from siding with the soul. So what is the goal? To get to the body to desire what the soul wants. Because there's no way to achieve peace by giving in to the body. Your soul will simply not give up. Never. But the body can go along with the soul. Of course it "hurts" a little to walk away from an immediate pleasure. But we can survive without it.

Body Training
Getting your body to agree with the soul doesn't mean you have to crush the body. The body's drive is a positive force to be harnessed. The trick is to teach the body to supply the same energy and enthusiasm when pursuing meaning, as it does when pursuing a candy bar. The body is where the passion is, where the power is. Get it to join your act. 196

Train your body to be in tune with your soul. When you feel the body's resistance, talk to it. Cajole it . Reassure it. Imagine a jogger, out for the first time on a long run. The body protests: "Don't be a masochist We'll have a heart attack We'll never make it beyond this corner Stop already!" Only firm willpower can squelch the body's resistance and get it to comply. How? By constantly reassuring it of the higher value of being in shape, thin and healthy. "This is what you really want Imagine how much better you'll feel You'll be respectedYou'll live longer." Two months later, if you miss a day of jogging, the body says, "Hey, what's going on? I missed the pleasure of that workout!" Figure out what you want and overrule the body. Paint the prospects in glowing terms, until you reduce the body's anxiety. Keep drilling until the body's resistance has worn down and becomes your soul's willing partner. Just like jogging, you can measure it: How much drilling will it take before the body goes along with my goal? It may take awhile for the body to adjust -- but it becomes increasingly easier. Use discipline. Drill, drill, drill. Get your higher goals to "grab your guts," and sink the body's passion into the soul's desire. Be ready for that madness of the body fighting you and don't let go. Because if you let go, then the body will run wild!

Soul's Goals, Body's Drive

When you're locked in a moral battle, and both choices seem equally tempting, how do you know which "voice" is talking? If the result of a decision will be comfort and ease, then it's probably your body talking. Whereas if the result will be more kindness and patience, then that's your soul. The key is to focus your goals. If you don't understand what your soul really wants, then you'll be locked in a constant battle. The soul wants to be good and to help people. Beware of people who are into illusions of peace. They may say, "I want to do the right thing," but they may be too hysterical to sit down and discuss the issues. The body is afraid of losing it's control. People who are into the real stuff say, "Come, let us reason together." The soul is not afraid.


Big Cause For Peace

One of the best ways to get the body into spiritual meaning is to have a cause. A person needs to focus their life around a cause that's bigger than they are. This way, the body will pull itself together on the side of the soul. When we're fighting for something we believe in, the "body-soul conflict" almost automatically comes to a halt. We are willing to go to any lengths because the body's voice is submerged in an overwhelming cause. That's why, all over the world and throughout history, people have sacrificed their lives for higher causes. Nationalism is one example of how this plays out. War, as destructive as it is, creates a cause bigger than the individuals fighting. It was reported following a recent war that children were asking their parents, "When are we going to have another war?" The parents said, "What do you mean? War is terrible!" The children said, "When we were at war, our nation was united, there was no quarreling, everyone was kind to one another. War was so nice!" That's the irony. When a nation is fighting for its survival, there's a sense of inner peace. People don't worry about pettiness like the neighbor's new car, or the cleaner who over-starched the shirts. There is something more important. We'l l listen carefully to any workable idea. We'll let anyone lead as long as he's capable. We lift ourselves into the greatness of the cause. Of course, there are far more constructive ways of achieving this same effect. Like fixing the world, for example. Isn't that the greatest "cause" of all? Well, almost

The Cause Of It All

When people fight for a cause, what are they really looking for? What is the ultimate desire of the soul? Greatness eternity oneness with God. God is One. That's the real cause everyone is aiming for. Saving humanity is small compared to doing the will of the Eternal. That's the ultimate. Jews get in contact with this morning and night, by reciting the Shema prayer: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." We're focused o n what the soul ultimately wants. Saying the Shema is an effective tool to become focused, integrated and complete.


Get Others Into Their Potential

Once you've achieved some degree of inner peace, help others do the same. The same way you went through the steps to recognize the inner conflict, take others down the same road. Look at your friend's potential and arouse him to greatness. Be ambitious for him. Aim at making him big. Imagine: "If I can get him in touch with his soul, how would that unleash his powers? If he could be an integrated being, how high could he fly? If he could be happier, how would that transform his relationships? If he could be more disciplined, what great things could he achieve?" Of course, the next question is: How do you get someone to be great? Many people are so used to inner conflict that they've accepted it as status quo. They accept mediocrity as a way of life, as if greatness is only for "great people." People often don't know what they really want from life. And if they don't know what's worth pursuing, they lose the motivation to try. Teach people to have goals, and teach them to figure out what goals are worthwhile. Keep asking: "What do you want?" Focus them: "Can you be truly happy if you're striving to be mediocre? Can you be at peace if you're not feeling fulfilled?" If you inspire others, that will give you a more powerful dimension of wisdom. Because by working objectively to help make others powerful, we master it for ourselves, too. Besides, if you succeed in unleashing another's potential, then you yourself have achieved greatness. Because the best gift one person can give another is peace of mind. And you now share in every one of their accomplishments.

Why Is "Peace Of Mind" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y

If someone doesn't know what he's living for, then he's at war with himself. You cannot have peace while being mediocre. When we think big, we become big. Look around the world and see how much you can accomplish. Greatness is achieved by leading with the soul, and harnes sing the passionate power of the body. Real peace comes only when your body desires your soul's success. If we succeed in making others great, we become great ourselves. The ultimate cause that the soul yearns for is oneness with God.



Children live in a natural state of awe. To reclaim that energy, identify what fascinates you the most about life. Set goals for living and pursue them with relentless fascination.

We've all experienced fascination so great that we're sittin g on the edge of our seat. It could be a rollercoaster ride, or a brilliant lecturer, or a breathtaking scene. At that moment we are totally engaged in the thrill of living. That's why a crisis -- though frightening -- is so stimulating. It demands 100 percent attention, a full unison of heart and mind. Imagine if you can reproduce that sensation in everyday life -- you'll be flying high!
Way #43 is mit-yashev libo bi-talmudo -- literally "settle studies in your heart." This means that when you begin any activity, don't just bring your body along. Make sure you mind and heart are there, too. Connect your emotional needs to your intellectual appreciation. Otherwise, life is only half an experience.

Be completely absorbed in whatever you're doing. Whether you're studying geometry, cooking dinner, or raising your children -- be fascinated. Because when we're fascinated, we have a better attention span, greater retention -- and in the end we'll do a better job.

Who Cares?
The reason we often lack fascination is because we don't focus on the personal benefit involved. Could you enjoy a lecture on automobile carburetors? A detailed description of how gasoline mixes with air to generate combustion? Maybe it's interesting for five minutes. Then zzzzz Now imagine being stuck in the desert with a broken carburetor. If somebody would give a detailed lecture about carburetors, you'll say, "Wow! Fascinating! Speak slowly because I want to take notes!" What changed your perspective? Carburetors suddenly became relevant. Something that's utterly boring one minute, can be totally fascinating the next -- as long as we perceive its importance in our lives. Notice how we'll stop to read an advertisement that claims: "Earn a million dollars. Guaranteed." We snap to attention. We're interested!


So the next time somebody presents you with a piece of information, don't say "Who cares?" Rather, connect it to your desires. Define: Why do I want to know this? How is this relevant to my life? How can I integrate the idea in a practical way? Once you commit to applying the wisdom, you'll see how fascinating it can be.

The Fascination Formula

"Fascination" has hit you in the past. So learn from your success. Figure out why a dry subject like biology all of a sudd en became fascinating. What triggered you to tap into the beauty of it? The key is to discover how the intellectual idea speaks to your emotions. There are deep, spiritual truths in biology -- e.g. the artistic symmetry of organisms, the holistic unity of the natural world, etc. So don't just limit yourself to intellectual information. Instead, take it one level beyond and discover the metaphysical realities paralleling your everyday world. This works with even the most mundane things. Were you ever fascina ted with mowing the lawn? All of a sudden you start making patterns in the grass! Figure out what happened. What caught you up in it? Were you in a particular state of mind that you felt like making a game out of it? Was there a basic meaning in living tha t you got out of it? Instead of suffering, focus on this every time you mow the lawn. As an exercise, think back to two instances where you became fascinated with something you're usually not interested in. Figure out what suddenly sparked your turnaround. Now abstract the lesson and use it for living. If you find life becoming stale and dull, this will get your creative juices flowing again. If it worked once, it can work again.

See What's Fascinating In Life

Children live in a natural state of awe. They think that everything is worth paying attention to and learning from. To reclaim that child -like awe, figure out what fascinates you most about life. Technology? Nature? Relationships? Society? Make a list of the top-10 most fascinating things in your lif e. Pay attention to the world around you. Chances are that fascinating things are happening constantly. Try to identify those in your daily experience. Keep your top 10 list handy to "snap yourself into fascination." Be proactive in seeking out fascinating situations. A person searching for gold is more likely to find it than someone who just happens to be hiking in the mountains. In any encounter, if you anticipate fascination, you're more likely to experience it. 201

We can learn a lot by observing what fascinates others. What kind of movie is a guaranteed hit? Ninety murders packed into one film -- wow! -- a murder a minute! Why does everyone tune into CNN to see an airplane crash? Or a tornado -- houses knocked down -- wow! People love war stories, movie stars, and mystery thrillers. Why the fascination? What's the common denominator? What does this tell us about human nature? This is not an endorsement, rather just an observation about what has captured the fascination of today's Western world. Now compare this to your own list. In what ways are you missing out? And equally important, how can you turn your human nature on a positive course, to avoid traps that others might be falling into?

Fascination With Real People

For at least one moment, be fascinated by every human being. A thrilling mystery of life is walking right by you. Look closely. Don't treat people like objects. If you regard the clerk at the store as a cog whose function is to facilitate a purchase, that won't inspire much interest. Instead, develop a curiosity and ask some friendly, non -threatening questions: How do you enjoy your job? How long have you worked here? Has it been a busy day? Are you at the beginning or the end of your shift? If someone is more fascinated with movies and novels than with life itself, it's a sign that something is wrong. He's living vicariously, running away from himself and his potential. What a pity to be more fascinated by fictional characters than by real human beings. To make your life really count, be intere sted and open. This will fill your world with real and interesting characters. Realize that most of the things we give our attention to are illusions. They don't really teach us anything about life. A TV show, a novel, or even a newspaper. What did you really learn? Can you apply it for living? You finish the novel and say, wow, those characters were fascinating. You think your life has changed. But how much did it really teach you about the meaning of existence? The book was fascinating, but did you learn wisdom for living? Not necessarily. Try channeling your natural curiosity into a connection with real people. Life itself is more fascinating than any video game. You just need to learn how that gadget works!


Know What You Want From Life

A good way to be fascinated is by getting to know the most interesting person you could ever meet. Yourself! So sit down, have a nice little discussion, and ask: What am I really living for? Where am I going? Many people lack fascination because they're not clear what the y want out of life. If you have clear goals, you're much better equipped to see the value in each experience. Imagine someone with a strong ambition to be a doctor. At university, he takes pre med courses, reads medical journals, volunteers at a local hosp ital, and makes friends with doctors. He's focused and on target. When he graduates with a BA, he's already talking like a doctor, understands basic procedures, and has developed a bedside manner -- all before he even gets to medical school. If a human being knows what he really wants out of life, then he'll find the ways and means to get there. And he'll be fascinated by anything remotely related to that goal. Be directed. Know what you want. Review your life's itinerary. Your desire is to master life, rather than to just bumble along. Remember: You're ambitious, you desire greatness. That's your inner longing. The hours you spend on diversions is robbing you of greatness. Sure it's fun but you know it's not the way to become great. Don't wait until you're bored with your job. Don't just "hang out," drifting through life's situations. Look to see where your life is heading, and chart yourself a course. Be fascinated and driven to achieve your goal.

Study What Your Heart Desires

Cultivate your natural inte rests. If you're undecided on a career, go with the option that strikes the most responsive chord. The Sages say: "A person should always study what his heart desires." If you appreciate the topic, then learning becomes an enjoyable experience. Plus, the enthusiasm for one topic spills into another -- and helps make it easier to learn the less fascinating topics. Having trouble cracking open a book? Go through the table of contents, and find a chapter that hits you. Use your natural desire as an entree to get involved with what might otherwise be an overly-intense subject. The same applies to studying wisdom. Overwhelmed by the vastness of Torah? To get started, pick one aspect that fascinates you. It might be how to bake challah, how to pick a spouse, or how to love humanity. With 613 mitzvot to choose from, you're bound to find at least one!


To be fascinated with truth and wisdom, we have to realize that our essence is a soul, not a body. This realization keeps us from wasting time on the frivolities of li fe. Eating is fine -- of course you've got to feed the body, and "taste" is a wonderful pleasure. But don't get lost in eating. You know you're a soul -- fascinated with wisdom, fascinated with living, fascinated with the puzzle and mystery of existence. Open up the next installment. What's it going to be? You are a soul locked up in a body. What a situation! What a thrill!

Why Is "Fascination With Living" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y

When we're fascinated and absorbed, we do a better job. When we're fascinated, it's energizing rather than energy -draining. Connect your intellectual realization to your emotional hot -buttons. A real person is more fascinating than any TV character will ever be. Set goals for living and pursue them with relentless fascination. To become fascinated with truth and wisdom, remember that you're a soul, not a body.


The best defense against abuse is to question what you see. Use your intellect to uncover inconsistencies, irregularities and rationalizations. In today's world, if someone asks, "How are you," the standard answer is "fine." In fact, a Jewish joke defines "nudnick" as someone who, when asked how he is, actually tells you! Way #44 is sho'el u'may'shiv -- literally "asking and answering." A professional can immediately diagnose problems. The moment you walk through the door, the doctor says: "You're anemic." Or the car mechanic says: "It's the spark plugs." That's experience! The 48 Ways says: Expose yourself to people who have mastered the art of questions. An expert on questions identifies the basis of the issue, sorts through the pertinent factors, determines what additional information is needed -- and pinpoints the conclusion. That is power for living. Basic questions can be applied to everything in life: 1. Define: What is the issue? 2. Deliberate : Why is this important to me? 204

3. Apply: What am I going to do about it? Practice these, and eventually asking good questions will become second nature to you. You have to be ready to deal with living. Because if yo u don't, the most profound wisdom can come your way and it'll end up in the trash can.

Q&A: Key To Survival

We sometimes act in a way which contradicts our beliefs. "Questions and answers" helps us uncover our own inconsistencies and rationalizations. A nd unless we address and resolve these issues, we'll suffer from terrible confusion! Open your eyes and mind to the irregularities in life. Don't just sit passively. If you see a contradiction, point it out. To understand current events, you need to ask: W hat is the core of the issue? Why do people differ? Don't rely on analysts to give you their pre -digested opinion. You've got to do the job. Dig in and participate in the news intelligently. There's a Jewish saying: "Nobody ever died from a question." This means don't be afraid to ask. There's nothing noble about remaining silent and ignorant. People might become annoyed when you start asking too many questions, or analyzing things to pieces. But don't let that stop you. Through analyzing, a person takes a concept from the abstract and makes it real. And that's making life fresh and alive. Someone who doesn't learn the art of perceptive questioning is susceptible to all kinds of manipulation. In today's world, there's always someone eager to fool us into buying something we don't need. The best defense against abuse is to question what you see. When you encounter a new idea or product, ask yourself: Why do I need this? What is the person's motivation in promoting this idea? This will sensitize you, protect you, and make you wise.

Look For Inconsistencies

Ideas in a vacuum mean very little. But when juxtaposed, subtle distinctions begin to surface. A key aspect of wisdom is to see the relationships between concepts, and focus on the areas of similarity and contradiction. That's why it's so important to study history -- to get a sense of context. Life itself is full of contradictions. When confronted with any problem or situation, study the question and define the premise behind it. Ask: Is there anything th at 205

contradicts this idea? Try looking deeper into things and people. For nothing is ever as it appears on the surface For example: Can God make a rock so heavy that even He can't lift? This question implies a limitation in God's power -- either he is unable to create such a heavy rock, or He is unable to lift it. The answer is that there is a fundamental flaw in the question. The question assumes that infinities -- an infinitely heavy rock and an Infinite God -- are comparable. But as we should know from 1 0th grade math class, two infinities cannot be compared.

Track Down Unanswered Questions

We all walk around with a bag full of unanswered questions. And though they may not appear to bother us, on a deeper level they absolutely do. Here's some nagging questions we all have:
y y y

What is the purpose of life? How can I fulfill my potential? How can I avoid repeating mistakes?

Some people say: "There are no answers." In truth, the point of all questions is the answers. Getting clarity is a long, tough haul. But don't stop! Personally I've been working on one question for 10 years, thinking about it at least twice a day. Get your questions out of you. And start answering them. Sit down, introspect, and see what important questions are left unresolved. If something's bothering you, don't let it fester. Put it in a list, and carry the list with you. Keep these questions in mind, readily available when you meet someone who might be able to provide insight. If your business was faltering, you wouldn't just sit there lo sing money -- you'd figure out the problem and solve it. In life, too, you can't just sit there and lose. Figure life out!

Questions For Life

Apply your Q&A skills to all aspects of living. For example, if you want to get married, make sure you know the right questions to ask. Many people get bounced out of


marriage because they don't have the right definition going in. Their expectations are based on a Hollywood script. Figure out what marriage is all about. Is it an arrangement? A contract? A tax shelter? Domestic help? Companionship? A way of living cheaper? A ritual to satisfy stodgy grandparents? Judaism says: "Marriage is the commitment that a man and woman make to pursue their life goals together." It's a holy bond between two people who become as o ne. It gives strength to the individual as well as to the unit. It brings fulfillment, friendship, family, and much more. Don't walk down the aisle until you know:
y y y y

What is the purpose of marriage? How do I have a successful marriage? How do I know I've picked the right partner?

Bronzed Questions
In Western society, parents take a child's first pair of shoes and have them bronzed. It's a reminder of when the baby achieved a level of maturity and independence. In Judaism, we immortalize something else -- a child's first analytical question, the first time he caught a contradiction. That's independence! The importance of good questions is engrained in Jewish national consciousness. We see from the episode of the Burning Bush, that the w ise Moses posited the point of contradiction: "The bush is burning, but it is not consumed." At the Passover Seder, children are encouraged to ask the famous Four Questions. The Seder also speaks about four children: one wise, one bad, one simple, and one who does not know how to ask. Each is defined by the type of question he asks. A yeshiva is a school to learn the skill of analyzing and asking probing questions. The guidebook is the Talmud -- the world's greatest Q&A manual. The Talmud is built on diggin g for contradictions, and over the centuries, Jews have developed this into a fine art. Sometimes the Torah text will be very terse. Why? To prompt us to ask investigative, analytical questions. Torah requires great effort to work it out on our own, and th e more we study, the more we sharpen our tools for independent analysis. If you study enough questions, you pick up patterns and your brain begins to think in that analytical way. You've heard of the graduate degree called Doctor of Letters? Yeshiva students earn a Ph.D. of Questions. And the star of the yeshiva is the one who can ask the best question!


A Piece Of Talmudic Logic

An apocryphal story from the last century goes like this: A Jewish scholar from Odessa was granted permission to visit Moscow. H e boarded the train and found an empty seat. At the next stop a young man got on and sat next to him. The scholar looked at the young man and thought: This fellow doesn't look like a peasant, and if he isn't a peasant he probably comes from this district. If he comes from this district, he must be Jewish because this is, after all, the Jewish district. On the other hand, if he is a Jew where could he be going? I'm the only one in our district who has permission to travel to Moscow. Wait -- just outside Moscow there is a little village called Samvet, and you don't need special permission to go there. But why would he be going to Samvet? He's probably going to visit one of the Jewish families there. But how many Jewish families are there in Samvet? Only two -- the Bernsteins and the Steinbergs. The Bernsteins are a terrible family, so he must be visiting the Steinbergs. But why is he going? The Steinbergs have only girls, so maybe he's their son -in-law. But if he is, then which daughter did he marry? Sarah marr ied that nice lawyer from Budapest, and Esther married a businessman from Zhadomir. So it must be Sarah's husband. Which means that his name is Alexander Cohen, if I'm not mistaken. But if he comes from Budapest, with all the anti -Semitism they have there, he must have changed his name. What's the Hungarian equivalent of Cohen? Kovacs. But if he changed his name he must have some special status. What could it be? A doctorate from the university. At this point, the scholar turns to the young man and says, "H ow do you do, Dr. Kovacs?" "Very well, thank you," answered the startled passenger. "But how is it that you know my name?" "Oh," replied the scholar, "it was obvious."

Why Is "Analyze The Issues" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y

A fool is too embarrassed to ask questions. Don't be a fool. A good question is half the answer. Questions and answers are life's tools for clarification. For every contradiction, there is an equal and opposite resolution. Human beings reveal themselves by what questions they ask. 208

y y y y y

Ask a Jew a question -- and he answers with a question. Contrast one concept with another, to see if any contradiction emerges to anything previously assumed true. Life is not "instant answers." We have to work hard to gain a full understanding. When drawing our conclusions, don't simply rely upon outside opinions and assumptions. A wise person asks questions. And a wise person looks for answers.


Whenever you learn a piece of wisdom, extract what's relevant to your life. Develop it. Take it to its ultimate conclusions. Live with it. Information comes at us from many different sources. But at which point does someone else's idea become something we can call our own? Way #45 is shomey'ah u'mosif, which means "understand and add." It's not e nough to hear an idea. You have to study it, develop it, and add new dimensions. And then live with it. Only then will the idea become part of you. It's happened to each of us before. In the excitement of hearing a great new idea, we make an inspired jump to further associations. It feels wonderful, as we literally feel our horizons expanding. Whenever you hear an idea, make sure you get to the bottom of it. Don't take the idea at face value. Break it down into components. Define each part to make sure you fully understand. Ask for clarification. Write down your observations. Now, test the idea. Project it into the future. Try to trace the path of the idea, with all its implications and corollaries. This will enable you to discover the full depth -- and also expose any aspects that may be false.

Run With The Ball

Hearing a new idea means more than just listening with your ears. Hearing means to absorb the idea on a level that impacts you, and gets into your heart. When an idea reaches your heart, you're jolted into action. Whenever you hear an idea, move it a little and make it your own. Moving an idea into another dimension makes it something altogether different, something real, alive and functional. And this is part and parcel of the unique human exercise of "free will." Don't just read the newspaper. Become part of the process. Draw a conclusion. Make a corollary. That's your creativity, that's you. Otherwise, you're just a passive 209

figure, a pawn of the media. And you are not really into this business of paying attention. Don't wait for these inspired moments to come on their own. Figure out how to formalize the process -- to take any idea a step further, unfold it, and see its many dimensions. Yet we humans tend to be lazy. We know we should examine thing s in depth, but we often avoid the effort required and content ourselves with superficial explanations. Counteract this tendency. Too often, ideas hit us on the surface, and we don't bother doing anything about them. That's why there's so much inconsistency in the world today. Ideas bounce off of people, instead of into them. Don't stand there like a lump. Run with the ball. Pursue your ultimate conclusions. You will unfold the mystery of life -- instead of just whimpering about it.

An Illustration Of The Process

As an example, let's take the concept, "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18)
1) Basic Point

We should act with love toward others.

2) Implication

Love can be defined. What is the definition of love? To take pleasure in another's virtues. Every human being has virtues. To "love" means to excuse the faults, and focus on virtues.
3) Conclusion

If the Almighty said: "Love human beings," then humans must be intrinsically lovable. This is confirmed by the fact that almost everyone has a t least two people who love him -- his parents. So if you're having trouble loving someone, ask yourself: "If I was his mother, what would I love about him?" This unlocks an amazing new dimension. Every human being is gorgeous. We simply need to see it.
4) Derivation

What is lovable about human beings? It must be something common to all human beings. Which is: Humans are created in the image of God.


5) Extension

Since we are commanded to love others, that means love is something which can be commanded. This goes against common perception that while it's nice to love others, love cannot be obligatory. But Judaism says otherwise. Which leads one to ponder: Who can teach me the secret how to love all people?
6) Parallel

If the Almighty instructs us to love others, it must mean that He loves us. How do we know that? Because when we love someone, we also want others to love that person. Since God loves us, He wants us to love each other, too.
7) Corollary

Part of loving someone is protecting them from harm. Theref ore, "love your neighbor" also means fighting for human rights, working against injustice, stopping violence.
8) Consequence

If everyone practiced "Love your neighbor," the world would operate with a far greater degree of patience, tolerance, understanding , communication, appreciation, unity, etc. This one principle would transform human history! When we love each other, take pleasure in each other, and work together, we harness the full potential of the universe. Do you sense the power?
9) Appreciation

Look back at the time of the Greeks, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians who murdered, enslaved, impaled. History shows that it was Judaism -- with its innovative declaration to love humanity because we're all made in God's image -that introduced and inspire d civil rights and justice into the world. The Jews said: "We are all in the image of God, and you've got to love all humanity." This idea succeeded because the Torah specifies detailed laws how to translate that love into action. Gradually, the Jewish mes sage became accepted by all mankind. Incredible!

Stay On Target
Any time you go through this process of associations, you need to be very careful. Imagine building a tower, putting one brick on top of another. If you're slightly off target with the first layer of bricks, it's not so bad. The third row of bricks will stay, too. But by the 15th row, if the bricks are not perfectly lined up, the whole structure will collapse.


The same is true with ideas. When drawing conclusion upon conclusion upon conclusion, if you're off just a little bit, all subsequent conclusions will be increasingly wrong -- and you'll wind up with some very strange and dangerous ideas! Constantly monitor your conclusions by bouncing your ideas off other people. This give-and-take will correct errors while they're still minor, and will also expose new ideas that would not have otherwise emerged from your mind.

Discover Mistaken Thinking

On the surface, many ideas seem innocuous enough. Yet, they may be inconsistent with other ideas we accept. By adding dimensions and drawing conclusions, it becomes self-evident where our perceptions are off. For example, many people believe there's no such thing as absolute truth. They say that "truth" is different for everyone. So let's draw a consequence of that: If there is no absolute right and wrong, then how then can we judge a mass murderer to be evil? By whose standards? Without absolute morality, all you can say about the murderer is that you don't like what he does. But you can't say he's evil. How about when your child comes home from school and complains that someone beat him up at the playground? If all morality is relative, you can never really assert the injustice of any position. For the bully, beating up little guys is part of his person al moral system. So how can you condemn it? Absurd? Of course! That's why it's crucial to take ideas to their logical conclusion. If there is a false perception, then by developing the theme a few steps to its conclusion, you'll see the error of the origin al premise. You'll also see how one idea may contradict another idea you believe in. Then you can determine which of your ideas are true, and which are false.

Make It A Daily Practice

During the course of a day, we're often too busy to consider ideas and their implications. So at the end of each day, take the time to reflect on the new ideas you heard that day. Think carefully: You read something, you went sightseeing, you sat in a meeting. We can have lots of insights. But unless we go over our day's exp eriences, it's not going to be internalized. Come on, live a little!


As an exercise, take five of your favorite pieces of wisdom -- things that you consider the most important tools for life. Now go through a drill: find a corollary, a consequence, a derivation, a conclusion. This step-by-step approach will open up a potentially infinite chain of conclusions. In fact, the Sages say that from any one mitzvah of the Torah, you could theoretically draw a picture of all of the 613 mitzvot -- by following logically the consequences, derivations, etc. (Of course, it takes a master to do so)

Why Is "Expand Your Ideas" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y

Whenever you hear a piece of wisdom, extract what's relevant to your life. When you learn a concept, unfold it to see its compone nts. If A is true, then B may also be true. Drill! Take a lot of concepts and put them through this process. Anything that we hear is not really valuable unless we make it our own. Every night before going to sleep, do an intellectual house -cleaning. To be alive, you have to be engaged in the process of life.


Don't grow only for yourself. If you have some worthwhile information, share it. By reaching others, you will reach yourself. Whatever you learn -- from books, lectures, or life experience -- do so with the goal of sharing with others. If it was fascinating, how did it change you? What did it teach you about living? And how can you transfer that insight to others? Way #46 is ha'lomed al minat li'lamed -- literally "learn in order to teach." Don't grow only for yourself. If it's worthwhile, share it. To effectively communicate what you've learned: 1. Define it clearly. What is the essential point? 2. Understand it fully. Is there any point that I'm not clear on? 3. Know how to transmit it. How can I best explain this to others? 4. Put it into practice. To whom do I teach it? Make this an automatic process, so that whenever you learn something new, you instantly think how to convey it.


If It's Worth Learning, It's Worth Sharing

We don't want to live just for ourselves. As part of humanity, we want to be the one to "break the news." Is it the quest for fame? I don't think so. If you had information to change the course of history, you'd share it even anonymously. Imagine you're walking down the street and meet a space alien. He says, "I have come from a faraway galaxy to communicate an important message to earthlings." What's the first thing you'll do? "I have to tell everyone about this! What universe did you say you come from? How do you spell your name? Let me see those tentacles, do they really work?" You begin weighing, thinking, analyzing, and focusing -- all because you have an audience waiting for your words. Apply this technique to all life experiences. If you're retur ning from a vacation, think about what message you want to convey to your friends back home. Whatever you're doing -- at the zoo, a wedding, or reading the newspaper -- keep asking yourself: What is the value of this information? What does this teach me ab out life? Then ask: Who else could benefit from this concept, and how can I teach it to them? Don't waste any opportunity. The next time you go to a concert, imagine you're a music critic for The New York Times. Everyone is eagerly awaiting your comments. They're going to translate it into Russian and Chinese. Do you see how this will affect your experience? Every wave of the baton, every crash of the cymbal will have your rapt attention. You're invigorated! Role play, pretending you have to teach it in a lecture to 1,000 people. How will you summarize the main points? In what way do you agree or disagree with the conclusion?

Create Opportunities To Teach

You're on an airplane, seated next to a stranger. And we all know how boring that can be! Yet what a great opportunity to discuss your perspective on an important issue. Of course, you have to warm up the conversation. Try this technique: Share a difficulty you're having with the issue, and ask for advice. You'd have no trepidation about walking down the street and asking a stranger for directions. So say: "I was thinking about this issue. Can you help me understand it?" Everybody likes to give advice. And in the ensuing discussion, you'll be able to explain your own ideas in full, and you may well learn s omething in return! Anticipate opportunities to teach -- whether you're in line at the bank, or eating lunch with friends. You can even invite people over with the express purpose of meaningful conversation. Be creative. The possibilities are endless.


This is not to suggest turning all your friends and family into guinea pig students. But it does mean recognizing in advance how you can impact others in a positive way.

You Don't Have To Be Perfect To Teach

The idea of teaching makes many people uncomfortable. We may feel inadequate: Who am I to teach? I don't know enough yet. I'm far from perfect myself! These are rationalizations. Because in fact, nobody is perfect. The best teachers make mistakes; more at the beginning, less later on. It's like riding a bike or driving a car -- the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Nobody ever became a great teacher without flopping a few times. How do you get practice? Go teach! The first time, you'll probably be laughed at. But don't be discouraged. (Be g lad they didn't curse you!) Try again. The second time they'll argue with you. That's a good sign already; you've got them engaged. The third time they'll thank you. That makes all the previous efforts worth it. The same way a budding artist needs to study under the masters, a teacher needs to study the methods of great educators. If you have a favorite teacher (or journalist, actor, etc.) be conscious of their techniques for communicating the message. But don't wait until you're perfect -- because that's a long way off! Just get started and teach as best you can. It will do wonders to help clarify your own viewpoint.

Do People Want To Learn?

You might say: I'll wait until people ask for advice, then I'll teach them. If someone was bleeding on the street, you wouldn't wait until he asks for help. Even if he says, "No, leave me alone," you won't walk away as he bleeds to death, saying, "Oh well, he doesn't want my help anyway." You'll help regardless, and try to get him to cooperate. People who need the most help are often the last to ask. So be proactive. If your friend is having marital problems, tactfully offer to help. Don't wait until he says, "Please, do me a favor, open my eyes." Because you aren't going to hear that song for a long, long time! You wouldn't pass by someone bleeding. It's no different when someone is miserable and depressed.


Develop A Repertoire Of Teaching

Keep an inventory of what you know. Organize it, and you'll be able to teach the proper things at the proper time. To develop a repertoire, ask yourself the following questions:
y y y y

What are people fascinated by? What is crucial for people to know? Which ideas do I know best? What have I learned about life's bumps and knocks?

Become a specialist. Identify an area you've learned in dep th, and try to perfect it. Constantly update, expand and improve your repertoire. Keep your ideas fresh. If you're excited about the material, your audience will be, too. To make this concept more real, try writing an ethical will. "Dear Child: Now that I am 'X' years old, here are the important things I've learned about living." Imagine CNN is interviewing you about the most important things you've learned in life. What would you answer? Search inside yourself for the five most important things you know. It's a painful process, but it's crucial to understanding yourself. And one day you'll want to teach wisdom to your children.

formalize the process

We learn a phenomenal amount every day. Yet we're not in contact with it's value, so it gets lost. We get swallowed up in a lot of nonsense, a lot of zombie -ism, and the good stuff goes down the drain. To help you separate the wheat from the chaff, write things down, as a sort of diary. There are different ways of keeping a diary. One person describes events: "Johnny fell off his bike today." Another writes as if communicating with an imaginary friend: "Dear Diary, I was very insulted today" The idea of a diary is to clarify: How did I grow today? And how can I articulate this to someone else? To solidify your approach for teaching, review what you've learned while it's still fresh in your mind. Before you go to sleep at night, write down five pieces of wisdom, five insights, five items of growth. Doing this means you're awake, you're growing.


Why Is "Learning In Order To Teach" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y y y y y

When you learn in order to teach, you gain greater clarity about what's floating through your mind. If something is worth learning, it's worth sharing. Make sure you learn something new every day. If you haven't learne d, you haven't grown. Every night, ask yourself: "How can I teach what I learned today?" Knowing you'll have to teach gives you more power in understanding, analysis, attention and motivation. Use it! Teaching wisdom is the Jewish national mission to be a "light unto the nations." When you learn a concept, unfold it to see its components. If A is true, then B may also be true. Drill! Take a lot of concepts and put them through this process. Anything that we hear is not really valuable unless we make it our own. Every night before going to sleep, do an intellectual house -cleaning. To be alive, you have to be engaged in the process of life.


The whole point of wisdom is to make life better. There is no greater waste than to have a bunch of great ideas, and not to use them.

When it comes to money and power, people are drawn toward wisdom. But when it comes to life lessons, people often don't pay as much attention. Yet if you ask someone -- "Would you rather be wealthy and miserable, or poor and happy?" -- most people will say they'd rather be poor and happy. Why? Because anyway the point of money is to be happy! So why are so many people dedicating their lives to becoming rich, despite split family life, ruined health, moral compromi se and other sacrifices of happiness involved in gaining that wealth? Focus your attention on this contradiction. It comes from the failure to translate an intellectual concept into practical reality. If an idea makes sense and promises you more effectiveness in living -- and you don't implement it -- that's "temporary insanity." It's living on two different levels, disconnected from reality.


The Sages say that when a person makes a mistake, he is temporarily insane. People wasting time, fighting with their own children, wallowing in depression and misery. That's crazy. Way #47 is ha'lomed al minat la'asot -- literally "learn in order to do." The whole job of living is to put into practice what you know. That's the difference between "philosophy" and "wisdom." You can learn the nicest ideas in the world and pontificate all day long. But if you don't apply them, you're a bit mishooga.

The Power Of Ritual

Human beings are creatures of habit. We enjoy the comfort and security of daily routine. But "ritual" often gets a bad name, because it implies an act done without understanding or feeling. Of course, it's ideal when pure enthusiasm drives a person. But sometimes it has to work in the opposite direction: Ritual gets you to do things even when you don't fee l like it, and even before you fully understand why. Then hopefully, once we get involved in the right activity, the emotional connection will follow. For example, we teach our children to brush their teeth from an early age -- as a ritual. And we teach them polite manners -- "Please pass the salt thank you very much pardon me" -- as a ritual. We do this even before they understand the reason. And we trust that as they get older, they'll recognize the value of good manners and clean teeth. Ritual is a foundation of Judaism. The mitzvot are not empty actions in order to keep us busy. Rather, they enable us to put ideals into practice. For example, lighting Shabbat candles brings warmth, calm and peace to the home. Or we put a mezuzah on the door, to focus o n the lofty ideals written inside. It's not hocus -pocus. Use "habit" to your advantage. Take some wisdom you've learned and convert it into ritual. For example, make it a daily practice to articulate five pleasures you've had in the last 24 hours. Focus on them, count them, feel them. Do you want to be a more caring person? In the meantime, until you're ready to think like a caring person, at least act like a caring person. When you first begin a ritual, don't worry if it lacks enjoyment. Just do it. Later, you'll see some amazing effects. It will make you more sensitive and civilized. It will transform you.

Inching Upwards
Implementing any important idea doesn't happen overnight. You have to build momentum. Small success leads to big success. 218

Make a list of five ideas you'd like to integrate into your life. Each day, focus on one specific idea. Define it and plan how to implement it. You'll be surprised at how systematic your growth can be. One day, one change. Start with easy steps, and work up to harder ones. For example, in the idea of "love your neighbor as yourself," one specific aspect is being friendly toward others. A small, practical step might be to answer the phone in a cheerful voice, as opposed to grunting "hello." A next step might be to do sm all unannounced favors -- like offering to make coffee for a co-worker or roommate. And then it builds from there... Push forward. Ask yourself every night, What did I learn today? Then apply that lesson to one item on your list. Even the smallest effort will get your momentum going. But at least do something with the wisdom you've learned. With every little effort, you inch up.

It Takes Study
Nothing aids the integration of ideas more than penetrating study. The more we understand, the more motivated we are to implement the idea into our lives. With any wisdom, you must clearly define: 1) What have I learned? 2) What does it mean? 3) Why is it important for my life? 4) What are the implications? 5) How do I translate this into practical reality? Applies this model constantly -- whether you're having a conversation, or even as you read this essay. What should you be doing? Articulate to yourself the ideas contained here -- and work through a practical method of integrating them into your life. Remember: The 48 Ways is more than just an intellectual exercise! By asking, What am I doing? How should I do it? And what am I going to do about it?, you avoid many mistakes. As soon as you plug into the reality of thinking, awareness, definitions, and doing what's right, the i nsanity disappears. It evaporates. It's difficult to stop in mid -action and ask yourself "What am I doing?" So you have to drill these steps, practicing them beforehand.


Avoiding Mistakes
To increase your power for living, be aware of events happening ar ound you, appreciate their significance, and learn from them. As the saying goes: "A fool learns from his mistakes, but a wise person learns from the mistakes of others." For example, consider the idea of marriage in modern society. Every couple who gets married says they're in love. But half the marriages end in divorce. What happened? Investigate the causes, and learn how to minimize the chance of your own divorce. Then make the commitment to make your insights practical. Because if we don't work at how to love, we may very quickly fall out of love. True knowledge is getting the ideas deep into your bones. If you don't put an idea into practice, you don't really "know" it. Transfer that wisdom into day -to-day actions. Concepts like love and happiness are very nice -- so nice that we often fail to see how much hard work they take to achieve!

Learn From Mistakes

But what about when you do make a mistake? If you buy the Brooklyn Bridge, don't carry around a guilt complex of: "I'm worthless, I'm an idiot, I'll never do any good." Self-pity is a disgusting thing. A person full of guilt does it again and again and again. Guilt is the body's way of flim -flamming the soul into thinking you did something about it -- "I am worthless, I'm no good. See, I took care of it!" Instead of wallowing, correct the mistake. How? Regret it. Simply say: "I made a mistake, it was human, now I can learn from it." The most important thing is to get back to your natural state of productivity and joy. You threw the ball out of the par k and the other team scored four runs? Okay, it happened. So now make it up and hit a home run! Of course, don't deny that it ever happened. Analyze why you made the mistake. Because if a fool learns from his mistakes, then not learning from your mistakes is double-foolish. Put your energy back into it. Learn from it, and undertake to never do it again. Fine. Life is good. Now move on.

Do It Today
There are lots of things we promise ourselves but never get around to doing. We fool ourselves into thinking we made a commitment, but we didn't. You overslept? It's 220

because you weren't serious enough about the commitment. If there was a big business deal and you had to wake up at 5 a.m., you would have absolutely gotten up at 5 a.m. Apply this idea to the greate r goals of living. If you don't get started today, you may never do it. Even if you don't have the time now, at least write down your good ideas before they become lost forever. Put them on your calendar. This forces you to periodically review priorities -- and gives you another opportunity to begin taking action. Because the difference between a dream and a goal is a dealine. Another tool is to ask yourself: What would I want to teach others? How would I go about doing it? This is the essential process of living. Articulate it, teach it to others -and then put it into practice yourself.

It's Up To You
Accept responsibility for yourself. As the Sages say: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" You know that certain things are haunting you. Do you want happiness, the good life, greatness, to become disciplined, to live in reality? It racks your brains. Don't give up. If you truly believe in something, get it done. It is completely up to you. Resolve to be in control of your life. I can do it. I believe in myself. I'm going to get it done. No one can get into your brain and live for you. No one will "make you" great. Nobody can stop you and nobody can help you. That is your sole, independent responsibility. Ultimately, of course, the final arbiter is God. But that's His domain. We have to make our effort. The key to living is deciding to put what you know into practice. Either you are going to muddle through life, or you are going to take control and live according to ideals that make sense. Make that decision right now. For if not now, when?

Why Is "Learning In Order To Do" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y

The whole point of wisdom is to apply it to make life better. Don't put off change for another day. Talk is cheap. Action takes commitment. Don't assume that just because you learned it, you'll use it.


y y y

Making a decision to grow is based on free will, the essential power of a human being. Every concept in Torah is an instruction for living. Learn how to use it. If you undertake a deep commitment to change, it will p ositively impact the rest of your life.


Don't swallow wholesale what others say. Check it out. Ask questions. Does it make sense?

Salespeople gain savvy each time a customer poses a new question -- challenging the salesperson to become smarter each time. Teachers are also in sales, trying to market an idea. Be an educated consumer: When you learn something new, get out the "red marker." Does it make sense? Is it just a good theory, or can it be put into practice, too? Way #48 is ha'mach'kim et rabo -- literally "make your teacher wise." Way #10 talked of the need to pick the right teacher. But that is only the beginning. We need to sharpen our teacher to achieve the maximum learning experience. Don't be afraid to challenge. If your teacher has the truth, he is happy when his students are critical. By questioning and challenging your teacher to articulate his position, you're actually sharpening him. As one of the great Sages said: "I learned a lot from my teachers. I learned even more from my study partners. But I learned the most from my students."

No Parrots
The Talmudic Sages would occasionally make intentional mistakes, inserting an illogical twist to keep the students on their toes. The teacher wanted to see if the students were "thinking," or just "swallowing." A good teacher wants his students to be keenly critical. Who needs a roomful of zombies, parrots and tape recorders? Then the teacher would ask: "Do you understand? Does that make sense?" And woe to the student who actually said "Yes!" Of course, whenever you challenge a teacher or parent, do so with respect. Temper it with expressions like: "Pardon me, I don't understand how you came to that conclusion, but it seems to me incorrect." 222

Give It A Chance
Another aspect of "make your teacher wise" is to regard him as a wise person. In order to learn from a teacher, you have to take his statements seriously. Otherwise it won't work. Accept the fact that he has something to say. He has credentials. Give a fair hearing to his ideas. Never dismiss something your teacher says as "ridiculous." Consider his point of view even if you get the feeling of "this is impossible, it's a mistake, I know better." Don't dismiss it outright. Give him another chance to explain, and then think it through again. But, you say, maybe the teacher is really wrong! If that's the conclusion you come to, then speak up. But only after you analyze. Don't just protest. Figure out why you think he's wrong. What's your evidence? Example: Your teacher gives a definition of "love." Is there something wrong with defining love? Perhaps you don't like the idea of boiling it down to a definition? Or you don't believe it's possible to define an emotion? Go ahead and pose the question: "How can you define emotions?" (The answer is that we don't define emotions, we define what elicits the emotion.) Regardless of whether or not you end up agreeing, the very act of working it through will result in tremendous growth.

Sense Your Resistance

One of the biggest obstacles to obtaining wisdom is being emotionally invested in our own position. Be aware whenever you feel a desire to distance yourself from the words of others. It might be your own defensiveness (because you aren't so sure yourself). Or it may be intellectual laziness, or a fear of the implications, or some ingrained prejudice. Analyze what's bothering you. Track it down, and put it on the table. Identify where he is stepping on your prejudices, where he is going contrary to your opinion, against your inclination, against your desire. Wherever we come from, everyone holds something to be sacred. If you're from China, communism is holy. If you're from America, capitalism is holy. If you come from a kibbutz, socialism is holy. It's actually most important to listen to another's view point when you disagree! Often the very thing that we need is that which we push away. If you find yourself being flippant or dismissing an idea out of hand, that's probably struck a defensive chord in 223

you. That's precisely where you have an opening to grow -- and need to pay the most attention. That's the power of schizophrenia within us. We'll call something "ridiculous" -- even as we have a sneaking suspicion that it has the power to transform us in a positive way.

Layers Upon Layers

Think and rethink what your teacher says. Certainly this applies when you don't fully understand him, or when you disagree. But even if you agree with the idea, don't be so sure that you've gotten the full message. Even when something seems obvious to you, try viewing it in a different light. Many times, you'll be surprised to see new aspects that you previously overlooked. Wisdom is very deep. We may think we immediately understand, but as time passes, we accumulate more life experiences, and begin to unravel the layers beneath the words. There are a thousand different aspects you haven't thought of. So you've got to keep digging. And the deeper you dig, the more you'll see how much there is to dig! We don't completely understand an idea for a very long time. In fact, the Sages say it takes 40 years!

Look From The Other Side

Broaden your understanding of concepts by looking from the other person's point of view. Get into his wavelength. Figure out where he is coming from. Even though you may be sure you're right, become a lawyer for the other side. Don't dismiss it outright. Play your own devil's advocate. Force yourself to give 10 reasons for the other viewpoint. Even if he is wrong, there are still good reasons why he believes what he believes. Apply this technique whenever you get into an argument. It's terrific for healing rifts, particularly when the combatants are tense and emotionally upset. You might say: "Look, I really want to understand what you're saying. So here are a few reasons I've thought of that you're right. Would you mind giving me a few reasons that I'm right? No argument can last under these conditions. Do you see that? What's the worst thing that can result from all this? You may still disagree, but you'll understand each other and build respect between you. Beyond this, you might actually discover truth and change your point of view!


Tackle The Big Issues

Apply this technique of "looking from the other side" to all serious issues of life. For example, before a person in termarries, they should come up with 10 reasons why to be loyal to Judaism. Don't dismiss Judaism based on your experience as a 13 -yearold. The Jewish people have given a moral foundation to the world, and have thrived against all odds. That's a heritage worth checking out. Similarly, before you dismiss God from your life, give 10 reasons why it's important to have a relationship with Him. The Almighty is our Creator, our teacher. Give Him credit. Are there things you don't understand in life, such as suff ering and injustice? Of course, ask the questions! But try to see it from God's perspective. It doesn't make sense to hold a grudge against Him. Is there evidence for His existence? Find out.

Why Is "Educating The Educators" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y y y

When one teaches, two learn. To get the full meaning of any idea, you must ask questions. Even if you don't understand an idea, consider its merits carefully. Give the teacher credit that he wouldn't say something ridiculous. Appreciate that you're not perfect. Maybe in this case you're making a mistake. Uncomfortable ideas are our greatest opportunity to grow. Wisdom is deep. It takes time and patience to acquire. In Jewish consciousness, learning lasts a lifetime. The smarter a teacher becomes, the smarter the studen t becomes.


The human brain is a sophisticated filing cabinet. How will you access that information? Organize what you know!

Upon completing the 48 Ways, there is an additional crucial step: Organization. Imagine an office where paper work flows each day. The only way everything will be accessible is with a good filing system. You search for an urgent document...


Frustration builds as you grasp for information you know is there, but cannot find. It's buried in a pile! So too, the human brain is an extremely sophisticated office into which new information is constantly flowing. You've learned so many important lessons about living -- friendship, spirituality, business, coping with disappointments, patience, handling money, etc. It becomes a mass of unmanageable details. Where will you file it? How will you access that information in the future? That's why the 48 Ways has an extra Way #49 -- Ha'mech'aven et shmu'ato, which means "think over what you've heard." Create a mental filing cabinet. When you hear a new piece of wisdom, automatically place it in the correct file, making it available for future use. Wisdom needs to be accessed and applied, and the more organized you are, the more power you'll have for living.

Find The Flow

The key to organizing wisdom is to develop a framework that doesn't turn your mind into a red-tape bureaucracy. Always look for the logical flow. For example, when you pick up a book, first read through the table of contents to develop an overall sense of s tructure. Then, take a few minutes to imagine what will be discussed in each chapter. As you begin reading, this will help you to see how each aspect differs from the next -- and how all the material connects together. Rather than have an idea explained to you, it's better to try to project the idea yourself, to seek out its implications on your own. This way, you are focusing, taking part in the process, and analyzing the information as you go. This imprints the idea in your mind much better than simply having it explained to you. And you'll have a better basis to reach a conclusion about whether or not the material has credibility. In Jewish learning, we give each section of the Torah and Talmud a name that defines its essence, and then write summary state ments for each section. For example, the 48 Ways are defined essences, a sort of table of contents for attaining wisdom. Pay attention, see the connection. It makes the information infinitely more manageable and helps you recall it and apply it down the ro ad. Try this method in whatever you learn. It's worth the half -hour investment now.

The Logical System

Imagine someone who can't balance a checkbook. His desk is piled high with withdrawal and deposit slips, account statements and credit card slips. It's impossible to manage this chaos. So he might as well give up... 226

So too, with wisdom for living. Every day you learn a lot about life, and unless you organize it, the isolated pieces of wisdom will discourage and depress you. It kills your optimism and desire to grow and change. You figure: "I've forgotten other ideas in the past, I'll probably forget this, too." You can't afford to go on like this. In Judaism, a classic system of organization is to memorize all 613 mitzvot. Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, for example, organizes the 613 mitzvot into 83 sections, collated into 14 volumes. What's the value of memorizing this list? This gives you 613 "file folders" in which to place any new piece of wisdom. For example, if you gain an insight into the harmony of nature, you can file it under the mitzvah "to know that God is one." Or if you find a new way to help homeless people, you can file it under the mitzvah of tzedakah, charity. With this method, you'll understand life altogether differently. You'll see the geni us of how one piece connects to another. And that tool will benefit you forever. There are other methods, too. Some people have thousands of flashcards organized alphabetically by topic. When coming across a new piece of information, they write it on a card. Using computer software, this system is easy to implement, and you can even set up a hyperlinked network of personal information. The main thing is to pick a system that works for you -- and build your "wisdom database" around it.

Accessible Wisdom
You are constantly picking up new information, spending time and money to acquire it. If it's worth gathering, it's worth keeping and using. If you paid $50 for something, you'd use it. And isn't wisdom is more valuable than money? Before beginning any imp ortant project, open a new file folder to store information. Whether it's money management or home repairs, be diligent in organizing your info. When you come across a good article, don't just stuff it into a drawer somewhere. For example, if you're starting a family, assemble a litany of handy tools for how to raise children. You want them to be healthy -- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But learning on the job may be too late! It's not enough to have a bunch of facts and figures stored neatly aw ay in your office. Equally important is to open a parallel "mental file." Be able to apply the information even without immediate access to the printed material. One key method is to extract the principle behind any idea. This is a lot easier to memorize than a bunch of details. The Sages compare it to carrying around paper 227

money versus a large sack of coins. Once you have the principle, you can apply it to a variety of situations.

Memory Devices
Simple "awareness" of an idea is not enough. To really "own " the idea, you have to know it by heart. Memorization is tremendously powerful. It puts the idea "in your pocket," immediately accessible at your mental fingertips. There are two ways to memorize an idea: 1) repeat it over and over, memorizing by rote, or 2) unravel its logical flow Which is the better method? Number Two. Suppose you want to memorize all the bones in the human body. Using method #1, you'd memorize the name of every bone in alphabetical order. Using method #2, the logical way, you'd start from th e head and move down to the toes. As you go through the body, each bone triggers a hint for the next. The mind likes mnemonic devices. Try to extract the essence of an idea, and record it in a catch-phrase that can be easily memorized. This way, rather tha n struggling to recall it from scratch, you'll be able to rebuild the entire idea from your catch phrase. Here are some effective memory techniques: - Assign a one- or two-word description to each idea. - Take the first letter of each concept, and make a fun acronym out of the letters. - Create an imaginary scene or story, in which the key concepts all appear together. (The more outrageous the scene, the easier it is to recall.) - Put the ideas into a song. The tune will enable you to remember the series o f words. There is a big mental block to memorizing anything, but once you get going, it's fun and easy. To get started, try learning the names of the 48 Ways by heart, and review them as you walk down the street. Write down these "code words" on a small pi ece of paper, and keep it with you at all times. This will give you a constant point of reference.

File, Evaluate And Eliminate

If knowledge is power, then forgetting is the ultimate weakness. 228

We have two little gadgets between our shoulders. One is the "remember" button and the other is "forget." Did you ever get a telephone number and say, "Sure, I'll remember it," and one minute later it's slipped out of your mind? It happens. You pressed "forget" instead of "remember." But when the millionaire says, " This is my phone number," and it has 25 digits -- no problem! You pressed "remember" and you pressed it hard! When you hear a valuable piece of wisdom, decide: This is important, I want to remember it, I'm going to keep it. You have that power. Press the button. If you can't process new info on the spot, then at the end of each day, review the main things you learned. For example, if you read a good article, verbalize the main points, and whatever you find valuable -- file it! Furthermore, set aside time for review of what you learned. It's easy to forget things when you're not dealing with them on a daily basis. Reviewing not only helps you remember, but will reveal an interconnectness of ideas that you didn't see when learning things the first time. To avoid "information overload," periodically clean out your mental filing system. A lot of information is needlessly cluttering your mind. Develop a system of review and re-evaluate what you've been carrying around up there. See which issues are valid, and which ones no longer concern you. To discard what you don't need, simply press "delete," just as on a computer. This doesn't just apply to information. If you find yourself involved in some negative activity -- e.g. due to peer pressure -- then make a decision to eliminate that activity. You've got to have a healthy life, a healthy head, and a healthy attitude toward living. Don't let the rotten apples disturb your digestion.

Plans And Priorities

A crucial part of organizing your mind is to establish priorities. To demonstrate the need to organize your mind, ask questions and see how fast you get answers. For example, ask yourself what lessons you've learned about the three main categories of life: - Issues between me and myself. What is the purpose of life? What are my goals and dreams? How did I arrive at them? What are my talents? What are my virtues? What do I ultimately want out of life? - Issues between me and others. What do I know about relationships with friends, parents, colleagues, and society? What causes me to struggle in relationships? What do others like most about me? - Issues between me and God. What do I know about truth, kindness, and why this world was created? What are my God -given rights, and what are my obligations?


Now, prioritize these ideas into a set of life plans. You should have a daily plan, weekly plan, monthly plan and yearly plan -- with 5-year goals, 15-year goals, and lifetime goals. What do you want on your tombstone? Asking this question is very powerful. And very painful. Keep your priorities straight. Every human being is willing to die to do the right thing. Could you possibly kill 1,000 innocent children to save your life? You would sooner give up your life than do such a thing. If we are all willing to die for the right thing, then that tells us something deep about our priorities. When you wake up in the morning, remind yo urself: "I want to do the right thing, I want to be a good person." Of course, you may forget about it during the day. But at least you know this is important. And sooner or later you might even do something about it. Ask yourself: What is the right thing? Who is the good person? I really should take a little time to figure out what it is! In Judaism, we stay focused on priorities by reciting the Shema twice each day, and by putting a mezuzah on our doorposts. The Shema -- "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One" -- reminds us of the greatest pleasure, the quintessential essence of life. Make sure to keep your priorities on the front burner.

Why Is "Organizing Your Mind" A Way To Wisdom?

y y y y y y y y y y y y

Organizing wisdom is the most important step in gaining con trol of your life. When something interesting comes your way, file it in your mind so you can access it when you need it. If you understand what you learn, it will remain yours. If it's superficial, it will disappear. Unless you make a conscious decision to remember, you are likely to forget. If a piece of information is worth gathering, it's worth organizing. What do you want to achieve in five years, 10 years, 50 years? "Out of sight, out of mind." Review your priorities and bring them to the fore. As long as your head is mixed up, you'll feel the pain of chaos up there. Pressing the delete button gives you control over your life. Know the right time to take out the right knowledge. Master the art of "Wisdom Management:" Organize it, control it, direct it. Unless we organize it properly, what good is it? 230


Acknowledge your gifts and be grateful to the source. Because if you know from whom you're receiving, you can always go back for more.

After hearing a good story, joke, or idea, we're anxious to repeat it to others. But in doing so, the tendency is to present it as our own original invention. Ha'omer davar bi'shaim omro literally means "say it in the name of the one who said it." Whenever quoting something, you should always acknowledge the source. In other words, "don't steal credit." The Talmud, the classical book of wisdom, goes to great lengths to trace the intellectual lineage of an idea: "So -and-so said in the name of So-and-so, who said in the name of So-and-so." So next time you're ready to share a juicy one, don't forget to mention: Where did you get it from?

The Gift Of Wisdom

In order to properly appreciate anything, we need to assess its value. That's why when someone gives us a material gift, we usually have no p roblem showing gratitude. The 48 Ways says: Acknowledge spiritual gifts, too. Wisdom is certainly more valuable than gold, and the secret of happiness is more precious than a diamond! As an exercise, make a list of the ideas you regularly espouse, along wi th the original sources you heard them from. Think of people who gave you wisdom for living. Did a friend set you straight on something? Your brother saved you from doing some stupid things? An employer gave you good career advice? Acknowledge that you received the gift. If someone took the blinders off your eyes, it's fantastic, it's a different life. Say to yourself: "I am now aware of something very important that I wasn't paying attention to." Say it out loud. That alone will make you feel genuine appre ciation. Now, let the source know how much you appreciate it. Consider as if the "thank you" is payment for the good idea. Enjoy paying this debt, don't loathe paying it. The pleasure that you'll give the other person is small payback for such an enormous gift! A good place to start is with your parents. Make a list of all the gifts they've given you, both materially and ethically -- your sense of honesty, discipline, desire for truth, kindness toward people. Appreciate how valuable each one of these is. Co me on, what did you get from your parents? Find out. 231

Next, write your parents a letter, thanking them for these gifts. It sounds a bit corny, but it is awesomely powerful. Do you understand what enormous pleasure you'll give them? Plus what pleasure you'll have in giving them that pleasure?!

Value The Source

When you acknowledge the source, you don't lose, you win. You will never be able to appreciate a piece of wisdom, an insight into living, unless you are willing to acknowledge the gift. Because by denying the gift, you downgrade its value. Therefore you won't apply it seriously -- because to you it doesn't have value. Furthermore, if you are consciously aware of where your wisdom is coming from, then you're much more likely to go get more. Direct others to the source as well. Let everybody know. When somebody else is happy, it doesn't steal any happiness from you. Actually, the more people who are happy, the easier it is for you to be happy. When there's more wisdom around, the greater life becomes f or us all.

Warning Signs
Why do people have a hard time acknowledging someone else as the source of an idea? The reality is that people crave independence, and are grappling for status and one upmanship. Debts to others seem to threaten that stature. We don't like to imagine that we weren't smart enough to "figure it out for ourselves." In truth, independence means that you pay your debts. What does this tell us? Whenever you feel the need to take credit for someone else's work, alarm bells should ring. It's a warning sign of insecurity. Because even though it may "make us look good," it's actually a cheap substitute for legitimate self improvement. If you want credit for a good idea, think of one yourself! Beyond this, if others find out about your "theft ," then you've lost credibility in their eyes. And even if no one else finds out, you've damaged your self -respect. These are hard commodities to get back. Give credit where credit is due. People will respect you for it, and you'll feel good about yourself -- even better than if you'd taken the credit!


Track Down Opinions

There is a more subtle dynamic at play here. Sometimes we pick up prevalent ideas in society, and walk around presenting them as our own conclusions. Make a list of your opinions on subj ects like free will, absolute truth, evolution, abortion, etc. Track down the source of each. Are they your original ideas? If not, where did they come from? Did you read a magazine article, or a friend impressed you? How did you reach your conclusion? Don't fool yourself. Recognize that once your ego is invested, you're not looking at the evidence, pro and con. You're just "defending your conclusion." And the inherent danger is obvious: Deep down, we're not sure whether or not we believe it. For example, you may believe "there is no absolute truth." Instead, try rephrasing it: "People say there is no absolute truth." This way, you're free to investigate the idea objectively, without being locked into a position. Now shift the question a bit deeper: Why did you choose to identify with these particular ideas in the first place? Next time you hear a discussion of a controversial topic, resist the temptation to accept an idea just to feel that you've "settled the issues of living." Defer a conclusion until you've heard all the evidence. Otherwise it's pretending, play -acting, not really living. Can you ever be sure of a conclusion? Yes! The 48 Ways says: Learn the dynamics of clarity and study how the dimension of knowledge works. Then you'll feel the surety when it comes.

Gratitude To The Jewish People

Make a list of society's treasures -- monotheism, justice for all, universal education, dignity of the individual, preciousness of life. These core values of the civilized world are all from the Torah. Before the Torah was given, people built their lives on a subjective concept of right and wrong. Then at Mount Sinai, human history underwent a dynamic shift. People understood that there is one God who has moral expectations. You can't just live as you please; there is a higher authority you are accountable to. Despite the fact that Jews were never more than a tiny fraction of the world's population, these ideas became the basis for the civilized world. For example, do you know the source of the idea "Love your neighbor as yourself"? It's in the Five Books of Moses -- Leviticus 19:18.


The Jewish people are an eminent firm, 3,500 years old. We are no fly -by-night. The world uses our products under different brand names and takes it for granted. Consider what humanity owes to the Jewish people. If you are living with Jewish wisdom, know it, quote it, and give credit.

Gratitude To The Almighty

More than all, give credit to the Almighty. He gave us a brain to understand and appreciate wisdom. Other teachers enlighten us , but the original teacher is God. He implanted within us the intuition to discover all there is to know about living. God is showering us with gifts all the time. Food, air, eyes, teeth. Life itself. He programmed us with an antenna for wisdom. Nothing is possible without God. The problem is that we don't want to be indebted to Him, so we deny the gifts. We refuse to believe that He loves us. It's like the son who doesn't want to acknowledge the gift of a new Porsche. He's going to say it's the wrong color, it has a dent, it guzzles gas. He'll find something wrong with it because he doesn't want to acknowledge the debt. In order to connect with God, you have to learn to appreciate all the good He has done for you. That means giving up the illusion that you alone are responsible for your achievements. It's all a gift from God. Just as every stroke of Picasso's brush has his signature on it, everything in this world has God's signature on it. We have to learn to appreciate it. If you make the effort to appreciate the gifts God has bestowed upon you, then you'll have such a keen awareness of God's presence that everything you do is accompanied by a sense of His love and guidance. You'll be overwhelmed above and beyond any other pleasure possible. That's why gratitude is the ultimate appreciation, the 50th Way to Wisdom. This is the step that unifies all the others. So start loving God. Acknowledge His great and many gifts.

Why Is "Rewards Of Gratitude" An Ingredient In Wisdom?

y y y

Make a list of things that you quo te. Know where you got them, and give credit. If you downgrade the source of your wisdom, you downgrade the value of the wisdom. Tools for living are more valuable than any car, stereo, or trip around the world. Acknowledge the debt. 234

y y

When gratitude to othe rs breaks down, then so does society as a whole. Turn the tables: If it was your idea, wouldn't you want credit?