Friday, October 24, 2008

"Sorry my flawed ideology resulted in our plummeting economy"

Imagine if you made a mistake on the order of magnitude to which the venerable Alan Greenspan admitted in his testimony earlier this week.

Imagine if you had the power (just for a day, even, to say nothing of the decades which Greenspan had) to lead our nation--our entire nation--down the primrose path to economic uncertainty (for all), economic turmoil (for many), and outright economic disaster (for a pitiable few).

For Keynesians like me, I'm glad Alan Greenspan lived long enough to get his comeuppance, and I'm happy I'm around to see it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Words You Use Matter... Use Them Judiciously.

In the age of texting, IM'ing and rushed emailing, it seems vaguely contrarian to reiterate the sheer importance of the words we use in speaking and writing. The power of words and the subtle nuances they convey are extremely powerful. Both the words we use and the way we structure vocabulary within our spoken and written conversations reflect our intelligence, our depth of thought, our intellectual capacity, and our understanding of dialogue.

Words create impressions, images and expectations. They build psychological connections. They influence how we think. Since thoughts determine actions, there's a powerful connection between the words we use and the results we get.

Poorly chosen words can kill enthusiasm, impact self-esteem, lower expectations and hold people back. Well chosen ones can motivate, offer hope, create vision, impact thinking and alter results.

One of my bosses at MIT recently referred me to a study that sought to determine what
successful corporate leaders had in common in terms of education, life experiences,
family background, etc. The result seemed to indicate that there was no common
denominator except for an above-average vocabulary.

If you want to be respected and esteemed both in your profesional and personal lives, learn to harness your word power to work for, not against you. Learn and incorporate in your spoken and written dialogue words that create a compelling visual of your desired outcome.

Choose every word as if it matters, because every word you use reflects back on you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Thoughts Before Yom Kippur 5769

For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD. - Leviticus 16:30

For those of you who don't know, Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish faith. From the time the Kol Nidre prayer is recited this evening until the Shofar is sounded tomorrow night, Jews around the world will draw nearer to God through acts of atonement, fasting, and prayer.

Jewish tradition teaches that on Yom Kippur, God remembers every name, listens to every petition, and offers forgiveness to the repentant.

Jews are stubbornly optimistic (we have to be to have survived for so long!); we have faith that God will hear our collective pleas for forgiveness--punctuated by individual petitions--and respond favorably. We believe there's a plan and we're confident that God is good, His actions are good, His intentions positive.

That's an increasingly tenuous position to hold, given the world's precarious current financial and geo-political position. But still Jews around the world flock to synagogue, listen to the timeless Kol Nidre prayer, and beseech God to "inscribe us in the book of Life."

As a child growing up in an Orthodox synagogue, I looked at Yom Kippur with dread: An interminable day in temple, unfamiliar prayers, no candy from the candy guy, Harry Meyers.

Time and experience has thawed my dread of Yom Kippur to the point where I now look forward to it: I eagerly anticipate communing with my fellow Jews around the world, "meeting" with God, and the comforting liturgy that accompanies the expiation of sins. The fasting seems a small sacrifice indeed. The once-unfamiliar liturgy no longer intimidates; rather, it comforts and sustains me as the sun traces its inexorable path across the sky.

For one day I am truly detached from the world around me: No email, no voice mail, no meetings, no exercise. A "Sabbath of Sabbaths", set aside to take stock of my life and resolve to do better, be better, act better.

Tomorrow night as the gates of repentance close and the sun sets on another Yom Kippur, I hope that through the repentance, prayer and charity of Jews across the world, God chooses to make all our lives better. Tonight and tomorrow I'm not just praying for me and for my family, I'm praying for all of us.

On its own, mine is a small voice. But in chorus with Jews across the world, I hope our collective voices make a positive difference for all humanity.