Thursday, November 17, 2016

Moving Forward




In the aftermath of a divisive and brutal election season, everyone and their cousin is offering a post mortem as to why election turned out this way. I am not here to offer my political analysis as to why the election had this outcome. I will leave that to the political pundits that are located across the country from newsrooms to the banter at daily minyan. There is a certain element that I would like to address that has many of us left with scar tissue from the 2016 election. Over the course of the long and heated campaign there were many relationships that took a hit due to the passionate exchanges of views. From spouses, siblings, coworkers and even fellow congregants at shul, there were many instances of tempers flaring and displaying outright disdain for someone else’s views.  I have heard of some people that are dreading or even avoiding the upcoming Thanksgiving dinners with family members that voted for the “wrong person”. So how do we pick up the pieces now that the election is finally behind us ? ( I thought I was nauseous when I was driving and heard on the radio something about the 2018 mid term elections)

There is this phrase that we find many times in the Torah including the weekly  portions that we read at this time of year. After various significant and compelling events that are recorded in the Torah, prior to moving on to a new  subject, we are taught, “It was after these things”. This is teaching is an important lesson about how to move on from important event that are good or otherwise. It is important to catch our breath and reflect on how could move on more stable footing with one another. It is important to remember that we have far more in common with our friends and family than the political disagreements that divide us. Yet, frequently we emphasize and highlight the differences between us. It is still possible for someone to be a kind, intelligent and good hearted  individual despite having voted for the the candidate that you didn’t favor. So let us take a step back and view how integral our relationships with our families and friends are and not allow this election to hijack it. Moreover, I would add, that for the people that are celebrating and feeling jubilant, there still will be daily stresses and challenges in our lives. The notion that a new occupant to the oval office will solve all of our struggles in life is somewhat wishful thinking. On the other hand for those folks that are despondent and full of despair, please remember that the United States and its Constitution have been around for a while and tested many times and it still is a strong and proud republic. So to all those that were thinking of sitting shiva, please keep in mind,the sky is not falling.
So the next time we break bread or raise a glass with someone that we have disagreed during this election season, let us take a deep breath and enjoy each other's company. Life is just too important to choose otherwise.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Is Winning All the Time a Great Thing ?




“Winning isn't everything. It’s the only thing.” So declared  Vince Lombardi, the
legendary coach of the Green Bay  Packers. That attitude has been adopted as sacred gospel by our society. At the conclusion of the most recent Super Bowl, Cam Newton the quarterback that led his team to great heights only to succumb in America’s favorite game, really was taken to task for not going all the way. This perspective manifests itself in many ways outside the football field. From the classroom to the playground, we have become all about winning. We are increasingly unforgiving about any setbacks and defeats. Indeed there is a major presidential candidate that has anchored his campaign on the notion of constant winning and that he can deliver uninterrupted winning.


Putting aside the reality for a moment that this is even remotely possible, I would even further ask, Is winning all the time even desirable ? Is there something to learn from losing occasionally ? Are there any teachable moments that can emerge from a defeat ? All these questions appear to be  unheard of in the alternate reality of presidential politics and beyond, but these are questions that beg to be asked.


In fact, Jewish tradition enlightens us about the virtue in failure. No less an authority than King Solomon wrote that the righteous fall down seven times before rising up. Some have suggested that doesn't mean that the righteous rise despite falling 7 times, rather, it's the righteous that rise precisely because they stumbled on multiple occasions. That is not to suggest that a person should not aspire to win and be successful but when there is a stumbling block, it can be utilized as an opportunity to learn from for the future.


In fact, there was an very interesting article called,  10 reasons Why C students are more successful after graduation, which among other things says that they understand that failure is a beautiful teacher. One of the ideas mentioned in the article, is that they are not perfectionists. This is why so many successful entrepreneurs struggled in school. Learning to handle failure in (hopefully) small doses equips people for bigger challenges.
Michael Jordan arguably the greatest basketball player of all time put it best when he said,”I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”


It’s time to stop fantasizing about marrying the perfect person, having the perfect life and dare I say it, electing the perfect president. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people and attaching ourselves to the notion of constantly winning is not only totally inconsistent with reality, it deprives us of the opportunity to grow from our failures.