Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How To Be Married

According to the Jewish faith, everyone is born as half of a pair. We spend our lives looking for our soulmate, without whom we will always feel and be incomplete.

Yet in our quest for satisfaction, we risk becoming selfish. Thinking that it's about our needs, our happiness and our selves only.

Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore? by Rabbi Manis Friedman shows how that entire premise is wrong and in fact leads to the very unhappiness we think relationships will help us to escape.

His answer isn't to avoid marriage. Instead, he talks about the right way to approach and treat one's soulmate. If Freud was correct that mental health means the ability "to love and to work," it's probably worth studying love as closely as leadership and management.

Here are some tips from the book. (I feel a little bit like Mork from Ork sharing this, maturing in reverse...I wish I'd read this as a young bride.)

1. Focus on the other person, personally. Your mission in the marriage is to care for your spouse. Not for some abstract reason, like you need to prove that you’re a good wife or a good Jew. You care for them because you care about them, they are your best friend and your entire life is dedicated to their well-being.

2. Even married people are entitled to personal privacy. Respect your spouse’s right to have personal space. Shocking as it may sound, you have no right to know what your spouse is thinking at all times. It’s not your problem what they’re “feeling in the deepest depths of their souls.” You are not the morality police, either. Focus on yourself.

3. Fidelity is not just about sex. Loyalty to your spouse means never ganging up against them with a third party. Most people don’t think about this. But you make it a habit to look out for your spouse’s honor first – even as you subordinate your own ego. You never make fun of them or criticize them. You are a team, you are on the same team and the outside world stays outside.

4. Selfishness is good - to a point. You can only get married once you have an ego and understand your human needs. But once you’re married, the focus of each person is on subordinating their egos and caring for their spouse’s.

5. Dwelling on psychotherapy is a waste of time. You don’t need to understand your own psyche and you probably shouldn’t. You also don’t need to indulge every human emotion that you have. You only need to act right. If you’re mean and selfish, start finding ways to act giving. You don’t have to feel generous at all. And if you have a tendency to arrogance and anger, just dump them. You won’t be missing out on anything.

I can see where people might call Friedman’s advice simplistic or idealistic. But one can also look at it as empowering.  Often people think they have to wait for someone else to magically “give” them happiness. But Friedman calls on us to use the power we have already - to form a lasting bond in health and holiness.

In memory of my beloved grandmother Muriel Garfinkel, a”h, whose yahrtzeit was today and whose life was a testament to all that is written above. Photo: "A Hindu wedding ritual" by Kalyan Kanuri - Flickr: Charuti Latha,Deepak. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. All opinions my own.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

You, If The Walls Had Ears

"Even if nobody is home, act like the walls can hear you." - Jewish saying
The other day I went into a store with Buddhist books and Tibetan artifacts.
It was empty.
I wasn't totally amazed, since we're dealing with a worldview steeped heavily in karma and reincarnation - i.e., if you steal a book, be prepared to return as a goat.
I wandered up and down the aisles. There was Becoming Enlightened, the book my friend Linda gave me five years ago. It started me on a journey; the front cover brought back a swirl of complex feelings.
"Look," I said to my daughter. "That's the Dalai Lama book, the one Linda gave me."
"Yeah, yeah," she muttered, reminding me of the futility of trying to translate your memories into other people's minds.
"Should we go?" I asked. There was more stuff to see, like T-shirts and flags and jewelry, but it felt like we'd had enough.
And then suddenly all the beans I'd eaten here in Santa Fe caught up with me.
Even though the store was empty, that was embarrassing, I thought.
I grabbed my daughter's arm and rushed forward to the exit.
Not sure why, but just then I turned my head right and saw a woman standing behind a counter. Now my face turned really red.
"Thank you very much!" I automatically chortled in this false, bright way. And the woman just looked at me.
I could swear she shook her head as the two of us hustled out the door.
* * *
Later on I go to this store and there's a beautiful thing I want. It's irrational to spend any money on it, because it has no use.
But it's beautiful, and nothing else I've seen is quite like it.
The saleswoman sells it to me and wraps it up.
Sure enough, ten feet down we see something more or less exactly the same, only cheaper.
Obviously a discussion ensues. And we have very little regard for stage volume.
"You can get the same thing over here as you paid there."
"No, it's not the same," I insist.
"It's exactly the same. You got ripped off," comes the reply.
"Yeah, mom. You did."
"You didn't even see what I bought," I reply. "I am telling you - this version here is a piece of s**t."
We're going on and on, and suddenly I realize...we're having this conversation right in front of the cashier, who looks to my eyes like an owner. This is bad...because I'm right in the middle of buying something else, and here I am insulting the establishment!
"Uh," I look her in the eye and try out a baldfaced lie, "I wasn't saying that YOUR merchandise is a piece of s**t. Really."
I back away slowly, because she has knives in the showcase glass.
* * *
The sociologist Erving Goffman was famous for writing about the social world as a "front stage" and a "back stage." How we regulate our selves, and our social spaces to focus the audience on the "nice and clean" equivalent of a retail space.
We try to divert others' attention from the frequently nasty action that takes place behind the scenes.
I think about Goffman here in Santa Fe. Because it's hard to take a family vacation and always be in a good mood. People get cranky, plans get messed up, and sometimes you just need a break.
The social stratification is also upsetting here. The strain on the customer service folks as they try to keep up appearances and please the rich.
But most people in Santa Fe are customer service workers - not vacationing or retired. There are stickers in windows urging a living minimum wage. Walking down a side street today it became clear that human trafficking is here. All around there is homelessness. Dark side stuff that isn't so pretty.
Everyone has those awkward moments, when a private "oops" goes public. Every family fights, every company has incidents, every city has social ills.
But how far can you let an oozing wound go:
  • Before it becomes a gaping wound?
  • Before surgery is required?
  • Before the body is hurt so badly, it reaches the point of no return?
We have to take better care of our people.
All opinions my own. Photo (not of Santa Fe) by Ed Yourdon via Wikimedia.

"Speak up, Dossy baby, speak up."

How those who have passed are still with us.

Yesterday was the Yahrtzeit of my beloved grandmother Muriel Garfinkel, may she rest in peace (a"h). Words cannot express how much I love (eternal tense) my Grandma. She was everything in one, beautiful, family, career, tough but empathetic and generous. She was fiercely loyal to my grandfather but didn't hesitate to speak her independent mind either. One from a special generation, just not found again today.

In any case, yesterday's blog. I was thinking to write about communication tips. However Rebecca Blumenthal said to me, I think you should drop the branding stuff and just write from the heart.

So it comes to me...something about Grandpa's (a"h) cap. I don't know where this comes from AT ALL and it has no connection to anything I can think of.

So I sit down and write and out comes the blog.

Last night my mother tells me it's Grandma's Yahrtzeit, the anniversary of her passing. The family memorializes her and she is closer to us in the material realm than usual.

I say to my mom, "Isn't that just like Grandma to 'speak up' for Grandpa and inspire a blog about his memory?" Because the immediate prior blog was about Zayde, my father's father (a"h).

Grandma was an extraordinarily beautiful woman and also extraordinarily modest. But modesty is not the same as silence. Grandma understood that we are required to speak when necessary, loudly if we have to, and she was also reserved when it was appropriate.

A lesson for life...sometimes we think that those who speak up about issues of concern are necessarily "bigmouths." But like Grandma would have said, "Dossy baby, for everything there is a time and a place."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wandering Away From Grandpa's Cap

"G-d talker! Get out!"
That was my Grandpa, may he rest in peace (alav hashalom, a"h) at the head of the Passover table.
It was an ordinary holiday which meant we were arguing like we usually did, the lot of us, maybe ten or twelve. They say "two Jews, three opinions" and we were no exception.
Grandpa, Murray Garfinkel, was my mother's father. I loved him but what can I say, "he had a bit of a temper," a trait I've inherited.  His father was Reb Dovid Garfinkel (a"h), who loved most of all to study Torah.
There was a black-and-white charcoal sketch of Reb Dovid, as we used to call him, hanging in the living room of Grandma and Grandpa's house. As a little girl I used to look at this picture, of a serious man with a serious yarmulka that covered most of his head, studying with great intensity. 
I have a copy of that picture in my office at work - many of us in the family have a copy - and sometimes people look at it and think it is the Pope, or a Pope.
As for me, as a little kid, I used to look at that picture convinced that it was G-d Himself.
Grandpa did not like fanciful dreamers. He was a fact-oriented man who respected the Law and those who observed it. "Just don't leave the world worse than how you found it" was a famous Reb Dovid quote, and my Grandpa adopted that worldview eagerly.
All of this was symbolized by Grandpa's cap, his legendary cap. He wore it all the time. Left it hanging by the front door, put it on when he left, took it off when he came home. 
Simple and straight, no funny business - that was my Grandpa.
On that day I'd been talking about G-d, almost like you'd talk about a close friend. G-d this, G-d that. And I still do that, a lot.
It made my Grandpa uncomfortable. I think he simply reflected a discomfort I see in many observant Jewish people, who tend to want to focus on the Law rather than its unknowable Creator.
That day was a very sad one for me. I left the house, the vibrant discussion and felt almost as though I'd been excommunicated. I hadn't been, of course; and later on I was to learn that there are very specific strands of Jewish philosophy, Breslov Hasidism in particular, that urge a person to develop this kind of rapport with G-d.
I turned out onto the street. Monticello, N.Y., was unspoiled in those days. It was nestled in the Catskill Mountains, and the air was so fresh and clean. I loved how it broke over my face so softly.
Main Street had the candy store, and the bagel place, and the courthouse was just a ways past. I walked and walked until I got to the road. Hands stuffed in my pockets to keep warm against the cool April weather, I just kept walking.
All of us, all our lives are on a personal journey. I didn't realize that day what the impact of my grandfather's words would be. How he had set in motion a dialogue between the side of me that is fact-based, logical and cool and the side that is emotional, fantastic, yearning for Enlightenment and spiritual union with the universe.
Sometimes I think about Grandpa's cap. I understand his message now: Action counts much more than powerful words.
It's all well and good to talk about G-d's greatness. But when you do that and can't remember to actually keep His Commandments, you've taken off your spiritual cap and stomped on it.
All opinions my own. Photo by Andrew Bowden / Flickr.

What Zayde said: "Just Wash Negel Vaser"

My Zayde, may he rest in peace (alav hashalom, a"h), had a special ability to understand me and an equally special way of helping me understand what was to me, inexplicable. Namely, much about my Jewish faith.

The other day my mother reminded me of something he said to me: "Just wash Negel Vaser" - a.k.a. "Netilas Yadayim," the morning ritual of washing one's hands with water. This seemingly simple practice, performed consistently, would flow out and have so many other effects.

Like most kids do I forgot his words of advice, but later on had a huge fight with my father over it. My father is religiously observant, and once when I was about nine years old he asked me "Did you wash?" I lied and said that I had, and he pretty quickly figured out that I was lying and I got into trouble. My mother, also observant but less strict, heard the ruckus and this seemingly minor thing became a huge blowup.

It was always that way, my father trying to get me to be more observant, even if I didn't want to be. My mother encouraging me to find my own path, not knowing where that path would lead.

Fast forward a few decades later and I'm seeing the number 6:13 everywhere (see previous post and the followup) and finally my father goes to a Kabbalist, who relays the word that my ancestors all the way back to R'Yosef Caro are calling on me to come back to the fold.

Roughly a week later, I'm stumbling as I'm trying to follow the simple advice I've been given, to go slow and focus on keeping Kosher, Shabbos, and going to shul with the family. I observe my daughter doing the Negel Vaser ritual and think on it. Mention it to my mother, and she brings up what my Zayde (a"h) said.

"I remember it very vividly," she says to me.

But I can only remember it with a wisp of my mind. It's almost gone.

Just afterward, I sense that my Zayde is right there with me. I can see, as if looking at a ghost, his face just before me - that look of mischief that is imprinted on me from him.

Another few days pass. I'm in Santa Fe and am going to do this ritual and realize that I've forgotten the cup. I run to the hotel lobby to get one. 

Then I'm back at the sink and I can't get the rings off as usual. Totally frustrated. You know how you lose energy for resolutions after the first couple of days of excitement wears off?

Suddenly the soap dispenser makes this "burp" and lets out a flow of foamy soap. My hands were NOWHERE near that sink.

I started to laugh because I knew what was going on. I stick my hands under the soap, get a bunch and the rings come off easily so I can do the ritual.

Somebody up there is watching, all right...yes, G-d but also my loving Zayde, a"h.

If you're interested in learning more:
  • Video (:50) showing how to wash your hands.
  • Article with text of the blessing and its translation.

All opinions my own. Photo of the Old Jerusalem Hurva synagogue via Wikimedia.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The point of money.

We've been in Santa Fe observing the rich. There they are, in packs of two or three or five. They wear $3,000 cowboy boots and ski pants and fur hats. The waiters and waitresses wait on them hand and foot and I can see them spitting contemptuously when nobody's looking.
I totally hate their vibe. Here's the type of thing they do: You show up at the hotel at midnight and they take half an hour checking in. You've patiently waited. Then they come back and while you're talking to the front desk clerk, they interrupt.
It's very aggravating.
There is another group down here, a loosely connected underground. They call each other by made-up first names. They live outside, sometimes. They spend a long time talking to you about local history and ways and culture and the Green movement and ancient battles between Spanish Catholics and the Native Americans they tried to convert.
This group doesn't care about the time. They are mountain men and personal assistants and healers. Art dealers and cabdrivers who just "happened to" find this place on the way to somewhere else and never left.
Some have more money than others, true. All of them seem unbelievably rich in contentment.
They leave retail merchandise unsupervised, a lot. Can you imagine owning a store and walking away and hanging a sign that says, "Please pay for your merchandise up front."
I can't process this.
Wealth and money are clearly two different things. You can be poor and rich, and poor and poor.
One man who is clearly not wealthy tries to sell us stuff. Blankets, carpets, masks, things like that. He keeps repeating, "I need to move the merchandise, it's a slow day, I'll give you a good deal. Here, $50 off."
It's over and over again, too high pressure.
I buy some time, because the family is enjoying browsing.
"What do the masks mean?" There are a bunch of them but they all look similar.
"Which masks?" He looks annoyed.
"All of them, what do the masks mean? What is their significance?"
"Just pick one," my husband says. "He doesn't know what you're talking about."
"OK that one," I point to one of the masks. "Is it some kind of religious protection for the home?"
"Is it meant to scare people off?"
"There, right there in the middle, is that an evil eye protector?"
Those masks were about making money. Whatever I would have said, the answer would have been "yes." That man was poor, or struggling, and poor.
Five minutes later we're on the street and there are Native American craftspeople selling jewelry under an awning, by a monument. The monument is a tribute to fierce battle in the 1800s and at one point the language (which has been scratched out) called Native Americans "savages," There is an apologetic plaque on one side of the monument saying that the language is unfortunate and insensitive and hopefully prejudice will end.
It does not escape me that we invaded this country, fought the people who were already living here and appropriated their land, and now they are forced to sit on the floor and sell jewelry off of rugs to me.
I stop in front of one man and point to a necklace.
"That's beautiful," I say. "What does the price tag say, $1,600?" I feel bad as I say the words, because that couldn't possibly be the price for street jewelry and I know in my heart I'm being an asshole and making fun.
"Yes, $1600," he says.
Now, look. I know good and goddamn well that the piece was maybe $16.00, but I can't tell where the decimal point is.
And I also know that if he can get me to pay $1600, good for him, because from his perspective I'm a rich White woman making fun of him and the jewelry he sells and I deserve to be cheated a little bit.
The person sitting next to him is watching me. I have to say something.
"Wow, $1600. It's beautiful, but I work for the government, so it's a little out of my league."
The man selling the jewelry gives me such a dirty look I can't even describe it to you. Suffice it to say I shouldn't have used the word "government" in an excuse.
Then he starts going. "Handcrafted, and...." I stop listening as he starts to argue.
Later we go into a jewelry store and look at a ring. It's very nice, and the owner wants $35,000 for it.
Yes, $35K and the diamond is only one carat. I try it on and have to stop myself from saying something, like I can't believe what complete thievery. Oh the salesman is all smiles.
Look. At the end of the day you can make a lot of money selling whatever you want. But the truth is, getting rich easily turns you bad. It's so easy, so plentiful, so tempting, so gorgeous. I can easily see how people start to think that they, themselves, in some kind of act of ultimate brilliance, actually generated all this cash and can run all over other people because of it.
The point though is to see this darkness for what it turn it into light by giving as much away as you can. The point is that this life we're living, this very short life is nothing but an optical illusion, a movie we wrote before we were ever born, with turning points planned that would give us the opportunity to make better choices than in the past.
I love money as much as the next person. It's fun. But it's only there as a test for the passing.
All opinions my own. Public domain photo via Wikimedia by Godot13 / Smithsonian Institution. 

5 Ideas To Help LinkedIn Grow & Innovate

LinkedIn can grow in a few ways:

1. Partner with a freelance company to allow members to offer and obtain services through the LinkedIn brand itself

2. Create sub-brand platforms or portals where people from the same country can meet and network

3. Partner with training companies to offer online certificates and degrees, where you take courses socially and the activity becomes part of your network activity.

4. Partner with Skype/Google Hangouts to offer business calls, virtual meetings, webinars

5. Travel concierge services for business travelers, including connecting you with people in town.

All of the above should be managed with a point system, eg the more you participate the more points you earn, unlocking additional privileges. 

Points should not be something you can purchase. They can make money from the sponsors of the various platforms offering services (eg for example

Addendum to #1, in response to a comment: 

On #1 the idea would is to acquire a company (or companies) that already have the infrastructure for freelance. Elance, oDesk, People Per Hour come to mind. There is another company where you pay for a listening session by a CEO or equivalent but the name escapes me at the moment. TaskRabbit. Acquire, consolidate, brand under the LinkedIn umbrella, and actually allow people to buy and sell services at every price point.

All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Big L'Chaim From Santa Fe

The Chabad rabbi expressed many things in shul today. Much of the below observed and inferred, not said directly.

(Of course it's not the words it's the warmth of the place.)

The shul reflects the culture here in Santa Fe. Come here, even for a short time, not for the art or for the jewelry but for the healing. 

What healing? I can't tell you definitively what, why or how. But the things you're running from bubble up here, and you can face them and not die. You can walk forward.

Back to what the rabbi said - we were there for 4 hours so a lot of things.

1. Action. It matters more than inspiration. Action is treasured. Act to move forward and don't get bogged down by anything.

2. Library. Build your own treasure trove of books, Jewish books if you are Jewish but otherwise anything that inspires you is my interpretation. The act of buying the book, the act of keeping it in your home, inspire reflection and further action.

3. Possession. The true leader owns enough to survive. The rest belongs to the community.

4. Joy. Be happy! Sing! Eat! Laugh. We were not made to serve G-d in guilt and misery - these emotions have the opposite effect of distancing you from faith. Just like anger.

5. Reach out. If you are strong in your faith and knowledgeable about why you have it, reaching out to others makes you and your community stronger.

6. Accuracy. Observe the rituals correctly. It's not something you adapt according to people's feelings, it is what it is.

7. Disrespect. Sometimes in the process of outreach, words are expended that are then treated disrespectfully. It is sad but inevitable because the greater good is to help people find their faith (again).

8. Scotch. If you're gonna make kiddush, use the real thing :-)

L'Chaim! Shavua Tov!


All opinions my own. Visit the Chabad of Santa Fe Facebook page, pictured in screenshot: The shul is located at 509 Camino De Los Marquez, Suite 4, 505-983-2000.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The World's Greatest Enemy - Inside Your Head

So my daughter went on a college interview and they asked for her favorite book. She named this one and asked if she had screwed up. (Um, not as bad as her mother, who said she didn't even READ books, because "they're mostly a waste of time.")

Not knowing what it was I just laughed at the prospect of telling someone your favorite book is a Satan novel. (I thought it was young adult drama, like a vampire book.)

It's not. It's a seriously powerful book which I read on the plane. Could not stop taking screenshots of things to memorize and share.

Basically the book is written as if Satan were speaking directly to the human race about WHY suffering persists, HOW evil got here into G-d's realm, and most importantly WHAT to do in order to bring the final redemption.

I violently disagree with the author's repeated statement that organized religion is inherently bad, and that there is no such thing as Jews only "Israelites." That part is clearly an agenda. But otherwise the contents shook me and struck me to the core. Here are the main ideas.

1. Satan means adversary and this is an angel whose job is to ensure free will by tricking you at every turn into failing your various life tests.

2. Satan is inside your head and you can only fight him there. It is not a person or an entire group of people classed as "evil."

3. Satan's primary weapons include your ego, which is not actually you but Satan, and which controls you in so many ways you have to read the book to understand them.

4. The main thing to know is that Satan presents himself as rational thinking. Also guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and anxiety. You are acting from this place when you jump to react instead of being slow and thoughtful - coming from the real you.

5. The search for a soul mate (the right one) is essential and do not let Satan throw you off. You are entitled to love and happiness.

If you are scared at the thought of all this...remember you can win by looking inward and saying, I see you, Satan and I know you are up to your old tricks. Also pray to G-d, meditate on His name/s.

There is a lot more...a life changing book.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Branding Between Heaven & Hell

My Bat Mitzvah was held on a freezing cold night one February.

The snow was so bad only 13 people actually showed up - a minyan.

I didn't care all that much once I opened my favorite present. A book about paranormal activity: "The Dybbuk & Other Stories."

It was a Jewish book full of stories about the dead and undead, restless haunted souls who came back to inhabit the living, a hundred years ago.

I knew that the stories were true, or had truth and one that disturbed me the most was about the idea of the Golem.

A Golem is like a Frankenstein, human but cooked up by other humans in a lab. It is a robot plus brains, mechanically able but missing the holy part, that G-d created it.

On "American Horror Story" the haunted house has the soul of a mother of one such being. The father ripped the beating heart out from one of their infant daughters to create a son. And he was a demon monster - so frightful and bad that the mother killed him. 

Now the mother misses her child, and will plot to take the infant of the new owner of the house.

In any case, the concept of the Golem repulsed me. The Dybbuk I could at least understand, even if the concept was terrifying: the person can't cross over and so comes back and possesses a person. They don't leave unless they are exorcised. 

But the Golem seemed evil altogether. Total defiance of G-d.

That was when I was 12 and it is now more than 30 years later. I realize that branding is exactly the act of building a Golem.

The very thing...I have become a maker of Frankensteins. 

It sank in and sank. Like a weight, a piece of lead.

The beating heart is the spirit, the soul, the living light of the brand's human creator. It goes into the brand and then the brand - if it is good - takes on a life of its own.

I don't think branding is inherently unethical at all. But it can be deeply evil, I now realize.

The outcome depends on the stewardship. That is why the CEO is also the chief branding officer, or ought to be.

An evil brand is the beating heart with no G-dly input, the animal soul. It is all about greed and superficiality, the worship of all that is artificial. The encouragement of people to worship a false G-d and the belief that humans can displace Him.

A good brand, a great brand, even a holy brand is the synthesis of the highest aspirations of the steward and the team. It is constantly infused with humanity - it gives more back than what went into it.

The holy brand is about profit (fiscal sustainability) because it has to be. But it is about much more, too. It is the act of drawing G-d's presence into the world to make it better.


All opinions my own. Painting (public domain): "Fall Of The Rebel Angels" by Charles Le Brun, via Wikimedia

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lead w/ Love

There are times when you dislike a person on sight and this was one of those times.
Thin, tall, beautiful, irritable. Scowled when I asked for a bit more room on the bench, to accommodate family and coats.
"What a bitch," I thought. In quotes because so loudly it seemed out loud.
We shuffled and waited and did not look forward to the speech.
We did not know she was going to be the speaker.
"I want to tell you a personal story today," she began. "My mother was my advocate and champion."
She went on to tell us about her humble life. What it was like to be alone with a single mother, whose joy was to run up and down the hallways of their apartment building, telling everyone who would listen that her daughter got into a state school.
The young woman came down here alone and friendless. She fought her way forward for four years. They bonded over food and studied all night and forced each other to make it to their finals on time.
And then she did something she did not have to do. Which was to become a resident advisor for several years, mothering the other students who had come to school alone.
This young woman worked so hard and was so capable she got an internship at a large and reputable firm. Which kept her on and hired her, starting right away after graduation.
"Suddenly, last year, my mother died," she concluded her speech. "I was at the bottom. But my family at school held me through all the pain."
And then I looked at the girl again. I looked at her with different eyes, not the cold and hard eyes of a stranger. 
I looked at the girl through the eyes of a mother who was there to watch her own child graduate, who had taken that child for granted too many times.
Who had judged this child badly for no reason other than how she appeared briefly, from a glance or a couple of words.
And I sobbed, with my husband, for the victory and the pain that comes with growing up and seeing one's child grow up. And turned around to wish the people behind me, "Congratulations."
We ought to lead with love more, we ought to look at other people through the eyes of love. 
We don't know what they have suffered...the immense struggle it takes them just to show up at work in the morning. 
Or what it took to get them up in the first place.
All opinions my own. Photo by WilB / Flickr.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Follow up to 6:13 & the dream about Heaven

Readers of the blog may recall my dad's visit to a Kabbalist. Who told me:

- your ancestors are pleading with you to return to the fold.
- start with Shabbos, keep kosher and go to a mostly observant shul with your family on Shabbos.

Given the frequency with which I was seeing 6:13 on the clock and elsewhere digitally (like on the computer, a search result would be dated 6/13/13) I took it seriously.

Also I was seeing the number combination 11:11 on my phone and you can Google the numerous results on that.

Spiritually there is a doorway between this realm and the Heavenly realm and something was pushing that doorway open in my life.

After hearing from the Kabbalist I made some strides in the kosher department but didn't do as great on Shabbos. For example, I wrote a blog on Friday night after sundown.

Immediately (this after a respite of a few days) the 6:13 message appeared again - I saved a screenshot for the post and it was marked with that time.

It happened again in the morning at 6:13 when again I was breaking the Sabbath. I looked at my iPhone and there, 6:13.

I want to emphasize that did not feel attacked by this but rather like it was a parent gently pleading with me not to harm myself by disobeying. I also understood (and the Kabbalist said this explicitly) to take small, starting steps and not do everything at once.

So next week I will not blog on Sabbath.

* * * 

There is something else to share. I have permission to relay it.

It is a about a loved one, recently passed. The timing was significant.

The dreamer dreamt she was sitting on the couch of this loved one as they had many times.

But it was as if they were on the Other Side, not here in the material realm.

The loved one reassured the dreamer. "It's peaceful in Heaven."

The loved one also said, "G-d separates people (in Heaven) based on their actions (on Earth)."

Finally, "Earth is suffering." 

At that point "as if to show me what that meant," the dreamer said - "lightning flashed and big black bugs were crawling up the window trying to get in."

My understanding of the dream was that life is eternal, the natural state of life is Oneness with the Divine and peace, but that the purpose of the human condition is to refine our souls so as to merit that rest in unity.

We can't go there until we suffer here.

So the purpose of life is not happiness. It is meaning.

Meaning is found in the service of G-d and people.


Posted by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All rights reserved. All opinions my own. Photo by Pascal M. Wiemers via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Saturday, December 20, 2014

PR + Social ---> Boom

Why you build a brand: to add value to your company.
How you build a brand: advertising, marketing, PR, events, social media, publications, web, mobile, apps, sales, email, conferences customer service, internal name it.
A top-priority, critical intersection you're likely overlooking: the connection between PR and social media.
The connections between your disparate activities generally.
Why you should focus on PR and social media specifically: because the one has an exponential force multiplier effect on the other. Almost nuclear.
Just to review for a second.
1) Why you do PR:
  • Short-term proactive: Get the word out among influencers, who then tell the rest of the world
  • Long-term insurance: Build your reputation for current and prospective investors, and in case of a future crisis
  • Reactive: Minimize damage in case of a crisis
2) Social media's rationale:
  • Community-building, channel - agnostic - i.e. a content portal or a unique social media brand across distinct tools
  • Community-building narrow-targeted by channel - i.e. reach the audience that consumes a particular type of tool, i.e. Twitter
Now consider how coordinating PR and social media multiples your opportunities for positive exposure and awareness:
  • PR folks get "influencer" media coverage - social media professionals drive that coverage online. They drive traffic from that precious interview elsewhere, multiplying your audience, attracting new customers for your business.
  • Social media professionals know how to talk to particular online communities - translating influencer impact across digital cultures. That article in a technical publication may impress other technical professionals, but imagine the possibilities if you establish a presence on platforms that reach either a broader or a completely different audience. 
  • Cross-pollination of print and digital; audio, video, visual, experiential and living projects. So much time, effort and money goes into the focus on one particular event, publication, medium or channel strategy. The PR expert can zero in on the most important print and online channels for a particular audience, and the social media professional has both the technical skill and pop-culture sensibility to work across stovepipes, appeal to the commercial mindset and turn on a dime while doing so.
If you're going to focus on any two areas to promote your brand right now, I would urge you to integrate PR and social media.
Photo credit: U.S. Marines via Flickr. All opinions my own. Check out my author page on Amazon.

Friday, December 19, 2014

I Am Strong When You Are With Me

"He wants to hold my hand. But I'm short."
"So walk side by side."
"He wants to hold my hand. So I said to him, 'I'm short. I can hold your arm though.'"
"What did he say to that?"
"Once I put it that way, then he calmed down."
* * *
  • We seek to grow and evolve as individuals.
  • We live to walk arm in arm with our significant other.
* * * 
"OK, you're in voice change mode."
"Good morning."
"So is it really true that 1 in 3 women keep their ex's phone number in their phone, and are even still secretly in love? Because I think about my wife, and frankly that scares me."
DC's Hot 99.5 was holding its daily morning discussion of relationships. Around the microphone: Kane, Danni and Intern John.
"Absolutely, Kane. I'm getting married on Sunday. But if Brandon were to call, I'd leave my fiancee in a heartbeat." 
"You're kidding."
"Absolutely. And he cheated on me."
"He cheated on you? And you still love him? We don't judge, we just observe. But that's crazy."
"I love him though."
"Can I tell you something please? Please don't get married. Why are you marrying him?"
I can't remember the response.
* * * 
I work in a startup. We have our own office space. Yet much of the time, we operate by posse.
Meet, hash it out, read the draft, knock it out, rehearse the presentation and comment before things go out the door.
  • Yes, it's quality control.
  • Yes, it's time-efficient.
  • Yes, it's engagement, culture, and morale.

But there's something else at work too. We are flying out there on the high wire.
We need each other there for moral support.
Because we will screw up, but we still have to go on.
We need to know we can fall and get back up without losing face.
* * * 
The other day I had to give a branding presentation, and I didn't know the crowd at all. And I was scared. Throat locked up. Legs shaking. Sweaty.
I looked out at the audience. Tight-lipped. Expressionless. No read.
So I imagined them sitting there in their underwear.
But the visual was fairly distasteful. I couldn't see it through.
"They're a tough crowd, aren't they? You'll be alright though."
There, a member of my team. I must have looked really bad.
"Yeah," I cranked the corners of my mouth up, even though I couldn't smile. "I'll survive." 
* * *

They called me up. It started out badly.
"I'm the one standing between you and lunch, hahaha. Not a great place to be."
You could have heard a feather flying in the air, the air was so dead. Not a sound.
I am dead. I'm sure of it.
And then, out of nowhere. An invisible hand pushed me out of the podium area and toward the u-shaped table in the middle of the room. 
Now, out of nowhere I was Liza Minnelli.
"Who here likes McDonald's coffee?" 
Some startled expressions. Hands went up.
Hey, this is fun!
"Who here likes Starbucks?" 
A wave of energy blew through the room.
"NEITHER!" somebody hooted.
"BUDWEISER!" a third.
And then the room went wild. 
The monologue became a dialogue, a tri-alogue, a multi-athlon.
My guardian angel had given me a tip:
"My child, you're not alone. Bring them into the circle with you."
For that half an hour, we had a posse of our own. Unbreakable.
What I learned that day:
  • On your own, you are undoubtedly an ass.
  • But in a group that accepts you, you're an ass with class.
There is no presentation without a frame. That frame comes from the context, from the culture. But you don't know the natives till the natives let you in. 
So change the way you approach your business - your brand.
Don't think of it as you on your own, the isolated one who has all the ideas.
Instead ask your stakeholders how.
How can we move together in unison?
How can we become a small, tightly knit team?
* * * 
We are each of us aspects of the Divine.
What I lack, you have. What you need, I can supply you.
We work better in small teams. Humans are a series of concentric circles - overlapping circles - together.
A great relationship is one where you stand on your own two feet, but can finish your partner's sentences.
In the end, the strong brand is co-produced. It is branches, roots and wings. 
All opinions my own. Check out my author page on Amazon. Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What The Kabbalist Told My Dad

I asked my dad to consult a Kabbalist because I kept seeing "6:13" on my iPhone and other clocks.

This happened at least 8 times by the time I called my dad. It wasn't my imagination - noticed it enough to take screenshots.

Also note: Normally I don't even notice the time. Only recently bought a watch!

Still, I wasn't going to call or consult anyone.

My family worried. They thought it might be a warning, as I am less religiously observant than them. (Significance: There are 613 commandments in the Torah.)

Initially I brushed them off. Then one night I picked up the phone. Because many years ago my life was in grave danger and I survived after some very intense prayer on my behalf.

So. A few weeks later, last night, my dad visited with the Kabbalist. I am going to share some of what I was told - the part that is relevant to a wider audience. It is a spiritual message, and spiritual messages need to be shared.

As I do this I understand some of you will be cynical. But I think I am supposed to write it down. You can do what you want with the information.

1. "Your ancestors are pleading with you to return to the fold." My ancestry goes back to Rabbi Yosef Caro, a Kabbalist and the author of the Shulchan Aruch. This confirms to me that our souls are immortal and connected.

2. "Do not let the prayers said over you be in vain." I almost died back then. Something was said that kept me alive. The merit was invoked for me somehow.

3. "You don't have to do everything at once." Specifically I should keep kosher, Sabbath and go to a mostly observant synagogue with the family Sabbath morning.

I didn't feel I was being attacked with these comments. Rather I understood that although some things I am doing may be positive, others are not. Specifically the commandments between humans and G-d. Been arrogant, spiteful and rebellious.

There is no scientific way to prove that the Kabbalist's words are accurate advice for me. But they feel accurate. I am going to listen.

Give the honor to the Creator.


By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions my own. All rights reserved. Photo via Free-Photos at Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brand Is Only The Social Network

Remember the good old days of building a brand? The days of "Mad Men."
You took the client out for steak and wine. You wrote up a creative brief. 
You gave it to the client, who signed it. And then you delivered Choices A, B, and C.
They chose one, and you did advertising.
A brand was born.
* * * 
Times have changed a lot since those magical days, if ever they really existed.
Now, people "get in the way" of the "perfectly architected" brand. Routinely.
We live in the age of chaos. A different logic determines the social order. And brands are not determined in advance. 
Social media has made the pecking order. Even if you don't see your stakeholders doing it, they are there and "interfering" with your plans.
* * * 
You don't understand how their efforts are helpful. You want to direct the energy and flow of the brand - you imagine perfect consistency.
But they are doing the work for you, you see. They're not just telling you what they want to see. They're jumping in and creating great energy for you.
The grace of the modern brand master has very little to do with logos, with graphic art.
No, this person is much closer to the anonymous puppet master. 
They draw the group together, then release it in fits and starts, weaving the loom and kneading the dough until it has a loose consistency.
And then releasing it, like opening one's hands and letting the air out.
A brand resides in the collective mind.
It beats in the hearts of people.
All opinions my own. Photo via Wikimedia.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Allergic To Selling

"I'm telling you, it's good publicity," I was arguing. In my excitement I almost knocked over the plant.
"I suspected that you would say that," was the reply. "As long as they spell your name right, it's good PR."
"You said it, not me."
I went back to my desk and turned the lights off. The glow of the screen beckoned. Headphones on head, white noise on, I soon became lost in the task.
And then, a note.
"Are you going to make it to the meeting? I'll be here till 1:00." 
Late again, but it was a good walk. I should leave my office more; I work in an interesting place, full of labs where you can walk in and see the work of science in progress. Animated conversation, amazing exhibits, portraits of Nobel Prize winners line the walls.
Antti Korhonen, the entrepreneur in residence at NIST, waved me in. He looked like you would imagine a CEO looks. Impatient, intelligent, eager to get things done. There was nothing on the desk save for a couple of pieces of paper. I could imagine paying $250 an hour for a consult.
"What can I do for you?"
Many questions later, this computer scientist turned CEO turned adviser to scientists and prospective entrepreneurs left me with these key takeaways:
1) Professional credibility requires publication, but to make commercial impact, you have to sell. No matter how smart or decorated you are, the customer won't find you.
2) Focus on the motive of helping people. Scientists are motivated by the prospect of making the world a better place. That's a stepping stone in the right direction. To have an impact, you have to get out there and discover how your work can make a difference in the world.
3) Take a guess at your value proposition. Commercialization starts with a value proposition, but most scientists don't think that way. It feels overwhelming. So start small. Hypothesize, refine, and iterate till you hit the mark. 
4) Forge relationships first and foremost. Business is a human endeavor. Think of it as meeting people and expanding your mutual base of knowledge. 
5) You don't have to give up your secrets to have a conversation. The main idea is to get out there and make a connection. Keep confidential things confidential, but more knowledge ultimately benefits everyone. We live in a sharing economy.
Copyright 2014 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions my own. "Snooty Cat" photo via Stuart Pearce / Flickr. Visit my author page on Amazon.