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who separates darkness from light

God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. - Genesis 1:3-5
The essence of business is honesty. Meaning three things:
  • The conceptual ability to distinguish "valuable" from "valueless."
  • The concrete ability to execute on this and earn money.
  • The moral conscience to earn in a way that ultimately benefits people.
(Note: You can have business sense but no conscience, but if that is the case you're ultimately going to be blinded by greed and your business decisions will be bad, because biased.)
Not everyone has business sense, but U2's Bono does. The band's "360°" tour was the highest grossing concert series of all time, with gross earnings of $736,421,584 (Wikipedia; event photo by Luka Krstulović).
When he isn't singing, Bono spends his time helping the poor, another reflection of his capacity to separate worthwhile time investments from bogus ones.
A couple of days ago, while in recovery from a terrible accident, he issued "Little Book Of A Big Year. It's a funny and important reflection on 2014 that says this:
Capitalism is not immoral, but it is amoral. It gets its instructions from us. It's an indiscriminate engine, and our obligation is to see that it provides forward movement to everyone, not just to those whose hands are on the levers.
What an important statement to make. One that reflects a kind of Divine perspective on money - that is only as good or as bad as we human beings make it.
Bono's One organization, aimed at fighting extreme poverty and other social ills in Africa, has more than 6 million members now. It is funded, basically, by rich people - you and I cannot donate.
In the currency-less and weapon-free future toward which we are all headed, money itself will cease to have meaning.
But we will remember those who, in these dark and unenlightened times, had all the cash in the world. We will reflect on the many who chose traffic in sex, drugs, and guns; who used corrupt means to exploit those "who don't matter" and to make themselves even richer.
We will isolate such people from humanity forever, and turn instead to follow the light of the true and honest business leaders.
All opinions my own. Photo by Mayhem Chaos via Flickr.

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.

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."

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.

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.