Brainwashing Your Problems Away

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How many companies would be destroyed if only people realized they had the ability to cure themselves?  As technology simplifies our lives, our problems, fears, health, anxiety, and existential crises actually grow at almost the same speed.  The explosion of information has lead us to an explosion of images, products, and worldviews to compare ourselves against, to be influenced by, and to be sold to.   I’m not anti-technology by any stretch, but anyone can admit that many of our problems have  transferred from ‘reality’ to a ‘virtual reality.’

This is expected as this is how everything in the world is going.  Forget about the gold standard, cash, checks… even credit cards are being phased out.  Apple pay and Bitcoins are the future.  No more tapes and CDs, now all music is digital.  Books and movies are digital.  So our problems also become digital as well.

As illustration: It used to be that we’d date and marry the people in our immediate or near immediate circles. The funny guy in our group of friends.  The cute girl who works at Starbucks.  The hot dude in the office.  But now long gone are the days when you dated the people you know, because there are an almost infinite number of dating possibilities offered by apps.  And what’s more, you only see them superficially, which makes all the stats easily interchangeable.  Why settle for a 5’5 guy when a 5’11 guy is only two swipes away?  Why put up with someone attractive with limited intelligence when you are sure there’s a comparatively attractive person with more intelligence somewhere out there?  And once we get married, do our spouses stay as skinny, or make as much money, or keep their youthful hairline as our friends’ spouses?  Little do we realize that every study on the matter shows the more options people have to compare with, the harder it is for them to make decisions and be happy with the decisions that are made.

Take the Facebook/LinkedIn Syndrome as example 2.  Whereas we used to have only a few people to compare our grades, success, money, and lifestyle with, suddenly we’re seeing the vacations, new cars, Harvard diplomas, and washboard abs of everyone we’ve ever spoken to longer than two minutes.  And what’s worse is we only see what they want us to see (and project and equally flat and superficial view of ourselves) without considering the hard work, or extenuating circumstances, or sacrifices they had to make to get them there.  So conscience or not, our minds are being warped by living in the ocean of the surreal.  Just imagine how boring our lives can seem once you spend any serious time involved in some of the entertainment of today; from the EDM festivals to the zombie movies, from Sons of Anarchy to the Bachelor?

So suffice to say that while the world is easier per say thanks to Google Express, Wikipedia, and Netflix, it’s also a lot more difficult because our minds are focused on so many more things that aren’t real/relevant, and our ability to think is compromised because we are consistently being bombarded with an endless flow of new information.  Whereas scholars of old would contemplate one idea deeply in order to arrive at a profound understanding, now at best we try to memorize the top 20 articles on BuzzFeed or Yahoo Finance.

The good news is that since the solution is in the mind, because all of the problems start in the mind.  As Napoleon Hill, Tony Robbins, the Rabbis of the Talmud, Jack Canfield, Viktor Frankl and just about any other expert on the mind not in the back pocket of the drug companies (shudder, that was harsh) say, it’s not what happens to you that counts, it’s how you respond.  Excluded of course are people with actual chemical imbalances.  You decide what you’re going to make an issue about and what you’re going to not let bother you.  You figure out what you’re going to appreciate and be happy about and what’s going to hurt you.

I always tell my clients that the battle against being fat is waged in your head.  Are you eating because you’re unhappy or because you’re hungry?  Are you really hungry or are you bored?  Do you need the food or just want the momentary taste?  And if you do just want the taste is it worth not fitting into your pants?  Same with money.  Do you really need that job or internship or would you be far smarter learning about investments, money, and building a business?  Do you invest in the run of the mill college education, or figure out what you think you want to do before you start?  Is fear the driving factor behind your decisions or are your really living the life you want?

I’ve lived this concept this year more than I ever have had to before in my life.  I’ve had to change my internal monologue.  I’ve had to change what I spoke about, because what you articulate is what you think, and consequently what happens.  I have worked tirelessly to tell myself I’m a winner, I’m talented, I can be physically fit, and I can offer encouragement to people.  I’ve told myself I can support my family, and become wealthy.  And finally, while some of my affirmations are in the process of happening and others have happened, it all follows as a result of me convincing myself its possible.  That’s a very empowering idea—you can create whatever you want, as long as you realize it starts in your head and your speech, and doesn’t just happen to you.   And the flipside is also true; the more time you spend complaining, and articulating your problems, you’re actually concretizing the problems and making them REAL!  There are always two ways to deal with life; from weakness or from power.  Do you say “we can’t afford that” or “how can we afford that?”  Do you say “Why am I fat” or do you say “How can I lead a healthy lifestyle?”  Same question, usually radically different outcome.  And it’s all in your head.

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The Ironic Tragedy of Modern Anti-Semitism

masada_sunriseAs a writer, I find it is hard not to sound like a college professor.  I can write like an academic, but I’ve always preached not to follow them.  So I’ll write like me.  Jewish kids these days have to deal with the fact that the “world at large” doesn’t support Israel.  As Jews, they are seen as the ambassadors of Israel, and oftentimes feel that they need to be drawn in to the fray to defend the Jewish homeland.  Many of them, close friends and students of mine, write pieces on social media about how they never questioned their identity or felt threatened until they came to college and experienced anti-Semitism but they are proud to be Jewish.

As a rabbi, a father, and a Jew, it makes me sad.  Pride shouldn’t come just because people don’t like us.  Pride and dedication to a cause that is hated or misunderstood is hardly pride.  If I am something, shouldn’t I be it, embody it, love it, and learn about it before I’m hated for it?  The problem is, as Ethics of the Fathers tells us, love that is dependent on something falls apart when the “something” is gone.  So if a student is proud to be Jewish once they see the campus environment hates Israel, will they still be passionate once the world has quieted down?  Or more realistically, once they’ve left college and no longer hear about the critiques? Where will the pride be then when they run from grad school to the office to the yoga studio?

Or even worse, let’s say the hatred never goes away.  On one hand, they stay active, identifying, and “proud.”  On the other hand, they have no choice because they are labeled as the ambassadors of this “immoral” country the Jews call home.

Does the average Jewish college student really consider Israel home?  As I related before, I am often told by students “I’m culturally Jewish.”  The implication is that the person saying that is not religious.  But then, with further inspection, we find he isn’t really culturally Jewish either.  Does he dress Jewish?  Date Jewish?  Act, eat, drink, or sleep Jewish?  Does he even know that Jews have a specific way to do all of the above that we’ve been doing for thousands of years?

Hence why I’ve been hurt to the point that its almost too hard to deal with, so I write it off with my hard earned “emotional scar tissue.”  Judaism has, for over 3,000 years, been a family.  We’re connected by the bonds of family, to G-d and to each other.  Jewish is our last name, if you will.  Family isn’t a religion, a people, a culture, or a philosophy.  Sure that’s part of it, but it doesn’t define it.  As the great R’ Klatzko told me back when I was a college student myself, “Judaism is a relationship.”  It just is.

And so unfortunately, at these late hours in human civilization, Jews are being brought back to  a recognition of Judaism because the world says “you aren’t like us.”  The unsuspecting Jewish college student says “I’m proud to support what you think is immoral.”  But the biggest tragedy isn’t that people don’t like us, it’s that we never ask why people like us?  And what are the implications of ‘coming on board’ when all I am doing is defending?
As mentioned before, the Jewish people could never leave alone, or be left alone.  In the cosmic scene of humanity, the Jews have, like it or not, stood for the infinite morality that time, history, and culture can’t change.  Stealing is stealing, murder is murder, kindness is kindness.  We have unshakable definitions of all of the above.  What’s so sad is that this last Divine attempt, if you were, to bring us back as a people to a recognition of our essential relationship with our people, is diverted into social media sound bites.  What does it mean to call Israel home?  Why is Israel our home?  What are we doing to make it our home?  Do we really  want it to be our home?  Or do we just want to the noise to stop, the hatred to end, the lime light to turn off so that we can go back to our lives, our degrees, our yoga, and not live with the moral weight of being an immortal people?  That we have to stand up and make the world better with the actions that our Creator said would make the world better?  What do we want?

Are we really proud of who we are?  And if we are, shouldn’t we learn who we are so we can be more proud?   Can we channel our pride not to defending who we are, because we won’t ever convince the world otherwise, but rather BE WHO WE ARE.  Let’s care for the stranger, visit the sick, rejoice with the bride and groom.  Maybe if we lived it more, people would look at us, and instead of accusing us of genocide and land theft, they’d say what an amazing G-d these Jews have that commands them to do such holy acts.

Make Time to Pay Yourself Forward: How to get done what you need to do so you can do what you want

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It’s been a while since I’ve let my mind slow down enough to allow me to write.  My video blog (watch me daily on Facebook) has been a lot of fun, and is my medium of choice because my (self-diagnosed) ADD mind wanders too quickly to be put down on paper or the technological equivalent.  But having a moment to stop and think makes me recognize the crucial importance of time, and how necessary it is to master it in order to get what we need done.

The famous financial book The Richest Man In Babylon first recorded the fundamental principle of accumulating wealth: pay yourself first.  Before you pay the bills, figure out how much you’re going to put aside, and put it aside before anything else.  Inevitably, money not specifically earmarked for something will go down the booze, coffee, or unnecessary expenses drain before it finds its way into your savings or hopefully investment account.

The same must be true for time.  You need to pay yourself first with your time.  What that means is that you have to write out the necessary tasks you’d like to accomplish that day and how much time they will take, and WHEN YOU WANT TO DO THEM.  If you master that skill, you will be amazed with how much you can do.

As the world becomes more complicated, and more things vie for your time through the endless sea of information presented via social media, time not allocated to do what you want to do simply won’t happen.  Everything else in the world will take your time leaving you with the gnawing sense of feeling busy but getting nothing valuable accomplished.

What is valuable to be accomplished?  Could be your school work, homework, or anything else.  But what is EXTREMELY valuable but oftentimes left off the “to do” list are the things that will make you better long terms.  The investment in self.  These things include going to the gym, spending quality time with the people you love, and investing in your education.

Everyone goes to school, but few people get an education.  Read books.  Lots of books.  Listen to podcasts or watch informational videos on YouTube.  THERE IS SO MUCH OUT  THERE.  Invest some time in yourself, in making you better and more marketable.  Guaranteed if you don’t put that time in your calendar as if it were an unbreakable appointment, it won’t happen.  And if it doesn’t happen, you walk the road of mediocrity, working for the people that made time to grow themselves.