Monthly Archives: March, 2014

Hidden Blessings

March 27th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

This past Wednesday, I was hit with the stomach flu. You can fill in the details from your own experience, but I spent the day sleeping or dealing with the effects. I was quite miserable, but it turned out to be a gift from God.

Extremely early Thursday morning my husband and I were scheduled to fly to Dallas. He was to be a scholar in residence for one of the local synagogues and then both he and I were to speak at a Jewish day of learning on Sunday. By Wednesday night, when rolling over pretty much used up any energy I could muster, it became clear that my share of the packing was not going to happen. Intellectually I was sure that I would be better the next day, but the thought of getting on an airplane seemed as far-fetched as boarding a spaceship. My husband made the executive decision to cancel my ticket. While I hated the idea of bailing out of a responsibility, there didn’t seem to be any other choice.

Thursday morning, he tiptoed out of our home while I slumbered on.
At this point, the blessing began to kick in. After sleeping late and taking it quiet for the rest of the day, I realized that I would now be in town for my son’s match ceremony on Friday. Throughout the nation, this past Friday was the day that fourth year medical students found out where they would be spending the next few years of their lives.

In a tension filled, drawn out process that dates back to 1952, they spent the months prior researching their chosen fields, flying or driving to interviews and weighing up the programs, locations and their chances of being accepted. A few weeks’ ago they submitted their lists, ranking the various residency programs in order of priority. Meanwhile, the hospitals submitted their own lists, ranking the students they wanted in the order they wanted them. Friday, medical schools held “match” ceremonies, calling up students one by one and handing them an envelope with the key to their futures. My husband and I had been extremely disappointed to be missing this ceremony due to prior obligations, and now, by the grace of God, via the stomach flu, I could attend!

Match Day 2014

While medical school graduation is still a few weeks away, in many ways the match ceremony is the culmination of the past four years of training. At my son’s school, the envelopes were put in a large box and then randomly drawn out one at a time. Waiting for my son’s name to be called, I watched over 150 young men and women stride up to the stage to music of their personal choosing, and emotionally greet their deans and mentors as they were handed the long-awaited envelope. The support from the room filled with relatives and friends was palpable. Everyone I could see stayed through the whole ceremony, cheering and applauding each student.

This group of bright and hard-working new doctors still has many obstacles and trials ahead of it, but for a few hours the focus was on how far each individual has already traveled. I am so grateful that I could be there. 

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It is time to get out of your personal Egypt?

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What Time Is It?

March 25th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Guess what, kids!  We’re going to Disneyland in three years’ time!  Guess what, Honey!  We’re being transferred to Paris for two years; our flight’s this afternoon, just after lunch.  Both scenarios are equally ludicrous.  It is also absurd to fire an under-performing employee and give him twenty-four months’ notice but telling the same employee that he must be out and off the premises within an hour is just as wrong. What time is right?

How long should you spend psyching yourself up to propose marriage to your girlfriend? A week? A month? An hour?  Which is right?  “We’re offering you the job and would like to hear back from you with your decision in _____.  Well, how long?  We’d like to hear back from you in twenty minutes?  Silly!  We’d like to hear back from you before the end of next year? Ridiculous!  What time is right?

As usual, ancient Jewish wisdom points us in the right direction.  See these verses:

On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place…
(Genesis 22:4)

 And on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast…
(Genesis 40:20)

 …let us go…three days’ journey into the wilderness, so we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.
(Exodus 3:18)

And be ready by the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down…
(Exodus 19:11)

And it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal dress…
(Esther 5:1)

Joshua commanded the officers…saying, prepare provisions for within three days you shall cross over this Jordan…
(Joshua 1:10)

For space reasons I have confined myself to only a few of the many Scriptural references to three days.  Is it not peculiar that all these events and many others in the Bible involved a time span of three days?  Why not five days?  Why not four days? Coincidence?  No, of course not.  It’s a lesson.

Like all numbers, the number three in Torah nomenclature possesses its own special significance.  It alludes to how we humans experience time.  We are aware of the past, we understand something called the future, and we live the present.  It is always in the context of these three parts of time that we should evaluate our lives and our experiences.

When we wonder whether something will be fun, we are really asking whether it will make the present pleasurable.  One of the reasons a car accident can be so horrifying is the realization of how its consequences might affect the future.  I recently saw an interview with an elderly criminal sentenced to one hundred and fifty years behind bars. He said that what made life intolerable was not the thought of dying in prison, but that of losing connection with his children and grandchildren.  In his case, having a past made the present much more unendurable than it might have been for someone who did not already have deep and rich relationships with descendants.

Through the preponderance of three-day time spans, Scripture is telling us that we need to take into account our past, our present and our future.  Whether it is Abraham confronting the reality of sacrificing his son, the Israelites preparing to meet God at Mt Sinai, or any of the other examples, people need to give themselves enough time to integrate the experiences of the past with the approaching future into something they can absorb in the present.

In our own lives, when large decisions or changes loom, the three-day metaphor tells us that the right amount of time needs to be enough time to acknowledge where we are coming from and assimilate that with where we are, while moving decisively into the future. Taking too little time leaves us reeling while taking too much time dulls us, just as ignoring any of the three points of past, present and future leads us down faulty paths.

Moving from difficult straits to brighter horizons using three spiritual secrets revealed during the Exodus is the heart of my audio CD, Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt.  The practical and powerful tips in this audio CD transformed the destiny of the Jews, propelling them from poverty to prosperity and from misery to independence.  They can do the same for individuals.  Now would be a good time to decisively improve your future by changing your present!  Are there any whom you love who need a boost into a better life-orbit?  For a tiny investment, you can bless them.

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Twin Tragedies

March 20th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

One of our daughters was born with a full head of hair. At a very young age, she would tug on her tresses and yell from the self-inflicted pain.  In the eyes of two doting parents, it was sad, though not without a tinge of humor.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that the number of women seeking medical intervention to get pregnant is increasing. Almost a quarter of childless women in the 40-44 age group sought services to help them conceive. While the survey was conducted from June 2006 to June 2010, my guess is that the statistics are trending even higher today.

The largest bump in seeking medical aid is that of women between the ages of 35 and 44. Would you be surprised to find that many of them are white, well-educated and have above average incomes?

At the same time statistics for 2008 show that 746,530 women girls younger than twenty got pregnant. Some pregnancies ended in in miscarriages, many were terminated through abortion, while almost 450,000 of these ended in live in births. I think it safe to assume that even recognizing that some of the babies born were released for adoption, and a small minority was born to married women with committed and loving husbands, the overwhelming majority is starting life with great handicaps. Their mothers are ill equipped to provide for their physical or psychological needs and the baby’s presence portends a more difficult time for these girls in overcoming their own lives’ handicaps. Would you be surprised to find that many of these mothers are African-Americans, don’t have high school diplomas, and have below average incomes?

The members of these two groups probably rarely meet. Yet they have a great deal in common. Certainly not all, but many of them were swept up in cultural trends. They are victims of misguided public policies, foolish social mores and a breach of sadly, uncommon, common sense. The entertainment industry peddled lies to them, the educational system betrayed them (whether at an Ivy League University or at an inner city school), psychologists and sociologists misled them and politicians used them for personal gain.

The challenges these women face in trying to mother a healthy family are worlds apart. Yet, tragically, the steps that led to facing overwhelming obstacles in doing so were largely self-inflicted. Unlike our daughter who finally made the connection between pulling her hair and the resulting pain, their problems won’t easily disappear.

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Can you rise above a genetic and cultural legacy?
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Esther’s One-Two Punch

March 18th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

What do toddlers and sales professionals have in common?  No, this isn’t the latest riddle from your in-flight magazine. The correct answer is that both employ profound psychological principles to project their wills.  Toddlers do so instinctively while sales pros do so after sophisticated training. But we all can use these timeless truths to practice partnership power that helps us achieve our goals.

Almost every triumph, success, or achievement that we enjoy depends upon at least one other person’s cooperation. We invariably require at least one other person, whether a friend, mentor, customer or investor to help us achieve our desires.  There are many unsuccessful ways to try to enlist others to our purpose.  Can ancient Jewish wisdom help us identify effective ways to encourage people to partner with us?

When a human being performs an action, there are two consequences, internal and external.  For instance, if I tell someone a lie the external result is that I’ve misled that person.  The internal consequence is that I am reduced in moral stature, seeing myself subconsciously as a little less worthy than I was before.  Not surprisingly, I find it a little easier to tell another lie because I view myself as less admirable.

It’s equally true on the positive side.  For instance, when I help another human being, I not only change his or her world, but I also change me.  I make myself a more charitable man and start seeing myself that way.  Not surprisingly, the next person who asks for my help will be more likely to get a helpful response.

Researchers asked some residents of an area to accept and display a tiny sign reading “BE A SAFE DRIVER”.  Two weeks later, the researchers asked both this group and another group of residents that never received the first request, to allow a large billboard saying “DRIVE CAREFULLY” on their front lawns.  As part of the request, they were shown a picture of a nice house almost completely obscured by a very large, poorly lettered sign bearing that message.  Only 17% of those who had not received the first request accepted the large billboard.  However, a stunning 76% of those who had accepted the small sign also agreed to place the large one.

Robert Cialdini, a scholar who has studied persuasion, explains that even a small action changes a person’s view of self; thereafter, the person tends to act in concert with that view.  Scripture taught this rule millennia ago.

Queen Esther used this principle to achieve her goal of securing the king’s help in preventing the genocide of the Persian Jews. She started by inviting the king and Haman to an intimate dinner.  (Esther 5:4)

The entire purpose of that first banquet was to enable Esther to invite the two men to another private dinner.  (Esther 5:8)  Only when they accepted her invitation and appeared at the second banquet, did Esther plead for her people. (Esther 7:3)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains why Esther didn’t make her vital request to save the Jews at the first banquet.  She knew she had to accustom the king to granting her requests so she began with a simple one.

…if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them…
(Esther 5:8)

Once the king complied with this humble request, he set himself up to be far more likely to comply with whatever she might next ask. His view of himself as a generous monarch and loving husband was reinforced, leading to a positive response when Esther asked:

…If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request.
(Esther 7:3)

Though God is not overtly visible in the Book of Esther, His wisdom and teachings inform almost every verse as His servants reshape history; their own as well as that of the Jewish people.

Whether you are a parent or a plumber, a business professional or a ballerina, you too can gain a greater understanding of influence strategies from studying Bible, and this can help you achieve your objectives in your career and in your important relationships.

With Persia (Iran) once again menacing the world, we can rely on the Bible to help us make sense of world affairs and guide us to triumph over personal challenges. Gain greater insight with the help of my 2 audio CD set, Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam. Follow the trail from Genesis through the Scroll of Esther in this mind-blowing teaching as Scripture casts prophetic shadows to the present day, providing a beacon of light in these dark times.

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  •     What Muslims know about prayer that most people, even those who pray regularly, don’t.
  •     The dark side of laughter.
  •     Why recruits in Arab terrorist training camps say “Heil Hitler”.
  •     How to rise above our cultural and genetic legacy!

 

Humble Pie or Goulash?

March 13th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 11 comments

I was humbled the other night. My husband and I were guests at a dinner party along with some of the smartest, most active and accomplished people in Seattle. Among our companions were two women who, unintentionally, sent me home feeling rather inferior.

The first of these is long-time Seattle television anchor, Susan Hutchison, currently chair of the Washington State Republican party. The second is Lisa Carlson, best recognized by some as the wife of Seattle media personality and political influencer, John Carlson, yet a powerhouse in her own right. She is extremely active in the Jennifer Dunn Leadership Institute, whose mission is to, “recruit and train leaders in Washington State that are committed to the principles of freedom, security, entrepreneurial free enterprise, and a return of conservative principles of governance.”

These women, like me, have been devastated at election results and trends in Washington State over the last few cycles. Yet, unlike me, they have stepped into the breach and are putting in hours and effort to foment change.  Disheartened as I am with the national Republican Party I am opting out, while they are channeling their frustration into increased focus in the state arena.

I assuaged my guilt by reminding myself of a talk I once heard from the principal of an east coast girl’s high school.  Heavily involved in the community, she knew that there was a continuous stream of families dealing with illness or troubled marriages, in mourning after a loved one’s death or facing other difficulties. This woman watched as friends of hers stepped forward with a casserole, drove extra carpools or filled in with the myriad tasks that overwhelm those in crisis.  She felt badly at doing none of these things despite her sympathy for those in need.

She then shared an epiphany she had. This principal realized that she was wrong to compare herself with others. She wasn’t ignoring other people’s pain; she was using her unique talents and abilities to help in ways best suited to her personality. Knowing so many people through her position, she served as a resource center, introducing individuals to others whose skills they needed. Utilizing her extensive experience with youth, she was a listening ear and compassionate advisor to families having trouble with their teenagers. She enjoyed researching solutions to problems and disliked cooking; why should she judge herself by how many suppers she provided, no matter how necessary and appreciated they were?

Politics is a tremendous blessing. Deciding issues through voting booths is massively better than doing so with brute force. Yet, for me, the more aware I am of what goes on behind closed doors, the more disillusioned I become. I am grateful that Susan and Lisa are fighting that fight, but it isn’t for me. I hope that articulating my views helps them to do a more effective job, but I am not going to join them in the trenches. 

What I hope I can do is to change hearts. If my writing and speaking can encourage others to devote themselves to their children’s upbringing and education, provide strength for people to press through disappointment while striving to build an income stream and/or hearten couples to dedicate themselves to their marriage despite rocky shoals, I will be satisfied that I am making my contribution.  We all have a need to give to others and to our community. How fortunate we are that by creating us with infinite variety, God grants us many varied avenues for doing so.

Am I rationalizing or reasonable?
What’s your unique contribution? Tell me in the comment section below

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Sing(apore) for Your Supper

March 11th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“I’m sure you’re doing your best.”  This is a subjective statement.
“Your grade dropped to a ‘D’ this semester.”  This is an objective fact.

“Management is satisfied with the company’s 2013 performance which was in accordance with expectations”    Subjective.
The company lost $3.7 million in fiscal year 2013.  Objective.

Measuring performance objectively brings success whether the goal is competing in the Olympics, losing weight, or increasing profit. Or, yes, learning.

Let me give you an example from Singapore, a tiny island nation with a racially and culturally diverse population that until 1965 was dependent upon Great Britain. Back then, less than fifty years ago, it was a sort of international welfare case with a Gross Domestic Product per capita about one twentieth of the United States.  This means that on average, each Singaporean produced less than one twentieth of the economic value that the average American produced.  Today, Singapore’s per capita GDP is slightly higher than that of the United States.  What brought about that miracle?

Lee Kuan Yew, who served as Singapore’s first prime minister for thirty years and is still known as the Father of Singapore, stated that it happened because of their education system.  How does it differ from education in America?

Among other factors, Singapore places a heavy emphasis on objective subjects like mathematics and science as opposed to subjects that have the word “studies” in their titles.  They don’t do social studies, earth studies, and environmental studies in Singapore. The country routinely scores at the very top of each year’s International Mathematics and Science Study while the United States according to recent data, scored at number 23, well behind countries like Thailand, Russia, Slovenia, Hungary, and Belgium.

Lest you respond that we must spend more on education, another objective fact tells us that Singapore spends about $2,000 a year per student while in the United States the comparable figure is about $12,000.

There is much data that those who care about children should examine. Focusing on objective facts rather than subjective fantasizing would be a good place to start.

Concentrating on objective actions and behaviors also helped transform a rag-tag band of slaves into the Hebrew nation about 3,326 years ago.  You see, little about life as a slave encourages objective analysis.  Foolishly, a slave master’s goal is often to keep the slave working endlessly. The slave’s time loses all meaning since a high level of accomplishment rarely betters his situation.

The Exodus was surrounded by many of God’s rules and rituals for the precise purpose of introducing the concept of an objective way of looking at reality.  Rather than fuzzy generalities, Exodus chapter 12 contains hundreds of specific details defining exactly what the Israelites must do before and during the Exodus from Egypt.

People whose lives lack objective measure amble and dawdle through the day.  By contrast, God directed the Israelites to move with such haste that even the dough wouldn’t have time to rise. (Those of us who have ever been shocked to realize how long we spent surfing the Internet would do well to learn this lesson.)

Also, membership in the group that was to be delivered from Egypt was not left to subjective feeling.  “Aw, c’mon, I really, really feel like an Israelite.”  Instead, each male was to be circumcised, surely a very objective indicator. Either you are or you’re not.  (Exodus 12:48)  Then in precisely 49 days they were to be standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Not 48 days and not 50 days. Precise and objective detail.  It is no wonder that the Israelites transformed from slaves to one of the most successful people in the world.

Understanding how details in the Bible reveal underlying vital messages such as this one, is an example of the type of ancient Jewish wisdom that I share in my brand new book Business Secrets from the Bible: Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance. I would love for this book to bless you and those you love and I can’t wait to hear your feedback. Find out more about it here and see how you or someone you know can greatly benefit from it, available now at a reduced price.

Please be aware that I will be conducting teaching on these and other Exodus topics at a special 8 day Passover Conference Retreat at the beautiful Rancho Bernardo Inn resort in San Diego from April 14 to April 22.  I would love to share the Pesach festival with you.

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Mixed Emotions

March 6th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

What do these items have in common? 

  • A plastic egg filled with baby teeth which was a young child’s investment program based on the assumption that the tooth mouse’s payments might rise. (Our family preferred mythical mice to fantasy fairies.)
  • A garish bright red and green vest that I sewed when I was thirteen.  I was immensely proud that I perfectly lined up the seams of the plaid fabric.
  • A letter to one of our daughters, pledging undying friendship from someone whose name she cannot place.
  • Hundreds of books that we hope others will enjoy as much as we did.

Twenty-two years ago, we moved into our present house, doubling our living space. The house had room for homeschooling seven children, for many guests and for our business. We gained wonderful neighbors, fantastic friendships, and a region full of incredible natural beauty. For the past two decades, either my husband or I have expressed gratitude for where we live on almost a daily basis.

The house is full of memories: children sliding down the stairs on futons, Passover tables with friends and family, boxes of diapers being replaced seemingly overnight by boxes of high school and college mementos. It has sad memories as well: returning home from my mother-in-law’s and my mother’s funerals, bidding farewell to two babies whose faces we never saw and the normal, though often painful, realities of life.  

We have now bid goodbye to the above-mentioned baby teeth, vest, letter, books and home. We are greeting a new phase in our lives, choosing to downsize and move to be near children and grandchildren. We have gotten rid of tons of ‘stuff’ leaving lots of memories and warm relationships that will continue.

Through the wonder of the Internet, we can keep in touch with you from almost anywhere in the world. We are filled with excitement for this new stage of life and eagerly anticipating meeting new friends. I won’t pretend there isn’t a pang at hearing an echo ring in our newly empty, beloved home as we close the door, but we are grateful to God for allowing us to move and build a future together.

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Exciting times tend to cluster together. Not only are we in the midst of a grand move, but my husband’s new book was released this week! I’m proud of him and eager for you to benefit from it.

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I Win – You Win – We All Win

March 4th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Would you enjoy working with an investment advisor who is paid for the number of trades she recommends whether or not you make any profit? What do you think of a teacher who is paid even if his students learn nothing? Would you frequent a store that charges you for trying on clothes whether or not you buy anything? These are examples of simple transactions in which the interests of the two parties are not aligned.

The sales professional who works on a commission-only basis with no salary ceiling is a great example of interests that are aligned.  When his employer prospers, so does he.  When he prospers, so does his employer. Whether you are interviewing job-seeking candidates or whether you are applying for a position, clearly understanding this powerful principle is invaluable.  It is equally valuable in running a marriage or family. Part of effective leadership is persuading people that you are all ‘on the same team.’ In any interaction, focusing on merging everyone’s interests increases the probability of a successful outcome.

This vision of economic interaction in which both sides prosper is completely at odds with the socialistic worldview in which every economic transaction is viewed with suspicion. According to the secular materialist, if a storekeeper is happy with the sale, the customer was exploited. If a customer walks out smiling, he must surely have ripped off the storekeeper.  However, in God’s view of human economic interaction, the ideal transaction benefits both parties.

We learn this idea from a surprising source. Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that in the stages of life, fifty years old is well suited for imparting advice.  The Scriptural basis for this stems from the few verses declaring that Levites should actively serve in the Temple from the ages of twenty-five to fifty. Knowing that a chapter in my book Thou Shall Prosper disparages retirement, many people have written to me asking if the Levites retire at age fifty.  Nothing could be further from fact.  After their fiftieth birthdays, their tasks changed. No longer involved in the day-to-day responsibilities of the Temple, they were busier than ever advising and guiding their brethren. (Numbers 8:24-26) They were uniquely suited to this assignment. Why?

Here is the key fact about the Levites: They received no portion of ownership in the Land of Israel.  Instead, they lived exclusively on a tithe from the income of the rest of the nation. (Numbers 18:21).    Their interests were perfectly aligned with those of all Israel.  When they blessed Israel, the blessing was genuine and whole-hearted.  When Israel prospered, so did the Levites.

Would you rather seek advice from someone who cares for your success as much as you do or from someone who views you as unimportant or a rival?  Clearly, advice from someone whose interests are aligned with yours is worth more than advice from an indifferent stranger, or worse, from someone who benefits when you fail.

After twenty-five years of prospering or suffering based on the financial successes or failures of others, the Levites completely internalized the message that their interests paralleled those of the children of Israel. They were ideally poised to offer sincere advice to others from an attitude of genuine concern. While the Temple no longer stands and while we are not all Levites, we can all benefit by learning from their experience. Before offering advice to anyone, whether our children or our business colleagues, we must be sure that our interests are aligned with theirs.  Just as importantly, we must be sure that they know and believe this to be true. The more our happiness and achievements mesh with the happiness and achievements of others, the more we all thrive.

This type of Biblical principle is highlighted in my hot-off-the-press book, released this week. Business Secrets from the Bible: Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance picks up where Thou Shall Prosper: The Ten Commandments for Making Money leaves off and reveals God’s plan for personal prosperity.  It’s not that God wants us to be rich, but He does want us all to behave in ways that produce prosperity. Among these ways is recognizing that our economic well-being is intertwined with the economic well-being of others.  I am delighted to make it possible for everyone to tap into ancient Jewish wisdom and discover tips and techniques for success. In these difficult economic times, going back to the Source is priceless.

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