Fight On!!!

A recent news article stated that students can no longer prepare for a single career…

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A Few Things I’ve Learned

I began writing People Tools many years ago so I could share with others the…

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Diving off the High Board

I learned to swim when I was five, but wasn’t taught any of the finer…

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Grab My Attention – It’s up to You

My friend David has directed many plays in many theaters.  I sat next to him…

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Since You Can Never Tell, Always Tell

None of us knows what will happen tomorrow. One Monday morning my brother David didn’t…

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The Top Ten Things That I Enjoy

I find that I am often thinking or writing about how to improve my life,…

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The Concert Is Today

I have a serious question. Are you only as good as you need to be?…

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Dear Rodgers and Hammerstein

  I’m writing to thank you for The King and I, which I attended a…

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Do I Dare Disturb the Universe

  A hundred years ago, one of my favorite poems, “The Love Song of J….

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A Surprise Appearance on the Steve Harvey Show

This past Friday, January 16th, Alan appeared as a surprise guest on The Steve Harvey…

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The Best Defense Is No Defense

  When I think of defense I think of forts in the 19th century American…

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Emotion Trumps Intellect (or Does it?)

  Every decision you make, whether to move to a new city or to decline…

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My Trip to Bountiful

  I’m reflecting on the play A Trip to Bountiful, in which an elderly lady…

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Long Ago and Far Away

One Sunday afternoon when I was a kid, my family drove to the beach. I…

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I Want to Be Your Hero

  Oh, my.  I woke up today with this idea in my head that I…

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Why Being Fired Can Improve Your Life

  If you’ve ever been fired you know how difficult that can be. I’ve needed…

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At Age 74- What Has Happened to Me?

  I read a NY Times op ed piece yesterday about aging, the author feeling…

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You Will Prevail

  One of the most important qualities you can have to succeed in your life…

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  “Cuddles” is not your local lady of p . . . leisure.  She, or…

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Catching a Feather

  When we were kids, my brother and I had the mother of all pillow…

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Six Lessons from My Father’s 100th Birthday Party

  I just returned from my father’s 100th birthday celebration at the Sheraton Universal City. …

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Always Leave Them Wanting More

  When I was twelve years old my mother took me and my younger brother…

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I Always Want the Best for You

  I always want the best for you, even if what you want for yourself…

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Things Are Only Things

  When I was eighteen I took the thousand-dollar inheritance from my grandmother, added some…

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Apologize- Even if You’re Right

  We all know that apologizing can be one of the most difficult, yet helpful…

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Saying “No” – In 7 Easy Steps

Have you ever found yourself taking out your credit card to pay for something that you didn’t really want? Have you accepted an invitation to a party when you actually preferred to stay home, or entertained dinner guests far into the night because you weren’t comfortable asking them to leave?

You are not alone. Saying “no,” when appropriate, is one of the more difficult tasks in life. Many brides have told me they married their boy-friend because they were afraid to say “no” to his proposal. Of course, most did say “no,” far more painfully, a few months or a few years later.

The good news is that saying “yes” when you really mean “no” is a pattern that you can change. By paying attention to the following seven steps you can train yourself how to say “no,” and make it stick.

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The Grass Is Greener Right Now

As spring begins to spread across the land, I’ve found myself appreciating the cherry blossoms above me and the green grass below, which is starting to cover the hills of Southern California. And I’ve been thinking about old maxim, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

In 1969 I hired Jessica as a legal secretary for our two-person law firm. She worked for me, on and off, until she retired in 2011.

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Happy 100th Birthday, Dad

We all may be intuitively aware that wisdom comes with age. My dad will be 100 years old in July, and I must say that he has revealed a great deal of wisdom in recent years. This means that perhaps, at 74, I still have much to look forward to. Recently I was excited to learn that scientific studies now agree – wisdom comes with age.

In an extremely well-written New York Times article, journalist Phyllis Korkki reviews some of the most interesting research about wisdom and the wise of the world.

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10 Tools for Building Better Relationships

  Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve often found myself saying, “I wish someone…

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Are You Highly Creative?

Last week a good friend shared with me an interesting article about “18 Things Highly…

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Shrink the Glass

They say an optimist sees the glass as half full, while the pessimist sees the same glass as half empty.

Recently I asked an engineer about this hypothetical glass. His answer? The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

I’ll go with the engineer, and shrink the glass so that it is, in fact, full. I don’t have to be either a pessimist or an optimist. I just want to be happy

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An Audience of One

Last Friday I appeared at the beautiful Barnes & Noble bookstore in Santa Monica, California for a People Tools book signing. The sidewalk was slippery, so I held on to Daveen who was carrying an extra box of books, just in case the bookstore ran out of copies.

Frank, the event manager, walked us upstairs to the auditorium which was filled with chairs. My assistant, Lauren, and her fiancé were seated to the right. My dad, who will be 100 years old in July, took a chair halfway back. Two friends were seated on the left.

Front row center sat a friendly woman, Saudy. I smiled at her, and said “hello.” We had a brief chat, as I thought, “Only one member of the public here? If she leaves I’ll really be preaching to the converted.”

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Why I Would like to Be James Bond

I would like to be James Bond. This is not some passing fancy. I have wanted to be James Bond ever since I saw him, actually Sean Connery, in the movie Goldfinger fifty years ago. I would like to be fit, handsome, and debonair. I would like to rid the world of evildoers. I would like to romp with beautiful women starting, of course, with Pussy Galore. And I have no idea how that name passed the censors.

Of course there is another side to James Bond. He leaps from cliffs or tall buildings. I’m afraid of heights. He is suave. I can’t tie a proper Windsor Knot. Villains shoot at Bond or try to blow him up. My doctor says I am extremely allergic to bullets, and also to the sight of blood, especially my own.

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Stick It Out

Today I drove 77 miles North from Los Angeles to attend the first 100th birthday party I have ever been invited to. I stopped at a drug store to buy a card for Bill, the birthday boy. Finding no greeting cards for a 100th birthday, I bought two cards congratulating him on his 50th birthday. The cards were funny and turned out to be a hit.

I have been a guest at Bill’s birthday parties for more than twenty years. At first there was a dinner at the home of one of his two daughters, but in recent years Bill has lived in a bed, mostly reading or sleeping, in an assisted living facility. He was born in 1914, before the start of World War One, and has been a friend of my father’s for more than 80 years. My father will celebrate his own 100th birthday in five months, and I’m looking forward to mine on March 5, 2040.

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Over the Rainbow

The first month of the New Year is fading, and with it, perhaps, our New Year’s Resolutions. It is so alluring – New Year, Fresh Start. “This year I’m going to lose those 20 pounds, earn or save more money, and make new friends or get along better with those I already know.”

I think of a New Year’s Resolution as a charming rainbow which begins in our hearts and ends over the horizon. Such rainbows are enchanting to create, and delightful to enjoy, with our very own pot of gold waiting for us at the end. But we all know that following that rainbow can be more difficult than we expected and the pot of gold we hope to find at the end can often look very different than we envisioned.

When she was four years old my daughter Sara first watched The Wizard of Oz on a video my wife and I bought for her. I was surprised, and thrilled, to see Sara play that video five times over the weekend. She memorized the lyrics to “Over the Rainbow.” Why not? I can’t think of a better song to carry with me every day, or a better singer than Judy Garland, to implant those aspirations in my soul. I’d love to wish upon a star and find a place where troubles melt like lemon drops. Who wouldn’t?

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Life Is an Improv

When I drive my car I sometimes marvel at all of the adjustments a driver needs to make, split second by split second. We watch carefully, listen, adjust our course a little to stay in the same lane, change lanes, stop for traffic signals, and avoid hitting pedestrians. As I tell my children, if you daydream in class for fifteen minutes, no big deal. If you daydream for five seconds while driving you could be dead. When I drive I pay strict attention.

Driving a car, or living your life, is entirely an improvisation. There are physical, social, and psychological rules but there is no script. Even when you know what the scene will be – an employee review, appearing in court, or asking someone you love to marry you – you can only practice your part of the opening dialogue. You don’t know what the boss, the judge, or your intended will say, and there are so many possibilities that it’s impossible to prepare your answers in advance. But isn’t that part of why we each want to wake up tomorrow morning? To find out what will happen.

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(For my daughter Sara) Rice grows in water from the river. We both sweat in…

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Throw out the Dish Towel

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, when we celebrate out with the old. Good riddance, I say. The coming New Year has all the promise which we could possibly desire – we can lose weight, save money, and improve our relationships. When was the last time we had that golden opportunity?

I remember. It was about a year ago when I viewed the first sunrise of 2013. Funny how each year gets old, just like we do. How can we ensure that twelve months from now 2014 will not join that awful 2013 in the dustbin of our mind?

First, practice laughing at yourself.

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Samui Breeze

The motorbike putt putts,
diminishing in the afternoon.

The woman sings
from the comfort of a radio.

The ship turns slowly,
slowly on the tide.

All is well.
​All is always, always well.

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The Gift of Yourself

Tonight is Christmas Eve and most of us are shopping, anticipating, or trying to complete whatever before year end. Here I am at my dining room table writing a blog. For your sake, and mine, I’ll make it short.

I have an idea for a single gift that will cost you nothing, is already gift wrapped, and will bring joy to you and to hundreds of others for the eight remaining days this year, and the 365 days available in 2014.

Give the gift of yourself.

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The Corners of Eyes

are dangerous.
That is where

I first glimpsed-
lemon meringue pie

a Maserati
and, oh yes,

my wife

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At the end of the day
when we cuddle in bed

I wonder-

did I

doing anything else

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How Does Love Die

Knifed by deceit?

Strangled by fear?

Or daily-
by a thousand


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Where Does All the Time Go?

I have come to respect budgets.

A budget is nothing more or less than a plan, normally a money plan. If you think you will have $1,000 coming in this month, and want your outgo to equal your income, then you can list the categories within which you plan to spend your $1,000. Say $200 for food, $200 for car payments, $100 for recreation, etc.

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Uneven Steps

The steps to the Second Temple
in Jerusalem are, intentionally,
This is so, as we approach,
we must pay attention.
Is not each of us
of uneven steps

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A Daughter

At first so small
you must protect her,
she crawls and learns
to charm her daddy
drives to Senior Prom,
all curves and giggles,
flies to college, marriage,
and care when you are old.

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The Trunk, and the Closet, Each Ate My Keys

  I like to be efficient.  Mistakes are wasteful, so I have developed a number…

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I’d Rather Be Right Than President

So said Henry Clay, Sr. (1777-1852), a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. He was also Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829.

The question in my mind is not whether I would rather be right than President, because who in their right mind would want to be President? (With due respect to Barack, George W., Bill, George H., etc.)

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The Best

in life
are free
or cheap
you consider
your time
or heart.

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Laura and Itzhak

It’s been quite a weekend. Yesterday at 2:00 PM I attended a performance of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams at the Booth Theater in New York City. Today at 2:00 PM I arrived, front row center, to experience a concert by Itzhak Perlman at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

Yesterday the painfully shy Laura made her unobtrusive yet shocking entrance through the sofa at the back of The Glass Menagerie set. Today the gregarious Itzhak moved on stage from the right wing, performing a double take to be sure the concert master was handing him the proper violin – Stradivari or Guarneri. He plays both.

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No One’s Child

“Foster” is variously defined as “substitute,” “temporary,” or “short-term.” So a “foster child” is an actual human being who is a “substitute,” “temporary,” or “short-term.” The antonym is “natural,” so a foster child is also not natural.

We met N (No One’s Child) after her mother could no longer care for her. As best I recall, N was about ten years old and a friend of one of our daughters in school. Both were young girls, both were in the same class, both were smart and ambitions. There was one slight difference. N was temporary and our daughter was permanent.

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My Wife

  says that she married Mr. Right. She just didn’t realize that my first name…

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Cutting Through the Fog

Yesterday afternoon the airplane carrying me from London was on approach to the airport in Palma, Majorca. As I looked through my window I was concerned that we were landing in a rather heavy fog, but I had confidence in ground radar and our pilots. After we landed safely I looked through a window on the opposite side of the plane, to see no fog at all. I looked back through my window. Heavy fog.

Was there fog on my side of the plane and not on the other? No. My window was fogged over, creating the impression of fog outside. Beyond my window the air was clear.

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I’m Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

  When I was very young I had many dreams, mostly nightmares. In one I…

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The Tyranny of Tickets

You bought a ticket to the show

So, I guess, you’ll have to go

Even if, that night or day,

You’d really rather stay away.

In 1975 I traveled to Mexico with my parents and my girl-friend Jill. Near the end of our trip we stayed in a resort hotel owned by the Mexican movie star Continflas.

That evening I was sick to my stomach and remained in the room because I couldn’t face dinner. During the night I woke to use the bathroom, but immediately returned to bed.

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Why I Hate Poetry

Back in the early 90’s I met Jack Grapes, a wonderful writing teacher, who taught me a lot about how to write as well as I possibly could. He emphasized three rules:

1. Use your deep voice. In other words, go deep inside yourself. Let popular magazines cover the surface.
2. Write like you talk. If you wouldn’t use a word in conversation, then eschew it when you write. (See what happens when you break this rule? I’ve never said “eschew” out loud in my life.)
3. The good is the enemy of the great. If you are careful and aim for good writing you may succeed, but you will never write anything remarkable. When you take chances, shed your fears and inhibitions, and aim for wonderful, you just might achieve it. Or you may write something awful. But at least you will have given yourself a chance to shine.

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Go Climb A Mountain

I am writing this blog from the perspective of a bed potato. Bed is more comfortable than a couch when I watch TV.

In my twenties – the 1960’s to you – my friend John, whom you met in “Catch the Up Elevator” a few weeks ago, somehow persuaded me to join him on a three day backpacking trip. I understand that a backpack today is a miracle of lightweight construction and rests on your hips for support, but in those days it was just plain awkward and heavy.

John loves the Sierras, and we drove to a trailhead which began west of Lone Pine. We emptied everything from the trunk of my car into our two backpacks, mostly John’s, then he fiddled with mine until it was only twenty pounds too heavy, and we set off on our sweaty adventure. I will admit that John was quite helpful, especially in assisting me to step through the stream which crisscrossed our path. I did not fall in. I did not want to spend the night in a wet sleeping bag.

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People say I’m good at multitasking. I say, “Nonsense.”

I can only focus on one task at a time. I just switch from one task to another quickly. As my yoga teacher says, I can go from, “being Buddha to channeling a thunderstorm in one nanosecond.”

But aren’t we missing the point when we admire multitasking? I prefer multi-goaling. It’s far more effective than multitasking and extremely efficient. Consider an example.

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People With Goals Use People Without Goals

When my mind is occupied, a cross country airplane flight of five hours seems short. Otherwise the five hours seem long. On one such flight the movies were boring and the canned music dull, so I listened to a speech by a management consultant. One of his statements was, alone, worth the tedious 15 hours I seemed to have spent in my not-so-comfortable economy seat.

“People with goals use people without goals,” he said. This is one of those statements which seems obvious the moment you hear it. “People with goals use people without goals.”

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The Magic Piano

Years ago I owned, with my law partner and my brother, a cabin in the woods at Lake Arrowhead near Los Angeles. One of our first purchases was a player piano. Put in a roll and the keys would dance and the music played.

One day Kevin, the four year old son of my law partner, visited our cabin for the first time. I started a piano roll for him.

As soon as the music began Kevin’s eyes grew wide. He heard the piano playing, looked at the white and black keys racing wildly up and down, and said to me, “A magic piano. The kids at school are never going to believe this!”

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Catch the Up Elevator

Let’s go for joy and Catch the Up Elevator. And let’s do that without the cooperation of anyone else in the world. If you want it done right, do it yourself.

Where did you start your day today? Tenth story with a Happy View? Ground floor with Starbucks? The Basement of Gloom?

It makes no difference where you started because you can go up from there. Most of my days begin above ground level and end up higher. Especially when I get home in the evening to spend time with my wife and family. But every single day I am influenced either from the outside (by other people), or from the inside (by me).

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Experiencing Joy

When you experience joy in your life, what else do you really need?

When I was in the fourth grade I learned math from a thick grey book. The thin red answer book lay on the corner of my teacher’s desk. Life was simple then – one book of problems, one of answers. Today I sometimes don’t know if I’m even asking the right questions.

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