The Man Who Disappeared

 This morning I asked a close friend of mine how he enjoyed his weekend. “Educational,”…

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Make It Easy for Me

Every time I’m asked to write a letter of recommendation my reaction is the same….

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Clapping for Customers

For more than ten years the Italian restaurant next door to my office has been…

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Five Secrets of Entertaining a Group

I don’t think of myself as a professional entertainer.  Far from it.  I’m most comfortable…

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Let It Loose, Marco: It’s Never Too Late to Succeed

Have you ever heard of Marco Dawson? I’ll give you a hint. He’s an American,…

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I Want You to Like Me – 5 Tips

When he was young, one of my sons told me, “Dad, the secret of getting…

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Don’t Do the Math

I like numbers, which is one of the reasons I became an accountant. For fun…

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The Positive Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

  Throughout my life I have made a number of prophecies or predictions about myself…

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Empathy Becomes Real

  I’m a guy, and not terribly concerned about my appearance.  My hair is short…

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The Reward of Taking a Chance

On March 1, 1968, my law partner, Jim, and I formed a company to invest…

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Snip

Many years ago I read a book by Harry Brown entitled How I Found Freedom…

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Be like Socrates: Get to Know Thyself

  If Socrates were an answer on Jeopardy, “know thyself” might be the question. Actually…

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No I Not

My mother used to tell me that when I was two years old my favorite…

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The Spotlight of Now

  The auditorium of our future is always pitch-black, and we never know for sure…

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Living by Principle

  At breakfast yesterday my granddaughter asked me to teach her about investments and how…

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Seven Tips on How to Make a Great First Impression

  The first impression you make endures forever. And if you make a poor first…

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G(oals) P(riorities) S(teps) for the New Year

  The beginning of the year is the time when we each make New Year’s…

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How to Be the Right Person

  My childhood fairy tale was to grow up, fall in love, then get married…

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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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The Five Kinds of I’m Sorry

  Many people never say “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry for them because they are going…

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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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Is It Safe?

  In the 1976 movie, The Marathon Man, the hero “Babe” Levy, played by Dustin…

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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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You Will Prevail

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

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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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Patterns Persist Because We Are Creatures of Habit

  Whenever I visit a buffet restaurant I eat more than I had intended. This…

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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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Kill Your Darlings

  Last week, I finally finished the manuscript for my new book, People Tools for…

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5 Ways to Make the Annual Review Process Less Painful

  Last week, I wrote an article for Fast Company magazine’s on Bottom Line blog,…

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Belt Buckle: Actions Always Speak Louder Than Words

  “It’s simple,” the all-star defensive lineman explained. “The great ball carriers like Jim Brown…

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Get Past Perfect

  I used to be a partial perfectionist. I say “partial” because certain aspects of…

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5 Tips for Effective Delegation

I am working at my desk. I hear a soft chime, and up pops an e-mail from one of my investors. He’s asking the same question he has already asked me three times in the last two months ago. It would take me an hour to research and answer his question, just as it would have taken me the first time he asked. Now my investor is upset and I am under increasing pressure to perform. What to do, what to do?

Delegate!!

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If the Yolk Breaks, Fry Another Egg

When it comes to breakfast I am a creature of habit. Years ago every morning I fried one “over easy” egg for myself. I liked the yolk medium, not hard. One morning, as I dropped the egg into the frying pan, the shell punctured the yolk, which broke. I frowned, and resigned myself to another unhappy breakfast because I knew that when I turned the egg over the yolk would become hard.

I glared at the offending egg. I tried to console myself by thinking about lunch. Then a thought popped into my head. “This egg costs about twenty cents. I can throw it away and cook another egg exactly the way I like it—‘over easy.’”

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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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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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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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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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The Ticker Tape

I agree with Ralph Ellison and I am, at least in part, “an invisible man.” How is it possible not to be? I have so many thoughts and feelings that it is impossible for me to convey to you all that passes through my mind. Also, I am selective. That is a polite way to say that I edit before I talk. If I think that you will dislike certain words or ideas I will trim my speech to suit your taste. I will censor myself in an attempt to avoid your disapproval. (And, of course, there are certain topics, which “nice” people simply don’t talk about.)

All of this is perfectly normal. But occasionally I want something which is going to slip away from me forever unless I act immediately and make myself completely visible. This was the case when I first met my wife Daveen more than thirty-five years ago. In the 2011 movie We Bought A Zoo the leading man, Matt Damon, advises his son that to woo and win his ladylove he needed “Twenty seconds of insane courage.”

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Pineapple Fluff

For me, and perhaps for you, one of the more difficult emotions to deal with is anger.

My father used to get angry a lot. If he was worried about money he stormed around the house and the rest of us stayed out of his way. When I asked for something he didn’t want to give me he shouted. When I broke the glass table in the living room . . . well, I won’t go further into that.

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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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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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Kids Will Be Grownups

I have nine children. Three are from my first marriage, two stepsons from my second marriage, and three daughters from my third marriage. (My final marriage, as Daveen would say.) For those few of you who check the numbers like I do, I add one foster child who graduated with honors from Tufts University.

They range in age from 26 to 51. Each has graduated from college. They have earned twelve graduate degrees among them. And every single one was once seven years old, as well as sixteen years old — just like you and me (unless you’re now younger than sixteen – but even so, there is already an adult blossoming inside of you).

I mention all of this not to brag, though I am extremely proud of each of my children, but to point out that every one was once an adult in waiting. I never spanked a single child. I never “grounded” a child. What I did was to consistently expect responsible behavior.

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Or Am I a Butterfly Dreaming I Am a Man?

I woke up at 6:32 this morning screaming at my wife, “When does the f***ing ship leave!!!!!”

We were not on a ship. We were in a hotel room. A few mornings before, I woke up Daveen by kicking her legs. Another nightmare, something about my being interviewed for People Tools and not remembering a single fact about my book.

In this morning’s edition my extended family had just returned from our present vacation, but somehow ended up in Seattle, scheduled to leave at any moment on a cruise. Our luggage lay scattered in a motel room with a large door at one end for truck access, but we were on the ship where I was trying to find out what time it was leaving.

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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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“Knock Knock.” “Who’s there?”

“Would you like to have lunch with me tomorrow?”

“That would be fine.”

“Are you sure?”

Aye, there’s the rub. “Are you sure?” The words are polite, the intent pure, but the implications to a relationship are as perilous as a poisoned dart.

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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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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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Cheetos Now; Cheetos Forever

Years ago I was at a comedy show in Inverness, Scotland, and remember one joke which was very funny but still cuts me to my core.

“I’m on a seafood diet,” the comedian said. “I see food, I eat it.”

I have always been on the plus side of the scale. When I was ten or eleven my father tried to help me lose a few pounds. We had a running “bet” – lose weight, he paid me, gain weight, I paid him. That arrangement ended when he realized I was manipulating the scale so that I could instantly “lose” between three and five pounds.

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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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How to Find the Right Person

Tom had never found the woman of his dreams. Although he cared for a ten year old son from a short term relationship, he had never married. Then Tom met Vanessa. Their relationship progressed beautifully. They enjoyed camping out together, practicing yoga, and he found her to be his best companion ever.

Tom was about to leave on a five day camping trip with friends when his cell phone rang. It was Vanessa, sobbing. Tom could hardly understand what she was saying. Through her spasms of crying Vanessa seemed to be repeating the word “Princess” again and again. After a few minutes she calmed down slightly and Tom finally understood her message.

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From Whence Flows Love

What builds in a relationship over years or decades and can be lost in an instant?

A stand-up comedy show in Edinburgh is a strange place for me to receive the best compliment my wife has ever given me. And this was not in private and Daveen was not even talking to me. She was answering a question asked by a comedian, David Morgan (who I certainly recommend), in front of an audience of thirty people, four of them dear friends.

The comedian was making fun of the fact that few of us feel pretty, and he pointed to Daveen and asked, “Does your husband ever tell you he thinks you’re pretty?”

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Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

I am more than sixty years beyond my first childhood, but today I smiled to see children playing the age-old game of hide and seek. Everyone else hid while “it” counted to ten then called, “Here I come, ready or not!”

When “it” found and tagged another player, he or she became the next “it.” Several children ran fast enough to touch home base before being tagged and were safe for the next round. Finally “it” called, “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” and the players still hiding raced for home with many delighted shrieks and giggles.

I was never quick at hide and seek, so I had to be clever in hiding. But I wasn’t clever at hiding either, so I was “it” most of the time.

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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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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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