Let’s Not Add Insult to a Relationship

Most marriages begin with deep love and high hopes.  Over a period of time, however,…

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Playing the Long Game

Years ago I saw a comedy show in Inverness, Scotland. I still remember one of…

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Today, Tomorrow, and Yesterday

Since the 1980’s it’s been popular to “live in the moment.”  That’s what a therapist…

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The Inner Game of Peace

World peace depends on the fears, thoughts, and actions of a whole lot of people…

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Late Morning Rain

One of my favorite musicians is Gordon Lightfoot. Last Friday evening Sprite and I attended…

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This Is the Week That Was

It is early Sunday evening. I’m at home sitting at my desk.  My father, who…

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“Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be”

Puck’s famous line in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream refers to the folly of humans. …

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My Way Is the Highway

Today I joined a group of tourists in Xien, China to visit the extraordinary Terra…

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Accounting for Success

In 1961 I graduated from the business school at the University of Southern California with…

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Seven Life Skills I Learned from My Mother

I’m remembering my mom today. Though she died more than twenty-five years ago, her influence…

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The Ghosts Are Moving Out

I’ve always lived in a haunted house. I’m not talking about a house with ghosts…

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A Toast to an Old Friend

I’m newly married. As you might expect, this means I’m making changes in my life….

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Seven Benefits of Being Nice

A friend of mine, Barbara, has a son, Ben, who is a junior at a…

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Planning Your Life Backwards

Each of us has hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. I’m extremely goal oriented,…

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Marriage Is a Team Sport

When I was first married at age twenty-one I knew almost everything there was to…

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The Fragrance of the Roses

“I love to sniff roses.” That‘s the thought-provoking statement I woke up to this morning….

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After the Party’s Over

Our wedding celebration is four weeks in the rearview mirror, our honeymoon slipped into the…

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A Nonfish in Freezing Water

See me in the photo?  Perhaps you need a hint?  There’s the captain of the…

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Our New Zealand Hike – or How Sprite Saved My Life

On the day of our New Zealand hike we were late to meet our guide…

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Writing to Meet a Deadline

I only write to meet a deadline.  No deadline, no writing. Of course, the deadline…

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After the Wedding – A View from the Groom

The party is over and most of our guests have gone.  Frank Sinatra is singing…

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Let’s Advertise Our Mistakes

Chapter three in my book People Tools for Business is entitled, “Advertise Your Mistakes.” On…

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Give a Reason

I think of myself as an independent person and I don’t like anyone to question…

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The First Time

I remember a dream from years ago.  It was not my usual nightmare of trying…

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Celebrating a New Relationship

Almost one year ago I moved into Sprite’s home. I brought with me five suitcases…

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Would It Help?

We all have a lot to worry about.  The future is uncertain.  None of us…

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First Thing Each Morning

In my first blog of 2017 I’d like to suggest a simple way of connecting…

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Stay Imperfct for a Happy New Year

It’s not a typo.  I typed imperfct that way, and even though spell check wants…

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Strange Thoughts on a Cold Winter’s Night

I’m sitting at my desk in mid-December in a cold room.  The chill opens my…

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Traditions Are, Well, Transitory

Every Sunday morning, once or twice a month, I used to host a brunch at…

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The Best Christmas Present You Ever Received

What was your best Christmas present ever? For me there is one answer – my…

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Doing Nothing

I have spent the past two days doing nothing.  That is, I didn’t do anything…

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What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, “And I have seen the eternal…

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You’re Hired

I’ve been running a successful business for fifty years. My partner and I began our…

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“Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe”?

Every day I am besieged with requests. “Dad, can I borrow your SUV to move…

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My Five Minute Football Career

I arrived at the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in the early afternoon…

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Everyone Wants to Succeed Until . . .

When I was a kid I wanted to be President of the United States.  I’m…

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A House with a New View

Until I was twenty-one years old I lived with my parents in their house on…

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The Priority of Your Attention

What should you pay attention to during the next few minutes?  Reading my blog?  Answering…

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The Comfort of Truth

One of the most important priorities in life is how you deal with truth. As…

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The Joy of Discovery

I am a creature of many habits. My favorite part of any vacation is returning…

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What to Do with a Pinch

I had enjoyed Dinner at the home of my wife’s parents, but this time as…

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Poof

My son Steven, a doctor, called me this past Saturday. “You better check on Grandpa. …

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Do Your Hot Chocolate Right

This morning, while I was still in bed, Sprite brought me hot chocolate. It was…

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It Feels so Good When It Stops

Grrrrr.  A jackhammer is working on the street outside my office. It’s ruining my morning. …

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The Entrepreneur Within

What do newborn babies work at 24/7?  They work to survive.  They cry for attention,…

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How to Connect – Join Their Enthsiasm

This past week I’ve been traveling with a group of friends through the Greek Islands. …

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Leading a Life of Noisy Desperation

You have finally succeeded in surviving the gauntlet of “I love you” and “You love…

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I . . . I . . . I Love You

We spend our lives wanting to hear those adoring words, “I love you.” But there…

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How Do You Scare Yourself?

Do you believe that anything on the following list scares you? Standing on a high…

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If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit . . .

My mother was a very smart woman. She figured it out, whether it was a…

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Put Your Nose Back on Your Face

Yesterday I celebrated Independence Day with friends at a BBQ.  We scarfed down hot dogs,…

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How Do You Ever Know?

Some of us know our mission in life at an early age.  Some of us…

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Who Are You When No One Is Looking?

Last night Sprite fell asleep in my arms snuggling against my chest.  I felt and…

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Don’t Slam Your Computer Around

When they work properly, electronics are great.  I love to sit at my desk, read…

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The Man Who Disappeared

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

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The Gift of Clarity, Consideration, Consistency and Completeness

As we head into the summer season of weddings, I have four wishes for all…

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Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

This is the inscription over the gate to Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Until recently,…

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You Can Accomplish a Lot in Four Minutes

I have learned a great deal in my life by listening to the suggestions and…

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How Hidden Are Your Agendas?

Years ago, I returned from vacation and couldn’t find my keys.  I had hidden them…

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The Perfect Moments in My Life

I have heard it said that when you are dying you remember the moments, not…

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Relationship Tens and Twos

I’m a numbers guy, so, as much as possible, I like to reduce my life…

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Love Hard, Forgive Harder

 Good advice can come from unusual places. Last week my friends Joe and Barbara sponsored…

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Erase

There are times when a good memory is distinctly unhelpful. An example is my vacation…

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The Business (and Pleasure) of Living Well

Running your life is very much like running a business, and this blog contains ideas…

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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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When Honesty and Kindness Collide

“Honey, do you like this dress?” Danger!  Danger!  Rocky passage ahead! For many reasons one…

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My Delightful Four Day 76th Birthday Party

Several days ago, on March 5, 2016, I celebrated my 76th birthday.  Actually, I celebrated…

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A Relationship Is like a Three-Legged Race

I recently met Natasha, a petite fifty-year-old woman, who told me the following story. “When…

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How I Solve Problems: the 4 C’s

Years ago I saw a play three times in one week. It was written and…

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Anger Is a Lonely Job

Gordon, a friend of mine, recently told me this sad, then happy story about his…

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Three Pieces of Paper on My Desk

Many years ago the surface of my desk was a cluttered mess.  I decided to…

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Trust Begins and Ends with You

The foundation of every successful long-term relationship is trust. Recently I have been negotiating a…

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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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Pick Your Fear – Engulfment or Abandonment

Your friends, your children, and your partner in life are not exactly the same as…

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Do It Now

As a writer I’ve discovered that my “good ideas” have a life of about twenty…

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The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and my list of potential resolutions for the New Year…

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A Christmas Gift – Don’t Fall

As we celebrate the holiday season our thoughts turn to family, friends, and gift giving. …

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Five Tips on Teamwork

A few months ago I wrote a blog entitled “Life is a Team Sport.”  This…

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Positive Words, Positive Thoughts for the New Year

It’s time to start thinking about an even better year in 2016.  One of my…

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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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The Light Bulb Has to Want to Change

This morning I received a letter from an enthusiastic reader of my first book, People…

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Five Tips on How to Succeed at Everything

Today I aim to do everything better than I did yesterday.  I want to be…

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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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Predictions Have Consequences

“I decide my life when I do not understand.  I understand my life in living…

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Take Responsibility for Your Performance

The other day I was hurrying along the sidewalk on my way to get a…

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Chocolate Ice Cream and Parallel Paths

One of the more important lessons I’ve learned in life is that we all walk…

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Mindreading – If You Loved Me I Wouldn’t Have to Ask

I used to believe that if I had to ask you for something then even…

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Improve Your Relationship- Catch Them Being Better

Imagine you have wanted your partner or spouse to change their behavior for a long…

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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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Clapping for Customers

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

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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 Dream Is Free. The Hustle Is Sold Separately.

As the man in front of me ordered his hamburger, I read the words on…

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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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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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Life is a Team Sport

I’m in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, where every year I like to see as…

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Communicate Positively – Yes I’m Sure

Today a friend asked me for some advice on how to deal with a problematic…

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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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“No” Before “Yes”

  “No” is a verbal wall. It separates you from other people, and is generally…

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The Equal Relationship Is an Enduring Relationship

  I believe that every good relationship must be perceived as approximately equal by both…

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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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The Family Conference

  When I was seven or eight my father started holding “the family conference.”  The…

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Snip

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

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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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The Marriage of Action to Consequences

  Let me tell you a story. Before starting a week-long vacation, two parents gave…

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Throw Your Stereotypes in the Wastebasket

As a child, I adopted many chiseled-in-granite ideas about how an adult should live. That…

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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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Do I Dare Disturb the Universe

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

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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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You Don’t Always Have to Answer the Telephone

  When I was growing up we had one telephone in our home. My brother…

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After Sales Service: The Key to Long-Term Growth

  The success of every business is based upon relationships.  When I started my commercial…

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You Are My Valentine

  If you are looking forward to St. Valentine’s Day, as I am, you might…

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Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First

  Everyone who has traveled on a commercial airliner surely remembers the words, “In the…

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Will You Please Do Me a Favor?

  How do you respond when a friend asks you for a favor? While this…

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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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Avoid the Investment Road to Ruin

  When considering an investment, most of us focus on potential profit.  After all, profit…

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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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Five Reasons to Make the First Offer Work

  Years ago I bought a residential lot in Carmel Valley and hired a contractor…

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Let’s Talk about Money

  Talking about money is a taboo for most of us. We talk about politics,…

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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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Emotion Trumps Intellect (or Does it?)

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

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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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Got A Problem? Let Your Subconscious Solve It

  I am often asked, “What is your favorite People Tool?”  My answer changes from…

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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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I Have No Time for Excuses

  I’m more than a little angry tonight and if it shows, it should.  I’m…

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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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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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My Business Secrets Are Out

  All of my writing is focused on a single idea: You only have today….

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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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Avoid Financial Disaster

  One of my “Chiseled in Granite” business principals is:  “Avoid Financial Disaster.” I learned…

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One Partner Who Is Both Reliable and Exciting

I am cruising down the Danube River on a brand new Viking River Cruises boat. …

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Cuddles

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

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The Sizzle and the Steak

  One enchanted afternoon, I met my wife while I was shopping in a rare…

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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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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boss? Nine Tips

  Bosses are inherently intimidating, even though most of them aren’t actually big, or bad. …

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Executing Your Investment Babies

  I like investments because they work for me while I sleep.  They also work…

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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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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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Kill Your Darlings

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

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Old Money Habits Die Hard, if at All

  I hate to waste money, but for the past six months I’ve been driving…

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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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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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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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Solve It Forward

When I was a kid I earned comic book money by pulling dandelions out of the lawn in our back yard. My mother paid me one cent for each dandelion. A comic book cost ten cents. So every week I would try to find twenty or thirty dandelions to yank out. I liked comic books. One time I wanted to make a lot of money, and I remember talking to my mom in the back yard on a hot Sunday afternoon for more than three hours while I pulled out 600 dandelions. I think that was the day my mom stopped paying me a dandelion-pulling fee and I had to find comic book money elsewhere.

But here is the catch. I only earned a penny if I pulled out the whole dandelion, including the root.

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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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People Tools Book Giveaways

Have you not secured your copy of People Tools yet? Well good news! We are…

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Your Money or Your Wife

At age 21 I was married and living with Jo Anne in a one bedroom furnished apartment on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles. I was enrolled in law school, but during the summer I held a full time job with the National CPA firm Peat, Marwick, with offices in downtown Los Angeles.

I commuted to work each day, and figured it was cheaper to commute by bus for twenty-five cents than to drive fifteen miles each way and pay for parking. When I returned home in the evening the cost of one additional “zone” on the bus was seven cents. Even though I didn’t like walking, I left the bus at Beverly Glen rather than ride another few blocks for seven cents more.

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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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Fivelements

(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
​Daveen.

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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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Cuddling

At the end of the day
when we cuddle in bed

I wonder-
why

did I
bother

doing anything else
today.

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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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How Does Love Die

Quickly-
Knifed by deceit?

Slowly-
Strangled by fear?

Or daily-
by a thousand

hard
silences?

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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,
uneven.
This is so, as we approach,
we must pay attention.
Is not each of us
composed
of uneven steps

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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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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

things
in life
are free
or cheap
unless
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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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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Multi-Goaling

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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