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Black Swans*

December 8, 2016

In this last election, we learned that the pundits and pollsters were wrong.

The experts predicted Hillary Clinton would win and they were wrong.  The stock market experts then predicted a market decline and they were wrong.  The experts predicted that the Brexit vote would lose and they were wrong.  The economic calamity predicted by the Brexit vote winning was wrong.

One has to wonder what other accepted conventional wisdom is or will be wrong.

Many of us, and perhaps too much of the time, rely on and just accept what the experts(?) tell us.  How does that affect your life?

“When everyone thinks alike, no one thinks very much.”   —   Walter Lippmann

The greatest leaders in history beginning with Abraham, lived the life of the

“heroism of ordinary life, being willing to live by one’s convictions though all the world thinks otherwise, being true to the call of eternity, not the noise of now.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

One can easily make a list of great leaders who lived this life, at least to some degree.  Let me get you started, with just a few of the many examples of the non-Biblical names: The Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King,Jr., Steve Jobs …………

Who is on your list?  What can, or have you learned from them?

They all shared common traits in that they thought for themselves, they didn’t go along to get along, they weren’t looking to be popular (although they ended up being popular?), they had the strength of their conviction, didn’t bend or give up……

What can you learn from each of them so as to be true to yourself?  If you don’t think for yourself, then how can you be yourself?  If you are not yourself, what do you bring and add to the party?  If you are not yourself, then how can you truly be happy?

It is easier to just accept the conventional wisdom, rather than thinking for yourself.  It is easy to seek the comfort of being popular by going along to get along, but that doesn’t actually get you or the world anywhere.

“If I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you. But, if I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you.” – R’Mendel of Kotzk

 “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” – Albert Einstein

 “If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.” – Billie Holiday

“To be a person of truth, be swayed neither by approval nor disapproval. Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.”   —   Rebbe Nachman

*The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist, but the saying was rewritten after black swans were discovered in the wild.  To learn more, read the book “The Black Swan”, by Nicholas Taleb Nassim

Heart and Soul

Thoughts On Election Thoughts

November 30, 2016

It is not the province of the Spinning Rabbi to talk about politics, so I won’t.

Nonetheless, I am well aware of how difficult and divisive this past election has been.  It has provoked strong feelings on both sides.

I write this piece with the desire to provide some thoughts for all on how we can each heal and come together.

To the Clinton voters

Many of Hillary Clinton’s voters are feeling angry and depressed now.

Anger is energy wasted.  It only keeps you stuck.  That energy can be redirected into positive action to fix that which angers you.  The same is true of depression.  If you allow that which you find wrong to anger or depress you, then it conquers and owns you.  If conquered, you cannot climb your mountain, instead you live life on a merry go round.  Letting go of the hold of anger will allow you to fix that which you consider broken in a positive and constructive way.

“Anger begins with madness and ends with regret.” –  Ben Hamelech V’Hanazir

To the Trump Voters 

Many of you voted for Donald Trump because you believe that things were going in the wrong direction.  You were also upset with how you felt you were treated.

Presumably you are happy now.  If so, ask yourself if you are happy that your side won, or because the other side lost.  One can’t truly be happy when the person next to you is sad.  Celebrate in a way that leaves room for others.

To All

The story below is meant to be considered in order to begin some healing for all.  It will hopefully help and begin to bring us all back together.  Together to create the country and world we wish to have.

There were two young brothers ages eight and ten. The younger brother was the taller one. We all know, and men certainly remember that for boys height is really important. So naturally the older, shorter brother was very jealous of his younger, taller brother.

One day, while playing in the backyard, the older, shorter brother pushed the younger, taller brother into a little ditch. This wasn’t done in order to hurt or knock him down, but rather to make him appear shorter. At which point the older, now looking taller brother gave a “Nah, nah, nehnahna, I’m taller than you!” Their father, a Rabbi, witnessed this and called over the older brother.  The Father told him to bring over a chair and stand on it.  The boy complied and then asked why he was standing on a chair and his father said,

“Whenever you want to be bigger, you raise yourself up, instead of pushing someone else down.”

Bigger here means, bigger than you are now as opposed to bigger than an other.

This is from a true story that we can all store as a reminder for and to ourselves.*  It’s a reminder to ask ourselves, if we are guilty of pushing others down.

Be honest with yourself, as hard as that is for all of us, and ask yourself whether you, or your side, are acting as the older/shorter brother and if so how to change that.  Change that, so that we may all grow.  When we all grow, we will have the world we all wish for.

In addition if you see someone pushing someone else down, in any form, you might share this story with them as a subtle hint.

We climb our mountain by always elevating ourselves.  We do it by elevating ourselves in all that we do. We do not do it at the expense of anyone else, but for our and everyone else’s benefit.  On that climb we may also inspire others to have the strength to make their climb.

Heart and Soul

*The story is attributed to the 5th Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneerson. He recounted the story of his youth that happened with him and his older brother, Zalman Aron. He subsequently became the Rebbe instead of his older brother as well.

Happy Day of Giving Thanks 2016

November 23, 2016

We so quickly and casually say “Happy Thanksgiving” that we often miss and forget that it’s a day for actually giving Thanks. Of course, so is every day and we begin everyday with Thanks.

This year, perhaps more than other years, with concerns for so many about the election and all the related issues, taking a moment to think about that which you are thankful for, can be healing.  Then, if those concerns are still there, one can address them in a positive action oriented way.

What are you Thankful for?

Who are you Thankful for?  Let them know!

Thank You for being a friend of The Spinning Rabbi

Heart and Soul

“Time Is On My Side”*?

September 20, 2016

Or is it?

You’re walking in a park and you see an old man quietly sitting on a bench alone in thought, perhaps he’s 90 or more.  What do you think he is thinking about?

None of us knows how much time we were given or we have left, but certainly someone of his age knows that his days are indeed numbered.

Is he thinking about the past.  If so, is it about regrets and woulda, coulda, shoulda…..?   Or is he thinking about the past with pride in what he accomplished for the good with his time?

Is he thinking about loved ones still here and some not and the love he gave and had?

Is he thinking about the time he has left?  Is he thinking about that with fear?  Or does he say to himself, “If I’m still here, then I’m still needed, so what good can I do with the time left”?

At ninety-one the great cellist Pablo Cassals was asked why he still practiced, he said “because I am making progress”

“If you won’t be better tomorrow then you were today, what do you need tomorrow for?” — Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

“What grows never grows old.”   —   Noah Benshea

“Most of us go to our graves with our music still left inside of us”. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

What you think he is thinking about, is probably what you think about, no matter your age.  So ask yourself, which set of thoughts will lead to a more productive use of  your time left and hence lead to more happiness and joy.

“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” – Sam Levenson

Time is the most precious non-renewable resource of all

Heart and Soul

*Rolling Stones



“I Can’t” – Who Says So? (part 2)

September 8, 2016

Now that you have read the last post and seen the Video “Yes I Can”, (shown below again) it’s time to see where else it can take you.

Having been inspired by the video, you might have attempted to go further than you have before in some physical activity.  If you did, you know you can, and you feel the joy that comes from it.

“What I can’t do today, I can do tomorrow.” –  Gabrielle Mariotta—- a tailor said after having suffered a stroke

Success comes in cans; failure in can’ts.”   —   Morris Mandel

“Imagine if a bird was unaware that its wings enabled it to fly”. – The Rebbe

Let’s now consider how the same approach and attitude can be used to take you further in other ways.

We all would like to be happy and find joy.  To get there we must seek to constantly grow and improve in all areas of our lives.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost from his poem “Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening”
 When it comes to all the “I Can’ts” that keep you from growing and therefore from the happiness and joy you seek, be it emotional ones, in all kinds of relationships, job/career, ……….etc., etc., etc.,……  Rather than that inner voice that says “I Can’t” it can become “Yes I Can”!!
In order to improve and grow, you don’t have to change.  You have to be willing to make changes.

Imagine what you’ll be and who you’ll be by breaking free of  all those self-imposed constraints.  Take that first step.


P.S. There are many posts on this website that give thoughts, ideas, suggestions on what changes to make and how to get there.  There will also be more in the future.  This post is merely to help adjust your mindset, which is step number one.

Heart and Soul

“I Can’t” – Who Says So?

August 17, 2016

You will be so inspired when you watch the video below, but first let’s give it a little context.

If there is something you really wish to do or accomplish, how often do you say to yourself “I can’t”?  If you say that, then you can’t and  you won’t.  This is a self-imposed limitation.  Besides, how do you know you can’t if you don’t try?

Do you say it because others tell you that “you can’t”?  Why are you letting them decide for you?   If you listen to them, it’s the same as a self-imposed limitation.  Besides, how do they know?

This video titled “Yes I Can”, will show you what never saying “I Can’t” and always saying “Yes I Can” can do and will do for you.

Watching this, you will say to yourself, “Amazing”.  The point being made by the people in this video is just the opposite.  They don’t believe what they do is amazing!!!  They believe they can and no one can tell them otherwise!


You Cannot Lower Your Mountain but You Can Elevate Yourself!

Heart and Soul


“Everybody Does It”

July 14, 2016

How does politics/the candidates affect you, or how do you affect politics/the candidates?

When a parent admonishes a child for some inappropriate behavior, the child’s response is often, “everybody does it”.  As adults, if we mention to a good friend or family member that their action was not ethically or morally correct, their response/defense is often, “everybody does it”.  If we say that a certain political candidate lies or cheats or….., we hear the “they all do it” response.

By accepting that excuse for ourselves and others is to encourage and condone that behavior.

If we choose the “everybody does it” excuse, to just be like everyone else, then you, no one else, and nothing will ever improve.  Our task, is to constantly remind ourselves and endeavor to always do the good and right thing.  To do that whether or not it is cool or popular.  Sometimes, it’s actually “Hip to be Square ” – Huey Lewis and the News.

 “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” – Albert Einstein

“heroism of ordinary life, being willing to live by one’s convictions though all the world thinks otherwise, being true to the call of eternity, not the noise of now.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

As more and more do the good and right thing, then less and less will we be able to excuse bad behavior with the “everybody does it” excuse.  Eventually, we will say “everybody does it” about the good and right thing.  That would be cool and then it would be “hip to be cool”.

When it comes to our political leaders, it’s important to realize that they are us, or just like us and we are them, or just like them.  Demand more of them and get more from them.   To demand more and better from them begins with us demanding more and better of ourselves.


Heart and Soul

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