Monthly Archives: April 2008

Personal Responsibility Goes Hollywood

It’s no surprise to my listeners that I see much of today’s media as instrumental in dumbing down our collective moral sensibilities.  I’m happy to let you know of an exception.  NBC Universal and Liberty Mutual have announced a marketing and programming partnership that will deliver NBC’s two-hour movie/backdoor pilot “Kings” as well as an additional original movie to air on NBC and the USA Network during the 2008-09 season.  The movies are part of a broader Liberty Mutual marketing campaign tied to the theme of personal responsibility.

According to NBC Universal’s press release, “Through the Responsibility Project, Liberty Mutual uses independently produced short films, online content, and (with the addition of the NBC partnership) television programming, as catalysts for examining the decisions that confront people trying to ‘do the right thing.’”

Each movie will be promoted and linked to The Responsibility Project website (, which features independently-produced film shorts, discussion guides, interviews, articles, and blog postings tied to the central theme of personal responsibility.

I can’t wait to see how – and if – this works.  It seems to me that sneaking up on people with entertainment to tickle their sensibilities about honor, integrity, honesty, courage and convictions is, in this era of media “OD”ing with messages to the contrary, a very smart idea.

The World’s Best Lovers

The GfK Group ( is one of the largest market research companies in the world.  They recently released the results of a study commissioned by the Wall Street Journal Europe, in which they surveyed the sexual attitudes of 19,100 people in 20 countries:

One third of Americans and one third of Europeans believe that their countries have the best lovers.  The Greeks are the most confident – 77% rated their own country “tops” in matters of sex.  The exceptions are Belgians, Germans and the Dutch who assume that the best lovers aren’t in their own countries, but in….Italy.  And 69% of Italians agree with them!

The Greeks are also at the front of the class when it comes to frequency of lovemaking.  One quarter of Greeks say that “at least five times a week” is appropriate, while only 10% of Europeans and 16% of Americans feel the same way. 

Adultery in marriage is also regarded very differently in various countries:  90% of Turks thought adultery was intolerable; 40% of Americans agree with the Turkish viewpoint, and in all countries, women are more unforgiving of extra-marital sex than men.

Quote of the Week

If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. 
If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim.
           – Richard Bach, Author

One Day You’re Here…the Next Day You’re Not

Ever notice that after you hurt a finger or toe, it becomes the only place you keep hitting against something?  Weird, huh?  Well, the same odd thing is happening to me about my new book, “Stop Whining Start Living.”  It seems that wherever I turn, something relevant to the main concepts of responsibility, choices, courage, endurance, and character just keeps popping up.

I received an email from a twenty-four-year-old woman who is new to my radio program and my books.  She has had a tough time since the age of eleven, due to a father with a severe borderline personality disorder and a mother who simply pretended everything was fine.

But everything was not fine.  The young woman did about everything she could to get their attention and/or punish them for the abuse and neglect: anorexia, abusive relationships and go-nowhere jobs.

Ironically, her mother finally gave her a copy of my books, “Bad Childhood Good Life” and “The Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives.”  I remember telling parents that the way they could make up for their mistakes with their children was to give them the former book with enthusiasm, humility, and optimism.

Well, it worked.  The more this young woman read, the more she wanted to explore herself, and the more she did that, the more she began to enjoy life.  It was at this point that this very young woman came up with amazing insights:

“In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I resolved to begin taking care of myself and (this is a doozy for me) showing love to others.”

“I am happy to say that once I started taking responsibility for myself, I became happy for the first time in my whole life!”

“I can choose whether I want to have a good day or a bad day…just like that!.”

“I get to renew my promise to myself that if I get the chance to have one more day on the planet, I’m going to damn well use it for something great.”

….and last but not least:

“I’ve been through enough crap to not take life for granted.”

What impresses me about this young woman the most is her enthusiasm.  She gave up the ugly, but comfortable “known” (self-destructive and parentally punitive) behaviors for life-affirming, exciting, but “unknown” – and that takes guts.  I so admire guts!

My favorite of her phrases is “I get to renew my promise to myself that if I get the chance to have one more day on the planet, I’m going to damn well use it for something great!”  Just today, my yoga instructor (who is my friend) told me her fifty-seven year old cousin, whom she had just seen during Easter, died precipitously of a tear in his aorta.  They tried to save him, but he had so many immediate complications that he didn’t survive.  Just like that.  One day you’re here…the next day you’re not.

Let me repeat that:

one day you’re here…the next day you’re not.  One day your parents, children, the love of your life, a good friend is here…the next day they’re not.  So – my advice is STOP WHINING about the stuff that ultimately doesn’t matter and START LIVING each day as if it is your only opportunity to bring something beautiful into this world.

Privacy Issues for Whom?

I’m amazed at the constipated stupidity of many librarians who believe that privacy issues are more important than national security or the protection of children or the support of laws against child pornography.  Blame it on the extremist positions of the American Library Association, which I have long viewed as a family and values unfriendly bully group.

Case in point:  a recent news report of a librarian who called the police because a fellow was a repeat offender in the library, downloading kiddie porn – a Federal offense.  The first time it happened, the news report tells us that the supervisor told this librarian not to report it.  When she saw him a second time, she called the police.  This heroine was fired.  Why?  Privacy issues!  What??  There is no presumption of privacy in a PUBLIC library – especially when one is breaking a Federal law.

All of which makes it even more weird that Sprint Nextel Corporation has signed up hundreds of thousands of customers for a feature that shows them where their friends are with colored marks on a map viewable on their cellphone screens.  Basically, people would know, all day long, exactly where you are…right down to a restroom or a street corner.

All the folks who use the social-networking websites don’t seem to mind losing their privacy.  So when a librarian protects the children in the library by ridding it of a prospective child molester – who is the bad guy and who is worried about what privacy?

Choosing Life

I want to share with you a letter I got from a woman who listens to my radio program:

Two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with a serious, progressive, degenerative disease, which will eventually end in a torturous death.  That’s the bad news.  Now for the great news.

I believe this may be the best gift I could have been given.  Thanks to you and just the title of your book, “Stop Whining, Start Living,” I realize I have received knowledge most people never get-that is, that this is my best day.  I will never feel better, so I CHOOSE to live it thoroughly, and wring out every last drop of love, laughter and giving that I can.  Tomorrow, I will CHOOSE to do the same.

You can’t imagine how energizing this is, to know that each day is the best day of your life.

There is an old Rabinnic story lesson that Satan’s most potent weapon is to let humans believe they have “all the time in the world.”  That’s because when we feel that time is limitless, we tend to put less value in each moment…in each day.  When we don’t value the moment, we don’t tend to make the best, most noble decisions, and instead, follow our impulses – thereby making our souls more “available” to Satan, as the story goes.

When I received this letter, I was truly and deeply impacted.  I wondered at first, as I suspect most of you would too, if I could dig that deep into myself to pull out that perspective and live it.  I then realized that this woman’s thoughts would be in my head for the rest of my life, and would inspire and guide me if I have to face imminent and painful mortality.  My final reaction, with a slap against my own forehead, is that we need to live each day with her mentality.

She isn’t ignoring or denying her disastrous fate.  She is CHOOSING to live each day in order to make it the best she’ll ever have.  In her case, it’s literally true.  For you and me, it is figuratively true, and therefore, wholly dependent upon our choice of mood and behaviors.

Her letter is at the philosophical center of my book, “Stop Whining, Start Living.”  It humbles me to be reminded of my own words by people who are struggling more than I.  I am reminded of the values I hold most dear, and which help me survive the nonsense and villainy that tempt every day’s despair.  Purpose is the antidote to despair.  And teachers need to be reminded of that, too.