To Be Great, Start!

The late writer and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” What does this mean in the context of your life? For me as a writer and creator, it is quite relevant. I have quite a few projects that are just sitting in my brain right now, waiting to be liberated. Why have they not been freed onto the blank page or video screen? Various reasons, but they all amount to one thing — excuses.

It is true that a video made with a certain kind of camera with the right kind of lighting and sound and background and… would be better from a technical point of view, but if you keep waiting to have the right sound and everything you might make a hundred thousand videos… in your brain. Who benefits from the videos in your head? Absolutely nobody. I can attest to this, having made far too many videos in my head. I recently promised that there would be a video in this issue and I am here to deliver.

I was recently in a synagogue kitchen and saw somebody struggle trying to find themselves a teaspoon so that they could mix a bit of sugar into their coffee. I explained a technique that I came up with one day that works pretty well. Since then it occurred to me that I could easily explain something similar — that is, how to make instant coffee if you don’t have a teaspoon. I kept on deliberating on how to make the video and finally decided to just start. You’ll notice that the sound isn’t fantastic… but it’ finished. I can always make another video. I learned a few things about making video through making this one. Here is the finished result.

Is the video perfect? Far from it! I would fire the person that made that video if it had been handed to me as an assignment. Fortunately, I’m my own boss in this regard, so I was lenient and told myself to improve for next time… and there will be a next time, G-d willing!

What are you going to start today to be great?

Learning Sharing from Malka

I have a two year old daughter named Malka and she loves snacks. She will often say, “Dupize?” which means surprise if you are looking at the two year old to adult English dictionary.

What she means by surprise is that she wants me to take a small Star Wars mailbox that we got at Target last Valentine’s Day and put something sweet in there for her. Most of the time she directly asks for snacks (dates, an apple, cheese stick, etc.) but when I offer her one, she always asks for a second one — and she says “Chaim?” meaning she wants to give one to Chaim as well. While it’s often the case that Chaim just isn’t interested in the thing she is offering, she almost always will ask — and sometimes she will ask for one of the thing for her mother as well.

In our own lives, we should think before indulging in a treat for ourselves, perhaps there is somebody else with whom I could share this? Would it be possible for me to help somebody as well as myself? If you see, for example, Time Out New York being handed out on the street and you know that one of your coworkers enjoys reading it, why not grab a second one for said coworker?

If you have a habit of making yourself a sandwich for lunch, why not make a second if you know there is a possibility that there could be someone on your commute asking for food money. While it is entirely possible that the person will turn you down (I have had this happen to me in the past as you may well remember) I think it’s still better to have it to offer than not to have it at all.

Let us reach out beyond ourselves — instead of indulging in boredom, how can we help someone in need? You may find that through the beauty of reaching outside of yourself, you will never reach boredom in the first place!

Preparation and Fatigue

Have you ever been in a long meeting where you had to make a lot of decisions and at the end felt exhausted? There’s a reason for that – making decisions is tiring! It’s called decision fatigue, and it’s serious!

By the end of an average day you may be downright exhausted. I have found that planning and preparation and having some decisions already made in advance can help quite a bit!

Clothing – during the week, I wear a long sleeved collared shirt, black pants, a belt, black doc martens, and black socks that usually match (though that doesn’t always happen!) When do I pick the clothing I wear? Shortly before I go to bed. Why?

For one, it is one fewer decision to make in the morning – why add a decision so early on in the day? At night I am already tired and so a little bit more doesn’t make much of a difference — but so early on would be powerful.

Food prep – every Monday morning like clockwork I set up the vegetable cooker to make a couple of cups of quinoa. I have this quinoa for lunch with beans, avocado, and sometimes tofu when I happen upon it.

Premade decisions – I know in advance that every day after my workout, I will shower and drink chocolate vegan Shakeology, not necessarily in that order. I know that when I get to work, I’ll make a bowl of oats with chia seeds and hemp hearts. If your decisions are pre-made and planned, you can save decision energy for other matters. It’s a bit like when I had a car and would go into neutral when I headed down a big hill — and fun, too!

Two Greetings — Two Reactions!

There’s a fellow that hands out leaflets to a jewelry store – he stands on the corner about a block from my office on Lexington Avenue. I see him every morning and wish him a happy day, whatever day that is. He stops what he is doing for a moment and shakes my hand, wishing me well.

Here’s the thing – I’m pretty sure he knows I have no interest in what he is offering – but I shake his hand happily and he now seems to anticipate my arrival, hand outstretched sometimes and ready to shake. The first couple of times I wished him a happy Monday, for example, he actually seemed taken aback. With each day he realized that I actually meant him well, and he began to open up a little. He told me about another job he worked, and going to pray on Sunday, and the little details that make a life what it is — and not just a series of events that happen to a stranger on the street.

One morning, I saw another fellow handing out leaflets. He was on the block before the jewelry pamphlet guy. I looked at him as i passed and slowed down wishing him well and a happy day. He looked toward me, acknowledging words had come out of my mouth, but said nothing. He seemed almost disappointed that I didn’t take his leaflet — but on the other hand, I may have been just reading a bit into that.

Since I wasn’t wishing him well for my benefit but for his, I thought of it as a present left on a bench for someone that gets left behind. Maybe he didn’t speak English, or maybe he just was overwhelmed by someone acknowledging him rather than the more typical response – nothing.

I soon saw the jewelry store man and got the warm response. Today, it would have to do for two! I would like to think that as much as he made my morning better, I improved his as well.

Why I Wish Health and Wellness to a Hater

Earlier today, I encountered a bit of the vicious side of humanity that can sometimes rear its head in the worst of times and in this case in the hustle and bustle of a subway train. I had to go from my work’s new office to the main campus of the college and one of my coworkers insisted that I took the train, even though it wouldn’t be such a long walk for me and I enjoy walking in nice weather such as we had today.


I don’t know the last time I took the six train, but it has been a very long time and I am unfamiliar with its route. I knew my coworker said to take it down two stops and that was all. I got on the train — it was packed. It wasn’t too long before we got to the next stop, and people started pouring out of the train. I did my best to stay out of the way of the people getting off the train, but for one person my best was not good enough.

He looked back at me as he got off the train and angrily said, “You should have gotten off, you flipping Jew!” Except… he didn’t say flipping. He used a word that starts with the letter F, involves u, c, and k, and is definitely not firetrucking because that is not a real word.

I looked at him bewildered as he stared at me from the platform and he started to back away. Before he was fully out of earshot, I said back to him, “What does one have to do with another?” I looked over, bewildered, at another person on the train and he gave me a bit of a shrug like he had no idea what would prompt a person to say such a hostile thing to a total stranger.

As I walked up to 1300 York Ave., I thought more about this man and how I fundamentally had not stopped him or anyone else from getting off of the train, just delayed by a matter of seconds. The same amount of time that he had spent hurling an expletive and invoking my religion in a rude manner. I felt sad for him – yet I did not wish him ill and I do not wish him ill.

Far from it. I have learned from Brendon Burchard that sending well wishes to others, even if they don’t know you are doing it, is a fantastic thing.  I thought of this person and imagined that he had a life that was replete with its own struggles and pain and unhappiness, struggles and sorrow — and all I wished for him was health, happiness, and well-being. I repeated it a few times in my mind as I walked – I wish him health, happiness, and well-being.

It has been easier putting the ugliness of the incident behind me because I do not have hatred or anger in my heart for this person, even if he had it in his when he uttered those words.

I wish him health, happiness, and well-being.

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Subway Dwellers

Living in New York as I do, and not being in the elite one percent, I spend a lot of time on the subway. A person could in theory buy an unlimited weekly metrocard (a plastic card that allows you to travel on the bus, subway, and Roosevelt Island tram) and go to all five boroughs, visiting hundreds of locations for thirty one dollars.


You learn a lot about people on the subway — rather, you can choose to learn a lot if you pay attention, something that just about everyone can afford to do if they want. Much of the lessons learnable on the train come down to perspective, however.

It is far too often that we see people that are less fortunate than we on the train and in train stations. It is not too difficult to discern that a person doesn’t really have anywhere to go but the street when they have their entire set of worldly belongings with them, and appear to be wearing multiple layers of clothing as though this were the most convenient way to keep it with them — and sometimes, it sadly is.

Some may look at such a person and react with a look of disgust, thinking poorly of the person. Others would look at the same person and think more introspectively. What have I got, they might think. Am I grateful for what I have? Am I as secure as I think?

On a field trip in high school we went to the cloisters in New York and a woman asked me for change – anything would help. All I had was a dime and she was quite grateful — it was 1994, I believe. She said to me to always be kind to those in need, as I would never know when I might end up being the needy one.

I’ve remembered her words and try to help when I can.

Persistent, Consistent, Discipline – Win!

This morning as I was writing in my journal (I have been journaling since about a week or so before my son was born — though before that I wrote in the same series of journals for a few years in high school and college and took a long break…)

I wrote about how I have been trying to write more — not write more journal, mind you, but write more fiction and non-fiction. This sentence came out of my mind and onto the page.

Daily discipline applied with urgency and consistency wins over occasional great effort

Think about it — it’s the lesson from the fable of the hare and the turtle who race. The hare gets a great start while the turtle is plodding along — but as soon as the hare decides to go to sleep, the turtle’s dedication and consistent forward motion gets him there.

Are you trying to get more fit? (Contact me — gordond @ gmail — I actually enjoy helping people achieve their fitness goals.) Who is going to get more fit — the person who works out once a month for five hours, or the person who works out every day for twenty minutes? The once a month person will tire themselves out and any success will slowly atrophy until the next time. The twenty minute person will go from strength to strength.

I promised myself (and I don’t mind sharing this with you) that I am trying to write at least one hundred words a day — I meant fiction, really. I am working on a monthly / weekly e-mail that will have new fiction from me. If you would be interested in such a thing please send me a note — gordond @ gmail.

Daily discipline. If you want to get it done, it can’t just be whenever you feel like it. Novels don’t get written by the author sitting down only when ‘inspiration’ strikes — the chair must be occupied and words must be written.

Don’t be the thing getting in the way of your success. Start now and push forward!