Approval Trap (1): Birth to Adulthood


It was a lovely day on my life coaching deck and Talia came over wearing her gorgeous bright-colored dress, but it did not help lighten up her spirit. She was very sad. I had known her for a while and admired her deeply. Talia was an example of perfection for me. She was beautiful, she was friendly, she was knowledgeable, she was in a relationship, she had a perfect job and she was amazingly smart. She played musical instruments (yes, more than one), already held several degrees. While other people struggled to manage their time, she had worked full time and completed 6 university courses with high scores. She had traveled the world. And she had done all that by the age of 25.

Still, Talia was a very sad and tormented woman, because nothing she did seemed to please her mother.

Talia was in what I call the approval trap.

Unfortunately, we are all born into that trap without a choice. The way things are structured when we are young, we seek our parents’ approval to learn about life and build our confidence. Living every day of our life around them makes them almighty gods for us and we do everything within our tiny power to get their approval.

Read more about how to stop seeking approval


The Art of NEXTing

NEXT! buttonAn old Chinese proverb says “Fall seven times, get up eight”. While in the past, people thought that high intelligence or IQ would guarantee falling less often, research on emotional intelligence has discovered that smart people fall exactly as often as anybody else, but those with high emotional intelligence are better at “getting up”.

Optimism is better than Knowledge

During the 80’s, Martin Seligman researched optimism and its effects on people’s performance. One of his greatest discoveries was presented in his research of insurance sales people. Seligman convinced an insurance company to hire people who passed the optimism test but failed their standard test. He compared their sales to those of sales people who were hired based on the standard tests alone. In the first year, Seligman’s group sold 21% more than the other group did. In the second year, they sold 57% more! The conclusion of his research was that optimistic people handle rejection better than others.

One great art that will help you get up again, whether you are facing a challenge or difficulty in your personal life or business, is the art of NEXTing.

Read more about how to move on and succeed

Stronger Together

Gal and Ronit BarasI did not get my social skills from my agents, so I had to hold on to “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” and survive many “near death” experiences before the idea sank in: If I want to survive, I must have good relationships with my parents, siblings, friends and teachers and I had better learn the rules FAST!

The bad news is that grownups without social skills were once kids without social skills. The good news is that kids without social skills do not have to be grownups without social skills. They can change. In fact, you can improve your social skills greatly at any age.

I personally discovered the rules the hard way. At the age of 16, after being a total failure and being kicked out of school, without friends and having constant fights with my siblings and my parents, I figured there was something I needed to understand. By the time I finally got it, I had already had countless failed encounters with people around me that I had to get over. It made me vow that my kids would get good social skills from me from the second they were born.

So even if you are not the most social person in the world, your kids can be!

In his book “How to win friends and influence people”, Dale Carnegie wrote what I consider the bible of building relationships. Carnegie wrote his book in 1937 and it is amazing how relevant it is now. I copied the rules and used my explanation and suggestions for each of them. I hope you will find inspiration in those timeless rules.

Read more about how to build social skills


Thai girl showing respectIn a family, the parents are like the government of a country. Not only do they make the decisions, but they also need to show the way through their actions, because everybody else (that is “the kids”) is watching them all the time.

In the movie Ali G Indahouse, Ali G is standing in his funny suit, red cap and heavy “bling” in the middle of the British Parliament and has this conversation that captures the essence of this in a funny but powerful way.

Ali G: R.E.S.T.E.C.P! Do ya even know wha’ it spellz?

Cabinet MP (hesitantly): Restecp?

Ali G: Yes, Restecp. ‘Owz anyone out there meant to restecp each uvva if you lot in ‘ere don’t even start restecp’ing one anuvva?

Beautifully said, no?

As you are probably aware, self-respect is the basis of confidence and respect for others is the basis of assertiveness.

When you respect yourself and others, they do not have to be exactly like you anymore. Being different is OK. Respect opens the way to understanding and then to cooperation and harmony (do I hear anyone saying “World peace”?).

The problem is that we live in a world where we do not get too enough respect. Jobs are cut to improve the bottom line of the company and even lives are sacrificed to make a bunch of people richer than they already are. Every day, we are being manipulated from every direction and we know it is not for our own good but for somebody else’s.

Read more about how to get more respect

The art of Excellence (3): Risk, success and happiness

Little by little one walks farThere is a beautiful story about 2 sales people of a shoe company sent to a deserted African country to examine business potential. The whiner calls his boss and says, “People here walk barefoot. They do not wear shoes at all. Our sales potential is zero”. The winner calls his boss and says, “People here walk barefoot. They do not wear shoes at all. We have no competition. The whole market is ours for the taking”.

Every success involves risk. It may sound funny, but the greater the risk, the greater the achievement. Poor people consider risk takers foolish, but those who excel will tell you that no achievement is ever accomplished by staying in your comfort zone.

The “comfort zone” is a very dangerous place, because it repels creativity and success. The comfort zone is the place where you welcome your fears with open arms and keep them company. There is nothing wrong with relaxing from time to time and resting before climbing the next mountain, but when we get too comfortable, out choices are eventually limited to getting up or drowning.

Read more about how to succeed in life

The art of Excellence (2): Fighting poverty

Life is like a play. It is not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters
– Seneca

When one door closes, another door opensYou see, luck has nothing to do with success and all the successful people will tell you that most of their success did not fall from the sky but there was some opportunity they were able to recognize. Developing the attitude to recognize opportunities is mistaken for some mystical luck similar to winning the lottery.

When my son was preparing for a competition, I told him the lottery story. This story is a ticket out of poverty. Take every opportunity to use it.

Every Friday, the archangel Gabriel went down to the Wailing Wall to pick up the notes of requests people stuck on the wall during the week. Every week, he read all the notes and organized them before presenting them to God.

One day, Gabriel want to God and said, “Dear God, there is this old man who comes here every week, rain or shine, for 25 years. Every week, he begs you to let him win the lottery. He is a good, religious man and never asks for anything else. Please God, I have read his requests every week for 25 years and it breaks my heart. Can you please grant the poor man his wish?”

God said, “I would do it gladly, if only he bought a ticket”.

Winning the lottery requires luck, but it will never happen if you do not get into the game. If you complain about not succeeding, if you are jealous of other people’s success, if you have a huge list but do nothing to achieve it, God is waiting for you to buy a ticket.

Successful people do not just wish. They buy tickets.

Read more about how to achieve success and excellence

The Good Life

Julie & JuliaThe difficulty kids have with goal setting is their short life experience. Without knowing enough about cause and effect, kids focus on having fun right now. Spending any amount of effort on a reward they may or may not get in the future is just not something they do.

In the famous 1972 “Stanford marshmallow experiment”, psychologist Walter Mischel put kids in an empty room and put a treat next to them. He told them they could eat their treat, but if they waited 15 minutes, he would give them another. Of 600 children, a third waited long enough for their reward, some snatched the treat and ate it as soon as he left the room and most of the kids did their best to avoid eating the treat by distracting themselves (moving, playing with their hair, etc).

Mischel’s original conclusion was that older kids can wait longer and deferred gratification is related to age. However, years later, he followed up with some of the children in his experiment and discovered that those who waited longer were also more successful in life.

In 1988, Mischel found that “preschool children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delay paradigm were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent”. In 1990, he found a correlation between the ability to delay gratification and higher Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.

This is where we (parents) come in. If we teach our kids to set goals and achieve them, their life will be so much better. So how do we do it?

Read more about goal setting and kids

The art of Excellence (1): Success with high standards

He is able show thinks he is ableIn the eyes of the average person, there is something snobby in striving for excellence. For some people, possibly for most, excellence is pure luck, almost a luxurious state of living that you are either born with or not. It is no coincidence that those who think this way do not excel at many things in life.

There is a paradox in the search for excellence, because it is the result of an attitude, a habit you need to have in the first place in order to achieve it. There is something frustrating in understating what T. Alan Armstrong said, “Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship act”. It is frustrating, because it makes you think that excelling is hard work.

Excellence goes together with extraordinary success that is higher than all standards. It is frustrating because you cannot reach excellence without succeeding big time.

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Make a list (31): Movies I loved

The pursuit of happyness I love watching movies. About 20 years ago, Gal and I agreed that going to the movies would be one of our regular “dates” as a couple. When Eden was just 11 months old, we got her a babysitter and went out for a movie. The town we lived in was so small it had one cinema that showed the same movie for 3 weeks, so we sometimes just went for a walk and talked about the movies.

There are movies we like and movies we do not like, but we always like to discuss the movies we have watched, their messages and what we can learn from them. This is the reason Gal and I make a huge effort to watch movies with our kids. It gives all of us the opportunity to learn from one another’s perspective, because we do not have enough time in this life to experience everything ourselves. Of course, it also creates a deeper shared family experience.

I think that movies are like books – a lifelong experience is condensed into 1½ hours (lately more like 2½ hours) or 300 pages, with the possibility to shape our perspective on life and change our attitude. To me, movies are a lot more than motion pictures – some movies are a real form of art.

I separate the movies to the ones that move me or the ones that make no impact on my life. I especially like movies that make me think and that leave an impression on me that lasts longer than the movie.

Read more about what you can learn from movies

Who Knows?

Little dog, big dogMotivation can be external or internal. That is, a person can be prompted, encouraged or coerced to do something by somebody else, or they can do it for their own reasons.

Kids, being so young and dependent, begin their life by mimicking their parents and other carers and by following their instructions. “Those big, loving, all-knowing creatures that take care of me must be right, so it’s best to be guided by them”, they reason.

This quickly develops into obedience, even when following the instructions might cause discomfort to the child. “It’s a small price to pay for the big person’s love and besides, maybe the big person is right and this is good for me?”

I find with my kids that their principals, teachers, coaches and other instructors tend to encourage conformity and submission to authority and I have to deal with it sometimes and help them strengthen their internal motivation. You will recognize this has happened to your children when they start talking about getting away with things, instead of whether or not those things should be done in the first place.

Read more about kids’ motivation