Archive for June, 2009

You Either Have Integrity Or You Don’t

June 30, 2009

I loved my job as operations manager for a small investment management firm. Numbers had always been a second language to me, and the work required me to be logical, methodical, and organized—useful traits which continue to serve me well.

Four years after my high school friend, Neil, had hired me, however, my calling came calling. I gradually became consumed with the idea of writing for a living. It wasn’t long before the work I was being paid to do no longer held my interest. I didn’t have a computer at home so I stayed after work to type my magazine articles and greeting card ideas on my work computer, an arrangement which Neil had approved.

Soon, however, my personal use of my work computer began spilling (more…)

Don’t Kick Yourself—Ask Three Questions Instead

June 29, 2009

large-rose-colored-glasses-on-beachA friend recently confessed that he had resumed an addiction he thought he’d conquered years ago. In the not-too-distant past, I would have reacted judgmentally. Instead, my heart went out to him, imagining the shame and vulnerability he must be feeling.

In the last few years, I have been so humbled by life that judging others for such shortcomings has become unthinkable. I’m very happy with the life I’ve built and with who I am, yet there are areas of my life in which, from all objective standards, I have failed miserably.

True, I’ve (more…)

Voices of Glory—Great Act, Great Story!

June 28, 2009

I like watching shows like America’s Got Talent because you never know who’s going to walk out on stage and make some magic happen. This brother-sister team of Michael II, Avery and Nadia Cole not only sing beautifully, their backstory is profoundly moving. This was one of those rare times when all the elements came together to create a truly touching and memorable moment. As judge Piers Morgan so aptly said afterward, “That (more…)

The EriAm Sisters—Stars of Tomorrow?

June 27, 2009

It was refreshing to see this sister act on America’s Got Talent on June 23, 2009. Eleven-year-old Haben Abraham can belt out the tunes, and she and her sisters—fourteen-year-old Salina and fifteen-year-old Lianda—are genuinely close, as is their whole family. Haben already has her own website and has appeared on some (more…)

Eight Words

June 26, 2009

old-man-hugging-childThe recent and sudden death of one of my very best friends has added a measure of urgency to my life’s work. While listening to all the wonderful eulogies at Neil’s memorial service, I wondered how many people leave this world with unfinished business—damaged relationships, loving words unspoken, hurts and resentments unforgiven.

Neil and I had talked about that. We both prioritized our relationships with friends and loved ones and I am confident that he would be at peace with the way he left things. 

If there are any relationships in your life in need of repair, I hope you take these eight very important words to heart:

There is still time to make things right.

Please do (more…)

The Nicest Thing

June 25, 2009

black-eyed-peasIt was unthinkable to miss a New Year’s Eve party at Gibson and Joan Carothers’ house in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. At the stroke of midnight, spoons at the ready, everyone would dig into a bowl of Joan’s black-eyed peas and wash them down with a glass of bubbly. It was an old Southern tradition, said the Louisiana natives, that good luck would surely be yours if the first thing you swallowed in the new year was a spoonful of black-eyed peas.

But one year, I had a deadline to meet and could ill afford to lose a day spent recovering from a late-night celebration. So I called Gibson at his office, explained the situation, and gave my regrets.

A couple hours later, (more…)

Toto’s Hit “Africa” by an A Capella Jazz Choir from Slovenia!

June 24, 2009

I’m a big fan of creative artistry and I’ve always loved a cappella performances. So it was a real treat to watch Toto‘s smash 1982 hit Africa (one of my favorite songs) reimagined by Perpetuum Jazzile, an a cappella jazz choir from Slovenia! I was particularly impressed by the opening two minutes, in which the choir simulated an African thunderstorm with their hands. I applaud their creativity!

Click here to order a CD of this performance.

For the sake of comparison, here is Toto’s music video for Africa. (more…)

One Family’s Travails and Triumphs With Autism

June 23, 2009

James Autry and Sally Pederson

James Autry
and his wife, Sally Pederson, graciously shared the story of how their autistic son changed their life in my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything.

Autry, the author of ten books, had a distinguished career at Meredith Corporation where he was senior vice president of its Magazine Group. Pederson is the former Lieutenant Governor of Iowa.

Here are some moving excerpts from their story. Autry’s quotes are in regular type. Pederson’s quotes are in italics.

Sally and I were married in 1982. Three years later, when our son Ronald was two years old, we knew something was terribly wrong. His subsequent diagnosis of autism, and my response to that diagnosis, changed everything in my life. Not only did it accelerate my process of awareness and consciousness, it profoundly changed my priorities. I was a highly paid senior corporate executive at Meredith Corp. and even had thoughts about becoming CEO some day. Instead, as I watched Ronald’s struggle to find his place in the world, I realized that I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t keep traveling twenty-two weeks a year. Sally and I sat down and agreed that as soon as we had saved enough that we could get by financially, I would take early retirement.

We came to terms with the immediate reality of Ron’s autism by simply (more…)

Farewell to a Wonderful Friend

June 22, 2009

Back row: Neil's sister Karen, Neil's wife Cathie, Neil, Neil's brother Steve. Front row, Neil's daughters Luci and Helen, Neil's mom Bev.

Today is the memorial service for Neil Dolinsky, one of my best friends in the world. I wanted to share the eulogy I’ll be delivering in order to celebrate Neil’s life and to introduce him to those who were not fortunate enough to know him.

Postscript: Everyone who spoke at Neil’s service did a wonderful job. I am including their eulogies as well because everyone knew Neil in a different light and all of our tributes together painted a complete portrait of this unique man. Indeed, after the service, more than one person commented that even if they hadn’t been close to Neil, they now felt like they really knew him.

All photos were taken between April 5 and April 15, 2009.


Neil was my friend. I was two years ahead of Neil in high school, where we met, and we later worked together for seven years at a small investment management firm.

One of my most enduring, and endearing, memories of Neil was spending time in Mr. Thompson’s computer lab at Apollo High School in the months leading up to Neil’s sixteenth birthday. I had programmed the computer—which was nothing more than a teletype with yellow paper—so that as soon as Neil logged on, it printed out exactly how many weeks, days, minutes and seconds he had to wait until he turned sixteen and could get his driver’s license. Neil was so excited about getting his license, and he thought that program was so cool, that we visited that teletype pretty much every day.

After all, as everyone here knows, Neil could be described in two words: (more…)

A Father’s Love

June 21, 2009

I found this deeply touching story in Buster Olney‘s profile of New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain in the 12/17/07 issue of ESPN The Magazine. If any one act could perfectly convey the love and devotion of a parent, this would be it.

Yankees Royals Baseball

Joba Chamberlain and his father, Harlan

Credit for that humility goes to his father, Harlan, a man who has suffered the crippling effects of polio since childhood and who raised Joba on his own after he and the boy’s mother divorced. Quick story: Joba had left-knee surgery as a sophomore at Nebraska, and he spent his first hours of recovery sprawled out on the couch at their Omaha home. At 5:30 in the morning, Harlan hobbled into (more…)

My Video Interview With James Van Praagh

June 20, 2009



James Van Praagh

I was honored to interview James Van Praagh, a prolific author and one of the world’s best-known spiritual mediums. James, who was kind enough to contribute a story to my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, answered my questions about his brand-new book, Unfinished Business: What The Dead Can Teach Us About Life.


James bridges the gap between the living and dead by providing evidential proof of life after death via detailed messages from those who have passed on. HIs first book, Talking To Heaven, served as the inspiration for the 2002 CBS mini-series, Living with the Dead, starring Ted Danson. That mini-series, in turn, inspired Ghost Whisperer, a (more…)

Out With Type A and Type B . . . In With Type E!

June 19, 2009

tom-gegax-michael-levinWhile writing The Big Book of Small Business with Tires Plus founder Tom Gegax, I challenged myself to come up with a fun, descriptive way to describe enlightened business leaders. Then it hit me—instead of Type A or Type B, enlightened leaders were Type E! Here’s how we described them in the book:

big-book-of-small-business-coverSeat-of-the-pantsers typically come in two types: Type A, dictator, hard-driving, self-centered, gets results but leaves a trail of human debris; or, Type B, doormat, passive, people pleaser, tolerates less productivity. Enlightened leaders—let’s call them Type E—produce uncommon, sustainable results through firm, but caring, leadership coupled with “best practices.” Type E leaders are ever alert and nurturing. They leverage intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being to deepen connections and inspire achievement.

The good news is, Type E leadership is (more…)

Remember When?

June 18, 2009

Alan Jackson

The circumstances of my life are a bit different than the lyrics to this Alan Jackson song, but they’re close enough to resonate deeply with me. With my daughter turning thirty and getting married earlier this month, this lovely ballad is a poignant (more…)

“Autistic License”—A Poignant Look at Autism

June 17, 2009




Michael Paul Levin and Stacey Dinner-Levin

Michael Paul Levin is a friend of mine and a valued member of my creative writing group. He and his wife, Stacey Dinner-Levin, have four boys; the oldest, Geordy, now 19, is autistic. To enlighten and educate others about the challenges of autism, Stacey wrote a play called Autistic License; Michael, a gifted actor, stars as their son, Geordy. The play has been presented in numerous venues to raise funds for autism awareness.

As someone whose life has not personally been touched by autism, I was (more…)

Impoverished Kids + Classical Music = Magic!

June 16, 2009

In 1975, Venezuelan economist and amateur musician José Antonio Abreu founded El Sistema, a government-funded music-education program. Abreu believed that an orchestra is a key component of an ideal society, and that all children should be nurtured in music. 

One of the kids who came through the program is Gustavo Dudamel, who was hired by the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Music Director at the ripe old age of twenty-six in 2007.

As this April 13, 2008 Sixty Minutes feature on Dudamel explains:

[Dudamel] was in a music program which is a Venezuelan innovation. It is called El Sistema, “the system,” and it takes children, a quarter of a million children, almost all from poor neighborhoods, and teaches them how to play instruments. This has led to hundreds of youth orchestras sprouting up all over the country. But El Sistema is less a music program than a profound social movement that takes kids off the streets, takes them away from crime and drugs and despair.

The above video, courtesy of TED, features Dudamel in Caracas conducting (more…)

Do Not Let Anyone Tell You Who You Are

June 15, 2009

The very life force within you is a divine spark, an extension of God. Though you cannot claim to be God, God’s divine essence is your birthright. Just as a drop of water is not the ocean itself, still it is of the ocean and has all the characteristics of the ocean.


Eckhart Tolle

I like how Eckhart Tolle addresses our divine nature on page 189 in his book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose:

Nobody can tell you who you are.  It would just be another concept, so it would not change you. Who you are  (more…)