I Must Get to Know Him Better

My inclination is to avoid people I don’t like. The reasons should be obvious.

Sometimes I haven’t had a choice, though. Sometimes, the person was a boss. Or a merchant or contractor with whom I had to interact. Sometimes, they were classmates or teachers. Or neighbors. Or clients. In other words, sometimes I was compelled to deal with people I didn’t like, whether I liked it or not.

Usually, I tried to make the best of a bad situation. Sometimes, I didn’t do a very good job of that.

It’s easy to be passive-aggressive in such situations. It’s also usually self-destructive.

Recently I came across a statement of Abraham Lincoln that cast the situation in a new light. Lincoln had this to say about unlikable people:

I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.

“I must get to know him better.”

I’m thinking that’s probably pretty good advice.

I’m Moved By Sacrifice

Recently, in a discussion with your grandmother about our new president, it dawned on me: my heroes — those whom I respect and admire the most — have sacrificed.

It wasn’t all about them. They risked everything for others. They were truly great in my mind.

And then just a week or so later I was listening to an interview of Kara Swisher and heard her say, “I’m moved by sacrifice.” That’s it, I thought. I, too, am moved by sacrifice. Continue reading

Words That Matter

Vera, your mom challenged me to come up with a list of books that influenced me. I’ve been thinking about it. Without success.

There are a few reasons. First, I’m not comfortable with lists. They exclude too much. Second, it’s hard to find a complete work that is exceptional, especially in contemporary literature. Too many potentially great essays become mediocre books. Third, writings that may have influenced me at an earlier stage of my life don’t mean as much to me today, and vice versa. Context matters. Fourth, many of the words that influenced me the most came in the form of letters and speeches, not books.

Yet I do want to share with you, Vera, some of the words that matter to me. And so I begin, in no particular order, with more to come in the months ahead. Continue reading