Friday, October 26, 2012

Live Google Hangout/You Tube Shiur this Motzo'ei Shabbos Lech Lecha - Trying Times: Bitachon in Difficult Situations

This Motzo'ei Shabbos, Parashas Lech Lecha
The night following 11 Marcheshvan, Oct. 27th

10:00 pm EDT

Trying Times: 

Bitachon in Difficult Situations

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Two Very Disturbing, Different, Yet Connected, Articles from today's WSJ

The first essay presents the underpinnings for the second essay...

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  • The Wall Street Journal

  • America's Religious Past 

    Fades in a Secular Age

    Unthinkable to the Founders: One in five Americans today has no religious affiliation.

    A hypothetical Martian with a deep interest in America's political and cultural history would be surprised and perhaps amused at the religious composition of those running in the current presidential campaign.
    The incumbent president is an adult convert to Christianity after being raised by a mother he has described as agnostic but interested in many faiths. His opponent is a Mormon, a faith tradition entirely indigenous to America and less than two centuries old. As for the two vice-presidential candidates, both are Catholic. This is the first presidential election in American history in which neither of the two presidential candidates or vice-presidential candidates was brought up as a Protestant.
    According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, American Protestants recently became a minority of the country (48%) for the first time—not just since the American Revolution, but since the establishment of the first English colonies on American soil. Even more notably, the same Pew research revealed that 20% of all Americans now say they are not affiliated with any religion.
    At one level, this is a victory for religious pluralism—or, to use the politically correct term, diversity. At another, when one in five Americans has no religious affiliation, it is a commentary on the diminished importance of the moral underpinnings that characterized the United States for most of its existence.
    At the country's founding, even skeptics and Deists like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin paid great respect to the morality and values that the vast majority of Americans accepted as God-given standards by which to live. These were standards rooted in Christian belief and teachings. Jefferson, as is well known, was a man of the Enlightenment who was genuinely skeptical about the supernatural claims of Christianity. Even he, however, believed in the need for virtue in national life as an essential ingredient for the safe continuation of the republic.
    The Founders shared a conviction about the necessity for national virtue, and most equated this directly with Christianity. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) said that Christianity was "the strong ground of republicanism. Many of its concepts have for their objects republican liberty and equality, as well as simplicity, integrity and economy in government."
    Happily for all of us since then, the Founders rejected the folly of the state's promoting any denominational brand of Christianity. After much early and often noisy opposition from Protestants at the popular level, Catholics came first to be tolerated and then eventually to be welcomed into the national tapestry of faiths. Just as the leaven of the Gospel message of love pricked Protestant Christian consciences to accept Catholics, so did the Gospel's message move Americans to address, and at last erase, the wicked national stain of slavery.
    Meanwhile, at the popular level, individual lives were being changed and entire communities swept clean of corruption and squalor through the phenomenal social effect of the Second Great Awakening (from approximately 1800 to 1850), a Christian revival movement that swept the country. A teacher traveling through Kentucky in 1802 at the height of the revivals there reported that "it was the most moral place" he had ever visited. In South Carolina, after similar revivals, he observed: "Drunkards have become more sober and orderly—bruisers, bullies and blackguards meek, inoffensive, and peaceable."
    It is hard to believe today, when a secular orthodoxy clanks its way peevishly through academe, the media and popular culture, that it was broadly accepted by most Americans throughout the 19th century that America was at heart Christian—not in any formal or legal sense, but in the values and morality that most people wanted to observe.
    The German-trained historian George Bancroft, in his magisterial "History of the United States of America," said that he thought America was a Christian nation established and sustained by God for the purpose of spreading liberty and democracy in the world, an idea that lies at the heart of American exceptionalism. In fact, the belief that America was called by God to be "a new Israel" and a blessing to the world goes right back to the Puritan preacher John Winthrop. In his famous shipboard sermon, "A Model of Christian Charity," on the Arabella in 1631, Winthrop made the much-quoted statement about America: "We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us."
    The eyes of all are still upon America, but it is a markedly different place. As the secularization of that city upon a hill continues, it is not hard to imagine a presidential race one day that involves candidates who practice no religion at all.
    Mr. Aikman, a former Beijing bureau chief for Time magazine, is the author of "One Nation Without God: The Battle for Christianity in an Age of Unbelief" (Baker Books, 2012).
    A version of this article appeared October 26, 2012, on page A11 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: America's Religious Past Fades in a Secular Age.

    Haunted Houses Get More 


    Top Hollywood talent is behind a new generation of horror chambers that are dialing up the fright factor with movie-quality special effects and psychological torments.

    Go behind the scenes at popular New York City haunted house "Blood Manor" and see the high-tech software, video and elaborate props used to instill fear. Meet the actors and get an inside look at the morgue and "pig room." Scariest haunted house? You decide. With WSJ Off Duty host, Wendy Bounds.

    On a recent Friday night in Manhattan, William Friedkin, the director of horror classic "The Exorcist," found himself being roughed up with a bag over his head and a serial killer lurking at his side. "I don't recall when I've experienced anything that terrifying," he says.

    Mr. Friedkin had just entered the chamber of the Angel of Death in a performance of "Killers," one of a new breed of haunted house this Halloween that is proving so petrifying that patrons have been known to lose control of their bodily functions midtour.

    This new generation of extreme entertainment features psychological torture, intense sensory deprivation and hands-on assaults by people playing mass murderers. The houses incorporate Hollywood-grade special effects, some designed by the same crews that build the sets for the biggest-grossing horror movies and backed by the directors or producers of major horror franchises.
    At "Blackout Haunted House" in Manhattan, visitors pay up to $60 to be subjected to a litany of psychological and physical abuse, including extreme disorientation in a room filled with fog where your face is masked, your hands are strapped to a table and ear-piercing death metal music is blaring through headphones while a screaming actor bashes a mallet around your fingers.
    "The Nest" in Chandler, Arizona charges $25 and mines Facebook for personal details of visitors to its serial-killer-themed house. After passing through a 3-D maze replete with bungee jumpers, collapsing hallways and a vertigo-inducing spinning tunnel, visitors hear their names echoing through rooms while images of their friends and family appear zombified and blood-spattered.
    [image]Photo Illustration by Mick Coulas; Goretorium: (l-r) Denise Truscello; Jacob Kepler for The Wall Street Journal; Blackout: Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal (2); Halloween Horror Nights: Universal Orlando Resort (2)
    A new generation of extreme entertainment features psychological torture and intense sensory deprivation.
    Horror-movie director Eli Roth has upped the ante, splashing a movie-size budget of $10 million on "Goretorium," a Las Vegas year-round haunted house in the theme of his graphically violent "Hostel" and "Cabin Fever" hits. Horror producer Jason Blum recently opened "Blumhouse of Horrors" in downtown Los Angeles, drawing on his "Paranormal Activity," "Insidious" and "Sinister" movies. (Mr. Blum is married to a Wall Street Journal reporter.)

    Horror Inc.

    • 'Goretorium,' a Las Vegas year-round haunted house, cost $10 million to build.
    • About 20% of visitors don't make it through 'Blackout Haunted House,' shouting 'safety' to get out.
    • Insurance waivers require visitors to assume all risks and warn of 'graphic scenes of simulated extreme horror.'
    • The producer of 'Paranormal Activity' just opened a house of horrors in Los Angeles.
    "Killers," like other houses, has drawn on a pool of more talented actors than the "boo" performers of the past, ones who can more convincingly deliver chilling monologues or make patrons believe they're about to have their fingers chopped off. Also in the mix: masters of Hollywood makeup, props and traditional effects who have found themselves with less movie work amid the rise of digital effects.
    Halloween has emerged as the second-biggest commercial holiday of the year, with anticipated revenue of $8 billion this year, the result of an aggressive push by retailers to create a reason for big spending between back-to-school and Christmas. Haunted houses in particular have mushroomed, popping up everywhere from blacked-out urban storefronts to cornfields and backyards.

    The Haunted House Association estimates there are 2,000 haunted houses in America. The average ticket price has risen to $15 from $5 in the 1990s, but high-end houses now charge as much as $60 for a mere 20 minutes of entertainment. Spreading across major cities, from Denver to Columbus, Ohio, the new houses largely cater to urban hipsters and hard-core horror fans, mostly in their 20s and 30s.
    This year's haunts are playing into a new taste for more immersive forms of entertainment. Felix Barrett, the co-creator of theater production "Sleep No More," where masked audience members move freely between rooms of a Manhattan warehouse, says people are seeking an antidote to the screen-based, digital age we're living in, which has become depersonalized and passive. Tom Pearson, the co-creator of "Then She Fell," an audience-led production based on the writings of Lewis Carroll, says the computer screen is our new proscenium and "when we go out, we want to be in a world where we can't see the edges—we want a more visceral, live experience."
    "Blackout Haunted House" takes that idea to an extreme, breaching the long-held no-no in haunted houses of touching customers. On a recent sold-out Saturday night, visitors started their journey by being dragged backward through a door into a pitch-black hallway before being aggressively frisked by an anonymous person whispering their names. Moving through a series of rooms, visitors are embraced by a naked male dancer and have their face licked and bitten through a bag placed over their head.
    Haunted Hoochie
    A hatchet girl at 'Haunted Hoochie.'
    "Blackout," the brainchild of experimental-theater veterans, amps up the fear factor by making visitors go it alone. The psychological games begin before you enter: Visitors are asked to sign a lengthy waiver which requires them to assume all risk and warns them about the "graphic scenes of simulated extreme horror, adult sexual content, tight spaces, darkness, fog, strobe-light effects, strong odors, exposure to water, physical contact and crawling" that they are about to experience.
    As they await their turn, visitors are positioned in a dimly lighted room so they can witness the person ahead of them being dragged through the first door while also watching others run screaming out the exit. About 20% of visitors (including this reporter) don't make it through, shouting the code word "safety" to be escorted out.
    Mike Ross, 26, of Yorktown, N.Y., made an early exit after refusing to dance with the naked dancer. Mr. Ross's girlfriend, Dana Vario of White Plains, N.Y., also 26 and a haunted-house junkie, said she plans to return, however. "You need to have an open mind and be willing to be tortured," she said.
    Humans—especially men—have always sought out horror, whether it be through classic cautionary tales, the Bible or Greek mythology. Aeschylus' "The House of Atreus" depicts horrific incidents of incest and cannibalism. The primal emotional reactions of fight or flight have become increasingly remote in contemporary society, however.
    "Most of us live ordinary lives with few high-intensity moments, and horror provides that rush we're impoverished of," says Stuart Fischoff, emeritus professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles.
    13th Floor Haunted House
    '13th Floor Haunted House'
    In brainstorming a theme for "Killers: A Nightmare Haunted House," haunted house veterans Timothy Haskell and Steve Kopelman turned to real-life serial killers, including John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and the Zodiac killer. "The scariest things in life are real," says Mr. Haskell. They built a series of chambers in a gothic-style building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, each featuring a mass murderer in a meticulously designed set. Audience members who elect to have a cross marked on their forehead in fake blood get to play victims and accomplices, as Mr. Friedkin did.
    Mr. Haskell acknowledges he faced some flak for his choice of theme, which didn't go down so well with the family of one of the victims. He says he tried not to glorify the killers, however.
    Mr. Kopelman, who has been building haunted houses for 30 years, says there has been a professionalization of the business and owners think more seriously about their business model these days. He says there are three big costs: rent, advertising and labor. In the downturn, getting short-term leases has become easier as has finding labor, he says. That has helped them bulk up with greater numbers of actors. ("The Nest" has 120 actors in all).
    The key is pacing the house to get as many people through as possible—an easier feat for venues with more space.
    With technology now more affordable, houses can buy scores of animatronics and other tricks. "The Nest" uses radio frequency identification to track visitors through its haunt with readers and antennae sending data to a server that customizes rooms. For the 3-D maze, they use chromadepth glasses that bring hot colors such as red to the forefront.
    The Nest Haunted House
    The slaughter room at 'The Nest.'
    For "Goretorium," Mr. Roth did a test run at Universal Studios' Hollywood theme park last year, with a $600,000 haunted house based on "Hostel." "I got to try things out, I got to say, 'What if we have a guy in a meat grinder being ground up and you see the guts?' and I learned how to do it," he said. He also worked as a scare performer, or "scaracter," posing as a torturer chasing visitors from room to room. "If people didn't get scared, I took it very personally," he says.

    Mr. Roth chose the Las Vegas Strip for "Goretorium" because of its focus on round-the-clock entertainment. It didn't start out as a $10 million project. "I kept adding stuff," he says.
    Like his movies—Mr. Roth is part of the "Splat Pack" of filmmakers known for their hard-core horror themes—his haunted house is violent and bloody. Set in the fictional rundown Delmont Hotel & Casino from the 1960s, it plays on torture and cannibalism, among other themes. One of Mr. Roth's prized and most expensive features is a giant human meat grinder shaped like a tunnel that disorients visitors by spinning and cost $250,000.
    Unlike most haunted houses, "Goretorium" is a year-round attraction. Mr. Roth is seeking to do what Hollywood did with horror movies like his own "Hostel," which was released widely in January 2006 and proved there was demand for horror outside the typical Halloween season. To keep horror fans in its grip, "Goretorium" also features an outdoor lounge serving gore-themed cocktails and a wedding chapel. Special events include all-night horror moviethons, costume contests and zombie walks.
    The plan is to expand to other cities, such as Hollywood, New York, London and Tokyo.

    "I want to use this to build world-class, top-of-the-line haunts and to really make it a place for the horror community," says Mr. Roth. "I want to do what Disney did for children's movies."
    A version of this article appeared October 26, 2012, on page D1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Haunted Houses Get More Extreme.

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    The Three-Ply Cord | Rabbi Pruzansky's Blog

    The Three-Ply Cord | Rabbi Pruzansky's Blog

    The cause which we fight for, day in and day out...

    Rabbi Pruzansky's Blog
    A compilation of the Rabbi's recent thoughts and ideas..
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    The Three-Ply Cord
    Posted on October 12, 2012 | 7 Comments
    King Solomon stated in his wisdom “Two are better than one, for they get a greater return for their effort.” But three are even better, “for the three-ply cord is not easily severed” (Kohelet 4:9,12). The Midrash (Kohelet Raba 4) interprets this as applicable to family continuity: “R. Zi’era said that a family of scholars will produce scholars, and a family of Bnai Torah will produce Bnai Torah, and wealth will beget wealth, ‘for the three-ply cord is not easily severed.’” One sage asked: didn’t a well known family lose their wealth? To which R. Zi’era responded: “Did I say ‘the three-ply cord is never severed?’ I said “for the three-ply cord is not easily severed.”  But why should a three-ply cord – tough and durable – ever be severed?

    A new unpublished study recently brought to my attention has challenging implications for the Torah world – to wit, that 50% of the graduates of Modern Orthodox high schools are no longer Shabbat or Kashrut observant within two years of their graduation. Another study from last year reported the not-quite-shocking news that 25% of those graduates who attend secular colleges assimilate during college and completely abandon Torah and mitzvot.

    Those are frightening statistics that should cause us all to shudder. Perhaps the numbers are less dire than they seem on the surface. For sure, a not-insignificant percentage of students enter those high schools already lacking in Shabbat observance – their families are not observant – and they leave the same way. Other teens already fall off the derech while in high school – a more exacting study would measure their observance level at graduation and then two years later. But, undoubtedly, many slide off the path of Torah as soon as they gain a modicum of autonomy. Just as certain, there are some who return to Torah years later as well.

    What are we missing? What are we lacking? What are we failing to provide them after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per child on their Jewish education? What is going wrong? And how can it be rectified?

    It needs to be stated that parents who look to blame the schools, the shuls, the youth groups, the Rabbis, the teachers, and/or the greater community are looking in the wrong place. They should start by looking in the mirror. That should be obvious, because parents have the primary obligation of educating their children – “you shall teach [these words] to your children to speak of them…” (Devarim 11:19). Even if parents delegate this task, they still remain primarily responsible. And of course, the general disclaimer always pertains in these matters: there are perfect parents whose kids go off the derech and horrendous parents (absolute scoundrels) whose children are righteous and scholarly. Even such illustrious people as Yitzchak and Rivka produced one of each – a tzadik and a scoundrel. There is no panacea, and we can only talk about the majority. There will always be exceptions.

    To me, it all goes back to basics – not just what the parents say, but what parents say and do. The “chut hameshulash” – the “three-ply cord” of our world is Torah study, prayer and Shabbat – and in no particular order. Children who see their parents prioritize shul – not once or twice a week, but every day – see shul as a value. Children who see their parents attend shul once a week and primarily socialize and converse while there see shul as a place to meet their friends. When older, they can just bypass the middleman and just go straight to their friends.

    Similarly, children who see parents learning Torah during their leisure time perceive learning as a value. Children whose Shabbat is different than the other days of the week – the Shabbat table is different, the conversation is laden with talk of Torah, ideas, values, and zemirot instead of idle chitchat, sports, and gossip – experience a different Shabbat. It’s just a different day. When Shabbat is not observed as a different day, it stops being a different day.

    I have noticed that there are teens who simply do not daven – they will converse the whole time – and invariably they are the children of fathers who themselves don’t stop talking in shul. Children who roam the halls of the synagogue Shabbat morning are invariably the offspring of parents who roam the halls. Like father, like son.

    And something else: too many teenagers have absolutely no concept of “Bigdei Shabbat” – the obligation to wear special clothing on Shabbat. I am not even referring to wearing ties and jackets, although that is clearly perceived as dignified dress in America. Many teens come to shul dressed in weekday clothing but even on the lower end of what might be called “school casual.” How do parents not impress on their children from their earliest youth with the idea of “Shabbat clothing?” That is part of what makes Shabbat different. Every child – girl or boy – should have clothing specially designated for Shabbat, ideally a jacket and tie for boys and a nice dress for girls. At age five, I put on a suit and tie for Shabbat, and never looked back. How are children allowed to leave the house on Shabbat as if it is a Sunday – whether it is to attend shul in the morning or meet their friends in the afternoon?

    Are we then surprised when Shabbat for them becomes “not Shabbat”? Their whole experience of Shabbat is being told what they can’t do, incarcerated for two hours in the morning in a place where they don’t want to be, to then eat a meal that might be devoid of spiritual substance, the day salvaged only when they meet their friends who have had similar experiences. But if Shabbat is not a different day, then apparently the moment the child gains his independence, or a moment or two after that, his Shabbat becomes Saturday, which, combined with Sunday and Friday night, makes for a long, fun and enjoyable weekend. The fifteen year old who walks around the streets Shabbat afternoon in shorts and sneakers will likely not be observing Shabbat when he is twenty. But no one will make the connection then – so make it now.

    “For the three-ply cord is not easily severed.” The three-ply cord of Torah, tefila and Shabbat is not easily undone. The survey is not as surprising as is the persistent reluctance to draw the obvious conclusions and instead cast a wide net looking for the suspects. George Orwell famously wrote that “to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” The good news is that we need not look very far for solutions. If the parent wants the child to learn Torah, then the parent should learn Torah. If the parent wants the child to daven, then the parent should daven. If the parent wants the child to enjoy Shabbat as a holy, special day, then the parent should make Shabbat into a holy, special day.

    Perhaps there is an even more important idea. The Midrash (ibid) also states: “two are better than one – that is, a man and his wife who are better than each alone, but the ‘third cord’ (that fortifies the first two) is G-d who provides them with children.”

    Parents have to convey to their children beginning in infancy a sense of G-d’s immanence, a sense of the godly in life, and a Jewish identity that is rooted in the Torah that Moshe commanded us. Children should be inculcated beginning in infancy that what they do matters before G-d, and that mitzvot are not just performances but points of connection to the Creator. When parents enlist G-d in their parenting – not as the Source of all guilt and dire punishment, but as the Source of “the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov,” then “the three-ply cord is not easily severed.”  Anything can happen. There are no guarantees in life, and each person is endowed with free choice. But “the three-ply cord is not easily severed.”

    We must reduce our expectations to the simple – what we want for our children, our greatest priority – is the summation of our lives: not that they should necessarily attend Columbia, Harvard or Yale, or become doctors, lawyers, rabbis, or businessmen, but rather “the sum of the matter, when all has been considered, is to fear G-d and keep His commandments…” (Kohelet 12:13). When we speak with pride not of “my son the doctor” or “my daughter the lawyer” but find our true pride in “my son the G-d-fearing Jew” and “my daughter the Shomeret Mitzvot,” then we and they will be prepared for the great era ahead, when G-d’s name will be made great and exalted before the nations.

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    This entry was posted in Contemporary Life, Current Events, Halacha, Machshava/Jewish Thought, Minhagim, Philosophy, Tefillah. Bookmark the permalink.

    tzorichiyun | October 14, 2012 at 5:40 am | Reply
    Very nice.

    Mr. Cohen | October 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Reply
    Rabbi Pruzansky said:

    “…25% of those graduates who attend secular colleges assimilate during college and completely abandon Torah and mitzvot.”

    Modern Orthodox parents should encourage their children to NOT attend sleep-away colleges. Instead, Modern Orthodox students should attend college near home, so they can and continue to live with parents or Orthodox roommates until marriage.

    Yair | October 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
    For those of us interested in following up, whose unpublished study are you citing?

    Rabbi | October 17, 2012 at 12:52 am | Reply
    I can’t say. It was unpublished for a reason.
    - RSP

    Mr. Cohen | October 18, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Reply
    Modern Orthodox parents should encourage their children to attend Jewish colleges, like YU and Touro.

    Jack Berlin | October 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    Rabbi. The US is in tough economic shape with a very debt/gdp ratio in part due to reckless and inefficient spending. You focus on parents in your solution to a Yeshiva Day school issue you highlight. What is the religious objective of todays modern orthodox institution? You mention yiras shamayim as a primary objective for us as a nation. If the primary goal is achieved through parents, why is our generation bankrupting itself with reckless/inefficient spending on a broken yeshiva system ? Is there a better model? Perhaps the economic resources of the community should be spent on strengthening the emunah of the parent body and the “trickle down” effect will be engaged!

    Srully Epstein | October 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
    @Jack Berlin,

    Yeshivos are expensive, true, but they are not broken. Jewish children get a terrific education today, and their parents’ spending and sacrifice for that education should not be described as “reckless” or “inefficient.”

    The good rabbis point is, I believe, that all this wonderful education faces an uphill battle if parents don’t demonstrate in the home the values that their children are learning in the yeshiva. Torah is a living experience, not at academic pursuit.

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    'Religious Jews Should Lead Social Justice Effort' - Inside Israel - News - Israel National News

    'Religious Jews Should Lead Social Justice Effort' - Inside Israel - News - Israel National News

    Rabbi Ariel: Religious Jews Should Lead Social Justice Campaign

    The religious community should be leading the social justice campaign and stood by too quietly in protests, says Ramat Gan Rabbi Ariel.
    Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
    The religious community should be leading the social justice campaign and stood by too quietly in protests, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel of the metropolitan Tel Aviv city of Ramat Gan told a conference of rabbis Monday.
    He said religious Jews abandoned the “red flag” in last summer’s social justice protests that turned parts of Tel Aviv into a “tent city.”
    Approximately 100 rabbis from throughout the country met at the first conference of its kind, dubbed “Social Justice and the Jewish State.”
    Rabbi Yaakov said he and others from the Ramat Gan Yeshiva erected a protest tent but abstained from protests Saturday nights, which would have conflicted with the Sabbath because of the late hour before the Day of Rest ends in the summer.
    He told colleagues that the “flag of social justice is the flag of religious Jews.”
    Social justice activist Jackie Edry criticized rabbis for remaining too quiet during the campaign.
    Rabbi Eliyahu Abrajil, who sits on the religious court in Jerusalem, criticized the government tax structure and said too much money is wasted on grandiose projects and not enough is spent on social services for individuals and public housing.

    Good Mussar from Harvard Business School!

    How Will You Measure Your Life?

    by Clayton M. Christensen
    Editor’s Note: When the members of the class of 2010 entered business school, the economy was strong and their post-graduation ambitions could be limitless. Just a few weeks later, the economy went into a tailspin. They’ve spent the past two years recalibrating their worldview and their definition of success.
    The students seem highly aware of how the world has changed (as the sampling of views in this article shows). In the spring, Harvard Business School’s graduating class asked HBS professor Clay Christensen to address them—but not on how to apply his principles and thinking to their post-HBS careers. The students wanted to know how to apply them to their personal lives. He shared with them a set of guidelines that have helped him find meaning in his own life. Though Christensen’s thinking comes from his deep religious faith, we believe that these are strategies anyone can use. And so we asked him to share them with the readers of HBR. To learn more about Christensen’s work, visit his HBR Author Page.
    Before I published The Innovator’s Dilemma, I got a call from Andrew Grove, then the chairman of Intel. He had read one of my early papers about disruptive technology, and he asked if I could talk to his direct reports and explain my research and what it implied for Intel. Excited, I flew to Silicon Valley and showed up at the appointed time, only to have Grove say, “Look, stuff has happened. We have only 10 minutes for you. Tell us what your model of disruption means for Intel.” I said that I couldn’t—that I needed a full 30 minutes to explain the model, because only with it as context would any comments about Intel make sense. Ten minutes into my explanation, Grove interrupted: “Look, I’ve got your model. Just tell us what it means for Intel.”
    I insisted that I needed 10 more minutes to describe how the process of disruption had worked its way through a very different industry, steel, so that he and his team could understand how disruption worked. I told the story of how Nucor and other steel minimills had begun by attacking the lowest end of the market—steel reinforcing bars, or rebar—and later moved up toward the high end, undercutting the traditional steel mills.
    When I finished the minimill story, Grove said, “OK, I get it. What it means for Intel is...,” and then went on to articulate what would become the company’s strategy for going to the bottom of the market to launch the Celeron processor.
    I’ve thought about that a million times since. If I had been suckered into telling Andy Grove what he should think about the microprocessor business, I’d have been killed. But instead of telling him what to think, I taught him how to think—and then he reached what I felt was the correct decision on his own.
    That experience had a profound influence on me. When people ask what I think they should do, I rarely answer their question directly. Instead, I run the question aloud through one of my models. I’ll describe how the process in the model worked its way through an industry quite different from their own. And then, more often than not, they’ll say, “OK, I get it.” And they’ll answer their own question more insightfully than I could have.
    My class at HBS is structured to help my students understand what good management theory is and how it is built. To that backbone I attach different models or theories that help students think about the various dimensions of a general manager’s job in stimulating innovation and growth. In each session we look at one company through the lenses of those theories—using them to explain how the company got into its situation and to examine what managerial actions will yield the needed results.
    On the last day of class, I ask my students to turn those theoretical lenses on themselves, to find cogent answers to three questions: First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS. These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction.
    As the students discuss the answers to these questions, I open my own life to them as a case study of sorts, to illustrate how they can use the theories from our course to guide their life decisions.
    One of the theories that gives great insight on the first question—how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more MBA students come to school thinking that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.
    I want students to leave my classroom knowing that.
    Create a Strategy for Your Life
    A theory that is helpful in answering the second question—How can I ensure that my relationship with my family proves to be an enduring source of happiness?—concerns how strategy is defined and implemented. Its primary insight is that a company’s strategy is determined by the types of initiatives that management invests in. If a company’s resource allocation process is not managed masterfully, what emerges from it can be very different from what management intended. Because companies’ decision-making systems are designed to steer investments to initiatives that offer the most tangible and immediate returns, companies shortchange investments in initiatives that are crucial to their long-term strategies.
    Over the years I’ve watched the fates of my HBS classmates from 1979 unfold; I’ve seen more and more of them come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children. I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. And yet a shocking number of them implemented that strategy. The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy.
    It’s quite startling that a significant fraction of the 900 students that HBS draws each year from the world’s best have given little thought to the purpose of their lives. I tell the students that HBS might be one of their last chances to reflect deeply on that question. If they think that they’ll have more time and energy to reflect later, they’re nuts, because life only gets more demanding: You take on a mortgage; you’re working 70 hours a week; you have a spouse and children.
    For me, having a clear purpose in my life has been essential. But it was something I had to think long and hard about before I understood it. When I was a Rhodes scholar, I was in a very demanding academic program, trying to cram an extra year’s worth of work into my time at Oxford. I decided to spend an hour every night reading, thinking, and praying about why God put me on this earth. That was a very challenging commitment to keep, because every hour I spent doing that, I wasn’t studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted about whether I could really afford to take that time away from my studies, but I stuck with it—and ultimately figured out the purpose of my life.
    Had I instead spent that hour each day learning the latest techniques for mastering the problems of autocorrelation in regression analysis, I would have badly misspent my life. I apply the tools of econometrics a few times a year, but I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day. It’s the single most useful thing I’ve ever learned. I promise my students that if they take the time to figure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they discovered at HBS. If they don’t figure it out, they will just sail off without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough seas of life. Clarity about their purpose will trump knowledge of activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, disruptive innovation, the four Ps, and the five forces.
    My purpose grew out of my religious faith, but faith isn’t the only thing that gives people direction. For example, one of my former students decided that his purpose was to bring honesty and economic prosperity to his country and to raise children who were as capably committed to this cause, and to each other, as he was. His purpose is focused on family and others—as mine is.
    The choice and successful pursuit of a profession is but one tool for achieving your purpose. But without a purpose, life can become hollow.
    Allocate Your Resources
    Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy.
    I have a bunch of “businesses” that compete for these resources: I’m trying to have a rewarding relationship with my wife, raise great kids, contribute to my community, succeed in my career, contribute to my church, and so on. And I have exactly the same problem that a corporation does. I have a limited amount of time and energy and talent. How much do I devote to each of these pursuits?
    Allocation choices can make your life turn out to be very different from what you intended. Sometimes that’s good: Opportunities that you never planned for emerge. But if you misinvest your resources, the outcome can be bad. As I think about my former classmates who inadvertently invested for lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help believing that their troubles relate right back to a short-term perspective.
    When people who have a high need for achievement—and that includes all Harvard Business School graduates—have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement. Kids misbehave every day. It’s really not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on your hips and say, “I raised a good son or a good daughter.” You can neglect your relationship with your spouse, and on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t seem as if things are deteriorating. People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.
    If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.
    Create a Culture
    There’s an important model in our class called the Tools of Cooperation, which basically says that being a visionary manager isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s one thing to see into the foggy future with acuity and chart the course corrections that the company must make. But it’s quite another to persuade employees who might not see the changes ahead to line up and work cooperatively to take the company in that new direction. Knowing what tools to wield to elicit the needed cooperation is a critical managerial skill.
    The theory arrays these tools along two dimensions—the extent to which members of the organization agree on what they want from their participation in the enterprise, and the extent to which they agree on what actions will produce the desired results. When there is little agreement on both axes, you have to use “power tools”—coercion, threats, punishment, and so on—to secure cooperation. Many companies start in this quadrant, which is why the founding executive team must play such an assertive role in defining what must be done and how. If employees’ ways of working together to address those tasks succeed over and over, consensus begins to form. MIT’s Edgar Schein has described this process as the mechanism by which a culture is built. Ultimately, people don’t even think about whether their way of doing things yields success. They embrace priorities and follow procedures by instinct and assumption rather than by explicit decision—which means that they’ve created a culture. Culture, in compelling but unspoken ways, dictates the proven, acceptable methods by which members of the group address recurrent problems. And culture defines the priority given to different types of problems. It can be a powerful management tool.
    In using this model to address the question, How can I be sure that my family becomes an enduring source of happiness?, my students quickly see that the simplest tools that parents can wield to elicit cooperation from children are power tools. But there comes a point during the teen years when power tools no longer work. At that point parents start wishing that they had begun working with their children at a very young age to build a culture at home in which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one another, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do. Families have cultures, just as companies do. Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently.
    If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.
    Avoid the “Marginal Costs” Mistake
    We’re taught in finance and economics that in evaluating alternative investments, we should ignore sunk and fixed costs, and instead base decisions on the marginal costs and marginal revenues that each alternative entails. We learn in our course that this doctrine biases companies to leverage what they have put in place to succeed in the past, instead of guiding them to create the capabilities they’ll need in the future. If we knew the future would be exactly the same as the past, that approach would be fine. But if the future’s different—and it almost always is—then it’s the wrong thing to do.
    This theory addresses the third question I discuss with my students—how to live a life of integrity (stay out of jail). Unconsciously, we often employ the marginal cost doctrine in our personal lives when we choose between right and wrong. A voice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK.” The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails. Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.”
    I’d like to share a story about how I came to understand the potential damage of “just this once” in my own life. I played on the Oxford University varsity basketball team. We worked our tails off and finished the season undefeated. The guys on the team were the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. We got to the British equivalent of the NCAA tournament—and made it to the final four. It turned out the championship game was scheduled to be played on a Sunday. I had made a personal commitment to God at age 16 that I would never play ball on Sunday. So I went to the coach and explained my problem. He was incredulous. My teammates were, too, because I was the starting center. Every one of the guys on the team came to me and said, “You’ve got to play. Can’t you break the rule just this one time?”
    I’m a deeply religious man, so I went away and prayed about what I should do. I got a very clear feeling that I shouldn’t break my commitment—so I didn’t play in the championship game.
    In many ways that was a small decision—involving one of several thousand Sundays in my life. In theory, surely I could have crossed over the line just that one time and then not done it again. But looking back on it, resisting the temptation whose logic was “In this extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK” has proven to be one of the most important decisions of my life. Why? My life has been one unending stream of extenuating circumstances. Had I crossed the line that one time, I would have done it over and over in the years that followed.
    The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.
    Remember the Importance of Humility
    I got this insight when I was asked to teach a class on humility at Harvard College. I asked all the students to describe the most humble person they knew. One characteristic of these humble people stood out: They had a high level of self-esteem. They knew who they were, and they felt good about who they were. We also decided that humility was defined not by self-deprecating behavior or attitudes but by the esteem with which you regard others. Good behavior flows naturally from that kind of humility. For example, you would never steal from someone, because you respect that person too much. You’d never lie to someone, either.
    It’s crucial to take a sense of humility into the world. By the time you make it to a top graduate school, almost all your learning has come from people who are smarter and more experienced than you: parents, teachers, bosses. But once you’ve finished at Harvard Business School or any other top academic institution, the vast majority of people you’ll interact with on a day-to-day basis may not be smarter than you. And if your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited. Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good about themselves, too. When we see people acting in an abusive, arrogant, or demeaning manner toward others, their behavior almost always is a symptom of their lack of self-esteem. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.
    Choose the Right Yardstick
    This past year I was diagnosed with cancer and faced the possibility that my life would end sooner than I’d planned. Thankfully, it now looks as if I’ll be spared. But the experience has given me important insight into my life.
    I have a pretty clear idea of how my ideas have generated enormous revenue for companies that have used my research; I know I’ve had a substantial impact. But as I’ve confronted this disease, it’s been interesting to see how unimportant that impact is to me now. I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.
    I think that’s the way it will work for us all. Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.
    Clayton M. Christensen ( is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is the author of the forthcoming book, How Will You Measure Your Life? (May 15, 2012), which is based on this article.