REAL ANSWER TO LIFE’S PROBLEMS
Zoma said, “Who is wise? One who learns from all people. Who is mighty? One who overcomes his own Inclination. Who is rich? One who is happy with what he has. Who is honorable? One who honors others.” The commentators explain that Ben Zoma was asking who is praiseworthy for his being wise, mighty, rich, and honorable.
What is the common denominator of all four of these lessons from Ben Zoma?
The common denominator of the four values and aspirations of humanity, Wisdom, Wealth, Might, and Honor is that, despite the misunderstanding that many people have, not one of the four is an external factor. As a matter of fact, dependence on external ‘ingredients’ to ‘bake’ your success story in these four areas, is a sign of your weakness.
The Alter from Kelm would tell the following story. There was once a philosopher who went to his master philosophers to learn a lot of wisdom. He wrote it all down, and on his way home, a group of bandits jumped on him. He begged them, Take whatever you want; but one request I beg of you. My writings, my notes – don’t take! The bandits asked what the writings were about. The philosopher responded that this was all the wisdom that he had worked on acquiring over the last five years.
The bandits responded. “What value does your wisdom have, if someone can rob you of it?”
Real wisdom is not external, but internal. If your wisdom is not part of you, it is not the real thing. It is not praiseworthy wisdom. Saying the Gemarrah over in your own words, by heart, is a different level of understanding. Being a teacher is a greater level of learning than being a student. One who has good learning habits is wiser than one who has ineffective learning habits, even if the latter gathered more information. Rabbis have coined an expression for this phenomenon: ×—×ž×•×¨ × ×•×©× ×¡×¤×¨×™×, A donkey who is carrying books. The more internal, the more praiseworthy. We can now understand a quote from Socrates, ‘When a person says he knows everything – it is a sign that he knows nothing.
Not everyone who is rich can be considered among the “praiseworthy” rich.Â Real wealth is not defined by how much you have – which is an external factor, one subject to change – but, rather, how content you are with what you have at the moment.
I once sat at a breakfast table with a whole group of millionaires. There was one person, though, who was sitting with a Sefer. I opened a discussion with him, afterwards. This is what he taught me. I worked hard until the age of 55. I gave up family time, health, etc., to build my business. I served my business until now, and now I want it to serve me. I made enough to spend the rest of my life on quality family time, exercise, and learning Torah. I helped out my kids financially. I taught them to live with modest expenditures and a low maintenance lifestyle, so I can afford this stress-free lifestyle, which will give me added longevity. I live on a low budget, and I tried convincing my rich friends to take on this life plan. But they can’t afford it. They never have enough.
Â He may have had the smallest bank account at the breakfast table, but he is definitely the Wisest, Mightiest, most Honorable, and Wealthiest of them all.
Might is not measured against other people’s strength, nor is it relative to how others perceive it: it is up to the individual, himself, to feel that he is mighty.Â A person is mighty when he can overpower his Inclination. And the one who is honorable is not honorable due to external factors, such as relying on others to treat him with honor. Quite the contrary. He is honorable because he shines the spotlight of his life on his family and friends.
In coaching, I have found that people who are stuck in life are looking for external solutions. Coaching is about bringing the person back to internal solutions, to look within himself. To give the person back the reins of responsibility, to help him “self-help”.
For example. Here is one of the tools that I use in creative problem solving, in brain storming. If you canâ€™t solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you canâ€™t solve: find it! That’s a quote from one of my favorite books, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, and it is one of the greatest pieces of advice to have packed in your bag for your life’s journey. The book explains this tool. “When the going gets rough, creative problem solvers create an easier, simpler problem that they can solve. They resolve that easier issue thoroughly and then study that simple scenario with laser focus. Those insights often point the way to a resolution of the original difficult problem.”
Successful people in all life areas live by this secret tool. They don’t get stuck. Why? Because they take responsibility to figure out the solution that will keep them up at the top 10 percent of their field. They take responsibility, instead of leaving it to others. The more they take responsibility to reach their goals, the faster they can reach them. It is all internal. From inside out, and not from outside in. I read that when successful people, in all fields, were asked what was the turning point of their success, the answer was always the same. “I started taking myself seriously”. Internal power, not external.
One client made himself a goal. Serenity. We discovered, together, through the coaching, how we could stop saying that the things that were causing him stress were external. It was up to him to communicate that difficult conversation to his wife, to break the pattern of his teenager who was manipulating him, and to keep the schedule of just having his own time. Once he realized how he could take responsibility for his own serenity, he solved his whole life puzzle. The problem with his problems was the small problem that he could solve. He needed to learn a certain tool in communication, and that put him in a better position to take the responsibility he needed to reach his serenity goal.
The problem that is solvable, is making the problem an internal one.