7 ideas for Life

Advice from the Counterculture
by Dennis Prager

Following is the commencement address Dennis Prager gave to the 1997 graduating class of Pepperdine University.

would like to offer you seven ideas. That’s all I want to do. If you fall asleep during one of them, there are six remaining. If you fall asleep during five, maybe you’ll get two ideas.

But I want to just give you seven ideas culled from one human’s life that I think can be very powerful in the way you live your lives when you leave this institution.

In no order of importance:

One: The Greatest Struggle Is with Yourself
The greatest struggle in your life is not with society; it is with yourself. This idea is not taught in America today. We are taught that we are victims of a society that is sexist, racist, ageist, anti-Semitic, anti-Asian, anti-Hispanic, anti-woman, anti-old, anti-young — anti just about everyone. The temptation is therefore overwhelming to see your problems and challenges in life as being with America and not with yourself.

There is a man in Florida, a psychiatrist — he is, fortunately, not representative of his profession — who tells women, “Never take an anti-depressant, even if you are diagnosed with biological reasons for depression, because no woman is depressed for biological reasons. Any woman who is depressed is depressed because of sexism.” There are therefore thousands of women who do have biological origins of depression who will not take a medicine such as Prozac or some other psychopharmaceutical drug because they think their problems emanate from sexism.

Whatever you are, there is something to blame in today’s society: “I shot my parents, but it wasn’t my fault.” You yourselves have lived through this.

Please understand: In this society, my greatest challenge is Dennis, your greatest challenge is you. And if you can make you better, you will make this society better. Please don’t buy the rhetoric that the external is the problem. In a free and affluent country like this, we are the problem.

Two: Trust Your Common Sense
Mark Twain was right when he said, “Common sense isn’t common.” Nevertheless, please use this great gift of God, your common sense, when, outside of the natural sciences, you hear the words, “studies show,” and you find that the studies show the opposite of what common sense suggests.

As someone who is twice your age, who has been on radio fifteen years, and has debated these issues daily for fifteen years, may I tell you that I have never once come across a valid study that contravened common sense.

Nearly always studies either substantiate common sense or they are wrong. That is a general rule of life. That doesn’t mean, don’t take studies seriously. It means take common sense most seriously.

People call me up and tell me “studies show” that it doesn’t matter if a child has a mother and a father, that it is just as good to have one loving parent or two fathers or two mothers. “Studies show” this. That’s nonsense. Of course it matters if you don’t have a father or don’t have a mother. Does it mean you are doomed if you don’t have one — if one died or if one left? No, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed. The human spirit is powerfully resilient, thank God. Nevertheless, it’s a flawed “study” if it claims to show both parents aren’t necessary. A greater study — life in every civilization — leads to a different conclusion. The study of life shows that it is good for a child to have a mom and a dad.

This issue is a big battle in America today because of the powerful forces that say, “It’s just as wonderful for a single woman to be inseminated” or “It’s just as wonderful for two women or two men to raise a child,” as it is for a child to have a mother and father.

And know that this issue has nothing to do with women’s rights, and nothing to do with gay rights. It has to do with something too few people talk about — children’s rights. Children have a right to have a mother and a father. That’s common sense, simple common sense.

I was told when I was in your place, in college, in the heyday of certain ideas in the late ‘60s, that “studies show” that boys and girls are not inherently different, they differ only because parents give boys guns and give girls dolls. So the dummies who believed that “studies show” that boys and girls are essentially the same decided to raise their boys with dolls and their girls with trucks. And what happened? The boys broke the dolls’ arms, and the girls cuddled the trucks.

Of course, there are enormous differences between boys and girls — life and common sense show this, not necessarily “studies.” A woman professor at Stanford wrote an article in the New York Times about ten years ago. She wrote that she was one of those who believed that boys and girls are essentially the same, that all the differences (except the obvious biological) are all societally induced. Then she had a son, and then a daughter, and she saw how wrong she had been.

The greatest of the “studies” is the study of life, not some abstract study. Keep studying it, and trust your common sense.

Three: Race is Unimportant
Be guided by an idea of a Jew who went through a Nazi death camp. He miraculously survived, though his wife and his parents were gassed.

After the Holocaust, he was asked, “Do you hate all Germans?”

And he said, “No, I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because,” he said, “there are only two races, the decent and the indecent.”

Remember that, and you will never, ever, for one scintilla of a moment, have a racist belief. If you divide humanity between black and non-black, white and non-white, brown and non-brown, yellow and non-yellow, you are, by definition, racist. If you divide the world simply between decent people and indecent people, you can’t be a racist because every race has good and bad members. If you divide by moral rather than racial terms, you are liberated from even the possibility of ingesting the toxin of racism.

Remember that statement. His name is Viktor Frankl. I read his book Man’s Search for Meaning, when I was in high school, and it was one of the few books that changed my life.

Graduates, in this race-intoxicated society, please know that as countercultural, as politically incorrect as it is, race is trivial. Race means nothing. The color of a human’s skin is as trivial as the color of a human’s hair. That is not today’s politically correct belief. But it is the belief rooted in every sacred tradition from the East to the West — including my Judaism and your Christianity. God does not know the color of skin. God knows the character of a human heart. Period.

Four: Don’t Leave Your Values at Home
Whatever you do in your professional life, don’t leave your values at home when you go to work.

Most people in my profession are decent people — who leave their decent values at home when they go to work. At work, they produce a lot of garbage, garbage that many of them don’t want their own children to see. But they produce it because the gods of ratings — the god of Nielsen, the god of Arbitron — demand it.

The hardest of the Ten Commandments is not the commandment against adultery, nor the one against murder, nor the one against theft. It is the commandment against having false gods. Among most of those in my profession, the gods of Nielsen and Arbitron are worshipped far more than God.

You have to determine, when you walk out of your home, what god you will worship. And that is tough. It is tough to keep your integrity at work.

If you become a lawyer, it is tough. It is tough not to fool around with a courtroom in order to win a case. It is hard not to fiddle a little bit with the truth, though not really tell a lie, in order to win for your client. It is hard in business to be honest and not make a false claim for your product.

It will be tough for you. It is easy to succeed. It’s tough to succeed with your integrity intact.

Five: Beware of Bad Ideas
We are living in the last three years of the bloodiest, meanest, cruelest, most torturous and barbaric century in the history of human life. Please never assume that moral progress is inevitable. This century is the century of gas chambers and gulags. This is the century of totalitarianism, red and brown.

Do you know why most evil takes place? Not because people are bad, but because they have bad ideas. Be careful to avoid bad ideas.

I’ll give you a quick way to measure if an idea is good. Ask two questions: Does this make people kinder? Does this hold people morally accountable? Nazism could not answer that it makes people kinder. Communism could not answer that it holds people morally accountable; all you had to do was hasten the revolution.

I don’t know of an improvement over Leviticus 19:18. “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am God.” No new idea has supplanted that one.

Six: Behavior Matters More than Intentions
That you mean to do good or that you are sincere doesn’t mean a thing to the other six billion people on earth. The only thing that matters to all of us is how you act. God cares about your heart, but the rest of humanity cares about your behavior. Saying “I want good to be done” but not doing any good; crying for the poor, but not giving charity or hiring a poor person — none of your good intentions mean a thing.

And on the other side, having selfish intentions and doing good is okay. It’s better to have good intentions, but if good comes out of what’s selfish, that is what counts. The good that is done, not intended, is what matters.

Capitalism is rooted in selfishness much more than Communism, but communism murdered nearly one hundred million people this century, while capitalism has been the engine of democracy. So be very careful when you judge a system not to judge its intention or its rhetoric. Judge its results.

Seven: Religion is the True Counterculture
People think counterculture is dressing weird, or having every possible part of the body pierced. That’s not counterculture. If you do this, I’m not commenting on whether you should or not. But don’t think for a moment that this is taking a stand for some counterculture or that it takes guts.

I’ll tell you what takes guts in America today. The ultimate counterculture is to take God and religion seriously. Do you want to stand independent? When I turned down an extremely lucrative offer of having an afternoon drive-time radio show, the most lucrative part of radio except for the morning drive I said, “I can’t. I do not broadcast on my Sabbath. When the sun goes down on Friday, I stop working.”

That’s my counterculture. My religion says you have to observe the Sabbath, and somehow or other I have found this to be more important than even a better job in my profession. I have been amply rewarded by that decision: I have a Sabbath with my family; I don’t work seven days a week; I don’t live in front of my computer; my wife isn’t a computer widow and my kids see their father.

Yes, it takes guts and even sometimes the loss of a job, though that has never been involved, thank God, in my life. But that’s counterculture.

When you can say, “No, I’m sorry; as tempting as that is [whatever that may be], I cannot do it,” others respect you, and you will respect you. When you know to whom you are accountable and you ultimately march to the beat of a higher drummer, you lead a more peaceful life.

The temptation to do what everybody else does is enormous, yet it is a guarantor of unhappiness, not just a guarantor of doing the wrong thing. Be true to your faith. It will ultimately work. And it’s perhaps even more powerful that I, being of a different faith than you — I am a religious Jew — am saying this to Christians. It’s more powerful because I obviously have no theological ax to grind.

I need you. I, a fellow American, need you to be a good Christian. As the Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis said about Jews, “A good Jew will be a good American,” I am telling you that a good Christian will be a good American.

I interviewed those black heroes who saved the white trucker Reginald Denny during the riots. Three of the four of them were active Christians. But the media, my profession, doesn’t report that. It shows you only the bad, the nihilistic. They don’t report about the religious impulse that animated such people because it doesn’t serve their own interest. Media people are almost all radically secular. But it was very moving to me to meet these people.

I conclude, therefore, with a prayer from my own religion. I will say it to you in the original Hebrew, but I will, do not fear, translate it for you. And as we pray in Judaism with a kippah, a yarmulke. I will put mine on and offer it to you.

May God bless and guard over you. May God shine His countenance lovingly upon you. And may He give you a peaceful life.


5 Reasons To Travel When You’re Young
Traveling is unarguably one of the most gratifying experiences a person can have in their lifetime. Traveling awakens the soul, stirs the senses and paints the world in a new light. It may seem like a pastime for only a certain kind of person, but in all actuality, anyone and everyone can and should travel.In my opinion, it’s better to travel sooner than later in life for a few very key reasons:
Traveling can help you figure out what you want to do with your life: Exposing yourself to new places, people and cultures can awaken your sense of purpose. Learning about what’s out there in the world can help you determine what feels like you – and what doesn’t.It’s also especially useful in helping people realize that there’s no one way to live a lifetime. Every culture is different and so is every person within those cultures. If you wait till later in life, you run the risk of realizing your potential too late. Don’t let opportunity pass you by; explore the world while you’re young.
It promotes independence (and hones survival skills): Catching flights, keeping track of passports and navigating foreign-speaking cities, can force you to think on your feet and make decisions quickly. Being away from your comfort zone really pushes a person to think independently.
It eliminates resentment later in life: How often do you hear someone much older than you comment on how they should have done something when they were younger? No one wants to be sitting in a rocking chair at age 80, wishing that they had taken that trip when they had the chance. Don’t let someone or something stop you from traveling. A chance to experience the world now is greater than any excuse you can come up with for not going. It’s worth it and you’ll be glad you have those memories later in life, trust me!
It makes you a more interesting person: Nothing sucks more than talking to a person who has absolutely nothing to say. Traveling can create amazing memories and it serves as a great conversation starter. You’d be surprised how many times travel comes up in conversation, whether it be at a party or at the office. Think of how great it would be if you can jump in next time and compare experiences. Whether you are talking about your recent safari in Africa or that time you swam with dolphins in the Caribbean, it makes you seem knowledgeable and worldly which, let’s face it, is totally hot.
You work hard and deserve it: Life can be crazy these days. With the overload of gadgets, work hours and social networking demands, it’s no wonder we haven’t broken down as a nation, cracking from all the pressure. Today’s youth works harder than ever to achieve more than ever, and there’s no better way to reward ourselves and take time out than with a good old vacation.Remember, all that hard work is done in vain if there isn’t an equal dose of play to go with it. You don’t want to look back in 15 years and realize you wasted you’re younger years doing nothing but work, right? So save that hard earned cash and go somewhere you’ve only dared to dream about- today. Turn fantasy into reality and give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it!I’m sure that one of the main reasons that a young adult would refrain from traveling is lack of funds or overwhelming feelings of not knowing where to start. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive or overwhelming for you to have a great time. There are some affordable deals out there for just about every trip you can imagine; it’s all about timing and planning.Understand that airfare is always cheaper in certain months, as are hotel rates and nightlife packages. Travel agents can be really useful in helping you find the best deals and packages. Plus, they know exactly what hotels and attractions to send you to, depending on what your interests are. Also, don’t discount your friends and relatives. You never know who has an Uncle with a timeshare or an extra apartment in Miami that their parents rent out during the year. The more you ask, the more you shall receive.Make it a priority to do your homework and planning a vacation will ultimately be fun, exciting, and rewarding – an experience that you will certainly never forget.

8 Harsh Truths

8 Harsh Truths that Will Improve Your Life
They say life is what we make of it. By the end of this post, I hope to have helped you decide whether that statement is true or not.There is no doubt that life has its ups and downs. However, how we deal with them can sometimes make all the difference. Today I want to share eight harsh truths that I’ve come to learn from life. There’s also a message in each that I think we can all learn from, and when applied, will improve our lives infinitely.Some of these lessons may be old-hat for you. If so, look for ways to refine the idea to ensure your getting the most out of it. On the other hand, you may completely disagree with an idea or two and that’s great! Let us know your thoughts so we can all learn from each other.
Friends Come and GoWhen I was in high school, I always imagined spending most of my life with the same people. Then when I realized I had to move to college, that all changed. Once again, I made some close college friends but left them all behind when I moved from the UK to South Africa.Friends will always come and go in your life; even though I’m back in the UK now, all my friends are in university around the country and not exactly in meeting distance. It can be a hard thing to accept, but many of the friends you spend time with now, might not be around in the next few years.Important Lesson: There are an abundance of amazing people out there for you to meet and build relationships with. If you don’t have many friends, don’t stress, there are literally billions of friendship possibilities.
You Won’t Always Get What You WantI remember one Christmas when the only thing I had asked for was some second hand turntables for DJ’ing. I didn’t ask for anything else so I was pretty sure I would get them. However, they didn’t come and I ended up having to save for 10 months on my own in order to purchase them.You won’t always get what you want in life: people are going to be late, people will let you down, items you want won’t always be available.Important Lesson: Don’t look for happiness in material possessions and if things don’t go your way, learn to accept them. Life’s too short to stay miserable.
Many People Will Love You, but Many Will NotWhether you are a celebrity, a charity worker or just a normal guy, there are going to be people that love you and what you do, but there’s also going to be plenty people that don’t like you. There are many possible reasons such as jealousy, similarities to them, or just not being someone’s ‘type’.Important Lesson: Not everyone is always going to like you, and that’s fine. If people want to spend time talking about you then that is their problem. You are perfect as you are. You shouldn’t need everyone to like you to have some form of self-esteem.
Nobody Can Transform Your Life Like You CanWouldn’t it be lovely if we didn’t have to go up on stage, but we could just read a paragraph of a blog post and become a perfect public speaker? Or, wouldn’t it be nice if our friends could do daring things, and we would benefit from them as well?The support and help of others can only take you so far, you’re going to have to do your own thing to make big changes in your life situation.Important Lesson: Do things for yourself and learn to stand on your own two feet. People you rely on won’t be around forever, and you don’t want to have to use others as a crutch to get anywhere in life.
You Are Going to FailI built more than 7 websites before I created one that actually started making me any money. I even put hundreds of hours into my own company that I actually closed down last month. Whether it is exams, projects, companies, or even the odd pub quiz, there are times when you will fail to meet your goals.As the saying goes – “Only those who are asleep make no mistakes”.Important Lesson: You can learn a lot from others, but it is your own failures that are going to teach you the most valuable lessons in life. Learn from your failures, embrace them, and use them to drive you on to success.
Rain Will Sometimes Cancel PlayOn some occasions when you have your shorts on and you’re ready for the beach, it’s going to rain. Or, when you get to that first hole and you’re ready to tee off – the clouds will open. Things aren’t always going to go how you would like them to.Important Lesson: Don’t stress about the things that you can’t control. Learn to live with things that happen. You can’t change the past, but you can change how you react to things.
There May Be No TomorrowAt least, not for you anyway. We never know what is around the corner, a car crash, a heart attack; heck…even the end of the world is possible. Let’s face it, although we would all like to live till we are 70 years old, that’s certainly not always the case. There will be one day that is our last.Important Lesson: Make the most of each day. Make sure the people you care about actually know it, don’t worry about little matters, just make sure you spend time doing the things you love.
Someone Else Will Always Have MoreWhether it is money, partners, friends or even blog subscribers, there will always be areas where other people have more than you. That isn’t to say you can’t become abundant in whatever you want (i.e. someone always had more money than Warren Buffett until 2008 when he was noted to be the richest man in the world).The wanting of more actually holds a very important lesson…Important Lesson: Just because someone has ‘more’, that doesn’t mean they are happy. Read the biography of any celebrity and they will tell you they enjoy their process of earning money, rather than what money can do to make them happy. In other words, focus on what you love, not what the thing you love can get you.BONUS: Linking all the lessons here together is actually quite simple, and I can share the majority of what you need to know to enjoy life in a few simple bullet points:
Live life for the moment
Accept what is, even if things don’t go your way
Happiness is here, right now if you stop resisting and start accepting