Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Need for Empathy in a Difficult World

The need for
empathy in a difficult world

I receive hundreds of emails a day, some, more
valuable and appropriate then others.

A friend
sent me one yesterday that I believe is one of those gems I must share with you
and gave me the theme for this week’s article. The email was titled “Anyway”
and didn’t have the name of whoever wrote it. I will share it with you anyway.

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

People need help but will attack you if you help them.

Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you, your conscious and what you believe
is right.

It was never between you and them anyway.

This is so true. I have sent it to many of my friends and
even some that don’t ever write back, wrote me agreeing with it or thanking me
for sending it to them.

Every single day I find examples of people that do what
this email says. In fact, one recent example that involves a reader of the
Puerto Rico Daily Sun serves as proof that there are many good people out

I wrote in a past column that times are tough and that
people have to adapt to circumstances and do things that they have never done
in the past. I mentioned the case of an employee of a company, a client of mine
that had seen his overtime pay reduced quite a bit and with a 90.00 dollars a
week gasoline bill and making minimum wage, he simply couldn’t make it. I wrote
that he was going to ask permission for him to park the car every night in the
company’s parking lot and live in his car from Monday to Friday and then go
home on weekends. That way, he wouldn’t spend so much money on gas.

Well, lo and behold, I was contacted by a dear reader and
Facebook friend whose initials are K.L. to ask me for the name of the employee
and wrote him a check for 50.00.

The nice lady doesn’t know this man and yet she is so
touched by what he is going through, that she sends him some money. That is an
example of empathy.

When I gave the employee the check, his eyes swelled up
and simply couldn’t believe it.

Recent discoveries in brain science and child development
are forcing the scientific community to rethink the long held belief that human
beings by nature, are selfish, aggressive and materialistic. Realizing now that
we might be the opposite, empathic at the core, has profound and far reaching
consequences for the way we educate our children and for society in general.

I think that it is critical to resolve the
empathy/destruction paradox in order for our species to be able to survive and
thrive in this complicated planet we live in.

Although life as it’s lived day to day is sprinkled with
suffering, stress, injustices, crimes, and what we call foul play, it is for
the most part lived out in thousands of small acts of kindness, altruism,
benevolence, goodness and magnanimity.

Good relationships and compassion between people create
goodwill, establishes strong chains of society and gives happiness to people’s

We can define empathy as the mental process by which one
person places himself or herself into another’s being and comes to know how
they feel and think. The “pathy” in
empathy means that we enter into the emotional state of another’s suffering and
feel his or her pain as if it were our own.

We all know that unemployment is at an all-time high;
people are still losing jobs, possessions and in many cases, even losing their

My next door neighbor got his car repossessed and also
lost his home. Feeling very sorry for him and his family, I gave him my second
car which I rarely used.

Every economy since the beginning of mankind turns around
sooner or later. Everything is in cycles and no matter how bad things are, for
some, things are great.

If gas prices are high, economy cars are sold much more
than gas guzzlers. If people don’t send their clothes to the cleaners as often
as before, coin laundry’s do much better.

If brand name products sell less, generics sell more.

If people are demotivated, professional motivators such as
myself are doing very well in this tough economy.

If people are out of jobs, schools, universities and trade
schools will do great because people will need more education.

Whenever there is a loser, there will be a winner; it is
as simple as that.

What we need now is for people that are winning, to be
empathic with those that are losing.

If some people are going to get fired from a company,
maybe you can become a leader and suggest that you are willing to take a 5% cut
in your pay, encourage others to do the same and save some jobs.

Look for ways to help people that are not doing as well as
you are doing. If at the present time you can’t help financially, at least give
people your smile, a pat in the back or some words of comfort. Give them a book
or some free advice on how to be more effective in making some money or in how
to survive tough times.

In order for us to survive in this world, empathy must
beat selfishness.

The Relentless pursuit for perfection

Relentless pursuit for perfection

It is part of human nature to look for or expect perfection.
When we board a plane we expect perfect performance by the pilot so that we
arrive in our destination.

If an airline has a 99% expectation of perfection, with
thousands of flights, that 1% would result in hundreds of planes crashing every
day. So, we expect perfection, we expect
that 100% of all flights will land safely.

If you need to be operated for any physical ailment or disease
you may have, you expect the surgeon to be perfect and that when you wake up
you will be able to resume your normal life.

When you are driving down Ponce de Leon Boulevard and you
have a green light at the corner of De Diego, you expect the driver coming from
De Diego to stop and allow you to cross the green light. You expect that from
every driver, so you expect perfection.

Today is a difficult day for me. One of my dearest friends
and business partner had one of the most if not the most negative experience
any human being can go through.

His only son, a 28 eight year young man decided to kill
himself with a gun right in front of his dear wife and him. It was his only son
because he lost his younger son five years ago to cancer, a battle that the
whole family bravely fought with all they had but that at the end lost to the

So, my dear friend, the same as all of us, expected
perfection, to lead a great life and see his children grow and prosper and
watch them have beautiful children that would become his grandchildren.

As soon as I was notified of this tragedy, I went to see my
friends, to offer my friendship, my psychological expertise, anything that I
could contribute to help them go through the most excruciating experience
anyone could go through.

What can you say at a moment like this?

The only thing that came to my mind and I offer it here as a
contribution to anyone that has lost a loved one, is to pour all your energy
into serving others.

I told my friend that he now had to elevate his son’s life
to another level. By serving other children or people in need, he would be
honoring his son because if that accident hadn’t happened, he would not be
helping them.

In other words, because of his son’s death, he could help
hundreds, maybe thousands of children or adults that would have never gotten
his help if his son’s passing hadn’t happened.

In about two hours I will be going to the funeral home and
tomorrow I will be attending mass and then will be with them at the burial.

I woke up this morning and decided that I was going to have
breakfast with a group of friends that get together every morning, artists,
engineers, architects, psychologists, lawyers, a great mix, expecting to for an
hour or two, think about something else and be forced to participate in
whatever discussion they cared to bring

I also spoke to my daughter and she told me that she would
join me there to have breakfast with me.

Those two moments would be perfect for me, now more than

For the first time in five years, when I get to the Bakery,
not one single friend was there. I had to order breakfast by myself, something
that I really wasn’t looking forward to.

About an hour later, seeing that my daughter hadn’t arrived,
I call her and she tells me that her 6 months old child didn’t want to sleep,
the two year old was acting up, and the dog pooped and she didn’t want her
mother in law to clean it since she was going to baby sit the children.

So, my daughter didn’t make it to breakfast either, I had to
stay by myself and then drive home to write this article. Perfection didn’t happen.

So, the point of this article, wait… my phone is ringing. I

It was my daughter and the first words out of her mouth were
“Dad, I am so excited”. She went on to tell me that her husband, a lawyer, had
been picked to participate in a new venture in his law firm.

So, the point of this article is that we can expect
perfection most of the time, we can expect people to respect red lights, we can
expect surgeons to do a great job, pilots to land their aircraft safely and on
time, and our children and grandchildren to lead happy and meaningful

But when it doesn’t happen, me must develop mechanisms to
cope with it, to handle it, to make the best of the situation.

No matter how tragic life can be, no matter how negative a
situation presents itself, there is always something that we human beings can
do in order to feel better and help others.

Wellbeing is composed of three elements: Positive emotions,
engagement and meaning.

Positive emotion is what we feel, pleasure, ecstasy, warmth
comfort etc. I felt a positive emotion
hearing that my son in law was going to be promoted.

Engagement is more about flow. Being one with nature, music,
time seems to stop; you lose self- consciousness during an absorbing activity. I
went to the bakery expecting to enter into a state of flow with my dear

The third element: Meaning

Most human beings want meaning and purpose in life. The
meaningful life consists in belonging to and serving something that you believe
is bigger and greater than the self. I write this article because it gives
meaning to my life. I know that I am impacting other people’s lives and I am
helping them with some of the lessons I have learned during my life. I belong
to Rotary because we are able to help others. I speak to non-profit
organizations for free because I am helping out the community.

Looking for meaning is the reason Warren Buffett or Bill
Gates and many others, after years of succeeding in business and making money
decide to donate their money to charity. They decide that they need to do
something for humanity that is much greater than a personal triumph or reaching
personal goals.

This is what my dear friend who now lost his only son must
focus on. He should embark in a quest much bigger than himself.