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A Century of Wisdom: 34 Quotes from the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor

Monday, November 26, 2012 – Alice Herz Sommer celebrates her 109th birthday. Living alone in a small London apartment, this amazing woman is the world’s oldest living holocaust survivor. A former concert pianist, Alice has been playing the piano since she was five years old. Using only eight fingers, Alice still practices for hours every day. Alice’s story is a testament to the power of the human spirit. She and her six-year old son survived two years in the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt, escaping almost certain death. She has witnessed unspeakable cruelty, watching hundreds go to their deaths in the gas chambers or through sickness and starvation. And yet, this living hero has never stopped smiling. This ever-laughing centenarian credits her longevity to a lifetime of optimism.

In commemoration of Alice’s 109th birthday, I would like to share with you some of the wisdom of Alice Herz Sommer – gained from living nearly 40,000 of the most richly textured days.

 

Alice Herz Sommer – On Education

School is only the beginning; we can learn all our lives.

No one can rob your mind.

Education of the children is the most important family value.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Friendship

I love people. I am interested in the lives of others.

Understanding of others can lead to peace.

We do not need things, friends are precious.

Be kind, kindness is free, it costs you nothing, and the rewards are great for everyone.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Laughter

A sense of humor keeps us balanced in all circumstances, even death.

Laugher is wonderful. It makes you, and everyone else feel happy.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Life

We need to treasure time. Every moment that passes is gone forever.

Only when we are old do we realize the beauty of life.

Everything we experience is a gift. Everything is a present.

I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son. Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Marriage

In marriage, friendship is more important than romantic love.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Motherhood

How can any woman ever be unhappy after she has seen her infant’s first smile?

It was my greatest privilege to raise my son.

A mother’s love is a child’s only fortress against the world, come what may.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Music

I am richer than the world’s richest people, because I am a musician.

Children must study music, it helps with everything in life.

Music saved my life and music saves me still.

There was no food. Music was our food. Through music we were kept alive.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Optimism

My optimism has helped me through my darkest days. It helps me now.

Always look for the good things in life: the world is wonderful, it’s full of beauty and miracles.

When you are optimistic, when you are not complaining, when you look at the good side of your life, everybody loves you.

Every day in life is beautiful – if we only look up from our reality.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Parenting

Reason with your children, never use harsh words.

Patience, kindness and love, this is the food a child needs.

To survive, a child must never, never doubt your love.

Children need unconditional love to grow and develop into full human beings.

School is important, but what children learn in the atmosphere of their homes lasts for life.

Alice Herz Sommer – To Single Women

Have sex. Have fun. Have someone in your life, but don’t tie yourself down in marriage. Cherish your freedom… Take care of your career, your life.

Alice Herz Sommer – On Work

Love to work. When you love your work, you are never bored. Boredom is unhealthy.

When we love our work, we can enjoy a sense of achievement, every small achievement.

Work is the best invention.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post ‘Today I’m Inspired by: Alice Herz Sommer‘ about Alice’s awe-inspiring life, and and some of the lessons we can learn from her. Very recently, I was contacted by Caroline Stoessinger, the author of ‘A Century of Wisdom‘ a touching biography of a Alice’s noteworthy life.

In honor of Alice’s 109th birthday, Ms. Stoessinger will be donating all the proceeds from the sale of her book to the Alice Herz-Sommer Scholarship Fund at the Music Academy of Jerusalem where Alice taught for 37 of her happiest years. Please consider buying and reading this wonderfully enriching biography of an extraordinary woman, and helping a worthy cause.

 

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Antigua and Barbuda, Have You Made A Pledge?

Antigua and Barbuda Independence Flag

Antigua and Barbuda Independence Flag

Memories of My First November First

Antigua and Barbuda celebrated its 31st anniversary of independence on Thursday, November 1st. As an Antiguan national recently transplanted to St. Lucia, I indulged in a proud display of nationalism. Photos of what I consider to be the most beautiful flag in the world adorned my facebook page, and I tweeted YouTube links to the patriotic son-of-the-soil calypso renditions of yesteryear.

In 1981, I was six years old — old enough to appreciate that something of great significance was occurring. I remember standing uniformed in the dusty schoolyard of the local Maria Montessori school singing our national anthem, ‘Fair Antigua and Barbuda’, and waving mini flags as a tribute to our newly independent nation. Later, there would be impressive fireworks and copious celebratory rum-drinking.

Has Our Nation Gone Astray?

Perusing cyberspace from abroad, I noted this year that along with the swelling comments of pride were the usual copious helpings of negative feedback about our progress as a nation. Some cried foul about allegations of corruption, others criticized the state of the national debt, inability to reliably generate enough electricity and still others denounced perceived failures in education. At 31, we are still but a fledgling nation, and like many young adults we have had our share of blunders. I suspect that most of our errors have been of the character-building variety, with fewer tending toward the reputation-obliterating.

Nation Building is Everyone’s Business

By gaining independence, Antigua and Barbuda shed the heavy burden of colonialism. Our nation-building forefathers took risky leaps of faith; they looked beyond their own shortcomings and personal inadequacies to heavily invest in a dream yet unfulfilled. We are that dream. We are here because of those who have gone before us, clearing the path we speed on today. We enjoy the fruit of struggles long past.

Our forebears fought for the right to shape their own destiny. They made the changes that helped to shape our present, but our nation’s future depends upon our own actions. Breaking the yoke of colonialism meant accepting the heavy burden of personal responsibility. Our forefathers, nation-builders believed in us. They entrusted the future to us. That future will not be bright unless we, like them, turn disappointment into activism and criticism into commitment.

I believe Antigua and Barbuda will move on, continue to grow and be strong, because I believe that its people will continue to grow and be strong. And here is the challenge for us all: instead of continually pointing out the shortcomings of the land we love and *smh* ‘shaking my head’, why not consider the bolder alternative of suggesting solutions and *rmh* ‘raising my hand’ to take responsibility for making difference? I believe a personal pledge is what King Short Shirt had in mind when he sang his first tribute to our independence so many years ago:

Our Pledge

We pledge to be good citizens from now on
Casting away victimization
Corruption will cease
Nepotism decrease
Throughout the whole nation
Our country then will be
Not just a society
But a just society
Let this be our pledge
~King Short Shirt, Our Pledge

Happy birthday, Antigua and Barbuda.

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Choose Your Fate

This week, I took advantage of Audible.com‘s promotion for the new Whispersync for Voice feature. The new technology allows readers to listen and read simultaneously or switch seamlessly from audiobook to e-book and vice versa. Up to 22 free Kindle ebooks are available here for a limited time. I shamelessly downloaded 19 of the available 22 titles, even though I’d already read some of them.

Ethan Frome: The Story of a Loser

The first title I read is one of Edith Warton’s best known works. ‘Ethan Frome’ is the story of a poor, downtrodden New England farmer trapped in a loveless relationship with a conniving, invalid wife. The book’s protagonist can’t seem to catch a break. As one bad thing after another comes his way, his story inevitably ends in tragedy. Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed this dark book;  it served as a poignant reminder that each of us shapes his or her own destiny.

The Choices We Make Seal Our Fate

We seal our own fates every day by the choices we make, the friends we choose, the opportunities we don’t pursue. All around us are people brimming with ambition, ideas, talent and promise. So many of these lives end up as sad reflections of what might have been. Within them lie the untold stories of dreams deferred.

How to Lose

When you choose to accept the poor odds and negative labels cast upon you by circumstances, you lose. When you sink under the burden of a few bad grades, a lost job, ill-health or a bad economy, you lose. When listen to the inner voice that whispers for you to go so far and no further, you lose. Losers unwittingly self-sabotage their careers and personal lives. Set-back after set-back, losers trudge inexorably through an increasingly barren wasteland of their own shattered dreams.

How to Win

On the other hand, in business, entertainment, science and sports, winners refuse to live in the land of “almost”. Winners rise above personal setbacks and see failures as temporary. “So close, what a pity” is not an ending winners will accept. Winners recognize that their most formidable opponent is the nearly imperceptible voice of self-defeat. They train themselves to detect and defeat that enemy every day.  Winners refuse to lose sight of their dreams.

Make the Choice to be a Winner

None of us have to be losers. Instead, we can choose to allow ourselves to dream and never stop dreaming. We can choose to laugh in the face of every voice that says “you can’t have that”. Choose to be a winner. Never accept the lie of personal limitation. Never accept from yourself less than you know you are capable of. Never be satisfied with living below the threshold of your own limitless potential. Never settle for less than you know you deserve.

 

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Today I’m Inspired by: Jeff Hadeed

The Global Financial Crisis

In October 2008, a seasoned accounting professional with eight years of public accounting experience and several years in the hospitality and real estate industry, I found myself out of work — a casualty of the global financial crisis. The five-star resort where I had recently been hired as Financial Controller failed to open after many months of preparation and millions of dollars in refurbishment. The Icelandic bank that funded it had crashed. The demise of my most recent job could not have come at a worse time. I had been through a series of personal challenges including the sudden death of my father and tragic death of my 21-year old brother, a stint in ICU with meningitis, and major surgery. My entire savings had been depleted. And then, I got a call with a job offer from Jeff Hadeed.

Big Banana

This was to be second stint in Jeff’s employment. Fifteen years earlier it was the early nineties, I was in my teens, and Jeff was the co-proprietor of one of the most popular restaurants on Antigua. Jeff hired me to create a computer catalogue of the Big Banana restaurant’s impressive collection of CDs, which lined the wall from bar to the ceiling. I can remember being somewhat shell-shocked by the frenetic environment of the hotspot. Nestled in St. John’s historic Redcliffe Quay, the restaurant itself was beautiful, with its long wooden bar stretching the length of the converted ancient brickwork rum warehouse.  It had a welcoming island-chic decor: terra-cotta tiles, wooden tables and chairs and stunning black and white photos of island life. Huge brick arches led the way to the outdoor area, where patrons laughed heartily with friends and family, enjoying the best pizza on the island, under a canopy of tropical branches. At night, both tourists and residents alike grooved to the live music of local bands, with a steady flow of Wadadli beer and Cavalier rum served up by tight-jeans wearing servers in their iconic Big Banana tee-shirts.

I worked at a computer in the tiny office above the bar which was accessed by climbing a creaky wooden spiral staircase. Sounds and smells wafted upwards all day long. The office pulsated with musical rhythms and the sounds of clinking glasses, orders being taken, delivery boxes packed and of course the ever-present smell of delicious pizza. Jeff was both exacting and well-respected by his staff. It was a fast-paced environment– vibrant and alive, with high standards and an air of excellence. It only took a few days to finish listing the CDs but it was exciting. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was finished, because I knew that somehow I had contributed and been a part of it. I have always been grateful for the much-needed funds, and the short but enriching experience.

The Passionate Perfectionist with a Heart of Gold

And now here was Jeff once again, rescuing me in a time of need. Jeff Hadeed completed a business degree in the United States and studied design in Italy. Returning to Antigua in the mid-1980’s, he started the Big Banana chain of restaurants with two of his siblings. These restaurants have earned the reputation of being Antigua’s chicest, most loved casual dining hotspots for over twenty-five years, thanks largely to Jeff’s managerial oversight, keen marketing insight and relentless relationship-building.

In the eight or so months that I worked with Jeff as a project accountant at Next International and ROLS Limited, I developed a deep respect for Jeff as a person and as an entrepreneur. Armed with sparkling brown eyes, and a finely tuned esthetic instinct, he is a passionate perfectionist. He is stubbornly committed to doing everything he attempts to the highest possible standard. There is a dichotomy about Jeff. He has both talent and heart. Having little patience with mediocrity, his fiery temper is legendary. I’ve seen many wither under Jeff’s fury after having his exacting standards compromised. And yet, forever in his uniform of tee-shirt and jeans, he is both unpretentious and approachable. Loyal to a fault, he quickly cultivates long-lasting friendships, never thinking twice about going out of his way to help a friend.

An Entrepreneurial Success Story

Jeff recently turned 50. His shaved head and slim, youthful physique belie his years. One of the great things about living on an island is that you can leave your mark and change its landscape, if you really want to. In the past 25 years, Jeff’s authenticity, creativity and dedication have had just that kind of impact.  South Point (see photos here), a beautiful waterside development nestled in Antigua’s picturesque Falmouth Harbour, is Jeff’s newest venture. It is a labor of love for him, years in the making. Through his eye for detail, warmth for people and exacting standards, he has created hundreds of thousands of unique experiences for his employees, friends  and patrons over the years. Railing against lax island standards, Jeff has committed himself to building brands that have stood the test of time. In essence, this is what being an entrepreneur is all about. It is about creating something greater than yourself, and truly believing in what you do. This is why I enjoyed working for Jeff, why I respect him, and why I am inspired by him today.

Jeff, I wish you continued success in everything you do and many more happy years to come. Happy birthday, and thank you!

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What’s Your Mindset?

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures. I divide the world into the learners and non-learners.” -Benjamin Barber

August 2012: at the company I worked with, it was the time of year when budgets were being set and financial projections established for the fiscal year ahead. My boss, the intrepid entrepreneur had, as usual, set stiff targets for the group. My EBITDA target was sent to me via email. The number jumped right out of my laptop screen, hit me with a blow that almost knocked me senseless and said “hey there, my name is “IMPOSSIBLE” and your name must be “LOSER”. It left me with a black eye, a swollen lip, and what felt like a permanently bruised ego.

After a panicked call to my Finance Manager, I nursed my wounds and got busy with the mountain of other important tasks. Of course, the number wasn’t going anywhere; the more I ignored it, the more disquieted I became. As I racked my brain about how this target could be accomplished, I managed to convince myself that the target was unrealistic. I began to accept that the initial slap in the face would only be the beginning of an abusive relationship between me and my new earnings target for the 2013 financial year.

After days of making myself miserable, I finally realized that it was a fear of failure and not the target itself that was getting the better of me. This evening, I updated my facebook status to reflect my change in attitude:

Trying to turn my “I can’t do that, don’t try to make me” attitude into an “I can do this, I just need to figure out how…” mindset. The human spirit is powerful; it knows it can do the impossible.

My friend Greg immediately responded. I have several awesome friends named Greg, but this one is the multi-talented champion kickboxer with the gorgeous girlfriend and a heart of gold. He sent a link to this blog post.

The words resonated with me. It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. The article is based on the work of Carol Dweck, PhD. It turns out that I’ve already read her excellent book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success‘ via Audible. I had to face the fact that my “mindset” about my own abilities was still a lot more fixed than I would have wanted to admit.

According to Dr. Dweck, there are two meanings to ability and we can choose which one we will adopt:

1. Fixed Ability

A fixed ability seeks to be proven as smart, accomplished or talented, and is overly concerned with being validated, and minimizing mistakes. There is a constant fear of failure, because to “fail” means to mess up your own fixed view of yourself. In the fixed mindset, trying really hard is a bad thing; too much effort proves you’re not smart or successful.

2. Changeable Ability

A changeable ability seeks to be developed through learning, and even through “failure”. Growth mindset people constantly seek to stretch themselves, always reaching for a new challenge. They fear not growing and not fulfilling their potential. In the growth mindset, not trying hard enough is the bad thing; effort is the proof that you will become smarter and more successful.

One of the things I admire most about my boss and several of the other entrepreneurs I have been blessed to work with is their overarching drive to keep going—obstacle, after obstacle after obstacle. Most entrepreneurs have a growth mindset; they thrive on challenges and sometimes achieve the impossible.

Here’s the key question: Is success for you about learning and overcoming limitations? Or is success about proving that you’re smart and validating your ability?

As infants, we exhibited an exuberant desire to overcome obstacles. As we learned to walk and talk, we were not self-conscious. We were fearless and ready to take on any challenge. But as we learned to evaluate ourselves, we gradually become more and more afraid of looking foolish, of saying the wrong thing, of failing. Most of us have developed a fixed mindset.

We can all begin to reverse that process and work to develop a growth mindset. We must change our definition of success from something to be protected or maintained, to the idea of success as a bumpy process of constantly becoming better than we were before.

And this why I changed my mindset, and decided not to give up. Yes, 15% VAT was slated to be introduced in St. Lucia on October 1st. Yes, the unemployment rate was estimated to be around 17%. Yes, I was running a small company in a competitive environment. But yes, I made a commitment to conquer myself and work my hardest to meet and exceed that EBITDA target by running the tightest, happiest, most innovative ship I could.

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Today I’m Inspired by: Alice Herz-Sommer

The oldest living Holocaust survivor

At 108 years old, Alice Herz-Sommer is both the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor and the world’s oldest concert pianist. She was eight years old when the Titanic sank, saw the start and end of the first world war, survived the atrocities of the Nazi prison camps, outlived her mother, husband and only son, and is a twenty-five year cancer survivor. Through unspeakable tragedy, Alice is still smiling, victorious over the anguish, pain and death that could have killed her shining spirit many decades ago. Alice is an incurable optimist.

A life of privilege

Alice Herz was born in Prague in November 1903, into a privileged secular Jewish family of five siblings. Her father, Friedrich, was a successful merchant and her mother, Sofie, was highly educated and moved in circles of well-known artists, composers and writers of the time. Alice started learning the piano from her older sister at 5 years old. At 16, she became the youngest student a the German Music Academy. Through hard work and enviable diligence, by the end of her teens, Alice had established a solid career for herself as a concert pianist and teacher. By her late twenties she was well-known throughout Central Europe. In 1931, Alice met and married Leopold Sommer, a kind-hearted business man and amateur musician, who spoke five languages. Alice fondly remembers him as “an extremely gifted man, extremely gifted”. Their son Raphael was born in 1937.

An idyllic life shattered

At the age of 35, Alice’s seemingly comfortable, secure and cultured existence was about to be shattered. Hitler’s army invaded Prague in March 1939; the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia had begun. “Everything was forbidden” Alice remembers,”we couldn’t buy groceries, take the tram, or go to the park.” Although for a while, Alice and her small family were allowed to continue living in their flat, they were surrounded by Nazis, and most Jews were sent to live in the ghetto. “We had to give away all our belongings. We had nothing.”

A bad situation became suddenly worse in 1942, when Sommer’s frail and sickly 72-year old mother was plucked from their lives and sent to a death camp. Soon after, Alice, her husband and 6 year old son were shipped off to the Theresienstadt concentration camp at the fortress town of Terezin. Described as a “purgatory for artists and musicians”, the camp housed the Jewish cultural elite of Europe. It was no spa town as advertised by the Nazis. There, she engaged in hard labor splitting mica chips for war production. They lived on watered down black coffee and watery soup. “we were so weak”, Alice remembers.

The highly-fortified and remote Terezin camp was used by the Nazis to fool the outside world. They allowed the Red Cross to visit three times per year, while in reality it was merely a transit camp to the gas chambers. Hitler’s army eventually tolerated cultural activities there, and used it to their own advantage. Jewish inmates were allowed to practice their music, and Alice gave over 100 concerts playing Beethoven, Bach and Schubert two or three times a week from memory to sick, hopelessly hungry and dying fellow inmates. “It was propaganda,” Sommer says. “This was something they could show the world, while in reality they were killing us.” But the music helped to sustain their souls. “There was no food. Music was our food. Through music we were kept alive” Alice recalls.

Redemption

In May 1945, the camp was liberated by the Russians. By then, it estimated that almost 140,000 Jews passed through Terezin to their deaths. Alice and Raphael were free. Alice’s husband had been sent to the notorious death camp, Auschwitz 8 months earlier, and although he survived his internment there, she would never see him again as he died of Typhus only six weeks before the end of the war.

Alice’s son was one of only 130 children known to leave Terezin alive of the over 15,000 children sent there during the war. Many died of starvation, cruelty and sickness, while the rest taken to deaths in the gas chambers. The survival of Alice’s son is the most extraordinary testament to her unwavering optimism. Alice remembers Raphael would keep asking, ‘What is war? Why are we hungry?”, as hundreds and hundreds died around them every day. Alice recounts, “it’s not easy for a mother to see her child crying, and to know that she does not even have a little bread to give him.” “But… I shielded him” she states triumphantly.  “We were always talking and laughing”. “Never did I let my son see my fear or worry. Laughter was our only medicine.” And even after the nightmare was over, Alice says “I never spoke a word about it because I didn’t want my child to grow up with hatred because hatred brings hatred. I succeeded. And I never hated either, never, never.”

Alice moved to Israel in 1949 where she lived for almost 40 years before her son convinced her to join him in London in 1986. In 2001, Raphael, who had gone on to study at the Paris Conservatory and to become a celebrated professional solo cellist, died suddenly of an aneurism while on tour at the age of 65.

Alice today

Today, living in a cozy one-room flat in London, Alice is contented with life, and still smiling. She sticks to her daily routine with ferocious discipline, starting her piano at 10am sharp. “I have trouble moving these two fingers,” she says smiling, slightly embarrassed. She was swimming daily up to the age of 97. She also reads every day, holding a giant magnifying glass. She takes long walks daily, shunning both walker and hearing aid, and still cooks for herself. “If Hitler could have heard me playing my music I’m sure he would have been a better man.”

At 108, Alice is still witty and coherent, even flirtatious, with a ready laugh. When asked the secret to her long life, Alice responds, “in a word: optimism. I look at the good. When you are relaxed, your body is always relaxed. When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.” Even at her advanced age, Sommers’ joy for living still shines through “I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times… Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.” Alice is not afraid of death, she says “when I die I can have a good feeling. I believe I lived my life the right way.”

Alice’s Survival Lessons

Here are 8 lessons we can learn from the life of this extraordinary woman:

1. Learn, learn, learn.

Alice’s mother had a love of learning and instilled in her children a desire to hungrily pursue knowledge, “to learn, to learn, to learn, to know, to know” Alice remembers. All through her life, it is the strength of Sommers’ mind that sustained her. She believes in putting something in your mind everyday that no one can take from you. Up to the age of 104, Alice would make the trek three times per week to a nearby university to study history, and philosophy. Even now, every Saturday, she keeps her intellectual brain limber by playing Scrabble with a friend.

2. Be disciplined. Work hard.

According to Alice, “Work is the best invention, the best.” Even past the age of 100, playing the piano is still a discipline for her. Every day she starts with an hour of Bach followed by the rest of her pieces, in order not to forget. It is not easy, and she has to play with only eight of her fingers. But, she says “It makes you happy to have something”.  According to Alice, we must always be purposefully engaged. “The worst thing is life, in my opinion, is boredom – when people don’t know what to do with themselves”. Alice asserts, “boredom is dangerous”. When it comes to diet, Alice applies discipline, too. “For 30 years I have eaten the same, fish or chicken. Good soup, and this is all. I don’t drink, not tea, not coffee, not alcohol. Hot water.” As for exercise, even at her age, Alice says “I walk a lot with terrible pains, but after 20 minutes it is much better. Sitting or lying is not good.”

3. Laugh.

Alice’s strategy has not only been to think happy thoughts, but to show it by laughing. She is convinced this is what kept her young son alive, even as he witnessed daily atrocities for two years in the Nazi camps. “Everything is good and bad. So look at the good side and laugh.” “And I was always laughing – even there, I was always laughing.” Many people may have called Alice’s attitude fake along the way, or even accused her of being in denial, but Alice has had the last laugh, and the best.

4. Look inside yourself for strength.

Alice’s bond with her mother was so strong, that when Alice’s mother was taken away by the Nazis, she experienced grief that she thought would crush her. A small voice within told her that the strength to overcome would not come from outside help, not from her friends, her husband or her son. “You alone can help yourself”, Alice remembers stoically. She found that strength by rigorously practicing “for hours and hours” one of the most technically challenging pieces for any pianist, Chopin’s ’24 Etudes’. Her ability to master the difficult music led to her conquering her grief.

5. Don’t complain.

Complaining about a situation never ever changes it. Alice cautions: “All that complain, ‘This is terrible’, it’s not so terrible after all. Complaining changes nothing.” “When you are not complaining…everybody loves you.”

6. Be optimistic. Look for the good things.

“Every day in life is beautiful – if we only look up from our reality”, Alice admonishes. Pessimists “wait for catastrophes, and sometimes the catastrophes come” she says, almost mockingly. “Always look for the good things in life: the world is wonderful, it’s full of beauty and miracles.” Alice credits her longevity to her optimism, saying “this is the reason I am so old, I know about the bad things but I look only for the good things.” “I think about the good. That takes a lot of practice.”

7. Never hate.

“When you know history – wars and wars and wars … It begins with this: that we are born half-good and half-bad – everybody, everybody. And there are situations where the bad comes out and situations where the good comes out.” Alice zealously expresses. “Never, never hate. I don’t hate the Germans. They are wonderful people, no worse than others. Evil has always existed and always will. It is part of our life.” As for Hitler, Sommer dismisses him simply as “a madman”. “I never hate. I will never hate. Hatred brings only hatred.”

8. Be grateful.

When asked what the greatest lesson of her life has been, Alice’s reply is “thankfulness”. “Be thankful for everything, being in good health, seeing the sun, hearing a nice word”, Alice advises. She laments, “Young people take everything for granted… There is electricity, cars, telegraph, telephone, Internet. We also have hot water all day long. We live like kings.” Alice is even thankful for her experience in the camp. “I am thankful to have been there… I am richer than other people.” And to sum her 108 year, Alice says “I have had such a beautiful life”. And when asked about her philosophy of life in a nutshell, this peerless lady surmises simply: “Everything we experience is a gift. Everything is a present.”

For more on Alice Herz-Sommer’s inspiring life, I recommend Caroline Stoessinger’s biography ‘A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor‘.

 

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21 Inspiring Quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born the son of a minister in Boston, Massachusetts in 1803. After attending the prestigious Harvard College, Emerson initially followed in his father’s footsteps and became an ordained minister. While still a young man, however, he left the clergy to pursue a career as an essayist and public speaker. Over the course of his career, he became one of the most influential nineteenth century literary figures. His two most famous works, essays ‘Nature’ and ‘Self Reliance’ serve to clearly outline his distinct philosophy of life which emphasized optimism, individuality, the unity of all things, the difference between right and wrong and the power of human potential.

Here are 21 of his most inspiring quotes:

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On achieving your dreams

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Ralph Waldo Emerson – On optimism

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Ralph Waldo Emerson – On personal growth

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Ralph Waldo Emerson – On using time wisely

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting… Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Ralph Waldo Emerson – On recognizing greatness in others

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On friendship and love

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Love, and you shall be loved.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On character.

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On gratitude

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On starting each day anew

“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson – On not taking life too seriously

“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Promise Yourself…

 

Promise yourself to think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds. Christian D. Larson wrote these words one hundred years ago. He realized that self-confidence combined with humility is a prerequisite for personal achievement.

When you think well of yourself — I am thoughtful, I am kind, I am productive, I am a positive person, I am considerate of other people, I am creative, I am diligent at work, I am punctual — you will naturally make your best effort to give expression to those thoughts as you go through your day. On the other hand, if you persistently think of yourself as weak, lazy, selfish, limited, then these traits will gain tangible expression in your life. People who experience a lack of self-confidence feel restricted by their own limiting thoughts; deep down inside they don’t feel good about themselves. Consistently thinking negative thoughts about yourself creates a ‘bad reputation’ of yourself within you. This lack of self-worth then gains expression through low levels of achievement and a general dissatisfaction with your life.

It is natural to question your own positive opinions about yourself. Having self-worth does not mean trying to hypnotize yourself into thinking that you’re perfect or better than you truly are. Self confidence is not an indication of a lack of humility. True self confidence requires a level of comfort with your insecurities and imperfections. Being aware of your flaws empowers you to work to improve them. If you think of yourself as a kind person, you will be more likely to act in accordance with that perception.

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to recognize your self-worth; it is your most important psychological resource. Thinking well of yourself is not about bragging or bringing attention to yourself. It is, rather, an abundance of recognition and gratitude for all the blessings you’ve been given. When you are deeply aware of your talents and potential, you don’t want to see those abilities go to waste. Having a sense of self-worth means being aware of the good that is within you. Tapping into the awareness of your own potential inspires action; it creates a hunger for expression. Thinking well of yourself creates a sense of responsibility and empowers you to go out and do great things. When you expect more from yourself, you do more.

Here are four great reasons to take the time to think great thoughts about yourself every day and develop a good sense of self worth:

1. The world becomes a beautiful place filled with possibility; life will seem less difficult, the universe less scary.
2. You will be better able to cope with adversity and challenges when they come along.
3. You will be more open to others, and less likely to see those around you as a threat.
4. You will be more inclined to treat others well and your friendships and relationships will improve.
5. You will be happier; without constantly thinking you don’t measure up, you will find joy in just being you.

You are unique. You are amazing in so many ways. There are greater powers and possibilities within you than you know, and those possibilities are limitless. You can do more and be more than you have in the past, but you must intend it. Intention starts with thought. Think great thoughts of yourself and live up to them by the things that you do. Go out and act like the person you know you can be. Proclaim your greatness to the world today! You wouldn’t want to disappoint yourself, now would you?

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Today I’m Inspired by: Bob Marley

Growing up in the seventies and eighties on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean, Bob Marley’s music was everywhere. From the soul-stirring “No Woman, No Cry” to the doleful “Redemption Song”, to the militant “War”, to the upbeat “Jammin”, his music will forever be part of the fiber of my being. As Jann Wanner put it, “Bob Marley was the Third World’s first pop superstar. He was the man who introduced the world to the mystic power of reggae. He was a true rocker at heart, and as a songwriter, he brought the lyrical force of Bob Dylan, the personal charisma of John Lennon, and the essential vocal stylings of Smokey Robinson into one voice.”

Although Bob Marley died prematurely in 1981, at the age of 36, his compilation album “Legend”, released posthumously in 1984, has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. His 1977 album “Exodus” was named Album of the Century by Time Magazine in 1999, and his song “One Love” was designated Song of the Millennium by the BBC.

The beauty and timelessness of Bob Marley’s music have evolved him into a global icon of almost mythical proportions. His uplifting messages of love, the power of the human spirit and the unity of mankind resonate with our souls. He was not just an entertainer, but a musical activist, a prophet, who spoke out on themes of morality, social justice, politics, fashion, philosophy and religion. His music stirs our highest yearnings and touches our deepest needs.

Enjoy one of my favorite Bob Marley feel-good tunes, Three Little Birds, and be sure to catch the Kevin MacDonald documentary on Bob Marley’s life in theaters April 20th.

 

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Today I’m Inspired by: James De La Vega

James De La Vega is a controversial visual artist and graffitist. He has become famous for the murals he creates all over Spanish Harlem and in the rest of New York City. His drawings show up all over public surfaces such as sidewalks, cardboard boxes and old furniture and are usually accompanied by a pithy, inspirational epigrams.

James De La Vega was born in East Harlem, and studied at York Preparatory School and later at Cornell University, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1994. De La Vega continued his studies at the Sorbonne and University of Oxford. While he lives in in Soho, he also works Paris, Italy, and Tokyo. In 2004, Salon.com called him “probably the most revered street artist in New York.

Today I would like to share some of his work with you. If you’ve been looking for a sign, here it is. But first you have to dream…

Copyright Dave Beckerman

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Promise Yourself…

“Promise yourself to today to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.” ~Christian D. Larson

Christian D. Larson penned these inspiring words in 1912. They appeared in his book ‘Your Forces and How to Use Them‘ (now in the public domain) and form part of what has become known as the Optimist Creed, adopted by Optimist clubs worldwide. These beautiful words have been inspiring me for years and I hope they touch your life, too.

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Promise Yourself…

“Promise yourself to today to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.” ~Christian D. Larson

Christian D. Larson penned these inspiring words in 1912. They appeared in his book ‘Your Forces and How to Use Them‘ (now in the public domain) and form part of what has become known as the Optimist Creed, adopted by Optimist clubs worldwide. These beautiful words have been inspiring me for years and I hope they do the same for you.