How to Get Ahead

There are times at work when I get stuck. I’ve noticed that this happens when I do not have a very clear vision of how to move forward. This happens to my kids as well.

My oldest son, Shemer, who is in fifth grade will often refuse to do his homework. I spend more time trying to persuade him to do his work than it actually takes him to complete his assignments. Anxiety builds up in his mind. He convinces himself that the tasks are difficult, that he does not know how to do it, that there is so much homework that he can not do it. He becomes overwhelmed and unable to move forward. He is stuck.

When this happens I point it out to Shemer. I ask him if he wants to be in this place. When he says no, I let him know that he can either ask for help or he can move onward himself. He usually asks for help and I explain, step-by-step, what we are going to do. By breaking it down into small steps that are achievable, we continue doing his homework together. Before he knows it, his homework is finished and the crisis is over.

The same process works for me at work. I am fortunate that I have employees, colleagues and a business coach with whom I can consult. Often, they help me clarify not only what I want to achieve, but step-by-step how to reach my goals. I have found that it is very important to have a clear vision of how to proceed in order to move ahead. With a clear picture in my mind’s eye, I am not afraid to move forward because I can envision my destination. With fortitude and perhaps a bit of stubbornness, I forge ahead and get there.

It is disheartening and frustrating to me, however, when I see that people are stuck and unable to proceed. This is especially true when I look at the leadership of institutions and nations. Lacking vision, such leaders often look backwards instead of forwards, instilling fear instead of hope, worrying about protecting and defending themselves instead of taking risks to achieve a better future. In place of forging ahead and challenging others to meet them, too often people in positions of leadership blame their inability to progress on other people or forces they do not control. They are victims of the market, the competition, political rivals, other threats or other challenges. In actuality, they are victims of their own inadequacies, their inability to see their destination and arrive independent of others.

Last month, I attended the Second International Jewish Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem. The keynote speaker, Ron Dermer is a senior adviser to the Prime Minister of Israel. His address was entitled “Defending Israel Online.” He told us that we are engaged in a war and that the role that bloggers play is as important as that of soldiers. I cringed at his words. He was turning communication, the most important tool in building bridges between people into an instrument of war and instigating its use as such. Instead of applauding the efforts of people using social media to cross borders and engage with each other to make the world a better place, he only looked backwards from a defensive position unable to progress in the direction of a new reality.

In his recent speech to the United Nations, Prime Minister Natanyahu instilled me with pride, defending not only Israel’s right to exist but celebrating our truly remarkable achievements. As he did as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations when I loved to listen to him as a New York college student in the 1980s, our Prime Minister delivered his addresses, pitting Israel as the hero against unbelievable odds. However, now I listened from a different perspective. Prime Minister Natanyahu positioned Israel against its enemies, as part of of the struggle against “the greatest threat facing the world today.” Natanyahu portrayed us as victims, not as protagonists who are acting towards a vision but as reactionaries defending themselves against a threat.

For Natanyahu and his government, there is a war going on. Israel is the victim who is helpless. We are stuck and unable to build a better future not because we do not want to, but because of everybody else.

There is always a way to achieve what you set out to do.

I have a different vision from the current government and I act to bring it into reality. While I have used social media as a means of communication to defend Israel and counter misinformation, I have used it more as a means to help to bring people together, not to exacerbate their differences and create divisions.

As Ron Dermer was telling Jewish bloggers that we were engaged in a war and we must use social media to defend Israel, I was receiving messages with words of support and encouragement for a micro-blogging event I was organizing from colleagues in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Bethlehem, Lebanon and Jordan. Together we used the micro-blogging platform of Twitter to raise money for charity and to bring people from different backgrounds together. Our event in Jerusalem raised money to train Ethiopian Israelis for high-tech jobs and to facilitate social and political leadership within that immigrant community through Tech-Career. The same weekend, similar events took place supporting 135 local charities all over the world raising over $450,000. The event, Twestival Local, was organized by regions. As the coordinator of the Jerusalem Twestival, I was working with the Mideast team, facilitated by a woman in Dubai. Together we worked toward our vision of an international cooperation supporting social causes and succeeded in reaching out to each other, crossing boundaries and overcoming obstacles.

I repeatedly see that when I come together with others and work towards a goal, we are able to achieve things greater than we could achieve on our own. Whether it concerns personal challenges, professional dilemmas or even international relations, reaching out, asking for help and engaging others towards a vision and goal is a vehicle through which we can accomplish great things. When we feel threatened and defensive, refusing to engage and participate, not only do we not achieve our goals, we keep ourselves stuck in a place we do not want to be, remaining impotent and isolated. To get out of that place we just need to catch ourselves, draw a different picture and accomplish a series of small steps to get us where we want to go.

Originally published in the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey [edited version]

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