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Shya, Will You Ever Be a Mensch?

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Shya, Will You Ever Be a Mensch?

Shya, Will You Ever Be a Mensch?

By Shya Kane

“Mensch” is a Yiddish word meaning “a person of integrity and honor.”

It was 1957, I was 16 years old and struggling. A troubled teenager, I was dyslexic and could hardly read. Somehow, I eventually managed to make it through high school and go on to get a college degree, but at that time, my fate was quite uncertain. It was hard to know how I would turn out, but things weren’t looking good. At this point, skipping school was the norm and teachers and administrators hardly noticed – and neither did my folks. They were too busy. My sister was in the process of dying from cancer, a lengthy ordeal. Understandably, my parents had a lot on their plates. They were simple people, lost in the complexities and ongoing tragedy of their firstborn’s steady decline.

I imagine they knew I was floundering, but I was in those difficult adolescent years and I didn’t make it easy for them. Eventually my parents decided to send me to spend time in the country with a lady who worked in my dad’s dress factory.

Lina and Ben Veloski lived in Spring Valley, New York. It was summer and Ben took me fishing. It’s hard to remember the details now, but I do recall that Ben would rouse me early to head down to the lake. Fishing was already a passion of mine but he had a style of fishing that was pretty boring for a teenager. We would sit in a little rowboat, drop a minnow on a hook over the side and then sit watching a bobber float on the surface of the water, waiting for a fish to bite. Sometimes it never happened. So we would pass the time by drinking brandy from his flask. As the liquid would burn on the way down, Ben would often say, “Don’t let Lina know.”

Then I met their son Marvin, who was in his late 30s. Soon he was someone I looked up to. Not only was he patient and happy to have me tag along with him, Marvin did a different kind of fishing – one where you cast a lure out and reel it back in. This was active and much more exciting. We would row over near the lily pads where the fish hung out. From there a well-placed cast could be rewarded with an explosive strike from a smallmouth bass. Pretty soon, I no longer fished with Ben and I became a regular at Marvin’s house.

For the next two years, I was a frequent weekend and summer guest in Marvin’s home. His job was as a high school shop teacher and through him I gradually gained a respect for getting an education. Marvin had a favorite saying for me. He said it in Yiddish, which I didn’t really understand, but it roughly translated to, “Shya, will you ever be a mensch?” What he was really saying, was, “Will you make a difference with your life? Will you be a contribution to humanity, rather than forever proving that your parents did it wrong?”

It’s been more than 60 years since I first met Marvin. Since then, my passion for fishing has continued to grow and I have traveled to places beyond my wildest expectations. I have raised a family of my own. I’ve been married and divorced and married again – now for more than 30 years. Like Marvin, I am now a teacher. I never thought that was possible in those difficult years when I was so busy trying to figure out who I was and what my life purpose would be.

When my mother was on her deathbed, she looked up at me and said, “Shya, I never thought you were going to make it. But you did. You’ve turned out. I’m so proud of you.”

In answer to your question, Marvin: Yes. I have become a mensch. I’ve come to realize that it is possible to be a mess as a child, yet grow up to make a difference in the world. Having a troubled childhood does not mean that this moment of my life can’t be satisfying, fulfilling and perfect. Especially when I take my attention off myself and take care of the people around me.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, podcast/radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, Germany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here podcast or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books. Their newest book, Being Here…Too, is available on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com and everywhere books are sold.

Books by Ariel & Shya Kane

How You Can Become a Peak-Performing Person and Leader: Tackling Taboo Realities Like Sexual Violence and Tobacco Use Head-On by Hemda Mizrahi

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How You Can Become a Peak-Performing Person and Leader: Tackling Taboo Realities Like Sexual Violence and Tobacco Use Head-On by Hemda Mizrahi

Peter Prichard Photo Cropped Sarah Beaulieu Photo Cropped

Leadership and social change experts Peter Prichard and Sarah Beaulieu joined me on “Turn the Page” to discuss two taboo topics—tobacco use and sexual violence. In sharing compelling personal stories that galvanized their social change missions, Peter and Sarah demonstrate how truth-telling can empower you to become a peak-performing person and leader who chooses to make a difference

Sarah and Peter extended their information sharing after the show to provide you with additional support and encouragement.

Sarah notes, “One challenge with sexual violence is that many people view it as a “women’s issue.” Sexual violence directly impacts about one out of four women AND one out of six men in the United States. You can learn more about the facts surrounding men and sexual violence at: http://theenlivenproject.com/convo-graphic-the-truth-about-men-and-sexual-violence/

Sarah is working on a book to help men support survivors of sexual violence in their lives and become stronger champions for sexual violence. If you’d like to contribute your perspective to this book, please complete her men’s survey and invite your colleagues and friends to do the same

She shares a few of the many practical ways that you can support stigmatized issues like sexual violence without re-vamping your company’s community relations efforts: follow an anti-sexual violence organization on social media; sponsor a table at a fundraising event; or provide skilled volunteer support to group that works directly with survivors.

She also suggests exploring how sexual violence might intersect with issues that you or your employer already support, citing the following examples: “while childhood exposure to sexual violence can impact your physical and mental health (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy), few organizations that focus on heart disease, diabetes, or obesity view sexual violence prevention and response as a part of their own work to eliminate these chronic conditions.

Similarly, sexual abuse or assault at home drives many adolescents into the foster care system, or homelessness, which in turn places them at higher risk. Groups committed to ending homelessness for teens ought to consider sexual violence prevention as a part of their strategy. Finally, sexual violence prevention can help to increase rates of high school graduation. According to America’s Promise Alliance (http://www.americaspromise.org), students need safe spaces and social supports to learn and thrive. That includes a home and school life free of sexual violence.”


“In my experience as a leadership development consultant and career coach, individuals who create a specific statement about who they are and what they represent are better positioned to tackle taboo realities or other difficult situations that confront them.” He references Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” as a valuable resource for creating a personal mission statement (refer to Covey’s chapter on Habit 2, “Begin with the end in mind.”). In Covey’s words, here’s what this declaration can do for you: “Once you have that sense of mission, you have the essence of your own proactivity. You have the vision and the values, which direct your life.  You have the basic direction from which you set your long-and short-term goals.”

Peter recommends Dr. Al Siebert’s book, “The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure, and Bounce Back From Setbacks,” and the confidential, free-of-charge, Resiliency Quiz available through Dr. Siebert’s site, www.resiliencycenter.com. The quiz will help you to identify and enhance the behaviors through which you respond to challenges.

Referring to a June 2006 Harvard Business Review article entitled “Leadership Run Amok: The Destructive Potential of Overachievers,” Peter cautions: “Many overachievers act in a way that lessens positive feelings in others.” He points to the research of Jim Collins in his monograph “Good to Great and the Social Sectors,” which describes the most effective Level 5 Leaders as “ambitious first and foremost for the cause, the movement, the mission, the work—not themselves.”

Understanding what you have to offer is foundational to leading yourself and others through difficult change initiatives. Peter’s websites offer tools through which you can inventory the range of competencies that will enable you to contribute to a positive result:
www.makebigtobaccounprofitable.com  AND  www.workforthecommongood.com.

Peter identifies Dr. Paul Bendheim’s, book “The Brain Training Revolution: A Proven Workout for Healthy Brain Functioning,” as a comprehensive, well-researched, and practical guide for accessing your mental capacity to confront challenges. Regardless of the resources you choose to engage, designing a lifestyle that enhances your physical and mental functioning will equip you to contribute to the common good more effectively and over a longer period of time.”

“Facing a traumatic experience like sexual violence has taught me about resilience and strength, and enhanced my ability to support others in their leadership pathways.”

Peter’s own mission statement is reflected in two books that he’s written to bring into focus realities surrounding sexual violence and tobacco use amongst teens, and solutions: “Dawn of Hope” AND “Dawn of the Tobacco Wars: The Sequel to Dawn of Hope”.

We all have at least one torch to light! Sarah and Peter have inspired me to light mine! How about you? Listen to our conversation and learn more

How to Be Helpful! With the on-air Be the Star You Are!® youth reporters.

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Each day brings an opportunity to enliven, inspire, and elevate other people’s lives. The question is, how are you going to find the big and small ways to be caring and helpful? Hosts Henna Hundal and Asya Gonzalez explore what it means to act with altruism, to fulfill our civic virtues, to be our neighbor’s keeper, and to be our most benevolent selves. The Gift of Giving reporter, Katelyn Darrow, shares stories from her life that inspired her to create Angels of God charity and encourages acts of kindness every day. For a fresh perspective on the topic, the youngest person ever to audition for be a reporter on Express Yourself!™, ten-year-old Sam Casey along with his cousin, Eddie, join the ladies with a new segment called Game Boys. Whether playing on-line games is helpful is debatable, so we’ll wait to hear from you.

Be helpful. Care, share, and be fair.

Listen at VoiceAmerica Kids Radio and view Photos, descriptions, links, and listen Here!

Listen to all broadcasts at ITUNES


Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio is produced by Cynthia Brian of Starstyle® Productions, llc as an outreach program of Be the Star You Are!® charity. For information on being a guest email caiekelley@gmail.com. To make a tax-deductible donation to keep this positive youth programming broadcasting weekly to international audiences. Thanks for supporting teens!

Be the Star You Are!® charity. It’s the Season of Giving Make a donation today. Buy books and shirts Here.

Read more at VoiceAmerica Press Pass

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Music For a Cause

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Music For a Cause
Have you ever gone to the farmer’s market, train station or public square when a musician was playing, and felt a whole new emotional world flow out from his guitar or fiddle, the soaring melodies permeating through the air and brightening the mood with a whiff of freshness and vigor? I have always been entranced and uplifted by the music of street performers, and at the same time inspired to share my own music with others.

On Veteran’s Day the Campolindo Band and Orchestra performed classic American tunes for retired veterans at the Veterans Home of West Los Angeles. Two busloads of eighty high school music students hauled timpani, chimes, and other instruments to Los Angeles in order to commemorate the veterans for their service. A small crowd of veterans assembled to attend the performance, some with physical disabilities and forced nervous ticks, but almost all forced themselves to overcome physical hardship to stand up and salute proudly when their division’s march was played. “It was an honor playing for the veterans,” reflects cellist Brian Davis. “The experience made me think about the power of music to uplift and inspire.” “Music communicates directly with the soul,” conductor Johnny Johnson intones on a discussion of the concert. Therefore, he says, “Performing music for our community and others is an important public service.”

music for a cause

 A similar event happened on Halloween. As a part of the “Letters for Literacy” event for local literacy charity Be the Star You Are!®, I, and a chamber group of friends performed some spooky and whimsical tunes at the Rheem Valley Shopping Center. The trick-or-treaters happily rejoiced in the combined atmosphere of bright harmonies and free candy.  “It feels like we’re trick-or-treating in Disneyland,” exclaimed Junior Yaman Jandali, who was trick-or-treating at local businesses with friends. “Also, I’m glad to learn about Be the Star You Are!® It’s a good cause and I will support it.” Little kids dressed in vampire and princess costumes flocked around to enjoy the music and show their support by stuffing a dollar or two in the donation box. Even parents, who weren’t trick-or-treating, showed great interest in the music and the charity, clapping along with the music and taking flyers. Performers and audience tapped and danced to the rhythm of the music and had great fun.

 Local groups are taking advantage of their musical abilities to share their joy of music and to promote good causes. Stay tuned. On December 21, local teens will provide another music performance in the Orinda Library to raise funds for Haiyan disaster relief. Music is the universal language of connection and collaboration.

 BTSYA wants to make sure that every child and adult who has suffered a loss will have a book or game for the holidays. A donation of $25 ships a small box of books, $100 ships a case of brand new books. Any amount will help the victims. All donations are tax deductible and can be made via PAYPAL  or Be The Star You Are Website.

Checks may be sent to:

Be the Star You Are!® 501c3

PO Box 376

Moraga, Ca. 94556



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This is a great time to make a big difference for those who have suffered such a big loss during this holiday season. Thanks for caring.

For more Information click Here.

 As the editor and teen coach for Teen Scene for the newspaper, Cynthia Brian has had the opportunity to work with talented teens with attitude and opinions. She shares selected published works. Read numerous articles shepherded by Cynthia. Cynthia Brian also produces Express Yourself!™ on Voiceamerica Kids Network heard Tuesdays NOON PT and click here for photos, descriptions, links, and more.

More information about the show click here.

 Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio is produced by Cynthia Brian of Starstyle® Productions, llc as an outreach program of Be the Star You Are!® charity. For information on being a guest email info@BetheStarYouAre.org. To make a tax-deductible donation to keep this positive youth programming broadcasting weekly to international audiences, visit the website and Click here to Donate.    Thanks for supporting teens!

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