February 3, 2017

Personal Re-branding

Posted in Career, spirit tagged , , , , , at 1:06 pm by degyes

Here’s the talk that I gave at Megacomm 2017, as a participant in Reinventing Yourself—Expert Advice on Personal Rebranding and Transitioning, a panel discussion on which I participated along with Nathalie Garson, Charlie Kalech, and Sigal Abbatovi Shamir, and moderated by Sara Halevi Kalech.

On November 13th, I got fired.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

No, I didn’t say it was one of the easiest things.

It still isn’t. I’m still adjusting.

So what was so great about getting fired?

What makes you sure I’m not putting you on with overheated self-help hyperbole, or singing kumbaya for my own self-aggrandizement?

The answer is … opportunity.

To do what?

To develop professionally, to have new experiences, and to grow personally too.

Forbes magazine recently asked the question:

How many careers do we get in a lifetime?

The answer is we don’t know because it’s a moving target.

But we do know that for most of us, it’s more than one; likely it’s several.

And we can certainly expect to have more than one job.

So you may be wondering, how many careers has this guy had?

How many jobs have I had?

The answer–in the ultimate sense–is one; one career, one job. And this applies to all of us. Because …

You are the founder and director of You, Inc.

And I’m the founder and director of Me, Inc.

No, you won’t find these companies by searching Google or by looking on LinkedIn.

Because they’re not companies in the conventional sense, of course.

Rather they reflect an attitude, a mindset, or even better, a way of experiencing work, relating to your job, and managing your career.

But what does this really mean?

It means actively seeking out opportunities to do new things, take on new challenges, and grow in ways that you might not have anticipated.

I’ll give you the example I’m most familiar with … myself.

I made Aliya about 25 years ago.

I frankly hadn’t a clue what I was doing.

What was worse, I had hard time admitting that to myself … I certainly couldn’t admit it to others.

I started off teaching English. And then, a couple of years into the Aliya project, I got into hi-tech through technical writing. Some friends teased me that I’d be writing on the back of shampoo bottles. I’m still waiting for that assignment.

After about a year of technical writing, I was told I’d need to learn how to write macros, you know, those programs that automate activities in Word and other tools.

At the time, it was pretty scary. I hadn’t been one of those kids who took quickly to computers when they started appearing all over the place when I was in middle school.

I found a friend to teach me the essential control structures and syntax of BASIC. I got my boss at the time to order some books and reference guides (this was before the Internet had really taken off).

And I learned programming, or at least enough to get myself going on the job.

Eventually, I wrote and published some articles on Word automation, and became rather adept at the programmatic side of MS Office. Without calling it re-invention, I’d had my first taste of what would evolve into a set of adaptive habits that would come in handy throughout my career.

Some years later, at another job at a different company, a product management assignment came up. A whole new set of skills were needed. Another opportunity.

And then, some years later, project management. Followed by technical journalism and newsletter writing. And most recently, training teams in financial compliance, project auditing, and due-diligence procedures.

This last assignment was almost a four-year stint. What was special about it was that it took me WAY out of my comfort zone. Previously, I’d been quite phobic about anything having to do with money. Oh boy, did I have to get over that fear fast. In fact, I had to convey to others a sense of confidence explaining financial policies, processes, and procedures.

What’s the common thread in all this? Does there have to be one?

Not necessarily, though I find that identifying a common thread helps in placing some understanding and awareness around the process that’s going on.  

For me, that thread is communication. That’s my core skill, and the one I always draw upon, and tap into.

What do I mean by communication?

Beyond all the buzzwords, technical terms, tools, technologies, and industry jargon, what I value most is communicating with human beings. Knowing that about myself has been invaluable. But getting there has taken some introspection and soul-searching. It also requires patience and the ability to weather what might appear initially as negative experiences or setbacks.

For you, the core skill might be written communication; or spoken; or maybe it’s a love of technology, finance, product acceleration, information architecture, content design, or user experiences.

But these are really just examples of things that professional communicators do at various points in their careers to learn new things, to expand their skill sets, grow their knowledge base, succeed on the job, or at the next job, or at some point off in the future.

I’ve come to call this the Art of Reinvention. Or, a set of habits that helps you weather storms in your career, turn setbacks into growth opportunities, or simply to keep the faith and see the positive in whatever circumstances you find your job situation.

Embracing reinvention is not necessarily the easiest path.

But I believe it’s the right one.

Because if nothing else, it gives you a chance to tap into the best parts of yourself, to hear the voice that reminds you to remain calm, to draw upon your wellspring of confidence, and to be resilient.

I hope these last few moments have been helpful in some way, or at least provided you with some take-home ideas for things to think about.

I’d anyway be happy for your feedback. And that includes letting me know what you didn’t like about this talk. Maybe you’ll be helping me with my next reinvention assignment!

Thank you all.

August 15, 2016

Smoking Hope: The Morale Factor and Medical Outcomes

Posted in ethics, medicine, Philosophy, spirit tagged , , , at 2:52 pm by degyes

A short speech delivered to Har Hotzvim Toastmasters on August 10th, 2016.

I hope you’ll enjoy!

March 19, 2016

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016: Staying Connected

Posted in Family, running, spirit tagged , , , , , at 8:56 pm by degyes

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016 - start.jpgWhen I compare how little enthusiasm I had during the weeks leading up to this year’s race, with the pure, unmitigated, and open-hearted joy I experienced during the actual run, I’m only reminded of how important it is to consciously and actively work to perform the heavy lifting needed to move beyond energy draining karmas (read: ambivalent moods) and, as the famous athletic shoe company instructs, just do it.

I found myself deeply moved by the masses of Am Yisrael–and our dear friends and supporters, many of whom came at no small expense, to participate–running in this year’s event. I was moved to tears several times seeing how many participants were running in memory of victims of war and terror, as well as those participating to raise awareness and funds for those whose lives have been impacted by war, illness, poverty, and various misfortune.

I was also quite overjoyed seeing my lovely and wonderful wife, Ilana Sobel, *** four different times (!!) *** during the course of the race!! Thank you, sweetheart, for tracking my route and turning out to cheer me on … and for the great photo of me chugging away at km 11.

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016 - at km 11.jpg
As you may recall from my post following last year’s race, I really connect with my Dad’s memory during the Jerusalem run, especially when things happen that can’t be explained in any rational framework. Last night, a very dear overseas friend with whom I hadn’t been in touch in some months, contacted me asking what impressed me as a deeply mystical question, one that’s quite out of my league … but right up Dad’s ally. That I was able to provide an answer by scanning him a page of Dad’s Kabbalah Notebook left me with an immensely connected feeling, which augmented quite powerfully during the last 4 km today, when my physical energy is rather drained, and I’m running more on resources of the Spirit.

Jerusalem Half Marathon 2016 - finish.jpgThank you all, dear ones near and far, for reading my post. And biggest thank you to the Ultimate Timeless Experience and Eternal Companion for bringing about the Conditions of Life on Earth for this moment to happen.


ברוך אתה יהוה, אלוהינו מלך העולם, שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה.

March 28, 2015

My Jerusalem Marathon Story – 2015

Posted in running, spirit tagged , , at 8:14 pm by degyes

Here’s a slightly annotated version of what I texted Ilana shortly after I completed the route:

“Finished (the 21K). Felt fantastic. Euphoric. Said shechechianu (שהחיינו) at finish line. Endorphin rush toward end was beyond anything I’d ever experienced. Was in tears most of the last 2.5 kilometers. Felt Dad’s presence so powerfully. Wow. Now I know why I did it. Felt like I just got up from Shiva and gave birth to my authentic self. Love you.”


My newly discovered “secret” to success: running—or any sport based around individual endurance—isn’t about you against yourself; it’s you with yourself. Because open-hearted kindness to yourself will get you so much farther than you ego ever will.

Be good to each other, everyone. Life’s too short for getting caught up in the BS.

Shabbat Shalom / Peace

September 1, 2014

Yitz – An Affirmation of Life

Posted in Family, Philosophy, spirit tagged at 5:10 am by degyes

ויפח בעפיו נשמת החיים, והיה לאדם נפש חיה

And God breathed life into man, and gave him a living soul.

This is not a eulogy. This is an affirmation of a life lived fully and abundantly.

For Dad, this is not an end. This is a transition. Yes, we are all very sad. It’s not easy to say goodbye, especially to a man who exuded such a profound sense of love, warmth, and kindness, not only to his family and friends, but to all Human Beings, and really to all living creatures.

For Dad, yesterday marked the beginning of a transition from the physical world – a place of constraint and limitation – to the dimension of pure Spirit, an abode of uninhibited connection with the Oneness of the Source; what Dad referred to so comfortably and often quite casually as Adonai – his Eternal Friend.

These past decades have seen Dad venturing out on a courageous path to pursue Universal Truth, taking him beyond the realm of convention and established dogmas and doctrines, as he strove to achieve a constant and always-available connection with God.  He achieved this so beautifully and creatively through a unique blend of Jewish mysticism with enduring truths gleaned from various and diverse sources that stood the test of time, and expressed themselves by the imperative to trust God and show kindness and care to all Humans.

This meant evolving and cultivating a way of being, feeling, and living, fueled by Divine Energy that Dad was able to experience and share in this world – at times quite powerfully, at times subtly, often intuitively, and most importantly, expressed through Chessed … pure, undiluted, loving kindness and respect for Life in all its wondrous manifestations.

It was one of Dad’s core teachings that the body is a vehicle in which the soul rides during its journey on this planet. When that ride is over, and the body – the external shell — is cast aside, the soul can then experience the limitless freedom of reconnection with its Source; where no obstacles stand in the path of fully communing with God in all the ways our Human faculties could ever attain.

יהוה נתן, יהוה לקח, יהיה שם יהוה מבורך

The Lord gives, the Lord takes, blessed is the name of the Lord.

May all of us – inspired by the beautiful soul that is Yitz – merit to achieve the tender patience, the gentle kindness, the warm generosity, the sincere menschlikeit, the big-hearted readiness to forgive, the receptivity to the deepest human needs, and the enduring courage to pursue Truth.

Bless you Yitz for being a light-holder and for being an example of one who truly lives and teaches others to live.

Bless you Dad on your continuing journey.  Go with God. We know that for you, there’s no other way.

We love you.

September 3, 2012

Dvar Torah – Ki Titzei (Hanoch’s Bar Mitzvah)

Posted in Commentary, ethics, spirit tagged , , , at 10:40 pm by degyes

The Torah portion that Hanoch read this past Shabbat—כי תצא—is filled with an impressive variety of positive commandments—מצוות תעשה—mostly concerning proper ethical conduct, including respect for human dignity, practicing דרך ארץ, דרכי שלום, consideration for the feelings of others, plus a whole lot more.

Yet no sooner do we begin reading the parsha, when we stumble upon the obscure and perhaps troubling story about the בן סורר ומורה – an insubordinate and defiant son.

Now, the question you’re probably asking yourselves is, what would בן סורר ומורה possibly have to do with Hanoch Egyes?

The answer is, of course, not much at all.

Those of you familiar with Hanoch are aware of what a warm, caring, and kind person he is.

But the question remains as to why the laws concerning בן סורר ומורה appear, of all places, in this parsha.

What could we possibly learn from this mitzvah? From this unusual story? What do we know about בן סורר ומורה?

Well, for one thing, we know that the law was almost never actually practiced.

In fact, חז”ל saw to it that so many fences would be built around the law, that it would be virtually impossible to implement.

What’s more, the Gemara states “בן סורר ומורה, לא היה, ולא עתיד להיות”.

So why are we telling this story now, of all times?

The parsha begins with the words “כי תצא למלחמה על איובך”.

In the literal sense, the Torah is referring to an actual military operation.

But I believe there’s another war going on here, perhaps on a deeper level. What kind of war would that be? Who is the enemy? And what does it have to do with בן סורר ומורה?

Beyond the mitzvoth that we can easily identify in the Torah, there is, I believe, a greater imperative—דרישה מוסרית—without which the mitzvoth can become rather meaningless.

That is the ongoing struggle against our own aloofness (אדישות), where the enemy is the easy pull toward falling in line with a bad culture, a תרבות רעה.

Some of you may even be asking, where is the תרבות טוב today, if there is any left at all. Is the lack of תרבות טוב a problem unique to our time, or is it just a question of scale?

Honestly, I’m really not sure. Though I would propose that the lesson בן סורר ומורה teaches us today is one of individual responsibility.

That means making conscious decisions to be a good person in a bad world.

Or perhaps, a good person in a good world where you just have to work a little harder to find the good.

What a wonderful message for arriving at the age of mitzvoth.

Hanoch, you’re coming of age at time and in a place when there’s really no one who can force you to perform mitzvoth.

Why is that significant?

Because it means only you can make a conscious decision to be a responsible, considerate, observant Jewish adult, and an upstanding participant in the Jewish community.

Baruch Hashem, you’re off to a great start.

But the decision to do the right thing —now and throughout life—all too often means going in contradiction—בניגוד— to what many others around you are doing.

That challenge never stops. We face it almost every day.

In his book Notes on the Weekly Torah Portion, Yeshayahu Leibovitz draws an analogy between the mitzvot of בן סורר ומורה and the mitzvah of putting up a railing—מעקה—on a roof.

The Torah says כי תבנה בית חדש, ועשית מעקה לגגך, ולא תשים דמים בביתך כי ייפול הנופל ממנו””

Now why are we commanded to ensure public safety?

If one believes in השגחה פרטית, if God decides that someone’s going to fall off a roof, then what can we do to prevent that from happening?

Since we can’t see events from God’s perspective, we’re commanded to take individual responsibility and prevent potential harm from occurring.

This theme of individual responsibility to behave ethically can be applied to so many of the mitzvoth appearing throughout your parsha.

The laws governing what kind of property can be seized in place of unpaid debts. Treatment of women captured in war.

Fugitive slaves. Ethical treatment of animals.

Paying employees their wages on time. Handling the body of an executed criminal. Laws against usury (נשך ומרבית).

And rules governing proper conduct between men and women. And so much more.

We’re living in a very special time. Not necessarily the easiest time. But one where we can see miracles before us every day.

Hanoch, as you begin your life as a Jewish adult, remember these moral lessons that your parsha teaches.

No one—except you and you yourself— can make you do the right thing.

Of course, we’re here to help you along the way. Though starting today, the responsibility is really yours.

The parsha ends with a call to blot out the memory of Amalek, as one of God’s expectations of us in order to ensure our safety in the Land.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that there’s always a direct reward or clear benefit given for performing mitzvoth and conducting yourself the right way.

The reward is the mitzvah itself; to walk with God, to struggle with the responsibility of being a mensch in this world.

To know that you’re constantly striving to become the kind of human being that the Torah had in mind when God gave us these laws.

I love you son.

May 23, 2010

Nachshon’s Bar Mitzvah: Dvar Torah

Posted in spirit tagged , , , , , , , , at 5:16 pm by degyes

ומתוכה דמות ארבע חיות וזה מראיהן: דמות אדם להנה. וארבע פנים לאחד וארבע כנפיים לאחת להם.

(יחזקאל 1:5-6)

And from within the cloud and flashing fire, were the figures of four creatures. And this was their appearance. They had the figures of human beings. However, each had four faces, and each of them had four wings …


The haphtarah you read the other day contains part of Yehezkel’s vision (חזון יחזקאל). It speaks of the חיות – the living angelic creatures – supporting the מרכבה, the chariot, one of the most mysterious aspects of Jewish mysticism.

There is much speculation in Biblical commentary – פרשנות – about the chariot’s significance. For example, בראשית רבה teaches that while the גלגלים, אופנים, and חיות הקודש represent the heavenly chariot, the Avot represent the merkavah on Earth.

Though the text states that the חיות had four faces, תרגום יונתן indicates that it was really four faces in each direction, meaning each creature had 16 faces, for a total of 64 faces. So what could this possibly mean to us?

While the ultimate meaning of the chariot and its description might be beyond our understanding, I can’t help but think that the many faces of the חיות have a special meaning for you today.

On the one hand, there are different ways to approach God and relate to the mitzvoth; and it’s important to appreciate and respect the different personalities, temperaments, and intellects that make up a Jewish community. While we’re all so different, we’re all made in God’s image. There’s an essential Godliness in all of us. While sometimes we can see it clearly, other times we have to look deeper – in others and in ourselves. Learning how to do this is the work of a lifetime. So if you find it difficult, don’t worry.

On the other hand, we all share a common foundation, as Yehezkel’s vision teaches Divine justice, urging us to avoid idolatry and immorality – the kinds of things that can undermine not only the Jewish community – but human society as a whole.

Beyond relating to these concepts as abstract ideas, Yehezkel offers practical guidance in encouraging the return to Torah as the basis for Jewish life, keeping the covenant with God both in the ethical and ritual senses.

Nachshon, we’ve raised you in environments where we believed you would have the opportunity to become immersed in the Jewish tradition, in an atmosphere of open-mindedness where questioning is encouraged, and where appreciation is given to the idea that Godliness expresses itself in different ways in different people.

Having said that, I’d like to share with you the insight that while it’s natural – and often good – to seek inspiration in the modern world – there is what to learn from those living in a more closed world – we try to respect their choices and do our best to appreciate the treasure that they struggle to protect.

A famous rabbi in America —whose name is Shmuley1 — says that the “truly great man is not one who slays dragons, but who battles his inner demons, who struggles with himself to improve his character.” This reminds me of what we studied in Pirke Avot where it says “אֵיזֶהוּ גִּבּוֹר? – הַכּוֹבֵשׁ אֶת יִצְרוֹ”. Who is a hero? One who controls his impulses. To relate this to your Haphtarah, Yehezkel’s vision describes holiness as the ability to free ourselves from our baser instincts.

This brings us to the central theme of becoming Bar Mitzvah, which is, reaching the age of individual responsibility.

It’s very easy at a moment like this to think that being popular, liked, and loved is the most important thing in life. But as you reach the age of Jewish responsibility, remember that no great person ever lived who wasn’t prepared to be unpopular, disliked, and even hated.

That’s because, as Rabbi Shmuley says, holiness means placing justice and decency above popularity and fitting in.

Do the right thing, even if it costs you friendship, status, and material wealth.

Remember that it’s better to walk alone with God, than to be popular.

Do your best to treat people with kindness and respect, even when those people are full of criticism. That’s because you’ll often learn much more from your critics and detractors than from those who like you.

Having said all that, Nachshon, you have a lot to be proud of this evening. You’ve come a long way in life, and in your preparation for this day. We’re proud of you, and we love you.

So as you start on the path to Jewish adulthood – as you become a man – always strive to listen to your inner voice – the voice that reminds you to be the best Nachshon you can be.

(1) Boteach, Shmuley. “For my son, on his bar mitzva.” Jerusalem Post Online Edition, May 17, 2006.