Ethical Tribing hits #1 in five Amazon categories:
- Digital Media
- Business & Marketing
- Computers & Technology
Really? The birthday angle? What the hell could my birthday possibly have to do with how well my new book is doing? Have I no shame??
Hey — it’s a dog-eat-dog, ultra-fragmented media universe out there. Better to bark than mumble. Not to worry, though. This mutt is going to take you full circle…
In 1981, I was 14 years old, and Raiders of the Lost Ark was the blockbuster of the summer. It’s still one of my favorite flicks, and there’s one line from it that I’ve never forgotten:
“It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage.”
It was a self-deprecating comeback from “Indiana Jones,” meant to answer “Marion’s” criticism of Indy not having the same physical durability he’d had as a younger man.
The line has stood the test of time; it still shows up on list after list of great movie quotes. The reason, I think, is because there’s a deeper meaning in those eight words — about life and aging. You don’t have to be a past-your-prime extreme athlete to feel the wear and tear of your own years. It’s universal.
But the subtext of the quote is the part that’s far more useful: as we age, our minds are logging the very same mileage as our bodies. Every second, every hour, every year. Just in a different way. The thoughts, feelings and events we experience as the minutes of our lives go by can either be used to improve the rest of our days — or not.
To make any positive use of our past, we need to draw some actual lessons from the mileage. This requires consciousness — and there are times when that’s not so easy.
Today I turn 56. A year and a half ago, almost to the day, I was on a flight from Phoenix back to my native Chicago for a summer visit. At the time, for reasons I could not sort out, I could feel my emotions sinking. My mind kept attaching to negative thoughts. I’d experienced this once before; a months-long bout with acute depression five years earlier. That darkness had not returned since. But in this new moment, I could feel my grip beginning to slip.
After landing at O’Hare International, the thought of being alone was pretty unappealing. So I dropped my stuff off and went to have dinner with two dear friends, Alicia and Aaron Oberman, and their kids.
After we ate, Alicia and I began talking about the recent escalation of violence in Israel. We talked about the actual events, the media coverage, and perceptions of the conflict. It was a familiar conversation. At some point, in animated fashion, I expressed the same conclusion that I invariably arrive at on the larger subject:
After millennia of Jews being persecuted and targeted for elimination from the planet, the #1 priority — bar none — is to defend and protect the State of Israel so that it remains the indispensable home of the Jewish People.
Hardly an original thought. But I added that my belief that if Israel didn’t change its strategy in how it tries (or doesn’t try) to attract new, young people to the country — it’s going to have a whole new problem within 20 years.
Friends will laugh at my use of the word “animated” — superfluous. But I must have seemed more animated than usual, because Alicia’s eyes lit right up before she nearly yelled back at me:
“You have GOT to meet Joanna Landau! Right now! She lives in Tel Aviv and she’s devoted 10 years of her life to building Vibe Israel. You guys should be working together! I’m gonna call her!”
As she started dialing, I protested — only because it was the middle of the night in Tel Aviv. No dice. A minute later I was on the phone with Joanna. And in a few more minutes, a partnership was born.
In the short term, however, that moment of discovery was not enough to stave off the hard emotional episode I could feel coming. It didn’t last long, a few weeks, but it hurt. More “mileage.” The good part is that I had no choice but to try to understand the new demons. And anytime you descend to a bottom, there’s always a valuable lesson to extract from the hole.
I wrote about one of these lessons, the capacity to accept compassion, not long after I was able to come up for air.
But the second lesson I drew was far more personal. More specific. It had to do with my own M.O. as it relates to work-life. Every 5-7 years or so, I find myself searching for a new mission, be it in the form of a job, cause, business or whatever. When I find it, I submerge myself in it. And then, inevitably, almost as if I have an internal alarm clock just waiting to go off — I can feel myself thirsting for the next adventure.
But between these career segments — when I don’t have my teeth squarely sunk into something that matters a great deal to me — my mind can become a dangerous place to live in. A self-castigation chamber.
During that summer of 2021, when my state of mind had fallen through the floor, I spoke over the phone with one of the wisest people I know. My friend Jack didn’t argue with what I was feeling, or try to convince me I was wrong. He listened. And then he calmly asked me to listen to him. I remember his words, nearly verbatim:
“Michael, you might need to consider the possibility that this is just the way you are. As you get older, perhaps it’s harder for you to find that next creative project that you’re passionate about. That can cause anxiety. ‘Will I ever find it again?’ But you will. You always do. This is YOUR PATTERN. So consider accepting this, and don’t worry so much about the times in between. It is the way you refuel. And it’s okay.”
Over the next few months, while I was putting out a second book, I was also helping Joanna and Vibe Israel in an unofficial capacity. And I loved it. She, I, and Vibe’s CEO in America, Becca Hurowitz, grew even closer as we ran a social media pilot in three American cities (“Digital Campus Campaigns” is featured in Ethical Tribing).
One day, about a year ago, Joanna asked if I would consider co-authoring a book about the work we were doing to help shape young people’s perspectives on Israel. She had a larger strategy and story in her big brain to tell, and she trusted me to help her tell it. And she already knew that I shared her passion.
Joanna didn’t know that writing Ethical Tribing would become the next big thing that my soul was searching for. Neither did I. But it was. And I am so thankful to both her and Alicia for it.
There is truth to the well-worn expression “age is just a number.” But it’s not the whole truth — because with age comes experience. And if we’re paying close attention, that experience can transcend into wisdom.
No matter how old we grow, we always have the capacity to become a little wiser. We always have the chance to connect to new purpose and passion. To use the skills we have, but to learn some new ones too. And if we’re lucky, to make some amazing new friendships along the way.
It’s been three weeks and three days since we published Ethical Tribing: Connecting the Next Generation to Israel in the Digital Era. To everyone who has helped to make this book an early success, Joanna and I want to THANK YOU from the very bottom of our hearts. We could not possibly be more grateful.