Category Archives: Success Principles

A Tribute to Barry Farber

Published / by Lee Kessler / Leave a Comment

Barry Farber died this week, one day after his 90th birthday. His daughter’s tweet says he was live on the air the day before he passed, and that he viewed death as a place he hadn’t gone to yet, like Finland or Estonia.

Many things will be said about this brilliant man by men and women who knew him better than I. Even the New York Times will acknowledge the life and work of one of the earliest pioneers of talk radio. Much will be made of a man who broadcasted live almost every day for 60 years, taking time out only to run for Mayor of New York City for example.

Or they will praise the obvious genius of a man who spoke over 20 languages, who wrote books, and advised the mighty–in business, politics, and broadcast journalism.

His close friends and family will have the most intimate and touching stories to tell to memorialize him. As for me, I have my own personal perspective.

In 1986, I was introduced to Barry Farber over lunch by one of the investors in a show I had brought into New York about the legendary diarist Anais Nin. And without any hesitation whatsoever he tried to help a young actress/writer on her journey and promote her.

He encouraged me to sit in with him on his show at ABC studios, and encouraged me to weigh in on his famous nightly talk show. He, I, and his co-host at the time would then walk late at night to an ice cream place they loved. And they talked about the world. I listened.

Through the years, I would see Barry perhaps once every few years, talk to him briefly on the phone in between, occasionally email to fill him in on my latest novel. Always, he was an encourager.

Yes, Barry Farber was brilliant, articulate, a precision-thinker with uncanny wit. But, he was also a gentleman. No matter the argument, there was a grace about him on his show, and in person. There was a profound respect for his fellow man.

He personally guided me into an understanding of Israel, the Israeli people, and that remarkable country–whose leaders he knew very well, for a very long time. I gained a world-view and appreciation from my exposure to him, both in person and on the air.

I learned to extend my hand out to others, to help them accomplish their goals. He unselfishly helped me, when he did not even know me, and I learned to help others in like kind.

Mostly, since I admired him, and his grace under fire, I gained the ability in my writing to face some of the toughest issues and people in the world today. If you know me, or my work at all, you have an inkling.

So, how do I say thank you to someone I barely knew? To someone who touched my life by chance a long time ago, but whose influence was profound and enduring?

As I said in the previous Blog, you live, ’til you die. I am quite confident Barry Farber did just that–if his daughter’s tweet is any indication. He was a country boy who “died with his boots on.”

LIVE ’til You Die

Published / by Lee Kessler / 2 Comments on LIVE ’til You Die

Some few decades ago, I realized something. For me, it was profound. Who knows what it will be for you. But, this is the truth, my friends. None of us gets out of this gig called life alive. We have bodies that are mortal, and they will die. All of us are in the process of dying, just some are doing it faster than others.

During this pandemic, so many in America today are suffering from a paralyzing fear that they are going to die. And they, and some in our governments, seem obsessed with living in such a way as to avoid dying. Talk about setting yourself up for a loss. Your body will die, and to make all choices in one’s life in the hope of not dying sets one up for failure. It is a game you can not win.

My personal belief is that you are an immortal being, but that our bodies are not. And from the time I embarked upon my careers in entertainment and business, it was somehow a given that I would—as they say in the West-“die with my boots on.”

My late husband “died with his boots on” very unexpectedly and quickly, and young. He was sitting at his computer in the middle of an email to his most troublesome client when he was stricken. There was nothing that could have saved him. His body was shot. But, until that last minute, he was living.

So my advice to all who have been frightened by this hidden, mysterious viral enemy, or who have been scared witless by the Armageddon worshipers known as the Media, or who are terrified of the helpless feeling they are experiencing right now, is: LIVE, ’til you die.

Before you get your underwear in a twist, I did not say live criminally. I did not say live recklessly. I did not say live selfishly. I simply said, LIVE!

Give thanks for the life you have, and even more for the opportunity you have to create the life of your dreams. Embrace your work. Strive towards higher goals every day that you are here–goals which uplift, inspire, encourage, and empower others–strive with an optimistic, expectant outlook.

I learned along the way that my vision will give a vision to someone else. Yours will too. My challenge to myself was to make sure that my vision was not a nightmare, however. Then charge, my friends! Embrace the challenge. In short: LIVE ’til you die.

Social Distancing & the First Amendment

Published / by Lee Kessler / 4 Comments on Social Distancing & the First Amendment

The First Amendment to the Constitution includes the five freedoms: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, the Right to Petition, and the Right to Assemble Peaceably.

Webster’s defines assemble as: “to meet together.” And defines assembly as: “a body of persons gathered together (as for discussing and making laws, worship, or entertainment)”

The right to peaceful assembly has long been an underpinning to our Republic. The people have the right to come together–even to march in protest–if the assembly is peaceful. As simple as it sounds, it is one of the proud elements that distinguishes us from other authoritarian or totalitarian governments and societies.

Today, in order to handle a real medical threat, Americans are voluntarily surrendering one of their First Amendment Rights for the good of their fellow countrymen. Our federal government, and most certainly our state governments are demanding of us that we “social distance,” which encompasses everything from staying 6 feet away from a neighbor while walking your dog, to standing 6-10 behind someone at the grocery store, to the inability to attend any movie, concert, church or restaurant gatherings, sporting events, work, classes, business conferences, and even political rallies.

Our freedom to assemble is temporarily suspended. When this pandemic has passed, and when people are allowed to engage again in the life they knew before we were told to stay away from each other, please make sure that your FULL right to assembly is restored. History has shown that once rights are suspended, they very often are not fully restored. There in fact occurs an erosion of the rights–always promoted as being in the “public good.”

We should and will be responsible citizens toward our brethren, but in my opinion we must be on guard for those within our government who will push our President to maintain some “social distancing,” even while allowing most gatherings to resume.

You never want to relinquish your right to march in the streets in peaceful protest. You never want to relinquish your right to call for a meeting to discuss the issues relevant to your work, your religion, or your government. You never want to relinquish your right to invite however many people you want and can afford to your wedding. You never want to allow your business expansion to be limited to only “so many people.” You never want to surrender your right to have as many customers in your establishment as the Fire Department allows, and the customers will tolerate.

I know for a fact that in Communist China, the citizens do not have the right to assemble. Meetings of only a very small size are allowed, and even those have to be permitted, and will be monitored by a political officer. For totalitarians have always known that if the people can not get together in locations–if they can be kept physically separated– they can be subjugated and controlled. And, even more importantly, they can not plot, let alone execute an overthrow of the regime that is enslaving them.

A long way from life in America you say? It was. But, now a perfect out-of- our-control phenomenon that kills people may have changed that. If we are alert, and vigilant, and desirous of our normal freedoms, we will return to our normal life.

But, mark my words, as soon as the virus has passed, someone in Washington will start lobbying for a “new normal” in how often and how much we can associate with each other, and assemble in crowds and groups. It will happen. It will be justified by the goal of saving lives in the future. If we just permanently revoke some of our current freedoms, we can insure that people in the future will be safer. That will be the case that is made, and it will be forced upon the President.

This is an argument that a particular political group (not a party, as members of both major parties subscribe to this philosophy) uses in every area: use of land restrictions, use of natural resources, medical responses, gun ownership battles, use of dangerous medications. The group always promotes the need to sacrifice the “now” for the “future” and has always been willing to trod on the rights of us living today for some vision they have of a future. They have a fear of the future, and instead of working to create the future they desire, they usually resort to limiting our freedoms today, in the hopes that such action will eliminate the future they fear.

It is driven by incompetence. Lacking confidence that they have the competency, they restrict the thought, voice, and movement of anyone who might be more competent.

Please take heed here. I am writing this from my bunker in Florida–dutifully doing what I can to help my fellow Americans. I do not have resentment, and I do not think it is necessarily an unwise choice in the “present” For the moment. But, if we are not allowed to return to our forms of entertainment; if businesses never recover because we are not allowed to assemble in the restaurants or at the ball fields, or the theme parks, and beaches; if permits for demonstrations are denied because there would be too many people in too much proximity; if voting at the voting booths is eliminated for a far more corruptible mail in-vote; if candidates are restricted as to the size of their rallies; if we are not allowed to fly again, and not allowed to create major business conventions, you will read a very different message from me.

For now, wait, serve your countrymen, and be vigilant when normalcy returns. Observe EVERY politician in Washington, or every bureaucrat, who wants you to surrender part of the First Amendment. Do not allow them to do that.

The next Blogs: “He Took the Bait.” And “None Dare Call it Sedition”

Three Types of People

Published / by Lee Kessler / 1 Comment on Three Types of People

No one ever erected a statue to a critic. That is something to ponder I believe. Statues and monuments have been erected to those they criticize, but no one remembers the critic–the pathetic soul who can only tear down.

Which brings me to something I have observed over the years and in my life experiences. There are basically three types of people, for our purposes: Those who enhance, those who dominate, and those who nullify.

I know each of us probably strives to be the person who enhances the lives of others, who adds value to those we meet in life, and who endeavors to lift people up–whether they be our children, our colleagues at work, or people we meet randomly as we live. When we enhance, we are happy, but so are the people we enhance.

The second group is comprised of those who would dominate your thoughts, your actions, your emotions, your livelihood, your speech– basically who you are. When in the presence of those who would dominate, we do not feel free. We feel squashed, held down, even overwhelmed. Our only solutions seem to be to succumb, fight, or flee. If you have ever been around a college professor who dominates how you think, or what you believe, and who holds the threat of a bad grade over you if you disagree, you know what I am talking about.

The totalitarian belongs in this class. They have to dominate and control.

The third, though, is the most destructive of all, for they make nothing out of every good thing you do, say, or demonstrate. They are the miserable souls whose goal is to nullify all success, all progress, all upward movement etc. They are happy only when you have not only been dominated, but you have been stopped, and any progress you made has been wiped out.

If a president and his team brings about the lowest unemployment in history, the nullifier either denies that fact, or says it doesn’t mean anything.

If you form a team and raise money for a neighborhood cause, the nullifier says you were taking money for yourself, and the cause wasn’t worthwhile in the first place.

If you ever took one of your drawings as a child to a friend for them to see your art work, and they belittled it, and ridiculed it, they were a nullifier at that moment.

If a group of private citizens starts to clean up the streets of a city in distress due to the homeless population, cleaning up the debris and dangerous waste, the nullifier criticizes them.

If you expressed a dream you believed in and wanted to achieve, and your friend scoffed and said, “You’ll never have that,” Or “You’re not good enough for that,” they were nullifying you and your dreams.

If the President bans travel from China to protect us from the Wuhan Virus, he is called a xenophobe. The desire to protect is nullified by the criticism.

If you attempt to call the Wuhan virus the Wuhan virus, after its point of origin, the one who dominates will insist you call it the Corona Virus. Your good intention is nullified by the name calling.

No one responds well to the nullifier. No one feels good, uplifted, inspired, or bigger in the presence of a nullifier. So, remember, no one ever erected a statue to the critic (nullifier). The Media in the United States has degraded now in my opinion to pure nullification. They will make nothing out of anything positive–and try to obliterate it. Negative sells. They get rich by belittling accomplishment, and creating fear and chaos.

However, someone may erect a statue to you one day, but only if you become an enhancer of lives in such quantity and significance that who you are deserves memorialization. I believe someone reading this Blog is that person. Someone reading this Blog will build great things, and serve many.

I encourage you to look around for examples of these three kinds of people in your own life, and in the news. You’ll feel better.

Lessons I Learned from James and Reba

Published / by Lee Kessler / 4 Comments on Lessons I Learned from James and Reba

This year, I want to begin the new year with lessons I learned from my parents, James and Reba Kessler. Actually, there are two conversations, and one teaching lesson my mother gave to a store keeper regarding me. These three, more than all other conversations, influenced me and how my life has turned out.

I am going to first share them, and then in the coming few Blogs will illustrate each of these as they relate to current events. To me, they are lessons to live by, guideposts on our journey. And I believe they highlight very real truths.

Though I can not remember why my father said this to me, I suspect it had to do with his strict, but honorable, approach to education. As the school administrator, his high standards, and his expectation that they would be adhered to, often made him the brunt of criticism and hostility in our community. Given his size and his demeanor, few dared tackle him directly. But, I was a convenient fallback target.

It was after one of those episodes, while I was bemoaning something hurtful that had been done to me or him, that Dad likely said, “Lee, we do not live this life to be liked. We live it to be effective.” There you have it. A life philosophy. He lived it. I watched him do it. And, I would like to think that in some measure, I have duplicated him.

The second conversation had to do with our government and society’s tendency to mistake sympathy for empathy. Being a compassionate people, we all too often project onto people who are in need that they are victims, and need our help perpetually. Many times that help backfires for the giver and the receiver, as it lowers self-esteem and creates dependency.

Again, I do not remember why my father said this to me. My examination of this, my rumination on it, set me on a course in my own life. Here is what he said, “Lee, anytime you do for someone what they could do, or should do for themselves, you degrade and demean them.”

I will leave you to digest that one a bit, and come back to it in the future.

The third was an experience I had as a small child when my mother took me to the only grocery store in our little town of 900 people. It was a small, family-run business, and the place my mother got our food. I was little– perhaps two years old–walking on my own, but not tall enough to clear the cookie bins that stood on the floor, near the counter and register.

Back then, it was like bulk nuts etc. today. Bulk cookies. You would open the bin, and place as many as you wanted in a bag. Well, as my mother and I came in, I saw the cookies in the bin, and was drawn to the pink ones. Strong enough to open the lid, I did so, reached in, and took a cookie. To me, it seemed they were there for me to take, so I did.

After we finished walking around the store, my mother came to the counter and put down the items she had picked up. The owner rang them up, and my mother said, “And don’t forget the cookie she took.” Now mind you, there was no sign of the cookie now, as I had eaten it while walking around the store. And keep in mind I looked a lot like Shirley Temple–pretty much adorable, with big dimples!

The owner said, “Oh, that’s all right. There’s no charge for the cookie. It’s fine.” From his point of view it was “sampling” or some other type of promotional marketing, or just a nice gesture to a regular customer. But, to my mother it was altogether something different.

Though we had very little money, basically were pretty poor since my dad was putting two sons through college in a private men’s college, and he lived in a house with no insulation in the coldest area of Western New York State–sustaining us on just a small Principal’s salary–my mother responded. I was standing to her left, not tall enough to reach the counter, but I remember this exchange.


“Thank you, but no. I am trying to teach her not to steal. And, in reaching in there without asking you or me, she took something that did not belong to her, and had not been approved for her. It’s a small thing, but I am trying to teach her not to just take things she wants, but that we pay for what we receive. I do not mind that she reached in and grabbed something she wanted. But, I want her to learn that she is to pay for it. We are responsible. We do not take anything that does not belong to us.”

There you have it. Three conversations that started to define my life and vision. I am sure there were many, many conversations I had with one or the other of my parents over the years. And I am sure we covered many important issues. But, for some reason, these are the three I remember.

These are the three I took ownership of. More to come in future Blogs about those three points and the world we live in.

Happy New Year, everyone!