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How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East

How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East

It was the day of my birthday and I was in a bomb shelter. This was the last place I expected to be. The day started like any other day in Israel.  I was excited not only for my birthday but to meet my girlfriend’s cousin who was visiting Israel for the first time from England.  My girlfriend’s cousin was a bit worried because an escalation had started and Israel was starting to receive rockets. I was living in Tel Aviv and assured her that no rockets would hit Tel Aviv because our adversary did not have the technology to do so which I knew was not 100% true.  I added that even if they did, they wouldn’t have the courage to strike us here in Tel Aviv which I really thought was true.

As we went over our itinerary for the next 3 days, we heard a loud alarm. The alarm sounded slightly different to the typical ambulance or police car but I ignored this. After 10 seconds the sound did not get further so I looked outside and did not see a police car or ambulance.  This is when I immediately knew the unthinkable was indeed happening. This was the “code red”  alarm informing us to get to the nearest bomb shelter immediately. Not only did I experience rockets for the first time, I was officially on my girlfriend’s cousins sh*t list.

The Piece Of Me I Left Behind

Let’s go back 4 months. I was so excited when I landed in Israel and saw an HP building across the street as this was where my internship was going to be. I got in a taxi and headed towards my apartment. When I got to my apartment  the first thing I did was drop off my bags. I then left the apartment. I knew I would be out of my comfort zone and needed that piece of me that I left behind.  I started to walk down random streets in search for a music store.  After an hour of aimless searching I found a small hidden shop no larger than my bedroom in the USA.  They had a harmonica and small instruments in their display window. I walked in and bought the first guitar I laid my eyes on.  It was not the same piece of me that I had left behind but it would do.

The Everyday Life

During my stay it was a very normal and relaxing time. I loved my job immensely, my roommates, the food and the Israeli culture as a whole.  I played my guitar everyday for around 15-30 minutes which is how much I normally played at home. Every weekend a group of around 10 of us would go to the beach, I would play some guitar and we all just had a great time. You never heard of any terrorism activity at all in fact I felt much safer in Israel than I did at home near Miami.

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The Escalation

After having lived in Israel for 4 months, a series of actions unfolded that led to a full blown war. In the intro above, I said that I had spent my birthday in a bomb shelter.  This was on July 8th 2014 which was the start date of Operation “Protective Edge”. Despite the fact that from that point onwards there was on average over 100 rockets fired towards Israel a day, we carried on living our lives as we normally did. In my apartment there were 3 bedrooms. One of the three bedrooms was a bomb shelter. If a rocket was ever coming our way an alarm would go off throughout the whole city and we had between 45 and 60 seconds to find a bomb shelter. We even had an app on our phones that would play an alarm and tell us if a rocket was coming to our city in real time.

The Iron Dome

It’s important to know what the iron dome is, as this is what saved our lives countless times.  Whenever a person sends a rocket to Israel, Israel sends a rocket which hits the opposing rocket in mid air. Sometimes there is debris that falls back down but nevertheless there was over an 90% chance that the iron dome would protect you from a rocket.  I would like to show you how I experienced this in action.

I was walking home from work one day and was in a residential street.  I took out my phone and got cover as I had 45-60 seconds to do this.  Below is the video I took.  There will be a point where you see two big white poofs of smoke in the sky.  This is what it looks like when one of the iron dome rockets hits an opposing rocket.  Because this particular rocket was far away it takes a little time to hear the rocket explosion.

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The Close Call

The phone started to ring. This was terrible, this meant that my alarm didn’t go off. Getting to work took me a little over an hour because I had to take 2 buses and walk around half a mile. I had a work friend that lived not too far from me who had started taking me to work with him.  He called and was ready to pick me up and head to work. I told him my alarm didn’t go off and to head to work without me as I would take the bus.

I got up and started to get ready for work.  It had been about 3 minutes since my waking phone call. I was brushing my teeth when the siren went off.  I immediately thought why couldn’t this happen 15 minutes ago because although I never want a rocket to come, the siren would have at least woke me up in time for work. I started to go into my roommates room (the bomb shelter) as I always did when a siren went off. We heard the iron dome hit the missile and a couple seconds later I was getting ready to leave the room when I heard a loud noise and screams coming from outside. I immediately threw on some clothes and ran outside. I turned to my left and what I saw is the picture you can see below.

How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East 2

    The iron dome did its job and hit the rocket but left a huge piece of debris that fell to the ground. Thankfully no one was hurt. In the picture below you can see a news reporter at the same gas station that the rocket hit. If you look behind the man with the camera you can see a yellow apartment building. This was my apartment building.

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    How Music Brought Me Peace In The Middle East 1

      There is something particular to me here. The rocket hit the exact spot that I get picked up from in the mornings by my friend to go to work. That rocket would have fallen either on me or on the car if my alarm had been set correctly. Later that night my alarm went off. I had put PM instead of AM.  This mistake that I was so mad about when it happened may have saved my life.

      The Anger

      Nothing brought me peace like being able to play music at the beach.  It had been over a month since I had been to the beach. I really missed this. I finally got incredibly mad and called my friend and told him no one can stop us from living our lives, I’m going to beach to play some guitar and you should come. He came with me. When we got to the beach it finally started to hit me how sad this really was. There were less than 30 people on the beach. Usually you cannot find any sand to put your foot down at this beach because there were usually so many people. This was understandably the right thing to see as when on the beach, there is nowhere to take cover if an alarm goes off. But all I could think about was all of the people living in fear.

      The Music Brings Peace

      From my birthday onward, I started to play the more guitar than I have ever played in my life. Because there were so many rockets we spent a lot more time inside our house. This is because we had a very easily accessible bomb shelter in our apartment. The music helped me so much with my stress. I started to go to restaurants with live music a lot more and started to go to concerts.  This became something that was really important to me.  I was even lucky enough to see The Rolling Stones and Steve Vai live in Tel Aviv which meant a lot to me because my father was roommates with Steve Vai at Berklee School Of Music.

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      When I saw Steve Vai and The Rolling Stones there were many Jews and Muslims there. It was incredible to have both sides agree on one thing which was great music during such controversial times. Nothing can bring the people of Israel and Palestine together like music can in my opinion.

      The Ending

      When I got home I was extremely motivated to spread the teachings of music. I kept thinking of that time I went to the beach and was thinking of all the people living in fear. I wish they had peace like I did by playing an instrument. I got together with my dad who owns a music school and we formed an online music, art and technology lesson company called Skype A Lesson.

      I have talked a lot about my personal times in Israel. Everything stated is 100% true. War is very controversial. This is neither a pro Israel or pro Palestine post. This article does not reflect the normal feeling in Israel. Contrary to belief, Israel rarely has times of war and when they do its extremely rare that its more than a month.

      Featured photo credit: Kimberly Richards via unsplash.com

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      Last Updated on April 11, 2019

      How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

      How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

      Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

      I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

      I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

      Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

      How Communication Skills Help Your Success

      Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

      Create a Positive Experience

      Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

      When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

      What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

      Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

      As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

      Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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      Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

      Help Leadership Skills

      It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

      Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

      As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

      Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

      If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

      Build Better Teams

      Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

      In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

      If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

      When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

      Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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      How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

      There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

      Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

      1. Listen

      Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

      Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

      People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

      Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

      Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

      2. Know Your Audience

      Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

      Here is a good way to think about it:

      Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

      You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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      3. Minimize

      I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

      He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

      Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

      State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

      The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

      4. Over Communicate

      So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

      What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

      Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

      Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

      Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

      There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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      5. Body Language

      The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

      When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

      In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

      When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

      Conclusion

      Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

      Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

      There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

      Now go communicate your way to success.

      More Resources About Effective Communication

      Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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