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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 May 22, 2020

      What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

      What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

      The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

      But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

      Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

      So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

      Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

      The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

      1. A Positive Attitude

      Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

      Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

      Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

      Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

      The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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      Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

      2. Confidence

      All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

      Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

      If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

      Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

      You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

      • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
      • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

      3. A Sense of Humor

      It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

      Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

      Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

      As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

      Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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      Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

      4. Ability to Embrace Failure

      No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

      Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

      Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

      Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

      Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

      By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

      You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

      5. Careful Listening and Feedback

      This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

      The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

      The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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      Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

      Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

      6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

      No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

      Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

      Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

      To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

      • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
      • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

      Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

      7. Growth Mindset

      Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

      Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

      Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

      It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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      Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

      8. Responsibility

      Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

      The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

      Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

      Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

      9. A Desire to Learn

      It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

      Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

      You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

      Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

      To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

      The Bottom Line

      Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

      Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

      More Tips on Leadership

      Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

      Reference

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