Why it’s important to be a mensch

I received an e-mail today from a friend that I respect a lot, Annie Fox. It allowed me to have a free Kindle download of her latest book “”Teaching Kids To Be Good People: Progressive Parenting for the 21st Century“.

She explains that we live in a world where there is a lot of negativity. The role models for many children are negative, inward-looking, self-seeking,materialists who put forward a view of the world as dog-eat-dog and doing the best you can for number one (i.e. yourself!).

As against this, she posits the idea of training your child to become a “mensch”.

Now for those of you who have never heard of this word, it is a Yiddish term that is defined in the following way in Wikipedia:

“In Yiddish, from which the word has migrated as a loanword into American Englishmentsh roughly means “a good person.” A mentsh is a particularly good person, like “a stand-up guy”, a person with the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague. Mentshlekhkeyt(Yiddish מענטשלעכקייט, German Menschlichkeit) are the properties which make one a mentsh”.

Guy Kawasaki wrote a really good blog post on the subject called “How To Be a Mensch” (see the video above). He mentions five ways to achieve “mentschdom”.

1. Help people who cannot help you

2. Help without the expectation of return

3. Help many people

4. Do the right thing the right way

5. Pay back society

Aron Solomon explains this well in the following video:

To me the idea of being a “mensch” is something that should be aimed at for all children. We need to look at character development more than academic success, because in the end, as Aron Solomon states, these are the essential basis that you would look to in choosing who to work with.

Also, a mensch gives back and does not just take. I have always believed that the greatest compliment that you can be paid by others when you die is that you were a “mensch”.


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