Who’s the GOAT? One Man’s View About the Pursuit of Greatness

Rabbi Josh Blass – Spiritual Advisor – Yeshiva University, Congregational Rabbi – Kehillas Bais Yehudah, Wesley Hills, NY  Blass@yu.edu

With LeBron James’s otherworldly performance through much of this year’s playoffs, the old, somewhat ridiculous, question has re-emerged as to who is the greatest of all time? While the LeBron camp has its share of passionate supporters, the average well informed basketball fan will still align themselves with Michael Jordan.

As for me, while I’m not the crazed call-into-Sports Radio fan, I find myself rooting for LeBron in ways that I never remember doing so for MJ. While Jordan will most probably go down as one of the two or three most dominant athletes of all time, it’s hard for me to feel fondly towards someone who, quite simply, seems like a jerk. Yelling and demeaning teammates, holding lifelong grudges for slights that were often of his own concoction, elevating himself even at the expense of his own children, competitiveness and intensity at all costs, all managed to paint a picture of a somewhat unlikable man. While LeBron certainly has an ego and is often unnecessarily profane for someone who knows that he’s a model for kids and adults alike, he seems by all accounts to be a decent human being who is a good father, cares deeply about the community and seeks to heap praise upon both teammates and opponents.

Greatness Among All

This debate and others like it ignite a question that would seem to have some baring for our lives and for our life decisions. Namely, can one can achieve greatness while still maintaining genuine humility, decency and balance. A quick perusal of the world of sports would seem to bring one to the conclusion that for every Wayne Gretzky, a gentle soul who spent the last days of his career signing hockey sticks for even the most insignificant employee of the NY Rangers, there are a dozen Tiger Woods who in his prime became the greatest, due in no small measure to a nasty demeanor and an almost unhealthy competitiveness. What’s true in sports seems to be undoubtedly true in business, law, the arts, entertainment, academia etc. One might draw the conclusion that reaching the pinnacle of any given profession or enterprise requires a single mindedness, an intensity, an obsessiveness that often stands in conflict with healthiness, balance, spiritual fitness and a robust family and personal life.

Is It Worth It?

Perhaps what’s an open question is whether it’s worth it. Whether it’s worth the effort, work and single mindedness that would allow a person to leave their mark on the world in some public and significant way. I saw an excellent movie called Whiplash a couple years back about a music teacher and his pupil. The relationship was incredibly unhealthy, even abusive, and the teacher played by J.K Simmons was manipulative at best and maniacal at worst. With that said, at the end of the day his student became a world class Jazz drummer. What I found provocative was that when one walked out of the theater it wasn’t clear the position that the movie was taking of whether all of it was worth it or not. Maybe that’s the price that one pays, and the world can only meaningfully exist with accomplishment and creativity even at the expense of other values.

We live in a country in which typically students are coddled and given the easy way out. Parents don’t want to push too hard in fear of alienating their kids or putting too much pressure on them. The mentality in China seems to be just the opposite, and while the suicide rate and stress levels among Asian college students are far higher than that of their American counterparts, it’s no wonder that China has far surpassed the US in regards to education and professional development. Again, is that trade- off worth it? How does a parent or an educational institution manage to firmly and forcefully drive their children or students to success while also developing well rounded and healthy/ happy members of society.

Happiness and Success

As a Rabbi, it strikes me that the ancient Jewish texts are sensitive to this issue and seek to strike a necessary balance. On the one hand, the Bible and Talmud see no value in laziness and strongly critique an inferior work ethic. Pushing oneself to achievement, becoming scholarly, making a difference in the world are all part of a child’s vocabulary from a young age. There is a recognition that happiness comes specifically because of achievement and that the greatest tragedy is allowing one’s G-d given abilities to lie fallow. On the other hand our sages make it clear that accomplishment means nothing if it’s not in the context and framework of gentleness, benevolence, modesty, humility, generosity of spirit, a calm demeanor and a concern for the greater welfare.

It would seem obvious that at the core of this issue is the question of the inner life of any given individual. If a person is spiritually, psychologically and emotionally fit then a desire for success comes from a solid place of healthy self-actualization. Such a person is not running from something, righting old wrongs, defining themselves through other people’s version of success, trying to endlessly meet someone else’s expectations and filling a void that can never ever be artificially filled. On the flip side, if a person’s inner core is not developed then they just run and push and seek to accomplish and claw their way to success only to realize at the end of the journey, that they are standing quite alone and unfulfilled at the top of the pinnacle.

Raising the Bar

As a parent and educator that means high standards, limits and boundaries all communicated in a spirit of love and ultimately acceptance. As a person navigating one’s own life it means constantly investing in the time and the resources to make sure that our inner world is where it needs to be in order to meaningfully enjoy whatever success our efforts render. Hats off to Michael Jordan and his ilk for being the greatest of all time, but for me, and hopefully for healthy people around the world, I’ll look for role models elsewhere.

What do you think?

If you enjoyed reading this article, please download the VoxPopApp and select Sports or Society or any other topic you care about. On occasion, please respond to a quick 10 second anonymous survey, and make it count. We really want to hear your voice. Thank you!

Please follow and like us:

The Rise in Teen Beauty Spend

Piper Jaffray reports that beauty spending hit a new high for females at $368 per year, up 18% year-over-year in Spring 2018.1 That’s a huge increase. As we dive into pop culture and what makes our next generation tick, we want to know what’s driving this spike in beauty spend. What do you think is causing our teens to spend more on beauty products, particularly skincare?

Social Media

Social media is the likely culprit, with Generation Z being the first generation to be exposed to social media from their formative years. Social media presents more pressure on teens to look good, and let’s face it, the teen years can be cruel on your skin.

Not only does social media provide an incentive for teens to look their best, but it’s also a significant advertising platform that they’re exposed to by comprehensive content. Three-quarters of US female teens look at YouTube videos for tutorials on new styles and products, according to Mintel. YouTube beauty content surged by 200% between 2016 and 2016, says Pixability, and 47% of the audience of these videos were females between 13-24 years of age.2

YouTube videos give us a unique visual way to learn the art of applying beauty products. Could it be that teens are experiencing a new interest in beauty because it’s a way of expressing their creativity. There is a need to look different in their Snapchat stories and Instagram pics. In some ways, investing in makeup that can applied many different ways is an economical way of presenting yourself differently without having to fork out for a whole new outfit. You can have so much fun with makeup and it can really boost your look for a lot less than other fashion and cosmetic items.

Other Hypotheses

Picture quality is getting better. Could it be that the closer up the photos become the more teens are worrying about the quality of their skin? Teens may actually think skincare is vital to the longevity of their appearance (although we doubt they’re thinking that far ahead).

Perhaps it’s a simple as teens having more money. The global financial crisis is seeing the light of day, albeit unstable, and so teens are investing in their skin simply because acne and other skin problems are more prevalent as a result of hormones in your teen years.

Maybe the reason teens are spending more on beauty is because it’s just the fashion. In the same way that Doc Martens and Activewear have come and gone and come again, perhaps skincare and makeup are the new grunge look. We’re moving out of the ‘natural look’ and into a more dramatic palette. When you’re going for a natural look as a teenager it’s pretty easy to pull off without any makeup at all. To compete with stronger colour schemes you need to actually wear cosmetics.

Fashion spend hasn’t increased. Is the wave of minimalism and fast-fashion message coming through for Gen-Z. The more awareness we experience about the woes of fast-fashion the more consumers are looking to socially conscious and sustainable products. This of course includes beauty, and beauty companies are looking to show they care by investing in sustainable methods.


The reasons for increased beauty spend in teens is all speculation because the statistic has only just broken and we haven’t had time to test it yet. Here’s where you come in. We really want to know why more teens are spending money on beauty but also anyone in general. Please help us out by completing a quick 5 question survey about beauty.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please download VoxPopApp, and select Fashion & Beauty and any other topics you care about. On occasion, please respond to a quick 10 second anonymous survey, and make it count. We really want to hear your voice. Thank you!


Please follow and like us:

Will you embrace self-driving cars?

Self-driving cars are coming. There’s no use debating about whether we should have them or not, because they’re coming regardless. In fact, they’re already here. It’s more important for us to explore the issues surrounding self-driving cars and what this may mean for our future.

Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for age 10 and every age 16 through 23 in 2015.1
34,439 were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2016.2
When 94 percent of crashes are caused due to human error, it clear that the key benefit of self-driving cars will be safety.

Interestingly, this is the very thing that many people seem to struggle with the most. There is a sense among forums that humans don’t trust the robots. They’re worried about hacking, or malfunction. Companies who will be selling self-driving cars will have to comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and certify that each vehicle is clear of safety risks. Cybersecurity will indeed be a major focus for these companies to mitigate safety risks.

Although safety is the number one benefit there’s a lot of great things that the self-driving car will bring. Economic advances will also make a huge impact and the trickle effect will be extensive. Consider that transport costs for goods will go down, less insurance costs since insurance charges are based on risk, less injuries so lower medical costs and so on. You’ll no longer need to pay for parking because the cars will drive themselves home. It’s also expected that people will either only own one car, or use a system of ordering cars, so there’s less capital outlay for vehicles. That’s a huge saving!

Health Benefits All Round

Not only will you be less likely to receive any car related injuries there are a lot of other health benefits. Can you imagine what you will do with the extra 111 hours you spend in gridlock every year?3
You could go for walk, spend some time with your family or get some more work done. Gridlock will definitely be reduced. Cars will be able to talk to each other to ensure that the most efficient driving methods will be used.

Your environment will also improve. There’ll be less gas emissions since the cars will operate more efficiently and more electric cars will be on the roads. This won’t be inconvenient because they’ll be able to recharge themselves.

When are they coming?

We’re not totally sure. It’s a future technology that won’t be allowed on our roads until Government bodies are satisfied that the technology is safe. They also need to be aware of the impact self-driving cars will have on the economy and as such will likely make legislative decisions based on the overall benefits to society, we hope. So if they know that the self-driving car will displace x number of jobs then hopefully they’re putting into place new job avenues for these workers before giving the self-driving car clear run.

How many jobs are we potentially looking at?

  • Truck drivers (well, they’ve already been affected by self-driving trucks) = 1.6 million* jobs
  • Delivery truck operators = 800,000*
  • Taxi drivers = 180,000*
  • Uber drivers = 160,000*
  • School bus drivers = 500,000*
  • Transit bus drivers = 160,000*
  • Parking lot attendants, Street meter attendants, gas station attendants, rental car agencies = 220,000*

That’s roughly 4 million jobs affected. Furthermore, there’ll be less repairs needed, less gas stations, less injuries and so all of those industries that assist in those areas will lose out as well.

*approximate figures based on ABLS 2015.

The Fear of Change

Technology is progressing at a fast pace around us constantly. So why is it that the self-driving car is such a hot issue? We think it’s not just because there is a far-reaching impact of the change. It’s more that the impact is something like out of our dreams. When we saw Back To The Future, Minority Report and the like, we talked excitedly about their possible technology but always sensing that it wouldn’t happen in our lifetime. The type of world we’ll be living in with self-driving cars feel like something out of Back To The Future. As such there’s a real sense of lack of control over our destiny…almost like some kind of dream world we’re going to be thrown into before we know it. It’s curious, wonderful and scary.


The future is coming, and it’s coming quickly. Exactly when we can’t know for sure because it’s not just about the technology, but also the legislation. One thing is for sure, that our world will be a very different place from the one in which we live, and once the transformation occurs it will transform at pace. Cars were once a visual sign of families achieving the American Dream. For people who’ve grown up in that world, the new world vision is hard to get your head around. It’s possible that the dream world you see automated vehicles creating is not nearly as fantastic as it will be!

We’ve addressed some of the pros and cons in this article but we really want to hear your thoughts. Please download the app, if you haven’t already, and tell us what you think about the change driven by self-driving cars (pardon the pun ;).

If you enjoyed reading this article, please download VoxPopApp, and select Science & Technology and any other topics you care about. On occasion, please respond to a quick 10 second anonymous survey, and make it count. We really want to hear your voice. Thank you! 

Please follow and like us: