How to Help Newsletter

This is a little newsletter about making a life and career with more meaning, virtue, and impact. Each issue shares small and big ideas for how to improve the world around you.

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Good at Work Past Issues

The Good at Work newsletter was replaced and renamed. Here are the archives of the Good at Work issues.

Aaron Miller

Not My Thing

Why I stopped believing in bad taste. note: This will be the last edition of Good at Work, but not the end of my weekly newsletters. Beginning next week, I’ll be launching a new name and updated format, along with other exciting news. As a teenager, I very consistently made fun of people who like country

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Aaron Miller

Empathy is Messy

Rethinking the trait we all want more of Some questions to consider: Have you ever helped someone in crisis, but felt perfectly calm and collected while doing it? On the other hand, have you ever felt so sad for someone else that you felt completely overwhelmed? Do you ever feel guilty for not caring enough

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Aaron Miller

Business is Mostly Cooperation

Competition is just part of the story Aaron Miller I’ve taught business ethics now for 14 years, and I’m surprised over and over by just how disproportionately business students value competition. To be sure, they’re not dummies. They know they’re headed into a competitive market that will demand value from them. But what they often

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Aaron Miller

The Dangers of Philanthropy

Last week, we looked at the important role that philanthropy plays in a vibrant economy. It recycles wealth, creating new opportunity. But philanthropy’s economic power is only part of the story. Massive philanthropy, after all, comes from massive wealth—and the power that comes with it frequently scares the public. Even back in Rockefeller’s days, the

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Aaron Miller

Why Philanthropy Matters

The secret superpower of a thriving economy Have you ever wondered why the United States—and specifically Silicon Valley—became the epicenter of the Information Age? Why of all places did this become the home to Google, Intel, HP, Apple, Facebook, and so many others? I’m sure you have some ideas, but I doubt philanthropy is one of them.

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Aaron Miller

50 Words for Snow

Problems differ more than we say Winter’s nearing its end, and many parts of the US are getting what might be their last snowstorms. You’ve probably heard that the Inuit have 50 different words for “snow.” As you might guess, though, the truth is more complicated than that.  First, it depends on which language you mean. According

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Aaron Miller

Two Kinds of Courage

The bravery of Allan McDonald The morning of January 28, 1986, NASA proceeded through the final launch checklist for the Challenger space shuttle. Only a handful of people fully appreciated the disaster that loomed. This was the third time they had scheduled the launch that week, the prior launches having been scrapped for unflattering reasons. (The

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Aaron Miller

How to Be Resilient

Helping Others Makes Us Stronger A lot of science shows that we benefit substantially by helping others. Giving help, even in small acts, reduces stress and anxiety. It makes us more creative in solving our own problems. And multiple studies show that helping makes us more resilient in difficult circumstances. Strong relationships are one of the secrets in all

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Aaron Miller

Work as Ministry

Wisdom from a chaplain What do you know about military chaplains? Maybe your mind goes to Father Mulcahey on M.A.S.H. If so, then you need to meet my friend Chaplain George Youstra. Instead of the meek, goofy chaplain you saw on TV, imagine a 6’8” former Green Beret with a booming voice and a disarming kindness. He

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Aaron Miller

The Unearned Comfort of Good Intentions

Why having your “heart in the right place” isn’t a compliment Aaron MillerFeb 16 I love the following quote by Monsignor Ivan Illich, a Catholic priest, philosopher, and social critic. He had been asked to speak at the 1968 Conference on InterAmerican Student Projects, a program that sent college-aged volunteers to work in rural Mexico.

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Aaron Miller

Hope is Medicine

How hope helps The idea of Make-A-Wish is simple and heartwarming. If you’re not familiar with what they do, they grant wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. The most popular wishes are to go to Disney World or to meet a celebrity. Here’s something you may not know: these wishes bring medical benefits. About five

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Aaron Miller

A Never Failing Spring in the Desert

Appreciating the impact of libraries I am fascinated by high impact innovations in history that we now take for granted. There was a time when these things didn’t exist, and were even inconceivable. Gradually, they become commonplace enough that we no longer consider them special. Today, one of those under appreciated innovations is the public

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Aaron Miller

Quitter’s Day

It’s time to carry on what you started Strava, the makers of a popular running and cycling app, have a special name for January 19th. They call it “Quitter’s Day.” After analyzing over 800 million user workouts, they identified this day as the day that people are most likely to give up on their fitness goals. You

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Aaron Miller

What Limits Can Do

How constraints can make more possible You may not think you’d enjoy a 25-minute video of someone solving a Sudoku puzzle, but that’s only because you haven’t seen this one that went viral last year. If you don’t have time to watch all of it now, just skip the first two minutes, then watch a

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Aaron Miller

Just Words

Why our words matter It’s a depressing possibility that you read “Just Words” to mean “only words” or “merely words.” That isn’t what this phrase has to mean. The events at the Capitol last week were a tragedy and a disgrace. History teaches us that the surest way to ruin a country is to prevent a peaceful

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Aaron Miller

Build Something

A Pep Talk for 2021 This year you can build something great. This isn’t metaphorical, along the lines of building “a year you can be proud of.” I mean making something that didn’t exist before, something you can point at when you’re done, something you will be proud to have made. If you don’t think of

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Aaron Miller

Self-Renewal

A resolution for better ideas Physically speaking, we are constantly becoming new people. Our stomach lining replaces itself every five days. None of the skin cells we have now will be there in four weeks. We’ll have a completely new liver in a year or two. Even our bones will replace every cell in them

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Aaron Miller

You Share What You Love

A lesson from tax law and chocolate When I was in law school, I took Corporate and Partnerships Tax. It surprised me by becoming a favorite class, in large part thanks to the professor. Prof. Neeleman wielded a superhuman understanding of the tax code, the kind that you couldn’t stump with even the most obscure

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Aaron Miller

The Future of Work Will Be Measured by Impact

Looking for work with purpose For the past few days I’ve been editing a podcast interview I did with Prof. Andrea Veltman, who teaches philosophy at James Madison University. Her book, Meaningful Work, is a philosophical treatment of work. Thorough and thought-provoking, it was one of my favorite reads this year. What work means to us is

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Aaron Miller

Three Fascinating Things About Vaccines

The most life-saving invention in medical history We’re on the cusp of a Covid-19 vaccine rolling out to the public, even if in limited supply at first. As we reflect on how essential this accomplishment will be for the world and how many lives will be saved, consider also the following fascinating and inspiring facts

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Aaron Miller

Swiss Army Knife Thinking

The flaws in thinking solution-first When it comes to helping, we automatically think of solutions. Is there anything more basic to helping than that? Right now, the person that helps me is the one who can get me to stop grinding my teeth at night, or that can make me crave junk food less, or

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Aaron Miller

How Gratitude Helps

Practicing gratitude boosts care for others Over the last three decades, research into gratitude has established two important insights: Gratitude is something we can do deliberately; it’s a practice not just a feeling that comes and goes. The practice of gratitude has clear and direct benefits for a person’s wellbeing. Practicing gratitude directly leads to increased

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Aaron Miller

Kidneys for Strangers

Comparing remarkable generosity with the mundane I’ve spent the last year recording twelve interviews for a first season of a podcast I’ll be launching. (It’s called Good at Work, just like this newsletter.) One of those interviews is with Dr. Abigail Marsh. She’s a neuroscience and psychology professor at Georgetown University, TED speaker, and author of The

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Aaron Miller

Lessons from Chess Masters

How far our expertise goes (not very) I’m fascinated by the game of chess, even if I’m not a good player. It’s immensely complex. A given turn might have up to 218 possible moves down to zero, where the game ends in checkmate or stalemate. This means that the number of possible games in chess—or

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Aaron Miller

A Hundred Instances

We have always done and can always do more than vote My newly adult son voted on Saturday. We’re lucky to live in a vote-by-mail state, so he had plenty of time to review his ballot before filling it out. It was really gratifying to see him study the different issues and candidates. Over the

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Aaron Miller

The Power of the Second Mile

Walking with generosity During Covid, our family has gotten into a habit of going for walks each evening. We don’t go far, usually just a mile. Sometimes we have to drag our boys out of the house for it. Most of the time they cheerfully join us, but when they don’t we make them come

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Aaron Miller

Making Ourselves Kinder

We are who we think we are I’ve had an experience recently where a decision I thought was too daunting suddenly became exciting. The only thing that changed was my thinking about it. I’m now practically giddy about a thing that used to scare me. In his remarkable book Altruism, Buddhist monk and neuroscientist Mattieu Ricard

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Aaron Miller

How to Vote with Integrity

Voting in America is an ethical dilemma Try as we might, we can’t live a life free of ethical dilemmas. We all have a range of values that matter to us. Dilemmas happen when those values come into conflict with each other. For many Americans, the next big dilemma they face will be when they

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Aaron Miller

Patient Urgency

Thinking about change For this edition, here’s a little theory about how things change. Individual Change Is Gradual For individuals, changes come by gradual improvements in skill, habit, and character. Dramatic shifts are rare, and when they do happen they are usually unsustainable for us. Considering how much of our thinking and decision-making is automatic—the great majority—it

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Aaron Miller

Better Than You Think

What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages? –Piggy The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, has convinced generations of school kids that we’re all basically selfish and wild. Humanity constantly teeters on the edge of chaos. In the end, we’re all either predators or prey. This, of course, is a big heap of

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Aaron Miller

What are You Broadcasting?

The signal we send all-day, everyday How well does your reputation serve you? Thinking about this should be part of your personal and professional development. We may not realize it, but our daily life is like a radio station and everyone around us is tuning in. They are listening for reasons to trust us. A

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Aaron Miller

How Enemies Become Friends

Small moments of grace have power I’ve been thinking lately about how amazing reconciliation is. I have a hard time appreciating it in the heat of conflict, but there’s always hope for making my enemy into a friend. Here’s evidence of how that works. Ann Atwater was a black civil rights activist in Durham, North

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Aaron Miller

Giving is Glue

Why a gift works so well on the giver You’re probably familiar with the famous Harvard Study of Adult Development, known generally as the Happiness Study. Its most powerful conclusion: the key to a long, healthy, happy life is warm relationships. So how do we develop these relationships? Being a giving person might be the best

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Aaron Miller

The Problem with “Problem”

There was historic news last week in the work to eradicate Polio. Africa was declared free from any remaining wild virus, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Kick Polio Out campaign started by President Nelson Mandela in 1996. That year, there were over 75,000 African children across the continent who had been paralyzed by

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Aaron Miller

Potential and Color Polaroids

Before you dismiss your own potential or someone else’s, consider this: The man who invented instant color photography for Polaroid was a college dropout who worked at a gas station. In 1935, Howard Rogers left Harvard because his father had lost his job and Howard felt that he “wasn’t getting enough out of college to

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