Wisdom, Comprehension, Knowledge, and a Little Chutzpah.

Written by Pepy Panagiotopoulou and George Okafor-Mbah, students in Jon Harari’s class.  Edited by Jon Harari.

Being in Jon Harari’s “Managing Your Reputation in the Digital Age” class, you’ll find that no two weeks are identical. There are no boring lectures or text book references. Jon believes that the best way to impart immediately transferable skills, is for his students to hear from and interact with industry leaders and experts.

The most interesting thing about Jon’s guest speakers is that they explain the subject matter at hand from a very unique perspective. Usually one born of a combination of factors: their industries and personal/professional views and experiences.

This past week we were privileged to hear from and speak with Motti Seligson, Director of Media Relations at Chabad Lubavitch.  Mr. Seligson did not fail to deliver a fascinating discussion.


Chabad is the largest Jewish religious organization in the world, with a permanent physical presence in 86 countries and counting. Chabad.org was one of the first faith based websites and remains one of the largest, with 37 million unique visitors in 2013 alone, and 42 million in 2014. Right off the bat, one might assume that Chabad is strictly a religious organization whose underlying goal (like most others) is the conversion of non-Jewish individuals and the promotion of the Jewish religion. This notion couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Mr. Seligson describes Chabad as a religious, educational, and social services organization which focuses on outreach and the spread of a message which places love and kindness in the center of everything in life. The philosophy of Chabad is to guide a person to govern their every act through wisdom, comprehension, and knowledge.  The aforementioned words could be said to be the pillars of Chabad. Even the word Chabad itself is a Hebrew acronym for those 3 faculties.

Mr. Seligson, being the Director of Media Relations, gave words of advice from a publicity/PR point of view but at the same time, words of advice for life and career in general. The values which he spoke about simply prove that although there is diversity of religion, culture, background, industries, and opinion, there should be no diversity in the rules necessary to succeed across the board.


These rules which Mr. Seligson describes as “good life skills” cut across all of the above facets. I like to think of them as the common thread that should run through us all:

1.       Always have Chutzpah (Hebrew word meaning courage, guts, or mettle).  Be confident in everything you do, confidence in your abilities is vital in gaining the trust or confidence of others.
2.       Prevention is always better than finding a cure, it costs less, requires less energy. Every situation where a problem was prevented will ALWAYS be better than one where a problem was fixed, no matter how good the fix was.
3.       Always speak out. If something doesn’t sit right with you, speak up in order to fix the situation on the spot, thereby looping back to #2, preventing an unfavorable situation.
4.       Speak truth to power. Again, going back to #2
5.       Don’t make enemies. Everyone we meet, no matter where we meet them, may one day have value that we need, so never make enemies. This leads me back to a previous point: #4, speak truth to power but be delicate, otherwise making enemies will be inevitable.
6.       Get your story straight. As hard as it may seem, never tell a lie. Cover ups are always easy; it’s the explanation of a cover up that becomes nasty business.
7.       Don’t write anything that you don’t want published.
8.       Do the right thing. Be a good person in all walks of life. The nicer you are to people, the nicer they’ll be to you.
9.       Use angles: Always have an angle with which to drive your point home. This may seem like a point that speaks solely to the media but creativity is always necessary in every industry.
10.   Have a good reliable team that you can trust. No one can be an island, you’ll never be able to get everything done on your own so you need a team to get things done the way you would have them done.

Upon a deeper analysis of Mr. Seligson’s talking points, I have come to the realization that Chabad is everything that we should stand for in life, and the basis of everything we need to be successful as professionals in our different fields and most importantly, everything we need to be successful as human beings in general: Wisdom, Comprehension, Knowledge, and a Little Chutzpah.