5 words from Inbal Arieli’s ‘Chutzpah dictionary’ that can improve your life
These key words and phrases plucked from Israeli culture can be applied to almost every aspect of life, from parenting to relationships to personal fulfillment.
In her new book "Chutzpah," Israeli tech entrepreneur Inbal Arieli makes the case for Israel as a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. She lays out the groundwork that has led to the country's standing as a startup haven, from its people's ability to carve success out of chaos to the idea that failure is not something to be feared, but to be expected.
She does this with a handful of key words that she calls "the Chutzpah dictionary." And not only can they be used in the business world to achieve results, promotion and profits, they can also be applied to almost every aspect of life, from parenting to relationships to personal fulfillment. We broke them out into our own handy "Chutzpah" reader's guide:
On being direct
This concept forms the backbone of Arieli's book; indeed, it is the meaning of the title itself. Chutzpah, a word with Aramaic, Yiddish and Hebrew roots, is frequently referenced to describe someone who has a lot of nerve. When people ask Arieli what makes Israel such a cradle of innovation, "chutzpah" is always her answer.
"With the right amount of chutzpah, anything is possible," she said. "Whether you are a 7-year-old kid insisting on speaking out at a family dinner or an experienced business executive proposing a creative solution to a commercial transaction, you are instilled with chutzpah power – determined, courageous, and optimistic that anything can be achieved."
On raising children to be independent
Imagine a playground. Children are playing, but they're not simply climbing the ladder and waiting for their turn on the slide. They're sliding down, then running back up, ignoring the ladder and other waiting children. On the swingset, they're standing on the swings. On the pavement, they're running and bumping into each other without caution. They're scaling the monkey bars, and let's not even mention what they're doing to the climbing wall.
Some might look at a scene like this and wonder why those children haven't been scolded or punished. They might wonder if the children have ever been taught the proper way to use the playground equipment, or if their parents are even watching.
But to Israel-born-and-raised author Inbal Arieli, there is no reason for interference. There's a very good reason for this state of youthful chaos. It even has a name: balagan. It's a word borrowed from Russian and used in Israeli culture to mean "messiness." But it's not simply a synonym for chaos; in fact, it's a quintessentially Israeli way of life.
"Freedom of expression is nurtured when there are no defined borders limiting a child's ability to express his emotions, needs, and desires," Arieli, a longtime executive in Israel's technology sector, explained in her book. "Ambiguity is inevitable, because the scene is always unpredictable, forcing the child to handle surprises."
On being genuinely happy for others
You've been single for years, unable to find that romantic spark; you've been a bridesmaid 17 times, and a bride zero times. When yet another friend announces she's engaged, you're not sure if you can once again muster up a hug and a smile or communicate any real congratulations. You're so tired of being unhappy, of hearing everyone else's good news and having none of your own, that you can't even look her in the eye.
But then you remember something your grandmother taught you years ago.
It's a Hebrew word, and it's the author's favorite. It means taking part in another person's joyful experience, just for the sake of it, without expecting anything in return – a pure sentiment of sympathy. "It is a genuine attempt at making someone else feel good, not to be confused with simply complimenting someone," Arieli explained. "It is so much stronger than a compliment."
Next time a friend calls you up with similar good news, remember to take a second and rejoice with her, without jealousy or selfishness. Think about how much she deserves her good fortune. That's the essence of firgun.
On knowing it will all work out
Perhaps after enough firgun moments, this next term will come in handy: Yiheye beseder. This, Arieli said, is "possibly the key to the Israeli state of mind." It's the idea that no matter what, everything will be fine. It's a catchphrase with universal applications: granted, things might not be great now, but keep going and you will see good things. It's used to appease concerns of loved ones and colleagues, as kind words of comfort. But it's also a critical mindset for American entrepreneurs, particularly those just starting out. After all, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33 percent of businesses fail within the first two years.
"Yiheye beseder lies at the heart of Israeli culture and is the driving force behind its entrepreneurial spirit and attitude," Arieli said. "For Israelis, now is never our final stop; there is room for change and growth, and the future, against all odds, can be surprisingly positive."
On going with the flow
Perhaps the most literal interpretation of Arieli's dictionary, the Hebrew word for "to go with the flow" is leezrom. It might seem simple, but for Israelis, it's yet another touchstone of everyday life. "Leezrom requires one to be prepared for the unplanned and to accept it with open arms," Arieli said. "More than simply being spontaneous, it is a powerful and enjoyable view on life and all its unexpectedness."
This concept, she said, also informs parenting in Israel, much like the aforementioned balagan. But in leezrom, you're focusing less on results and more on the process itself: "It is not so much what our children know but rather how they came to know it."
In many countries around the world, including Israel, children walk home from school by themselves starting at a young age. "Being able to walk around freely, without supervision and, most importantly, without a fixed plan on where you're going, is something Israelis regard as a positive personality trait," Arieli said.
On the contrary, she points to numerous social scientists who have studied the effects of too much supervision: "The concern is not just that children with limited freedom and risk-taking possibilities may lack the confidence to function independently in the adult world later. What is more pressing is that they are not motivated to do so."
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