Living Versus Existing

Living versus Existing

Over the past year or so I have watched a number of video lectures from Rabbi Manis Friedman on YouTube. His clarity and insights have been very helpful for me in many different aspects of my life. Given that it was just Thanksgiving and it is a time to reflect on gratitude and giving I thought I would share one of his insights and how it has impacted my life and philanthropic endeavors. 

Rabbi Friedman makes the distinction between existing versus living. If you are existing then you’re essentially just taking up space. Everything in the universe exists.  Whether it be a stone, fire, water, or human being, they are just taking up space when existing.

When something is living, however, it is fulfilling its purpose and growing and evolving. Click To Tweet

Living Versus Existing

One never knows where inspiration will come from but regarding this topic, it struck while I was brushing my teeth with my Quip electric toothbrush. It occurred to me that when it’s just sitting there and I’m not using it then it is existing, but when I pick it up and turn it on and start brushing my teeth it’s living in that it’s being used for what it’s creators intended it to do. It is serving its purpose. 

As I continued through the two-minute brushing cycle I turned my contemplation of existing versus living to philanthropy and some of the efforts that I have been focused on in the wake of Roneet’s passing. It occurred to me that money is something that we all require to exist because we need clothes, shelter, food, sleep, medicine, exercise, and other of life’s necessities to exist. That does not necessarily mean that money is always helping us live, however. On the contrary, in some cases, it can diminish our vitality as we use it to distract ourselves. When someone has excess savings and they have what they deem to be enough then the money that’s sitting in the bank is just existing. And so there’s an opportunity to circulate that money to help others either with their existence or to be more alive and support them in their purpose. And the beautiful thing is that by doing this you can feel more alive yourself. It truly is a virtuous circle.

I have experienced the benefits of this firsthand by offering support to people who are very much alive as they are following their purpose and calling in life so that they can help others do the same. They have gone far beyond existing by living very full and meaningful lives. This includes my kids, as well as they, are highly motivated and great people worthy of my support to help them lead more purposeful and fulfilling lives. 

Sometimes one does things out of intuition and gut feel versus taking an analytical approach to the decision making process. I knew I felt connected to the people I was supporting and the causes they are leading, but it was only after watching the Friedman lectures that I came to realize why doing so has brought me such satisfaction. These individuals have helped me feel more alive as they help others do the same. And by taking capital that was “existing” at the time I could do my part to turn it into a source of vitality for others and myself.

When we are being of service to others what we have to offer is our time, talent, and treasure. We can volunteer our time, put our skills and gifts to work to add value to organizations, individuals, or particular endeavors, and then, of course, we can contribute funds to various causes and individuals. As I have written about previously I have directed some of my resources to four philanthropic endeavors that are run by very deeply committed and very much alive individuals who care immensely about what they do and who they’re doing it for. This, in turn, brings me great satisfaction and animates my life.

Being Needed Versus Being Needy

Rabbi Friedman says that it’s vitally important to shift ourselves from existing to living by moving away from being needy to being needed. What’s interesting about this is that in order to be needed then you need people who are in need. This does not mean, however, that they are needy. I have needed a lot of people in my life in the wake of Roneet’s passing. They have helped me immensely and I will be forever grateful for the extraordinary number of cards that I’ve received as well as people reaching out to see how I’m doing and wanting to get together. I wouldn’t say that I was needy, however, but I was probably more accurately described as being in need. And while I wasn’t brushing my teeth when this curiosity struck, Rabbi Friedman’s lecture has made me think about what makes someone needy. 

I think someone who is needy requires constant reinforcement, external gratification, attention, and often does things for others, not for the intrinsic gratification of it but to gain recognition. These behaviors and attitudes are not healthy and get in the way of them living a purpose-focused life that requires a healthy attitude and mindset to solve problems, take on new challenges, and make life-affirming choices while staying away from those that are harmful to oneself and others. To get out of being the center of everything they need to find a higher calling, shake off the need for external validation, dig more deeply within to find out what causes or generates intrinsic motivation for them and what deep-seated fears and issues they need to work through to become unstuck versus being on the treadmill of gossip, complaining, and victimization. I believe that needy people often adopt a victim mentality and are much more talkers than doers and deal with the same problems over and over and make very little progress in resolving them because maybe deep down they fear ridding themselves of them and having to take more control over their own lives. They suck the oxygen out of the room and offer very little insight or value to others other than offering examples as to how not to behave and think. 

People who need others, on the other hand, can be very healthy as they are often living the full human experience. They need other people in their lives to confide in and to help them talk through issues, to bring up what might be blind spots for them, and to experience intimacy and companionship. People who live the longest tend to have deep, meaningful, and long-lasting relationships. We are not meant to be alone but we are also not meant to be needy either as this is not a healthy state of being.

What I’m Grateful For

Watching Rabbi Friedman’s lectures has motivated me to try to position myself to be needed in productive ways and to view this positively and not as a burden. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving,

I’m grateful for the following: 

  • The talented and committed people who work for me when they come to me with their issues, questions, concerns, and seeking my advice. 
  • Our investors who have turned to CWS to help them achieve some of their financial objectives and for the opportunity to play my part in that. 
  • Our residents who need our well managed, safe, and quality living communities to provide them with a home and a sense of home.


    Left to Right – Mike Engels, Steve Sherwood, Gary Carmell

  • My partners who periodically lean on me for advice or consultation for key issues in terms of helping to move the company forward, solving problems, or avoiding unnecessary risk.
  • My kids who are open with me about their lives, hopes, dreams, needs, concerns, and seeking advice in terms of how to make their lives work better for them.
  • My family for being there for me and to be able to do the same for them.
  • For my tennis partner and companion who has helped me through this difficult time and has reintroduced me to tennis and has needed me for advice, a friendly ear, consultation, and to be a consistent tennis partner for her.

Dr. Akbari Rabbi Shuey David Bernstein


  • For Roneet and the extraordinary 32 years we spent together and everything, you taught me, the laughter you brought to my life, and the immense joy to have partnered with you on this roller coaster of life.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and in the year ahead you make a conscious effort to focus on being needed versus needy as you progress through life.

One comment on “Living Versus Existing
  1. Mary Cramer says:

    Very lovely tribute Gary. You are eloquent, kind and generous, all very good traits.
    Wishing you the best of luck and ultimate satisfaction and happiness wherever you end up. With regards to you..

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