A Desire to Grow

A desire to grow, to go beyond one’s self, needs to come from inside us. We make the decision to be open and vulnerable to the experiences life throws at us. We make choices to either be open and a willing participant, or to be closed off from what we hear and experience. Having arms twisted and minds forced open does not make for receptivity. Others close to us may sincerely want this of us, believing it is for our own good. Unless this comes from within us efforts by others is wasted. It is not what others want of us, but what we want of ourselves.

My workshops are classic examples. I know I prepared what I believed was valuable material, history, philosophy, psychology in preparing for a workshop. I also know that creating the safest possible environment was my responsibility. I needed to do everything I could to make this a reality. One way was to not push people to share what they were thinking and feeling. If one chooses to remain silent they were respected for this. They would pick their own time to share or not to share their thoughts.

 It is not what I said and did that made any difference. It is the receptivity that each individual brought to the moments. If closed or resistant to what I shared how did I know this? And what could I have done to create any dialogue between us? Acceptance of where each was at was my most successful approach. When a person was ready to speak their mind, they did and I confirmed them; not judge them.

The whole point was to create an environment of trust, respect and understanding. When feelings (always so personal and unique) began to be shared, and be listened to without being judged individuals spoke what they felt and thought. This opened up even the most reluctant. The key had to be safety and then the courage to express one’s self.

As a result of the safety and acceptance of one’s thoughts and feelings people opened up to each other. In fact, I often received letters and calls prior to a workshop asking that certain subject be discussed before I presented what I had prepared.  I never stood in the way of this. It was our goal in any case.    Sy

 I speak my own mind–And want to hear this from you–We say what we say.    

I want to thank everyone that called or sent me a birthday card!

I want to thank everyone that called or sent me a birthday card. I feel so fortunate. Thank you all for remembering my birthday: 12/5/26

A brief look at why I believe I am what I am: I was born to my mother that gave love without condition and a father who never set limitations on any of his family. They were and remain my role models. They and my five brothers and sister are gone. I remain and remember. 

Pete was my oldest brother followed by Annette (my one and most wonderful sister) followed by Hy, Joe, me and Bob. We grew up during the time of the “great depression.” We all lived very close in mostly 3rd floor apartments that had one bathroom. In fact, the first time I actually had my own bed was in the Army.

Pete was almost blind and as hard as he tried could not enlist in the Army. He made Torpedoes during the war. Hy enlisted right after Dec.7th; spent his war time on New Guinea and many months recovering in Military Hospitals. Joe was in the Invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. I spent the end of the war on Okinawa and Bob in the medics (Korea). I am an amalgam of them all.

Probably one of the beautiful stories I remember is after the last staff and children left Camp Shasta my father who spent the whole summer and his last summer at camp, came up to Lenette and I and placed his arms around the both of us. We were giving a final touch-up to cleaning camp before we left for LA.

“When you graduated UCLA I was disappointed that you did not become a psychologist, but witnessing what the two of you do for others at camp I realized that the work you both do is a wonderful gift you give to them all. I am so proud of you both.” Coming from my father whose total education was as a laborer and carpenter with no formal education. He taught so many the art of the hammer and saw. What a man.

Here I am celebrating my 94th birthday. When I do look backward how grateful I am for my family, my friends and the love of my life, Lenette.  I knew I loved her from the moment I interviewed her for a job at Purple Sage. Nothing has changed since those moments accept I’m 94.   Life is unknown————-We live each day and know this———-Enjoy the moment.     Sy

Role Models-More on the “Problem Child”

What happened between us that erased so quickly his volatile behavior and transformed him into a positive force? I was fully present with him, he felt my respect and regard, I listened carefully to what he was saying and then confirmed what I heard him say. Also, my responses to him and what he felt, assured him a relationship of trust and mutuality. Finally, my candid response “sure!” when he asked to return to his class nailed it all.   

This is “genuine dialogue” between equals even if I stood feet taller than him and held all the power. Fear may have stood between us at the very beginning of our meeting, but our few minutes of silence and just looking at each other took that away. I have to believe that my look of acceptance eliminated any fear of me he may have had. Nothing but a little space stood between us. I intended this and he experienced this.

What would have been gained had I conveyed my authority and power over him? Fear would have ruled his behavior and even his anger and what might this have resulted in?

When I was first informed that the principal was bringing a troubled child to me I immediately made myself open to anything that might take place including a very frightened child. Most importantly, I made myself present. What better way to meet the unknown?

When his teacher came to me two hours later she was remarkably open to what I had to say. It was a very receptive moment for her and other teachers sitting around the table. I explained that my making myself present and showing respect for him as a person set up the environment between and around us. It also had to be made clear that nothing I did was performance, but was real, real to me and real to him. Anything less would have turned the environment toxic between us.

His apologizing to his teacher and students suggests a possibility to me. I may have touched his “self.” I believe our “self” loves and is the best of what we are. If true, I accessed his “self” and he responded by being his “self.”   Sy 

The Birth of a Philosophy-Pt.3

The Role Model I’m writing about is “authentic” and rare. They are what one sees, hears and easily relates to.  No physical, mental or behavioral disorder exists that forces this role model to hide or wear a costume. They are whole within themselves and when with others. They are relatively easy to know and understand. They are what they are and for them “life is what it is.” Events dictate their behavior.  

When they do have influence and power over others, whether through position or selected by others as a role model, they work to empower those they live with, work, and befriend; they do not seek dependent relationships.  It is particularly important to note that the role model I refer to does not select anyone to be role model to. Yes, they are automatically role models as parents, leaders and teachers. Otherwise they are selected by those that believe they benefit by having the role model in their life. I repeat, the role model I have in mind does not seek being role model to anyone. It is also true that there are people who thirst to be multiple role models and to have power and influence over others. They relish this role over others whether spouse, children or coworkers. They love power over almost anything, but in particular over people. They are mentally and emotionally sick. What matters to them is control and winning.

When I write of teachers beginning with pre-school through 3rdgrade being role models I do not intend that the benefits and problems associated with “being a role model” diminish or go away as we age. I do believe the influence of the role model may be most important and effective for children ages to about 10 and why the early grades are most important.  I know as a leader and teacher for most ages I was a role model both chosen and not.  I did not ask during my teaching and entrepreneurial periods. I can only guess of my success or failure. In paper 18 I shared a bit about working with 5thand 6th graders and know for sure that my students enjoyed being together, learned and grew. I must have done a fair to middling job as role model, leader and teacher? I certainly hope so; and most certainly when I played at being an entrepreneur for 25 years and mentoring leaders and key personnel for the following 35 years.  Sy 

Aspiring to be an Effective Leader

After I retired from working with leaders, power and key personnel, I refer to as “the Inner Circle,” I sought an outlet in order to express what I know is essential if one aspires to being an effective leader. Writing seemed to be the best vehicle as long as I was determined to continue teaching what is to me the answer to relationship and leadership issues. One page essays have become my way of sharing my thoughts to this day. I also developed a respect for the Haiku, a Japanese way of expressing stuff and nature from the 13th century. The form is 5, 7 and 5 syllables on 3 lines and not a penny more. When I have space on a page I add a few Haikus always taken from the meat of the paper. I love how much so few words can mean.
But the point to this page that I’m presently writing is to clarify why the sequential approach over the last few months. I feel and believe the sickness and destruction discrimination and hatred has brought to societies for many centuries is treatable and may even be, eventually, eliminated. But, it won’t happen in families, their homes and around the Kitchen Table.
Working with leaders, organizations and families of many leaders I often witnessed significant changes in people’s behavior and attitude. Dialogue happened more frequently as did listening and understanding of each other. I also look back on my teaching and classroom days with 5th and 6th graders and camp. Not only do I clearly remember changes in the ways many related to each other, but am told how meaningful to this day; music to my mind and heart.
The work we did in the workplace, the work counselors did at camp and the way I related to my students in the classroom made differences in the lives of most that participated. This way of relating and communicating are what I will share in my coming papers. No theory or “hair brained” ideas; just the facts. Sy
Discrimination——–why this and hatred one has——–what is taught, how else?

The Birth of a Philosophy-Pt2

My experience with the LA Bd of Ed. began in the mid 50s and continued to the mid 60s. During this time I did folksong concerts, was a “story teller,” had counseling sessions with troubled students and teachers, did Inquiry Training with 5thand 6thgraders and for extended periods took over classroom teaching with difficult 5thand 6thgraders.  In other words my time with LA elementary school education was full, challenging and fun.

My working philosophy came right out of my camp experiences with campers and staff. I made my students a big part of what we did in every possible way. We would talk about what we were doing and to be doing. In fact, dialogue was constant between us as a group and as individuals dealing with one’s unique issues. I was always available for one on one talk and if they did not come to me, I went to them. 

When it came to academics like math or reading I would assign A and B students to work with a class mate that was a C or D student while I would work, one on one, with F students. When the slower students improved, and they always did, their mentor would be acknowledged and receive applause from their class mates. Also, to continually mix them with each other so that getting to know their fellow classmates and to develop some degree of responsibility towards each other was assured.

The relationships we established with each other and as a tribe or gang was a constant. Nothing took place that did not accentuate both the “I” as an individual and the importance of group. This grew to the point that Saturday’s and Sunday’s actually got in the way of school and their being together during the week. They missed each other and I have to guess that they missed my being the adult amongst them? Many years later and with the help of intimate work and relationship with leaders, along with intense study in the history of Leadership and power, I accept that I was a “role model” and not just a leader to campers, staff and my students. Being a “role model” is vastly different from being a leader, but is absolutely essential to a leader’s success with those they lead.   Sy

The Birth of a Philosophy-Pt 1

It’s time to share my recommendations having to do with Teachers of pre-school through 3rdgrade.  This may take a few papers and we shall see what we shall see.

A reminder: In 1948 we opened a small Day Camp in LA. Just a few young, enthusiastic adults so we probably spent most of our time together discussing logistics not a philosophy to teach and live by.  But the camp exploded far beyond our expectations so we had to employ considerably more people and with this began to develop a practical philosophy having to do with purpose. In other words, did we have certain goals in mind, beyond simply playing games and teaching non-swimmers how to swim? And, by the way, ages of children, from as young as three to and including early teens.

We held monthly meetings throughout the winter with all staff in attendance and discussed our responsibilities to each child and what best way to meet children’s, parents and our expectations. The experiences I had in Chicago with our few children and their participation in selecting activities was our starting point to building a meaningful philosophical system. This proved not only unique, but successful. 

Worth emphasizing is the participation we asked from the campers. Not only did they all talk about activities as a group (max of 8 campers, a young adult leader and a teen-age assistant), but as a group made out their own plan for the day. No higher-up created a schedule for the day’s activities. If it required scheduling (eg, horseback riding) someone was assigned the task of going to the stable and establish time for lessons and horses. Very important is that they stayed together even if someone feared horses. If one or two chose not to ride they helped out at the stable while the group went out on the trail. So what took place within a group was talk and a deep understanding and respect for each other. Each day at camp they walked, talked, learned and played together. They became a tribe, a gang, but in a most positive way. The gift of Dialogue was given to each. None were excluded, were silent and participation made easy.As Leader & Role Model the counselor blended in until and when events dictated they take charge.  Sy

The Classroom Environment

At the beginning the foundation and philosophy I eventually built began in ignorance and blindness. I did what seemed to me to be the right thing to do simply due to events that called for a specific action. In time I began to understand and develop a pragmatic philosophy that I could and did teach others. Many, many years later when I began to work with adults, professionals and entrepreneurs and to study power did I begin to seriously know self. It was at this point that my formal education to understand people and behavior finally took off.
The factual examples and the papers to follow took place during the time I worked for the LA Bd of Ed in the 1950s. My teaching approach came almost totally from experiences drawn from my camp, children ages 3 to teens and staff. Formal education as a student at UCLA, as best I am able to remember those days, played little or no part, in how I taught.
When I began taking over 5th and 6th grade classrooms I clearly remember what we, in time, (teacher and students) achieved. It was a sense of acceptance, belonging, respect, regard, caring, support and enjoyment of each other. Always to the point week-ends for the girls and boys got in the way of being at school with their friends. Someway, somehow we became a gang, a tribe, a community.
Even parents would observe and comment on the miraculous changes in their children. “What was going on at school?” became a parent’s question. And from a principle’s view point they would ask that I not discuss my classroom approach with other teachers during breaks. And, “please,” keep my doors closed.
Most important is that academics never suffered. Reading, writing, math, science, history, geography and stuff always was front and center. Ah, but it was the space in-between that made the difference and brought out the humanity in each of us. And what the rest of the story is about. Sy
I am me, you, you———that is the best it can be————-We each must be self.

A Look Back

When we decided to leave formal education behind it had nothing to do with success or failure in the system. We love teaching and we love being on our own.  We know both very well, but independence, even if unpredictable and no assurance of income is more appealing. Without fear, but faith in our abilities, we choose our own path and never look back.

I tell some of the story in my book, Leadership, Power & Consequences. What follows, in as many papers as necessary, is what I have come to realize in our waning years. What helped this take place are the remembrances of others including children, now in their 60s and 70s, staff now in their late 70s and early 80s and the many adult clients (professional and entrepreneurs) I’ve worked with over the past 30+ years. Clearly, our experiences help me put together the pragmatic philosophy I will be offering to formal education. In particular, Pre-School through 3rdgrade. 

Probably the most important experiences and lessons I had and learned from was the epiphany that “power is the problem to the answers most leaders seek.” When I witnessed this as a visiting mentor teaching better staff and leader relationships I was shocked at my own ignorance. As stated, I know how to train staff to optimize the contributions to their work, but never had inklings that I, as leader, also was a major contributor to the personal relationship problems within my organization.  Two things followed this awakening. I became a serious student of leadership and power and the best teacher on the subject I could be. I kept voluminous notes of my research as if I was still a Leader and in power. Also, if I was to teach others on how to have a more harmonious work place I had to confront leaders as “the problem to the answer they paid me to help resolve.” Most did and prospered. Another issue for me was that many leaders around the country hired me to give them toolsto fix their relationship problems. The problem here is that tools don’t do the job. Only being authenticdoes the job. What I mean here is that when a leader is true and real: open, vulnerable, authentic as perceived by their staff (not what the leader says or does)individuals believe and become more themselves to the betterment of all. Sy

Return from Mexico

We return from Mexico mostly healed having experienced wonderful people, culture and country.  

Now what to do was our immediate concern. We did not want to return to Las Vegas and easily turned our existing programs over to those running them. It was clear to us that we could not go backwards, but forward into the unknown. Historically events ruled the direction we would take so we waited for something to move us on. In the meantime we needed to do something so Lenette went to work for Incline Village and I took a job with a casino/resort in Reno.

It was not long after that I received a call asking if I could fill in for a speaker who fell ill. The subject was “Training Staff.” The caller knew that I had done this for 27+ years.   He felt I might have something to contribute to the professional group that was meeting at Lake Tahoe. This particular event turned into, I think it’s called “Life Changing.” And, it did in spades.

I was asked to speak for an hour. When questions began to pop from the group of about fifty we used up another two hours. It was challenging, exciting and the electricity that ran through the group and I was complimentary. When I left the podium I was immediately surround by many of them asking if I’d visit and work with their staff.  Holding staff training workshops was as natural as breathing. I felt I could do this in my sleep. I flew to cities throughout the country and held all day workshops for up to about 15 key people. During each workshop something very significant was made obvious to me. The problems supposedly of staff were almost never staff, but the leader was proving to be the problem to the answerthey were seeking.  I was floored by this growing awareness. I had been a leader of people for 27 years and never did I, as the leader, have a sense that I might be the cause of staff problems and solutions.  I never asked anyone “what kind of leader am I? Or, “tell me about me as your leader?”  This forced me to become the best student I have ever been. I needed to understand Leadership and Power.  I began to read and created boxes of notes relative to Leadership & Power. No discipline escaped my research.  Abuse of Poweris found everywhere.   Sy