Influence as a Happening-Pt1

Over the years I’ve been asked to write more about the three POW’s and our relationship on Okinawa. Even now I feel the influence they had on my growth as a result of our working together for about 15 months. Their picture is well etched in my mind and heart. Even now as I tell the story it brings a smile and warm feeling. They helped make me the person I became.

My respect and regard for them began day one and I felt this in return. None of it planned and why I label it a “happening.” A brief reminder of the story: I was part of a squad that sent prisoners into caves to try to convince the Japanese solders still fighting the war that they would be safe if they gave themselves up. If they did not come out we’d blow up the entrance to the cave closing off at least one escape route for them. Three soldiers with their hands held high came out of the cave and I was ordered to drive them to the prisoner’s compound. Having never driven anything how could I turn this demand down? Reading the metal plate instructions on the dash and driving was one challenge I had to take. Luck ruled the day and someway, somehow, we made it safely to the compound.

Soon after this adventure I was instructed to build an outdoor warehouse for used equipment and for labor get some prisoners to help me. At the compound I saw the three prisoners sitting along the fence and we immediately smiled at each other. Surely we each remembered our close call with death during the drive. I knew then that they were and had to be my coworkers. 

Once together It took them five minutes to realize I was a 19 years old that knew nothing. They immediately took over and began the process of organizing and constructing our warehouse. I also recognized that they never made light of my role as leader. In other words, given the situation they would play deaf and dumb so that when officers requested equipment for their own use the three coworkers made sure I appeared to be the power that either gave or denied the request. 

The warehouse grew and we soon had a crew of twelve POW”S. One Day a POW ran into the hills attempting to join the Japanese soldiers still fighting the war. I grabbed my carbine and headed off to recapture him. Yamamoto and Ohara tackled me and physically restrained me from going after him. Yamamoto, the true leader, in his 40s and Ohara, 2ndin command and 30s refused to let me go after the escapee. It was Yamamoto that went for him and now I thought I had two escapees. (As an aside, they taught me basic Japanese and I taught them English using Life Magazine pictures. Eventually, we were able to communicate with each other. We laughed a lot, but made it work.)

Long story short, Yamamoto returned with the escapee about two hours later. Lined up all the workers and me and absolutely demolished the escapee verbally, slapped him, once, across the face and we all went back to work.  This event never repeated again.  (To be continued in the next paper).

Haiku: We commit to do———-And become one in our goals———-We do not fail any

The leader leads us———-Because they do the job best————-We participate.   Sy  

Influence as a Happening-Pt2

To continue: 

The yard grew and the card file created by Yamamoto was perfect. Each item in the yard had its place and condition noted. Also our equipment grew to a forklift, cherry picker crane and a truck. We had become a big yard that held all kinds of “stuff” ultimately to be shipped back to the States, used locally or disposed of.   The pacific was our dumping grounds.

The day came when the four of us discussed our returning home. Ohara was a street car conductor in Tokyo before the war and looked forward to returning home. Kato was an actor, also from Tokyo and wanted to return. Yamamoto was the senior of the group and had been a bank officer from Hiroshima. He lost his whole family to the bomb and desired to remain on Okinawa. There was nothing for him to return to. I wrote letters on each of their behalf supporting that their wishes be fulfilled. In my ignorance and youth the thought of remaining in touch with them never came up. To this day am sorry for that.

My company captain (the one that administered the GED exam) offered to arrange for me to go to Radar School in the Philippines which meant a year plus of schooling and upon graduation becoming a 2ndLieutenant. At the same time I was given a time to return home and civilian life. I choose to return home to Chicago and my family. Under the captain’s influence I looked forward to beginning my formal education. I had no idea as to what that would be. The thoughts of me being a student actually excited me.

When the day came for me to leave Okinawa and the military I met with my three dear friends. It was a sad experience I will never forget as I will never forget them.  We had become family and it was painful to say good bye. We all hugged and cried at our parting. They had contributed to my becoming a man, and as I was to discover, a leader. Yamamoto was my primary teacher, but Kato and Ohara also taught me what relationship, respect and regard meant. We truly and deeply had this for each other.  Consider our history together and that throughout my whole experience on Okinawa they became my closest and dearest friends. How blessed to have them in my life even to this day.

When I reflect on this experience I see that from the moment I saw them with their hands over their heads I felt empathy and sadness for them. They really believed they would be killed when they walked out of that cave. What happened was a friendship I hope they carried with them throughout their lives. I certainly have.


We meet and become———–Becoming what we know not———And why becoming.

I allow you in————takes courage to allow this———–Yet, what other course?

You give me your self———–Do I know what this gift means?——–Not until I know.

Friendship, a true gift———–Rare to be given freely———–Never take lightly.   Sy

The Origins of My Philosophy

Have been asked to write on where and how I believe my philosophy begins. And incidentally, I invite any request for writing a paper. Obviously enjoy the challenge. Please feel free to suggest stuff for me to try writing about. The only restriction is that it must be what I have studied and experienced. One way or the other it still comes down to my experiences. It has always been my experiences I held as my truth. Reading other people’s stuff has never been accepted as gospel by me until I put it to the test of experience. This approach has never failed to be a learning experience for me and as a consequence, others.

So where does my philosophy of living and working with people begin? In my mind I believe it all began in my family. My Mom was loving and giving even if she had so little material things to give, so she gave love and shared all else. My Dad labored through the depression doing his best to put food on the table; a hard worker, a strong union man and never a blamer. Also, never remember starving, but do remember lots of soup. My only sister was a queen, 2ndoldest and very special to each of us (five brothers and I was fifth in line and one younger brother. I only remember one bathroom wherever we lived and we moved often. Tight living, competition and tension between my brothers existed, but I was never involved in this tension. I honestly believe I did my best to be a bridge of peace between them. In other words they all liked me and treated me well. They were each so different so learning about and living with uniqueness was the way it was and must have given me insight in the importance of differences? Space had to be respected and given.

Beginning very early on in elementary school until most of us left for the service I was a member of a gang that stayed, played and ran together. It was a very close relationship between us. Growing up in a Jewish ghetto clearly made its impression on each of us. Each handled the experience differently. Some remained very Jewish, some not and a few became warriors. I became a warrior and that meant to fight and defend anyone that could not or would not defend themselves. 

Being without future goals other than joining the merchant marines and seeing the world, my experiences in the army introduced me to three Japanese prisoners of war and our company captain. They played a huge hand in changing my life and giving me direction and purpose I simply did not have. Here again, I see that experience makes the difference in one’s life. It most certainly did with me.

Without question I believe and am my own best example that when open and vulnerable to what is taking place around you and the people that are part of the action, one’s life cannot be what it is and was. Change takes place.

So my philosophy includes being true to one’s self and having the courage “to be;” to take risk and in the process learn as much as you can.  Now here is the kicker. If you do this for yourself, you must want this and do this for all others that you meet along the way.  Sy 


Self is not one’s self—————But a mix of many things———-Life and living full. 

Life treats me so well————I must return what I can————Life decides not me.

On Aging – A Personal View

The friends that requested my thoughts on aging opened a can of worms. As long as I stick with expressing my own feelings and thoughts I’ll continue to do so. Have no intention of speaking for others. I can’t and won’t.

Since creative writing is one of the essentials to my well being I’ll continue this brief essay approach. It’s my style anyway. To begin: Based on the comments I receive this feeds me to write more on a given topic or work on other paths.. A good thing to be sure because it stimulates ideas to write on and I so enjoy hearing from those I send my essays. Whether in agreement or not it’s all food for thought and I look forward to whatever is written. On the other hand, no obligation to respond to anything I write. Expectation is not my thing.   

What I find interesting is that my recent papers on aging have produced a significant response. In fact it is why this paper continues with aging. Having always given effort to being there for those I worked with and served it’s obvious that this is a hot subject and calls out to say more. I try.

To begin I certainly believe each of us approaches aging in our own unique way. Some fear it and do what they and money can do to allay those fears. They may try, but to what avail? Time is limited for all. I say and live each day as best I can. Now is good enough; be grateful and loving to yourself and others. 

My primary anchor to life and living is Lenette followed behind by an exercise routine and proper diet. Also very important are my friends. How blessed Lenette and I are to have many and so varied.  Added to this list is reading and creative writing which forces me to think. Also the ancient adage and my mantra “live in the present and be as fully here/now as possible.” Something I had trouble with when younger. It was always one foot in the present and one foot in the future. Today it’s all: Live and love now.

In any case, writing and speaking about aging as I am is fair game and I am able to do that. I can and will share with you my thoughts on the subject. Speaking for others is out of the question. We cannot know the other. Trust me when I say or write “It is difficult or maybe impossible to know the other.” 

So this is about me and if it offers a bit of a road map for you, maybe that’s a good thing?  Finally, (a proper word here) I do not waste my time with longevity. The future is not mine to know so I let it be. Today is my gift and I do my best to love my way through it.   Sy


Life’s the gift to live——Waste not what is so precious——–It is here and now.

One is the teacher———One is the student to teach———They need each other.

The journey is short———-Smell each rose and see the sky——-Feel the path you walk.

My Philosophy towards life and living

Two dear friends (family for sure) enjoyed my last paper, but want me to write my thoughts down as they relate to my “philosophy towards life and living.” On their behalf, I’ll try. 

It was 1951 when Lenette approached my table (work job fair at UCLA ). She asked questions and I asked questions and in the process I fell in love with her. Within minutes I knew this is the girl I wanted to marry. She left the interview with a promise to return after canceling her job with the YMCA as a swimming instructor. During this time she met two of her girlfriends and told them about me and the jobs I was looking to fill. She also mentioned that “his philosophy is awesome and, by the way, he’s the guy I’m going to marry.” It’s the truth! 

I have never thought philosophically about my approach to working with children, I just did the best I could at all times and in all situations and wanted and demanded this of those that I worked with. I would hold numerous training sessions discussing what apparently had to be my philosophy, but always emphasizing the pragmatic essentials. For sure I was not theoretical in any sense that I was aware of, but “hands on” practical. I was a carpenter not a professor.

When an undergraduate and graduate student in my psych classes I remember having issues with my professors over what was being taught and what I knewworked. Experience, working with coworkers, parents and children, always had greater influence on me than what was being taught in the class room.  As a practitioner in the field I know we (my staff and I) did an excellent job. Kids and parents were the recipients and the messengers. Also, and without question, staff and children ages 4 to 16 played the biggest hand in what I became and the philosophy’s evolution. Influence was never one way.

The “children phase” finished I was thought by professionals and entrepreneurs around the country to be able to solve their problems with staff communication and behavior. In the process of working to “better” staff relationships and productivity I discovered that the real problem is the leader. This led to my heavy duty studying anything and everything relative to Leadership, power and influence. It was here (the 70’s) that I discovered that I did have a philosophy.   

In general, my philosophy when in relationship: Respect the other, bein the presentlisten, work hard to understand, seek clarification if necessary and confirm what you think you hear being said. Agree or disagree, honesty is essential. Have the courage to be candid in response. And finally, be what you say and teach.

While I was writing my book I called an old friend still living in Chicago (most are gone) and ask him to tell me what kind of kid I was 85 years ago. I question his response, but he told me I was the best listener in the gang and was trusted.  The seed had to come from my parents and apparently my philosophy began to grow very early on.     Sy

Who you see is me———-Not an act to fool anyone———–Good or bad just me. 

We need role models————–We do not simply become————Experience counts.

Notes on My Journey

A friend asks that I write a paper about aging and in the request I felt concern facing this chapter of his life. So I’ll do my best, but with the understanding that I write only about what I am experiencing. What others my age and older feel I will not guess. I know me and that’s what the paper will be about.

To begin I start with Lenette because she is more why I am here and now than any other cause. So I believe that relationship with someone special is of immense importance. I want to be with her as long as possible, but with the understanding that I not be a burden to her. If and when I am I’ll b ready to let life go.

With Lenette being absolutely essential to my life and the desire to remain around as a partner what do I do to assist my continued stay? I exercise five days a week. I read a great deal of history mixed with current events and enjoy the companionship of friends. 

As for food: Lenette feeds us lots of fish, vegetables and fruit. Breakfast is big for me; Protein drink and nuts for lunch and a dinner prepared by Lenette that is always delicious including a generous salad.  My contribution is doing the dishes. 

My exercise routine is the same Mon, Weds and Fri and takes about two hours to complete. Tues and Thurs are different and take a bit less to do. All five days include aerobics and muscle groups and surprisingly am slowly improving my strength and aerobics. If decline is taking place it is hardly noticeable. Living in the present is my reality. I take each moment as a gift.  

Important to me are my essays. Receiving comments and suggestions generates more reason for me to write. What people have to say is important to me. Whether in agreement or not each response is looked forward to and stimulates thought. Making comments and suggestions for papers is welcome. As long as my experiences are accessible to me they are what I’ll write about.

I also recognize that I’m more thoughtful about things today than ever before. I know that when past events, whether people or issues, took place I did not give much thought to the action I should or should not take I just took action. I was open to the demands made upon me and reacted as best I could. Maybe aging is that time for reflection on things past? This is true for me.

I appreciate being here and feeling as I feel. I certainly feel lucky in that I remember things, am still somewhat creative, able to write brief papers (and Haikus), read lots, exercise, get hungry for a good meal and mostly love just being with Lenette.   

Aging is real. Don’t fear it and don’t run from it. Take each day as it comes and do your best to be grateful and give love.                                                       

I am what I am———I do not need or want more———-All is what it is.Life a special gift——–I know this and am grateful———Events dictated. 

The Birth of a Philosophy-Pt.3

The Role ModelI’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 

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 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

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?