On the People We Live With

As I mentioned in a recent paper, we live in a Senior Village. The accommodations are between a fine hotel and a resort, but neither. Yet, it is unique. The corporation that owns and operates this complex has others around the country. They are all available to us if visiting any of those locations is on our mind. Next door to us is a total care facility. Assisted care is not offered here, but we live as well as possible for people of our ages.

The beauty of this place, which is called Revel, are all the people that live here and the staff of professionals who manage it. While the people who manage Revel do it superbly, I’ve chosen to write about the people who have elected to live here.

We reserved our apartment about two and a half years ago, joining some thirty-plus other people who had also committed. Most were primarily single, as there were fewer couples. Since then, it has grown steadily to about 135 residents and a long list of those waiting for apartments to open up. Interestingly, most living here are from back east with children in their 60s and 70s who live here and in Lake Tahoe. Many also have grandchildren here. So, in general, it all allows these families to remain close to each other. Always a good thing.

While many residents are retired teachers of every grade level, there are also many former engineers, technical specialists, and various professionals. Getting people to talk about their histories is easy, probably because we are good listeners and sincerely want to hear their stories. As I’ve always maintained, the more people become comfortable and feel safe, they share.

It’s not a one-way street. We also share our stories if others are interested. Politics, the state of our country, and the world often lead to wonderful discussions. In some cases, the ability to have meaningful conversations can also depend on whether people are trapped by their belief systems. I’ll write more about the people to come.


More on Aging, Revisited

When I’ve written about aging, I am writing about my experiences that are taking place in the present. It’s what I am feeling, thinking, and doing. This paper is about where and how we live and the people we live with. Our senior complex has about 125 apartments, which are either studios or one and two-bedrooms. The building is four stories tall, with the west side facing the Sierras and Mt Rose, offering a complete and beautiful view. The east side faces a Blvd and Freeway that heads north and south. On the north side is a small forest, while the south side borders a short street leading into a small but nice shopping center. Having lived in Reno and its proximity for 42 years, I believe this location is as good as it gets.

The building is entirely rented out with a long waiting list. Having seen other senor facilities in Reno, we believe we live in the best. Also, our apartment is on the corner of the 4th floor, offering us a terrific view of the Sierras and Mt Rose ski area. We have a patio to sit and enjoy the scene when the weather gets warm. We’ve now been here two-and-a-half years.

Our building has a nice bar and restaurant, and we eat most of our dinners in the bar with open seating. We pay a monthly fee for food and service, which includes a cleaning crew each Friday morning. If problems occur in our apartment, we have maintenance people that fix just about anything.

The complex has a heated indoor pool, a small exercise gym, classes for Tai-Chi, Yoga, and more. We also have meeting and cardplaying rooms and a comfortable studio for watching sports/TV and lectures. It takes terrific management to make this all work, and we are blessed to have the right people in the right place. I will write next about the people we live with and our experiences with most of them.


Power & How a Leader Can Turn It into a Positive Force

Just being a leader of others, whether as a parent, teacher, entrepreneur, political or military leader, places this person in a position of power with influence over those that follow and often upon whom they depend.
The fact is that the power these people possess is not open to discussion but a given. Their position carries a certain weight that influences the behavior of those they lead. Often without any way to contest this power.

But there is a way to moderate and seriously influence the leader’s behavior and power. This results from the leader building a talented and courageous small group of unique individuals, which I have labeled for years as “The Inner Circle.”

What makes the Inner Circle such a vital gift to any family or organization is the process I have called “Genuine Dialogue.” It allows members of the Inner Circle to take leadership with full power and wield it identically to the true leader. Ideally, many members of inner circles, as I’ve described, can and will create inner circles of their own.

Most importantly, when any leader creates their Inner Circle, the leader must be willing to share their power and also be ready to step up and support the “now” leader.

“Genuine Dialogue,” with the building blocks I’ve written about and taught for years, inevitably comes upon problems and issues that must be dealt with at the moment. In these instances, the leader may be anyone in the group who is in the best position to address the specific call. Effective leaders know that when they entrust their Inner Circle, Wisdom, not power, takes over.


More Thoughts on Aging

I’m going to share with you what my going on towards 96 is about. You must be there to know, and I’m there. Everything else is speculation. Anyone younger who believes they understand aging is blowing in the wind. So, pay attention, and maybe you’ll better understand your aging parents. I certainly hope so.

First, my body is wasting away, and any exercise seems futile. I weigh so much less, but I also eat much less. I’m shrinking before my eyes. At eighteen, I was 5ft,9in, and weighed in at about 180 hard rock. Today I am 5ft 6″ and weigh about 130. As for exercise, if the weather is warmer, and I mean warmer, I can go and enjoy relatively long walks.

Walks are something special for me because about four months back, I could not walk five feet without stopping to catch my breath. I used oxygen 24/7, even during sleep. Today, I am off oxygen and can walk long distances without any shortness of breath. Is this normal? Not according to my Hospice Nurse. She says I’m the rarest bird she has worked with. Oh well, that’s aging for me. But, as I’ve come to understand, aging is different for different people.

My mind remains sharp. I can write one pager’s as is this, poetry, and Haikus pour out of me. In other words, I’m still creative and feel that I can still enjoy genuine dialogue with the many wonderful people that visit and bring goodies, too.

What is clear to me is that aging is unique to those who are way up there in the years lived. I’m old and grateful to be here as I am. I enjoy each day as a gift. I know this and accept it as it is. “What will be, will be.” I’m okay with that.

Old is different—Each person that gets there, knows—It is what it is.


Remembering a Complex Member of our Family

Deever Jenkins passed away. Most of you, of course, did not know him, but lots of us did. He came to Purple Sage Day Camp as a little boy in the fifties and stayed with us until camp Shasta ended in 1970.

I write “he was complex,” and he was. Bright and caring, he was a contributor and always did a wonderful job when responsible for others. In fact, we thought him good enough to take over camp in the seventies. He always contributed what he could to help make things better for others. To that point, he and another long-term camper ran a successful day camp program for a large temple in Las Vegas. Lenette and I were very proud of the job they did.

He loved surfing and made this activity his “go-to” until he suffered a head injury. He also loved fishing, which was something he and another camper took very seriously. He leaves behind two adult children and a remarkable sister.
Deever’s history ultimately played an important part in his life; In his late teens and early twenties, he demonstrated tremendous leadership potential. He had much to give and did so. We will always remember him.

Deever lived his way—He surfed and loved his fishing—He remains with us.


The Rare True Leader

In my recent paper, I reflected on our multiple selves and that the best leaders nurture the better selves with whom they live and work. While recognizing both positive and negative human behavior, exceptional leaders create an environment that fosters positive relationships.

But, as I’ve written many times, if experiences that make up the past are especially powerful or repetitious, there is a strong likelihood that the past tenaciously remains part of our present. It does not diminish in time but remains present like a persistent itch that some people suffer without relief.
The rare, true leader never gives up on providing nurturing relationships and a supportive environment. Although they may be the salve that contributes to eliminating the itch, the battle to be a better self is always one’s own. Being open to growth and change is never easy. Erasing the past is impossible but understanding it and setting it aside is not.

Still, even the best leaders are unable to change another directly. They can only build relationships and provide the necessary environment whose power is such that it is seen as safe enough so the other can make the decision for change. Never easy, but it happens, given the right circumstances.

There is a beauty to all this. We CAN make ourselves into better humans. Yet, we may not be able to do this all by ourselves. History can be as tenacious as an octopus, wrapping its tentacles so tightly around us that escape looks and feels impossible. Nevertheless, there is a path to growth and change. Help is there in the behavior of the quality leader.

My past tenacious—I am this person—Assist me to growth.


Is Being Yourself Ever Really Being Just You?

The more I write about self and relationships, the more I sense that we are never just ourselves. My history clearly shows my brothers, sister, and parents’ influences on me. I am not them, to be sure, but I am not without them in one way or another. All of which will be the point of this paper.

We are multiple beings that meet life each day. We are not unlike an orchestra with various instruments meant to be in harmony with each other while connected to its conductor. This arrangement may also bring conflict, whether conscious or not, between those who want to be dominant and others who also wish to play this role.

For years I studied, thought, and taught to help people be themselves. The idea that multiple selves exist within us was one that never entered my mind. Now, for the first time, it does because I am an old man searching my past. As I do so, I’ve become more aware than ever before that I am a product of my history. Mostly, this is not my doing. But as a result of to whom born, my family, and the environment in which we co-existed.

Creating a constructive environment is one of the ways a leader can help and nurture another. I made sure that people under my power and influence had the time and space to be the same person as often as possible. I was always aware that while with others, they may have struggled to be their best selves.

The problem is that many of the most painful experiences are continuous experiences, often impossible to mediate even with the best of help. Navigating through emotional “muck and mire” is also a constant experience. This is why I have always advocated for Genuine Dialogue. At its minimum, this meant “being in the present, listening, confirming what one understands and speaking with candor.”


I am me, or who? –I will not be my brothers—And not my parents.

A Response That May Have Hit a Homerun

Now, as never before, my mind takes me back to the past. I look back on family, friends, and the extraordinary and powerful people I’ve been blessed to meet, live and work with. I have fond memories of all those wonderful and exciting programs we built from thoughts into reality and our unforgettable kids and staff.

One member of my huge family, a former psychologist, and professor at Berkley, emailed me some comments. Their point was that my growing up with eight family members in tight apartment quarters greatly impacted my child and youth programs. I agree as I have a sense of my upbringing’s considerable influence on me. Undoubtedly, it also shaped my work with adults about power, leadership, and the importance of dialogue between people significant to each other. Furthermore, I believe this of all humans—that we become the product of those long-term relationships and experiences in our childhood and youth years.

People seeking weekend fixes and tools might be under the impression that those solutions “have changed them.” But I DON’T THINK SO. Not that it means one should not seek to grow into a better person, participant, or leader. After all, it won’t harm anyone to try to change if it translates to an “inner desire” to grow as an individual and member of society.

Travel is an excellent example of what does work insofar as personal growth is concerned. Watching people in different environments, experiencing examples of other cultures and what they achieved, and even trying unusual/exotic foods are wonderful ways to expand one’s worldview. We loved seeing and tasting the world and doing as much of this as we could. I believe we grew from it all, even during those occasional dangerous and challenging moments. So, what if you get lost? Eventually, you won’t be.

The most important thing is to be you while inviting and supporting others to be themselves.


To Have a Philosophy is to Live that Philosophy

As I’ve suggested in past papers, I believe that my philosophy came from my parents and the relationship I established with my older siblings.

My parents were uneducated and came from different small villages near Odesa in Ukraine. They met in the US, and the rest is history. In 1926 we lived in Chicago. During the depression, my father worked as a laborer at odd jobs, although he was trained as a Carpenter and would become a fine cabinet maker. My mom raised six children, of which I was number five. 

My mother was a tremendous caregiver who gave all of herself. No one ever went hungry whenever they visited our home. Every Friday evening, my parents went to an Odesa Club meeting where they danced (my mother loved to dance) and spoke Russian. My father was a happy observer who loved talking politics. He was a 1000% union man who went for Roosevelt. Sadly, my mother died much too early in my arms.

We never lived in a house during those days, only in 3rd-floor apartments. These never had more than three bedrooms and one shared bathroom. Naturally, problems arose from such close living, but we always worked them out. As I recall, I played a prominent role in mediating those arguments. 

My siblings, including one gem of a sister and a younger brother, liked me, and each found a way to spend time with me. I listened to them and was a willing participant in anything they suggested. 

I do firmly believe that this 18-year experience, until I went into the service, shaped me as I was and am. The rest I credit to my loving Lenette. Another miracle in my life.