The Roots of Community

So, both Purple Sage (in the 50s) and Camp Shasta (in the 60s) were made up of many small and independent groups. They ran their own camp, and it was the larger entity, consisting of a staff of activity specialists and us, that made every possible activity and learning opportunity available to each group. 

A deeper look at how this functioned:  The counselor held a morning meeting with their group and asked each member what kind of day they wanted to have. Most of the young ones had no experience saying what they would like to do and learn. The counselor, well prepared for this through our training sessions, assisted each of their children in expressing a thought, a desire, or a fear. Too many for too long a time would say nothing because they were so unfamiliar with being asked what they would like to do and learn. 

When it happened with one, and their request was noted, the counselor would move to the next. It may have taken days upon days, but eventually, each child would begin to talk and share what activity they would like to do. It soon became a matter of organizing the activities and the group’s day. It was up to the group or individual to arrange a time for the activity and the specialists. And since every activity was done as a group, they each began to understand their responsibility to and for each other.

The beautiful part of this was to witness the relationships developing within groups and the sense of “family” they evolved into. In fact, certain groups with exceptional counselors (leaders) created such strong relationships within the group that children formed lifetime bonds. Ones that endure to this day. Campers learned a lot about a lot, but the best and deepest investment took place in their relationships. Wow!



The other day I spoke to one of our camp “families” over the phone. He needed a ride to his doctor’s office and called several friends and associates. None were conveniently available, so he called an old friend he went to camp with in the 1950s. “Of course,” was the immediate response. This tweaked his active mind, so he called another old camper friend, and the answer was the same, “Of course! When?”

Was it just the way it is with people, or was something else being said? Was it a pure accident that none of his friends could make themselves available to him, but two very old camper friends immediately did? Were the friends from camp just accidentally available, or were they answering from a different place?

I concluded that our camps in the 1950s and 60s did far more than teach kids how to swim, ride horses, etc. Camp taught responsibility for oneself and others. Our pragmatic philosophy gave each small group freedom to be their own camp! Purple Sage and Camp Shasta were made up of many camps, each consisting of 8 campers, a counselor, and a junior counselor. That those relationships are still highly regarded many years later speaks volumes.

The day after Thanksgiving, we were called by two Shasta campers. These two ladies oversee Lenette and me, as do so many others. We are fortunate beyond words to have so many remarkable caregivers looking after us. Both contribute to our lives every time they call or visit. One was a professional editor in her past life, and she joined in with Steve Z to assist in editing my book, Events Dictate. She thinks it is a “winner.”

How blessed are we to have our “family” be made up of so many!


Events Dictate—The Book

Events Dictate is now available on Amazon. Those that have seen it are raving about its look and the material between the covers. Please check it out on Amazon (the only way to get the book), and share the link with all your friends and associates.  I love most of the essays, and I hope you do too. Please buy and recommend. And be sure to let Amazon know what you think.

book is written—A book that talks to you-us—buy at Amazon


The Importance of Understanding

If we listen to the other, we hear them speak but may or may not understand what they say or intend to say. But “UNDERSTANDING” is a MUST, and agreement is not. Listening and understanding are central to any meaningful relationship. Like the parent who must listen to and do their best to understand their child, so must the teacher when relating to their students. And any leader when communicating with their subordinates.

Listening is primary, but if we listen, do we also understand? The only way to be sure is to tell the speaker what you hear and understand. Example: The listener might say: “Is this what you are saying?” The speaker will confirm one way or the other. If not, then clarification becomes essential.

If communication is to be meaningful, the speaker must keep their comments brief so that an exchange can take place. If the speaker talks on and on (as with many classroom teachers), they will lose their students as they drone on and on. Conversations suffer when a speaker speaks for too long a time.

When I lectured and ran workshops, my words were always as tight and brief as I could make them. This allowed me to ask what they thought and felt. I took responsibility for being brief, clear, and ready to say what I said again. I sought participation, not agreement.
Dialogue was my goal, and when it happened, the staff and leader were off and running the show. They had become one and related on a level playing field. How amazing to witness a traditional pyramid flatten out. “Confirmation” played a big part.

I listen, I hear—Do I understand your words?—Maybe, maybe not?



Did you know I invite my readers to suggest subjects to write about? Please don’t hesitate to ask! What I write is what I have experienced, not what others may or may not have experienced. Good examples: I write about my work with power and leaders. I have written about my youth, my experience with the Japanese prisoners, and how important they were and are to me. I’ve written often about our many “serendipitous” adventures, and I have written about animals.

The following is another example: It’s the 50s, and our 3 animals, Brutus, Heidi, and Cleo, are eating their dinners at the same time we are. They always had kibble to munch on during the day, but dinner was different and more substantial. We were at the table, and they were on the floor, all in their usual places.

Heidi finished hers first but left some in her bowl. Nothing unusual, except that Cleo took notice of her leftovers. We just happened to witness Cleo’s move and Heidi’s response: Cleo reached her paw over to Heidi’s bowl, reached the lip, and began to (slowly) move the bowl towards her. Heidi (her head on her paws) just watched as Cleo became bolder and moved the bowl a bit closer to her. Heidi did nothing, her massive head still flat on her paws.

Again, Cleo moved the bowl even closer to her head. We were transfixed by now, watching the interaction between them. Heidi never took her eyes off Cleo or moved her head, and Cleo’s steady pull on the bowl was one fraction of an inch at a time. 

With the bowl now about one inch from Cleo, Heidi, head flat and steady, curled her lip. Cleo got the message and returned to her bowl as if nothing had occurred. And nothing did except a wonderful interaction between two animals that loved each other. 



Is “listening” a conundrum for most people? It must be because listening is as fundamental a requirement of relationships and communication as possible. When one person listens to another, do they hear them, understand them, or respond intelligently? Minus listening, is any relationship possible? I don’t think so.

Take religion and belief in God: It is said that God communicates in every possible language to humanity all the time and at every moment. If true, humankind is also given “free will,” which means God may be communicating, but it is man who chooses to listen or not. And since this is my paper and I’m doing the writing, I believe too many people are not present. If not present, they do not listen, and obviously do not hear God and receive no message, warning, or help. 

So, how important is listening? Maybe, our most important responsibility to ourselves and those close or important to us, including friends, coworkers, leaders, and followers? Indeed, worse is one not listening to their child. What is the lesson being taught? 

If a marriage has love well mixed into the relationship, I believe that the couple “listen” to each other, and if they listen, they hear and work to understand each other. This does not mean they necessarily agree on any given subject, but it does mean they experience dialogue. In marriage or any meaningful relationship, agreement isn’t the important issue. Understanding is. People who are in “listening” relationships are the luckiest. Everything else that follows is what it is, but it can not be false. This, because listening leads to hearing and understanding. Maybe agreement—maybe not.


The Use Of Power

You know the story, but briefly, in 1975, I was invited to speak to a group of dentists. My lecture and the following hour of questions led to an invitation to visit their offices to help them with their staff issues. While working with the doctors and their staff, it became clear that the doctors were at the root of their staff’s problems. 

The doctors’ communication with their staff was often condescending, like a parent communicating to a child or teachers to their students. What was missing was an adult and mutual relationship. This troubled me because I had been a boss/leader to many well-educated young people. I wondered how I related to them. I never checked and never knew, so I was totally blind, deaf, and dumb to my question.

I decided I needed to know more about communication, relationships, and, ultimately, power if I was going to help the doctors who employed me. I researched volumes on the subject and learned that nearly every relationship involved power in one way or another. 

I took a risk and told the professionals who hired me, “you are the problem and not your staff.” I also clarified that they needed to be a student just like their staff when I taught. That they needed to turn their power over to me when I lectured. Many did just that, but a few were simply unable to change their way of being in control. I dropped them as clients.

With the application of my newfound knowledge, successful changes and individual growth took place, as did my reputation. I was invited all over the country and worked with many professionals and a wide variety of entrepreneurs. In every instance, power was fundamental. It was never about giving it up, only how it was used.

My Book Has Arrived!

The book market is such that known people and authors are given the maximum support in selling their books via articles, interviews, and shelf space in the few bookstores that remain. Without these advantages, getting the word out is difficult, which is why I ask for your help in promoting my new book. 

“EVENTS DICTATE” brings together many of my personal stories, views on relationships and self, and of course, leadership.

I hope this collection will entertain in addition to provoking thought and discussion. My essays examine the state of leadership, the use and abuse of power, thoughts on aging, and much more.

Please consider picking up a copy of “Events Dictate” and recommending it to friends and family. I sincerely believe most readers will enjoy it and, hopefully, gain valuable insight into the importance of respecting and regarding those for whom they are responsible.

It’s available here, in the Amazon Bookstore:

Events Dictate by Sy Ogulnick

I wrote you a book—The person I was and am—I intend to help


The Importance of Individuality

In the Bible, there is the story of Abraham and his 1st born, Isaac. God instructs Abraham to sacrifice his son, but God spares Isaac’s life at the last minute. What was the message? And why am I moved to make a feeble effort to address this profound “event?” Remember, it is my belief that events dictate.

One interpretation is that God was teaching Abraham and all humans a significant and vital lesson. That man must understand that no one, not even their own blood son, is an extension of the parent. All children are their own person, unique individuals with their own one-of-a-kind voices.  

So, when God instructs Abraham to commit this deed, God is setting in motion a historic teaching event. God is instructing all humanity that “our son is not us.” That no one is like anyone else. And that powerful leaders of every kind, including parents and teachers, must view those subordinate to them as different and special. Not an easy lesson to learn and to be. 

If I did a good job working with children and young staff, this is what took place. There was always a sense, feeling, and experience that “All are special and unique. Still, I must claim ignorance of intent, so whether unconsciously or deliberately, did it matter? Our pragmatic philosophy made it so.

I like the story of Abraham and his son Isaac because it represents power, commitment, love, and growth for all involved. We are all participants in our own stories. Does our way of living show that we recognize and cherish how special and unique we all are?


Animal Stories Revisited

Brutus, our 1st pup, was part Beagle and Doberman and as smart as any 6- or 7-year-old human. He could count, multiply, and subtract any numbers up to 10. He would sit in my hands, giving me answers with short barks like a “Charley McCarthy.” Teaching him to fetch the morning paper took about a whole 5 minutes. I walked to the paper with him twice and picked it up. On my 3rd effort, I asked Brutus to get me the paper, and lo and behold, he went to the paper, picked it up in his mouth, and brought it to me. Amazing? There’s more.

He loved camp (Purple Sage) and followed certain groups throughout the day as if a member, but now and then, he would also find either Lenette or me to check in and on us. It is as if he knew of our responsibility to the campers and staff. This behavior continued at Camp Shasta.

Heidi came into our lives as a puppy in the mid-50s. Brutus literally mentored the little German Shepard, and they, along with Cleo, the cat, instantly become like a “Sy & Lenette!” If animals could love each other, they did. They became an inseparable threesome. Brutus was the one that figured things out. Heidi, his “point” girl, and Cleo always went along for the ride or adventure.

I may have shared this in one of my previous stories, but here is a classic example: Lenette placed a steak (rare expense) on our yard grill. I was preparing “my” Caesars Salad, and the dogs and cat were in the yard watching our preparation. While Lenette and I were inside, Brutus urged Heidi to get the meat on the grill. She easily reached the steak, and the three enjoyed a wonderful barbeque. We, starving, looked on.