The Fisherman

He lived and worked in the Keys, where he was also an excellent competitive fisherman in those shallow and crystal clear. After our workshop, he and I would go fishing for Bonefish, the game fish he competed for. They are big, fast, and opaque. The small boat we rode in had an elevated platform where someone would stand and look for where the fish were. Once given direction and distance, the person fishing attempts to place the line and hook just ahead of where the fish appears to be headed. Accuracy is everything. I failed miserably. He did not. 

His office was wonderful to work with. One time during our workshop, a friend of his came into the office who needed emergency dental care. He was, and is, a world-famous folk singer who made his home in the Keys. I recognized him immediately and loved his music, and I let him know that. After the emergency was dealt with, and as he was about to leave, he invited the two of us to his bar and restaurant for dinner.    

When we arrived, we were seated next to a small stage where he and his band perform nightly when not traveling around the world giving concerts. Only a red rope separated me from where he sat with his guitar, and we had an incredible evening of his music.

The dentist and fisherman I worked with lived through numerous hurricanes and floods and once lost his home next to the waters off the Key where he lived and had his office. So, what? He loved the environment where he lived and practiced. And, as difficult as it was to travel there, I enjoyed the times with him, his staff, and the people I met.

Adventure awaits—Never know what is to be—Live this, the moment

Life, a mystery—Who knocks at the door? Go see—Maybe good or bad?

One Of A Kind

When the word unique is used, it is meant to convey something special and one of a kind. The guy I write about now was one of those people with a heart, spirit, and conviviality that few possess. It was who he was, and when he tried to tell jokes using a French-Canadian accent, he failed miserably, but his effort made it all worthwhile. Those lucky enough to know him knew of his specialness. In his unique way, he was a “magnet” that attracted others.

We worked together for many years. He was a terrific student and wanted the people he worked with to have their own voice, which they did when we started to work together. I loved being with him, working with him, and recreating with him. When we held workshops, we also had the most incredible and fun lunches imaginable. He would take over a closed-for-business Italian Restaurant for a couple of hours. Certain friends were invited for unbelievable food, lots of laughs, and a game of “liar’s poker.”  I lost a few bucks every time. A gift!

During the summers, he would often put together a “Sy by the Sea” workshop for only select associates and friends.  Great students all, and the times on the beach were never to be forgotten, along with the very special Bocce Tournament and dinner held in his huge backyard for invited guests. 

 On 9/11, he lost his eldest son to that tragedy. To honor him, a fine athlete and a wonderful person, he built a basketball court for the church the family attended.  I was blessed and honored to work with him, his office, and his family.  Love is what I have felt and feel even now. 

I mentored a pro—he mentored me; what a gift—he leaves memories


The One Who Led

He is one of the gentle types but also a growth-oriented professional who sought the best for himself and his office staff. He quickly became one of the staff during our workshops and, incidentally, was a joy to spend free time with.  He also had a wonderful sense of humor. What I discovered about him was his courage, as it takes courage to be with one’s own voice, and he wanted this for all those who worked for and with him.

I mentioned in a previous essay the special daylong workshops where only eight professionals who were close to each other and knew much about each other came together. Our purpose for the session was to assist each participant in confronting and dealing with portions of their histories they were unable to get rid of or at least be able to shelve. I thought that their relationships would help, not hinder, this brief but difficult journey into their pasts.

I laid out the parameters for the session, and we began with each of us, including myself, briefly writing about those issues. Without my prompting, the one I write about stood up and began his story. In minutes he began to cry, and each one of us with him. He told a poignant story. A genuine dialogue took place, and it was clear that the experiences he suffered were not unique.

At the close of the day, it was as if each of us had lost lots of extra pounds. It was a cathartic experience and a remarkable one not to be forgotten. I did the necessary research and preparation, but he led the way to make it happen. It is always a human endeavor. 

Events will happen—Am innocent yet suffer—This is our own life

Want to be the best?—Be a student, be the best—You are able


The Texan

Every inch of him was a Texan and a delight to be with.  The story I tell is another example of an individual having and using his own voice. He was a southern gentleman, and in addition to the workshops we held with his partner and staff, he was a pleasure to share free time with. We joined him and a small group on his ranch near the town where he was born for a memorable weekend. We enjoyed great food,  drinks, a game of “warshers, and plenty of good old-fashioned laughs and the kind of talk I call dialogue.

But, what is or are “ warshers”? We call them washers in the far west; they call them warshers in Texas. What matters is not what the game is called but the game itself. It’s like horseshoes; only what you throw to a stake at about the same distance are small warshers about the size of a silver dollar. Whoever gets them closest to the post wins.

As luck would have it, this guy from the far west is a horseshoe player of merit.  The game of warshers was a cakewalk for me, and much to our leader’s chagrin, he was beaten at his own game.

There was a large pond on the ranch, and the catfish in it were huge, at least to my eye, although I know little about catfish. The ranch may still be his, but the town, the small ranch, and his youthful experiences there made him what he became. 

It’s been a long time, but I still have fond memories of our work and recreation together, including the Texan Long Horn Bull he had as a pet in his backyard.

Warshers or washers—Does it matter in the game?—It is just friendship

Worked together—And playing together too—Makes for understanding


The East Coast Guy

He is an East Coast guy, an outstanding professional, a lover of the arts and classical music, and just a remarkable person. He was and is a student of so many things. Working with him and his staff was always a pleasure for me. And because he insisted that I stay at his home, I had the privilege of knowing his wonderful wife beyond her being the office manager. With the two of them and their children, it was always fun for me.

 In the years we worked together, he was and remains an eager and excellent student and open to any suggestions I might make. The meetings between us were dialogic from the very beginning. He was also the youngest professional I worked with, and a rare one in that he never feared where we were going in our workshops.   

I remember an exceptional workshop with a select group of dentists from New Jersey. This was only open to the invited. All of them knew each other well, which was important because of what we would do in this day-long workshop. The one I write about here was the youngest, but I thought he belonged, and he did. In fact, his beginning as a dentist was with one of the older men in the group of only 8.I write about him for several reasons. As the student, he wanted more of whatever it took to be the best. Also, without question, he had and expressed his own voice. No voiceless mouse was he! Nor were his wife and his children. All were free spirits.  But he was also handicapped. One of his legs was useless, so he used it as a cane. He made such light of his unusable leg that his handicap was quickly forgotten. What a joy to work with and to know as a friend.  


More Than A Client

I was working with two professionals and their office staff, and one of them, over dinner, recommended me to his friend. The friend called the next day and immediately understood and accepted that I work with leaders who accept responsibility for their business environment and that they turn over their power to me during our workshops and participate as one of the staff.

We began to work together, and our relationship, beginning in the early eighties, continues to this day. We are as close as any two friends can be.  In fact, I feel like we are family. Not me as his parent, but as his older brother. I am honored by this friendship.

He is an outstanding pediatric dentist, and I began with his large staff, and he was my student. He invited me to stay at his home, and our relationship with him and his family grew quickly. And here’s the rub:  As he and I, his staff’s mentor became closer in our relationship, the more he became my teacher, guiding me to be a better teacher. Because of his interaction with me, I became a better teacher. I owe this and so much more to him. 

He may see me as a gift to him, his family, and the people that worked with him. I see him as a gift to me and my growth. How wonderful is that?  We both believe all humans are here on earth to speak with their own voice and to help others do the same. Sadly, it is not all that common.

True friendship is Rare—How lucky to have and know—I am that lucky

He, a dear friend—We both know how important—We value each other.


Going Forward

I will continue to write about people who either had their own voice when we first met or soon brought it forth, loud and clear. Again, in my mind, they stood out above the crowd and probably always did. Still, the mountain we had to climb together was to help their key people find their voice, at least in the workplace.

In the selection process of the people I will write about, I handicapped myself when I disposed of boxes of files detailing every group and organization I worked with. Not only that, but I also threw away boxes of notes from my research on power and leadership. When we moved to the Senior Complex we happily live in, we emptied our home of everything, including over a thousand books. Many charities in Reno benefited. At the time, I never thought I might write books about my work and the people I worked with.

My memory is excellent, which is why I can write about a select few but not so good that I remember them all. I am sorry about this because if we worked together, we would come to know each other, more often than not, as friends. The work was usually that deep and personal.

Example:  We worked together in the late 70s. He was a former scientist that worked on the nuclear bomb. His voice, loud and clear, spoke out against what he saw happening, and he ended up quitting, returning to school, and becoming a dentist. Obviously bright, he loved the picture of us (together) re-shaping the traditional pyramid in work environments and flattening it as much as possible. Bear in mind, at this time, I spent hour upon hour researching and learning about power and leadership. And about myself as a leader.

Serendipity—How some of us are formed—If present to it?


The Gentle One

He is one of the soft and gentle kind. Always has been, at least as I saw and see him. He came to camp as a little boy in the early fifties with his older brother and sisters. He had no problems joining in and participating fully in his group. At Shasta, he became a counselor of the youngest boy group and did an excellent job teaching and caring for them. He was the counselor of the difficult kid who cut the hole in the cabin so he could see the stars and moon.

One day he came to me and showed me a tree that was endangering his cabin and possibly his kids if it fell during a storm or just fell. We decided to cut it down, so I got the chain saw, checked the direction it needed to fall (no problem), and proceeded to cut it down. I destroyed his cabin. A failed woodsman was I. He, his kids, and I laughed a bundle and were grateful that the tree had not come down while they were in their cabin.

 I remember he and his group took over a Saturday evening event. Every Saturday, one or two groups would take full responsibility for creating the parties for the entire camp.  If I remember correctly, their theme was the Beatles and the Yellow Submarine.  It was a party to remember.

He earned his Ph.D. in psychology and taught at Cal Berkley. We are close to this day.  And he is close with other camp people from the fifties and sixties. He may not see this, but I do, and that is that he remains the soft and caring person he always was to me. When young and vulnerable (vulnerable, a condition we need to remain in for as long as possible), we show who we are easily to those we trust.  He and I trust each other. Sy  

An event happens—We benefit or do not—Be open to this.                           

The Surfer

He was an exceptional camper and participant. He came to us as a child in the early fifties and remained until 1970, the closing year of Camp Shasta. As a child and young man, he was a caregiver, a contributor, a participant, and a leader within his groups.  An interesting attribute of his was that although a leader within his groups, he did nothing to shine any light on himself. He led by being himself and not because he needed to be a leader. He loved camp, and camp loved him.

Camp was made for him, and he grew and contributed. In Shasta’s final year, we worked full-time in Las Vegas and placed him and two of his closest friends (also long-term campers, Red Squad, and Junior counselors) as co-directors of camp. While he was not selected as “captain of the ship,” it was evident that he never once relaxed in his responsibilities towards the staff and campers. Again, his natural leadership came out, and he was deferred to.

We hoped that he would be the one to take over camp, to be its full-time director, and to one day own it. Camp was a sure winner with him at the helm. A leader who naturally nurtured the people around him, staff would be his kind. He also had another voice in him that wanted as little responsibility as possible. This voice wanted to surf and fish, not to have any responsibility for others. He was conflicted. And sadly, for us and the future of camp, he made the decision to surf and fish.  He also continued to be a caregiver by becoming an emergency medic. He followed his passions, and the loss was to all that knew him.

When he passed, many of the old campers and friends with his two adult children came to his very appropriate memorial.  He will be missed. 

They are rare to find—People that affect people—A diamond is gone


The Horseman

I have written of him in my first book, Leadership, Power & Consequences. He was on a backpacking trip with his campers in the snow fields when there was an incident where he, as the junior counselor, ran down the mountain to the ranger station for help.  He remained cool in this emergency and handled it well. 

He was Intelligent and capable in so many ways. We needed a few more horses at Camp Shasta, so I sent him and two others to the weekly horse sales in Redding, California.

I clearly remember him asking me, “How do I know a good riding horse from a bad one?” I told him to ask the “old timers” who were shopping for horses themselves would show him the way.

I can’t remember how many they bought, but they did remarkably well, including arranging delivery to camp. While he may not have known anything about riding horses, he was the right kid to be assigned this task.  I knew his father often took him to the racetrack in his early years, and he had an immense love and knowledge of thoroughbreds. I could always depend on him to do the right thing.    

He came to us in the early fifties and remained until Camp Shasta closed in 1970. I asked him and another long-term camper he grew up with at Purple Sage to come to Las Vegas to staff, train and operate a Day Camp for a local Temple. According to the people at the Temple, they ran the best program they had ever had.  I was like a “proud father.”

He is the owner of five thoroughbred racehorses today and apparently still picks the right ones because his horses regularly win at the tracks. Maybe one day, he’ll make it to the Kentucky Derby. He has it in him to get there. Sadly, his co-director at the Temple camp passed away. Our loss.