To Be Yourself, Express Yourself

If you are not being yourself through words and behavior, then who and what are you? It should be evident that when we are most vulnerable, we need to experience love, touching, being talked to, and being listened to.

A baby’s babble is what I refer to here. It is the way they first communicate. The tears and utterings are all significant. The parent who pays attention to this knows that the baby is communicating with what voice and feelings they have. The baby must express itself and needs the audience of those that sustain its life.

If the parent is not committed to being the listener, how else is the baby nurtured to be itself? Yet, it is not only listening but also confirming that is necessary. Confirming means responding to the baby so the baby knows it is heard and perhaps even understood. This is the nurturing process; the baby’s voice is heard and confirmed. What an affirmation this must be to the baby.

If this continues, the baby grows as itself, as it must, or conflict arises. It might be difficult for many parents to understand and appreciate that the baby is a sponge absorbing almost everything and every sound taking place. In fact, the babies’ antennas are ultra-sensitive to the parent’s behavior and likely their intentions.

Here is a crucial dilemma.  Do the parent(s) have their own picture of what their baby is to be and become? How is this conveyed to the baby, and does the baby have a fighting chance? My history tells me it does not. The baby does not have the tools to win their own voice. Like the aging I write and talk about, we can win some battles but lose the war in the long run. The power those who lead have is either used to empower those close to them to be as much themselves as possible or used to power’s own benefit. It is the way it has always been.      


My Thoughts On Community

How important is “community” to anyone of any age? Last night, my mind would not turn off, and I saw that almost everything we did for children beginning in 1947 had something to do with building community. This meant activities, safety, listening, storytelling, and simply seeing to their needs.  

In Southern California, while I was a full-time student at UCLA, our Day Camp, Purple Sage, created a community for up to 400 children and 100 staff. I did not see or understand this aspect then and for many years to come. However, today I know this is what we did. Then, fun, learning, safety, and relationships were always front and center.

So now, as I ponder the concept of community and what it entails, I realize that it resulted from how we operated everything we did. We created community at our camps, which today, in my mind, means inclusion, being cared for, and caring for others. Also of considerable importance was ensuring that everyone’s voice had an outlet and was heard and understood, even if not agreed with. 

These earlier experiences significantly influenced me when I began to work with professionals, entrepreneurs, and organizations, lowering the pyramid and improving communication. 

Dialogue between two or more people is not an issue of, maybe, feeling safer but of knowing you are safe to say what you need and want to say. An essential part of our workshops was to ensure personal safety when expressing one’s opinion. As a result, staff often felt safer at work than at home. And guess what? The safer we feel, the more a part of the “action” we become. That’s what’s community ought to be.


What If There’s No Computer?

I suffered from this for the last few days. I could write essays and did, but I could not send or receive emails. I am no techie by any means. At my age, it’s okay to be “old school,” and I am. With new problems coming at me almost daily, I continue to be what I have been most of my life, which is a pretty good problem solver. It was my job with kids, staff, and, eventually, professionals and entrepreneurs. Encountering one challenge after another probably played a significant role in my staying around for as long as I have.

So, after an impressive “dialogue” between my computer guy and a young lady in Europe, an AT&T tech, the problem was fixed, and I am back in business.

But a word or two about the communication between the AT&T tech representative and my computer guy. She is located somewhere in Europe, and he is at my apartment in Reno. They worked together for more than an hour. They listened to each other and confirmed what each was saying. I was mesmerized by the connection between them. Neither gave up despite the complexity of the problem. 

I watched, listened, and said nothing for at least an hour, witnessing what I have taught so many powerful people about the remarkable value of being genuine with others. Unraveling the problem demanded intense listening and was always followed by “So what you said was…, or what you want me to do is…”

It was clear that both people learned from each other. You could hear their minds working through their interaction with each other. I could feel the respect they were developing for each other.  Although I only participated as a witness, I learned, once again, the mighty value of dialogue.


Leadership—So Misunderstood

Leaving the aging issue I’ve been writing about, I am compelled to write on one of my favorite subjects, power, and leadership. I’m at home with these topics not only because of years of research but also my personal interest in what it means to be a leader. As most of you know, I was a leader for well over 27 years and admit to complete ignorance of what it took to be a leader. 

I led as a “deaf, dumb, and blind” leader of children and young staff. I never asked or questioned what kind of leader I was. I did my job as best I could and demanded this from those I worked with. I listened and did what I could to make problems go away. I tried hard not to interfere but to let people and kids do their jobs and be their best. Now, in my old age. I am told that I was a good leader. Still, I dig deep to understand what I did and why.

Later on, when asked to help professionals with their staff issues, I thought this would be a “cakewalk.”  But I quickly discovered that those problems that existed with and between staff were of a minor nature. It was the leader and their power and influence over their staff which was the real problem. This turned me into an avid student of power, leadership, relationships, and, ultimately, dialogue.

I, the former leader, was now the student and mentor to other powerful people that were as ignorant of the part they played in the behavior of their staff as I was. I learned the secrets of power that worked when used to foster good, growth, personal achievement, and relationships. I also discovered that parenting and leadership are identical. Whoever holds the power creates the environment, whether it be home or office. 

I set about getting this message across, not as a tool but as an attribute of the leader. The leaders had to become aware of their power. They had to become vulnerable and witnessed as such by their staff and their children. They had to reach for and attain genuine dialogue with those they led.

My goal was to flatten the pyramid of power into as level a playing field as possible. Thus, instead of monologue and top-down control, people become empowered to speak in their own voice.  Amazing how well this works and how good relationships become fact.


Winning A Battle Does Not Mean Winning the War

As a matter of simple truth, aging is a process of dying. It can be rapid or slow. In my humble opinion, it is not a matter of genes but lifestyle. This is what I believe. None in my immediate family lived beyond 82, and here I am, heading towards 97, with good memory and recall. I also keep working and am productive with my writing, lecturing, and a bit of exercise.

I have aging issues that include going deaf and likely becoming blind in the not-too-distant future. There are undoubtedly other battles I will find myself fighting and, hopefully, will win, if only temporarily. Also, I remain fully cognizant that the time will come when the battles and the war with aging are over. Death will win; that is a matter of life itself.

I easily write about my battles, victories, and ultimate defeat. It is what I experience each day as the reality of living and dying surrounds me. I am supported and thankful by an honest-to-goodness community. Most of the one hundred fifty people living here contribute to what makes this s place the community it is. The leader and staff make this possible. Management is superb. I say that with my knowledge and experience regarding power, leadership, relationships, and dialogue.

I firmly believe my experience and knowledge are essential to share, which is why I still write and lecture. I’ll stop when I am stopped.   It’s my job.


A Very Good Night

I’ve written about my cracked ribs, and if you have suffered any pain over the years, you know what I was experiencing. I am a shoulder sleeper and rarely sleep on my back. Still, it was all I could do if sleep were to come. It’s been ten days since my injury, and last night I slept on both shoulders with no pain. A battle won, to be sure.  I think it’s because I choose not to fight the battles I cannot win.  I waited patiently for what opportunity might appear, and it did. Why? Because I have a job to do. And I am not playing with words. Writing is my job whenever Lenette is not my job, but when she needs me, I am there first and foremost, as she is for me. This is not an obligation. It is love.

So, I have every intention to win every coming battle until it’s over.  And that’s okay because the future is not mine. Now is mine, as it is yours. My point is, don’t waste what is yours. As to mine, I will hopefully be exercising in the next few days.  I intend to make ready what troops I have in my coming battles.

On utilizing the weapons to help us to continue to win, two residents of our community travel every few months anywhere and everywhere. This is their job. They have just returned from a month-long voyage to the South Pacific. In prior months they took another adventure to other destinations they had never been to before.  I congratulated them on the job they are committed to: visiting as much of the world as they have the time and energy to do so. They have made preparation itself their job.  Another fine point to be made about “work.”  

As we age, we rarely work for money, but we are compensated by the effort, the time, and the seriousness we put into our activity. We make it our job. My job is to write.


This Old Guy Isn’t Going Anywhere!

I have lots to do, which I consider to be my work, and so my battle with aging will continue for a while. While I know I will lose in the end, as will we all, there are some battles we can all win. Giving in to the inevitable is a sign of weakness and fear, and we must resist that urge as long as possible. 

I am thrilled at having discovered the four weapons I have talked and written about. They are so simple yet effective.  When I write about them, I feel there is big truth here. Having the four come to me only a few weeks ago at the kitchen table was definitely an “aha” moment.

My challenge is to study and take apart these weapons so that the aging can make the best and most effective use of them. Our caregivers don’t have much to do with this. They may have the power of “place,” But they can do nothing about making sure the “place” is a “community.” The aging person, as I often write, must be proactive. Caregivers cannot do this for them. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink. And we aging people are much like old horses. We shouldn’t settle for “It is the way it is.” So, then, what is the answer?

Dialogue is never easy, yet it is a must when communicating with loved ones and any who are essential to you. Do not lecture or monologue but give and take; listen, work hard to understand, and confirm your understanding. Finally, candor on everyone’s part is what makes it work. Never forget, Pressure of any sort does not make for successful communication but Love, respect, and regard do.


On Being 96

I have no problem admitting that I am fragile. The other day, I was sitting on the edge of our bed and gently slid off. When I did, I landed on my right shoulder. This minor fall resulted in several cracked ribs. X-rays also uncovered a case of minor pneumonia. I feel fine, with no fever, cough, or any other telltale signs, but treatment is coming, along with physical therapy for the shoulder. 

Old age is clearly not a pleasant journey into the setting sun. It is a fight to stay alive, and I mean alive!  It is why I strongly believe that if we understand and accept the aging process, we have relatively effective tools to fight and even win battles against aging. But assuredly, in the end, we will lose the war. And I am okay with that. There is a time for everything, that is, if we are lucky, and I have been lucky.

A quick recap of the weapons available to each of us that are aging. Of course, we are all aging from the moment of conception, but here I refer to those who have retired from work. The act of “retiring” I now consider a big mistake.

Number 1 is the place where you live, which goes with number 2, community. A community is where people live close to each other and care for each other. It is where your neighbors are aware of you and are quick to help if needed. I also wish to emphasize that we must be proactive in being aware of the needs of our neighbors. Number 3 is to stay active and work even if this means taking classes to learn new things. This is very important. Don’t stop working your mind and body. Finally, what may be the most important is number 4. Socialize with everyone you can.  Do not wait for them to come to you. Go to them.  Sy

Writing In The Moment

Writing two books at the same time is not a problem for me since they each deal with separate subjects and issues. My fourth book is about influential individuals, rediscovering one’s own voice, the importance of relationships and dialogue, and revisiting the inner circle.

The fifth book is on aging, my experience as it is taking place, and the words and feelings of at least 20 of the older people I live with. I will also check out the emotions of younger people about their aging process. Only by asking can we possibly know, and I will ask.

Going forward, I’ll write about what and where I am at the moment. While my mind and memories are full of power, dialogue, relationships, and so on, aging is a relatively new experience. Each day brings with it another point of reference. You can feel terrific today and terrible tomorrow, assuming tomorrow comes.

In our younger years, we made plans and realized most of them. Not so much today, which is why it is paramount that we live every moment to the utmost. We know and accept this. It is our current reality, and it will be yours one day. The aging process begins at birth, and that’s a fact, but so are the years and experiences to come. Live them to the fullest as time waits for no one.

Make the most of NOW—Now is a gift you must use—It leaves us too soon