Exploring Leaders And The Inner Circle

How does a “leader of leaders” assist the leaders who make up their Inner Circle to possibly become leaders of leaders themselves? I use the word “possibly” because this is rare. 

I believe the Leaders of Leaders become this beginning in their childhood with the order they fall into with their family relationships. Yet, plainly, it is the roll of the dice and the drawing of the cards that play a significant part in defining their future roles. In other words, they are not born leaders of leaders; they are made.

Since they are forged from their pasts, most become leaders of themselves, not leaders of Leaders. My definition of a leader of leaders is a person who is an organization builder. They bring numbers of people together. Relationships are what drives them. They build teams of people, some of whom become their inner circles.

Most Inner Circles comprise strong, capable individuals, not people gatherers. Although successful by themselves, they fail as builders of teams. 

Still, the leader of leaders need people like this if their organization is going to grow. They understand what to look for and nurture.

Leaders are unafraid of failure. They can stand before any group and say what needs to be said or make the phone call as often as necessary. They go to bat thinking “Homerun” when looking for land to buy and then the money to seal the deal and build.

No electricity? Call the president of the giant company that owns the poles and wire or enroll children in a non-existent facility! And that’s just the beginning.

Search out the Inner Circle member who shows this metal and get out of their way. You may have a leader of leaders in your midst. So give them help and guidance ASAP because they are going to be who and what they are Anyway. 

Lenette And Yosemite

Lenette loved Yosemite and the High Country. It was she who first introduced me to the idea that we ought to take the older groups on backpacking trips to Yosemite and the High Sierras. Our first group to visit Yosemite and the High Country was the first group of boys and girls to backpack for a week in the High Country. Our proud hikers were told this by the rangers at the Yosemite. We were entirely alone for a week. Except for a ranger on horseback, there was not a soul in sight.

Hiking in the mid-fifties, we also ran into the Curry Family enjoying their yearly sojourn into the High Country. We were told it was the first time anyone was in the back country with them. Our entry into the pristine high country may have been the beginning of what was to come… Having to make reservations to camp in specific sites. That wasn’t our world then, but it’s the world of today.

Lenette came to Yosemite when she was four with her father, who would bring a trailer he built. They would stay most of the summer, and she and her father climbed most of the falls. She loved her time in the valley. She thought, even then, it was where she wanted to work and live her life.

I also found heaven in Yosemite and the High Country.  In fact, when we began looking for locations for Camp Shasta the Yosemite area was the first place we looked. It would have taken a miracle. Although we believed in miracles, it was not meant to be. Still, every year, we visited Yosemite Valley.

Our Nepal Adventure

We prepared for our trip to Nepal by frequently hiking cross-country throughout the Mt. Rose and the Mammoth area.  We also biked all of June Lake and navigated a horrendous uphill grade on Highway 395. We should have known better, but we did it anyway.

We arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, and met  our eight companion hikers from New Zealand. All were in their twenties and thirties. We were in our fifties and, as we learned, in much better shape than our “flat lander” and much younger co-hikers.

We also had a crew of four Nepalese to carry food, tents, and assorted stuff. We were well cared for at every stop, and when we camped, we were given hot tea and cookies.

Our goal was to reach a stone village at about 16000 feet and a base camp another 2000 feet farther if we could make it. 

Incredibly, Lenette and I had no problem with the hiking or elevation, although some of the hikers from New Zealand did. Four had to be taken back to Katmandu with serious lung issues. The other four still had difficulties breathing. Living in Reno at an elevation of almost a mile made a big difference for Lenette and me. 

We loved the full roaring river we hiked along. We would climb a few thousand feet and go back down a thousand feet, following the river’s course flowing off Everest. Now and then, we would have to cross back over the river. This proved to challenge Lenette, as the rope bridges scared the hell out of Her. Depending on the height above the water, she came close to freezing in her tracks, refusing to go an inch farther. A few times, a team support member would hold Lenette, helping her cross the river below.

She did not trust me to help her, so I waited for her to cross over. My courageous Lenette kept on trucking, and while she never lost her fear, she kept hiking throughout the climb. She made it every time.

Needless to say, we made friends with our Nepal guides. They were wonderful people who loved their country and loved working with foreigners.  

A Day In The Life

I try to make my day a routine. I Get up around 7:30 and have breakfast an hour later. Mark or Doug usually join me, so the day begins with friendship. I am not alone—an excellent beginning to the day.

When they leave to begin their day, Mia and I cuddle on our couch with a blanket over us and nap. I think about Lenette, which makes me smile or sometimes cry.

At 11: 30, I exercise for about 45 minutes. I have not missed a day. It’s not a muscle-building workout, but it makes me feel better. So, at least, I maintain or think I am.

From noon until about 5, I do my writing. Sometimes, I know what I want to write, and it flows out of me. In this case, I may produce two or three papers. At other times, I struggle to find words. I enjoy both the flow and the struggle.

Breakfast is my big meal of the day, so I usually pass on lunch. I enjoy dinner and dessert and almost always invite people to join me for fun and good dialogue. Our restaurant is okay. The food they serve is acceptable—good, but not great.

During the day, visitors are frequent, often four or more at one time. So, the conversation is stimulating. When they leave, I return to the computer. Writing is my outlet, so I’m fine.

My dear friends, Todd and Mark visit frequently and we spend great times together. Ron, who handles my finances, visits about once a month. He tells me that I’m okay for about five years. That’s a long time for me—a long time for anyone.


Lenette—Typing Teacher And Travel Agent

Lenette taught me how to type, as my handwriting drove her mad. While she enjoyed my discoveries and comments, she found it almost impossible to read left-handed scribbles.

So, she taught me typing, and, over time, I learned and could do my own typing. One problem solved. Then, our problem became travel arrangements and car rentals. That was because every other week, I headed to all points east and west for five days of work in towns close to each other.

Lenette decided to become a travel agent to care for my travel needs. Her new career allowed us to experience extraordinary adventures at reduced costs. She was an excellent travel agent, and we took full advantage of this as often as possible.  

We traveled through most of Europe and purchased a Pop-Top VW there. We picked it up at the factory in Germany and used it to explore Europe for a month, camping the whole time and loving every minute of it.

Lenette and I agreed our favorite discovery was a little town in Switzerland called Mürren. It is a story worth retelling.

After parking near nightfall at the bottom of a mountain, we rode a Cog Rail about 5000 feet up in the rain. The little village at the end of the rail was dark, with only one light on its single street. 

We walked with our backpacks to where the light was, hoping it was an inn. As we drew closer, we caught the wonderful smell of a hot meal. We were thrilled to find the small inn where we found a room and dinner. 

The room was small, with a big bed and a blanket as thick as the bed. The window drapes were closed to the darkness and rain. We left them unopened and hit the sack, thankful for the Inn, meal, and the cloud-like bed. 

When morning came, Lenette pulled the drapes aside, revealing the mountains, cloudy blue sky, and the 5000-foot drop to the valley and river below. The view straight down to the valley below was spectacular!

The village of Mürren was maybe 20 dwellings, and after a wonderful breakfast, we walked to the edge of town, surrounded by farms and high country and the sound of an Alpine horn. We were mesmerized.

We hiked about 5 miles down a steep trail past farms and farmers doing their thing. We found a river and hiked to what we learned were world-famous ski resorts—Mürren on one side of the valley and the ski resorts on the other.

We stayed for a few days and experienced an Alpine horn concert, the great mountains of the Swiss Alps, fantastic food, and generous people. Mürren was etched in our minds forever. 

How and Why We Traveled

Sometimes, it’s the country you are in and sometimes the people you meet.  For us, it was almost always the country we were in, for we are intrigued by history, language, religion, lifestyle, and culture.

Travel also brings challenges. For some, knowing where they will spend each night is essential, so they must travel with a fixed itinerary. Often, this includes hiring guides to help navigate language, education of sites, and even meals and accommodations. If they can arrange every detail of their visit, they do, and little is left to chance.

Lenette and I never traveled this way. We deliberately traveled the “blue roads.” The small side roads that wind through towns and villages that may not have changed over hundreds of years. Accommodations, stores, and restaurants are rare and may or may not exist. If they do, they might be closed during midday for three-plus hours.  And this, for us, is what travel meant. Not knowing was a form of adventure for us. Because we were inquisitive, we wanted to know what we didn’t know. We wanted to see what we hadn’t seen.

A good example of this was when we were in Turkey.  While in that rarely visited country, we heard from locals that there were dogs that protected sheep and other domesticated animals from the wolves that roam the countryside. Of course, being dog owners and lovers, we have to find and see the Kangal Shepherds. 

We traveled on roads that cannot be called roads, heading for a ranch that raises these dogs. There, they are kept in large enclosures. The dogs are enormous and muscular, bigger than German Shepherds, and look like they can eat wolves for lunch.

We learn they are raised purely to protect farm animals from the wild animals of the forest. We are also told that they are being purchased and brought to Wyoming and the country surrounding Yellowstone. 

This was why we traveled as we did: to know and see the differences. We loved differences. 

The Tennis Club

Our company, Youth Systems Unlimited, and our great Inner Circle left Las Vegas in 1972 and moved to Lake Tahoe. Lenette and I went a bit earlier to do a study for the owners of the “Billy Jeanne King Tennis Club.” 

We immediately saw the club as a great family resort. There was tennis, of course, but also winter skiing, summer golfing possibilities, and a youth program with Camp Shasta possibilities. With condos, a restaurant, and a bar, It offered tremendous potential for year-round use. And we were the one company that could provide it all.  

Long story short, it rained every day during our first summer, and it was the driest winter in history, so there was no snow. We were sold out, but everyone canceled.

The land owner made us a remarkable offer, but interest rates were so high that investments completely dried up. The cost for the necessary improvements Lenette would make was substantial.  

We were offered the money and a minor partnership role, but with the requirement that I remain its operations head for fifteen years. Lenette wisely refused the offer. She knew that I could never function as a tool. Youth Systems Unlimited closed its doors. We moved our Inner Circle into our home in Incline Village, where each of them could sort out their lives. Lenette and I left in our VW pop-top for a seven-month adventure—a healing, spiritual journey in Mexico.

Lenette Designs the Youth Hotel

Martin Stern and his renowned architectural firm had the task of designing and overseeing the construction of what was to be the largest, most expensive Hotel in Las Vegas at that time. This included the Youth Hotel, which would occupy about 10,000 square feet on the first floor within the main hotel, and a large playground. There was also a bus for trips to the mountains, ghost towns, and Lake Mead. The Youth Hotel had it all.

We needed Lenette to design the Youth Hotel and Playground, but Martin Stern wanted this task. His adult ideas and plans simply did not work for what we knew we needed.

I went to Alex, the president of the hotel, with the problem before it got too far, and he suggested that Lenette and I meet with Stern at his office in Beverly Hills. This was arranged, and we flew to Beverly Hills for the meeting. Martin greeted us warmly but treated us as if we were children. I immediately felt that he was in charge. He was Martin Stern, the famous architect, and we were in his country. 

I suggested that we include the President of the hotel in our discussion. He immediately agreed and called Alex on his speakerphone.  What follows are the exact words that took place between them. They are etched in my mind.

“Alex, I’m here with Mr. and Mrs. Ogulnick. We are discussing who will design the Youth Hotel.”

Alex hesitated momentarily and asked Martin if he was satisfied with the contract, payments, etc.

Martin answered, “Of course.”

Alex interjected, “Then Mrs. Ogulnick is free to design what they know and need for the Youth Hotel,” and hung up. Case closed.

The construction went forward, all based on Lenette’s drawings and designs. As Lenette intended, the Youth Hotel was as flexible and adaptable to different activities as possible. Moveable walls were everywhere. Only the dorms, washrooms, and a large old-fashioned soda fountain were permanent. Martin Stern had his hotel, and thanks to Alex, Lenette designed ours.

Lenette—Designer And Visionary 

During the late 50s and early 60s, Lenette became a researcher and designer of preschools in addition to making Camp Shasta the wonderful experience it came to be. 

What she did was always behind the scenes, but her touch was evident in many things, including staff training and the overall look of Camp Shasta and group makeup. 

Her work, beginning in 1959, led her to design the magnificent Youth Hotel. During this period, she had Shasta, The Children’s Campus in Las Vegas, and Children Village, the preschool programs located within large apartment complexes.

She designed two preschools for Levitt Housing, one in Las Vegas and the other in Denver. Levitt also sent us to research locations in Kentucky and Illinois where apartments were being planned. 

Had interest rates remained low, Levitt planned to construct significant apartment developments throughout the United States. Lenette would design the preschools, and our organization would be the operators. 

Our experimental program in Las Vegas proved to be a huge success, and Levitt’s apartments were quickly rented by families that filled our preschool within the complex. With Bev Fenneman as the administrator in Colorado, the preschool there was also successful.

Lenette’s designs were remarkable in every way, reflecting her degrees in health and education and her experience and background as an educator.

Lenette And The Las Vegas Dream

In the early 60s, after the opening of Camp Shasta, Lenette woke me up from a dream she was having: “Sy, I just dreamt we built and operated a Youth Hotel in Las Vegas. I saw the building, and it was all so real.” 

She immediately went back to sleep, but I couldn’t. Instead, I thought, “How do I make this happen?” I had my answer in minutes. 
I would assemble a group of well-off people who were sending their kids to camp and who might be willing to invest based on their camp experience and the quality of the investment. Lenette and I would do all the leg work and be the operators. 

One of our parents happened to be a CPA who did this kind of work. I called, and we met. He liked the idea, and we put a group together. 

Lenette and I were so jazzed by the idea that we sold our home and moved to Las Vegas. Lenette soon found a house to purchase, and we all moved into our new digs.

Then, we began to search for land. As they say, “Location, location, location.” We found our ideal 5 acres across from a large church and a growing community. Also, they were beginning construction of houses and apartments in the neighborhood.

It was a perfect place for the programs we planned, including a preschool, afterschool program for elementary kids, tutoring, guidance, sports, and week-end programs for older kids.

We intended to cover all bases when it came to youth, and we did. 

Lenette designed the building with these many programs in mind. Our preschool occupied about a third of the property with its own playground. The many other programs each had their own space. Walls were moveable, making rooms expandable. There was a full kitchen and a multi-use dining room. Dormitories for boys and girls when parents needed to be away for weekends. An Olympic-sized outdoor pool and a four-acre athletic field.  If it could be thought of, Lenette found a place for it.

The Children’s Campus was designed to be a private community center for all ages, addressing most families’ needs for their children’s well-being and education. Lenette did all the drawings and gave her best to the design, so much so that architectural firms sought to hire her.

Whatever Lenette took on, she gave it her best—including caring for me, Jeff, and the pets, making us a home, teaching, and being a counselor at camp. All this while running the business end of our firm.

The staff we hired for every program was as professional and able as Las Vegas had to offer. As always, training for excellence never ceased, and success was achieved in every program. Not only was the Children’s Campus growing in reputation but also in enrollment and use.

Later on, when I worked with professionals and entrepreneurs, Lenette typed my research notes. She was my “go-to gal” whenever I needed to discuss my discoveries. Looking back, it’s clear that Lenette made me what I became.