Helping Others Find Their Voice

In a conversation last night, we spoke of dialogue. I pointed out that dialogue is only possible if a person speaks their own voice. How can it be that anyone does not have their own voice?

One’s voice is there and obvious when born. Like the baby itself, it requires nurturing. This nurturing comes from listening, responding, and meeting the baby’s needs as best the parent can. This requires understanding the cries and sounds. 

This is the initial voice of the baby, and understanding this voice presents a challenge to the parent. Crying means something, and it is the parent’s responsibility to respond. Is it food or cleaning? The answer is what gives voice to the infant.

So, why is one’s voice pushed back into the recesses of their being? Most people suppress their voices because they are not heard, listened to, and therefore not understood. Too many people grow up in an environment of monologue. Words are spoken in a hierarchy, and the level playing field is non-existent. This is how too many grow up. And, sadly this is true in most relationships.

In my workshops, when I made a point, I would ask my audience to express their thoughts and feelings about what I just said or to choose not to. If they wished to remain silent, I thanked them and moved to the next person.

I sought their voice, not their agreement. It takes time, but when someone did speak out, I listened and confirmed them by telling them what I heard them say.

After a few workshops, more members of the group speak out. When this happens, others are prone to join in, and the group begins to get involved.

As the environment becomes safer, more voices emerge, and their voices get stronger. For the leader and me, this is a wonderful moment. People are finding the power to be themselves.As an important aside, in many cases, the workplace became a safer place than their own homes to use their voice. At least they will not lose it again at work! 

Sy Of The F.B.I.

“Sy of the FBI” was a campfire ritual. Whenever I told it, I would begin the story with a phone ring, which I would answer: “Hi! This is Sy of the FBI.” From that intro on, I’d continue with a story I would make up as I went along. Sometimes, the kids would want the same story I told a few nights ago, but I never told the same story twice. Of course, there were always the same titles, such as “The Black Mamba.” Regardless, it was a different story every time since no two adventures can be the same, especially when I told them!

I loved our campfires, the songs, the participation, and the creativity the staff and kids brought to those evenings. Even the dogs and cats came—perhaps not to contribute, but to enjoy. Over the years, we spent many memorable evenings together. 

“Pa,” my father, loved Campfire and never missed an evening. He participated in singing the camp songs and enjoying the pure laughter from the goofy comedies brought by staff and kids. He passed the following winter after experiencing an entire summer of Camp. He was proudly in love with it all, and so were the campers and staff. It is what we hear even to this day.

“Sy of the FBI” remains a symbol of the great times and the “one-of-a-kind” adventures. 

Our Alaskan Adventure

We had a neighbor who lived in Alaska and was full of information, including that we should travel with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded for Grizzlies. So, I bought one and various loads, from pellets to solid slugs. And for added protection, we took Bear, our big mountain Pyrenees. 

We traveled the Inland Canadian Highway on our camping adventure. We had a two-person tent, heavy sleeping bags, and cooking gear. It was the beginning of September, and we figured we had two months to wander wherever the roads took us.

Denali was a must-see, so we headed in that direction. Although we thought people camped in Alaska, we discovered this wasn’t really the case. While we camped in our tent, most others stayed in their motor homes. 

We thought that at night, while we stayed in our tent, Bear would sleep outside to warn us if bears came around. As it turned out, Bear refused to sleep outside the tent. He slept between the two of us and snored. But that’s camping! I must add that we also slept with a loaded shotgun. 

Because we needed to see more than the two-lane road before us, we made it a point to take hikes in the forest. Of course, I thought Bear would go off alone to explore the wilderness, but he never left our side. In fact, he stayed so close that he pushed against us. He knew I would protect him, and he was right. 

In Denali, they have a bus that takes the public to the highest point on the mountain. No dogs were allowed, so we tied Bear to our tent and enjoyed a wonderful trip up the mountain. We saw Grizzlies roaming everywhere. At the time, we didn’t know that a family of Grizzlies had walked through our campground and visited Bear. Apparently, they got along just fine.

When we headed North on a lonely road, it began to snow, and the temperature dropped into the teens. As it was too cold to camp, we looked for a place to stay and found the only Inn on that road. It had a hot tub where we spent lots of time drinking wine. It was fantastic for us and also for Bear, who got to stay inside in our room out of the weather.

Afterward, we headed South, eventually boarding a ferry to Seattle and heading home. Those were eight unforgettable weeks.

Book or Blog?

In conversation with Steve Z, he wondered whether another book was the best way to promote my writing. He says my stories about Lenette and me are very personal, so only those who know us both would have an interest. I wonder if this is so, hence this essay.

I hope my writing conveys a philosophy. A way of living with others, and lessons that might influence and teach. These are the same pragmatic ideas I brought to leaders and their organizations.

I taught them ways of leadership, dialogue, and the concept that relationships needed to be as equal as possible. These offered value to those in the workplace, allowing people to find safety, regard, and respect in their work relationships.

Throughout my stories is my philosophy about what environments and relationships should be. This brings me to the point:  Are my writings more about Lenette and me than about that which we taught? We did not knowingly choose to be “role models,” but we were and are.

Your feedback on whether a book or the blog is more appropriate for my essays will help us decide.   Sy  

The Dynamics Of The Inner Circle

Being an authentic role model is a critical issue for the leader of leaders, which is why so few are successful. Accepting oneelf as a role model requires a high state of consciousness and a realization of power and influence.

It means how one listens and responds so that people in the inner circle feel understood. Without these ingredients of genuine dialogue existing between those in the inner circle, the group cannot function as a true inner circle.

In a functional inner circle, where genuine dialogue occurs, the level playing field takes place organically. When this is the case, the leader of leaders may not be readily identifiable because, ideally, the inner circle positions leadership where it belongs—where the ability to do the job is. 

Here is where the leader of leaders shows their true metal, giving over their power to the one who steps up to take on the job. In this instance, the leader of leaders becomes another member of the inner circle to assist, not lead.

For some, power can be difficult or even impossible to give to another. So that even if power is granted conditionally, it is still a failure of leadership.

The leader of leaders may consider their position to be a permanent one. If they believe this or act in this manner, they are mistaken.

I have experienced this dynamic myself. Over time, changes are inevitable. As they and their inner circle age and mature, serendipity and events force changes. This has occurred in what was my inner circle. Roles have shifted. I remain my own leader,  but I will never again be the leader of leaders. Instead, former members of my inner circle have become my leaders.

This change in our behavior towards each other is telling. Perhaps it means that I was a good leader of leaders, and they give me back what I gave them. I hope this is true and that Lenette and I were good role models. She and I did what we did out of respect and regard because we were teachers, first, last, and always.

So now I experience those I led leading me.  All are my family, or at least I feel that way. Without a doubt, I am dependent on their eyes and ears for most activities, and I am grateful for being in their hands.

I have also discovered a powerful truth. Lenette was helped to die, and I am being helped to live. Thank you, my leaders of leaders.

Accepting Change

Today was special. I was treated to breakfast out by two dear friends. Afterward, we drove by our first home in Reno, where we moved in 1978. Reno has changed and grown, as has the locale where we used to live.  

Going back in time is interesting. Nothing remains the same. Our home has been rebuilt, trees have grown, and nothing besides the land appears unchanged. When you think about it, that’s life. Like all things that humans do, our lives continuously evolve, and there is no going back. Grasping and accepting that all things change is what we must do.

I must accept Lenette’s not being with me. I must accept the changes I witnessed that day and every day. I must accept that I am 97, and my time has grown short. Still, I remain grateful that my mind embraces creativity and my memory remains sharp. For how much longer, I cannot know. In that regard, I think my daily writing plays an important role. Working on poetry, my memoirs, and essays on leadership and dialogue are valuable exercises, as are my biking and stretching. 

So, living in the present is what I do. And I fill it with routine. Yesterday is a memory. Tomorrow is not yet mine. Death is not an issue for me. Whether it comes today or two years from now, it’s all the same, and I’m good with this.

–ooOoo—

Breakfast with friends—a wonderful way to begin the day.

The food was good but not equal to our time together and what we say.

We listen to each other—we enjoy the talk.

The food is incidental, never equal to even a walk.

Being together is what our breakfast is about.

It’s not the food we eat but that we are together there is no doubt.

That my friends give me time and this kind of thing.

Is an act of love, and to me, a song they sing.

I am blessed being with them for sure.

I miss Lenette, being alone, having breakfast with friends a temporary cure.

Asking For Input About Lenette’s Memorial

Mark, Carol, Doug, Merry, Ian, Will, and Linda took me to dinner for my birthday.  It was a fabulous night, the food was great, but I could not participate in the dialogue. Between my hearing aids and the background noise in the restaurant, it was impossible to engage or to participate with anyone. 

My answer to this all-too-familiar problem was to sit back and enjoy that they were all enjoying each other. It felt good, and it also made me think about all the people that were missing from this table.

As I sat there, a thought came to me, why not “A WEEKEND WITH LENETTE?” It would be a celebration of Lenette’s life at a hotel in Reno where many people could get together to share their stories about such a wonderful person.

Individuals could share their stories, and I would share mine and in the absence of background chatter, hearing would not be a problem. We would have a wonderful meal and would end the weekend with love messages to Lenette. 

What do you think? Your thoughts are appreciated… Please email or call. As for possible dates, I would suggest late Spring. That’s when it is beautiful in Reno and Lake Tahoe and no crowds anywhere.

—oo0oo—

I begin but do not know where this will take me.

I know I have words in me I feel, even see.

For example, a weekend with Lenette is very real.

There are many that such an event would appeal.

A reunion of sorts, but primarily to honor her.

A reason that will bring many together, for sure.

Many will want to speak on the stage.

To tell stories of Lenette that simply do not age. I am loaded with stories to share.. Stories that show the depth of our care

—oo0oo—

Lenette and I are one:

I like to believe that this is true.

That we are one not two.

That in some way we are in touch.

That she watches over me that much.

So, I know she is near.

Oft times her presence feels clear.

And I check the bed. I think she is near.

She is not and I understand what takes place.

My wish for her is to be in that space.

Each day is a bit better than the one before.

And my memories of her I have and adore.

They grow clearer each day. What more can I write, what more can I say?

—oo0oo—

I do my best to live my days.

To fill it in a variety of ways.

To keep my mind active, alive.

To not lose who U am, to continue to thrive.

Shower and dress and breakfast is next.

And Doug or Mark join me. and that is the best.

After they leave Mia and I to the couch we go.

Maybe a nap, but I never know.

I follow this with my daily exercise time.

Stretching, biking and more makes me feel fine.

Then my computer and creating. I know not what, but it’s waiting.

Looking Back

I am 97 years old and never expected this, nor that I would outlive Lenette. Life is full of mysteries. Knowing we were meant for each other was the first “happening.” There were so many others that when I shared our stories, I had to ask, “What control do we have over our lives?”

I use the word serendipity often. It may well be one of my favorite words. Why? Because I seriously believe that Lenette and I have lived serendipitous lives. Our meeting, for example. She had a job, one she liked. What possessed her to ask about a camp philosophy? And how do we account for a disciplined showhorse throwing Lenette into my arms?

There’s more. A massive typhoon in the Pacific Ocean teaches me that I do not fear death. Three Japanese prisoners showed me how to be a leader. The captain on Okinawa gave me an intelligence test that encouraged me to go to college. Purple Sage, its success and fame in LA.

But fate and events continued to dictate. Lenette and I becoming one, our loving GI home, the loss of a baby, and Jeff coming into our lives. Becoming lost in Northern California, then encountering a drunk who sent us to the man who sold us the Shasta property. A year of heavy rains which kept this lumberman from cutting down any trees at what became Camp Shasta.

Lenette’s dream of a Youth Hotel in Las Vegas becoming a reality. The Lake Tahoe misadventure and how addressing a group of dentists led to lectures and workshops nationwide. The quality people I was blessed to work with. Our spiritual experience in Mexico and our trips worldwide. Becoming an author and, best of all, spending 70 years with Lenette.

My explanation for these life-changing occurrences and events? Serendipity!

Our Honeymoon

Writing about my honeymoon with Lenette is difficult for me. How could it not be? 

I fixed up one of Purple Sage’s Chevy Carry-alls so we could sleep inside in bad weather. This became our home for the first few weeks of our honeymoon as we camped and traveled throughout California. 

When we arrived at Lake Tahoe, an all-important stop along our way, we camped next to Tahoe City in the State Campground. Lenette loved Lake Tahoe, and It was then that we talked about living up at the Lake. It was one of her many dreams.

After our camping trip, we headed for San Francisco and an elegant hotel for a few days. Although we anticipated hot showers and changing into our best clothes to enjoy everything the city offered, we were as dirty as our truck. When we arrived at the hotel, the doorman almost turned us away. He clearly sent the message, “You don’t belong here,” and we felt it.

Our camper was quickly removed into the garage, and we were rapidly led to our room. Not once did we feel welcome there. They treated us like we were homeless. Still, nothing could intrude on our happiness, and we laughed it off.

All sparkling clean, we walked to a restaurant we picked out from the many we knew. We enjoyed excellent service, food, and wine. Hours later, we walked the streets late at night. A few days later, we were home and preparing for Hawaii.

At that time, Lenette owed money on her car, and I had enough to pay the whole balance. It was also just enough money to go on a round trip to Hawaii on the Matson Cruise Line.

I broke my money into one-dollar bills, and with Lenette on the floor, I poured a whole bag of dollar bills over her. It was an unbelievable moment of joy. The dollars flew everywhere.

Lenette initially decided on the Matson cruise, but we realized if we flew Pan Am instead, we could book a hotel room on the beach in Hawaii and have cash for food. So that’s what we did! This Hawaiian trip was the first of many, with the best yet to come. 

Despite our limited budget, we stayed on the beach, and things got better fast. One of the beach boys lent me a guitar, and I played and sang folk music, which they plainly enjoyed. In return, they fed us pū-pūs and fruit and gave us free rides in canoes, outriggers, and small sailboats.

Lenette, being an experienced sailor, was eager to show me her stuff. So, there was no hesitation when the beachboys lent us a small sailboat. We took off with the wind, and within minutes, we were far out, perhaps a mile, and close to big breaking waves. One caught us, and we were turned upside down in the wild surf.

As luck would have it, the beach boys were watching us through binoculars and instantly came out to get us. We all laughed at the experience, and later, they gave us a huge surfboard to ride the close-in waves.

At first, all was fine as we sat on the board waiting for a wave and watched people in canoes having a joyful time. They had canoe guides to ensure they avoided crashing into the multitude of people who were swimming and body surfing everywhere. 

Sure enough, a wave came, and the front of the board where we sat lifted about five feet above the water. Now what? We were helpless as we sped toward the canoes just in front of us.

We jumped off, grabbed the nose of the board, and steered it to the beach. Crisis averted! But no more boards or sailing for us, and we spent the rest of the day body surfing.

In the evenings, we enjoyed pū-pūs on the deck of our hotel and slowly sipped the one drink we would have. Afterward, we enjoyed a walk through the city. 

One night, we were passing by a fine restaurant in Honolulu and saw two people sitting at a table next to the window. We could see they were enjoying filet mignon. They could not see us because of the glare, but we saw them as if on a stage. 

We stopped to watch as their table was cleared for a tableside Crepe Suzette. We decided to go in and have a salad, and the waiter sat us right next to them. We watched as their server prepared the crepes, mesmerized by the sizzle and sweet aromas that drifted our way. 

When the crepes were served and eaten, I blurted out to Lenette, “How was it?” And all four of us burst into laughter. We did not share in the crepes, but we did get to know each other.

 Later, we walked along where the larger, ocean-going sailboats were tied and saw a sign that read: “Hiring two to crew to Tahiti.” We stopped to inquire, and they told us, “We want a couple of guys. “Sorry, no married couples.” 

Eventually, we got to Tahiti. But not as sailors. Lenette, the travel agent, brought that dream to life, and we arrived and enjoyed ourselves as tourists.

As a young married couple, we had little money but still dreamed big. In 1972, another of Lenette’s dreams came true. We moved to Lake Tahoe to run a resort. Lenette had a wonderful way with dreams. 

F.Y. Money

In 1970, Lenette and I operated the Youth Hotel in Las Vegas. As an executive, I was required to attend meetings. The president of the Hotel, Alex S., ran rigorous meetings with the executives of each department. His style was such that communication was usually one way. He was a powerful leader and almost always received accommodating support from his executives, except for one, the Director of Entertainment.

At these meetings I was required to attend, I was essentially an observer and noted that the Director of Entertainment expressed his opinion more freely and directly than the others. This got my attention. 

One afternoon, I finished working out in the fitness complex in the Resort and, as usual, headed for the steam room. I sat alone on the top step until Bill, the entertainment director, walked in and sat near me so we could do some talking. He admired the Youth Hotel and often commented that it was the best contributor to family gaming he knew of anywhere.

I liked Bill for several reasons, but his forthright way with Alex was the best. He spoke directly and to the point consistently about any issue. And Alex welcomed this.

So I asked Bill, “Why are you the only one who speaks to Alex as an equal whenever he asks for your opinion on any subject?”

“Sy, I’ve got F.Y. money,” he replied.

Being a children’s guy, I asked, “What’s F.Y. Money?”

“Fuck You Money,” He answered. “I own one of the biggest Entertainment Companies in the country. Alex and I are old friends, and he wanted my help with the International Hotel. I also love Las Vegas, so I came to help him get the resort off and running. I love it, and I love Alex.”

F.Y. Money? What a great story!  I shared it with Daniel, who was concerned about getting additional funding for his successful girl’s education program in Nigeria. I suggested that the F.Y. attitude would make a difference in his funding efforts.

I said, “Your program is already hugely successful, so in essence, you have an F.Y. program. Approach your donors as an equal, not as a supplicant. Tell them that your currently successful undertaking can be an even bigger success with their help.”

An attitude based on equality, not indifference (or fear), is what F.Y. money represents. When we confidently approach what we want, others sense this, which is more likely to produce a positive response/outcome.