Where I’m At

While I have no desire to speak for others about their experiences with aging, I can only tell you what I am undergoing.

I am 97, which means I am seriously old. Only a few reach this age, so allow me to share some of what life is like for me. Every night, I go to bed early, usually around 7 PM.  Due to macular degeneration, I can’t see, nor can I hear, likely a result of my being in the military, but otherwise, I am fine. 

Yet my mind is perfectly sound. I am amazed at my recall and ability to write poetry, haiku, and essays.  In particular, the essays regarding power and relationships.

After 97 years, I know how and why relationships and power can fail and how and why they can succeed. Both are at the root of the human psyche and the making of family. 

I also know that we have the capacity to grow and to change our behavior. I know this to be a reality, and the work I have done for almost 80 years is my proof. 

At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to restate the overarching problem as I see it.  If people seek agreement instead of discussion, the conversation is fated to fail. If agreement is necessary for either party, the entire point of dialogue is moot.

People must be able to share their feelings and be heard without demanding agreement; otherwise, authentic communication is impossible.  

The rule is simple. Agreement must be set aside to allow for honest dialogue. After all, what game does not have rules that must be followed? 

Thoughts on Power

Negative power is the Power that damages all relationships, including those at home, school, or work.

Regardless of location, where power is used badly, it does significant harm. Destructive power always begins as a hierarchy where someone sits at the top of the pyramid, and only a single chair exists.

That chair at the top might be for a father or a mother, or it could be a teacher, an immediate boss, and all the bosses above.

Power can be found almost everywhere.

It might be gross or subtle. Ideally, the job of the one in power should be to “empower” others lower in the hierarchy. Ignoring this obligation will make matters worse. Subordinates know what they experience, hear, see, and feel. To empower is to give and grow the other.  So, if you can do so, be a good farmer.

To empower, my job—what other way is there for me—And that, to build you

Bringing You Up To Date

Lenette has told me I must live as long as I am productive. So far, I am doing my best.

My 4th book is being edited and should be in the publishers’ hands soon. I believe that the essays in this book are among the best I have written.

My essays on “The Leaders of Leaders” contain fresh insights into a better understanding of power in the hands of certain people.

Over 27 years, teaching my pragmatic philosophy was always an essential part of my work with staff, a practice that led to working with professionals and entrepreneurs.

Guiding these organizations in ways to improve their staff took me into a new profession. This led me to discover that staff is not the problem. Unthinking and blind power in the hands of the leader is the problem.

What I have learned about power and leadership has taught me that while leadership has built our world, it also has the potential to destroy it.

Leadership, with its power to influence and accomplish, is the prime factor in all relationships. Relationships depend on whether those in power can create a positive environment for healthy give and take. This applies to the family kitchen table and large organizations alike.

Unquestionably, those in power (the Leaders of Leaders) hold tremendous power. They alone build and influence their environments. They are everywhere, from professionals building organizations to leading their families in discussions around the Kitchen Table.

I am the power—Around the Kitchen Table—No one else but me

A relationship—Never easy to have, keep—We need this badly 

Number One

I want you and everyone I have ever met to be number 1. That is, to be as much themselves as possible. I am myself. I am me, and I have never met another like me. I have no intention of glorifying myself. I simply mean that I am myself and want others I relate to be themselves.

Throughout my work with children, young adults, professionals, and entrepreneurs, I not only wanted people to be themselves but also did my best to make this happen. Promoting self is vital to me.

To clarify, the desire to be oneself is central to me. I also realize this is difficult if your history is about not being.

The other night, I dreamed that I was at the Kitchen Table, sitting across from my two-year-old son. I was reading the paper and enjoying a cup of coffee, and the child across from me said, “Dada.” I slowly put the paper and coffee cup aside, grabbed the child, and held him close.

I said, “I love you,” and held him even tighter. “What do you want to say?” I asked him.

Instantly, I had another dream segment. I heard the child say, “Dada,” yet continued to read the paper and drink my coffee. I did not ask for more. I heard him but kept my nose in the paper, ignoring him. What message did that send?

All of us are born unique. We are one of a kind. Yes, strong similarities exist, but we are not identical. I believe in the specialness of every individual on this earth and treat each person with whom I meet and live in that special way.

When I hugged my son in my dream, I not only told him that I loved him but was ready to hear more from him.

During my many years as a leader of leaders, I always listened to my employees and friends and never treated anyone with less than respect. I listened, asked questions, and took care of what needed to be cared for. 

As a leader, I was, and am, also a role model and teacher from my behavior and by simply being me. I know I have power that must be exercised wisely. It is what people see me being. If I want people to be themselves, I must acknowledge their efforts. 

A major problem is one’s history. Moving past the childhood environment is challenging to deal with. Even one’s present life at home and with family is not a small thing. 

My approach to people is consistency, respect, and regard. It is imperative that my message and support for a person is to be as much themselves as possible. This could not happen if I treated them as things. 

To me, everyone is a number one. They may see themselves as a 2, 5, or 8 because, without question, that is how they were treated as children. None of this is inherent in blood or DNA. All is conditioning. I know for a fact that in healthy and loving relationships, people can come to be number one. They are born with this potential, which remains with them, even if buried deep by their family. When I worked with individuals, their history made no difference to me. I treated them as number one, and guess what? That’s what they became.

You and me are one—Not me ahead we are one—I will help you be

Love

Love.

It may be a word that is the most frequently used word in the English language. You hear the words “love you “ being said wherever you are. I do it, too. So, what does it mean? Is it real love or just a way to let someone know you appreciate and value them here and now?

I decided to define this word as I see it. So, what does “Love” mean to me?  It means that when I am with you, I am with you and PRESENT with you. It means that I HEAR you. It means that I may or may not UNDERSTAND you and can ask for clarification so that I can confirm with you.

Confirming is so much a part of love. It tells you I am where you need me to be: To be one with you in that moment.

So. the “love” I write of takes and makes one from two. I know this personally, not just intellectually. Not many of us do. It is part of the way I envision the “Kitchen Table.”

I see mother, father, and children sitting around their table in the kitchen. They are talking and attentive to each other; all are involved. They are present, listening, and spontaneously jumping in; they are being heard and unafraid to ask for clarification or more details. Here, dialogue is happening, and age doesn’t matter. One’s voice is important; it is being heard and is an essential part of the family. Every individual knows, feels, and experiences this nurturing taking place.

More than anything else, love allows us the need to be ourselves.  And for the luckiest of us, it happens around the “Kitchen Table.” Love between people is healthy food for our hearts and souls. 

My family sees me—They hear and listen to me—And I come to be

Here’s an abstract sketch that Dall-E AI created from the haiku. Machines see human relationships in mysterious ways.

Creating the Best Environment

Last night, at around 2 am, I woke up and began to think of “relationships and dialogue,” which led me to ponder the difference between the kitchen table and the office. 

Most offices are structurally formal, meaning there is usually a desk for the person who works within the office, chairs for others, and perhaps a couch. There is a hierarchy, implied or expressed, that is built into the very environment.

At the kitchen table in a functioning home, the very shape and structure of that meeting place serve to flatten the pyramid. Ideally, there is no greater democratic and relationship-building environment. I cannot overstate the value of significant relationships and the dialogue that takes place there. Of course, the kitchen table isn’t always a physical environment. It can be anywhere that people feel safe and listened to. 

As I’m sure you know, I consider dialogue and relationships the most essential conditions between people who are important to each other. I became a better person and leader because I was fortunate enough to have fostered a kitchen table environment for my own inner circle. Those relationships played significant roles in my life that continue to this day.

We all need to ensure we have a kitchen table, whether figurative or physical, and we need to make good use of it. All leaders, whether professional or familial, have the power to create environments, often being unconscious of their own influence. That is both the gift and the curse of being powerful. Recognizing the difference between environments that empower and promote authentic relationships versus those that foster submissive and fearful pawns is the hallmark of effective leadership.

The Kitchen Table—Do not take it for granted—It is powerful

More About the Kitchen Table

Over the last few years, I have written often about the “Kitchen Table” because it means a great deal to me. 

The table in the kitchen is the most democratic and informational place in our homes. It is where everyone sitting there should be acknowledged and listened to regardless of agreement. It is where each person has the opportunity to speak their own voice.

Ideally, the table is where everyone, including children, is treated as equals. This acceptance plays a meaningful role in each participant’s emotional well-being, including the all-important sense of belonging. To not be invisible, to speak one’s mind, ask questions, and give answers. All critical to growth and finding one’s own voice.

On the other hand, the kitchen table can also be where the suppression of voice begins with young children. They are told to be seen and not heard. This emotional damage continues into adulthood. How ironic that this happens at the most democratic environment in their homes! It is shameful that adults can do this to their children.

DANIEL

He is “Danny” to me and the kids he grew up with. Yet, he is “Daniel” in the world he lives in now. After Camp Shasta, he earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Considering his work and achievements, he deserves the accolades others have given him. 

The program he started for girls in Nigeria, Africa, is now run by women from the region. The director is a “leader of leaders” and is developing and training leaders from within the population. These Nigerian women are expanding the program and are creating even more opportunities for young girls. To date, they have reached tens of thousands of girls, teaching them reading, writing, and mathematics. It has helped many avoid early pregnancy and enabled countless others to build small businesses. 

While the Nigerian women keep the process moving and growing, Daniel remains their mentor. Incidentally, he attributes much of what he has done to the things he learned at Purple Sage and Camp Shasta.  I couldn’t be prouder.

Now, technology offers me an opportunity to join Daniel in mentoring the Nigerian team. Daniel and I are going to do remote workshops with the inner circle of women who have already achieved so much. Everything about the program is extraordinary.

CNN recently featured the program in a photo essay on their website. Check it out. 

https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2023/11/world/climate-gender-inequality-cnnphotos-as-equals-intl-cmd/

oo0oo—

Nigeria, where something special is taking place.

Young girls are being helped to find their space.

To find, to know they can live a better life.

To hear from their teachers that they have choices better than strife.

To choose a better life, a future for their own sake.

They discover there is much more to life and decisions to make.

A freedom to be themselves and not another young mother.

They learn that they need not be smothered.

To chose for themselves what they want to be. To choose for themselves to be free.

—oo0oo—

I wrote of Nigeria in my last.

A story to tell all and one not past.

It continues its growth to reach as many as it can.

Money as gifts is a necessity within the plan.

We must be grateful to those who give.

For what they give many young girls live.

How good that this takes place.

An act of charity, an act of grace.

That there are people who do this and are one of this kind.

It is the overall love of people. This on their mind.

The world is better because of them, that by their giving they mend.

The Simple Rules of Good Leadership

I’ve written about these many times, but I think they are worth repeating.

A leader of any organization is ultimately responsible for the performance of those they lead.

First and foremost, they are role models, understanding that what they put out is what they get back. 

The rules are simple:

  1. Be fully present when with your employee.
  2. Authentically hear and understand what your employee is saying.
  3. Ensure they are heard and understood.
  4. Respond honestly, knowing agreement is not necessary. 

When these guidelines are followed, genuine relationships will flourish to everyone’s benefit.

A leader who does not see that their behavior is the key is either foolish or ignorant.

I Write Because I Must

I am writing because I must. It is what I do.

When I worked with children, that was what I did.

When I worked with professionals and entrepreneurs, I discovered power and its abuse as the major problem at work and at home.

In my study of power, I met leadership as its seat.

Only in the last few years did I understand the leader of leaders concept and that those within an Inner circle are not leaders without the leader of leaders.

It took years for me to realize and understand that the leader of leaders is destined to assume that role because they are driven to build organizations and communities.

Most people choose to become leaders of themselves, as leaders of leaders are rare because others are essential to them, and Society exists because of them.

–oo0oo–

I write because I feel I must.

That my writing contributes to my not turning to dust.

And there are times that I search for what to say.

The problem is wanting my writing to be me each day.

To make nothing up, to keep what I write my story and real.

I write what I know; I write what I feel.

Serendipity, I love the word and what it means.

And not a moment of my life is made of dreams.

Experiences galore I have had, and most have taught.

Not one, I would hope. Has gone for naught.