A Look Back

When we decided to leave formal education behind it had nothing to do with success or failure in the system. We love teaching and we love being on our own.  We know both very well, but independence, even if unpredictable and no assurance of income is more appealing. Without fear, but faith in our abilities, we choose our own path and never look back.

I tell some of the story in my book, Leadership, Power & Consequences. What follows, in as many papers as necessary, is what I have come to realize in our waning years. What helped this take place are the remembrances of others including children, now in their 60s and 70s, staff now in their late 70s and early 80s and the many adult clients (professional and entrepreneurs) I’ve worked with over the past 30+ years. Clearly, our experiences help me put together the pragmatic philosophy I will be offering to formal education. In particular, Pre-School through 3rdgrade. 

Probably the most important experiences and lessons I had and learned from was the epiphany that “power is the problem to the answers most leaders seek.” When I witnessed this as a visiting mentor teaching better staff and leader relationships I was shocked at my own ignorance. As stated, I know how to train staff to optimize the contributions to their work, but never had inklings that I, as leader, also was a major contributor to the personal relationship problems within my organization.  Two things followed this awakening. I became a serious student of leadership and power and the best teacher on the subject I could be. I kept voluminous notes of my research as if I was still a Leader and in power. Also, if I was to teach others on how to have a more harmonious work place I had to confront leaders as “the problem to the answer they paid me to help resolve.” Most did and prospered. Another issue for me was that many leaders around the country hired me to give them toolsto fix their relationship problems. The problem here is that tools don’t do the job. Only being authenticdoes the job. What I mean here is that when a leader is true and real: open, vulnerable, authentic as perceived by their staff (not what the leader says or does)individuals believe and become more themselves to the betterment of all. Sy

Return from Mexico

We return from Mexico mostly healed having experienced wonderful people, culture and country.  

Now what to do was our immediate concern. We did not want to return to Las Vegas and easily turned our existing programs over to those running them. It was clear to us that we could not go backwards, but forward into the unknown. Historically events ruled the direction we would take so we waited for something to move us on. In the meantime we needed to do something so Lenette went to work for Incline Village and I took a job with a casino/resort in Reno.

It was not long after that I received a call asking if I could fill in for a speaker who fell ill. The subject was “Training Staff.” The caller knew that I had done this for 27+ years.   He felt I might have something to contribute to the professional group that was meeting at Lake Tahoe. This particular event turned into, I think it’s called “Life Changing.” And, it did in spades.

I was asked to speak for an hour. When questions began to pop from the group of about fifty we used up another two hours. It was challenging, exciting and the electricity that ran through the group and I was complimentary. When I left the podium I was immediately surround by many of them asking if I’d visit and work with their staff.  Holding staff training workshops was as natural as breathing. I felt I could do this in my sleep. I flew to cities throughout the country and held all day workshops for up to about 15 key people. During each workshop something very significant was made obvious to me. The problems supposedly of staff were almost never staff, but the leader was proving to be the problem to the answerthey were seeking.  I was floored by this growing awareness. I had been a leader of people for 27 years and never did I, as the leader, have a sense that I might be the cause of staff problems and solutions.  I never asked anyone “what kind of leader am I? Or, “tell me about me as your leader?”  This forced me to become the best student I have ever been. I needed to understand Leadership and Power.  I began to read and created boxes of notes relative to Leadership & Power. No discipline escaped my research.  Abuse of Poweris found everywhere.   Sy

Las Vegas

Our firm, Youth Systems Unlimited, continued to grow in line with the many responsibilities we had in the late 1960’s and 70s. This included Camp Shasta located near Mt Shasta, Cal.. The Youth Hotel located in the International Hotel, Las Vegas, NV. The Children’s Campus, Las Vegas, a free standing community complex that met all family needs for their children ages pre-school through teens. The Children’s Village, Las Vegas and Denver were pre-schools located within large Apartment developments and research projects. 

An aside worth mentioning the two preschools (designed by Lenette and under our management) located in Las Vegas and Denver were part of large apartment developments. From the developer’s view point the pre-schools were an experiment they hoped would help rent apartments to families. In fact, they were identified as a major reason for families to rent. The apartments filled more rapidly than competing apartments due to the excellence of the pre-school programs and youth and teen program that convened each evening. This particular program virtually eliminated crime and vandalism within the community. Our operations proved so successful that they were considered necessary to large future Apartment Developments at a national level.

As life and fortune would have it when U.S. interest rates climbed to almost 18% all innovative programs, and developments, in particular for families, came to a grinding halt. Also, in the early 70s Hilton Corporation purchased the International Hotel in Las Vegas. They replaced the knowledgeable leadership of the International Hotel with their own Hilton indoctrinated people. It did not take long before this proved to be a disaster; quickly for the Youth Hotel and ultimately for the Hilton Corporation’s Las Vegas adventure.

An incident soon occurred that dramatically changed the future of the Youth Hotel. The Hilton executive in charge of the International Hotel told me that anything I did would now require his approval. I quit and the Youth Hotel disappeared in about a year. During this time they offered Lenette a designer’s position. Not a chance!  There is more to the story.  Sy

The Camp Shasta Decade

During the Camp Shasta decade (1959 to 1970) we went to Las Vegas to bring to life a dream Lenette had about a “Youth Hotel.” Long story, but we made it happen. At the same time we created a company called Youth Systems Unlimited. Name the type youth program and we were committed to its creation, innovation and excellence.

 We did government studies, designed, staffed and operated children programs for large apartment developments and national corporations that did the construction building huge apartment complexes. Researched for a variety of corporations children programs and where feasible, designed and operated them. Studied and designed children programs in the country of Fiji, and numerous states in the US including Hawaii.

We were invited to present our ideas about a children’s program in a major hotel to be constructed in Las Vegas. Our competition was two major universities, one on the west coast and the other in New York. After listening to what their goals were I submitted a three page proposal that was titled “Instant Involvement.”

In essence it stated that the children and their parents coming to the hotel from all parts of the world were accustomed to the best care and mentoring and likely had their own swimming pools, tennis courts, horses. In other words entertaining them with games and stuff was wasted on them; that they would tire quickly and be quick to bother their parents or care givers.

We suggested that human connection was the way to attract and keep them interested and occupied. That staff trained to relate on a most personal level was key and activities would flow from establishing close relationships with the child.

Lenette designed the Youth Hotel; we staffed it with up to fifty young college students and teachers and trained and trained and trained. I write this with sincere pride: This program was recognized as the finest example of child care in the world by UNESCO, but it was what we always did. Sy

The Beginning of a Journey

My upbringing, the influence of family, friends, Chicago, Army, UCLA,  Lenette all contributed to my philosophy towards people. Even the relationship I had with the three Japanese prisoners on Okinawa played a significant part in whom and what I was to become. Add to this my becoming an entrepreneur at the same time being a full time student, building a business, training and working with staff, parents and their children. Like good soup, it came together and benefitted so many.  

Working with children began in Chicago after the service. It was a small Day Camp we ran in the parks and the beaches. It all contributed to learning about boys and girls and their needs and the importance of dialogue between us. In other words, I recognized that the more the kids were involved in selecting activities the more they enjoyed and learned.

I did not realize that a philosophy of leadership and participation was being discovered and nurtured. But whether aware or not I followed and fulfilled the demands of the kids. The camp grew and so did I. 

Left for California and UCLA to study psychology and although the GI Bill helped, pocket money was necessary. Running a Day Camp was a natural for me so found a site to rent and built a Day Camp for a few children. The few children turned into hundreds, a staff of 100, much training, activities from horses to anything and everything campers wanted and we believed they needed. Oh yes, we owned 35 small buses. 

Coming: A description of our pragmatic philosophy of leadership, teaching and attraction to most people.    Sy

Strange times that we must learn from

Lenette and I are spending our time like so many others accept in 800 sq ft not the 2200 we recently moved from. Actually we are doing fine, but like everyone else we look forward to getting through this

The changes we are going through include learning more about the technology we’ve tended to avoid. Using i-pad is one example and a fuller use of our computer is another. The events that are on-going make the need for communication without being face to face a necessity of our daily lives. Our living in the senior complex gave us the new experience of meeting people our age; never happened before since our world almost always had to do with youth and young professionals and entrepreneurs. So this has been a new experience and we have no desire to have this be diminished and which brings us to our need for better use of technology. We are doing this, but know that we look forward to the old fashioned way of being together, face to face, and enjoying each other.

Technologies of almost every kind are the younger generation’s necessity. Cell-phones and other devices are attached to them way beyond the tools most of us seniors considered essential. Seniors are increasingly using technology to stay connected to family and friends. Also as a family picture album and scrap book carried in their back pocket.  In any case, the differences between generations are increasing. Not surprising. 

The purpose of this paper is not about any of the preceding. It’s about what follows: I have plenty of time to read, write and think so the result is my sitting at the computer and letting my fingers do the talking. I may or may not have a motive when I begin to write, but by allowing head and fingers to flow what results is a paper and a few Haikus.

Relative to this and making a contribution to my creative endeavor I invite you to suggest a topic I might write on.  The subjects I feel most prepared to deal with: Power, Leadership, Relationships, Communication, Dialogue as opposed to Monologue and related subjects.  

Obviously, nothing is happening (yet) with the initial idea that people write half page and I answer them as if we are in dialogue.  So I think the next best thing is that we do this using email as our format. If you do write a half page, or even a loaded sentence just send it on and after my few words I’ll forward what we do together. If it produces responses we’ll have something to continue a chain of opinions. In this case, dealing with my stuff is not necessary. Open to any subject but we will avoid the heat politics is sure to produce.      Sy

Haiku:  Each moment means what?———It means opportunity———–It is lost or used.

Time is given me————–I choose to waste none of it————-So I swing the bat

I strike out often————-So what, if I do my best—————–A  lesson to learn.

Life is so fragile—————We know this for what it means———Therefore play a part.    Sy

Influence as a Happening-Pt2

To continue: 

The yard grew and the card file created by Yamamoto was perfect. Each item in the yard had its place and condition noted. Also our equipment grew to a forklift, cherry picker crane and a truck. We had become a big yard that held all kinds of “stuff” ultimately to be shipped back to the States, used locally or disposed of.   The pacific was our dumping grounds.

The day came when the four of us discussed our returning home. Ohara was a street car conductor in Tokyo before the war and looked forward to returning home. Kato was an actor, also from Tokyo and wanted to return. Yamamoto was the senior of the group and had been a bank officer from Hiroshima. He lost his whole family to the bomb and desired to remain on Okinawa. There was nothing for him to return to. I wrote letters on each of their behalf supporting that their wishes be fulfilled. In my ignorance and youth the thought of remaining in touch with them never came up. To this day am sorry for that.

My company captain (the one that administered the GED exam) offered to arrange for me to go to Radar School in the Philippines which meant a year plus of schooling and upon graduation becoming a 2ndLieutenant. At the same time I was given a time to return home and civilian life. I choose to return home to Chicago and my family. Under the captain’s influence I looked forward to beginning my formal education. I had no idea as to what that would be. The thoughts of me being a student actually excited me.

When the day came for me to leave Okinawa and the military I met with my three dear friends. It was a sad experience I will never forget as I will never forget them.  We had become family and it was painful to say good bye. We all hugged and cried at our parting. They had contributed to my becoming a man, and as I was to discover, a leader. Yamamoto was my primary teacher, but Kato and Ohara also taught me what relationship, respect and regard meant. We truly and deeply had this for each other.  Consider our history together and that throughout my whole experience on Okinawa they became my closest and dearest friends. How blessed to have them in my life even to this day.

When I reflect on this experience I see that from the moment I saw them with their hands over their heads I felt empathy and sadness for them. They really believed they would be killed when they walked out of that cave. What happened was a friendship I hope they carried with them throughout their lives. I certainly have.


We meet and become———–Becoming what we know not———And why becoming.

I allow you in————takes courage to allow this———–Yet, what other course?

You give me your self———–Do I know what this gift means?——–Not until I know.

Friendship, a true gift———–Rare to be given freely———–Never take lightly.   Sy

Influence as a Happening-Pt1

Over the years I’ve been asked to write more about the three POW’s and our relationship on Okinawa. Even now I feel the influence they had on my growth as a result of our working together for about 15 months. Their picture is well etched in my mind and heart. Even now as I tell the story it brings a smile and warm feeling. They helped make me the person I became.

My respect and regard for them began day one and I felt this in return. None of it planned and why I label it a “happening.” A brief reminder of the story: I was part of a squad that sent prisoners into caves to try to convince the Japanese solders still fighting the war that they would be safe if they gave themselves up. If they did not come out we’d blow up the entrance to the cave closing off at least one escape route for them. Three soldiers with their hands held high came out of the cave and I was ordered to drive them to the prisoner’s compound. Having never driven anything how could I turn this demand down? Reading the metal plate instructions on the dash and driving was one challenge I had to take. Luck ruled the day and someway, somehow, we made it safely to the compound.

Soon after this adventure I was instructed to build an outdoor warehouse for used equipment and for labor get some prisoners to help me. At the compound I saw the three prisoners sitting along the fence and we immediately smiled at each other. Surely we each remembered our close call with death during the drive. I knew then that they were and had to be my coworkers. 

Once together It took them five minutes to realize I was a 19 years old that knew nothing. They immediately took over and began the process of organizing and constructing our warehouse. I also recognized that they never made light of my role as leader. In other words, given the situation they would play deaf and dumb so that when officers requested equipment for their own use the three coworkers made sure I appeared to be the power that either gave or denied the request. 

The warehouse grew and we soon had a crew of twelve POW”S. One Day a POW ran into the hills attempting to join the Japanese soldiers still fighting the war. I grabbed my carbine and headed off to recapture him. Yamamoto and Ohara tackled me and physically restrained me from going after him. Yamamoto, the true leader, in his 40s and Ohara, 2ndin command and 30s refused to let me go after the escapee. It was Yamamoto that went for him and now I thought I had two escapees. (As an aside, they taught me basic Japanese and I taught them English using Life Magazine pictures. Eventually, we were able to communicate with each other. We laughed a lot, but made it work.)

Long story short, Yamamoto returned with the escapee about two hours later. Lined up all the workers and me and absolutely demolished the escapee verbally, slapped him, once, across the face and we all went back to work.  This event never repeated again.  (To be continued in the next paper).

Haiku: We commit to do———-And become one in our goals———-We do not fail any

The leader leads us———-Because they do the job best————-We participate.   Sy  

The Origins of My Philosophy

Have been asked to write on where and how I believe my philosophy begins. And incidentally, I invite any request for writing a paper. Obviously enjoy the challenge. Please feel free to suggest stuff for me to try writing about. The only restriction is that it must be what I have studied and experienced. One way or the other it still comes down to my experiences. It has always been my experiences I held as my truth. Reading other people’s stuff has never been accepted as gospel by me until I put it to the test of experience. This approach has never failed to be a learning experience for me and as a consequence, others.

So where does my philosophy of living and working with people begin? In my mind I believe it all began in my family. My Mom was loving and giving even if she had so little material things to give, so she gave love and shared all else. My Dad labored through the depression doing his best to put food on the table; a hard worker, a strong union man and never a blamer. Also, never remember starving, but do remember lots of soup. My only sister was a queen, 2ndoldest and very special to each of us (five brothers and I was fifth in line and one younger brother. I only remember one bathroom wherever we lived and we moved often. Tight living, competition and tension between my brothers existed, but I was never involved in this tension. I honestly believe I did my best to be a bridge of peace between them. In other words they all liked me and treated me well. They were each so different so learning about and living with uniqueness was the way it was and must have given me insight in the importance of differences? Space had to be respected and given.

Beginning very early on in elementary school until most of us left for the service I was a member of a gang that stayed, played and ran together. It was a very close relationship between us. Growing up in a Jewish ghetto clearly made its impression on each of us. Each handled the experience differently. Some remained very Jewish, some not and a few became warriors. I became a warrior and that meant to fight and defend anyone that could not or would not defend themselves. 

Being without future goals other than joining the merchant marines and seeing the world, my experiences in the army introduced me to three Japanese prisoners of war and our company captain. They played a huge hand in changing my life and giving me direction and purpose I simply did not have. Here again, I see that experience makes the difference in one’s life. It most certainly did with me.

Without question I believe and am my own best example that when open and vulnerable to what is taking place around you and the people that are part of the action, one’s life cannot be what it is and was. Change takes place.

So my philosophy includes being true to one’s self and having the courage “to be;” to take risk and in the process learn as much as you can.  Now here is the kicker. If you do this for yourself, you must want this and do this for all others that you meet along the way.  Sy 


Self is not one’s self—————But a mix of many things———-Life and living full. 

Life treats me so well————I must return what I can————Life decides not me.

My Philosophy towards life and living

Two dear friends (family for sure) enjoyed my last paper, but want me to write my thoughts down as they relate to my “philosophy towards life and living.” On their behalf, I’ll try. 

It was 1951 when Lenette approached my table (work job fair at UCLA ). She asked questions and I asked questions and in the process I fell in love with her. Within minutes I knew this is the girl I wanted to marry. She left the interview with a promise to return after canceling her job with the YMCA as a swimming instructor. During this time she met two of her girlfriends and told them about me and the jobs I was looking to fill. She also mentioned that “his philosophy is awesome and, by the way, he’s the guy I’m going to marry.” It’s the truth! 

I have never thought philosophically about my approach to working with children, I just did the best I could at all times and in all situations and wanted and demanded this of those that I worked with. I would hold numerous training sessions discussing what apparently had to be my philosophy, but always emphasizing the pragmatic essentials. For sure I was not theoretical in any sense that I was aware of, but “hands on” practical. I was a carpenter not a professor.

When an undergraduate and graduate student in my psych classes I remember having issues with my professors over what was being taught and what I knewworked. Experience, working with coworkers, parents and children, always had greater influence on me than what was being taught in the class room.  As a practitioner in the field I know we (my staff and I) did an excellent job. Kids and parents were the recipients and the messengers. Also, and without question, staff and children ages 4 to 16 played the biggest hand in what I became and the philosophy’s evolution. Influence was never one way.

The “children phase” finished I was thought by professionals and entrepreneurs around the country to be able to solve their problems with staff communication and behavior. In the process of working to “better” staff relationships and productivity I discovered that the real problem is the leader. This led to my heavy duty studying anything and everything relative to Leadership, power and influence. It was here (the 70’s) that I discovered that I did have a philosophy.   

In general, my philosophy when in relationship: Respect the other, bein the presentlisten, work hard to understand, seek clarification if necessary and confirm what you think you hear being said. Agree or disagree, honesty is essential. Have the courage to be candid in response. And finally, be what you say and teach.

While I was writing my book I called an old friend still living in Chicago (most are gone) and ask him to tell me what kind of kid I was 85 years ago. I question his response, but he told me I was the best listener in the gang and was trusted.  The seed had to come from my parents and apparently my philosophy began to grow very early on.     Sy

Who you see is me———-Not an act to fool anyone———–Good or bad just me. 

We need role models————–We do not simply become————Experience counts.