How It All Began

I’ve been asked to share my story of how I got into working with children. It is a story about my journey of discovery. Although it began with me thinking I was in charge, events themselves took control and went the way circumstances often dictate. Yes, I was the driver behind the wheel, so we might conclude it was my choice. Maybe yes and maybe no? I’ll let my story answer that question.

After returning from the service, I used the G.I. Bill to enroll in a local pre-medical school. At this time, pre-med was something like a three-year college which led to more advanced medical studies. At the time, I also needed some pocket money. And since I preferred being my own boss, I came up with the idea of running my own day camp. I bought a three-seat station wagon and put the word out that I would be taking care of children during the workweek. I soon had fifteen boys and girls to take care of.


By listening and watching, it soon became apparent that the kids had their own ideas about what they wanted to do and how to spend their day together. I quickly established that it was my job to meet their desires, not mine, and I did my best to do so. Giving kids their own voice was one fundamental approach to how I worked with them. In other words, instead of me constructing activities for the day, I opened our morning gathering first by asking each what they wanted to do. I made it my responsibility to fulfill their suggestions. The more I did this, the more they expressed themselves. Little did I know that their words were training me, and little did they realize the power of their words.


Those actions, I came to understand, is a philosophy of leadership. Getting followers to express themselves and getting the leader to fulfill what they express (if safe) is good for both the individuals and the group. This philosophy evolved into a significant educational process.


A few years later, while a student at UCLA, the need to make a few dollars made itself known once again. Since I am not a compliant employee, it was easy for me to come up with my answer to that. As good fortune would have it, my brother in-aw found a perfect place to rent out in the Malibu Canyon, and in little time we had a day camp called Purple Sage. The philosophy of listening to children and small groups proved to be a remarkable success.

Sy

Being Creative with Relationships

Creativity, even making an effort to be creative, means going where you haven’t been before. And that’s the beauty of creativity; discovery. In the context of relationships, it might mean doing and saying something you haven’t done or said before. Mark Twain said that “all life is an experiment and that the more we experiment, the broader and more meaningful are our experiences.”

That resonates with me because I like to experiment with ideas and people. Years back, I experimented with children’s behavior. My experiment in creating a positive environment enabled children to grow and achieve their potential. They were able to move on from being what they thought others wanted them to be and instead to be more themselves. I discovered that if children felt safe being themselves, they were also more willing to be open and receptive in their relationships with others. Experience has shown the ability to be authentic directly affects whether an individual will become more trusting and open—or more closed and restrictive.

I have always believed we are here for each other and for ourselves at the same time. While certain experiences bring us together, we still need to discover and experiment with what brings us greater awareness and appreciation of the person next to us. We all benefit when we create opportunities and experiences within our relationships to better understand and appreciate each other. In striving to keep our experiences positive, we grow from our authentic interactions with each other. Otherwise, we miss an opportunity for growth.

The challenge is that we are different and similar at the same time. Being able to experience and appreciate this is important. Indeed, the creative application of what I’ve often referred to as authentic dialogue plays an essential part in this.

Each of us has the potential to be more open and truer to ourselves. To be what others want us to be is a loss to all.

I am me to be————–So I choose being myself————–We both benefit.
Let me be myself———–Better for both, this is best———-Being you and me.

Sy

Making Differences Work

In numerous ways, we are different from each other. Sometimes our differences are glaring and, as such, may even be threatening to our own beliefs. We see this in religious, political, or in lifestyles beliefs. Or the differences may be minuscule, in which case we view what others say and do as insignificant behavior. In any event, we may prefer to be with people who have similar beliefs to our own. Yet, there is a benefit to seeking out those whose ideations are different. My life has introduced me to a wide variety of people and beliefs, and I find that I have grown and benefitted hugely from our differences and what they have given to me. Without question, I prefer to be with people that are different from me. In fact, I owe much of what I am to them.

WHAT MAKES DIFFERENCES WORK IS “RESPECT” FOR THE INDIVIDUAL, AND THIS MUST BE MUTUAL, EACH THEMSELVES AND NOT READING A SCRIPT ATTEMPTING TO PLAY A ROLE THEY ARE NOT. RELATIVE TO THIS, I NOTE THAT THE MORE PEOPLE I WORKED WITH, AND IT MATTERS NOT THAT I WORKED WITH THEM AS A TEACHER OR A LEADER, OUT OF OUR RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER CAME MUTUAL GROWTH.

This is particularly true when differences are authentic. That is, when being oneself is not an act but real and powerful. As I have said repeatedly, the more real a leader is, the more their followers become real, and real means different, and differences are the most sincere gifts we give to each other.

As a teacher, I essentially taught that people should be present, understand what they heard, and be candid in response. Meaning that they should share thoughts and feelings as they are, not what one thinks the other wants to hear. This did more to bring growth than the typical silence or false agreements. Growth was demonstrated by the differences people began to express when being completely candid. Finally, in most work situations, expressed differences made work safer than homes, where dialogue became our method of communication. Our differences became gifts that do not go away. Our use of dialogue as opposed to monologue was our equalizer.

Sy

We are not the same——-But who wants to be the other? ——Not either of us.

Designated Leaders vs. Those Who Seek Leadership

The designated leader generally demonstrates through their achievements and attitude that they possess qualities that merit them being elevated to a leadership role in their organization. How they go about doing their work and relating to others identifies their special qualities. In this case, they are excellent workers, creative and problem-solvers that do their job without making waves or drawing attention to themselves. They are also responsible and accountable but not necessarily with an agenda that seeks a leadership position.

It is not uncommon for workers with exceptional talent and work behavior to be considered for leadership positions. Still, the people I specifically refer to in this paper are excellent employees because they are good and without expectations that they become leaders. The differences between the exceptional employee who does high-quality work (because it is the job they do) and the employee that seeks to become a leader are considerable. Their intentions are different and eventually seen for what they are.

Those given leadership positions must also be given training in how to use their newfound power and influence. While the excellent employee will view this positively, it might prove difficult for the employee who wants and seeks to become a leader. This, because their reasons for being where they are and their views on newfound power are vastly different.
For the former, it is a job to be done as well as possible and empower those they lead to be as good as they can be.

The person who seeks leadership to have power over those they lead is focused primarily on themselves and their own glory. What they do and how they lead is secondary. These differences are not subtle, nor are their relationships and outcomes.

As for the person committed to being their own boss, their path may not have to do with control, power, or influence. They may choose never to be an employee of an organization. Money may or may not drive them. Power over others may not drive them. Being the best at what one does may or may not drive them. First and foremost, they have decided to be professionally independent, depending on only themselves.
Sy

Power & Negative Influence

Power and the negative influence that many in power evidence has always bothered me. As a kid growing up in Chicago, I remember that I not only would not be intimidated by bullies but sought them out and took them on. If you were family or friend, I fought on your behalf. No problem, and as I grew, so did my reputation. I do not know why but standing up against inappropriate power and the characters that acted this way seemed to be my calling. Apparently, I someway somehow knew that power misused had to be stood up against. I did so without knowing why, except that it is what I felt, and acted accordingly.

As a young entrepreneur, I led and trained people that worked for me, and I believe I never used my powers to push or harm them. In fact, I do not remember using my power and influence in any way other than to assist them to be as good as possible with children. If an employee refused to grow, and the way they worked demonstrated this, I made it easy for them to quit. I made it clear that it was “grow or go,” always in respectful ways. I never knowingly used my powers to harm another.

In 2014 I decided to write a book on “Leadership, Power & Consequences” and spoke with several people that worked for me as long ago as the 1950s. I heard that many saw me as a “role model.” I asked why, since I do not remember asking anyone, “what kind of leader am I?” I did what events called for me to do, and never do I remember wondering if I was a good leader or a bad one. Would it have made a difference? Maybe and maybe not?

When I worked with other leaders of businesses (professional and otherwise) and their “Inner circles,” I witnessed that Leaders often were the problem to the answers they sought with their key people—Was this me as a leader? In other words, was it the way that leaders spoke, looked, and shared the feelings that came out of them as leaders? This led to years of study and the realization that leaders, whether good or bad, make the most significant difference in how organizations function.

Why I am, who knows? ———-But I become regardless————I play the cards dealt.
Sy

More thoughts on Genuine Dialogue

As I had often written, when I began to work with leaders, I realized I had no idea as to the type and kind of leader I was. During all my years of leading, I never once asked anyone, “what kind of leader am I?” and no one ever told me. In retrospect, I sincerely believe it would have made me into a better leader had I posed the question. The facts bear me out. As I generated dialogue and eventually instituted Genuine Dialogue in the Inner circles of the organizations I worked with, the more the leader grew into a better leader.

Genuine Dialogue is real and desirable but must be carefully and thoughtfully entered into. While I want to be enveloped in Genuine Dialogue with those important to me, it may not always be possible. The experience requires at least two people committed to it who understand and live by its rules. The political climate of today is a perfect example of how complex and difficult this can be. In truth, depending on the subject, Genuine Dialogue may be challenging to undertake, or at the very least, a rare phenomenon.

I say this because the beliefs and powerful emotions of the conversationalists may discourage any “give and take” in the head and heart of the communicators. In such an instance, positions are so firmly established that Genuine Dialogue can be nearly impossible to invite and enjoy.

The process of being present in the moment and open to understanding the other’s words and beliefs, followed by assuring them through confirmation that you’ve heard and understood them, is a must before expressing one’s own position. And, when ideations are strongly ingrained, this is not easy to do.

Research and brain theory suggests that the amygdala precedes the neocortex relative to brain evolution, controlling our emotional outbursts and the physical actions that follow (an early survival mechanism). In contrast, the neocortex, which comes later in our evolution, is a higher-order fact-based brain function that influences our behavior in that manner.

In my opinion, the problem may have more to do with the sources of influence themselves. Are we more like our ancient selves, allowing powerful emotions to influence our behavior? Or are we influenced by a fact-based reality that lends itself to rational thought? These are interesting and serious questions that are potentially answerable from those we live and work closely with. They are those who know us best.
Sy

More on Genuine Dialogue

There is a vast difference between what most of us consider dialogue and what I call “Genuine Dialogue.” Conversation between most people is loose and without fixed and agreed-upon rules, so it can often end up feeling that there was little benefit to the time spent talking and listening to each other.
Let me compare Genuine Dialogue to the rules essential to sports games. What would baseball, football, basketball, etc., be if the rules were loose or non-existent? The game would not exist. I compare this to the differences between just having a conversation and experiencing Genuine Dialogue.


Although repetitious, knowing and agreeing to the rules essential to make Genuine Dialogue work are few: The participants must be PRESENT with each other. They must RESPECT each other and LISTEN TO WHAT IS BEING SAID—instead of building an argument against what they THINK THEY’VE HEARD. Finally, to ensure that the speaker knows they have been HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD, the listener needs to REPEAT IN ONE’S OWN WORDS what the speaker has said. (“So what you are saying is————“).


When this takes place, the listener is now CANDID in their response. What makes this work is the acceptance of the listener and the speaker that AGREEMENT is not asked for. If the speaker or listener expects agreement to result from Genuine Dialogue, they need to lay their expectations on the table from the beginning.


Compare this to most of our conversations with others. We enter them fully expecting agreement or that our position is the correct one. It was my first discovery when I began to work with leaders throughout the country. I was initially employed to speak to the issues of staff and leader relationships. As stated by the leader requesting my services, the problem was the staff and their relationships with each other. Instead, what became most apparent was that the problem was the communication style of the leader. This invisible exercise of power was not invisible to their staff and me.


Based on much research into power, leadership, and communication, I stumbled into what I labeled Genuine Dialogue and began to build a whole case for better communication skills. It was new and enlightening to all of us, and in the process, those of us lucky enough to work together—grew together. Sy

Why It Matters

I wish to discuss the power of making rational, risk/reward assessments based on evidence and logic compared to decisions based on fear and anxiety and their impact on oneself and others.

All humans possess both capabilities to either run and hide or to face events head-on using the best of their resources. Based on research, the capacity to make decisions based on relationships with others is essential in being a contributing member of a group/tribe. In other words, the attribute of deciding which actions to take based on what is best for self and one’s tribe is an advanced development within human behavior.

During my history as a leader and the philosophy I gained from my experiences, the choices I made almost always had to do with problem-solving—not running away from them. So, whether it was an event with people, nature, or happenstance, I believe I had no other choice but to stand my ground and deal with what had to be dealt with. In my opinion, certain actions and behavior people choose are often so potentially powerful that choosing one course over another may be life-changing.  This may not be a consideration at the time, but it could be the seed that grows into a powerful and contributing life choice. On the other hand, choices some people make may be harmful to them and others, but they are caught in the grip of their “fight or flight” pattern. Their behavior is all about protecting themselves, all others being incidental.

A recent example is worth relating: We live in a senior village, a resort-type setting where I believe all here have had two vaccine shots. On one recent night, we sat with a newcomer, and during a light conversation, I asked her if she had her shots. She answered “no” and went on to say she did not intend to do so. I replied that she was imposing her fears and the possibility of contracting covid 19 on those she now lived with. Her response was, “I can do what I want.’  My immediate response was, “not on the people living here.” She moved out soon after.

In my opinion, she is a selfish person and probably has no sense of responsibility towards her family (if she has one) or the people she was presently living with. Apparently, evolution is not assured for all.     Sy

Without Dialogue and The Spontaneity That Happens When Dialogue Takes Place, What Do We Have When Participating in a Lecture?

We see, we film, and we also hear. It is also likely that some understanding of what is seen and heard may be happening. But without the invitation and opportunity for spontaneity between presenter and student to exist, how is the audience to ask questions, make comments, or express an opinion? If the chance to interact when needed is being denied, what and who is being served? Might this be felt as abusive by those who may already have issues with inappropriately used power? How can this lack of interaction facilitate relationships, and how can any teacher see this as unimportant?


Learning from a knowledgeable teacher is a gift and, ideally, where dialogue happens. Too many teachers are unaware that their power must be exercised as a beneficial source in their roles as moderator, teacher, and presenter. Deferring a student’s ability to ask questions or comment when they need to be made is the worst possible teaching situation I can imagine.
Consider that when teachers and students pay strict attention to each other, respect exists in the space between them. They become equals in the give and take of the moment. They listen, seek to understand, and are candid in response. The result is learning or the best opportunity to learn, which becomes the teacher’s finest gift to the student.


In my opinion, students have little opportunity to learn in an environment that limits itself to presentation alone. A lecture usually doesn’t allow any questions, comments, or opinions until a specific time. In a teaching environment, this can only restrict the learning potential. Students experience this restriction and the thoughts and feelings that come with it in one way or another. Will a learning experience of this type help us become more ourselves and more an individual contributor? Sy

Recognize myself————-My need to know and to grow————-It is why I ask.  

Do not back off, you—————Express what is inside you————–Be you not another.

Being Born Unique—A Blessing Or??????

Yes, we are each born unique to a degree, but growing into what self we each are, is never easy—and perhaps the equivalent of climbing Mt Everest? Why I think this is so is what I will attempt to share in this paper.

Institutions including religious, political, educational, and organizations of every kind create the mechanisms necessary to make our becoming what they want us to become; and even family has its picture of what their members are or will become. It is rare to find environments and systems created by people that support maximizing a self’s uniqueness. In fact, it may be impossible to find systems that support the true growth of a self that at the same time seeds and nurtures respect, regard, and responsibility for others. And here I mean all others. Is this not what the Biblical words “love thy neighbor as thy self” mean?  Do these words qualify the neighbor? I do not think so.

When I began to write my book about six years ago, I decided that I needed to know “what kind of leader I was.” Much too late to do anything about what took place seventy years back, yet I still felt I needed to know. The answers I got back made me feel good, but perplexed. At that time, I was completely unaware of any deliberate effort on my part to teach respect and regard for the children they worked with and with each other. But I was this to them and this is what they were with each other and children.  Why? I never asked, but I was this to them and did not know.

Years later when I began working with professionals and entrepreneurs, I became a serious student of leadership, power, and relationships. I was also more aware of myself. I knew my responsibility as a self and therefore to assist leaders in the absolute necessity of being themselves, whatever that meant to them. As this evolved so did the leaders, doing all they could in helping others be more themselves. Growth was reciprocal; in that all of “us” benefitted from an environment that fed BEING. It was why all that participated took what they were experiencing at work home with them. After-all it was each of them being themselves.   Next: Of what we do which activity is most oneself?  Sy