Monday, January 25, 2021

1983 - Leadership Lesson on Respect and Empowerment


Yours truly (L) and Julie (R) at camp circa 1983

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)

I had a great counterpart at the YMCA in Temple City, California and for some time after that. At first Julie and I seemed to always argue. We fed off each other. First I think it all started off as competition. We wanted to out shine one another in what we could do or at least I wanted to outshine her.

Then it became about inspiration. I would do something at the Y and Julie would do something and we would make it better. Then like any relationship, it evolved to be more complicated. We did great work together in serving the children and community of the Y in Temple City. This was the year we decided to run a camp session.

And we had others as well like the year we wanted to paint the Y building; the year we went door to door asking for donations for the Y; or the summer we all became lifeguards to be able to teach kids how to swim (inspired by a little girl who drown just around the corner from the Y in her backyard pool).

I think Julie spearheaded most of these and I got to graciously add into the mix. No one told us what we couldn’t do so we did it. That previous year we had attended my senior prom and then we both went and worked for a few sessions at Bluff Lake I was the archery instructor and Julie was the arts and crafts instructor. (I think that is a picture from that time above).

It always seemed that whatever challenge we had for our little YMCA, Julie was behind the inspiration to do something about it. I stumbled on this bit of spirit and became addicted to the creativity that lent itself to find a way.

At one point during college, my job at the Y (for about 7 months) was to find new school or church sites and convince the principle or pastor to allow us to take over. We had what we called the "Y Squad" and we would show up just prior to the final school bell. (With the principals blessings of course). We would leap out of the van in our Y gear, with an earth ball, a parachute and several other items in hand to get kids playing. They all left with a flier promoting the new program for the school or local church. We opened 11 sites in 7 months that way. I recall Julie was on the planning end of this endeavor and how to make sure that organizationally and structurally, we were ready for those sites. 

In all this there was high school, college, camp, Beatlemania (did we see it 5 or 6 times?) and the Groovy Flowers. Camp songs, singing and dancing, and so many movies; then always back to service. It was the partnership that inspired me to always do more when it came to service. I am forever grateful for Julie and her example.

Did I mention that Julie volunteered for nearly two years at the Y and always gave and gave and gave? I started my paid position in 1980 and she still came to work every day giving more. I knew I could never compete and it was when I started thinking “why?”  Why do people give of their time and of their resources. Why do they come back more and more when they get nothing out of it? And of course people do get something out of giving their time and talent and treasure. I have found that is different for everyone. Einstein said it best “Only a life lived for others is worth living.” It was clear to me that is what inspired Julie.

Julie started me on that path and I think back on those days with so much joy for the life lessons learned and the great example I gained from her dedication. There were so many that were part of this story including my sister Jackie, Sandy, Mike, Lisa, Dave, Bill, Tony, Amber, Sean, Jolene, Elaine, Bob, Art, Barbara, Debbie, Lucia, Letty, Paul, Ken, Ann, and our leader Maxine and then Wally. 

I reflect on several of John Maxwell's Laws here: The Law of Respect and how people follow those stronger than themselves; the Law of the Inner Circle and how our potential is determined by those around us; and finally the Law of Empowerment as Julie showed that a secure leader gave power to those around her with out thought of compensation.

They were all where a part of it as well and I am grateful to each of them for their contribution to who I am. But the stand out for me remains Julie, who helped shape who I am as I have spent the 50 plus year in these United States.

Post Script - I want to invite you again, to those who are reading this to consider a comment. Let me know where you are in the world and your thoughts on leadership as well. I invite you to hit the "FOLLOW" button so you will receive the latest story reminder. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

1982 - Learning to serve others, who Lead and Serve Others

Camp Bluff Lake Map (San Bernardino County, California, USA)

(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)

I’ve told this story several times now. So much of my life I trace to a few different events and individuals.

While we did not run a session of camp until summer 1983, and it was a fateful meeting at the downtown YMCA in Pasadena with Ron Perry that set it all in motion. Another member of the Temple City Y team and myself sat down at the urging of our program director, Maxine, to find out all that we had to do to have a Temple City YMCA session at Bluff Lake.

I think it was one of my first and somewhat formal business proposal meetings. We asked questions and Ron gave us a clear overview of it all. He was so gracious with his time. I remember that huge desk and the huge figure behind it. And during that summer of ‘83 and during that week that week that I discovered who I was to become.

It was during that session one evening, my junior leader, Mike Nordin, and I were taking a break. It was raining and a bit cold so we went down to the KYBO to stay warm and dry.

Now a KYBO is the restroom and shower facility. There were some benches in the shower area and we sat there and talked. At one point the camp director, Ron came in to say hello. Now Ron was a big gregarious guy who was one of those people that you just wanted to be around. He was tall and spoke in a sing song mesmerizing way. I am sure each of you have know someone like this.

So we are in the KYBO...oh did I mention that KYBO, besides being a radio station outside of Barstow California - at camp KYBO or K Y B O stands for “keep your bowels open.” When you’re at camp it’s an important place to know where to go. we’re in the KYBO and in walks Ron and he starts asking us questions and just checking in. After a few minutes he asked, “so how long is your break?” I told him we had to get back up to our cabin now. This is where it got interesting. Out of no-where, he pulls two soda bottles out of his back pockets and says, take 20 more minutes, I’ll go and watch your cabin for you. He handed us the sarsaparilla and walked out. I turned to Mike and said, “someday I want his job.”

I did not fully grasp what that meant at the time. I gained so much from those early days. Ron was truly a leader invoking John Maxwell's Law of Legacy. "Leadership is the one thing you cannot delegate." It was his thoughtful exercise of service that taught me to lead and serve others. And of course if this shows anything, it is John's 2nd Law of Influence. "Leadership is simply about influencing people. Nothing more, nothing less."

Not an actual view, it is a super imposed view of main gate and the lake.

Always grateful to Ron Perry Sr. for the influence of giving his time in service of others as we pass our 50 plus year mark in these United States.

Post Script - I want to take a moment and invite those who are reading this to consider a comment. Let me know where you are in the world and your thoughts on leadership as well. I also invite you to hit the "FOLLOW" button so you will get the latest story reminder. 


Monday, January 11, 2021

1981 - More Leadership Lessons From Another Teacher


Ms Rosencranz (Circa 1980)

                                                           (Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)

So, there have been many teachers in my 50 plus years in the US. Ms Rosenkrantz was the best. I recently came across my copy of “Kindred Spirits” and recalled that was my first time published. That was Ms Rosenkranz.

When I was in my second year at Cal Poly and decided that all the crazy people were actually the Psych majors, I went back to Temple City high School, (Temple City, Calirfonia) or TCHS and talked to her about changing my major. I moved to Communications (Journalism and Organizational Communications.) That was Ms. Rosenkranz willing to listen and to advise and as much as I wanted permission seeking, she inspired me to decide what direction felt right, and I learned this early.

Ms. Rosenkranz let me be her student aid in 1981. And it was in a class that was discussing limericks that she whispered to me the entire version of “There was an old man from Nantucket.” I had only heard the start if that and never heard the entire R rated version before and I asked her to share and she did. Thinking back on this, may not have been the best decision for an educator. And this is why she inspired.

She helped me to further my education and to think out of the box. It was unconventional style that inspired the way I write. I wrote stories, I wrote a book, I even think I have written a couple of things that may be worthy of publishing.

I am so grateful for that kindred spirit and how much I have gained from her early influence. As part of my 50th anniversary in the United States (celebrated three summers ago on July 24), I am so grateful to Ms. Rosenkranz and the kindred teacher that she drew out of me at such an early age.

I think about Dusty to this day and how inspiring she has been to my life. And as i mentioned, while in college, I went to visit her TCHS class one day and she helped me see a different path when I needed to decide about "two roads" and "that has made all the difference."

Post Script: My friend and mentor, John Maxwell says. “A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life.” I read once (about John) that teaching, leading, or mentoring is a form of creating accountability.

I went to Dusty to permission seek and a form of accountability when I knew what I wanted to do. It took me on a different path that looked nothing like the life I thought I was headed towards. I look at that moment as a gift and how it changed my life.

I have received many gifts from teachers. My lesson from this teacher remains this quote from John, “You have to love people. When you stop loving people, you stop leading people.”

And teaching them.


Monday, January 4, 2021

1980 - Thank a Teacher for A Pile of Leadership Lessons

Steaming pile of "s_ _ _"

                                                     (Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)

I suppose why you are looking at a picture of manure and the headline is "Thank a Teacher." Buy now you will note that I have had a couple of teachers on my BLOG and a few more will show up later.

Mr. Shaw, was my high school drama teacher; one of my first "bosses" when I started working at the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium (Southern California); and director in the few shows were he choose to spot light your truly in a game he liked to play called "find the house manager in the show."

My first show with him was a version of "Heaven Can Wait" (Here Comes Mr. Jordan) and I played a worker delivering equipment to the home of the protagonist. Bill said something to me and I immediately decided that this guy was a worker from New Jersey trying to support his family. He stooped a bit from carrying things and had a thick Jersey accent. Bill said, "make him feel real."

I learned and gained so much from Bill. (I still struggle to call him that). My reason for writing this is that I am celebrating 50 year living in the United States later this year and have challenged myself to write a thanks to different people who came into my life for each year. 

This is Bill (right) and yes, that's Ginger Rogers on the left

I can think of at least seven different times where I went to Mr. Shaw and asked for help/support and an opportunity and he always said yes or provided the space for me to take that opportunity. More often than not, I failed at what ever I was trying. I wanted to be a stage manager because I looked up to those who had that role and Bill gave me an opportunity and than saved me as I learned that was not my fit. 

As I moved through college, I made a choice early on not to pursue some poor decisions on how to make money. Bill graciously carved out some work for me at the theater where I had to really work hard to even come close to other money earning potential. 

My co-worker at the theater and myself wanted to have a say in who we supervised and demanded that we were allowed to screen and hire new staff members. For whatever reason, he gave us an opportunity and we failed forward in that endeavor. I have conducted well over 5000 interviews since then and I am grateful for the early lesson and opportunity to learn how to ask questions and figure out who would fit in that role we cast as a theater usher.

Had it not been for Bill, I would not have met Lee Anne (we married nearly 7 years later) who he hired after promising not to hire people anymore as a favor or because they were a warm body on the schedule. I purposefully left her off the usher schedule for two months after that and finally gave in when he pressed me to do so. (There is a bit more to that story).

I gained a sense of value and self worth because he always wanted to help and support what I was doing. I had many conversations with Bill and I always gained some lesson from them. He was always looking at me intently as we talked and later on I came to believe he was always casting people in roles. In fact in one of my last encounters with Bill more than a decade ago. We were chatting in his office at the theater and he said, "you know you would make a good Samwise Gangee."

When the theater became the home to the Music Theater of Southern California, I had his full confidence to run the front end of the theater in the role of House Manager. I know it was a title he graciously let me co-opt and I was proud of the service our team provided in making things run smoothly for the patrons of that theater. 

Perhaps the best lesson came from one story that I know he shared with so many. It was a simple story of two kids; one was an optimist and the other a pessimist. Their father tried to teach them both a lesson. There's more about ponies and what they produce.

I will leave the simple concept and moral of the story here. I thank Bill for the wonderful lesson and the value he helped me to see in myself as I have shoveled my way through these many years. I am forever always, “looking for the pony.”

Post Script - John Maxwell's leadership "Law of Solid Ground" is about building trust and how that requires competence, connection, and character. As I look back on this teacher, he was always about the business of allowing me to grow with that gift of building my own competence, connection, and character.

January 8, 2021 - I had just posted this 4 days ago and heard of Bill's passing today. I take his words to heart even more so as I look for the pony in all of this. Prayers for Bill, his family and friends and the thousands of students who have been blessed by his work.

2010 - Leadership Curriculum and A Copy of a Fax of a Copy of A Fax of a co...

  Can you read this? A document that has been copied and faxed several times. In my work with summer camps and outdoor environmental educati...