Monday, October 15, 2007

October 12th

I began this entry today at Lombardi's Downtown Deli #2 in Petaluma lunching on one of their house specialties, hot salmon with "the works" on a warm soft roll. Fall's been with us only twenty-one days, but today feels to be the first of winter: rainy, windy and cold -- well cold for here, anyway. Where's the heat? Where's the sun? Where’s the blue sky? Supposedly it'll all reappear tomorrow. Fall is the time when the earth sheds its coverings to reveal what's underneath and for a while reminds and asks us to attend to what's inside ... being as important or more important than what we show.

Seems that education and the "college connection" portion of my work is in the air the past few days. Maybe it's the Fall-Of-The-Year? I don't know. Why is it that some things happen in bunches?

Two weeks ago Dennis, a colleague and professor from a college in New York state, asked for a letter of reference to submit to the "Rank and Tenure Committee" in support of his application for promotion to Full Professor. I've known Dennis through my membership in and work with the Organizational Behavior Teacher Society - in conference simulations where he's been my "student" and in sessions where we’ve been dyad partners. I went through my less-than stuff when he asked me for the letter because he actually is "way smarter" than me. My recommendation he sought. My recommendation he got. Glad he asked. Glad I gave. The chair of his committee called today and acknowledged receipt of my letter. Dennis is one of those rare teachers who goes beyond the books. He teaches through physical action and tone, and asks his students to engage similarly using their own creativity. A few years ago I glimpsed his skill and substance when I observed him spontaneously and masterfully communicate lessons of leadership and follower-ship. In the midst of 200 plus other college profs all talking amongst themselves … he picked up a fiddle, struck a bow, and without uttering a word brought a surprised assemblage of highly intellectual types to complete silence and within moments had them moving in unison as one body - this before anyone knew what had happened. I hope Dennis achieves what he's going for and is granted full professorship ... he certainly deserves it. The college, his fellow professors, the students and those they encounter during their lifetimes will all be the benefactors.

This past Wednesday I spent the evening at the University of San Francisco (USF) with twenty-eight MBA Candidates in midst of their core (i.e. required) leadership course. Wednesday was my day to monitor the class in preparation for next week's class (Oct 17th), mine to teach while their regular professor has other duties. These twenty-eight are an interesting multinational mix. A relatively quiet group, with conversation mostly dominated by five. My initial sense was that not many of them are yet ready or eager to make mistakes. I hope this changes, because a lot of what’s important to learn happens by and through mistakes. Only a third of the twenty-eight are women. I wish it were a more balanced gender mix. But it’s not, and my personal mantra for this year is “to accept what is.” [Though I have to say again, I wish it were more balanced, particularly in light of the research reported these past few weeks showing that companies with women on their boards of directors are more apt to succeed in the long haul than companies without or with less.] Going to class this past Wednesday was an effort to reconnoiter.

Ever since my army days it's been an important practice to reconnoiter a situation before I walk in alone. "Better do your homework," my old army buddy, John Gorrell, used to say. He still telephones now and then with that admonishment, 'tho these days he's addressing human relationships rather than terrain, weather, targets of opportunity, weapons systems, potential ambush sites and all that other stuff that was so important to us back then as young soldiers. Interesting guy, John Gorrell; spent a few tours in Viet Nam, then went back to school to get his master's degree, studied and practiced yoga, now he’s approaching his 70's and is almost totally blind. This past month he called to say he’s decided to be a student again and take up learning how to play flute. Blind he may be ... without vision and zest for life he is not. I doubt the eyes within his eyes will ever dim.

Tomorrow I'll head for Sacramento State University where one of my kids is enrolled as an English major and plays a myriad of instruments in about every musical group that Sac State has to offer. My day there will begin at the Sac State/Montana football game (he plays in marching band), and then I'll stick around for women's volleyball Sac State against Eastern Washington at 7pm (he's play in pep band). Sac State’s football team is this season, like seasons past, learning lessons that accompany an awesome amount of bottom-of-the-league-ness. On the other hand, Sac State’s women's volleyball team is this season, like seasons past, learning lessons that come with what it means to be division champs. Both ends of the winner/loser spectrum have their risks and rewards and lessons to be learned. The Wide World of Sports slogan used to remind us (does it still?) of The Thrill of Victory and The Agony of Defeat. WWII General George Patton reportedly once told his aide to remember that the ancient Roman warrior generals would, as they rode their chariots through cities after victorious battle, have servants standing aside them whispering constantly in their ears the words, "All Victory Is Fleeting."

My son let me know today that I am welcome to stay overnight tomorrow after the football game and volleyball match, and sleep on the apartment floor while he and his college friends head off to a live performance of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." I'll take him up on his offer to sleep on the floor, but no need for me to see the performance. I did both – sleep on his floor and go with him to see RHPS - a couple of weeks ago. Both were very different scenes than my college days at West Point. Just use your imagination! And, I have to admit ... both were cool!

This Monday (Oct 15) responding to another USF request I'm to deliver an experiential two-hour opening session to a weeklong program for their part-time MBA Candidates, i.e. full-time in the work force plus going after their MBA in the evenings. USF's formal request stated: "We envision [your] session offering guidance to students on how they can begin to apply the personal insight gained in exercises earlier that day (in addition to other work they've done in these areas). These exercises are part of sessions helping students to identify their values/passions and set goals. The [day] immediately following [you] invites students to identify companies where they might wish to work (intern). Later sessions cover self-marketing, networking, informational interviewing, and resume development." My response ... "OK, let's do it ... and get them in touch with what makes them tick, who they are, what really matters to them as human beings ... after all isn't that what Ignatius Loyola - soldier, priest, saint, and founder of the Jesuit Order from which USF receives its moral compass - was all about?" Among other things I plan to have them examine (as my aikido sensei does with me and others on the mat, i.e. using the physical body) the purpose for which they seek advancement, what "grabs" them, how they engage when faced with multiple pressures, how they blend, listen, communicate, and maintain integrity (or not) ... plus four questions that have been favorites of mine for many years: (1) Who are you? (2) Where are you going? (3) What difference does your life make? (4) What does it matter that you are alive today? Sounds like fun, no?

Dr. Tim Peterson, head of the Fellows Program at Texas A&M, called today. Our topic: the Samurai Game at next year's Organizational Behavior Teacher Conference, training & certifying other professors to run the simulation at their colleges ... and (of course) this weekend's football game – A&M’s Aggies vs. Texas Tech’s Red Raiders. Both (Samurai Game and this weekend’s football game) will have winners and losers ... and life-long lessons that could matter provided someone remembers.

I'm ending today's entry sitting at my office window overlooking Prospect Street. Three little kids ... probably each 9 or 10 years old ... just walked up onto my porch and rang the doorbell. I opened the door. All grins, they asked, "Hi, wanna buy some lollipops?" I responded, "How much?" They answered, "Fifty cents each!" I said, "How many you got?" They looked in a bag and replied, "Three!" To which I said, "OK, I'll buy 'em all ... and then you'll probably be back here on Halloween trick-or-treating and get 'em all back. Not a bad business." Their eyes and grins got bigger. Nobody knows where these three pint-sized entrepreneurs will be or what they'll be dreaming of when college days come their way. But from the transaction that just happened they'll probably do just fine. Imagine: selling something for a buck and a half that you'll receive back for nothing in just 19 days. Not because the product is bad ... but because the customer/client enjoyed the transaction so much that he or she wants to share product value back with you. That's a business, a marketing strategy and an investment concept worth any MBA candidate's attention.

Oh ... one last thing. At Lombardi's Downtown Deli #2 today the background music (behind my house specialty salmon sandwich) was the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit song "Teach Your Children". In case you don't recall the lyrics or you never really paid attention or you have never heard them ... here you go. Quite a message.


You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well,
Their children's hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

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