Monday, April 25, 2011

Reflections on Brian


Thursday, April 7, it's just past 8 p.m. Tonight's aikido class is over. I'm driving east on Middle Two Rock Road, Petaluma. I flip open my cell phone and, "Whoa - what's up?" A surprising number of messages are waiting. I pull over and stop the car to listen to what this may be about.

Today my friend, Brian Klemmer, lived his last day.

Our paths first crossed under a late afternoon sun on the grassy lawns at Battle Monument, West Point - July 1, 1968. There and then that we stood together and solemnly swore an oath to support and defend the US Constitution. With that we officially became plebes (new cadets) and members (Proud & True) of the Class of 1972. We journeyed four years in that historic place. There we shared classes and jokes and parades (in blistering sun and sub-freezing temperatures) and forced marches and inspections and the counter revolution (Woodstock was just down the road) and history (Neal Armstrong walked on the moon, Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon made speeches in our presence) - and now and then slugged down cups of coffee and devoured dozens of donuts. Brian distinguished himself as a jock and first-string member of the "team of the decade" - Army's Intercollegiate Sprint Football Team that won many Eastern Light Football League championships. Upon graduation we both drew assignments to the 25th Infantry Division. There we served together as "Gimlets" - soldiers of the 1/21st Infantry Battalion.

During our Gimlet days I had the pleasure of introducing Brian to the world of personal growth seminars and human potential movement (a world in which he would decades later excel as a businessman and leader). I had attended a seminar in January 1975. It was eye opening. A lot of good things were happening for me as a result, one being an increased ability to shrug off negative distractions during intense situations - to stay positive and focused on tasks at hand. Some months later Brian strode into my little office in Delta Quad, Schofield Barracks, plopped down into a chair, put his boots (dirty) on my desk. "Hey! What gives you the right to be so happy around here?", he grumbled. "Don't you know this is the Army!" I informed him that on Wednesday night a group of folks would be getting together in Honolulu, that he was welcome to be my guest, and that he might find the answer to his question there. His reply was specific and goal oriented, "Will there be any women there?" I grinned wide, "Sure Brian, there will be women there. Some of them single." That Wednesday night we met at the Waikiki Travelodge. He went to an adjacent room to learn about the seminar. Forty-five minutes later he came back and asked, "Hey, are there more women at the real seminar than here at this guest thing?" I grinned again, "Yep!" He enrolled.

[Years later I would reflect back on that evening as an example of one of the lessons our (Brian's and my) future mentor used drill into us, specifically - "People do things for their reasons. Not yours. So you have to listen. Listen for needs and wants. Then find ways to help those you are listening to. Assist them with what they seek. It's called service. It's the key to everything. Don't concern yourself about there being anything in it for you. Forget about that stuff. It's probably the most important lesson you can learn."]

That battalion to which we were assigned once had a proud and brilliant history. But by the time we found ourselves there its reputation had sunk to the point of being one of the most miserable places at Schofield to be assigned, full of dissention and in-fighting. In fact, it was rated the lowest battalion in the 25th Division. There was general defeatism and angst, and amongst the officers very little trust. In two words - it sucked. The two of us made a pact. We decided to experiment with what we learned from our seminar experiences to help us function on the job. Though we oversaw vastly different responsibilities we started helping each other out. I'd stay after hours and help him with his duties. He'd stay after hours and help me with mine. We'd interrupt (or walk away from) other soldiers' negativity or defeatist conversations, making it known that we didn't want to live and work in that kind of environment. This synergy and stand became infectious. Other officers - commissioned and non-commissioned - began to notice and some picked up on it. A year later the battalion was turned around and once again become a solid and effective organization. On the record and after having every test and inspection thrown at us, short of combat, we were officially ranked as the number one battalion in the Division.

One day Brian and I conspired to meet alone with Major General Harry Brooks, the Division's commanding general. We made an appointment and opened our allotted fifteen minutes by declaring, "Sir there's a two-day leadership workshop coming to town and we think YOU should go." Brooks was shocked at our abruptness. What happened next was maybe the longest 30 seconds of silence we had lived through, before or since. That's another story, but the bottom line was this: General Brooks spoke some unforgettable words: "What the hell. I don't know everything there is to know about leadership. I'll go. Now, do you two guys want anything else? If not, you're dismissed." Brooks went to that workshop. He was introduced to the Behavior Matrix, the Three R Thought Process and ways to find alternative perspectives for better communication. He loved what he found. He immediately put the notions into practice, and began exposing 15,000 soldiers to their potential. A brilliant example of a leader listening to and trusting his subordinates. This introduction of General Brooks to what we were up to would never have happened without Brian Klemmer.

Two years later. June 2, 1977. On this day Brian and I stood next to each other in Oakland, California. Our last day in uniform. We out-processed from the Army, changed clothes and immediately walked into new careers working for the same seminar company. We were off. I hopped a flight to Salt Lake City to teach a seminar. He drove north towards Lake County. We had stepped - shoulder to shoulder - into, and became part of, the world of the human potential.

For the next seventeen years we transited many incredible highs and many bizarre disappointments that came with this phase of our journey. At times he worked for me. Then, after he left the company and was launching his own infant organization, I too left. He offered me an opportunity to help him. So I subcontracted and briefly served his efforts.

Simply put, looking back over the last forty-three years -- we kept each other's back and we kept each other's sanity. If there were a foxhole to share, he'd be in mine and I would be in his. We tossed a few beers together. We problem solved together. We camouflaged our faces, dug fighting positions and went for days without sleep in the muck together. We dreamed about and planned possibilities together. We shared our confidences and we kept each other's confidences. We did what friends and comrades do - we worked with and fought with and smiled with and yelled at and partied with and argued with and celebrated with each other. We shared a hundred thousand laughs and at least as many tears.

For four plus decades we saw each other through joy and pain, through love and loss - and love again. We watched each other's children be born and grow and mess things up, and then stretch out and blossom to begin to become the "Who It Is" that they have within themselves To Be.

We didn't always see eye-to-eye.

But we did see heart-to-heart.

That's what our camaraderie was about.

Thursday, April 7. It's 8:30pm.

Today my friend, Brian Klemmer, lived his last day.

I'm walking around inside an empty post office in downtown Petaluma.

I've been staring at my cell phone for almost half an hour.

I loved this guy. He was a man of service.

We walked a long road together. I will miss him tremendously.

I call his home. His wife answers. She knows it's me.

I listen.

© Lance Giroux, April 2011

Seating Capacity 79

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable

Mary Oliver

A February Friday evening at 7:15 p.m. I am standing inside the William J Geery Theater on Sacramento's "I Street". It's slightly warmer here than on the street, and it's definitely not warm out there. Fortunate. Nick, my son, has access and is able to get us in well before the show. He's only twenty-three, yet quite an accomplished musician - great on trumpet, sousaphone and tuba, xylophone, accordion, guitar and base, vocals and a bit of sax. But the piano and keys - he's unreal! His talents years ago opened a door to his leadership - Tonight's performance, "Personals", is just one on his growing resume' as an orchestra leader.

Nick promised me the best seat in the house - front row, second chair from the left. I don't know what the deal is, but he grinned wide as he told me that. So, I have a feeling there's a risk involved. But when is life not. I've thrice been to his performances of "The Rocky Horror Show". Those of you who've been to a live "Rocky" can appreciate what it's like to be in the audience - especially when cast, crew or orchestra tell you they are giving you something special.

Tonight's doors open in thirty minutes. A few folks are beginning to gather outside. Soon they'll be in here with me and help warm up this place. Like I said, I'm fortunate. At the rear of the theater a posted a sign declares, "Seating Capacity 79". Full House here is relative term. It depends on your point of view. How full is full?

This "Seating Capacity 79" gets me thinking and I find myself wondering about my internal "seating capacity"? When it comes to my willingness to let other in and understand and learn from them. How many "seats" inside me do I have before I become "full"? Within the "theater of my mind" who is actually plays the part - the roles that are unfolding? When I speak is it really me who is doing the talking? Or my father or mother? And, for what purpose? How about you? Your maximum capacities? Who and how many are allows to get in with you, and what about your internal role plays, etc.? When it comes to having, holding and examining perspectives - and dealing with conflicts or inflexibilities that perspectives and perceptions can generate - how much room do you have? How much room do you make? How much room do you give others? Before the door closes.

I look at my watch. Weird, it's actually been about seventy-nine hours (coincidence?) from my arrival back after four weeks of travel that carried me from Northern California to the Puyallup Nation of Washington State; to Brisbane and the Gold Coast and Bond University of Australia; to Malaca and Kuala Lumpur and Sepang of Malaysia; then back to Australia and the international airport of Sydney ... and finally to this front row seat inside of a tiny theater buried deep within Sacramento. What's happened since I left? Gas has gone from $3.20 to $4 per gallon. One of my dearest friends and has undergone brain surgery. The streets I familiarized five months ago in Cairo have been filled and bloodied and transformed beyond my wildest imaginings. Colleagues there have gone silent. Governments across North Africa are teetering or have toppled. Christchurch, New Zealand has been slammed to the earth by the earth. I listened to it unfold over lunch at the Sydney airport. The Academy Awards have come and (yawn) gone. And Charlie Sheen has been - well - Charlie Sheen. Wonder what Britney is up to? (no I don't)

Some years ago, Dr. Kathleen Kane introduced me to a practice called "Dialogue". We all know that word, yes? "di·a·logue (noun) a conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie" [Oxford American Dictionaries]. But this thing she introduced me to went way beyond that -- it captured me into a skill building process of listening and self-examination. Capture? Yep - I'm still there. Kathy uses Dialogue as a key teaching/learning methodology in MBA management and leadership courses at the University of San Francisco. In a way Dialogue incorporates the most basic and elemental principles of the martial art aikido, that I grapple with four days a week. Those principles being: (1) full presence; (2) gracefully moving around a center point; (3) being always willing to enter into a risky situations; (4) blending, blending, blending no matter the cost; (5) adherence to respectful interrupting; (6) maintenance of comportment, integrity and dignity; (7) proper distance and boundaries; (9) proper timing; and (10) knowing when to stop, i.e. shut up!

Here then for your use, is Dialogue - A Method for Enhancing Capacities for Effective Communication, exactly as it was given to me by Dr. Kane. Take it on this month. You just might expand your internal "seating capacity". But you can survive without it. You can always have your old self to hang around with and be right about what you've been right about all along. And things can be (or seem to be) just the way you want them.



Rather than a set of rules, these are reminders of the level of attention that lies at the core of Dialogue. They are aids to enhance the capacity of awareness of our thoughts, feelings, communications, assumptions and judgments - all of which help attend to the meaning unfolding within relationships, groups, teams and organizations.

Building Blocks to Dialogue. These involve learning a new way of being together and interacting. They involve skills that overlap and interweave.

Suspension of Judgment. Because our normal way of thinking divides, distinguishes and creates "ultimate truths" from limited data, it is often difficult for us to stay open to new and alternative views of reality. When we learn to "suspend judgment", we are able to see other points of view, and we hold our own positions "lightly". It is not that we do away with judgments, rather we learn to suspend them to become open to other perspectives and build a more holistic view of our world.

Assumption Identification. The opinions and judgments we hold are usually based on layers of assumptions, inferences and generalizations. Failure to look at the belief systems behind important decisions is often a cause of disappointing results. As we learn to identify our assumptions, we are able to correct incoherencies, explore our differences with others, and build common ground; these are useful skills when working with learning new concepts and ideas, sharing diverse perspectives, and conflict resolution.

Listening. The focus here is on how the way we listen impacts our ability to learn and our effectiveness in building quality relationships. We develop our capacity to stay present and open to the meaning arising at both individual and collective levels.

Inquiry and Reflection. Einstein said, "Our problems cannot be solved at the same level at which they were created." By learning how to ask questions that lead to new levels of understanding, we accelerate our collective learning and gain greater awareness of our own and others' thinking. Through this building block, we reach what David Bohm called the "subtle state of mind" and gain the sensitivity to perceive the thinking process itself and the subtler levels of collective meaning.

Guidelines for Dialogue. Each time a group (or two people) comes together to Dialogue they commit to agreed upon guidelines, the primary function of which is to act as a reminder of an alternate way of being and communicating and of the need for heightened awareness and attention. Some useful guidelines are:

· Listen and speak without judgment

· Speak only for yourself, truthfully

· Acknowledge each speaker

· Respect differences (suspend certainties)

· Suspend role and status importance

· Balance inquiry and advocacy

· Avoid cross-talk

· Focus on learning

· Seek the next level of understanding in order to expand the inquiry

· Balance speaking and listening

Held lightly, the guidelines and building blocks will help groups enter into Dialogue. Held too firmly, they will trap the group in just one more structure and limiting system. Above all else, Dialogue is a living process that requires us to be open to letting go of the known in order to discover new perspectives and understanding.

A Shorthand To Dialogue - The Power of Collective Thinking

· Speak only for yourself, truthfully

· Include what has already been said

· Operate in a more of inquiry - Expand it - Slow it down

· Be aware of internal reactions, motivations, thoughts and feelings

· Be aware of the external conditions of the group

A February Friday. It's 8 p.m. We're all seated and about to watch from individual perspectives our evening of "Personals" unfold. I know I have the best seat in the house. Nick told me so. I'll need to wait to discover just how come. Meanwhile - I look up - his face grows intense. His hands steady above the piano keys. His head takes up a nodding rhythm, and on one of his particular nods the orchestra explodes. I glace around. The house is about 80% full (or 20% empty depending on perspective). Four actors well into their alternative realities rock the stage. I drift into another world for a while just to let all sink in.

Wild Geese (a poem by Mary Oliver)

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebble of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -

over and over announcing your place

in the family.

Paragraphs. Life Lessons in Bite Size Pieces

"Life will come at you from out of nowhere.
And into nowhere it will return."
- Pappi Conpelo.

January 21. 11:00 a.m. Email arrived from my friend John Pace of Bothell, Washington, (July 2010 newsletter "Somewhere in the midst of our conversation he offers, 'You know, hospitals are interesting places to study people. In the morning you can read hope and good wishes in the way they carry their bodies. By evening -'"). John's email was replying to one I sent earlier today suggesting he the news at AOL regarding the Boeing 787 aircraft progress - actually lack of progress. John, a highly skilled consulting engineer and pilot has spent years finding and fixing Boeing mistakes. When John and I walked the forests at the 2010 summer Leaders' Retreat we talked about how management mindsets regarding the 787 situation could possibly mirror the mindsets held by expedition leaders of the 1997 ill-fated climbs on Mount Everest (see "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer), and mindsets of managers at NASA and Morton Thiocol prior to the Challenger disaster (1986), and similarly at NASA preceding the disintegration of the Columbia (2003). John's words today by email, "Thanks for the link, all I can do is shake my head. The US auto industry had to learn not to let the accountants run everything, and now Boeing needs to learn to not let salesmen and purchasing people run everything. They are at high risk of not getting certified." Reading what John has written I recall times I've received requests from potential clients asking for a lowering of standards in order to save time or make more money or deliver something "a little sexier". Usually accompanied with, "You need to understand, we're different here. We're smarter than most people. We can skip the lead-up and the introduction and get to the juicy stuff." My response? Calmly refuse the work, state my reasons why and let the client walk on. Not a formula for quick riches, but the night's sleep sure feels good. FYI, for the Boeing link Click here.

January 21. 3:30 p.m. The shadows outside Starbucks at Truckee's Northstar Ski Resort say today's sun is on a waning trail. The rapidly falling temperature agrees. My youngest son, Alex, has been snow boarding his heart out for hours. Good for him. Doing what he cherishes, pushing his edge on great snow. He loves returning to the cold white powder, to the speed and to the thrill that all of this offers. Not my bag of tea. But his way is not my way. I confess that there was a time that I wished it were. Not any longer. Life's too important to be spent trying to live up to someone else's expectations, or another's personal dream of self.

Autumn 2010. A message arrived from Joan-z Cirie. Her rquest, "What's your US mail address?". Our professional paths crossed mine in the late 1980's. A result of that crossing was that her brother, Jack, became a momentary colleague before his untimely death. I sent her a quick reply along with, "Why you ask?" To this she responded - "Because I'm sending you something." Days later a box waits in Petaluma's main post office. A note advises the contents are now mine for well-keeping, "Please do with these as you wish." Unwrapping the box I find: Jack's well-worn training garb, his aikido gi; then his small cherished Marine Corps emblem; and finally his old black three-ring binder. What to do? Follow Joan-z' instructions. So I search my heart. The gi and the emblem, I decide, ought go to a mutual friend. The notebook? It will remain under my stewardship. Yet as I write this today it sits and sits, and images come to me of days when I was very young. Then I would walk with my father in the Arizona desert searching for hidden treasure locked in stone. Mineral Creek, Wooly Wash, Hackberry Wash, Devil's Canyon were among the names of places where stone captured stories could be unlocked and told anew - stories and stones that formed millions of years ago. They exist in the present as fossils and sometimes as geodes. Geodes are formations that occur in sedimentary and certain

volcanic rock. On the outside geodes can appear rough and none-impressive. Stones that you might kick aside and walk right past. Crack open a geode and a treasure of crystal will reveal itself.

Last Week.

My friend, Estevan, informed me that he is re-reading Laurence Gonzales' "Deep Survival". This time his page turning will be effortful, i.e. more than for the sake of just reading something recommended. Now he is into the study and application of what he is finding. Estevan says he found relevance to the way he has been strategizing and acting - particularly when it comes to seeking safety where safety is an illusion. He related to me the incident that precipitated this re-reading. It was such a minor happening: an engine alert on his truck's instrument display triggering physical sensations inside his body that he immediately felt, sensations followed by a flood of automatic mental chatter. Whether one's insight comes from something minor or major - that's not what's important. What's important? Estevan recognized his own chain reactions and touched on something. His awareness shifted his action on the spot. With this his practices have altered. Is this what real learning is about? Hmmmm.

January 22. 7:50 a.m. A friend called. Someone I met five years ago while we both were serving Vantage Corporation in Xiolan, situated on the outskirts of Zhongshan, in China's Guangdong province. We have stayed in contact on and off over the years as both our lives have taken twists and turns. She needed to talk and she needed to be heard. I have two ears. So, I listened. No assessments. No evaluations. No suggestions. No fixing. No comparisons or stories of my own to offer. I just listened, and that alone helped - at least that's what she said. Relatively speaking distance is a thing of the imagination. Ninety- nine hundred miles can shrink to a few centimeters and years can shrink to a moment when we listen. A lifetime can be served when we are willing to simply listen for an hour or so. What is the foundation for service, if not listening? What is the foundation for friendship, if not listening? What is the foundation for education, if not listening? What is the foundation for leadership, if not listening? What is the foundation for any form of healthy relationship - business, international, cross-cultural, cross-generational, employee-employer, with customers, with clients, with vendors - if not listening? Are you hearing this? Are you listening?

January 22. A little while later. Today's the day I've picked to open up Jack Cirie's three ring binder and begin to uncover what this geode holds. There definitely are crystalline gems inside. George Leonard's "The Art of Loving Combat" (Esquire, May 1985); Tim Hose's "FIC Search for KI: Karate and Behavioral Kinesiology" (date unknown); Dr. John Painter's "Confused About Chi (1983); and on and on and on. Then the Ten Precepts of the Key Society (1979) expanded upon. There are notes covering different ways to test one's body learning. In the middle of this old black book sits an entire section of favorite quotes that Jack had accumulated over time. My page turning is slow. Time stops.

January 22nd 4:35pm. My mobile phone rings and I look up from the binder and glance at my watch. I've been here for over four hours. Alex is calling, "Hey Dad, what's up?" His voice, a stream of pulsing energy, is fully alive and he's about to start his final down the mountain, ending our three-day outing. We have a quick chat. Soon we'll head back to a

friend's home in Truckee for supper, then begin our drive home. I flip the phone closed and reflect on the life we've crammed into these last thirty-five hours. I gaze down at the In- Jack's-Binder-Quote staring back at me. It reads: "If love is the answer, could you please rephrase the question." (Lilly Tomlin)

Many of Pappi's lessons came as we sat around evening campfires while he sipped boiled coffee from an old metal cup. One evening he told me he had once heard Fritz Perls' Ghestalt prayer. He said it had touched him so deeply that he had refashioned it for himself and someone special to his life. His eyes closed and his voice lowered. I pulled a pencil from my backpack and dictated.

"I am the person who I am
You are the person who you are
I have my life
You have your life

I do not live to meet your expectations
You do not live to meet my expectations
I walk my way of life
The same is true for you

I ask you to let me learn the lessons of my way
I promise you the same

On the road of life
If we are to meet
It will be beautiful

Whether our meeting
Is for a lifetime or only a moment,
Laughter or tears,
It will still be beautiful"
Pappi and I sat in silence for a long while after that.

(from the Life & Times of Pappi Conpelo)

© Lance Giroux, January 2011

Announcing The Newest Associates of Allied Ronin Rev. Francis Briers and Dr. Paul Marshall

Francis Briers

Rev. Francis Briers, Founder & Director,
Fudoshin Development United Kingdom

Francis Briers, a workshop leader since 2000, serves in a variety of settings - public, corporate, organizational training and academic. His background includes performing arts, personal development, bodywork and martial arts. Holding third-degree black belt rank in Karate, his focus with clients integrates dynamic meditation with physical/structural integrity and moral integrity. Client results include: improved personal impact, reduced stress, heightened situational and individual awareness.

Francis received his Bachelors degree from Manchester Metropolitan University. He is an ordained Interfaith Minister. In October 2009 Francis became the first citizen of the United Kingdom certified to deliver the Samurai Game®, and is currently the only person living in the UK authorized to lead the simulation. He also holds certification in Appreciative Inquiry. His offers include group classes and one-on-one "Presence Coaching". He is known for his passion regarding spiritual development and the exploration of meaning and effectiveness in life. He makes his home in Brighton, United Kingdom with his wife and son.

To contact Francis Briers send email to or call +44 790 354 3018. Find Francis on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Paul Marshall

Paul R. Marshall, Ph.D., Principal, Concur Dispute Resolution Services Australia

Paul Marshall is a Charted Professional Engineer with experience in a broad range of areas. He is also a member of the Mediators Panel of the ADR Branch, Department of Justice and Attorney-General in Queensland, Australia. He received his Bachelors Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (1990), his Ph.D. from the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Queensland (2000) and his Juris Doctor at the University Queensland (2006).

As Principal of Concur Dispute Resolution Services Paul focuses on facilitating change in corporate environments. His projects have included the development of compliance management systems with associated supporting processes, and as a facilitator in a series of workshops regarding environmental risks for assets in Australia and New Zealand. He delivers training sessions on communication and mediation skills - and has served community groups and NGO's as a mediator and facilitator.

In November 2009 Paul became the first citizen of Australia certified to deliver the Samurai Game®, and is currently the only person living in Australia authorized to lead the simulation. He has diverse interests - including: as a volunteer guide at the Queensland Art Gallery; as an ardent student of aikido; as a member and past Secretary of Sunnybank Theatre Group, Inc., where he has performed and directed. His frequent blogs appear at He makes his home in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia with his wife and two daughters.

To contact Paul Marshall send email to , or call +07 3122 0551 or +07 0413 709 460. Find Paul on Facebook at and on Twitter at