Masaru Emoto (1943-2014): The Godfather of Water: Remembering His Legacy

Masaru_EmotoAuthor, researcher, and entrepreneur, Dr. Emoto’s passion was teaching his “Messages in Water.” He trained over 350 instructors from around the world to teach new generations about the truth and sacredness of water as he outlined in his book, Hidden Messages from Water and the Universe.

His followers and those he mentored believe their lives were changed personally and collectively by his pioneering research which they believe resulted in a wave of transformation, awakening and shift in collective consciousness around the planet.

Those he mentored believe he gave them a greater sense of themselves and an ability to create positive change by shifting their thoughts, words, emotions and intentions. Louise Hay said his work “gave me a new respect for water. I began blessing with love every glass of water I drank. Labels with positive words and affirmations soon appeared on my faucets, showerhead, garden watering cans, the toilets, every other water source I had, and all the many bottles of water I carried everywhere.”

His last words were “Arigatou”. (“Thank you” in Japanese), which in Japanese means to be grateful for our own existence.

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013): An Irish poet and Nobel Prize Winner Remembered for his Mentoring Legacy

Seamus_HeaneyThroughout his career, Seamus Heaney was a conscientious and inspiring teacher. He held teaching positions at Queen’s University Belfast, Carysfort College, Harvard University, U.C. Berkeley, and Oxford University. In addition to giving lectures all over the world, Mr. Heaney mentored now famous Irish poets, including Paul Muldoon (who said of his mentor: “he helped all of us develop our imaginative powers”), Ciaran Carson, and Medbh McGuckian. Known for his gentle, respectful personality and encouraging manner, it is no surprise that Heaney maintained lifelong friendships with many poets and students of all ages. Heaney was also a teacher to the countless readers who never met him but read his prose. Heaney’s own mentor was writer Thomas Flanagan (1923-2002), about whom he once said, “If I did something that was quick Tom would say, you’re better than that Seamus.”

Seamus Haney’s last words to his wife, were “Don’t be afraid.”

(Thanks to @UlfKirchdorfer for providing this tribute.)

Sheela Basrur (1956-2008): Remembering This Canadian Physician’s Legacy

Sheela_BasrurWhile Dr. Basrur was Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer, she witnessed the arrival of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, and immediately moved into problem-solving mode. She worked three weeks straight after the first cases were discovered. She led the team that charted the SARS course, trying to build firewalls between the infected and those who were vulnerable to its path. Health workers were dying along with SARS patients.

As reported in the Globe and Mail, “a female co-worker remembers bumping into Dr. Basrur one day during the crisis as she emerged from a washroom. The co-worker told Dr. Basrur that she looked wonderful and the doctor responded by saying she felt tired. The co-worker said, ‘Sheela, you’re great. The whole city loves you and is counting on you. And this morning on the radio I heard the host of the morning show say that he knew it was okay to go out because the little doctor with the glasses said it was.’ Dr. Basrur laughed and hugged the woman in delight and went off to try and save more lives. Several years later, the co-worker e-mailed Dr. Basrur and asked if she remembered the incident. She said ‘yes, but I believe he said cute little famous doctor with the glasses.’”

Colleagues described Dr. Basrur as a mentor for clear communication. One public health official said Dr. Basrur’s gender, height, skin colour, and articulateness acted as a catalyst for her own choice of public health as a career.

Dean Smith (1932-2015): Remembering His Legacy

Dean_SmithDean Smith was a legendary basketball coach who will be remembered as a compassionate leader and mentor who served his players on and off the basketball court. He took an early stand against racial segregation in the 1950s, and he began the tradition of players publicly thanking teammates whose passes made it possible for them to score, a practice he adopted from another legendary basketball coach and mentor, John Wooden.

Dean Smith’s teams at the University of North Carolina participated in a record 23 straight NCAA tournaments, and his caring more about his players grades than their court performance became known as the “Carolina Way.” About 97 percent of his players graduated.

Former NBA superstar Michael Jordan referred to Coach Smith as the “most influential person in his life other than his parents. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life.”

Current North Carolina head basketball coach Roy Williams said of Coach Smith, “He was the greatest there ever was on the court but far, far better off the court with people. His concern for people will be the legacy I will remember most.”

Former player Jimmy Black said, “Coach Smith taught me lessons that have stayed with me for life: treat everyone with respect, be punctual, and work hard.”

Pee Wee Reese (1918-1999) Remembering His Legacy

Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson

 When Jackie Robinson was signed by Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn   Dodgers, he became the first African-American to play major league   baseball. Number 42 became the target of considerable racist hatred   and death threats. Branch Rickey had warned him that things would be   tough and that he should learn to turn the other cheek. Prior to one   game, however, Jackie received a telephone call that brought him to his   tipping point. He was so devastated he couldn’t concentrate and struck   out with the bases loaded. In another inning he made a fielding error.   The crowd escalated their obscenities.

Pee Wee Reese
Pee Wee Reese

 Pee Wee Reese, the white shortstop from   Kentucky and Jackie’s   teammate, called a time-out. Pee Wee put his arm around Robinson and   said, “Jackie, let me tell you something. I believe in you. You are the   greatest ballplayer I have ever seen. You can  do it. I know that. And I know   something else: One of these days you are going into the Hall of Fame. So,   hold your head up high and play ball like only you can do it.” Robinson was   uplifted by those words and went on to deliver the game-winning hit for   his team.


Many years later when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Robinson   recalled that day on the field with Pee Wee. “He saved my life and my career that day. I had lost my confidence, and Pee Wee picked me up with his words of encouragement. He gave me hope when all hope was gone.”

Best Practices: Barrier or Boost for Mentoring

Buzzwords Give the Impression of Excellence
Best Practices: Barrier or Boost for Mentoring

By Rey Carr

Mentor-Partner-ConferenceA frequent request to Peer Resources from community leaders, business personnel, researchers and others interested in starting a mentoring program is for a list of “best practices” in the field.

This is a sensible request. After all, as long ago as 1999 the leading mentoring experts in the USA such as Peer Resources Network member Larry Ambrose, Margo Murray, Rita Boags, Betty Farmer, David James, Kathleen Wright, Linda Stromei, and dozens of others equally engaged in mentoring were all featured presenters at the Best Practices in Mentoring Conference at The Bolger Center in Potomac, Maryland. For several years coaching associations and organizations have been struggling to create a set of standards that reflect ‘best practices;’ and The Library of Professional Coaching includes a whole section on “Best Practices.

Multiple organizations in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.A., including the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), the Evidence Exchange Network for Mental Health and Addictions (EENet), Peers for Progress (PFP), U.S. Government’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Practices (SAMHSA), the National Association of Peer Program Professionals (NAPPP), Peer Resources, Peer 2 Peer (P2P), and the April 12, 2014 conference in California titled Towards Best Practices in Mental Health Peer Programming, are just a few of the groups striving to provide a set of best practices.

Enquiries that we receive, participants attending best practices conferences, and visitors to the hundreds of websites focusing on best practices, expect to learn about those foundation practices that identify successful mentoring that will enable them to make a difference in the lives of those touched by such practices, and to learn about how to apply those practices in their own organizations. This is the common goal of almost every quest for ‘best practices.’

What if compiling a set of mentoring best practices, for example, actually leads you down the wrong path? CEO coach Mike Myatt describes best practices as ‘evangelical’ statements that “rarely warrant being deemed as universal truths. It is nothing short of over exuberant thinking to assume that any single solution can be applied anywhere and everywhere…Just because company A had success with a certain initiative doesn’t mean that company B can seamlessly plug-and-play the same process and expect the same outcome.”

Eugene Bardich (2011) believes that the work involved to actually engage consistently in a best practice is rarely accomplished. Most of the time, one will find ‘good’ practices or ‘smart’ practices that offer insight into solutions that may or may not work for a given situation.

Internationally recognized management consultant and author Ron Ashkenas (2010) in his HBR Blog article acknowledged that many organizations are exceptionally good at “stealing shamelessly” from other companies. But while some companies thrive with their borrowed ideas others soon abandon the idea. He noted that such best practice borrowing often fails because of two reasons: failure to adapt or tailor to the new environment; and failure to adopt which is what happens when leadership fails to fully support the “borrowed” process.

Former International Mentoring Association (IMA) president and former Peer Resources Network member, the late Dr. Joe Pascarelli, had a slightly different perspective on best practices. In his email that appeared on the IMA group discussion site Dr. Pascarelli, who believes that best practices is a synonym for ‘evidence-based practice”, said:

“Best practice came out of a national context that identified those practices that were soundly based in research (and development) and were acknowledged as such. Originally there were specific criteria and standards that certain programs met and, as a result, these practices were disseminated (via federal funding) so others could learn about and consider ‘adopting.’ Herein, lies the catch. We know from decades of research that no program can be ‘adopted’ and installed in a ‘foreign context’ without being ‘adapted.’ I am not hairsplitting but pointing to the difference. In these days, we are using ‘Best Practice’ very loosely and, in some cases, based on self-nomination. So, if there is a publication based on Best Practices in Mentoring (and there is not), it would still be limited in terms of the contextual dimension that needs to be addressed.”

The late Barry Sweeny, a long-time mentoring expert and the former editor of the newsletter of the International Mentoring Association as well as their web master, agreed with his colleague, Dr. Pascarelli. According to Dr. Sweeny, “The basic question in examining and considering ‘best practices’ is best for what? What is best for one program may not be best for others.”

Dr. Sweeny suggested that a way to manage best practice enquiry is to first examine the goal of the mentoring program. He believes that the goal determines what might be best for that program. “Anyone who asserts a set of best practices must be asked,” Dr. Sweeny told me, “best for what goals, before we would consider adopting an approach, model, or solutions. That makes the process of program development more complex. There are many choices, forks in the ‘development road,’ and dead ends.”

One way to manage this complexity according to Dr. Sweeny is “to work with a program development mentor—someone who is experienced in the process and settings where many diverse goals have been addressed by different approaches and models.” He recognized that this could be “a more financially costly way to go, but then heading off on your own without such experienced guidance can cost considerable time, waste energy, and even result in the loss of good will from managers and participants if there are issues and problems along with way.” (Some of the world’s best mentor program development specialists are listed on the International Mentoring Association website.)

I agree with Dr. Sweeny and Dr. Pascarelli, both of whom I have known for years through our membership in the International Mentoring Association. Given the experience I’ve had with Peer Resources fielding questions about how to establish a mentoring program, I can add three additional perspectives.

Recognize that the Pursuit of a Quick-Fix is Innate
I’ve often found that the search for best practices is often a way of avoiding coming to grips with what is really necessary to develop an effective mentoring initiative in the enquiring organization or service. When I’ve practiced Barry Sweeny’s advice regarding asking about goals, I’ve been amazed at how few best practice searchers can actually articulate any goals. They often haven’t thought about this very deeply. There’s a common sense understanding that finding a set of best practices will enable all other elements required for effective mentoring to fall in place. At the same time, searching for best practices seems easier than dealing with some of the harder questions that require insight, reflection, internal research. Discovering a short cut seems deeply rooted in our brain functioning.

Develop a Set of Best Questions
Relying on best practices is a way to avoid engaging in thinking deeply about the issues and reflecting on the answers, and their potential uncertainty unavoidably involves some discomfort and pain. It’s natural to avoid going through this process, which is often negatively characterized as ‘reinventing the wheel.’ As an alternative, instead of working on establishing a set of best practices derived from the ideas of others, practitioners need to propose a set of best questions to ask themselves and their team members. Here are some examples of ‘best’ questions as applied to mentoring, for example:

  • What do you hope to achieve with a mentoring program?
  • What results do you expect?
  • Why are these things important?
  • What needs do the people in your organization have that can be better met through mentoring?

Assign a Risk-Level to Program Options
While a best practices guide can inspire you to think of, reflect on, or be inspired by what others have done, it can also be a barrier to creating your own path that is more likely to fit your organizational culture, values and mission. Just because others have developed a particular practice that works for them, doesn’t mean their success will transfer to your organization.

But it also means that they could work and benefit your mentoring initiative. When using best practices, take a “risk-based” approach. That is, with every ‘best practice’ reflect on the pluses and minuses of implementing that best practice in your organization. Ask yourself “How will this help or hinder the results we want? What might be an unintended or unexpected positive or negative outcome if we implement this best practice?”

The complexity of the human endeavor to live healthy and fulfilling lives is too important to leave to a set of best practices in any health and human services field whether it be mentoring, medicine, peer assistance, coaching, or other health practice. Best practices tell us about what worked in the past. If we want to live in the past, imitate them. If we want to build for the future, create practices that come from our hearts.


Ambler, S. (2011). Questioning “best practices” for software development: Practices are contextual, never best. (Retrieved from here.)

Ashkenas, R. (November 10, 2010). Why best practices are hard to practice. HBR Blog Network. (Retrieved from here.)

Bardach, E. (2011). A practical guide for policy analysis: The eightfold path to more effective problem solving, 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. This book can be purchased through,, or

Body, A. (2006). Principles of best practice: Construction procurement in New Zealand.New Zealand: Construction Industry Council. (Retrieved March 17, 2014 from here.)

Daniels, A.S., Cate, R., Bergeson, S., Forquer, S., Niewenhous, G., & Epps, B. (2013). Best practices: Level-of-care criteria for peer support services: A best-practice guide.Psychiatric Services, 10, 1176. (Retrieved March 17, 2014 from here.)

Greene, J.P. (2012). Best practices are the worst: Picking the anecdotes you want to believe. Educationnext. (Retrieved March 17, 2014 from here.)

Marston, G., & Watts, R. (2003). Tampering with the evidence: A critical appraisal of evidence-based policy-making. The Drawing Board: An Australian Review of Public Affairs, 3, 3, 143-163, (Retrieved March 18, 2014 from here.)

Sunderland, K., & Mishkin, W., (2013). Guidelines for the practice and training of peer support. Calgary, AB: Peer Leadership Group, Mental Health Commission of Canada. (Retrieved March 17, 2014 from here.

Williams, D.D.R., & Garner, J. (2002). The case against ‘the evidence’: A different perspective on evidence-based medicine. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 180, 8-12.

“Best practices’ lacks scientific credibility, but it has been a proven path to fame and fortune for pop-management gurus like Tom Peters, with In Search of Excellence, and Jim Collins, with Good to Great. The fact that many of the ‘best’ companies they featured subsequently went belly-up—like Atari and Wang Computers, lauded by Peters, and Circuit City and Fannie Mae, by Collins—has done nothing to impede their high-fee lecture tours. Sometimes people just want to hear a confident person with shiny teeth tell them appealing stories about the secrets to success.”