A Mentor Dies And His Influence Continues

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 3.28.32 PMI am saddened by the death of my friend and mentor. Our souls were intertwined from the start, but events in recent years broke our capacity to express what we meant to each other. We both longed for what we had been to each other, yet neither of us could find the path for a return.

Many others who were the glue between us, knew of the public reasons for our estrangement, but only he and I knew what really happened. Knowing the private reason or tolerating the public perception does not diminish my love for him. Nor does it reduce the impact he had on my life.

We could exchange ideas, thoughts, and feelings of a personal and professional nature all in the same sentence. Our life work shared the same DNA. When we worked on projects together, we both achieved greater heights than either of us could have ascended to alone.

We yearned for the same things. We held hands, we locked arms, and we laughed uproariously when we encountered common obstacles. Once when we discovered a memo that called us “a pair of axxholes,” we were more delighted than offended.

Our friendship, companionship, and ability to learn from each other was probably deeper and more intimate than most men are able to attain in their lifetime. I am grateful for what we had and I will always treasure everything that we were to each other.

The smile and twinkle are gone. The greeting and enthusiasm that set aglow the inner fire are now memories. A twist of fate allowed us to have time together before death claimed his body. Our conversation brought joy to both our spirits and the healing path emerged.

Death, we both discerned long ago, turns us all into philosophers. Tragedy requires us to reassess our relationship with the temporal world and the expanse of the universe. My mentor said, “Why wait for such trauma to occur? Why not help people know themselves in the world without having to gain such knowledge through tragic circumstance?”

He called this help “socio-dynamic” counselling. With a few simple principles, he launched a system that has influenced helping professionals around the world and has left a legacy of practitioners, researchers, and teachers.

His death, like his life, touches our most inner world. Despite our grief, our tears and our longing for him, we carry forward the larger question that was most dear to his being: “What is my place in the cosmos?” And within that question, we struggle with a more immediate enquiry: “What can I do to help?”

I cannot say what I will miss most. The suspenders? The unique clothing? The Moroccan chicken? The unwillingness to engage in chit-chat? The fine wines? The insights? The stories of ranch life? The garden oasis? The gatherings? The walks? The battles with the dragons? The challenge to engage? Doing your best? Living authentically? Inspiring writing? Emotional intelligence? Road trip snoring?

What we meant to each other, what we did for each other, and how we were to each other has left me with exceptional solace. I wish, however, that I could have said “I love you,” before only his soul could hear me. Oh, brother, where art thou? Are you yet again paving the way for my travels?

(This mentoring story is an excerpt from my book on mentoring, “Shaping the Future: 150+ Canadian Mentoring Relationships That Make Canada Great, Creative, Innovative, Productive, Successful and Welcoming.”  The book was written to coincide with the celebration Canada’s 150th Anniversary. It includes more than 150 examples of mentoring relationships from all walks of life in Canada including sports, history, leadership, the arts, entertainment, acting, Broadway, music, politics, and business. It also includes ideas about the key principles associated with mentoring; how mentoring and coaching are the same and different; illustrations of mentoring relationships from my own life (such as the story above) and what I learned from them; and examples of mentoring relationships experienced by well-known and lesser-known Canadians. To make it easier to find particular people and who mentored whom, I’ve included a name index. The book is available from Amazon.)

 

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Exploring Brain-Based Needs (Guest Blogger Larry K. Brendtro)

(I’m blessed to know people who are great bloggers (writers) and are willing to let me share their work with people who appreciate growth and development. Today’s guest article is by Larry K. Brendtro, a terrific writer, and one of the founders of CF Learning. Dr. Brendtro is a psychologist and special educator whose work on positive youth development, resilience, and peer culture shifted the perspectives and practices thousands of youth organizations. His post about one of my heroes,  Abraham Maslow, revealed details I thought were essential for understanding how positive growth can survive adversity. More information about Dr. Brendtro is available on his website.)

The leading pioneer in research on developmental needs was Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). Ironically, as a youth, he was deprived of positive support from his own parents, peers, and teachers. His father Samuel escaped from an unhappy home in Russia by sailing alone to America when only fourteen. Becoming a barrel maker in Brooklyn, he perpetuated poor parenting of his seven children with comments like, “Isn’t Abe the ugliest kid you’ve ever seen?” Maslow’s mother hurled more hostility, and later in life, he would describe “her total selfishness, her lack of love for anyone else in the world, even her own husband and children.”[1] Yet Maslow surmounted the shaky self-esteem of his childhood by recognizing that his parents were products of an unhappy upbringing.

As a youth, Maslow experienced frequent anti-Semitic attacks, so he joined a gang of Jewish boys for protection. But, these peers rejected him when he refused to participate in their cruel activities. “I couldn’t throw rocks at girls and I couldn’t kill cats so I was ruled out of the gang.”[2] At school, he was treated contemptuously by many teachers, but one made a remarkable difference with her warmth. “I was just ready to love anybody,” Maslow recalled.[3] Such traumatic early experiences strengthened Maslow’s empathy for others. As a young psychologist, he studied Blackfoot Indians on a reserve in Ontario. He was profoundly impressed with the spirit of respect and generosity that permeated child-rearing in this indigenous culture.

In a classic 1943 article, Maslow proposed that psychological health depended on meeting innate human needs.[4] Generations later, he is still among the most cited psychologists of all time. This staying power is because he could translate complex social and biological information into profound but simple concepts. Modern research supports his hypothesis that the human brain is endowed with innate drives to meet biosocial needs for belongingness, esteem, self-actualization, and self-transcendence.[5] These principles are validated by decades of subsequent studies including Stanley Coopersmith’s foundations of self-esteem, Martin Brokenleg’s Circle of Courage values, and Ann Masten’s brain modules for resilience.[6]

The Model of Leadership and Service developed in 2008 by CF Learning also includes four similar biosocial needs, but additionally identifies needs for safety and adventure. Safety was a survival need in Maslow’s hierarchy. Further, Maslow’s 1964 discussion of peak experiences has parallels with adventure as “exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences.”[7] For an extended discussion of this idea and practice, read my article The Dueling Needs for Safety and Adventure here.

1.  Hoffman, E. (1988). The right to be human: A biography of Abraham Maslow. Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher, p. 9.

2.  Hoffman 1988, p. 4.

3.  Hoffman, 1988, p. 4.

4.  Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

5.  Koltko-Rivera, M. (2006). Rediscovering the later version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Self-transcendence and opportunities for theory, research, and unification. Review of General Psychology, 10(2), 302-317.

6.  Brendtro, L., & Mitchell, M. (2015). Deep brain learning: Evidence-based essentials in education, treatment, and youth development. Albion, MI: Starr Commonwealth.

7.  Corsini, R. (1998). Encyclopedia of psychology. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, p. 21.