Albert Ellis: The Abrasive Mentor

Albert_EllisProvocative, controversial, and energizing, Dr. Albert Ellis (1913-2007), the creator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), was one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century. His work on cognitive psychology, action orientation, confronting irrational beliefs, the importance of emotional growth, and challenge to the prevailing dominance of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, gave rise to one of the foundations of what is today called cognitive coaching.

As a student in high school Albert Ellis planned on studying accounting, make enough money to retire at age 30, and become the great American novelist. He devoted most of his time to writing short stories, plays, novels, comic poetry, essays and non-fiction books. The Depression that began in 1929 reduced his brief interest in a business career, and he found that non-fiction writing was more to his liking than producing fiction. He started to write about the field of human sexuality and became a noted expert and informal counselor in this area. His peer counseling led him to discover his calling in this field, and he began to steer towards a career in clinical psychology.

When he received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Columbia University in 1947, he was an ardent supporter of psychoanalysis. But his faith in this technique began to wane when he found that clients stayed the same whether he met with them daily or weekly. He started to inject advice into the sessions and discovered that his clients actually improved when he pointed out their “crooked way of thinking.” One of his critics believed this patient improvement was just a way to get Dr. Ellis to stop talking. Dr. Ellis, however, believed that patients had to take immediate action to change their behavior. “Neurosis,” he said, was “just a high-class word for whining.”

In 1965 when I was a graduate student in the clinical-school psychology program at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University), the film Three Approaches to Psychotherapy (available on YouTube) was the most frequently viewed and widely-discussed movie about therapy. In the film, Albert Ellis (Rational-Emotive), Carl Rogers (Client-Centered) and Fritz Perls (Gestalt) took turns conducting therapy with the same patient: “Gloria.” At the end of the 36-minute film, the producer and director of the film, Everett Shostrom, interviewed Gloria about her experience of therapy with the three greats and rivals.

As graduate students we argued late into the night on many occasions about the therapists’ techniques and Gloria’s reactions. Dr. Ellis always seemed to receive the most criticism because of his abrupt and abrasive manner. The criticism acted as a catalyst when Dr. Ellis was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the American Psychology Association conference in our city. All the students in our grad program eagerly got tickets to the event.

As part of his talk, Dr. Ellis solicited a volunteer from the audience so that he could demonstrate some of the principles of REBT. His interaction with the volunteer was surprisingly humorous and provocative. As a result of his style, he was nicknamed “the Lenny Bruce of psychotherapy.” (For those too young to remember Lenny Bruce, he was probably the first stand-up comedian to focus on politics, civics, and real events in highly caustic rants filled with “forbidden” words.)

I recall one of my fellow students saying after the demonstration, “Dr. Ellis has some great ideas and practices for helping people make significant changes. Too bad he’s the one using them.” Because Dr. Ellis was often described as cold and aloof with an abrasive demeanor, many people were surprised to learn that Dr. Ellis was a personal mentor to many junior psychotherapists. In a research study conducted with 150 psychotherapists in 1999, 75 percent reported that Dr. Ellis had been a personal mentor (Johnson, Digiuseppe, & Ulven). Dr. Ellis published over 54 books and 600 articles on REBT, and at the time of his death he was President Emeritus of the Albert Ellis Institute (formerly the Institute of Rational Living) in New York.

Natural Peer Mentoring

baseball-game12The playoffs to determine the British Columbia Little League team and the eventual team to represent Canada in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania took place in Victoria, BC a few weeks ago. This kind of organized and structured sport was quite different from the typical games I played as a kid, and I was eager to watch these youngsters play in such high stakes games.

When I arrived at the ballpark, I was flooded with feelings and memories from long ago. I had played baseball from the beginning of elementary school through university graduation. At one time I planned on being a professional baseball player. My reverie reconnected me with the role that peers played during these early years. I remembered that from dawn to dusk my friends and I spent virtually all our free time playing a variety of sports, but mostly baseball. We organized our own teams; we were responsible for our own equipment and for transporting ourselves to the parks where we would be the visiting team. On a daily basis we “chose up sides.” Everyone knew who the best players were, but the role of “chooser” rotated on a regular basis so that eventually everyone had an opportunity to be the chooser and chosen. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

We also adjusted the rules to maintain equity and compensate for our own growing physical abilities. For example, I remember the 20-foot high cyclone fence 210 feet from home plate in right field. When we were little kids, if you could hit it over that fence, it was a home run, and nobody minded the time it took to get the ball and bring it back. As a matter of fact, sometimes we would all search for the ball and maybe stop off at the store for candy or baseball cards. As we got older and stronger, we changed the rule so that hitting the ball over the fence was an out. Everybody wanted to keep the rhythm of the game going, and not spend time chasing the ball down the street. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

I remember the thrill of victory, our cheering each other, and deciding where or what we would do to celebrate. I remember the despair of defeat and the temporary nature of our gloom, the silent walks or public bus ride home, or the desire to blame somebody else for the loss. Yet the next day, everyone emerged ready to practice, chose up sides, and figure out what we learned from our previous game. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

I lived in a dense urban area: a mixture of black, white, Latino and Asian families. A lot of kids went to private or parochial schools, I walked 15 blocks to my public elementary school. From time to time new kids would move into the neighbourhood. They would drift down to the park, maybe even carrying a bat or a baseball glove. Somebody would always ask them if they wanted to join in the game or wait for the next choose-up. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

Although the park had adult directors (physical education students from a local university), and they would sometimes coach us and help us arrange to play other teams, we were pretty much left unsupervised by adults. We often played pranks and practical jokes on each other, destroyed or defaced property, or got into fights, and now and then said some mean or hurtful things to one another. But apologies, shaking hands, repairing damage and resolving disputes were equally as common. Nobody told us to do this, it seemed like the natural thing to do.

Kids today are growing up in the most highly organized society imaginable. Opportunities for youth to impact their environment or determine things for themselves are shrinking. Safe play areas are important, but these areas are not designed to be changed by kids; instead, they are designed to resist change. Adult organized activities tend to limit opportunities for kids to learn how to make their own assessments of equity, mutuality, and the true purpose of rules.

Times have changed. When I was a kid, there were only two things my parents were concerned about: things that would “poke my eye out,” and things I might do to “break my neck.” Opportunities for spontaneous play and peer interaction, the kind where kids can develop their own guiding principles, are on the decline. Increasing concern for the necessary physical safety of kids limits the time kids have to be on their own, travel freely into other neighbourhoods or receive spontaneous mentoring from a variety of adults.

Kids have fewer occasions where they can develop care and concern skills and behaviours. Social programs organized by adults have emerged to provide these skills, yet the programs are typically “deficiency” oriented. Rather than trying to bring out the “dormant wisdom,” which helps young people reconnect with their inherent needs for fairness, belonging, friendship, and fun, social skill oriented programs assume that kids are uneducated or ignorant and in need of adult-driven instruction.

Peer group interaction, a naturally occurring and powerful phenomenon, has been organized by adults through the use of peer helpers. Paradoxically, some of these organized programs may reduce the natural support peers provide. I worry that the introduction of the counselling skill and theory approaches as a basis for peer helping may lead peer helpers to learn accepted techniques, rather than build on their inherent wisdom and desire to help others. I worry that the increased acceptance of peer helping by professional helpers will be accompanied by a more rigid peer training curriculum dictated by professional interests. I worry that the success of peer helping in its present form may decrease the involvement of future volunteer peer helpers in making a variety of peer program decisions.

I know that my worries have been reduced by the many exceptional peer program leaders I have met over the years and by my own observations of a multitude of exemplary peer programs. Yet as peer mentor programs expand to community organizations, the workplace, and other age groups, variations are bound to occur which lose the connection with the foundations of peer work. Nobody told us to do this, it’s just the natural thing to do.

And, if you were wondering, a Little League team from White Rock, British Columbia became Team Canada. They represented Canada in the International side of the Little League World Series. As of this writing, they have a good chance to play an American team in the World Series championship game.

Guest Post: Finding the Best Mentors by Wayne Townsend

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Intelligent Leaders — Finding the Best Mentors

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Informal Mentoring

When I was ‘on-the-road’ as a professional musician at the age of 18. I found it difficult to continue with formal percussion lessons with the best drummers because I was traveling too much to sustain a teacher. So, wherever I was located for the next gig, I would set up two sets of drums and invite drummers to play with me. (They were easy to find at each city’s music stores.) It is interesting that each drummer who played with me, learned many of my patterns (percussion vocabulary); yet, I learned many new techniques from each of them. Each mentor interaction provided me with more information about drums and percussion. This is “informal mentoring” at its best and it cost me nothing but my rehearsal time—smart investment. It helped me to stay on top of a very competitive market. The more versatile I became as a drummer and percussionist, the more work came my way. “Intelligent Leaders need breadth and depth.”

Finding Mentors

Although I was not aware of it at the time, I was continuously looking for role models. My father passed away when I was twelve and I kept looking for good people doing good things. I found many role models—some good and some struggling with life. I was quite deliberate in looking for behavioural responses that made sense—what to do and what not to do. All of this time, I was gradually developing the character of “me.” Informal mentoring can be powerful as long as you are open to it.

After university and three honours degrees, I entered professional life from a business perspective and learned about “formal mentoring.” I have been involved in Formal Mentor Training since 1985. However, I have been the recipient of informal mentoring my whole life. I continued to seek out people who were doing things that impressed me and I would ask them if I could speak with them about their work. Mentor questions came out quite naturally because I was interested in people and their work.

Mentor Training

In 1989, I was introduced to one of the best Student Retention Programs in the Province of Ontario by Tom Connolly with the Waterloo Board of Education. I was completely hooked. There was no turning back. Tom continues to be an informal mentor to me and he introduced me to Dr. Rey Carr, Peer Resources in Victoria, B.C. who developed the 3strongest “International Mentor Programs.” I trained in all of Dr. Carr’s programs: Peer Mentor Training, Mentor Training (Levels 1-3), Coach Training and Executive Coach Training. Then I followed with Cy Charney’s Mentor Management Training and ICF (International Coach Federation) training. Each of these connections added “breadth and depth” to mentor/coach training skills.

With all of this training and experience over a lifetime of mentor and coach training, I still believe that Dr. Carr’s Mentor Training is the strongest program internationally [www.mentors.ca]. The foundational principles of his training programs are well researched, sound in practice and transferable to any setting. In addition, I have been using Carr’s closure procedure for years in many counselling and social settings. These mentor principles provide a process for strong, empowering and facilitative processes that move groups and individuals forward.

105+CoverFor Canada Day, Dr. Carr published a free ebook about Canadian Mentors and match-ups that reflect his lifetime of work on mentoring in Canada. He is an incredible mentor and role model.

Finding The Best Mentors

What I have learned about mentoring and coaching is that mentors/coaches are simply a phone call or email away. It is about getting to yes. You simply have to ask the question: “Would you be willing to meet with me for an hour so that I can learn about…?”

It is that simple at setting up an informal mentor. If you do this often enough, your learnings will happen. From those meetings, you might ask one of those informal mentors to be a more formal mentor. If by chance they say ‘no’ or they don’t have time right now, then your next question is: “Do you know of someone who may be able to help me with this area of learning?”

It is all about getting to yes and your personal professional development.

(Thanks for my friend and mentoring partner, Wayne Townsend for allowing me to share his post here. I treasure our relationship and it is a great example of how a true mentoring relationship shifts to where the mentor learns as much from the person he or she has mentored.)

Using Quotes About Mentoring

quotemarksQuotes are a valuable way to create value in mentoring. They can serve as a source of inspiration, an acknowledgment of value gained, a tool for clarifying ideas and act as a catalyst for reflection and learning.

Over the years, I have collected a variety of quotes which I originally used in workshops, training, lectures and professional publications. Sometimes quotes lend credibility to ideas since many of the quotes come from well-known persons in history or contemporary society.

Quotes can also be used as a basis for discussion of ideas and meaning. I’ve also used the quotes as the basis for an experiential exercise with participants by asking a question about the quote such as ‘how might this relate to your experience?’ You may find that a quote reminds you of a story or anecdote. Maybe the quote has a special meaning for you.

I have created an e-book filled with some of my favourite quotes. In the e-book, I’ve provided an opportunity for users to make notes or add reflections about the quotes to make them more useful in discussing mentoring or conducting training sessions.

Some quotes specifically mention “mentoring” and others represent concepts or perspectives related to mentoring. The quotes are meant to generate ideas about what personal philosophy or perspective might be reflected in the quote.

Rather than just providing a quote in an attractive font with an interesting background— as is typically found on social media or within various books and magazines—I wanted to honour the person quoted by

  • including a photo of the person,
  • providing a link to learn more about the person, and, if available,
  • adding that person’s mentor or whom that person mentored.

A note on the accuracy of attribution of the quotes in the e-book. The Internet can provide multiple sources for verifying the source of a quote, but sometimes false attribution can be so widespread that the person who actually created what was being quoted gets completely lost. We’ve done everything we can to verify the accuracy of these quotes and their source. If you find an alternative origin, please let us know. I’ve also included quotes about quotes that reflect humorous or satirical viewpoints on the accuracy of quotes.

This e-book is free to SpiritMentor blog readers and can be downloaded here –>http://goo.gl/bhPX8k

 

Bringing Out Our Inner Life

Peer Counsellor Workbook CoverWhen the first edition of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul was published in 1997, I was delighted that an excerpt from one of Peer Resources’ books (The Peer Helper’s Workbook) as well as contact details for our organization were included in this soon-to-be a best-selling book.

But the inclusion of our toll-free number as part of our contact details had unexpected consequences. Perhaps because Peer Resources had the only telephone number listed in that edition, we received many calls and letters from young people wanting to know how they could submit a story for the Chicken Soup series. Some of the callers and writers, however, just wanted someone to talk to about a life circumstance that was unbearable or troubling.

phone_listeningOne of these calls, from a 14-year old youth, started out as a request for information about how to deal with peer pressure. Within a few minutes, the story shifted dramatically from a focus on peers to a deep sense of helplessness and depression about communicating his worries and anxieties to his parents. Both parents, according to the caller, believed he should be able to handle his peers in an effective way and he should be able to stand up for himself. To do any less meant that he was incompetent and worthless.

Whether his parents actually held these views is less important than his perception that they did. He believed his parents did not understand him. He had given up seeing them as a resource to help him, and he was lost as to what do about his situation.

What he had tried was getting him into trouble at school, reducing his attention to school work, and contributing to rage toward his peers. He felt angry, hurt, and abandoned.

How many young people can tell a similar story? Feeling cut-off with no one who understands. Not knowing who to turn to for help. Giving up and burying their feelings. Turning fears into rage.

How often has this experience led a young person to suicide or violence toward others? How many times in the aftermath of a tragedy do we hear phrases such as “he was just a quiet person,” or “I would have never thought he/she could do this,” or “we thought he/she was just weird.”

How many young people are torn between their secret inner life and what they show on the outside?

The teen who called us was developing a secret inner life. A life that would not only be hidden from his parents and his peers, but might eventually become hidden from his own awareness.

We all have an inner life. The danger is when we become cut off from our inner world and do not have the tools or support to restore this connection. This disconnection severely hampers our emotional intelligence and reduces our ability to learn from life experiences. The bad news is that adults who have experienced such disconnection when they were young not only have difficulty recognizing or accepting such circumstances in their children, but their own arrested development prevents them from knowing how to help their children overcome these circumstances.

The good news is these situations can be identified, remedied, and prevented. Unfortunately, society in general, and the media and professionals in particular, often contribute to this disconnection. When a tragedy happens, a common cycle is initiated. Virtually everyone will respond with horror, shock, disbelief, and anguish.

Then there will be a search for blame. This search will focus on the superficial: the Internet, social media, movies, television, guns, bad parents or bad kids. The private and personal grief of friends and family will be made public. An emphasis will be placed on photographs, videos, and outward appearances. Experts will talk about a violent society or trends occurring in society that precipitate or predict such violence.

When the perpetrators are identified or put on trial, the focus will shift toward demonizing their motives and at the same time rationalizing their actions as victims of some syndrome or category of disease. The legal system will emphasize determining guilt and punishment. The cycle will include additional public funding directed towards violence prevention in the form of a better connection between police and schools; more anti-violence lectures; games and curriculum for youth; longer prison sentences for offenders; restrictions on weapons; better monitoring of or restrictions on Internet use, movies, television, or music.

When tragic events occur, the search for blame seems like the correct thing to do.

After all, we don’t want those events to be repeated. But what if such a search actually contributes to the problem rather than reduces its future likelihood? What if the assignment of blame is a substitute for looking inside ourselves to determine how we have contributed to the situation? What if blame is just another way of passing judgment and not really listening and understanding? Does the assignment of blame increase or decrease that area within ourselves that is hidden from view?

The most important question to ask is whether young people in our communities will actually find others in their lives who are willing to listen and understand.

What can we do to help young people access their inner selves? What can we do to demonstrate respect to all young people regardless of their appearance, background, or circumstances?

Answers to these questions are readily available. Here are some samples. Be a mentor. Be a coach. Make sure your schools have peer support programs.

When talking to a young person, listen more than you talk. Don’t interrupt. Practice

patience. Suspend judgment. Show respect by summarizing what has been said. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Share your life story. Talk about what has meaning for you and how that came about. Ask about dreams, hopes, and goals. Be curious. Ask whether suggestions might help. Be clear about expectations. Know your own hot buttons. Leave the impression your door is open for further conversation. And again: listen more than you talk.

I wish I could share the outcome of my discussion with the 14-year old described above. After we had discussed possible options that were available in his community, he had to hang up the phone abruptly because one of his parents just came home.

References

Canfield, J., Hanson, M.V., Kirberger, K. & Claspy, M. (1997). Chicken soup for the teenage soul. Deerfield Beach, Florida: HCI Teens.

Roberts, G. (1994). The peer helper’s workbook. Victoria, BC: Peer Systems Consulting Group, Inc. (Available from Peer Resources)

We must teach our children to dream with their eyes open.

~ Harry Edwards (1893-1976) ~ British spiritual healer

Dr. John Seward (1905-1985): A Mentor Transforms Adversity into Achievement

baseball-field

When I was growing up I dreamed of a career with a professional baseball team. I attended university on a baseball scholarship and thought I was on my way. But two short conversations changed all of that and changed my life. And I’m glad they did.

It was near the end of a grueling season. My university team was on its way to setting a record for the most losses in its history. We had travelled back and forth across the country playing teams whose star players went on to play in the major leagues. I was playing with and against some of the best talent in the game. Several seniors on my team were already reviewing contracts with professional clubs. But I was, to paraphrase a famous former ball player and sports announcer, “one of the best of the mediocre players.”

That afternoon we were playing our traditional cross-town rivals, a university that consistently fielded one of the best baseball teams in the country. Their power hitters were easily knocking balls onto the steps of the fraternities on the other side of the center field fence. Even the players at the end of their lineup were turning singles into doubles.

I had been getting more playing time as the 60+ game season wound down, and today I was in the starting lineup replacing our injured first baseman. I struck out three times, got hit by a pitch, made three fielding errors, bruised my hip chasing a foul tip into the stands, and sprained my ankle while sliding into second base.

At the end of the game, the coach gathered the team together and proceeded to single out individual players for feedback. When it was my turn, he asked me: “What are you doing on this team? How do you expect to go further playing the way you did today? What were you thinking when you did X?” He wasn’t interested in answers even if I did have any. I was disappointed with my play and now I felt humiliated, dejected, and ridiculed.

As I was leaving the field a professor, Dr. John Seward, who taught introductory psychology, which I was taking along with 350 other undergraduates, came up by my side. He said he had come out to watch the game and was delighted to learn that one of his students was playing on the team. At first, I didn’t even realize he was referring to me. The only personal recognition I had experienced at this large university was when my coach would single me out and say, “What’s your name again?”

Dr. Seward said, “Looked like you were having a really tough day out there.” I grunted some reply. But then he asked, “How are you feeling about the way you played?” I stopped walking, turned towards him with unexpected tears in my eyes, and a torrent of feelings, worries, and concerns came forth, most of which I didn’t really know were inside me. He listened to me patiently and when my outburst slowed to a trickle, he asked me, “What do you want to do about all of this?”

I didn’t have any answers to his last question then. But the next day I went to his office and thanked him for listening to me. I told him I was embarrassed about my reaction to his previous questions, but I had been thinking about what he had asked me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the two simple questions he asked me happened during a period of life transition. Those questions changed my perspective, opened me to a new way of being with people, and helped me find a way to turn adversity into achievement. His reaching out to help a young ballplayer in distress turned into one of the most influential moments of my life.

As a consequence of our interaction, I gave up my sports scholarship, quit the team, changed my major to psychology, and took what turned out to be a three-year job as one of Dr. Seward’s research assistants.

Over time we had many learning discussions that went beyond the behavioural research focus of our work. In another article (The Four Pillars: What Life Lessons I Learned from My Mentors) I summarized what I learned from Dr. Seward as learn from your fears; let adversity be a teacher; learn from mistakes; open your mind, particularly when you think you know it all; and your purpose in life is to strive to bring out the best in yourself by bringing out the best in others.

When I learned that my mentor died in 1985, I sent a letter to his wife, Georgene, expressing my belated condolences and telling her how he had influenced my life. She wrote back thanking me for my letter and telling me that she had received dozens of letters like mine from his former students.

Dr. John Seward, who obtained his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1931 along with fellow student, Carl Rogers, was a great teacher, employer and mentor, and a leading authority on behavioural psychology. His compassion, authenticity, and mentoring will live forever in my heart. The two questions he asked me, and his genuine curiosity about my answers have become a foundation for helping myself through difficult times as well as assisting others to deal with adversity.

Three Questions to Jumpstart a Peer Group Meeting

A common thread that ties peer assistance work to mentoring and coaching is the increasing use of group models (peer coaching and peer mentoring along with peer helping) to provide services or supervision, and assist participants to accomplish their goals more effectively and more quickly.

In both peer mentoring and peer coaching, group members typically distribute leadership within the group and take turns initiating activities to act as a catalyst for all members. Peer assistance differs somewhat because there is typically an assigned leader or supervisor, but the leader still works toward increasing the empowerment of each member to act as a leader for all other members.

Participants in all three types of groups, when given the opportunity to act as the group leader for any session, often wonder about how to start the group. Typically, this start-up is called a warm-up, transition or check-in activity. Most leaders want to get off to a good start and energize, focus, or center the members with an activity that will act as a lead-in to the group’s agenda or purpose for being together. And while often a leader’s desire is to use a “fun” activity, all too often the activity chosen is only marginally related to the group’s purpose or more formal agenda.

Peer Resources has devised a group beginning activity that is highly effective in helping a group get started with an enjoyable “ritual”, deepen the connection of the group members to each other, provide a strong foundation for the group’s upcoming agenda, and provide an opportunity for participants to help, support, and encourage one another. The activity is called “trinity,” and while it has a strong spiritual element, it is spelled with a lower case “t” so that it won’t be confused with the more religious meaning of Trinity.

Trinity consists of three questions. Any member of the group can start and provide an answer to the first question and from there each group member, one after another, provides their own unique answer to the first question. The first question is: “What am I grateful for today?” The range of answers to this question can be far-ranging, and it is purposely asked as a “what” question instead of a “who” question, although it is perfectly acceptable to identify a person. No discussion of responses needs to occur; the idea is to quickly create an atmosphere of “gifts” we each have in our lives and a mood of heartfelt connection.

When everyone in the group has volunteered their response to the first question, another group member can ask and be the first to respond to the second question: “What are my intentions for today?” Responses to this question can focus on outcomes, feelings, accomplishments, or even how a participant wants to respond if things don’t go as planned.

The third question that concludes this opening ritual is started by a group member asking, “What’s most important today?” In peer assistance groups a variation of this question is: “Considering what you are going to engage in over the next week as a peer helper, what’s the most important thing you want to accomplish today?”

Sometimes a fourth question is included after participants have identified what’s important: “What can I do today to integrate my gratitude, my intentions, and what I think is important?”

While it might be possible to spend an entire session on the answers participants give to just these questions, the questions are really meant to create a start-up climate or mood that will help every participant to be present and focused. Various responses can be noted or placed in a “parking lot” for further exploration at a later date, if appropriate.

If SpiritMentor readers try out these questions, I’d appreciate hearing about how they worked. I’m grateful to communications specialist and writer Laura Lallone for providing the reminder of the power of these questions and giving permission to adapt them here.

Want Some Help? (Guest Blogger Richard Bach)

(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 Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull,  Illusions, and other terrific books. His post reminded me of how important spirit mentors have been and continue to be in my own development. Readers can subscribe to Richard’s blog at richardbach.com/.)

“EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, and only sometimes, maybe we can use a little bit of help.

Perhaps we’ve lost a job that we really liked, perhaps we’re in the midst of a divorce, or perhaps the dog that we were hoping might live forever, maybe she’s just died. Those are difficult times.

In the midst of such times, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were one person in all the world, someone we loved and who knew just how to help us at that moment?  One who had the perfect ideas and exactly the equipment we needed to put us back on our wheels again?

Here’s an example. Let’s say that all these bad things have happened to us and suddenly we’ve driven over the edge a life-crater, and the only thing we could think to do then is to sit on the bumper of our car (which fell to the bottom of the crater, on its side, in the mud) and cry.

We’re in the crater, crying, and about then do we hear this faint little sound, from a long way away (chug-chug-chug…). If only we could have called somebody, but when we tried to do that, our phone died, too.

(chug-chug-chug… louder now.)

With any luck, we were thinking, we could have brought a gun with us and ended our  misery at last, but it turned out that we had left it at home this one time that we needed it.

Now the chugs are louder still and all of a sudden from above the rim of the crater we’re in, here’s the one person we hoped would come to save us, and she’s brought her industrial heavy-duty crane along with her.

She calls down to us, ‘Want some help?’

We would have kissed her, but twenty feet down in the crater, that wasn’t going to happen, so we just looked up at her through our tears.

Her crane is quiet now, not so much noise. Before we can imagine an answer, she shouts again, ‘Would you like a cookie?’

Before we could tell her that we need a lot more than a cookie, down comes a package from her. Bad-news good-news time. We missed the catch and it fell into the mud. But the package was not torn and with only a little effort we open it and in a minute we feel a little better than we did before. Our friend is gone for a minute and the next thing we see, looking up, is that her crane is peeking way over the edge of our crater and a heavy steel cable swings down toward us with a big hook at the end.

Is that strange or what? We prayed for help and here it is!

After our wheels rest on the highway again, she disconnects the big hook from our car.

‘There’s some left,’ we say, while we return the package to her, five cookies lighter. ‘How did you know…?’

‘Happens all the time,’ she says. ‘Some days you’ll think about a person you love and we your friends can tell. You can use some help, all right, and what we have along with us, it turns out to be just what you need.’

She hands the package back. ‘I have lots of emergency cookies in the cab. Keep these with you. They’re always nice to have with you while you recover from a crater.’

What an amazing story this is! And what’s even amazinger is that this story happens to everyone who needs help, anyone who has taken time to meet the ones who would be their helpers.

I learned how to meet them years ago. Chances are that you’ve met some friends then, too. From time to time we forget that they’re there, and we spend a minute sitting on the bumper and crying before we remember that we have helpers no matter how deep our crater may have been.

When I was 12, I met Horatio Hornblower of the British Royal Navy, 1795, through an introduction of C.S. Forester. Hornblower would sail into terrible events at sea, enemies and explosions all around him, yet he used his good sense, his powerful will and his fundamental sense of right, and a little bit of what seemed to be luck, to avoid being destroyed.

At that time there were just two books about Horatio. I loved those books! It took me a while before I discovered that I had become his friend, that I could call on the same qualities that he had used to keep me from being destroyed. I found that I had learned from him to avoid the enemies and explosions during terrible events in my own life. When I had to fight, I could call on him to teach me how to fight the instant before it was necessary.

About the same time, I realized, that I had found a powerful friend and advisor in my mother, Ruth Helen Bach. She’s been dead for 50 years now, but I still hear her in my mind. ‘Take it easy, dear son, think your problems out, first. If you must fight, learn about the nature of your enemy, and discover, perhaps, that beneath their masks they may be your friends.’

Not aware of what I was doing, I began to build my own Board of Advisors. Of course I knew that I was the Chief Executive Officer, my decisions would determine what would happen in my life. But in time I learned how to convene my advisors before I made any major decision.

One day I added Antoine de Saint-Exupery to my Board. Saint-Ex believed in the importance of our mission on earth, important enough for him nearly to die in the sands of the desert, in the storms of the sky, and finally he died flying for the principles of the country he loved.

I found that my Board can be of any size I wish, and represents any idea that mirrors my own values. Today on my Board of Advisors are four living mortals, eight deceased mortals, 13 fictional mortals in various costumes, and two dogs.

You may suspect that one of the fiction souls may be Bethany Ferret, the captain of the Ferret Rescue Service Boat 101, the Resolute. You’d be right, of course. Such a gentle quiet unstoppable force to save lives, of course she’s there! In those five books of the Ferret Chronicles, I count eight of the characters who are now my Advisors. I could list them, but that’s what the books do, they tell why these characters are each teaching me how to reflect their own qualities.

Of course some of my spirit guides are there, and the two most loving dogs that ever have I met.

Look over my Advisors and there’s a painting of my own wish of the ideals I live for.

How do they work in practice?

When I’m desperately tired, when I want to stop instead of fighting on against fatigue, I call on one advisor, Bruce Lee. And strange things begin to happen. As soon as I call on Mr. Lee, he responds with a sudden burst of hidden energy, and it stays until my job is finished. Not just a belief of energy, but living real power, expressed in an instant number of finite physical foot-pounds required to complete the task.

That’s their gift.  The Advisors open an electric rainbow of energy, physical, mental, creative energy, that brings me through the challenges of any day.

How can I talk about these silly ideas for my thoughtful and reasonable readers? Isn’t the suggestion of an invisible Board of Advisors, isn’t this crazy stuff?

My friend (and Advisor) Donald Shimoda all of a sudden appeared to me as I was writing this, with an answer:

‘Of course it’s crazy stuff! You write about crazy things because they work for you! And now you think it will work for anyone who calls on the power of beautiful ideas. Bless you for writing these words, dear Richard!’

What can I say? Except for his polite blessing part, he’s right.”

(Note: In the comments section below feel free to list your own Board of Spiritual Mentors.)

Friends Influence Health, Happiness and Productivity

The value of friendships in our society across both our private and our public lives has been completely under-rated, according to New York Times best-selling author Tom Rath. Drawing on more than five million interviews conducted by The Gallup Organization as well as the work of several leading researchers, Mr. Rath uncovered some startling truths about the bonds we form and how they affect everything from our attitude to our productivity. The results are provocative and certain to change the way we look at friendships. Mr. Rath details all in his latest book: Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without.

Among the author’s discoveries:

• People who have a “best friend” at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work. They also have fewer accidents, more engaged customers, and are more likely to innovate and share new ideas.

• Although most companies don’t encourage, and some outright forbid, close relationships between workers, Gallup research shows that close friendships at work boosts employee satisfaction by almost 50%.

• The research overall shows that the quality of the friendships in life are the best predictors of daily happiness and life satisfaction, and have profound implications for physical health and longevity.

• People with at least three close friends at work were 46% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their job and 88% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

• Friendship is the silver lining in a marriage, accounting for approximately 70% of overall marital satisfaction, and was found to be more than five times as many people ranking it as more important than sex or “intimate relations.”

• Spending time with the boss was rated as the least pleasurable time of the day. However, when employees have a close friendship with a boss, they are more than twice as likely to be satisfied with their jobs.

• The water-cooler effect: Employees are three times as likely to have a close-knit work group if the physical environment makes it easy to socialize. Unfortunately, only one-third of the people studied report working in such an environment.

• Do friends shape your waistline? If a best friend has a very healthy diet, you are more than five times as likely to have a very healthy diet yourself.

• Successful friendships are the ones in which friends play a specific role in your life. There are eight roles of friends defined in the book (see below). The fatal mistake in friendships is forcing one person to fill every role.

The studies that the book is based on reveal that people have significantly better friendships if they can easily describe what each friend contributes to the relationship. To make that possible, Gallup built an assessment to help people determine the roles friends play and to give both participants the language to talk about those roles and how to make them better. Each copy of Vital Friends has a unique code that allows readers to take the assessment that identifies what role a friend plays in his or her life.

Here’s a look at the top eight friendship roles that research uncovered:

Builders are friends who motivate you, invest in your development, and truly want you to succeed — even if it means they’ll go out on a limb for you. These friends help you see your strengths and advise you on how best to use them. They are generous with their time and encourage you to accomplish more. They’ll never compete with you and will always be standing at the finish line to cheer you on.

Champions stand up for you and your beliefs and they praise you to everyone else they know. They are the friends who “have your back” and will advocate for you when you’re not around to defend yourself. Champions are your strongest supporters who thrive on your accomplishments and happiness.

Collaborators are friends with similar interests, those who share your passion for sports, hobbies, religion, work, politics, food, movies, music, or books. Shared interests are what often make collaborators lifelong friends and those with whom you are most likely to spend your time.

Companions are always there for you, whatever the circumstances. You share a bound that is virtually unbreakable and when something big happens in your life, good or bad, this is the person you call first. These friends are always giving you meaningful gifts and they will sacrifice for your benefit.

Connectors are the bridge builders who help you get what you want. These friends get to know you and then instantly work to connect you with others who will share your interests or goals. They extend your network dramatically and give you access to new resources. If you need a job, a doctor, a friend, or a date, call a connector.

Energizers are fun friends who are always there to boost your spirits and create more positive moments in your life. They pick you up when you’re down and can turn a good day into an even better one. Energizers are those to call on when you need a laugh, a smile, or a bit of relaxation in your day.

Mind Openers are the friends who stretch your viewpoint, introduce you to new ideas, opportunities, cultures, and people. They help you to expand your vision and create positive change in your life. These are the friends who challenge conventional wisdom and come up with creative solutions to whatever problems or obstacles you face. They are stimulating and motivating and allow you to express opinions that you might be uncomfortable articulating to others.

Navigators are friends who give advice and direction. You seek them out when you need guidance and counsel — they’re great at talking through your options. Navigators are best at hearing your dreams and goals and then helping you find the path to achieve them.

Having the right expectation of your friends is everything, writes Tom Rath in Vital Friends. If your expectations of a friend are in line with what they contribute to your friendship, the relationship is poised to thrive and make both of you better off in the process.

In the foreword to the book, Tom Rath provides some fascinating insight into his own interest in the concept of friendships and their value. “The energy between two people is what creates great marriages, families, teams and organizations,” writes Mr. Rath. “Yet when we think consciously about improving our lives, we put almost all of our effort into self-development. As I look back on my formal education, it was based almost entirely on mastery of a topic or building my knowledge base. In grade school, I learned how to read, multiply, and write, and I attempted to learn a foreign language. During college and graduate school, I had the opportunity to focus on even more specific topics that piqued my interest. Throughout my professional life, I have attended countless development programs that aimed to make me more productive. Even when I have dedicated time to developing others, my attention has focused on each person’s self-development. I had it all wrong. The potential was hiding within each relationship in my life.”

The book shines a potent and provocative new light on the value of friendships throughout our lives and gives us each the tools to make the most of each and every one of these connections.

About the Book Author:
Tom Rath is the coauthor of the #1 New York Times and #1 BusinessWeek bestseller, How Full Is Your Bucket? With more than 500,000 copies in print within its first year of publication, his book has spent 15 months on the domestic bestseller list. Now available in more than ten languages, Mr. Rath’s book has also been an international bestseller. After 12 years with The Gallup Organization, Mr. Rath now leads Gallup’s Workplace Research and Leadership Consulting worldwide. He also serves on the board of VHL.org, an organization dedicated to cancer research and patient support. Mr. Rath earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan. He is currently pursuing graduate degrees at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Book Purchase Details:
The book, Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, can be purchased from Amazon.ca (for Canadian orders), Amazon.com (for US orders), or Amazon.co.uk for international orders.