Archive for August, 2009

On Mentoring

August 22, 2009

In my reading this morning, I ran across some thoughts from Brian Tracy, a well-known advisor/consultant to the world of business.  Tracy mentioned the importance of discipline (self-control) as an essential element in all successful people.  He quoted M. R. “Kop” Kopmeyer as he wrote of the importance of mentors in our lives.  As I read, my thoughts ran back over some of the mentors I’ve had and an thankful for their influence in my life, and I hope that I can be a ‘mentor’ as well as a parent to my own children, and maybe that influence can go beyond my immediate family and I can encourage others to grow into healthy, happy adults.  Tracy writes this gleaned from his study of Kopmeyer’s work (which is extensive, by the way):

‘M.R. “Kop” Kopmeyer, a respected success authority, once told me that perhaps the fastest way to get ahead was to study the experts and to do what they do, rather than trying to learn it all by yourself. In fact, he mentioned that no one lives long enough to learn everything he needs to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to help us learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.

“There are two vital qualities to look for in a mentor. The first is character and the second is competence.

‘Character is by far the most important. Look for a mentor who has the kind of character you admire and respect. Look for a person who has high degrees of intelligence, integrity, judgment and wisdom. The more you associate with men and women who are advanced in the development of their character, the more you will tend to pattern them and to become like them.

“The second quality you look for in a mentor is competence. This means that the person is extremely good at what he or she does. A good mentor in your career is one who has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to move ahead far more rapidly than his or her peers.”

Imagine the power we might gain if we could find mentors at an early age and, through our relationship with that person, chart a course of success for our own lives.  Imagine that every child who comes into our schools encounters at least one person who establishes a caring relationship with him or her!  Would that be wonderful??

In my new book which I hope to have available very soon, I will speak of the three things a child has a right to expect when he/she enters school – a relationship with a caring adult, skills necessary for success in the 21st Century, and hope.  Each one of us could be a mentor for one of them – we can help kids know the pathways to successful living.



August 8, 2009

Saturday afternoon! Hot, and hotter! I’m going to swim as soon as I finish this note to you!

On last Wednesday the young man who comes by once each week to clean our pool and adjust the chemicals, started to talk about himself and his world.  (Have you noticed that when we listen to others, they’ll often tell us ANYTHING??) He told me of his girlfriend with whom he shares a residence, about the two women with whom he’d lived previously, about his little girl that he sees for one weekend out of three, how he loves to shower her with  gifts and nice times, and how much he hoped for her success in school as she faces school for the first time in a week or two.  I asked if he read to/with her, and he said, “I wouldn’t know what to read for her benefit!”  The door was opened and the ‘old teacher’ in me surfaced and I recommended a library where most librarians would be willing and able to share a long list of books and stories for consideration.

That set me to thinking about the stories we’ve all heard and read or recommended to others.  I thought of Gibran and how I would read various passages from his work to my graduate students during the seventies.  I thought of “Johnathan Livingston Seagull” and how I had read that to undergraduates in the early ’70’s’ and what an impact those stories had on my students.  I remembered some of the novels I had share with high school seniors and juniors during the late ’60’s and the fun I had introducing 7th graders to the wonder of the Secret Garden and many other stories.  And, finally I remember reading and telling stories to my own children as they grew.  Perhaps the favorite of mine – and one my kids probably still remember was “The Golden Arm” by Mark Twain – a story I told them in a camper tent which was lit by only a Coleman Lantern!  Oh, how they jumped and screamed.

And, I remember the fun we had with ‘The Little Engine That Could’!  Do you remember that one?


(Watty Piper)

A little steam engine had a long train of cars to pull.

She went along very well till she came to a steep hill. But then, no matter how hard she tried, she could not move the long train of cars.

She pulled and she pulled. She puffed and she puffed. She backed and started off again. Choo! Choo!

But no! the cars would not go up the hill.

At last she left the train and started up the track alone. Do you think she had stopped working? No, indeed! She was going for help.

“Surely I can find someone to help me,” she thought.

Over the hill and up the track went the little steam engine. Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo!

Pretty soon she saw a big steam engine standing on a side track. He looked very big and strong. Running alongside, she looked up and said:  “Will you help me over the hill with my train of cars? It is so long and heavy I can’t get it over.”

The big steam engine looked down at the little steam engine. The he said:  “Don’t you see that I am through my day’s work? I have been rubbed and scoured ready for my next run. No, I cannot help you,”

The little steam engine was sorry, but she went on, Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo, choo!

Soon she came to a second big steam engine standing on a side track. He was puffing and puffing, as if he were tired.  “That big steam engine may help me,” thought the little steam engine. She ran alongside and asked:  “Will you help me bring my train of cars over the hill? It is so long and so heavy that I can’t get it over.”

The second big steam engine answered:  “I have just come in from a long, long run. Don’t you see how tired I am? Can’t you get some other engine to help you this time?

“I’ll try,” said the little steam engine, and off she went. Choo, choo! Choo, choo! Choo, choo!

After a while she came to a little steam engine just like herself. She ran alongside and said:  “Will you help me over the hill with my train of cars? It is so long and so heavy that I can’t get it over.”

“Yes, indeed!” said this little steam engine. “I’ll be glad to help you, if I can.”  So the little steam engines started back to where the train of cars had been standing. Both little steam engines went to the head of the train, one behind the other.

Puff, puff! Chug, choo! Off they started!  Slowly the cars began to move. Slowly they climbed the steep hill. As they climbed, each little steam engine began to sing:  “I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I think I can – I think I can – I think I can I think I can–”  And they did! Very soon they were over the hill and going down the other side.

Now they were on the plain again; and the little steam engine could pull her train herself. So she thanked the little engine who had come to help her, and said good-by.

And she went merrily on her way, singing:  “I-thought-I-could! I-thought-I-could! I-thought-I-could! I-thought-I-could! I thought i could – I thought I could – I thought I could – I thought I could – I thought I could – I thought I could I thought I could –“


We would all say the last paragraph together and I have to believe this story and many others had an impact on the kids’ growth. Lessons like:  1) You will probably not find someone else to do it for you; and 2) Some are not willing to even consider helping you; and 3) The helper you find may teach you valuable lessons; and, 4) The confidence you gain will help you throughout your life; and 5) When you have a job, work so hard that when it comes time to lay someone off, it won’t be you!

My oldest son went to the United States Airforce after graduation from school, and I’m confident that the tenacity learned in that little story served him well.  My daughter Carrie turned a degree in acting into an opportunity to rise up at Ernst and Young and worked through an episode of Congenital Scoliosis with her first daughter.  Paul has done so very well with no college degree and has stuck with many little projects in addition to his chosen vocation to succeed extremely well.  My Pamela didn’t always choose the easy way to get the a success plateau, but seems to have reached it now.  My Katie is working toward her second BS degree – this one in nursing. And, our baby (Six foot four and a college graduate who will earn his Master’s Degree in December!) has stuck with a sometimes tough internship in California and didn’t give up when the going was trying.  Each of them may have taken a little lesson from a Little Engine.  And, of course, that’s the same lesson we learn from J. L. Seagull, and Gibran never advocates the easiest pathway to happiness and success – just the most intelligent pathway.

So, do you (will you) read to your kids?  Do you (will you) let them learn the eternal lessons available in an easy format?  Are you aware that the best teachers of all times told stories to make their points?  As school begins, why don’t you make a commitment to read something valuable to someone and discuss it with them!  Turn off the television!  Find a comfortable place!  And teach what you know, what you’ve already experienced, with a child!  You’ll help make the world a better place for us all!

Now, the ball is in your court!!  As Nike says in the commercial:  “Just Do IT!”


August 5, 2009

I took this directly from the work of Jim Rohn.  It’s a piece by — Dr. Tony Alessandra.  I think it says so much and I was going to add some thoughts of my own, but decided against that.  I’d like to hear from you to see what you think!  I am convinced that the Greatest Gift my Grandmother ever gave me was the quality of Confidence – she believed in me and told me so!  For those of you who are parents, or teachers, or anyone who loves our kids, you can give them the Greatest Gift of all if you can instill in them the notion that they can believe in themselves!!  Go for it!

“Having confidence means you believe in yourself and that you trust your own judgment and resourcefulness. In his many books on self-esteem, Dr. Nathaniel Branden defines self-esteem as the sum of self-confidence and self-respect. For him, self-confidence is knowing that you have the wherewithal to function reasonably well in the world.

“You feel competent to make choices, competent to satisfy your needs, to chart the course for your life. Having confidence in specific situations, such as in gaining influence with someone, flows from a general self-confidence about your ability to meet life’s challenges.

“A person who exhibits confidence appreciates a sincere compliment and doesn’t brush it off. A confident person is comfortable giving, and receiving, compliments. He’s also able to handle criticism if it comes his way because he basically likes himself and knows that a single negative incident won’t change that.

“Confidence in yourself is built up over time. You can fake confidence, and you may need to at first, but real self-confidence comes from a history of small victories and accomplishments that add up to a sense that you can handle yourself well in most every situation. I suggest you take an inventory of the major accomplishments you’ve achieved over the past few years. Then remind yourself of the minor ones, too. What about the computer course you completed? Have you built anything that’s still standing? What about those kids you’re raising? That’s an accomplishment. Don’t be modest. Tell the truth about how hard you worked and what sacrifices you’ve made. If you can’t think of any, then begin by congratulating yourself for living as long as you have. Sheer survival is an accomplishment these days! Seriously, it pays to take the time to know your strengths and appreciate them. What’s unique about you? What skills do you bring to an organization or project that you can count on?

“Confidence is a fundamental trait for flexibility. It’s hard to be flexible when you’re fearful or easily intimidated. Confidence is indispensable if you want to engage someone’s attention.”