My last blog post on “Connecting the Dots of Our Lives” received a good response. Many conversations about where people experienced major turning points and influence from mentors. (Speaking of which, mentors are not parents. A parent’s job is to provide clothes, food, shelter, and a launch pad – not our “calling.” That is the job of mentors who come from other places: teachers, clergy, distant relatives, etc. Often they don’t even want to help, but do anyway.)
To find your patterns, I invite you to “read your life backwards.” Look back at those fateful decisions, often total accidents, or even huge mistakes that made all the difference in how things turned out.
As I have dug deeper into my own story, I’ve made huge discoveries. I developed a graphic of my life’s major mentors and turning points. You might try this yourself. Draw a timeline with years and ages, and include major decisions along the way. Also include those mentors. BTW, if any of them are still alive, you should reconnect. They will be glad to hear from you.
Here are some insights gained from my chart:
Although I had many along the way, four were critical:
• Ib Harris, my first therapist who helped me wake up
• Bob Dreher and Bob Suczek, two psychology professors who helped me become a psychologist.
• Dena Pappas, my saxophone teacher who gave me my life’s motto: “Let ‘er Rip.”
My early work history was marked by seeking approval from authority figures (substitutes for my dad), mixed with feelings of belligerence toward them (mostly, any boss – also substitutes for my dad). All of that melted away when I started PowerSpeaking. No more bosses. No need for dad’s approval, because work became an inside job. As Carl Rogers said, the “locus of control” shifted from others to myself.
Turning Points and Shifting Interests
After working for three years to get the science I needed for medical school, my interest in biology faded. Then I moved on in psychology becoming a teacher, a therapist, and a consultant. Then I lost interest and moved into business at HP and Amdahl. I never really gave a damn about business or technology. Hmmm, time to start my own business.
At 46 I launched PowerSpeaking. I kept at it for 30 years. T-h-i-r-t-y y-e-a-r-s! No lack of interest or restlessness. Zero smart-mouth comments to bosses. I finally found my “calling.” The business brought me nothing but pride, stimulation, satisfaction, and success. About time.
What I realized, though, is without all those mentors and “dead-end” turning points (dots), PowerSpeaking, and especially Speaking to the Big Dogs, would never have happened.
Sympathy for Dad
Big boo-hoo. Daddy never gave me the approval I so desperately craved and needed. Not one ounce of approval for my work in psychology. “When are you going to grow up and get a real job?” he’d bark at me. It finally dawned on me he could not give me that approval because he was resentful and jealous of me. He lived through two world wars and the great depression. He struggled in the world of business without a college degree.
Born in 1939, I came of age in the 1950s. His hard work provided a solid middle-class life for us. Berkeley Hills. Good schools. Therapy. Folk music. Liberal politics, and most of all, a smart mouth. I remember sharing with my Republican father some solid Marxist rhetoric I’d heard on the steps of Sproul Hall on the UC campus, “You know, dad”, I said innocently, “I think the workers should own the means of production. They have nothing to lose but their chains.” Pissed him off big-time and, predictably, he exploded. Ahh, lots of material for my therapist(s).
Reading my life backwards, can’t say I blame him.
A Career High
After a long bumpy ride, I was able to find myself through my work at PowerSpeaking. I feel “an attitude of gratitude,” as my colleague Stephanie Moore likes to say, for all the mentors and experiences I had along the way, especially, Mary McGlynn. Now it is a time to look back with appreciation.
Stay tuned. You’ll be invited to my one-man show!