Tag Archives: Bill George

Authentic Friends Are Rare & Precious

 

 

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When I asked myself what I’m most grateful for this Thanksgiving season, a recent walk through the Hill Top woods in Spring Green, Wisconsin instantly came to mind. Sunny but crisply cool, the fall weather was perfect. Colorful turning leaves were at their brilliant best.

I hadn’t seen long-time friend Janelle Fritz for thirty years and counting. But it could have been yesterday. Authentic friends are like that.

Why did we come together again now? Long story.

On the surface, the catalyst was a note I sent while she and husband Ty were still wintering in Arizona. I had expressed my thanks to his father, Herb Fritz, in the dedication of Rethinking Survival, I told her. Further, in the autobiographical section, I wrote about his being the sole survivor and witness of the 1914 Taliesin massacre, as well as about performing string trios at Hill Top with Herb and his sister, Frances Caraway. I wanted Ty and Janell to know about the dedication first, from me.

On that October day, there was much catching up to do. Words came easily on both sides, punctuated, of course, by spontaneous bear hugs.

I was fascinated to find out that she too is a good friend of the I Ching. Or perhaps, better put, the Book of Change has been a good friend to her. Like me, she has repeatedly turned to the Wilhelm/Baynes edition over the years to survive seriously challenging, tough times. It has served to keep her pointed steadfastly towards her inner True North.

Though I never doubted the outcome, still I rejoiced to see that she’s weathered her personal storms wonderfully and has become even better for them. It’s apparent that this tiny woman (even smaller in size that I am) is the true backbone of her family. And I said so! (Sometimes it helps to hear it from a friend.)

Since our walk, I’ve been reading Bill George’s books, including True North and Authentic Leadership. They describe Janelle to a Tee. She’s centered in her True North. In direct, simple terms, she’s an exemplary authentic leader. Her beliefs, words and actions are consistent across the board. She’s devoted to her family, becaring not only Ty, their sons and now grandchildren (WOW!), but also her sprightly mother-in-law, Eloise Fritz, who’s now 89 years-old.

Janelle was a dancer. In Arizona, she told me, she owned and ran a dance studio. Like Eloise before her, who ran a girls camp at Hill Top, Jan’s purpose was to encourage and bring out the best in young women. Horse riding and dance were incidental to the deeper, soul purpose of their businesses.

We both, Janelle and I, have given up our early avocations. She couldn’t understand, at first, how I could give up music. It was only when I explained it in terms of her releasing the dance studio that she recognized the common thread.

I explained the change in I Ching terms. “The larger the front, the larger the back.” And “Every extreme turns into its opposite.” The benefits – the front side – of the music were enormous. As a child, I lived and breathed in continuous joy. Immersed in music, I was shielded from the dark side of living in a dysfunctional family on a dysfunctional planet.

Music taught me many important life lessons. As Einstein observed, discipline learned through violin practice came much easier than it would have through harsh obligation. Playing in string ensembles and orchestras was a model for cooperation as well as for following the single lead of a conductor.

Music eventually led me, via Menhuin students, to yoga, complimentary medicine, and the scriptures which teach methods for actualizing the Unified Theory reformulated by Einstein. Like every discipline studied with love, focus on music led me deeper, first to the physics and then to the origins and mysteries of sound.

Sufi Inayat Kahn, the great sarod player, explained how this can be. In Music, he wrote:

The art of music has been especially considered divine, because it is the exact miniature of the law working through the whole universe. For instance, if we study ourselves we shall find that the beats of the pulse and the heart, the inhaling and exhaling of the breath, are all the work of rhythm. Life depends upon the rhythmic working of the whole mechanism of the body. Breath manifests as voice, as word, as sound; and the sound is continually audible, the sound without and the sound within ourselves.

Inayat Khan became a role model. As a teacher and author, he himself became the instrument. From his example, I recognized that, like him, I had to give up that which I loved most, my brown-blond,1776 Mathias Thier violin, to go beyond it.

It was necessary because the back of the coin was as great as the front. Over time, the blessing had changed into its opposite. Once the lessons had been learned, holding on to their vehicle would have held me back. I was not only shielded. I had become oblivious to the rest of the world and the responsibility to serve. Music had become an addiction and an obstacle to further, necessary growth.

But, as Janelle was quick to point out, Nothing is ever lost. Only changed. Everything cultivated as a musician is now funneled into the writing. I’ve become the instrument of the ideas that kept me focused True North even during confusing, difficult times. Now I weave in the music of language using the medium of a computer keyboard.

Similarly, Janelle and Ty have dedicated their Hill Top inheritance from Herb and Eloise to building a community center where people gather to honor the passages of their lives. They come to celebrate weddings and return to commemorate their milestones, including anniversaries. Life continues to evolve. We change, yet the True North of constant friendship remains the same.

For that I am abundantly, infinitely grateful.

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The Evolution of My Aspirations

Leaders can’t be defined by a standardized, one-size-fits-all list of traits. This is the premise of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. Instead, authors Bill George and Peter Sims found that authentic leaders consistently define themselves in terms of their unique personal stories.

Naturally, they got me to asking myself, what’s mine?

There definitely have been defining moments. Looking back, there have also been consistently recurring themes.

But it took a recent direct message from a new twitter follower to put my answer into focus. Chelsea Hanson, a Business Growth Coach from Green Bay Wisconsin tweeted, “Great to connect . . . I love learning about how people got started in their work. . . how did you get into what you are doing?”

I tweeted back, “Likewise! 🙂 Step by little step. Pieces of mosaic fall into place to form the patterned picture recognized only with hindsight.”

It’s been my consistent belief that, of all the things I could do with my life, I should choose that which does the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. With that standard in mind, my aspirations have been shaped and transformed, expanded and focused with each new experience.

The autobiographical section of Rethinking Survival describes early influences. It started with Miss Elson, my senior year English teacher.

Though I didn’t take her seriously at the time, Miss Elson told me I should be a writer. My answers to her essay questions showed the marks of an original thinker. In contrast, she let me read a batch of classmates’ papers to demonstrate the mindlessness she labored to shake up.

What is life?” she asked. Like wind-up toys, most regurgitated definitions memorized in biology class. Catholics added their church credo to the mix. From her I learned that there’s more to being human than the ability parrot others’ words. It includes the capacity to reason and articulate clearly.

Later, while I was earning an M.A. in English M.A. at the UW-Madison, my aspiration was to be like Miss Elson. Without the tools of language and logic to analyze experience and express one’s concerns, how could people name, much less solve their problems? At the time, the highest calling I could imagine was to teach students how to think — really think — for themselves.

My aspirations continued to evolve as a music student in Düsseldorf, Germany. For me, the highlight of studies at the Robert Schumann Konservatorium wasn’t the music teachers, but a modest, insightful kinesiology instructor. Frau Lehru wasn’t a musician herself. But vocal and instrumental teachers alike sent students beyond their help to her.

The pianist whose lessons were scheduled the hour before mine told me her story. Herr Dreschel had given up on her as either lazy or untalented. But Frau Lehru diagnosed the real problem — pinched spinal nerves. Recommended visits to a chiropractor worked “miracles.” Elated, she was a “new person.”

I went to her studio and asked Frau Lehru to coach me. Her lessons were wonderful. She saw timidity in my posture and tension in the way I held my violin. She gave me exercises to correct not only my posture, but the underlying attitudes which bent me out of shape.

“Platz machen,” she encouraged me. “Make room! Don’t crowd me!” And, “Auf wiederstand waschen.” Figuratively, Grow upwards. Stand tall under the pressure of resistance and adversity.

In retrospect, it was as if she’d reinvented the yogic disciplines which sitar and tabla students are taught in India, where music technique is balanced with breathing and physical exercises. Her gift inspired a change in my career goals.

Rather than teach technique, I could help many more musicians by becoming an exercise-and-therapy coach in one, like her. She was much too busy to consider writing about her methods and results. I would do this for her with a book called The Body as Instrument: How to Tune It.

Still later, ratcheting up another notch, I aspired to build schools to facilitate an entire generation of coaches like Frau Lehru. A primary purpose for earning the Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the UW-Madison was to hold the credential required to build an accredited alternative school. My envisioned School-Without-Walls was intended to serve the unmet needs of other boundary-spanners also seeking to fill in the gaps of our failing educational system.

Each new experience has continued to lead to the next. Many steps later, I’ve come full circle to fulfill Miss Elson’s early prediction. Today, I’m a writer because I’m certain that I’ve succeeded in putting my finger on the pulse of a critical information deficit. It explains the excruciating painful, potentially fatal world-wide leadership deficit.

Further, I am certain that the Positive Paradigm of Change not only fills a critical information gap in the way we train our leaders, but that, like a laser beam, it illumines every field of endeavor towards which it’s pointed. This includes not only leadership and governance, but also education, the arts and sciences.

Today my aspiration is for this information to reach the greatest number of people possible, in order to do the greatest possible amount of good. The stakes could not be higher, for I take Einstein’s prophetic warning deeply to heart: “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

If you agree, and if you can help, let’s talk!

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