Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What do I root for?

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to a thirty year minimum prison sentence today for molesting boys. This sentence essentially assures he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Many of his victims will struggle with life long memories and related emotional and psychological scars. The crime is dubbed "Soul Murder" by author Leonard Shengold. The tenacles connected to abuse do not end in one act, as with homicide, but continue to haunt and plague its victims throughout their lives.

Do I celebrate his sentencing as just and swift? Or, does it remind me of the horrific crimes he committed and make me question if there is any just punishment for his actions?

And, do I root for Penn State Football? Bill O'Brien is the new coach. I know Bill. He hails from a Brown family. I played next to his older brother Tom during my senior season and Bill would often visit. Then, I talked with him when he considered coaching as a career.

I want him and his players to do well, to foster resiliency and to be a source of positive healing for the community. On the other hand, I have a hard time watching the university thrive in the shadows of the young boys whose victimization could have been prevented had university administrators and coaches elevated their awareness of Sandusky's crimes to the proper authorities.

I imagine it's best to root for the truth to unfold, for the victims to heal, and for goodness to take hold.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Survive and Thrive!



"Can You Spare a Little Help" generated appreciated responses. Thank you. My good friend Eric took me to lunch and shared his father Peter's life story. Peter is about to celebrate his 98th birthday.

Peter was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. When he was fourteen his parents divorced. When he was twenty one he was placed in solitary confinement for eighteen months for dating a non Jewish woman. After being released from solitary confinement he was considered a political prisoner and was ordered to build both Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps.

In 1939 he was released from prison under the condition he'd leave Germany. He emigrated to the United States and arrived with $5 in his pocket. With his money he rented a room and purchased wholesale first aid kits he sold for a profit. He then supported himself by waiting tables and parking cars at resorts in the Adirondacks.

In 1942 he was drafted into the United States Army and became a USA citizen. During World War II he served in the military government in North Africa and Italy. Before returning to the United States, he visited his mother in Hamburg.

After returning to the United States, Peter worked for a cousin in shipping until 1961 when he started his own successful shipping company. He was 47.

After returning from the war he also married and divorced. He married again, yet his second wife committed suicide. He and his third wife, Eric's parents, were married for 59 years until she died a few years ago.

Peter lives, cooks, and drives on his own, tends to his community flower and vegetable gardens and mentors students at the Helen Keller School. He lives outside of New York City.

According to Eric, unfailing optimism appears to be Peter's critical resiliency factor. A resilient person's competency profile includes optimism, organization, pro-activity, flexibility, and focus.

Also, based on the above Oz principle, Peter seeks solutions and spends no time thinking like a victim.

Hearing about Peter's life was helpful to me. It proves triumph of the human spirit and I hope you find it uplifting as well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Can you spare a little help?

Recent tragedies hammered home, to me, the impact of time. We had a family tragedy within a week of famed linebacker Junior Seau deciding to end his life. Time factored into both deaths. Based on reports, we assume their time was spent in apparent inescapable pain; internal demons and signals harassed their brains with continuous unwanted pain inducing triggers. We assume they felt there was no escape; no apparent way to change the ebbing tide of locked despondency.

Based on articles, Junior projected an image of strength and optimism. According to reports, men in his culture are expected to be strong and supportive. His role as an NFL linebacker was to be the cog in a fearless front of defense. Based on his physical gifts, he was able to project this image in his play for almost 5 times longer than the average NFL player's career. And, Junior was considered one of the best in this role. He was rewarded for not being vulnerable, or human.

This sense of despair can happen, and does happen, to many. Is there help? Can the right word or action influence a suffering soul to muster the strength to move on, to escape a momentary decision that's final. It's consoling for surviving friends and loved ones to think they might have this impact. We are supposed to be there for those we love in their greatest time of need. When we are not there, we like to say: "If only they'd said something, or asked. I would have done everything possible to help."

Will time heal all pains? Sometimes, the struggles don't dissipate. Life continues to throw wrenches and difficulty despite the greatest plans and intentions and efforts. Is there a solution? The popular response is there is a solution to every problem. But, what if the problem won't go away? How does one know when to intervene without being intrusive?

It's so difficult. What do you say to their closest relatives? The impulse is to seek a solution, or the ideal comment, but it's not this easy.

Acknowledging illness can be a start. Realizing the person was out of a normal state of mind and suffering mental illness puts the act in objective perspective. It allows us to blame the disease and distances the person and his or her life from the act.

It's also important to realize these moments offer time to renew and refocus; to learn how we can help others avoid similar pain and suffering.

Most important, it's time to realize it's ok to ask for help and support. I need your help.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Who do you trust?

Trust is a popular corporate buzzword. It creates, according to Tom Peters in his seminal work "In Search of Excellence", the highest form of human motivation.

A person experiences trust when he realizes people or institutions or systems or equipment won't allow him to be hurt when he is vulnerable.

We are vulnerable when we buy a product or service, when we share private or personal thoughts, and when we take risks.

We are willing to follow people we trust because we believe our best interest is served by them. They won't hurt us. Trust lubricates the cycle of effectiveness where trusting thoughts influence trustworthy actions to impact positive results to build trusting relationships.


We trust doctors to heal us when we are sick or injured. We trust banks to secure our assets. We trust teachers to share the truth. We trust coaches to build skill and psyches. We trust institutions to protect our interests to propel the greatest good.

In the past six months two people I knew were critiqued in the media for betraying trust.

Joe Paterno lost his job for not protecting innocent children when he failed to report to Pennsylvania State Police a sexual assault by Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is accused of committing additional acts of pedophilia after Paterno was aware of Sandusky's crime.

Dan Doyle, the embattled executive director of the Institute for International Sport in Rhode Island, reportedly siphoned considerable monies earmarked for the Institute and its efforts to use sports to promote goodwill. It appears he used these monies to invest in private properties, trips, and personal gain.

Before their public persona was punctured, both men appeared to stand for good values projected by their sports related programs. They used their programs as venues for others to develop trust in them. Joe's program touted high graduation rates and wins. Doyle's world scholar athlete games brought young athletes from warring countries together to play on the same team.

These men ultimately put their personal gain ahead of those they claimed to serve and they lost trust. Joe's image and his pursuit of the all time wins record for major college football took precedent over the safety and well being of young boys. Dan's image and fund raising took precedent over using sport to build young souls, and communities.

Selfishness trumped selflessness in both cases and both men, in the end, were vilified. It's disheartening, but not uncommon when common men are given uncommon power and control over their environments.

In both cases, the men were aligned with universities filled with good and virtuous people who were kept distant from taking a closer look at the way these men ran their regimes. Perhaps their achievements and affiliations stymied standard audits and assessments.

I was drawn to their advertised outcomes, but was less impressed with my one on one meeting with both men. Publicity and image can seduce the broad audience. I left both organizations before any scandal was evident.

Sharing their headlines is the retirement of Pat Summitt, the revered University of Tennessee basketball coach. I don't know Pat, but I've admired her from afar. She's suffering from Early-Onset Alzheimer’s and decided to leave her post before becoming a detriment to her players and the university; a trusting move.

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien