Thursday, May 19, 2016

Snail Mail your "Stuff" to Friends

A very unusual envelope landed at my house recently. It was from my seventh grade teacher, Nathan Sloan, whose 90th birthday I attended -- and wrote about --  a couple years ago.
Inside was a sheaf of papers about an inch thick:  his collection of newspaper clippings and Xeroxed articles, mostly political, that resonated with him.
The stuff you cut out to think about later, but mostly never do.
With the batch, came this admission, "I know! I know! This is an enormous amount of 'stuff'...Hope you enjoy the 'library' I've sent. "
At first I was stunned. What was Nat doing? Sending me the stuff that most people who are downsizing would just toss?
Yet, this wasn't as if he was handing off an old lamp or a pile of textbooks. This was personal, and I couldn't help but open up his brain-dump, curious about this man whom I've rarely seen since high school but who tenaciously kept touch with so many of his students over the many decades.
In the collection  were such titles as "How Socialists Built America" and "Government by the People Campaign Builds Momentum."
Also included was a letter (undated) he presumably had sent to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, recommending a tougher stance against the Republicans. "Why haven't we learned that honey and civil discourse doesn't work with the likes of McConnell, Boehner, Cantor...We should be shouting that the 'trickle down theory' doesn't work."
In the pile, too, was a copy of the "Tillman Act of 1907" which, in case you never read it, prohibits monetary contributions to national political campaigns by corporations. What happened to that?
On a piece of lined notebook paper, in his careful capital letters, he wrote the names of 22 "Feminist Freethinkers," from Sarah Bernhardt to Alice Walker, to Marlene Dietrich and Clara Barton.
On 3 other sheets were the names of 133 atheists, agnostics, deists and secular humanists, which included, at the bottom of one column, right after Carl Sagan, his own name, Nat Sloan.
In 1999, he wrote a 'letter to the editor,' arguing that presidential campaigns should be limited to four months and contributors should immediately be revealed.
(I am sure I know who he's supporting for President).
Well, I took a lesson from Nat Sloan. Since I had been going through old newspaper stories I had written, debating whether to toss them or not, I decided to send a few on to my three daughters. One article in particular, I thought would resonate with them, since they are all working mothers. It was about one of my maternity leaves, which I spent working to save my local elementary school. The district was thinking of closing it just days before the echo Baby Boom revealed itself (my newborn included). The essay expressed my gratitude to the women who stayed home (at the time, it was mostly women), and fought the community battles that us working women did not have time for.
So, Nat, thanks for sharing with me your views and beliefs. It was a thoughtful gift that I am now having difficulty de-accessioning, as it were.
I'll close with a poem he included:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Method to His Mentoring

Chet Ross and myself share a show 
What to do with all the experience and wisdom we've accumulated? Listen to Chet Ross,  of Scottsdale, Arizona, and you'll hear the joy in his voice talking about his 15 years of mentoring those much younger than himself, trying to launch businesses.

I "met" Ross recently on Boomer Generation Radio, where I shared an hour's show. (You can listen to it here:  He was interviewed during the first half of the show on the phone from Scottsdale, Arizona; I was on the second half, sitting in the studio, talking about this blog.)

Ross got into mentoring after he retired because, he quipped, "I was lousy at golf.'"
As someone who spent his career in the manufacturing end of the water treatment business, he turned to a national group called SCORE, under the U.S. Small Business Administration, to find mentees.
He quickly discovered that his particular business background didn't matter. "The problems faced by the companies," he said, "were really all the same."

Asked what characteristics make for a successful mentor, Ross was quick to reply: not being judgmental.

Even if you think that your mentee has a bad idea, they need to come to that conclusion themselves, he explained. "Rather than saying that's a dumb idea, you pose questions like: 'Have you thought about... ?' and cite an example where something might not work well. Don't be judgmental, try to lead them to come to that decision. But at the end of the day, who knows what's going to be a commercial success or not," he said, referring the the "chia pet" phenomenon.

Beyond being non-judgmental, "You have to be a good listener, organized. And from the mentor's perspective, it has to be satisfying. I've gotten more out of it than I've given," he said. "It keeps you involved with other folks, perhaps younger, and helps you stay relevant." And there's the satisfaction of knowing you've been helpful. "People have told me that they were picked up and dusted off after a disappointment."

While most of the mentors still tend to be men, more and  more of the mentees are women -- about 60 percent female compared with a bout 40 percent men, Ross estimated.

Another example of how the workplace is changing.  And how, if you reach out to groups like SCORE, you can help change it for the better.