In the End… We Are All Mentors and Mentees

November 14, 2009

MentorNote: The names in this post have been changed to protect the innocent.

Eighth grade wasn’t the first time I had been kicked out of class… nor would it be my last. While many of my trips to the principal’s office were well deserved, this one (in my opinion) wasn’t. That said, I’m glad it happened. Like many things in life, it was a blessing in disguise.

It started when we were asked to pick a student from the class ahead of us that we admired. Someone we considered to be a positive role model that we could emulate… a mentor of sorts.

I didn’t know at the time, but the word “Mentor” comes from Greek mythology. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War, he put his friend Mentor in charge of his palace and his son, Telemachus. These days “mentor” typically refers to a trusted counselor or teacher… an experienced person who provides guidance.

Back to the assignment… my classmates had little trouble picking a mentor. Most chose the likely suspects… popular kids, cheerleaders, athletes, members of student council, and so on.

Before long, everyone but me had made their decision. Unable to think of a single person I wanted to emulate, I raised my hand. “What happens if you can’t think of a mentor?” My simple question created quite a stir. Read more

What Meaning Do Your Words Carry?

November 11, 2009

BA-2Within minutes of meeting Scott Beare, I liked him. The Blue Angels stories he shared with me over lunch, in his honest and straightforward demeanor, were exhilarating to say the least. Not only is Scott a straight shooter—he’s modest, too. It wasn’t until weeks later he happened to mention that he was the first enlisted Navy man to become a Blue Angels pilot. And it wasn’t until we were nearly finished writing The Power of Teamwork together, that I learned Hasbro had based its GI Joe Blue Angels Action Figure on Scott’s likeness. In light of Scott’s accomplishments, some people may find this point insignificant… but having had GI Joe’s as a kid, I think it’s awesome.

As we worked together, one thing became clear to me—what the Blue Angels consider “normal” teamwork is probably outside most people’s scope. To say it’s above average seems understated; better put, it’s abnormal… well outside the teamwork bell curve. The challenge: How do you convey this “abnormal” level of teamwork in a book?

050527-N-0295M-002My idea… Sigmund Freud believed by studying the abnormal, we could gain a better understanding of the normal. That’s how I approached The Power of Teamwork… perhaps by studying the Blue Angels’ model of teamwork, we could gain a better understanding of “normal” teamwork as it relates to our own lives.

One evening, about a week before the manuscript was to be sent to the publisher, I cleared my head and planned to re-read it from start to finish. In less than 25 pages, my brain started racing and I felt my heart sinking into my stomach… then I stopped reading. Read more

Beware the Semmelweis Reflex!

November 6, 2009

Metaphorically and literally speaking, the healthcare debate today is totally ill-focused. When it comes to implementing real solutions, it seems most people suddenly decide they’d rather argue, live in denial, and defend the status quo than accept reality and take action. It’s true. They’d rather fight than switch (can you older readers visualize the black eye?). Given the choice of accepting empirical evidence or clinging to misguided beliefs, many… if not most… people will choose misguided beliefs.

The act of automatically rejecting facts without thought or real consideration is sometimes referred to as the Semmelweis reflex… or “Semmelweis effect.” The name comes from Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician who, in 1847, discovered that when maternity doctors washed their hands with a chlorinated-lime solution, the incidence of a type of sepsis related to childbirth was significantly reduced. So here’s where the “reflex”/“effect” part comes in: Despite his efforts and the obvious evidence showing that hand-washing reduced mortality below 1%, Semmelweis’ practice wasn’t accepted until years after his death. Furthermore, in 1865, Semmelweis had a mental breakdown and ended up in an asylum, where he died at age 47.

How could this happen? It’s simple. During his lifetime, Semmelweis’ observations and evidence conflicted with the established beliefs of the day. Medical books and doctors back then were focused on bloodletting as a primary treatment for disease… and in contrast to the evidence, they “believed” bloodletting was the best treatment. Read more