Monday, August 07, 2006

Life Changers

Kent Blumberg has a blog in which he shares his thoughts on "leadership, strategy, and performance." There is much that I like about his writing style not the least of which is the sincerity that comes through in the sense that he is simply willing to share. He is not keeping score.

In a recent post, he was prompted to write about his "three most influential teachers" which he says was prompted by a post by George Ambler. Based on Ken's recommendation, I checked out Ambler's blog and immediately added it to my favorites list along with Ken's.

In any case, be they teachers, which I suspect they were for many of us, or maybe even some bosses we've had, there is no question that almost anyone can name two or three people who have touched their lives in such a way so that if someone said name the 3 people who you feel most influenced you by the time you were say 30 (parents & spouses don't count) most people could easily come up with the names.

In Ken's life, the names were Ken, Rod, and Mike. In my case, they are Eddie, Buddy, and Ken. All teachers. All I met when I was 13 and had just moved back to Connecticut from North Dakota. (Not sure if the move was by choice, or as I often say, was due to our family being paroled.)

If you asked me why these three in particular made my top three I am not sure I could really say, all I know is they are there, and it was a "no brainer." That said, if I had to take a shot at explaining why, I guess it was a combination of what each taught me in the class room and on the athletic field. Eddie taught biology, Buddy math, and Ken history. Eddie was an assistant football coach and varsity basketball coach. Bud was the school's AD and head football coach, and Ken coached varsity soccer.

I probably knew Buddy the best as I attended his summer day camp for many years in my early teens, and more importantly, spent almost every Saturday morning back on the school's campus in his class room trying desperately to catch up on my non-existent math skills.

Ken makes the point in writing about the three people in his life that they each taught him something about both himself as well as instilling in him qualities that have remained with him as guiding principals in his professional life.

I guess I would say the same about the three I have mentioned here, and now that I think about it, I suspect that most of us would feel the same about those who have influenced us deeply. It is about the value systems they demonstrated, not in words so much as in behavior. The standards that Ed, Buddy, and Ken set in the classroom were high, but each had his own way of supporting me (and my classmates) in a way that made even those of us who weren't "as smart" to give it our best and in so doing most of us ended up doing far better than we had ever imagined both in the classroom and on the playing fields.

I was an okay football player, a horrible basketball player (so they turned me into a diver in the winter) and in baseball, a disaster waiting to happen (so they turned me into a pole vaulter and javelin thrower). We went undefeated my senior year.

Many years later I was asked to serve on the school's Board of Trustees. At the time I was working in New York City, so making board meetings was not going to be easy, but I said yes instantly. Why? Because among other things I felt it was the least I could to for three men and a school which helped to give me a chance in life that I otherwise would never have had.

I still owe them.


Kent Blumberg said...

Thanks Dave.

I don't know about you, but that post about my three most influential teachers just pored out of me. And it felt good to write about what Frank, Rod and Mike meant to me.

Sheryl Spanier said...


Thanks for helping to remind me of teachers in my life. What resonates for me is that my mentors made a difference for me by having a belief in me--seeing a possibility or talent that I was unconscious or insecure about. Sometimes they shook me up, sometimes they challenged me...often they inspired me to reach beyond my grasp. And mostly they taught me courage and resilience. And I have made a commitment in my life to be that for others whenever I get a chance, just as I know you have. Remembering and honoring them, I smile.