A Letter to Your Elder Leader

 

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I invite you this week to write a letter to an Elder Leader figure from your life who has at times been less than fully encouraging or supportive of your ambitions. An example is a high school guidance counselor who once told a friend of mine, Barbara—the best artist in our high school class—that she was “not college material.” This affected my friend’s life considerably. She did not go to college but she did go on to become a very successful artist who apprenticed at Toussaud’s Wax Museum in Niagara Falls and eventually became a wax figure artist herself. Barbara peopled several full wax museums in the US and one in Ireland, and she created a line of period historical wax dolls!

I remember that at one point Barb decided to take a college course just to see how she would do with that, based on the disparaging remark of our high school guidance counselor. Well, she aced the course, but she also realized how grateful she was for not having gone on right to college after high school; her real life experience brought her many more opportunities and allowed her to develop her artistic talent in her own ways.

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Elder Leader figures like the high school guidance counselor serve as “gatekeepers;” in fact many elder leaders fill that role. Elder leaders are also by their very nature or position role models. Most parental figures can be considered Elder Leaders in their children’s eyes at least. For example, the other day while I was writing the previous blog at a local café, I overheard a conversation between two young children (a boy around 8 and a younger girl) and their mother. The boy repeated several times to his mom that: “Dad is my Hero!”

What might my friend Barb like to have said to that gatekeeping guidance counselor, either at the stage she was discouraged from going to college or later, after she had achieved far more than that counselor could have ever foreseen?

I invite you to think of an Elder Leader figure from your life who has influenced you either very positively as a role model or who may have inhibited you in some manner as a gatekeeper; or, both. I invite you to write a letter to this Elder Leader figure, and then I also invite you to write a RESPONSE to your letter from that person in return to you.

I will provide a brief example just to illustrate the process. Then I encourage you to practice this dialogue on your own. I welcome any sharing of your practice!

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Dear Dad,

First let me thank you for how you encouraged all of your children to find and then to follow their own path in life. Also I thank you for demonstrating the values of fortitude, perseverance and self-discipline.  My own leadership abilities follow in many ways from your example. At the same time, I needed to overcome a lot of inhibition because of how demanding and critical you could be. I always wanted to please you, yet it was difficult to earn that positive encouragement.

I do thank you especially for how in the late stages of your life, Dad, you were there to LISTEN and to honestly communicate with all of us about the difficulties you underwent as a young man. You were toughened and hardened by your experiences, and you tried to help us to develop a “tough skin” too, to survive in what you perceived as a harsh world.

I will never forget the day you taught me to swim by standing a few feet away in shallow waters, asking me just to go that far, then gradually establishing further distance so I could expand my reach!  That lesson applies to my whole life, so I thank you for the independence of spirit you invoked and for the idea I could attain my goals.

Love,

Linda

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Dear Lindy,

Maybe in the end there are no accidents. From the bigger perspective, we all find our way. I am glad that you are following your path. Know that you are never alone!

Love,

Dad

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images from pixabay.com

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I welcome YOUR insights and stories!

 

Sail Past Your Threshold Guardians: Do It for Love!

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So how CAN we/ you/ I  get past a Threshold Guardian or Gatekeeper to reach our goals, anyway?

Writers deal with this question a lot, as does anyone whose “next step” appears to depend on someone or some process beyond their immediate control.

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A few years ago I attended a writers conference in South Carolina. While I was mainly there to advance with my life mapping book, for a lark I entered a “slush pile” event for science fiction. Everyone submitted just their first page of a scifi manuscript, and two well-known scifi editors then gave their evaluative response as if they might be sloshing through their daily Slush Pile of unsolicited manuscript submissions. Forty people attended. The editors liked only ONE of these forty submissions. Typically they would read no further than a phrase or a word in  the first sentence and they would reject the whole work for some minor ‘pet peeve,’ dismissing the value of the entire manuscript on the basis of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to some very minor apparent blemish or weakness.

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“This one opens with a Prologue!” (reject.)

“I can’t pronounce the main character’s name.” (reject.)

“Too wordy.” (reject.)

“Too sparse.” (reject.)

“Too colorful.” (reject.)

“Not colorful enough!” (reject.)

So, what can a writer or an applicant for a desired job or a promotion, etcetera, DO when you encounter one of these sorts of Guardians of the Threshold?

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Just keep on doing what YOU do best. Cultivate your passion. Do it for Love.

Sure, we can always learn from our travails, and will persistently, so as to improve our approach. The Guardian Gatekeepers, after all, represent accepted standards, genre conventions, well established popular forms. They are experienced as experts in knowing what will “sell” or what the Public needs, wants and expects. And yet innovative artists, by definition, strive to push past the boundaries of convention and aim to advance beyond established norms with their unique insights and contribution of new forms.

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So, do it anyway! Keep on writing or composing or applying for and redefining that job you really want. Claim your dreams and go for them with absolute faith that your process bears fruit even just in the doing! Then when you are really ready—on all levels, outwardly and inwardly—the obstacles will dissolve, and you may find your Gatekeepers will turn out to have been among your greatest of Archetypal Allies, after all!

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I welcome your Comments and Stories!

Your Gatekeepers as Threshold Guardians

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In the social sciences the concept of gatekeepers is well known; gatekeepers are people who by virtue of their position in an institutional setting may either admit or deny entry for someone to a higher status or to the means of obtaining a desired goal. A gatekeeper can let someone in or close them out, depending on the gatekeeper’s prerogative.

My best friend in high school, Barbara, for example, was by far the best artist in her class. As a painter, she could create realism as well as more modern forms of art such as cubism equally well, and the deep thought and brilliant creativity she applied to her art was nothing short of genius.

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However, when Barb went for her standard Guidance Counselor visit that we all underwent in the 11th grade, the counselor told her in no uncertain terms:

“You are not college material.”

On what grounds this Gatekeeper turned my friend away from even seeking a college career, who knows? I do know that Barbara was not only a talented artist but she was also—still is—a deeply philosophical and intelligent person. Perhaps Barb might have gone on to become an Art Professor or to have written philosophically about the creative process, had she been deemed “college material.”  But Barb accepted the rebuttal of the Threshold Guardian; she turned away and did not attend college.

Barbara moved to Alaska for several years after high school, where she waitressed, worked in a crab cannery (I joined her there for one summer in Yakutat), and she continued with her art. When she returned to Niagara Falls, New York, Barbara worked at and apprenticed for a wax figure artist at the famous Madame Tussaud’s wax museum; when the stateside Mme.Tussaud’s museum folded, many of the clients were directed to Barbara, so that after awhile she was doing wax figures to fill whole museums around the states and, once, in Ireland. Later on Barb developed a small business selling wax dolls in period clothing, molded after two of her own children’s forms. Barb became well known as a wax figure artist, but she never chose to become famous. She remained humble with her talent and eventually took a job as a customs broker, working on her artwork privately. Once while I was an undergraduate in Buffalo, Barb took a one semester college course at my university. She aced it, of course, but she said she was glad she had not gone in that direction; it was too sterile and theoretical for her artistic sensibilities.

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So, was the Gatekeeper a blessing in disguise in Barbara’s case? Did she hear what she needed to hear in order to follow her destiny, or might she have found her way as well without the guidance counsellor’s rejection? I know that she has never forgotten that brief encounter.

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Let’s shift forward a bit. While in graduate school in Arizona for 14 years, I observed that every student approaching their MA thesis or PhD dissertation project at some point always faced their own Threshold Guardians! Key Advisor-faculty were often the gatekeepers involved. They might challenge the logic or the feasibility or the competence of the student for carrying out their study ambitions.  I myself heard from many would-be gatekeepers when I was desiring to do my dissertation research at Zuni Pueblo. “They will never talk to you; they don’t like White people.” “Why not do something easier, like study language dialects and ethnicity in Phoenix?” “How will you pay for the research?” “What is the value of Anthropology, anyway? (my father).”

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Because of my spiritual grounding and an intrinsically persistent nature, I did not allow these detractors or naysayers’ words to filter into my heart. I knew what I wanted to do, and I persisted relentlessly, ultimately succeeding with my research and having the time of my life in the process. I met several beautiful, lifelong friends at Zuni, and this rite of passage of ethnographic fieldwork opened many other doors and windows far into my future. In this case, then, I saw the threshold guardians as challengers that simply helped me to refine and to clarify my resolve. Yet I witnessed many a grad student through those years who turned away from completing their graduate studies altogether after having been steered away from their goals.

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Gatekeepers and Guardians of a Threshold serve vital functions in relation to your own sense of purpose, inner direction, and goals. Your reaction or response to the gatekeepers is what matters, for it can allow you to weigh how deeply you actually value or are committed to your goals.  Once you know inwardly what you truly are here to DO, no power in the Universe can deter you. Which reminds me of a Hermann Hesse line, from his Siddhartha:

“Nothing can deter Jivatma (Soul) from Its goal.”

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So, set your sails, and Go! Let no one control your Destiny, but Yourself—in tandem with your inner spiritual Guidance and the Strengths of your Archetype Allies!

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I welcome your comments and your stories!