Since 1977, I have been sending out a newsletter called LEARNINGS. Here is how I began the first issue: 

This newsletter—LEARNINGS—is my way of sharing with you what I am learning. Often I learn something with one client that would have been useful with another client the day before. In order to bridge that gap of time and also to bridge the gap of space that separates me from clients and other friends outside Cleveland, I will share my learnings with you regularly in this newsletter. 

That statement feels amazingly accurate more than 35 years later. The only real change is that I moved from Cleveland to London and then on to the Crook of Devon in Scotland. 

In the earlier newsletters, I shared one or two learnings each time. Then I read a wonderful book by Michael Phillips called The Seven Laws of Money. He describes the Taoist approach to creating Seven Laws about anything.

I like that approach except that instead of announcing Laws, I prefer to share Learnings. I’ve now discovered Seven Learnings about all sorts of things, including Journaling, Love, Retreat, and Diversity. The latest Learnings starts here; the rest are in the Learnings Archive. 


LEARNINGS Number 6: Winter 1980


LEARNING — Even I can get organised when I ask for some help. 

Several things are getting me more organized lately. One is my support team. This is so important that I have written about it separately on the other side of this newsletter. 

Another thing is that I have begun paying for expert help. Diane Damicone is transcribing my dictation so that you will actually get letters back quickly. Adrienne Koppenhaver is preparing mailing labels and setting type, Lisa Schwartz is stuffing and stamping envelopes, and Bob Mauser is printing everything – all so that you can get this newsletter. And Judy Fisher is organizing my files, my desks, my office, and my schedule (despite tremendous resistance from me) so that all this actually gets done. 


Our winter writing workshop is just two weeks away and is filling up fast. If you are interested in a long winter weekend of writing, eating marvellous food, sitting by one of four fireplaces, cross-country skiing out the front door, hiking out the side door, talking about writing, and writing some more – then join us. 

George and I had a marvellous time with last year’s group (in fact some of them are signing up again this year) and we also ran a workshop in California last October. Two novels are emerging from that one and we expect all kinds of writing – business, technical, academic, personal, and creative – to emerge from this one. 

If you are interested, please call me immediately. We have a delayed payment plan if that makes a difference to you. 


LEARNING: Intensive interview preparation helps clients both now and in the future. 

Since clients come to me at varying stages of their job hunt they do not always have time to complete the life and career planning process before going to a job interview. In such cases, including four this month, I do very intensive work with the client to prepare for the interview.

I ask the client to create two pictorial images – one of the ideal job and one of this job – including information on skills, values, geography, special knowledges, working conditions, people, level of responsibility, and salary. 

This provides the client with two kinds of information. In the short term, the client can decide if the job is at all appropriate and, if so, if there are questions the client needs to get answered about the job before accepting it. In the longer terms, this work reveals to the client the gaps in information needed to complete the full image of the ideal job. This usually motivates the client to complete the full process. 


LEARNING: Beside every effective dreamer stands some-one who also believes that dream. 

Two years ago, I mentioned that I wanted a piano someday. My sister Fran took my dream seriously and gave me a Christmas check to start a savings account. I now have a piano. That was an effective dream. 

When people ask what I do, I sometimes say that I teach writing, consult with people on life and career planning, and run human relations workshops. But what I really do is listen to dreams – and take them seriously. 

Last year a client told me that his dream was to tour with a jazz band. I took him seriously. He is now touring with a nationally known band. 

Last year a client told me that her dream was to lead an arts organization. I took her seriously. She is now executive director of an arts organization. 

Five years ago I told myself that my dream was to empower people to take responsibility for their own future and thus affect the future of the world. I still take that dream very seriously. 


LEARNING: I can do more – and do it more easily – when I involve my friends. 

Another good book has emerged in the field of life designing. Wishcraft by Barbara Sher with Annie Gottlieb (Viking) not only gives us ways to figure out what we want to do, but also gives us ways to make that happen. As Dick Bolles has been saying for years, it is the HOW that makes a difference in this process. 

I have seen more and more clearly over the past few years that one of the most crucial parts of HOW is having support. I have led workshops on support groups and some of the support groups formed at the workshops have continued to meet ever since. 

My own support system has relied on the telephone, since Russ Bruch and George Simons are in California, Herb Shepard is in Connecticut, and I am on the road so much I can’t even see my colleagues in Cleveland. But Barbara Sher has an amazingly simple idea: the two-person support team. Marianne Erdelyi and I have been meeting weekly (sometimes by phone) for several months. We follow Sher’s outline and take half an hour each to share the past week’s successes and frustrations before laying out our plan for achieving next week’s goals. The other person offers ideas, alternatives, support – and just plain listens. I highly recommend both the book and idea of getting someone to believe in your dreams with you.