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by Sy OgulnickFebruary 2016

On October 29th I had my operation. It was replacement of my aortic valve with bovine tissue and a triple bypass. The process of healing has been one of ebb and flow. I remember the surgeon telling me it will be like being hit by a ten ton truck. He also said that the operation had a good likelihood of success because I was in exceptional shape for a guy about to be 89 years young. Frankly, without the remarkable care from Lenette and so many others I might not be sharing my thoughts with you. And my thoughts are all about becoming dependent on others and them fulfilling all that could be asked of anyone. Also, my having to become fully dependent on others is one of the more profound experiences I have ever gone through.  What follows is a continuation of my most recent paper 

For most of us, in particular in our culture, it is common to be witness to how people protect themselves. Being totally vulnerable is our initial truth and is the way it is for all newborn. But remaining vulnerable is rare in terms of observed behavior even if at its most fundamental we are all forever vulnerable and in need of each other. For many what we learn from observation and experience is to protect ourselves. This may be natural so being vulnerable, like most or our ways of acting out, is a “learned” response as we grow. And, where we learn to be open, or closed to our feelings and the feelings and needs of others must be from our initial care-givers who are themselves either closed or open to each other.

Being vulnerable and open to one’s own feelings and the feelings and needs of those close to us in no way is meant to imply weakness. In my work experience it became obvious that the truly fine, happier and most productive leaders were and are unafraid to be vulnerable in the eyes of those within their inner circles. They know, not accidentally, that it is their behavior as leader that creates the environment that ultimately shapes the many aspects of living and working together. People are either attracted to this and grow as full participants or go; so choice is always in the head and heart of the individual. 

The experiences I had as a mentor clearly demonstrated how important being open to one self and the other is. When this openness, being vulnerable, did begin to happen change between people was dramatic in particular when behavior and words became one.

My becoming fully vulnerable at the hospital seemed to be so natural; needing others so obvious that I gave myself easily to each of my caregivers. In the process I learned from inside out what I witnessed as a teacher to powerful leaders, but did not witness of myself as a leader. Opening one self, setting aside those protective mannerisms that separate us is not only the right thing to do when necessary, but essential.  
Ignorance kept me from knowing how others saw and knew me. The best I can hope for is that I was perceived by those important to me as respectful and open to each of them. If I was it was because of those that were my teachers who formally and informally influenced me.

Waiting for life experiences like my operation to awaken me to the absolute significance of others to me and to each of us is a terrible error and omission. We each need to know now.                 Sy


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