Entries for month: December 2010

Missing Gordon

Gordon LawrenceOur mentor and good friend Gordon Lawrence recently died from a bout with pneumonia that he was ultimately unable to surmount. He was 80 and had a full and rewarding life but I, amongst many, am having a hard time imagining life without him.

Many people know CAPT was founded in the mid-seventies by Isabel Myers, the author of the MBTI® assessment, and Dr. Mary McCaulley, a clinical psychologist at the University of Florida. What they may not know is that Gordon, who was then a Professor at the College of Education, had through prior association with Isabel and Mary already developed a deep interest in type. Early on he recognized the potential for helping teachers become better at their craft through the understanding and use of psychological type in the classroom.
A self-proclaimed ENTP, Gordon loved everything about teaching and learning. He taught at UF for more than 25 years before he “retired,” but honestly, there was no such thing for Gordon.  He wrote 15 books and numerous articles and publications during his lifetime. CAPT had the honor of publishing his bestselling book, People Types and Tiger Stripes, which came out in the 4th edition last year.
Gordon was an integral part of CAPT from the beginning. When we were incorporated in 1975 he became a founding board member. He called himself a “board member for life” and indeed he was – in all of the best ways. As a nonprofit organization, there were many times in the early days when it was unclear if CAPT had the wherewithal to survive.  On more than one occasion Gordon stepped in both financially and spiritually to help the organization carry on. Without Gordon’s steadfast support it is possible that CAPT would not have made it through those nascent years.

I last saw Gordon in November. I drove to his home to talk with him about an educational project we were considering. It was a beautiful fall morning, with the sun coming in through the windows, and I stayed and chatted about this and that for a good hour longer than I had planned. As always, I learned something new from him and as I was pulling out of the driveway my thought was, “This is something I need to do more often.” I felt so refreshed and energized by our conversation. Of course, life is hectic with more things to get done than can realistically be accomplished and I didn’t get to see him again, but I wouldn’t trade that time or that memory of him for the world.
This was a man with many gifts. He was so very bright, curious, engaged, wise, and committed to all those things he considered important. His gifts became our gifts and he will be sorely missed by us all.


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Sometimes type liberates me to do…. nothing….

By the title of this blog, you might imagine I mean that knowing type gives me permission to give myself a vacation. In a way that may be true.  Specifically, what I mean is that knowing type gives me a little bit of psychic “wiggle room” to breathe where I can see a part of my mind engaging in assumptions and judgments about other peoples’ behaviors. Or thinking I know what other peoples’ intentions are based on their behaviors. Or that I know what their behavior means to them.

Here’s what I’m saying.  My type – among other things – influences assumptions I have about what’s good and bad, right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate behavior.  It influences how I interpret others’ behavior.

Once, at a conference, I was on a panel on type and careers. An audience member had a burning question that went something like this, “Well this isn’t a question about careers, but this is really bothering me.  I see SP parents not taking responsibility for their kids. How can I get them to be more responsible?” You see the assumptions hidden in this question, right? By the way, insert anything into this sentence to make it relevant for you, for example: How can I get those _____ types to just do _______ or to see _______ this way? 

My response to the question was something like this, “Well, I don’t know your type preferences or theirs, but maybe what’s going on is that what they see as responsible, you don’t.  Or vice versa.   Maybe you have an idea of the best way to raise kids, you’ve called it being responsible, and you want to know why someone you believe is an SP doesn’t raise kids the way you do.”

This person looked at me, politely paused a second and said, “Yes, but how can I get them to be more responsible?” To which I said, “OK, assume they really are an SP; maybe they see being responsible as having the option to flex with what’s happening. And they believe that’s a good quality for both them and their kids to have. But you see responsible as something different.”  This person’s pause was shorter this time as they asked, “Yes, but how can I get them to behave more responsibly?” They really emphasized the word "responsibly” – probably to help me hear it better.

These days, when I find myself evaluating someone else’s behavior - when a family member, friend  or colleague says or does something that I find offensive, irresponsible, tactless, immature, stupid, uncaring, irrational, or curmudgeonly (the list goes on), I try to remember what I said to that audience member. And sometimes I remember to say it to myself.  Which gives me a little psychic space to hold both my view and theirs – whatever it might be.  To hold my preferred behavior and theirs.  I can pause - just pause. And do nothing.  It’s amazing how much energy I burn contemplating how others should be different, or behave differently, or be different. Wow. 

It’s really rather exhilarating and liberating to realize that I don’t know what other peoples’ behavior means to them. And when I get that, really get that, somehow, it frees me to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because more often than not, nothing needs to be done!