I was heading home to teach in a 4th/5th grade “looped” classroom at Holly Avenue Elementary School in Arcadia, California in August 1997. Almost a year earlier during the summer of 1996, my husband Richard and I had taken a vacation to visit his mother in Salem, Oregon and decided to take the coast route home. About 10 miles north of the California border, we crossed the Chetco River just south of the beautiful little town of Brookings, Oregon. I looked out at the little harbor, saw the off ramp, and said, “Turn here!” He did . . . and within two years we had both taken early retirements and were “living in Paradise” – as Richard says!
Our decision to make such a radical life change was not made overnight. Or perhaps it was. Perhaps it was made the next year in July 1997 when we returned to Brookings, “just to look around.” The real estate market was healthy at that time and we knew we could sell our home in San Gabriel and buy a place on the ocean in Brookings that we could never afford in California, so we were just exploring our options. Or so we thought.
Fate stepped in while we were relaxing in our RV at Sportshaven Beach. Richard received a call that his assistant at Univision in Los Angeles had suffered a heart attack and he had to fly home immediately. That left me alone in Brookings with a car – and a mortorhome that I could not drive. That also brings me back to why I was driving home alone to prepare to teach my class of 10-year-olds in August 1997.
I love to drive long distances – especially if I can listen to a good book-on-tape. As I came through Ashland, Oregon on my way to Interstate 5, I stopped at a corner bookstore to see what they might have. Two tapes seemed to jump off the shelf. I bought them both and headed south.
The first one, by Daniel Goleman, was a book I had been hearing a lot about as we worked on Holly’s California Distinguished School Award and were beginning to think about applying to become a National Blue Ribbon School. Even the title of the book, Emotional Intelligence: Why EQ Is More Important than IQ, made a lot of sense to me – and I knew that the reason our school was so successful was that the entire staff already applied the principles of emotional intelligence to their work with kids.
The second tape, however, took me by surprise. The word synchronicity was fairly new to me but I had recently learned that it was coined by Carl Jung to account for the “timely coincidences” that have a great deal of meaning in our lives. So when I saw the tape titled Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, I didn’t hesitate. I never even noticed that it was about “leadership” until I was over a hundred miles away – driving south on the 5.
Somewhere around Harris Ranch, Joseph Jaworski concluded his story about being the son of the special prosecutor for Watergate and his rise to the top of the legal profession - only to run his life into a brick wall. The result of a series of synchronicities was the formation of The American Leadership Forum, an organization based on 21st century, emotionally-intelligent leadership principles – including the awareness of synchronicity.
I drove in silence for many miles . . . with both tapes replaying in my head . . . and considering the difference they would make in my teaching when I started in September. I had never thought of myself as a “leader” - and would never have bought a book on Leadership at that time in my life. Now, however, I was beginning to think of myself as a “leader of potential leaders” . . . and I became very excited. I started wondering when my students might become “leaders” in their lives . . . and I began doing a little simple math. They were about 10 years old in 1997. They would turn 20 in 2007 – a year that sounded very strange to me that day. Then I thought that people in their twenties are still learning about themselves and who they are as individuals. “Leadership” comes later – if it comes at all.
I realized that if emotional intelligence is the key to successful living – then it is certainly the key to successful leadership. I also realized that “leadership” is more than simply rising to the top in a given profession. It means applying leadership skills in families and communities as well as in business and government. We are all leaders – and good leaders need to know how to be good followers as well.
As I began to sort out some of these thoughts, I realized that my students would turn 30 in the year 2017 . . . and the phrase “Leadership 2020: Educating America’s Future Leaders” seemed to come at me from nowhere. I loved the idea that the thought of the year 2020 brought to mind 20/20 vision – because from writing the National Blue Ribbon Honor School Award I knew that a clearly articulated Vision and Mission is key to the success of any organization.
I spent the rest of the trip “writing” (in my imagination) a proposal to give to my principal when I got home. It was an 11-page plan for a student leadership program based on creating opportunities for all the students at Holly, kindergarten through 5th grade, to perceive themselves as leaders and to practice the principles of Emotional Intelligence.
That was how Leadership 2020 began . . . but the rest of the story though probably more interesting, is far too long to tell here. After I overwhelmed Bill Robertson, my principal at Holly, with my “11-page plan” . . . he gently suggested that since 1997-98 was Holly’s year for Site Review - and since we had decided to apply for the Blue Ribbon - perhaps “Leadership 2020” should simmer on the back burner for awhile.
Although I was a bit disappointed at first, it didn’t take me long to see the wisdom in his counsel. I tend to take on far too many projects at once and Bill, being one of the best educational leaders I have ever worked with, knew the importance of prioritizing – and helped me learn that skill.
However, once a seed is planted, if the conditions are right (and they most certainly were at Holly Ave. Elementary school during the 1997-1998 school year) something unseen steps in and takes over. And that is exactly what happened. Beginning immediately, a series of synchronicities began to present themselves that neither my husband nor I could ignore . . .and by June 1998, much to everyone’s shock – including our own – we were retired and on our way to our beautiful condo at “The Cove” in Brookings, Oregon.
Synchronicity and Emotional Intelligence continue to be the driving principles for Leadership 2020. As I continue to practice these principles in my own life, I still wake up every morning excited about how Leadership 2020 is unfolding . The children in my class in 1998 are now beginning their second decade of life. Society has changed in the past 10 years and those young adults – the ones I call “Generation Next” are helping me as I continue to write “Bette’s Story”!
Bette Moore Resume'