Sylvia Lafair – Your Invisible Mentor
How adventurous are you? Do you take time to have some serious fun? In Part Two of Sylvia Lafair’s interview, the theme of adventure continues. Her favourite quote is by Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing… Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure” because it moves her. And her response to, “What excites you about life?” is, “The adventure of the not knowing.” How would your life improve, if you lived your life like an adventure? Sylvia isn’t just about having an adventure so read on…
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Sylvia Lafair: I am a searcher and an adventurer, and have a PhD to prove that I search academically in clinical psychology. I became a family therapist who then morphed into an executive coach and conflict management expert in the business world. I’m married and have two grown daughters and a couple of grand kids. Life is good.
Avil Beckford: How do you integrate your personal and professional life?
Sylvia Lafair: I’m in a lucky place with integrating my personal and professional life. My husband’s first wife died from breast cancer. He began a search as to why he wasn’t able to help her heal, and it took him on a journey to look at health, wellbeing and relationships. When we met, he was in an interim place in his life, and I had gotten divorced and wasn’t ever going to do family therapy again because I couldn’t keep my family together. We found each other, and one of the things he said to me was, “You have such talent in what you’re doing, can’t you just redesign it? And so we began to work together, so integrating my life has been easy for me. We travel the world together, and we always make sure to take extra days before or after, to explore new territory and do exciting and interesting things. We share his kids and my kids together, and that works well. I am living what I believe, and that’s a joy for me.
Avil Beckford: What’s a major regret that you’ve had in life?
Sylvia Lafair: It’s not having the skill to understand relationships earlier.
Avil Beckford: What are five life lessons that you have learned so far?
- One really big one, and I think it’s coming around to all of us now, is that everything is connected and no one wins unless we all do, and that has become so core as I look at everything. I think that’s a critical lesson that we are all learning, especially as we are watching this beautiful planet going through such a difficult time.
- I can do with very little, even though I enjoy lovely places, my beauty can come from sitting among the trees in nature. I’ve learned that I don’t need what I thought I used to need for life.
- There is an incredible value in the workplace to create a culture of collaboration, that we can’t do it alone, that there is a lot of fun in working together. I have an incredible staff that I enjoy working with.
- The hardest pattern to work with is the splitter, and that is someone who will talk out of both sides of their mouth. We had a splitter working with us, and as smart as I think I am, it was hard to detect, and in fact I teach that the splitter is the hardest one to detect in the workplace. I have a better way of looking at it now, because some people will never change. And, the workplace is not a rehab facility, and we really have to do our best. I think one of the things I used to do at work was to think that no matter what a person’s problems were, I could help resolve them. I was like the therapist in the workplace, and I have learned over time that that it is not so, work is not a rehab facility and you have to “un-hire” people if it’s not the right fit.
Avil Beckford: When you have some down time, how do you spend it?
Sylvia Lafair: I take walks. I love to take walks in nature. We live in some beautiful places, the country place in the mountains in Pennsylvania, and our home in New Mexico. I can take long three to five mile walks and just appreciate the sun and the sky, and even the rain drops if they happen to show up while I’m walking.
Avil Beckford: What process do you use to generate great ideas?
Sylvia Lafair: I like to read books and I love to watch films. I will watch a film and all of a sudden something will come to me that I’d never thought of in that way before. If I am feeling stuck and stale in my thinking, I will get a magazine that it as opposite to who I am and my personality, and I’ll spend time with it. I’m not a motorcycle person but I’ll get motorcycle magazines, and I’m not particularly into the stock market but I’ll do some reading about that so it sort of juggles my brain a little bit, then all of a sudden I get that aha moment. So it’s really doing something that’s really different than I normally would do.
Avil Beckford: What’s your favourite quotation and why?
Sylvia Lafair: My favourite quote is “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing… Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure” by Helen Keller. This quote moves me.
Avil Beckford: How do you define success?
Sylvia Lafair: Success is continuous learning to live with an open heart.
Avil Beckford: In your opinion what’s the formula for success?
Sylvia Lafair: The formula for success is to know that we’re in it together, all of us, that everybody have come from somewhere and have their own stories, that if we listen and really appreciate each other, we can learn so much. We are here to help each other grow to the next level
Avil Beckford: What are the steps you took to succeed in your field?
Sylvia Lafair: Initially I got a PhD in Psychology and studied with some of the most amazing people, and then as I made the transition into the workplace, I found mentors who were really thinking differently. Willis Harman who was the President of the Institute of Noetic Science in Sausalito, California was really instrumental. He told me to take my talents into the workplace. He wrote some beautiful books, and I would call him up every so often and say I don’t know about this and he would say keep going. That was really important to me.
Avil Beckford: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in your field?
Sylvia Lafair: The field for me is consulting in the workplace, and the best advice I have is to take some classes in leadership psychology. It seems to be a new field that’s finding its place, study neural psychology because they give us the clues on why we have our buttons pushed, and also study about family relationships because what we do whether we want to or not, is bring the patterns from the original organization, the family, into the workplace, and they play out. Those of us who are working in this area who can begin to see that, can help people make very quick changes. Within three to six months you’ll see major changes in people, in teams and in organizations
Avil Beckford: If trusted friends could introduce you to five people that you’ve always wanted to meet, who would you choose? And what would you say to them?
- I would like to sit at the feet of Mahatma Gandhi and say, “What was it like for you to stay true to yourself?”
- I would like to sit at a dinner table with Steven Spielberg. I find the work he has done and the quality of his work important and powerful.
- I’d like to sit with Thomas Jefferson and ask him about life during those times and how he was able to pull together what was going on his personal life and what was going on in this country, and how he saw the things that were happening in his life.
- I would love to have been able to sit with Eleanor Roosevelt and find out what it was like for her, even though I have read the books and I understand, I would like another version of what it was like for her to be in a marriage that was so complex to a man who was so complex, and to be one of the first women’s libber before the term ever came to be. She stood for women to be able to stand on their own two feet and make a difference.
- Another one would be Abraham Lincoln after I read Team of Rivals, and looking at the research that was there, the more I’d like to sit with him and talk about how he worked with the sadness that was in his life and that he saw around himself.
Avil Beckford: Which one book had a profound impact on your life? What was it about this book that impacted you so deeply?
Sylvia Lafair: I read a book that I loved called Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. The author is very unique, and I love language, and when words are put together in a sentence. The story takes place in New Orleans, but the essence is a tale about how things are connected, and how we are so much bigger and vital than the small beings we have been led to believe that we are, and that we are connected to a deeper source where magic can happen.
Avil Beckford: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are five books that you would like to have with you and why? Summarize the book in two sentences.
- One of the key books that I’d like to have is Jitterbug Perfume because it’s a book I can read over and over.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
- An Anthology of Shakespeare’s work (World of Shakespeare: The Complete Plays and Sonnets of William Shakespeare (38 Volume Library)). Shakespeare touches the core of what relationships and human essence is really about.
- I would like to have the Bible and it really would be for me, something that I’ve never delved into in the depth of understanding the cultural, language and relationship part of it.
- I’d like to have Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. It’s a big, thick book and the author did an amazing job. I must admit that I speed read the book.
- I would like to add Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology by Gregory Bateson.
Avil Beckford: What one music CD and movie would you like to have with you (on the deserted island) and why?
Sylvia Lafair: The music is from an interesting album that is called War Child by Pavarotti and Friends, and it was produced to raise money for the children who grew up living in war torn places, which sadly never seems to go away. In this he sings with Lionel Ritchie, and some of the best people on the planet singing all kinds of different songs. The song I love the most is called the “Magic of Love,” and is about the power of love in spite of whatever is happening in the world. It’s not huggy, kissy, cutesy love, it’s about the depth of agave love.
If you cannot view this YouTube video of “Magic of Love” click here
Sylvia Lafair: The movie is from a play on Broadway called Into the Woods by Steven Sondheim. It’s a story about fairy tales that you are familiar with, and how they all weave together, and it’s got a Shakespearian flavor to it, in terms of showing connections and how our lives will play out in spite of ourselves, and what happens when we learn to handle conflict and chaos with dignity.
Latest Trailer for Into the Woods
Avil Beckford: What excites you about life?
Sylvia Lafair: The adventure, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, and I just love the “I never thought of it that way before.” I love meeting people, and I love being in places when I can turn around and say, and who are you? It could be anyone, taxi cab driver, the person I’m sitting next to at dinner. It’s the adventure of the not knowing.
Avil Beckford: How do you nurture your soul?
Sylvia Lafair: I meditate and love to listen to beautiful meditation music. I will sit down and read some of the things Thicht Nhat Hahn (Vietnamese, Buddhist monk) writes. I find beautiful books to read or get a book of beautiful pictures. I sit and fill myself with beauty.
Avil Beckford: If you had a personal genie and she gave you one wish, what would you wish for? Or, if I gave you a magic wand, what would you use it for?
Sylvia Lafair: I feel like I’m giving you the Miss America answer but it would be world peace. My wish is that we as a species begin to understand how the patterns of the past have locked us into behaviors that are no longer sustainable on this planet, and begin to see us helping each other more effectively with everything we need to do in terms of health and wellbeing.
Avil Beckford: Complete the following, I am happy when…..
Sylvia Lafair: I’m with people who want to make a difference.
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Video Credit: Latest Trailer for Into the Woods Uploaded by digitaltheatre on Mar 24, 2011, YouTube video of “Magic of Love” Uploaded by space2lovebird on Jul 29, 2009
Wisdom Wednesdays: Eleanor Roosevelt, American First Lady, International Diplomat, Writer and Philanthropist
Wisdom Wednesdays: Helen Keller – American Activist for the Visually and Hearing Impaired
Wisdom of Life: Abraham Lincoln, 16th President, Led America through the Civil War