Learning from Mistakes

Dr. Lewis Lipsitt, the developmental psychologist who has had the most impact on my work, passed away this past week.

I wanted to share with you a tribute I had written late last year.

I’m glad that I was offered a chance to write this tribute while he was alive. Otherwise, I would have repeated the mistake I had made more than a decade ago with another person who has had a deep impact on me, Dr. Randy Pausch.


When I think of Lew,
the first thing that happens
is that I feel.

I feel…
presence.

The kind of presence
that makes me feel
as if I’ve entered
a bubble.

A bubble of safety,
security,
and stability.

Even with other people around,
this bubble makes me feel
as if the only participants present
are Lew
and I.

Actually,
that’s not quite right.

There is one more participant.

I shall call the participant …
warmth.

Lew exudes warmth
through the way he carries himself,
the way he speaks,
the way he locks eyes with you,
not to mention
his tone of voice.

Perhaps
it is that warmth,
which occupies the space
between
and around the two of us,
that creates
the bubble
of safety,
security,
and stability.

The second thing that happens
is that I feel humbled.

Humbled…
by a profound remark he shared with me
on what it means
to mature.

That we mature
when what we once assumed to know
takes on more complexity and nuance,
thus changing in meaning.

Just as we can read the same novel
at different stages of our lives
only to draw out new
and different meaning.

Just as we can be with the same parents
at different stages of our lives
only to form new
and different meaning
in the relationship.

Just as most issues critical to our lives—
issues we think we know—
simply gets more complex and nuanced
as we live our lives.

Looking back,
warmth on one hand
humility on the other,
I cannot help but remember
that it was a random act of kindness,
that Lew accepted my invitation
for an interview.

An act,
which I received
as a profound form
of support.

An act,
that leaves marks
10 years
from its first impression.

An act,
that not only inspires my gratitude,
but also a strong will
and desire
to reciprocate the same act
of kindness
with my own random encounters.

Thank you, Lew,
for being a model
and a voice
ever-present in my heart
and mind.

It is with your presence
that I am richer
in heart,
mind,
and spirit.

Thank you
and I love you.

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