“The true measure of a man is who he selects
as his teachers.” (Unknown)
Ted Shaw is a risk
taker and trailblazer, cutting the path that the rest of us follow. He never fears
being out on the edge and shocking others with the truth. I believe that is the
method to his madness, though … he grabs your attention with the truth and then
backs it up with reason and empirical data.
Theodore Alan Shaw
July 20, 1945 - May 6, 2012
I first met Ted in
1999. Unbeknownst to him (although he knew it all along), I had been hired to
be his replacement. I walked in the room and here sat this funny little man
with a pony tail, an earring, and a gravelly voice that I later learned was the
result of his first bout with cancer. There I stood in stark contrast in my
blue pinstriped suit, red power tie, and the obligatory IBM hiarcut. My new employer
warned me Ted loved to talk and promised she would hurry him along so as to not
waste my time. Funny thing though, it was too late … I was enthralled by the simple
wisdoms he shared. Ted instantly pegged me as being in the wrong place … too
uptight, controlling, and detail oriented to be a Clinical Director at a
juvenile sexual offender treatment facility and sought to guide me in the
correct direction. Little did he know, I had him pegged as too diffuse and
lacking in precison with not enough attention to detail … the friendship had
As I begin to write
about Ted’s accomplishments, I can hear his voice in the background, “Aww, why
do we have to give everybody a plaque for just doing what they are supposed to
do?” But that is Ted, it is never about doing something for recognition, for
money, or the glory, but doing it just because it is the right thing to do.
I imagine Ted does not want accolades for his personal accomplishments, but would rather revel in the accomplishments of his students. Ted connects with people in a way that no one else can. It’s hard to describe really but, by simply being open and painfully honest himself, you suddenly find yourself disclosing your inner most secrets. It’s OK though, because Ted always has a way of making you feel safe. He always knows the right thing to say to keep you focused and on track and to help you maximize your potential. Ted teaches me many things about psychology, about sex offenders, about business … but what he really teaches me is more priceless.
It was a clear day, a light breeze was blowing, and we were anchored off Pelican Rock for an afternoon of snorkeling. Ted went first and I stayed behind as usual to fiddle with something that was just not quite right on the boat. I finally entered the water and saw him struggling. As I approached, he told me he was having trouble breathing and asked me to tow him back. I left him on the boat and went out to enjoy the remainder of the afternoon. When I returned, I joined him in taking delight in the picture perfect day. About that time, a brown pelican came flapping down, landing just behind us on the motor. Ted stared at the pelican for a while and said, “You know, I thought I was going to drown out there.” I turned to look at him in some surprise. He continued, “…but I was ready, I’ve lived a good life, my kids will be taken care of, and I have done everything I wanted to do.”
We talked some that day about business, sailboats, treatment methods, shooting guns, assessment, and racing cars – all the things Ted loved to do and that made his life. But, we talked mostly about the benefits of the Hawaiian shirt versus the blue pinstripe suit. The brown pelican, having enough of our rambling conversation, took flight to more fertile foraging grounds. Ted watched the pelican skim the surface of the water heading off to the horizon and commented, “If I ever come back, I want to come back as a pelican.” “Why,” I asked? “Because they are soooo cooool!” … and that is simply Ted. He taught me many things that day in our conversations, but mostly taught me the kind of person I wanted to be... the person who was ready when his time came.
Not much more was spoken of that day, but it was clear that even though Ted was ready, the world was not. This cool cat truly had nine lives, for he had far more teaching to do. Yes, Ted IS because Ted’s wisdom lives on in those of us who were privileged enough to be his students and those who will be our students. So, if you find yourself on a boat or on the beach someday and a brown pelican happens by, give him nod, a bit of conversation, or a scrap of food… for it just might be my good friend, Ted.
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