Preface: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I am pleased to present the third edition of my book. It was my intention from the first printing to revise and rewrite this book. My intention is fulfilled in this edition. I believe that it is a better book for the effort.

Please note that I changed the original subtitle, Five Disciplines of People Who Actually Change. I found this title too academic. My intention is to touch people where they live. Life is both wonderful and difficult. In order for it to be more of the former (wonderful) we need to learn how to grow from the latter (difficult). If circumstance has ever picked up your house – a metaphor for your life – and dropped it in a strange land, this book is for you. The principles in this book are universal and adaptable. Therefore it does not matter what your specific twisters involve – challenges in your role as leader, a harmful addiction, a relational problem, grief over a significant loss, or negative self-esteem – the practices of the Yellow Brick Road are as much for you as they were for Dorothy. In this spirit I have changed the subtitle to How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You its Worst.

Another change from the first two editions comes from the realization that Dorothy’s journey on the Yellow Brick Road is the Hero’s Journey. Whether or not L. Frank Baum knew it, he wrote the classic story of the hero’s journey. I will discuss this in more detail in chapters following. Suffice it to say for now, however, that any of us who willfully (or unwillingly) cross the hero’s threshold to face our greatest weaknesses and meet our most trying challenges with honesty and courage will also follow the journey of the hero.

If you read no other chapter in this book, please read the fourth chapter on Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. It is the centerpiece of this book. In it I present an interpersonal model that I developed over many years, drawing on the brilliant work of two psychoanalytic giants: Karen Horney and Wilfred Bion. Dorothy’s three companions make this model friendly and memorable. It fact it was my use of Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion to illustrate the model that lead me to recognize the many lessons of positive change contained in the Wizard of Oz story.

I would like to acknowledge L. Frank Baum, who over a century ago wrote the children’s story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, that was to become a true American myth. It has inspired many media and intellectual ventures, most notably the beloved 1939 movie adaptation that most of us watched as children on network TV and since have in our DVD collection. The film, The Wizard of Oz, has become an American classic. For over sixty years, people of all ages have enjoyed this cultural gem of a movie.1 It is widely believed that more people have seen the 1939 film of the Wizard of Oz than any other movie in motion picture history.

Baum’s life was a veritable trip in the Land of Oz. He was a dreamer who started and finished more ventures than all but a handful of his peers. To mention only a few, he was an actor, theater owner, newspaperman, storekeeper, businessman, traveling salesman, stamp collector, moviemaker, and even raised and bred exotic chickens. He failed at almost everything he tried, except one. Baum was a consummate storyteller. He loved to tell tales, especially to his four children and to their neighborhood friends.

Baum found his long-awaited success when he wrote his first book, Mother Goose in Prose (1897) and the soon to follow, Father Goose, His Book (1899). But it was his third book, published in 1900, about a young girl named Dorothy, that engraved his name in history.

In many ways Baum’s life paralleled the very story he told of Dorothy. He himself had to face many hardships and frustrations – twisters that brought continual upheaval to his life. No one would ever have heard of Frank Baum had it not been for his wife Mod (his Toto), who was a loyal friend throughout his rough journey and pulled back a few curtains on the many wizards that derailed him. We would not have had his wonderful story of Dorothy were it not for his mother-in-law, Matilda Gage (his very own Glinda), who directed and encouraged him to write down the stories that he told to the local children. Baum eventually found his courage, heart and mind as an author and has blessed us all for it.

A brief word about confidentiality is in order. Much of what I convey comes in part from almost thirty years of working with people in psychotherapy, as an organizational consultant and as an instructor in graduate school. I frequently illustrate my points by using examples derived from these real people and situations. However, I go out of my way to change the names and descriptions of the people to hide any and all identities. I often blend two or three people or situations into one example. Any similarity to someone you may know is not intentional and is coincidental.

I want to thank my beloved wife for being my supportive Toto. Her patience and support has been invaluable. I would like to acknowledge all my clients – both clinical and consulting. I have learned more about psychotherapy, consulting and living from my clients than from any psychology course that I have ever taken. Their courage to go through the growth process – to embark on the hero’s journey: to leave old ways of thinking and face their weaknesses and challenges, is by definition heroic and the very essence of following the Yellow Brick Road.
I would like to thank Robin Cornwall for his encouragement to write the book in the first place. I acknowledge Mike Manning’s major contribution to launching the first two editions. I would like to thank Karen McChrystal for her professional and affable help in getting this third edition of the book to you. And I want to applaud Barbara Kosoff’s brilliant art work, which is now the cover of this book.

I want to acknowledge the contribution of Dr. Alan Hedman. In our current collaboration on a leadership application of my model, he has helped me refine several of the concepts in previous editions and added the Hedman touch to a few paragraphs in this edition.

And for dozens of others who have given me feedback and support through this entire process – you know who you are – I thank you.

I hope that you can benefit from the ideas this book presents. It examines the most basic of our mutual human experiences and frames them in the context of a marvelous story, The Wizard of Oz. It is my intent that it serve you as a guide to finding the way along your Yellow Brick Road.

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