|Outdoors-man, Richard C. North
(right) tackling a bout of river rafting.
On the far left, Harold Moore and
I checked out WebMD when I heard my friend Richard C. North had brain cancer. Basically, the article said that it brought death quickly and that his decline would be rapid and irreversible. It implied he would be worse off
each time I saw him. Sadly, he only lasted about six months and died yesterday at 10:15 p.m. on August 26, 2017. He was 62.
I met Rick when I was in the seventh grade at Placerita Junior High School
. I remember him mainly from the track team. We were both distance runners. In the ninth grade, he ended up beating me at the final championship event - after I had beat him in all the previous races - when he came from behind to pass both me and a seemingly invincible runner, Richard Armour, from another junior high.
We ran cross country and track in our sophomore and junior years at Hart High School
. Rick quit track and cross country during his senior year to work in a gas station near his home. Nevertheless, he ended up more committed to distance running than me, competing in races all the way up until the last year of his life.
|Dr. Richard C. North with his wife,
As I told Rick one of the last times I ever saw him, he was the older brother I never had. He was there when I had my first drink, my first distance bike ride, my first high school party, my first rock concert and kissed my first girl on a ride in Disneyland. My secret life as a teenager was inescapably richer because of his willingness to include me in new things that, at the time, seemed taboo, but nevertheless safe.
I lost track of him after high school. He ended up at California State University Northridge
(CSUN) where he was deeply involved with a fraternity, a group of brothers that stayed active in his life right up until the end. He graduated from CSUN in 1980, took an M.A. from Pepperdine University
in 1985 and then a doctorate in clinical psychology from Cambridge Graduate School of Psychology in 1991.
He was, by all accounts, a strong athlete and adventurer his entire life. According to a mutual friend, James Farely
, Rick was a mountaineer and a marathon runner. Rick climbed Mt. Rainer which has a summit at 14,411 ft., completed the entire 210 mile John Muir trail a section at a time, and ran the Los Angeles and Santa Clarita Valley marathons. He also enjoyed travelling. Over the course of his life, he toured China, India, Israel, Turkey, Thailand, and all over Europe including Spain where he amazingly ran with bulls in Pamplona.
As I recall, Rick was also a leader of the Red Cross' disaster mental health team in the Santa Clarita Valley after the 1994 Northridge earthquake and continued with this service for over 20 years. (I think he would have been thrilled to be flying out to Houston, TX to help people recover psychologically from Hurricane Harvey.)
|Richard C. North with his fraternity brothers
and their wives, from left to right, Patty and
James Farley, Sonia and Richard North,
Mary and Harold Moore.
Rick was always in my life - one way or the other. He went out of his way to be my friend and to involve me in his activities including rock-climbing, cross country skiing, listening to Breakfast with the Beatles, or shopping for beer at Trader Joes. He could be irritable and occasionally stubborn and pedantic. Nevertheless, he was kind and quick to mend fences.
Professionally, he worked as a psychologist. This was ironic since he once told me he went into psychology without ever having been in therapy himself. Even so, some of my favorite moments with him were spent talking about the research he was doing for this doctoral dissertation or his observations regarding some of his most difficult and unusual patients. He was the first to introduce me to more sophisticated personality profiles which indicated whether the person was a healthy or unhealthy version of their profile.
I saw the impact of his therapeutic techniques myself after I climbed Mt. Shasta
with him in 1990. As I recall, I made it up to 7,000 feet where the oxygen drops to about 10% of normal. Each step left me exhausted and winded and I ended up at Avalanche Gulch
. The slope that day was icy and I was only on my second day with crampons and an ice ax. After what I now know was a panic attack, I was so afraid of slipping and falling down the slope that I felt paralyzed with fear. Rick told me to imagine that I was walking down the mountain into soft, warm sand. Even years later, I am grateful that I took his suggestion and that it worked well enough that I made it safely down the mountain. On that same trip, Rick made it all the way to the summit at 14,179 feet. At that altitude the oxygen is only 25% of what it would be at sea level.
After I got sober in 1993, the distance between us increased. The mountain climbing and hiking through the ice and snow got to be too expensive, time-consuming and unpredictably dangerous.
|Richard C. North cross
near Frazier Park.
After I met my wife, Trish, I moved to Orange County and Rick and I saw each other seldom. Nevertheless, we stayed in touch through Christmas cards, lunches, e-mail. He was not so interested in Facebook or Twitter or politics. At a distance, I watched his son Stephen grow up. (Rick was the scoutmaster of of Stephen's troop 602.) I was proud of Rick when he and his wife Sonia bought a beautiful new home in Valencia right near CalArts. This is where we would run as teenagers and, in one instance, apologize to an angry driver for inexplicably tossing small stones at cars and trucks.
I would never have predicted that he would predecease me. The information in WebMD was correct. He was worse each time I saw him. The first time I held his hand and told him I loved him. The second time, he seemed cheerful, but quiet. The third time we were at dinner with his fraternity friends and he did not remember that we had arrived in the same SUV. The next two times I saw him were at Kaiser Hospital
in Panorama City where I could not communicate with him. The first time he was asleep and the second time he was completely unconscious.
I have only a small handful of old friends in my life. He is the first to die and I will miss him greatly. Richard C. North is survived by his wife Sonia and his son Stephen. He is also survived by his mother Diane and father Carl North and his brother Don North.John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.
Ultimately, there is no secret to picking up a new skill. As Malcolm Gladwell
has written, if you invest about 10,000 hours in practicing it you will get to be world class at it. I certainly found that was true of my foray into the field of oil painting. It took me about 2,000 hours of practice - over the last 10 years - until I started hearing that folks were interested in buying and displaying my paintings. In the field of grant writing, however, most of us cannot afford to invest 10,000 hours in learning this craft. Typically, we have a grant due in the next week and we need to get it done to keep our jobs or our charity afloat.
I was in a similar situation back in 1996 when I took a job at an anti-child abuse agency called Family Solutions in Santa Ana, CA. I took my second grant writing class from Carol Gueisbauer at the Volunteer Center of Orange County. When I took her class, I followed one of the tricks I learned as a graduate student at Cornell University. I followed her directions exactly, even the directions that seemed silly and pointless. I did not argue or quarrel with her philosophy or methods, I gave her the benefit of a doubt and followed them exactly. Eventually, I taught along side her at a seminar at University of California - Irvine and by then I had evolved my own unique approach, my Lightning Fast method. But I never forgot how much I learned from her by doing everything she said including going after local foundations first. I had ended up making $100,000+ for my employer by following her techniques.
In addition to compliance with a noted authority, I also found it extremely useful to obtain and review copies of successful winning grants. In this regard, I remember being startled at the extent to which the winning grants in my possession made extensive use of charts. This is a technique that I still use today with great impact. I don't think I would have figured that trick out or employed it so effectively early on in my career if I had not gone out of my way to check out winning grant proposals from similar agencies.
Another one of my secrets of success was simply to dive in and start writing grants. In the process, I picked up many of the skills that still work for me today and that I enjoy teaching others, including my never rewriting a draft the same day I write it, infusing my writing with a sense up urgency and economy, and being careful to answer each element of the funder's questions. To be sure, I cannot share everything I know about training new grant writers in this space, but I think I have given you the most important basics as they work for me:
- Identify a great teacher.
- Rely on multiple sources of information.
- Pay attention and follow the resource's instructions even if they strike you as silly.
- Take action and make as many attempts as you can quickly to build your skill level.
Finally, please do not hesitate to call me or e-mail me if you are stuck. I enjoy helping out anyone with an interest in grant writing. You are never alone in this business.
I was so cynical as a young man that I doubt I would have recognized a great teacher at all. For the most part, I thought the folks who taught me in elementary school and high school were losers because they were not college professors. Later, I discounted my college professors because they were not highly published research university professors. Even as a graduate student, I despised my graduate school professors for being unsupportive, distant and unhelpful. Nevertheless, I concede did stumble across great teachers and I found that the really great ones had a manner of teaching which made everything easy, unintimidating and clear. They remain in my mind the greatest teachers in my life because they showed me the techniques which made my chores easier to accomplish. I try to honor them in my own teaching whenever I get an opportunity.
|When a Physics Teacher Knows His Stuff
Accordingly, if I'm looking for a great teacher, then one of my first requirements is that I need to be able to understand what they are talking about. I have reached a point in my life where if I find I do not understand something, I no longer blame myself. I blame the lousy teacher.
. . . anyone who reads deconstructive texts with an open mind is likely to be struck by the same phenomena that initially surprised me: the low level of philosophical argumentation, the deliberate obscurantism of the prose, the wildly exaggerated claims, and the constant striving to give the appearance of profundity, by making claims that seem paradoxical, but under analysis often turn out to be silly or trivial.
I have also found it useful to seek teachers who have succeeded in the fields where I want to see some success myself. To be sure, a track-record of extraordinary success does not necessarily make someone a great teacher since teaching is an entirely different skill set. Nevertheless, if I want to learn about grant writing, I'm not going to study under someone who has not won many grants or someone who has stopped writing them all together to focus instead on teaching. I need someone who is still active in the profession, who is also aware of the current trends and other significant contemporary issues in the field.
Unfortunately, you may not have access to a great teacher in your community. Accordingly, I think the next best thing is to create your own best possible teacher. You can do this by buying at least three books on the topic of grant writing and then reading all of them in order. The trick is to look for the common themes which appear in each book. For example, if all three books say it is important to follow the funder's directions, then you can be confident that this is a major point to reflect on and remember. If a key idea appears in only one of these volumes, you may be well advised to write it off as an individual idiosyncrasy for now.
Along these lines, I prefer to have a teacher who has produced a book or a workbook. Although I get a lot of good information from listening and taking notes from an expert in the field, ultimately I have found that I learn best if I have something to read. I need to be able to study an idea, review it, and reread it later when I'm in a bind. I just cannot do that with a typical classroom lecture. I have also found that I need to keep that book around for a while as a reference tool. Too often I have found that my memory of what was written, particularly the step-by-step procedures they recommended does not stay locked in my memory banks. I need to go back to the source and refresh my memory to really grasp what I need to do. So, I've found it pays to work with an instructor who also has written materials to distribute to the class.