Category: Happiness

Frustrated Tomorrow

frustrated-tomorrow

Frustration can be depleting.  It can be distracting. It can catalyze an energy shift from joyful to uneasy in the blink of an eye.

Running into frustration can zap you.  It can take you off guard and it can inundate potentially peaceful moments of your one, relatively short life with tension.  It can take you by surprise and spin you around.

Also, frustration can be extremely easy to come by in the busy, fast-paced world in which we live.

I understand that we are each unique. However, I would venture a guess that everyone experiences some frustration in one form or another.

I would further speculate that most of us experience at least a bit of that frustration over situations that, if scrutinized for balanced responses and significance, wouldn’t actually call for it (the frustration, that is).

Finally, while I suppose there is an argument to be made for frustration as a motivator, I would suggest that any number of alternate, upbeat, and progressive routes might be increasingly positive & holistically more productive than the frustrated one.

In that I don’t prefer the troublesome nature of frustration to joyful calm I’ve focused some relatively significant reflective energy on seeking one of those alternate routes for moments where frustration presents as a viable mindset.

After only forty-two short years of soul searching I think I may have found a decent strategy for energy shifting, reframing, and regulation toward the calm focus of which I speak when those moments arise.

I’m calling it, “Frustrated Tomorrow.”

Turns out, it’s not new and it’s not rocket science.  Not nearly.

It’s simply about having and exercising the desire, the will, and the connected commitment to joyful, present, and thoughtful living to counter-infect your mind with contented serenity as an antidote to any frustration that would seek to strip from you the same.

It seems to work too.  At least for me.  And at least so far.

I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks and the impact is already visible.

For example, I realized not too long ago that I had recently lost the will to engaged in car karaoke. A practice I’ve been enjoying for decades.

After enlisting the support of “Frustrated Tomorrow” I’ve found myself once again singing along with my favorite eighties superstars at the top of my lungs; Journey, Aerosmith, and even Bette Midler in a moment of pure abandonment (“The Rose” – I couldn’t help it).

Freed from the minutia of unfettered frustration by way of “Frustrated Tomorrow” I’m finding myself more frequently accessing the reflective, creative, and jubilant parts of what makes life fun for me.

I’m more available to my family. Ironically, one of the frustrations that at times has kept me drained and somewhat distant, even when I was physically present, was the fact that I don’t have nearly as much physically present time as I’d like.  Aside from thick with irony, that’s just goofy.

“Frustrated Tomorrow” helped me walk that back and remember what a blessing each moment truly is.

Under the “Frustrated Tomorrow” paradigm I’m more fun, I’m more thoughtful, I’m more introspective, and I’m simply more me.

If you ever feel frustration and question it as potentially unnecessary, and if you’re interested in exploring another pathway to peacefulness, you might consider the procedure below in exploring that “Frustrated Tomorrow” could work for you.

Step 1: When you feel frustration knocking decide to reserve it for tomorrow by saying, “I’ll be frustrated about that tomorrow.”  Out loud is good.  In your mind will do.

Step 2: Actually, there is no “Step 2.” Step 1 should do the trick if you trust yourself, and if you’re able to take your own advise. If it doesn’t work, you’ll simply get and possibly remain frustrated. No harm, no foul.

Good news though, you can keep trying as often as you’d like, even and especially if you fail at first.  After all, failure is a magnificent pathway to learning and growth.  The most magnificent some might say.

In fact, “Frustrated Tomorrow” might not work for you until you work on it.

It’s possible that you might have to see the benefits before it sinks in.

It’s possible that you might have to be cool with delaying the gratification of frustration before your able to give it up (if indeed frustration itself turns out to be your desired end game).

If you enlist the courage to continue through failure you might find that in some, if not most cases, you’ll end up not needing frustration once tomorrow comes.

If you dig in even when facing seemingly imminent defeat, you might experience that in some, if not most cases you’ll forget why you were considering frustration in the first place.

Who knows? Not me. Just a thought.

If you need it, and you want it, and you try it, and it works…well done (and happy joyful calm).

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Laugh. Lead.

Thankful Thursday: Unexpected Marvelous Surprises (ums)

Ums

Relatively recently I was the benefactor of an unexpected marvelous surprise. It was wonderful (in addition to being marvelous…as marvelous things often are).

Here’s how unexpected marvelous surprises (ums) work:

  1. You’re walking along, living your life in the way(s) you expected to be.
  2. Someone approaches you with an unexpected marvelous surprise (or one surfaces is some other form or fashion).
  3. It’s wonderful.

Ums are actually quite basic and they occur more frequently than some of us give them credit for. Also, when we recognize and appreciated them they have the capacity to be outstanding tools for developing relationships and fostering cultures of optimistic enthusiasm and positive progress in school communities and at home.

Ums have the power to support leaders and learners in framing the world as a surprisingly marvelous place, even and especially when they least expect it. Just one *um can fill a heart with joy and a soul with sustainable hope.

A viable school, classroom, and/or home practice to consider might be intentionally issuing 2-3 ums to people you serve on a daily basis. A nice note to your spouse, a new book from the library for your child, a “thank you” card for a teacher with some positive feedback on the wonderful impact he or she makes, or even the gift of a “magic” crayon to a kindergarten with the connected request for a “magic” drawing to be generated and hung on your wall.

Even the most simple, positive contact or communication can be an um in this busy world. Ums support cultures of caring and positive partnerships. Ums remind people that good is all around and that we are in this together!

The relatively recent um I’m writing about now began with an invitation to guest host a popular Twitter chat. My friend and colleague Dr. Mary Howard (@DrMaryHoward) contacted me and four other administrators from around the country. She asked each of us to guest host one in a series of five sessions that would combine to spotlight school leadership and collectively envision the incredible potential of forward thinking school communities (like the ones in which we’re each fortunate enough to serve).

Mary is the author of “Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters” from Heinemann. She’s also the co-moderator of this enormously meaningful and collaborative weekly twitter chat under the hash tag #G2Great. The chat is co-moderated by the amazing Amy Brennan (@brennanamy) and the remarkable Jenn Hayhurst (@hayhusrt3) and it takes place on Thursday evenings from 8:30 – 9:30 pm. Join tonight with guest host Matt Renwick (@ReadByExample) if you can!

The invite was a real um for me, and it turned into multiple subsequent ums as well! It was my first time guest hosting a chat. The learning happened on multiple fronts.

First, I was blown away by the input from and digital dialogue of the #G3Great PLN (Professional Learning Network, if you didn’t know…and even if you did), and second, I was officially introduced to “tweetdeck” and thereby exposed to a whole new world of possibilities with regard to shared digital learning. Frankly…it’s awesome, not to mention very user-friendly. Check it out. And here’s the Storify link to our chat session if you’re interested: #G2Great 8/4/16.

As if that wouldn’t have been plenty of connected ums to fill me up for some time, Mary wrote a way-to-kind, accompanying post on the wonderful “Literacy Lenses” blog (linked to text).   The post warmed my heart, humbled and flattered the heck out of me, and it also fill me with inspiration and the ever-important reminder that the most effective and meaningful leadership is shared!

I’m so fortunate to have such amazing partners, from the students, teachers, and parents I serve, to my building and central office administrative partners, to the remarkable educational and organizational leaders I’m so proud to be intertwined with as a global PLN on this leadership and learning journey. I learn and grow the best and in the most meaningful ways when I do it together with others.

So, look out for incoming ums along with opportunities to provide outgoing ums as you prepare for the start of another great school year. Inspire those you serve with continued demonstrations of your commitment to shared learning and leadership, and allow yourself to be lifted up and inspired by even the most fundamental ums that come your way, if for no other reasons then…um…you’re worth it!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thank you.

 

* In this context the term “um” represents a single unexpected marvelous surprise given the coinciding facts that, 1. The words “unexpected” and “surprise” are synonymous, making it unnecessary to include both unless speaking or writing in multiplicity (with the “s” indicating multiple “ums” as it does with regard nous in general), and 2. You shouldn’t say or write the phrase “an ums” because it simply doesn’t sound or read correct (and arguably, neither does this explanation, but whatever…you get it).

3 Ways To Practice Forgiveness, 2 Reasons To Consider It, & 1 Disclaimer

Near Seems Bigger

Do you ever have moments you’d like to return? Have you ever thought better of an action or a decision and wished you could step back in time? Is there an occasion you can recall in which bringing your best would have been wonderfully effective, but instead you brought something else?

Have you flopped? Have you failed? Have you disappointed yourself? Have you disappointed someone else? Has something like this happened to you? Has it happened repeatedly? If so, congratulations! Not only do these circumstances represent powerful opportunities for learning and growth, but if you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, I can verify with a high degree of certainty that, like me, you’re a human being; a flawed but extraordinary thing to be.

The 3 Ways:

1. Forgive Yourself. Do it. You can thank yourself afterward. Forgiving yourself is a boon for maximizing the learning and growth of which I speak. It’s not always easy. Not for me anyway. Sometimes you’re not forgiven by others, and in those cases it’s especially not easy. But still, do it. Don’t forget. Don’t overlook. Don’t dismiss. Just forgive, and then, reflect with intention. Don’t repeat the same mistakes too many times; a few will do. Be strong in your resolve to make positive progress. Focus on your core values as you reflect. Enlist strength to defeat frustration. Never give up. Try to remember things that are near can seem bigger than things that are far. Down the line you might even wonder why forgiveness was needed in the first place. Still, I would suggest that it might be.

Think about what might happen if you make strides with each opportunity; even tiny strides. Do it. If you don’t like it or see value in it, stop. But I think you will. If you already do it, keep it up, even and especially when it’s most challenging. Give yourself permission to stumble, and if you don’t catch yourself, to fall. All the while, remember that you’re brave, strong, and in every way capable of bringing your best at every turn; dark, light, or otherwise.

2. Forgive Others When They Ask For Forgiveness. Grudges are bad. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone along the way, but don’t waste time obscuring your positive progress with extended negativity. I believe most people are well meaning. Like us, they stumble and they fall. Give the benefit of the doubt, maintain optimism, consider that good intentions abound, suppose that pain could be the root of hurtful behavior and that sadness might be the foundation of insensitivity, and then use those considerations to exercise compassion in the face of frustration. Take an apology as an invitation to support someone in learning and growth. Give them that gift.

3. Forgive Others Before They Ask For Forgiveness. Why wait? If you agree that forgiveness is a positive thing you might consider carrying some with you all the time. A reserve, if you will. Even a bit of “just in case” forgiveness can go a long way. Most people mean you no harm, and those that do are typically seeking to gain power over you. Dissolve that possibility. Don’t be harmed. Be strong. Have resolve. Again, stick to your core.

The 2 Reasons:

1. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For You. When you practice forgiveness in any of the ways listed above you open yourself up to a world of possibilities that tends to be stifled by the opposite. Again, forgiveness and apathy are wildly different things. When you forgive the humanness of any given situation and the human being within it, with the understanding that we learn from bumps on the road, you stand a chance at paving the section of road you just stumbled on. Pave it. You bring your best when you seek do so. You enhance the world when you bring your best.

2. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For Those You Serve. Speaking of enhancing the world, we are all servants. I mostly speak to parents, educators, and organizational leaders because that’s my wheelhouse, as it were. When we offer forgiveness we model forgiveness. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We should be teaching those we serve, especially the children we serve, about the power of forgiveness and we should support them in learning to exercise it themselves. Practicing it might just be the best way. Besides, it feels good to be forgiven. It promotes confidence and suggests value. Confident people who feel valued contribute great things to the world.

The 1 Disclaimer:

1. I Could Be Wrong. It’s a human thing. My thoughts and ideas on this and all other topics of which I think, speak, and write are inexorably tainted by my limited capacity to understand the complexities of this world and inescapably skewed by the experience I’m having within it. In other words, this stuff might work for you and it might not. It’s really just food for further reflective thought.

So, if forgiveness isn’t currently a part of your paradigm and you decide to consider it on the basis of reading this post…and, if doing so isn’t effective for you…please forgive me, or not. I already have.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

I Don’t Know: Understanding via a Lack Thereof

Imagine

I heard the most fascinating story yesterday through an interview of a fifty four year old woman, Kim, who self-discovered her Asperger’s Syndrome and then got a brief glimpse into a world in which it didn’t stifle her ability to read social cues.

Researchers exploring a method called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) showed Kim a video. In the video a woman answered her door to find a man standing on the other side with a bag filled with DVD cases. The man handed the bag to the woman and said, “Here are the DVDs you lent to Roger,” followed by, “He asked me to return them to you.”

The man suggested that the woman take a look in the bag and examine the state of the DVDs. She did. She opened each one to find that nothing was inside. The bag was filled with empty DVD cases. After a few moments the man asked, “Is everything alright?”

The woman replied, “Oh yes, everything is just fine.”

The man then asked, “Would you be willing to let Roger borrow your DVDs again?”

The woman replied, “Absolutely…without hesitation.”

Kim reported that after watching this interaction she was very impressed and somewhat surprised by the woman’s reaction. She told the interviewer that she thought the woman in the video was uniquely forgiving and generous.

Then came the TMS. The researchers delivered a series of precisely targeted magnetic pulses into Kim’s brain with the aim of stimulating key areas in the hopes that it would enhance her ability to read social cues, a standard reported deficit in people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Kim recounted that it did. She told the interviewer that she was shocked upon watching the same video again after the TMS treatment.

The woman in the video did not seem forgiving or generous this time. In fact, she was clearly upset. Kim described high levels of sarcasm in the woman’s responses that she could not detect previously.

When the woman said, “Oh yes, everything is just fine,” she meant, “No, everything is not alright…can’t you see that Roger has taken all of my DVDs?”

When she said, “Absolutely…without hesitation,” she meant, “Not in a million years!”

Kim was stunned. In that moment she realized that she had been moving through the world with a blindness of sorts. She thought about her inability to maintain positive relationships and her confusion over the same. She expressed relief in finally understanding that her interactions with people have been marked by a distinct inability to recognize “appropriateness” in communication.

She talked specifically about kindness. She expressed a profound shift in thinking about it. She realized that when people are unkind to one another it’s not necessarily because they’re mean people. She thought about the possibility of a primary source of unkindness and that the unkindness itself could be a side effect.

She recalled being bullied as a child and instantly forgave the perpetrators, suggesting that they may have simply been trying to bond with one another, not fully (or even partially) understanding the impact their bonding had on her.

Through TMS Kim had but a momentary glimpse into a world in which she could recognize, understand, and interpret social cues. The effects were not lasting. Furthermore, the researchers cautioned that the treatment remains unreliable for this application. They strongly warned against its clinical use expressing that a tremendous amount of research and exploration lies between these experiments and a practical, safe application…if one should ever come to be at all.

Kim expressed that she’s not disappointed. She told the interviewer that the experience, while brief, was momentous and profound. She said that it left her with a critically important view of a world that has always been acutely confusing.

Kim is a successful physician with a thriving practice. She’s achieved much in her life so far and is only part way along her journey. However, she’s consistently been on the outside of what most of us seem to understand as acceptable social norms.

Well meaning and kind, Kim has struggled significantly to build and maintain relationships. By bravely risking what I can only imagine would be a terrifying paradigm shift, she now knows a bit more about why.

Kim’s experience has me wondering about how I see and function. Is my worldview the same as yours? Is each of ours different? As we try to communicate with one another, how often do we miss the mark? How about the people we serve? What within our daily messaging is well received by students, parents, colleagues, spouses, kids, friends? What is misperceived and subsequently potentially damaging?

I can only conclude that exploratory leaps of faith with open minds, while scary, are very likely boons of positive progress. What if I’m not hearing what I think I’m hearing when I hear it? What if I’m not saying what I think I’m saying when I say it? If perception is reality…what if we each perceive the world in a unique way? Even if slightly, imagine the ripple effect and the impact on relationships.

I believe that the great majority of people are driven by kind hearts and hope for positive pathways. I think that incorporating a mantra of acceptance not fully knowing stuff with the connected act of consistently seeking to enhance my knowledge might help deepen my understanding of the social world in which I live and my productivity within relationships as a result.

My aim is true but I’ve seen that even the softest wind can shift the pathway straightest arrow. I’m amazed by Kim and truly grateful for having had the opportunity to see through her lens, if only for a moment. Let’s listen really carefully to one another’s stories…it can only help advance our collective vision of a peaceful and productive planet. Let’s imagine that the world might be different than we currently perceive it to be, if only slightly, and if only because it truly might be.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

Thankful Thursday: Restoration

A Bit of a Break

I recently wrote about the “Zones of Regulation” in a post outlining a philosophical base and a program structure built on the foundation of restorative practices used for social-emotional learning and growth in the school community I serve and subsequently in my home.

Regarding both my role as a parent and an educational leader I continue to gain increased confidence in restorative practices with each passing day.

I’ve been a restorative kind of guy for as long as I can remember. It’s basic. When things heat up I take a break.

I use the term “heat up” to signify a spectrum of heightened emotions beginning with slight (including mild excitement in the form of frustration, impatience, resentment, etc.), which can happen at varying degrees of intensity relatively frequently in the busy worlds of parenting and educational leadership, and ending with intense (triggered by unusually stressful events or toxic situations), which fortunately happens quite infrequently.

Each “hot” moment is a challenge and a chance. Each one is an opportunity to exercise restoration, and in doing so to increase restorative strength.

Restoration is the act of moving from a state where emotional strain has the better of you to a state where you have the better of it. It’s making your way from emotion-veiled thinking (and the potential for connected action) to clear, core-value driven thinking (and the reasonable assurance of focused, core-value drive action).

As I continue working to enhance my restorative practice and impart a utilitarian understanding of the same to those I serve I find myself particularly grateful for the human capacity to restore.

What are your primary core values? Do you ever find yourself sliding away from them in thought or action? If so, how do you pull yourself back? How do you focus? How do you restore?

Happy Thankful Thursday everyone!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

Thankful Thursday: Not Broken

t2 - Not Broken

Six people live in our house. The other day four of them were making about as much noise as they could. There was whining, there was crying, there was shouting, and there was a kind of a teasing, provocative, relatively nondescript vocalization aimed at the one who was shouting. I think it was something like, “Na, na, na, na, na!” It was coupled with a mischievous smile and some soft but dissonant Machiavellian laughter.

Along with the noise there was motion. There was lots of motion. There was pouncing, there was rolling, there was chasing, and there was running away from the chasing. Noise and motion…there was basically lots of noise and motion.

I actually wondered, “Why is there so much noise and motion?”

Then I actually wondered, “Can’t they just sit still?”

Among the six people who live in my house, one is six years old, one is five years old, one is three years old, and one is one year old (two of us are much older…especially me).

I actually know the answer to the questions I was actually wondering about.

The noise and motion were to be expected. Both are completely appropriate given the ages of people the living in our house. Most of the people I live with are not at the right ages for keeping quite or just sitting still. The answer to both of my questions is, “Because I live with four little kids…and that’s what four little kids sound like and do.”

I might have known it even without the foundation of my extensive studies, reflection, and practice in the area of child development. I would speculate that it’s relatively common knowledge.

I was frustrated in that moment, and that was ok too. People my age (even those of us who chose to have four kids in about five and a half years) tend to become frustrated when kids are running around them shouting, crying, whining, and teasing one another relentlessly. Essentially, we were all doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing. They were hot messes (as it were) and I was a frustrated dad.

In hindsight I can appreciate that it was actually a beautiful thing. It was a thing I’m very fortunate to be able to experience on a regular basis (a very regular basis). I’m truly grateful to be so blessed. I’m quite certain I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

As parents and educators our kids are well served when we remember that learning and growth can be noisy and busy. Sometimes in its finest moments it’s messy and indeterminate. Kids are human beings. No matter how they behave, they’re not broken. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do. Each one a bit differently, but what they are supposed to do nonetheless.

Along those lines, when we adults get frustrated, even with things we know are supposed to be happening, we’re not broken. Adults get frustrated. We also learn and grow in unique ways as we age and mature. It’s part of what makes life so exciting.     None of us are broken. We are what we are and that’s the foundation on which we get to build what we become.

Today I’m grateful for the noise and motion. Today I am grateful for the humanness. Today I’m grateful that in my imperfection I’m not broken, but rather that I’m exactly what I’m supposed to be and on a path paved with positive progress. Today I’m grateful.

Happy Thankful Thursday!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

Mrs. Burp

Kids Can

I was walking in the hallway the other day when a kindergarten student ran up to me with pure excitement painted all over her face. She was practically jumping for joy. This was a child who could hardly contain herself. She was enthusiastically looking to get my attention. She had some very important information to share. I could tell.

As soon as I saw her coming my way I was struck with a jolt of excitement. Turns out the stuff transfers. I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to tell me.

Once she was close enough she shouted, “Mrs. Burp!” At least that’s what I heard. Even though my name is Mr. Berg, Mrs. Burp works almost just as well (when it’s coupled with good intentions, that is).

I didn’t suspect that there was a person named Mrs. Burp walking just behind me. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was shouting at me. I smiled. Levity mixed with transferred and still relatively mysterious excitement. Good Stuff. Now I was really keen on discovering what the hullabaloo was all about!

Truth told, I couldn’t say with great clarity that “Mrs. Burp” is actually what she said. Also, if it was, I couldn’t be sure if it’s what she meant to say (sometimes kids words don’t come out exactly as intended).

Here was a kid extremely eager to get my attention. She might have been thinking “Mr. Berg” and as the thought traveled from her brain to her mouth on a thought-train riddled with anticipation it could have simply come out as “Mr. Burp.” Regardless, we can assume that she meant to say “Mr. Berg.” Again…and after all, her energized message was targeted squarely at me. That much was clear.

Actually, so much more was clear, even before the message was delivered. Therein lies the moral of the story (one of them, that is): Sometimes how you say it matters even more than what you say.

Before I knew what was going on I knew that something wonderful had occurred. I knew that this student was going to recount the wonderful thing.   I knew that we were going to share a moment of celebration. I knew that the next part of our interaction was going to strengthen our partnership in teaching & learning.

With the same zeal that accompanied “Mrs. Burp” she shouted, “You have to see my thinking!”

This six-year-old directed my attention to a bulletin board on which she and her classmates had used sticky notes to respond to a third grade team’s collaboration on “leadership” and “growth mindset.” They took it upon themselves (with some guidance from both teachers albeit) to adorn the third graders’ board with their thoughts post-production, thereby extending and sharing in a foundation of collective thinking on the two important subjects.

She didn’t want me to see her “work” or her “project” or her “sticky note,” she wanted me to see her “thinking.” Therein lies the moral of the story (the other one, that is): Kids, even the youngest among them can get really excited about the process even above the outcomes.

I was thrilled that these incredible teachers and students had been so clearly making collaborative growth the focus of their attention that to the point that it had become the bedrock of their learning paradigm. I was proud that the “Mrs. Burp” kid lived it out with me in that moment. She trusted me to enough to share her thinking. I’m excited that she’s learning in an enthusiastic culture of thinking at our school; more good stuff. She was my teacher in that moment.

So, sometimes how you say it matters even more than what you say and kids, even the youngest among them, can get really excited about the process even above the outcomes.

It’s fun as an educator and a parent to think that there might be no end to the learning and the growing we can each experience over the course of a lifetime, and that there might be no limits to the potential within each of us for the same.  Fun and exciting!

Live, love, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best!

Always

Always

Not many things are certain in life. Mysteries abound. Each step involves some degree of risk. It’s good. Life is exciting. Within the challenges and the triumphs we face exists the essential learning that drives us forward. Through the ups and the downs interwoven into life’s fabric is excitement.

There is one certainty in my life however, and it’s a certainty on which my courage and strength for the rest stands. My wife is the most solid and compassionate partner I could have ever imagined. She is an unbelievably amazing spouse and an overwhelmingly remarkable mother.

This astonishing woman and I have four children. Our oldest is six, our youngest is one, and those two sandwich three and a four-year-old siblings. Our house is a whirlwind of noise and motion in any (and every) given moment. It’s a joyful whirlwind of noise and motion, but a whirlwind of noise and motion nonetheless.

My kids need food, and cloths, and permission slips, and book orders, and play dates with their friends, and friends to have play dates with, and diaper changes, and snuggles when they’re scared or hurt, and care when they’re sick, and lessons on courage, and opportunities to practice being courageous, and a set of core values, and opportunities to practice decision-making and action-taking that match those core values, and redirection, and discipline, and understanding, and boat loads of attention, and lot’s of love.

They need endless and unwavering love. They need love that thrives even when they’re loud or defiant. They need to be embraced by genuinely loving arms even when they smell funny. They need to have resolutely loving shoulders to bury their little faces into even when those faces are overrun by gobs of gooey snot. My wife joyfully meets these needs and so many more. Always.

Our kids each need to know that they’re valued and they need to be able to explore their unique and authentic voices. They each need to understand what it means to be a part of our family and a member of our community. They each need to know themselves as individuals while also maintaining special connections to one another, to us, to our extended family, and to our religious and cultural foundations.

The list goes on and on. There is truly no end. My wife’s demands as a mother are inconceivable to me. I don’t know and couldn’t comprehend all of what she does or half of how she does it. I often find myself dumbfounded that the wheels keep turning. She makes it happen.   She always makes it happen and she never drops the ball. We have everything we need. We have everything we could ever want with the possible exception of cookies before dinner (an sometimes we even have that).

My wife is tireless and unstoppable. She won’t be deterred when it comes to her family. She is always there. She is always holding it together. She is always just what we need. Always.

On top of all that, this woman is breathtakingly beautiful inside and out, and she’s energized even through what I can only describe as intensely exhausting daily commitments. She makes it look effortless. Her strength is the scaffolding for my learning and growth, and any successes I ever experience are as a direct result of her support, encouragement, and dedication.

There is really nothing I can do to honor her enough on this Mother’s day or on any day. I can only remain thankful that she chose to partner with me on this mysterious and incredible journey. I can only work to match her resolve and try to find every opportunity to show her how much she is appreciated, by me, by our children, and by everyone who’s life she touches with her generous, authentic, and extraordinary loving kindness.

Trough my trials and with all of my faults I am indeed truly blessed. I am truly blessed to have this beautiful woman to share my life with and to love endlessly. Always.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.

Good Luck Poop

Challenge as Opportunity

A bird pooped on my shoulder the other day. We’d just dragged the bikes out for a test run. Both my six-year-old and my four-year-old sons are learning to ride with no training wheels so it’s an exciting time at the Berg house. Come to think of it it’s always an exciting time at the Berg house. No shortage of milestones being reached daily between the four munchkins.

There I was, getting ready to run (an not let go – wink, wink, nod, nod), when I felt it. “Plop.” Of course I reached across my body and dragged my finger through it, because the only thing more disgusting than getting bird poop on your jacket is getting it on your skin. Why do we do things like that? Who knows?

Anyway, in response to the pooping I naturally exclaimed, “A bird just pooped on my shoulder!” The kids were wide-eyed and awestruck. They stood with mouths agape looking up at the trees. They couldn’t believe it. Was it funny? Was it gross? What do we do next? Again, who knows?

My wife simply smiled and said, “Hey…that’s supposed be good luck.” Good luck indeed.

Maybe there’s something to it though. Maybe getting pooped on is lucky. Maybe it all depends on how you look at it and what you do next. Maybe it depends on one’s commitment to a growth mindset.

Getting pooped on isn’t ideal. In fact it’s yucky. It causes you to have to stop what you’re doing. It makes you have to wash your coat and scrub your finger. It’s simply not what you hope for when you step out the door. However, it’s a good reminder that you don’t always get what you hope for when you walk out the door.

Maybe getting pooped on is an opportunity to think of life as a process indelibly connected the ups and downs we each inevitably experience. Maybe it’s an opportunity to practice being comfortable with, and even excited about that. Maybe it’s a chance to practice maintaining a positive mindset even when you do get pooped on. I can’t imagine that anyone’s ever been seriously injured or otherwise negatively impacted by a fly by pooping. Typically you survive it, just like lots of other less than ideal situations.

Maybe the good luck is in the message of strength through adversity and hope through challenges. The simple fact is that occasionally we get pooped on and that’s ok. As educators and parents we know that the good stuff is in what we do next with out thoughts, emotions, and actions. Getting pooped on is an easy opportunity to practice and model resilience and joy. For that I’m grateful to the bird who recently relieved himself on my shoulder.

May you have many opportunities to push through challenges with learning, growth, and joy in mind, and to that I can only add…good luck!

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.

Even When You Can’t Be Certain…Be Positive

Doing what makes you feel good
A story about a study. I recently read a study in which the researcher told some people that a new drug was found to have a 70% effectiveness rate. Those people expressed positive thoughts and feelings about the drug. The same researcher told some other people that the drug in question was found to have a 30% failure rate. Those people expressed negative thoughts and feelings about the drug.

After that the researcher reminded the first group that a 70% success rate is the same as a 30% failure rate. They shifted their expression of thoughts and feelings to the negative. She then reminded the second group that a 30% failure rate is the same as a 70% success rate. Their expression of thoughts and feelings remained negative. No shift.

The researcher repeated this experiment with multiple controls and repeatedly found similar results. It’s tough to shift from a negative to a positive outlook; a better bet is to start and stay positive.

Who cares? I guess it’s well and good to consider that starting positive increases the chance that you’ll stay that way, but so what? Is being positive helpful? What benefits does it provide? What about the perceptibly cathartic remunerations of the relentless venting that we all seem to enjoy so much? What about misery loving company? This is that part where scientific exploration gives way to personal opinion. You should stop reading if you have a weak stomach for soapbox oration.

My best work is scaffolded by optimism.

I’m decidedly stronger when I’m authentically joyful.

Decisions come to me with increased clarity during times of hope.

My integrated contentedness to world, work, and spirit is highlighted by happiness.

It feels good to feel good.

The reflections of a parent and an educator.  Sometimes when my kids get grumpy I defy them not to smile. “Don’t do it,” I say. “Stay grumpy,” I insist. I’m relentless until they fold. Like me, they want to feel good too. They want to enjoy instead of agonize. They want to appreciate instead of resent. They want to heal instead of hurt.

Again, it ain’t easy to shift away from a negative paradigm when you’re embedded in it, but if you feel like I do, if you prefer to live with hope and joyfulness, it doesn’t hurt to try. In fact, I would argue that it helps.

My experiences consistently tell me that it not only helps me but that it’s good for those I serve. Furthermore the more I’m able to recover and make that shift the more it’s not necessary. If I can make that shift and stay in it then the shift isn’t needed anymore. Recovery becomes regulation. The key is to press on and never stop growing. I can only imagine that I’ll be very old and very grey if I ever make it to a state of mind that negativity simply can’t crack, but at that moment I also imagine the old and greyness won’t bother me.

Our lives our challenging. The world is a complex and often confusing place. Our primary purpose is to make it better for the kids who are inheriting it from us. That’s why we do what we do. I believe that we owe it to them, and to one another to focus on hope and inspiration.

One of my mentors consistently reminds me that, “staying positive in challenging situations is not naive…it’s leadership.” What if we could always do just that? What if we could always do it at school, at home, when we’re with people, and even when we’re alone? What if? There are not many certainties in life. Every day comes along with countless challenges. Even so (and arguably, especially so), each moment is truly a gift. In what ways are you focused on making the most of it for you and for those you serve?

Live, listen, learn, lead…and always bring your best.