Tagged: Courage

Booger Boy and The Big Bad Nostril in “The Quest For Courage”

E.E. Cumming wrote, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Ain’t that the truth.

The other day my two oldest boys (7 and 5 years old) told me about a story they were collaborating on. Jolts of delight visibly swirled in their minds and shot light laser beams from their inspired eyes as they revealed the idea.

The story was being constructed on the premise that a kid had realized his super powers in the form of an ability to project boogers from his fingertips. Gooey boogers, crispy boogers, boogers in any state needed for any given challenge.

Appropriately, Booger Boy is the kid’s name.

The Big Bad Nostril is the kid’s nemesis (appropriately, too).

The boys explained that The Big Bad Nostril has the power to blow so hard (out of his nostrils) that he can fly. Booger boy can use crispy boogers to knock him down and gooey boogers to stuff his nostrils so full that his flying powers are nullified.

Gross? Yes.

Creative, connected, and meaningful? Possibly yes, too.

Who is Booger Boy in the mind of a 7 or 5 year old? Who or what is The Big Bad Nostril?

What does it take for a child to understand the super powers in his or her own arsenal?

What does it take for a child to employ those super powers as needed?

Courage? I think so.

Just before I reminded my boys only to write and talk about Booger Boy and the Big Bad Nostril at home, and not at school, I found some courage of my own, and then I stopped myself.

This line of creative thinking might be a connected source of development regarding their own superpowers, and their ability to use them.

What if they’re figuring out how to be brave?

What if they’re digging into the source of their courage and unfolding pathways to practice overcoming challenges?

What if one of them is Booger Boy?

What they both are?

What the Big Bad Nostril needs to be addressed?

What if this is the boys’ way of getting at it?

What if this is an inspired story that deserves to be written?

What if the development of this story is a part of the process that has my boys growing into confident writers, independent thinkers, self-assured storytellers, reflective dreamers, and courageous seekers of tools and strategies designed to help them face and overcome any number of the inevitable challenges that they will each encounter over the course of their lives?

What if giving way to my hesitation, as founded by my perhaps baseless concern over the potential trouble these two unsuspecting young authors could face over the public exploration of this subject matter, is a super power in and of itself?

What if facing a bit of potential trouble over their creative thinking and expression might enlist just the courage they need to persist in true and brave ways?

What if?

It does take courage to grow up and become who you really are. I know this because I still need it at every turn; closer and closer each day, and still needing courage along the way.

Note to self: Be brave, and teach your children the same.

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

The Beat and The Flow

Take an intentional breath. Let your shoulders relax. Let your breathing settle into whatever pattern it finds. Let it shift as it will; follow it, don’t force it.

Experience the world with your ears for a moment. Let the sounds around you connect with the sounds inside of you. There is a flow to both. There is a rhythm. There is a pace. There is a beat.

Do you hear the beat? Do you feel the flow?

If not, take another intentional breath, a deep one. Try again. Relax into it. Believe you can.

Imagine that you are on a cosmic beach, watching and listening to waves of energy softy roll or rise and crash. However they come, see them, hear them, and feel them. Don’t seek to shape or influence the waves of energy as they roll or crash, simply seek to understand and appreciate them. Wait for the beat to join the flow. Your influence will come later. Exercise patience. Exercise faith.

If you do hear the beat, and if you do feel the flow, smile. What you do next is entirely up to you.

We have no jurisdiction over many of the forces that impact our lives; at least that’s been my experience over the course of forty-two ostensibly short years.

We do not determine any more than our core, our intentions, and our movements along pathways that twist and turn at the whim of forces outside of our control.

That said, if you listen carefully, with open-minded, openhearted, and genuine intention, I believe you can connect with those forces. I believe you can conjoin the beat of your core with the flow of the world around you. I believe, at the very least, that trying won’t hurt. I have also come to believe that not trying might.

With learning and growth in mind our stumbles through space and time don’t represent setbacks, but rather gifts, each delivering invaluable input into our ever-expanding capacity for connected progress along whatever pathways we tread, and toward whatever benchmarks we aim to reach and surpass.

As educators and parents, the foundation of our internal beat is the children we serve. As community leaders, that foundation extends to all stakeholders impacted by our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

My personal internal beat includes a drive to expand my capacity to live each moment of every day with increased gratitude, passion, curiosity, and humility; in the service of those I devote my energy to, including myself.

I experience moments of confusion and I experience moments of calm.

When I am able to meet and match the flow of the forces around me, amplified or benign, to the beat that defines my core, that capacity grows.

My wife consistently reminds me that most of what we worry about never comes to pass. It’s a mantra handed down by her grandmother. It seems true.

It also seems true that when we allow worry to supplant patience and faith (which is absolutely justifiable in this fast-paced & often frenzied world), we stifle the ongoing development of our individual and collective capacities for genuine learning, compassionate leadership, and positive progress.

So, if you have any sense that there might be value in seeking to join the beat that drives you with the flow that surrounds you, take an intentional breath. Let your shoulders relax. Let your breathing settle into whatever pattern it finds. Let it shift as it will; follow it, don’t force it.

Wait for the beat to join the flow. Exercise patience. Exercise faith.

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

It’s What Matters

A few years ago someone I knew experienced an extremely challenging personal tragedy, one that turned her world upside down and inside out.

It would have been reasonable by any standard for her to fall apart as a result. She didn’t; in fact, just the opposite. She took stock of what mattered in her life and made a steadfast commitment to focus exclusively, and joyfully on those things.

She followed through with that commitment, in part, by repeating the phrase, “it’s what matters” at every turn, as kind of a mantra-style motivator.

Baseball…it’s what matters.

Peace…it’s what matters.

Ice cream…it’s what maters.

Happiness…it’s what matters.

And so on.

I was, and remain astonished by her ability to live her core values, even through what I’m confident was unremitting heartbreak. She amazes me with her resolve to stay true to a core that demands courage, faith, and joyfulness above whatever pain life’s challenges bring her way.

Mercifully, not all of us have or will experience extreme personal tragedies.

Challenges are relative though, and we all have them. Large and small, our daily challenges are important opportunities. I firmly believe that every challenge is also a chance, a chance to learn and grow.

How do you manage to balance your daily challenges with your core values?

In what ways do you ensure that the your daily journey is one you can reflect on with a sense of fulfillment and gratitude?

If you’re interested in exploring an alternate strategy you might consider the “It’s What Matters” method. It’s easy to do and it supports a direct connection between what you believe and how you live.

All you do is take a few minutes each morning to identify some things that matter most to you, write them down or commit them to memory, and then force yourself back to them if and when you feel as though you’re shifting away.

Some of my standards are children (mine and the other ones I serve), family, reflection, gratitude, kindness, and calm.

When I falter in maintaining a steady course with each of those at the foundation (which I do multiple times each day) I can forgive and right myself by thinking or saying:

Serving children…it’s what matters.

Appreciating my family…it’s what matters.

Thoughtful reflection…it’s what matters.

Gratitude…it’s what matters.

Kindness…it’s what matters.

Restoring to a place of calm focus…it’s what matters.

And so on.

So many things, large and small, can work so hard to bring us down. Sometimes it happens and we don’t even know how or why.

In the energized heat of any moment, anything, even the most trivial and inconsequential things can seem to matter so much. When I take stock with an open heart and open mind I discover that some of it, especially those things laced with negativity, don’t. That’s when reminding myself of what does, makes such a difference.

What matters most to you? How do you maintain a steady course and right yourself though rough waters? If you’re searching at any level, you might consider trying the “It’s What Matters” method. At the very least, it can provide you with an opportunity for a thoughtful, reflective, moment. If all goes well, it can be a reliable strategy for so much more.

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

Forgiveness Restoration (it just might work)

The Foundation. Life ain’t easy. I believe I’ve mentioned that in previous posts. This is a reminder.

One of the not easy things about life is the regulation of emotions during energized and high stakes moments. It’s tough to think clearly, act on a foundation of logic, or communicate effectively when the world spins faster than normal or on a distorted axis. It’s confusing when the figurative seems literal, and confusion isn’t a friend to reason.

Making matters worse is relativity. Each of us has a personalized capacity for emotional regulation. That capacity within each of us is complex and nuanced, it’s built on a foundation of our life experiences, our genetic codes, and the right-feeling but often inexplicable choices we each make along our beautiful but often peculiar journeys.

The Strategy. Each of has a unique capacity for emotional regulation, slightly or even extremely different from that of others. Each of us also has a unique take on “energized and high stakes.” What might seem to be a simple emotional challenge with an obvious regulatory solution to you might be particularly problematic to me. What might seem no big deal to me could be dreadful and treacherous to you.

For that reason it’s critical that we forgive one another when emotional regulation doesn’t come easy, and we must do so with authenticity and as much frequency as needed.

We may not understand why people act or react in the ways they do. Again, our capacity for emotional regulation is indelibly tied to who we are, and we’re all a bit different (if not more than a bit).

Understand or not, we are all best served when we promote growth in one another. All of us are better off when we surround ourselves with progressive, broadminded people, who believe that we’re on learning journeys and not fixed in stagnation.

When we forgive, we maintain that change is feasible. When we forgive we encourage development and simultaneously reject judgment and blame.

Like with life itself, it ain’t easy to forgive people who struggle with regulating emotions during energized and high stakes moments, whether or not we see the moments through similar lenses.

However, as difficult as it is to forgive others in these situations, it’s significantly more difficult to forgive ourselves, and when we can’t do that, the ensuing self-judgment and self-blame is prone to stifle our own growth. Forgiving others is important. Forgiving ourselves is essential.

In order to forgive we need to accept that at times holistic emotional regulation is darn tough to achieve (aka not easy). We get sad, we get frustrated, and we even get angry. We have to process these emotions in our unique ways and in due time. It’s natural. The question becomes, what can we do when regulation isn’t an option? I would suggest that the answer is restore.

Forgiveness restoration is a strategy that enlists momentary failure to regulate as a catalyst to ongoing learning and growth with regard to restoration. It allows us to feel comfortable in our human-ness, to take our time, and to come around to calm and focus as a result. What happens in between will be different in every situation, and that’s ok.

The bottom line is that when you find yourself in a place you don’t want to be (which we all tend to do from time to time), you don’t have to stay there. Forgiveness restoration can help.

I believe it can be done through the most benign and the most punishing emotional challenges. Again, not easy, but I’d ask you to consider that the more you do it, the better you’ll become.

We live once (as far as I know), we should seek to find peace and joy as much as possible.

The Challenge. Try it. Try it at least once. Make it a real, authentic, wholehearted try. You might find yourself resisting. Don’t give in. Just once. If you like it, and if it works, try it again. If you get any better at restoring yourself to focus and calm as a result, keep trying it until it becomes a habit.

Forgiveness restoration, it ain’t easy, but it just might work.

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

Do Be Silly. Seriously.

I’m silly. I don’t know why. I’ve gone through phases in which I’ve tried to suppress it, times in my life when I attempted to not be silly. No good. Couldn’t do it. Failed miserable. I’ve had to face it; I’m silly.

My kids are silly too. They’re kids, so it seems more reasonable for them to be silly than it does for me. Most kids are silly. All of them are at least some of the time; all the ones I know anyway.

Occasionally, when my kids are being silly my wife looks at me as if to say, “you did that.” Like they’re silly because I’m silly. Like it’s my fault. When she does I look back at her as if to say, “don’t be silly.” Hypocritical, I know. Especially because I like it when she is (silly).

Truthfully, I believe she likes it too. After all, she did marry and proceeded to have four children with me. To tell a family secret, I was considerably silly even before any of that happened, and she darn well knew it.

I think she appreciates the silliness she’s surrounded herself with. At the very least, she couldn’t be entirely surprised that she’s become the mother of a veritable pack of silly kids. It’s a reality that might have been anticipated with very little thought and almost no effort.

I think she did it with intention. I think there was a moment along the way during which she thought, “this is silly,” followed by, “and I like it.”

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t threshold to reasonable, meaningful, and positively impactful silliness, that we should spend all of our time telling outrageous stories in broken, unidentifiable accents, or dancing around at all hours of the day and night with socks on our ears and stew pots on our heads. I am, however, suggesting that sometimes when we do those and other silly things, it makes us feel good and enhances our lives.

I’m also suggesting that there are degrees of silliness, and that if we take our silliness seriously we can use it for the greater good, ours and that of those we serve.

I’m suggesting that when someone says something truly silly like, “don’t be silly,” that someone is at least slightly misguided, and possibly significantly (misguided).

I say, do be silly. Seriously.

Is it silly to think that anything is possible? I say think it.

Is it silly to consider that being joyful spreads joyfulness? I say consider it.

Is it silly for parents and educators to praise our kids for being hard working and persistent rather than “smart?” I say praise on.

Is it silly to focus more on accumulating courage, creativity, and kindness than money and stuff? I say shift that focus.

Over the course of my forty-two years too many silly things have turned out to be wonderful. Silly has taught me too much. Silly has felt too good. Silly has helped me overcome too consistently. Silly has shown me the way to positive progress and reminded me not to take any of it too seriously. It simply moves too fast, and some of what seems to matter so much, turns out to matters so little (if at all).

At times I’ve confused my own silly with naïve, but it’s not. It’s silly, and it’s ok. In fact, I firmly believe it’s a source of strength. I can be silly and sophisticated at the same time. Frankly, I’d rather be silly than sophisticated. It’s considerably more fun.

If you’re already silly, keep it up. If not, try it out.

Put a toe in, take it slow, and stretch yourself.

If you’re resolutely serious it might feel strange at first, but don’t give up.

At the very least, look extremely closely and consider silly a viable alternative when serious seems like it might actually be silly in disguise. Seriously.

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

Strong Like Me

strength

I exercise. My doctor told me to. More specifically, he told me to eat less and move more. It’s good advice. So I do.

Anyway, sometimes my kids exercise along with me. In particular, my five-year-old son imitates every move I make during my daily routine. He grabs hold of my resistance band as soon as it leaves my hands, he pumps his arms up and down with a gritty growl and a stiffly crinkled face, almost masking the glowing smile plastered on it (but not quite).

He’s thrilled to do it. He drops down for push-ups and sit-ups. He stretches and runs in place, and he breathes deeply through it all.

Then, he looks up at me with a profound and piercing pride and exclaims, “Look daddy, I’m strong like you!”

Strong like me. Indeed.

The kid will no doubt face his own challenges, and those challenges will test and teach him, however, even with life’s innate guidance along the way, he will continue to look to me as a model of strength (and/or weakness), whether he knows it or not. It’s part of the deal with kids and parents. They observe what we do through critically reflective lenses.

They do the same with all influential adults in their lives. They’ve got eyes on grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc. Therefore, it’s equally important that we relentlessly consider what we do through critically reflective lenses as well.

Strong like me.

He’s built how he’s built. He’ll have the capacity to endure his amount of struggle and tolerate his amount ache, but he’s actively seeking to be strong like me.

An awesome responsibility, and one that gives me pause to think about what kind of strong I am, and what kind of strong I’m capable of being.

Am I strong enough to truly learn from mistakes?

Am I strong enough to check and regulate myself emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually through any and all challenges?

Am I strong enough restore myself to a place of focus and calm when I’m not?

Am I strong enough to hold back from crying when it isn’t really that bad?

Am I strong enough not to when it is?

Am I strong enough to hold on?

Am I strong enough to let go?

Am I strong enough to restrain my strength?

Am I strong enough to unleash it?

Am I strong enough to understand the type of strength I would have my children develop if I could simply will it into them?

Am I strong enough to continuously work toward that understanding with every breath and every step along my journey?

I happen to believe that among the greatest strengths we can possess is the strength to persist.

Linus reminds Charlie brown, “It’s the courage to continue that counts,” not only because of a connection to comedic irony within the context of their Peanuts adventures, but also because there’s some important truth to it. At the very least, it’s worth considering.

Parents, educators, leaders, adults of all sorts, what kind of strong are you? What kind of strength are you modeling for the benifit the children you serve?

When I think of my children becoming strong like me I don’t think of them running long distances or lifting heavy weights.

When I think of a strength legacy I prefer to think that my children, and all of the children I serve, will ever-increasingly have the strength to persists through ever-increasing odds, be they physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, or otherwise, and that something I’ve done, or will have done, will meaningfully impact that strength in them, even if only vaguely.

While I relentlessly fear the real and human possibility that I could fail in that mission, the fear is balanced by an equally relentless internal assurance that I will never give up trying not to.

Strong like me.

I’m continuously learning, growing, and hoping to one day understand exactly what that means for the incredible children I serve, and how I can contribute every bit of myself to the effort of making it so.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep on my way with hope, faith, and all the strength I can muster.

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

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.

Thankful Thursday: YET [Your Extension Ticket]

Celebrate Progress

In last week’s Thankful Thursday post (My Personal Paleontologists) I mentioned the power of the word “yet” in learning and growth. This week I decided to isolate the word and shower it with gratitude of its own because I continue to see that power contribute so mightily to my own positive progress and to that of those I serve.

Yesterday I watched my determined five year old spend almost a half hour attempting to leap across a muddy riverbed from one bank to another. He stood looking at the mud, the water, and the tall reeds, saying, “It’s too far…I can’t do it,” followed by the bust of a smile on his face, the exclamation, “Yes I can!” and a backed-up run to the edge where he repeatedly stopped mid-stride, going through the same process over and over until the much anticipated launch.

He performed the “run up and stop” at least two dozen times before launching himself over the edge (albeit hesitantly), catching the toe of one shoe on the opposite bank, and sliding clumsily into the mud. He looked up, and through gelatinous, vibrating, crocodile tears he informed me, “I can’t do it,” and then he sniffled, took a breath, and added, “yet.” My heart smiled. My face smiled. We hugged. A great hug. He asked if we could come back tomorrow and keep trying.

I was so proud. I told him I was. He was curious about why I was proud of something he “couldn’t” do, why I was super excited about something he “didn’t” do, and why I was gushing with genuine enthusiasm over a flop in the mud partway to a goal.

We talked about how he tried something that scared him. We talked about how courageous it was. He talked about how courageous he is. We talked about his resolve to keep working on it in the face of the flop and how that stick-to-itiveness is, and will continue to be more important than any prize he could ever want. We talked about how his growth mindset literally makes the world is a place of limitless possibilities.

We discussed the effort and the mental fortitude he demonstrated. We celebrated what he did do. We agreed that the accomplishment was in the trying and that the key, no matter how many times he falls in the mud, is that he keeps trying.

It was the same when my oldest finally rode his bike without training wheels. He woke up one morning and told me that he would be able to do it by the end of the day. It took a while too.

As kids learning to ride bikes do, he spent several determined hours counting pedal rotations and finding balance until finally it clicked. It clicked, as it does with bike riding, in the exact instant that he realized he could do it. It happened on the foundation that he was employing his “yet” each time, with the courage to continue along the way, safely wrapped in the faith and the knowledge that it would in fact happen.

It’s the same click we feel repeatedly as we courageously break through any of the many barriers and face the multitude of challenges that we do in life. It’s the possession of a “yet” that makes it possible.

Today is great. We should be grateful for each today. But we must understand that it doesn’t all happen today. That said, we must remember and appreciate that only some of it happens today, some of it happens tomorrow, and some of it will happen a long time from now.

In school and at home we must model faith and enthusiasm for the possibilities to and with regard to the children we serve. We must instill in them a sense of pride for the strength they demonstrate when the engage excitedly in the process. We must celebrate their efforts, their courage, and their progress along the path. We must remind them that they each have unlimited extension tickets and that can always access them with courage, even and especially in the face of fear. We must help them understand and believe in the power of “yet.”

Thanks “yet.” I appreciate you and I deeply value the hope and inspiration you bring to my life & to the lives of those I serve.

Happy Thankful Thursday (on this lovely Friday)!

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

Thankful Thursday: Her

Her

My wife and I have three sons and we love them each. We’ve shared a lot of thinking about the connection that each of these most important people have to our hearts and our souls. For my part, I love them each with matching strength but in distinctive ways. They’re each unique and therefore my relationship with each of them is unique as well.

The big guy is cerebral. We spend lots of time thinking things through. Our second born is curious. We spend lots of time wondering about and exploring stuff. The little guy (who’s actually not little at all) is a love bug. We spend lots of time snuggling.

Then there’s her. I love her too. Big, big love.

Talk about unique. My daughter is three-years-old and as tough as they come. She’s also as sweet as they come. At three she’s already mysterious, complex, dichotomous, and remarkable. She’s everything I can imagine a person being all wrapped up into one little bundle. She’s very little in stature (outweighed by her one-year-old brother) and gigantic in personality. She shocks us regularly with her astonishing sophistication and she frustrates us regularly with her intensely strong will.

A vibrant, happy, and insightful imagination stands on one end of her profoundly defined personality and rock solid character while a refractory and deliberate mischievousness stands on the other; both ends yielding amazing outcomes and both laden with intense and powerful exuberance. A cornucopia of wonder and awe-inspiring individuality swirls, alive and active in between.

She’s playful and she’s stubborn. She’s as kind and loving as is possible but when so moved she’s capable of imparting anguish-inspiring provocation on her unguarded brothers. She’s smart as a whip and silly as a penguin (penguins seem silly to me).

An enigma in many ways, she’s incredibly easy to love. Also, because of her I have an exceedingly important job.

It’s my job to help her understand how to respect herself, how to respect others, and how to make sure that others respect her as she moves through life. Sounds pretty straightforward. Turns out, it’s not.

I’m finding that I was a much better parent before I had the kids. I knew exactly what to do. Now, I’m often working things out in the moment, and questioning whether or not I’m working them out well at that. She seems ok so far. Thank goodness for my amazing wife. Still, my job remains fundamental and uniquely mine.

It’s critically important that I hold her accountable for high standards of self-awareness and compassion, along with a value-driven approach to living in consistent, loving & kind ways. It’s essential that I teach her how to stand for her core values and for herself as she moves through what will no doubt be a lifetime of challenges and triumphs.

It’s possible that she’ll learn to expect, and even more notably accept an analogous brand of love and affection to the brand I offer and model (some would argue that it’s probable and even likely); she’s watching me and shaping her understanding and expectations of how people should treat one another simultaneously. My interactions with her mother, her brothers, her extended family, our friends, my dedication to personal and professional pursuits, my interests and concerns, my thoughts and ideas about living, learning, and leading, my trials, my victories, my decision making, my thought process, my strengths, my weaknesses, my achievements and my missteps. Even when I’m not aware, she’s watching.

At the risk of coming off as self-important I will now boldly suggest that with regard to her I am in fact a fundamentally important fella. In my estimation, having her in my life makes my life more significant than it would have otherwise been. To that end, I’m operating devotedly to make it so that the sum of the next several years turns out a result reflective of the best of my capacity for supporting this little girl, who I’m told will be a big girl, a teenager, and then a young woman even sooner than I’m able to piece together how it happened.

I love my boys. I understand my noteworthy responsibility to do right by them and I’m devoted to that as well. For today however, I feel a strong pull to express my tremendous gratitude for having been gifted the opportunity to be a part of my incredible daughter’s life, along with the connected duties that accompany that opportunity.

As educators and parents we must think well enough of ourselves to be the role models we know we can be. We must always expect ourselves to deliver the highest standards of love, kindness, and care to the children we serve. When we stumble, as human beings do, we must forgive ourselves, reflect though a lens of our core values, and press on with renewed strength and the concrete knowledge that our every move matters.

My only hope is that her life is filled with boundless joys and overloaded with wonders even beyond her unimaginable imagination. Is that too much to hope for?

Even and especially through the innumerable challenge we will both undoubtedly continue to will face together and apart, I am eternally grateful for her…miraculous, remarkable her.

Happy Thankful Thursday (even though it’s Friday)!

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!