Tagged: Guiding Questions

What KIND are you?

I’m constantly looking for tools and strategies connected to emotional regulation and restoration, for myself, and for those I serve. I believe both contribute significantly to effective communication and meaningful relationship building. Each of us comes across challenging times during which our blood pressure rises and our vision blurs. A walk, a deep breath, some reflective writing, drawing or paining, talking to a friend, and so on; there are lots of effectual ways to calm the heart and settle the mind.

Among those ways is the transfer of kindness, and it works both ways. Simple acts of kindness don’t only make the receivers of that kindness feel good; they also have the potential to significantly impact the giver in positive ways.

With that in mind, I ask, what kind are you?

Here’s a list of a few kinds I can think of:

The hold the door kind. This kind is pretty basic. This is the kind who sees someone walking up behind and decides to step aside and hold the door rather than charge ahead. Sometimes this kind sacrifices a quicker trip to the counter or a better seat on the train. This kind doesn’t mind. This kind is rewarded by a smile or a nod. This kind enjoys the moment of shared humanity that generally transpires as a result of the humble act of holding a door.

The comfort kind. This kind is there when needed. This kind is a listener. This kind can deliver a message of compassion with his or her eyes. This kind truly seeks to understand. This kind is a friend first. This kind assumes positive intentions. This kind feels deeply, and this kind genuinely hopes that a listening ear and an open heart can support positive pathways for those entangled in challenging times.

The shine a light on others kind. This kind operates on the foundation of what Covey refers to as an abundance paradigm. This kind is happy when others achieve and this kind actively celebrates the achievement of others. This kind believes that the world is a better place when serenity and joy are spread far and wide rather than concentrated. This kind is excited to share and thrilled to be a part of the advancement of others.

The invite and include kind. This kind looks for opportunities to include. This kind seeks those out who struggle to get involved. This kind is actively aware when someone is standing off to the side, but seems to want to be a part of whatever action is fashionable in the moment. This kind smiles and reaches out. This kind is happy to show and to share. This kind feels good when he or she plays a role in putting a smile on someone else’s face. This kind understands the significant and profound nature of human interactions, and this kind seeks to build as many bonds between as many people as possible. This kind recognizes that even, and especially through our diversity, there runs a common thread linking us all together in a cosmic chain. This kind thrives on the strength of that chain.

The give gifts kind. This kind looks for ways to surprise those around him or her with gifts. This kind tries to understand the wants and the needs of others, and thrives on finding ways to translate those wants and needs into tangibles. It might be a piece of chocolate on your desk, a card expressing gratitude, or even a cool new bike. This kind is overjoyed at the delight associated with the giving as defined by the hopes and desires of others.

The gratitude kind. This kind is authentically grateful. This kind also knows that sharing gratitude can be deeply empowering, and that it feels good to appreciate and to be appreciated. This kind moves through life with a sense of good fortune associate with the people and things he or she has access to, and the experiences he or she is blessed to have. This kind expresses gratitude regularly and feels that the expression of gratitude is more than a passing pleasantry, but a model of healthy living. This kind is not looking to receive gratitude (although he or she welcomes and enjoys it), but rather to show anyone who’s looking that living with it is a boon to personal and communal balance, harmony, tranquility, and joyfulness.

The smile a lot kind. This kind smiles as much as possible. This kind believes that people should smile when they’re happy, and that smiling can serve as a catalyst to happiness. This kind can feel a smile on his or her face and on his or her heart. This kind allows smiling to infect him or her, and he or she believes that a smile is infectious to others, too (whether on not they understand, appreciate, or admit it).

I believe we’re each at least one kind, and probably more. I also believe that we can each learn to be any kind we want to be. It simply takes interest and effort. What kind or kinds are you? What kind would you like to be?

It’s fun to try out new kinds too. If you’re interested, you should give it a shot. You might just find that it’s cool to be kind. Personally, I feel almost certain you will. But then, I’m the naively optimistic, hopeful, and filled with faith in the human spirit kind.

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

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.

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.

Real-Time, Reflective Vignette-ification

stumbling-and-falling

The Foundation. It moves really darn fast. Life, that is. Not just really fast, and not just darn fast, but really darn fast…and that’s fast. As I move along within it, doing my best to love, listen, learn, lead, and share the gratitude I have for each moment, I stumble and fall (a lot).

A growth mindset helps. It helps me realize that the stumbling and falling parts are really good for the learning and leadership parts, even critically essential if you don’t mind a bit of redundancy.

When I stumble I have to stabilize. I have to catch myself, counterbalance whatever set me off, shake off the equilibrium-shock, refocus, refresh, integrated new learning if it stuck, and take a “moving on with enhanced awareness and/or ability” breath (in those moments when catching myself during a stumble perpetuates enhanced awareness and/or ability). If I feel the benefits of such an experience immediately afterward, I might even smile.

When I fall I have to get back up. I have to make it through whatever pain is incurred during the fall, I have to dust myself off, I have to swallow my pride, and I have to keep on keeping on. If it hurt really badly, I have to take some time to heal. If it hurt really darn badly, I have to be alone for a minute (at least).

Either way, the stumbling and the falling feed the learning and the leadership.

The Strategy. Real-Time, reflective vignetteification makes it a bit easier, and arguably even more effective. Nothing in life is entirely easy (at least that’s been my experience), however, everyone knows that a bit easier is enhanced above a bit more difficult. One of the reasons life can be so difficult is that it’s often about interacting with people, and people feel. Learning and leadership are deeply embedded in the interacting with people parts of life.

Real-time, reflective vignette-ification calls for the compartmentalizing of emotions during any given situation that might otherwise be made more difficult or confusing by the same. Emotions, that is.

Here’s how it works: when you’re in a situation that calls for quick and critical thought and/or action in the face of high stakes challenges and/or heightened emotions, you force yourself to think about the situation as something you’re reading in a book. You know, a vignette.

Think of these situations as vignettes and think about how books with these types of vignettes are written. Sections that allow readers to reflect on the vignettes with thoughts and ideas about how they would react, respond, or proceed typically follow the vignettes. Real-time, reflective vignette-ification allows you to answer and act as if you were outside of the situation.

Be careful to stay connected, but do step outside of these situations with an eye on effective learning and leadership rather than emotion. You can return to the emotion later if you’d like. Some people process that way.

Now, it might be that the emotions of the person or people you’re learning and/or leading with are important to process, it often is. In those cases, make sure you don’t overlook those. I’m suggesting the removal of your emotions with real-time, reflective vignette-ification model, the ones that get in the way of your level-headedness.

Digging in a bit. Ever notice that when you reflect on the vignettes in those you books you have really good ideas, that those really good ideas come to you with a high degree of clarity, and that you feel great about the solutions you come up with.

Ever notice that sometimes, after similar real-time situations you think, or even say, “I wish I would have…” or “If I’d have been thinking more clearly I could have…” or even the classic, “hindsight is 20/20?” Real-time, reflective vignette-ification can help you avoid that.

It takes practice, it takes resolve, it takes wherewithal, it takes believing that most things that seem to be about you aren’t, that people are generally well meaning and kind even though we get upset and off balance at times, and that listening is often more meaningful than talking. It takes wanting to feel good, and it takes wanting the same for others.

It takes deep, goal oriented focus and the ability to visualize outcomes. It takes a desire and it takes a commitment. It takes time, it takes grit, and it takes holding back from complaining about the more self-pity-laden faux burdens we so love to complain about.

On the flip side, and to the benefit of all involved, it promotes not wanting to.

If you learn and/or lead, give it some thought, and then give it a shot. You might like it.

Live, love, listen, learn, lead…thanks.

Picking the Positive [a(IQ)]

pick-the-positive

The Foundation. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity. I’ve been focused on considering ways in which I can effectively practice, model, and teach a healthy appreciation and respect for the diversity that exists in every direction I look around this ever-changing and often-challenging world.

I’ve been wondering about ways in which I can best make and support positive connections with those whose paths I cross or parallel along my journey. I’ve been carefully working to understand how the myriad thoughts, ideas, and perspectives constantly surfacing through my interactions with others play into our individual and collective learning and growth, and how the same enhance our individual and collective lives.

That’s what it’s all about after all, isn’t it? Looking for ways to be happy while simultaneously contributing to the happiness of others? The pursuit of happiness is an unassailable right indelibly connected to the core of who we are. Should it not be woven into the fabric of our quests?

As a husband, a father, and an educator, I feel a strong responsibility to protect that right for myself and for those I serve. Fostering and sustaining positive partnerships that lead to joyful teaching and learning has always been at the core of my learning and leadership vision, the foundation of who I am, and what I seek to do in every moment, with each passing day.

My aim is true. My intentions are pure and concentrated. I continue to look for tools and strategies to aid the unfolding of those intentions. I’ve become a master at forgiving myself missteps along the way in favor growth. Much of my thinking energy has gone into ways I might emphasize the importance and impact of positive partnerships.

Recently, I read an article called, “Unconscious Bias: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough” by an author named Sarah E. Fiarman. Mrs. Fiarman is an educational consultant and a former public school principal who has written multiple books on learning and leadership. She sub-titled this article, “Deep rooted biases hinder our best intentions. Learn how to recognize and address them.” The article is published in the November 2016 issue of Educational Leadership, entitled “Disrupting Inequity.”

At first blush, when I’m considering equity in schools, I go to race. Then, I tend to move to socio-economics, followed by gender, and so on. Could this be a form of unconscious bias in and of itself?

After leading with some thinking on the impact of bias and the need for increased awareness, Mrs. Fiarman addresses naming it. She points out, “Sometimes we increase awareness by naming bias in others and in ourselves,” and goes on to assert that naming is not always comfortable. It’s not easy to consider your own biases. Especially in light of the fact that in most cases where bias plays a role in decision-making and actions the bias doesn’t fit with intentions or worldview.

Bias is often unconscious, which is why it’s so important to dig into it with an open mind, an open heart, and a clear purpose. My purpose in reflecting with critical intention on this article and digging into the potential of my own unconscious bias is to enhance my learning and leadership practice. I’m looking to do the hard work of figuring out where I could be more attentive to the needs of those I serve. I’m seeking to understand how I can enhance my ability to seek to understand.

After moving through pieces of the puzzle in which Mrs. Fiarman points out how important it is to recognize and appreciate that unconscious bias can negatively impact our behaviors, that designing systems to counteract those impacts is critical, and that positive, trusting, and collaborative relationships have the power to provide some essential unconscious bias understanding through shared analysis and genuine, caring checks and balances regarding decision making, I came to the part where she wrote about empathy.

She began with, “Another proven way to counteract the power of unconscious bias is to replace negative associations with positive ones.” This drove straight into the heart of what I’d been thinking about. It caused me to lift my eyes from the page and process. It’s what I would like to be best at. With Dweck’s growth mindset as a foundation, maybe it can be.

If you believe that everything happens for a reason, and at just the right time for that reason to be most striking, than it’s worth noting that this article came to me at just the right time. If you don’t, it might be worth noting anyway. Either way, I dig it.

Mrs. Fiarman says, “Biases are built by repeated exposure to a particular message,” and that, “Deliberately consuming counter narratives can help break down that automatic reflex.” I dig it, indeed.

So, what if our biases extend to the negative itself. What if we are bent to leaning toward the negative in any, and even more troubling, every situation?

The world moves fast ad it’s riddled with challenges. Lest we forget that every challenge is also a chance we could likely become wrapped up in the ongoing tumble of dirty laundry that seems to surround us.

The Story. Yesterday my five-year-old punted a beanbag in the middle of the living room at his Nan and Pop’s house. Let me clarify that Nan and Pop’s living room is not an ideal place for punting anything. Whatever grace prevented that punt from resulting in something being knocked over, smashed, or otherwise destroyed is undoubtedly real and indisputably powerful.

After several seconds that seemed to go by in slow motion, and upon a safe landing for the would-be-destructor of a bean bag, my son and I looked at one another wide-eyed and filled with relief in the knowledge that neither of us was about to be in big trouble.

I spoke first, “That was a really bad idea.”

Then he spoke, “A really bad idea but a really good punt.”

We both laughed.

The Reflection. What if that’s the way?

What if my astute five-year-old was the teacher and I was the student?

What if I found a new mentor?

What if, no matter the situation, picking out the positive is where the treasure can be found?

Sure, there are several, easily conceivable worse scenarios than the potential for a broken vase at Nan and Pop’s house, but in that moment, we were both slightly (if not considerably) terrified. Still, this kid picked the positive. My mentor modeled what might be the way.

My hope is that he understood the theoretically flawed decision-making and the potential for disaster. I try to impart learning around every turn. I also understand that learning comes at its own pace and in its own time.

What if the real learning here is that life is better when we look on the bright side?

What if the nugget of truth in this situation is about a holistic look at our moments with an eye on what went well?

Should I be considering the living room beanbag-punt experiment as a viable lesson in positive responsiveness?

What do we do when questionable decision-making goes right? Should we be focused on the decision making in a vacuum, or should we be focused on the “right?’

What if we set our individual and collective paths on picking the positive?

Is it possible that picking the positive could lead to a paradigm of progress and self-celebration? Might that be good for all involved? Could picking the positive help to foster cultures of teamwork, trust, and growth is school communities? Families? Within ourselves?

Could picking the positive shift our thinking in right directions by repeatedly exposing us to hopeful and optimistic messaging?

I suppose anything is possible, isn’t it?

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

 

Reflection and Growth: The Bad News Is the Good News [(a)IQ]

reflection-and-growth

When I think about reflection I typically think about looking back on something. I think about a blanket analysis of something I had previously thought, said, or done.

Why?

Why do I think of reflection as a simple backward-looking act when I know what the word means? A reflection is an image of the present. It’s essentially an aura of the moment in which it exists, and in that, it’s a powerful tool for considering growth and next steps.

While the incorporation of pathway and progress are essential to planning and forward thinking, it would seem that those next steps should be the critical focus of a meaningful reflective practice.

Hank Procee refers to Frank Serafini’s outlining of reflective practice on the foundation of both “reflectively” as dealing with “profession-related issues” and “reflection” as stressing “critical social issues.” He summaries Serifini’s distinction between “three critical dimensions” or reflective practice as follows, “The first dimension in purpose (what is the goal of reflection); the second is process (how is reflection exercised); and the third is focus (what is the central event or experience to reflect upon)” (p. 238).

I’m beginning to consider that my conventional reflective paradigm might have something to do with a type judgment that lays outside of the scientific lens that Serifini constructs, and in that, has the potential to restrict meaningful and progressive outcomes.       It is through that consideration that I have been further contemplating shifting my paradigm in favor of a more real-time conception, solidifying a new reflective paradigm that better aligns with my intended purpose, process, and focus, and framing each reflective stop along the path with forward progress always in mind.

In doing so, I’m also bearing in mind an effort to reframe and enhance my perception of judgment as a function of learning and growth indelibly connected to reflection.

Visualize your own reflection in a mirror. What do you see? Do you not see yourself as you are right now?

Arguably, in this moment, within your reflection, and given the knowledge you have of yourself and your past, you can see how that past has impacted your progress toward this moment.

As I reflect right now my thoughts are with what has led to this moment, professionally and personally, and with what I might think, say, and do to continue becoming what it is I’m aiming at. This would be a process focused on real-time growth with the purpose of learning and enhances practice…process, purpose, and focus.

In reflection through this lens I would be forced to think on a foundation of the moment I’m witnessing and asking how I can bring my best and most thoughtful personal and professional qualities to each consecutive moment, even as I change along with an ever-changing understanding of myself within both a personal and professional context.

Another critical aspect of understanding my best and how to tap it in each moment is reflection around best practices in others. Sometimes it’s difficult to see and understand our own best. It often seems less difficult to recognize others at their best or to pick out best qualities in others. If that is the case, scientifically reflecting on the thoughts, ideas, and actions of others as potential models of effective practice (whether through a “what to do” or a “what not to do” lens) could contribute to progress in meaningful ways as well.

In doing so it is critical to avoid negative or personalized judgment, while focusing in on growth-producing judgment. What if I were only to pull only the very best from every situation I see or hear about? What if my reflective practice was only about the positive? What if even the instinctively negative aspects of reflective judgment were forcibly viewed holistically as opportunities for advancement?

Inside of a growth mindset, even challenges and mistakes are to be considered positive opportunities for learning. Through this lens, even the bad news is the good news because the bad news is fodder for contemplation of connected development.

I would suggest that thinking about reflection as a scientific act in which purpose, process, and focus set the stage for growth allows us to separate from the arguably reflexive potential for negative judgment, and to connect our personal and professional practice to the meaningful growth patterns we would inevitably then discover in ourselves and in others. I would further suggest that the same has the potential to help reflective practitioners see those patterns with enhanced clarity and use them as drivers of continuous and positive progress.

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!

What Do I Expect?

Organic Nature of Nature

In an effort to go greener I switched to an old-fashioned push mower last year. You know the kind with whirring drum blades. No gas, no plug, no charge. Turned out…no good. I couldn’t reconcile the unpredictability of the cut. Some pieces of grass or weed (another side-effect of mission greener) were longer than others. Some were simply pushed over instead of cut. It was wild looking. It felt untamed. I wanted uniform, manicured stripes. I got jagged, indelicate streaks.

I cursed that little push mower before relegating it to a cobweb-crammed corner of the garage. It was all but predestined to fade away. It could very well have ended up a curbside bargain but for a “one more chance” wind that blew through me at the beginning of Michigan’s mow season this year.

“One more chance” was just the beginning though. What followed was a holistic paradigm shift with regard to my expectations. I guess another cycle of learning and growth flipped a switch in me. So, in a moment of forgiveness, acceptance, and serenity I pushed that little mower over my lawn, cobwebs and all.

As I complete the first go around I looked out over what might have been familiar jagged, indelicate streaks to discover that they were not familiar. They seemed different now. There was no distain in my mind or my heart. No anxious wanting of uniform, manicured stripes. I appreciated what I saw. I liked it.

In a fluid scoping out effort my gaze cleared the streaks and landed on a perennial bed stretching its arms after a long winter nap. Plant tips in varying shades of green peeked out past the dirt browns and the faded greys of what was once a stark black blanked of dyed mulch. It was organic. It was connected. It made sense. It was more than ok, it was right.

Headed into my third summer as a school administrator, my eighth as a husband, and my seventh as a father I greatly appreciate the organic nature of the path; so much more jagged than it is manicured, and in my humble opinion, so much more exciting and meaningful than it would otherwise be.

What do I expect? Life is mysterious. Learning is messy. Love is wild. Last year I couldn’t deal with the natural look and feel of a powerless blade-cut lawn and this year I’m actively deriving power from the same.

I’m excited to continue reflecting on how this newfound appreciation for the organic nature of nature can contribute to my growth as a learner and a leader, and how it can enhance my support for those I serve in my professional and my personal life.

I’m enthusiastically diving into thinking around expectations and how I can manage them with an eye positive progress, even and especially through challenges.

On a whim I used the power mower last week. I thought I’d give it one pass in between the push mover grooming, just to even things out a bit. I got manicured stripes. For a moment I thought that’s what I wanted again. It wasn’t. Things aren’t even. Things are uneven. Things are irregular and rough, and even so, things are wonderful.

I can’t wait for my lawn to grow back. I expect it will soon.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

First of All (Why Not be Flabbergasted?)

First Of All

Firsts are really important things. They’re indelibly connected to learning and growth in unique ways. Children experience lots of firsts. It’s cool. Is would seem that the younger the child the more firsts he or she is likely to experience. I have four children, my oldest is six and my youngest is one, so I’ve seen this phenomenon in action a great deal over the past several years.

The little guy (my one-year-old who’s actually big) defines “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” (as they all did at his age). To that end he’s an especially enthusiastic audience for this exceedingly silly dad. I hardly need to make a goofy face or dance a bit of a jig to get huge smiles and belly laughs from the jolly fella. Admittedly, he’s not the first to laugh at my dancing prowess (or my lack thereof) and my face is organically goofy, so I have an advantage.

The point is that even silliness is relatively new to him, and in its newness he’s hyper-susceptible to its charms. To him, silliness is remarkable, and when he experiences silliness he thinks, “Wow…this is extraordinary…and so darn funny!” (or some one-year-old version of that thought).

Incidentally there’s nothing quite like hearing a one-year-old laugh his little bottom off (or his big bottom in this case). My wife insists that’s not a good enough reason to have a fifth child, but it sure is wonderful. His brothers and sister get excited about silliness when they’re in the right mood, but increasingly they’re ever-growing other interests distract and carry them to alternate, “Wow…this is amazing!” places. Still plenty of awe and wonder in this world for them, it’s simply shifting as it does for all of us.

But who says that firsts have to ever go away? Truly, there is far to much in this existence to ever experience everything. What if it’s simply a matter of perspective? Wouldn’t it be great if we could continue to experience firsts throughout our lives in the ways we did when we were young?

I once read a philosopher who asked, “If you didn’t know your age, how old would you be?” Good questions. I wouldn’t be one, almost three, or even six (and three quarters) but I certainly wouldn’t be forty-two. Furthermore, and strictly speaking, every moment is a first if you live with a growth mindset in a progress-oriented paradigm.

By nature, we’re learning organisms. It’s our core. What if we let that core surface and lived as if every moment was new…new in that the previous moment injected newness into each next moment in that each next moment is essentially the each previous moment plus the learning and growth experienced in it (each previous moment, that is). What if? What if, indeed?

When I think of my last moment on earth (and I hope it’s a long time from now), I find myself feeling certain that just before I pass into whatever I’ll be passing into, I’ll think (and possibly even say), “oh,” in the realization of something new that will make my next steps alright, and then I’ll drift into it with a one-year-old’s amazement and wonder.

Romantic? Sure. Fantastical? Some might argue. Possible? Why not? In fact, if firsts are so incredible why not intentionally, and even forcibly if necessary, experience each moment as the first that it truly is. Each moment is the first moment of its exact kind. Why not be thrilled at the gift it is? Why not be flabbergasted by its awesomeness? Why not do it and why not model that to the children we serve as parents and educators? There would be a lot of awesomeness and a whole bunch of flabbergastedness going on! Could be fun. Might be cool; possibly even a boon to learning, growth, and a joyful journey for all involved. Who knows, you might even like it. After all…there’s a first for everything.

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.