Tagged: Relationships

The Perfect Lie

Sometimes I tell my kids, “That’s perfect!”

Sometimes I tell them, “Nothing’s perfect.”

My son caught me in the perfect lie the other day.

We needed to get out of the house. He was drawing a picture. He was in one of those moods during which he becomes overwhelmed by a visceral need to “get it right” before moving on. I know the feeling. I understand that this need can be problematic, in part because there often seem to be no “getting it right,” maybe especially for those of us who feel the need in that way (viscerally).

I wonder if those who don’t feel the need to “get it right” all the time are actually “getting it right” by thinking that “not quite right” is in fact “right,” on the premise (as Carol Dweck wrote in her book Mindset) that “becoming is better than being.” Ironically, I genuinely believe that’s “right.”

Regardless, I’m thinking there might be some apple and tree stuff going on here, which is beside the point, other than to suggest that I was confident our hero wouldn’t shift his attention to whatever pressing play-date or junior athletic need was looming, until the drawing looked like whatever he was tying to make it look like.

So, after exercising what I considered a good deal of patience I exclaimed, “That’s perfect!”

He smiled, put down his crayons, and off we went.

A few days later he was back at it. This time, we had nowhere to go and nothing else to do. I was excited that he was taking his time. I was present with him in that moment. I was in awe of his racing, creative mind. I didn’t want him to be stifled by the perfect lie. My motivation had changed.

He got frustrated. He wasn’t “getting it right.”

This time, in a sincere effort to help him get unstuck and shed some frustration I told him, “Nothing’s perfect.”

He looked at me with a crinkled face. He asked, “Then why did you tell me that my drawing was perfect before?”

Oops. I forgot that they don’t forget a thing.

Carol Dweck would be ashamed of me.

I suppose I could have explained that sometimes adults mislead kids when we’re trying to get them to do things the way we want them to, but that didn’t seem sensible. How would he ever trust me again? I was in a pickle (figuratively).

I told him that I shouldn’t have said it. I told him that one of the greatest things about life is that we’re always learning and that there’s always room to grow. I exposed my manipulative ways and revealed that the other day I was trying to get him to move more quickly. He smiled. He got me. It brought him joy. I was happy to help.

I thought about how easy it is for me to utter a tiny falsehood or a harmless misrepresentation to my children when it seems to serve my purpose. I found myself wrestling with the idea. I certainly can’t be the only parent who misinforms his kids from time to time. I tell myself that it’s for their good when I do it. That should count for something. The intention is there. Am I misleading myself? This reflective pathway is wrought with irony.

It’s not like I’m telling him that the earth is flat, of that pigs can fly, or that spinach tastes good.

However, it strikes me that the perfect like could actually be whopper if I’m not careful with it. What if he develops a fixed mindset? Then I’d be sorry.

I once read about a Native American folk tradition set on the foundation that no human being is, or can produce anything “perfect.” Within this tradition was the practice of purposefully leaving flaws in artwork; woven blankets with loose strings or off pattern colors, carvings that might be unbalanced or disproportionate, etc.

The idea being that life is a process and not a product. That the aim should not be to achieve perfection in any given moment, but to keep moving forward, learning all the while, and seeing evolved outcomes unfold along the unique and wondrous pathways we each tread.

I was caught in the perfect lie, and I’m glad of it. I may be better off. I’m thinking that being caught and reflecting on the experience might even enhance my ability to parent in a growth-mindset oriented way. It could help me help my kids live enhanced journies by instilling in them an enthusiasm for things like “becoming” and “beyond” instead of “finished,” “perfect,” or “right,” and that seems right. Right (you know what I mean)?

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

Power Inage

Is your power out? I thought that mine was, but now I realize it’s not.

Sure the electrical power that usually flows into my house isn’t flowing into my house at the moment, so that’s out, but my power is decidedly in.

Ironically, experiencing a power outage has reminded me to look around in search of power the that remains; this power outage has catalyzed a meaningful and exciting power inage. It’s energizing. I would even go so far to suggest that it’s electrifying. Go figure.

Here’s just a bit of what I’m finding:

My power is in…

…the ability to cope. At first it was pretty frustrating. Frankly, I’d rather have electricity in my home than not. I’d rather be able to use my appliances. I’d rather be able to plop down on the couch and watch the most recent DVR’d episode of “This Is Us,” with a bowl of popcorn fresh out of the microwave. I’d rather not feel like a character in “The Blair Witch Project” whenever I walk past a mirror. I’d rather not stub my toe repeatedly. Rather or not, it is what it is (as they say), and at the risk of double-entendre-confusion, it ain’t no big deal. In fact, it’s not much to cope with at all, and remembering that gives me power.

…an incredible village. I’m well aware that some people don’t have their mother and three siblings living within a half mile of their doorstep. I’m extremely fortunate. My wife, my children, and I are blessed with the gift of a big-time, up close, and incredible village. We are truly fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who we genuinely care about, and who genuinely care about us. This challenge has caused us to spend more time together. You know, that time we “just don’t have.” Turns out we do have it, and using in ways that keeps us close and connected is delightful. Remembering that I’m a villager, and part of an incredible village at that, gives me power.

…a strong, dedicated, thoughtful, and loving partner. My wife is as cool and as tough as they come. I have no idea how she holds it all together in the way she does. There is no challenge to great. The thought of compassionately managing our four children while seamlessly accounting for all the things that need according for during a power outage is literally daunting to me. I might cry just thinking about. There’s so much, and that’s on top of the things that need to be done even when we have electricity…the things she does every day. She’s still doing those things too, just without electricity. My children are kind-hearted and well meaning, but they’re also spirited. I think that’s the word for it. Feisty, maybe?   Not to mention that I can get a bit complainy when I’m tired and out of my element. My brilliant wife makes it all seem so easy. I know it’s not. Having a strong, dedicated, thoughtful, and loving partner gives me power.

…reflection. The power inage I’m thinking through is about taking some time to reflect during what might otherwise seem a considerably more significant challenge. No electricity to the house for a few days is relatively benign. Arguably, it doesn’t matter at all. Life goes on, and it’s all good. I’m very privileged that way. Instead of frustration, reflection is helping me fill my mind and my heart with gratitude. Reflection gives me power. Gratitude gives me power.

Whether or not your power is out right now, you might consider having a power inage. Who knows, you could uncover power that you forgot, or didn’t even realize you have. It could enhance your life. You might like it.

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

When I Need You Most

An open letter from every kid to every adult in our lives:

Please be there when I need you most.

I don’t always make good decisions. Please remember that I don’t always understand how. I don’t always have the tools, the skills, or the experience. I don’t intend to upset or frustrate you with my decisions, my words, or my actions; in fact, I’d like you to be proud of me. I’d like to always say and do things that cause you to celebrate and want to be around me. I just don’t always know how to make that happen. Yet.

I’m learning how to communicate with every experience and every interaction. I need your help. I need your support. I need your understanding. I need your forgiveness. I need your compassion.

I’m learning how to understand and attend to my feelings. Sometimes when I’m mad I say things that make me sound mean. I’m not mean, I just don’t always know how to ask for the kind of help I need, and as a result, I sometimes act mean just so that you know I’m mad.

I might even say that I hate you from time to time. I don’t. It’s just that I don’t always have the strength or the wherewithal to simply say, “I’m mad…and here’s why.” I wish I did. Frankly, showing my anger in negative ways doesn’t feel good. Believe it or not, it frustrates me. Sometimes it makes me feel even madder, and often times, sadder. Ironic, isn’t it.

It’s the same with all of my emotions. I just don’t have the life experience to regulate or restore them to a place of focus and calm all the time.

I’m a kid. I’ve only been alive for a few years, and I’ve only had the ability to interact with people in verbal ways for a few of those few years. At first, and for some time, I needed you to do and provide everything for me. Even now, I’m just learning how to do some it for myself.

To add a layer of complexity, confusion, and challenge, I’ll be learning that for quite some time. Please be there for me as I do. Please have patience with me along the way.

Mine is a nuanced path, one that will unfold along a zigzagging line, curiously unique to who I am and what I’m made of, with some categorical predictors peppered in, and a multitude of staggeringly surprising twists and turns at many points along the way, some magnificent and some distressing.

Read the articles and the books, talk and listen to one another with open minds and open hearts, and please always remember that there is no one right way. If you keep your eyes open and reflect through a learning lens, you’ll see that being there for me might mean something different in each passing moment. You’ll discover that there’s no static formula for supporting the safe and positive growth of a kid, but rather that, with some fundamental parameters, each one of us is bit different, with a bit different needs.

I might be sad for silly reasons. I might be silly for sad reasons. Regardless, it’s not “no big deal,” and I can’t “just get over it.” I need to process it. I need your help.

I need to know that taking a break can calm me down, and that being hungry or tired put’s me on edge, and that sharing my toys can actually make playing with them more fun, and that it’s ok to want to be alone sometimes, and that it’s even ok to go ahead and be alone when that want surfaces, and that saying, “thank you,” feels really good, and that meaning it feels really great, and that I don’t need to try to be like someone else, and that when I work hard to make sure I’m only trying to be like myself, no matter what people say, they’ll probably actually start trying to be like me, and that words matter, and tone reveals, and actions demonstrate, and that along with mattering, words land on people’s hearts, and that hearts are sometimes fragile, and that while it takes time for hearts to heal from unkind words, it’s possible, and that relentless, extended and ongoing kindness is a great way to care for a healing heart, and that I’m actually the best of what I have to offer, not the worst, and that mistakes are good things, and that when I embrace them they help me grow, and so much more; so much more that I need to know, to see modeled, and to practice over and over.

Please, please be patience with me along the way. Please see me for who I am. Please be firm and consistent with me, but please define and recognize me as my best and not my worst. Please share your faith in me with one another and support one another in maintaining that there is nothing but hope for me, and that I am to be celebrated and not diminished.

I will continue to test you and to try your patience, but I will also continue to amaze and overwhelm you with awe, wonder, and joy.

Please be there when I need you most. I know you can. I need you to.

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

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.

Not On The Inside…And It’s OK

It’s all about perspective.

The other day my five-year-old asked me why it’s been so long since we took a trip to 7-Eleven.

I told him we don’t go as much in the winder because we tend to like to get Slurpee’s, and that Slurpee’s are better in the warm weather.

I told him we don’t go as much in the winter because it’s cold.

He said, “Not on the inside!”

Good Point.

When we frame things in ways that work for us, worlds of possibilities open up, even beyond Slurpees in the winter.

Specifically, when we frame things with learning and growth in mind, even our stumbles turn into opportunities for progress.

As parents and educators, this could be a good message for the kids we serve.

It’s ok to want a Slurpee in the winter. You can drink it inside.

Similarly, it’s ok…

…if you’re sad, nervous, or angry. You can take a deep breath, reflect on those feeling and use the tools and strategies you know to restore to a place of calm, focus, and even joyfulness.

…if you don’t know about strategies to restore. You can learn them.

…if you get it wrong. You can practice. You will still get it wrong sometimes, but if you remember that each time you do is an opportunity for growth, you’ll be fine.

…if you fall. You can get back up.

…if you fail. You can try again.

…if you’re afraid. You can use courage.

I’ll bet you can extend that list exponentially.

I say try, and then help the kids you serve understand that there’s always a creative solution to the challenges they face, and that it’s ok (and important) to think creatively about those solutions along the way.

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

Keep Me

The Story. My daughter got new socks the other day. She’s three years old. New socks are nice for me. They’re super-awesome for a three-year-old!

These new socks have stripes on them. Stripes are super-awesome too.

Before we could leave the house yesterday, she insisted that I find her new socks. It was a really big deal. An adventure. Where could they be? Oh my, what if we couldn’t find them?

I had an idea…the sock drawer. Why don’t we check in the sock drawer? So we did.

Up the stairs we went, hand in hand, step by step, a pair of sock hunters; nervous, excited, eager with anticipation, and extremely hopeful. So hopeful we looked at each other and laughed a few times along the way.

Her hope was that the socks would be found so that she could wear them and show off her stripes. My hope was that the socks would be found so that we could reduce the excruciatingly extensive preparation-for-leaving-the-house process by even a few moments. It’s also fun to see her so animated and joyful.

At first glance she didn’t see them, but I did. Her face shifted from jubilant to distressed.

“There’re not here!” She shouted with the sharp agony of defeat.

I reached in. I pulled them out slowly. I smiled. I placed them in her tiny, eager, and outstretched hands. She beamed.

Again she shouted. This time, “Daddy…you found them…you found my new socks…see the stripes!”

I did see the stripes. They were super-awesome. I told her.

Then, she threw her arms around me and said, “You’re a good, Daddy…I think I should keep you.”

I was really glad to hear it.

The Point. Simple things can be really powerful too, the challenges and the triumphs. As parents and educators we mustn’t overlook the awe or the wonder with which kids move through this world. Everything is relatively new for them.

They need us, not only to guide them, but also to celebrate with them, even when we’re celebrating finding a pair of brand new stripped socks.

There are so many things we want to show and teach them, so many important things we feel we need for them to learn and demonstrate. It seems to me, the more we follow their lead the better able we are able to support each of their individual pathways to whatever it is they are each becoming.

The more we share in their excitement and rejoice in their happiness, the more connected we become, and the better we are able to serve them through the twists and turns we will inevitably face together along the way.

I’m glad that finding a pair of socks makes me a “good daddy,” because sometimes that’s about all I got sometimes, and I’m really glad that she thinks she should keep me, because I most certainly want to be kept.

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.

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.

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.