Byron's Babbles

Best Books Of 2019

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 12.48.09 PMI was asked yesterday what the top five books I read in 2019 were. I had to really think about the question, because I do not read to rank them. In fact when I have a book recommended to me I always ask what am I going to learn from it. Reading for me is a way to open my mind to new ideas or hone skills. I hate it when someone reads a book and then wants to somehow miraculously put everything in place. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s why book reads, and there is research that backs this up, are not effective. As I reflected on the question, however, I decided to go back and see which books I read this year were referenced in my blog posts. This is a partial indication of learning from the books being used in the real-time pondering I am doing.

My Best Books Of 2019

So, here’s what I did first: I went back through my over 100 blog posts from this year and flagged every one which referenced a book I read in 2019. There were 22 posts referencing 20 of the books I read. I have those those posts organized in no particular order by four books at a time. Remember, these 20 books should be considered as part of the Best Books In 2019 that I read. If you read the posts you will find what lesson(s) I learned from the book, and there is a link to the book and the author in each post. Here are the posts:

Collaboration and Get Some Sleep and Self-Awareness

When Leaders Go Bad

Cheesecake Talk Triggers

Leading Influence Formula

Overworked and Overwhelmed

Leading By Metaphor

Do Others Like The Vibes You Give Off?

Leading Toward Morale

What We Know, And Don’t Quite Know We Know

Leading Without Kitschy Trinkets

Developing & Supporting Our Students: Future Identity Versus No Future Identity

Joyful and Leading With A Touch Of Quirkiness

Loving America

Benevolent Leadership and The Tigress Of Forli

Think Fast & Answer Quickly

 

Do You Have The Inexhaustible Ability To Just Live?

Are You Setting Precedent?

MacGyver Intersectional Leadership

My Top 5 Books Of 2019

I know what you are thinking; I did not answer the original question of what my top five books of 2019 were. Even though I hate doing it, because I have gained so much value from all the books I read, but I won’t let myself of the hook. After a great deal of reflection here they are:

  1. The Tigress Of Forli: Renaissance Italy’s Most Courageous And Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici by Elizabeth Lev
  2. On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis
  3. The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Tell Us About Innovation by Frans Johansson
  4. Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide To Creating Customers With Word Of Mouth by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin
  5. The Pioneers: The Heroic Story Of The Settlers Who Brought The American Ideal West by David McCullough

As you can see, 2019 was quite the year of reading. I am still working on what my reading goal will be for 2020. Remember, leaders are readers! Happy New Year!

 

Tending Our Friendships

Posted in Best Friends, Boston Legal, Communication, Forgiveness, Friendship, Happiness, Leadership, Listening, Metaphors by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 31, 2019

I was touched last night to have my son ask if I wanted to watch a couple more episodes of Boston Legal with him. Hey, it was 10:30pm; what else could be better? Plus, love spending time with the boy. We laughed and discussed the political issues of the time of the show. Then there was a cool seen during Season 4, Episode 20 when my son said, “That was a great metaphor.” As you know, I live by metaphor. Having my son recognize a quality metaphor – PRICELESS!

Here’s the scene: Alan Shore said to Jerry Espenson, “I feel as if I haven’t seen much of you over the past year.” Jerry replied, “Well, you’ve been really busy, Alan. So have I. With work. Work has…Hey! That’s the beauty of being friends, isn’t it? Relationships with long shelf lives. You can just stick them on the shelf. I tell you! Alan rebutted, “What?” Then Alan continued, “I have never ever considered myself someone who puts work before friendships. Seems I do.” Jerry then gave us the metaphor saying, “We all do, Alan. Friendships are a little like back yard gardens. We plan to tend to them. We just always seem to put it off till next week.” Friendships are the cornerstones of our lives. Our garden of friends requires careful tending.

We also need to recognize that people change and grow at very different speeds and different ways. Metaphorically, we need to plant, cultivate, prune, water, and fertilize our friendships. To have a relationship, you must plan, cultivate, and tend to it. Relationships left unattended eventually die.

We need to be grateful for our friends and the people who make us happy. For all the faults in the character of Alan Shore in the show, we do see him always trying to be a good friend. He offers advice, checks in on them, maybe shows up in court just to watch and show support, always seeks to reconcile a squabble with a friend quickly, and always goes and apologizes when he says something to a friend that offended him or her. One of the ongoing plots of the show is about friendships and romances of the characters. I blogged about this in Are We Best Friends?

Let’s not forget to tend to our gardens of friendship as we move into a new decade. In fact, I think I’ll make my New Year’s Resolution be: to appreciate my friends every day and catch more fish.

Keep Something On The To-Do List

Posted in Boston Legal, Dreams, Leadership, To-Do List by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 30, 2019

“The thing about life is you always need to keep something on the to-do list.” Alan Shore said this to Denny Crane while sitting on the balcony having cigars and Scotch at the end of an episode of Boston Legal. In this age of instant gratification it was a great reminder that we need things to look forward to and to be working toward. It’s important to enjoy working toward our dreams. Having long term items on our to-do lists gives us time to explore.

The scene in Boston Legal itself holds the lesson of friendship, relationships, and getting to know those we encounter along the way. These people may be peers or mentors, and we need to make the most of our time together.

Additionally, we need to be open to new things and always give ourselves room to change course if necessary. If we are open to new possibilities, we will be rewarded handsomely. Unexpected discoveries are bound to come our way, especially if we keep things on our list we want to do.

Are you working toward a dream on your to-do list? What are you doing every day to help you enjoy working toward that dream?

“Damage-Joy”

Posted in Damage-Joy, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Schadenfreude by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 25, 2019

My dad used to tell me when I was growing up to always remember that when someone asks you how your doing that “90% really don’t care how you’re doing, and the other 10% are happy if you’re not doing so well.” I used to laugh, but the older and wiser I get the more truth I find in my dad’s wisdom. You really don’t have to pay too close attention to politics and many so-called leaders to understand this. Most seem to focus on disagreement and taking someone down. Most don’t come to the table with solutions – just a desire to discredit others. I’ve recently experienced “leaders” wanting to memorialize disagreement. What? I thought this was a democracy. Clearly, we are missing the point that opposing views many times get us to the best solution – checks and balances. Memorialize means to preserve memories with a ceremony. So, I guess now we need to have disagreement ceremonies. That’s dumb!

In another episode of, you guessed it, Boston Legal, I learned about “schadenfreude.” It turns out that my dad was correct, as he always seemed to be. In Season Two, Episode 2, while defending a woman charged with murder who was very unlikeable, Alan Shore (James Spader) tells the jury:

“Schadenfreude. From the German words, Schaden and Freude, damage and joy. It means to take spiteful, malicious delight in the misfortune of others. We used to dismiss this as simply an ugly side of human nature, but it is much, much more than that...” “…But as for evidence to establish that she committed a murder beyond all reasonable doubt? It just isn’t there. The only possible route to a guilty verdict here is Schadenfreude.”

After a little studying I learned that schadenfreude is a real thing. Schadenfreude is a German word that broken down means schaden: damage or harm; and freude: joy. So, if there were an English word, which there is not, it would bedamage-joy.” It is a complex emotion that basically means we find joy in others’ troubles, failures, or misfortunes. If you don’t think it exists, think again and look around. It’s why you can’t resist looking at the tabloids or checking the latest tweets. It’s one of our worst traits in human nature, but we must own it. Research shows we get more pleasure when watching football when our rival team commits a penalty or throws an interception than when our team scores a touchdown. We can’t help ourselves.

Evan a cursory search of schadenfreude will bring up hundreds of studies from neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and leadership. Part of this is our desire for empathy and compassion. With our growing commitment to empathy, the more our capacity to understand others’ points of view becomes more highly prized and the more obnoxious schadenfreude becomes. But, it is also this emotion that enables us to alleviate inferiority or envy. Research suggests it is part of the emotion that gives us our instinct for justice and fairness, quest for status, and desire to be social and belong to groups. So, all is not bad, and schadenfreude it is a testament to our ability to hold contradictory thoughts thoughts and feeling simultaneously.

Putting ourselves in another’s shoes impacts our abilities as leaders, parents, partners, and friends. While schadenfreude is probably a flaw, it is one we need to face head on and understand if we want to be more effective leaders using emotional intelligence. And, instead of tweeting the faults in others, how about we try to find consensus using the thought partnerships of all sides of the issue.

A World Without Heroes Is No Place For Me

Posted in A World Without Heroes, Courage, Gene Simmons, Heroes, Heroines, KISS, Leadership, Paul Stanley by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 24, 2019

I continue to find inspiration from Gene Simmons. As a fan of KISS from the beginning I still keep up with Gene and Paul Stanley on Twitter. This morning I was reading a Tweet thread from Gene about the song “A World Without Heroes.” This song was on the 1981 KISS album The Elder. I’d actually forgotten about the song, but went and watched the video. Some on the thread liked the song, others not so much. It’s KISS and Gene Simmons singing, so of course I love the song. I was intrigued by the words and proceeded to think about what they were thinking when they wrote the song. Check it out for yourself:

There are a few parts of the lyrics that stand out to me. Here is my take on this great song:

  • “You can’t look up to anyone | Without heroes” ~ Think about those you consider to be heroes. Without them we wouldn’t have anyone to look up to. Our heroes and heroines also understand their core values and walk the walk no matter what. Outstanding leadership often inspires heroic acts. We need heroes as role models. I’m sure glad I’ve had heroes and heroines to look up to and model after.
  • “Where you don’t know what your after | Or if something’s after you | And you don’t know why you don’t know” The hero steps in when exceptional circumstances dictate. Heroes show us how to transform our lives. Every hero story tells of a journey toward vast personal transformation.
  • “In a world without heroes | There’s nothing to be | It’s no place for me” I just can’t even imagine a world without heroes. Many of my heroes and heroines didn’t run into a burning building, go to war with an angry enemy, or win multiple Super Bowls. But they did do great things – many times just compassionate and caring things. They showed me what I wanted to be and who I wanted to be. As the last lines is the song say, “without heroes there’s nothing to be.”

Heroes and heroines can be everyday people doing extraordinary things, or just being extraordinary. They don’t always do it for publicity, money, or because the score is being kept. They simply are the human being we aspire to be, and can be. What do you want to be? Are you a hero to anyone? A world without heroes is no place for me!

Assessing Mental Impact

Today during a meeting I made a comment that we needed to assess the mental impact that a decision would make. This term made an impression on the group who said they had never thought about the mental impact a decision would have on others. We then proceeded to discuss the impacts.

I really wasn’t trying to come up with new terminology, but when I reflected on the great discussion I decided to look up mental impact. Guess what I found? Nothing. It seems I’m on to something. Again, it is not anything that is earth shattering; it is just doing the right thing. It is about considering how any decision made will affect those impacted by a decision.

Great leaders understand how to balance emotion with reason and make decisions that positively impact themselves, their employees, their customers and stakeholders, and their organizations. Making good decisions in difficult situations is no small feat because these decisions involve change. We must consider the mental impact these decisions have because change involves uncertainty, anxiety, stress, and sometimes unfavorable reactions of others. To get this right, I believe we must approach decisions as human beings and not humans doing.

Our core values come into play here. Never forget that our actions testify much more powerfully than words. Therefore, taking time to evaluate the mental impact of our decisions on people. Nearly every decision we make will affect different people in one way or another. We need to take time to understand and be fully aware of the influence our decisions will have, and understand what the mental impact will be on all individuals.

Constant connection with people enables us to recognize opportunities and threats, and figure out how to be adaptive to these threats or opportunities. Habitual outreach and taking stock of mental impact prevents insular thinking, opens doors to ideas and collaborative relationships, and expands our ability to problem- solve. By taking mental impact into account leaders can make better decisions.

Finding Happiness Right Where We Are

Posted in Appreciative Inquiry, Boston Legal, Culture, Happiness, Inspirational, Leadership, Reflection, Self Awareness by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 23, 2019

I’m starting this post with a driving question: Should we try to find happiness right where we are, rather than being obsessed with where we are going? This sounds really good, and makes for good print, but does anyone actually do it? Or, can it actually be done? I believe I come close, but still have much work to do.

This reflection came at the end of another episode of Boston Legal – Season 3 Episode 23. The balcony scene with Denny Crane and Alan Shore had an interaction at the end where Denny was worried about getting old and losing his edge (which he often does). Alan said, “Yes, but don’t you think the real joy in life lies in the promise of tomorrow? The young simply have more tomorrows stacked up. That’s all.” Replying, Denny said, “Happiness… is right now my friend. On this balcony, right now. You and me.” Even though there is the paradox of Denny living in the moment of happiness right now and being obsessed with continuing to be undefeated in the courtroom and losing his edge with age, I was reminded we need to live more in the happiness of right now. The other thing to note about the conversation between Denny and Alan is the part of young people having more tomorrows stacked up. While generally true, this is not necessarily always the case. We really don’t know how many tomorrows we have – none of us know that. Thus, a strong case for being happy right now!

Many times, if we are honest, we find ourselves chasing after something not because we actually want it, but because we somehow are made to believe we need it. This could be a thing, clothing, new job, promotion, et cetera. This belief comes from our constant comparing of ourselves to others. This is a natural trap to fall into. Easy to say, “Don’t do that!” Almost impossible to not do. We need to constantly be grateful for what we have and remember that someone else’s success is not our failure.

This is why I am so obsessed with the final scene at the end of every episode of Boston Legal. While it is clear that Denny and Alan are not perfect at this happiness in the moment thing, they do, however, end every day with a conversion on the balcony. That conversation always leads to the happiness they have in the moment with their friendship and things they are grateful for. Alan Shore’s final comment in that part of the conversation was, “I love how you reduce everything in life to… you and me.” Maybe it is as simple as reducing things down to the simplest things that bring us happiness.

What if we began to think of happiness as right here, right now? Let’s start being happy first and realizing our some days and best days are right now. Let’s stop looking for answers, what’s next, and getting there and start enjoying here. Our typical happiness model according to Neil Pasricha is actually backward. He argued in 7 Ways To Be Happy Right Now that we operate using the model that great work plus great success brings happiness. The problem, as we all know is, that as soon as we reach that success we are really not that happy because we are already on to what is next. Pasricha continued to posit that we should start the equation with being happy and then great work and big success will follow. I would add “Balcony time with a friend” to Pasricha’s seven ways to be happy.

Here are three other posts I did reflecting on Boston Legal balcony scenes: Is It Fun Being You?; Do You Have An Inexhaustible Ability To Just Live?; and, Are We Best Friends? Let’s make sure we are taking time line Denny and Alan to enjoy and be happy in our “now.” Let’s all put happy at the beginning!

Success In Aspirational Terms

This past week I heard a person say that “success should be measured in aspirational terms.” The more I thought about it, the more I like it. In education I believe we need to think more aspirational in the way we prepare students. In other words looking beyond just credits and a diploma to the outcomes of what a student should be able to do now and be capable of learning to do later.

Let’s use an example that gets used a lot – welding. It is short-sided to think that having a student be in the single pathway of learning to fuse two pieces of metal together is enough. Don’t get me wrong, good careers await the student, but that’s not aspirational enough. This is why I believe in achieving multiple pathways. A student with aspirations for welding should also be studying computer science. Computers have become an indispensable part of welding processes. Computer, and even artificial intelligence, are required for the execution of many welding operations today. We can only imagine this need for knowledge of computer science will increase. Industry is telling us that welders will need knowledge of lasers, computer program, robotics, artificial intelligence, materials engineering, and systems integration to advance.

With the increased demand for highly skilled and technically sound workers, our students will need to shape their careers around multiple areas of expertise. This aspirational approach will enable their lifelong learning and ability to be agile to a ever-increasingly fast changing world.

We need to be deliberately aligning our student’s aspirations and abilities. The scene in the movie “The Martianwhere it doesn’t look like it will end well for astronaut Mark Watney he sends this message to be relayed to his parents:

“Tell them I love what I do and I’m really good at it. And that I’m dying for something big and beautiful and greater than me. Tell them I said I can live with that.” ~ Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, in The Martian (2015)

Try and tell me that’s not aspirational. We all need to find what we love and what we are good at. It’s not either or, and we need to help students find that balance as well. Some would say that aspiration is magical thinking. I don’t believe it is a magic trick to strategize about the future, help students invent themselves and us reinvent ourselves, push upscale, and keep a growth mindset. Without deep thought and planning about measuring success in aspirational terms, it just becomes a vacuous platitude, or “thing,” as I like to say. But taken in the context of enabling the future, career/skill agility, and student outcomes, measuring success in aspirational terms becomes about being prepared for what we don’t know we need to be prepared for.

Leading With Compassionate Solutions

One of the driving forces of exceptional leadership is compassion. I am working through a situation right now that prompted the much appreciated text pictured above from a staff member and thought partner I am working on the situation with. Usually I pride myself on being very creative and innovative, but to be credited for finding a compassionate solution made me feel good and made me reflect on whether I was consistently a compassionate leader.

To be great, leaders must have the necessary empathy to inspire understanding and knowledge in team members. I teach about this in the leadership trainings I do. Empathy begins with taking an understanding from the experience and perception of another. Empathy, however, is just about understanding. Empathy is about opening doors and removing confusion. Compassion is the action step; compassion is about actually doing something.

The compassionate leader can then be creative in solving situations, problems, and opportunities. Looking for compassionate solutions allows the leader to look past “the easy way out” referenced in the text pictured above. This allows the team to look at challenges as opportunities to be dealt with as obstacles, not barriers. Barriers stop completely and obstacles can be removed, gone around, over, or under. I blogged about this in Obstacles Vs. Barriers. Actually, I said to the author of the above text, “Let’s make sure we look at any challenges as obstacles and not barriers. We are not allowing any barriers.” The compassionate leader seeks to understand people, families, and communities; knowing that understanding is the gateway to having the greatest influence as a leader.

Manatee Leadership Lessons

 

Yesterday, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to learn leadership lessons from the West Indian Manatee. Our Central Florida/Tampa 3D Leadership Program participants decided that we would start our gathering at the Tampa Electric Company Manatee Viewing Center. The Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach delivers reliable electricity to the community. When the Tampa Bay water temperature reaches 68ºF or colder, the Manatees gather in large numbers in the power station’s discharge canal, where saltwater – taken from Tampa Bay to cool Unit 4 flows, clean and warm, back to the bay. The discharge canal is a state and federally designated Manatee sanctuary that provides critical protection from the cold for these unique, gentle animals. It has also been developed into an incredible education center dedicated to the Manatee, Sting Ray, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife and plant life indigenous to the area. I even got to smell the breath of a Manatee. For the farm kid from Indiana this was an incredible experience.

Prior to arriving for the experience I did a a little studying and learned how the Manatee handle thermoregulation by doing central-place grazing. In other words, they go out into the cold bay water to graze on plant life (they are herbivores) and then come back to the warm water near the power plant to get warmed up. I was also able to study the migratory maps of these amazing mammals.

The objective of participants was to come up with the leadership lessons learned from our Manatee experience. Here is what we came up:

  1. Must be caring
  2. Adaptive to change
  3. Lead by example
  4. Able to function alone
  5. Still move forward through the unknown

As you can see there are so many great leadership lessons to be learned from studying and observing these wonderful animals. I have done other blog posts with lessons from animals, such as Pelican Leadership Lessons, Living and Leading Like A Lobster, and Leading Like A Platypus. Using animals as metaphors for great leadership is a great way to learn and teach leadership. Do you have any examples? Share them by replying to my post.