Byron's Babbles

Top 10 Books Of 2020

2020 was an incredible year of reading. I finished reading 119 books this year. I was an extremely tough chore to pick my top 10 and then put them in order. I love books because for a brief moment in time, books release us from the constraints of our own reality. They take us beyond our own small place in the world and into another person’s real or imaginary one. Each of us has a unique and valuable role in life. When experiencing life through the eyes of another, we encounter diverse angles on life’s most common situations. I have read such great books this year by very talented writers. Finally, I am a better person and understand many more diverse perspectives from reading 119 books this year.

Here are the posts that give the posts influenced by books I read in 2020 by each quarter:

The First Quarter Of An Incredible Year Of Reading

Second Quarter 2020 Book Inspired Posts

2020 Third Quarter Book Inspired Posts

The Books That Opened My Eyes In The Fourth Quarter Of 2020

Here is my video revealing my Top 10 Books Of 2020:

Learning Together Apart

As I walked back to the house from the barn this morning I noticed the unmistakable sound of fresh snow squeaking and crunching under my boots with every step. For anyone who has ever lived in a climate with snow, this sound is immediately recognizable. These sounds reminded me that in the midst of a pandemic, we have watched the transformation from winter, to spring, to summer, to fall, and now, back to winter. But other transformations are upon us everywhere without such clear cut and defined definition. These other transformations are of a global perspective and are personal, health related, economic, political, and economic. When you add all this together it is very complex change.

All those areas listed above are constantly evolving, but as we know a single virus has taken over how the game is played right now. Think about it, change has come in much the same way you draw a card in a board game – “You are now in the middle of a pandemic; go back 10 spaces.” Or something like that. Change is here, and has been here. There are changes in my house, in my body, in my family, in my community, culture, economy, and in the whole wide world of ecological systems. In some ways things are falling apart, but maybe that has to happen to put things back together.

I guess it is only appropriate that one of my last posts of the year, on New Year’s Eve, would be entitled with the hashtag I coined back in March as we began our, now 294 day, journey together dealing with the global pandemic – #LearningTogetherApart. As a person who believes so deeply in the power of community, it is about “showing up.” Just like when Major League Baseball gave us the opportunity to show up, albeit in the form of cutouts. Nevertheless, in our case, my family was in attendance for every Cincinnati Reds game in Great American Ballpark in Section 136, Row P, Seats 6-8.

You might say this is a trivial example in the face of a pandemic, but I would argue it’s the perfect example of being invited to be a part of a community. Being invited is fundamental to showing up and be part of a community. By being invited by the Reds and the Reds Community Fund we were able to, as a family, show up to help the Reds Community Fund continue the creation of programming that connects underserved children with baseball and softball, and connecting baseball with the community.

So, in the case of my field of education where right now via Zoom we are expected to give our students a sense of “home” when some children have never experienced or have any perceived notion of what “home” is, I must continue to show up and support environments for learning together apart. The issue just described is very complex with no one direct solution as some might naïvely think. Education, religion, poverty, economics, technology, generational cultures, and community are all woven together as part of this issue. No single directive will solve this. I hope to take the opportunity each and every day to shift the tone.

Even though things are confusing, terrifying, infuriating, heartbreaking, and completely out of control right now, we all need to keep showing up. We must continue “learning together apart.” We still do not know what all will be required, but whatever it is we must, with all we can offer, be there, learning, in integrity and generosity.

Keep Getting Better By Always Striving To Go Somewhere New

Yesterday marked the 18th week of reading Mindset Mondays With DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). Chapter 18 entitled “Work On Yourself” did not disappoint. Interestingly, I am reading Peter Frampton‘s incredible book Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir right now, too, and there are some parallel’s. DTK told us that “When we look at where others are in their life and compare that with where we are, it’s not apples to apples” (DTK, p. 146). One of the things that really stuck out in Frampton’s (I really want to become friends so I can call him Peter) book was how much he valued getting to play, collaborate, and learn from other superstars in the business. Never once do you ever get the hint of him comparing himself to Ringo Starr, George Harrison, David Bowie, Bill Wyman, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Preston, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, B.B. King, Rick Derringer, Robert Cray, Roger McGuinn, David Hidalgo, or Dean DeLeo, just to name a few. Now, regardless of what kind of music you like you better have recognized a couple of names on that list.

Frampton is so humble that he always believed the collaborations were chances for him to learn and get better. This is a huge takeaway for me from the book. Others would have just seen these opportunities through vanity’s eye. He used the metaphor (and you know how I love metaphors) of being in a fishbowl at a very young age of English rockers. Frampton went on to say, “I’m asking about touring and what they do and everything, so I’m learning how a successful band works. But just seeing this person [Bill Wyman] who’s a Rolling Stone, who’s now my friend, and he’s friends with my parents and was this regular guy – so okay, I don’t have to be something other than who I am. It was kind of like an apprenticeship. I was learning as I went, and getting these amazing opportunities along the way” (Frampton, p. 33). We need to make use of our “apprenticeships” to become the best we can become. That best needs to be authentic. We have to find our own sound, pun intended. Frampton described it like this: “I just wanted my own style. I wanted to be one of those guys who,they play one note, and you know who they are” (Frampton, p. 59). Frampton was, and still is, working to get better each day.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” ~ Peter Frampton

p. 261 in Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir

Finally, I love how DTK tied it all together at the end of Chapter 18 by saying, “Comparing how you are being, what you are doing, and what you are accomplishing in any given moment to your best in that moment is the ONLY valid comparison. It’s the only comparison that serves. It’s the only comparison consistently worth making” (DTK, p. 147). Frampton says he is one lucky guy, but I do not think that luck has anything to do with it. What I learned from Peter Frampton was humility, perseverance, passion, purpose before ambition, collaborative learning, working hard, and always reinventing yourself.

The Books That Opened My Eyes In The Fourth Quarter of 2020

Well here they are; the collection of blog posts inspired by great authors and great books in the last quarter of 2020. There has been so much great learning from books this year. So many times it might be just a sentence or paragraph that makes me pause and reflect, make me want to study something a little (or a lot deeper), or make me want to read another book. That’s why I always seem to have three to four books started at the same time. I know, that would drive many of you crazy, but it is how my mind works. Everything we read fills our mind with new information. We never know when those new bits of information might come in handy. The more knowledge we have, the better-equipped we are to tackle challenge we may face. You might want to consider allowing yourself some time to read each day. Because of all the distractions available to us now we don’t spend much time on any one thing. When you read a book, if you’re like me, all of your attention is focused on the story, I get lost in the content and the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing.

I’m sure I am going to need to update this post as it is just the 28th and I know of two or three posts I am formulated that are inspired by great books I am reading right now, but I wanted to go ahead and get this out there and will update before the end of the year. I’ve already posted about the posts inspired by books from the first three quarters of the year in these three posts:

The First Quarter Of An Incredible Year Of Reading

Second Quarter 2020 Book Inspired Posts

2020 Third Quarter Book Inspired Posts

Here are the posts inspired by great books for the fourth quarter of 2020:

October, 2020

Do Not Look Outside Yourself

Shine Brighter

Take Off The Mask & Cut Out Those Frustrations

Safety Nets Instead of Safety Barriers

Approaching The World With A Sense Of Childlike Wonder

November, 2020

Becoming The First Me

Getting Wound Around The Axle

What Are Your Filters

Catch Me And Prop Me Up!

Leading With Artisanship

Building A Community

Beyond COVID-19

The Education Catapult

Do Ideas Cause Change Or Does Change Cause Ideas?

Spreading The Wealth

December, 2020

Do You Feel Like I Do On Christmas 2020?

Building The Cocoon

The Language To Open Our World

Adding Fiction To The Reading Diet

Going Platinum

If Only We Would Just Ask

A Great Unknown

A Penguin Inspired Quest


Do You Feel Like I Do On Christmas 2020?

Heath & His Milking Machine!

Here it is, Christmas morning on Day 288 of the Global Pandemic in 2020. It’s easy to get caught up in all that is chaotic in the world right now, but I also want to pause and reflect on this day of the celebration of birth. This is the day that many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus. This day has, and will continue to serve as a day of birth to many new interests for kids. Think about that Lego set or rocket model that spurs an interest in engineering or being an astronaut for a little girl. Or, the electric keyboard that encourages the musical aspirations of a little boy.

I realize there are more significant influences on a child’s career choice than toys or the things they play with on Christmas morning as kids. But, children need access to a healthy play diet. It’s why I believe programs that make sure children get a toy at Christmas are so important. Playing boosts a child’s belief. No child plays with Legos and learns how to build houses, but she might learn how to overlap bricks to create a stable structure. Or, her brother and her might decide how to change the design of the picture on the box as they build. It’s more about confidence and familiarity than an actual skill set.

Toys and playing can compliment attributes in our children such as having their own mind, standing up for their own beliefs, showing initiative, having goals, and finding passion and purpose. I was reminded of all this while reading Peter Frampton’s incredible book, Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir, this week. Early in the book he told the story of his dad playing Father Christmas. Their tradition must have been to put the presents at the foot of the bed and his dad was making noise with the wrapping paper. Peter woke up and busted his dad. Of course, no kid’s going back to sleep, so he began to play with acoustic guitar Father Christmas had brought him. I loved the last part of the story in the book when Peter Frampton said, “But I didn’t know how to tune the bottom two strings. Dad said, ‘It’s three in the morning; can’t you go back to bed?’ ‘No, no, come on!’ So he came in and tuned the two bottom strings for me. And from 3:30 in the morning on Christmas when I was eight years old, I haven’t stopped playing since” (p. 11). Was that where the career of an awesome and very talented rock star was created? Probably not completely, but it certainly played a part in his development, or Peter would not have told the story. For one thing, think of the morale boost for a kid to get a musical instrument from his parents. Wow, my mom and dad believe I have talent!

Of course, all of this from the father of the boy who got a milking machine from Santa. In my defense, that was what he asked Santa for. But, that little boy grew up, and is now studying Animal Science at Murray State University and has a respectable herd of Jersey dairy show cattle. Did it all happen because of the milking machine that we assembled on the living room floor and then carried to the barn that Christmas morning? No, but Heath has never forgotten that Santa invested in his interest of dairy cows. Thus, the intersection of purpose and passion were beginning to be defined for Heath.

Now, let’s not overthink this. The most important thing is to make sure our kids have the chance to play. If they have specific interests, great, but it doesn’t have to be a guitar or milking machine. Let’s let kids play with a wide variety of toys and give them the opportunity to discover their interests, passion, and purpose.

2020 Third Quarter Book Inspired Posts

Here is the third of five posts highlighting the books that inspired blog posts throughout the year. These are from the months of July, August, and September. The last post will name my top books of 2020. You can bet that some of these books that inspired posts will be on the top books of 2020 list. President Harry S. Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Reading gives us the opportunity to experience and understand the lives and actions of others, the lessons learned from others, or how someone did something. These opportunities are readily and economically available through reading. We can learn a great deal about someone we might not, and probably won’t, ever meet. In some cases we may be learning from someone who died long before we were born. Being a leader is very complex. Leadership involves technical skill and knowledge, relationship building skills, and skills that we won’t know we need till the situation arises. Thus we need the mental exercise sessions that reading provides. So, as President Harry S. Truman also said, “The Buck Stops Here!” if you want to tap into some of the greatest knowledge from our past, present, and future the buck stops with you starting to develop your reading habit.

July, 2020

What The H@#* Is A Team Player

August, 2020

“Who Am I Not To Be?”

What Are Your Muses?

Big Momentum

Complex & Different

Codifier of Compassion

Why Are You On This Planet?

Become More Human & Less Machine

September, 2020

Explicitly Rethinking Your Leadership

“What Might Have Beens” Are Risky

What Do You Expect?

Don’t Overlook The Brilliance Of Our Students

Impossibility to Possibility Thinking

Leading With Global Reach

Don’t Get Naked At 8:00 AM

Gift Yourself Being Present For Your Own Personal Time

Belief Is The Price Of Admission

I Don’t Want We’ll See!

Seeking Opportunities to Observe & Update Our Worldview

Leaders Crashing & Flying Higher



Building The Cocoon

Being the rock and roll band groupie that I am, it will come as no surprise that I am reading Peter Frampton’s book Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir. I’m only on page 59, but I can already tell there will be multiple blog posts prompted by this book. For one thing, Peter has written this book with a very conversational voice. As I’m reading it is like he is with me telling the story. Such a talented person. Another thing that has already jumped out at me is the fact that his dad was a teacher – and a great one. I already tweeted this quote from from the book where Peter was telling about his dad teaching David Bowie and him knowing Dave (as he called him) as a schoolmate: “My father’s passion was teaching art. He could see those students who had the eye and the excitement to learn when they walked into his classroom” (p. 24). As an educator I appreciate this compliment of his father and wish for every student to encounter teachers like Peter Frampton’s dad.

Then came this statement in the book: “Wherever I looked, I was in this cocoon of famous people, people who I admired” (p. 31). As I always say, “Language matters.” The word “cocoon” jumped out at me. Here, Frampton was using a powerful metaphor for describing being with and learning from members of The Rolling Stones, great producers, great engineers, and other music industry influencers. I loved the metaphor because I can actually see them insulating and protecting just as a cocoon does for the larvae.

As a student of rock bands, and wannabe with zero talent, I’m always amazed at how those in the music business can spot talent and then, to use Peter’s metaphor, build a cocoon around them and help them. It’s like group mentoring or a team apprenticeship. This is really the way we should be doing this. Because there were so many great and talented people providing multiple parts of Peter Frampton’s mentorship, blind spots were minimized and the biases of any single mentor were eliminated. A genius model we should be using for our students and ourselves.

Peter Frampton truly had systemic use of diverse mentors and session formats provided for him without there being a formal plan. His mentors saw the talent and then set out to build the cocoon that allowed the development to happen.

I can’t leave this post without one more quote that drives home Frampton’s point about how good the stars of the moment were to him: “I’m asking about touring and what they do and everything, so I’m learning how a successful band works. But just seeing this person who’s a Rolling Stone, who’s now my friend, and he’s friends with my parents and was this regular guy—so okay, I don’t have to be something other than who I am. It was kind of like an apprenticeship. I was learning as I went, and I’m getting these amazing opportunities along the way” (p. 33). You might want to read that quote again; there’s a lot there. I can just imagine him, wide eyed, asking relevant questions, and taking it all in as he forged his path to stardom. Who has been a part of your cocoon? Thank them! Who are you mentoring and building a cocoon around?

The Language To Open Our World

Posted in DTK, Education, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 21, 2020
Language Matters: “I get to go to the dentist!”

In Chapter 17 of Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), DTK taught us that our words matter. He used the phrase “work-life balance” that gets used a lot to drive this home. He hates that phrase and he even tried to Google it reversing “work” and “life” and didn’t get anything. To this he said, ” Our culture is so distorted that even Google’s algorithm has it backwards!” (p. 140) I have actually used this topic in leadership development gatherings to discuss whether our work defines us – if it does, should it? Any thoughts?

It’s sad that the norm is for us to put work first when considering balance. This makes me wonder if this is why so many are having trouble coping during these, now 284, days of the Global Pandemic. If we listen to the things we say (myself included), I would have to say “yes.” I’m hardly on any Zoom where someone doesn’t talk about “pandemic fatigue”or “work/life blur” among many other phrases I have heard people say. We need to find the strength to persevere through the next however many days of the pandemic. One way is to think about the words an language we use. DTK quoted Judith Glaser as having said, “words create worlds” (p. 140). He then said, “The way you speak about something is a window into what you thin about it, which informs how you feel, which shapes the actions taken and, therefore, the results that naturally follow. Your words do much more than serve as a mechanism for communication. Your choice of words matters. Words not only communicate what you’re thinking and what you believe, they create your reality” (p. 140). As I always say, “Language matters.”

This goes for what we say to ourselves and others. In education we say things like “You must read for 90 minutes.” Why don’t we say (and I suggest this to teachers all time), “You get to read.”? Words matter!!! Let’s help our kids understand they “get to read” and “get to be educated,” not “have to.” Even today I was reminded of this when I going to the dentist for my six month cleaning and checkup. I kept telling myself, “I get to go to the dentist.” Okay, so it doesn’t always work, but it really did put me in a different mindset. I know this might be seen by some as Pollyanna thinking, but that’s exactly the kind of thinking we need to have. Remember, language matters, both the words we say to others and even more importantly those we say to ourselves.

Adding Fiction To The Reading Diet

Posted in Bad Blood, Bibliophile, Educational Leadership, Global Education, Global Leadership, Leadership, The Warehouse by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 19, 2020

I love to read and I am a bibliophile. It is very typical for me to read between 115-130 books a year. My preferred genre tends to be historical/biographical books. Additionally, I read a great number of leadership books. I love it when someone gives me a personal recommendation of a book that they believe will help me grow. For example when traveling (I know it’s hard to remember what that is) back in January I had some new made friends highly suggest reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.

First of all the book was great, but I also learned so much and even found many parallels to other interactions I was having with others in my professional life. That book made me more aware of things going on around me and a better leader. In fact, that book inspired two of my blog posts: Passion At Ambition’s Command and When Purpose & Passion Turn Into Ambition.

Another recommendation that I finally heeded from someone who I consider a mentor was to read more fiction. So, ok, I only read one fiction novel last year, but that was one more than the year before. Don’t judge! I’m making progress. I do have one picked to start in 2021, too. The one I picked this year was awesome; The Warehouse by Rob Hart. It was an incredible book and I believe I grew professionally and personally as a result of reading it. Here are the resulting blog posts:

Why read fiction? Because novelists develop and fully describe the inner life of the characters as imagined. Think about it; take any real person and we cannot know everything. But, a made up character, we can. It’s like a made up case study. That’s what made The Warehouse so thought provoking for me; the competing values, competing obligations, and competing responsibilities.

Some reviews of The Warehouse say it is a peek into the future. Actually, I would argue some of it is already here. More importantly, however, the book gives us a chance to wrestle with ethical complexities. As President Truman so aptly pointed out: leadership is nuanced. With non-fiction it is hard to get the nuances. Sometimes when reading non-fiction I say, “Has the person writing this ever really been in this situation?” Usually, the answer is no. With fiction, the nuances are created and revealed. The reader has to work the complexities and competing pieces out for themselves.

I’ve also read that reading fiction brings about increased social acuity and a sharper ability to comprehend other people’s motivations. Both important traits for a leader to be honing. So, as I consider my “to read” library for next year I will be considering more fiction. How about you?

PS: some of you might be wondering what fiction book I’ve already picked to start in 2021. It is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. This book was named the winner of the fiction genre of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2020.