Byron's Babbles

What I Know For Certain

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 31, 2021

I have come to realize that most self-doubt and uncertainty can be traced back to some subtle ways of thinking about things. One of which consists of self-talk that starts something like “I don’t know..” This, I’ve found is a horrible focal point, one that I like to overwrite when I can. Here’s how to do that. Get out a pen and paper, start a new document, begin writing: What I know for certain. Don’t focus on what you don’t know. Focus on what you do know. I got to reflecting on all this when I read “Knowing what you don’t want is just as useful as knowing what you want, maybe more” in the book, Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead. So when we’re considering what we know for certain, we need to consider what we don’t want along with what we want.

Knowing what we don’t want along with what we want will help us when trying things and not analyzing ourselves into inaction. The key is to knowing if the action we’re taking is aligned with what you know for certain. By focusing on what we know for certain, we’ll be inadvertently writing a story on how we eventually figure out what we want. It will be an amazing story to tell with twists and turns, great times and times of trial. There are so many things we can try, so let’s make the list manageable by looking at what we don’t want right along with what we want. This will help us get to what we know for certain.


Are you a seeker or a searcher?

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Seaking, Searching by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 29, 2021

My love for fiction novels, and the learning they can provide continues to grow. I have already found blog inspiration once from the awesome book, Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead entitled Building New Instincts. One character, Hadley, was asked “Are you a searcher, Hadley?” Hadley questioned this and was told, “I think of a seeker as someone looking for enlightenment. I mean searcher as something more open-ended, someone who’s actively trying to find their way.” Hadley exclaimed, “I always seem to be a little bit lost.” This really got me to thinking about the question of “Are you a seeker or a searcher?”

We all need to find the thing that will provide motivation and propel us forward. This requires an in-depth examination of values and wants, learning what makes us tick and what gives our life meaning. This will help us find hope because we are in the process of naming and defining the goals that will give us a course of action. Searchers are looking for something, but don’t know what. Searching, as compared to seeking, can be aimless. Maybe why Hadley always seemed lost. Searchers do not have clear goals, and are fuzzy on their agency and pathway thinking. Searchers expect what they are looking for will come to them, and don’t always set out in a process to seek and define what they are searching for.

Searchers need more help and clarification. Once clarification happens, the searcher becomes the seeker. Are you a seeker or a searcher?

Don’t Be A Blind Follower

Posted in DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 28, 2021

I had to laugh, because when I started reading Chapter 48, “Don’t Get Fooled Again,” in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), I immediately thought of the great song from The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and little did I know that at the end of the chapter DTK would make reference to the song as playing in the back of his mind. But, the song really is relevant here. Pete Townshend wrote this song about a revolution. He was telling us through the song to beware of our “leaders” and have an independent, inquiring mind, don’t be just a blind follower. Assuming a position of inquiry is not only important in Townshend’s context, but also in our cultural beliefs and personal beliefs.

We believe many things that are not based on fact. It is okay to examine our own perspectives and question what we believe. DTK told us, “Without digging deep, it’s easy to find yourself accepting fantasy as true and choosing denial over truth” (p. 332). We must not let fantasy control truth. When speaking of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in Rolling Stone magazine, Townshend said, “It’s interesting it’s been taken up in an anthemic sense when in fact it’s such a cautionary piece.” Let’s exercise caution so we don’t get fooled again.

Imaginative Play Zones

Albert Einstein famously said, “To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play.” And even Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” If children are more creative than adults, it’s not because they have a superior imagination. They just don’t suffer from self-doubt and fear to the extent that adults do. In this respect, at least, we could all afford to be more like children. We don’t question kids being more creative than adults; we all intuitively just know it’s true and we view it as a natural state for children.

So why do kids have the aptitude for creativity? Play! And, remember they have not yet developed, or been taught the self doubt and fear part to the extent we adults have, either. In studying the work of Dr. Stephanie Carlson, an expert on childhood brain development at the University of Minnesota, she taught us that kids spend as much as 2/3 of their time in non-reality— in imaginative play. This is why when I am providing development for adults I always try to spend some time channeling their inner child. Adults want to, and effectively, learn like kids. We want the play, time for imagination, and a safe place for trying new things.

As I worked with teachers this past week we discussed creating psychologically safe places for our students to learn and try new things (the things we are teaching are new). But, we must also not forget our adults – we need a psychologically safe place as well. How about we create imaginative play zones?

Building New Instincts

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Instinct, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 24, 2021

I am reading another great book right now, Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead.This amazing novel tells the story of a trailblazing female pilot named Marian Graves and the woman, Hadley Baxter, who played her in a film decades later. It spans time and space while sharing the stories of two courageous women. Marian wants to be a pilot in the early 20th century, a time when women couldn’t even vote much less work in paying jobs where they defied gravity and risked crashing into mountains. It is incredible how Shipstead has layered this book. I am about a quarter of the way through it and I found myself Googling characters to just check and make sure these really were fictitious characters. But, that’s the beauty of a novel; we get to know everything about each character (person) as they become alive for us. Unlike real life, where there are always hidden or unrevealed aspects.

In the book, when Marian went up for her first flying lesson, her instructor asked her if she knew what to do if the plane stalled. He was surprised she knew the answer: point the nose down to gain some speed before pulling up. The instructor was impressed she knew this because it goes against instinct to point the nose down in a loss of power – we want to try to get higher. Marian’s instructor, during this part of the conversation said, “Don’t always follow your instinct but build new instincts.” I loved this statement and it is so true. Sometimes, not all the time, we must fight our instincts and even go against our instincts. Granted, however, the question of “should we question our instinct or go with it?” is not that easy.

Our instincts are not really that random. They are based on the brain’s rapid appraisal and comparison of our current situation with memories of previous situations. So when a decision feels intuitive, it might in fact be based on years of experience. Because of our cognitive biases, however, we can be led toward the wrong answer. Many times we tend to be over-optimistic; we prefer simple solutions; we notice and remember information that confirms what we already think; Additionally, we have this uncontrollable urge to continue down paths that we have already been down, are the tradition and safe path, or have already invested time and money in. This could keep us from doing a little trailblazing of our own.

So next time your instinct is sending you in one direction it’s worth assessing the situation and asking, “What are the arguments for the options of building a new instinct?

I Was Needed!

I love that a lot of what I do is helping teachers get better at their craft. Teaching is such a beautiful cross of science and art. Leonardo da Vinci would be having great fun if he were around helping us improve our teaching for learning today. He believed science and art were very tightly connected. This week I have had the honor and pleasure of facilitating professional development for teachers at Nashville Collegiate Prep and Knowledge Academies in Nashville, Tennessee. I have truly been inspired by this group of professionals. Every day I am excited to get the day of learning with them started.

“Change the audience, change the meaning.”

Leonardo da Vinci

On Wednesday I did a session entitled “Engagement Strategies: Teachers As Facilitators, Knowledge Navigators, and Co-Learners. At the beginning of this session I do an activity that begins with the prompt question, “What do you want students to say at the
end of the week about your facilitation?” The groups got five minutes to write everything that came to mind on Post-it® notes. This is part of a larger activity and participants get to share out after each part. I love walking around and looking as they are writing. There were literally hundreds of sticky notes being made, and I was inspired by all of them. But, one caught my eye and required my attention (the featured photo of this post).

On one of the Post-it® notes of Jamie Martineau, Kindergarten teacher at Nashville Collegiate Prep she had written four bullet points:

  • I was part of something
  • I was important or needed
  • I am a part of this class
  • We did it

I was blown away by the thought of every student feeling this way. After getting to know Jamie this week, I have no doubt that her students will feel that way. Going through school is where many of students begin learning to be part of something bigger than themselves. It’s during this time in our classes that we can help make our students feel valued as individuals. The developing personalities of our students need a strong and secure environment in order to flourish in academia. Let’s face it; our students learn more and behave better when they receive high levels of understanding, caring and genuineness.

We cannot underestimate the importance of cultivating a classroom culture in which students feel valued, respected, heard, and an important part of something. One way we can build this solid foundation for learning is to listen to our students. Fostering conversations about real world and relevant issues, topics, and problems ensures that our classrooms become places of academic inquiry and collaboration founded on a sense of fairness and mutual respect.

If a student considers their teacher to be caring and accepting, they’re more likely to adopt the academic and social values of their teacher. This, in turn, influences how students feel about their school work and how much (or how little) they value it. Here are some tips on how to make sure our students belong and are part of something:

  • prioritising high-quality teacher-student relationships
  • creating a supportive and caring learning environment
  • showing interest in students
  • trying to understand students’ point of view
  • respectful and fair treatment
  • fostering positive peer relationships and mutual respect among classmates to establish a sense of community
  • positive classroom management
  • Giving students a voice

We all want to belong. ALL of our students deserve to be an important and needed part of our school communities. We can do it!

Flip On Your Awareness

“Because once we are aware, we are also at choice” (p. 323 in Chapter 47, Find The Magic, of Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus – DTK). In other words, once we are aware of all the possibilities and our own desires we must choose to do the work and create the conditions for luck, magic, and success to unfold” (p. 324). This is why I love immersing myself in intersectional learning. By interacting and learning from those outside the world I know I am able to become aware of what is on the horizon. Without flipping this switch on it would be just like really trying to chase the horizon – it’s out there, and you can move toward it, but you never get there.

DTK told us that this awareness becomes dot, or real place, on the horizon. Once we have this awareness, we must work hard to create the conditions for that which we choose to accomplish happen. That requires belief and action. How about you? Are you ready to flip the switch on to your awareness?

Bringing Nuance To Our Language

L. David Marquet taught us that Leadership Is Language. He argued there is power in what we say as well as what we don’t say. Additionally, how we allow others to join the collaborative conversation matters. I’ve been continuing to learn about how language matters and how we are evolving and adapting while reading Because Internet: Understanding The New Rules Of Language by Gretchen McCullough. McCulloch pointed out, “While English students can generally just about understand the 400-year-old plays of Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, written 600 years ago, is almost indecipherable without university-level language courses. The foundations are there, but it’s an entirely new structure” (Because Internet Summary and Review). Proof that we can’t stop the language evolution.

When I was receiving my k-16 education, and into the first two decades of my professional career, the rules of language were handed down from figures of authority. These were my teachers, professors, peer review, and mentors. With the internet and especially social media sources, society (all of us) have been crafting a new language and forms of expression. This blog post is a perfect example. I can reach thousands of you without needing to make it past the scrutiny of an editor. Granted there are pluses and deltas to all this but I like people being able to speak more informally and organically.

I’m not sure I would qualify as a linguist, like McCulloch, but I do find it interesting how people communicate differently. For example, this past month, while facilitating Teacher Ambassador training for the National FFA Organization, we used the question of what one calls the apparatus pushed around a grocery store collecting the items for purchase – grocery cart or buggy? This becomes an interesting, sometimes heated, and comical discussion. Regardless of where we land on the topic, where we live or came from matters. What I found was that more from the south call it a buggy. Think about the “pop” versus “soda” versus “coke” question as another example.

It turns out we are also deeply influenced by groups we have weak ties with, like those on the web. Think about it, as McCullough points out, the internet is a bundle of weak ties, with social networks, live programming, forums, blogs, and chat rooms all facilitating contact with people outside your core networks. Twitter, my favorite, is a primary driver of linguistic change because it encourages you to follow people you don’t already know. And…I can reach out to, speak to, and listen to people I could never meet in person or “real life.”

Now we have “Lol,” invented by Wayne Pearson in a chatroom in the 1980s, originally indicating laughter. Now, “lol” had evolved, becoming part of our language to signify appreciation of a joke, to defuse an awkward situation or to indicate irony. Also emojis have become an indispensable part of our language. Our predominate communication by writing (texting) removes the body from language, many of our communicative tools are lost. Emoji helps us to fill this void. If you’re a person who talks with your hands and facial expressions, you love emojis. Emojis give us the power to flip someone off (🖕), wave (👋), wish luck (🤞) and roll our eyes (🙄). Emojis give us colorful and fun representations of our physical world. They bring nuance to our language, and a bit of flair to our messages.

Starbucks has capitalized on the term, sociologist Ray Oldenburg, coined in 1989, “third place.” Our “first place” is home and our “second place” is work. He argued we all needed a social place as our “third place.” Oldenburg believed these third places were crucial to our social and emotional well-being, civic engagement and the democratic process. Bars, lodges, coffee shops, clubs, circles, card groups, et cetera, all fill the bill. But, Oldenburg had no way of knowing that social media would become a third place to. Social media is shaping how we communicate and what language we use.

I wonder… will kids be able to understand our language 400 or 600 years from now?

Becoming Great Editors Of Ourselves

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 16, 2021

I am loving the book, Becoming Leonardo: An Exploded View Of The Life Of Leonardo da Vinci by Mike Lankford. I have always tried to get my hands on everything available to read on Leonardo da Vinci. He was such a complex individual and there are so many lessons to learn from continually studying his life and how he worked. This book is greatly adding to the lessons and life of da Vinci. One of the things that really jumped out at me this morning was how much, as a true lifelong learner, da Vinci was constantly self-editing. He knew how to step away, take something apart to get a different view of how it worked, look at things in, literally, different light, or even when in a different mood. We would do well to take some lessons from da Vinci’s playbook. I loved this from the author:

“All art is channeled energy, be it music, painting, sculpture, or literature. Leonardo’s time-consuming methods were a way of gathering and re-gathering energy throughout the project. At best, most people start off with a burst and then dribble away by the end. This must have happened to Leonardo as well early on, but as a close self-observer he learned from it. He learned to leave and come back, to look with different eyes, different moods, different times of the day—all these things allowed him to see better and to better understand. He became a great editor of himself” (pp. 127-128).

Lankford, M. (2017). Becoming Leonardo: An Exploded View Of The Life Of Leonardo da Vinci. Brooklyn, NY: Melvin House Publishing.

I love the statement, “He became a great editor of himself.” This is a skill anyone in any career, or life in general, should work to hone. I love the definition on Wikipedia of editing: “The editing process can involve correction, condensation, organization, and many other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate and complete piece of work” (Mamishev, Alexander, Williams, Sean, Technical Writing for Teams: The STREAM Tools Handbook, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, John Wiley & Sons. Inc., Hoboken, 2009, p. 128). I like that it is called a process. We all need to work at becoming a self-observer, become reflective and take an introspective look at ourselves and our work product. As Lankford told us, “He [Leonardo] learned to leave and come back, to look with different eyes, different moods, different times of the day—all these things allowed him to see better and to better understand” (p. 128). We need to seek to see better and better understand.

Living Full-Out

Posted in Dreams, DTK, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays, Vision, Visionary, Visionary Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 13, 2021

There was a lot to digest in the four pages of Chapter 46, “Don’t Wait to Live” in Mindset Mondays with DTKby David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). If I was forced to rank the weekly chapter lessons thus far, this would be one of my favorites. DTK told us that “People regretted dying with their songs still inside them” (p. 318). He went on to say, “…the only thing keeping us from living full-out is stuff we make up” (p. 319). I’m hoping both of those comments make you ponder and reflect as much as they did me. The ideas of happiness and regret are things I blog about often and discuss in leadership development workshops. In fact, I just dug into “anticipatory regret” and “existential regret” in What Will You Regret When You Are 80 Years Old? And, one of my favorite posts on happiness is Finding Happiness Right Where We Are.

After I read chapter 46 yesterday, I was reading about and watching video of Richard Branson taking his ride into suborbital space aboard a rocket he helped fund. He was the first to do this. On LinkedIn he said, “There are no words to describe the feeling. This is space travel. This is a dream turned reality.” As a student of the ultimate role model dreamer and innovator, Richard Branson, I am pretty sure the only song that will be left in him when he dies is whatever wild and crazy idea(s) he is working on at the time. I’m pretty sure there will be no regrets – except maybe to have done even more. He is the role model for showing us how to turn dreams into reality. This first fully crewed flight of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity space plane was a major milestone in the commercial space industry.

Yesterday, I tweeted, “Congratulations @richardbranson and @virgingalactic! Thanks for always modeling being a trailblazer for us.” This flight was such a huge example of “living full-out.” The stuff we do on a daily basis may not be as huge as going to outer space, but just as important to those we serve and ourselves. I’ll close with this drop the mic moment and quote from Branson while in outer space that says it all, “I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.” 🎤