Byron's Babbles

Problem Versus Challenge

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 27, 2023

Rachel Pedersen discussed “problem mindset” versus “challenge mindset” in her great book, Unfiltered: Proven Strategies To Start And Grow Your Business By Not Following The Rules. We all know how important our mindset is in everything we do. For me, the challenge mindset is about seeing opportunities. Sort of like when instead of just seeing a gum wrapper, MacGyver sees an opportunity to get out of a life threatening situation. He is seeing the situation as a challenge instead of a problem. In fact, in Owning Up To Our Mistakes, I blogged about an early mentor of mine that taught me to see problems as opportunities. As he would say, “We’ve got an opportunity.” I never heard him say problem, obstacle, or challenge. And, framed as opportunities they always became just that – opportunities for growth and success.

By having a mindset that sees challenges instead of problems we see these opportunities as jumping-off points for growth and for enlargement of our existing abilities. I loved where Rachel went with this by discussing challenges as chances to grow and learn new things. One of the things I love about owning my own business right now is how every new thing I take on has given me to opportunity to learn in new areas I had never dreamed of. It’s exhilarating, really. Just like MacGyver, we need to see challenges not as problems or forces of opposition, but as opportunities. Those opportunities enable us to learn, grow, improve, or adjust in a way that leaves them better off than before the problem existed.


Being Me All The Time

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 26, 2023

Think about this question posed by Rachel Pedersen in her great book, Unfiltered: Proven Strategies To Start And Grow Your Business By Not Following The Rules: “What if I decided to be me all the time?” Now, really reflect on that question. For example, I usually live by the rule of not wearing a tie on days of the week that end in the letter “y”. That’s every day, by the way. But, there are times that I wear a tie. Why? Because everyone else will have one on. So, Rachel has us questioning why we do that to ourselves. Again, what if we decided to be ourselves all the time? How many times do we do something because of some social norm? There is a lot of imitating that goes on in this world. And, that imitating involves envying others, too. What if we really started being ourselves ALL the time? What if we, as leaders, made space for others to be themselves and show their creative selves all the time?

For the most part I think I’m pretty good at being me, but there are those moments where I find myself conforming. I already mentioned the tie thing. This is where Rachel also taught us that, “professionalism is killing creativity.” So true! I have, no surprise, been told to tone it down before. Just how does one do that? Pretty hard for a guy like me that gets “giddy” over the smallest of things. Rachel even talks in her TED Talk about being given the advice to “dull her sparkle.” I like sparkle!!! She asks the question: “Who decides what is right?” The point here is, what if we were always ourselves? We are all packaged a little differently and we need to make sure we appreciate all those differences. Let’s all try to make a little more space for others to be themselves all the time.

Wabi Sabi Leadership

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Wabi Sabi by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 20, 2023

In our complex world of creativity, innovation, and disruption, imperfection is inevitable. And, last time I checked, nobody’s perfect. That is why I am glad I have an artistic mind and disposition. Art isn’t about being perfect. Art is about influencing others. Last night I was watching an episode of the Lethal Weapon television series and was reminded of the ancient Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi. The basic gist of Wabi-Sabi is for us to find beauty in imperfection. This philosophy can help us accept what is, stay in the present moment, and appreciate the simple, transient stages of life. Perfection really does not exist, but society has defined perfection for us. I read that the 2020 market for anti-aging products was $60 billion. Aging is natural, why do we want to look younger? I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but society teaches us we are not good enough.

“No palm tree is perfectly shaped, yet we marvel at the beauty with which it stands. No sea shell is perfectly drawn, yet we marvel at the beauty with which it curves. Accept and appreciate yourself as you are today, in your natural state, just like you would a tree in the forest, a flower in the garden, or a seashell by the shore. You are the entirety of you. You are whole. And you are beautiful.” ~ Omar Itani

All this does not mean we shouldn’t be striving for excellence. We should be striving for continual improvement, but we need to be defining what those improvements are. Wabi-Sabi brings us independence of thought.

A Taste Of Leadership

One of my favorite times of the year is in February when my son and I attend the National Farm Machinery Show. This year we are getting to spend yesterday and today at the show learning about all the latest in agriculture technologies, genetics, and innovative genius. The show is held in Louisville, Kentucky and I’ve been coming for as long as I can remember when I started coming with my dad. Now, my son and I come every year as one of our sacred dad and lad memory-making excursions. This year, while on our exploration, my son wanted to go to Angel’s Envy distillery in downtown Louisville. So, I arranged for him to fill, cork and label his own bottle of Angel’s Envy single barrel Kentucky straight bourbon finished in a Port wine barrel. Needless to say, it was a great experience and we learned a lot. Angel’s Envy would be on my highly recommended and must visit list.

My son, Heath, & I at Angel’s Envy

During my son’s bottling experience we learned the proper way to taste bourbon, or what is called the “Kentucky Chew” to those, well, in Kentucky. A few things in the tasting process jumped out at me as great metaphors to the journey of leadership. One big thing our guide told us that proper tasting includes a visual inspection, followed by taking in the aroma, and finally the tasting. This would allow us to take in all the nuances of the complex flavors the distiller created, and would allow us to appreciate the time and patience that went into the delicate art of the bourbon’s maturation. This jumped out at me because I think about how nuanced leadership is all the time and the nuances of those I serve that need to be appreciated. Nuance is not easy to notice. Just like with bourbon, we have to be paying attention to the complexities. I spoke of this in Nuanced Complexity. In leadership, the real depth of learning comes from individuals exploring their own views first and then placing them within the context of their organization. The depth of learning comes from the heuristic nature of nuance.

Continuing with the tasting metaphor, we were told to take three tastes of the bourbon and to roll it around, or “chew”, in our mouths to make sure it hit all the flavor sensors of our tongue and mouth. The first taste was to reset our palette. The second taste would allow us to begin to pick up the several layers of flavor. The third taste really allows you to enjoy the complexity and subtle nuances. Are you catching the leadership metaphor here? Just like every bourbon has a ton of different notes, so do the people we serve. We need to take the time to build the relationships so we understand the complexity and nuance we all possess. We, like bourbon, have all aged for different amounts of time. Also, like bourbon has been aged in different types of barrels, we have all grown up in different environments with different experiences. If we take the time to understand those in our communities in a way that allows us to pick up all the subtle nuances, we will be able to, like with bourbon, unleash some incredible experiences and appreciate the unique way each of us has been distilled.

Holding Up A Mirror To Our Own Self Interests

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 16, 2023

I finish reading an incredible novel yesterday. Red Dress In Black and White by Elliot Ackerman was a great book that caused a great deal of thought and reflection. Before I go on, let me just say, “Read this book.” I have several notes from yesterday as I finished up the book, but one of the lines that caused great reflection was, “She held up a mirror to my own self interests.” We all have self interests. In the policy side of my world I call this ‘turf,’ but we all have self interests. Rightly so, and there is nothing wrong with that. Reading Red Dress In Black and White, made me realize how important it is to hold up a mirror to those self interests often and reflect.

In doing a little research on mirrors, I found they were invented in 1835 as we know them today. Prior to that people used reflections in water or other polished items to get a distorted view of themselves. Click here for a pretty good history of mirrors. Think about it; mirrors changed the way we walk through the world. We can’t help ourselves, but to look in a mirror or in a window reflection to see how we look. There are huge psychological impacts of so clearly being a subject of ourself. Mirrors give us a perspective on how we look to the rest of the world. Now that we have mirrors and we all have looked into one, we can use the great metaphor given to us by Elliott Ackerman of holding up a mirror to our own self interests.

Mirrors allow us to see what we really look like. When it comes to our self interests we need to review how those self interests are affecting the trade-offs we make related to our personal and professional life. Sometimes there is even an intertwining of our personal and professional lives. Now, I love the fact that we have become a society where the private actor can pursue the personal and commercial interests we choose. But, don’t forget, this can lead to greed, vanity, envy, and pride. Which in turn can lead to selfishness. We need that mirror held up in front of us occasionally so we can reflect (pun intended) on how our actions are affecting others. In other words, to stay with the metaphor, have we become ugly.

We will never change the fact that we are self-interested creatures. This is what allows us to have passions and drive. We do, however, owe it to those in our community circles to reflect on how our own self interests are impacting those in our web of influence.

Finesse Is A Good Word

Posted in Educational Leadership, Finesse, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 13, 2023

“Finesse. It was a good word.” Peter said this to himself in Red Dress In Black and White by Elliot Ackerman. Finesse is one of those contradictory things that we either see as good or bad. When thought of as manipulating someone, that is a bad thing. But, when thought of as using skill and cleverness to do something with intricate detail, it is a good thing. Also, diplomacy and tact need the skills of finesse. We have learned much about leading through a crisis during the pandemic. Leadership success, we have found, is defined by how our response impacts the greater community, work environment, and all individuals we serve. Finesse, to me, is how we navigate through the tricky situations. In other words, how do we rise to the occasion. Last night I was watching an old episode of Tour of Duty and Sargent Anderson told Lieutenant Goldman, “Rank is something you wear, respect is something you earn.” In other words producing results matters.

Finesse requires being prepared. We must do our research, anticipate adversity and obstacles, and then prepare possible solutions. Being able to finesse requires personal attention to the homework and requires preparation. Finesse is not about how much you know, but about proficiency.

In The Midst Of Our Failures

Posted in Educational Leadership, Failures, Fear, Global Leadership, Growth Mindset, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 12, 2023

You all know I love rock music and enjoy studying the bands made up of incredible artists. Yesterday, I heard Archetypes Collide for the first time – AWESOME! This is a band I am going to be paying attention to and would love to meet and have a conversation with. The song I heard was ‘What If I Fall’. It was a great song with some super-meaningful lyrics that really made me think about how we deal with failure – our own and the failure of others. The chorus is a leadership lesson: “What if I fall and waste away the life that I have made?; What if I fail and let down everyone who trusted me?; Why does holding on feel so wrong?; It’s weighing down on me; What if I fall and lose everything?” Listening to this song really made me think about my own fears and have me contemplating how to remove those fears from others. We all encounter obstacles, fall/fail, and need to learn how to rise again. We also need to teach those we serve the skills required to pick themselves back up after reaching for a major goal but falling short.

Frontman of the band, Kyle Pastor, said of the song, “I’ve always had a deep rooted fear of letting my friends and family down… Even though I know they’ll love me in the midst of my failures, the anxiety of it all buries me and pushes me further away from them. I hope this song can be an anthem for those who feel that same burden” (Paul Brown, Wall of Sound). This really is a burden for most of us. If we’re honest we all have anxiety for failing. We need to be careful not to equate failure to being less worthy to ourselves and others. We need to create growth mindset cultures where falling and failing is seen as learning and growing. That culture also needs to embrace falling and it not be letting someone down.

There is actually a name for fear of failure: atychiphobia. One of the signs of this is partly what the song is about; fearing people will think differently of us if we fail. We also worry we are letting others down. Again, though, if we create a growth mindset culture, failure won’t be seen as letting anyone down, but as a learning moment. We need to adopt an attitude of failure being an opportunity to learn. I realize it is a whole lot easier to say all this than actually put it into practice, but I love that this song calls out our anxiety. Fear of failure is very real for each of us. It can can us to avoid risk, lose our creativity, and our ability to innovate. We must all make sure all those in our care know that their stumbles will not let us down. And, give ourselves grace for our own moments of learning.

Relinquishing One Dream For Another

Posted in Dreams, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 8, 2023

Just the other day I wrote the post No Fork Is Without Twists, about the fact that the trails we choose aren’t always smooth and there will be twists and turns in life. This week I started reading another great book, Red Dress In Black and White by Elliot Ackerman. I can already tell this is going to be one of those books that causes a great deal of reflection and pondering – just what I love. One of the lines I read yesterday was that one of the characters had “relinquished one dream for another.” We don’t really know yet in this novel whether that is a good thing or bad, but then I got to thinking about how it can be both good and bad. We all have those dreams and hopes for our future. We all have those things we are passionate about and want to do with our lives. Those dreams help give our lives purpose and direction. Sometimes dreams change, though, right?

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~ Thomas Edison

Sometimes, however, those dreams are imposed on us by our parents, partners, or spouses. Then, like both Catherine and Murat in Red Dress In Black and White there becomes a relinquishing of one dream for another. We have been taught from a young age to never give up, but in a society that links the giving up on a dream or goal as failure, we also need to understand how to make adjustments to unattainable goals. Please don’t think I have become a defeatist. I just also believe we must be real and also consider how to think through what psychologists call “goal adjustment capacity.” Check this out:

“…the successful attainment of desired goals facilitates subjective well-being and physical health (Bandura, 1997; Carver & Scheier, 1981, 1998; Emmons, 1986, Heckhausen, Wrosch, & Schulz, 2010). This is not surprising as goals are the building blocks for the accomplishment of a variety of developmental tasks and their attainment is likely to foster long-term patterns of successful development (Heckhausen, 1999; Ryff, 1989). At times, however, it is impossible for a person to make further progress towards an important goal because the goal itself is not attainable.”

Goal Adjustment Capacities, Subjective Well-Being, and Physical Health

Again, I am not advocating for giving up on dreams and goals, but want us to also be able to recognize the times where adjustments may be necessary. Or, we need to be able to recognize when relinquishing one dream for another could be a good thing or bad.

Who Saved Who?

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 7, 2023

The other day I heard Song #3 by Stone Sour. It had been a while since I had heard this great song that was released in 2017 on the Hydrograd album. The thing I love so much about art is the fact that it has different meaning to whoever is listening to or looking at it. These words jumped out at me from the song: “Did I save you?; ‘Cause I know you saved me too.” These are such powerful lines. If you’ve ever watched relationships, and this may even be true in your own relationship with someone, it is hard to distinguish just who saved who. It’s pretty cool how relationships can work that way. The right people come into our lives at the right time. We need to make sure we are paying attention and don’t miss those individuals that maybe we will save, or that are there to have an impact on our lives in some profound way.

We also don’t want to overlook those individuals we can help in some way. Many times, just like in the song, it’s hard to tell just who is saving who. If we use the metaphor of yarn, the different threads being weaved together comes to mind. Everyone we meet, and particularly those we form relationships with, become a part of the rich tapestry that is our life. Remember, you might just be saving someone.

No Fork Is Without Twists

In my post Trails Always Offer Choices, I predicted we would probably be brought back to the quote that was the title of that post somewhere in the last half of the book and we were a couple of times and then again at the very end of the book. The quote first came about half way through Book 4 of Threads West An American Saga: Moccasin Track by Reid Lance Rosenthal. This series is absolutely incredible. I have now finished the first four books and gave them all five stars. I cannot wait for books 5, 6, and 7 to come out. The books are based upon the threads of the lives of characters from very different places, cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds that become weaved together. Interestingly, my becoming inspired by these books happened by chance, or fate, when I met Reid at Cowboy Christmas while I was in Las Vegas doing work for a client. We had a great visit, I ended up with signed copies of the first four books and the rest is history. The weaving of threads being brought together had begun.

Now, back to trails always offering choices. When losing one possible trail to an avalanche, Reuben told Johannes, “There may be no choice in trails but trails always offer choices.” After they parted Johannes said to himself, “Trails always offer choices. What did he mean by that?” Then the last sentences of the book: “There may be no choice trails,” his [Reuben] friend [Johannes] had warned, “but trails always offer choices.” Reuben then says to himself, “Ah, Viking, you forgot to mention choice is sometimes out of one’s hands. No trail is smooth, and no fork is without twists.” These books have reminded me how heavy our choices weigh on us. I am also reminded that sometimes choices really are sometimes out of our hands. Sometimes choices are life-changing. Each path we take, just like the characters in this saga, will send us on a completely different trajectory.

One thing that I have contemplated while reading the first four books in the series is the thought that many of the choices made by the characters were what was best for them, not what might be considered to be the “right” choice. Many times we don’t allow ourselves to make decisions based on “what’s best for me.” I wonder if we shouldn’t try to put ourselves in the frame of mind more often. Wouldn’t this allow us to be our authentic selves and follow our dreams?