Byron's Babbles

Being Perfectly Imperfect

IMG_8246I am always amazed at the twists and turns our 3D Leadership gathering discussions take. It is amazing because there is always so much learning that takes place. Last week’s gathering which was virtual with individuals from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina was no exception. I already blogged about one twist in learning we took in Leading Like Yoda. We also spent a great deal of time discussing how leaders are built by learning from their imperfections.

“Leaders are built by learning from their imperfections.” ~ 3D Leadership Participants on April 2, 2020

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My Andrew Jackson Bronze

The question that prompted the discussion was about whether those leaders that most influenced us were perfect or did they have imperfections? The group immediately started responding with the fact that the leaders were imperfect and that recognizing those imperfections was the ultimate in transparency and authenticity. I even held up my bronze of Andrew Jackson and talked about all the great things he was and did as a leader, but there were so many things he did that were very wrong. He serves as a reminder of how we need to be humble and remember that all humans are imperfect and flawed creatures. I was moved that our discussion led us to talk about how it was those imperfections that attracted us to leaders. Particularly if those Rushmorean leaders were working hard to improve their imperfections.

“The long road to character begins with understanding that all humans are flawed creatures.” ~ David Brooks in The Road to Character

Screen Shot 2020-04-05 at 12.16.18 PMToday we are even faced with the bigger issue that David Brooks argued in his great book The Road to Character: society has made a shift, from a focus on humility and reservedness to a focus on individual desire. I call this desire “ambition.” Many times ambition begins to rule our purpose. This becomes very dangerous and takes us from a moralistic world view to one of being self-centered. We must check our moral compass, according to Brooks, and strive to become/stay virtuous. The core of what makes a human “human” are displaying the traits of kindness, bravery, honesty, and devotion. Brooks argued that people, and I would argue our children/students, are beginning to obsess over themselves and live only for their own desires.

IMG_8245One thing that we discussed in our 3D Leadership gathering that Brooks also discussed in The Road to Character was how many of us have shifted our lives to revolve around how we achieve, and no longer why. The effect is profound. Again, we can see well documented cases of this ambition taking over our purpose. I have blogged about a couple of such cases in When Purpose & Passion Turn Into Ambition and Passion At Ambition’s Command. But how do we change this? By embracing the flaws inherent in all of us. One of our participants called us “Perfectly Imperfect.” I loved that, and if we work off of that to learn from and correct or mistakes and failures every day, it would be a great start.

Doing things like being honest about our flaws can help us overcome self-centeredness  and embrace deeper social values, like love and connection to others. As Yoda said, “Much to learn you still have.” If we are going to thrive and maybe be that next person on someone else’s personal Mount Rushmore then we must free ourselves from pride. We must embrace the assistance of others admit our own flaws. Through that we will become more authentic and transparent, thus being a better inspiration and role model for others; while being happier, more fulfilled, and worthy.

Reflecting On Our Presidents

“The Republican Club,” by artist Andy Thomas, was personally chosen by President Donald Trump to be displayed in the White House.

Andy Thomas Democratic Club presidents painting Image of “The Democratic Club” painting by Andy Thomas

It has been an incredible 2020 President’s Day. I had to drive to Nashville, Tennessee this morning so I had lots of time to reflect on our Presidents. My son and I were together this past weekend and reflected on the Presidents in the paintings displayed in this post. We pondered what they were discussing and thought about how great it would be to have conversations with these Presidents. As I got closer to Nashville, I reflected on the leadership of Andrew Jackson. I had the chance to go to The Hermitage last year and to the site of The Battle of New Orleans the year before that. There are certainly things that I would not have agreed with Andrew Jackson on, but there is no question he was a great leader. I blogged about his leadership in “Old Hickory” Leadership.

I had a great day tweeting questions every hour or so related to our Presidents. There was some great interaction. Here’s the questions I asked throughout the day:

  • Who was our U.S. President the day you were born?
  • Who were the U.S. Presidential candidates the first time you were able to vote?
  • If you could have dinner and a conversation with any past or present/living or deceased United States President, who would choose?
  • If you care to share, who was the first U.S. President you ever voted for?
  • Who has spent time in the Oval Office with a U.S. President? Is so, which one?
  • If you could add another U.S. President to Mount Rushmore, who would you add?
  • Are you reading about any U.S. Presidents right now? If so, which one(s)?
  • Have you finished any great President autobiographies or biographies lately?
  • What is your favorite Presidential Library you have been to?
  • What do you consider the best book by or about a First Lady of our great nation?

Wow, until I typed them out here, I had not realized I had asked 10 questions today. I can’t resist telling you that our 10th President was John Tyler. He became President in 1841 when William Henry Harrison died. He was the first Vice President to succeed to the Presidency after the death of his predecessor. How about that for some President’s Day learning? It was sure fun reflecting on the past and how our Presidents have affected our lives and this great country we call home.

A Cup Full Of Mindfulness

I finished the great book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, by the great author Scott Eblin this week. I have enjoyed learning more about mindfulness ever since taking a mindfulness course at Harvard University. I believe in the power of mindfulness, but just not very good at it – or so I thought. Then while reading this book, Eblin taught me that some of the things I do are mindfulness activities and I just need to recognize them.

One of the things he pointed to was having objects in our offices that remind us of our core values, goals we have, or other important events or people. These serve as reminders to bring us back to a state of mindfulness. I do have objects in my office that do this, but what actually came to mind was my coffee cup collection. My coffee cup collection is extensive. But, it is not like you think. They are not all up on a shelf collecting dust. No, they are in the cupboard ready for use – a different one every day.

For example, as I am writing this post, I am drinking coffee from the cup I got when my family and I toured The Hermitage. The cup serves as a reminder of the leadership of Andrew Jackson and the importance of spending quality time with family. When I am using that cup, I am taken back to that excursion. It really does take me to a state of mindfulness.

Anyone who has traveled with me knows if the trip has been great I will be in a gift shop somewhere buying a coffee mug. Certain mugs inform about my identity or affiliations. I have mugs from my alma maters and favorite sports teams, places I’ve traveled to, conferences I been to, and organizations I’m a member of. I do not just leave selection to chance either. I actually think about what kind of motivation or mindfulness I need at the time. Just like my Clarity First coffee cup given to me by another great author, Karen Martin, reminds me of being mindful of always bringing clarity as a leader. My coffee cups become my loyal mindfulness partners that don’t judge me.

My coffee cups also earn my affection because of the hot beverage they contain. Research shows that just wrapping your hands around a warm mug can conjure up warm feelings toward others. Pair that with the mental reminders of the message or pictures on the cup and you have the environment to practice more effective mindfulness.

These mindful moments with my coffee cups set a positive tone for the rest of the day. What do you have that reminds you to be mindful each day?

Dad & Lad In The Who Dat Nation

Posted in Andrew Jackson, Community, Courage, Culture, Democracy, New Orleans, New Orleans Saints, Who Dat, Who Dat Nation by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 19, 2019

img_4636My son and I had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana last weekend to watch the New Orleans Saints beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 in the NFC Divisional Game. We are huge Saints fans because of Drew Brees, but have also fallen in love with the Who Dat Nation. We had our first taste of this last year in the NFC Divisional Wildcard Game where New Orleans defeated the Carolina Panthers. I am amazed at the following of the Saints by this city. New Orleans needs the Saints and the Saints need New Orleans.

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We also had the opportunity to see former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco honored at the game for keeping the Mercedes Superdome Open and the Saints in New Orleans following Katrina. Blanco knew she would take a hit politically if she green-lighted the renovation of a football stadium at a time when most New Orleans residents remained displaced, businesses were shuttered and the city could not provide basic services. She also knew, however, that keeping the Saints was important to economy of New Orleans and would be an inspiration to the city. During the ceremony at the game she recalled saying, “Not on my watch will we lose the Saints.” This took incredible vision and political courage. Really it was just plain leadership at its best.

During our visit my son, Heath, and I took in all the New Orleans culture and talked about how important New Orleans was as a port for both the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. New Orleans was important to the founding of our great nation and had to be defended in the early 1800s and was won in The Battle of New Orleans in 1815. We discussed how grain would come the Ohio River out of Indiana to the Mississippi River to New Orleans in barges. Once the grain was sold the barges would be disassembled and the lumber sold because at that time there were no engines to push the barges back up the Mississippi.

This was a great discussion as we stood at the base of the bronze statue of Major General Jackson. He led our troops to victory at the Battle of New Orleans. This was really a full circle for my son and I’s study of Andrew Jackson. Last year at this same time we were at the battlefield where the Battle of New Orleans took place. Then, a month ago we were at The Hermitage in Nashville Tennessee, and now back in New Orleans.

img_4723We love spending time learning about different cultures and history. My son even got to see his dad be a man of his word. A man walked up and told me he liked my shoes. I bit and he wanted to bet me $10 he could answer some questions about my shoes. Long story short, I lost – I knew I would. I paid him the $10 for the shoe shine. I paid him because I had given him my word. My son commented that others would have got mad, but he knew I wouldn’t because I had given him my word up front. About as high a claim you can get from your son, don’t you think? And…I got my shoes shined and waterproofed.

We immersed ourselves in the Who Dat Nation. We watched locals making cigars in the cigar factories. We took in the local architecture and culture of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. We had breakfast at Cafe′ Du Monde – a French Market that has been in business since the early 1960s. We walked and talked to the many artists in Jackson Square.

All of us come from different zip codes ad cultures. My son and I were so blessed to have had this experience for a second year in a row for one reason to learn so much and the second to spend quality time together. I hope that opportunities like this one helps my son to understand about the different ways that people live and do things. This hopefully translates to Heath understanding that there is no single way or right way to do the same things.

Amazingly, Forbes tells us in “5 Top Reasons You Should Travel With Your Kids” that from 2008 to 2012 parents traveling domestically with their children has declined from 31% to 26%. Here are the five reasons that we should travel with our kids:

  1. Make them citizens of the world.
  2. Get them to eat weird stuff.
  3. Expose their brains to diverse languages.
  4. Build their confidence and independence.
  5. Increase their tolerance to discomfort.

We need to make sure our children and students have the opportunity so they understand there is a world that exists outside their own.

“Old Hickory” Leadership

General Jackson’s Home At The Hermitage

Our family had the opportunity to visit The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s farm and home, near Nashville, Tennessee, this past week. We love going to historical sites of past presidents and this one of our seventh president was awesome. General Jackson’s, as we learned he wanted to be referred as, home is very well preserved and cared for. Our tour guide, Stewart, was incredible and very knowledgeable. To be on the farm where General Jackson worked, stand outside the room where he met with other presidents, and be next to the bed where he died was awe inspiring and caused a great deal of reflection about the leadership of this great American.

Some praise his strength and audacity. My son and I had learned about his great military leadership prowess this time last year when we walked the grounds of the Battle of New Orleans where General Jackson led the defeat of the British and soaked up all the history. We learned how his servant leadership, dedication to his troops, and toughness gain him the affectionate title “Old Hickory”. Others see our seventh President as having been vengeful and self-obsessed. To admirers he stands as a shining symbol of American accomplishment, the ultimate individualist and patriot.

Andrew Jackson, the President, believed republican government should be simple, frugal, and accessible. As President he was very accessible and was know as the people’s President. By 1835, President Jackson had reduced the national debt to a mere $33,733.05 and would eventually pay it off, making him the only president to ever accomplish that feat. He was an ardent supporter of state’s rights, and individual liberty fostered political and governmental change, including many prominent and lasting national policies. Many believe it was his stubbornness and tenacity to keep fighting for what he believed was right that made him a great leader. There was a lot that happened in our great country under the many leadership roles that Jackson held during his lifetime. We can agree and disagree on his decisions and policies, but it is important to reflect on the General’s leadership influence and learn from our history.