Byron's Babbles

1000 Blog Posts Later

I had a great friend and mentor early in my now nearly six decades who would say, “Now I’m just talking out loud here.” I always knew it was coming, but I always thought or said, “That’s the only way you can talk, or your not talking.” Of course, he was being funny and really saying that he was thinking out loud, but I think of him and that phrase often. As I write this 1000th post to my blog I contemplate the reality that blogging is really writing out loud. Blogging feels like what I would imagine extreme sports to be: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, and more alive.

When I first started blogging I was much more formal and tried to think of things to blog that someone might want to read. That really wasn’t very satisfying. Now my posts are based on some inspiration or something that has caused me to dig in deeper on some subject. I am approaching this more like a songwriter approaches songs. I now let the inspiration happen organically – it might be something said in a television show, lines in a novel, book topics, something someone says during a meeting or one of my workshops, or something as mundane as a spider web in the barn. It has become so much fun!

Extreme sports have several associated uncontrollable and dynamic variables, because extreme sports take place where the natural phenomena are and generally vary, like wind, snow, and mountains. These natural phenomena affect the outcome or the result of the activity or the extreme sporting event for that matter. Sound familiar? Life!

I end up writing about myself, because I am a relatively fixed point in the constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world. And in that sense, the historic form closest to blogs is the diary. But, a diary is usually kept private. Its raw honesty, its dedication to marking life as it happens and remembering life as it was, makes it a terrestrial log. Sometimes there are diaries that are meant to be read by others, of course, just as correspondence could be. I’m thinking here of the captain’s log on Star Trek, a trucker’s log book, or a flight log. But, usually diaries are read posthumously, or as a way to compile facts for a more considered autobiographical rendering. But a blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author to anyone and everyone in the touch of a “Publish Now” icon.

I just see myself as a curious individual, who likes to share what he has learned. I want to share the life lessons I’ve learned so far and learn every day. And, I want to share what I’m currently working on, what I’m currently thinking; mostly imperfect things in-progress. Blogging has enabled me to Share my thoughts and lessons learned.

I blog usually three to four times per week and I believe blogging is helpful and beneficial to share my thoughts, and lessons learned online because someone might find the lessons learned useful. These “someone’s” are many times those I lead or have the opportunity to help and serve. Therefore, it provides a constant window into the things I am doing, what I’m thinking about, things I’m curious about, new and evolving thinking, and who I am. Even if it doesn’t do that for everyone, it still serves as my journal. I go back and pull things from the archives many times per week. It is an electronic filing cabinet of my brain that is very well organized. This in a brain, I might add, that is not always well organized.

Finally, blogging is very personal for me. When I pull up a blank page to start a new post it’s like beginning a new adventure in learning. As I close, I must give credit where credit is due. Back in 2010 my good friend and great leadership guru, Kevin Eikenberry, The Kevin Eikenberry Group, suggested I needed to start blogging. Of course, I resisted. But, Jenny Pratt who was on Kevin’s team at the time and is now Director of Major and Planned Gifts for The Muny, took it upon herself to build my blog site even to the point of naming it Byron’s Babbles. Who does that? Jenny! She told me, “now you can change the name and the way I have formatted it for you later.” 1000 posts and 12 years later I have changed nothing. Byron’s Babbles is still the appropriate name today – it’s authentic and what my blog is: my organized babbles. I hope you have enjoyed my 1000th babble.

Your True Nature

Posted in Authentic, Educational Leadership, Genuine, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadery by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 2, 2021

Many of you will remember the great show Frasier, starring Kelsey Grammer as psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane. There was always so much going on in each episode and many times the plot revolved around the extreme vanity of Frasier and his brother Dr. Niles Crane, played by David Hyde Pierce. One of my favorite parts of the show was the animated title screen at the beginning. It would show the title, Frasier, with a sketch of the Seattle skyline. There would always be some animation as simple as the blinking red light on top of the Space Needle, to a helicopter, to a lightning bolt, or the Seattle Monorail (my favorite). I’ve got to admit, sometimes I turn to the beginning of the show just to see that title screen come on. Click here to see a compilation of all the animated title screens.

Anyway, last night I was watching and Frasier said to Niles, “You can never deny your true nature.” This is so correct. We can’t fake it. It will hinder us from becoming all we can be and ruin our relationships with others. So, why do we all, at some time or another, stand in the way of our own happiness by denying who we are and inhibit our own freedoms? What we can learn from Frasier is that fear, vanity, ambition, stubbornness, and money all play a part. We ultimately deny our true selves because of things that are inconsequential in the long run. Think about this, too: when you deny your true nature, you are not only denying yourself, but you are also denying others the opportunity to know the true “you.” How sad is that?

As a result we present the world with a diluted version of ourselves, kind of like the markers you grab to write on the white board that are dried and out of ink and only make faint and muted tones instead of the rich vibrancy of a brand new marker. Or, perhaps the version we offer to others is altogether a farce. We end up showing the world what we think they will accept because that is easier than the thought of rejection we might face if they see our true nature.

Each one of us was born with the propensity for things that we cannot escape. We can’t be someone we are not. So, we need to be the best me “me” we can be. Don’t deny who you are out of a stubborn notion of who you wish to be, or perhaps who you think you should be. Each of us has special gifts, so let’s let our best selves begin to unfold and take flight.

Authentic & Genuine

During some leadership development & workshop presenting training I’ve been doing the last couple of days I’ve been discussing the need to be authentic and genuine. A participant asked if being authentic and being genuine are the same thing. Sometimes they get used interchangeably, but I like to use them with”and” because I believe they are two separate and important qualities.

“Authentic” refers to how we are being ourself. It is a reference to self-expression. In other words, how we express ourself reflects how we really are inside, what we are thinking, feeling, perceiving and believing. Being authentic means we externalize the same things as our inner world of thoughts.

Being “genuine” means we are exactly what we appear to be. This is about not faking it or being imitation. When our emotions are real and not pretended, we are genuine. This is about how we relate to others and interacting in a caring way. Being genuine is also about caring for others.

When being authentic and genuine we will show our vulnerabilities and imperfections. It’s about being present in the moment. We will also share our true thoughts, beliefs, and opinions with the world.

Good Leadership Is Pragmatic

Last week I was doing leadership development facilitation for our participants from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. This session involved developing a top 5 list of Bad Leader traits and a top 5 list of Good Leader traits. While we were voting and tallying to get to their top 5s, I thought about how the traits are really pragmatic. Take a look at their voting tallies and their top 5s:

The opposite of idealistic is pragmatic, a word that describes a philosophy of “doing what works best.” From Greek pragma “deed,” the word has historically described philosophers and politicians who were concerned more with real-world application of ideas than with abstract notions. Did you catch that? Doing what works best. Being concerned with real-world application. Look at the Good Leader traits above and I think you’ll agree they involve doing what works best.

What Lies Beyond Your Imperfections?

Posted in Authentic, Authenticity, DTK, Educational Leadership, Flawsome, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 10, 2021

Funny how things work out. I’m reading the great book Flawsome: The Journey To Being Whole Is Learning To Be Holey by Georgia Murch right now. Her book teaches us that being the best you you can be requires us to accept our flaws. As she said, “Your unique flaws draw people to you.” I love that and have been enlightened over the years to understand that people want me for who I am, not someone else. It is about being authentic.

So what’s funny? I’m also reading Mindset Mondays With DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). DTK’s book is is set up in 52 chapters set up to be read on, you guessed it, Mondays. This week I’m on Chapter 20 entitled Beyond Imperfections. So, some of the same stuff I was learning from Murch. DTK told us that trying to present ourselves as perfect is inauthentic. I have known organizations that have also got caught up in believing they are perfect. DTK wrote, “The fantasy that we’ll become perfect leaders, perfect partners, or perfect people is just that – a fantasy.” Remember, no organization or person is perfect. My imperfections make me, well, me.

So by recognizing our flaws and imperfections we can also find and develop our perfections. This is why I am such a believer in finding our strengths. Let’s recognize our weaknesses and grow our strengths. You be you!

Don’t Overlook The Brilliance Of Our Students

I’m still getting caught up on my reflection of the lessons from Kevin Eikenberry’s Virtual LeaderCon last week. This post is about Chip Bell’s response to my question about where education and the students we serve fall into the realm of the work he has put together in his latest book, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination: 5 Secrets For Creating Breakthrough Products, Services, and Solutions. The first thing he said was, “We must treat students like customers, not consumers.” There is brilliance in our students that so many times gets overlooked.

I asked Chip to go into a little more detail about treating students like customers and not consumers. To this he stated that we have board meetings and where are the students (I’m excited that many states have put students on their state boards of education – I’m still working on Indiana)? But, local school boards should think about student members in some capacity, too. He also asked us to think about where the student was when we were having planning meetings. Chip explained that everything we do should “have our customer’s fingerprints all over it.” He used the example of when we coach little league baseball we tell the kids to “be the ball.” We need to be telling our students to “be the customer.” And, then letting them be the customer. Chip believes our students should be partners along with our students’ families. He promotes student-staff partnership initiatives.

Chip Bell reminds us that customers can give us our best next idea. We should be asking the question, “What is something no-one else has ever thought of?” This discussion reminded me that the words “customer” and “consumers” are often interchangeably used and are easily confused with one another. While students are consumers and the ultimate user of the product, we need to treat them like customers – the person buying the product. We need to think of our students as a final customer– these are the customers who buy the product for their own need or desire. This kind of thinking will help us to better individualize education for every student.

We must innovate. Listening to our students will help us to do this. We can’t keep offering the same thing over and over and over again. We owe it to our students to be authentic. As Chip told us during Virtual LeaderCon, “Authenticity wins every time.”

“Today I am Wise So I Am Changing Myself”

Posted in Authentic, Authenticity, Educational Leadership, Empathy, Global Leadership, Leadership, Nothing More, Passion, Purpose by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 4, 2020

I love studying the work of the great philosophers. As I was studying the work of William James while writing Open Your Mind To The Past & All Of This May Mean Something I came across another great philosopher I hadn’t thought about in a while, Rumi. Actually, I guess really he is considered a poet and scholar. His words of wisdom from the 13th Century have continued to stand the test of time. I’m also impressed with the global impact of his work.

“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.” ~ Rumi

My favorite Rumi quote is, “Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.” When I think about who I was 10, 20, 30, 40, or, well you get the idea, years ago I am now a very changed person. Early on I was all about changing the world as fast as I could. Now, I’ve learned and gained the wisdom to realize I need to keep evolving and changing myself so I can be best suited to contribute to the world today.

One of my favorite rock bands is Nothing More. They have a song, “Do You Really Want It?” that I use as a throughline for a leadership development session. There is a line in the song that is very impactful; it says, “Everybody wants to change the world; But one thing’s clear; No one ever wants to change themselves.” Spot on! I had the chance to have a long philosophical conversation on the bands tour bus a couple of years ago.

“Everybody wants to change the world; But one thing’s clear; No one ever wants to change themselves.” ~ Nothing More

Here’s the deal: changing ourselves doesn’t mean becoming a different person. It means improving ourselves to become a better person. If we’re doing it right we become self-aware, aware of others, develop a growth mindset, find meaning and purpose in our lives.

“All because we hate the buzzkill.” ~ Nothing More

We must learn to understand ourselves better. We must also develop empathy for others, authentically love ourselves, become values driven, and be authentic in all we do. Another line in the Nothing More song says, “All because we hate the buzzkill.” When I was visiting with their lead singer, Jonny Hawkins about this line he said we always get frustrated with all the people who are not authentic and talk a big change for the better talk, but are in it for themselves. He also stated these folks are really “virtue signaling”; just trying to say they are better than us. I wrote about this in Leading Without Virtue Signaling.” So, we need to better ourselves to be in a position to contribute positive change to the world. Rumi had it right!

Day 💯 – Getting To Know People In A Different Way

Well, here we are; day 💯 of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. During this time of discovering a new normal, I feel more connected than ever before. I have met the children, spouses, pets, and even a grandmother of people I never would have thought possible. I’ve even introduced some of our Jersey dairy cows to others while connecting virtually. Additionally, I’ve witnessed parents attending school events virtually, while at work, that never would have been able to attend before. My point? There are things that we need to consider becoming normal. I’m not saying replace necessarily, but supplement.

Having said that, I now begin to think about what else do we need to be thinking about? How do we leverage technology? How do we stay human? How do we get the right tools in the hands of everyone? How do we decide what the right tools are?

It’s interesting to me that before the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) named this a Global Pandemic we were talking about sustainability and the environment, health care, education, and many other things. While in the education realm we have been focused on connectivity and providing meaningful virtual education, and in healthcare our actions have been around caring for Coronavirus patients and stopping the spread of the disease, we will get back to talking about the major issues in the way we were before the pandemic took over. For example, we will, no doubt, be rethinking health care and how it is delivered. In education, I continue to argue that our conversation needs to shift to the idea that school is no longer a place.

Even though I served as moderator for an awesome global event last month that was virtual with 47 countries represented, I also wonder if our assumptions about globalization have been challenged. We had been talking about distance no longer being a factor, but in some ways I’ve seen us become more isolationist and seeing us care more about the locality we operate in and what we can touch and feel. But, we’ve also seen that we can hire the best talent from anywhere and bring them onto teams. The only remaining question related to that is how to do remote working well.

I don’t think I am alone with all of this thinking and pondering. We are now entering a time of needing to decide which practices still make sense and which need to change. We need to come together as families, businesses, schools, communities, cities, states, and nations to answer the question, “What can we create together?”

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.