Byron's Babbles

“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.

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We’re All Unique

Thanks a lot Mr. KibblewhiteThanks a lot Mr. Kibblewhite by Roger Daltrey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The author of this book, Roger Daltrey, was the founder and lead singer of The Who, one of the great British bands of the ’60s and ’70s and arguably one of the most influential bands of rock and roll development. This book grabbed a hold of me right from the start and kept me engaged right to the end. I felt as though I was there for the Nazi bombing of Britain as Daltrey was born in 1944. Peacetime followed but the food rationing and lack of opportunities followed for his young childhood. Daltrey tells all and there are certainly lessons to be learned. One statement he made early in the book really struck me. After being expelled by the headmaster of his school, Mr. Kibblewhite, whom the book is titled after, Daltrey says, “If anyone had ever once sat me down and explained that school was for me, not the teachers or the system, and there were reasons why I should stick at it, it would have been totally different. But no one ever did” (p.21). As a leader in education this really hit me like a ton of bricks. Unfortunately, it is true that some do lose site that schools are students, not the teachers or school systems themselves. I was motivated to blog about this in School Is For The Student: https://byronernest.blog/2018/11/18/s…

At the end of the book as Roger Daltrey reflects now, later in life, that his school principal was wrong to tell him he’d never do anything with his life he said: “We’re all unique. We all have our own unique lives. But seeing my life like that, I just felt overwhelmingly lucky. In the middle of this strange out-of-body experience, I said to myself, ‘Would you ever imagine the things you’ve done?’” (p. 238). Why do educators do that?

Daltrey leaves us with great lessons we all can use, no matter our profession. He said, “You can’t be mediocre. A band can be either terrible or brilliant. There is no middle ground. So you have to make tough decisions.” This lesson pretty much applies to anything.

Daltrey may be 74, but he’s still causing a sensation along with Pete Townshend as original members of the group who still tour. He’s also causing a stir with this great book that was released this past October, 2018. You should check it out.

~ Dr. Ernest

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Unintended Consequences: Minimizing  the ‘Oops Factor’ in Decision Making

This guest post originally appeared on Forbes. 

Unintended Consequences: Minimizing 
the ‘Oops Factor’ in Decision Making

By Rodger Dean Duncan

“Unintended consequences” is the term for outcomes that are not the ones foreseen by a purposeful act.

When a manager consistently gives tough assignments to a worker who’s proven himself to be reliable, the go-to employee may begin to feel “penalized” by the additional load while the less reliable workers get a free ride. What was intended as a compliment and vote of confidence turns out to be an unwelcome burden.

In medicine, unintended consequences are called “side effects.” Have you listened carefully to television commercials for drugs? The list of side effects is often longer than the narrative promoting the medicine. Why would we be warned that a product purported to relieve a simple ailment may also produce paralysis, high blood pressure, thinning hair, skin rash, weight gain, blurred vision or even thoughts of suicide? Because the lawyers said so.

The old caution of “don’t operate heavy equipment while taking this medicine” seems to have morphed into “this pill will help your headache, but it also might kill you.” Caveat emptor indeed.

The fine print on an over-the-counter pain remedy I bought said it caused “irritability” in one in 10,000 users. It turns out that the first day I took one of those pills I was “irritable.” (I’m relying here on the assessment of an independent observer: my wife.) Irritable or not, I felt special. At that ratio there are fewer than 32,000 of us in the entire United States. We could rent Madison Square Garden and throw a party. The capacity of Madison Square Garden is only 18,200. But I’m confident a lot of us (at least those still taking the pain remedy) would be too grouchy to attend anyway.

I should be embarrassed to admit it, but sometimes I don’t bother reading the list of possible side effects. This behavior is risky, much the same as failing to read the terms and conditions on a contract before checking the box claiming to have read the terms and conditions. 

As Isaac Newton observed, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In business, as in the rest of life, most every action we take has the potential for consequences we didn’t anticipate. Some of those consequences may be serendipitous, like the “accidental” invention of the Post-It® Note by the guy at 3M Company who brewed up a batch of sticky-but-not-too-sticky adhesive. And some consequences are unpleasant, like a profit-based bonus system that inadvertently motivates people to trim spending on maintenance and safety issues.

Is there an absolutely foolproof way to make decisions? No. But there are some common sense guidelines that can help:

1. Decide what to decide. Many decisions can and should be delegated to others. Not only does that give them the practice, but it enables you to devote attention to those decisions that legitimately require your laser focus.
2. Be collaboratively independent. Confer with subject-matter experts, but avoid getting mired in decision-by-committee. Solicit the views of credible sources, but be prepared to own your own decision.
3. Avoid information bloat. Tom Hanks’ character in “You’ve Got Mail” said it well: “The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc.” Information overload can lead to analysis paralysis, which can lead to fuzzy thinking, which can lead to faulty decisions. Keep it simple.
4. Define your desired outcome. As we learned in Alice in Wonderland, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll get you there.” To the extent possible, clarify what your desired result would “look like.” Establish a handful ofSMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).
5. Beware getting stuck in the thick of thin things. Most of the hundreds of decisions and choices we make each day are relatively inconsequential—which dental floss to buy, or which salad dressing to order. Save your decision-making energy for the issues that really matter.
6. Don’t expect perfection. Gather the best information available. Weigh the pros and cons of your options. Then decide. You’re unlikely to have all the answers, or even all the questions. And you can’t anticipate every possible consequence. Just be ready to build your wings on the way down.

Again, most decisions come with no guarantees. But remember this uncomfortable reality: failing to make a decision is, in itself, a decision. With consequences.

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Rodger Dean Duncan is bestselling author of LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today’s Top Thought Leaders. Early in his career he served as advisor to cabinet officers in two White House administrations and headed global communications at Campbell Soup Company. He has coached senior leaders in dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

 

Leading Like Theodore Roosevelt

Yesterday day I had the opportunity of a lifetime while visiting the offices of our Vice President, Mike Pence. Our Vice President has offices in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), which is located next to the West Wing of the White House. In addition the Vice President has an office in the West Wing, on the Senate side of the Capitol Building, and Vice President Pence has one on the House Of Representatives side in honor of his service in Congress.

When we were taken into the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building I was struck by an extra large desk at one end. Then we were told it was Theodore Roosevelt’s desk when he was Secretary Of The Navy and President Of The United States. The desk was no longer extra large, it was larger than life! I was standing next to the desk of one of my heroes, Teddy Roosevelt! You know, one of the guys on Mount Rushmore!

Of course, and this will be no surprise, I asked “Can I please sit at the desk?” The answer was, “Yes.” So, now I am sitting at the desk of Teddy Roosevelt and the many Vice Presidents who have signed the inside of the top drawer (see picture). Again, I am sitting at the desk of President Teddy Roosevelt! Then I look in the drawer and see the signature of Vice President Joe Biden, who also used this desk, and a leader who I greatly respect and had the opportunity to spend time with. What an experience! Thank you Vice President Pence for the opportunity!

This experience was yesterday and I still can’t get it out of my mind. I have been reflecting on why Theodore Roosevelt is such a hero. Theodore Roosevelt is recognized as a transformational leader. He defined numerous aspects of leadership that we now take for granted in the presidency as well as in private life. His inspirational vision about the economy, industry, environmental protection, and the National Parks system is still influencing our great country to this day. He had a remarkable ability to communicate his vision, not only through his well-crafted words, but even more through his indelible example. Roosevelt’s well-publicized, courageous exploits in Cuba in the brief but deadly Spanish-American War of 1898—the fateful days he viewed as the linchpin of his life—are perhaps the most apt symbol of his leadership. Roosevelt, mounted on horseback in front of his troops, showed the way—asking others to “come” rather than saying “go” in the words of his friend Henry Cabot Lodge—putting himself at risk, making himself accountable, giving more of himself than he would ask of others. I have always said that we must walk arm in arm with others, even pulling them along at times, instead of pushing!

“Reading is a disease with me.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was very curious and was continually learning. He was a voracious reader, but the book, the classroom, formal education, were far from the only venues for learning in his opinion. These forms of learning had produced many of what he called the “educated ineffectives.” Roosevelt believed in combining the life of ideas and the life of action. This was central to his project of self-creation as a leader. He was practicing project based, interdisciplinary learning.

As soon as any man has ceased to be able to learn, his usefulness as a teacher is at an end. When he himself can’t learn, he has reached the stage where other people can’t learn from him. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Interesting this had been brought up in the great session at the ExcelinEd National Summit on Education Reform by Andreas Schleicher with what he described as “some things are caught not taught.” This is what work based learning and project based learning is all about. We must be immersed in a relevant learning environment.

Theodore Roosevelt believed that learning is an ongoing project of self-creation – personal professional growth. He offered his life as a template for anyone who would seek to re-create themselves.

It’s amazing what effect sitting at a desk can have. Who’s desk would you like to be sitting at?

A Focus on What Is Working

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

A Focus on What Is Working

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

In a problem-based world, it is very challenging to keep a leadership focus on what is working. We believe that focusing on what is working matters as a practice that builds appreciative resilience. Leaders are bombarded by problems every day. A focus on what is working pulls them out of that mindset of problem- and deficit-based thinking to begin to see what is right and what is good inside a team or an organization. Joan worked for a president who made this a practiced part of her leadership. She started every meeting with the question “What do we have to celebrate?” As Joan and other leaders in the room shifted their mind-set to uplift the stories worth celebrating, the entire feeling in the room shifted. The thinking shifted from “We have problems” to “Yes, we have problems needing to be solved, but we also are doing some things right.” 

This particular leader had several catastrophic events occur within the organization in a short period of time. Joan always noted that she started every conversation during those very difficult times with some version of celebrating the skills of the people handling those events.

Focusing on what is working inside a team or organization builds resilience for the individuals and the group by constantly reinforcing a drive to be excellent, not because of fear, but because their successes are celebrated. Celebrating what is working is like depositing resilience into an emotional bank account for later use. This bank account helps leaders deal with uncertainty, fear, and stress. In a crisis, a leader can tell others, verbally or through action, that their jobs, livelihood, and reputation are on the line, or they can share what is working well and uplift the drive of people to repair and rebuild.

It takes a conscious and mindful effort to focus on what is working. It takes the practice of pausing and thinking through the situation from multiple perspectives and asking powerful questions. This practice is easier in hopeful times, and we suggest that these are the times to begin the practice. If leaders practice a focus on what is working in hopeful times, they will find it much easier to do when a crisis arises. It is difficult to focus on what is working in times of despair, yet it is possible if one has practiced in times of hope. As leaders move through the element or state of despair, it is very difficult not to assign blame, seek justice, dole out retribution, or withdraw. In forgiveness, one must hold what is working close to one’s leadership heart, because a focus on what is working and forgiveness are linked together. Without leaders focusing on what is working or on what is possible, forgiveness cannot happen. 

Focusing on what is working well is a practice that trains leaders to seek out the appreciative stance and, in doing so, discover what can be built on and taken into the future.

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About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

Why Everyone Should Read Dopesick

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted AmericaDopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As soon as I finished this book I tweeted, “Anyone who is a public policy maker, educator, or citizen (in other words everyone) needs to read Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors… by Beth Macy. This book tells the history of the #opioidcrisis back to the Civil War until today like none other!” I learned so much history that I did not know. By the time the Civil War ended, addiction had already touched middle-class housewives, immigrants, veterans and even physicians hoping to soothe their own aches and pains. This is when the opioid epidemic began. Between the 1870s and 1880s, America’s per capita consumption of opiates had tripled. On March 1, 1915 a law passed by Congress and signed by one of my favorite Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, would become the first law to criminalize drug use, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act. I also learned that opioids such as morphine and codeine are naturally derived from opium poppy plants more commonly grown in Asia, Central America and South America. Heroin is an illegal drug synthesized from morphine.
Hydrocodone and oxycodone are semi-synthetic opioids, manufactured in labs with natural and synthetic ingredients.

I really like fact that Macy also spent a great deal of time discussing and educating her readers on the public policy component of the opioid crisis. Macy argues that a big obstacle to solving the crisis is that many local, state, and federal agencies and governments are more concerned about protecting turf and budgets than solving the problem and helping people. This book pushed and stretched me to understand this very complex issue.

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Independence Day Leadership Lessons From Maine & Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

On this 2018 Fourth Of July morning I am reminded of the great leadership that has been necessary for the United States to become the great country it is. My family and I are vacationing in Maine right now so, of course, I had to do some studying of influential leaders from Maine. Boy did I come across a great one: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Now I know that Independence Day is observed to honor our Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of Great Britain and those who provided the leadership during this important time of our country’s founding, but since I am in Maine I am going to honor and remember Chamberlain too.

Raised from a modest life in the small town of Brewer Maine, Joshua Chamberlain chose the professions of ministry and academia filling in the post of Professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College during the tumultuous 1850s. As the Civil War broke out, Chamberlain felt the impulse to serve based on his belief in preserving the union and his moral conviction against the institution of slavery. In early 1862, Chamberlain expressed his desire to serve to the Governor of Maine, who offered him the rank of Colonel in the Maine volunteers. He turned that rank down because he did not believe he had the experience necessary for the rank. This is lesson one learned from him – be modest and know what skill level you have and what you still have to learn. Believing he needed to gain experience and knowledge of the military profession, Chamberlain’s uncommon act of humility set a tone for the remainder of his service.

But the cause for which we fought was higher; our thought wider… That thought was our power. ~ Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain went on to have a very successful military career and ended that career as a Brigadier General, but two Civil War stories are worth telling in this blog post. Here they are:

Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, Little Round Top

Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, who he now commanded, ordered the 20th Maine Regiment to execute a daring counterattack against the 15th Alabama Regiment of the Confederate Army on July 2nd 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg. At the extreme left flank of the Union Army, the 20th Maine fought off repeated assaults for the past several hours against the determined Confederate Soldiers. Even though the 20th regiment was outnumbered and low on ammunition, Chamberlain’s bold decision and courageous leadership led his men of Maine down the slopes of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and stopped the Confederate assault against the Union Army’s left flank. He showed tremendous insight and leadership in making this bold move. Colonel Chamberlain was inspirational to his men and as a leader, a true influencer.

Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, April, 1865

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain taught us what it meant to be a man of character and compassion when he was personally asked by General Ulysses S. Grant to preside at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse over the surrender detail. It was not the fact that he presided that is noteworthy here, it is the awesome act and example of leadership he performed. As the 20,000 Confederate Soldiers paraded by to turn over their arms and battle flags, Chamberlain gave the Union Army detail the command of “carry arms” to salute Confederate’s service and gallantry in battle. Many, then and now, credit this leadership gesture as the beginning for the country’s healing process toward reconciliation.

This act took courage and would bring him accolades and plagued him politically for the rest of his life. The southerners deeply respected him for this show of compassion and respect. Conversely, however, many northerners, including those in his home state of Maine, did not see it that way. They wanted to continue the humiliation of the Confederacy. Chamberlain did what was right and faced the consequences.

Congressional Medal of Honor

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was awarded the Medal Of Honor for his service At Gettysburg. He saw combat at Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Five Forks, and the Appomattox Campaign.

Chamberlain Leadership Lessons

Chamberlain always positioned himself in the middle of his brigade’s formation. He led shoulder to shoulder with his men. This built trust and gave him the ability to truly know what was going on. Chamberlain reassured his soldiers through his cool and calm presence during the heat of combat. He garnered the trust of his men through his actions in combat. The other thing that really impressed me as I studied this hero was his commitment to studying his new military profession, and his commitment to developing his subordinates. We need to pay attention to these lesson learned and apply them to our daily lives as leaders.

Learn More About Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

There are so many more leadership lessons to learn about this great man that went on to be President of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and four term (one year terms at that time in Maine). Let me suggest two ways that I did to learn more:

  1. Visit Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and visit the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Museum. It is awesome! I learned a great deal from the tour and curators there. The museum is the restored home (the only home he and his wife, Fanny, ever owned). There is family history, Civil War history, history of his time as Bowdoin College President, and history of his Governorship. It is awesome!
  2. Read the great book by Alice Rains Trulock, In The Hands Of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain & The Civil War. This book is awesome and I gave it five stars. Is a very well written well told story of this great leader. This book inspired me to dig deeper and explore more to understand how this man became the great leader he did, at a crucial time in our nation’s history.

I am thankful on this Independence Day, 2018 for Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. What leaders are you thankful for on this day of celebration of our great country, The United States Of America?

What’s Your Elevated Story?

One of the most common questions we get when meeting new people is, “So, what do you do?” Most of us have a standard answer about our profession, but there are some people who have jobs that you might not even know existed. More importantly, everyone’s job is important and in some way improves the lives of others. Think about every job that affects your household; there are a lot.

Perkins Cove

I was reminded of this yesterday when in Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine. This is a lobstering port and a beautiful place with shops and restaurants. While exploring we came across a boat named the SS Crusher that had been dry docked (see picture). It was a cool looking boat and I wondered what was up with it. Then, I found that a children’s book, The Pride Of Perkins Cove, had been written about it by Brenda Yorke Goodale about the boat.

So, of course I had to dig deeper and found that the boat and it’s harbormaster have very important jobs. When it gets cold, and it gets cold in Maine; Perkins Cove freezes. Because the Cove is a working port, it has to stay open, so Harbormaster Fred Mayo spends hours every day breaking the ice. The town’s special boat, the SS Crusher, is built for the task of “crushing” through the ice. Before yesterday I did not even know what a lobstering port looked liked, let alone that freezing was a problem.

If we asked Fred Mayo what he does, he might give the same kind of answer we all would: “I’m a harbormaster.” But, wow, is it so much more. In fact, here, according to Wikipedia, is truly the world of a harbormaster: “A harbormaster is an official responsible for enforcing the regulations of a particular harbor or port, in order to ensure the safety of navigation, the security of the harbor and the correct operation of the port facilities.” Think about all the other colorful details that a harbormaster like Fred Mayo could add. I’ll bet there are some great stories of ice crushing in Perkins Cove. Here are a couple of pictures of Fred Mayo and the SS Crusher doing their job:

A few weeks ago I read a great book by Shawn Achor entitled Big Potential: How Transforming The Pursuit Of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being. In the book, Achor points out that we usually just give a very quit and boring answer of what we do for our job. He argued, however, that we need to quit this and give what he calls the “elevated speech;” not to be mistaken with the elevator speech. The “elevated speech” should be us telling what we really do and why what we do is so important. The example I like to give here is the answer that we hear so many times from teachers: “Oh, I’m just a teacher.” I’ll admit I’m guilty of having done this. But, are you kidding me, “just a teacher?” I think not! Actually, I hope not!

Let’s take a look at teaching as a very significant profession, or “job.” Here is my elevated version: “Teachers have been given a great gift – the power to change lives, each day I must be inspirational. I am a significant human being helping other human beings to realize their full potential and go on and make a positive difference in their world.” What do you think?

Achor posited that our beliefs create our world. He argued that if we elevate the story of what we do, we will get a new spring in our step and renewed inspiration for what we do each day. He’s right because Gallup (2017) told us that 60% of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them. Here’s the challenge, though, in 2016, only 33% of U.S. employees were

engaged – involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace (Gallup, 2017). This translates to only 4 in 10 U.S. employees strongly agreeing that in the last year, they have had opportunities to learn and grow (Gallup,2017). This is a huge engagement issue. Gallup (2017) results suggested that by moving that ratio to eight in 10 employees, organizations could realize 44% less absenteeism, 41% fewer safety incidents, 24% higher retention, and 16% higher productivity. I guess it is time to elevate those we serve.

Just like the story of the SS Crusher, we all have unique gifts, jobs to do, and make a significant difference in the world. Let’s get engaged and elevated! What’s your elevated story?

Reference

Gallup (2017). State of the American Workplace. Gallup, Inc. Washington D.C

What Can We Create Together?

Every year, the Ernest family takes the first week of July as an opportunity to get away and spend time together. We have found this to be a great week because it is moratorium week for Indiana High School athletics; in other words, Heath (my son) does not have football 🏈 practice all week. Another thing I love is that when we travel we get to celebrate the Fourth of July in different places around the country. And…with the holiday, many others are off work too, and it seems the draw to do work related things is less.

View from my camper door in York, Maine. Breathtaking!

This year, we are spending our week working out of York, Maine. This trip is giving us the opportunity to pick up visiting in four states (Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont) that he had not been to yet in his quest to get all 50 before he graduates from high school. He will just have Alaska, Utah, Idaho, and New Mexico left after this trip. Not bad for a 17 year old. Yesterday, as we were setting up our camper, my son and I noticed a neighboring camper flying the American flag 🇺🇸 and The Gadsden (“Don’t Tread On Me Flag”). Heath and I had a discussion about the flag, Christopher Gadsden (who designed the flag), what it meant during the American Revolution, and what it means to us now. Please don’t go down the route of thinking I am on some anti-government weird movement. I’m just reflecting on our past,studying history, and what it means to our future.

“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” ~ President Harry S. Truman

The Gadsden Flag

Many people during revolutionary war times thought the rattlesnake was a good example of America’s virtues. They argued that it is unique to America; individually its rattles produce no sound, but united they can be heard by all; and while it does not attack unless provoked, it is deadly to step upon one. I have to think 🤔 this was how our forefathers were thinking. Even though we later had some expansionist behaviors as we put the whole United States project together, there continued to be to mentality we would not go beyond our geographic boarders.

Colonel Christopher Gadsden

He was from South Carolina and really liked a yellow banner he had seen with a coiled rattle snake drawn on it, and the rest is history, so to speak. Gadsden made a copy of this flag and submitted the design to the Provincial Congress in South Carolina.

During The American Revolution

At the time of the American Revolutionary we were in a time period where intense, but controlled individualism was the dominating disposition of most people. Remember, most of the colonists had come here to escape some type of oppression. An important fact, by the way, I believe we need to remember today! This was a time when self-directing responsible individuals again and again decided for themselves what they should do, and did it without needing anyone else to give them an assignment or supervise them in carrying it out.

Does The Gadsden Flag Have Meaning Today?

YES! I want to just stop there, because I believe we must make that meaning for ourselves, using our founding fathers as the guides. It reminds me, we need to be mindful of the idea of government overreach. For me this means on a local and state level, as well as at the federal level.

And…as we know, this is not an easy thing to balance. What I see as support, you may see as overreach, and visa versus. Or, I’m reminded of pre Civil War times when decisions were made pointing to states rights, which I believe very deeply in, but states rights were being used as a political shield to not doing the right thing – abolishing slavery once and for all for the whole country. I believe this conundrum itself is part of the genius our democratic design. It allows us to debate and have discourse about how to proceed. My only wish on this week of celebrating the independence of our great country is that we take more of a stance of civilized discourse and come together as a nation of communities to develop great solutions to our challenges. What can we create together?

A KISS of Stardom!

IMG_3094This week I had the opportunity to do something that I had never done before. I became Gene Simmons as a part of a team in a Battle Of The Bands Lip Sync Contest. This was part of our Carolina Schools Big Potential Leadership Conference put on by Noble Education Initiative, Inc. What an experience. Although each of the group’s members is iconic, perhaps the most memorable of them all is front man Gene Simmons, who is famous for his demonic character that breathes fire, spits blood, and engages in all sorts of outrageous behavior on stage. Here’s the deal: when we hit the stage, after an hour and a half of getting in costume and having makeup put on, I became Gene Simmons. I even spit blood. And, I didn’t lip sync. I sang every word of “Rock And Roll All Night.” Then, I spit blood (we got the fake blood capsules at a party supply place and I put the all in my mouth – what a mess) and did “God Of Thunder.” The crowd was going wild – literally. I’ve got to tell you, I did not want it to end. It was addictive.

So, what did I learn?

IMG_3093Shared Vision and Enthusiasm – Everyone, regardless of her or his age, knows KISS, the band. They are the band that would wear 6-inch heels, has blue/black hair, paints their faces, and one member, Gene Simmons, who would spit blood and blow fire. Amazingly, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t know that. Furthermore, when my colleagues and I started our rendition of “Rock and Roll All Night” it amazed me that everyone knew the words and sang along. It wasn’t just singing, though, it was singing with enthusiasm. We could tell, the song meant something to this group. Everyone was connecting in some way to it. As leaders, that is our job to make connections. Whether that means partnerships, or connecting everyone in the organization to a shared vision.

Engagement – I did a session yesterday morning on student engagement. While I was facilitating that session I was thinking about my rock band front man experience. My job both as a facilitator and front-man was to move, affect and engage an audience. This is also true in a classroom. We must move our students toward proficiency of skill, standards, and competencies, as well as affect change in their lives, while engaging them.

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 1.58.38 PMThe Band Is A Team – While I acted out the part of the demonic and crazed front man part of our our band, I realized it was the other three members of our band that made it all possible. Others in the band literally got my costume ready and did my makeup. They were supporting my antics on stage and supporting me acting crazy. The lesson here is that we can never be as good by ourselves as we can be as part of a team.

We All Need A Brand or To Be A Part of A Brand – The 2016 Gallup survey information tells us that we all want to be part of a successful brand or part of an organization that is doing good in the world. KISS holds all the records for record sales for any rock band ever – including Elvis and the Beatles. Their empire is worth over 1 billion dollars and there are over 3000 branded KISS products on the market today. KISS is a rock BRAND not a rock Band. What is your brand?

Have A No Limits Attitude and Approach To Life – There truly are no limits to what you can achieve. Success is a mind set. We all need to have a growth mindset. Either you think you can achieve it, or you don’t. Never let someone else tell you what you can and cannot achieve. Control those thoughts yourself.

IMG_3108Upon reflection, I got chills thinking about a few things:

  • Without KISS, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
  • What would the world and I be like if there were no KISS?
  • What band would have been my mentor to have a no-holds-barred attitude toward going after all my dreams?
  • Who would have taught me it doesn’t matter what the critics are saying because you cannot please everyone; I learned, from KISS, to go after what I believe will create change in the world?
  • Without Gene Simmons I don’t have the example of a humanitarian. Simmons received the MEND Humanitarian award, for his support of Mending Kids International, which provides surgical care to children in developing countries. During his acceptance speech he said, “I don’t have the right NOT to give back and neither do you. Some mother somewhere is crying her heart out because her child can’t have what we have in this country and we can change that.” Did you catch that? “I don’t have the right NOT to give back…” I heard you loud and clear, Gene!

IMG_3109 2IMG_3110As you can see, Gene Simmons and KISS has had quite an affect on me since the band began when I was 10 years old. I am so glad they have been a part of my life. I am also glad I had the opportunity this week to experience a very, very, very, very small part of what it feels like to be Gene Simmons on stage.