Byron's Babbles

“Who Am I Not To Be?”

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, Doomscrolling, DTK, Global Leadership, Growth Mindset, Leadership, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 31, 2020

IMG_9431This morning, on day 170 of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic, I am committing to a 52 week journey in a new book that gets released tomorrow, September 1st. I have been perusing my advanced copy of Mindset Mondays With DTK: 52 Ways to REWIRE Your Thinking and Transform Your Life for several days and really like what I have found in the book. As the author, David Taylor-Klaus, told us in the book, it is to be savored over time and used every week for a year. I love books that are organized in 52 lessons to use over a years time. This gives me a chance to also do a weekly reflection blog post, of which is this the first of at least 52 I am committing to do.

“The greatest weapon we have against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~ William James, discussed on pages 39-41 in Mindset Mondays With DTK

The title of the first lesson was Choose Consciously. It was ironic that DTK called our ability to choose, a weapon. In a leadership gathering I facilitated over the weekend I used superheroes as a throughline and we talked about leadership weapons. The ability to make the right choices was a superpower weapon of choice for some. “Who am I not to be?” (DTK, 2020, p. 40) is a statement that DTK has made to himself. So, really, who are we to not be? Whatever we want to achieve starts, as DTK taught us, with examining our own ideas of what is and is not possible.

Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 8.07.42 AMThe choices we make are even more important in this time of “doomscrolling.” I usually love the creation of new words, but I’m not real big on this one that means continuing to surf or scroll through bad news. The act of doomscrolling, then, is to roll toward annihilation. So, back to David’s question, “Who am I not to be?” The one thing we get to control is our mind; so, we need to quit things like doomscrolling and control our mindset and beliefs.

Social media has been a blessing staying connected. One of the other challenges, besides doomscrolling, however, that has been created because of our ability to easily connect is some continually comparing themselves to their peers. DTK addressed this in the first lesson saying, “So instead of comparing our beginning to somebody else’s middle, we actually, see their success as an inspiration instead of a threat” (DTK, 2020, p. 41). I have always believed that each of us has our own personalities and set of skills that make us very special. We just cannot let ourselves fall in a trap of comparing, because there just is no comparison to ourselves – we are a “one-of-a-kind”.  We cannot allow our internal expectations of what defines success keep changing depending on what others desire. Think about it: “Who am I not to be?”

 

Don’t Be Lazy!🧰Use The Right Tools!

I had the chance to do some work in the barn today. That brings the same joy to me that going to the beach might bring to many of you. My son and I have been doing some cleaning and reorganizing as part of a larger campaign we were calling our “Farm COVID-19 Cleansing.” Now that he is back at college, I am on my own. Today as I was working, I realized that I would get along much better if I would use a different pitchfork. I had the other style in another barn, not 50 yards away. Finally, I told myself, “Don’t be lazy; go over and get the right tool.” I did and finished up the task much quicker and effectively.

Then I began to ponder about all the things going on in education, business, industry, and all our lives due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic (we are in Day 161, now). We must not get lazy. We need to deploy the right tools to get the right things done effectively. Go the extra yard (in my case it was 50), so to speak, to do things right. This post is not about what those specific tools are, but about, for instance, in education that our students deserve to have the right tools to fit whatever education modality he or she is in – online, blended, or in person.

161 days ago we all said, “Let’s just do the best we can.” That was appropriate 161 days ago. Not now, though. Now, we need to be doing all the right things and using the right tools no matter what industry we are in. Good enough isn’t good enough.

Messy Creativity

On Monday I was doing a professional development gathering for Cardinal Charter Academy in Cary, North Carolina entitled “Flat Stanley Goes Virtual: Let’s Be Engaging, Not Flat.” Of course, I used a through line: Flat Stanley’s and Flat Sarah’s. We were discussing achieving high student engagement. Participants made their very own Flat Stanley or Flat Sarah that represented their journey during the, then 156 day, journey they had spent during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

The participants were super creative and it is always interesting to hear the share out stories. One really caught my attention (see picture in this post) when the participant pointed out she had put a paint splatter on Flat Stanley’s right knee to represent the messiness of our lives right now during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic – the mixing of colors without a set plan or vision of a final piece of art. While it is true, there seems to be a lot of messiness and paint slinging, it got me to thinking that we should try to treat our current situation more like an artist.

In education we have always relied on our function being to provide clear standards and the facilitation and tools needed for student success. This function has been, and continues for the most part, done in a very rigid and standardized way. While reform attempts have been made there is still much work to be done to disrupt the status quo.

All of our lives have become messy during the now 158 days of the pandemic. Additionally, the pandemic has exacerbated the messiness of leading learning in education right now. To address an issue standing between a problematic status quo and student success, we must travel into an uncomfortable unknown territory with no signposts pointing toward the destination. Right now, in these times, we are on a quest not knowing our destination before arriving. We must recognize and accept the scariness and messiness of the unknown.

We need to find ways to let loose and let the paint splatter, like on the knee of our participants Flat Stanley, into beautiful art. This makes me think of the paint splatter rooms that are popping up in many cities. Basically, you go, suit up in protective clothing, and sling paint (🎨 6+ colors) at each other and a canvas. What fun! Upon completion of your 30-45 minute “splattering” you have a beautiful piece of art. I really want to go do this! Leadership is so messy, and this splatter room concept makes such a great metaphor.

These splatter rooms have been used for therapy and team building because of the feeling of freedom achieved by just slinging the paint and the random mixing of colors. A messy process where the splatter artist doesn’t exactly know how the canvas will look in the end, but has created a beautiful product. There is so much we can’t predict, much less understand and control, especially right now. We need to keep leaping into an exploration of the possibilities with unscripted questions and activities – the splattering of paint.

We need to embrace the messiness and discover previously unimagined possibilities. Leadership is not about finding one’s courage. Rather, leadership is accepting the messiness and fear that goes with the new and unknown, and then finding the courage to surface its possibilities and beauty.

Boom! Hang On Tight! Oooooh So Close! Woohoo! Go Enjoy Your Time!

“Boom! Hang on tight! Oooooh so close! Woohoo! And… Go Enjoy your time!” were all descriptors I was receiving on my phone last night in Murray, Kentucky. We were at Mister B’s Pizza and Wings. Because of the need for physical distancing this great restaurant has an app that tells you where you are in the seating process. Once we gave them our number, a text was sent with a link to our personalized app. It gives you how many parties are ahead of you and an approximate time for seating. Genius, right? It also gave us the menu so we could be thinking about that.

I loved the descriptors along the way:

  • Boom! Let me know we were in the system and to click on the app
  • Hang On Tight! Meant we had one party ahead of us.
  • Ooh So Close! Meant we were next.
  • Woohoo! Was our text telling us they were ready for us.
  • Go Enjoy Your Time! The app’s message telling us they were ready to seat us.

Now, I know some of you are saying, “Big deal, Byron! Other restaurants do that too.” I get it. Others use QR codes to go to their menu, but I just thought the descriptors and the design of the app was cool. It may have also been the fact that we were eating at my son’s favorite go to place (data shows he can eat 15 Mister B’s famous buffalo wings in one minute – I guess there was a contest) in the home of Murray State University.

My point here really is just how far we’ve come during this, as of today, 155 day journey of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. Business have adapted and created new ways, including our experience I described above, to enhance the customer experience; while at the same time doing their best to keep us safe. Those of us in the education world are constantly navigated the fluidity of school no longer being a place. And, individuals and families are making adjustments we never dreamed of.

I believe we need to take a moment and acknowledge and appreciate some of the great things that have been done during these 155 days, such as:

  • Telephone befriending services to keep communities together
  • Supermarkets, banks, and other businesses offering “elderly/senior only” times for shopping.
  • We’ve become comfortable having virtual gatherings where we can come together globally without the expense and fuss of travel (I had the opportunity to spend and hour and a half with neighbors from 42 different countries, recently). We wouldn’t have even thought of that a few years ago.
  • Finally, leaders are realizing working remotely can be effective. Let’s face it, big egos are the only reason for fancy buildings, offices, and “places” to work in many cases.
  • Our abilities to provide professional development have improved greatly – the way we time them out, delivery, access to more people, et cetera.
  • Creative money raising events
  • Creative virtual concerts with some of our favorite artists. Some great artists, like Mark Tremonti, send out regular clips of personal recorded music with a message. In some ways we can feel closer to these artists than ever before.
  • A chance to break routine and restructure our lives. We’ve gotten back to do some of the things we want to do, but never had the time to.
  • We have learned to access culture without having to travel.
  • Demand has made the internet providers make improvements; along with all technology providers.
  • Educators have been allowed to be, and have risen to the challenge I might add, creative.

I know we all want the Pandemic to be over, but I believe we need to take a moment and celebrate the accomplishments from around the world. This has given us a chance to grow and improve in so many ways as a global community. Let’s not ever fully go back to the way it was 155 days ago – let’s keep the improvement momentum going and strengthen our community. Let’s keep asking, “What can we create together?” Perhaps the biggest positive emerging from this crisis, though, is the realization that we humans are capable of global, collective action. If the stakes are high enough, we can take on these challenges together and, most importantly of all, rapidly abandon business as usual. I would love to hear about other positives you believe should be added to the list.

Adaptive Leadership – Great Blue Heron Style

It’s a great morning when I can enjoy wildlife on the way to the barn. There was a Great Blue Heron out in one of our freshly mowed hay fields this morning. The background for this tall, majestic, and shaggy feathered bird this morning was a corn field (see the photo I took, featured in this post). At first I thought, “Wow that corn is really tall for the 3rd of July.” The old saying “knee high by the Fourth of July” is very outdated. As you can see from the picture, we are way past that. Think about it; if Blue Herons are 53-55 inches tall, the corn in the background is well past that. Ok, back to the point; it’s just hard for the farm kid not to talk corn.

Anyway, I have always been fascinated with these great creatures. They are amazing to watch, particularly when they are hunting rodents in a hay field. These great birds with long yellow legs can stand like statues for what seems like forever while stalking prey by site. And, when prey comes by, they don’t miss. I have blogged about these beautiful birds that have wing spans of over seven feet. Click here to read “Blue Heron Leadership.”

Now, as we begin day 115 of the the COVID-19 Pandemic, I think about how we have had to really practice adaptive leadership. Great Blue Herons can occupy a variety of habitats in freshwater and marine coastal ecosystems: lakes, ponds, rivers, flooded farmlands and meadows, irrigation ditches, and wetlands. Think about all these different habitats and the adapting that must be done. These birds are able to forage successfully on a variety of aquatic and dry land environments. They also have a very diverse and extensive menu of prey. Actually, an adaptation of the sixth cervical vertebrae allows the bird to draw it’s neck into the characteristic “S” shape and then strike with lightning speed and killing force.

Each day presents new or recurring leadership challenges. Therefore, we must learn from and draw on the wisdom of prior experiences while learning, in real time, lessons from today. In order to adaptive with the agility necessary, we must be situationally aware and asking the right questions, not just devising answers. During times like these the process of sound adaptive leadership can get lost. A preoccupation with events may lead to a short-term focus and a reactive posture. To truly adapt, we must take the long-view and adopt a broader perspective incorporating data, information, and knowledge. This will allow for the cultivation of wisdom.

Wisdom can only be gained though experience. Wisdom is about understanding and being able to adapt. Understanding is fluid. Wisdom is knowledge that is not seen as being applied rigidly to one thing. By adapting, we understand knowledge’s essence and can see how it relates to everything else, with nuances and contradictions included. Wisdom inspires adaptable versatility and provides textured lenses for dealing with reality.

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?”

Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 1.50.24 PMI first drew the illustration featured in this post for a webinar that I presented as a part of for the SMART Factory League back in April. Then I used it again this week for two webinars I did for teachers entitled “Embracing the Changes: Let’s Not Go Back to Status Quo.” The drawing represented how we are being nudged, pushed, or even shoved to make changes, given our current uncertain and unprecedented times. I hoped the drawing represented going from the massive, unorganized scribble that was the uncertainty and confusion we first experienced when dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic to a very focused, straight line. On this, now day 80 of the pandemic, I would argue we are not at the focused, straight line yet, but are moving closer.

So, how do we get started? To borrow from our friend Goldilocks – we must get our focus just right. Focusing to narrowly on just one of our challenges will not work, but it also will not work to try to change everything at once, either. We need to change in a controlled fashion. But, what does that mean during this time of both the normal disruption of things and the ongoing pandemic? We are all trying to cope with unprecedented levels of uncertainty.

In fact, studies show that we are loss-averse and gain-seeking. We want the sure thing. We will accept less to lower the risk of failure. Sometimes we even give up success to not experience failure. We contemplate this a lot in athletics. Do we play to win, or play not to lose? Most teams who play not to lose, do just that – lose.

One thing I know for sure, we have done a lot of developing our “dealing with uncertainty capability.” One of the most important ways I believe that I have been able deal with the uncertainty has been to fully embrace the fact that every day was going to be a learning experience. I have literally asked myself, “What can I learn today?” These past 80 days have put the mantras of “lifelong learner” and “growth mindset” to the ultimate tests. You see, when something’s too easy or we’re not facing uncertainty, we’re not learning. Numerous scientific studies show that when we confront setbacks and we can adjust our view of these setbacks to see them as lessons, our brains literally begin to change.

None of us were trained on how to respond in a global pandemic and our immediate response to the challenges might have been “I can’t do this” or “We’ll figure it out.” As Nora Bateson (2016) so aptly put it in Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing Through Other Patterns, “No one is qualified to talk about uncertainty. You cannot get a degree in it yet, to the best of my knowledge.” Furthermore, she went on to say, “How, after all, can I pretend to offer you any kind of lesson on what I do not know?”

But, learn in adversity is what we did in education. While in the beginning it looked like the left had side of my scribble, we have been making our way across the page to the straight line. Wednesday and today we began to chronicle our learning by embracing the changes and discussing how to not go back to status quo. Here are two graphic recordings done by Amy Reynolds, Principal of Governors Charter Academy, during our session: “Embracing the Changes: Let’s Not Go Back To Status Quo.” Check them out:

The information in the graphics came from over 200 teachers working in breakout groups answering the following “What if?” questions:

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I learned to use “what if?” questions from the late Dr. Clayton Christen. These type of questions allow us to challenge assumptions, allow for innovation, and allow us to prepare. How about you? What have you been learning during these uncertain times?

“Easy To Say, Harder To Live By”

“What have I become during the pandemic?”

I had another Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) Blue Bloods quote that made me do some reflecting. He said, “Easy to say, harder to live by.” We all have heard people say, or said things ourselves that are very easy to say, but much tougher to actually do. I wrote about another quote from Frank Reagan in “Life Isn’t Fair, But You Can Be.” It’s easy to set set ambitious goals or say you will do the right thing, but it is a much harder thing to do the work to achieve them.

We talked about this last night during 3D Leadership. The participants made Flat Stanley’s and Flat Sarah’s representing what they have become during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Almost everyone talked about new and exciting things they are doing or have started to do again. Many talked about how at first was easy to get down, but then once they started learning and doing it became exciting to be doing great new things.

Remember, it’s easy to say. Much harder to do. But, it’s the hard stuff that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.

66 Days To A New Habit

First of all it is important to note that as I write this post we are in Day 66 of the COVID-19 global pandemic. I blogged about the day, March 11th, that I am considering our first day of these uncharted times in The Day We Started Down The Path With No Footprints. The other night in one of our 3D Leadership gatherings I had the participants make their own Flat Stanley or Flat Sarah that represented who they had become since March 11th when the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. O.k., the WHO is the World Health Organization.

Participants could either make the their Flat Stanley or Sarah using materials in their homes or using an online resource we gave them. The group did a great job with these and they were very creative. I found it interesting that many of the participants discussed how they had picked up, developed new, or restarted old habits. One participant said, “It takes a month to build a new habit.” She was referring to now doing a better job of exercising. Of course, I had to check and see if there was any research that backed this claim of taking a month to develop a new habit up.

Here’s what I found: Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, did a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit. So, what was concluded from the study? On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. But, as was stated, 66 days was the average. Thus, why I chose today to write this post. We are exactly 66 days into this pandemic.

So, why is the length of time it takes to form a habit important? During these challenging times, everyone in the world has been forced to change their routines, be creative, try new ideas, learn new ways of doing things, slow down focus on some of the most important things (in education-the most important content), and connect with people and in the case of education, students, in effective ways we never thought possible. The abrupt shift to remote instruction changed many aspects of our lives. In my case I continue to say I have grown in great and unimaginable ways during this time. In education, I continue to say that we have grown in the aspect of school no longer being a place.

Let me be clear; I realize there are those, and maybe even me still, that the crisis will be catastrophic. This post is not intended to minimize the seriousness of the consequences many people face, or may be facing. I believe that many of us have grown in our ability to be o.k. with feeling bad or being comfortable with uncertainty. Personally, I continue to see this crisis as a challenge to overcome and a conduit for personal growth. The 3D Leadership participant who talked about it having been a good time to use the month to develop new and better habits, I believe, had in mind that we can see the loss of our, pre-pandemic and regular life as a chance to focus on other aspects of your life that have been neglected because we’ve been too busy to address them. We have also identified areas we want to work on or improve in our lives and focus on developing those areas. We need to all use this break from “normal life” to seek balance in our life and pursue aspects of our lives that we did not have time for before the crisis.

We need to use our responses to the crisis as an opportunity to learn and grown and become more positive, adaptable, and resilient which will, no doubt, serve us well when the current crisis passes. We can all create new structures and routines in our lives around school, work, daily activities, and social life. Finally, and most importantly, we can take action. Keep in mind, we’ve already had the 66 average days it takes to make a new habit become automatic. Are you happy with your new habits?

Life Is A School As Well

img_8394Today, during our “best of week” of educator professional development, I repeated my webinar, “Angry Teacher 1: What Can We Learn from Angry Birds About Engaging Students?” During the webinar a teacher made the comment in one of the discussions that “Life Is A School As Well.” This comment really struck me as we were discussing student engagement and making sure we were teaching students to adapt and use concepts to solve real world challenges and issues. We really have this opportunity right now because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We have a socio-scientific classroom at our fingertips right now that can be easily accessed virtually with our students. Our students are living this right along with us. Therefore we must consider the intersection of our students real life and education. Right now the lines are pretty blurred.

Living through this time has taught us the that “life is a school” and that “school is no longer a place.” We need to make sure and honor living as part of the educational process. Henry Adams taught us this when he said, “Your life’s journey is your education.” I blogged about this in Your Life’s Journey is Your Education. We need to remember we are preparing citizens. Part of the answer for improving education is improving the sense of calling and commitment of students to take ownership of their learning and development. Burdens can many times create blessings and we need to keep in mind that our students have lives outside of the traditional education “walls” that we see the kids. We are learning to deal with this now more than ever. We cannot take this learning lightly and must use what we have learned to guide our path forward while we are on this path with no footprints.

If we really use “life” as part of education then we need to begin to reverse engineer how we educate using fulfilled adult lives and careers in the here and now to help inform the education content and process. We are not really doing this if we are honest. Most curricula are not designed by people who have experienced world-wide success in the areas being taught. This is why I am such a believer in the need of involving business/industry as partners in education. We must break through the barriers of:

  • Teaching to deliver on, rather than change, expectations.
  • Teaching to redeploy old ideas rather than originate and ideate new ones.
  • Teaching about the dangers of originality.

These are the reasons why we get compliance instead of student engagement. Much of our education system teaches kids to be very good at being outwardly and entirely obedient. We need to provide an education where school work looks like real work and we have more than just very narrow parochial outcomes in mind. We need to be guiding students toward their largest, best, life-long interests; not just the narrow obstacle course we control. Life truly is a school as well.