Byron's Babbles

A New Approach to Leadership

The following is an excerpt from Humble Leadership

A New Approach to Leadership

By Ed and Peter Schein

This book introduces a new approach to leadership based more on personal relationships than transactional role relationships.

The good news: employee engagement, empowerment, organizational agility, ambidexterity, innovation . . . all of this can flourish in the rapidly changing world when the fundamental relationship between leaders and followers, helpers and clients, and providers and customers becomes more personalized and cooperative.

The bad news: continued deception, scandals, high turnover of disengaged talent, safety and quality problems in industry and health care, all the way to corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels of industry and politics, driven by financial expediency and the obsession with retaining power as primary success criteria . . . all of this will continue to happen as long as leader-follower relationships remain impersonal, transactional, and based on the roles and rules that have evolved in the current culture of management that still predominates in our hierarchical bureaucratic organizations.

The Leader-Follower Relationship

“Leadership” is wanting to do something new and better, and getting others to go along. This definition applies as much to senior executives developing new strategies, new purposes, and new values as it does to a group member down in the organization suggesting a new way of running a meeting or improving a process to drive better results. Both the word new and the word better remind us that leadership always refers to some task that can be improved and to some group whose values and culture will ultimately determine what is better.

What is new and what is better will always depend on context, the nature of the task, and the cultural values that are operating in the group or organization that is doing the work. What we later may label as “good or effective leadership” thus always begins with someone perceiving a new and better way to do something, an emergent leader. Our focus will be not on the individual and the desired characteristics of that emergent leader, but on the relationships that develop between that person and the potential followers who will have influenced what is finally considered to be new and better and who will implement the new way if they agree to try it. Those potential followers will always be some kind of workgroup or team, so our focus will also be on the relationships between them. They may be co-located or widely spread in a network, and their membership may change, but there will always be some kind of grouping involved, hence group dynamics and group processes will always be intimately involved with leadership.

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About Authors

Edgar H. Schein is Professor Emeritus from the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. He’s a pioneer in organizational studies, organizational culture and leadership, process consulting, career development. Ed’s contributions to the practice of O.D. date back to the early 1960s and continue with the recent publication of Organizational Culture and Leadership 5th edition and now Humble Leadership, co-authored with Peter A. Schein, co-founder of OCLI.org who brings 30 years of hands-on experience in large and small companies leading growth initiatives in Silicon Valley.

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Community: Aggregating For Innovation

IMG_3385Last week I had the opportunity to be part of a webinar with Peter Block, author of Community: The Structure of Belonging, 2nd Edition. I already blogged once about this webinar hosted by  Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence in honor of the release of the second edition of this book last week. Click here to read, Why Does Community Matter?

During the webinar I had the opportunity to ask a question of Peter Block. My question was, as a public policy maker, how can we scale the use of community and convening of people to really solve the issues at hand; in my case in education? You can listen to Peter’s response to my question here:

This was such a deep and thoughtful answer from Peter, don’t you agree? I had to do some follow-up study to really get my mind wrapped around all of the thoughts he presented here. First of all, this idea of aggregation. There are so many ways you can use and think about the idea of an aggregate. Many times the aggregate is thought of as the whole, like a country, and then the community as part of that whole. Peter challenged me to think about aggregating as opposed to bringing something to scale. He said, “When I aggregate I bring big things and people together that do not need to be alike.” This was powerful and made me think about aggregates like components of a composite material that resist compressive stress. In other words, we need to aggregate people who are co-creating what education, in my case, needs to look like.

Peter was also very clear that legislation follows the innovation phases; you can’t legislate innovation. You innovate through experience. As I was putting this thought process together I realized the aggregation theory was so powerful because by aggregating we are developing by the merging of the differences of the people we are bringing together. Therefore, when we aggregate people together, we get a great deal of experiences to draw from. Peter also pointed out we need to make visible the people who are doing great and important things with the idea of replication. I believe an aggregate can also be made up of many different communities with diverse experiences. Across the country, we find a wide array of communities. However, when you put all of them together, we get an aggregate or the whole.

IMG_3386Then we need to begin aggregating for co-creating for education (in my case), and we then get people talking to each other.  I love the question that Peter suggested we should be posing when convening, “Who wants to participate with us by making it real for you?” Two other things I have learned from Peter Block are to always ask, “What can we create together?” and elected officials and policy makers need to be conveners and not problem solvers. I have always tried to take this very seriously and convene communities with no preconceived solution. This idea of aggregating really drove home the value in convening groups with a wide array of experiences and then valuing those differences – not being afraid of them.

As you can see, this was a very thought provoking webinar that caused a lot of reflection. Here is the entire webinar for you to watch:

 

Why Does Community Matter?

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 9.31.57 AMThis past week I had the honor to be involved in a webinar put on by my friend Becky Robinson at Weaving Influence. The webinar featured a hero of mine, Peter Block. I consider him to be the father of Community. In fact, he literally wrote the book on it – Community: The Structure of Belonging, 2nd Edition. The webinar was held to launch the 2nd Edition of the book that was released last week. Peter Block was introduced to me by my good friend Mike Fleisch. Mike has literally shown me all the great community work that Peter Block has done in Cincinnati. I have read Peter’s books and was excited to be on the webinar with him. Peter is truly helping to change the world.

“The best way to connect is with groups of three people with their knees 9 inches apart.” ~ Peter Block

Let me tell you, there was a great deal of content in a one hour webinar. Peter is very philosophical, but is also able to bring his philosophies and core values to a practical level as well. I want to provide you a bulleted list of some of the more salient points that I believe Peter made during the interview. I will provide you with the link to the webinar and you can make your own list later in this post. Here is my list:

  • We’ve reached a limit as to what professionals can do.
  • Schools cannot raise our children.
  • PowerPoint pretends our conversations are predictable.
  • How can you have learning, if all you have is content?
  • We need to ask the question, “why did you show up?”
  • All cultures value depth of relationship!
  • We are afraid of the stranger.
  • Working of deficiencies just makes the deficiencies stronger.
  • Using community strategies creates real and concrete outcomes.
  • You can’t innovate through legislation.

Wow, I just realized I created a top ten list from the webinar. I am not going to go back and number them because there is no real order to this list, but all important points that Peter covered in the webinar. I need to go back and blog about each one (we’ll see if I get that accomplished or not). So, I promised you the opportunity to make your own list. I want to provide you with the link to the YouTube video of the entire webinar, including the chance I had to visit with and ask a question of Peter Block. My next post after this one to my blog will specifically deal with my question and the conversation that followed. But for now, click here to watch the whole webinar (again my thanks to Becky Robinson and Weaving Influence for making this possible):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUPAFSbcEHY&feature=youtu.be

As you can see, this was a very powerful webinar. I would love for you to reply to this post with your top ten (or however many) takeaways you have from the webinar. By replying you will be creating the strong aggregate Peter talked about. Notice I am trying to practice the teachings of Peter by not offering my own thoughts on each of the bulleted points, but asking you to give your thoughts. I really do want to hear from you. Peter Block really is the father of using Community to change the world.

Good Leader Traits

This past Friday in a session I did for our Noble Education Initiative Impact Indy Program we developed a top five list of great leadership traits. To get to that end, we developed a bad leadership trait list and then moved into the good list. Then we voted our way to the top five, great list. I would like to provide you with our top five in this post with some of the commentary about each one discussed during the session.

Here they are:

  1. Trust – No big surprise here. Trust tops most lists characterizing great leaders. It’s at the root of every good relationship, including that of leader and employee. When your team trusts you, and they perceive that what you’re doing is honestly in their and the organization’s best interest, you are more likely to have an engaged team.
  2. Consistent – Consistency was a multifaceted item on this list. First, as a leader, you want to communicate a consistent focus on just a few critical issues (at most three to five) for each employee or team. And then you want to relentlessly follow up and focus only on those few issues. Less is more. Second, the great leader will have consistent moods, behavior, and decision-making so that her team knows where she is coming from. Finally, there must consistency in the message and actions delivered. The simple adage of “do what you say” goes a long way as most customers, families, students, or other stakeholders are accustomed to broken promises and poor service. With consistent delivery and consistent service, we can put all our focus on promoting a positive and consistent brand image with those we serve, including our customers.
  3. Transparent – Employees learn more about one another and can grow to work toward solving problems faster when their leaders are transparent. Transparency also allows relationships to mature faster, as openness can potentially avoid misunderstandings that can fuel unnecessary tension. If we are transparent, we can actually strengthen our role as a leader because those we serve begin to trust (see, there is our #1, trust, showing up again) us as person and thus will respect us more as a leader.
  4. Open To Constructive Criticism – If you are not being criticized, you are not leading and guiding the organization to grow, innovate and explore endless possibilities. We all have areas we need to improve in. Additionally, we must use criticism as an avenue to learning. Criticism can provide valuable insight for making course corrections. Don’t be offended by criticism, use it to your advantage.
  5. Passionate – Passion inspires others to join and identify with the organization’s vision. When we are passionate about something, it shows all over us. We can’t help but think about it, work at it, and be excited about it. Most importantly, passion is as contagious as a cold. Ever notice how your own enthusiasm escalates when you are around passionate people?

Pretty awesome list wouldn’t you say? What’s on your top five? Would you change any of these, or re-order the list? I would love to have you add your comments to this post.

Pathways to Success after High School

A high school diploma no longer is the finish line—it’s now the starting line. Job growth and trends over the past 10 years have shown about 95 percent of jobs require some education after high school.

Recognizing that Indiana must offer more than a one-size-fits-all standardized test, the Indiana General Assembly took action to provide meaningful pathways for Hoosiers’ success. In the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers directed the Indiana State Board of Education to modify Indiana’s graduation requirements, ensuring students are better prepared to enter a new economy. The goal was simple: offer pathways that provide relevancy for students and better prepare them for life after high school.

Later that year, the State Board approved what is now known as Indiana’s Graduation Pathways. During this process, the State Board collaborated with national and state experts while engaging students, parents and educators on how to effectively deliver lasting value to all students through their education journey.

To complete a pathway, a student must take several actions, including fulfilling Indiana’s course requirements and completing an employability experience by applying classwork to real-world situations. This could include completion of an independent research project, participating in meaningful civic engagement or having a part-time job, apprenticeship or internship. Students must also choose a benchmark that best suits their career goals, such as taking the SAT or ACT to attend college, completing the ASVAB to join the military or earning a state-and-industry recognized credential or certification to join the workforce. Selecting and completing a pathway ensures students are better prepared to transition from high school to college, the workforce or the military.

While Graduation Pathways won’t be a requirement until the class of 2023 – this year’s eighth graders – some Indiana schools are implementing Graduation Pathways right now. In these school districts, parents and educators can have conversations with their students about an individualized graduation plan that provides students a relevant education, prepares them for the global economy fuels a desire for lifelong learning. Parents should have conversations with their local school officials to determine the implementation timeline at their child’s school.

Using Graduation Pathways allows Hoosier students to transition from high school into life’s next steps. Together, we’ll raise the bar for our state’s future workforce, so that today’s students will graduate with the relevant skills needed to compete in a global economy.

“The Rock” In The Atlantic Ocean

Yesterday while exploring the rocks along the Atlantic Coast of Maine I found a beautiful rock that once I took out of the ocean 🌊 wasn’t so beautiful any more. That experience prompted this VLOG Post:

https://youtu.be/lK92Io2ocWc

Meaningful Learning On A Lobster Boat

This week while spending time with the family on the coast of Maine I was reminded how important, meaningful and experiential learning experience are – for both adults and young scholars alike. I had the opportunity to get us aboard a commercial lobster boat in Rockland Harbor, Maine. Yes, this was no site-seeing cruise, it was an actual experience on the boat checking, emptying, and re-baiting lobster traps. Even though we were on vacation, I always want there to be some family learning experiences. That same morning we had stopped and spent time in Brunsick, Maine at Bowdoin College learning more about Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. You can click here to read my blog post about that experience entitled, Independence Day Leadership Lessons From Maine & Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

Hope, Heath, and I all love lobster, but knew nothing about how they were harvested or the industry of getting them from ocean to table. I knew a little bout their life cycle and had blogged about it in Leading Like A Lobster, but other than that I was ready to be a sponge for learning. We started off by learning that the different lobsterwomen and lobstermen have an area assigned with their special license for harvesting lobsters, and in our case, our lobsterman had the ability to put out 800 lobster traps; or lobster pots as they are often called. We also learned that each lobster boat has their own buoy colors, much like horse racing silks, to identify his or her lobster traps. We were looking for white buoys with a black stripe, and orange fin (see picture) attached to the lobster traps. We really didn’t have to look, though, the captain had the all entered in his GPS.

Lobster traps are interestingly designed tools of the trade. The first “room” the lobster enters is the “kitchen” where lobster-enticing bait is hung. Bait may be fresh or salted fish on a line or tied in a hanging bag. After the lobster enters the kitchen, it grabs a piece of bait with its claw and begins maneuvering towards an exit. It is difficult to go out the way it entered due to the design of the funnel. As the lobster continues seeking an exit, it passes through another funnel leading to the “parlor” or “bedroom” in the rear of the trap. Here, the larger lobsters become trapped.

Once a buoy is located, the trap is pulled up using a motorized pulley system. Click play and see my video I made of this process below this paragraph. If lobsters are in the trap they must be measured using a special tool. Lobsters must be 3 1/4″ from the head to the base of the body (where the tail starts). Lobsters that are big enough are thrown in the holding cooler and ones that are too small are thrown back. The lobster trap is then re-baited and sent back down to the bottom. In our case we were using Herring that our lobsterman gets from his wholesaler who buys his lobsters. These are fish that have died or do not meet the grade to make to retail. Nothing is wasted out there.

The keeper lobsters, which are usually anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 pounds with some weighing up to 2 pounds, then have their claws bands so they do not harm the other lobsters, or us. To see the banding process, click play on the video I made of being taught how to band the claws below:

It was so awesome to be out on the water learning this business. At the time we were there the lobsters were going through ecdysis (molting). To learn about this read my post Leading Like A Lobster. We learned that those lobsters beginning the process of losing their shell to go through another growth spurt have soft shells. To see if they are hard or soft shelled you hold the lobster between your thumb and forefinger like I am doing in the picture. The hard shelled lobsters are hard as a rock. The soft shelled lobsters are soft and pliable. These soft shelled lobsters are desirable to many because the meat is much sweeter. In fact at the retail lobster places they will ask if you want soft or hard shelled lobsters. Note that the lobsters we brought home were all soft shelled. And…they were outstanding!

The lobsterman then brought his catch back to the dock after checking the traps. Our lobster tries to check about 1/3 to 1/2 of his traps every day. Many check all traps every day. The lobsters can then be sold directly to customers that come to the docks to by directly from the lobster boats (our lobsterman comes in at specific times each day, so regular customers can come and check his catch) or to wholesalers who then sell to restaurants, stores, or retail lobster outlets. Many of the wholesalers have retail outlets up and down the coast as well. The tricky part is that lobsters need to be kept alive till they are prepared. This is why lobster is expensive to buy in a restaurant or retail outlet. There is a considerable margin between buying live lobsters direct off the boat and from a retail outlet. For example, live lobsters off the boat were going for $6.00 per pound and lobster meat in the retail outlets was going for $39.99 per pound. Live lobsters at the Maine retail outlet are $15.00-25.00 per lobster. Most of the retail outlets here in Maine have live lobsters and lobster meat that has been already taken from the shell (pulled) available.

We were able to select three lobsters out of the holding cooler to bring home for our dinner. Hope steamed them perfectly, and boy were they awesome. We literally had the ocean to table experience – first hand!

As you can see, lobstering is quite the industry. We were so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend the day serving as apprentices to the business. We learned so much more by actually being immersed (no pun intended) in the business. It is so important that we find ways for our students to have these kinds of experiences. Whether through true apprenticeship programs, or through internships, or through one day field trip type experiences like we had. Experiential and hands-on learning is so much more meaningful than any other way we can learn.

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?