Byron's Babbles

The Power For Change

Posted in change, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 14, 2021

I have always been a believer that we need to view our worlds from the perspective that there are no wrong decisions as long as we base them on all the information we have at the time. I was reminded of this last week and have now taken time to pause and reflect about this. The reminder was a comment in The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry. The book was amazing and I highly recommend it. Here is what was written: “We do what we can with what we know at the time. And, with what we believe.” This is so true. Our knowledge, wisdom, and beliefs come into play when making decisions. Additionally, our emotions play a role and I believe this is a good thing. Every moment of success in our lives has been a result of all the decisions we’ve made combined, whether we call them bad or good, or right or wrong. Our decisions are additive.

I love another line in the book where the character said, “We can’t subtract or undo decisions but we can make new ones.” This speaks to the additive nature of decisions I spoke about. What I really reflected on while reading this great book was that while some decisions open doors wide to success, others pull us into real and sometime perceived problems. But, it’s our attitude toward those decisions that decide our fate, not the nature of those decisions.

Let me share one more quote from the book to help make my final point: “Inside the very worst things you can find the power for change.” Sometimes decisions that seemed wrong at the time, help us make the right decision. For example, the student who chooses to do an internship in a medical office and hates it. The decision was not wrong, it was the right decision to let her know she didn’t like that field and should pick something else. So don’t judge your past decisions too harshly, instead learn from them and move on. Don’t use them as an excuse to affect your present.

A Scholar’s Book Of Life

Yesterday, we used pumpkins in our leadership development workshop in Georgia. Participants carved out an image of their leadership mantra on one side and their leadership legacy on the other. I always love seeing these and hearing the explanations. They were all very meaningful and inspiring, but one really caused me to pause as an educator and leader. The participant had carved a book into the pumpkin (the featured picture of this post).

The teacher leader then went on to explain that the book represented each students’ book of life and she wanted her legacy to be entered in the book as having taught the student something and having positively influenced her or his life in some way. I thought this book was a pretty great metaphor.

In some professional development at another school this week we discussed how every teacher needs to own every scholar in the school regardless if she or he is in your class or not. The pumpkin carving reminded us that we are impacting students even when we don’t know it. Here’s the best part: to make it in a student’s book of life, teachers don’t have to be perfect.

Students remember teachers for all kinds of reasons. Students might be inspired by teachers who were kind, funny, brilliant, or passionate. The kids we serve remember the teachers who really cared about them. Our scholars remember teachers who were supportive or encouraging or saw something in them no one else did and then challenged them and made them think. Finally, our students also remember teachers who were maybe just a little quirky. Thank goodness!

Every staff member in the school represents the next entry or chapter of our scholar’s stories. Let’s fill up the pages of those books!

Telling Our Stories

Posted in 9/11, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Story, Story Telling, Storytelling by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 10, 2021

I am so loving The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry. Patti has done such an incredible job of developing the characters in this novel. It is yet another affirmation that we can learn so much from fictional characters. We get to know everything about these characters. In real-life and non-fiction we only get to know what is revealed, based on authenticity. In the book it was said that, “Some things can only be told by those living them.” This is why how we live, lead, serve, and tell the story is so important.

Another line in the book, “Sometimes we tell our stories, and sometimes our stories tell us.” If that statement doesn’t cause you to stop, think, and take stock, I’m not sure what will. As I have watched interviews, reflected, and remembered 9/11 today these quotes from the book are even more powerful. Every person who was living on that day experienced the event differently. Those stories can only be told by each of us in the context we lived it. And, for some the stories tell much about the person.

Additionally, I had the chance to eat dinner with my son on Thursday night and his sliders came in a basket lined with cool paper printed with actual news stories. His paper had an article about November 9, 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and an article about when the Titanic was found. He wanted to talk about these two things. I was around for those events, but didn’t have much connection with the Titanic. I did, however, live through the Cold War and have stood where the Berlin Wall was and brought home pieces of the Berlin Wall.

As leaders we need to remember these statements. It is why relationships are job one. If we want to live by the Platinum Rule, “Do unto others as they would want to be done to them,” we must know the stories of those we serve. Notice the difference between the Platinum Rule and Golden Rule is only changing “you” to “they” and “them.” Now Jesus might not be happy with me promoting the platinum over the golden, but when we study the leadership of Jesus we find that he also took time to hear the stories and context of those he served. He met people where they were regardless of their story. One thing is for sure: we all have a story. We either tell that story, or it tells us.

1000 Blog Posts Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything & Everything

Scratch Art By Laura Goynes

David Allen once said, “You can do anything, but you cannot do everything.” I was reminded of this quote while reading The Bookshop At Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry. The line in the book that inspired this post was, “There was no ‘either’ ‘or.’ There was ‘anything’ and ‘everything’.” This was in the context of the way two young girls were spending their summer vacation (you really need to read the book!). I loved this because it was not about choosing, it was about doing it all. I totally get where David Allen comes from in saying we cannot do it all, but for young people, especially, shouldn’t it be about experiencing it all. We actually spent time diving in on this in recent leadership development workshops I have been doing on core values by contemplating that a core value of “Every path matters” is much more livable than just saying “students first” as many do. As I teach, for core values to mean anything they must be livable. We must help students understand what possibilities are out there. And, give them a chance to realize those possibilities.

This line, “There was no ‘either’ ‘or.’ There was ‘anything’ and ‘everything'” in this novel reminded me we must be exposing our students to as many paths as possible. Nor, should we be excluding paths, but making sure our students understand where each path can or cannot take them. It must ultimately be their decision. We need to help them determine their interests and talents. We must also help and encourage our students to fall in love with learning. We need to be the people their lives that challenge them and hold them accountable. We need to be the ones who will offer questions and share their experiences. Let’s try to create the environments where our young people like Bonny and Lainey, who in the novel read, swam, and made wishes about their dream lives, don’t have to worry about doing “either” “or,” but can to “anything” and “everything.” Every path matters!

What Are You Prepared To Do?

Back on day 170 of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic, August 31, 2020, I committed to a 52 week journey in a new book. Click here to read that first of 52 posts. I had received an advanced copy of Mindset Mondays With DTK: 52 Ways to REWIRE Your Thinking and Transform Your Life. The author, David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), told us that the book was to be savored over time and used every week for a year. As most of you know, I love books that are organized in 52 lessons to use over a years time. That gives me a chance to also do weekly reflection blog posts. This post is the 52nd and final post. Today, on day 538 of the continuing global pandemic, one day shy of a full year later, I complete the 52 week journey of learning. But really it’s not a completion, but a beginning because of being able to live an even better and REWIRED (see photo) life from having read this book and encountered DTK.

Ironically, Chapter 52, entitled Venture Ahead, is very related to some leadership development lessons I have been teaching in the past week. I’ve been using the driving question of “What Are You Prepared To Do?” After discussions of core values, shape shifting, leadership mantras, and legacies, I always show this video clip from The Unstoppables:

I also chuckle at the fact that I have used quotes Václav Havel while facilitating in the last week and DTK has quoted him in this chapter. Here is the quote I’ve been using:

“…it is clearly necessary to invent organizational structures appropriate to the multicultural age. But such efforts are doomed to failure if they do not grow out of something deeper; out of generally held values.”

~ Václav Havel

Here’s the quote from Havel in Chapter 52 used by DTK:

“Vision is not enough. It must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must also step up the stairs.”

~ Václav Havel

The 52 lessons of this book have given me structured time to think about the things I believe in and want to leave as a legacy. It has also given me an opportunity to take stock of where I am and next steps. DTK called this “Tak[ing] stock of who you’ve become through the work you’ve done” (p. 354). Now I need to up the metaphorical staircase by taking the first step.

“Who you are is who you choose to be. It’s what you think, and what you do with what you think, and what you give, and what you ask for, and ultimately what you stand for” (p. 355). What are you prepared to do?

What Are You Focusing On?

Photo and Artwork Credit: Alexis Prieto

I’ve always said that when we place sincere effort on the attributes we want to see, and can let go of those that no longer serve or support, we have greater chance of success in achieving our desired outcomes. This also applies to those we serve as well. Today in a session during our north Florida 3D Leadership gathering participants were to make a graphic representation of their leadership mantra. Alexis Prieto of Keys Gate Charter School did an incredible job of representing “What You Focus On Will Grow” with her scratch art. I really liked this reminder that we need to consciously focus on those things that work for us. We need to focus on the things that will give us amplified results. When telling about this mantra it gave Alexis the opportunity to tell stories and take note of what she was most proud of.

The metaphor part of Alexis’ leadership mantra is also appealing to me. If we plant the seeds we want to grow and tend them well, the more they grow the less room there is for weeds. Whether in this garden metaphor or in our life and work, what we focus on is what we will grow. What we focus on is what grows more fully in our garden of life. What we focus on thrives, so we need to be sure and focus on the good that we have and the good that we want, because without a doubt, what we focus on is what will grow in our minds and in our lives. Just like anything practiced or done repeatedly, whatever we continue to focus on will become stronger in our minds. Therefore it is in our best interest to choose well the thoughts we choose to entertain.

Being Intentional About Your Relationships

Posted in #NEI3DLeadership, Education, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 27, 2021

Last night during our 3D Leadership gathering of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina participants we were working through leadership effectiveness. I was using a triangular model with three keys to effectiveness: 1. Awareness; 2. Ability; and 3. Commitment (see featured photo of this post). Without any of the three it is unlikely we can be effective as a leader. We began discussing how relationships and relationship building were important to all three sides of the triangle. Right about then, one of our astute members from North Carolina, Hayley Messenger, posted the following in the chat:

“It’s a lack of awareness through not being intentional about your relationships with the people you are affecting.”

Hayley Messenger

When I saw this I wanted the group to know more. Hayley explained that many times leaders will only build relationships with certain people or end up getting to know some better than others. To truly function at a high level we must be intentional to know the strengths, weaknesses, future goals, et cetera of ALL those we serve. I loved that she used the word “intentional.” The dictionary defines intentional as “done on purpose; deliberate.” This meaning plays a role in what an intentional relationship is. It involves being active instead of passive and making things happen instead of waiting for them to happen to you.

For example, as a leader, if we want to be ready when we have a position open up, we need to have the relationships with all in the organization to know who would have with the ability for, or even have interest in that position. Intentional relationships are not convenient relationships or just building relationships with those we like best. When we enter into an intentional relationship we are proving that we’re in it for the long run. Having effective communities and organizations is about co-existing and becoming acutely aware and intentional about who we share space with.

Bottom line: By being intentional about creating flourishing relationships, we positively transform every social structure on the planet.

Playing Full Out

“If your life were a play, how would the audience react” (p. 348). DTK proposed this thought experiment in Chapter 51 entitled, “Strive for Excellence, of Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). I really like the way he set this up by saying that he wasn’t suggesting we live our lives by the way we appear to others, but understanding the impact we have on others. When I think about actors in a play, movie, or even television program, they can have an impact on us. The best do. This is no different for us as leaders.

I was reminded yesterday how important the way we act is to the impact we have on others. While working my way through classroom visits in a school I do teacher coaching for I ran into a teacher in the school and he said, “I am so glad you are here. You bring such a positive vibe when you are here to us all.” I gotta say that made my day. Because along with helping teachers be highly effective for the students we serve, I want there to be positivity for all. Therefore, we need to do as DTK suggests, “…play full-out in life” (p. 348). The goal is to go as far as you can with all that you’ve got, and when you fall down, you get back up and keep going.

Excellence to me means bringing out the best in others. When we play full-out we need to bring our A-game to whatever we are doing, it has a noticeable impact on others. It raises the bar for everyone. We also need to bring excellence to the thoughts that we think and the words that we use, making sure they’re positive, supportive, and appreciative (of ourselves and others). Play full out. Don’t hold back.

Another Option Is Waiting To Be Uncovered

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Nuance, Nuance Leader by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 22, 2021

You gotta love the show, Monk. For those that have never watched it or don’t remember it, the show is about Adrian Monk, played by Tony Shalhoub, who develops obsessive-compulsive disorder, including being a germaphobe, after his wife was murdered. The condition cost him his job as a prominent homicide detective in the San Francisco Police Department. Because he is so good at what he does, Monk continues to help solve crimes as a consultant with the help of an assistant and his former boss, Leland Stottlemeyer, played by Ted Levine.

In the episode I happened to watch tonight, Willie Nelson was accused of and arrested for murdering his tour manager. Monk kept saying Willie didn’t do it, but the early evidence suggested otherwise. After some damning video evidence came out, Stottlemeyer said it was either “A” or “B” in terms of what actually happened. Monk said, “I believe it’s “C”. Stollemyer replide, “What the hell is “C”?” and Monk replied, “I don’t know yet.” I loved this because so many times when confronted with a decision, most of us default to choosing between “A” and “B” because, at first blush, the world appears binary (eg. Yes or No). Many times the standard “A” or “B” answer just doesn’t fit. Monk had shifted the thinking and conversation from binary affirmation to a learning conversation. We need to embrace and even search out option “C”. It may be the best of “A” and “B” or something completely new and different.

I would like to use the metaphor of a color spectrum here. We can see how immensely varietal the colors are, offering far more nuance than initially meets the eye. In my experience, this means that another option is waiting to be uncovered. Taking time to find the nuances can allow us resist the binary way of looking at choices. Let’s consider nuance and begin to view our choices more like the options available on a color spectrum. Like Monk, we might not know what option “C” is, but we know there is one.