Byron's Babbles

Building Memories

Friends At Old Ebbitt Grill

Those that know me know that my son and I are very close. You also know that he is in college six hours away. Furthermore, you know that any time I get to spend time with him is precious and I always leave in a funk for a few days (okay, sometimes weeks) after spending time with him. Now, all of that said, I am super proud of him and this is the way it is supposed to be. He is supposed to be creating his own life. Still, our time with him is precious and I love when we get to do things and go new and old places with him.

It is so awesome to get the call, “Hey, do you and mom want to come down to the conference basketball championship game? We’re all going and thought you might want to come.” My answer: “Yes!!!” Your son invites you to anything, the answer better be yes. I have always valued the time spent with Heath. We have always called it building memories. Ever since he was born he has gone everywhere with me. And, every time we all go places together more memories are built and the more I miss him when Hope and I have to leave him.

This morning I read a tweet (see photo) from Paul Stanley that was super insightful and put it all into perspective. After referencing the family vacation he had been on he said, “So lucky to have new things to miss. You can’t until you know they exist!” Wow, this is part of building memories! You can’t miss something you never knew existed. I’m so blessed to be able to build those memories and things to miss, with my family. It is a privilege that I do not take lightly.

It is true, travel is a great disruptor and place to find new things to miss, but some of the biggest things don’t involve travel. I love when Heath is home and we all eat together. Or, my all time favorite: going to the barn together.

Think about how you might find new things to miss with those you serve outside of family. For example, last week I was invited to dinner (thanks Megan) at Old Ebbitt Grill while at a conference in Washington D.C. I was so excited to be invited, but my first thought was that I was kind of tired from the day’s events. Then, I thought, “No, I love Old Ebbitt and haven’t been there in a few years and most importantly I want to spend time with these friends and new acquaintances.” Needless to say, I went and had an incredible time reconnecting and making new friends. In fact, no surprise, but myself and three others were the last to leave from our big group. New things to miss! New friends to miss! Old friends that I hadn’t spent time with side by side (literally) at a restaurant laughing and sharing with since before the Pandemic. I am now missing all those friends but am so glad we built those memories.

Relationships are the key to everything. Let’s all be “looking for new things to miss.” Let’s all be “building memories” with our families and those we serve.

A Flip Of The Coin

Posted in Friendship, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, MacGyver by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 22, 2022

Friends are both a gift and a responsibility! And, with good friends there is the phenomenon of responsibility not feeling like responsibility. If friends are just two sides of the same coin, then life is just one really long coin flip, to say the least. My experience is that some of the most beautiful moments in my life are moments in which I realize that the flip, the transformation of friendship, is succeeding. While watching an old episode (season 3, episode 51, 1987 – “Jack In The Box”) of MacGyver, I heard MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson), when speaking of Jack Dalton (Bruce McGill) to Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar), say: “friends are like the two sides of the same coin.” Meaning, friends come with both good and bad. So true! Sometimes we are like Jack Dalton is to MacGyver – high maintenance.

It is quite a beautiful mystery you know – this two sided coin of friendship. Sometimes one side has pain, sorrow, grief, need of favors, and sadness. Sometimes, the other side is peace, joy, gratefulness, wonder, rejoicing, love and so much more. True friends experience both sides of the coin. Just as MacGyver has to help Jack Dalton out of another one of his schemes, we experience both sides of the same coin. We must accept that no friend is perfect and that there will be some ambivalence. We must recognize what each friend brings to the table and what they do not. If we truly value a friendship, we need to tell the friend how we feel. We can’t expect our friends to read our minds! Even expressing that we really like hanging out with them can remind a good friend of how important their friendship is to us.

Leading Like Charlotte’s Web

You all know I love intersectional learning, where I, or I have others, take a random object and create meaning about a seemingly unrelated topic. I never thought that a spider web would lead to the unbelievably deep conversation it did with our Florida 3D Leadership participants last night. To get things started for the evening, I asked them to look at a picture of a spider web I had come across in my barn to the journey they are on right now. When our small groups came back from their discussions I could tell from the energy it was going to be an amazing evening. When the first group started to report out, the participant said, “I loved my group.” Those of you who have facilitated before know how good that sounds and feels.

The participant went on to say that Lauren Berry, Curriculum Resource Teacher at Collier Charter Academy in Naples, Florida, had thought of all the lessons from Charlotte’s Web. You know, the 1952 classic written by E.B. White and then turned into a great movie in 2006. The genius of White’s work was that he used a deceptively mundane and ordinary setting, set of characters, and plot to explain the profundity of life in ways that people of all ages can understand. The perfect definition of intersectional learning! Without knowing it I had spurred this deep discussion with something as mundane, but incredibly complex, as a spider web – in a barn of all places.

So, what did Lauren and her group teach us? First of all, to sum up a 184 page book in a couple of sentences, Wilbur, a pig given to a little girl, Fern, yearns for companionship but is snubbed by the other animals. When he finds out he is be raised for slaughter he is befriended by a barn spider named Charlotte, whose web sits in a doorway overlooking Wilbur’s enclosure. Here are the points that Lauren and her group made to us:

  • Friendship and relationships are at the core of everything. Charlotte said, “After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” Life is precious, wonderful and beautiful, especially when it is well-lived.
  • Celebrate diversity. Wilbur and Charlotte are very different, but friendship makes it possible to transcend those differences. Even Templeton the Rat, the self-serving one even learns to be a team player (sorry, I couldn’t help but put the rat in the mix, too).
  • Wilbur was humble. “Why did you do all this for me?” Wilbur asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.” People respond well to humility because it shows that you place yourself at the same level as others, and not above them.

We were so blessed to be reminded of this story last night. My hope is that we will always keep in our hearts the lessons of friendship, life, and loss that will help us navigate through our lives to be better leaders, friends, and people in this diverse world.

How Do You Play Leader?

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This past weekend at our Indiana 3D Leadership Gathering, we did a toy activity that involved Lite Brites®. Participants made a picture that represented how the Lite Brite® could be used for great leadership. The activity was called “How Do You Play Leader?” The groups did a great job with their pictures. While they were sharing out I wrote down a few notes. Check out what I wrote down here:IMG_7860

I was particularly struck by the statement that “Great leaders really don’t have to try!” I asked the person to dig a little deeper into that comment. She said that a leader who is authentic and is himself or herself instead of trying to be someone else or copy someone else is much more effective. Great leaders find a system that works for her or him, rather than trying to force oneself into a prescribed notion of a what a leader has to be. If we know ourselves well enough, we can take steps to go about leading effectively. Situations change what we need to do, but should never change who we are. We need to make sure we’re treating all team members as we would want to be treated. We need to be genuinely interested in learning something new every day from our team, and they will follow you. It’s all about relationship building. I blogged about this in Let’s Have Lunch Together!

There was also a deep discussion about how teams are most times brought together by a certain amount of randomness and disorganized connections. Great leadership connects the randomness. Leaders should be the key connectors of team members. Support them them to understand their value in the organization. Leaders need to respect all team members. Respect comes in different forms: respecting time, respecting opinions, respecting diversity, respecting the culture, and more. When we trust and respect our team members and connect with them, they will respond with dedication and enthusiasm. Because of this, our connected team members will see clarity, levels of engagement across the organization, a positive culture and community, and most of all, improvement in communication. Remember, trust builds through connections with people and forms the bedrock of a team. Teams are built on human cooperation. Without relationships, we’ve got no team.

Tending Our Friendships

Posted in Best Friends, Boston Legal, Communication, Forgiveness, Friendship, Happiness, Leadership, Listening, Metaphors by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 31, 2019

I was touched last night to have my son ask if I wanted to watch a couple more episodes of Boston Legal with him. Hey, it was 10:30pm; what else could be better? Plus, love spending time with the boy. We laughed and discussed the political issues of the time of the show. Then there was a cool seen during Season 4, Episode 20 when my son said, “That was a great metaphor.” As you know, I live by metaphor. Having my son recognize a quality metaphor – PRICELESS!

Here’s the scene: Alan Shore said to Jerry Espenson, “I feel as if I haven’t seen much of you over the past year.” Jerry replied, “Well, you’ve been really busy, Alan. So have I. With work. Work has…Hey! That’s the beauty of being friends, isn’t it? Relationships with long shelf lives. You can just stick them on the shelf. I tell you! Alan rebutted, “What?” Then Alan continued, “I have never ever considered myself someone who puts work before friendships. Seems I do.” Jerry then gave us the metaphor saying, “We all do, Alan. Friendships are a little like back yard gardens. We plan to tend to them. We just always seem to put it off till next week.” Friendships are the cornerstones of our lives. Our garden of friends requires careful tending.

We also need to recognize that people change and grow at very different speeds and different ways. Metaphorically, we need to plant, cultivate, prune, water, and fertilize our friendships. To have a relationship, you must plan, cultivate, and tend to it. Relationships left unattended eventually die.

We need to be grateful for our friends and the people who make us happy. For all the faults in the character of Alan Shore in the show, we do see him always trying to be a good friend. He offers advice, checks in on them, maybe shows up in court just to watch and show support, always seeks to reconcile a squabble with a friend quickly, and always goes and apologizes when he says something to a friend that offended him or her. One of the ongoing plots of the show is about friendships and romances of the characters. I blogged about this in Are We Best Friends?

Let’s not forget to tend to our gardens of friendship as we move into a new decade. In fact, I think I’ll make my New Year’s Resolution be: to appreciate my friends every day and catch more fish.

Are We Best Friends?

Posted in Benevolent Leadership, Best Friends, Boston Legal, Conversational Leadership, Forgiveness, Friendship, Listening by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 11, 2019

Do any of you remember the show Boston Legal? It was one of my favorites. The comedy-drama ran for five seasons from 2004-2008. The show focuses on the personal lives of the upscale lawyers and their cases of the law firm Crane, Poole, and Schmidt. Recently, when our cable was out and we could get no channels, my son and I were on the phone and he said, “Dad you know we have a SMART TV so you can watch episodes of some of your old time shows.” I have to admit that I didn’t know that. Then he explained how to get to the shows and that this is what leads to people doing what is called “bingeing.” I also have to admit, I did it – binge watched Boston Legal. It was great and there were so many things said in the show that made me think. So, of course I had to blog about it!

At the end of each episode there is always Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader) sitting on the balcony in cool white chairs, which are called Bubble Club Chairs – that you can buy, by the way, drinking bourbon and smoking cigars. The talk is funny, but very deep and meaningful. In Season 2, Episode 8 Denny says to Alan, “What I give to you, I do with no one else (speaking of their time on the balcony each night and ultimately about their friendship). I like to think that what you give to me you do with nobody else. Now that may sound silly to you. But, here’s what I think is silly, the idea that jealousy or fidelity is reserved for romance.” Alan replied, “…But gosh what I get from you Denny. People walk around today calling everyone their best friend. The term doesn’t have any real meaning anymore. Mere acquaintances are lavished with hugs and kisses upon a second or at most third meeting, birthday cards get passed around offices so everybody can scribble a snippet of sentimentality for a colleague they barely met, and everyone just loves everyone. As a result when you tell somebody you love them today, it isn’t much heard. I love you Denny, you are my best friend. I can’t imagine going through life without you as my best friend. I’m not going to kiss you however.” Like I said, some funniness to it, but also very deep.

What does it mean to be a friend, a best friend, or to love, I mean really love, someone today? Do those terms, as Alan Shore lamented, really have any meaning any more? I’m not sure they do. In fact the balcony seen at the end of this episode has caused me to really reflect on my own definitions of love and friends. I’ll bet you were recently passed a card and asked to sign it and you may have thought to yourself, “I really don’t know this person.” I’m not saying that giving birthday cards is bad, but have we become a society of trivializing friendship and love?

So, I ask the question that Alan asked; does the term “best friend” have any real meaning any more? I believe to be a best friend is a privilege not to be bestowed on everyone. Showing another human being that you care about them and that their happiness and presence in your life is important to you on a regular basis is, though it may seem obvious, is a fairly big commitment in practice.

Remember how much easier it was to have a best friend in high school or college? You were with them every day. I find it difficult to be a good friend. Life seems to have a way of inserting itself and does a pretty good job of prying us apart. I think of all the times I’ve said, “We’re going to get together.” But, then never do. I’m a little, actually a lot, envious of Denny and Alan being able to sit on the balcony every evening at the end of the work day and philosophize. The lesson that can be learned from studying the characters of Denny and Alan is that being a best friend involves compromise, trust, and a mutual growth that allows certain friends to last through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Really, friendship is a peculiar type of love. There is no real binding commitment to the opposite person other than what you are willing to put into the relationship. I really do think the term “friend” doesn’t have as much real meaning anymore. How many times have you had someone start a conversation with, “As a friend, you need to know…”? Many times there is not the friendship to be making the observation. That’s why, as the person on the receiving end, it upsets us. Again, we learn from Denny and Alan that a true “best friendship” allows us to:

  1. Love you for you
  2. Listen to understand
  3. Be accepting
  4. Be genuine
  5. Appreciate the humor

Do you know and appreciate the value of your best friend?