Byron's Babbles

The Possibilities Are Endless

Posted in Community, Global Leadership, Ideas, Leadership, Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 3, 2020

I just had to do a followup post on my sandcastle post from this morning, Build Great Things Anyway. I have continued to think about how sandcastles have endless possibilities. Kids don’t go out with a set plan, architectural drawing, or blueprint; they just create. Scale isn’t even worried about in most cases. This thought reminded me of Peter Block teaching me that, as a leader or community member, when creating and ideating you don’t want to move to quickly to scaling. This can kill great ideas. The sandcastle teacher I encountered never tells kids that something can’t go somewhere she wants to put it, he can’t make it look that way. That’s why sandcastles are so beautiful.

Many times the process is more important than the product. This is very true when making sandcastles. We make the awesome structures in and out of sand with the understanding that when the tide comes in, or if it rains overnight, or even if left, the castle will wash away, or erode away in the wind, and the sand will again become part of the beach. Kids, even at a young age, get that it is about the process and activity of building the sandcastle.

I wonder if we should take a cue from the kids on the beach. In a world that requires us to work as a community to solve complex issues, develop new ideas, and be creative we need to be cognizant of the process. If we want everyone to be engaged we need to remember the process of building sandcastles on the beach.

Build Great Things Anyway

I had a chance meeting of a professional sandcastle builder and teacher of sandcastle making this week. First of all, I did not know there was such a thing. Secondly, I didn’t do much sandcastle building in my childhood, so I was fascinated to discuss the art of sandcastle building. Really, I hadn’t thought much about the fact there are different kinds of sand. Bottom-line: lots of new things going through my mind.

There are three main rules for sandcastle building:

  • Always use wet (sloppy) sand (no such thing as too much water)
  • Always form shapes using a pyramid – larger at the base – thinner at the top
  • When all the formed sand is completed work from the top to the bottom

Other pieces of advice were to build on a big mound. This enables sand to fall down and away from the sandcastle as you are carving. And, it makes it up higher and easier to work on. Besides buckets of sand and water, the tools are pretty basic. You use simple tools (like a straw, a pencil, and a metal cutting device) to chisel it starting from the top.

The rule that was stressed over and over was working from the top down. If you work from the bottom up, the pieces from the top will tumble down onto the bottom, thus flawing your previous work. This is a lot like leadership in an organization. If the leader is a tyrannical monster all the trash falls down on the people doing the work getting marred and ruined. Thus, the flatter the organization the better, or at least the leader needs to already be chiseled and refined so all the chaff and sand isn’t ruining those below. But remember, if there are no “those below” in an organization, no worries.

I love that there are people helping kids learn to build sandcastles. When children play and create in the outer world, simultaneously they also create and learn in the inner world. We adults know change is coming when we build sandcastles but we encourage kids to build something great anyway. In our schools and classrooms, this is a valuable lesson. It’s also an important lesson for leaders to remember. Change comes, colleagues come and go, new research is discovered with the ebb and flow of the waves ever coming and going, and the tide is ever shifting. Build great things anyway.

A Penguin Inspired Quest

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 2, 2020

Every Penguin in the World: A Quest to See Them All by Charles Bergman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Besides being in the non-fiction genre, this book could be categorized as a wildlife, leadership, global community building, travel, survivalist, and motivational literary work. This book encompasses all those things. Charles Bergman, traveled the world to see all 18 penguin species in their natural habitats. I did not even know there were 18 different species of penguins until I read this book. This book is an incredible visual and written chronicle of the 20-year-long journey it took the author to see all 18 species. He artfully used storytelling and photography to take the reader into the wilderness, from the Galapagos to South Africa and Antarctica, to teach us about these beautiful creatures. This book enables us to see and learn about an animal most might never see in the wild. It it important, however, for us to understand all these penguins, the environments in which we live, and our responsibility in the global community for their wellbeing.



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Becoming The First Me

Posted in DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 30, 2020

Chapter 14 entitled “Trust Yourself” in Mindset Mondays with DTK, by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) really resonated with me because he started out by talking about a coach he admired and then was encouraged to follow exactly. He went on to explain that this was toxic with his audience. Think about it; if you are trying to be someone else, there is no room for authenticity. I actually have a section of a leadership gathering that I discuss this. It starts with a slide that says, “Great leaders don’t copy!” I then ask the group to react. It’s always interesting to hear the responses. At first they usually want to push back and say that they try to do the things great leaders do. Then it shifts to, well they are learning from what the others are doing. Then they decide that copying probably is not the best way – they are adapting to fit in with their style.

DTK said, “I tried to become the next “fill-in-the-blank” instead of becoming the first me” (p. 121). We are all unique, have special talents and skills, and have our own style. This means we need to work toward being the best “me” we can be. As an educator I absolutely hate it when I hear someone say, “You need to be more like ___________.” Really? Why? This does not mean that we do not seek to grow professionally and personally. Growing is very different that stuffing yourself in a template.

Becoming the first me means we are not going to depend as much on outside validation. Do we need more likes and followers? I’m not sure. What do those likes and followers do? The great musical artists don’t try to write songs that are hits. They write songs from inspiration that then become huge hits. There is a difference. Otherwise, we just become a cheap imitation of someone else.

Becoming the first me also means that we trust in our own answers. Many times I say, “Make a decision, even if it’s wrong” or “Let’s do something, even if it is wrong.” We nee to trust our own decisions. DTK included a quote in Chapter 14 from Larry Winger that I love, “Don’t worry too much about making the right decision. Just make the decision, and then make the decision right” (p. 122). Or, as I always say, “The sun will come up tomorrow, and if it doesn’t that nothing else matters anyway.” So, let’s be the best first me we can be because we are the only me we can be.

Waves Of Change

“Sometimes in the waves of change, we find our true direction”

Unknown
🌊 Destin, Florida 🌊

As I read this quote I thought about how very relevant this is to us all in 2020. Changes from the global pandemic continue to hit us hard. Sometimes things are unexpected and we have to adjust on the fly to changing circumstances. As we ride the waves, the unrecognizable becomes clear, and finding new direction becomesJust as the tide changes, other things in our life can change too, and this can push us towards the path that we were destined to follow.

Change is something we cannot keep from experiencing, but the way we get over the hurdles is where the difference stands. We all have extra obstacles put in the way right now during the global pandemic. The question becomes what are you learning, what are you doing with that learning, and how are you sharing the learning? We must be a community. How are you breaking through and finding the right path?

The Ocean Awaits Us

🏖 Miramar Beach, Gulf of Mexico 🏝

“Even the upper end of the river believes in the ocean.” ~ William Stafford from his poem, Climbing Along The River.

Reading this line in this poem by William Stafford made me think back to standing at Point State Park in Pittsburgh which is situated in Pennsylvania where the Allegheny River and Monongahela River come together resulting in the formation of the Ohio River. The Ohio River is a tributary to the Mississippi River and drains into the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois. is I remember thinking how cool it was that the water I was looking at would be traveling 981 miles to the Mississippi River at Cairo and then another 954 miles until spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. No different than when I travel south from Indiana to the Gulf I expect it to be there.

Stafford was conveying the meaning that you should believe in something, even if you have no proof that it exists. As a human who has that “crazy gene” for coming up with wild and crazy ideas I’m good with this. Isn’t it, by the way, what the scientific process is all about: proving a hypothesis? Also, isn’t it great that we have a whole history of people who believed with no proof. Edison believed there could be an electric light bulb until he proved it could exist after more than 10,000 tries.

So, don’t be afraid to believe in your own ideas, or even crazy ideas, even if there is no proof they’ll work. There may just be an ocean of success on the other end. And, it might just be an idea to alter the world for the better forever.

The World At Our Fingertips

Posted in Community, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Global Leadership, Global Pandemic, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 27, 2020

Pierre Bourdieu posited that as human beings, we don’t just passively experience the social world around us. Instead, we actively construct that world ourselves through our actions and the ideas that guide them (Bourdieu, 1987). It is interesting to think about his views in today’s context where we literally have the world at our fingertips. In many ways our, now 261 day, journey of the global pandemic has allowed us to learn ways and become more proficient at connecting globally and becoming more geo-neutral.

Bourdieu believed society to be complex, multifaceted, and dynamic. In other words people are in a constant state of flux within the social classes. He argued there are four main classes: the working class, middle class, upper class, and cultural elite. I can’t help but wonder what effect the global pandemic will have on social structure. New ways of working, job loss, new business, education system in flux, and needed changes to the health care industry are all going to have an affect on society and our social structure.

People’s social trajectories under normal circumstances change, but now are really changing due to the pandemic. The social and economic forces are playing a big role right now in how we act. Bourdieu called this ‘habitus’ or socialized norms or tendencies that guide behavior and thinking. Habitus is neither a result of free will, nor determined by structures, but created by a kind of interplay between the two over time: dispositions that are both shaped by past events and structures, and that shape current practices and structures and also, importantly, that condition our very perceptions of these (Bourdieu, 1984, p. 170). Understanding the social structure helps us to consider the social setting and the differential access to various forms of capital that create and reinforce inequality.

Right now as the world continues to shrink we have much more pressing issues to worry about that who has the newest or latest model of the latest vanity vehicle. As Bourdieu taught us, we have some power in how we position ourselves in the social structure. Today we have the advantage of every country and every continent being connected constantly. This allows for collaboration among nations and countries around the world. We need to continue to work on being a community. It’s right at our fingertips.

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London, Routledge.

Bourdieu, P. (1987). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

The Leadership Tornado

Posted in Communication, Compassion, Empathy, Empowerment, Global Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 26, 2020

This week I got to witness one of nature’s fascinating events – a “Canada Goose tornado.” Yes. That’s what it is called! I first heard the noise of hundreds of Canada Geese honking a mile overhead, then I saw it – what looked like a large tornado in the sky, ever changing and in constant motion, but hovering in one place. Then every few moments a group of 20-25 would break off and head south in their famous “v” pattern. This went on for probably 10-15 minutes until every goose became a part of a group. The sheer noise of the event was incredible. Geese are definitely communicators. The honking noises are called “contact calls” which help them stay together. It was quite an event and I tried to get a good picture, and have shared what I got as the featured picture of this post.

It’s always been interesting to me how successful geese are with no hierarchy. They mate for life and usually keep the family unit together returning to the same breeding ground each year. There’s no ‘leader’ for the entire migratory flock, they take it in turns, when one goose gets tired, it falls back and another moves in front. Are you catching this? Everyone is a leader. Everyone provides leadership at the right moment, when it is needed. When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position. They fly in “v”s as this creates the best uplift draft for each goose by being placed at the wingtip of the bird in front which minimises wind drag and thus saves energy. By flying in a “v” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. The reduced drag produced by the wing tip vortex of the bird in front can bring about a 50% energy savings.

It is also interesting to note that if a goose falls out of formation for any reason (gets sick or wounded) two geese drop out of formation and accompany it to help and protect. These two stay with it until it is able to fly again. When that day arrives the three will group up with another formation or catch up and join their original gaggle. It is amazing the example geese give us for empathy and compassion. They truly take care of each other. It would serve us well on this Thanksgiving Day to reflect on this.

Additionally, with our son home from college for Thanksgiving, it is good to have the migrating family unit back together – I’m thankful for that, today. I’m also thankful that I saw the “goose tornado” this week to remind me that leaders rotate, empower, delegate, and even step down when it’s in the best interest of the team. How often do we see this taking place among organizational leaders? The best teams are well trained and developed in order to achieve true empowerment. Is your “v” formation flying with energy saving efficiency?

Building A Community

As I reflected on the post I wrote yesterday, Imagining The Unimaginable, my mind went to just how powerful a community can be. In the case of an FFA Chapter, the students coming together to figure out how to hold events virtually during the pandemic; or in the case of agriculture teachers, coming together to discuss ideas for engaging students. It could also be a school community coming together to decide how to best educate children during a pandemic. It has been interesting to me to witness just how powerful a close knit community can be.

As I watch the classrooms that have continued to thrive during the fluid changes of going back and forth from virtual to in person to blended and then back to virtual, it has been the classrooms where the teacher had a clear community developed with her students. I have also witnessed a strong community of virtual students in a school come together to help each other learn how to become effective virtual teachers. Positive experiences with communities allow individuals to feel more connected to their environment and the people in it. Further, the connection that comes with being in a community can act as a support system for members when they require encouragement or help.

I have been fascinated with the power a community can bring for a long time. Check out what I wrote about community in Community: Aggregating for Innovation. Humans are made to live and work with others in a community where we can thrive. We are social beings that have evolved to exist within communities. In the great book Humanocracy, authors Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini told us that success depends on local improvisation. Try and tell me we are not seeing that during the pandemic. Hamel and Zanini said, “When interdependencies are varied, multidisciplinary, and difficult to specify in advance, you need a community” (p. 210). Is that a description of education, or what? A community gives us the opportunity for mining the wisdom of several people and helping each other out along the way.

“To solve unprecedented problems, individuals have to surmount unforeseen obstacles and extend the frontiers of human knowledge. That’s best accomplished by a community—a band of physically proximate compatriots who trust one another, are unmindful of rank and unencumbered by petty rules, and are mutually accountable and knit together by a common goal.”

Hamel & Zanini, 2020, Humanocracy, p. 210.

Organizations which emphasize community create a sense of belonging and foster transparency while reducing feelings of isolation. Having a strong community is so important right now as people and students alike are working and studying remotely. Hamel and Zanini also taught us that “At crunch times, silos and titles disappear” (p. 223). So, if we already have a strong community, void of bureaucracy, we are that much more prepared for a crisis. Overall, educational entities and workplaces who have a strong community have one major thing in common: they’re people centered. If the events of the last 255 days have shown us anything, it’s that the ever-changing work world and culture at large are ready for a more human-centered approach to the way we live, work, and relate to one another.

Imagining The Unimaginable

Last night I had the pleasure of recording a professional growth video focused on student engagement with five National FFA Teacher Ambassadors from Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The goal of our recording was to provide teachers from around the country with ideas on how to keep students engaged right now whether it be in the classroom or in FFA activities. The recording turned out awesome and I really got to thinking about how the teachers were excited about the fixes their FFA chapters had developed for keeping students/members engaged during the global pandemic. We are on day 254, by the way. And, I loved the fact that several times it was the students who came up with the solution or idea for engagement. Make no mistake, though, they are still looking for ideas for upping their engagement game.

We also discussed things that we want to continue post-pandemic, like having members who can’t attend an event in person, for whatever reason, be able to join virtually. We weren’t thinking in that mindset 254 days ago. Things like pandemics, wars, and other social crises often create new attitudes, needs, and behaviors, which need nurturing. I believe in the power of imagination and creativity. Right now there are very few things that are absolute and for sure. We live in a very complex and ever changing environment right now – the future never releases hard data.

What we were really saying in the video was that we must keep imagining every possible scenario. In other words, letting our imaginations go wild. We must be imagining the unimaginable. Think about it; what is happening right now during the pandemic to our society has no precedent, or data behind it. No matter what industry we are in right now we need to continue to be creative and use our imaginations to open the path forward.

There is a silver lining, however. As I pointed out, these five teachers gave us numerous ideas and opportunities the pandemic have made imaginable. All kinds of new ways of staying engaged and connected have been implemented that will continue after this pandemic has passed. Because we will probably never return to our familiar pre-pandemic realities, we need to keep imagining an even better future.