Byron's Babbles

“Who Am I Not To Be?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Enough: Five Positives For Every Negative

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Growth Mindset, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 17, 2020

IMG_5711I finished reading a great book, The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister this morning. This was an interesting book to read during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic. It’s interesting to me that I interact daily with people who are very positive right now and those who are extremely negative. There does not seem to be much of an in between. Anecdotally, there seems to be more negativity than positivity. Tierney and Baumeister told us this is because negative experiences are more powerful than positive ones.

44902133The authors reminded me that the Gottman Ratio is a pretty good rule of thumb. The Gottman Ratio tells us that we are happiest when we have five positive interactions for every negative one. The authors posited this is a pretty good rule, but that we should aim for at least four positives for every negative. Kind of makes you think about who you want to be hanging out with, or Zooming with, whichever the case may be. Or, if others want to hang out with you.

“If one thing goes wrong, don’t interpret it as a harbinger of inevitable doom, whether you’re dealing with a personal setback or contemplating the state of the world.” ~ John Tierney & Roy Baumeister in The Power of Bad

If we want to keep things positive we must avoid the negative things. A Yale study really caught my attention described in the book where abusive parenting was found to have a statistically significant effect resulting in unhappy children. The opposite of very supportive and loving parenting did not lead to a larger number of happy children. Therefore, reducing negatives was more important than adding more positives. I found this to be encouraging because I believe it is easier to reduce negatives that increase positives. For one, I can do this by just having a positive attitude myself.

Furthermore, I was reminded of what Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I would add that “Perfection is the enemy of done.” Progress, tweaks, checks, re-do’s, and reviews do not equal perfection. Good or effective work is about moving toward the destination than about getting things done with spilling or knocking something over in the process. Momentum matters! As Confucius said, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” For example, if I am needing to market an event for next week, would it be better to have already gone out with an advertisement made by me that will for sure not be perfect (a marketer, I am not) or on Sunday of the week of the event, still be waiting on the perfect advertisement? For me it is the former rather than the latter.

“Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.” ~ William Shakespeare

In The Power of Bad we were taught that rather than always striving for perfect, we need to think in terms of being “good enough.” Make no mistake, this does not mean lowering standards. It means paying less attention to transcending expectations and paying more attention to getting the basics right. Being steady and reliable is much more effective that dramatic ups and downs. So, don’t forget, your mood and demeanor and the mood and demeanor of those around you will have a huge impact on your own and the feelings and effectiveness of those with you. Positivity will cause social support and negativity will cause social undermining. Get out there and be positive and “good enough.”

K.O.B.E.

Posted in Football, Growth Mindset, Kobe Bryant, Leadership, MAMBA, super-bowl by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 2, 2020

Today, on this Super Bowl Sunday, ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown ran a great tribute to Kobe Bryant with reflections from pro football players. Click here to watch the video. One of the pro football players made the comment that they had learned so much from Kobe and had never met him or known him personally. Samantha Ponder and Randy Moss made very moving comments following the video. This made me reflect on what had I learned from this NBA great that I never met.

This loss needs to be a reminder to all that there are always people watching and using us as an example. While Kobe had a checkered past with mistakes that left scars on his life, there is still a great deal of positive examples to take from his life. What examples will others remember and take from your life?

Here’s my takeaways from Kobe:

K Keep fighting and Kill the opposition. He taught us to make the opposition believe they could never play at the level we play.

O – Make your purpose and passion become your Obsession. He taught us to fall in love with the process of what we do.

B Believe that if others can do something, you can too. When we follow in the footsteps and model our actions and habits after successful people, we can get similar or even better results.

E Embrace the mantra of MAMBA mentality. Kobe taught us that hard work outweighs talent every time. We were also taught to trust the process. Kobe said, “Without studying, preparation, and practice, your leaving the outcome to fate. I don’t do fate.”

Let’s remember Kobe by not doing fate.

Naked Leadership

This past Thursday night, we had an incredible 3D Leadership gathering in Mooresville, North Carolina. This was the first gathering of the third cohort of our North and South Carolina leadership development program. This first time together involves an activity called, “Who Am I As A Leader Today?” The participants are all given their very own Mr. or Mrs. Potato Heads and must creatively put them together to represent who they are that day as a leader. We then circle up and everyone shares. This is always so meaningful and is such a great way to begin building a community. You can find out a lot about someone and yourself when you’ve channeled the inner Mr/Mrs Potato Head.

I am always inspired by the wild representations that participants come up with and the deep and meaningful descriptions they give. Always lots for me to blog about after these. One of the member’s presentations really jumped out at me, however, when she said she considered leaving her Mrs. Potato Head blank without putting anything on it. She shared she wanted it to represent the nakedness she felt as a new leader and her desire to learn and become clothed with knowledge. She even brought in some Bible teaching, reminding us that Jesus had come into the world a naked and humble leader of all – and, we all come into the world naked and without anything. She had gone ahead and decorated he Mrs. Potato Head because, as she told us, she needed to recognize that she does have leadership skills today, but wants to continue learning.

The entire group, including me, was blown away by this insightful reflection. Of course, I was so moved that I said I thought there was a book to be written – Naked Leadership. Everyone laughed (thank goodness), but the more I have reflected on it the more I like the title, and the metaphor it represents. For one thing, it’s a catchy title. I’ll bet some of you are reading this post just because the word naked is in the title and you needed to know who was naked. When I began to reflect and study the idea of Naked Leadership, however, I found so many important leadership lessons.

They Realized They Were Naked

In Genesis 2, the Bible says of Adam and Eve, “The eyes of both of them were opened…and they realized they were naked.” As leaders we must have our eyes opened and realize we do not know everything. We need an attitude of personal professional growth and a desire to actively listen to others.

The Emperor Has No Clothes

I love the children’s fairytale The Emperor’s New Clothes. This might have application as a leadership fable for learning more today than at any point in history. You know the story… the emperor was very vain and loved new clothes, so some swindlers took advantage of this. They told the emperor they could fashion the most beautiful cloth ever made that could only be seen by someone who was stupid. So, emperor gave them gold, expensive silk and other items to make the cloth. Of course, these were swindlers who did not make anything but steal the items. Let’s skip to the end of the story…the emperor goes out with his new clothes which were allegedly invisible, and, of course, is naked. No one has the courage to tell the emperor he is naked until he comes to a little boy who says, “But he doesn’t have anything on!” It took the innocence of a child to make the emperor realize he had no clothes.

Wouldn’t we be more effective leaders if we were able to recognize our own nakedness without even needing to be told, as our 3D Leadership participant suggested? This would, I believe, open us up to being advised by others to our nakedness as well. The other part of the story that most never go on to talk about is that once the emperor realizes he really is naked, he continues on, naked, because of his desire to not admit being wrong and his extreme vanity.

I don’t know if the Naked Leadership book will ever get written. I hope it does, but in the meantime we all need to recognize our metaphorical nakedness and be open to finding ways for clothing ourselves with the skills of great leadership. How about you; Do you have any ideas for chapters in the Naked Leadership book?

Success In Aspirational Terms

This past week I heard a person say that “success should be measured in aspirational terms.” The more I thought about it, the more I like it. In education I believe we need to think more aspirational in the way we prepare students. In other words looking beyond just credits and a diploma to the outcomes of what a student should be able to do now and be capable of learning to do later.

Let’s use an example that gets used a lot – welding. It is short-sided to think that having a student be in the single pathway of learning to fuse two pieces of metal together is enough. Don’t get me wrong, good careers await the student, but that’s not aspirational enough. This is why I believe in achieving multiple pathways. A student with aspirations for welding should also be studying computer science. Computers have become an indispensable part of welding processes. Computer, and even artificial intelligence, are required for the execution of many welding operations today. We can only imagine this need for knowledge of computer science will increase. Industry is telling us that welders will need knowledge of lasers, computer program, robotics, artificial intelligence, materials engineering, and systems integration to advance.

With the increased demand for highly skilled and technically sound workers, our students will need to shape their careers around multiple areas of expertise. This aspirational approach will enable their lifelong learning and ability to be agile to a ever-increasingly fast changing world.

We need to be deliberately aligning our student’s aspirations and abilities. The scene in the movie “The Martianwhere it doesn’t look like it will end well for astronaut Mark Watney he sends this message to be relayed to his parents:

“Tell them I love what I do and I’m really good at it. And that I’m dying for something big and beautiful and greater than me. Tell them I said I can live with that.” ~ Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, in The Martian (2015)

Try and tell me that’s not aspirational. We all need to find what we love and what we are good at. It’s not either or, and we need to help students find that balance as well. Some would say that aspiration is magical thinking. I don’t believe it is a magic trick to strategize about the future, help students invent themselves and us reinvent ourselves, push upscale, and keep a growth mindset. Without deep thought and planning about measuring success in aspirational terms, it just becomes a vacuous platitude, or “thing,” as I like to say. But taken in the context of enabling the future, career/skill agility, and student outcomes, measuring success in aspirational terms becomes about being prepared for what we don’t know we need to be prepared for.

Do You Have An Inexhaustible Ability To Just Live?

Posted in Boston Legal, Courage, Growth Mindset, Jesus, Leadership, Lifelong Learning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 12, 2019

Yesterday I blogged about a scene from an episode of Boston Legal that really caused me to think and reflect. You can read about it in Are We Best Friends. Please allow me to post about another balcony interaction of Denny Crane and Alan Shore at the end of another episode.

After asking Alan Shore what he had had for lunch, and telling him he had a steak sandwich with onion rings, Denny Crane said, “Alan, you know, one thing you sometimes forget is, no matter how hard your day, no matter how hard your choices, how complex your ethical decisions, you always get to choose what you have for lunch.” Alan Shore replied, “Daily, I’m amazed at your inexhaustible ability to just live.” Replying, Denny Crane said, “It’s either that or die.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. I believe I have an inexhaustible ability to just live, but just exactly what is that and can we, as leaders, help develop this in others?

Of course this prompted a study for me. What I found was, nothing. So, how do we develop or continue to have an inexhaustible ability to just live? I was actually reminded of a bible verse (John 10:10) where Jesus tells us we are supposed to have an abundant life. Realizing there is a difference here when using the word abundant, I began to think about what really allows us just to live. It turns out that picking what we want for lunch is a perfect example.

It is about what Lolly Daskal taught in the great book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You And Your Greatness. Daskal posited that focusing on using can, want, and will instead of could, should, and must empowers us to live in terms of our own goals and motivations – just like picking what we want for lunch. Think about it: when asked about lunch, we say, “I want…”

Typically, when we choose what we want for lunch it is very authentic. We, or at least I can speak for myself, have no problem having the courage to proclaim what we want for lunch. Why not live and lead on our own terms in other areas of our life as well? Daskal also taught us to have a kinder dialogue with ourselves and focus on leading from within. Could it be as easy as working toward can, want, and will? I think so!

Finally, I believe an inexhaustible ability to just live means to go after what you want without worrying about what others will think. It means continually reaching out for newer, richer, deeper, life changing experiences. So let’s go push the boundaries of ourselves mentally, spiritually, and intellectually for personal growth and the betterment of the world at large. Also, step back and just enjoy the ride that is the journey of our life.

Do you have an inexhaustible ability to just live?

Infectious Leadership

In the past week I have been with four groups of school and teacher leaders from three different states doing leadership development facilitation as part of our 3D Leadership Program. As part of this months focus we did a good leader/bad leader activity where each group developed a top 5 good leader trait and top 5 bad leader trait list. Two things that did not hit the lists were charisma and celebrity. It is clear that all want present and technically competent leaders who have a growth mindset and are contagious. This then trickles down to the team.

So what does having a growth mindset mean? To me it means having a transformative and innovative approach with the team. It means letting the team be curious and creative; finding ways to get better. Great leaders let go of certainty and open the door to other points of view. Great leaders also trust their team members and give them more latitude. These same leaders provide appreciation for all new ideas and achievements of employees. They are comfortable trying new things knowing that all will not work. It’s about being curious themselves.

To set the stage and paint the picture for modeling this growth mindset the leader needs to talk in ideals; ideal work, ideal team, ideal outcome. The question I always like to answer as an innovative and curious leader with a growth mindset is: “what does success look like?” One thing is clear from listening to all these leaders: we need to be present, communicate (including effective listening), and have a mindset for growth. Are you infectious?

Soaring Like A Malcontent Eagle

This past Saturday night I got caught up watching the documentary “The History Of The Eagles” on CNN. As a student of rock and roll bands and artists I became engrossed. Particularly when you think about all the artists that were members of the Eagles, like Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and Joe Walsh; or those who influenced and mentored the band, like Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt. There were so many things that I could blog about after watching this. I took a couple of pages of notes.

One of the things that caught my attention was when the Eagles manager said that Don Henley was a “malcontent.” Henley, however, just wanted the band to keep getting better. A malcontent is someone who is dissatisfied and rebellious. I believe many tines those of us who have a very defined purpose and are very passionate are viewed as, and rightly so, rebellious. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

Isn’t a malcontent really someone who is not satisfied with the status quo? Couldn’t a malcontent be that person who sees a need and opportunity for change? Finally, couldn’t a malcontent be a catalyst for change? When all three of these questions get answered with “yes,” that constitutes a person being a productive malcontent.

This is the person who challenges what is being done, but always has an alternative to offer. This is healthy. It’s the person who just complains and fights change with no alternatives that is toxic to the organization or community. So let’s embrace the productive malcontent and be vulnerable to positive/constructive criticism/change for the betterment of our organizations, schools, businesses, communities, or even rock bands.

Strategic Urgent Action

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My son Heath’s Pin Oak Tree

Fostering Innocence

Recently, in a meeting, someone made the comment that we need to create places where innocence is fostered for our children. This really got me thinking about how we do this both with our own children and the students we serve in our schools. The notion of innocence refers to children’s simplicity, their lack of knowledge, and their purity not yet spoiled by mundane affairs. Such innocence is taken as the promise of a renewal of the world by the children. One of the most delightful things about children is their sense of innocence and wonder, yet helping them maintain that sense of wonder can be challenging in our sophisticated, hurried society.

Knowledge Ruining Innocence

This rapid and early gain of knowledge by our children is quite the paradox. We all know that knowledge is powerful, but when children learn the wrong things to early it can really be detrimental. Vast amounts of knowledge and information is readily available to our children, and we, as parents, want our children to have this knowledge because we believe it will help them grow and compete. However, this same knowledge can ruin their innocence.

What Can We Do?

Have fun. Build time into your schedule to allow for silliness, downtime, and play.

Leverage nature. Children are instinctively attuned to the wonders of nature. We do not have to prompt students to enjoy playing in the mud, seeing the beauty of flowers, watching kittens play. I love the idea I heard one time of planting a family tree and then having family time at each season change to note changes in the tree. My family has a Pin Oak tree that my son brought home from school when he was in the fourth grade that we use for this. In fact, I blogged about this tree in Lesson Of A Pin Oak. Now, it is a beautiful iconic part of our yard (pictured in this post).

Reading together. This is so important and can still be done with high-schoolers. I chose to read the same books my son had to read for school. Wow, what great conversations this spurred for he and I. All I can say is, “try it.”

Use technology wisely and discreetly. Children should not be burdened with information that is too adult in nature. They have neither the cognitive nor social-emotional skills to process this information.

Family events. Or, family events where the children bring a friend. We do a lot of family activities and my son and I have always done Dad and Lad events/trips. The beauty of these is that we control the content.

This is way too complex an issue to solve with a blog post, but I believe we all need to be reflecting on creating places of innocence. Most importantly we need to be mindful of what our children are being exposed to and give them more age appropriate choices.