Byron's Babbles

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.

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.

Becoming

This morning I read Chapter 41, “Constantly Becoming” in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). He taught us that becoming is a fulfilling journey that includes all the ways we expand along the way. There will always be new ways to expand, learn, and grow. I always use the metaphor of being a portrait that will never be finished. If I truly believe what Carol S. Dweck told us that, “Becoming is better than being” then that portrait won’t ever be finished, even on the day I die. Being or becoming depicts different outlooks on our worldview. Some people seek change and can’t wait to transform. Others often ask why they have to change.

Becoming is open and unlimited; being is structured and limiting. Just as the artist paints a portrait, we can look at our lives. Learning to live artfully has us see our lives as a process open to inquiry and learning, thus becoming. DTK reminded us that becoming takes courage. Using my portrait metaphor, I would say we don’t always know what the next brush strokes will be. But, that’s alright. The artist is always looking forward. The only way to assess if something was right is to look backward. Let’s not do that. Let’s keep becoming and make those brush strokes into another beautiful part of our life’s portrait of opportunities for exploration and growth.

Recipes For Success

Obviously, no matter what you do, there is never a guarantee for success. We just use recipes and practices to increase our chances of success. Basically, we follow “recipes for success.” In other words, a number of good practices that we have either discovered for ourselves through trial and error, or others. All this popped into my mind as I read Chapter 38, “Own Your Mistakes,” in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). DTK taught us in the book the we need to own up to our mistakes or our credibility is undermined. By owning up to and hopefully learning from our mistakes, we become trustworthy and human.

As a believer in having a growth mindset, I began to think about the difference between a mistake and failure. In doing some research I found that the difference is in the learning, which to me is a big part of the “owning up to it” advice of DTK. Then I turned to Seth Godin who said, “A mistake is either a failure repeated, doing something for the second time when you should have known better, or a misguided attempt (because of carelessness, selfishness or hubris) that hindsight reminds you is worth avoiding” in The Difference Between A Failure and A Mistake. He went on to say, “A failure is a project that doesn’t work, an initiative that teaches you something at the same time the outcome doesn’t move you directly closer to your goal.” Guilty as charged. Using Godin’s definition, I’ve made lots of mistakes and failures.

We all make mistakes. Do not forget that mistakes are behaviors, just like experiments. We must clean up after them and own them. Failures are outcomes and all about the learning. Don’t make the mistake (pun intended) of not learning from our actions.

Finding Your Growth Edges

I love my Monday morning study time. It involves reading the next chapter in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). This week’s chapter (37), entitled “Uncomfortably Comfortable” did not disappoint. DTK told us that, “…growth happens when we lean into our edge” (p. 263). I love the imagery of growth edges in self-development. We are invited into a new narrative that is possible for us, but this new narrative is just being written and we have not yet embodied it. It can be uncomfortable to see a new way of being, a new way of doing something, or some new subject to learn, in front of you, understand and be inspired by the possibility of it, and yet still employ your old set of behaviors because it’s all we know to do. This is when we need to let our conscious incompetence take over. DTK reminded us that Martin M. Broadwell first described conscious incompetence as the second part of the “the four levels of teaching” model in February 1969.

I don’t know about you, but I can appreciate how huge it is to be aware of something that wasn’t even in my consciousness, but then realize the gap. This stage, however, when we become aware of the thing that needs to shift but we haven’t yet shifted, can be a little uncomfortable. It’s having the desire for change while feeling stuck being how we’ve always been. Sometimes it becomes making mistake after mistake after mistake and thinking you’re never, ever going to get it – until you do “get it.” This is where we must channel our inner child and keep falling until we learn to walk. I always tell people we must allow our self the opportunity to bad at something before we can be good at it. DTK said, “Yet juicy, exponential growth comes from breaking free and experiencing what’s out there” (p. 265). Additionally, don’t forget to ask for help. DTK also told us to “…collect allies. Most likely, if you could’ve done it alone, you already would’ve” (p. 265). When we encounter conscious incompetence, we have a choice. We could let our inner critic take over, or we can enjoy being uncomfortable and learning something new.

Finally, we need to appreciate the how huge it is to become aware of something that wasn’t even in our consciousness until now. Think about about it, in this state we know what we don’t know! So, allow yourself to fall as you learn to walk, enjoy the messes you make along the way, and then reflect on how far you’ve come. Will you allow yourself to find the growth edges in your self-development?

Visions & Revisions

In this week’s Mindset Mondays with DTK lesson in Chapter 29 entitled “Make ‘Em Proud,” David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) posed this question to us: “Would the child you were be proud of the adult you are?” He told us this was very complex because as kids we had all kinds of things we wanted to do and then as adults the world tells us we can’t be all those things. The problem is that none of this talk from the world is true. Somewhere along the way we lose our wonderment with the world and begin to believe the lies of our limitations. I loved how this wonder was described in Rules Of Civility by Amor Towles, “Anyone can buy a car or a night on the town. Most of us shell our days like peanuts. One in a thousand can look at the world with amazement. I don’t mean gawking at the Chrysler Building. I’m talking about the wing of a dragonfly. The tale of the shoeshine. Walking through an unsullied hour with an unsullied heart.” We must fight being constrained by other people’s truths.

DTK asks us if it could be as simple as, “The childhood you, when faced with something they didn’t like, would set out to create something different.” I believe it could be that simple. We should never stop exploring, learning, growing and evolving. I loved another description of life from Amor Towles in Rules Of Civility that said, “It is a bit of a cliché to characterize life as a rambling journey on which we can alter our course at any given time–by the slightest turn of the wheel, the wisdom goes, we influence the chain of events and thus recast our destiny with new cohorts, circumstances, and discoveries. But for the most of us, life is nothing like that. Instead, we have a few brief periods when we are offered a handful of discrete options. Do I take this job or that job? In Chicago or New York? Do I join this circle of friends or that one, and with whom do I go home at the end of the night? And does one make time for children now? Or later? Or later still? In that sense, life is less like a journey than it is a game of honeymoon bridge. In our twenties, when there is still so much time ahead of us, time that seems ample for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions—we draw a card, and we must decide right then and there whether to keep that card and discard the next, or discard the first card and keep the second. And before we know it, the deck has been played out and the decisions we have just made will shape our lives for decades to come.” I believe this is true, but one caveat I make is that the deck is not limited to 52 cards and is infinite. We never have to quit shaping our lives – we get to keep drawing cards till the very end.

So, in honor of that inner child that is always with us, we need to ask ourselves how we are doing in the card game of life – keeping, discarding, asking for a new card, or even shuffling the deck. Let’s make the childhood versions of ourselves proud.

A Great Unknown

Posted in DTK, Growth Mindset, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 8, 2020

David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) used the smoothing of a rock under a waterfall over a period of time as the metaphor in Chapter 15, Define Yourself, in Mindset Mondays with DTK. He wrote, “Just as it is in nature, there’s no escaping the fact that your human experiences shape who you are.” He went on to say, “Yet you neither become nor are defined by the events that impact you.” DTK’s metaphor made me think of the beach and ocean. Beaches are constantly changing. Tides and weather can alter beaches every day, bringing new materials and taking away others.

Even though a beach is constantly changing (just like us) every beach has a beach profile. A beach profile describes the landscape of the beach, both above the water and below it. We, like the beach, all have a profile that the events of our lives do not have to define. While ever rolling in a constant rhythm of ebb and flow, each wave, day, and week is different. No matter the changes, the beach is always beautiful – just like us.

We never know what we are going to encounter. Just like the beach has new weather and tidal patterns in its future, we have an unfamiliar element, perhaps a great unknown. But, it’s only by encountering the unknown that we can learn, grow, and experience adventure.

Catch Me and Prop Me Up!

In Chapter 11 of Mindset Mondays with DTK, David Taylor-Klaus used the analogy of a fitness class and wearing a weighted vest to discuss “Reclaim Your Brain.” This got me to thinking that athletes are the perfect examples of reclaiming your brain. Let’s use football as the example. When a quarterback throws an interception, they must immediately get their mind back on track and tell themselves the next pass will be caught. Otherwise the mindset of throwing another interception will take over. For the quarterback it becomes about taking a deep breath and the reminder of all the work in practice that has gone into being on the same page that ensures success on the next pass.

Then, during a post-game interview following the New Orleans Saints huge 38-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Drew Brees (Pride of Purdue University and greatest quarterback of all time) reminded us that we also need to be propped up by others to help us see the things that will keep our mindset focused in the the right direction. Here’s an excerpt from Brees’ inspiring comments:

“It was funny, I got hit and I was going down and Terron Armstead caught me and propped me up and said, ‘I just wanted you to see this touchdown.’ So, it’s funny how often the offensive linemen catch that stuff; You know, their blocking, their blocking {and} the minute their guy sees the balls been thrown, the lineman is able to look down the field…So, it’s funny, he caught me, propped me up and said, ‘I just wanted you to see this touchdown.’

Drew Brees is post-game interview

Is that the coolest story or what? It really got me thinking about how many times others have propped me up, even at times when I probably didn’t deserve it. In listening to the interview, this propping up of Drew Brees had a profound impact on him. He was also very complimentary Terron Armstead’s awareness of what was going happening on the whole field. This big picture vision and propping up I’m sure plays a huge role in the team community of the Saints. Armstead saw a need for leadership and seized the moment. I touched on this in Spreading The Wealth. Everyone is a leader and everyone has the responsibility to lead from wherever they are whenever necessary. Period.

Leadership is crucial to setting others up to become successful. By really understanding and paying attention to the needs of those on our teams we can help provide for other to become the “best self” they can be. In our example here, Armstead became a servant leader by being there for Brees. Sometimes we need a cheerleader, other times a champion, and other times a blocker. Through our own curiosity and vision we can help others reflect on their own work and mindset, which helps them be successful the next time around. Don’t think for a minute that Drew Brees won’t be thinking about being propped up and watching that touchdown for some time to come. And, that seeing that touchdown first hand while being propped up hasn’t added to a positive mindset. Success breeds success and the more we learn from what others do right, the more we all grow.

What have great leaders in your life done lately to prop you up and help you reclaim your brain with the right mindset?

“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?