Byron's Babbles

The Best Advice

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, KISS, Leadership, Leadership Development, Paul Stanley by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on June 13, 2021

I am so blessed to still be getting inspiration from Paul Stanley. Yesterday he tweeted “Any advice that starts with ‘If I were you’ should be disregarded” in response to the question “What’s the best advice you can give anyone?” asked by Eric Alper. I’ve always hated the “If I were you” advice starter. If someone giving advice starts a sentence with “If I were you…” the result is often the other person shutting down. Think about it, that person isn’t you, right?

A Psychology Today study explained there are four different types of advice; they are advice for, advice against, information, and decision support. The study found that information advice was the most effective. Information advice provides additional knowledge that the advice seeker may not know, that can shed light on other options for the present, and later down the line.

Before even giving advice I believe in taking a position of humble inquiry. Sometimes when someone is seeking advice I like to take a position of inquiry. This allows understanding the context, nuances, and entire situation. This position of inquiry also allows for empathy. Giving advice to someone is an emotional, intimate thing. I try to live by the quote of an unknown person that says, “To argue with someone else’s experience of reality is futile. To add their experience to your own is possibly useful.” The best advice I’ve gotten over the years has felt selfless from the other person.

Baby KISS Leadership

I recently had an aspiring leader in a development gathering I was facilitating describe herself as a “baby leader.” I loved that and so did the rest of the group. As a lover of metaphors I immediately started relating all the things we do and learn as a baby to leadership. Then, yesterday I was given a book titled Baby KISS. Awesome! It’s a children’s book for learning colors – using the KISS band members and rock and roll items for learning. As it says on the back cover of the book, “Let’s rock and roll all night! Black-and-white face paint. Pink tongue. Gold cymbals. White Lights. Introduce little ones to legendary KISS in this bright, bold, and rockin’ board book.” This made me think back to our “baby leader” where we began this post. We need to help our aspiring leaders in the same way that the Baby KISS book and KISS themselves help us learn: with big, bold, vivid colors, well-illustrated examples, and recognizable images that are easily remembered.

As a person who grew up with KISS and is still a proud member of the KISS Army, here is what I have learned:

  • Overcommunicate – Anthems build enthusiasm – Become infectious by using different ways of telling your story.
  • Bring it with shock and awe, and be astonishing – KISS provided fans the band they always wanted to go see. In other words, go a little farther than others are willing to go!
  • Don’t be vanilla – Be audacious and authentic. Be crystal clear about who you are and why you are unapologetically proud of it.

Now, I am pretty confident that I have some reading this post who are KISS fans and in the KISS army too. What have you learned you developed from “baby leader” to who you are today?

Learning From KISStory

As they have since the band began it’s journey when I was 10 years old, the greatest rock band ever, KISS, continues to influence my life. I attended the KISS 2020 Goodbye New Year’s Eve concert held in the United Arab Emirates last week at Atlantis, The Palm and have been processing it in my mind ever since. Live music was silent and as of the the day of the show, on New Year’s Eve, KISS had not been on stage in 296 days. I even used it as the theme/throughline for a professional development program I did yesterday for teachers entitled “Student-Student Interaction.” KISS, in conjunction with Landmarks Live, is the ultimate example of fan-fan and band-fan interaction. I took three pages of notes during the three hour event put together by KISS. There were leadership lessons from KISS on how to deal with COVID-19 lessons; how to engage a huge global audience virtually; how to engage in person and virtual fans individually; how to bring together an international team; how to change what working as a team looks like during a pandemic; how to keep over 400 team members safe (they had no COVID cases) and have them working in-sync; and, triple the physical size of the show.

Director of the show, Daniel E. Catullo, put it this way: “We are attempting to pull off the biggest show of 2020 at the height of the pandemic.” Let me tell you what, they did! I remember when I saw the first announcement of this back in November, I said, “Leave it to KISS to figure out how to make big things happen during a pandemic, and do it safely.” They spent extensive time explaining how they dealt with COVID protocols during the first part of the three hour event. Everyone should watch that introduction documentary – they did it right, they did it well, and are a model as to how, in my opinion, we should be doing it. I said out loud during the event, “why are we not doing it this way in our schools. This is the right way to do it!” They had contact tracing protocols using colored bands identifying work groups, bracelets that kept track of every person coming within two meters of each other, daily testing, strict mask wearing, et cetera, et cetera. And, let me repeat what I said earlier, the day of the concert they were reporting no COVID cases. Well done!

“It’s KISS! Anything worth doing is worth overdoing as far as they’re concerned. I hope this inspires other’s to want to do shows.” ~ Robert Long, Production Designer

The shows Production Designer, Robert Long said it best, “It’s KISS! Anything worth doing is worth overdoing as far as they’re concerned. I hope this inspires others to want to do shows.” With all the gimmicks, stunts, and theatrics that we are used to with KISS times 1000, they lived up to Long’s expectations of overdoing it. Setting world records for things like tallest flame thrown in a concert to over 1.5 million dollars in pyrotechnics, the show was over the top. After opening with “Detroit Rock City” and “Shout It Out Loud” we heard from Paul Stanley for the first time when he said, “Hello Dubai! Hello World!” He was drawing all of us at home in. Then after “Deuce” he drew all of us at home in the rest of the way saying, “If you’re here that’s cool. If you’re at home, we’re talking to ya. You count!…This is your show!” And, let me tell you it felt like they were singing every song, shooting off every firework, and making every gesture just for me. I reminded teachers yesterday how important it was whether teaching students in person or virtually that we make each one feel like we are speaking to them personally. I appreciated how Gene Simmons would point to and look right into one of the more that 50 cameras being used for the show and speak just to me. In fact we had a little fun yesterday during my professional development with Gene’s best practice. Every time someone spoke, reported out from small group discussions, or addressed someone virtually (we had a group in person with me, a group that was virtual, and some individuals who were virtual), we would point and look directly into the camera or Owl to draw everyone in.

“If you’re here that’s cool. If you’re at home, we’re talking to ya. You count!…This is your show!” ~ Paul Stanley

Using best practices, that we in education need to emulate, KISS did a phenomenal job of acknowledging those fortunate enough to be on the individual room balconies of the hotel while intentionally involving and engaging all of us around the world at home screaming, yelling, playing air guitar, and singing along. This was one of the most spectacular rock shows in history. What they achieved is what we need to work hard to achieve in anything we have to do virtually or in a blend of virtual and in person right now: recreate the visceral energy of being live. KISS pulled this off brilliantly and, as Paul Stanley described it: “Bombastically!” with the KISS 2020 Goodbye New Year’s Eve concert. As KISS’ music manager, Doc McGee said, “Why, because people need it.” We’ll bring it to the people. We have to have a tipping point, and I think this is the tipping point.” Let’s all strive to be like KISS and be a tipping point for all great things as we continue to do all the things we need to do to keep life going during the rest of the pandemic. Happy New Year!

Do Not Look Outside Yourself

Too often we wait on others to do for us, our communities, or the world what we should be doing for ourselves. In other words we need to step up and be the leaders that we have, for so long, been hoping for. Our choices do not, and have never just affected ourselves. I am reminded of what I have heard Gene Simmons say of what drove him during the founding years of KISS; he wanted KISS to be the band he’d never seen. Mission accomplished! We need to become the leader we’ve been hoping for.

In chapter nine this week, entitled “Take the Lead“ in Mindset Mondays with DTK, the Hopi Elder’s Prophecy was referenced. DTK quoted the Hopi elders, “we are the one we’ve been waiting for.” This caught my attention because I spent some time in the late ‘80s learning about the Hopi in Arizona. The Hopi are a Native American tribe located in northeast Arizona. They are believed to have one of the oldest living cultures in the world. They are referred to as “the oldest of people” by other Native American nations. It was incredible to visit and learn in the Hopi lands.

A Hopi Elder’s Prophecy

“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered . . .

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.”

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time!”

“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.

“Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

“The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Hopi Elders’ Prophecy, June 8, 2000

I’m glad I took the time to look up the Hopi Elder’s Prophecy and read and study it in its entirety because I found another stanza that jumped out at me: “And do not look outside yourself for the leader.” This is a call to be the leaders that we have, for so long, been hoping for. Our choices affect so many more than just ourselves. True leaders lead from inspiration and purpose. We need to seek guidance from within, rather than from without. And share with others in the spirit of servant leadership. As DTK told us, “Leadership starts with you. It’s time to take the lead in your own development” (p. 93). If we are to do this we must take DTK’s advice and lead ourselves first so we can grow to then lead others. We can become the one’s we’ve been waiting for.

A World Without Heroes Is No Place For Me

Posted in A World Without Heroes, Courage, Gene Simmons, Heroes, Heroines, KISS, Leadership, Paul Stanley by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 24, 2019

I continue to find inspiration from Gene Simmons. As a fan of KISS from the beginning I still keep up with Gene and Paul Stanley on Twitter. This morning I was reading a Tweet thread from Gene about the song “A World Without Heroes.” This song was on the 1981 KISS album The Elder. I’d actually forgotten about the song, but went and watched the video. Some on the thread liked the song, others not so much. It’s KISS and Gene Simmons singing, so of course I love the song. I was intrigued by the words and proceeded to think about what they were thinking when they wrote the song. Check it out for yourself:

There are a few parts of the lyrics that stand out to me. Here is my take on this great song:

  • “You can’t look up to anyone | Without heroes” ~ Think about those you consider to be heroes. Without them we wouldn’t have anyone to look up to. Our heroes and heroines also understand their core values and walk the walk no matter what. Outstanding leadership often inspires heroic acts. We need heroes as role models. I’m sure glad I’ve had heroes and heroines to look up to and model after.
  • “Where you don’t know what your after | Or if something’s after you | And you don’t know why you don’t know” The hero steps in when exceptional circumstances dictate. Heroes show us how to transform our lives. Every hero story tells of a journey toward vast personal transformation.
  • “In a world without heroes | There’s nothing to be | It’s no place for me” I just can’t even imagine a world without heroes. Many of my heroes and heroines didn’t run into a burning building, go to war with an angry enemy, or win multiple Super Bowls. But they did do great things – many times just compassionate and caring things. They showed me what I wanted to be and who I wanted to be. As the last lines is the song say, “without heroes there’s nothing to be.”

Heroes and heroines can be everyday people doing extraordinary things, or just being extraordinary. They don’t always do it for publicity, money, or because the score is being kept. They simply are the human being we aspire to be, and can be. What do you want to be? Are you a hero to anyone? A world without heroes is no place for me!

A KISS of Stardom!

IMG_3094This week I had the opportunity to do something that I had never done before. I became Gene Simmons as a part of a team in a Battle Of The Bands Lip Sync Contest. This was part of our Carolina Schools Big Potential Leadership Conference put on by Noble Education Initiative, Inc. What an experience. Although each of the group’s members is iconic, perhaps the most memorable of them all is front man Gene Simmons, who is famous for his demonic character that breathes fire, spits blood, and engages in all sorts of outrageous behavior on stage. Here’s the deal: when we hit the stage, after an hour and a half of getting in costume and having makeup put on, I became Gene Simmons. I even spit blood. And, I didn’t lip sync. I sang every word of “Rock And Roll All Night.” Then, I spit blood (we got the fake blood capsules at a party supply place and I put the all in my mouth – what a mess) and did “God Of Thunder.” The crowd was going wild – literally. I’ve got to tell you, I did not want it to end. It was addictive.

So, what did I learn?

IMG_3093Shared Vision and Enthusiasm – Everyone, regardless of her or his age, knows KISS, the band. They are the band that would wear 6-inch heels, has blue/black hair, paints their faces, and one member, Gene Simmons, who would spit blood and blow fire. Amazingly, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t know that. Furthermore, when my colleagues and I started our rendition of “Rock and Roll All Night” it amazed me that everyone knew the words and sang along. It wasn’t just singing, though, it was singing with enthusiasm. We could tell, the song meant something to this group. Everyone was connecting in some way to it. As leaders, that is our job to make connections. Whether that means partnerships, or connecting everyone in the organization to a shared vision.

Engagement – I did a session yesterday morning on student engagement. While I was facilitating that session I was thinking about my rock band front man experience. My job both as a facilitator and front-man was to move, affect and engage an audience. This is also true in a classroom. We must move our students toward proficiency of skill, standards, and competencies, as well as affect change in their lives, while engaging them.

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 1.58.38 PMThe Band Is A Team – While I acted out the part of the demonic and crazed front man part of our our band, I realized it was the other three members of our band that made it all possible. Others in the band literally got my costume ready and did my makeup. They were supporting my antics on stage and supporting me acting crazy. The lesson here is that we can never be as good by ourselves as we can be as part of a team.

We All Need A Brand or To Be A Part of A Brand – The 2016 Gallup survey information tells us that we all want to be part of a successful brand or part of an organization that is doing good in the world. KISS holds all the records for record sales for any rock band ever – including Elvis and the Beatles. Their empire is worth over 1 billion dollars and there are over 3000 branded KISS products on the market today. KISS is a rock BRAND not a rock Band. What is your brand?

Have A No Limits Attitude and Approach To Life – There truly are no limits to what you can achieve. Success is a mind set. We all need to have a growth mindset. Either you think you can achieve it, or you don’t. Never let someone else tell you what you can and cannot achieve. Control those thoughts yourself.

IMG_3108Upon reflection, I got chills thinking about a few things:

  • Without KISS, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
  • What would the world and I be like if there were no KISS?
  • What band would have been my mentor to have a no-holds-barred attitude toward going after all my dreams?
  • Who would have taught me it doesn’t matter what the critics are saying because you cannot please everyone; I learned, from KISS, to go after what I believe will create change in the world?
  • Without Gene Simmons I don’t have the example of a humanitarian. Simmons received the MEND Humanitarian award, for his support of Mending Kids International, which provides surgical care to children in developing countries. During his acceptance speech he said, “I don’t have the right NOT to give back and neither do you. Some mother somewhere is crying her heart out because her child can’t have what we have in this country and we can change that.” Did you catch that? “I don’t have the right NOT to give back…” I heard you loud and clear, Gene!

IMG_3109 2IMG_3110As you can see, Gene Simmons and KISS has had quite an affect on me since the band began when I was 10 years old. I am so glad they have been a part of my life. I am also glad I had the opportunity this week to experience a very, very, very, very small part of what it feels like to be Gene Simmons on stage.