Byron's Babbles

We Are Memories

You gotta love those “chicken or egg – which came first?” type questions. I loved one that was posed in The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry. The question was “Do we make memories or do memories make us?” Pretty interesting to ponder, right? Unlike the chicken and the egg, I believe it is a bit of both. Our experiences and interactions with the world around us create memories which we then use to shape and understand our own identities. We also don’t want to forget that this memory building has a profound impact on those in our lives. Never forget that most of our memories are not built in isolation. We can all point to events in our lives that had some profound impact on us, or just stand out as one of those important or “favorite” moments in our lives. Usually, those memories involve family, friends, or even co-workers.

The question of memories is an ever-evolving cycle where we both make memories and are made by them. It is also important to remember, as was pointed out by the characters in The Favorite Daughter that our memories aren’t always accurate or reliable and can be influenced by various factors like emotions and biases. Which points to another great line in the book, “We are not a biography or list of facts, we are memories.” If you think about it, this is very true. Think of those who have meant the most to you or had the most impact on your life – you don’t remember them as a biography, but by memories you created together. We are the memories!


Don’t Settle For Mediocre

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Memories by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 16, 2023
A photo I took along the Savannah River

The phrase “Do not settle for the mediocre to avoid pain” became a through line in the great book I just finished by one of my favorite authors, Patti Callahan Henry, The Favorite Daughter. This was a phrase from the father in the novel, Gavin Donahue, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and to me meant that it’s important not to choose something that is just okay or average out of fear of experiencing discomfort or difficulty. It suggests that settling for something subpar may actually lead to greater frustration or unhappiness in the long run. This phrase was an important comment Gavin made to his daughter Colleen and became central to the book. Gavin had not taken the mediocre path in life. In fact he had a complicated and wonderful life full of storied paths.

Gavin was encouraging his daughter to push herself and strive for excellence, even if it meant enduring some hardship or discomfort along the way. Essentially, the phrase is a reminder that short-term pain or discomfort can often lead to long-term gain and fulfillment. Our stories will become our memories. We need to remember that our stories and memories are shared with others. We also need to remember that our stories are just that – our stories, and not accept mediocre in developing and living out those stories.


Posted in Belonging, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Memories, Tradition by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 24, 2022

‘Belonging’ is something I’ve been contemplating a lot lately. And, tradition has a lot to do with belonging. In fact this past week the WD-40 Company posted on LinkedIn: “92% of tribe members recently shared that as a part of WD-40 Company, they strongly experience a sense of belonging. Now that’s something to be proud of! Want to join us? Visit our careers page today!” I commented, “Belonging is such an important part of a community. Thanks, WD-40 Company, for being a great role model and example of this for all of us!” Then this morning, Christmas Eve, my son Heath, reminded me how important traditions are to belonging. Today is also Heath’s birthday and he wanted to make sure we went out and fed the cattle together because we always do that together on his birthday. He had also secured some Florida Ruby Red grapefruit because we always have them on Christmas Eve and Christmas mornings.

Having Heath reminding me of those traditions brought about great feelings of belonging. Traditions provide a sense of stability and help us connect with our roots. “Tradiare”, a Latin word meaning “to hand over, to transmit” is where tradition gets its roots. It is a practice or ritual that is passed down from generation to generation. Those traditions then become memories. So keep building belonging, traditions, and memories.

Your Personal Museum

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Memories by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 9, 2022

Every step along the way in life I have considered as building memories – those moments that end up in our personal museum. Everything we do and everyone we associate with is an opportunity to create these museum archives. I think this is why I value my coffee cup collection (that I use a different one out of every day, by the way) of cups from the places I go. This morning I am using the cup from J.W. Renfroe Pecan Company in Pensacola, Florida. Today’s cup curates the museum memories from this past spring’s trip to Florida with my son. He asked me to fly down and join the group. Lots of memories surface: bow-fishing, talks on the beach, cooking huge amounts of fresh gulf seafood together, et cetera, et cetera. Best selling author John Strelecky inspired this post with a tweet that I loved: “In the end, we don’t remember all of our life, we remember moments. Life is about the moments that will be in your personal museum! Don’t wait for them, it’s time to create them!” I have a friend that every time he would see my son and I together, when he was younger, my friend would say, “Out building memories, I see.” And, yes we certainly were!

I’m sure you can take a trip down memory lane to your childhood or just a few weeks ago to remember those fond moments with your family, friends, or others in your community network. Even if we can’t quite remember everything from the past, there are those moments that stick with us no matter how old we get. Having experiences and making memories is something that will last far longer than the day on which they happen. What moments are you curating in your personal museum? More importantly what memories are you helping create for the personal museums of your children, friends, and others you serve?

My Memories Matter

As I wrote the rough draft of this post I was on a plane taxiing to the runway at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. As I looked out window I saw the dome of our Capitol and the Washington Monument (see my pictures). This caused several moments of reflection. I thought about all 12 U.S. Presidents that have been in office since I was born. I thought about the Vietnam War that happened during my lifetime. I thought about President Nixon and his resignation. I thought about the first President I voted for, Ronald Reagan. I thought about the first Gulf War. I thought about 9/11. I thought about wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I thought about all the time my son Heath and I spent in Washington D.C. when he was growing up when I brought him with me to the Washington Leadership Conference of the National FFA Organization every year. I thought about getting to pay my respects to Ronald Reagan as he was lying in state in the Capitol rotunda. I thought about being with President Obama in the Oval Office. I thought about spending time with, then Vice President, Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at Number One Observatory Circle. I thought about being awarded the Smithsonian Diffusion Award in the Smithsonian Castle. I thought about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, and getting to stand at the Brandenburg Gate where President Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the wall. I thought about being in Vice President Pence’s White House Office. A lot of memories were running through my mind. I realized I’ve experienced a lot in my almost six decades.

That’s a lot of history. That’s a lot of memories. But what does it all mean? Does living through all that matter? Yes, all those memories matter! Our memories make us who we are. They create our worldview in ways we hardly realize. It is why we must be always creating the situations to create memories for our children. We also need to be creating memories for our students. All that we have ever learned, from how to get along and play with others, how to read, and even how to resolve conflicts, makes us who we are. That is why who taught us and our experience of the things we have learned are all embedded in the memories themselves.

Our memories are essential because they allow us to grow and learn to be a better person. Our memories help us understand why we are who we are. When we understand why we are who we are, we become empowered to create ourselves intentionally. Oscar Wilde said, “Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” I am so glad that my peek out the airplane window caused me to open my mind’s diary and begin reflecting on who I am.

Travel Is Education & BIG Learning

As you know from my previous posts, my family and I are in Calgary, Alberta, Canada right now and have seen and learned a lot. Here are my posts from the previous days:

As you can see, it has been an action packed few days of learning for my family and I. I am speaking and doing a workshop at an education research conference on leadership development here in Calgary and am so glad we came out a little early to do some exploring together.

Yesterday, before the conference we had the opportunity to go to Banff, Banff National Park Of Canada, and Lake Louise. These are two destinations that a person does not want to miss when traveling in Alberta. I am so glad that we have had the opportunity, as a family, to see so many different places and experience different cultures. My son made a comment yesterday about all the new ideas and things he has learned from talking to everyone and taking it all in. This is how we keep the creative juices flowing.

When we are young, like my son Heath, we are still finding ourselves and preparing for our education and career. The skills and experience we gain from traveling can give us life-long personal benefits as well as a leg up in the professional world. I believe traveling, even within one’s state, province, or country builds cultural awareness. Being aware of cultural values and norms is not only fascinating, but can help us understand international issues and conflicts, or even relate to the cultural norms of a foreign business partner. It is an important skill to be able to shift perspectives and see where someone else is coming from. In our globalized world it is so important to be culturally aware.

Yesterday, in Banff National Park Of Canada I learned that they are doing extensive studies on saving wildlife and reducing accidents on the Trans Canada Highway. They are fencing along the road and have built overpasses and underpasses for the wildlife to cross the interstate. Genius! Accidents and wildlife injuries have been reduced. Interestingly, they have found that black bears and cougars like to cross in the underpass and grizzly bears like to use the overpassed. You’ll find a picture of the overpass before this paragraph and a picture of the fencing here:

I get so many ideas when traveling. These inspirations can happen from seeing a sign, talking to a restaurant owner, meeting a local person, or just reflecting and meditating while enjoying the beauty of nature. I believe my creativity and innovative abilities are boosted by just taking in all I can experience. If you’re open and willing, travel will make you an incredibly more well-rounded human being.

Just As I Am

Posted in appreciation, Community, Culture, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Memories, Servant Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 25, 2018

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting this Christmas season. With the passing of my mom in 2018, it is the first holiday season that I am parentless. That has been a point of great reflection since May. For a kid that was close to his parents, it is very weird to now not have any. As I think about the holidays, I got to thinking that I really don’t remember the gives, but have lots of memories of things we did together. For example, every year we would go to Indianapolis and walk around the “Worlds Tallest Christmas Tree.” My dad would stop in the little nut shop (not there any more) and by a bag of cashews and we would eat them as we walked. It was a Christmas tradition. You get the idea.

Circle Christmas Tree, Indianapolis

We now have some great traditions we do as a family like picking out the Christmas tree, going to Metamora, Indiana, the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, or go to the Music City Bowl to watch Purdue beat Auburn (we can’t wait). But, none of this involves presents. These are memory building activities. As we enter this holiday season, it makes sense to pause for a moment and think about gifts. What’s the point of them?

I guess we give gifts because we’re supposed to. On certain occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, dinner parties, the end of the year it just seems to be customary. Allegedly, we give people gifts to show them that we are grateful for them and value the role they play in our lives. But don’t forget, gifts don’t express appreciation, people do. And when people don’t express it, neither do their gifts. The greatest gifts I will receive this holiday season will be time spent making memories and being accepted for who I am.

Just as I am. Wow, is there any better present than being acknowledged and appreciated for who you are? There is no more powerful way to acknowledge others than to be thankful for them just as they are. Our families are the masters at this. We need to work really hard at genuinely doing this for those we work with, our friends and associates, and those we lead. So maybe instead of the gift card, an individualized note of appreciation or some way of building a memory. Remember, memories, not materials are what make the season so magical.