Byron's Babbles

Curating The Eight

I really hope everyone enjoys my Top 8 List of Non-Fiction Books for 2021. This was really tough because in a year where I read 120 books, grew a lot from that reading, and the fact that all the really great authors deserve credit for providing me much needed growth. I also know it took me about two weeks longer to get this post done compared to past years, but even after I began to narrow it down, I was torn. I’m glad I took the time to go through the exercise because it provided some great personal development time for reviewing and reflecting on all I learned from reading this past year. Then it came down to a stack of books that really offered the right things at the right time for me – I love it when that happens! There were eight books in that stack, so thus, a Top 8. As I write this introduction I am still trying to put the list in order and still really struggling. Really, to me, the order is not important (put them in whatever order you want), but everyone always blow me crap when I don’t put them in order.

Here they are – my top 8 books from 2021 curated for you:

#1. Stronger Through Adversity: World-Class Leaders Share Pandemic-Tested Lessons On Thriving During The Toughest Challenges by Joseph Michelli I’ve read every one of Dr. Michelli’s books, but please don’t ask me to put all of them in ranked order. I was a fan and hooked (pun intended) forever after first reading When Fish Fly. Then in 2021 out comes Stronger Through Adversity which topped all my non-fiction reads for the year and was definitely at the right place at the right time. As many organizations were trying to figure out how to lead in a crisis, here was an incredible resource where the best had been curated for us. This book also helped me get my mind wrapped around creating sessions/programs for developing leaders for crisis management/leadership. I blogged a bunch this year from inspiration gained from this book (search Stronger Through Adversity and you’ll find them all). Dr. Michelli is the absolute best and being able to access the great leaders and then share out the learning so we all can benefit.

#2. Alien Thinking: The Unconventional Path To Breakthrough Ideas, by Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade As the guy who always comes up with ideas that cause everyone to look at me like I am an alien, I loved this book. This book really helped me to begin to better channel the alien that is in me. Instead of trying to curb alien thinking I learned to better make use of it. I loved the framework they brought forth in the book:

  • A – Attention – look with fresh eyes to observe problems that need to be solved, opportunities worth addressing, and solutions that can be dramatically improved or revised
  • L – Levitation – step back from the creative process to gain perspective and enrich your understanding
  • I – Imagination – recognize hard-to-see patterns and to connect seemingly disparate dots to imagine unorthodox combinations
  • E – Experimentation – test ideas quickly and smartly, with the goal of improving – not just proving – your idea
  • N – Navigation – deal with potentially hostile environments and adjust to the forces that can make or break your solution

#3. Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em (Sixth Edition) by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans This book profoundly changed me and helped get my mind wrapped around being people-centric and becoming more human. I was very fortunate to be on the launch team for this sixth edition. I am very critical of those individuals and organizations that are not as I call them “people centered.” I love (pun intended) that Kaye and Jordan-Evans taught us that loving those we work with is the correct terminology. This book taught that we need to think about how our people want to work and what inspires and motivates us to do the work. The pandemic has exposed the issue that already existed that everyone’s work situation is a little different and we need to find ways to make sure we are personalizing that experience for each and every one of our people. What really resonated with me was the notion that if we really want to love ’em (those we serve) then mass customization of how we deal with those we serve does not work. As Kaye and Jordan-Evans argued, there is no one policy for the workforce anymore. We need to allow for everyone to be a part of determining what is fair and right for them. As a leader in education, I believe this principle is true for the scholars and families we serve. This book really is about how to love.

One of my favorite quotes from the book says it all: “Approach things not as an expert, but as an explorer.” I love the metaphor of us looking at the world as an alien would see it – without preconceived notions or bias. There are so many things that can stifle even the most alien of thinkers. We are taught that both our strengths and our weaknesses can serve as deterrents to successful creativity and innovation. This book caused a great deal of introspection and reflection.

#4. Make It, Don’t Fake It: Leading With Authenticity For Real Business Success by Sabrina Horn I cringe when I hear someone say, “Fake it till you make it.” I am always said that is the stupidest thing you can do. And, I’ll even have people argue with me. Imagine my relief and delight when Sabrina came out with this book that taught us all why “faking it” really is the stupidest thing you can do. In fact in light of the latest verdicts in the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos case we have even more proof that “faking it” does not work. Great leaders know what they don’t know and understand there are things they don’t know they don’t know. And, sometimes we even know things we don’t know we know. But, learning from and with others, asking questions, and asking for help are hallmarks of an effective and humble leader. Sabrina also taught us that “Intuition is knowledge, and knowledge is intuition.” I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this book, be on the launch team, and learn from the great leader, Sabrina Horn.

#5. Subtract: The Untapped Science Of Less by Leidy Klotz I loved this book! In education we are always talking about how things keep getting added to our plates and nothing ever gets removed. Well, it turns out this happens to everyone and it is how our brains are wired. Who knew? Leidy Klotz! If nothing else this book has caused me to have a new sniff test when wanting to improve, change, or create something – what should be/could be subtracted? Klotz told us that “In our striving to improve our lives, our work, and our society, we overwhelmingly add.” He asked a bunch of questions that I had to answer “yes” to, but he had me dead to rights with these three:

  • “Do you spend more time acquiring information – whether through podcasts, websites, or conversation – than you spend distilling what you already know?
  • “Do you spend more time writing new content than editing what’s there?
  • “Have you started more organizations, initiatives, and activities than you have phased out?

Using research we are shown how being poor and worrying about money takes away our brainpower to devote to other areas of our lives. As an education leader this was very powerful. Also, as I promote reducing the number of standards being taught to a more manageable number of essential skills actually raises the bar for student learning, am reminded of something else Klotz said in the book, “Weeding less useful ideas allows the indispensable ones to flourish.” Bottom-line, I no longer think in terms of adding OR subtracting, I think add AND subtract.

#6. Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom For Breakthrough Performance by Sara Canaday This book is really special. I had the chance to meet Sara year before last. She is such a unique and gifted leader. It is immediately evident when meeting her and reading her work that she “walks the talk.” I was reminded when reading Leadership Unchained that defying conventionality requires allowing for creativity, flexibility, and risk taking. She made a comment saying, “Innovation happens at the intersection of different perspectives.” This made me reflect on one of my own core values of learning forward from different perspectives. Innovative ideas are not just about adding another feature or an
adjacent market. If we want to keep breaking new ground we must make it a priority to seek out the intersection of multiple fields, disciplines, and cultures. She argued we should create our organizations, teams, and mind by seeking out these intersections of multiple fields, disciplines, and cultures. All those different perspectives are far more potent than any incremental extension of what you are already working on using a single perspective. This kind of thinking will lead us to someplace completely different.

#7. The Long Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel My good friend Kevin Eikenberry has this amazing sixth sense for being in the right place at the right time to provide valuable help. This book was released a year ago while we were still in the height of pandemic and beginning to figure out how to figure out how to work and learn from anywhere. This book has so much value for all disciplines. In fact, Kevin did a webinar on the book and content for me for a group of teachers I work with. This is one of those books that I’m glad I read in electronic form because I continually go back to my highlights, search for things I remember reading. This book will be evergreen for a long time as we continue to figure out how to work effectively from anywhere.

#8. Mindset Mondays with DTK: 52 Ways to REWIRE Your Thinking and Transform Your Life by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) This was another book in this group of top eight that I was on the launch team for. Also, every year I try to find a book that is written in the 52 weekly lesson format. So, I read this book one lesson a week for a year and did a blog post each week (without fail, I might add). It was incredible, and each week I was forced to reflect, study, and expand my thinking. In this book, DTK asks you the right questions to make you take a deep and introspective look at who you want to be and who you do not want to be.

What Are You Prepared To Do?

Back on day 170 of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic, August 31, 2020, I committed to a 52 week journey in a new book. Click here to read that first of 52 posts. I had received an advanced copy of Mindset Mondays With DTK: 52 Ways to REWIRE Your Thinking and Transform Your Life. The author, David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), told us that the book was to be savored over time and used every week for a year. As most of you know, I love books that are organized in 52 lessons to use over a years time. That gives me a chance to also do weekly reflection blog posts. This post is the 52nd and final post. Today, on day 538 of the continuing global pandemic, one day shy of a full year later, I complete the 52 week journey of learning. But really it’s not a completion, but a beginning because of being able to live an even better and REWIRED (see photo) life from having read this book and encountered DTK.

Ironically, Chapter 52, entitled Venture Ahead, is very related to some leadership development lessons I have been teaching in the past week. I’ve been using the driving question of “What Are You Prepared To Do?” After discussions of core values, shape shifting, leadership mantras, and legacies, I always show this video clip from The Unstoppables:

I also chuckle at the fact that I have used quotes Václav Havel while facilitating in the last week and DTK has quoted him in this chapter. Here is the quote I’ve been using:

“…it is clearly necessary to invent organizational structures appropriate to the multicultural age. But such efforts are doomed to failure if they do not grow out of something deeper; out of generally held values.”

~ Václav Havel

Here’s the quote from Havel in Chapter 52 used by DTK:

“Vision is not enough. It must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must also step up the stairs.”

~ Václav Havel

The 52 lessons of this book have given me structured time to think about the things I believe in and want to leave as a legacy. It has also given me an opportunity to take stock of where I am and next steps. DTK called this “Tak[ing] stock of who you’ve become through the work you’ve done” (p. 354). Now I need to up the metaphorical staircase by taking the first step.

“Who you are is who you choose to be. It’s what you think, and what you do with what you think, and what you give, and what you ask for, and ultimately what you stand for” (p. 355). What are you prepared to do?

Playing Full Out

“If your life were a play, how would the audience react” (p. 348). DTK proposed this thought experiment in Chapter 51 entitled, “Strive for Excellence, of Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). I really like the way he set this up by saying that he wasn’t suggesting we live our lives by the way we appear to others, but understanding the impact we have on others. When I think about actors in a play, movie, or even television program, they can have an impact on us. The best do. This is no different for us as leaders.

I was reminded yesterday how important the way we act is to the impact we have on others. While working my way through classroom visits in a school I do teacher coaching for I ran into a teacher in the school and he said, “I am so glad you are here. You bring such a positive vibe when you are here to us all.” I gotta say that made my day. Because along with helping teachers be highly effective for the students we serve, I want there to be positivity for all. Therefore, we need to do as DTK suggests, “…play full-out in life” (p. 348). The goal is to go as far as you can with all that you’ve got, and when you fall down, you get back up and keep going.

Excellence to me means bringing out the best in others. When we play full-out we need to bring our A-game to whatever we are doing, it has a noticeable impact on others. It raises the bar for everyone. We also need to bring excellence to the thoughts that we think and the words that we use, making sure they’re positive, supportive, and appreciative (of ourselves and others). Play full out. Don’t hold back.

Being Somebody Who Reminds Everybody of Nobody

Posted in Creativity, DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 16, 2021

In Chapter 50 entitled, “Create Yourself,” of in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) DTK asked us the question, “Are you ready to create your one wild and precious life” (p. 345). His point was for to become entrepreneurs of our lives instead of managers. DTK opined that instead of searching and trying to find our next calling, job, or relationship, we needed to instead create them. As he pointed out, “A manager does. An entrepreneur creates.” Creating is such an active verb for our lives.

It’s never too late to become the person you have always wanted to. This is much easier said, however, than done. We aren’t here to all follow the same route on the same map. We are here to create our own. It’s the experiences we decide to make on our own that help us create ourselves. When we go off track, and start forming our own route instead of following in the footsteps of others- these are the moments that define us.

I have always loved the idea of being somebody who reminds everybody of nobody. Think about it; that means we’ve created a “one of a kind.” We are brilliant, unusual, interesting, and a first. Every one of us is unique, but the only way we can show that uniqueness is to create the “me” you want to be.

Building A Balanced Portfolio

Posted in DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 7, 2021

It was a great lesson this week in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). Chapter 49 was entitled, “Know Your Currencies.” DTK told us money isn’t the metric. DTK argued that money is not currency, but tool used to fund what we truly value. Our values, he contends, are our currency. This reminded me of something my dad always said: “A nice house doesn’t make a home.” We’ve all seen it; the people with gazillion dollar, gazillion square foot home, and the not-so-great family life. As my dad said, the nice house did not make it a great home. Clearly in this example the thing, house, was the valued currency.

I loved the question from DTK of, “Is what I am attending to now worth my attention?” We have so many currencies that are more valuable than money:

  • Time
  • Attention
  • Learning
  • Growth
  • Self-care
  • Connection
  • (Feel free to fill in the blank)

Remember, money is a tool and just an indicator of what we value. Look at an organization’s budget and you see what it values. But we also need to be as intentional about how we use our time, energy, emotion, and attention.

Don’t Be A Blind Follower

Posted in DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 28, 2021

I had to laugh, because when I started reading Chapter 48, “Don’t Get Fooled Again,” in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), I immediately thought of the great song from The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and little did I know that at the end of the chapter DTK would make reference to the song as playing in the back of his mind. But, the song really is relevant here. Pete Townshend wrote this song about a revolution. He was telling us through the song to beware of our “leaders” and have an independent, inquiring mind, don’t be just a blind follower. Assuming a position of inquiry is not only important in Townshend’s context, but also in our cultural beliefs and personal beliefs.

We believe many things that are not based on fact. It is okay to examine our own perspectives and question what we believe. DTK told us, “Without digging deep, it’s easy to find yourself accepting fantasy as true and choosing denial over truth” (p. 332). We must not let fantasy control truth. When speaking of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in Rolling Stone magazine, Townshend said, “It’s interesting it’s been taken up in an anthemic sense when in fact it’s such a cautionary piece.” Let’s exercise caution so we don’t get fooled again.

Flip On Your Awareness

“Because once we are aware, we are also at choice” (p. 323 in Chapter 47, Find The Magic, of Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus – DTK). In other words, once we are aware of all the possibilities and our own desires we must choose to do the work and create the conditions for luck, magic, and success to unfold” (p. 324). This is why I love immersing myself in intersectional learning. By interacting and learning from those outside the world I know I am able to become aware of what is on the horizon. Without flipping this switch on it would be just like really trying to chase the horizon – it’s out there, and you can move toward it, but you never get there.

DTK told us that this awareness becomes dot, or real place, on the horizon. Once we have this awareness, we must work hard to create the conditions for that which we choose to accomplish happen. That requires belief and action. How about you? Are you ready to flip the switch on to your awareness?

Living Full-Out

Posted in Dreams, DTK, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays, Vision, Visionary, Visionary Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 13, 2021

There was a lot to digest in the four pages of Chapter 46, “Don’t Wait to Live” in Mindset Mondays with DTKby David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). If I was forced to rank the weekly chapter lessons thus far, this would be one of my favorites. DTK told us that “People regretted dying with their songs still inside them” (p. 318). He went on to say, “…the only thing keeping us from living full-out is stuff we make up” (p. 319). I’m hoping both of those comments make you ponder and reflect as much as they did me. The ideas of happiness and regret are things I blog about often and discuss in leadership development workshops. In fact, I just dug into “anticipatory regret” and “existential regret” in What Will You Regret When You Are 80 Years Old? And, one of my favorite posts on happiness is Finding Happiness Right Where We Are.

After I read chapter 46 yesterday, I was reading about and watching video of Richard Branson taking his ride into suborbital space aboard a rocket he helped fund. He was the first to do this. On LinkedIn he said, “There are no words to describe the feeling. This is space travel. This is a dream turned reality.” As a student of the ultimate role model dreamer and innovator, Richard Branson, I am pretty sure the only song that will be left in him when he dies is whatever wild and crazy idea(s) he is working on at the time. I’m pretty sure there will be no regrets – except maybe to have done even more. He is the role model for showing us how to turn dreams into reality. This first fully crewed flight of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity space plane was a major milestone in the commercial space industry.

Yesterday, I tweeted, “Congratulations @richardbranson and @virgingalactic! Thanks for always modeling being a trailblazer for us.” This flight was such a huge example of “living full-out.” The stuff we do on a daily basis may not be as huge as going to outer space, but just as important to those we serve and ourselves. I’ll close with this drop the mic moment and quote from Branson while in outer space that says it all, “I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.” 🎤

20 Seconds Of Bravery

“What if it is about creating your vision, developing your plan, and taking one bold step after another, just twenty seconds of bravery at a time?” (p. 313) I had to begin my post on Chapter 45, “Boldness & Bravery” in Mindset Mondays with DTKby David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), with this quote from DTK. Having just launched my new business last week, Leadery Global, I needed this little pep talk to get my week started. I am “…step[ping] boldly into what’s present, and danc[ing] with whatever’s on the field” (p. 312). Choosing to be bold is what DTK was talking about in this chapter. He also reminded us, however, to be responsive, not reactive – no knee-jerk reactions.

Now, back to my favorite part of the chapter – 20 seconds of bravery. DTK is referring to a movie his wife, Elaine, saw claiming that it only takes 20 seconds of true bravery to overcome obstacles. If you think about those things we put off instead of doing what Brian Tracy called “Eating The Frog,” it makes sense. The more we avoid something, the more it controls our life. Just as first responders run toward the danger, we need to face our fears instead of being controlled by them. All it takes is 20 seconds!

What can you choose to be bold for 20 seconds of bravery about today? It may just change the entire trajectory of your life!

You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best!

In Chapter 44, “Trust Yourself to Create” of Mindset Mondays with DTKby David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), DTK told us, “Personally, I’d rather be judged by the world for what I do than judged by myself for what I don’t do” (p. 307). Many times we let the thought of failure or being judged keep us from getting started. We live in a world where we judge ourselves, judge others, and get judged by others. As I was watching A & E’s great Biography: KISStory Volume I last night it was said that KISS was not a critic’s band, but a band of the people. What that meant was that KISS didn’t care how the critics judged them. They cared that the fans believed they were getting the best show in the world!

Some measure life through money and accolades. Others measure it through beauty and popularity. Others measure it through family and relationships. Others measure it through service and good deeds. Chances are you measure it through some combination of all of these things, but one in particular matters most to you. This is where our values and our own identity come into play. As Gene Simmons said, “Figure out for yourself what makes you special and then create it.” “We [KiSS] were authentically us.” No one else can tell you what that is. Paul Stanley weighed in on this when he said, “No matter who you aspire to be, and how hard to try to be them, you will never be better than they are at it, so you must be the best at being who you are.” In other words we must know who we are, what we stand for, and what our competitive advantage is.

The more we are able to measure ourselves by our own internal metrics the better off we will be. The more external (the critics) our metrics for our own value and self-worth, the more we screw everything up for ourselves. An important part of our own personal growth is to recognize our own fixation, to recognize how we measure ourselves and consciously choose our internal metrics for ourselves. We must also recognize that everyone else in the world have their own metrics for judging that might, or might not, match our own. Paul Stanley shared, “We were the ones that weren’t supposed to succeed. We followed our own instincts.” Had KISS listened to the critics we might not be celebrating nearly 50 years of the greatest rock and roll band ever. Be best according to the metrics you determine.