Byron's Babbles

Contrarian Thinker

One day, this past week, I was introduced to a group I was speaking to as a “Contrarian Thinker.” Honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. After doing a little research, however, I found that this was probably a pretty accurate description. Contrarian thinkers are trailblazers. ✔️Check. They are polarizing visionaries who are just as likely to be called crazy before brilliant. ✔️Check. Contrarian thinkers have the foresight to see hidden opportunities and seize them when the right moment presents itself. I would like to think I do this, but I’m not so arrogant to say check on this one.

Never forget, the risks of going against the crowd are greater, but so are the rewards. The rewards of innovating, curiosity, and an imagination gone wild are always worth the effort. An important fact for a contrarian thinker to remember is that no one will be expecting you or your ideas to succeed, which is one of the reasons you will.

Then, last night as I was flipping through the channels (are they still called channels on the tv?) I stopped on Shark Tank long enough to hear Mark Cuban described by one of the other Sharks as a contrarian thinker. So, off I went to learn more about his storied history.

While reading 9 Critical Turning Points That Shaped Mark Cuban’s Extraordinary Career by Drake Baer, I found that Mark Cuban is a contrarian thinker. One of my favorite quotes from Mark Cuban in the article is, “The ‘sprint’ doesn’t have a finish line. There’s never a point where you can say, ‘We’ve made it.'”

The more I studied this topic, however, I really found that many contrarian thinkers always find an opposing view. I don’t think that is me at all. Nor do I believe that would be very productive. A more productive view would be one of “independent thinker.” My takeaway to share with you is that rather than always being swayed by consensus view, or consistently being a contrarian, we should strive to be independent thinkers. I always strive, and would encourage you to as well, look at different perspectives, and sometimes find a unique angle.

Remember, if you think the same way as everyone else, it is very difficult to outperform them.

Play Chess, Not Checkers

IMG_5092Good Leaders Play Checkers.

Great Leaders Play Chess!

Great leaders recognize that each piece on the chess board is different. You cannot play the game (lead), much less win the game, if you do not appreciate, leverage, and deploy each of the pieces in their own unique and individual way.

So today, I facilitated a professional development session for Georgia and Florida principals that I title “Play Chess, Not Checkers.” I started off by asking two questions:

  1. What are the differences between checkers and chess?
  2. What must you be able to do to win at chess?

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a picture of the notes we took during discussion:IMG_5468

Here are some quotes from the day that stood out:

“What can I attack now, and what can wait.”

“Do You have the skills to pivot?”

“We need big vision protectors.”

“The wrong player changes the entire game.”

“What happens when you hire a leader who runs it like a checker game, instead of chess?”

For this next quote I need to put up the graphic I drew:

This was such a great discussion. And, of course, we could not move on without having them create their own model the ideal leadership chess game. Check out this video of their creation:

As you can see this was a very inspirational and meaningful discussion. We gave a lot of thought to how we lead and the environment we create by using the context of playing chess. How about you? Do you lead like a chess or checkers player?

 

 

Dream Of Things That Never Were…

Not too long ago, I was in a meeting and one of the participants said, “we need to think in terms of aspirational goals, not what is already being done.” The individual went on to say, “you know, the way Byron is always coming up with wild ideas that nobody thinks could ever happen.” This really got me thinking about the value of aspirational thinking, planning, and goal making. I am guilty as charged for thinking this way. I guess my mind works in the way Robert Kennedy described it when paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw’s play Back To Methuselah (1921):

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” ~ Robert Kennedy

Dreaming is aspirational, and fundamentally changes the way we think. This aspirational thinking liberates leaders to achieve the unachievable. Instead of being locked into what is theoretically achievable, we need to be asking the question “why can’t we do this?” We need to find ways to become unburdened by “the way things are done around here?” I love to ask the question “why is this still being done this way?” Almost three years ago I started asking the question “why are we one of only 14 states that still uses/has a graduation qualifying exam (GQE)?” Now, Indiana has Graduation Pathways with multiple ways to graduate based on the student desires, goals, and needs. We no longer have a GQE, or single path to graduation. Don’t think we didn’t here “This is the way it’s been done.” Or, “We’ll never get this changed.” But, guess what? We did, and it was the right thing to do for Indiana students. It started with an aspirational dream (and getting laughed out of a few meetings).

One advantage I have when it comes to aspirational dreaming is that I am comfortable being uncomfortable. Individuals, organizations, and groups need to remember it is important to set a goal or go after a dream without necessarily providing or having full certainty about exactly how it will be achieved. Clarity is achieved, however, from understanding why the aspirational goal is necessary.

Aspirational dreaming allows us to operate in an environment where “we are open to doing things differently.” There is something almost magical about having goals that are aspirational in nature. An aspirational goal defies logic in many ways in that you can’t see a specific path to achieving the goal when you set it. You just know that it is something that is very important and you want to find a way to bring it into your life or the lives of others over time.

Go ahead, dream a little and pull the levers that have never been pulled before, and ask “why not?”

Pushing Our Boundaries & Reaching Beyond Ourselves

As I was driving across Central Florida from Orlando to Tampa yesterday on I-4, I noticed a place that I will definitely have to factor into my next excursion for facilitating my Florida 3D Leadership gatherings. When I got to Polk City I looked over to the north and saw a place called Fantasy of Flight. As you all know, I am an avid student of the history of flight; particularly as it relates to the Wright Brothers. I have blogged about them so many times I am not going to put any links to posts here, but if you search Wright Brothers here in my blog you will find lots about the inspiration I have found from these to great men in our world’s history.

I say world’s history because I really believe that their tenacity and vision for the why of flight might be the single most important innovation ever. This is why I was so struck by the name of this museum and event venue – Fantasy of Flight. It is so perfect because for so many flight was a fantasy. But, the right brothers took the fantasy and made it a reality. This quote from the owner, Kermit Weeks, is so perfect (Not to mention that I love metaphors!):

“Flight is the most profound metaphor for pushing our boundaries, reaching beyond ourselves, and freedom. And…don’t we All…fly in our dreams?” ~ Kermit Weeks

As I continued across the beautiful Florida countryside I noticed many birds and remembered how the Wright Brothers studied the wings of birds and how they took off, landed, climbed in altitude, and glided. I can imagine them fantasizing about flying. It is hard for me to imagine what was going through their minds. I’ve never lived in a time without airplanes, so I am envious of their incredible, artistic, and creative abilities that it took to invent the first plane. They used intersective innovation by taking the design of the bird and applying it to the first flying machine. Amazingly, those same designs and innovations on the first Wright flyer are in use on the plane I am sitting on right now, preparing to fly me home.

Imagine the audacity to think they could build a machine that would fly. Remember, people made fun of them. Also, the audacity to know what being able to fly would do to affect all generations to come. In other words, WHY being able to fly would be advantageous to the human race. Basically, everything in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum , where their first plane is on display, is there as a result of the Wright Brother’s innovative leadership! Additionally, there would be no Fantasy Of Flight museum without the Wright Brothers.

I am so glad I was paying attention on my drive yesterday and saw Fantasy Of Flight. It also gives me something to look forward to exploring. I so want to meet Kermit Weeks. I also see where they have flying experiences available in bi-planes – I am so doing it! I can’t wait to fly out in the open air like Orville did on that fateful day in December, 1903.

The Wright Brothers believed that just because it had never been done before, did not mean that it could not be done. They were modeling for us how to push beyond the boundaries. Think about all the impossible things that have been conquered by man. These things might include, landing on the moon, landing a craft on Mars, curing many diseases, organ transplants, and yes – even first flight.

What are you working on that is pushing your boundaries? What is your Fantasy Of (insert here)? Go ahead, fly in your dreams!

Shaking Our American Demons

This past week I started a session of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program by playing the song “Do You Really Want It?” by Nothing More. The participants were to listen and graphically reflect on what the song meant to them as leaders. Click here to read another post, “What Do You Really Want?”, I wrote about this song and see a music video of the song. One of the things we discussed during this pat Thursday’s session was a phrase in the song (Do You Really Want It?) that says, “We say ‘give me a sign that proves what I believe in’ So I can shake these American demons.”

This was actually a phrase I discussed with Johnny Hawkins when on the tour bus hanging out with Nothing More a week ago. Our 3D Leadership participants discussed it in much the same way as Johnny did. They talked about how, as Americans, we are so prosperous, but we do not set our future generations up for success.

As I reflect on this great discussion I think about how we, United States Of America, are so different from other countries of the world. For one thing, we were an experiment. Plus, American independence, of course, involved more than humility. It was an act of defiance rooted in an arm-long list of grievances. While pondering all this I went back and studied the Declaration Of Independence. The Declaration was the genius of our founders. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln that posited that the founders did not need much of what is in the Declaration just to declare our independence from Great Britain.

Our Founders, however, had the forethought, according to Lincoln, to add in these words to our Declaration Of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” As I continue to read these words I believe this is our battle cry to shake our “American Demons.”

I believe it was incredibly visionary that our Founders included these concepts, knowing it would not be until later, when we actually got our government and society created that we would actually be able to begin to govern accordingly, and by these core values and beliefs. I also believe we have gotten away from walking the walk of our values we declared our independence with. What if we checked all our decisions against the fact we should secure our rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

To me, the Declaration of Independence proclaims we are all created equal. This means that all human beings, regardless of religion, sex, or skin color, possess the same natural rights. The Founders had to know that different people are unequal in physical and mental capacities. I believe we can shake our “American Demons” by always remembering that however noticeable the differences between people may be, they are never so great as to deprive them of their rights.

Pathways to Success after High School

A high school diploma no longer is the finish line—it’s now the starting line. Job growth and trends over the past 10 years have shown about 95 percent of jobs require some education after high school.

Recognizing that Indiana must offer more than a one-size-fits-all standardized test, the Indiana General Assembly took action to provide meaningful pathways for Hoosiers’ success. In the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers directed the Indiana State Board of Education to modify Indiana’s graduation requirements, ensuring students are better prepared to enter a new economy. The goal was simple: offer pathways that provide relevancy for students and better prepare them for life after high school.

Later that year, the State Board approved what is now known as Indiana’s Graduation Pathways. During this process, the State Board collaborated with national and state experts while engaging students, parents and educators on how to effectively deliver lasting value to all students through their education journey.

To complete a pathway, a student must take several actions, including fulfilling Indiana’s course requirements and completing an employability experience by applying classwork to real-world situations. This could include completion of an independent research project, participating in meaningful civic engagement or having a part-time job, apprenticeship or internship. Students must also choose a benchmark that best suits their career goals, such as taking the SAT or ACT to attend college, completing the ASVAB to join the military or earning a state-and-industry recognized credential or certification to join the workforce. Selecting and completing a pathway ensures students are better prepared to transition from high school to college, the workforce or the military.

While Graduation Pathways won’t be a requirement until the class of 2023 – this year’s eighth graders – some Indiana schools are implementing Graduation Pathways right now. In these school districts, parents and educators can have conversations with their students about an individualized graduation plan that provides students a relevant education, prepares them for the global economy fuels a desire for lifelong learning. Parents should have conversations with their local school officials to determine the implementation timeline at their child’s school.

Using Graduation Pathways allows Hoosier students to transition from high school into life’s next steps. Together, we’ll raise the bar for our state’s future workforce, so that today’s students will graduate with the relevant skills needed to compete in a global economy.

“The Rock” In The Atlantic Ocean

Yesterday while exploring the rocks along the Atlantic Coast of Maine I found a beautiful rock that once I took out of the ocean 🌊 wasn’t so beautiful any more. That experience prompted this VLOG Post:

https://youtu.be/lK92Io2ocWc

Leadership To Tear Down Walls

IMG_2465Today, I had the opportunity to stand in Berlin, Germany where President Ronald Reagan stood in 1987 behind two panes of bulletproof glass 100 yards from the Berlin Wall at the Brandenberg Gate and called on the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to dismantle it. I can remember that speech like it was yesterday and to then be standing there, was awe inspiring.

Think about it, at that time it was a very powerful stage: a United States president in front of the Brandenburg Gate at the height of the Cold War, with an East Berlin security post visible behind him. President Reagan firmly said, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” That is audacious leadership, and why President Reagan is at the top of my most admired Presidents list.IMG_2452

The effects of the speech have been debated by historians, but I will always believe it was an important part to the wall coming down and the freedom and unification of Germany. President Reagan’s speech emphasized freedom and reunification, and then ingeniously and deliberately asked for more than Gorbachev would stretch to. President Reagan saw an opportunity to undercut Europe’s perception of the Russian leader as a leader of peace. A little more than two years later, on Nov. 9, 1989, East and West Germans converged on the wall and began dismantling it after East Germany lifted travel restrictions. The country was reunified less than a year later in 1990. The wall had been in place from 1961-1989.

As a leader, President Reagan was showing us his resilience to continue working with the Soviet Union to end the Cold War. Most who listened at the time viewed Reagan’s speech as a dramatic appeal to Gorbachev to renew negotiations on nuclear arms reductions. eight months before, a summit between Reagan and Gorbachev had ended unsatisfactorily, with both sides charging the other with bad faith in talks aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals. Reagan, who had formed a personal closeness to Gorbachev during their previous meetings, obviously wanted to move those negotiations forward. In December 1987, the two met once again and signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear missiles from Europe.

IMG_2463President Reagan was a great leader because of his vision. He said, “America is too great for small dreams.” I believe this is true of every organization we lead. We need to dream big. My favorite President certainly did. Great leaders are not satisfied with small dreams. Rather than trying to just gain an edge over the Soviet Union, Reagan totally dismantled the “Evil Empire”, where he succeeded. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall was just one part of that vision.

Here is what former President George Bush had to say about President Reagan, “Our friend was strong and gentle. Once he called America hopeful, big hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair. That was America and, yes, our friend. And next, Ronald Reagan was beloved because of what he believed. He believed in America so he made it his shining city on a hill. He believed in freedom so he acted on behalf of its values and ideals. He believed in tomorrow so the great communicator became the great liberator.” President Reagan had a huge vision and had the audacity to go after it. Because of that the world is a better place and more nations are free because of him. Do you have an an uplifting and positive vision for your organization and our country and their future. Let’s get out there and tear down the walls.