Byron's Babbles

Putting More Carpe In Your Diem

Posted in Carpe Diem, Global Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 12, 2020

Today, someone said they “needed to put more carpe in their diem.” You all know me; this got me thinking about how one would do this. “Carpe diem” is a Latin aphorism, usually translated “seize the day” or “pluck the day [as it is ripe]”. It is a philosophy that I think we should take more seriously. I like the “pluck the day” interpretation the best. Plucking is an action, like picking a ripe apple from a tree. If not picked when ripe it will fall from the tree and rot. Sometimes I believe we should focus less on what should happen in the future and more on what is happening now.

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

~ General George Patton

If the apple is ripe today, we better pick it. Wind could blow it off the tree over night, or insects, or birds could begin to eat the apple before we have the chance. What does this metaphor teach us? We have more control over the present than we ever do over the future. Here are the questions we need to be answering:

  • What can I do right now to move what I am trying to do in the direction I would like to see things go?
  • What are the possibilities?
  • What are the opportunities available right now?
  • How do I move what I’m trying to accomplish in the direction I would like to see things go?

We can make sure we are prepared for the future, but not at the expense of living for the present day. Pluck the day.

Work From The Heart

Posted in Bible, Leadership, New Orleans, New Orleans Saints, Passion, Purpose, Terron Armstead by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 11, 2020

I am amazed at how one football game is now prompting a third blog post from me. The game was the amazing 38-3 win of the New Orleans Saints over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night. Posts are already out there from me entitled Spreading The Wealth and Catch Me and Prop Me Up inspired by this game. This post is inspired by Terron Armstead, who was really the inspiration for the latter mentioned post as well, and his posting of Colossians 3:23 on his twitter landing. When someone posts a Bible verse, if I don’t remember it, I always look it up and reflect on it. Here is the verse from The Message Bible:

“Work from the heart for your real Master, for God,” ~ Paul to the Colossians

Colossians 3:23 The Message Bible

So this immediately meant working from passion and purpose. I also went ahead and read the whole chapter (3), and verse 17 (Colossians 3:17 The Message Bible) jumped out. Here it is:

“Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” ~ Paul to the Collosians

Colossians 3:17 The Message Bible

Does this speak to character, or what? This is all about walking the talk! Our conduct should extend to all aspects of our life, not just a small set of rules. Then for me I need to put verses 22-25 all together. Here is how it reads in The Message Bible:

22Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. 23 Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, 24 confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. 25 The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” ~ Paul to the Colossians

Colossians 3:22-25 The Message Bible

In other words we are to work heartily, giving it our best every day. I believe this why Terron picked this as the Bible verse to put on his landing page. In his case he must give of his all whether it be working out, studying film, practicing in order for him to be able to show up as a positive role model on one of the world’s largest stages NFL game day. This is all about enthusiasm and passion. We may not be on as big a stage as Terron, but we do have influence on others. Demonstrating a good work ethic and attitude makes a tremendous difference on our personal life and on the influence we have on others. Thanks Terron Armstead for posting Colossians 3:23 on your Twitter landing so we could be inspired in the influence we have on others.

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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?

Spreading The Wealth

Over the weekend a teacher leader asked me how her principal should be deciding which teachers should get development opportunities and be empowered. I said, “That’s easy; all of them should be getting those opportunities.” As I learned from Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, everyone has potential. Everyone should have empowerment and opportunities for development. Really, our teacher leaders should all have individualized development plans. Therefore, everyone should be in development mode and be empowered to lead from where they are. Everyone is a leader, so leadership should happen whenever and from wherever it is needed. We need to be very careful to not fall in the trap of “earned empowerment.” In other words only empowering the chosen ones who someone thinks has earned it. This might yield empowering and developing 10% at best. I blogged about this in Earned Empowerment is Dangerous.

Then tonight I was reminded how important it is to have the whole team empowered and ready for action. In the first quarter of the New Orleans Saints big 38-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Drew Brees had thrown completed passes to nine different receivers. At the end of the first half he had thrown completions to 12 different receivers. That is a big deal. Think about how much more successful the Saints are with that many empowered targets.

So, we probably better take a page from the Saints playbook and empower and develop everyone. Think about it; if we are able to empower all of our people with projects and responsibilities, aren’t we really expanding the capacity of our organization. Really, mass empowerment equals capacity building. This in turn means leadership development of our teams. It also allows us to tap into all of our resources and expertise, which can lead to achieving amazing results.

Great leadership is shifting from telling everyone what to do, to empowering and developing everyone to be ready to come up with the best and brightest ideas and solutions that have ever been thought of before. This will give you a receiver core for big wins like Drew Brees and the Saints.

Leaders Weaving The Web

Posted in 3D Leadership, Education, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 7, 2020

This morning when I went out to do the morning feeding I saw a very beautiful spider web as I went in the barn. It was so awesomely constructed I had to take a picture and then I got the inspiration to use it in a 3D Leadership Gathering I was facilitating for our Florida participants today. I had them relate the spider web to their leadership development during the last 240 days of the Global Pandemic. A great way to describe leadership is to compare the construction and function of a spider web. Just like each strand of web is carefully woven in just the right places for a spider to capture what’s necessary for it to survive, an effective leader also weaves attributes that attract and nurture those the leader serves. Each strand of that web is a specific tactic the leader can use to engage and influence.

We discussed the vibrations that happen when something touches or gets caught in the web. These vibrations go quickly through an organization so communications should be chosen carefully. A leader should have a meaningful feel of what is going on at the ground in the organization, and that he or she should want to be in touch with the whole organization through effective representatives, reports, liaisons, collegiality, and partnerships within the organization. Leaders should constantly work towards enabling their organizations to become intricately woven groups of people in harmonious partnership.

Leading With Artisanship

Posted in Artisan, Artist, DTK, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 2, 2020

It’s funny to me how reading something can make me think of something that I haven’t thought about, at least consciously, for a while. When reading Lesson 10, “Surrender Overthinking” in Mindset Mondays with DTK by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK), I came across this statement:

“I don’t have a fantasy of being an artist…not in terms of painting, or sculpture, or any of the expressive arts. I do want to be an artist in how I serve people, and the work that I do in the world. If I’m overthinking, my art is compromised and my creative energy is spent spinning my wheels, or ‘catastrophizing forward’.”

~ David Taylor-Klause, 2020, Mindset Mondays with DTK, p. 98.

This got me to thinking about the work of Patricia Pitcher. Her work of studying leaders was very influential and I consider her to have been very influential on my leadership development. Her books The Drama of Leadership: Artists, Craftmen, and Technocrats and the Power Struggle That Shapes Organizations and Societies (1997) and Artists, Craftsmen, and Technocrats: The Dreams, Realities, and Illusions of Leadership (1997, 2nd edition) easily make my top five list of influential books. These books make the top of the list because they helped me understand myself as an artistic leader and be comfortable with that. Pitcher saw the artistic leader as an inspiring and visionary risk-taker, guided by an intuitive sense of the future. Now, unlike DTK who has no interest in being an expressive artist, I really want to be a rock star, but I just don’t have any talent. I do find great inspiration from studying rock bands, the inspiration for songs, and the innovative ideas they come up with.

“I am trying to think out a short story. I’ve got the closing sentence of it all arranged and it is good and strong, but I haven’t got any of the rest of the story yet.”

~ Mark Twain

The technocrat, the category which many leaders fit, is the nemesis of the artist. They are organized box checkers who use the term “teamwork” a lot, but operate with a “my way or the doorway” and “paint-by-numbers” mentality. The technocrat will be fearful of making imaginative decision and before any ideas can be thought through is already trying to fit the ideas in a box and understand how to manage it. Boy am I glad I did not end up a technocrat – I dream too much and I’ve got too much imagination for that. As an artist I do tend to overthink things, but usually not looking for problems. This was the point of DTK’s Lesson 10; we should not focus too much on what could go wrong. We need to anticipate obstacles and opportunities, but not let them hinder moving forward.

I learned from Pitcher that as an artist I will, at times, have vague, indefinable, long-term visions that get clarified by action and remaining open to new insights. Artists know where they are going, but sometimes it’s vague and more a trip that destination. This to me would be one way to keep from overthinking things – focus on the journey more than the destination. It’s why I choose to inspire with metaphors rather than with detailed descriptions of the future. Think about this:

“I claim that the visions of the visionary [artist] leader are no different in form or origin than those of an artist. If you ask a great painter what he or she’s going to paint next, it’s a rare one who will have a detailed answer and if he or she does, I doubt he or she satisfies the definition of great.

~ Patricia Pitcher, 1997, The Drama of Leadership, kindle location 196 of 2456.

Research tells us that the best artists stay radically open as they work on a canvas; there is a continuous interaction between a vague vision and the concrete act of painting. In my conversations with the artists and song writers in rock bands I have found the same thing. For example, a riff gets written and suddenly an entire song is born. It’s why we artist leaders live for the metaphor. I am always looking for intersectional creativity – the intersection of different fields, ideas, people, and cultures. DTK told us to “Take this moment to consider that there are endless possibilities, opportunities, and forces working on your behalf” (p. 98). We need, as Pitcher taught us, to let our intuitive sense of the future take over. So as we take to our leadership canvas, let’s open our minds to creativity, ideas, and opportunities, but not overthink all that could go wrong.

Listen and Look, Look and Listen

Posted in Leadership, Listen, Listening, Look by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 1, 2020

After the New Orleans Saints overtime win over the Chicago Bears tonight I was flipping through the channels (I know that term ages me) and came across an old episode of Columbo. I love that old show. Lt. Columbo, played by the late Peter Falk, is a police detective who is a little quirky, always has a cigar, makes you think he’s not too smart, but is super attentive. In the episode I turned to, he said “we don’t usually have much to go on except to listen and look and look and listen.” This struck me as the essence of what we all need to be doing. Columbo makes the guilty parties believe he is inept, but then teases out all the clues to solve the crime and prove guilt. Lt. Columbo makes an observation about some inconsistency. The seemingly trivial, it turns out to be the detail will tie together the entire investigation and establish the culpability.

Columbo brought a sense of curiosity and was sensitive to inconsistencies and incongruities. So, if we think about the term “look” we find that it means to direct your eyes in a certain direction. Then, “listen” means to pay attention to someone or something in order to hear what is being said, or sometimes what is not being said. “Listen” and “look” are actions usually thought of when we are paying attention.

We need to be more like Lt. Columbo and pay attention by listening and looking to focus our minds on someone or something that is happening.

Out Of All People

Posted in Bible, Brett Phillips, Global Leadership, Leadership, World Series by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 31, 2020

While doing some heavy tweeting during the World Series, I came across Bible verses on Major League Baseball Players’ Twitter landings. I would then quiz myself to see if I remembered the verse and look it up when I didn’t. I did a lot of looking up. When I was tweeting out to Brett Phillips after that great Tampa Bay Rays win in Game4, I noticed he had Isaiah 41:10 listed. This Bible verse shows up a lot for athletes. It goes, “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you” (Isaiah 41:10 | MSG).

Basically, God is telling the children of Israel, of which we are a part, that he has our backs. If God talked like me, the verse would sound like this: “Chill, I’ve got your back,” or “Dude, you’ve got this.” Then, a couple of days ago I noticed on a great Twitter connection of mine, Alain Dizon, that verse 9 was added to the Twitter landing with Isaiah 41:10. So, I looked up verse 9, which says, “I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you’” (Isaiah 41:9 | MSG). This verse is profound – we are all picked; we’re certainly not going to get dropped from the picture. This verse might be a bigger deal than verse 10.

In other words, out of all people, God has a calling for each of us – a mission – a reason to live and something to accomplish. He has chosen you and me, and not cast us away. Each of us has an individual purpose in life and God will help us accomplish it. We should never be afraid it’s too late to accomplish our purpose, of physical challenges, or any other obstacles. God won’t leave us hanging. We have no reason to be afraid that we can’t live up to expectations and live with purpose. Whatever the challenge, God will offer his help, and his hand. Verse 10 then ties the whole thing together and brings to mind the strong image of God as our good, best, and perfect friend. He will take our hand to help us through the challenges that we face.

So, what’s your individual purpose in life? Out of all people, it is up to you to carry out that life’s mission and purpose. We all need you!

An Invitation

Posted in Communal, Community, Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Invitation, Invite, Leadership, NASBE by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 29, 2020

“It is such an honor to be part of a community of citizen leaders who seek conversations by showing up through invitation rather than mandate, and the diverse gifts of each person are acknowledged and valued. Together we will answer the question, ‘What can we create together?’ so students of all backgrounds and circumstances are prepared to succeed in school, work, and life.”

~ My remarks on October 22, 2020 when accepting the gavel as Chair of the National Association State Boards of Education Board (NASBE) of Directors

The remarks above come from the personal core values I have developed from being a student of Peter Block. Peter Block’s name is synonymous with “Community” and he literally wrote the book on it: Community: The Structure of Belonging. I first became acquainted with Peter through my great friend Mike Fleisch. Mike kept telling me that everything I believed in was aligned with Block’s values as well. Mike told me I just had to read the book, Community, and that I would learn so much from Peter Block. So, I began reading and studying, and have since had the chance to visit with Peter Block a couple of times. The bottom line is that everything we do is as part of a community whether it is an organization, neighborhood, city, country, or world that works for all. We need to take our membership in these organization, truly belong, and then be accountable for the leadership of making communities great to be part of.

So, my post here deals with an organization, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) – let’s call the organization a community. A week ago I took the helm as Chair of the Board of Directors and I reflected back on how I really came to be so involved and belong in this organization. It all happened because of one of the most powerful tools that Peter Block says we have in a community in the power of the invitation. The question becomes “Whom do we choose to invite into the room?” In our case as an organization made of state boards of education and their members, that’s who we want to invite, right?

“If the artist is one who captures the nuance of experience, then this is whom each of us must become.” ~ Peter Block

(Block, 2008, p. 9)

That is where my story begins. Shortly after being appointed to the Indiana State Board of Education back in 2015, fellow board member, Gordon Hendry, personally invited me to attend the NASBE New Member Institute. Peter Block would remind us how powerful the invite is “because at the moment of inviting, hospitality is created in the world” (Block, 2008, p. 117). Gordon told me about NASBE and how valuable the organization would be to my development as a board member and how awesome the New Member Institute is. Here’s the deal: any new state member can go to New Member Institute. But, here’s the big deal: Gordon Hendry had asked me to attend and raved about how great it was. How could I refuse? I couldn’t abdicate my responsibility to the communal structure. I registered and I attended. I didn’t just attend, however, I became a part of the fabric of NASBE and was woven into the fabric of a collective community of great citizen leaders from all over the United States, including Guam.

This transformation from thread to fabric happened because another group from Delaware (without consulting me, I might add) nominated me during the Institute to serve as the New Member Representative to the Board of Directors. First of all, how cool is that? Quite an honor coming from my new east coast friends. Secondly, how cool is it that an organization has a new member sit on their board? What a way to truly get to know customer needs, right? Anyway, the members from Delaware nominated me and a day later somehow I was elected to serve on the Board of Directors (and there were even three other candidates). The rest is history or history that is still being written. I served two years as New Member Representative, then two years as Secretary-Treasurer, then a year as Chair-Elect, will serve this year as Chair, and then next year my final year on the Board will be as Past-Chair.

Again, what a ride that is still running. Here’s my point in all this: none of this would have happened without the invitation from Gordon Hendry to be at the “table” and then the Delaware delegation further weaving me into the social fabric by nominating (a form of invitation) me as a New Member Representative on the Board. Peter Block taught us that, “To build community, we seek conversations where people show up by invitation rather that mandate, and experience an intimate and authentic relatedness” (Block, 2008, p. 93). We need to have diversity of thinking, dissent encouraged and valued, and the gifts of everyone valued.

Our NASBE community is an asset-based community that is continually evolving because of the tremendous aptitude of our members. Together we continue to advance education equity and excellence for students of all races, genders, and circumstances by answering the question, “What can we create together?”

What do you have going on, and who do you need to invite? Go ahead and bring some more hospitality to the world!