In my last post, I have noticed and believe that we are all wearing a backpack, heavy with a collection of emotional weight connected to the particular difficulties of our daily lives. The collection of emotions have incredible negative effects on us, but are uniquely different for each person. Think of all the things added to the normal rollercoaster of life in just the last 9 months that would make our walk harder. We have all lost something, which means we have all gone through mourning. The weight of that is varied for each of us, but has value to each of us independently. We have lost traditions, passions, events, celebrations, jobs, dreams, and some of us have even lost people we love. The emotions of that loss are what we carry in our backpack.
So let’s go grab a mirror, and work to see our own backpack, which is often the hardest one to recognize. Are we taking time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves the hard questions?? Are we prepared to answer and deal with our own emotional weight? If you are like me, you might have said, “Trying to recognize the backpack is just MORE WEIGHT IN THE BACKPACK!!!”” Seems counterproductive, but we must begin with ourselves to not only see if we can lighten our load, but also prepare ourselves to potentially serve as leaders and lighten the load of others.
There are many ways you could accomplish this, but I believe it must include the following question:
“What is one thing consuming your thoughts and heavy on your heart more than any other thing in your life TODAY?!?!”
Two elements to this first step. One Thing. Today. You can’t dump the whole backpack on the bed and walk away with an empty backpack. That isn't realistic. I believe there is one thing that is heavier, that is making your back hurt a little more TODAY. Step 1: NAME THAT THING.
You will be astonished that just by naming it will start to change the shape and weight of your backpack. It allows you to begin to look at it differently, and begin to ask the next series of questions that will start to relieve you of some of that weight you are carrying around and prepare you to be a stronger better leader for others.
This is Part Two in a series focused on this concept. Follow me on FB or Instagram to journey with me to lighten the load of our students, teachers, parents, and community.
I miss backpacks. They are a true indicator that school is in session. I have found a strange void as both a teacher and a parent not to see students carrying them.
Usually, a backpack is full of the useful tools for success in school: books, computer, pens, pencils, lunch. They are adorned with cute cuddly characters as a youngster. Characters change to stickers, water bottles, and other personal items attached by a favorite color carabiner as students move to secondary school. The older the backpack, the bigger and heavier it got. I always laughed watching students compare their stories of future back surgeries attributed to their teacher of choice who assigned too much reading or homework.
Although we don’t see students carrying their backpacks in and out of school everyday, you can be sure that students are still carrying a backpack. Unfortunately, they aren’t full of useful tools. They are full of a smorgasbord of emotions not designed to help them find success. Anxiety. Fear. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Confusion. Mourning.
The answers are the same with every group of students I have worked with since leaving school in March. The weight of their backpacks are heavier than they have ever been. They are filled with a new strange weight that is hard to lighten.
The even stranger part is seeing how adults are carrying the same backpacks. Teachers, parents, and trusted adults who have been able to assist them in the past seem heavy with the weight of these same emotions. Everywhere we look we see people weighted down by their own backpack. WE ALL ARE WEARING A BACKPACK.
This is Part One in a series focused on this concept. Follow me on FB or Instagram to journey with me to lighten the load of our students, teachers, parents, and community.
I needed some inspiration. This COVID thing is pulling me away from the good things I hope to be. So the family moved our work/school space to find inspiration. This is what 14 sunrises reminded me.
1. I need to be more consistent in my leadership work. The sun shows up...everyday....in the same place...at the same time. The sun shows up.
2. I need to be more resilient in my leadership work. The sun doesn't make excuses if the weather isn't perfect. The horizon might be covered, the rain might be falling, but the sun still finds a way to fight through.
3. I need to be more present in my leadership work. Pictures never capture the beauty. That is why we traveled. To hear, smell, see, and EXPERIENCE the sunrise. You cannot replace being present in the midst of a sunrise.
4. I need to empower those around me when I have the opportunity in my leadership work. The sun isn't the thing. The sun may be the catalyst, but it is the way it makes everything around it better. The clouds, water, birds, rocks, and surroundings are the true beauty. Without them, it is great....but with them it is AWESOME.
4. I need to leave more warm feelings in my leadership work. There is instant warmth. The sun makes an impact IMMEDIATELY upon arrival. You can feel it on your face. The coldness is gone, and a beautiful warmth sets in.
5. I need to be mindful of my words and actions in my leadership work...people are watching and listening. The world stops. I observed 20+ surfers working to catch early morning waves one morning. The moment the sun arrived, they stopped. They turned around, watched and waited.
6. I need to be more proactive in my leadership work. It took me 6 months to find time for myself and my family to get recharged. I can't take care of anyone unless I take care of myself and those closest to me first. Get in it and make it happen.
14 sunrises. I needed them way more than they needed me to watch. I am thankful for the opportunity. I will continue to try to have them and the lessons they reminded me about change my attitude, my actions, and my leadership in the work to come. I hope you can find a sunrise or two when you need them as well.
Ok. So just like everyone said.....Hamilton didn't suck. It was VERY good. It was VERY GREAT. I laughed, I cried, I bounced, I grooved, I yelled, I jumped, and I left fulfilled and in anticipation when I could experience the genius again!!
I had to readjust my ears...I have been listening to recorded perfection for the last month in preparation, and was glad I reminded myself that perfection is not real theater...it's just a perfect recording. The real theater, of course, is greater than that.
The visceral emotion in the spoken and sung words, the inflection, the sweat, the movement, and the interaction of the eyes on the stage are all reasons we keep coming back to the stage to be whisked away from reality and placed in some strange dimension to have an emotional experience. Sure the rap, the characterization, the word painting, the grooves, the depth of choreography, sound and lighting in juxtaposition against the simplicity of the set, the chord progressions, and the singable melodies are all genius on their own.
I think, like all collaborative works of art, the TRUE GENIUS happened way before we all had a chance to enjoy the work. Collaborative genius happens when one brilliant artist shares and gives away something to another. I am sure there were moments where the non-negotiables stood strong, but every creative artist in this project had to share or give something away for the betterment of the greater work. I think that is the real genius.
Leaders in the real world are missing the mark. We are so concerned with our voice, our image, our ideas, our "credit", that we don't allow the collaborative genius to be created. When a "leader" isn't willing to listen, move, combine, connect, collaborate, and give something away, we miss the genius. Our self absorbed, narcissistic, arrogant ego rips the world from what could have happened and what NEEDED to happen.
The moment of genius never gets to be on the stage. It never reaches artistic peak. It dies and no one sees it. It never gets to take it's shot.
Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride- U2
1968. When I was studying it in school it seemed like FOREVER ago. Like a different lifetime. My parent's time. I am looking at 50 years in a not too distant future. Dr. King was shot 8 years before I was born. I grew up on Dr. King as a man of history. A king of voice, fight, and equality for all Americans who came before me. A man in the history books I wouldn't know or could connect with. I am white. I am privileged. How can I understand?
I can't understand.
I am hypersensitive to the fact that my privilege doesn't allow me to understand. But I can't stop there. I must do what I can do. I can think. I can listen. I can engage. I can empower. I can believe in humanity in a powerful active way. With my voice. With my vote. With my friends. With my enemies. With my children. With my students. For my students. For my community. For a greater civilization. For something bigger, better, and richer than myself. For the generations I will never meet. For the misinformed, mistreated, or misrepresented. To transform the injustice. To transform the arrogance. To transform the bigotry. To celebrate the change. To celebrate the successes. To celebrate the stories. To celebrate the moments when inequality loses and love wins.
In the name of love
What more in the name of love
1 Jump, 2 Hospitals, 3 Surgeries, 6 Different Antibiotics, 7 Centimeters of Tendon Removed, 10+ Doctors, 14 Weeks on a Scooter, 30 Weeks in a Boot, 126 Injections of Antibiotics, 161 Days of Pills
483 Days of Not Being Me.
What started as laughable, turned into unfortunate, and resulted in ridiculous. They said it would be 12 weeks. That turned into 64 weeks. I have lots of wonders about HOW and WHY the infection got in my body.
Best as I can figure: Shit happens...and this time it happened to me.
Lots of people have asked if I have learned anything during this time.
1. This isn't cancer. Get over yourself. I have this saying that we all have baggage, and everyone's baggage is the most important to them. My baggage during this was heavy. It sucks to carry it, and it isn't convenient.
Then I see someone carrying 10 bags or 100 bags. Some without help. Some without hope. It is those moments that I realize how lucky I am that my baggage is lifting and my chapter is coming to an end.
2. No, I am not going to slow down. I'm ready for the next jump. Many people, out of great concern, and with plenty of wisdom, have suggested maybe I go too fast. Maybe I am too old (thanks REALLY good friends).
I probably do too much and move too fast, but that is what makes me happy.
That is fundamentally who I am. I have to be hustling and moving to feel alive. The next jump will be smaller.
3. I need to make meals...every time...for everyone. My village is AMAZING. Meals. Visits. Dogwalking. Kidsitting. Playdates. Phone calls. Texts. Emails. Work coverage. It's not that I never make a meal for someone. It's that I didn't do it everytime. No excuses. I know I will take more action to ensure people are cared for when they need it. These next chapters need to be more about someone else then about me.
The IV line is out. The scooter is put away. There is still a long road ahead, but it is time to close the previous chapter to open the next. Today is Day One.
While I was working in Los Angeles in the last weeks, I took the recommendation of a wise friend and journeyed for a day to the Getty Museum. If you are ever in LA, this is a must. The views of the valley, mountains, ocean, city are a museum in itself. Coupled with the architecture and gardens of the facility, the scene is perfect for a getaway from life and an opportunity to rekindle your creative soul. I had forgot what solace can come when traveling alone and making time to immerse yourself in beauty. That needs to happen more often.
Within the walls of the museum were a huge variety of works, the majority of them owned and displayed by Getty in his home and eventually the Villa he built to his Santa Monica home. I do not claim to be an expert in visual art history, but know enough to recognize many of the artists in front of me: Rodin, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rembrandt but also countless artist names I didn't know. I imagined them alive, creating art, and wondered if they ever thought I would be studying their art in a building on top of a hill in Los Angeles. I also wondered in 500 years or 1000 years what art would lie in this same building from our current time.
Are portraits of aristocracy replaced by selfies? Are landscapes of nature replaced by the landscapes of buildings like the ones I could see from the hill? Is sculpture exchanged for the primitive technological devices we use and as people looked at them years from now, would they wonder how we ever survived? Would these works of the great artistic periods still exist in the museum, reigning over the attempted works of our time, or is there someone out there, pushing the envelope of creativity so our generations can be remembered and represented?
I think my greatest personal takeaway from the experience was the intentionality these artists put into their work without worry or wonder of where their art would be hanging in 2018. The details, the brushstrokes, the perspective, and the story told through the visual representation was so immensely personal. I wonder sometimes if my vision and worry about legacy gets in the way of the piece of art in front of me I should be pouring myself into, and if in my dreams and wonders of making a difference in lives, I should be making sure I complete the piece in front of me. The balance to learn and do for me is always pulling me in multiple directions and trying to sit and create is overshadowed by the hustle and whirlwind of life. I will be interested to see how long this one experience can stay with me, and if I will answer the call to find another opportunity to strengthen my soul to continue to find the better me.
I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in Los Angeles and Fresno California. While I was there, I shared with middle school and high school students in Clovis, California. I start every leadership workshop asking what leadership means to them. I heard many examples from these middle school students: inspiration, responsibility, example, serve. Then one young man said:
In the coming days, I paused on the question of hope as a necessity for leadership. I considered leadership without hope. It was tired. It was sad. It was yearning for something. It was broken. Like all facets of leadership, we have the choice and responsibility to develop our style inclusive of the characteristics for effective leadership. Hope is the new characteristic I need to include in my pallet. I will be intentional to include a hue of hope in the words I use, the attitude I bring, and the words I share. Once again, I am taught more than I could ever teach the students I get to interact with!
Your gun will solve your neighborhood, your school, your workplace, and your community. Your gun will change the way we look, treat, speak, and wonder about each other. Your gun is the answer to this and every crisis that people are at the root of the problem. Although we MUST KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT, we also, when the time is right, must get ready, take aim, and fire the love as far as it will spread. I believe love is the answer.
We often TALK about what we can DO instead of DOING what we TALK about. Talk is one sided. Talk is only valuable to the person speaking. Talk is cheap. ANYONE can talk about doing something. Some take THE TALK and move to THE WALK and are given great credit for their action. This is a fundamental flaw when leading people. "Walking the walk" isn't enough in leadership. We have to move from EXCHANGE into ENGAGE.
It's easy to walk your own walk, and lead no one in the process. EXCHANGING is the opportunity to talk AND listen, ensuring that all voices are heard, and all ideas are welcomed and considered. EXCHANGE isn't always pretty....and that IS OK when trying to find the BEST SOLUTION and SUCCESS!! ENGAGING is the act of putting ideas into action WITH someone you lead. The EXCHANGE you have with someone can only be put to it's best use if that someone, is ready to be involved in the action you have prepared. Putting your own TALK into WALK is simply self valuing the confirmation bias you listened to in your own head. Turning EXCHANGE into ENGAGE is ensuring that all opinions are heard, all options are discussed, and action is taken TOGETHER. True leadership is gained when this formula is put into action. I hope you will EXCHANGE to ENGAGE!!
Thanks for stopping by. These are musings on how I see leadership in the world and how I continue to try and grow through my lens.