My husband and his team put on amazing festivals, and one of them is called The Festival Of Machines. Sprawling over several acres of property, festival-goers can look at (and climb on) cement mixers, tractors, old time steam engines, old time fire engines, classic cars, race cars, army helicopters, and more. They can ride on a mars “rover” bike made by a competitive high school team, race each other on kid-sized motorized vehicles, take flight on a “hover chair,” go on a thrilling ride in an actual two-seater go-cart, spray water from an actual firehose attached to a hydrant, go down a ramp in a soap box derby car, go on a hayride, and more. It’s tons of fun, with lots to experience.
As any “experiential” place will have you do before entering, this festival asked participants to sign a standard waiver releasing them of liability. The kind we all sign before we go in a jump house or on a trampoline or up in a hot air balloon or basically anywhere we’re going to engage not just our minds but our bodies in some kind of fun.
So the first day I took the kids and was standing at the waiver table, signing away, when a man walks up next to me, tosses the waiver down, and says to the poor, sweet young bright-eyed worker man behind the table: “So what happens if I don’t sign it?” His stance was aggressive and his voice trembled a bit with the nervous/excited adrenaline of someone who has come to pick a fight.
The poor, sweet worker started to reply with some version of “well that basically means you can’t participate in any of the hands-on activities etc and so on” and then paused and asked “so why wouldn’t you want to sign it?”
Which was all the man needed to hear.
“Why wouldn’t I sign it? Are you kidding me? Why wouldn’t I SIGN IT? This basically says that if you guys screw anything up or if an engine blows up there’s nothing I can do about it. Are Americans really THAT STUPID that they don’t READ ANYTHING ANYMORE?!?!”
He said. Loudly. To the “stupid American” standing right next to him currently signing the darn thing (me).
I tossed a sympathetic smile and eye roll to the poor, sweet, and now growingly awkward, worker behind the table, finished signing the waiver, and walked away.
I thought about saying any number of things to that man, but I didn’t. And I’ve been thinking about that choice to stay silent—whether I should have somehow intervened. But my kids were standing right there with me. My 8- and 5-year-olds. They weren’t paying attention to the man because they were too busy eyeballing all of the activities that awaited them. But if I had engaged in the conversation, they definitely would have started to pay attention. And I’m not sure anything productive would have come of it.
Because he was So. Sure. of his Rightness. He was so sure of his rightness that he grabbed his “right” flag and went searching for someone to stab with it. And a person that dead-set on their rightness is not usually someone open to a dialogue.
Still. I struggle with this one, because what about the poor, sweet worker man? I just left him to deal with Right Man all on his own.
When to engage?
What would you have done?
While I grapple with this one, I will say this: watching Right Man reminded me what happens to people when they get hung up on being right. When they don’t want any other resolution than affirmation that they are RIGHT.
Whether we care to admit it or not, I think we all have moments where this comes out in us. Whether at work or at home—moments that make us say “Hey, I’M RIGHT! Now let me go prove it so that people will affirm it and generally acknowledge and revere my RIGHTNESS! I’m So Right!”
So here’s the thing: sometimes you might actually be right. But that’s not the point. The point is what happens to you when suddenly all you can see or care about is that those around you also understand and acknowledge that you are right. It becomes less about the thing itself and more about personal validation.
So—are you currently holding a “right” flag? Let Right Man be a cautionary tale for you. Put down the flag, friend. Put it down.
How can you let go of the “right” flag today?
For breakfast, I had a cup of coffee and an egg sandwich with bacon. Mmmm…bacon.
The impact of yoga and mindfulness for children has become a topic of research and discussion. The findings in many studies are that yoga supports children with focus, concentration, self-regulation and coping with stress. Children and adolescents are faced with more stressors than ever before such as the pressures of standardized tests, social relationships and peer pressures, less time for physical activity, more time in front of technology devices (which can agitate the nervous system) and an overwhelming amount of sensory stimulus in the world around them. Yoga is being incorporated into school and after school programming for children in order to create a calmer and peaceful environment for learning. While there is no question that the practice of mindfulness for children has great benefits, what about the educators who work with children in the school and after school settings? Educators face the pressures of standardized testing, compliance with Common Core standards, managing children with challenging behaviors without the proper training and support, limited staffing, high expectations from parents and/or administration and overwhelming amounts of paperwork. Often times educators have a tremendous amount of dedication and commitment to the children they work with but become burnt out from high levels of stress, little recognition for their tireless efforts and a feeling of being overwhelmed with the many challenges and frustrations they face as educators. What happens to educators when they become overstressed and how does that impact the children they work with? The impacts of stress not only affect our physiological state but they also impact our mood, behavior and overall functioning in life.
When we are in a constant state of stress we can develop health issues to include digestive disorders, autoimmune conditions, heart conditions or a general sense of a lack of well-being. We can become agitated, angry frustrated, depressed or anxious and may be triggered more easily. Often times high levels of stress can lead to more impulsive or destructive behaviors such as over-eating, drinking, isolating from others, developing unhealthy relationships, inconsistent sleep patterns and a lack of self-care.
In order to teach healthy minded children, we must have healthy minded teachers. As educators we create the space for our students. If we are in a stressed or agitated state, this is the energy we bring to our students and this is the overall tone we set for our classroom or program environment. In reality, we have very little control over the "system" in which we work in and more often than not we may not be able to change the people or circumstance we are in but we can change the way in which we react to the stressors in our lives.
Here are 5 Stress Management Techniques for Educators to bring more peace and calm to themselves and the students they work with.
1. Begin and end the day with the mantra – "I am grateful for"
We can often get caught up in all of the injustices of our life or the things that are going wrong and causing frustration. When we remind ourselves of what we have to be grateful for it shifts our attention from what is lacking to what we have to be thankful for. Even the smallest statement of gratitude can shift the energy from negative to positive. Practice this mantra as you are driving to work and before bed each day. There is always something to be grateful for! Celebrating even the smallest accomplishments of your students or the children you work with can be a reminder to you of just how important the work you do is.
2. Check in with your BODY and focus your attention on your BREATHING
When we become stressed we can tend to move into more of a chest breathing which can escalate the sympathetic response or fight/flight/freeze response. Although we do not have control over circumstances in life, we can control our breath. When you start to feel a sense of agitation or anxiety, check in with the sensations in your body, then take 3 deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the nose (or out through the mouth if that is more accessible). When you breathe in feel a sense of expansion in the diaphragm and the areas of your body where you feel tension, when you exhale release the tension with your breath.
3. "Check In" and Do a simple Yoga Pose
Doing yoga does not mean that you have to take an hour to go to a yoga class. One or two poses a day can keep us in tune to the tensions in our bodies. When we become stressed our bodies are often the first to respond to the stress by tensing or holding stress in certain areas of the body. Often times due to a combination of stress and poor physical posture from working at a computer or sitting at a desk, many educators experience back pain, neck and shoulder pain and/or tension headaches. Here is a simple yoga pose that can help alleviate tension in the body, release stress and soothe the nervous system.
Seated forward bend: Sit on the edge of your chair in front of a table or desk. Make sure feet have contact with the floor and knees are at a 90-degree angle (if not place a book underneath your feet). Lengthen your spine as you lean forward and place your head on your desk/table (a folded hand towel under the forehead is suggested). Make sure the back of your neck is long. Bring awareness to the space between your shoulder blades and breathe your breath deeply into the backside of your body between your shoulder blades (breathe in through nose and out through nose or out through mouth if that is more accessible). With the inhalation, think of expansion and with the exhalation release tension and worry with the breath. Stay here for at least 5 breaths.
4. Take your breaks!
Each system is different in terms of how many breaks you are allotted in a day and for how long but the reality is that often educators choose to work through their breaks, including their lunch breaks. The reasoning often being, "I have too much work to do". The truth is, no one is going to tell you to take your breaks so it is in your hands to take that time to reset. Leave your classroom or program environment and have your lunch outside or in another space away from your "work space". These moments of "resetting" are crucial to the restoration of the body and the nervous system. Taking a break away from your workspace for lunch or snacks also supports a more mindful experience with eating which supports healthier digestion.
5. Ground Yourself
This may sound funny but it can be quite effective in reducing stress. Make a commitment to set aside 5 minutes a day to take your shoes off and stand in the grass or on the earth barefoot. There is a reason why we call the earth the ground and why we use the word "grounded" to describe a feeling. Anxiety and stress is what we call Vata energy. Vata energy has an airy quality, which is in constant motion. By taking our shoes off and connecting to the earth it creates a greater sense of grounding, provides proprioceptive feedback to the nervous system and literally "roots" us and offers a more stable and grounded sense of being.
Try to make these activities and integral part of your day and practice them daily. It takes time to establish a routine but continual practice will eventually make your routine a habit. Notice how you are feeling before starting your routine and check in with yourself a week later to see if there is a difference in your mood and energy. Then notice if this daily routine has affected your interactions with the kids you work with or others in your work environment. Notice if this calmer, less stressed version of you has a more calming effect on the children around you. Better yet – teach your students or the children you work with some calming activities and practice them together! You'll be amazed what a difference it makes!
For breakfast I ate an Acai bowl with fresh strawberries, blueberries, gluten-free granola and shredded coconut for breakfast!
Photo credit: Tim Hardy
Ending childhood hunger, especially during the summer, has been the defining focus of my work for the past few years. At the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), I've worked with my team to chart participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs. These programs—the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)—are designed to replace the school breakfasts and lunches on which low-income children and their families rely during the school year, keeping hunger at bay and ensuring that children remain healthy throughout the summer. They also support summer programs and help draw children into educational, enrichment, and recreational activities that keep them learning, engaged, active, and safe during school vacation.
It has been remarkable to see the strides that have been made over the past few years, and the increase in the number of low-income children eating summer meals. That's particularly good news since summer nutrition is so critical to children's achievement, especially when meals are coupled with enrichment and learning activities. Children who participate in such summer programs reap countless benefits: they stay free from hunger, stay healthy, and stay engaged. Unfortunately, research shows us that when children are not involved in such activities they are likely to experience summer learning loss and are more likely to gain weight.
While there has been positive movement with summer meals, there still is a long way to go. FRAC's most recent look at summer food participation – FRAC's Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation – found that only one in six children who needed summer meals received them.
But we can keep the momentum going.
• Groups who are operating summer programs should consider serving meals if they aren't already. FRAC has a calendar that lists opportunities throughout the year.
• Groups who are already serving meals should consider expanding their operations, perhaps by adding more sites or by increasing the quality of food being served.
• Groups should also strongly consider offering enrichment activities to complement their current program.
The Food Research & Action Center has a number of resources to help you learn more about the Summer Nutrition Programs and how to develop quality programs that keep children well-fed and engaged, including a calendar that lists year-round actions for organizations seeking to strengthen their summer programs. In addition, FRAC's Meals Matter: Afterschool and Summer training calls and monthly newsletter provide valuable tips and best practices to achieve that goal. You can sign up here.
Photo Credit: Flickr
Over the last few years, I have become known as "the lady who loves hugs." When I visit any of our campuses, the kids come running ready for a hug, while others sit back and wait for me to approach them. Regardless if they run or wait, almost every single kid extends out their arms awaiting the embrace. For 13 years, I have wholeheartedly embraced the belief that we must hug our kids. I know that there are all sorts of arguments out there for why we should not show physical affection to our students and the risks we face in doing so, but after many years of consideration of the matter, I have come to determine that the benefits far outweigh the risk and therefore hug not only all of our scholars, but also their parents and their siblings, and for that matter, our entire staff! I have even coined little phrases, such as "hugs are free today, but tomorrow they will cost you a dollar," hence inviting even the shyest one for a free hug.
So why is it important to hug our young people? Well research shows that hugging reduces stress, helps us feel safe and supported, reduces anxiety, increases self-esteem, etc. However, in my experience, it also creates a culture of respect and regard, strengthens human connection, and creates an environment of trust and support. A few years back, Time Magazine did a story on "The Problem with 'No Hug' Policies." The article addressed how we have spent so much time over the last 30 plus years, focusing on "bad touch/good touch" and focused so heavily on the negative actions of a few, that we have failed to realize the consequences of creating environments where no touch is the only option.
So let's pair now the challenge of creating physical distance from those whom we work with paired with what they carry from their other environments. Working with high-risk populations youth are often exposed at very early ages to mistrust, and come to be very skeptical of anyone that comes forward trying to help them. Who can blame them? They have most often been disappointed or hurt by multiple people in their lives, including those in their homes, teachers, community members, and those who give them a sideway glance as they walk home from the library or nearby park. They are labeled as worthless, failures, or often worse. So when they walk into our doors, they are emotionally and psychologically worn from the weight of the labels they carry on their back, they are seeking someone to help reassure them, let them know they are valued, that they are cared for, and most importantly that they are safe. I urge you to think of a time when you were lost, in pain, or felt like the world had beaten you down, you may recall that the need for human touch was elevated, the need to be held and to be comforted is powerful. We need human contact, both in times of joy and times of sorrow. We need to feel supported and nurtured. Without it we find new ways of coping with this absence, many of which are unhealthy and often dangerous.
So still not comfortable hugging your kids... it is okay! There are plenty of other ways to create that safe and supportive environment, using alternative approaches. A few of my colleagues use a fist bump with the kids or the infamous side hug. Even a warm pat on the back demonstrates a connection. Others use verbal communication to remind the kids daily that they care about them and are important to them – please note this is not in the adult to child lecture format, but simply words of encouragement and affirmation. One of my colleagues has his own handshake he created and uses with the kids, sort of a secret handshake. I continue on with the hugs... at our family events, I stand at the front door and hug every person who comes through. I spend three hours walking around our field trips hugging every kid I see. I often have parents that seek me out at events, simply for a hug. Human contact changes the conversation; it opens a level of trust between two people, and creates civility in the conversation that follows. We all need to feel that connection, it is one of the first steps in reshaping the conversation of creating a healthy culture for our future generations.
As I drive through many of our neighborhoods and see kids hanging on the streets, I often wonder who loves that child, who hugs that child, who tells that child that they are amazing and will someday do something great. As a society we continue to sit back and watch our world deteriorate into senseless and repeated violence, anger, and hatred. I am not an emotional person. I am not amused by pictures of cute puppies, or cheesy inspirational poems about love, but I can't help but think, if we cared a little more, if we could recreate a culture where affection and human contact were at the center, maybe just maybe we wouldn't have to fight so hard to save so many lives.
For breakfast I eat the same thing every morning after my morning workout – 2 chocolate peanut butter protein shakes (that's right 2 of them!)... I lift in the morning and have to eat all the calories I burned within 45 minutes of my workout! For anyone who is interested, here is my recipe for each serving:
2 scoops of EAS Lean Protein Powder Chocolate Fudge
1 C unsweetened almond milk
2 Tbsp of PB2
6 ice cubes
With the holidays behind us, now is the perfect time to pause and ensure we're taking care of ourselves as we look ahead to all that 2015 has to offer. If you're anything like me, you ran yourself ragged in December. I was determined to take two weeks off at the end of the year, which meant the weeks between Thanksgiving and my break were a mad scramble to finish everything I possibly could to set myself up for success when returning to work on January 5.
I am proud of myself for actually taking two full weeks off. I did not check my work email. I did not prepare materials for a meeting I was helping to facilitate on January 8. I did not prepare materials for a training I was developing and helping to facilitate on January 14. I spent time with my family. I took naps. I caught up on house projects I'd been putting off. Even so, it took until the last two days of the break for me to focus on two things that I enjoy doing: reading (for fun!) and knitting (I finished these socks finally!). At that point I wished for another week off so that I could do a few more things for myself.
I've now been back at work over a week and it has been a whirlwind. I've been working nights and weekends to catch up for those meetings and trainings I didn't think about over my break, which now seems like the distant past.
So, I'm forcing myself to STOP. And sit. And read. For fun! To knit. To play with my son without checking my email or Facebook. To disconnect in a way that I need for my own self-care.
Now I'd like for you to STOP. And think: what do you need for self-care? Can you commit to making a little time for yourself to do the things you enjoy a little each week? Let's not wait until we have a break to finally get to the things we enjoy.
I'd love you to take this message with you the next time you're talking with your coworkers or the youth in your school or program. Instead of asking how someone is doing (granted, an important question!), ask instead what they're doing for themselves lately. Ask them when was the last time they did something they love. We all need to take care of ourselves so we can be our best selves for others.
For breakfast this morning I had a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and strawberries, as well as a strong cup of coffee.
Do you know how we like to say that some people are extroverts and some people are introverts?
I think most of us are actually a bit of both... I think we have extroverted moments and introverted moments—some of us just have more of one than the other.
I would call myself a genuinely introverted person with very large BURSTS of extrovertedness. The problem is, after those bursts I am left like a pile of goo—a big blob of grumpy. I get extrovert hangovers, and they leave me not wanting to think, talk, smile, create... heck, the idea of showering seems like an insurmountable mountain of a hurdle. The world becomes a cruel and demanding place, asking for my participation in it.
(I'm having an extrovert hangover now, in case that hadn't already become apparent. I sighed audibly this morning at the prospect of carrying my coffee mug from the counter to the sink)
Does that ever happen to you? Do you go from a "Hi! How can I help you?" state-of-mind to a "Go away! I just want to be alone!" state-of-mind, possibly even in short succession? (if not, me neither)
For me, the problem is that because I feel like I am "supposed" to be an extrovert, I feel very guilty when I retreat into my introverted shell, like I am somehow being wrong. I tell myself to snap out of it and get out there again.
That is a problem, though. When we declare ourselves a certain way, or when we say things like "that's not me" or "I could never do that," that is just us allowing ourselves to find safety in a category. But in reality, chances are, yes it is you, if you want it to be, and yes you could do that, if you were willing to try.
So if we truly embrace the idea that we are all a bit of both, then we can better allow ourselves to fully chase the extroverted moments and also fully embrace the introverted ones. It's a perfect balance of advance/retreat, expose/cover, display/conceal. Heck, now that I think about it, we all should be actively PRACTICING our extroverted side and our introverted side, so we do them both equally well.
We can help our students practice this too, by refraining from categorizing them as one or the other. How many times have we said things like, "Oh! You're so talkative today!" Or, "Why aren't you participating? You're usually so helpful." Or, "Wow—that's a totally different look for you!" Or, "You're bouncing off the walls today!" Instead, we could remember that our students, just like us, have days where they are turned ON and days where they are turned OFF and many days in between. There are many different sides to our students, and it's our job to reassure them that all of those sides are beautiful.
How can you embrace both your inner extrovert and your inner introvert?
(I'm going to go take a nap while you think about it)
I was too sleepy for breakfast so I just stuck with coffee this morning.
I was in NYC recently and scored my first "street bag" in the nearly three years since I've lived there. For those of you unfamiliar with New York City ways, vendors align every corner of the popular tourist neighborhoods, selling cell phone covers, hats, scarves, and, among other thing, purses. While I lived in New York I was a frequent buyer of said purses, in constant pursuit of the perfect bag. The best thing about these purses is that they typically cost about $20 or $30, much less than you usually pay in a "real" store, so your pursuit can come with little guilt to boot.
Even before living in New York I have spent my life in pursuit of the perfect bag. My requirements have changed throughout the years, but my expectations have always been high—enough pockets to make essential items easily accessible (essential items ten years ago included lip gloss and gum; essential items these days include diapers and wipes); big enough to hold all the things I might need to face any eventuality the day may offer—an umbrella for an unexpected rainstorm, snacks in case we get caught somewhere for more than five minutes, a book, a flashlight, water, a change of clothes for my two year old, my work calendar, my laptop, business cards, advil, and of course the ever-essential lip gloss and gum. Purses need to be big but not too big. Easily accessed but not too open. Soft but firm enough to allow me to find the items inside quickly. Lightweight. Versatile enough to go with any outfit.
As you might imagine, I've spent decades in disappointment.
Each new acquisition in my pursuit promises to be THE ONE. The bag that exceeds all bags. The bag that will house the items to make me a successful person/mother/worker all at the same time. Yet, alas, each bag eventually and inevitably fails me. It usually does one or two things well, but fails to do ALL the things., My relentless pursuit of PERFECTION in a bag causes me to continually dismiss all the bags that are just fine in search of the one that's even better.
It's quite rude, when you think about it. I have a closet full of lovely bags who have great pockets or who have plenty of room for my laptop or who are a delightful fashionable style. I have big bags and bigger bags. I have bags in black and brown and orange and green, and—thanks to my most recent score—silver.
I'm sorry, poor beautiful silver bag. I love you now, but I undoubtedly will soon find your flaws and toss you aside when the next perfect bag glimmers into view.
Why do we do such things? Why do we seek perfection, even long after it has become clear that perfection is unattainable? Why are we restless with what we have, longing for what might be out there? I see this in the young people we work with, too—a longing for something different, something more, something "other." Within the youthful restless spirit lies an insatiable thirst for new adventures. Because, the grass is always greener, right?
But... it's not. The grass is not greener. It might be different. It might be exciting for a time. It might feel initially like you've landed on the PERFECT solution. But as my decades-long-pursuit of the perfect bag has taught me, there is simply no such thing as perfection. And if you are constantly searching for perfection you will never stop searching. So to paraphrase both the Rolling Stones and Crosby, Stills, and Nash: you can't always get what you (think you) want, so if you just love the bag you're with, you might find you get just what you need.
How can you love the bag you're with?
For breakfast this morning I had beef jerky and a Diet Coke.
I hate the "take-off" portion of flying. Since I am typically on an airplane once a month or more, you would think this is an issue that would have subsided by now, but alas.
For me, it's a few things: It's the shift from sitting completely still to getting the clearance for take off and beginning the awkward, lumbering acceleration down the runway. It's the deafening noise and the rattling of the entire plane. It's the feeling, when we first become airborne, of the wings lilting this way and that, as if the plane is trying to find balance in the air. It's how the heaviness of the plane itself seems to always be on the verge of sending us straight back to the ground—scoffing at the notion that such a beast could fly. I find my body literally clenching from the tension of these early moments...especially when, as in my travels last week, I am flying in snowy, blustery conditions that cause the airplane to dramatically swoop and jerk with the wind.
But then we always reach that magical cruising altitude. That sweet spot in the sky, where the plane does indeed find its balance. Where the noise softens, the plane steadies, and the pilot tells us to go about with our iPods or laptops or kindles. Am I the only one that breathes a silent breath of relief and gratitude in that moment?
I was thinking how this is also the way it goes with new projects or ideas, or really anything new. Starting is the hardest part. Starting can feel horrible. It can be messy and awkward and lumbering and scary. And in the early stages it can be easy to believe that whatever it is we're trying to achieve is impossible— that there is no way it will take off. And then, even when it does take off, initially, it can suffer some turbulence along the way...it can lilt awhile as it tries to find balance—whether that be in the form of support or funding or acceptance or excitement. But if we just hang in there, the magical cruising altitude is usually there somewhere. If we hang in there, we eventually realize that indeed, we can fly.
We often struggle with this as adults, even though we've had countless experiences to show us that if we just hang in there, things do generally get easier. Success can arrive. So imagine how "take-off" must feel for some of our students—for those that haven't had the experience that allows them to believe in the process. To trust that a new idea will work; that the practice will pay off; that what might initially be questioned could later be hailed as brilliant.
So, in the end we just need to continue to remind ourselves to trust the take-off. Trust that despite the noise and the rattle and the labor that the plane will take off. Trust that we will achieve flight and not worry when it feels like it's hard getting there. And when we see those around us struggling with the take-off of something new, whether they are our students or our friends or our colleagues, we can remind them too.
What can you "take-off" today?
Today for breakfast I had coffee and the remains of my son's soggy rice crispies
I never understood the stories about children who allegedly drew on walls or destroyed family furniture. My five-year-old daughter was never like that and has always been one who likes to please, to follow the rules.
But then came Dylan.
Dylan, who will be three in May, makes up for the areas Marlowe left untouched, and then some. Last week, he discovered a hot pink lipstick in Marlowe's room, and by the time we found him, he had colored half of the door to the guest bedroom completely pink, had drawn on the white carpet in the upstairs hallway, and had drawn all over Marlowe's bedspread. I'm sure there are still spots we haven't found yet. The other night he took his cup of juice and just started walking around pouring it on the table, the floor, the chair, because apparently they needed watering. Last night he found a purple crayon and decided that drawing a huge smiley face on the upholstered dining room table chair would be the exact right thing to do.
The best/worst part of it, besides watching our house get totally trashed, is that he just really has a hard time being sorry. He tries to be sorry. After the purple crayon incident he said "I'm sorry! I'll NEVER do it again." But he will. With a twinkle in his eye, he will. And he'll laugh afterward. And if I say "Dylan! It's not funny!" he will take a cue from his favorite t.v. show "Peppa Pig" and he will say "It's a BIT funny."
And the thing is, he's right. It IS a bit funny.
It's the same bold spirit in him that will just go ahead and drag a stool over to the drawer that has the candy in it and help himself, even after I've told him that he can't have any candy. And it's only after threats of a timeout and beginning to "count to three" does it occur to him that there is any problem with that... usually punctuated with an "Oh! I'm sorry" (accentuated by laughter, laughter, laughter).
It's the same creative genius in him that will take whatever household objects are within his reach—toys, blankets, chairs, food—to create a "train" that extends the length of the family room.
It's the same mischievous nature in him that will try to tickle Marlowe when she is in the throes of a dramatic fit, sending her over the edge of dismay.
It's the same imaginative dreamer in him that currently wants to be both a "tooth fairy" and a "flyer who goes in a rocket ship to the moon" when he grows up.
Plain and simple, he loves what he loves—and boy does he love to laugh. And play. He looks at all of life with a twinkle in his eye. And while his specific actions sometimes (often) make me crazy and my house shabby, his spirit makes me nothing but proud... So I will acquiesce that it is indeed a bit funny.
Do you have any students like this? Ones that drive you crazy and test the limits and forge their own paths? How many of them, when you are able to look past the obvious reasons for frustration, remind you of yourself at all? How many of them are displaying, although perhaps in a less-than-ideal way, a true creative spirit? How many of them are showing you who they are, in their own package—whether or not it's the one you've tried to create for them? As you think about these students:
Is there something that you can find a bit funny?
Today for breakfast I had coffee and a yogurt (and maybe a girl scout cookie or two. I mean, c'mon. Thin Mints)
As I write, it's one of those times where I must focus the lens for the gritty and most meaningful things to tell you about. We only have a few sentences to share before our time together is up, and it's important to make them count. So that leads us to rhythm. There's nothing like a band that plays together, a motor in with proper timing, a NFL team operating as a unit, and especially a leader that is in balance. Beyond most, I believe that you understand the importance of rhythm in leadership life. You have chosen this course of business as a journey of the heart to see kids and young adults get better. For that, I believe you "get it" more than the rest. We want to see others win. If that's you, we speak the same language.
Sometimes that "rhythm" is more like an 1800's English Pub after a big win. I see now the fiddles, poofy dresses, and brawly men swinging girls around stomping on dilapidated wooden floors - you know that we enjoy and maximize this gift called life. A bit young and chaotic at times, true, but we also wish to live this gift from above with the intensity it deserves. We hold to a higher ideal. Because there are far too many graves for ideas and ambitions that have long since gone, we exist loudly and freely for love. We choose to live like it...
Allow me the humble opportunity to share with you a few reminders for maintaining your leadership rhythm.
1. Have a healthy personal life.
Eat well. Get enough sleep but not too much sleep. In down time, do things you love. Work out. Take time to walk on the beach. Don't watch too much tv.
2. Never, ever, ever stop learning.
When we stop learning we stop growing. Be a reader.
3. It's not the "what", it's the "why."
Choose to not only be connected to "what" you are doing, but more importantly, connect to "why" you are doing it. The tasks will not keep you going, but the passion for why you do it will.
Lazy leaders won't take their team very far. Be a long distance runner. Keep pushing through!
5. Develop leaders.
You're in this business to replace yourself. We're pouring into the next generation! Coach 'em up!
6. Take time to ask "What if?"
Don't just work "in it," but take time to get away and work "on it." This is a reflective time of asking "What if?" - "What if we did this? What if we were able to land that grant, or hire "that" person, or reach this certain kid?" Good things come to those who dream.
A few months ago I was able to ride a friends motorcycle 1799.8 miles all over California with my dad. This epic journey was filled reflective and introspective moments. We stood under the great grandfatherly Sequoia trees of Central California and the bold Redwood trees of Northern California. I couldn't help but think about how small I am. In those moments, standing under what made me an ant of a man, and when looking at the Half Dome rock in Yosemite, I have never been more aware of my mortality. I didn't even have the guts to climb to the edge of a secure guardrail to snap a quick photo. I felt like I'd have a heart attack right then! Fortunately there was a six-year-old girl willing to take it for me. Recently I traveled home to see my dad because his blood pressure was very high. He's hanging in there, but we don't have many answers.
Life is short, and we're not in it very long. Some of the trees I stood under were 2400 years old. 2400 years! They even seemed young, staring up at them, but we, you and I are diseased with a short existence. My fellow leaders, live today like it could be your last day. Some of us may have many years ahead of us, and others, less. Whatever it is, lets give everything we have to others. Lets live in the rhythm and love big, think big, sacrifice big, give big...
Breakfast: Peanut Butter Smoothie (Ice, peanut butter, flaxseed, spinach, protein, Greek yogurt, banana, milk, squirt of chocolate syrup) Trust me, Jamba has nothing on this!