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Welcome to nc’s blog. Read, comment, interact, engage. Let’s learn together - recursively.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Playing the victim card is for non-leaders.  Victimhood is for those who are afraid, or weak, or spineless, or accusatory, or narcissistic.  Wailing and gnashing of teeth never result in positive response.  

When problems, catastrophes, storms, and train wrecks occur (as they always will), the most extraordinary leaders step up, not back.  They bring the team together and deal with the problem.  

Timely adaptability is a hallmark of the strongest leaders, 
and the organizations they lead.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I heard John Couch, Vice-President of Education for Apple, make an interesting comment about the changing nature of the way we learn and communicate in today’s digital environment.  He talked about how the digital network and free access to information has created a completely different mindset among the children who have simply grown up in this environment.  They are accustomed to anywhere, anytime, anything learning accessibility.

I remember when the primary information distribution channel when I was growing up was the refrigerator door.  That sacred place served as what we now call our “wall.”  
It contained our passions (artwork we created and gifted), 
our memories (photos taken with Polaroid cameras),  
our celebrations (report cards and thank you notes), 
our reminders (to do lists), and 
our directives (my mom would write pithy better-get-this-done-or-else messages when the slothfulness of my brothers strained against the limits of her tolerance - can't really remember any of those notes directed at ME).

I'm not sure what the next iteration of the "fridgerator door" will look and feel like, but I'm betting money it will be faster, more interactive, easier to manipulate, and will further press the outer limits of the things we can know and do.  Maybe Google glasses for all, maybe nanobots that float in our blood stream and communicate directly with our brain, perhaps virtual personal assistants that "ride" on our shoulders and whisper in our ears, or possibly search engines that respond to our very thoughts (rather than our clicks).

Should be a fun ride and a great learning experience.  I'm ready...

Sunday, July 27, 2014


What did you learn today?  
“I made an ‘A’.”

Good, but what did you learn today?
“I turned in all my work, on time.”

OK, but what did you learn today?
“The teacher said I did a great job.”

Cool, but what did you learn today?
“I got extra points for answering the bonus question correctly.”

Yes, but what did you really LEARN today? 

Until our students can answer THAT question, with specificity and be able to connect it in some way to the world they live in, all they have really learned is how to play the “game” of education.

We (schools) can do better, and so can they (students).  GO!

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I heard one of my former students (I’ll call her Pilar) talking about the challenges of making learning happen for students. (We’re both educators by profession).  

Pilar said that she worked for a strong principal who would ask teachers a simple question:  "Of the students you have who are not being successful, why do you believe they are not succeeding?"

According to Pilar (channeling her principal), the answer a teacher gives to that question tells you everything you need to know about that teacher.

A VERY interesting assertion.

Reminds me of another interesting assertion made by an educator that absolutely changed the way I think about my own teaching and the success (or lack thereof) of my very own students (who now range in age from 3 to 83).  That assertion was posed by Dr. Pedro Noguera of New York University at Steinhardt: "Teaching and learning are the same process, not two different ones. If there is no evidence of learning, then there is no evidence of teaching."  

Both assertions cut to the the very soul and beliefs of the teacher, 
about his/her craft, 
about his/her skills, 
and most importantly, 
about his/her needed next steps to pull students toward success.  

When it comes to learning, success is dependent on the persistence and commitment of BOTH teacher and student.  The difference in the two roles, however, is that the teacher should not, must not, ever be the one that "gives up." 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Every musical work in the history of man has been composed from the same menu of musical notes.  Yet, the new, the remarkable, the good, the bad, and the "different" continues to be composed in every corner of the planet, every day.  

Leveraging those same old notes in new ways, in new combinations, in new arrangements continues to generate extraordinary pieces, seemingly without end.  

In humans, the same menu of emotional "notes" have been at our disposal through the millennia  – love, anger, trust, fear, happiness, sadness, joy, hope, and surprise.  

In a remarkable book titled A Million Miles in a Thousand Years author Donald Miller posits that we have the power to "edit our own lives."  Indeed, we do.  We get to assemble, rearrange, deconstruct, control the rhythms, and the volume of our emotions every minute of every day.  

How are we composing those notes in new and remarkable ways?  

After all, it IS our lives we are composing.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Consider the richest and most vibrant environments of our world or universe – tropical rain forests, the oceans, the African Serengeti ecosystem, emerging galaxies…  

In each we find vast amounts of diversity.  That diversity may be in the form of an abundance of microbial life, huge volumes of plant life, amazing and complex webs of animal life, or a tremendous interplay of physical/chemical interactions.  It might even be a combination of two or more of those phenomena.

Likewise, the richest intellectual, physical, and spiritual human environments consist of tremendous diversity.  

The world in which we live is an overwhelming mish-mash of difference (i.e., uniqueness, diversity).  Pretending that we can better ourselves or our organizations by serving all those “others” in a one-size-fits-all, homogenous way necessarily means that we have excluded (discriminated against?) a far greater number than we include.  Succumbing to the dogma of homogeneity makes us "less" instead of "more," both personally and organizationally.   

Consider what this assertion means to you, your life, your work, in this amazing diverse-iverse in which we exist.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Every organization has its share of poor performers.  In fact, most of us are guilty of performing poorly at one point or another.  However, poor performance does not necessarily indicate poor character or even poor work ethic.  Typically, poor performance springs from one of two fundamental root causes:
  1. A imbalance in our mind-body-spirt wholeness
  2. Misalignment between our strengths and our work demands
Some "outer layer" (not root cause) triggers of poor performance look like this: 
  • Sometimes a person just doesn’t “fit,” their goals don’t align even marginally with those of the organization. 
  • Sometimes folks are carrying some very heavy burdens (e.g., poor health, a troubled marriage, an ill child, horrible nutrition, financial difficulties, caring for aging parents, etc.).
  • Sometimes organizational members perform poorly because they simply don’t know what the goals of the organization are.
  • Sometimes members get “stuck.”  Their role has become so routine and stale, they lose enthusiasm.
  • Sometimes (but rarely) they simply don’t care.  They are there to clock in, clock out, go home.

It's fairly easy to trace each of these issues back to one of those two root causes shown above.  And, the list I provided is certainly not exhaustive.

Addressing problems of mind-body-spirit balance is pretty challenging as it requires a commitment to fully attending to one's total wellness.  Proper nutrition, exercise, and rest for the body; attention to personal learning and growth for the mind; and the purposeful commitment to a higher way of thinking/living for the spirit.

Research in the field of psychology suggests that we perform best when we are either in a work role that is well-aligned to our strengths, or in a work role that can be "mushed" in a way that allows us to take advantage of our strengths.  An excellent book to read along these lines is Now, Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton (2001). Based on their work the StrengthsFinder tool was developed (which you can purchase for a reasonable price).  That instrument helps us gain a clearer and well-defined picture of our strengths. 

So, what's a person to do?

From the first-person perspective, working on our own holistic wellness and achieving strengths-roles alignment is difficult, but very doable.

From a third-person person perspective (i.e., supervisor's/mentor's), we can't force either corrective action on others.  Our best course of action is to help educate (and learn with) others, in order for all of us to come to a deeper understanding of what is causing the poor performance in the first place.

Interestingly, in my nearly 40 years of trying to tease high performance out of both students and adults, I can't recall a single person whom I believe set out each morning with the express purpose of performing badly.  It's really not in our nature to want to underachieve.  Thus, the seeds of improvement already lie dormant, awaiting life-generating impetus.  That understanding-the-root-cause piece is sort of like the germinating conditions for those dormant seeds.

We can do this, for ourselves.  And, we can help others move in a better direction.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Email is a marvelous tool.  It can, however, create some heartburn if we use it for wrong purposes.

As powerful a tool as e-mail has been, it has also served as a stimulant for the age-old problem of “hiding” from one another." In particular, when we send an email to manage a confrontation (either small or large), we have effectively tried to step behind the curtain (to draw upon the “Wizard of Oz” analogy). 

Use email to inform, to direct, to invite, or to inquire, but don't try using it to resolve emotional issues.

This faux anonymity may feel like we’ve distanced ourselves from our words or actions, but not so much, really.