About Me

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

Sunday, May 31, 2015


I seem to be living the life of an imposter.

In living the Christian faith, I've never felt like I was quite getting it right.  So, I attempted to learn more about discipleship from writings, audios, videos, and exemplary others, so that I would be "faking it" less and "getting it right" more of the time.  Each day makes me feel a bit less the imposter, but I'm not quite there yet.

In serving in leadership roles in various settings, I've never felt like I was quite getting it right.  So, I attempted to learn more about leadership from writings, audios, videos, and exemplary others, so that I would be "faking it" less and "getting it right" more of the time.  Each day makes me feel a bit less the imposter, but I'm not quite there yet.

In being a father, son, husband, brother, grandfather, and friend, I've never felt like I was quite getting it right.  So, I attempted to learn more about relationship management from writings, audios, videos, and exemplary others, so that I would be "faking it" less and "getting it right" more of the time.  Each day makes me feel a bit less the imposter, but I'm not quite there yet.

In serving as teacher, coach, principal, superintendent, and professor, I've never felt like I was quite getting it right.  So, I attempted to learn more about teaching and learning from writings, audios, videos, and exemplary others, so that I would be "faking it" less and "getting it right" more of the time.  Each day makes me feel a bit less the imposter, but I'm not quite there yet.

In being a responsible steward of the planet, I've never felt like I was quite getting it right.  So, I attempted to learn more about nature and systems from writings, audios, videos, and exemplary others, so that I would be "faking it" less and "getting it right" more of the time.  Each day makes me feel a bit less the imposter, but I'm not quite there yet.

It seems the only path out of the quagmire of impostership is more learning.  

Here goes...  (Please forgive me as I continue to fake it for awhile.)

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Some of the folks I most admire do these kinds of things:

  • Treat waiters/waitresses with extreme kindness.
  • Don't take phone calls when they're talking to someone in person.
  • Open doors for others.
  • Smile at and speak to children.
  • Never cut line.
  • Help clean up the kitchen after meals.
  • Tip generously.
Notice that each of those examples indicates deference to or service to others.  

It's the little things that make the biggest difference.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Continuous improvement is a process by which we stay focused on the future, with only intermittent and brief backward looks.  Effort, energy and attention are primarily focused on the future, on getting better, everyday, somehow, on purpose.

It's a little like driving a car and keeping most of our attention on what's in front of us.  Of course, we take backward looks (via mirrors, please) to briefly and intermittently see what is behind us that might inform our next steps.  But, the broad view through the windshield is where attention is rightly focused.  That view helps us determine speed, direction, evasive action, acceleration, braking, course alteration, etc.

In the case of continuous improvement the brief backward looks are represented by data analysis, by after action reports, by rituals/celebrations.  None should take huge amounts of time - just enough to inform our next steps.  We must keep our attention primarily on the road ahead. 

It helps also to know where it is we want to go.  Skillful leaders help us envision those destinations.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I recently read Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul by Deepak Chopra (2009).

As DP almost always does, he pushed my thinking and challenged my assumptions.  Few authors/speakers so consistently pull me into new and different levels of understanding.

The big ideas of the book, which DP calls "breakthroughs," are in relation to physical wellness here:

  1. Our physical bodies are fiction, more verb than noun.
  2. Our bodies are conduits of energy.
  3. Heightened awareness will put us in greater tune to the needs/health of our bodies.
  4. We don't control our genes, but we have great power to determine which ones are turned on and which ones are turned off. Awareness is the vehicle of that power.
  5. Time is our ally, not our enemy (but it's up to us to view it as such).
And soul health here:

  1. Being more in touch with our soul (the link between us and God) is liberating, not constraining.
  2. Love, given and expressed freely, awakens our soul.
  3. Our soul is boundless, unless we constrain or restrict it (which we often do).
  4. Grace is the freeing byproduct of our surrender to awareness.
  5. We are fully the universe and the universe is fully us.

Those breakthroughs succinctly capture my takeaways from the book, though its density defies thumbnailing.

My favorite quotes from the book:

"You will know that you are responding from the soul level whenever you do the following: 
Accept the experience that’s in front of you. 
Approve of other people and yourself. 
Cooperate with the solution at hand. 
Detach yourself from negative influences. 
Remain calm in the face of stress. 
Forgive those who offend or wrong you. 
Approach the situation selflessly, with fairness to all. 
Exert a peaceful influence. 
Take a nonjudgmental attitude, making no one else feel wrong." (p. 182)


"The difference between a prisoner captive in his cell and you or me is that we have voluntarily chosen to live inside our boundaries." (p. 193)

I'll keep reading DP because it's like fartlek training for the brain.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Memorial Day is when we pause to reflect on the lives and sacrifice made by those who died in service to our country.

Oft quoted in relation to the day are the words of Jesus:  "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."  (John 15:13).

We usually consider those words written in red with the assumption that it is only in dying for others that love achieves its supremeness.

I'm not so sure.  Consider the meaning, the power, and the beauty of laying one's life down for others in both life and death.  That, in fact, seems to me the very model of the Christ-life.

A life lived completely in service to others is a life well lived.

Friday, May 22, 2015


Hide-n-Seek is a great game.  For kids.

Not so much leaders.  Hiding from problems, dodging tough calls, avoiding accountability is a fools game that many in leadership try to play.  But they'll be found (out), sooner of later.

Servant leaders operate in broad daylight, out in the open.  
They do so by:

  • Being fully transparent.
  • Communicating the same message, pervasively, to all stakeholder groups.
  • Confronting threats to organizational well-being honestly, openly, expeditiously.
  • Having high expectations - first for themselves, then for everyone else.
  • Taking the risk of giving autonomy to others to "get the job done."
  • Minimizing the insulating layers between themselves and the customer, and between themselves and the folks who are "getting the job done."
  • Staying centered on values, rather than policies/procedures/protocols.
  • Treating the have-nots and the have-it-alls with the same level of respect.
Ready or not,...

Thursday, May 21, 2015


It happens frequently in my service as a mentor to school leaders.  They seek my help in dealing with a sticky situation, hoping that I may have a quick solution or a magic elixir.  As much as I would love to play the role of Merlin, I simply haven't developed those skills (yet).

But, my advice (and my modeling) to these help seekers always starts this way:  
Begin by asking questions.  And, ask those questions from a truly curious perspective.

Some dos of asking questions:

  • Start with question stems like "What..." and "How..."
  • Be fully present and attentive when asking. Ask, look, pause, listen.
  • Use words or phrases you hear in their responses in your next questions.
  • Counter feelings of anger/aggression with increased curiosity and openness.
  • Nest all questions in a mindset of continuous improvement.
  • Always thank others for helping you get a better grasp of the issue through their time, their input, and their thinking (whether you like what you heard from them or not).

Some don'ts of asking questions:

  • Don't interrogate; gently inquire.
  • Don't use "Why..." as the question stem.  (It sounds and feels judgmental.)
  • Don't immediately jump to conclusions, start issuing directives, or make up new rules.
  • Avoid divining solutions until you've asked several questions of several people.

Some benefits of asking questions:

  • The better questioner you become, the better listener you'll become.
  • Relational capital is directly proportional to curiosity prowess.
  • Problems tend to house their own solutions, but only when we reflectively and collaboratively begin to dissect them.  Questions are the lab tools of dissection.
  • Others almost always feel more valued when (honestly) asked for feedback, input, perspective, ideas, thinking. 
  • Getting smarter is a by product of asking good questions.

Some sample questions:

  • What do I need to know before tackling this problem?
  • Who else should I talk to that can help me gain deeper insight into this issue?
  • How might we proceed without creating additional burdens on others?
  • What might I hear from Bob/Betty/So&So when I ask about this?
  • What should I be asking that I haven't yet?
  • What questions do you have for me?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


The cravings are gone.  For decades I would suffer from food cravings (for me it was usually something like a big bag of corn chips and salsa, donuts, or peanut M&Ms).  Almost always the cravings would involve something extremely salty, extremely sweet, or BOTH.  I would feel the overpowering need to grab a bag or a box or a bowl full of one of those items and I would literally polish it off in a matter of minutes (supersized, even better!).  And, oddly, those binges never left me feeling satisfied.  It was like the food (er, food-like substance) was not meeting the need my body was screaming for.  Now I know that, in fact, it wasn't.  

I was eating voraciously (by volume) while starving myself (by nutrition).

Almost 2 1/2 years into eating differently, the cravings are no longer there.  When I eat breakfast (around 5:30 a.m.) it holds me easily until lunch.  When I eat lunch it easily holds me through dinner.  When I eat dinner it easily holds me through breakfast.  Oddly, I rarely feel hungry. 

What I eat now:

  • Organically grown vegetables and fruits - none genetically modified, no pesticides, no herbicides, no fungicides.
  • Fats, real fats, and plenty of them - real butter from organic milk, coconut oil, eggs from pastured chickens, raw nuts of all kinds, avocados, etc.
  • Meat from grass-fed and grass finished animals - no antibiotics, no hormones, no feedlot fare.
  • Whole milk and other organically derived dairy products.
  • Water (mostly rain water), tea, coffee.
What I eat none (or very little) of:
  • Processed foods of any kind - boxed, bagged, or packaged.
  • Genetically modified organisms/foods (corn, wheat, soy, beets are virtually all GMOs these days).
  • Processed sugars or grains.
  • Vegetable-based oils (Omega-6 laden stuff).
Why are the cravings gone?  I think it boils down to these two things: 
  1. I now only eat what my body needs (i.e., real food)
  2. I no longer eat stuff my body doesn't need (i.e., food-like substances).
Don't miss the cravings.  Not one bit...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


One of the hardest things for me to do is to STOP all the stuff I do at break-neck pace and simply pay attention to those around me.  When I actually do pay attention to others instead of the stuff, I like it better, they like it better, and we usually make some significant breakthroughs in the process.

"STOP what?" you may ask.  Historically, it's hard for me to stop...
  • Talking too much
  • Hammering down email
  • Re-arranging stuff
  • Pushing paper around
  • Fighting against Mother Nature
  • Pressing others too hard
  • Checking stuff off my to-do list
Not sure why it's so hard for me to remember that the relationships count way more than the stuff.  

You have permission to tell me to STOP IT! when you see me getting those two things out of order.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


When we make the decision to grow or improve, one of the first choices that follow is whether or not to share that decision with someone.

When we decide to improve ourselves by...
  • Eating healthier fare
  • Exercising with more discipline
  • Reading a book per month
  • Spending more quality time with valued others
  • Taking an online course to learn ___?___
...that is only the first step.  

If we keep the decision to ourselves, we have chosen to make it easy to bail on the commitment.  The odds of fizzling just went up. 

On the other hand, when we share with someone else our decision to improve, it oddly ups the ante of our ownership of the process.  We then automatically hold ourselves a bit more accountable for completing the improvement/growth project.  (Yep, there's research behind this assertion.)

Now for the test review:
  1. Decide to get better, somehow.
  2. Tell someone else your plan.

Monday, May 11, 2015


I recently read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013).  

Though separated by about 80 years in age, Molly Ayer and Vivian Daly find an unlikely friendship when their life-paths cross.  Molly is a troubled teenager of the 21st century, being bounced from one foster home to another.  Vivian is a 91-year-old widow, living in a mansion in Maine, yet her life started out as that of an orphan who was “shipped” by train (with some 200,000 other orphans) to westward U.S. cities from New York in the early 1900s.  

The parallels between Molly’s and Vivian’s lives remarkably come to light as a result of their serendipitous relationship.  

CK wove a lovely tale of how lives fraught with “bad stuff” can result in ones full of love, self-actualization, and abundance.  A very good read, on many levels.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Imperfect solutions are really the only kind of solutions that exist.

Even if you've found/crafted a solution that just seems "perfect" - for this time or this situation - circumstances change, people act/react/balk, technology changes, the world evolves.  Something or someone compromises the solution.  Sooner or later, those seemingly perfect solutions prove less.

When we assume that all solutions are imperfect we intuitively default to keeping our finger on the pulse of said solutions.  Thus, we are always looking for ways to improve them, revise them, rebuild them, or, revamp them completely.

Only to come up with a brand new set of imperfect solutions.

That's the way continuous improvement works.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Hapkido is one version of the martial arts.  (Where the heck is nc going with this?)  As such, it is an approach to self-defense.  Hapkido leverages the redirecting of force and the skillful use of circular rather than linear motion in order to subdue one's aggressor.  It's practitioners use skillful body positioning and the redirecting of force to avoid head-on, strength-vs-strength conflict.

Like water, Hapkido-ists seek to go fluidly around, through, or over the object/aggressor.  They attempt to circle or circumvent typical force-on-force conflict, which generally results in significant trauma/stress/damage to both parties. 

Taking these concepts together, we can learn to deflect, redirect, circle around, blend, and merge the aggressive force of another aimed at us, leveraging it toward our own protection.  Almost always, these concepts are considered within the context of self-defense from physical attack.  

In effect, Hapkido is the co-opting of the energy of the aggressor to achieve one's own defense/protection/ends.  Note, also, that it's application is NOT intended to destroy the other.

Now consider, please, the possible use of the Hapkido concepts of self-defense described above when being aggressed by others in intellectual and/or emotional ways.  We can also learn to effectively manage interpersonal conflict in those contexts by deflecting, redirecting, flowing around, and co-opting the aggressive force of another, and thus, consuming it. All without the force-on-force carnage.

As with the practitioners of Hapkido, we can only deploy and refine such skills through our full attention, discipline and purposeful practice (i.e. LEARNING).  
(Ah! THAT's where nc's going with this...)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


When we aspire to do worthy and meaningful work, it means investing ourselves fully in the process.  And, worthy and meaningful work (or any other kind, for that matter) can rarely be done in isolation.  It requires us to work with, to partner with, others in that endeavor.

We must choose our partners wisely.  Engaging in worthy and meaningful work with a team of ethical angels is one of the most fulfilling of experiences.  Such pursuits usually entail a noble mission, fully committed participants, highly functional teamwork, mutual support, respectful and trust-centered interactions among/between the partners, etc.  It feels almost heavenly.

Hitching our wagon, on the other hand, to less-than-ethical angels is a lot like living in...

Sunday, May 3, 2015


Most of us have experienced the sweet feel of full connection that occurs when we shoot a basketball and just know it's flying true, when we strike a baseball/softball and feel it jump off the bat, when we stroke a golf ball and know that we've hit "the sweet spot."  

In those instances, it is the dynamic of followthrough that causes that sensation of rightness.  It's as if the initiation of the process naturally and easily flows to its intended completion.  Oddly, in those instances, the feel is also one of full connection without the feel of overexertion.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  It's as if the process simply flows under its own power.

We experience that self-actualizing feel of followthrough when intellect, emotion, concentration, and physical effort converge holistically toward the desired outcome.  Followthrough is the manifestation of truly being "in the zone."

Followthrough can also be experienced in a lot of non-athletic kinds of endeavors.  When we successfully blend our intention and effort in order to complete the process, we can experience that euphoric feel when doing things like starting a business, fostering a relationship, teaching a lesson, bringing life to a nascent idea, or performing a piece of music.  

A couple of conditions are necessary antecedents to experiencing the heavenly sensation of followthrough:
  1. We've gotta show up.  Followthrough cannot be done vicariously; it's a first-person event.
  2. Followthrough is accomplished best and most often when we have purposefully practiced that convergence of intention and effort hundreds (if not thousands?) of times.  Followthrough is rarely a freak accident.
But, oh, how sweet the feel of followthrough is.