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

Thursday, July 30, 2015


For the first time since 1964, schools will open in a few weeks without my physical presence on a campus.  Already, I'm hearing and seeing and feeling the upsurge in energy and preparation and enthusiasm of many of my colleagues in the field.

Great educators (and I've known a lot of 'em) 
great schools (and I've worked in several of 'em) 
have some similar and endearing qualities:
  • They are open, honest and transparent in their dealings.
  • They have high expectations for themselves and others.
  • They embody and manifest respectfulness toward others.
  • They purposefully assign and add value to others (in small ways and large).
  • They passionately serve others.
  • They engender a sense of hopefulness about the future.
  • They are relentlessly focused on LEARNING!
That would be a pretty attractive recipe for any entity or profession, huh?


Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Things we can control:
  • Our attitude
  • Our attention
  • Our behavior/responses/reactions
  • The way we spend our time
  • What we choose to learn (or not)
  • How we focus our resources (tangible and intangible)
Things we can't control:
  • The weather
  • What others think
  • How others act
  • How others expend their resources (tangible and intangible)
There is little to be gained by squandering energy on things that are beyond our locus of control.  

And MUCH to be gained by focusing on the things we can control.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


"It didn't go as I wanted."  
"I seem to be stuck."  
"The plan is falling apart."  
"They're not willing to commit."

Those statements, and their many cousins, are indicative of a common psychological state - one in which we feel alone (or abandoned) in our quest.

Our reaction to being stuck should be one of introspection and reflection.  What role are we playing in the stuckness.  

Some good questions to begin with...
> Am I really on the right track?
> Have I invited (rather than pushed or drug) others in this journey?
> Is serving others a fundamental component of this project/process?
> What am I doing, or not doing, that's causing this stuckness?
> Are the goals I/we have set reasonable and attainable?
> Is this thing really worth doing?

When stuck, we ought first to look in the mirror, and ask hard questions about our own culpability.

Starting HERE (with ourselves) is always the best first step.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Trust and Attention are not the same thing, but they have a symbiotic relationship.

Attention can lead to Trust, but more often Trust leads to Attention.

From a leadership perspective, Trust is the precursor to followership.  Others only follow us (or our ideas or our thinking) when they have developed some trust in us.  

That Trust flows as a direct conclusion on the part of others that 
we are what we say we are, 
we do what we say we'll do, 
we believe what we say we believe, and 
we act in consistent alignment with our articulations. 

Then and only then will others afford us their regular and sustained Attention.  

Both Trust and Attention evaporate when we take them for granted, OR when we leverage them for inconsequential or self-serving purposes.  

And they should.

Both Trust and Attention must be viewed and cherished by us as treasures of great value, 
for that they are.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I recently read Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery by Rupert Sheldrake (2012).

I've been a fan of Sheldrake's thinking for quite some time, having watched a number of his videos and having been exposed to his thinking via reference by other authors.  This is the first of his writings I've read, and WOW!

A few of my big takeaways (but there are so many more):

  • With regard to our understanding of the world, life, and the universe, there are still far more questions than answers.
  • Scientists, in general, make many assumptions that cannot, should not, be taken for granted (e.g., the laws of nature are fixed).
  • Mathematics, physics, and chemistry explain a lot about things like motion/size/weight, but darned little about subjective things like color/smell/affection.
  • The universe is more like a set of interdependent processes than a collection of things.
  • The regularities of nature and behavior are governed more by habit (Sheldrake calls it morphic resonance) than by genetic code.
  • The materialistic view of the world fails miserably in explaining things like consciousness.
  • EVERYTHING is interconnected, everything is interdependent.

My favorite quotes:

"The architecture of the building cannot be worked out from a chemical analysis of the rubble, nor can the form of the pigeon and its homing behavior be reconstructed from an analysis of its molecules."  (p. 146)

"I am all in favor of science and reason if they are scientific and reasonable. But I am against granting scientists and the materialist worldview an exemption from critical thinking and skeptical investigation."  (p. 328)

This one is a mind bender.  Pick it up only if you want your thinking stretched.  (I dare ya!)


Agility is critical for those who lead organizations.  
Agility is just as critical for the organizations they lead.  

Here are some critical indicators:
  • Heightened awareness - a keen sense of what's going on around us and of healthy response options to those conditions.
  • Nimble responsiveness - the ability to jump, seize, dodge, charge, change direction, deflect, react to situational/contextual stimuli with quick suppleness. 
  • Flexibility - the physical and structural underpinnings of nimbleness; the willingness and ability to stretch our thinking, our responses, our inclusiveness, our protocols, our schedules (but never our principles).
Know any organizations like this?  Know any leaders like this?

Being stuck is a clear symptom of lack of agility.

Know any organizations like this?  Know any leaders like this?

Saturday, July 18, 2015


I recently read Tell No One by Harlan Coben (2002), a mystery novel.

The lead character, Dr. David Beck, struggled emotionally for eight years after the tragic murder of his wife, Elizabeth.  He was knocked unconscious himself during the assault, but not before hearing her haunting screams.

Beck can’t seem to get closure, although his friends and loved ones advise him to “move on.”  Then, out of the blue, he receives a cryptic email message, a phrase that only he and Elizabeth would know.  Could she be alive?

Beck plunges headlong into a self-directed investigation of Elizabeth’s death, turning up a whole trove of inconsistencies and discrepancies.  Here is where the story takes some very interesting twists and turns.  And, Beck’s life now becomes threatened as someone doesn’t want the truth to be revealed.

A very good story, a very good read.

Friday, July 17, 2015


There seem to be some fundamental differences between solutions and answers.

Answers imply that...
  • the knowledge already exists.
  • others have already figured it out.
  • this problem is identical to many others.
  • there is at least someone who has already found the combination.
  • they can be found in a book (or on the internet).

Solutions imply that...
  • crafting is required.
  • previous solutions can help, but only tangentially.
  • this problem is unique and nuanced.
  • leveraging knowledge/skills from outside the field might be helpful.
  • synthesis, innovation, and collaboration are required.
Answers are handy to have, but they're haveable.  Solutions are elusive and ghostlike.

Having answers gives us closure.  Seeking solutions gives us purpose.

Answers can be begged, borrowed, or stolen.  Solutions are creations.

Answers represent learning in the past tense, solutions require continued learning.

Aha!  LEARN forward!

Thursday, July 16, 2015


There was a bit of tension in the air.  Moe and I were clearly not on the same page.  That has occurred several times (hundreds? thousands?) since we started hanging out with each other some 41 years ago.  We got past that tense part, as we usually do, and managed to agree on a path forward (sometimes we just agree to disagree, but still move forward).

The way we (ALL of us) manage conflict has a lot to do with our "default setting," our autoresponse mode.  Conflict happens to all of us (well, maybe not to hermits).  When we deal with people, we will most assuredly deal with conflict.

When dealing with conflict, people have natural default settings...
Some default to anger.
Some default to blaming.
Some default to argument.
Some default to silence.
Some default to recrimination.
Some default to violence.
Some default to acquiescence.
Some default to harsh words.
Some default to victimhood.
Some default to politeness.

Probably no surprise, but it's much easier to get past the bumpy spots when we default to polite.  It allows a little oxygen to return to the room, it mitigates the use of hurtful words, it enhances the chances of finding some common ground. 

Defaulting to polite is a learnable skill.  And, it's a choice.

Monday, July 13, 2015


Faith is defined as 
     a firm belief or 
          high confidence or 
               complete trust in 

In the Bible, faith is defined like this:  "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1, King James Version)

As we consider those two conceptions of faith, it is abundantly clear that teaching is an act of faith.  Perhaps we could call it the ultimate act of faith.

I know, and have been the beneficiary of, many wonderful teachers.  Not all of them have been professional educators (though many have).

Each of those teachers, whose "fingerprints" have been left all over my life, invested in me and engaged with me, acting in faith.  Faith that the knowledge, or the skills, or the ways of thinking they were sharing would find purchase with me and would ultimately bear fruit.  

If teaching is an act of faith, then LEARNING is the evidence of its exercise.

"...the substance of things hoped for..."

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Sugar!  As a pervasive element in the standard American diet (S.A.D.), it is now a known culprit in the de-healthifying of Americans (children included).  Food manufacturers put some kind of processed sugar in almost all of their products.  Why?  So we'll get addicted to it (which we do), and eat more of it.

In this video, Dr. Mark Hyman, discusses several important points about how eating well can make us less sick. 

In particular, Dr. Hyman speaks to the devastating effect that eating processed sugars has on the human body.  He even describes sugar as a "recreational drug."  Interesting thought.

I was a sugarholic for decades, consuming it in some form or another at breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  Though I looked reasonably healthy, I finally realized that sugar was a fundamental driver in the metabolic problems I was experiencing - high blood pressure, constant heartburn and acid reflux, joint pain due to inflammation, headaches, constantly increasing belly fat, etc.  Sugar was not only shortening my life, it was compromising the quality of the life I had.  Thanks to the thinking, speaking, and writing of functional medicine physicians like Dr. Hyman, Dr. Robert Lustig, Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Roby Mitchell, and Dr. Ben Edwards (you can find them all with a quick Google search), I began to see what I was doing to my own health.

Been there.  Done that.  Not going back.

Friday, July 10, 2015


Boredom is a psychological state, not condition of reality.  

Being bored is the ultimate insult to oneself.  

IF you feel yourself slipping toward a state of boredom, try one (or more) of these:
  • Call a friend or family member you've haven't talked to in awhile (or write 'em a note).
  • Read a book/article/blog.
  • Begin conceptualizing and/or sketching out a new project for yourself (sun room? garden? bath remodel? quilt?).
  • Go for a walk/run/jog/bike ride outdoors, and pay attention to the world around you.
  • LEARN something new.
Whatever you do, DON'T turn on the television.  (It's the equivalent of turning your brain into mashed potatoes.)

You and the world around you are far too interesting to let boredom dribble into your consciousness.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Life is pretty darned short (you've probably noticed).  I am quite fond of the Kenny Chesney song titled "Don't Blink."

Indeed, a hundred years goes faster than we think.

So, how can we make the most of the short life we are given?

Some modest suggestions:

  • Make a difference (somehow, some way, everyday).
  • Love more freely, forgive more easily.
  • Try to leave others feeling better, just by having had an encounter with you.
  • Be on the constant look out for ways to serve others, especially those in need.
  • Be more thankful (and a little less bitchy).
  • Try new stuff, learn new things, be a little fearless.
And, don't blink.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Those of us who have raised children understand fully that humans arrive on the planet with the endowment of Free Will.  Even suckling babies have a way of letting us know what they want and when they want it.

As we get older, our understanding of the exercise of Free Will continues to develop and become more sophisticated (for most of us).  Whether we do so intentionally or not, our exercise of Free Will is the vehicle we use use to shape our lives and our futures.  

Sometimes, others would presume to commandeer our Free Will.  They cannot - unless we give them permission to do so.

Those of us who fully embrace our Free Will enjoy lives of adventure, growth, happiness and self-actualization.  

Those who relinquish their Free Will to others can best be described as victims - victims of their own demise.  

Friday, July 3, 2015


We perpetually stand astraddle the threshold between the past and the future.

The past is important, but not nearly as important as the future.

The past is for reference, the future is for preference.

The past represents energy spent, the future represents energy potentials.

The past stores old memories/experiences, the future offers endless possibilities for new versions of both.

The past harbors a few regrets (or a lot), the future only the opportunity to reduce or avoid them.

The past is the haven of the powerful influences that shaped us, the future possesses our own acts of shaping.

The past was the vehicle of our previous learning, the future offers an expressway to new knowledge, skills, and ways of thinking.

Attention FORWARD!   Full steam ahead (with just a few peeks over the shoulder).

Thursday, July 2, 2015


In leadership, and in life, we are constantly confronted with the pressures of paradox. According to Morgan (1998), in the book Images of Organizations, we are continually pushed-pulled in two different directions by bosses, by politics, by circumstances, by regulatory entities, by our values.  Looks something like this:

     Innovate <----------> Avoid Mistakes 
Think long term <----------> Deliver results now 
     Cut costs <----------> Increase morale 
    Reduce staff <----------> Improve teamwork
      Be flexible <----------> Respect the rules
                                          Collaborate <----------> Compete
                                         Decentralize <----------> Retain control 
        Specialize <----------> Be opportunistic 
                                             Low costs <----------> High quality

Each goal of those dichotomies seems worthy and noble.  Yet, whenever we narrow our view of life/work/relationships/problems by thinking of them in isolated constructs (as shown above) we have, in effect, "simplified" the metrics.  But, life/work/relationships/problems defy simplified metrics, they must be considered and navigated holistically.  It requires us to do the dance of paradox, to find the "sweet spot" on each continuum, but taken in the context of the whole.

The "sweet spot" on each of those continua above is found by viewing them through the lenses of our values, our ethical anchors.  Nobody can determine our values and ethical anchors for us - that comes from thoughtful soul-searching and self-reflection.  

Wise mentors, great thinkers, exemplars can all help us find our moral grounding, but at the end of the day, it's a learning journey we must take for ourselves.  And, that journey never ends.



Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Raised in the Christian faith I was often reminded that "my life is God's gift to me; what I do with my life is my gift to God." 

Regardless of our spiritual or religious inclinations, we can all probably agree that our lives are a gift.  Beyond that, our bodies and minds (and spirits, if you're so inclined) are fundamental to that gift of life.  There seems an aspect of stewardship that is tightly tethered thereto.

If you can accept the obligation component of my first sentence above (the part after the semicolon), then...
how we treat and relate to others,
          how we spend our time,
                    what we choose to read/view/listen to,
                              how we nurture our bodies,
                                        to what causes we lend our talent,
                                                  the degree to which we attend to our wellness,

have EVERYTHING to do with our giving back.  

It's a debt owed, and one we can surely attempt to repay.