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Friday, November 30, 2018


The way we use questions reveals much about us.  

As with any tool, questions can be used for great good, or great harm.

For your consideration, some parallel continua of inquisitorial status:

Non-Inquisitors< >Malicious Inquisitors< >Genuine Inquisitors
Disinterested <     > Manipulative <             > Curious
Clueless <             > Fearful <                     > Searching
Ignorant <             > Arrogant <                   > Honest
Indifferent <          > Accusatory <                > Empathetic
Incompetent <      > Manipulative <             > Collaborative
Apathetic <           > Taking <                       > Contributing
Detached <           > Divisive <                     > Empowering

You get the idea...

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Failure and disappointment are part and parcel of living a full life.  

Those who experience neither (or in very low doses) are rare indeed - usually limited to either the uber-privileged or the ultra-talented.  Not a lot of those folks around, and I'm not sure I'd trade places with any of them.

Three arenas have proven exceptional proving grounds in which I learned to grapple with failure in a reasonably healthy way:  1) athletics, 2) raising children, and 3) leadership roles.

From those combined endeavors (or, crucibles) some powerful tenets emerged by which it seemed failure and disappointment could best be leveraged (yep, leveraged) in order to optimize life:

  • Stay focused always on the BIG picture, always taking the long view.
  • Failure and disappointment are directly proportional to the size of our dreams and pursuits.
  • Truly, if it doesn't kill us it will make us stronger.
  • Reflection and correction are powerful tools, to be used daily.
  • Discipline and hard work are what counts; potential is virtually meaningless.
  • Seek and apply the advice of wise and accomplished role models; ignore criticisms of the puny.
  • Share what we learn from our failures with others; it helps us clarify antecedents and prospects.
  • Positive and supportive relationships  are what sustains us during the darkest times.

Friday, November 23, 2018


I recently read Tears We Cannot Stop:  A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson (2017).

One of my graduate students at UT Austin recommended this book, knowing that I enjoy reading topics that pull my mind to new territory or perspectives that challenge my assumptions.

MED most certainly accomplished both in this book.  He skillfully argues that the racial unrest we are experiencing (and have experienced) in America is grounded solidly in the antecedent of racial hubris (and to far lesser extent, hegemony) that was part and parcel of its founding.  

MED further asserts that despite progress in the area of social justice, there still persists an unacceptably disproportionate privilege between the races - whites continuing as the beneficiaries in ways both small and large.

Finally, MED offers suggestions by which the chasm might be bridged.

Few writings and writers have caused me so much discomfort and so much reflection.  I don't expect to escape either any time soon.  

Hard words to read, hard words to accept, even harder (I think) to ignore.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


Those in leadership roles have great power to either Fuel or Cool the innovative/creative tendencies of those in their organizations.

Fueling Leaders...

  • Encourage innovation
  • Make it safe for others to dissent
  • Support tinkering with the norms
  • Provide safe spaces for experimentation
Cooling Leaders...
  • Insist on conformity
  • Persistently promote protocol/policy/procedure
  • Squelch passion
  • Discourage boundary pushing
I've worked for both kinds of leaders.  Fuelers for me please.

Friday, November 16, 2018


I recently read The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd (2015).

In this book, SMK weaves a dual life-tale of two females, Sarah and Handful, who share the same last name (Grimke) and are raised in the same 1800s Charleston, South Carolina, household.  The twist is that Sarah is born to the slave owing aristocracy and Handful is born one of their slaves.  The two share a bond of friendship through their lifetimes.

From childhood through adulthood both women struggle mightily to break the cultural, social, spiritual, and physical chains that tether them to the accepted norms they find reprehensible.  

SMK, in lovely prose, wove a story that not only pulls the reader in, but pulls us toward betterness.  Excellent!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


As we grapple with the complexities of life - personal decisions, professional decisions, organizational decisions - we often pine for that "just right" solution.  Looking for that singular "right" decision or solution or guru or book or software or...

Before making consequential decisions and life-choices, we are wise to consider many options, to seek many and varied viewpoints and experience survivors.  

We are wise also to be willing to reverse or abandon decisions that no longer serve us well.  Holding on to decisions made under previous circumstances and under previous conditions that no longer apply comes with a very high price. 

CONTEXT is everything!  (and context changes continually)

Seeking/Thinking/Considering broadly and continually -- rather than narrowly -- almost always serves us best.

Saturday, November 10, 2018


I recently read The New Art and Science of Teaching: More Than Fifty New Instructional Strategies for Student Success by Robert J. Marzano (2017).

RJM has been an influential researcher and thought-leader for decades in the arena of teaching and learning.  In this book, which he describes as a manifesto, he synthesizes his previous work/writings into a superb compendium of effective teaching strategies.  

He concludes the book with eight recommendations for substantive change in the interest of making a better learning experience for students.  Those eight recommendations follow. 
Recommendation 1: Create a system that ensures teacher development. 
Recommendation 2: Focus on unit planning as opposed to lesson planning.
Recommendation 3: Use blended instruction. 
Recommendation 4: Ensure a guaranteed and viable curriculum involving cognitive and metacognitive skills.
Recommendation 5: Rely on classroom measurement. 
Recommendation 6: Change report cards. 
Recommendation 7: Adjust scheduling to address the differential effectiveness of teachers.
Recommendation 8: Gradually move to a competency-based system.

Sure wished I'd have had such a guide when I started my teaching career in 1980.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


The best leaders (heck, the best people) I know have a couple of questions running continually in the back of their minds:

How am I making this situation, this team, myself better?

How am I NOT making this situation, this team, myself better?

As answers to both questions gain clarity for these folks, they then purposefully do more of the former and less of the latter.  Intentional bettergetting.

Note to self:  Don't try this unless willing to engage in self-changing strategies.

Friday, November 2, 2018


I recently read How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger and Gene Stone (2015).

The authors identify the top 15 killers of Americans and present a plethora of research in response to each that provides guidance to us on how to best interdict those potential maladies.

A chapter is dedicated to each of the killers.  Here they are, in order of their human devastation:  Heart disease, Lung diseases, Brain diseases, Digestive cancers, Infections, Diabetes, High blood pressure, Liver diseases, Blood cancers, Kidney disease, Breast cancer, Suicidal depression, Prostate cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Iatrogenic causes (death caused by physicians).

The authors also detail, with substantial research support, Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen, the foods they believe, if eaten consistently, will prevent and even reverse those killing diseases.  The Dozen: Beans, Berries, Other fruits, Cruciferous vegetables, Flaxseeds, Nuts and seeds, Herbs and spices, Whole grains, Beverages, Exercise.

Both in this book, and at his website - NutritionFacts.Org - Dr. Greger presents the findings of study after study after study (not just a few) to support his underlying conclusion - that a whole-food, plant-based diet is the surest pathway to optimal health.

Read it only if you want to be a healthier you.