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Monday, September 25, 2023


I recently read The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation of Failure, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt (2018). 

In this is book, Lukianoff and Haidt premise what they call the three Great Untruths:

1) The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; 

2) The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings; and 

3)The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

My top takeaways:

·       “Untruths” contradict ancient wisdom, contradict modern psychological research on well-being, and harm individuals and communities.

·       There is great wisdom in the old saying: “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”

·       There are two kinds of identity politics: Common-Humanity (unifying approach) and Common-Enemy (divisive approach).

·       Words are NOT violence, and telling our children so is not healthy.

·       Definition of Witch Hunt: they seem to come out of nowhere; they involve charges of crimes against the collective; the offenses that lead to those charges are often trivial or fabricated; and people who know that the accused is innocent keep quiet, or in extreme cases, they join the mob.

·       The loss of Free Play time is exacting a heavy and detrimental price on the socio-emotional development of our children.

·       Two common conceptions of justice: 1) Distributive justice (the perception that people are getting what is deserved), and 2) Procedural justice (the perception that the process by which things are distributed and rules are enforced is fair and trustworthy).

·       Four rules for productive disagreement: 1) Frame it as a debate, rather than a conflict. 2) Argue as if you’re right, but listen as if you’re wrong (and be willing to change your mind). 3) Make the most respectful interpretation of the other person’s perspective. 4) Acknowledge where you agree with your critics and what you’ve learned from them.


My favorite quotes:


“… wind extinguishes a candle but energizes a fire.” (p.23)

“A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.” (p.29)

“Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”  -from Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer (p.99)

“Free play helps children develop the skills of cooperation and dispute resolution that are closely related to the “art of association” upon which democracies depend. When citizens are not skilled in this art, they are less able to work out the ordinary conflicts of daily life. They will more frequently call for authorities to apply coercive force to their opponents. They will be more likely to welcome the bureaucracy of safetyism.” (p.194)

While Lukianoff and Haidt get into the weeds a little prescriptively toward the end of the book, I found the premise of their arguments to be sound and consistent with my societal observations. 


This is a book I’m thankful to have read. And, I’m thankful that my grandchildren are being raised by parents and educators who are teaching them that life is what we make of it, not what happens to us.

Sunday, September 24, 2023


Why does it seem that bad habits are so easy to adopt and stay with, and good habits are so hard? Why is it that good habits are so easy to abandon, and bad ones hang on like dandruff?

Habits seem to anchor to our LEASTness mindset:

What takes the least time? There's habit for that.

What takes the least effort? There's a habit for that.

What causes the least discomfort? There's a habit for that.

What helps us avoid making difficult decisions? There's a habit for that.

What if we made it a habit to think about our habits? And to quite intentionally unhook from some of the bad ones. And to purposefully build into our day/calendar/thoughts/systems/relationships a few habits that move us toward who we really want to be?

No time like the present...

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


As we do work on complex problems, in fluid environments, with people and systems that mightily resist change, leaders can (and often do) succumb to the challenge. The inertia seems impenetrable at times.

Providing clarity of direction is, perhaps, the best service we can provide in "murky" environments.

Consider enacting the following daily strategies of effective leadership:

  • Articulate clearly the Vision of the organization. Tell us WHERE we're heading, constantly, even if the path is hard to find.
  • Pick a FEW measurable and understandable goals we can pursue toward that Vision, then monitor the progress, talk about that progress, adapt to the inhibitors of that progress, and continue making progress.
  • Listen to stakeholders constantly, steadily asking questions about their understanding of the Vision, about their deployment efforts toward that Vision, and about their progress in pursuit of that Vision.
  • Analyze the systems of the organization, weeding out the ones that seem errant to the Vision, bolstering the ones that promote its achievement.
The persistent drumbeat of the Vision and constant, clear communication is the daily work of leadership. Clarity of direction is a powerful accelerator. 

Sunday, September 17, 2023


Leaders in organizations cannot eliminate gossip, but we can mitigate it. How?

  • Don't Participate - simply excuse ourselves from the harmful chatter.
  • Notice - be persistently conscious of the good things people do for the organization and each other. Folks seem always attentive to what the leaders are looking at and listening to.
  • Acknowledge - let others know the good things/people we've noticed -- through personal notes, through public praise, through our affirmations to those up and down the organizational food chain.
  • Amplify - make public affirmations for other folks in the organization a permanent feature on meeting agendas. In church, we used to call it "testifying." Make it a habit to let folks praise each other in public.
We can't completely kill gossip, but we can discourage it. We can most certainly create uncomfortable conditions for gossip -- and gossipers.

Sunday, September 10, 2023


Sometimes we slip into recalcitrant thinking and behavior. The impact of such behavior is defensive, limiting, and "slowing." That impact is especially magnified when the recalcitrance comes from leadership.

What does recalcitrance look like in an organization?

  • Impose layer upon layer of permissions and approval for menial tasks.
  • Talk about data but rarely examine the data with a skeptical and open mind.
  • Discourage risk taking and risk takers.
  • Limit professional development and/or organizational learning.
  • Stay focused on the day-to-day actions rather than on the BIG espoused outcomes.
  • Harden the protocols/rules/procedures.
  • Listen and talk only to the internal stakeholders.
Where recalcitrance rules, obsolesce -- or irrelevance -- soon follows.

Anti-example can be a powerful teacher.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023


What do we want for our children as result of their having been in our schools for 12 or 13 years?

What do we want them to know? What do we want them to be able to do? How do we want them to be able to think? What behavioral practices will serve them and their community for a lifetime? What kind of citizens do we intend to shape?

Those are questions any school community should have. Those are questions that are best fleshed out by ALL the stakeholders in that school community.

Choosing to ask those questions is a bold step. Attempting to answer those questions is a messy and challenging process. Posing those questions and chasing the answers is ideally a process led by the school leaders of the learning community.

For those of us who serve in school leadership, some additional questions follow:

How willing am I to undertake the task?

How well have I prepared myself to lead this process?

How well have I polished up my skills of engagement?

Only when we clearly articulate the aspired PROFILE of the learners we serve can we begin to put some meaningful plan of affectation in place. Without such a plan, we and our learners languish.

It's only the futures of our children, and our communities, at stake. (Time's a wastin'.)

Sunday, September 3, 2023


The best leaders I know are constantly doing the work of succession planning.

Most organizational leaders know they are only one minute or one decision away from no longer being the leader.

How do these wise leaders go about the business of succession planning?

  • They hire folks who embody the highest qualities of Emotional and Social Intelligence.
  • They put quality systems in place to carry out the organizations vision and mission.
  • They insist on transparency in the way the organization's business is conducted.
  • They imbue the organization with a mindset of continuous improvement.
  • They cross-train folks up and down the organizational hierarchy.
  • They invest heavily in professional development and mentoring.
Do the leaders hand-pick the next leader? Rarely. On the contrary, when the day comes that they leave the organization (for whatever reason), there remains a stable of highly capable, highly prepared next-generation leaders to choose from.