You're encouraged to join and participate in what I hope will be an on-going conversation. Your participation will make this effort a much more worthwhile endeavor. Be sure to click on the "Comments" tab below to read what others have written in response. I look forward to hearing more from you.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Framing Setbacks

First - about last week's post. 

I was very pleased and encouraged by the response received from last week's post on "Not Yet Successful" and the video about "Teen Brains on Technology".  Regarding the latter, technology has certainly had an impact on how (and how long) and what we read these days.  In fact, it's kind of called into question what constitutes real reading.

You may have missed a previous post on "Reading at Risk" (a couple of weeks ago - you can click on it to the left if you're interested).  And you may, if you haven't done so already, take a look at the article on the right entitled "Is Google Making Us Stupid".  In the meantime, even though the post was a summary of the published report gleaned from the Executive Summary, what follows is a summary of the summary in (almost) twitter form.

We're not reading much of anything these days...rate of reading is declining rapidly for both men & women...across all ethnic & racial groups...across all ages...steepest decline is among teenagers...decline relates to increase in use of electronic devices, video games, & portable digital devices.

That's the summary, although not in 140 characters.  So, you might be asking - "Why, then, should we even read the summary, never mind the report?"  I get the sense that kids are asking questions like this, too, when it comes to reading assignments.

On another note...  let's continue this conversation about the word "yet".  In reality, sometimes the right choice to make when pursuing a goal is to say "Not now, and - you know what? -  not ever".  This is not an easy decision to make because one never knows how close s/he may be to achieving the desired goal.  But here's another spin on it.  "Stuff" happens and we have to learn how to deal with it.  RESILIENCE.  Framing setbacks in a way that provides constructive feedback is an immensely important skill to acquire in life.  Sometimes stuff happens that seems devastating at the time but later on may evolve into a blessing.  Take a moment to read the SHORT story below;

There was an old man and is son who worked a small farm with only one horse to pull the plow.  One day, the horse ran away.  "How terrible," sympathized the neighbors, "What bad luck."
But the farmer replied, "Who knows whether it's bad luck or good luck."  

A week later, out of nowhere, the horse returned from the mountains, leading five wild mares into the barn.  The neighbors heard about this and exclaimed, "What wonderful luck!"  "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?" answered the old man.  

A couple of days later, the son, trying to tame one of the wild horses, fell and broke his leg.  "How terrible.  What bad luck!" cried the neighbors.  "Bad luck?  Good luck?  Who knows?" said the farmer.  

Ten days later, the army came to all the farms to take the young men for war.  The farmer's son - with his broken leg -  was of no use to them, so he was spared.  Good luck? Bad luck?

Retrospect offers us what no moment, in the present, is capable of doing.  Time will reveal the reason for the baffling or troubling situations that have dogged our paths along the way.  Whenever the road feels rocky or we are confused, we need to trust.  Our lives are not happenstances.  There is a performance being staged.  (From a Promise of a New Day).

In one sense, then, nothing really matters in and of itself because the importance of things lies in the ways we have learned to think about them.It's really all about framing your experiences, and this includes "setbacks" along the way.  Experience isn't what happens to you so much as it is how you interpret what happens to you.

Check out the one-minute video interview (posted above and to the right) with Bill Bradley, the former basketball player who starred at Princeton in the 1960s and later on with NY Knicks in the NBA, but not before taking two years to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in between.  Later on, he had a long career in politics as a US Senator from NJ and made an unsuccessful run (not yet - not ever) for the presidency.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Not YET Successful

If you're reading along like I am, you'll recall that the last entry was about the "power of yet".  It's linked to failure, that word in our culture with an undeserving reputation.  Really, I don't know anyone who has ever achieved success without experiencing failure along the way.  We should be paying more attention to those who are successful and how they've learned to befriend failure instead of turning our backs to it.

It's important to fail.  And it's important to give children permission to fail.  Only by risking failure can anything really ever be achieved.  Failure can be an ally in other ways, too.  Failure gives us a unique opportunity to learn.  And it gives us options, if we're paying attention.  Failure, by the way, is no more permanent than is success.

You've heard it - the road to success is full of hurdles and potholes.  You may have also heard the Japanese proverb - "Fall down seven times, get up eight."  So, failure may simply mean "not yet successful".

Wait a second - isn't this a grading option?  Seniors at certain schools who are completing capstone projects sometimes receive this feedback.  It means - go back to work and do better because we think you can.  It sends the message that someone else expects you to do better.

"You're not done - yet."

We're almost done.  There are just a few final questions to ask.  What if the D and F were eliminated from grading options?  After all, a "D" represents unsatisfactory performance, anyway.  What if, instead, any student not performing satisfactorily was told that s/he is "not yet successful"?  Does the message in the grade deliver a different kind of lesson?

"You're not done - yet."

Any thoughts on this?

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Power of "Yet"

With a new year comes new goals to pursue - or recycle.  Hope rises as temperatures fall - at least in New England - only to see this hope plummet when, well, temperatures  again rise a few months later (at least in...).  Hope springs eternal with well-intentioned plans.  And then patience begins to wear thin as - for instance, if someone is looking to lose weight - the "waistline" remains unchanged.  Failure has no deserving place in our lives, or so we feel.  So, instead of feeling like one (a failure), we often just abandon our goals.  Yet, what if we added a three-letter word to the end of our judgments - yet?  "Yet" can change everything.  It can empower us to keep on keepin' on in pursuit of those goals we're otherwise so quick to discard. 

We've heard this phrase expressed repeatedly - "Forget it.  I can't do that."  Okay.  Maybe not - yet.  "Yet" changes the perception of "failure" from a sense of permanence to one that is temporary.  "Yet" extinguishes excuses.  "Yet" connotes choice. "Yet" tells us that it's a judgment in the moment and not one that is absolute.  "I can't do that - yet."

Think about it.  Think about something you want to do or wanted to do but didn't.  Perhaps it's losing x amount of pounds or running an x minute mile or learning a new software program or joining a new club  - or all of these.  Perhaps it's writing a research paper or solving a math problem or doing homework daily.  It's January 10th.  Now think forward to April 1st.  And you haven't done what you set out to do.  Don't fool yourself by saying - "I give up.  I can't do that."  Instead, give up the first sentence in the previous phrase and add one word to the second sentence - "I can't do that YET."  Hope remains alive...and so should your commitment.  There may be goals we can't reach or behaviors we can't master no matter what, but not nearly as many as we think.  Rather, we simply can't do them yet.

If you're old enough, you may remember the three "Rs" as Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic.  Each still has its place in learning, but so does another set of "Rs" - Relationships, Relevance, and Resilience.  It's this last one that deserves our attention in this piece.  Resilience is about belief.

Believe me.  This blog hasn't generated much feedback (its original purpose) since it was launched back in early November - yet.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Another Year and Growing Older

It's a New Year.  And we'll all be a year older on one of the days in this New Year.  Rather than focus upon resolutions, which are often simply re-solutions to the same problems (and with the same results), perhaps it would make sense to take a moment to reflect upon what it means to be a year older.  The poem below may help trigger a reflection.

Growing Older
Maya Angelou

When I was in my younger days, I weighed a few
Pounds less, I needn't hold my tummy in to wear a belted dress.

But now that I am older, I've set my body free;
There's the comfort of elastic...Where once my waist would be.

Inventor of those high-heeled shoes...My feet have not forgiven;
I have to wear a nine now.  But used to wear a seven.

And how about those pantyhose -
They're sized by weight, you see.  So how come
When I put them on
The crotch is at my knee?

I need to wear these glasses...As the print's been getting smaller;
And it wasn't very long ago I know that I was taller.

Though my hair has turned gray and my skin no longer fits,
On the inside, I'm the same old me,
It's the outside's changed a bit.

But, on a positive note...

I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today,
Life does go on, and it will be a better tomorrow.

I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person
by the way s/he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I've learned that regardless of your relationship with
Your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your "life".

I've learned that life sometimes give you a second chance.

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt
on both hands.  You need to be able to throw something back.

I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decisions.

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.

People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Be open to learning in this New Year.  And be open to seeing problems in new ways.  You may then arrive at new solutions, with no longer the need for re-solutions.