Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Business vs Busyness

We live in a culture where it is cool to be busy.  Just ask someone how things are going and they will tell you how busy they are.  Some people choose to fill their lives with busyness to make money.  Others do it to keep their minds off of what's bothering them.  Still others stay busy because they can't say no.  While others stay busy because they like what they are doing.  Some are busy because they simply have too many responsibilities.  Whatever the reason, it's cool to be busy.

The problem with busyness is that it can keep you from taking care of business.  Your schedule may be so full with pressing issues that you don't have time to plan for the future.

Stephen Covey calls this an Urgency Addiction. 
In his book First Things First, Covey says that everything falls into one of 4 categories or quadrants.
1.  Urgent & Important
2.  Not Urgent & Important
3.  Urgent & Not Important
4.  Not Urgent & Not Important

In what 2 categories do you spend most of your time?  I must confess that I spend most of my time in quadrants 1 and 3 doing Urgent things. 

Covey suggests that the most successful people spend most of their time in Quadrant 2 planning, preventing, preparing, and developing relationships.  Urgent things still come up but because these people are prepared it never seems overwhelming.   

If we know the things in quadrant 3 and 4 are not important then why do we even do them?  Why not focus our attention on the important stuff?  (Check out First Things First from your local library to see what Covey says.)

If we know that the most successful people spend most of their time in Quadrant 2 then why don't we do more planning, preparing, preventing, and developing relationships?  Let me guess...Because you're too busy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Most Complex Profession

I heard this story today at a conference and I had to share.

A well known educator was speaking at a conference.  Her topic of discussion was how teaching is the most complex profession.  She provided personal experiences, cited research, and told many stories to support the fact that teachers have the most complex profession.

When she finished, a well dressed man approached her.  The man provided positive feedback to her presentation but disagreed with one thing.  The conversation went something like this:

Man:  I enjoyed your presentation but I believe I have the most complex profession.
Teacher:  Really?  What do you do?
Man:  I am a brain surgeon.
Teacher:  Wow.  That is complex.  Okay.  Let me ask you a few questions.  When you are performing a surgery, how many people do you work on at a time?
Man:  Well just one.
Teacher:  Teachers work on 20 - 35 brains at a time. 
Teacher:  I'm sure there are other reasons though.  Let me ask you this.  What state of mind are your "subjects" in when you are performing brain surgery on them?
Man:  Well....they are under heavy anesthesia so they are unconscious.
Teacher:  I can guarantee you that some teachers wish those 20-35 students were under heavy anesthesia while working on their brains.
Teacher:  Let me ask you one more question.  How many people do you have helping you perform this brain surgery?  
Man:  I have 11 people on my surgical team.
Teacher:  You see sir.  While you are working on one brain of an unconscious person with the help of 11 people, Teachers are working on approximately 30 brains of very conscious students with usually no help at all.  
Man:  You're right.  Teaching is the most complex profession.

I don't think this story takes away from any other profession.  However, I do think it shows the complexity of teaching.  Many people think they know what its like to teach because they went to school for 12-16 years.  Just because you had brain surgery doesn't mean you know what its like to be a brain surgeon.

Teachers have slowly lost respect over the years.  Somewhere along the way we started believing the word of the elementary student over the word of a professional.  If we want better public schools for our kids then we have to develop and instill that level of respect for teachers, schools, and education in general.  It has to start somewhere.  It might as well be with you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Baseball & Steroids :(

I am a pretty big baseball fan and have been all my life.  I played organized baseball for about 15 years and it helped pay my way through college.  But to be quite honest, all of this steroid stuff is starting to turn me off.

I'm not even talking about the fact that a lot of players cheated because they took steroids.  Technically, there was not a rule against it so it wasn't actually cheating.  But now that there is a rule against performance enhancing drugs, they want to go back and see who was breaking the rules that didn't exist at the time.  This was a bad idea.  They should have just wiped the slate clean and started over.

To make matters worse, MLB commissioner Bud Selig didn't have the guts to enforce the new laws himself, so he got the U.S. Government involved.  This is wrong on so many levels but I'll list two.
1)  The U.S. Government should never waste time involving itself making decisions about professional sports. 
2)  The U.S. Government is dealing with a war, bad economy, social injustice, oil spills, and many other serious issues that don't involve grown men playing a game for entertainment.

There are issues in other sports all of the time.  Drugs, fights, scandals, arrests, dog fighting, etc...  What do those sports do with athletes that break laws?  They suspend them and fine them.  What does baseball do?  Calls the U.S. Government for backup.

I am reminded of this as Roger Clemens will so be on trial for lying to Congress about using steroids.  Now I can't say if he did or not.  All I know is Clemens never should have had to talk to Congress!!  Seriously people!!  It's baseball!!  Don't let him in the Hall of Fame.  Put a star by his name.  Ban him from baseball.  Don't get Congress involved!

I'm ranting.  I'll stop now.  I just hate it when the sport that I love is getting a bad name all because of bad leadership.  Time to retire Bud Selig.   

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Butterflies In My Stomach

Tonight is like Christmas Eve for me because tomorrow is the first day of school.  Students are deciding what to wear, wondering who is in their class, and anxious to see what their teacher is like.  Teachers are also deciding what to wear and wondering what their classes will be like.

It will be my first day as an Administrator and I am definitely excited.  I feel like I have butterflies in my stomach.  The only thing I am nervous about is getting to know about 800 new students.  I am as prepared as I can be for everything else.

To be honest, I hope I never lose these first day of school jitters.  After playing baseball all the way through college, I never lost the butterflies when going up to bat.  Its not that I was nervous every pitch, but so excited for the challenge.  I am definitely excited for the challenge of administration and I'm sure those butterflies will show up quite frequently throughout the year.  I believe it is a reminder that I am still up for the challenge.

What gives you the feeling of butterflies in your stomach?  If your answer is nothing, I think its time for a new challenge!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's Never Too Early

Advice is great.  It helps people learn from the successes and failures of others.  It is great to learn from people that have been in your situation or have experienced what you are about to experience. 
The only problem with advice is that people usually wait too long to ask for it.  People are either in denial or they are so sure that they are the only ones in history that are facing their current issue that they are embarrassed to ask.

If you want to stay on top, if you want to be the best spouse, employee, employer, parent, friend, teacher, coach, player, anything... then you must learn to ask for advice before you need it.  It is better to ask how to have a successful marriage before having to ask how to salvage one.  It is better to ask how to stay healthy as you age rather than how to lose 100 pounds.  It is better to ask how you can better do your job rather than asking what you could have done better when you lose it.  It is better to ask how to stay out of debt than to ask how to get out of it.  My former boss and current mentor called this getting a checkup rather than an autopsy.  Perfect example!

Please understand that it is never to late to ask for help.  But it is also never too early to ask for advice.  Keep learning, growing, seeking, asking, searching, and striving.  

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Myth of Multitasking

It is cool to be a multitasker these days.  Many people have so many things to do that they feel like they need to do them all at the same time in order to finish.  Some really have too much to do while others just like to feel important.

The reality is multitasking is impossible.  The human brain cannot effectively do 2 or more tasks at the same time.   Those that are good multitaskers are actually good switchers, meaning the ability to quickly switch from one task to another.

For example, my Dad pretends like he can read the paper, watch tv, and have a conversation at the same time.  Now although it may seem like he is doing all of those at once, he is actually switching from task to task. (Which he does quite well.)

You may be someone that can talk on the phone, check your e-mail, cook dinner, and watch your kids all at the same time.  Although you may have 4 or 5 "tasks" going on, you are only doing one of them at a time.  You stop talking on the phone while you read your e-mail.  You stop watching your kids while you are browning the meat.  You let the water boil over while you are checking Facebook. 

Multitasking or "switching" is an important skill to learn as long as you remember 2 things.
1. Be Respectful - When people are involved it is important to make them feel important.  Stop everything and listen to what they have to say.  If you only have 3 minutes then tell them you only have 3 minutes.
2. Focus First - First, take time to focus on each task and complete it so you can do it to the best of your ability.  You'll be impressed with yourself when you knock out your to-do list.  Multitask the rest of your list if necessary.

(Sidenote:  Multitasking is only good when one of the tasks is mindless or takes a while to complete.  My wife reads while blow-drying her hair.  My friend listens to audiobooks while on his commute.  I check e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter while in the bathroom....oh don't even act like you don't do the same!)

Monday, August 9, 2010

80/20 Service

There are a lot of good hearted people in the world today.  As a matter of fact, I would say that over 90% of humans would help someone if they got the chance.

Unfortunately, there is an 80/20 rule when it comes to serving.  This rule says that 80% of the work will get done by 20% of the people.  This is true for churches, schools, businesses, government, and serving in general.  Well if over 90% are willing to serve but only 20% are actually serving, what is the problem?

The problem isn't THAT people don't want to serve but rather the problem is HOW people want to serve.  There are a lot of people that want to serve, IF they can do it their way.  Everyone has gifts and they want to use them.  However, if my gift is building and creating and you need me to serve in the nursery then I won't do it.

The point is this.  Everyone has gifts and talents that they need to use.  BUT sometimes it is best to serve where you're needed rather than where you want to be.  Know the goal, focus on the end result, and do your part to help the team.  Not every service and skill is needed all of the time.  So help out where you can to keep the 20% from burning out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Only Thing Harder Than Forgiveness....

The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative. 

Read that again.  Think about how true that is.

Forgiving someone can be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do.  The only thing harder than forgiveness is living your life without a friend, parent, sibling, or child that you choose not to forgive.  The only thing harder than forgiveness is carrying hatred, darkness, blame, and painful memories with you everyday of your life. 

"But you don't understand what they did!"  "But you don't understand what I they put me through!"   That is very true.  Unfortunately until you forgive, you are letting them put you through it everyday.  Until you forgive, you are choosing to carry hatred, darkness, blame, and painful memories with you everywhere you go.  Until you forgive, that relationship that you are longing for will never heal.

"How can I forgive when it hurts so much?"
How can you hold on to the pain and broken relationship when it hurts even more?

The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative.  Who do you need to forgive?

BTW - This quote is from the book What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey. Check it out from your local library.  I believe it will change your perspective.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New Job Smell

Changing jobs can be very exciting.  You get a new office, new title, new job description and new responsibilities.  You may need new clothes for your new job and new office supplies for your new desk.  Although your reputation always follows you, a job change can give you the chance to start afresh.

Beginning a new job can also be challenging.  Leaving people that you know, love, trust, and have inside jokes with and starting all over again with names, faces, personalities, buildings, rules, and culture can sometimes be a little scary as well.

Well today was the first day of my new job.  I have been teaching 7th Grade Geography for 4 years at Western Oaks Middle School and I loved every moment of it.  I worked with great students, faculty, staff and administration and will always have a place in my heart for the Western Oaks Warriors.

I  am now an Assistant Principal at Kenneth Cooper Middle School.  (I am an intern which means I have all of the rights and responsibilities of an assistant principal while maintaining teacher pay and being mentored by seasoned administrators.)  I am very excited about this new position as I will be challenged and stretched in new ways and hopefully be able to impact the lives of even more students by impacting teachers.  Although this was only my first day, I met some wonderful people that will be very fun to work with.  I am looking forward to getting to know them better and meeting the rest of the faculty, staff and students of Cooper Middle School.