One year ago I created a blog and posted my first blog, entitled, “A Renewed Sense of Purpose” (http://tinyurl.com/pjrgds4). I will admit I was reluctant to write a post because, one, I did not believe I had anything to share that anyone would want to read and two, I was not very confident in my writing. One month prior I had sat down at dinner with @gcouros and @patrickmlarkin and together they both tried to convince me that I needed to share my story with others. For the next month, I continued to put off starting a blog, each time using the excuse that I would do it tomorrow. And of course, tomorrow became the next day and then the next day and so on. Why did I continue to find an excuse not to start? Simply put, I was scared.
But what was I scared of?
Last spring, I was fortunate to speak at a leadership conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the request of a friend of mine Brad Black (@bradblack). One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Sue Enquist, retired softball coach and Hall of Fame Inductee from UCLA (@SueEnquist). During her presentation, Sue shared several anecdotes about her experience as coach at UCLA. I made sure to write them all down and I have since reflected on her comments several times in my role as HS principal and tried to maintain the same passion, conviction and integrity for her words in my daily work with students and staff.
1. 33% Rule: Don’t let the bottom third (B3) suck the life out of you. The bottom third is those individuals who either can’t or won’t celebrate your successes with you. For whatever reason, those who live in the B3 cannot be genuinely happy for others when they experience any amount of positive attention or are recognized for their accomplishments. They tear others down through their negativity and in many instances, relish in others’ personal failures. These people not only want to remain status quo, but they judge others who strive to be better. Recognize that a positive mindset can help you overcome all adversity. Surround yourself with a circle of greatness in order to protect your excellence! (#PLN)
2. Don’t Allow Anyone To Take Away Your Excellence: I believe this is one of the most difficult challenges we face every day in education, especially in a negative work environment. Our profession is filled with average. Our students and staff deserve so much more. It is easy to be duped by average disguised as good. Just as success breeds success, it takes excellence to recognize excellence. I firmly believe that we have too many leaders who are waiting for tomorrow when they need to be excellent today. The truth is it takes courage and a strong will to be excellent, because the B3’s are waiting to bring you down. Bring your excellence every day and don’t let anyone or any organization kidnap your best!
“Excellence Doesn’t Negotiate” – Sue Enquist
3. 80-20 Rule: Recognize that kids will live up to the standards and expectations that you have of them. I often remind others that kids will do what we allow them to do. What we model is what we get. Low expectations of kids or finding reasons why they cannot or will not do something in most cases is a direct result of our expectations and actions. The truth is kids are going to act like their age 80% of the time. However, it is what we expect and demand of the 20% that will determine the level of maturity and leadership kids will bring to a class, a team or an important event when the moment arrives that we need them to respond appropriately. Sue gave this example when taking her players to an important dinner event. She allowed the kids to use their 80% while on the bus to act and enjoy themselves like the 18-22 year olds they were, but before exiting the bus, she reminded them how she had shared with them that there are moments when she needed their 20% and this was one of those times. I have long since remembered this when kids are in class, the hallways, an assembly, a recognition event or a performance to let them have their 80%, as long as we have shared with them our expectations for their 20% when the time calls for it. It is amazing the result s you will get in return when you share and expect their best!
4. Failure Recovery: Our internal attitudes determine how quickly we can recover from failure. What is your inner voice saying to you? Is it saying that something isn’t fair? Is it telling you that you can’t do something? Is it telling you that you are overwhelmed? The fact is we fail every day as leaders, but our failure doesn’t have to define us, especially if we aspire to be excellent. A quote that Sue shared that day “Personal excellence starts over each day” reminds me that each day is truly a new day to be great and what I do with it is up to me.
5. Life Board of Directors: Who would you list on your Life Board?
Sue challenged us to think about those individuals who we look up to and aspire to emulate. So ask yourself today – who would be on your life board of directors and who would you list as the Chairperson of your professional life? Are the people you would list representative of the legacy you want to leave behind? Do they have the courage and fortitude to always do the right thing? Do they model the importance of serving a greater cause? Take time today to list your personal board of excellence.
About a month ago I was having dinner with my HR Director (@dr_sue_ay) when she made the following statement to me – “Jimmy, you are tomorrow today.” Her comment to me that evening has challenged me to continue to push myself to be better every day for me so I can be better for others tomorrow regardless of what others may think of me for doing so.
So why was I scared to start a personal blog that would be accessible to my students, parents, staff, colleagues and other educators to see? Well I, I wasn’t really sure myself until I heard Sue Enquist speak and then it hit me! I was scared of the 33% and I was scared to allow others to take away what little excellence I had. When you go through school your whole life feeling like a failure and lack the confidence to formulate any thoughts in order to put them on paper; well, you find any reason you can not to follow through even though you really want to for fear of what the B3’s will do to you. And then by luck you cross paths with someone like George Couros and Patrick Larkin who push you and encourage you to look past your deficiencies because they believe you have something to offer. Then a few months later you attend a leadership conference and listen to Sue Enquist, a legendary coach, tell you that “excellence doesn’t negotiate,” and that “personal excellence starts over each day” and you cannot help but get jacked up to change the world! And the next thing you know one year has passed by and that rookie blogger has written seventeen posts and accumulated over 33,000 reads on his blog from educators all over the world and you wonder, “How did that happen?”
Maybe, just maybe, it is because he decided to be tomorrow…today!
“Success is a peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” – John Wooden