All students will achieve their maximum potential by becoming responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Climb to New Heights in Spite of Fear by Accepting New Challenges

This blog was influenced by the relatively recent actions and words of one of my sons.  So while it has a slight personal tone, I find it to be very relevant for what we all face each day we lead.  Remember, we all have an opportunity to lead at some point.  The question is…do we accept it?

“It’s not about being afraid. It’s about what you do when you are.”  That is the phrase I first said to one of my sons (the 6 year old) as he contemplated climbing through a cargo net tunnel that was approximately 50’ off the ground.  You see he is afraid of heights and the prospect of climbing at this height where all that was between him and the pavement were big ropes that he could easily see through was well…a little off-putting.  So, as I kneeled in front of him and said; “What do you want to do?” I never expected his eyes to widen as he stared back at me and said; “I want to get to the top, so I can do this dad!”  I smiled at him and replied; “I know you can.  I’m right here.  Let’s get started.” as he turned and began his long crawl through the tunnel.

Why does this little recollection matter to anyone besides me?

All too often we run into the phrase “change is difficult for everybody” in the field of education.  While it is true, it unfortunately becomes an excuse to not try something new and difficult; accept substandard results as “good enough” given the circumstances; or expect less from those most needed to make the change a success. 

In reality, how many of us as consumers are comfortable when the provider says, “I know I haven’t provided a perfect service to you, but I thought it was good enough.”  So why would we ever condone our use of that excuse?  Unfortunately, some aspects of our society/educational system reward mediocre efforts in the hope that it will convince the individual that they have accomplished the best they can.  On the contrary, this type of reward slowly convinces individuals to not “dare greatly” because they may fail.  Therefore, they remain stagnant and never reach their full potential.  The writings or Carol Dweck address this concept in great detail as it pertains to academics as well as life.  Change is uncomfortable…even scary because we are not always ensured of success even if we do work hard.  What we can be assured of though is growth in our experience, ability, and character; and as William Moore explains in his book, mental toughness.

Think of educational change that needs to take place.  In a nutshell, numerous schools operate on a 20th Century schedule, with a 20th Century curriculum; in an effort to produce successful 21st Century individuals.  That alone should scare us more than the idea of change.  What we need to do is face that fear.  There are many roadblocks, but as Patton said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”  We only grow by taking chances.  How many initiatives (not just the passing fads) have been abandoned because the goal was too lofty?  We wanted to get there, but the path was too arduous.  Think about it.  Where could we be if we not only realized that most people are afraid of taking chances and change, but internalized the fact that fear is a natural reaction.  Our response is what makes the difference…

So, what is your response going to be next time you are concerned or afraid?

How will help those who may not be ready to act yet?

How will you lead?

Build your character; sustain it with mental toughness; continue to move forward in improving both you and your surroundings; and positively affect those around you.

Oh yeah, that six year old is now seven and has had a couple firsts that required him to change and as he put it, “conquer his fear!”  I think I have some things I can learn from him…