IF: Making Allowances

The sixth chapter of the book of Isaiah tells the story of the profit Isaiah.  He was called to lead the children of Israel back to the heart of God.  The problem was that the people had a strong loyalty to the king.  King Uzziah had been a great king and experienced many successful victories for his people.  The story is told that his success was the cause of great pride.  This pride caused his separation from God’s will.  With Uzziah still on the throne, Isaiah was in danger of being killed if he spoke up about the direction of the people of Israel.  Verses one thru five gives an account of an experience that Isaiah had with the Lord in the year that Uzziah died and he was finally freed to do the very thing he was purposed to do.  The New American Standard version of the Bible records:

(1) In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. (2) Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  (3) And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” (4) And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.  (5) Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah 6:1-5 (NAS)

This experience is a perfect way to illustrate the power of making allowances without making excuses.  In verse three, Isaiah saw the Lord on the throne and recognized that he was holy.  Holy in Greek is pronounced kaw-doshe, which means clean, pure or perfect.  At the moment that he noticed the perfection of God he took a look at himself.  Verse five describes his reaction to his reflection.  He basically says shame on me since I am ruined.  The King James Version uses the word undone.  In Greek, undone is pronounced daw-maw, which means to fail, perish, to be brought to silence or coming apart at the seams.  At the realization of the greatness that is before you it is easy to see your inadequacies.  It is even understandable that you would feel like your dreams are coming apart at the seams.  In chapter eight will discuss how to find the appropriate balance between triumph and disaster.  However, here we deal with your realization that it will not be easy capture your dreams when it is resting among the stars.

I really enjoy this story for several reasons.  If you are a person of faith then you have to appreciate Isaiah’s experience.  It is very closely related to our own salvation experience.  It is a story of accomplishing that which God has called you to do but this portion of it reminds us of two very important realizations:  1) God’s holiness and 2) our hellishness.  It is God’s perfection that causes us to make allowances for our imperfections.  Now I use this story here because it has significant meaning even for those that do not hold the same faithful values that I hold.  Isaiah had a goal to accomplish.  He had to completely transform the spiritual behavior of his people.  He had to show them that the way that they were doing things was not right.  Not only did he have this great cause before him, he also had to do it in the face of a great and popular king.  This may be too far fetched for you but what about your goal or aspiration.  If you have something that you aspire to do and it is greater than your present situation then you too can have feelings of inadequacies.  If you have ever thought that you were not good enough or were not qualified to do something that you really wanted to do then this story is still about you.

Making an allowance for the doubt of others goes no further than acknowledging your own doubts.  It does not imply that their opinion of you should become more valuable than your view of yourself.  I am not asking you to give attention to everybody’s opinion about what you are doing and how you are doing it.  In fact, I am actually telling you not to spend your time that way at all.  Doing so will yield you nothing but negative results.  Great leaders are those that maintain a respect for their position.  These are the people that are always assessing the job they are doing and comparing that to what they know needs to be done.  Even if they feel completely qualified to do the job they are doing, they are still reverent towards the job itself.  They understand that to do their job well is much bigger than them. They realize that excellence requires hard work no matter who you are or how qualified you are.  I could fail.  I could give my opinion and be wrong.  I could work hard for something and not attain it. Those are possibilities and if I do not recognize them then I will not be prepared to overcome them.  Remember that there is always a positive and negative potential response to all suppositional situations.  Being prepared to overcome the potential negative responses require you to have spent time thinking about it.  However, expecting the positive response requires you not to spend too much time focused on the negative.  Kipling suggests here that you should have trust in yourself and your abilities but also have the humility to make allowance for the doubt of others.  If you take only one thing away from this chapter or this book, remember that other people will only have the power to kill your dreams if you give them the power.  Making allowance means that you must know the adversity you are up against if you intend to overcome them.

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IF: Keeping Your Head

In 2008, the United States of America elected its forty-fourth president, President Barack Obama, in the midst of one of the worst economic situations we have seen since The Great Depression.  From the moment he took office he has been blamed for the employment rates, national debt and all overall economy issues.  No one can argue that it is his responsibility to make things better and lead the country in the right direction.  However, can someone truly be blamed for a problem they inherited? I could take time here and share my political opinion but that is for another book. Here I wanted to high light the president’s response.  When the entire country is frustrated by jobs, wages and a host of unaddressed issues and everyone is looking at him demanding answers and criticizing him for the slow recovery, President Obama remained calm and collected.  He stays true his agenda and does not allow the blame from others to shake his focus.  Regardless of how you feel about his policies, this is a point of interest for anyone seeking to accomplish their goals and realize their dreams.
In the book, Developing the Leader Within You, author John C. Maxwell (2005) explains that “The Greek word for self-control comes from a root word meaning “to grip” or “take hold of.”  This word describes people who are willing to get a grip on their lives and take control of areas that will bring them success or failure” Maxwell (2005, p.161). Kipling opens his poem with the very first conditional supposition, “if you can keep you head…”  This implies to me how important the idea of self-discipline is in the attainment of ones goals.  Before you can do anything in preparation for the life you want to live, you must conquer self-discipline.  Maxwell quotes a gentleman by the name of Edwin Markham who had this to say on the subject:
We are blind until we see that in the human plan nothing is worth the making if it does not make the man.  Why build these cities glorious if man unbuilded goes? [sic] In vain we build the world unless the builder also grows (p. 162).
This statement is no different than the law of self-preservation.  Self-discipline is about dealing with what is going on inside of you.  It does no good to even accomplish your goal if you are not able to learn and grow alone the way.  While building your dreams you should be building yourself.  “When we are foolish, we want to conquer the world.  When we are wise, we want to conquer ourselves” (p. 163).  Those who are able to keep their heads in the midst of ciaos are those that understand that they learning even when they are the teacher.

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IF: Insanity

I wanted to share another section from my book.  I’d love to know what you think. Together we can make a change:

In the book, Developing the Leader Within You, author John C. Maxwell (2005) argues that discipline “in the beginning of life [is] the choice of achieving what you really want by doing things you don’t really want to do.”  He furthers explains that after some time, “discipline becomes the choice of achieving what you really want by doing things you now want to do” (p. 161).  If you have not read this book, I want to strongly encourage you to do so.  Chapter nine is entitled “The Price Tag of Leadership” and is all about self-discipline.  As we dive into this poem and dissect its meanings we find that self-discipline is at the core of all things desired.  Most people will read the content of this book searching for something deeper in their own lives. Searching for instruction or direction along their journey to their dreams.  The first thing we must address is discipline.  Maxwell suggests that we all learn discipline while doing what we have to do until we can do what we want to do.  Everyone can think back to their teenage years and living under their parents’ rules and regulations.  By the time we arrive at the age where we are discovering our own desires and aspirations, methods and morals we discover that there is suddenly this major conflict between what we want to do and what our parents want us to do.  If that was not your issue then it is probably the conflict between how you wanted to do things in comparison to how your parents wanted you to do things.  Most of us do not understand this conflict and believe that our parents have set out on this conspiracy to make our lives miserable.  However, the truth is that our parents set out to teach us valuable lessons about discipline and responsibility.  They set out to teach us that in life we would have to do things that we would not want to do.  They wanted us to understand that if we did what we had to do long enough and well enough that one day we could do what we wanted to do.  I want to suggest that too many people get stuck in the “do what you have to do” stage and never make it to their dreams which live in the “do what you want to do” stage.

The word insanity refers to a lack of reason or good sense.  It is often associated with a mental issue but I believe it can be a philosophical issue as well.  It describes a person that does the same things over and over but expects the results to magically be different.  It is a person that expects the results of their actions to change but refuse to change the action themselves.  Lets start with an example that we can all relate with. Have you ever been hungry and when you opened the refrigerator you did not find anything that you wanted to eat.  You walked away but moments later you return and repeated the same steps.  You opened the refrigerator for a third time hoping that this time when you open it there will actually be something to eat.  Technically, this is an act of insanity.  If you aspire to start your own business but continue to look for a job in someone else’s company without taking careful consideration of things necessary to prepare you for entrepreneurship then you might be insane.  If you aspire to attain graduate level education but will not take the time research the right program for yourself and get started then you might be insane.  If you aspire to lose weight but refuse to work out and have not changed your diet then you might be insane.  If you aspire to be promoted at your company but you continue to do just enough and have been quoted as saying “that is not my job” then you might be insane.

Mental insanity is admittedly outside of my expertise and will not be addressed in this book.  However, philosophical insanity can be cured by practicing self-discipline. When a person is willing to admit that their actions have not lined up with their desires then they position themselves to adjust their actions.  This book lays out actions that will aid you in redirecting your life in the direction of your dreams.  They are only useful if they are coupled with and led by this idea of self-discipline.  Self-discipline requires a self-awareness of both behavior and intent.  It causes us all to look inward and analyze whether we are doing what is required of us in the pursuit of our goals and aspirations.  If in fact we are not, self-discipline requires that we make the necessary changes.  When you are able to look at your life and the behavior therein and acknowledge those things that are not properly positioning you to achieve your goals, if you are then able to make the necessary changes in your life then and only then will you be able to cure the insanity that is holding you back.  It is equally important to remember that this is only the first step.  Once you are able to clear your life of the clutter of bad behavior you must be able to keep it clear when things begin to not go so well.  In times of trouble and ciaos, people tend to loose control and revert back to what was most familiar to them.  The question becomes if your dreams are on the line, can you keep your head when everyone else is loosing theirs and blaming it on you?

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Learning = Enduring Understanding of Knowledge

Learning is defined as the acquisition of knowledge.  In the education industry learning is measured with a focus on student achievement.  However, neither student achievement nor learning in general can be measured without assessment.  Classroom assessments are important but they do more than just measure learning.  What we assess, how we assess, and how we communicate the results send a clear message to students about what is worth learning, how it should be learned, and how well we expect them to perform.  However, assessments are only one part of the process of acquiring knowledge.  Establishing a culture of learning is critical to developing the requisite focus on outcomes, assessments, and achievement in any organization.

The Argyris (1996) book, Organizational Learning II, offers several principles that explain how organizations learn.  Argyris defines double-loop learning as “learning that results in a change in the values of theory-in-use, as well as in its strategies and assumptions” (p. 21).  This means that analysis of ones past actions should produce learning that changes present actions.  This is the essence of the learning culture.  Neither a culture of learning nor the assessment thereof can be developed in a “single-loop” learning model because it does not create a change in present methods.  Given the challenges educators face, education does not need to be reformed; it needs to be transformed.  The key to this transformation is not to standardize education but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions. Learning happens in the minds and souls of individuals, not in the databases of multiple-choice tests.  Student achievement is waiting on the assessors to reassess assessment.  If we change the way we assess and therefore the way we teach, we will transform education in such a way that will make student achievement inevitable.

There are many resources that explain how students learning and how to assess their learning.  In the second edition of their book, Understanding by design, Wiggins and McTighe (2005) talk about learning in terms of establishing essential questions.  They define essential questions as “questions that are not answerable with finality in a brief sentence… Their aim is to stimulate thought, to provoke inquiry, and to spark more questions — including thoughtful student questions — not just pat answers” (p. 106).  Assessment-based curriculums written with a backward design and lead my essential questions are the most effective way to promote student achievement.  This method is student centered from beginning to end and aids teachers in engaging students in a variety of learning exercises that promote their achievement.  It encourages the establishing the culture of learning alluded to in the Argyris text.  Thinking in terms of essential questions leads to the development of enduring understandings (knowledge).  This is only accomplished in a double-loop learning environment.  An environment that is ripe with a learning culture.

References:

Argyris, C., & Schon, D. A. (1996). Organizational learning II: Theory, learning, and practice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Booth, Wayne C.; Colomb, Gregory G.; Williams, Joseph M. (2009). Craft of Research (3rd Edition). Chicago, IL, USA: University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/capella/Doc?id=10288700&ppg=71

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. ISBN: 9781416600350.

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Diary of an Entrepreneur

entrepreneurI found this photo online by accident one day last year (Source: Secret Entourage).  I don’t remember what I was searching for initially but once I read the caption I immediately knew that this would be my motto for the next year or so.  When I was in high school I dreamed of working for myself and starting multiple companies. While in college I studied business and learned what that would take. Post-college I did what most people do, I got a job.  I mean it does take money to make money, right? I’ve been chasing my dream for well over ten years now and there is one thing that is absolutely true. Entrepreneurship is HARD!  Let’s just be honest here, unless you have the support and resources to fully capitalize your business at conception, there is an enormous amount of work that goes into it.  Because I knew that I was grossly unprepared to do most of the things that I really wanted to do in business, I focused on my education.  I began working in secondary education but the passion for entertainment never left.  I sang in my every music ministry my church had to offer but I was still missing valuable portions of my need to express.  Knowing this, I enrolled in an Entertainment Business degree instead of a music education degree for my masters program. During this time I reshaped my entrepreneurial goals and developed a solid business plan for the Bailey Boy A.D.E. Foundation. Although I have several business ideas filed neatly in folders on my MacBook Pro, I chose to focus on the business that would help other people more than myself. Some days I think that this was a foolish decision but when I see the joy on the faces of students in one of my programs it is hard to think about doing anything else.  I have lived in three cities over the last two years chasing opportunities to do the things that I love and finish my education.  Did I forget to mention that while working in education for so long and laying the foundation for the Bailey Boy Academy, I decided that I would pursue a doctorate degree in education? My wife and I have made sacrifices that even I question at times.  I have had many sleepless nights and felt like the work would never end.  My passion for writing and even establishing this blog came from the fact that I’ve been in school for so long that writing is all I know how to do.  Sometimes I think about all of this and say, “What are you doing?” “Why are you doing this?”  In those really tough times I run across this picture and remember that in these years of difficult decisions and sleepless nights I am not alone.  There are others that have decided to live there lives in such a way that most people would call foolish.  Most people would simple decide that it was not worth all of this.  I remind myself that if you really want something then you have to work hard for it.  I may not know exactly when the payoff will come but I am certain that it will.  If you are thinking about being an Entrepreneur, know that you will be committing years of your life to a lifestyle that others may not understand or agree with.  But if you are willing to live those years like most people won’t then you will be well able to live the remainder of your life like most people can’t.  GOOD LUCK!

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From GOOD to GREAT

In the article I read opposing Collin’s book Good to Great the author states that Collins’ team did not properly conduct their research, that the research fit inside the “Corporate Barnum Effect”, and that the entire book can be summed up by making good business decisions. He states that the error in research existed because Collins used the “good to great” concepts to analyze the comparison companies. He argues that they were not judged by none-bias standards and the research did not reflect the possibility that companies could have exemplified the “good to great” concepts but still did not become great. The Barnum effect is such that a concept is so generic that we all can apply them from our own viewpoint to make them true. Lastly, he claims that all concepts in Collins’ book can be summarized by “making good business decisions”.

A few companies cited in the book are still great today. Companies like Hewlett-Packard and Wal-Mart are still one of the most powerful leaders in their industry. These companies are still great. Collins even suggests that these companies were built to last for their inception. Their sustainability was a result of a different group of concepts, which he discusses in his previous book, Built to Last.

I enjoyed this book and believe strongly in the concepts contained therein. However, I do not believe that cumulative stock returns should be the only measure used to define greatness. This would automatically prevent non-profit organizations from participating in the conversation. I believe that Collins and his research team used these returns as a basis for studying their success. The very nature of the concepts contained in the book leads me to believe that he too believes that stock returns are only a part of what made those companies great. The stock returns were a result of their greatness and not a requirement for it.

Prior to reading Collins’ book Good to Great I had not really thought extensively about comparing good companies to great companies. On the other hand, I have always believed that the right people working in the right company model would produces monetary results. I think that great companies are those that care more about people than profits. I do believe that the “Good to Great” concepts can apply to education. Weather an educational institution in nonprofit or the new for-profit, it is a company that offers goods and services to clients. The concepts in this book can help the institution raise the quality of the services offered and therefore establish themselves as a great educational institution. If you are in the non-profit sector then I recommend the book Forces for Good. It presents very similar advice using similar rigorous research methodology as Good to Great.

Reference
Collins, J. C., & Porras, J. I. (2003). Built to last, successful habits of visionary companies. Harper Paperbacks.
Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t. New York, NY: Collins Business.
May, R. (2006). Why “Good to Great” Isn’t Very Good. Business Pundit. Retrieved from: http://www.businesspundit.com/why-good-to-great-isnt-very-good/

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Tools To Build A Better You

IFRudyard Kipling (1865-1936) is the author of the inspirational poem ‘If’.  It first appeared in his poetic collection ‘Rewards and Fairies’ in 1909. The poem is both inspirational and motivational in it interpretations.  In the poem, Kipling offers a blueprint for living a mature life.  He presents a group of suppositions that leads to a boy becoming a man.  He paints a picture of a father giving advice to his son.  I pictured a boy coming to his father with a problem; the father picking the boy up and placing him on his lap.  When opening his mouth to give his son some advice, the father begins, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”  He offers these suppositions as nuggets of character building strategies that can aide even seasoned adults in building a better life for themselves.
What if you had the power to be a better you?  Would you work at?  I suggest to you as Kipling suggested to his readers that maturity is in one’s perspective.  Each line of the poem describes to the reader a behavior that is clearly not seen as “normal”.  It suggests that if you can adjust your character to fit inside of these abnormal behaviors than you will obtain a prize.  He does seem to suggest that the doer will receive fortune or fame when he says, “yours is the earth and everything that’s in it.”  Kipling understood that people were in search of something greater.  He knew that some people pushed themselves in order to obtain material possessions.  He suggests to his readers that these things will come.  They are a part of success.  He shows us that success includes material manifestations but is not contingent upon them.  There is something so much greater that we should all be fighting for.  There is something greater that we should all be working for.  That something is maturity.  Kipling says that if you do these things that most people are clearly not doing then you will obtain material things and “which is more, you’ll be an man.”  The phrase “which is more” suggests that although the aforementioned was good, the next statement is more powerful.  Kipling suggests that if his suppositions are followed than his readers will obtain maturity.
The poem ends in with the phrase “You’ll be a man, my son!”  This phrase embodies the development of a person from “boy” to “man”.  During the time of this writing, it was common for literature to written from the masculine perspective.  Embrasing the practicality of this poem would require us not to focus on the gender of this statement but the intended meaning.  The development of a boy into a man embodies many things, which can be summed up with the word maturity.  Maturity is defined as the state of being mature.  It refers to one’s full development or perfected condition.  Knowing that perfection is not accomplished in any mortal being leads me to define maturity as being the very best you that you can be at that moment.  It is a three-dimensional look at one’s self.  It is a snapshot of where you are during the assessment of where you are headed.  It is the ability to self-assess, prioritize or reprioritize one’s goals and aspirations.

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