(#366) Why Not You?

May 28, 2017

Speaking and writing does not belong to some elite group of individuals.

Have you considered publishing or speaking to broaden the powerful impact and reach you already have on those around you? It could be for a small local audience or something larger. You might do it for money—or for the sheer passion you have for a particular topic.

Later today (May 28, 2017), I will have the opportunity to facilitate a workshop at the annual NISOD Conference in Austin, Texas.  I will pose a simple question, “Why not you?” If you don’t share your talents, who will?

I hope to encourage participants to consider sharing their accumulated wisdom through publishing and/or speaking. I will be talking to college professors, advisers, and administrations. But whether you manage a retail store, teach students, serve customers in a restaurant, nurse patients in a hospital, coach a little league team, manage a household, or lead your community, you have experiences to share.  Speaking and writing does not belong to some elite group of individuals.

Take a moment today, and consider all that you have to offer with respect to your accumulated wisdom.

To be sure, just because you want to write or speak, does not necessarily mean you should write or speak.  And just as assuredly, not everyone has the talent or temperament for speaking and writing.

Before you brush aside the idea, though, consider what you have that others may be interested in learning.  From parenting, to surfing, to gardening, to home renovation, to mentoring young minds, you make a difference in your world. Here are a few questions to help you sort through your thoughts to share your wisdom. I encourage you to work through these with someone who will give you trusted feedback.

  • WHY do I want to publish and/or speak? Is it for ego, profit, passion, or the need to share an important lesson?
  • WHO cares about my work—and why should they? Huge question! If you decide to speak or publish, who will be interested enough to listen?
  • WHERE do I find opportunities? Local community organizations? Regional and national conferences? Letters to the editor? The community newspaper? A national magazine? Self-publishing?
  • HOW do I develop a supportive learning community of associates to help me develop your writing and speaking talents? And, how can I help others to find their voices?

When we start examining these types of professional and personal growth opportunities and questions, we identify and clarify our inner desires, strengths, and challenges. And we increase our chances to connect and form collaborative, supportive networks, and create community.

Rather than saying, “I’m not a writer or speaker” I hope you will consider (and act upon) “Hey, I can write and speak, too…just never thought about it.” Find a mentor to help you begin your journey.

In fact, you may find yourself saying, “Hell, yeah, that is for me!”


Video recommendation for the week.

Your story has power!


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#363) A Resiliency Group: Collaboration, Creativity, Caring, and Collegiality

May 7, 2017

Rather than waiting for (or blaming) “them” to do something,
get creative and start a resiliency movement yourself.

During my undergraduate years at Jacksonville University, I spent a fair number of hours in the campus library. On the second floor (as I remember), there were a few study rooms.  Here a student could isolate himself for quiet. I recall some of these rooms having a typewriter for those needing to hammer out a term paper. Quiet time.

When I taught at Florida State College at Jacksonville, the library had quiet rooms for students to study or practice for presentations.  These study groups helped students understand concepts, share ideas, review notes, and encourage one another during exam preparation. Collaborative growth and development.

The image of students pulling all-nighters notwithstanding, some campuses now provide nap zones and nap stations.  A rested student is a better-prepared student the thinking goes.

When I visited Zappos headquarters last month, I met the “Zappos Mayor” (Tony Ferrara). In follow-up emails, I asked the “Mayor” about the Zappos nap room.  Where there any metrics on its use and success?

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

“Yes, we do have a nap room here at Zappos for those folks that may need a little power nap during their break or lunch times. In addition to the nap room, we have several miscellaneous benefits here at Zappos …. We don’t provide these extras specifically for the purpose of quantifying their results. We provide them as part of building and maintaining culture through employee engagement.   For example, we don’t monitor who uses the nap rooms at all. They’re there for the benefit and convenience of team members, not for analyzing metrics.”


Video recommendation for the week.

Arianna Huffington promotes the power of rested employees.  As she states in this clip, the workplace “pays people for their judgment not their stamina.”


More than likely, your workplace does not have a nap room.  The culture and the leadership may not support such a departure from the industrial work model.  OK. What can you do to promote wellbeing?

Rather than waiting for (or blaming) “them” to do something, get creative and start a movement yourself.  Consider your own “resilience group.”  Create a critical mass for a “resilience movement.”  It could start over a cup of coffee or a walk around the campus during lunch.

It does not have to be a venting group. In fact, since it is a resilience group, you may want to focus on positives. What is working in your workplace and how can you create more of it?

Start with a group of co-workers you can trust, talk with, and share ideas; people who understand your experiences. You function as a collegial support group. You might find that you need to bring in a facilitator at some point to bring your “movement” to a higher level.

At times, just having co-workers acknowledge that they hear our concerns, and maybe share those concerns, is the shot of energy we need. Great start. But what action will you take beyond the words?  What will your collective resiliency plan look like? When will you start?

Collaboration.  Caring.  Collegiality. No need to be an island.

It’s worth consideration.

Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#362) Small Acts of Gratitude

April 30, 2017

“Silent gratitude is not much use to anyone.”
– Gertrude Stein –

Saying “thank you.” Giving a cheerful “good morning!” Expressing appreciation. Providing a hug, emotionally if not physically.  Each of these requires a tiny investment of energy.  The result compounds in ways we may not anticipate.

I have been spending time lately listening to my podcast episodes and reacquainting myself with the wonderful insights of my guests.  After I re-listen to an episode, I take a few minutes to send an email thanking the guest for his/her contributions to the community.  Literally, the email takes about 180 seconds to create and “send.”

The goal is simple: recognition and validation of a person. A small act.

Almost to a person, their responses (which I was not expecting) said something along the lines of “you don’t know how much your email means to me.”  One individual was having a particularly rough week (which I had no way of knowing).  The email told me, “Thanks for the email…appreciate the little things in life!”

Five years ago, I dedicated myself to a year a gratitude. You can read about here.  I committed myself to a simple daily discipline—and it continues to give back to others.  (I still have people, to whom I sent a gratitude note, share that they have kept and cherish my handwritten note.)

Think of the small acts of kindness done for you—and that you do for others.  It does not take much effort to say thank you or recognize a job-well-done.

Thank you for reading and sharing my blog. Thank you for the gratitude you share with your community.

Thank you.

P.S.  A few hours after I wrote this blog post, I received an unexpected “Thank You Note” from a friend. She simply wanted to thank me for being in her life.  A card that I will tuck away in my gratitude file.

Nice.

Thank you!


Video recommendation for the week.

I have shared this video before.  It never gets old because it helps us connect with one another on a personal, meaningful, and authentic level.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#352) When Islands Protect And Support

February 19, 2017

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in
unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”—Teddy Roosevelt

Two stories. One lesson.

This past week, Laurie (my bride) and I took time to tour the Center for Civil and Human Rights. We sat down at one exhibit that replicates a lunch counter sit-in. With our hands placed on the counter, the headphones situated securely on our ears transported us to the 1960’s. To a time when people took a seat to make a stand about racial prejudice and discrimination.

We sat listening to the hate-filled voices whispering—and then yelling—in our ears. They hurled threats. We heard thumps, bangs and loud noises. At one point, we both jumped a bit from our seats at the counter.  While we were never in any physical danger, we felt (at some limited level) the fear that those brave protesters felt.  To say the exhibit moved us remains a gross understatement.

By the end of (only) two minutes, our “demonstration” ended. The docent handed me a tissue. I dabbed my eyes, truly moved by the experience. I remember the words of M.L.K., Jr. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (@ the Center for Civil and Human Rights)

Those young 1960’s protesters came together, tired of being buffeted in a sea of hatred. They might have been on an island, but they came together on that island and led the way. Silent no more, perhaps another M.L.K., Jr. quote rang true to them: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

A few days later, we drove to the other end of Georgia to take part in the annual Valentine’s Day Renewal of Vows in Savannah’s City Market.  We have participated in the annual event since the late 1990’s. The Reverend Billy Hester and his wife, Cheri, officiate. Hester has led the Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church congregation since the early 1990’s. When he arrived, the church was by all appearances on its last legs. Membership languished at about 25 souls. The average age hovered around eighty years old.

The last time we visited the church for a Sunday service, the pews were full! Hundreds of people gathered for praise and glory. Why? The stewardship of Hester and his wife. The inclusive nature of their authentically positive message resonated with the surrounding neighborhood.  They held a lamp of humanity for many who felt alone. Each member helps build a resilient community.

They created an island of souls, so that individual souls would not have to struggle on their own islands.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

And while my descriptions above capture but a small piece of the sacrifice and courage, both stories show the power of a community coming together for protection and support. Collaboration, growth, and resilience.

The subtitle of my latest book reads No Need to be an Island. I emphasize the power of collective group.  It can help each member recognize and build his and her own capacity for growth and change.

The congregation and the museum teach us the value of coming together, appreciating, and accepting (not simply “tolerating”) our neighbors.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.
It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.”—
Nelson Mandela


Video recommendation for the week:

This week, I offer a short meditation video from Belleruth Naparstek.  The actual meditation begins at the one-minute mark of the video.  She brings in the power of community near the 4:52 marker.  Treat yourself to a little quiet reflection time today.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#296) Not Us. Them.

January 24, 2016

“A building is not just about itself, but the place where it resides.”-Craig Dykers

Did you hear the one about the college president’s view of how to handle struggling students? Reportedly his suggestion was to “drown the bunnies.”

No, that’s not the setup for a bad joke.  According to a recent article in Inside Education that is what a college president said (though, the president says he can’t remember his exact language) when discussing ways to increase retention numbers for his institution. One such method put forth: Encourage those who might fail to withdraw early in the semester—and protect retention numbers for the institution.

Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Where does one even start with such a sentiment? Let’s hope in this case the president was incorrectly or inaccurately quoted. If not, is this what happens when the institutional management thinks they have become the institution?

Students bring their academic and non-academic challenges with them when they step on campus.  Any college is more than its bricks and mortar. The college is the community it serves.  Of course, not all students will be successful. Colleges (like community colleges) that have open admission policies agree to take on 100% of their applicants.  Some will not be successful–and many will. And it often takes longer than one or two semesters for students to find their footing and transition into the ethos of higher education.

The campus is not about the president, professors or custodians—it’s about the community. To be sure, all of those people (and more) make up the community.  We need transformational leaders and effective faculty.  But we need to examine the mission.  Has it come to be directed by and for retention numbers on an Excel spreadsheet rather than the human lives that cross the threshold each day?

I know first-hand that colleges across our great nation have a plethora of resources available for student success. Colleges like San Jacinto College have an interest in the student as a total person.  Florida State College at Jacksonville has a program  to steer students toward important resources during the critical first semester. Northern Virginia Community College “is committed to helping students reach their goals with a network of support services.”  And the list goes on and on around the nation.  These higher education institutions definitely see more than “bunnies” to be quickly dispatched.

A concomitant question: What admission criteria do colleges and universities use?

As presented on CBS News last week, according to a recent report titled “Turning the Tide,” colleges and universities are starting to review their admission criteria.  Traditional benchmarks (ACT/SAT, for instance) are being questioned for their efficacy. This conversation eventually connects to retention of students from one semester to the next.

cbs

Perhaps the unfortunate wording and/or sentiment of one college president may help to further the meaningful conversation about who the college admits, under what circumstances and with what promises for assistance and chances for success. Access without opportunity is hollow. What markers spot potential and which ones don’t?

I read the quote that opens this post in the February issue of Fast Company. The issue is the magazine’s 2016 leadership issue.  I believe it applies to our college campuses across the nation where our students depend on effective and meaningful leadership and teaching.

It’s not about us. It’s about them.

Make it a wonderfully successful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#281) Collisions for Collaboration or Crashes of Confusion?

October 11, 2015

Whether talking about the college classroom or the corporate boardroom, conscientious nurturing of authentic relationships improves the chances for effective communication, meaningful connections and powerful creation.

A major work published in 1991 on effective college teaching emphasized the importance of reciprocity, cooperation and connections in the teaching and learning environment.

Professor Emeritus Joe Cuseo often refers to the importance of personal validation and social interaction as critical ingredients in the student success mix.

My former dean, Dr. John Wall, emphasized the importance of developing rapport with students.

On my list of the “7 Rs for Success” the first spot is occupied by “relationships.”

In a major study (1999), Gallup surveyed more than 80,000 employees to identify those dimensions that continually mark the great places to work.  Of the twelve dimensions they discovered in their research, I noted at least five that focused on connectedness with at least one other person on the team.

Do you see the connection in the above?  Without a doubt effective collaboration continually appears as the keystone for success. Whether talking about the college classroom or the corporate boardroom, conscientious building of authentic relationships improves the chances for effective communication and meaningful creation.

2015-10-09 07.23.22

I had the opportunity to experience this basic teaching truism this past Friday in Portland, Oregon.  I had the honor to deliver the keynote address to the Portland Community College-Dual Credit Symposium.  In the audience were hundreds of high school faculty who taught high school courses that also allowed their students to earn college credit (hence, “dual credit).  College faculty (who serve as mentors and liaisons between the high schools and college) joined in the event as well.

2015-10-09 06.45.10

While my emphasis in the keynote focused on non-academic factors of student success, my underlying theme was collaboration.  I challenged the audience to identify the bright spots and not-so-bright spots of their collaborative arrangements.  In a massive program that touches the lives of thousands of students in more than fifty area high schools each year, it is critical that open lines of communication exist.  And, as I mentioned to them, this has to go beyond an occasional email blast. There has to be a concerted and sincere effort to create opportunities for communication and creation.  In such a large operation, it can become easy to focus on checking off bureaucratic checklists—and miss real opportunities to collaborate.

Tony Hsieh speaks about the importance of “encouraging collisions to maximize serendipity.” Collisions, in this metaphor, provide opportunities for personal and workplace growth and recognition. This is what our transformational leaders do.

Unfortunately, often poor managers orchestrate crashes not collisions.

Video recommendation for the week:

In the following video presentation, Hsieh explains one of his new projects that focuses on ROC—return on community.  (Hsieh speaks of collisions specifically beginning at 11 minutes into the video.)

Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project states, “Any organization that fails to build a robust learning program for its employees–not just to increase their skills but also to develop them as human beings–ought to expect that its people won’t get better at their jobs over time and may well get worse.”

And the October (2015) issue of Fast Company magazine highlighted (pp. 68-70) four apps that give the leaders yet another  opportunity to gauge the mood and connection of their employees to the workplace culture:

  • Niko Niko
  • Culture Amp
  • Round Pegg
  • Mood Ring

What is the conversation in your work space–and what are the consequences?

How does your workplace foster collisions for collaboration rather than crashes of confusion?

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#269) Yes And

July 19, 2015

It is interesting that we can point to others
as being intransigent in their thinking while we pat ourselves on the back
as possessing true critical thinking skills.

Collective monologues and confirmation bias will derail any potential for a meaningful conversation. When we bring our rigid/inflexible preconceived ideas and/or a predilection to hear ourselves speak, we disrespect the person in front of us and doom any hope for collaboration.

This week I took part in an exercise that underscored the importance of civility and dialogue.

I am participating (as a student) in an eight week improv workshop. Within the first few minutes of the first night, I learned that the foundational cornerstone for effective improvisation can be captured by two words: “Yes, and….”  As our instructor explained, “Yes, and” will not only inspire my partner(s), it helps to move a scene forward.

Image: David Castillo Dominici @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: David Castillo Dominici @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Yes, but…” and “No!” are scene killers. It stops the action.  To prove the point, we played out three improv scenes.  As I participated in each, I thought how these scenes play out beyond improv in the “real world” of the workplace and in relationships. Think of the times you have been in a scene-killing or scene-advancing situation.

  • Scene #1 = “NO!” No matter what my partner said, my job was to kill the idea. Grind it into the ground with no hope of resurrection. I would then offer my suggestion—to which my partner put a quick stake through its heart. Result?  We got nowhere. We degraded one another’s ideas. We did not listen. Each of us only wanted our way. No progress.
    • Beyond improv. Ever been in a situation (work or personal life) where your ideas were met with pure negativity? When no one listened or heard the positives of what you presented? Can you remember times when you did the same to others?  Without a doubt, this IS a scene killer.  It denigrates without a positive alternative. The toxicity simply states, “I’ve stopped listening.”
  • Scene #2 = “Well, I don’t know….if we have to….” The good news in this scene: We did not kill each other’s ideas. The not-so good news: We had very little enthusiasm for what the other person said. If not outright negative, we tended to be sarcastic and condescending.  While the scene did not die, the best we can say is that it limped along to a merciful end. Minimal progress.
    • Beyond improv. Imagine a date in which every suggestion you offer (the restaurant, the movie, and the time) is meet with, at best, considered indifference. Yuck!  This thinly veiled negativity will place a wet blanket on any evening.  The same for the staff meeting.  You know the people (you can see them in your mind’s eye right now). If not downright negative, they never show any encouragement or enthusiastic support for any idea.
Image: xedos4/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: xedos4/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • Scene #3 = “Yes, and…!” You could feel the energy noticeably increase in the workshop when we shifted into this scene. No matter what our partners presented, we responded with an enthusiastic “YES!” that was then followed by “AND” this is why your idea has merit! Even if the other person was not totally sold on the idea, she would acknowledge it, embrace it, and offer how it could lead to an even better situation.  Very positive—and the scene kept building.  While we didn’t really know where the scene would go, we did know we would arrive together!
    • Beyond improv. True collaboration allows for brainstorming and question-storming. It is not code for blindly accepting every idea tossed before you. On the contrary, it acknowledges the other person—and then offers a “what if we also did….?” or “and that could allow us to ….” It is not a scene killer. It moves the scene to the next level. Respectful, civil, and considered.

Yes, this strategy can be very difficult in a situation in which you have a deep objection.  It is interesting, though, that we can point to others as being intransigent in their thinking while we pat ourselves on the back as possessing true critical thinking skills. As we move into the very long presidential campaign season, listen to the “debates.” (Does anyone really think any of these so-called debates are little more than collective monologues?)  Listen to your colleagues, partner and yourself this coming week.

Video Recommendation for the Week:

Just think how much we might get accomplished if we focused on “Yes, and….!”

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

I am venturing into the realm of podcasting.  Check out my first episode at “Powerful (Mindful) Preparation. Powerful Presentation.” Information on future podcasts can be found on my podcast page.

Check out my website (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


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