(#369) About Kayaks And Perspective

June 18, 2017

If we focus on the possible negative, we get sucked into it.

Lessons. Everywhere, lessons present themselves.  And they remind us that we are always students. Lifelong learners. If we pay attention.

My latest education has come over the past few weeks courtesy of my new twelve-foot ocean kayak.

Previously, I had paddled in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, and in North Florida inlets.  Let’s say my first week of ocean kayaking has gifted me some wonderful lessons.

  • Perspective. I spend time on the beach observing surfers and paddle boarders. I notice smooth water, small waves, and storm-tossed breakers. The appreciation for the conditions, though, changed when I walked my kayak into the ocean for the first time. The waves took on a very different perspective  atop of (and soon tossed from) my kayak seat.
    • Lesson. Until we dive into a project, we do not have a full appreciation of what to expect.  A new job might look perfect—until we report to work. Perhaps it’s criticizing a co-worker, government action, or the stance of a group different from ours.  Until we get into that water, we really don’t understand that perspective.

  • Respect and Fear. I have always had a deep respect for the ocean.  That is different from the fear I felt the first time I paddled beyond the breakers. I could feel myself tense up—which in turn led to poor body mechanics. Instead of attacking the waves, I stopped paddling–and eventually ended up in the water with the boat on top of me. (With a broken seat back and lost sunglasses, thank you very much!)
    • Lesson. Fear can lead to counter-productive actions. We start to focus on the thing we do NOT want to do. I once heard a race car driver’s advice on how NOT to hit the racetrack wall. Simply, he said, do NOT look at the wall. If we focus on the possible negative, we get sucked into it. My first day on the kayak I focused on the waves and not being tossed rather than focusing on the shore and gliding to a stop. I tensed up and face planted in the water.

  • Adrift. The first time I got beyond the breakers and to (relatively) smoother, less undulating water, I looked back and saw that I was further from shore than I had thought. The voice in my head cried, “What the hell are you doing out here? Way out here?”
    • Lesson. When we attempt something new, when we stretch ourselves, we might feel adrift. Like we have no anchor. We find ourselves treading unfamiliar waters. Some people quit. Some figure out how to persevere. Some look for reassurance and guidance.  In my case, I looked a little north and spied surfers and paddle boarders. I felt better knowing others were close by. They wouldn’t paddle my boat but just knowing others were in similar waters gave me a feeling of security. When you feel lost and adrift, look around for those who may be in similar waters. Collegiality can be a powerful motivator.
  • Coaching. I sought out a neighbor with experience to help me with kayaking technique.  From posture, to paddle stroke, to entering and leaving the surf, he has provided needed guidance. Simple ideas take root due to his repetition
    • Lesson.  There is no need to be an island.  Reach out for coaching.  A fresh set of eyes and a different perspective can help move you to a new level. (And do not forget gratitude. Bruce found a twelve-pack of his favorite beverage on his patio later that week.)
  • Daily Discipline. Each day I go out, I see improvement. I paddle further; spill less frequently; unload, load, and strap the kayak to the cart with more skill.  I now look at how the waves break on a particular day before lunging into the surf.  I am more aware. I still have a long way to paddle—and I have come a long way, as well.
    • Lesson. Whether you want to call it locus of control or self-efficacy, when you fall short, get up, fall again, get up again…ad nauseum….you learn, you grow, and move closer to a goal. If we fail to notice that we fail to notice—we hinder our movement forward.


Video recommendation for the week.

Sometimes laughing is the best way to soothe a bruised ego. With that in mind, my bride sent me this video link.  Even kayakers have a blooper reel.


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.


(#351) Show Don’t Tell

February 12, 2017

Saying it doesn’t make it so…too much talking mutes the story. 

The teacher becomes the student—again.

This past week, I received a full manuscript review and critique of (what will eventually become) my first novel.  The reviewer—a student of mine from thirty some-odd years ago—did a masterful job of pointing out the challenges as well as a few bright spots.

As I read and reread her critique, one of my writing offenses fell in the category of “Show Don’t Tell.” In other words, my characters and narrator did a lot of talking when they should have been taking action to move the story forward.  Or a character would label something as “desolate” or “beautiful” but not fully paint the picture. Saying something is “desolate” does not have the same punch as painting a picture of desolation for the reader. Saying it does not make it so.

My manuscript reviewer said this (“show don’t tell”) rears its head with many novelists (at least, I guess, the ones who struggle to grab the attention of the readers).

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

I thought back to the times I worked with students and their essay writing.  Often, they would “tell” me that something was “major,” “critical,” “important,” or “sensational” but would fall short on proving or “showing” how the descriptor was apt.  They failed to support their assertions with detail.

In short, too much talking mutes the story—whether that story is an essay, a book, a memo, or a policy initiative.

I can see a lesson here beyond academic or novel writing.  Think about how we might encounter or be guilty of using “show don’t tell” in our lives.  We either think we are clear or do not know how to paint a picture for the audience.  Our dialogue ends up muting the point. What we say or do not say stands in the way of making powerful connections.

For example:

Around the house.  My wife and I plan on building and planting a raised-box garden in our backyard. We read about how to do it. We said that we would “put it in the backyard.” But until we actually drove some stakes into the ground, all we had were words, little action. The stakes provided a visual of where the garden will eventually stand. It “showed” us location, sunlight, actual size, and potential challenges and assets.

In the gym.  Ever work with a trainer in the gym? Do you want one who will tell you about each piece of equipment but nothing else? Or would you get more from a trainer if she “showed” you how to use specific equipment to target muscle groups important to you?

Learning with video.  An effective “How To” video does more than just tell you what to do. It will “show” and label steps for you. It provides a vivid description.

At work.  A boss who wants a healthier workplace has to do more than provide information (written or spoken) that exalts the importance of diet, exercise, sleep, and downtime.  He has to “show” it by modeling appropriate action.  (Don’t tell me to disconnect when I go home—and then expect me immediately to respond to a late-night email.)

In music. Think of your favorite songwriter. Maybe a particular song paints vivid imagery for you.  Chances are the bard “showed” you an emotion or action rather than just told you.

You might be able to transform your leadership skills when you “show” the power of what you want your team to do rather than just telling them.

Think of the impact of this for you and your goals. A simple goal statement (in writing or in your head) might be a great start—but is it powerful enough to drive you forward? Have you created the imagery of what the goal will look like?

Do you have “show and action” in your plan—or is it just talk?


Video recommendation for the week:

Maybe I should asked these young people for help developing my characters!  Notice how they tell what to do and then “show” it.  To the head of the class!


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.


(#314) P2P: Building A Story

May 29, 2016

Every encounter is a story waiting to happen;
a story waiting to be written.

This blog has often covered the importance of relationship building. It remains a key feature of my 7Rs model for for student, workplace, and life success.  Each principle touches and impacts the others. Healthy relationships are integral to growth and resilience.

You’ve heard of “B2B” (Business-to-Business) relationships. There’s also “P2P” relationships (Peer-to-Peer) in the area of file sharing and computing resource sharing.

I’d like to put a twist on “P2P” for “Person-to-Person” connections. A most basic form of human interaction. We meet someone, we bond, or we don’t. The meeting can be strictly utilitarian, a passing connection never to be entered again. Like the one you might experience at an airport restaurant or checkpoint.

Or the meeting can lead to something more lasting. Whatever the purpose of the meeting, what happens in that initial instant can leave a lasting impact.

A recent article on Entrepreneur.com stated “Increasingly, investors look at customer retention to determine whether an entrepreneur’s product or service will ultimately succeed in the marketplace.”

Colleges and universities focus on student retention.  While reasons students remain at a school are as varied as the students themselves, factors such as quality of course work, affordability, feeling of connectedness with the campus and classmates, and quality of facilities and experiences contribute to overall satisfaction.

Alessandra Ghini, helped Apple and Starbucks market their products.  She said in a recent interview, “We focused on the moment of connection, whether it’s a barista knowing your name, or you having a quiet moment over coffee with a friend.”

Every relationship is a story waiting to happen; a story waiting to be written.

Image: amenic181@FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: amenic181@FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We just changed our home cable service, in part, due to great customer service by one company, and not so impressive customer connection by another.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I walked into a local national/franchised sandwich store here at the beach. Here is the story that staff created that day.  They mumbled a scripted hello as we walked through the door barely making eye contact or showing any authentic emotion.  One thing led to another and we finally requested a refund and walked out.  Later that night I posted about our poor service and received the following email from some company representative.  It appears here verbatim without any edits by me (except that I did remove the company name from the email):

Mr.Steve, i am sorry to hear that your last visit wasn’t a pleasant experience. we understand the service wasn’t adequate or up to par with [company name] standards. we will make sure this never happens to you or any of our customers again. we would love to keep you as a customer and keep you returning to our restaurant. we hope that we get to see you in the future, cause we wont allow this to be a reoccuring problem. if you have any questions or would like to speak to the manager. fell free to call with and concerns or questions. we will be happy to provide you with the service you just seemed to lack on your last visit. 

Hmm. A typical non-response response (and more).  I also received a tweet in another company correspondence stating “we would like to make this right. We have notified the District Manager. We hope you give us another chance.”

Never heard another thing from the company. I assume they will do what they said. But the company wrote the end of that story for me.

The barista who knows your name and drink order makes a connection and begins a story.  The non-attentive (or poorly-trained) staff also create a story. Two different beginnings creating two different endings.

Every interaction creates a story. Some short. Some long-lasting. Some forgettable. Some memorable.

Make it an inspiring week as you pursue your authentic “hell, yeah!” goals.—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.

 

 


(#311) Grade Inflation: Have We Arrived In Lake Wobegon?

May 8, 2016

Grade inflation/distortion has consequences for
self-efficacy, self-awareness, and self-competence.

For most colleges and universities around the nation, graduation time has arrived. Professors have evaluated the final exams, grades have been submitted, and students anxiously await their grades. Or, more to the point of this post, they await their expected “A.”

Grade inflation

The condition that, if you stop and think, moves toward making everyone average.  If “A” is supposed to represent “Superior” or “Stand Out” but the majority of students are getting As, doesn’t that mean that the “A” has become more average than a rank of superiority? After all, if 40%, 50% or more of the students have inflated grades, how do the truly exceptional stand out and how do employers identify the great ones from the less-than great?

Maybe, we now live in the land where everyone is superior.  Doubtful.

Image: prakairoj@FreeDigitalPhotos

Image: prakairoj@FreeDigitalPhotos

Does grade inflation actually exist?

One extensive study pinpoints two eras of high grade inflation: The Vietnam War Era and the Student as Consumer Era (1980s to present era). The grade of “A,” according to this research (and more) is the most common grade now at both four and two-year institutions. A few years ago a Harvard professor “stirred up controversy by criticizing rampant grade inflation at his institution.”

The obvious question: Why does this exist?

While each institution may differ, some of the reasons put forth for grade inflation include:

  • Inflated high school grades do not equip incoming college students with the experience of receiving grades other than an “A.”
  • The student as “customer” mentality where the customer is always right creates expectations that have to be fulfilled.
  • Higher tuition costs are a fact and, thus, parents clamor to get what they paid for (high grades).
  • Student evaluations of faculty—and the use of those evaluations for tenure, promotion or renewal of contract can intimidate faculty.
  • Students have become obsessed with receiving (not necessarily earning) nothing less than an “A” for their graduate school application.
  • Where there is a larger reliance (at community colleges, for instance) on adjunct instructors—their concern for job retention may influence grades.
  • A lack of consistent standards across a department or discipline can create a wild west of grade distribution.

Video recommendation of the week.

In this video, The Economist takes a look at forces associated with grade inflation.

Inflation or Distortion?

But does grade inflation actually exist?  If we follow an economic argument, it does not. In true economic inflation there is no cap on prices. They keep rising. But in what passes for grade inflation, there is, in fact, a cap. There is no grade higher than an “A.” So what we really have is grade distortion.

Time for Question-storming

Whatever we call it, it exists. But what or who causes it? Certain departments? Particular courses? The same instructors?

Interesting anecdotal observation: When the charge of grade inflation is leveled, it generally appears to be aimed at the previous classes or instructors. The finger tends to point to another colleague, another campus, or another school as the culprit.

Can grade inflation be attributed to “academic freedom”? That is, each instructor can establish the best way to gauge and rank progress for her students.

If a student got an “A” in a feeder course and is struggling in the next level, is that because of grade inflation or does the current instructor deserve some scrutiny as well?

If they do not already exist, would agreed-upon departmental objectives, standards, performance benchmarks, and/or assessments help eliminate or prevent or, at least, minimize grade inflation?

What is the connection, if any, between grades issued and faculty evaluations? If a relationship exists, can it be transparently proven? If a relationship exists, should it be discontinued?

What have been the consequences of grade inflation? Does it lead to a poorly-prepared and a deceptively-delivered product (diplomas or certifications) for the future employers?

And will students who have come to expect inflated (or distorted) grades come to expect the same on employee evaluations, salary raises, and promotions? After all, if I got top grades should I not get top dollar as well?

If we believe the research, we find ourselves where more and more students are average and it’s not a fictional town. It has consequences for self-efficacy, self-awareness, and self-competence.

Make it an inspiring week as you pursue your authentic “hell, yeah!” goals.—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.

 


(#306) The Power of Empathy For Self

April 3, 2016

The first person we have to lead and be true to remains ourselves.

On an episode of Super Soul Sunday, Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) and Oprah Winfrey had a far-ranging conversation about Goleman’s signature subject of emotional intelligence. 

Consider Emotional Intelligence (EQ) a form of “emotional hygiene.”  When we tap into it we have a better chance of tuning into what we feel and what others feel.  We are able to read other people’s emotions and expressions. We can soothe ourselves in times of angst.

Goleman also spoke about three types of empathy. Strong leaders and top performing teams, according to Goleman, have all three.

  1. Cognitive empathy. With this we can say to someone, “I know what you are feeling….I can see things from your perspective.” We communicate and connect.
  2. Emotional empathy. Goleman said that this form of empathic connection allows us to sense what another person is feeling. “I feel your distress.”
  3. Empathic concern. Here we go beyond “feeling” another’s hurt.  We want to help the person navigate the hurt.  It becomes the basis for our concern. Transformational leaders give effective feedback and help people and teams grow.

Video recommendation for the week: In this video, Goleman also tells us each empathy carries with it a potential downside.

“Aha moment.”  The three-pronged empathy juggernaut helps effective leaders grow their teams.  But often we might forget about the person closest to us who needs and can blossom with the same caring leadership.  Ourselves.

When we have difficult times how often do we communicate effectively with ourselves? Do we become our own worst bullies when we make a mistake?  Do we pile on ourselves about “how stupid that was”?

Image: David Castillo Dominici@FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: David Castillo Dominici                    @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead of beating ourselves up, why not take time to say, “I feel your distress…I can see things from your perspective…Here is some positive feedback that may help you [me] see the distress differently.” I’m not talking about self-indulgence and moving beyond taking responsibility for actions. Far from that.

I often use the equation “E  +  R  =  O” with audiences. “E” = Event.  “R” = Reaction or Response.  “O” = Outcome.  The event rarely causes the outcome. It definitely has an impact on the outcome. But it is what we do in the middle (React or Respond) that ends up driving the bus. We do have to take responsibility for that.

I would like to add another dimension to the equation: “E  +  C  +  R  +  O.”  The “C” = Choice.  Following the stimulus (the activating Event) we have a Choice on what to do next.

When I feel my blood pressure rise because of some irritant in my life, I can fuss and fume (which, admittedly, I do more than I would like). Or I can call on empathy for myself.  Perhaps you can do the same. Perhaps you already do the same. Treating yourself with kindness and connection makes for effective leadership.

The first person we have to lead and be true to remains ourselves.

This is another example of the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we live. We can talk about the virtues of empathy. But do we practice what we preach for ourselves?  Be mindful of just that. When you have a difficult time, speak kindly to that voice that wants to denigrate your actions. Yes, maybe you did do something that was boneheaded.  OK, acknowledge it and grow from it.  You wouldn’t endlessly beat your best friend up about something she did wrong.

Then why do it to yourself?

Make it an inspiring week as you pursue your authentic “hell, yeah!” goals.—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.

 


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