(#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.

(#341) Drop And Leave

December 4, 2016

I have witnessed people play a disappointing game of
“drop and leave” with their goals and dreams.

Have you ever looked at your desk and wondered, “How in the world did it get in this condition?”  What with books, papers, empty cups, and last week’s mail, things tend to pile up.  Wait, what’s that over there? A half-eaten sandwich? From last week? Oh, my!  If not your desk, maybe you see your kitchen counter or the garage.

My mother gets the credit for instilling discipline early in my life.  She taught me that it would be easier to keep up—plug away—a little at a time rather than have to play an overwhelming game of catch up. You know, clean up your room each day and you will not be looking at a time-consuming unpleasant chore at the end of the week when you want to be outside playing with your friends.  Invest five minutes along the way and save an hour down the road. (Thanks, Mom!)

When we drop and leave now, we can end up with one hell of a mess that just compounds. We eventually have to return later and pick it all up.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli.

I ask that you consider applying the same discipline to your dreams.  Last week, this blog proposed when it comes to our goals and dreams what we accomplish rests with us. Don’t beat yourself up if you come up short. Understand why, and just keep making forward movement.

I have seen people, though, end up playing a disappointing game of “drop and leave” with their goals and dreams.

“Oh, I didn’t get to the gym this week—or last week, or the week before—but I’ll get there.” Or, “I know we need to meet with a financial adviser for our retirement plans. But, heck, we got lots of time.  We’ll get it done soon enough.”


Last week, I also suggested that you list a personal goal for each of my Five Fs (fitness, family, faith, finances, and function). Did you do it? Or did you say, “I’ll leave it be for now and get to it tomorrow.” Tomorrow becomes next week. Next week turns into next year. And so on.

Great intentions end up in overwhelming piles that we may never get to in a timely fashion, if at all.  Are you dropping and leaving until tomorrow?

Whether you call it procrastination, postponing, ignoring, or dropping and leaving, remember today is the tomorrow you created yesterday.

How does it look to you?

Video recommendation for the week:

This short video, while “old,” still packs a powerfully simple message.  What do you do or not do about getting your stuff done?

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

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™

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).

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.

(#270) Have You Spent Time With Ida Ownly?

July 26, 2015

A relationship with Ida Ownly has no future
other than one of contrition, remorse, disappointment, and heartbreak

You know Ida Ownly, don’t you?  I’m sure you (like me) have spent some time with her. And when we do it generally leads to regret, second guessing, teeth-gnashing, angst and stress.

If you have been spending time with Ida I suggest you end your relationship immediately. Otherwise she will own you.

I know a lot of students and career folks who have spent time with her (Ida really gets around!).  Like the students who wasted a semester only to fail a course.  You might hear them say:

  • If Ida Ownly spent more time studying, I wouldn’t be on academic probation.

The employee who did not prepare adequately for her major presentation to the perspective client:

  • If Ida Ownly done my homework, I would have landed that account.

ida ownly

Perhaps you have heard people (or yourself) say:

  • If Ida Ownly saved more I could have retired now.
  • If Ida Ownly called a cab I wouldn’t have that DUI.
  • If Ida Ownly paid attention to my diet and exercise I wouldn’t be twenty pounds overweight.
  • If Ida Ownly only flossed I’d have all my teeth.
  • If Ida Ownly quit smoking I would have saved thousands of dollars (and lung capacity).
  • If Ida Ownly worked less and played more I would have a more contented life
  • If Ida Ownly played less and worked more I would have a more satisfying career.
  • If Ida Ownly paid more attention to my partner/kids/friends/community….
  • If Ida Ownly said….
  • If Ida Ownly done….
  • If Ida Ownly known ….

Ida Ownly, indeed.  A relationship with Ida Ownly (“I had only”) has no future—other than one of contrition, remorse, disappointment, and heartbreak.

Why not make this week the beginning of a new relationship with Ida’s sister, Imma?

Video recommendation of the week:

A musical version of the question “If I Had Only Known.”

Imma Ownly going to do what moves my life in healthy, ethical and courageous directions. Imma Ownly going to live a life of integrity and passion.

imma ownly

What’s your first step? Who will it be for you–Ida or Imma?

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.


(#217) What We Think We Become

July 20, 2014

Until she made the decision to start focusing on how her now created her later,
she lived a life of unfulfilled expectations.

Last week in Chicago, Liz Murray opened our conference with riveting revelations about her journey.  Liz’s story is chronicled in the powerful movie Homeless to Harvard. The daughter of drug addled parents, Liz moved from dysfunctional home to foster home to life with no home to Harvard graduate.  The story is gripping and illustrative.

On this night in Chicago, Liz focused on the theme that adversity is universal. The movie scenes I share with my students each semester emphasize what can happen when a person stops focusing on the adversity and starts moving toward what could be.

Me with Liz Murray at the Noel-Levitz Conference (July 2014)

Me with Liz Murray at the Noel-Levitz Conference (July 2014)

Liz told the audience that we all make a difference.  When she was just attempting to survive on the streets, she didn’t believe she could make a difference. She did dream of a better life but she did not know how to get there. Thus her life became one of “later.”

As she said, “I thought I had a ‘later.’ I thought I would see my mother one more time later; get a job later.” Her mom would say, “One day I’ll get sober.”  Which was another way of saying “later.”  And until she made the decision to start focusing on how now created later, she lived a life of unfulfilled expectations.  In fact, one could wonder if there were any expectations beyond the day-to-day struggle to survive.  I see this in so many of my students.

Let me share a few more of Liz’s nuggets from her talk:

  • “Lead with your heart and the rest will follow.” (She related that when she was in a group home, the staff were terrible to her and the other children. Power trips. They were not leading with their hearts.)
  • “People can’t give you what they don’t have.”
  • “People grow into the conversations you have about them.”
  • “Cynicism is the atrophy of your imagination and your heart.”

Liz knew there was a better life for her—she just did not know how to get from “a” to “b.”  Then on one day, after being rejected by alternative school after alternative school (mostly because of the way she interacted with the school interviewers; she rejected them before they could reject her) she made a decision NOT to go with her friends but to go to one more school interview. She could have just as easily given up and said, “What’s the use?” Well, something inside urged her to persevere. And she got into that school. And that began a cascade of positive and life altering events in her journey. What if she had said, “Oh, they will just reject me I’ll do it later” and she missed that opportunity?

On another powerful day in her life she did three things:

  1. Applied for welfare
  2. Interviewed to go to Harvard
  3. Interviewed for the New York Times scholarship.

The only one who turned her down was the welfare agency!

As I type this, the coffee cup I have beside me, coincidentally, boasts the message “What we think we become.”

2014-07-17 13.23.46

Video recommendation for the week:

Liz Murray, thank you for the inspiration.

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

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).

Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.

(c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.



(#198) Appreciation

March 9, 2014

It was a reminder to appreciate my obligations
and continue to find and embrace ways to meet them head on.

Two and a half weeks ago I had rotator cuff surgery on my left shoulder. Having gone through the process almost three years ago on my right wing, I had realistic expectations for what lay ahead.

While I still have about three-and-one-half months to go for full recovery, I am in full appreciation mode. Having to navigate the world with a wing in a sling for a few weeks has forced me to slow down (a little bit) and reflect on what’s important.  Here is my surgery-inspired gratitude list.

*Perspective. Shoulder surgery can be painful but it is not deadly. I am not dealing with cancer or a heart attack. At worst it’s an inconvenience. I still taught my classes and was able to meet my speaking obligations.

At my first PT session 4 days post-op

At my first PT session 4 days post-op

*Marvels of medicine.   I hear a lot of people bad mouth our medical system. All I know is an MRI was able to confirm the problem and my doctor has the tools and expertise to fix me.

*My doctor. Two shoulder surgeries but one doctor. Dr. Steven Lancaster (Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute) exhausted all possibilities before “cutting” on me. Gotta love a surgeon whose default setting is NOT to immediately operate.

*Pain control. Immediately following the first surgery, on a scale of 1 to 10 my pain was 25! This time around, thanks to a new technology (On-Q), my pain was minimal.

*My PT. I discovered from my first shoulder surgery that the key to a successful recovery is to religiously follow the prescribed physical therapy. My physical therapy team knows its stuff.

*Insurance. I am thankful to have coverage for this process. Not sure I’d be able to afford it otherwise.

*My bed. For the first 9 nights after surgery I had to sleep in a reclining chair. Enough said.

*Acting now! I’ve heard physically active folks say they would not want to interrupt their activities for four months.  True. I will miss out on full workouts…but in four months I will have recovered. If I had kicked the can down the road, guess where I would be in four months? I would be four months older and still with declining strength and limited range of motion.

At a speaking engagement 2 weeks post-op

At a speaking engagement 2 weeks post-op

*Limitations. I have a renewed appreciation for people with real disabilities.  As temporary an inconvenience as this has been (and let’s be real, that is what this has been–an inconvenience), I remind myself that there are millions of people with permanent disabilities who have to learn to navigate their world with accommodations of one sort another. My respect is immense.

*My wife.  I’m a weenie when it comes to pain and inconvenience.  My wife was always present to wrap my shoulder with ice, drive me here and there, and keep a watchful eye out for my well-being. The first two nights she slept on the couch next to my chair.  My own private-duty nurse.

*Dependable transportation. I could not drive for two weeks after surgery. I had to depend on friends for rides. Because I have dependable friends, I did not miss any appointments or obligations. I have renewed empathy for folks who must constantly depend upon others or public transportation.

*No excuses. Yes, I’ve had to make lots of adjustments that cost me time and money. But I did not make excuses. It was a reminder to appreciate my obligations and continue to find and embrace ways to meet them head on.

*Surrender. People who know me understand that one of my flaws is my need to control situations. This recovery has forced me to surrender to circumstances that I cannot control or speed up.

*God. All the above did not happen by chance. I might not understand the plan…but I believe there is one.

It’s easy to complain. I know I do my share. And fear can be paralyzing.  I find it so much healthier to reflect on the blessings around me. The challenges do make me stronger–and more appreciative of what I have.

Video recommendation for the week:

Focus on gratitude and cast fear aside.

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

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).

Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.

(c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

(#195) Nurturing an Internal Locus of Control

February 16, 2014

A person’s interpretation of an event can have
a powerful impact on future motivation.

One of the most powerful strategies for success focuses on the concept of locus of control.  Where is the focus of power in your life?  Do you believe the world happens to you (external locus of control)—or do you believe you create the world you live in (internal locus of control)?

While none of us may be totally “external” or totally “internal” we

Image: markuso/ FrereDigitalPhotos.net

Image: markuso/

probably trend toward one side of the spectrum.  For instance, I tend to have a strong internal locus of control.  I do believe that what I do has an impact on the world I live in.  I also understand that there are times when I am at the mercy of forces beyond my control. A recent example: I was scheduled to be in San Diego this past Thursday. Well, the snow/ice storm that raged through the Southeast had other plans for me!  Yep, I was upset; I fumed; I called Delta. And the airlines still cancelled flights.  My dean reminded me that it was a great lesson in “letting go.”

A related theory is the Attribution Theory of Julian B. Rotter.  (Also, see Bernard Weiner.) Think of an attribution as an explanation. This area of research focuses on how a person’s explanation or interpretation of an event motivates him or her to perform in the future. For example, a person’s view of success or failure will depend on four attributes (or explanations).

 Attribute (why something happened)

Description of the attribute

Effort The person did or did not exert the required effort to be successful.
Ability The person did or did not have the required skills to be successful.
Task difficulty The task was or was not too difficult to complete.
Luck The person was lucky or unlucky.

These attributes can determine one’s motivation in the future.  If, for example, a student believes his lack of effort on a test led to a failing grade, he might be motivated to put in more study time before the next exam.  Since he knows that he could have done better, the student believes that change for the better is within his control. On the other hand, if the student believes he did poorly because the instructor writes incredibly difficult exams that no one could possibly pass, he might resign himself to doing poorly in the course because, he thinks, there is nothing he can do about the writing of the instructor’s exams.  His motivation declines (a form of learned helplessness?)—he might very well fail the subsequent exam.

Bernard Weiner found that effort and ability were generally associated with an internal locus of control.  On the other hand, task difficulty and luck were found to have an external locus of control.

Video recommendation for the week:

Some people never let obstacles stop them. Take Tony Melendez for example.

Where is your power? Where do live on the locus of control spectrum? Do external obstacles stop you or push your further?

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

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

Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.

 (c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

(#194) Honor the Past. Celebrate the Present. Embrace the Future.

February 9, 2014

“Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.” (Soren Kierkegaard)

In 2009 I was at Lynn University to facilitate a series of presentations for faculty and students. During one segment of a studio interview I reflected on what effective teachers do for their students. Beyond academic achievement (which is obviously non-negotiable), we need to help our students honor their past, celebrate their present and look to their future.

Honor the Past. The past, obviously, is our history. It has been the vehicle that has carried us to this moment. I encourage my students to understand and respect their past. Sure there are moments, events, people and issues that may be troubling at best and traumatic at worst. “Honoring” in this context means to recognize that from those times, you have grown into the person you are.  It does not diminish what happened as Jennifer Gilbert’s story shows. The past should not be an excuse—nor should it be a shackle. It happened; cannot be undone. There is no mulligan.

Image: StuartMiles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: StuartMiles/

I have watched organizational managers state they were not responsible for the past they inherited. They would not be bogged down in memories.  I agree.  Of course these new folks did not create the history of the organization. However, they are creating a new history. And to not understand and respect what their organization has gone through—the culture that their followers have experienced—is short-sighted and disrespectful.  NEVER lose sight of institutional memory. How can the organization move forward? (See Embrace the Future below.)

Celebrate the Present.  Dr. Leo Buscaglia once opined that “the past is a cancelled check, the future a promissory note, and the present is cash in hand.”  How true.  The present is all we truly have. While there is wisdom in preparing for the future, we can get lost in it and miss what we are truly experiencing. The present is our time to live and coincidentally create our evolving history. When we hold on to the past (going beyond honoring to “stuck in the past”) it robs us of our present.  When we live in the future, we vacate the present.  We cannot get the present back.

Video recommendation for the week:

The time for life is today.

Embrace the Future. For some, the future is scary. For others, that unknown is cause for excitement rather than trepidation. There is, to be sure, a practicality in looking to the future. Think, for example, retirement planning. The crisis faced by the baby boom generation has been well documented. Planning for the future takes place in the present. Today is the tomorrow you prepared for (or not) yesterday.

Students enter college with their dreams—what they hope for in the future.  In many ways, those of us who have the privilege to work in the classroom help coach these folks to their future.  Inspirational and far-sighted leaders have a responsibility to focus on the future.

Soren Kierkegaard reminded us that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

As you look to the new week that you will make for yourself be mindful to honor, celebrate and embrace.

Image by: Steve Piscitelli

Photo by: Steve Piscitelli

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

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

Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.

(c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

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