(#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.


(#365) Listening For Stories Of Inspiration

May 21, 2017

Inspiration from a woman who did not let circumstance
dictate her outcome.

[Note to my readers: Today’s post marks the beginning of the eighth year of this weekly blog.  Thank you for following, sharing, and commenting.]

Stories. They surround us. Some have the power to illustrate, instruct, and inspire.

Minutes before I delivered my commencement address to the Florida State College at Jacksonville Class of 2017, I had a front row (literally) seat for a young woman’s touching story about her journey.

Lyse Medina, the FSCJ Kent Campus Student Government Association President, delivered a 4½ minute description of her journey as an immigrant, a daughter, a student, a leader, and a person with heart and determination.

Her tale is one of perseverance and resilience. “My past did not define me, but it did lead me to where I am today,” she told the nearly ten thousand people before us.


Video recommendation for the week.

Rather than tell you about Lyse’s speech, listen to it. Learn and grow from it. Her story in her words. A reminder of the importance of community colleges in our society. And a powerful dose of inspiration from a young woman who did not let circumstances dictate her outcomes. She envisioned her dreams and she will continue to define her journey. I am glad to have met and learned from her.

My appreciation to FSCJ for sharing the video and to Lyse for allowing me to share it with you. Note: The video should start with her introduction. If it does not, move to minute 52 for Lyse.


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.


(#357) Perspective

March 26, 2017

Our attention will determine our interpretation.

What thoughts and feelings come to mind when you see the photo below?

 

Now, same question as you expand the view and context of the photo?

Hmm. Marriages performed juxtaposed with a bedpan–with a prickly little cactus.

How about this view?

My, my. Marriages performed connected to a bedpan with a smirking vulture (with beads, no less) standing guard.

When I first saw the scene (in Cedar Key, Florida), my eyes were immediately drawn to the vulture. “Is this an art gallery or second-hand shop?”   As my eyes drifted to the right, I saw the sign.  I said to Laurie, “I’ve got to have a photo of that. It’s priceless.”

It was not until later in the day that I spied the bedpan. I laughed at what I had missed and another spin on the message popped into my mind.

A scene, situation, or dilemma takes on different meanings depending on where our gaze falls.  Our attention will determine our interpretation.

We have to understand perspective if we want a clear (or clearer) picture of a situation at hand.

One definition of perspective requires “seeing all relevant data in a meaningful relationship.”

It’s something to consider with collaboration and relationships. Do we narrowly frame a situation and thus miss opportunities? Do we start with answers and, consequently, miss the important questions?  Do we think of moving the spotlight or adjusting the focus so we go a little off-center?

We all have to be aware of our cognitive traps. This week, consider moving the spotlight a little. Whether you find a smirking vulture or not, your shifting perspective could help you better understand what you need to do in a perplexing situation.


Video recommendation for the week.

Do you believe what you perceive you receive?  Consider this perspective!


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).

All photos taken by Steve Piscitelli. (c) 2017.

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


(#348) Repair The Bucket. Fill The Bucket.

January 22, 2017

Who can help you? Who can you help?

Do you sometimes just get tired?  Feel like you are getting nowhere fast? Might even believe you are moving backwards?

A friend reminded me of a powerful visual. This woman is the caregiver for a family member who recently has experienced significant health challenges. My friend, who has always been a ray of sunlight for those around her (read: positive, upbeat, whimsical, witty, a joyous person) told me she had hit the wall. She felt like a dark cloud had swallowed her up.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

In short, her resilience—for a moment—failed her. She felt crushed by the worry. She had run out of fuel. Nothing was left.

Think of resilience like the water in a bucket.  At times, we lose water. Other times, we add.  When we lose water, envision picking up a ladle and spooning a bit more water back into your bucket.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

But maybe the bucket springs a leak. You  lose a bit more water than usual.  You find a way to patch the bucket, stop the leaking, spoon in replacement water, and continue onward.

Consider the water as a metaphor for your energy, your resilience, your ability to cope. When you (the bucket, the vessel) are challenged repeatedly, you may start to show wear. Perhaps you spring a second “leak.” Then more hardship—and more leaks.  You do what you have always done. You pick up the pace and pick up the pace and pick up the pace of shoveling in more, more, and more water (fuel or resilience)—until you can no longer do it.  You’re spent.

Like the person with a bucket springing more and more leaks, at some point you cannot physically or emotionally keep up. No matter how fast you ladle, the number and size of the bucket holes overtake your good efforts.

Exhausted, you drop the ladle, and the bucket runs dry. You are at a loss. You know the bucket (you) needs repair but you no longer have the energy, or at least the amount of energy you need to repair and refill. You have difficulty taking care of yourself.

A few blog posts back, I spoke of The Six Fs of our lives.  When one area—the family member’s health for my friend above—begins to crumble under strain and stress, what other area can help you regain your balance (and repair the bucket, and regain your resilient self)?  For my friend, it was a friend of hers who made a suggestion which lead to an action which brought about relief (for all involved).  To be sure, there are still significant challenges (the bucket, after all, has experienced lots of strain) but my resilient friend has been able to catch her breath and begin to see the light from within the darkness.

Six Fs (Steve Piscitelli)

Six Fs (Steve Piscitelli)

Perhaps you feel like that straining bucket. Maybe you don’t, but someone close to you seems to be springing leaks faster than he or she can plug them.

When we are resilient, we tend to bounce back and adapt.  Grit, another oft-used concept, looks at our perseverance to continue onward.  My friend not only bounced back, she moved forward.  Will her bucket run low again? Probably. Will yours? Probably.

Think of a particularly difficult or challenging situation you have in front of you this coming week. What can you do to help you regain your strength and desire to move forward (plug the bucket)? And, what can you do to move forward (begin to refill that bucket) and move toward the goal?

Who can help you? Who can you help?


Video recommendation for the week:

How can we help our children build their resilience skills? What lessons present themselves for adults?


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

55031146_high-resolution-front-cover_6597771-1For 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.


(#335) Politics, Anxiety And A Few Coping Strategies

October 23, 2016

How and with whom can you share love and goodness this week?

In a recent survey by the American Psychological Association 52% of respondents identified the 2016 presidential election as “a very or somewhat significant source of stress” in their lives.  Stress and strain typically accompany everyday life and its pressures. Nothing new about that. It has been around since our ancestors hunted saber tooth tigers.

But this election cycle seems to have people wound a little tighter than usual. Anxiety appears to be heightened. Politics aside, what can we learn, for our own emotional well-being, from the 2016 election? As the Chinese character below indicates, crisis (perceived or real) can be a time of opportunity.

[Source unknown]

[Source unknown]

Robinson Meyer, in an article in The Atlantic, turned to clinicians and asked their advice about strategies to combat election-induced anxieties. First, he found that most of this political anxiety did not qualify as clinical anxiety–the sort that requires a visit to a therapist. None-the-less, the anxiety could not just be waived away with the flick of a hand or a shrug of the shoulder.  A few of the coping strategies Meyer summarized included:

  • Self-compassion. Don’t beat yourself up about feeling concerned. Identify, accept, and attempt to understand the feelings.
  • Consider the outcome (Productive worry). Meyer repeats an oft-stated axiom that we are wired to worry. (Again, kind of like our ancestral cave people who always had an eye over their collective shoulders for lurking danger.) We attempt to identify threats and prepare for them. This can lead to adaptive behavior that helps us function in a positive and proactive manner.  We take appropriate action. The flip side is unproductive worry. This is when we cannot turn off the thought process. We obsess. We ruminate. We can’t find an “off-switch.”  We can’t sleep. We end up in an unending loop of catastrophizing. This may be a sign to seek professional help.
  • Focus on the now. Or as Meyer states, focus on the immediacy of something you are doing to get you away from the election worry cycle. Meditation. Yard work. Yoga. Music. Journaling. The day I wrote this post, I went for an early afternoon swim at the gym. While focusing on the immediacy of my stroke, breathing, and turns, the world outside of the pool was far away.
  • Talk about your worries. Tap into your support network. Get your fears out. Listen to yourself talk about them. Sort through them. See self-compassion above.

Eileen Crawford, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor headquartered in Celebration, Florida, reminded me that “the root of anxiety is fear of loss of control over events or people around us.” Below (an excerpt from her blog post soon after the Pulse shooting in Orlando of July 2016), you will find a few of her suggested strategies:

“…. It is especially important to seek out and grow the good and set boundaries and limits around your exposure to the bad. Here are three things you can do:

  • Turn off the T.V. and put down your cell phone. Be mindful of the inundation of news coverage coming from all directions. Find out what you need to know, and then take a break – as long and as often as you need to.
  • Increase time spent on pursuits that relax and rejuvenate you. Your mind and heart need a break – give them one.
  • Spend time with people you love, trust and enjoy. Show them your appreciation and gratitude, and share times with them that affirm life. 

When the world becomes nonsensical, lifting each other up with love and goodness is all that makes sense.”

Consider her urging to establish and communicate clear boundaries and limits.  Review yours and make sure you and those around you understand them. Don’t torture yourself with an endless barrage of news (cable, network, social media, colleagues, family) that continually distresses you.

As for love and goodness, how and with whom can you share love and goodness this week? You never know whom you will help.  It could even be yourself.


Video recommendation for the week:

Blow up the TV and throw away the papers? Maybe singer-songwriter John Prine had an anxiety-reducing strategy figured out years ago.  Time to go back and give a listen.    A personal side note:  The lead guitar in this clip is Jason Wilbur. I had the wonderful opportunity a few years back to participate in a guitar training session with him and then listen to his mastery later that evening in a concert here at the beach. He graciously posed with me that evening.

Jason Wilbur and Steve Piscitelli

Jason Wilbur and Steve Piscitelli


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™
(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).

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.

 


(#329) Textured, Colored And A Bit Off-Center

September 11, 2016

By going a little off-center, we start to see things that can enhance our view.
We open ourselves up to larger possibilities and opportunities.

Over the past few months, I’ve been dabbling with photography. Having fun, getting creative, learning, and further appreciating the environment around me.  I understand more about textures and colors and the importance they play in the overall presentation of a particular photo.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

Just this week, I shared some of my latest photos with a shutterbug friend of mine.  She tutored me about shooting a scene off-center. That is, placing the focal point of the shot to the left or right. Such a view creates a more dynamic presentation. It helps move the eye and create interest.

I shot most of my photos, interestingly, with the subject dead center in the frame. The colors and textures created interest but after a few shots, I could see what she meant. There seemed to be a sameness. Something was missing.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

As I played with the angles and perspectives, I had an AHA moment. By shifting the focus a little this way or that, the entire scene took on a renewed perspective.  For instance, look at the photo below. With the rising sun off to the right, my eye went to a paddle board in the lower left and a ship on the horizon. Two pieces of the scene that I had earlier missed because I kept the sun dead center.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

This got me thinking about how we can view our world.  While a centered focus helps us zero in on the big part of the picture (a goal, for instance), we might miss those things just off to the side. Maybe these items provide color or a bit more texture.  This additional information can be useful in understanding and appreciating the larger glory and story.  By going a little off-center, we start to see things that can enhance our view.  We open ourselves up to larger possibilities and opportunities.

Where can you shift your focus a bit to see a problem or a major decision from a different perspective?  What little things might you be missing because you will not move the focal point? A little this way; a little that way. A bit more texture; a different hue.  A clearer view. More mindful.

On what can you adjust your focus this week? Where can you go a bit off-center for a different—and perhaps—renewed perspective?


Video recommendation for the week:

The Heath brothers use the metaphor of shifting the spotlight to broaden the view of our world.


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™ (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.

 


(#317) Finding Your Passion Is Just The Beginning

June 19, 2016

Once we discover what we feel is our passion
(or at least, our interest that could become a passion),
the work has only begun. 

One day in class, a thirty-something student raised her hand to ask a question about my professional journey. She was a conscientious student who was searching and attempting to zero in on her life’s passion.  She wondered, “How long did it take you to get to where you are, professor?” I reflected for a moment, thinking of my writing, teaching and speaking careers. “Oh,” I said, “about thirty years and I still have a lot to learn.”

I could literally see the her shoulders slump, her face scrunch up and her head lower and shake ever so slightly from side to side.

She knew she would have to work. Just not quite that long.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth debunks the notion that passion is something that comes to us like a bolt from the blue, a sudden revelation that changes our life’s trajectory; and that once discovered we have it made. She states that science has proven that “passion for your work is a little bit discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.” (p. 103)  I think my student knew about the discovery; had a bit of understanding about the development; but little clue about the deepening. And anecdotally, I don’t think her case is that unique.

Image: dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The discovery part of the passion process comes from Brailling the world. Exploration, discovery, curiosity and interactions.  It’s not a one and done that we will discover with simple introspection Duckworth contends.   This is where “play” can be very beneficial. It allows us to dabble, have fun and sort through experiences.  (I’m not sure we will find our life’s passion/interests by being glued to “breaking news alerts” which are, basically, somebody else telling us what they discovered and why we should care about it.) We have to find our own agenda.

Once we discover what we feel is our passion (or at least, our interest that could become a passion), the work has only begun.  We have to develop it.  Like a talent or skill, we need to engage in, as Duckworth calls it, “a proactive period of interest development.”  We have to stoke the curiosity. When we continue to read, listen, observe, and participate we gather more information. The interest deepens—or we might discover this isn’t what we really want. And the process begins anew.

The final piece of the passion journey, according to Duckworth, comes in the form of having “encouraging supporters…who provide ongoing stimulation and information” about our passion.  This feedback is critical.  I’ve written often on this blog about the importance of relationships.  Duckworth affirms the importance of supportive networks.

The student who asked about my journey had enrolled herself in college to find her way.  Her question of me represented one small piece of her journey—a slice of her discovery path. Her physical reactions to length of time required to polish the passion indicated another benchmark on her journey: she would need grit to persevere and reach her long-term goal.

Video recommendation of the week.

If you have not viewed Duckworth’s popular TED Talk, I’d recommend it. Below you will find a short interview where she hits broadly on the idea of perseverance.

Where do you stand in the discovery, development, and deepening cycles? How do you (or could you) play the role of supportive network for someone who is in the discovery or development mode? Do you encourage the process and joy of play (for others and yourself) when it comes to the discovery phase?  How do you stay curious? What have you done today to deepen your passion? Are your goals, in fact, Hell, Yeah goals that inspire you to enjoy the journey of work and learning?

Stay curious about your development and growth, my friend.

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

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

You can find my podcast series at The Growth and Resilience Network (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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