(#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.

(#244) Do You Have Your Own Board of Directors?

January 25, 2015

I remain focused on surrounding myself with knowledgeable
and skillful people 
who will have my back—and
kick me in the butt when needed. Who do you have on your Board?

Corporations have Boards of Directors.  Institutions of higher learning have Boards of Trustees. Non-profits have boards to advise them. These boards can provide oversight and guidance.  They may be made up of passionate people who are deeply committed to the mission of the operation they advise.  Some may be very active; and others mere window dressing acting as rubber stamps for the organization’s leaders.

Perhaps you already have a mentor or a coach. Do you have your own Board of Directors (B.O.D.)?  A group of people who can advise you on various aspects of your career—and your life?

Image: David Castillo Dominici @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: David Castillo Dominici @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the last few months I have been taking this notion of a B.O.D. seriously.  As I move into a new phase of my life and career, I am recruiting those who can offer guidance, direction, and pointed questions.  Below you will find a few of the “slots” I am filling.  As you can see, I’m having some fun with this—but remain focused on surrounding myself with knowledgeable and skillful people who will have my back—and kick me in the butt when needed.

Video recommendation for the week:

I’ve listed ten (10) Board members you might want to consider for your own B.O.D.

    1. CHAIR. This person is the choreographer of the Board. You need someone with vision and a depth of experience.
    2. COO: Chief Outside Officer. It is easy to become myopic if we only look at our industry/business/calling from within those boundaries. Get someone with a fresh pair of eyes who may not know much about what you do but who will be able to see opportunities or shortcomings you have long since overlooked.
    3. CQO: Chief Questioning Officer. Get someone who knows how to—and is not afraid to—ask the tough questions. Instead of brainstorming, this person will lead you in “question storming” on a regular basis. This person could double as your Chief Creative Thinker (CCT).
    4. CMO: Chief Marketing/Messaging Officer. How will you market your service, product, or cause? Find someone who has such experience. You need someone to help you get your message before the right people.
    5. CCO: Chief Content Officer. Marketing (see above) won’t help you if your product or service is crap.  Find someone who can help you with depth, research, and credibility.
  1. CEO: Chief Entertainment Officer. Who will help you keep things light?  Humor lightens the day…and keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously. Who will mix things up for you and your “people”? Don’t forget to have a little music in your day as well.
  2. CLO: Chief Logistics Officer. This person can help with daily tasks and travel arrangements. If you are immersed in the tiny details of day-to-day operations you may not have the time to work on what your true talent is. You may never be able to grow your talent into a true strength if you remain neck-deep in minutiae.
  3. CWO: Chief Wellness Officer. Maintain your balance and well-being. If you don’t already have an exercise and diet plan, this person can help jumpstart that part of your life. If you have one, your CWO will keep you on task.
  4. CFO: Chief Financial Officer. Like it or not, we all need a bean counter or two in our lives.  Not only for the day-to-day operations but for our long-term wealth building.
  5. CO-NOBS: Chief Officer of No B.S. Please do not surround yourself with YES people. You need folks who will constantly hold you accountable—and call B.S. when needed.

What other slots would you create for your B.O.D.?

Whomever you choose, make your board functional. It should move you forward in the service of your calling. It should help you develop your talent and skills.  It should help you keep your passion stoked!

Consider: And why stop with your business or professional side?  Consider a family B.O.D. as well.  You might not be the chair–but there are plenty of other positions for which you  have a talent.  Call an organizational meeting tonight!

Make it a great week. And H.T.R.B. as needed.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) with friends and colleagues. You also can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli).  If you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment.

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

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


(#224) Every Student Has A Story: Great Teachers Build On That Story

September 7, 2014

A teacher’s calling is to recognize each of these types (and combinations thereof)
and reach out with encouragement, 
challenge and recommendations to appropriate resources.

[NOTE to reader: This week’s post comes from my forthcoming book (work-in-progress) on mentoring faculty.  In the weeks/months ahead look for posts on this blog that relate to the topic of effective teaching and mentoring faculty. As always, I appreciate your comments. Make it a great week!]

As cliché as it sounds, classroom teachers will have all types of students in their classes.  I did the following demonstration the first day of the semester for my students.

Three student volunteers each hold one class of water.  Into the first glass I drop an aspirin; glass two gets the type of effervescent tablet that explodes with bubbles and fizz; and into the third I drop a tablet that is used to clean dentures (it fizzes and changes the color of the water).  I then explain that each tablet represents types of students who walk through our classroom doors.

Image: Ideago/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Ideago/

*Student #1 (aspirin): Sits there. Not much happening—not much in the way of participation or other form of engagement. Not much impact on the environment. Much like the aspirin.  Kind of just sitting there (in the back of the room).  Some days he quietly puts his head down and sleeps. No splash of any kind. 

*Student #2 (effervescent tablet):  Makes an initial splash.  Energetic; participatory; probably has all the technological tools (smart phone, tablet, and laptop). May even sit in the first couple rows of the classroom.  The initial enthusiasm gives way around weeks 3 or 4.  Feeling overwhelmed with all she has bitten off this semester, she starts getting to class late and missing assignments.  She cannot sustain the initial momentum.

*Student #3 (effervescent + color changing tablet): Starts off strong and eventually begins to make changes that are visible (more confident; higher assignment and test grades; leadership role in class). She always participates.  Not only does she grow with her changes, she has an impact on the class as well.

I then pose these questions to my students: “Why do you believe these students have behaved in the ways shown here?  Where do you stand (or sit) in this scenario? Which student are you—and moreover, which student do you want to be at the end of the semester?”

It is possible for all three tablets to be a metaphor for one student who starts off tentative and cautious; then gets a spurt of energy and inspiration; and eventually is a change agent for himself and the classroom (and maybe even the campus).

The demonstration, if left to itself, can be overly simplistic.  Reality is that we have as many types of students as the number that walk into the room.  This exercise does open up the conversation of why some students behave as they do and how those actions lead to long-term consequences. And what teachers can do.

Video recommendation for the week:

The list of what great teachers do is long and includes: inspire, encourage, listen, model, coach, energize, risk, create, laugh, and lead. I stumbled on this powerful video. Take a few minutes and absorb the message.

Whether you are a classroom teacher, a corporate trainer, or a community activist you will have to collaborate (eventually) with each of the above scenarios.  What is the best way to encourage the best from each?  Consider these questions as starting points for a larger conversation with your colleagues:

  • Student #1. Would you just ignore him?  Why might he be acting in this manner?  What would you say to him? Or would you ignore him and let him sleep? Why do you think he behaves in the way he does? Is he sleeping because of late night partying, disinterest—or is there a health (physical and/or emotional) or substance abuse problem?  Is he a risk to himself or others in the classroom?  Does he feel intimidated and anxious? Has he enrolled in the wrong class?
  • Student #2. Why is she losing energy and focus within the first month?  Too much on her plate?  Besides the workload, what else is going on in her life?  Are there childcare issues? Maybe she needs a little help identifying and organizing her priorities.
  • Student #3. Can she become a model student for the class? Is there any harm in letting her be the leader in class participation? Or could she possibly stifle discussion? Will other students just let her answer?  What can the instructor do to encourage other students to participate in class?

A teacher’s calling is to recognize each of these types (and combinations thereof) and reach out with encouragement, challenge and recommendations to appropriate resources.  That requires differentiated approaches.

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.


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