(#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.


(#355) Go-Go or No-Go?

March 12, 2017

Do you allow people into your head who would not invite into your home?

Angelina Ahrendts’ (Senior VP @ Apple) letter to her daughters this week offers the following advice:

…Stay in your lane…the path will illuminate itself
so long as you stay present,
open to the signs, and follow your passions.
It’s all related.

Be true to yourself. Be mindful. Be open.

Not only do we need to be present when it comes to our passions and curiosity, we have to be mindful of who we allow on the journey.  Three “types” can have widely disparate influences (if you allow it) on your path.  You may have read about them and encountered them yourself.

The No-Goes. These folks will get in your way, attempt to block you, and tell you things can’t be done like you envision them. They may want to control you. Maybe they fear your progress bodes ill for them. Or they may be fearful and reticent types, always remaining in their self-defined narrow limits. They seem to hold their breath a lot.

The Slow-Goes. The slow-goes won’t out-and-out block you, but they remain so tentative they get in your way.  They may not throw obstacles at you like their stifling cousins the No-Goes, but that wet blanket they toss around your shoulders slows your momentum nonetheless. Happy to plod along, our slow-go friends don’t make much progress; kind of stuck in 2nd gear.  While they don’t hold their breath, you may see them hyperventilating often.

The Go-Goes. Consider these the early adopters of life, its wonders, and ever-present opportunities. They innovate for themselves and for others.  They thrive on movement, experimentation, and evaluated feedback. They risk vulnerability and failure. They breathe deeply and live life.

Caution: Not every No-Go or Slow-Go should be considered an antagonist to shun or anchor to cast off.  At times, each can provide valuable and prudent counsel. A trusted mentor, a wise friend, and thoughtful family members may well have needed perspective you lack.  Listen, however, with all of your senses. Consider carefully.

And we have to understand our role with others.  That is, do we serve as No-Goes, Slow-Goes, or Go-Goes for other people’s aspirations?  Do we help or hinder? Do we encourage or suffocate?

One woman at our gym, for example, constantly provides negative commentary—whether you want it or not—about how dangerous this or that group of people will be for our nation.  Her jaw appears clenched and her eyes remain vigilant and wide-open as if scouring the floor for the soon-to-arrive saber toothed tiger that will enter the front door and devour her.  She shares a constant stream of negativity. A definite No-Go from the perspective of holding an educational or enlightening conversation. Perhaps you know similar people.  Maybe you have that tendency.

Do you want these people on your journey?

In his latest book, Before Happiness, Shawn Achor points out that our brains process millions upon millions of bits of information each day. We only attend to a miniscule fraction of these stimuli. His research shows, however, that we usually attend to the same kind of information and ignore the alternatives or contradictory data. You know, like the people who no matter how sunny it is will always be focused on that one cloud on the horizon. Where we see brightness they see potential—nay, impending—doom.  We have a choice.

This week, pay attention to your goals. Be mindful of who you let influence your travels. Or as I have heard, why would we let someone into our mind who we would not even allow into our home?


Video recommendation for the week:

Sometimes we “no-go” ourselves because of fear.  As this TEDx talk reminds us, it might not be as scary as it looks.  Where is the edge of your comfort zone?


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.


(#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.

 


(#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.


(#159) Question-Collaborate-Question-Collaborate

June 9, 2013

We need people who will stand up and question when most others remain
silent. Silence is not always an indication that all is well. It could be a warning sign
that the so-called leadership has stymied a culture of curiosity,
questioning, and dialogue.

More than fifty years ago, my father told an apocryphal story about a returning veteran. It seems the Great War was over and the whole town came out to celebrate and cheer as the returning soldiers marched down Main Street.  One sweet little old woman was beaming when she spotted her son, Dominic, marching down the boulevard. Her chest pounded with pride.  She did notice something a bit odd, though.  While all of the other soldiers were marching “left-right-left-right”, Dominic was happily moving along at “right-left-right-left.”  Not missing a beat herself, she turned to the woman next to her and said, “Isn’t it a shame.  Everyone is out of step except my Dominic!”

Image: kookkai_naki/ Free DigitalPhotos.net

Image: kookkai_naki/
Free DigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes we can be blinded by what we believe or do. We may think we are doing what is best, but a quick reality check might reveal our way to be totally out of step. No matter how much we say everyone else is out of step, it could be us.

Over the years (decades) though, I have come to see my father’s story in a different light.  In fact, I have come to embrace Dominic the young soldier.  I have found that one of the first statements thrown my way when I have to work with someone who does not like to be questioned is “You are the first person to express this confusion/frustration/problem/challenge.”  The not-so-subtle intimation: “Since no one else has indicated a problem, they must all be getting it and doing the right thing. Steve, stop going ‘right-left-right-left’.”

I am also reminded (true story) of a nurse I know.  Early in her nursing career, it was customary for the floor nurse to make rounds with the doctor going from room to room.  One day, as this young nurse was preparing to make rounds, the doctor arrogantly thrust the patient charts in her face for her to carry. In his mind, that is what a nurse was for—carry the charts and walk behind the doctor. Everyone did it “left-right-left-right.” The nurse took umbrage, dropped the charts in the middle of the floor, and walked away.  The doctor got the point, picked up the charts, and from then on referred to her as “chief.”  Point in favor of “right-left-right-left”!

Image: digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: digitalart/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

History is full of accounts of people who had the courage to stand up and challenge wrongheaded decisions.  Just because “no one else has mentioned” a problem does not mean it does not exist. Too often people decide to travel the path of least resistance. Maybe they fear for their position. Maybe they lack the courage to stand up. Maybe they just hope someone else will take care of the actual challenge—and then they can reap the rewards and “look good” as the “team player.”


Video recommendation for the week:

What have others said about courage?


I do know that we need people who—in the very name of collaboration, communication, and critical thinking—will stand up and question when most others remain silent. Silence is not always an indication that all is well. It could be a warning sign that the so-called leadership has stymied a culture of curiosity, questioning, and dialogue.

Right-left-right-left!

Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B. as needed!

On July 15, I will offer my next webinar. The topic: Fostering Civility and Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude.   Take advantage of this complementary offering.  Click here to register now for the webinar.  Or go to my website for registration information. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please share it (and any of the archived posts on this site) along to 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. Make it a wonderful week!

 ©2013. Steve Piscitelli


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