(#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.


(#363) A Resiliency Group: Collaboration, Creativity, Caring, and Collegiality

May 7, 2017

Rather than waiting for (or blaming) “them” to do something,
get creative and start a resiliency movement yourself.

During my undergraduate years at Jacksonville University, I spent a fair number of hours in the campus library. On the second floor (as I remember), there were a few study rooms.  Here a student could isolate himself for quiet. I recall some of these rooms having a typewriter for those needing to hammer out a term paper. Quiet time.

When I taught at Florida State College at Jacksonville, the library had quiet rooms for students to study or practice for presentations.  These study groups helped students understand concepts, share ideas, review notes, and encourage one another during exam preparation. Collaborative growth and development.

The image of students pulling all-nighters notwithstanding, some campuses now provide nap zones and nap stations.  A rested student is a better-prepared student the thinking goes.

When I visited Zappos headquarters last month, I met the “Zappos Mayor” (Tony Ferrara). In follow-up emails, I asked the “Mayor” about the Zappos nap room.  Where there any metrics on its use and success?

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

“Yes, we do have a nap room here at Zappos for those folks that may need a little power nap during their break or lunch times. In addition to the nap room, we have several miscellaneous benefits here at Zappos …. We don’t provide these extras specifically for the purpose of quantifying their results. We provide them as part of building and maintaining culture through employee engagement.   For example, we don’t monitor who uses the nap rooms at all. They’re there for the benefit and convenience of team members, not for analyzing metrics.”


Video recommendation for the week.

Arianna Huffington promotes the power of rested employees.  As she states in this clip, the workplace “pays people for their judgment not their stamina.”


More than likely, your workplace does not have a nap room.  The culture and the leadership may not support such a departure from the industrial work model.  OK. What can you do to promote wellbeing?

Rather than waiting for (or blaming) “them” to do something, get creative and start a movement yourself.  Consider your own “resilience group.”  Create a critical mass for a “resilience movement.”  It could start over a cup of coffee or a walk around the campus during lunch.

It does not have to be a venting group. In fact, since it is a resilience group, you may want to focus on positives. What is working in your workplace and how can you create more of it?

Start with a group of co-workers you can trust, talk with, and share ideas; people who understand your experiences. You function as a collegial support group. You might find that you need to bring in a facilitator at some point to bring your “movement” to a higher level.

At times, just having co-workers acknowledge that they hear our concerns, and maybe share those concerns, is the shot of energy we need. Great start. But what action will you take beyond the words?  What will your collective resiliency plan look like? When will you start?

Collaboration.  Caring.  Collegiality. No need to be an island.

It’s worth consideration.

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.


(#352) When Islands Protect And Support

February 19, 2017

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in
unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”—Teddy Roosevelt

Two stories. One lesson.

This past week, Laurie (my bride) and I took time to tour the Center for Civil and Human Rights. We sat down at one exhibit that replicates a lunch counter sit-in. With our hands placed on the counter, the headphones situated securely on our ears transported us to the 1960’s. To a time when people took a seat to make a stand about racial prejudice and discrimination.

We sat listening to the hate-filled voices whispering—and then yelling—in our ears. They hurled threats. We heard thumps, bangs and loud noises. At one point, we both jumped a bit from our seats at the counter.  While we were never in any physical danger, we felt (at some limited level) the fear that those brave protesters felt.  To say the exhibit moved us remains a gross understatement.

By the end of (only) two minutes, our “demonstration” ended. The docent handed me a tissue. I dabbed my eyes, truly moved by the experience. I remember the words of M.L.K., Jr. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (@ the Center for Civil and Human Rights)

Those young 1960’s protesters came together, tired of being buffeted in a sea of hatred. They might have been on an island, but they came together on that island and led the way. Silent no more, perhaps another M.L.K., Jr. quote rang true to them: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

A few days later, we drove to the other end of Georgia to take part in the annual Valentine’s Day Renewal of Vows in Savannah’s City Market.  We have participated in the annual event since the late 1990’s. The Reverend Billy Hester and his wife, Cheri, officiate. Hester has led the Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church congregation since the early 1990’s. When he arrived, the church was by all appearances on its last legs. Membership languished at about 25 souls. The average age hovered around eighty years old.

The last time we visited the church for a Sunday service, the pews were full! Hundreds of people gathered for praise and glory. Why? The stewardship of Hester and his wife. The inclusive nature of their authentically positive message resonated with the surrounding neighborhood.  They held a lamp of humanity for many who felt alone. Each member helps build a resilient community.

They created an island of souls, so that individual souls would not have to struggle on their own islands.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

And while my descriptions above capture but a small piece of the sacrifice and courage, both stories show the power of a community coming together for protection and support. Collaboration, growth, and resilience.

The subtitle of my latest book reads No Need to be an Island. I emphasize the power of collective group.  It can help each member recognize and build his and her own capacity for growth and change.

The congregation and the museum teach us the value of coming together, appreciating, and accepting (not simply “tolerating”) our neighbors.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.
It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.”—
Nelson Mandela


Video recommendation for the week:

This week, I offer a short meditation video from Belleruth Naparstek.  The actual meditation begins at the one-minute mark of the video.  She brings in the power of community near the 4:52 marker.  Treat yourself to a little quiet reflection time today.


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.


(#340) It’s Up To You

November 27, 2016

Treat your dreams like your property.
If you don’t protect them from theft and damage, who will?

I recently reacquainted myself with a bit of Casey Stengel wisdom. Stengel reportedly pointed across the field and said,

See that fellow over there? He’s twenty-years old and in ten years, he’ll be a star.
And, see that other fellow over there? He’s also twenty-years old. In ten years, he’ll be thirty.

Absolutely love that! And it speaks to what we do or do not do in our lives.  We all have dreams of one kind or another. They probably involve one of what I call the Five Fs: fitness, family, faith, finances, and function.

Do you know people who, rather than dreams, have fantasies?  They can articulate a wonderful story about where they want to be in a year, five years, or so.  When it comes to action, though, there is an obvious lack.   A company with a great mission statement on the wall needs to have complementary movement. Or else we just have meaningless words. Same for personal goals.  Don’t let anyone steal or derail your goals–and don’t do it to yourself. Treat your dreams like your property. If you don’t protect them from theft and damage, who will?

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Last week at the gym, someone asked me about my experiences with shoulder surgery. (I’ve had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders.) This particular person keeps himself in top-notch shape. He has a disciplined workout regimen.  Somewhere along the way, however, he has injured his shoulder to the point that he is in 24/7 discomfort and/or outright pain. He shared that he needed to do something—perhaps shoulder surgery.

“How long did it take you to recover?” he asked from his pigeon position on the mat.

“About four months to get back into my gym routine. And about 12 months for what I call a full recovery,” I shared.

He grimaced, as he was not sure he wanted to wait that long for a recovery.

If he does not do the surgery (or some other meaningful and healthy intervention) in four months he won’t have any relief. If he works with a healthcare professional, he has a better chance of feeling better.  In either case, he will be four months older. One scenario has him in pain (still). The other, sees him with a chance for being pain-free. His choice.

And, see that other fellow over there? He’s also twenty-years old.
In ten years, he’ll be thirty.

I remember years ago a fifty-something year old man asking what it would take to become a schoolteacher.  By the end of the conversation, he said that if he went back to school to pursue his dream, in the four or five years it would take to get his degree he would be nearly 60 years old.

“Hmm,” I asked, “how old will you be in four or five years if you don’t go for the degree?”

And, see that other fellow over there? He’s also twenty-years old.
In ten years, he’ll be thirty.

Take a little time today for yourself.  List one dream you have for each of the Five Fs? When do you want to reach each of those dreams? Start your action (even if very small steps) today.

Don’t beat yourself up if you come up short. Keep making forward movement.

It’s up to you.

And remember Stengel’s words.


Video recommendation for the week:

Pay attention to your vocabulary—especially what you use when talking to yourself.  Enjoy this short clip from a talk I delivered in Portland, Oregon in 2015.  Note: I present three de-motivating words. There is a fourth to add to the list: “later.”  It (“later”) has the potential to kill your movement forward.


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.


(#325) Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Lunch Money

August 14, 2016

Don’t let anyone deny who you are.

I have often joked with friends not to let anyone take their lunch money. For me, it has been an off-handed reminder to them not to let anyone take advantage of their good nature.

These past few weeks those same words have taken on a more serious challenge as I have talked with colleagues and friends who have been confronting personal and professional dilemmas.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

For me, “Don’t let anyone steal your lunch money” has come to take on various meanings of self-worth:

  • “Don’t let anyone deny your story.”
  • “Don’t let anyone deny who you are.”
  • “Don’t allow anyone to diminish your worth.”
  • “Don’t diminish your own worth.”
  • “Don’t settle for someone else’s version of who you are.”
  • “Don’t deny your own story.”

Or, stated in the positive:

  • “Do remind yourself of what you add to your community.”
  • “Do remember and draw strength from those times when your grit and resilience led to personal triumphs.”
  • “Do recognize that every failure and success (so-called or real) has made you the person you are today.”
  • “Do know that while you might not ‘be a fit’ for someone else’s plan, you have a huge hand in cobbling your own plan.”
  • “Do be true to yourself so that you can be true to others.

None of this gives license for delusional self-congratulation.  We all need to engage in a regular and thorough examination of ourselves. We remain fortunate when we have mentors in our corners to urge us on and challenge us to stretch.

In addition to the outside forces for good, draw on your inner strength and mentor yourself with reflection. Draw on what you believe to be faith and the Source to help you understand your talents.

That person looking back from the mirror has a powerful story to tell. Don’t ignore it. Don’t deny it. Grow with it.

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 podcast (about ex-offenders and resilience).  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.


(#321) The Nudge: Everything Sends A Message

July 17, 2016

We take chances, we fail, we learn, we grow,
and we move forward.

 Listening to a TED Radio Hour (June 24, 2016 show) piece reminded me of the power of words and self-talk.  The theme of the show was that to change habits or make changes sometimes all we need is a gentle nudge in the correct direction.  The form of that nudge is critical.  More specifically, how the nudge is presented will have an impact on results.

One of the interview guests, Carol Dweck, noted researcher and Stanford University psychologist, pointed to her research on mindsets.  She emphasized that when we want to encourage (nudge) people to improve and continue to grow we need to pay attention to our words and actions. Sounds simple but the subtleties are immense. Leaders, parents, and teachers would do well to remember that everything we say and do sends a message.

For instance, she cautions that we need to praise the effort not the intellect of a student or employee.  Praising the intellect can (according to her research) cause a person to avoid risks. Why? Because if I fail then what does that say about my intellect that I’ve been praised for? So, I take the less vulnerable route and listen to that little voice on my shoulder that advises me to remain perfect and not bring question to my intellect.  This, Dweck says, is the stuff of “fixed mindsets.”

Image: amenic181 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: amenic181 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

She found that when we praise the process (the strategy, the grit, or the progress) that nurtures growth mindsets. We take chances, we fail, we learn, we grow, and we move forward.

Early this week I was speaking to a community activist who shared her dismay with the obsession in Florida with testing school children.  Everything is about the test and getting the right answers to the test.  Either your right or your wrong—and the consequences can be immense for our children.

Rather than marking something “wrong,” Dweck suggested using the words “Not Yet.”  It does not excuse the error. It actually points out the error—but with hope for a better future the next time the problem or task is attempted. Positive and powerful rather than demoralizing and demeaning.

Think of the impact on leaders and employees when we focus on a “Not Yet” as opposed to a dismissive response to an error. Such a mindful approach helps our capabilities to grow.  This is not fuzzy talk saying we have unlimited capabilities. Rather, this approach helps us to better know our capabilities.

Video recommendation of the week.  In this short clip, Professor and Author, Richard Thaler, connect the notion of the nudge with being a “choice architect.”

Don’t forget the power of words—to others and to yourself.  Everything sends a message. What message do we send ourselves….and what messages do we accept from others? How can you be a choice architect in your life and the lives of others?

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 podcast (about ex-offenders and resilience).  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.

 


(#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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