Are You Leading Learners? Sink or swim

Ellie stood at the side of the pool.  “I want my floaties!”  I told her she wasn’t getting her floaties.  I needed her to be brave.  She melted down like a Bomb Pop in the Texas summer sun.  I walked to the edge where she stood.  I encouraged her to just let me hold her in the water.  She got in cautiously.

I floated her around, holding her by her bathing suit.  I encouraged her.  She relaxed.  I told her to put her face in the water as she swam.  “No.  I’m scared!”, she replied.  I got frustrated.  I thought to myself, “Just put your head underwater already!”   I had to be patient, calm and encouraging.

We went to where it is shallow enough for Ellie to stand with her head above water.   Her confidence grew.  She started to swim on her own.  I showered high fives and encouragement.  In 30 minutes she went from existential crisis to swimming on her own and doing flips under water.  Add more encouragement.

We headed back to deeper water.  Ellie swam.  From me to the wall and back – 15 feet each way.  Then she regressed. “Daddy, hold my tummy,” she asked.  I did.  And as she was swimming, I took it way.  A new meltdown.  Again, I was frustrated.  I thought to myself “What happened!?  She had this.”   I decided to comfort her.  It was late.  She was tired.  She had her win.  We celebrated the win.

The next week at the pool, she started off timidly.  She needed me to be within a foot of her as she clung to the wall at the start.  In two hours, she grew.   At the end, she was diving head first and swimming 20 feet.  She didn’t regress at the end.  She finished at a high point.

Learning can feel like drowning.  Scary to the learner.  Frustrating to the person leading them.  Leading people who are learning takes a balance.  They need to be encouraged to take the risk of drowning.   They also need enough support to feel safe.  Safety builds confidence to push to competence.  Celebrate the competence.  Competence builds confidence.  A virtuous circle begins.

The learner will get tired.  They will plateau.  They may regress.  They will need support again.  They’ll need compassion when their fear exceeds their faith in themselves (or those around them).  After a respite, the learner will need deeper water,  support, encouragement and celebration until they are good at it.  And then they’ll still need support to get even better.

A leader is buoyed by the people they lead.

Lead poorly and sink.  Lead learners and swim.

As with anything worthwhile, it’s easier said than done.

Today Is A Good Day for No Words

Three strangers hugging

Credit: @ToddWalkerNews

Reid said, “I normally don’t have a loss for words.”   I replied awkwardly, looking for something to say.   “Today’s a good day for no words.”  Reid was at the Peace Rally the night before.  He drove out of the parking garage, where one of the snipers was setup, 25 minutes before the assault on the police and protesters began.

It’s the day after five police officers were killed in Dallas.  My wife, Jen, and I were at the noon prayer vigil at Thanks-giving Square in downtown Dallas.  This is where we met Reid.  The grounds were built 50 years ago.  It was intended as a place for the city to come together, to remember, to be thankful after the city and country were torn by the assassination of President Kennedy.  Here we were.  Together in the hot Texas sun.  Staring down the barrel of a problem we dreamt we had overcome.  Half a century past.  The problem still present.

One thousand people came together to find hope and healing; to give thanks for life we still had after seven people’s lives were taken in race-related violence over recent days.  We held hands at times.  We prayed.  Some hugged.  City leaders called and prayed for an end of anger and hate as instruments of resolution.  They exhorted for the end of denial.  They encouraged acknowledgement: “We have a problem.”


We as a society want to be done with this issue.  We want to leave it in the past.  But wanting doesn’t make something so.  Anyone who’s trapped in an unwanted situation knows and feels this.  Unacknowledged problems rot the homes in which they live.   Shame, pain, anger, resentment, and rage grow in the face of denial.

The problem is not going away.  Arguing about it deepens division.  Casting judgment hardens animosities.  Placing blame creates burden.  Avoiding it out of fear gives it the room to quietly creep closer to our front doors.

Race as a problem is beyond us.  Fighting problems fight back.   This problem exceeds our labels, our categories, our unions and our divisions.  It exceeds our knowledge.  It exceeds our abilities.

What you resist persists.  What you fear appears.  Yet, what is revealed is healed.  It’s time allow our problems to rest in the light, revealed.

These are matters of life and death.  We can try to fight off death and darkness.  Or we can seek to grow effortlessly in the light, like trees bearing fruit, increasing life.  It’s time to focus on increasing life.  Life matters.

Today is a good day for gratitude for what we have and what others have given.

Today is a good day for quiet acceptance.

Today is a good for being together.

Today is a good day for believing, trusting and acting like there is a God.  A God who is bigger than us.  A God who is stronger than us.

Just like this problem is.

What if we come together, quietly, and listen and look for wisdom and strength?  Can we be weak enough as individuals but strong enough as a faithful people to find the power to overcome?   I don’t know.  But I believe.  And I hope.  And I love (except for when I don’t).

Today’s a good day for no words.

Are You Free? The Captivity of Choice


I spent 2 days in Huntsville.  Standing on concrete.  Hands through the bars that secure 7’x9′ rooms containing two bunks, a small seat and a steel toilet.  I heard stories from men in their  20s  through their 80s.  Black, latino, white. All putting their faith … possibly in blind desperation … in God.  A Vietnam […]

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Are you listening?

View image | Tom told Jim that he appreciated that he listened.  Tom’s past managers didn’t.  Or at least Tom felt that way – which is what matters.  Jim realized he had no choice.  He was new to the job and the technologies involved.  He couldn’t help unless he fully  listened.   He discovered […]

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The Top Reason Your 3 Year Old Is Terrible

#185664072 /   She was writhing naked around on the bed.  She was excited with a huge smile on her face.   My heart rate was rising. We had to be somewhere in 20 minutes.  We were running out of time.  She didn’t care. I was frustrated.  She wouldn’t cooperate.  Why would she?  I was […]

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Of fear and faith

Do not eat from the tree of knowledge.   The first commandment.  Why?  Because our natural state is one of needing to know.  We need certainty. And when we can’t have it … Which is always, we make a choice.  Fear or faith. We hesitate and doubt in the face of the unknown.  We fear.  Or […]

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What are you waiting for?

I’ve been waiting too long.  Since I’ve been over waiting, I’m publishing this without sitting on it or proofing beyond a quick glance over. I can’t remember the last time I published anything.  The longer I go the harder it gets.  The more I wait for.  I wait for a better idea.  I wait for […]

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Who Cares About What You Do?


  It doesn’t matter what you do. It matters what you do does. It matters what the impact of what you do has on your Customer, client, friend, son, mother or husband.  The more impact, the better (Hopefully, that impact is positive). You say, “I talk to my wife 6 times a day. I’m a […]

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4 Types of People, 2 Get Things Done – Which are you?


  There were two girls climbing concrete ramps that run along the side of a set of  stairs.  They were 7 to 10 years old.  One asks the mom to join her.   The mom said,   “No, that’s for children.” Doing silly things that might be a little dangerous, fun and/or make you stand […]

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Tis the Season


Tis the season to ask big questions…. The depth of winter is upon us.  The pendulum swings toward new life for the next 6 months. What new life will be born in you?   What new life will you birth into this world?   What fear will you face down?   What wrong will you […]

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