Lighting Matches on a Windy 4th of July

I closed the last book. They sat there awkwardly. Some looked at me blankly. Others’ minds and bodies wandered off.  Mrs. Bush said, “What do we say?” The class mumbled, “Thank you … ,” not quite in unison or unanimity. “What dooo we saayy?!,”  Mrs. Bush repeated with greater expectations. The kids screamed, “THANK YOU!”

I was the “Mystery Reader” for Evie’s class. She’s one of my twin 4 year olds.  I read 3 books … two too many for the attention span of ten 4 year olds. They tuned in and out like that one radio station you want to listen to while driving along a far west Texas ‘Farm to Market’ road.  Side conversations, inspections of hair and clothes, and rolling on the floor were intermittent like static cutting in and out along the drive.  Mrs. Bush prodded periodically for politeness to get the station tuned in again. It was humbling being a “Mystery Reader.”

I read books about curious, passionate kids who explore and build things, defining who they are — Ada Twist, Scientist, Iggy Peck, Architect, and Rosie Revere, Engineer.  The characters face and overcome rejection, make mistakes, and persevere.  Their flowers burst from buds.  These are children’s story versions of Anais Nin’s quote, “and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

I read for nearly 30 minutes (again, too long for these kids). Occasionally, I paused pregnantly.  Tears welled.  Breath eluded me, stolen by the gestating hope I carry for my girls to be more brave and strong than I have been.

I aspire to create experiences for my girls that might catalyze curiosity, courage, and commitment. Some are bold. Some boring.  The experiences and experiments are matches I strike in the windy night of life.  Some light. Many blow out.  A few may find a fuse and catch. Fuses burn, fuses fizzle. Some may sizzle slowly.   The gunpowder that is my girls potential awaits the charge.  Me, with anxious anticipation, look to the sky for the colored light and glare while I hold my ears, wary of the blast.

When I finished, one of the boys told me, “That was boring. But I had fun.” Evie climbed in my lap. She hugged me, looked me in the eyes and said , “I love you.” I hugged her back and whispered in her ear, “I love you, too. Be brave. Make mistakes. Learn. Grow.”

She walked away.

I left.

One more match lit on a windy Fourth of July.

Mystery Reader

Lighting up imaginations

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

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 […]

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Are You Free? The Captivity of Choice

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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 | gettyimages.com 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 / gettyimages.com   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?

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  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?

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  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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