We all watch the consternation of Congress and the ineffective strategies being played out there, and for one, I wonder how the refusers can stand without even one leg. Refusers are those people who cross their arms, or cover their ears and refuse to participate. They refuse to share. They refuse to cooperate. They refuse to allow others to move forward. They are the gridlock drivers of our society. They park in the middle of the intersections, blocking others from moving, and when people object they shut their engine off and park it right there n the way.
What works in so many and obvious ways, is to extend a hand.
Celebrity guest on the Daily Show with John Stewart last night, Common, spoke eloquently about our nation's deep racial issues. He likened them to a marriage on the rocks where a good conversation is needed more than hate and divorce. I agree, and say, "Why not extend a hand?"
And, when someone else has the temerity, courage, confidence, and strength of good character to extend a hand first, why not be with them? Why not be like-minded and of like character? Why not extend your hand in return?
Power is not seen in the destructive ways of Isis. Power is not found in refusing to cooperate. These are the tantrums of Kindergarteners. But, where two bind together in a common cause, where one accepts and encourages another, a third will find inclusion. Where two become three community grows. The power of community trumps the isolation of refusal every time.
The phantom goal of perfect solutions destroys all possibilities, and when a refuser points at a single flaw as reason enough to not work anymore, the issue isn't the flaw. Rush Limbaugh is a leader of refusers. Teacher unions are refusers of progress - not the teachers - but the unions that seek their own survival. The Republicans could be a good and guiding force, but they have become a voice for refusing any imperfect solution (followers of Rush Limbaugh) as if they hold the high ground.
Power is found in sustained change. Sustained change must be made of positive change because negative change destroys and after a while there is nothing sustained. Look at Syria. Where's the sustained change going to be found? In piles of rubble and bones?
When leading people onto a path that leads to their success I find that extending a hand is the beginning of connection, the beginning of hope, the beginning of strengthening, the prologue to building something. I am amazed by how frequently I see their hesitancy because they have known too often the frustration and bitterness of refusal.
My greatest hope is that adults will learn to not respond in kind to the pouty tantrums of refusers, but will instead stand, extend a hand, and team up with someone to build a good thing. Why not?
In this entry we see what happens when people set aside their individual ideas and consider the power of unity.
I recently was asked to shadow a very effective collaborator and see what he was doing to bring the power of partnerships to bear against very real issues, needs, and problems. In his self-taught process, he created interaction and dialogue as a way to bridge gaps and break down barriers. He invited people to share their wants and needs, and to also see what they could offer. In a short while he had enough people involved to be able to match needs to offers.
In an analogy, if he met hungry people who wanted burgers and had chairs to offer, and then he found someone else with apples who needed parkas, no one was happy. Then he found people who wanted recliners and had too many sweaters. Community happened when the hungry ate apples, the cold wore sweaters, and the tired sat in chairs.
They each had a solution that was less than they were looking for, but they had SOMETHING to offset their need. None of these people were able to find each other on their own, or create the dialogue to make trades. However, he was able to see the possibilities and create partnerships. Partnerships are stronger than mere relationships. Partners agree to continue working together toward a common cause or purpose. Partners keep interacting and collaborating long after others drift apart.
In communities of need, everyone has something to offer, but few will seek the power of relationship where mutual benefits can be shared. This man became very creative and encouraged people to loosen up. They had to be more flexible in what they accepted and more willing to offer what they had too much of.
Over time, this man actually pulled people of need into relationship with suppliers of helpful programs, and connected them all to philanthropic organizations who were looking to make a contribution to the neighborhood. The donors gave money to the program providers who supplied the needed help. And everyone was happier.
Despite their obvious and mutual plight, they can't seem to solve their problem. They each believe they know what needs to be done and won't listen to anyone else's ideas because that would be a waste of time. One by one they approach the chain and try to pull the boat in closer to shore. No one can do it.
They decide to vote on who should be the one to pull it into shore. They obviously pick the strongest man because he was able to at least lift the chain. While he tried to lift the chain and pull the yacht in toward shore, some of the others watched, some milled about wringing their hands in worry, and some even yelled for him to try harder. When he couldn't do it, the ones who voted against him started blaming those who voted for him.
They are all dead now.
Working on a new concept for helping get new community service organizations (CSO) going. It works like an incubator, so I am calling it the CSO Incubator. Brilliantly creative name, eh?
The idea is to create a formation template that includes the fundamentals for starting a CSO, then helping each founder to complete those steps through a mentor/mentee relationship. In practice it would work something like this.
Amos has an inspired idea of how to help Alzheimer patients and their families to cope with and live out the time of their disease. Amos wants to found a CSO that provides training and support functions through volunteers. Amos comes to the CSO Incubator and takes introductory classes that include the basics of communications, accounting, marketing, staff training, website management, and volunteer coordinating. Using the Green Arrow model of leadership development the class would give each founder a clear idea of what needs to be done and how they can get it done easily and economically. Each founder would leave the class with an actual plan in hand.
Going forward the CSO Incubator would work alongside this first generation of founders individually as a mentor/coach to help them stay on target, but the founder must be the one to do the work. The agreement between each founder and the CSO Incubator would include an obligation to return and mentor two other founders from classes of a later date. This will benefit many people. First, it benefits the new founders who get to have a guide who has recently gone through the very same process and experience instead of an instructor who has been teaching for a long time. Second, it benefits the mentor who gets to review the information again and learn it through the instructor's approach, practice leading and training skills in a guided process (CSO Incubator mentors would lead this as part of training), and build a new connection that may be helpful in the future. Third, it helps the CSO Incubator team to broaden its reach and scope of operations; allowing more and more founders to be served as the roster of available mentors grows exponentially.
In practice, Amos would first begin as a mentee, learning a substantial amount and making significant progress on his own CSO venture. Then Amos would attend a "Mentors Training" session and be matched with Barbara who is starting a Battered Women's support group CSO with satellite branches to be planted as the group grows. When Barbara completes her basics and has her CSO up and running, she will be trained on mentoring a new founder. Amos will stay on as Barbara's mentor and pick up Bryce who is building a network of trained babysitters.
Barbara is matched with Charlotte who wants to start a non-profit cleaning company that provides free or discounted cleaning services to cancer patients going through surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation treatments. Later on, Barbara is then matched with Cecil who is starting a Child Advocacy organization to provide oversight for the foster and adoption agencies in the region.
Eventually Charlotte is matched with Donald who is starting an online Directory of Services for medical and special needs patients and Cecil is matched with Darcy who arranges free dental exams for the homeless.
By the time the "D" level is complete fifteen CSO founders will be trained and functioning as both leaders of their own successful organizations and as mentors for the "E" level - all from Amos' agreement to be a mentee and then a mentor for two others. If the first CSO Incubator class has four founders, there would be sixty founders through only the "D" level of the CSO Incubator process. If each CSO serves five people that's 300 people served and the multiplying effect just grows from there.
Side note - CSO Incubator trainers would provide continued mentoring classes for the advanced mentor/mentee relationships and to maintain a high level of quality service to all founders. Also, the better and more experienced mentors will be allowed to lead mentor classes, broadening the CSO Incubator scope of available classes even more. Each founder is instructed to use the same legacy-growth model to grow their staff and volunteers.
I recently attended a meeting of public school reformers. As I listened to their demands I couldn't help but notice their myopic willingness to be content just shuffling the same old issues around the table as if the view would change enough from where they sit to make them comfortable. I was perplexed and a bit miffed. Not at them, but at the system they've inherited and been poisoned by.
Like a family of drunks who wonder why they drink from the same bottle that polluted their parents, these people are all products of the very system they seek to change. It is as if they willingly walk up to the tree of poisoned apples, pick one, take a bite, and grimace. From where they stand they cannot see the healthy orchards over the hill that many people are happily eating from. So, resigned to their 'only' tree, and perhaps dulled in their thinking by the very poison they keep swallowing, they remain ignorant and unhappy.
The irony is that they are advocates for improved learning, and yet they do not open themselves up to the exploration and curiosity that drove the others over the hill to bliss. When I speak of wonderful fruit that is healthy and sweet, they look at me as if I am telling them a lie, and then when they realize I am telling them the truth, they look at me as if I have betrayed them by not being as c0ontent as they are to eat the poisoned apples.
Think about this. If they were trained and taught to be explorers, to be scientific and curious (as they were in pre-school) they would have pricked ears and piqued interests. They would not be content with a poor solution, no matter how entrenched and prolifically accepted.
The old tree cannot be made sweet and healthy by any means known to mankind. The only solution it is worthy of is chopping, cutting, and burning. Until then, while it rots and heads slowly in that direction, it continues to feed millions who don't know any better. (Why don't they know any better?)
The current condition of our public schools warrants massive change, and revolutionary thinking. Miles and miles of progress is needed and yet these advocates are content to battle over the inches the system is willing to discuss. Crisis is the time for radical change because the masses can agree in their desperation that something must be done. The danger here is that radical acceptance of poor alternatives does not improve our long term condition. We are in real danger of desperately-drowning administrators handcuffing themselves to a cement block that teeters toward the depths.
Isn't it funny that the very people who hold the power of creating change, the constituents of every district, are hindered in their ability to see better solutions because of how that same dysfunctional system taught them to learn? It seems ludicrously ironic, and frustratingly tragic.
Much of the dysfunction in our current educational system can be attributed to institutional thinking. Thinking that perpetuates an established basis of purpose when the reason for that purpose is no longer needed or relevant is 'institutionalized' thinking. The reasoning becomes "Because that's how we do it," or, "That's how we've always done it," instead of, "Hmm, where are our societal needs taking us now?" or, "What needs of our future can we drive toward, now?"
We live in an age of great information and opportunity. Information is ubiquitous and mostly free. The challenge for everyone is in developing navigation skills, not being "formed and normed" into uniform thinking.
We do not need teachers to drive our thinking to be like theirs. We need guides who help us explore and discover abilities and interests that serve each student's path through life. Instead of forcing everyone to adopt "knowledge of the masses" we need to create independent perspectives tha. Instead of people feeding us the same institutionalized thinking they swallowed, we need guides who help us find our individualized purpose, unique talent, and lifelong passion.
In recent years we have seen an explosion of books and experts telling us a great deal about ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) without coming to much consensus. For a long time ADD was the predominant term, and then 'experts' decided that there was a difference between ADD people and the physically hyperactive. So, they came up with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and the mental health community used both terms side-by-side for several years. More research showed that the less physically active ADDers were hypreactive in their thoughts and then the experts decided that ADHD was a sufficient term for everyone.
Over time, and with more research, it became apparent that the hyperactive state was a recurring, yet temporary condition that increased with sugar, caffiene, and fatigue, and decreased with exercise, low-glucose diets, adequate sleep, and certain medications. Since it was a common symptom found in varying behaviors the 'experts' decided that ADD was sufficient to describe the condition many people have.
My question is, since we are still exploring the ADD moniker for accuracy, perhaps we could look at the word "disorder" to see if it is truly fitting and fair. A few synonomous terms for disorder are: affliction, ailment, complaint, disease, infirmity, malady, and sickness. In actuality, many people with ADD function at a much higher state of mental acuity than "normal" people. To say they have a malady or ailment is to label them inaccurately.
I do agree people with ADD, myself included, do operate differently in life, and that giving them a label helps to identify their inconsistencies in a way that explains and defines such differences. I just believe we can do better than ADD. The term deficit is also misleading, because many times ADDers have excessive attention. A more accurate description would point toward the inconsistent attention transitions that occur. Sometimes there is too much focus on something other than the group's consensus, too much time taken to shift attention to a new focus, or too many changes in prioritization and importance, thereby changing the application of attention between competing subjects. The issue isn't a deficit. It's governance and inconsistency.
So, I did some digging around and came up with this term that I think better fits the condition. AATC. It stands for Atypical Attention Transition Capacity. After all, why should those of us with ADD have to bear the burden of condescending and disparaging terminology chosen by 'experts' who don't really have a handle on it now, and had no clue what it was when they first named it?
Those of us who are able to tackle the job of improving our public school system should be very, very afraid. We stand with each foot in a separate boat. The boats have been released from their mooring, and set adrift, they are moving away from each other. Being products of the very system we seek to change, we are stuck waiting for someone else to assign us a solution or a text to read that will tell us what to do. But, life does not go according to the practices of schools. Most every decision we make in life is one we had to figure out on our own.
Those of us who have been in two boats at the same time know that waiting only gets us wet. Earlier decisions... uh, earlier better decisions bring us relief, dry feet, and commitment to a singular solution. The hope of continuing in the old boat while committing to the new boat's promising future is akin to walking on two paths simultaneously. Can't be done and shouldn't be attempted.
There is writing on the wall. If you can't see it from where you stand - step closer. Whether you look for it or foolishly wait for it to reach out from the paint and grab your sleeve - it is still there. Like a tornado warning that falls under the desk, it is still there and the tornado is still coming, whether or not we look for the report.
The gap between what students need to know and what they are being taught in public schools is widening exponentially each year. The problem is monumental and includes millions of stakeholders in more than 100,000 organizations, schools, universities, businesses, governments, and institutions. The problem we see isn't the actual problem. The actual problem is that we are all products of the system we seek to change.
Just as if a top Microsoft engineer was asked to make Windows 7 run like Leopard OS X the task would be insurmountable because the Microsoft mentality and culture that he/she absorbed in order to succeed would inhibit and taint the need for new thoughts and ways of building an operating system. The solution provider would need to be someone who knows Windows 7 but left Microsoft and went to work for Apple developing the Leopard OS X system. The problem we see, converting the system, isn't the main issue. The main issue is inside the existing mentality that prohibits Microsoft from hiring the programmer from Apple who once rejected Microsoft and left. Territorialism is the problem.
In trying to solve the pending crisis of our two-boated leaders, their insistence that they know best, even though they themselves perpetuated and still advocate for the existing system, fails to inspire confidence. At the rate we are changing, by my conservative estimate, we will be lucky to move halfway toward any collaborative and effective solution within 10-15 years. That is an entire generation of children, and the problem is still only halfway solved.
Why is the peril ours if we ignore the writing on the wall? Because the system will continue to produce new members of our society - new retail clerks, new sales reps, new factory workers, and new delivery drivers as well as new college students, engineers, managers, and voters. Most terrifying of all is that the system that needs to be changed will continue to produce new teachers for the next 10-30 years.
The longer we ignore the tornado report, the closer the tornado looms. We are going to be dealing with these members of our community who could be so much more prepared to contribute instead of being a burden to the economy, the cultural goodness we love to experience, and other areas where they are not providing good thinking and good solutions.
And, besides, who is going to teach them to decide for themselves what boat is best before they get soaked?
It seems like such a stupid question, doesn't it? Everybody knows that learning is an important part of changing things, creating new abilities, and improving one's life experience or results. However, "learning" is an interesting personal function. Everyone learns differently. Everyone has different approaches to learning, different goals for learning, and different feelings about it. Learning is not simply an important part of moving forward, it is everything! But, there is a bit more to look at here.
We learn how to learn.
Since birth, each of us goes through an individualized development process that creates associative links between our mental processes, our knowledge, and the meaning we derive from it. Even before birth our brains are taking in data and assigning meaning to it. As we grow and develop we actually build a structure of neurons that set up a neural network we become increasingly dependent upon to process all subsequent learning.
If our learning structure is sound and functional, then most things in life are easily learned and we adapt well. If, however, as is usually the case, we make some mistakes in our ignorant era of mental engineering, we end up with some form of learning hindrance.
As adults we have probably become quite skilled at coping with our dysfunctions and hiding them from others, but in truth they still pop up in ways that keep us from moving ahead as we would like. Our successes in life often rely on what we can learn and then the improvements we make from that learning. (Some people can buy a Lottery ticket and find financial success, but without learning, even those windfalls will turn to failure.)
How many of us look at the way we learn and make choices about improving the way we learn? Do we search for more expedient approaches or methods? Do we measure our retention from reading versus listening? Probably not. But, even if we don't jump into the deep end of improvement practices we can wade into the shallow end and find some benefit there.
Why is "learning" the key to all improvement? Because we can learn better ways to learn that will improve how we improve. No matter what we seek to learn these days we can find many sources to help us.
Well, there are ways. For instance, we can find computerized assessments of what we already know and how we learn best. These assessments can even suggest to us best practices and best directions to take next. This helps us learn about how we learn.
Knowing this makes me wonder... will learning about learning change the way I see my future? Will it change the possibilities of what I want to become? No matter what, though, learning does seem to be the most important part of our improvement process, doesn't it?