Let me start by telling a story. I have never been a runner. Pushing myself to do anything physical in my teenage years was like asking me to pull weeds – just something I was not drawn to by any means. I had no desire to be physically fit, but I still wanted to look decent. I joined track and gymnastics in high school, hoping this would spawn a “new” me. I took the lazy way out and did not give my best effort. As a result, I broke both of my ankles and it set me back even more. Now I could resort back to my Subway and pizza-eating habits I so craved. In college, I tried out for cheerleading and a girl fell directly on my neck, knocking me to the floor. I could barely walk for a week after that and I gave up on try-outs. Throughout this journey, my only “WHY” was that I was trying to look good, not feel good. I was trying to keep up with others as opposed to set goals for myself. All the wrong reasons helped me to stay in the wrong place. Eventually, I had two babies after graduating college and fell backwards even more down the slippery slope. I knew that I was going to be forced to look at why I was doing what I was doing, although I really did not want to. To preface all of this, how was I going to try this when I could barely even keep up with my two kids at such a young age. What I learned is that one step at a time is all I need to see at the moment. Small goals, small steps would eventually lead to consistency. I would get used to this and start liking the results, or so I told myself. So, round and round and round the track I would go, very slowly. I was not worried about those folks that ran faster than me or the kids at the track that could run up and down the bleachers and not break a sweat. I decided one day that I would set a goal for myself, a distance goal. Starting at 165 pounds (baby weight), it was very difficult. For a month, I could barely get around the track 4 times. Then by the second month, I was doing additional exercises with the 4 laps. By the third month, I was running more than walking and doing additional exercises. By the fourth month, I was doing two miles and additional exercises. By the fifth month, I was running 3-4 miles and started to venture away from the track and into running the great outdoors. All the while I was focused on distance. When I stepped on the weight scale, I watched the numbers slowly fall and even recorded it. One day, after about 5 months, I reached a goal weight that I had not seen in a long time. It was because I had shifted my FOCUS, my WHY. My WHY morphed from wanting to “keep up with the Jones’ ” to “I want to eat clean and instill a life change for myself and my family.” As a result, I was able to run 5 miles without stopping and consistently lost weight until I reached my goal weight. I even promised myself that I would be sure and run a 5k this year. Everything shifted when I spoke to myself in terms of goals and how they would impact me. I had set my sights on what I really wanted to do and weight loss became a by-product of that. It was when I shifted my focus from what I wanted to unearthing my WHY is when I started meeting my goals, and this transformation happened. I am now at the point that when I go out for a run, I am exercising mental fitness as a way of allowing me “think time” and clarity to what I am doing in all aspects of my life. While my WHY may shift in this way, I am grateful for discovering this so early on so that I could build and grow my WHY into other WHY’s. This is true because before I realized what I was doing, I ran over 100 miles in 5 months and found a partner along the way. This journey into physical fitness led me on a journal into mental fitness and I was able to run farther and exercise mental fitness at the same time.
The First Step to Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell (2000)
“Realize there is one major difference between average people and achieving people.”
The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.
|Failing Backward||Failing Forward|
|Blaming others||Taking responsibility|
|Repeating the same mistakes||Learning from each mistake|
|Expecting never to fail again||Knowing failure is a part of progress|
|Accepting tradition blindly||Maintaining a positive attitude|
|Being limited by past mistakes||Challenging outdated assumptions|
|Being limited by past mistakes||Taking new risks|
|Thinking I am a failure||Believing something didn’t work|
The Impossible Question
“If your perception of and response to failure were changed, what would you attempt to achieve?”
Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learnings quite as much from his failures as from his successes. – John Dewey
From the time I was a youth, I believed that there was a special approach, or prescriptive formula, or only one way to do things. I believed that the right way was always going to be more difficult because it took energy, time, blood, sweat, and maybe even tears. For so many years, I believed I never had what it took to do something the “right” way as perceived by others. But, one day, I asked myself, what really is the right way anyway? The answer is, there really is no right way to do anything unless it is something that follows a script. The right way goes back to what you believe and why you believe the way you do. I used to think that my own energy level would help me sort of “pass” through the more difficult times when I felt nervous or uninspired. However, I learned that there is a very distinct difference between energy and charisma. Energy is motivating but charisma actually inspires (Sinek, 2009). I am in the process of finding the balance between both characteristics. When working with my digital learning and leading students, energy motivates them in the first course or two, but my charisma will hopefully inspire them to build their own meaningful connections and map their learning journey throughout the program. When it comes down to it, I might be motivated to come to work for a paycheck and therefore, I have to allow energy depart from my body but that is not the same thing. What inspires me to go to work is the ability to help and inspire others to be change agents and discover learning in new ways that is ultimately for themselves. I have learned that learning is an emotional process and must appeal to the heart. The head won’t go where the heart hasn’t been (Harapnuik, 2015). For this reason, I encourage students to find their why that will set the stage for what they are truly passionate about. Passion cannot be bought, measured, or obtained, it must be something that occurs within our heart. This leads me to Angela Duckworth’s video on GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, as she describes the very core of where humans develop passion for life and its circumstances.
Image Source: www.lynnecazaly.com
Defining your Passion
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it.” – Simon Sinek (2009)
Why should anyone ask “why?”
Let’s start by telling a story about a company. This company has a simple purpose – to provide services, products, and prices that are parallel to none. When a 10 year customer service supervisor is asked by an outside representative what the company stands for, there is an uncomfortable pause. Then a hurried and uncomfortable recitation of the purpose. The supervisor is asked WHY the company exists to which the rep responds that there is a vision and mission statement, but nobody really knows what that is. These questions are asked in an attempt to turn the company around and break away from only making marginal profit gains into making a profit. As Simon Sinek (2009) knows all too well, if we do not have a clear understanding of our cause, our belief systems, even the right answers can steer us wrong. What sounds like a right answer isn’t always right. When the rep was able to recite the purpose of the company, but really did not understand or believe what she was saying, the credibility was lost. When asked whether others in the company are aware of why the company exists, no one was really sure. Let’s examine another scenario. A school has established a clear vision and mission statement, but also has core principles and values that they do not steer from. The same question is asked by the outside representative. assistant principal responds, “We believe in inspiring kids to explore what interests them (cause). To do this, we give our learners choice and agency within their own personalized learning space (process). Learners design their own learning journeys and build products that they never conceived they would build (result). Sinek calls this the Golden Circle and states that “people don’t by what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Sinek points to research studies that state over 80% of the Americans are not working their dream job and he poses the question – What if we lived in a world where 80% of the people loved their jobs? This is WHY starting with the right questions in anything you do is relevant to understand your own purpose and belief systems. If we are asking the wrong questions, even the right answers will not guide us in the right direction. This begs the question, would we rather follow someone that has a clear cause and purpose or someone that simply knows how to do something?
What do I know anyways?
Sinek posits that “people don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it?” As humans, we rationalize our behaviors providing reason after reason about what we perceive to be true about our decisions and our assumptions. For example, if you go to the store and are looking to purchase soap and you find that the exact same ingredients are found in Dove as they are in the Equate brand, which product do you buy? Do you base your judgement on trust or perception? The reality is, you probably have no idea why you buy the Dove soap. I can tell you that you value the brand, not the soap. There is a trust factor that resides within us when we perceive something to be valuable, sometimes because it is promoted by someone or something we view worthy. What happens if our assumptions are not entirely clear? We start rationalizing the tangible features and we begin to default to our original thinking when we cannot analyze or understand why we do what we do. The soap is softer, whiter, and though a bit more expensive, worth it. We think it is better quality when in actuality, it is not. Let’s connect this idea to the classroom teacher. What if teachers taught by design and not by some curriculum standard that was default to every learner? What if students had a choice and a voice in the way they learned the same standard? What would this mean for the learner? What if students are asking the questions? Alan November (2013) will tell you in his book that if teachers are asking most of the questions, the teacher then owns and manages the learning. If students are asking the questions, they are actively involved in the authentic opportunity, right? But, what do I know anyways? If we standardize learning into a one size fits all method, we are not accounting for any variability at all (Rose, 2016).
What do you believe?
Sinek says that we always do things for ourselves, but he is not talking purely in the selfish sense. We follow others because our values and belief systems line up with others. We do not go to a community decision making meeting to hear others speak. We go because we want to see how thoughts, opinions, and decisions will impact us. We want to find out whether others in the room believe like we believe and how we will be impacted. So, this goes back to the question, what inspires you? My inspiration is simple: to help others. To expand upon that, I want to help teachers impact children. I want folks to think for themselves, challenge assumptions and assertions, and know how to go back to the original content to clarify meaning. From this point, learners can develop their own thoughts and ideas, eventually helping them to solve problems and issues. The goal here would be to think independently in a system that is entirely dependent upon collective ideas. Since I started reading Sinek’s book, I realized that I am sort of a “HOW” person where tangibles are easy to create. I learned inadvertently that HOW is easier to develop than WHY. I found that I jumped back and forth between the two. Sometimes I became dismissive of my wildest thoughts because they were not tangible. Could I have then steered some of my students away from their wildly important goals because I was driven by HOW as opposed to WHY. What I have learned is that this has changed. I am now referring to myself as what my colleague says, a delusional optimist. In no other way can I attribute the WHY to a better word than me working through my overactive imagination and aspirations. While Sinek states that your WHY never changes, I would beg to disagree to an extent. While the entire purpose or cause of one’s WHY might not change, the wording could perhaps. Whose to say that we will get our WHY down to a perfect, crisp and clean purpose on the first go round. Iterations of WHY can easily be enhanced based on better words and better terminology that appropriately describes your experience.
Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Sinek puts it all into context here in this video. Your WHY is the start of everything that fuels why you do what you do…read a follow up post by clicking here: WHAT IS YOUR WHY?
Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler (2013) advocate to focus on changing goals, behaviors, or processes; do not focus on the results. You might be asking yourself….what does this mean? Well, let me share an example. When I was in high school, I threw the discus. I was coached on technique and not on distance. There was a technique called the ‘South African’ which required a 360 degree bodily movement. With that technique, I came up with a rhyme, ‘rip the hip’ and ‘follow through.’ This meant that my hip would come through first as I spun through the technique. My body would follow the move instead of hinder or control it. After focusing on technique and less on distance, one day I threw the farthest distance I had ever thrown! This just reiterates for me that the outcome is a end result of the behavior, goal, or process.
The Power of WHY
Let me tell you my story. In January 2015, I had my second child, Micah. I had gained almost 50lbs. I decided that it was time to start running to lose some weight. After many miles of running and my focus on the weight loss, the pounds just did come off. Day after day, I stepped on the weight scale and nothing happened. I couldn’t figure out why? I was left with the question of “why?” Why am I running? Why am I trying to lose weight. I realized it was time to find my “why.” I started to focus on distance, endurance, and strength. I found that running with a goal of distance and endurance should be my focal point, not the day to day weight loss regiment. I decided I was going to run a 5k this year! Before I knew it, people started asking me, “Have you lost weight?” Weight loss became a bi-product of my new goal, my new “why.” How transformative!! I encourage you to spend the next 18 minutes to watch Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle “Why.” It could challenge your thinking in many ways where you just might be inspired to do something more than you thought you could.
Read this article to discover why failure is a great way to turn a challenge into an opportunity!
Sinek’s- Art Before Science
Is data in the cloud protected? It sits on a physical server somewhere. Every password is breakable!
- The best way to combat ignorance is through curiosity!
- If we don’t understand where we are, we limit where we can go.
- Technical literacy allows us to keep up, and it can’t wait.
Use this interactive padlet to post one sentence about what technology literacy in the digital learning age means to you. Consider outside resources, look at the literature, investigate research reports to make your assumption.
Read edutopia’s School Leaders: Guiding Teachers into the Digital Age
“Curiosity comes first, not the other way around.”
Questions and curiosity are like magnets that draw us to our teachers.
If we place technologies before inquiry, we could be robbing ourselves of our greatest tools as teachers- our students’ questions.
Embrace the mess of learning
Flipped learning should not be the focus – it’s the same dehumanizing chatter wrapped up in fancy clothing.
Confuse/perplex students through questions to tailor robust and informed methods of blended instruction.
Life threatening situation: student questions are the seeds for real learning, not scripted curriculum.
No more disseminators of content; cultivators of curiosity of inquiry, meaning and spark learning!
Allow student questions to cultivate curiosity, embrace the mess of learning, and reflect on what was impactful and relevant.
3 Rules to Spark Learning
Curiosity comes first, not the other way around
Embrace the mess.
Practice reflection – reflection deserves our care and revision as if one day we will save lives.