You Gotta Laugh a Little

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Tonight I took a little time, deliberately choosing to spend time watching funny videos on YouTube.

I know I don’t take enough time to laugh, and this was a great respite from the steady schedule I set for myself.

Here are a few of the videos on my “favorites” playlist.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

How Animals Eat Their Food:

The Dance of the Cucumber:

Baby Groot!

Toss the Feathers:

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Me too …

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Yesterday’s flood of Facebook statuses stating “me too” was sobering.  I saw several men post that they were surprised by how many women (and men) posted this status.

What surprised me was the number of strong, confident, and mature women who posted.

I guess it never occurred to me that these women could have found themselves in such a vulnerable position, yet I myself was once as well.

If we can so quickly accept that so many women have had negative, in some cases devastating, experiences, why can’t we (the white community) believe our sisters and brothers of color that they experience prejudice and racism regularly?

I don’t get to interpret the experience of another.

A Painful Pruning …

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What have you sacrificed in order to pursue your dream?

This week I let go of something good, something I not only enjoyed but also deeply believed was a valuable investment of my time.  This may be for a season, or it may not.  It’s uncertain to me just now, but as Robert Frost said in his famous poem:

“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”

Why would I do such a thing?

John Maxwell describes my dilemma in both The 15 Laws of Growth in the Law of Trade-offs and in The 21 Laws of Leadership in the Law of Sacrifice.  Sometimes things that are good, noble, and worthy require time and energy that is needed for other pursuits.

Just as a farmer prunes back his vines, bushes, and trees to enable them to become more productive, sometimes we need to prune our own lives.

I have had some pretty big goals for the past three years, goals that have not yet been realized.  These goals are also good, noble, and worthy.  I have let go of something good today with the hope of reaping something bigger tomorrow.  I have decided that my goals and dreams are worth the sacrifice.

What are you still holding on to that is preventing you from moving forward?

 

We all need …

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This evening I have spent a bit of time preparing a speech/ presentation I will deliver in just under three weeks.  The topic comes from John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, the same source as the course I am going to start teaching a week from today.

Tell me – what is it that prevents you from building stronger relationships with people at work?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to be human nature to be completely absorbed with our own issues and not take any one else’s issues into consideration.  Yet we all still have a deep need to be heard and understood.

I’ve talked about The Five Core Concerns of Negotiation before, but I really think these are five powerful keys to understanding where other people are coming from.

  1. Appreciation – we all want those around us to see our strengths and value them.
  2. Autonomy – we all want to be free to make our own decisions without coercion.
  3. Affiliation – we all want to belong.
  4. Status – we all want to be respected.
  5. Role – we all want a part to play in the group.

If you want a stronger relationship with someone – whether you’ve just met them or known them for years upon years – give them more of these five things.

You might be saying to yourself, “I do appreciate them.”  When was the last time you verbally expressed that appreciation?

I have learned that we human beings have a short memory when it comes to the positive thoughts and feelings others express.  You have to make these five concerns explicit.  You have to verbalize it.

Who do you need to encourage today?  Why are you still reading?  Go talk to them now!

A Gentle Touch Goes a Long Way

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Today I held midterm conferences with a few of my students who are struggling with the class.  Honestly, I wish the schedule allowed me to do conferences with all my students.  It is really the only time I get one-on-one with them and get to know them more personally, something I’ve found that students from “relationship-oriented” cultures need.

Two students are just a little low in their grades and are very likely to make a good turnaround.  The other two I’m more concerned about.

I always start the conferences asking the students how things are going and what has prevented them from performing well in the class.  These are international students, so I know cultural acclimation is likely an issue.  In the cases today, there are additional extenuating circumstances that have been interfering with their ability to keep up with their coursework.

Compassionate problem solving typically gives these students hope.  I directed both students to additional resources on campus to help them deal with the extenuating circumstances, though it is on them to follow through, and gave them a second chance on one of the bigger assignments they hadn’t yet completed.

It is in sympathizing with their situation that creates a connection.  It is such a small, small thing, yet it has such a big, big impact on the relationship.  I didn’t scold; I empathized and gave grace.  They won’t soon forget that.

I don’t know how the rest of the semester will unfold, if these two will be able to follow through and overcome their challenges, but I do know that I have done my part to encourage them.  That is the challenge I face every semester.  I have to be careful I am not more invested in their success than they are because that’s when I get frustrated and disappointed.

Sometimes I think students see teachers in an adversarial role and forget that we are committed to their learning and academic success.  In fact, I told one of the students point blank that I wanted him to pass the class.  I have seen this with all demographics I’ve taught, from elementary students through mid-career professionals.  Explicitly reminding them that we are on the same team usually resets attitudes and reenergizes the students.

It is not only students who forget that we are on the same team.  When interpersonal conflicts arise, all of us can lose sight of the importance of the relationship over the need to be “right” in the moment.

In which situations do you need to step back and reaffirm a relationship?

The Power of Baby Steps

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What change have you been putting off, assuming it would be too difficult, too challenging, to different?

Recently, I “bit the bullet” and started taking action in an area that I knew would move me in the direction of my BIG goals.  I don’t think I expected dramatic results; I just knew I was desperate for a change.

Imagine my surprise when I started making great progress towards my goals due to opportunities that popped up separately from the action I was taking!

This is not the first time I’ve experienced big results from just small, simple steps.  Last fall, small changes in my diet and physical activity made a big difference in my health.  It seemed too big a change for the small effort I put in.

If you’ve been looking at a change you need to make and keep thinking it would be too small to even make a dent in your goals, I would encourage you to stop judging the results before you take the action.  Sometimes the solutions to our challenges are so much simpler than we think they are!

One of the biggest, most complex challenges facing us today are the many divisions separating us from each other – conflict of race and ethnicity, worldview, vision of the future, path to justice, reactions to injustice.

Sometimes I feel foolish for thinking that teaching people to form interpersonal relationships with people who are different from them could really make a dent in this ginormous problem, but what if it really is that simple?

If you want to learn to bridge these differences, I want to teach you!  I will teach a course on these very skills starting next Thursday, and I want you to join us.  The course is free at this time, and it is entirely online delivered in 6 live weekly sessions.  The sessions will be recorded and made available on the course website.

You have no excuse to not join.  Find the details and register at Troy Communications.

What on earth is happening on the National Mall?

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This weekend, it appears the National Mall has been overrun by a music festival of sorts, a “harp and bowl” music style. 


There were over 50 individual tents, one for each state in the US as well as several regional tents.  It really was something to behold. 

When I stopped by the tent for my home state of Missouri, I discovered something about our state flag. The Missouri motto is “show me,” but on our flag it says “United we stand, divided we fall.”  I found this interesting considering my city’s history in race relations. 


St. Louis was the location of the Dred Scott case, the court case before the Civil War that declared Blacks to have no rights (understand that this is an oversimplification). More recently it has been the location of the Ferguson shootings and protests. 

Racial reconciliation seemed to be a recurring theme at this event, and the crowd was a mix of ethnicities. I was especially stirred to hear J T Thomas speak about his vision and hope for the Black community. 

I know people are tired of hearing that victims of violence are “in our prayers,” but from what I saw tonight, heartfelt prayers lead to action. Be encouraged – there is a grassroots movement that wants to see injustices righted and reconciliation accomplished. 

If you want to learn more about this gathering, look up Awaken the Dawn. It was pretty incredible.