Posted in connections, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Don’t be that uncle

I have a student who has been playing an instrument for a week.

He came to class completely disheartened and said, “My uncle said I’m never going to be able to play this.”

Don’t be that uncle.

Of course the kid is struggling and sounds terrible right now. He’s been playing for a week. Instruments are hard.

Build them up instead of putting them down.

(And deal with whatever baggage you’re carrying that makes putting down your automatic response.)

Posted in cancer, connections, ebb & flow, thoughtfulness

Thinking of you

When someone dies, those close to the deceased have an onslaught of well-wishers.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer or another critical health issue, they have a similar herd of well-wishers.

When someone has another unfortunate life event, they have immediate help and concern.

The thing is … the support dies off well before needed (and is often overwhelming in bulk).

If you know someone who is three or four or nine months or a year or two years into something that you would have sent flowers for at the onset, send flowers again. Or initiate a visit or phone call (depending on proximity). Or send a card. Or a care package.

You’re not going to “remind” them that they suffered a loss or are sludging through an unfortunate chapter in their life. They didn’t forget. It just seems that everyone else did.

Go. Reach out. Make someone’s day.

Posted in audience participation, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Can you go a month without complaining?

A while back, I read a few articles about complaining and how it rewires your brain. Not in a good way.

Also a while back, I used to run 30-day challenges on Facebook.

Two of those challenges have been “life-changing” as per feedback from people in the group.

One was no added sugars (which we ended up doing for 45 days, because we started mid-month) and the other was no complaining.

The no complaining challenge was inspired by a meme challenging the reader to go 24 hours without complaining and “see how your life changes.”

Why not expand 24 hours into a month?

It made us all aware of how much we complain. Several people over the course of the month said it significantly improved their marriages, whether because they had a habit of complaining to or about their spouses.

We had interesting conversations about the differences between talking about negative things and complaining. (How would you distinguish between the two?)

I wrote a bit about my experience at the mid-month mark:

Talking about my no-complaining challenge last night, I was asked if I genuinely feel good, or if I’m just stuffing all the bad stuff. Thought about it, and 95% of the time, I genuinely feel good. The rest of the time, the feeling good does come later. I don’t, after two weeks, feel like I’m accumulating crappiness and am at some point going to explode.

I was thinking about this more, and I think it’s a simple shift in what gets attention. (Simple does not necessarily equal easy, though it’s not been as difficult as I expected. Especially because it positively reinforces itself constantly.)

For example, yesterday, I felt like crap. I’ve been fighting off a cold, and the cold was slowly starting to win. I was slightly stuffy and had absolutely no energy. Something I’d eaten or drunk made my stomach hurt every time I ate or drank (severely bloated), and I just felt miserable.

Any time prior to these two weeks, yesterday, I would have complained to people about not feeling well. I would have complained to myself about not feeling well. Instead, I just did what I needed to do and just didn’t talk about how my body felt. (Not lying, just not bringing it up.)

And you know what? I had a good day. It wasn’t a great day—I felt like crap—but it was definitely a good day. And I don’t think it would have been if I’d been complain-y all day. (I did slip twice, but both short-lived.)

Today? I feel better. Energy is back. Most congestion is gone. Tummy feels better (and I don’t look like I swallowed a balloon).

Happy Friday, everyone!

Recently, I’ve made this adjustment again. Not avoiding complaining altogether, necessarily, but minimizing.

I don’t run the 30-day challenges any more, but I am going to take this opportunity to challenge you to eliminate complaining today. And tomorrow. Maybe the whole weekend? Then see how long you can go.

See what differences you notice.

Report back.

Posted in thoughtfulness

Me vs. us

I wonder why, in a country where everything is about the individual, there is so little emphasis on personal responsibility. Except for people whose bootstraps don’t seem to be working. They should have more personal responsibility. Everybody else…?

Posted in education, know better do better, mindset, motivation, thoughtfulness

“But they need to be ready!”

I wrote over the weekend about K-12 school standards and their inappropriateness.

A loud argument in favor of the standards is “kids need to be ready!”

Ready for what?

Preschoolers need to learn their letters so they’re ready for kindergarten. But we decided that they need that for kindergarten.

It’s top-down. We want them to know xyz when they graduate, which means they need this in 11th grade, this in 10th, and on down. (This leaves, in some cases, parents going nuts about where their kid is going for preschool, because of the trajectory to college. Seriously???)

As I mentioned the other day, this top-down thinking doesn’t take cognitive or emotional readiness into account.

It also never leaves space for us to be present, if we’re always looking ahead to what’s next. What about what’s now? Can we learn something and just enjoy it now that we know it? Can we take time and learn things just for fun? Can we learn that learning is fun, so we continue to pursue it when we’re not obligated?

We’re still operating in the mindset that created public schools over 100 years ago. The world is different. Jobs are different. Societal survival skills are different. What we know about human development (physical, mental, emotional) is different. Schools need to be different.

We need kids who can work with one another. We need kids who are creative. We need kids who are willing to be vulnerable (because you can’t be creative without vulnerability).

But teamwork, creativity, and vulnerability aren’t measurable on multiple choice tests.

We’re applying assembly line thinking to an era of opportunities that aren’t assembly line.

Also in the mix: we need to recognize and celebrate growth. A third grader who reads at a first grade level is seen by many as a failure and is a ding against a school’s competence. But if that child started the year without knowledge of the alphabet, completing the year at a first grade level is fantastic!

Teachers already know this.

(There is a solid handful of legitimate reasons why or how a child could get to third grade without being literate.)

Taking a small tangent…

I see such a drastic disconnect between “they need to be ready!” in an academic sense versus every other sense.

We (as a society) don’t teach our kids how to interact in a healthy way with other people. (As a society, we’re not very good at it, so it’s not taught or modeled for many many kids…)

We don’t teach our kids how to manage money. How to budget. To save. To prioritize. To value quality. To delay gratification. (I’ve heard many people say this should be taught in school, and it could be, but what about parents?)

We don’t teach our kids good food habits. Good movement habits. Good screen habits.

Don’t they need all of those things to be ready? Why is only advanced math and interpreting classic literature considered “readiness”?

Let’s reconsider what we need out of kids when they’re done.

Let’s take it a step farther and consider what we need out of kids if they drop out. What if we get them for 8 or 9 years instead of 13?

What do you think kids need that is appropriate for schools to provide? What should schools add, and what should they subtract, in your opinion?