Grateful Glenda or Grumpy Gordon?

imagesKS7XN293A very famous man once said, “The lens through which you view the world will greatly affect the quality of your life.” 

Okay, he wasn’t famous, nor does he aspire to be.  His goal is very simple.  It’s to be a spark that creates positive, sustainable change in the lives of others. 

That man is me and these words will continue to serve as a foundation for everything I teach.

Simply put, life looks a lot different depending on the lens through which you view it.  You see, life is just out there lifing.  We all have similar circumstances.  The single most important factor in determining the quality of our lives is NOT our financial means, but rather the lenses through which we consistently view the world (and ourselves).

Sadly, the default lens for many is what I call the powerless lens.  Some refer to it as having a victim mentality.  Life through a powerless lens is accompanied by feelings of anger, fear, and jealousy, which are a direct result of the quality of our thinking.  While we may appear to have it all together on the outside, our powerless thoughts act as poison on the inside. 

The gratitude lens, on the other hand, is perhaps the single most powerful lens we possess.  Instead of complaining and blaming, our gratitude lens allows us to be present to what we have, in any given moment.  Instead of giving our power away to a life event, we can choose to maintain our power in spite of what some would say is a bad circumstance. 

Below is a poem which illustrates the difference between the two lenses.

Grateful Glenda awoke in the morn, eager to embrace the beauty of everything He has adorned. 

Grumpy Gordon, on the other hand, stumbled out of bed.  Thoughts of despair raced through his head.

During her morning commute, Glenda encountered a traffic jam which seemed to stretch for miles.  Just as a careless driver abruptly cut her off, she couldn’t help but notice the van next to her, where two children sat patiently, waving their tiny hands and beaming with smiles.

Gordon drove into the same traffic on his way to work.  However, he yelled obscenities at the careless driver, who was still jockeying for position.  What a jerk!

Glenda arrived at the office, ten minutes late for an important meeting.  Even though she was greeted with several unwelcome looks, she was grateful for the lone welcome greeting. 

When Gordon finally arrived at work, with a distraught look on his face, he proceeded to inform his cubicle mates about the crazy guy who had turned the traffic jam into a race.

Later in the day, Glenda sat down for lunch, anxious to eat her delicious leftovers from a family brunch.  As she grabbed her banana and began to peel, she thought of the wonderful friends who had prepared the meal. 

As for Gordon, he ate lunch at his desk.  His angry thoughts continued to fester as his mind remained firmly entrenched in the events of his morning mess.   

The end of the day had finally arrived and Glenda was pleased with all she had done.  Despite the difficult circumstances she had faced, she quietly celebrated her choice to be grateful.  She had won.

Gordon sat at his desk, papers stacked to the ceiling.  He thought to himself, “If only the man who cut me off knew how I was feeling.” 

Glenda lay her head down at night and quietly whispered this simple prayer, “God, thank you for giving me the freedom to choose my lens in any given circumstance.  Thank you for the many gifts you bear.” 

Gordon lay down at night, glad to see an end to his horrible day.  Just before he closed his eyes, this is what he said, “I wonder what terrible things will happen tomorrow?  Those cars better stay out of my way.”

As I said, it’s not the circumstances that define us.  It’s the lens through which we choose to see the circumstance.  Take it from Glenda, gratitude works.

Speaking of gratitude, I would like to wish each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m grateful for each of you. 

P.S.  Here are a few additional resources that might interest you.

Click here to read an article from the Ahwatukee Foothills News, which highlights my recently published book.

Click here to order a copy of my book, which contains an entire chapter on the power of gratitude.

Click here to visit my Facebook page, where you will find a short video about the importance of “expressing” gratitude. 

5 truths that EVERY child needs to hear, EVERY day

photoThe year was 2008.  I sauntered into the house after another tireless day as an elementary school teacher. My head was dragging and my heart was void of any real desire.  I slowly placed my stack of ungraded papers on the counter and sunk into my favorite chair.  After a deep breath and a long exhale, I said these words to my wife; words that would ultimately shape my journey and give me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and into my life’s mission.

“Honey, I want to make a bigger difference.  I’m tired of spending my day adhering to district mandated “blocks” of time for core content, when I could be teaching them about life and leadership.  I’m tired of creating behavior plans that seek to remedy the symptoms, when I could be teaching them how to manage their own thoughts and emotions; which you and I both know serve as the root of every choice they make.  I’m tired of attending meetings where we spend one hour learning about a new initiative that will surely be extinct by this time next year.  I’m tired of being told what and how to teach, when I feel like I’m the one who knows what my students need most.”

Rather than letting me continue my pity party, my wife politely interrupted me and simply said, “Let’s do it.  It’s time for you to fill this void and share your important message with every child.” 

From that moment, my life as I knew it would completely change as I confidently stepped into my dream.  A dream that would allow me to act on the belief that I knew what students needed to learn, which was well beyond the antiquated model of the Three R’s. 

Although I’ve had the great fortune of sharing my message with thousands of students thus far, I’m not willing to stop until ALL students have heard it. 

Below is an open letter to ALL students, which contains 5 truths that I believe EVERY child needs to hear, EVERY day.

Dear students of all ages,

Let me start by saying that I’m well aware of the fact that each day you arrive at school, the expectations we have for you are limitless.  You’re expected to absorb a huge amount of information, only to regurgitate it frequently in the form of tests and quizzes.  You’re expected to follow the rules and make good choices.  You’re expected to be engaged and interested in what you’re learning.  You’re expected to listen to what the teachers are teaching you.  The list goes on and on. 

As a former teacher, I will be the first to admit that there is one thing we often overlook in this sometimes crazy world of education.  In our quest to adhere to the Common Core and countless other student benchmarks that exist today, believe it or not, the easiest thing to overlook is you, the student.  Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we make is that we see you only as a student, and not as a human being.  We fail to recognize that, much like us as adults, you arrive at school with all sorts of thoughts and emotions that may interfere with your ability to learn or perform.  You may be struggling with self-confidence, yet it’s not cool to admit it, so you plaster a fake smile on your face, making it appear like you are ready to learn.  You may feel so much pressure from your parents to achieve perfect grades that you mask your stress with a fake sense of peace because the last thing you want to do is to let your teacher know that you’re struggling.  After all, there is plenty of learning to take place.  The fact is that while your bodies may be in the chairs, your minds can be in a completely different place.

Imagine if the school day began with an opportunity for you to unload your emotional backpack and cleanse your mind, which would perhaps allow you to be in a position to actually learn. 

Here are five truths I want you to know that you won’t learn in a textbook.  My hope is that you will remember these truths each and every day and use them as a foundation for what really matters.  Sure your grades and test scores will ensure academic success, but it’s the following truths that will contribute greatly to your life success. 

#1 – YOU LEAD, AND THEREFORE, YOU MATTER.

Despite what others may tell you, leadership is NOT about authority or control.  It’s NOT about popularity or having the greatest number of followers on social media.  Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.  Everything you do or say has an invisible ripple effect on the people around you.  You have the power to create massive change simply by focusing on your own ripple.  When you go to school each day, be intentional about the ripple you are going to create and align your actions with that intention.  Your actions and words are contagious.     

#2 – IF YOU WANT TO CHANGE SOMEONE OR SOMETHING ELSE, YOU MUST FIRST CHANGE YOURSELF.

It’s easy to point fingers at other people and blame them for your current mood.  The fact is that it’s NOT your circumstances that are causing you to feel a certain way.  If there is someone in your life who is causing you distress (teacher, parent, etc…), you must look inward for change.  The more you try to change them, the more out of control you will feel.  Lasting change begins with you.  You are the driver of your life.  You can’t control the road conditions, but you will always be able to choose how you drive.    

#3 – YOU SEE LIFE THROUGH DIFFERENT LENSES.  SOME ARE EFFECTIVE AND SOME ARE NOT. 

Your mind functions much like an information processor, constantly making sense of the world around you.  A large majority of the thoughts you have during the day are out of your awareness.  They happen without you even knowing it.  However, when you practice awareness, you can catch yourself in the midst of “stinking thinking” and choose a new lens, or way of thinking, that will process information in an empowering way.  You are ultimately in charge of your thoughts, so why not choose thoughts that will serve you. 

#4 – YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE WHO YOU ARE.

You will always have people asking you what you want to do when you grow up, but the most important question to consider is – Who are you?  You see, in order to do something in life, you must first consider who you want to be.  Who you are is not a name or a job title, but rather your character.  While society will continue to tell you what you should wear, what you should look like, or what you should purchase, I want you to recognize that who you choose to be trumps all of this.  It’s your character, NOT your appearance or possessions, which will shape your future. 

#5 – EMOTIONS ARE A NATURAL PART OF BEING HUMAN, BUT THEY ARE ALSO A POWERFUL SOURCE OF ENERGY. 

I want you to know that emotions such as anger or jealousy are NOT bad emotions.  We all feel them.  It’s important to understand, however, that every emotion contains a certain amount of energy.  It’s your thoughts that fuel this energy, so when you choose new thoughts, the energy changes.  If a friend at school is triggering angry feelings in you, the easiest course of action is to unleash your anger on them, which often leads to regret.  However, the most effective action is to use the anger as an opportunity to hold onto your power.  When you are angry at another person, you are essentially giving your power away.

As academic expectations continue to grow, please remember that the only thing you can truly control is yourself.  School will continue to be school, but the experience of it will change dramatically when you learn to embrace these truths. 

I believe in you!

Sincerely,

Mike 

P.S.  If you’d like to learn how to make these truths a part of your life, I invite you to read my book (click here).  I wrote it especially for you.     

Quote With a Call

Normally I send out a new blog each Tuesday.  This week, however, I have something a little extra that I wanted to share with you. 

I have always been fascinated by the power of quotes.  Not only are they short and sweet, but they also provide a wonderful opportunity to use a curious/creative lens to determine how the words in the quote can come to life.  Simply put, without any action or implementation, quotes are just a compilation of words.  It’s the action that gives power to the quote.   

Having said this, I am committed to providing you with a weekly Quote With a Call.  Each week, I will share one of my favorite quotes, but more importantly provide you with a call to action, or a plan to apply the quote to your life.

Below is this week’s quote.  I would be grateful if you would share this with anyone who you feel could benefit from this message.  

Gratitude AND Empathy on Veterans Day

On my wedding day with my childhood friend, Kyle, who currently serves in the U.S. Marines.

On my wedding day with my childhood friend, Kyle, who currently serves in the U.S. Marines.

It’s only fitting that my blog this week is written in honor of the men and women who have risked their lives in order to serve and protect our beautiful country.  Below is a post I shared last year at this time, but the message is equally powerful today.

I have very fond memories of Veterans Day as a child.  Perhaps the greatest memory was our family’s annual tradition of attending the Veterans Day parade in my hometown of Albany, Oregon.  The odds of a cold, rainy day were usually pretty high, but that didn’t stop thousands of people from lining the streets in anticipation of seeing their favorite float or watching the local high school band march in perfect unison as they played their shiny instruments.  For many of the adults present, it was an opportunity to celebrate and honor local veterans who had served in a time of war.  As a child; however, the highlight of the parade for me was the Albany Woodpeckers fire truck, which was populated by a group of men who served as a local hospitality committee for the city of Albany.  Adorned with bright red jackets that could be seen from miles away, each of the Woodpeckers would throw handfuls of candy to the crowd.  In fact, it was quite common to see children jockeying for position in hopes of receiving more than their friends, or in my case my brothers.  I can still see the smiles on the Woodpeckers faces as they watched us throw our hands up in the air, in anticipation of more, more, more.

I mention this childhood memory as it serves as a great reminder of the narrow lens we tend to have as children with regard to veterans.  At that age, it wasn’t about honoring THEM (the veterans); it was about ME and how much candy I could amass.  On a day that was meant to celebrate veterans, I was celebrating myself.  What was lacking?  Perhaps a dose of empathy.

Today as I reflect on the importance of Veterans Day, it’s not about a parade or candy, but rather the tremendous amount of gratitude that I feel in my heart for our veterans, past and present.

This past week, I presented a lesson on empathy to several hundred students, ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade.  My aim was to encourage them to practice “standing in the shoes” of others, regardless of whether or not they could personally relate to their circumstances.  This means acknowledging what the other person might be thinking, or trying to feel the various emotions they might be feeling.  While we all possess the ability to do just that, it’s only possible if we are willing to set aside our own thoughts and feelings so that we may see life through their eyes.  I call it putting on our empathic lens.

Well, today it donned on me that what our veterans deserve most is our empathy.  It’s easy to thank a veteran for his/her service or to attend a parade commemorating their commitment to our country, but it’s much more difficult to spend time acknowledging what they might be thinking, or attempting to feel what they might be feeling.  While their time of active duty may be over, let’s not forget that all veterans possess a varying degree of thoughts and emotions that are a direct result of the many difficult events they either witnessed or experienced.  Furthermore, let’s acknowledge the fact that it’s these same thoughts and emotions that tend to manifest in different ways.  Some experience post-traumatic stress disorder while others struggle with mild to severe anxiety.  While it may be easy for a fellow veteran to empathize, the fact is that the majority of us can’t even fathom what they might have experienced.  Having said this, it doesn’t mean we can’t try to use our empathic lens and attempt to stand in their shoes.

So, in the spirit of empathy, next time you see a veteran, rather than simply saying “thank you”, try saying “I care about you”.  I care about your service, but more importantly I care about you as human being.

What do “weeds” have to do with it?

untitledEven though it was ten years ago, I remember this event like it was yesterday.  Shortly after receiving the keys to my very first home, I walked around the exterior of the house, grinning from ear to ear, quietly celebrating perhaps my biggest adult milestone to date.  When I reached the back yard, however, my excitement quickly turned to dread.  The yard wasn’t really a yard, but rather a compilation of any type of weed you could possibly imagine.  Some were almost as tall as me.  So, rather than letting my dread get the best of me, I did what any first time homeowner would do.  I grabbed my trusty weed eater, which I had just purchased at the local Home Depot, and went to town.  In less than an hour, my backyard was completely transformed.  Or so it appeared.  

You see, the mistake I made is one that transcends weed eating.  In an effort to achieve instant gratification, I chose to treat the symptom (weeds) instead of addressing the cause (roots of the weeds).   What ensued were months and months of weed eating, only to see the same weeds appear in a matter of weeks. 

While treating the symptom is certainly a viable option, it’s not the most effective long-term strategy.  Below is a common situation where it’s easy to fall into a “symptoms based” approach, along with an alternative solution that is geared toward addressing the cause.

Situation: A child is misbehaving at home or in school.  

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easy for parents and/or teachers to solve a behavior problem with a quick-fix approach, such as a timeout or a loss of privilege.  While these punitive measures will likely address the obvious symptom (child’s behavior), the underlying cause (reason for child’s behavior) is often overlooked because it’s much more difficult to discern.  The end result is that much like the weeds that continued to reappear in my backyard, the child’s behavior will most likely do the same.  

Alternative solution:  Empower the child by addressing the cause of the behavior.  

What we often fail to recognize as parents and teachers is that behaviors are influenced by thoughts and feelings.  Therefore, it’s important that we empower our children with emotional intelligence strategies, such as self-awareness and self-management.  Instead of simply telling a child that what he/she did was wrong, we can empower them to reflect on the thoughts and feelings that led to a specific behavior.  

Here is a simple emotional intelligence strategy I teach that I encourage you to share with your child.  It’s called MORE (Monitor Own Replace Empower) and it serves as a simple acronym to use in any situation.  Below is a brief video where I explain how to implement the strategy.  

Empowering questions

untitledParents, can you relate to the following conversation?

“So, how was school today?”

“Fine.”

“What did you learn?”

“Nothing.”

“How did your test go?”

“Okay.”

I hate to admit it, but this was about the extent of my replies when my parents would pose the same questions.  In fact, my mom and dad read all of my blogs, so they are probably smiling right about now, saying, “It was like pulling teeth to get him to share.”

While most parents are genuinely interested in their child’s life, a typical pre-teen or teen may perceive these types of questions as probing or interrogation, thus resulting in very brief answers.  They may also be perceived as an ulterior motive to get to something more personal or sensitive in nature. 

If you think about it, the nature of the above questions, which we have all asked as parents, is quite vague.  When you ask a child what he/she learned during the day, there are so many possible responses to choose from that the easy route is to simply say, “Nothing.”  The end result is often hurt feelings on the part of the parent and a further push for independence (or space) on the part of the pre-teen or teen.

I have a simple solution to this common disconnect.  Try changing the questions you ask.  Ask questions that are child driven, not parent driven.  Ask questions that allow your child to own their response and in doing so, feel a sense of pride as they answer. 

Below are three possible questions you might ask that will hopefully provoke a much different response. 

Question – “So, what was the most exciting part of your day?”

Not only are you giving them an opportunity to provide a more specific answer, you are also modeling how to accentuate the positive.  Don’t worry if their answer has nothing to do with academics.  Remember, the purpose of your question is not to probe your way into something deeper, it’s simply a chance for them to own and celebrate a highlight of their day. 

Question – “Would you mind teaching me something you learned today?”

I’ve always believed in providing students with frequent opportunities to “teach to learn”.  When you allow your child to teach you, there are countless benefits for everyone involved.  Aside from the child benefitting from actively reinforcing or relearning specific content, you are able to model curiosity and creativity, both of which are critical skills for lifelong learning.

Question – “Did you feel confident while taking your test today?”

So often our questions around academics have to do with the result, which in most cases is a letter grade or percentage.  I wrote a previous blog about the dangers of praising only the result (click here).  By asking about a feeling such as confidence, you are essentially allowing your child to reflect on the process that led up to the test (i.e. studying).  Whether or not the conversation continues and you are able to address some of the issues you may see with regard to studying, you have at least planted a seed of self-reflection. 

While these questions aren’t necessarily going to guarantee improved communication between you and your child, it’s a great place to start.

I invite you to share a question in the comments section below, which you feel would be empowering in nature and may provoke an alternative response.     

 

Self-help books won’t change you

untitledA recent google search for “self-esteem books” revealed approximately 1.5 million results.  A search for “books about happiness” showed 11 million results.  Finally, a search for “books about stress” provided almost 12 million links. 

Despite the fact that the publishing industry is moving swiftly in the direction of ebook and digital self-publishing, self-help continues to remain the world’s bestselling genre.  In fact, I would wager to bet that anyone reading this article has purchased at least one self-help book in their lifetime.  If you’re like me, you have been a repeat purchaser, perhaps looking for the book that will change the course of your life.

You would think that with the enormity of these types of books to choose from, many of which guarantee the secret formula for change, we would live in a much happier world.  You could also make the assumption that self-help books should influence (in a good way) the amount of stress we feel.  The list of positive effects from the self-help movement is countless, but the fact remains that it’s not the books themselves that are going to create change; it’s the reader.

Gary Zukav, a New York Time’s bestselling author of several self-help books, including The Seat of the Soul, is quoted as saying, “The longest journey that you will make in your life is from your head to your heart.”  No truer words have been spoken, especially as it relates to reading a self-help book.  While the words in these books are often poignant, it’s only when they resonate in your heart that true change can occur. 

As you know, I recently joined the ranks of self-help authors with my book Seriously, Dad?  While I’m certainly humbled to know that teens and parents throughout the country are beginning to read the book, I know full well that it is not my book that is going to create positive change; it’s the reader.  Remember Mr. Zukav’s quote?  You see, my book contains a lot of great concepts, tools, and strategies that are designed to empower the reader, but if the person reading the book is absorbing the content on a head level only, it will soon be lost in the enormity of other information in their mind.  However, if the reader is transforming the content to a heart level, real change begins to occur.  So, how do you get from head to heart, you might ask?  The answer is simple.  It’s the difference between reading the book and doing the book.  When you incorporate the tools and strategies into your own life (doing the book), they resonate in your heart and become part of who you are.  This is the case for all self-help books.

Here’s my advice to you.  The next time you read anything that is self-help in nature (books, magazine articles, etc…), ask yourself the following question, “What will I do as a result of reading this book that will allow the content to resonate in my heart?”  Perhaps you can find an accountability partner that will read the book alongside you.  Maybe it’s a house full of sticky notes that serve as a reminder of important concepts.  Remember, reading the book and expecting the words on the page to change you is an unrealistic goal.  You must create the change.  I believe in you.   

This a "drop for my bucket" that a student recently wrote.  Seems very fitting given the nature of this blog.

This a “drop for my bucket” that a student recently wrote. Seems very fitting given the nature of this blog.

Failures can teach

imagesWhat would you say if I told you that I was going to start a school where grade reports were non-existent and failure would actually be rewarded?  Your gut reaction might be, “I’d never enroll my child in that school.” 

Unfortunately, in an education system that relies heavily on standardization, the word failure is ripe with negative connotations.  As a parent, it may be hard for you to stomach the notion that it’s actually healthy for your child to fail.  I’m not just talking about an “F” letter grade, but rather any circumstance where we fall short of a certain expectation.  The fact is that each of these experiences can be tremendously valuable.

Below is an excerpt from my book, Seriously, Dad?, which outlines a discussion between a father and daughter about using  failure as a teacher.

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Dad:  I’m so thankful for your willingness to use these tools.  I’ve really noticed a difference in you lately; a very positive difference. 

Daughter:  Thanks Dad.  I’m ready to talk about Tool 6 now. 

Are you sure?  I don’t want your tool belt to be too heavy.  It might fall off.

Oh, Dad.  Even though you try, your jokes aren’t very funny.

Well, your mom laughs at me, so at least someone thinks I’m funny!

Okay, here we go.  Tool 6 is: Use your failures as teachers.

But I’ve never failed.

Have you ever made a mistake?

Yes.

Okay, then think of your mistakes as minor failures. 

Well in that case, I’ve failed a lot. 

I’m glad you have.

What?  You’re glad I’ve failed.  That’s not very nice. 

Hold on.  Let me explain the tool first and hopefully you’ll realize that mistakes are a good thing.   

I want you to think for a moment about the last time you failed at something.  Remember, I’m not necessarily talking about getting an F—I’m talking about a time you made a mistake or failed to meet your own expectations. For example, maybe you said something rude to a friend, and you realized later that you hadn’t said what you would have liked to have said.

Oh, I’ve got a perfect example.  Do you remember that persuasive paper I wrote about how we should have less tests in school?

Yes, I do remember it. It was very well written.

Well, I didn’t tell you this, but my teacher was so impressed by it that she decided to enter it in a contest for an education magazine.  There were thousands of other applicants and I didn’t win.  I was so proud of the article but I felt like a failure when I got the letter saying that it hadn’t been selected.

So, the letter made you feel like a failure?

Yes.

Do you remember earlier when we talked about circumstances and how they are separate from us? 

Oh Dad, can’t you just let me wallow for a minute.

Sure, you’re allowed to wallow all you want.  I wallow sometimes as well.  Your mom always reminds me that she isn’t accepting an invitation to my pity party, which helps me to realize that I’m choosing to wallow.

But here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure that wallowing is not really an emotion you want to feel. 

You’re right.  And yes, I remember when you talked about circumstances being separate from us.

Perfect.  So, in this case, the letter you got was a circumstance.  Because we are not our circumstances, we have the power to interpret our circumstances in any way we want.  You can probably guess what I’m going to tell you next.

Yep.  You’re going to say that I can choose my lens in any situation.

I’m glad our conversation is sinking in!  Your powerless lens would encourage you to see only the failure and consequently dwell on all that went wrong.  You might blame the people at the magazine for their poor choice or you may even sabotage yourself for not being good enough.  Regardless, the powerless lens will reinforce the idea of failure.

Your curious/creative lens, however, will allow you to see the letter as a teacher.

***********************************************************************************

P.S.  I recently received the following testimonial from a teacher in Indiana who just finished reading my book.  He will be ordering a class set to use with his high school students as a means of teaching social and emotional intelligence. 

“Mike Sissel has created the “Who Moved My Cheese” of Social/Emotional learning pedagogy.  This little gem uses a conversation between a 13 year old girl and her father to share current psychological and neuroscience research in an easily applicable set of 6 tools.  A must read for anyone that deals with children.”

To order a copy of my book, please click here.  

Rightitis

Have you ever noticed how important it is for people to be right?  Regardless of how someone else is choosing to see a particular person or life event, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of assuming that our lens is the right one.  I refer to these situations as a bad case of rightitis (I made this up, so you won’t find it on WebMD).  The question I often ask students is – What’s the cost of always being right?  I can think of countless times when I’ve tried to assert my rightness on others, only to find that I had, in effect, alienated myself from them.  Sorry, honey.  I’m sure I’ve done this a time or two with you.  I love you.    

Let’s do a little experiment to test your rightness.  To begin, please read the sentence below.  After you have read it a few times, count the number of F’s in the sentence.  How many F’s are there?  Look as many times as you want.  Are you coming up with the same answer?  

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS

OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH

THE EXPERIENCE OF MANY YEARS.

Now that you’ve determined the number of F’s, I want you to choose another number (on a scale of 1-10) which represents the level of confidence you have in your answer.  Let’s just call it the rightness scale.

Okay, are you ready for the actual answer? 

There are six F’s in the sentence. 

The majority of people will only see three of them.  In fact, when I first completed this exercise, I only saw three.  Less than 20% of people will see all six of the F’s. 

“Wait a minute,” you might be saying.  “There are only three.” 

This is your rightness talking.  Go ahead and look back at the sentence.  I’m guessing you overlooked the word “of”.  There are three of them. 

Regardless of how many F’s you saw, it’s safe to say that when we see something (our lens), we often assume that it must be the only way there is to see it.  As you are well aware, there is always more than meets the eye.  If we apply this principle to our relationships, for example, imagine the authentic communication that would take place.  If we could simply acknowledge the fact that we MAY NOT be seeing the whole picture, the entire dynamic of the relationship would change.  Rather than being stuck in our rightness, we would actually be exercising creativity and empathy. 

Below is an optical illusion that serves as a great illustration of how easy it is to fall into a pattern of being right. 

Picture1

Here’s my suggestion.  The next time you find yourself suffering from rightitis, take a step back and try to see the entire picture.  After all, it’s better to be happy than to be right, right?.

 

The media ripple

untitledIt used to be that when I tuned in to ESPN Sports Center each night, I could get my daily fill of sports related stories in a matter of minutes.  Whether it was highlights from a game I wasn’t able to watch, or a simple run-down of the day’s scores, it served as a wonderful time management tool for a recovering sports junkie.  Unfortunately, times have changed.  Today, ESPN, along with every other news channel, seems to be littered with depressing stories of professional and/or collegiate athletes who have made horrendous mistakes. 

I’ve written in the past about the power of the ripple effect as it relates to leadership (click here). Simply put, everything we say or do creates an invisible ripple, which in turn influences the people around us.  When I work with students, I constantly remind them of this principle and their inherent potential for positive, sustainable change as a result of their own ripple.  In addition to the ripple that we create, we are also heavily influenced by the ripples of others.  One such influence, which we often fail to recognize, is the mass media (television, internet, etc…).  Each time we watch something, read something, or hear something, it shapes (or influences) the way we think.  Unfortunately, the powers that be in the world of media know that “bad news” sells.  Therefore, they aren’t interested in how their stories might negatively influence our minds; they are more concerned with the bottom line, which in this case is how a particular story might affect their ratings. 

Imagine a 10-year-old boy sitting down with his dad at night to watch Sports Center.  Instead of leading off with game highlights, a giant BREAKING NEWS sign sweeps across the screen.  What follows is a detailed account of a crime, committed by an athlete, complete with video footage and several graphic still images.  While there is no way of knowing how this boy may interpret what he saw or heard on the television screen, the fact remains that it did influence his thinking.  I would argue that it did so in a negative way.

I am well aware of the fact that this blog alone isn’t going to change the “bad news” reporting practices of the major networks.  However, that won’t stop me from creating my own ripple of positive influence by encouraging you to seek out “good news” stories and to share them with your kids.  If you are interested in providing your child with an empowering lens, then it’s absolutely critical that you counter all of the “bad news” they are already subjected to with messages of hope, resilience, and all that is right in the world. 

Below are a few of my favorites.

To see a powerful story of a group of middle school football players who conspired to do an unforgettable act of kindness for a teammate, click here

To see a post-game interview that is unlike any other, click here

To see the touching story of Dick and Rick Hoyt, a father/son team who have competed in multiple triathlons despite the fact that one of them has cerebral palsy, click here.

If you have a favorite “good news” story, sports related or not, please share the link below.  Together, we can change the world, one positive media ripple at a time.