Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. – Steve Jobs
There are certain phrases that are so overused that the meaning is lost. For me, “outside the box” is one of those phrases. Many of those people who proclaim to be “outside the box” thinkers have created their own box. They simply don’t follow any rules and overlook simple solutions – often at the expense of success.
What we need are innovative people who are intuitive and skilled about when to be in the box and when to create new ideas. Innovation is about vision . . . it’s about creativity. Innovators don’t solve problems everyone else is trying to solve. Innovators create solutions for problems that don’t yet exist. Innovators don’t say, “Follow me.” Innovators lead through actions and results.
Control leads to compliance: autonomy leads to engagement. – Daniel Pink
I think too often people lose balance when considering control and autonomy; people lose balance when considering management and leadership. There are those who tip the scales too far in one direction or the other. Let’s be honest, every organization requires both control and autonomy. Every school and classroom is balanced with time for compliance and time for engagement.
We want to instill in children a sense of autonomy; the ability to create their own learning experience. We also need students to be compliant and to learn the specific foundational skills. For each of us, there are times we must be disciplined, put our nose to the grindstone, and do the work. Not everything is rainbows and unicorns; we must be able to achieve results in some areas that aren’t our passion.
It is imperative that we live balanced lives. There are times we must either control or be controlled. There are times we follow our passion and are actively engaged. Let’s teach our children that a world of balance is the key to success.
My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure. – Abraham Lincoln
Our public schools are preparing young people for a world that doesn’t yet exist. The accelerated pace of change in the world continues to place significant demands on our education system. The specific skills required for future employment, are in large part, unknown. From autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence, many of the jobs of tomorrow don’t match the education of today.
We are required to prepare our students to be learners, to have a growth mindset, and to have grit. The most successful adults in the future will learn to “fail fast” – and to learn from their failures. It isn’t about the specific skills; it’s about learning through building on skills.
As educators we are compelled to provide both a strong academic foundation AND the life skills to continue to learn and grow. Failure isn’t an end, but the beginning of the growth process.
It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. -Albert Einstein
Each of us strives to achieve results; we are result driven people. In order to earn the results we desire we must do the work. There are no shortcuts or easy paths to continued, consistent success. Getting things done, reaching our goals, demands effort, intentional focus, and purposeful behavior.
In education, we live our lives with great purpose and passion. We have a mission to educate the next generation of American leaders; we get to shape the future each and every day. Our work isn’t easy and there is no finish line. It’s a continuous journey that requires us to embrace our growth mindset, that requires us to embrace productive discomfort.
We aren’t successful because of the research or data. We aren’t successful because of the books we read or technology we use. We are successful because we keep working; we embrace the real work. We are committed to each individual student; we are passionate about personalizing learning and educating the whole child.
When self-centeredness goes up, self-awareness goes down. – Tim Kight
Living Above the Line requires us to be disciplined. We strive to be disciplined in our response to each event we encounter throughout the day. We are intentional in our words and purposeful in our behavior. When we are self-aware, when we press pause before acting, we view each situation through a broader lens. When we act impulsively, without thinking, we only consider our immediate feelings; we only consider ourselves.
Each of us can only control our own behavior and actions; we can only control our own 20 square feet. Don’t permit your impulsive, undisciplined words and actions to draw you into a self-centered life. Don’t be lazy with your self-talk and mindset. Be disciplined, be strong! Have the inner strength to act with purpose, to strive to make a difference for others, and to focus on your core values and beliefs.
The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves. – Steven Spielberg
We are all mentors. We set examples through our behavior; it speaks louder than our words. It is easy to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” It is far better to simply do what is expected and have others see your example. Building trust is about living our values, not simply telling others our values.
Mentoring someone requires us to build relationships and cultivate trust. Our goal isn’t to encourage others to perform like us. Our goal is to inspire others to outperform us as they extend their own potential. This is the problem of standardized goals and expectations. For some students, the standard is limiting. Once they meet the mark, it is no longer relevant. For other students, the standard may be out of reach, or simply out of focus.
We are compelled to ask questions of one-size-fits-all standards. With diverse communities of learners and complex instructional challenges, we ought to question the status quo and demand better. Preparing students for success tomorrow is impossible using the norms and techniques of yesterday. We are all mentors; we can challenge each individual student to embrace the opportunity to create themselves.
It is far better to be alone, than to be in bad company. – George Washington
We seek companions; we strive to belong. Abraham Maslow, best known for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, includes the sense of love and belonging at the heart of what is required for an individual’s psychological health. In today’s electronic, social media world, there are many places we seek to belong. Unfortunately, a superficial or shallow sense of belonging, built on weak relationships without deep understanding, are often worse than no relationships at all.
George Washington, arguably America’s true Founding Father, warned us it is better to be alone than to be in bad company. It is required of us to evaluate the company we keep; it is required of us to know the company we keep.
We are linked to those with whom we associate – be it in social circles, on social media, and at work. Our company is no longer limited to face-to-face associations. Our company is electronic and digital. Be intentional in your actions and mindful of your footprint – others will judge you by the company you keep.