I had an awesome conversation the other day with a friend who works for an organization that helps people improve their lives through mentors and micro loans.  Poverty is a world-wide problem that can be solved in a variety of ways, but often is best changed with a personal connection and a little bit of time.

Find a Mentor

A mentor is one of the best tools to change your future. Chances are they have been through something similar to what you would like to accomplish. It is also likely that they have had someone else to give them advice or bounce ideas off of. You need someone that understands where you are coming from and believes in you.

The best way to find a mentor is to talk with people that are a part of a group that are doing or studying what you are interested in. As you have conversations with people you will begin to recognize where others are in their own journey, and that they might have some experience to share with you. They might be a part of a Facebook group, or a group on LinkedIn. Introduce yourself and be patient. Ask questions for others to answer. Be willing to talk about things you know, and answer other peoples’ questions. When you find a person that might be open to mentoring you, simply ask them if they have time to talk about a few things, or answer a few of your questions. Be patient. Don’t follow up immediately. They’re busy doing their own thing and they’ll respond when they can.

It’s important to be willing to take other peoples’ advice. They don’t know you or your situation, so they’re giving you honest and legitimate steps that have worked for them. If you aren’t willing to try something new, that is your problem, not theirs. Be gracious about what they are providing to you for free and because they’re nice.

You may arrange a professional mentoring relationship that guarantees time and advice that you are paying for. This can be a good way to get personalized advice and the relationship benefits both of you.

There are a lot of people in the world that are at different stages in their own process. You will eventually be a potential mentor for others as you gain experience and knowledge. Be open to helping others just as some might have helped you.

You Can Do Anything

Whatever it is that you want to learn, whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it. You have the potential. You have the tools. You have the support you need, it’s just finding it. Be willing to talk about what you’re doing. Be willing to listen to other peoples’ experiences. Take what you’re learning and apply it to your day.

I don’t know about you, but my summer/COVID experience has been filled with anxiety, stress eating, and somehow extra time. I have found myself with more time on my hands and the guilty feeling that I’m not getting enough done. School is a big unknown which isn’t fun for teachers who like to plan and start the school year strong. We have an idea of how things are going to go but things will change. Ideally, for students and teachers, school needs to happen in person. We’re social creatures. We miss the interactions that make school fun.

I’ve found that I need to be doing something with my time or I feel directionless and even worthless. I know some people relate to this feeling. It’s no fun to feel responsibility and not be able to produce anything.

It feels dishonest. It feels empty.

Creation and Direction

I’ve been working on this blog, some YouTube videos, and now I’ve started a podcast to keep my summers a little busier. But I’ve also been trying to create something of value to help people. I love reading and believe that it can help advance peoples’ abilities to problem solve, and advance their careers. That branch of my creative experience didn’t work. It’s difficult to make reading interesting and helpful in a YouTube video.

I felt directionless. I didn’t know how to produce things that would help people. It turns out that this experience of confusion and frustration is a part of my journey. As I’ve tried different things and talked with many different people, I’ve discovered what I really love and what I’m really good at. I help people solve problems. I can help direct people’s energy and focus. I knew that I could do that in the classroom, I just couldn’t see how to make that happen “in the real world”. After a lot of questioning, pondering, listening to others’ podcasts, and stories, I found my thing.

Introducing the Own Your Good podcast

I want to help people own their good. I believe that whatever you’re good at is to some extent why you’re here. It’s part of your life’s purpose. For some people, that is solving car problems. For others, that might be creating art and fostering a love of art in their students. You might really enjoy statistical analysis in professional sports. Whatever it is that drives you, whatever gives you that buzz, whatever it is that puts you “in the zone” is your good, and everyone has one.

Creation is something that drives us. What does it feel like to struggle through learning? Ceramics, for example, is not for everyone. It requires a talented touch and a keen eye. How does it feel when the first thing you produce is uneven? What about the process of getting to mastery? You know you’re growing. You know you’re learning. But you might not see it along the way. If it’s something you truly love, you feel the energy. It doesn’t matter how many times you mess up. It’s a process, and you’re okay with temporary failure because it’s fun, or interesting, or maybe it’s inexplicably valuable.

My goal is to interview different people with a wide variety of experiences about how they discovered and grew their “good”. I hope people will listen for themselves.
Life shouldn’t be about working in a miserable position for most of your life. You shouldn’t be working for the weekend or the next vacation. Sometimes those things help us get through difficult times, but the world is big enough for everyone to chase what they love. The hard part is figuring out what that looks like.

So many people think that to be successful they need to stay with one company for as long as possible. That might provide stability, but it doesn’t necessarily provide happiness. And success looks different to everyone. If you are content working a particular job because it leaves you with time to do what you love in the evenings, that’s great!

Your success should be determined by what you enjoy and what you want out of life. If you’re trying to cope with your terrible job by spending all of your time after work at home watching tv or relaxing, will you ever be happy?

Energy From a Bottomless Well

Creation is an energy fountain. Remember that feeling when you built something or finished a project? That happiness, that feeling of accomplishment comes from a bottomless well. The more you do it, the more energy you feel. Self-doubt and distractions will still occur, but not as frequently, and not as severely. What is it that you can produce? What hobby or skill could you focus on to increase your energy? You want to increase your energy, don’t you?

This is what I’m all about now. I’m looking for people to interview, trying to figure out what they did to own their good. I’m looking for ways to help individuals in person, and online own their good. Teens are struggling with where they fit in this crazy world. Adults are unsure of what to do, particularly if employment has become a problem. But there’s time. We have time to evaluate, think, plan, and execute. We have time to experiment and document what we’re doing. These steps help us, but they can also help others if we put what we have created out there for others.

Check out the podcast!

The Own Your Good Podcast on Spotify
Let me know what you think!

I hope you can figure out how to Own Your Good!

-Dave

 

 

It is a clichè, but I am a creature of habit. Just the other day my kids asked me to help tune up their bikes. I had just finished my day teaching online and was thinking about making dinner. Fixing bikes wasn’t on my list of things to do during that 2 hour time period. I immediately felt anxious about having to do another thing in a small window of time. I love my kids and want to help them exercise and have fun but at the time it was too much. I pushed my kids off until Saturday.

I feel guilt pushing my kids off to another day.

Schedules can feel restricting, like something that ties us down. But, I like to think of schedules like they’re the string that holds a kite up in the air. Kids need guidance and security no matter how much they fight it. Like the wind pushing the kite higher and higher, kids feel secure when they know what is coming up and what is expected of them.

Schedules are more important now especially since kids don’t have the structure of going to school. It isn’t summertime. Kids still have responsibilities with school and maybe even work. If a schedule doesn’t exist for them and parents aren’t helping keep kids on track, kids are less likely to get their schoolwork done and waste the day playing videogames or watching videos.

How to

It’s the parent’s responsibility to help their kids get things done. Parents know what their kids need, and what their weaknesses are when it comes to working.

  1. Sit down with your child and plan the week. Write it out. Print it off. Make it accessible.
  2. Be specific. Don’t just write in a window for homework. Create time slots for individual classwork.
  3. Make time for fun things too.
  4. Check with your kids each morning. Make sure that they have what they need for their work.
  5. Be aware of what is happening. You have your work to do, but watch what they’re doing.
  6. End the day with a reflection. How did the day go? What work got done? What work still needs more time?
  7. Hold them accountable. Set expectations with rewards and consequences. They are more capable than we often give them credit for. If you follow through with rewards and punishments they will feel the weight of getting things done daily and not putting things off.

Most students aren’t self-motivated. They need guidance on how to make things happen. They need someone to help them get started.

It is a strange time

These experiences will help define who they are and what they are capable of. Our kids and students are learning what it takes to be flexible, adjust to different circumstances, make things happen, and perhaps most important, they are learning how to communicate with people about what is expected.

I know it is difficult to manage your job, and your kid, or kids’ schoolwork. That’s why scheduling is so important. The more practice they get, the more you can leave them to do what they need to.

You can do this. Your kids can do this. We are all working for the same results. We want to see our students, your kids make good decisions, learn from their mistakes, and be successful and resilient in the future.

Hang in there!

-Dave

 

I spent one whole day of my Spring Break 2020 in my yard. I know I have a lot to learn when it comes to taking care of my grass, trees, and garden. It’s not perfect but I enjoy the process. I like making things look nice. There is something about preparing, planning, planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting in your own yard. It takes work, research, and action, and the result can be amazing. One of my favorite rewards for all of this work is pickling cucumbers.

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Pickling cucumbers are different from slicing cucumbers.

I also enjoy mowing the lawn. For me, it is a mindless task that provides me time to think or listen to an audiobook or podcast. The end product is almost always awesome too! It looks so great after it is freshly cut. However, my lawn is far from perfect. I know I have patches of orchard grass and crabgrass. It is frustrating because these different types of grass grow at different rates. The yard gets ugly really quickly. I try to remember to fertilize, pull noxious weeds, and not use too much water. It is a lot of work throughout the year. It’s a big task, mostly because of how much lawn I have.

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First mow of 2020.

Procrastination

Let’s get to the procrastination part. I have seen some pretty epic lawns in the neighborhoods that I have lived in. There are people who take a significant part of their week to fertilize, spot water, and do other things to grow a uniform, level, green lawn. If I were to expect that kind of work from myself the first summer that I moved into a new house I would be very overwhelmed. I wouldn’t know where to start. I would worry about things that I don’t know how to do. I would be afraid of making the lawn worse.

Students People are the same way. If we were in my high school English class, and I want students to write an argument essay, I will have a percentage of students not start. They aren’t hesitant because they don’t know how to write. They aren’t hesitant because they don’t have an opinion about the topic. They are hesitant to start because they are afraid of forgetting important parts. Maybe they aren’t confident with providing textual evidence. Maybe they don’t know how to add transition phrases. They don’t feel like they have mastered the process.

This is where students and others freeze. They see others being successful. They see other students writing with no hesitation, no problem. They see beautiful green lawns from a distance. They assume that if they can’t produce perfectly right off, they shouldn’t even try. For them, it isn’t worth the stress and thinking that is expected. Their thinking produces anxiety and they freeze.

My lawn has issues. There are bald patches because high points are cut too close by my mower blade. There are dying patches because of rodents. I can’t stop taking care of my lawn because of those deterrents. I need to focus on what is possible. My lawn will not get better if I hesitate. It needs to be mowed. It needs to be watered and fed. I can take baby steps and see progress.

Imperfect Action

I was in a virtual meeting the other day with a professional speakers group in the mountain west. The focus of the meeting was to address the issue of the global pandemic and what we can do to share our messages when we can’t present in public. One of the panelists, Tiffany Peterson, talked about imperfect action.

Imperfect action is starting without knowing how things are going to turn out. It is believing that you can achieve your end result without knowing exactly how it will happen.

In so many ways, whether participating in personal hobbies, new business ventures, pursuing more education or participating in online distance education like students today, people are hesitant to take action.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be perfect action. We learn by doing. We make corrections as we learn.  We adjust our process, collect more information, try new strategies, talk to people, all in hope of a better end product.

Imperfect action is better than no action. Starting with an idea is better than just sitting there. Complaining doesn’t do anything for anyone.

Identify the baby steps that you are capable of doing. Start somewhere. Don’t get overwhelmed by the size of the project. Pick something that you can do today.

Start today and keep trying

-Dave

What is education, really? The system that we use today is based on the Classical Education format called Trivium. There are many resources online that can illustrate what each stage of this Classical system looks like. Basically, Classical Education has three phases: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.

Are your kids’ teachers expecting them to do assignments that they are capable of doing? I’m not saying you should challenge your kids’ teachers, just be aware of what your kids are generally capable of, and what they are trying to do in their schoolwork.

Homeschool is a totally different process with many different theories to back up every parent who chooses to teach their kids at home. The end goal, I think, is the same. Parents and teachers want to see their students be successful in whatever it is that they choose to do. The processes are different, but only in some ways.

Education is to help each of us learn how we learn, and that we can.

Grammar

Little kids learn massive amounts of information when they are young. Elementary, or Grammar school is all about memorizing letters, words, processes, steps in math, etc. Reading skills grow intensely here. Learning is generally interesting and fun. Kids love to discover new ideas and tell family members all about it. This is where some students who struggle fall behind. If they miss a skill because of illness, it is very difficult to catch up.

I don’t understand how teachers manage to continue this type of teaching remotely. Kids need so much in-person instruction.

On the other hand, homeschooling this age group is totally manageable. What do students need to learn? First of all, students need to be comfortable with curiosity. Parents and teachers should be careful to foster research when their students have questions. Everything should be discoverable. Coach kids through internet research. Guide them to reputable sources. Provide them with equal opportunities to read or watch video about what they are interested in.

Don’t get confused and try to mix the two. Maintain whatever the teacher has assigned. Keep up the best you can. If you get behind, don’t worry. Help your student in other ways. Read with them. Watch fascinating science videos with them. Have interesting conversations about things that they are wondering about. Remember, they are discovering new things every day. They find things fascinating that you have known for a very long time.

Logic

Pre-teen and teenage students are in this category of taking the things that they learned in the Grammar phase and verifying whether they are true or important. They don’t consciously ask questions, but they are validating and discarding ideas every day. These students are thinking about how what they have learned applies to them as a person of a larger societal group.

They also start to worry about whether other people their age think the same way. They are just as worried about their friends’ opinions, as they are about the rules of the world around them. They function on the if/then process. They start to see consequences and benefits to behaviors and actions. Some students obsess over what is logically correct and worry about everyone else following those rules. The best example I can think of is the student who is in charge of keeping the whole class “in line” going to lunch.

These kids are difficult to wrangle during class at school. When I taught 7th and 8th-grade students, they behaved in what seemed like chaotic ways. I think that observation is valid because they had so many different stimuli to respond to. In a single class, students could be more manageable. They understand the process of being on task and being rewarded. They understand how class just before lunch or after lunch changes their behavior.

They are the most likely student to be confused and frustrated during a switch from school at school, to school at home. They know their teacher has the skill to direct them in class. They are a lot less likely to trust parents when it comes to knowledge and assignments.

Rhetoric

High school and college students are much more manageable in the adjustment from school at school to school at home. They might not be organized enough to stay on top of assignments, but if they have been to school enough to know the teacher’s expectations and systems, and if the teacher maintains those systems, the students should be okay.

According to the Classical Trivium system, Rhetoric is the phase when students have the ability to take knowledge from the Grammar stage, and experience from the Logic phase and put them together and run them in the background while they begin abstract thinking. This is the big idea and imagination phase. This is the phase that I enjoy teaching in the most. They start to see that questions or controversies about communism (or any controversial ideology) are intricate and never black or white, right or wrong. Students can have ideas but have a difficult time trying to explain them. I enjoy talking them through their thought process. I love asking questions to see what they really mean. This is so much easier to do through the internet.

Assignments are reasonably easier too. If I have done my job through the beginning of the year, students already know what I expect and how to do the work. I can assign a research paper, provide guidelines for what sources will be appropriate, and which ones won’t work. I can have a group conversation where students can help answer questions because they have already been in a similar situation, or had a similar experience with a different assignment.

What makes a student “career or college ready”?

Little kids need exposure to a vast amount of information. There is so much out there that helps a student understand the world, and life, and people. Curiosity is the most important skill to nurture and grow. Reading and writing are important too. Can you really be successfully curious without the ability to read and write well?

Hopefully, our kids can make it through the Logic, pre-teen, and teen phase with as little emotional damage as possible. Fingers crossed!

By the time students are in the Rhetoric stage, they are learning, or have learned how to get things done. They are also learning responsibility. This is the toughest place to parent. We want our kids to be successful, and we don’t want to see them make mistakes or fail.

Success only comes through failure.

If we really want our students to learn and not permanently mess up, high school is the place to do it. They need to know what they are capable of. They need to see that they can plan their own day, and make it happen. If they miss a deadline, they need to deal with the consequences. If they can fix it, they should fix it, not you. They can do it. We just don’t let them.

I often joke with my students who want assignments to be easier, or for me to give them easy answers instead of them looking it up. I tell them, “I would love to go to college again. I’ll be by your side to answer your questions and do your work, for $50 an hour.” They kind of laugh like I’m being ridiculous. I don’t know if they’re really thinking about it. They can do it. They can train themselves to be successful. They can use their ability to think abstractly to solve problems for themselves. We need to let them.

I love learning. I want my kids to love learning. I want the students that I teach to love learning. It is supposed to be difficult, but not impossible.

Keep learning. Keep reading. Keep smiling.

-Dave