The true story of how I went from really bad to pretty good

In my full time role, I am a professor in a school of education, which, by the way is an industry obsessed with “outcomes.”  There are outcomes for students (Are you College and Career Ready?) and outcomes for teachers (Are you Highly Effective?). And then, just to ensure that everyone feels the pressure every single day, we benchmark those outcomes over time, so that we all know whether you are ON TRACK.

There are lots of really good (and some bad) reasons for this but this post is not about whether the “Era of Accountability” is good or bad for the education community.  This post is about a fundamental underpinning* of this obsession with outcomes.  There is an assumption that these labels (like “highly effective” for teachers or “college and career ready” for students) represent accomplishments that are straightforward and permanent once attained.

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learn from your mistakes

The Path to Success is Paved by Mistakes, Failure, and Fun

Here’s a truth that we’ve somehow completely lost as a society:  if you knew how to do something already it wouldn’t be a risk. It wouldn’t be new. It wouldn’t be innovative or creative or fascinating or fun!

When we think about creative geniuses like Steve Jobs, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jim Henson, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, even Amelia Earhart we have this image of someone whose talent is so extreme that they triumph over the competitive odds of their industry with ease. We think that their great ideas hit them like lightening, fully formed and ready for commercial release.  Perfect pitch, delivered at birth! Crazy coding skills, learned overnight!

This just isn’t how it goes.  People who are very successful (including very successful entrepreneurs) need all three of these traits:

  1. Passion, curiosity, enthusiasm, and love for the work
  2. Hard work, persistence, audacity, focus, and tenacity
  3. The ability to withstand the disappointment of failure

Do you see how talent, or God-given ability, isn’t on the list?  That’s because everyone has some kind of God-given ability, but not everyone is very successful.  A lot of very successful people claim to trade blood, sweat and tears for every iota of progress they make.

I find the whole question of how much impact talent plays in one’s likelihood of success to be mostly irrelevant. We are who we are and worrying about where other people started feels like an excuse to stay stuck. Instead, let’s start where we are, use what we have and do what we can.

If we do, we’ll be in really, really good company.

Amelia Earhart

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.

The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.

Steve Jobs

I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Anytime you write something, you go through so many phases. You go through the ‘I’m a Fraud’ phase. You go through the ‘I’ll Never Finish’ phase. And every once in a while you think, ‘What if I actually have created what I set out to create, and it’s received as such?

Jim Henson

“If you care about what you do and work hard at it, there isn’t anything you can’t do if you want to.”

“The only way the magic works is by hard work. But hard work can be fun.”

Oprah Winfrey

Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment.

Michael Jordan

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve faiI’led over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.



importance of time management

How to conjure time out of mid-air

Jim Henson, the iconic creator of The Muppets, was known for three big personal traits:

  1. A zany, seriously offbeat sense of humor
  2. A gentle and generous manner
  3. A drive to beat the hands of time.

Jim Henson learned at an early age that time is fleeting.   When Jim was only 20 years old his brother and good friend, Paul, was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 23. According to his family and friends, this fundamentally changed Jim’s time frame.

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Overcoming the fear of change

Navigating a New Normal

There are a few cornerstones of my methodology for change.

  • Get clear on what you want and use that as guidance and motivation for action.
  • Get busy.  Make small changes and learn by doing.  Less agonizing, more checking things out.
  • Recruit (and optimize) the moments of your life to better support your dreams.

That last one is really important.

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fear of failing

Failure is my Friend!

About two years ago, I was in the zone.

  • I was settled in my job, secure in the knowledge that what I was doing was important and that I was qualified and capable of contributing to that mission.
  • I had a daily reflective writing practice that helped me to process my work and family life so that my introversion could be an advantage and not a source of overt crankiness.
  • I was exercising regularly and was comfortable and happy in my completely amazing, if flawed, body.

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self love techniques

You Must Be Kind to Yourself

Last week I published an article on Quartz about the three mindsets that can help you follow through on your goals.

From what I can tell from trolling the social media universe, the article did pretty well!  I don’t have stats back from Quartz, but the post I found on LinkedIn had 4500 likes!  Maybe that’s nothing in the world of the internet (I actually don’t know- this is all new to me), but it was exciting for me.

4500 likes! That feels like a lot.

4500 likes! That feels like a lot.

Then Twitter delivered me a cool opportunity and the inspiration for this blog.  The NPR radio show “Word of Mouth” sent me a tweet saying they were interested in having me on their show.  I called into their studio and talked with them about how the Olympics can be both inspiring and overwhelming for people who want to exercise more frequently.  One of their most interesting questions was:

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How to make a dream come true

Every now and then, a dream comes true

I have always wanted to be a writer. When I dreamed about my future in my early 20s, I wondered “could it be possible that I could write, like, for real?” And I did write.  I’ve written 10 journal articles, a dozen or so white papers, hundreds of blogs and thousands of emails.  But I haven’t ever been published for realz…. UNTIL TODAY!!!!!!!

This was an act of true bravery for me. It was very hard to put myself out there for a dream I really, really cared about.  Trust me when I say this:  If I can put it out there… SO CAN YOU!

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favorite way to learn something new

Learn your way into something new

I am NOT “Sporty.”  I’ve never watched sports. I’ve never played sports.  And until 3 years ago, I really never exercised.  I just don’t have a competitive spirit.  I am a (proud) NERD. A bonafide,  read-while-walking, nerd.

But I wanted to pick up my daughter. When our story begins, she had a brand new baby brother and a mother with chronic back pain from two hard pregnancies and very little physical strength.  While she was a sweet and kind big sister, it was very hard for her to hear that I could pick him up, but not her. Something had to change.

My husband had been a runner since the day we met and he convinced me that the shortest distance between me and a strong body capable of keeping up with two small kids was running.  I agreed, but had NO idea where to begin.  Looking into solutions, I learned that a Couch-to-5k was one common way.  I downloaded the app for $2, bought some running shoes, and gave it a shot.

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Time management tips for busy professionals

Ten Ways to Take a Break When You Can’t Really Take a Break

Last weekend I discussed how important it is to take a BREAK when you need one.  The message definitely resonated with lots of you,  but some of you very fairly pointed out that you can’t always take a break when you need it.

I get that, but I think you might be defining “a break” too narrowly.

Taking a break can go lots of different ways.

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