Your List of Essential Skills – Meme

Doug Johnson poses and interesting question this week at the Blue Skunk Blog.

Imagine this. You have been granted the genie’s wish and can give your children or grandchildren ten skills with just the wave of a magic camel (or whatever). Would basic accounting stay on your list?”

Unfortunately, basic accounting did not make my Top Ten list.

Here they are:

Number 10…Gratitude.
May my children appreciate life and the world around them. The world is filled with boundless gifts and the more they appreciate these gifts, the more they will appreciate their most precious gift, themselves.

Number 9…Sense of Humor.
“Say no more, say no more, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.”

Number 8…Compassion.
May they overcome self-righteous judgments and choose to connect with the ‘better angels’ in others.

Number 7…Courage.
May they understand that courage isn’t being ‘fear free’; it’s being afraid, and doing the right thing anyway.

Number 6…Creativity.
May they feel the thrill of making something out of nothing and let the wild and intuitive energy that inspires them, flow within them, and through them.

Number 5…Listening.
May they truly listen to others; for they will be sought after by many.

Number 4…Curiosity.
May they question, explore, and discover. They will never be bored.

Number 3…Openness.
May they be open to others, to new ideas, and new possibilities.

Number 2…Presence.
May they understand the role of their bodies. Feet firmly grounded. Head reaching for the sky. Shoulders and chest opening to the future, and their backs, their histories; supporting them as they move through this great world. If you have ever been around someone with presence, you know its power.

Number 1…Integrity.
May they learn that living in integrity is a lifelong journey; for to live out our beliefs, our values, and our purpose, without rationalizing why we are cutting corners or compromising them, is no small task. Integrity is the foundation of all trust.

Can these be taught? I’ve learned much from spiritual teachers along the way. How did they teach? By traveling the path just a bit little in front of me…

…and helping light my way.

Thanks Doug.


Sylvia Martinez

Today I’m turning over Ed Tech Journeys to Sylvia Martinez, a leader in the movement to restructure education by empowering our students. – pete

Peter Reilly, who is the technology leader of the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center in New York, tagged me with a “meme”. Wondering what a meme is? It’s popular on blogs these days–sort of a virtual game of tag mixed with a chain letter.

Thea Westra, an Austrailian leadership and life coach, started a meme called “Simply Successful Secrets.” The purpose of this meme is to:

”List the top 5 to 10 things that you do almost every day that help you to be successful. They can be anything at all, but they have to be things that you do at least 4 or 5 times every week. Anything less than that may be a hobby that helps you out, but we are after the real day in and day out habits that help you to be successful.”

I’m stunned that Peter thought of me. If you read Peter’s list, his secrets are Zen master impressive. I’m afraid when I look at my life, it’s a lot more couch master than Zen master. People consider me really organized and together and this will blow my cover. But it’s cool and I’ll give it a shot. Here goes:

1. Snooze alarm. It’s a big part of my morning. Next comes the negotiation with self about not going to the gym. Sometimes giving in to the warm blankets is right thing to do. When the gym wins I feel accomplished and decisive. Either way it’s good.

2. Read the newspaper. I start my morning with the L.A. Times, a truly great newspaper. I love their commitment to longer stories and real journalism. I may spend the rest of my day online, but I start with the LA Times. And Dilbert.

3. Write obsessively. I spend about an hour a day getting 80% of my work done. I do what I need to do all at once, without stopping. I can do it pretty much do it as needed, which helps with writer’s block. People say, “how did you get that done so fast?” I consider it a gift, but I practice it every day.

4. TV. I’m watching American Idol as I write this. Next up is Dancing with the Stars. I watch HGTV and the Food Network a lot too. Watching other people get things done makes me feel like things are possible. My husband is a Tivo addict and constantly records things to watch later. Thanks to his amazing editorial powers I see nearly every important event, every political announcement, and lots of celebrity news.

5. Think like an engineer. My college degree and first career was electrical engineering. I find that even though I’m not doing that anymore, I think more clearly if I try to move myself out of what I do now (mostly talk and write) and view things as systems that can be changed.

6. Google. I use Google dozens of times a day. It’s magic. I just type whatever I want to know into Google and it answers.

7. Check email constantly. I know it’s supposed to be bad, but I like it.

8. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. I make myself stop and eat something healthy. It helps me think better and feel better about myself.

Pete connected his list to educational change and being a leader worth following. I view myself more as a conduit. There are so many great ideas in education and so few of them get into widespread practice. Here at Generation YES, we work with great teachers and students every day. A big part of what I do is try to capture the heart of what good teachers do and translate it into tools, materials and resources that others can use. The hard part is to guide without demanding conformity. The most interesting part is to leave space so that people can insert their own passion and experience.

This requires that I put myself in other’s shoes. The more I know about the world, the better I can do that. The more I accept my own quirks, the more I accept my audience’s right to self-expression.

I almost forgot – the last part of the meme is to tag the next people. I’d like to hear from: Miguel Guhlin, Karen Greenwood-Henke, and Lucy Gray.

Simply Successful Secrets

I was tagged by Thea Westra, the popular Austrailian leadership and life coach, to participate in a meme called “Simply Successful Secrets”. The purpose of this meme is to:

” List the top 5 to 10 things that you do almost every day that help you to be successful. They can be anything at all, but they have to be things that you do at least 4 or 5 times every week. Anything less than that may be a hobby that helps you out, but we are after the real day in and day out habits that help you to be successful.”

I believe this is an important meme for educators to consider, especially as we seek to transform education. Why? When we seek to change the culture of our schools, we are seeking to change the beliefs, values, and behaviors of the educators, students, and the community.

So what do our daily practices have to do with leading cultural change? In order to change cultures, beliefs, values, and behaviors; we need to involve our “whole selves”, our hearts and bodies, as well as our minds in the effort. We already use our minds, but our hearts will give courage and inspire others, and our bodies will be our vessels of action.

Here are my daily practices to open the mind, the body, and the heart.

Opening My Heart, Quieting My Mind, Listening to the Teacher Within:
I spend the first 25-30 minutes of my day in specific meditations to open my heart and quiet my mind. When I complete my meditation, my purpose and my intentions for the day come forth quietly as if they were shy animals stepping out their burrows. I listen for them and note them, for these will be my anchors amidst a busy day of work.

Building the Body of a Leader:
I pay attention to my body by doing anywhere from 20-40 minutes of deliberate breathing and yoga poses that awaken each energy center in my body and widen my range of movement and flexibility. It is important for a leader to be fully awake, flexible, and able to act when needed.

Putting the Body and the Heart into Action
I use Aikido, a Japanese martial art, as a physical and spiritual practice. Aikido helps me practice staying centered and present in the midst of quick action and conflict. It helps me practice blending with others, especially those that are challenging. Aikido also allows me to practice letting go of fear, for it requires that I trust myself. If I think too much, try to anticipate what is coming, or tighten in fear, I increase my chances of getting hurt. Aikido requires the full presence that comes with meditation and the physical awareness of yoga; but does so in the midst of engaging action. For me, it is a metaphor for the challenges I face as a leader.

Every effective leader is a learner and student. I have a “teacher” that works with me to help me see my behavior more clearly. In our weekly calls I uncover beliefs and behaviors that are sometimes difficult for me to see for myself. My “teacher” lights my path by walking ahead of me.

Mid-Day Reflections:
I spend 10-15 minutes at lunch in meditation and reflection. I observe how my day is unfolding. Am I aligned with the purpose and intentions I created in the morning? How present and centered am I? Reflecting gives me an opportunity to be more deliberate about what I do in the afternoon.

Manifesting My Gifts:
One of my gifts is writing. Each day I spend time using that gift. Whether I write for my blog, or fiction, or poetry; each evening I practice putting my gifts into action.

These are the practices that help me grow as a leader and as a person. It is my hope that my efforts and those of many, many others; will help create a better future for our children.

I would like to know what “Simply Successful Secrets” the following have:

Sylvia Martinez

Scott McLeod

Doug Johnson


In appreciation,


Tagged: How Do You Write?

I don’t normally use Ed Tech Journeys to write about myself; but I’ve been tagged by Miguel Guhlin, who was tagged by Brian from Bump on the Log. The idea is to share our writing process. How do we choose our blog topics? How do we write?

As with most questions, on the surface it looks pretty easy; and at the same time there are a lot of levels to this. I believe that the more revealing question is, “Why do you write?”

For me writing is a way for me to bring my life’s purpose into reality. I’ll reveal my purpose in a moment; but first I want you to know that I have been guided and helped along the journey of my life by wonderful people who saw the gifts of a shy and quiet boy and helped bring them into the world. When I was so self-conscious that I could barely speak, these beautiful souls coaxed my reluctant voice out of the shadows. Over time, I began to believe in myself; but it was these teachers, walking the path just a few steps ahead of me, holding a lantern in the dark of night, shedding just enough light for me to see my next step.

It’s no surprise that my purpose in life is to see that every child in every classroom throughout the world has a teacher that recognizes their unique gifts and encourages those gifts to come forth.

Writing is one of my gifts. I have a belief that using this gift in service to children is an important step in transforming my purpose from dream to reality. Developing this gift is in essence learning about myself. The more I open myself to the world, the clearer my words. The less fearful I am, the stronger my voice. The more I feel with my heart, the more my ideas connect with others.

So, in order to write well I must first open myself, dispel my fears, and connect to my heart. I have practices that help me do this. I have a teacher that acts as a mirror. In the reflection he provides, I see where I am being judgmental, where I am holding on to beliefs that no longer serve me, when I am thinking too much and not feeling, when fear is gripping me.

When I am truly open, topics appear naturally, I don’t have to think about them. When I am not afraid, words flow without effort. When I am in my heart, I see the world more clearly. It’s similar to when I walk onto the mat for a randori in Aikido. I am not sure what my attackers will do; but I trust that when they rush at me, if I don’t think too much, if I am not afraid, I’ll do the right thing, make the right moves.

Here is a brief part of a poem by Mary Oliver that captures the beauty of finding yourself and your voice amid the noise of the world…

…But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
The stars began to burn
Through the sheets of clouds,
And there was a new voice,
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper
Into the world,

Determined to do
The only thing you could do-
Determined to save
The only life you could save.

Excerpt from “The Journey” by Mary Oliver

Writing and blogging, is for me, a journey…a journey of the mind, the body, and the heart.

I would like to tag the following and hear How and Why they write:

Thomas White of Profoundly Simple and Tom Woodward of Bionic Teaching,

in appreciation