With whom are you surrounding yourself? Hopefully, you’re surrounding yourself with people who help you #becomebetter.

A huge part of growing in your personal and professional walk is being open to listening to and hearing advice from others. Depending on how you receive that feedback and differentiate it to meet your needs, that advice can become more than a helpful hint, a useful strategy, or a pro tip.

In fact, in this series, I’m reflecting upon advice that’s been not only a game-changer for me–rather, these words from the wise have changed my life.

Unless you’ve been completely disconnected from current events, you’re aware of today’s discourse that was once civil. You remember the good ole days when rhetoric was once meaningful conversation, and people were not expected to loudly interrupt each other. Maybe you’ve experienced the hateful, sheer vitriol that was once a semi-heated debate between friends over a cup of coffee, for example, only to end in a firm handshake or a sincere hug–till next time.

Those days are gone.

Or are they?

Nearly by definition, we educators are a passionate people. Somewhere inside every educator is a heart to care for kids, their well-being, and their learning. That’s quite a responsibility–and an incredible opportunity.

Caring for the Whole Child is like embracing the entire lifelong journey–it’s all interconnected–it’s all interdependent. We’re all in all of this together.

All learners–including educators–have their own backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, and they inherently bring those with them to their learning spaces. When these ingredients fuel strengths-based leadership and help to flavor learning and make life better for kids, it’s a thing of beauty.

However…

Passion is like a wild horse, glorious and graceful, and occasionally prone to race really fast in the wrong direction. If we’re not mindful to check it at the door sometimes, unbridled passion becomes inappropriate. And these neigh-gative distractions can drag away school culture. Unchecked expression can run down the daily climate, upset the apple cart, and even cause bucking between colleagues and friends.

How can we rein in our passions while still embracing authenticity?

The answer sounds simple, like it could be fenced-in, yet sometimes it’s just beyond our self-control.

Especially in today’s world of expressing our disagreements to the extreme, and where many choose not to catch more flies with honey, I would argue that “delivery is [not] 90%”–to me, delivery is 100%. How we treat each other–by way of delivery, tone, and expression–is everything–even more important than the content itself. Guiding our professional passions matters.

You can have all the credibility,  knowledge, and experience in the world, but if you don’t have the people skills to build relationships and make meaningful connections–then you’ve got nothing

If influencing or persuading others, driving change, shaping the future, earning respect, or even just maintaining friendship is your goal, you have to know where the line is, and when, where, why, and how it’s okay to cross that line–if at all.

Special thanks to my friend Chris Tuttell for giving me some of the best advice ever:

“It’s always right to stand up for what you believe. Just make sure that your passion isn’t alienating the very people you’re trying to persuade.”

It’s advice like this from over a year ago that still has me thinking. It’s inspired me to research the art of communication, especially language, feedback, and delivery.

I see so many productive debates–without crossing the line. You see, it’s not about being right or winning an argument, necessarily, as much as it is about doing the right things for the right reasons in our profession–a very, very sacred profession.

Let’s collaborate to agree on those right things, and, together, let’s pursue those with the right kind of passion.