Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

I turn 40 this year. And that has me thinking. Again.

  • Have I fulfilled my purpose by this stage in life?
  • What really matters? What’s meaningful? What have I gained?
  • In a deathbed moment, what would I regret in my heart of hearts?

Approaching the new year, a friend of mine declared his #OneWord2019 resolution to be: WITH. His vision was to be invitational, build relationships, and learn alongside others. Instead of sitting across from people, he now facilitates discussions next to others, and–better yet–in small group circles.

In his own WITH journey, another friend of mine reflected upon his assistant principal experiences. He described the adventure as if he were climbing a mountain. When he finally reached the peak–only to turn around to see that no one was with him–he realized he’d been serving from a position he called: “meopic.” Later, he changed his leadership approach to “weopic,” bringing others with him, multiplying leaders all along the way.

Posts like these have me thinking:

How am I doing in my WITH journey?

The answer isn’t always comforting. In fact, it’s convicting, unsettling, and unnerving at times. WITH is an area in which I’m relentlessly growing every day.

Here are a few examples:

WITH Family

This summer, my family and I went on our annual vacation to my Indiana hometown. It’s amazing how much a cool summer in the rural Midwest can be a refreshing break from the hot, Southeast city life.

One afternoon, my 71-year-old father gave my 20-month-old son a ride on his 1941 Farmall H tractor. At times, it was hard to see who was actually doing the driving–Grandfather or Grandson?

These were some of my most relaxing, precious moments in recent years.

That is, until my phone started blowing up…

While watching the multi-generational tractor ride, three North Carolina school districts tweeted how they were using my #Hashtag180 vision in their professional learning sessions.

So what?

Well, #Hashtag180 is my passion project, birthed in 2013. Despite my very best efforts–and with a little help from my friends–it never really caught on. Yet?

But this was so exciting! I HAVE TO respond immediately! Let’s fly back to NC! I want to help facilitate those sessions. At the very least, I’m going to live-tweet in the moment… right now?

But then there’s this tractor ride with my dad and son, though…

What really matters?

If I’ve run the race to please everyone else, while sacrificing priceless family time along the way, then what have I really gained? 

NOTHING. The journey is lived with family.

WITH Friends

Sometimes, I’m concerned when I see all the social media warm fuzzies about building relationships, mostly because we make it look like such an easy process. The potential for danger is real if it’s flavored in fake. In real life, relationships can be hard. None are perfect or without challenge, and it takes hard work on both sides, sustained over long periods of time, to build deep, meaningful, relational capacity.

Recently, I made some huge mistakes.

Maybe this cycle occasionally resonates with you, too?

  • Mistake 1–I took on way more work than my mental bandwidth could equalize.
  • Mistake 2–I let this upset my core values priority cart.
  • Mistake 3–Then, when I was completely overwhelmed, I took out my frustrations on a very dear friend. My interactions were unkind.

If I’ve run the race with explosive passion, intensity, and drive, while losing a best friend along the way, then what have I really gained? 

NOTHING. The journey is lived with friends.

WITH Colleagues

In any group of people, competition thrives. We don’t just compete for scarcity in fulfilling basic needs, but also in terms of rank, recognition, social and political circles, and other hierarchies. When self worth is attached to these competitions, danger looms.

The school setting is no different. For aspiring leaders, however, the competition shifts to others. The leadership line may be drawn where one transitions from collecting gold stars to giving gold stars.

A few months ago, my wife challenged me:

“You’re so good with the content stuff all the time. But people don’t always want to talk shop. No one cares about your latest tweets, blogs, or conferences. What if you just went up to staff members and started conversations with them that had nothing to do with school?”

Challenge. Accepted. Once again, my wife was right. My colleagues and I know each other better now than we ever have in the last 18 years, and our daily working climate continues to become better. This makes me all the more optimistic for a great year ahead!

If I’ve run the race to win the competition and earn all the accolades, while having never meaningfully known nor collaborated with others, then what have I really gained? 

NOTHING. The journey is lived with colleagues.

I’m always working on WITH.

Shouldn’t we all?

I’ll be looking for you…

Blogger’s Note: This is the second blog in a series. Here’s the first post: A Look at 40.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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