Friday, December 23, 2011

Lessons From The River

With some time off during the Holidays, I recall a talk given by Jack Roberts, Executive Director of the MHSAA some years ago. Over the previous summer he and his wife had spent five days rafting the Salmon River across Idaho, from almost the Montana border to almost the Oregon border, 85 miles in all. At the conclusion of his trip, he brought back from the river three things:  a black eye; poison ivy, and three teachable moments that he shared.

The first teachable moment was this.  Before the group “put in” – that is, put the rafts in the water – they were told to “point positive.”  They were told when in the lead raft to point not at the trouble – not at the rock or hole in the water before them – but to point away from the trouble.  Their path would show those who follow the better way to go, not the way not to go. What solid leadership tips! Show the good course, point out the better way, point to the good example and emphasize the good and the positive more than the negative. Point positive.

The second lesson from the river rafting, which Mr. Roberts readily admitted he did not appreciate until suffering the shiner, is that one must pull the deepest in the most turbulent waters.  One must paddle the hardest when the waves are the largest. If you cease paddling in the rough waters, the boat swamps.  If you pull hard, you can reach the top of the waves or pull through the waves and successfully navigate the rapids.  You survive the troubled times by working, not resting. This was another tremendous tip for both our personal and professional lives?  Pull hardest and dig deepest in the most difficult times.

The third lesson from the river was that when the rapids end, you need a breather; you need to “eddy out.”  An eddy is the quiet water behind the rocks where your boat can sit safely, without moving, as the river’s fast current races by. It is the place to rest, to gather yourself, to collect people and paddles if you had a spill.  It’s the place to recall past adventures, to plan for the next adventure and to prepare for the next rough water. We all need to find some quiet water to eddy out. 

Three lessons from the river:  (1) point positive; (2) pull the hardest and dig the deepest in the toughest times; (3) eddy out after turbulent times to evaluate the past and plan for what’s ahead.

When do you eddy out? Perhaps it can be early in the morning before the day starts or during some quiet time on a Sunday evening? In the summer, perhaps you can spend time at a loved one's lake cottage as I have been privileged to do for the past decade or so?  During the Holidays I for one plan to use the relative calm of fewer calls and emails to eddy out, to evaluate past practices and plan for the upcoming year.

May you and your family enjoy a very happy Holiday Season! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mike's Dash

After learning of Mike Price's tragic passing early last Friday morning, I spent much of the weekend reflecting about Mike and his impact upon his family, friends, students, co-workers and our community. 
No doubt many of you have read the poem below by Linda Ellis but perhaps it is worth re-reading:
The Dash
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on his tombstone
From the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came the date of his birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
That he spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved him
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard;
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
Mike's dash was rich and full; his contribution to the lives of those he touched was significant. 
I will always treasure my conversations with Mike at our daughter's basketball and soccer games. Listening to him speak with such pride about his children always brightened my day. 
RIP Mike, you will be missed! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

What Is Our Championship Game?

While attending the Big 10 Football Championship this past weekend, I had an opportunity to take my son's picture with the Big Ten Championship Trophy - what an impressive piece of hardware! As a matter of fact, the sports world is full of impressive trophies - The Stanley Cup in hockey, The Lombardi Trophy in football, the World Cup in FIFA soccer, the Borg Warner Trophy at the Indianapolis 500, etc.  

At the HS level, our Saline teams have the opportunity to compete for Conference, District, Region and State Championships. For Hornet graduates who continue their careers as collegians, their teams compete for Conference and National Championships. The fact is, teams play for a championship in virtually every sport. 
The opportunity to challenge and compete for championships provides coaches, students and even fans with a definitive, tangible goal to pursue. Further, it helps them maintain a laser-like focus while pursuing those goals. As we continue to examine our schools and make decisions about our future, ask yourself the question, “What is Our Championship Game?” The closer we move to having a singular answer, (or even a select few common answers) the more clearly we will be able to define our goals and maintain our own laser-like focus in the Pursuit of Excellence!