It’s been very busy on my end over the past month. I released my second podcast, published my first flash-read on Amazon, and have crisscrossed the country. Despite all of the good stuff, those who aren’t fans of mine capitalized on some mistakes that were made under my watch.
As a superintendent, the buck stops with me. I am responsible for everything that happens under the time I am there. I’m also responsible for giving and getting the best possible education for students. I’m not perfect, and I will never pretend to be, but I will say there is truth in that the higher you climb up the leadership ladder, the bigger target you become.
With being so busy, I hired a media group to take care of my social media and my online presence. I was online from time to time, but I also have twins that just turned two and am making presentations all over the country, so I didn’t bother with it. What could go wrong, right (note – sarcasm)? Well…for me, all of it. In talking about some future projects, the person took that information and misrepresented me online. Not cool at all. It eventually turned into a local news story, and before I knew it, I had to start playing defense. I looked like a fool. Had I not corrected any of it, who knows what this would have become?
I fired the company and hired a new firm to handle this. They did, and we move on, right?
I’m thinking to myself that these people could have cost me my career and that no other superintendents would receive such hatred and have stories told about them in troll-land. Then I turned to this research thing called the internet and found over 30 posts about Superintendents resigning.
But this is why I’m on the top of the mountain. Right? I’m paid to take the cheap shots. I’m paid to wear the target. I’m paid to have thick skin and deal with scads of nonsense. If I wasted time on verifying or acknowledging every little thing I’ve heard about myself, I’d either be dead from stress or would be hospitalized for exhaustion.
I’ve been “unfollowed” and “unfriended” on social media, and I’ve read a whole new level of hate mail and threats that I never thought could even exist. Most of it is just true colors; others are just trolls who have nothing better to do. Nonetheless, I had five significant takeaways from all of this.
1. Tell your story, or somebody else will. I’ve heard a colleague say this over and over again, but it should be gospel. While some say it’s better to say nothing at all, I am the leader who refuses to sit back and have my words twisted or have flat-out lies told about me. I have told and always will tell my story. I have nothing to hide, and my accomplishments verify such. If people want to go on and hate, lie, or just try to take me down, I could care less. I will always stay focused and stick to what I believe in and do best.
2. Don’t blindly trust a firm to oversee your social media. There are thousands of companies (who charge thousands of dollars) that “manage” your online presence. I trusted a company to monitor my stuff, not fabricate it. While the onus ultimately falls on me for not self-stalking my own presence, I was silly enough to let someone else handle my name. Not cool. Once I saw the misleading information, I had it taken down, and I fired the firm for doing it. It’s that simple. Make sure you’re searching your name at least once a week.
3. Get out of your own head. For almost a solid hour, I sat reading hateful comments from trolls, wondering why this person and that person disaffiliated from my social media, and even dealt with an idiot threatening to harm my family. I was down on myself and thought I was on a path to failure. Then, reality sat in. Why do I make news? Why do I have haters? Why am I the focal point among some circles? Simple. I’m great at what I do. I rose to the top super fast. I have national accolades. I’ve brought in international speakers to districts, raised test scores, and have continually bucked the status quo for my entire educational career. I’m far from done, and I won’t stop, despite what anyone else says or does. I will make sure that all students get what they need to succeed. Don’t overthink anything, especially about the shoulda-woulda-coulda stuff.
4. Less is more. My ROTC instructor once told me that I have the gift of gab. He thought so much so that he made me the battalion public relations officer. That was a pretty big deal in 9th grade. One time, I went on about a topic for too long, with most of the information not even being relevant. He sat me down and said, “From now on, less is more.” I have had trouble with that throughout my career. It’s a weakness I constantly try to improve. I say too much and get off topic. It’s my skeleton in the closet. Keep it short and sweet. Elaborate only when necessary.
5. Stay on the path. I sleep very well at night (and no, it’s not because of booze or sleeping pills). I sleep well because everything I’ve done I did for the best of reasons. I sleep well because I have an amazing network of support built around me. I sleep well because my twins tire me out! I sleep well because I stay on the path in all I do. If I didn’t, I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today or doing what I do today.
Soooooo…if you can’t accept that mistakes happen, or believe everything you read online in a forum of trolls, false tweets, and gossip, then I ask you to please unfriend or unfollow me. If you’re believing all of the stories out there about people, afraid of who’s looking to see whom you’re following, or are just being shallow and don’t want to read or hear what’s really happening in public figures’ lives, that’s fine with me. If you haven’t figured it out, I could care less what trolls or people that aren’t my friends say about me; neither does anyone who is successful. My job is to do what’s best for kids. Period.