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Posted by on in General

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Brad Gustafson is someone who celebrates his students and staff like few others. Check his Twitter feed on any given day and you will see what I mean. And that is why Brad’s admission was so powerful. During our interview, I even gave him an opportunity to back out. But Brad is not that kind of leader. Not that kind of person. He said, “Jon that would be too easy.”

He is about as connected as an educator could possibly be. He is always finding new and innovative ways to challenge himself, his staff and his students. Actually, his reach extends much farther than that. Through his book, Renegade Leadership, his 30 second takes, his UNEarthed podcast that he hosts with Ben Gilpin and countless other initiatives, he has managed to challenge the rest of us.

The mistake that Brad made was one he didn’t even realize he was making. As previously mentioned, Brad does all that he can to celebrate the amazing things that are taking place at his school. He tweets out photos and videos so that the rest of us learn from and with he and his staff.

But at the end of the day, what matters most to Brad are the relationships that he forms with his staff, his students and his community. And as he admitted on the show, the way in which he was feeling about people just wasn’t coming through. He was so eager to highlight staff that were trying new and innovative practices that he lost sight of those that were not. Just because staff members weren’t doing things differently, didn’t mean they weren’t doing things well.

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Posted by on in General

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My daughter had not lost a tooth in what seemed like years. So when it came time to leave her a gift from the Tooth Fairy we weren’t quite sure what to leave. So we hid a five dollar bill under her pillow. We each thought that was a reasonable amount.

To backtrack, the night before, my son, who had yet to lose a tooth, was more excited than anyone. He couldn’t wait to see what the Tooth Fairy was would leave her. When they woke up, neither one of them could find anything. At first they were disappointed. Then I unraveled the blanket and a five dollar bill appeared. My son was excited. My daughter. Not so much.

Apparently one of her friends had recently gotten earrings and a shirt from the Tooth Fairy. So five dollars must have paled in comparison. I went downstairs to begin getting ready for the day. Part of me was felt that my daughter was spoiled for not being grateful for the five dollars. Another part of me was trying to put myself in her shoes.

It is not always easy for a parent to put themselves in their child's shoes. But I try.

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Posted by on in General

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If you are reading this then you most likely have some form of leadership role. You may be a teacher, a principal a parent, etc. And, since you have this role, you know what it feels like to carry a load. Furthermore, I am guessing that many of you don’t just carry your own load. I imagine that many of you help to carry the loads of others.

As leaders that is what we do. We make every effort to help to lighten the loads of those around us. And we do it often and we do it well. Simon Sinek eloquently articulated this point in his book Leaders Eat Last, that great leaders do in fact eat last.

But, as my dad worded it, sometimes in life “we need to put down the umbrella” and let others carry it. Just for a while. Just long enough for us to collect ourselves. It is ok, and it is what is right, because those we lead need us at our best. My father wrote this as he was dying of cancer. He was the type of person that would never pass the umbrella, no matter the cost to himself. It is a shame that it took cancer for him to learn this important life-lesson.

Passing the umbrella will not be easy because we are accustomed to serving others before we serve ourselves. It will not be easy because much of the reason why we are good at what we do is because we hold the umbrella so firmly and so often.

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Posted by on in General

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Anyone that follows my blog knows that I am fascinated with the way in which my children interact with and interpret the world. I truly believe that they have much more to teach me than I have to teach them.

The difficulty lies in the fact that the lessons they have to teach me are not always readily apparent. Usually though, if I stop and allow myself time and space to reflect, I am able to come away with something.

I'll never forget the day that I was experiencing a moment that was meant to teach me something, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what. Actually, I experience quite a few of these moments. My son and I were playing with blocks. We would stack them as high as we could. And then each time, without fail, he would take extreme pleasure in knocking them over.

But why?

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Posted by on in General

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This is one of those things that I learned through failure.

Several years ago, I went through a very dark period in my life. A period during which I was under a lot of stress. Some of it was self-induced and some of it was caused by outside forces. I lost twenty pounds. I began taking medication for anxiety. I fought like Hell to put on a happy face when I was out in public. But by the time I got home I was tired. And I am quite certain that my wife and kids saw a side of me that others did not. I wasn’t mean. I simply was grumpier than I should have been. They deserved better than what they got. I can’t go back and redo those days. I wish I could, but I can’t. But I have today. And right now, that is enough.

One person that helped me tremendously during that time and whenever I have needed him, is Ben Gilpin. I can’t begin to imagine how many voxes Ben must have listened to during those days. Many of them I’m sure were not pleasant. But, he was always there. He was like the wise tree in Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree[1]. Always able to give me what I needed at the right time. When I needed advice. He gave it to me. And when I just needed an ear to listen. He was that ear. And like the tree in the book, Ben gave much more than he received. That is just the type of person that Ben is.

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