Michelangelo defines great art. He carves the human form in marble as if it is caught between breaths. Muscles glisten with sweat. Agony shows on eyebrows as taut fingers curl. Oh to live as a master like Michelangelo! We know from his own words his desire to level up. His prayer:
“Lord, grant that I always desire more than I accomplish.”
If you’re great –good enough is never good enough. The arch enemy of greatness is our own complacency. An insatiable desire to innovate lives in the DNA of the awesome. Do you want to be awesome too? How?
1. Decide to Level Up
You’ve heard them:
I’m too old.
I’m too tired.
I’ve done enough.
Let the young people do it.
I’ve done my fair share.
Settlers in the land of complacency. They’ve pitched their tent beside a small stream. The birds used to chirp here. It was a nice spot. Not any more.
When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot. Never settle in the land of complacency. Success is a journey.
Ask yourself: What is one new thing I can learn today?
2. Take Time to Read
You are changed by the places you go, the people you meet and the books you read. Brian Tracy claims you can be in the top ten per cent of your field by reading one hour a day.
Books can save you time. Books can help you think and improve yourself. Why waste so much time trying to solve a problem when someone has already been there? I know you have grading and work and all this other stuff. But ultimately we do what we decide to do.
If this is hard for you, try the mud puddle strategy. Have you ever seen a little boy outside looking at a mud puddle. Once he’s on the edge – HE’S GOING IN! Your physical world should encourage excellent habits. Put a book beside your favorite chair in the den. Anywhere you like to sit is a great place to plop a book or magazine. When you find yourself close to the book or magazine, you’ll find yourself in the book before you know it.
Ask yourself: What is the last book I read?
3. Watch a tutorial
Geniuses live among us — AND THEY DO WEBINARS. Oh yes, they do! The Global Education Conference is coming up. The K12 Online Conference finished last week with 38 videos. Awesome teachers like Laura Candler and Richard Byrne do them quite often. (I do them too.)
If you’re struggling you can search YouTube. Personally, I don’t take webinars or classes. I take people. If I feel stuck in a rut – I search for people who are awesome. Go to google, type in their name and the word “webinar”. Sometimes “online presentation” works.
Ask yourself: What have I watched lately that inspired me to level up?
4. Seek Inspiration
Give yourself a vitamin B shot in your brain! Books. Best quotes. Best Practices.
Vitamin B stands for Vitamin BEST. Apply the mudpuddle strategy here too. Where do you look that needs some Vitamin B? In the front of your planner? In Evernote? On your computer screen? (Make a desktop wallpaper.)
Make the Best as close as a glance or the flip of a page.
Don’t limit inspiration to words. I have a music playlist called “WonderBox.” (Hat tip Austin Kleon and Show Your Work!) It is a wonderful box of joy that I open when I feel my heart flagging and start struggling. Music boosts your life, your heart and your mind in ways that are hard to comprehend. It is my vitamin B.
Keep a travel bottle of your favorite perfume with you. A favorite lip gloss. A certain kind of coffee. Anything can be vitamin B. Be intentional about it.
Ask yourself: Where do I struggle to be inspired? How can I inject Vitamin B there?
5. Seek Wise Counsel
Build your circle of the wise.
“The next best thing to be wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” CS Lewis
Look for those people who buoy even when the storms of life blow. Look for people who are unflappable and productive in every season of life. Look for achievers.
Don’t expect these people to be easily accessible. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these people across the lunch table every day — LEARN. Wise people are sometimes BUSY or INACCESSIBLE. Don’t think they are always famous. Famous doesn’t mean wise.
Ask yourself: Who are the wisest people I know? How can I make time to spend with some of them?
6. Ask Awesome People Questions
You’ll come across awesome people. This week the joint chiefs of staff happened to drop by my son’s fraternity at Georgia Tech for Homecoming. I asked him — Did you shake their hands?
Just being around awesome can be cool. Most of the time we sit there clueless to the greatness around us because we’re too busy talking about ourselves to LISTEN. You uncover awesome by asking questions. Lots of them.
No – don’t just stop random strangers on the street. That’s weird. (OK, my Dad has been known to be able to talk to anybody but most of us don’t have this talent.) If you know someone from Twitter and you’re going to be at the same conference – grab coffee. Ask questions. Learn from everyone you meet.
Ask yourself: Is there someone I know who has a cool story? What questions could I ask this week to uncover awesome?
7. Unplug and focus
As I read The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload several things Levitin says jumped out at me:
Glenn Wilson shows the “cognitive losses from multitasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from pot smoking. (97)
Facebook, Twitter and social media are cognitive addictions.
We can make a certain number of decisions per day. All decisions are the same to our brain no matter their level of importance.
You are a human being, not a human doing. Those who respond to every notification of their smart phone make us wonder who is controlling who.
Levitin also discusses the part of the brain – the insula switch – which switches our attention. He argues that when we think we see someone multitasking that they aren’t – they’re just switching rapidly between tasks. (96) Too much switching burns glucose rapidly and creates mental exhaustion. (And now we know why one day of teaching is more tiring than anything else we do!)
You need times of complete unplugging from your devices. You need offline times to get things done. You need vacations where you put your mobile device in a basket as you grab an old fashioned camera and just PLAY.
I believe the greatest among us are those who unplug and GET STUFF DONE.
Ask yourself: When have I unplugged? Can I have some offline time today?
8. Do Good to Others, Especially Your Students
The unhappiest people are selfish people. Just because you think you’re having a “bad day” it doesn’t give you the right to multiply that “badness” by 80 or 100 or how ever many little ones you have in your care. In fact, multiply kindness, multiply goodness, multiply faith.
There are times when kids see you grappling with struggles and your life becomes the lesson. Always take time to be kind.
The best way to find your kindness “target” is to stand at the door of your classroom. As students enter the room greet them all by name. They’ll look at you when you do. Look them in the eyes. Their faces can hide things but not the eyes. You’ll see quickly who needs the kindness.
When you’re having a rough day, nothing will get you to leave the pity party faster than knowing someone needs you. And guess what — someone always needs you. People are dying for encouragement. Literally dying. Behind the laughter people hide feelings of hurt, failure, and heartbreak. Be the one who looks outside yourself and sees a hurting world desperate for encouragement. Be the light. Be the hope. Be the hand of love lifting others from their despair.
As yourself: Who needs my kindness today?
Level Up Today
Now you know. You’ve read to the end. Begin.
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