I'm a teacher. It's what I've been doing, in some way, for 20 years now. On Monday I was grading our first batch of geology tests for the year and was shocked to see the performance of one of my students. After scoring the multiple choice section (which they did horribly on), I was incredibly confused. This kid usually aces everything that I throw at them...how did they completely bomb an entire section of the test?!
Confused, I went on to score the rest of the geology test and was relieved to see that this particular kid got about 93% on the short answer and essay sections. When added to the multiple choice section, the overall score was a C- (71%).
So how in the world did I justify putting an A- in the gradebook? Well, it definitely required taking a step back (which takes time and effort), looking over the previous quizzes and assignments from the unit (which takes more time and effort), and developing a fair assessment for unit mastery (yep, more time and effort). This kid is easily an A- student in my science class, so what happened? I went through a ton of questions, and came to the conclusion that none of my previous assessments were multiple choice, so I ended up throwing that section out, for the most part.
But that's not fair! Well, I don't really care about your selfish, lazy interpretation of fairness. My fairness as a teacher requires a megaton of time and effort.
My thinking here goes back to a definition of fairness that I learned years ago as a teacher. Fairness isn't treating everyone the same. Fairness is giving everyone what they need. This works in the classroom, and in the dojo. It also works at home and with your friends.
We tend to not want to view it this way because it requires a deal more time and effort.
The next time someone fails you, ask yourself if you've given them what they need to succeed. Parents, did you give clear directions? Teachers, did you share precise instructions and expectations? High expectations are great, but we've got to make sure we can break those big goals down into smaller, attainable benchmarks. This is the way to begin practicing my idea of fairness.
Not perfect, but always trying,
Monday in the dojo I brought up the idea of restriction vs. freedom when it comes to training individual techniques. When training, our limbs always have a job; our mind is always working, but we can oftentimes neglect our eyes. Wandering eyes during training shows a lack of focus, for sure. But there are two ways to look at the demand for focusing your visual attention to a specific point in your space. You can see it as oppressive, or freeing.
The oppressed mind will see our visual focus as restrictive. "With all that's going on around me, why must I focus all of my attention on this one small space?" That's the same kind of thinking that causes failed diets...the whole world is a buffet line, why deny yourself, right? This way of thinking wears on you over time, and you'll see training, or dieting, or whatever, as shackles that hold you in place. Basically, think this way, and you create your own misery.
But finding the freedom in the focus...oh boy! I'm busy. You're busy. We all have school/work demands, as well as roles within our families and community. With a million and one things to think about, you're telling me that when practicing some techniques, I only have to think about one thing?!? The freedom that comes with demanding my mind only be in one place, on one idea is amazing. Is it easy in the beginning to demand such focused attention? No way! Is it worth it in the long run? Definitely!
My grandfather was not a rich man, but he knew how to invest.
Money will come and go. Possessions will tarnish, fade, or otherwise be thrown out at some point. The only real thing, of great value that any of us have is time. How do you invest your time?
Think about it this way...everything you get, you pay for...we know that. How'd you get that money? You probably worked for it right? Rather than paying with cash, consider the time it took you to earn that money. Everything you pay for, you pay with your time. That Starbucks you had this morning likely cost you between 2-15 minutes in the grand scheme. In the end, you're left with less time, less money, and an empty cup.
My pawpaw invested his time in people. Meeting so many folks at his funeral last week was confirmation of this fact. So many of the gentlemen that I met had a similar introduction, "My name is _______________. Your pawpaw was a good friend of mine."
See, we can invest our time and efforts in cups of coffee, which will be empty at the end of the day; or we can pour ourselves into others. Honestly, I wont judge where you choose to invest, I only ask that you think about it.
Years ago, when I was a 3rd Grade teacher, I told one of the boys that you're always leading. All of are leading, all of the time. It's the manner and direction that we lead that should cause us to reflect.
Reflecting on the life of my Pawpaw, I can look back at times when he lead with great courage. No, he didn't lead people into battle (that I know of anyway) or climb Mt. Everest. I do remember a few decisions that Pawpaw made that, at the time, I was angry about. He knew people would get upset, but he alway...always held to his convictions. He risked his own family being upset when he left a function in order to attend an event at church. He courageously led young men in his church and Lodge for decades; at personal sacrifice of time, talent, and money. That kind of leadership requires faith and a whole lot of guts.
So, we're all, always leading someone somewhere in some way. Questions to ponder for today:
1. WHO are you leading? (Family? Coworkers/employees? Neighbors? Friends?)
2. WHERE are you leading them? (Toward improvement or discouragement?)
3. HOW are you leading? (Are you a guide? A micromanager? Are you gracious or overbearing?)
Have you ever gotten a fishing hook stuck in your finger? Most people haven’t, and most people would try to take care of it the wrong way. See, it’s not like a splinter that you can just pull out...in fact that would make things worse. I’d really not have any idea if it weren’t for seeing My grandfather accidentally stick himself with a hook when I was little...maybe 5 years old.
We were fishing at the mill slide out at Camp. Nothing big lived in there except for some catfish and a monster of a snapping turtle. Pawpaw was baiting my hook because I was a big wimp, and I’m not sure how it happened, but he looked at me and said, “Hey buddy, now you know what to do if you get a hook stuck in your finger don’t you?” As he said it, he held up his left hand and showed me the hook, up to the barb, stuck in his thumb. He didn’t make a sound. I don’t remember him even wincing, but he did show me that, once the barb of the hook is in the skin, you’ve got to push the whole thing through. Otherwise, if you panic and try to pull it out, you’ll rip the flesh, and have a greater chance of infection.
Pawpaw never made a sound. He never tensed his face. He did nothing to show that a hook in his thumb was a big deal. In the end he left me with a warning that I’ll never forget and that I’ve copied so many times. He said, “The longer you fish, the more likely you are to stick yourself with a hook. But we don’t stay home cause we’re afraid of a little hook, right?”
Watching that man get a fishing hook out of his thumb taught me something a lot deeper than basic first aid. The longer we are blessed to be here, the more likely we are to make mistakes. If you train in the dojo, and take it seriously, it’s only a matter of time before you pick up an injury. Mistakes happen. You’ve got to own it, see it through, clean things up, and keep moving.
Mistakes sting. They’re supposed to; that’s the way we learn from them. But if you don’t own them, if you try to find the quick and easy way out, you’re just going to be left in a lot more pain. Besides, living a life where you risk sticking yourself with a fishhook is a lot better than living a life on the couch.
I was embarrassingly old when I realized that my grandfather's last name wasn't Buddy. All I'd ever called him was Pawpaw Buddy. To hear my mom tell the story, it sounds like a cute little interaction. Pawpaw, when I was tiny (relatively speaking) grabbed me and said, "You're my buddy." How does a little kid respond to something like that other than, "You're my Pawpaw Buddy."
All my life I've called him Pawpaw Buddy. I honestly didn't realize until a few years ago that me, and my two brothers, are the only grandchildren who called him by that name. It all started because and older, wiser man saw the opportunity to invest, in a huge way, into one of his grandsons...and that continues to stick with me. Pawpaw saw an opportunity, and seized it.
Pawpaw didn't wait for things to happen. He looked ahead and predicted needs and ways to help. He was the kind of man who didn't wait for you to walk over and awkwardly introduce yourself; he'd meet you first. He didn't wait for you to ask for help; he was there, ready to offer a hand...and a good joke. He was a proactive man which, was a trait that I continue to find appealing.
We all know the truth. At different times and in different ways, we all have favorites. With all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren Pawpaw had, we each, always felt like we were his favorite...and I think a lot of that can be attributed to his proactive relationships with each of us.
So, how can you proactively reach out to someone today? Rather than waiting for them to come to you, who are you going to step out and call/email/text? Who is that one person that probably needs to hear from you more than you think? Seriously...take 3 minutes right now and consider this. It will be your proactive choice that will make someone feel like the most important person in the world today.
Tomorrow afternoon, my grandfather will be laid to rest. It's been a tough week, but a good one of reflecting on what that man taught me. It's funny really...most of the words I remember from him were humorous. Jokes were common. Fishing tips were up there too. It was Pawpaw's actions that taught me so much. Through watching him, listening to his stories, and hearing from others for almost 40 years, I've learned that being a good person, especially a good man, nowadays boils down to 4 simple rules.
#1. Be proactive.
#2. Own your mistakes.
#4. Invest in things that matter.
In honor of my grandfather, I'm going to dedicate four days this week to laying out these four rules.