How to be everywhere and nowhere at all once

image

I will sometimes waste entire days staring at the screen trying to do something. I’m not proud of it and it’s something I try to limit, but sometimes my response to being productive is being paralyzed by the idea of not having enough time.

For instance, I have so many different blogs that I write that I will often say “I have like eight blog posts to write” because it’s true. I have lots of things I want to say. If you’ve spent any time with me in real life at all, you know this is a true statement. But writing on a bevy of channels isn’t the same as actually processing everything you need to say in each one of them. They require different thinking, different thoughts and ideas that might not always fuse neatly together when you need them to.

Which is really irritating.

One of the ways I’ve grown from my younger years has nothing to do with doing less stuff, as much as I’ve become better at realizing you can’t do everything at once. I’m far more interested in building sustainable projects that have a legacy beyond my ability to run them. I used to do projects that were heavily reliant on me being there to manage every aspect of them. Obviously these things would sort of die after I left because they weren’t being run the same way.

As time went on, I became far more interested in creating things for wider audiences that would last longer. I would build with cultivating leaders in mind. Too often we don’t want to reveal the secret sauce behind what we’re doing, because there’s a fear that people will perceive the work to be too easy. This negates the intangibles of our talents, but is a fear that’s generally unfounded. By helping others do more, we save organizations money and we help people adapt and grow their perspective behind the mystique of what they thought went behind different things.

I realize now that it’s not realistic to manage of ton of projects and expect the same kind of result. But not every project is built with the same aim in mind. Sometimes, there’s no aim at all. We’re just doing something that sounded interesting. That’s the case with the movie blog. We didn’t sit down one day at summer camp and say “hey, let’s start a sport” or “we should create a tumblog with 80,000+ followers.” In both cases, it just worked out that way.

You can’t always create the movements that resonate. And it doesn’t always make sense to try to tackle something bigger than you can handle or to set out with the goal of doing that. If I had, I’d be in a totally different place and not necessarily for the better.

Nonetheless, doing something is better than doing nothing. Just remembering that is often the trick and realizing that the first few attempts aren’t going to be perfect. But we’re not striving for perfection, just constant improvement.

On to the next thing.

No time for making tea

tea

It probably goes without saying that moving cross-country would change your routine substantially. Everything from how I travel to work to how my days flow is different. I used to think I was suited for city life, but it’s clear to me that country living has adapted me to particular habits that I’d rather have as a regular part of my life.

It’s not as if I’m not trying. I have a water kettle in my office for heating hot water for tea. I have my box of tea and everything. But the whole process of starting my day drinking tea comes with a certain kind of centering. The assumption that I know I’ll have a particular pace and control of my time, makes life more conducive for having tea and sinking into hours of whatever projects I’m working on.

These days, it doesn’t work as well. I find myself harried and hurried. The newness of relationships and environments don’t lend themselves well to creatures of habit. Too many things to digest and memorize. It’s not that you don’t pick these things up over time; it’s just the process and mental energy it takes to get there can be exhausting.

I used to think it was easy for people to move. I’m still a firm believer that kids who graduate shouldn’t waste their 20s in cities interning when they can’t find jobs, when there are lots of places off the beaten path that would give them real experience. But I now understand better why so many people opt not to leave the comforts of where they are. Support systems matter. Comforts matter. The time we spend trying to cultivate new connections and work through the unwritten rules of new environments are real things that take away time that we could be using more productively.

Meanwhile, I’ve had to remind myself to make time for tea. It’s not always my default posture. Sometimes, it’s just easier to grab something cold. Or to look for soda, even though I’d almost completely given it up months earlier. Changes are no excuse for losing the positive habits that we’ve acquired, even if it takes more work to adapt them into our new lives.

(Article) Where Real Kids and Real Teachers Can Only Dream of Real Education

I’ve got lots of blog posts to write, but I couldn’t avoid sharing this quote from a story you need to read:

Americans want to talk about how much our kids are failing these days. Those outside the educational system all have their fierce, personal criticisms. And on the front lines, in those faculty meetings, data sessions, and behind the closed doors of ruinous classrooms, teachers and administrators are telling the same stories.

There’s the one about the unfocused kids who need to be taught discipline and compliance so they can get a job; the one about the parents who are setting a bad example and creating a negative home environment; the one about the teachers who aren’t a good fit because they aren’t holding their students accountable for doing work that renders them comatose. We tell these stories as we busy ourselves, trying to reassemble the parts of a machine we refuse to admit is fundamentally, and fatally, flawed. Just like we are.

Meanwhile, our students are losing interest, losing hope, and vanishing from our records altogether, and for all the productive work we do, we aren’t doing much to bring them back

Sharing the secret sauce

Making_Honey_by_dalantech

 

I want you to share what you know. I was at a professional event recently and met a guy who was just starting out with managing social media at this college. He was excited and was just bouncing ideas off of me after seeing me on Twitter. After talking for a few minutes, he said “well I don’t want you to give away the secret sauce. I just wanted to pick your brain a bit.”

I laughed and told him that I wanted to give away the secret sauce. After all, what are we talking about? Tactics? Insider baseball specific to a particular institution? It made me think a bit as we get into conference season about how we communicate ideas, how we interact with others and the sorts of things we can learn as people are sharing and giving their insights outside of workshops and events.

People want to give others insights. For me, I want others to do things better because it raises the bar for all of us. If you’re doing better, it’s going to be better for me because I’ll just need to improve whatever it is I’m working on to keep up with whatever it is we’ve released into the wild. The other thing is, sharing opens doors. By sharing with someone what you know, I’m more likely to find someone else who is open to sharing things with me. But not everything is about what you get from it. I just get excited talking about the things we do at work or side projects that bleed over into off-work time. I know I’m not the only one. 

Here are some things to think about when it comes to sharing with others and stuff to keep in mind:

  • You’re obviously not going to share privileged information. When I talk about sharing, I’m obviously not talking about sharing what happened in the meeting yesterday or last week. Or something that might embarrass your institution. On the other hand, a “lesson learned” or talking about what you did, might be helpful. You have to use your own discretion here.
  • Think about what you want to know. People have limited time. Conferences are a dizzying time to interact and share with others. Resist the urge to want to pick someone’s brain ad nauseum. Instead, talk for a bit and move on. They might be too nice to say “look, I need to go. There are lots of other people I want to meet too.” Do it for them. Be kind.
  • Find your expertise. Seek out ways to share. We all have things to share. Seeking out mentors is one way to grow your knowledgebase, but you also seek out others or be available to give more, too.

There are no secrets. There’s stuff we’ve done and thing we’re going to do. Understanding that in an connected world, ideas aren’t things to horde but to be shared.

Import

I finally imported all of the old blog posts from edustir dating back to 2007, so…if you were looking for old blog posts of mine, you can now find them here.

A life’s work

The curse of the “jack of all trades” generalist who is “good at everything, but not great at one particular thing” is this fallacy that you can be all things to all people, all of the time. Anyone who has been around the block awhile recognizes the faulty logic involved in that thinking and yet, I meet kids at a non-liberal arts college on a fairly regular basis who think they’re going to triple-major in Biology, Theater and Business.*

One of the things you get from doing something over a period of time is a sense of purpose. I like being useful, probably more than anything. I get a great deal of satisfaction from being good at what I do and from the recognition of others that i have unique insights that improve the bottom line or just plain make meetings better. Often times, it’s just my particular brand of hilarity mixed with a heavy dose of perspective that was needed at that time.

The challenge of the generalist — nay, of anyone really — is finding out where you fit. Woven into this is knowing what you’re really good at. I complain mightily about the conundrum of being able to broadcast loudly other people’s attributes and being a brand steward of the first order; but being less than good at boosting my own works. The thing is, I’m not shy or especially modest. I really want people to know. The disconnect is getting them to know without me telling them.

And that’s when we end up where we are now. I’ve come to recognize how much I was doing and stepping away from the day-to-day work on the web has strangely illuminated how much I enjoyed my old work, ways I could improve certain aspects of things given the opportunity and has made me (slightly) more vocal about cool things I’ve done over the years on and off the web.

Sometimes, you need to step away from what you love to realize what about it made you really love it in the first place. I’ve done it and now I know better than I ever did before.