Tony Robbins – “I am not your guru”

I came across the full length documentary about tony’s work. A film crew were given significant access to film his six-day “Date With Destiny” programme.

I give fair warning, for anyone not so familiar with Tony’s work that he uses some pretty strong language. There is a section in the film where he talks about why he does that. Also,  some of the interventions do touch on some past experiences in the participants’ lives that are pretty challenging to hear.

Machiavelli

Machiavelli

Few figures in history have got a harsher rap than Mr Niccolo Machiavelli. In today’s language we use his name as a pejorative label for all the worst characteristics we see in leaders.

However, I believe he’s been harshly judged, especially when one considers the historical context of the time when he was writing. This was a man who understood that when you are in a position of power, or aspire to power (even if with the best of intentions), you’re going to catch dirt and cannot naively sit back and believe that the rest of the world will benignly orient itself around your goals.

The following is one of my favourite quotes from Machiavelli. Reading it I’m reminded so frequently of the benchmarks I always sought to apply when there were failures or mistakes in a team i was leading. What type of mistake was it? Was it a first, or was there a pattern? The last line is also a valuable reminder to me that I had better not ever be tempted to settle for self-pity or acceptance of status quo. It’s my life and my duty to do bold things with it. A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are built for.

I also believe that as educators we have to ensure that students spend time immersed in thoughtful contemplation on such writings, exploring their applicability in their own lives.  Only through the exploration of such ideas can they develop the inner compass that will equip them to thrive in a world that changes ever more rapidly.

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger
(it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively.
Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength
to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”

Niccolo Machiavelli
16th Century Philosopher

 

From Flat, to Fast, to Deep

Thomas Friedman
Thomas Friedman wrote “The World is Flat”, a book that had a massive impact when it came to people’s understanding of the world, economics, globalisation and the forces that were shaping the world and how that shaping was likely to emerge in the future. He also went on to write other books, such as “Hot, Flat and Crowded” looking at the environment, impact of population growth and global warming. These days he writes for the New York Times, especially on foreign affairs and issues of globalisation.

Recently, he sat down for a very interesting interview discussion with James Manyika, Chairman of the McKinsey Global Institute. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to embed the interview video here, but the link here will take you directly to it.

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The work that Friedman does entails gazing in to the future and trying to predict where we’re headed. it’s far from an exact science, so inevitably he’s been, at times, subject to a fair share of criticism. Nevertheless, he’s also been very good at predicting certain trends.

As educators, our task principally is to prepare young people for the future. Also, there are many questions that students have about what’s currently happening in the world and it’s important that teachers are equipped to respond intelligently and in an informed manner.

If we look at the views of commentators like Stephen Pinker there’s never been a better time to be alive. The world is becoming a better and better place to live. Admittedly, he can point to enormous strides in recent years in the reduction of absolute poverty in the world, improvements in numbers and proportion of children getting education, reductions in child mortality, reduced levels of deaths through war and conflict.

However, especially for those living in the West it’s hard to believe in this positive message. There’s growing anger and disaffection, especially among the middle classes. For the first time in a long time, we see life expectancy creeping down in countries like the US, we see a young generation who almost certainly will not achieve the wealth levels of their parents and middle classes whose real wealth levels are in decline as wages stagnate and real costs of living rise (all exacerbated by beliefs about what represents minimal living standards).

This anguish is manifested through more extreme polarisation of political attitudes, rise of extremists and demands to roll back globalisation in favour of protectionism. Instead of embracing the benefits of open trade, the inclinations are now towards erecting real and virtual barriers, walls and restrictions.

In the interview Friedman talks of the anguish of people acting out their humiliation and questing for dignity. For a blue collar middle class worker in Britain or USA the fact that children aren’t dying as often in Africa, or the resurgence of Asian economies don’t matter a jot when they feel they’re robbed of the promised riches of ‘the American dream’ that they believe was theirs by birthright. Ironically, I suspect that economic progress in Asia, the Middle East and Africa is the very best possibility for those people in the longer term as it will slow down the natural flows of those who feel the need to migrate. Finding more than adequate opportunities at home, they’ll feel less need to head west.

Rightly, Friedman highlights the significance and need for leadership in these times.

Worth a watch.

Environmental Impact

800px-Glitter_close_up

Just a quick one! Hate it when i get to say, “I told you so!”

Teachers used to quiz me as to why i made a fuss about glitter use in school and sought to discourage purchasing and use of glitter. This was especially true when working with Indian teachers – they do love a bit of bling!

Well, worldwide pressure against glitter has now built up to such an extent that any day now it’s likely to be announced that UK supermarkets will impose and abide by a ban on glitter. They use it themselves, put it on greetings cards etc. as well as selling it. But the pressure has built over the last few years as it’s recognised to be a highly dangerous pollutant – one of the micro plastics products that stays around in the environment harming particularly fish and birds.

My plea to fellow educators – take a lead in your schools to get rid of the glitter.

Thank you

Seeking Out The Way Forward

Note: This is, by far, the most personal (and therefore most difficult) blog post I’ve ever written. There are some ‘professional’ acquaintances who’ve advised me that I really didn’t need to write it, even that it might harm me professionally if I write it. However, whilst I respect their viewpoints, I feel that it is necessary for me personally. Also, to write it is to acknowledge that what I do and what I am is not just some sort of corporate role.
Educators have a very personal relationship with others, be it the students, their parents or the staff and people we mentor along the way. Educators are not cold and unfeeling, but give something of themselves and are very personally invested. Educators are also not superheroes, but men and women with their own vulnerabilities, their own internal dialogues of questions, doubts and introspections That’s one of the reasons why, so often, it’s referred to as more of a calling than a job.
So, for better, or for worse, I’ve written it. Big intake of breath, here goes ……

You know that old saying about other people’s opinions not defining us and how we’re all supposed to pay no heed to what others think of us?

Do I believe it? I want to.

Do I live it? No.

Do any of us, really?

That was a rhetorical question – I don’t have a clue what the answer is. Am I in a camp of one, or are we all just convinced that we’re winging it, one step away from being called out as a fraud at any moment? One step away from being found out as the Emperor strutting down the street in his birthday suit.

Not only have I had to confront and acknowledge that my decisions are very swayed, even driven, by what others think, but also most of the time professionally my assumptions have been that others’ views of me were not very complementary. I don’t know whether or not it became easier to deal with this when I learned that it had a real name – “Imposter Syndrome.”

I really don’t know the extent to which others experience imposter syndrome. There are frequently reports written that suggest it’s far more prevalent than most realise, the hidden bulk of the iceberg below the water that few acknowledge openly and out loud. This is especially the case as, it seems, from the reported evidence that it’s far more prevalent for people in senior roles and that the more people rise in their careers the greater its manifestation. It also becomes obvious that in such circumstances as a person rises in their career, it becomes harder and harder for them to openly admit to this complex to others around them. Certainly, that’s how it’s long felt for me. There’s nothing worse to me than the thought that on telling those around, “I feel inferior and lacking in the skills and competencies of my role,” to be answered with, “Well, now you mention it, here’s the list of all the ways we also think you’re lacking and inadequate.”

To ‘the victim’ it feels like you’re sitting on a fragile pile of cards, that one good gust of wind from the wrong direction can send you tumbling and throwing you in to a very visible and fully justified humiliating heap. Almost anything could bring it all down and reveal you for what you truly were all along.

Like me, I think most closet imposters are able to keep enough of a lid on it, to find escapes for their anxiety and the stress and to get on with their jobs, even to give all the impressions externally of being self-assured, confident and clear in their convictions and what they’re doing. In fact, if you can’t do that you’re unlikely to reach or sustain a high position for any length of time. So, maybe all imposters at high level are practicing effective coping skills. But, this does come with a heavy price – the continual stress, anxiety and the doubts that hold you back from chasing the best opportunities or fulfilling your true, full potential. Just squeaking by isn’t much of a way to go on.

Many years ago, when living in New Delhi and being Director of a Group with over 4,000 pupils, I wrote that my biggest responsibility in managing my own life was balancing the priorities and interests of those 4,000+ children with one child – my own child, my son – Thomas.

Those who know me well know that just over a year ago I lost Thomas, my son, in tragic circumstances. For nearly five years I had lived and strived as a single parent. So, suddenly in a moment my whole world was turned upside down. Thomas was 16 and in so many ways, my life revolved around him. I’m not going to claim I got everything right – parenting is one of those responsibilities where perfection is impossible and the best anyone can say is that they strive to be the best they can each day, to learn and to endeavor to be a bit better the next day.

There is no question this has been the biggest test of my life. Over the last 13 months my emotions and feelings have gone on the most gut-wrenching roller coaster ride you could ever imagine. There have been times of anger, woeful self-pity, optimism that is suddenly overturned and plunged in to the depths of pessimism.

Many times I saw hope in immersing myself in past loves, including writing posts for this blog. However, every time I sat down to write a voice in my head would say things like, “People are going to see you for the fraud you always were. They will denounce you. How can you advise or counsel anyone about anything to do with children when you couldn’t protect your own one single child?”

The result is that whatever sense of imposter syndrome I had before has been magnified massively. It feels like the moment I stick my head above the parapet, I will be there to be shot at. That instead of being able to do some good and bring something of value, I will be the subject of sniggering, derision and even disdain.

As a result, even this post has been written, re-written, deleted and begun again more times than I can count. As I sit here writing now I still don’t have any idea if I’ll have the courage to finally publish and press the button.
In recent weeks, as a result of some reading, things heard in podcasts etc. I have had two significant thoughts that may enable me to finally move on here;

1. The first is that after writing nothing on this blog for well over a year, there’s every possibility that when I finally press the button and publish this post ……….. nobody will even notice. We can all make the mistake of believing that people are paying far more attention to us, our actions (or inactions), our motives etc. than they really are.
So, I might feel like I’m bearing my soul and publicly admitting to my vulnerability and fears about being a fraud and an imposter, and nobody even notices.

2. Maybe the bigger revelation – or at least it was in some way revelatory for me – is best encapsulated by the youngsters’ online saying, “haters gonna hate.”
For anyone who seeks to produce anything in the world, however much they strive to perfect it, there will be those people for whom it doesn’t work. There will be people who either have an issue with the person, the message, the means by which it’s communicated etc.
You really can’t please all the people all the time – and that’s OK. Nobody ever achieved any measure of success in any creative arena if they set out to produce something (or to be someone) to appeal to everyone. The fact is that some of the most highly regarded creative works in the world are rejected, scoffed and sneered at by some.
I went on to the Amazon website and looked up some of the most successful and highly regarded books published. By way of examples, the novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’ has 11% 1-star ratings, The Handmaid’s Tale has 16% 1 and 2-star ratings. The Secret – 12% 1-stars,. Even the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita (in no particular order) had between 5 and 18% 1 and 2-star ratings.

So, I need to get some realism. There are surely already those in the world who never needed me to have a dead son to decide they don’t like me, what I stand for, my views and approaches on education or even the colour of the shirts I wear. And that’s Ok. It’s their right. I never wrote for everybody and I never will. And i can’t live my life on the basis that I need to please everybody all the time

The fact is that everything that’s happened has not put out the light or diminished my drive and enthusiasm to bring about some real change in education. Change that can help to ensure that the school and learning experience meets more of the needs of more children more of the time. If I can make even the tiniest scratch, it’s good for every person impacted, even good for the world and good for me along the way.

And if there are some people who want to reject me or my writings, especially because I’m an educator who couldn’t protect his own child and keep him alive in this world, that’s OK.

But, I will write – quite possibly profusely (the dam may be about to break and I’ll discover a flood had built up ready to gush. I will write because it’s the right thing for me to do. I’ll also write because I think it’s what Thomas would want me to do. Will I magically be free of the sense of being an imposter? I doubt it very much. My only hope is that the more I work and write anyway, the less those feelings will be relevant or matter.

Thomas, from now onwards this blog is dedicated to you and your memory. You were a wonderful young man. Sensitive, caring and with a fierce sense of justice, right and wrong and how the world ought to be. Your passing has revealed the frequency with which others looked to you as a person to reach out to, a person who would care, a listener ready to do whatever you could to lighten their burden a little. The quality of a life is more significant than the quantity. You, my son, were a quality human who lived a short quality life. I love you, my son.

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