Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Quit trying to guess the future

Just a quick thought.

Quit trying to guess the future.

When the people of Germany voted for Hitler, I am sure no one expected what all was to come. When America voted Ronald Reagan, I remember educated people saying he would start WW3. The leaders of the Russian Church were arguing over decorating hours before they were killed by the communist. In WW2 many thought that Germany was going to win and the allies had no chance. On 9/11 everyone thought it was just another day. 

I could go on but the thought here is that we are really horrible at guessing our futures. We often try to adjust our lives to what we feel is coming and it never arrives. To make things worse some of the things we never considered as possible actually happen. We just aren’t that smart. 

What should we do?

I think the key is not to figure out what is going to happen in the future, but to live our lives and run our businesses on solid truths. Are things going to happen? Yes, but you are more likely to succeed by living by those principles than to try to constantly adapt to the whims of the day. No, it won’t save us from everything that is going to happen, but it is a better guide than trying to guess the future.  

Saturday, June 25, 2016

I hated school (a thank you note for a teacher and a parent)

"I hated school"
(a thank you note for a teacher and a parent) 

I hated school. 

Between the bullies, the homework, and the teachers it was terrible. 

“Say it again, Charles”

“No, try it again and speak up this time.”
It was bad enough that the slow readers (us, dumb kid) were set aside in reading time but now the teacher wanted us to prove how dumb we were.
Did I mention how much I hated school?
At the beginning of second grade, I was doing so poorly I hid every paper which had that ugly red “F” on the top of it. For nearly six weeks, my disgrace was buried in the bottom of my desk.
It didn’t last. I still remember going home crying when the teacher cleaned them out and sent every one of them home with me.
I, of course, was promptly punished. No television for six weeks. The punishment was set to match the number of weeks, I hid the truth from my mom.
No, she never punished me for the “F”s, they made that clear, but I was punished for hiding the truth from her. After she discovered the pile of "F"s, Mom talked to me and to the teacher. It didn’t take her long to discover that my eyes were poor. New glasses brought my world came into focus.
My grades returned to “C”s, and everything was great. Okay, it wasn’t great. I still hated school.
In fifth grade, I had the meanest teacher in the school. To this day, I can honestly say she was the strictest disciplinarian, the rule of the law, don’t you cross me, and yes, meanest teacher in the entire elementary school. If you were especially bad and talked in class, she would give you the evil eye.
No one, I mean, No one ever crossed Mrs. Counsel. I think the principle may have been afraid of her.
After the first six weeks in her class, I went from the “C”s to “A”s in every subject. After I finished a year in her class, I never took homework home for the rest of my elementary, junior high and high school career. I graduated at age 16 as valedictorian of my class. Eventually, I earned my BS degree from Southeastern University with honor and graduated with a MA from Olivet University.
No, I am not a genius (close but my IQ test says I missed it by 1 point) and I am not a prodigy.
The secret to the turnaround was my mom and one teacher.
My mom did many things right. First, she never shamed me for doing poorly but encouraged me to do my best. Secondly, she never told me what she was doing behind the scenes or badmouthed any teacher.
It wasn’t until I was older when my mother finally revealed the whole truth.
When I first entered Kindergarten I wanted to read. At the time, coloring and learning write your name was about as high as they aimed. Though I don’t remember, it seems that I decided if they weren’t going to teach me to read, then school was a waste of time. I quit trying to learn.
By the time I hit first grade, I was firmly placed in what was called the slow reading group. Unknown to me at the beginning of every school year, mom would go to school talk to the teacher and be told the same thing. It was school policy never to move kids out of the slow readers group.
My younger brother and I were tested outside of the school system by my mom’s assistance. The results proved that we were not slow, but still teacher after teacher said, “No, we wish we could but it would be detrimental to Charles to move him to the advanced group.”
You probably guessed it. The meanest teacher in the school took a chance and moved me up. I wish I could say I remember when the light came on and I began to love school and learning. And it did take until I was in college before I embraced the love of reading, but it happened.
The turnaround in my grades so shocked, Mrs. Counsel  that she took it upon herself to begin moving other students out of the slow reading group. I don’t know if any of them had the improvement in grades that I have but as far as I heard none of them ever needed put back.
I loved Mrs. Counsel for taking the chance and for my mother's consistent, but non-belligerent pushing.
Mrs. Counsel  asked mom every time they meet, “How is Charles doing.”
Finally, Mrs. Counsel  revealed the truth to her. “Mrs. Areson, I knew you were wrong. I knew moving Charles was going to be a mistake, but I wanted to prove it to you. I want you to know, I am glad I was wrong.”  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tomorrow’s greatest enemy

“Tomorrow’s greatest enemy is today’s success.” John Maxwell has said this in several of his books and he repeated it in Home Run a book him and Kevin Myers wrote (By the way, it is worth the read especially if you are in some type of church ministry). The idea is that whatever has made us successful today may not be what we need to be successful tomorrow. 

I fully agree with this statement. It is true, we as humans seem to think that if it worked years ago then it should still work. This makes many people less likely to change and resistant to new ideas. The other thing is when the first problem hits in the new system then instead of working through it everyone reverts back to the way we did it before. I remember working on a team that was starting up a new trailer factory. We were going to be different. We were not going to allow anything to go down the line unless it was right. The company spent six weeks training us in teamwork and mutual responsibility. Any worker on the line was supposed to have the authority to stop production and get a problem fixed. It was a great idea and lasted two minutes the first day of production. The first machine (which I was in charge of) was not set up correctly. To make the walls for the trailers it was going to require us to work in unsafe conditions (placing our hands in places where the machine could smash them) but also the walls themselves would be scratched because of improper conveyer system. It would take a couple days to rework the machine, but upper management came in and said, “We don’t care what you learned, build it.” They said a few other things but I won’t write them. They never did have the “team” they talked about because when the first problem hit, they went back to the old ways. I don’t miss that place. Correction, I never missed that place for any reason even though I was paid well.

There is a problem, however, that is when the idea of trying something new and “cool,” becomes the culture but is not based on need. There is an excitement in trying something new for many people. I see a growing idea in Western Culture that if it's old it’s worthless. The problem is that sometimes tried and true methods are the key to future success and not its enemy. What has worked in the past will work well in the future without much change (if you need proof remember or check out what happen with “New Coke”)

My summary is, just that something old does not mean that it is either good or bad. Something tried and true may be passed it prime or it may never lose it charm. Don’t assume age is the factor, what is or is not working is what we need to consider. This is true in business or in my life’s work, the church. 

It something to consider.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Quantity makes better Quality

Quantity makes better Quality 

       John Maxwell gave an illustration about a professor in a pottery class deciding to split his class into two groups. One would get graded on the amount of work they did, by weight, and the other would be judged on quality, they only had to submit one perfect vase. At the end of the term, the best vases were done not by the quality people but by the quantity people. 

        This illustration seems to reinforce the idea that practice makes perfect. Yet we all know teams that practice a lot but never get any better. So what is the deal? How could these students do better? I believe the answer is that though they were graded on quantity, they were still required to attend classes. In truth, they were still learning, not just practicing with old information.

        I have joined a group that is encouraging me to write at least five hundred words a day. That may seem like a lot and some days it is. The idea is to get the people in the group into the habit of writing some every day. If you think about it five hundred words a day can really add up. Over a month, 30 days, you would write 15000 words. In less than ten months you have yourself a novel! Maybe. 
See the problem is that if you can write words but if you aren’t learning as you go all you are doing is writing more of the same things you are writing now. If you're a Pro at grammar and at being a wordsmith then this is great news. You can get into the habit which will launch your writing career. If you have issues, well you have just produced a large amount of rewriting and editing. 

      So what is the answer? I think the answer is what these students did. They did both quantity work and went to class while they did. They didn’t just work, they learned and then they produced quality.  
As I was writing this I remember reading in a book that the key to success was not talent but something the author called deliberate practice. It wasn’t just practicing but working on the skills needed to reach your goal. He talked about sports figures spending time not on playing the game but on exercises that stretched them and made them better. The author talked about Benjamin Franklin taking apart the best literature works of his time and rewriting them in various fashions so he could become a better writer.     

       If you want to read more about the concept of deliberate practice I suggest (I looked it us)  reading Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from EverybodyElse by Geoff Colvin. I have read it a couple of times and have been inspired every time I read it. And if you're wondering what book I was reading of John Maxwell’s it was Attitude 101, a great little book that you can go through in one sitting. Though you might want to take a little longer and have a highlighter or pen handy. 

Whatever you do, keep growing.