Amor Fati

Amor Fati means love one’s fate.

Friedrich Nietzsche created the idea.

“That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

When life is going good Amor Fati is easy. All’s good. No reason to regret anything. Loving life.

When life starts throwing challenges at you that’s when Amor Fati becomes difficult.

But if you read Nietzsche’s quote carefully he doesn’t say love your fate when it’s easy. He says “one wants nothing to be different.”

Everything happens for a reason. We may not be able to see or comprehend it at the time, but the reason is there.

Bad things will happen. That’s inevitable. Why try to pretend they won’t?

We would all love life to go our way all the time. That’s not reality.

“Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy.” – Epictetus

As much as we try, we do not control what happens to us. We only control our response to what happens.

Why be miserable? It is what it is, and it will be what it will be.

Life is too short not to love that you are alive.

Every day is a gift. Even the bad ones.

Longing

Longing for what?

Days gone by? That may or may not have been so great.

Or a future of greatness? That may or may not come true.

Too much of the first brings on depression of things you cannot change.

Too much of the second brings on anxiety of things you cannot control.

You need to let go of who you were so that you can become who you want to be.

Longing is not a bad thing. It can be the driver to make your life better.

It can be the driver to create the goals that move you forward in life.

Long to be better each day. Long to be more humble. Long to be more empathetic. Long to be more wise. Long to be more understanding.

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be, be one.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, X.16

Focus on making your life better, by being better. Not on external factors that you cannot control.

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things that are beyond the power of our will.” – Epictetus, Enchidrion, 1

When Is It Enough

“For men in a state of freedom had thatch for their shelter, while slavery dwells beneath marble and gold.” – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, Letter XC

We are all chasing more “marble and gold” but in that chase we are less free. The simpler life is freeing.

We are tethered to devices that make us accessible 24/7/365. We can’t spend 5 minutes with our own thoughts without reaching for our phones.

We complicate our own lives. Rather than living simply we chase things that are unnecessary: likes, comments, etc.

The shot of dopamine is too enticing.

“We were born into a world in which things were ready to our hands; it is we who have made everything difficult to come by through our own disdain for what is easily come by.” – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, Letter XC

We complicate our own lives. Rather than being happy with what we have, we want more.

More what?

“[T]o want simply what is enough nowadays suggest to people primitiveness and squalor.” – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, Letter XC

We need to learn to be happy with what we have, not always searching for what we don’t.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals or aspirations. We need to learn to be patient and to be satisfied with what we have now.

You are enough. You don’t need to impress people. You don’t need to have a million followers.

If you are pursuing your best life that is enough. Set goals for your self. Take calculated risks. Some will pan out others won’t.

That’s ok. Life is about trying new things, growing from our mistakes. It’s about being the best version of yourself.

Just as you are, you are enough.

Complaints

Complaining has become so engrained in our culture it is almost second nature.

The difference between complaining and pointing out problems is your willingness to do something about it.

Many people are unwilling to do the hard work to fix what is broken. It is just easier to complain and hope that someone else will come along and fix it.

“Don’t be overheard complaining … Not even to yourself.” – Marcus Aurelius

But if no one is willing to step up, how will anything change?

It takes courage to be willing to put yourself out there to change something for the better. It is the natural reaction of every human being to resist change.

Change is hard. Change is scary. The status quo is comfortable. But what if the status quo is not working?

In our society it hasn’t just become status quo to complain but to attack anyone willing to step up to fix a problem. We have become close minded to the possibility that we may not have all the answers.

When did it become passé to help a friend, a neighbor, hell, even a stranger. Now we’d rather just complain about THEIR problems behind their back.

How do we turn this ship around?

We need to become more compassionate, more forgiving of the mistakes of others.

Use the energy you use to complain to find a solution. Every problem has a solution. It may not be quick. It may not be easy. But it’s out there if you look for it.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly …and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Book Review: Developing the Leader within You by John Maxwell

The past two years have been difficult to say the least. It doesn’t matter what your position is in your school district, your leadership has been challenged. You have probably not only questioned your own abilities. You have questioned your future in education. I know both of those doubts have crept into my own thinking. In times like these you need a reminder of why you do what you do and how best to accomplish your mission as a leader

Developing the Leader within You was that reminder for me. Whether you are an aspiring leader, a leader with a few years under your belt, or have held leadership positions for decades, this book can provide you with a renewed perspective on why you do what you do and how to do it better. John Maxwell takes the perspectives of leaders from all walks of life and provides his own fresh insights to inspire you to not just manage your organization but lead your people.

The underlying premise of the book is that influence is the cornerstone of leadership. You cannot be a leader without followers. You cannot have followers if you don’t have influence. To gain influence you must “communicate effectively. This leads to recognition and recognition in turn leads to influence” (p. 5). The chapters in the book provide you with the awareness into the ideas that help you grow your influence with your followers.

These ideas resonated with me the most:

  • Priorities – During the pandemic our priorities have been skewed to fighting fires rather than furthering our mission. This chapter was a great reminder that we have to set our own priorities and not let them be influenced by outside forces. “All good leaders have learned to say no to the good in order to say yes to the best” (p. 32).
  • Integrity – We have all had to make difficult, often unpopular decisions, during the pandemic. Integrity is what leads us all to make those difficult decision for the greater good, even in the face of severe criticism. “The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he would never be found out. – Thomas Macauley” (p. 43).
  • Creating Positive Change – Things have changed over the last two years. We were forced into making changes that we may not have made without the situation at hand. One of the biggest issues in education is the snail’s pace at which positive change occurs. We have to learn from the recent past to continue moving education forward without being forced to by our circumstances. “Elbert Hubbard said that the greatest mistake a person can make is to be afraid of making one” (p. 58).
  • Problem Solving – There has never been a more important skill right now. Problems are thrust upon us on a daily basis. Problems that demand solutions. As leaders it is our responsibility to empower others to solve problems for themselves. “Problems should be solved at the lowest level possible, because that is where they appear” (p. 91).
  • Attitude – There is an old saying that attitude will determine your altitude. Moping, whining, crying out about the unfairness of things will not solve the problem at hand. It will only make you feel worse, and you still have to deal with whatever you are going through. “God chooses what we go through. We choose how we go through it” (p. 105).

This book gave me a renewed understanding of why I do what I do and how I can do it better. I got into education to make a difference in the lives of young people. They, more than any of us, have struggled to find their footing through these challenging times. We must always remember that every decision that we make has a direct impact on the students. Therefore it is imperative that we recapture our why and push forward with helping our children become good citizens of this challenging world.

Originally published American Association of School Personnel Administrators Blog

You can’t force children to learn.

“[Y]ou can’t force kids to learn. You can only inspire them to do so.” – David Perrell, Monday Musings, 8/17/20

Why do we continue to try to force children to learn?

We can blame state testing, but that is a cop out. It’s been going on since I was in HS. I grew up in an era where the only high stakes testing was the SAT.

I grew up hating English class. I disliked reading and writing. I came to realize that I hated reading and writing what the teacher wanted me to read and write.

I remember only one project in HS English. We had to do a poetry study. We could choose anyone we wanted. I chose Jim Morrison, partly out of being a smart ass. “I’m going to show her. No stuffy poets for me.” But also because I love music. There is not a day in my life that I don’t listen to music for at least 1 to 2 hours.

The book I used was Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison. What I realized during the project was that I really didn’t hate poetry. I hated the poets that we were required to read.

It was English for me, but it is another subject for someone else. The point is that unless we try to get students personally involved in the content they will shut us out in subjects that they don’t like.

Personalizing your course content is not easy. It requires much more planning, and is much more difficult to execute. But isn’t the payoff worth it?

We all feel our content is important, and it is. We all get upset when students blow off our work. If we want students to work within our content areas we have to help them see the usefulness of what we teach.

It is important that students learn how to think differently. Tackling a problem scientifically is different that tackling it mathematically or historically. The problems aren’t getting easier so being able to approach them from many different angles will be important to solving them.

So if students blow off your class because they are not interested then how are you helping them develop their problem solving skills?

Powerful Learning First, Technology Second

This is the title of chapter 9 in George Couros’s book The Innovator’s Mindset. Many people feel that technology is the answer. The answer to inequity. The answer to reopening schools. I disagree. Technology is a tool. How we use technology is part of the answer.

“Giving kids iPads or allowing them to film homework assignments on YouTube prepares them for the high-technology economy about as much as playing with Hot Wheels would prepare them to thrive as auto mechanics. “ – Cal Newport, Deep Work

We have to get away from using iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, etc. as expensive replacements for the worksheets many teachers rely on. This is where the powerful learning comes in. We, as educators, have to design experiences that allow students to think critically, collaborate, and create. Even more powerful than that, let the students design the learning experiences.

“And yet educators at schools where personalized learning is viewed as an overarching philosophy, rather than a digital panacea, say that adapting to the pandemic has been relatively painless, and that students are continuing to progress in their studies. The key difference between their approach and the popular narrative around personalized learning is that these educators have built their schools around the idea of student agency.” – Ainsley Harris, “Learning Gets Personal,” Fast Company, September 2020.

We have no choice but to give students more freedom in their learning. Students will be home either every day, three times per week, or every other day for at least the near future. We cannot assume that how we engaged students before will work now. In many cases what we were doing before wasn’t working any way.

We need to leverage the technology to make education better. We have to teach students to be creators. For that to happen our teachers need to be creators. It’s not enough that they move their PowerPoints to Google and provide a Form at the end of the lesson as an assessment. We need to fundamentally rethink what and how we educate our students.

We have an opportunity to remake education, so that our students now and in the future come out of this stronger, not weaker than before. Powerful Learning before technology.

Empowerment

All three of the ideas I have spoken about in my last three blog posts, passion, inquiry, and understanding, have brought me to this final idea of empowerment. Wouldn’t now be the right time to empower teachers and students to remake education into what it could and should be?

You might say: Now? The right time? With all the uncertainty? Well there never is a right time. We always wait until the right time, but it never comes. We push things off because it’s not the right time, and then guess what nothing ever happens. But isn’t now as good a time as any?

Uncertainty is the rule, not the exception. It’s how we respond to the uncertainty that matters. That is a major tenet of Stoicism. We need to make teachers and students feel safe in taking risks in adjusting their teaching and learning in response to this uncertainty.

Whether we are in schools or in remote learning, the only people who really know what is going on in any classroom are the teacher and the students. Shouldn’t we empower them to make the decisions that are best for them?

We must allow them to use their passions to make classrooms and learning relevant. Empower them to look at curriculum through their lens and make adjustments that personalize the learning to them.

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.” – Simon Sinek via The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros

We also must encourage our teachers and students to question everything. Powerful questions are what drives innovation in any industry. Teachers and students should be asking questions that further their own teaching and learning. They are at the ground level of what can be done to make our classrooms, either virtual or in person, better.

“You don’t have to hold a position of authority to ask a powerful question.” – Polly Le Barre via A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

If teachers and students are encouraged to us their passions and ask their own questions, they will develop a deeper understanding of whatever they are studying. They can use that understanding to push education forward toward what we envision: equity in opportunities for all children. They will also be happier in the process. What will you do this year to empower teachers and students to make education better?

“I encourage you to commit to empowering the people you serve to be part of the process of finding and solving problems.” – George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset