Monthly Archives: January 2017

Memory Gospel

Nothing surpasses 

the feeling 

when your love

for All

surpasses your need

for self.

Accordingly,

let the stars 

guide as they

ever 

did, and may we

all

remember 

what we wanted

to be 

and

to do

Before 

the Fall.

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The Only Way

Too many explosions in my brain right now to get all of it down, but here is the punchline: we have to play to our strengths. I’m borrowing from Gary Vaynerchuk heavily right now, as his content currently rings most true across industries for me, but roughly a month ago I realized that I have not embraced true disruptions enough in recent years. Not just social, but creative, spiritual, physical, and mental disruptions. A few more. There is no thirty-year career and pension for me. There is no great fade. I’m not built that way.

The is only One Way, and it is this: we have to do what we should be doing. Most of us know what that is, or we are pretty sure we know. If we don’t know, we should be looking. Maybe we can make money from it. Maybe there is no money in it at all. We should do it anyway. For me, this has never been more relevant. 

Over the coming weeks, there will be a burst of energy streaming forth. Some of you may be put off by it. I apologize in advance. I’m really interested in bringing a few of you into my little world. Maybe some of you will give it a try (I hope you do). If not, that’s okay. 

Look for the signal.

Disruption: Mental, work

One action leads to another action, so physical disruption paves the way for mental disruption. Anyone who starts to really see what is supposed to happen (or how he or she is supposed to make something happen) knows: Disruption is clearly necessary.

On the drive to work this morning I worked myself into a minor fury, a small fit of indignation at what I considered to be menial tasks–little things that were only going to get in the way of my giant ideas. Luckily not long after I reached the peak of my rant, I came back down the other side of the mountain. I completed the stuff I didn’t want to do, morning job stuff, and at lunchtime I traveled east about twenty miles and had my mind blown.

My PD session was simple enough–more of an information session or an update, really– but the introductory presenter casually mentioned that Oculus Rift had been introduced into some Arkansan schools, and time sort of froze for a minute. I looked around the small room in which twenty of us were seated, and nobody else seemed to respond to that. The presenter continued, discussing early-release virtual learning software. At that point, I took the pen from behind my ear and closed my laptop to really give my attention to what exactly was going on. It occurred to me, in a very clear fashion, what was being communicated: there is a substantial amount of resources down here. Ridiculous. And some people know this, and some people don’t. I started trying to frame this new understanding, and something deep in my brain came to life regarding my current industry. I’m not going to lament numbers. I don’t care about free and reduced lunch. I don’t care about attendance. I don’t care about test scores. I have ammunition. For the first time in more than ten years, I have actual ammunition on this side of the fence. Lesson plans are gone for me, unit plans are gone for me, and curriculum mapping is just a resource for the teachers I am trying to help. Learning itself is now the big picture, and I get to facilitate it.

Literacy is not just for English teachers. Literacy is a specific term, but literacy is part of the fundamental understanding we have about a subject. Financial literacy. Political literacy (looking at you, angry Facebook posters). Psychological literacy. Investment literacy. Communicative. Intrapersonal. Digital. You get it. Literacy is everywhere, and we don’t know what to call it. In high school, literacy is often limited to reading and performance: decoding and comprehension and test scores, but it is oh so much more.

Grad school was my best disruption. “What do you want to learn?” is a simple question, but it was posed to me sincerely, and now it is my driving question. In my new office, it will be an interrogative sign and a mission statement, displayed right next to a weekly calendar showing my whereabouts. (Now that I am not in the classroom spending all of my time managing behavior and scheming how to reinvent the wheel, people think I’m employed in creative. I am okay with this.) I am not built to rinse-repeat. I really never have been.

Here is the beginning of the grand work reframing. Here is the mental disruption for which I wasn’t looking, but what found me instead: I want to help people read and write more effectively, and I want to do the same thing for myself. Learning doesn’t end. So, so simple. It’s a throwback to the beginning of why I even considered being a “teacher,” which I never truly was. I am a dreamer first, followed closely by being a communicator. The other roles just link up to those primaries at intervals, and they are always fluctuating. A pension is nonsense. Retirement from doing the same thing for three decades is nonsense. People are innovating every day, and whether or not we seek it out and embrace it is completely up to us.

Disruption: Mental, work edition activated.

 

Disruption: Physical

It has been one week since my official work responsibilities changed. Ten years of lesson plans and late-night grading sessions and “pressures” from various levels in an industry that doesn’t seem to want to succeed…all gone. It’s sort of miraculous. I woke up at my normal weekday-alarm time this morning, and instead of watching television or turning on the Xbox, I started thinking about what the people we admire have done to change themselves. I don’t mean celebrities, and I don’t mean the improbable success stories. I am talking about the people with whom we are in contact on a consistent basis. Real-life people, or, for those of you dividing your time between physical reality and cyber-reality, people IRL.

Today on Facebook I saw a Marine doing ab exercises that were clinically insane. Most of his movement involved a pull-up, but his core was so strong, he did all kinds of airwalks and anti-gravity stabilization-style stuff based on his abs, after he did the push-up. I found it amazing, and slightly ridiculous. However, I am not motivated by that. I am inspired by Holly, with whom I worked in possibly one of the most physically unhealthy environments around when I was in my early 20s–Mountaineer Casino. I worked night shifts, developed a taste for calorie-dense craft beer, and second-hand smoked an impressive amount, all while shuffling back and forth across a casino floor. Before I continue, let me clarify: I am not a victim of my environment, nor was I then. I’m just setting the stage.¬† That was quite a while ago.

I watched maybe thirty or forty seconds of the Marine’s workout until I moved on. I let my mind wander as I scrolled down the wall, I saw something from Holly, and I remembered a pic of when she ran a turkey trot in what seemed like god-awful weather (it’s 70 degrees in greater Little Rock as I type this), and I thought: here is someone who is doing. I messaged her and asked her a few questions about her motivation and what she does. Briefly, Holly didn’t feel great and after having children, her body wasn’t what she wanted. So she did something about it. Here is the best part: what she does is free. The catch? She does it. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Because we know each other, I asked her more questions, to kind of pick her brain a little bit, as everyone is different, but Holly is a motivator because she does it. Holly runs every day, lifts free weights, and does a little resistance training. She balances her workouts: some days are more running-intensive, and less strength/resistance-based. She keeps a workout log and keeps track of her food as well. I get excited when my phone shows that I covered more than two miles. For the day. Pitiful.

So, today is a day of doing. I’m not going to run six miles, as that would likely kill me, but I am taking a page from Holly’s book and starting an experiment on myself. I’ll let all of you in on it.

Holly, thanks for the information, and congrats on your transformation.

Mid-January

This week I was thinking of how quickly it all goes. When we’re not careful, thirty years have passed and we settle into retirement. I am not comfortable with this. I am not okay with just keeping my head down and my powder dry. There is too much to say. There is too much to show. In the last forty-eight hours, I have considered the following:

Rootofgood.com is a blog describing how a man retired at age 33. His wife retired not long after him, and although they have three kids, neither one of them broke the six-figure mark individually, yet the website describes in great detail how they saved more than 1.3 million in roughly ten years. Fascinating.

The amount of click-bait infused into a standard web-browsing experience is disconcerting. Yahoo has fallen mightily (and How!), but the last time I signed in, I was more than a little put off by how long I had to wait for the banner ads to load. All of us except for the few who entered marketing and advertising at the dawn of the Digital Age missed that boat. Most of us don’t realize the true extent of the barrage of modern advertising. How many ads did you ignore on your last five clicks? Exactly.

Unapologetically I have been nonstop absorbing Gary Vaynerchuk in his barrage of all current social media platforms. I’ll let you search and decide if he is for you, but I confess this: I haven’t listened to or read anyone like him. There is a positivity lurking just beneath a slightly vulgar exterior, and, truth be told, his proclivity for swearing is refreshingly honest for my consumer needs. I could give a shit about anyone else’s preferences.

Parting shot: I miss my Pittsburgh side-hustle. I miss it more than I thought I would. Seven years of additional food service (have I ever really left it, truly?) and the surreal and lucrative experience of cheesesteak slinging created a hole I cannot fill with intellectual pursuits. I need the comradery of The Line, and all the included shenanigans. 

Opportunities continue to arrive for me and mine, and I am excited to see what lurks. There is some sort of balance approaching. May we all embrace it.

Doomed Expedition 

One of the best scenarios ever is the Doomed Expedition. I gravitate toward any plot arcs that feature the mission destined to fail, or, better yet, the goal that can be reached, but only at such an extreme cost, it is hard to understand the value of that undertaking. Pyrrhic victories.

I think this resonates most with an audience sensitive to overwhelming odds, or to those susceptible to that little voice inside–that slim notion that suggests, “Do you think you can make it?” It’s an underdog setup, and to me, there is nothing more gratifying than the long shot. For what else are we here?

I have begun switching up my reading and my information consumption considerably over the last two weeks. Something has occurred to me: we aren’t coming back. This is it, kids. Seven-year-old Vince wasn’t riding his red BMX to the pool at Cannon Air Force Base, saying, “Boy, at 37 I hope I plateau in an industry designing its own demise. I can’t wait to settle for a mediocre salary and the slow death of my creative dreams.” And yet here we are. It’s a Doomed Expedition, but only if we close our eyes as the ride accelerates at the end. I have a tuck-and-roll loading.

The Doomed Expedition is one of the first stories I have begun to write for the book that is central. Essential. I have roughly thirteen vignettes set up so far, but I think the Story is so big that at some point, it is really going to write itself. All of you are part of it. You always were.