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.

 

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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.


 

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Radio silence on my end for a few weeks as I have been watching too much television and overconsuming. Middle-of-the-night wake-ups and the nagging feeling of would-be subatomic reactions and neurological firestorms, but not necessarily paired with direct action. Somethingsomethingsomething Kinetic vs Potential, et cetera.

This is the part where I impart some wisdom. This is the part where we alter our behavior. This is the part where a string of words creates a chain reaction in you and in me and years from now we remember this as the high-water mark. This is the part where everything smoldering explodes in a brilliant supernova and you destroy your old life.

Modern angst getting you down? Check out Gary Vaynerchuk. Super random encounter online and long-dead circuits began whirring again. This terrible machine is alive. I will never let it die again.

Line in the (s)And

Esquire publishes “What I’ve Learned”–a collection of wit and wisdom from American icons. Some are more iconic than others. They are extended Top Ten lists, and mostly, they are great. 

However, it depends on the speaker. The voice of the Learned.

Every day I drive to work to a job that does not fulfill me, and I think about what I have learned. On the drive home, a similar pattern.

Disclaimers:

I’ve actively participated in CBT. I still do. I read voraciously. I am not pursuing my dreams right now. This is a holding pattern.

Today five of my favorite stayed after school to work ahead of their peers. They met the deadline others did not. Our easy laughter and their dedication to better themselves reminded me why this job matters, and why these moments count. Yet the draw remains. A mysterious pull towards an Other. It will be this way for a while.

November is ending again. This is the thirty-seventh one. December is a couple thousand miles, but the number of broken promises will be substantially fewer than before. 

There are yet a few things I have left to show you, friends. There is always more behind the curtain. Not just for me. For all of us. 

Draw your line. I’ll draw mine. Here: our fortifications.

Initiate Calming Voice


For today’s exercise we will be working with a simpler time in your life

As I count backward 

(Ten)

Focus on your breathing

Pay attention to the sound of the fan

Or to the heat breathing from the register

(Nine)

Start with your arms and legs

Really feel them 

Acknowledge the weight they carry

And still feeling how much they push everyday

(Eight)

Return your focus to the long exhalations

In through your nose

Slight hold

And

Back 

Out 

Again

(Seven)

You and resting perfectly still

And paying attention to your breathing

You notice that it is quiet

So incredibly quiet

When you want it to be

(Six)

All of the things you think about

Worry about

Struggle with

They

Aren’t 

Here

(Five)

You are breathing and 

Focusing

On how you want to feel

Each moment

(Four)

The insanity of the constant race

Does not affect you here

In your only true sacred place

(Three)

Here you are

Even

Balanced

Free

(Two)

To become whatever you wanted to be

Before the world swallowed you up

Or you let it eat you every

Single 

Day

By the choices you make

Remember 

As you continue to breathe slowly

Focusing on the gradual release

And the realization that

(One)

You create the world around you