There Are Many Ways

July 15, 2010 Leave a comment


Last week, Melinda and I had the honor of working with this year’s cohort of aspiring urban school principals participating in the New Leaders for New Schools program.  It was awe inspiring and heart warming to meet these accomplished educators who are now putting their classroom successes to the test by striving to take on instructional leadership of a challenging urban public school and raise student academic achievement across the board.

Our work was to help the New Leaders develop and strengthen skills that would serve them in putting together and managing their leadership teams.    While focusing on meeting design, we talked about how important it is to avoid simply inheriting old practices and meeting culture that may be dysfunctional or deadening.  To honor people’s time and energy, it behooves leaders to be thoughtful and strategic with respect to when and how they convene them and to what end.  As we discussed the myriad options for creating a group experience, one participant stood up and said, “We really have to get ourselves out of the box to do this work!”  Indeed.

As a way of opening my mind and reminding myself of the many ways that exist for engaging others, I have turned from time to time to a passage from a book that I’ve been slowly digesting for the past few years – Guy Murchie’s The Seven Mysteries of Life.  This robust exploration of science and philosophy, which took the author 17 years to complete, constantly highlights the creativity that underlies this world of ours.  Here is what he writes as part of his coverage of the amazing animal kingdom:

“Heat adaptation being vital to the diverse thousands of species of desert animals, it is not surprising that they have evolved a wide variety of drought strategies such as the spade-foot toad’s way of sleeping through the driest months in a burrow sealed with his own jelly, the zebra’s sniffing out and digging wells in dry stream beds, the tortoise’s storing of a summer’s supply of water in two sacs under his upper shell, the elf owl’s quenching of thirst with wet spiders, the rabbit’s sipping cactus water while radiating body heat from his giant ears, the deer’s cooling himself with belches, desert birds nesting not according to sun declination but at the coming of rain, the bats that fly each spring to a cooler clime.  And there are at least twenty species of desert fish swimming in the permanent oases, lungfish that sleep through long droughts caked in dried mud, eels that slither through wet grass at night from well to well, and dozens of kinds of shrimps creeping and wiggling in brief puddles all over the desert after a rare downpour who, before drying up, lay eggs that can wait for decades, perhaps centuries, in the parched salty soil to hatch whenever the next rain comes.”

Life reminds us that there are so many ways to respond, adapt, and be proactive, and that our tendency to think small can be our biggest limitation.  How do you get yourself out of the box and stop yourself from falling back on tried and perhaps not so true ways?

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