School’s out Friday

I can so relate to what Shonda Rhimes is saying in this TED talk that was delivered at the TED Conference being held this week in Vancouver, Canada. In it, she talks about the hum of work, of being caught up in your career, of loving the work that you do. The dilemma occurs when the hum stops, when you realise the cost of the work, the relationships you sacrifice when the work takes over and you’ve lost sight of what truly matters.

I love work, always have. But this week my eyes are suffering, my husband has been calling me at 11.00pm telling me to tear myself from my computer to get some sleep and I can feel my amygdala moving into flight or fight response.

l know what my problem is. I want things to work. I hold myself responsible for a project’s success even though I know it is dependent on the will of all for it to succeed. I am giving my all to lead effectively and I know you can’t make everyone comfortable or happy about change. I know all of that, and the rational part of me can speak those words in my head, but the emotional and irrational part of my psyche ignores the logic.

Sleep. Rest. Family. Friends. Tonic for the soul. Give me a good dose this weekend. 🙂

Seth Godin’s lesson about balance

Many’s the time when I’ve made reference to the lessons Seth Godin has taught me. In very nearly every keynote presentation I’ve made, I’ve referred to Seth’s teachings.

SethGodinSeth Godin - change

 

I read his book, ‘The Dip‘ recently, and it helped me apply some strategic thinking to a situation I’d encountered. His biggest selling book, ‘Linchpin: Are you indispensable?’ is a book I revisit regularly. It’s taught me a lot about my purpose in an organisation and how I can best work to effect change. In a recent podcast I was interviewed for it was the book I said teachers should read, especially those working in leadership positions. His discussion in this book about the Amygdala, what he refers to as the ‘lizard brain’, has helped me understand my reactions in stressful situations and has allowed me to self analyse and adjust behaviour accordingly.

The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.”
Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

“The linchpin feels the fear, acknowledges it, then proceeds. I can’t tell you how to do this; I think the answer is different for everyone. What I can tell you is that in today’s economy, doing it is a prerequisite for success.”
Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

I’ve listened to some podcasts recently where Seth was interviewed (The Moment with Brian Koppelman, On Being) and some of the insights into his character and the way he protects his time and his personal wellbeing have been very insightful. Seth doesn’t allow comments on his blog and he doesn’t use Twitter other than to post links to latest posts he has written. The essence of what he was saying was that he would find this kind of engagement time consuming and potentially detrimental to his mental state. Instead, he blogs prolifically, relying on his own experience and beliefs and has become incredibly successful in the process. You’ve got to admire his approach and his commitment to pushing ideas out  – I know that I benefit greatly from what he is prepared to share.

Seth got me thinking about the things I don’t do that help me retain a semblance of balance in my life. You will note I use the word semblance, because there’s no way I’ve got this right. If I had it right, then I would be spending my evenings curled up in the pursuit of some form of relaxing hobby, not typing emails, thinking about the next day’s work or trawling through Twitter reading posts that expand my mind but often have me up way past anyone’s reasonable idea of bedtime.

So here’s what I don’t do.

I don’t participate in Twitter chats. I don’t have time to devote to a regular time slot and an hour spent trying to keep track of an often fast moving stream of people’s responses feels taxing.

I don’t attend TeachMeets. That’s not to say I never will, but most TeachMeets occur on weekends or after school in locations a fair distance from where I live. Weekends are a bit sacrosanct for me. I’m seeing my elderly parents, spending time with my husband and children and catching up with good friends. Oh, and yes, I’m trying to get my house in some sort of order too – not easy when you work full time. I think TeachMeets are a wonderful way of making connections and sharing great practice, but it’s a choice I’ve made not to participate in the interest of trying to attain that semblance of balance.

I don’t write on this Blog anywhere as frequently as I would like to. I love blogging – I love penning a post and feeling satisfied if I think I’ve shared something worthwhile. After starting a new job in July last year, I’ve really downed tools in this space and it’s something I do regret, but I’ve had to do what Seth does and find a way to preserve my head space and be kind to myself. This is my eighth year of blogging (actually, it’s the 8 year anniversary of this blog today – happy birthday blog!) and I’ve blogged consistently enough that there are posts in every month of that eight year period. Last year would have to be the year with the least amount of posts, but it’s also the year that marked the significant change of job so I’m going to cut myself a break on that one.

The reality for me is that learning about the impact of technology on our lives, and on the education space in particular, has become my hobby. I enjoy learning, something I’ve talked about in previous posts when I’ve described myself as an information junkie. Even driving to work for an hour doesn’t see me tuning out – I’m soaking up podcasts at a rapid fire rate and feeling better for it!

Balance is something I’m aspiring to – I’d like to be more relaxed and feel more in control of life, but it seems to be out of my grasp. I shared the following tweet last night in a discussion with Alice Leung about this very thing.

balance

What followed from this was a tweet from Georgia Constanti, who shared some research from Dr. Adam Fraser who discusses what he calls ‘The Third Space’ in the following video.

So, if what you do in between what you do really does make a difference, then I best be leaving the podcasts in the car ride home for another time. You do need to understand though, it is an hour long drive. Maybe if I give myself 20 minutes before turning a podcast on I might find that ideas have coalesced and I can find better ways forward to do my job well and achieve a greater sense of balance. It’s going to be hard though -have you ever listened to Guy Raz’s voice from the TED Radio Hour? Mesmerising. The car practically drives itself. An autonomous vehicle before its time, powered by the podcast. 😉

Where do you find the time for you?

I read an article in an education leadership journal today that talked about the need for teachers, and especially those who hold demanding leadership positions, to take time out of each day to step away from the job and do something just for you.

It brought back to me a moment recently that really did make an impact.

The family had been bugging me – nagging me quite frankly – to sign up to Netflix. So after 90 minutes on the phone one evening renegotiating a contract with Telstra and extricating us from some pretty banal Foxtel content, out came the computer and Netflix entered our lives.

Screenshot 2015-05-04 22.46.45

(And yes, I have shamelessly grabbed this image off Google image search – link here –  because it is perfect for this post and none of the CC pics for my search ‘Netflix monster’ pulled in anything worth using. And yes, it is 10.49pm at night, and I’m too tired to spend hours finding a CC image that’s worthy. Sorry Lawrence Lessig.)

You would have thought the Messiah had entered the room, such was their delight when the realisation struck that I had signed up for the four screens deal and everyone could be viewing different content at the same time. Yes, it was that kind of moment – open mouths, devices switched on and the hunt for the perfect program was on.

Now, I’m no longer a television watcher – there’s no time for that. I’m present, but my mind is elsewhere, either tackling work for school or watching the twitter stream with it’s endless links to interesting content roll by. I can keep my head around some reality television offerings, because you can dip in and out and there’s a part of me that likes prying. But for the most part, television represents too big a commitment. I’m too busy to invest in a space that requires me to tune in at specific times and stay the course.

But I did wonder about this Netflix thing, so into the world I entered.

I could feel the pull as soon as the personalised suggestions started scrolling across the screen. There was ‘Rainman’ a film I haven’t seen for more than 20 years, but one I’d really enjoyed and have wanted to see again. In the next view, a bunch of series I’ve heard people talk about were tempting me, drawing me in, promising me hours of quality immersion into worlds far removed from mine. I succumbed.

I watched the first episode of ‘Call the Midwife’, and I knew this was a relationship I needed to sever. I had to cut the umbilical cord connecting me to Netflix and the temptations within. You see, I really don’t think I can let myself loose in a space like that, where entertainment flows at the command of your fingertips. It comes at a cost, and the cost to me is time spent learning, time spent feeding the information junkie part of me that is sustained on a diet of content that feeds my mind and sets the synapses into overdrive. ‘Call the Midwife’ would entertain me, but would it feed my soul and set the synapses spinning?

Somehow, I think maybe I need to find the nice middle ground in all of this, and the article I referred to earlier made that pretty clear. Netflix isn’t the answer, as I discovered when my husband tuned into ‘The Killing’ and I lost four hours one afternoon before I threw my hands in the air and declared that I really couldn’t do this. He could, and devoted large swathes of his life over the next week to unravelling plot twists until he finally declared freedom from Netflix’s tangled web when all four seasons had been consumed.

Maybe it’s walking, maybe it’s reading novels, maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s none of this, and maybe I need to come to terms with the fact that maybe it doesn’t matter, because I enjoy immersion in spaces that other people think replicate work.

Maybe I just need to be at peace with me.

 

Is it just me?

Yeah, why would they?

When a group like Invisible Children launch an online campaign that ignites teenagers to think of a cause outside of their Facebook stream, they face criticism “…for not spending enough directly on the people it intends to help and for oversimplifying the 26-year-old conflict involving the LRA and its leader, Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.” Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2109711,00.html#ixzz1rddVuoy9

The narrator of their video, Jason Russell, suffered a psychotic episode, with this explanation offered from his wife, Danica Russell.

“Doctors say this is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through in these last two weeks. Even for us, it’s hard to understand the sudden transition from relative anonymity to worldwide attention — both raves and ridicules, in a matter of days,” Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2109711,00.html#ixzz1rde5gjQa

Meanwhile, Kevin Systrom, founder of Instagram, a marketer who learned to code at night, has had this said about him on a TNW post.

Instagram‘s CEO, Kevin Systrom, will go down in history as one of the greatest Silicon Valley success stories of our generation.

Is it just me, or does the world seemed skewed? When people trying to do something to make the world better receive criticism, and people who make a photo sharing app are lauded as success stories, then I think we need to do some re-evaluation of our priorities.

But maybe that’s just me.

Connected, and conflicted

Last night, I went to a free screening of Connected, An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology. Thanks Hamish Curry for organising the event. The film’s creator is Tiffany Shlaine, and she is someone well versed in the workings of the web. Tiffany founded the Webby awards fifteen years ago, but today concentrates her efforts on film-making. Interestingly, for me anyway, her film echoed a lot of my thinking about the nature of being connected.

I’ve mentioned, more than a few times here, the transformational effect being connected has had on my life. There is little doubt in my mind that I am richer for it, in a soulful sense, certainly not monetary! I feel energised when I’m learning new things from all the network nodes I’m connected to. I know how easy it is to lose yourself in the Twitter stream, but also how enriched you can feel when your brain is firing and possibilities are stretching out before you. What comes with this is the desire to stay on top of things, to be ahead of change. You quickly realise this is impossible, that you would need to be looking at a device 24/7 and even then you wouldn’t have a hope of covering everything that is happening.

Tiffany begins the film with an anecdote, featured at the beginning of this trailer.

Hey, I’ve been there. Some would stay I’ve never left that state. But I know better. In my early days of immersion, I’d sit amongst friends in conversation and find my mind wandering. The desire to switch on my phone and check my networks was intense, almost like a primal need. I found myself connected to the network, and disconnected from long term friends, even family. It seemed that they didn’t understand, they weren’t part of what was in my immediate field of interest. None of them grasped the magnitude of my new discovery.

In that state, I longed for opportunities to find real time face to face meet ups with the people in my network, and I thought I would find myself content in their presence. While that was true with some people, what I also discovered was that many of the people I met were distant, introspective, or even people who just weren’t all that friendly face to face. What is obvious to me now but wasn’t then is that my network mirrored real life. It is a human network, populated with all variants of the human condition.

This year, I have been conflicted. I made a conscious decision to back off with my immersion. I still truly value my network, and continue to find it the place where I am energised and excited about possibilities. But what I have found is that I have reconnected with those in my immediate sphere, my close friends and family. I value the time I spend with them, and remain present for longer periods than I did in the past. The sky hasn’t fallen, my connection with an already established network is still strong, and I feel more at peace with my world.

Like Tiffany’s tale, it was a watershed moment that led to me resetting priorities. When you face adversity, true friends and connections come to the fore, and some leave you hanging. I am so grateful to my immediate close friends and family who rallied and made sure my family and I were OK. The same can be said of true friends in my network, people who have taken time to look beneath the surface and see what lies there.

Although I can say I am more at peace with myself, I remain conflicted to some degree about backing off the network. I haven’t put my hand up this year to present at conferences, and I have to admit to feeling a degree of performance anxiety when I see others pushing themselves out there. It is my dream to live this work, to find a way to do it all the time, not just part of my time.

So, I will remain connected, and to some extent, conflicted. But I will do so knowing that it is not at the expense of the relationships that matter most.

Sometimes, Twitter raises my stress levels

One thing I’ve noticed during this holiday break, is that increased access to Twitter is raising my stress levels.

Why, I hear you asking?

During the working week, my exposure to Twitter is infrequent. I read and share when I can, and that’s usually at the end of a working day. I just don’t have time to check in regularly at work, unless I’m seeking information to help us solve an issue. Holidays afford me the leisure of watching the stream more frequently throughout the day, but I’m noticing the obsessive hold it can have on you. What comes with the stream is the need to read more, to engage with the content, to think. I’m supposed to be relaxing, and instead my mind is racing as I think about the recent changes to Facebook and what that might mean for our students, the release of the Kindle Fire, Seth Godin’s thoughts about  the forever recession and the coming revolution, and just what on earth is Google Gravity?

Maybe it’s because I’d found what I thought was a kind of balance in my life in recent times, that this imbalance seems to make my heart and mind race.

I know the answer. Tune out. Check in at set times. Don’t constantly watch the stream. All things I’ve told myself before, but I think I need reminding…

Welcome 2011, Luca style.

Like many others, my family and I discovered the delights of the television program, Modern Family, last year. We looked forward to our weekly dose of hilarity, and my daughter watched episodes on her computer and told us all the funny bits before we’d even seen them.  If you know nothing about the series, then I encourage you to visit the US abc site and read about it, or if you live in the United States, watch the latest episode online there.

What I like about it is that you can relate to the idiosyncrasies that make up what being part of a family is. There are days when I feel like I’m part of the series, as my family traverses the ups and downs of modern life. I experienced a couple of moments today, and for something a little different, I thought I’d share with you why I love being a part of the Luca household.

My husband is a guy who really can’t relax. Seriously. When he does, he’s always on at me about what we’re going to do next. He’s on holidays at the moment, and was already scratching around for something to do by the end of Boxing Day. Our laundry was the one room of the house that still had the floor tiles that had been laid in the early 1970’s. Conjure up an image of hideous maroon coloured tiles with brown grout and you get the picture. He’s been wanting to have a go at it for years, and I finally said “Go for it”, when I realised he’d have me on a schedule of ‘let’s do something’ if he didn’t have a project on the go. Five minutes after the go ahead, he was ripping up that floor like a man possessed.

Suffice to say, less than three days later, we have very nicely laid laminate wooden flooring and have probably seen our house value increase as a result. Here’s a picture of my very happy husband after he’d laid the last board.

Here’s a clearer shot of what the floor looked like.

Pretty impressive stuff. Now, what’s next on his holiday to do job list I wonder!

My daughter has spent the last few days cocooned in her room reading. This is a girl who eighteen months ago wouldn’t open a book willingly to read one. I was always lamenting the fact that here I was, a librarian, who could inspire other kids to immerse themselves in literature, but I couldn’t get my own kid reading. Well, I have Stephanie Meyer to thank for my daughter’s penchant for the printed word now. Yes, she was yet another, lured into the compelling grip of the Twilight series. Right now, she’s devoured all of John Marsden‘s, ‘Tomorrow’ series, and she’s moved onto ‘The Ellie Chronicles‘. I better have something ready in the wings, because the last book will be blown away by midday tomorrow I’m guessing!

My son has spent most of the last few days watching episode after episode of Modern Family. Yes, we got the series for Christmas, and he is practically reciting the scripts now. He’s also been scouring YouTube for interviews with cast members and has discovered a vast array of background information about the actors that he’s been sharing with us all on a regular basis. I think his immersion is having an impact, because he created his own Modern Family incident today that the screenwriters should use in my opinion.

Picture this. My husband and I were at Bunnings, a large hardware store that you find scattered throughout all Australian suburbs. It’s like a giant shed with rows and rows of hardware, housing and garden needs. We’d left the kids in the car; they’re not little, and it wasn’t a particularly hot day. We were wandering down the silicon aisle, debating whether we buy clear or coloured silicone, when we heard a loud voice calling, ‘Paul and Jenny Luca. Where are you?’ Not just once, it was over and over, and for us, it was recognisably our son’s voice. We called out, but he obviously couldn’t hear us, so we ran up aisles trying to locate him. Finally I saw him running in the opposite direction to us, so using my loudest teacher voice, I called his name. He heard, as did every other person in Bunnings, many who were looking at us strangely by this stage. He was flustered, but managed to let us know that the car alarm had gone off and he needed the keys to stop it. And here I was, thinking something had happened to my daughter or someone had run into our car in the carpark! At this stage, both of us were relieved, but we couldn’t refrain from laughing at the whole situation. Our son is a kid who doesn’t shy away from things, and here was yet another example of him doing what needed to be done, and doing it the most effective way he knew how, regardless of the embarrassment of running full pelt into a store and shouting out like your own personal loudhailer for someone’s attention.

I love my family. I love them for their individual qualities, and the way they all make my life special every day. I especially love them for the way they support me in all I do. Anyone who writes a blog and engages in online networks will know that it does pull you away. You can be in the same room as your family, but you’re not really there. You’re reading a twitter feed, jumping to the next link, thinking of what you might write about, how what you’re reading might impact on your teaching. You’re present in one sense, but not necessarily present where it matters most. My idiosyncrasies that have emerged over the last three years have had an enormous impact on the life of my family, and I love them for putting up with me and tolerating the long hours hunched over a keyboard and staring at a screen.

So, will 2011 see me pull back and give more of myself to them? I hope so, but fear I can’t deliver on that. I have a huge year ahead of me with work, and if all goes well, I think we will do some truly exciting things for our students this year. But to do what needs to be done is going to require huge investments of my time, and to top it off,  I’m responsible for the opening of a new library on my return to school. There are challenges ahead, and I will need to find that work/life balance that ensures I don’t lose sight of the people who matter most.
I’m betting I’m not the only one contemplating this at the start of the new year. How do we do what we do well, without damaging the relationships that keep us anchored? If you know the answer, fill me in on that one, won’t you? I’d appreciate it. : )