Top 40 Lessons

Well, it happened. I turned 40. I hope to have the opportunity look back in ten years and think about how “young” I was at this time. That’s how I feel about 30. 40 is whatever – in a good way. Things that used to bother me seem to roll off a little easier now, and I love how free that makes me feel. I’m thankful for the experience. I’m thankful for the learning too. I thought you might like to see some of my top lessons learned. This is not an all encompassing list. I’m excited to continue to grow and develop because thankfully, I’m not dead yet! Life is truly a gift, and I’m grateful for the moments.

  1. No one is thinking about you as much as you are thinking about you. When we come to understand that, we are liberated from worrying too much about what other people think.
  2. Life never turns out exactly the way we plan but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
  3. Being afraid isn’t a reason to do or not do something.
  4. When you look good, you feel good, when you feel good, you do good. This sounds superficial, but I find that when I feel better about how I look (how I’m taking care of myself), my confidence goes up and so does productivity and work performance. Take care of yourselves.
  5. Don’t spend five hours thinking about feedback that someone spent less than 5 minutes pondering before giving to you.
  6. It’s usually not as bad as you think. But when it is, refer to #1.
  7. No matter what it is, it’s rarely on time or on budget. Put some buffer in place and plan accordingly.
  8. There are few things that a few hours at the beach (or in nature) can’t heal a little bit. It’s lovely to be reminded of how small we really are in the end. Embrace it.
  9. Stop worrying about whether you or some aspect of your life is normal. There is no normal. As Todd Rose says, we all have jagged profiles. Except for that mole you’re worried about – get that checked. Jagged profiles and abnormalities are not great in the world of moles.
  10. People can’t read your mind. Be clear about what you want and need while being honest with yourself about where your feelings are coming from.
  11. If someone isn’t uncomfortable, we probably aren’t working on anything that matters.
  12. Proximity builds trust. One of the most important daily actions we take as leaders to be around people, share space, and connect.
  13. No kind word is too small. When you see good in someone, tell them with a genuine spirit and specificity. Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.
  14. We can learn something from every person we meet.
  15. Students are not empty vessels who show up to be filled up by us. They bring assets, insights, and interests to the table that can be leveraged to enhance our school ecosystems.
  16. If you don’t truly have to reply all, don’t reply all.
  17. Hard conversations are best had with the sound of the human voice. Even if someone addresses you via email, pick up the phone or schedule an in-person meeting when you can. Tone is too easily misunderstood in writing when things are tense.
  18. Sometimes, you have to say no to things to you can say yes to something else. Sometimes that something else is yourself. You do not need to set yourself on fire in order to keep other people warm.
  19. Books are great. We can learn a lot from books. We can learn even more from reflecting upon our own experiences and the experiences of others.
  20. Impact over intent.
  21. We need to center getting it right over being right.
  22. If we view situations as win lose, we’ve already lost.
  23. If you find a pest in your house, there is a good chance they moved in with their entire family.
  24. Let’s ensure that by saying “hire good people and get out of their way” – we don’t mean that we aren’t pouring into those people and nourishing their blooms.
  25. Often, people aren’t living up to their fullest potential because of the conditions we have created or allowed as leaders. One of our most important jobs as leaders is to cultivate environments where people can do their best work.
  26. Culture isn’t something we build with periodic events. It’s built every day in the small interactions with others and with great intentionality.
  27. Not everyone has to love our decisions. But it’s important at the end of the day, when we rest our heads on our pillows, we have peace knowing that we did what was best. Especially when it was what was best for kids.
  28. It’s not our job to make other people love us. That cannot make us more whole or a more happy person. We do not need to hustle for our worth. We are worthy of love and belonging whether other people see that or not.
  29. Words matters. Choose them thoughtfully.
  30. As Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind.” Artificial harmony does more harm than good long-term.
  31. If you eat too much pizza and ice cream in one sitting, it will make your heart race and make you feel disoriented.
  32. If you feel like you need encouragement, be an encourager. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
  33. When doing hard things, sometimes imagining yourself surviving the worst case scenario is a strategy for moving forward. When I picture myself getting fired, I often picture myself working at DSW for awhile and for some reason, that brings me peace. And happy thoughts about shoes.
  34. Rest is an important part of the work. Self-care is a community act. When we take care of ourselves, we are taking care of other people.
  35. It’s amazing what bringing food and putting on some music can do for a meeting and professional learning day. It signals to people that you care about them and thought about them in the moments leading up to your time together.
  36. Model what you want to see in the classroom. If you want teachers to greet students at the door and to use their names correctly, greet staff at the door and use their names correctly. If you want teachers to make learning interactive, ensure that teachers have the opportunity to interact with each other during your meetings.
  37. When it comes to vulnerability, great leaders go first.
  38. Admit when you make mistakes, learn from them, and make it right moving forward.
  39. People are more likely to support a plan they were a part of building. And plans get smarter with diversity of thought. Teachers, students, parents, community members, administrators – it’s amazing how smart the work gets when there is diversity of thought in the room. Students are one of the most underutilized resources in our schools.
  40. The most important work we do is the work we do on ourselves. Everything else is secondary.

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