Notes to My Kids… Or Mindset Work.

Most mornings, my kids will find a note from me: thoughts, questions, and challenges. 

How did this start? Why did this start? When do you find the time to write these? How do you come up with these? 

Because I post many of these to my Instagram account, I get a lot of these questions so here you go:

How and Why Did This Start?

Honestly, it started from my failure as a father. Because I was not seeing my children in the morning and then at times not at all, I was not engaging in the meaningful conversations with them that I value. As a morning person and someone that thinks the entire time of the day is set within 60 minutes of rising, I became frustrated with myself as a father.

Like all things that disturb me, I go to work on them. I tried a few things that failed miserably: calling each morning, kissing them goodbye, and so forth.

But then a former student contacted me about how he was using two things from my time as an English teacher: BOHA and StoryLab. He, of course, has made them considerably better and more meaningful but he also sparked in me that, “duh… Why am I not doing this with my children.”

When do you find the time to write these? 

I write these all the time

  1. when the thoughts of my children emerge. The story in my head is often most readily connected with pieces that need to be cultivated. These tend to be reflective.
  2. when doing light cardio at the gym. My head is often clear and focused so I can be concise. These tend to be rather intense!
  3. when reading books and articles. These tend to be deep and inquisitive.
  4. and often at random times. These tend to be emotional.

In other words, I write a lot and on any random scrap of paper or phone app. I don’t tend to edit or revise; I keep it raw. 

How do you come up with these?

Experiences and my daily work on cultivating a better me. These are deeply personal and deeply raw, but I am wanting my children to be comfortable with chaos, emotions, growth, and vulnerability. This is a way to model.

Some might say they are too young or not cognitively ready. I’d argue this is the perfect time and example upon example shows me this mindset work is growing them in deeply profound ways.

Discover Each Student’s Story

All people have a story within a story, a tale of…

  • Needs
  • Barriers
  • Opportunities
  • Growth potential
  • Strengths 
  • Dreams
  • Failures 
  • Hopes
  • Disappointments

Our ability to understand the power of the individual story through all of our senses unlocks our ability to connect, feel empathy, and build a relationship.

And this allows for a bridge… A bridge to helping unlock human potential. When people feel they are heard and really listen to, the human condition is maximized allowing them to engage more, open up more, and explore more paths. Just think about a time you actually listened and heard someone’s story!

People light up when he or she is heard. As an educator, I can think of few things more important than hearing and knowing the story within the story of each student in your room. Listen with heart (feelings) , mind (ideas and opportunities) and body (cues).

From there, the connective and emotional bridge opens up growth of self and community. Invest in stories! 

Why Improv Creates Creative Chaos  for a Compassion Classroom

When I think about why I find it so valuable to bring improvisation to the classroom even to the point that I commit time during new teacher orientation week, it is about aligning our actions with our stated beliefs. Too many times, we talk at our teachers about things we believe but we never help shift them to action nor do we ourselves model those aspects.

Improv is a lever that provides pragmatic strategies, philosophical belief growth, and organizational values grounding.

  1. Mindsets
  2. Mindfulness, Mind-Body-Heart
  3. Courage – Creativity – Community
  4. Play, Fun, and Happiness
  5. Engagement and Movement
  6. Voice and choice 
  7. Growth minded
  8. Risk-taking
  9. Empathy 
  10. Agility, Assessment, and Reflection

These are just a few of the themes that emerged from working with teachers on improv. And many of these themes are what we say we want and believe to be important in the classroom. Improv work allows us to discuss these themes in pragmatic ways that make these deeply philosophical topics more digestible with ways to shape the classroom immediately.

Today, a partner and I continue our journey of reimagining learning and teaching using out of box, “noneducation” ways to approach key themes. Improv was one catalyst that evoked conversations in the aforementioned areas at an empathic, thoughtful way unlike years of conversation that seem surface levels.

Ideas flew at the end of how to use improv for all of the above BUT also the experience pushed them to reimagine practices that were counter to deep learning experiences.

Rethink. Reimagine. Get beyond education to create a new education!

Begin Mindset Work Young

I’m wrestling with the influence of society on human performance and mindsets. Very quickly, we come to believe we lack the gifts/talents/skills/intelligence which leads us to 

  1. develop and HEAR self-destructive language 
  2. Value complacency and settling
  3. Dismiss our dreams as possible 
  4. Shift to coping with what life gives 
  5. Buy into social expectations 
  6. Become change averse
  7. Live with fear 
  8. Talk without action 

So I continue to engage my children in deeply philosophical and growth driven discussions. At the same time, I am now pressing them for action to anchor these lessons. Some people say they are too young to discuss, engage, and utilize these lessons.

While I don’t know for sure, I can’t help but believe that I can counter the norm if I 1) engage them here 2) model for them these conversations and 3) monitor myself in relation to their lives.

Here are two examples from Today

From my son as we drove to practice:

Me: what does it mean if you fail?

Finn: I’m still learning and not there yet. You never stop! 

Me: Will I be mad at you for failing?

Finn: Only if I give up or stop learning from it.

Me: will you fail at something today? 

Finn: No!

Me: If you do, what will you do?

Finn: hmmm…

Me: what could you ask your coach?

Finn: oh! How do I work on that area I failed!

Me: right on!

Before that at breakfast

Mac(19): talking about ISU

Fae (6): I want to go to @IllinoisStateU

Me: want or will- is there a Diff?

Fae: Will means I am – want means I might

Me: So…

Fae: I will! 

Oddly, this is the first time I’ve heard her use “want” instead of the assertive, positive language “will”. As we age, our declarative statements shift to these external hope and passive statements … I want… I’d love… Wouldn’t it be great…

As we enter into a new school year, I’m

constantly reminded of the paradox that exist between what we define as important and the actions we take to get there. This mindset work at any age along with the cultivation of social-emotional habits, dispositions, and skills through engaging, immersive experiences is where our work should sit. In other words, the growth of -self for maximum human performance. 

So what will be our work this year? What will be our driving focus? 

Will we think in terms of discipline? Content? Grades? Standards?


Will we focus on the cultivation of self? Human centric growth? Curiosity and Passions? Play and joy? All of the things that foster the mindsets needed to #livelaughlove for life and continuing growing!

Finding And Centering Around Your Purpose

Finding And Centering Around Your Purpose

I get a lot of questions about why I do all the things I do, why I can’t just be one thing, how do all these different interests link, etc.. All good, genuine questions.

Let me try and explain how I centered around my passions, which I believe can help everyone!

There are questions and there are life focus points that can help you find your true north:

  1. Where do you put your effort? 
  2. What’s your purpose? 
  3. What is a meaningful life? What is a life worth living? 
  4. What is your pursuit? 
  5. What gives you meaning? 
  6. What brings you joy (not happiness)?
  7. What’s your cause? 
  8. What’s your belief? 
  9. Why does your organization exist? 
  10. Why do you get out of bed in the morning? 
  11. How do you measure yourself? And why should anyone care? 

I believe in the need to discover a deep sense of purpose for one’s life. These questions help one center themselves to a purpose. Then one must not only believe it but live and work for it daily on fulfilling that purpose! As Terry Orlick eloquently proclaims, “The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, or gives you a sense of meaning, joy, or passion.”

 Define your horizon and anchor to it by exploring sparks, engaging curiosities, paying attention to where energy flows, and growing ideas. Passions will emerge and then you are free, you are born. If you don’t know, begin removing the things that aren’t/don’t.

Chasing and growing from my sparks, curiosities, adventures, and experiences has created a unique and diverse passion set. But… it has created an intersection that is my path, my vision, my obsession. My quest is the intersections of those many strange and unique passions (including a foodie!!): I want to be a blueprint for how one maximizes human potential in the area of mind, body, heart, and self – to help everyone #LevelUp. If I can learn with and help grow all of those around me, we can collectively rewire the human condition. Obsessed with mindsets and innovation, I am chasing that horizon to #livelaughlove to the fullest. I’m less an athlete, less an educator, less a leader. I am a human scientist using everything I can.

An ethnographer and seeker at heart, I’m constantly seeking new adventures, challenges, connections, and growth. Without that, I’m dead inside. Without that, I become fixated on being happy (things that often lead to bad decision making) instead of lasting joy.

#levelup #horizon #life #living #lifeworthliving #livelaughlove #growth #joy #happy #love #living #mindsets #motivation #mindfulness #passion #neverdone #myquest #questsquad  #fit #fitness #education #teacher #seeker #passion

Passing Time on Steady State Cardio

Most of the time, my cardio is HIIT and Conditioning based so time flies. However, I believe steady state cardio has its place. In brief, I’ll add 20-30 minutes of steady state after HIIT during the offseason. I’ll also use steady state on days when I don’t do HIIT. Finally, steady state becomes a large portion the closer I get to a show. Right now, I’ve been at two 60 minute steady state sessions.

And that is a hamster wheel experience that gets old quickly especially for someone easily victimized by boredom.

But I’ve developed a few strategies that really help:

  1. Chunky Chunk: I’ll break up steady state into multiple sections and utilize different machines. For example, I’ll use 4 different pieces of equipment at 15 minutes each. This changes the mental and physical state. Wake up!
  2. Play Frogger: I’ll utilize different movements on equipment. For instance, I’ll go sideways, backwards, forwards, etc.. By breaking things into 30sec time frames, time picks up because the stimulus of change.
  3. Audio/Visual Learning Time: this is key for me. I listen to podcasts and watch videos of things of value to me (education, cooking, interviews, fitness events, etc)
  4. Course Experiences: I take a lot of MOOCs like Coursera. I’ll spend an hour in my course work. 
  5. Curation and Writing: I actually spend a potion reviewing my various feeds and then write or tweet about them. I’m actually blogging this during cardio. I’ll do my Yelp work, blog for my profession, and work on my brand in fitness

This is a good time to say get distracted. If you focus on how much time is left, you’ll fight it and struggle deeply.

Level Up!


What Makes a Teacher Distinguished

Let’s be clear that there is no one answer at least in my opinion. There are, however, common themes that emerge if we listen to enough stories about teachers that are distinguished, truly making a mark on the lives of students and the profession of education.

Listening to the stories about our distinguished teacher this year, a number of points about her resonated with me because these are themes emerging in other stories about other teachers given similar honors by students.

Distinguished Teacher Traits

  • Unique style
  • Engaging – Not a single student was ever bored
  • Allowed our voices to be heard 
  • Embraced and cultivated our individuality 
  • Empathetic to our world
  • She recognized potential and pushes each one to reach and even exceed
  • Persistent care for us – endless memory remembering every detail about us 
  • Content was merely a vehicle to us and our minds not the end all be all 
  • Modeled a life worth living
  • Taught us to trust ourselves and become our own person

emphasis my own

Hearing the stories of how this teacher captured the hearts and minds of her students brought me to tears. It also leaves me wondering what can we draw from these traits that can (should?) be applied in education.  

Expectations of Students and Teachers Must Align

I don’t write much about education these days because much of what I say is so counter to what is being said that it is perceived as  abrasive.

This will no doubt fall into that category but it comes from the purest of intent: get you to think a bit differently.

So here it is… 

Social media and education outlets are full of chatter about students needing to build, create, design, innovate, collaborate, go global, be public, do big things, transform the world, etc..

I couldn’t agree more. But here is the thing: how many of the adults in your school/district are doing this themselves regularly? How many of them are pushing the status quo in their professional and personal life? How many are growth and change minded?

The number will directly correlate to the number of students experiencing these things in the classroom.

In other words, none of this will happen systemically if the adults aren’t living it themselves. Leaders – align the expectations of students with the same expectations of teachers or you’ll never see systemic change.

Am I Selfish?

Am I selfish?

(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

To answer the question, one must ask whether selfish is about intent and outcome or just about one’s actions.

For example, am I selfish because I devote 2-3 hours a day to the gym? If one is looking at it purely from an action point of view, one could reasonably argue that I’m selfish given that I have children and a profession. On the other hand, one could look at the intent and mindset behind my 2-3 hours a day in the gym not merely the act of going to the gym. That would, undoubtedly, yield a different view.

But selfish is often a label placed upon people like me. What is a person like me? I’m a person who…

  • is all in or all out – no in between
  • feels dead inside when he isn’t challenged
  • thrives on change and evolving
  • takes risks and fails forward
  • seeks the horizon, dreams wildly, and lives in the clouds
  • fears complacency and
  • play and lives on the edge
  • longs for adventure, the new, and the extraordinary
  • abandons things quickly if they aren’t moving him forward, bringing him growth, or maximizing his ability to #livelaughlove to the greatest degree
  • loathes normalcy and believes he is destined for anything but average
  • chases dreams and cultivates his vision at the expense of nearly anything
  • connects with many people but intimately surrounds himself with but a few, extremely passionate people
  • intolerant of people who embrace stagnation and defend status quo

Egocentric? Selfish? Self-Centered? Before you answer that, let me pose this…

I model for my children and those in my life a growth mindset. I model a constant movement towards a better me. I model a life of passion and dreams. I am creative and innovative yet know I have many flaws – I simply choose to work on making my strengths so much stronger that my weaknesses are minimized.

But I see person after person who model for their children and those around them a fixed mindset. How they look, behave, and function today is what they will be 5, 10, 20 years from now. They don’t change. They don’t evolve. They’ve stopped growing. They’ve stopped dreaming. They live day to day as a checklist not a vision list. They wake walk. Are they happy? Maybe. Not for me to judge.

So back to Am I selfish. The real question is who is selfish? The person showing a life of growth or a life of stagnation? I was once told that “by doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others.” Those that are stagnant aren’t doing what they love. They are operating from fear, safety, and complacency. How is that a model for anyone? If I’m inspiring and awakening a fire in my children, students, and those I’m blessed to cross paths with in life, then I’ll take this brilliant label of selfish oft cast upon me.

And ultimately, perhaps there is a larger question: why the negative connotation with the word selfish?

Three Choices 

Life’s moments can be simplified down to three choices. With any moment, one can…

  1. Give up. 
  2. Give in. 
  3. Give it everything. 

It comes down to beliefs, heart, and passion. In other words, our way of looking at life, our mindsets.

And that is just it. We must overcome our number one obstacle: our mind. Otherwise, fear, excuses, and paralysis govern decision making.