Category Archives: Current Events

The Proof of the Power of Incremental Change: Starting School on August 1

This girl can't believe school starts 5 weeks before Labor Day

This girl can’t believe school starts 5 weeks before Labor Day

How did we get to a point where school starts 5 weeks before Labor Day, and what should that tell you about how to reach your goals?

Recently I was having a conversation with a friend, who made a comment that struck me: They told me that that they don’t believe that small changes ever amounted to anything. This friend believes that a person achieves their goals only by making big, important changes.

This conversation reminded me of an experience that took place during my high school years (in the late ’90s). An English teacher by the name of Mr. Brown told all of the students in my class that there was an idea floating around about swapping over to a year-round school calendar. Naturally, my fellow students and I rolled our eyes and groaned at mere thought of going to school all year long. He explained that this idea is based on the concept that, by starting the school year earlier and scheduling more breaks during the academic year, kids would learn more and do better in school. Being in high school, we all thought the idea of year-round school was nuts. Why would anybody in their right mind want to go to school year-round? Surely we did enough school already. More than enough. Mr. Brown patiently explained to us that we wouldn’t be required to go to school for more than the 180 days that we were currently suffering through, but that those 180 would just be spread out over a longer period of time. This logical explanation fell on deaf ears.

Well, in the 15 years since that heated discussion in English class, the school calendar has indeed changed. Once upon a time, the first day of school took place on the earliest Friday before Labor Day (the popular philosophy at that time was that the upcoming three-day weekend would allow students to gird themselves for an actual week of class while shopping for the supplies they would need for the year after receiving specific lists from their teachers). That first day of school, however, has slowly started working its way backwards to take place earlier in the year.

At first, that “Friday before Labor Day” became “the Monday before Labor Day”. Then it became the “Friday before the Monday of Labor Day”. Bit by bit, year by year, that starting date came just a little bit earlier. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving break (which was originally a three-day week) turned into a 5-day Fall Break. Then a winter break appeared in February. Staff development days (which allowed students to stay home on a Monday four or five times through the year) became week-long breaks. Students in my day looked forward to three major events to break up the monotony of the school year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break. Kids today, on the other hand, enjoy a week-long break every other month.

Over the course of about 15 years, we can see the ending result of this calendar shift. School starts now on August 1st and practically goes year-round, with approximately an eight-week break in the middle. The change didn’t happen from the end of one school year to the next; rather, it happened gradually, allowing parents, teachers, and students time to adjust and even grow to appreciate the new calendar. That is the power of incremental change.

Of course, that’s also the power of not calling it year-round school. Instead of using that inflammatory phrase that had the power to turn my English class upside down in a hot debate, school officials just quietly started shifting the year a little bit earlier… and a little bit earlier… and a little bit earlier. As people went through the system, they didn’t know any better. For example, if you were a freshman in high school when this process started, it didn’t really feel like there was any big change. If you’re going into school now, you probably don’t realize that it used to be different.

If you think about it, this is the way every major change in America has happened. For example, the history-making event of a woman becoming the Presidential nominee of a major political party didn’t just occur spontaneously. Before that, women ran for the vice presidency. Before that, women fought for the right to remain in the workplace and seek educational opportunities when their men returned from fighting overseas. And before that, women organized to fight for their right just to vote in elections.

Marriage equality in America didn’t just happen all of a sudden. Rather, it came about after a 30-year conversation about homosexuality actually being a “thing” in America. That conversation moved through various twists and turns all the way to a Supreme Court decision allowing homosexual couples to experience the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Incremental change is the only thing that makes lasting difference. There’s that old joke that asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer: “One bite at a time.” As a leader of an organization, group, or of your own family or personal life, you must look at the big things that need to change and try to identify smaller, incremental, everyday changes that you can make to reach the end result you have in mind.  In the end, those small changes will have made a lasting impact on your journey to achieve your goals.

Stop embarrassing others for what they enjoy

 

13692660_10100226269033676_7175370591424408103_n

My daughter Hazel assisting me.

A few nights ago, for the first time ever, I brought my five-year old daughter to assist me at a trivia game I was hosting. She was there because we didn’t have a babysitter. She stood on stage with me, helped me set up, and also cleaned out the box of supplies I keep with me.

When the game started, she danced to the music that I played. There was probably about 85 to 90 people in the restaurant. At one point, she stood next to me, late in the game, and I made a joke. The joke was a self-depreciating joke about me. I use self-depreciating humor to make people laugh and have a good time. But she’s five and didn’t know what they were laughing at. She incorrectly assumed that everybody was laughing at her. She thought that I had made fun of her. She started crying, ran to the back of the stage, hid in a corner, and sobbed for the rest of the game.

I felt crushed. Even though I had not done anything wrong, the mere thought that I had hurt my daughter in that way made me feel awful. After the game was over, she started to understand what had happened and that I had not made fun of her. And the joy started coming back into her life. She was happy for the ride home.

A thought then occurred to me. It made me realize that it’s never okay to poke fun at something that somebody enjoys doing. She danced literally every song for 16 straight songs.  The people in the crowd noticed and thought it was cute. But nobody pointed anything out to her or said anything. She was on the stage, and they were playing trivia. She was not bothering them. They were not bothering her.

I get online this week, and I realize that there are people making fun of other people for playing the new Pokemon game. Now, I know very little about Pokemon. I’ve never played Pokemon. I know some of the characters just because of them being in the mainstream areas of my life, but I don’t know very much about it at all. But I have seen people making fun of other people playing Pokemon.

Why are we doing that? What is it giving us? What is it accomplishing? Why are we taking something that somebody enjoys, that frankly doesn’t bother anybody else, and make fun of people for it?

With shame I must admit that I am just as guilty as anybody else. I’ve made fun of people for really liking professional wrestling. I have made fun of people for live-action role play. I’ve made fun of people for being extremely geeky about stuff, or having tattoos. And as I watched my five-year-old cry her eyes out because she had thought I had made fun of her, it was a big lesson that I don’t need to do that.

Now, am I’m going to be perfect overnight no? But I do think we need to stand back and realize that when we are actually harming society by telling people that they should not enjoy their hobbies. Especially when these hobbies do not infringe on anyone else.

Hobbies, games, and having fun in general, stoke the creative flames inside of all of us. And with all of the problems in our world that need solutions, we need as many creative fires burning inside of us as we can possibly get.

Do people occasionally take hobbies to unhealthy extremes? Yes. But that’s not the situation I’m talking about here.

We need to remind ourselves as a society when something comes out as a fad, we shouldn’t really make fun of people who do it. If they’re getting enjoyment out of it and they’re doing it responsibly, then let them. Nobody understands all the things that I do and I’m not going to understand all the things everybody else does. But if we sat back and we just let people enjoy this short period that they have on Earth called life, I have a feeling they might also be better producers and leaders.

Go catch ’em all.

Don’t forget to sign up for my blog and get my e-book 58 Things All Teens Should Do

My Thoughts on Same Sex Marriage

I grew up in a home where I was taught to treat everyone with respect, love, and dignity. I was also taught that homosexuality was wrong. My views changed when I was in high school, because I viewed it as a form of oppression by the State. A government shouldn’t tell you who you should leave your property to, who should get to make medical decisions about you if you were incapacitated, and why sharing a life with one individual deserved tax breaks, and another did not.

When I was in school, none of my friends were gay. Or at least that’s what I ignorantly thought. As I grew and met more people outside of my home town, I met people who were homosexual. Some were open about it, some were not. Some I never knew were gay until I found out they were dating someone of the same sex.

And I’ve struggled with that. I want to be the person that people feel that they could be completely comfortable with. I want to be someone that they feel like that they can truly be their self. And I failed.

But as I’ve grown up, I have developed friendships with people who are gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, and other classifications that I’m too ignorant to know exists. I know people who are out and proud. I know people who are mostly closeted.

And so what began as a protest against government intrusion into the life of its citizens, slowly changed into an awareness that two people who commit to each other on an intense level, such as marriage, should be celebrated and embraced.

And today, our country, much like me, matured to understand that. At least legally speaking.

Justice Kennedy writing for the majority

Justice Kennedy writing for the majority

Congratulations everyone.

My Three Thoughts about the Brian Williams Admissions

brian circle By Brian Darby

In case you haven’t heard, Brian Williams the anchor of NBC’s Nightly News, has admitted that a story he told about being in a helicopter in Iraq that was shot down was false. There are also reports of him embellishing another story about Hurricane Katrina.

After reading opinions that NBC has a problem, and that he should be fired, I tried to figure out what I thought about the situation.

The truth is, I’ve lied before

I don’t like to admit it. I may even claim that I got caught up in the excitement, or that I was just stretching a fish tale. The truth is that I’ve not always been perfect, and I have screwed up badly. Lucky for me, my screw ups have not happened on national television…yet.

I don’t like rooting for someone to lose their job

I do not want anyone to lose their job. It is really hard for me to call on someone to be fired. That is probably because I have been fired before and it really stinks. I am sure he has more money than me, and would probably be okay. But still the very act of being fired is so demoralizing and deflating that unless it’s absolutely necessary it should be hard to root for.

I wish him Peace

Any time I’ve ever done anything embarrassing, it stays with me for years. I may be in bed getting ready to sleep and suddenly something I did 15 years ago will pop in my head, and then it’s an hour of tossing and turning. So I honestly hope that Mr. Williams gets peace. Most people usually are not as bad as the worst thing they’ve ever done.