Tuesday, April 25, 2017

See What You Can See

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Recently I read a quote in a book I was reading that said,
“The first hurdle we face is the basic notion of accepting plausibility”

Without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges that I face in my life, when facing big challenges, is developing a vision that what I’m hoping for is plausible. Usually, possibility isn’t the challenge for me, and I’d be willing to bet, that if you gave it some thought, you’d see that it isn’t the challenge for you either.

Spud Webb was 5’7” and he did this…
Image result for spud webb dunking
This guy did this..(click for story)
It’s not much of a challenge to see that anything is possible.
There is an abundance of stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I don’t think we need encouragement to believe things are possible. Regardless of our challenge, our dreams, or our aspirations, even for thinkers who need rationality and explanation, accepting the possibility of things is not too far of a reach.

But within ourselves there often lies a great shortage of a belief in our own plausibility for the opportunities around us.
The real challenge, is accepting and believing in the plausibility. How many times have we heard or said something along these lines…

“I know it can be done, but…”

“Yeah, he did it, but I don’t think that’s realistic (plausible) for me”

“I can’t believe he did that, I could never do something like that”

One day, my friend Josh and I were talking about the challenges associated with becoming a Navy Seal. Without really giving it much thought, I made some type of comment like, “Man, I couldn’t do that”

And Josh, who I love, partially because of the abundance of self confidence he has, said this, “Here’s the thing. I know I could do it, because it’s been done.”

Josh not only looked at the possibility of the situation (it’s been done), but also the plausibility (I know I could do it). And far too often, for one reason or another, we refuse to acknowledge, refuse to accept, or simply can’t see the plausibility of the the dreams we are chasing or things we would like to work towards.
There is an idea that I read about recently known as the “Adjacent Possible”. It originated with a biologist, and was expanded on by an author by the name of Steven Johnson. He’s an interesting guy, and you can read his take on it here and here. 

If you don’t want to read the insight of a very intelligent man (other than the blog you are currently reading, of course), then I’ll attempt to paraphrase some thoughts on the “Adjacent Possible”.
The idea, according to Steven Johnson, is that “at any given time, only certain kinds of next steps are possible” (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/oct/19/steven-johnson-good-ideas)

From where you are currently standing, personally and professionally, there are certain jobs, dreams, and goals that are directly within your reach. These are things that might be noted as obvious, or clearly within your current field of vision. And this is the place where most of us abide, most of the time.
Do you remember the song, “The Bear Went Over The Mountain”? Every time he went over something (the mountain, the river, the meadow), all he could see was more of the same (the other side of the mountain). There is nothing new that he is finding, he can only see what he can see. I think that’s usually true for us.
But I like the idea of the “Adjacent Plausible“. 

To me, the idea is for us to take a look around, and see what we can see, and then understand that there are things that are plausible, things that we can do, that are just outside our current field of vision. Johnson likens it to a shadowy figure, constantly lurking around, just outside of our reach.

In other words, we may not be able to do “Z”, but from where we stand, we can realistically do “W”, and if we can get to “W”, we can do “X”, and from “X” we can reach “Y”, and then…
Incrementalism at it’s finest.
But as long as we are standing still, our Adjacent Plausible will always remain fairly static. Our plausibilities can’t expand unless we are willing to expand ourselves.
I don’t know who to attribute this quote to, but I read it recently and really liked it:

“The greatest nemesis to change is the conflict between who you want to become and how you want to feel”

So the difficulty for many of us, in seeing new plausibilities, is expanding our comfort zone, bit by bit. The simple act of reading a new book, trying a new activity, having a conversation, taking on a new project, or learning something new, will expand our Adjacent Plausible.

As we shine a little light into that shadowy adjacent, we can see new things. AND, we get a new Adjacent Plausible. We are a step closer to being a step closer.
As usual, I feel like Simon Sinek, or Seth Godin, or Steven Johnson himself should be sharing this with the world, because I don’t know that I’ve done the idea the justice it deserves, but I think it’s a great concept.
About six years ago, my wife started discussing the idea of working part time so that she could spend more time with our children. At the time, I was making very little money, with very little on my horizon in terms of increasing my income (and in turn, increasing our opportunity for her to work less).

I was coaching in college at the time, and from there, I took a job as a substitute teacher in the public school system. I was closer to a better paying job, but not there. While working as a sub, I received the opportunity to work as a long term sub. While working as a long term sub, I received an offer to take a job as a full time teacher within that system. From there, we moved back to our hometown, and took new jobs. The pay was higher, but so was the cost of living. We bought and renovated a house, sold it, made some money. I didn’t get a coaching job that I thought was right in line with what I should be doing, what I thought was most plausible for me, no longer was.  Now I’m studying some new stuff, coaching some new kids. My wife has taken some steps professionally and had some things happen that we never saw as being plausible 12 months ago. Building a house never seemed plausible, and the things we’ve laid out, the new relationships we’ve made, the new things we’ve seen and learned, the money we’ve saved based on different steps we’ve made, have led to new plausibilities. They are no longer adjacent, they are right in front of us. And we’d never have been able to see them 6 years ago. And now, we have new Adjacent Plausibles to explore. New things we can dream, and imagine, and shine a light on.

What are those things that might be right around the corner for you? Maybe you don’t know right now, and that is a little bit of the point. Believe in the plausibilities. There is more there for you than you know.
You don’t have to see the path to the end to get there, you just need to start believing in the plausibility of it all, and then start looking over the mountain, and peeking into the shadows, to see your adjacent plausible.

I find it very encouraging.

Much Love,

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dear Hidden Genius

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Thank you.

Dear Hidden Genius,
Quit hiding. You aren't hidden because the world is conspiring against you. And if you were a genius, you wouldn't really be hidden. So...
Quit hiding. You know who you are. Barista who thinks that being a barista is beneath you. Your boss is an idiot, and you have all of the answers, if only they would listen to you, but they are stifling your creativity, they don't understand your genius. Your style is being cramped. If only all of the unintellegents would get out of your way.
Okay, coffee shop writing guy. (I say this as I'm writing in the coffee shop). You have your Macbook out, and your pad and paper, and you do all sorts of pondering and web surfing, but very little writing. Yes, I know, the writing process is long and arduous, and nobody else understands your struggle. But your book isn't going to get written just because you have a fancy tea carafe on your table, and you have a leather shoulder bag draped over your chair. One of the key components of writing, is, in fact, writing. And further, if you are tired of being a hidden genius, at some point, you are going to have to share your work.
Assistant Coach, you are not a hidden genius, you are an assistant coach. Fill your role. Love your players, serve the program, and honor the opportunity you have. It's okay to work towards something "bigger". But not at the expense of the people that you currently have a responsibility to. And, working towards something bigger doesn't include pretending to know more than your head coach. Even more dangerous is pretending to know more than yourself. If only someone would notice you, you could be coaching in the BIG TIME, but the world is clearly conspiring against you, you can't catch a break, you are such a hidden genius.
New Age, Under Age philosopher, with your pondering, thinking, and problem solving. You have so many answers for the problems of the world, but nobody will listen to you. I don't know why, but they want to stamp out your genius. You come up with so many solutions, how could everyone else be so foolish not to see the obvious things that you see. You should be running that company, or that team, or maybe even the country, depending on your level of genius or your level of hidden-ness.
I've got some disappointing and disturbing news for you. You aren't hidden because the world is conspiring against you. You are hidden because you are afraid to get out in front of everyone. If you try and share your thoughts, if you try and lead your own team, if you step out on a limb and share your ideas with your boss, you might fail. And if you fail, then maybe you aren't really a genius, and then what. What will you do with all of your ideas, and thoughts, and ponderings?
Things change for you when you have to take action.
And things change for everyone else when you have the courage to take action.
And you know what, you may not be a "genius", like we usually think of one. But I believe that you are a probably a little bit of a genius. Seth Godin talks about the idea that there is a little genius in all of us, because at some point, we've solved a problem that those around us couldn't solve. We came up with a solution that other people weren't coming up with. We thought about something in a different light. Most of us, have some type of genius moment, from time to time. So there is some genius in there.
Understand that your level of genius does not directly correlate with your level of brooding, but there is likely some genius in there.
It's important to recognize that the people we consider geniuses, didn't get that way by hiding in coffee shops, or complaining to strangers about what needs to be changed, or brooding about with all of their genius weighing them down socially and emotionally.
And there is no value, for you or anyone else, if you continue to suffer as a hidden genius. The contribution is made when you do, and share, and say it out loud. And again, this is where the challenge comes in for you. You are a world class writer until nobody actually wants to read your stuff. You are undefeated until you actually lead a team. You have all of the answers until people are actually relying on you in real-time.
Create and share, learn more, lead more, and take the "failures" and successes in stride. Remember, that mostly, the only one hiding your genius is you. Once you get over your fear (and that's what it is, Hidden Genius, I know you. You are afraid) then you can get on with the business of creating and sharing that is more in line with who you are and who you are working to become.
Get busy livin' or get busy dyin', Hidden Genius. And make no mistake, if you don't get busy livin' your genius will go from hidden to buried, probably beneath a pile of bitterness and anger.
No more brooding. No more pondering without action. No more fake answers to fake questions that you have asked and answered and applauded all by yourself. No more substituting experiences for mere observation. Quit sitting on the sidelines judging and condemning, and get out there.
Much Love,

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Dear Mark

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Today’s letter is addressed to my friend Mark. Mark was my boss for a time at one of my college coaching positions, during a time period where I felt at my best professionally. We had a great deal of success coaching together, and I will always reflect on my time with Mark fondly.
What I hope you’ll hear in the letter is the importance of finding people who will encourage and allow you to be your best self. These people are invaluable, and rare. If you find a boss, friend, or partner that helps you be authentically you, you should do everything that you can to stay connected to them.
Perhaps even more powerfully, is if you can be this for someone else. Your spouse, your children, your friends, or the people that work for you, need this from you when you can give it to them. There is very little that is more empowering than having someone who believes in YOU, and encourages you, not to change who you are, but to be more of who you are.
Mark did and does that for me, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Dear Mark,
  I know that you are uncomfortable with public displays of emotion, so I figured I’d just put this letter on my blog where it’s safe. However, it’s now “on the line” so who knows…

  Thank you for involving me in your program, when I was nothing more than a hungry young coach, with no resume, little experience, and little to offer other than a willingness to work hard and learn. My time coaching with you continues to be one of the most valuable and meaningful periods of my life, both personally and professionally. I appreciate you giving me my start as a college coach, and helping me along that path. 

  I have never been a very confident person, or at least, confidence is something that I’ve always struggled with. In coaching, we often hear parents and other coaches say, “He just needs to be more confident”, when talking about their son or daughter, or one of their players. We both know that it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just be more confident. There has to be something that you are confident in. And it can’t just be demanded. If that were the case, everyone would be great at everything, simply by the act of being whatever it is they wanted to be. With that in mind, I’m just going to be more millionaire starting tomorrow. Also, I’m just going to be more intelligent. And, for good measure, I’m just going to be more muscular I just decided all of those things. Please look for a noticeable change in my approach, the snugness of my t-shirt fit, and also in my bank account. 

  We can’t just decide these things, we have to have something to draw from. And confidence must come from somewhere. There are two wells from which I believe we should draw when it comes to confidence. It comes from believing in the work that we have put in, and it comes from believing in the gifts that we have been blessed with. You were able to bring out both of these things in me while I worked for you. 

  I was always a hard worker, but you helped further instill the importance of hard work, but more importantly, you helped teach me that after putting in the hard work, I had to value what that meant to me and to those around me. It’s okay to put in the work in the dark, that is where much of the quality work is done. But when we get in the light, we have to live out the work we have done in the dark. Our work doesn’t have much meaning until we go out and share it with others. And you forced me to do that. I could never have imagined leading an offense before coming to to work with, or taking on that level of responsibility. I don’t know that I believe I had it in me. But since leaving that position, I think I’ve been looking for that same level of leadership opportunity in my other professional endeavors. 

  And you believed in the gifts that I had inside of me. Essentially, you believed in the person that I was. And that is a very powerful thing. You didn’t try to change who I was, or make me believe that I had a great amount of work to do in order to impact the people around me. You showed me that I needed to start living the gifts that I’d been given, I needed to start sharing them, and I needed to quit hiding behind humility as an excuse for not being my best. 

  For four or five years of my coaching journey, as I was starting out, I didn’t have much of a voice. I encouraged, and I clapped, and I offered insight. But it wasn’t until working for you that I developed a real voice, a rhythm to my coaching and teaching that was mine and mine alone.  Some people say that we can’t give confidence to other people, but I’m not so sure that’s true, not after working for you. 

 I know that you don’t accept this, and I also know that our friendship carries no debts, but there is part of me that will always feel in debt to you for our time coaching together. I am a better person because of it. 

 I hope that I can bring out the confidence in others that you brought out in me. Particularly in my children. What a great and powerful thing, to value and believe in another human being enough to the point that they value and believe in themselves enough, to go out and attack their challenges with great confidence. Believing in the work they have done and believing in the gifts they have, to the point that they feel like they are the right man for the job. Not the job, but THE job. What if we can do that for our kids, Mark? I think we’d be pretty good parents, I think our kids would know that we loved them, and I think we’d have lived a pretty rich life. And I know you can give that to yours, because you helped give that to me. 

 This writing thing that I’m doing, comes largely from the encouragement that you’ve given. You told me that I was a writer long before I believed it, and at the very least, it’s been meaningful for me. As I’m writing this now, I’m realizing that I’ve gotten some additional direction for my parenting, perhaps the most important role I’m filling right now, in addition to being a husband, through my writing. I hope that I can show my wife and kids that they are important people, with valuable gifts to share with the world, and get them to believe that, and live it out. I’ve got to get to work on that…
Lastly, perhaps as a takeaway for the others who are reading, I want to remind you, and share a story that I’ll never forget from our time together (there are many others…). I remember when we were first learning the offense that we were going to run, and we had some questions about what to do in some different situations. The guy who created it was a college coach, and had become pretty famous based on his videos, and e-books, and the fact that he had consulted with some big name coaches in sharing his philosophy. You asked me about calling him, and I thought it was ridiculous. Why should we call someone so important? What would he think about us? Would he give us the time of day? Would he reject us? And I’ll never forget what you said, 

“He’s not better than us”

  And you didn’t mean that we were better than him either, just that, on a fundamental level, as human beings, he wasn’t on any higher plane than we were, regardless of his relative fame or professional position. As someone who had always adhered to some sort of social and professional hierarchy, usually placing myself firmly at the bottom as some sort of expression of humility, this was very powerful for me. I’ve never forgotten that. I don’t always live it as firmly as I should, but I have reminded myself of this often as I’ve approached new people, job interviews, or challenging situations. What’s the worst that could happen? Whatever it is, I’ll recover. 

  God has not given me a spirit of fear, and regardless of who I’m approaching, they aren’t better than me, so what does it hurt for me to try? 

Thank you, Mark, for your confidence, and now mine. Thank you for your friendship. 

Much Love,

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dear Creative Kid

For the next few weeks, I'm going to be posting imaginary letters to real people. I hope some of the concepts are relevant to you. The writing may not be exactly the same, but I think the tone will remain, as one of both curiosity and encouragement. Hopefully there is something that strikes a chord with you.

Also, I'd like to ask that if you have enjoyed the blog, or there has been any value for you in what you have read over the last 6 months or so as I've been posting, that you share a link to my site with others. I'm going to start doing a better job trying to share my work, and if you enjoy the writing enough to share as well, I hope you will.

Thank you.

Today's letter is to some of my students, particularly those who are yearning for more than I feel like I can currently provide for them as the current system is constructed. I fear that we are doing very little to nurture and encourage creativity, and perhaps, because of how we must often approach things, we may even be killing it.

Dear Mary-Ann,
    Thank you for all of the questions that you asked this year. Not just the ones that you spoke out loud, but the ones that you thought about on your own. Those questions that bounced around in your head, as you wondered "why" and "how", and you asked yourself if what I said was right, or true, or accurate. I'm sorry I didn't always answer your questions. Most of the time, there wasn't any time. Other times, I knew that if I stopped to answer your question, that most of the other students in the room would get off task, and then we'd have to spend time getting them back on task, and we don't have time for that. Thank you for making detailed drawings of the plant and animal cells that we made, rather than just copying from the book as I'd instructed.

   I'm sorry that I rushed you when you were getting really detailed on our in class projects. You deserve to express yourself fully, and to do your absolute best, rather than conforming to everyone else's time table. I'll try and do a better job of that next year. Thank you for doing things differently than I asked, for finding a way that worked for you, rather than just falling in line all of the time. Thank you for being so interested in learning new things. I'm sorry that so much of what I taught you was geared towards a test, that someone else, so far away, has decided is so important. The truth is, it says nothing about what you are capable of in the future, or what type of person you are capable of becoming. I'm sorry that you were led to believe that it was anything more than an assessment tool, something that someone else decided is important. And I'm sorry that so much of our instruction is driven by that decision. 

Thank you for working so hard, in spite of these obstacles. 

    I hope your experience this year won't kill your creativity. I hope you'll continue to ask questions, and not be subdued by your next teacher, or by anyone else for that matter. Your voice matters. It may not seem that way, at 12 years old, but we need to hear from you. We (and you) need your creativity more than we need your compliance, despite what you may have experienced up to this point. You don't have to live inside the box that me, and many of the other adults in your life have designed and tried to put you in. Certainly there are times that you need to comply, to play by the rules. But I'm not worried about you. Even at your young age, you know what is right and what is wrong. And if you make a mistake in that direction, it's okay, you'll get it right. 

   If it's worth doing, it's worth doing wrong until you get it right. Developing your voice, nurturing your creativity, and fanning your gifts into flame, are certainly things that are worth doing. 

Keep at it. 

  Don't worry if you make a mistake while you are being creative. You are still trying to figure it out. And you know what, that's better than all those people who are trying to act like they've got it all figured out. Because they don't. Nobody does. The best will be reserved for those you keep on trying to figure it out, even as they "fail". I believe in you, and I hope you'll continue to learn to believe in yourself, and that you'll keep being creative, despite the obstacles that we like to put in your way. 

  Continue developing your voice, your creative spirit, and your questioning mind. Continue to learn how to lead yourself. You may be wrong sometimes, but that's okay. Keep asking questions, keep thinking things through, keep trying, and you'll be just fine. School is not the only place to get educated. Continue to seek out things that excite and interest you. Continue to learn, not just recite. Continue to seek, not just be served. Continue to color outside of the lines, when necessary.  

Continue to be creative. 

Much Love,
Dr. Hendley