Thursday, August 28, 2014

Finding Our Element - Part I: Lessons from our Children

Part 1: Lessons from our Children
“Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play. This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors.”
- Sir Ken Robinson

Each August marks a traditional Schug Family vacation. Together, we experience the treasures of the East Coast shoreline, the serenity of reconnecting with one another, and active engagement in our shared passions. This trip, like so many before, featured countless hours of ocean swimming, running, biking, paddle boarding, surfing, and (this year) parasailing. While each of these activities undoubtedly has its own rewards, this year, was different for me, because for the first time, I lived so much of the experience through the perspective of my oldest son, who is approaching his tenth birthday. On this trip, I came to realize how much he regularly and comfortably models three valuable life lessons that each closely correlate with learning and with leadership:
1.   Think less, feel more. When swimming or paddle boarding, sometimes the more you think, the more difficult it becomes and the less it is enjoyed. Apply this line of thinking to the work we do in schools. While so much of our role requires critical analysis, if we gave ourselves the freedom to be flexible and trust our instincts when working with children, families, and staff what impact might this have?

2.   Find solace in the thought that we are never really alone. Parasailing 500 feet above the Atlantic Ocean alongside my son reminded me of the importance of finding stillness in sharing the beauty of “a moment”. Giving someone our time and our full, undivided attention can make a bigger difference than we realize. When was the last time we did this for someone, and at a time they needed it?

3.   Operate in the present. Watching my kids surfing the ocean waves reminded me of the line from the end of the Jack Johnson song, “Breakdown”: “One of the big lessons you learn about surfing is how to operate in the present.” The rhythm of a rolling tide, the concentration and determination on children’s faces, and the joy of personal success are all moments we have the potential to witness regularly, should we allow ourselves the chance to do so. Do we know where to find these moments and do we invest enough time in celebrating them?   

I’m proud to say that my son is one of my role models. He’s someone who is unafraid to embrace discovering his “element”, every day. He challenges himself, personally, and is accountable, first, to himself. And he thrives in his quest to learn new things. I’ve been fortunate to have many great teachers in my life; however, it’s a privilege to say that he’s the best one I’ve had so far. And he inspires me to push myself to be fearless, in both my personal and professional life.

To be continued...