My son came home from school recently and said, “It’s amazing that you learn something new every day.”
My first response was pure parental happiness. It’s wonderful that my son learns and that the learning process is joyful for him. That it lights him up as it does for everyone his age. It’s neat to see.
My second thought was something I blurted out as he tried to run up to his room — what did you learn? (More on that later.)
My third thought was, but when does that stop? Is there a time when he will stop learning something new everyday, either because no one’s trying to teach him or because he’s simply not open to it?
And then, from there, a fourth thought . . . I started thinking about myself. Do I learn something new everyday? And a fifth though: panic. Really, do I? What if the answer is no?
But then, of course, the answers is not no. Here’s a sampling of what I learned last week:
- When posting images online, use Photoshop to clean them up. Convert the image size to 350 and save the file for the Web / as a JPEG. (I’ve been doing this wrong for years, as you can see if you scan back through the photos I post on my blog.)
- When making instructional videos for the web, people don’t pay attention to talking heads. And try to think in terms of sequencing — what can you weave into the flow of the video.
- Which led to some learning about my own learning and leadership: My leadership work changed, and entered new territories — such as the online realm — because I’ve been open to learning AND this learning itself is synonymous with the act of leadership.
At any rate, I’m happy that I, too, can say what my son said: “It’s amazing that you learn something new every day.”
So, to complete the narrative arc of this somewhat arc-less blog post: what did my son learn?
“That Mozart composed ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star . . . no one in my violin class knew that, and neither did I.”
This was a huge discovery for him in part because it forced a new synthesis to happen in his brain. He had a picture of Mozart in his mind
and the song itself was so simple, so he never would have figured that a towering genius could have made such a simple and pure expression . . . the jamming together of such disparate ideas caused a joyful explosion in his mind, a new third thing, maybe simple beauty or profound simplicity or whatever is the work of the master. It’s when we connect two things that don’t always seem related that interesting things happen.*
Like learning and leadership. That you don’t have to know everything to lead. That, maybe you have to show that you don’t know everything in order to lead. Especially when everything changes all the time, as it often does these days.
Learning melts certainty assuring us only that the world is as fresh and vibrant as it has always been.
*I don’t think I would have stretched out my thinking here if I hadn’t attended a Back-to-School Night presentation a few months back with a teacher named Helen Noble. She defined her job, at one point, as “I watch and wait for moments where I can jump in and help my students grow or learn.” I wrote that down as a helpful reminder, and when my son shared his joy about discovering a simple fact about Mozart, I (luckily) had Helen’s voice in my head. So I jumped in and discussed the moment with him and helped him stretch it out, too. Some moments really are like wet sponges that we can continue to wring and wring, collecting every last drop. This post, of course, is dedicated to Helen Noble, a master teacher of tiny and large human beings.