Sketches of Edges

In a few days, Reshan Richards and I are interviewing Shane Snow and Joe Lazauskas about their new book, The Storytelling Edge.  This interview will be a huge thrill for me since Joe is one of my former students (more on that in a later post) and Shane is one of the most interesting and delightful people I have ever met.

While prepping for the interview, Reshan has been sketchnoting each chapter and then sharing the notes with me, which in turn is influencing my own reception of the book and preparation for the interview.  Here’s one sketchnote to wet your whistle.

The Storytelling Edge .png

Nothing Much

Instead of writing this post today, I spent 10 minutes not doing anything.  I literally caught my breath.  I relaxed.  I listened to what was happening around me.

I’m hoping that, instead of reading a post from me today, you can do the same.  Nothing much, that is.  As a prompt, I’ll leave some extra white space before













signing off.

Platform Sense

Here’s a really deft rhetorical move from a seasoned blogger.

Fred Wilson wrote today about co-founder relationships at start-ups.  Though the ideas can be applied quite easily across industries and leadership models (I’d say they hold true for most executive level teams), I’m linking to the post because of its “Disclaimer,” which comes at the very end:

DISCLAIMER – This post is absolutely not about any company, any founder or founders, or anything specific at all. It is just about something that we frequently see and is worth talking about. If you think I am writing about you, your company, or your founder, you are wrong. But I am happy to talk about it nonetheless.

By not putting the Disclaimer first, he ensures that anyone associated with him will read the blog post very carefully — after all, when they begin reading, they may recognize their own situation.  Only at the end are they let off the hook.

Second, Wilson leverages his trademark honesty and transparency to drive home his point: this isn’t about you, he asserts, but if you think it is, we should talk.  He doesn’t want anyone to carry around noise in their heads.  And he offers them a solution that amplifies his message.  Communicate in a timely and direct manner.

Third, the very fact that he offers a Disclaimer shows that he has a masterful understanding of his platform.  He knows people read his blog; he knows it causes waves within his industry; and he really doesn’t want to hinder anyone from doing his/her job.  That would be bad for the company, bad for the customers of the company, and bad for investors in the company.  Hence, the disclaimer . . . but only at the end, after serious consideration has been given to the beginning.  Platform sense, writ large.

14 Interviews in One Day =


I had an amazing day at the Philadelphia Carney Sandoe conference.  I interviewed 14 teachers over a 7 hour span, and each one of them was interesting, energetic, and either committed to, or building a commitment to, independent secondary education.

One trend emerged: many people are drawn to independent schools because they believe that our schools offer a “healthy” approach to one’s career.  What this means (and I’m summarizing/synthesizing here) is that people believe that a career in independent schools will allow them to access, use, and exercise almost every part of themselves.  Such a career will build on their strengths, cherish and amplify their passions, and push them to grow.

Having spent over 15 years in independent schools, I feel elated at the fact that the independent school model, regardless of the school, is headed in the right direction.  We’re attracting extraordinary people to the field of teaching.  What a boon for our students, families, and colleagues.

Work and Metawork

One of the most important things an organizational leader can do is to separate the work from the thinking about the work and to make sure that both sides are equally prioritized.

You want to do your work, in the moment, with focus, grace, energy, and acuity.  That’s the ballgame.

And as you’re working — usually through some kind of problem or another — you could (and should) be thinking about a number of things:

  • What caused the problem?  Is this a single mistake or something that’s emerging, predictably, from the way certain systems are set up?
  • Do the people involved in this problem have the skills that they need to solve it?  If so, can they help to train others?  If not, when and how can they be trained?
  • Is the solution to the problem able to be captured, shared, and scaled?  Who would want to know about it?  Are you inventing a wheel that does not, then, need to be reinvented elsewhere?
  • Is there opportunity built into the solving of this problem? Can you involve someone else to give them a growth opportunity (or to create one for yoursefl)?  Can you strengthen a tie in your network?  Will the solving be a story worth sharing either within your organization or within your industry?

Honestly, when emerging leaders ask me how to do their jobs better, my shorthand answer is: do the work and the metawork carefully.

Don’t Say They Didn’t Warn Us

If you create or write on the Internet, you’ll want to read and understand recent posts by Fred Wilson, Ben Thompson, and Seth Godin, three writers who have worked hard, sentence-by-sentence, to earn the trust and respect of a legion of readers.

Many of the brightest and best writers / thinkers / businesspeople / educators / leaders I know read every word that Fred, Seth, and Ben post online.  So when they converge on a topic, as they recently have, I think it’s a triangulation that matters.

Wilson’s post urges writers to own their digital writing instead of giving it away to other people’s platforms.  He references a Tweet wherein he crystalized his message, quickly and without punctuation:  “You have to blog on your own domain. medium, facebook, linkedin, huffpo will do what are in their interests, not yours. i have been doing it every day for 15 years this year. feels great to own my archive, my brand, my content, myself.”

Thompson’s post is the most complex, but it hinges on an important belief: “The story for media is for all intents and purposes unchanged: success depends on building a direct relationship with readers . . . ”

Godin’s post is an open letter to Google advocating for the rights of bloggers to be able to deliver their content and for readers of blogs to be able to receive that content.  “Google and Facebook,” he writes, “are now the dominant middlemen for more than 85% of all online advertising. Along the way, Google has also dominated much of the email communication on the planet.  You get all the money but I think you need to up your game in return.”

The posts are linked below.  Given that these three are all circling around the same essential lessons, it would be tough to say that we weren’t warned.

Fred Wilson’s “Owning Yourself”
Ben Thompson’s “Facebook’s Motivations”
Seth Godin’s “Please Don’t Kill the Blogs”

Minimum Viable Products in Schools

This article, about the origin of Unsplash (click that link and you may never return to this post!)  and the importance of Minimum Viable Products served two purposes last week.

On Friday morning, I shared it with a group of students who have been hanging around my office and talking with me about starting their own business.  They’re getting stuck because they can think of all the reasons why their ideas won’t work, or all the ways in which their ideas could possibly be worth a billion dollars, but they are having a lot of trouble actually starting.

On Friday afternoon, I used it to frame a discussion with a committee tasked with developing our school’s academic partnerships and forging new avenues for student engagement.

Here’s a key quote from the article, which goes on to document MVPs associated with eBay, Apple, and Kickstarter.

The first version of a product is often referred to as a Minimum Viable Product, or in other words, a product that has just the core features that make the product work. It can be a website or an app, but whatever you do, keep it simple.

When I asked my work group why MVPs might be useful in schools, they said:

  • An MVP will allow us to see if students are actually interested in what we are building.
  • An MVP will save us from investing a ton of time — our most precious resource — up front.
  • An MVP will force us to simplify where we sometimes have a tendency to complicate.  We have to figure out what’s most important to the project and focus relentlessly on presenting that part.
  • An MVP will help us to learn.

The verdict from the student group is less tangible.  They just emailed me and said: “Cool article.”

Sounds like we’re launched.