Short (Long) Essay

You work at the desk each day for many days in a row, usually during what’s known as the “off” hours.

Then one day, you walk into a book store in Connecticut and see your book on the shelf with some books by writers you really admire.

My kids and students know where this is going and what I think is the crucial question: Do you find your way back to the desk tomorrow?

Pub Day

Today was the official publication day for Make Yourself Clear, and I’m feeling grateful.

As education writers taking a step into the world of business writing, Reshan and I were very pleased to hear “I bought your book” from people in a variety of industries including:

  • Insurance
  • Wellness
  • Fitness
  • Education (both teaching and administration)
  • Consulting
  • Journalism
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Nursing
  • Fashion

We’re happy that the idea that teaching is a core competency that cuts across fields and specialties has made sense to people. On Amazon, we peaked as the # 8 bestselling book in our category and were listed as a “Hot New Release.” Thanks for your support and for voting for us with your hard earned money.

Why We Sleep

I started reading this book last night and read the first 50 pages without stopping. It’s a joy to bump into a book by an author whose passion about his subject is only matched by his knowledge of his subject. He loves sleep so much that, early in the book, he tells readers that he hopes his book will put them to sleep. No book on sleep has ever been less sleepy, or sleep inducing, though. It’s wide awake.

We Can Use Some Help

Make Yourself Clear officially launches on Tuesday (May 7), and Reshan and I are now in need of all the help we can get. Some of you will receive this list, via email, early next week, but if you don’t receive that email and still want to pitch in, here are some things you can do to help us spread the word about our latest project and try to make a (good) dent in the public consciousness.

  1. Buy the book. Apparently, Amazon is shipping copies as of today.
  2. Read the book and leave a review on Amazon (or GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, etc.).
  3. Buy a second copy of the book for someone with whom you work. 
  4. Buy a third copy to donate to a local library or high school / college library. See bulk deals here.
  5. Email 5 people and recommend that they buy (and read) the book.
  6. Form a reading group around the book. Invite us to attend either in person or via Zoom or Skype.
  7. Take a picture of yourself reading the book and share it with your Facebook friends and family.
  8. Take a picture of yourself reading the book and share it with your Twitter and/or Instagram audiences.
  9. Find something you like in the book and quote it on a Twitter or Instagram post.
  10. Review the book on your own blog.
  11. Send the book’s title, or a short review of the book, to a newsletter that you like.
  12. Write a review of the book for a magazine to which you are able to contribute.
  13. If you come across a Tweet, Instragram Post, or any other social media related to the book, like and retweet/share it.
  14. Same as above, add a reply or comment to the conversation.
  15. Interview us on your podcast.
  16. Interview us for your newsletter or blog.
  17. Interview us for another publication.  
  18. Invite us to speak at your company or school.
  19. Introduce us to people you know who could book us as a speaker or who would benefit from a team/organization-wide read of the book.

Thanks for considering some of the above. Ideally, you will choose something that will benefit you or the people around you. The point here is to add some value and hopefully some delight to the world.

Ode to Revision

I’ll never be done writing about Pearl Rock Kane, and she’ll never be done teaching me, so here is one more lesson from the master.

On Sunday, I attended a service for Pearl at Teachers College, Columbia University. Many eloquent, thoughtful people spoke about her legacy and there was a beautiful musical interlude. Admittedly, for me, the program was overwhelming — overwhelmingly poignant, overwhelmingly crammed with incredible message and story after incredible message and story. Admittedly, it’s taken about a week for things to settle in my mind and for themes to start to emerge.

Anybody who writes about Pearl or knows (yes, knows) Pearl or talks about her legacy will come around to mentioning behavior. In particular, they will say that Pearl taught them that leadership is behavior. It’s not a position or a title. It’s behavior.

One of the leadership behaviors that Pearl’s eulogists expressed at her ceremony was an endless commitment to tinkering and tweaking, to iterating, to remaking, to re-marking. They told stories about how, whenever Pearl would design a course, she would always make it new, each time, and whenever Pearl would give a speech, she would always work on it again and again until it was meticulously prepared. Her daughters joked about this tweaking habit, this endless ode to revision, during their talk. One of them stopped the other and said, “you said the same thing at Mom’s funeral; she would expect you to make some changes.”

This theme, as it took shape in my head, made me think of a friend and mentor named Denise Brown-Allen. When Denise left our school to do a different — bigger — job, I moved into her office. Amazingly, she left everything behind. She left binders and lessons and ideas and folders. She left files and books and papers. It wasn’t messy; it was just hers, her stuff. I called her to ask her if she wanted me to box and save any of it or send it to her, and she said, “I already used up all of that. If I’m going to be any good where I’m going, I have to do the work again. I have to make everything from scratch as best as I can and with whatever I have learned.”

New job, new context; new context, new work; new day, new river.

Reshan Richards is the same way. In my many presentations with him, I have found that he is almost allergic to cutting and pasting, to using old slides, to anything that is even remotely canned or expired. We make almost everything by changing the old, by revising, or by simply starting over with a blank canvas or by pressing record anew on some device.

I realize that some of the things in my work — right now, today — are feeling a little stale because I haven’t reinvented them lately. I haven’t started from scratch. I’ve pulled out the old slides or the old lesson instead of starting from scratch, and I realize how dangerous that is, how it dishonors the teachings of some of my greatest mentors and friends.

Bring what you’ve got, what you’ve learned, who you are — right now — to the moment’s task. Urge it into existence. Wrestle with it the way you’ve been taught. Resist forms, formulas, PDFs, and well worn grooves. If you’re lucky enough to work in service of others, spend yourself fully and wildly.

And then, have faith — the tank will refill, will even spill, and you’ll be back at it and brand new.

Three Parts (and Don’t Forget the Third)

Here’s a quotation from Ben Thompson, who has been carefully watching, thinking about, and writing about technology with expert precision for a very long time.

There are three parts of any new paradigm in technology: doing current use cases better, coming up with a new business model, and creating entirely new use cases.

In my world(s), the first two items on the list are much easier, and executed much more frequently, than the third. Perhaps that’s because creating new uses cases, new stories, new examples, new evidence, new marketing assets takes a lot of time. Which of course is no excuse.

Though, P.S., I should have known that “use case” has a very specific meaning in the world of technology. A quick Google search helps to clarify things, though I recommend looking at words before images (like the ones below).