A Little More Edge

My reading life is starting to converge around a central set of ideas. 2021 isn’t going to be great unless we roll up our sleeves and make it so.

Managing Self

If you have a penchant for potato chips and the couch in times of trouble, consider an “opposite signal” strategy that requires little mental effort. When your mind tells you to numb yourself, come to life, instead: Exercise precisely when you most want to cocoon; eat nutrient-dense foods when you most crave junk. A simple way to start practicing this is to go outside for a walk at the moments when you feel the urge to curl up. None other than Hippocrates called walking “man’s best medicine,” and researchers have long seen it as the cure for many of our physical, psychological, and even social ailments

This strategy acknowledges the paradox of well-being that so many of us fall prey to: Our instincts are often wrong, and we sometimes need to do the opposite of what they tell us to do. When your mind says, You feel sad—but you’ll feel better if you eat a whole pizza while sitting on the couch watching television, your mind is lying to you. The unhappiness you feel is actually diminishing your brain’s executive-functioning ability, making it more difficult to make good decisions. Pizza and TV won’t make you happy for more than a moment, but what will help now and in the long term is a good walk outdoors.

Source: Sedentary Pandemic Life Is Bad for Our Happiness

Managing Others

In my conversations with a wide range of leaders, they repeatedly emphasize how important it is to be able to do something instead of letting go. Perhaps you feel like staying in bed all day watching Netflix and eating pizza, or “snug under the duvet,” as one of my clients describes this type of reaction. Once in a while this may even work well with a bit of constructive denial and self-indulgence, but not every day and not every time things get hard.

Yes, the current moment calls for compassion, but it also calls for a little more edge and collective defiance against the injustice of the virus. You want people to say “enough is enough” and rise to fight against the gloom. As with good parenting, the key is to find the right balance between caring and challenging, between compassion and containment, between saying “you are good enough as you are” and “get moving and get to the next level.”

Source: How to Lead When Your Team Is Exhausted — and You Are Too

Holding the Mic for the Archives: Volume 2

As a continuation of the Refreshing Wednesday archives project, here are five more posts from the past five years:

@reshanrichards and I wrote about @afbwoman in our recent book. Since then, she has taken her skills and wisdom from ESPN to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.


This teaching experiment with @KlingensteinCtr graduate students was fun and generative.


A story about how my daughter continued to learn about @scratch (or what happens when interest and passion meet the right environments). 


“It was absence, not presence, that had allowed the wonderful to happen.”


Is the assignment for the teacher or the student?



Holding the Mic for the Archives: Volume 1

This blog is an ongoing celebration of ideas and people and an extension of my educational philosophy.

Here at Refreshing Wednesday, I’ve been holding the mic for students (i.e., learners and learning organizations) since November 2015. One thing that bothers me about my design is that some great ideas — and people — are folded into archives, five years deep, and forgotten.

Recently, I noticed a WordPress feature that allows me to format text blocks as tweets. I’m going to use it to “hold the mic” for the Refreshing Wednesday archives, making it easy for you to become a fellow mic holder, as well. You just have to press Tweet and then edit the text until it looks the way you want it to (this last part is really important because the Tweet text adds an extra URL and often other gibberish). I’ll start with five and we’ll see how this goes.

Here’s an ode to my teachers which is a book I should probably write.  Its title pretty much says it all:
The teachers who knew me best mattered most.


Here’s a workflow for blogging that I adapted from the past practice of the inimitable @reshanrichards.  The message isn’t “do what we do” so much as it’s “have a workflow.”


How an artist (who happens to be @austinkleon) studies.  My favorite interview ever. 


The 50 mile rule for friendships.  Caution: this one will bug you as you begin to travel again (because you’ll know it’s true . . . and it’s difficult to actually practice).  


Intuition Tuition.


Thanks for reading and for engaging with these ideas and people — then and now!

Is the book a feminist novel?

In the Introduction to the Anchor Books edition of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood conducts a useful and enlightening self-interview. While talking about the origin of the text, aspects of its composition, and some key elements of the story, she weaves in the occasional question. After asking herself if the book is a “feminist” novel, she writes:

If you mean an ideological tract in which all women are angels and/or so victimized they are incapable of moral choice, no.  If you mean a novel in which women are human beings — with all the variety of character and behavior that implies — and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure, and plot of the book, then yes.  In that sense, many books are feminist.

So now I’m asking myself a few questions: Was my last conversation feminist enough? Was my last email exchange feminist enough? Was my last meeting feminist enough?

But why feminist and why enough? Because of what Atwood’s explanation implies. To be feminist could mean to see more of a colleague; to listen to more of what a student is saying and not saying; to help one’s daughter build agency; to make sure a collaborator is an actual co-author, an actual co-creator, an actual and legitimate part of the story; to reject the mind’s insistence on categorizing or typecasting or shaving off the rough edges; to want, instead, all the variety of character. When you’re lucky enough to be in community with others, what happens to them is crucial.