Saturday, September 29, 2012

Procrastination the Cancer

Good morning and having now completed five weeks of a semester, I have learned all over again about the negative power of this thing called "procrastination."  Many people are naturally prone to that process I have learned for those that know me know that I am certainly not one to embark on that time wasting journey.

This semester, versus previous semesters, has been quite surprising, tiring, somewhat disappointing and has been slower to mesh the gears of the teams in the four classes.  Inordinate numbers of students dropping the course, inordinate numbers enrolled but never show up and inordinate numbers that choose not to embrace the work, the boundaries of the class process we call Jim, Inc, find themselves hamstrung by that demon of procrastination.  It is my belief, hope really, as we launch into week six of the semester that we now have the right people in the right place focused on doing the right things as the mid term examination looms for that is a major eyeopener to the mandate for effective teamsmanship for all the parts of the team must gel to succeed. Yes, that process I use is tried, tested and proven over and over again to be a right and proper means to teach.

This semester has seen many highs and far too many lows.  The tragic deaths of a current student's mother due to a drunk driver, the loss of a great former student in a one car accident, a student whose room mate this week was threatening suicide, two teams still not cohesive in their approach to the work and have felt the "sting" of me to "motivate" that process that is centered on procrastination, The Cancer.  I have found myself this week especially burdened, given all the above, about these students of today looking twenty years down the road when they are working, raising families and facing the ever present headwinds of life and their preparation for those mega pressures.  Weighing all the points in this paragraph projected, I have great concern, frankly, about how this generation will be able to shoulder the weight of responsibility.

In classes we have discussed and debated that very point. This generation has expressed by this generation is founded now more on immediate gratification, lazy, lacking traditional family organization and the value systems normally that go along with that and the "E" word, Entitlement always finds its way to the head of the discussion docket.  Those, each of those, are significant in their implication but join them all into the cauldron of today's reality is certainly worrisome at the least and concerning at the aggregate. So how do we "fix" or evaporate these impediments to the Tomorrows?

All of this, for me, is measured by the level of physical and emotional exhaustion and stress I feel more acutely than in any other semester.  I have worked through the rationalization that the problem must be me, that I expect too much, that the work is too heavy but then I stop, reflect and come to the realization that absolutely not for the approach, the organization, the work is no different than many previous semesters.  Then I begin to hear from other professors similar comments about this semester as I outline above and then assess that perhaps there is something truly and culturally unique about the Student at this time of our life!

I tell my students frequently that they will get just as much out of this educational journey as they are willing to give to the journey. Most, the great majority, are doing a wonderful job and giving their all and I have every right to expect that for that is exactly what they get from me, their leader and I shall continue to give that.  But seeing a much higher number of those choosing not to be part of the learning journey is disheartening and disappointing and at both of those my natural human tendency is to go into attack mode for they are enemy soldiers in need of annihilation for as long as disheartment and disappointment are allowed the light of day, they will pull others toward them and callous those choosing to reside there.  It is in the attacking of those twin demons that frustration and exhaustion result and then too many have to witness the not pretty side of me as I embark on the combat operations to lift the whole class to the light of the sun of educational growth.

But you know, it is WORTH IT.  All the time, the effort, the energy, the process of ferreting out what I call the 20%ers that can suck the energy and lifeblood from the 80% people that want to be the best they can be and seeking new a deeper understanding of the things we are drilling into as they prepare for the battles of life that reside unseen before them.  There is nothing I will not do for the 80%ers as they and the thousands of others in the Winners Club will attest but likewise, there is no amount of constraint that I will not cut through in eradicating any essence of 20%ers in behaviors and PROCRASTINATION.

I love what I GET TO DO! I GET TO be part of two generations and their choices personally and professionally. THAT is why I do what I do and I love it thus that far over arches the energy burn.  Kids want structure and boundaries.  Far too many young people come to me in the classes lacking either of those in their lives I sense.  If you instill structure and boundaries with generous helpings of respect and caring, the 80%ers will be nurtured to greatness while the 20%ers will find every excuse to muddle around in the mud of being an anchor. I detest anchors for as the adage say, "a rising tide lifts all ships."  The only counter to that adage is that is all very true but those at anchor in a rising tide are sucked beneath the water and are drowned.  I believe you see the metaphor against the context of my blog this day.

All of this, by the way, extends far from just a classroom experience for this is about life and it is about life that I seek to teach via example and process. I LOVE what God is allowing me to do for I realize that this work, teaching, if with a right heart and drive, is every bit a ministry and I do believe God has called me to do this work and that work is being blessed in so many ways.

SLAY the demon of Procrastination daily!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

6 to 25 ...

Last evening I was part of two back-to-back jail ministry services at our local Stark County Jail working with two great men from my son's church. Both services went especially well and the Holy Spirit was abundant in His presence.  Two specific things happened last evening that I took to bed with me in my exhaustion and have awakened this morning with both events still churning in my mind.

Event one was played out in the lobby / front entrance to the jail before entering the security check point.  It was an especially active place when I arrived. The event that hit me very hard was in watching this African American family, I guess they were a family, but two ladies and a man in their thirties I would assume.  And with them was this precious about two year old little girl.  Others in the lobby area were men and their girl friends waiting to go into the jail for warrant violations but it seems, generally, everyone in the lobby was loud and angry and bickering about various things. The culture of the lobby was dank and depressing as I was trying to prepare my mind and heart for the worship services to come.  But then there was the precious two year old little girl.

I was captivated by her as the laughed loudly, strolled the lobby with reckless abandon, engaged everyone there but there were no takers for they were absorbed in their own puddle of anger and I realized they were all angry at each other. This little girl came running to me as I entered the glass doors smiling widely and gave me a "rock" with her hand; precious.  As the next fifteen minutes unfolded, I became angry in watching the two family members of the child blatantly hand slapping her in the mouth, across the face and later the back of her head sending her flying across the floor.  Each time this child popped back up like nothing happened and reignited the culture of darkness abounding in that lobby.  In a flash I realized the power of light when it is brought into darkness for the darkness is melted and the light controls the darkness. I yearned to hold that child because of what I saw but also because of seeing the tons of love our Ms. Hope is now so used to and how loving she can be, just like that little ray of light in the darkness of Stark County Jail.  Jesus was the light that entered this dark world and that came back to blaringly to me in watching this child be physically abused and verbally attacked.

The second event was in the second service last night when a nice looking African American young man that had attended previous chapel services was especially attentive the entire service with tears flowing during the singing and responded to the call / invitation for salvation at the end of the service. He asked to speak with me when the service was over in that two minutes before the deputies returned the inmates to their cells.  As I sat with him he began to pour his heart out through tears and what he told me was that he had just be sentenced to 6 - 25 years prison time and was leaving this morning to begin that process.  He was devastated.

Mind you I am not denying nor justifying he wrong he did was robbery and aggravated physical hurt inflicted on someone; he deserves the consequences for those acts and he readily admits that.  But here is yet another case of a young twenty something young man, broken home, life of having to survive gangs, no job, no family, poor choice of friends, etc, etc. I hear it and see it so much that it is easy to grow ambivalent to it but it is very real and the long term implication on our culture is very concerning.  This young man gave his heart to a loving God last evening and he was thrilled about having made that decision. I encouraged him to link up with the prison chaplain and that I would be writing him to encourage him at times.

Light in the dark -- That precious little girl
Dark lifted by the Light -- That is priceless in that young man

I was reminded all over again in why jail ministry continues to draw me to it and it is always so humbling and such a blessing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The definition of Fear I have used and believe deeply in my heart is that fear is the absence of knowledge or, in other words, people are only afraid of that which they do not know or understand.  One of the more interesting eyeopeners I have discovered this semester with my students was ushered in by my mandate for my students to read the daily articles I publish with my commentary on the article and expect a reply from each student on what the article says to them that same day. I think seal the circle by speaking to the articles, at times, in my classroom comments or will actually take class time to have team / class debates on the issues of the article's core issue. That is powerful I have learned for that is where real learning is seeded; when the student can and does express their ideas in a qualified manner.

In that process I realize I have uncovered a tender morsel of so many students having to face up to the issues that comprise the patchwork of our very complex and fearful world.  I have had a hunger to understand since I was a small boy and that hunger is insatiable.  Having experienced much of this world in my Goodyear career in seeing many cultures, dealing with many complex matters, having seen the ugly side of people, businesses, economies, countries; that is a powerful elixir for me to seek daily to try and understand the many dots that in some way must be connected.  Having now forced that energy into course work on my students, I am finding  in the replies in many ways words that they are realizing a deep fear of our world resides in these young minds. 

But let me go back to definition of Fear that you only fear that which you do not know or understand but, therefore, the pain of fear, for me, is actually motivational as these young minds are stretched in new directions, different paces and myriad hues and colors.  I yearn to ignite a hunger in my students for them to want to understand the major issues of this every shifting planet of complexities. Why? I believe the more you understand, the richer decisions are made going forward based on knowledge.  That learning is wrapped into the core course objectives thus putting  the ribbon on the gift I believe.

My wife at times will ask me why is important to understand "all that stuff" for "there is nothing you can do about it .."  Great questions with few answers but my response is that the more you know and understand, the better the decisions to slow the rot and enhance the good is triggered. I sincerely believe that.

At the aggregate of the Why my mandate to my students is simple; these minds are the cultural leaders of our future. It is they that will make the decisions. It is they that will die in wars yet to be fought. It is they that will run businesses. It is they that will birth their future and build into that future the cultural values my students are learning today and I get to be part of that equation; how powerful is that?!  How motivating is that?!

I do not seek to make my students always comfortable and warm and fuzzy. I do seek to find a way to get to places in their brains via education that will open new avenues and hungers to want to understand for in doing that, fear, the terrible shadow of fear is triggered.  When I read or hear, "I never had a clue about x, y or z .." or "I have often wondered about that but never had to think about it ...! Those are statements that tell me the brains are being opened and filled with the phenomenal stimulant of knowledge thus accelerating the evaporation of the ghosts of fear. I hate fear and seek to make it go away by replacing it with the sweet cool taste of the water of knowing.

As we begin week four of this semester, I will find new ways to stretch the minds but at the same time to always be there to explain, to illustrate, to challenge my students to debate. I tell my students that education does not happen in the classroom with a professor reading from a PowerPoint but education takes place when a student hears something in a class room, gains competence in that new knowledge and then takes the initiative to engage someone outside the class to share and debate that new knowledge.  Competence, you see, leads to Confidence.

In my selection of articles and in my commentary, I seek to find a very different focus of the article from the previous days submission. I want my students to get a sense of the constellation of events and issues such as the latest QE3 or then the teacher strike in Chicago or then the, see what I mean?

My distribution list for the articles is rather vast and diverse with many students from years gone by, business leaders I have worked with around the world, military leaders I worked with, childhood friends; a very eclectic clientele but the primary target audience is the current semester of students; the Makers of the Tomorrrows!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Spectrum of Reflection and the Challenge of Projection

On this dark, rainy Saturday morning and after a good cup of coffee and having gone through my global array of news, I am more focused on the events of this ending of the first two weeks of my semester.  As my wife and I were concluding our morning time with God, my mind begin to whirl as some of the events in just this two weeks which, frankly, formulate a spectrum of some really great high points and some really terrible low realities.  So this morning will be about reflection but really in reflecting, I will drill into some projection. So the Spectrum of Reflection will hopefully yield a Challenge of Projection.

This week we have witnessed in a political party platform deliver a distinct and very public disgruntlement on the absence of the person of "God" intentionally excluded from the platform.  This week, yesterday, a young student of mine was shocked into a horrific reality that his mother had been killed apparently by a drunk driver in a head on collision.  This week the world has yet again witnessed the infamous boy from Arkansas dazzle the cameras in the form of Clinton. Who would have imagined someone so rightly trashed while a sitting POTUS would rise to the global status of the Savior of the Party?  Only in America, right?  This week I have been absolutely thrilled to see the caliber of some really great students as they embrace the work of my teaching methodology, getting their teams organized and beginning to manage the resources of the teams they have been charged to lead.  This week I have been awed by what I consider an inordinate number of students dropping classes when, in my opinion and in the opinion of their peers, are of an age and generation that at the first scent of actually having to work and engage, they will simply walk away or cut and run.  See what I mean by the Spectrum for many highs and lows in just two weeks and knowing many more are yet to come.

Those that may not know me well or even at all that are reading this cannot know my heart and passion about what I get to do. See, for me, teaching is two interconnected realities; it is first a God-granted ministry that I get to be this close to so many lives many of which are injured in many ways, wounded and hurt and that, even in the heavy lifting of the educational process I use, find a way to get closer to the point of pain in my students.  Secondly, this work, this ministry of teaching, is bounded not by a semester but by a lifetime projection. I know that the process, the interface, the heavy lifting is formulating our future thus this work is going to touch the lives of these people but also their spouses, parents and yet unborn children. That reality thrills me but challenges me to be and do my very best at all times either face-to-face, via email, text, a look, a handshake, a pat on the back, a harsh critique; whatever means required to get to the best of each student.

The matter of the inordinate number of students dropping courses or enrolling and then never showing up is very troubling for me for I simply do not understand. I must but reflect on the world when I was their age which was a world of high inflation, a terrible war in Vietnam, a military conscription system that was too many times unfairly executed, a drug culture that turned to a societal cancer we are still reeling from today; that was the world when I was in my late teen years.  Today, there is no conscription, which I vehemently disagree with. We are paying young people to fight our wars and protect our shores in a all-volunteer concept.  I strongly believe that if you are going to live in this great nation, there should be a price to pay for that gift. But I find more and more a sense of pure entitlement mentality abounding in far too many students.  This issue is now multi-generational so as one of my students stated yesterday, if a kid never sees his parents work, have to stive for anything with the government giving it all to them, then why should the student strive for something better; how truly sad!

Shirking of responsibility to the class, to the team or to themselves is far too rampant. I attack that with all I have when I see evidence of that for those that take on that banner are what I call the "20% Club" and they are the ones that impede, slow and frustrate the progress of the 80% Champions.  But the projected reality is that if these young folks will shirk, cut and run, avoid today, you can know they will replicate that behavior when they seek to find employment, raise families, be adults. It really is very predictable and that is very sad to me but so true.

I could go on and on but let me move to Projection.  I am still greatly impressed with this generation of young folks.  I may not personally care for the array of tattoos which scar their bodies and I know that in a few years when gravity kicks in they will regret having done that but that is really not a big deal for me.  I did have to smile yesterday as I was observing a many-tattooed student asking questions about some of them, great young man by the way, and he sincerely said, "well Professor Williams, they are all religious .." ... I did have to bite my lip not to laugh out loud on that revelation.
The reality is that the 80%ers will rise up to carry the load of the world and the 20%ers will be the anchors and issues of our tomorrows; Pareto was so right on his theory!

So my Projection for the future; I hope I live long enough to get to see these 80%ers rise to the positions they rightly deserve to control, lead, direct, drive, CHANGE their world for their value systems are strong and growing as they prepare for the journey.  Yes, I am encouraged!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Plato's Cave the Allegory

Many years ago  I was exposed to this great work about human behavior.I do wish I could remember how or who brought it into my world for teaching that allegory has become standard upload for any and all courses I teach.  That allegory now extends to thousands of jail inmates as well in my comments for changing one's reality is the beginning of change, right?

Now that this semester is in full swing and I have again stood a class of students around the wall, heels and palms against the wall while standing for a long period of time, lights in the classroom off to capture just a flavor of a cave ambiance, I still marvel at watching the students process this whole Cave story. Of course, I  embellish the story a bit and add some humor but the crux of the work by Plato remains central; Man's behavior is pretty predictable especially when exposed to a new reality. Those of us still "chained" in our reality translated as comfort zone, have no real interest nor desire to cut the chains and embark on a journey to truly understand what causes the shadows on the Cave's ceiling we are all familiar and COMFORTABLE with for that is our reality. So the question, got any shadows in your world that have formed your cocoon of reality which may or may not be good?

In watching the scores of students begin to tire from standing with hands and palms pressed against a wall with eyes shut and not looking around and I am the only voice in their then current reality, I can see the wheels of so many begin to non verbally dredge up pains and frustrations of their lives that align with the context of Plato's Cave.  I sometime ask for stories if they wish to share and they always want to share but then within hours I will begin receiving emails telling me their stories of angst, anger, frustration, disgruntlement, fear of their own person Cave and their yearning to escape the bindings of that old reality that has taken them down a painful pathway.

See, for me, education is Plato's Cave for it goes directly to the heart of changing one's reality. The more interesting component of Plato's work is that once a person has escaped the chains, made their way out of the cave of reality, the rest of us are still comfortably chained in the comfortable reality, to examine why the shadows bouncing around on the wall are there. Once we see the bonfire and dancing native around the fire outside the cave and had the aha moment of "now I understand" the shadows, it is the lack of acceptance by those still chained in that old reality that reject not only the message of the new reality but also the person bringing that message.  THAT is the driver, to me at least, of why education is so vital; it holds one's head under the water long enough that it forces the rapid intake of new information via the oxygen of a new reality.

The world in which we reside is screaming for change and leaders to lead others to that exit from the chains of current reality to discovery and understanding of the new, forward reality. Education is kinetic, not easy and happens not in the sanitized casings of a class room but in the daily lives and conversation of those cut loose from their chains holding them in the current reality and stories and lore.  It is the engagement by those experiencing the new reality with their friends, associates and hardest of all, their family, in conversation about the new reality; that is education when a student has the guts, competence and stamina and courage to begin to teach others their new reality. And then more and more are engaged in the discovery of the new reality.

This whole Plato's Cave teaching element is potent and each semester I realize the reason it is so important and eye opening is that the chains of this world are holding great minds to the wall of the cocoon but that cocoon is shielding and hiding more and more painful, disappointing and discouraging realities for the young minds. See, they reflect the rapidly and deterioration values and mores of our society and it angers me greatly to see the pain in these young people as they strive for something new, something better.

All of this is what fundamentally drives me to expend far too many hours and thoughts into building and executing a course but it is not about me but about the minds of these young people that challenge me to the very core to given them all I have to cut loose the chains binding their minds from finding a new escape, to smell the sweet smell of  a new, enlightened reality and then to enjoin others to cut their bindings to see that reality. That is powerful stuff! That is what teachers teaching with their heart exact from the minds and hearts of their students. That is why I do what I do!

This work, teaching, is a noble work but it is also a work of great value for it unleashes the forces of change for the new tomorrows. This is not a job for me, this is a ministry I GET TO DO! And who receives the richest blessing of all? That would be me!