The Learning Revolution

January 31, 2010

Where do you think the United States stacks up when it comes to education in the current century compared to other countries? I believe that many would say that college education may have the brightest educators here, but I think we lag far behind in elementary and junior high/ high schools compared to other countries.

I know when I taught at a private school, I learned a lot about the Far Eastern and European school days. Most American school days last 6-7 hours: the Far Eastern schools would have 10-12 hour days. While Americans aren’t learning foreign languages for the most part until they hit double digits in age, other countries are learning 3-4 languages at the same time starting in first grade. Often the countries would have to compete to figure out of their students would be going on to college or if they would immediately have to enter a trade career.

Thanks to the internet, learning can be done 24 hours a day in a wide variety of subjects. People only lack the initiative and drive to acquire knowledge. Being a parent of a tween and teenager, I know how important it is to study the best learning methods for my children and help them retain what they are learning beyond the classroom.

I believe the school year needs to be extended to keep up with students in other countries. Whether this be a longer school day to get more hours in, or maybe adding an extra month to the school year, I think 180 days for a school year is not going to give the children of tomorrow a fair shake in the working world. Most full time jobs these days require people to work a minimum of 40 hours and often 45-50 hours to be competitive. We need people who can use both sides of their brain and learn team building skills to be able to think outside the box.

My title today is inspired by the book of the same name. I learned about this book through Mark Victor Hansen- it’s a monster 500 page plus reading experience, with tons of quotes and facts/ figures to illustrate the dense text. Written in the 1990’s, a lot of what the authors discuss has come true regarding learning environments, the internet and the accumulation of information. I’m only 100 pages through the book but I’m taking copious notes and will report back to you what I find most interesting and necessary to ponder.

I believe it’s very important though to acquire as many languages as you can through the years- we live in a multicultural world and you expand your horizons and career choices simply by the fluency of language. I know that I’ve been able to get better pay at certain jobs due to my multilingual capabilities. Go to the library and take out textbooks and audio materials to learn a foreign language. Find people in your area who may be willing to form study groups and/or give you practical applications to use the language in active conversation.

We are in a society where if you aren’t keeping up in learning new information, others will pass you by within a year or two. Your brain doesn’t fill up with everything you need to know once you finish high school, college or graduate school. Continuous learning is the key to survival and thriving in modern society.


Animation and People

January 30, 2010

One thing I love most about our family is the animation in terms of our passion and communication regarding life. We’ve learned to not let much bubble underneath the surface- and I think if you attempt to hide something, someone will call you on the fact that your words aren’t matching up with your actions or attitude.

My wife for instance really gets into playing video games. It brings out the fiery competitor in her, and I think everyone around her ends up really getting more animated, excited and louder than normal. My oldest daughter really enjoys the fact that she will mess with her during these games just to not only provoke but also to let her know how special and appreciated she is.

I think children need to understand that life isn’t all going to go at steady level, that we do have ups and downs and lefts and rights that we need to travel down to thrive and survive. My wife and my children have taught me to become a better person by putting myself out there more, in terms of my thoughts, in terms of the chances I take with activities, in terms of growing and learning and caring and sharing. They bring me out of my quieter shell into this person who can laugh, who can live and who can poke fun at the world around him without hurting anyone in the process.

I spent time on the way home from work listening to more Denis Waitley material on my car stereo. One of the concepts that hit home would be taking risks and the willingness to attempt new things- be it a new route home from work, a fresh activity you’ve never engaged in, or a new restaurant with different cuisine that you’ve never tried before. Life is meant to be explored, not really just to go through the motions and living with the safe and comfortable world you already know.

Don’t let your current circumstances dictate the next year, three years or decade of your life. If you feel like your current set of friends are dragging you down, seek out people who will give you the encouragement, kindness and strength you deserve. Go take that college course you’ve been yearning to do to expand your knowledge and information base. Find people online who have similar interests as you, participate in the message boards and plan meet ups in your area. Take the plunge and I think you will be surprised by the course of events that happen as they unfold.

As humans we are creatures who want to socialize and be around people. Do not think you are alone in the world- there’s always help if you are willing to seek out the right people and ask. What’s the worst that can happen with billions of people in the world- do not let one no or rejection be a black mark on your abilities as a person. I’m glad that this blog has helped me and others learn that we share similar fears and insights about the world we live in. I’m learning just as you are how to get by moment to moment, day by day- and I have my tough days as well as excellent days.

I am ready for the spring to appear- but the winter time gives me plenty of hope as I reflect, process and share with the world. Express yourself- become animated and let people realize how special and wonderful you are.


Roots and Wings

January 29, 2010

This famous line comes from many seminars and audio programs I’ve heard done by personal development expert/ author/ speaker Denis Waitley. He uses it in regards to two aspects you need to place within the journey from childhood to adulthood for your children. My wife and I believe wholeheartedly in these concepts, giving our daughters roots to belong within our family and our community and establish traditions that hopefully they will want to pass on to their children. When it comes to wings, we know that as they get older you have to give children the skills to make more decisions and choices on their own and allow them to fly with wings to develop their own healthy, productive lives.

It’s very difficult in a society that seems to be promoting a luxurious, gotta have it lifestyle to keep your children reigned in without feeling like they don’t have all of their material needs met. Every month you get advertising messages coming at you from all angles- billboards, commercials, social media programs, cell phones, etc. – and you want to provide what you can while also teaching them the art of working hard for a lot of what you desire. What good is it to be handed everything, not take responsibility or care for what you get, and then demand that mom or dad take their money and buy you a new item right away when you feel you want it?

That’s why even though our children have some of the extra things that I didn’t have as a child, I will remind them that you need to be real, respectful and responsible for what you have. Texting is not a right, we can survive without the internet and trust me, I lived just fine without an Ipod or my Wii in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I do enjoy a lot of the technology conveniences of today, but I want to make sure my children know that they can unplug and be with humans for a day or even a week and their lives will go on just fine.

I’m happy that they look forward to particular traditions- be it birthdays, holidays or other little things that we do as a family. We will break out a spontaneous game night and have all kinds of special snacks as prizes. We like to ask questions that make them think about their lives and the world around them during supper times. We’ve helped them acclimate to a world that may have been rough for them to navigate years ago.

Will I be sad when both are ready to move into their own homes? Certainly- I think it’s natural for every parent to have a bit of sadness regarding the empty nest that occurs. I know now though my job is to give them all of the skills and tools necessary to be healthy, productive and contributing members of society. We often want our children to stay a certain way at a certain age- but I’m confident that when they are ready to fly, they’ll know that they always have two people who they can come to if they feel like they need an ear for listening, a heart for love and support and eyes to look at them and admire how they’ve grown into wonderful human beings.

Denis Waitley is correct- if you focus on loot and things, you’ve got to re-focus on the non-material aspects that matter the most to have a good life. Take care of yourself and each other, have a wonderful day!


Foot Traffic

January 28, 2010

Well, we’ve got a number of services lined up now that will be helping us with the transition of our youngest daughter. One component will be in house therapy, which could be a mix of the therapist seeing a combination of different family members depending on the night of the week. We will also be getting mentors for the children, who probably will meet with the children once a week. All of this is in the hope of stabilization and settling in to better family routines.

My wife and I are aware of the fact that some of this issues fall into the category of personality and others fall into the category of attitude and choice. A person does have free will to do what they desire and make a choice not to react to a less than favorable situation or outcome. Today I didn’t get a full day of sleep, because my youngest felt it was imperative to get her opinion across about having a lunch she didn’t desire with my wife… for 15 solid minutes before more of the meeting people would be coming to our home.

What’s interesting is during the meeting in the late afternoon at the treatment center, she spoke with us about the overnight people who stay up and chat very loud outside of her room. She wishes she could tell them to cut it out, because she gets awoken in the middle of the night. I figured it would be a learning moment- because that’s how I feel when she wakes me up with her yelling, screaming, stomping and temper tantrums.

Instead, she didn’t see beyond herself. This will be the challenge through everything going on. The goal will be for her to live in a functioning family without displaying her aggressive past behaviors. I’m probably going to feel like I’m coming and going in different directions as the foot traffic picks up around the house. We have to be real regarding our situation. I’m glad I have the support and comfort of good friends, a great loving family, and the resources to make progress, even if it’s at a slow, steady clip.

While all of the change takes place, my oldest feels like she’s fighting for her needs and independence all in one. I think she wants whatever form of “normal” we have to come back into the household. She fears rejection and pain once again from her younger sister. We’ve reassured her that she’s still and always will be our oldest daughter, she’s a wonderful woman and with her engaging personality there’s no way she would ever get lost in any crowd within the world.

And how am I doing with this all? I have so many mixed emotions going through my head. Today my youngest may have argued with my wife, but she didn’t lose her cool to the extent that she has in the past. We need to encourage the open communication and expression of feelings without condemning her. We have all of our walls naturally up, especially when we’ve spent years taking all of the porcupine quills she’s thrown at us.

I’m willing to give it another shot- when I put my whole heart and body into someone, the commitment lasts for a lifetime.


Plans In Motion

January 27, 2010

Well, it looks like momentum has come into effect within our household. The previous three treatment centers my youngest spent working on her behavioral issues only provided a brief vacation, as she didn’t really learn how to work on her problems within the home. Now this fourth placement has really stepped up to get all of the services in place for a better, safer and hopefully healthier return.

What does this mean for me and my family? Probably lots of meetings, and more therapy than you can shake a stick at. Both outpatient services and in home therapy. I believe we’ll be doing some component of individual and family therapy four times a week for quite a while. I guess the change in my lifestyle that I talked about yesterday is coming to fruition.

I’ll do whatever it takes to make our home harmonious for longer periods of time. When we helped our first daughter adjust to what a family is all about, she really wanted to do the work to be in a family. She understood that you have to put yourself wholeheartedly into the experiences, taking the good times with the rocky roads, to be able to get the most benefit and reward from a family. Are there times she wants to maintain her distance? Certainly. But I think she enjoys the love, the support, the help, the struggle, the push, the pull, and all of the fun times that come out of the teamwork and interaction families have.

I’d like to see my youngest daughter get off of the sidelines into the game. I want her to relax, let go and trust us completely. Will that ever happen? That’s all dependent on if she wants to be committed to a family. I believe she’s been so disappointed in caregivers through the years that she believes this is a permanent picture, and not something that can be adjustable. We’ll know over the next few interactions, when faced with daily normal household tasks (taking showers, finding clothes, doing homework, maintaining chores) if she reacts the same as she did before or if she’s really practiced and worked on establishing a new set of coping skills to live a better, healthier life.

Did I think this would take 4 plus years to get into motion? No… but there was a point a couple of years ago where I thought we turned the corner and she was making a better connection. I don’t know specifically what changed in her mind. All I can hope for is that she is willing to forgive herself for what happened in the past- she did nothing wrong and needs to know that the adults in her life were the ones making poor decisions around her. She was only a child. I want her to enjoy the rest of her childhood and not have to worry about adult issues anymore. I want her to learn that you can love again.

I will keep you posted on the progress as I’m sure it will be a process that does not meet with challenges and obstacles from all parties along the way. With change comes about excitement and fear- we need to recognize it, face up to it and work on the issues at hand. We will become a family again.


Uncertainty For Change

January 26, 2010

As I’m sure you know if you are a regular reader of this blog, my life certainly is not without a lot of action these days. There are so many times now where I get used to expecting the unexpected, although I do hope for a balance at some point in my daughters’ lives. My wife and I are making sure that in 2010 we take care of ourselves better mentally, emotionally and with our physical health so that we can be better not only for our children and the family, but ourselves.

I feel like there are going to be many changes taking place in my life over the next few weeks and months. Priorities seem to be shifting as far as what I want to do, who I want to be, things I want to see, and where I envision my life taking me.

This uncertainty for change leaves me with mixed emotions. Sometimes I feel like I have too much going all at once and I need to step back and scale down. At other times I know that I enjoy the variety that occurs from shifting my focus from one particular hobby or activity into another. I do feel like I have at many points over the past few years put my desires on the back burner for the needs of the children- but as they get older I’m not getting any younger, and if you have only one life to live you might as well go for what you want while you can.

I think I need to take a serious look at what I want to do over the next 10 years, beginning with the end in mind and then going back from the future to mapping out exactly what needs to happen to take imagination and visualization into reality. My wife and I have talked about when our youngest daughter returns home this time from her latest treatment center what we are prepared to do and what we know probably is always going to be a part of her mind. It’s not that we give up hope, but if she’s committed to keeping her distance from us we have to make plans for what levels we will put up with before we need to seek additional supports.

I know if I want to write a book, I need to block out time and devote those sessions exclusively to that endeavor. I love what Denis Waitley talks about regarding his idea of “prime time” when he writes his books- devoting the hours when most people are watching television and getting entertained by others (7pm-11pm), he will spend in his creative world so that he can create something that will give value again and again to others. To those that believe you can’t make time, I bet if you chronicle how you spend your time in a given 7 day week you can find a couple of 2-3 hour blocks to devote exclusively to writing or your own passion that you’ve yet to pursue but want to.

It’s my mission to help others, learn and grow more from the people on this earth. Have a wonderful day, be kind to each other and to yourself. Affirm that you are the most special being on this planet and that the world is conspiring to bring happiness, healthiness and prosperity for you and your family.


From Motivation to Perspiration

January 25, 2010

When it comes to making changes in our lives, many of the experts discuss the fact that you need to change your inside before you see changes on the outside. Working on the mind has to be one component, but I believe without a definite plan of action and the ability to execute in smaller steps, you’ll be right back into your old habits.

Why do you think diets don’t work for most people? People change everything about what they eat, other than getting to route of any emotional issues tied around their food consumption. We are currently facing a similar issue within our household, especially with our youngest daughter. She wants to make all of these changes without consistently making the right choice in a crisis situation, always reverting back to what’s comfortable for her but what doesn’t work for our family. It all starts with motivation and the will to want to change- and yet that’s not going to be the simple cure all to make sustainable life change.

I wanted to involve myself with music from the time I was a young child. I first started around the age of 5-6 by learning to read sheet music and playing the organ that we had in our living room. I would take lessons after school from the music teacher. I learned chords from my father as well, as he used to play in a country music cover band growing up. For some reason though, I couldn’t advance beyond a certain stage and found that I liked talking about music and writing about music rather than being the one on the instrumentation.

From the time I was 16 onward then I put myself out there in terms of letting people know how much I wanted to interview bands, write reviews and express my opinions. I found people who were already doing what I was doing, they gave me a chance and I’ve been writing about bands ever since, two decades plus later. I grabbed opportunities when they were available. When I received the chance to become a co-editor for a couple of magazines, I took the risk and felt like I made even more connections within this business.

But I didn’t get there by wishing and hoping. I took action, even if it was a little bit each day. The more trust you gain, the more credibility you gain in the future. If you come through according to deadlines, writing material, interviewing people, being at shows, etc.- people will come to know you. I’ve learned that you have to take an interest in their wants, their goals, their desires before people will care about you.

So while I recommend giving yourself a chance to read and listen to experts like Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, Mark Victor Hansen, Joe Vitale, Brian Tracy, Jack Canfield and a whole host of other self-help, personal development leaders- it’s worth nothing in the world if you don’t take action, even if it’s small steps, every day. Partner up if you have to when it comes to your personal goals, business goals, fitness goals, exercise goals, relationship goals, spiritual goals, etc. Write out how you envision your life to be from 10 years out and close it in to 30 day goals, then work on the steps you need to take to achieve these goals and go out and prosper!