The Influence

All the Light The Influence When my editor in Dubai posted a Tweet that she’d read All the Light We Cannot See, I decided that it appeared to be an interesting read. While I typically favor non-fiction, occasionally it is refreshing to delve into literature, especially if it is vivid in descriptive prose, as is this book.

Cited with accolades, it took a while for it to become available from my library near Chicago because four other patrons thought to reserve it as well before it was my turn. And I happened to be in a severe time crunch with six freelance projects locking me down, whereby the only exercise I caught was fetching groceries, running upstairs to use my printer, or dragging the laundry basket to the basement.

When I finally brought the book home, I kept it perched on my glass table in the living room, opposite the couch where I have set up a comfortable workstation with a bright daylight view out the picture window. I tired from staying stuck with my laptop on my kitchen table for many years, as I spend enough time in the kitchen.

One day, my daughter came to visit. She saw the book and lit up. “Ah! I’m reading the same book!” She’d seen it at our local book store, where she sometimes likes to go and lose herself in the imaginary world that only reading can reveal.

At hearing that from her, although I’d considered just returning it, unread, due to my workload, I committed to find time enough to push through about 100 pages per day. I’m about half way through, and am seriously considering gifting a copy to a favored nephew. And that chain of events triggered the realization of the power of influence. Manipulating this can be a useful tool or a nemesis.

My Fitbit, which has heightened my awareness about sleep and activity levels, has prompted former students, friends, and relatives to connect with me, and it has influenced my desire to strive harder for more activity and to defend my need for more sleep…though I am still working on improvement.

Granted, in times like the present when I have a ton of work or even when I have had some overuse injuries, I can’t match my own goals; however, though I set my daily step goal for 12,000 on average, I have the influence of my students, some 30 years younger, achieving 140,000 steps weekly. That has some degree of motivation for me because at my core is a bit of competitive drive, and that’s a treasure.

Do you deliberately fuel yourself with things that can influence you toward success in your health, work, and relationships? There are benefits to immersing yourself with art, music, spiritual nurturing, science discoveries, nature, literature, and reminders which yield your gratitude.

Especially in these times when much disruption, disorder, and disgusting behavior is seen, these are salves which help keep us driving forward for our aspirations to not be obliterated. This innate ability to mirror higher ordered conduct and elements associated with civilization can be used for our benefit or our detriment. It depends on our choices, so be sure to feed your body, mind, and soul with better content and use influence to help others as well.

How Hard Should You Press? Motivating the Unmotivated

 How Hard Should You Press? Motivating the Unmotivated

“Whiplash” (2014) yields the question, “How hard should you press?” It is a film written and directed by Damien Chazelle which brings a surge of nostalgic appreciation for grit, as an elite competition jazz band director, played brilliantly by J.K. Simmons, squeezes primal rage, and ultimately a perfect performance, from a protégé drummer, also exquisitely cast with Miles Teller. If you like a sublime hyper percussion thrill, you will have to seek the jolting 9 minutes raw performance finale.

Wrapping up a 6-week stint teaching high school English, I pondered one of the classic lines of the film, when Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the director, states, “There are no two words in English language more harmful than ‘good job’.” He refers to how soft our expectations and work ethic have become.

Since when did it seem acceptable to be “good enough?” Have we litigated our society into fear or complacency? I remember when we lauded personal sacrifice and commitment. I counsel teachers, “If you take garbage from students, this is exactly what students will give you.” Imagine my chagrin to find short responses to simple essay questions reminiscent of 2nd grade level from 9th graders! It is not rocket science, nor is it wasted effort to employ the “re-do”, multiple times if necessary to learn to do things correctly. The recent teaching assignment validated that this tactic works beautifully to encourage small successes that further motivate students to employ effort, and this is relevant to business management as well as within school communities.

Back in the day, Coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers had Greek god aura for how his no-nonsense, hard-core, driven methods that brought men to meet their potential. As a Chicago Bears fan of the early 80s, I witnessed Coach Mike Ditka, known for his crusty, crabby, take-no-crap stance, who also brought solid performance from a team that inspired fans.

We have a book, Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, by Tim S. Grover, that is being read among us at my house. Grover was a trainer for basketball greats Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Kobe Bryant, among others. He describes the common denominator in these stellar athletes as their ability to find their “dark side” of competitive intensity and blind commitment to work themselves toward super human excellence, whatever the cost.

Both Whiplash and my own sensibility though questions, to what degree? The legendary coaches that come to mind are Bela Karolyi, Bill Bowerman, Tom Landry, and Pat Riley. They certainly actualized potential into reality for countless fans, and we praise their efforts. However, there undoubtedly had to be some casualties along the way. Not everyone can play in the highest league, but everyone should play to their best for the league in which they reside. The Special Olympics come to mind, and I appreciate the message they give to society. With effort, everyone can elevate themselves, and the ultimate competition is within one’s self.

I’d say though, that every teacher, every coach, every parent can do no wrong to at least set the expectation, and like spring rain on good seeds within fertile soil, see what grows!

Some are destined to be “good enough,” but let’s not gyp those who with challenge and encouragement can aspire toward greatness. We need to raise the bar by our own example and help our youth to rise.