Monday, May 22, 2023

The Horse. Or The Camel?

 I recently finished a book on ‘Resiliency’. It shared an interesting comparison of two animals. 

 As a horse ages, and gets worn down, it starts to fade bit by bit. You can clearly start to see the breakdown of the horse. You can anticipate when it will stop being productive. 


The camel, on the other hand, is far different. The camel will go- and go. Until one day, it will literally keel over. 


We began the year talking about how to handle hard better. As we near the end of the school year, how are you holding up? Are you more horse or camel? 


Undoubtedly, the past three years have been hard. Extremely hard. But, like the camel, you are still standing. 


As we enter the summer, I want to encourage/challenge you with intentional summer plans. The dawn of the new school year will be upon us before we know it. 


If we are intentional with our time, we can continue to build and maximize our resiliency. But it takes intentionality. What will you commit to this summer for growth? To recharge? 


I came across this quote- also the name of a book- and thought it was great reflection / introspection as we close out the year…and enter the slower pace of summer.


How you spend your days, if of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard


I’m in your corner. Win the Day. – pja

Monday, March 27, 2023

Embrace the Suck

 My one brother, also a Superintendent, and I have run similar professional tracks. He became a Superintendent about 6 months ahead of me. I will never forget him saying this to me regarding the position: “It’s the most challenging of all the positions we have held. But I think you will like it best.” 

I have indeed enjoyed being a Superintendent more than any other position I have held. But, if I am being fully transparent, the past 3 years has taken a lot of the fun out of the position. 


I am sure you can attest. If we’re being honest, society itself has changed. And not for the better. 


Yet, if you spend some quiet reflecting, I would also contend the challenging times in your life have helped you to grow exponentially more than the easier times. 


Most of my pleasure reading is military history. In particular, the US Navy SEALS have really captured my attention. I find it fascinating to see the discipline, both mentally and physically, they exhibit to endure the arduous training they go through to become a SEAL. In fact, an often quoted and repeated mantra from SEAL Training is one of my all-time favorites: Embrace the Suck.


All sunshine makes a desert. As leaders, we forge ahead, embracing the suck- day by day- to hone our craft- and lead well. For our families. For our staff. For our kids. 


Let the day throw its toughest challenge at you. You will come out better and stronger for it. Embrace the Suck.


I’m in your corner. Win the Day- pja



59.12 Seconds to Read. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

Constructive Criticism

 I came across this quote a few weeks back from Dabo Swinney, Clemson University’s football coach- and thought it was worth sharing. 


“One of the best lessons I’ve learned is that you don’t worry about criticism from people that you wouldn’t seek advice from."


Take a moment to unpack this statement. Reflect on the most recent criticism you have received. Is this from a worthy, credible source…who you would otherwise seek input and advice from? If so, great. Learn and grow from it. If not, flush it and drive on. 


Equally important from this statement: who are you seeking input/ advice / mentoring from?


When you step into the arena to lead- no doubt, you will encounter those energy vampires who know nothing but negativity and cheap criticism. 


In any case: Lead. Know who you are. Know what your core values are. Know your why. And get after it. 

I am in your corner. Always. Have a great week- pja


Perhaps one of my all-time favorite leadership quotes- print it out and put it somewhere easily accessible:


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~Teddy Roosevelt




42 Seconds to Read 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Are You Listening?

 In the spirit of the Super Bowl- I wanted to share a quote from Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin. I have not always been his biggest fan…but there is tremendous wisdom in the following statement:


“I probably do have a talent for understanding people,” Tomlin said, “But is it a talent? It’s not. It’s listening when they’re talking. Coaches don’t listen. They wait for dudes’ mouths to stop moving. I sensed that as a player, and I hated it. I just try to be what I wanted leading me. When dudes are talking, I listen. I listen for real. I try to keep it real simple…”


I used to work for a Superintendent. Most times I found him pretty annoying. Quite often, when we would meet, he would interrupt me, tell me to just listen, and to stop thinking about what I was going to say next. It was probably super irritating because he was right. 🥴


As leaders, truly listening goes a long way in establishing a culture of trust, caring, and confidence. As you go through this week, pay particular attention to how well you are listening. 


And, if listening is a strong suit of yours…reflect on another nugget of wisdom in his statement: “I just try to be what I wanted leading me.” 


I hope you have a great week of leading and listening. I am in your corner. Get after it- pja


“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ~Stephen R. Covey 


52 Seconds to Read. 

Monday, December 19, 2022

2 Questions to Ponder

 We have 11 days left in the year. As you know my penchant for journaling and reflection, I want to challenge you today with two questions to close out the year. 


I came across this article on Saturday. 22 Lessons Learned in 2022. To be quite honest, it humbled me. I would have to think long and hard for ‘a’ lesson learned in 2022…let alone 22. Am I not being observant enough? Am I not reflecting enough? Has my curiosity diminished? All questions that swirled through my head as I read the article.


How about for you. Can you name 22 things you have learned this year? If not, how many can you name? If none, how come? 


Lastly, the other question I have spent quite some time lamenting: as we close the year, and usher in a new one, What do you want to be different next year


I challenge you to really dig deep into this. Identify what you want to be different. Begin with the end in mind. Develop the plan. Then, get after it. 


I hope you have a great week before the break. Be intentional with your time. Beat yesterday. 


I am in your corner. Win the Day- pja


*47.27 Seconds to Read. 

Monday, November 28, 2022


 My youngest son can sometimes be a bit of an Eeyore. Yet, from an outsider perspective, most would agree he has a right to wallow. He has severe food allergies…and has battled this for his entire life. Most times he is a battler…yesterday, he was having a down day. 


Holidays can sometimes be a bit harder for him…he doesn’t get to enjoy the foods like we do. And, most times, he feels like an outcast as he watches what others eat and enjoy. 


As he was sharing his struggles with me- he was visibly upset. My advice back to him…as he told me how life isn’t fair: ‘Good.’


His reaction was probably like most of yours right now…he about exploded. “How could you say that to me dad?!”


I then showed him this video. Take the 1:04 to watch it. With the right mindset, it is a game changer. 


It didn’t solve all his problems. But it changed his frame of mind. And, he got up- and got after it. Like he always does. 


Today- Tomorrow- This week- things may not go your way. Life may not go your way. Good. Drive On. And get after it. 


Hope you have a great week – I’m always in your corner. Win the Day- pja



When things are going bad: Don't get all bummed out, don't get started, don't get frustrated. No. Just look at the issue and say: “Good.”



*Bonus Track: Prior to my interaction with David last night- I had intended to write to you about starting your New Year’s resolution on 01DEC rather than 01JAN. Everyone starts on 01JAN. You are a leader. Leaders set themselves apart. 


Time to Read: 59.54 Seconds.

Monday, October 31, 2022

The Turkey Trot

I was never much of a hunter. Nor was my dad. But we always went out. We hunted turkeys for years. Not only did we never see one in the woods, we never even heard them. After each unsuccessful hunt, my dad would tell me how brilliant turkeys are…one of the smartest wild animals he would say. 


I was getting out of my car last week at the ESC. Lo and behold, 4 turkeys literally walked about 10 feet from me. They then walked/ran/pranced around the parking lot. I just stood and watched them…wishing my dad was here to see them now. 


You could tell they were disoriented. They would start to run in a certain direction…only to be stunted, and try another direction. After each unsuccessful ‘run’ at freedom, a new leader would emerge. Even though they were all jakes, there was not an alpha male among them. 


If you take a look at the attached picture, it is a great depiction of the predicament they were in. No leader among them. And, none of the four had any idea which way to go. 


This is such a great reminder- and reinforcement of what we are called to be as leaders. Cast a vision. Know where you are heading. Walk in boldness and confidence…even when you face road blocks. 


And, perhaps most importantly- if you are leading, and no one is following, you are simply out for a walk. 


Be an eagle today. Not a turkey. Have a great week of leading and loving. I am in your corner- pja


Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.” ~William Shakespeare 


57.14 Seconds to Read