Persistence and Energy

When I was a high school principal, I wrote a brief column to the staff every Friday as part of the weekly staff newsletter.  The post below is from a note to staff on the Friday prior to the Winter Holiday Vacation at the end of 2009.  I thought it would be a good first blog post in my first ever blog.  It is quite lengthier than most of my weekly columns.  But, it gives a little insight into who I am, where I am from, and also is a good post to start the new year.  OK, here it goes…. I hope you enjoy.

Persistence and Energy

The Lemonade Stand

During the past few years, we have introduced the concepts of Bucket Filling, 180 Marbles, and The Dash.  In addition, this year, we have discussed the fact that most professionals, certainly educators do not come to their careers unmotivated.  The most important challenge of organizational leadership and biggest challenge facing professionals, especially educators is the challenge of staying motivated.

The common threads that weave through every organization, school and classroom are threads that challenges our patience, our beliefs, our expertise, and our – motivation.  The threads represent the countless lemons that life throws our way.

I want to surround myself with people obsessed with making lemonade when life gives us lemons.

I don’t know what lemons life throws you.  And, I am not going to bore you with the long list of lemons life has thrown me.  I will however, share with you some thoughts from my past and present that help me keep my Lemonade Stand open.

  •  When I was 10 or 11 years old I would “help” my dad on his construction sites. I can remember standing on a floor of a new room he had just built.  There were bent nails, sawdust, and other debris on the floor.  I was sitting on a box of nails (a big box like he used to buy that was about the size of a milk crate) watching him put on drywall mud.  He looked down from his ladder and said “hey…look around, that floor isn’t going to clean itself…make yourself useful…if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”.  Since that time, I have always tried to leave situations in better shape than I found them.
  • My mom and dad a pretty cool collection of records and we had one of those enormous Zenith console record player/radio combinations in our living room.  I would sit for hours listening to The Kings Four, Doris Day, Sing a Long with Mitch, and other popular singers from the 50’s and 60’s.  Since then I am easily reminded that pleasures in life can be pretty simple.
  •  Every Christmas we piled in the seat of dad’s 1972 Chevy pickup (I loved that truck!) to Booth’s Poultry Farm (they had a tree farm too) to pick out a Christmas tree.  We would bring it home and decorate it. We had a ragdoll angel (mom still uses) on top and I can still remember my sister yelling at me when I would throw the little foil icicles on the tree instead of gently folding them over the branches.  (I should note that we didn’t have much money and we actually saved those icicles to be used again the next year).  Then we would argue about who got to hang this little cheesy looking elf on the tree. We actually had to start keeping track each year so we would know who’s turn it was to put him on the tree (mom still has him too). Those memories just make me laugh.
  •  My 11th and 12th grade English teacher was Mrs. Eddy.  I couldn’t get anything past this woman.  She was a brutal critic of my writing.  To make matters worse, she was just about the nicest person in the world.  You were mad at her and loved her all at the same time.  She would say “Jon, you’re too wordy…half of this is just fluff”.  I would be furious.  Mostly furious because she was right.  But to be truthful, I did well in her class because I didn’t want to disappoint her.  My goal was to present her a signed, leather bound copy of my doctoral dissertation as thanks for everything she had done for me. Unfortunately she lost battled breast cancer about a year before I finished.  Somehow, I think she knows I finished.  From her, I learned to hold high expectations of myself and those around me – although I could never match her level of class when doing so.
  • As kids, when my sister and I unwrapped presents on Christmas morning I knew I could count on one box of clothes of some kind, socks, underwear, and probably one toy.  I don’t think it’s a bad idea to simplify at the holidays.  I think I learned this lesson during our simple Christmas mornings.  But, I can tell you they seemed like a pretty big deal to me at the time.

I, like you could share dozens of important life changing moments.  My life has been filled and blessed by special people.  Some, like our first son Alex who passed at the age of two, blessed and filled our lives for a short time in person but continue to fill in bless our lives in spirit.  Others are those around me now that continue to shape my thoughts, keep me grounded, and keep me focused on the truly important things in life.

My Lemonade Stand is almost always full.  When the stand gets full of lemons, the many people that I count on show up in force and they all start squeezing lemons with me.  Pretty soon, the stand is full of lemonade.  It is either full of lemons, or full of lemonade.  It is rarely empty.

I won’t lie, when it is full of lemons, it isn’t very fun. And, lately, there have been lots and lots of lemons showing up by the truckload.  But, instead of looking at those truckloads of lemons as a burden, I can reach back to thoughts of Mrs. Eddy, or call in reinforcements and think of those stacks of lemons as inventory.

Inventory = Opportunity.

On New Years Day, I am going to pour myself a tall glass of lemonade.  I am going to raise a toast to the memories that shape my decisions and expectations.  I am going to raise a toast to those that make my life at school and home full and blessed.  And, I am going to raise a toast to the thousands of gallons of lemonade we will make together in the future.

I hope as you spend time with your families over the holidays, you reflect on how much lemonade you have produced this semester.  Every time I sign a purchase order for another single diploma for a student that has finally finished high school, I appreciate your efforts and your commitment to the young people of this community.  You are squeezing those lemons every day.  The lemons keep coming and you just keep making more and more lemonade.  You do make a difference.

Thanks for keeping the doors of this giant Hamilton Southeastern High School Lemonade Stand open every day.

Please take time to be a mom, dad, sister, brother, wife, aunt, grandparent, or friend to your families and friends over the next two weeks.  You deserve it.

Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Thanks for another great semester!

As always, I enjoy your feedback.

See you in 2010.  I hope you’re thirsty….

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