How To Reach Best You

I have used the #BestYou on my blog for some time now – more than a year. It’s time to look carefully at what my intended meaning is, and what it might mean for you.

First, My Best is not to be the measure you use for yourself.
We each have capabilities and talents.
The level I am capable of attaining in some areas may not be your Best.
And, my Best in some efforts may be paltry when compared to your achievements.

Rule: Don’t compare yourself to others.

Second, there are only two acceptable comparisons:
1. With yourself from where you started;
2. Jesus to where He wants us to be.

I realize that you probably have already accumulated many accomplishments.
But let’s work through a couple exercises.

An inventory to determine where you are starting is important.
1. What are your inherent aptitudes?
Things that you had a natural liking for and easily acquired skills in?
What skills or interests did your parents model for you?
Teachers or others that were role models to you that inspired you to learn something?

What have you done with these abilities, knowledge, and skills?
What are you doing to encourage yourself to continue developing things on this list?

2. What are your ‘dream abilities’?
Maybe you have thought or said “If only I could…”
Write a list.

What have you done to pursue these abilities, knowledge, and skills?
What are you doing to encourage yourself to pursue things on this list?

3. What are your developed abilities and achievements?

You probably read through those lines without getting paper and pen and ‘doing’ the exercise.
That’s okay.
Let me stir the soup a little more.

Focus your thoughts on one category at a time and write what comes into your mind.

Categories in which you may have skills and abilities:
Mind – mental abilities – thinking – learning
Hands – manual abilities to make things and do things – touching that soothes and heals – draw – paint – sew – cook – garden – musical
Body – exercise – balance – dance – movement – rhythms

Spiritual, Creative, Academic (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral degrees)
Physical, Recreational, Musical, Artistic

Attitudes: persistence, consistency, never quit, positive outlook, encouraging, resolution

Illustration

At an early age I determined that I wanted to become a teacher.
My mother was my first teacher. I found that I learned well from her methods of instruction.
I also had two or three excellent teachers in my formal school experiences.
I applied the methods they used that were effective with me. I found that I could successfully tutor fellow students that where struggling.

I read every book on teaching that I could get my hands on. Then I applied what I had read to my classrooms.
I observed other teachers whenever possible.
I assembled ideas of my own – amalgams and hybrids of reading, listening, and trying.
I asked mentors to observe and coach me.
I built successes into my regular performances in the classroom.
On the ride home and in the quiet of working in my gardens, I reflected on the work of the day – noting successes and failures. Planning for the next time that would avoid the failure.

Repeat!
That is the operant word.
Repeat!
The key to all learning is Repetition.
Repetition is the Mother of Learning.
Mastery of the basics makes it possible for Genius to Achieve.
Whether it is manual or mental skills, they are honed through practice – Repetition.

I know that there are exceptions – savants who seem to be born with a special ability.
One of my students could tell which day of the week any date was – past or future. No practice involved.
My wife has piano lessons with a first grade boy. He is able to create original compositions. He has finger dexterity that is beyond most children his age. His musical thinking is amazing.
But he spends hours practicing in between lessons. Because he wants to do more.

Now – – –
Go back and do the 3-Part Inventory.
Put in the effort.
Be confident that you are The Best You now, and are working toward the future Best You.

Tomorrow will probably require some more effort so you can stay The Best You.
It’s an on-going effort.
Be willing to Repeat the effort daily.

Everyone has the responsibility to become their Best Self.
#BestYou

Beware The Temptation

The Tuesday deadline came and passed.

I had no inspiration, no message.

“It’s no problem!” I assured myself. “What loss or penalty will I experience if I miss a week?”

So, I let the day pass. Oh, I stayed busy! So busy that I could ignore the nagging thoughts that I had somehow ‘let my readers down.’

No one shouted at me, “Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

I planted seeds and tended young plants in my garden.

I made a plant stand for some plant-gifts that I received for my birthday.

I worked along the fence-line that had been ignored for a decade (so it really needed my attention).

I scraped fence, I pressure-washed fence, I painted fence. All worthy work.

Still, no one shouted at me, “Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

Usually I have a burning idea in my mind that bursts out of the keyboard almost spontaneously.

I reviewed my notebooks, looking for an idea from previous notes, that would inspire me and be beneficial to my readers at the same time.

“The 5 Cs of Leadership”

“Turning Your Deficiency Into Sufficiency”

“Routines – Love ‘em; Hate ‘em”

“How To Keep Motivation Motivating”

“You Don’t Know What You Can Until You Try”

“Enemies of Success”

“Discovering Your Expertise”

While each possible topic released some brain waves, not one grabbed me and shook me out of my lethargy.

Wednesday came and went, with me busier than usual. But no words on a page for my blog happened.

I have a safety net for the week’s post on Thursday afternoon.

The teacher inside me kept up the insistence that I do the work. Schedules are important to teachers. Math class starts at a certain time, English class is on a schedule…

What will my students think if I bail on this task?

The teacher in me shouted, “Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

My sense of ‘teacher responsibilities’ has pushed me to perform over and over during my 40+ years in the classroom.

“It doesn’t matter how I feel; Do it for my students!”

I didn’t keep track of the number of times that mantra (“Do it for them!”) pushed me to prepare and to perform.

As the thoughts (revealed above) coursed through my mind this morning, I was forced to take up my pen (really, my computer) and write.

Do It For Them! carries an urgency that I can’t ignore.

The responsibility is mine.

If I don’t do the work, who will?

“Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

The same urgency exists for you and your work. What can you do?

Plant a tree.

I will never sit in its shade, but ‘they’ will.

Write a book.

My life experiences may be just what someone else needs to gather the courage to persist in their life-calling.

Create a poem.

Someone may not read a whole book, but will gather strength from a short poem – a turn of phrase that sticks with him or her, from which they gather strength.

Write a song.

The melody may be the miracle that lifts the clouds from someone’s mind and helps them carry on.

Show up at work and be cheerful.

Your smile, your humming, the twinkle in your eyes may change a co-worker’s gloom to match your cheer.

When these ideas traveled through my thoughts this morning, I turned off the news, I silenced my phone, I entered my writing spot, and I thought of you.

It takes courage to keep doing. Especially when you feel ‘un-’.

There are so many endings for the prefix ‘un-’.

Un-loved; Un-appreciated; Un-motivated; Un-used; Un-sung.

Because it takes courage to keep doing, build your courage with a different set of ‘un-’s.

Un-daunted. Un-afraid. Un-stoppable. Un-equaled. Un-matched.

As for the list of 7 topics that I rejected for this week: I’ll get to them.

That’s another teacher trick I learned: make a list of things you’ve wanted/planned to do – and it becomes an inspiration to get busy – to get the list done.

Do it for them.

Make your list.

Get started.

Now.

“Beware the temptation to let it slide!”

Comments are welcomed.

Choose and Decide plus Knowledge

My girlfriend had just broken up with me. I was lonely.

I fell in with a small group who seemed to be having fun.

Their nickname for me was Shnook. Yeah, I know… I shoulda known better.

But, I didn’t. My bases of knowledge and experience had not acquired what I needed to meet this situation.

PDF of this post:  Choose Decide Knowledge

Audio of this post:

As I look back at this time in my life, I realize I was socially awkward. I had been sheltered from the reality that there are people “out there” who will use the lonely, inexperienced person for sport. I guess it makes them feel superior, or somehow feeds their ego.

I was unprepared to choose well and decide for my best interests, because I was ignorant in social experience – lacking in knowledge – and because my loneliness ruled my decisions.

And it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that this happened in college. I have not Friended any of those classmates on FaceBook. Recalling this time causes me to shrivel into myself, maybe like a cucumber being soaked in brine to turn it into a pickle.

(I have no cucumber-to-pickle first hand experience. But this explains my brain response image as I write about this.)

The twin giants Decide and Choose enable us to be masters of our own destiny.

Babies have the infant stages of Decide already in their brains. Their automatic response to discomfort is – Cry. In response to certain uncomfortable stimuli, they speak in the cry language in an effort to bring relief. When their efforts bring results, a stimulus-response pattern is created.

One of the goals of growing up is that we learn of other options than temper-tantrum to negotiate the relief we want.

Which reveals the third giant in the trilogy: Knowledge.

In every situation there are multiple options (choices) available. Knowledge enables us to decide which choice to make so that we achieve the desired goal with the least amount of discomfort and delay.

A child is endowed with Choose and Decide abilities. Their choices and decisions are often faulty, though, because their foundation of Knowledge is lacking.

Be careful to build a stable foundation of knowledge for yourself and in your children and grandchildren, so that choosing and deciding do not lead to problems and failures. Learn from your own past – and others – so you can avoid problems that arise from ignorance.

Experience is often not the best source of Knowledge. It takes time to experience all the possible ways to fail in order to determine the best way to achieve success.

Read books.

Study other peoples’ stories – it’s called History.

Read the Instruction manual before attempting to assemble by trial and error.

Hire a mentor or tutor or coach.

Ask your parents and grandparents to share their stories with you. Then avoid their mistakes.

Build your base of knowledge from reputable authors and verified sources.

Don’t base your knowledge on what you find on Facebook, Twitter, or even News Organization’s websites.

Be careful – selective – with what you put into your brain.

Way back when computers were new it was common to hear the expression GIGO. Garbage In : Garbage Out.

A computer can work only with the programming that is put into it. If the program has garbage in it, the results of running the program will be Garbage Out.

Our brains have many similarities to computers. This GIGO characteristic is one similarfity.

Our ability to make best decisions and choices is completely dependent on the knowledge program that is used to make the selection. Our Knowledge Program is written by the Knowledge and Experiences we store in memory.

Choose to be the Best You Possible. Choose Your Best. Do Your Best.

Fortunately for humans, we can create new knowledge that over-writes old, bad knowledge-code. The remnants (artifacts) of the bad code remain in our brains, but we can strengthen the new experiences through repetition, so old code is defeated when it tries to rule.

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

We think about the stuff that we feed our brains: music, games, TV, movies, books.

To change your brain, change what you’re feeding it. Stop the flow of Garbage In. That will cut off the flow of Garbage Out.

Hollywood does not have the knowledge or the answers that will make your choices and decisions better. Hollywood is entertainment. They want to make you laugh and cry and shudder in fright. But most of all they want your money and your mind.

Sports are also for entertainment. Neither Hollywood nor Sports are real life.

Control.

People and organizations will use trickery to gain control of your thoughts, your choices, your mind, your money.

You were created with the abilities of Choice, Decision, and Knowledge so that you could prepare for the Future.

The Future is coming – faster than you can imagine. You are reading this part of the sentence in what is the future to when you started reading.

The Future involves God. Only He knows the Future. Only He can take our present – our Right-Now – and make it ready for Eternity.

Decide to learn more about the God Who holds Eternity in His hands.

Read the Instruction manual He has provided – The Holy Bible.

Find a mentor and a community support group – church.

Contact me if you need help with these steps. Eldon @ EldonRoberts.com

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What’s Your Choice?

During the daytime I taught high school English and History.

At night, especially on the weekends, I was care-giver to a male quadriplegic. He had fallen backward off an oil platform and broke his neck. There was very little he could do for himself except tell his attendants what to do and how to accomplish each detail.

My patient did not allow me to choose what channel to watch. I watched what he watched – mostly PBS. He introduced me to Masterpiece Mysteries.

Every detail of his care had micro-details attached to them. What, when, how, for how long, to what end. To be sure you understand, he instructed me how to brush his teeth, the direction the brush should move, and for how long, on each tooth. All bodily functions except digestion must be performed for him to his standards.

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What's Your Choice [/stextbox]

Choice

I chose to do this work. It was not forced on me. It was my choice. Because it was my choice it was very important to me that I perform at the optimum level; excellence was the only option. This was my choice before discovering that it was expected of me, if I were to continue working for the family.

Fortunately, I had previously worked for my father in the hospital as a Physical Therapy aide. My father was very demanding in regards to the way work was performed in his department. There was only one acceptable level: excellence. He would show me how a task was to be performed one time, and I was to execute the maneuver that way ever after. I could take longer to do the work than he did – for a while – then I was to be up to speed.

I was physically adept and at least moderately intelligent, and I, too, believed in the goal of excellence, so I chose to work with him, helping the patients as he directed. I saw other workers who complained about the working conditions and demands placed on them. They didn’t last long in the department.

It occurred to me that I was different from them in that I had made a choice: my father was the expert, I was to learn and follow directions. It seemed only reasonable that I should strive to meet his expectations for quality. I valued his approval.

Looking back on this experience with my father, I understand what he accomplished in me. I learned to expect high quality performance from myself. Even when there were no external expectations for that level of work. This actually started in my elementary years of schooling.

My father would talk with me as if I understood words and ideas from the adult world: news, medicine, literature, world events. And I gained from that interchange with him. He also gained, because he had few friends with whom to discuss his ideas.

Influence of Choice

During 40 plus years of teaching I have observed the influence of choice on my students. I have also observed the influence of parents’ choices affecting their children.

I was blessed with insight into the process of learning that made a significant difference in my students. Those students who accepted the role of following my instruction and processes made significant advances in their academic careers. Students who were grade levels behind, according to the tests, would surge forward to catch up and surpass the requirements for their ages and grades.

For this to happen once could be called a fluke. But this happened over and over again, in multiple school locations across the USA.

The one commonality in each case was choice. Parents and students who chose to learn, did so, and excelled. Link to article on choice to learn

Of course, not every student responded with the choice to learn. Some chose to believe that he or she was not to be subjected to the expectations explained for them. When the parents agreed with the students, advancement stagnated and the students became unhappy, disrespectful, flagrantly refusing to comply with the classroom expectations.

From the vantage point of 40 years’ of experiences, the common thread can be distilled into one idea: choice makes a world of difference in the learning process. A student who chooses to learn, will learn, and often at an accelerated pace.

Learning is a choice.

Link to article on Learning is a choice

A decision or choice not to learn, or just the absence of the choice to learn, is an obstacle impervious to the skills of the teacher.

So where and when does a child make the choice – to learn or to resist?

Science and research indicates that a child will have had experiences by the age of 4 that will greatly influence – or determine – their future academic successes. Family encounters and events set the stage for learning.

Early-Life Choices

Parent and grandparent choices are of paramount importance during the first years of the child’s life.

What should these important people be doing during the infancy and toddler years of their children’s lives?

  1. Read aloud, with the child in your lap. Read at bedtime every night. Read the same books over and over until the child can recite it from memory.
  2. Talk with the child in a normal voice about all of the things going on around him or her. Talk about what the child is seeing and experiencing in the stores, in the car, in the home, in church.
  3. Work through decisions that you are making – outloud for the child to hear.
  4. Answer all their questions. If you don’t know the answer, say so, and add “but I know where we can find out.” and then find out.
  5. Play, explore, get on the floor, in the grass. Make tents and forts. Inspire and extend their natural curiosity.
  6. Listen to music together.

Do these things and prepare to be amazed by what your child or grandchild is able to accomplish.

Later-Life Choices

The photo of the rose at the top of this post is a great example of later-life opportunities available through our choices. This particular plant was scheduled for the dumpster of a Garden Center near our home. We happened by and my wife took pity on the sorry-looking thing. The sales person said we could have it.

It came home with us and we planted, watered, fertilized, pruned and otherwise pampered the thing. We even talked to it, encouraging it to grow.

It grew. Flourished would not be an exaggeration. It has bloomed over and over again. Each time we marvel at the beauty and perfection of the blooms at every stage of development.

If you have an older child still living at home, and you didn’t do these things, start now. Turn off the TV and introduce your child to the characters and events found in books. Read out loud for bedtime.

Talk with your child about the power of choice. No matter what was lacking in their infant years, their choice to learn now will go a long way to create a learner.

You can model the choice for them. You choose to become a learner of new things.

My quadriplegic patient taught me nuances of choice that I might never have learned without him.

Like PBS Mysteries. I’m still hooked. My choice now.

Exercise your power of choice by choosing to learn something new to you.

How to be a blogger has become my New-to-me choice to learn. You could participate in this project by choosing to Subscribe to the weekly email delivery of my blog posts. I’ll send you a nice thank-you and a gift.

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Think about choices that were made by others for you. How did they influence you?

Think about choices that you have made. What were they? How did the results measure up to your expectations?

Send your comments to me either by using the Comments box or via email : eldon@eldonroberts.com

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Is Excellence a Choice?

What is Excellence?

What is the best you can be?

The answer to that question depends on what you are attempting to do. Each of us has a repertoire of tasks and work that has been practiced and honed to a fine quality.

That level of performance qualifies as “excellence.” Any work or performance that is your best, deserves that label.

How does a person reach the standard of excellence?

Is it your usual choice to be and do your best?

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Is Excellence a Choice [/stextbox]

Everyone starts off, in every human endeavor, as an amateur. Amateur work is identifiable as a beginner’s effort by those who have worked to advance to a higher level of performance. And that’s the path to achieving excellence.

Work to achieve a higher level of performance. Practice, study, compare your effort with the work of a professional.

But, not for the purpose of discouragement. Rather, for the purpose of discovery. What additional, beyond what you have achieved, has the professional discovered how to do? And, perhaps more importantly, what is the next step in achievement that you must do in order to advance toward the level of professional?

My last article revealed the “Puzzle Strategy” for solving problems. It’s a Puzzle listed 7 Steps to take in mastering a problem.

This strategy can be applied to the task of achieving excellence in many of life’s arenas.

This Puzzle Strategy is not intended as a once-and-done exercise, or as something that will produce discernible results in a day of practice. My wife (my Proofreader) commented that this looks like a semester of class work. In reality, it’s more like a lifetime of effort.

So, let’s get started… Download the PDF of this article and use it as a Study and Practice Guide.

Let’s suppose that you want to become a writer of excellent material.

What is the first step to take?

Step 1

Label the goal: I will become a writer of excellent material.

Find writing that is recognized as Excellent. There are numerous authors who qualify at this level.

Make it your work to read and study the writings of several authors in several different genres.

This may take weeks to accomplish. But don’t rush. Take the time to understand excellent writing when you read it.

Step 2

Study the parts of the puzzle: words, sentences, paragraphs, transitions, essays…

During your reading and study you will likely discover some work that especially appeals to you, words and sentences that resonate with your emotions and intelligence.

Step 3

Break these passages and paragraphs into their parts. Study how the words fit together to create images and concepts.

Move the words and phrases around to see if they can fit into other shapes and patterns.

Apply the emotions and ideas to your unique set of life experiences.

Write the material in your own words. This practice will be invaluable to your writing career.

Step 4

Identify the edges.

Pay attention to the number of sentences used by the original/professional author. Notice the lengths of the sentences and paragraphs. Notice the subjects and verbs of each sentence. Each has probably been chosen with care to assist in the crafting of the intellectual and emotional response that you had to the writing. Notice the placement of the subjects and predicates, of modifiers: adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases.

Repeat Steps 1 – 4 several times before going on.

Step 5

Work on the smaller groups of the puzzle.

Develop your understanding of the sentences by working on each sentence separately.

Move the parts around… put the subject in a different part of the sentence. Repeat moving the parts around with the verbs, and the modifiers.

Change the words to ones that you would commonly use. Notice what that does to the tone, the emotion, the overall meaning.

BTW, if the ideas of subject, predicate, verb, modifiers… are uncomfortable for you, you probably ought to start with the basics of writing until these labels are thoroughly understood. Try teaching them to an 8-year old to see if you really understand.

Step 6

Now work on the groups of sentences that form paragraphs.

Change the order of the sentences within the paragraph. Take each sentence out, one-at-a-time, to see what happens, how the meaning is changed or destroyed.

Practice writing paragraphs to state a simple idea or experience. Use paragraphs of different lengths.

Finally, outline an original essay or short work that supports the author’s ideas, but using your experiences and understanding. (‘Outline’ doesn’t have to look like your high school English teacher demanded. Just create a plan using words and phrases. Then put the plan in a particular sequence to guide your writing.)

Use the main idea from Step 4 to re-write the material so that it says something new… perhaps the exact opposite of the original author’s concept.

Step 7

Repeat with a new author or piece of writing. Then repeat again.

If you have a friend who is not intimidating to you, from whom you can listen to instructive criticism without getting your feelings hurt. enlist that person’s help.

Or enroll in a community college writing course.

Your Voice

As you work through this sequence you will likely discover a voice that you like for your writing. Practice that voice. Hone it so that it is automatic for you. Practice it with different genres of writing.

Participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Excellence, Your Choice

Excellence is not about being better than others. Excellence has been defined as ‘doing more than you thought you could.’

Perhaps, as in “I never dreamed I could write like that.”

Or reading something that you wrote and feeling the emotion rise in you in response to the words, phrases, ideas that came from your mind.

Excellence is always the result of choice. You choose to do your best, or you choose not to. Not choosing is still a choice.

I put my best into each task that I attempt. That’s excellence, for me. Yet, I expect to do better on the next iteration of the task.

Writing, for me, is an outlet. My ideas, my emotions, my memories flow onto the page and are left there as a legacy for my family and friends. Even if no one else reads them, I have written and published to the world words that no one else could put together like I did.

Writing for an Audience

Writing for others to read is not as easy as writing for only yourself. Your audience cannot pick up on a memory or inference that is activated when you read a line or phrase. So, what makes sense to you may be a puzzle for others.

Proofreader

Find someone who will proofread what you have written and offer insight into what an audience might experience when reading your writing. You might need to have a written agreement with your proofreader, stating that you will not be offended, hurt, or intimidated by the reader’s suggestions.

It’s your choice.

The photo at the top of this article was colored by my grandson when he was 5 years old. I think he did excellent work.

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I look forward to hearing from you.