Book Recommendation – The Awakened Family

I’ve written before about transitions in parenting. And still, as my boys are turning a corner from kids to young adults, it’s been fascinating watching them develop their own interests and desires. All of a sudden they are making their own meals, decisions, and developing habits outside my direct control.

Their growth is so rapid that I worry sometimes that I’m not growing and adapting quickly enough to continue to meet their needs and give them space to contribute to the family as a whole.

As the boys grow and change, the entire family will turn a corner. All of a sudden we have four opinionated, confident, divergent, and independent people living together. It makes me wonder why we put labels on periods in our lives like “kid” and “young adult.” Will their ideas about our family carry less weight over the next ten years because their parents pay the bills? I’m not sure I want to live with two people for the next ten years who contribute to the family out of a sense of compliance. I don’t want to come home to “employees” either.

So that corner I mentioned will either be dangerously sharp with multiple switchbacks or intentionally smooth with a few bumps over the next decade. It’s coming either way.

I may be rambling, and that’s because I read an exceptional book recently that sparked much thought in how I want to be intentional and be sure I’m growing as a person as much as the boys are these next ten years. And even more important, that as a family we are growing into an ensemble rather than expecting the boys to conform to repeating our experiences and expectations.

I can’t recommend The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabari enough for families with young people moving from single to double digits. It will make you think about the role you play in your children’s behavior. It’s humbling to read at times, but if you can remove your ego for a moment, it helps you realize the control you truly own. The punchline though is that the control lies only with your reactions. We can’t change our kids. We can change our own reactions to what they do or say, but that is the end of our locus of control. After reading this book, I believe understanding that limit will give the kids more space to evolve rather than spending their time trying to predict my reactions to their actions. It will be a work in practice.

Family life is beautiful and complex, and I would love to hear other ideas in the comments from folks on making that transition from living with truly dependent young children, to living with young people who need agency and partnership.

Thanks for reading.

Re-Reading on the Road

Wrote this several months ago, but forgot to post it. Hope you like it.


The first time I read Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato I was sitting on the roof-top terrace of the Rex Hotel in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

It was dark, I was 22, sipping a gin and tonic, and listening to the common night-time sounds of an incredible city in Southeast Asia.

This time I’m 40, on a business trip, sitting in a hotel bar in Houston, TX. I’m still sipping on a gin and tonic and this time listening to the common sounds of hotel bars across North America.

It’s amazing though how taste, words, and sounds tie a life together. I’ve re-read several books lately from my younger days and can’t recommend it enough. Rather than chasing the latest writer, revisit the favorites of your youth.

  • The same story means something different to your 40-year-old self than your 20-year-old self. That realization has hit me over and over. It’s a completely different experience.
  • The re-reading takes your mind back to that time and place. Midway through the first chapter of Going After Cacciato, I was back in Vietnam, back on Semester at Sea. I could smell Southeast Asia. I felt the night heat, the enthusiasm of my 20s. Careful…it’s a slippery slope. Trust me.
  • It makes me wonder where I will be, what I will remember, when I read it again as a 60-year-old. Which character in the story will I identify with then?

It’s also important to read when we travel because the stories serve as quick passages to our earlier selves. These time capsules allow us to continually check in with ourselves. They allow us to take a step back from our current self and realize how we have grown and changed.

I read several Paul Theroux novels while traveling through Europe on my honeymoon and now when I pick up Saint Jack, I can taste the bread and wine Kelley and I enjoyed on the Col Du Tourmalet watching Tour De France riders suffer up that mountain.

While living in Sosua, DR for several months I read much of John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee saga and recently rereading A Deadly Shade of a Gold, I not only checked in with Trav, and Meyer, but checked in with myself and remembered my thoughts during that point in life and how it felt to run on that sandy beach each morning.

Time is finite, and as many of us do, I often fall into chasing the latest title or gadget to make sure I don’t miss something exceptional. That affliction though often results in lukewarm and generic experiences.

By our 40s shouldn’t we know what quality means to us? I think so. The hard part is owning it and recognizing that now we go deeper into that quality. Not putting total blinders on to newness, but rather becoming better versions of our 20-year-old selves.

Whether reading Going After Cacciato on the roof of the Rex Hotel in Vietnam or at a cheesy hotel bar in Houston, our goal is the same as the protagonist in that story – self-acceptance. So maybe it’s not total blinders to newness, but the filter to get past our defenses must be strong. Stand watch, just like Private First Class Paul Berlin.

Let the Reading Path Circle Back

I rediscovered Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance recently due to a triangulation of events. I turned 40 which is the age of the father in the story, at work I had to pick a T-shirt with my favorite book on the front, and finally, in the last few years, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about Zen Buddhism.

Firstly though, I felt I better re-read the book because even though I read it in my early 20s, if I was going to wear it on a shirt to work I better refresh in case anyone asked questions or made any references.

Secondly, I was reminded that there are books we need to re-read during each decade of our lives. The titles are different for each of us, but there are 5-10 that resonate to a point in our early years that we need to revisit them as we move through the decades. I remembered a convoluted story about a father and son on a motorcycle trip, some other character called a Phaedrus, and the narrator going on and on about “Quality.” But revisiting the story, it became a powerful dive into values and personal freedom. This “re-read” provided much more meaning than trying to keep up with the most recent “must-read.”

We may start with a couple books from our 20s, a few from our 30s, and so it goes.

I’m continuing with these:

What am I missing? What’s on your list? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Inch and Miles – Book Recommendation

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I was just out of high school when I read my first John Wooden book. His simple beginnings and the clarity he provides through his Pyramid of Success consistently stick with me more than any other definition of success.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable”

-Coach John Wooden

His work continues to circle back into my life at important times and the latest instance was last week teaching third graders at Anderson Mill Elementary. The campus has an apprenticeship program where various professionals come in to work with the class while their teachers collaborate on upcoming lessons and assessments. Over the last four years, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing Wooden’s message through his children’s book Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success.

When Lincoln and Harrison were born we read the poems to them each evening before bed and each block on the pyramid serves as an effective benchmark to refer to when we are working on skills, like self-control, determination, or cooperation.

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I can’t recommend this book enough as a foundational bedrock to help our kids discover that success isn’t having trophies or toys, but rather trying to be the best you can be!

Mouse Books Just Make Me Feel Good

I like to think I’m someone who would rather read Oscar Wilde or Mark Train while waiting in line at Starbucks than mindlessly scrolling my Instagram feed. If given the choice between two pockets, which will I choose? My left back pocket contains a time-tested, classic work of literature. My right front pocket contains a Google Pixel where I can encounter new likes, notifications, follows, and a portal to the world.

I so badly want to think I’m someone who reaches for The Happy Prince or The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass rather than my phone. And that’s why I pulled out the debit card when I came across Mouse Books Kickstarter. I contributed $50 so that means I’ll get these little classics in the mail throughout the next year. I loved Mouse Books advertising campaign because they gave me an identity. I want to be someone who reads Mouse Books.

The folks behind Mouse Books created a vision of a version of myself I yearn to be. They tapped in. I’ve been carrying my book for a few weeks and wish I could say I’ve pulled it out more than my phone when idling about, but we are all a work in progress. Baby steps, I’ve read them. To inspire change, it is so important to give your people an ideal to live up to. Give them a beacon on a hill, a hero with whom to identify, and a better future.

Of course, my end goal is to be someone who connects with other people during idle times waiting in lines or for the train to arrive. I’m working on being better at going first and I’m working on taking the initiative to make those connections.

And as I’m working on “going first” I can report that I don’t get hypnotized into a Mouse Book the same way I get sucked into my phone. Other humans are more likely to initiate a conversation with me if I am reading something on paper than if I’m interacting with my device. Finally, they just make me feel good. The Mouse Book is the underdog in the war for our attention. But, it deserves our respect. Give it a shot

Modern Mentoring = Modern Learning

I’m always grateful my chosen profession requires me to be a reader. Working in public education we are always met with new research, blogs, books, Tweets, “innovative ideas”, and Ed Tech sales people. It’s a never-ending series of inputs that dominate our email inboxes and have required me to create a separate number to better weed through the cold calls from those who find my title on our organization’s web site and want “just a few moments” of my time to share something that is sure to change the face of public education. I love it all, but it get’s to be a lot.

The onslaught of information is all worth it though when you stumble upon something that feels like it was created just for you. I stumbled upon Modern Mentoring recently at the Round Rock Public library. A focus on organizational learning drives my work. While my job title has changed a few times over the last few years, that central focus must be the core value of any leader.

Randy Emelo connects modern mentoring with organizational learning as a whole. The word “mentoring” is so loaded and we make such a big deal out of it that it becomes intimidating. It reminds me of Drew Dudley’s TED talk about lollipop moments and how we have made leadership such a big and daunting proposition that many shy away from it. The same happens with mentoring. As Emelo points out, when we make mentoring into some “expert creates protege” relationship there is too much pressure on each participant. Look what happened with Obi-Won and Annakin.

Modern mentoring is about social learning and an egalitarian approach to communication. This thought resonated so much with my own that I unleashed my own mild Tweet storm on a Saturday morning.

As a firm believer of the 70/20/10 philosophy of professional learning, the importance of flattening communication barriers, a limiting reliance on workshop-based learning, and increasing agency for the individual in driving her or his own learning has never been more important. Some point to the learner who has changed – blame it on the millennials – but I disagree. It’s our work that drives this need for change. Our work requires flexibility where it used to require repetition. Our learning requires choice where it used to require compliance.

Emelo reminds of all of this through the lens of mentoring. All learning that lasts, learning that changes our behavior for the better, is mentoring. Pick up a copy of his book and think about your own learning – especially professionally. Where does it really happen? Do you learn from traditional hierarchical compliance-based systems – or in spite of them? Or do you learn through peer-to-peer networks, informal relationships, and by reflecting on your practice with trusted colleagues?

Are you from Round Rock ISD? Stay tuned for Moden Mentoring to be included in our upcoming organization-wide book clubs.