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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Personal Mastery

Recently, I engaged in a project that caused me angst. As I wrapped up the most recent phase, I examined the roots of my worry. As I reflected, I found myself thinking about learning organizations and the concept of personal mastery.

Senge (2006) defined personal mastery as going “beyond competence and skills, though it is grounded in competence and skills. It goes beyond spiritual unfolding or opening, although it requires spiritual growth. It means approaching one’s life as a creative work, living life from a creative as opposed to reactive viewpoint” (p. 131).

According to Senge there are several basic characteristics which help define personal mastery.

“special sense of purpose that lies behind [an individual’s] visions and goals.” This requires me to continuously ask and re-ask the question, “Why do I do what I do? What difference does it make in the lives of others?” This requires a mindfulness, awareness, and reflection that in our busy lives we sometimes lose track of.

“learn how to perceive and work with the forces of change.” The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh (1999) described transformation as gradual (p. 43). To perceive and work with the forces of change, I need patience and an open mind. I must find balance between my words and actions to influence the change I want in the world.

“deeply inquisitive, committed to seeing reality more and more accurately.” This is about technical competence and information that goes with it, but expands beyond. This inquisitiveness broadens to gather information about the relational nature of our world. As a learner, it is this relational nature I must be attentive to. Who and what am I in relation with?

‘feel connected to others and life itself.” I enter into stewardship as a learner and educator. It calls to mind: “We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children” (Ancient Indian Proverb).

“feel as if they are part of a larger creative process, which they can influence but cannot unilaterally control.” Everyone finds their voice in a new paradigm of leadership. Leadership is earned rather than given.

“live in a continual learning mode. They never arrive.” Learning is not merely technical. It includes learning about the world we live in, the relationships we engage in, and the relationship we have with our self.

Each of these quotes can be found in The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization by Peter Senge on p. 132.

The gentle rain permeates the soil of my soul.  A seed that has lain deeply in the earth for many years just smiles (Thich Nhat Hanh, 1999).


Hubris and Humility in the Digital World: What is my Role?

The power of their ideas: Lessons for America from a small school in Harlem, (Meier, 2002) provides a paradoxical, yet relevant joining of words – hubris and humility. I reflected about the unusual combining of these words as I prepared for my next entry. It is appropriate to what I am saying about blogging.

The paradox of those two words reminded of the following: “The expansion of social media means that the only working system is to publish then filter” (Shirky, 2008, p. 98). To be engaged in the use of social media means turning a traditional publishing paradigm on its head. I can publish and, then, filter my work. “In the weblog world there are no authorities, only masses” (p. 94). I can join the global square in its discourse if I choose. What is my responsibility? Who will read my message? How will they not just interpret the message, but understand the person publishing it? These are fundamental questions.

There is hubris here. Publishing is no longer an elite activity or one of vanity that I can afford to indulge. If I believe I have something important to share and am passionate enough about it, I can publish within reason and with limited restrictions. This is not an undesirable arrogance, as it is tempered with humility. When I read my most recent post, I was humbled by the lack of literacy in places. I wrote, “This sacred space also serves a space we can to be in relation with our self.” I left “as” out.

To blog I need self-confidence and efficacy. Conversely, I will err. Confidence is the ability to acknowledge a mistake where possible. I chose to publish and it is in this action the hubris is not supercilious. I am on a digital stage where I am the authority when it comes to publishing and filtering. The Shakespearian quote “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances” takes on new meaning. I doubt the bard considered digital roles played out for the entire world. My hubris and humility requires mindfulness urging me to be present, as best as I can, with my audience and strive to be a positive role model in the digital global public square. In twenty years, my position may be antiquated and quaint, but today it is worthy of being published and entered into the public view for discourse.

Trying To Keep Pace

I am finding blogging a challenging activity. Some of this is the nature of who I am. It is essential, and part of who I am, to take time, reflect, and be accurate. I read blogs where it is basically grammar, spelling, formatting, etc. be damned. As a result, ideas become incoherent and sound semi-literate. If my message is important, should I not take the time to make it complete?

I attended a recent presentation by Dr. Sherry Turkle of MIT. Dr. Turkle, a psychologist, works in the computer science department and has studied the impact of technology, including AI and social media, on people.

It was intriguing to hear about the impact of social media on children and adults alike. In our world, technology is pervasive and invasive; therefore purpose is critical, without stripping us of identity. She raised an interesting point about our identity beginning with the debate about cursive writing which has arisen. With the ability to sign our names electronically do we need to be able to sign it the ‘old-fashioned way’? She suggested the debate is complex as it ties into who we are moving it beyond the use of calculators, as a result. Signatures are part of our identify. As a child, I was excited to learn to write my name. Today, students marvel over the scrawl I use. It leads to a story about my hands. It creates a space for them to enter. This sacred space also serves a space we can to be in relation with our self. Here, we can be alone to reflect and gather to learn who we are.

The ubiquity of technology presents a need for a mindfulness that, as I interpret Dr. Turkle, may be slipping away. This is no mean challenge. As a family, we have had computer technology of various forms in our house for over a 1/4 Century. Our first laptop was made by Texas Instruments; really! As a late-blossoming academic, I returned to university as an adult three times. Without the use of ever-increasing technology, I am not sure how successful I would have been. I recognize the value it is has added to my life, my learning, and my recreation, but I have always been wary of the way it can take firm hold of lives and isolate the self from each other. Now, I am open to the idea it can also serve to isolate me from my self.

Think about the most rewarding relationships in your life. They are based on honest commitment only accessed by open communication. This begins with us individually speaking to our self; from our heart. Thirty-five years of marriage and three grown children inform me that this is no simple task. Twenty years of being in classrooms has affirmed this for me. To build a relationship successfully, means to be vulnerable and be prepared to be real first to our self and, then, to others who are important to us. Technology cannot be a place to hide or distort our self.

As I reflected on Dr. Turkle’s message, I realized how easy it is to hide in plain sight. Educators have a wonderful opportunity to model for children; to be exemplars in the use of technology. When I read blog entries filled with errors, missing words, and incomplete messaging, I can only wonder if this is the model we wish to present for children and other adults. This takes me full circle. I need to be true to my self to be true to those I want to read my blogs.

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