Rehab, My Road to Recovery;Lessons from Little League (part 8)

Trying to win every day made sense. Hey, as a young athlete, I was all about the game. I would do anything to put myself in position to win, regardless of the situation. In sports, though, I understood the rules. For football, I knew if I lifted weights, ran, and practiced, I'd get better and contribute to my team winning. I was self motivated, but I really caught fire when my body was starting to show the effects of my efforts and I was getting bigger, stronger, and faster. I loved winning, but I was driven by something darker. I was a fighter who hated to lose more than anything in the world. As a young little leaguer, I was one of the better players. But I threw the bat when I made

Rehab, My Road to Recovery; The Cavalry Came Dressed as a Football Coach (part 7)

I met Jack Bohan as a skinny freshman center who showed up late to my first weight training session with the high school. 4 or 5 of us got about ten yards from the practice area when Coach turned and screamed at us louder than I've ever heard the human voice project. We never broke stride, and we got the hell out of there as fast as we could. The yelling guy was our legendary office line coach, teacher, and leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Bohan could challenge your manhood in the day and save your soul in the evening at a Bible Study. He was beloved and young linemen couldn't wait to be in his stable. After that day (I was never late again, btw), I built a nice relation

True Confessions: Alignment Matters

In my keynote, I have fun with the word "alignment" because as a young leader, I wasn't as interested in changing culture as I was surviving culture. To me, alignment was something you did to your car. It's funny what a little accountability will do to your life. All of a sudden, an entire school's results depended on me and I was scrambling quickly to learn this leadership game. One of the things I discovered first was that things didn't happen by accident. To get results, you had to plan for it. I found even more fascinating the idea that if you wanted to lead people, you had to plan for that too. I read somewhere if staff was to change their behaviors, if they needed a strong leade

Rehab, The Road to Recovery; (part 6).

When I was young, I remember seeing a dude in a wheelchair at a concert and thinking he was screwed. I certainly was no student of Spinal Cord Injury, my knowledge was limited to the idea that not walking must suck. Little did I know that when I got to rehab, walking wasn't even a morsel of conversation. As my therapy plan was unveiled, I learned that paralysis had engulfed me from head to toe. I had to re-learn how to survive in a body of which I had no control. I was flat on my back and couldn't move. I was out of the Stryker frame, but still had to turn from side to side every two hours so my skin wouldn't open up in huge sores since I couldn't feel pain or pressure. I went to the ba

Rehab, The Road to Recovery; The Fishman Cometh (part 5)

Being lost at life is a trip. The realization the wheels have come flying off and you have no idea or, scarier yet, desire to fix it leaves you buck-naked lost. I didn't have the emotional maturity to find any sense of myself in these early days, but I didn't have to. Miraculously, 2 men came into this journey who saw good things for me that I couldn't see for myself. The wild part of it was they wouldn't leave my side until I was able to see a future that had me in it. It was as if these 2 had conspired a plan that would result in me leaving the hospital believing that I could beat disability. It was a crazy notion, but it was about to become truth. And it started with trying to reconn

Leaders Need Their Vision Tested

What would your school or organization look like when you accomplish all the things you set out to do? That is a question I would put out to our teachers and student leaders everywhere I've been. I've asked it while serving in leadership roles I've had outside of education as well. It's a critical conversation that great teams aren't afraid to have over time. With good leadership acting as a facilitator, you can get input AND find the common ground . At the end of the conversation, you are left with an agreed upon description of how the team wants their organization to look. In my world of culture building, I call this description your VISION. I've been told by many that vision settin

Rehab, My Road to Recovery: No doubt in my mind, rebuilding your life is a team sport (part 4).

In the first six weeks of my adventure, I learned a fascinating truth. The world is resilient and it just keeps turning. My life was shaken to its core, but they didn't close school down, nobody canceled football season, and my circle of friends got back to their lives. My greatest fear, and the reason I stayed in Fresno in spite most experts recommending L.A., was if I left for 5 months, people would forget about me. My mind would play tricks on me at night when I was alone. I envisioned nobody wanting to be around me in a wheelchair and I would spend the rest of my life being a patient in some home for the disabled. As I said earlier, I was strengthened by the buzz of people at the h

The Synergy of August in Schools

It's cool to be an educational speaker in August. Back to School month varies its dates around the country so if you play your cards right, you can work every day and get your fiscal year off to a blazing start. As a principal who valued this time of year, it's fun to see how different parts of North America prepare their teachers for a new season. I've been to so many school and district openings that I'd love to go back and try some of the cool ideas I've come across. That being said, there is also some common ground during this time of year. No matter where you go, there is an aura of excitement that is really palpable in August and September. We are a unique industry and we get a d

Rehab, My Road to Recovery: Suddenly, I'm not in Kansas Anymore (part 3)

There was no magic about November 5th, 1977. I didn't pass any test, no recovery milestone occurred, and I wasn't feeling better. Regardless of my situation, a room at Fresno Community Hospital opened up, and it was mine to take or lose forever. So without fanfare, a team from American Ambulance showed up and I was off to rehab. Ready or not, I was leaving the darkness of Post Intensive Care, and sauntering into the great unknown. I felt like the new kid in school; a combination of fear and excitement, but I was leaving an ugly neighborhood and was damn happy to watch it in the rear view mirror. At the hospital, I was met by a team that took me on a gurney to the 6th floor. I parked i

Rehab, My Road to Recovery: The truth about pain...(part 2)

I went head first into a boulder at 45 m.p.h. at Millerton Lake in Fresno County, California. It didn't kill me, but it sure as hell didn't make me stronger. Somebody commented once that the paralysis was a blessing because I couldn't feel any pain. True, I had no feeling from the chest down, but my broken neck (three places) and massive head injury reminded me every day of where I now lived; intensive care at St. Agnes Hospital. I had two bolts screwed into my skull that held weights to keep me in traction. My bed was a Stryker Frame that would be flipped every 2 hours to prevent my skin from breaking down; I spent 2 hours looking at the ceiling and 2 hours suspended in air looking at the

Jostens and Yearbooks and Stuff

For the past 2 summers, I've been able to participate in a couple of camps put on by our friends at Jostens. In 2017, I attended a conference where teachers and students came together to talk about school culture. As a principal, that was risk-taking stuff because traveling with kids is hard. It takes a lot supervision and adult planning. Add to it, however, that it is summer AND you are traveling across the country, well you are out on a limb. Thank God that Jostens has a bigger vision than I. In this environment, amazing work was accomplished by adults and students working together. Being in a new surrounding added to the ambiance and I watched our young leaders rise to the level of e

Rehab, My Road to Recovery: This is a tale as old as time...(part 1)

It was forty years ago, but could have been yesterday. I can still smell the sterile rooms throughout the hospital and hear the beeps of the monitors, the groans of the sick and injured, and the bustle of the people that were everywhere. Still, it was the loneliest I ever felt and the fear in a 16 year old football player who was now being called a quadriplegic after a crazy water skiing accident was off the hook. I realized that the hospital was no place to recover from a catastrophic injury; and in the early days of a long journey, I was thankfully told "Don't let the No-Hopes win." The No-Hopes referred to a professional culture that filled my young mind with a daily list of something