When I was young, I remember late nights writing on narrow lined loose leaf notebook paper creating stories, placing them between my mattress and dreaming of being an author. Through the years, I’ve written a variety of things, but none have found their way into the Kindle store or made their way to print. I don’t begrudge it as it was part of my journey to where I am today. I’ve been blogging for slightly over four months and in that time and I have, to be honest, it has changed my life. Having been in the same type of job for 15 years, the day to day became robotic, and my sparkle became a mere flicker. I felt something was missing and I also felt I needed fuel to light my fire again. Passion, always an integral part of my personality, started to become painstakingly absent. Don’t get me wrong; I love technology and my work, it just wasn’t enough for me. So, that’s where my story begins.
On December 22nd, I published my first blog post on my blog http://www.hackedleadership.com and LinkedIn. Before publishing I had multiple people read it and give me feedback. I started with a Sustainable Innovation Framework, something I’m still proud of today. Any feedback I received, I took to heart, busily making all recommended modifications, asking for feedback again, until ultimately I pushed the publish button. Once I published my heart raced, and I incessantly checked my views. I don’t advise this, by the way, the term “a watched pot never boils” comes to mind. My psyche needed a win to tell my brain it is ok to publish one more article. It felt a little like being on the playground waiting for the team captain to pick you for their team. What if nobody reads my article? Sounds a little crazy but when you pour your heart into something, you hope it turns into something worth reading and that along the way, someone sees value. Then, I received a LinkedIn notification on my phone; it was a comment from Mike Stabile. He’s been a mentor for me for over three years, and his opinion carries considerable weight. Mike owns a consulting business but also has a Ph.D., worked as a university professor and building principal. He liked my article enough to comment. I felt the endorphin rush, my adrenaline surged, and my brain went into overdrive; I’m convinced new neural pathways started to appear at an exponential rate. In the shower, I thought of ideas, all in full sentences visualizing them quickly appearing on a Google Doc and into a beautiful image filled blogged post. Then, I received another comment from Mary Jo Scalzo, someone else I hold in extremely high regard. Mary Jo, a former Superintendent and Executive Director of High AIMS, left a comment. Their comments weren’t ambiguous, they were specific, and I knew they were authentic, well-thought out and intended to be meaningful. They were.
Before I knew it, I was invited to speak at High AIMS by Mary Jo about innovation. I felt incredibly honored, humbled and wanted to make her proud. She inspired me more than she will ever know. I prepared for weeks, but the preparation came easily because I loved the work. When she walked into the room, she put her hands on my shoulder, peered into my eyes and said, “You’re a writer!” Drop the mic. I wanted to cry. A strange reaction, I know, but when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and receive an affirmation that the work is good, it is validating. The long nights spent researching and writing that set my mind free were appreciated. Mary Jo’s comments are etched in my mind, and I’ll never forget them similar to my high school English teacher writing “I’m speechless” on one of my papers. To the person commenting, it may be nothing, a blip on their radar, but to me, it meant something. I needed the validation because I was taking a risk outside of my comfort zone.
I found myself looking at my work differently. The world started to morph into a world of possibility, the lens in which I saw the world, formerly clouded, was suddenly clear. When I went into classrooms, I felt so inspired, and again the words began to flow while I watched teachers and students engage in incredible work. Sharing it with the world seemed natural and the best way I could help inspire them, just as Mike and Mary Jo inspired me. Validation that you are doing good work matters. Taking the time to watch and listen without preconceived notions of what I think I’ll find brought a sense of wonder to me. My mind was completely open to seeing “the good” that exists. It felt right, and in my opinion, we have a bond; there’s a connection, and we’re bound by living our passion.
Fast forward a month and a half from my first post. I wrote about dyslexia and personalized learning featuring an amazing teacher in our district. As always, I tweeted the story and also tagged Barbara Bray since she’s the co-author of Make Learning Personal and How to Personalize Learning. I’m in my family room playing with my two and a half-year-old daughter and I receive a Twitter notification from Kathleen McClaskey about connecting. She’s the co-author with Barbara. What? Remember the endorphin rush I mentioned earlier after receiving comments on my first blog post? It was back. I’m confident my heart rate rivaled any marathon runner. Kathleen and I connected, I’ve interviewed her for my blogged and picked her brain as much as I can to learn more about personalized learning from an expert in the field.
Fast forward two months. As I’m nestled in bed one evening, I receive another twitter notification. It is Rod Berger, the CEO of MindRocket Media Group, asking if I’d be interested in writing about innovation for EdCircuit. Needless to say, endorphins, again. I found it difficult to sleep with a pulse rate of 120, but I managed and connected with EdCircuit’s editor to find out more. He read my blog entries and asked if I would be interested writing regularly for their publication. Dreams do come true. I’ve published on EdCircuit once so far but ideas abound, and I’m excited to write my second.
To accommodate my writing, I’ve changed my schedule. Every morning, I wake up an hour early to write, and I do this seven days a week. It isn’t work, it’s creative expression, and in my opinion, it’s making me a better employee, spouse, and mom because I’m fulfilled. Passion, purpose, and autonomy drive me. Thanks, Daniel Pink, for landing on those three words. I believe in them and live them every day.
I tell this story because being vulnerable is tough and I understand, but writing is special. Writing offers therapy on a bad day, lifts people up through acknowledgment, inspires creative thinking, encourages reading and learning, and its free. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are a great writer. Many people write significantly better than me, and that’s ok. It isn’t about writing, it is about contributing what you know, learning, and connecting. My bucket is completely filled, and I’m happy. The best advice I can give to anyone is, try it; you might fall in love.