Friday, April 17, 2009
So, do you know the actual definition of this word?
Quick, before you look it up, reply to this post, and without reading anyone else's reply, write your own definition of the word "caveat."
Please do not be embarrassed to get this wrong. I want you to take a stab at it.
To loosen things up, I'll start off with an incorrect definition just so you won't be alone...
caveat - a French word meaning a small, hollow rock formation filled to the brim with fish eggs
There, now give it a go... (but really try)
Saturday, April 11, 2009
...my thesis, that is. I will defend it on Thursday. I'd love to say that this will mean I'm done with all academia for the rest of the year, but sadly, this is not so. More assignments due next week, with still more to come in the near future. Aren't I scholarly?
However, I would be remiss to say that this does not mark a huge milestone in my academic career. The document into which many hours have been poured is nearing its final version. And what I hope with all this, is that the work I've done amounts to more than the sum of its pages (54 including appendices). I'd like to think that aside from the staggeringly immense contribution my work makes to the body of scholarly literature (i.e. sitting politely in the university archives), that it also represents hard work, sacrifice, and love on the part of so many of my friends, family, teachers, and colleagues. If anything, for me it serves a stark reminder of both God's bountiful blessings in my life and the privilege it truly is to receive what not all can: an education.
...which is why I thought it might be nice to post the "Acknowledgments" page from my Master's Thesis here on my blog. It was my only shot at actually writing something in my own voice for this project, and I'd say I took my liberties with it. Anyway, some of you reading may have a part in this, and writing it really did make me realize how blessed I am (and how thankful I ought to be). I apologize if I neglected anyone who feels like they should have been mentioned, I'm sure you understand. Also, if you're wondering about that list of first names, it's my MAHE graduate cohort (a.k.a. my classmates). Finally, if this seems out of context, I'm sorry. It maybe makes a little more sense at the outset of a very long, somewhat technical document; like a breath of cool, clean air right before you head down into the murky, musty cellar to make some repair you've been putting off for weeks. Wow, that makes my thesis sound pretty awful; perhaps that metaphor [sic]* is a bit too strong...
Enough disclaimers. I apologize for nothing!
There are a number of folks to whom I am irrevocably indebted. A special thanks goes to my family who instilled in me the love of learning, and more importantly a concrete definition of love through words and action; to my significant other, the lovely Kerrie Schene, for her patience in unconditionally tolerating a full-time graduate student who has probably seemed like only a part-time boyfriend all too often; to Tim Herrmann for honestly believing in me far more than is even appropriate; to Jenny Collins for making the past two years absolutely formational for me as a professional and a person; to the students who participated in my study and the faculty who let me completely hijack their classes to hand out surveys; to the men of the Box, whose integrity, grace, and love have been inversely proportional to the size of our humble accommodations (but we love it so); to Cindi Carder for what I consider an “above and beyond the call of duty” helpfulness; to Scott Moeschberger for being flat-out brilliant; and to Caleb, Matt, Miriam, Polly, Sara, Emily, Heidi, Kyle, Nathan, Brent, Tammi, Laura, Derek, Katie, Barry, Travis, and Kelly for leaving me with absolutely no words that could articulate what they have meant to me, how they have literally made me into a better man than I was, and who they will be for the field of higher education and for the Kingdom of God. There is no other way to explain the blessings that all these people represent except for the fact that Jesus Christ has saved my life and made it into something entirely different and entirely better than I ever could have achieved, let alone imagined, on my own. I think perhaps “thankful” does not nearly cut it…
*I know, I used a simile. I prefer the word metaphor, so there.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Here is a book review I wrote for my Leadership class. Obviously, since I wrote it for class it's not exactly written toward my blog audience (whatever that means). In light of that, I will also add some additional blog thoughts at its conclusion...
Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. New York: Little, Brown Co.
Malcolm Gladwell is a very successful writer. He has authored two #1 international bestsellers and currently works as a staff writer for The New Yorker. He is a success story. I think this gives him a certain level of credibility as he embarks on an exploration of some of the world’s greatest success stories in his latest work, Outliers.
We normally think about successful people as intelligent and ambitious, people who were willing to lead by innovation and persistence. We read about the keys to successful leadership, strategies for going from “good to great,” and studies on the best leaders and how they do what they do. But Gladwell’s voice in the conversation on leadership wants to say that maybe things, as complex as they may seem, are infinitely more complex than we could have ever imagined. Perhaps, not only is success a product of incredibly hard work and once-in-a-generation intelligence or gifting, but also a whole host of extenuating circumstances and extraordinary opportunities. His argument essentially states that those who exceed all others in success – outliers – are those who have been given incredibly rare opportunity and extremely unique legacy.
Outliers tells the stories of some of the technology and software industry’s pioneers, of the most wildly successful attorneys of our time, of all-star Canadian hockey players, of airlines that have been saved from financial ruin overnight, and of multi-racial Jamaican immigrants who found a way to rise above their circumstances against all odds. He has found, in researching a vast array of exceedingly successful people and organizations, that the things most of these have in common is opportunity and legacy.
The theory of opportunity deals with advantages gained due to demographics such as socio-economic class, place in history, even birth-date (Did you know that being born in January means you'll likely be a better hockey player than your friends born in April? ...at least if you're Canadian, that is..). Gladwell insists that perhaps even more important than intelligence or “natural” leadership ability, are the millions of variables surrounding a person’s life, including where they grew up, when they were born, or what their parents did for a living. All of these aspects contribute to unique opportunities for a person’s personality and skill-set to be formed for just the right moment in history. He also provides support for a theory that to truly become an expert at anything, one must have spent at least 10,000 hours in practicing that particular skill, further solidifying his place in the “Nurture” camp of the “Nature vs. Nurture” debate.
To add to his theory on opportunity, Gladwell also explores the nuances of what he calls “legacy.” His focus with this concept is the set of advantages and disadvantages that are inherently passed down from a person’s parents and native culture, things such as communication style, entitlement, social skills, work ethic, and even dumb luck. Ultimately, Gladwell suggests that if we could understand better what kind of advantages we may be giving certain members of society, and withholding from others, more folks would have a shot at becoming the leaders, innovators, and thinkers that could take society beyond what we might even consider possible.
This book has a great amount of application to a discussion on leadership. It would tend to suggest that leaders can be made, but that perhaps they could be born into circumstances that would make it more difficult to fully achieve their potential. This says a lot about how we should approach leadership development in students: creating opportunities and leaving a legacy are incredibly important if we want our students to display the same successful characteristics as the “outliers” of society, those who are uniquely equipped to lead change.
This book made me realize how important it is to give people an opportunity to realize their potential. It also made me realize how much of who I am is a product of who a whole lot of other people are (e.g. parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, teachers, classmates, teammates, co-workers, even strangers) and the events that happen to be occurring during my lifetime.
For the Christian, Outliers offers a study in the sovereignty of God over all the details of our lives. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father." God is all over the details of my life. He is making me into who He would have me be all the time. Even more still, the Holy Spirit is refining me through the current sufferings and stumblings I happen to be encountering.
And finally, I need to be aware of the impact I can have on another's life. Regardless of what I try to do, I have effects on people all the time without ever intending it. So the real question, since I have little control on whether I affect others, is how will I continue to submit myself to God's will that I love others and set an example in godliness and righteousness to them so that the impact I have will utimately glorify Him?
Follow me as I follow Christ.