Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flashbacks to The Pirate Counselor

The acclaimed director, George Roy Hill gave a dressing-down to Paul Newman for feeling sorry for himself and for believing that he was not worthy of his lot in life.  Mr. Newman lamented that if it were not for luck he'd be a nobody.  Mr. Hill told him, "Some people sit by the window all day and watch Luck pass by."

Opportunity.  Fate.  Luck.

So, really, it is not just luck.  It takes Fate.  The right place at the right time.  Circumstances and Opportunity, too.  And you need to seize the moment.  Otherwise, Luck will just pass right by your window.

It is the last day of your first school year as a counselor and a parent drops by your office.  She is about to ask if you know anyone who'd like to be a counselor on a sail boat to work with adjudicated youth. No pressure or anything, but You better do this!

Malcolm Gladwell has a pretty good theory laid out in his book, Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours to master your craft.  It requires innate talent, to be sure.  But it also requires no small amount of opportunity, luck, and practiced purposeful repetition.  Mr. Gladwell delineates the timeline of Bill Gates and The Beatles as they did their thing hour after hour after hour for years at a time.  It is a story worth reading.

Words to live by to The Rookie Counselor Me:  This seems kind of daunting when you are just beginning. But, if you have found your thing, then you do it because you love it. It will drive you and provide you with profound meaning. It is your little Acorn of Purpose. If it is what you really want to do with your life then it is going to grow and prosper and thrive.

You will sail aboard the Francis Crow, namesake for the Englishman who, in 1818, patented the first liquid mariner compass. She's a 40-foot schooner of tight and limited space for 8 kids, a Captain, and a First Mate.  (These camps sailed the Chesapeake Bay for week-long excursions.) You will help them learn responsibility, respect, manners, cooperation and teamwork, and on and on.  These kids will swab the decks, cook in the galley, clean the head, practice seamanship, and try not to wring each others' neck.  There will be boys and girls from age 8 to 17.  It will be quite the challenge.

I could not have asked for a more organic setting to work on group dynamics and individual behaviors of real concern (BORC).  Crammming 11 people in a small space with blazing sun one day and driving rain the next creates a canvas of plentiful drama for a counselor to practice his craft.

This was an invaluable and mighty learning experience for me.  I plowed through a lot of those 10,000 hours needed to become versatile in my craft.  (During the Summer, 6 days a week, for 5 years). It was fun.  It did not feel like 'work'.  It required a high degree of concentrated focus, a receptive openness to be in the moment and fully present, and nurturing engagement with these kids from culturally eccletic experiences. 

It took Luck. 

Do not let Luck pass by your window. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Here is a recent Tweet from my Twitter friend Dr. Mason:

 Dr. Erin Mason Dr. Erin Mason @ecmmason
Most go into #schoolcounseling bc you already see self as advocate. What's one thing u want to advocate for when ur in the field? #CSL521

I have more to write then what the 140-characters Twitter allows.  So, here comes a blog post.  Usually I ponder and percolate with these things. Not with this.  It was kind of there just waiting to be expressed. So, thanks, Dr. Mason.

I segmented this metamorposis into three stages of my own personal development:  1). Reason for entering grad school, 2). Freshly minted mindset of a Graduate, and 3). What I believe at this precise moment.

Reason for entering graduate school
I was disenchanted with what I was doing, coupled with feeling compelled by the desire to have the same impact on kids which I experienced while growing up.  I was fortunate to have many adults willing to take me under their wing, kick me in the rear as was sometimes necessary, and encourage me during my formative years.  They included a coach, a few teachers, and church leaders.

Upon graduation 
It was genuine, but rather vague: Help prepare young people for a future in which they may experience success. That's it.  Not much to go on, I know, but that's it.

Today, this is where I believe my advocacy resides
Intrinsic Motivation - I'd love for kids to do stuff because they want to do it and because it is in their highest interest.
Understanding - I want young people to know about how things --desires, emotions, beliefs-- work, the cause and effect of their thoughts/actions, and what makes their 'self' tick.
Process of Change - Awareness of how changing happens naturally, not forcefully or that which is placed upon you.
Passion - Discover it.  Unleash it.  Wake up each morning to share all that you have to offer.

This is how I want to advocate and will do so for each person who I find myself in their midst to the best of my ability.  Each young person arrives with a unique life story, baggage they carry with them, limited/extensive background knowledge and experiences. Perhaps, what I strive for is to remove the obstacles from their path so as to clear the way for them to grow unencumbered.

Or, maybe, this captures what I am looking for when I now think of advocacy---as Shakespeare so elegantly penned, My heart is ever at your service.

Thanks, Dr. Mason, for nudging me to reflect.  Now it is your turn to comment, #CSL521.  I'd love to hear from you.  Please share your Counselor Mindset at this point in your career!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Flashbacks To A New Counselor

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.”              ~Steve Jobs

I am going to spend the next few posts connecting my dots.  At the same time, I'll give some flashback advice to the old me.  Not sure how this will turn out or if it will be of benefit to you, but I hope it helps the Rookie School Counselor Me.

I remember sitting on the floor in my counselor room staring at shelves full of books, games, manuals, and files not knowing where to begin.  In walks my Principal and asked if I was all set to begin the school year.  Internally, I thought, Not so much.  I was overwhelmed. I looked her straight in the eyes and said, You bet!

Think about it.  One day you are a Student and the next day you are the Expert.  Graduated.  Certified. The Works.  Like it or not, that will be your perceived role.  At least, by some it will.

Words to live by to the Rookie Counselor Me: Do not hide from it.  Do not run away from it.  Embrace it.  Unleash your Passion.  Meet it square-on and Believe in your 'self'. 

As Steve Jobs said, " in something-- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever."  Mark your internal compass by that and set sail.  You are Curious.  And Resilient.  A Persistent bugger, too. So roll up those sleeves and have at it.  You will make a Good Noise.