Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona 

Ok, so I’m a bit of a slow learner. That’s probably no surprise to some of you, let alone me!

I’ve just come across OSHO’s wonderful quote. He says; “Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.”

Ooooh! I like that! I’ve always fancied a bit of rebellion, or at least the prospect of it – that feeling that you’re doing something out of the norm, out of the ordinary, pushing the boundaries, shaking the tree.

I like that a lot.

Osho, for those of you like me who didn’t/don’t know, is an Indian Spiritual Guru and this quote comes from his best selling book “Creativity, Unleashing The Forces Within”.

Google tells me that “Osho highlights the fact that creativity is much more than a simple act; it’s a profound form of rebellion against the conventional boundaries and the restrictive nature of our daily existence”.

I like that too! I like that a lot.

So, in this changing world impacted with the likes of AI, I wondered where in education the greatest rebellion might be currently found.

Unsurprisingly I found it where it always has been; in our Early Childhood Centres and Kindergartens.

In these places you walk through the door and you see un-abound creativity everywhere, and anywhere. 

I think you’d struggle to find anywhere on the planet where such unabashed creativity is produced in such an unrestrictive and supportive manner.

What’s more, these creative souls (yes it’s the 2-5 year olds I’m talking about) go about their acts of daily rebellion in a constant state of “I don’t care”. 

Yeah, sure, they’re learning to care – as they look for the acknowledgement like signs from their teachers, care-givers and parents. But on the whole I can’t imagine any three year old in the world who starts their finger painting masterpiece with the thoughts, “how will this be accepted? and is it acceptable?”

Around these three year olds is a lovely caring and supportive bubble wrap like layer of safety. It’s provided by the state, or the private institution and it comes in the form of the teacher. This layer of safety allows for our children to be almost as rebellious as they want as they go about making sense of their new world.

As I said, it’s hard to imagine a place on earth that is so free in regards to this creativity. 

As children get older and they move through our education systems, the significance of the safety bubble wrap and its use, becomes diluted.

This dilution, or constraint, is done on many different layers; by peer pressure; by family expectations; by societal “norms”; and by the institutions themselves who are also under the same constraints.

Creativity is inherently fueled by risk taking. Our three year olds are encouraged to take risks – in fact they often don’t even comprehend that a risk is even there. 

This is called play. And they learn about risks by doing stuff in their play.

By the time our kids find themselves further up the school system this risk taking/play aspect of creativity is often non-existent.

And to compound things more our teachers are often so risk-averse themselves that the creativity rebellion is well and truly about to be extinguished.

Enter AI stage left.

On first glance it appears that maybe, just maybe the rebellion is about to be reignited!

But on closer inspection I wonder if AI just gives us the opportunity to take risk taking out of the creative equation altogether.

I’ve always thought that the risk taking part of being creative is the part that makes us truly human. It’s the part that adds the spice to the process!! It’s like the wrapping on a present at Christmas time – until the wrapping is taken away there’s always the uncertainty left about what has been created; it’s an anticipation that is intoxicating.

Being creative has never been totally risk free – unless of course we’re all living in a kindergarten world – so why would we allow AI to take this away from us?

Surely, if we are going to embrace AI into the creative realm (and to be honest it looks like we have no choice), then the time is now to be actively encouraging our teachers to take real life risks in their classrooms.

This means looking at what “Being Creative” really looks like. It means celebrating this often – as in, getting really excited about human creativity! 

And it means reigniting the flame and letting the rebellion take hold.


Photo by Anna Samoylova 

It’s been almost two years since I was last on school camp. And to be honest, the last time I was on camp I wondered a lot whether it would be my last. Turns out it wasn’t and it isn’t.

I’m pretty grateful about that. I do like a good school camp. Yes there are always the “issues” that arise; homesickness, car sickness, grumpy kids, grumpy adults, sleep deprivation, shared bathrooms – you get the picture.

But on the whole it’s always a lovely, almost inspiring event. You see people, in this case mostly little people, in an element that you’ve never seen them in before. By going on school camp you’ve gently ripped them out of their safe worlds and you’ve introduced them to something completely new in terms of environment and experience.

It’s during school camp that I notice the little things. Those things that may not seem to be all that important on the face of it, but on closer investigation make the way that we see, do and feel about our experiences all so much more vivid.

These things aren’t the iPhone we hold in our hands, or the car that we drive; the street that we live in, the holiday we’ve just been on, or the job that we do.

And in our schools they’re not the fancy interactive whiteboards that we were once told we’d all need, or the funky open plan like classrooms that seemed like the answer to everything, or even the shiny strategic plan that we pour ourselves all over in planning for the many hypotheticals ahead.

Nope they’re the little things; the way that we talk to each other, the way that we support each other, the way that we celebrate the very fact that we’re all in this together.

Here’s a list of the little things that made such a big impact on me when I was on camp.

  1. Morning coffee that hits just right 
  2. A heartfelt compliment from a parent
  3. A genuine smile from a kid accomplishing something new
  4. Unexpected acts of kindness
  5. That perfect playlist that boosts your mood instantly as you drive to school camp
  6. The feeling of a spontaneous adventure that school camp brings
  7. The laughter of the kids at something irresistibly, but unexpectedly funny
  8. Seeing a beautiful sunrise or sunset
  9. Finding the last piece of homemade baking in the camp pantry
  10. Watching the stars on a clear night

These are all things that made my school camp experience so much more vivid.

I wonder though, what are all the little things in our schools that make such a big difference? What might your Big list of little things that matter look like in your school?



Photo by amirali mirhashemian 

I used to like reminding my students, when they’d tell me that things were too hard or just simply too much, that the key to beating this sort of stuff is to think of it all as a hamburger.

Yup a hamburger. Stick with me here.

What I used to tell them is that when they (or anybody actually) bites into their favourite, huge, big, gigantic hamburger, that they never swallow it all in one big bite. Nope, they take little bites. And they take these little bites because their mouth is simply far too small to cram a whole big hamburger into their gob.

Unsurprisingly it’s the same for Leaders too. When we eat a hamburger – when we eat anything actually – we tend to chew off as much as we can, and no more. And if we’re really clever we’ll also take a little moment to savour what we’re eating while we’re at it.

This is the same for those times when the task in front of us is simply far too big, or far too much. There’s no way you can tackle the whole task in one big bite – so don’t even try. Break it down into “mouthful” pieces. And although the task might not necessarily be as tasty as your favourite hamburger, you can still take time to savour, or get some meaning, out of the situation.

There’s no challenge in front of us that can’t be tackled in bite sized chunks. So stop looking at a task and thinking it’s far too big, or onerous, and instead take a little bit of time to wonder where you’d be best to take that first bite.



The tide comes in and the tide flows out. 

This happens twice a day; not quite like clock work, but as close to it as possible without a human hand guiding it. To be honest it’s better this way.

So too do emotions. And the confusions that flow with them. Sometimes you find yourself completely assured and reassured by what you feel, and then there are other times when you really don’t know; let alone know why.

The other day I found myself in a situation where I should’ve been calm but I wasn’t really. I didn’t know why. I wasn’t sure what was feeding all of this. I had everything that I needed. It was all right there. But yet I still had this “thing”; this feeling.

I doubt I was the only one in the world feeling this way. I doubt that I was the only person in the world who felt this confusion.

Viktor Frankl said Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

I like to think about this wise saying if I’m unsure about the origins of an emotion or feeling coursing through my body. It’s especially useful when deciding what my next action should be.

For example the other day when I really had no idea what it was that was making me feel unsettled. There were some possibilities, as there always are, but they all seemed to be way too far away in the future to be of any real interest. 

The feeling that I was having was a result of some sort of thought stimulus that I was having, albeit an unknown one. The response I was giving to this uncertainty was making me feel crap. I needed to look into the space between in order to give myself some well needed clarity.

And it was in this space I found a moment of peace. It was just enough time to take stock of where I was, and what I was doing. But it did the trick. Soon after I felt the crappy feeling lifting.

This sort of thing happens in our professional and personal lives all the time. Next time it happens to you, give yourself some extra time to take stock. 

So just wait for the tide to come back in. Give yourself some time and watch it flow in. Go on! You’ll be just fine.



Photo by Nils 

It’s been quite a year. In fact, it’s been quite a few years now. And it looks like next year, and the following, will also be quite a year or two as well!

Congratulations. You have made it through this “Quite a Year” phenomenon. Well almost. A week or so to go, but I’m placing bets that you will indeed make it through. Hold on, it’s all going to be ok.

No doubt 2023 has been full of Herculean tasks. Those sorts of jobs that have required Herculean like efforts. Hercules of course, is the Greek and Roman demi-god  famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures. I imagine that this might sound just a little bit like a Principal or a Leader. 

But why stop there with the Greek/Roman task analogy.

I wonder how many of you have also participated in these following sorts of tasks throughout the year? (I’d like to take credit for these, but I can’t. They come from a comment section on a Facebook group called P#ucked Up and Filosophical. I couldn’t help myself – they all ring true in some form or another to me!)

Icarian Tasks: Whereby you’ve undertaken a task that you know you’re going to fail in but you do it anyway in a spirit of unabandoned fun! (Icarus was known for being  excessively ambitious. “An Icarian mentality that could only lead to a crash and burn”)

Cassandrean Tasks: Whereby you’ve had to deal with people who you know won’t listen to you, even though you’ve given them accurate information – and you’ve had to watch them fumble about even though you’ve told them the solution right from the start (Cassandrea prophesied the fall of Troy, but no-one bothered to listen.)

Dionysian Tasks: Whereby you’ve worked while a bit tipsy on wine – hoping none of us have undertaken this sort of task – but no doubt there have been times when it seemed it was the only way to get through! (Dionysus was the Greek god of wine!)

Pandorean Tasks: Whereby as soon as you start, the task goes all pear-shaped with heaps of surprises jumping up from anywhere and everywhere. (Think here of Pandora’s Box and the crazy “gifts” that popped out of these.)

Gilgameshian Tasks: Whereby you went and slayed the task against all odds, but you did so with the help of an incredible colleague. (Apparently Gilgamesh and Enkiduwere great friends who fought Humbaba, a giant who guarded the sacred trees. They successfully slayed the giant!)

Odyssean Tasks: Whereby you began a task as a group, and it took a really long, long, long time … so long that in the end you were the only one left doing it.

Narcissian Tasks: Whereby you work tirelessly on something but your efforts go unnoticed by someone too smugly entranced by their own intellect.

Can you think of any others? We’d love to hear from you.


Photo by Kamran Chaudhry 

Ok, so we all know that everyone experiences some level of anxiety. 

For some of us it might be as simple as that nagging little thing in the back of our mind that tells us we’ve missed something important. 

For others it might be more  like a suspenseful movie playing and replaying in your mind, complete with nail-biting plot twists and surprise guest appearances in worst-case scenarios. It’s as if your brain has a subscription to the most dramatic channel on TV, and every worry is a gripping episode that leaves you on the edge of your mental seat, popcorn optional.

Science tells us that we’re likely to have evolved this somewhat cute little knack of being overly worried as a way of protecting ourselves from the good and the bad during times when things were just a little bit more simple than they are today.

Like when we had to make life and death decisions about whether to fight or flight in a certain situation. Things were simpler then – a sabre tooth tiger roars in the distance – and all you needed to do was decide whether you were going to hang around or not. Anxiety is, in effect, a super power.

Life isn’t so simple now. The places that we find ourselves leading in, are full of situations that constantly ignite our fight or flight intuitions. But how do we learn from anxiety and how do we unleash this super power without it just sending us all absolutely bonkers? Well there are a few things that we can do to help.

Firstly; being aware of your negativity bias. This is the thing in your mind that likes to make the worst of everything. It’s likely that your negativity bias will be in full flight when you’re tired, hungry, angry, frustrated, stressed … and there are multiple problems needing to be addressed. During these times your own negativity bias will be fuelling your anxiety. 

The work around this is to be aware of your thoughts. Your negativity bias is only one way of looking at something. Psychologists like to use the term Cognitive Flexibility. Instead of defaulting to one way of looking at something, take your time to look at the situation from a variety of angles. Maybe, just maybe, that staff member who you thought gave you a dirty look during the staff meeting doesn’t hate you after all! There might be another rational and logical reason for that particular face.

Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki describes different ways that we can turn anxiety into a superpower.

1. Productivity Superpower – also known as the WHAT IF anxiety. This may look like these sort of questions in your head;  “What if he didn’t do that” and “What if that wasn’t done right” and “what if this thing all goes wrong”

To turn this particular anxiety into a superpower she recommends turning these thoughts into actions. Change your WHAT IF list into a TO DO list. Give your worries an action e.g ring someone for clarification, google something, ask for help from someone. Suddenly you’ve changed your anxiety into something productive!

2. Flow Superpower – Flow is that wonderful thing that occurs when you find yourself deeply in the moment and time seems to magically slow down and even disappear. Great things happen in flow. But anxiety is the enemy of flow. Nevertheless, periods of “micro flow” can still be found in times of anxiety. Chances are not noticing these occurrences though. Micro flow happens all the time, even in times of anxiety. Even if it’s a moment of day dreaming – or letting yourself daydream; letting yourself go, just for the moment. It can help, and more so if you can catch yourself doing it and take some time to savour it. 

3. Empathy Superpower – Let’s face it we all have anxiety and we all know what anxiety feels like. We can use this by being aware of the anxieties of others. This is a superpower that is so easy to put in place. Notice the people around you. Look for the signs – those signs that you know so well because you produce them yourself. All you have to do is give a kind word, or lend a hand to the person who is going through their ‘stuff’. 

Maybe anxiety can teach us a lot more about ourselves and the situations that we find ourselves in  than just feeling shitty, or just being worn out. There’s no doubt that it’s not easy. There will be times when it’s ok just to embrace the “down”. But remember, you don’t have to do that. You have a choice. Your anxiety doesn’t control you. 

Instead you control your anxiety.


Photo by Letizia Bordoni 

With Uncertainty There Are Always Choices

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about the changes coming our way in the Education sector in New Zealand as a result of the change of Government.

They say that change is the only constant. And whoever “they” is, they might just be right. Change is a major player in our lives, both at a personal level and professional one.

With change comes uncertainty and often with uncertainty comes feelings of anxiousness and anxiety.

It can seem at times that along with this uncertainty that your choices in life begin to become limited. There are times as a leader that this seemed very much the case and this in turn added to the feeling of anxiety.

In reality though, even in times of uncertainty you still have many options available to you. You are never in a situation where you don’t have any choices to make.

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s 1915 epic “A Road Not Taken”. In it he suggests that life is a journey full of decisions, and that sometimes it’s the most obscure ones that we make that make the biggest difference, even when they seem the most unlikely. 

I like this. I like this a lot. In terms of leadership it’s a beacon for us. It’s a leading light and reminds us that there is always a choice, and that the right choice might not always be the thing that you initially thought was going to be the right choice.

And, if we think about it even more, we have choices everywhere. In times of uncertainty these choices are still there:

We have choices such as:

Do we choose to be indifferent or do we choose to stand up

Do we choose to love or do we choose to hate

Do we choose to make a difference or do we choose to sit on our hands

Do we choose to we proactive or do we choose to be reactive

Do we choose to be positive or do we choose to be negative

Do we choose to move forward with goodwill or choose to hold onto a grudge 

Do we choose to trust or do we choose to be skeptical

Do we choose to have milk in our coffee or to keep it just black

Uncertainty and change doesn’t äutomatically mean that our choices have been eliminated, it just means that life is going on. And it will go on, whether we like it or not. And that too, is a choice.

And as Socrates once famously said; “The Secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”.

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Photo by Albert Stoynov 

When I was 17, which is a little bit younger than I am today, I began my first three week posting at a primary school as part of my first year of teacher’s training. 

Sadly, I don’t remember the name of the teacher who stood in front of the class that day. Sadly because, no doubt, like all teachers, she touched the hearts of many in her career. And she deserves to be remembered.

Teachers and leaders do this daily. 

Let’s call her Mrs Batchelor. 

As a 17 year old I watched her carefully write up on the blackboard, in white chalk, the day’s handwriting lesson. The very next day would be my turn. A simple handwriting lesson.

I was petrified. It seems so simple now. All these years later, and a million handwriting lessons and other lessons; and staff meetings; assemblies; sports events: end of year prize giving speeches later….etc, etc. and I wonder now what I was scared of. But I was. 

My heart raced as I walked to the front of the class and scraped the chalk across the blackboard surface. I must have written the line of the day’s letter (it was a “d”….. a cursive d) a hundred times…..rubbing them out, just to get them like Mrs Batchelor’s. 

I followed the model of her lesson to a tee. And she was happy with that. I think she even wrote in my Teacher’s Planner book, in a completely acceptable 1980s manner, the four letter word….. GOOD. 

This is probably the first example of authenticity, or in my case, lack of authenticity, that I encountered in my career. She wasn’t being inauthentic. I was.

I say this because, although I followed her model successfully, there was nothing in this simple lesson that gave an indication to my students of who I was. And because of that I failed in this opportunity to connect.

If I could go back and talk to myself, the advice I’d now give is this: 

The model is important, true. But you need to bring something of yourself to that model, in order for you to not only connect with people, but also be fulfilled in yourself. You need to be authentic. 

So what does this really mean? Well, that’s a very good question, because it doesn’t appear to have been a big consideration in the majority of my teaching and principal career. We weren’t trained in authenticity. It certainly was never promoted as that crucial key that I now know is so important. 

Authenticity to me means this: 

  • Having a great respect for who you are as a person. This means knowing and understanding what your key values and personality traits are. 
  • Having confidence in knowing your own strengths AND weaknesses and understanding that both of these are a part of you …. yes you! So don’t hide from these, feel embarrassed about these, or make excuses for these. Embrace them. Wear them on your sleeves! 
  • Finally; Knowing that authenticity also promotes diversity. There will always be some sort of model to follow, but the real strength in our schools and workplaces isn’t found in a model, but in the diverse personalities that grace our places. 

How do you show your team that you are an authentic leader? 

You do it by promoting who YOU are, warts and all. And that means becoming very good at knowing who you are and being able to communicate what this means to your organisation. 

Yes, this means that you are opening yourself up to a lot of judgement. Being authentic is a potentially vulnerable place to be. But if you have built a culture of authenticity then you will have also built a culture of acceptance and safety.

You lead by taking that big step into the unknown of how people will perceive and receive you. You have a choice. You can do this by wearing a mask and therefore hiding your own unique personality. Or, you can do this by being your biggest asset – YOU.

So if I was 17 again, and I was taking that simple handwriting lesson all over again, I’d be hoping that the model and the plan, somewhere, was also saying “find a way” in this lesson to be yourself and do that.


Photo by Benjamin Davies

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of another term. You’ve done it! No doubt there have been some misfires, dropped balls, and a few times when everything has seemed just a little icky and maybe a bit stuck. But you’ve made it anyway; like you always do. It almost seems against the odds. But it never is because you always do make it. No matter the circumstances. No matter what.

We’d like you to take some time and celebrate that; some time just to breathe and say to yourself, “hey you, you’ve just done a damn good job, and you can be proud of how you’ve made it through”. Because no matter how anyone sees it, there is no-one on this planet who has done what you have done. There is no-one who has had exactly the same experiences as you. And therefore you can(and should), be proud, because only you really know what that has really involved; what that has really meant, in terms of energy, sacrifice, fortitude and patience. Go you!

Now, after you’ve celebrated, take a little bit of time just to think of your future self. I’m not talking about some unknown character in twenty years time, but that person in two weeks time. You know, that person who will drive into your place of employment, park their car in your favourite car park; fill your favourite cup full of coffee; and put their feet under your work space, take a huge breath, and begin the new term. 

And ask this question: Will your future self love you?

You’ve got a couple of weeks now to lay this foundation. 

What sort of things do you need to put in place, so that your future self will say – “Far out! That ‘me’ from two weeks ago really did a great job for me and got me into a fantastic position for tackling the new term.”

I reckon if you’ve got some crappy things to work through work wise, then your future self will probably love you if you get these little nuisances out of the way sooner than later. That way you can rest and enjoy the majority of the break away.

And after you’ve done this I reckon your future self will probably love you if you give yourself plenty of time just to be you. And when I talk about you, I don’t mean “Principal You”, or “Leader You”, but “You, you”. There’s only one person in the world who knows what that really means to be you. And being that particular YOU for a great part of the next couple of weeks will put you in a great position for the next term.

But trust me, eat the frog first. Get rid of some of the crappy things off your to-do-list first. And then go and find yourself.

Your future self will love you.


Photo by krakenimages

I really enjoyed David’s question last week; “What would this look like if it was easy?”  Which got me thinking and I want to extend this just a little bit further.

What if you moved through your school, or learning place, as if you were the easiest person to work with?

Please note that I’m talking specifically of being easy to work with, and not for. What would your personal definition of “being easy to work with”  look like?

What would people see in you that made it easy for them to work alongside you?

How would you behave around people?

Where would this thing called consistency fit in?

What would you see in the behaviour of others around you as a result?

Do you think that being the easiest person to work with would result in people thinking you were a push over, or making other judgmentally negative insinuations? (Of course it’s not a competition. You can have many people in any one institution being easy to work with.)

But I’d imagine that if I was onto a winner and having a brilliant day, with all the ducks in a row and everything was going to plan, that I’d be easy to work with. It’s those other times when you’re up against it, neck deep, with a board report to write; a stand down to investigate; an angry parent to deal with; a broken photocopier; and no coffee in the kitchen. What about those times?

It’s easy to be the following when the tide is flowing in the right direction

  • Be reliable and always follow through on your commitments.
  • Be respectful of others’ time and work.
  • Be open to feedback and willing to learn.
  • Be a team player and be willing to help out wherever needed.
  • Be positive and have a good attitude.

People who are easy to work with are also people who others are likely to want to collaborate with and succeed with. Unsurprisingly being easy to work with makes your own work more enjoyable and fulfilling.

So how about you? If you were the easiest person to work with, how would it change your own wellbeing?


Photo by Brett Jordan

Last week David provocatively asked “What would you do if you had only two hours a week in your job”. It hit a nerve with a number of people, including, unsurprisingly, me.

There were elements of David’s piece that were mighty attractive. For a start, imagine only working for two hours a week! What a treat. And secondly, imagine if your job was to do only the things that you believed were most important; if you could cut through all the BS and get to the real nitty gritty that made a difference – how meaningful would that be?

How would that look?

I wonder though, if it may just be a bit of a red herring because being human would make it impossible. We wouldn’t, or couldn’t ever get to this nirvana without feeling guilty, or conflicted, or judged, or questioned. We carry too much baggage in our heads. Stuff that was placed there not just yesterday, but the day before that, and the week before that; even years. And we carry with us the expectations of a future, which is more often than not labeled THE Future, as if it is already written and all we really need to do is do the right thing here and now and it will all become so.

Of course, we don’t have the luxury of working just two hours, or four or eight on just those things that are most important. Nevertheless it’s still a great question to ask in order to clear your mind. So I’d say to you, give yourself a bit of space this morning, after you’ve read this and ask these three questions

  1. What’s important to you right now?
  2. What do you need to get there?
  3. Is there anyone close to you who can help you that you can go to talk to? (and then go and do that)

And then once you’ve done this, because even this is a big task, see if you can do this next thing. It’s a quote from Maya Angelou, and it’s wonderful. Can you make it happen before the end of the term?

“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us”. ~Maya Angelou (Book: Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey)


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Photo by Kenny Eliason 

I’m sitting at a local coffee house here in Timaru. Across the table from me sits my friend. He’s ordered a bucketful sized coffee brimming with three shots, a powdering of chocolate and a jaffa on the side.

It’s going to be one of those conversations I guess, so I close my eyes. He only ever orders three shots when it’s going to be one of those ones.

He lets me outline my day, patiently asking questions and passing quips, but I sense he’s not here to listen to me. That’s ok, he obviously needs to vent.

I’ve made three mistakes in the last couple of weeks, he tells me. I whisper back to him; since when have we been keeping the score and if we are, who is keeping it?

Basically everyone, he says.

That’s a lot of people I tell him. That must be a lot of weight on your shoulders.

He agrees.

How many things have you done right in the last couple of weeks, I ask. He looks at me. I can see him attempting to count things up, but then he gives up.


Who is keeping score of those, I ask?

People make mistakes all the time, it’s what makes us human I tell him. It’s beyond that though; as all animals, insects, and living things make mistakes. Fish take a wrong turn and end in a net; bumble bees fly into a puddle for a drink, but then can’t lift off; cats jump from one point to another, and never quite make it. Mistakes therefore aren’t just what make us human, it’s what makes us a living being.

So I say to him, you’ve never stuffed up before have you?

And he looks back at me with open eyes and says, sure I have, all the time.

Same, I tell him. All the time. And just so he gets it, I say it again; ALL THE TIME.

Now with my eyes closed I tell him to follow these four simple steps.

  1. Name the mistake, and name the feeling it’s giving you. Own it. Take special time to name the emotion and how it makes you feel.
  2. Humanize it – let yourself know that these things happen all the time, to everyone, and they too get the same feelings and emotions. Some handle them better than you for sure, but equally some also handle them worse. It doesn’t matter, it’s a human condition to feel. That is fine.
  3. Now come up with a friendly sentence – if you were sitting in a coffee shop with a mate and they were unloading all this on you, what would be the friendly advice you would give? Write it down if you want. Say it out loud if you want. Make it sound like it’s come from a friend. What would you say?
  4. Now give yourself a timeframe. How long are you going to allow this mistake to make you feel like crap? Is it worth an hour of feeling shit? Is it worth a day? Will it even matter in a week’s time? 

Finally I talk to him about a Japanese concept called Wabi-Sabi. It’s all about finding peace in imperfection, and recognising that nothing in life is perfect. Beauty is found in the flaws, and so too the mistakes, even though it might hurt.

Now I open my eyes and I look across the table. And I see that no one is there. I finish my 3 shot bucket of coffee and get up and walk away.


Photo by Dylan Gillis 


We’re now well and truly into the new Term. No doubt you’re just about to head into another board meeting, or you’ve just had one.

Board meetings are always potentially stressful places. The main reason for this is because it involves people and their personalities. A Board meeting can be fraught with all sorts of issues for a principal or leader to navigate.

Get it right and the meetings you attend and provide crucial advice and guidance too will be perfect; they’ll hum! Get it wrong and it can be as painful as a train wreck!

Because of this, it’s important to remember some key points.  These are my top ten no brainers for working alongside your Board.

  1. Always have an open mind. Be equally prepared to be right or wrong. A board is meant to work like a mini democracy. That means that the majority rules. Sometimes your vote will be in the majority and sometimes it won’t. Don’t stress it either way.
  2. There is a reason why you have two ears and one mouth – listen more than you talk. This gives you a two factored advantage. Firstly it’ll appear that you are a very considered professional, and secondly it gives you time to pause, reflect and contribute positively and not as a knee jerk reaction.
  3. Seek to understand and be prepared to ask your own questions if you are not clear about the reasoning behind decisions being made in a meeting
  4. Go into a meeting, any meeting well prepared. You might never have all the ducks in a row, but turning up as a blank canvas isn’t a good idea.
  5. Never feel pressured to answer questions or to lead discussions feeling ill prepared or off the cuff. You might feel experienced enough to do this, but I can tell you, I’ve found myself in some difficult situations when I thought I could just wing it.
  6. Work hard to build a positive relationship with your Presiding Member. If you want your school to hum, then you need the full on support of this person. This means putting in the time to build up an understanding between the two of you that is mutual, respectful and even caring. You need to know that you have the support of your presiding member and they need to know they have your support.
  7. Don’t allow new items to be added to general business that you have no idea about. Make this clear with your Presiding Member that all meetings should be “no surprises” meetings. If it’s important enough for the Board to want to know your thoughts and opinions, then it is important enough for them to show you the respect to be well prepared. This goes both ways … no surprises for your Board, or for the very least your Presiding Member.
  8. Your Board is a diverse group of diverse thinkers, with diverse backgrounds, diverse opinions and diverse agendas. This includes you. 
  9. Have a really solid understanding of what being a professional means to you, as an individual. This is often a value based opinion that may differ in the eyes of others, but nevertheless it is who you are, and makes you unique. The Board chose you because they saw something in you. Be that professional, not one that you think you have to be .
  10. Have fun. Laugh, celebrate, enjoy. 


Being on a Board should always be a rewarding prospect. You’re in an amazingly privileged position leading a school. This is the same for everyone on your Board.

Help build a culture in your Board that is inclusive, supportive, caring and then you’ll see your school really begin to hum.




And just like that we find ourselves at the back end of yet another Term. No doubt there were times when it felt like this Term would never end, but like everything it will and it does and it has, or nearly.

This got me thinking about our cultural obsession with being happy. I guess it often feels that being happy is a state of mind that isn’t always conducive to being and happening in our workplaces. It’s not a bad obsession to have, this obsessive quest for all things happy, don’t get me wrong. I mean I don’t know anyone who really enjoys long bouts of unhappiness. But if that’s your working definition of a school term e.g. long bouts of unhappiness, then Houston we have a problem.

Happiness comes and goes. The good news is that it will come again as soon as it has gone. It will arrive in places both expected and unexpected, and I’m picking that it’s the unexpected places that generate happiness that are the best.

Our culture bombards us all; leaders, teachers, admin staff, and students with quick fix ways of getting that happiness top up. Buy this, buy that, go here, go there, do this, do that. There’s so much quick fix stuff out there that it’s a: surprising that we’re never unhappy, but yet we find ourselves unhappy a lot and b: unsurprising that it’s an addiction that we can’t seem to let go of.

Which got me thinking about what are the things we have in our toolkit that protect or prolong our happiness?

About a year ago, when I was actually a Principal, a speaker attended a local Principal meeting talking enthusiastically about keeping upbeat and building on (and holding onto) this thing called Resilience. I’m no longer a Principal, but I sense talking to people still at the chalk face, that little has changed and that with “just a little bit of resilience” there’s a sense that we’ll get ourselves through. 

To an extent that’s true. We (or you more accurately) have gotten yourself through. I can’t help but wonder at what cost? So what is it, this magical thing called resilience?

My ears really pricked up recently when I was listening to Esther Perel on You Tube. I’ve talked about Esther before, she’s a psychotherapist who excels in relationships.

She was speaking about a thing called the Resilience Trifecta. This involves three key elements that surround our understanding about how resilience best works.




Bending is the process of being flexible. Lots of yoga helps you become physically flexible, and so I wonder if Bending is the psychological equivalent when it comes to resilience. The French have a lovely term for this called Je plie, et ne romps pas which essentially translates to “I bend but do not break”. In English we might say; “Live to fight another day”, or the delightful Te Reo “Kei te tu tonu au” – I’m still standing.

It’s not about giving in, or having people walk all over you, or not getting what you want, or any of those things that people bandy around when they think that you should stick to your guns and not move or compromise in any way.

Some people call it pivoting, but I like the idea of bending, a bit like a tree in the wind.

Perspective comes from looking at the situation with a different lens or from an alternative angle. Perspective gives you the opportunity to take a 360 degree look at whatever you’re facing. This might also help you bend, and be nimble.

And finally, Attitude. Attitude is your mindset. It’s one of your key coping mechanisms. You have a choice as to which attitude you bring along to the party. There’s not a lot of value in adopting an attitude that appears defensive or cold. Adopt a more curious and positive mindset to the situation in front of you and it’ll put you in better stead.

Of course there are other ways to protect your happiness.

Over the years I’ve heard people say; I just don’t give a sh#t”, or “I don’t give anyone or any situation the luxury of deciding for me what energies I may or may not use”, or “I’m made of harder stuff, and I don’t get stressed”.

It’s important to repeat that happiness is a thing that comes and goes. And because of this it’s also important to understand that happiness is a present – literally, in that it happens in the present. If you want to gauge the success of your life you’re better to do as many Positive Psychologists suggest; don’t base it on the whims of this thing called happiness, it’s way too fickle. Instead look for meaningfulness in your life. That’s a thing that transcends time; it helps you evaluate your past; it helps you enjoy your present; and gives you hope for a future.



As a profession we are relentlessly and continually in a state of goal setting.

Our goals are supported by plans that are extended descriptions of how we expect we’ll successfully nail our goals.

Often these plans are meticulously descriptive. This thing will happen first, and then this thing will happen and then this thing will lead into this thing and then, well, sometime in the future we will be finished. But we never seem to quite get to the finished part, and if we do get to the finished part then there is no time to stop and smell the roses. By that time another goal has taken over and another supporting plan will have started its path. 

We’re strategic planning; we’re staff meeting planning; we’re classroom planning; we’re weekly planning; we’re planning for the term; we’re budget planning; we’re camp planning; we’re planning someone’s going away party; we’re planning curriculum meetings and parent meetings and meetings that’ll precede other meetings. As I said, it’s just a bit relentless.

It’s the thing that makes us human and that, along with a funny looking thumb, sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom and makes us feel like we’re top, well, ermmm, dog.

We can look into the future and predict that there will  be a need or a want and we can set a goal and then manipulate the world around that need or want to make it happen. We are so goal motivated that Biswas-Diener and Dean (2007) once famously said, “Pursuing goals isn’t just second nature, it is vital to our functioning”. 

But here’s the thing. In the goal setting research world there is a crucial element that constantly needs to happen for any potential goal to be successfully met.

Along with experiencing positive emotions, using your strengths, attaching meaning and utilising a support network, researchers claim that savouring the journey plays a pivotal role in goal achievement.

But yet when was the last time in our plans did we write anything down about how we might enjoy or celebrate the trip?

As we head into the back end of the term and your mind starts to invariably wander along to the next goal, take a little time to stop and smell the roses. Well done. You did it. You pulled it off.

And now, as you start to organise the next journey, deliberately plan for moments in the trip to savour the moment. Call these mini celebrations if you want to, but don’t just plan for them at significant milestones but also at random points in time when it’ll feel good just to stop and say to the team, man we’re doing well, and yes we’re shit hot!

I’m betting it’ll make a huge difference to what you’re trying to achieve.


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