Mise en Place – A State of Mind

This article by the Harvard Business Review is a powerful lesson for teachers, administrators, and any highly scheduled adult looking to model a life of balance for children. The article compares the common philosophy upheld by experienced chefs of mise-en-place (everything in its place) to beginning our work (whatever the work is) with focus and purpose.

“What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at your desk? For many of us, checking email or listening to voice mail is practically automatic. In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day. Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage. They are the equivalent of entering a kitchen and looking for a spill to clean or a pot to scrub.

 

A better approach is to begin your day with a brief planning session. An intellectual mise-en-place. Bourdain envisions the perfect execution before starting his dish. Here’s the corollary for the enterprising business professional. Ask yourself this question the moment you sit at your desk: The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?

 

This exercise is usually effective at helping people distinguish between tasks that simply feel urgent from those that are truly important. Use it to determine the activities you want to focus your energy on.”

*Improv Will Not Reduce Belly Fat

Read this brief piece by Tina Fey titled “Rules of Improvisation that Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat*”. As only Tina Fey can, she provides the perfect pairing of wit and wisdom and translates common rules of improvisation to real-life lessons. And, in all seriousness, what day of teaching young children doesn’t feel like a thorough exercise in improvisation? The sound bytes:

Rule 1: Say “Yes.” Respect what your partner has created.
Rule 2: Say “Yes, AND…” Don’t be afraid to contribute.
Rule 3: Make statements. Whatever the problem, be part of the solution.
Rule 4: There are no mistakes, only opportunities.

Not untimely reminders as we navigate a time of year peppered with unpredictable weather, schedules, children, families, and colleagues.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

panthera

Recently at Tuxedo Park School we had the privilege of learning about wildlife conservation efforts for big cats around the world (jaguars, tigers, lions, snow leopards, and cougars). The Vice President of the wildlife conservation organization Panthera, Andrea Heydlauff, shared the story of these secretive, majestic animals. Panthera’s mission is “to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action.”

At TPS part of our mission is to – from our earliest years in the Pre-Kindergarten – train and inspire learners who are knowledgeable, skilled, and driven agents of change in their local and globally communities. Ms. Heydlauff shared information about four of the worlds “big cats”, threats to their survival, the science behind world-wide conservation efforts, and things we can do – at all ages – to join these efforts.

As our students grow and develop in a world that looks very different from the one in which we were educated, we work to prepare them for their future, not our past. Ms. Heydlauff’s visit was a perfect opportunity to give students an additional snapshot of the broad array of career paths that are available to them. When you ask a student what they would like to be when they grow up, you know you are asking a question the answer to which will likely shift and change many times throughout their lives. That said, you are also likely to get one of these answers: doctor, veterinarian, musician, movie star, pro-athlete, or something to do with Legos. We hope that in drawing attention to professional adults who have followed the passions of their hearts and strengths of their minds – to careers that many of us aren’t even aware of – that we can continue to train children for their future, one in which they live the mission of TPS as adults.

Take a moment to to watch the video below, an award-winning video telling the story of one of Panthera’s projects. In it, the narrator is a young boy who lives on a ranch in the Brazilian Pantanal learning how cows, people, and jaguars can all live together. It serves as a shining example of the work they do in local communities.

We may not be fancy…but we sure are fun!

“One lives but once in this world.” – Johann von Goethe

PowderQuest’s Ingrid Backstrom Women’s Freeride Camp, 2013
August 2-9
La Parva, Chile
Photos courtsey of: Colleen Schilly, Margaret Meyer, Roberta Rebori, & David Owen

Fear & Spanish Sausage in the Chilean Andes

chilean sausage

I have written at least eight different blog posts in my head reflecting on my recent experience skiing in the Chilean Andes, but this one today honors the beauty of how adventure – and the challenges and triumphs resulting from it – can connect to your everyday professional and personal life.

As I met with a colleague this morning we discussed hopes and anxieties for the year ahead. It quickly became an interesting discussion on the role of fear, which can either paralyze & consume you or fuel your change and growth. We discussed whether or not communicating about nervousness and fears was worthwhile or counterproductive. Similarly, we moved into a discussion about support and professional growth and how to accept both compliments and constructive feedback with grace and confidence. In both these conversations I found myself having one of those classic light bulb “A-HA!” style moments and sharing anecdotes from my recent skiing experience with PowderQuest.

Fear – Work With & Through It

It was not until halfway through my trip that my trip-mates and guides knew that I had never been off-piste skiing before. I was not actively trying to hide this information, but neither did I volunteer it. I stood at the top of varying levels of backcountry chutes and bowls with fear pounding in my chest. And I held that alone. I don’t think that made me brave. It made me isolated. It wasn’t until a particularly long and harrowing day that I finally said “I have never done this before, I am terrified.” It was only then that the women on the trip were able to more fully be the amazing women they are in support of me. It was only then that Ingrid Backstrom & Leah Evans could really put their expertise and coaching talent to maximal use. I was able to get the help I needed to become a better, braver skier because I wasn’t trying to hide what was going on inside. In our professional and personal lives I think we tend to connote fear with cowardice. Fear is neither brave nor cowardly. Fear is a rationale response to risk, to uncertainty, to the new. Whether you are standing at the cusp of a narrow snow-covered chute flanked by rocks or on the cusp of a new job, a changing relationship, or something else big or small….I am more certain then ever that if you find the right people to share your fear with that you will find yourself capable of more than you imagined.

Spanish Sausage – Love It & Yourself

Midway through our trip, Leah & Ingrid turned to our group of beautiful, smart, talented, and successful skier chicks who were ripping up the slopes and made the following pronouncement:

 “Here’s the deal. For the rest of the day if you say anything negative about your skiing or yourself you have to stop at the entrance to the lift, raise your hands in the air, do a dance, and yell ‘ME GUSTA LA LONGANIZA CHILENA!”

Meaning, “I LOVE CHILEAN SAUSAGE!” This certainly gave the lift operators a good chuckle. Many of us had to do this, sometimes multiple times, and even our superstar guides Ingrid & Leah were not exempt…going to show the pervasive problem we (and I think particularly women) have with two things:

  1. Accepting compliments without using self-deprecation or criticism to deflect them. Instead of saying an authentic “Thank you” we instead resort to the “Yes, but….” Or “Except for when…” We assume that compliments are just the sweet tasting, disingenuous preface to what someone else really means which is the criticism that is sure to follow (or secretly lurking within them).
  2. Absorbing feedback as a growth opportunity rather than a devaluation of our skills, talents, or self-worth. We are the first to say “Nobody is perfect, and I certainly am not” and so susceptible to crumbling inwardly upon receiving suggestions for improvement.

Sure, some people will compliment you in order to wound you. Some people will give feedback that is not constructive and leaves you feeling scraped out inside. But we all know how to differentiate between THOSE people and the allies and supporters around us who mean what they say.

So….whether on a ski slope, in your office, or at home….WHAT IF?

What if we chose to live with our fear instead fighting the impossible fight to live without it?

What if we chose to let fear propel us to new heights alongside those who can champion us along the way?

What if we chose to accept gratitude and compliments with a smile and earnest thanks?

What if we chose to hear feedback with an open mind and heart rather than disappointment and self-criticism?

What could we then be capable of – independently and together?

Adventure: Disconnecting to Connect

Tomorrow I am traveling internationally for the first time in five years. I am traveling internationally completely solo – not yet knowing anyone on the other end – for the first time ever.

I imagine the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other both saying to each other: what is this introvert thinking?!

But I know I am going to have an adventure. And adventures, moments of disequilibrium, and newness are what move us to learn and see the world with fresh perspectives. Adventures are what bring inspiration and challenges that we face, learn from, and write on our memory as a story to be shared.

And what or who are we – child or adult – without our stories?

I look forward to writing more of my story in the next two weeks while skiing with a group of women at La Parva Ski Center in the Chilean Andes.  I am eager to learn more about the technical skills of backcountry skiing and freeriding. I am eager to learn more about the harder-to-nail-down skills of self-awareness, confidence, solitude, and making new friends.

I recently read this article by Gregoris Kalai in the Huffington Post about disconnecting in order to connect. That is my goal this trip: to disconnect from many of the devices and things I treasure and devote my time and attention to here. NOT in order to remain disconnected, but to connect more deeply with myself and with the world around me in a new way: that I might return to those connections refreshed and the next richer version of myself.