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Good Morning <<First Name>>!

Well, last week's topic about farming and teaching seemed to resonate with some of you. I received more feedback than I usually do from thank you for all that reached out to me!

As I reflected on what I wrote, I started to feel that maybe I was too nostalgic. I don't want to come across as the grumpy old man that yells at kids to get off his yard.

The concern that I was trying to articulate was that we seem to be in such a hurry all of the time that we have stopped thinking about what our actions are and why we are taking those actions. The younger generation wants to move faster and have more powerful equipment in farming just as much as many of our younger teachers strive for anything that will help boost test scores.

Both views are not incorrect. I only hope we can create a society where the younger generation is aware of how things were done in the past and armed with that knowledge, be able to decide what actions are best for them and their communities moving forward.

I wish all of you a great week!

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

How many times have you heard someone say "Get out of your comfort zone"?  Too many times when you hear this statement, it is meant to force you into making a decision or to agree with someone else's opinion.

Well, let's study what "the comfort zone" is a little bit so we can really understand it because it is valuable to operate out of your comfort zone in order to grow as a leader.

I came across this diagram a few weeks ago and want to share it with you. Let's break it down.

In the light gray zone is your comfort zone. This is where you feel safe and in control. I don't know about you, but there are times when I want to camp in my comfort zone, hang out for a while, and not leave! We have so many things coming at us at such a rapid pace that retreating to your comfort zone is a natural reaction!  Let's not be ashamed when we find that we have a nice camp set up there.

However, when you spend too much time in the comfort zone you start retracting. Your skills diminish. Your relationships diminish. Your confidence diminishes. Recognize that your camp in the comfort zone is a temporary stop on your way to growth and achievement.

The darker gray zone is the fear zone. When you stare out from your comfort zone you see a place where people will judge you, you don't have the skills to accomplish your goals, and excuses roll off your tongue. 

One simple step to make the foray into the fear zone...take action! Create the conditions in which action becomes something that is less scary. Small steps that stand a good chance of success are a good way to start. 

The lighter yellow zone is the most fun zone, and it's called the learning zone. Once you have created action in the fear zone, and you still are around to talk about it, you discover the sun came up the next day, your family still loves you, and the world did not end! In the learning zone, you cultivate a positive, problem-solving mindset. The motto of this zone is, "The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know." 

Make a list of the challenges you are facing. Once you have the list ask yourself what it is you need to learn to be able to solve these challenges with your team. Figuring out what you need to learn to solve problems is empowering.

The last zone is where all of the forward movement happens.
You look back at the comfort zone and think, "Why did I hang out there so long?" Your hard work of creating action, learning new skills, and dealing with problems pays off for you and your organization.

A word of caution:
Be careful not to become complacent in the growth zone. If you are not careful, the growth zone can turn into the comfort zone! Force yourself to keep learning and scanning the environment to look for new (or old) challenges. You will know if the growth zone is turning into the comfort zone when you start making excuses not to act.

The Power Of Questions

One of the marks of an outstanding leader is not the quality of the answers they have, but the quality of questions they ask. Dropping your ego and allowing yourself the power to not have all of the answers is a big step forward in any leader's journey. But it is not good enough just to accept that you do not have to have all of the answers. Leaders that help grow their organizations learn how to ask questions to help clarify tricky problems and situations.

Let's consider this matrix.
A bias toward action is a great trait to have as a leader only when it is paired with a corresponding bias to ask great questions.

I have reflected on my own placement on this matrix, and have concluded that I spend a good chunk of my time in Q3 and Q1. I want to think that I always have high levels of action with great questions...but that simply is not true. It is difficult to take the time to pair these two traits together.

Where do you spend most of your time in this matrix?
Where does your team spend their time when you are working together on creating solutions to problems?

Read The Article
Of Schools And Grocery Stores
Rural communities face many challenges. One of the most daunting challenges is the lack of quality grocery stores to purchase fresh, healthy food.  

Farming policies encouraging "get big or go home" have decimated rural communities since 1980. Half of all rural counties in the United States lost population between 1980 and 2010. The great plains experienced the worse depopulation with 86% of their counties experiencing population loss.

The depopulation of small towns that were the lifeblood of the communities and their families can be seen in the loss of quality grocery stores. Between 1990 and 2015, rural, nonmetro counties lost 39% of their grocery stores creating "food deserts" in these communities. I know my hometown lost two grocery stores during this time.

I read an article about one community in Kansas that came up with a solution when their grocery store was going to close. The town purchased it.

The town government now runs the store as a public utility like water or sewer services. The town hired a manager for the store, just like the manager for their water and sewer plants. The manager reports monthly to the town council about the profits and losses. 

These types of solutions show the value of a community being innovative in helping its citizens. Other communities have started self-service stores where citizens subscribe to the store. Some have formed public/private partnerships to keep grocery stores in their communities.

What pained me when I read the article is that schools were not mentioned. Imagine if the kids in the schools became involved in creating solutions and implementing them as well.

Schools should be integral in working with their communities to solve these problems. To Hell with test scores and other compliance bullshit. The most powerful learning is the experience kids get doing something that is relevant, useful, and helpful in the community in which they live.

Let's create schools that actually do something beyond the damned school walls!

The link to the article is below. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU READ IT!
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