Inception is one of my favorite movies not only because it is highly engaging and well produced – it also references the idea of each person needing a totem. For the characters in the movie, they employ a totem so that they know whether they are still dreaming or not. The idea is to always carry something simple with them so that they can take a potentially complex issue (asleep or awake) and solve it by using a simple item.
Occam’s Razor. KISS. Robert Fulghum. These three ideas or people are what serve as my totem and often help me recover as a leader. They do this by reminding me that the ability to hear, understand, reflect, and address/solve a problem or issue is usually completely within my zone of influence. Occam’s razor is a philosophical principle that says that the least complicated explanation is usually the correct one. KISS is a reminder to Keep It Simple Stupid! And Robert Fulghum is the author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, the book that reminds me of both the previous ideas – namely that, at its truest essence, any idea/concern can be resolved by utilizing a concept I learned long ago.
This month as a member of the #CompelledTribe, we were asked to share a book, or multiple books, that influence our work and that we would recommend. AIRNTKILIK is such the book for me as it has always served as a powerful reminder that when dealing with people – which is what we do all day every day – so much of what we learned as a young person can still serve us well. My tattered copy that stays nearby was a high school graduation present, and it became a life lesson piece for my family moving forward. Some of the reminders are timeless:While many of these remain aspirational – still no cot in my office – I do try and embrace the others when interacting with others (both while wearing my principal hat or my parent hat). And as a leader, I have literally and metaphorically grabbed on to this advice as it reminds me that at our core, each faculty and staff member made a decision to step in to a classroom or school where children are in need of so much. And often what they need, what we all need, is simply hope. The idea that things can be better. Complication does not usually inspire. Simplicity does.
Finally, I would add that a large part of what we do in leadership is connected to the stories we share. Creating a narrative that makes an experience accessible to others can enable a vision to be understood and a path forward to form. The Storytellers Creed from Robert Fulghum is also a reminder to me of the charge we have as leaders on a school campus. Each year I try to share this advice with seniors as they embark on their next adventure. What helps you reset when faced with a challenge?