Category Archives: success

Who is defining “student success”?

I read this short little article on the definition of success, and I liked the thinking:

  • Success isn’t about how much money you’ve in your bank account
  • Success isn’t about how much money do you spend on a Saturday night
  • Success isn’t about how big your residence is
  • Success isn’t about wearing high-end clothes
  • Success isn’t about using an iPhone
  • Success isn’t about driving a Mercedes

Success according to me is accomplishing your goal

Be it a small goal or a big goal.

The emphasis on the word “your” is mine, not the author’s.  Why it stuck out to me was more and more in education, are we helping students define their goals, are outside sources defining what success is for them?

Think about it…how often in school is “success” deemed by how you compare to others, not how you have focused on your own goal.

In the shift from focusing on empowerment in schools, not only engagement, how truly empowered are we in being successful based on someone else’s standards?

This is a great quote on the idea of “success”:


How determined would one be to work towards someone else’s goal?  And if students aren’t in on the conversation on what “success” means to them, the reality is sometimes they could feel like a failure even though they have met the targets of someone else.

Students need to define what success truly means to them. not just us.

Ways To Set Up Others for Success


As leaders, it is important to ensure that help is provided to people to become their “best self” through the process.  I love the idea of sometimes “super-sizing” their job, meaning that we put them in situations that are “above” what they usually do, to push them to become better.  Yet when people are put into these situations, the likelihood something can go wrong is greater.

How do we ensure that people are put into the best possible situations to succeed?  Here are a few ideas below:


  1. Trust them.  Have you ever seen a basketball coach say to a player about to shoot a free throw, “Don’t miss.”  Duh. Do you think that a person wants to do poorly?  Not a chance.  If you hired them in the first place, then trust them to do the job that they are supposed to do.  The people you have hired do not need to be micromanaged or else they wouldn’t have the job in the first place. I would actually suggest that the more someone is micromanaged, the more anxiety they will feel, leading to a lesser chance of success.  You should definitely be available to support and jump in when it is absolutely needed, but being micromanaged is the equivalent of not being trusted. No one thrives in that environment.
  2. Ask what they need.  Servant leadership should be just that, servant.  As discussed above, it is important not to have it done your way, but to support people in a way that they need.  Sometimes people feel that “asking” is a sign of weakness, so a great leader will check in on what they can do for someone to be as successful as possible. Sometimes it will be nothing, but just being asked is sometimes enough to say to someone that they are there for you.
  3. Figure out when to be a leader or a cheerleader.  Sometimes things go wrong and people need to step in, but it is the degree something goes wrong that people have to understand.  Is this something that will lead to being totally unsuccessful, or is this something that will be a great learning experience for later?  Sometimes leaders need to step in front, but sometimes they need to support from behind.  The skill is figuring out when.
  4. Be direct when needed. If someone in your organization is not achieving to the level you believe they can, it is important to communicate clearly to them.  I have had leaders that really want to say something, but they want people to figure it out for themselves, yet this can cause mistrust.  Instead of dancing around a topic, being direct is often the best way to go when something is absolutely needed.  This will lessen the conversations that run through a person’s mind after, as they know exactly what is needed, as opposed to wondering if they are missing the mark.  People want to do a good job, and if they aren’t, sometimes the best way to communicate this in a direct but respectful manner.
  5. Ask questions.  The best leaders know that they can learn from any position, and that the more questions they ask others, the more they grow as well. The best mentor relationships is where learning is happening in both directions, not just top down.  Through your own curiosity and questions, it helps someone reflect on their own work, which helps them to be successful the next time around.  Success breeds success, and the more we learn from what others did right, the more we all grow.
  6. Appreciate the work in an authentic manner.  I could have just said to “appreciate the work”, but sometimes praise feels political; like it is being done to check off a box of being a “good leader” as opposed to coming from the heart and mind.  Give meaningful feedback to someone and appreciate not only their success, but their growth. Do it not as a “boss”, but as person to person.

These steps are more ideas than a formula, as each person we serve is different, but hopefully they will help others to think about how leadership is crucial to setting up others to become successful.

What have the best leaders you had done to support you to become successful?

“Hard Work is No Guarantee of Success”

This is a post where I am trying to write to understand and process my thoughts.  I think it is important that we try to make the process of learning visible, not just what we have learned.

One of my favourite speakers of all time is Jim Valvano. His speech at the ESPY’s where his famous words of “don’t give up, don’t ever give up”, remain powerful so many years later. I love watching his other speeches as well, and in this one, he shares something his dad shared with him;

Hard work does not guarantee success, but lack of hard work guarantees that there will be no success.

I have noticed this theme in some articles that have passed through my feed as of late. James Harrison, a football player with the Pittsburgh Steelers known for his amazing work ethic, while also having one of the greatest touchdowns in Super Bowl history, shared how he took the trophies away from his children that they received for participating. He shared this on his Instagram below which has gone viral.

This is not about demeaning the effort of people “showing up”. In myself, I am trying to get back into better shape, but going to the gym is not enough. It is what I do with that time that matters, and how I eat. It is a struggle. Waking up early to go to the gym means something, but not if I slack off while I am there, and do not achieve results.

This is also understanding that winning isn’t everything as well, but how we develop as people under adversity.  As a coach for many years, I would try to communicate to my team that at the end of the year, only one team would ultimately be the “champion”, so if we deemed success as winning it all, we would most likely fail.  But if we looked at how we developed as people, how we would look at working together as a team, and how we were when we faced adversity, those were things that were really important.  How you are when you win and how you are when you lose, in my opinion, are both equally important.

In an article titled, “Iterate, Iterate, Iterate, Innovate”, they share a story of how WD-40 came to be, it shares the name that the “40” comes from the number of times it took to get the formula right.

The term WD-40 is derived from “Water Displacement, 40th formula”.  It was the 40th formula the chemists tried before finding success. The product is produced by the Rocket chemical company and is distributed in over 160 countries.

If the company stops at 39, this is not being shared, but since it kept going, here we are talking about it.

I have shared before that failure is nor the thing that we should be celebrating, but the grit and resiliency to move forward. But “showing up” is only part of the story. I believe that school should be enjoyable, but I also believe that it should be challenging. “Flow” is something that we should constantly strive for in our learning with ourselves and our students, but it takes hard work.

Whether it is “success” or “innovation” or both that we are striving for, the common element is the work ethic that it takes to get to that point up. It goes way beyond showing up, and is important that we help to instill that into ourselves as well as our students.