A Year in Books from Good Reads

A Year in Books 2014

A Year in Books from Good Reads

Looking back on what I read in 2014 was like flipping through a photo album of memories and mindsets. This year my books reflect the challenges I faced, creative outlets I embraced, my desire to lead well, and a totally new life stage.

Below are some notes of the ideas that resonated with me…


Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are HighGetting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In: Both of these helped me to design and initiate some crucial conversations,  view negotiations in a new (less frightening) light, and gain confidence in my ability to work through critical, high stress moments without burning bridges or getting “emotional”.

The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup:  Guide for navigating the tricky waters of startup negotiations and tough topics like equity, founder’s roles, and growth.

The Innovator’s Dilemma: Reminder that none of the big companies are bulletproof and sometimes you can fail precisely because you do everything “right”. There are times when you actually shouldn’t listen to the customer and times when you should pursue smaller markets over larger ones.

David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants: Don’t assume things are always what they appear. Challenge perceptions when things look like they are stacked against the underdog. Adversity can be an advantage.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character:  The qualities that matter most in our children have less to do with test scores and IQ and more to do with soft skills such as: grit, curiosity, conscientiousness and optimism. Early trauma in childhood has lasting effects, but adversity can be overcome. Soft skills aren’t fluff–they matter.

Existing character education programs have no statistically relevant impact. Building soft skills and character are not t-shirt campaigns or assembly topics, they must be woven into the culture of the school and the community.

Parents want to protect, but children do need to experience and overcome adversity to develop grit.

Here is a discussion guide to go along with this book.

Creative Outlets

Creativity, Inc: The power of the “brain trust”, empowering employees, and creating a culture where creativity can flourish and we can be our best selves. Anyone in an organization should be able, and encouraged, to talk to anyone. Don’t get so busy trying to avoid errors that you don’t do anything. Managers should make others feel able to take risks. Look for the unseen before leading.

Sketchnote Workbook

The Sketchnote Workbook: I really discovered Sketchnoting this year and have integrated it into almost everything, from my to do list practices, to my meeting synopsis. I have always enjoyed drawing, but now my drawing has an everyday purpose.

Recently I have ventured into applying this concept in the digital workspace and working with students to express their thinking in this way. I even tried it out during a keynote. Looking forward to presenting on this topic at TCEA in February.

HTML & CSS: Design & Build Websites

JavaScript & JQuery: Interactive Front-End  Web Development Jon Duckett produces technical reference books that I actually want to read. Thank you. I am working my way back through these to make sure I understand how these programming building blocks all connect. Looking forward to continued growth in 2015 as I learn to do some front-end type programming in the future.

These are a nice companion to the Skillcrush Courses, Code Academy, and Udemy courses I have been working through.

Austin Kleon at Book People

Show Your Work: Meeting Austin Kleon was definitely a highlight of this year! His deceptively simple concepts have inspired me and become a part of the message I share with others. Finding your scenius. Embrace being an amateur. Share something small every day. Show people what is really going on behind the scenes. Do what you do best and link to the rest.

This little masterpiece is on my desk to remind me of all these bits of wisdom.

Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career & Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind:  I think I started these two last year, but revisited this year. Lots of helpful hints on productivity, workflow, habit creation, creativity, goal setting, and career planning. I also love their size and design–wouldn’t expect anything less from 99u of course.


The Year Without Pants: Unique perspective and lessons learned here on entrepreneurship, what work really looks like (especially at a tech company), building team culture, and communication. The enjoyable narrative and anecdotes made me feel like I was learning right alongside Scott.

Turn the Ship Around: One simple change David Marquet made on the USS Santa Fe that stuck with me was implementing the phrase “I intend to…” This would be another fantastic addition to school leadership’s reading list where a shift from leader follower to leader leader could spark some major cultural changes that are long overdue.

Leaders Eat Last: When leaders are willing to “eat last” they are rewarded with extremely loyal employees who will rally behind their leader and make their vision a reality. The politics, self-interest, and drama of the typical workplace are a far cry from the circle of safety, as Sinek refers to it, which fosters trust and collaboration.

Sketchnotes The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:  Anyone who has tried to kick a bad habit knows, it isn’t as simple as it seems. However, once you know how habits work you can begin to control them. Duhigg explains the habit loop, a the three step process for how our brain deals with and forms habits, made up of cues, routines, and rewards.

Here are 10 Things I Learned From the Power of Habit

Danah Boyd at Book People talking about It's Complicated

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens: I became a true book nerd this year. Not only did I attend Danah’s book talk during SXSW, but I also joined a Voxer group book study of It’s Complicated. The Voxer group was a powerful way to go through the book. My ideas were challenged and I could wrestle with the meat of this topic with smarties from a variety of diverse backgrounds.

I put this under leadership with the thought that educational leaders should really dive into this book, along with parents, teachers, and anyone who interacts with children and young adults today (so pretty much everyone). The title is very fitting.

The Girl’s Guide to Being Boss: Without Being a B****: This one grabbed me at Half Price Books. I fell for the cover and title…like click bait. I was curious, but didn’t have high expectations. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Filled with informative and sometimes amusing stories of female bosses and how to handle leadership with grace.  Finding the balance between pushover and dictator is tricky. Reminded me of some of Tina Fey’s lessons in Bossypants and Sheryl Sandberg’s movement to get rid of the word bossy.

The Advantage: A healthy workplace culture trumps everything. Makes sense. When I think about the stories I hear and the things I have experienced in different work settings, focusing on the organizational health (similar to the concepts in Leader’s Eat Last) will repay employers ten fold with productive, content, and empowered employees. Doesn’t this all start with soft skills?

I even read two fiction ones…

Atlas Shrugged: no comment…not sure why I read this. I guess I felt like I should.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: intriguing mystery novel that I stumbled upon at a library sale.

New Life Stage

Restless | Babywise | The Happiest Baby on the Block | Secrets of The Baby Whisperer

(And a bunch of other ones I skimmed…)

I read a bunch of baby books in preparation for my first kiddo’s arrival this summer. While I am glad I had the information and a couple reference books, nothing could have prepared me for the realities of becoming a parent for the first time.

Spoiler alert–there is nothing like it!

Baby Brady

Sketchnotes 7 Characteristics of the 20 Mile March (in Schools)

The 20 Mile March Part II

Check out Part I Here.

Jim Collins brings the characteristics of the 20 Mile March to life through the distinct stories and strategies of the explorers Amundsen and Scott, who each sought to be the first to the South Pole. Through the juxtaposition of their journeys, Collins outlines the important details related to achieving specific, measurable goals, no matter the circumstances.

I began to see positive effects when implementing Collins’ concepts. So, as it often does, my mind went to education and applying the idea there. Almost everyone I talk to can agree we need change in our education system.  Different initiatives, programs, and platforms are started in the eduworld with lots of energy and excitement, only to be abandoned or changed with the passing of each year. Whether it is an individual student goal or a large systemic shift, there is power in planning with the 20 mile march in mind.

Sketchnotes 7 Characteristics of the 20 Mile March (in Schools)

Sketchnotes 7 Characteristics of the 20 Mile March (in Schools)

7 Characteristics of the 20 Mile March in Schools

Collins outlines seven characteristics of the 20 mile march. So I decided to take the concepts from the stories and reflect on them with an education twist.

1. Clear Performance Markers


Amundsen and his team planned to go an average of 15 miles – 20 miles per day on their journey. No matter the conditions. He placed more than enough flags in the snow to mark their path near the supply stations. He did everything possible to know where he and his team were going and when they would arrive. As a result, his team reached the South Pole on December 15, 1911. After planting the Norwegian flag firmly at their destination, they made preparations for the return journey, knowing that success was not simply arriving but also surviving road back home. They arrived at base camp on the exact date Amundsen planned–January 25th.


Scott on the other hand let the conditions drive his pace. He did not lead his team on a strict regimen of travel distance or define daily measures of success for their journey. As a result, his team reached the South Pole more than a month later. On the way back Scott ran out of supplies less than ten miles from their next supply depot.

In Education:

We know it is important to check in and see where our students are in understanding things, but how clear are we about where exactly we want our students to go? What will the evidence of success look like? If we don’t make this clear to both ourselves and our students, how will we know where we/they are and when we/they will arrive? When we have clearly defined measures for success we will know quickly what is working and what isn’t. What will we do when storms come our way and there are challenges to overcome?

One more question: Are we measuring what we hope to see?

2. Self-Imposed Constraints


Ok we know Amundsen went an average of 15-20 miles per day with his team. Amundsen stayed the course even when his team pushed him to go further on days when the conditions were good. He said no, knowing the importance of rest for his team. Amundsen had self-imposed constraints at the upper and lower bounds that kept him on track and his team conditioned for the entire journey.


Scott let the conditions and his emotions rule. When conditions were good he went further, pushing his team to the point of exhaustion, yet retreated to his tent complaining about the weather in his journal on days when the conditions weren’t optimal.

In Education:

There is an important balance to be found and self-imposed constraints may be the key.

When we begin taking away things like recess, art, and music under the misguided impression that more “time” focused on core content will result in a deeper understanding of said content–we have lost the balance. Kids learn through play and need time to explore and make connections to apply the things they are learning to their authentic worlds (adults learn this way too). They need time to rest and relax and refresh before they are expected make sense of more information. We can help our students and teachers create self-imposed strategies to implement so they know when to push and when to rest.

What this looks like in action: I know I could stay at school until 7 pm to get all these things done, but maybe it is better for my students and myself if I just do a little bit each day and not push myself to the limits. Find margin in your life and plan for margin in your school day for your students–we all need breaks.

3. Appropriate to Enterprise(or Individual)


Amundsen did his research. After studying the ways of the Eskimos, Amundsen chose dogs as the main form of transportation for the journey. He also very carefully planned their route, even though it was a path nobody had traveled before. He picked the right methods, routes and details for his team to accomplish their goals, instead of relying on the plans of others.


Scott mimicked many of the decisions of another explorer, Ernest Shackleton, who he traveled with in the past. One of the most regrettable decisions was Scott’s choice to use horses for part of the trek and then to man-haul (exactly what it sounds like) the sleds for much of the journey. I don’t know a lot about arctic travel, but that just sounds like a bad idea.

In Education:

Educators need agency to make decisions for their students. Administrators need autonomy to make decisions for their campuses. In most cases, standardization is ineffective and inappropriate for the individual needs of schools and students. Maybe this is why there is so much push back against standardized testing as the ultimate indicator of success in our classrooms today. The 20 Mile chunks of work we implement to reach our goals must be appropriate at the enterprise and individual level. So how are our goals and practices differentiated for our diverse students? How are we giving teachers the space and resources to support a variety of learners in their daily 20 mile march?

4. Largely Within Your Control


Amundsen was beyond prepared. He knew there were many things that might happen and many things out of his control–like the weather. Amundsen’s average daily distance had to be something achievable on bad weather dates as well as calm sunny days. Supplies could get destroyed, there could be an accident, but he prepared to respond to any of these events with the supplies and plans to overcome the event. When one of his thermometers broke he had another four in his supplies. If they missed a supply depot for any reason, he had enough supplies to go on for miles.


Scott was prepared for the perfect journey. When things outside of his control occurred, he was not ready to respond. Scott had one thermometer and cursed when it broke. He cursed the weather and ranted about his misfortunes in his journal instead of responding and leading his team towards safety. He didn’t have the large quantities of reserves if they missed a supply stop and ultimately this lead directly to the unfortunate end for the team when they ran out of supplies and froze to death ten miles from the next supply station.

In Education:

There are lots of things that are beyond our control when it comes to school. You can’t control the fact that your student’s dog ran away the morning of the big test. You can’t change the fact your student’s parents are incarcerated. You can’t change what students did or didn’t learn the year before or what the writing prompt will be on the end of year assessment.

Focus on what you can control and build your 20 mile marches around these things. You can plan, implement, and reflect on lessons that nurture a love for writing every day. You can give students time to read for enjoyment and model this yourself even if it would be easier to use the time to catch up on grading. Let’s not waste time complaining about the circumstances like Scott, but be more like Amundsen and get down to business to support our students.

5. A Proper Timeframe

Amundsen & Scott: As mentioned throughout this post, Amundsen picked a clear, attainable goal to march daily, while Scott was all over the place in his daily distances and timeframes.

In Education:

A good 20 mile march is not too long but not too short. If the timeframe for reaching your edugoals is too short you may fall prey to circumstances outside your control, pulling you off track without time to make up for it. If the timeframe is too long and the check ins are too far off in the distance the march doesn’t have the power it needs.

The successful businesses (known as the 10X companies) Collins references in Great By Choice found this sweet spot of time set to implement goals. The proper timeframe kept goals tangible and in the forefront of the employees minds without being unreasonable to achieve.

6. Designed and Self-Imposed By Enterprise or Individual

Amundsen & Scott: Amundsen carefully researched and implemented plans based on his research of what would work best for his team’s journey. Scott relied on the experiences of others (as mentioned in point 3) to make his decisions, which turned out to be a detrimental decision.

In Education:

Students should play an active role in their learning and teachers an active role in curriculum and learning design and reflection. Let’s give power to our educators and students to design and implement their own 20 mile marches. What if students took part in developing performance indicators for different standards and concepts?

7. Achieved with high consistency

Amundsen & Scott: Amundsen’s team was resolute in their consistency to travel 15-20 miles each day, even if they traveled through storms and challenging conditions. Scott, in contrast, was swayed by a variety of excuses and conditions to go too far or not far enough. Slow and steady wins the race–is the truth at play here.

In Education:

When our 20 mile march goals are achievable with high consistency we gain confidence, we see progress, we build momentum, and we keep on reaching our goals. When we miss the mark and lack the discipline to correct our path, it is too easy to stop, switch to a new plan (project, curriculum, teaching strategy, superintendent etc.).

Last Thoughts & Some Questions:

The 20 Mile March gives me a mental model to organize my thoughts, plans, and actions as I work towards BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goals) a term from another Collins masterpiece, Built to Last. Since latching on to this concept, I visualize each little, daily, 20 mile chunk of work I need to do that will lead me to the goal I have set my mind on. I even add little flag icons in my to do list and map out the breakdown of the seemingly little stuff that needs consistency to get done. This structure and visualization help me plan reasonable goals, stay on track, and get things done.

How do you see these ideas at play in your school?

How can you incorporate these parameters for goal setting with your students?

What is your 20 mile march?