Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Land Ripe for #PositiveDisruption / How the #GrowthMindset Plays Into Our #Business Practices

What happens when we come together under a common goal of social responsibility for each other? Where does apathy run off to? How can an organization of leaders be led successfully? How does the growth mindset play into best business practices and is it possible to run an organization where no one gets paid at first?

It started with naturally developing the executive function skills of the students I work with. Movement therapy is part of my instructional tool and strategy kit and is a tremendous approach to achieving increasing degrees of independence. For a child on the autism spectrum, one with down syndrome, or simply one with mild attentional deficits, context activities for movement therapy that I use are dancing and skateboarding.

With the passage of time, these two core activities used in many (not all) of my sessions also provide a backdrop for some real-world skills which need constant toning. These are the ‘soft skills’ that are seldom understood or acknowledged and go hand in hand with what is well-known as the growth mindset.

The idea of the growth mindset as a learning outlook is actually a natural way to learn which focuses on improving one’s ‘process,’ rather than only focusing on achieving an ‘end result.’ A well-known and elegant example of this attitude or perspective is Thomas Edison who failed forward thousands of times until he got the lightbulb to work. He didn’t wallow in the mire and call it quits, but focused more intently on getting closer to lighting that bulb.

A fixed mindset on the other hand focuses on the end result, valuing it above the process by which it was achieved. A small example of this is a parent praising their child for completing their homework, rather than praising how they planned ahead, organized themselves or kept focused calmly on sticking-to-it until the matter was completed. The parent and child miss the ability to capitalize and reinforce some skills they may have exercised and need to be recognized early on, rather than later, or not at all.  Was the child able to manage their emotions effortlessly during the task at hand? Praise it. Did the child show independent problem solving at some point? Address it! Letting them know what is important to us trains their forward-process to take these into account with greater value.

These praisable traits include what are known as soft skills:

  • humility
  • endurance
  • empathy
  • grit (goal-directed persistence)
  • paraverbal awareness (how you say what you say)
  • integrity
  • teamwork
  • honesty

A growth mindset places focus on valuing such non-tangibles. These are the traits that we actually value and that impact us the most between each other. It is then not enough to achieve victory, but how we go about in achieving it sets the precedent for others to possibly learn from and replicate parts of our process that are valued. Thomas Edison as have many others who have achieved valuable success have always had perspectives of epic commitment to stay in a learning mode, to stay in a hungry-mode, in a humble mode and be both ready to rock and ready to learn, rather than secure an outcome by whatever means necessary. 

Being virtuous makes all the difference. What is it all for if it is just a certain outcome we want? In my line of work as a Special Educator who is flexing social responsibility muscles I want to not just lead in transformation, but lead shoulder to shoulder with others who are also in the process of positive transformation. I understand that I can’t go it alone, nor do I want to. How I move forward in creating and sustaining momentum means more and more that others take the lead towards a common goal. My goal is naive and perhaps laughable. I want to be a better and better catalyst  or facilitator towards the empowerment of others. Dramatic change can be done where change is needed the most. Usually that is in low-income neighborhoods. Is this social entrepreneurship?

To illustrate this, there is a core team of ‘officers’ whom I have showcased in my you tube videos (CoachBill007) who are well-known staples at Scalzi skatepark in Stamford, Connecticut. Cello’s ‘art on the fence’ idea is awaiting the city’s approval. Brian, Chris and our reigning female skater, Didi are ideal leaders to head up the creation of our up-coming Spring 2016 Skateboard 101 classes. There will be other officers coming forward. Ben is a long-time local who has the best interest of the skate crew at heart. I foresee others bringing initiatives forward, which as a servant leader, I would do my part to help them achieve their vision. I have let the team know that everyone can rise together, and no one person always has the winning idea. 

In seeking to create time and space for parents to bring their kids on the autism spectrum (or with special needs) to the skatepark, I found that there was a greater social responsibility ripe for positive disruption then. I realized that skateboarders naturally use the growth mindset perspective. I realized that their stick-to-itiveness to get better at this individual sport is a perfect context for empowerment and therapy through teaching and mentorship.It would not just be skateboarding then, but new relationships across socio-economic divides which in and of themselves hold the potential for great impact in the lives of people.

No one has asked me to do this and I am under no obligation to continue. I just like to do it. I like challenges that are worthwhile. Bringing epic commitment means I co-manage an ‘organization’ of leaders in their own right. This entails putting others first, keeping my ear to the ground as to what is practical and being a good listener of people and the moment.

Winter will set in soon, yet the steadfast commitment to continue to shape a new day with others in the community of Stamford is as hot as a warm July summers day.

Current initiatives for Scalzi:

  1. Launch crowd funding campaign for Cello’s Art on the Fence initiative.
  2. Work with city to expedite sandblasting of skate walls.
  3. Launch non-profit organization to get skate classes/ camp initiative rolling.
  4. Use non-profit to work with city to make ‘night lights’ a reality.
  5. Reach out to more schools and start a conversation on  social entrepreneurship and skateboarding as a part of their curriculum.

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