Category Archives: Musings

Making lists

Making: a habit of reading one book every fortnight this year. Tracking ok with 9 down but I’m a little behind
Cooking: baby eggplant stirfry
Drinking: water with lime and mint. Perfect calorie free drink for the end of a day.
Reading: Creative Schools by Ken Robinson
Wanting: to keep up riding my bike regularly.
Looking: forward to the end of term
Playing: random online games from my past
Deciding: if I should race my bike competitively again
Wishing: long weekends would last longer
Enjoying: a sunny winter day in Melbourne
Waiting: for my wife to finish studying so we can have more time together
Liking: having a tidy house
Wondering: if my workload will decrease in the near future
Loving: feeling ‘more on top of things’
Pondering: my future.
Considering: riding my bike later today
Watching: Outsourced – so sad it only got a single season
Hoping: life can slow down soon
Marvelling: at our dogs’ ability to sleep all day long
Needing: a little more sleep
Smelling: my peppermint tea
Wearing: a comfy dressing gown (seriously dudes, make the change to one)
Following: the Adelaide Crows (who had a nice win at the MCG yesterday)
Noticing: the difference in quality of print vs web journalism
Knowing: the peace of a long weekend will soon by shattered by work
Thinking: about the children of Islamic State – I hope someone is ensuring all children can access education
Admiring: leaders who work long hours and still be there for their families
Sorting: through some old clothing
Buying: a new pair of running shoes – so many good memories in the old ones
Getting: tired of the petty public vs private school debate
Bookmarking: some wonderful blog posts on the Tiny House movement
Disliking: the strong encouragement society provides to remain ‘mainstream’
Opening: up differing worship experiences
Giggling: at knowing Hugh Lawrie has recorded several blues albums – who knew?
Feeling: a wee bit tired from 5/6 camp last week
Snacking: on yoghurt
Coveting: more energy and time for exercise
Wishing: this sunny day would never end
Helping: teachers to become better at what they do
Hearing: Jose Gonzalez’s latest album 

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Why don’t I make time for exercise?

The man or woman who hates his work scowls at the alarm clock, rolls out of bed with frustration, takes his time getting ready, mopes around the office, counts the minutes to 5pm, turns on the television when he gets home to distract himself, and then goes to bed late only to repeat the cycle tomorrow.

– Joshua Becker

There was a time not that long ago when I would bounce out of bed in the morning for a ride or a run. I might supplement morning exercise with an afternoon swim or ride too. It seems those days are long gone. I used to set goals to drive myself to exercise and what started as 10k fun runs and short triathlons became half marathons and half ironmans.

A great deal has happened since those days which are in reality only 5 years ago. There have been two changes of organisation and two changes of location. Changes of role have led to much less time and energy available for exercise. Often it is the latter which is the demotivator and perhaps this post should really be titled ‘Why don’t’ I make energy for exercise?’

I know exercise helps me be better at what I do. (and for those who don’t agree I urge you to read this)

I don’t believe I mope around school nor do I count the minutes until 5pm. There is far too much to be done to be able to mope around and usually I am counting the minutes I am at work past 5pm! I do find myself getting out of bed in frustration, being unproductive with my time in the morning and watching TV to distract myself at night. I’d like to change that.

I was encouraged by an article recently which encouraged leaders undertaking long hours in their work to spend some time considering what their ideal start to the workday would be. Mine would look something like this:

5.30 – wake

5.45 – 30 minute runIMG_0929

6.15 – 15 minutes stretching/yoga

6.30 – breakfast with newspaper

6.45 – shower and dress

7.00 – walk to school

7.15 – clear overnight emails and set plan for day

7.45 – cup of tea and finish newspaper

8.00 – staff commual prayer

We are about to commence Week 9 of the second term of school and I’m going to try to nail this for the next 3 weeks. Remembering my own advice ‘to be gentle on oneself when commencing a new path’ of course! Join with me #getoutofbedmrbrennen

You can read Joshua Becker’s article which inspired this post here.

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Advance Australia Fair? What to do about growing inequality in Australia

The wealthiest 20 per cent of households in Australia now account for 61 per cent of total household net worth, whereas the poorest 20 per cent account for just 1 per cent of the total. In recent decades the income share of the top 1 per cent has doubled, and the wealth share of the top 0.001 per cent has more than tripled. At the same time, poverty is increasing and many of those dependent upon government benefits, including the unemployment benefit, have fallen well below the poverty line. If we do not pay attention to the problem of financial inequality, current economic circumstances are likely to make it worse.

I may have missed it but it seems this report coming from a 2014 federal government round table has flown under the radar. I’ve had a read and it presents some challenges for us as a nation indeed. In the words of the report itself:

In 21st century Australia, do we still care about equality of opportunity, ‘a fair go for all’? If so, what are we prepared to do to make it happen?

The full report is quite readable and presents much for further reflection.

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Why the modern world is bad for your brain

In discussing information overload with Fortune 500 leaders, top scientists, writers, students, and small business owners, email comes up again and again as a problem. It’s not a philosophical objection to email itself, it’s the mind-numbing number of emails that come in. When the 10-year-old son of my neuroscience colleague Jeff Mogil (head of the Pain Genetics lab at McGill University) was asked what his father does for a living, he responded, “He answers emails.”…We feel obliged to answer our emails, but it seems impossible to do so and get anything else done.

Before email, if you wanted to write to someone, you had to invest some effort in it. You’d sit down with pen and paper, or at a typewriter, and carefully compose a message. There wasn’t anything about the medium that lent itself to dashing off quick notes without giving them much thought, partly because of the ritual involved, and the time it took to write a note, find and address an envelope, add postage, and take the letter to a mailbox. Because the very act of writing a note or letter to someone took this many steps, and was spread out over time, we didn’t go to the trouble unless we had something important to say. Because of email’s immediacy, most of us give little thought to typing up any little thing that pops in our heads and hitting the send button. And email doesn’t cost anything.

– Daniel J Levitin

Levitin’s article is a well written journey through the impact of multitasking on our bodies and thus our productivity.

I have written about (and linked to) issues around the speed at which we live and the impact technology has on us. Email might not ‘cost’ us much in the way of financial resources but me thinks it is costing our society a great deal. Levintin claims that through multitasking we do not receive information into the best part of the brain for long term storage which in turn discourages deep thought and reflection. Cause for thought.

Read the full article here.

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Love stands in the middle

Our temptation is to stay on the outside.

To be Etic but not Emic. To attend endless conferences, read endless books, buy endless t-shirts. To dump cold water on our heads, take a selfie and hashtag it. To be about the latest ideas, like those on Mars Hill, to be waiting to see something new, like the newest post or picture online.

Ideas, when used this way, can be very self-indulgent. All the while, we remain outside the issue, and quite possibly, outside of our own story. But the great ideas – love, justice, intimacy, reconciliation – require something of us.

The people I see changing the world are doing it quietly.

– John Sowers

When I worked in Cairo, I was surrounded by good people with good intentions for the people living there. They had great ideas, great passion, but wha tmany of them couldn’t stand it seemed, was getting their hands dirty in order to see ideas and passions have an impact on people.

This article by John Sowers excellently sums up the situation we all face. If we want to have a tangible impact on the world we cannot ignore relationships. Relationships are the context in which the world can be changed for the better.

Sometimes the ideas we have aren’t actually that great or useful to the world. The positive impact on people’s lives is the measure and the test of a good idea.

To paraphrase an often quoted verse from the Bible, “If we do not have love, we are nothing but a loud noise”.

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A commonplace book

The other day I was reading a book and I came across a little anecdote. It was about the great Athenian general Themistocles. Before the battle of Salamis, he was locked in a vigorous debate with a Spartan general about potential strategies for defeating the Persians. Themistocles was clearly in the minority with his views (but which ultimately turned out to be right and saved Western Civilization). He continued to interrupt and contradict the other generals. Finally, the Spartan general threatened to strike Themistocles if he didn’t shut up and stop. “Strike!” Themistocles shouted back, “But listen!”

When I read this, I immediately began a ritual that I have practiced for many years–and that others have done for centuries before me–I marked down the passage and later transferred it to my “commonplace book.” Why? Because it’s a great line and it stood out to me. I wrote it down I’ll want to have it around for later reference, for potentially using it in my writing or work, or for possible inspiration at some point in the future.

There were two reasons I started my blog. Firstly, to have a space to deposit papers, presentations and resources I had created. Secondly, and what I have lately been using it more and more for, is as a place to share articles and links of note. It turns out that what I am creating has been called a ‘commonplace book’ (or ‘commonplace blog’ in this case)

The beauty of a commonplace blog is that you can have your notes, musings, articles etc. ready and available anywhere that has internet access. There are other methods to do this of course, Evernote or OneNote etc. but the blog format is working well for me at the moment. Is anyone else out there using their blog for similar?

Have a read of the full article on the topic of commonplace books written by Ryan Holiday here.


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Gandhi’s 7 things that will destroy us and Covey’s question

In the introduction to Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, Stephen Covey writes the following

Gandhi taught that there are seven things that will us. As we study them slowly and carefully, we see in a powerful way how each represents an end being accomplished through an unprincipled or unworthy means:

  • Wealth without work.
  • Pleasure without conscience.
  • Knowledge without character.
  • Commerce without morality.
  • Science without humanity.
  • Worship without sacrifice.
  • Politics without principle.

Isn’t it interesting how each one of these admirable ends can be falsely attained?

If I were to pick one as the most dangerous, I would go with ‘knowledge without character’ – “Knowledge is power” after all.

Thoughts to share? Enagage with me on twitter.

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What do you love? (Here are a few things that restore my soul)

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

Donald Miller wrote a piece recently about things that he loves and their role in what I would call ‘soul restoration’. You can read the piece here.

I have had a chance over the Christmas break to reflect on the things that I love – the things that I find myself getting lost in. As one who has a very heavy workload on a day to day basis I have found it very hard over the last year to find rest and to ‘turn off’. Perhaps by identifying and making time for these things I may find more rest.

So here goes. A few things I love in no particular order.

Getting lost exploring an important idea. I am currently reading Thoreau’s Walden and find myself drinking deep the ruminations on the consumerist nature of our society. Other topics I easily get lost in include Jesus’ social teachings, Martin Luther and radical grace, simplicity and minimalism, the transformation power of education and the importance of holistic education which values creativity and soul. Reflection accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee while overlooking a majestic landscape, sunset or a rainy day gets bonus points. I can get lost in conversation, documentaries, books etc. – it is all wonderful ‘lost’ time.

Drinking wine and eating good food with friends. An extension of the above, the act of meeting with people and discussing topics of passion restores my soul. Wine and food are not necessary but there is something about them that facilitates deeper conversation. I appreciate the celebration of Creation that wine is – the process of selecting, growing and processing the humble grape produces such a wide range of flavours that mirrors the complexity of the individuals that make up humanity. And food, well, as my handwriting skill attest, I struggle to craft things with my hands but I can cook. Taking raw ingredients graciously provided to us by the earth and turning them into meals that nourish others is very satisfying. Cooking can be quite a mindful exercise – fresh food has such a simple but intense scent that reminds me of new beginnings.

Providing the opportunity for others to engage with big ideas and develop as people. I love teaching and know the transformative nature of good education. The ‘light bulb’ moment is wonderful and seeing others create a conclusion that I hadn’t thought of brings deep joy. One of the many joys of working in primary education is having the chance to teach children the importance of serving and looking after each other. Seeing them put it into practice is lovely.

Physical activity  – especially long sessions of cardio.  In times gone by I was quite overweight and shunned all forms of exercise. Things are certainly different now. The mental space provided by a long run or ride is very restorative. While finding quiet and inspiring landscapes is difficult in Melbourne (Melbourne might have the night life but Adelaide has the scenery!), I like to take the opportunity to get out as often as I can. Exercise is the first thing to go when work weeks grow long. I am not alone in believing in the importance of walking and exercise – especially for leaders of larger organisations.

Silence and stillness. Our world is too loud and too busy. We are bombarded with insanely high levels of information and decisions each day. Sitting still and feeling still are important more than ever.

My relationship with my wife. All of the above activities are often present in our relationship and the support provided therein empowers me to serve others. Marriage is indeed work and one must provide the space for it to flourish. The above are enhanced by the presence of my wife.

So what about you? What are the ‘loves’ that restore your soul?

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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 690 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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What would I look for when hiring school staff?

Last week a @Danhaesler posted a graphic (reproduced below) exploring his thoughts when thinking about hiring school staff.

So what about this principal’s thoughts? At a teacher meeting this week I asked all of the teaching staff at my school to come up with their own. Mine is reproduced below. There are a few underlying ‘non-negotiables’ present in the questions.

if yes come teachI encourage all educators to have a go at this. It provides a wonderful way into clarifying the educational values of both individuals and schools.

Let me know what you think via twitter.

@Danhaelser’s thoughts:

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