7 Books for Becoming a Change-Making Animal

When I am on my deathbed, I want to be able to look my loved ones in the eyes and say with a smile “I kicked some ass.”  If you do too, then read these books:

1. “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?” by Seth Godin

Inside all of us is a Change-Making Animal. But, for a lot of us, it’s been tamed and caged by our standardized-testing-industrial complex. So, how do you return to your natural feral state of creative destruction? Read this book. Read it again and again and again. Read it until the binder breaks. Dog-ear it into an accordion. And, freely fill its margins with thoughts like “Let’s go break something!”

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Winter is Coming

The wall was crumbling. It was cracking and peeling like fiberglass. And, out of the gaps flowed the deepest sadness. I used my hands to cover the cracks. But, every loss I had experienced was still escaping. I placed my back against the wall to hold it up. But, countless stories of human suffering were cascading over the top. I could feel each of them singularly, intimately and intensely.

I was swirling in loss. I was surrounded by sorrow. And, I was drowning in sadness.

It was so much. It was too much. It felt like I was losing control. It felt like I was slipping away.

I felt a fear I had never felt before.

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Hot Chocolate and Losing

We plowed into a wall of powdered snow and came to a stop.

We walked off the distance from the tip of our sled to the edge of the shed. We wanted to touch it.

Five feet.

We ran back up the hill. I laid face down in the sled. He jumped on my back. We pushed off and tore down the hill.

Three feet.

We ran back up the hill. I laid face down in the sled. He jumped on my back. We pushed off and tore down the hill.

Two feet.

We did it again.

1 foot.

We did it again and again and again.

1 foot. 1 foot. 1 foot.

We did it one more time.

1 foot.

We got up. We brushed off the snow. We paused.

The street lights were coming on. Our extremities were beginning to numb. And, the innermost layers of our clothing were wet.

“This is it. One last run” I said.

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Harder Not Smarter

I strike the ground. The blade of the spade recoils back. I change my location. I strike the ground. The blade of the spade hits a rock. I change my location. I strike the ground. The blade of the spade catches a root. I take a step back, assess the situation, and consider my options.

I could soak the ground in water overnight. Don’t have time.

I could use a chain saw to cut out the roots. Don’t have a chain saw.

I could use a shovel. Don’t believe in shovels.

I go to garage, select some Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and press play.

I have made my decision.

I pick up my spade. I strike the ground. And, a bit of Earth gives way to my efforts.

I have my foothold. I begin to dig.

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Get Your Head in the Game

He turned towards me. Flames of disappointment filled his narrowed eyes. And, squeezing the remote tightly in his hand, he barked “Are you going to lead this team, YES or NO!?”

I tried to hold the stare. But, his eyes would not leave mine. I tried to find the words to answer. But, none were forthcoming. With my face burning with embarrassment, I lowered my head. I broke the eye lock.

He turned back to the television. Friday night’s game filled the screen. I turned back too. But, he was not through. And, straining to maintain control, he said “Get your head in the game or you’ll be the first captain to ever sit the bench.”

His words slashed my heart. But, they rang true.

I was no longer the player I used to be. I knew it. He knew it. But, I did not know why.

I know now.

I was losing my anger.

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What is your story?

How do you describe yourself to yourself?

How do you describe yourself to others?

We are what we tell ourselves we are.

So, what do you say when you say?

  • I grew up…
  • I came from…
  • I believe in…
  • I want…
  • I can…
  • I cannot…
  • I will…
  • I will not…
  • I do…
  • I do not do…
  • I am…
  • I am not…

We are our stories.

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Who will be the last to speak my name? Will it be my son, one of his kids or one their kids? Will it be a student or one of their students? Will it be someone I have already met? Or, will it be someone I have yet to meet or may never meet?

I wonder what they will be like. What values do they hold? What philosophies do they embody? Will he or she be much different than me?

How far, if far at all, from the place of its first speaking will it last be spoken?

If it is a picture that elicits my name, when will it be taken? Has it already been taken?

Will they whisper it alone in a moment of solitude or aloud at a social gathering?

Will it be spoken over coffee or a late-night drink?

Will it be spoken in a classroom or on a plane, during a meeting or on a walk, sitting around a bonfire or at the edge of a cliff?

Will it be spoken in a moment of exhilaration or contemplation, happiness or sadness, confidence or uncertainty?

How will the one who last speaks my name want to use my name?

What story will they tell?

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Be A Man

He is a composite of various men. Some real. Some fictional. He is part Magnum PI, John Wayne, Hank Williams Jr., and the Ultimate Warrior. He is specific to my context, my history, and my upbringing.

He is part of my understanding of what it means to be a man.

He is a tenacious part of that understanding.

He was downloaded from newspapers and novels, textbooks and history books, billboards and bus stop benches, magazines and movies, music shows and television shows.

I was programmed from a very young age – as soon as I was wrapped in blue.

He was reinforced by the men and women of my family and my community. Just like their respective roles were impressed upon them.

He is a complex set of expectations, norms, and customs.

He is a code-of-conduct.

He is a body-image.

He is a benchmark, a yardstick, a touchstone.

He is the critic inside of me. He is the one looking back at me in the mirror. And, he is not always pleased.

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Both Warden and Prisoner

I am scared to look at it. I am scared to touch it. I am scared to be near it. It is black. It is wire-bound. It is college-ruled. It is a Mead 150 sheet notebook. And, it contains a written record of my incarceration. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment of my release. But, I spent three to four years in a prison of my own making.

It was not my first time being incarcerated in a swirl of confusion and doubt. I am a recidivist. But, this stint was different. I was older. And, I was brutally aware of the less than optimal life I was living. So, I bought my Mead Notebook to keep a log.

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