Getting Under Your Skin

I’m trying to get under your skin. I’m trying to get you to stop being a spectator and a pawn in the industrial system that raised us, and maybe, just maybe, to stand up and do something that scares you.
Seth Godin

This is Seth Godin and he speaks to me. I am reading his V is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone and for some reason it is where I stand. It is an ABC for Grownups and it is for people like you and me.

Here are some letters of the alphabet from his ABC picture book that are resonating for me. Perhaps they stick for you as well. I present letters A, C, D and E.

1. “Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance.”
This is what we do. We worry. I worry. And then we do not bring our best selves to the task at hand. We anticipate the worst and it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We need to let go and have hope in what we want to accomplish. Seth calls us to be intense in what we do: “The artist wonders, ‘How can I break this?’ and ‘Is it interesting?’ Go break something,” Seth exhorts.

2. “Commitment is the only thing that gets you through the chasm.”
This is what takes us from a great idea to reality. It requires risk and a stick-to-it-ness.  When change is discouraging or seems insurmountable you need to believe what others have believed for you on your behalf. You are a warrior. Change is hard work. Not everyone values it the same way. Commitment can get you through the valley.

3. “Dance with resistance.”
There is something here that I need to learn. When we embark on a change agenda it is uncomfortable for us and for others. We are pulled back to continue the status quo like some rubber band that snaps us back to the comfort of the past. It is safer to teach and lead the way we have always done. I need to learn to dance with others, to engage the unbelieving and to convince my own heart. I think I have forgotten how to dance. My moves are awkward. I cannot seem to find my place to move with others gracefully. I have been stepping on toes. And alas, I feel my own have been squished as well. I need dance lessons—this I know. This is an embarrassing weakness and my flaw. I will covenant to practice the dance until I too can dance with others. It doesn’t work to be a wallflower. Our organizations need to get everyone on the dance floor.

4. “Effort isn’t the point, impact is.”
How do we know these change efforts, these shifts in pedagogy, these new ways of learning, are making a difference? Are we better off as a system? Has the learning experience deepened for the student? How are we measuring it? How will we know that it matters? “Effort isn’t the point, impact is.”

Seth is getting under my skin. There are others that get under my skin as well. They call me to stick to an agenda of transformative change in a large, slow-moving and sometimes resistant system. Seth encourages and admonishes us to embrace ideas that “push us to take action, to embrace opportunity, not to merely watch and wait.” I’m not waiting. Are you?

20 responses to “Getting Under Your Skin

  1. Hi Elisa,

    I’m looking forward to reading this book. Your post reminded me of another challenging book which I think deals with some of the same issues – Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. Have you read it?

    • innovativelearningdesigns

      I am a Seth Godin fan. I just picked up his new book The Icarus Deception: How high will you fly? I like that he talks up taking the chance to “stand up, stand out, and make a difference.” Looking forward to cracking the cover. Now I will have to find the Brene Brown book. I have not read it but my neighbour recommended her TEDX video. I think I will have to look for the book. Thanks for the comment, Kirsten.

      • Tammy Hartmann

        Hi Elisa,
        I enjoyed reading your post, as always. THANK YOU for introducing me to another author. Now I have another reason to buy a new book! Wahoo! I especially enjoyed the ‘dance’ metaphor. Whenever I read your blogs, I am inspired to continue the hard work of transformational change at my school. Thank you for that. This entry reminded me of the importance of showing my staff that I too am vulnerable, and that’s okay. It is also important for our students to see us as learners. Last week I went skiing to Whistler with students from my school. I have not been skiing in three years and was very nervous, to say the least. I only learned to ski at age 50, so I am very much a novice! The kids were so encouraging. Learning alongside my students was a great way to model taking a risk and important for me to do as the lead learner at my school.

        • innovativelearningdesigns

          You are always so kind and gracious with your feedback to me, Tammy. Thanks! Transformational change is hard work but those that are engaged in it find it renewing for them as professionals. So great that you are learning along with your students as well.

  2. Thanks. Isn’t it great how you find articles that hit you just when you need them? Despite being a connected educator and mentor, I’ve been struggling with my personal relationships. Life is a paradox. So “4. “Effort isn’t the point, impact is.” Rocked me. I’ve been trying so hard but seem to get no where. I’m having no impact. Effort is of no value. I need revisit my approach and seek impact. I have no clue at this stage but I now can retool. Ciao.

    • innovativelearningdesigns

      Thanks for the honesty. Impact is not easily measured. Sometimes I think it is the story, the narrative of one’s journey, that changes and inspires people’s hearts and learning. Change is a bit of a dance. Hard to get others to join in if they are not sure they like the beat or can do the steps. It is no good if I am a wallflower nor if I do the dance alone. I am working my way through this piece.

  3. I connect with your thinking and writing so much. Thank you for sharing what you think whether it is easy and joyous or difficult. I must read this book. I need something to shake up my boredom with slow moving industry.


    • innovativelearningdesigns

      You are welcome. I like your statement: “I need something to shake up my boredom with slow moving industry.” Perhaps we all need a little of that!

  4. Thanks for sharing Elisa. I like the “effort isn’t the point, impact is.” All of us work hard, but in what direction and with what (lasting) impact? This is a good thing to think about for us all.

    Like the article and quotes, thanks for sharing.


    • innovativelearningdesigns

      It is a good question. And we will all need to wrestle with notion of how we define meaningful impact and how we measure it as well.

  5. HI Elisa, Thanks for this post! I was moved by your honesty about needing to learn or perhaps relearn or re-magine how to dance with others. This is tricky and challenging and exciting and invigorating when it works! Frustrating when it does not…..Fullan talks about the importance of having a special kind of empathy for those who stand in our way….this has helped me in moving forward with “resistors”…..a subtle but powerful shift when we view those around us as struggling in their own ways. I need to read the book!

    • innovativelearningdesigns

      Engaging in the change dance with others–both with those that are interested and disinterested–is certainly a challenge. I need to buy new dancing shoes!

  6. Anne-Marie Middleton

    “Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance.”
    “Effort isn’t the point, impact is.”
    Thanks for sharing this, Elisa. It is amazing how some short sentences can leave a lasting impact and keep us thinking. Of the four you shared these two hit close to home. How often have I stopped moving forward, or breaking something, because of the anxiety that sets in. And when I think if student learning, what impact have I made. We too often talk about how much time we out in but who have we impacted? More things to reflect on.
    If you have not watched the two TED talks on Brene Brown I too highly recommend them. She shifted my thinking.

    • innovativelearningdesigns

      You are welcome. The question of impact is a big one and not easily answered. We need to define both what we mean by that and what it looks like in the classroom for learners, for teachers and even for people in my capacity. Evidently, now with three people recommending it, I will need to follow up on the Brene Brown reference!

  7. Hi Elisa,

    I enjoyed this post and related to many of the quotes you wrote about (so much so that I need to buy this book myself and have it close by so I can refer to it often).

    The first quote spoke to me again and again:

    “I’m trying to get under your skin. I’m trying to get you to stop being a spectator and a pawn in the industrial system that raised us, and maybe, just maybe, to stand up and do something that scares you.”
    Seth Godin

    It is so important that educators take control of their own learning and become true lifelong learners. But, it’s finding a way to get people to realize that and then sticking to it. That gets a bit consuming and discouraging at times and it is then that iIt is so important to “dance with resistance”. At times, however, it seems that right when I have figured out the dance, the dance changes and we’re on to a new one to learn and stumble along with. It is then that I must continue with the commitment of what I feel is powerful learning and a worthwhile journey. It is then that I think of my own kids and their future in school – especially my boys. Those little faces help keep my focus.

    “Effort isn’t the point, impact is” is something I think about and struggle with all the time. While I *know* that it is making a difference, this difference is hard to measure. This difference is hard to put into *numbers* and quantify. I see it in the student’s faces though. I see it in their engagement in their own learning. I see it when they take ownership over their learning. Is this enough though? Do these things mean that there is a *real* difference in achievement happening now and that will continue in the future?

    There are so many questions I continue to have. But it is these questions, discussions with others, and inspirational posts like this that keep me focused on trying to make a difference.

    I’m not waiting either, Elisa. I’m right there with you.

    Thanks for writing this post,


    • innovativelearningdesigns

      I think we all struggle with the notion of “the dance” and what it means for each of us in our roles. We also struggle to know and understand our impact. Are we making a difference? Most educators live to make a difference in their work. It is what drives us. Thanks for the comment.

  8. I appreciate and admire your leadership with our Helping Teacher team with pushing us to be innovative and live uncomfortably under our skin in order for us to push the envelope. I like the quote, “commitment is the only thing that gets you through the chasm.” We are committed to risk-taking in Ed Services and it’s posts like this, conversation we all have in our teams, and your role modelling and your commitment in changing and moving practice and pedagogy forward that often gets us through our difficult and important work. Definitely will reading this book! Cheers!

    • innovativelearningdesigns

      Thanks. I think it is the Helping Teachers that are often pushing me to live uncomfortably. This is the good work that they do. I am fortunate to work with such an amazing crew.

  9. Thanks Elisa,
    My first thought was “heck, I’ve been outside my comfort zone for most of my career…at least pushing the envelope of the system.”. Maybe because I have always been involved with the hardest to teach learners: Special Education and Aboriginal Education. I find most guidelines hard to stay inside and I struggle with educators that try to keep me there. Pro-D has always been the highlight and joy of my career. Amy spoke of empathy towards resistors. I struggle to empathize with others that don’t/can’t empathize themselves.

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