February 1, 2019
I write this newsletter a bit jet lagged and sleepy – nothing new. I am overlooking the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles from my hotel window. It’s almost 4pm. It’s already been rush hour here for a while. Again, when is it not rush hour in Los Angeles? Yet, I am really happy. Happy for the sunlight and happy for the opportunity to facilitate a workshop tomorrow. I have a purpose and I am living it out. Feels good. Empowering.
I have been drawn in by the ‘What’s your word for 2019?’ question that’s posted on social media every New Year. My word this year is ’empower.’ Google says empower means “to make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.” While I know that I cannot make someone stronger, I can support others in finding their voices around what matters to them and that feels empowering to me.
I work with others to be both more intrapersonally mindful and other focused too. Both ‘awarenesses’ help one be more humane in one’s work and in one’s communication.
Huffington Post had an article recently entitled, This is What Happens When You Hate Your Job. It cites Jeffrey Pfeffer from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and his book, Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It and the statistic that poor management accounts for 120,000 excess deaths a year! I am guessing that his research was done in corporate America, but education can’t be that dissimilar. Stomach aches, migraines, insomnia. Work can stress us out. And we need to be empowered to set boundaries and take care of ourselves.
This is my 20-year anniversary of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I am doing really well and what that diagnosis taught me is that I have to stay healthy. Period. Self-care matters. Saying no. Making decisions that keep me sane. Seeing friends. Laughing. Korean scrubs. I need to take care and empower myself to do what’s healthy for me so I can do my Work.
AND, as I am not the only one on this planet and am so aware of that each and every day, there is another side to my empowerment work. Being on a continuous journey to become even more allocentric. More other-focused. More humane. I was working with a group from a district office who, through our day together, was reminded that yes, there is an urgency to our work. Students need us to do the right thing and do so now. And, we don’t have as much time as we’d like to craft our messages to those in other departments or at the school level. Yet, without that extra bit of allocentrism and thoughtfulness, our communications can leave others not just confused, but possibly frustrated and, even worse, angry and hurt. More on this when my next book, Swimming in the Deep End, comes out in late March! We need to be empowering in our actions and our words with others.
I read the On Being blog every Sunday to support myself both intra- and inter-personally. Omid Safi wrote a blog recently on Illuminating the Beauty In Our Broken Places in which he comments so beautifully on the concept of allocentrism,
“Give me someone who knows their own vulnerability and sees mine.
Give me someone whose cracked spaces are golden.
Give me someone who has helped do kintsugi to my cracked spaces.
Give me someone who is open to me doing kintsugi to their cracked heart.
So friends, wabi-sabi me.
Let me wabi-sabi you.
Let’s repair each other.
Let’s seek what’s cracked in each other.
Let’s heal our broken spaces.
Let’s fill what’s broken with gold.”
If kintsugi is a new word to you (as it was to me), read Safi’s blog. It’s worth it. I hope that my work this year is empowering. That it repairs and it heals. May it be an empowering year for us all.
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Caffeinated Training Design: An Engagement-Centered Process by Anne M. Beninghof. Have you ever attended a conference where you felt numb from sitting too long? Or stood in front of a group and worried that you were losing them? Have you offered virtual training and wondered if your participants were actually multi-tasking instead of staying engaged? Imagine, instead, a room full of alert, engaged attendees who will walk away remembering your information. Caffeinated Training Design presents a simple process that results in highly engaged learners who can apply their new knowledge and skills when it counts – back in the real world.
Insight Timer – The top free mediation app on iOS and Android. I use it regularly to meditate before I go to sleep, for their courses, for the meditations by Tony Brady, Jen Piercy, Tara Brach and others. Self-care.
Educated: A Memoir – One of the best books I have read in a long time. Talk about empowerment! “Tara Westover wasn’t your garden variety college student. When the Holocaust was mentioned in a history class, she didn’t know what it was (no, really). That’s because she didn’t see the inside of a classroom until the age of seventeen. Public education was one of the many things her religious fanatic father was dubious of, believing it a means for the government to brainwash its gullible citizens, and her mother wasn’t diligent on the homeschooling front. If it wasn’t for a brother who managed to extricate himself from their isolated—and often dangerous–world, Westover might still be in rural Idaho, trying to survive her survivalist upbringing. It’s a miraculous story she tells in her memoir Educated. For those of us who took our educations for granted, who occasionally fell asleep in large lecture halls (and inconveniently small ones), it’s hard to grasp the level of grit—not to mention intellect—required to pull off what Westover did. But eventually earning a PhD from Cambridge University may have been the easy part, at least compared to what she had to sacrifice to attain it. The courage it took to make that sacrifice was the truest indicator of how far she’d come, and how much she’d learned. Educated is an inspiring reminder that knowledge is, indeed, power.” — Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review
About Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's latest book is Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her previous publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.
Work with Jennifer
Praise for Jennifer
“Our school’s work with Jennifer Abrams has sown the seeds of stronger communication skills among the adults in the building. This has only served to strengthen the integrity of communication between staff and students as well. We’ve added her language to our expectations: honest, humane, and growth-producing conversations occur regularly.”