18 December, 2006


It's just a silly online quiz, but it struck a chord with me and led to a whole lot of navel-gazing that may or may not be worthwhile:

Your Dominant Thinking Style: Visioning

You are very insightful and tend to make decisions based on your insights.

You focus on how things should be - even if you haven't worked out the details.

An idealist, thinking of the future helps you guide your path.

You tend to give others long-term direction and momentum.

I can make some things happen through sheer dint of effort, regardless of ability, resources or situation. I once had a dear friend tell me that she'd never seen someone be as successful as I was in a certain area with as little background and raw ability as I had (which is nicer than it sounds, as I was existing in rather rarified air at the time and was meeting all standards).

But despite that kind of tenacity, there are things on which I've exerted far less effort that have been far more successful. And looking back, these successes are in the areas of visioning and inspiration/leadership. That's what I've finally come to accept (albeit still grudingly) about Valour-IT. I didn't do the hard work (the distribution system, etc), but I took up the idea, fleshed out the detailed vision for implementation and pitched it to the bigshots, then drew together the people (suppliers, designers, fundraisers, contacts) who made it happen. I relied heavily on the knowledge, advice and work of others to get there, but I knew without a doubt where I wanted it to go.

[Caveat: this is why I repeatedly resist the idea that I'm responsible for what Valour-IT has accomplished. I just held out the vision and trumpeted the mechanism for the vision to succeed. Everyone else worked their butts off to make it happen; I prefer the title "Nag in Chief."]

I was a great music teacher of little children because I had a vision of what they could do and I could intuitively get them there. My students did amazing things, and I never had an evaluator who found me at or below average in overall pedagogy. But at the same time, things like complicated schedules, records for every special needs student in the school, minutiae of the law and the codes of learning objectives, all the mundanity that is being a teacher and working in that environment... that was much more of a challenge. I was moderately capable of that part of it through fear-driven effort, but it was like a fish trying to spend half its time breathing air.

And I realize now that maybe that wasn't the right place for me, since public school teachers are (sadly) often rated more by their bookkeeping skills than their inspirational teaching. All those strengths that are listed at the top of this post are not appreciated (and perhaps mostly not even appropriate) in a new-ish teacher. But sadly, neither do they lend themselves to entry-level office jobs.

It's funny... I've always had big dreams and visions of how I thought things should be, of what I wanted to do. But now I see that somewhere along the way I let myself be convinced they were unreasonable or that I was incapable of implementing them. As a child I was always the one who bounced around with energy, trying to draw others into my wild activities. If not that, I wanted to be involved in what everyone else was doing and I had a reputation for being "bossy" in such circumstances. Looking back, I suspect "bossy" is just the descriptor of a child with a vision of how things should be trying out her nascent leadership skills, hehe!

Seriously, I'll never forget later in life receiving the strong and clear message over the course of years that I was not to stand out. But how does a person of crazy dreams do anything but stand out? Standing out is how you get other people to join your dream and make it happen! Standing out is what leaders do! (No, I'm not talking self-aggrandizement, just the fact that leadership literally reqires being present and known, among many more-important qualities).

And I'll also never forget how I started to change on a personal level after Valour-IT got off the ground, and what began to crystalize in my self-image after the 2005 Veterans Day fundraiser. By the time the DC trip (December 2005) was over, I felt like an entirely different person. I didn't know it then, but through Valour-IT I was living out the kind of "job" that truly fit my skills. I had a great relationship with my principal last year, and she said that whenever I talked about Valour-IT, I would "light up." She said, "All the joy and energy and faith in yourself and your dreams comes shining through when we talk about it. But when we talk about you growing as a teacher, none of that is there."

Maybe that's because even then I knew what I've only been able to articulate today: I am at my best in a job that is all about the dream, making things happen: seeing how things should be and communicating that vision to others. I think people have tried to tell me that before, but I didn't understand it.

I don't know, maybe I'll all wet here. Maybe I've got an over-inflated sense of self. I'm mostly just thinking aloud here, but since so much of what I've laid out in this post involves what many of you have said to and about me, I think I'd appreciate your input. Am I on to something here, or do I need a smack to put me back in my place?