First, Learn Their Story

I was standing right there!

Jordan had to have known that I was going to see him. That I was going to bust him. Maybe he didn’t care. Maybe he had already made up his mind. Maybe there was more to the story.

Like an Avenger or Marvel superhero, he jumped off the bus and roundhouse punched another kid all one motion. But I was right there. And he wasn’t getting away with such random violence while I was in charge. Not on my watch!

I grabbed him by the wrist, probably tighter than I should have, and marched him and his victim into my office. Once we were in my office, with the door shut, I laid into him. I mean I let him have it.


But …


But Mr. Har…


But Mr. Harper.


I finally gave him a chance to speak. To share his side of the story.


Mr. Harper, last night, that boy that I punched, snuck into the shed in my backyard and stole my bike. And now this morning, he’s telling everyone on the bus about it. Everyone was laughing at me. He thinks it’s funny.


I felt like an idiot. I tried to imagine how I would have felt if I had been him. I imagined someone stealing my SUV out of my driveway in the middle of the night. And then driving around my neighborhood the next day. Honking the horn, with his windows rolled down, bragging everyone in earshot that he had stolen my car.

I’d be livid.

I would have lost it.

I would’ve wanted to…

Let’s just say, I would have wanted to do exactly what Jordan had done.

Now, let me be clear. I am not advocating for violence. I’m just being honest. What would you have done if you were Jordan or if you had your car stolen and then…?

You get the point.

How often do we have higher expectations for our students — children — than we do for ourselves? I’m just sayin’. I know that I am guilty.

More importantly, how many times have we reacted to situations without knowing the full story? We assumed we knew the full story when we didn’t really have a clue.

Most of the time it is our students that fall victim to our assumptions. And we owe them better. They deserve to, at the very least, have their story heard.

Looking back on this event that took place almost ten years ago, I have one major regret. I know that I shouldn’t have gone off and lost my temper the way I did. That just wasn’t good. But that is not my major regret. No, my major regret was that I allowed myself to think the worst of Jordan. To judge him. To think that I was better. Shame on me.

I want you to know that you are not alone. We all make mistakes. And it’s not easy to admit them. But we must. I believe it is so important to display vulnerability. The sooner we begin sharing our imperfections with the people we love and the people we serve, the sooner they will stop thinking that they must be perfect.


*Jordan is not the student’s real name.


Below are links to several My Bad episodes in which educators made assumptions about their students before learning their stories. I think you’ll find them quite powerful. And again, you’ll see that you are not alone.


I Assumed I Was Helping My Student, I Was Very Wrong | Maggie Bolado

I Assumed I Knew My Student, So I Called Her Out: I Was Wrong | Trevor Muir

My Student Embarrassed Me, So I Embarrassed Him, Big Mistake | LaVonna Roth

Sometimes Growth Is Ugly Embarrassing and Hurtful | Don Wettrick


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It’s Time

A knock on my door (Yes, my door is closed — this is the real world — not the fairytale world that is often portrayed in social media). I get up, open the door and am greeted by a teacher who apologizes for being sick. She asks if I have someone that can cover her class for the remainder of the day. Clearly, she is sick. I can hear it in her voice and I can see it in her eyes. I think to myself, I wouldn’t have lasted half as long as she did. Then again during my 20 years in education and 47 years on Earth, I have learned that women are much tougher than men.

I have witnessed this scenario, or one very similar to it, many times.

Too many times!

What is my point?

My point is that even when teachers are sick or have loved ones who are sick, they will often apologize for having to leave work so they can go home and simply rest, recover and care for their themselves or their family.

What are we doing to ourselves?

What are the long-term effects?

And what can we do about it?

As you may or may not know, I host a podcast called My Bad in which guests come on and share big mistakes. I believe that listeners enjoy the show because they often see a bit of themselves in the guests. They appreciate that the guests are willing to display a vulnerability that is rare on social media.

I believe their appreciation is largely due to the fact that they themselves are vulnerable. We are vulnerable. A quick peek at  the definition of the adjective vulnerable yields the following;

“susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm”

“in need of special care, support or protection because of age, disability or risk of abuse or neglect”


This is us!

I read about it every day.

I witness it every day.

I live it every day.


Underneath my outside face

There’s a face that none can see.

A little less smiley,

A little less sure,

But a whole lot more like me

Everything On It, Shel Silverstein


It’s time to not only talk about it — it’s time to do something about it. I have something that will help with some of the biggest unmet social-emotional needs that every educator has. Let me rephrase that, we have something that can help. I say we because I am alone in my efforts to try and provide what you need — what I need — what we need.

Starting tomorrow — January 23, 2018 — I will be hosting a revamped and reformatted Teachers Aid along with Mandy Froehlich. For those of you who already know Mandy and her work — you know what she is going to bring to this podcast. And for those of you who you don’t, I have just two words for you.

Downward Dog.

Let me explain.

About a month ago Mandy wrote a blog piece titled Destigmatizing the Depressed Educator. It blew me away. She captured what many of us have been thinking and feeling and living for a long time. This was apparent by the number of people that thanked her for her words and honesty.

Oh yeah, the two words that I’ll never forget from her piece — Downward Dog.


Because in her piece Mandy wrote that what many of us need to become mentally healthy goes beyond Downward Dog. The yoga pose known to help people relax and decompress — literally. I thought her point was clever, brilliant and spot on.

Yes, yoga is nice.

Yes, deep breathing is relaxing.

And, yes exercising can help us to unwind

But raise your hand if you feel like you could use a little more. That is what we are hoping to provide each week with Teachers Aid. This will be a podcast like none you’ve ever heard before. We hope you will give us a few episodes to convince you. You can hear a preview of the show below:

“Yes, I Am a Teacher, a Very Good Teacher, But I Need Help Too”

The Kitchen Sink

My wife and kids leave for school about an hour before I do. Which means I have a good chunk of time to spend how I choose. Sometimes I use it well and sometimes I waste it. Don’t get me wrong, by wasting it I don’t mean that I am lying on the couch throwing down bacon while watching Sports Center. And by using it well I don’t mean that I am editing the final draft of my magnum opus. Probably somewhere in between both scenarios lies the truth.

But one day last week I was feeling anxious. Jittery even. And it wasn’t the coffee. It was nothing in particular. For those of you that have anxiety, like I do, you can probably relate. Those of you that don’t are probably wondering WTH I am talking about. I mean why was I feeling anxious if I had nothing to be anxious about?

That’s precisely the point.

Anxiety is often out of my control.

So with about half an hour before I had to leave for school I decided to try something that I thought just might work. No deep breathing. No gratitude journal. And no meditation. Nothing against either of them — they just didn’t make the relieve-my anxiety-cut.

But you know what did?

My sink that was full of…


Dirty dishes and utensils were just sitting—lounging might be a better verb choice—in the sink. Daring me to take them on.

Challenge accepted!

I needed some jams to help me out here. Am showing my age because I just used the word jams? Does anyone even use that word anymore? Ahh,who cares?

My daughter had been listening to Khalid recently and I have to admit. His songs put me in a great mood. So, I put his album on and began tackling the sink.

I emptied the dishwater in no time flat.

Then I attacked the sink. The dirty utensils and crusty bowls didn’t have as much to say now. It was easy for them to give me the side-eye when they thought I didn’t see them.

But now that they were on my radar? Well, let’s just say they showed a little more respect.

As I moved and grooved to American Teen, the sink began to empty.

Forks. Knives. Water spraying. Not too hot, but just hot enough to get that oatmeal off of the bowl I should have rinsed better the night before. In a matter of minutes, the sink was empty and the dishwasher was full.

How you like me now anxiety?!

I no longer felt anxious and my jitters disappeared.

Crazy how something so simple was able to help me deal with something so complex.

But it did. Try it sometime.

The next time you wake up feeling a little off and not sure what to do.

Look around.

Find something that you can do with minimal effort.

Turn on some music that gets you moving.

And see what happens.

What do you have to lose?


This piece was inspired by Jennifer Gonzales’ Overwhelmed? Do 5 Things. I was going to try to summarize her piece. But then I realized that any attempt to do so would fall short. So, instead of hearing from me about her piece, just click the link above. I am certain you’ll be glad you did.


* To receive my weekly bulletin, 4 For U, aimed at providing social and emotional support just click the image below. It is less than 50 words and consists of 1 blog, 1 podcast, 1 short video and 1 quote.


I have a front row seat to one of the greatest shows on Earth. You see I get to watch the teachers in my building work magic everyday. Many get to school before I have even finished my breakfast and some do not leave until I am tucking my children in for bed. Their dedication is amazing and spending time with them each day is an honor.

This is why when I hear folks blame teachers for low test scores, poor behavior or low motivation I cringe. I can’t begin to imagine how teachers could do anymore. And so the next place to blame is the home. Parents and guardians are very easy targets because they are not us. Why would we blame ourselves when we know that we are doing all that we possibly can?

A child comes in without their homework. Their parents must not take their education seriously.

A child misbehaves in class. Their parents must not teach them right from wrong.

A child comes to school disheveled and a mess. Their parents must not care enough to properly dress and groom their child before they come to school.

Well, I can say from experience that sometimes the above statements are in fact true. But I can also say that many times they are not. And we should always assume the best and give each parent the benefit of the doubt. We should because it’s the right thing to do and we should because we would want our children’s teachers to do the same for us.

Thankfully my son’s daycare provider, Miss Janet, had known me for years and had always given me much latitude when it came to some of my parenting skills, or lack thereof.

Let me elaborate. I was the one that usually dropped my son off at daycare and oftentimes I was rushed because I simply wait until the last-minute. Well I’ll never forget the week I had two incidents that further convinced me to give parents the benefit of the doubt.

One morning I was in such a hurry that I somehow dropped my son off with his, uh, how do I say this gently? His little friend was not tucked all the way in his diaper or his pants. How does one miss that?! If I were to ever have a child walk into my school as my son did that week I would’ve probably speed-dialed social services. Luckily Miss Janet knew that I am often in a hurry and she knew that I am a good parent. Despite not properly securing my son’s little friend before dropping him off.

Later on that week I had another incident that further tested Miss Janet’s faith in me. You see, my son was in the process of potty training so he had been experimenting with underwear. Well on this particular day my son didn’t quite make it to the potty chair in time. So he peed. All over himself. Cleaning and changing him last-minute was not that big a problem. I have to do it often because he somehow times his “heavy diapers” so they take place right before we are getting ready to walk out the door.

But on this occasion my son not only soaked his clothes, he also soaked the only decent pair of shoes he has. There was no “wiping them off”. My only other option was sending him in his old shoes which have huge holes causing half his foot to stick out of the shoe. I explained all of this to Miss Janet when I walked him in. As I mentioned earlier, she knows me and she gave me the benefit of the doubt. Thankfully!

Here’s the thing. I have lived and currently live a very charmed life. I am married so I have the luxury of having an amazing wife helping me raise my children. I work only one job and really don’t want for anything. Once I walk through the door each evening my entire focus can be on my family.

What about those that aren’t so lucky? Who are raising numerous children? By themselves. Working two jobs. Without all of the means that I have been afforded.

Can’t we give them the benefit of the doubt? I think we must. I think we owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves. What is the alternative? Thinking the worst of others? That is not right and it is not moral.

I would never want to be judged on my worst moments. I also realize that many of my students’ parents unfortunately have many more worst moments than I do, simply based on the cards life dealt them.

Take it from me. If I had been judged based on my parenting performance that week I would probably still be collecting bail money instead of publishing this post. So, please do your best week this week to give parents the benefit of the doubt. They deserve it and you will too one day soon. Trust me.

I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does leave us where it found us.

Anne Lamott

If you are interested in learning about just powerful vulnerability can be just click HERE.

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The Fence

This afternoon my son and I went for a walk around our block. It was a beautiful day. The wind was gusting, but the sun had been waiting all spring to make its presence known. And today it did. Providing the kind of warmth that made the cool breeze feel welcome.

We held hands. When he allowed me to. He’s becoming a Big Boy, so hand-holding isn’t always permitted. Sometimes we’d race down the sidewalk. I would let him get ahead of me and he would turn around and giggle like only a six-year old can. Blissful moments like these I do not take for granted. And I try not let anything interrupt them. Hoping they will last forever.

But they don’t. Somehow, invariably, thoughts of work always seem to creep into this sacred space. Like an uninvited guest that is not welcome. I try to push them away, while simultaneously clinging tighter to the interrupted moment. This is a skill that I have yet to master. Actually, I am not even close.

Why is it so difficult to stay on one side of the fence? Is it just me? Climbing back and forth is very tiresome and can become quite dangerous. And yet when I am at work I do not have difficulty staying away from the fence. Why is that? Maybe it’s because I have complete confidence in the other side of the fence. I know that it will always be there for me. No matter what. I take it for granted. Is that wrong?

Whereas, when I am at work I never know from one moment to the next what to expect. It can be invigorating, exhilarating and frustrating at the same time. And so really, there is no time to even glance back at the fence. Then I go home. I cross the fence. To my place of comfort. My retreat. But from time to time I can’t help but glance back.

And when I do, I chance missing out on some of life’s most precious moments. I am guilty of this too often. Of not being altogether present, when I need to be. The other side of the fence is not going anywhere. It will be just the way I left it.

But if I continue to pay it too much attention, can the same be said about my side of the fence? The side that I come home to every day. The side where my loved ones expect, at a bare minimum, the same level of attention and concern I give to the other side.

This is not to say I can’t take work home. I can. And this is not to say that my work isn’t important. It is.

I just think that I need to stop straddling. Once my work for the day is complete. Once I have crossed over. I must not allow myself to look back. I must stay away from the fence. I owe it to myself. More than anything though, I owe it to those who have been waiting patiently for me all day. To climb back over. Where they have been waiting for me.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.

Henry David Thoreau

* Balancing work and home can be very difficult. I have had two guests come on My Bad and discuss their difficulties with finding this balance and how they were able to prevail. If you can relate to this piece, I think you will find these two short interviews very helpful.


“I Burned Out Because I Thought Everything Was Important” with Jethro Jones


“I Lost Sight Of What Matters Most” with Dwight Carter








I Must Do The Same

In those days, we finally chose to walk like giants and hold the world in arms grown strong with love. And there be many things we forget in the days to come. But this will not be one of them.

Brian Andreas

If I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes, I am not sure I would have believed it could happen.

Three times in three days!

But it did.

The first time I took a little bit of the brunt. Not much. But a little. The student had lost their temper and cursed and pushed and almost reached the point of no return. Almost. But not quite. And if I had gone with my initial reaction I would not have this story to tell.

Lucky for me I got some good advice.

Have the student and the teacher sit down together. To come up with a plan on how they could move forward. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. The level of disrespect shown to this teacher was off the charts. And to be quite honest, I had no idea how the conversation was going to go.

It couldn’t have gone any better. The teacher had every right to be mad. To be livid. But they weren’t. They had every right to ask for their “pound of flesh.”  But they didn’t. This teacher did ask for one thing. To be treated with respect. A more than fair request.

Towards the end of the conversation I made a suggestion. One in which I probably had no right to ask. But in the hopes of rebuilding this relationship I thought it just might work. I asked the teacher if they’d be willing to take on this student as an assistant of sorts. Without a thought, the teacher agreed. The conversation ended with a firm handshake and gentle heart.

It’s moments like the one above that give you hope. They give you hope that you can make a difference. They give you hope that what you’re doing is worthwhile. They let you know that people are inherently good when given a chance.

So you can imagine my disappointment when two days later, the same student ended up in my office for a remarkably similar event. I was speechless! Didn’t they learn? Hadn’t they reflected on what took place? Weren’t they grateful for having been given a second chance?

At least I had learned something. I did not fly off at the handle. I didn’t make any rash decisions. Instead, I asked the staff member who was on the receiving end of the student’s anger to come to my office. While they made their way to my office I lectured the student on the inappropriateness of what they had done.

Once again, the offended adult was not looking for revenge or hoping for punishment. They simply wanted the student to do the right thing. Despite the fact that this staff member towered over the student by at least two feet, they did not look down on them. The meeting ended with a sincere apology and a firm handshake.

Not thirty minutes had gone by when I got wind that this student had disrespected yet another staff member. I took a deep breath and tried to fathom how this was possible. Was I being played?

I was able to speak to this staff member before we met with the student. And once again, the staff member’s main concern was for the student, not for themselves. In fact, they told me they just knew that they were going to win this kid over.


Here, this grown adult was threatened and disrespected and all they wanted was to win this kid over. And I can tell you because I was in the room. That’s exactly what they did! Hugs were exchanged and smiles were warm.

As I sat and reflected on what I had witnessed over the past three days I couldn’t help but feel honored. To get to work with such amazing people each and every day is a gift. The work we do is hard. But when you work with good people it’s not as hard as it could be.

The student and I sat for a while. And I have to think that they were just as amazed as I was at the unconditional forgiveness that we had witnessed over the past three days. My charge to the student was that they now  were to try and show the same unconditional forgiveness the next time they feel as if they had been treated unjustly.

And you know what?

I must do the same.



Oh my gosh.

I could taste it.

They have the best ice cream in the world and soon I was going to be tearing into a couple scoops of it. It is one of my favorite things to do when I go the beach. I often end up with a headache, because of the amount of sugar that I ingest. But it is worth it every time.

It was that time of the day when my energy level drops and so I was craving something sweet.We were at the beach with some good friends of ours and this was going to be a good time. We drove separately because between the two families, there were ten of us.

When we arrived, I noticed that there was a large family ahead of us. By large, I mean there were two adults and about four or five kids. I could feel myself getting just a but irritable. Normally, the wait wouldn’t be too long, but since we happened to be there in the middle of the afternoon, there was only one person working behind the counter. A gentleman that looked to be about seventy. Actually, I think he was the owner.

He calmly took each kid’s order. One at a time. And carefully prepared their ice cream treats. As he gently handed the kids their treats they each responded with a polite Thank You. Okay, now it was time for him serve the adults that were with them.

What was probably only ten minutes, began to seem like an hour. It was then that I heard one of the women order a milkshake. Are you….? That meant another five minutes! Oh, and by the way, milkshakes at this parlor are hand spun—with care and precision. I can’t even remember what the next adult ordered because I was so irritable. I know, I am at the beach getting ice cream and I’m seeing red. Embarrassing.

Okay we were next. I would be a gentleman, or really just an average human being, and let my wife and two kids go first. I’d waited this long. It was the least I could do. But then…

Our friends, the family of six, stepped ahead of us. What? Wait a minute. I couldn’t believe it. To be clear, they had no idea. And more importantly, they are some of the kindest people on the planet. They really didn’t know.

I quickly did the math. So now there were nine—yes nine—people that were going to get their ice cream treats before me! At this point, I was simply hoping that when it came my time to order, that I could summon enough energy to drag myself to the counter and place my order.

Well, since you are reading this, you can probably infer that I survived. I even struck up a conversation with the owner while paying for the order. This whole ordeal, which probably only took about 25 minutes, forced me to reflect.

Why was I so impatient?

Why was I in a hurry and when did I become so self-centered?

I think I was impatient because I live in a society in which I am able to have most of my needs and wants met immediately. I am not used to waiting. And so when I have to, I don’t know what to do. Oftentimes, I will pull out my phone. That will often give me the shot of dopamine I need to temporarily sustain me.

And, I believe I was in a hurry because my needs wants weren’t being met right away. I wasn’t starving and it wasn’t as if anything was going to happen to me if I got my ice cream right away or within 25 minutes. Yet, on the inside I was a petulant little child.

When I finally sat down and began eating my ice cream—everything changed. I was happy and in a much better mood. It’s important to note that, as far as I can remember, I did not outwardly express my frustrations throughout the entire event.

But it made me stop and think.

What is wrong with waiting?

Next time I will watch the smiles on the kids’ faces as they enjoy their ice cream.

Next time I will notice, and appreciate, how calmly and kindly the owner remains—despite the fact that he was running the shop by himself and the line was almost out the door.

The next time I have to wait to for something I am going to make it a point to enjoy and appreciate the world around me instead of focusing so much on the world within me. At least I’m gonna try.

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.

Henri J.M. Nouwen


Grins & Giggles

When I saw her walk in I quickly scanned the room for some age appropriate toys that I hoped might have a shot at entertaining her for the hour or so she would have to wait. I didn’t see anything that even remotely resembled something that a three year old would want to play with. I was just guessing that she was three. Maybe a little older or a little younger.

I’ve sat in meetings before in which children were unable to sit still or keep quiet for longer than a minute. It is very distracting and it can be difficult to stay focused. I don’t blame the children or their parents. It have a hard time myself.

Once we all had our seats at the table, it just so happened that she was she seated directly to my left. As we began to introduce ourselves, her mother took out a notebook, turned to a clean page and handed her daughter a pen. She had come prepared. I had not. To be quite honest, I am usually the person in meetings that has the hardest time focusing and keeping still. I fidget. I doodle. I lean forward. I lean backward. And, I too, make sure I have a notebook, a clean page and something to write with. I guess I’m a lot like a three year old.

The meeting began. I couldn’t help but notice that this little girl knew how to hold a pen. Something that is not common for someone her age.

Oooh! This was going to be fun!

She made a mark in her notebook. I made a mark in mine. And so it went. For the next hour. There were times when I varied my marks. Which basically means, I would draw a scribbly dooble and she would try to do the same.

At one point during the meeting I had to leave the room to assist with some other business. When I returned, I noticed that she had crayons. That’s when we began to have some real fun. She would hand me one and I would make a mark. She would hand me another. And I would make another mark, slightly different than the one before.

And her giggle.

Adorable beyond words. Each time she did, her eyes would light up and everyone in the room would turn to her and smile. I promise, I was paying attention to what the adults were saying. A little bit.

Usually I am happy when meetings are over, simply for the fact that I have a hard time keeping still. Not this time. Well, I guess I didn’t keep still. But I was fully engaged. That is, with the beautiful spirit that was seated next to me. She waved good bye when she left. I don’t know when I will see her again or if she’ll even remember me.

As I look back on that magical hour I try to think what it taught me. To be more specific, I try to think about mistakes I may have made going on or coming out. And at first, nothing came to mind. But then it hit me.

Too often in life we think we can plan beautiful moments. We go to great lengths in hopes that these moments will bring us the joy and happiness that we so desperately crave. And then something unexpected happens. Our trips don’t go as planned. Someone gets sick or what seemed like such a great idea ends up bombing.

But what I learned last week was that, if we just sit back and allow ourselves to be open. Beautiful moments come to us. For me, it came in the form of a giggling-scribbling three-year old princess. I will never stop trying to plan for or make beautiful moments. But from now on I will try to leave a little more room for the unexpected.

As I travel on this journey called Life, I continue to learn from the mistakes I make along the way. That’s okay. I’m doing the best I can. And that’s good enough for me.


The sooner we start sharing our imperfections with the people we serve and the people we love, the sooner they will stop expecting to be perfect.


Click the link below to listen to some absolutely horrible mistakes made by absolutely wonderful people.





I Worry Less

I do this every time. I wake up three hours before school, but somehow spend the last fifteen minutes scrambling like a madman. Most days I am rushing to get dressed or make some semblance of a healthy lunch. But on this day I was already dressed and my lunch was all set.

But where were my car keys!!!

I am such an idiot! I don’t think a day goes by in which I don’t misplace something.

5 minutes before I need to walk out the door.

I looked in my closet. Maybe I dropped them when I was changing clothes from the previous day.

No such luck! Why don’t I just leave them in the same place every day? Then I would never have this problem again! I am so stupid!

4 minutes until I have to go!

I decided to make another sweep through my bedroom. It is not uncommon for me to lie down as soon as I get home. Just to unwind from the day’s events.

Nada! Starting today I am going to become more organized. This can’t keep happening.

3 minutes and counting!

One last sweep through the entire house with new eyes. Maneuvering around toddler toys and my tween’s clothes is enough to make me almost lose it. And that’s when I see my winter jacket in my daughter’s bedroom. I hadn’t put it there. I was certain. She must have decided to wear it when she was cold. She is at the age where she loves to wear my t-shirts, sweatshirts and now my jackets, around the house. I reached in the pocket and felt my keys. It was almost as if they were mocking me.

With a minute to spare, I bolt out of the house and into my car. Just barely making it to work on time.

Later that evening, when I had a moment to reflect. I realized something very important. It hit me that way too often we get down on ourselves, or we hang our heads, for things that are either out of our control or not our fault.

Just that morning I was beating myself up over missing keys. First, let’s get some perspective. I couldn’t find the keys to my car. It wasn’t as if I had committed a major crime. And second, when all was said and done, there was nothing I could have done about it. My daughter simply borrowed my jacket and had left it in her room. Kinda cute really.

But the important thing is, how often to do this to ourselves? I mean, if it is mistakes we are looking for, then they shouldn’t be hard to find. We all make them. It’s a part of life. Let’s start giving ourselves some slack. Just a little bit of grace.

And then I begin to think. If I was quick to jump all over myself for misplacing car keys, what must our students and our children be putting themselves through each and everyday? More importantly, what can we do to stop them from doing this?

I probably sound like a broken record. But what we need to do is start sharing our mistakes with the people we serve and the people we love so that they stop feeling as if they have to be perfect. This is something that I am very passionate about.

We’re human.

We’re going to make mistakes.

End of story.


It’s time to stop beating ourselves up over our mistakes. We forget that this is our first time playing this game called Life. And if it’s not, well then what are we worried about anyway?

For almost a year now I have had the incredible honor of speaking with many amazing educators and leaders. They have come on my show and shared mistakes that heretofore very few knew that they had made. So, I am certain that, like me, listeners have learned much from hearing these epic mistakes. 

And that is good.

But it is not enough.

What I want is for listeners to be inspired by my guests’ courage. And then. When they are ready and when the moment presents itself. I want them to start sharing their mistakes. It will take some time getting used to because it is not easy. But in the end, we will be better off. We will start holding our heads a bit higher because we will realize that we are not alone.

I started this journey almost one year ago. My very first guest was Todd Whitaker. Someone who I hold in the highest regard. He came on My Bad and shared a big mistake If Todd can do it then so can the rest of us. To date, I have released over 100 episodes with more than half a million downloads.

Being given the opportunity to host this show has been one of the greatest honors of my life. It has forced me to reflect in ways I never had before. I have learned much from my reflections and I have learned much from the reflections of others. But work is far from done.

In fact, I believe I am just warming up. Over the next year, I am looking to share what I have learned with students, educators, parents … basically, anyone who wants to listen. I have seen firsthand how my life has changed for the better and hopefully I can do the same for others.

I worry less.

And I live more.

The world appears quite different when you no longer fear making mistakes.

If you don’t believe me, just check out an episode or two of My Bad and see for yourself. I promise you within one or two you will feel better. And if you do, please share that feeling with others. Better yet, share a mistake.






To her credit, she has been reminding me. I just keep forgetting to buy it. I mean it is not as if we haven’t had several opportunities in the past week. So when my daughter asked me again if we had any paper she could use for sketching. She got the same answer. No, we don’t. I have suggested, more than once, that she use her imagination and find something else until we can get her some.

This morning she asked again. I’m fairly certain she knew what my answer would be. I hadn’t left the house since the last time she asked. But I didn’t say that. I’m only allowed a certain number of smart-aleck remarks a day and it was too early in the day to throw one away.

I did remind her though—again—that she should try finding something besides paper on which to sketch.

I have been. I’ve been using paint swatches, empty Harris Teeter bags. Oh and Dad, I want to show you something.


She darted up to her bedroom and was back down in less than a minute with…

a shoe box?

The top of the box was covered with unique designs and shapes that she had sketched. Suddenly, my brain went in to entrepreneur/future-career-for-my daughter mode. Am I the only who does that?

Visions of my daughter creating designer shoe boxes appeared. She loves to draw, sketch and doodle. Why not get paid to do something she loves? She agreed that being a graphic designer would be great.


Then I’d have to get my ‘back to reality’ job.




Wait a minute.

Think quickly Jon.

And that’s when it hit me. The night before, I had purchased Jeff Goins’ latest book, Real Artists Don’t Starve. I had only read the introduction and the first chapter. But that was enough to give me some good information to share with my daughter. I let her know that, contrary to what most people think, Michelangelo was a millionaire. That the whole starving artist image was just a myth.

As I mentioned, I have only just started reading the book. And while I think I piqued my daughter’s interest—or at the very least—was able to prevent my daughter from postponing her dream job for a bit. I need to finish the book. Like tonight.

I need to have better answers, better reasons and more to say the next time she even hints at not pursuing her dream job. The thought of her having to settle for a back to reality job saddens me. But it is what our educational system is doing to children. I witness it first hand with the students I serve and today—with my daughter.


My son is 6 and still believes that he can be an Army Scientist. One of my best friends is 35 and just released an album he’s been dreaming about for years. I will be 47 in a few weeks and while I don’t have my dream job—yet—I’m getting closer each day.

Why did I not buy drawing paper the last time I was out? I had every opportunity.

Why did I buy Jeff’s book last night? It was released a month and a half ago.

Why did my daughter make the comment she did? She could have said anything.

But she didn’t. She let me know that there is much work left to do. No child should ever give up on their dream job. And the more I think about it—neither should any adult.


This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away.

Anne Lamont


None of us are ordinary.

None of us.


* Dreamcatcher by Devon Beck (Song from my friend’s new album that you need to listen to. More than once.)

* Why the Story of the Starving Artists Need to Die by Jeff Goins (I’m betting this piece will make you want to buy the book)