Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The importance of the journey and the destination

A lot of time, as a peer, the discussion comes up of "what do you do to become a peer?"  "What steps do you take?" "Are there jobs or goals?" "How long does it take?"

While the answer to all of that is - yes, there are certain tasks and jobs you can take on that will get you the recognition or experience that peerages look for, there's a far more important question to ask.

Why are you worrying?

Goal is setting is *fabulous* and I absolutely commend you if becoming a peer is something you want to do someday and you have that as one of your things you'd like to happen.  It's good to keep goals like that in mind as you make choices and, particularly, because peerage is a reflection (we hope) of a better self we hope to be in service to the Dream.  If you want to someday be a peer, acting like one is a good step - being chivalrous, discreet, working hard, and all those other qualities we discuss.

But a better question is are you enjoying your journey?  You see very often people seem to be fixated on who is a peer, who is not, when they will be one, when SOMEONE will be one.  The answer to those becomes consuming. The desire that they someday be recognized is the end all and be all of their choices and their events and their conversations in between.  Again, this is going to occasionally come up as it's the nature of the peeragey beast. But if it comes up too often, I start to wonder about if that individual has forgotten the point of the SCA, the Dream, and the Journey.

Yup, a big 'ol capital J on that journey. 

We are all on our own journeys and our own paths. For some of us, we joined the society to learn an art or a craft or to fight. Some of us found joy in service. Most of us CERTAINLY stuck around for the friendship and camaraderie.  Pretty much no one walked in the door and said "gee I want to stick around to get an award."

But for some folks - maybe not even all the time - that question becomes the forefront of their journey. The art, the fighting, the friends get momentarily forgotten because a shiny object is dangling in the future. I think it's human nature to want that thing so I don't necessarily even want to villify this sentiment. We all feel it sometimes but it's important that it not become our driving goal - and it is important that the consideration of it not taint all of our interactions and conversations and perceptions of those around us.

What I do wish to caution on is that even if you someday want that thing, enjoy your journey. Enjoy the projects it takes to get there. The art scis that don't go right. The jobs you enjoy doing because they build your skills and your confidence or because they simply make someone smile. Enjoy the friendships the most.  Not everyone will become a peer and - not shockingly - not everyone wants to. It's a specific type of person who not only receives a peerage but *enjoys* it as well, enjoys the responsibility and the role therein, and enjoyed the steps it took to get there.  For some people, that joy is elsewhere and they'd be miserable in meetings just as some of us are miserable trying to sit down and do "nothing" and relax.  Again, everyone's journey and even the destination is different and that doesn't - and shouldn't - matter as long as we are all receiving joy from our hobby and finding joy and inspiration in the Dream.

Remember that other people are on their own journey as well. If you think they deserve an award, write one in. If you think they don't, bite your tongue - because someone somewhere will always feel that someone doesn't deserve something; regardless of whether you are right or wrong the decision is (most likely) out of your hands and that person is having a good moment. The sun will still rise and set in the morning. The world will turn. You are not diminished from the success of others. You are not a lesser person because someone's journey is different than yours.  Be happy for those around you and let that joy color everyone's steps.

Someone once asked me if I was upset that a friend became a peer before I did. It's possible my sobbing was misconstrued as "upset" when in reality I was so happy I couldn't contain it.  No. And every peer that was announced before or after me has never made me feel upset. Every award that went to someone that wasn't me has never bothered me. Because those people have their own Dreams they bring to the table and I can't carry the Dream alone.

Besides, I've still got a long road I'm enjoying skipping down.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Growth mindset

This post is a two-fer, relevant to both the SCA and to my work as an educator.

We are reading a book called "Mindset" for our professional development book this year at our school. I'm at a new school this year and it was a book that was readily available and encouraged in my old school so this is actually my second read of this particular theory.  Really, I'm posting about it today because the subject of "panic!" came up in discussion.  I don't like panic. Panic shuts your brain down and stops you from making decisions. Panic doesn't help. Panic, really, just gets the heck in the way of getting things done in my life. Whenever possible, I try to not panic. It is, in general, much more beneficial for me to take a step back and instead of being upset, try to figure out how to fix whatever situation it is that is causing the upset.  Sometimes that is managing a tremendous amount of mentor activity at work. Sometimes that is trying to figure out why linseed oil varnish didn't dry.

In this way, I am growth mindset.

The basic gist of the aforementioned book is that people have two different mindsets. The first is a "fixed" mindset, where intelligence, ability, and possibility are all static and unchangeable.  The second mindset is a "growth" mindset where intelligence, ability, and possibility are all flexible and can be changed through work and over time.  People generally fall into one of the categories although they may change their overall mindset.  People may also be of one mindset on somethings and a different one on others. (For example, I am generally growth mindset but I tend to have a fixed mindset regarding my weight. Something I'm working on.)

Mindset is huge and can affect how you perceive yourself, how you perceive the world, and how you perceive others.  A fixed mindset person may feel that their worth is demonstrated only in the tangible and *successful* outcome of a project or task (for example, getting an A on a paper).  Generally, if they aren't good at it already, they don't want to do it.  Conversely, a growth mindset individual generally finds worthiness in stretching to meet the challenge even if the end result is not perfect.  This has nothing to do with actual intelligence or ability either. First, both of those are misnomers as they can be changed, but there are some naturally talented people out there with fixed mindsets who never become better or successful while their "average" counterparts excel because of pushing themselves.

There are two facets to this that really play into the SCA.  The first is very applicable to the arts. So many times, I hear artisans state how they could "never do that." Or are simply "not good" at a particular skill. The entire idea behind growth mindset is that this simply isn't true. You may not be *immediately* good or *immediately* good to the level you *want* to be, but through practice and work you can reach artistic prowess. Or any prowess. Think about how many times people say "I could never do that." or "I can't fight like they can." Or "I'm just not organized." Or "I'm awful at papers."  I've seen the fixed mindset ruin projects, stop folks from entering art-sci, and keep people from trying new things.  Generally, I tackle this as a laurel by "chunking" the pieces of whatever the task is. For example, a person who "can't draw" I will generally walk through geometric designs or let them paint a pre-drawn scroll. This provides the necessary ice breaker, as it were, to make people start to consider the skill differently. The short version of this: DaVinci wasn't DaVinci when he started. Relax, and give yourself room to grow. It's okay if you're terrible for a while - no one is actually judging you because you are, in fact, *learning.*

Growth mindset also applies to service and tasks, however. Fixed mindset people are far more likely to give up on difficult tasks, when they encounter challenges, or when they don't immediately know what to do. Their worth - or how they perceive it - is based on being successful and if they don't quickly see how to be successful at it, they generally would rather not attempt it.  Unfortunately for them, learning often means NOT being successful MANY times before you can ever BE successful at the end.  That means that failures, and what we learn from them, are as vital to becoming better at something as successes; I would argue that failures are actually MORE vital as they really teach you how to recover and what went wrong.  I'm a good reading coach. In a few years, I'll be an even better one because I've screwed up a lot in the interim.  The same applies to any task.

So what does this all mean?

It means you need to pay attention to your mindset. Whether in your career, life, or the SCA, it's important to try and go for a growth mindset. It's how we learn to be better, how we take on new challenges, and how we learn from our mistakes instead of being shut down by them.  You CAN change your mindset. Anyone who knew me in high school what with the crying over papers lower than an A will know that I am no longer like this. Thank goodness!  You may even find you switch back and forth but awareness of where you stand on things can help you alter that awareness and alter that mindset.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On new apprentices

This weekend I am taking my first apprentices since having become a laurel about a year ago. The timing is marginally off as one of them is about to give birth so we bumped belting up a few weeks so I didn't have to orchestrate around birthing schedules. Good that.

This is a learning curve for me but one I'm enjoying.  I already work very well with all three of these ladies and they have been my students formally for several months now. They also get along with my existing household as I have not split off to form my own after my elevation.

The fun - and learning part - is learning to understand their backgrounds. It's very easy to assume that someone you are taking as a student knows less than you about "all the things." In truth, that's rarely true. Tatiana can school me in the general organizational finances of a group and knows more about Russian history than I ever will.  Toki has all of this incredible drawing skill and is an awesome and ever improving fencer. Adelina's drawing skills and emotional empathy far outrank my own.  None of this is precisely what I'm talking about however.  Part of the relationship I am forming with these three ladies is understanding their own strengths and weaknesses based off their experiences.  They are, without me, quite capable adults and human beings in their own right and so part of my job as their peer (and friend!) is figuring out where I can help them grow further - and, in truth - where they can help me grow as well.

Unlike children, we gain our students with lives of skills and experiences behind them that we need to take into account in interacting with them. It's easy to assume ignorance or lack of skill when knowledge and competence are present already, or to be unaware of past history that can make a student more capable in an area than their SCA experience (usually vastly shorter than their life experience) doesn't yet fully showcase. 

It's a challenge. But one I am looking greatly forward to experiencing as I grow with my new associates!