Sunday, January 14, 2018


“Success isn't given, it is earned!” NIKE

A great quote that we often hear when the word success is being defined and thrown around. What does success mean to you both personally and professionally? In the Fall one of our seniors invited Javier Sanchez to speak at the ILC. Javier asked the students who they thought
was successful?  They listed the typical moguls Bill Gates, Oprah, Jordan, Warren Buffett, LeBron James, Beyonce, and so on. Javier then pushed back and asked why they didn't mention their parents or teachers?  Why did they only list the old rich,  professional athletes, and pop stars?

Well, that got me to thinking because I've fallen into the same trap.  Thinking that success was more of a social status and label. As Javier stated it's not about being more but about being known for! What will you be known for?

As we begin 2018 I want to ask....were you successful in 2017? What were you known for? For some reason, I felt off and disconnected. It happens. I think we all get into funks sometimes and suffer setbacks. Some of us experience huge setbacks from personal struggles of our own doing or from things that happen to us. The loss of a loved one...the loss of a job...illness...or a new addition to the family. Reflection is good. It's a major tool used by many to separate themselves from the pack.   As we ramp up 2018 my hope is that just maybe we can all learn something together.  If you read this and too...let me know in the comments or share your reflection as well.

Personal Level

One goal I had was to complete my EDD. It did not happen. Instead, we opened up our home to a beautiful and thriving baby boy. He was born under adverse conditions and we continue to shower him with love and support. He is well on his way! Now with four kids in our home, it seems someone is always sick. I’m pretty sure we had an ear infection every other week! That's more ear wax and runny noses that I can recall.  My EDD goal has now been pushed to 2018. It was a great year in terms of physical health as I continue to push myself way outside my comfort zone. Competing in my first Powerlifting meet at Old School Gym and surrounding myself with a group of like-minded individuals with the #4amcrew We don't just lift weights. We discuss goals and side hustle that ultimately make us and the world a better place. We support each other and hold one another accountable.  I’m still learning the ins and outs of how my body works under the pressure of the iron. It’s a journey! I teamed up with the tribe of 
#Fitleaders started by Dr. Ryan B Jackson out Mt. Pleasant, Tn. This is a group of devoted leaders in education and all walks life that understands physical health is important to becoming your best. We see gym time as means to destress, embrace failure, growth, and challenges. As Dr. Jackson penned in his Underdog’s blog:

Our penchant for betterment, based on the timeless assumption that change itself is perpetual, culminates in an almost ironic peace of mind that allows for uninterrupted forward-thinking supported by a healthier, more durable physiological state – one capable of withstanding the harsh effects of gravity coupled with time. That’s heavy, I know. But as an educator it rings so true: We’re in a constant battle against time; The weight of our students’ challenges and our limited resources can feel crushing.

Accountability! This is one area I have fallen short in. Holding myself accountable for my progress and my actions. I must get better at this. Better at finding balance in my family life.  Better at being more accountable in my faith and in leading my family in their faith.  This year I watched my daughter be baptized and my son accept Christ into his heart. It was backward this year. They led me!  My wife continues to amaze me. Keeping the calendar going that is #TeamRiley and for the most part running the house. I pretty much just show up when I am told and look pretty. It's a hard gig! I need to be more intentional with my actions and more involved with the family details. That is where true SUCCESS will lie for me in 2018. When those who know me best respect me most. It starts at home!

Professional Success

I continue to love what I do. I love education. I love teaching.  I don't have a job. I have a driven purpose. Mr.Rodney Turner shared this image on Instagram last week:

I’m in the profession of TEACHERING! As an EDU Teaching Professions instructor, I get to invest in the lives of high school students that want to be future teachers.  I also get to partner with amazing educators.  Others that are willing to open up their classrooms to give our students the absolute best experience of what being a teacher is all about. The ILC is ramping up to continue to pave the way for changing education. We are expanding and inviting others to dream about how they can impact the students entrusted in our care. I am fortunate to be part of a team that doesn't just talk about it but leaps into action. We hold each other accountable. We push each other. Our WE is greater than our ME!

Personally, I have found myself questioning what's next. Now, that doesn't mean I going quit what I'm doing. Calm down. That means I'm dreaming about where my next phase of impact will be. I can change and grow in my current position. Maybe I move into building level leadership. Maybe I start doing some speaking and PD to help others grow and expand the sphere. All I know is I have an itch and that's a good thing. I believe we should never settle or grow stagnant.  Far too many ideas and dreams are stuck in classrooms with teachers that don't take chances.

Let's do a simple activity to wrap this all together. This is one I learned from my good buddy Brent Wise. He was an influential part of me becoming #UNCOMFORTABLE with education. Let’s begin. Draw a number line on a piece paper from 0 to 79. What does that represent?  Got it? That's your life timeline.  Starting at 0 (Born) mark off your school life. When you finished your education. Mine is still going...LOL! While in school I consider this to be your IMPRESSION years. The time that the world is shaping you the most. Now tear that off. Estimate where you are on the line at this time. For me....41. For the most part, we can just tear that off. We can't go back and change what has happened to us or change the decisions we have made. It's our past. However, we must recognize that up to this point it has shaped who we are. Learn from it. Grow from it. Implement action and pass it on.  Now, with that part of the line gone mark where you think you will retire. Within that space is POTENTIAL INFLUENCE. It's the amount of time you have left to make a difference in the world of education (or your current profession) and the lives of children that will be in your care. You can make a choice about what you want to be known for! It's not too late. Every day counts. Every day is a choice. Sure, I'm connecting this to education but you can use this visual for every career or stay at home life. Now, what happens after retirement. This is our INVEST phase of life. Maybe one of the most important. This is where we truly pass it on. Where we invest in LOVE, FAMILY, FAITH, and EACH OTHER! I think for the most part this is a good reflection of our lives. But why wait? Let’s combine our years of INFLUENCE and INVESTMENT. Let’s start today to truly impact the world around us. How? Start with daily discipline. Discipline is choosing what one wants most over what one wants now. We must stop thinking in the present and begin picturing what we want to be known for.
Establish a personal routine. My one word for 2018 is #BENT. After reading Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson I decided to make an experience list. These are not goals but merely experiences I would like to pursue. It may not happen in one year but the list is flexible. I will be #BENT on the following:

  • Leave room for GOD!
  • Accumulate EXPERIENCES not possessions
  • Family….Family….Family
  • Invest in friends
  • Finish my EDD
  • Realize it’s about QUALITY not quantity
  • Who before DO
  • Why before What
  • Prayer/Devotion daily
  • Carry 300# for 600yds on Easter
  • Serve more…Love more...Care more
  • Blog monthly
  • Never settle for STATUS QUO
  • Become a better steward of money
  • Go on a missions trip
  • Continue to improve Academy EDU
  • Impact….always impact
  • Renew vows with my amazing Wifey
  • Help my wife start her blog
  • Family vacation abroad
  • Pour into others
  • Listen to at least 3 audiobooks a month
  • Continue learning in the gym
  • Present at professional conferences
  • Run an obstacle course race with my kids
  • Conduct a year of growth with my kids
  • Launch a podcast/vlog
  • Speak at a TedX
  • Leave a legacy
  • The list will continuously grow……
So….what will you be known for? What does success look like to you? After all, we are all just one decision away from a crazy different life!

Stay #BENT,

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Could It Be Yours?

Be sure to watch this first before reading.

What an AMAZING story!  While this one got media attention because of the situation I wish in some way every story like this would receive the same spotlight. But that would be overwhelming. Possibly hard to grasp for all those who don't see it going on around them. Plus, I don't think there would be enough air time on TV to handle the sheer volume of similar stories that exist like this today.

As of right now a majority of children coming into Children services/ foster care is because of drug addiction. Many are drug addicted babies.  This is now the NORM. Just this week our adoption agency held a Christmas party for the kids in care through their service. As I surveyed the room of close to 50 families almost all were placements because of drug addiction. I would guess that just out of that group at least 40 of the families had babies or toddlers that were all drug addicted at birth. When we started fostering 4 years ago we were told that you typically don't see a lot of babies coming into care. Now, that is the majority and there are not enough families in place to help.  So, if you have ever felt the nudge to make a difference or be involved in foster care now is the time. These babies need loving homes. It's that simple. This story makes it look easy but this (in my opinion)is a rare case.  It's hard.  It takes all your resources and can be an emotional roller coaster. When you open up your home to these babies some of your personal relationships suffer because of your involvement with foster care while others are strengthened. On the outside your family will seem to be withdrawn and less interactive than before.  Loved ones or close friends will think you've become selfish and don't do the things you used to do. But what they don't see are the sleepless nights of loving on these babies because (for some) they are going through withdrawal.  Their cries are heart piercing. Their tremors are scary to watch. The onslaught of doctors visits and specialists at first is daunting.  You see, when you have healthy kids you go through phases and for the most part healthy babies are predictable thus why you have routine Dr visits. Drug babies are each unique depending of the severity of their addiction and if they were properly treated at birth. Your family is not avoiding traditions or living in isolation(though it may feel like it) your simply putting everything you have into helping and loving these babies.  Stopping  at nothing to see them become healthy and a success. You'll  become part of a new TRIBE with other foster families and learn to lean on each other to get through the day to day. You brace yourself for Parent visits each week. Yes, if the family is still involved you'll have visitations. Birth Mom's work on their case plan to get sober and hopefully find routine life but the drugs don't allow them. Visits start off hopeful.  You the foster parent bringing in their baby to try and bond. Visitation looks like a busy doctors office with multiple small rooms off a large area where birth families meet and interact with their kids in a supervised environment. Here, once again, you are reminded of the drug problem. You are reminded of how good your life is or how your upbringing wasn't really the bad. The smell of hopelessness fills the room. Faces full of despair and arms scared from drug abuse overload your visual senses. The visitation center is always busy. Each room full and like a revolving door. One after another families try to connect. This could go on for a couple of months or a couple of years. During this time you're  also meeting with case workers in your home. One from your agency and one from children's services. They have to do in home visits to check on the progress of the baby and if they are connecting with your family. Then one day you go to visit and Mom is not there.  Her attendance  becomes sporadic at best and then she just quits showing up. The drugs win...again.  At first you can't understand how she could give up.  Then remember conversations about their past and family life and realize you can't believe they made it this far.

Did you notice that? Not once did I mention Dad. For the most part they bailed long ago. Are in prison.  Dead or not even known. It takes two. While we deal mainly with the mothers I tend to get more upset over the absent father and believe a majority of this problem lies on the fact the men are not being men. They treat these women like sex slaves and drugs are the currency.  In the end the babies suffer. It's not what they have done that place them in your home but what has happened to them. A choice not their own.

In the end we need more families to help these babies.  We need a better system to do what's best for these little ones. Foster families need more resources to better equip themselves. It's hard to  work full-time and meet all the requirements, go to all the meetings, be at all the visits, show up to court cases, and get them to the specialists they need to overcome their parent's addiction.

It's all worth it! The day you hear their 1st laugh.  They say their 1st word.  When the Doctor's tell you the blood work came back normal for the 1st time. When they sleep through night and you realize you haven't seen a tremor in days. Sure there will be more too come in the future because we yet know how the drugs will affect them as they develop. But for now all they need is a loving home! Could it be yours?

God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called!