An Uncommen Blog

Leaders Plan For the Future

plan for the future

I’ve heard it said before that the only thing guaranteed in life is change. Sounds about right. Do you remember Monday, September 15, 2008? It was on that day, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. The Dow dropped 504.48 points. The rest of that week signaled the beginning of the end of a relatively long run of economic prosperity. When that happened, what changes did you have to make? What other significant events, either socially or personally, have come crashing down on your plans and completely rocked your world?

I can remember several epochs in life that have left me scratching my head wondering, about how we survived certain interruptions in the normal flow of life. Nothing comes close to an event that happened to the Lanier family in 2012. My wife, Stacey had been healing from a fall in which she broke one ankle and severely sprained another. We had been staying at her parent’s house as she recovered, and every day I would wake my daughter up at 6 am, we would leave the house by 6:30 and I would drive the hour-long commute into work. She would sit sleepily in my office and do her homework until about 8:45 when I would then take her 6 minutes down the road to her school. We would repeat this exercise every day of the week, and though it was a little taxing, we learned to adjust.

It was three weeks into this process that Stacey was finally getting well enough to come home. The doctors had fitted her with a boot, so she was able to walk without the use of a walker. Our final test was to see how she did driving. We went riding around her parent’s neighborhood for about 20 minutes, and she did great. This was the success we were hoping for. With the ability to drive without discomfort came the assurance that Stacey could take our oldest daughter to school in the mornings, and most importantly, our family could return home together. We sat in the driveway and talked about the grace we had experienced despite the trying circumstances, and were thankful that it was coming to an end. Little did either of us know what the next 10 minutes would bring.

I was upstairs packing when I heard my father-in-law yelling for his wife, saying, “something’s wrong with Stacey!” I rushed to the couch to see my lovely wife disoriented and stuttering, unable to articulate but repeatedly saying, “I… I jus.. jus.. can’t talk.” She was having a stroke. The paramedics were called, prayers sent up, and while rubbing her head and looking at her eyes, I simply tried to comfort her and tell her it would be okay. After several minutes, she finally came back. By the time the paramedics arrived, she was regaining her ability to talk, but it was clear something was not right. The next year would be littered with multiple hospitalizations and frightening moments in public places as her mild stroke left her with constant migraines that sometimes took on the appearance of another stroke. She was recovering; it just took a lot of time, and we racked up some hefty bills. My daughter and I had to extend our commuting to my in-laws for several more weeks.

So the future planning began. You ever do that exercise where someone tells you to reach your hands up as high as you can, then after a few seconds tell you to raise them higher? The result is always a mild rebuke, “you were asked to raise your hands as high as you could the first time, but you were obviously holding out.” That’s what those several months felt like at work. I was working as hard as I could, so I thought. But it wasn’t until the circumstances got more challenging that I reached up even higher to fulfill my duties. I worked on my efficiency and communication; I got projects done well in advance, I wrote out all of my procedures step by step in the event that I would not be in the building on a given day of the week. I built a communication system with my colleagues for live chat, and I wrote out lesson plans weeks in advance. I was not only adapting to the change that had happened, but I was also planning for change in the future. I was reaching higher because the circumstances demanded it. I was adapting because my wife and family and employer all needed me to.

My lovely wife is fully recovered today, and all is well. The lessons learned from those hard circumstances in 2012 have helped me not only to be more flexible, but future-oriented.

Questions: Can you remember the last time an event shook your world and forced significant changes in your daily routines? How can change, even through a saddening event, serve us best?

Challenge: Take fifteen minutes a day to plan your day, and as a result, design your future. Yet, leave room for God’s purposes to prevail over yours and be prepared for change. Stretch yourself and give your all in your relationships and work.

Biblical Reference(s):

Proverbs 19:20-21
“20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Romans 15:13
“13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Author: Originally from Southern California, “Sociologist turned Technologist,” Dee Lanier is a passionate and energetic educator and learner with over a decade of instructional experience on the K-12 and collegiate level.

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Ask How You Feel, Not Fail

Ask How You Feel, Not Fail

david marquet


This week’s post is from former nuclear submarine Captain, author, and speaker, David Marquet.  Marquet imagines a work place where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity, a place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work—a place where everyone is a leader.  See more of his resources at

Good leadership is more like a sports camp than a history course. Our leadership abilities grow when we practice new skills. Like physical training, we need to practice the principles we learn.

For example, we encourage you to develop leaders, not followers. One way we suggest you do this is to avoid the temptation to solve problems and tell people what to do. Instead, ask them what they think. Language choice can also being a powerful agent for change. Carol from ProService Hawaii shared this story with us.

“We rolled out something where I asked them to come look at everything we had to accomplish and I wanted to get their feedback on whether or not we could be successful.” Carol’s team was more than willing to provide feedback, but she was using language that focused solely on the negative. “I said OK, what do you think we are going to fail at with this and nobody wanted to answer the question,” she shared. “So I rephrased it and said OK, who feels uneasy about this and who’s a little worried about this?”

Carol’s new language choice opened the floodgates for feedback. Her team was willing to share where they had concerns, and it helped her and her team identify obstacles and overcome challenges. “I got responses like, ‘I don’t think we can do both of those things on the same day,’ so we started to adjust and I got feedback from them and it was a really good lesson for me because I learned that language matters.”

As we pursue excellence in leadership we need to approach it as something we practice – something we do, not just an exercise in gathering knowledge. When we train physically, we observe changes. As a jogger trains for a 5k run, each workout produces positive effects. Longer runs build stamina, speed work builds strength, and weight work builds upper body strength. Leadership is very similar.

Our brains are like muscles and need training. Like physical training, we need to practice leadership principles to learn them. Leadership always involves other people. Keeping a body of knowledge in our own heads without practicing the behaviors isn’t leadership. Remember, like physical training, we need to practice the principles we learn, just like Carol showed when she changed the language she used with her team.

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Hug Your Criticism and the Critic

The following post is written by Kurt Graves, who is a mentor for executives on how to flourish in life; in business and beyond.

kurt graves
How do you react when someone gives you unrequested criticism about some seemingly mundane part of your life? You know, like when your wife notes that you steadfastly refuse to take off your shoes (she has asked you to do this 257 times in the last year) and your behavior is reinforcing the kids’ lack of respect towards her discipline. Do you dismiss it? Do you resist it? Do you ignore it? Do you hug it? Your wife is onto something. Our tendencies create behaviors and behaviors lead to outcomes and outcomes create reality. Your tendency to not listen to your wife’s seemingly mundane requests creates a lack of respect toward her, which is reflected in your kids’ behavior, and the reality you are creating is a less-than-happy-wife. Repeat after me, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Next time you get criticism (you won’t have to wait long for that moment), make time to go deeper than the surface emotions and ask some questions of the person giving the criticism; “Where else in my life do I do this?” “Who else gets this treatment from me?” “What excuses do I use when you give me criticism?” We ask others to help us to see ourselves, because we are not knowers of ourselves.

Some self-awareness can only come from those who are closest to us. And while many aspire to be great leaders, no one becomes much of a leader if they remain unaware of the content of their own heart.  So take criticism as the gift it is and use it to examine your weaknesses. Converse with others and with God on those weaknesses and ultimately discern how to use them or dispose of them.

Self-awareness is hard work. Likely the criticisms that sting the most are in some way tied to deeply held wounds or some part of your identity and that is why you show your teeth when anyone hones in on them. And one more thing, don’t just hug criticism, be sure to hug the person giving you criticism. That’s uncommon.  Hug them because they are giving you a great gift.

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Are You Curious?


Are You Curious?

Great question, right? I was asked this question many times by one of my mentors, Kurt Graves, during our monthly meetings. It wasn’t until after the second or third time he asked me that I caught on to the fact that he wasn’t just asking me a question. He was asking me to ask questions. He could have just said, “Dee, you need to ask more questions.” But instead, his inquiry caused me to pause. Am I truly curious? Do I want to go through the effort to discover the answers pertaining to my job, my family, my friends, or do I think I already know all of the answers? If I already know the answers, then my meetings with Kurt were pointless. No need for mentors if I already have this life thing figured out. But I know that’s not true.

Somehow the teacher in me forgot the most important ingredient to education- being a learner. When I taught in the classroom, I used to pride myself in being willing to try new things with my students, diving into subject areas I did not necessarily have expertise in, but I knew that if we as a class asked the right questions, we could discover the right answers. Yes, we often Googled it, but even that requires a level of humility. To admit that I didn’t know the answer to something, and to show my students that I had to look up the answers, sometimes made me feel very incompetent. It wasn’t until several years into teaching that I grew comfortable openly acknowledging that the best lesson I could teach my students was to not know all the answers, but to know the right questions to ask, and where to find the answers.

I remember a time when the lesson of curiosity diffused a tenuous personal relationship between me and a former student. I was in my sixth year of teaching at the same school, and by this point, I had gained a reputation as being one of the “cool teachers.” I aimed to remain fair and firm, but I also smiled and laughed a lot, and brought my passion as an educator to the classroom everyday. Nonetheless, there was one particular student who seemingly hated me, and I had no idea why. I didn’t even have him in any of my classes that semester, but he would walk by my class and make snide comments, give me dirty looks in the hallway, tap on his friends’ shoulder when walking by me in the hallway. I thought for a second I was in high school, and not a teacher!

One day, I had it. I was in this student’s class, speaking to his teacher, and I heard him making comments about me under his breath. That was it! I asked the student with a stern voice to meet me outside of the classroom. I was so mad, I didn’t even ask his teacher for permission first. As soon as I we got outside, I asked the question, with enough aggression in my voice that it was clear this was a confrontation, “what seems to be the problem between us?” Barely looking me in the eyes now that it was just the two of us, the student sheepishly said, “You failed me.” Stunned and confused, I had to stop and ask him to repeat himself. He then went on to tell me that I failed him during summer school, and he would have graduated if I didn’t fail him. Immediately my frustration turned to compassion, and quite honestly, a bit of shame.

I softened my tone and asked, “is that why you’ve been mad at me?”
“Did you do your work in class? What happened?”
“I did some of the work, but you didn’t have to fail me.”
I then said, “I remember you having your head down a lot, and me regularly bugging you to sit up. What was going on then?”
“I was mad that I was in summer school.”
“I see. So you were mad about being in my class in the first place.”
“But you didn’t do the work?”
“And you’re mad at me now because you’re back here for another semester.”
“Do you think I should have passed you though you didn’t do your work?”
“Well I could have, but of course that wouldn’t have been fair to the other students who did do their work, and did it well enough to pass. My professionalism could have been called into question. I could lose my job. Not cool.”
“I hear you.”
“I wish we had a do over. If you were in my class now, I hope you would do the work, and come to me when you were having difficulties. How are you doing now?”
“Fine. I’m going to graduate.”
“Good stuff. I want you to succeed”

That was it. Our tension was alleviated because once I got over myself, and my personal offense, I became curious again. From the questions come the solution.

It’s been a busy summer with UNCOMMEN, and unfortunately, Kurt and I haven’t met in a while. Not so surprisingly, he recently sent me a short email that asked, “how are you?” I knew his question was sincere. I know he’s curious.

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Parenting Without Evolution Does Not Compute

supamandadThe following is a post by the extremely uncommon dad, Nathaniel A. Turner.  Turner is the author of “Raising Supaman”, a collection of life lessons written by a father to his son. Nate holds degrees in Accounting, Theology, History and Law. Nate hopes to change the world 1 Parent, 1 Child at a time.  Read more at

While in Silicon Valley, I toured the Computer History Museum. If you or your child are fans of computers and technology, the Mountain View, California Museum is a must see. Even if you only have a remote interest in computers and technology, the Museum provides an invaluable lesson for all parents.

The More Things Change

Having only a slight interest in the history of computers, I bought a ticket and entered the Museum. I have to admit, I was blown away.

Like most people, I was aware that computers were involved in nearly every aspect of our daily life but I had no idea how long computers had existed. I was amazed to learn that what we think of as modern computing has existed for more than 2,000 years.

What was more fascinating was learning about the evolution of the computer. From its origin as a big clunky device called The Babbage Engine to the proliferation of the internet, it didn’t take long for a dinosaur like me to comprehend the evolution of computers. Originally engineered to be a stationary object capable of making one calculation at a time, modern computing has morphed into something totally different. Or has it?


The First Macintosh

The More They Are The Same

The French critic, journalist, and novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said “the more things change, the more they are the same”. Mr. Karr’s words illustrate precisely the goal and history of computing.

Notwithstanding all the evolutionary changes and advancements of computers, the purpose and principle of computing has remained the same. Computing and computers have always existed to solve problems so that we might advance the human condition.

Like the start of computing and the first computer, todays’ parents have the same objective as the original human. Our prime directives in the beginning, now and will always be: procreate, nurture, protect and train.

Feeding and nurturing a child no longer requires hunting and gathering, however parents now have to count calories, monitor nutrients and make sure children get adequate exercise. Protecting children is no longer associated with fighting wild animals, yet parents still have to protect children from the dangers of a modern society like sexual predators and online bullies. Educating children no longer requires teaching about how to make a fire or sharing the appropriate time to plant seeds but parents have the same responsibility to make sure our children’s education prepares them to survive and progress.

The More Things Change

For as complex a task raising a child is today, like computing, the basics of parenting remain the same. Unfortunately, parents (according to our children) are not as smart as computers. Nevertheless, the best parents possess a similarity to computers and technology – the ability to evolve.

In all things, today’s parents must be what they have always been – evolutionary creatures who are acutely aware of our children’s surroundings and zealous representatives of their best interests. Like evolving technology, we also must program ourselves so that in a moments notice we are capable of changing our parenting software and hardware.

1. Storage. Parents can never stand still. Parents must evolve like floppy disks to the cloud. We must consistently take mental notes about successful parenting practices. We must be eager to learn from others who are great parents – parents who are purposeful and intentional. We must stockpile as much information as we can about children and parenting so that we can continuously progress and improve as parents. We must make use of the abundance of information available to give our children the best possible opportunity to live a purposeful, fulfilled and worthwhile life.

2. Updates. Parents don’t only make mental notes and store all the new and relevant parenting information. Good parents, great parents take the best of what is known about parenting and then we apply it to our parent-child relationships. The implementation of new and improved parenting techniques occurs with the ease and efficiency of an operating system update. When a more efficient and effective parenting methodology is available, good parents, great parents make the adjustment immediately and seamlessly. Right before our children’ eyes Parent 2.0 (Leftover Parent) quickly becomes Parent 4.0 (Fresh Out of the Oven).

3. Hardware. Good parents, great parents don’t rest on our laurels or do things simply because they were done to us – we freely acquire the hardware that supports our software changes. When I was a baby, parents drove cars without baby car seats, painted the house with lead based paint and left electrical outlets unprotected. Thankfully the world and parents have evolved. Although there are fewer cases of infant deaths from car accidents, lead poisoning and electrocution, today’s parents must continue to incorporate new hardware (Smart TVs, tablets, smartphones, etc.) that will advance parenting and improve the life expectancy and societal contribution of children.

The decisions and actions parents take MUST always compute. If our children are going to be able to dream and do things far greater than we could ever imagine, we are going to have to evolve and adapt our prime parenting directives to meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world. Parenting without evolution does not compute.

What do you think? Are you at a parental standstill? Or, are you constantly evolving like computers and technology? Share a way that your parenting has evolved! Share a hardware or software tool that has made you a better parent!

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Building a Wall

Keller Family

The Keller Family

The following is a post by Kelly Keller, also known as KellKell, a moniker that was first coined by her high school students some years back, one which has stuck with her through five children, two cross-country moves, and countless adventures.  Read more about Kelly and her musings at

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