Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Fire Within

"Getting ahead in a difficult profession 
requires avid faith in yourself.
That is why some people with mediocre talent, 
but with great inner drive, 
go much farther than people with vastly superior talent."
- Sophia Loren

What ignites the fire from within?

One of the most exciting times in my life occurred when I left for college.  I vividly remember heading down to Indiana, moving into my dorm room and heading up to the golf course to meet my coach.  

After a few days of getting acclimated to college life we had tryouts.  I wasn't nervous about making the team, I had a scholarship.  It wasn't about simply making the team.  My goal was a top spot.  I expected myself to come in and immediately contribute as a Freshman.

The day began with Coach creating the pairings.  I played with my high school rivals, Shaun and Brian.  Everything began as I would have expected, I shot a tidy 35 on the front nine and was in prime position. Then things went a hurry.  I spiraled to a 45 coming in and shot 80.  This left me angry and in roughly 13th position out of twenty-three players.  For the first time in my life I was faced with a deep team and an uphill battle.  

Growing up in small town USA, the number of quality players was always thin.  But now it was a new ballgame.  We were college athletes and nothing was guaranteed.  
For several weeks I dedicated myself to cracking into the traveling team.  I spent hour after hour practicing and trying to improve.  In hindsight, my game was fine...unfortunately I was in a bad mental spot.  My poor start led to pressing and a pursuit of perfection.  I wasn't myself and I clearly lacked inner belief.  

Sometimes I think to myself and wonder what ignites my drive to improve?  

Would I work harder with twenty-two others constantly trying to take my spot?  


Would I be better if I knew my spot was secure?  

For many people safety creates a sense of complacency, a sense of "good enough."  For me, there has always been an inner fire to be the very best I could be.

Here's how the story ends...  After weeks of hard work I finally got myself into the mix. With an upcoming road match our coach chose me to play, in large part, because of my familiarity with the course. I went out and shot a solid 76.  Coach shook my hand and told me he knew I had it in me. From that day forward I never let go of my starting position.  I was driven to be my best. I vowed to not get outworked by anyone.  

Looking back I think about what pushed me more.  Was it my inner fear that someone might take my spot?  Or was it my inner drive that never allowed myself to be outworked?

What I can tell you is this, when I had twenty-some guys trying to take my spot I NEVER worked harder.  I bordered on obsessed to win my spot.  When I knew my starting position was not in doubt my confidence was higher...but I'm not sure I worked harder.  

Does this have anything to do with education?

What ignites your fire?  Do you have an inner drive that pushes you?

A big part of my drive has always centered on making education better than I had it.  Over the years society has evolved and learned...I want to take this knowledge and provide a better experience for kids.  

When I was student-teaching I constantly beat myself up, I was a tough critic (and still am) and expected that every one of my lessons was going to hit the mark.  I poured hours into planning and preparation. My inner drive to be my best would not let me rest.

Sometimes my motivation comes from outside. Here are some people that push me to be better - 

@GustafsonBrad leading his school with 3D printing and sphero coding.
@TechNinjaTodd feeding community members with no strings attached.  
@TonySinanis inspiring his students to start a cafeteria DJ show.
@Joe_Mazza using high & low tech to connect with families around the country.
@casas_jimmy motivating teacher leaders at Bettendorf to believe that anything is possible.
@TedHiff having some of the coolest after school plays/musicals that I've ever seen!
@TimLauer posting amazing pictures of his school & community!
@JasonMMarkey creating an amazing culture with his strong ability to build community.
@DaisyDyerDuerr turning a school, community and State around with her leadership.
@KleinErin balancing home, school, speaking and classroom re-design...amazing!
@MicheleCorbat having the courage to start a District Twitter chat to change the culture.

Every day I'm motivated to get better.  Sometimes the burning drive comes from reading a book, other times it may be listening to a podcast and still other times it could be connecting on social media.  No matter how, I'm constantly trying to be the best I know how. 

I ask you...what drives you?  Is your burning desire the same as it has always been?


Monday, March 16th:  Author Visit Leslie Helakoski (beginning at 9am)
Monday, March 16th:  Happy BDay to Becky Holton
Monday, March 16th:  String Team 3:45pm
Monday, March 16th:  Boy/Girl Quest 4pm
Monday, March 16th:  Warner Pride...dress in Western/Warner gear
Tuesday, March 17th:  Grades 4 and 5 have guest speaker Anthony Ianni in the Library at 1:45pm
Tuesday, March 17th:  Library closed from 1:30 - 3pm (guest speaker)
Tuesday, March 17th:  Boy Quest...special day 4pm
Tuesday, March 17th:  St. Patrick's Day
Wednesday, March 18th:  Grades 3-5 assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, March 18th:  String Team 3:45
Thursday, March 18th:  CP Federal Credit Union 2pm
Friday, March 19th:  RED Out...wear RED for Reading month

Articles Worth Reading:

Embrace the Change @MrPowersCMS

Sure of Me @jonharper70bd

Videos Worth Watching:

What's Your Goal - Cammy (1 min)

Blind Devotion...motivates me to be a better man! (8 min)

Central High...this is real! (14 min)

Mean Tweets...Obama Edition (2 min)


  1. Hi, Ben. It sounds like you have the inner drive to be the best at whatever you do, and it's amplified when you have competition. It's important, too, to recognize the power of your coach's words: "I knew you had it in you." Other people, whose opinion we value, play a role in helping us believe in ourselves - especially when we lack confidence. You pay it forward by believing in others and repeating your coach's words.

    Keep pushing!

  2. Excellent Post Ben! We should always be competing with ourselves, trying to become the best we can be. We can look to our peers to get ideas and inspiration, but the motivation can only come from within. Sometimes people let that fire inside, their burning desire, start to wain and the passion for teaching and working with kids gets lost in the day to day. I believe that those people are really looking for the right push, a little encouragement, a touch of support, or just the right leader to give them all of three. You are that kind of leader Ben. Thanks again for sharing your reflections so others can learn from and alongside you.

  3. Ben this is something that I think I struggle with and something that I must really examine closely. I remember a twitter chat once asking us to think about what our burning passion was and I had a hard time answering that question. I think my job over the past several years has been different than what it once was and I have let that get in my way. Luckily I am surrounded my great people at work, at home and online. I truly believe that I will find the passion again at work. I also know that I am the one in control of that and not anyone else. That is why I need to heed the words in this post and work harder to find the fire within. Thanks again for pushing my thinking.