Tag Archives: choices

Ankles and Elbows

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JodiI’m embarrassed to admit this in a blog for teachers, but I once had to hire a tutor to help my daughter, Jodi, with geometry.  She was struggling with this subject in her sophomore year of high school.  I understood her frustration.  I only had to think back to my own first encounter with geometry.  Eventually I managed to squeak out a decent grade, but if the teacher had graded me on long-term comprehension, I would have earned an F.

I asked Jodi’s geometry teacher for suggestions and she gave me the name of a tutor.  After Jodi’s first one-on-one lesson with her new tutor I optimistically asked her how it went.  This is an exact quote of her response.

That woman had the thickest ankles and the driest elbows of anyone I have ever met.

I swear to you that is exactly what my daughter said to me.  She gave me a report on the status of the woman’s ankles and elbows. I was stunned into momentary silence.  Then I responded to her in the same tone and manner she had just used with me.

You know Jodi, I thank God every day that I teach young kids and not teens. Please God, don’t ever make me work with teens.  I didn’t ask you about her ankles or elbows. Did she help you understand anything about your geometry?

Her response?  She just looked at me.  Apparently I didn’t deserve a response.

Do you know what I learned from this?  Don’t ever make your fears public, because the heavens will hear you and set you up for a great joke.  Within a year and a half of this conversation I was hired to teach seniors.  Yep.  I started teaching seniors the same year that my daughter was a senior, thankfully not in the same building.  (The photo above is Jodi’s senior picture).

This new job “opportunity” came about pretty suddenly.  I told Jodi about my job change, but she didn’t listen very closely.  Listening to what her mom was actually saying wasn’t high on her priority list during that phase in her life.  I was terrified and frankly reluctant to take this position, but my youngest daughter needed better medical insurance to battle cancer and the new job provided that, so I signed a contract and took a leap of faith.  On my first day I said to Jodi

Well, today is my first day of teaching seniors.  Wish me luck.

She was completely stunned with this news.  Ah-ha.  I knew she didn’t listen to me.

WHAT?  You’re going to be teaching seniors?  Are you serious?

Her tone and body language told me I didn’t stand a chance of success.  And furthermore, I didn’t have anything of merit to teach a senior.

My response to her?

Well, look at it this way, Jodi.  My job should be easy.  Seniors already know everything.

I hate to admit it, but she was right about one thing.  It was a really shaky start.  In my 42 years of full-time teaching, I thought about quitting the profession only twice.  Once was in my second year of teaching when I ran into some serious health problems.  The second time was in my 24th year, when I began teaching seniors.  They came close to doing me in…maybe even killing me off.

But you know what?  I ended up loving teens.  I liked their humor.  I liked their optimism.  I loved their passion about what they believed in.  I learned to overlook their moods and found ways to joke them out of their occasional surliness.  I got used to telling the boys to pull up their pants and telling the girls to cover their cleavage.  My life is now full of former teen students who are now my friends.  When you teach a senior it takes them only one year to begin to appreciate you.  It is a fast turn around.  As soon as they leave for college, they immediately understand how much you really taught them.

I think I had another advantage.  I actually lived with a senior when I began teaching seniors. I absolutely knew how much they didn’t know about life.  I knew I had only one year to teach them all the important stuff.  I knew I had to teach them more than the academics of my field and I did.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t teach them academics.  I did.  But I knew I had one short year to teach them so much more.

Once I was in the middle of a very ticklish conference with a teen girl who was on a bad path.  The guidance counselor was with me.  When the mother of this girl arrived it explained quite a bit about the poor choices the kid was making.  The girl had no role model for success.  We did everything in our power to explain our point of view, but unfortunately we didn’t feel like we made much headway during this conference.  After the teen and her mom left the conference area, the guidance counselor looked at me and said something very wise.

The world will teach them what we cannot.

world will teach them

I never forgot that statement.  The truth of it rocks me.  The world is going to teach them things that we cannot.  And many of those lessons will hurt.  It made me try harder to teach them any life lessons I could while they were still in a somewhat safe environment, inside the classroom walls.

Maybe Jodi even had a point about focusing on ankles and elbows.  Both of those joints are pivotal points in our bodies.  That’s what the teen years are all about, pivotal points.  Our role as teachers is to help students make their best choices during those pivotal points in their lives, not just memorize facts from a textbook.  Some of those pivotal points come while they are with us.  But many will come after they are gone from our classrooms.  What can we do now to help them maneuver those pivotal moments later?

Just for the record, my teaching life took me in such a circuitous route that more than a decade later, I actually ended up teaching in the same building as the woman who had tutored my daughter.  Her name was Nancy.  She was a petite woman, of normal weight whose ankles appeared to be in perfect proportion to her body.  I didn’t do any close checking, but her elbows seemed fine to me also.  Believe me,  I never once told her what my daughter had said about her.  It was my gift to her as a fellow teacher.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Invite Dauna Easley to speak to your group.  dauna@cinci.rr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change that Hurts

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changeIn the last week my husband of 32 years has died.  Two days later the pipes in my house froze, burst and flooded my home.  Part of me is in great sorrow.  Another part of me is numb, but going through the motions of planning a funeral and a eulogy.  My blog posts have been missing for the past two Mondays because I needed to regain some equilibrium.

I’m living the truth of this quote in front of you right now.  Change IS the only constant we can count on.  The status quo is non-existent.

In anyone’s life there are two different kinds of change. 

1.  There is the change we want to make for ourselves.  Frequently these changes of choice occur at this time of year.  We evaluate our lives and decide to lose weight, or exercise more frequently.  We decide to do a better job of saving money.  We may step up to a dream we’ve had or a risk we have been afraid to take.

2.  The second kind of change is forced upon us.  It is outside our control, but change we must.  It may be as simple as new software at work or more challenging… a new boss or business owner.  Or it may be even more dramatic and sudden. Bam!  Your job is gone.  Yikes, someone walks out of your life.  Or one day you may be packing away the Christmas decorations, pause to take your husband a cup of hot chocolate and find that he has passed away.  That is what happened to me last week.  My hubby has had a heart attack and two strokes this past year, but still the finality of this stunned me.

Fourteen years ago I had to say good-by to my sixteen year old daughter, Kelsey, who died of brain cancer.  How did I recover from that?  Slowly.  And frankly you never fully recover from the loss of a child.  However, only a couple of years before she died I  read a magazine article that was quite a help to me after her death.  I have since searched for this article to share it with others because it made such a difference in my life.  (Oh, the power of writing our inner thoughts down).  Unfortunately I don’t remember the title, the author or the magazine.  I’m embarrassed to admit that.  I only remember the message because it was so powerful.  Maybe you read it too.  Maybe you can help me find and thank that author.  I know I read it before 1999.

The author was a woman.  She had an older brother who was outstanding in every way.  He was outgoing and popular.  He was president of his high school class and an accomplished athlete.  Everyone in town adored this young man.  The author of the article was his younger sister.  She lived in his shadow but she adored him also.

This star of a brother went off across the country to college.  He fell in the shower and died suddenly.  When the call came in to his parents his sister was also home.  She watched her parents react to this phone call.  She knew in that instant that she not only had lost her brother, but she had also lost her parents.  She knew they would never recover from his death and they didn’t.  She essentially lost her whole family on that day.

When I read this article my youngest daughter had already had one battle with a very serious kind of cancer.  I always knew there was a chance that cancer would come back.  I made a decision right then, that if the worst happened my remaining daughter may have to lose her only sibling, but she would not lose her mother at the same time.  It was a choice I made right then.  Some changes you don’t choose, but you always have the power to choose your reaction to those changes.

When the cancer came back and we lost our daughter, Kelsey, I had to live that choice.  It wasn’t an easy choice.  It took quite a bit of effort.  But I  I refused to be less of a mother to my remaining daughter,  Jodi.  I would also not be less of a teacher to my students.  This was another difficult choice because Kelsey was a sophomore when she died.  I taught juniors and seniors then.  I had to live through all their proms, senior pictures, and graduations at the same time that Kelsey should have been sharing those experiences.

Almost everything about my life has changed.  My immediate family included a husband and two daughters.  Now two of these four are gone.  What remains is the choice I made 14 years ago when we lost Kelsey.  I will NOT be less of a mother to Jodi.  I now also have a son-in-law and five grandchildren who need the full me, not a shell of my former self.  And that is what they are going to get.

I also will continue to visit college level student teachers, my current role. I will encourage as many people as I can to enter the teaching profession because this role was so fulfilling in my own life.   If I were teaching full-time right now, I would share this story and my commitment with my students.  It is the way I always taught.  Life lessons are as important as the lessons in the textbook…frequently more important if you ask me.  When I have to face a difficult  life lesson, it is the time I miss my full-time classroom most.  My students and I have weathered many things together.  Daily contact with young people can keep you optimistic and looking forward during the worst of times.

Please remember my husband, Wayne and our daughter Kelsey in your prayers.  This is a photo taken of the two of them a long time ago.  I can tell by how little hair Kelsey has that it was taken just following her first battle with cancer.  Kelsey must be about 7 in this photo.  She died when she was 16.  I adore this picture because it shows the love between them.

Wayne and Kelsey

Remembering Wayne and Kelsey Easley

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Conttact Dauna Easley to speak to your group:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Helping Students Create Their Own Destiny

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YOU Create Your Own Destiny

Create your destiny

Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

                                            -Viktor E. Frankl

These words have always inspired me.  Written by a man who survived the concentration camps of the holocaust makes them even more significant.  We cannot control many of the things that happen to us in life; but we have absolute control over the ways we respond to those events.

One of our greatest roles as teachers, is to teach truths about life.  Sure, we are hired to teach our academic areas; but I believe we miss one of our most important choices if we don’t also teach underlying truths that help our students live a successful life.  This quote helped me come up with a way to teach students that they have the power to create their own destiny.  How did I do that?

Early in the school year, I put a dot or a star on the far left margin of the chalk board.  (Think wipe-off board or electronic board these days).  Then I would move to the farthest right side of the board and make another dot or star.

I would pause until they seemed interested in what I was doing.  You can do a lot of teaching in the pauses.  Once they seemed quiet and curious I would say as I pointed…

This dot on the left side of the board represents the things that happen to us as we live our lives.

Pause

Sometimes those events are terrible. Someone we love rejects us. 

(Teens always are interested in matters of the heart).

Pause

Sometimes we work hard toward a goal and yet we get passed over.  Someone else gets recognition that we deserve.  We lose our jobs.  A loved one dies.  Someone insults you or passes around untrue gossip about you.  Someone steals something from you.  Someone hurts you deeply.

(Each time I offer one of these scenarios I once again point to the star or dot on the left side of the board).    I sometimes ask them to add bad things that might happen in life.

Then I move to slowly the left side of the board and point to the dot on the far right.

Way, way over here on the far right side of the board is the way you respond to those events.

Pause

Do you know what is between these two dots?

Usually they just look at me and wait.  Sometimes someone will make a joke and say, “Nothing?”

Pause

The only thing that lies between an event and what you do to respond to that event, is your choice.  No matter what happens to us, we always, always, have control over the way we respond to it.

create your destiny

We need to remember only we have the choice to decide how we respond.  We always choose.  It is those choices that determine our destiny.  Look carefully.  What is between those two dots? 

I  then v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y draw a wavy line between those two dots on opposite ends of the board.

choices

You have allllllll this time between the two dots, between the event and your response to decide how you are going to respond.

Choosing the way you will respond, making the choice creates your destiny.  What happens to you, doesn’t create your destiny.  Your choices in the way you react create your destiny.

Teens (and some adults) limit their destiny when they react without thinking…without making a choice.  They say things like, “Well, he pushed me so I punched him,” or “When she looked at me like that I just had to tell her off.”

Wrong.  Your reaction was a choice.

Teens will tell me that their parents or buddies told them never to let people treat you like that.

Look around you.  Are the people who give you this “punch-them-in-the-face” advice… are they themselves a success in life?  Are they living a life you want to emulate?  Well, are they

Or are they in prison or holding entry-level jobs or no jobs even though they are middle age?

You create your own destiny by the choices you make between any stimulus and the response you choose.

Let’s be honest, sometime in life we’ve all made a mistake with a knee-jerk reaction to a situation.  I know I have.  But I later regretted my response.  I share a couple of examples of my own mistakes with my students.  We can teach quite a bit by sharing our failures and vulnerabilities.  They hear us best when we aren’t preaching.

As the year progresses and a teen or two will invariably make a poor choice, I don’t have to say anything.  I just go to the board, make my two dots, and draw the wavy line in between.  No words have to be spoken, though many of the students will give that little hum (or groan) of understanding.

I find it’s best to do this activity early in the year before a poor choice has occurred.  That way no student is made the target of the exercise.  When students come into class all excited about a fight that has just occurred in the cafeteria or hallway, I just draw my two dots and that slow wavy line in between.  They get it. They may say something like, “No, seriously Mrs. E. you should have seen it, it was so cool.” But I just draw my two dots and my wavy line again.

What is My Hope?

a teacher's hopeSomeday when I’m no longer standing in front of them in a classroom, my students will remember the two dots and the long wavy line between them.  They will realize that they have the power to create their own destiny with the choices they make.  They won’t feel they have to become the victim of their own poor choices even if lousy choices were all that was modeled for them.

When I move outside the sometimes confining limits of my academic area, I often feel like I’m doing my most important teaching.  It is when I most feel like I am teaching to change lives.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author: dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Great Classroom Activity

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Which Words Rule Our Lives?

Words that Rule Our LivesIt’s important for us that we know the words that rule our lives. This is a great activity I learned from my own high school students, Taylor and Cody.  The assignment was for each of my students who aspired to be future teachers, to teach a lesson in front of their classmates.  At the time of this assignment the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are had just been made into a movie and was being shown in theaters.  Taylor and Cody began their lesson by having the students watch the movie trailer.  In a very effective style the trailer pointed out that each of us has three words within us.  We all possess a little fear.  We all crave a little adventure.  And we all need a little hope.

movie trailerHow clever Taylor and Cody were to get Hollywood to create the hook for their lesson!  The movie trailer was quite effective and had every student’s attention.  The “teachers” then asked the class to focus on those three words:  fear, adventure and hope.

Decide which one of those words rules your life.

Think about it and then share it with your peers.

After a few minutes of thought they brought the class together into a cozy circle.

teens in a circle

Each student truthfully described which of these three words currently seemed to dominate their lives.  They were very honest and revealing.  (I believe students truly want to share what is on their minds.  I’ve seen it too many times to be wrong about this).  It is the challenge of an insightful teacher to find a vehicle that will encourage that sharing.

After everyone had shared their thoughts, the teaching partners posed a second question…

Are you satisfied with the word that seems to drive your life right now?

Once again the students took turns sharing their answers.  This kind of activity will only be successful if a teacher has previously created a safe, accepting environment in which all students feel free to share.  Once again the answers were candid and insightful.  This activity forced each of us to assess our lives.  It forced us to evaluate our motives, to really think about the choices we were making and whether those choices served us well.  It also built tremendous understanding and empathy among class members.  It deepened our sense of community.  As a side benefit it is important to recognize…bullies can’t thrive when you build a sense of acceptance within a classroom community.  How proud I was of my students for creating such an effective experience for our class.

dream big

Is there one word that seems to drive your life?  Fear?  Adventure? Hope?  Which one is it?  I always participate fully in any revealing activity like this in my classroom.  It bonds the teacher with the class.  It builds understanding across generations and defines the classroom as a safe place.  Even more important it shows the students the teacher is willing to talk about feelings.  It gives them the courage to approach the teacher when something really important is on their minds.  It puts a welcome mat in front of the door to your classroom and your heart.

Thank you Taylor and Cody, for creating this wonderful lesson for me to share with others!

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Teachers Create the Classroom

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                        The Teacher Makes the Choice

Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_7438300_illustration-of-a-lighthouse-illuminating-the-night.html'>lisann / 123RF Stock Photo</a>One of my all time favorite quotes for teachers was written by Dr. Haim Ginott and comes from his book Between Teacher and Child.

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.  As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s like miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.  I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.”

Oh, how I wish I had written that myself.  I am so grateful that someone did.  The book, Between Teacher and Child is around forty years old and yet contains advice that is timeless.

Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_8535805_a-wooden-ruler-with-the-words-do-you-measure-up-symbolizing-personal-appraisal-and-assessment.html'>iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

A Great Measuring Stick

It IS our personal approach that creates the climate in the classroom.  Do we provide a welcoming presence.  Are we pleasant and approachable?  Can students trust our moods?  Or are we the grinch that only smiles twice a year.  We honestly do have the power to make a student’s life joyous or miserable.  We teachers have had teachers too.  We all can remember a teacher who was a tool of torture.  We’ve all had a teacher who honestly was an instrument of inspiration.

A word of caution here:  A teacher cannot truly be an instrument of inspiration if they are a tool of torture to only one or two students.  Students are always watching.  I believe they judge teachers on the way they treat the most challenging child in the class.

I’ve been sitting in high school teacher cafeterias and listened to something a teacher said to a student that made me wonder who was the adult in the classroom.  Trying to “one up” a student who has just made an inappropriate comment in class is a losing proposition for any teacher.  Professionalism goes out the window.  Sometimes it is tough to listen, absorb, and under-react but retaliating an inappropriate comment with a sarcastic one, only escalates the negative.  It may feel like a win in the short term, but it is a long term loss.

I chose a lighthouse to illustrate this point for a reason.  Lighthouses demonstrate their real worth during inclement times.  So do teachers.  It’s easy to be a good teacher when everything is going smoothly. But great teachers reveal themselves during the tough times.

A teenager stands up and yells profanities at you in class, then stomps out slamming the door on their way out of the room.  (Yes, this has happened in my classroom).  What do you do?  The choice is yours.  Do you escalate the situation or attempt to de-escalate it?  Before you make your choice, take a deep breath and then pause.  Every student will be watching your reaction. You are the beacon in this moment.  Will you dehumanize the student?  A teen is a child with longer legs, raging hormones and often tumultuous emotions.  You are the adult.   What you do next defines you as a teacher.

TEACh

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Taking the Leap

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Making the LeapCan I Do It?

Sooner or later it happens to all of us.  We’re standing on one side of a ditch, or challenge, or life situation, and trying to imagine what it would be like to make the leap to the other side.  The chasm looks too wide.  The water looks too deep.  The distance is daunting when we get up close.  It was OK to dream about it, sure.  But dreaming and doing aren’t the same.  Doing is scary.  As we flex to make the jump everything inside of us is screaming, “NO!  You will fail.”

We may be dissatisfied with where we are in life, but the risk involved in change keeps us paralyzed.  We may feel frustrated, but we feel a little bit safe also.  This life is what I know!  What if I leave this job and fail in my next job?  I don’t like my current position, but it may be better to stay put than to move to a new organization and lose all my seniority.  This marriage isn’t satisfying but what if I never find anyone else to love?  What if no one else ever loves me?  I’d like to enter a writing contest, but what makes me think I could possibly win?  Rejection may hurt too much and I’ll stop writing altogether.

“I’m afraid of failure.  I’m afraid I’ll feel humiliated.  I’m afraid I can’t support myself or my family.” We say it all.   Blah, blah, de blah, blah, blah.

The Good News

Here’s the thing you never learn until you take the leap.  Standing between two choices is incredibly hard.  You are using double the energy it would take to commit to one.  Half of your psyche is committed to one outcome.  The other half of you is pleading with yourself to make the change.  That mental dichotomy is absolutely exhausting.  Everything in your life seems twice as hard and half as satisfying.  As soon as you make the leap, even if you completely wipe out, things get easier.  You can turn your entire focus toward making your new venture a success.   Your chances of succeeding in your new choice explode forward.  You find out you CAN do it after all.  It was only your doubt holding you back.

The Bad News

good news/ bad news

Most people are like this cow.

So who are you?

The cow or the surfer?

Only you can make the choice.

Choices

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Yes or No

the choice

The world is full of an endless variety of people.  We come from all cultures, socio economic categories, and experiences.  We further differientiate ourselves by our talents, gender, interests, and professions.

But within all those categories, I believe humans honestly separate themselves into two main groups.  I’m talking about ‘yes’ and ‘no’ people.  These two types are universal.  You will find them within every sub category. They identify themselves by the choices they make.

When given a choice of any kind, ‘yes people’ have an instinct…an automatic response…to say yes.  They have to build a significant case against any choice before they feel comfortable ever saying ‘no.’

Given the same choice, or frankly any decision, ‘no people’ will put on the brakes.  Their automatic instinct is to say ‘no’ unless someone can convince them to overlook their reservations.  They have to be talked into a ‘yes’ and that can only be accomplished with some reluctance.

decision makingThink about yourself.  Which one are you?  ‘Yes’ people often find themselves overbooked, juggling too many responsibilities, maybe even resentful of being asked to take on more projects than they can fit into their lives.

‘No’ people, on the other hand have more free time but may miss an opportunity to grow because they deliberate too long before they are willing to take a risk. They may later regret not moving forward.

 The Choice

I’m a ‘yes person’.  I’ve learned this about myself.  I will find myself sometimes completely overwhelmed because I want to say yes any time I can possibly say yes.  So three months ago when someone who is an old friend emailed me and asked me to co-author an ebook about caring for our elderly parents; while all instincts inside of me were pointing to, “Are you crazy?” I still found myself leaning precariously toward yes.

I started making my checklist. Is this a smart idea?

yes or no

  • I never thought I would write about my mom and dad.  Can I do this?  Would I even want to?
  • I have nothing written about my parents.  It would be so much work.
  • Me?  Writing an ebook?  Have I ever even read an ebook?  No.  (Terrible thing to admit).
  • My computer skills are less than stellar.  Could I write an ebook with my lackluster computer skills?  Probably not.
  • My co-author whom I admire greatly lives all the way across the country.  I live in Cincinnati.  She lives in Seattle.  We would have no face-to-face contact.  Are you kidding?
  • She is talking about webinars and conference calls.  What?  Those words give me chills.

 Decision Making

After weighing all the pros and cons, quickly sketching out a couple of stories,  feeling completely overwhelmed and out of my element, quaking in my desk chair about the technology, I made the only choice that made any sense.   I said “Yes.”

The Result

gratitudeWe did it!  I’m incredibly proud of the stories we’ve written.  I know our experiences will help others who are trying to help their elderly parents make choices about their golden years.

I was in a steep learning curve every step of the way.  Yes, I have already written a book.  But this was my first venture into ebook territory.  It was truly foreign soil for me.  I had to maneuver webinars and conference calls which finally no longer scare me.

My partner, Marky Olson and I, encouraged one another every step of the way.  It seemed like each time one of us was a little discouraged the other would have just the right words to say.  Am I glad I took the risk?  Oh YES!  Our ebook will be out soon.  We are now in the process of  maneuvering through the decisions about the print version of our book.

My best advice?  Say ‘yes‘ whenever you can.

But maybe that’s just me.  I’d rather risk a failure saying ‘yes’ than regret missing a wonderful opportunity by saying ‘no’.  No doubt, I will fail more than most.  But I’ve already admitted I’m a ‘yes person’. I suppose you’ll have to decide for yourself.