The First Day of School

Most days I walk the 1½ miles from home to the RMC office. On the way I pass the local elementary school. This week I waded through a sea of parents dropping their kids off for the first day of school. Some of the kids were dragging their parents forward. They seemed excited to start this new adventure. Other kids were straining their parent’s arm in the other direction, pulling them back … terrified of leaving the security of home and entering the frightening unknown.  I don’t remember my first day of school. Mom didn’t record it on her iPhone. (The iPhone wouldn’t exist for another 45 years.) I suspect I was mostly in shock, overwhelmed by the new surroundings, the new people, the new rules, etc. 

It didn’t take me long to realize that I hated school. School was torture for me. Teachers said I was an under-achiever. I don’t think anyone realized that the problem was that I couldn’t read. As I passed from one grade to the next I got better and better at faking it, but ask me to read a paragraph and I couldn’t do it.

In the 6th grade I was diagnosed with dyslexia.  In those days (mid 60’s) dyslexia was not well known or understood. My mom hired a tutor to teach me to read. It was a struggle, but in my junior and senior years in high school my reading improved and things got easier. But I still hated school. If I’d had the choice, I wouldn’t have gone. My mother, thank goodness, didn’t offer that option. I can’t imagine what life might look like today had I dropped out.  My life trajectory could not have followed the path it has. It might have been good, but I can’t imagine that it would have been as good as the trajectory I’ve been on.

A recent experience with a new RFP alumnus who was considering joining Executive Link reminded me of my discomfort with school. The alumnus said he was having a hard time letting go of the status quo. He found it difficult to even consider new ideas and alternative ways of doing things. I shared with him a few of the tools we use in Executive Link to objectively evaluate change. A week later I received his enrollment for EL. A few days after that I had a phone message saying he wasn’t coming.

It reminded me of that first day of school. Some folks are eager to roll up their sleeves and get to work on their businesses. Others feel threatened or overwhelmed by the prospect of change. A lot of us resist change with the same ferocity as when we were younger.

Unfortunately, without changes it’s unlikely the alumnus will be able to bring his son back to the ranch and keep the ranch in the family. If we look at the situation with a 20,000 foot perspective, it’s okay. When they move out it will create an opportunity for whoever moves in. But for this family on this ranch, a tragedy is about to unfold.

I don’t know if this rancher would rather fail than change, or if he’s so deep in denial that failure doesn’t seem like a real consequence of continuing the status quo.  Either way, I can’t help but think that it’s a shame his mother isn’t there to make him go to school.

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  1. My kids were anxious and nervous but a few hugs from mom and dad still fixes all that and more…


  2. Most can relate to your story. I very quickly determined I wasn’t smart enough to go back to the farm/ranch. So, I got a Ph D. I still think the most underrated people in the world are those who survive in on-the-land agricultural business!

    Midway through my teaching/research career I had an epiphany. Management is about making decisions in complex environments – of course it helps to know something about biology, ecology, sociology and economics. It’s much more important to understand the working of complex systems – all systems. So, the focus of my courses was about making decisions (what I called procedural learning). Students also learned a lot of biology and ecology.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing


  3. Isn’t it true that the things we want least to face, make all the difference… Has this gentleman done the course or can one join the Executive Link without having completed the workshop.


    1. Thanks for your comment.
      I think it was Mark Twain who said, “Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.”

      This fella did come to the school with his family….but of course, once you go home from the school there is no one to hold you accountable to implement the things you learned. It’s easy to fall back into the rut…and they say that a rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out!

      Re: Executive Link membership. With extremely rare exception, the RFP school is prerequisite for EL. The rare exceptions are for people who have a lot of experience, are facing HUGE decisions and are planning on coming to the next school.


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