Success Is Boring


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 84. 

How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers, strategies and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you faith. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey Builders, 

I'm your host, Robin Jackson. And today, we're going to talk about the concept of success is boring. You see, I talk to a lot of people and they're always asking me, Hey, you know, Robin, how do I how do I transform my school? Or how do I write a book? Or, tell me about what it's like to run your own business? And I always feel bad, because my answers are always boring. Everybody's looking for the latest and greatest. And the most interesting idea, we feel a lot of pressure to do something new. We always want to know what what's the new people when I'm working with them, they want me to come and talk to them about what's the newest technology, or what's the newest technique. And unfortunately, I'm no good at that. Because I don't spend my time chasing what's new. Instead, I focus on what's right, what works, what's timeless. Over the years, I have done it both ways. I've done the new stuff. I've been a victim of that, you know, shiny object syndrome. And I've also done the boring stuff. And I'm here to tell you, success is not exciting.

The road to success is pretty boring.

So we're gonna talk about that today. But before we do, I have two announcements. First one, I'll tell you something that's not boring. And that is going to builders lab, builders lab is probably it's my you know, not just because I do it, it's my favorite PD ever. And we designed it so that it's three days of a totally immersive, totally interactive 360 degree experience. This is not a zoom meeting, you're not going to turn into a zombie, you're not going to just sit there while I you know kind of have a talking head floating over some slides. It is interactive, you are getting work done. And you're doing it in an environment where you're surrounded by other like minded people, other smart builders from all over the world, who are also there to get work done. When you come to build your lab, you walk out of builders lab with clarity around your vision, you know what your vision is, and it's a vision you're passionate about. You also walk out with a 90 day plan that helps you get started towards achieving your vision. The idea is that this plan is going to help you eliminate the biggest obstacle you face right now in achieving your vision and to do it in the next 90 days. And that's not all because even though we're going to spend three days together working on this, figuring this out, getting coaching, and spending real time not just listening to training, but participating, learning new skills, applying them right away to your school. But Sam, we're gonna spend three months together to make sure that your 90 day plan is a success.

I don't want to just give you three days and then drop you off. We're gonna spend three months working, you're going to get monthly office hours with me where I can continue to coach you and help you work through any challenges you face. When you get back to your school, you get a weekly email from me prompting you about what to do that week. So that way you can stay accountable to your plan. And you don't get distracted. When you get back to school, you get a resource bank have additional follow up training and support to help you continue to develop your skills. So when you come to builders lab, you become a part of the mindsets family, you become a builder. And right now Tickets are on sale for our next builders lab, which is happening January 25 through 27 2020. And January is the perfect time to come to builders lab. Because you've already been in school for half a year. You have time. You've seen some things and now you can figure out how do I finish the school year strong. This has been a crazy school year so far. And you may find that by now. You're a little distracted from your goals or the things you thought you were going to be able to accomplish. You're not sure you're going to be able to accomplish right now. But I promise you if you come to builders lab you will get reignited with your passion. You'll get some clarity around the direction you will get some things you can anchor in. So no matter what happens for the remaining of the school year, no matter how crazy the world gets, you have something you can anchor in, you're going to get one on one support, we keep builder's lab very, very small, so that I have time to work with each person individually.

You get to form relationships with other people in your group.

In fact, you know, this last builders lab 360 people have bonded so much they are, you know, the each group is competing to see who is going to be the next success story. And you walk out with a real plan, not some theory, a real viable plan that's based on your school. So, go to mind, step And get your tickets a builder's club, I would love to work with you directly one on one, and help you start to turn your school into a success story with the people and resources you already have. So again, mindset to get your tickets to our next builders lab. And if you're listening to this sometime in the future, that site will still work, just go there and figure out when our next builders lab is happening, and then you can get your ticket. Okay, so that's announcement number one. Now, no announcement number two, we are in the middle of the jumpstart your education consulting business five day challenge, today is going to be day four. And then we have one more day afterwards. If you did not sign up for the challenge, I want you to know that it's not too late, but it's almost too late. Because again, we're going to be doing the training today, day four at 7pm.

Then on Thursday, we're going to do day five training, you're going to get the weekend to catch up, which means that if you join now you can watch all the training replays. And then the training replays come down at the big at the well, we'll leave the training replays up for about a week, and then they're going to come down and we're going to close out the group. So it's not too late to join. And all you need to do is go to And on that page will be a pop up that shows you how to join the five day jumpstart your education consulting business challenge. So if you have been thinking about starting your own business, and you want some guidance, you want some help to get started, you don't know how to begin, or maybe you started but it hasn't worked out really well. And you want some help on establishing a viable, viable business that that actually is allowing you to do work that you really love with people you love working with, then please go ahead. It's not too late to join the jumpstart your education consulting business challenge. And that challenge group will stay open until November 30. And then we're taking everything down. So hurry up and go ahead and join and and get your education consulting business started this year. All right, so let's talk about this idea that success is boring.

Earlier this year, I was asked to speak to a group of teachers.

They really wanted to talk about how to maintain rigor in a virtual learning environment. And so that was my focus, because rigor works, whether you're virtual or face to face, you know, I don't really like to waste time on tricks and strategies that only work in one place. I want tricks and strategies where I don't really want tricks or strategies at all, I really invest in principles that are situation agnostic, because once you invest in that principle, you can take it wherever you go, you can use it, it will apply it will help you wherever you go. So I prepared my presentation for the teachers and I was talking about the principle of rigor and why it's important and how to create a rigorous learning environment no matter what situation you find yourself in. And all the teachers want it was I need a software program to help me make my virtual classroom flashy and interesting, or I need help setting up my bitmoji classroom or do you know any software that it's great for science, they wanted the tricks, they wanted the bells and whistles, and they didn't want to talk about what makes something rigorous. What they wanted was, you know, give me 100 different websites I can go to to find something cool, because I don't know another way to engage my students. And I have to tell them that you can do all of that. But if you don't lay the foundation here first, those things are going to wear off in a month. Yeah, the kids may love it right now. Yeah, it may be fun by now. But in a couple of weeks, they're going to get used to it and if there's nothing undergirding that if there's no real rigorous learning happening in that bitmoji classroom or with that great website, or with your flip grid, or all the other things that they were kind of interested in. If there's not that foundation of rigor, then that stuff gets old and stale very quickly. And then what what are you left with?

I got really frustrated, because I think that a lot of people are always looking for the flashy thing. The cool thing, the latest thing, you know, a lot of times when I'm talking to clients and they want me to go do a keynote or they want me to do a one training. And I'm asking them, what will success look like? And they're saying, well give people something new, you know, something they haven't heard before. And I'm thinking, no, I don't do that. I don't think it's even good to invest in that. If you're always chasing the next shiny object, then you are, keep yourself on that school improvement hamster wheel, you're always working for the next cool thing. I see this happen all the time. And what I want to just kind of scream from the mountaintops is those things are cool, and they're flashy, and they're fun, but they don't last, the things that make you successful, or boring. I had a mentor once, who was working with me when I was first starting mind steps, and I was doing the same thing. I was thinking, you know, I gotta, I gotta listen to the latest guru, I've got to try the latest marketing strategy or sales strategy, or I need to revamp my website. And I was spending all this time on these things that were flashy, and fun and superficial. My business was not thriving. And my mentor said to me, Robin, success is boring. You find something that works, and you keep doing it. If you're looking for flashy, don't go into business, success is boring. And, you know, took me aback, cuz, you know, the, what I thought was the fun part of business was doing these new innovative things. But now that I'm older, and hopefully a little wiser, I think he makes a good point. Success is boring. You know, the schools that I work with, who end up writing their school story and turning their school into a success story. They do it in some really boring ways.

Wow, those results are amazing. It is exciting, but how they got there is pretty boring.

I've worked with principals who have taken their schools from the bottom of the district to the top of the district, I've worked at principals who have taken their their students from, you know, 10 15%, at proficient to 6070 80% proficiency, I've worked it with principals who have taken their schools from being an F school by their state grade rating to being an A school. And every single one of them followed a very predictable, and very boring pattern. I've also worked with principals who said, you know, you know, they called me up and they say, Yeah, I want you to work with our school on last year, we had this Google win, and and all we're doing this program, I've worked with schools where they, you know, have 11 to 15 different new initiatives happening all at once. And a year from now, they will all crash and burn because there's so busy chasing shiny objects, instead of just investing in what works. Success is boring. People talk to me, they say, I want to write a book. And then they do all this stuff. And they'd never write the book. Why? Because writing a book is boring. Let me tell you, it's boring. The way that I can get a book done is I get up every morning, when I'm writing a book. And I spend an hour writing that book, whether I feel like it or not. And most days, I don't feel like it. It's not something where you sit down and you start typing and you look at your hands and you say these hands have been blessed by God, I am spewing wisdom on the page at every moment. Most days, you are writing a lot of stuff that's just complete and utter trash. But you have to get the trash out of the way in order to get to the gold. And unfortunately, that's that process is pretty boring.

You know, people ask me all the time, hey, how do I build a successful business? Do I need to get my business card? So they spend all this time kind of picking out logos and colors and working on their website? That part is fun. But that's not a business. Once you have a website and and cards but you don't have customers. You don't have a business. You know, how do I speak on stages? I want to do my keynote addresses. Well, the grind to get on those big stages, boring. People say how do I want to transform my school, they come in, they're new principals. I'm going to come into the school and I'm going to transform this school. They bring in all these programs and people get overwhelmed and they crash and burn. And then there are people who come into a school and transform the school. It's boring. I remember early in my career, when I first started mine steps, I was working with the school, and they were in state takeover. So they had been consistently a failing school for three years or more. And the district had been given mandates to turn it around. They couldn't turn it around. And so the state took over the school and the district was trying to get control back over that school. So the state senate and all these regulators they replace the principal and the new principal. The principal is very charismatic, and the new principal was boring.

One of the most boring people I've ever met.

He had been an assistant principal in the district before, but the district didn't see him as principal material because he didn't have that charismatic, you know, thing that we think about for principal. And so he had gone to another district, he had shown himself to be successful in that district as a principal. And so he was being bought back in to take over this school. And the school had so many things wrong, and he just sat down. And when we first started working together, we micro slices school and figured out that they really needed to focus on the rigor of instruction. They had all these other programs. They were AP and IB and PB is and you name an acronym ABC, and they had all these programs to try to fix the school and none of it was working. And he said, You know what, we're just going to go back to basics. And they doubled down on rigor. And then his admin team, when they figured out their blue builders blueprint, they focused on rigor for instruction. But in terms of which discipline, a builder ship, they want it to practice, his admin team said, we really need to focus on feedback and support right now. So every admin team meeting, they sat down, they went through the teacher dashboard, whose classroom Have you been in this week? What supports that you give that teacher? How is it moving that teacher to more rigorous instruction, every single week, week after week, after week, that same boring meeting. But mid year, destruction started to shift. By the end of the year, they had gone from being an F school to being a C school. The following year, they went from being a C school to being an A minus school. And he went on to win principal of the Year for that county. And then for the state, not because he did something flashy, but because he was boring.

I remember sitting there looking at the success that he had with his school and saying this guy's so boring, but he was doing the right work. And unfortunately, the right work isn't flashy, it's boring. But he was just dogged and consistent about doing the right work. And that's how he turned his school around. It wasn't a flashy program, it was because he was willing to be boring. And since then, I've seen the same story happens time and time. Again, the people who are the most successful, are willing to be boring. They're willing to be consistent. They're willing to really understand what does it take not the flashy stuff. But what is the fundamental work that needs to be done and they're willing to continue to do it, even if it's boring. Success is boring. success means that you have to commit to something, you have to commit to daily habits, that over time, build success. Success, rarely, if ever comes lasting success. rarely, if ever comes when you try to do something flashy when you try to, you know, do something big, which when when you lurch from one big program to the next big program success happens when you're willing to commit to something boring.

Here are some boring things that builders do that contribute to their success.

The first thing is that builders create a meeting rhythm. Now meeting rhythms, every time I introduce them at builders lab, and I walk people through it even inside of builders University, were setting up meeting rhythms. And I always have to, I feel like I have to apologize, because, you know, this is one of the most powerful things you can do for your school to make it successful. But every time I introduce it, people are you know, start saying, Okay, this now what we're going to learn is something that is one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal as a builder. And then I follow that up with it's your meeting rhythm. And you can just see people being disappointed, disappointed, because they're expecting to hear something really cool. And I'm talking about the meeting rhythm. But let me tell you, when they put that meeting rhythm in place, you know, I get emails or they show up at office hours. And I like you know what I was I trusted you and I did that meeting rhythm thing. I don't want to but let me tell you that meeting rhythm is working. It's about committing every single week to meeting around your goals, not around anything else. You know, a lot of times in meetings we get first of all, most of us hate meetings. And the reason we hate meetings is because they're very unproductive. But when you set up a meeting rhythm, the way we teach you to do a builder's lab and an a build a ship University when you set that meeting up rhythm up. What it does is it keeps your focus consistently on achieving your goals. And it helps you make steady, consistent progress towards your goals. It helps keep you focused.

I remember when I first learned the medium rhythm, one of my mentors sat down and said, What's your meeting rhythm? I said, Well, we have a weekly meeting, but I weekly meeting was all over the place. Yeah, we met every single week. But we got nothing accomplished in those meetings. It was, you know, a gripe session or it made us feel better because we, you know, had a two hour meeting every week. And we ended up talking about a lot of challenges. We never solved them. We didn't plan we, it was it was not a good meeting. So we set up a meeting rhythm that was focused on helping us achieve our 90 day goals. And when we did that, it changed everything for us. I mean, it literally changed everything. It helped us all to stay more accountable to our goals. We didn't just set a goal it you know, we were used to kind of setting quarterly goals. And so we'd set a goal at the beginning of the 90 day period. And then we barely talked about it. And then at the end of the 90 day period, we'd say okay, how did we do? Did we reach our goal? That doesn't work. And a lot of us are doing that right now.

When you have a meeting rhythm that is so boring and regular, it forces you to stay focused on your goals.

Every single week, we set up this new meeting agenda that forced us to prioritize what challenges we were facing and solve those challenges every single week. So all of a sudden, just by having this meeting rhythm with the meet weekly meeting, we were solving problems quickly before they blew up in our faces, we were seeing so much more momentum, and then we add that the daily meeting, we call it the daily standup, or the DSU. We meet every day to say, okay, we made this commitment at our weekly meeting. What did we do today that moved us toward the commitments that we made it our weekly meeting. And again, that kept us from from getting distracted, it helped me as as the one in charge to kind of understand what everybody else was doing. And to make sure people were doing the right work without having to chase and check and correct them. It made sure that other people who might have slacked off, they know they're going to be meeting every day, they have to show up there to talk about what they're doing. So it helped keep everybody motivated and active.

The first 90 day period that we started this meeting rhythm, we had set these really ambitious goals, we weren't even confident we were going to achieve them. And we exceeded them in 90 days. And we started hitting benchmark after benchmark and goal after goal. And we started removing obstacle after obstacle and created this incredible momentum that transformed our organization. And I see the same thing happening in schools that we work with, if they commit to that meeting rhythm, as boring as it is, they get this momentum, they start eliminating challenges, they start hitting their goals and their benchmarks. They have a tightly knit team that everybody's more accountable, the benefits aren't boring the processes. Here's another one, that is something that's really boring, but leads to huge success. Sitting down and spending time micro slicing your school, creating a builder's blueprint. It is I used to say, this is the most boring part of builders lab. And it's also the hardest part of builders lab. But you do that work. You walk out with a blueprint for exactly how you're going to achieve your goals, you stick to that blueprint, you will achieve your goals. When it's talking about something else, it's boring. It's data. Well, data, the way that we typically do it as leaders is not only boring, it's excruciating. So we don't do data builders, we don't do data, the way that that leaders do data, what we do is builders instead of weeding through all of the data, we connect our data to our blueprint, we create something called a data scorecard.

I just said data scorecard. I know some of you fell asleep just by saying it.

But remember, success is boring. So what the data scorecard does is that it identifies one to two leading indicators and one to two lagging indicators that we're going to track every single week. So a leading indicator is really about what behaviors do we commit to doing consistently, that we believe if we do these things consistently will lead to an outcome and that's your lagging indicator. So a leading indicator might be like every week, we're going to get into as a leadership team, we're going to get into 15 classrooms and have meaningful conversations with teachers about instruction. Or it may be that every week, our teachers are going to have every single student is going to receive a checking call from one adult in our building, or every single week, we are going to sit down as a PLC. And we are going to talk about 20 students that we share in common and figure out where they are and what we need to do to get them to their goal. And we're going to rotate that list every single week until we go through in our entire team. And we're going to do that twice each semester.

What you're doing is you're tracking are we doing that every week? Or are we doing this every day? Are we getting into those classrooms? Are we talking about those students? Are we looking at those benchmark assessments and so you track your leading indicators within the idea that if we do that every single week, we should expect This outcome. And so then you start to say, we're doing this every single week are we starting to see this outcome. So you create a one cheater data scorecard. And that scorecard becomes a part of your weekly meeting. And every single week, you're looking at those numbers. Now boring as heck. But when you do that, it keeps you focused on the activities that are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck down the line, it helps you not to set a goal, but commit to doing the work to achieving that goal. Remember, success is boring. But I'm gonna tell you what, when you do that, and you start seeing the you start seeing you hitting those benchmarks, you start seeing yourself changing that data, you start seeing yourself changing outcomes for kids, that's not boring.

The work to get there is boring, but the outcome, is not boring.

If we commit to it, we see we get so distracted. And a lot of times it's not the technique, that's the problem. The problem is we get so bored with a technique that we don't see it through. I bet if I asked you, most of you know in your heart, fundamentally, what needs to happen in order to move your school forward. But can you commit to enduring the boredom of the work until you see the results. And most of us can't most of us give up too soon, we get distracted, it drives me nuts, when I am working with a school and they are lurching from one thing to the next. And every time I talk to them, they're saying, Oh, we trying this new thing. And I have to say I have to really watch myself because I almost kind of get, I get so annoyed that I you know, I get cranky about it. So I have to be careful about it. But I want to just kind of shake people and say stop it. Don't get caught up in the shiny objects. Success is boring. You know, I wish, you know, in my role that I could walk in and give you some sort of flashy solution. And you know, say, oh, here's the magical solution, you know, jumping around three times and say googly, and you'll see magic happen in your school, I wish that I had something like that. But most of the time when I come and talk to people, I'm talking to them about the most boring stuff in the world, like a meeting rhythm, and a builder's blueprint and a data scorecard and getting into classrooms and having those feedback conversations and creating a monitoring your teacher dashboard is so boring.

If you do that, then you start to tell a success story that is not boring at all, you start to talk about how your scores were in the toilet. And because you did this consistently now 100% of your students are at proficient or above, or you start to tell the story about how your graduation rank rates were just horrible. But now 100% of your students graduate in four years with a viable post secondary option. Or you tell the story about how your students were not successful when they left your school and didn't email all hundred percent of your students are successful. Yeah, getting to success is boring. But the story you'd start to tell as a result of that boring work. not boring at all. You should hear some of the stories that some of the people have come to builders lab are starting to tell it gives me goosebumps. But you got to do the boring work. And a lot of people never get to tell that success story. Because they refuse to submit to the boring part. I don't care what industry you're in. If you talk to successful people, and you ask them the secret of their success, if they're being honest, they'll tell you, success is boring. So you have to decide, are you going to commit to the boring? Will you allow yourself to just do the boring work? Is it worth it to you to go through that boring work in order to achieve success? You can go continue to chase shiny objects. But I'm here to tell you a year from now, you're not going to be very far from where you are. And for those of you who already have a good school and you feel stuck between how do I get from being a good school to being a great school I'm here to tell you it's not going to be some shiny object that gets you there. It's going to be about doing the boring work. In fact, it's a lot harder to get from good to great than it is to get from bad to good because the leap is smaller the work is more minute. But if you do it, if you if you commit to the boring part if you stop chasing the shiny objects, and just be good with being boring, the story that you will get to tell won't be boring at all.

This week, I want you to ask yourself, am I willing to commit to the boring in order to be able to tell the exciting success story?

Or am I getting continue to chase shiny objects looking for the next best thing, the biggest thrill the coolest program and stay stuck on the school improvement hamster wheel for the remainder of my career. The choice is yours. But I hope that you choose to be boring, like a builder. That's it for today. I will talk to you next time. Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you were you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside you'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join build a ship University. Just go to and get started writing your school success story today.

That's it for this week, See you next time!

Hey, If you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside you'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live offers. office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join Buildership University. Just go to and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll see you then!

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