Crazy Super Awesome!

My daughter, Wren, now a high school freshman, is also a cheerleader. I was familiar with cartwheels and back flips, but now I know about aerials, straight cradles, and extended stunts, among other things. And I’ve learned a new phrase, something Wren’s coach often says. She describes the squad as “crazy super awesome!” (And I think an exclamation point may be required!)

Cheerleading originated in the United States, and while it may be easy to dismiss all that jumping about, these young people are ambassadors for their schools, promote school spirit, and essentially, organize a crowd to work together to support a common goal. You might be surprised to know that three U.S. presidents were once cheerleaders (Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George W. Bush). It may not be a big surprise, but I was once a cheerleader too, for football, basketball, and wrestling. Go, Mid-Prairie Golden Hawks! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). I learned a few things that I think still apply:

  1. Cheer the whole team. Encourage all your team members, not just the stars. Success relies on everyone doing his or her job well.
  2. Move on. When something doesn’t go as planned (a fumble, a botched play), acknowledge the setback and move on.
  3. Harness momentum. Figure out ways to build on the interest and enthusiasm of the crowd.
  4. Focus on team success. Celebrate what the team has accomplished together.

My daughter cheers for Ames High, but we all can appreciate the success of our team, ISU Extension and Outreach. Looking back over the past nearly year and a half, we have a lot to cheer about. You all work diligently to serve the people of Iowa, and it shows. We have story after story that demonstrates the commitment and dedication of our entire team. All this awesomeness is due to one valuable resource: People. Thanks for everything you do — but be careful with those back flips. See you there.

— Cathann

P.S. As a reminder, there are thank you notes for all of you in the video that debuted at our 2011 leadership summit. If you haven’t watched it in a while, take another look.

Working toward Impossible

“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” — Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

During annual conference, I spoke about the current state of ISU Extension and Outreach. Over the past year we accomplished many things, but we have more to do. The quote from St. Francis outlines a simple, step-by-step approach. Accomplishing what is necessary and what is possible can place an individual or an organization in a position to achieve what may seem, initially, to be impossible. That sounds great, even inspirational, but if you’re like me, you may be a bit stuck on just that first part and a long way from challenging the impossible. What is necessary? What stuff do we need to be doing today?

“Stuff” is what comes in that doesn’t belong where it is, but for which you haven’t yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step. It’s like the box in my entryway that has been sitting there since we moved in. It’s full of miscellaneous stuff from the old house; I just haven’t figured out where to put the stuff in the new house. In other words, I haven’t thought about the intended outcome, so action is impossible. I just keep tripping over the box; just like we mentally keep tripping over stuff when we haven’t identified what action must happen next.

President Leath has said his goal is for Iowa State to become the university that best serves its state. This week, we started conversations about what we need to do to help meet that goal, but how do we transform interesting conversations into actionable stuff we need to do? David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says we’re never really taught that we have to think about our work before we can do it. Much of our daily activity is defined for us by undone things staring at us when we come to work. Thinking in a concentrated manner to define desired outcomes is something few people feel they have to do. But in truth, outcome thinking is one of the most effective means available for making ideas reality.

If Iowa State University became the university that best serves its state, what would we have done for our citizens that we are not doing now? What would it look like? If you had nothing else to do but this, where would you go right now, and what visible action would you take? What if we all started identifying every action required to help meet this goal and could articulate the expected results? See you there.

— Cathann

Facing House Rock

Last fall, Doug Steele, director of extension at Montana State University, shared this story during the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) annual meeting.  I thought it was relevant for our work and asked Doug if I could share it.

If you have ever had the pleasure of rafting the Gallatin River in Montana, then you know that there is a bend in the river that is the location of “House Rock.”  House Rock is appropriately named, because it is bigger than a house, and is great peril for rafters. Right before the curve in which House Rock resides, there is a calming straight of water that requires little paddling where one can enjoy the passing scenery. It is during this brief intermission that the rafting guide will warn you and your boating companions that House Rock is just around the corner.  The guide will tell your group that you have three choices:

1. You can operate independently of each other and surely hit the rock, which may send some of your party overboard.

2. You can paddle with all your strength and might, but not work together, and end up in the internal vortex that swirls around House Rock, waiting for someone to rescue you.

3. You can work together as a team, paddling together, following directions, and striving for the same goal — to successfully navigate around House Rock.

In terms of ISU Extension and Outreach, let’s choose to work together to face upcoming challenges, realizing that we all have a vested interest in our mutual success. Let’s welcome opportunities to carry forth research, educational programming, and engagement with Iowa State in all the counties. Let’s ensure that ISU Extension and Outreach will be relevant, viable, and necessary for years to come. Let’s face our House Rock together. See you there.

 — Cathann

Look for the Sparkle

As we all await the report from our leadership summit, does anyone feel a little bit like those Sparkle cheerleaders we heard about — “a little excited, a little nervous … in a cheerleader way”? Capstone speaker Ginny Wilson-Peters shared the story of the Sparkle Effect and how some teens from Bettendorf, Iowa, started this student-run program that helps students across the country create cheerleading and dance teams that include students with disabilities. (See “Cheering for Acceptance.”) Sparkle Effect teams aren’t about perfection, but about connection — because “when everyone cheers, everyone wins.” 

That’s true for ISU Extension and Outreach, as well. Whether you participated in the summit or held down the fort at home and then heard about the summit from your colleagues, you have a role to play on the team. As Ginny said,

  • Start from where you are;
  • Follow your passion and the rest will come;
  • Create a vision, set goals, and push yourself to do things you don’t think are possible; and
  • Continually focus on building relationships.

It’s about taking responsibility. And as Ginny said, responsibility doesn’t mean pointing your finger at somebody else – it’s how we choose to respond. Each of us needs to look at the way things are. If I’m not happy with it, it’s my responsibility to change. If you’re not happy with it, it’s your responsibility to change. There is always a choice. What are you willing to do to create change? See you there.

— Cathann

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