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Happy “NO” Year!

Up until a few weeks ago, I was still struggling on my decision of what my focus would be for my one word for 2018. Three years ago I selected the word “vulnerable” because I felt compelled to embrace my vulnerability in order to continue to mature and evolve in my role as a school principal.  Then a couple of years ago I chose two words in my desire to continue to grow as a leader by eliminating the word “gotcha” from my vocabulary and behavior and replacing it with “forgiveness.” By doing so, I could begin to forgive myself for some of my mistakes and poor choices I made early on in my career when my intentions may have been good, but the results were not what I had hoped for. It also served me well by allowing me to forgive others whose words or actions may have hurt me in some way. Moreover, it gave me permission to ask for forgiveness from those who I had wronged in the past.  And finally last year, I took a completely different approach and rather than choose one word, I chose to strive to meet the following mantra:

Stop sleeping when I am a little tired

Stop eating when I am a little hungry

Stop talking when I still have something left to say

This past month I attended my daughters Academic Letter ceremony and afterwards a parent of one of my former students approached me and we started chatting. After a few moments I asked how her son Tam was doing. “Great she said, but he is home sick right now. I am worried about him because he just keeps taking more and more on and saying yes to everything anyone asks him to do.  He was up late last night working on a paper that was due and has been working so many hours lately at his bartending job and coaching varsity basketball that I hardly ever see him. And he just agreed to start working one on one with a young boy, coaching him on his basketball fundamentals and skills.”  Then what she said next caught me a bit by surprise.  She asked, “Can you talk to him and tell him it’s okay to say no to people?” I couldn’t help but smile. I quickly responded, “I can talk to him. It definitely can be challenging, but he has to learn that it is okay to say no to people without worrying they are going to be mad at him. I will give him a call this week and chat with him.”

On my drive home that night I couldn’t stop thinking about my interaction with Tam’s mom.  She was right to worry.  After all, what she described was no different than what I have witnessed hundreds of times over my career when it comes to our work as educators.  How often have we found ourselves in similar situations; going and going until we find ourselves completely exhausted.  So exhausted in fact that we don’t leave much for those closest to us, in many cases, our spouses and children. Yes, our families often find themselves on the back burner, waiting on us as we stay committed to our passion of serving others, sometimes giving more to other people’s children than we give our own. I am not saying it’s right or wrong, I am just saying that it feels like sometimes we can’t help ourselves because we care so darn much. It’s like it is in our DNA.

Even today, after almost three decades of serving in this wonderful profession we call teaching and learning, I find myself conflicted, just like many of you do I am sure.

So this year I am committing to the word, NO.  I know I need to get better at this as the demand on my time grows exponentially. I am not immune from exhaustion any more than you are. We are all human with physical, mental and emotional limits and it’s okay to admit that and realize that it’s okay to say no. We are not superhuman nor are we superheroes. We are educators who love what we do and who want to make a difference in the lives of others. So why are we so afraid to say no? People will understand. They will not be mad. They will not judge us. They will support our decision. They will still talk to us. They will still believe in us.

More importantly, they will still reach out to me and you again, understanding that it is hard to say no, but knowing that next time, we will say yes. We are educators, a gift to our children and our humanity. That is who we are and that is what we do. Believe in your heart that there is no greater gift that you can give to others than the gift of your own personal time and commitment, never forgetting that others will give you permission to say “No” when you are genuine and sincere in your word. You just need to give yourself permission and not feel guilty for giving yourself a pass.

Happy 2018 everyone!  May your year be filled with blessings of both YES….and NO.


“You can do anything, but not everything.” #Culturize


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  • Sue Tonnesen
    2 months ago

    Great post, Jimmy. Love that even though ‘No’ is your One Word for 2018, your post gives us permission to step back and take a look at our own lives and how much we have given of ourselves…and to decide when we have given enough…thank you! Happy New Year!

  • Leigh Stanford
    2 months ago

    I definitely needed to read this today! We are so excited about you coming to Amory this Tuesday! See you soon!

  • Stephanie Cruz
    2 months ago

    Thank you for this word! I just ordered your book and am excitedly waiting for it to arrive! I struggled with deciding on #myoneword and eventually chose balance. No is an integral part of this balance for me. I need to allow this word to become part of my vocabulary-as many educators do. I am striving for the balance between I “can do anything, but not everything” #culturize But I also want to support others in finding the balance in saying yes. Yes, my students can. Yes, we can do something different. Yes, I will be uncomfortable and try this. Yes, I believe that ALL of my children have extraordinary potential.

  • Malynn
    2 months ago

    Your words always inspire, my friend. It can be so hard to say no. Thanks for being transparent and spot on. And if you tell me NO in 2018, I know it will be wrapped in love. 😊 Happy New Year!

  • Sly Boskovich
    2 months ago

    Very well said..I’m going to give it a try this year .

    Thanks for always sharing your wisdom,


  • Sue w
    2 months ago

    Love the irony that she saw the issue in her son but still asked you to talk to him. Good thing you weren’t practicing your. New “no”.

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