I Quit – and it’s OK

April 2008 will go down in my personal history as memorable not because of something I accomplished, but because of something I quit. I’m a high-energy person, thriving on conquering challenges. But I’m also a nurturer to those around me, advocating for taking care of yourself, all things in balance, setting reasonable limits, yada yada yada.

I even wrote about quitting (or not) last August, when I reviewed Seth Godin’s book The Dip. So, it was to that blog post I returned when I found that my latest journey to 23 Things on a Stick wasn’t working out the way I planned. In the book, Godin talks about slogging through the long dip between the excitement of starting and the triumph of finishing. He talks about the light at the end to which you power toward when you’re in the Dip.

So it was in January, when I signed up for the 23 Things along with over 1,000 other library folks in Minnesota. I pumped it up and was overjoyed when many of the staff in our regional library took the journey with me. There were warning signs that this was destined to be my first big failure (oh, there have been others I suppose, but I forget). In the first place, I wasn’t willing to garbage up (my perception) this, my real blog, with 23 Things posts. So I created another blog. Secondly, I barely signed up in time to participate, and only managed 3 Things for the month of February. Thirdly, I should have known I was a little too over-zealous when others around me didn’t want me to know that they were doing the program, lest they disappoint me. What a crock!

Well, that inner voice inside me kept getting louder and louder. Real life intervened as I moved into a new house and learned how to install baseboard trim (including staining and finishing). Days at work were long: dark in the morning, dark at night. And I only did 3 Things. And frankly, my posts about those 3 were way below even the *good enough* standard I promised myself I’d satisfy for.

So, I dug out the blog post. This is one book I didn’t buy, and boy, am I sorry. Here are some of the review points I wrote with my very own paws, and my personal eye-openers as they related to my lack of success with 23 Things:

  • If you can’t be #1 or #2, get out (ala Jack Welch) yup, my posts weren’t #1 or #2 in quality or quantity
  • It’s easier to be mediocre than it is to confront reality and quit. Mediocre is not part of who I am or ever will be – and I like it that way.
  • If you’re not able to get through the Dip in an exceptional way, you must quit. I neither had the strength or desire to get through the Dip. The light was invisible to me.
  • The opposite of quitting isn’t waiting around, it’s rededication. There was plenty I should be excelling at, and 23 Things wasn’t one of them. (Stop by some time and see my baseboard, curtains, etc.)
  • It’s OK to quit if the project isn’t worth the reward at the end. I anticipated 2 rewards: new knowledge (I knew most of this stuff) and a flash memory stick from the sponsoring organization (I have gazillions of them around the house.)
  • Pride is the enemy of the smart quitter. yup that hit me where it hurt. Especially when other librarians across the state e-mailed me about my lack of posts. ouch.
  • Decide in advance when you should quit. While I hadn’t done this, my lack of commitment was certainly evident.

April 16th was the last day to win a prize. About the 1st of the month I thought about ramping it up, like some of my friends did. Just about then 2 events in my family climaxed and sapped my attention and energy. So, here it is today, April 17th, and I’m a 23 Things quitter. Ugh.

But wait . . . . I may be a quitter, but I’m not a failure. I started the program, so did lots of others. I did learn one new thing – I created an avatar. It never interested me, and I’m sure I’ll never do it again. Lots of people didn’t get to magic #23. But everyone tried something new and acquired familiarities with something different and potentially valuable. There’s the value.

I’m fairly bursting with pride for the 8-10 librarians in my region who did finish (haven’t got the final report yet). Hip hip hooray. And I fairly whooped when I opened our library blog this morning, and saw one of my colleagues’ appropriately used new trick. She said it was one of her 23 Things. No, she didn’t finish either. And we’ve agreed that we’re going to walk through it together on our own time, recognizing our successes and forming our own support group. Anyone want to join us?

Teaching game about tags

A great idea for teaching and learning about tagging from Joyce Valenza’s NeverEndingSearchBlog. The game is called Fastr, developed by Scott Reynen of randomchaos.com. The game generates a group of ten Flickr images and you guess the common tag. As Joyce warns, probably not real appropriate for younger children, given what may pop up in Flickr, although when I tried it I didn’t see anything inappropriate (I only guessed about half).

Delivering the keys to ELM

Would I like to do training for a library on a Holiday? Would I like to teach that class at 8:00 a.m. at a location 45 miles away? and finally . . . . would I like to travel to that class in a snowstorm that was dumping 3 inches per hour over roads that were not plowed? Hmmmm . . . . the answers are “Sure”, “Well, OK”, and “What?”

Such was the case on Friday, the observed holiday of Veterans Day. I have been working with Wabasha St. Felix School and had assisted them in getting their IPs authenticated so that their students could use the Electronic Library for Minnesota (ELM). ELM is a state-funded collection of online magazines. Friday November 10th was their scheduled staff in-service day, and they invited me to teach them how to use ELM.

One of the top reasons I love my job is visiting schools and libraries, showing people how to use ELM. Subscription databases of magazines that are funded through state $$$ have become so commonplace to me, that I am frequently surprised anew when I find out how many libraries and individuals have not discovered them. When I do training, I feel like Santa Claus – giving away huge amounts of magazines and references to expand their libraries. Every session I’ve taught has been nothing less than exciting. I constantly beg libraries to let me come in and teach exploratory classes in finding magazines that will be useful.

Friday in Wabasha was no exception. As tough as the driving was, all the teachers were there — many traveling as far as I had through the 12-inch snowstorm. It took the technology teacher an hour and a half to get from Goodhue (a distance of about 30 miles). We had great fun and all reported that they’d found valuable resources for their classes. One said she’d not used the computer much, but intended to practice using ELM.

And once again, I’ve got this warm, fuzzy feeling that I’ve contributed in a positive way to kids’ education (of course after I’d returned safely home through the snow). Next stop for the ELM roadshow — LaCrescent-Hokah, 3 weeks from now. I only hope for better weather.