The Director’s Log: August 2017

When I was 9 years old (and much louder than I am now) my great-aunt Sue Shephard gave me some advice I’ve never forgotten: “Leslie, God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”

It took me a while to figure it out, but eventually I got it. It’s probably at least twice as useful to listen as it is to talk.

There’s almost a cottage industry of advice like that, probably because, as Ernest Hemingway put it, “Most people never listen.” And when they do, Steven Covey notes, “they only do so with the intent to reply.”

The Aunt Sue philosophy shapes a lot of what we do at the Institute for Emerging Issues, and lately we’ve been trying to take it more seriously than ever. I hope you’ll see that as you scan this month’s Digest.

  • By the end of this summer’s “Big Idea” event, we had gotten 7 score and 18 ideas from you about what you think the biggest idea facing North Carolina is. Wowza! Now we are in the process of getting advice from our board and others to help us narrow them down. Next spring we will listen again as you help us select from a final list of three.
  • This week we are launching an effort to listen to your ideas about how to change early childhood education, with 6 meetings in the next 25 days across the state. Visit our website to view a schedule of upcoming Crib to Career Workshops, for more information, and to register — and join us in Cumberland County, Rockingham County, Transylvania County, Rowan County, Avery County or Nash-Edgecombe.
  • We are listening to our great Service Year NC teams from Greenville, Wilson, Rockingham County and Wilkes County, then connecting them to people who have the information they need to move their efforts forward.
  • If you want to listen to some of the state’s leading thinkers about early childhood development, we hope you will join former IEI director Anita Brown-Graham and her colleagues at ncIMPACT for a careful review of early childhood data coming up next month. If you missed the recent #PreKinNC Twitter Chat which IEI was excited to be a part of, you can view the conversation, data and resources shared here.
  • And each week on our First in Future podcast you know we listen to someone who is imagining our state’s future, looking around the corner to where North Carolina might go. With more than thirty shows under our belt, chances are there is someone you’ll be interested in hearing from. I can vouch for all of them!

I found out later that Aunt Sue was actually riffing off of Diogenes (who apparently never practiced what he preached, bless his heart), but I liked the way she said it better anyway. And now that it has stuck with me, everytime I’m tempted to think I have something profound to say, I try to take a breath and listen first. What’s the payoff? Well, as Doug Larson puts it, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” We don’t promise wisdom, but we’ll definitely be getting smarter this month!