Life Advice Still Resonates from Covey

I’ve been reflecting back to 2001, a time when I felt like I had a fairly good handle on life. I was college-educated, had a successful career, and a marriage partner who enjoyed volunteering in our church work, and helping me remodel our 90-year old farm house. (I also had a 1968 MGB-GT and a 1970 P-1800 Volvo in the barn!) Life was good.

Then, our first daughter was born. On that very day (while still in the hospital), I clearly remember coming to the realization that I knew absolutely nothing. I was frightened beyond belief. How could I possibly raise a child? What was I supposed to do when she cried?

That humbling moment drove me to learn all I could about parenting. Though several books helped, I soon discovered that other parents had great experiential knowledge and advice. And though the challenges change, whether in parenting or life in general, we can benefit by going back to the basics and listening to proven wisdom.

prioritiesI caught this article on the Forbes website a while back. It presented pertinent reminders for both work and home life. These are seven quotes from Stephen Covey that “have the power to completely change the direction of one’s life.” These are some of the basics that can help us through anything. I hope they will be helpful to you.


Covey’s Advice:

  1. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
  2. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
  3. Live out of your imagination, not your history.
  4. Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
  5. Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.
  6. I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.
  7. You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

References: Advice from Covey — Source:

Brian Raison

Brian Raison is an Associate Professor and Extension Field Specialist, Community and Organizational Leadership.

Considering Perspective

My brother Bill’s birthday is approaching. He’s three years younger than I am, but probably 10 years wiser. He’s my best friend… and often keeps me balanced when things get crazy. (Think: overscheduling, kids driving, etc.) In addition, he is really good at bringing perspective.

three dimensional drawing

A three dimensional drawing suggests depth or distance.

Perspective is defined as “a particular way of regarding something.” In drawing or painting, it’s a way of portraying three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface by suggesting depth or distance.

In our often complex Extension work, perspective is a tool that can yield valuable, tangible results if we employ it correctly. For example, let’s say we’re helping a small business, non-profit, or local government agency do some strategic planning. Our very presence brings an outside perspective—an “etic” as defined in the social science research literature (see Pike, 1967). This perspective contrasts with the “emic” (or internal view) that people, groups, and organizations inherently hold. Morris, et al (1999) described the emic/etic perspectives in terms of cultural phenomena. But the construct holds in strategic planning which is, of course, set within an organization’s culture.

In practice, some consultants will (falsely) jump to the conclusion that the emic perspective is clouded by insiders being too involved to clearly see and articulate a solution (e.g., not being able to see the forest because of the trees in the way). But be cautious of this thinking. It can land short. The consultant might advise the organization to abandon “process X” in favor of “process Z”… wreaking havoc at multiple levels.

Instead, I suggest a combined approach. Use your outside etic perspective to gather data, observe systemic processes, and look for solutions to suggest. But first, ask your client for their internal emic view. Then, you can overlay your perspective and co-construct a better overall solution together.


Morris, et al (1999), Views from Inside and Outside: Integrating Emic and Etic Insights About Culture and Justice Judgment. Academy of Management Review. 1999, Vol. 24. No. 4, 781-796.

Pike, Kenneth Lee (ed.) (1967), Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of Structure of Human Behavior (2nd ed.), The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton.

Perspective figure source: Creative Commons

Brian Raison is an Assistant Professor & Extension Field Specialist in Community and Organizational Leadership. Brian Raison

The end of diversity initiatives?

I recently overheard a business person in a leadership position say he was glad that we (referring to a broad collective of business, industry, education, and government organizations) have invested in training and action related to expanding diversity in our workplaces. But, he then said those programs “are kind of all the same” and reasoned that they’re not needed anymore. One could argue that we’ve made great strides in increasing diversity; but I would suggest we have only scratched the surface.

The United States is becoming more diverse every single day (US Census Bureau, 2016). So it’s a valid argument to say our teachers should reflect the look of their classroom students, or the administration (of any given organization) should reflect the composition of its constituents.

But there are much deeper reasons for continuing our quest for diversity. (Our CFAES diversity team outlines numerous examples here.)

Let’s consider problem solving. When faced with a complex issue, would you rather tackle it alone, or pull resources from a number of people who can give perspectives that greatly enhance the number of approaches for solution? The business community has long deployed strategies for looking at problems in diverse ways in order to reach better solutions. It positively impacts their bottom line.

Problem solving is but one example. The principle applies in many, many situations.

So how might we reconsider diversity initiatives? What might we do (personally and collectively) to change our thinking the next time we receive an email announcing another diversity training?

I suggest starting with the iceberg. We have all seen the analogy. Ninety percent of a person’s background, composition, identity, etc. is hidden beneath the water line. We see only 10% on the external surfaces. But here’s the catch:  Even though I KNOW about the iceberg analogy, it doesn’t always come to mind when I’m interacting, or making a decision, or deleting an email. So if we can try being deliberate about remembering the iceberg, it just might help.

You might also endeavor to learn more about yourself. I have taken several of the modules in the free online Harvard Implicit Bias test. They provide hints about our often-unrecognized biases and help us move beyond. They take only 5 or 10 minutes!

Even small steps like these outlined here can make a positive difference. I encourage you to give them a try.


US Census Bureau. Retrieved 9/13/17 from:

Brian Raison is an Assistant Professor and Field Specialist, Community and Organizational Leadership.

Forget the Millennial vs. Boomer Distinctions:  Let’s talk about reaching Generation “C”

How many of you have seen notices for workshops on “understanding Millennials” or “generational divides” in the workplace? They appear in my in-box on a regular basis. While I believe there is great merit in understanding differences that may exist in various age categories, I think these constructs may be the wrong focus. Instead, perhaps we should seek a common language that promotes communication, teamwork, networking, and innovation across age and other perceived boundaries. But how would we do that? I have not seen THAT webinar offered yet!

ConnectedThe founder and CEO of Hootsuite, Ryan Holmes, said, “the concept of millennials is just too limiting.” Instead, he proposes that we forget age and generational differences. He recommends we consider the concept of “Generation-C” – an idea that includes people of all ages, socioeconomic status levels, rural/urban locales, and other normally divisive categories. The idea of Generation-C is that of a common language that promotes communication, teamwork, and innovation across these real and perceived boundaries.

Generation-C is a mindset. It refers to everything from collaboration to community to computerized and/or content. And they are not just consuming content; they are creating and curating it. The most fundamental component is “connectivity.” Holmes says they “move seamlessly from laptop to tablet to smartphone,” staying connected in all aspects.

These are people you want to be around. They are connecting and helping the rest of us learn the latest and best approaches to expanding our work. Do you know someone who is a Generation-C worker? You want to be around them, don’t you?!

Jamie Seger, Program Director, OSU Extension Education Technology (and self-confessed Jamie Seger connectingmillennial), and her co-worker Danae Wolfe have been advocating this approach for years. They work to bridge our four Extension program areas by engaging people (of all generations) across technology platforms, processes, and networks. (In the photo to the left, Jamie is seen teaching “best online practices” at a recent conference on campus. She’s not targeting millennials. She’s connecting everyone!)

Perhaps adopting this mindset or approach to our work could unite and expand our efforts, reaching (and positively impacting) even more citizens across the state and nation. Give Generation-C a try. Anyone can join in. Don’t be left behind.


Move Over, Millennials: 5 Things You Need to Know About Generation C

Brian Raison is an Assistant Professor and Extension Field Specialist for Community & Organizational Leadership Development.

Pivotal Conversations: Will you have one today?

In the title of this message, I have posed an impossible question. I have asked you to somehow determine, in advance, whether or not you will engage with someone in a conversation today that may change a life… theirs or yours! So why would I ask an unanswerable question? Well, it’s to challenge you to think, and to be more engaged in our everyday interactions.

pivatol-conversations-2016-10-20Here’s my contention: any one of us may have a pivotal conversation at any time; but we may or may not recognize it at the moment. This happened to me a dozen years ago when I nearly left Extension after my application for promotion from Educator II to III was voted down. I felt like a failure; and I decided I must not be cut out for Extension… an organization I had grown to love. But one evening at 4-H Camp Graham, Jeff King took a little bit of extra time to talk with me, explain the disconnect, and share a personal story that was similar to mine. That pivotal conversation changed the course of my career.

In Urban Meyer’s book, Above the Line, he presents Jack Canfield’s idea of E+R=O.  An Event happens, we Respond, and the Outcome results. Jeff King had my “event” land on his doorstep. He responded, not just because it was his job, but with care and insight and attention. That changed my “outcome” and indeed my life.

So we may not know when a pivotal conversation is coming. But join me and let’s challenge ourselves to step-up our game, to be more present in conversations, to be a more active listener, and to truly give attention. I often struggle. But by keeping it in the forefront of my mind, I will hopefully improve and be able to help others as I have been helped.

Please take a moment and think about a pivotal conversation you have had. Then challenge yourself to be on the lookout for opportunities each and every day.

Brian Raison is an Assistant Professor and Extension Field Specialist for Community and Organizational Leadership.

Raison begins role as field specialist for community and organizational leadership

Are you interested in leadership issues? Do your clientele request programming around leadership? Are you aware of others in Extension who are working on or conducting leadership programming?

Raison, Brian CDFSAs of May 1, I assumed the role of Extension field specialist, community and organizational leadership development. In this new role, I will be working to identify potential programmatic relationships with faculty and staff throughout OSU and with partner organizations. Some of those will include the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (OFSWCD), County Commissioners’ Association of Ohio (CCAO), Ohio Tourism Association (OTA) and Ohio Township Association (OTA). I will also try to identify and address new opportunities for community and organization-focused engagement involving leadership.

To begin, I’ll be conducting an inventory of existing leadership programming around the state (seeking input from county Extension personnel and state specialists). I’ll also reach out to other CFAES departments and partner organizations. I’ll be in communication with our CD and other Extension colleagues as the position begins to unfold; and I’ll seek opportunities for partnership at all levels.

My new position also includes a partial appointment in the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership where I’ll engage students in applied research and community service as well as participate in resident instruction. I will be co-located with the Greene County Extension office; but you’ll likely find me on campus and across the state as well!  Again, please be in touch with ideas and opportunities!

(Submitted by Brian Raison, Assistant Professor & Extension Field Specialist, Community and Organizational Leadership)

Historical Contexts Show Opportunity for CD’s Future

Autumn in Appalachian Ohio is simply beautiful. On October 14th, fourteen of our CD team members gathered in Marietta and enjoyed the fall colors during our quarterly team meeting. We had the pleasure of meeting four new hires: Laura Fuller (CD Educator, Noble County), Gary Kuhn (Program Manager, Alber Enterprise Center), Amanda Osborne (CD Educator, Cuyahoga County), and Carla Wood (Program Coordinator, Alber Enterprise Center).

A special thanks to Darlene Lukshin who hosted our event, made the sternwheel boat arrangements and even had homemade refreshments, thanks to the wonderful team at the Washington County Extension office. What a great day!

Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District presentation:

Darlene also arranged for a presentation by Chief Engineer Boris Slogar and Chief of Conservation Ted Lozier from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District with whom she’s worked on community projects (new low cost erosion/soil stabilization methods). They provided an historical context and pointed out how watersheds impact the local economy and environment. Their presentation showed implications of flooding on human systems (families, food supplies, safe water, etc.) and economic systems (business-to-business, tourism impacts, and others). In short, we learned about numerous resources that the Conservancy Districts (here and across Ohio) hold, and that there is great potential for community development projects and partnerships with and through them.

Muskingum River Sternwheeler Cruise:

IMG_0039Although it may have sounded like just a nice way to enjoy lunch, the river boat cruise actually turned into another history lesson. We locked through Devol’s Dam, the only remaining manual turn lock in the country. Onboard, we learned about early settlement in the area, and heard about many of the economies that early residents enjoyed. I was reminded of our 2014 Extension Annual Conference at which we looked back at history in order to consider our future. This is a great approach to planning. We finished the day with some great conversation and did planning for our 2016 CD section of JCEP.

(Submitted by Brian Raison, Assistant Professor; Interim Assistant Director, CD; CD Educator, Miami County & Top of Ohio EERA; and Miami County Extension Director)

Be a local food superhero

Many of us are familiar with TED talks, the now ubiquitous storytelling venue that has attracted over a billion viewers to thousands of talks worldwide. In the 1990s, their “ideas worth spreading” mission led to granting independent licenses called TEDx events, often hosted by cities, universities or non-profits. Once the talks are published online, they become tools that can make impacts in our community development work. A TED talk (or any well-done, brief, online YouTube video) can be used to jumpstart a conversation on job creation, our environment, our health, our future or virtually any topic we may be teaching.

TEDxDaytonOn October 17, 2014, I presented a TEDx talk to nearly 1,100 people at the historic Victoria Theatre in downtown Dayton, Ohio. The talk was entitled, “Be a Local Food Superhero.” My original aim was to inspire attendees, their friends and families to get more involved in supporting local farms and economies by purchasing local foods… noting that they could become virtual superheroes by making simple, deliberate choices in their food purchasing habits.

As I began to think about our work in community development, I quickly realized Extension workers can become local food superheroes as well. Aside from personally participating in the purchase and consumption of local goods, we can use our teaching and partnership platforms to encourage diverse programming around local foods, food security, food justice and a myriad of other food-related topics regardless of our individual program area focus.

The local foods idea cuts across all four program areas and spans rural, suburban and urban populations. Whether serving as youth educators, in agriculture, community development or family and consumer sciences, the opportunities are there. Extension workers have immense potential to positively impact local food consumption through their work. As noted in the talk, the social, community, personal health, environmental and economic impacts are not manipulated statistics. The added value comes through a collective impact. And collective impact can change our world.

The talk was published on January 12, 2015 and may be seen online at:

(Submitted by Brian Raison, Assistant Professor and County Extension Educator & County Extension Director, Miami County/Top of Ohio EERA)

2014 eXtension Food Security Conference

“Can you believe vegetables are growing in the shadow of an urban high-rise apartment building?”

“I will be more deliberate in including community members—particularly those whose voices are often omitted—in the early, developmental phases of my Extension educational outreach and programming.”


Food Security Conference 2014 - reducedThese thoughts are from two participants of the USDA AFRI funded Food Security Conference hosted by the eXtension Community, Local & Regional Food Systems Community of Practice (CLRFS eCoP) and held in downtown Cleveland, September 29 – October 1, 2014. The conference included 104 Extension educators, researchers and community partners from Land Grant Universities and local non-profit organizations from 23 states. Since 2012, this group has grown to become the fourth largest eCoP among nearly 80 in eXtension’s nationwide system.

Key conference goals included:

  • positioning food security as a priority in food system research and practice
  • enhancing Extension’s capacity to work on food security and food systems
  • bringing together University and Extension workers with community food system practitioners to address core competencies for professionals engaged in this work

It also sought to align University research priorities with community needs and to train Food Systems Extension professionals of the future. The breakout sessions focused on skill development, aligning research, developing understandings among the local and regional food system community and building the capacity and value proposition of the CLRFS eCoP. The Cleveland location allowed participants to gain experiential knowledge via urban agriculture tours and conversations with the growers and food security practitioners in the region.

The conference keynote plenary session targeted the role racism plays in food security in America. The CLRFS eCoP identified the need to build Extension’s capacity to address food security through new lenses as a critical initiative for the group. Trainers from The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond led attendees through a training session on “Undoing Racism in Our Food Security Work.” Conference participants were challenged to define racism and its implications for society and to consider how their work might unwittingly contribute or further injustice in the food system.

Click here to read the full article, including descriptions of the urban ag tour stops and links to additional coverage.

The conference was made possible by eXtension and a grant from the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

(Submitted by: Brian Raison, Assistant Professor and County Extension Educator, Miami County and Top of Ohio EERA / Co-leader, eXtension Community, Local & Regional Food Systems Community of Practice.)

Working together to promote Community, Local & Regional Food Systems

Fresh Lettuce!

(Photo credit: post 7/2/2014)

What could be better than eating fresh fruits and vegetables out of your garden this time of year?  Well, not much other than having access to such garden fresh foods year round. If you are interested in such things, there is a new resource available at eXtension called the Community, Local & Regional Food Systems Community of Practice or ‘CoP’.  This CoP is designed to provide information and networking opportunities for educators, community-based practitioners, policy makers, farmers/growers, families, and really anyone involved in building equitable, health-promoting, resilient, and economically balanced food systems.

Anyone can share, learn, and contribute in any number of ways. For more information, click here.

(Submitted by: Brian Raison, Assistant Professor and County Extension Educator, Miami County and Top of Ohio EERA / Co-leader, eXtension Community, Local & Regional Food Systems Community of Practice.)