Over the December break, I received a signed copy of Martin Short’s Autobiography, “I must say”. As a huge fan of the cult classic late-night TV show, SCTV, I was thrilled to be able to read some amusing anecdotes about his time on Saturday Night Live, and his work with Steve Martin in a number of movies.
What struck me, however, was a brief section that Short wrote about how he dealt with the ups and downs of being an actor. He organized his life into Nine Categories, and kept a journal with weekly grades about how he was doing in each of the categories: Self, Immediate Family, Original Family (parents and siblings), Friends, Money, Career, Creativity, Discipline, and Lifestyle.
Short captured what I often feel about my own life, and how I’m sure many others feel, too. We are busy people, and it seems like we are always “spinning plates” – each one needing individual attention so that everything doesn’t come crashing down.
Short’s system is designed to allow him to pause and reflect. It allows him to realize that even when things aren’t going that well in one area, that they are doing fine in another. Alternatively, it directs him to the area of his life that needs the most attention.
Short’s system is also relevant to the life of our school. At The MacDuffie School, we strive for excellence in all areas – the classic “all things to all people at all times” educational experience! Invariably, we will lag behind in one area and excel in another. Rather than fret about this eventuality, we must focus on the process that allows us to reflect. What are our “9 categories”, and what is the way in which we open ourselves to reflection?
Our school evaluates our “Nine Categories” based on our mission:
To foster in all students the intellectual habits of mind, high ethical standards and respect for diversity required for becoming effective individuals in their personal and work lives and moral and responsible participants in the world beyond.
We have systems in place to reflect (open office doors, an atmosphere that invites feedback, regular surveys, NEASC Accreditation). It’s the best way to keep those plates spinning, although Martin Short shows that a good sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either!