Friday, July 25, 2014

Making Leaders of Lizards

"Adaptation is the secret to our survival," espoused Chris the Camelon from his lectern.

This was the fifth annual Long Live the Lizards Jamboree, and Dr. Chris was the keynote speaker (despite his slight lisp). Already that day, the lizards had sat through, "Life's a Croc" by Carlisle Crocodile," "Slow Success for the New Bo(hemian)" by Greg Gila, and "Hipsters Surging in the Swamp," by an up-and-coming horned lizard named Harry.

Chris the Camelon extolled the languishing lizards for nearly an hour on leadership principles. He strongly advocated the importance of adaptation, adjusting to new markets, and recognizing the recurring trends of reptilian expectations.

By the end of the lecture, most of the crawling creatures were ready to skip the Q&A and head for home. But one brave gecko raised a sticky toe pad and said, "Dr. Chris, how can we lizards lead anything if we're being told by you to be ready to change everything and anything on the changing whims of a lizard's likes and dislikes?"

"What's you name gecko?"

"Phil."

"Phil? I would have expected something like Gill or Gary or Gage."

"Nope, it's just Phil."

"Ok, Phil. As my lecture demonstrated, I believe leaders are those with the uncanny ability to evolve quickly to survive adverse environmental changes."

"Yeah, I got that."

"Thus, I showed that the inability to transform leaves a lizard at a disadvantage to survival."

"I thought this was a conference on leadership, not survival."

"It is young lizard."

"Well if it is, Dr. Chris, most of the great leaders I've ever known were those that clung to or went back to the ancient truths and traditions amid change. Those that adapt or cried for evolution seem to be the ones we shouldn't follow."

"How dare you question my scholarship, Phil."

"Well doc," continued Phil, "It was that Martin the Marsh Lizard that reminded us that all reptiles are created equal. He was an amazing leader. He taught us the ancient truths in an adapted world. By way of comparison, Adolf the Alligator almost killed off an entire species because he believed the alligator's adapted state gave them credence to eradicate those less fit for survival. So you can take all your adaptation speeches and throw them in a creek. I'm going to lead by not changing, thank you very much."

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Unpublished Letter to the Editor - January 24, 2006

I wrote this over 8 years ago to The Record Herald in Indianola, IA. It still contains my sentiments:

Op – Ed – January 24, 2006

I graduated Indianola High School in spring 1999.  With my 25th birthday looming, I have been thinking a lot about all the blessings, pain and life-turns I have experienced in my quarter century of living.  I am happy where I am today, and I owe a lot of thanks to the Indianola community and school district.  I wanted the word to go out all across town that Indianola is a great place to find encouragement, hope and inspiration.  The last time I wrote a newspaper piece was when I was editor of the great IHS newspaper, The Indian, so please be gracious.
            I moved to Indianola during the summer before my 4th grade year.  I was a scrawny, big-eared, all-American kid.  I was just phasing out of my love for Transformers and GI-Joe and moving into more mature things like slap-bracelets, sports, and girls.  But as the new kid on the block (not to be mistaken for my favorite band at the time, New Kids on the Block), I was nervous, alone, and afraid.  On my first day of school I entered Whittier Elementary with only one known friend (my neighbor of 2 months Seth Comfort).  My fears were quickly wiped away as Mrs. Bogs’ class kicked off.  I had to go around the room with a checklist: put your Kleenex box on such and such a shelf, arrange your desk, other things, and then it said I had to go up and introduce myself to the teacher.  In my “no shame” demeanor (which I still have) I approached Mrs. Bogs and exclaimed (in a very high 4th grade voice), “Hello, I am Matt Proctor!!”  Though startled, Mrs. Bogs introduced herself right back and it was a perfect beginning to an enduring warm relationship.  My 4th grade year was fabulous . . . Mrs. Kakac challenged me in reading, Mrs. Murphey pushed me in math, and all the staff at Whittier helped me orient to this unique town.  Not to mention, Mrs. Bogs graciously encouraged all of her students to start wearing deodorant (she was a sharp lady).
            The Indianola Middle School building in 1991 was not a pretty sight.  The building was falling apart, asbestos was rumored to be everywhere, and the building was so small that students overflowed into trailers on the schoolyard.  But again, I was challenged and equipped by a great staff of teachers.  Mrs. Deeds was my delightful 5th grade homeroom teacher.  Unfortunately for her, I was one of the many hooligans in her not so delightful homeroom class.  She had this humorous system of ringing bells to quiet us down—she bought louder and louder bells throughout the year.  As a totally mature 5th grade boy, I found it ridiculous that she would read those “girly” books known as Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Well, to be honest, I eventually fell in love with those great books and secretly loved it every time Mrs. Deeds read them to us.  To this day, I am disappointed we were unable to complete the whole series during that year.  6th grade was a unique time in my life because various hormones began erupting within my body.  Luckily, I had the gracious hand of Mr. Nichols and others to walk me and many others through these early days of adolescent life. 
            Oh the days of junior high.  I think the reason most of us have very few memories of junior high is because we have repressed those awful moments from our brain, but fortunately for me, most of my intact recollections are ones of joy.  I loved being involved in competitive sports, especially my days on the 7th and 8th grade lightweight football teams.  I loved dissecting animals in Mr. Scullen’s science class and trying to get a Zowie in Mr. Morrison’s. I appreciated learning more about computers in Mrs. Monroe’s class. I gained valuable insight from Mrs. Sullivan teaching me the pieces of a sentence (and yes, I still know the difference between a subordinating and coordinating conjunction). I had a fabulous math teacher with Mrs. Wermeskerken (I don’t think I ever learned how to spell or pronounce her name).  One of the greatest blessings of my life was my junior high participation in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Every other Monday night, I’d come to the cafeteria to learn about God, be loved by parents and teachers from our community, and encouraged to live a life of influence among my peers.  I went to the first F.C.A. meeting held during my 7th grade year, and I never missed another Monday night meeting through my entire junior high and high school career.  They loved me in a way I had never experienced and I couldn’t get enough of it.  They lived out the bible verse John 13:35 when Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Thank you Jan Werling and so many others.
            Like a normal teenager, my high school career was full of ups and downs.  I had the privilege of playing four years of varsity golf, but in all four years I never made much of anything in the sports world.  I learned a lot about teamwork, a lot more about becoming a man of integrity, and some about sacrifice.  I made a lot of mistakes in my friendships, and I experienced as much heart-ache from the lives of others.  High school life was hard, but I was not alone.  Mr. Cooper cared for me not just as a pupil but as a person.  Mr. Harms would not settle for a half-hearted approach to history or life.  Mrs. Putz’s smile was a blessing todos los dias (“everyday” for you non-Spanish speakers).  Mr. Hansen’s concern went well beyond my understanding of trigonometry.  And Mr. Devore made a wise (something I sure wish I had acted on) economic suggestion of investing in a little start-up company called Yahoo!  That high school building is full of great teachers . . . GREAT teachers.  They prepared me for Iowa State University; they prepared me for life. 
            I could write for pages and pages about the people in the little community of Indianola, IA, but I’d prefer that those of you who have experienced such rich blessings to also write in to the Record Herald and let the world know that Indianola is a great place to live.  Thank you and God bless.

By Matt Proctor

After graduating IHS, Matt went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University in May 2003.  One week after graduation he married a beautiful Cedar Rapids native, Carrie.  Matt and Carrie currently live in Marion, IA, where Matt serves as the Lead Pastor of Cornerstone Church.