To the Loyal Members of the BLBS Tribe (aka Ruckus Makers):

This is the fourth consecutive annual letter to the Ruckus Maker community. I started the tradition in 2017 as a way to update the #BLBS tribe and reflect on the year. This practice is common for publicly traded companies and although you don’t own shares of Better Leaders Better Schools, you do invest your time, attention, and financial resources here.

The idea for Better Leaders Better Schools started off as a dream in my notebook. Five years later I wouldn’t have guessed that I get to live out this dream as my full-time position.

Past letters are available: 2017, 2018, & 2019

Thank you for making 2020 an exceptional year even amidst the most challenging circumstances I hope to ever see in my lifetime. Politics, the pandemic, and racism brewed a powerful storm externally. At my best, I remembered Marcus Aurelius’s words, “To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it.”

Vision Updates

I completed my first Vivid Vision, a three-year roadmap for my personal, family, and organizational life. I wrote a new vision and actually designed a process I’m calling the “Frame Your Future,” that helps leaders move from the muddy waters of confusion to a crystal clear vision for their future.

You can read my new vision here.

It has impacted me in such profound ways I started coaching both school and business leaders in creating their own Vivid Visions. In fact, so many leaders have found this tool useful, that it inspired the first BLBS live event (more on that later).

Last year I shared the following Seneca quote and I want to share it again because it captures the gift that is vision:

“Tranquility can’t be grasped except by those who have reached an unwavering and firm power of judgment — the rest constantly fall and rise in their decisions, wavering in a state of alternatively rejecting and accepting things. What is the cause of this back and forth? It’s because nothing is clear and they rely on the most uncertain guide — common opinion.”

This extensive post is on crafting a meaningful vision and includes a free video course on creating a Vivid Vision (but I do suggest joining me in Taos, New Mexico this summer so we can work on your vision together with other Ruckus Makers).

The Dashboard

For the past two years, I have used a dashboard to keep track of important metrics aligned with my goals. These metrics were broken into the following categories: Students, Platforms, Productivity, and Finances. I write a monthly post in public to hold myself accountable for updating the dashboard and do what is in my control to move things forward.

2020 Letter to the BLBS Tribe

The Mastermind

Mastermind membership was stable throughout 2020. Leaders experienced tremendous growth and I am convinced that not only is the mastermind an exceptional professional development opportunity for school leaders — it is the best opportunity for hungry leaders, who want to surround themselves with others who are just as driven, creative, and passionate about making change in education.

I signed a contract to work on a second book for you. The topic is on how we support leaders through the mastermind.

Part of the process of writing the book has been to articulate the model of an effective mastermind and what makes it different than other PD opportunities. The model (below) captures the essence in a simple manner and has given me tons of energy toward writing the book and taking the mastermind to the next level.

The ABCs of an effective mastermind group

An effective mastermind is as simple as A … B … C. 

A community that is authentic, creates belonging, and is challenging leads to transformation in my experience. This year I started sharing mastermind case studies to show the transformation to other Ruckus Makers who are considering the mastermind as a PD opportunity. You can read about Jessica and Shbrone’s experience. More is planned for 2021.

In 2021, we’ll launch new cohorts facilitated by current mastermind members. The goal is to grow from 60 leaders to 120 leaders who are served in the mastermind by December 31, 2023. 

The “edupreneur” mastermind grew to eight members by word-of-mouth. This mastermind will continue to grow and it’s been a pleasure to serve business leaders in the education industry.

Dr. Kelly Crane left BLBS in early 2020, her Amazon business was booming. It was sad to see her go, but on the other hand, I was very excited to see her experience so much success in another area. 

Finally, we read The Infinite Game in the mastermind this year. It is a book I highly recommend to all Ruckus Makers. In the book, Simon Sinek introduces the idea of a Just Cause. It’s like a vision, but bigger (and ultimately unachievable). Why pursue an ultimately unachievable goal? I’m doing so because it will generate more impact and ultimately serve more school leaders. Plus, I will have to enlist more help from other leaders, and this idea I find incredibly energizing. 

The BLBS Just Cause is this: To connect, grow, and mentor every school leader who wants to level up.

I hope you see that the word mastermind is not included in the Just Cause. This is intentional. In order to fulfill my Just Cause, I will have to create new opportunities for school leaders to level up and I will need to partner with other brilliant leaders in this space.

The Podcasts

In 2020, BLBS passed a major milestone: over one-million downloads. 

The average monthly download was 32, 040 (through November 2020) which is a 16.5% increase from last year. We also broke 40K downloads in a month for the first time in June and came up just short of 40K in July. In 2019 there were 324K total downloads, I estimate BLBS will reach 382K total downloads for the year which would represent an 8.5% increase for the year. 

In 2021, BLBS will launch it’s first “archive” podcast. iTunes saves only 250-300 episodes in a “feed” and since BLBS has 300+ episodes the archive show will serve as a space where we can host our old Season 1 content. I hope this attracts new listeners as well as serves loyal Ruckus Makers.

The School Leadership Series (SLS) launches Season 2 with another large and diverse team aligned with my values. This continues to be incredibly satisfying work. I get tremendous satisfaction from building a platform and then sharing it with other leaders I believe in while amplifying their voices and ideas via the podcast. The average monthly download was 16K and I estimate the annual download total to be 195K. Both the monthly and annual download rate grew by 76% for The School Leadership Series

Sponsors

BLBS had four sponsors in 2020. 

I only have promoted brands that I trust and I am proud to have increased the exposure of my sponsors in 2021. I’m also excited to announce that the Harvard Graduate School of Education will be sponsoring the podcast for Q1 and Q2 2021. Speaking with their head of marketing, it was amazing to hear him tell me why Ruckus Makers would make ideal students in their program. This conversation taught me two things: 1) BLBS is making an impact and more leaders than I realized are noticing, and 2) the idea of a “Ruckus Maker” in education is resonating with modern school leaders.  

Website Redesign

In 2019 the website was redesigned and in 2020 I continued to work with Hit Your Mark Media. This year we focused on creating valuable content that would not only serve our current leaders, but would also have “organic” reach. SEO (search engine optimization) is something that anyone doing business online needs to care about. Google is the largest search engine in the world, YouTube is the second largest. This year I created content that Google also identifies as valuable so that leaders using Google’s search engine might discover Better Leaders Better Schools and move my Just Cause forward.

Go! Community

The Go! Community is aligned with my Just Cause, but I decided to close it in 2021. No memberships will be renewed. It generated great revenue for the business side of what I do at Better Leaders Better Schools, but I didn’t see the impact. I was hoping for a more engaged online community, but I fear that Go! was either just “one more thing” or given the chaos of 2020, leaders didn’t protect the time they needed to engage with the content and with other leaders. Alternatively, it could have been a lousy service, but I don’t think that was the case.

Everything I do is to make change happen in education — to see the transformation of leaders. This happens regularly via 1:1 coaching and in the mastermind. The challenge is that my time and expertise don’t scale easily via coaching. That is why I am excited to open new mastermind cohorts in 2021 and develop the skills of new facilitators who will help new mastermind members level up. Meanwhile, I will continue to think about other ways I can help leaders get better.

Another idea I will need to develop in the future is creating other experiences that will serve school leaders. The next experiment I want to run will have a definite start and stop time and it will also be expensive. Those edges (start/stop and expensive) are choices. Start/stop addresses the fatigue of being constantly connected. Expensive kills two birds with one stone — it takes the same amount of my effort to get a cheaper offer off the ground and more importantly, leaders who invest more in themselves will take the program more seriously too. For example, if you invest $250 for an annual membership, it’s easy to avoid engaging. If you invest  > $1500 in a 4-6 week experience, you will be sure to attend! The business lesson is easy to see, but I’ll let you figure out what the leadership lesson is there for you.

New Book

I signed a contract to write a book about the mastermind with a major education publisher. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is a mock-up cover designed by Michael Smith (who also designed all my podcast covers).

Mastermind mockup book cover

To be clear, this won’t be the final book cover design. I share it here because of a leadership lesson I want to share. I use this image as my desktop background. Every day I look at it. Every day I visualize writing a book that will be valuable for school leaders and a success in terms of book sales.

I wonder what image you need to visualize and meditate on daily?

Speaking

Due to the pandemic, I didn’t do much speaking. My two favorite online speaking opportunities was a keynote for Smart Technologies and a panel for the Education Elements 10th anniversary of business.

Live Event

Obviously this event was postponed due to the pandemic. With the vaccine here, I am confident we can host a live event this summer on July 8-10, 2021 in Taos, New Mexico.

Over two days, leaders will meet other Ruckus Makers, work with me, and craft a three-year roadmap for their personal, family, and organizational life. I have experienced so much success creating and executing on my own vision, I had to make this process available to more leaders. Even though I give away many of the ideas for free on the blog and podcast, many leaders don’t prioritize the time to craft a meaningful vision. They will benefit from traveling somewhere beautiful and connecting with other leaders to do this important work. 

You can register for Bollingen Tower here

Did I accomplish what I set out to do in 2020?

Here is what I said I’d like to accomplish in 2020 (and if I did):

  • Maintain 60 members in my personal mastermind and launch new cohorts led by Kelly Crane. Kelly moved on due to a successful Amazon business and we did sustain our mastermind membership.
  • Double my speaking events in 2020. This wasn’t a priority due to the pandemic. The priority was serving leaders in the mastermind during this chaotic time.
  • Successfully execute a live event and plan a new one for 2021. Postponed Bollingen Tower to 2021. I’m not sure if I’ll do another live event in the future. 
  • Finish writing 2nd book. First draft complete. Now I need to make it better.
  • Grow to 10, 1:1 clients. I served eight leaders consistently.
  • Offer 1-2 “sprint” sessions that will benefit leaders (I currently have built a productivity sprint for leaders in Q1 2020 — watch your email for the invite to join). I offered one sprint at the beginning of 2020. 
  • Grow “edupreneur” mastermind to 12 members and potentially launch a new cohort. I grew this group to eight leaders and did not launch a new cohort yet.

What’s in store for 2021?

  • Launch at least one new cohort in 2021.
  • Successfully execute a live event. 
  • Publish my second book.
  • Grow to 10, 1:1 clients.  
  • Grow the “Ripple Effect” mastermind to 12 members.

Why fewer goals in 2021?

Business colleagues have challenged me to serve more broadly and not limit myself to education. With that said, I’m excited to announce a new project which you can find here. This will take some resources, energy, and attention; I’m looking forward to making a ruckus more broadly. Like the Go! Community, I see this as an experiment. If this project causes the transformation that I want to see then I’ll build upon the foundation. If not, then I’ll shut it down. I’ll also be launching a new YouTube channel (instead of a podcast) where I can teach and create value for leaders. I haven’t posted anything yet, but will in January 2021. Subscribe today so you don’t miss any new content and “Yes,” what I teach there will bring you value as a school leader.

Thank you for being a Ruckus Maker and for your continued support. You are the reason I continue to “show up” and keep BLBS going. 

Our guiding “why” is quite simple: Everyone wins when a leader gets better. Everyone wins when you get better.

It excites me to see how you have grown in the past and dream about how you will grow in the future. Thank you for investing in yourself. The work you do is important and your community is counting on you. I look forward to supporting you in 2021.

Keep Making a Ruckus,

Daniel Bauer

Founder and Chief Ruckus Maker of Better Leaders Better Schools.

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