Posted in Business, Motivational

Great stories are coming out of the Olympics. The US Women’s hockey team got gold! That was a huge upset, no doubt, but the one that caught my attention was the medal we got for Curling.

John Shuster and the Americans who won gold had competed in four prior Olympics and seemed to struggle in each of them. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you trained for years, you go to the Olympics four times and the best you came away with was one bronze medal? On top of that, at the last two Olympics the Americans were at the bottom of contention back to back. It had to be a terrible blow to their ego.

Here is the lesson they taught me. Each loss was their lesson, not their legacy. They were determined not just to win, but to win the Gold. Just a week ago it looked like they were going to be knocked out of contention once again after a loss to Norway. After that loss, however, they did not lose again. They had five consecutive victories culminating in the win over Sweden 10-7 for the Gold medal. Sweden was the top ranked team in the world. They beat them so bad that Sweden actually conceded the match before it was actually over.

Shuster and his four teammates, Tyler George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner, and Joe Polo will not be remembered for all the losses they suffered over the years. They will go down in history as the first American Curling team to bring home the gold. They will not be remembered for falling down but for rising up and never quitting.

Congratulations to all the American medal winners! To those who did not medal, don’t lose heart. The loss is just a lesson if you don’t give up. Your legacy has yet to be written.        


Dan Skognes

Seize the Moment

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

I love the saying, “Carpe Diem” which is Latin for “Seize the Day.” I don’t how to say it in Latin, but I think we need to do more than seize the day. We need to seize the moment.

Yesterday there was a Substitute Teacher at our school. She was hanging out in the Teacher’s Lounge just chilling during her break. I introduced myself to her and found out she had two kids. One of them was in our school. Her husband is a full time teacher in another school, and she was contemplating teaching as a career.

The more I listened to her, the more I realized that she was conflicted about the demands of being a full-time teacher. She wanted to have time for her kids and husband and she knew something would have to be sacrificed if she took on that role.

I told her about my job as an Instructional Aide. I chose it for the same reasons. I wanted to teach kids, but I did not want the responsibility of planning curriculum or meeting with parents. I just wanted to teach, go home at a normal quitting time, and leave the job there. It is a perfect job for me, particularly because I have my own company and when I get off from school, I go home and work for myself.

As she listened to me describe my day, her eyes lit up and she asked how she could get a job like mine. I told her, “Go online to the school districts you are interested in and look for Paraprofessional jobs. There are many versions of this job, so you have to find one that is of interest to you. Also, if you know people at schools, get an introduction to the Principal.”

I asked her, “Would you like to meet our Principal.” She said, “Now???” I laughed and said, “Yes. Why not? I know her well and would be happy to introduce you. You are a Substitute teacher here, have a kid in our school, you are interested in teaching here, and you are bi-lingual. That makes you golden!”

Off we went to meet the Principal. When I found her, our Principal recognized her! Apparently they had a brief meeting at a job fair. Our Principal said she remembered her and that she was a very sharp lady. When the Sub told our Principal she was interested in the Paraprofessional job should one become available, our Principal asked her to meet with her assistant and give her the details of what she wanted to do.

As we were walking back to the Teacher’s Lounge, she was laughing at what had just happened. I told her that I believe in seizing the moment, or it will pass you by. I said, “Here is the good news: if you get a job here you will owe me!”  We both laughed and I went back to my class wishing her well.

I bet she never dreamed that would happen to her when she signed up to substitute at our school, but that is how life is. When you get a chance to do something outside of your comfort zone, go for it. Time will tell if she comes to work at our school or not. One thing is for sure: I bet she will never forget to seize the moment.


Dan Skognes

New Math

Posted in Business, Motivational

I wish that I was one of those people who look at math problems and get the right answer in nanoseconds, but I’m not. I am a right-brained guy. That makes me highly creative, but I sometimes struggle with the logic of math (like a lot of people).

Yesterday I walked in to one of the classes that I help out and asked the teacher what we were working on. She handed me the worksheet that dealt with fractions and whole numbers. She said, “I showed them the Butterfly Method.” I know I must have looked at her like a cow at an open gate, but I nodded and took the paper. There was no time for me to research what the Butterfly Method was. It was show time.

I sat down at my work table with four kids who were struggling with math. I quickly looked over each of their papers and discovered something interesting. They all had errors using the Butterfly Method. Good thing I did not know what it was (yet).

One of the problems they were struggling with was 4/4 = ?/3. All of them had the wrong answer. I pulled out a white board and marker and told them: “Any number over itself = 1. What does 100/100 = ?” A couple of them said 100!  I reinforced, “No…any number over itself = 1. So 4/4 = 1. Right? If 4/4 = 1 and 4/4 = ?/3, what is the number that HAS to go over the 3?” One kid said, “3?” I smiled and have him a high 5. He got it, but I did not stop there.

“If any number over itself equals 1, what is 10/10? 1! What is 50/50? 1! What is 1000/1000? 1! With each response they got more excited. They almost simultaneously went, “Ahhhhhhh. I get it!” I love those light bulb moments in teaching. I gave each of them a high 5 and said, “You guys ROCK! Y’all are the smartest kids… my table.” LOL. They looked at each other then broke out laughing. They got the joke.

If you want to have some fun with a group of kids, try this: Tell them the rule we just talked about. Any number over itself = 1, then give them some examples 4/4 =1, 10/10 = 1, etc. The very last one you give them is 0/0 = ? They WILL say 1, which is wrong. LOL. That is the exception.

For those of you that want to argue that 0 is not a number, that is not the point. The thing I want kids to do is not just jump to conclusions. Too many of them do that because they want to be first to finish. Multiple part math problems trip up a lot of kids. This little exercise helps them understand that they need to slow down before they answer. They need to question their assumptions. Come to think of it, we all do, right?

P.S. I did research the Butterfly Method. It is pretty cool and I get it, but obviously, not everybody gets that method either. It all depends on your learning style and which side of your brain is dominant. Note to self: Always have a plan B to explain problems from a different point of view. It is not how you teach it that is so important as how they receive it. That is what matters.


Dan Skognes

Protect Our Schools

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

What is it that makes us so sensitive that we can’t take a situation and just shake it off? I think it goes to a deep-rooted problem that many people carry. I call it the “Don’t make me smack you” attitude. I had a kid the other day complaining to me at school that a boy was looking at her! Really? I just asked her, “Could it be possible that he thinks you are pretty?” She did not know what to say.  

Why do we suppose that we know why people do what they do or say what they say? Why do we jump to negative conclusions? I think it is a negative self-image that allows other people to trigger our anger. Think about it. If we know who are, we are not defined by what others think or say…and yet we DO care what others think or say. I myself have been guilty of trying to please everyone and end up pleasing no one.

I heard a sad statistic today. You know what is the common thread in all the school shootings (with the exception of one)? Every shooter came from a fatherless home. The one that did have a father was in a dysfunctional home so it might as well have been fatherless. These young men were not given proper parenting, and perhaps even as sad, the warning signs were ignored by authorities that they were at risk of hurting themselves and others.

I pray every day for our kids, our schools, and our country. I know many people use these tragedies to get on the bandwagon of gun control. I do think we need more background checks and training certified for anyone buying a gun…just as we require for a driver’s license. That alone would solve a lot of problems. Here is the dilemma with gun control: crazy people don’t follow the law. They will find the weapons and a way to use them whether or not we have the laws in place. We have to identify who these people are and stop them before they get their hands on a gun. If we fix broken families, we will virtually eliminate the problem. That is our smoking gun. Just my two cents.


Dan Skognes

Left is Right

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Just because you think you are right does not make you right. Have you ever thought you were right to the point that you would have bet the farm on it and then find out you were wrong?  Ummm-hummm. Me too. I have had many instances that I was so sure that I was right with no chance of being wrong…only to find out I was wrong all along! If your logic is flawed from the beginning, you can never be right in the end.

This is a dangerous path to tread. It gets even more precarious when we fall into the pattern of thinking we are always right. This faulty thinking can trip you up in relationships, business, and even in your spiritual walk. If you remember just one thing, remember this: You can be right, or you can have relationship.

When you think that you are right, ask yourself:

  • What are you basing your opinion on? Just because you were right about this in the past does not necessarily mean you are right this time. Could you have been wrong about this in the past?
  • Have you really listened to the opposing view? This is one that came back to bite me recently. There was this riddle that I just KNEW I had the answer to. I even “corrected” several people as to what the right answer was. The only problem was, I was WRONG. I had to eat crow and admit I had the wrong answer when someone gently corrected me despite my continued stubborn stance. I finally saw the flaw in my logic. BTW, crow never tastes good.

I think sometimes we let our pride take over and insist we are right because we just can’t admit the fact that we are wrong when we “KNOW” we are right. I do believe in taking a stand and making your argument for something when it matters, but make sure it really matters in the scheme of things. Don’t sacrifice relationships for being right. Listen…truly listen to those who question your logic or your opinion. They just might be right, and they will help you grow if you let them. At the very least they will feel validated because you took time to really listen to them. Where you start matters, but where you end up matters even more.

P.S. One thing I know for sure: If you are left-handed you are in your right mind. Thank God I am right on that!


Dan Skognes

Baptized In Fire

Posted in Business, Funny, Motivational, Relationships

Have you ever had your life flash before your eyes and experience true terror? That happened to me yesterday. I got a text from the Assistant Principal telling me I needed to go cover a class. This was not just any class. It was a Kindergarten class!

I felt this nauseous sensation come over me as I started my way towards the abyss known as the Kindergarten hallway. I knew that I was walking towards the edge of sanity and I might not come back. It was like the scene in The Green Mile with somebody calling out “Dead Man Walking.”

I had to relieve Ms. Kaba while she went to meet with a parent about her child’s behavior. As I saw Ms. Kaba leave the room, I realized for the first time how Daniel must have felt being thrown into the lions’ den. All these little aliens were looking at me like they were ready to pounce.

They were happily munching on their snacks (which most of them were wearing all over their face, hands, and clothes). Almost on cue about ten of them surrounded me and started asking me questions. All I remember was saying “Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no.” I am not even sure what I said yes or no to. I prayed quickly, “Lord, please don’t let them touch me.” I really did not know what to do, so I went across the hallway to the lead teacher and told her I needed help and I needed it NOW.

She was amazing. She came in, surveyed the room, and then announced that she was setting the timer for 2 minutes to finish eating. She would be back in two minutes and anyone not finished would have to clip down (apparently that is like a death threat to a Kindergarten kid because they took it very seriously). She came back in 2 minutes and reset the timer for a minute and a half and announced that they had to have EVERYTHING cleaned up and put away in a minute and a half or they would clip down.

The kids started moving so fast it was like watching a film that had been sped up. I had to tell some of them to slow down to keep them from hurting themselves or someone else. Sure enough, in a minute and a half she came back in and surveyed the room. All the mess was cleaned up in a minute and a half! Wow. I just stood there with my jaw open at what I had just witnessed.

Then she proceeded to put the class into “stations.” She set up 4 different stations and gave them specific instructions for each station. She then set the timer again and told them when the timer was up, they would rotate to the next station. This was like watching a great master conduct the most beautiful masterpiece in the world. The kids just fell into line and did what they were told.

About that time, Ms. Kaba returned from her parent meeting. I had this weird sensation like I was waking up from a bad dream. I thanked her for what she and her co-workers do every day. Kindergarten kids are so needy! That is not a good thing for me because I am very needy too!

I think that Kindergarten Teachers are up there next to Jesus. They have the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of Samson, and the love of Jesus all wrapped in a smile. I know that I am Superman, but Superman met his Kryptonite in the form of a Kindergarten class. I now have a profound respect and love for anyone who teaches Kindergarten kids. You guys rock!

P.S. Ms. Kaba has 2 young kids at home and is expecting her third. She teaches Kindergarten kids all day then goes home to deal with her own kids. How crazy is that? Crazy good!


Dan Skognes

It Is Never Just About You

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

When do we come to the point where we realize that the world does not revolve around us? I think all of us have known people who live like the world starts and stops on their command. This is cute in a toddler, amusing in a child, irritating in a teen, and ridiculous in an adult.

The earlier we come to the realization that the world is bigger than just us, the better it is for everyone. I work with kids on a daily basis to get them to practice simple things like saying please, thank you, and I’m sorry. Learning to share is a big step for kids in getting this concept down. When they learn to truly put others first, it is a huge step in growing up.

There is an unwritten rule with kids: no cutting in line. When someone cuts in line, it seems that everyone goes into a panic mode. You would think that the world was coming to an end because someone got in line ahead of them. I am not saying it is right for someone to cut in line, but in the scheme of things…is it really worth getting upset about?

I constantly am looking for the balance in keeping the peace with kids. They want a sense of fairness, and I get that. However, it gets to be ridiculous the amount of tattling that goes on. The other day I had a kid tattle on a kid for cutting in line in the cafeteria. I asked him to point out the perpetrator. When he boldly pointed him out, I escorted the guilty boy to the FRONT of the line. When I got back to the tattletale, I said, “I don’t like tattling.” LOL. The look on his face was priceless. He stood there with his jaw open and that look of, “What just happened”???

I have sent many kids to the back of the line for cutting in, and sometimes it is amidst a flood of tears. Kids immediately try to justify why they should be able to cut into line. The reality is, it does not matter where they are in line, but reality does not matter when it comes to fairness. The problem is, life is not fair.

We are always going to be put in situations throughout our lives that are unfair. It may be someone cutting in front of us, not getting credit for our efforts, being overlooked for a raise or promotion, or just being taken for granted by someone. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to pout like a kindergarten kid? Are you going to throw a tantrum when you don’t get your way? Are you going to tattle and point the finger at others for your dilemma?

Hopefully you realize that we have to grow up and accept responsibility at some point. What is cute in a toddler is repulsive behavior in an adult. You can stand up for yourself for what is right, but weigh the potential outcome. Just ask yourself, “Is this really important in the scheme of life?” Adults have a way of justifying bad behavior by saying, “It is the principle of the thing that bothered me.” When someone gets stuck on their principles, chances are they have shut down all rational thought and communication. You don’t want to be “that guy.” That attitude is a recipe for disaster. If it is truly important, speak your mind but do it in love; then, be willing to listen. It is not just about you or me.


Dan Skognes


Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a Civil War hero for the North. He was an unassuming man who taught at the university before he joined the Northern war efforts. The thing that fascinates me about his story is that this quiet man became the focal point for bringing the war to an end.

Colonel Chamberlain had been given the task of protecting Little Round Top. This was the North’s most vulnerable point and was to be protected “at all costs.” When the South advanced on the mountain, the North began a furious fight with cannons and rifles.

Eventually as the fight ensued, the ammo for the North became scarce and a decision had to be made. Should they retreat or should they hold the position as ordered? Chamberlain made a decision not to just hold their position, but to fix bayonets and charge the enemy! The sound of a regiment of men fixing bayonets and charging down the hill put the South in a state of panic and confusion.

The North ended up winning the battle because of this bold move by Colonel Chamberlain. That battle turned the tide in the war from which the South never fully recovered. It was indeed the turning point in the war…and was accomplished by a man who understood that perseverance and a little luck can be the things that literally change history for everyone.

As a side note, Chamberlain survived being killed by two Confederate soldiers. One had him in his sights and did not pull the trigger because he did not want to be the one to kill the brave Colonel. The other Confederate soldier tried to shoot him but his pistol misfired and the bullet just missed Chamberlain’s face.

At several points during the battle the South could have won and yet it was the North who endured to the end. It was Chamberlain and his brave soldiers who faced their fears and helped win the war for the North (with the assistance from the 2nd Maine Infantry, Andrew J. Tozier, Company B and Holman Melcher).

Victory in this case was not so much sweet as it was a relief for a nation that was torn in two.


Dan Skognes

No Fault Society

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Have you ever noticed that people, generally speaking, don’t want to take responsibility for their actions? I firmly believe that “no fault” insurance was created by a kid. When a kid gets caught red-handed, they begin the blame game.

Recently I was covering a class for one of my teachers. You know what kids do when they get a substitute, right? They ask for permission to do things they are not supposed to do. This particular day I was passing out an assignment and one of the little girls asked if they could use colored pencils on it. Since I have been down similar paths before, I asked, “Does your teacher permit you to use them on these assignments?” She and a friend of hers assured me they could, so I had her pass them out.

Several other kids spoke up in protest when they saw the colored pencils being handed out. The argued that they were not supposed to use them. I told the kids, “Just go ahead and use them. The teacher will sort it out when she gets back.”

Fast forward: The teacher came back to the room. She immediately sees the colored pencils and questioned why they were being used. Obviously the teacher did not give them permission to do this. I looked at the class with a sad face (LOL) and said, “I can’t believe you would ask me to do something that you know the teacher has said no to. That made me look bad to the teacher. Why would you do that?”

Crickets.  LOL. The teacher apologized for the class and I left to do my other duties. A few minutes later one of the little girls who asked to use the pencils was handing me a note to apologize for lying to me. It was really a sweet moment. She is a good kid who just literally wanted to color outside the lines. I let her know all was well between us and I appreciated the note.

That note will go in my collection of notes and pictures that kids have done for me. I think this one is special because she learned a valuable lesson from it. With kids like this in our future I think there is hope for future generations.


Dan Skognes

Invest In Children

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Children are one of the most precious assets we have on the earth. The thing that constantly amazes me is how some people just don’t get kids. They are evolving little people who can help you, encourage you, and teach you. They are our future generations.

Today I had a lady say how amazed she was that I did cafeteria duty every day. She said, “I don’t know how you do it.” LOL. To be honest, cafeteria duty in school is not exactly preferred duty. Nobody is standing in line waiting for their opportunity to serve there.

I told her that I did not look at it that way. I love kids. I love helping them and serving them. It is a mindset that most people cannot grasp. Teachers get it. They understand that what they are doing has lifelong implications for the kids, for parents, and for society.

If I could wave a magic wand and have parents do just one thing, it would be for them to invest in their kids. I see kids every day that have “attitude.” I know this is part of growing up, but some of these kids are older and should at least know the basics of respecting others.

Today I had a young man that was totally oblivious to respecting others or even himself. When I asked him why he was breaking the rules, any guesses as to what he said? “Everyone else is doing it. Why are you picking on me?” Wow. I pointed out to him that he was responsible for the choices he made. I asked him why he continued to make decisions that got him in trouble for breaking the rules…and he just shrugged. No remorse, just attitude. Very sad…but if he does not change, he will find out the hard way that life is not going to greet him and his disrespect with open arms.

If you are a parent, please invest in your kids. Kids spell love “TIME.” When you invest time in a child, they know you care. They know they are important. They know that you have their back. The at risk kids are usually the ones that are on their own. Pray for them…and for the teachers who are trying desperately to help them find their way.


Dan Skognes