I recommend you try this experiment the next time you meet a new person.
Introduce yourself, as you normally would when you meet someone new, wait 30 seconds or so, and then ask them what your name is. More often than not, the person will have already forgotten your name, leading to some form of emotional breakdown.
Besides the enjoyment of picking on people you just met, there is a deeper psychological lesson to be learned.
The reason why most people have trouble remembering a name 30 seconds after they are introduced to a new person is because they haven’t established why they should care. Names reveal very little about an individual, so without a context of who someone is, it’s hard to establish a reason to remember someone’s name.
It’s interesting how if the scenario was slightly tweaked, say that the person you meet has $100 for you if you can remember his name. Suddenly, it becomes hard to forget a person’s name.
This concept applies in companies, charities, and any other type of human system. There’s a saying that goes “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is because people won’t take action unless they know why they are personally taking action.
Millions of kids find themselves bored in schools, not engaged with what is going on in the classroom because they haven’t answered the question “Why should I care?”
Everyone has heard of global warming, and most people are aware of the fact that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are increasing. But to the average person, the problems of global warming have little effect on the way they do their daily lives, meaning that very little will change in the average person’s life. The fact that carbon dioxide levels have just passed 400 parts per million means is relatively insignificant to the average person.
Part of becoming an effective communicator is to understand where people are coming from and what their needs and questions are. Thus, it becomes more about what matters to your audience than what you are doing.
People need to know why they should care before they care about what they should do.
Most of the time, the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
What you’ve done in the past doesn’t matter, but it does.
What happened in the past shapes who you are, but doesn’t define you. It is your story, but not your identity. Your story, like your identity, is unique to yourself, but the two are not the same thing. Your story is a result of your interactions with your circumstances, your identity is the person that experienced those experiences.
Maybe you took a bad misstep, maybe you messed up everything. But it’s hard to forgive yourself when you confuse your story with your identity. Because when you assume that your story is your identity, you allow the past to take control of your future.
But being a growing human being means that you are willing to forgive yourself. Acknowledge that you messed up. Be real. Communicate what has changed as a result, and push on harder than you ever have before.
Don’t be afraid of forgiving yourself.
Fear of the unknown, often related to a person’s perception of the future, is always weighed against the events in the present and the past. The mental tug-of-war is between continuing what you are doing in the present for the same results, or trying something radically different for a risk of failing. There’s always a trade-off between consistency and potential virality.
But what happens when you continue doing something that no longer works? Maybe a process that you’ve been using is becoming obsolete, or information that you rely on is outdated.
The definition of an expert is someone who has special skills or knowledge based on training or experience. In other words, experts are people who have knowledge or experience that they learned in the past. And as history has illustrated countless times with various companies, industries, and schools of thought, the mindset of expertise often gets in the way of true innovation.
Of course, that is not to say that lessons from the past are worthless. Lessons from the past, no matter how profound and impactful or negligible and insignificant they might seem, are merely illustrations of what has worked in the past, not projections of how things will be in the future.
Using what has worked in the past to face the unknown future definitely feels safe, but the distinction must be made between safe and comfortable. Safety zones and comfort zones do not completely overlap. Many people are unconsciously disabled by assuming that things that are uncomfortable are unsafe, but even more disabling is when people assume things that are comfortable are safe.
Innovation is achieved under circumstances where it is rarely comfortable. Sometimes the only way to be safe is to be uncomfortable.
The biggest problem with schools isn’t the industrial system of standardization that most education reformers are saying. The industrial system is a big problem, but the problem of the industrial system is rooted in a much deeper problem.
The deeper underlying reason then, is that most of the time students aren’t given a motivating reason to attend school.
In the a video that recently went viral, Jeff Bliss stands up in the classroom to a teacher that wasn’t teaching effectively. Bliss, like any other high school student in the United States, didn’t see the point in doing worksheets.
Telling students that attending school gives them a better future isn’t a sufficient reason.
What students need isn’t a reason, but passion and purpose. When a student finds their passion and purpose, and isn’t afraid to fully go after it, students can learn no matter what system they find themselves in. Having a passion and purpose will allow students to make their own reasons for learning in every situation.
But instead of helping students cultivate passion and purpose, schools bombard students with a system that doesn’t value who they are as individuals, forcing everyone into one size regardless of who they are.
Not many students will care whether their school looks like a factory or not, but every student is looking for passion and purpose in life that they can spend their lives learning and doing.
It’s time the system stopped neglecting that.
The only difference between a problem and an opportunity is in the mind. A problem means that there is no clear solution, while an opportunity means there is a chance to exercise creativity.
To the unprepared, an opportunity looks like a problem because they have no idea how to solve the problem. But to the prepared, a problem looks like an opportunity.
Therefore, under the right mindset there is no such thing as a problem, only an opportunity.
The challenge then, is learning how to be prepared and take action when opportunities arise.
Student Voice, a non-profit organization with a simple goal of allowing students to speak up about education, did exactly that. Recognizing the disconnect between education boards and students, Student Voice began simply by using twitter as a medium to chat about education, and has now evolved into a weekly chat on twitter between students, parents, and educators.
Prior to the rise of popularity of Student Voice, the founder had no clue what the response would be. Nevertheless, he took the opportunity to present a solution. The response, to Zak, was a complete surprise. Not only were teachers and students interested in participating in Student Voice chats, Student Voice was noticed by companies that began offering support.
No matter how insurmountable a problem might present itself, anyone can solve problems. Social media has made it easier than ever to share an idea, present a concept, and make connections.
The reason why people fear problems is because they fear failure. But ultimately, people who begin actively making a difference and changing the world are people who accept themselves and embrace failure, knowing that the most powerful successes come out of failure.
So what if a problem is an opportunity to fail? If you can’t afford to fail, then you’ll never be able to afford success.
Above is a brief interview I did with the folks at the I am a Hero movement, where I share about what I’m doing and my upcoming book.
If you aren’t familiar with the I am a hero movement, I suggest you check them out. Dubbed a worldwide movement of everyday superheroes, their goal is to freely give hope and inspire great things to everyone around them. They are about connecting real people and sharing real stories.
I spend about 25 percent of my day looking at a computer screen. I also spend about 37.4 percent of my day fighting luchadors. One of those statements is false, but illustrates the unique power of the Internet. In the past decade, all different types of media have been finding a digital counterpart to be distributed online, causing changes in the fabric of human interaction that have never been faced before. The Internet gives platform, although a very different kind, to anyone who wishes to speak, regardless of what they have to say.
Take knowledge for instance. Never before have so many people had access to so much free information through a little device in their pocket. Hyperlinking has become the new way of hyperwarping through different thoughts and ideas.
But as a computer science major in the year 2013, I can’t help but wonder what effect technology will have on people’s knowledge and understanding. Some claim that relying on technology to instantly and effortlessly answer questions makes people dumber. In a recent talk by Ken Jennings, the reigning jeopardy champion, he shares about how he feels when IBM’s supercomputer named Watson rendered him obsolete.
However, despite the images of robot apocalypse and other futuristic ideas portrayed by movies and novels, the future doesn’t have look like that. Technology is not something that should be feared, but understood.
Technology is fluid in the sense that it is always changing, and the person who understands how to use it has an advantage over the person who doesn’t. Being tech savvy means knowing how to creatively use technology to build new platforms and present new perspectives. Being tech savvy then, by definition, is a tendency to bend the rules, and even break them under some occasions. It means adding a whole other dimension of thinking and communication to life, one that is virtually limitless.
Of course, that means that people must remain knowledgeable enough about technology so that they can use the technology instead of the technology using them. Google shouldn’t be seen as a life force, but merely a supplement. The moment that people assume that technology is smarter than them is the moment that we resign ourselves to a place of servitude.
The only way that technology will make people dumber is if people use it as a substitute to learning instead of a supplement.
Don Wettrick, the founder of a new type of academic class in Franklin, Indiana, is taking principles of education reform by people like Sir Ken Robinson, Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, and putting it into practice. Wettrick’s Innovations class at Franklin Community High School is one of the many that are working to change education as we know it.
Wettrick, being an english teacher for fifteen years, knew that he had to find a better way to engage students and allow them to express their creativity. Inspired largely by Daniel Pink and Google’s work time model (where employees allocate 20% of their time to fun projects), Innovations is a student run, student taught, and student managed class. In the Innovations class, students have access to a television production studio, complete with computers and cameras and screens necessary to do practically any type of video work. Innovations is still in it’s early stages as a pilot program running for the first year, but there has already been significant results that have proven the power of such a class.
I had the chance of skyping with Mr. Wettrick and learn a little bit more about his Innovations class. While making the skype call, I was astonished by the quality of the equipment I saw in the classroom. The classroom does not resemble a typical classroom by any stretch, but more like a video producer’s playground.
With the equipment, the students not only have been working on their own personal or group creative projects, they have also used the equipment to reach out to and connect with industry leaders such as Microsoft’s Vice President and other international leaders.
To the class, social media is an integral part of what they do, and the students are realizing how powerful social media is to changing the world, and how they can put themselves out their by learning how to create their own personal branding. Being based largely on social media, the class aims to make teaching more transparent, because when teachers are transparent and collaborate, they are able to educate their students in a more effective manner.
According to Wettrick, “students don’t need to go to school to learn anymore. School should be a place where students can learn together.” Acknowledging the fact that learning from the Internet while collaborating with other students is much more powerful than listening to a teacher talk, the class allows for students to learn with their own preferences.
The truth is, many of the lectures and notes on the internet today are of much higher quality than anything a single teacher can produce on their own. Wettrick recognizes this especially in the field of video production, and instead of competing with online resources, he utilizes the resources on the internet to help his students to the highest quality content possible.
Since the beginning of Innovations, the class has made many accomplishments, one of the most significant being the selection to receive a pair of Google glass from Google’s testing program. Wettrick shared about how inspired he was by the way that the students pooled together the last minute to submit their application. Google glass will provide the students in the class to take part in the technology that companies around the world are developing.
Perhaps the most inspiring element of this class is how the students are able to take control of their own learning. Wettrick doesn’t need to assign projects and grade homework, because he is not interested in asking students questions with answers he already knows.
“The role of the teacher is to be a facilitator and motivator. It’s not about asking the right questions for students to answer, but inspiring students to ask the right questions.”
Education should be about pushing students to explore deeper than what is currently understood. Instead of observing areas of study from a distance or behind a textbook, students should be on the front lines, being the ones that explore and expand human understanding further.
Every school should provide the option for students to self-direct their learning, instead of forcing students into a systematic, factory model of education. To some, the Innovations class is seen as fluff, where students don’t really achieve that can be measured by a standard, but the effect of allowing students to explore on their own has had extremely positive results for the Innovations class.
If you are interested in helping out the Innovations class, they are currently raising money to extend the potential of the class. To them, having a budget leads students to come up with creative solutions to the challenges that they face.
The class currently has plans to publish a book, and if you are interested in connecting or helping the education revolution, check them out!
If you are reading this in 2013, I am willing to bet $20 that you haven’t used a floppy disk within the last week.
But even if you haven’t used one in years, the floppy disk is an image that is universally recognized, and will most likely never be forgotten. To kids currently learning to use computers, the floppy disk is no longer a physical data storage device, it’s an icon to click on in order to save a file.
The floppy disk is an obsolete artifact of the past, an illustration of what happens when people become accustomed to something that change becomes nearly impossible. The floppy disk represents tradition, something of the past that is no longer relevant today, but still lingers within culture.
To the entrepreneur, tradition is nothing more than an opportunity for change; a challenge to do things better rather than submit to the way things have always been done. Instead of blindly accepting artifacts of culture, the entrepreneur questions and thinks critically about things that can be changed.
Thus, to the creative, traditions are not seen as guidelines to stay within, but boundaries to advance and explore outside of. Creativity comes when a person thinks differently, creating something that has never existed before.
No matter how new an innovation is, or how many problems a new invention solves, the creative mind always thinks about it one step further, and is not satisfied with the current level of innovation. While this may seem like a never-ending treadmill of hard thinking, the life in being creative is not the end product, but the process it took to get there.
When you hear a past innovator talk about how things were like back in “their day”, they’re reminiscing on the process it took to bringing new innovation in, and how creativity changed their lifestyle.
That is why we aren’t carrying around black squares for data storage anymore.
Excitement is usually generated by a positive change in the present that implies a more positive future. Ultimately then, excitement is a response to things happening around a person.
Generating excitement is not terribly difficult. Maintaining it is usually more challenging. A one time significant event can spark excitement, but without a constant flow of progress, excitement is easily lost.
It’s easy to become attracted to rags to riches stories portrayed by the media because it gives us a sense of excitement because we see the potential and want to be just like them. Linsanity, a documentary about the NBA phenomenon Jeremy Lin, is a story about each one of us. Especially for Asian Americans, Jeremy Lin is an inspiration for teenagers to pursue their dreams and make history through the influence of what they are passionate about.
Significant stories are mirrors, inspiration for the significance can be achieved. Stories present themselves not as the success of superstars, but a bar to be surpassed. Every record that has been broken in the past has been the inspiration for the record to be broken again.
Before 1954, no one had ever run a mile in less than four minutes. According to experts, such a feat was physically impossible, until Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3:59 in 1954. After that, all world class runners were completing their miles in under four minutes.
Excitement over a new achievement quickly vanishes, unless it resonates deep with who you are and stirs up an emotion that goes much deeper than excitement: passion and purpose.
The thing about having a passion and a purpose is that it extends deeper than individual events. Having a passion and purpose allows a person to filter relevant events. Excitement without purpose easily fades, but when purpose creates excitement, progress is made.