For the first time in my existence, I boarded a plane for New York City. I was headed for Student Voice Live! 2014, a convening of education stakeholders from all across the United States.
As I was struggling to stay awake during the board meeting, one of my colleagues shared about how the work that Student Voice does should be actionable and foster tangible change.
I hesitantly wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Hesitant because I know that making a tangible dent in the face of global education is not only a daunting task, but an extremely difficult one. The education system is one of the largest systems in the world, interconnected with just about everything else and encapsulating over a million different issues. And it’s challenging to even imagine how a small team of students could even make a difference in such a space.
But as the day went on, and Student Voice Live! happened, my eyes were opened to conversations and more importantly the potential of impact in a way I have never seen it before.
Even though Student Voice is a relatively vague concept that tends to spark more discussions than action or results, it still is a determining factor in how the students of today are prepared and empowered to take on the problems of tomorrow.
There’s been some research done into this idea, but the challenge today as it has always been, is figuring out how to arrive at a goal that is so seemingly abstract.
I don’t necessarily have a good answer for that at the moment, but I do know that this past weekend was an example of students coming together and using their voices to put something on that was tangible.
In kindergarten, I was the shortest kid in my class. In fact, I was so short that I was less than one percentile of males my age.
As a result, I couldn’t do what most of my peers could physically. I had difficulty shooting hoops, I ran slower than everyone else, and was usually one of the last people to be chosen for kickball matches.
And as I grew up, much of the feelings of being the shortest and slowest stuck with me. Even though I was no longer the shortest kid around in high school, I often downplayed myself and felt uncomfortable around people.
I gave myself a lot of negative self talk. I told myself that I wasn’t the smartest, fastest, or the best at any skill. In fact, I didn’t even give myself the chance to apply to more prestigious schools because I “knew” that I wouldn’t get in.
How many of us sabotage ourselves with this kind of negative self talk? We tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or that we’ll take action after some magical event happens, even though deep down we all know we want to be given the opportunity. The fear is that we’ll be found out for our inadequacies.
The truth is, many of us go from our day to day lives trying to prove something, either to other people or to ourselves. I’ve been there, and in many ways still am.
I can’t say that I have it all figured out, but here are a couple things I’ve realized along the way, written out in clear bullet points because I’m not a fan of fluffy, abstract advice:
- Know Yourself – This is a comment that one of my mentors made to me, and has stuck with me ever since I heard the words come out of her mouth. Knowing and admitting your strengths and your weaknesses make for a very powerful understanding of how to be yourself.
- Be present – People who are the most uncomfortable with themselves will often focus heavily on the future or on the past. There’s nothing wrong with looking back and reflecting or looking forward and preparing, but when you’re ignoring what’s in front of you on a day to day basis and enjoying where you’re at and what’s around you, you’re likely uncomfortable.
- Watch Your Language – Instead of saying things like “I can’t” or “I’m not”, try things like “I haven’t yet” or “I’m learning to”.
- Put Yourself Out There – Post something online. Share something vulnerable. Because it’s not until you take a step to be vulnerable that you really see how people respond. I can almost guarantee you that it’ll be different than you expect.
The first thing that most people do after waking up in the morning is check their phone.
I do it too.
But after scrolling through the twittersphere and seeing yet another coffee consuming startup company raised another gazillion dollars in their series gamma, I make my bed.
I haven’t always made my bed. In fact, I only started making my bed within the last couple of months. And although it may seem like the most menial and pointless of tasks, (I mean you’re just going to mess it up again not too long later) it has strangely added a sense of structure to my life.
I’ve talked about habits on a couple different posts before, and what strikes me about making my bed is that it’s a ritual that follows another ritual every morning. (there are very few times where I forget to sleep)
That way, by the time I get up to start my day, I know that I have gotten at least one thing right. A neat bed means I can start and end my day in an organized way. No matter how good or bad my day was, it always feels good to crawl into a neatly folded bed at the end of the day.
In fact, so many things pertaining to life is just like making my bed, because most things in life can be broken down into simple routines that are executed over and over. With just a little effort, so many of the little things add up to make huge differences.
It’s the little things in life, that when done right, contribute to the bigger picture. It’s the small wins that make up the big wins. You can’t run a marathon without learning how to take the first steps, just like you can’t get a degree without going through the first day of school.
I’ve noticed that there are a few areas personally for me to regularly maintain to keep myself at my best condition.
- Food and Water
- Creative Expression
What are your most important rituals?
If there’s any age that a person is the most tolerant to risk, it’d be their twenties.
When Nick Woodman took the stage at a UCSD alumni event to talk about the company he founded in school, he talked a lot about his personal relationship to risk, and how he approached finding his “passion”.
GoPro started as nothing more than a film camera in a plastic box used to take pictures while surfing. And from those humble beginnings, Nick took risk after risk until he built out a company that has forever changed the way people do film.
But if there was anything that stood out to me during the session, it was the simple fact that taking risk gets harder the older I get. Many people tell themselves that they’ll take a risk after they earn enough money, meet the right person, get the right credentials, etc.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being wise about the risks that you take, and mitigating risk as much as possible to increase your success. But never let yourself get in the way of dreaming as big as you possibly can.
GoPro would never have gotten to where it was today if Nick Woodman started it in his 40s.
What’s stopping you?
Everyone has hundreds of thoughts everyday, and for most of us, it can be extremely paralyzing.
But as I’ve learned from a basic meditation training I’ve done recently through headspace, navigating your can be summarized in this analogy.
Consider that your mind is like a street, and each thought is like a car on the street. Instead of chasing the cars when the come by like we usually do, having peace and control over your thoughts and emotions is about just sitting on the side of the road and observing the cars that come by. Observe and acknowledge the cars, but let them pass.
The point of this exercise is to allow you to have more control over where your energy and thoughts go, instead of being tossed around and stressed out by all the different things on your mind.
And even if you don’t meditate in the traditional sense of the word, the essence of meditation is nothing more than being present and mindful about yourself.
At the beginning of this summer, I decided that I wanted to read one book a week.
The reasoning behind this was simple. Books are a resource that authors spends years crafting and compiling their knowledge and experience that I can pick up for less than $20 and learn about what they learned in a mere couple days of reading. The vast wealth of information, experiences, and perspectives are so immensely large that not reading books would mean missing out on a great deal of learning.
It hasn’t always been easy, however, to fit in reading time in between all the different things that I have been working on this summer, but I did my best to be intentional and consistent with my reading time.
So in no particular order, I’ve had the opportunity to read the following books this summer:
- Inner Game of Tennis
- The Promise of a Pencil
- Zero to One
- The Obstacle is the Way
- The Art of Learning
- I’m Feeling Lucky
- In Defense of Food
- Jesus’ Son
- Black Swan
From the engaging narratives of The Promise of a Pencil, I’m Feeling Lucky, and Jesus’ Son to the deep philosophy of Black Swan and The Obstacle is the way, reading has definitely given me a better perspective of the world and how I approach things. It’s given me frameworks to think about everyday choices, and how I can better myself and the people around me.
This is a habit that I hope to continue for years to come, and perhaps I’ll write my own book one day. Feel free to follow me on goodreads, I love chatting books!