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I Don’t Know How to Study

On 17, Mar 2014 | 2 Comments | In Education | By Daniel Kao

I’ve never learned how to study, and I’ve never been particularly good at it.

And by studying, I don’t mean learning; I’m plenty good at that. I mean cramming knowledge into your head that you don’t really have a reason to care about in order to regurgitate it on an exam. I have no clue how to do that.

It’s amazing how much people are able to get done in the time spent procrastinating on studying. All of a sudden chores like cleaning the bathroom have a new appeal to them, because suddenly it appears more fun than what you should be doing.

The education crisis isn’t about how the United States is doing on PISA scores, it’s about students not being engaged in affordable, relevant, communal, collaborative, effective, and practical venues of learning.

I prefer learning over studying. Learning is about connecting the dots. It’s about synthesizing information given in a way that is relevant and practical to each person as an individual. It’s about an individual taking raw material and working with it in a way to build something unique, not something that’s been done hundreds of times before.

Studying is about adhering to a standard, learning is about failing. Studying is done in order to learn material so that people know the right answer, while learning is about trying new things and growing from whatever the outcome is.

Learning is about the process, studying is about the result. We have enough people posing as know-it-alls because they are afraid of being real and sharing their failures. It’s not their fault; schools train people to stand up and speak down on people, as if they are talking from a greater place.

Studying gets you through school. Learning gets you through life (Tweet That). I think I’d rather get better at learning than studying.

photo credit: betta design via photopin cc

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In Life

By Daniel Kao


On 13, Mar 2014 | No Comments | In Life | By Daniel Kao

“If you plant a redwood in a forest, it can grow hundreds and hundreds of feet, but if you plant a redwood in a pot, it won’t grow very far. Everyone has potential, but where they root themselves makes a huge difference.”

Many times the inability to accomplish something has little to do with you individually, but the environment and people around you.

The challenge is knowing the difference between what you are capable of doing and what your environment is empowering you to do. It doesn’t matter whether a flower is planted in a pot or a forest, it doesn’t make a difference on how high the flower is able to grow.

Thus, no matter where you are at or what you are doing, always ask if the people around you are helping you become the best person you can become, and adjust accordingly.

photo credit: skoeber via photopin cc

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Thoughts on the SAT Changes, and What an Effective Assessment Needs

On 10, Mar 2014 | No Comments | In Education | By Daniel Kao

Last week, Collegeboard announced that they would be making changes to their flagship exam, the SAT. Among these changes include shifting the scale back to 1600 instead of 2400, making the essay optional, and changing the questions so that they pull from a broader knowledge base. And to help students prepare for this new exam, Collegeboard is partnering with Khan Academy to provide free test prep resources for students.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great. It’s great that Collegeboard is recognizing the enormous pitfalls of the current SAT and that they are taking steps toward changing how their test is done. But it’s insufficient for what colleges and universities need, and nowhere near sufficient for what students need in terms of a proper and holistic assessment of who they are.

Standardized tests have become “far too disconnected from the work of our high schools,” too stressful, and not a very good indicator of a college-ready student. (tweet that)

Collegeboard states that standardized tests have become “far too disconnected from the work of our high schools,” too stressful, and not a very good indicator of a college-ready student. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement, but I fail to see how the changes to the SAT actually resolves the issues stated. Even with the proposed changes to the test, the test is still a standardized test that outputs a numerical, “standardized” score.


What’s the Problem with Standardization?

Our modern world is all about standardization. Companies use standard metrics in order to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of their business and employees, governments use standards in order to enforce regulations that help keep a nation in order, and the current trend toward big data is a huge industry for potential growth simply because everything can be tracked.

The train of thought goes something like “Well it works for evaluating performance, products, and services, let’s apply the same thing to evaluating students!”

But what people fail to realize is the difference between using a standard to evaluate work and using a standard to evaluate people (tweet that). People aren’t products. People can’t simply be treated as another data point on a graph, because people are so much more than that. Humans are social creatures that adapt, mold, and transform into different personalities, shapes, and emotions. People were never made to be compared, they were made to work together, share ideas, and live together on earth.

People fail to realize is the difference between using a standard to evaluate work and using a standard to evaluate people. (tweet that)

In the culture and era of the world that we live in today, collaboration is the only way industries will move forward. CEOs and business leaders talk at great lengths about how beyond the work of the company and the business model, there has to be a solid team behind what the company is doing. One of the greatest challenges in the corporate world today is how to hire people that not only have the proper skill set, but are also a culture fit into their company, because collaboration and teamwork are the building blocks of a company or business.

However, a standardized test that’s built to compare one high school student to another breeds competition rather than collaboration. No wonder so many business leaders complain about the communication and teamwork skills of recent college graduates; they were raised in a system that teaches the exact opposite.


What Can We Do About This?

So now the question becomes “how can we create an assessment that captures the essence of a student in a way that doesn’t compare students to each other in a competitive way?”

The first step is pretty obvious; We have to get rid of the numerical score.

The purpose of an effective and sufficient assessment of students is to encapsulate a good representation of who this student is, complete with a holistic picture of all of their strengths and weaknesses compiled into a way that someone reading the results can interpret who their are and what their strengths are without actually spending time with them.

The first step is pretty obvious; We have to get rid of the numerical score.

What if instead of a test score, the test provided a spectrum of different areas representing a student’s strengths and weaknesses, listing out attributes such as creativity, work ethic, leadership, communication, background, learning aptitude, grit, entrepreneurialism, resourcefulness, etc?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and will write my proposal for a new testing model in a future post.

What would a test like that look like? and how would it help students have a different approach?

photo credit: albertogp123 via photopin cc

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What it Means to be an Entrepreneur

On 06, Mar 2014 | No Comments | In Entrepreneurship | By Daniel Kao

We’ve all heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20. While looking back is definitely clearer than looking forward, but are our perceptions of the past always completely accurate?

I often study the work of famous entrepreneurs, hoping to learn whatever I can from their failures and successes, but one very common thread among most entrepreneurs is that none of them completely knew what they were doing moving forward. Many entrepreneurs have an initial vision, but have to pivot and reposition their business and approach countless of times before they hit the ball out of the park.

No one can predict the future with much precision and accuracy. That’s why venture capital firms struggle to turn a profit, why weathermen are always wrong, and investing in the stock market is a giant guessing game.

Life and entrepreneurship especially is riddled with unknowns. By definition, being an entrepreneur means that you are doing something that no one has done before, creating and shifting markets in completely new ways.

But yet, for some people, we feel like we need to have all the dots connected moving forward.

When I first started studying entrepreneurs, I used to think that I needed to figure everything out before starting my first company, driving me to read as many blogs and books as I possibly could. I would try to learn as much as I could about what works and what doesn’t in order to build a strategy that won’t fail.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to ignore the advice and lessons from entrepreneurs, because mentorship and guidance is invaluable. I’m simply saying that you don’t need to have everything figured out.

Sometimes the best place to be is knowing you have no idea what you’re doing and go for it anyways (tweet that). That’s the only way to figure out definitely whether something works or not. Don’t be afraid that you are too uninformed, too under-qualified, or inadequate of making a significant change in the world, whether it be starting a company, running a nonprofit, or anything else along those lines.

An entrepreneur, at it’s very core, is simply someone who makes things happen by taking risks.

photo credit: Abode of Chaos via photopin cc

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In Life

By Daniel Kao

Doing Your Life’s Work

On 03, Mar 2014 | No Comments | In Life | By Daniel Kao

Last week, as I was applying for an online contest, I looked at my calendar and realized that I have been blogging for five years. That’s five whole years worth of who I am that has been shared online.

It got me thinking. So much has changed since the day that I decided to start blogging, and yet some things are still exactly the same. I had no idea what today would look like five years ago, and I have no idea what things will look like five years from now. But day in and day out, I find myself doing a lot of work, and putting all my effort into various different things.

What do I really live for?

It’s a question that everyone faces. No matter how certain and confident a person may project themselves in the world, there’s always a deep question in the shadows questioning whether or not you deserve to be there. (tweet that)

Even today, while trying to think of what today’s blog post should be about, I took a deep breath, thought about how jammed pack these past two weeks have been, and asked myself if I’m really making a difference. I had no idea what to write about. Who even cares if I write?

There are so many areas of life where I could put myself down, look at myself like an amateur, and cause my feelings of insecurity to push me into hiding. But that doesn’t get me anywhere.

Your life’s work isn’t going to be easy, and nobody is every a hundred percent certain that they are the best fit or the most appropriate qualifications for the job. You just have to take a deep breath and know that you can do it. Have grit.

Because you are where you are for a reason. Don’t let what you have just fly by.

photo credit: Robb North via photopin cc

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How I Work

On 27, Feb 2014 | No Comments | In About Diplateevo | By Daniel Kao

I’ve don’t believe in putting tools above mindsets and strategies, but sometimes it still is helpful to see how other people work and the tools they use to get their work done. Inspired by Lifehacker’s How I Work series, I’ve decided to venture into the slightly more personal space of my life and share my workflow with the world.

Current Computer: Lenovo Thinkpad R400

I’ve had this computer for a while now, same one I had two years ago. Still runs more than fine for my daily needs, and the build quality of ThinkPads is truly legendary. I dual boot Windows 7 and Arch Linux, which allows me to use graphic / creative stuff in one operating system and code in the other.

Current Mobile Device: Galaxy Nexus GSM


Still going strong on the trusty Galaxy Nexus. I wish Google would release a kitkat update for this little guy, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening. Android is a great mobile platform, and it’s also great to have the pure android experience on a Nexus device.

Other Electronics: ASUS Transformer, FitBit Force

I have an ASUS transformer for light computing days at school when I don’t feel like lugging around my laptop, as well as to read ebooks on. My ridiculous appetite for books is satisfied largely through this little handheld tablet.

My new FitBit Force is my venture into wearable technology. I’m quite pleased with it so far, and it’s turned my daily exercises nearly into a game. I like it’s subtleness unlike other wearable technology solutions out there that look absolutely ridiculous *cough* galaxy gear. Being able to quantifiably see how active I was today is definitely a cool thing.


2014-02-18 15.22.47

My workspace consists of a dual monitor setup attached to a docking station for my laptop, which is extremely convenient when I come home and want a full blown computing space. I also have on the wall very carefully chosen colors and arrangements. Unfortunately, I am probably sitting in front of this thing for too many hours a day.

Apps I Can’t Live Without

The list is really long here, but I’ll go through them briefly. I use Thunderbird for email because I’m still not used to using email straight in the web. I use Chromium cause it’s awesome like that. I still use Pidgin for AIM and gchat (yes I’m still on AIM). Evernote is where I keep all of my thoughts and write all of my blog posts before they are published. If you don’t use Evernote, you’re seriously missing out.

As for Internet apps, I use tweetdeck to manage all of my never ending twitter interactions, and Buffer to schedule content sharing. Google docs and google calendar are also huge ways of organization and collaboration for me.

Sites I Frequent

There is always a tab open on Hacker News in my browser window besides my everyday Facebook, Quora, Tumblr, and Pinterest feeds. I also visit Lifehacker, Engadget, and Wimp regularly to keep up to date with tech and such.

My TODO List Manager

I’ve been using Google keep to keep track of things to do ever since it was launched. It has a great flexibility with lists and other note taking abilities. I also use Google tasks for Homework and other things that have time sensitive due dates.

Music I Listen To


Switchfoot has gotten me through life, no matter where I’ve been. Fading West is an amazing album. Other than that, I do have a couple EDM playlists on Spotify to get me pumped whenever I need more energy, or country music for whenever I feel like driving a tractor.

Currently Reading

I’m always reading, and right now I’m enjoying “Think and Grow Rich” by Napolean Hill, as well as “Abundance” by Peter Diamandis.

Sleep Routine

Amazingly enough, I am able to get about seven hours of sleep a night consistently, usually between the hours of 12 to 8. Sleep is important for me, as it helps me to really have energy and focus through my days.

So there. Those are the tools I use.

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