Jan 062016

This bit I’m embedding below is the first part in an interview that Isaac Asimov gave to Bill Moyers in 1988. He talks a bit about learning and education and how he’s taken those things on. In particular, he talks about how he has no training at all in astronomy and that all of his knowledge on the subject arose from his passion for learning and is all self taught. In contrast, he says, his formal training is in chemistry, but he thinks he knows too much about it and it doesn’t excite him anymore to learn about it. That’s an interesting concept to me. Is it possible to learn too much on a subject? Or, at least, learn so much on a subject that it loses it’s flair for the learner? I think he was on to something there. He goes on from there and talks about living life to it’s fullest, and enjoying life. This strikes me as a bit sad, considering that the interview was filmed just 4 years before his death. Here’s the video:

One other thing that strikes me is that it’s clear that Asimov truly gets enjoyment out of learning. I think that concept is lost on so many people. Not because they don’t like to learn, or enjoy to learn, but merely because they are trying to force themselves to learn something that they don’t have any interest or calling for. If people, instead, learned about things that they have an interest or calling for, I think there would be many more people who share Asimovs sentiment towards learning.

Dec 032012

As anyone who’s happened upon this site will likely be able to figure out, I’m a big fan of TED talks.  They’re like 20 minutes of inspiration.  And, you can find a talk on just about any subject you care to learn about.  As a result of watching them pretty regularly on YouTube, my YouTube recommendations are usually full with TED talks that I’ve not seen.  One such popped up, and I found it pretty good.  It’s a talk given by Mel Robbins.  She talks about the reasons that you are screwing yourself over, and the steps you can take to avoid doing so.

There were a couple of things that really struck me within the talk.  The first was when she mentions a “5 second rule”.  Not the one where you have to pick up dropped food within 5 seconds, either.  She explains it as you have to take “action within 5 seconds to marry it with an idea”.  Any idea/thought that you have, you have to take some action on it within 5 seconds, or it’s lost.  The action doesn’t have to be anything super special, just something like writing the idea down in a notebook, but you have to take action on it.

The second thing that really struck me was when she said: “Your problem isn’t ideas; your problem is you don’t act on them.  You kill them.”  How many ideas have you killed by not taking action on them?  I know my list would be super long.  She also talks about having to force yourself to change in order to take those actions.  Our first instinct is to remain on “autopilot” and let things go along as they are.  That, she explains, is why so many of us are unhappy with our lives.  It’s not that we lead terrible lives, but that we’ve become bored with them because we’ve let them remain on “autopilot.”

What do you take away from watching the video?

Nov 072011

If you’ve overcome your fear, and gone ahead in spite of it, you’ve accomplished the first step. Now, you’ve got to kick it while it’s down, by learning the signs of fear, how to argue with your fear, get your fear to work with you, and then to use your fear as fuel.

Learn the signs of fear.

Everyone reacts to fear a little bit differently. Some react differently to different types of fear. The same person who runs screaming at the sight of a spider might react by doing nothing when they are dealing with a fear of change. Sometimes the difference is that one fear might have a physical manifestation, while others do not. Other times, the difference is in the timeframe. The immediacy of the one fear might seem more important than a fear of death, for example. Knowing how you react to your fears, and understanding that your reaction might be different when faced with different fears, is one of the key factors in overcoming your fear, and, then turning the tables on your fear. Observe what happens when you are faced with a fear. Do you run screaming? Do you freeze in place? Do you avoid decisions?

Argue with your fear.

Just because your fear might not have a physical manifestation doesn’t mean that you can’t argue with it. Understand that fear is a manifestation of your mind. And your mind can be argued with. Fear isn’t rational. Find the rational, and logical argument against your fear. Use that argument as often as you need to debate with your fear. You might not win the first time, or the second time, but keep with it, and you’ll eventually win. And winning the argument is what will propel you into a working relationship with your fear.

Work with your fear.

Fear rarely goes away. Even the bravest people you know have fear. They’ve just learned how they react to their fear, argued with their fear, and are working with their fear. Many of the most successful people work with their fear to accomplish great things. When asked what it is that makes them so successful, they may utter a few platitudes, but, if they are honest, they will say that their fear of failure drives them to keep working, testing themselves, and overcoming until they achieve success. They work with their fear, and their fear fuel to feed their successes.

Feed off of your fear.

Successfully kicking fear while it’s down is all about making your fear work for you; using your fear as fuel to feed your success. A fear of failure, properly used as fuel, will feed you to double your efforts towards success. A fear of change, properly used as fuel, will feed you to work towards taking control of the situation so that you not only have some idea of what the change is that’s coming, but in what ways it will manifest itself.

Use your fear, manipulate your fear, and take control of your fear. Use it to fuel the successes you want in your life.

Sep 292011

Seth Godin had a very good piece on the history of the school system and where it has taken us, as well as a call for a revolution in the school system.

Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn’t a coincidence–it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they’re told.

This is part of the conclusion I’ve come to as well.  We do very little to cultivate creativity in our schools.  When the budget is on the line, the first things to the chopping block are the arts and sports.  We don’t dare cut programs that teach advanced mathematics or science as those are things that we have standardized testing for and it can effect our federal funding.  So, instead, we cut the very things that help our children become better humans.  Creativity is essential in many of our 21st century jobs.  Factory jobs and data entry positions can be done by lower wage workers in other countries.  Seth touches on this as well.

As long as we embrace (or even accept) standardized testing, fear of science, little attempt at teaching leadership and most of all, the bureaucratic imperative to turn education into a factory itself, we’re in big trouble.

The post-industrial revolution is here. Do you care enough to teach your kids to take advantage of it?

Moreover, do we care enough to help break the mold and teach our children to become 21st century humans?  We risk so much more than a loss of federal funding.  We risk our children’s future.

Sep 162011

Mahatma Ghandi © by Arabani

I wrote earlier today about taking Financial Ownership (at Beating Broke), but there’s much more to a successful 21st century human life than just the financial aspect.  Ghandi is quoted as having said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”  That’s just a fancy Ghandi way of saying “take ownership in your life.”

If you want to see the world change, you’ve got to take the ownership of your vision, and make the change happen.  The world isn’t going to do it alone.  The change isn’t going to just magically appear in your lap, fully formed and done.  You have to be that change.

Taking ownership in your life isn’t just about changing the world, although that will likely happen, even if it is only in the small microcosm world that you interact with on a daily basis.  What it really means is taking ownership of every aspect of your life.  Assuming the blame for when you fail, and humbly accepting the accolades when you succeed.

You’ve got to do it.  No one else is going to act upon your dreams unless you lead them.  Take the ownership in your life.  Direct your life in the direction you want it to go.  Learn what you need to learn to successfully implement your plans.  Associate yourself with the people who will support and push you to follow through with your ownership.  But, most of all, take the ownership in your life and act positively.

Sep 012011

Learning to control enough can be paramount to becoming a 21st century human. The idea is less about saying enough to everything than it is about saying enough to the things that limit us and getting enough of the things that unleash us towards our potential.  It’s something that I struggle with every day.

In our current culture, enough is a constant temptation.  The term “keeping up with the Joneses” has become a common term that many associate with our struggle with enough.  Typically, it’s used to mean trying to attain status symbols like cars and houses that are equal to that of the rest of our contemporaries.  The problem with doing so is that in many cases, we “keep up with the Joneses” at a cost greater than we can afford.  This struggle with enough, and the Joneses is one of the key factors behind the recession/depression that we are currently suffering.  Too many people felt that they needed this or needed that and went and bought it without regard for whether they would be able to pay for it in full.  When it turned out that they couldn’t, they quickly found that they would lose most of it.


In improving ourselves, we must learn to control this ever maddening quest for enough.  It doesn’t have to be as difficult as many make it out to be, either.  The trick, I think, is in adjusting our expectation to a level of enough that is achievable.  Note that I’m not trying to say that you set your sights low.  I’m merely saying that you need to really get down to the nitty-gritty and decide what is really important to you.  Is it really important that you are seen to be on the same level as the Joneses?  Or, will a car that is dependable and cost efficient be enough?  Does your expectation of enough fit with the lifestyle you want to lead?

Set a level of enough that fits with where and what you want to be.  Learn to say enough to the things that are limiting you, and learn to expect more before you say enough to the things that will advance you in your quest to becoming a 21st century human.

Here’s a simple exercise that I think will help you decide on what level of enough you are aiming for.  Write down the subjects that you want to focus on.  Give yourself a full page for each one.  Underneath of it, fill the page with some open dialogue on what you feel are the levels of enough you are currently using, and what you feel are the levels of enough you should be using.  It doesn’t have to be a coherent dialogue.  You won’t be graded on it, and you won’t be sharing it with anyone.  Don’t edit yourself either.  Just write what comes to mind on the subject.  When you’ve filled the page, go back through and read it to yourself, underlining what you feel are the key factors and ideas.  Use those key factors and ideas to decide on a level of enough that will point you in the right direction.

Keep in mind, while doing this exercise, that the level of enough that you settle on doesn’t need to be permanent.  In fact, it shouldn’t be.  As you improve yourself, and learn to control your levels of enough, they will naturally start to equalize to the right levels.

Jul 252011

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, and I think I may have figured out why.  I’ve got these grand ideas for what I want to do here, and the ideals that I want to push here, and really, the community that I wish to join through here.  But, I keep waiting to do anything with those until I have the steps down, and know what it is that I’m doing.  Well, you all can see how well that’s been working. In order for me to continue here, there’s something that I must tell you.

I am not an expert.

There’s a very good chance that I am currently, or will be, wrong about something.  I’m beginning to realize, however, that being wrong isn’t as bad as it’s cracked up to be.  There’s a certain beauty in being wrong.  In fact, there’s something that’s very human about being wrong.  We’ve all made a mistake here or there, and we’ll make more.  To expect otherwise is to expect us all to be infallible.  Which is very much not a human trait.  And, I don’t think it’s something that a 21st century human really should aspire to in the first place.

If you’re never wrong, you’re just not stretching yourself far enough.


So, as a human, and especially as an aspiring 21st century human, I am not going to wait until I am an expert at something before I move on with it.  I’m going to get started.  Get my feet wet.  Put one foot in front of the other.  Move on down the road.  Just get going already.

Put down the Fear and Join me.

Do yourself a favor today.  Be wrong.  Do it!  Dare to be wrong about something today.  Even if it’s being wrong about the directions to an ice cream shop.  Just be wrong.  It’s ok, and the world will keep turning.  You’ll have other opportunities to be wrong.  Take a good look at the fear you have of being wrong, and see how it stands up to the worst case question.  It’s not that scary.

Be wrong, it’s beautiful.

Creative Commons License photo credit: ChazWags

Apr 142011

Too often, the only time we give people any kind of feedback at all is when we’re unhappy with them.  The drive-up gets our order wrong so we call to tell them about it.  Somebody cut you off in traffic, so you yell and make unkindly gestures at them.  When was the last time you gave someone feedback for a job well done?  When was the last time you got feedback for a job well done?

The truth is, we very rarely praise people for a job done well.  We’ve grown accustomed to expecting a good job.  We should expect a good job, but we should also recognize people when they’ve done a good job.  We should make it a point, especially, when someone has gone above our expectations.  But, we often do not.

I believe that the reason is that we’ve grown to be a disconnected society.  We used to live in a society that depended on our neighbors (or, even knew our neighbors) and would show our appreciation when our neighbors helped us out.  We also knew most of the people who were providing services to us.  It wasn’t just a pimply faced kid that delivered the dry goods from the store, it was the son of Tom, the store owner, who lived next to Sam, your cousin.  In short, we cared.  We knew the people, and we cared that they knew that we appreciated their work.

It shouldn’t be different now.  We may not know the service providers as well as we used to, but it’s no less important for them to know that we appreciate their work.  We certainly don’t have to invite them over for supper, but a little extra tip, or just a few genuine words of appreciation will work.  Someone who has provided superior service deserves it!

Often, the people who deserve such feedback are the ones least likely to accept it.  They’ll take it, then reply with some reason why it wasn’t such a big deal, or was no trouble.  But, the very fact that they honestly just did what they did because they thought it was the right thing to do makes them so very deserving of the feedback!

Take the time to thank people for doing their job well.  You’ll feel better for having done it, and the person you thanked will feel better knowing that their hard work was recognized.  If we want to be 21st century humans, it doesn’t just mean being smart, educated, multi-talented humans.  It means being better humans overall.  And, treating those around us with kindness and compassion is a part of that.

Thank you for doing what you do.  Today, you stopped by my site, read this article, and who knows what else!  I can’t speak for anything else you’ve done today, but you read this article with great style!  Thank you for being such a great reader!

Feb 282011

I happened to catch a great article by Daniel Pink on finding what it is that you want to do.  Most interesting of the article, was this little tidbit:

So – with a voice that quavers in expectation and an inflection that italicises the final word – they ask us again, “What’s your passion?”

Ladies and gentlemen, I detest that question.

When someone poses it to me, my innards tighten. My vocabulary becomes a palette of aahs and ums. My chest wells with the urge to flee.

Oh my. The answer better be amazing – not some fumbling, feeble reply. But I know the responses I’ve formed in my head aren’t especially good. Worse, they’re probably not even accurate. And I’m not alone.

So, as the economy comes back, and people begin pondering new opportunities, maybe we can take a break from this daunting and distracting question and ask a far more productive, one: what do you do?

He goes on to tell the stories of a couple of people who merely went about doing what they do and turned it into a full time income generator.

That singular question, “What is your Passion?”, is something that’s been eating at me for some time.  Not because I dislike the question, but because I just don’t feel like I have a very good answer to it.  Like Daniel, I know the “responses I’ve formed in my head aren’t especially good.”  What’s more, I think we all have a terribly distorted view of what our passions should be.  Much like many other elements of our lives, our perception of what something is is distorted by the proliferation of the dramatized and romanticized versions of those elements.  True Love means instantly falling head over heals in love with someone the moment you first see them and never having any issues with them at all.  Doing what you’re passionate about is all roses.  There aren’t any bumps and bruises, and there certainly aren’t any times when you feel less than passionate about doing it.  Or so we have all been lead to believe.

The truth, however, is slightly muddier.  The things that we regularly (and haphazardly) refer to as “passions” sometimes aren’t all roses.  And, even while performing our “passions” we aren’t going to necessarily be happy all the time.  There are going to be bumps and bruises.  And by trying to find a “passion” or “passions” that don’t have any problems might be doing us more harm than good.  Instead of trying to find your “passions”, try doing as Daniel suggested:

So, next time you’re on either the giving or receiving end of advice, skip the hot and steamy passion and go for the calm and deeper love. Ask questions like:

What did you do last Saturday afternoon – for fun, for yourself?

What books do you read or blogs do you visit, not for work, but just because you’re interested in them?

What are you great at? What comes easily to you?

What would you do – or are you already doing – for free?

The answer to those questions is what you really are looking for.  Call it a passion if you like, but those things that you do in your free time, for no pay, are the things that truly interest you.  Define them, then pursue them.  And then, find a way to make your living from them.  That’s living with passion.  Most of all, stop trying to find the answer to “what’s your passion?” and start doing what you do.

Feb 182011

Compare current education system to system like roman forums. Difference in being talked with rather than being talked to / lectured to. Involvement in learning / hands on learning vs study a book.
Teachers have become little more than transmitters of info from textbooks.
Lack of necessity in “required” courses. Difference in tech schools vs liberal arts college.