Jan 262011
 

Here’s the second piece of an incredible piece of an interview that Isaac Asimov gave to Bill Moyers. He goes much more into the future of learning and the future of education.  In the first few seconds of it, he very clearly describes the exact situation we have with the internet being as widely available as it is.  And then describes the resulting “one-to-one relationship for the many” where we all have individual access to the “gathered knowledge of the human species”.  What an incredible way of explaining it.  He even goes on to talk about the failing of the educational system.  I touched on a similar idea in a recent post, “Will you be Bigger When You are Older“, and the idea that the social norm is that once you’ve finished formal schooling, your education stops.  Asimov puts it pretty well in this interview when he says that “people think of education as something that they can finish.”  And then goes on about how it has become a right of passage to finish school and move on into adulthood, and how we end up with people “looking forward to no longer learning, and you make them ashamed, afterwords, of going back to learning.”  I think the best line is shortly thereafter.  “People don’t stop having sex just because they’ve turned 40.”  It’s an incredible way to compare it.  Many of us that are on this path to becoming 21st Century Humans have a real passion for learning new things and applying new knowledge.  Why, then, did many of us stop that learning and applying when we graduated?  For most, I would hypothesize, it was the rush into the “real world” to get a job and career and to make enough money to pay off those student loans and other debts that we racked up on our way. Watch the video:

One thing that keeps coming back to me with all this discussion of the educational system and the state of personal education, is that we’ve known it was broken, or, at least partially broken, for such a long time. This interview was recorded in 1988! It was plain enough then, as well. Can you imagine what would happen if more people became activists for a reformed educational system and for teaching our children to become life-long learners rather than the old 16 years and you’re out learners? What an incredible world that could be!

Jan 132011
 

The Art of Non-Conformity

By: Chris Guillebeau

In the last few years, you can’t have been doing any reading in the “lifestyle creation” arena without having heard the name of Chris Guillebeau.  By they way, I don’t much like the terms “lifestyle creation” or “lifestyle customization” or their brethren.  They aren’t really terms that Chris used, but they do seem to be the more popular terms for the genre. In any case, Chris has certainly made a name for himself.

If you’re unfamiliar with him, I suggest you go over to his site (http://www.chrisguillebeau.com/) and get familiar with him.  He’s a smart guy and has some really great ideas about a lot of the things that we’ll be discussing here.

The Art of Non-Conformity is his first book.

The first thing you’ll notice about this book is that it’s written in a very conversational tone.  It’s easy to read, and easy to understand what it is that he’s talking about.  Which, of course, makes it easy to take in.  It presented itself to me as a blueprint for taking control of your life and making it what you want it to be.  Inspirational, to be sure, but I found it to be lacking in any real detail as well as anything that got too far beyond inspiration.

Here, I think, is why.  Chris has his own experiences to build upon.  His story is a great one and it serves as a great inspirational story to give the reader a kick in the behind on their own way to a life better lived.  Part of me wants more than that.  It’s one of my flaws that I’m continually working on.  I want detailed instructions.  I find it hard to move forward without them.  But, what I’ve come to realize is that what worked for Chris likely won’t work for me.  So, it’s unfair to judge the book just because it doesn’t have those instructions.

So, read the book.  It does have some very good ideas about living your life your way, and it provides inspiration for that.  Don’t expect great detail, but instead use it as an example of someone who was able to break away from the standardized life that we all have been conditioned to expect and is living a life of non-conformity.

If you go into the book expecting just that, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Jan 072011
 

While attending public school, I hated it. But, then, not many do like school when they are attending it. Now, as a father, whose children will soon begin to attend school, my thoughts are continually turned towards the constant stream of noise we hear about the failure of the school system. Our students are not scoring high enough in the SAT and ACT tests! Impending Disaster! [Cue the Fire Drill!]

Over the last few days, I’ve been watching a lot of the new TED talks that are available. Below, I’m embedding one that talks to the school systems and posits that they not only are failing, but that they are killing any creativity that there may be. In short, we begin our children off by telling them that they can be and do anything that they want to. And then we send them to school, where they are taught that they can’t do anything unless they score well on a test. What’s more, we abandon them to it. Aside from helping them figure out how quickly train A and train B will arrive at point C, we take no further interest in their education. We trust the school systems to teach them. But, what they are teaching them is not working.


http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

I’ve always thought that a majority of the issue with the way our children behave and with the social problems (gangs, suicide, etc.) has far more to do with the involvement of the parents than any other factor. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children. It is our responsibility to foster their creativity.

They will guide humanity into the 21st century, and what better way than to do so as 21st Century Humans?  If you aren’t bringing your children along on this journey, not only are the schools failing, but so are you.

Jan 052011
 

In the mind of a child, the words bigger and older are synonymous. To them, getting older means that they also will get bigger.  For a child, being bigger opens up a world of opportunities.  Wherever they turn, they are met with restrictions based on their size.  They must be “this” tall to ride that ride.  Being bigger is their ticket to ride.

As we transfer into adulthood, this synonymy disappears.  Suddenly, all of those restrictions become based on our age.  You must be a certain age to vote, drink alcohol, and even retire.  At some point we may even be told we need to stop growing bigger, physically.  Suddenly, and drastically, the learned associations of bigger is better is replaced with older is better.

Too many of us, faced with this dilemma, stop all growth of any sort, and focus on aging instead.  Until, that is, we realize that our ability to age is finite.  At that point we begin doing what we can to stop the aging process, or reverse it even.  We find that the association of older is better is false, as well.  Older, suddenly, is worse.  And we can’t stop aging, so we come to the conclusion that we are getting worse.

What if, instead of abandoning the notion that all growth must end, we instead embrace the idea of growth in a non physical manner.  What if, we replace it with the notion that growing becomes a growth in spirit and in knowledge?

Growth doesn’t end with a certain age.  Despite the false idea that to grow means physical growth, we learn more in our childhood than at any other time in our lives.  By the time we have reached the age of five we have become fluent in at least one language, learned the proper usage of countless “tools”, attained most of our basic knowledge of social structure, and numerous other skills and abilities.

Let me ask you this; how many languages have you become fluent in since you turned five? How many of you can change the oil in your car or the memory in your computer? How many of you are “stuck” at your job because you lack the skills for anything else?

Growth isn’t something that should be abandoned at 18.  Instead, we should shift our focus from growing physically, to growing mentally.  We should shift from feeding our expanding waistlines to feeding our minds.

How will you “grow” this year?  What will you learn to expand your knowledge?  Will you learn a new language?  A new skill?  Or, will you remain content to merely be satisfied with what you know?

Jan 032011
 

One of the biggest obstacles to shrugging off the yoke of a “normal” life is getting past the fear of what might happen.  Our fear holds us in check and keeps us from experiencing life the way it is meant to be experienced.  For centuries, society has taught us that specialization in a field is the only way to succeed.  We’ve been conditioned to expect failure if we step away from that.  For many, myself included, overcoming that fear is the first step towards living the life of a 21st Century Human.  But, how do we overcome our fear?

Fear is a funny thing.  A person can experience fear of something as simple as speaking in front of a group, but feel completely at ease jumping out of an airplane with nothing but a parachute strapped on.  Fear can manifest itself in both rational and irrational ways.  Fear of speaking, for example, can be thought of an irrational fear.  After all, there’s little to no chance that the group will do anything worse than stand up and walk out of the room.

Fear, at it’s most basic, is an emotion.  Humans are an emotional being, and we use our emotions to guide us.  But, we also are built such that we can control our emotions.  We can override them.  Overcoming a fear is nothing more than controlling and overriding an emotion.  That’s at it’s most basic.

For centuries, humans have used tools to overcome difficulties.  Overcoming emotions (overcoming fear) isn’t all that much different.  If you find the right tool, you can face, and, ultimately, control and override that fear.

AraignéeRationalization can be that tool.  Give your fear a rational consequence.  Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen if I do what I fear.  Be careful, though, to not let your fear influence your rationalization of it.  For example, a possible consequence of overriding a fear of spiders is that the spider climbs up your arm and
bites you, poisoning you and resulting in your death.  But, looking at it rationally, there are very few spiders whose bite can kill you quickly enough that you can’t receive help that will save you.  So, a truly rational way to look at it would be to say that the worst that could happen is that the spider would bite you and you’d have to receive treatment for the bite and suffer a recovery period.

The same is true for most fears. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen if I do this? If the answer isn’t unbearable, then, your fear is unfounded.

What is your fear keeping you from doing?  Don’t let your fear override your need for happiness.  Control your fear, and overcome it.

Creative Commons License photo credit: JR Guillaumin

Jan 012011
 

The beginning.  First, welcome to 21st Century Human.  I suppose it would be best to start off with where the name comes from, and, what it means.

In many circles, much of what I am/will be discussing here is tagged with the concept of renaissance.  I toyed with naming this site something along the lines of “Renaissance Human”.  I didn’t because, for many, the idea of renaissance is irrevocably tied to the renaissance period of human history, somewhere in Europe.  In short, it’s tied to history, rather than future.  Much like the word revolution is tied, for many Americans, to the American Revolution against the rule of England, renaissance is tied to a period of time in history, and loses much of it’s true meaning.  In fact, of the 8 definitions on dictionary.com, only two really pertain to the meaning of the word and not to the period of time.  As I would use it here, dictionary.com defines renaissance as “a renewal of life, vigor, interest, etc.; rebirth;”

So, throwing away the word renaissance as a naming device, I chose the next closest thing that I thought truly described what I really meant here.  21st Century Human.  A human for the future, that has adapted to our new lifestyles, and the new evolution in our societies.  A human no longer tied to the bonds of place, but with the freedom to explore new ideas and places on a whim with the technology that is available to us.

As humans in the technology era, we’ve become conditioned to think that a cubicle is a perfectly acceptable location for work.  Day in and day out, we file into our offices and do our “work”, with little in the way of fulfilling activities.  In many cases, it’s not the lack of ability, nor the actual location that causes this lack of fulfillment, but, rather, the lack of meaningful work.  Very few are actually doing work that they feel is meaningful.  Some do work that they feel is against their mores, all for the sake of “paying the bills”.  Not only is it unsafe morally, but the stress and anguish that it causes in the worker can be extremely unsafe for the workers’ well-being.

These humans are in dire need of a renaissance.  A renewing of life, vigor, and interest.  A rebirth as a 21st Century Human.

What exactly is a 21st Century Human, though?  Much like the people who dot the landscape of the historical Renaissance, a 21st Century Human embraces the concepts of learning, skill building, independent thinking, responsibility and true purpose.

A 21st Century Human believes that learning doesn’t end with the achievement of graduation from a college or university.  Learning is a life-long activity that leads to greater self-worth and a greater understanding of our purpose and of the world around us. A 21st Century Human aims for the levels of learning commonly attributed to that of a polymath.

A 21st Century Human believes that self-improvement is key.  Learning and building new skill sets can open up new avenues for fulfillment and meaningful work.

A 21st Century Human believes that we were all created as independent beings.  While many of us may develop similar ways of thinking and similar stances on certain topics, thinking as an independent being is an important part of our responsibilities to ourselves and to society.

A 21st Century Human realizes and accepts that he/she alone is responsible for his/her own actions and, ultimately, his/her own situation.

A 21st Century Human believes that each of us has a true purpose.  A calling to a particular set of occupations and skills.  And, that that true purpose is the right path for us to travel in our lives and can lead to living a satisfied, fulfilling, and meaningful life.

Finally, I feel that I must make it clear that I am no expert on any of those topics.  I, too, am merely beginning the journey towards being a 21st Century Human.  In the many things that I’ve done, none have felt so right as those I’ve done towards this goal.  Much like a priest called to lead the faithful, I feel as if I’ve been called to lead along this path.  I hope you’ll come along.  I welcome your company, and desire your honest input and conversation on the many subjects that will come up here.

I’m ready to break the conditioned patterns that we’ve all been trained to fill.  I’m ready to become a 21st Century Human.  Are you?

Dec 232010
 

I’m working on putting up the drapes, arranging the furniture, and making sure we’ve got plenty of conversation to be had before I open the doors.

If you happen upon this before the 1st of January 2011, please bear with me as I  tinker with the site.  The plan is to go live as of January 1, 2011, and start off the new year with a bang.

My hope is that you find this site to be insightful, thought provoking, and even inspirational.  I think we can all do better for our selves than we have, and the constraints, well intentioned or not, of society have held us back.  My aim is to break through those constraints, become a little bit unconventional, and change the world.  I hope you’ll stay, learn along with me, and change the world in your own way.
Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Faithful Chant [ back ]