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?

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!

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 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.

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?