Most people feel like suffering is worth it because there’s a goal to be achieved. Weight loss is a great example. People starve themselves, eat strange foods and exercise to lose weight. The trouble is when they lose the weight and stop exercising and eating strange foods, the weight comes back. There is no end. Instead, you need to eat properly and exercise regularly (forever) to maintain a healthy body and mind.
Education falls into the same category. Study hard for the math test so you can get a good grade. Beware, there’s another math test around the corner. Of course, the tests end when you graduate to the working world, but they don’t really because the tests are replaced with the constant need to re-educate yourself. There is no end.
Then why not embrace the struggle? Playing whack-a-mole with life's problems is exhausting, especially when there is no end.
The interesting thing about suffering is that the more you embrace it the better you get at taking on more suffering. Real growth happens when you live in the suffering not when you live through it.
Next time you’re taking on a problem with the goal of stamping it out, remember: There is no end.
When you’re walking down a busy street and you see someone drop their phone, do you pick it up and give it back? What about seeing someone with a baby carriage struggle to open a door? Would you help?
Almost all of us would without hesitation, stop and help someone open a door or pick up a fallen item.
The interesting question is: Why do we do it?
Helping a fellow human-being with their daily struggle is an essential quality that has been carefully crafted into us through years of evolution. Being ultra-social beings, we must be able to help and support one another if we’re going to be successful as a society.
Some of us believe that empathy is the driving force behind all of these courteous acts by strangers taking place every day throughout the world. Empathy is the emotional motivator that provides us with a hit of serotonin every time we cooperate or help. Serotonin is also known as the bonding hormone. Mothers receive huge hits of serotonin when their baby is born. It provides a euphoric feeling that helps reduce physical pain and increase the bond between her and the baby - which is a good thing because those early days of parenting aren’t easy!
Here’s the trouble with empathy: it’s extremely biased. According to Paul Bloom, we must be very careful not to lead with empathetic feelings because we’ll have a tendency to support those most like us. While this might not seem like a bad idea, Bloom suggests looking at it in greater scope. For example, the Make-A-Wish Foundation spent over $10 000 on turning a terminally ill boy into Batman and parading him around the city in a Batmobile. No doubt it was a very special moment for the boy, his family, and the city. Empathy wins, right?
What if that money was used to purchase mosquito nets used to prevent the spread of malaria in Africa? Hundreds if not thousands of lives could have been saved. Where is the empathy in that endeavor?
Instead of leading with empathy, we’re better to use reason and compassion when dealing with people in need. Compassion differs from empathy in that were not mapping the feeling of another individual on our own. Instead, we support and help one another because it’s the right thing to do.
We should pick up the fallen phone because it will make that person’s day better not just because we’d want someone to do it if the rolls are reversed.
It’s a subtle difference but an important one.
Why has time become such an essential component of our daily lives? What can the Bible tell us about time and it's connection to discipline? Tune in to find out and you may just improve your life!
Students are taking to social media in droves to protest mandatory in-class presentations. Citing discrimination, they’re calling for alternatives to public speaking, especially for those individuals with anxiety.
Should public speaking be abolished from education?
According to a recent article in the Atlantic, over 90% of hiring managers say that oral communication is an essential skill in the business world. Educators feel that public speaking builds confidence, improves critical thinking, and teaches debating skills.
Traditionally, public speaking has been feared more than death. High school students are especially susceptible to presentation anxiety because it often takes place in front of their peers during a vulnerable time in their lives. A presentation that goes sideways could cause intense fear and anxiety.
Is this good or bad?
If public education’s main job is to prepare student’s for the world, then it would make perfect sense to continue to have kids practice public speaking throughout their schooling. Educational institutions are designed to be places of practice and learning that are sheltered from the harsh realities of the ‘real world’. If students can’t face their fears in this protected environment it's highly unlikely they’ll be able to manage a presentation in a business setting.
Safeyism (the idea that we’re over protecting our children) and anxiety are very real problems in education today. It’s unfortunate that they happen to be polar opposites. Perhaps a hybrid approach to public speaking is the most effective way to keep it in schools (having kids present in smaller groups first is an example).
In a world where populism is favoured over expertise, it would be a disaster to abandon our ability to converse using oral communication.
Seth’s blog today talks about the importance of doing in the effort of learning something. This is a fundamental principal that sometimes gets confused when we’re in pursuit of a new goal.
So many of us can watch some YouTube videos and have the confidence to be the next president or knowledge to understand the dynamics of a complex economic and political system.
The trouble is that experience is still the king when it comes to learning. You can’t swim by reading books or watching videos. Even advanced scientific theories have no credibility without experimental evidence backing them up.
How many of you are teaching innovation without experimentation in your classes?
Never under estimate the educational value of turning over a log to learn about habitats or programming a Sphero to reinforce computational thinking.
...is to understand that your job or career or goal requires you to keep showing up regardless of how you feel. Putting in your best effort each and every day will build the grit required to to great work. There must have been days when Michelangelo wasn’t jazzed about chipping away marble for hours at a time. He did it though and now we have David.
If you find yourself making the type of excuses that prevent you from showing up, then you may need to rethink your job or career or goal.
In 1955 the average child spent 2-3 hours outdoors every day. Rain and snow forced some inside down into the basements of friends to build forts, play board games and generally horse around. When outside, kids made tree houses, played war games, hung upside down on monkey bars and rolled through the streets on their bicycles. This was all without parental supervision.
In 2018, the time kids play outdoors without supervision has shrunk to almost zero. Those kids who are granted freedom, typically have tight restrictions on where they can go and generally come from homes with single parents who work.
Time in school and homework has increased exponentially as well. Homework is assigned in kindergarten and increases steadily until high school.
Kids are now spending more time in structured play. Sports, music, art, dance and play dates are all organized, supervised and facilitated by adults.
What are the benefits and consequences of a reduction in free play?
First the good.
Childhood injury and accidental mortality are at an all-time low. Supervising adults are able to intervene in risky behaviour early enough to prevent minor and serious injuries.
Kids are becoming highly specialized at an increasingly younger age. Most NHL players being drafted now played only hockey growing up and did it throughout the entire year. The result is an NHL that contains a historically high level of skill, speed, and size. The same can be applied for almost all professional sports.
Adult-child relationships are the strongest in recorded history. Kids now see adults as partners, leaders, and coaches instead of authority figures. Increased corporation between adults and children has led to more supportive and productive households. Teenagers are confiding their problems to their parents which allows for early interventions.
Unfortunately, all of these benefits do come at a cost.
Diagnosis of childhood anxiety and depression are the highest they have ever been. The attempted suicide rate for children and teens has more than quadrupled since 1955. Young adults ability to cope with setbacks in life has caused a monumental shift in culture at post-secondary institutions. Onsite school therapists are overwhelmed with students seeking support. Some statistics show that over 50% of all university students are diagnosed with either anxiety or depression at some point in their schooling. The course curriculum has changed to offer ‘trigger warnings’ for sensitive content that may potentially upset some students.
In the younger grades, children are increasingly requiring adult intervention to solve interpersonal problems and structure their day. When offered unstructured time in school to solve a problem or create something new, students constantly require feedback and details for the outcome (ex. How do I get an ‘A’?).
The message to push through the tough times and use ‘grit’ has mostly fallen on deaf ears because educators are increasingly finding it difficult to find the balance between safety and uncomfortableness in their classrooms. Living increasingly structured lives has reduced the ability for kids to learn appropriate self-initiative skills that can be found when setting up a game or solving a problem amongst themselves on the playground.
It appears that Steven Pinker was absolutely correct when he tells us in his book ‘Better Angels of Our Nature’ that the world is safer, healthier and smarter. It’s impossible to predict what the future holds for a generation of kids who don't get to play very often.
However, it does seem to be an important step in development for children (and adults).
What is the difference between a leader and a manager?
Are the titles interchangeable?
Traditionally, managers were the people who kept the systems running. They made sure the work was done on time and with the best quality possible. Managers trained, supported and praised workers to ensure that the widget was built correctly. You earned a management title when you had enough experience and intelligence to effectively keep the systems running.
Leaders were visionaries. They took risks and led from the front. Leaders didn’t necessarily have to be the person at the top of the hierarchy. It was awarded to anyone willing to inspire others to follow them into potentially dangerous situations with the hope of coming out better on the other side.
Sometimes in education, we get the titles mixed up. We tell students to be leaders but really we want them to be managers. Great managers get the student council running properly, they keep track of all their school work and submit it on time with their best effort, and they support their peers so that the whole system works better.
Leaders push the boundaries of their education. They look for alternative ways to solve problems, they write controversial essays, and they seek out new ways to improve their school. They take risks and own up to their failures. They push for change.
When you’re evaluating someone’s leadership abilities, make sure you’re not mistaking them for a manager.
The original definition of trauma included only physical damage to a human being. Blunt force trauma was the result of an injury due to a motor vehicle accident or other non- penetrating wound suffered by an individual. That word has evolved over the years to include mental damage. The most famous being PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD occurs when a person is exposed to a highly stressful situation such as a war zone or a natural disaster. People diagnosed with this condition find themselves locked into a highly altered state and are generally unable to disconnect from their experience even though the threat has been removed. In the old days of WW1 and WW2, it was called shell shock.
PTSD is a very important adaptation for human beings. Evolution carefully crafted this condition in us back during a time where the world was ripe with danger. PTSD allows humans to maintain a highly alert state which clearly would have positive survival benefits if you had just witnessed a saber-tooth tiger attack your tribe.
Today soldiers in war zones and EMS workers are the most likely to experience a diagnosis of PTSD. What is interesting is that when help is received, there’s over a 90% chance of recovery.
Humans are resilient.
If our mental recovery from very traumatic events is possible, why is that we spend some much time and effort ensuring that children are shielded from events that may trigger negative emotions?
Failure and criticism are non-existent in elementary education and quickly fading in high-school and university. It’s clear that teaching resilience and grit requires students to embrace pressure and possibly failure.
Individuals who recover from PTSD often report living happier lives than before the traumatic incident. Recognizing that life is fragile, taking pleasure in the small things, and focusing on interpersonal relationships are the main reasons why PTSD patients are happier.
Humans have complex stress systems built into our anatomy. We’re designed to be stressed and recover. Look at someone who lies in bed all day. Their physical bodies begin to atrophy. The only way to maintain a healthy body is to put it under some form of physical stress.
Our minds are no different.
Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) is Canada’s version of the Navy Seals. They’re elite military operators whose skill sets range from training locals in the art of insurgent warfare to jumping out of planes behind enemy lines. They can fight in the desert, the arctic and under water. Unlike America’s special forces who can field highly specialized Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Green Berets, and Airforce Combat Controllers, the JTF2 are Canada’s only special force and need to be able to fight on land, sea and in the air, alone. Essentially, they’re the jack-of-all trades and they’re really good at what they do.
The challenge with being a one stop shop for national defence is that you can’t be an expert in everything. If you spend too much time training for underwater operations than you’re bound to miss out on important training for air insertion.
So how does JTF2 train to be an effective fighting unit that is coherent in all areas of the battle space without being an expert in every area?
Instead of being the best in one area, they learn to be really good in all areas. More importantly, they practice extreme flexibility. When they enter into dangerous combat zones, they’re acutely aware that they’re not experts in everything. They work together to minimize the risk and maximize success knowing that their skills may not be perfectly polished. This happens though detailed planning, having access to the best equipment possible and the understanding that failing to use their strengths is worse than overestimating their weaknesses.
Extreme flexibility is a differentiating asset in a world where specialization is the norm. Kids are taught to be the best at a sport, a subject in school or an art. Nobody today is willing to settle for above average. The issue is that being above average at sports, school AND arts makes you far more versatile in a world of change than someone who has placed all their eggs in one basket.
Understanding your strengths and embracing your weaknesses gives you the needed insight to perform in areas of unknown. The JTF2 prepare as best as possible but know that their strength lies in extreme flexibility.
The next time you have the opportunity to participate in something you’re not an expert in, dive in guns blazing and embrace your weaknesses. It will only serve to make you extremely flexible.
This is a photo of a young boy comforting his sister in her last moments of life. It's heart-wrenching to look at and even more difficult to discuss with someone. The father who published the photo didn't do it looking for some virtue singling. He wanted it to be a symbol of the fragility of life. The picture is meant to for us to reflect on what it means to exist. The photo is helps us to understand that we're finite and extremely vulnerable.
We all know this, yet it seems to be such a difficult task to spend time enjoying the small things in life: The first crest of sunlight on a warm spring morning, the laughter of children at play, a warm embrace from a loved one. Why is it that these moments seem to wash away quickly and are difficult to contemplate once they've disappeared?
Us humans are not designed to be deep reflectors in life. We've evolved in a hostile environment where food scarcity, predator danger and disease lurked around ever corner. In the modern world, none of these threats are a real danger to us anymore. One can forgive our inability to medicate effectively on the value of life when we've spent most of it just trying to survive.
When pictures like this roll through our social media feed, we need to recognize their value and take a moment to live in the present, to be thankful for whatever we have - big or small. Nobody really knows when this grand show will come to an end, but to live like it will last forever is perhaps the wrong approach.
The purpose of education is to prepare an individual to reach their highest potential – to flourish. One characteristic of this philosophy is the idea that the student should be capable of independence. Individual autonomy promotes the critical capacity to make good decisions, independent of the beliefs of a group or religion. Home schooling may cover the curriculum of a pragmatist philosophy on education, but does it truly create individual autonomy independent of any religious or social biases?
Children who are educated in the home or in small groups under a religious doctrine (ex. Amish) are at greater risk of misrepresenting their view of autonomy. A student who is home schooled by their parents may receive a high-quality education similar to that set out by the state. However, a large portion of their education in social interaction may go unlearned. This subtle, yet extremely important, piece of the education puzzle could have severe repercussions for a home schooled student later in life.
In On Education, Brighouse argues that true autonomy involves the ability to determine one’s own values. In home schooled situations, values may be imposed directly, or indirectly, limiting a child’s ability to decide their own views. For example, an Amish child may grow up to misrepresent modern social values as ‘evil’ or ‘ungodly’ simply because they had Amish values imposed on them from an early age. High attrition rates by young Amish are a great example of what can result when autonomy is not a primary focus of education.
As an educator it is important to understand that a single-focused education in any area of schooling can lead to the development of homogeneous beliefs. It isn’t a teacher’s job to expose children to every possible religious or educational view. However, it is necessary to guide students to understand that the concept of choice is essential in the idea of individual autonomy.
Teachers must promote critical thinking skills in all aspects of school. It is also essential to promote social interaction among students so that individual views and experiences can be shared. The idea that thinking critically about their own beliefs while taking into account the views of others, is essential in developing autonomy. A home schooled student would not have the luxury of social interaction with various view points and could disagree with or oppress other peoples viewpoints in social interaction.
The philosopher Daniel Dennett argues that in the case of religion, children should be taught the history and beliefs of all religions. Then they should be allowed to make decisions without the influence of parents, teachers or religious leaders. In his book, Breaking the Spell, Dennett states that religious indoctrination can poison all of society. Although his thesis is religiously based, it certainly applies to the concept of schooling and autonomy. Children should be allowed to explore many different belief systems, viewpoints and religions and be given the ability to decide a value system for themselves. This is an ideal theory and difficult to represent in the real world because almost certainly everyone will be influenced by someone and in the case of children, they receive the strongest influence from their parents. However, the idea that a teacher can foster children to witness different viewpoints is essential in the development of autonomy.
Home schooling is a moral issue that deals with a student’s ability to function as an autonomous member of society. Although publicly schooled and home schooled students may share the same skill set, the home schooled child may lag in social maturity. This social education is a key element to become truly autonomous. Without it, a student my not be able to flourish.
@davidgroggins is a master motivator because he offers one simple message: You have to suffer. The difference between someone who is motivated and someone who is driven is suffering. The person who just attended Tony Robbins latest seminar is motivated. They become driven once they put their plan into action. Change is never easy and it often takes a tremendous amount of suffering before things start to turn in your favour.
The difficulty we have as human beings isn't that we can't or won't suffer. It's that we assume that if we do put ourselves into a position of pain we should be rewarded for it. Got up early this morning to go for a jog? Great. That doesn't give you a free pass to gorge on donuts at lunch or put a sweaty selfie on Instagram.
Suffering is an individual experience. Sure, you can suffer as a group or have someone feel sympathetic or even empathetic for you. At the end of the day, you're in control of your suffering. This is best demonstrated by Buddhist monks who live in a community, but meditate with their own thoughts. The meditating is done to aid the balance between joy and suffering so they can connect with it, experience it and ultimately be content with it.
Suffering is an inevitable part of life. Embracing it, seeking it out and (yes) enjoying it will not take away from your life, only add to it.
For those who are a fan of the classics, you know that education has its foundation in both Plato and Aristotle’s philosophies on well being. Plato's famous cave analogy tells us that real learning occurs when we open our minds and assume that what we see, hear, feel and believe are just shadows. The mind can grow through the investigation of ideas by peeling back the dark vale that covers them. A modern view of this philosophy can be found in Steven Pinker’s book - The Blank Slate. He uses a science-based approach to contend that we’re all born hard-wired with plenty of knowledge. Much of this knowledge comes to the foreground when we mix it with experience. A great example is the acquisition of language. It appears that we’re born with the ability to communicate already mapped on our brains. Once we’re exposed to language, we seem to be able to fill in multiple gaps quickly. Our ability to infer seems to have been pre-installed at birth.
Aristotle believed that we learned best by interacting with knowledge. Our minds are empty vessels that can be filled to the brim with new ideas. Essentially anyone can learn anything as long as their brain is open and ready to save the knowledge.
The traditional industrial style classroom leaned more on the Aristotle approach with it’s desks in rows and reinforcement of mathematical facts. Obedience was the key to learning. Follow the instructions and you will acquire the knowledge required to live a well-balanced for fulfilling life.
In today’s classroom you’ll find a far more Platonic approach to education. The inquiry method of teaching is nothing more than Plato’s theory put into action.
It’s interesting to note that only a brief moment of teacher education is dedicated philosophical education, and in the classroom almost nobody talks about either Plato or Socrates when asked about their teaching pedagogy.
Other than the risk of sounding archaic, many educators are likely unaware that they’re facilitating in this ancient theory of teaching. Instead they can confidently articulate their educational approach by reciting important terms such as ‘personalization, flipped-classroom, deep learning, wellness’ and many others. It is possible for a teacher to speak a sentence with so much educational jargon, even a Rhodes scholar might be confused.
“By flipping my classroom, I’ve been able to take a personalized approach to teaching thus enabling my students to engage in deep learning with a growth mindset.”
While this certainly sounds impressive, it’s covering up the core principals that both Plato and Aristotle preached about many years ago. The goal of education at any level should be to improve eudaemonia - the idea of human flourishing. In an educational setting, the tactics of achieving this goal (see the post below) are not as relevant as the strategy of developing competent, capable and critical thinkers.
Whether you’re using personalized learning, flipped classrooms or have a focus on wellness, the goal is to either fill the students head with new information or expose her to new ideas that will allow her to learn independently.
Ask the average person what they know about World War 2 and they’ll likely tell you about D-Day. Ask them to tell you something about D-Day and they’ll mention Juno or Omaha beach or the massive airborne drop that preceded the beach. Ask them about Juno beach and they’ll explain the difficulties getting off the ships and the fierce fight that took place. Keep it going and you’ll likely get to individual stories about solider’s actions that morning. We can uncover layers of events that took place in WW2 by drilling deeper and deeper.
What’s rarely ever talked about is the development and execution allied grand strategy ultimately ended the 3rd Reich. The entire plan took years to develop and required the strategic thinking that well beyond the immediate landings, but also included the drive towards Germany, the liberation of France and the low countries and the ultimate plan once Hitler had been disposed.
Everything that happened from June 6th, 1944 onwards was the result of a massive strategic effort. All the battles, stories and hardships were directly related to the ability of the tactics to match the grand strategy of the war effort.
Had the airborne effort on the night of June 5th failed to seize the correct bridges, the landings would have stalled on the beaches. If a fuel line hadn’t been laid under the channel, the tanks would have run out of gas.
We can easily get caught up in the power of tactics over strategy in our daily lives. Rushing from to-do list time to to-do list item can make us feel productive. However, if paying your credit card off immediately after shopping at the mall doesn’t match with your grand strategy of saving money, it’s a fail. Same goes with work. If you can knock off every task your manager gives you, but you still feel unfulfilled, it’s a fail.
It’s important to spend time mapping out a grand strategy for your life. It doesn’t need to have a time limit (WW2 didn’t), but it should have a clear outcome.
Becoming a doctor, independently wealthy, owning a car or a house, getting in better shape and being more active in your community are all noble strategies. Write them down and every time you do something on your to-do list ask yourself if you’re moving towards or away from that goal.
The allied Normandy strategy took longer than expected. They did finished it though.
“Trust is difficult to gain and very easy to lose.”
There’s no better way to build your self-brand than by continuing to show up. Making promises and continuing to keep them will ALWAYS move the needle forward in any relationship.
If you raise your hand and say yes to something, be sure to follow through to the bitter end.
It is even better to do it without complaining or resentment or virtue signalling.
When things get tough, the person who always follows through is most likely going to get the tap on the shoulder to do something about it.
As a supplement to a blog post below, I have created slidecast that was given to the senior school . In the talk, you'll learn why fear and failure are keeping you from aiming high and being a better person.
Podcast version available here.
Daedalus had been imprisoned by King Minos of Crete within the walls of his own invention, the Labyrinth. But the great craftsman's genius would not suffer captivity. He made two pairs of wings by adhering feathers to a wooden frame with wax. Giving one pair to his son, he cautioned him that flying too near the sun would cause the wax to melt. But Icarus became ecstatic with the ability to fly and forgot his father's warning. The feathers came loose and Icarus plunged to his death in the sea.
What’s the lesson here? Don’t disobey the leader. Listen to what your parents say. Don’t try to imagine that you’re better than you are. Fall into the box that society puts you in. Don’t dream big.
I think that’s dead wrong.
It’s interesting to note that in the modern version of the story, the part about flying too low has been purposely left out. Seth Godin believes it was a result of the industrialization of education and need for competent workers.
What happens if you fly too high?
You get burned. You fail. You get embarrassed.
When teachers are asked wha the biggest thing wrong with education today, do you know what that almost all of them say?
We’re not teaching students to fail properly. Note the word properly. Is there a proper way to fail? That’s what we’re going to look at right now. The goal of every educator should be to have students walk out of the class each day with the knowledge of what it means to fail. Knowing this allows them to aim high.
Would Icarus would still fly close to the sun if given a second chance? Yes! Why? Because, well, you already know. Who wants to live a boring, play by the rules life?
Just check out your snaps, Instagram and other social media feeds. NOBODY puts anything online about an average day. Here I am, eating lunch or studying. People have the natural desire to showcase themselves flying high. What they don't show is the failure.
That's arguable the most important part.
The walk down the hallway before a job interview is arguably the best moment of the entire job seeking process. Your resume has passed the test. You made it to the top 1% . Now is the moment before you get the chance to shine and show the company you're the best person for the job.
Those small precious moments before the big interview are what you should focus on. Latch on to. Dial in.
In those fleeting moments the world is pure potential. It's the moment before you leap. It's important because you get the chance to experience everything that might be and everything that might not - all at the same time. Once you open the door, the game begins. You can' t cut and run. You have to execute.
We need to learn to seek out opportunities where can experience the moment before the leap. That 's where real growth happens. The difference between a hero and a coward is action in that moment of uncertainty, of pure potential. Seek it out and you won't be disappointed.
Easter Island is the true story that Dr. Suess might have based the book 'The Lorax' on.
It was home to a successful community for many generations. Over time, the limited resources on this isolated island began to disappear until one day, 'chop!' the last tree went down.
Jared Diamond makes the story real in his brilliant article and book (thanks Seth Godin for linking this!).
The question we could ask is: Who were the people that warned everyone about the pending crisis?
Someone must have known about the potential danger, right?
It's possible that the entire community was suffering from co-pilot syndrome. It's the condition where the co-pilot doesn't mention any potential danger to the flight crew because he or she feels that speaking up might disrupt the deeply taught culture of chain of command. Experienced pilots never make mistakes, especially obvious ones. Speaking up against them could get you in big trouble. So the co-pilot says nothing and the result can be disastrous.
Perhaps the community on Easter Island was based on this premise. Of course the leaders have a plan for the disappearing resources. Speaking out against the plan could get you banished and that's not a good place to be on an isolated Island in crisis.
Where in our culture do you see this type of behaviour? Do you feel comfortable speaking up in a meeting if you're on of the junior team members? Do you automatically assume that experienced leaders will always have it right? It sounds silly to think that way, but watch out, you might already be doing it.
With a massive environmental catastrophe on the horizon, we can't wait to act. We need to speak up now.