Famous to who?

Famous to some means nothing to others.

Above some level of skill and talent is an “irrational” feeling. An emotional connection, a nostalgic longing. To the newcomer, with no history, it’s not all that impressive. But to one with history, it’s everything you remembered it to be and more.

That’s why you should perform for those with history. Because it’s a zero to one difference between those who get it and those who don’t. A certain crowd will show up with a confused look and expect you to prove yourself. The other crowd will expect an reinforcement of why they already love you.

Famous is always subjective. The more important question is “famous to who?”

Tools and rituals

Tools are only as valuable as the rituals we build around them. If everyone on the team downloads Slack but doesn’t open it, there’s no point.

It could be the best communication method possible, but without a ritual, it’s useless.

Ritual building is scarce. It requires consistency, risk-taking and leadership. Someone has to go first. Someone has to stand up and begin building the ritual.

There are plenty of great tools, but not enough ritual builders.

The pulse of engagement

If we took a random poll of students all throughout the US and asked “on a scale of 1-10 how connected do you feel to your passion?” what would we find?

Would we find higher numbers in some pockets and not others? Which pockets would they be? Would younger students score higher than older students or would we find the opposite?

Let’s take it a step further. What if we weren’t measuring progress by standardized test scores, but instead by the answer to this question. It could be one in a suite of diagnostics to get at the true state of teaching and learning in America.

Don’t defeat yourself

Reflecting on my TEDx experience, highlighted in my newsletter a couple weeks ago, I realized the lesson. Don’t defeat yourself. I had the whole thing memorized. I knew it cold. But i froze on stage because I was so nervous. I defeated myself. On the day of the actual talk, I smiled, I appreciated the moment and got out of my own way. It went smoothly. So often, we are blocking our own progress! We’re blocking ourselves with self-judgment, with fear, with nervousness. It’s all normal. It feels safe. But you have to let those things go. They’re defeating you from releasing your best work. Work that the world needs to see. Get out of your own way. You have magic inside you and it’s time to let it out.

Two motivators

People are motivated by both fear and aspiration.

One is negative and says “If you don’t do it, you will fail. You will look bad. You won’t be enough.”

The other is positive and says “The possibilities are endless. If you don’t do it, you miss a chance to grow.” Fear is rooted in the scarcity mindset that you’re in competition with others and need to look the best. Aspiration is rooted in the abundance mindset that we could all be amazing. As leaders, as educators, have to be careful which we’re using to motivate students.

What if it were 10x better?

This is cool, but what if it were 10x better? If it changed ten times as many lives. If it were 10x cheaper, or 10x faster. Or if it were able to grow when you weren’t there.

The minute we stop asking that question is the minute we stop innovating. When we fall in love with our solutions, we lose the opportunity to think big.

I love Astro Teller’s idea that changing your perspective unlocks the possibilities of innovation. The easiest way to change your perspective? Think bigger. With so many people working on incremental change, to shoot for 10x better often leads to an abundance of new, albeit unrealistic, ideas.

You have to start there though, then work backwards. Even if it’s too crazy, too unproven, too strange. Try it. Build up from first principles. It’s the best chance we have at truly solving problems.

Let’s attract people here

It’s a common narrative often promoted in cities that have seen better days. A group of people identify a need to attract new people to come to the city to revitalize it.

But the attraction of new people often comes at the expense of current residents.

What if we built up what we already have? What if we made people want to stay? What if we helped the people who already live here?

Unfortunately those solutions lack the inherent appeal of a new attraction. Those solutions are rooted in education, and social services to help people climb up the ladder. Before we build new buildings, let’s think about investing in the nascent human capital all around us.

College Prep

Every student should have the opportunity to take college prep courses, but not the obligation.

And that’s the problem. Most students either fall in the obligatory bin, or the no opportunity bin.

How might we mix the two?

Learning opportunities

Every moment is a learning opportunity, but only if you view it as such.

To be constantly judging and evaluating outcomes obscures the true potential for learning. “That was good” doesn’t help anyone.

By saying “we could be better” you’re not saying it wasn’t good enough as is. It’s simply a statement of exploration and possibility.

It gets counterproductive when you beat yourself up. Saying “it should have been better.” That’s an entirely different statement from the forward-looking “we could be better.”

Release the need to label outcomes “good” or “bad.” Don’t beat yourself up about the past. Open your mind to future learning from a place of self-love.

What’s the point of calculus?

Other than being the pinnacle of high school mathematical achievement, I’m not really sure. Yes, engineers and physicists, I hear you. But for the 99% of people who will never derive a function again in their lives, why do we spend all of high school building to this anticlimax?

More and more the world is described by discrete mathematics, rather than continuous mathematics. Discrete math is all about 1s and 0s, logic, statistics. The building blocks of a computer. Continuous math is about physics, motion and you guessed it, calculus.

As Ted Dintersmith has suggested, maybe the new pinnacle of high school should be statistics. After all, probability, expected value and correlation vs. causation are topics that are relevant every day of our lives.

I bring this up because today a student asked me about calculus. And I racked my brain trying to find a good reason why she should learn it, or why it’s interesting and could be applied in a human life. I couldn’t think of anything.

I don’t say this because I disliked calculus. In fact, I loved it. I understood the material and did well in the class. But I liked it because I was good at it, not because it mattered. I was just checking the box like everyone else.

But time is running out. We can’t afford to make students check boxes that aren’t relevant to their lives. Many high school won’t go on to higher education. And that’s okay. What if they had employable skills after high school instead of box checking skills like how to integrate a quadratic function?

Math needs to change. It’s not fair that students ask what calculus is good for and we have no good answer. It’s not fair students don’t understand the statistical principles that govern the lottery, credit card debt and more. That’s where math intersects with life every day and too many students never gain an understanding of it.

As someone who loves math and believes in the joy of learning, can we please make math relevant?