Missing Leadership

Some people never get to experience leadership in certain contexts. You may be a sports captain, but you might not ever be a project lead in school.

You may lead a group of friends, but you’d never be a manager at work.

We know that leadership skills transfer across disciplines, but as a young person struggling in school, it’s hard see how your skills as a point guard apply to the classroom. Or, as an unathletic kid thriving in mathematics, it’s hard to see what value you bring to the tennis team.

Leadership is needed everywhere and young people need the opportunity to try on many different leadership hats. The connections are there, but we need to create environments where young people can see them.

Rich learning experiences

The idea of a rich learning experience resonates with me as something we should strive for.

Doing of survey of your classmates and their eating habits may help you learn something. Interviewing them face to face you might learn more. It’s a two way conversation, which makes it a richer experience.

Observing them at home, at the grocery store and interviewing them at their kitchen table feels like the pinnacle of richness. Interestingly, it’s also the best recipe for empathy.

Maybe rich learning experiences are empathetic learning experiences. Maybe that should be our goal.

Picking something

It doesn’t matter what you pick.

It matters THAT you pick.

The only wrong choice is not picking anything.

When we think about working with young people, this is what we keep in mind. Your first idea/venture/project is never going to be your last.

But if you don’t start something, you may never get around to it. So it really doesn’t matter if your first idea is bad. It just matters that you see it through and put something into the world.

The process of doing so will be full of rich learning that you’ll soon know what the next project has to be.

Success in school doesn’t mean…

Success in careers

Quality of relationships


Stewardship of the planet

Caring for others

Physical wellness


Why do we make it seem more important than any of those other things?


They’re not the point. But, they can help you get to the point.

We try not to use worksheets as end goal, but instead as scaffolding to deeper though, and conversation starters.

They aren’t graded. They won’t determine if you get in college. They’re just there to help the real learning begin.

Empathy interviews

There is no substitute for a person to person interview in the field when seeking to understand a problem.

It’s probably 100x better than a survey.

Today, I found myself in a 15 minute interview with two high school students at the library trying to learn about why they use the space the way they do. Just in that short conversation, countless insights emerged. There were a dozen jumping-off points for new ideas and further exploration.

The beauty was that it didn’t take that long. It was scary asking two strangers if they would answer some questions. But after that little leap, the learning was invaluably rich.

A little ask can go a long way.

High level math

The entry point to high level mathematics isn’t a piece of paper. It’s not manipulating abstract numbers.

The entry point is talking about relationships that exist intuitively that demonstrate complex concepts. Family trees grow exponentially. The amount of pizza you should eat reaches a local maximum at an ideal amount.

What if we started by talking about pizza and mapping that parabolic relationship? Then we identified the local maximum and talked about the curvature of the graph.

Eventually we can solve equations, but it just doesn’t make sense to start with symbols on paper.

Necessary Adaptation

Adaptation is required. For anything meaningful, there needs to be tweaks that match the local context.

This is where canned curricula fall short. Because they’re the same everywhere. There’s nothing adapted to fit the needs or spark the curiosity of the group being served.

Nothing should work everywhere in the same way. Adaption is necessary with growth.

Becoming better

To become a better _________

Become a better human.

When you fill in that blank, and the statement is false, that’s when you should start questioning the role.

Right today wrong tomorrow

The right answer today might not be the right answer tomorrow.

We must constantly re-examine our beliefs as we become aware of new information.

Rapid change means that there is a new sense of urgency for these reconsiderations. Snapchat couldn’t have worked 10 years ago, but now that cell phones have improved and wireless connection is more ubiquitous, it’s wildly successful.

We must engage with a never ending process of feedback and improvement. Luckily, improvement is naturally rewarding. The hard part is taking feedback and channeling it positively.

Seek new perspectives. Seek new information. Question your stance.