Theory of everything

How do all your different perspectives and ideas fit together? Are they cohesive? Are there contradictions?

How does the work you do pull a lever and make the world a better place?

What does the world need most? Are you providing it? If you’re not, who will?

What needs to happen for more problems to be solved? What’s stopping us right now? How can we get past those road blocks?

Why do people do the things they do?

Your theory of everything might address some of these questions. They probably don’t hit all of them. I’d recommend examining it. Answering the questions. Finding the holes and seeing they could be filled.

Our insanely intertwined world needs help. Everything is connected. How do we make it better?

Is Memorization Necessary?

Is there a need for memorization in school?

I don’t think so.

That opinion is controversial and the most common rebuttal I hear is that if you’re getting surgery, you’d want the doctor to have the parts of the body memorized. Or something along those lines.

What frustrates me about this argument is that the two opinions are compatible. Here’s why:

My friend can recite all the colleges of the 08 NBA draft class. Did he sit down and memorize them? No. He cared about basketball, he looked them up names over time, used them in arguments, saw them on TV and eventually he just knew them all.

He started with a love for a sport. That love drove him to eventually memorize a bunch of information. Why isn’t that the way we teach people?

Instead of having some memorize the bones of the body, why don’t we help them fall in love with healing?

When the system starts with memorizing content, there is no hook. There’s no reason for the student to be engaged. But when we lead with passion, the memorization comes naturally.

Who is your who?

When you tell the story of your project and the change you made, who will be the main character?

Who will come back in 5 years and say “you changed my life”?

Who can you look in the eyes and say “I made this for you.”

Until you get specific about who that person is, you won’t feel as connected to the work. There won’t be a driving force pushing you to finish the project and get it in their hands.

Once you know who that person is and you know they need your work, it’s selfish to wait. It’s selfish to keep working on the perfect product when really you just need something good enough. But before you know the who, you’ll be stuck spinning your wheels. Developing an idea, rather than developing an impact.

Find the who and rest will start to fall in place.

Being right vs being generous

There’s a huge difference between wanting to be right and wanting to be generous.

One of them is self serving. A path where you put on blinders, and only look for information that confirms your original beliefs. A journey where you’re not looking for new insight. The end result is that you go nowhere new. You learn nothing interesting and you further cement yourself in one, narrow minded place.

The other route helps people. It’s a path where you’re open to possibility. Searching for new information to change your mind and improve your ability to serve. The end result is that you show up with empathy. You can look people in the eyes and see where they’re coming from. You become an expert in understanding.

I think we can all agree we need more of those right now.

The C+

Imagine if you were doing your job then one day your boss handed you a sheet of paper saying you got a C+. There were no comments. All it said was that you got an average grade.

Luckily, that’s not how life works. You’re constantly giving and receiving feedback to prevent those C+ moments. Bosses let you know what areas you need to improve. You let others know where you need additional help and support. There’s no defined end point where you get a final grade. It’s a constant iterative process where both parties take ownership.

Yet, in our schools it’s completely different. It’s not very crazy to walk in one day and see a C+ on your report card. That’s quite normal for many students. They’re not sure where they went wrong or what they need to improve. All they know is that they aren’t good enough.

So what is the message we want to send? Is it, “you’re not good enough”? Or is it “here’s how we can collectively get better”?

And once we answer those questions, how do we design a system that continues to ask them in the right ways?

Proof

Sometimes you don’t have any proof that it will work. All you can do is say that it’s an experiment. But that’s okay, because if it were proven already, there’d be no need for you to try it.

Not having proof is evidence that you’re standing on the edge. Your lack of proof is proof in itself that you are trekking where others haven’t dared.

So go ahead. Try an experiment. Create proof.

Mandatory newsletters

What if everyone participating in a class had a newsletter? Each week the assignment was to write about what you’ve learned. To draw parallels between current events and your work. To reflect on what’s happened in the past week.

Everyone in the class would subscribe to everyone else’s newsletter. It could grow to friends, family and other community supporters. People would stay up to date in an authentic and accountable way.

You could grow a following so you launch to a captive audience when your project is finally ready to go public. There are countless upsides to the mandatory newsletter. The only downside is the hard work it takes to show up every week and write it. But even the work has the upside of getting your reps in and creating a practice. Not to mention how it’s worth it when you get an email back saying “Thanks for sharing. I never thought of it that way.” or “I love reading your updates every week.”

Besides, connection is invaluable in today’s economy and a newsletter might be the perfect solution to the overly curated world of social media. I’m exploring this idea and you might see it in action one day.

Zero to Action

What does it take to go from zero to action?

Research helps, but only to a certain extent. Talking to people gives your more information. Sending emails helps you make connections. But at some point you need to put a stake in the ground and say “This is the thing I’m making.”

Not “This is what I might do.” Not “What if I did this?” It’s an affirmative statement of my name is ___ and I’m doing ___.

There’s a chasm between research and action. It’s hard to cross that chasm, but once you do, you’re blessed with the gift of momentum.

What it takes to get across the chasm is daring. Risk-taking. Boldness. The acknowledgment that it might not work. People might not care. You might look like a fool. But on the other end, you will have learned a lot. Then, next time you’re ready to leap, it will be just a little easier.

Tell us a story

Take us back to the moment.

How did it feel? What did it look like?

Transport us to that time.

Rather than recount the abstract arc of your journey, pinpoint the moments. The time there was sweat beading up on your forehead as you contemplated the offer on the table. You felt like an imposter and like you had no business making a counteroffer, but you said it anyways. And you waited. The silence lasted a while and it was all you could do to hold eye-contact. Finally the woman on the other side of the table said “yes.”

That is what people want to hear. So take us there.

Tradition and empathy

Tradition and empathy often fall out of touch.

Traditions often start with people in mind. People they want to exclude, people they want to include. But times change and traditions persist. Inertia is strong. The status quo is a significant force.

It’s good to revisit tradition. To see if the empathy is still there. Or whether it was ever there in the first place.