What if our expectations are wrong?

What if relying on someone to show up in the same place, at the same time, on the same days is just the wrong way to do it?

It’s inhumane. It’s unrealistic.

But it’s everything our world is built on. If you don’t show up to school, you miss the lesson, then you don’t do well on the test. The cycle repeats. After multiple failures, you dislike school, then you stop trying, and the cycle intensifies.

Same with work. You have a job, then something difficult comes up in your personal life. You miss a few days, you lose your job, and now you’re left without a source of income.

Maybe what’s crazy isn’t that life happens. Maybe what’s crazy is the inhumane expectation that everyone will be in one place at a predictable time every day of their lives.

Do kids love sports?

Many do. Or at least seem to.

As a strong believer in sports, I’m re-examining just what made me (and makes me) so passionate about them.

First observation:

Kids don’t love sports in a vacuum. When a kid has a bad coach, or their team is mean to them, they often stop playing the sport or become less enthusiastic. Understandably so.

Second observation:

Kids love friends and belonging. So does everyone. Sports provide that feeling for countless young people.

Third observation:

Winning is fun. Being competent is fun. Losing is not fun. Sports encourage competence, winning and the avoidance of loss at all costs. Winning makes us feel proud, and sometimes, superior. These are powerful feelings, especially when strongly encouraged by parents and family.

Fourth observation:

Exercise is fun and rewarding in itself.

Taking all these things into consideration, sports are a healthy way to meet people, to stay fit and to conform to many social norms. The general nature of competition and the “us vs. them” mentality feels like a negative byproduct that is created by innate feelings of insecurity linked to losing, or being thought of as lesser. Winning is fun when you know you’ve worked hard and done well. Boasting and feeling superior is the unhealthy extreme side of that same coin.

Overall, I think kids like sports to varying degrees. As someone who played 12 seasons of sports in high school, the sport was often a vehicle for the friends, the belonging and the physical activity. In another life, boy scouts could have filled the same void. Same with horseback riding or dance.

I think what’s important to recognize here is that all the other stuff, the friends, the coaches, the parental support etc… is just as important, if not more important than the actual game play. A love of sport and physical activity is much more important than the quality of your team of eight year olds. It’s not worth beating the passion out of a kid over a loss in the 3rd grade league.

Love play, love self improvement and love the team. The rest will come.

Rules for the present

The world has changed. Here’s what young people (and all people) need to understand:

Your portfolio is your resume

Change is constant

There are no sure bets

Computers will alter the future of work in unimaginable ways

Adaptability is king

Degrees and certifications mean less than ever

You can learn anything online

You can reach a million people more easily than ever

Stories resonate

You can ask for more

Undeniably fun

There are certain experiences that are undeniably fun. They’re nearly universal in their appeal.

At the same time, nearly every experience can elicit powerful learning if debriefed properly. How might we compile and curate undeniably fun learning experiences paired with intentional learning?

Are some problems unsolvable right now?

Is it possible that without stronger AI, more bandwidth, faster computers and new devices we can’t solve certain problems that require massive coordination?

Could there be a new set of tools that will be invented that will drastically reduce these barriers?

Maybe trying to solve giant systems problems right now is the wrong thing to do. Maybe it’s analogous to riding across the country on a horse rather than helping to invent cars.

Tools will continue to develop. First they will appear where money appears, but gradually they will become available to the masses. We just hope by that point it’s not too late.

You don’t need to ask for advice

You know what the people who know you best will say.

Your know your mom will say…

Your friend will say…

Your grandma will say…

You mentor will say…

We often have a pretty good idea of what other people will advise us to do. Luckily, you can get some of the benefits of asking for advice without the effort and vulnerability every single time you need to make a decision.

Simply running through how different individuals might advise you can improve your decision making in just a few moments.

A good hook

I never enjoyed english class.

I remember learning about topic sentences and hooks, and supporting points. But never did I feel any urgency to be great at writing them.

Until I found something that I cared about. When I started trying to market and sell ideas that are significant to me, suddenly the only thing that matters is a good hook.

If you can’t bring a reader in right away, you have no chance.

Now, the superpowers I’m lacking are the storytelling ability. All because I didn’t care about a book report and didn’t see the value in english.

We need to find ways to frame learning as relevant and applicable in the present or else everyone will be lost in the future.

In spite of the system

We have to be careful to recognize when people thrive in spite of the system, rather than because of it.

A+ students don’t become great problem solvers because of the system. They become great problem solvers on their own time, often outside of the system. Yet so frequently we cite false correlations. The high performers are happy, fulfilled and successful not because they had a high GPA, but because they’re self-motivated, independent-thinking, growth-mindset people. Those traits aren’t taught in school. In fact most of the time they are are suppressed.

Motivation is often about a number like class rank or a grade rather than innate desire to learn.

Independent thinking can get you in trouble on any standardized assessment.

Growth-mindset is the capacity and belief that one can continuously learn and improve. Growth mindset breaks down barriers and pushes learning beyond a unit, a test, or a paper.

The system is the system and people will be people. Just because good people come out of the system doesn’t mean the system worked.

Near peer

Young people are great at creating things for peers slightly younger than them.

They come up with things that adults would never think of. Things that adults would never dare to try.

Yet they perform spectacularly time and time again.

Young people aren’t necessarily great at creating things for adults, or children way younger than them. That’s not to say they can’t be great at these things, but the near peer role seems to be a natural fit for a first project.

Intention-setting and reflecting

Every year I reflect on the past twelve months to highlight accomplishments, ideas and intentions that mattered most. In last year’s reflection I stated:

In 2016 I set an intention to do better, not more in the new year. I feel that I’ve lived that intention and now it’s time for a new one: Stay more active.

I want to do get outside more, do more yoga, hike more, bike more, run more, play more sports. The other stuff will come. The emails will get sent. The blog posts will get written. Those habits are ingrained and now it’s time to add more healthy tendencies back into my life.

Despite a lot of professional success this year, I can’t say I’ve lived out that intention fully. I did go on more hikes (slightly), biking stayed the same, running stayed the same. I did finally joined some sports leagues, but it’s been hard to find a groove in the activity department. During the summer, I had a two week period of waking up at 6:00am and going to the gym before work. It’s difficult and tiring, but it’s the only way I’ve found to maintain a consistent gym routine. Intellectually, I know that’s the right thing to do, but late nights kept me wanting as much sleep as possible. Hopefully in the New Year I will be able to get up earlier and get into a solid routine.

That’s my intention for the New Year, as cliche as ever: Wake up earlier and don’t hit snooze.