Growth is facing the fear

First, you need to identify that fear.

If you don’t know where it is, you can’t run towards it.

Find that abyss, and lean in.

Go ahead. I’ll join you.

You can debrief anything

As we often get caught up in the project, the data, and the deliverables, it’s important to remember the long arc. You can debrief any experience and elucidate learning that might have been lost on the average bystander.

No matter what the outcome, it’s the debrief that really matters. The debrief is where the reflection happens. Where the growth happens. It helps you contextualize past events and gather important information that will help you in the future.

You can’t control what happens, but you can control how you debrief it.

Tonight is the big night

It’s the Dual School Spring Exhibition! 30 Students from 9 local high schools will present their projects to address pressing social problems like mental health in schools, sustainable energy technology and the refugee crisis.

It’s a special night because over a hundred people show up to appreciate, support and and cheer for student work.

These are projects created for real audiences. They’re not research papers, or unrealistic plans. These are projects that have been prototyped, tested and discussed with professionals. These are projects that are already making real impact after just 10 weeks. These are students at the very beginning of long careers making an impact.

I couldn’t be more proud of the work they’re doing and the leaps they’re taking. I hope you’ll join the movement to be a champion of student agency. You’d be amazed at what they can do when you just give them the chance.

Project-based

I heard an important distinction yesterday about project-based learning:

The project is not the assessment. The project is the learning.

It’s not about learning content for 80% of the year and then making a project for the final 20% of the class. It’s about starting a project, and using it to learn the necessary content. Creating the spark, then layering on the learning.

That’s the difference between doing a project and doing project-based learning.

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.