Job titles suck

I’m not talking about having them, but more what comes before that.

Inbound marketer might mean that you’re out and about, vtalking to lots of clients, listening to their stories and writing copy 20% of your time. Or it could mean that 90% of your day is spent in front of a screen writing translating ideas into blog posts.

Those are two jobs for different people. I’d be interested in the first and shy away from the second. Though I have many friends who would do the opposite.

The point is to realize how a job title doesn’t say much about what type of person fits in a role. As we force the next generation to specialize faster and faster, they are already thinking about “what do I want to be.” They have ideas like doctor, teacher, and investment banker.

Those are great ideas, but how many students know how those roles will match up with what truly activates them? Usually we don’t answer that question until it’s too late. Until we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on education just to find that the job title we’ve been aiming at wasn’t the one that activates us.

So how might we move past the shallow disease of job titles toward a system that helps students find more purpose?

How is your passion?

The question we always get is “what is your passion?”

But I think it’s the wrong question. When you focus on the “what” you end up narrowed into fields and career paths and job titles. And I don’t think any of those things are really what we need to be asking about.

I think a better question would be “how is your passion activated?”

For me, it’s working with people face to face. Talking through tough problems. Finding ways to collaborate and take creative risks. Trying things that might not work. The “what” almost doesn’t matter. I love taking doing those things in writing, education and even soccer.

The “how” is what really gets to the core.

Reframing happiness

“Happiness is removing the thought that something is missing.” – Naval Ravikant

Another profound quote on a deep topic from Naval. A follow on from another one of my favorite quotes, “happiness is a choice and a skill.”

With those quotes in mind, what would it take to make you happy?

Competing in a game

People love games. Probably because we love to compete. And that’s okay. Competition is engaging. It’s pushes participants to improve and innovate.

There are many people who view their careers as a game. Just another competition they’ve been entered in and they want to win. That’s fine. It might help you move up the ladder.

But the most important rule before playing any game is to know what you’re in for. Does winning this game require illegal steroids? Unethical behavior? Long hours spent away from family? Does winning this game lead to happiness? Does it lead to a fulfilling life? Answer those questions before you devote yourself to competition for competition’s sake.

Before you spend your life competing in a game, make sure it’s the right one.

Tools for building

Every subject of school is just a tool that helps you build something in the future. The problem is, it’s hard to care about some abstract future. But it’s the promise our schools are built on. Learn it now. You’ll need it later.

It makes no sense.

Right now, we give kids a hammer and they swing it in the air practicing to eventually hit a nail into a board.

Then we give them a screwdriver and tell them to imagine turning it.

We never let them work on building a table or a chair or a house!

Why not Learn it now. Use it now. ?

We need to give them projects they care about. By doing that, we’re telling them to go out and build the building. The best part is, they still need to use the tools! And in fact, they need them more than ever and thus learn them in a meaningful way.

So let’s bring education out of a vacuum and let’s bring projects into the now.

Many voices in education

I’m starting to dive deeper into the education space and how we might transform our current system. The more you look, the more people you find speaking the same language.

Student-centric educators bent on fixing an industrial system designed for a different time. Each one is making change within their sphere of influence. Whether it be a high school in Indiana, a charter network in California or an entrepreneurship center in Ohio. They’re all driving forward in the same direction. Yet, it feels disconnected. It feels like each one is reinventing the wheel in their own way.

Worse yet, it feels like no matter how amazing one wheel turns out, it’s no easier to make one in another town. That is the curious part. Once you make an iPhone, there’s a blueprint. People know how to do it. But once you transform your high school to be a forward thinking institution, there’s no manual to make it happen in the next town over.

Herein lies the problem and the opportunity. In any complex system change, there will never be an easy duplication of success. But, what there might be are shared efficiencies to amplify our voices. We’re all telling the same story, yet it feels like individual voices. One voice in Delaware, one in New Hampshire, one in California.

How might we come together to help the story travel?

Every day, educators trek into the unknown. There are hundreds of packed down trails, yet tomorrow someone will take one step too far and sink into the snow. Where are the groomed trails? Where is the common ground? How can we help each other find it?

The change is too big for any one party to make alone. Let’s enroll each other in a massive journey to tell a story that must be heard. It’s not about one here, or one there. It’s about all and everywhere.

Design isn’t about you

I think design is such a powerful discipline because it’s fundamentally not about you. At its core, you are building something for a user. Thus you need to understand that user on a deep level.

Same with entrepreneurship. You need to know your customer, their tendencies, their hopes and desires. It’s not about you.

The practice of understanding that it isn’t about you is powerful. It opens up doors. It forces you to empathize. It changes the world.


Humans are adaptable. We just get used to stuff.

Right now, many of us are used to working from 9-5. 8 hours in which we do the work we need to do. What if the work day were actually 10 hours? Do you think we’d feel 25% less busy because of the extra time?

Intuitively, we might think so. But, we would get used to it. I’m sure if we had a norm of the ten hour work day, we’d feel just about the same amount of stress as we do now.That begs the question, what if the work day were only 6 hours? Do you think we’d feel more busy in the long run?

My guess is that we’d get used to it. We’d adapt.

Knowing that humans are adaptable, what do you want to adapt to?

A new mental habit

In efforts to be more appreciative, I’m working on a new morning habit. First thing in the morning, I’m always thinking “I’m so tired.” Now, I try to flag “I’m so tired” mid thought and instead think “I’m so lucky to have this opportunity.”

Every day something amazing could happen. The possibilities are endless and if you approach the day from a lens of possibility, everything changes.

As I write this, I realize it sounds corny. It sounds cliche and unnecessary. But it’s powerful. I promise.

In the same way we develop unconscious mental habits to say things like “I’m so tired” we can develop conscious mental habits to transform that thought into “I’m so lucky.” It takes work to create these new habits, but it’s worth it.

Your mind isn’t in control of you. You can observe thoughts coming in and make choices.

A story of student breakthrough

Dorcas Olatunji is a sophomore who entered Dual School wanting to address the issue of prejudgment. It’s a giant problem and she wasn’t sure where to start. But after observing the problem in action, she had a realization.

Even though a small group of students share the same homeroom and spend time together every day for four years, they rarely connect with each other. In fact, some people don’t know everyone’s names in their homerooms! Dorcas began to think one reason why people are judging each other incessantly is because they don’t know each other on a deep level.

She saw this as an opportunity to start small and create a model for facilitating connection between peers.

Her idea was to develop activities and questions that could be used in homeroom to bring people together and start meaningful conversations. The best part of this is that last Tuesday, during our Dual School session, she prototyped her idea. She brought together 12 Dual School students and led them through twenty minutes of activities. The whole time she took notes on how she might improve the session and implement it better in an actual homeroom.

That is the purpose of Dual School. Helping students take action and learn from experience. Dorcas has pages of notes and now she’s ready to try this session for a group of classmates at her school. And from what I saw on Tuesday, she’s ready to start conversations and open up the opportunity for students to connect in a meaningful way. If that’s not world-changing, I’m not sure what is.

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