Archive for the 'Education' Category

>A Big Comfortable Tree

>Personal development media is about pushing your limits and expanding your capacity and abilities. By identifying weak points and blind spots, then learning to work with or around them, we maximize our potential for success in whatever area of life we choose to focus. Inherently, this process requires that you “get out of your comfort zone.” In other words, it is impossible to grow if you seek comfort over growth.

However, when dealing with people outside oneself, it is very important to be likeable. Fundamental to likeability is being comfortable to be around. If you’re uncomfortable with yourself, it shows. Worse, it has a tendency to make other people uncomfortable, too. When this happens too often, you destroy your ability to be likeable.

So the first question you should ask yourself about success (after “what is success to me?”) is “how do I remain comfortable outside my comfort zone?” Fortunately, there is a difference between the internal comfort that makes you easy to like, and the external discomfort you have to endure in order to expand your capacity. The only challenge remains in learning to identify that difference.

Internal comfort comes from understanding yourself, then channelling your strengths. Learning which projects to tackle—and which to ignore—based upon your own personal passions and weaknesses is empowering. When you start to make headway with this process, you will naturally increase your self-confidence. When you increase your self-confidence, you become more comfortable with yourself—and more comfortable to be around.

Once you understand your unique State of FITness (or FITstate), you will be better able to manage the frustration created by pushing your external comfort zone. As I have illustrated before, a FITstate is the naturally defined balance of relevant elements, which are combined in harmony to enable the highest climb with the most stability. Like a healthy tree, the higher the reach, the broader its expanse can be—based upon the given nature of that particular tree. The broader the expanse of “branches” fed by strong “roots”, the greater the possibilities for a fulfilling life.

Like a tree, our expanse of possibilities is stunted by an insufficient root system or poor soil, as well as by the available space in the canopy. However, unlike the tree, we can change our root situation, and in doing so, fairly negotiate for more canopy space and resources by which to fuel that new potential growth. This process is inherently painful because we naturally draw the boundaries of our comfort zones at the point where we decide the pain is “unbearable.” Roots are not easy to replant, nor is it easy to push new branches into unexplored territory.

However, when something you passionately want requires actions that are outside of your comfort zone (your existing expanse in the canopy), the pain can become more bearable. This is because things you are passionate about carry their own reward in the journey. You are more willing to fail—a necessity for learning—along a path to what you feel is a worthy goal, than you are along a path to something you are lukewarm about.

Once you know what you’re passionate about, you will know what to invest your time in. You never “spend” time on your passions, you “invest” time in your passions. If you are truly passionate about something, then even the failures are blessings, because you are interested enough in the project to find the lesson in the failure and try again. This perspective eliminates much of the frustration that comes from falling short of a goal on a path you’re simply lukewarm about. When you avoid frustration, you remain comfortable with yourself. When you avoid external discomfort (pushing limits), you become frustrated and uncomfortable with yourself.

So how about it? Would you like to be a big, comfortable tree?

Advertisements

>The Truth About TRUTH

>When speaking about the concept of truth, it is important for an audience to understand what that word refers to. In my mind, there are two distinct concepts embedded in that word.

The first is somewhat adequately defined as “facts.” The truth (lowercase “t”) is a collection of general information about something real and quantifiable. Science seeks the “truth” about or universe through objective, empirical study. It collects and chronicles present and past instances of real events in support of a general theory of the parts’ connection to each other.

The Truth (capital “T”), however, is not to be confused with his general theory, which is—after all—only a theory. The Truth is maddening to logicians and intellectuals because, by its nature, it can never be completely known or captured at any instance. It appears fluid because it has a broad application. In reality, it exists as unshakeably as the laws of physics.

Of course, religions claim exclusive ownership of Truth. Also, in many cases, nations or peoples claim this ownership. Even organizations (from legitimate to criminal) claim this ownership before their constituents. Indeed (and ironically), much blood has been and continues to be shed over the ownership of Truth. Yet Truth is bigger than religion, government, and the marketplace, the first informing the others. No man gets to decide what “Truth” is, only what “truth” is.

Throughout human civilization, those in power have sought to do a number of things using the Truth as a means to an end. Some seek to enlighten by attempting to expose the Truth, but the masses habitually remain focused only on what they can see. Others seek to control the masses by propagating a singular view of the Truth. No matter how monstrous or angelic the plan, the goal is nearly always to make the world a better place. The question is, better for whom?

There are two poles to the use of Truth as a catalyst for a better world. The first entails Truth being taught through a broad discussion, as with the Liberal Arts. People study the greatest ideas from all of human history in order to seek for themselves the best understanding of Truth. The other entails a scholar or “expert” building his own understanding (faulty or true) into a singular edifice for the masses.

The result is that only those willing to dive into the Liberal Arts ever acquire true perspective. Everyone else is encouraged to take the expert’s word for it. However, the expert is not you, does not share your problems or passions, and ultimately cannot help you like you can when you have perspective. And so, people make do, and fail. Instead of making the difficult dive into the Arts, they latch onto a truth—that is, a prepackaged way of being—that most resembles their current lifestyle.

It’s not that people don’t believe in Truth, it’s that they don’t want to believe. Truth is obvious when it is simply laid out, but it may suggest the need for a change in lifestyle for many people. Since this can be painful, and since suffering is not in keeping with a better world, those with the means tend to deliver “solutions” to ease the suffering.

As with physical training, there are ways to work up to the heavy material. However, no fitness coach would be worth his salt if he helped you avoid “the burn”! And no FITness coach would be either if he let get by on half-baked ideas!

>It Could Not Have Been Different

>I saw a license plate today that read, “IF ONLY”. It echoed some of the familiarly haunting thoughts that had been running through my head this morning. We all have things in our past that we wish had gone differently. Some things are painful failures, but others are joyous milestones that have lost their luster. Commitments we made in a time of naivete, can begin to feel like shackles as time wears on. We can become preoccupied with imagining how life would be now if these things were different.

But the truth is that life could not have been different. Everyone makes choices at a moment in time based upon the information they have at that time. Generally, the information is insufficient to make an truly informed decision. The fact that experience comes from making poorly informed decisions is one of life’s many counterintuitive aspects. It is for this reason, that we could not have changed the past.

“If I knew then what I know now.”

At any point in the past, we could not have acted differently without different information. However, different information is not inherently a change maker either. When a lifetime (however young the person) is spent building a library of experience, a brief introduction to life-changing information is bound to be insufficient to make an impact. Regardless of how truthful the information is, or how completely the recipient accepts it as truth, the momentum of conflicting past information will tend to overtake it.

Our brains are built to form habits. Our conscious minds are limited, and so we differ certain regularly accessed data stores and repeated actions to our subconscious mind. The subconscious acts as an autopilot, running our routines in the background so that we can be conscious of more important decisions. Unfortunately, the subconscious tends to be overzealous—or we tend to be lazy with our conscious minds. Either way, we form some habits of thought and action that are counterproductive, then we re-enforce them through repetition.

Consequently, it is more difficult to “teach an old dog new tricks” than it is to teach a younger one. That being said, when applied to humans, this adage judges “old” by how long it has been since the last time one’s habits have been deeply examined. By identifying problem areas in our habitual minds, we can begin the process of re-educating ourselves to think, then act, differently. This takes time, and is a bit like turning a battleship.

All we can do about the past is to learn from it. By rooting out the causes behind our regrets, we can begin to change the course going forward. The more we learn from media sources about the human condition, the better equipped we are to self-examine and to change what we find. And, of course, you have to take responsibility for the problems that you caused. Running from your faults is the surest way to make more regrets.

No matter how much better it seems that life would be now without that “ball-and-chain” from your past, consider the truth of your ideal. Given your mindset, if things had gone differently, would you have made different decisions? Or would you have chased another woman if your wife had snubbed you? If you hadn’t sworn at your boss that day, would you have sworn at him the next? You might wish you hadn’t decided to have a child or hadn’t had that decision made for you (by fate, et al). Just consider how many times you had missed committing yourself before your thoughts led to actions which led to the consequences (desirable or not).

Likely, it could not have been different. Even if you travelled back in time to warn yourself, the odds are that your habitual mind and the surrounding circumstances would have lead you to the same place. The only way to change your future results—to avoid the regrets and “if onlys”—is through continuous, applied self-examination enabled by a mentor and a varied diet of media sources. It may take time to turn the battleship, but the future CAN be different.

>Re-Educating for Zero Waste

>While actually achieving zero waste in the physical sense is impossible, as an ideal it is a worthy goal to shoot for. The degree to which we use (and reuse) the items we buy is the degree to which they hold value for us. Whenever we buy an item, but do not explore all options for extracting value from it, we waste some of the money and time spent acquiring it. Multiply that by the millions of people worldwide who are doing the same, and you have a significant problem with global economics.

Resources aren’t scarce, we just waste them left and right. In fact, we have been educated to do just that. Any ongoing business model requires ongoing saleable products. The faster the market saturates, the sooner the business is out of business. So businesses have two options: continuously generate new and exciting products that people want or need, or use marketing to convince people that they want or need to re-purchase old products. The second is easier to accomplish, especially for a business that has enough money to launch a mass media marketing campaign.

To be successful in marketing required an increase in the volume of products to be sold, which on turn, required an increasing demand. However, numerous products were becoming mass-produced that were really not consumable—and so consumers were becoming satisfied. How many TVs does one family need? So mainstream marketing slowly evolved into a tool for re-educating the masses.

Media was used to create a culture where the newest and best was emotionally important to people, so they learned to disregard the rational idea of conserving waste (“I don’t need a new one, yet.”) and replace it with the irrational idea of status (“My stuff is my worth.”)

All of this was fine as long as the economy was in a state of growth, but as soon as the problem with waste reached a critical mass and wages began to suffer, there simply was not enough money to continue on that path. Unfortunately, the consumer credit industry stepped in, allowing us to differ fate for more time and make the problem bigger.

The solution, of course, begins with a strategy to approach zero waste in our households, businesses, and communities. And I don’t mean just recycling, but actually using every ounce of value from a product before it goes anywhere—even if it has to go to the dump—or using the waste to create something else of value. This goal presents many opportunities to enterprising individuals.

One of my favorite small businesses sells a product called “Turnadaisy.” These lazy-susan style tabletops are made from repurposed power line spools, and are designed to be used in a number of applications, from greenhouse hydroponics to convenient serving trays. They keep trash out of the landfills, provide a useful product, and an income to their creators. I’d bet they could even pay the salaries of a few marketers as well!

Now that’s what we need to found companies on.

>Mentors and Media

>Relationships are more important than media, and more powerful. There is an overwhelming amount of children’s media that teaches the virtues of sharing, respecting differences in people, and generally living a fit lifestyle. The Great Ideas and endless practicable information about them are out there. So why are there so many problems?

One way of looking at it says that people simply choose to avoid information that they are uncomfortable with. Through a series of harmless personal choices to watch this or that, read that or the other, or favor entertainment over art, we each form habits or “ruts.” These habits of media consumption become habits of mind which narrow the individual’s field of understanding.

As I wrote in a recent post, the more the Internet enables access to information, the more that most people settle into these ruts. By giving us not only access to media, but also detailed information about its content, information technology enables us to tailor our media diets to what we feel comfortable with. But education is about new and challenging information, and therefore naturally creates discomfort.

My question is, how do people come to feel uncomfortable about certain ideas in the first place? When we are children, we are learning machines. We are curious about everything. Perhaps it is because everything is unknown and therefore uncomfortable that we seek knowledge in our youth. Once we learn a certain amount, we become comfortable with the illusion that we know enough.

If so, then how does discomfort switch from a driving force to a limiting force? The answer lies in relationships. This process begins with an individual’s relationship with his parents which is the standard for all future relationships. The stability and level of encouragement found in an individual’s family is then impacted by the influence of other relationships outside the home.

The more the members of the family live lives of integrity and truth, the more encouraging and stable the relationship will be. The stronger the relationship is, the more the individual will seek truth instead of comfort, and the less he will be susceptible to peer pressure and fashionable ideas. Essentially, he will be free from the influence of a great deal of cultural rip tide because he will sacrifice short term comforts to the long term peace provided by stability.

In the absence of strong, principle-based relationships, people turn inward and rely upon themselves. Like ships tossed in a storm with no sight of land, these people necessarily fear to change position, preferring the devil they know to the one they don’t. Media content that challenges the correctness of an individual’s position demands a change in that position. This feels risky to a person who has no perspective outside himself, and so, this information is avoided.

For a free society to flourish, people of lesser life experience need strong mentor-like relationships. Media alone—even at its most truthful—can be easily twisted, avoided, misunderstood, or ignored at the preference of the individual. Without guidance, more media, and more information about media merely tends to make it easier for a person to live in a world of his own making. And if it’s not the truth, that’s a problem

>Ignorance, Confusion, Enlightenment

>[Reposted from ctif.blogspot.com]

A story is a process, whether we’re talking about the story of our lives or the story of our characters’ lives. We begin with a simplistic view. We are ignorant of anything outside our perspective. As we accumulate knowledge and experiences, our eyes are opened to the complexity of the world. Complexity leads to confusion because we don’t yet possess the wisdom to understand the connections between the tangible elements of our story. As we gain wisdom, the complexity becomes simplified again and we become enlightened.

If you think about it, this arc applies to everything wherein learning is involved. Ignorance is not knowing. Not only do we not know the details of life, but we don’t always know there are details to be known. As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Our perspective on life is determined by our personal experiences, what’s called our “field of experience.” The less we learn about the rest of the world, the more we rely upon the assumption that the rest of the world is like us. What would cause us to think otherwise?

As we associate with other people and learn about them, our perspective widens to encompass the new information. The faster we learn knowledge, the more confused we can become. Our brains begin to fill with what appears to be separate, if not random pieces of information. This process is difficult, even painful, because it expands our mental capacity. This is why many choose to remain ignorant. As they say, “Ignorance is bliss.” But clearly, ignorance only limits our freedom. Without a adequate view of the elements of our story (again, be it life or fiction) we cannot hope to take command of our circumstances.

Like the water lily, these “pads” of information seem separate, but are actually connected. The process of deciphering the randomness of life gives us wisdom. As we begin to understand connections between separate areas of life, we find that our story once again becomes simplified. However, this time our perspective is one of truth and unity rather than self-centered autonomy. We understand that freedom must respect boundaries, and that we live in a world with other individuals.

Rather than blunder through life selfishly, we must think our way through life selfLESSly. In this way, we become enlightened enough to see the big picture, and understand the benefits of fitting ourselves into society on purpose.

>How Much Change is Enough?

>Simply stated: the right amount. From a grocery store transaction standpoint, there is one clear answer. It is neither too much nor too little. It is a balance; a FIT state. When a clerk counts back your change, there are certain bounding elements that are external to the desires of either party. Natural laws of fairness dictate that neither party get the better of the other.

However, this is not as clear cut or universal with regards to person change. Change, in both senses, merely indicates a difference between one thing and another. In the grocery store, your change is the difference between what you owed and what you gave (a $20 bill, say). In life, your change is the difference between who you are now, and who you become through education and experience. That education—or more precisely, what you gain from it—is the difference.

While I don’t believe it is possible to be over-educated in general—especially when the education is broad—it is possible to take too many things to heart. In this way, an individual can needlessly toil to change himself in areas where the benefits of such a change are not worth the cost. Each individual is different from every other individual, of course, so this process must necessarily be tailored to suit each.

For example, a person who is an extrovert might find it difficult to focus on a lecture, daydreaming of more action-centered activities. They can’t wait to get out in the field—for sports, sales calls, parties, or networking. They struggle to follow endless charts and graphs, even those which accurately depict the current situation and ought to equip them of their next move. Should they be trained in the art of memorizing these graphs, or should they simply be allowed to learn from trial and error?

In the opposite case—and, I believe, a more widespread problem—a person who is an introvert finds it difficult to focus at a party, desperately planning an escape. They can’t wait to get away from the action—to recover themselves; to collect, categorize, and formulate an understanding. They struggle to take in the endless tidbits of information, when the real focus is merely to meet a great many people. Should they be trained in the art of networking, or should they simply be allowed the time to fully absorb each interaction?

Ultimately, the answer to the question depends upon and understanding of where you are right now, and where you want to be at some defined point in the future. Note that while the span of time between now and a dated goal varies by the goal and the person, for everyone who has a goal it is essential to commit to the date. When you set a date for well-defined goal, and begin to understand where you are right now, you can plot a course to change.

This too, varies from a learn-by-doing process to a carefully composed plan. Nevertheless, the main lesson here is that when we understand our strengths, we must utilize those strengths. For every strength in our character, we have correlating weakness. Never attempt to reach a goal by changing your inherent weaknesses. While this can be done, it is rarely worth it. Weaknesses should not be ignored—they are real obstacles—but for those boulders whose destruction risks the destruction of a correlating strength—again, it’s not worth dying over.


Get Involved

Promoting art on television starts with you. Take the Varolo user tour, and become part of the change!

Communication

Categories

Quotes

"For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction."

- Kahlil Gibran

"All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?"
- Nicholas Johnson, author:
"We need the media to be presenting pictures of possibility not just continuing to be prophets of doom and gloom."
- Kevin Kelly, Wired

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

- Adam Smith
"And the science is overwhelming that for creative, conceptual tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm."
- Daniel Pink, author: Drive

"I wish we had a Problem-Solver Party because we have very big problems that need solving. And I think a lot of our attention is addressed to the wrong problems."
- David McCullough, author: 1776
"The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen."
- Seth Godin, author: Tribes
"The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events. A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens."
- Stephen Palmer, The Center for Social Leadership
"Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks."
- Robert Harris
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams
"I know no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education."
- Thomas Jefferson
"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise--as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine."
- Allan Bloom, author: The Closing of the American Mind
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
(Proverbs 13:20)
"If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all."

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"I learn a lot from TV. Everytime someone turns one on, I go in the other room and read a book."
- Groucho Marx, comedian: Duck Soup
"There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought."
- Charles Kingsley