Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On Google and thinking

Don't let Google eat your brain. Don't let the internet do your thinking for you. It's a great way to gather facts, but facts must be interpreted. This is true in all of life. A blood glucose measurement of 130 mg/dl is a meaningless fact without an interpretation (diabetes). A huge dark wall of clouds approaching from the west is a meaningless fact without an interpretation (thunderstorm). And the explosively expanding pool of facts searched by Google also need interpretation...
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Monday, August 20, 2012

The beast and/in me

Sometimes it's like my intellect is a rider on a bigger part of me, a part with its own ideas about what it wants to do and not do. The rider knows I should get up, get to work, get off the internet, stop eating, choose the salad, delay gratification, be kind, plan ahead, be patient, but the bigger part of me doesn't seem to care about any of this. It wants immediate gratification. It wants to sleep in, eat junk food, procrastinate, avoid work, and to heck with the long term. It's like an animal...

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10 ways to make this year easier

High school is hard. Here are ten quick ways to make this year easier...

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Goals can be distracting

Goals can be distracting
I've written a lot about goals and motivation, even the importance of summer goals, but lately it's occurred to me that goals are not really what it's all about.

One of my favorite quotes is from Lou Holtz:
"If you're bored with life - you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things - you don't have enough goals."
But are "goals" all you need? Maybe it's just the books I've been reading, but I've been feeling like I've been pushing goals for the sake of goals--on myself, my students, and my family. But what is the goal of my goals? If the goal of goals is happiness, then maybe I should revise Lou's famous quote:

"If you're bored with life - you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things - maybe you're chasing the wrong goals."
Motivation is important, and lack of motivation seems to be endemic among young people these days. And sure, you may drum up some motivation with pep talks and inspirational reading, but what's the point? What is the value of motivation if it doesn't lead anywhere of value.

So that has to be the first step: Decide where the value is. Find out what will make you happy/fulfilled. That thing is your goal. Now you have a goal worth pursuing. If we need to, we can do some motivational work, get you some skills, help you realize your ability to reach your goal so you don't get stuck, but the most important step has been taken.

"Goals" are not important, or even useful, in and of themselves, but only as means to the end which is happiness/fulfillment. So to heck with goals as goals, at least goals that have become detached from the real goal.

It's so easy to get sidetracked. My own internal compulsions toward achievement and false beliefs about myself, others and the world probably don't need the help of the constant media bombardment to keep me looking in the wrong places for fulfillment. I see something I think would be fulfilling, put it in my planner as a goal, and I'm off. Goals multiply until at some point I survey the scene and wonder who I got there and how I picked all of these goals that are taking up all of my time. 

I push my students, my kids, and myself, toward achievement, achievement, achievement. Achievement can be fulfilling, but it can also be a meaningless compulsion and distraction from the things that will really satisfy. 
Often in the back of my head a question gnawed as I delivered my motivational talks: But what if you're not interested in a Nobel Prize, or being the next Gandhi or Richard Branson?  What if you want to be a stay-at-home mom, a simple homesteader, or live in the woods like Thoreau?

You know what? Those low-key alternatives really sound more attractive to me right now. And that's because the high achievements--the goal-setters' goals, are not the only show in town, or even the best. And while great achievements can bring fulfillment, they may not. It depends on what you really want (as opposed to what you think you should want, or what a teacher or motivational speaker or ad tells you you should want). 

So for those of you who have listened to my talks or read my articles, I apologize if I have encouraged a proliferation of "goals" without meaning--goals-for-the-sake-of-goals, motivation-for-the-sake-of-motivation.

I still believe in goals, but only the right ones. Which ones are right for you? Good question. Chew on that for a while. Then let's talk about how to achieve them. I'll be doing some chewing of my own for a while.

Summer is a good time for goals, so here's mine: Reassess my belief about myself and what makes me happy. Then reassess my goals. De-clutter my planner--streamline it for happiness/fulfillment, with no sidetracks to meaningless achievements.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Escape Adolescence

Teenagers today are in crisis. Maybe it's because our whole culture is in a crisis of upheaval and ground-shifting change.

Philip Zimbardo, author of the famously disturbing Stanford prison experiment, and Nikita Duncan have written a short analysis of one facet of this crisis or revolution or whatever you want to call it: the Demise of Guys. I have written a short article/book review of the Demise of Guys, with added thoughts.

The article is also the maiden post of the new website I've launched, and its companion Facebook pageI plan to use the site to explore the idea that adolescence is a modern, unnecessary phenomena. I follow a few bold thinkers in this, most importantly John Taylor Gatto and psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein. I hope the site will be helpful to teens who know there's something more, and to those who teach, parent, and work with them.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why I do what I do

Teenagers today (as they always have been) are infused with tremendous creative energy and unique potential. Too often they underestimated, undervalued, and stymied by the restrictions we place on them--restrictions on how they will learn, whether they can work, and more. We say their brains aren't developed. We say they are irresponsible. We can't see that is it our culture, our restrictions that are holding them back.

But the world is changing. The world wide web is breaking down barriers to a burgeoning array of educational and vocational options--some that have never existed before, others that used to exist, but had been closed off. With the internet, a teenager can, once again, chart her own course in education and career, learn what he wants (for free), start a real, profitable business, publish a book, found an international organization, or change the world.

As a parent, high school teacher, and owner of a tutor referral service, I have seen the potential of young people. I believe this potential will bloom in the billowing new world the web is inflating.

I want to be a spark. I want to be fuel for the fires of the young people in my life.

That's why I do what I do.

That's why I wrote my little book. (Get if free here.)