{ The Power & Potential of Stories } “I Was Seen By Many but Actually Known By Few | Every Single Life Matters Equally & Infinitely”…*

“I’ve learned about the poetry and the wisdom and the grace that can be found in the words of people all around us when we simply take the time to listen.[…] What else have I learned? I’ve learned about the almost unimaginable capacity for the human spirit to forgive. I’ve learned about resilience and I’ve learned about strength. […] And I’ve been reminded countless times of the courage and goodness of people and how the arc of history truly does bend towards justice”

- Dave Isay

This week’s Friday Link Fest theme–the power and potential of stories–was set by my teammate Jenna with her post on Monday about the artistry and potential of storytelling–for learning, for empathy, for social activism, for relevance and self-empowerment. I then received the latest issue of New York Magazine, their fifth annual “Yesteryear Issue,” a collection of vignettes about old New York and delighted in losing myself in stories of a New York I have longed for but never known. Then two TED talks kept repeatedly popping up on my newsfeed, Monica Lewinsky’s talk on the price of shame and StoryCorps founder Dave Isay’s talk where he shares his TED Prize wish:

“that you will help us take everything we’ve learned through StoryCorps and bring it to the world, so that anyone, anywhere can easily record a meaningful interview with another human being, which will then be archived for history.”

I loved the contrast between both talks, one about the risks and dark underside of a digital archive in a culture bent on shaming and public humiliation, the other on the immense potential of the Internet to act as a digital repository of human wisdom, dignity and compassion. Both talks were brilliant and urgent calls for courage, empathy and connection.

In her TED talk, Monica Lewinsky bravely opens up about her experience of being “slut-shamed’ and publicly humiliated in the nascent era of online news and calls for a collective rethink of our contemporary culture of shame and humiliation which enables cyberbullying.

“Public shaming as a bloodsport has to stop. And it’s time for an intervention on the Internet and in our culture. The shift begins with something simple, but it’s not easy. We need to return to a long held value of compassion; compassion and empathy. Online, we’ve got a compassion deficit and empathy crisis. Researcher Brené Brown said, and I quote, “shame can’t survive empathy.” Shame cannot survive empathy. I’ve seem some very dark days in my life. It was the compassion and empathy from my family, friends, professionals and sometimes even strangers that saved me. Even empathy from one person can make a difference.

[ … ] 

“We all want to be heard, but let’s acknowledge the difference between speaking up with intention and speaking up for attention.”

- Monica Lewinsky

“Over the past couple of month, the team at StoryCorps has been working furiously to create an app that will bring StoryCorps out of our booths so that it can be experienced by anyone, anywhere, any time. Remember, StoryCorps has always been two people and a facilitator helping them record their conversation, which is preserved forever. But at this very moment we’re releasing a public beta version of the StoryCorps app. The app is a digital facilitator that walks you through the StoryCorps interview process, helps you pick questions and gives you all the tips you need to record a meaningful StoryCorps interview. And then with one tap, upload it to our archive at the Library of Congress. That’s the easy part–the technology. The real challenge is up to you. To take this tool and figure out how we can use it all across America and around the world.

This is the key point, echoed in both Lewinsky and Isay’s talk, that technology is just a tool, a tremendously powerful tool, but that its power and potential comes entirely from us, the people that use it. Are we going to create a digital archive of shame and humiliation or a repository of empathy, dignity and human wisdom? The choice is ours and both talks remind us of the very tangible weight and responsibilities inherent in this choice.

“At this moment, when so much of how we communicate is fleeting and inconsequential, join us in creating this digital archive of conversations that are enduring, and important. Help us create this gift to our children, this testament to who we are as human beings. I hope you’ll help us make this wish come true. Interview a family member, a friend or even a stranger. Together we can create an archive of the wisdom of humanity. And maybe in doing so, we’ll learn to listen a little more and shout a little less. Maybe these conversations will remind us what’s really important and maybe, just maybe, it will help us recognize that simple truth that every life, every single life, matters equally and infinitely.”

How might we start going about nurturing these types of conversations? Isay shares a few excellent ideas:

“Imagine, for example, a national homework assignment, where every high school student studying U.S. history across the country, records an interview with an elder over Thanksgiving so that in one single weekend an entire generation of American lives and experiences are captured. Or imagine, mothers on opposite sides of a conflict somewhere in the world sitting down, not to talk about that conflict, but to find out who they are as people, and in doing so begin to build bonds of trust. Or that someday it becomes a tradition all over the world that people are honored with a StoryCorps interview on their 75th birthday. Or that people in your community go into retirement homes or hospitals or homeless shelters or even prisons armed with this app to honor the people least heard in our society and ask them who they are, what they’ve learned in life and how they want to be remembered. “

My 81 year-old grandfather is flying in from France next week and I absolutely can’t wait to try out the StoryCorps app with him!

{ 2 Visual Rethinking Prompts } How Might We Empower More Young Female Voices & Create More Meaningful Assessment Rubrics …*

Here are two powerful images that popped up this month on our Facebook and Twitter feeds respectively. Each highlights a critical opportunity to rethink, which I hope will inspire you to iterate some ideas and solutions of your own.

question, empower & rethink …

{ 2 Visual Rethinking Prompts } How Might We Empower More Young Female Voices & Create More Meaningful Assessment Rubrics ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot of Get Lit’s Facebook Page

 

{ 2 Visual Rethinking Prompts } How Might We Empower More Young Female Voices & Create More Meaningful Assessment Rubrics ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot of a Tweet from Brad Ovenell-Carter

 

 

“Leave Blood On the Ground” – What Skateboarding Can Teach Us About the Creative Process …*

"Leave Blood On the Ground” - What Skateboarding Can Teach Us About the Creative Process ...* |rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

“I believe that if you aren’t getting bloody somehow in your work, whether opening a psychic wound, closing one, disinfecting one, or just plain jamming your finger into one to see what happens, then it’s doubtful the work will be worth anyone else’s time.”

I discovered the quote above in an article in which author and professional skateboarder, Michael Christie, reflects upon Five Ways Being a Writer and Professional Skateboarder Are the Same. A core principle of our team is this notion of transfer or translation, of taking insights from one field and applying them to another. Christie’s reflections on the similarities between skateboarding and writing do a glorious job of highlighting the depth and richness of understanding that may be gained by transferring insights from one area to another. This quote is taken from his fifth point, that both (great) skateboarding and writing (or any other creative pursuit) should leave blood on the ground.

“There must be some kind of stakes for the writer, personally — whether they’re explicit in the book or not it doesn’t matter. Writing ought to be, at least on some level, potentially injurious. Like in skateboarding, there is always a razor-thin line between catastrophe and triumph, between falling and staying up, between bad writing and great writing, between a brilliant book and a terrible one, and I think writers ought to try to tightrope walk that line.

In both skateboarding and literature, there is that sublime moment when someone pulls something off that is clearly at the very outer limits of their ability, that is even perhaps beyond their ability, but yet it somehow worked out anyway — and this is where the true magic happens. Art is risk. That’s why it captivates us. And if a writer taking this risk has left a little (metaphorical!) blood on the ground, then all the better for those watching. The spatter is how we know they meant it.” – Michael Christie

transfer, rethink, create …*

{ Keep Going } The First Rule of Anything Creative: Forgive Yourself For the Horror of the First Draft …*

Here’s a little creative inspiration for your Tuesday in the form of this lovely animation from The School of Life on the need to overcome “the horror of the first draft” and just keep putting in the work to slowly bridge the gap between our vision and what we are producing.

This video reminded me of Ira Glass’s advice:

“Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me, is that all of us who do creative work, you know we get into it, and we get into it because we have good taste. But there’s a gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great, it’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean? A lot of people never get past that phase, a lot of people at that point they quit. And the thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart, is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing what to do is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it now, if you’re just getting out of that phase, you’ve got to know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do, is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. In my case, I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met. It takes a while. It’s going to take you a while. It’s normal to take a while and you just have to fight your way through that, ok?

- Ira Glass

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

rethink, work, create …*

{ storytelling…* }

Lately I’ve been noticing the power and the artistry behind storytelling. As we’ve blogged about before (here and here), stories can lead to empathy and social activism.  Storytelling can also be a method of self-empowerment. Earlier this year I talked about how  multimedia storytelling can be an amazing tool when put in the hands of our students. For example, Humans of New York is a current phenomenal short-form multimedia story project that both empowers the subjects and increases empathy and connectedness throughout the community.

hony

Storytelling is also an art, and nothing is worse than listening to a 30 minute story that seems to have no arc or theme. There are actual courses in storytelling that one can take in NYC. However, there are so many ways to tell a good story. While storytelling seems to be a human universal, each culture has its own deep-rooted traditions around the art form.

A recent TED blog discusses how stories are told around the world. For example, hawaiian hula dancing is actually done to a song with a story. On my recent trip to Portugal, I heard traditional Fado music, which is a Portuguese musical storytelling form that began in the 1800s and often tells the story of a woman longing for a man out at sea.

Storytelling, particularly the culturally-specific forms, is an amazing way to connect with students. Allowing students to express themselves in a variety of ways — rather than privileging text — is a prime opportunity to increase empowerment and cultural relevance in education.

Learn To Grow Your Happiness Muscles With Positive Psychology On This International Day of Happiness …*

Learn To Grow Your Happiness Muscles With Positive Psychology On This International Day of Happiness ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

Wishing you all a very happy International Day of Happiness. Through my exploration of Positive Psychology last year, I have come to reframe happiness not as an emotional ‘destination’ but more as a capacity. The good news is that a) emotional and cognitive capacities can be cultivated and strengthened in much the same way that our physical muscles can be–through work and proper training; and b) the field of Positive Psychology has a lot of easily implementable hacks and interventions to guide us in training our capacity for happiness.

So to celebrate International Day of Happiness, why not learn more about what Positive Psychology has to offer in terms of growing our happiness muscles (plural, because there are various kinds of happiness).

Want to learn even more? Check out this upcoming MOOC, fittingly titled A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment, which will start June 15,2015.

Microadventures: Short, Perspective-Shifting Bursts of Travel Close to Home …*

This ‘advertisement’ from The School of Life makes a very poignant point about one of the great motivations to travel: “The real desire to travel isn’t to go anywhere. It’s to leave parts of ourselves behind.” In reality, of course, it is impossible to just decide to shed the bits of ourselves we dislike and magically, on the spot, be done with them. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say impossible, but it certainly has never happened that way in my own experience or the experiences of those around me, from what they’ve reported. For example, a few weeks ago, I shared a short animated video of Brené Brown talking about how blame has absolutely no adaptive value and how stopping ourselves from blaming confers some very attractive outcomes like better relationships and a stronger capacity for empathy. Compelled by the research, I decided to stop blaming but the desire to do it still arises and I have to actively stop myself from blaming, over and over, each time that desire comes back. It takes work, not just willpower, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but that’s what it takes to leave the unwanted bits of ourselves behind. What travel does afford us is the mental space from our nearly automatic cognitive and emotional habits and ingrained responses. In new environments and engaged in new experiences, we are more able and often more willing to question our assumptions and to pause our reactions.

Which is where microadventures come in, giving us an opportunity to benefit from the mental space of travel without the financial costs or time requirements of traveling to faraway places. Microadventures, a term coined and championed by British explorer Alastair Humphreys are, “short, perspective-shifting bursts of travel closer to home, inspiring followers to pitch a tent in nearby woods, explore their city by moonlight, or hold a family slumber party in the backyard.”

Originally I set myself on a course of being a quintessential heroic British explorer and did that sort of thing for quite a few years. But a couple things happened. During the motivational talks I give, the audience would call themselves “normal people,” while I was “the adventurer.” But I’m a normal person, too, and I wanted them to see they could go on their own adventures. Also, I have a wife and two young children, and I couldn’t go off for months at a time. To stop myself from going stir-crazy, I came up with adventures closer to home.

[ . . . ]

Yeah, the first was when I decided to walk a lap of the M25 motorway, the 120-mile road around London. I live quite near it and while it seems rather boring, I started to get curious about where it went. It was also a metaphor for finding pockets of beauty wherever you are, one of the things I love about adventure. I absolutely loved that walk. My original idea was to try to do the most epic things I possibly could without going far, but I found that “epic” limited people from participating in the idea. The key is getting beyond the excuses. If you can’t climb a mountain, climb a hill. -Alastair Humphreys

Source: The Virtues of Microadventures 

“Empathy is feeling into someone else” – Tiffany Shlain: What We Can Do Today To Rethink Our Potential …*

"Empathy is feeling into someone else" - Tiffany Shlain: What We Can Do Today To Rethink Our Potential ...* |rethinked.org

Screen Shot from Tiffany Shlain’s TED MED Talk, Summarizing our Unique Human Strengths …*

“Let’s do a little cross-disciplinary thinking right now. I want you to sit and I want you to think of your biggest challenge–everyone in this room, we’ve all got a challenge that we’re wrestling with–think of the three people that you’ve talked to about that challenge. Now I want you to try to think of three people in completely different areas that you could talk to about that problem. What would a car mechanic say? What would a biologist say? What about an artist? What about a child? How would they approach your problem? That’s cross-disciplinary thinking and the more you do it, and the more you think that way, the more it will just naturally come. And I think that we’re all talking about multi-tasking but we need to be talking about multi-perspectiving, which is not a word–so, multi-thinking. And how do we bring that more into our everyday challenges?” – Tiffany Shlain

In this inspiring and moving TED MED talk, filmmaker and rethinked …* favorite, Tiffany Shlain, examines some of the things we can each do today to rethink our human potential and evolve ourselves. Stressing the need for cross-displinary thinking and cultivating our unique human strengths, Shlain creates a compelling and hopeful portrait of the potential of humanity to connect as we transcend the challenges of the twenty-first century.

“We are connected to billions of people’s ideas and perspectives that we can cross-disciplinary think with. And when you get that kind of collision of different perspectives, that is when breakthroughs happen. It’s also when empathy happens. And empathy is another incredible thing that distinguishes us as humans, that even the most sophisticated machines can’t experience. I loved learning this when I was researching empathy–empathy is feeling into someone else. I love that: feeling into them. And I think that when you see someone struggling, you’re feeling into them and you want to help them, you want to change their experience. So it’s interesting to think about empathy leads to compassion, leads to action. We need more empathy and action in this world, right? We definitely need that. So how are we going to do that? And the good news is that it’s through stories, through listening to people, through sharing stories, that is the way that you feel empathy. And when you hear a story it activates all these different parts of your brain and also, what it does, is it adapts your thinking. When you hear a story it can change the way you think about something. It can also synchronize your mind with someone else when you tell a story. And we think of our brains as private, as the only truly private thing we have, but we forget that our brains are incredibly public. The brain is a communal organ, it is our window on the world and it’s what allows us to connect with the world and contribute to the world.”

{ IDEO U } An Online School To Help You Unlock Your Creative Potential & Build Your Problem-Solving Skills …*

{ IDEO U } An Online School To Help You Unlock Your Creative Potential & Build Your Problem-Solving Skills ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot from IDEO U website

 

“Our goal is to take you from learning to doing to affecting change in whatever you do.”

Rethinkers …* delight, there’s an awesome new learning resource from one of our favorite companies: IDEO U. IDEO U is an online school for leaders to build their creative confidence while learning and refining their problem-solving capacities.

There’s no shortage of challenges to tackle in the world. We believe the world needs more creative leaders who can deeply understand diverse needs, think of radical solutions, and confidently experiment their way forward. IDEO U is an online school where leaders can unlock their creative potential and build their problem-solving skills.

Sign up for IDEO U’s very first course, Insights for Innovation, to explore new ways of solving problems. The course, which costs $399, will be open from March 23, 2015 to May 8, 2015. Students will be able to complete the course at their own pace during that time frame. The key takeaway of the course will be:

  • A flexible skill set for uncovering insights
  • Completed work that you can share
  • Tools to help you continue to practice after the course ends

Head over to IDEOU.com to learn more about the school and check out the first course.

learn, do, rethink …*

{ Power Posing } How to use your own body language to change how you feel about yourself…*

In my Visual Explanations course this semester, we learn about how gesture can facilitate cognition.

If you’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy this season (does ANYONE still watch Grey’s Anatomy other than me?), there was an episode this last week about the “superhero pose”. One of the doctors is about to begin an extremely challenging brain surgery, and she decides to hold this pose for 5 minutes prior to boost her confidence and performance.

While the vast amount of medical jargon on this show makes anyone in a medical profession cringe, this bit of information is mostly true. As this Psychology Today article, Superhero Stance, explains, holding a power pose for a few minutes can make people feel more powerful and act that way.

In the cited study, high-power poses included sitting in a chair, arms behind the head, elbows out, and feet up on a desk (like a boss, “relaxing”), and standing in front of a table, legs about a foot apart, leaning forward and hands on the table bearing weight.

This study indicates that not only can our minds change our bodies, but our bodies can change our minds.

superhero

 

Amy Cuddy, one of the researchers in this area, talk about her findings in the TED talk: Your body language shapes who you are. She speaks to the power of gesture and how our nonverbals govern not only how other people think and feel about us but how we think and feel about ourselves.  

She discusses our natural body language reactions to powerful and powerless situations, and suggests that by intentionally placing ourselves in this body language positions, we can enact those feelings of power or powerlessness.

This is a long but interesting talk that I highly recommend. This week, as I begin to collect data in schools for my study, I will definitely be taking on some “power poses” before I start my days!

 

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