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(PART 3) A (Pragmatic/Optimistic) Recommendation from two Millennials (Ali and Mel)

This is Part Three (the finale) of a three part collaborative blog by Alison and Mel contrasting generational perspectives on passion, purpose, and pathways to success.

“Your message is great, but as 9th graders at a high-performing school, we’ve been essentially told what our paths should be for the next ten years (that is, to graduate from high school and attend a top-tier college). How do we make the choice to pursue our “musts” now, if our futures are basically decided for us through college?”

This question is a particularly interesting one; and it’s certainly one that we can empathise with. Our recommendation to the 9th graders would be to take the time to understand and discover your ‘musts’ without necessarily shedding your ‘shoulds’. There is beauty in being mindfully aware of both your passions and societal expectations, without also being impulsive. As teenagers, you’ve probably only been exposed to a ritualistic life that consists of mostly being at school and perhaps engaging in a few after school activities. Therefore, you probably don’t have a developed and comprehensive understanding of what your ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ even are yet – and that’s totally fine! There are ways to discover and foster your ‘musts’ while still pursuing your ‘shoulds’. For example, let’s say that a ‘should’ is: I should go to college. However, you also know that a ‘must’ of yours is: I must paint. Well, our advice would be to schedule time into your schedule at college to continue cultivating your skill as a painter whenever possible, and to incorporate this ‘must’ into your daily routine and practice, even if your efforts are primarily centered on your ‘shoulds’. You could even major or minor in the Visual Arts! Your college years are a wonderful time  (and perhaps the only time afforded to your young adult life) to explore, make space for, and cultivate the passions that you didn’t or couldn’t afford to in high school or potentially later in your professional life. For example, you could take an eclectic class or join an intriguing club that wouldn’t have been offered to you as a high schooler. You may discover a ‘must’ that you never even knew existed! In sum, we believe that it’s important to engage in reflective introspection while being open to new activities, perspectives, and environments in order to cultivate an evolving understanding of your ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’. However, it is not always beneficial to act impulsively and dispose of the ‘shoulds’ immediately. It’s worth considering what the intentions of the ‘shoulds’ are (economic stability, moral upbringing, mental and physical health are some of the intentions of ‘shoulds’), and whether and how your ‘musts’ serve those intentions – and whether those ‘shoulds’ apply to you. Oftentimes, you can pursue your ‘shoulds’ while still allotting time for your ‘musts’ to develop. Remember, understanding the ‘self’ is a lifelong process; don’t assume that you already know all of your ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’. Let life surprise you.


We wish you the best as you ponder your trajectories at The Crossroads of Should and Must!
Written By: Melissa Cesarano and Alison Lee

(PART 2) A Millennial Take on “The Crossroads of Should and Must”

This is Part Two of a three part collaborative blog by Alison and Mel contrasting generational perspectives on passion, purpose, and pathways to success.

The rethinkED team was very privileged to attend Elle Luna’s talk entitled ‘The Crossroads of Should and Must’, which discussed striking an optimal balance between pursuing one’s own passions (The Musts) and fulfilling societal expectations of success (the Shoulds). Elle Luna, a millennial herself,  emphasized that in order to identify the ‘Shoulds’ and the ‘Musts’, one needs to cultivate a heightened sense of self-awareness (i.e., what matters to me most? What makes me uniquely me?), as well as a realization of the belief and value systems imposed on us by society (i.e. what kinds of assumptions are made about who I should be and what I should care about?). A critical component of this introspective process is the ability to understand when personal and societal expectations coincide or deviate from one another.  For example, do the tenets of my religious upbringing align with the ethical beliefs that I’ve acquired from my personal experience? To clarify, Elle Luna does not mean to imply that all ‘Shoulds’ are inherently bad or that we need to immediately act on shedding all of our ‘Shoulds’ in order to arrive at a more authentic experience. In fact, Elle Luna explains that many ‘shoulds’ are actually essential for our survival and our successful development into adulthood. Thus, a continuous and evolving evaluation of which ‘Shoulds’ are harmful or beneficial to our personal goals, will help guide our awareness to the specific ‘shoulds’ that are necessary to shed.

A Gen-Z response to “Shoulds” vs. “Musts”

A recent article in the NY Times highlighted the rise of Generation Z (estimated to be between 5-19 years old now). Younger, true digital natives, hard-working, anxious, and skeptical, these adolescents harbor a sense of general apprehension and anxiety – understandably, as they are growing up in a time when economic and political systems are less stable, peers are more competitive, and the prospects of growing up less optimistic. This may be particularly inflated on the Riverdale campus, where our young scholars are among the most talented, hard-working, and competitive – their futures are bright, but the bar is set exceptionally high, too. It is not surprising, then, that Elle Luna’s presentation elicited one particularly pragmatic but well-considered question from the freshman class attending the talk: “Your message is great, but as 9th graders at a high-performing school, we’ve been essentially told what our paths should be for the next ten years (that is, to graduate from high school and attend a top-tier college). How do we make the choice to pursue our “musts” now, if our futures are basically decided for us through college?” It was a legitimate question that clearly resonated with the class, eliciting snaps and nods of agreements.

How do you (personally) uncover your ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’? Is there a particular habit or routine that allows you to introspect in this way? Do you think that your generation has had a large influence on your path to self-discovery? Are your generations’ attitudes and beliefs really just another ‘should’? How do you balance your life responsibilities and your life passions? We’d love to discuss all of these questions! Be sure to comment below!
Next week, a post on how we would respond to the Gen Z-er’s question: a (pragmatic/optimistic) recommendation from two millennials (ourselves).

(Part 1) Millennials: Selfish Couch Potatoes or Optimistic World Citizens?

This is Part One of a three part collaborative blog by Alison and Mel contrasting generational perspectives on passion, purpose, and pathways to success.

If you Google the term “Millennials”, you’ll return about 17 million hits that all center on disentangling the psyche of the generation who has or just about reached adulthood today. There is great contention in understanding what drives Millennials; we are “entitled”, “narcissistic”, “lazy”, “overeducated”, leeches who live at home, diverse, entitled, and financially anxious; but we are also frugal, financially and technologically savvy, upbeat, engaged, increasingly global, socially and politically literate/active, share a common mistrust of religious leaders, government entities and military powers, socially liberal, and surprisingly optimistic despite growing up in an era of economic instability and wavering confidence in political leaders. Most critically, there are overwhelming disagreements about whether the millennial pursuit of the “perfect job” – that is, a job that fulfills intellectual needs, compensates generously for provided skill, purposefully addresses a real world demand, and respects the parameters of a work-life balance – is decidedly selfish/unrealistic, or a welcome departure from previous generations’ approach to careers and fulfillment. It is a debate that generates both derision and admiration from older generations, and point to a larger paradigmatic shift in a values system that is quickly evolving before our eyes: what fulfills us? What matters in a job? How do you quantify success? At what point does personal ambition come at odds with pragmatic considerations? What is the longevity of such a pursuit, and what are the financial, emotional, and societal implications down the road?

Where do you fall in your evaluation of what’s important in a career? How has the generation you belonged to, and the historical events surrounding your coming-of-age impacted how you defined success? What do you think of the millenial pursuit of the “perfect job?” Sound off and let us know how you define success, happiness, and career satisfaction in the comments below. 


Next week, a post on how one millennial has framed her pursuit of purpose and profession in a talk titled “The Crossroads of Should and Must”, and how one Generation Z-er, a Riverdale student, responded.

Games, Metacognition, Big Data, and Education – An Introduction

Hello, world! My name is Alison, and I am one of two new members joining the rethinkED team this year. I hail from a background of research, cognition, ed tech, and data science – I am currently a Ph.D student at Columbia University, Teachers College in Cognitive Studies in Education, and a M.S. student in Learning Analytics (Educational Data Mining) – and I’m very excited to share my perspectives on how we can re-imagine learning both in and out of the classroom. I hail from a sleepy farm town nestled in the western valley of the Watchung mountains in central New Jersey, where I emigrated to at age five with a twin sister and older brother from Hong Kong. I graduated from Rutgers University with a triple B.A. in Psychology, Philosophy, and Communications (Go Knights!), and worked in tech startups and educational companies before following my heart straight to TC.


I’m especially interested in the intersections of big data, technology, games, and the classroom. The “big idea” questions that drive me include:

–       What are some more effective ways we can use technological interventions to convey ideas (concepts, abstract systems and structures, complex interactions) more powerfully and interactively?

–       What kind of fruitful cognition occurs in play, exploration, and invention that can be co-opted for learning?

–       How can we use the latest advancements in collecting, analyzing, and representing data to empower both teachers and learners?

–       What are the needs in the classroom that teachers feel like are not being met by Ed. Tech, and how do we design tech to meet these needs more thoughtfully?

–       How can we re-frame what kinds of skills and competencies are necessary to succeed in today’s global economy, and how do we teach or facilitate these skills in the classroom?


Of course, this is only a part of a list that continues to grow every day! But, to complete a dissertation means to drill down on the specifics of one very robust idea, investigate it, and add just the tiniest addition of insight to the world previously unknown – I love this explanation of a Ph.D, so wonderfully depicted by a guy named Matt Might:


My calling is in investigating the metacognitive (“thinking about thinking”) responses to failure that occur in educational games, and how such cognitive processes are 1) related to formal learning later on, and 2) transferrable to learning contexts outside of the game.  An illustration: imagine yourself as a 10-year-old, playing a particularly difficult level of Mario. You fail the level, which then sets off a flurry of emotional and cognitive responses – oh crap! How did that happen? What did I do wrong? Do I actually know what went wrong? How do I fix it? What do I have to avoid next time? These metacognitive judgments – the appraisal of states of knowing, locating sources of cognitive dissonance, identifying gaps in knowledge, and employing strategies to adjust or reconcile this – are precisely the kinds of cognitive behaviors we want kids to engage deeply in when learning! The big questions are, then, do these kinds of behaviors in an educational game actually improve learning later on, and whether developing these kinds of skills in a game setting will transfer into more traditional learning contexts later on.


It is a privilege to be joining a pool of educators, big idea people, and all-around smarty pants here at Riverdale to address some of these issues that are so pressing in today’s education landscape. We’ve been lucky to have already observed a design challenge with Riverdale’s 9th graders, attended a talk on finding the balance between passions and pragmatism (keep an eye out for that post, coming up!), and collaborated on a design jam on how to re-think high school with some of RCS’s top educators. I look forward to hearing from the rest of the Riverdale community, and discussing (and likely debating!) some of the latest topics in education and technology with my cohort Jenna, Elsa, and Melissa here at rethinkED!


Talk to you all soon!


Hip Hop + History = Alexander Hamilton: The Musical…*

Hip hop history…*

Back in 2014, I wrote about Pentecostal Pedagogy and the idea that we can increase learner engagement by relating to students — particularly urban students — through modes of communication that they relate to, such as rap. This was at the forefront of my mind earlier this month when I went to see Hamilton: The Musical – a new broadway musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and the “making of America”… through hip hop music.


The play was by far one of the best Broadway shows I’ve ever seen. An educational, witty, and fairly accurate portrayal of the beginning of our nation, Hamilton converts what could feel like a very dry topic and put a fresh spin on it, communicating through a fusion of hip hop, jazz, and broadway music that is fun and relatable. The writer Lin-Manual Miranda chose Alexander Hamilton – an immigrant and orphan – as the protagonist of this historical play. He cast himself – a man of color – as Hamilton, and overall the cast is far more diverse than one might expect for a story about a bunch of old white men.  In doing so, he creates a relatable story for many Americans who may have trouble empathizing with the old white men that dominate our history books.

With verses like the one below, he paints the picture of a man born without privilege, who succeeded through hard work and beat the odds to become a founding father of our nation:

The ten-dollar founding father without a father
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder
By being a lot smarter
By being a self-starter
By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter.

One of the repeating lines of the play — “I’m just like my country – I’m young, scrappy, and hungry. And I’m not throwin’ away my shot” — speaks to the timeless passion of ambitious youth.

The play uses rap battles for cabinet meetings, succinctly explaining Jefferson and Hamilton’s differing opinions on monetary policy or whether or not to send aid to the French Revolution.

The musical also approaches high-level issues, such as the way in which history is spun by those who live to tell the story. It develops multidimensional characters, such as Aaron Burr, displaying the complexity of politics and “right” and “wrong”.

Hamilton serves as a wonderful example of how to make history approachable and engaging for students. This play could be an excellent Preparation for Future Learning activity that would set the stage for a more traditional classroom discussion about the revolutionary war, our founding fathers, and the subjective nature of history.

While you are waiting to get your hands on tickets to this incredible performance, I’d highly recommend checking out the soundtrack, available on NPR FIRST LISTEN and also available for purchase on iTunes.





{Inspired} by IDEO…*

I visited with IDEO San Francisco last week in order to work on two new projects with them. As always, it was great to be in their offices and meet various team members. I am really excited to be working with them again. As you may remember, we developed the Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators with them a few years ago.Even though the work is inspiring and interesting, the most interesting thing of working with them are the “meta-lessons” I take away from experiencing their way of working and thinking about things. Here are a few of my inspirations provoked by my recent visit:

  • permission…permission to think creatively, permission to act naturally and be oneself, permission to dream…
  • creativity…they are willing to let down the barriers and just be creative…I think about how many of our workplaces, schools and homes are not supportive of creativity, and yet, developing creative people is one of the greatest challenges we face…”Yes, and…”-the core of improvisation is at the core of the spirit at IDEO
  • optimism…cynicism, irony, unpleasantness are jus too present in our lives. I work in a school because the optimism of young people is contagious…it makes you want to get up every morning and work. This is the spirit of IDEO and positive psychology-frame thing optimistically-you will not only be happier, but you will handle decisions, work and life better…
  • wicked problems…no problem is too big to be taken on…world hunger, creating great schools, improving the lives of older people…we should all take on challenges and turn them into “How might we…?” challenges…
  • design thinking…when I first learned about design thinking, I thought it was a methodology, a set of steps one uses to solve problems. Now I think of it much more as a mindset, a way of thinking and living…of course, one has to learn about design thinking to practice it well, but one also has to “bend” one’s mind to design thinking…
  • openness to learning…a lot of us think that learning stops with school or university…we need to be lifelong learners and places like IDEO support that idea of bringing a “beginner’s mind” to everything that we do. It is not that expertise is not important, but intellectual humility is just as important…
  • innovation…I sometimes think that we conceptualize innovation as something grand, something complex and sophisticated, and yet, it can be simple, elegant and modest…read/listen to this inspiring story that is a great metaphor for this idea…

IDEO is a worthy example of a place, a space that we should emulate. It is more than a firm or a design company. It is an experience and mindset. Lots of people want to work there, but the most important lesson is how to take the spirit of IDEO and apply it to our working, to our thinking and to our living.

{ Testing Commitment Contracts } [Mis]Adventures in Motivation, Integrity & Anti-Charities …*

{ Testing Commitment Contracts } [Mis]Adventures in Motivation, Integrity & Anti-Charities ...* | homepage screen shot

Sometime last month, I read an article in the New York Times about StickK–an “online Commitment Store,” which helps you set and achieve your goals by enabling you to create a commitment contract with yourself.

The Commitment Contract concept is based on two well known principles of behavioral economics:

1.People don’t always do what they claim they want to do, and
2.Incentives get people to do things

[ …]

A Commitment Contract is a binding agreement you sign with yourself to ensure that you follow through with your intentions—and it does this by utilizing the psychological power of loss aversion and accountability to drive behavior change.
By asking our users to sign Commitment Contracts, stickK helps users define their goal (whatever it may be), acknowledge what it’ll take to accomplish it, and leverage the power of putting money on the line to turn that goal into a reality.

I was intrigued by the idea and since my last mostly self-devised motivation strategy (eating one (or several) donuts as a reward for each time I went running) had completely backfired and turned me into a bona fide sugar addict, I decided to give StickK a try. The service is very simple to use– you create an account on; select a commitment; decide how much money you will pay each week if you fail to fulfill your commitment; select either a charity or anti-charity for your money to be donated to; add friends to your network of supporters and are given the option of nominating a referee to report your progress. A referee is someone who will report whether you have indeed fulfilled your commitment each week, but since I couldn’t think of who could reliably vouch for me, I opted to self-report on the honor system. Finally, you pick a day of the week to report whether you’ve met your goal for that reporting period and each week StickK sends you an email prompt to remind you to report your performance. That’s pretty much it, all that’s left is to actually go out and fulfill your commitment.

You can set as many commitments as you like but I decided to try this out with a single goal: to exercise three times a week. I like this goal, it’s achievable, has big payoffs for mental, emotional and physical well-being but it’s also one of those things that I tend to forgo when I feel stressed or overwhelmed by other commitments. I figured StickK would help me reframe this goal as a top priority and give me the little nudge I needed to transform this goal into a lifelong habit. I selected an anti-charity that I despise and set my weekly fee at $10. It’s not much, but the thought of giving so much as a penny to this organization makes my skin crawl with disgust.

It all went well for the first two weeks, and riding the high of new resolve, I fulfilled my weekly commitment with gusto. It all went well, until it didn’t, and I failed to meet my goal one particularly busy week. Sunday afternoon (my reporting day) arrived and I realized with horror that I had only exercised once that week. All those “tomorrows” on which I’d promised myself to exercise had flown by unnoticed and I hadn’t fulfilled my commitment. I considered exercising twice that day. And yes, I considered lying. What if I said I’d met my goal, and then promised myself to exercise six times next week and never again mess up? What would be worse? Lying or donating to this organization that stands so directly against what I believe in and value. This wouldn’t be a big lie, no one would be harmed by it and in fact no one would ever know that I lied, other than me. The problem with integrity, of course, is that you can’t opt out when doing the right thing is inconvenient. After having spent most of the day going over this, (time I probably could have used to exercise twice…however shady a strategy that may have been), I finally decided I wouldn’t lie on my report, it just felt too dishonest. And so I reported that I had failed and $10 went to that dreadful organization.

I felt guilty and disgusted with the idea that I had donated to this organization, and in an effort to assuage my guilt, I donated another $50 to the counter charity. Bringing my total that week for not exercising to $60 on top of my regular gym membership, plus about three hours of my Sunday trying to do mental (moral) gymnastics over how to resolve this issue, plus–and by far the heaviest cost–the sense that I had really let myself down. It wasn’t so much that I hadn’t fulfilled my commitment–I’m convinced exercise is good for me physically, mentally and emotionally and I hold it as a value, but I’m also not a fanatic about it and missing two work-outs is not catastrophic by any means. What made me feel really disappointed was the idea that I donated to this anti-charity even though avoiding that ‘punishment’ was really quite simple and only required exercising three times a week. Yet, that week, I somehow didn’t make what I value and believe in a priority, and as a result, I gave money to a cause I find abhorrent. It wasn’t the missed exercise, it was the ethical dissonance between what I believe in and my failure to act on it that I found crushing.

This all took place about three weeks ago, and I’m glad to report that since then, I have fulfilled—even exceeded—my commitment every single week. Whenever I try to find a way to talk myself out of exercising I Just remind myself how dreadful that Sunday felt and then I’m practically running to throw on my sneakers.

If you need a little nudge to keep you committed to your long-term goals, I’d definitely encourage you to give StickK a try. Have you tried it? What did you think? Let me know …*

group dynamics & the importance of [ social-emotional ] skills

I spent the past three days at an experiential Group Relations conference, hosted by The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, and I feel forever changed. This conference consisted of three 10 hour days of experiencing and analyzing the dynamics of groups, with the goal of better understanding both group dynamics and how you as an individual function within groups. As explained by Tavistock,

The learning at the conferences, which are educational and are part of the Tavistock Institute’s professional development stream, emphasizes increased insight into irrational, or unconscious, processes we get involved in as we take up our roles in various groups. The basis of group relations theory is that ‘groups’ move in and out of focusing on their task and back and forth between a number of different defensive positions based on unarticulated ‘group’ desire and anxiety.

Each day was divided into 75 minute intervals,  and within each interval we had either small group work, large group work, community work, or reflection. In small group I worked alongside 8 colleagues in unpacking the covert processes in our own group. In large group the entire 60 person conference attempted to have a conversation about our group relations and the subgroups and alliances in the room. In community, we formed our own small groups and worked together on intergroup contact. Last, in reflection we’d reflect upon each days experiences and what we’d learned.

Within the bounds of the conference, we stripped away many of the social niceties of day-to-day life in an attempt to truly explore the covert factors that are often at play. We brushed upon issues such as racism, sexism, desires, longings, the need for attention, anxiety over ambiguity, and many other undercurrents that so often affect how groups interact with each other but are rarely mentioned. We divulged secrets in attempts to form trust and bonds. We talked about how to make a space feel safe.

There was something amazingly free-ing about being authorized to spend three days reflecting and looking inward to discover how my own personality and thoughts are affected by and affect groups that I work with. I haven’t fully unpacked what I’ve taken away from the experience, but I definitely feel such a sense of accomplishment for doing this conference and from my current emotional exhaustion I suspect I’ve learned more than I realize. I explored my desire to “save” people from emotional or anxious experiences, even if those experiences may be beneficial in the long run. I recognized that I respond to white male authority differently that other authority, which is something I never would have suspected. I acknowledged how I often project anxiety onto others, particularly people that I’m close to or trust. I also formed really strong bonds with people who were strangers on Day 1, some that at first I didn’t even particularly like.

While my own life lessons are something I will explore on my own, I believe that a larger take-away from this conference has been the importance of cultivating social-emotional skills. The social emotional learning (SEL) movement began in the mid-1990s, and places an emphasis on emotional intelligence and social competence. SEL has a variety of benefits including improving emotional skills, improved behavior in the classroom, and has been shown to foster adult success.

While most educators do believe in the importance of education towards the betterment of the “whole child,” and the goal of creating a good citizen, I worry sometimes that education towards social skills or emotional awareness is lacking in our education systems. Educators often assume that students will pick this up along the way, and many do, but even the most self-aware and emotionally healthy students can benefit from explicit social emotional learning. At the conference, I met so many psychiatrists, psycho-analysts, social workers, and other similar professionals who were there to better understand their patients but also to better understand themselves. If a highly experience psychologist can learn something from explicit social education, any student can too.


{{girlification}} of science and engineering toys: the good and the bad

Lately I’ve been noticing an increase in the number of advertising campaigns that touch upon the messy realities of sexism and the subtle ways in which women are enculturated into gendered careers, lifestyles, and mannerisms. One particular issue – that of encouraging young girls towards STEM fields and cultivating their interests in science, engineering, and math – seems particularly important.

A recent ad for Verizon brushes on how girls are discouraged from the science world at an early age:

I find the discourse interesting because there are many different ways in which we can encourage young girls to partake in science and engineering activities. One method is to “girlify” these toys and tools, and this has been both applauded and criticized, both for equally valid reasons.

For example, Goldiblox is a company (that I supported back as a kickstarter!) the develops engineering toys based on narrative play, to help integrate engineering into the types of play that female children generally are most attracted to.

Their philosophy, below explains this idea:

At GoldieBlox, our goal is to get girls building. We’re here to help level the playing field in every sense of the phrase. By tapping into girls’ strong verbal skills, our story + construction set bolsters confidence in spatial skills while giving young inventors the tools they need to build and create amazing things.

In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math…and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys’ toys”. By designing a construction toy from the female perspective, we aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.

We believe there are a million girls out there who are engineers. They just might not know it yet. We think GoldieBlox can show them the way.(Source:

Alternatively, the whole “girlification” of engineering toys has generally been considered a huge failure for Lego. As explained beautifully by, the new Lego Friends” sets marketed for girls are entirely pastel pink and purple. These Lego girls live in “HeartLake” city which is a heavily gender-stereotyped world where the Lego girls can do their hair, take care of the home, and get their pets groomed, among other limiting roles. Most critically, the Lego Friends dolls don’t integrate with all of the pre-existing Lego sets, further segregating girls’ Lego play.

In many ways, both Goldieblox and Lego Friends are toys that are built on the idea that girls and boys have different styles of play. Yet while Goldieblox seems liberating in adding engineering to storytelling, Lego Friends seems constricting in forcing girls to conform to a gender stereotype.

Another controversial use of “girlification” is Made With Code, Google’s initiative to get girls more involved in computer science through code-based projects that include DIY jewelry and making music. As Mindy Kaling explained  (she emceed an event),  

I was very traditionally girly. I thought [coding] wasn’t very social. I thought it was for boys. I thought it was solitary and not fun. I was into Latin, which is 100 percent more boring than coding. But I was into it because of the way that it was sold to me in high school. It was really social, and I felt like cool people were doing it and that’s why I wanted to do it. If coding can be sold that way, that’s awesome. (Source:

Ultimately, I’m torn on whether or not these sorts of tools help to reinforce stereotypes or to break them down. I was definitely a tomboy as a child, and I played with “boy” Legos and similar construction sets without any thoughts about whether or not these toys should be for me. However, the reality is that our world is one where many girls are taught to be “girly,”  and if “girlification” works at engaging this population in engineering and science, we’ve opened that door for millions of girls who would have otherwise never dared to try building with Legos, or coding, or engineering. Perhaps the most important issue is ensuring that these marketed toys are in no way lesser than or more limiting than their male-marketed counterparts. For example, the Lego Friends sets could have been far more effective if they simply integrated themselves into the pre-existing Lego World, even if they included some pink and purple blocks.

What do you think about this approach to encouraging young girls in Math and Science?


“Challenge the Known & Embrace the Unknown” – Advice to Your Younger Self (That Your Present Self Can Put Into Practice) …*

"Challenge the Known & Embrace the Unknown" - Advice to Your Younger Self (That Your Present Self Can Put Into Practice) ...* |

LinkedIn is running a series of articles entitled If I Were 22, where they ask various influencers to share the advice they would give to their younger self. I’ve gathered some of the ones I like below. What about you? What would you say to your 22 year old self? I was thinking about what type of advice I would give to my own younger self and this is what I wish I had known at 22 (and wish I would reliably put into practice now):

Don’t fear or resist change, it will happen every single day for the rest of your life. Learn to be adaptive and nimble. Be open to learning from new situations—realize how much power you have in how engaged you are in something or not. Learn to reframe uncertainty into opportunity. And when you are afraid, know that it generally means you need to take a risk.

Be kind –in thought and action. You will jump to conclusions, you will make assumptions, your brain will try to find and create meaning in all situations—it’s human and you have no control over that. You do however, have the choice of selecting the kinder assumptions, the kinder conclusions. Choose kindness, you will have a happier and more fulfilling relationship to the world and to yourself.

My final and perhaps most practical piece of advice is: hey, take it easy, Martha Stewart! While I applaud and cherish your untarnished enthusiasm in the face of enduring and repeated cooking disasters, take it easy with the million cooking and baking ware. That pan you don’t have that’s for a very specific dish? Adapt! (see point number 1). Don’t go out and buy the bloody thing. You will move in and out of many apartments over the next decade, and when you find yourself sitting in the center of a room with boxes surrounding you, packed floor to ceiling and stuff still everywhere, know that this is in large part—my dear–the cooking and baking. Remember: nomad.


When you’re just starting out, it may seem tempting to settle quickly into a career path, just because it seems reasonable or stable. But I encourage all 22-year-olds to do the opposite. Go out and explore. Start figuring out what you’re really passionate about, what really makes you tick. Hone your talents and pick up useful skills. And if you find yourself in a place you don’t really want to be, go out and look for something different.

Mike Feinberg, Co-Founder at KIPP


Looking back, there are a few things I would have told my 20-something self to do differently.

Connect with people outside your major or discipline. I was so focused on being an industrial designer, I didn’t hang out with engineers or business students or artists or writers. I didn’t know what other opportunities were out there for burgeoning design thinkers. Thankfully, the Internet means today’s grads have more context and greater chances to collaborate with people from different backgrounds. Seize every opportunity.

Know that the culture of where you work is as important as the work you do. During school, I had an enviable internship at one of the trendiest design studios in London. Known for its cutting-edge product designs, the studio leads were brash, macho, live-on-the-edge types who believed in the lone creative genius. I was wowed by their work, but didn’t find my time there creatively rewarding. I craved collaboration and teamwork. It wasn’t until I started to work with Bill Moggridge that I learned just how critical the culture of a workplace is to one’s creativity. It’s one of the main reasons I’m still at IDEO.

Make time to travel. I went straight from undergrad to grad school. I wish I had had the confidence to take a year off and explore the world, to add some life experience to my academics. It was only after I graduated that I started to travel. It might be a cliché, but getting out of your own culture makes you more mindful and observant. You question everything you once took for granted. When my own children are trying to figure out what’s meaningful to them, what direction to take their lives next, I tell them to take out their passports. It’s time to book a trip.

Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO


Challenge the known and embrace the unknown. Accepting the known and resisting the unknown is a mistake. You should do exactly the opposite: challenge the known and embrace the unknown. Now is the time to take this kind of risk because you have less to lose and everything to gain. Great things happen to people who question the status quo.

Be brief. Contrary to school, in the work place there are few minimums. In my entire career, I can count on one hand the instances when an email, presentation, or report was too short. The perfect length for everything is when it is “complete”—more is less, and “shock and awe” doesn’t work in business or war. Here are guidelines: email—five sentences; presentations—tens slides and twenty minutes; report—one page.

Tell stories, do demos, and use pictures. The most enchanting people tell stories, do demos, and use pictures to influence and persuade others. They do not belittle or berate. They paint a picture in people’s minds whether the medium is social media, email, in-person presentations, phone calls, or video conferences. There is only one Steve Jobs, but if you want a shot at being the next Steve Jobs, learn to communicate using stories, demos, and pictures.

Continue to learn. Learning is a process not an event, so you should never stop learning. Indeed, it gets easier to learn once you’re out of school because the relevance of what you need to learn becomes more obvious. Indeed, the day you graduate is when the real learning begins.

Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist at Canva


So the advice I’d give to young people today is this: don’t just climb the ladder of success – a ladder that leads, after all, to higher and higher levels of stress and burnout — but chart a new path to success, remaking it in a way that includes not just the conventional metrics of money and power, but a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive.

– Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief at The Huffington Post Media Group

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