February 2014
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Month February 2014

Scott Barry Kaufman On the Importance of Harmonious Passion To Enjoying the Learning Process …*

H A R M O N I O U S   P A S S I O N  “is a very specific kind of passion that is well integrated into your identity. So it’s not like, “I like to play basketball,” or “I like to learn science.” It’s: “I am a basketball player,” “I am a scientist.” It’s something that is so well integrated into your day–it’s something that you feel good about intrinsically, as part of your day–that it makes you want to learn, it makes you enjoy the learning process.”

Scott Barry Kaufman on Passion And Genius, published February 14, 2014.

designing my Δ…*

I have recently been thinking about “change over time” (Δ) and how we perceive and note change in ourselves and in others. It is surprising to me how consistency is so vaunted. Yes, it is indeed important to show people that you are stable, that you are dependable, and yet, the most surprising experiences in my life have all been marked by change and adaptability. What would it look like if we focused more on recovery from mistakes than just success? How would we coach people and give them feedback that takes them from the moment of a mistake to coping with the consequences and making the best of the situation?

I have been asking people recently about “moments of change”. Have you had an experience, small or significant, that changed your life, your opinions and/or the trajectory of your development? People really get into thinking about this question and appreciate sharing those moments when a mentor patted them on the back, or a friend asked a really good question, or they showed more courage than they thought they could summon in a particularly challenging situation. It is so inspiring. So what moment changed you? What capacities did you use to spur on that change? Is there a moment or experience that you would like to share in commenting to this post. I hope you will do so.

I am also thinking that I should be asking people more about their best “recovery” or “save”. Can you point to a mistake or a challenge that you recovered well from or “saved” from disaster? What allowed you to make something change from being a problem situation to a positive experience? Feel free to share as well in your comments.

What is interesting about this is that we should be able to foster intentionally and more comprehensively moments of transformation and recovery in each other. We should be able to design our “change over time” (our own Δ). I want to design my Δ, and I think we should be having more discussions about how we need to change, how people and the world around us are changing, and how we are reacting or anticipating these changes. Our measures of change, our mΔps (“delta maps”) are fairly rudimentary. Wouldn’t it be great if we could develop a tracker for our personal development. It is great now that we can track our personal fitness, but we should be tracking in more nuanced ways our personal development and our capacity building.

I do know that there are many people working on finding ways to build capacities such as grit, optimism and how to “credential” our development (For example, Pathbrite, the Character Lab, Linked In, the McArthur Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the new Reporter app…and the list can go on and on); however, how can we summon our forces to make this a central aspect of our lives that rather than tracking our social interactions on Facebook, we are tracking, charting and reflecting on our personal and communal Δ? Let’s commit to finding ways to do this humanly, authentically and organically so that all the narrow and reductionist measures that currently attempt to represent some aspect of our human wholeness such as transcripts, 360° evaluations, test scores, trails of social media comments are replaced by systems that are much better at representing the adaptive nature of what it means to be human.

I hope we can continue the dialogue and thoughts on this…rethink it…*

{ S H O S H I N } “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

{ S H O S H I N } “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” | rethinked.org

Shoshin is a Zen buddhist term, which translates to “beginner’s mind.” Beginner’s mind is the goal of Zen practice and can best be explained with this sentence from Zen master Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Essentially, beginner’s mind is the capacity to approach all new moments, whether the experience at hand be known and|or habitual or not, with a sense of openness and curiosity; to not limit ourselves to past experiences and knowledge in our appraisal of the present moment.

Unfortunately, “The older we get, the further we get from the truth and the more we search for answers. If only we could ask the real experts, life would go a whole lot smoother.” Which is where Little Kids. Big Questions. comes in.

Little Kids. Big Questions. is one of Soul Pancake‘s video series which takes the concept of shoshin quite literally by turning to beginner’s minds masters –little kids–to get their ‘expertise’ on life’s big question. The series, which debuted January 7th of last year, touches upon a wide range of complex topics, from religion, honesty, purpose to life and death.


To celebrate Valentine’s day, here is the Little Kids. Big Questions. episode on love. Delight in the tiny experts’ brilliant answers to some big questions:

  • What is this strange and all encompassing word, love?
  • How do you know when you’re in love, what does it feel like inside?
  • What does it mean to be romantic?
  • Can boys and girls be best friends or do they always fall in love?
  • How do you know when you’re ready to get married?

Little Kids. Big Questions. – Love, published January 14, 2014.

Let’s Talk about Fear

Edvard Munch — The Scream

Given our culture’s infatuation with perfect performances — evidenced all around us in Olympics and film-awards coverage — I really love it when successful people talk openly about struggles they face in their work.

Dazzling achievements — whether a great work of art, a gold-medal performance, or a scientific breakthrough — tend to do just that: they dazzle us with their perfection, blinding us to how they came to be. Candid conversations that reveal the inevitable blood, sweat, and tears behind those achievements are a service to all of us, especially students. And with creative people as with students, the “blood, sweat, and tears” often takes shape as fear.

In a recent joint interview in the New York Times, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and film director David O. Russell were refreshingly candid about facing fear in their creative work. While Russell talked about the more familiar “fear of failure,” von Furstenberg claimed that “fear of failure” wasn’t fear because it emerged from the commitment to create something — and therefore was far preferable to true fear:

David O. Russell: You can’t be ruled by fear. And if you’re pretending to yourself, then you will be ruled by fear — because you’re not being real. But fear of failure is pretty normal. It can even be. …

Diane von Furstenberg: Yes, but that’s not fear. Fear of failure is not fear. Fear is when you don’t do the thing.

DOR: I’m always looking over my shoulder saying, “This could suck, so be careful.”

DVF: That’s not fear.

DOR: Right, because I’m still going to go for it very hard. We’re not going to hold back.

For a creative person, von Furstenberg implies, true fear comes “when you don’t do the thing” — in other words, it comes from not creating at all.

(For my part, as a creative professional, both fears are a problem.)

rethinked...* logo

So what does von Furstenberg attribute her determination to?

Philip Galanes, New York Times: In practically every article about you, Diane, I’ve read the statement: “Fear is not an option.” But no one ever asks what it means. We’re all afraid, no?

DVF: When my mother was 20, she was a prisoner of war and went to Auschwitz…. And when she came back to Belgium, she married my father.
They said to her: “You can’t have a child. It won’t be normal, you won’t survive.” And I was born nine months later…

PG: Wow! Her example made you fearless?

DVF: If I was afraid of the dark, she’d lock me in the closet. Ten minutes later,
I realized there was nothing to be afraid of.

DOR: Your mom did that?

DVF: Uh-huh. That’s the biggest gift. She did not allow me to be afraid, ever.

PG: Sounds a little rough.

DVF: But I’m not afraid.

Von Furstenberg’s creative determination surely didn’t emerge from one ten-minute lockup, but her narrative lends support to the idea that successful experiences with emotional challenges in childhood can be the basis for resilience that reaches deep into adult life.

This idea is the foundation of character education. Short of locking students in dark rooms, character education strives to offer students experiences designed for character growth while also supporting the growing pains that inevitably accompany it.

That latter half — supporting the accompanying growing pains — is essential. Character education, particularly as I have observed it in high-performing charter schools such as KIPP and Uncommon Schools, champions the toughness that academic success requires, and rightly so. But I think there’s also a place for the acknowledgment of fear. Students can only benefit from the understanding that achievement is a process in which less-than-tough feelings can play an acceptable part — and honest classroom conversations about fear are one means to that valuable end.

Tim Brown On The Critical Role of Borrowing In Driving Creativity & Facilitating Problem Solving …*

Tim Brown On The Critical Role of Borrowing In Driving Creativity & Facilitating Problem Solving ...* | rethinked.org

“As a creative person, I’ve always believed that I can’t be creative unless I’m inspired in some way. Inspiration is a funny thing; it sounds like it’s an internal thing. We think of great creative artists and imagine that inspiration wells up inside of them, but I think that’s just not true. Inspiration comes from the outside. The most inspirational people are the most observant people who are able to take from the outside world and convert what they see into something that drives their creativity. The simplest and most effective way of doing that is to notice things, and to notice those things that might be relevant to the thing you’re thinking about or the problem you’re trying to solve or the idea that you’re working with. There are countless cliche examples of this, everyone from Picasso to Leonardo, people we think of as being individually creative geniuses who in fact were extremely good at taking inspiration from the outside world and having it drive their own creative engine. Borrowing from the outside world is at the heart of all things we do creatively to be inspired.

Then, the challenges we tackle as designers are always multifaceted; they are systemic in nature, not simple. In order to tackle them with any degree of comprehension we have to look at them from a multidisciplinary perspective, look at them from many different directions, through many different lenses. So we’re not just borrowing from other disciplines, we’re actually applying those disciplines. I think often what we do as designers is attempt to glue a whole bunch of other disciplines together to look at something creatively. We take business, science and technology, the human disciplines of social science… I personally borrow ideas from those places, and much more importantly I am also interested in how we bring them all together as collaborators.” – Tim Brown

Source: Nature Knows Best: A Biologist And A Designer Take Creative Direction From The Earth’s Operating System, via TED, published February 7, 2014.

Stuffocation – Moving From Material Goods To Experiences & Why That’s Not Enough …*

“Stuffocation is the idea that instead of thinking of ‘more’ the way we used to–the way people used to think of more as a good thing–we now think more means: more to store, more to think about, more hassle. Instead of being a good thing, more is worse, it’s a pain. Overwhelmed and suffocating from stuff, I think we’re feeling stuffocation.” – James Wallman

Not too long ago, I shared here on rethinked *  my deep desire to shed some of my belongings and to travel more lightly through life. Four trips to the donation center later and I’m still feeling stuck, still drowning in far too many things. I was hoping to get some helpful insights from this video of James Wallman‘s talk at the RSA about his new book — Stuffocation: How We’ve Had Enough Of Stuff And Why You Need Experiences More Than Ever. Wallman, who is a British journalist and trend forecaster, has identified a significant cultural shift away from materialism. Citing Ron Inglehart’s research on our changing attitudes towards materialism and Chris Goodall’s claim that we’ve passed ‘peak stuff,’ Wallman argues that as our definition of ‘more’ has evolved, we are culturally shifting away from materialism and towards what he calls “Experimentalism.”

“Instead of looking for happiness, for status and for meaning in material goods, these experimentalists are finding happiness, status and meaning in experiences instead. Experimentalism, I believe can solve a problem like stuffocation. More importantly, I think Experimentalism will solve stuffocation because it’s better. It’s better than materialism at making us happy, it’s better at giving us status, and it’s better at giving our lives meaning.” 

Personally, I find that Wallman’s argument falls short, we’re switching over from materialism to experimentalism but we are still very much operating within a consumption paradigm. Where is the big shift–the fundamental rethinking? We are now consuming experiences rather than material goods but consuming none the less. In my own experience of ‘stuffocation,’ I think a large part of my malaise comes from the plague of overconsumption that permeates my everyday. From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep I am bombarded with an endless amount of things to consume–goods, services and content. Unless I carve out time to make and create and defend that time aggressively, my entire day could easily be one long moment of consumption. So yes, going to Paris or even just looking at good architecture or a sunset would likely make me happier and more fulfilled than going shopping, but I want more than just new opportunities for consumption. I want to create. I want to make. I want a radical rethinking * of how we orient our lives and values. What do you think?

Why We’ve Had Enough Of Stuff via The RSA published February 5, 2014.

It’s A Good Time To Be A Knowmad…* – Free Course To Learn About Using Human-Centered Design For Social Innovation

{ It's A Good Time To Be A Knowmad ...* } Free Course To Learn About Using Human-Centered Design For Social Innovation | rethinked.org

Exciting new learning opportunity on the horizon: Human-Centered Design For Social Innovation, a free five-week course brought to you by Acumen & Ideo.org. This will be the course’s second run as it was previously offered last summer. Registration opens February 18, 2014.

This free course will get you started using the human-centered design process to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change in your community.

Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation from IDEO.org on Vimeo.

Other intriguing learning opportunities to check out:

Tina Seelig’s upcoming courseCreativity: Music To My Earsa six week course designed to explore several factors that stimulate creativity in individuals, teams, and organizations. Registration is now open for Creativity: Music To My Ears and the course will begin April 2, 2014.

Dave Levin’s free four-week long MOOC on CourseraTeaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms, which explores the interconnection between character research, education, and academic rigor. The course began yesterday and features our own Dominic Randolph

learn & rethink …

{ Friday Fun Day } Tinker, Play & Prototype With Build With Chrome …*

Build: A Chrome Experiment with LEGO® via Google Chrome, published January 28, 2014.

Tinkerers and design thinkers rejoice, Google Chrome has brought the endless possibilities of LEGO bricks to the web with their latest Chrome Experiment – Build With Chrome.

Build. A partnership between Google Chrome and LEGO®

Welcome to Build – the largest LEGO® set the world has ever seen. Developed with the latest web technology in Chrome, Build is a place for everyone to imagine, create and explore building with LEGO bricks online.

Choose to build on any plot in the world across your laptop, phone, or tablet. Once you’ve created something, publish it on the map, and share it with your friends.

If you’d like to train to become a great Master Builder, visit the Build Academy. Complete a series of exciting challenges over different locations and you can unlock cool new Lego bricks along the way. Plus, you’ll meet loads of characters from The LEGO® Movie!

Fire up your Chrome browser and head over to Build With Chrome to start building. { Friday Fun Day } Tinker, Play & Prototype With Build With Chrome ...* | rethinked.org

Not sure how to use the controls? No problem, check out the Build Academy and master the online LEGO skills in a series of guided challenges

{ Friday Fun Day } Tinker, Play & Prototype With Build With Chrome ...* | rethinked.org

I especially loved the growth mindset tone of the assistant in the Build Academy–it’s all about practice and effort over time.

{ Friday Fun Day } Tinker, Play & Prototype With Build With Chrome ...* | rethinked.org

Share your buildings and explore others.

{ Friday Fun Day } Tinker, Play & Prototype With Build With Chrome ...* | rethinked.org

build, play & rethink …

{ rethinkers …* unite } Jesse Thorn’s Make Your Thing Manifesto & Conference

Make Your Thing is a conference for independent creators October 17th-19th in Los Angeles.

Make Your Thing will help you navigate the future of small-scale independent creation with speakers, exhibitions, and the Make Your Thing Bazaar, along with other exclusive entertainment. Whether you’re a creative person just starting out or a seasoned veteran, you can come to Make Your Thing to meet other like-minded people, share stories, and be inspired. Hear how some of the best & brightest have made their own way. Learn from and connect with your creative peers. Join us!

The Make Your Thing conference was inspired by Jesse Thorn‘s lovely Transom Make Your Thing Manifesto. If you don’t have time to get through the whole piece just yet, here are some highlights:

{ S T A R T  N O W }

You will never accomplish anything unless you start making stuff now.

Plans are great, but making stuff is how you build an audience, get better, and most importantly, get closer to making a living.

Most important, though, was that she started. She actually made stuff, regularly. Not just a one-off thing. She started, refined, got better, and made more of what made sense to make more of.

{  M A K E   A   D E A D L I N E  }

You can’t afford to be too precious about your work. Caring is important, but preciousness is the opposite of making stuff. There is no room on the internet for Special Snowflakes who want to procrastinate all day and then drink themselves to sleep and dream about their unwritten novel. To build an audience, you have to be consistently good and often surprising.

{  K E E P   Y O U R   L E G S   M O V I N G  }

The essential lesson seems to be that there is no such thing as an insurmountable adversity. When you have children to feed, you have to find a way to feed them.

{ D O N ‘ T   C O N F U S E   M E D I U M   &  C O N T E N T  } 

 in the digital world, it pays to be medium-agnostic.

Rather than defining yourself by the medium you create, define yourself by what you offer to your audience.

{ B E  A U T H E N T I C } 


{ F O L L O W   Y O U R    P A S S I O N } 


{ F O C U S   O N   G R E A T   W O R K  } 

Sometimes not doing something shitty is the only way to do something good.

{ C O N N E C T   W I T H   P E O P L E   Y O U   L I K E  }

You don’t have to have an agenda. When you find someone whose work you like, tell them. When you meet someone you think is interesting, meet them again. The internet is built on community and conversation. That is expected. Engage that back-and-forth. Offer someone a hand, and expect nothing in return. Do something cool with someone you think is cool because the thing will end up cool. You never know what you might end up with.

{ O W N   W H A T   Y O U   C R E A T E } 

Ultimately, when you own your work, you are always building equity. When you work for hire, you’re building equity for someone else.

{ F I N D   T H E   M O N E Y } 

One of the odd things about the new way of doing business is that the money doesn’t always come where you expect it. Blog advertising might not pan out, but speaker’s fees do. Your notoriety as a podcaster might get you a gig as a television host (it happened to me). One of my best friends owes his entire career not to the iPhone app he created, but to the video he made to promote the iPhone app he created. If you keep your eyes open and do great work, you can find places to make money.

{  B U I L D   A   C O M M U N I T Y  } 

No matter what you make, it will become part of someone’s identity, and if you can help them share that identity with others, that identity will become a community. And connecting with other people is the most important thing we can do. It’s where babies come from! People will gladly pay you for that service.

{ D O   A   G O O D   J O B } 

I don’t really think that most of what you need is born into you, though. Mostly, you just need to care, and try. You need to make something, and then make it again, a little better. You need to look around for money. You need to reach your hand out to meet someone when it would be easier to keep to yourself. You need to make something for you when it would be easier just do what someone else tells you to. All of these things are hard, but none of them require anything more than gumption. Which I bet you have.

So: make your thing.

Source: Jesse Thorn: Make Your Thing Manifesto via Transom.org, published April 11, 2012.

Ben Casnocha on The Disconnect Between School As An Individual Game & Life As A Team Game …*

Ben Casnocha on The Disconnect Between School As An Individual Game & Life As A Team Game ...*

Couldn’t agree more with Ben Casnocha’s dead on insight about one of the biggest disconnects between “school-life” and “real” life and the negative impact it creates. How might we rethink * the “framework of how to be successful” that we teach in schools?

“When I meet with really successful professionals, they frequently reflect on this disconnect: in school they thought it was an individual game, in life they realize it’s a team game, and team games require skills they never developed in school.

[ … ] 

And it turns out, memorizing organic chemistry formulas was a whole lot easier than learning to read a room, interpreting human motivations, and building teams who will follow you.

When reflecting on how the education system does or does not prepare students, we should pay special attention not just to areas where school under-prepares students for the real world (more statistics! more engineering!), but where school actively misprepares. Where an entire framework of “how to be successful” has to be unlearned and replaced by something else. These are the most consequential breakage points in formal schooling.” – Ben Casnocha

Source: Loners Can Win At School. They Can’t In The Real World. via LinkedIn, published February 4, 2014

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