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Month December 2014

How to have a [ happy family ] in 2015: Using analogous situations to develop better methods for family success…*

Happy holidays everyone! As many of us are spending these weeks visiting family and loved ones, I thought it appropriate to talk about rethinking family dynamics. This time of year can be particularly stressful on families. While I don’t yet have children of my own, this TED talk by Bruce Feller is a great one if you are a parent with children and are looking for some ideas on how to improve your own family dynamic.


In true rethinked…* fashion, this talk is all about analogous situations. Particularly, Feller borrows from the Agile software development method. This method involve collaboration between self-organizing teams, promoting adaptive, rapid, and flexible responses to change. He uses it’s bottom-up idea flow, feedback, accountability, and adaptiveness in his own family.

In 2001 17 software developers created the Agile Manifesto. In this talk, Feller discusses his own Agile Family Manifesto. This manifesto has three tenets:


Happy functioning families should be flexible and openminded. You can’t just set rules and stick to them. Instead, you should build in a system of change. For example, Feller suggests holding family meetings each week and discussing 1) What worked well this week? 2) What didn’t work well? 3) What should we work on next week? Based on the answers to these questions, the rules can adapt to the current situation. Which leads to the second tenet…

#2 EMPOWER your children

In these family meetings, have children come up with the answers to these questions. Enlist children in their own upbringing. Feller suggests that we let our children succeed and fail on their own terms. We should let children make mistakes.


As much as the rules and family structure should be adaptive, it is imperative to have a foundational core. Feller urges parents and children to work together to define core values and develop a family “mission statement.” Additionally, studies show the importance of telling your children where they came from – about their grandparents, your childhood, or struggles their family members have overcome. Children with a sense of how they fit in a larger narrative have greater self-confidence. Research has indicated that knowing where you are from predicts emotional health and happiness.

Feller speaks more about these tenets, and other tips for thriving families, in the talk below. Overall, I think this talk is both a stellar example of using analogous situations. A great way to rethink is to apply methods traditionally used in one domain in another. And – empowering children to take a role in their own upbringing sounds like a great way to improve education to me.




Who Helps You Doubt Well?

Who Helps You Doubt Well? |

WHO HELPS YOU DOUBT WELL?  You are often reminded, and tell others in turn, that as a leader you need to be both self-confident and self-aware. That is much easier said than done. Confidence, the genuine kind, requires a degree of conviction. Self-awareness, on the other hand, is borne out of doubt and uncomfortable questions. Too much of one can destroy the other, that is why we need help to navigate the tricky waters between the Scylla of numb rigidity and the Charybdis of paralyzing doubt. Left alone at the top, most leaders eventually fall prey of one or the other. Who cares enough to keep you open to alternative views and steady in the face of diversions? Who helps you tell an emerging threat or opportunity from yet another distraction?

I found this excellent question over on the Wall Street Journal where associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, Gianpiero Petriglieri, shares the top four questions he’d like to ask CEOs. In a world of constant and accelerating change, doubting well is becoming an increasingly necessary capacity, and not solely for CEOs. I love the idea of intentionally seeking out people who will help you to doubt well and thinking about how you yourself might help others do that.

. . . *

Source: Four Key Questions for CEOs via The Wall Street Journal, published November 25, 2014

Empowering and unifying communities through { art } …*

In a recent TEDglobal 2014 talk, artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn talk about their work painting entire impoverished neighborhoods, from Rio to Philadelphia. They enlist the help of community members, move into the communities, and paint the towns in vibrant beautiful colors, with murals and other interesting pieces. As Koolhas and Urhahn explain, “ in a communal effort, together with the people, you can almost work like in an orchestra, where you can have a hundred instruments playing together to create a symphony.” In the video below, you can see the beautiful symphonies they have created. 

This work reminded me a lot of a suburb I visited once in South Africa. Woodstock is a suburb outside of Cape Town that is transforming into an art haven. Similarly to the stories Koolhaas and Urhahan mention, the murals that are painted in Woodstock have a way of unifying and brightening up a community that is struggling to get on its feet. I went on a tour with one of the men who runs the project, and he explained that many local artists apply to get rights to paint murals in the community. All pictures in this article are ones I took while visiting. Each mural must convey something about South Africa – many speak to the overwhelming love and strength of the community, others make statements about preserving the incredible wildlife native to this country.

As explained more thoroughly in this article, these murals have had a way of rejuvenating the community. From my experience, the contrasts of the murals with the broken down buildings and the surreal backdrop (Cape Town is on the coast, surrounded by mesas and mountains), creates a symphony it and of itself. The experience so closely related to my general experience of South Africa. The article was written in 2011, and from my visit in 2013 I can say that Gordon has definitely attracted more artists to the area.

Oftentimes we let art and culture fall to the wayside while we focus on STEM, but projects like this can remind you of the power and empowering properties of art. Transforming the feeling of a community can do wonders for its children. It can inspire, it can bring joy. It adds a sense of self-identity with the walls and roofs surrounding you. Community projects like this can unify and build connections and help communities to forge ahead and make real progress.

Bringing this back to the classroom, murals and street art can be educational and important even for students in our own schools. I still remember painting murals in the hallways of my elementary school. It was an honor bestowed upon groups of students who presented their ideas to the administration and art teacher. But, more than that, it was a way for us as a community to take ownership over our school. It was a way of making the school building feel a little more like our own. It also was the sort of project that took planning and teamwork, as well as thoughtful consideration of what sorts of murals would be beneficial to our community.

How has street art transformed the world around you? Could it? …* 

Carol Dweck on Helping Kids Move From the Tyranny of Now Into the Power of Yet …*

In this short TEDx talk, psychologist Carol Dweck gives an overview of her research on the power of mindset to facilitate or hinder children’s capacity to connect with and activate their potential. The ways in which children frame and cope with challenges and difficulties have enormous implications on their ability to thrive. Students with a fixed mindset are prisoners to the tyranny of the now, believing that each challenge is a reflection of a fixed level of a given capacity–be it intelligence, creativity or athleticism. Meanwhile, students with a growth mindset luxuriate in the power of yet, understanding that each new challenge is an opportunity to learn something new and to practice and refine skills. Dweck shares some tips and strategies for helping students move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset–praising process rather than intelligence to help students redefine things like effort and difficulty, for example.

watch & rethink …* 

“Design is never finished but constantly adapting to a world in flux” – How Do You Define Design?

"Design is never finished but constantly adapting to a world in flux" - How Do You Define Design?  |

“Design is making. Design is thinking with your hands. Design is arranging the world around us to ensure the functioning and well-being of our communities. Design is the inherent human capability of understanding a challenge and its context followed by the instinctive act of rapid, iterative trial and error until a solution is found. Design is having trust in your intuition to take non-linear creative leaps in order to beat habit. Design is never finished but constantly adapting to a world in flux.” –  Matthias Reichwald

I’m always interested in hearing how people define design and I quite liked the definition above, which I found yesterday while reading an article on Design Indaba. What do you think?

How do you define design? 

Source: What Design Thinking Can Do For Africa via Design Indaba

“Everything changes, every day, which is the glory & curse of things” -Maira Kalman on Navigating Through It All …*

"Everything changes, every day, which is the glory & curse of things" -Maira Kalman on Navigating Through It All ...* |

“Everything changes, every day, which is the glory and curse of things. You can’t rely on anything, but you can rely on navigating through it all—or at least one hopes.” 

I was thrilled to see that this week’s guest on The Great Discontent is rethinked * favorite, Maira Kalman. With her usual keen sense of observation, whimsy and honesty, Kalman shares various insights on her life and work. Here are some highlights from the interview, which I encourage you to read in full.


–  g r o w t h   m i n d s e t   &   g r i t – 

I think I’m incredibly lucky because I had the patience and perseverance and single-mindedness to believe that I belonged in that world. It took a very long time to become an illustrator, and I had all kinds of odd jobs along the way. However, I had the good fortune to meet a man who had the same kind of philosophical outlook that I did: we were both curious and had a sense of humor, and we believed we could do whatever we wanted. For us, New York was an optimistic place. Yes, it can be a very difficult place, but we thought there was nothing we couldn’t do—it would just take time. So we found our way by working hard.

Whenever anyone asks me, “What will happen? How will I do in this world?,” I say I don’t know. You’ll either do it or you won’t do it; you’ll stick with it or you won’t; or something else will happen to inform it. There’s no prediction. You have a feeling and you try to do the best you can.


– t a k i n g   r i s k s   &   d e a l i n g   w i t h   f e a r   t h r o u g h   w o r k – 

Tibor and I grew up together, and I learned a tremendous sense of work ethic and fearlessness from him. I’m not saying I don’t have fears—I have many, many fears. But Tibor was the kind of person who said, “You can have an idea. That’s fine, but why don’t you make the idea happen,” which is a whole other thing to do. His belief in work and in finding yourself through work was an extraordinary learning for me.


– w a l k i n g  – 

I love to walk, and this [New York] is the best walking city in the world. There is more inspiration in a walk around the block than I could ever catalogue. I could write a book about every walk I take. Besides being the cultural center of the world and home to all of the museums I live in, the eccentric energy level of the city is fantastically inspiring. I can walk down the street, clear my head, and come back with most problems solved. For me, the best time is when I’m alone and don’t expect anything, but then an idea comes.


– w h o l e n e s s ,   s e l f – k n o w l e d g e , v i s i o n   &   l o v e – 

It’s a terrible thing to give advice. I’d say that you have to try to be true to yourself and find out who you are by doing the things that give you the most pleasure in life. Try to weave that into your work; don’t separate yourself into different beings. But people starting out who are in their twenties? That’s a rough time. Stick with your vision, if you can, and find people to love you, if you can.


{ global learning } through Mystery Skype in our interconnected world …*

Traveling to a new place and immersing oneself in its culture is an amazing opportunity and experience. However, it can be unrealistic and infeasible for many students to travel like this, especially young learners. Yet with thoughtful use of technology platforms, we can provide students with rich cultural experiences without ever leaving the classroom.

Something I am super excited about is Mystery Skype, an educational initiative to bring classrooms together from all over the world. To take part in this educational game, teachers can register their classrooms and then connect with other classrooms around the world. After arranging a time for the lesson, the classrooms then Skype with one another and the aim of the game is to try and guess the location of the other classroom by asking questions. Mystery Skype has been used for all sorts of subjects, including geography, history, language, math, and science, and students of all ages seem to be entranced by this clever way to bridge cultural divides.

In a recent edSurge article, Brandi Leggett talks about the transformative experiences her students have had with Mystery Skype. Her third grade classroom in Kansas has worked with students in Rio de Janeiro, Utah, Manhattan, Japan, Israel, Kenya, and Pakistan. Through these experiences, they have learned a myriad of lessons, both formal and informal. The students have been amused by accents, amazed by time zones, and shocked by realities such as war drills in Israel or the conditions of classrooms in a slum in Kenya. The game itself teaches them about the geography and culture of the places they Skype, but also requires them to be more aware and knowledgeable about their own communities. Throughout each lesson, they have learned valuable communication skills, both verbal and written.

Global collaboration is not new, but as technology and access to technology progresses, the experiences are becoming more and more immersive and inclusive. Collaborating with classrooms around the world, the learning opportunities become intersectional and endless.

Learn more about Mystery Skype below:

{ You Don’t Need to Travel Far to Unhouse Yourself } Being Open To the Potential All Around Us Is A Choice …*

{ You Don’t Need to Travel Far to Unhouse Yourself } Being Open To the Potential All Around Us Is A Choice ...* |

A few weeks ago, I shared a list of the top five things that walking 500 miles helped me understand in a deeper or different way. Here is a bit more context around the third lesson- be open.

Earlier this week, Jenna remarked that we have both been writing a lot about travel these past few months. Perhaps even with puzzling frequency given that this is a learning innovations blog. Yet few activities compare to travel in terms of speed and efficiency at making the ordinary unknown–a critical condition for deep learning, cultivating empathy, curiosity and a host of other learning and flourishing-enabling capacities that fascinate (obsess) us, here at rethinked …*

When we travel, the scope and definitions of what we know become more malleable; we shed our routines and leave behind our habits. Our assumptions are questioned–whether by will or circumstance, or both.

This enlargement of the mundane through added awareness and presence is one of the most fantastic aspects of travel. But what I realized during my walk is that it is possible, easy even, to capture this sense of mystery and presence inherent to travel in one’s everyday. It is a question of choice, of choosing to be open to the present moment.

When I was walking, I met new people every single day–people of all backgrounds, ages and interests. In fact, some of the most meaningful friendships I made were with people I would likely not have been open to meeting at home in New York. I felt significantly more social on the Camino and more excited by the things around me–I peeked around corners; I entered decrepit buildings; I climbed bell towers; I looked up in churches. I felt so eager to interact with the life all around me and I found that many of the barriers I experience in New York, things like anxiety or tiredness, were absent. I wondered why that was and thought how nice it would be to live one’s life as if perpetually in foreign territory. And that’s when I realized how accessible it is to do just that. When I set out for my walk, as I almost always do when I prepare to travel, I set for myself the intention of being open and attentive to the new people I would meet and the new places I would visit. And then I did exactly that, and it was enough, it worked, I lost myself in the best way in the present moment all throughout my trip.

All one has to do is decide to be open to the potential that surrounds us. It seems obvious and it is. But so often we get caught up in the flow of things and we forget that our daily surroundings are teeming with potential for new discoveries, connections and experiences.

There’s a quote from one of Martin Amis’ brilliant novels, Time’s Arrow, which I love and which I’ve shared here before:

Mmm—people! It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay.

We have these ideas of the world being much more impermeable than it actually is. The places, people and experiences that surround us have infinite potential to surprise and delight us, if we just remember to be open. If we make the choice, daily, of asking for the okay.

Adopt A Growth Mindset To Deal With Procrastination …*

“You get down to work when the fear of having done nothing finally exceeds the fear of doing it wrong.”

Okay, so I get that watching a video about procrastination may seem like, well, procrastination; but I found this lovely short from The School of Life quite insightful. It’s easy to grow frustrated with ourselves or others when things are not getting done, but rather than giving in to the labeling game (I’m/he/she is lazy, useless etc.) which, by the way, is a key characteristic of a (highly unproductive) fixed mindset, this video reminds us that a little (self) compassion and a growth mindset go a long way in helping us to get our work done. Often the reason we put off the work we know we should be doing is because we are afraid that it will be anything less than perfect (which, of course, it will be). So next time you find yourself putting off doing your work, remember this little girl, recognize the fears and anxieties that may be hindering your progress and rather than grow frustrated or discouraged, gently remind yourself that getting better at anything requires effort over time. And get started.

It seems like I’m lazy, that’s what everyone must say, I know. But in truth I do nothing, not because I’m lazy, but because I’m sacred. I’m terrified that if I start, what I do will be horrible. I want things to be so amazing and I know they can’t be so it seems best not even to begin. What helps me the most is when occasionally, it feels like it doesn’t matter, when it feels I can mess up and that would be okay. When the pressure isn’t so great. Like when I was younger and there was less at stake.

{ Going Nowhere } – Pico Iyer on the Importance of Sitting Still… *

Elsa and I have been blogging a lot about travel and all of the things you learn by exploring the world and exploring yourself while out in the world. [See 5 Things I Understood While Walking 500 Miles or Thoughts on Travel – The People and The Lightness] So I found it funny and refreshing to hear this TED talk by Pico Iyer, a travel blogger, about the value in sitting still. He states that in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent then the act of going nowhere. I thought it to add the perfect balance to our discussion.


Iyer agrees with the value and beauty of travel, but he explains that only through sitting still we can sift through the slideshow of experience. This balance of movement and stillness is a loop that leads to learning. He tell the story of how a trip to North Korea of a only few days gave him sights, but only through sitting still for years after could he turn those into insights. He also sees the value of stillness for improving travel- suggesting that “nowhere is magical, unless you can bring the right eyes to it.” Through stillness, we can develop more attentive and appreciative eyes.

For Iyer, going nowhere means taking a few minutes a day, a day a few, or a few months a year (whichever works best for you) to sit still to find out what moves you, to recall where your happiness lies. It also entails taking retreats from life, turning off our technology, and getting to places of real quiet.

He urges his audience to make more conscious efforts to sit still. I blogged a month or so ago about mindfulness meditation, which is one great technique for approaching some stillness. But rather than focusing on the “now” of experience, Iyer believes in the importance of stillness for reflection on the past and for cultivating a future.

I wholeheartedly agree with this message. I worry that in this world of technology and interconnectedness, I spend my free moments checking email or playing Candy Crush rather than reflecting and being still. Especially in New York City, it is so easy to get swept up in the constant motion and movement – to feel that busyness is a sign of success. Yet our bodies and minds really crave those moments of doing nothing, and in fact need those moments to process, reflect, and to learn.

You can view this inspirational talk below. Let me know what you think!


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