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Month December 2014

{ Start Walking } Rethinking Uncertainty …*

{ Start Walking } Rethinking Uncertainty ...* |

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 second lesson- start walking.

My biggest personal goal in walking the Camino Frances was to practice growing comfortable with uncertainty. My decision to walk the Camino had been very last minute and, frankly, when I set out I had no idea what I was doing (seriously– did you read my post about how it wasn’t until about 10 pm the night before I was setting out that I realized my sleeping bag wouldn’t fit in my pack?!), where I was going or how I would get there.


Luckily for me, I got plenty of opportunities to practice being/thinking/doing uncertain. Each day was an unknown, which, of course, they always are, but the stakes felt a tiny bit higher when out on the road. Most days I didn’t know where I would end up or if I would find a place to sleep. I would just start walking and go from one yellow arrow to the next. I had bought a greatly detailed (if insufferably sentimental) guidebook and hoped it would get me to where I was going. It turns out however, that I didn’t even need the guidebook as there are yellow arrows pointing the way to Santiago all along the road. All I needed was to find the first arrow and go from there.

Picasso famously remarked, “To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” Drawing, walking, living–all require that one starts somewhere. Often, when we start, we don’t know what we will make, where we will go or whom we will become. We don’t know because we can’t know, because the acts of drawing, walking and living are transformative– we grow and change as we act. And while we may not know whom we will be at the end of our journey, we can be sure that we can make it the whole way one line/arrow/decision at a time.


The second thing that I understood from my daily experiments in the uncertain, is that uncertainty is not an either-or proposition, it is a spectrum of options. This seems like an obvious statement, and perhaps it is to you, but whilst walking, I realized that I was unconsciously framing the idea of uncertainty as a highly reductive binary of what I could know, predict and affect versus utter catastrophe. It was a tremendously valuable insight as I realized that I hadn’t even been aware of how I was appraising the concept of uncertainty until I felt my unease and sense of impending doom relax and fade each time an unexpected outcome proved less than catastrophic (which they always did.)

Throughout my journey, I sometimes arrived in tiny towns where every last bed was occupied, but something always worked out–I slept on dusty mattresses on gym floors and wrestling mats in locker rooms. While neither of these options come close to my idea of an ideal place to sleep, I must say that those nights spent on gym floors were some of the best sleeps I had the entire journey and some of my fondest memories of laughs and bonding with fellow pilgrims. Not only was the uncertain and unexpected not catastrophic, it often proved delightful, better even than what I could have been certain of.

start, take a chance & rethink …*

Rethinking Our Assumptions About the Role of Self-Interest In Human Evolution — Our Brains Are Wired For Compassion …*

Enjoy this lovely short video featuring professor of psychology and founding faculty director of the Greater Good Science CenterDacher Keltner, who prompts us to rethink our assumptions about human evolution and to redefine human self-interest. Far from being predisposed to selfishness, greed and competition our nervous systems are (and have been for a long time) set up for compassion, generosity and empathy.

rethink & be kind …*

Hat Tip: Your Brain Is Built For Kindness via The Science of Us

{ Generosity Is A Habit, Not An Achievement } Reflecting on Service to Others this Giving Tuesday …*

{ Generosity Is A Habit, Not An Achievement } Reflecting on Service to Others this Giving Tuesday ...* |


Today is “Giving Tuesday,” which is an attempt to create a new tradition of generosity through a global day of giving back after the consumption frenzy of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. 

What I find most promising about Giving Tuesday is the opportunity it creates for us to reflect on generosity in our lives and which will, hopefully, prompt us to translate this awareness into ongoing action.


Several months ago while piloting a tool that we are creating to help knowmads be more reflective about their experiences and learning, I was asked to give concrete examples of actions demonstrating my service to others. I’m ashamed to admit that I could not think of a single action to write down. This moment has stayed with me because it clashed rather brutally with this idea I have of myself as a fairly generous person.


The thing is, I have volunteered–in orphanages, women’s shelters, soup kitchens and language learning centers; I donate money to the various causes my friends are engaged in. This should all add up to something; I mean it all makes me generous–right? Well, no, not really. When I tried to identify examples of concrete ACTIONS that demonstrated my service to others, I realized the last time I had actually given anything in a way that I might qualify as “service to others” –as in given of my time in a consistent and meaningful manner over a significant length of time–was seven years ago, when in 2007, I volunteered twice a week at a women’s shelter. But generosity is a habit, not an achievement. I can’t trade on the service I performed nearly a decade ago to label myself as generous. It’s a bit like those awkward encounters you sometimes have with people you meet at parties who describe themselves as writers or artists but who never write or paint anything. Being generous, like being a writer or an artist, is about doing the work, putting in the hours, week after week, months after months, year after year. If you’re not giving, you’re not generous.


So today, in honor of Giving Tuesday, I’ve donated to an inspiring grassroots project which I recently read about and that, at the time, I told myself I would like to donate to “someday” —Survivors Ink. The project helps survivors of human trafficking who have been branded by their traffickers to reclaim their lives and bodies by providing funds to cover up the markings on their body. I hope you will check it out, spread the word, and maybe consider donating yourself.

I am also pledging three days of my work time to service (thank you, rethinked …*) as well as two full weekends. If you know of a good non-profit or grassroots project that could benefit from my help, please email me at

Beyond a one time financial donation and pledging a week of my time, I want to make generosity and service to others a regular habit in my life. regulars, you know what’s coming … a design thinking challenge–How might I make service to others a regular habit in my every day? Get in touch [ again, ] if you would like to collaborate on this challenge.

reflect, rethink & give …* 

Education for [ whole humans ] : How to talk about Ferguson. How to teach about race.

In the wake of the controversial events of the past week and in light of my recent post on social emotional learning, I think it is important to discuss how we educate children about race, inequality, prejudice, and justice.

A demonstrator sits in front of a debris fire in Ferguson. Stephen Lam / Reuters

A demonstrator sits in front of a debris fire in Ferguson. Stephen Lam / Reuters


Professor Christopher Emdin, from Teachers College, wrote an article back in August on how to teach about Michael Brown and Ferguson. Christopher Emdin specializes in “urban education”, and I have blogged some of Dr. Emdin’s wisdom before. In this article, he suggests beginning with what students know and to then help them to unearth the facts and fiction in media coverage as well as explore why there are different angles to how the story is covered. Next, he suggests having students make connections between this and other similar cases – such as Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. Then, he calls for activism, which I believe is an important step in empowering students in the face of a situation that can create feelings of helplessness. Students can write letters to politicians, to the families of the victims, to police officers.

In a broader context, I also urge teachers and parents to begin talking about prejudice and race earlier. To ignore the fact that race matters in our country won’t solve the multitude of problems that exist today. These conversations are relevant for students from all backgrounds, and I’d argue they are particularly important for students from predominantly White neighborhoods.

One great way of educating about issues of race is to use literature. I’m not much of a non-fiction reader, so I am a huge advocate of learning through good fiction. My thanksgiving break read – Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- is an eye-opening story about a Nigerian woman’s experiences in America and explains how race, culture, and identity play huge roles in one person’s life. By taking the protagonist’s perspective, one is able to better understand how identity works in American society.


Ultimately, I am a firm believer in the idea that students should feel safe to investigate how prejudice and racism in our culture have affected their own behaviors and thoughts in order to begin to change these behaviors and thoughts. Much of modern racism is not blatant – it is subtle – and it is sometimes unintentional or unconscious. But unless people are open to understanding how prejudice works, we cannot end the cycle. Having grown up in a very White community until I was 18 years old, I spent much of college dealing with my own internal and unconscious prejudices and stereotypes and trying to understand how they emerged and how to combat them.

How do you educate your students about issues of culture, identity, and diversity? Have you talked about Michael Brown in your classroom?

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