Tag Archives: Learning

What If We Got to Reinvent School?

Might there be a better way?

Might there be a better way?

If a gunman enters my son’s school intent on murdering children and teachers, at least I’ll know the kids and teachers had some practice beforehand.

My son is 7. I’m pretty sure he, nor his classmates, knew why they were practicing a lockdown drill last week. I’m sure the boys were giggling and goofing off like they always do.

You remember school drills. But if you’re anywhere close to my age, you don’t remember lockdown drills. Those are the ones where you don’t practice leaving the school in case of fire, or practice tucking against a wall with a heavy textbook over your neck in case of tornados or other natural disasters.

A lockdown drill is the one where you simulate hiding from mass murderers.

Parents got an email from the principal letting us know it happened.

I don’t even have a point. It just felt mention-worthy before I get into how stupid the American education system is.

What if I was Given Unlimited Power to Reinvent Education?

I’m so glad you asked!

I think I could dramatically improve the lives of all students, parents of students, and teachers overnight. And I’m not very smart. And I’ve only been thinking about this for about 10 minutes.

THAT’s how shitty our education system is.

Where Would I Start?

How about acknowledging that all students are not created equal?

How many stories do we need to hear about school dropouts going on to do amazing things before we recognize that school success (currently) DOES NOT EQUAL life success? (Examples include: Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Richard Branson, Charles Dickens, and many more.)

None of those people would have dropped out of my school.

Because the very first thing we’re going to do at my kick-ass school is figure out TWO super-important things about each and every student: Personality Type (there are 16 if you’re using the Carl Jung and I. Briggs Myers profiles). And Learning Style (there are three: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.)

And we are going to design curriculum and classrooms tailored to those three learning styles, and we’re going to use any relevant components of personality to mix and match children and teachers in an effort to optimize the school experience.

I’m just spit-balling here, but maybe we wouldn’t have as many angry and socially isolated kids if we stopped making the awkward and non-athletic kids play dodgeball or kickball, or if we stopped making dyslexic kids real aloud in front of the class, or if we stopped making shy kids sing and dance in front of an audience.

Maybe if every classroom was designed to maximize the specific talents of certain types of students, every child would:

  • Learn more things and actually retain the information
  • Develop a life-long LOVE of learning
  • FEEL better every day—enjoying subjects they’re passionate about learning in ways that actually make sense to them
  • Develop healthy friendships no matter what their personality type because they are spending every day with other kids who either love what they love, or have similar or complementary personality types
  • Emerge from high school with more specialized and focused knowledge about certain subjects than today’s bachelor’s degree graduates
  • Be equipped psychologically to succeed in interpersonal relationships

Maybe there would be less violence. Less crime. Less underage alcohol consumption and drug use. Less sexual misconduct.

I know there would be a bunch of healthier, smarter kids, and that they’d be in position to tackle adulthood with focus and confidence.

Because the two most important aspects of life success are the ability to: Learn How to Learn and Maintain Healthy Relationships.

I didn’t learn either because of school.

Hell. I didn’t learn them at all.

Let’s Teach People How to Treat Others and Succeed in Relationships

Right now, we preach platitudes.

“Treat others as you wish to be treated!”

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”

“If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too?”

“Be a leader, not a follower!”

“You can do anything you put your mind to!”

Kids don’t really hear it because the words ring hollow when they’re snickering at that kid who just spilled something down his shirt in the cafeteria, or when they’re actually the kid being laughed at.

Those are throwaway comments parents and educators make without spending much time effectively explaining what any of that really means.

All kids know (at least the non-valedictorian-track ones) is that some asshole is droning on and on and on and on about The Grapes of Wrath or Obtuse triangles or Cirrus cloud formations or Musical scales or The War of 1812 or the Anatomy of bullfrogs or Past participles, and in most cases NO ONE GIVES A SHIT.

And you can’t make them. You can’t. It’s not their fault.

They’re thinking about making the basketball team or cheerleading squad or about that cute boy/girl they like in study hall or ANYTHING that actually matters to them.

I have spent my entire professional life punching a keyboard and stringing words together to tell stories or market products. And I didn’t take my first typing class until I was 16, and I didn’t take a writing class until I was 20, and I’ve never had a marketing class in 36 years even though that’s how I make money.

That means, I’m all for general knowledge, and would never suggest not having some general knowledge-based courses in my rad school (where they would be taught differently depending on a particular group of students). But can we all agree that learning about The War of 1812 and obtuse triangles (both of which I’d have to Google for a refresher) failed to help me with things I think are infinitely more important like: How to Succeed at Interpersonal Aspects of Marriage, How to Know you Have ADHD so You Don’t Ruin Relationships, How to Build a Professional Network and Why it Matters, Why Honest Conversations About Sex Are Important, How to Make Her (or Him, if that’s your thing) Ache for You, The Mathematical Implications of Debt Elimination, The Mathematical Implications of Buying vs. Renting Real Estate, The Short- and Long-Term Value of Exercise, How You Might Get Smarter and Make More Money Not Going to College.

You get the idea.

Things that actually help you.

We didn’t have search engines when I was in elementary school. So it’s not fair for me to be as critical of the 1988-version of American education as I will be on today’s.

We don’t teach kids what they really need to know to have mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally healthy lives. Some get lucky. Most don’t.

But it sure seems like we’re wasting a lot of time and resources teaching kids things they could learn by reading one article and watching one YouTube video in a matter of seconds. Isn’t knowing how to find information every bit as valuable as memorizing something?

If you can remember the atomic number for carbon, and it takes me 10 seconds to find the answer on my phone, does that knowledge have ANY value outside of a post-apocalyptic world where my phone doesn’t work and we’re arguing about the Periodic Table?

I submit (for anyone not working in a lab who would ALREADY know it because they actually care and use the information routinely) it does not.

Let’s Teach People How to Learn

In 2015, we have virtually unlimited information at our fingertips.

It’s hard for me to understand why we’re asking kids to memorize textbooks, take timed math tests, and regurgitate answers to questions that will have ZERO bearing on any aspect of their lives weeks from now, let alone in adulthood when life tends to start throwing punches.

Tim Ferriss calls it “meta learning.”

One of the coolest lessons: The Pareto principle—otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. It’s the theory that 80 percent of virtually any situation is determined by just 20 percent of the input. (Examples: 20% of workers produce 80% of results, or 20% of customers create 80% of sales.)

It’s not a law. It’s a guide.

Take learning a new language as another example. In English, just 300 words make up 65% of all written material.

That means, if you learn those 300 words, you can communicate (effectively, if imperfectly) with English speakers.

The same is true for all foreign languages. Learn the magic 300 words (and there are tips and tricks and tools for doing that too), and now you can passably write and speak new languages at a relatively high level.

It’s a good example of learning HOW to learn. Something we didn’t learn in school, and something we’re not teaching today’s students.

There are effective ways to learn HOW to do everything. And I think if we paired thoughtful curriculum with optimized lessons (visually for visual learners, audibly for auditory learners, and through physical interaction for kinesthetic learners), we just might be onto something.

In fact, I’m pretty sure at my school, it’s the summer and winter breaks kids would dread most.

Now, where’d I put that magic wand?

A special thanks to today’s Daily Prompt for inspiring this post.

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How to Scare Bruce Lee and Get Awesome at Stuff

Bruce is smiling because he knows a fun little trick.

Bruce is smiling because he knows a fun little trick.

I remember looking at the non-alphabetized letters on the keyboard and being amazed that people knew how to type fast.

I was a little kid, and an older kid named Justin was watching me and some friends at one of their homes while our parents went out. The family had a computer even though not everyone had personal computers back then.

Justin said he knew all the keys. We didn’t believe him.

We blindfolded him at the desk chair and then yelled out random letters, totally mesmerized as he always found the correct key.

Amazing! How’s he doing that!?

When I was little, I was afraid of the deep ends of swimming pools because when I was 3 some little shit pushed me into a public pool and I sank to the bottom until the lifeguard and my mother pulled me out, but not before I was thoroughly terrified. I was probably 9 before I was confident and comfortable jumping into the deep end of a pool. And now? I’m no Michael Phelps, but I’m a competent, capable swimmer and enjoy it very much. Even in deep water like the Gulf of Mexico where I foolishly often swam alone upon first moving near a Florida beach after college.

I remember not being able to ride a bike.

I remember not being able to tie shoes.

I remember reading or hearing words I didn’t understand.

When I was 7 in 1986, I wrote a letter to Santa, and it looked like this:

IMG_0577

That’s how shitty I was at writing (and drawing reindeer). I found it in my baby book, along with this turd from the following Christmas:

“Dear. Saint Nick,

Please tell the Reindeer I said hi please give me some Ghostbusters and some Ghost

Please give me the Ecto 1 and Headquarters

Turn Over!”

*turns paper over*

“Hope you like the cupcake! Please Write Back!”

And then I drew Santa a crappy picture of himself with a black ink pen. He had just one boot on and a bunch of stars surround his face. It’s a terrible drawing and makes no sense. It’s because I was little.

I’m marginally better at picture-drawing now.

Today, I’m the fastest typist I know. I’m a fine swimmer, I don’t fall down on bikes, I tie my shoes with the best of them, and my vocabulary is well above average.

Some of these things I practiced because they were taught in school or because all my friends were doing them.

In no instance did I set out to achieve mastery.

It just happened.

Because that’s always the net result of doing something over and over again. (Except golf. That would appear to be a notable exception to this rule.)

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee, the most famous and one of the most accomplished marital artists in history, said: “I don’t fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks. I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Lee was smart. He knew that anyone who does something 10,000 times becomes skilled at that thing.

Something about it resonated with me.

Probably because I’m the kind of person who likes to do lots of different things. I have many interests and am pretty good at a bunch of stuff but not particularly great at any one thing.

It would be fun or rewarding to be GREAT at something.

If you were in a hurry, you could practice something (like a specific kick in Kung Fu) 500 times daily and hit that 10,000 number in just 20 days.

That’s just three weeks. That’s all. THREE WEEKS! To make Bruce Lee a tiny bit afraid of you.

Some of you are probably rolling your eyes. “THAT’S your point? Practice shit? Totally heard that one before, Matt. Thanks.”

I get it! I just think it’s really powerful to realize how great we are at all these random things (even if they’re super-simple like driving, or brushing teeth, or mowing grass, or making food, or whatever) simply by doing them many times. And I think it’s motivating to realize we could get REALLY good at something in three short weeks if we committed to becoming so.

I think sometimes we feel afraid. I’m almost always intimidated by learning how to do something new. It’s magnified when it’s in a strange environment while being watched by people I don’t know.

I’m STILL afraid (pretty much 100-percent of the time no matter how confident I feel five seconds beforehand) to introduce myself to a girl I don’t know at a party or bar or store or whatever.

Everyone has different fears. Usually irrational. But they’re real. And they hold us back from being as happy or successful or fun as we could be.

A lack of confidence is always the reason. When we don’t know how something is going to turn out, it scares us.

I was intimidated by this keyboard I’m using 20 years ago when I had no idea how I’d ever type accurately without looking at the keys. Now, I’m a typing badass.

I look down at my shoes. I used to slowly fumble around with the laces. Sometimes, I’d have to try a second or third time to get it right. But then I figured it out. And I’ve now tied shoes nearly every day for about 30 years. I’m a shoe-tying sensei. I’m amazing at it.

I can swim and ride bikes and I know so many words now because I read and write and talk so much.

Do something 10,000 times, and you’re not just playing. You’re winning.

What could we master with a few weeks or few months of repetitive practice?

I think if we can make Bruce Lee a tiny bit afraid of us, we can do pretty much anything.

I like typing fast.

And well-tied shoes.

(Thanks to my favorite writer James Altucher for inspiring this post.)

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11 Books That Will Make You Smarter, Sexier and Awesomer

stack of books art

I read a lot.

I do it for three reasons:

  1. I believe it’s the most-efficient way to get smarter. I’m kind of obsessed with learning about everything. When I was a kid, any learning that wasn’t hands-on was a total drag and I just wanted to play. I’m older now and my priorities and interests have shifted. I want to be a genius capable of solving any problem, but I’ll have to settle for Moderately Smart Guy Who Reads A Lot (and uses Google).
  2. I’m also kind of obsessed with new ideas and discovering new ways to do or think about things. That, combined with the desire to write things, makes it wise for me to read often.
  3. I want to be sexier and awesomer. (I have little evidence this part is working, but I think it probably is.)

Not everyone likes reading or wants to do it as much as I do. But maybe you’d like to try something new. For everyone who loves books like me, here are some exceptional ones I’ve read in recent months that I hope you enjoy too.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

So many people are miserable because they hate their jobs and/or lives. Sometimes it seems like certain people have given up. They throw up their hands: “This is all there is!” Some people perform mundane jobs and live what I might consider mundane lives. I’m probably one of them. Sometimes people in lives like that feel satisfied and content. I applaud those people. But there are others who always feel like something’s missing. I often feel that way. The call.

Jeff Goins explores this phenomenon and the personal journey in this fantastic book about how people find their “calling.” What you were meant to do.

I love it and you probably will too because I have excellent taste.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Damn near everyone wishes they were better at something. For example, I’m shitty about cleaning my house (which is why I bought and will read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing once I stop putting it off), and effectively managing my refrigerator, and finishing my large-scale writing projects. I was officially diagnosed with adult ADHD yesterday (which I already knew and told you about), and which is an inexact science, but I still believe in personal responsibility and Duhigg’s book helps me understand why we are prone to do or not do so many of the things we do. Good stuff.

Double Feature

Steal Like an Artist 

steal like an artist

and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

show your work

Both books are really quick, interesting reads that I have trouble differentiating from one another because I read them back-to-back within the same week. As someone interested in the creative process for writing blog posts, and more-ambitious things like books, the lessons Kleon imparts here are important to me. If you want to MAKE anything, read these books and thank me later. (Just kidding. No need to thank me. But seriously, read them.)

Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson

models

I’m a little embarrassed about this one because one might get the impression I was trying to learn “pick-up” artistry (which I was not, and which this book is not about, though Manson addresses it). The author’s mission is to help men become the best versions of themselves and develop what he calls “true confidence.” Not false bravado, but legitimate comfort with oneself to establish healthy boundaries while navigating the sometimes-scary dating landscape. This book taught me a lot of things about myself, and I imagine almost any man would benefit from the important truths and psychological lessons. Frankly, I think most women would like it too. Manson has quickly become (even though he’s a bit younger than me) one of my favorite writers. You should sign up for his highly infrequent blog posts here.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

choose yourself

This guy is my favorite writer. He has written two new books since this one (The Power of No, which I haven’t read but do own on Kindle; and The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, which I have yet to read because A. I don’t have that much money, and B. My book stack is beyond obnoxious and I just haven’t got to it yet.) Altucher is a genius and I love him. I read every blog post he writes, I listen to his podcasts on road trips, I subscribe to his monthly newsletters, and suspect I will buy every book he writes for as long as he chooses to write. No one has affected my thinking more than Altucher, and my life is better for doing so. Choose Yourself is exactly what it sounds like: A guide to rethinking EVERYTHING and making your own rules in a world that often wants you to play by someone else’s.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

on writing well

I’m in the middle of this one now. It has already taught me so much about the art form I love most. Zinsser provides a ton of important lessons about what separates good writing from bad. (I do a lot of bad.) And the real value lies in the editing and rewriting portion of the work (which I NEVER do on this blog, sorry.) Many of you are writers, too. If you have never read this masterpiece, please remedy that soon. It’s accessible and amazing for writers of all levels and it WILL make you better. Even if you can’t tell from my work.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by bird

Another book on writing, but less on science and more on art. I can’t describe this book, because its qualities are intangible. But I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you: It’s magic.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

ferriss four hour workweek

This one is a dirty lie because I haven’t read it yet, and I’m sorry to deceive you, but not really. It has 3,700 reviews on Amazon with a 4 ½-star rating, so I feel good about including it. Ferriss’ bestseller is in my monster stack and I will get to it and almost certainly write about it when I do. The reason I wanted to include it is because Ferriss is extraordinary and you should know who he is. I’ve read and listened to Ferriss many times in interviews and podcasts and articles. He’s exceptional and magnetic.

There’s never enough exceptionalism and magnetism in life. Tim Ferriss, yo. He’s legit.

The True Measure of a Man by Richard E. Simmons and Jerry Leachman

true measure of a man

Men have an identity crisis in 2015 because what it means to be a man in today’s society is radically different from what it meant for previous generations. Some men feel lost, like rudderless ships. I feel that way sometimes. People want to know why. We all just want to know WHY!?!?!? for everything. If you’re a guy and nodding your head right now? Please read this. It will help you make more sense of things. (You should read it even if you didn’t nod your head.)

Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas are the Currency of the 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher

idea machine

Claudia is James’ wife. So she gets bonus points from me simply by James-related osmosis. But I don’t want to minimize what she’s done here. Claudia took a staple of James Altucher’s self-improvement advice and made a nice, useful book out of it.

Bottom line: There is no skill I would rather possess than the ability to come up with great, creative ideas on-demand. Something shitty happens? BAM. I know what to do.  I want to complete a new goal? BAM. Here’s the methodology for tackling any problem with high-level thinking and execution.

That’s what this book will teach you how to do if you’re willing to grind and sweat a little (don’t get excited—I don’t mean that sexually.) Everyone can and will benefit from this book.

I always believe tomorrow can be better than today.

So, I read. Because I want to be a part of the solution.

We have Father’s Day coming up. And also, just, life.

Maybe you or someone in your life can benefit from one of these.

I hope so.

Please have a great weekend, everyone. Love you guys.

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Your Kids Are Going to Get Divorced Unless We Fix This

(Image courtesy of Bridal Banter.)

(Image courtesy of Bridal Banter.)

I’ve written and published more than 400 posts here.

Many of them are about divorce and marriage because divorce was the hardest thing I ever did. I don’t mean “hardest thing” like: Oh man! Running a marathon was really hard! Or. Oh man! Installing that patio was really hard!

I mean: I can’t breathe. I cry and puke and panic all the time. I think I might die. And that doesn’t even scare me anymore because this is so horrible that dying might be better.

Maybe not everyone freaks out like me when they get divorced and they don’t see their kids all the time.

But I know some do. And maybe more importantly? I know some WILL. Because until people figure out how to be better at marriage, the divorce rate is going to continue to wreak havoc on families and society.

Kids are going to get angry and develop emotional and psychological issues.

Money is going to be tighter.

Families and old friendships will fracture. New ones will be formed and then those will fracture, too, because not enough people are learning lessons.

Fewer people smoke than they did in the 1970s because now we know there’s an infinitely greater chance of you getting cancer and dying if you do.

More people exercise and eat healthy than they did in the 1970s because now we know all of these great benefits of healthy living versus unhealthy living.

More people wear seat belts. Fewer people drink and drive.

We do a better job as a society with public safety measures of all stripes.

It’s because we DO get better at things. It’s because we CAN change things.

Why Aren’t People Doing Anything About Divorce?

I feel like so many of us just shrug our shoulders and think: Ehh! Nothing we can do about it! It’s just the way it is!

Because we don’t want to “legislate morality?” Because we don’t want to “tell people what to do?” Because we can’t “force people to be nice to one another?”

Sure. We can’t make ignorant people not hate. But we CAN—slowly but surely—cure ignorance.

We have done it over and over again as a society. With smoking. And STDs. And social issues related to race and sexual orientation and environmental conservation.

We CAN teach kids about common causes of divorce—things we grow up NOT EVEN KNOWING will destroy a marriage.

We CAN teach kids about the extensive research done on gender studies, and how smart cross-gender communication can improve our romantic, social and professional relationships across the board.

We CAN teach kids about the ramifications of divorce, financially and socially and in all of the ways it can damage our lives.

We teach kids all these things they never use when they grow up.

But pretty much EVERYONE is going to end up in a relationship, sooner or later. We can quibble over marriage rates, and gay couples, and those people who are going to co-habitat but never marry. Whatever. Those people STILL need to understand how to co-exist in those intimate relationships, and I would argue these things are infinitely more important to a person’s quality of life than ANYTHING we teach in school.

We may not be able to save already-horrible marriages, but we can damn sure start arming young people with the knowledge they’re ALL already interested in anyway: How to get and keep significant others and get along with friends.

We can save FUTURE marriages. We can.

I want to start sharing some older posts that I really believe in.

Some of these 400 posts have been read tens of thousands of times. Others? Just a few hundred. And I think some of these ideas are too valuable to live in the shadows.

So I’ve decided I want to start re-sharing some of them.

I’m going to start here:

Why should we all care about divorce as much as I do?

BECAUSE IT AFFECTS 95% OF US.

Other than our mutual interest in Earth continuing to spin around the sun without any major catastrophes, can you think of anything that affects so many people?

Exactly.

Maybe you’ll care like me. I sure hope so.

Please read:

The 95 Percent

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A License to Live

“Les, that license in your wallet, that’s not an ordinary piece of paper.”

Within the first week of getting my driver’s license in 1995, I let a woman with two children in her backseat who had just crashed into my rear driver’s-side quarter panel drive off without calling the police or making an insurance claim, and I ran the front-right corner of my car into the back-left corner of a high school classmate’s car while backing out of my parking space at school.

No one had ever told me what to do in a car accident. It was probably only my third or fourth time driving alone. I was just worried about the kids. They were fine. I figured I’d drive home and my parents would make an insurance claim.

Doesn’t work that way, it turned out.

Oops.

My classmate Jill was in her car next to me when I backed my car out and spun the wheel too fast without clearing the front while leaving school my sophomore year.

I scratched her paint pretty significantly. She was really cool about it. I was really embarrassed.

“Les, that license in your wallet, that’s not an ordinary piece of paper. That is a driver’s license. And it’s not only a driver’s license. It’s an automobile license. And it’s not only an automobile license. It’s a license to live, a license to be free, a license to go wherever, whenever and with whomever you choose.” — Dean, License to Drive

Freedom. That’s what turning 16 and getting my driver’s license represented. Next to moving out of my parents’ house and into my college dorm room, nothing in life has ever rivaled the taste of freedom one feels behind the wheel.

I made the mistake with the mom who crashed into me because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I made the steering mistake while backing the car out of the parking space at school because that was literally the first time I’d ever backed out of a parking spot with cars on either side of me.

I hope it goes without saying that neither situation has come even close to happening again. I’m generally pretty good at not making the same mistake twice.

20 Years Later

At 4:37 a.m. Central Time tomorrow, I turn 36.

There are so many parallels between that time in my life and where I now find myself. Rapid change is occurring. I find myself in uncharted life territory with so many new experiences to have and life lessons to learn.

Freedom.

Not freedom I wanted or asked for. But freedom, all the same.

What are you going to do with it, middle-aged guy?

That’s the question we all have to answer about the precious time we have. I mean, maybe I’ll live to be 80. I hope so. But I might not. A heart beat seems like a fickle thing. Many people younger than me have had them stop without warning.

What are you going to do with the time?

One of my favorite writers Austin Kleon always reads a few New York Times obituaries every morning. About the lives of people who don’t have a today or tomorrow to plan for.

He doesn’t do it to be morbid. He does it to every.single.day remember to live. We all have an hourglass constantly getting emptier with no knowledge of how much sand remains in the upper half.

Today better count.

Learn more. Do more. Be more.

Not later. Now.

The divorce changed everything. It’s because divorce changes everything. A little good. A lot bad.

All the sand in the bottom of the hourglass is just going to sit there now. Days that already happened. Will never matter again. Can’t matter anymore because the sand never flows upward, even if we shake it up a lot.

After divorce or some other traumatic life event, you’re just trying to tread water. Just trying to stay alive.

But it’s nearly two years later now. Life can no longer be about treading water. Now, it’s got to be about choosing a direction and going that way. About lifting the sail and steering as best I can.

I’m a little like that 16-year-old again. Capable, but unsure. Bound for mistakes and missteps. But climbing toward good things. Always climbing.

Because this birthday isn’t an ordinary birthday.

It’s my 36th birthday.

And it’s not just my 36th birthday.

It’s the 20-year anniversary of freedom.

And it’s not just the 20-year anniversary of freedom.

It’s a license to live. A license to be free.

A license to go wherever, whenever and with whomever I choose.

Let’s go.

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Doing What We Don’t Want To

kid doesn't want to

I sometimes want to punt my six-year-old when he says: “No. I’m not doing that.”

I’m a curious person. Always have been. If you’re asking me to do something, and I don’t want to do it, I want to know why I’m being forced to.

Why? Why am I doing this?

I really want reasons. Even if I think they’re bad ones, I like to understand why I’m being asked or told to do something.

Sometimes my parents or other authority figures would say: “Because I said so,” which is the biggest bullshit reason to do anything ever, said every enslaved human being in the history of the universe, and me.

I always try to give my son a reason for everything I ask of him. I’m accidentally a hypocrite sometimes, but I’m never intentionally one.

The house isn’t democratic. He gets his way the vast majority of the time because I don’t like to fight with him, but sometimes I need him to simply follow directions. He needs to learn to respect and obey the instructions of his parents, teachers, coaches, etc.

Why doesn’t he understand that all of these instructions are for his well being!?!?

I wonder how many times he has to drop food on his shirt or lap before my incessant reminders to eat over his plate or bowl will finally sink in.

He probably thinks I’m full of shit just like I thought my parents were full of shit because we all think we’re geniuses until we become adults and realize that we actually don’t know anything, never did, and that even really smart and successful people are part-time dumbasses too.

‘I Don’t Want to Go to School’

My son hasn’t said this yet. But he probably will.

Because school is sometimes stupid.

It is.

Not this early part my son is in. First grade is great. He’s really starting to figure out many things related to reading, writing and math, and I beam with pride every time I see his very capable little mind grasp a new concept or retain knowledge from a previous lesson.

But later? High school? College?

Let’s just say if you’re not doing something super-specific that requires specialty training and certification (Education, Law, Medical, Engineering, etc.) I feel like you learn very little of lasting value in school, academically.

I’m not saying EDUCATION is stupid. Education is amazing, and one of my many life regrets is not caring about learning when I was surrounded by academic resources and so many thought leaders, like I was in college.

For a guy like me? School is something you have to do in order to get a decent job. That’s it.

In fact, that’s REALLY the lesson of school: Learning how to complete projects you don’t want to complete and are not interested in by a certain deadline and to the judgement of others.

I didn’t crave knowledge when I was a student. I went to school because that’s what everyone else did! I wasn’t doing any thinking for myself back then.

Later, I craved a piece of paper that would tell hiring managers I graduated college, so they would think I was smart even though my diploma doesn’t prove my competence.

It’s more than possible I’m not giving my school years enough credit, but it really does seem as if everything valuable I’ve learned has been learned in the “real world” on subjects in which I am naturally interested.

Street smarts, if you will.

When I got divorced last year, my entire life fell apart, and I learned that falling apart emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, physically, financially is something that’s really important for human beings to not do.

But I never learned anything like that in school. I didn’t legitimately crave knowledge until after turning 30.

Because I read a lot about marketing principles, I know that if you give people reasons (even totally bogus ones!) for doing something, they are much more likely to comply with your request.

So when my son finally gets around to fighting us on going to school (hopefully he never does!) I want to be able to give him the reason why we make him go. The reason why it’s important for him to go.

What are the reasons why it’s important to go to school?

To learn how to get along with others? To follow directions? To learn a few basic things?

I’m sure a better advocate for the American education system could better answer that question. Near as I can tell, we send our children to school because we need them to be in a safe environment, and learning socialization skills and government-approved curriculum so us parents can go to work and help finance the government by earning money at a job and paying taxes.

I think they want our kids to learn enough to grow up and want to get a job so that they can help finance the government also, and have children that will also go to school and learn how to get a job they can pay taxes with.

It’s a little cynical. But it’s my most-honest answer.

I wonder how much of that I will ever say to my son. I’ll probably lie and say it’s to learn even though you really don’t learn much academically until you organically want to, and even though I never want to lie.

‘I Don’t Want to Go to Work’

I haven’t wanted to go to work dozens, maybe even hundreds of times.

But I almost always do go, even when I don’t feel like it. I have to pay for food and shelter. I have to pay for transportation. So my son and I can eat and sleep safely. So I can drive to and from my job that I need to pay for those three things.

People do things they don’t want to all the time.

We do it for our jobs.

We do it for our friends.

We do it for our children.

We do it for our spouses, partners, girlfriends/boyfriends, etc.

There’s nobility in sacrifice. In generosity. In inconvenience in the name of compromise, or serving others.

And those are important lessons I want to instill in my son. That I want to focus on when I’m muttering because I have to do something else I don’t feel like doing.

My favorite writer is James Altucher, and he writes so much about how he tries to never do things he doesn’t want to do.

It sucks? He doesn’t do it.

It makes him feel bad or uncomfortable? He doesn’t do it.

If people bring bad feelings or negativity into his life? He cuts them out.

It’s a little bit radical. But his point is easy enough to understand and get behind: Life is too short to spend most of it doing things we hate with people who make us feel bad.

Are these ideas irreconcilable?

Is it possible to live a life mostly doing things we want to with people who lift us up and make us feel good?

Or is this it?

Is the human experience always going to include inconvenience?

Living in cold, snowy places even when you don’t like the cold and snow?

Going to work in a cubicle, feeling unfulfilled, and financially limited by meager 3.7-percent raises once a year?

Always with chores and taxes and appointments and obligations we’d have no part of if real choice was involved?

I think maybe it is.

But then I think back to being a kid. Like my little man. So young still. So much to learn.

“No. I’m not doing that!”

Why doesn’t he realize it’s for his own good?

Maybe. Just maybe. There is more to life than this.

Maybe. Just maybe. We are where we’re supposed to be for reasons we can’t possibly understand right now.

Maybe. Just maybe. We’re being prepared for something greater.

Because we’re more than just water and bone.

Because we don’t have all the answers.

Because we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to.

But it’s really for our own good.

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