Reflections on School in 2020

Lately I’ve been contemplating schooling and how we’re raising kids these days. I remember years of history and math lessons, and with a few very infrequent clients, I can’t say I do much with either topic, certainly not at the level that we were taught in school. I was talking with a mother the other day who was saying she can’t handle the homework the kids are bringing home, and her kids aren’t even in high school yet, and I often cringe when I hear about some of the homework kids are doing because it’s far above my knowledge, or at least not anything I remember or put into practice today.

Are we teaching kids what we really need to in school these days? Is homework the best practice? Are teachers really sensitive to the amount of time homework takes and how many additional hours of schooling that adds to the day? Are we really preparing them for what comes after school and are we truly giving them a well-rounded education? I know that a big challenge is the internet and how much information is available there and figuring out what should really be in our brains and what we can just look up when we need to. But let’s face it, when it comes to homework most kids aren’t going home to a teacher who can really help them if they’re struggling with the lesson, and it’s not fair to the kids or parents to be in that situation at least weekly.

School is a topic that I come back to frequently, because it’s the foundation of how we’re raising kids today, and if we want something to look different when the kids turn into adults, we need to revisit and revise how we’re raising them so they have options on living, including differently. I’m not suggesting all of school as we know it is a waste, just that with cell phones in many kids’ pockets, it’s time to reevaluate what we’re teaching them, why we’re teaching it and how. While we’re having the conversation we should also be talking about time for kids to be kids and use their imaginations, something that we don’t often have time left over for them to do, or don’t force the issue because technology is easier.

So as we enter this new year, what are your thoughts on the current education system? Are we doing right by our kids? What needs to change or improve the most in your opinion?

The Wealth of Knowledge

One of the things that I love most about the day and age that we live in is the ease of education.  Now you can pull out your phone, turn on the computer, visit a library or Skype with someone and get answers to just about every question you have.  Technology also empowers the people around the world who are trying to answer the questions we don’t have answers to like cancer and Alzheimers.  When you have an education or when you can learn something you’re much better off than if you just are given something.  Your knowledge is far more valuable in most cases than anything anyone else can give you.

As a parent one of the biggest gifts you can give your kids is an education, and I’m not just talking about sending them to school each week.  Learning happens inside and outside the school, and many of the things I learned weren’t taught in a traditional classroom setting or about English, math or science.  What you teach your kids about relationships, communication, driving, money, how you handle problems, and how to see the world are usually more important than what they’ll learn in school.

When kids have an education or know how to solve their own problems and answer their own questions you’ve given them a more valuable legacy than just handing over a large fortune to them.  What will you teach your kids today?

Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.” Epictetus

A Visit to the Library

I did something this week that I haven’t done in a while: took my work to the library. I had a couple of appointments in an area and decide that it would be more productive if I didn’t run home in between the appointments so I brought some work with me and decided I would work at the library in between appointments and errands. As I worked I watched the comings and goings of people of all ages. I watched parents and kids get excited about the books they could check out, heard librarians helping visitors find books and movies, and listened to the librarians make plans for how they could better organize their collection of materials to better serve their community.

It all reminded me how important something like a library is to the local community. It’s a place where people of all ages are and can learn from each other. It’s a place where you can work and learn. It’s a place where kids who don’t have grandparents can see seniors and learn that they’re not scary. It’s a place where kids can have instilled in them an appetite for learning, knowledge, curiosity, creativity and growth. It’s a place where teens can come with their friends and learn how to respect others while still hanging out with their friends. It’s a place where groups can come together to learn about different crafts or historical events or hear from local authors. It’s a safe, warm, dry place to go when you need a break from your life.

If you haven’t been to the library recently I encourage you to go visit and bring the kids along as well. You can save a lot of money on movies and books for them (and yourself) and keep them entertained for hours. If you can make a donation of books that your kids don’t read anymore or have outgrown or make a donation to their Friends of the Library fund (it’s tax deductible!).  What do you love most about your local library?

Educating for Convenience?

We live in an age of modern conveniences. I’m a big fan of many of them, especially grocery stores, email and indoor bathrooms. It’s great to be able to use a search engine and get a bunch of instant responses to your question (hopefully you’ve input the right question and the right results show up). However, I’m concerned by something I see increasingly in adults (and kids) with all of these advances and instant responses: laziness. Now, I’m not against taking time off or relaxing or necessarily even shortcuts. However, I am not a fan of the people who expect to have everything handed to them causing extra work for others when they could easily find the answer or do it themselves in about 5 seconds.

As a parent part of your responsibility is to teach your kids to fend for themselves. That means giving them the education and tools necessary to be equipped for whatever life may throw at them. One of the most valuable tools my parents passed on to me was my reading skills. TV was definitely a thing when I was a kid and I have learned a lot watching it, but I have learned so much more from reading. Reading has given me more power and knowledge than the TV ever could. Reading has empowered me to ask questions, to learn to research and even the lesson and value of patience.

Directly tied in with reading as I mentioned is the lesson of patience. Some things have to happen in stages, that’s just the way it is. Yes, we can take some shortcuts and can find ways to speed up many processes, but for many other things the only way or the best way to get from A to Z is by going through all 26 letters. I don’t believe there’s a shortcut that can be taken when building trust, growing relationships or becoming an adult (regardless of whether you’re an ‘old soul’ or not).

If you teach your kids that all the answers are out there if they’re willing to take the adventure, do the work, try new things, find the solutions, have the conversations and do the reading, you’ll equip them to conquer just about any challenge they will face as an adult, whether you’re there to help them through it or not. Don’t teach them to be the person who asks what’s in a “#1 breakfast combo” when the answer is clearly printed on the screen outside the car window, on the menu on the wall or in the printed menu. Teach them to think up ways to create needles that don’t hurt chronically ill kids so much, or get water from Texas to California, or bring back the dodo bird, and empower them to make the world a better place.

Sometimes School Stinks

Schools are officially in full swing and kids are getting back into their schedules and of course doing lots of homework.   I graduated from both high school and college, attended both public and private schools and attended 3 different colleges in different states during my college years, so I’ve seen some of what the educational world has to offer.  I’ve had some great teachers, I’ve had some teachers who had great personalities even if I don’t remember learning anything, I’ve had a ton of forgettable teachers, and I’ve had teachers who were terrible in more ways than one.

I’ve also met lots of of people having worked in schools and with kids outside of my own educational experience, plus owning my own business has introduced me to many people.  I know people from all around the world, and while their corners of the world may be a little different than mine, there are things that are unfortunately the same throughout the world that we need to pay attention to so that we can make the world a better place for the next generation.

School was created as a way to make sure that everyone learns certain things, like reading, writing and math.  We’re all exposed to some science, history and physical education as well, but those are less memorable for many of us.  Today I want to take just a couple minutes to talk about something that we don’t really like to admit: school failures.  I’ve already spoken to one of those negatives: teachers who stink.  Some teachers just don’t care about the kids, they’re just in it for the paycheck.  They share the same info every year and don’t take the time to make it come to life for new students, or consider the interests of their new students to add additional aspects to the classes.  It’s unfortunate because at some point in time they probably were passionate and did bring life to what they teach, they just don’t anymore.  As a parent there’s not a lot you can do other than encourage your kid to do the best they can and just get through it.  Sure, you can bring it up to the school board, but that doesn’t always work out in your favor and may do more harm than good.

Issue number two is that schools don’t always teach what people really need to know.  Because of the fact that I work with a wide variety of businesses some of my education that may not apply to others has been practically helpful, but much of it has not been, especially with the availability of Google and answers being a couple of clicks away.  There are many other skills that I wish had been taught but weren’t.  As a parent the best thing you can do is help teach some of those things at home and get kids involved in activities and learning experiences that are available extracurricularally.

Finally is an issue that we’ll talk about in greater depth in the coming weeks: bullying.  Relationships are the building blocks of our world.  If we aren’t able to create relationships of all kinds it’s much harder to do our jobs and live our lives.  There will always be some who are just bad people, but I believe most people don’t grow up wanting to be bad, they want to stand out or finally find acceptance.  If it’s your kid doing the bullying make sure to put an immediate stop to it and teach them better ways of interacting with others.  If they’re the target of a bully, encourage them to stand up for themselves and try to help the bully see the error of their ways, but if they don’t and adults aren’t able to intervene and turn the behaviors around, it’s time for new friends and acquaintances.

What lessons about school have you learned?

Asking A Better Question

As business owners one of the best ways to have a breakthrough in our business or with a client is to ask the right questions.  It’s not always easy to know what questions to ask, and sometimes we think we’re asking the right question only to keep getting frustrated because it turns out that we’re not asking the right question.  So today I’ve got a whole bunch of questions that may be new to you that you could try when you get stuck with an issue.  Some are questions you an ask to someone else, others are those you can use in your own thought processes.

What should questions do?

They should empower, challenge assumptions, re-frame issues, stretch the person/people asking, and encourage breakthrough thinking.

Question Disclaimers:

Sometimes you’ll get an answer you weren’t expecting or wanting to hear.  Sometimes you’ll need to ask another question to get deeper into the heart of the matter.  Sometimes a vague question is good, other times you want to be specific.  Not everyone can give you an instant answer, don’t be afraid to wait for the answer (unless you’re looking for that first impression). You expect a response when you ask a question, and those who are giving the answer expect to be given some kind of feedback on their answer.  Sometimes ‘I don’t know’ is the answer you get.

Let’s talk about some questions to ask yourself to ask the right question:

Do I need a factually correct answer?

Do I need an expert opinion?

Do I need a well-reasoned judgment?

Do I want the truth or the answer they think I want to hear?

Is yes/no sufficient, or do I want more?

Do I really want an answer?

And now some questions you might try:

What’s the RONI — the Risk of Not Investing?

When did you last do something fun?

What can I do to help you?

Do I want to add value?

Do your core values make business sense?

What do you stand for?

Who do you serve?

What is your competitor’s plan to win?

Is it helping?

What is the one thing you have postponed changing about yourself? Are you prepared to make that change now?

Are you a good friend who keeps your word all the time?

Would you offer a good friend much needed (uninvited) advice when you can see he/she is headed for disaster, or remain silent?

Are you open to receiving uninvited counsel from a good friend if the situation were reversed?

Is it more important for you to win the power game or to know the truth?

What is more important to you – wealth or love? (No, you can’t have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Have you explored your creativity to your satisfaction?

What do you need to stop?

Do you dismiss your creative ideas based on financial thinking or lack of time?

Which would you prefer: Losing your creative energy and spark or gaining more free time in your life? (No, you cannot have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Can you actually name a creative project or dream that you would like to pursue now?

What do you notice about the reasons for your success?

What are you trying to accomplish?

How are you being helpful to your team?

What are you doing that hurts your team? (Insert customers, employees, manager, yourself, or organization?)

What’s working for you?

What could be better?

What matters most to your customers? (Insert you, team, employees, manager, or leaders?)

What are the most impactful things you do?

If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?

How does this support the company’s mission, goals and projected success?

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned along the way?

If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

What does my (audience/customer/employee/partner/teammate) need to hear from me?

What kind of leader am I?

Do you know what I see in you?

How could we do that differently?

What are people concerned about, but no one says?

Did I help someone else succeed today?

What do we want to sustain?

What questions would you add to this list that have helped you in the past?

Trend Talk for August

Today I want to talk about two trends I’ve been seeing and reading about in business this month.

Facebook’s update: the latest update dropped page organic reach to somewhere around 1%.  Yep, it really stinks.  While we won’t dive into the obvious discussion of what to do about it, the thing I do want to talk about is why I support the update in some ways (but of course not totally because it does not encourage business owners to remain involved).  The thing that I see so many businesses forget is that Facebook (and the others like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram) is a social network.  That means that the goal of Facebook etc.  is to connect people and have them interact and be engaged.  Too many businesses are so busy being promotional and trying to create viral content that they forget the basic requirement of Facebook to be social.  If businesses showed that they actually cared about the Facebook community I think Facebook would reconsider this latest update.

Learning and Training: Do you train your employees? Do you expect them to stay up to date on relevant trainings?  Do you get training and educate yourself? When you’re looking to hire an employee how important is it for them to be up-to-date with their education (even in fields where it’s not required (training is required in the medical field))?  One of the current debates is over whether or not to invest in training your employees and potentially lose their skills to another company.  The other is why employees aren’t pursuing education that would help bring them up to par with more recent graduates and help them stand out in the job market.  Personally I think you should always be learning things, and it’s your responsibility to do so.  As to whether or not to train, in talking it over with someone the other day they reminded me that if a business is really a great place to work for their people have no desire to go elsewhere with their new skills.

What are your thoughts on Facebook’s change and learning and training in business?

Teaching for Eternity

Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about a topic that is top of mind for many families: going back to school.  Today I want to talk about one of the most fundamental and key aspects to school: teachers.  My mom has been involved in schools in many different ways for as long as I can remember.  She’s taught, been an aide, been a substitute teacher and of course gone back to school.  I’ve taught classes and groups and helped in many types of classrooms too and know how much work in involved, as well as how challenging some students can be, and how rewarding it can be as well as a teacher.  As a student I’ve had a few good teachers, some average (and forgettable) ones, and a few bad ones.  While there’s a shortage of teachers I don’t believe that’s a good reason to let the bad teachers stay at schools and continue to damage the learning experience for kids (and adults).

First I want to encourage each of us to accept the role of teacher as part of our lives.  I don’t think it’s necessary or right to hand that off to those who are officially teachers and say that we don’t have to do any teaching as parents, neighbors or community members.  All of us have skills and knowledge that can benefit the youngest of us, as well as the adults around us too.  Parents and caretakers especially have a big responsibility to not only make sure their kids are having fun, but also that the learning continues outside the classroom.  It’s a great opportunity to educate them about topics that most interest them and in ways that they learn best.

Second, it’s important to support the teachers.  Teachers are always in need of books and supplies for the classrooms, as budgets are tight in most schools.  I’ve known countless teachers who reach into their own pockets to pay for supplies, and to help students who aren’t as well-off as others.  A great way to help would be to sponsor kids for field trips, support the music or arts programs or give gift cards to the teachers so they can pick up what they need most.  For the teachers who regularly interact with your kids, you can give them gift baskets with things they like, gift certificates to restaurants, and most important ask how you can support them and your kids in their classroom.

Learning is a life-long activity but our foundations are built in those early classroom years by the men and women who give hours, days, months and years to invest in the next generation of minds.  Their impact continues long after a child leaves their classroom and goes out into the world.  What are you teaching those around you?

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”  Henry Adams

Books for Business Success 2

A couple of years ago I shared this post about some books you could consult to learn about business.  I believe that one of the best ways to be successful in business is to do your homework.  Sometimes that means doing stuff, other times that means listening and learning.   Today I’m highlighting some books for you to check out in addition to those I shared in the other blog post (all Amazon non-affiliate links) and invite you to share the books that you’ve learned from in the comments.

Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling

Blockbusters by Anita Elberse

What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis

The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy by Lewis Howes

Connect by Josh Turner

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More by Perry Marshall

Life After Debt by Rob Kosberg

Seven Laws of Teaching by Milton Gregory

Mastery by Robert Greene

Bold by Peter Diamondis and Steven Kotler

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath

5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

What books would you add?

Learning for Success

Do you know what one of the biggest secrets to success is? It’s really simple and it’s something we do from a very young age: learn. OK, maybe it’s not so simple, but it’s a very obvious answer to problems that plague many of us in reaching our goals and dreams and achieving victories in all aspects of our lives. Learning is one of the biggest keys to success, it’s also one of the cheapest ways to improve yourself and your life. Thanks to technology today you don’t have to spend thousands on degrees or go to a far-away college to learn something new (although for some things like medicine it’s recommended), but there are tons of opportunities online, in books, in courses and in audios to learn and teach yourself all kinds of skills that can improve, maybe even drastically improve, your life and your success potential.

People who are willing to learn (and actually can follow through on what they’ve learned) have a much greater potential for being hired as well as having success than those who are stuck in who they are and what they know. If you’re not willing to learn or try something new your future is very limited. Others might see more potential in you than you’re currently living up to but unless you’re willing to do things different or get the necessary education you won’t be able to live up to that potential. Showing that you’ve been taking courses and dedicate some of your free time to learning makes you look more appealing to potential employers because it shows them that you’re someone they can teach about their culture and how they do things and you’ll be receptive to learning from them and trying things their way.

So if you’re feeling like you’re in a rut go to your local library and check out a couple non-fiction books or find an online course you can take and learn something new. And while you could wait until the holidays are over I recommend starting now while you’re feeling that frustration, don’t put it off any longer.

“Today, when I hire, I look for people who want to be trained and molded.” Bobby Flay