Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What if Einstein Colored Inside the Lines?

I have been reading a book that was on my daughter's reading list for last summer: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.  It is a startling book because it states a number of things that are the direct opposite of what I have learned or been told about starting a business.  And, I am finding that many of the statements seem to ring true for me.

"To do great work, you need to feel that you're making a difference.  That you're putting a meaningful dent in the universe.  That you're part of something important." (31)  And they go on to say it doesn't have to be earth shattering like a cure for cancer, but rather something that would make customers say it made their life better in some way.  Which makes me ask myself how many times I have delayed doing something because it wasn't important enough.  And, how times have I known it was important enough to just do it regardless of the reactions I would end up with.  I wish I had more times in the latter.

These guys really push for taking a stand and having an opinion based on what matters.  (Draw a Line in the Sand--43)  But, even bigger was reading "Decisions are progress.  Each one you make is a brick in your foundation." (77)

Today while I was waiting for my youngest to finish the ISEE test (a necessary hoop in our high school admittance journey) I had a long conversation with a couple who were having their much younger child tested.  I wish I could say it was a new conversation or a new story, but it wasn't.  Smart child in a public school already becoming bored.  Turns out he taught himself to read by asking his mom to tell him what was written on the back of the cereal box, and then used what she said to phonetically translate kids' books for himself.  That sounds pretty motivated to me.  How far can he go?  And, what happens when he interrupts the teacher's instruction to say he really wants to know about something she doesn't know or care about instead of what she is presenting?

Hey, I know kids need a good base with grammar, math, scientific thought, etc.  But, they also need adults in their lives who are willing to switch gears to accommodate those important off-road excursions.  It must have been hell to be Thomas Edison or Einstein's teacher but where would we be if they had colored inside the lines and really worked just to get those gold stars?

So here I am trying to find that stand to take.  And, it is based on what feels way impossible right now.  It's all about having a good fit and not having to always fit into someone else's idea of what is the right thing.  But, the magic happens when a few good fits come together to really spark a new approach to some problem that has been lying around for a while.  Or, even more simply when a group of kids talk about a really challenging book like The Jungle with as much passion as they do Harry Potter.

A good fit comes from spending the time to get to know the people involved.  I know that and that is why I have been designing a game for high school students embarking on a college search.  I feel that kids who work through the steps to getting clearer about applying for college will make a better choice.  And, I know that listening to parents talk about what they feel their kids need to succeed in learning is work toward a good fit for their kids.  Enough with the policy studies and grand plans and arguments.  How about some good old-fashioned listening and then doing.  Not big plans and certainly not things that make teachers and students feel bad.  How about figuring out what kids need to know, and then doing that?  Like I said, it's way impossible right now.

But I am confident that applying that good fit will lead me to doing something that will put a meaningful dent in the universe.

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