Back to School

Twelve years is a long time to commit to a broken system.

Sure, there are breaks every ten months or so, but the majority of our young lives are spent sitting in rows being told what to think.

Everybody seems to recognize that the education system is broken, but nobody seems to recognize how they can fix it.

Surely, no single person can solve the multitude of problems that exist with education. But, each and every person can change the way he or she thinks about those problems.

You're required by law to go to school each day, but the law can't dictate your mindset each time you do.

The mindset we're "supposed" to have is one of compliance: follow these instructions, do this work, regurgitate this opinion. Don't think too far outside the box, don't veer off the predetermined path, don't question how we do things here.

Of course the education system is going to fail us if we all have a mindset like that! But, here's the amazing thing about mindsets: you get to choose your own.

Before each school year, I try to spend some time thinking about how I'm going to approach the upcoming year. And each year, I find myself falling back on a few articles, talks, and quotes that help shape my mindset.

I'm not going to tell you what your mindset should be (that's up to you to figure out!), but since I start my final year of public school tomorrow, I thought I'd share my list with you.

Even if you're not in school, this still applies to any business, system, or organization. I hope you'll get as much value out of it as I have.

Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin: take the time to step back and truly understand the system in which you're working. Understand why it exists, why it is the way it is, and how you're "supposed" to fit into it. The world has changed, education hasn't, and it's up to you to keep up... or maybe even move a little bit further ahead.

Dare to Disagree by Margaret Heffernan:

Do not simply assume that everything you are taught is correct. Question, poke, prod, provoke, explore. How can we solve the world's problems with the same thinking that created them?

From Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel:

No validation of our rationality - of our very sanity - can be accomplished using our rationality itself. How can a person operating within a system of beliefs, including beliefs about beliefs, get outside that system to determine whether it is rational? If your entire system becomes infected with madness, including the very rules by which you reason, then how can you ever reason your way out of your madness?

Don't get too attached to your beliefs because they very well may be wrong, and you wouldn't necessarily have any way of knowing. Sure, be confident in your ability to reason, and be confident in the results of your reasoning, but always keep an open mind, and never discount the seemingly outside-of-the-box reasoning of others.

From What Made DiMaggio a Great Player?:

Late in his career, DiMaggio was asked why he hustled on a play that meant little in a game that had little bearing on the Yankee's fate that year. "Because there is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time," DiMaggio explained. "I owe him my best." This was perhaps DiMaggio's career credo, a personal statement of his abiding work ethic.

Throughout school and life, there are innumerable tasks that seem pointless and unworthy of great effort. Get into the habit of giving each task all that you have to offer, irrespective of its supposed unimportance. Every piece of work that you produce is a reflection of what you're capable of, and everyone you come across deserves all the insight and talent you have to offer.

Obvious to You. Amazing to Others. by Derek Sivers:

Hell Yeah or No by Derek Sivers:

The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck by Julien Smith: a must-read, especially for those who maybe care a little bit too much about what other people think. It's your life, your mission, your choices. Don't be unduly influenced by the restrictive minds of those around you. If they don't get it, then your art simply isn't for them. Don't get hung up on it – even if it means failing an assignment or losing some supposed "friends."

Carl Friedrich Gauss:

It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.

Education – like life – is about the struggle, the journey, and what it takes to get to the destination. Whenever possible, seek to learn and understand rather than merely read and memorize. We don't like when a concept is difficult for us, but it's when we're struggling to figure it out that we're at our best as learners. Seek more struggle.

My TEDx Talk Unconventional Wisdom:

I hope these resources will prove as valuable to you as they have proven to me. And, if you think they may be equally valuable to others, please don't hesitate to use the share buttons below :)

We don't often get to choose the obstacles that we face in life. But, we always get to choose how we face them.

Think for yourself, do your best work, and — as Mark Twain said — never let your schooling interfere with your education.

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