aspiration pathways

First of all, I believe that you should never grow up. Never. Be a kid at heart, always. Age is just a reference point and should not characterize who you are. Sure it identifies how long ago you were born, but not your level of maturity, your accomplishments, or your potential.
That being said, it’s funny to see how one has changed over time. Many times, the first question you are asked as a kid is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m sure I’ve had some pretty crazy answers, some that stretched my mind and some that were just meant to make my parents mad. Omitting some (astronaut, inventor, game show host, chef) here are some of my job desires as they have changed over time.
You’ll see doctor was in late high school and early college, then disappeared quickly. Fireman has lingered since the local fire captain (Mr. Fioretti) had me demo stop, drop, & roll in kindergarten. Athlete took a natural parabolic trip through adolescence and tailed into my twenties. Ruler of the world was on an obvious decline since conception as more and more barriers to that role popped up. Professor has been on a steady incline, as is being an educator of any kind. And with that, being an adsideologist skyrocketed early in college as I truly hope I can spend the rest of my life helping others learn and gain a comfortable understanding of life and the world.
It’s also interesting to find the ages at which the most paths changed, and where the paths changed the most. College was obviously a pretty turbulent time regarding aspirations, as it probably was for most who have gone through it. Steep slopes and frequent intersections of these aspiration pathways. A great thing perhaps, as the times of greatest change can be the most valuable learning experience.
So how about you? What do your aspiration pathways look like?

gaining strength from weakness

One of my favorite exercises is to take a quote, phrase, idiom, or saying and digest it in every way possible. It’s an exercise that builds upon existing cognition to create new ideas and thoughts. The internal lines of thought leave the individual with a new network of philosophical pathways from which some amazing self-realizations can be gleaned. From a quote comes a new concept, from that concept comes a good memory, from that memory a connection is made, and from that connection an appreciation is built. That’s the breadcrumb trail of thought.

“Our strength grows out of our weakness.” – Emerson

Although not complex in structure, vocabulary, or tone, I enjoy this quote because its simplicity allows diverse interpretation. Emerson connects two antonyms as if they were a pair, complements to each other, one needing the other. And so it goes…

Immediate questions: What are my weaknesses? When did I realize they were weaknesses? Am I weak compared to others or compared to my own understanding of standards? How does one define standards in relation to characteristics? Have my standards changed with my changing abilities or with my realization of new weaknesses? What is my most recent weakness? What is my biggest weakness? Are all weaknesses able to be improved upon? Are there universal weaknesses or only individual ones? What is the most common weakness?
Let’s integrate: If I can somehow build upon the set of all my weaknesses from the time I was born until yesterday (or up to a second ago for purposes of true continuity), with what would I be left at this exact moment? Emerson says it’s strength, and I wholeheartedly agree, simply because I know we all have the capacity to learn. Our greatest trait is our capacity to learn. Learning gives us reason to try again. Learning gives us reason to move on. Learning gives us reason to find possibility. Learning gives us hope for tomorrow. Learning trumps failure.

Here’s a scenario: Consider a set of X functions, abilities, processes, and tactics with which we are all equally born. On day 1, they all exist as unrealized weaknesses. With each experience had and the capacity to learn, an individual has two possibilities: turn an unrealized weakness to a realized strength, or realize weakness and create a new realized strength. Over time, the original set of X expands as new strengths are added and the overall dynamic changes as weaknesses grow into strengths. The result is that from day 1, the number of realized strengths will always equal or exceed the number of realized weaknesses. In other words, as a result of their complementary nature, the proportion of strength to weakness almost always increases.

Wow – what a great realization that is! Rather than despise that which we cannot achieve, instead we must harness our weaknesses, grow to accept them and adapt to them, and find ways to learn from them. With that alone we’ll grow stronger every day.

Image 1: Chet Phillips – “Thought Process”

bogeys and birdies

Sports are great because they are all so unique. The rules, methods, people, challenges, results, rewards, feelings, and takeaways are all different depending on what you’re playing, who you’re playing with, and the level at which you are playing it.

Although I don’t play it nearly as much as I wish I could, I find golf to be one of the most intriguing and rewarding experiences. Here’s why:

The Pace – Slow and relaxing, there’s plenty of time to think about each shot and take in the surroundings.
The Science – Angles, calculations, rolls, spins, trajectories, and slopes all make it a mind game as much as it is a physical one.

The Atmosphere – With the aura around the clubhouse, concentration on each individual shot, and the interaction with nature, it’s always refreshing and relaxing.
The Landscape – The surroundings are always different with so many possibilities with weather, time, and season. Even on some cheaper public courses, the hills, trees, and sand always make an invigorating, lively piece of art and nature.
The Anticipation – Every shot might be the best shot. I sometimes freeze myself up before hitting a 8 or 9 iron because I begin to think I’m lined up so perfectly that I’m going to sink it. Then I’m already thinking about my reaction if I sink it. Then I can’t shoot at all and need to re-think my shot all over again. It’s a fun cycle of anticipation and anxiety.
The Goosebumps – Phil jumping after sinking his putt on 18 at the 2004 Masters. Tiger’s chip-in on 16 at the 2005 Masters. Goosebumps every time.

The Party – You can’t beat golfing with good friends… having good conversation, a good opportunity to meet new people, a good opportunity to build relationships, and a good opportunity to enjoy some beers, dogs, seeds, and cigars.
The Luck – I’m convinced that it’s not a purely mechanical game. There are some things you cannot calculate, such as the wind 75 yards away and 100 feet up or the surface moisture or dead spot 10 yards from the green. Therefore the rest of the game is filled in by luck – good bounces, rolls, gusts, and magical forces.
The Rules – It’s a game of honor, patience, and etiquette, and therefore helps guide life lessons. Noonan

The Unattainable – One always can improve. There is always more to learn, and every game is different. It never gets old and tomorrow is a new day. No one has ever hit an ace or eagle on every hole and that should make you strive to keep playing and improving. Most people have never hit an ace, and that alone gets me out there with excitement each time.

I’ll end with the best advice on golf I’ve received, from my cousin Kenny… Go through the same routine before and during every shot. Same steps, thoughts, swings, pauses, breaths, and time. With consistency comes improvement (and more manageable mistakes).
The Zen philosopher Basho once wrote, “A flute with no holes is not a flute. A donut with no hole is a danish.”
Photo 1: My whacked out swing at Rock Creek Golf Course, great photography from Benny T.
Photo 2: East Potomac (Blue) Golf Course on 5/30/2009, with my favorite tree in the world in world in front (Japanese Red Maple) and a nice Weeping Willow in the back left.

balancing education

Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning.” 

– Ron Miller, founder of the journal “Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice”

In my post titled “adsideology 2 and the one brain” I talk about the rise in interdisciplinary subjects and departments in higher education, and the need for the same in the K-12 educational system. Driving “thought mixtures” at an earlier age begins to weld the foundations of math, english, history, etc. while expanding the intellectual capacity of individuals at a young, developmental stage. Making connections for a new perspective of the world will better position the individual and those around the individual to find meaning, value, and purpose in life.

I think that’s why there needs to be a more balanced educational system. I’m not getting into the politics, inefficiencies, and the educational and opportunistic gaps that currently exist throughout the world, but am sticking to the foundation of education systems in general for now. Holistic education involves an understanding that self-actualization and the development of one’s character comes through different means and speeds. The grade number doesn’t matter, but building upon yesterday and striving for a better tomorrow does.

There needs to be more holistic education in the developmental years. The current K-12 education system emphasizes the teaching of facts, rules, skills, and discipline. However, it is missing the necessary methods of transformative learning and experiential learning. Sure, plenty of schools these days act as a community and teach about human interaction. But too much focus is on subject pillars and meeting quantifiable goals. The verticals, although important, need to be connected with horizontal layers of experience that encompass the facts and skills learned in the classroom. More emphasis should be put in teaching compassion, peace, self-respect, self-esteem, and community involvement. In my post titled “wearing other people’s shoes” I talk a bit about transformative learning and why that’s important for personal growth. A change in perspective can sometimes make all the difference, and that notion should be introduced at a young age.
I want to make it clear that holistic education is just one approach to a very large issue in education but by no means is the solution. The solution involves a balance in educational concepts and methods, and this balance should be institutionalized in the school system. A mesh of traditional, holistic, and other educational approaches is more dynamic. This allows for optimization of resources and methods for each individual student.
In the end, it’s the experiences and the relationships that make us who we are. It’s who and what we impact, not what we know. Understanding this at the earliest age will most certainly result in a life of significance, personal happiness, and community prosperity.
“Good grades show you’ve done your work; great deeds show you’ve learned your lessons.”
-Me
i. Top picture is the SunWALK pedagogical model of holistic education, by Dr. Roger Prentice. 
Arts, Science, Humanities + Creativity, Criticality, Caring.
ii. Bottom picture is from a Wake Alternative Break (WAB) trip I led in Spring 2005 to Virginia Beach. We were fortunate to work with the local parks & rec dept to clean up some parks and tutor in a local school. Good times.

knowledge management and organizational learning

Organizations are built and sustained by the collective brain power of its members. But that collective brain power is only as good as the memory that serves it up. And so was defined knowledge management.

Fundamentally, knowledge management (KM) is the effective administration of people, processes, technology, and information.* In encapsulates the concept of organizational knowledge/learning, which is the collection of facts, methods, and expertise by a group of people for dissemination and use. These days, the wide scope of new organizational knowledge coupled with the speed at which it gets developed leads to a distinct requirement to capture and centralize the knowledge. As a result, innovators and thinkers will be enabled to collectively work toward building new products and technologies while feeding back into the cycle of strategic thought.

Knowledge is king. Storing, sharing, and learning from it is royalty. This realization has progressed over the past decade or so into a “google”plex dollar business (“googolplex” is my favorite number – i’ll post on it at some point). But why are some organizations and some people so resistant to implementing proper KM practices?
Knowledge management needs to be part of every company strategy and needs to be ingrained in each of its four main components: people, processes, technology, and information. It should branch into all departments – and for each become the engine of collaboration and the backbone of innovative thought. Whatever technology is implemented to enable effective knowledge management, it should have dedicated support, alignment with existing security protocols, and proper branding and marketability as an engaging tool to use.

The benefits must also be made visible. Incentivize users to contribute knowledge in a semi-structured form. Make it something that is talked about in meetings, used in positive performance evaluations, built into non-work related worlds (as a place to “escape”), and an activity that is comforting and welcome amongst all levels of employees.

Within specific job functions, it’ll open up opportunities for valuable feedback. Jeff Lash, from his “How To Be A Good Product Manager” blog, has a good post on knowledge sharing and its benefits within Product Management. Everyone has “lessons to share, but even more to learn” he says. This philosophy is applicable to everyone and every job function – technical development, analysis, sales, marketing, management, etc. That’s why KM is necessary for innovation and success and as part of an over-arching business strategy. The improvement of learning across the organization will be measurable in every day communication, work efficiency, and eventually, revenues. 

Lastly, it’s worth noting that with KM, the design and implementation effort is a topic of its own (of which I’m quite fond). But hey, strategize first.

*Other definitions can be found on the KM Forum.