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Posts Tagged ‘education’

If you enjoyed reading my last post about art therapy, you can read the real article via the ChiTownDaily News here.

I really enjoyed writing this piece. Getting to know more about various types of therapy definitely brings to light various avenues (and, will hopefully change some opinions) about professional mental health techniques.

Gwenn Waldmann and the folks at ATC do wonderful work.

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Marius!!! @Flickr

Photo Credit: Marius!!! @Flickr

“Jump out of the window!” may seem like irrelevant instruction when you hear it. After all, why jump out the window when you can walk out of the door? 

Nonetheless, when you are up several floors in a burning building and a crowd of fire fighters outside below you are holding a safety net, jumping out of the window can seem like the best advice yet.

After I graduated from college, I was still in the process of finding myself. I wanted to make a ton of money, but have a fulfilling career as well.

In reality, that didn’t leave me a lot of options. I did one smart thing though, I contacted a bunch of college alumni and grilled them about their current careers. I met a filmmaker, a real estate guru and some other random, interesting people.

However, I remember meeting with one particular alum that (should have) changed my life forever.

I told him I wanted to try my luck at consulting. Never mind what kind of consulting or what consulting actually means – I decided I should pursue it.

Also, I didn’t want to seem directionless. Consulting sounded sexy (or whatever word people use to make their professions sound cool) and they made scads of money for doling out information whether anybody listened to them or not.

It sounded like a suitable venture. In hindsight, considering my personality type, it was probably just as well I didn’t go into consulting after all.

Mr. Peacock (uncanny connection, don’t you think?) told me two things. “Consulting is hard on marriages – they get divorced a lot,” and “You need to start a blog.”

Both pieces of advice seemed totally irrelevant to me. As a very young twenty something, marriage was the furthest thing from my mind (not really, but it was not nearly as close to my mind as it is now).

Secondly, what was this blogging stuff? It didn’t sound like anything a freshly minted political science major did straight out of college. All the job choruses sang that liberal arts majors went into professions teaching, becoming lawyers or consulting.

Truthfully, I didn’t know a thing about blogging. I dismissed it as a labor of love for computer geeks or an adventuresome outlet for alternative journalists. Oh, what little did I know.

The trouble with good advice is that it always seems irrelevant when you initially hear it. That’s the good thing. If you only listen to what you want to hear you won’t learn anything . Or, if you follow the same tried-and-true counsel, it won’t work for you. Why? Because great advice leads you to undiscovered pathways. 

When you get weird, seemingly irrelevant guidance: pay attention. It will challenge you to do things you may not otherwise try. Whereas old, staid, been-there-and-do-it-again advice won’t get you much of anywhere.

Good advice is not meant to be comfortable or make you feel great about what you are currently doing.

It’s meant to confront you and change your mind.

That’s the other wonderful thing about good counsel. It’s more about action than pondering. It won’t encourage you to think more about your predicament. It will inspire you to do something about it.

It provides options not questions. If you are seeking the help, you’re already asking the questions, aren’t you?

Unfortunately, I ignored Mr. Peacock. I never contacted him again.  I figured that maybe he didn’t really understand me. How could he? We’d only met for cookies and coffee. Yet, that shouldn’t have mattered, good advice can come from someone even if they’ve only known you for five minutes. 

That’s the dark side of such a process.  People sometimes mistake that only those who know them can give valuable words of wisdom. Yet, the underlying current of all advice giving is to exchange ideas. 

Understand and trust that taking and giving advice is risky at both ends. It has little to do with how well someone gets you.

When people don’t understand that, they indubitably screw up the whole point of getting advice in the first place.

And, that’s terrible. After all, Mr. Peacock was only trying to help. Yet, I’m thankful. Sometimes, you can’t recognize good help when you ask for it (or, get it) because you don’t know what it is. And, you won’t know what good advice is because you don’t know what it will sound like in the first place.

But, great advice is still good advice. It doesn’t expire. It won’t disappear. Instead, it’s timeless, universal and requires little change. So, even though I met Mr. Peacock several years ago in a River North cafe, I can’t say my idea of starting a blog was my own great idea. It wasn’t. It was Mr. Peacock’s idea. 

Therefore, taking good advice  is just as much a matter of when you do as it is what you do. What if I had not met Mr. Peacock? What if I didn’t have the blogging seed planted in my head?  Maybe, several years later, I would have never thought to blog in the first place. 

Timing is just as important when you act upon anything (good advice included).

The nicks and scratches I suffered along my professional journey to get here probably have made my posts more relevant to readers now.  Relevancy is a good thing.

Except maybe when it comes to good advice.

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10,000 HoursDear Readers,

Welcome to the next segment of the “You’re Not Successful, You’re Just Lucky Series.” If this is your first time here – Welcome. I’m glad you stopped by. This post will (quickly) explore the second chapter of Malcolm Gladwell’s Book, Outliers. Let’s get started, shall we?

Gladwell opens the chapter discussing the life of William (Bill) Joy, founder and chief techno-architect of Sun Microsystems. He chronicles Joy’s life as high school whiz to his journey to the University of Michigan. There, the school kept the first ever computer center (open 24 hours). Upon discovering this, Joy spent an inordinate amount of his undergraduate career devoted to obsessively computer programming. In doing so, he became something like the new Messiah of the Tech world.

Throughout the chapter, Gladwell cites examples of musicians (even Mozart), expert chess players, and computer programmers as individuals who did not reach their full peak until they were practicing their craft for quite some time.  The chapter discusses the professional journeys of people like The Beatles and Bill Gates – Gladlwell, in turn, puts their successes in this context:

“The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again of the expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”

10,000 hours – what does that mean for the rest of us, Mr. Gladwell? Actually, he tells us – a long damn time. He even asserts that so called child prodigies like Mozart didn’t reach their artistic peak until they had practiced for over several years. That is obvious. However, this number – 10,000 – is applied to everyone. According to Gladwell,

“To become a chess grandmaster also seems to take about ten years. (Only the legendary Bobby Fischer got to that elite level in less than that amount of time: it took him 9 years.) And what’s ten years? Well, it’s roughly how long it takes to put in ten thousand hours of hard practice. Ten thousand hours is the magic number for greatness.”

10 years? Are you kidding? I can’t imagine what I’d have to be so bad at from the start that it would take me 10 whole years to perfect. The “greatness” factor is defined as becoming expert at anything whether you are a basketball player, master criminal or prima ballerina.

I’m trying to think of my life in 10 year increments.

Think of your life in ten year increments.

What have you been doing for the last 10 years? And, if you can muddle through the memories of SATs, college papers, pub crawls, crappy summer jobs, and hanging out with friends, what’s your answer? What have you been doing for 10,000 hours that makes you an expert?

You may come up with this answer: nothing. I can’t believe this. I’m only in the second chapter about a book examining success and it makes me want to jump off the tallest building.

At least, that’s what I thought at first.

That doesn’t leave a lot hope for twenty-somethings. If we’re oh-so-lucky enough to figure out what we want to do by age 13 – we’d have it expertly “in the bag” ten years later? Or, in the other case, we make it to age 20, but haven’t managed to figure out our life (after all, just getting through junior high and high school was difficult enough) – we’d have to dig around until we are 30 to get our skills in expert gear?

Cue the screaming chorus.

Then, I recruited my super cool (and more mathematically inclined) boyfriend to help make sense of Gladwell’s assertion in number terms. For us Joe and Jane Gen Y-ers, we have a lot invested in becoming successful, happy and knowledgeable. We are the most educated generation to date (but, that statistic may wane in a few years). We aren’t as in a hurry to figure out our lives, so the task of devoting 10,000 hours (read: 10 years) to becoming a world class expert in anything is daunting.

So, let’s see what alternatives we have. We have plenty of time to figure out alternatives, after all, it’s 10 years.

You and I work (or maybe you don’t “work”, but let’s play along) an average of 5 days a week 365 days a year. This 5 day workweek is taken from your normal 7 day week (hey, not everyone works 24/7, 0k?)

So, our equation starts out like this:

365 (days a year) X 5 (work days)
7 (total number of days in a week)

But wait! You have a life, don’t you? Let’s factor in those personal and vacation days your employer gives you. So, for the sake of argument, you have the average of 2 weeks vacation. But, let’s also keep holidays and sick days in mind. So, that’s another 2 weeks bundled in there. Let’s assume that on those vacation days, sick days and holidays – you aren’t devoting your time to becoming an expert (the weekends, too).  This totals twenty days of doing nothing (like what you were doing before reading this post, perhaps?)

Now our equation looks like this:

365  X 5  – 10 (vacation days) – 10 (sick days, holidays)
7

Our answer is roughly 240. That means we get a total of 240 days out the year to devote to becoming an expert at our jobs or whatever. We can take that number and multiply it by the hours a day you work at becoming an expert. The number can be either 8 or 7.5.

I’m going to be nice and assume you are really devoted to honing your skills – we’ll use the 8-hour scale first.

240 X 8 = 1920

Sounds like we might be getting somewhere. That’s a lot of time, 1920 hours. How do they figure into the 10,000 hour rule?

10000 /1920 = 5.2

That number doesn’t like like a ten. In fact, it’s roughly half of ten. According to my calculation, that equals a little over 5 years. For you lazier sort who just had to have that .5 increment of time to yourself, here’s the other equation:

240 X 7.5 = 1800            10000/1800 = 5.5

Well, the 7.5 hour workers have a little catching up to do, but not much.

Think of your life in five year increments instead of ten. It’s a lot more palatable to see your talents and accomplishments spaced out in a shorter bit of time. Five years can be college with some time off in between – what did you get out those particular five years? Five years can be the amount of time you spent in a particular industry – what was happening? Maybe, five years ago is when you started your blog.

So, it doesn’t take 10 years to become good at something, perhaps just 5 (according to my calculations). Maybe even less, if you devote yourself to something beyond the regular workweek. Gladwell makes an intriguing, but obvious point, it takes time to become really good at something (duh again, Gladwell!).

Yet, perhaps 10 years borders on overkill. And, while practice is wonderful, implying that it will take 10 years to become a world class expert doesn’t do much for the time-starved Gen-Yer. We have a lot of the world (and life) to discover and don’t necessarily want to devote ten years to becoming good at only one thing.

 

 

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ice-hockeyHello Readers,

This post is the first of a series titled, “You’re not Succesful, You’re Just Lucky.” This series is devoted to exploring Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. Below is a short synopsis and commentary of Chapter One:

Malcolm Gladwell begins the chapter, “The Matthew Effect” detailing the processes of how Canadian ice hockey players are chosen.

Throughout the chapter, Gladwell makes the case for how those lucky enough to be born earlier in the year reap the benefits of physical maturity over younger players in terms of additional practice and training.

A self-fulfilling prophecy emerges because players are picked with the false notion that they are the “best,” but through additional training, they become stars, therefore initially proving the false assumption as “correct.”

Gladwell surmises that cut off dates hugely figure into whether ice hockey players progress to proceeding leagues, or spend it on the bench, prematurely swapped out because of their weaker, underdeveloped playing skills.

According to Gladwell,

We could easily take control of the machinery of achievement, in other words – not just sports, but, as we will see, in other consequential areas as well.

But we don’t.

And why?

Because we cling to the idea that success is a simple function of individual merit and that the world in which we all grow up and the rules in which we choose to write as a society don’t matter at all.

Basically, you are screwed if you are a Canadian from an ice hockey crazed family and weren’t born in the first half of the year.

I say, count yourself lucky, move to America and play basketball instead. Gladwell uses Canada’s ice hockey system as a frame to explain the inefficiencies in using cut off dates in context to our educational system.

It’s somewhat of a slim example, at best. Gladwell claims that older children will always outpace younger children in sports and academia because of the advantage of advanced maturity (if, even only by a few months).

Duh!

And while Gladwell’s conclusion is wholly obvious, it’s extremely “hidden” as well. Such differences do create unfair advantages – Gladwell thinks one way to overcome them is to fine tune the age groupings.

He believes that once that is done, the playing field would be further evened out.

Would it be that simple?

There’s a lot more to account for than just making sure all the 5 year olds born between October and December get an even playing field by being grouped together.

Individual intelligence and parental involvement contribute quite a bit to a child’s development in school. Surely, Gladwell can’t merely suggest that administrative changes in school policy could solve the problems of our nation’s school performance?

Well, Gladwell claims he is just beginning to set the stage – I hope he brings more to the party.

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