Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All that education...

All my life, I've been surrounded by kids.  Babies, young kids, tweens & teens have always been a large part of my family, job and personal life.  In fact, I almost went in to teaching (which, as it turns out, would have been a disaster... but that's a different story) and instead, work on behalf of kids at one of Calgary's largest family-serving organizations.

Outside of work, I coach three of my cousins in their school work - grades 2, 4 and 8 - as well as one grade 8 student who is a family friend.  I call this coaching rather than tutoring as much of the time is spent with me saying "I don't know; let's do some research!" : )

Finally, my interest in education also is part of my commitment to my own life-long learning, and belief that mentoring, continuing education and simply learning new things are be important parts of everyones life.

All of which I say to provide some backdrop as to how excited I was to reach chapter three in Linchpin by Seth Godin, which you may recall is the subject of a blog-collaboration involving myself and Chett.

To this point, Linchpin has focused at length about the new economy and work environment.  Through these readings, I have wondered how we can all adjust to this environment, and how we can raise and teach our next generation to grow to this world.

In teaching and coaching kids, I've learned that just like each student has their own learning style, so does each teacher have their own teaching style.  The best situations happen when the two styles collide.

For decades, as Godin writes, our school's have taught with a structure that creates "factory workers" - people who can follow rules, listen to bosses, do their work and go home.  Not ask questions, not colour outside the lines, not create their own art or work.  This was what the economy demanded, and this is what our schools taught us to become.

But now, says Godin, our changed economy requires people who can take initiative, come up with ideas, invent new things and question the status quo - in other words, linchpins.  These invaluable people will become essential as they change work, life and society for the better.

In Godin's view, this requires a complete overhaul of our school system, encouraging students to explore, question and discover instead of memorize and recite answers.  Generally, I agree with this position; certainly, my favourite teachers in school and since have allowed and pushed me to find my own answers.  As a teacher/guide for the kids in my life and for myself, I know that teaching to ask questions and explore is far more complicated - but also more fun and interesting.

But, I also believe there's a point to be made about the importance of structure, and of learning the basics.  Yes, kids today will always know a world with spellcheck, but they will still need to put a basic sentence together.  And, kids truly do benefit from having rules, routines and structure - whether they know it or not.  They need to question and learn, but they also need stability.

It's important to find a balance there, and to work with it in a healthy way.  As learners in this new economy Godin describes, we must all find such a balance.

One more point from Godin - he points out that leadership and asking questions are skills that can be taught and must be learned.  This is an important fact, but easy to forget; and these skills can be learned at any age.

So, you may be asking what this means to you, if you don't consider yourself a teacher or guide.  Well, I would suggest you reconsider - there is someone in your life who can benefit from your knowledge and experience.  When you connect with that person and begin sharing of yourself and learning from them, you both will benefit.

You have much to share - honestly!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What does the future hold?

In the future, work will look very different from today.  No longer will it be enough to just show up at a job and be told what to do.  The people who are successful in this environment - who not only earn the most money, but also are important and an integral part of the organizations they work for - will be those who share their gifts, who make connections and who are truly remarkable.  These people - Seth Godin calls them "linchpins" - are the ones who will be critical to this new world of work.

This first chapter of LinchpinSeth Godin's latest book about which Chett & I have been blogging (see my first post about it here and Chett's first here), did not disappoint.

In it, Godin introduces us to the idea that our current way of work - which he describes as being primarily factory-based (whether those factories are doctors offices, car makers or restaurants) - has existed in this form for only the past 400 years or so.  And now, he says, we are transitioning to this new way of work - a world where each person has access to their own factory (either through the internet, accessible to most anyone, or through each individuals own mind and abilities), a world in which each individual will produce something unique, something which no one else could.  This uniqueness is what will make them indispensable.

In fact, Godin describes a world in which the jobs that require someone to just show up, the jobs almost anyone could do, will become fewer and fewer, and the businesses that employ them less popular.  Customers are becoming more willing to do business with those who are remarkable and extraordinary.

And when I think about this, I see it happening often.  For instance, two recent grocery shopping experiences fairly well illustrate this.

At one large, well known department store chain known for low prices, I fell - after somewhat dramatically slipping on a banana peel (a real banana peel - it actually does happen).  My feet went one way, my basket of groceries went the other and, before I knew it, I was looking up at fellow shoppers trying their best to help me up.  No major injury - I got up, dusted myself off and walked away minus only a little pride.  One of the things that struck me, though, was that there were 2 staff working in this produce section - and while they both saw my little incident, neither of them came to ask if I was okay or offer any assistance.  Of course, I was fine and didn't need any help; but still - they didn't offer.

I've recently had an opportunity to visit a different, much smaller and more local grocery store on a couple of occasions.  This store is certainly known to be higher-end and higher priced, but it was a pleasure to shop at. Every little department and section of the store had large trays of samples out for customers.  The staff were all full of smiles and helpful.  I didn't have occasion to slip on a banana peel in this store (perhaps the fact that no banana peels were lying on the ground is an indicator in itself) but I have no doubt that if I had, there would have been a number of staff who jumped to my aid.

Between the two sets of staff, I wonder what the difference is.  Is it wages - more incentive to do a good job?  Is it better training?  Or does the second store simply hire staff who are friendlier, more willing to take initiative and help customers?  Either way, I know which type of staff would be more indispensable and remarkable if I was doing the hiring!

For those who have worked and adapted to the old system of work, it may be challenging and even terrifying to consider adjusting to this new way of working and thinking - which is why Chapter 2 reads much like a pep talk for why we all can (and really, must) adapt and change in an effort to become a linchpin.

I think there are a number of challenges and obstacles that someone could face when attempting to become indispensable: the fear of change, of more responsibility; the discomfort of being vulnerable and doing things that they don't really know or understand; and a simple uncertainty or unawareness of how to make this change.

The good news is that each of these challenges can be overcome if each of us chooses to be.

A final note: the thing that most struck me in this chapter was the encouragement to consider what qualities an ideal candidate for the job you have (or want to have) would possess - and then work to build those skills and develop those competencies.

So - if it's not clear - I am very much enjoying this book.  It's confirming some things that I strongly believe while challenging some other thoughts and assumptions - great combination!  I can't wait to share more with you.

What qualities do you think a linchpin (or indispensable person) possesses?  Are these qualities different at work and in real life?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One Week

This post is inspired by One Week, which I watched for the first time this weekend.  I'm not a big movie watcher, but I've wanted to see this one since it came out.  So, when I saw it come up on my Tivo, it was a must-record.  And, it didn't disappoint!

Don't worry - no spoilers here - though I will say that the movie challenged me to think and consider some parts of my life, as well as contained some gorgeous views of Canada.

The thing that most challenged me, though, was in the beginning.  It opens with a simple question: what would you do if you had only one week to live?  That's 7 days. 168 hours.  10,080 minutes.

Of course, this is an impossible-to-answer question - most of us have never been in a position where the answer to this would really matter, or result in any more than a few thoughts.

When I seriously consider it, though, I hope that I would choose to spend that one week loving, encouraging and being with those around me - family, friends and all others - and experiencing the joy in every moment.  Especially in the little things: laughing at a bad joke, a hug from a small child, an early morning walk or homemade cinnamon buns.

I hope my one week would be spent being present, in the moment - and soaking it all up.

And really, aren't these the things that should already be enjoyed every day anyway?

What about you - what would your one week look like?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Linchpin: The Introduction

A couple weeks ago, Amanda Matchett (@Chett12 on Twitter) mentioned the latest book by Seth GodinLinchpin.  I love to read Seth's blog every morning, so was naturally interested when Chett mentioned it.  When I mentioned an interest via Twitter, Amanda invited me to join her in reading and blogging about the book... and since you're reading this, you know I agreed!

This weekend I've read the Introduction to Linchpin, and am excited to share some of it with you! Also, check out Chett's blog for more thoughts - she'll be writing about the same chapter this week as well!

So, without further ado:

Godin is a great thinker.  He writes a lot about the changing world of work, of industry and of economy.  He is full of big thoughts and perspectives. This is clear from the first page, which boldly states:

  • "You Are a Genius" Pg 1

This brilliant opening declaration (and yes, I do believe it is a declaration - you are a genius!) is followed by an outline of what the book will explore: Godin's idea that our current, industrial model of work is falling apart.  He promises to look at how success is created and how each of us, in our current jobs and situations, can make ourselves indispensable.

I suspect that such indispensability would be valuable, for obvious reasons, but would also be fulfilling, empowering and really would permeate every area of life.  It is my hope that the patterns and ideas in this book will spark conversation and new ideas, and perhaps even new goals and new direction.

I can already tell that the book will have a lot of quotes that I want to write down and share.  Lines like:
  • "Stop settling for what's good enough and start creating art that matters." Pg 3
  • "You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious." Pg 3

I'm excited to get more in to this book, and to explore it with you and with Chett on her blog.  If you've read it, or want to share your thoughts on what we blog, I'd love to hear your perspective!