Friday link round-up

Published by Lori Pickert on September 28, 2013 at 08:21 AM

This week’s Facebook links (and some bonus finds) are a continuation of last week’s focus on college, learning to learn vs. learning to earn, and that elusive thing called happiness — or maybe we’ll settle for contentment.

I’m going to start with a great quote from Charles D. Hayes:

Millions of Americans have been so jaded by traditional education…they fail to comprehend that learning and quality of life are interdependent.

Traditional education has duped us into believing, or at least behaving as if we believed, that learning to earn a living is hard and that learning to live well is easy. But the evidence…suggests the reverse: we are good at earning a living, but not good at living a living. — Charles D. Hayes

Child psychologists in the UK have now extended adolescence to age 25:

“The idea that suddenly at 18 you’re an adult just doesn’t quite ring true,” Laverne Antrobus, a child psychologist at London’s Tavistock Clinic, told the BBC. “My experience of young people is that they still need quite a considerable amount of support and help beyond that age.” — Medical Daily

This is interesting, as I’ve just recently finished reading Meg Jay’s book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now. The idea of pushing adolescence to the mid-twenties sounds like what Jay describes as giving kids excuses to put off making serious decisions about their lives, their relationships, and their work. Jay, a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with twenty-somethings, has a lot to say on this subject:

[S]ome underemployment is not a means to an end. Sometimes it is just a way to pretend we’re not working.

The longer it takes to get our footing in work, the more likely we are to become, as one journalist put it, “different and damaged.” Research on underemployed twentysomethings tells us that those who are underemployed for as little as nine months tend to be more depressed and less motivated than their peers — than even their unemployed peers. … Twentysomething underemployment is associated with heavy drinking and depression in middle age even after becoming regulrly employed.

Twentysomethings who think they have until later to leave unemployment or underemployment miss out on moving ahead while they are still traveling light. No matter how smoothly this goes, late bloomers will likely never close the gap between themselves and those who got started earlier. … Midlife is when we may realize that our twentysomething choices cannot be undone.

It is almost a relief to imagine that these years aren’t real, that twentysomething jobs and relationships don’t count. But a career spent studying adult development tells me this is far from true. And years of listening closely to clients and students tells me that, deep down, twentysomethings want to be taken seriously, and they want their lives to be taken seriously. They want to know what they do matters — and it does.

Back it all the way up to preschool and what do we find? Kids who are already afraid to fail:

“‘I asked the children to draw pictures of houses but they wanted me to draw the houses for them." Why? "They didn't want to get them wrong.’

Or: ‘We were talking about what things float and one of the objects was a sieve. I asked if a sieve could float and a child said “no.” And then he looked at me and said, “it could.” Why. He didn’t want to make a mistake.”

Or: ‘The children were drawing and one child asked, “Is this going to be in the grade book?’”

These comments are sadly typical. I was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana last week and a grandmother told of taking her grandson to kindergarten. He was beside himself with excitement to start school. A few weeks later that excitement had waned. She asked him what he was learning in kindergarten. He told her that he was learning to take tests.” — Kids These Days

What are we teaching kids in school if in early childhood they’re already trying to figure out the right answer vs. learning how to think? Already, they’re worrying about how to be good students vs. how to be good learners:

There is a difference between being a good learner and a good student, and in high school, my peers and I learned how to be good students.”

“…I became increasingly aware of the role that my current grades would play in my near future. Doing all of my homework no longer felt realistic. My friends and I realized we didn’t have to do everything assigned to us in order to succeed in high school.”

I hope college is where I can become a good learner.” — My Insane Homework Load Taught Me How to Game the System

We already know what type of education helps kids succeed *and* be happy:

“Dweck discovered two groups of students according to what motivated them.

First group, I’ll call the praise-seekers: People who are motivated to learn mostly to get high grades, pats on the back, and praise — and then profit post-graduation.

Second group, I’ll call the meaning-makers and mastery-seekers: People who are motivated to learn mostly by a desire to make meaning, to advance their own knowledge and skill set, and to use knowledge and skills toward a greater goal beyond their own advancement. 

In a longitudinal follow-up, guess which group, ten years later, was more content with work and life?

Yep, group two.” — A Job as Creative Quest

So most kids are afraid to fail and taught to seek praise and good grades — and they’re left unable to think for themselves, take good risks, and be resilient in the face of failure while pursuing important work.

Meg Jay again — on how we get sucked into making choices to please other people (parents, teachers, … and Facebook “friends”):

“Each person has an inherent urge to grow toward his or her potential, much in the way an acorn becomes a tree. But because we all aren’t acorns and won’t all be oaks, there is bound to be confusion about what exactly growing toward our potential means. …

Maybe we feel the cultural press to be an engineer before we find out what exactly that entails. Or our parents tell us more about what we should be like than what we are like. Or Facebook suggests that our … lives ought to look a lot better than they do. Scrambling after ideals, we become alienated from what is true about ourselves and the world.

Shoulds can masquerade as high standards or lofty goals, but they are not the same. Goals direct us from the inside, but shoulds are paralyzing judgments from the outside. Goals feel like authentic dreams while shoulds feel like oppressive obligations. Shoulds set up a false dichotomy between either meeting an ideal or being a failure, between perfection or settling. The tyranny of the should even pits us against our own best interests.

“Part of realizing our potential is recognizing how our particular gifts and limitations fit with the world around us.” — Meg Jay, The Defining Decade

Alexis Ohanian, young co-founder of reddit, says doing real, meaningful work matters:

Most schoolwork felt awfully irrelevant when compared to work that was actually affecting real people and giving me leadership opportunities (albeit digital ones), nurturing the community management skills that would come in handy later.

Learning how to learn is going to be the defining skill of this internet-enabled century.” — Alexis Ohanian

“Learning how to learn” is an oft-heard, even trite phrase. But are our kids really learning how to learn? Those preschool and Kindergarten children who are learning to game the system — and the high school students gaming it several years later — did they learn how to learn?

When will they, if that crucial lesson was skipped?

Some people believe a solution can be found in the maker movement:

“Based on 16 years of hearing pitches about the next great thing in education, what jumps out is that demand from young people — not the education industry's desire to supply something — is driving the maker movement. …

When schools do teach science, too often they are ‘telling students about science’ — and drilling for memorization — instead of engaging them. …

One way to activate student learning, as professor Sugata Mitra has shown through his famous Hole-in-the-Wall experiments, is to give kids the right resources and some motivating content and then get out of the way.” — Teach Kids to Make Things

I have a few bones to pick with the maker movement as adults have organized it for kids — there will be an upcoming post about that. Nutshell: Kids still don’t have enough control — and therefore they aren’t getting the full learning benefit. Until they set their own goals, determine their own deadlines, and measure their own progress, the maker movement isn’t giving kids what they could get on their own, building their learning from scratch. It’s Little League vs. corner-lot ball — the kids are along for the ride, but the adults are still calling too many of the shots.

And is the education system ever going to just hand over resources and content and then get out of the way? Not if they remain focused on test results.

Put these articles and results together and it’s clear that we’re not just choosing a less-beneficial education for kids, we’re putting them on a path that is going to affect their ability to be independent, self-directed learners who can find and do meaningful work as adults:

Thriving workers are 46% more satisfied than their peers.


They are 125% less likely to burn out than their non-thriving peers.


What’s characteristic of thrivers?


They have passion mixed with mastery. They love what they do, but they actively pursue more knowledge and skills.


A sub-title on the a Harvard Business Review cover sums it up: How Passion & Purpose Drive Profits. It does not read, ‘How Profits Drive Passion & Purpose.’” — A Job as Creative Quest

I’ll end by referring back to a quote from last week’s round-up:

What makes people successful,’ [Prof. Wadhwa] said, ‘are their motivation, drive, and ability to learn from mistakes and how hard they work.


…[Y]oung people are often steered away from courses they would like to take in school by well-meaning parents, friends or teachers who tell them they will never get a job doing that. Real life often tells a different story. — Finding Your Element

Kids need to be doing real work that matters now — so they’re prepared to make a life as well as a living.


Comment by kirstenf on September 28, 2013 at 10:40 PM

Yes. Yes. Yes!

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 29, 2013 at 12:30 PM


Comment by tmorgan on September 29, 2013 at 12:06 AM

I watched Meg Jay's TED talk. It was great. The book sounds so good, too.

I feel for kids coming out of high school and then university without any real learning skills, nor any real idea how to get started on a path toward the life they want. And no idea really what that life looks like or what they want to do/be. It's frightening. And frustrating.

I like this whole line of thinking in these posts. What is a good life? How do I live one, given my unique talents, challenges, and circumstances? Hard, hard questions. Much easier to grade grub, graduate, get a job, zone out, get by.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 29, 2013 at 12:30 PM


i really enjoyed the book and it was a quick read, but she does sum it up nicely in the talk.

I feel for kids coming out of high school and then university without any real learning skills, nor any real idea how to get started on a path toward the life they want. And no idea really what that life looks like or what they want to do/be. It's frightening. And frustrating.

i’ve had so many friends who had to return to school for either a second bachelor’s or a master’s in an entirely different area because they chose their first major with zero idea of what they really wanted to do or what their future career would be like. SO MANY.

I like this whole line of thinking in these posts. What is a good life? How do I live one, given my unique talents, challenges, and circumstances? Hard, hard questions. Much easier to grade grub, graduate, get a job, zone out, get by.

the interesting thing is, my own sons are 13 and 16 and already so much more knowledgeable about their interests, their talents, what THEY have to offer, the type of work that interests them, and the type of life they want to have (apart from school) — really living a life and doing real work as teens rather than sitting in a cement-block classroom away from the real world.

of course, hs’ing teens who “graduate” at 18 are often as confused and uninformed — many of them had a traditional education where their parents made all the choices and they never delved into any of their interests (their parents thought those were for their free time — when the kids just wanted to relax and recover from “school” so they didn’t produce, they just consumed) and they never produced any original work and connected with community. they are also making choices based on vague ideas of what their adult lives will be like.

it’s so easy, really, to dedicate SOME time to helping kids start living a real, meaningful life NOW vs. just “learning” schoolwork assigned by someone else. but so few do it…

Comment by OffToExplore on September 29, 2013 at 07:26 PM

I am feeling the repercussions personally. I was definitely praise oriented, was advanced so could do well with minimal effort, and was good at many things but a master of none.

I worked through most of my twenties in a field I was naturally good at, again, mostly for praise and promotion.

Now I am in my early thirties and have been at home for 4 years. I really struggle with the lack of recognition for what I do. And the longer I have been out of the workforce, the less I know what to do with myself. I want a new chapter of my life filled with meaningful work my daughter look up to, but I have no idea how to begin.

So how do you remediate 30 years of bad learning to find something better?

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 29, 2013 at 07:49 PM


i think we have to start the same place our kids are starting — and i think it’s extra-difficult because of all that early conditioning. it’s a completely different perspective/trajectory/intention — starting with your own unique self and then beginning to connect the dots of your authentic interests, individual talents and abilities, and figuring out what you can provide that the world needs.

but *whenever* you start, today is better than never. :)

coming back to add:

the pbh for grown-ups series is focused on this!

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