Why “do what you love” is not terrible advice

Published by Lori Pickert on August 29, 2014 at 01:57 PM

I saw a post on Austin Kleon’s blog about this piece by Rachel Nabors:

We rarely hear the advice of the person who did what they loved and stayed poor or was horribly injured for it. Professional gamblers, stuntmen, washed up cartoonists like myself: we don’t give speeches at corporate events. We aren’t paid to go to the World Domination Summit and make people feel bad. We don’t land book deals or speak on Good Morning America. — Don’t Do What You Love

If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, I’ll break it down for you:

— She pursued what she loved and was successful at it.

— For health and financial reasons, she stopped doing that and took skills she learned pursuing what she loved to build a very successful business that she loves.

Here are a list of quotes from her piece:

I used to make comics for a living … and I gave out similar advice and professed similar goals: If I just tried hard enough, I’d make it doing what I love, making comics for a living. If anyone was less successful then I was, well, they must not have been trying hard enough.

To an extent it worked! I won awards, had hordes of fan girls, a weekly syndicated web comic I got paid for (very well by comic industry standards, too). I thought I was doing great doing what I love.”

I needed surgery.

And I didn’t have health insurance.

Almost overnight the series shut down. My fans and friends ran a Herculean donation effort for me, but it wasn’t enough. I quit comics and went into web development, something I’d enjoyed doing to support my web comics presence…”

After five years in web development I’m at the top of my game. People from around the world ask me to speak their conferences. I live in a great city where I’m starting my second company. Even if I fail or have a medical emergency, I can easily pick up good, paying work, and make more in one weekend than I did on my 60 hour comics work weeks.

I love what I do. And it loves me back.”

[M]y first love, comics, gives me an edge in this industry. If I’d just gone straight into web development because it seemed like a money-maker, I wouldn’t be half as excited about what I can do or as interesting to others in my field. I and my community are better for the years I spent making comics, even if it wasn’t a successful career choice.” — Don’t Do What You Love

I shared this blog post with a young teen and asked him what he thought. His reply:

“She did a great job of making the opposite of her point.”

I’m with him. This seems to be a straightforward story of someone following the path of their interests and talents to one success followed by another even bigger success. I’m … confused.

But once again, I think we’ve stumbled onto a disagreement in defining terms. At one point, Nabors writes:

“I quit comics and went into web development, something I’d enjoyed doing to support my web comics presence, but I wouldn’t say I loved it.”

Ah. So there’s a difference between “doing what you enjoy” and “doing what you love.” Hmm. Somewhere in there I am sure lurks “doing what you’re good at” as well. Maybe the problem is defining “love” in this context as something like a romantic massage rather than something that feels enjoyable, hard, meaningful, achievable, and worth the effort.

Nabors describes herself as a “washed-up” cartoonist. That’s a pretty negative way of describing her situation. She says her cartooning skills contributed a great deal to her business’s success. She was also successful at being a cartoonist. I’m … still confused.

She also says:

“[I]f I’d kept ‘doing what I love’ in the industry that didn’t love me back, I would have never realized that there are other, more profitable, things I love.”

But … it sounds like her industry *did* love her back. She was successful! She made a living! Her friends made a Herculean effort to raise money for her when she became ill! And she’s saying that doing what she love introduced her to other, more profitable things she loves…

Oh, wait — “love me back” here is, I think, code for “pay me enough money.” Fair point. But I think it would be clearer if she said “paid me enough money to cover health insurance and a savings account.” You shouldn’t call it “love” on your end meaning passion and “love” on the other end meaning profit — that just gets confusing.

And — why does it matter that you love what you do NOW if the point of this piece is that you shouldn’t do what you love? Still confused.

And — it seems to me that she stopped loving what she was doing when she realized she wanted to make more money. So to continue wouldn’t have been “doing what [she] loved.” She may have still loved comics but she no longer loved comics as a career. Her aspirations changed.

I think Ms. Nabors imagines that her twisty, turny path could never be replicated and she made it out by the skin of her teeth. Instead (and I speak from the perspective of having walked a twisty, turny career path of my own), I think hers is a pretty ordinary story of success. Start out doing something you think you want to do based on what you enjoy and what you do well … figure out it’s not quite for you for one reason or another … examine new opportunities … make adjustments to the plan … repeat until satisfied or retirement age.

In the end, “don’t do what you love” just doesn’t seem like very useful advice to me. Everyone needs a starting point: somewhere to launch their search for meaningful work and a satisfying life. “Don’t do what you love” doesn’t really narrow things down much, does it?

What’s the alternative? What’s the better route to ending up like Ms. Nabors, “doing something you love that loves you back”? Do you start with Time Magazine’s “hot careers for 2020” list? Throw a dart at a list of possible careers? Ask your parents and their friends for advice?

Could Ms. Nabors have gone to college for a four-year degree and still ended up where she is now, traveling the world doing speaking engagements, opening her second office?

Via her retrospective coherence, apparently yes. Via mine, probably not.

“Do what you love” has different meanings to different people. Delivered to someone with very little idea of what it means to do real work, it means one thing.

Delivered to someone who has plenty of experience doing real work, it means something else. I’ve written about this before:

Career advice tomes like this are not written for project-based homeschoolers — or for other homeschoolers/unschoolers who have already had years to deeply explore their interests.

Newport’s book has some good advice for 18-25-year-olds who have been pushed toward achievement their whole lives and who have a non-reality-based, pipe-dreamy idea of what they’d really like to do, which they call their “passion.”

It’s advice for people whose interests have never been connected with their work in any meaningful way.

This advice doesn’t work for kids who are experienced at coupling their interests with real-world experience, knowledge, and skills. These kids have already deeply explored their interests. They already know what it means to get beyond the honeymoon period to the place where real, challenging work is required. They have experienced the deep pleasure of having real skills and doing meaningful work.

These kids have shared what they know with others. They’ve connected with their community. Their experiences have firmly planted them in reality. Their interests aren’t pipe dreams and fantasies — they are gateways to the nexus of “what I like to do,” “what I have to give,” and “what people will pay for.”

Most career advice is for kids who came up through the regular system. It won’t help kids who were educated via an alternate path. These books are aimed at kids who haven’t initiated their own projects, haven’t explored their interests deeply, and haven’t learned how to find their place in the world. A project-based homeschooler is already way ahead of the game. They don’t need to be told to dump their passions and buckle down to sharpen their skills at whatever job they find themselves in after graduation. They already know how to combine interests, knowledge, skills, and hard work to build something the world needs. They’ve already moved on to asking deeper questions about their purpose. They have experience finding their place in the world and figuring out what they can contribute. — Why Skills Don’t Trump Passion

For me, “do what you love” means starting with what you know about your own signature strengths and what you think you would like to do with them. That’s a path to meaningful work. You will almost certainly not end up doing what you imagined at age 17. You will make new discoveries, meet new people, and gather new information. You will almost certainly end up doing a lot of different things.

“Do what you love” isn’t a career plan — but it is a plan for a good life.

Goleman: When you talk about Good Work, you propose three tests that anyone can apply to their own work to ask the question, ‘Is the work I’m doing in this category?’ One is, it fits your values. The second is that it’s excellent work — you’re highly competent at what you do; you’re effective. The third is, it brings joy.

Gardner: …[W]e found, particularly in people who were working in very challenging professions or in very challenging milieus, that it was simply too difficult to be technically excellent and constantly reflecting about whether you are responsible and ethical. It was too difficult to do unless what you were doing was terribly important to yourself and you really felt it was your mission in life. You felt that you weren’t whole unless you were doing this kind of thing. — What I’ve been reading: The path to Good Work is paved with passion and hope

Doing what you love doesn’t necessarily mean doing it as your career — but it can still infuse your work with more meaning and your life with more satisfaction:

Creative hobbies boost your work performance. They can be the key to creative breakthroughs and better mental health.

Side projects can diversify and protect your income and boost your career.

The benefit of having lots of different interests is that you train your brain to learn many new patterns. The patterns you learn in one field can then be applied to totally different fields to solve problems creatively. — Steve Pavlina

Job crafting — upgrading your day job by pulling in your strengths, passions, and values — makes your work more meaningful and more enjoyable.

But let’s say a young person does want to pursue what they love for their career and they ask for your advice. Consider the following before you answer:

Job satisfaction is at its lowest rate since anyone started measuring it and nearly two-thirds of people would choose another career if they could.

[W]hen you ask older folks for the most important lesson they’ve learned, what do they say? “Don’t stay in a job you dislike.”

Plenty of research says money doesn’t make us all that happy once you can pay the bills. … Having meaning in your life increases life satisfaction twice as much as wealth.

Can you guess what Harvard Business Review says is the #1 career regret? “I wish I hadn’t taken the job for the money.”

Despite low pay and high unemployment artists have higher job satisfaction than most people.

Aristotle once said, “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.” He was way ahead of his time.

One of the most proven elements in work research is that using your strengths makes you feel great:

Americans also gain a boost in positive emotions the more they use their strengths. The more hours per day adults believe they use their strengths, the more likely they are to report having ample energy, feeling well-rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot, learning something interesting, and being treated with respect.

Doing what you’re passionate about has wide-ranging positive benefits.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

Elderly individuals who were harmoniously passionate scored higher on various indicators of psychological adjustment, such as life satisfaction, meaning in life, and vitality, while they reported lower levels of negative indicators of psychological adjustment such as anxiety and depression.

Cal Newport points out a weakness in the “follow your passion” argument: most people’s passions are quite difficult to make a living at.

What’s interesting is that most often it is passion that leads us to “10,000 hours” of deliberate practice and subsequent expertise.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

The researchers also looked at the role of passion among 130 undergraduate students enrolled in a selective psychology course. They found a direct path from harmonious passion to deliberate practice: the students who were more harmoniously passionate about their work were more likely to engage in deliberate practice.

So following your passion and working hard may eventually make you great at what you love… — How You Can Have a Fulfilling Career: 10 Scientific Steps

Is doing what you love a guarantee for success? Absolutely not. But neither is pursuing something you don’t love.

My father could have been a great comedian but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love. — Jim Carrey

In the end, it’s not the advice that matters — it’s the young people who are receiving it. We need to make sure they know the deep pleasure of doing meaningful work. We need to make sure they know what their interests, talents, and signature strengths are. We need to make sure they know how to seek out opportunities and build community. We need to make sure they have experience working hard at something that matters. We need to make sure they’ve already experienced failure and disappointment and they’ve already learned how to move past it and adapt.

If they start experiencing meaningful work at a young age, they’ll do it for the rest of their lives — whether it comes with a paycheck or not. And that’s the key to a meaningful and satisfying life.

The irony is that the teen years could be so rich for exploring interests and talents (and doing real, meaningful work) but we stuff them with so many hours of school, homework, and extracurricular activities (all the better for your college application!) that kids don’t know who they are or what they want to do. — The ROI of Meaningful Work

When I talk to my sons about the work they love to do, we’re not discussing some pink cloud fantasy that will happen later on, when they’re adults — we’re talking about the work they’re doing right now.

By the time well-meaning people starting telling them “don’t do what you love,” it will already be too late.


See also: The path to Good Work is paved with passion and hope


What I’ve been reading

Published by Lori Pickert on February 28, 2014 at 01:25 PM

“Learning is more than learning to conform.” — Paradoxes of Learning, Peter Jarvis


I’ve been seeing lots of articles lately about how employers no longer consider elite degrees as important or desirable as they once were.

“The least important attribute they look for is ‘expertise.’

Said Bock: ‘If you take somebody who has high cognitive ability, is innately curious, willing to learn and has emergent leadership skills, and you hire them as an H.R. person or finance person, and they have no content knowledge, and you compare them with someone who’s been doing just one thing and is a world expert, the expert will go: “I’ve seen this 100 times before; here’s what you do.”’ Most of the time the nonexpert will come up with the same answer, added Bock, ‘because most of the time it’s not that hard.’ Sure, once in a while they will mess it up, he said, but once in a while they’ll also come up with an answer that is totally new. And there is huge value in that.”

[W]hen you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.

“Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it).

And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.” — How to Get a Job at Google


“[B]usiness leaders are now echoing Google by saying that college pedigree and major don’t matter as much as people think in hiring decisions.

A new Gallup survey finds that in hiring decisions, only 9 percent of business leaders say that the school on a candidate’s diploma is ‘very important,’ compared to 84 percent assessing knowledge in the field and 79 percent looking at applied skills.”

“Google’s head of people operations Laszlo Bock told the New York Times that top graduates can lack ‘intellectual humility,’ and that schools frequently don’t deliver on what they promise.”

“96 percent of college provosts say students are prepared, compared to 14 percent of the public, and 11 percent of business leaders.” 

“It could be that higher education is really not preparing people at all and we have a broken system, or just a fundamental misunderstanding. Either way it’s a tragedy…” — Survey: Businesses Don’t Care if their Employees went to Yale

So almost 100% of colleges think they’re doing a great job of preparing students for work and only 11% of business leaders agree. There’s a bit of a disconnect there.

So what about for future entrepreneurs? Does a top college degree matter there?

Recently a venture capitalist told students at the Harvard School of Business:

“It's really unfair to you guys, but I think you’re discriminated against now … I would bet a large amount of money that the overwhelming majority of us would not look favorably on a company started by one of you.” — Investor gives closing keynote at Harvard Business School


I’ve read several articles in the last few months saying that the biggest thing holding college graduates back from starting their own businesses is… wait for it… college loan debt.

The rising mountain of student debt, recently closing in on $1.2 trillion, is forcing some entrepreneurs to abandon startup dreams…

Some academic experts say leftover loans are the biggest impediment to upstart entrepreneurship by those who recently received college or graduate degrees. “I mentor students all the time," says Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford University Law School. "The single largest inhibitor to entrepreneurship is the student loans.” — Student Loan-Load Kills Start-Up Dreams

If student debt is a roadblock to economic opportunity, that really undermines a philosophy of how America has moved forward and prospered. — Millenials’ ball and chain: student loan debt

So your college degree creates a roadblock to your economic opportunity? Ouch again.

From the Harvard Business Review themselves:

A bachelor’s degree used to provide enough basic training to last a career. Yet today, the skills college graduates acquire during college have an expected shelf life of only five years… — Mind the (Skills) Gap

The Google tells me that average student loan debt is about $30,000 (and 70% of students graduate with debt) but that’s only the debt you walk away with — that’s not the cost of a college degree (remembering to factor in the opportunity cost of spending four or five years or more not working). Still, seems like you should get more than five years’ worth of knowledge for that kind of coin.

Paul Graham wrote about this way back in 2007:

It may not matter all that much where you go to college.

For me, as for a lot of middle class kids, getting into a good college was more or less the meaning of life when I was growing up. What was I? A student. To do that well meant to get good grades. Why did one have to get good grades? To get into a good college. And why did one want to do that? There seemed to be several reasons: you’d learn more, get better jobs, make more money. But it didn’t matter exactly what the benefits would be. College was a bottleneck through which all your future prospects passed; everything would be better if you went to a better college.

A few weeks ago I realized that somewhere along the line I had stopped believing that.

Either it won't help your kid get into Harvard, or if it does, getting into Harvard won't mean much anymore. And then I thought: how much does it mean even now?

It turns out I have a lot of data about that.

One of the most surprising things we’ve learned is how little it matters where people went to college.

I thought I’d already been cured of caring about that. There’s nothing like going to grad school at Harvard to cure you of any illusions you might have about the average Harvard undergrad. And yet Y Combinator showed us we were still overestimating people who’d been to elite colleges. We’d interview people from MIT or Harvard or Stanford and sometimes find ourselves thinking: they must be smarter than they seem. It took us a few iterations to learn to trust our senses.

Don’t you learn things at the best schools that you wouldn't learn at lesser places?

Apparently not. Obviously you can’t prove this in the case of a single individual, but you can tell from aggregate evidence: you can’t, without asking them, distinguish people who went to one school from those who went to another three times as far down the US News list. Try it and see.

How can this be? Because how much you learn in college depends a lot more on you than the college. A determined party animal can get through the best school without learning anything. And someone with a real thirst for knowledge will be able to find a few smart people to learn from at a school that isn’t prestigious at all.

[T]he great advantage of not caring where people went to college is not just that you can stop judging them (and yourself) by superficial measures, but that you can focus instead on what really matters. What matters is what you make of yourself. I think that’s what we should tell kids. Their job isn’t to get good grades so they can get into a good college, but to learn and do. And not just because that’s more rewarding than worldly success. That will increasingly be the route to worldly success. — Paul Graham

Our kids’ jobs aren’t to get good grades, but to learn and to do. That sounds right to me.

If this gives you the sads, I’m sorry — but I think it’s exciting. Things are changing. How we learn and how we work — it keeps on changing. As long as we’re up for it, and as long as our kids are, I think we’re all going to be fine.

If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, they will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.

As we get ready for the 93rd year of universal public education, here’s the question every parent and taxpayer needs to wrestle with: Are we going to applaud, push or even permit our schools (including most of the private ones) to continue the safe but ultimately doomed strategy of churning out predictable, testable and mediocre factory-workers?

The post-industrial revolution is here. Do you care enough to teach your kids to take advantage of it? — Seth Godin, Back to (the wrong) School

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” — Eric Hoffer

Job crafting: Passion matters after all

Published by Lori Pickert on February 8, 2014 at 03:54 PM

I saw Cal Newport on Brainpickings this past week reiterating that following your passion is a big mistake, so I reshared my own take on that subject (and my review of his book):

Career advice tomes like this are not written for project-based homeschoolers — or for other homeschoolers/unschoolers who have already had years to deeply explore their interests.

Newport’s book has some good advice for 18-25-year-olds who have been pushed toward achievement their whole lives and who have a non-reality-based, pipe-dreamy idea of what they’d really like to do, which they call their “passion.”

It’s advice for people whose interests have never been connected with their work in any meaningful way.

Most career advice is for kids who came up through the regular system. It won’t help kids who were educated via an alternate path.Why Skills Don’t Trump Passion

Recently I was reading through If I Knew Then — advice from the graduates of Harvard Business School class of ’63 — and there was a lot of advice about passion:

As my good friend and author, Richard Leider, says, “Heed your life’s calling — that inner urge to give your gifts away.” This requires being clear about your gifts, values, and passions, and using them as a compass to find your career path. It is an “inside-out” process. — RichardI L. Peterson

Try to find your passion — what you love thinking about and doing. If you can find a career doing something you are already passionate about, the finances will flow, along with a better balance in life. — Jim Utaski

To greatly enhance the odds of enjoying a career which is both fulfilling and successful, one must find an endeavor, a subject, métier, process, environment for which one has a passion. — Charles Hale

Choose work you enjoy and that serves as many people as possible. Focus on serving others — not on building wealth. Serve well, and money will follow. — Norman Barnett

Work and pleasure are not synonymous, but they’re not opposites, either. Loving what you’re doing (well) can be infectious and motivating to others. Ultimately, that’s leadership. — Rod Murtaugh

Decide you like what you do, and do it better and smarter than anyone else. If you can’t, change your career. — Joan O. Rothberg

But maybe that’s a case of retroactive memory.

Then I ran across an academic paper about job crafting that seems to support the idea that passion actually does matter — because it makes work more meaningful and more enjoyable.

Job crafting is when individuals actively shape their jobs to inject them with more meaning and purpose and connect them with — you guessed it — their passions.

“[J]ob crafting … may help employees get more enjoyment and meaning out of work, enhance their work identities, cope with adversity, and perform better.” — What is job crafting and why does it matter?

By thinking about where they invest their focus … employees are able to re-craft their jobs to better align with their strengths, passions, and values.” — The building blocks of a year worth living (Psychology Today)

Crafting your job to better align with your values and your deep interests makes your work — and your life — more fulfulling.

Interestingly, not everyone is capable of crafting their job. Those who are able to do it need certain attitudes and abilities — ones that resonate with self-directed, self-managed learning:

“A job crafting perspective implies that the tasks and interpersonal relationships that make up a job are a flexible set of building blocks that can be reorganized, restructured, and reframed to construct a customized job. These building blocks expose employees to a variety of resources — people, technology, raw materials, etc. — that can be utilized when job crafting. The success of a job crafter may depend largely on his or her ability to take advantage of the resources at hand.” — What is job crafting and why does it matter?

In other words, a person has to be able to actively take charge and seek out opportunities — they have to know it’s possible and then they have to take the initiative to do it. Because no one else is going to customize your job for you — it’s something you have to do for yourself. No one else is going to figure out where your personal interests and passions can be connected to your career — that’s up to you.

The secret to high performance and satisfaction — at work, at school, and at home — is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. — Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

If you aren’t used to directing and managing your own learning and shaping your own projects, then you may not realize what’s possible. If you haven’t experienced meaningful work, you may not continue to seek it out.

When we give our children the opportunity to direct their own learning, we are giving them the experience they need to know how to be self-determining and we’re giving them the skills they need to live their best lives.

Giving meaning to those educational buzzwords

Published by Lori Pickert on December 3, 2013 at 09:19 AM

What skills will you need to succeed in the future?

I shared the above infographic (found here) on my Facebook page with a note saying “We need to compare the skills listed in this infographic with the education/experiences our children are receiving and adjust accordingly.”

I got an interesting comment:

Lots of buzz words in that poster....would be great to discuss actual ways to carry out these suggestions.

Leadership, critical thinking, collaboration — are these just buzzwords today?

How do solid skills become buzzwords?

When the path isn’t clear. Everyone agrees that critical thinking sounds essential, but they go home mystified as to how to really teach it. You see it mentioned in blog post after blog post but there’s no clear steps laid out showing how to incorporate it into what you’re already doing.

When it’s all talk and no walk. Everyone agrees collaboration is an essential skill, but it isn’t built into the curriculum. The new budget shows us investing in desks, not tables. The new schedule doesn’t allot any meeting time for children or adults.

When inspiring ideas aren’t followed up with ongoing support. Whether it’s a professional development day, conference session, workshop, book, TED talk, or blog post, everyone gets all excited about a great-sounding idea — but then, left to figure out how to put it into action on their own, with no ongoing support when things get difficult, that great idea never gets off the ground. Disappointment sets in until the next exciting new thing … that dies without support. And then the next. And so on.

They’re not buzzwords because they aren’t real or achievable  — they’re buzzwords because in some places, they’re just noise and no action. Not this place though.

So, back to what I said about this infographic:

We need to compare the skills listed in this infographic with the education/experiences our children are receiving and adjust accordingly.

Buzzwords or no, these are real skills your child needs.

If you look at how your child is learning (notice I said how your child is learning, not what your child is learning), do you think they’re acquiring these important habits and skills for thinking, learning, and doing?

If the answer is no, then you move on past the buzzword to:

What experiences does a person need to acquire these skills?

With PBH, these deeper thinking and learning habits are the curriculum:


From the graphic: Take a cross-disciplinary approach to project teamwork. Participate in leading and following.

What does this actually mean? Kids need experience playing every role in contributing to a team effort. They need the chance to be the oldest and the youngest, the most experienced and the least experienced, the one who spearheads the effort and the one who makes a contribution. They need experience seeking out opinions from the group and they need experience speaking up and offering an opinion when they aren’t in charge. It’s not enough for them to always be the follower or always be the leader, always be the youngest or always be the oldest — you need to make sure they are getting a variety of collaborative experiences.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Don’t always mix with the same crowd where your child slips into the same position each time. Your child will find it easier to step into a new role with adults and peers who haven’t pigeonholed who they are and what they can do. Encourage your child to dig into interests whether you think they have natural talent or not — don’t feed the idea that they should only do things they excel at. Help your child start organize their own group activities and start their own communities. Make sure you haven’t pigeonholed your child — change their environment, invest in their motivation, and wait to see what they can do.

Critical Thinking

From the graphic: Engage in self-directed, project-based, and applied learning.

What does this actually mean? If other people are preparing your learning experiences, they’re cutting your intellectual meat for you. By the time kids are teens, they should know how to prepare their own curriculum: know what they want to learn, choose their own resources, research at the library and online, locate mentors and experts and peers with similar goals, communicate clearly with each of those people, create communities, and so on. If they can’t do this, they haven’t received an adequate education. How do they get these skills? By developing them from the very beginning.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Help your child become a self-directed learner. Help them work on projects that last weeks, months, and even years. Don’t constantly introduce new things. Help them dig deeply into a single idea. Practice slow learning.


From the graphic: Learn in an environment that requires participation in many modes of communication.

What does this actually mean? You can excel at classroom learning by figuring out what the teacher wants and giving it to them. You can do this without ever really understanding or caring about the material. Being adept at communication requires having something you want or need to say, understanding it yourself, figuring out how to articulate it to someone else, then delivering it in a way that makes sense for that specific situation. It requires knowing how to talk, how to write, how to persuade, how to ask, how to be polite, how to engage in social media, how to use images to convey ideas, and so on. It requires moving from a one-way-only form of learning and sharing to a flexible and freely transferable way of learning, thinking, doing, and connecting that is platform-independent.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Tap into your child’s self-motivation. Start by helping them care enough to want to communicate. Then help them find an audience. Help them share. Help them publish. Use tech for something other than entertainment — help them produce what they consume. Don’t think you have to teach them how to do everything, therefore limiting them to the modes of communication you’re comfortable with — invest in their interests and their ideas and help them connect with experts who can help them do what they want to do. Don’t turn everything they do into a teaching/grading momentgive them some area of their learning life where they don’t have to worry about spelling and grammar and can focus on their ideas. Give them the opportunity to care about improving their own abilities — which means getting out of their way.


From the graphic: Choose work that is collaborative and measure success by team results. 

What does this actually mean? Collaborative work is work done by a group of people who are combining their efforts to meet a large goal. Why measure your success by team results? Because if the team isn’t happy, then it wasn’t a collaborative effort. You need shared meaningful goals and a process for working out how to meet those goals together.

Why is collaboration important? Because you can’t do everything yourself. You need friends. You need colleagues. You need mentors. You need cohorts and followers, employees and colleagues. Collaboration teaches children how to translate what they want to do from their bedroom to the real world.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: The best way to teach your child how to collaborate is to show them by being a good co-learner. You are their first audience, their first mentor, their first friend. When you help them own their own learning, you are collaborating with them on their education — creating a negotiated curriculum.

Next, make sure they have the opportunity to work with other kids and adults toward a shared goal. This can be as simple as inviting friends over to help with a project. You can create your own communities and groups focused on your child’s deepest interests. You can help them find places in your community where they can contribute to goals they care about.

Collaboration is how we get things done, and we want to help our children become people who can make their ideas happen.


From the graphic: Take advantage of flexible work schedules and learning platforms to work, raise a family, volunteer, and learn.

What does this actually mean? In my opinion, nothing. It’s an advertisement for the University of Phoenix, which prepared the infographic.

What should it mean? Adaptability is the ability to fit yourself to the situation. You don’t sit around complaining that the world isn’t giving you what you need and want — you figure out how you can change what you’re doing in order to meet your goals even when conditions are less than ideal.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Stop saying you don’t have enough time to do the things you want to do and learn to use the time you have. Show your child how to get up, dust themselves off, and start taking action on your goals. Can’t afford to get them the tools or materials you wish they could have? DIY it. Barter. Have a bake sale. Team up with some like-minded friends. Stop advocating and start doing. Can’t find the experiences, communities, or opportunities you wish they could have? Create them. Slowly realizing your daily life isn’t aligned with your deepest goals? Make a fresh start. Constantly taking one step forward and two steps back? Stop preshrinking your opportunities.

Believe in yourself so you can believe in your child. It isn’t about the conditions — it’s about what you do, every day: your choices, your actions. Get out of your own way. Know that you can keep going, keep working, keep improving, so you can help your child know this. It’s what you do that matters, so start doing the things that matter most.

Productivity and accountability

From the graphic: Provide a code of conduct in learning situations to build accountability and productivity.

What does this actually mean? Hmm, not much. A bit circular, am I right?

What should it mean? Productivity means getting things done. Accountability means someone is expecting you to get those things done and tracking your progress.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Help your child set their own big goals, break them down into achievable tasks, keep track of their plans/ideas/intentions, post reminders in their workspace, and remember what they want to do. Set aside time dedicated to doing their meaningful work — make it as important as the commitments you keep to others (dance class, tae kwon do, etc.). Create a family culture that honors meaningful work.

Regularly meet with them and talk about their big goals, their plans, what they need from you, and how they plan to proceed. Help them be accountable to themselves first and foremost. As they move into the world and contribute to different groups and collaborative projects, they will be held accountable by coaches, teachers, friends, and bosses. This is your opportunity to help them own their own goals and learn to make their own ideas happen just because it matters to them.


From the graphic: Seek out learning environments that build technology and media fluency.

What does this actually mean? They blew this one entirely. Let’s move directly to…

What should it mean? Innovation doesn’t equate to technology. Innovation is doing things in new ways.

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” — Theodore Levitt

Concrete ways to achieve these goals: Innovation is something that is probably overemphasized. Many businesses succeed not by innovating (doing something complete new) but by solving an existing problem in a useful way. Tim O’Reilly had this to say about innovation:

In the latest issue of Wired, Tim O’Reilly, the brilliant technology thinker and book publisher, offered his corrective on innovation, in this case with respect to entrepreneurs: “The myth of innovation is that it starts with entrepreneurs, but it really starts with people having fun. The Wright brothers weren't trying to build an airline, they were saying, ‘Holy !*&#, do you think we could fly?’ The first kids who made snowboards, they just glued skis together and said, ‘Let’s try this!’ With the web, none of us thought there was money in it. People said, ‘This document came from halfway around the world. How awesome is that!’”

So what if we all stopped trying to “innovate” — and started trying to have fun and really do something new? And what if we set ourselves a more basic (and more authentic) set of challenges as we look to the future:

What difference are we trying to make in our field? What do we care about? — Please can we all just stop innovating?

To help your child be creative and innovative, you have to give them adequate time. You have to help them see themselves as people with great ideas who can do interesting things.

As to building technology and media fluency, stop fighting about screen time and help your kids make something awesome. Dump your scarcity mindset and realize that your kids can love video games and books, TV and the outdoors.

Accessing, analyzing, and synthesizing information

From the graphic: Seek out a curriculum focused on real cross-functional issues to help you think about how issues interconnect.

What does this actually mean? Cringing at that awkward phrasing. I don’t know what they’re trying to say here, so let’s move on to…

What should it mean? Your child needs access to information, and they need the opportunity to analyze and synthesize that information themselves.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Stop cutting your child’s intellectual meat into bite-sized chunks. Give them direct access to resources, knowledge gatekeepers, experiences, artifacts, and so on. Don’t hand them library books — help them ask the librarian for help and let them sort through the books and choose the ones they want to bring home. Don’t find cool science experiments and neat crafts for them to do. Let them find their own cool stuff. Skip the faux-DIY/hacking/making groups that still have adults doing all the real work. Give your kid the tools, the control, the space, and the support to make her own ideas happen and slowly accumulate the knowledge and skills she needs to do that.

Don’t just answer your child’s question and cut off a potentially rich line of inquiry. We already know how smart you are. You have nothing to prove. Give them the opportunity to dig into an interest and generate their own questions then find their own answers.

Help them find multiple resources with different points of view and decide what they believe and why. Don’t stop with one or two books — let them range about and find different perspectives and opinions.

Embrace rigor. Get your kid out of the backseat and into the driver’s seat, and do it now. I’ve worked with three-year-olds who could do this. How is it we have teenagers who can’t?


From the graphic: Develop the ability to solve current and relevant issues.

What does this actually mean? I heavily edited their text to get down to the nut of how they were defining this and it’s pretty weak. If they’re saying that a successful business should solve a real problem, that is correct. However, it doesn’t really address how to nurture entrepreneurialism.

What should it mean? Work is changing. Every person needs to operate as an entrepreneur, even if they work for someone else. In today’s work world, everyone needs to run their career the way they would run a small business. That makes these skills essential.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Teach them to own. Help them develop authentic self-confidence. Give them the opportunity to start businesses now, as children and teens. Help them become financially literate. Show them how their interest connects to real jobs and real businesses.

I started my own company when I was 22, fresh out of college. I ran that business for over 20 years. I founded and ran a private school. I’ve worked as a consultant. I’m not just talking through my hat here. I know what it takes to start and run a business and I think it’s an essential skill that every child should learn — but not every child does. Most adults suffer from a lot of wrong ideas about business ownership, and they pass those along to their kids. The biggest wrong idea is “that’s the kind of thing other people do — people who aren’t like us, people who have more money and more contacts, people who have more experience and went to better schools” and so on and so on. Not true. Your child may grow up to have a traditional job (if they still exist), but they may instead be part of the freelance economy. Help them master all of the skills on this list and they’ll be ready for that.

Global citizenship

From the graphic: Learn in a diverse classroom to gain opportunities to build cross-cultural understanding.

What does this actually mean? Get out and mix with a diverse group of people. Don’t always stick with people exactly like yourself. Don’t let your learning experiences be too homogenized. Get experience now with meeting, talking with, and working with a wide variety of people.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Eschew labels. Mix it up. Diversity isn’t just about skin color or religion. It’s about connecting with people who have different ideas and vastly different experiences. More and more we are moving toward a global economy, a global community. The last PBH Master Class had participants from over a dozen different countries. I have good friends I speak to every day who live across the globe from me. The internet has made the world easier to navigate — you don’t have to get frisked at the airport to travel somewhere new every day. This is the new reality: your neighbors aren’t just the people who live on your street and your friends and coworkers can live anywhere.

Take a real look at this list. These aren’t just skills that can help you get a job. These are skills that can help you do the work you most want to do, whatever it is.

If the buzz sounds good, and the skill or experience seems valuable and worth having, you’ll probably have to do the hard work of figuring out how to make it happen for yourself and for your child. No one is going to hand you a prepackaged curriculum for authentic, self-directed learning — you have to build it yourself. Set big goals, break them down, find experiences, make connections, and build your own learning life from scratch. Sure, it’s harder than clicking the “Like” button. But it’s what we want our kids to be able to do — so we have to walk that path ourselves.

In the end, it’s only a buzz word if you click away. If you’re willing to do the work, you can have the reality behind the noise.

How to do what you love

Published by Lori Pickert on October 13, 2012 at 02:26 PM

Two nice follow-ups on “Why Skills Don’t Trump Passion”

[Students] come to me and say, “Well, we’re getting out of college and we haven’t the faintest idea of what we want to do.

So I always ask the question, “What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?

Well, it’s so amazing — as a result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say, “Well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everyone knows, you can’t earn any money that way.” …

When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, “Well, you do that — and forget the money, because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is, to go on doing things you don’t like doing — which is stupid!”

Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.

And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is — you can eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something … and then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much — somebody’s interested in everything. And anything you’re interested in, you’ll find others.

But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on spending time doing things you don’t like and to teach your children to follow in the same track.

See, what we’re doing is, we’re bringing up children, educating them, to live the same sort of lives that we’re living in order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same things…

And so therefore it’s so important to consider this question — what do I desire?

Alan Watts

To do something well you have to like it. That idea is not exactly novel. We've got it down to four words: “Do what you love.” But it's not enough just to tell people that. Doing what you love is complicated.

The very idea is foreign to what most of us learn as kids. When I was a kid, it seemed as if work and fun were opposites by definition. Life had two states: some of the time adults were making you do things, and that was called work; the rest of the time you could do what you wanted, and that was called playing. …

School, it was implied, was tedious because it was preparation for grownup work. …

By the time they reach an age to think about what they’d like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one's work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty. Having a job is said to be even more onerous than schoolwork. And yet all the adults claim to like what they do. You can't blame kids for thinking “I am not like these people; I am not suited to this world.” …

The most dangerous liars can be the kids’ own parents. If you take a boring job to give your family a high standard of living, as so many people do, you risk infecting your kids with the idea that work is boring. Maybe it would be better for kids in this one case if parents were not so unselfish. A parent who set an example of loving their work might help their kids more than an expensive house. …

The test of whether people love what they do is whether they'd do it even if they weren't paid for it — even if they had to work at another job to make a living. How many corporate lawyers would do their current work if they had to do it for free, in their spare time, and take day jobs as waiters to support themselves? …

With such powerful forces leading us astray, it's not surprising we find it so hard to discover what we like to work on. Most people are doomed in childhood by accepting the axiom that work = pain. Those who escape this are nearly all lured onto the rocks by prestige or money. How many even discover something they love to work on? A few hundred thousand, perhaps, out of billions.

It's hard to find work you love; it must be, if so few do. So don't underestimate this task. And don't feel bad if you haven't succeeded yet. In fact, if you admit to yourself that you're discontented, you're a step ahead of most people, who are still in denial. If you're surrounded by colleagues who claim to enjoy work that you find contemptible, odds are they're lying to themselves. Not necessarily, but probably.

Although doing great work takes less discipline than people think — because the way to do great work is to find something you like so much that you don't have to force yourself to do it — finding work you love does usually require discipline.

Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it's rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties. But if you have the destination in sight you’ll be more likely to arrive at it.


If you know you can love work, you’re in the home stretch, and if you know what work you love, you’re practically there.


— Paul Graham, How to Do What You Love

Why skills don’t trump passion

Published by Lori Pickert on October 5, 2012 at 11:12 AM

I recently finished reading Cal Newport’s new book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.

There is a kick-back against “finding your passion” and if you want to understand it, read this book. 

Many years ago, my husband and I watched a 60 Minutes segment about an automobile plant closing in Michigan and the effect on its workers, who had previously been making very nice salaries as union autoworkers.

They focused on a few workers and their post-layoff plans, and one woman they interviewed had settled on her new plan: to open a hot-dog restaurant. Selling only hot dogs — no burgers. They followed her around and asked her questions and the subtext was, “Brace yourself for the train wreck to come.”

Ever since then, our family code for an ill-thought-out plan is “hot-dog restaurant.”

In Newport’s book, the people who chase their passions are all would-be hot-dog restauranteurs. Meanwhile, his advice is to forget about passion and just settle down to acquire serious skills.  Stay where you are; keep doing what you’re doing right now. Be “so good they can’t ignore you.” You’ll build career capital and eventually earn more freedom and autonomy. That is where true career happiness lies, he says.

The problem is, by the end of the book, the examples given all blur together and people’s choices seem terribly similar except for how they are sorted: losers who failed were passion-chasers and winners who succeeded were craftsmen. The only thing that really separates them is the language Newport uses to describe their choices.

Lisa moved from an advertising career to start a yoga studio.

When Feuer left her advertising career to start a yoga studio, not only did she discard her career capital acquired over many years in the marketing industry, but she transitioned into an unrelated field where she had almost no capital. Given yoga’s popularity, a one-month training program places Feuer pretty near the bottom of the skill hierarchy of yoga practitioners, making her a long way from being so good she can’t be ignored. According to career capital theory, she therefore has very little leverage in her yoga-working life. It’s unlikely, therefore, that things will go well for Feuer — which, unfortunately, is exactly what ended up happening.

Giles moved from a successful programming career to pursue “a longstanding interest in filmmaking.”

“It’s not that the money was great … but just that it sounded like a lot of fun — one of Giles’ most important criteria for his working life. … Not long after I met Giles, after he had successfully scratched his Hollywood itch, he once again moved on. A publisher had asked him to write a book, and he had agreed — and why not? It seemed like an interesting thing to do.

“I talked to the recruiter about finding something I liked better, and he said I should be thrilled to have a job.” Giles being Giles, however, he ignored the recruiter, quit his job, and moved back to Santa Fe.

On the surface, both Lisa and Giles chased an interest — but whereas Lisa was described as “enthralled” and her choice as “ill-fated,” Giles’ choices were described as “remarkable” as he searched for his “mission” in life. Newport also made the point that Giles made use of his career capital — he incorporated computer programming into various jobs as he hopped around looking for something “interesting” to do. Lisa, on the other hand, was seen as losing all her career capital by moving from marketing to owning her own business — even though it seems like marketing skills would be an excellent base for a competitive small business. If her yoga business had been a success, that’s how her story would have been interpreted. If you fail, you were chasing passion; if you succeed, you just wanted to keep things interesting and be remarkable. A reviewer on Goodreads taught me the term for this type of convenient reasoning: retrospective coherence.

What does all this have to do with project-based homeschooling?

When educators take full control of curricula and leave kids entirely out of it — no self-directed learning, no long-term projects, no choice — they are building learning around 100% skills.

There are educators who say that project-based learning — or “child-led,” “interest-led,” or “passion-driven” learning — is too heavy on hot-dog restaurant emotion and weak on skills. This is the same argument Newport makes in his book: it’s not that skills trump passion (his subtitle!) but that skills are everything and passion should be entirely discarded.

The passion hypothesis is not just wrong, it’s also dangerous. Telling someone to “follow their passion” is not just an act of innocent optimism, but potentially the foundation for a career riddled with confusion and angst.

Keep in mind, it’s okay to do things that seem interesting to you (see Giles above) — just don’t go crazy and feel passionate about it.

Can you teach kids skills without tapping into their interests (or passions)? Sure. That’s how it’s usually done. Does it work well? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

What happens when we couple deep interests (cough — passions — cough) and learning? Are skills thrown out the window? “Skills — who needs skills when I have passion?!” This is how a lot of people view this kind of learning: they think that when you let kids direct their own learning, they’ll be lazy. They won’t challenge themselves. They’ll stop acquiring and practicing real skills.

This is, of course, completely false. In order to do anything you want to do, you need skills. And children who have some say in what they learn are self-motivated; they want skills because they want to meet their own goals.

I heard an educator say the problem with allowing kids to learn through projects is that they won’t acquire any knowledge. “What happens to content coverage? These kids aren’t going to know anything!” As if you could spend months digging deeply into a topic and not acquire knowledge. Or skills. When they hear “interest,” educators like these imagine Newport’s version of passion: a fantasy that floats above your head in a pink dream bubble.

To really learn something, you need both knowledge and skills. You have to gather the knowledge and then you have to work with it. To discard passion (or authentic interest) is to drain the life force from the learner and therefore from the work. Am I going to bring my best efforts to something that holds no interest for me? Am I going to achieve flow? Am I going to strive to challenge myself?

The real issue, in the end, is interests. Teaching works best when you teach students who agree that they really want to learn whatever it is you have to teach. This means making sure that students are preparing to do things they want to do and actually will do. That makes teaching much easier for all involved. The one-size-fits-all curriculum doesn’t work because one size doesn’t fit all. Let detail-oriented people learn detailed kinds of things. Let artistic people learn artistic kinds of things. Let logical people learn logical kinds of things. Everyone would be much happier and all would enjoy learning a lot more if we simply let people be themselves.” — Roger Schank, Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools

Project-based homeschooling combines interests (or passions) with long-term, deep, complex learning. Learning means knowledge and skills. Doing interesting work that is meaningful to you motivates you to bring your best effort. The difference between kids who manage and direct their own learning and kids doing work that, and I’m quoting something I saw on Pinterest the other day, “doesn’t even require your kids to have ideas” is, to borrow Newport’s word, remarkable.

Newport wanted to write a manifesto (he says so in the book), so he strayed away from the simple message that passion must be coupled with real skills. That is project-based homeschooling. They aren’t pipe dreams if you have the skills to turn them into reality. You aren’t a fool if you know how to fuse what you enjoy doing with what the world needs.

Here’s my takeaway after reading this book: Career advice tomes like this are not written for project-based homeschoolers — or for other homeschoolers/unschoolers who have already had years to deeply explore their interests.

Newport’s book has some good advice for 18-25-year-olds who have been pushed toward achievement their whole lives and who have a non-reality-based, pipe-dreamy idea of what they’d really like to do, which they call their “passion.”

It’s advice for people whose interests have never been connected with their work in any meaningful way.

This advice doesn’t work for kids who are experienced at coupling their interests with real-world experience, knowledge, and skills. These kids have already deeply explored their interests. They already know what it means to get beyond the honeymoon period to the place where real, challenging work is required. They have experienced the deep pleasure of having real skills and doing meaningful work.

These kids have shared what they know with others. They’ve connected with their community. Their experiences have firmly planted them in reality. Their interests aren’t pipe dreams and fantasies — they are gateways to the nexus of “what I like to do,” “what I have to give,” and “what people will pay for.”

Most career advice is for kids who came up through the regular system. It won’t help kids who were educated via an alternate path. These books are aimed at kids who haven’t initiated their own projects, haven’t explored their interests deeply, and haven’t learned how to find their place in the world. A project-based homeschooler is already way ahead of the game. They don’t need to be told to dump their passions and buckle down to sharpen their skills at whatever job they find themselves in after graduation. They already know how to combine interests, knowledge, skills, and hard work to build something the world needs. They’ve already moved on to asking deeper questions about their purpose. They have experience finding their place in the world and figuring out what they can contribute.

Skills don’t trump passion. Skills are what you know how to do. Passion is where you start finding out who you are, what you’re good at, and what the world needs.

People who are in touch with their soul know what they’re supposed to be doing in the world and what their way of contributing to life is, in the same way that people know what music they love and food they enjoy — not just life-sustaining food, but food that has flavor, that makes you feel nourished, even inspired. — Michael Meade

Everyone needs some help learning who they already are. That’s the root of genuine education and the task of real culture. — Michael Meade

How to tell if you’re bad at collaborating

Published by Lori Pickert on August 15, 2012 at 03:52 PM

1 - You don’t want to share your successes.

If you’re a teacher, this means you don’t want the person in the next classroom copying your decor, your bulletin boards, or the way you do independent reading. Those belong to YOU. You care more about getting the credit than you do about the kids in the other classrooms.

You want to have a little edge up on everyone else — that’s how you win, right?!

2 - You don’t want to admit your failures.

Failures and mistakes are something to hide, preferably in a shallow grave far, far away in the woods.

No way do you want to “share” what’s not going well and let these people see you’re not perfect. They’re your competitors. It’s all about maintaining a façade of effortless ease — no one respects a loser.

3 - You can’t tell the difference between brainstorming and having all the answers.

If someone offers you a suggestion, they must think they’re God’s gift to homeschooling/unschooling/teaching/parenting.

If someone shares an issue they’re having, they must want everyone else to do their work for them. Instead of tossing your ideas in, you take the floor to explain what they did wrong and how they should fix it. At least then everyone will recognize that you know what you’re doing.

4 - If you can’t be the pitcher, you’re quitting and taking your ball home with you.

If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes — so if you’re not the lead dog, you’re out the door. After all, without hierarchy, how can we tell who’s ahead of whom?

5 - You only respect people who are exactly like you.

There’s your way and the various multitude of wrong ways. If someone is doing something differently than you do it, it means they don’t respect you and they think you’re doing it wrong. They’re attacking you, so start defending yourself!

• • •

All of these things come into play when you collaborate with your child.

Collaborating doesn’t mean playing devil’s advocate or shooting down “bad” ideas. It means taking a non-perfect or partially formed idea and working together to make it better. Instead of hitting things head on (right/wrong, black/white), it means tapping them to change their trajectory. And everyone gets in on the tapping.

Bad collaborating = “That won’t work.”

Good collaborating = “What if…?”

Collaboration assumes that working together you can create something better than you could on your own. When we collaborate with our children, we help them build this skill: the ability to sit down with others and help each other, work together to refine ideas and find solutions. It requires respecting different views, different talents, and different strengths. It requires respecting other people’s ideas and other people’s perspectives. You can’t collaborate if you always have to be the one in charge, the one who knows everything, the one who’s right. Collaboration requires mutual respect — and humility.

Collaboration doesn’t mean getting other people to solve your problems for you. It means hearing other opinions and seeing things from a different angle. It helps you solve your own problems.

Collaboration is an attempt to leverage success for all. We can all help each other, so we all win. Rising tides lift all boats. When we come together to increase the number of perspectives, the amount of insight, and the sheer quantity of available ideas, we are investing in each other’s success. Collaboration recognizes that success is not a zero-sum game: you don’t have to lose so I can win. We can both win.

People who don’t collaborate well also struggle with learning — because learning requires the same abilities as collaboration:

- humility

- the desire to learn

- willingness to make mistakes

- willingness to mentor and be mentored

- an open, questioning mind

Helping your child learn to collaborate — by collaborating with you and other family members, then with peers — you help her strengthen her ability to learn, succeed, and help others succeed.

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas. — George Bernard Shaw

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team. — Phil Jackson

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. — Henry Ford

Giving them everything

Published by Lori Pickert on August 1, 2012 at 07:29 AM

While you think you’re giving your kids everything, they often think you are bored, pushy, and completely oblivious to their real needs. But let’s look at this very simply: if you’re willing to give up your own life and identity, what is the message you have sent your kid about the value of other people, mothers in particular? — We Are All Helicopter Parents

Another argument in favor of finding a work of one’s own?

Do less stuff

Published by Lori Pickert on July 28, 2012 at 03:31 PM

This will be anathema to the multitudes who worship at the altars of Motivation and its close relation, Productivity. Indeed, when I meet with ambitious young entrepreneurs, I am invariably asked, “How can I get more done in fewer hours? What can I do to jump-start my creativity? How can I keep my edge?”

Here are the three answers I can offer: 1. You can’t. 2. Stop trying so hard — if it feels like work, something’s wrong. 3. Do less stuff. — How to Get Creative: Stop Trying

Raising entrepreneurs: Making things happen

Published by Lori Pickert on December 20, 2011 at 04:56 PM

Ideas are one thing and what happens is another.    — John Cage

An entrepreneur isn’t just on fire with an idea; (s)he is able to do what needs to be done to make it really happen.

Inspiration is not enough. Between the idea and the execution is a lot of hard work. How do children learn how to make their ideas happen? How do they learn how to forge ahead when things don’t come easily?

Talent and ability is not enough. Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Being in charge of your own business — and your own life — is less scary when you have a lot of experience solving problems, finding collaborators, and making things work.

One of the great lessons of project work is that big ideas break down into a lot of small tasks, and when you complete all those tasks, you eventually get to see your big idea in action. That simple experience of doing what’s necessary to make things happen — over and over again — teaches an important lesson of building a company or a life: you have to get started, and you have to do what’s necessary, if you want to see your ideas come to fruition.

Children whose learning is centered around following directions and meeting the requirements set forth by adults may be well prepared to be employees. But will they be prepared to be in charge of their own business and their own life? Will they know how to make their own ideas happen?

Creativity is, quite simply, a genuine interest combined with initiative. — Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen