Part 4 of Skills You Need for the 21st Century - Complex Problem Solving

When we think of complex problem solving, we usually think in terms of curing disease, solving climate change, space exploration, fake news, war, and over population. The little things.

But there is one subject that I would argue is as important as any of these. If we can solve this, we have a greater chance of solving the other issues that plague us.

Understanding human behavior and communication could very well be the most important skill we need to learn in this century if we are to survive into the next.

We thought the internet would be this great purveyor of truth that would unite us all through education, communication and connection. It may be too soon to pronounce a final conclusion, but here, in our infancy of the exponential growth of information, instead of bridges we have built silos. With our headphones in, we stare at our phones, read, watch, and see only those who agree with our worldview, refusing to be challenged and refusing to grow. Our cognitive bias rules the day.

But we are still learning and I still have hope. I work and coach weekly with 20 somethings and teenagers. What I see is a mass of people determined to make the planet a better place for everyone. I may sometimes be frustrated at my daughters screen time - while I am staring at my phone as guilty as they (and they call me out on it,thankfully) - I am proud and hopeful that with all of the complex problem solving skills we need to acquire to be individually successful and thrive as a species, they have almost unknowingly placed human understanding, communication, and connection as the glue that enables us to work on the other issues that are upon us. Without this glue, our complex problem solving falls apart like an opened box of an IKEA bunk-bed.

There is hope, and it lies with our ability to destroy the silos and build bridges to one another.

How we do that? Stay tuned…

Part 3 of Skills You Need for the 21st Century - Creativity

You know those group activities where other people are asked to use adjectives to describe you. You also have to describe yourself.

One common word that is continually brought up about me, one word I say about me, is “Creativity”.

Yet.

Here.

I.

Sit.

Blank.

Brain.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Everyone can be creative. It’s a learned skill. We might not all be Mozart, or Da Vinci, or De Niro, but we do need to find creative ways to solve a problem at work, or at home. How many of you had to use creative financing to pay bill? Or find a creative way to have your child eat her dinner.

It’s in our DNA. Fire, the wheel, farming, the internet, and YouTube, all required creativity. Imagination. Risk. Creativity inherently takes risk - We prefer our mammoth meat cold thank you very much! Someone figured something out and flames emerged - and painting, and storytelling, and the electric guitar.

Today’s challenges are requiring more creative solutions than ever before because our problems have bigger consequences than ever before. I don’t have to list them, just read the news. But there is hope. Next time you put dinner in the microwave remember, your ancestors had to eat cold mammoth.

Creativity could very well save us. Just as importantly, it gives us a reason for living.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.  - the great dancer and choreographer Martha Graham

Part 2 of Four Skills You Need For 21st Century Success - Critical Thinking

When I was in primary school, i would get off the bus at the end of the day, run inside, greet my mom, and turn on the TV. Mom gave me a snack, and before I did my homework, or whatever chores needed to be done, I was able to watch reruns of Star Trek - the original series.

At school my fiends would talk about what we saw on the previous days episode. I had one friend, Dennis, who felt that Spock was best being in the universe. Logic, a nerve pinch, and green blood. I never asked how he felt about pointy ears.

But, being shy and awkward, i just nodded my head. Inside however I disagreed. Kirk was my man. He was passionate, charming, and could win a fight without using the Vulcan nerve pinch. He also bent the rules and did what it took to save his crew or win the mission.

As I got older, I excelled in creative artistic classes, but had to work so much harder in things like science and math - they didn’t tell me Kirk probably had to be brilliant at these things as well. I decided to ditch logic, go on feelings, and live my life carefree and… well… thoughtless.

Without going into my whole life story here - something changed when I took an argumentation class in college. A necessary class to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication (yeah, science). The whole class was based on critical thinking, debate, and logic. We studied famous philosophers throughout history. I give credit to the teacher of that class who had both his masters degree in speech and in mathematics, to show me it’s not one or the other. We are both a bit of Kirk and Spock - if we take time to nurture them.

It’s the only text book I have kept.

Our information age is growing at an exponential rate. Unfortunately that also means our disinformation is also growing along with it. This scares me.

Unless we can take a step back, take breath, and actually think, “What would Spock think?” we could find ourselves running like lemmings off the face of a cliff. Human lemmings.

We may not all be natural critical thinkers, but we need more Spock’s in our lives, and we need to let our inner Spock out. We should never be afraid to stand up and say, “Wait a second, let’s think about this a moment…”

We would do well to listen to others who do the same.

It’s the only way we will be able to solve the problems we are facing as a civilization today.

Here is a great post on Short-termism and how it could be our greatest threat. I invite you to take a read and ask yourself, WWSS - “What would Spock say?”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190109-the-perils-of-short-termism-civilisations-greatest-threat

Part 1 of Four Skills You Need for 21st Century Success - Cognitive Empathy

In seventh grade I had my very own personal bully. His name was Bruce. I don’t know how it started, but I do remember waking up every school day in fear. They say not knowing is the worst part, and I don’t disagree, but wondering if I was going to be verbally teased, punched, kicked, spat on, or have my lunch stolen, was just as bad as actually having it happen.

I hated him. For the longest time I lay awake at night either wishing to move away, or thinking up ways to get even. It took me almost the entire semester to finally stand up to him. But that hate had turned to pity. Looking back, through all the hurt and anger and fear, I realized that I actually empathized with him.

I do today.

A mutual friend, at some point during this horrific season of my life told me that he was coming from a broken home where he was left alone much of the time with an absent dad and a workaholic unemotional mother. I lost my dad when I was five and at 12 I was an emotionally awkward, shy, unassuming, fearful kid.

It was fight for flight both of us. He chose fight, I chose flight. A perfect match. He was angry. I was scared.

Cognitive empathy is acquiring knowledge and understanding of another and then feeling to some degree what they are feeling and why they are feeling it. In no way does this excuse the actions of bullying or creating an environment of fear. I still disliked him and I avoided him for the rest of Jr High, even after he had long stopped the bullying. But it did give me a greater understanding of his pain.

When we disagree with someone strongly, or if someone hurts us, or we feel an injustice has been placed upon us, or there is a people group we might not feel comfortable around, it would be wise for all of us to exercise cognitive empathy. We may never agree with them, or invite them over for lemonade, and we should never stay silent on issues of inequality, bulling, or injustice, but we can gain a better understanding, and in doing so, find an approach that seeks connection.

In today’s climate of information being shouted in echo-chambers, we must, as we move forward farther into this century, make a practice of cognitive empathy. Most of us care about our communities, our children, and our loved ones. Most of us want peace and clean air to breath. I certainly have my strongly held beliefs on how the world should look. I am a huge vocal advocate for the environment and for social justice. I get caught in the trap of an us versus them mentality almost daily.

But when I take a breath and realize we are all on this fragile ball floating through space and we have nowhere else to go, I climb out of that echo-chamber and seek to listen and understand. Because when we all do that, we have a better chance of surviving - thriving - in the 21st century.

It’s hard. Holy shit, it’s hard. But I don’t see another way out of this.

Quit Finding The Easy Way

“5 easy steps to get thin in a week”

“4 easy steps for anyone to be rich!”

“4 easy steps to make anyone fall in love with you!”

Hmmmm

You’ve seen them on magazine covers, late night commercials, and most of all, online.  

Yet, if it was that easy, there’d be no obesity, no poverty, and no divorce.

To be fair, even if it WAS that easy, there would still be obesity, poverty, and divorce because humans have brains that are in a constant battle between our reptilian stem and our frontal lobe. There’s a lot of material out there on mindset and much of what I speak and teach on is that we can overcome fear and make decisions based on rewriting the stories we tell ourselves.  This post I want to tell something different.

I’ll be perfectly clear that for most of us, at least at the start, change takes WORK.  To get thin, to get rich, to build relationships, take WORK.

It’s not rocket science, we can build rockets.  It’s human psychology, which I would argue, is something we understand even less (to all you rocket scientists out there, I mean zero disrespect)

Please, get in shape, make more money, build connections with others.  A lot these clickbait type headlines have good information in them. Many are also complete garbage.  Use that brain of yours and glean information you can use, and forget the rest, even if it includes this blog!

Understand however, that whatever actions you decide to take, will take WORK to get results.

Don’t be discouraged when you don’t look like Wonder Woman or Captain America.  Are you more in shape today than you were a week ago because you put in the WORK?

I could continue to give examples, but I think you get the idea.  That brain of yours is smarter than you give it credit for.

Just remind yourself once in a while that it’s never as easy as they tell you.

Now, go get to work.








It's The Shallow Water That Kills Us Slowly

It's The Shallow Water That Kills Us Slowly

Put your damn phone away and make a real connection.

Have you ever experienced this?


You walk into a coffee shop.


Barista: “Hi, what can I get you?”

(__________ Insert favourite drink here)

Barista: “How are you today?”

“Good.” You reply as you pull out your phone out of sheer habit.

Conversation ends.

You check your notifications - nothing life-shattering.

“Here you go.” The barista hands you your drink with a smile.