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Productive Rabbit Hole: Learning Edition November 28, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in education, experience, global, questions, social.
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Polina Marinova’s The Profile had a short, interesting quote from Anne Wojcicki (genetics company CEO to 23andMe) mentioning her ex, A-Rod (former baseball star propped up as poster boy leading MLB out of steroid era to somewhat disgraced steroid user, perennial dater).
It read: But when things came to an end, her mom had a few choice words about the baseball star, including the fact that he “had no academic background” & “we couldn’t have an intellectual conversation about anything.” Billionaires — they’re just like us.
“He could park himself in front of a TV and watch baseball for 10 hours a day. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to go on the yacht with Anne because the TV might not be working. I wish J-Lo all the luck in the world.”

Academic background is a convenient convolution to the idea that [A-Rod] wasn’t well-versed in the same forms of entertainment (or topics outside of baseball). That discounts his knowledge of his passion (baseball, clearly, as he’s now a strikingly good commentator/analyst). Different people can find a common ground – that doesn’t say that they must find common ground. If they’re no longer together, we can assume the latter – but it doesn’t have to be a lack of academia. That enrages me – completion of university/college does not grant an implication of being generally more intelligent / smarter than anyone else. Quite frankly, if someone has graduated recently could bring into question their knowledge of basic finance and how tuition continues a huge upward movement, doing multiples over inflation paces over the last 2-3 decades.

When I speak or see people with this attitude, I try to encourage a changing of mindset – people vary in their passions. Myself, I can enjoy many topics of conversation but there are others that I would have almost no valuable input, so I can see that and stay quiet or ask questions (if I find interest). The internet provides an endless availability to information. If you can get past the black holes of meme barrages, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat scrolling, there are plenty of rabbit holes you can meander through to educate yourself in any number of topics. Better yet – you can find productivity in communities that support these topics everywhere via the net!

Seek and you shall find. Reading is one of my favorite ways to spend extra time learning, listening to podcasts as well as perusing LinkedInKaggle & FuturismUdemy / Coursera/Udacity/Datacamp as MOOC (courses learning) sites, Reddit & even Twitter if you search lists / interests. These are certainly not exclusive but provide collections of massive amounts of information – just have to search!

Seeking / Finding the information is one thing, but then I believe more people should do better to fact-check, compare/contrast alternative viewpoints or really seek truths. Who runs websites / what is the motivation / generally asking better questions to reflect on what you’re learning – often a lacking response (I would say skill, but I genuinely believe that more people choose not to do it, not that people are incapable of being reflective).

This all brings me to a last point that hopefully brings this information together – that it is not only an obligation to learn and question further but also to SHARE the information! This can be discussions on the internet, voicing an opinion with friends and co-workers, or simply running a play-by-play to reason through your own thought process in what you’ve amassed. Closed, one-way information feeds pale in comparison to open loops with new ideas, feedback, questions and general understanding. There is a reason we are seeing an increase in lean organizations and groups of people make larger contributions in ways we could not have imagined 30 years ago. Keep it up everyone!

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Education Adjustments May 19, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in education, experience, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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A quick preview: <blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>American higher education: Pay us tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars to recommend some books to you.</p>&mdash; Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AndrewDBailey/status/865251606568345600″>May 18, 2017</a></blockquote>
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And this is what everyone and their moms (and dads) get bogged down with during at minimum freshman year of high school, while some do that even earlier. That is the mindset of a higher percentage of Americans in this day and age. Awareness is an excellent thing – parents should be more aware of how the process works, certainly. I think I could have been better prepared for the magnitude of it all, but it’s also possible I benefited from a mom who was proud with whatever came up for me. The pressure from school, parents, counselors, private ‘education counselors’, and now all friends as well at an earlier age scares me. It’s misguided and has created an atmosphere that approaches more of a lose-lose / lose-win than a win-win. A specific college shouldn’t be the ‘ultimate goal’ of students. Dreams/aspirations past that point, where college MAY act as a useful stepping stone, is more ideal, in my opinion.

Over the last 10 years, college costs have increased dramatically, needlessly. Yet that is what gets pushed in the middle and secondary environments – better grades, more AP’s, all the excellence for test scores and extracurricular activities if you can help it. Screw off with your joys and passions, unless they align with those above. All to throw your applications (and more importantly, their fees) into a lottery to provide you another stressful decision set (or worse, put you into a bout of depression over not being accepted into those loftily-held institutions). I’m nearly stressing myself thinking about it.

And I see it on an almost daily basis. ~3-4 times a week and more over the last 5.5 years with a rising, successful tutoring company. The expansion of centers to more states, the materials that have been pushed out are incredibly useful for achieving all of the above – but it does just that – pushes students to the brink for academic standards. When, in my experience, a majority of the ones that have been lucky enough to easily get into the top institutions were athletically gifted or born as kin of high places. Harvard, Duke, Stanford, Berkeley, NYU, Yale,  UPenn, Princeton, etc… to name a few.

Work hard, do well and don’t have the athletics or parents to gift away – lottery-bound! Enjoy. And many do get into great schools, but it’s not certain. Even in the tri-valley / East Bay Area, where schools push academics so hard. Unfortunately, high school doesn’t allow the freedom to struggle or fail without hard consequences. Students avoid that at all costs – talk amongst themselves in group chats, memes, jokes and fun poked at those that did worse. Joy found in a group sorrow if a test is particularly hard – either perked up by a curve or succumb to the deterioration of the grades.

Then there is the homework – piled on with all of the classes, typically at home. Some students are fortunate – certain subjects require less effort to understand, but most have to work at it. That leaves minimal hours in the day, either clawing away at sleep or worse, depriving some of hobbies outside of class, which depresses me. Ask a student what they want to do if they could choose and they don’t have an answer. Just maybe what they’ll study in college. In a world where it’s easier to do almost anything in any particular field / industry, few students look past studies to what they want after. It’s a constant grind, of which I’m not envious.

I believe that students should have an opportunity to work or start a company or intern for some company or field that they wish – hopefully one that teaches them whether to pursue that industry in the future. Much of what I found in college was learning what I WASN’T passionate about, not so much of what I was passionate about. People change, but skills can be gained – focus on the companies/industries you wish to live around. Never before is that more true.

Bill Gates tweeted some advice recently – a few of which I’ll share my thoughts:

  1. “AI, Energy, and Biosciences are promising fields where you can make a huge impact. It’s what I would do if starting out today.”
    Analytics drives all 3 of these. Energy is the one that may have the most impact, but efficiency is a challenger here – for instance, battery’s have made great strides, but solar has made linear strides that haven’t made any economic sense in the present. Biosciences will explode with the technology developed in recent years and the information we’ll be able to see with hardware/software connections.
  2. “Looking back on when I left college… intelligence takes many forms. It is not one-dimensional. And not as important as I used to think.”
    I completely agree. Different levels and styles of intelligence – whether it’s focuses or broad knowledge. Experts in one field doesn’t make an expert in another. Be careful with ‘experts’ and what it takes to get that title. Do your due diligence and research but open-minded in conversations with others. Everybody – no matter their intelligence – can contribute to expanding/sharpening your mind.
  3. Then he had some world-impact tweets that described some of the “inequities” of the world. “You know more than I did when I was your age. You can start fighting inequity, whether down the street or around the world, sooner.”
  4. “Meanwhile, surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self.” Never truer words have been spoken. People mention having mentors, but we should really have mentors, people that we mentor and peers that challenge us. The combination to make each other better make the individuals better.
  5. He goes on about this being the most peaceful time in history. Progress can be made if you think the world is getting better, and you want to spread it.

If I had my way, I would love to start something for students that partnered some businesses that could use some admin-style / research analyst work but that were willing to take on a shadow for 4-8 weeks or something over summer. Give the students some money for working and helping out, but also provide them the opportunity to what positions above an intern role may entail in the industry. Is it exciting for them? Is it something that teaches them that that particular role isn’t a fit? I think those lessons, that early, would be invaluable.
If successful, a similar college program could be enacted for frosh / sophomores that were available during the year. Far too many do not get the work experience until after Junior or senior years. We can make that better!

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