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Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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The Absurd Assumption Behind Schooling


A bright young woman sent a thoughtful email after reading my blog post about how my son learned to read when we stopped trying to teach him.  She largely agreed with the approach but voiced some concern of not pushing kids to learn things of value to them.  I responded:

"Once upon a time I would have been terrified at an approach like we ended up taking with my son (and all three of my kids now that we unschool them), but I've come to believe that fear was rooted entirely in a set of assumptions I was taught, and not in any way based on my experience of actual human behavior or logic.

The false assumption is that humans will always do what is bad for them, not what's good for them.  It's the idea that humans are irrational and don't know how to seek their own self-interest.  Thomas Hobbes is probably the greatest perpetrator of this idea (at least in reference to entire societies) which gives way to the myth of authority - the belief that, absent some violent strong man to set the rules and enforce them, people will loot and murder each other and destroy their own community, etc.

This idea is so utterly false and contrary to every shred of logic and evidence it's a wonder it ever took hold like it did.  Its greatest advantage is that it is a) handy for crude versions of "original sin" in some religions and b) handy for power-hungry despots and moral busybodies.  It of course never attempts to answer the question of how humans too dumb to make decisions in their own interest can somehow be trusted to make decisions in the interest of the community at large.

I've come to believe this idea is nonsense.  Humans have every incentive to do what is good for them (based on their own definition of good) and will do a lot of hard work to make it happen.  Learning is a key part of this.  There is no need to teach anyone some skill or fact they don't want to learn.  They will learn what they need when they need to.  In a literate society where the social and economic rewards of literacy are very high, people will learn to read.  When and how they want, but they will.  The Sudbury Valley school is an unschooling type facility that makes kids do nothing but what they want.  They've had kids learn to read at 4 and 14.  They all go on to live normal lives. (The 14-year-old won a prize for writing and became a professional writer, if I recall).

Humans don't need authority dictating what they should value.  They need the freedom to discover through trial and error what they value and what benefits them.

I highly recommend - if you are as serious as you seem to be about grappling with these ideas - a few books.

"Free to Learn" by Dr. Peter Gray

Anything by Daniel Greenberg at the Sudbury Valley School

The point is not that humans are "naturally good" or some such nonsense.  It's that they are naturally self-interested, and self-interest is sufficient motivation for them to learn what they need to live full lives.  Certainly better than what some dogooder thinks they "ought" to learn!"

Well That Didn’t Go as Planned…


Recovering from two days travel and a small backlog of work and errands, plus Michigan State playing their first round tournament game, so I decided to wait until the afternoon for my daily blog post.

I'd get caught up, watch MSU move on to the second round, and be in a great mood to think of a topic for the blog.

Oops.

I got a lot done and caught up on work.  MSU didn't do their part.

So here I am, grumpy and forlorn, listless, unsure how to use this weekend and next since my plan was to enjoy beer and basketball.  My bracket's busted right along with my heart.

The worst part?  MSU didn't look bad.  They played a decent all-around game.  Not great, but not major upset oh-my-gosh-how'd-they-choke bad.  Middle Tennessee State just played an exceptional game in all facets.  Yes, they got hot shooting.  Yes, every loose ball seemed to bounce their way.  But they also drove hard to the rim.  They got offensive boards.  They played as even-keeled a game I've seen, despite MSU runs.

There's no easy scapegoat.  Two teams played a good game and one team played better.  It's just that it was the vastly inferior team that played better!

Sigh.  My wife tells me not to emotionally invest so much in my sports teams.  But that's the whole point!  It's no delightful escape if I'm real-world-rational about it.

I've got nothing else to say.  Go listen to this podcast episode about why sports are great and then go check out MSU's all-time tournament record.  Maybe that will lift your spirits like it does mine.

I'll probably regress to the guy who just roots against Duke and UNC from here on out.  Oh, and go Middle Tennessee State!  Maybe they'll win it all and make MSU look relatively less disappointing.

Now leave me alone to wallow.

An Interview Question


A got an email survey recently asking what I thought it was an interesting question.

"If you could ask one question in an interview, what would it be?"

My response (maybe it would change if I thought more about it) below:

"What's one thing you do better than anyone in the world?"

I think it reveals what level of self-knowledge and confidence a candidate has and whether they are aware not just of generic skills, but truly unique aspects of their personality and experiences, and how those can create value for others.

Traits for Leadership


A friend emailed me the following question yesterday:

"What are the most important attributes of leaders?"

I thought about it for a few minutes and sent this reply.  This was off-the-cuff, so don't hold me too tightly to it.

Patience, impatience, perspective, morally neutral disposition, and a sense of humor.

Patience is pretty self-explanatory.  You can't be frustrated with everyone all the time and pressuring them.

Impatience is equally necessary.  When you have a vision, you have to be unable to sleep until you make progress on it.

Perspective allows you to weather the bad stuff.  I lost a customer early on and was feeling defeated.  My brother (a successful entrepreneur) asked me what the big deal was.  "So What?" he said.  "Cornelius Vanderbilt had steamers sink and people died.  Yet he was able to continue on and create value for millions.  What if he had quit?  You don't win everything."

Moral neutrality doesn't mean you have no morals.  It means you approach other humans with a rational choice lens.  You assume their actions are taken not out of goodness or evil, but rational self-interest.  This helps you understand how to change the incentives they face to get cooperation, instead of being bitter at what you think their motives are or what they "should" do.

A sense of humor is the only thing that keeps it fun, and if it's not fun it's hell!

Public Speaking Tips and a Workshop!


Two snippets from posts about public speaking:

How to be an Awesome Public Speaker

A great public speaker is not one who has tons of side-splitting jokes, or makes you cry, or delivers amazing ideas, or beautiful turns of phrase, or follows all those rules about signposting and structure from debate or forensics club.  None of those things really matter in the end.  Neither does your personality, voice, physical appearance, or whether you use your hands, a podium, or slides.

A great speaker is one whose ideas and heart are transmitted directly and clearly to the audience.  A great speaker is a genuine person whose unique perspective and personality isn’t obscured by nerves or ticks or anything else.

To be a great public speaker is to allow who you really are to come through.

What Public Speaking Can Teach You About Work

...

He asked me what are the most helpful things for me when it comes to reducing nerves and getting in the zone as a speaker.  I told him the two most important things for me are:

  • Lots of Practice
  • Unique Content

Practice is obvious.  Public speaking, like digital skills, social skills, bike riding, creativity, or confidence, is not one of those things you can become great at by studying.  You have to do it.  A lot.  There simply is no substitute for doing it when it comes to gaining comfort and skill.

The second point is not actually about the content in any objective sense.  I don’t think there are right and wrong content decisions, topics, formats, tones, or structures that will consistently lead to success and enjoyment as a speaker.  When I say content matters, I really mean crafting a talk that is unique to you.

Over the last decade or so I've had the pleasure of running public speaking workshops for hundreds of people of all ages.  Praxis participants go through them, and I've even done them for some seasoned CEO's as a last minute prep for a pitch or big presentation.

I'm just putting the finishing touches on a digitized version of the workshop, thanks to the help of Mitchell Earl and Derek Magill.  It includes not just the content of the workshop in terms of tips and techniques, but actually allows participants to give their own speech and submit it for feedback, then do a second take and walk away with some concrete tips unique to them.

We'll be using it for Praxis participants across the country, but I'm going to open it up for 10 people outside of Praxis to go through it as well, as a kind of test.  If you're interested, enter your info in the form below and you'll be notified when it's open!

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Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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