It’s That Time of Year When the Emails Start to Swell

I’ve gotten so many emails from bored, unhappy college students in the last few weeks I decided to write a post addressed directly to them and others like them.

You can check it out over at the Praxis blog.  Here’s an excerpt:

You haven’t done much more than read textbooks and sit through lectures.  You haven’t been around many entrepreneurs, innovators, or creators.  You begin to suspect that your grades aren’t a reflection of your value-creating potential in the market.  You begin to wonder why they matter at all.  Same goes for your second major…and your first.  You ask yourself what your plan was coming here in the first place and realize you didn’t really have one.  It just sort of seemed like the next stage on the conveyor belt moving you along to an undefined “normal” life.

Here’s the good news.  You can get off the conveyor belt.

Read the full post here.

If you want to explore whether you might be a good fit for Praxis, shoot us an email.

Want to Be Interesting? Be Interested

Interesting people differ from each other is so many ways.  In fact, one of the things that makes a person interesting is how little like others they are.  Those who embrace their unique weirdness, not in a flashy attempt for attention but as a secure mode of being, tend to be very interesting.  Still, I don’t think it’s the truly unique qualities about interesting people that make them interesting.  It’s something they all have in common.  They are interested.

An interesting writer, artist, entrepreneur, academic, or cook is someone who has not only mastered a craft, but someone deeply, intensely interested in their craft.  The mastery typically follows the interest.  What’s more, interesting people are not only interested in what they do and what they have mastered.  They’re interested in just about everything in the world.  They aren’t afraid to be in awe of the world around them, from the big philosophical questions to the tiny details.

I used to do fundraising for a nonprofit and my favorite part was meetings with incredibly successful, self-made people who almost always began as average people, and somehow built amazing companies and products and lives.  I’d ask their stories and soak up all the details of their founding saga, how they got into that industry, why they chose to live where they did, and so on.  What stuck out was that, happy as they were to discuss these things, most of them were equally excited to talk about a style of painting they were fond of, the aerodynamics of aircraft, logo design, and in one case the habits of ants.  These were interesting people because they were interested people.

A friend recently shared an anecdote he once read (I can’t remember where) about a young boy who told his grandfather that he was bored.  Calmly, his grandfather rolled up a magazine, leaned over, and whacked the boy on the head.  “Bored people grow up to become boring people.”  With no TV or laptop or iPhone or books or friends around, would you be bored?  Or could you find a way to engage the world around and within you no matter where you were and what tools you had?  Those who have mastered the art of the latter are never boring.

We’re surrounded by wonders, great and small, easy to spot and almost impossible to find.  Can you sense it?  Do you feel it?  Do you have questions about it?  As Chesterton said, we don’t lack wonders, we lack wonder.

The Cure is Not the Cause

A friend worked at a company that instituted a no cell phone policy during meetings. Apparently too many people were on their phones instead of paying attention.

If you look at it from an authoritarian standpoint as an organizer, the cause for lack of engagement was cell phone use.  But put yourself in the shoes of an attendee and you see that cell phones were not the cause of the problem, but the cure for it. The problem was boredom. The cause was too many or too long or not interesting enough meetings.

We see cures blamed as causes everywhere. Schools routinely blame whatever form of escape, entertainment, distraction, or even real learning that kids conceive to cope with the rigid soul-sucking structure of the system. From a top-down, black-and-white rulers standpoint, the answer is always more bans and more rules.

What would happen instead if we assumed rationality and no malintent on the part of the cell phone users or students?  What might their behavior reveal about the system or process?  If you run a business you can get mad at customers who don’t do what you want all you like, but attacking or placing restrictions on them is not a long term strategy for success in a competitive market. You must try to understand why they aren’t doing what you want and adapt your offerings.

When people are looking for an escape don’t block the exit.  Instead try to learn why they want out in the first place.

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