Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Warrior

The Warrior came to a fork in the road and made camp. He contemplated which path to choose for what seemed like an eternity. One path he had trodden before, the other was uncharted.

After many sleepless nights the Warrior awoke early, inspired by a dream. He knelt and spoke aloud.

"I remember the horrible weather I encountered on the first path," he said to his heart. "Though it taught me the lessons of preparation and patience, I worry that it may be as harsh the second time around and I am weary from my travels. On the other hand, the second path is unfamiliar and I fear that I will learn little by walking it, or that it may end prematurely, or that it too will be harsh. Which path ought I to choose?"

The Warrior's heart listened with interest just as it always had. "I have weathered your struggle with you and I too ponder this question," his heart said. "To me, it is a question of desire. In love and war it is impossible to predict everything. A true Warrior knows this and does not let his fears dictate his actions. The important question is this: 'which path do you desire most?'"

The Warrior stood and looked out upon the horizon. The sun was beginning its ascent into the gray sky, bringing with it the wisdom and eternity of a new morning. The Warrior gathered up his belongings and set off down the Path.

The route he chose is unimportant. What matters is that whichever way he went, it was his choice. The ability to choose his path is what gives the Warrior his strength.

This material was inspired by novels by Paulo Coelho. Here, I am merely reflecting on my own life through some of his lenses. In no way do I intend to make a profit from, distribute illegaly, or plagiarize any of his material.

Friday, December 11, 2009


I've been on a road trip, taking some time for myself, hence the downturn in the blog writing. It was a great trip down to Phoenix. I took the road through Hurricane to Flagstaff on the way down and there is some incredible scenery along the way. If you ever need to heal your soul, I reccomend the drive. There is no heart that good travels cannot mend. I spend a couple days with my father and his girlfriend, which was nice.

The drive back up was interesting, I felt troubled and didn't have the same calmness about me that I did on the way down. I took the route through Las Vegas this time.

It may have something to do with returning home, to the familiar, to the problems, that made me feel so disheartened. I felt I did not appreciate the world around me as much as I had on my way to Phoenix. The whole drive left me mostly bored and uninspired until I arrived at the Virgin River Gorge, which was incredible as dusk was giving way to night. I arrived at Hurricane that night and stayed there.

I woke up insanely early the next day and hit the road. The inspiration and the calm finally returned when I was driving through Beaver County. I came over the crest of a hill, between two mountains, and descended into the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen. The mountains, blue and white in the distance, were covered in snow and the valleys followed suit. It was as if I was in a completely different part of the world, where time and distance no longer mattered; where the world was endless. Vast plumes of fog rose up out of rivers throughout the valley. It was the most incredible sight I'd ever seen.

So, that was my weekend.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Record Industry and Higher Education

Many people talk about the continued demise of the record industry. The record industry is failing because they want to use old models to push the same product that people can now get for free online or other methods.

The company CD Baby has found a great way to make it in the new world of record publishing. CD Baby allows individual artists to sell their albums on their website without all the big wig, Record Company bullshit. Its revolutionizing the way music is sold, and its much cheaper. Many artists are resorting to giving their music away for free, and making money of something substantial, such as tours and merchandise. In our new era of free information, this only makes sense.

The higher education system has its own demise ahead. I'm not saying we'll stop learning, but I am saying that the way we learn is changing. People are realizing that they can learn many things they learn in school without going to school, simply by reading and/or trying to do that which they want to do. They are also learning that there is a lot of waste in the current education system. We take so many classes that are supposed to make us well-rounded, but end up becoming frustrated because its not what we want to be learning. And we should be learning what we want to! After all, its our money we're giving them...

Where is the free prize in the education system? Where is the CD Baby?

Could it be us?

Art 6

An updated version of the previous painting. Still not done, but I'm getting excited!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Art 5

A new painting I just started on. I'm excited about this one. I'm not sure how it will finish. But I bet it will be a fun one!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The New College. Orientation.

Week 1

I want to change the way you think about learning. I want all of us to be able to learn in a fun and engaging way. In a way that is inexpensive, fast, and effective.

I imagine a school where on the first day you are greeted by fellow students and staff alike. For orientation, we are provided keynote speeches by some of the world's most influential thinkers and then invited to meet and greet where all students will be able to interact with leading professionals and innovators in varying fields. All wallflowers will be pulled into rigorous conversation. The fun starts on day one.

On day two, we will start with a refreshing breakfast and the entire student body will be asked to divide into different categories based on their general interests. For the next little while, students will be led by group leaders to flesh out their true passions and their personal drivers. This will continue until the entire student body is essentially singled out. This is when we recognize and celebrate our individuality. Students are asked to spend the rest of the day thinking about their ideas and passions until the sun sets. This is a day dedicated to soul searching and cross-student interaction is forbidden for the rest of this day.

On day three students will be encouraged to form loose groups, with the help of group leaders, in a way that is strategic to the needs of their ideas and their passions. This will take a lot of getting to know one another, and will require intense student interaction for most of the day. After the sun sets, students are made to interact with their group and explore their different ideas in an open and hospitable environment. On this day, we celebrate as clusters of interest and ideas.

Day four will find us waking to a refreshing breakfast yet again, and a new agenda. Today, all students are put through "group leader" training. In this way, we will ensure that students will always have somebody to talk to when they need advice or are questioning their own convictions and are about to settle. Group Leaders will be taught how to invoke people's curiosity and their passions. They will be taught to communicate effectively and openly and give constructive criticism. They will be taught to be facilitators of idealists. All students are expected to give time to other students on a regular basis, though with no stringent expectations, for there are incentives: The more time given means even more time exploring worlds that are foreign to us, where we will learn some of our most profound insights.

The rest of the week will be made up of "free time". This is time meant for idea exploration, rough planning if wanted, meeting new people, and solidifying relationships with fellow students. It's important to note that immaturity in the form of social ostracism will be punished. We all want to work in an environment of harmony. We are here for ideas, passion, and creativity. Popularity contests will be checked at the door. This calls into question a specific problem:

  • Social awkwardness. I define this as any person who lacks that certain charisma that others may have and therefore has a hard time meeting new people. Perhaps a day could be built into orientation for this issue. Or perhaps we could do a pre-orientation week, where students who have awkward tendencies can socialize and try to break past their fear of social situations. It would be impossible to succeed in our new college by hiding under a rock. We are social creatures.

Week 2

On week 2, day one, students are made to work on their ideas and passions with other students in the form of interactive questioning. Students are asked what they envision themselves doing and what that person doing them would be like. Students will interact all day with their groups talking, in turn, about their ideas and others are requested to give constructive feedback, while not allowing anybody to settle for less than is absolutely possible, no matter how remote.

On week 2, day two, students will begin mapping their ideas and how they imagine getting there, noting the things they need to learn, the obstacles they will encounter, people they'd like to meet. Today is dedicated to exploration. Students will actually be mapping their future the way they see it and mostly identifying the things that may be required for their success in what they've identified.

On week 2, day three, students will solidify the things they need to try their idea, make their creation, or pursue the path they've chosen. On this day students will work with each other and their group leaders to find as many ways as possible to pursue these things and we will give constructive feedback, listing the many ideas, eventually in descending order of appeal to the student.

On week 2, day four, students will start. They will start with the student body at their side, yearning for their success as much as their own. They will set out to make whatever they are making, with a large social network at their side, making connections, and learning from the process itself. They will learn via the process instead of about the process.

The leadership of the college will comprise of a group of students based on the college's size, elected directly by the student body in a democratic direct election. These leaders will be responsible for making connections with other institutions, media channels, businesses, governmental authorities, and big-thinking persons. They will be our ambassadors. For this position, the leaders may receive some compensation, but any compensation or gifting from third parties with whom they may be interacting on behalf of the college, will be strictly prohibited and immediately and severly punishable. They will also be the final authority on punishable offenses for students.

This is the roughest form of my dream. Most of the details are flexible and I generally intend for the college to have little structure. The students will have autonomy, just as the current system provides, which is essential, but will have extensive coaching, not just by staff, but by fellow students, who will comprise the staff.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Art 4

An older piece. This one features solid colors and bold lines and shapes. After some suggestion from a friend, the lines were made straighter to a much better effect. Minimalist and cubist themes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Unquestioned Optimism...

As we've seen with the recent banking crisis, everything we do effects everybody, its just a matter of how much or how little. In this current financial problem, we've realized that the problem had actually been accruing for over thirty years, it was merely covered up by an optimistic, yet unrealistic, mentality. We thought the world would keep getting better and better, that we could keep borrowing and spending, getting deeper into debt for things we knew we couldn't afford. We thought it was our right to own the things we went into debt for. So we just kept buying and borrowing, thinking it would all be okay, when we were actually setting ourselves up for a big lesson in humility.

What happened was the financial collapse. It didn't really collapse, it merely self-corrected. It was a big correction to say the least. You see, things (e.g. houses, cars, commodities, etc.) were inflated. Inflated means that the price went up, but the actual value did not. Many economists would argue with me, but in my opinion, inflation is bad, so is deflation. Things should only have a price based on their actual value. By actual value, I mean the value based on the things' inherent qualities, situational qualities, and emotional qualities (i.e. what is it made of? Where is it located in time or geography? and how do I feel about it?). If we look at the housing bubble, for example,we see that the stuff they were made of didn't change, they were still in the same place, and how I felt about houses remained the same (a house feels warm, smells like grass I just mowed, is time-comsuming to maintain, is an expensive canvas) However, your emotions about houses may have changed and caused the entire bubble. Shame on you. ;)

For argument's sake, we'll assume that your emotions did not change, but that it was our ideas about houses that caused the housing bubble. Our ideas were that houses would go up in value, everybody had the right to own a house, houses were a no-risk investment, and that we didn't need to worry about our ARMs because rates would never go up (what?! rates go up? no way!)! Well, guess what happened. We've learned that houses don't always go up in value; people lose jobs; our privilege to own a home is forfeited when we borrow for more house than we can seriously afford; there is risk in every investment; and ARMs are horrible, but if we do get one we should be prepared for the rates to go up (save, save, save!).

What we discovered, was that our ideas were severely out of line with reality.

So what really caused the banking crisis and this current recession? One thing is blind optimism... I believe this mentality and the mentality surrounding the environmental debate are quite similar.

I need to note here that I may be making a couple foolish assumptions. I am not an expert on the environment or the economy, nor to I care to be. I'm simply making an observation and a link between two situations because a similar mental pattern correlates to both problems.

It may be that people do more to help the environment than I am actually aware, but, being a layman, I'll adopt the popular theory, which is that humans do a lot to harm the environment and our planet. Many link global climate change to human activities. Many give us only decades left on this planet, some give us more.

Here is what I'm going to say on this issue, having adopted this popular theory:

If we are going to continue using the earth's resources and land, let us realize that they are finite in quantity, though possibly replenishable. Our existence on this planet is not a right, it is a privilege. If we treat this world the way we have treated our finances, eventually our human system will collapse, the world will support us no longer. We will see deflation of people. The problem with this system collapse is that the recovery wont cost us in dollars, it will cost human lives.

So what do we do? Do we try to avoid the problem and let the system correct itself? Do we allow ourselves to be consumed by each other?

I would argue that nihilism is not the answer, but I would also say that starting to be responsible now is not enough. David Deutsch argues that if scientists generally agree that it is too late for any preventative approaches to have much affect, then we need to adopt a mentality of "problem fixing", not "problem avoidance".

"If you get punched on the nose, the science of medicine doesn't consist of teaching you to avoid punches." -David Deutsch, an amazingly brilliant man

We ought to find a way to fix our environmental problem while being responsible with our resources. These should happen simultaneously. Even further, I would argue that we ought to constantly be innovating new ways to better utilize our resources and gather them from multiple sources. As with finances, we ought to be responsible, fix our problems when they happen, and improve our financial stability and standards all at the same time. They are all equally important.

How it all ties together:

Finally, as with everything, we'll tie in to education... Our education is becoming commodified and this commodity is inflating. Sir Ken Robinson, whose TED video I posted recently, agrees that the inflation of education is a reality. The reality is that the jobs that required a BA ten years ago now require a PhD and jobs that required no degree now require a BA. Eventually degrees wont be worth anything.

We no longer have the luxury of treating our education like we have been treating our environment or our finances. Though superficially different, these things are fundamentally similar in how we ought to treat them.

Our education is finite, we only have until we die to learn as much as we can. Education does not always go up in value, the value is proportional to what you learn and how you apply it. In education there is value in differentiation. Education is a privilege, we must be willing to give with what we learn and constantly question what we know, otherwise we've learned nothing. When we learn, we are taking a risk, because we never know where that knowledge will take us. We don't need to borrow money to learn, we have many ways of learning. Some spending is likely, but if you are a patron of your local bookstore it will make your life easier. Libraries can be unreliable as far as supply goes.

If we can transform our ideas about education and learn better ideas in our educational system, we can change the world of finance and the world itself. Knowledge begets all things, including the way we treat our world and our trade. With a new way of learning we can take control of the future, and with it, do something that matters.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Girlfriends make good mirrors...

An email message I sent to my girlfriend in response to her inquiries about my posts.

NO, NOT AT ALL! :D I love your feedback. Though some of it felt a little harsh, it is justified because of the harshness of my posts. It is important to note that the posts are reflections of how I feel about my life. They aren't necessarily true for everybody and I should be sure to clarify that in the future. Points you have made me reflect on today that I will explore in the near future:

  • Commodification of Education. This is a topic that almost sums up my entire problem with the Higher Education system. Though I still believe the owner/founder of the college should be rewarded, I have a major problem with treating education like a good to be bought, borrowed for, and stolen.
    By a reward for the founder/owner, who could actually be the student body itself, that could mean any kind of kickback. Mostly to cover living expenses and to perpetuate the growth of the college.
  • Academics vs Administrators. This is a big one that I'm surprised I overlooked. I remember many professors that despised the way the system worked and many that hated homework and papers as much as I did. Partly because they didn't want to grade them (ha ha), but also because they felt it didn't contribute to learning. Learning should happen in the classroom. I identify with this a lot and almost feel ashamed that I put the blame on the academics. By academics I really meant the administrators, and those academics that do like the system the way it is because it keeps them their job. So really there would be more than one type of academic and lumping them into one category was a mistake on my part. This will likely be my next blog post and I intend to edit the one where this was posted.
  • Scarcity creates value. It's apparent that this point requires much more conversation. While this principle is a backbone of capitalism it is also entirely true in real life. Remember that capitalism is a system that emphasizes a particular set of physical, social, and theoretical facts that already exist. Capitalism is just the system that takes advantage of certain aspects of our society and world. It doesn't necessarily create them. Scarcity does create value and overabundance creates disinterest. Notice that the world wasn't interested in Global Warming until the polar ice caps started melting. My main point here is that if a large portion of the population went to school for the same degree, like business administration (which is one of the most overpopulated) or psychology (another overpopulated degree) there would be little value in the degree itself (which in these cases is very true) because if a company or an organization doesn't hire you they can just hire the next person. This is what brings me to the idea that it's our personal experiences after college that differentiate us, not the college experience itself. My argument is that, yes there are ways to differentiate yourself in college, but its not the main goal of the current "system". The problem comes with standardization and, as you mentioned, commodification. The market wants everybody to come out the same, but the students all want to come out different. This is a major gap in the education system that really needs to be addressed. And I intend to.

I'm sure there were more, but I have to go get my paycheck and go to work! Love you so much!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stoplights and Freeways. Part 3

This is the part where I offer improvement; the part where I dream; the part where the real conversation begins.

If I were to sum up the problem with the Higher Education System in one word it would be:


The ideas and passion that put it there are long expired and no longer satiate our needs as a society. We need more than just existence, we need life.
  • Some will say it helps us get jobs, but I say that employers are dumb for requiring a degree at all, and they know it.
  • Some say it helps us train for our career, but I say that you'll be retrained your first day on the job anyhow.  
  • Some might say it weeds out the lazy and the stupid, but I say it weeds out the creative and the genius.
  • Some say that's just the way it is, and I dream about the way it can be.

Anything that stagnates too long dies, maybe not in a physical sense, but in an emotional sense. The paradigm held by the college system elite is that we should make college difficult and challenging to create the best doctors, lawyers, politicians, and businessmen possible, but I say this top-down approach is archaic. I believe every person is best in their own right, in a given set of circumstances. Every student should be challenged, yes, but not to the point of ostracism. The new system should thrive on each individual's characteristics and each person should be able to develop and grow within the system. This is the best approach. Actually, it's the only sustainable approach.

This theory needs to be grounded. What we need in the real world is a system that has a dynamic structure. One where there are guiding principles, not stringent rules. A system that is governed by its students, whose experiences are what make the system work in the first place. The system will not abide grades, standards, nor meaningless tasks, but experience, learning, and growth! As individuals we may succeed by our individual agendas, but in that, be unified as a school. A school dedicated to the things that really matter in life.

So maybe its not that we need a new freeway built, but perhaps we need to completely re-invent the transportation system as we know it.

A summary of points:

  • The current system is lifeless. There is little excitement in it.
  • Anything that stagnates too long dies.
  • Who knows what kind of people are being ostrasized by the "system".
  • "I believe every person is best in their own right, in a given set of circumstances."
  • The current system elites are bent on shutting people out. The new system will bring everybody in, help them through, and encourage them to grow. 

This is not about me talking to you, this is about us talking about the future; our future.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stoplights and Freeways. Part 2

The second problem arises in the fact that you have multiple people getting off at the same exit, but that have entirely different destinations. Many times people miss their exit and have to get off at the wrong one (a change of Major is a good example).

Overall, this creates congestion. People only have or know of (college) one way to get to where they want to go, so they get on the "freeway". The problem is that the freeway only has capacity for so many people. Eventually there are too many and nobody is going anywhere.

This is when smart, and confident people get off the freeway and take the side roads. It's a  risk, and we know that, but it's better than just sitting there. At least, if we fail, we learned something, saw something, or stopped for a latté. But many people do choose to just sit there. Why? What's the point?

The point is that they have faith in the "system". They have faith that the freeway is the fastest way to get them where they want to go. They have faith that it will speed up. They believe in what the freeway was designed for. But its not functioning anymore... so they wait. They wait until the congestion goes away. But the congestion of the college "freeway" won't go away. Not until a change is made.

This congestion is due to the fact that more and more people are required to go to college to get certain jobs. The jobs that require you to have master's degrees now didn't require them ten years ago and the jobs that require lesser degrees now didn't require any at all before! More and more people are going to college because they see that the people with the degrees are the ones getting the good jobs. It's not that we needed more training to do the same job, but that the perception is that if you have a degree, it makes you a better person, and distinguishes you from everybody else. This is a problematic assumption because in some ways it does make you more accomplished, but in other ways it doesn't, and it no longer differentiates you. Let me explain.

A degree is a certificate of accomplishment, nothing more. It shows that you did something that other people did not do. It shows that you put up with a lot of bullshit and made it through. In a lot of ways, college is a big endurance test. How much time can we make you waste? How many demeaning projects can we make you do? How many ways are there to read a book; write a paper; pronounce tomato? The system is designed make some people quit and others stick. It is not particularly designed to help you learn or gain experience.

Since the system is not necessarily designed to give you the knowledge and definitely not the experience needed to make it in most jobs, employers have resorted to requiring extra on-the-job experience for employment candidates. Employers know that a degree doesn't really mean you know what your doing. Also, in response, as I've mentioned, they now require more and more schooling for the same job. I'm not sure why they continue to buy into this system, but I'm not them. I can't really answer for their misdeeds.

Here's the big problem with this: Eventually the returns for going to school will be so dismally low that it won't be worth it... and people will notice. Imagine having to spend even 4  years in college just to pick up a minimum wage job. Imagine 10... 20. Extreme? Of course, but it is where we are headed unless change happens. Which is why change is inevitable. Obviously we will never let this happen because nobody wants to spend half their life learning how to live the rest of their life.  Change will happen eventually...

... so lets get a head start. 

Summary of points:

  • Just like on the freeway, congestion is a major problem in college
  • Scarcity creates value
  • The current Higher Education system creates diminishing returns. (any entry economics, stats, or sociology class can show you this)
  • If everybody is getting on at the same place and getting off at the same place, what differentiates them in the post-graduate job market? Without specific experience, nothing.
  • Employers want that something special that makes you stand out. College can't give you that.
  • Eventually the system will collapse if change is not made. 
  • It's quicker, and less painful, to peel the band-aid off quickly.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

An idea...

It has occurred to me that maybe tearing apart the current education system may not be the most efficient way of going about the major change that is needed. While I will still continue to criticize, I will offer constructive suggestions from now on. It is my dream to recreate the educational system from the bottom up, starting with the student. We are all individuals and we need a way to learn and become our best selves in a way that reinforces our individuality, but at the same time, unifies us. This is our dream.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stoplights and Freeways. Part 1

Turns out the "road of life" is a pretty good metaphor. On the real road, the one you drive on every day, there are stoplights and freeways. You essentially have two choices if you want to go somewhere. You can take the side roads and pass through multiple stoplights or you can take the freeway. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Stoplights are slow, every time you have to stop at one you're actually stopping because you need to make a decision. Will you drive straight, turn, or even flip around? The great part is that the choice is all yours, nobody can make that decision for you, but it comes with a heavy cost. The more stoplights, the slower you go. Sure you can get to your destination with pinpoint accuracy, but its a slow road if its far away.

That's why we invented the freeway system. Freeways get us roughly where we want to go, but much, much faster. You see, the speed comes from the fact that there are limited choices. You can take the I-15 to the I-80 to the I-215 if you want to get to Cottonwood Heights, but you could just as easily take the I-15 to the I-215. Both are about the same speed but there are only two ways. However, they are both very fast and are much faster than taking the stoplight approach.

These concepts make a great metaphor for life. If success or happiness or freedom is our destination then we have many ways to get there. Since the topic of this blog for the moment is about higher education, we'll use that as an example. So in that, we have a freeway, which is college. College is a freeway because it is considered the expressway to success and to a career. College is fast, and in general gets us where we want to go...

...except sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it takes us to places very different than we thought it would. I think there are multiple reasons why this could be and why many graduates finish their college career lost and confused, not to mention college dropouts who recognize this confusion earlier on (oh, we of little faith). If we look at a freeway, which college is one, we can see that it's basically a set path with limited alternatives. You can get on and off at certain places but there is much less choice involved than in the stoplight approach. So you have people getting on wherever they get on and people getting off wherever they get off.

The first problem with the freeway is in its form. A set path rarely gets people where they want to go. In Salt Lake City for example, our  real freeway system is mostly limited to the upper east quadrant of the valley, making it slow-going anywhere west and south. In life, college does this same thing. For those of us that don't enjoy or want to make a career out of academia (e.g. Accounting, Law, Medicine, Teaching) the college system has little to offer us but a piece of paper and a pat on the head. It simply doesn't get us where we want to go, so we find ourselves graduated or dropped-out with a long path ahead of us still. I've uploaded a shoddy diagram to illustrate:

Yes, the "system" doesn't actually look this simple, but give me a break, I made it in Paint! On the actual college "freeway", there are definitely multiple paths, and differing destinations, though not as many as there are stoplights.

People will argue with this I'm sure, but those of us that feel this way know why its true.  It's because the system isn't catering to us, nor is it actually leading to education or learning, not the way it needs to be. It's catering to the academics that hold the institution together because it's their institution and that's the way it's always been. *** edited***The academics have no reason to change the "system" because it helps them get to where they want to go. I'm not saying that we shouldn't include them in the new system, but it shouldn't be all about them.*** edited***

*excerpt from future post* 

"Academics vs Administrators. This is a big one that I'm surprised I overlooked. I remember many professors that despised the way the system worked and many that hated homework and papers as much as I did. Partly because they didn't want to grade them (ha ha), but also because they felt it didn't contribute to learning. Learning should happen in the classroom. I identify with this a lot and almost feel ashamed that I put the blame on the academics. By academics I really meant the administrators, and those academics that do like the system the way it is because it keeps them their job. So really there would be more than one type of academic and lumping them into one category was a mistake on my part. This will likely be my next blog post and I intend to edit the one where this was posted."

*this is the end of the editors comments*

As you can see from the above diagram, some of us have destinations in life that would actually be better reached by (currently) not even thinking about the "freeway". In my mind, these typically involve the arts, creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation, and non-mainstream sports (e.g. tennis, golf, ping-pong, sumo wrestling(maybe)). There are schools out there for these things, but the main idea behind these areas is the more you try and, yes, the more you fail, the better you'll get and the more you'll learn. (These areas cannot be standardized; not if you want to be exceptional.) The real learning in these areas does not come from books, but from experience. And the books that do give you insight are not the books they give you in school. I commend the school that is passing out books by Seth Godin and Jim Collins. I'm sure they exist, but it's not the mainstream. Not to mention you may have just paid several hundred to several thousand dollars to buy a book you could have picked up for $20 at Barnes & Noble.

A summary of points:

  • "the road of life" is a pretty good metaphor. What others can you think of?
  • Stoplights are great when you need a decision, but if you don't they just slow you down.
  • Freeways sometimes get us where we want to go, fast and painless, but they are somewhat boring and you could fall asleep at the wheel... and sometimes they don't
  • The college "freeway" is basically a set path. It gets some people where they want to go but not all.
  • If you're an academic and really like college then that's fine... for you. But for the rest of us, we need a change.
  • Never stop learning. Learning doesn't stop with college, nor does it start with it. It starts with you.
  • I paint better than I draw in Paint.

This is merely the start of this conversation. I have more to follow, but for your sake, I'll keep this one short and post more on this next time. No story today, sorry. =D


Art 3

This art piece features straight lines, solid colors, and scalable shapes. The colors and shapes balance with the white space. At the moment this piece is to be given to another blogger who pointed me in a good direction.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Art 2

My first piece. The birthplace of my love for minimalism and abstract art. Features solid colors and abstract concepts.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Foolish Assumptions

'Same thing goes with school, you need to jump trough the hoops and play the games in order to get your degree. In order to do the things you truly want to do you need those things to progress in "the system." It's just the way the world works.' - a comment from a previous post.

In order to progress in "the system" you must jump through hoops. And "...its just the way the world works". These are very true statements and I would be a fool to disagree. However, the statement is not entirely factual because there are a few assumptions that have been made.

The first assumption:

  • "One person can know what another person truly wants."
No other person can know what drives us or who we are one millionth as much as we do. And many people don't even know what it is that they themselves want in the first place. Until we know what we really want, we can't even tell if we'll succeed in this current system or not. The first step is to find out what you actually want out of life. For more information on this please read my previous post, "What drives you?".

A story:
A few years ago I worked at a high-end jewelry store in the sales department. For the most part it was pretty boring, but I remember a story my coworker told me.

Down the street from us there was a high-end men's clothing store. The average suit there cost probably around a thousand dollars or more. One day, a man walks in wearing very dirty clothing and begins to look around. Not the kind of guy you'd find in a luxury clothing store. As the other sales people ignored him, knowing he was probably just a bum, one decided to give it a go. End result: the man purchased over five thousand dollars in suits and accessories from this salesperson.

While the other salespeople saw a bum with no money and dirt on his face, the one who made the sale that day saw nothing, a blank slate. Turns out that the guy had just been doing yard work that morning.

It's my most memorable example proving it's rare that we know somebody better than themselves. Remember not to assume you know what motivates people or what they want out of life. It's better to ask.

The second assumption:

  • The current "system" is the best and only way to achieve what I've determined I truly want.
The old addage goes: "All roads lead to Rome." This isn't to say that all paths lead to success, but merely to show that just like there are multiple roads to Rome, there are multiple paths to self-fulfillment. There are countless people who have found their personal path to happiness, success, and even financial wealth via a different road.

As with all things the first step in changing something for the better is admitting that there is something wrong with it. We know the status quo is not sufficient. The price for admission is not free, the ride is not utterly mind-blowing, and the end result is that you leave without the giant stuffed teddybear. The carnival of college doesn't just need some new décor, it needs a massive overhaul! This assumption of the "one size fits all" has some damaging effects, and they are visible everywhere!

Above all else this assumption has caused many "alternative thinkers" to live a life of quiet desperation*. It has caused them to become addicted, not to drugs or alcohol (though still likely), but to mediocrity. This leads to...

The third assumption (inferred):

  • Mediocrity is okay.
Wrong. Dead wrong.

A summary of points:

  • If you want to succeed in the current system, then go for it. Nobody is stopping you.
  • Never assume you know what anybody wants; its probably not the same thing as you.
  • If you're in sales, don't judge. Ben Franklin might just be your new prospects best friend.
  • All roads may not lead to Rome, but you can bet there are at least two of them.
  • Why settle for anything less than the best. If college were free, fun, and there was a definite, big prize when you finished wouldn't that be great?
  • I don't live in the real world. The real world is boring.
  • If mediocrity comes a knocking, I hope you have your walls boarded up, a 12 guage shotgun, and a chainsaw because this mother fucker is hungry.


* "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" -
Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Art 1

A painting I've mostly finished. I've got some detailing to do but otherwise it is finished. My art features minimalist themes including few colors, straight lines, and simple shapes. To me it's not that the shapes and colors need to be complex to make a piece of art complex. I'm much more into how things are laid out, where they are placed, and what their proportions are.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What drives you?

This question has been something I've pondered over and over again for myself and for other people. Our own personal drivers are more important to us, I believe, than any education you can receive or experience you can gain. My reasoning for this is that I believe that our personal drivers are what determine how we can be educated and how we interpret certain experiences.

As an example, I'll take my own personal drivers into account. As always, I'll start with a story:

While in high school, like most students, I was put in a boring, white-walled room, made to memorize equations and take tests. Needless to say, it wasn't terribly stimulating, but I was used to it, so I put up with it. Since I've always done really well in mathematics and science, I succeeded pretty easily (the funny thing is: I was horrible at art and anything dealing with creativity, but look at me now). As I began to notice my obvious proficiencies and deficiencies, I began to wonder why in certain classes I performed really well and why I found other classes completely aggravating. It wouldn't be until several years later that I would answer this question.

As I stepped on to my college campus for the first time I still had that high school mentality. I was used to doing work because it needed to be done and I rarely asked questions. However, as soon as my second semester came around I realized something quite profound: for the first time in my entire life, I basically had complete autonomy at school. Rarely, if ever, was I required to attend any given class and tardiness was typically a non-issue, but the most amazing revelation was that professors hardly gave two shits if you passed or failed. Whether you turned in your papers or showed up for the test, none of it mattered! Of course, we were all told this would happen before starting college, but the reality of it is an experience all to itself.

This finally leads to my point: I realized that in order to succeed in school, I would need to feel personal fulfillment in each and every task and personally motivate myself to complete work. At first this wasn't too difficult because the revelation hadn't fully set in yet. Though, it wasn't long before my GPA started slipping and my attendance began to fall. There's still a slight sting in my heart when I think back on those days. Partly, I think, it's because I felt a great sense of failure in my actions at the time. However, the sting is only slight now because it's just a memory. I realize that the sense of failure was entirely due to my interpretation of the events through a lens that I no longer look through.

My new lens looks a little like this: If I'm personally responsible to motivate myself to enjoy the work I do, then I want to do the work that I personally enjoy. I'm not going to pay somebody or exert much effort to perform menial tasks that I find utterly aggravating*. What I'm going to do is make a personal investment, whether it be time, effort, or money to learn about and perfect the things that I find personally fulfilling in a way that is efficient plus engages and inspires me. But the current collegiate system doesn't allow for that so I decided to leave it.

After leaving, as I've mentioned before, I entered a period of self discovery like I'd never experienced before. No, it's not this profound moment where you truly discover your inner self. For me, at least, that's not at all how it worked. While there were definitely moments of profound personal revelation, I actually hit the books harder than I ever had before. I reflected and wrote and reflected more. I analyzed myself in a very critical way over a period of several months and discovered my personal drivers: Aesthetics, style, beauty, art, creativity, big ideas, and, above all other things, making a difference.

Once again, probably a mishmash of ideas and points, but here's what I'm actually getting at:

  • Personal Drivers are extremely important! Find out what they are and use them to take your to new heights in your life!
  • Nobody can motivate you, only you can do that through the use of your personal drivers. What do you honestly, truly attach personal meaning to? What actually inspires you?
  • If you aren't ready to write off the current "system" like I have, at the very least find out which classes don't match up with your personal drivers, and try to find a professor that is more in tune with your needs.
  • Personal drivers are not static. They are dynamic, which means that they change. They change because you change. Are you the same person that you were ten years ago? Probably not. That doesn't mean that you need to change them. If you want to keep 'em, keep 'em.
  • For me, the current "system" hasn't met the needs of my personal drivers. I would be much more happy investing my time in a system that was built to utilize my personal drivers and help me grow in a fulfilling and exciting way. That's what I would pay for.
  • When I observe and talk to anybody I'm always wondering what their personal drivers are. So, what drives you?

*It is important that I note that my father was paying for my tuition at the time. It's important because many of you out there pay for your own, which makes you more invested than I was. As a result, my insight may have a more or less profound effect on you. If I felt this way while not paying a dime, how do you feel?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Welcome to life...

Today is the day we start. As with most things, I like to start with a story.

In high school, we all thought about college as the big leagues. Once we got there, we would be "in it". Life would really start. That, to many of us, was when we would become "real" people. I think to most high-schoolers this sounds quite compelling and exciting. All this hype has created a kind of reality that college life is expected to live up to. Through summer, from graduation day to the first steps on campus, we twitched with energy. For some, we made it well through our first semester before we realized something was terribly wrong. It wasn't apparent at first because the college hype was still there and we were clinging on for dear life. If you're like me, and I think you probably are, you woke up one day with this terrible feeling that something was wrong... and ignored it.

I did this because I had so heavily attached the quality of my life and my relationships with other people to succeeding in the "system". Now is the part where many rebels start taking drugs and drinking heavily, and possibly starting a rock band, but none of those things ever strongly appealed to me (well, maybe the rock band). No, I didn't turn to a life of excess, but I did quit school.

Its worth taking a moment here to mention that the social ramifications from friends and family can be quite real for taking this step and I had my share of them. But from the moment I clicked the "Submit" button to drop my courses, I felt true and utter freedom.

Back to the life of a college "dropout". Not only did I not turn to a life of excess and rock, I got a second job, started catching up on bills, and did possibly the most important thing I could have done for myself: self assessment. It was during this period that I began to discover my true passions for design, art, creation, and what I truly feel will make an effective entrepreneur. It led me to discover many authors that I've come to love and areas of knowledge that they not only don't teach you in college, but that actually are counter-intuitive to their system.

Now this first blog post is probably a mishmash of ideas and strings of arguments that make little to no sense so let me paraphrase:

  • The higher education system is one system
  • The higher education system is not all-encompassing
  • There are alternative ways to learn about any given area
  • The collegiate system does not and cannot teach you who you are, nor can it teach you what's important to you.
  • If you feel lost and confused other people will blame you, but I don't, I understand that you fell into the same trap I did and I'm here to tell you that there is light at the other end of the tunnel and there are multiple paths to success
Many points contained within will require further converstation. I know that you'll follow me as I explore these ideas and where they can lead us. I know because self growth and fulfillment matters to all of us. And we all deserve it...