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Category Archives: Personal Growth

Harsh lessons learned from years spent in school…The story of a top achiever.

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By Ben Mmari

Initially I wanted to call this note “How education ruined my life” But the thing is education never ruined my life, hell I probably wouldn’t be living in Cape Town, the design capital of 2014, working at a top technology/business consulting company – without my brilliant education. But rather it is the education system that has played a huge negative role in my life. And this is something that I am only noticing now at the tender age of 22.

It was great being the smart child, the intelligent one, the one who always knew what to do and when to do it. The loyal student, always in the top 3, consistent, motivated, hard-working. Thus, at the young age of 18 when one is about to leave high-school (and no one else knows what to do with their life) it is a great feeling to know that your life is mapped out because you are a ‘top achiever’, a high school ‘success’, a fine product of the education system…bwaap bwaap bwaaap. If only I knew back then… if only I knew.

I lived in a bubble, utopia, an ideal world – a world of my own, a world that the education and reward system had helped me fabricate inside my mind. I was getting awards every term, getting book prizes at the end of the year, even made it into the national news paper after my Matric results (its Swaziland so I think everybody makes it into the paper at least once in their life…truth be told). But this constant flush of success, awards, recognition and achievement had led me to think that I was king of the world, that I could do no wrong, that I had it all figured out and that my path was set – but in all honesty it was very very far from this.

What this ‘excellent’ childhood did set me up for was a fantastic reality check.  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher

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Be Kind – A speech to Graduates by George Saunders

Graduates,

Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

And I intend to respect that tradition.

Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?” And they’ll tell you. Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked. Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret? Being poor from time to time? Not really. Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?” (And don’t even ASK what that entails.) No. I don’t regret that. Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked? And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months? Not so much. Do I regret the occasional humiliation? Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl? No. I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret:

In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.” ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” – that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.” And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then – they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of story.

Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still. It bothers me.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Kindness Matters

Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?

Here’s what I think:  Continue reading…

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Inspirational, Personal Growth

 

The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By Greg McKeown

Why don’t successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call “the clarity paradox,” which can be summed up in four predictable phases:

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.

We can see this in companies that were once darlings of Wall Street, but later collapsed. In his book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins explored this phenomenon and found that one of the key reasons for these failures was that companies fell into “the undisciplined pursuit of more.” It is true for companies and it is true for careers.

Here’s a more personal example: For years, Enric Sala was a professor at the prestigious Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. But he couldn’t kick the feeling that the career path he was on was just a close counterfeit for the path he should really be on. So, he left academia and went to work for National Geographic. With that success came new and intriguing opportunities in Washington D.C. that again left him feeling he was close to the right career path, but not quite there yet. His success had distracted him. After a couple of years, he changed gears again in order to be what he really wanted: an explorer-in-residence with National Geographic, spending a significant portion of his time diving in the most remote locations, using his strengths in science and communications to influence policy on a global scale. (Watch Enric Sala speak about his important work at TED). The price of his dream job was saying no to the many good, parallel paths he encountered.

What can we do to avoid the clarity paradox and continue our upward momentum? Here are three suggestions: Continue reading…

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Personal Growth

 
 
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We all posses just enough to be our greatest self

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We all posses just enough to be our greatest self