Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Christian Long is another lifestylist. In his ongoing thinking about the future of learning and the design of schools, he's also digging into big questions about what constitutes a meaningful life and how learning prepares us to do good work. His writing has been so intense and prolific lately that's it's hard to keep up. From Will That "What I'm Gonna Be After Graduation" Job Even Exist When You Graduate?:
"All well and good to ramp up on math classes and get the kids to 'pass the test.' But, and maybe I'm 'off' a bit on this, if we don't spend a fair amount of time helping the same kids/students with some visioning exercises as to what they might 'do' with their lives once they graduate, it will seem to be a lot of skills without an arrow attached. Or even a rubber band to at least help them adapt and rebound as the future changes much of the game of work."
He's not off at all. I consider this a major failing of the school system right now. Envisioning, finding and creating a meaningful life path is a skill (or set of skills) that does not get taught in schools, and most parents are clueless about it except to scare their kids into college as if that was the automatic guarantee for great jobs and passionate work. So if schools and parents aren't going to do it, who is? From Vocation Vacations for Test-Driving a New Career:
"Okay, if I didn't already have my dream job, I'd be giving serious thought to this opportunity created by a corporate dropout named Brian Kurth who figured out that there may be a way to help a few other good souls wrestling with a career change try on their fantasy career for size."
And one more that digs into some of the skills kids will need:
Forget College. But Can You Interview? --
"Because at the end of the day, the future belongs to those who can tell a great story, demonstrate passionate interest combined with the ability to problem solve and 'figure it out' on the fly, and who have the audacious ability to care enough to 'go after it.' Teachers and parents: what have you done lately to help your 'little one' be in this position?"

Sunday, March 19, 2006

New Moms Exhausted

From the Business of Life, bouncing off a new study -- New Moms Exhausted:
"Or to learn that 76 percent of working mothers return to work within a year after the birth of their child. Forty-one percent of working mothers are back within three months, and nearly one in six is back within the first month after delivery."
It boggles the mind to imagine the societal (and lifestyle/family) implications of half of the kids in an entire generation being raised by institutions from the time they're three months old. She also had an interesting recent post about contempt for parenthood:
"The painful paradox is that while women have liberated themselves from being defined by their biology - the fate of the girl in many African and Asian societies who is not truly a woman until she has given birth - mothers have ended up relegated to the status of constant abject failure in a culture driven by consumerism and workaholism."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What's Next for Vocational Education?

What's next for voc ed? covers the marginalization of vocational education programs in Michigan in favour of college-prep academic programs. Meanwhile, we're seeing demand (and wages) rising in the skilled trades. It just doesn't make sense.

Thanks to think:lab, where Christian posts:
"Just when 'vocational' programs have finally come out of the dark ages and gained a little bit of respect in the new guise of CATE (Career and Technology Education) Centers, the following article comes out and makes you wonder if the support will remain. Not because they don't work...sadly."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Authentic Happiness

I can't remember now how I came across
Authentic Happiness: Using the new Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, but it's really fascinating stuff. They've got a bunch of questionnaires to measure your happiness, including overall happiness, optimism, gratitude, grit, close relationships, meaning, strengths, and many others. Once you register, you can see all of your results in one place, along with analysis of your approach to life.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Built-in Altruism?

Phatgnat linked to this BBC article: Altruism 'in-built' in humans. It seems pretty light on facts, but I find this train of thought fascinating. One of the problems I've found with the lifestylism concept is that values are so relative. If you're aligning your lifestyle with ugly values, the resulting lifestyle will be ugly. But what if we're inherently good?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Working the Network for Web Work

I've never met Will Pate, but I've been checking in on his blog since he was out in the Maritimes. This morning I swung by there and found a fascinating post: Web Marketing Prodigy and Sales Rainmaker Seeks Awesome Job.

I guess I've seen people use their blogs to find work and initiate transitions before, but it just hit me again how the web changes turns these things upside down. Instead of the solitary job-seeker firing out resumes to oblivious HR departments, or even working the phones to see if anyone in their network can help hook them up, they can put the word out online with posts, resumes, profiles, work samples or whatever (and still work the traditional back channels). Will wants to stay in Vancouver, but lists some other places he'd move to for the right opportunity -- the potential web of connections and interested groups could be pretty big.

Then the strength of weak ties can really work some magic, when the distributed network starts stumbling across (and sending links around about) someone looking for work and seeing their interests, skills, voice and network displayed in one place with a great deal of depth. A powerful model, especially when an employer can use the medium to find and communicate with others in the job seeker's network. Within a few clicks, I could find the blogs (and contact information) of pretty much everyone Will has worked with in the past year -- if I'm looking to hire a web marketing and sales specialist, that information is invaluable.

The other thing I find interesting about this phenomenon is seeing these young, smart webheads leaving great jobs in web companies on the rise -- it seems to be happening all the time. Will pointed to another one using his blog in the same way. Job turnover isn't surprising, and the whole free-agent ethos isn't new, but something feels right about working at a place long enough (18 months? Two years?) to learn some new skills and help an organization with a specific goal, and then move on to new challenges before the old ones get stale.

Update: Just in case anyone wonders whether Will's job-hunting approach worked, he got interest from 30 companies and picked one.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Flow and Happiness

Csikszentmihalyi's secrets of happiness:
"Over the years, I came up with the expression 'flow': a term to describe the common denominator among those people who deemed themselves happy. The most obvious component of happiness, I found out, is intense concentration, which is the main reason that activities such as music, art, literature, sports and other forms of leisure have survived. The essential ingredient for concentration — whether it happens when reading a poem or building a sand castle — is that it involves a challenge that matches one’s ability. The only solution to achieve enduring happiness, therefore, is to keep finding new opportunities to refine one’s skills: do one’s job better or faster, or expand the tasks that comprise it; find a new set of challenges more appropriate to your stage of life."
Thanks to Chris Corrigan for the pointer to this article. I've been a fan of flow for years -- it's one of those ideas that pops up over and over in unexpected contexts.