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Personal Development: Motivational Tips

I write these to help you to live better--to be happier, to relate better to others, and to accomplish more. I want you to be successful and to feel successful. Let’s get going and let’s make it so....

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Starting a School: Have a Good Idea?

Over the years, many people have inquired about the mechanics of starting a school that emphasizes self-directed learning. Fortunately, I know a number of people who have

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How Can I Overcome My Resistance

July 29, 14

How Can I Overcome My Resistance? by Maurice Gibbons He knows that if he caves in today, no matter what the pretext, he will be twice as likely to cave tomorrow. - Steven Pressfield A charming cartoon character named Pogo once told his swampy friends, “I have seen the enemy and he is us.” Nothing could be truer when it comes to our resistance to doing even those things that we want to do. Our capacity for throwing roadblocks on the highway we are trying to travel is another great irony that is hard to explain and often even harder to deal with. Steven Pressfield, in his book, The War of Art: Break through Your Blocks And Win Your Inner Creative Battles, says, “Resistance is the enemy within…[It] is the most toxic force on the planet.” If this is even partly true, then we must find some equally strong, but not toxic, ways of overcoming that resistance and getting the jobs done that we want to do. It’s strange though isn’t it; to be both the good guy and the bad guy all in the same person: “I want to get it done but this guy’s standing in my way,” and they are both you--or me. Touchstones and Holdbacks I use personal Touchstone events to prepare me for any new experience, especially any challenging experience such as building something. I remember building a very tiny writing studio in the basement of our first house and scribbling away there quite comfortably while I papered the walls with rejection slips from publishers. Remembering that building success helps me to face any other building challenges that come up. Let’s use the same technique to address our resistance. Let’s each find a personal experience from our past that makes the vague concept of resistance vivid to us. Let’s call them what they are, Holdbacks. Do you remember a time when you really wanted to do something but couldn’t, not because others got in the way but because you stopped yourself? They chose the problem of flight. Many people had tried, often to great fanfare, but all failed and in the end, the experts announced that powered flight was impossible. I remember being invited, along with several other sculptors, to carve a sculpture from a piece of a large tree that stood on an institution’s property. There was nothing to impede my participation except myself, but I could not get going. By the time I visited the tree to find my wood, there was nothing left. I attended the opening show of the sculptures that were done and was ashamed that I was not among them. That’s a Holdback of mine. Do you have one of yours? They tell us a lot about our resistance. I didn’t take part because I was afraid that I couldn’t compete. What was your holdback, and why did your resistance overpower you? I have to overcome my fear. What do you have to do? Getting the Freight Train Moving Have you ever watched a freight train start up in a rail-yard with the sharp chug-chug-chug of the engine followed by the clanking of the car hitches all the way down the train, and then the slow, labored beginning as the engine gradually overcomes the weight of inertia and gets the train rolling? We spend most of our time in the rail-yards of our lives and avoid the effort necessary to get rolling across the countryside of possibilities that we could be experiencing. If rapid I-movement is not your regular style, you might need to plan a major effort to get your own freight moving. This is where true grit comes in, the same kind of true grit that the young girl showed in the relentless pursuit of her father’s killer in the eponymous movie. That means raw determination in the face of any obstacles until the job is done. Raw determination like that begins with a passionately held conviction or purpose, and that means decision-making. My late wife Margot was a skilled artist in graphic media. When we were talking about our next moves one winter, she thought she would take another course in art. We both knew that she was avoiding her next challenge, which was to exhibit her art for sale. She knew it and finally said it, “I need to sell my stuff.” and that was the beginning. She started with an exhibition at home, about sixty people came, and she sold twenty-three of her thirty drawings. No matter what it is, you need to get started and that means choosing the field and setting the task. Then comes the tough part. You have to put it on the line; you have to commit to achieving the outcome that you seek and write it down somewhere, then tell someone close to you. Most of all, you have to know in your heart that this task is now a done-deal and there is no way that it will fail. We are great con-artists when it comes to misleading ourselves, that’s why I like the strategy I have come to call “Hire the Hall and Send Out the Brochure.” This means creating a situation in which you have to follow through. If you don’t, you have to deal with those 100 people all on your case to find out what’s going on—“Where’s the work you promised to have ready to show us?” When you have a tough situation, you have to be even tougher, especially if it’s with yourself. Find a way to get that train moving out of the freight-yard. Who’s Afraid of Virginia’s Woolf? I grew up not far from the beach, and spent a lot of time swimming there when I was a kid. If you were ever a swimmer, do you remember standing in the water with your eyes just at the level of the surface? That’s my image of reality. The world above the surface is reality; the world below the surface is the mysterious subconscious. We can usually cope with what lies above the surface; at least we can understand what’s happening. But we have to hold our breath and dive to get even a shadowy look at our own sub-conscious. But that’s where the machinery of our lives is turning over at a regular rate. That’s where the thoughts and feelings that often guide us lurk. If you experience resistance even when you know what you want to do and have made a firm commitment to doing it, then you must take a deep breath with me and get ready to dive below the surface and see what’s going on. I remember diving once and seeing a round stone turn out to be an octopus. It was very scarey; it is also a great metaphor for the feeling that often derails our efforts to act—fear. To me a large octopus found underwater is fear personified, and it is fear that often keeps us from acting: but fear of what? Diving down, I see that my biggest fear is of failure. I am afraid that what I produce will be inadequate, and if it is, others will think what I have done is junk or stupid and I will be ashamed. Once you’ve done whatever it is you’re going to do, there is no turning back. It’s out there for everyone to see and to judge. So acting and doing anything is an act of bravery. It takes courage to do what you want to do, but you must win the battle to take action or be immobilized forever. So you and I both have to act in spite of that picture of what might happen that frightens us. Stepping Onto the Hero-Path If you can hold your breath a second longer, see if you can figure out what you are experiencing that is holding you back. Consider fear and then look further. Whatever the feeling is, acknowledge it. The first step is always to find out what is going on, then we can find a way to deal with it. I’m afraid I will fail. How shall I cope with that? First I have to immobilize what is immobilizing me. Fight the fear. Do you see that glimpse of truth, too. It seems to me that there is no escaping the fact that this all comes down to self-mastery. I am the fear. I am afraid. It’s up to me to overcome the fear or remain it’s slave. It’s no exaggeration to say that we are dealing with freedom, the freedom to be whom we choose and to do what we choose, or to be forever a cowering creature unable to act, unable to do even what it wants to do. But many have been in this struggle before, and as Joseph Campbell says, ‘we have only to follow the hero-path that they have laid down for us.’ Like Theseus in the labyrinth facing the fearsome Minotaur, we must face our fear to become who we want to become, doing what we want to do. We have to take charge to be in charge. One thing that move involves is the decision to leave the easy, familiar path, and step onto the challenging path that takes us forward into the unknown. The End of the Fumbling Amateur Steven Pressfield urges us to abandon our soft amateur ways and to begin thinking and acting like professionals. He urges us to pursue what we want to do, the same way we pursue what we have to do in our jobs. We go to work under all conditions, we work all day, we become skilled, we deal with praise and blame, and if we are spending our lives at it, we likely love the work. Above all, we do it in spite of the difficulties involved, our fears, criticism, failure, or a host of other obstacles in our way. He urges us to adopt this professional attitude with our personal work as well, and to abandon our casual, amateur ways. Do it because we must. I like the professional image because it is vivid and I can work with it. Basically, the professional doesn’t mess around, but rather makes a commitment, gets on with the job and sees it through to completion in an orderly and systematic way. Professionals do not accept amateur work from themselves, but rather work steadily at being competent in their field. It is a terrible thing to be a captive in the prison of resistance. It demands serious life moves from us. It demands breaking out of the ordinary and stepping onto the path to the exceptional, onto the path that leads to the authentic expression of ourselves at our best. How pathetic to end up saying, “If only I’d done it, but I didn’t, and now it’s too late.” How wonderful to end up saying, “It wasn’t easy but I did it, I did my best, and what a ride!” It really is worth deciding now which it’s going to be. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Never loose another idea! • Develop your own plans for projects • Keep track of what you learn • Meet your new companion, partner, confidant • Understand yourself • Discover your talent; watch it grow The journal is a powerful instrument that will help you to be successful with any activity that you undertake. If you decide to understand yourself and your life better, the journal is waiting to listen and to be your companion in the search.


Motivate Yourself

July 14, 14

Motivate Yourself by Maurice Gibbons Sticks and Stones Break Bones My how things change. Remember when the main idea about motivating people was to lure them with carrots or threatened them with sticks? I even have a book on self- motivation that has a cover picture of a man wearing a rig on his head that supports a pole holding a carrot out in front of him as he jogs along after it, never getting any closer. But that’s Twentieth Century thinking, and it doesn’t work in the Twenty-first. Carrots and sticks have given way to autonomy, mastery, and fulfillment. Guides using the latest research for motivating workers urge bosses to cultivate self-direction rather than try to lure them with rewards. The reason is that research shows time after time that rewards lower performance. That’s right, rewards lower performance. How can that be? The answer may be that rewards are bribes and people can see that. The key reason they are ineffective is that we are driven more by our inner needs than by outer rewards. Try the Test If the task is mechanical, like taking inventory, rewards may work; but if thinking becomes involved, if creativity comes into play, or if there are many possible answers, rewards get in the way. This is one of the tests researchers used: “Here’s matches, a box of tacks, and a candle. Your task is to find a way to attach the lit candle to the wall so that it doesn’t drip on the floor.” Those offered a reward for finding the answer quickly, didn’t. Can you think of the answer to show your skill, your mastery? Stop here if you want to answer because the answer is next. To fix the candle to the wall, tack the bottom of the tack box to the wall, place the candle in the box, and light it. The point is that you likely did it faster to show your mastery than for the dollar that I might have offered you. Actualizing Yourself Is the Key What this says is that we are motivated more when our inner or intrinsic needs are met than when we are offered external or extrinsic rewards. What this gets back to is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—intrinsic needs— which is still relevant today: Our most basic need is for food, air, shelter, sunlight, and warmth—our physiological necessities. When those needs are met, we need to feel secure, to feel safe from violence, catastrophe and other causes of harm to us. Then we feel the need to belong, to connect with others, to have a social place among them, and to love and be loved. The next most important need is psychological—our need for mental wellness and acceptance. We need to feel okay in the world, to have esteem, to think that we are competent and worthy. In The Aha Performance, Douglas Walker says that the strongest need is always the one not being met at the time. When these needs are under control, we can turn to the development on our true selves and our talents; we can focus on our personal growth and fulfillment. We can concentrate on our highest need, which is to actualize ourselves.In The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Maslow describes the rules of metamotivation, the rules that move people who are self-actualizing. He says that such people seek devotion to some particular field of work, which they feel expresses them and the values that they hold. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his book Flow; the Psychology of Optimal Experience, assumes that our highest pursuit is for the greatest possible experience, and that experience is “flow.” Flow is the state in which you are so involved in your activities that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that you will do it, even at great costs, for the sheer sake of doing it. You are so motivated that motivation becomes irrelevant. So What Does That Mean for You? It means then that you can introduce your own program of carrots and sticks for yourself because you choose them. My two favourite sticks are, first, ‘telling a sarcastic person what you intend to do because then you will do the work to avoid suffering the verbal consequences; and second, ‘rent the hall and send out the brochure’ so that your only choice is to get the job done or move to another country. I intend to be a little vicious with myself, but you may find gentler sticks to prod you on. Delicious carrots and other rewards may lure you to complete simple tasks. I lure myself forward with the promise of celebrations when the work is done. If you can devise carrots and sticks that work for you, use them. Everything we have reviewed so far tells us that the great forces of motivation come from within us. So when you turn inward what is it you are supposed to do to motivate yourself? You need to be physically well or little else matters. Then check out Maslow’s hierarchy and see if your basic needs are met or are they absorbing your attention and keeping you from higher aspirations. Esteem is an important issue: do you feel competent and worthy as a person? If not, it’s worth dealing with it right away. The way to deal with it is to become more self- actualizing, and the basic way to do that is to find the people you want to be in the world with, to develop a rich lifestyle, and to discover the work that you were meant to do—the work that fulfills you and uses your talents. Hey! Who Are You? You likely have a pretty good idea about who you are, but there is likely a lot you still don’t know, and if you’re developing as a person, you’re changing steadily. Why not take a good look at yourself? Start by taking a good look at what you’ve got working for you—all your personal resources. You will be amazed at how rich they are. There is nothing more motivating than finding your strengths and knowing that you are on the right course. For this self-assessment, get a blank book of some kind and in it make lists of these things: 1. My talents; what I’m good at. 2. What I know a lot about. 3. The experiences and accomplishments that taught me a lot. 4. My interests, dreams, and desires. Make substantial lists and then look for connections among them. For example, you might find that a talent for writing connects with an interest in language, an experience with a school newspaper and dream to publish a book. There may be many such links in your lists. One of them is the root of your special genius, and is a potent intrinsic source of motivation, if you choose to use it. Start thinking of what you have to do to become a powerhouse in your world. Always play to your strengths. Why we don’t when we don’t is a mystery. If you are living someone else’s dream—like the unhappy girl I watched being driven by her desperate mother to perform at the skating rink—or if you are following someone else’s advice, or if you are meeting someone else’s expectations, rethink the decision that got you into that situation. Authenticity is the real motivation, and authenticity can only be derived from your decisions, not decisions by others for you. In “You are the embodiment of the information you chose to accept and act upon. To change your circumstances you need to change your thinking and your actions.” Aldin Sinclair Links or tracks of talents are the roots of interests. Which track will you choose? Only you can know the answer to that. How you answer it may be the essence of who you are. That is, in essence, you may be that inner dialogue, how you decide and choose when the issues involve your personal growth. You are your life process. The next step is to shape your interests into visions, goals, plans and action. Everything begins with your interests. What is it that you want? Douglas Walker says that behavior happens to close the gap between gots and wants. What are the gaps that you want to close? Where You Goin? What You Gonna Do? In his book Mtivating Humans: Goals, Emotions, and Personal Beliefs, Martin Ford states that without a goal there is no motivation. The beginning, therefore, is to shape your interests into goals, but not just any goals. To move you forward, according to Ford, your goals must.... 1. Be clear and compelling 2. Be a challenge but be achievable 3. Be flooded with your passion for achieving them 4. Be supported by those around you 5. Generate feedback on progress. The writer might say, “I will write a travel article and publish it in a local paper or magazine within the next six months.” Goals, of course, are useless if they are not followed up with plans and action. Your goals and plans must be powerful enough to overcome your resistance to action. In the end you must have the drive—the will—to get the job done that you have chosen. One way to increase the energy of a goal is to align all of your powers with it—your beliefs, your values, your feelings, your thoughts, and your actions. I call it the arrow of intent. The writer, for example, benefits by believing that he has the ability to write and be published, by valuing writing as a profession, by being passionate about the subjects he chooses, by learning the skills of writing, and by developing a compelling style as he writes. Outline an alignment for one of the tracks that you found in your self-assessment of your personal resources. With the ‘arrow of intent’ in your bow, you will nail your target. See Yourself Successful For a long time I thought of myself as a fixed, what-you- see-is-what-you-get, being. DNA, environment and training settled everything about who I am except the trimmings. But now I know that I am on a journey, that I am evolving, that I have many choices, and that what I become will be the result of my life process. That sounds pretentious. What I mean is that the real motivation is not about a new trick the old pony learns, it is about the person, the whole person you and I are becoming. Everything we are learning through research about ourselves says so. Who are we? Who do we want to become? What do we want to achieve? What difference do we want to make in the world? Seeking the answers to these questions; that is what motivation is about. Once we recognize that we are on that journey, the question is what exactly are we moving toward? Can you visualize yourself doing what you love to do in the best environment you can imagine, and doing it as well as possible? Can you see yourself as the person you want to be, and can you see what you might be doing that would make a difference to the lives of others? If you can visualize these possibilities, then you know the answer to the question about how you can motivate yourself. The two lenses--motivation and action—“I want” and “I can”--merge into one magnification of what we are becoming. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Never loose another idea! • Develop your own plans for projects • Keep track of what you learn • Meet your new companion, partner, confidant • Understand yourself • Discover your talent; watch it grow The journal is a powerful instrument that will help you to be successful with any activity that you undertake. If you decide to understand yourself and your life better, the journal is waiting to listen and to be your companion in the search.


It's time to support Personalised Learning

June 02, 14

Guest Article by Michael Maser 2014 Since the Renaissance early discoveries in science prefigured many breakthroughs that have helped shape human society. The roots of modern medicine first emerged from a guild of alchemists, and from the Victorian workshops of tireless tinkerers arose primitive electronic technologies that continue to evolve and influence so many aspects of human interaction. Now we are poised for a new breakthrough in human learning potential thanks to a convergence of insights from new domains arising in science and psychology as well as emerging technological and social trends. Recent scientific insights, rooted in discoveries in neurological and cognitive science, as well as positive and developmental psychology, help to prefigure a profound overhaul of assumptions about intelligence and how to best nurture learning, lifelong. One of the most important, convergent findings from recent mind, brain, and education research into meeting learning challenges across disciplines and ages highlights the effectiveness of Personalized Learning. Such research correlates learning progress to individual differences in neurology, personal interests and character traits in addition to a priori learning experiences and also cultural backgrounds. In other words only one of these factors reflects genetic or 'hard-wired' influences on learning differences; the rest reflect epigenetic or environmental influences. This has significant implications for how we orient to supporting K-12, special needs and post-secondary education, adult re-training experiences and promote mental fitness among seniors. The research makes clear the time has come to seriously question or abandon assumptions guiding education and learning evaluation practices such as "one-size-fits-all" curriculum delivery and assessment, and the preeminence of a determination of intelligence based on literacy and numeracy testing. Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, writing in Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, a critique of 100 years of intelligence theorizing (2013, Basic Books), "it’s time for a new definition of human intelligence ... One that emphasizes the value of an individual’s personal journey. That extends the time course of intelligence from a two-hour testing session of decontextualized problem solving to a lifetime of deeply meaningful engagement. That arms students with the mindsets and strategies they need to realize their personal goals, without limiting or pre-judging their chances of success at any stage in the process. That shifts the focus from doing everything right to a lifelong learning process where bumps and detours are par for the course. From a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. From product to process." Dr. Kaufman's assertion is supported by many predecessors who have recognized many paths to gaining knowledge and skill competency. These people, educational pioneers like E. Paul Torrance, Howard Gardner, John Holt, Nel Noddings and others laid the groundwork for educators and educational institutions to support the inculcation of personalized approaches to learning. What exactly is meant by Personalized Learning? Personalized Learning as generally conceived is in reality a suite of approaches to nurturing learning. These range from Unschooling or informal but personalized 'dabbling' in interest areas, to Self-Directed Learning inferring a level of personal discipline and interest focus, to Child-Centred Learning in which educators orient to developmentally-appropriate approaches, to Learner-Motivated learning in which learners focus on personal learning passions with educator support, to a Differentiated approach in which educators customize a curricula reflecting learner-readiness and biographical or cultural sensitivity. By way of example, the Reggio Emilia approach, now gaining popularity worldwide, reflects a Child-Centred orientation; SelfDesign, rooted in British Columbia, Canada, supports both a Learner-Motivated and Differentiated approach; and many other educational jurisdictional approaches supporting curriculum orientation favour a Differentiated approach with 'en-suite' supportive resources. In British Columbia and elsewhere in North America, a transition to more personalized learning is underway in mainstream education, which has been dominated for a century by mass education approaches. Presently the BC Ministry of Education is unveiling its new BC Ed Plan which is to emphasize personalized learning in its implementation in K-12 schooling in the coming year. Some BC schools, including at least five secondary schools, are already successfully pioneering personalized learning options for students. These mainly reflect the Differentiated and Learner-Motivated approaches. In the United States, various school districts, especially in New England, are orienting to supporting and implementing Differentiated Learning. Some post-secondary institutions - particularly smaller-sized ones - are recognizing the attractiveness and value of offering support for personalized learning while larger ones remain generally stuck in the paradigm of mass schooling approaches. This is unfortunate and ultimately short-changes students wishing to optimize their (increasingly expensive) post-secondary or career-retraining experiences. Personalization emerging in business, healthcare Evidence of the personalization movement has emerged in other areas of society, too. In business today, products and services are increasingly packaged and marketed as personal lifestyle choices or with opportunities for personal customization. This strategy is winning customers and market share according to industry consultants. As well, personalized healthcare or the tailoring of health needs to individual patient characteristics is emerging as a potent force, worldwide. Again, research supports the effectiveness of this approach to healthcare. Personalized Learning fits with business and healthcare as a trend whose time has come and, as with these strategies, it can be seen arising worldwide. In China, according to education expert Yong Zhao and recent author of World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, the country is moving to overhaul its rigidly standardized education system in favour of a much more personalized approach. Likwise in Finland, a respected global education leader where standardization is far less emphasized than in other European and North American countries, Personalized Learning is identified as a future destination. This was confirmed in a recent CBC interview with Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, a renowned global representative for the Finnish school system. "What our young people need much more of in the future, more than we did or our parents needed," Dr. Sahlberg told a reporter, "is education to discover their own passions, their own interests and talents." Dr. Sahlberg's comment underscores a need to provide young people more agency in their learning. Such agency will, in turn, engender more self-responsibility and self-resilience, two traits that will be much needed in the face of significant changes and challenges that experts agree are in store in the future. In SelfDesign, the BC-based education innovation in which I helped to co-found and have participated for more than 20 years, I have seen much evidence to support learning oriented to individual interests. Personally, in 1991 and early in my career as an educator, I abandondoned conventional classroom teaching in frustration when I detected how many students in any given classroom, including my own, were significantly disengaged with learning for what I perceived to be very valid (personal) reasons. Soon after, I joined heart and mind with educational visionary and Wondertree founder, the late Brent Cameron, to launch Virtual High for teenage youth in Vancouver BC. In Virtual High we asked the participants what did they really want to learn? to which we pledged our support and offer of candid feedback on their progress. What followed was transformational for many if not most of the participating youth, and formed the basis of several research projects and books. It also helped to support the career trajectories of many youth who have gone on to many remarkable experiences and careers in their lives. As educators Brent and I were likewise transformed by the experience of Virtual High and Wondertree and we brought our insights into SelfDesign which has grown since 2002 to include several thousand learners, families and educators. Now I see patterns of our learning methodologies and sensibilities reflected in the varied approaches to Personalized Learning listed above and emerging through technology and social media applications as well as in the resurgence of learning guild innovations like Minecraft and Makers and DIY movements. In British Columbia, SelfDesign presently offers three school (government-supported) programs: SelfDesign Learning Community (K-9), SelfDesign High (grades 10-12) and SelfDesign Special Education (K-12). As mentioned above these generally fall into the Learner Motivated and Differentiated approaches to Personalized Learning. Since our launch in 2002 we have grown to close to 2,000 learners overall and we have garnered many endorsements from parents and learners such as the following: "Our family is able to focus on our childrens' interests and enable them to excel with their special gifts and to continue to work steadily and continue to progress in the areas they find more difficult." "The most valuable aspect for us was the ability to create a learning plan specific to our daughter. It has been so wonderful to see her being successful and reaching her goals!" To my perception these comments from SelfDesign parents attest to what parents, whether they are enrolled in SelfDesign or advocating for supporting their children's learning in any program from any locale worldwide, know fundamentally: their children learn uniquely and one-size-fits-all is not an an appropriate or optimal way to support their learning. In closing, I sense in this time a unique opportunity for educators and administration leaders to nurture personalized learning in North America. As with the rise of modern medicine and technology, personalized learning will change the way we see ourselves. Likewise it will help catalyze the potential for this generation of young people and many more to come. Let's seize the moment. - Michael Maser is an award-winning educator with 'SelfDesign Learning Community', a BC online independent school. His book, "Learn Your Way!" is a commended career planning text in BC schools.


How Can I Be More Intelligent?

January 01, 14

How Can I Be More Intelligent? by Maurice Gibbons Applied Intelligence Since Howard Gardner proposed his theory of multiple intelligences, our ideas about mental abilities have changed radically. I.Q. no longer rules; it no longer sorts us into groups that will succeed or fail. Now we recognize the great diversity of achievement and the diverse forms of excellence in people that produces it. And from that new perspective, we can see many ways that we can all expand our intelligence. What matters is applied intelligence. Your intelligence is not your ability to do a test; it’s your ability to get things done that matter. Sternberg describes the three basic aspects of Successful Intelligence this way: 1. Analytical thinking: the ability to figure things out, solve problems, make decisions, and judge the quality of ideas. 2. Creative thinking: the ability to see possibilities, to identify the best among them, and to develop ways of pursuing them. 3. Practical application: the ability to understand situations, to know what to do, and to get the job done. Seeking Knowledge We have many great examples of applied intelligence in our culture, and I want to use one now to illustrate the steps that you will be using to develop yourself. One of the best I know is the inspiring story of the Wright brothers’ struggle to solve the problem of powered flight. In it we see the importance of knowledge in achieving success, but in the most practical way possible. Wilbur and Orville Wright attended high school but neither of them received a diploma. Together they opened a bicycle shop but soon decided that they needed a challenging enterprise. They chose the problem of flight. Many people had tried, often to great fanfare, but all failed and in the end, the experts announced that powered flight was impossible. The Wrights decided that it could be done and that they could do it. Wilbur read everything he could find on the subject, and conferred with experts from the Smithsonian and other institutions. They decided that the three main problems to solve were lift, power, and control. Wilbur focused on control. The brothers built a wind tunnel to develop designs, especially for the shapes of the wings. They built gliders large enough to carry a person and spent weeks on the Carolina dunes testing them, improving them, and learning how to fly them. No one had flown before, so no one knew how to fly if they ever got into the air. The Wrights had to discover how. Success at the Impossible They had to learn how to turn their gliders by shifting their weight in a cradle-like seat in a movement that twisted the wings and swung the rudder. The cradle was inspired by the weight shift in turning a bicycle, and the rudder by the steering system in boats. After more than 700 flights, they had an engine built and mounted it on their glider. In 1903, at Kitty Hawk, their flyer flew—the first powered flight in human history. The bothers worked even harder after their initial flight seeking next to make a practical airplane that they could sell. By 1908 they were flying over 60 minutes at 40 miles an hour with a passenger and landing safely. They sold their planes and became world famous. Just over a hundred years later, we are planning flights to Mars. I like this story because it is a great example of analytical, creative, and practical intelligence. The Wright’s may not have been brilliant in school, but they were very brilliant when it came to getting things done—impossible things. Proof again that there are many ways to be brilliant in the world. Step One: Find a Topic That Interests You The Wrights searched for a topic with both challenge and promise. After a search they chose flight, even though the experts said it was impossible. You do not need to find an overwhelming challenge, nor do you need to change the course of human history, but it is important that you select topics that interest you and have value to you. You will have many interests, so you might start with a list in your journal of subjects that you would like to know more about. I’m interested in the stock market, sculpture, learning, golf, personal health, movies and plays, and others. From your list choose one to focus on now, one with grab and zing. I’m interested in how to run a green household, and the grab and zing of that topic is that I might develop an environmental program—“The Spirit Is Green”—and propose it to the church that I attend as a way to be practically spiritual. What Is Your Topic? What is your topic? And what is the grab and zing for you in that choice? Use your strength tracks as a guide (see “How Can I Find My Strengths”). To be smarter, you have to focus, have questions that you want to answer, and a strong shot of determination to keep going until you are satisfied with the answers you get. Once you get deeper into your area of interest, find people to talk to about it. Start thinking about how you could use what you are finding out. If this area feels good it may be your field and you will become an expert in it. Step Two: Analyze, Create, and Act Sternberg’s three parts of intelligence come together in the Wright’s creation of a flying machine. They analyzed the problem of flight by reading everything they could find that had been written about it. They solved each of the problems with creative inventions such as building models and testing them in a wind tunnel. And then they took action--they built the plane and learned to fly it. Now use the same strategies to study your interest. Find out about it. Decide what you can do with what you know. Then do it. If your interest is gambling, for example, find out about Blackjack (or any other game), then learn to play it, then get into a game. Knowing that you are going to play the game--just like knowing you are going to fly--pours energy into the other two stages. This is route #1 to greater intelligence (I will produce others). Use this approach regularly and you will become more intelligent. You will be more capable, and you will become more interested in others as they will be more interested in you. Why? Because you are on the move! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Never loose another idea! • Develop your own plans for projects • Keep track of what you learn • Meet your new companion, partner, confidant • Understand yourself • Discover your talent; watch it grow The journal is a powerful instrument that will help you to be successful with any activity that you undertake. If you decide to understand yourself and your life better, the journal is waiting to listen and to be your companion in the search.



Welcome! This site supports teaching self-directed learning (SDL) and becoming a self-directed person. It supports home-schooling, experiential education, open schooling and life-long learning. Keeping a journal, setting goals, planning and taking action are key tools. Self-improvement, personal development and the development of character are central themes of SDL.

In self-directed learning (SDL), the individual takes the initiative and the responsibility for what occurs. Individuals select, manage, and assess their own learning activities, which can be pursued at any time, in any place, through any means, at any age. In schools, teachers can work toward SDL a stage at a time. Teaching emphasizes SDL skills, processes, and systems rather than content coverage and tests. For the individual, SDL involves initiating personal challenge activities and developing the personal qualities to pursue them successfully. This website is devoted to illuminating these principals as they apply to schooling and to life.