I’ve always been someone who likes to study those that go against the grain and live their dreams. It’s interesting that most advice given is intended to conform everyone. However most success stories are about those that looked for something unique and not fulfilled and then went after it with gusto and passion.
I’ve had my successes and failures but one thing I haven’t changed is getting after it. So I have what might be a bad habit that if I see something interesting or someone doing something cool no matter who it is, I try to persistently get to that person. This means sometimes not backing down with uncooperative secretaries whose only mission is to send you elsewhere. It means researching far and wide to try to get to someone even if I have to look for their personal numbers and emails which sometimes results in getting hung up on. It means not being scared to contact the untouchables isolated in a glass tower
My greatest disheartening comes from an incredible idea being dismissed.
In fact out of college I made a list of about 100 ideas for the most creative company of Disney and tried to get this to Michael Eisner and other execs but always had to fight the lawyers who kept saying we can’t look at this though I told them I could care less about personal benefit and just want to see great concepts take off [like Disney birthday overnight parties and taking Disney to other realms beyond films and such]. I admired that creative company and talked to dozens of execs there and later worked with them on some film promotions.
Then along came my kids. Now I became a parent. I worked on tourism promotions at the time and did cool campaigns with Academy Awards Best Pictures involving consumer promotions and with national retail partners and pro sports teams and major print and national tv networks. Awesome stuff and a lot of fun and kept me busy. My thoughts on kids going out of the box like me was not really there. I just thought let the kids grow and plop them in public school and off they go wherever they go. That is how it was for about 10 years. Until one day.
So when my daughter got to 5th grade, she was told she could do online or a classroom course. We were told a teacher is always best in the classroom and online is not the best path. We decided to go traditional until we ran into the online teacher who said try it. So we did. My daughter first wanted to skip the videos and go right to the tests but she slowed down and got the hang of it.
So this continued and each year she did 2 years of math in 1 year until she got finished with all of high school math by 8th grade. Along the way we had lots of bumps from our school district administration. They tried to stop her from accelerating in science but we found a peer who jumped up and they reluctantly let my daughter be the first in their district’s history to jump 3 years ahead in science. It was a struggle but we like challenge and don’t care about some grade letter. So we said go for it baby.
Then the school district didn’t like her taking classes during off times from schools online so they said you better stop studying by summer even if you are in the middle of a course. Then they said she was taking too many credits because she took on a challenge of doing an Entrepreneurship real world class with 11th and 12th graders thanks to help from the county district heads giving her this opportunity where she wrote a 30 page business plan on education acceleration – as a 7th grader! She also was made to sit in the library instead of being allowed to take a 2nd year Spanish class because of too many credits. The curriculum director at our district just was all about rules and saving costs and education became a battle I could not win. See:
However where we live is a great school district and it’s not easy to manage thousands of kids in a district. I didn’t like lack of customer service and not listening and being inflexible for the best education of a child [even got a lawyer letter that don’t contact the board of education and be persistent in trying to help advocate for your child to do things like not sit in the library or keep working during summer], but my district did help this year with supporting a unique seat time waiver to allow my daughter and son to do all online courses. This allows them to go way out of the box and take classes like Japanese.
While I had to fight locally for education, I also came across the bureaucracy and money comes first attitude with higher administration. While my daughter was taking a Northwestern University math class, the Northwestern team supported their client – the local district – more than the student. So they said if your school says stop in the middle of your course – which is an independent online course already paid for mind you – don’t learn further in summer. However if the school says ok we are ok. We won’t support the student though even though we are getting paid $1,000 for this online course where the teacher barely does anything but answer questions if the student asks questions as she has to do all the learning on her own [not bad for college style independence though]. So Northwestern University suspended my daughter’s course because the school said to right as she was getting into the heart of the material and excited to learn. I also attended Michigan State where when I did my MBA I tried to help international students who made up half the class get jobs because nobody would interview them due to visa status. Then the school administration suspended me from the career placement system hurting me because I cared about other students [and I had no personal benefit being a US citizen fully born and raised here – but just trying to help all these cool kids from around the world by calling companies to help them which was ‘stepping on toes’ I guess as only Career Placement was allowed to talk to companies to help students though they weren’t getting any success.] What bureaucracy some of these higher education universities can be with education and helping and leadership second to money or power or other factors. Then again they educate millions of kids and provide lots of opps so my own experience might have roadblocks but I can’t complain and have to look at the positives of all the good they do.
Now going back to my kids here is the thing. I just mentioned my kids are taking Japanese. Why? Is there a purpose behind it? This is the heart of this article. Education should be real world focused on both leadership and making a difference. Kids right from KINDERGARTEN should be encouraged to speak in public until they are experts before they are graduated from elementary school. They should be taught to make businesses no matter what field they are interested in and do non-profit type work to become leaders. They should be encouraged to read about problems and work with teachers / parents to do outreach.
I am now fully working on marketing my own kids – especially since my own tourism marketing industry has become red tape where travel execs are not friendly and don’t return calls and say no or give you the runaround or send you to ad agencies where nobody will listen. A few years back people were like me – hey let’s talk and listen and do something cool. Nowadays it’s I don’t care what it is we simply can’t and try us in 6 months. So I am trying to adjust and change my path a bit. So I see my kids shining and am going against the grain trying to inspire them to get after it too like I have always done. And…. they are. For example:
This whole long story ultimately is about you. Do you have kids or grandkids? Certainly you know parents and kids who are going on the normal path. How about telling them to get after anything they want EARLY EARLY EARLY!!! When kids start early and make connections and try new things and go out of the box – they will have a chance to write their own ticket. We need to inspire and motivate them to think innovatively and like an entrepreneur. This means outreach and go try to solve a problem in the world. It’s not about book learning and grades and sitting in a classroom. It’s about learning to do presentations right from elementary age and trying apprenticeship very early and doing outreach and learning to be a bold risk taker. Book learning just won’t cut it and today kids can learn on their own too.
If only some of our entrepreneurs who talk about innovation needed and more real world stuff would not just give money for scholarships [talking about people like Bill Gates who do great work paying for education but not enough to reinvent opps in education], but also give apprenticeship opps to kids at the youngest of ages believing in them. Go do a search for kids who are entrepreneurs or have their own non-profit. Those kids are the role models including 10 year olds. How do they have the gusto to venture so far out of the box. It should not be kids trying to beg colleges to get in – but colleges begging kids to come to them when they see kids who have already accomplished and done successful things way before college age. Let’s reverse the model and invent and communicate and solve and partner for our youth so they don’t just memorize and worry about 95% vs. 85% and this class for more credit and volunteering to look good – but rather instill passion and drive and leadership and real world learning. We have 12 years to educate kids in real world stuff if we all work together.