What young people are capable of

I’m still digesting the experience of my two-day program at Youth Communication, but what I will say for now is that the group I worked with managed to surprise me with their stamina in the classroom. Yesterday we effectively had a working lunch because they asked to see a documentary related to a discussion we were having on rumspringa. These kids managed to sustain their engagement for almost five hours straight. There were five-minute breaks at the end of each lesson, and pair-work doing computer research and presentations, so they weren’t tied down to the conference table, but from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM these young people (ages 15-20) were effectively focused on talking and writing about how youth around the world become adults. Friends in academia are all very impressed with this display of endurance! Hats off to each and every one of them.

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At what age do we reach adulthood?

Having just sent off a draft of my lesson plans to Youth Communication, I saw this debate in the Times: “When Do Kids Become Adults?” The discussion touches on a lot of the issues that I bring up in my workshops: recent findings in neuroscience on the time it takes for the brain to reach maturity; how the law sets up different—and often arbitrary—age limits for activities such as drinking, driving, and voting; and more to the point, the distinction between the age of majority and true maturity. No one can blame the law for drawing lines in shifting sands, but it’s always a good exercise to evaluate the laws we live under in light of scientific findings and practical concerns, without of course losing sight of the politics and history behind them.

Work on Purpose

(Lots of posts today because so much has happened in the last few days.)

Two days ago I attended a Wesleyan event featuring Lara Galinsky, who makes a living helping individuals follow their path to fulfilling work. She has a saying that HEAD + HEART = HUSTLE , where ‘head’ is all the stuff you’ve learned in school and skills you’ve picked up in past jobs; ‘heart’ is what moves you; and ‘hustle’ is like flow, or being in the zone. She believes that when head and heart are aligned, you can achieve hustle. This activates a positive feedback loop where your hard work will make an impact, and that impact will bring you happiness, and that joy will once more inspire you to work hard, and so on and so forth.

The formula is quite close to the one I devised for my Finding Your Calling workshop: GIFT + JOY + PASSION = CALLING, where gift = what you’re good at, joy = what brings you happiness, passion = what moves you. When you manage to find or create work that brings in all three components, you have your calling. Lara’s formula is leaner and more elegant than mine (the alliteration is a particularly nice touch), but for younger people I think it’s good to get them to explore the different aspects of themselves with finer instruments.

Heartily recommend Lara’s book, Work on Purpose. It’s quick, engaging, and very inspirational.

The writing part of blogging

I spent all of yesterday with a deep feeling of being unsettled and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it till this morning, and this post will be my attempt at getting a better grasp on it. The vagueness of that last sentence already betrays a bit of the source of my anxiety. It is this: writing. Or rather, the writing part of blogging. (This will likely be a long, meandering post, but if I don’t try to hammer it out, I won’t be able to focus on much else.) Continue reading

Reading Out of the Silent Planet

Credit: Amazon

In the commencement speech given at Bard College at Simon’s Rock earlier this year, Ronan Farrow expounds on a passage in C.S. Lewis’s Out of a Silent Planet on the topic of experience and memory, and how they are one and the same. Farrow tells the audience that what he has learned from the novel is that every experience we have had accrues significance over the course of our lives, and that it is our mission to turn those experiences—both the positive and the negative—outward into the world as gifts to others. He adds,

That little passage is also a liberation from some of the obstacles to that mission. Because thinking of each experience we’ve had as a living breathing thing that evolves as it’s remembered inside us, as it shapes us, and as we turn it outward and teach it to the world, means it’s never too late. Means you’re never too much or too little of anything – because of who you are, or how old you are, or what your place in life is – to have an impact.

The novel—or the excerpt he cites—might be worth a read in the context of my Coming of Age program, since the moral that Farrow draws out resonates very well with my Finding Your Calling workshop.

You can read a transcript of the speech here, or view it for yourself below: