#TBT – Revisiting Neil Armstrong’s Commencement Address to the USC Class of 2005

Society’s future will depend on a continuous improvement program on the human character.”

It’s Commencement Season. The famous and wise will helicopter onto college campuses to share soundbites of wisdom and humor with the Class of 2018. Some speeches will be memorable, others immediately forgotten. It’s rare when an address can transcend the emotion of the day; when the speaker has been to the moon and back.

Thirteen years ago, Neil Armstrong, the American astronaut and first person to walk on the moon, addressed the graduating Class of 2005 at the University of Southern California. The man who announced to the world, on a July afternoon in 1969, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” never mentioned his achievement.

The day was about the graduates. Not about the man who walked on the moon.

But even the youngest family member in attendance knew who was speaking. A little boy climbed up a grassy hill behind a giant screen projecting the event. He hadn’t come to watch TV, but to see the astronaut for himself, in person. This was his connection to dreams beyond. “Mommy, that’s the man who walked on the moon.”

Can you imagine your life defined by one historical, ‘out of this world’ event?

There are few things today that take our breath away. We’ve forgotten the mysteries of space travel as we contemplate only the familiar. We go about our work day as a space station circles above, with no thought of the explorers at work outside our atmosphere.

On May 13, 2005, the parents, graduates, faculty and staff shared an historic moment with a legend. And the legend expressed his doubts about his ability to give advice.

“I feel a sense of discomfort in that responsibility as it requires more confidence than I possess to assume that my personal convictions deserve your attention.”

He encouraged the graduates to “appreciate the elegance of simplicity” and continued his address following his own advice.

“The single observation I would offer for your consideration is that some things are beyond your control. You can lose your health to illness or accident, you can lose your wealth to all manner of unpredictable sources.

What is not easily stolen from you without your cooperation is your principles and your values. They are your most precious possessions and, if carefully selected and nurtured, will well serve you and your fellow man.

Society’s future will depend on a continuous improvement program on the human character. What will the future bring? I don’t know, but it will be exciting.”

His challenge to us all is to lead a life of continuous learning and continuous improvement, even after you have achieved your ‘signature’ career experience.

 

 

The week@work: Finding Amelia Earhart, Amy Pascal’s pivot, a ‘netflix’ of education and why you need a study plan

For a holiday week, there was a significant assortment of ideas and stories beyond the headlines. The History Channel broadcast the results of an investigation into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, sparked by the discovery of a photo misfiled in the National Archives. One of Hollywood’s most powerful executives, Amy Pascal, reemerged as the producer behind the latest summer blockbuster and a career lesson for all. On the practical application of ideas to workplace; two articles explored the value of designing an organizational culture of learning and developing an individual study plan  as a catalyst for creativity.

At a time when there were few role models for women, aviatrix Amelia Earhart captured the imagination as she embarked on her first solo flight of the Atlantic, and later when she attempted to fly around the world in a twin engine Lockheed Electra. On July 2, 1937 she left Lae, New Guinea with her navigator Fred Noonan following a flight plan to Howland Island. They never reached their destination, fueling 80 years of theories and investigations, the most recent citing a photo found in the National Archives.

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According to the research conducted for the History Channel, Ms. Earhart and Mr. Noonan were captured by the Japanese and later taken to a prison on Saipan. The authenticated photo shows a man and woman with similar physical characteristics of the missing duo. To be continued…

Before the hack of the Democratic National Committee, there was the Sony Studios hack. The studio head at the time was Amy Pascal and the details of emails subsequently made public resulted in her termination. She’s back…Brooks Barnes reported on her career transition for The New York Times.

“Ms. Pascal, a 59-year-old woman in an industry rife with sexism and ageism, seems to have emerged stronger and happier, having reinvented herself as a producer through her company, Pascal Pictures. She will deliver three films to three different studios this year, with more than a dozen more movies on the assembly line. On a personal level, after a lot of soul-searching, some in a therapist’s office, she has tried to see the hack as freeing. After all, she has no more secrets.”

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How does the downfall of a powerful studio head relate to the rest of us? Chances are, in a career lifetime, you will get fired. Take note of Ms. Pascal’s evolution.

“I will always carry what happened with me,” she said. “There’s no other way. But you scrape as much grace as you possibly can off the ground and you move forward.”

Moving forward is the theme of the next two stories this week@work.

Karl Mehta and Rob Harles suggest ‘In the knowledge economy, we need a Netflix of education’.

“The problem is that we are drowning in content — but are starving for knowledge and insights that can help us truly be more productive, collaborative and innovative.”

“The solution for the learning and development industry would be a platform that can make education more accessible and relevant — something that allows us to absorb and spread knowledge seamlessly. Just as Netflix delivers entertainment we want at our fingertips, the knowledge and learning we need should be delivered where and when we need it.”

Their proposal analyzes the hurdles, and envisions “the democratization of knowledge” where employers provide “employees the skills and knowledge to thrive, which would have previously been time-consuming or impossible to obtain.”

While we wait for employers to create the learning culture utopia, how do we fuel our individual radical curiosity?

Todd Henry reiterated the importance of stimuli to creativity with ‘Why you should have a study plan (and how to make one)’.

“…most of the incredibly successful people I encounter in the marketplace have some form of study plan that they follow in order to help them spot patterns in their business, anticipate client needs, and simply spark new ideas and new categories of thought.”

He offers three steps to get started: “Dedicate a regular time for study. Study broadly and deeply. After you read, reflect.”

As we begin another week@work, #MondayMotivation – a quote from writer Maxine Hong Kingston: “In a time of destruction, create something.”

 

 

The week@work: Olympics close: memories remain, the power of vulnerability, workplace lessons from the cineplex, and Seattle’s millennials @work

This week@work the world’s best athletes headed to the airport and the rest of us, mere mortals, returned to our workplace. A CEO discussed the benefits of embracing vulnerability and a movie critic found workplace advice at the multiplex. In Seattle, the most recent additions to the workforce ‘gig’ their way to dream jobs.

As the Olympics came to a close on Sunday evening, there were three stories that continued to resonate from the ‘workplace’ of track and field.

‘That girl is the Olympic spirit’: After colliding, runners help each other cross finish line’ Marissa Payne for the Washington Post

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For track and field athletes, the Olympics offers the biggest prize of their careers. A gold medal is a tangible symbol of years of hard work and dedication. But on Tuesday, long-distance runners Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the United States proved hardware doesn’t always trump heart.

After the two collided on the track during the 5,000-meter race, resulting in a bad leg injury for D’Agostino, the two urged each other on and both eventually were able to finish the race, albeit seemingly sacrificing their chances at a finals berth along the way.

“Everyone wants to win and everyone wants a medal. But as disappointing as this experience is for myself and for Abbey, there’s so much more to this than a medal,” Hamblin told reporters after the race.”

‘This Great-Grandmother Coaches an Olympic Champion. Now Let Her By.’ Karen Crouse for The New York Times

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“The great-grandmother who could pass as Barbara Bush’s kid sister waded through the stands at Olympic Stadium on Sunday night, trying to get close enough to congratulate the South African runner Wayde van Niekerk, who had just captured the gold medal in the 400 meters and broken one of the oldest world records in men’s track and field.

This is Botha’s first Olympics. She competed — without distinction, she said — in the sprints and the long jump when she was young and began coaching in 1968 while living in her native Namibia, then a territory under the rule of South Africa. Her first athletes were her son and daughter, but when they reached a certain level, she passed them off to other coaches, she said, “because I feel that’s not always a good thing as a parent to coach your own children.”

The woman who didn’t believe it prudent to coach her own children has earned the trust of her athletes by treating them as family.

“She doesn’t see us as athletes or as people; she sees us as her children,” said van Niekerk, who asked Botha in late 2012 if he could train under her at the University of the Free State, where she has been the head track and field coach since 1990.

Van Niekerk won the race from Lane 8, considered a disadvantageous position. Botha said it didn’t bother her that he was in an outside lane. “Because every lane is the same distance,” she said.”

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Can Ashton Eaton Save the Decathlon?  Mary Pilon for The New Yorker

“Ten years ago, Tate Metcalf, a high-school track coach in Bend, Oregon, was trying to find a college that would give one of his athletes a scholarship. Ashton Eaton was a talented sprinter with a fierce long jump, but Metcalf received mostly lukewarm responses. His coach felt that Eaton would have the best shot at getting into a Division I college if he competed in one of track and field’s multi-event disciplines, like the heptathlon or the decathlon. Metcalf knew it would make Eaton, who was raised by a single mother and had never had any private coaching, one of the first people in his family to go to college. So he suggested it. “Sure,” Eaton replied, as Metcalf recently recalled. Then Eaton said, “What’s the decathlon?”

Eaton, who is twenty-eight, is now the defending Olympic gold medallist and world-record holder in the event. “He’s the face of track and field,” Metcalf said, sitting underneath a giant banner of Eaton draped over Hayward Field, in Eugene, Oregon, at the Olympic trials earlier this summer. “But nobody knows it because he’s a decathlete.” It’s true: though he has a gleaming smile, press-perfect interview skills, and historic talent, Eaton has remained virtually unknown relative to his Olympic-champion counterparts and even some of his decathlete predecessors. The one place he’s remained indisputably famous is Eugene: here, his face graces billboards and bus signs; the local minor-league baseball team recently distributed Ashton Eaton bobblehead dolls as part of a tribute night to him. “I haven’t seen them yet,” Eaton told me. “It’s a little weird.”

The decathlon hasn’t always been a path to athletic obscurity. Many consider the winner of the event, which can trace its origins to ancient Greece, the “world’s greatest athlete.”

On Thursday evening, after two days of competition in ten events, Olympian Ashton Eaton repeated as gold medalist in the decathlon. He continues to hold the title of ‘the world’s greatest athlete’.

One of the best series in journalism is Adam Bryant‘s weekly column in The New York Times, ‘The Corner Office’. Bryant poses five or six questions to a selected CEO, and their responses appear in the Sunday Business Section. This past week, Christa Quarles of Open Table shared ‘early leadership lessons’.

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“The importance of embracing vulnerability. Early on, especially when I worked on Wall Street, God forbid that you declare any granular weakness, because people would pounce on it.

But the paradox of owning what you know and what you don’t know is that you actually seem more powerful as you expose more vulnerability. I’ve become more comfortable with exposing my vulnerability and not being afraid to go there.

When I give criticism now, I’ll talk about how I failed in a similar situation. I try to humanize the criticism in a way that says this is about an action, it’s not about you as a person. I want to make you better. If somebody feels like they’re in a safe place and they can hear the message, they’re more likely to change.”

Theater critic A.O. Scott may seem an unlikely source of management wisdom. This week he suggests ‘Even Superheroes Punch the Clock’.

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“This summer, your local multiplex is home to an extended business seminar. There are sessions on crisis-management and how to deal with office romances (“Star Trek Beyond”); on office rivalries and mission-statement drafting (“Captain America: Civil War”); on start-ups (“Ghostbusters”) and I.T. disasters (“Jason Bourne”). Every action movie is a workplace sitcom in disguise.

What is “Suicide Squad”? A bad movie, to be sure — and yes, I’m aware of opinions to the contrary (thanks, Twitter) — but also a movie about difficult personnel issues….The central problem of “Suicide Squad” is one that bedevils department heads and midlevel employees in every corner of the modern economy: team building.”

The last story this week is journalist Kirk Johnson‘s profile, ‘Debt. Terror. Politics. To Seattle Millennials, the Future Looks Scary.’

“Part of Jillian Boshart’s life plays out in tidy, ordered lines of JavaScript computer code, and part in a flamboyant whirl of corsets and crinoline. She’s a tech student by day, an enthusiastic burlesque artist and producer by night. “Code-mode” and “show-mode,” she calls those different guises.

This year she won a coveted spot here at a nonprofit tech school for women, whose recent graduates have found jobs with starting salaries averaging more than $90,000 a year. Seattle, where she came after college in Utah to study musical theater, is booming with culture and youthful energy.

But again and again, life has taught Ms. Boshart, and others in her generation, that control can be elusive.

Even for someone who seems to have drawn one of her generation’s winning hands, it feels like a daunting time to be coming of age in America.

“I don’t just expect things to unfold, or think, ‘Well, now I’ve got it made,’ because there’s always a turn just ahead of you and you don’t know what’s around that corner,” she said.”

A final thought this week @work – When we find that ‘dream job’, in an uncertain global economy, we realize there is more to what we do than the compensation: money or medals. The Olympics is our quadrennial reminder to honor our values. Thanks to @abbey_dags and @NikkiHamblin.

 

Photo credits: ‘Fireworks explode during the Rio 2016 closing ceremony’   Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times, ‘Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin’ @NCAA, ‘Ashton Eaton’ Matt Slocum for AP, ‘Ans Botha and Wayde van Niekerk’ Twitter, ‘Suicide Squad’ courtesy of Warner Bros.

The Saturday Read – Four blogs/newsletters you should be reading

Before I started writing ‘Workthoughts’, I was reading other blogs. Maria Popova, author of my favorite, ‘Brainpickings’, was the 2016 commencement speaker at her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. She challenged the graduates to act as cultural change agents by continually broadening their horizons beyond a specific discipline.

“Today, the soul is in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope — not blind optimism, because that too is a form of resignation, to believe that everything will work out just fine and we need not apply ourselves. I mean hope bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed in identifying what is lacking, in ourselves or the world, but then envisions ways to create it and endeavors to do that.

Whatever your specific vocation, your role as a creator of culture will be to help people discern what matters in the world and why by steering them away from the meaningless and toward the meaningful.”

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How do you maintain the discipline of the undergraduate learning experience and diversify your thinking?

In the past, traditional routes to post-graduate learning involved graduate and professional school. In rare cases, employers took on the role of educators, supplementing work with professional development options. Today, educational entrepreneurs are disrupting traditional education, offering countless ways to access knowledge online.

One of the most engaging options is to join folks who are exploring life’s mysteries and sharing their discoveries through blogs and newsletters.

For this week’s Saturday Read, I recommend four blogs/newsletters from contemporary ‘curators of culture’ that you should be reading to improve you critical thinking and supplement your journey of lifelong learning.

Brainpickings

Bruce Feiler, writing in The New York Times, described this blog as “the exploding online emporium of ideas”.

“She’s a celebrator,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor and former State Department official. “You feel the tremendous amount of pleasure she takes in finding these things and sharing them. It’s like walking into the Museum of Modern Art and having somebody give you a customized, guided tour.”

Since 2006, Maria Popova has been sharing her cross disciplinary expeditions with a growing audience of readers.

“Brain Pickings — which remains ad-free and supported by readers — is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich our mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful. Above all, it’s about how these different disciplines illuminate one another to glean some insight, directly or indirectly, into that grand question of how to live, and how to live well.”

The next selection comes from the mind of writer and ‘philosopher of everyday life’, Alain de Botton. If you read Brainpickings or Workthoughts, the name should be familiar. The founder of London’s School of Life, publishes a weekly newsletter, ‘The Book of Life’.

 

The Book of Life 

“It’s called The Book of Life because it’s about the most substantial things in your life: your relationships, your income, your career, your anxieties. There’s always been a longing to gather the important things in one place. Some of the appeal of a Bible or the collected works of a big name author is the sense that amidst all the chaos and disparate sources of knowledge, someone has taken the trouble to distill, to compress, to say what is essential. In a world overflowing with information, what we most need is curation. The Book of Life aims to be the curation of the best and most helpful ideas in the area of emotional life.”

For those of you technology and engineering gurus who feel a bit insecure when a client conversation turns literary, subscribe to the ‘Lit Hub Daily’.

 

Lit Hub

“Started last year, Lit Hub’s goal is to provide a “go-to daily source for all the news, ideas, and richness of contemporary literary life,” with curated and original content such as interviews, profiles and essays.”

“Literary Hub is an organizing principle in the service of literary culture, a single, trusted, daily source for all the news, ideas and richness of contemporary literary life. There is more great literary content online than ever before, but it is scattered, easily lost—with the help of its editorial partners, Lit Hub is a site readers can rely on for smart, engaged, entertaining writing about all things books.”

The latest newsletter I have added to my daily/weekly routine comes from writer Austin Kleon. His Friday newsletter is an eclectic collection of music, art, design and life. To give you a sample, this week’s edition included George Carlin’s Playboy interview, an HBO documentary on Studs Terkel and the Everything is a Remix series.

What makes Austin’s blog unique is the doodles; his visual interpretation of information.

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Austin Kleon 

“I’m a writer who draws. I make art with words and books with pictures. Every week I send out a list of 10 things I think are worth sharing — new art, writing, and interesting links straight to your inbox.”

These four blogs/newsletters provide a customized curriculum of research and shared wisdom, delivered by a faculty of four non-traditional experts. Take a look, you may find one or more will fit with your individualized lifelong learning plan.

 

“Know something about something…”

What is this thing; lifelong learning? David Brooks called it the ‘question-driven life’, and the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke delivered one of the best defining quotes: “Know something about something. Don’t just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly amass knowledge and offer it around.” 

Lifelong learning = Curiosity

Recently, in a response to a consultant survey, Michael Dell, the chief executive of Dell, Inc. identified curiosity as the one attribute a leader will need to succeed in the future.

Journalist and questionologist, Warren Berger reports ‘Why Curious People Are Headed To the C-Suite’ for the Harvard Business Review.

“Dell was responding to a 2015 PwC survey of more than a thousand CEOs, a number of whom cited “curiosity” and “open-mindedness” as leadership traits that are becoming increasingly critical in challenging times. Another of the respondents, McCormick & Company CEO Alan D. Wilson, noted that business leaders who “are always expanding their perspective and what they know—and have that natural curiosity—are the people that are going to be successful.

“These days, a leader’s primary occupation must be to discover the future,” Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich told me. It’s “a continual search,” Shaich says, requiring that today’s leader keep exploring new ideas—including ideas from other industries or even from outside the business world.”

OK, you’re not the head of a multi-national corporation, but you have questions, and not just about the technical aspects of work. It’s the human stuff that’s a bit more difficult to unbundle.

There have been continuing education and extension programs catering to adult learning for a hundred years. Most are connected to an academic institution and offer ‘lite’ versions of curricula taught to college students.

In the summer of 2008, ‘philosopher of life’ Alain deBotton founded ‘The School of Life’ in London a few blocks walk from the Russell Square Underground Station. Since then it has evolved into the new model for lifelong learning, employing non-traditional faculty to deliver programing focused on “developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We address such issues as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand, and where necessary change, the world.”

In the Marchmont Street location, and recently opened global sites, professionals come together to learn, share and evolve in a safe space of respectful interaction. This past weekend, SOL offered a ‘pop-up’ sampling of programs in Los Angeles. I attended three of the five sessions led by philosopher and trust consultant, Brennan Jacoby.

On a beautiful California Saturday morning, a diverse group of students arrived at the Design Matters Gallery to begin a day of three, 90 minute sessions. The content informed, inspired and provoked lively discussion.

The School of Life model works because talented faculty deliver contemporary topics, using an instructional technique that allows for the right balance of introspection, sharing and networking. Sessions seemed to end too soon, with attendees lingering to continue conversations.

For the Los Angeles weekend the topics included: How to Find A Job You Love, How to Be Creative, How to Think Like an Entrepreneur, How to be Confident and How to Have Better Conversations.

The School of Life is a catalyst for the question-driven life. If you’ve decided your ‘wonderful self’ is not quite perfect yet, and you’re “ready to amass knowledge and offer it around”, set you lifelong learning GPS on London, or visit the website to begin your quest.

 

 

 

The Saturday Read – Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman ‘A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life’

Are you curious about the people who work for you? Academy award winning producer Brian Grazer thinks you should be. He manages his organization with curiosity, by asking questions. His book, ‘A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life’ was released earlier this year and is a memoir of his success and it’s source, listening to the answers.

“If you’re the boss, and you manage by asking questions, you’re laying the foundation for the culture of your company or group. 

You’re letting people know that the boss is willing to listen. This isn’t about being “warm” or “friendly”. It’s about understanding how complicated the modern business world is, how indispensable diversity of perspective is, and how hard creative work is.”

The initial reviews of the book focused on the ‘curiosity conversations’ Grazer has utilized throughout his career to network with a variety of folks in his unique quest for lifelong learning. But in the acknowledgements at the end of the book he addresses the reader directly on his purpose in writing ‘A Curious Mind’.

“a book not about my curiosity, but about what curiosity has enabled me to do, about what curiosity can enable anyone to do…”

“I didn’t want to write a book about all the people I’d had conversations with – I wanted to write about the impulse to have those conversations. I wanted to use the conversations to tell a story: the story of my steady discovery of the power of curiosity in my own life.”

For Grazer, it’s not just a hobby, but a commitment to intentionally integrate questioning into both his work and life outside of work.

“For it to be effective, curiosity has to be harnessed to at least two other key traits. First, the ability to pay attention to the answers to your questions – you have to actually absorb whatever it is you’re being curious about…The second trait is the willingness to act.”

In the early chapters he describes the power of curiosity to motivate, spark creativity, and build confidence. He is the ‘bard of curiosity’ sharing his career story intertwined with his capacity for discovery. But it’s in chapter five where the storytelling turns to management advice. “…the human connection that is created by curiosity…Human connection requires sincerity. It requires compassion. It requires trust.”

“Can you really have sincerity, or compassion, or trust, without curiosity?

“I don’t think so. I think when you stop to consider it – when you look at your own experiences at work and at home – what’s so clear is that authentic human connection requires curiosity.”

Here is the ‘gem’ of the book.

“To be a good boss, you have to be curious about the people who work for you.”

How many of you have a BA in business, an MBA or certificate from a prestigious executive management program? Has anyone ever suggested management by curiosity? We have all been taught to listen. And we don’t. But no one ever explained in this way, how critical the right questions are to getting to the fundamentals when decisions are being made.

“I use curiosity every day to help manage people at work…as a tool to build trust and cooperation and engagement.”

“And curiosity is the key to connecting and staying connected.”

Reading ‘A Curious Mind’ reminded me of a quote buried in dialog in the 2012 novel by Mark Helprin, ‘In Sunlight and in Shadow’:

“It’s a defining difference, curiosity. I’ve never known a stupid person who was curious, or a curious person who was stupid.”

‘To David, About His Education’ a poem by Howard Nemerov

As students return to school, the conversation once again turns to the value of education. Sitting at your desk you may look back and wonder why you had to take courses that seemed to have no relevance to your current position. Or you may have figured out that all disciplines are linked, even if those connections lie just beneath the surface.

This week’s ‘Friday Poem’ comes from Harvard alum, poet laureate, and photographer, Diane Arbus‘ big brother, Howard Nemerov. It answers the question, what will you have to learn to become one of the grownups?

To David, About His Education

The world is full of mostly invisible things,
And there is no way but putting the mind’s eye,
Or its nose, in a book, to find them out,
Things like the square root of Everest
Or how many times Byron goes into Texas,
Or whether the law of the excluded middle
Applies west of the Rockies. For these
And the like reasons, you have to go to school
And study books and listen to what you are told,
And sometimes try to remember. Though I don’t know
What you will do with the mean annual rainfall
On Plato’s Republic, or the calorie content
Of the Diet of Worms, such things are said to be
Good for you, and you will have to learn them
In order to become one of the grown-ups
Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,
But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world
Under his hat, which is where it belongs,
And teaches small children to do this in their turn.

Howard Nemerov, “To David, About His Education” from ‘War Stories: Poems About Long Ago and Now’.

Neil Armstrong @ USC and the Class of 2005

Ten years ago today, Neil Armstrong, the American astronaut and first person to walk on the moon, addressed the graduating Class of 2005 at the University of Southern California. The man who announced to the world, on a July afternoon in 1969, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” never mentioned his achievement.

The day was about the graduates. Not about the man who walked on the moon.

But even the youngest family member in attendance knew who was speaking. A little boy climbed up a grassy hill behind a giant screen projecting the event. He had not come to watch TV, but to see the astronaut for himself, in person. This was his connection to dreams beyond. “Mommy, that’s the man who walked on the moon.”

Can you imagine your life defined by one historical, ‘out of this world’ event?

There are few things today that take our breath away. We have forgotten the mysteries of space travel as we contemplate only the familiar. We go about our work day as a space station circles above, with no thought of the explorers at work outside our atmosphere.

On that May morning, the parents, graduates, faculty and staff shared an historic moment with a legend. And the legend expressed his doubts about his ability to give advice.

“I feel a sense of discomfort in that responsibility as it requires more confidence than I possess to assume that my personal convictions deserve your attention.”

He encouraged the graduates to “appreciate the elegance of simplicity” and continued his address following his own advice.

“The single observation I would offer for your consideration is that some things are beyond your control. You can lose your health to illness or accident, you can lose your wealth to all manner of unpredictable sources.

What is not easily stolen from you without your cooperation is your principles and your values. They are your most precious possessions and, if carefully selected and nurtured, will well serve you and your fellow man.

Society’s future will depend on a continuous improvement program on the human character. What will the future bring? I don’t know, but it will be exciting.”

His challenge to us all is to lead a life of continuous learning and continuous improvement, even after you have achieved your ‘signature’ career experience.

The week @ work March 16 – 22

This week@work invited us to broaden our thinking with ideas from TED and SXSW, a suggested reading list from Mark Zuckerberg and a David Remnick pick from The New Yorker archive on the creative life. Using a variety of online resources and social networks we can construct an individualized professional development curriculum based on our interests and career aspirations.

On Friday The New York Times included a continuing education ‘special section’ in their print edition. In the lead article ‘That’s Edutainment’ reporter Greg Beato described the growing phenomenon of “the academization of leisure: casual learning propelled by web culture, a new economy and boomers with money.”

In a companion article, Peder Zane asked the question, “If you can know it all, how come you don’t?” He goes on to report on Jonathan Haber, a “52 year old from Lexington, Massachusetts” who is attempting to “meet all the standard requirements for a bachelor of arts degree in a single year.” And he is doing it by selecting from a menu of online offerings from Harvard, Yale and Stanford, chronicling his experience in a book and of course, online.

This past week folks came together to discuss ideas at the annual TED conference and celebrate music, film and interactive at SXSW.

You may categorize all these formal and informal experiences as ‘edutainment’, but I would suggest that lifelong learning, often promised, is finally here. And the topics discussed are widely relevant to today’s workplace.

Visit the TED website and access presentations recorded at the conference. One of the most compelling, Monica Lewinsky on our ‘culture of humiliation’. The Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza summarized the key point of her talk: “For nearly two decades now, we have slowly been sowing the seeds of shame and public humiliation in our cultural soil. Gossip Web sites, paparazzi, reality programming, politics, news outlets and sometimes hackers traffic in shame. Public humiliation as a blood sport has to stop. We need to return to a long-held value of compassion and empathy.”

And on the SXSW site, you can view film maker Ava DuVernay encouraging her audience to pay attention to their intention. She takes the audience on a narrative of her early success and then cautions from experience: “The dreams were too small. If your dream only includes you, its too small. If that dream is just about the thing you want to accomplish and you don’t even know why you want it…it’s to small…When you win awards and the light is on you, that’s not gonna be enough. If we limit our visions to those things outside of us to validate us, we’re making an intentional error that might very well bring the outside thing you want, but will bring hollow in the end.”

Online, lifelong learning allows us to make connections beyond our comfort zone, sparking new ideas and important conversations.

The availability of a variety of content online in a global economy where the majority does not have access to the innovators and great thinkers is a good thing. It’s a source of career inspiration for the young, professional development for the worker and sustained intellectual engagement for the retired.

Closing the week, David Remnick in his ‘Sunday with the New Yorker’ email recommends a selection of stories from The New Yorker archive on ‘The Creative Life’ including a 2007 profile of the British graffiti artist Banksy.