Self-Directed Life: Reward what you value
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Hey guys,

How was your week?

Today I’m thinking about a foundational PBH maxim:
Pay attention to what you want to grow.

What’s the best way to see more of something? Reward it with your attention.

This harkens back to The Sliver — the way to change things isn’t to start whacking at the stuff you don’t like, it’s to start feeding the stuff you DO like. Add, don’t subtract.

But there’s a deeper level to this.

We need to align what we SAY we want with what we’re actually rewarding.
The psychologists Erik Westby and V.L. Dawson found that teachers claimed to enjoy working with creative children, yet the most non-conforming children are the least likely to be the teacher’s pets.

They raised two possibilities for how original kids will respond. One is that ‘teachers’ unwelcoming attitudes may alienate children from formal education.’ The other is that ‘teachers’ dislike of behaviors associated with creativity leads to the extinction of those behaviors.’ Either outcome is highly undesirable. — Educating an original thinker
Okay, so let’s break this down:

Teachers SAY they like creative kids, but they REWARD kids for conforming.

When this happens, what do the creative kids do? They either learn to hate school or they stop being creative.

Remember the abundance vs. scarcity post? The teachers WANTED kids to collaborate, work hard, and stick with one idea over a long time. But they arranged the classroom environment and rules to DISCOURAGE that same behavior.

When we fight ourselves, we don’t get anywhere.

Getting straight with your values and goals is only step one. You have to then change your behaviors, environment, routine, decisions, and so on to align with your values and goals.

If you don’t, you’re just canceling out your own vote.

You’re setting your compass for shore and then rowing in the opposite direction.

I’m sure the teachers who SAY they like creative kids aren’t outright lying. They think they do like creative kids! In theory! In practice, controlling a classroom is hard work and conforming kids are quiet, obedient, and make everything easier. So that behavior is rewarded. Meanwhile, the “creative” kid who is excited to share an idea or ask another question or do something in an entirely new (and maybe not ultimately successful) way is gumming up the works — so that behavior is, perhaps even very subtly, discouraged.

Do we do this?

Do we SAY we want X but our attitude, our words, and our choices actually support Y?

Where is our attention? On what we say we want or on what’s irritating us?

Are we investing time, money, and attention in assets or deficits?

Are we rewarding the thing we say we want to encourage or its opposite?

Are we teaching our kids to love learning? Or reject it because it diminishes them and their interests?

Are we accidentally discouraging the exact thing we want the most — maybe because it doesn’t look the way we imagined (cough minecraft cough)?

It can be challenging to track your own attention. You need to put your goal front and center and remind yourself frequently of what you want to grow. You need to reflect at the end of the day and see if your words, actions, and choices actually supported that goal.

You CAN do it, but you’ll have to invest your attention. See what I did there? This stuff isn’t just for kids, you know — if it doesn’t work for you, it won’t work for them.

Good luck, and let me know how it’s going!

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. — Simone Weil

Action expresses priorities. — Gandhi

A great article about how we are failing to get kids ready to write in college (and insult to injury, these kids say they HATE to write) points out out that kids write all the time, so why don’t we meet them where they are?

“Students are making with words all the time. … Why do we always start from nothing, expecting them to produce something at our bidding, when we could start from the masses of materials already available, some of which they produced themselves?”

Read with this classic PBH post about parenting with abundance vs. scarcity.


You may appreciate this article explaining why audio books are not “cheating.”


This article on planning for positivity reminds me of The Sliver â€” if it matters to you, you have to build it into your daily life. Don’t try to paste it on later — build it in as a big rock.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. — Annie Dillard


A great tweet sharing some PBH payoff. :")


On the blerg side of things, this article clearly demonstrates how compromised project-based learning and maker education often are when they happen in school (“as teachers plan their projects — weeks before students even see it”). Don’t lose our list of ways to make sure your kids get the absolute most out of these opportunities — which is why we’re here, right?


Why is it important to let kids lead?

Because within the next four years, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers.

When you help your child become a self-sufficient, self-directed learner, tapped into their self-motivation, you are preparing them for being self-employed … and it looks like most of our kids will be.


This is interesting — in this 99U talk by Rohan Gunatillake on “You Are Not Your Work” (full transcript at the link for fellow non-video-watchers) is a bit where he talks about full frontal feedback:

“My recommendation is to find the three or four messages that really, really connect with you, that really have a lot of meaning. Put them somewhere nearby — email, photo, whatever — physically, so you can access them when you need to so they retain their power, they don’t become normalized through being just part of the furniture.”

This is an important consideration when you advertise to yourselves. We’ve talked about this before — if it’s blending in, if it’s old hat, it’s not being noticed, it’s invisible — therefore it’s not sending a message. Just moving things around can reenergize your kids’ interest. What small thing could you do today to boost the power of those messages?
Thank you as always for your continued support. If there’s anything you need, just hit reply on this email and let me know!

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