“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” – A.A.Milne
I’ve had this bouncing around in my brain for a while now and am now ready to write about it.
What is it that makes people successful? Is it a good education? I don’t think so, or at least say that a good education can be helpful, but there are plenty of people throughout history who have been successful and not educated. Many of the current leaders in technology today are college dropouts so what else could be the key to success?
If you want success, you have to play the game. Nobody has ever won a sports championship from their couch. It requires hard work and determination plus something else.
So here is what I think is the key to success: Optimism.
People who succeed in life take risks. The bigger the risk typically, the bigger the reward but in order to even take the risk you have to have some confidence that there is a chance of success. This confidence is influenced by optimism. When you look at the winners of a championship in sports, they are usually the team that goes into the game with a solid belief they are going to win. Sports has a lot of that. If you can shake the confidence of the other team, you have mostly beaten them already. Optimists are naturally confident, pessimists are not.
In politics, often times the public will vote for an optimist. Ronald Reagan was like that. He campaigned on a “shiny city on a hill” and gave a down country some optimism. President Obama did something similar in 2008 with “Hope and Change”. I don’t believe he was optimistic in 2012 but neither was his opponent so that was a wash.
So how does school affect the optimism of students? Taking risks are not rewarded, you just need to do the minimum required because getting things wrong is punished. That is a natural side effect of having a limited amount of time to teach things. There is no extra time to explore other alternatives. In fact, if you look at the way a lecture works, the teacher passes along all the right answers and then the students have to demonstrate they understand. They did not gain this knowledge on their own though, therefore they don’t gain any experience in how to problem solve. If you don’t know how to problem solve, then how optimistic do you think the student will be when they get into the real world when they are presented with real problems?
In my current job I am handed many problems to be solved. Often times they will involve technologies I don’t know how to use yet, but I am optimistic in my ability to learn what I need to know in order to solve the problem because I am mostly self taught.
Please note: confidence and optimism are not the same thing. US high school graduates are probably the most confident and have the highest self esteem in the world. Even so, it isn’t really based on any actual achievements. Once they hit any obstacles to their success, their confidence crumbles. An optimist has faith in themselves based on previous experience in problem solving.
I believe that a new way of learning will evolve to replace the current factory model. While it will massively disrupt the current system, the Internet will bring a golden age of learning brighter than any other in history. I am an optimist and am excited to see it happen!
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” – Gandhi (link)